Monday, November 5, 2012

Make No Little Plans

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."
— Daniel Burnham (1846-1912)

Architect Daniel Burnham, whom some consider the inventor of urban planning, offered a vision of what he believed a civilized city should look like at a time of urban disorder. He believed that a city could be both beautiful and efficient.  His work sought to merge things often thought of as opposite such as business with art and the practical with the ideal. Burnham’s influence is strongly felt in Chicago as well as across America.

My newest piece, Make No Little Plans began as a simple wooden cube. Any of you who are familiar with my work will find this shape to be of no surprise! The square shape encourages balance and underscores the potential dichotomy in everything.   It symbolizes a prolonged state of presence and is a dependable and grounded structure.   I find comfort in its stability, predictability and familiarity.

I began by making a simple cardboard model, as I often do.  I have my Father to thank for the construction of this wooden base.  I promptly thanked him with a homemade sweet potato pie (his favorite).  There is no picture of said pie as while, I was told, it was truly delicious, it was a sad looking little pie attesting to my lack of baking skills! 

In a September blog post titled Challenges are a Good Thing,, I wrote about my latest series of paintings.  In this new series I adjust the way I treat the encaustic and fiber materials I use in my 3D Vessel and Sculpture series. The results are unquestionably 2D.  Pattern and repetition play key roles in these new works.  The interplay of colors in the highly textured fragments of larger images feels harmonious.  The flowing lines resulting from the placement of these small pieces set a visual path that gives rise to a calming sense of rhythm.

Make No Little Plans, detail

This new sculpture, Make No Little Plans, is the perfect combination of the 2D use of materials with the 3D sculptural form!

Make No Little Plans
encaustic, cheesecloth on wood base

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Silkscreen and Encaustic Workshop with Jeff Hirst

I recently attended a Silkscreen and Encaustic workshop with artist Jeff Hirst at the LaGrange Art League.  This has been my summer of workshops.  Earlier this year I attended an Encaustic and Wax Resist workshop given by artist Kim Bernard and I plan on taking Linda Womack’s on-line workshop Surface Design with Pastels, Inks and Mixed Media, later this fall.  Jeff’s workshop explored the unique process of screen printing oil paint and pigment sticks into and onto encaustic surfaces.  It was my hope that by learning this innovative technique, I could print on the encaustic-coated fibers used in my 3D sculptures adding an additional level of interest to their textural surfaces.  This workshop was funded in entirety through a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) Grant.  Many thanks to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and to the following panelists who approved my grant application: Barry Tinsley, Paul Hopkin, Peggy Wright, Vivian Garcia and Ben Foch.

Altered image of Window no. 34

Chicago River Reflections

Now, I had a vague sense of the screen printing process but before this weekend, I had never undertaken this method of printmaking.  I was told to bring a number of jpeg images that were linear in nature, to produce the transparencies which would be used to create the printing image. I chose a decidedly abstract, yet unaltered, black and white photograph Chicago River Reflections and an altered image of a painting from my Urban Windows series. 

 Jeff took us through the processes of preparing the screen with photosensitive emulsion to exposing the transparency image onto that screen.  These steps involved spending a significant amount of time in a dark room, lit only with a safe light.  It took me back to my time spent in the darkroom at the now closed Triangle
                                              Camera in Chicago’s East Lakeview

So now that our screens were ready Jeff explained the printing process including carefully flooding the screen with paint/ink and the importance that the squeegee be held at a 45 degree angle and quickly and firmly pulled across the screen.  Oddly, that simple combination of steps took a while to master. 

 We printed with a number of materials. R&F pigment sticks combined with a blending stick resulting in a thick paint.  R&F Gesso blended with universal dye tints and Speedball screenprinting inks which made a thinner paint. Many of us used R&F Gesso on its own when a white image was needed.

Combining this printing technique with layers of clear encaustic medium resulted in some wonderful dimension to our paintings.  Often encaustic paint was applied by brush onto layers of medium adding even more interest and depth.  Everyone made truly engaging and interesting works utilizing all of these steps.   

Printed cheesecloth strip coated with encaustic medium
My primary interest was printing on encaustic medium coated fiber.  Working with Jeff, I was able to print onto some of the sample pieces that I had brought with me. This workshop definitely provided me with the fundamentals of printscreening and Jeff was instrumental in assisting me in achieving my goal of using this technique in my own unique way.  The hands-on approach of this workshop, in addition to the extensive technical information, sufficiently prepared me to take this process into my own studio.  Now to write another grant to cover all the printmaking equipment and materials!

