Me the Jury – not an easy task

It’s such an honor to be asked to juror an art show. I’ve done it several times and always learn a lot. The Canyon Lake Art Guild (CLAG) recently asked me to juror their annual show, and last week I drove up there to see the artwork and choose the award winners.

One of the challenges of organizing a juried show is coming up with categories – there are so many media options that can be included. Here’s how the CLAG did it:

  1. Oils and Acrylic – Treated as oil and any mixed media with oil or acrylic as the dominant media
  1. Water – Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, inks applied with brushes or poured, acrylic treated as watercolor and any mixed media with water media as the dominant media
  1. Drawing – Pastel, ink, charcoal, pencil and colored pencil, Cont’e crayon, graphite, scratchboard, handmade prints (etching block, silk screen, or mono) and any mixed media with drawing media as the dominant media
     
  2. Photography and Digital – All images must be artist’s original work.   

 3-Dimensional:

  1. Jewelry, glassworks (including fused glass & stained glass)
  1. Pottery, ceramics, sculpting, stone, mosaics
  1. Collages, fiber art and any mixed media with 3-D elements as the dominant media

The largest categories are usually Oils/Acrylics, and Water Media. They are also the most diverse. Here were four of the entries in Oils/Acrylics – completely different! (Each of these got an award). Blue tape covers the artist’s name for complete objectivity.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Honorable Mention

How do you judge such different pieces? My rule is to ask myself two questions – what is the artist telling us, and how technically successful is the result – i.e., concept and skill.  Based on this, I awarded the top painting a First Place, the second one a Second Place, the third one a Third Place, and the fourth an Honorable Mention. OK, why??

The First Place top piece is a portrait of sorts, and it’s mysterious and engaging. There is a smaller profile off to the right that directs our eye back to the main figure. The artist is obviously exploring diverse media to enhance the symbolism. Great concept, good skill.

The Second Place painting of the cow was a favorite of mine for sure – it’s so “in you’re face, I’m a cow.” Loved the colors. After I got home from jury duty, I found out that it was painted by one hundred and one-year-old local artist Carmen Willey!

The Third Place piece shows a fine grasp of color and composition – it’s small and simple and elegant.

The Honorable Mention painting was really large and resembled a poster, but it was hand-painted. I appreciated the way that the background picked up all the paint colors and integrated the work.

So, on to the Water Media, another large category – in the interest of space I’ll just show the top two choices, in my humble juror’s opinion.

First Place

This First Place painting shows a mastery of transparent watercolor, plus the subject is unusual. Look how the chicken shapes play off each other, and how the spatters give the feeling of scratchy gravel and chicken fee without being overworked.

There is a strong focal point with that splash of red. And the painting seems to symbolize a feeling of community. I loved the composition – it looks good even upside down, which is always a good test!

The Second Place winner was also beautiful – a sensitive watercolor portrait with a limited palette. Choosing between these two was tough! Which would you have chosen?

Here are the first and second place in the drawings category – do you agree?

First Place

Second Place

There was lots more work – Photography, Mixed Media, glass, jewelry – here are just a few of the other winners that I chose in various categories

Finally, this was the piece that I awarded Best of Show:

Best of Show

It is a very large clay sculpture that looks as if it could have come from a children’s book. It’s titled “Duet.”

It met my juror’s criteria of original concept, and expert execution. I found out after the show that it was done by sculptor Susan Calafrancesco, who has a large following and a published body of work. While it’s not a new piece, there were no time restrictions on submissions for this exhibition, and it was truly masterful and appealing.

One last story about the jurying experience – I had been invited to juror by Marlene Skaggs, an active and talented member of CLAG. She functioned as my note-taker. As I evaluated each piece, she wrote down notes to share with the artists whose works I was critiquing. When we came to those watercolor chickens, I went on and on about the freshness of the brushwork and the appeal of the subjects. I said, “This artist must have been working in watercolor quite a while to achieve this confident style.” Marlene just kept writing, not saying a word – and of course, after everything was over, I found out that it was her painting!

I’m so grateful to the Canyon Lake Art Guild for inviting me to be the Juror for their show. There are some astonishing artists in the group, and every piece I saw had its own heart and soul. In closing, I’m going to steal the words of Stephanie Fox Knappe, who juried our 89th Art League exhibition, who said it better than I can:

“When called upon as a juror, I am acutely aware of the incredible subjectivity inherent in the task at hand. Simultaneously, I make a conscious effort to try to step outside myself. I attempt to consider what I intellectually know contributes to a strong piece—mastery of art’s formal elements such as line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color. I observe these components to assess and understand how an artist manipulates them, tells stories with them, makes magic from them, and brings something into being that did not previously exist.”

