The Winter Artist in Residence idea came to fruition because of my friend Julia. She works at a Montessori school as the Outdoor Classroom Instructor. I wrote about this in January. Click HERE to read more. As part of the Winter Artist in Residence, I taught workshops for kids which I wrote about HERE. As a thank you to my friend for helping me run these workshops, I offered to create an EcoMemory for her as a form of bartering services, my creating art for her and she helping me run a classroom of active young children. There is no way I could have done these workshops without her.
Back in January, we sat down to talk about her special place in nature. She knew what this was about so she had spent some time thinking about her special place. It’s interesting to note other people I have interviewed so far for their custom EcoMemory thought about nostalgic times from their childhood. My friend decided she wanted to do something more in the present moment that would remind her of her sense of contentment in nature. She wanted to be reminded of the beauty and joy of just being in nature especially during her regular runs in a local nature preserve. The advantages of this is I know exactly where this nature preserve is located. So I went and scouted out the location and took actual photos of the landscape. This helped with my design work.
For the past few weeks, I have been writing in my Studio Notes about what I’ve learned while developing this EcoMemory process and how I am improving the process with each new client. The next EcoMemory I created is for my friend Pam from Seattle. She has been involved with my EcoMemory idea from the very beginning. As I described this idea to her, how I wanted to make my art more personal and meaningful to my future clients by helping them reconnect to their special place in nature, she immediately told me she had a budget and she wanted me to make two for her. Double the fun! Of course, I was ecstatic. We settled on a time and we had a Skype conversation so we could feel like we were talking to each other in the same room, at least as much as you can, using a laptop screen.
Pam described being in a rowboat on a calm lake in northern Minnesota early in the morning as a young child. She looked over the edge of the boat and saw these beautiful colorful sunfish swimming in the water. Now Pam is an artist herself and loves color as it is a way for her to express her ideas through her art.
After I created my first EcoMemory piece for my geology professor Dr. Palmquist, "Partridge Point in Lake Superior” (Read about it HERE), I wondered what would be my next step. I thought, who really gets my abstract landscape art. I immediately thought of Jackie Skarritt. Click HERE to see her Instagram Page. We have been Instagram friends for a few years and she always would comment so insightfully on both design issues and color palette. She would highlight the complicated designs or the teeniest little piece of fabric that I had inserted and thought no one would notice. But Jackie noticed, and would comment about it on Instagram. She would look at my Clouds series and say she looked up at the sky and it was exactly like what she saw in a recent daily square from that Clouds series. I knew that we saw the world in similar ways. So next step, I direct messaged her in Instagram and asked if I could call her about a project I had in mind.
She could not have been more gracious. We talked for an hour and found out we have many things in common.
In the Fall of 2017, I had this idea to create art inspired by special places in nature. In my mind, this sounded like a great idea to help people reconnect to how they feel in nature. The art would tap into people's memories of time spent in nature. But I was not sure how to actually do it. Whatever it was going to actually be, I decided to call the process an EcoMemory Experience.
We were visiting our college alma mater, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin in November of 2017 as we brought our youngest child on a college visit to check it out and I knew we were visiting with my favorite professor for coffee. This coincidence got me thinking. When I was a student, my professor Dr. Palmquist and I did field work for this project on a small rock island right off the shore in Lake Superior near Marquette, Michigan. I never forgot the beauty of the lake and those gorgeous dark rocks with pink mineral veins (in geology called dikes). So, a week before our trip, I just started pulling fabric and cutting it up and sewing it back together again. I made my first EcoMemory artwork for my favorite Geology Professor based on my Senior Honors Geology Project. I captured the feeling in this piece entitled "Partridge Point in Lake Superior." I presented the artwork to Dr. Palmquist and this is what he had to say about it.
Phase One of my Winter Artist in Residence at a local Montessori school finished last week. This phase consisted of workshops for two different age groups: primary children (ages 3-6 years old) with their parents and the elementary school kids (6-9 years old) by themselves. I created this workshop specific for this school and age groups. The workshop is called Connect to Nature through Art where we discuss thinking about your favorite place in nature, remembering how it makes us feel and then using our imagination to create art showing this special place. I taught them how to tear construction paper into small pieces and glue the pieces onto a larger sheet of thick watercolor paper as their canvas.
