Getting Started with Cold Wax Medium Class is LIVE!

Woo-hoo!  It's been a busy summer, what, with moving out of my 650 sq ft studio in June that I occupied for 6 years (very grateful for that time :-), attending the Atlanta Gift show for the umpteenth time in my life in early July, and a lovely week at a lake in upstate NY in late July....AND, filming & editing my very first Skillshare Class, "Getting Started with Cold Wax Medium"!

I am beyond excited to share this class with you!  Watch the introduction here:

Discover this exciting, versatile medium and explore the many ways you can incorporate it into your own process.   

This introductory class – first in a series – introduces the basics of working with cold wax medium and oil paint, and is a great foundation to build upon to move on to more advanced techniques.

In this class we will cover:

• What Is Cold Wax?

• Substrates & Supports

• Basic Tools & Supplies

• Mixing Cold Wax with Oil Paint

• Applying the Mixture to Substrates

• Mark-making & Adding Layers

• Drying Time

• Clean Up Details

The pieces you start in your class project won't be works of art, but they will be the perfect foundation for moving on to upcoming classes where we'll cover MANY more tools, materials & techniques for working with medium in various stages of drying.

Sign up for this class on Skillshare and receive 2 months of free access to all the wonderful classes available on Skillshare (you can cancel any time)

Be sure to follow me on Skillshare (click the blue "+" sign below my profile pic) in order to be notified when the next classes are published. 

All Good Things Must Come To An End

For me, recently, that meant letting go of my beloved painting studio.  I am so grateful to have had this wonderful space - all 650 sq ft of it - for 6 years.  When I rented it, I thought I’d only have it for a year, maybe 2 if I were lucky.


Unfortunately, the overhead had finally grown to the point of “too much” and it was time to let it go. It is too bad that this area has very little in the way of acceptable (ie: safe & well-maintained), affordable studio space. Believe me, myself and fellow artist friends are always looking!

Not an ending, but a new beginning!

This is not an ending as much as an exciting new chapter in my art life. I am VERY grateful to have had a fantastic temporary space offered to me for the next few months.


I will finish some larger paintings I have in the works as well as continue to work on a fun, new project  — a series of online classes that teach my process!

Discover this exciting, versatile medium and explore the many ways you can incorporate it into your own process.   This introductory class introduces the basics of working with cold wax medium and oil paint, and is a great foundation to build upon to move on to more advanced techniques.

Discover this exciting, versatile medium and explore the many ways you can incorporate it into your own process.   This introductory class introduces the basics of working with cold wax medium and oil paint, and is a great foundation to build upon to move on to more advanced techniques.

The classes are outlined, written, story-boarded and I have begun filming in my lovely new space this week. I will be sure to let you all know the minute the first class - Getting Started with Cold Wax Medium - is published!

Until then, enjoy the summer!  It’s certainly arrived here in Florida!

Bidding 2017 Farewell

2017 certainly flew right on by...yet seems like it was waaaay too long.  I know I am not the only one who had a challenging year, nor the only one who will be glad to start writing a different year on their checks...

In the reverse of a 90s movie title, 2017 sadly brought to us 4 funerals, and a wedding.  Happily, the wedding was in December, so it was nice to have that joy after a year of such loss and challenge.  Both my mother and my mother-in-law faced serious surgeries and recoveries.  One of our vehicles unexpectedly had to be replaced (I have since added a minor dent to its shiny not-yet-6 months old exterior), as did our television (the upside to that is I now have a TV smarter than I am that doesn't require 3 remotes, a special dongle and a change of input to watch Netflix).

Challenging indeed, but 2017 wasn't all bad ... in no particular order...

Buddy does like to strike a pose...and CheezIts. He loves Cheezits.

Buddy does like to strike a pose...and CheezIts. He loves Cheezits.

• We were adopted by a new cat, Buddy Boots.  He'd worked on me for nearly year, and I finally realized he didn't belong to anybody.  While we really didn't want another cat (we already had 2), we opened the door and let him into our hearts.  What a character! He has certainly been lightness in a dim year, although he gave us a scare when he went missing for 2 days – I found him trapped in a neighbor's attic. Too long story, but he used up one of those 9 lives (and one of mine!).


• In January, hubby & I went to Amsterdam for our birthdays (yes, we have the same one).  It was certainly MUCH colder than it would have been in October when we were originally scheduled to go (thank you, hurricane Matthew for that change of plans), but we had a great time anyway, exploring wonderful art museums, eating fabulous food and just enjoying a change of scenery in general.


