Friday, June 28, 2013

Unplugged and Engaged

My first shot, I asked him if I could take his pic and he smiled and said "sure." Then I was inspired

Today I ran 9 miles of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. When I am running, biking, or swimming, my mind wanders creatively and often times artistic ideas come to me. This morning, about five miles in, I had an idea. 

What would it be like to take a series of portraits of these interesting people I was passing by on the boardwalk? Not just snapping them from a distance, or when they were not looking, but engaging them, talking to them, asking them to pose for a portrait and look into the lens of a stranger on the boardwalk.

Setting up tables for the day, She was more than happy to pose

Sure, you can shoot a person from across the street with a big lens, but this is up close and personal. This morning I was shooting with an iPhone from three feet away, engaging strangers in conversation. Maybe I'll paint them, maybe I'll just keep them and enjoy them as photos. Whatever I end up doing with them, it was a great social experiment to see what folks would say when you ran up to them and asked them out of the blue to say cheese!

So often we are "plugged in" and don't notice the amazing and individual people around us. We used to be more engaged, chatting with folks in line at the post office, commenting on a hairstyle we liked on the check-out girl, waving to our neighbors in traffic. These days, everyone has their headphones in, their blue-tooth on, and their smart phone out. I wondered if it would startle people to have someone come up and talk to them instead of bump into them while text-walking. The responses I got made my morning, even the people who so graciously declined my request. 

Interacting with people on a personal level, running with the sun on my shoulders and a smile on my face, what a great way to start the day.

Some folks were more confident in with a partner, these guys were great

Most folks said yes. Some folks look bewildered, said nothing, but looked into the lens. Some folks said no, mostly women who I assumed felt that they did not look good enough to pose for a photo at 8 am. Thank you to everyone who said yes and spent a minute or more of their time talking to me this morning. 

"Why?" he asked. "Because you look pretty cool." I replied

Thanks for being a part of my art journey, 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Asheville' NC's River Arts District

Cotton Mill Studios

Every city I visit to teach, I like to check out the local art. I love seeing new work and what other artists are working on. This weekend I spent some time at the River Arts District. 

Emilie and I took in several galleries, spent some time with Jane and Connie, some good friends, and had White Duck Tacos for lunch. The nice thing about RAD is that you are touring working artists studios, so you get the chance to meet the artist and talk to them about their work. It's a wonderful way to connect with the person who's created the work.

Honey Pots just of the wheel by Eileen

Big Thanks to my friend Constance who introduced us to the Eileen and Marty at The Potters Mark. We got a tour of the studio where the magic happens, and even got to peek inside the kiln at some wonderful red glazed pottery that was cooling.

Eileen at the wheel

Julia Fosson was nice enough to take the time to show us how the encaustic process works in her studio which is just above the White Duck Taco in the Hatchery Building. Her space is so light and bright with her wonderful works on the walls, it was just very inviting.

Julia showing us how to melt wax with a blow torch

Julia's pots of encaustic color

We also appreciated Akira Satake Ceramics while in the Cotton Mill. Akira Satake was born in Osaka, Japan, his pottery is fired in both a wood-fired kin and a gas kiln for different effects and finishes on his work. I really enjoyed the rough natural shapes of his wood-fired work. 

Akira Satake pottery

Yuzu Patisserie is where we enjoyed the view of the pottery and the taste of homemade popsicles

Jane, Connie, Emilie, and Yours Truly enjoyed our popsicles and our texture rubbing. I have learned to travel with rice paper and crayons in my purse, so I was prepared for some of the brick work at the RAD. These rubbings I took back to class and painted on Friday. 

rubbing with crayons on textured bricks

White Duck Taco offered some amazing tacos and great local beer. We stopped to refuel before moving on to more working artist studios. I had the fish tacos and oh boy were they good!

We stopped in on Brad Stroman, who's thick gessoed backgrounds really intrigued me. We talked about fluid acrylic vs. full bodied colors and I told him he would probably LOVE my favorite fluids for the technique he was doing. He inquired about my work and said he'd come to the opening reception. It was great to see him and his wife on Saturday night at my show! "I told you I would come," he said as he introduced me to his wife. Thank you Brad!
Brad Stroman

And now I must share with you the absolute BEST work I saw all day! Daniel McClendon's animal paintings. Wow. After speaking with Daniel about being classically trained artist with a BFA that focused on realism, we both agreed on how much effort it took to loosen up and move toward a less structured style of work. Daniel and his wife were so nice to tell us about how they remodeled their 5,000 sq. ft. gallery and studio space called the Lift Studios, such a stunning space. 

As it turns out Daniel graduated from Western Michigan University and hung his work in Grand Rapids as part of Art Prize last year, as did I. I was lucky enough to see his Art Prize work at the studio which was entitled "Herd" and was a multi panel piece depicting a large moving group of animals.

Daniel's work is dynamic and exciting, it's got a movement and spontaneity about it which I love. When I viewed his work I wanted to head into my studio and be more loose! Gallery hopping always inspires me, but studio visits are 10x even more inspiring!

