Archive for February, 2013

I have been following one of my favorite artists practicing today, Nicholas Wilton, on Facebook. I discovered his work on a desk calendar I bought several years ago and enjoy his posts on art-making and  him sharing his beautiful work. He seems to get that painting is a process that connects us to each other, our cultural history, to nature and speaks in the visual language of metaphor and symbolism. It resonates with me and my own personal relationship to art.

For several years I have been working on a series of mixed media paintings inspired by liminality, the in-between space that gives rhythm and meaning to being human. It is often a much ignored and oft anxiety-inducing “place” to be. Someone recently described it as stepping off a train in a strange town. I associate it with being adrift, at sea. I believe we have all felt like we were on a precipice of choice and change and unconscious of the fact that it is not only a part of our macro world, our psyche but also working on a micro level, too. It is the moment between inhalation and exhalation, the threshold from the past to the present.

With that in mind, I was delighted to see Wilton’s recent post about the in-between. He discusses the idea of working hard and how working hard all the time may not be the most efficient approach to being. I always wondered….what is the gauge for working hard? As artists, aren’t we working all the time? Observing, being, absorbing, expressing? Our society teaches us that if it doesn’t earn a paycheck, if we aren’t going to an office and producing tangible widgets, we aren’t working. Here’s what Wilton had to say:

“Working hard is something I have forced myself to get good at but now I think that maybe this was not such a good thing to get good at after all. Listening to the poet philosopher David Whyte speaking in San Francisco a couple of years ago I jotted something down in my sketchbook that he said regarding learning. He was talking more metaphorically, probably larger in terms of learning from our life – how to live, rather than art making, but it resonated with me. It was a quick sentence and at the time I didn’t really understand, so I wrote it down so later I would. He said, “…Visitation, absence, visitation, absence, visitation, absence, (this repeated over and over again) is how we learn.” In other words the time BETWEEN the periods of effort, the pauses in-between are fundamentally as important as the periods of work. He believes that this “on, off and on again “ process produces more consistent, more substantial results.” 

I like the words he chose, visitation and absence, as in being present to the work, and then being present to the space. There is rhythm, an ebb and flow that is stepping away, taking a pause. I find it reflected in the concept of positive and negative space in art and design. The space around objects are just as important as the objects themselves. They are both characters in our personal story, and in our art.

How does being in-between affect you? Is it comfortable or make you anxious? Can you ride the wave across the unknown sea?


Nicholas Wilton’s Symmetry – Mixed Media on 20 x 54″ panel

Stremmel Gallery, Reno, Nevada


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As an art teacher and practitioner, I am always hungry for words of wisdom and tidbits that I can share with students and tuck away into my own mental library for a rainy day. I have found http://www.emptyeasel.com to be an interesting website for all things art: techniques, inspiration and real world insights. A recent post by Gil Robles offers some advice that is worth passing on, a reminder that it isn’t necessarily the end result but the process and path along the way that feeds our creative Soul. Check it out!

5 Ways to Become a Better Artist and Better Art Student

I particularly like the reminder to make art every day, even if just a quick sketch. I encourage my students to do the same. Here’s a quick study I did during my recent summer in Italy – “View from Spello.”


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You Might Be An Artist If….

I saw this on Facebook the other day and of course I couldn’t help but laugh at how true it is!! While I am a bit more extroverted than most artists and maintain a social life beyond the studio, I’m pretty sure I have experienced all the other scenarios shown here. Self-doubt and guilt are quite familiar feelings yet seem to come with the territory of turning one’s self inside out when amidst the creative process.

Many thanks to Lauren Purje for sharing her keen observation. I feel comfort in knowing that I am not alone and can remember to not take myself too seriously when it comes to explaining my weird, artist behavior. And thankfully I was able to go to both the art supply and grocery stores today!!

You're an artist if...

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