• In February, my bestie, artist Joyce Shelton and I traveled to Franklin TN for a workshop that was completely out of my wheelhouse – exactly what I like in a workshop - a challenge that scares me!  It was fun, I didn't suck, but it certainly confirmed I have little desire to paint plein air or interiors.  And we had a chilly, unpredicted surprise while we were there - snow!


• Our niece started law school in Savannah this past fall.  This involved a handful of trips to Savannah to find her the most darling little apartment and then move her from FL to GA.  I was reminded of how hard moving is, how hard moving out of state is and learned that when you're not the one actually getting to live in the cool new place, it is largely unsatisfying.  But now we have a reason to go to Savannah (more) often!

(L-to-R) Distance 6x6, Lonely Tree 6x6, Falling 6x6

(L-to-R) Distance 6x6, Lonely Tree 6x6, Falling 6x6

• I participated in a couple group shows at Arts on Douglas Fine Art Gallery, including Nocturnes and Small Things Considered, which is still on display in the main gallery until January 9, 2018.  These pieces, 6x6 each, are available here.

Opening Night • (L-R) In the Silence, I waited for Autumn 36x60, Tomorrow Afternoon 60x60

Opening Night • (L-R) In the Silence, I waited for Autumn 36x60, Tomorrow Afternoon 60x60

• In October, I had my second solo show, Versatility.  It was a challenge to fill such a large room and I did one of my largest paintings to date, 5'x5' - titled Tomorrow Afternoon.  This painting, as well as In the Silence, I waited for Autumn, is available from Arts on Douglas, where you'll find several more of my paintings.  I am so grateful to Arts on Douglas for all the wonderful opportunities they've given me :-)


• Somehow, between creating a roomful of paintings, I also created designs like these for my licensing clients.  I do need to switch creative gears now and again, truly demonstrating my versatility :-)  


• This year also found me teaching one-on-one in my studio as well as giving an artist's talk at the New Smyrna Beach Artists Workshop.

Regatta graphics • Sunrise on the river • Me carrying oars ready to row! • Double damage

Regatta graphics • Sunrise on the river • Me carrying oars ready to row! • Double damage

• I once again designed the graphics for my rowing club's annual regatta and had many adventures on the water this year. As always, so many beautiful sunrises.  I learned to row a single scull (hairy but fun!), ran into a floating water-logged 6'x8' section of dock in the dark that was a leftover from hurricane Matthew (thankfully, I was in a double rather than a single with an excellent partner when that happened!) Put a pretty good crack in my pal's boat!  I was twice caught in a manatee-maelstrom (if you've never seen what a manatee can do when spooked, watch this example - it's rather violent & terrifying! And, one morning we sadly even found a dead body floating near the dock. Never a dull moment on the river!

My high school art teacher, Sandi Garritano Provencher, who now lives in Australia was in town and we had a couple days of fun visiting Atlantic Center for the Arts and working companionably in my studio (so much so, we didn't think to take any photos!). Come back soon, Sandi!


Hurricane Irma - now that was an event.  A two week event.  From the time it was predicted to impact Florida, to watching it march towards us, changing its path every few hours, growing larger and larger, the preparations - the food, the gas, the ice, the boarding up the house, etc - to riding it out (with 3 cats in the house), to cleaning up afterwards. Exhausting and full of  anxiety.  Felt like deja vu - probably because we'd had a major hurricane less than a year prior.  I was amazed (and grateful!) that once again, our screen porch made it through intact. 


• And, finally a real highlight for me this year was an impromptu retreat at Lake Logan that fell into my lap at the moment I needed it most.  I can't say enough good things about this trip where I also got to spend a couple days kicking around Asheville, catching up with friends.  While I live in Florida, my heart is in the woods - I love the lake, the trees, the moss, the rocks and lots of down time in front of a fire!  

I had just come off my solo show and consequently didn't feel like packing up my painting supplies, so instead, I took jewelry-making supplies with me.  I had been collecting bits and bobs for around 20 years± and had always dangled them in my peripheral vision as a treat I would someday work on.  I spent many blissful days, sipping tea in a fire-warmed room, tinkering with my treasure stash, finding a new creative passion.  I'm not entirely sure where I might go with this, but if you want to keep up, sign up here for notifications of debuting designs & special offers.