In previous editions of my Studio Notes, I’ve talked about having a period of self reflection to think about what went well last year and what not so well. Then I use that information to decide what I want to focus on for 2018. Remember, this is very personal and obviously specific to me. I thought about not even including this in my blog. But I realized when you read about other people doing this kind of pondering exercise, it makes you, the reader, reflect on what you would choose as what went well and what did not go well and hopefully, what are your goals for this upcoming year. So, I include my State of the Union as an example for you to think about the possibilities.
I was inspired by Paul Jarvis's State of the Union in his weekly newsletter to write my own. I’ve written about Paul Jarvis before and have followed his work for years. His honesty and humor gave me a good example to follow. I find this high level bird's eye view of the past year very helpful because sometimes you get so caught up in the every day routine, you don’t take the time to step back and see what has happened in the past year for good or bad.
Recently, I started thinking about where do people who love nature hang out. Thinking about this idea sparked another idea about being an Artist in Residence at a nature center. I could make art at that location and be surrounded by people who appreciate nature and actively seek to spend more time in nature. I thought about people I knew who could help me think more about this idea. I have a friend who I went to summer camp with as a child in Maine who lives in my local area. She works as the Outdoor Classroom Director for the local Montessori school. (How cool is that title!) So Montessori schools place a lot of emphasis on nature and being outdoors year round. This particular facility is fortunate enough to have a wetlands, prairie and woods on their property for their students.
My friend and I met a few times to talk about the possibilities and now I am the Winter Artist in Residence at the school for the next month. T
This new year of 2018 has brought some changes to my art practice. I am trading in the daily squares from the Every Day Project for weekly EcoMemory larger pieces. This shift in my thinking started last fall when I decided most of my Every Day Project series are based on nature like the Forest and Clouds series. I realized when I thought about how I felt in nature and the emotions from those places in nature and then translated that into my art, the effect was a lot more powerful. This is the beauty of Instagram when you get instant feedback on your artwork. This idea of the emotional power behind the art coupled with my desire to make my art personal for clients and really serve my clients would lead me to a new idea, EcoMemory commissions.
I completed sewing the 25 daily squares of the Coral Reef series on Sunday. The final piece is in My Shop.
Here is how I describe it. Imagine the feeling of swimming underwater and seeing the coral reef healthy, colorful and full of life. This is the feeling I evoke with the Coral Reef series. This series is inspired by the documentary Chasing Coral. The documentary is available on Netflix and is a wonderful movie to watch with family over the holidays. If you are curious about how I make each piece, I sew all the daily squares in consecutive order from Day 1 to 25 into one big square and then wrap that around a 24 in.² stretched canvas frame. The impact of the blues for the water in the top row and the natural colors for the sand on the bottom row are a little subtle because of the edges being wrapped around the stretch canvas frame. But there are enough little hints of the water blue and sand color that I’m still pleased with the outcome. The Coral Reef series is now for sale my website. Click HERE to see he finished piece in my shop.
Last week I finished sewing together the Forest. It has become one of my favorites because this series taught me about the power of emotion evoked by the art and the idea behind the art. As I state in the article below, "Art evokes an emotion. Then what does this Forest series say? The calm greens and blues remind you of the peace you feel in nature as you are standing in the forest yourself." Consistent with my new way of presenting my art, I wrapped the sewn pieces around a stretched canvas frame. Since this was a larger piece, I was not quite sure how it would turn out. Happily, it all worked out. The Forest is now for sale on my website just in time for holiday gift giving. If you know someone who loves to be among trees and feel that calming presence, consider giving them the gift of original art.
It is this that time again. December is my month to think about what went well this past year and what did not go well. I wrote about this last year in the article, Why do an Annual Review? This review and planning time is like a combination of a spa and brainstorming session smashed together. Everyone needs to feel relaxed to come up with good creative ideas. So I’m going to be figuring out that balance over the next month of December.
