Training in Waxing and Waning

Encaustic painting can incorporate layers of wax and collage utilizing many other mediums (watercolor, cut paper, pastels, etc.), allowing for the juxtaposition of textures, colors with defined as well as a blurring of lines.

Encaustic painting can incorporate layers of wax and collage utilizing many other mediums (watercolor, cut paper, pastels, etc.), allowing for the juxtaposition of textures, colors with defined as well as a blurring of lines.

It’s been a great summer here in Tennessee despite the heat. As in year's past, I make a kind of pilgrimage to some sort of creative getaway; and it is often in the unlikely little patch of heaven found in notorious Gatlinburg: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. If you’ve never been there, you should at least visit to see the various art galleries with world-renowned artists’ work alongside the work of budding artists and artists-in residence. The workshops at Arrowmont are by far some of the best offered in any arts and crafts’ schools. It’s a gift and an honour to be a part of them. My vacations there have become a ritual of sorts and the excitement leading up to them builds with each day beforehand and all the days there seem to slip away too fast. But that’s what great vacations typically do.

This year’s creative focus was with encaustics—a process of painting with pigmented wax. While I was vaguely familiar with encaustic painting after having a printmaking instructor provide a brief introduction to her methods, this year’s instruction (with the ever-talented Erin Anfinson) incorporated around 20 or so demos all about encaustics. It was a deep dive into a thought process incorporating collages of drawing, printmaking, photography—literally anything that has a porous surface with which the wax will adhere to.

Well, I’m totally smitten. The colors are vibrant and the depth achieved in the artwork can be several layers thick, allowing for simultaneous translucency and opacity depending on the varying combinations of the wax medium, pigments and collaged elements. There’s a slow buildup of wax and imagery created as well as a scraping away to create smooth surfaces with textured colors. It’s full of surprises and occasional happy accidents—the very reason I’ve historically been so drawn to printmaking.

The history of encaustic painting is rich. According to one manufacturer, Encaustikos:

Encaustic painting is one of the world’s oldest art forms! The earliest applications of encaustic wax paint was done by the artists of Ancient Greece — hence, where the Greek word “enkaustikos” meaning “to burn in”. Greek artists were using wax paint to adorn sculptures, murals, boats, and even architecture. They also used wax paint to highlight the features of the marble statues placed around the Acropolis. Greek art spread to Egypt during the Hellenistic period and with a large Greek population, it didn’t take the Egyptians long to adapt to the use of wax paint.... Despite being over 2000 years old, [some paintings] are still on display in museums today withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in color.
One of several experimental pieces I created in the encaustic workshop at Arrowmont,

One of several experimental pieces I created in the encaustic workshop at Arrowmont,

I don’t know that my work will have any staying power through history but the process was one I hope to visit again and again. The medium provides so many opportunities to explore and revise (unlike the more common oil, acrylic and watercolor painting processes) and the possibilities seem endless. What artist doesn’t embrace endless possibilities for their creativity?

Thank you to all my clients that make room for this time away every year despite looming deadlines while I embrace yet another skill that I love.

Summer Feels

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The heat index has been high here in Nashville, Tennessee and I’m in the mood for cooler mountain air. Creating this illustration and lettering gave me an opportunity to say all that I need to say this month—and also helped me keep my attitude in check as I dreamed of higher altitudes and lower temps. I hope you’re all enjoying your summer!

Creative Influence

Any mature creative type is likely to have a long list of names of those who have been an influence to them in life. For me, many of the influences border on cliche. There’s the beauty of nature—especially flowers, leaves, birds, animals and bugs. There are designers and illustrators like Louise Fili, Charlie Harper and Ralph Steadman. And of course there are stylistic influences like Native American art, Mexican folk art, illuminated manuscripts, Tibetan thangka paintings, the arts and crafts and art nouveau movements, even grafitti and street art.

I recently was able to visit New Mexico again (left), one of my favorite places in the U.S. and also where one of my biggest influences in life now lives. Debra Fritts, an incredible clay sculptor, was my greatest advocate in high school to keep making art. Her classes changed the course of my life forever. Surprising me with an award in art on graduation day (right) shook me from my awkward lack of self-confidence to beaming pride that would spur me on for years.

I recently was able to visit New Mexico again (left), one of my favorite places in the U.S. and also where one of my biggest influences in life now lives. Debra Fritts, an incredible clay sculptor, was my greatest advocate in high school to keep making art. Her classes changed the course of my life forever. Surprising me with an award in art on graduation day (right) shook me from my awkward lack of self-confidence to beaming pride that would spur me on for years.

While studying art in school, the many famous artists throughout history like Georgia O’Keefe, Van Gogh, Picasso caught my interest. But there are also more recent artists, designers and illustrators like Andy Saftel, Lauren Kussro, Jaq Belcher. Tord Boontje, Vladmir Stankovic, and Nate Williams whose work that I connect with. There are so many more I could list

Even lesser known are the influencers in my life who set the stage.

I don’t know that I can pinpoint the exact moment that I put pen, pencil or paintbrush to paper. I do know that my mother often had crafty projects for my siblings and me growing up. I remember making pot holders, weaving squares of unknown objects on a child-size loom, and of course coloring between the lines in coloring books and paint by number sets for days on end. Even now, the smell of linseed oil takes me back to those early days. We always had Play-doh and crayons ready when the inspiration struck. Drawing from life also provided endless focus with such exciting subjects as the pet parakeet and horses. All these kitschy crafts and artworks likely helped get that creativity muscle flexed early in life.

My siblings and me playing with the ever entertaining Play Doh—focus so strong I couldn’t be bothered with looking at the camera!