Amen!

 

 

 

November? Vanished!

Eek! How the heck did it get to be December? I don’t think I posted one thing to SHARDS in November. Sure, there is always a lot going on at the San Antonio Art League where I work these days, and we did take a quick trip to Charleston, where I got to research South Carolina Indigo plantations, but still . . . shame on me for slacking.

The problem is that I always want to wait to post until something is finished, or new, or spectacular, but most of us just don’t produce like that. We squeeze in time for our art when we can, and most of it is simply ongoing work in progress, either for an event or for our own exploration.

Work in progress – this one has been around a couple of months!

Have you ever read Jude Hill’s blog, Sprint Cloth? She posts almost every day, even if it’s just a photo of a small patch of fabric she’s working on, or a picture of her cat. She doesn’t wait till something is finished – she posts her daily practice. Kinda brave, since who knows how things will turn out. I’ve had plenty of good ideas crash and burn while trying to create them.

Jude Hill – Spirit Cloth

So, just to check back in with you, with nothing finished or spectacular, here’s what I’m working on right now even though it’s still in baby steps. It’s a project for an exhibit at St. Mary’s University coming in February, “Naturally Inspired: Works by Sabra Booth, Lyn Belisle, Jesus Toro Martinez, and Tim McMeans.” The other three artists are amazing – I’m grateful to be in their company.

Curator Brian St. John has tasked me with making 3D work for the exhibit, and I am building three or four free-standing screens with twig supports and panels of 300# watercolor paper. Some of the images will be photos of my clay work, enhanced with natural beeswax and walnut ink.

Initial planning layout – 24″ x 50″

Single panel prototype

Double panel

The panels are coming along well – just gotta figure out how they are going to go together, and whether to use two or four panels in each screen. I like the idea that they can be configured in different ways with different sides showing. And the engineering is challenging, but fun. Hopefully, I’ll have a final product to who you soon.

I did finish this piece (below) recently and may use the idea of a free-standing clay structure with branches similar to this one in the St, Mary’s show – we will see.

“Grace and Deliverance” Clay, Wax, Silk

One of the reasons I miss teaching workshops so much is that in a three-hour block of time, projects were finished, and results were ready to show-and-tell. But with my volunteer day job at the Art League, it’s just not possible right now. Sigh.

Coincidentally, Laura George, a business consultant for artists, just posted an article called “Productivity hacks for artists with day jobs.” Here’s the link – definitely worth a read.

I hope all is well with all of you, and that you are happy and busy. Thanks for reading SHARDS. Let me know what you’re working on!

 

A few random things

RANDOM THING ONE: Monika is coming to San Antonio. Yep, the internationally know and loved Austin designer, Monika Astara, will be at my house on Saturday from 11-3.  If you’d like details, send me an email – the flyer is below.

I love Monika’s clothes – me and about a jillion other people. The make everyone look good, plus they are comfortable and washable and iconic.


RANDOM THING TWO: Remember the piece I showed in my last post on knowing when something needs more work? I did several more pieces based on what I learned while I was putting that one together. You can see them here on my website (click below) – they look like sisters from the same tribe.

All these pieces are going to Marta Stafford Fine Art in Marble Falls, Texas today, but I have clay in reserve to continue the series. Doing the beading is a lot more fun than I thought it would be, kind of meditative. The artificial sinew I use makes its own “needle” because it’s heavily waxed.


RANDOM THING THREE: This involves both earthenware and clothing – it’s a Waxed Linen Thread kit that came today – ordered on Amazon – (is there no odd craft supply that you can’t find there??). As I said, I used sinew to put those new clay pieces together, but wanted to try this waxed thread as a substitute. I’ve been playing around with it and am really happy with the way it feels. It’s very strong and would be useful for jewelers and fiber artists. And look at these cool colors!

There are 33 yards of each color on each spool, and the whole kit of eight spools cost just $9.99. That’s your Tip o’ the Day.


RANDOM THING FOUR:

If you go to Marble Falls, Texas, first visit Marta Stafford’s Gallery, then go up the hill to the Blue Bonnet Cafe, est. 1929. The menu will tell you it’s the real deal.Where else can you get a cup of gravy as a side order? But it’s the pies that bring people back. Just suspend thoughts of diet and order a slice. They even have a Pie Happy Hour from 3-5.