Another question I’ve been asking myself is how do I want to spend my time? One of my favorite creative business guys Paul Jarvis posed this question in one of his newsletters. His idea is to figure out this question and work backwards as to the kind of things you want to do to fill your day. Play to your strengths and focus on those type of activities. You will do them better anyway than forcing yourself to do something you do not really even want to do. These guiding questions will help me figure out my 2018 focuses.
Most people have heard by now about the power of gratitude. It’s almost a cliché. People say "Yeah, Yeah. I know I should write a gratitude list or be grateful for all the good things that I have in my life. " As with all ideas that become clichés, there is a profound truth embedded in them.
When we live in a state of gratitude you begin to see the good all around you. When you start looking for the good around you, you see even more and more good in your life. The power of gratitude is that it appears to magnify the good in your life. Perhaps the good in your life has always been there and it’s a question of seeing and acknowledging it
Many people attribute the quote “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” to Albert Einstein. Based on my research, there’s no substantiation for this actually being said by him or in his writings. But it is true none the less, whoever said it. As an artist, it is easy to be overwhelmed by feeling we have either too much creativity or too little creativity. It can feel like a pendulum swing between two many ideas and creative block.
This week I’m highlighting two additional Every Day Project series that are available for purchase in my online shop. It’s true as the title suggests. They are in a rectangle shape. Here is the link...
I mentioned last week that I have thought about using a non-square stretched canvas frame for my art. Well, here are the series I chose to display on a rectangle, to be precise a 16“ x 20“ rectangle. When I was deciding which series to use for this new rectangle form, I went back to one of my favorite series from 2015, Fractured Blue Sky. I wrote about it in this article . This was one of my most simple designs with the strong contrast between the white and the blue or green with the diagonal dark brown insert. This design takes on special meaning since yesterday we received an emergency phone call from our son’s college about a tornado warning and lockdown at his college. We were able to talk to him and he got to a safe space. All was well. Now I can add this to my list of worries about your children being away at college. Who knew that there were tornados in that part of the upper Midwest? When I originally made the series I wasn’t really thinking about actual storms per se but it was more about the sense of calm with the horizontal lines being disrupted and offset more like a metaphorical storm in your life.
If you’ve been following along with my Every Day Project for the past two and a half years, now is your chance to own a piece of it for yourself.
This week I am introducing small 10 inch square pieces of my Every Day Project series for sale in my redesigned shop on my website.
If you or someone you care about loves nature-inspired, colorful art and modern design, this might be a good fit for you.
I am using the daily squares from three different series. I picked the Green and Purple series, the Blue Square series and the Compassion series. Each small piece includes four daily squares sewn together. I selected these series for the small pieces because of the simpler color palette and/or design.
Last week I talked about the challenges of Time and Focus in my Studio Notes. The majority of the responses to my previous Friday Question ”What are your top two challenges?” revolves around these two issues, Time and Focus. Not enough time to do everything you want to do. Difficulty in finding your focus and maintaining that focus. Last week I listed some potential solutions I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try. As I wrote last week, if you solve the challenge of time by deciding upfront to do less things, then the focus issue becomes easier because there is less to distract you. In my Friday Question series last week, I asked, "What is one solution for your top two challenges?" I am looking for ideas from people to add to this Solutions list. The more potential solutions the merrier. In this article, I add the responses I received last week from readers to the Solutions list.
One of my questions for my Friday Questions series on Instagram was, ”What are your top two challenges?" The responses came in quickly. It occurred to me that these challenges are issues that are "top of the mind" issues. It was easy to respond because everyone knew exactly what their challenges are because it runs like a loop in the background of your thinking on a daily basis.
There was plenty of overlap on the top two challenges by many of the commentors. People said it in different ways but it boiled down to Time and Focus were the top two challenges...too many things to do and not enough time to do them and difficulty in deciding what to focus on and maintaining focus on what you eventually decided to do. People said things like self care and choosing how to spend my time, wandering eye for new art forms, filtering ideas to get to the best ones, planning too much for one day, making a decision on a direction and then following through. Time and Focus are really related sequential topics. One causes the other one which causes the other one. When we feel overwhelmed by too much to do, by definition it is hard to focus. Just like it is hard to be kind when you are angry or feel grateful when you are complaining. So the one thing that would help is to not feel overwhelmed. Easily said, but hard to do.