Thank you April Nomellini for remembering your camera and sharing your photos of the workshop!

Jeff's website:
River Reflections photograph available at
Urban Windows paintings available at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Exhibition News

I love Fall. I love the cooler temperatures and I love the changing colors & falling leaves and I really love the annual tradition of switching out my summer clothes for my winter clothes. The sight of a favorite comfy sweater almost makes me yearn for chilly Chicago winter days…almost. Not only does the weather change but the city changes. The beaches close, school resumes and in general, the number of visitors is vastly reduced. Now I love living in the city, but the sheer number of tourists that visit every summer can be overwhelming at times. There is a small pocket of time between summer and holiday shopping season where downtown Chicago feels more intimate. The sidewalks are just a little easier to navigate and the restaurants in our neighborhood are actually filled with neighbors. I am particularly happy to welcome Fall this year with a number of exciting exhibitions!

Tactile Encounters: The Influence and Appearance of Textures
I am pleased to have five 3D encaustic and fiber pieces in this show at the Kemper Gallery at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Artwork in this show exemplifies how meaning and depth, real or perceived, is brought to a work through the use of textures and layers. This show runs from October 1st through November 16, 2012.

Four of my 3D encaustic and fiber sculptures have been accepted into the show Encaustics at the Kavanagh Gallery, Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Illinois. The show will run from October 19 through November 17, 2012.

The Buzz
For the second time, I am pleased that my art is included in a featured program during Chicago Artists Month. This year I am happy to be a part of The Buzz, an exhibit featuring artworks using the encaustic medium. The show will be in Gallery 303 at the Zhou B. Art Center in Chicago and runs throughout October.

Pattern in Painting
I am delighted to be included in this online juried show that showcases work that relies on pattern as a basis for communication.

You can also find my art at the Illinois Artisans Shop at the Illinois State Museum in the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph) in Chicago.

Image Information: Top image: Living Together-But-Separate-Lives, (5"x8"x9", encaustic, cheescloth, wire, twine) Second Image: The Mane (7”x12”x8”, encaustic, hand-dyed cheesecloth, wire), Vessel 27 (11”x9.5”x6”, encaustic, cheesecloth), The Pillow (on wall) (9’x9”x4”, encaustic, hand-dyed cheesecloth, wire), Vessel 30 (3.5”x14”x14”, encaustic, cheesecloth, wire), Vessel 29 (8”x10”x10”, encaustic, cheesecloth) Third Image: Considering Mies (16"x16"x5", encaustic, cheecloth, wire) Bottom Image: Tendency of Thought (18"x18", encaustic, cheesecloth)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Challenges are a Good Thing

Tendency of Thought (18"x18", encaustic, cheesecloth)

A number of months ago I looked at a call that I wanted to apply to and saw that it specified “Only 2D” submissions. Now given that I have focused on 3D work over the last year or so, I thought this was a nice little challenge. Challenges are a good thing. They encourage us to experiment and they test our willingness to step out of our comfort zone. Sometimes these challenges emerge as mere questions; how can I hang this sculpture on the wall, how can I use this material differently, how can I convey this idea? A good number of these deliberations remain ‘on the back burner’, so to speak, waiting for that spark of inspiration. Sometimes that spark happens right away. I see something new that hints at an answer, or look at the problem in a whole new way. Sometimes it’s just that infamous 'happy accident'.

With this submission challenge, I knew that I wanted to incorporate both encaustic and cheesecloth, the two mediums I use in all of my 3D work, now the question was how.

In my last blog post I talked about the little encaustic and cheesecloth cubes that made up my piece Moving Day. Well, one day while I was making some of these little boxes, I decided to remove some of the sections of the painted cloth cube forms in an attempt to alter their shapes. While I worked, I absentmindedly placed the resulting small rectangular pieces onto a small board.

As the number of these small rectangular shapes increased, the beginnings of an image appeared- a decidedly accidental image! I loved the feeling of flow that came from the formal repetition and the resulting sense of rhythm in the pattern and texture. This needed further examination and so I set my cubes aside and began to paint large sections of cheesecloth and proceeded to cut them into MANY small rectangular shapes. Once again, as with my Tesserae Series, I found myself reformulating the harmonious whole into smaller elements, giving it new order. In my Tesserae series, I make encaustic tiles by creating many similar multi-layered encaustic paintings, systematically strip the painting from its wooden substrate into narrow ribbons and cut these ribbons into tiles which make up the final painting.

Tesserae VIII (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Tesserae X detail (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Does this mean that I have the secret desire to redesign my make, out of fragments, symbols of incompleteness, something that is complete and whole!?!