Tuna, I loved the fact that the multi panel approach was not symmetrical

Turtle, I really was admiring how he scratched through the  paint to draw the face and how each leg is handled in a different manner. 

I was totally inspired to be more loose with my backgrounds when I looked at these animal paintings. I loved that you could see the white gesso ground and the black splattered under painting pattern showing through into the final work. So much splatter and fast-paced brushwork that the animals seem to be moving right off the wood panel.

If you have a minute to check out his work and his website, or his Facebook Page. I think you might just see why stopping at The Lift Studios was awesome. How did we happen to go in? Emilie looked at a piece in the window and said "Wow, that's disturbing." It was a wide open mouth full of teeth, growling at us. "What?!" I exclaimed, "We have to check it out." 

After touring The Lift, Emilie agreed that it was her favorite stop of the day too. 

Thank you for being a part of my art journey.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thank You, Karma and The Universe

Jared Maddox Hall

Jared Hall 24x20 / collage on panel

This is the perfect follow up post to my NY State with George and Anna Marie Story. Why? Because last year when I was at the cottage on Keuka Lake, after George and Anna Marie dropped me off from visiting them in Utica, I got an unexpected phone call. 

"Hello" I said. "Oh! I didn't expect you to answer the phone" a woman with a Southern drawl from Mississippi exclaimed on the other end of my cell. "Well, this IS my phone," I said with a smile in my voice. "And, I'm not THAT famous..." "Oh, she said.... well I have been following you on Facebook and I have a question...."

That's how it started. I was sitting at the table, looking out over the lake, one day last June. Nancy Hall called me to ask me if I would create a collage portrait of her son Jared. "He passed away in a tragic accident," she exclaimed as her voice grew strained "I'm sorry, I'm going to cry," she said apologetically. "This is still very difficult for me." Oh how I know that feeling, all too well.

Nancy told me that when she saw my portrait of Suzanne Miazga online, she KNEW I could create the portrait of Jared that she wanted to have. I was honored that she trusted me with such an incredible responsibility. I felt as if Suzanne had put us together, and how could I say "no" to her?

Jared and a good friend

Nancy and I talked for a while, we talked about Jared's love for Colorado and the red rocks, his favorite band "Widespread Panic" and his dogs. She took my address to send me photos from his childhood right up to his last visit home. She sent me a t-shirt from the party they had in his honor that year, and a set of blue (as close to purple as she could get) rosary beads which I hung on my easel as I worked on Jared's portrait. I slept in the t-shirt and I read all about Nancy's son in her letter. 

Tears welled up in my eyes, I am a mother and I have been though tragedy, yet I still cannot imagine her pain. My husband asked "how are you going to do this? won't it be too difficult?" I wondered, and then I answered "no." Because I knew it was an honor, and I am glad that Nancy trusted me with this project. If I can create a piece of artwork that gives a mother happiness and a sense of peace when she sees it, that ultimately makes me happy, not sad. 

I hand painted many papers from Nancy, memorial service papers, Jared's own writings from college, a letter from his best friend, and other bits of personal ephemera. I looked through tons of photos of Jared which ranged from thin faced, to fuller faced (even one of him at about age 2 holding a fish and looking incredibly surprised!). Ultimately I decided on a face from one photo, and a jacket from another.

Jared loved the mountains and his dogs

I incorporated the red rocks of Colorado that he loved so much, as well as all his personal ephemera that Nancy provided, into a portrait of a man I had never met, this is always a challenge. I used most of the text in the background, but I did bring it gradually into the sides of his face before transitioning into a more smooth textured set of colors for the main area of his likeness.

Jared loved the outdoors, hiking, hunting and fishing. He was very proud of his turkey

This June at the annual party that Nancy and her husband hold at their house in honor of Jared, she finally revealed this very emotional portrait. I could not reveal it before she did. Jared's friends and family all joined to celebrate his life, almost 60 people. Wow. 

the photo I used for the face

the photo I used for the hunting jacket

the sketch on wood panel

I am happy to say that Nancy and I, although we have never met in person, have become very good friends. We have been texting and emailing, Facebooking and calling each other quite often over the past year. I feel as though I have gained a wonderful friend out of the project, how awesome is that? Nancy says that I have inspired her in fitness, she's walking and looking for a personal trainer. She's also the proud owner of a new tattoo this year! She showed me several designs which we discussed before she chose the art that adorns her body and the back of this year's party t-shirt -- yes, I sleep in this one too.

The Universe brought us together, 24 years after the Pan Am tragedy. Nancy saw my portrait of Suzanne and reached out to me. She endured the same kind of pain, from loosing a child, that I had seen Anna Marie go through in 1988. 

Life is an amazing journey and along the way you gain the skills you need for future situations. I believe that in this Universe that all things happen for a reason. I know that it's no coincidence Nancy called me that one day in Upstate NY just one day after Anna Marie and George left me to the lake, the cabin, and my art.