Last week, I started a new series called Coral Reef, Lizard island. The inspiration for this idea is a documentary on Netflix called Chasing Coral.
The documentary tagline from their website is... "Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs."
I highly recommend this documentary. You can see a trailer in the link above. It is powerful. You see people who love and study coral reefs documenting the effects of warmer ocean temperatures.
This documentary hits close to home. The last part of the documentary was filmed at Lizard Island, a research station on the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia. Our daughter spent 10 days on Lizard Island in 2014, the year before the coral bleaching events that occurred in just 30 days and are documented in this film. Watching her see the damage done to a place that she loves was heart breaking. A significant portion of the coral died, along with the ecosystem that relies on it.
Last Friday I started a new thing. I asked a question to people who see my art on Instagram. I really want to engage in more conversations about art, so I thought I will just post a question. I asked "How does my art make you feel?" At first I couldn't decide on the best question to ask, but then I remembered this whole past month in my Studio Notes I've been writing about emotions evoked by Art. So I just went with the first question that came to my mind... how does my art make you feel? I added the image of the completed 100 days series, Trees and Windows from this past year. At first I thought this question was too selfish and I really didn't want it to be all about me. But then I realized all these questions are really a way of giving people a chance to think and talk about art which includes my art. It's about dialogue. It's about connection to someone else who thinks about art and color and design as a creator or a consumer of art. It's amazing how quickly people responded and how thoughtful their comments were. I was blown away and very grateful.
People said my art made them feel happy, joyful, energized, motivated, serene, and alive when they saw my art. It doesn’t get better than that. Mission complete.
As a follow up to my article two weeks ago, Questions for Artists, @ we had a wonderful Open House and Meet the Artist event last week. This event is for artists in our annual Public Art Program...
It was a pleasure to get to know the artists in person or by their written submissions to our three questions for the night. The good new is that the questions really just provided a structure for a conversation with the artist since once they got rolling, they talked about things that were important to them as artists.
My job as the interviewer for the Meet the Artist event is to help the audience get to know more about both the artist and their story.
I have reread the recent article on David Hockney by Deborah Solomon in the New York Times, "David Hockney, Contrarian, Shifts Perspectives," several times. He's being interviewed because there's a massive retrospective of his life and art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City scheduled for November 27, 2017. I was surprised when I read the quote that earlier in his career he thought he was a painter on the fringes. He said ,“I thought I was a peripheral artist, really.” You see he was doing figurative somewhat realistic art when it was fashionable to only create abstract art. This article pointed out that now he's probably the most celebrated artist in all of England. He is designing a stained-glass window for Westminster Abbey in honor of Queen Elizabeth. The author of the New York Times article went on to say that nowadays artists can choose their own medium, figurative or abstract. There are no rules. There's no exclusion. You are not better or worse if you do one or the other. I hadn't realize what a liberating thing that is. If a great artist like David Hockney felt like he was a peripheral artist because of the way he chose to express himself, we are lucky that he had the courage and perseverance to do it anyway.
I have been interested in David Hockney and his art for years.
In March 2015, I joined the Fine Arts Commission in our community. The Commission has a mission.
"This Commission has served to provide a forum where enthusiastic supporters of the arts can meet and discuss innovative new strategies to promote art in order to improve the community."
I was asked to submit an application to this Commission because my art was selected the previous year for the Public Art Program. I have included images of both pieces to show how my art has changed over the years. These are the last pieces were i used printed fabrics as now I exclusibely use Kona solid fabrics. It has been a rewarding tenure so far as the Commission is up for new ideas and committed to promoting a diverse array of arts in the community from large public murals to community theater and local arts programming at the public library.
This week I need to think of three questions to ask the artists at our Open House next week.