Those are all the Random Things on MY menu today – I hope you have a great week. Thanks for reading SHARDS!

 

 

 

 

 

Thank goodness it’s over – NOW what??

I have been working on writing a major grant request for the San Antonio Art League for two weeks – and that means no art for TOO LONG! But it’s finished and submitted and fingers are crossed. Hopefully, this will all be worth it, but I’m feeling rusty and stale and need some inspiration, a kick in the creative backside.

Coincidentally, an email just came in from Stampington publications about their upcoming challenges. My friends Lesta Frank and Lisa Stamper Meyer are often published in those magazines, and I am so proud of them! But I don’t want to jump back in to work too fast by trying to come up with an article. This challenge, however, caught my eye:

  • Miscellany
    Sometimes, an image of something lovely is all we need to feel inspired. Have you taken a photo of something that makes you feel inspired? Perhaps it is a photo of your collection of vintage handkerchiefs. Or an old stack of books. Or your treasured stash of ribbons. Please submit your favorite digital images (5″ x 7″ @ 300 dpi) to be considered for Somerset Life’s special Miscellany department to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

So this morning on my first day of freedom from grant writing, I took my phone and went around the house finding little shards of collections, tools, ideas – well, “miscellany.” Not sure whether I’ll submit any of these photos to Somerset, but it sure was fun reaffirming the things that make me feel creative. Here’s a photocollage of nine of the pictures I took while wandering around my spaces.

Little shards of stuff around my house and studio

I found this to be a really good exercise for several reasons:

  • It makes you really look at stuff you walk by every day and take for granted
  • It makes you think about what you like – and why
  • It helps you revisit old ideas that have new potential
  • You don’t actually have to make something – you’re curating what you have with a fresh eye.
  • You can think of it as homework, and you feel like you’re accomplishing something –  plus, it’s fun

I encourage you (especially if something has kept you away from your creative self for a while) to try this. Heck, go ahead and submit those photos to Somerset – what’s to lose?! A kick in the creative backside is a good thing.

Some other challenges from Somerset:

Somerset Life aims to demonstrate how easy it is to add a touch of beauty to our daily lives, whether it is through a simple craft project, or an inspiring essay that shares how to find the beauty that already exists. Our mission is simple: make the ordinary extraordinary. For those looking to be a part of this bestselling publication, we have a number of ways to do so. We are currently looking for artwork submissions in the following categories:

  • Life Creative Spaces
    Where do you create? Whether it’s a small table or breakfast nook, cleared-out closet, or an actual room dedicated as your creative studio, we want to peek inside. If you think your creative space is something that Somerset Life readers would like to learn more about, please submit digital images of your space with a brief written query to the Editor-in-Chief at somersetlife@stampington.com. If the submission is accepted, you will be asked to furnish professional hi-resolution images (300 dpi at 8″ x 10″).
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Artful Kits
    We all love to collect papers, ribbons, embellishments, and other bits and bobs. More fun than collecting specific elements is finding creative ways to juxtapose the pieces together to create unique kits. Whether you create them to give away or to sell or offer to students in a workshop setting, we’d like to see your favorite kits. Please send in kit samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.
  • Creative Living Ideas
    In each issue of Somerset Life we share 10 Creative Living Ideas, and we show quick and easy ways to add a touch of beauty or creativity to your life, or perhaps someone else’s. Maybe you have a clever way of packing a sack lunch, or you have a developed a creative way of saying “Thank You” to a friend. Please send in samples directly to the Editor-in-Chief as outlined in the Submission Guidelines.
    Deadline: Ongoing.

Click here to download our guide for submitting photographs. It will also show you how to convert images to the correct size and resolution for this publication.

 

 

Rivers and remembrance –

We returned to San Antonio yesterday after a road trip to the past. My husband’s family is from East Texas and mine is from Louisiana and Mississippi. We visited family (and family cemeteries) in all three states, and reconnected with our roots. On the trip, I came to realize how rivers connect all my memories of childhood.

The Ouachita River near flood stage, March 11, 2018

In Louisiana, we walked along the Ouachita River which flowed near my maternal  grandparents’ farm near West Monroe. That river provided energy and materials for the paper mill, which is still in production. The distinct stinky odor of paper production took me right back to nostalgia-land! Anyone ever smelled a paper mill? You don’t forget it!

