Saturday, August 16, 2014

When you find your art twin, you are not glad to see each other.

Up to now, my posts have focused on art of others, but this one is about both mine and others...

For awhile now, I have been thinking about the importance of The Artist's Vocabulary: those symbols, colors, stylistic motifs and touches that come together to make our unique styles as artists. My friend and frequent art show comrade, Joseph Brzoska, is a great example of an artist who has developed such a recognizable style with familiar elements that are as good as a signature. When I think of Joe's paintings, I think of quizzical deer, skulls of all types, pirate ships, dainty little girls walking tightropes, circus rings, barren landscapes----

Wait, did I say circus rings? Yes, but I also paint circus rings, or at least I used to. And now here is Joe, big as life, sneaking into my subconscious and yanking out MY CIRCUS IMAGERY!!! He can't do that!

   Except, he can. Joe is free to have similar ideas, to paint them better or worse, to paint them every day or once in awhile, and there is nothing I can do about it. Understand, I am not talking about copying, or stealing, but the shared vision that comes from being humans. Sometimes we all think the same things are neat (remember my bird silhouette rant?) And we are all right in thinking so. In this case, I had pretty much abandoned the circus subject after a brief flirtation, and Joe's wonderful circus paintings satisfy my love for the subject better than mine ever could, I believe. But I did have a glitch recently, where I lost a competition to an artist who is working in a style and subject so similar to mine that it really was too close to home...
 After researching her work, which I had never seen before, I determined that it is not really that much like mine, but all of what she says about her reasons for making the work are frighteningly familiar. I am an artist because I want to make original things. I certainly don't want to make something that appears to be a knockoff of another artist's idea. This is a hard moment for me, which I am going to push through, because I think that is all I can do.  My initial reaction was a little over the top. As artists, we have to remember that we don't create in a vacuum, even though the studio confines can make it seem that way. We are influenced and we are influencing others all the time, and we send our work out far and wide to do just that.

    For the next two weeks, you can see the enchanting circus world that Joe creates on the right as you enter the Open Eye Cafe, and more of his other works around the room. My Medicine Horse series is on the left. As you look at Joe's work online you can see how he has made a cohesive body of related works with technique and a simple vocabulary that is uniquely his own.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mixed Media Mashup:       Quick update to my post on Jamie McPhail's e...

Mixed Media Mashup:       Quick update to my post on Jamie McPhail's e...:       Quick update to my post on Jamie McPhail's encaustic journey: I purchased her painting - the one I featured in the blog entry, for...
      Quick update to my post on Jamie McPhail's encaustic journey: I purchased her painting - the one I featured in the blog entry, for full price, in cash. I support other artists whenever I can, and I have never regretted a single purchase. Sales don't just feed our families. As artists, sales validate our work and give us the creative energy to keep going, in addition to the security that the lights will stay on while we work.
      It is possible to collect original fine art at every price point. You may start with silkscreen posters like those of Ron Liberti, or save your money for a special splurge. Artists who are worth a damn highly value their fans and collectors, and appreciate feedback even if you can't purchase. Still, nothing sends a stronger message to an artist that they have connected with an audience than a purchase. Maybe the next coffee mug you buy could be from Jason Bige Burnett,  a fantastic artist and a delightful teacher. As we slip into the end of summer, artists are working on their holiday inventory. Think about having a Handmade Holiday season, and introduce some art into your everyday life.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


    A few weeks back, I got to spend time in the studio of my friend Jamie McPhail. I am fortunate to know many talented artists, many of whom work with relatively little thought to fame, riches, or even basic sales related to their artworks. I admire them, but I do think it is a shame to keep these treasures under wraps. Jamie has a gallery full of gorgeous encaustic wax paintings in her home and studio, and I want you all to know more about her, the paintings she has created, and the medium that is one of the oldest and most durable ways to paint with pigment.

     First, Jamie McPhail stands out for her devotion to the medium, which is tricky to work with and as prone to hot mess as it is happy accident. Hot beeswax is dangerous, as its melting point is much higher than paraffin, and it requires heated tools to manipulate. The tools are difficult to clean, the heat from the griddle is uncomfortable, the melting wax is a little smelly and each step requires breaks for cooling the wax to see how the work is coming along. Oh, and the pigments are extremely pure, therefore very expensive, and inexpensive substrates like paper and canvas won't support the paint layer. Why would anyone bother with this demanding material?