Tendency of Thought detail (18"x18", encaustic, cheesecloth)

Tendency of Thought, seen at the top of this post, is the result of this ‘happy accident”. It has been included in Hot Wax in the City at Morpho Gallery in Chicago and in Evans Encaustic online show Patterning in Painting. It will be included in the Chicago Artists Month exhibit The Buzz this October in Gallery 303 at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Moving Day in Chicago

Approximately a year ago I commissioned Rodney Thompson to make me custom designed cradled panels with recessed pockets. It was my plan to fill these pockets with delicate square boxes made of encaustic paint and cheesecloth. While creating these petite cubes using no wire supports was a challenge that I happily took on, my attention was diverted to the development of my encaustic and fiber vessel and sculpture pieces. Time and time again I admired these beautiful panels knowing that I would return to them and I am happy to announce that the first of these box assemblages, Moving Day, has been selected for inclusion in the exhibit Hot Wax in the City at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago.

Whether working in 2D or 3D, I find myself returning to the geometry of the square. I believe that it not only underscores the potential duality in everything, it encourages balance. It symbolizes a prolonged state of presence, a dependable and grounded structure. By creating these delicate little boxes I brought the square to life.

For a myriad of reasons, I have moved 7 times over the last 20 years! So for me, boxes symbolize change as well. The packing and unpacking of boxes has, in a sense, become a repetition of constants in my ongoing world of transformation. Whether utilitarian or sentimental, boxes are filled with belongings that are moved to another location where they will be displayed in much the same manner as they were previously. They assist in bringing stability to a new situation.

So now you can understand why I have became slightly obsessed with these little forms, making each one decidedly unique; giving each one its own importance, its own identity.

Moving Day
encaustic and cheescloth

individual cube
encaustic and cheesecloth

Rodney Thompson Custom Art Panels

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein: An Artists’ Creative Process

The idea of an artist’s process has always fascinated me. Everyone thinks and works in a way unique to them. The steps an artist takes that lead to a finished painting is incredibly interesting and telling. Every artist can paint a line on a canvas but none of these lines will look the same and it is who they are and what they bring to the making of that line that makes each artist and each painting unique.

In the 1960’s Roy Lichtenstein brought his unique voice to the art world. His hard-edged precise compositions have been said to have defined the pop art movement. This summer the Art Institute of Chicago has brought together the largest group of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, including drawings, paintings and sculptures, to show the scope of his process and interests in the exhibition Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective. I was most taken by the portion of the exhibition entitled Works on Paper. Here a collection of preliminary drawings that were made as precursors to finished paintings reveal the process behind so many of the art included in the rest of the exhibit.

Roy Lichtenstein once said “It’s all thought up in the drawings and all accomplished in the paintings.” Sketching the beginnings of a painting on paper was an important part of his creative process. It allowed him to rearrange elements until he reached the narrative end he wanted. By jotting down notes on these works on paper he was able to record the thoughts he had on the painting or direct his studio assistants with directions on color, etc. Sometimes, he would enlarge an image to work out some of the compositional details. These studies were often superimposed onto canvas through the use of a projector.

Over time as Lichtenstein’s palette expanded, collage became a part of his process, allowing him to arrange the elements of the painting by combining cut and painted pieces of paper. This process resulted in a complex, multilayered final composition.

It is fascinating to see the many steps that Roy Lichtenstein made throughout his creative process; the many changes that went on in between the initial idea and the final painting.

In my next post I will explore my own process through a step by step look at one of my newest encaustic and fiber sculptures.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Process of Making a New Sculpture

I always find it to be wonderfully thought-provoking to learn the whats, the whys and the hows about a particular piece or about a body of work. Understanding an artist’s process can be incredibly fascinating and telling. I am a very process oriented artist and this is evident in many of my series including my encaustic Urban Windows series, my encaustic tile Tesserae series and most recently in my encaustic and fiber vessels and sculptures. Last month I began a new encaustic and fiber sculpture and I thought that it might be interesting to document the making of this new piece.

Window no. 34 (6.75"x6.75",encaustic)

Tesserae X (18"x18", encaustic tiles)

Since I made my first encaustic and fiber Vessel in 2011, each work was created in a purely intuitive manner. As my designs became larger and more complex I began to create models. Coming Together began as a drawing and from this drawing I made a paper model.

By creating this model I was able to determine that in order to get the result that I wanted I would need to begin with a shape that was 9 feet long! So equipped with this daunting information, I began by cutting out strips of cheesecloth. Once I made the decision as to the general color palette I wanted this piece to have I painted the many fiber strips with encaustic paint. I mix the colors for each strip separately ensuring an interesting and complex finished look.