My father’s family roots run deep in the Mississippi Delta on the Yazoo River. He and his brother were raised in the town of Itta Bena near Greenwood. On Tuesday, we visited the family cemetery there, which is filled with Haleys and Reeses and Lees, all family names (my middle name is Rees and my maiden name is Haley).

Family graves near the Yazoo River

My cousin, Jesse Lee (“Skip”) Haley, came with us to tell us about the “Who’s-Who” in the Itta Bena Cemetery. One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of Ransom Reese, who was in the Infantry in the Civil War. I love his name.

The cemetery is bordered by the Yazoo River, which runs along the edge of Itta Bena. Incidentally, the crossroad near Itta Bena is supposedly where famed blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil.

Below is a photo of my father and mother in 1943, fishing just across the street from my paternal grandfather’s house on the riverbank near the cemetery. It was easy to imagine them there. There is a strange nostalgic peace in the Delta that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

My parents fishing on the riverbank in Itta Bena

This beautiful, sorrowful angel was on the back side of the cemetery close to the river.

Angel in Itta Bena Cemetery, Mississippi

After all the rivers and memories, we went down to the biggest river of all, the Mississippi, to spend a couple of days in New Orleans. As usual, I visited galleries to see what local artists were up too.

They, too, seemed influenced by the rivers of the South. There was a wonderful show at the Degas Gallery on Julia Street by Lafayette artist Kelli Kaufman. She works in oil and cold wax.

Kelli Kaufman, To the Wetlands, 60×40″

I also found some great clay assemblages at the Ariodante Fine Crafts Gallery on Julia Street created by Nancy Susanek. This is called a Story Box – I brought it home with me to remind me of the trip and all the river stories that I learned along the way.

It’s good to be back home again to my favorite river – the one that runs through beautiful San Antonio.  I hope you get the chance to visit your own past – it’s an important journey. Thanks for letting me share!

A weekend with the art and the Juror

Friday and Saturday were super-busy days at the San Antonio Art League – there were a total of 351 entries submitted for the 88th Annual Artists Exhibition. From those, 65 will be accepted and 24 awards will be given.

My pal Michelle Belto fills out her paperwork at the Art League for her submissions

It was a huge workload for Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe, who spent Sunday (yesterday) making his decisions. Three members of the exhibition committee were there to help (and so was I, a presidential perk!), but the process was closed to everyone else.

Juror Michael Ettema from Santa Fe evaluates the artwork

I got to be a fly on the wall as I watched and listened to Michael. He was amazing – fair and meticulous in his selections. I talked to him at our lunch break and found out that he has been involved in art since he was 16 – starting out as an intern at a museum in Dearborn, MI, and pursuing a career as a gallery manager, a museum curator and director, and a successful art appraiser. Wow.

He made at least five rounds of selection, narrowing by about a third each time. Every piece received close scrutiny and constructive comments. He did take a break to take a walk around the King William neighborhood, but worked steadily through the day.

Once the final selections were made, he was left by himself to award the monetary prizes. And nobody knows who got those – not me, not the committee chair – just Michael! And he ain’t tellin’ 🙂

Last night, Bill and I hosted an informal dinner for Michael and the committee and Art League board. Michael explained his criteria for selection. Basically, he looks for an original idea that is carried out with confidence – concept and skill were the keywords.

Michael Ettema is not the kind of juror who picks landscapes or portraits or abstracts or any other specific genre. He based his selections on what he observes regarding the artist’s purpose and how successfully that was conveyed.

Acceptance notices are going out today. Awards will not be revealed until the opening on April 15th. I will say this – if you were one of the selected artist, congratulations. It was a very competitive field. If you were not selected, know that your piece was expertly and respectfully considered by a truly knowledgeable juror and a nice guy, to boot!

Special thanks to all the artists who submitted. Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.”It’s a risk to put your work out there for a juror. And special thanks to Francis Huang, committee chair (and wonderful artist himself) who found Michael Ettema for us. We know Michael has good taste, because he fell in love with San Antonio! I hope he’ll be back soon.

Artists and vision – the “eye” kind

Do my eyes look a little fearful? Today I’m going under the knife – well, under the laser, for cataract surgery and a lens implant. Actually, if you’ve had this done, it’s not a huge deal and the results are amazing. This will be my second time – the right eye, which I had done a couple of years ago, turned out great.

My friends Carol and and Pat sneaked a very cool good luck surprise into my mailbox this morning – it’s an “eye” milagro card from Nepal.