If you believe in Karma and the Universe like I do, here's another really interesting tidbit:
Nancy Hall lives on Scotland Road in Benton, MI
Suzanne's rosebush and her fate were met in Scotland
She grew up on Benton Rd.

Oh! And one more thing
13 days after Nancy's mother died, Jared died, and 13 months (nearly to the day) Jared's nephew Maddox (his namesake) was born. AND Your's Truly has a birthday every year on the 13th of July.

Thank you for being a part of my art journey.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life is a Journey

Upstate NY, a Magical Place

George White, Yours Truly, and "my Mom" Anna Marie Miazga 
at the cottage in Upstate NY this month

For those of you who might not know, I am a graduate of Syracuse University. I spent a semester abroad in the Fall of 1988 in London, UK. That year, Libya bombed Pan Am Flight 103, the plane exploded over and landed on the wee village of Lockerbie, Scotland, and the rest is history. 

In 1990, I returned to London (one of many times), and visited Lockerbie with Anna Marie Miazga (above) mother of Suzanne, my flatmate and best friend, who died along with my other two flatmates and 32 classmates from Syracuse U. 

Anna Marie Miazga, Yours Truly, and George White by the rosebush

It was in Lockerbie that we bonded, we cried, we laughed, we remembered, we visited the memorial, we saw the crater that was still in the ground, we watched houses being rebuilt. 

We also met George White. George was a paramedic on duty that night. He doesn't talk about the Air Disaster much, because he still has nightmares about it. It was George who found my best friend and Anna Marie's daughter Suzanne Miazga's body from where it fell, just outside the ambulance building. He wrapped her up in a blanket, and never forgot her. He planted a rose bush right where he found her.

George planted the rose bush and installed the plaque in 1989

George and Anna Marie have been friends for 25 years since the crash. They wrote letters and sent Christmas gifts in the early days, then they called and visited--Anna Marie has been to Lockerbie at least 20 times. Over the years they grew closer.

These days George lives in New York State with Anna Marie, they are forever together, found love in the wake of tragedy, Just like I found them. 

While in Penn Yan, NY teaching a workshop for the Art Center of Yates County and competing in the Keuka Lake Triathlon (in honor of Flick who lost his life on his bike last year) (read my article in the Chronicle Express here) Anna Marie and George drove over and stayed at the cottage with me. 

How lucky am I to have been able to coordinate so many wonderful things into one week?

Call it luck, call it good Karma, it's a beautiful thing.

Anna Marie and Yours Truly posing for a photo in the cottage

George is a joker, he's 81 years old and the funniest guy I know

I have been so very lucky to have Anna Marie and George in my life, and they are so lucky to have each other. Our visit in New York reminded me just how much I love them, and what a journey life can be if you let it take you by the hand.

George playing cards or Words with Friends on the iPad 
(and the shark the accompanies me to all triathlons)

Anna Marie checking in (and the shark)

Forever my family, eating home made cookies and drinking NY wine

During the day while I taught class, George and Anna Marie enjoyed the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, and the cottage by the lake. At night we enjoyed each other's company. Trying to figure out the CD player only to learn that George brought mostly Christmas music, joking and laughing that "If it's not Scottish it's CRAP" and trying to keep Anna Marie from cleaning, sweeping, and scrubbing. Always my Mom.

The cottage and the race offered me lots of great miles to bike

Having Anna Marie and George at the cottage was so much like home 
that we even baked cookies.

For the 20-year anniversary of her death, I created a collage of Suzanne Miazga for Anna Marie. I included all kinds of personal ephemera (including a photo of George's rose bush), and called it "End of Innocence" as not only did she die that day, but the curtain closed on my childhood too.

End of Innocence / Portrait of Suzanne / 24x20 / collage on panel
click to enlarge

Shannon Davis, Yours Truly, Suzanne Miazga visiting Scotland
(both deceased)

Thank you for being a part of my art journey,

What's Just Off The Easel

I often have images come to me in dreams, lately I've been following those messages from my mind, however whimsical or seemingly disconnected to reality. Guess what? I really like where the work is going!

GoatGazing, started with a dream

And then I found a funny photo

Did some research on constellations - Capricornus the Goat Fish

Made composite in the computer

Sketched in pencil on primed wood panel

Created the under-painting in my studio

Added the wallpaper strips and took the piece to NY State

Worked in a cabin by the lake for a week

Infused much color and texture

Detail, the nose with hand written letters sent to me for collage

Finished up in the studio back in FL with the addition of fish

Fish? Yes, the Goat Fish, Capricornus, he needed the fish and I had the fish. They are Gyotaku prints that are made for me by an amazing artist Chuck Seaman in Key West, FL. I enjoyed using them so much (he works on rice paper, hence the translucent property over the wallpaper strips) I've asked him to make me some BIG ONES so that I can do something even more bold. 

Hand written letters? Yes, please be a part of my letter writing campaign! 

Thank you for being a part of my art journey

NEW Calendar

Don't miss out on your Lang 2014 wall calendar, as well as many other gift items like puzzles, travel mugs, note cards and journals. They are of the highest quality and color. I am very happy with the reproduction.