The strips are then folded and woven and given a layer or two of clear encaustic medium all of which give the piece additional strength. At this point the work is given a wire armature which allows for support. Using pottery tools, the entire piece is hemmed and the shape of the sculpture is formed.

Coming Together (9”x12”x13”, encaustic, cheesecloth, wire)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Digital Interpretation of My Encaustic and Fiber Vessel Series

Digital artist Thomas Broadfoot creates remarkable three-dimensional art. Recently, Thomas told me that he had created a new work inspired by my encaustic and fiber Vessel Series. As you can imagine, I was very flattered and excited to see the result. The Basket is the first in a series using his interpretation of an object that is weaved.

Using a computer program called Hexagon, he begins a piece by doodling until a concept is formed. From here, he creates the depth, dimensions, shape, color and size of the object. While creating The Basket, Thomas determined that through the use of thickness he was able to emulate a weave like pattern. Another program, VUE, is then used to create the background, texture, dimensions and materials, generating the final look and feel of the piece

Each piece can take anywhere from 20 hours to one week to finish. On any given day he can have between 10-35 pieces in various stages of creation. He sees this as an advantage over a traditional artist who has to depend upon the physical space of their studio as to how many pieces they can be working upon at any given time.

Thomas likes to think of himself like as an artist using 21st-century tools.
Please visit his site to view his extraordinary works of art.

Monday, May 7, 2012

They’re taking Marilyn down today! And while some will miss her, I must say that I am happy to see her go. I am talking about J. Seward Johnson’s 26 foot tall statue of Marilyn Monroe that was installed on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile last summer. Art or kitsch was the popular debate. She was wildly popular as a photo op with tourists due to her size and location. I went beyond the love/hate issue with this piece of public, art and posed the question “is bigger always better when it comes to art?” in a blog post that I wrote for in September of 2011. Below is that post.

Is Bigger Always Better… When it Comes to Art?

This summer’s installation of “Forever Marilyn”, Seward Johnson’s large scale public sculpture of Marilyn Monroe on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, has served to renew the debate about whether large scale public art always qualifies as “art”. So, when considering art, does size matter? This discussion has led me to ask the same question of all art regardless of it being public or private.

Large scale art can allow for interaction and stimulate interest. It often is something that you notice, whether or not you want to. Does that make it intrusive? When we walk into a gallery and are greeted by a large-scale painting is its imposing size that beckons us?
I believe smaller pieces are more intimate to make and to view. Small pieces of art invite the viewer to come closer, to experience the art close-up. Yet time and time again I hear the question “don’t you work larger?’ in response to my Windows Series which, framed are 6.75”x6.75”. On numerous occasions, I have been advised by art consultants to “work bigger” because that is what their clients want.
Of course moving the discussion in this direction opens another can of worms; do we allow our creative process to be dictated to us by the client?? But regardless, it is an issue many artists face.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crafts National at Mulvane Art Museum

Today is the first day of the Crafts National exhibition at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas. I am pleased to be one of the 87 geographically diverse artists included in this excellent show juried by independent curator Gail M. Brown. The exhibition ultimately chosen by every juror is as unique as their vision. It is always of great interest to have the opportunity to get a peek into their thoughts on juroring a particular show. Below are some thoughts from Ms. Brown from the exhibition catalog.

"“What Is Memorable?”
A national juried exhibition holds the promise of an abundance of meaningful choices. Within the context of the unknown and the tantalizing anticipation of the new, “possibilities” can be dizzying, including those of familiar vocabulary exploring fresh directions. This new exhibition opportunity as well as exuberant expectations from a constant viewer, was fed sumptuously by a diverse applicant pool. My desire to be introduced to works by artists I had yet to know as well as to recent works by those I recognize, and some of whom I have been watching extensively, was met and exceeded.
I seek to discover the exquisite object, the presence of the hand, the mastery of craft materials and processes. I relish anticipating and acknowledging media specific works of focused and accomplished exploration. I marvel over works which exceed preconceived media limitations and offer daring risks and expanded possibilities. And mainly, I seek ideas- explicit or enigmatic- to mull over and to return to. I was not disappointed. Be it in concept, narrative, imagination, scale, investigation, mastery et al, the applicants and those forms chosen challenged and captivated me. Many works acknowledge the makers’ absorption in repetitive, sequential steps, obsessive actions and multiple elements directed toward the singular completion of a sometimes provocative, challenging, exceptional idea. In their diversity, they each enhance and celebrate the continuum of the memorable handmade object.
I was “gifted” by works of unique vocabulary, the unexpected, undreamt of and the radically new, the enticing use of technology and/or the ever-seductive, timeless, functionally referenced, domestic form. I delighted in the originality, personal stories, experimentation and technical prowess, diverse ideas and execution, mastery and promise and, most of all, the abundance of “joy.” All of the above contributed to the memorable nature of this opportunity. Thank you all!"