Here’s the back – you all probably know about milagros, but it was interesting to see it on a card from Nepal.

I will take my milagro card with me to the surgery center!

Thanks to another friend, Joyce, I read a fascinating article about the impact of cataracts and visual degeneration in general on the works of Monet and Degas, Ophthalmology and Art: Simulation of Monet’s Cataracts and Degas’ Retinal Disease.

Claude Monet

Monet was more affected than Degas because he painted variations of light, and his cataracts drastically altered his perception. Degas vision was blurry, but “the striking finding is that Degas’ blurred vision smoothed out much of the graphic coarseness of his shading and outlines. One might even say that the works appear ‘better’ through his abnormal vision than through our normal vision.”

Degas’ last painting, with his vision almost gone

Monet wasn’t as lucky. After 1915, his paintings became much more abstract, with an even more pronounced color shift from blue-green to red-yellow. He complained of perceiving reds as muddy, dull pinks, and other objects as yellow. These changes are consistent with the visual effects of cataracts. Nuclear cataracts absorb light, desaturate colors, and make the world appear more yellow.

One of Monet’s last paintings

It seems that Monet was not a good cataract patient  – Mary Cassat had warned him about the procedure after she had it, but he was desperate and gave it a try at age 82. . Immediately after the surgery he did not want to rest his eyes, that doing so interfered with his work. Depressed, he tried to rip off the bandages.Yikes! You can read the whole story here.

Finally, when you have this surgery, you see all kinds of weird shapes during the process. Check out this painting that a 62-year-old man did to express what he saw during the surgery. Trippy!

Anyway, I’ll report back – maybe I can paint like Degas after this? Nah, but I might see colors differently!

Art, alignment and your New Year’s Resolution explained – maybe

I was working in the studio yesterday on a striped background for a painting workshop, and when it was finished, I assumed it was going to be a horizontal composition. Then I wondered. . . why had I assumed that? Why was horizontal my default?

So I asked my Facebook friends what they thought. I wanted to see how weird was I compared to them. I posted the painting in three separate pics (combined, below) and asked if they like it better horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. (Remember, this isn’t a finished painting, just a striped canvas, so content isn’t really an issue).

When the FB comments started, they were all over the wall, so to speak. Some people gave reasons, others just stated a preference. Some changed their minds, some had some cool out-of-the-box replies.

I decided that different kinds of people like different linear arrangements – well, duh. But why? Here’s an article from Vanseo Designs that explains part of the reason:

The Meaning of Lines: Developing A Visual Grammar

 Horizontal lines are parallel to the horizon (hence the name). They look like they’re lying down, at rest, asleep. They suggest calm and quiet, a relaxed comfort.

Horizontal lines can’t fall over. They accentuate width. They’re stable and secure. The convey an absence of conflict, a restful peace. Horizontal lines by their connection to the horizon are associated with earth bound things and idea.

Vertical lines are perpendicular to the horizon. They are filled with potential energy that could be released if they were to fall over. Vertical lines are strong and rigid. They can suggest stability, especially when thicker. Vertical lines accentuate height and convey a lack of movement, which is usually seen as horizontal.

They stretch from the earth to the heavens and are often connected with religious feelings. Their tallness and formality may give the impression of dignity.

Diagonal lines are unbalanced. They are filled with restless and uncontrolled energy. They can appear to be either rising or falling and convey action and motion. Their kinetic energy and apparent movement create tension and excitement. Diagonal lines are more dramatic than either horizontal or vertical lines.

Diagonal lines can also appear solid and unmoving if they are holding something up or at rest against a vertical line or plane.

MY CONCLUSION, and how to decide on your New Year’s resolution:

After you have chosen your preference and know whether you are a Horizontal, Vertical, or Diagonal person, you can write a really cool New Year’s resolution. To wit:

  • Horizontal people should resolve to get out of their comfort zones. Take a chance. Eat a squid taco. Experiment with fluorescent paint on a burlap canvas. Paint it with your toes.
  • Vertical people should resolve to lighten up. Loose the formality. Eat a Cheesy Jane’s beanburger and don’t use a napkin. Toss the oil paint realism and go for a Jackson Polluck style with enamels. Get high on the fumes.
  • Diagonal people (oh, how I wish I were one) should resolve to channel their crazy energy. Eat tofu, drink green tea. Paint with only shades of gray on white paper. Yeah, that’ll last about ten seconds.