I'm sure I must be missing something but if you've read this far, that's probably enough, LOL. Wonder what 2018 will bring????  Happy New Year to all!

Bye Bye 2016...Hello 2017!

The other day, I was lamenting to my ever-patient journal, just how much I didn't get done last year.  I was discouraged at how many things were left on my to-do list.  Then I realized, Hey!  I did a LOT in 2016!  Time to wake up and be grateful for all I have done rather than beating myself up for what I didn't.

So, in no particular order, here are what I consider to be the things that made up a pretty darned good year indeed (you might want to get a cup of coffee...or wine...up to you):

- I had my first solo show at Arts On Douglas Fine Art Gallery.  The amount of work it took to prepare was exhausting, but I was overwhelmed by the loving support of so many family and friends that night. My cousin, who I had not seen in 15 years, drove up from South Florida to surprise me and we are now more in touch.  I was also humbled (and very happy) that more than half the show sold before the end of its run.  I also did a well-attended artist's talk a week later.

L-R: Proud hubby • Having fun with my rowing buddies, Linda & Sandy • My cousin Jimmy

L-R: Proud hubby • Having fun with my rowing buddies, Linda & Sandy • My cousin Jimmy

- My husband and I visited Seattle, WA and loved it!  The main purpose was to visit a favorite (licensing) client, and we had some great meetings, but every minute of this too-short trip was inspiring & fun.  Fell in love with the Port Townsend area.

L-R - Hiking Deception Pass • Deer on the beach! • With my favorite client, Bruce Solly • View at Deception Pass.

L-R - Hiking Deception Pass • Deer on the beach! • With my favorite client, Bruce Solly • View at Deception Pass.

- I flew to Madison, WI to attend a cold wax workshop taught by the marvelous Pamela Caughey at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point.  Bonus ~ my good friend, Sue Jachimiec ~ who is also an artist and took the workshop as well ~ lives nearby and she invited me to stay with her.  She and her hubby (who cooked us wonderful meals every night!) made the trip so fun, I felt like I was in high school again, hangin' with my buddies, just having a good time without a care in the world. (and I ate a LOT of cheese curds!)

L-R: Sue & I during critique • a snapshot of some small works on paper -returning to my abstract hand • Working away • Having fun with Sue & Jeff in downtown Mineral Point.

L-R: Sue & I during critique • a snapshot of some small works on paper -returning to my abstract hand • Working away • Having fun with Sue & Jeff in downtown Mineral Point.

- Unexpected joy ~ I reconnected with a friend from high school, Rahna Summerlin, who is also an artist and amazing award-winning quilter (follow her on instagram @bloominginchintz). She and I went to dinner, chatted about whatever became of this one and that one, including our art teacher.  Long story shortened here, said teacher - the talented Sandra Garritano Provencher ~ lives in Sydney Australia, and as fate would have it, when Rahna tracked her down on Instagram (@sandra_garritano), we found she was in the area visiting family!!  We were both able to have dinner and reconnect with her! It was really exciting and a little surreal for all of us.  There was so much creative energy flying around the table that night, the next day we all said we couldn't sleep!  I then had the honor of teaching my high school teacher about my process one afternoon in my studio and we're talking about a painting trip to Paris in the future!

L-R: Rahna, Sandy, BJ • Sandy in my studio

L-R: Rahna, Sandy, BJ • Sandy in my studio

- I went to Indian Rock Shores, FL (on the coldest weekend of the year) with my best friend, artist Joyce Shelton for a girlie get-away that included a workshop with Dreama Tolle Perry.  I was slightly terrified as I don't exactly paint in her style, but I do like to challenge myself and it was a lot of fun!  I don't think I did toooo badly....

Somehow, neither Joyce nor I captured any photos of us - guess we were focused!

Somehow, neither Joyce nor I captured any photos of us - guess we were focused!

- My hubby and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We had originally planned to go to Amsterdam and Germany in October to celebrate, but had to reschedule because of Hurricane Matthew's rude and untimely visit.

- Speaking of Hurricane Matthew....  While I may not love how the storm re-landscaped my neighborhood, particularly my own back yard, I am grateful that everyone is safe and our home escaped any real damage (the big trees that fell, fell away from the house, thankfully).  

- I traveled to Savannah, GA over Thanksgiving weekend with hubby and niece where we had so much fun we decided on the spare of the moment to stay an extra night.  Krystal even met Forrest Gump!