    Well, it is just irresistible. The wax is glossy, suspending the pigment perfectly at any saturation level from transparent to opaque, and it is virtually timeless. Encaustic paintings have been found in perfect condition at over 1000 years old, since normal extremes of cold and heat will not damage the pigment. It is a natural adhesive, which makes it ideal for collage elements and inclusions that are embedded in the hot wax. The surface can be textured with tools and printed with stamps or carved away when cooled. The possibilities for surface treatment allow for the exploration and variation that artists crave.

    I leave you with some links to Jamie McPhail's work, including a piece which Maria Shriver's webmaster "borrowed" from Jamie's Etsy Shop. I include a link to a site for artists* that seemed helpful after that incident, and which  may help others protect themselves when publishing or using artwork in the future.  One of my favorite pieces, "The Moon Landed Safely in the Garden" is below. Spend some time looking at the lovely pieces Jamie has for sale, and enjoy the depth and breadth of her wonderful works in wax!

*Lot of good info on this site, but "Copyright Information for Artists- Registering and Copyrighting Your Art" is the relevant article.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Total Mastery

One of my mid-life obsessions is the concept of mastery. I have spent most of my life trying to do a little of everything, art wise, and being distracted by every new shiny thing. This is worse for printmakers, because even under that mantle there are SO MANY VARIABLES. So here is a very brief story about my friend, the artist Bruce White.

If you are old like me, you may remember seeing paintings on black velvet being sold, usually out of a van, parked by an on-ramp or at a flea market. Subjects ranged shallowly from Elvis to Jesus, and stalking tigers or galloping stallions. You may have owned one for the irony, in college. You probably never thought what might happen if a really talented artist got a hold of this idea, what might happen...

    But Bruce White did. An experienced and well-trained artist, with a gift for portraiture and a penchant for pop culture put it all together to create wildly fun, nostalgic and endearing portraits of beloved actors, characters and creatures from a variety of sources. He put all the work, and thought, and time into a medium that most of us never thought worthy, and created something special.  You can check out Bruce's website and blow your mind!
     Think about what you might want to master, and how you might go about it. Some say that in five years, Bruce has perfected techniques in a difficult medium that many would like to steal. (if you ever tried to paint on velvet--- it's a total chafe. It has a nap.) I am trying to become the Mistress of Mixed Media Guerrilla Style Printmaking Techniques. Maybe I could, in five years.

     Might I, like Bruce, find that perfect marriage of subject matter and medium? Might you, if you found something to grab onto and not let go until you, too, achieved Total Mastery? There is no substitute for repetition or exploration when perfecting a skill, so think about something you can really dig into. And take a look at Bruce's pro wrestler portraits from his show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. And then go make some art! Or whatever!


PS This isn't a rant , really but an emphatic statement. I don't even think Bruce knew or expected to be celebrated, or even appreciated for the work he has done-- not on the scale of success he is achieving. I just want people to think about becoming really good at something, or sharing what you are really good at with the world. True mastery is an inspiring thing to witness, and makes us each want to be better at our chosen avocations. Mastery is not perfection, that's a trap; we have to step around it.
PPS, You can still hire Bruce to paint your ideal velvet subject, but hurry, because he is getting more famous every day!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Adventures in Printmaking

Hi Mixed Media Mavens,

I am a printmaker first, and pretty much every other kind of artist second through infinity. Yes, I think whoever dies with the most art supplies wins, but whoever uses the most art supplies dies happiest. So this blog is to showcase stuff I make and art I do, to share processes and successes and failures. I will try to spice it up with simple projects for all levels, and techniques that any level artist can incorporate into their daily art practice. 

But first--- it's the rant of the day!!!
Notice the birds flying off this blog template? A pet peeve of mine is when an image goes from resonant to iconic to trite in no time, thanks to overuse. Bird silhouettes are tired. They are on tattoos, napkins, t-shirts and the dreaded "wall art"* from 
Home Goods.

They were cool. Now, use them with caution.

*bonus rant: wtf is "wall art"?! Let's all vow never to say that term again. If it's art, it can go wherever the hell it wants in my house.

(Random fact: I am doing the 40 bags in 40 days decluttering challenge on Facebook. Regular decluttering is important for all mixed media mavens, because you are all hoarders at heart. It will help you have room to work AND you will find great stuff to use in collages and assemblages. Bricolage, anyone?)

In the next few days, I promise you a cool decluttered art product, a new blog post AND a better design to this blog. I am learning, people. One step at a time.

Keep making stuff!