See what one little question on Facebook can lead to? OK, now that I’ve helped you with your self-analysis and your resolutions, I’m headed out for a squid taco. Ewwww.

Happy New Year! And thanks for reading SHARDS, no matter how weird it gets.

The art and science of aromatherapy – essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve studied and used essential oils since 1989 and was actually teaching workshops on their uses way before I began teaching art workshops. In the late ’90s, Dr. Bill Kurtin and I partnered in sharing research-based information about aromatherapy with social agencies and college classes, and set up our informational website, called Chemaroma, in 2006.

Bill is a biochemist who chaired the Chemistry Department at Trinity University for many years. We’re married now, and since Bill retired from teaching, he’s had time to do more research on current studies about essential oils. He’s just written an article for our Chemaroma blog summarizing recent research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease. Here’s the link to the complete article, which I think is wonderful and encouraging.

In his article, Bill writes, “The research . . ., as well as much work not mentioned, strongly suggest that EOs may provide an excellent alternative, natural, widely available, and inexpensive treatment for AD, particularly for easing the symptoms of the disease.” He writes for a general audience, who, like me, have trouble with scientific complexities – whew! It’s a fascinating premises that could help millions.

If you have not any in-depth reading on the science of aromatherapy and need an introduction, here’s a good background article from the University of Maryland Medical Center. And, or course, you can always go to our website, Chemaroma, for more info.

I’ve always relied on Clary Sage essential oil for getting past creative blocks – the name in Latin means “clear eye” – and its smell is intoxicating.  Here’s another take on essential oils from an artist on the Craftsy site.

Bill and I are especially interested in essential oil research that pertains to our aging population – anything that will help all of us stay alive, engaged, and creative longer is worth pursuing! Read and share the article, Are Essential Oils Useful in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a good one.

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In retrospect . . .

Delaware artist Rebecca Raubacher at her retrospective exhibit, Rehoboth Art League

What is a “retrospective”? In art-speak, it’s an exhibition showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time. I met Rebecca Raubacher last Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, at an event honoring her and her retrospective show at the Rehoboth Art League. Here’s one of her early drawings.

Debby, Rebecca Raubacher, 1976

Talking with her got me thinking about how our paths as artists change and build over the years. Rebecca has always been a consummate draftsman, and her current paintings have a lot of mixed media drawing techniques with oil sticks and metallic inks. Her themes of faces and figures has continued throughout her career.

Rebecca Raubacher, 2015, Watercolor, graphite, sepia ink, and metallic and opaque markers on paper 11 in x 14

So here’s the question for you – have you gone back recently and looked at your earlier work? (This is not a “have-you-gotten-better” question – who even knows what “better” is anyway.) And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been making art for one year or fifty. All of us choose what to keep and what to leave behind. That choosing and abandoning gives us our “style.”

Thanks to a house fire in ’83 (arg), I don’t have much of my earliest undergrad work back in the 60’s. I did take a photo of this piece called “Datachip” which I did in 1979. It’s hard to get a good photo of a drawing behind glass, but you get the idea.

Lyn Belisle, Datachip, graphite and PrismaColor, 24×30″, 1979

Shortly after that, I abandoned drawing for a while and started making a series of large-scale origami kimonos and other large collages which sold well in the ’80s and ’90s.

And like a lot of other artists, I was doing commercial art along the way, like these covers for the NEISD Community Education program – they were mostly collages, too:

And my love for clay has always followed me around – here’s a bowl I did in the 80’s – faces and clay!

So the things I’ve kept are clay, collage, images of faces, and earth colors. I’m still experimenting within those areas. And, overall, the idea of “shards” – constructing new things from small found objects, images and clues from the past, connects the dots for me.

Go back and look at your own work. What colors and themes and images predominate? I read a lot of those advice-for-artist blogs that say, “Get out of your comfort zone! If you like neutrals, go wild with color! If you like watercolor, try oils!” I don’t necessarily agree. Our style develops from our intuition about what we do best.

Our personal retrospective journey is just that, a journey. We take what we discover along the way and build on it. More likely than not, the work of other artists influences us but it doesn’t define us as we keep what resonates and forgo the rest.

So your homework is to find the oldest piece of personal artmaking that you have, and give it a good look. Post it on Facebook if you like! See what changes you’ve made. Think a bit about your personal retrospective. It’s fun and enlightening.

Georgia O’Keeffe, drawing of hand, age 14

 

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