My siblings and me playing with the ever entertaining Play Doh—focus so strong I couldn’t be bothered with looking at the camera!

“Let’s pretend” was often at the beginning of my sentences in interactions with childhood friends. There was even the time that, during pretend “school,” I as the “teacher” gave “students” the assignment of designing an invitation to a party. Parents were confused about where the pretend party was when the invitations made their way home. The skills at event planning would come at a much later date in my creative career.

Some recent personal work is taking monoprints from a few years ago and collaging paper flowers, stitching, beads and embellishments to them. The result combines my loves of printmaking, bling, and paper arts. It’s a fine line between craft and art in my world.

Some recent personal work is taking monoprints from a few years ago and collaging paper flowers, stitching, beads and embellishments to them. The result combines my loves of printmaking, bling, and paper arts. It’s a fine line between craft and art in my world.

All of those childhood masterpieces (ahem) are long since gone but the creative spirit is still thankfully thriving.

The thing about the creative life is that there’s encouragement that almost always comes with it—sometimes the encouragement comes from within and sometimes from external sources like teachers, friends and family. Oftentimes the spark isn’t fully comprehended until later in life. It’s a process of exploring with a good dose of curiosity and experimentation. I’m super fortunate to enjoy that process and quite happy to share it with clients, friends, family and sometimes with no one at all but myself. The creative muscle sometimes leads the way and I certainly love the ride it provides. Now back to the work that I love!




Social Order

I wonder how the famed artists, illustrators and designers from days gone by might feel about promoting their work through social media channels. Can you imagine how the notoriously brilliant artist, author and fellow-introvert Dr. Seuss might have felt about it? Somehow I think he would still have great fun with it all. Clearly someone who came up with such memorably playful lines to entertain kids for generations would be able to lighten up about it. Or maybe he’d just hire someone else to do it for him.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
— Dr. Seuss

An introvert often considers socializing an option. An introverted business owner considers it a much more strategic necessity. In either role, a lot of thought can go into the planning and oftentimes it needs refining and redefining. As many a business person is apt to do, this introvert has found herself in that process of late.

Since social media has come into play for businesses, it can feel like a wonderful gift and time-saver to share a message with the mere click of a button, especially in contrast with recent times when social media wasn’t even an option available for businesses to even consider. Its advent obviously created a new order and the way we use it keeps changing.

Today, few successful business owners can broaden their audience without a social media presence. It’s no longer considered a wise choice to be off its channels. For very long anyway. It’s certainly a crowded and fickle place to be though.

In particular, artists are able to share their work with the world now and get instant feedback through the number of likes and comments. At its best, we can gain new clients. At its most challenging, the response may sound like crickets. The algorithms can be elusive but they can also create great new connections.

For someone who manages their own social media, there can be a lot of guesswork that goes into what followers and connections will respond to despite our best research. Sometimes there is seemingly little reward when algorithms change and trends fall away. Nevertheless, finding the perfect post is a perpetual process of experimentation, observation and education that continually needs refining, much like building relationship skills.

Fortunately, the same social network we rely on for promotion also provides multiple online forums for artists so that we can tap into the wisdom of others experiencing some of the same challenges and successes. It’s a gift to have complete strangers with huge followings freely share their wisdom.

Recently, I gave myself a mini break from social media and found it to be rather liberating. Scheduling posts, checking on followers’ responses and what those whom I follow were up to online, all in the midst of getting the paying work done, can be quite a juggling act. It was a little uncomfortable at first to break from it all—like I was putting some of my hopes and aspirations for my business on hold—but ultimately it was a relief to find more room for the real live social network of phone conversations, lunch meetings, outings, business networking events and so on with clients, fellow creative types and old friends. And of course the decision to end the mini-break was always readily available.

In my mini break, I discovered some great new projects with great new clients—one of which was through a friend who follows my posts on social media. I also started some personal projects, met new friends and acquaintances, and even learned new skills through video conferencing.

Time and again it has been proven to me that the face-to-face (or even just voice-to-voice) connections are where the greatest things happen. It’s an art that I don’t want to lose in a time where it’s seemingly getting more difficult to truly connect. We can easily forget that others have their successes, milestones and hardships behind the email exchanges and the social media postings until we learn about each other’s lives through actual conversations. This more real connection also invites an exchange of questions and answers that don’t come as easily through digital means, whereby building a foundation for more meaningful curiosity and its creative results.

During those face-to-face connections, I discovered people were still seeing examples of work previously posted. The algorithms of social media attempt to lure us back in. Taking that break was a good idea but I’m back at it, renewed and inspired to find my own personal happy balance.

Postings on social media continue to be important, especially as someone who works in a solitary setting (which the introverted side of my personality thrives on creatively speaking). I somewhat jokingly call social media my proverbial “water cooler.” Just as important, it helps lay the foundation for establishing and reinforcing my ever-evolving brand. I am a creative type after all—that evolution is part of the flow of my business model and the best way to announce a new skill or share a new style.

Streamlining promotion and communication is of course important in business but I’m happy to know the human connection is still available. It’s one of the many things I love most about running a business. Let’s discuss it sometime!

Theodor Geisel (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss) spent his workdays ensconced in his private studio, the walls lined with sketches and drawings, in a bell-tower outside his La Jolla, California, house. Geisel was a much more quiet man than his jocular rhymes suggest. He rarely ventured out in public to meet his young readership, fretting that kids would expect a merry, outspoken, Cat in the Hat–like figure, and would be disappointed with his reserved personality. ‘In mass, [children] terrify me,’ he admitted.
— Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking