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!

Layers of Lusciously Linear Lines

November is month two of the SAQA Visioning project — and my design focal point for the month is line.  I have been sketching daily-ish, remembering to try different designs featuring lines.  I recently attended Hollis Chatelain’s lecture about the similarities between drawing and quilting at the International Quilt Festival, and enjoyed the slide show of art quilts and her description of how each artist used design principles, including line, in each piece.  My small quilt for the month features many types and layers of lines – the luscious and luxurious marbling, the bolder graphic lines of a silk-screened image, and the sharp, angular quilting lines to finish it off.

Whew, it feels good to have this done as the month was just beginning when I finished!  But Melanie Testa has just announced her 30 Lines in 30 Days project … will I be able to resist?

Newsflash: “Linear Lines” and its companion piece, “Simply Shapes,” will be on display at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in Burlington, VT December 3, 2010 – January 29, 2011.

Been on an Art Walkabout lately?

It’s now an old family phrase, coined twenty plus years ago from the movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’ . . . and “walkabouts” have been part of our lifestyle ever since.  Living in Vermont and not Australia, we tend to use our car quite often for what we probably should call “ridearounds” — but I love it when I can get to a city with a great number of art venues within walking distance.   A good place to start is monthly art walks in a city near you, such as the First Friday Art Walk in Burlington, VT.

If you find yourself in Providence RI, look for these great scenes on Wickenden Street.  You’ll love the lemon cake at Seven Stars Bakery and of course, no visit to Providence is complete without a stop at RISD‘s museum and great art supply store!

Isn’t an art walkabout just the perfect combination of “artist dates” and weekly walks?  Share your favorite walkabouts, and we’ll make Julia Cameron proud!

Yowza Shapes!

In October 2010, members of Studio Art Quilt Associates began a new year of the Visioning Project.  I was hesitant to join, but am delighted with the progress I’ve made in just the first month!

If you’re not familiar with SAQA’s Visioning Project, it is championed by former SAQA President Lisa Chipentine and an advisory board consisting of Judith Content, Karey Bresenhan, Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, Jeanne Beck, and Regina Benson.  Each member commits to a goal and develops specific plans to meet that goal during the coming year.  There are monthly conference calls if you’re so inclined to discuss your progress and challenges, but other members seem content to post their progress to their personal wiki page within the project’s wiki space.   Members support each other and correspond via secure messaging within the wiki space.

So what does all this have to do with SHAPES???  A part of my goal for the year is to make more art.  In addition to committing to making one full-sized art quilt or other piece each month, I’ve also chosen to explore design principles and elements through a series of small quilts.  It’s serendipity that there are twelve design elements and principles, so I get to focus on one each month — beginning with shape.

So, just in time to meet my 10/31 deadline – here’s my exploration of shapes, featuring machine applique over a screen print of an earlier art quilt, digitally manipulated in Photoshop to create a new image that I exposed as a photo emulsion silk screen. I screen printed that image onto a piece of hand marbled fabric.   Yowza!  Maybe this piece should be more about layers than shapes??? Next up, Lines.  November, here I come!

© Mary Jane Russell 2010

Off the Shelf Inspiration 

I met fiber artist Judith Reilly at a local quilt show this weekend, and was delighted to receive a copy of her Twelve Life Lessons for Creativity.  Judith is a fun and inspiring person, and seeing her list gave me the idea to begin my own collection of quotes and other snippets of inspiration.    For now, I’ll begin with listing a few of my favorite books here . . . but rest assured that I’ve also begun a notebook for specific quotes that I’ll post once they’re worthy of being called a “collection.”

Julia Cameron:

  • The Sound of Paper
  • The Artist’s Way
  • Finding Water

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:  

  • Flow

Twyla Tharp:

  •  The Creative Habit

Eric Maisel:

  • Coaching the Artist Within
  • Creativity for Life

Stephen Nachmanovitch:

  • Free Play

Shaun McNiff

  • Trust the Process

David Bayles & Ted Orland

  • ART & Fear

I always watch for Julia Cameron’s latest works but am on the lookout for new books, authors, websites and email lists.  Do you have a favorite creativity book, author, or other source of creative inspiration? Please share!

Yet another Hobby???

I met a character yesterday — her name is Lyna Lou, and she’s a self-described “printmaking pusher.”  Actually, my fellow Studio Place Arts classmates and I dubbed her that – but she’s really just a very passionate and talented printmaker from northern Vermont, and a pretty fun person!

Monoprint images © Mary Jane Russell 2010


In hindsight I should have known I’d fall for this new technique/ medium because mono-printing, collograph, and nature printing aren’t that different from what I’ve done with fabric for years.  Yet I really don’t have to confess to a new hobby, just because it involved an etching press and paper rather than fabric, . . . or do I?  Unless Until I move the looms around in the downstairs studio to make more space, and start searching eBay for used presses, I think I’m OK.

For now anyway.

What are some of the supporting or ancillary mediums or techniques that you dabble in, while maintaining your primary artistic focus?  How do you recognize when a serious new path emerges, and distinguish it from a dead-end diversion? Oh, and for my own sanity check I should ask . . . how many “hobbies” do you have?

Take Back the View!

Last fall I noticed a small tree had seeded itself among the shrubs outside my studio windows.  Thinking it was a wild apple tree, I left it alone.  By this summer, it had revealed its true self — invasive Buckthorn — and had invited a grove of Sumac to join it.  I included “overgrown shrubs outside my studio windows” on a list of things I was tolerating (and that just might be blocking my creative process) during a recent class with Alyson Stanfield, but hadn’t made any progress with asking my husband or the local landscapers to deal with the situation.

I should have known today would be the day when I tossed Ted Orland’s The View from the Studio Door in my bag as I headed off to an appointment.    With real fall weather threatening after an extra month of summer, and rain storms moving in for the rest of the week . . . I came home from my trip into town and realized the time had come to take back my view!

I could have called my neighbor for help — at age 14 he’s already “tractor certified.”  Either that or exceptionally good at marketing his lawn mowing/landscaping services for someone who has yet to earn his driver’s license.  My husband also owns a tractor — he’s not officially “certified,” but certainly very competent — however, he wasn’t at home.  We have a chainsaw too, but after telling my 85-year old father he was not allowed to use his chainsaw while he was home alone, I thought better of trying ours for the first time.  Hell knows no wrath like a woman with a swiss army knife.  OK, it was a small landscapers’ pruning saw, but the view of the fall foliage from my southwest studio is now much improved — or at least it will be once I get back out there to wash the windows!

Take Back the View day, October 2010

What are some of the seemingly unrelated things that block your creative process?  And what are the first steps toward resolving them?  Tell us below …