My current series the Forest has been getting some attention in my Instagram account. Even people who have followed me for years said there was something special about this series with the multiple greens and the varying compositions. When I was trying to describe it to one of the commenters the thought came to me I really imagine standing in the forest looking up at the trees with dappled light all around and seeing the blue sky peeking through. I captured the emotion that I use to create the Forest series into words. Sometimes it is hard for me to capture that essence into words and I am practicing doing it. This time I felt like I succeeded. I shared this with one of the commenters and they got it.
Many artists inspire me. I decided to highlight some of them in my Studio Notes in an ongoing series called Artist Stories.
I have been listening to TED talks lately while I have been in the studio. I listened to such an inspiring one this past weekend. I listened to it 3 times and kept pausing it to rehear what Laolu Senbanjo was saying.
His first powerful statement is...
"Every artist has name. And every artist has a story. "
I provided the link to the TED talk because you are going to want to see his art as well as hear him speak.
"The Sacred Art of the Ori"
He starts at the beginning, how he saw the world as a child.
After spending time on lakes in the woods this summer, I decided to focus more on landscapes in my upcoming series. As an artist I have used the natural world for inspiration for many of my series over the past years. As I told one of my artist friends, I am really a landscape artist.
For some reason, this was a very clarifying moment for me. So what does this mean and how will it change my creative practice? I plan to focus on the geometric elements of the natural world that inspire me to help inspire others to see the beauty all around us.
I am reading a book called The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. It is a very detailed comprehensive book about the years from when the Impressionists started learning how to paint in Paris, through the years where they found other people with similar interests in new painting styles, up through when a dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, brought the Impressionist art work to New York for an Exhibition in 1886. It took me a while to get into the book because Roe writes about many different artists all at the same time because she goes in chronological order and the artists all converged on Paris around the same time. You learn about their backstory, where they came from, how their families had to support most of them for decades, how some married their models and hid that fact from their middle class parents. I just didn't realize how persistent these artists were. They wanted to break from tradition and not just copy the old masters and be limited to traditional subject matter like portraiture or classical myths. They wanted to paint outdoors, plein-air. They wanted to paint contemporary subjects, every day people doing every day things.
As I go on another holiday up into the Northwoods with spotty internet service, I thought I would repost an article from last November 2016, Lessons from Working in a Series. One of the best ways I set myself up for success completing the Every Day Project every day is by setting up 25 day series with an engaging theme. I decide the color palette and design parameters for each 25 days series. It narrows the options to some degree but makes the every day part more do-able with less decision fatigue to wear me out. Each series has a lesson waiting for me. I added more images of the daily squares to illustrate my point in this revisited article.
After spending a week on a small lake in the Northwoods, I realize that most of my inspiration for both color and design in my art comes from the natural world I see around me. I feel like a landscape artist even if my art may seem abstract to some. This vacation brought me new insights into the importance for me to be immersed in nature on a regular basis. I do some of my best thinking in nature.
This week finds me in the Northwoods with no internet service. So I decided to repost my article from January 2017, One Year Anniversary of Studio Notes describing why I continue my weekly Studio Notes. As I write at the end of this article, my goal is to help people honor their creativity and...
"...Find a form of self-expression that feels good to them so then they can be good to others.
In the past two 100 Day Projects, I have created a four part series around a theme. In 2016, my theme was the Four Elements. I created a 25 day piece sewing together 25 daily squares for each of the elements; Fire, Sky, Water and Earth. This year's theme was Trees and Windows. Since I just finished the 100 Day Project last week, I decided to give some insight into my creative process by sharing, and maybe rambling a bit, about what I was thinking for each piece in this four part series.
This year I was inspired by the art of Elizabeth Gourlay. In particular, I was drawn to her geometric art with color strips around the outside of a square and pieces with vertical and horizontal lines made up of small strips of color within the line. I envisioned the vertical strips as trees and the square piece as a window frame. Hence the name of the series is Trees and Windows. I knew I could have these two pieces compliment each other with the design. For the other two pieces in the series, I thought I could just reverse the design concept and call them Inverse Trees and Inverse Windows. Instead of color strips on the edges of a square like a window frame, the second piece would be full of color strips on the inside of the window and then grey as the window frame. For the tree series, the inverse would be a grey vertical strip amongst strips of fabric as the background.