Crafts National runs from May 5-August 19, 2012

image: Vessel 26
Encaustic, Cheesecloth
10” x 11” x 7”

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Infinite Benefits
Taking an Art Workshop

My top three reasons for taking an art workshop

#1 - The Instructor
Each instructor brings their unique vision and expertise to the experience. They can help you look at things in a whole new way, help you to see things that would have previously gone unnoticed and learn new techniques that you can bring into your own studio and adapt to your own work.

#2 – Your Fellow Attendees
Working in close proximity of other artists can really be a beneficial component to the way you learn. Seeing what everyone else is doing and allowing them to see what you are creating can be wonderfully inspiring. The resulting interaction can really be valuable to your art-making process.

#3 – The Workshop Topic
I am a firm believer that learning something new, no matter how inconsequential it may be, is always a good thing! When considering an art workshop, you never know what you will end up taking back to your studio. A new technique may not seem a logical fit with your work but it is likely that this new knowledge will rattle around in the back of your mind, perhaps materializing in some form or another sometime in the future.

This weekend I was fortunate to attend the workshop Encaustic & Wax Resist given by Maine artist Kim Bernard. I have long been of fan of her 2D encaustic work as well as her remarkable sculpture and installation work and was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her. An Illinois Arts Council grant allowed me to attend at no cost to me.

My fellow workshop attendees were also fellow members of FUSEDChicago, a group of artists in the Midwest that work in the medium of encaustic. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know these artists through, not only just through socializing during the two days, but also by seeing them at work and seeing how they work and how they think. Additionally, for me, it was nice to work with other artists as I work in a studio by myself. I found that this creative interaction inspired me to create work that was out of my comfort zone.

I plan on taking two more workshops this summer; Jeff Hirst’s Silkscreen & Encaustic Workshop and Linda Womack’s online workshop Surface Work with Pastels, Inks and Mixed Media. It will be interesting to see how the knowledge I gain through these workshops will make its way into my art!

Kim Bernard
Jeff Hirst
Linda Womack

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I am so happy to announce that my work will be heading to New York! The Mane was chosen for inclusion in the show WAX at the Brooklyn Artists Gym. The show runs from May 19-June 4. The opening reception is Saturday May 19 from 6:00-9:00.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Building a Strong Online Presence

On March 23rd and 24th, the Chicago Cultural Center hosted the 9th annual Creative Chicago Expo.  This event featured workshops, vendor information and resources for creatives in all disciplines.  I attended the workshops “Build a Strong Online Presence” given by Jennifer Rapp Peterson of Indiemade and “Maximizing the Potential of Your Website in Cyberspace” given by Brad Lichtenstein of Creative Capital.

Ms. Peterson’s advice begins with the need to define your goals. Why do you want to be online and what do you want to communicate?  She urged everyone to not only discover yourself, the who, what, where, how and why of your personality and the personality of your art, but to also identify your audience and speak to them directly by searching for what they want. 

Both workshops stressed the importance of participation in social media.  It is important to listen to the social conversation as well as sharing and engaging on social platforms.  Mr. Lichtenstein proposed creating a special page on Facebook to follow the stages of a unique project.

Both workshops also emphasized the importance of having a professional website as it is your online home.  Ms. Peterson identified well-designed navigation and page layouts, a site map and a blog as website must-haves.  Mr. Lichtenstein suggested posting process pictures of you making your art as this inside knowledge creates a stronger connection between the art buyer and the art.  Additionally he recommended including images of your art in client’s homes.

He also advised that we think about things and events narratively resulting in a story telling way of disseminating information about ourselves and our art.  He contends that people not only enjoy stories but remember them better, adding that this is the ideal way to design your “elevator speech”.

Indiemade and Creative Capital both have pages on Facebook.

Jennifer Rapp Peterson has included her notes from this workshop on the Indiemade site.

This post appeared on April 12, 2012.

Photograph: Doug Boehm

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Form & Function

Featuring the art of Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Emily Rutledge, Tulika Ladsariya and Jeff Payne.
May 11-June 10, 2012
Opening Friday May 11  6-8pm

Best Chicago Properties
847 West Monroe, 1A  Chicago