Preserving History . . . Connecting the Dots

Today was one of those beautiful post-blizzard days in New England . . . just warm enough for a short walk with the Studio Pup, which meant lots of time leftover for making art.  Inspiration came quickly by seeing the connections between a box of vintage postcards recently unearthed in the family attic, waking this morning from vivid dreams of abstract acrylic paintings (a sure sign I haven’t been spending enough time in the studio!), and Jane Davies’ recent blog post on the threatened closure of her rural post office. Those who have ever lived in a small town know that the local post office is the heart and soul of a village, so Jane’s plight touched the hearts of artists around the world. Jane is a well-known mixed-media artist and teacher with a generous and whimsical spirit, so the overwhelming response so far is not surprising and certainly well-deserved!



I raided my new-found box of vintage postcards and used gesso, acrylics, thread and fabric to create new masterpieces over the originals.  Antique dealers might question my logic — the entire stash dates to 1906-1907, and many have already been postmarked — though the postmarks are clear, most of the original one-cent stamps have since fallen to the bottom of the box.  One of the cards I’ll likely be sending to Jane was originally printed in Cuba, but others are from far-flung states and small villages like Rupert, Vermont.

I sometimes wonder why I keep some of the things I do . . . but I always know that someday it will become obvious!

If you haven’t already, please send Jane an artsy postcard at:

P. O. Box 45, Rupert, VT 05768


Encaustic is Enchanting!

A_R_T © Mary Jane Russell 2010

Last month I rediscovered printmaking and before I even had a chance to explore that further, now I’ve fallen for encaustic painting.  What’s not to love about the smell and subtle sheen of beeswax, especially when it encases layers of ephemera, scraps of other artwork, fabrics and other little treasures? It’s a great use for all those tidbits that we save (we know who we are!) — and a great excuse to collect more!

Today’s post includes a sampling of the pieces I made in a recent workshop with Elizabeth Kendrick at Studio Place Arts.  Julie Vohs of Encaustics from the Hallway Studio gave me tips on how to photograph these – the transparency and sheen makes it a bit tricky, so I resorted to a scanner.

The black and white piece is accented by an amazing deep, clear, cool red paint – and a small graphic image I designed from a photo of an art quilt I’d made years ago.  I love recycling and developing earlier works by making silkscreens from sections of the design, or in other ways such as this!

The pink hearts below seem to float in space, but are a section of printed tissue paper.  I love how the white tissue dissolves into the wax, leaving only the printed images.


The gold piece features a scrap from the printmaking studio, abandoned in the trash can by an anonymous artist.  Thanks also to Chris Gluck of Poker Hill Arts for sharing her amazing collection of dried leaves!






And you may recognize the final image as a artist’s proof from my monoprinting class a few weeks ago, reused in a new way.

Encaustic Monoprint © Mary Jane Russell 2010

Encaustic paintings, in progress © Mary Jane Russell 2010

PS- I’ve added new pages to my blog for images of my textile art and other media, so please feel free to browse those tabs above.  More images to come!

Art Education

It’s been an art-full few days!

Saturday’s highlight was the Golden Acrylics demo by Kate Smith.  I’ve used acrylics for fabric surface design, but I wouldn’t consider myself a painter.  Yet I came away with a stash of open acrylics, assorted mediums, and a “how to” book.  Why am I not surprised that I’m planning to sign up for an acrylic painting class at the local craft school beginning in October?  I’m hoping this will be a great way to “prototype” quilt designs!

Kate Smith, Golden Acrylics educator at Artist’s Mediums 9/2010

Sunday featured “An Evening with Christo” at the Fleming Museum.  I’ve only seen the 1991 “Umbrellas” in California, but couldn’t miss this chance to see a retrospective slide show narrated by the artist himself, along with the museum exhibit.

Monday’s highlights included a book signing and Q&A with Art Biz Coach Alyson Stanfield.  Alyson was delightful, and it was a great event for meeting other local artists as well.  Alyson answered several questions for me that really helped me to reshape my view of blogs, Twitter and Facebook and she clarified some other misperceptions and concerns I had about art marketing.   I’ve recently taken two of Alyson’s online classes, so meeting her in person was a real treat.

Alyson Stanfield, MJ Russell, Kathleen Bergeron, Elissa Campbell

Lectures, demos, festivals, classes . . . what are some of your favorite ways to continue your art education?