- I taught my first workshop at Atlantic Center for the Arts.  I felt like it was truly something I wanted to experience and, since the opportunity was presenting itself, I went for it. The whole shebang went even better than I could have imagined.  I was asked to teach more, but declined after much consideration, because I felt it was taking too much away from my own studio practice (I wrote about it here).  I never say never, though and teaching may be my next "art life".  A BIG thank you to my students (the workshop was actually oversold by 2!) for making that day so wonderful.  Full recap here.

- We attended our niece's graduation from Stetson University ~ a milestone for sure.  We had a big party for her at our house, surrounded by family & friends from far and away, after which she and I flew to NYC for a long weekend where we packed every day with fun, including a matinee of Wicked on Broadway (highly recommend!)

The Writers' Walk in Central Park inspired the diptych painting below, which is currently in progress in the studio.

The Writers' Walk in Central Park inspired the diptych painting below, which is currently in progress in the studio.

"I did it!!"  The happy grad!  She's on to law school in the fall.

"I did it!!"  The happy grad!  She's on to law school in the fall.

- I had two pieces accepted into the "70th gARTen Celebration" at the Ormond Beach Memorial Art Museum & Gardens.  Works inspired by their beautiful gardens.

- I rowed 2-4 times nearly every week and was asked to design the club's 20th Annual Summer Regatta tee shirt logo.  For those of you who don't know, my first art life was as a graphic designer :-)   I also donated a painting to be raffled off.

- I was invited to a special cocktail party the night before the Horsin' Around Auction where one of my paintings, Into the Mystic was being auctioned as part of the Atlantic Center for the Arts's biggest fund-raiser of the year.  I was also honored to be invited to sit at the chairman of the board's table at the auction!

What am I looking forward to in 2017?

- I have already scheduled my next solo show - October 7 - at Arts on Douglas.  I spent a couple days recently with my hubby building some HUGE panels for this show -- the largest being 5'x5'. (yikes!)  Stay tuned this year for sneak peeks at the process.  I'm even going to play with video!  Follow me on instagram @bjlantzstudio .

- Hubby & I are headed to Amsterdam soon to celebrate our birthday (yes, we share the same birthday) instead of the anniversary as originally planned.  I can't wait to tour the fabulous museums!

- My bestie, Joyce and I are doing a girlie road trip to Franklin, TN to attend a workshop (another one to scare me, er, challenge me - Anne Blair Brown, Painting the Interior)

- I am determined to improve my French, which won't be too hard as it is rather minimal at the moment, merci beaucoup.  So far, I am rather confused with the gender issues....

- I've been invited to give an artist's talk about my process on April 5 at the New Smyrna Artists Workshop.  Be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to not miss the details!

Happy New Year to all!  I simply can't wait to see what else is in store!!!  

Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should

This summer, I taught my first workshop.  It was a fabulous day, I had fun as did my students, many of whom remarked that they would not have known it was my first teaching experience, had I not told them at the end as we gathered for a joyful group photo.


After much mental hand-wringing and many studio hours of planning and prep work, I went in well-prepared.  Relating to my students, meeting them where they were in the moment had (thankfully) proved easier than I had expected.  It was such a success that I immediately began planning my next workshop, this time planning on three days in the fall.  Then, unexpectedly, my enthusiasm waned.

I had begun to sense that familiar feeling in my gut - the one that gets my attention by making me a little queasy every time I think about something in particular.  It's not an "I'm scared" feeling - heck, I'd already worked through that with the first workshop.  It's more of an "I really don't want to do this" feeling.  

So, introspective me grabbed this by the collar and examined it more closely.  What I discovered is that I was feeling like I'd taken a wrong turn, that I had distracted myself by accepting this opportunity – and was further distracting myself by jumping in again.  I realized that I had been building a nice momentum and rhythm with my studio practice and that my work had been growing by leaps and bounds because of it.  However, the (many) hours of planning and prep that the workshop had taken up had interrupted that flow and now, I found myself struggling to get back on that track – while beginning to think about the next workshop.

Ah, there it was.... I realized I wanted – that I needed – that strong studio practice at this time in my career and that the workshops were taking up too much mental space and far too much of my time.  I had always had teaching in the back of my mind....but right now?  It didn't feel right, so I knew I had to let it go.  And when I did... Wow, I felt sooooo much lighter.... More evidence that it was the right decision.

I am grateful for the teaching opportunity that presented itself, for the experience, for what it taught me.  But in the end, I realize that just because I can, doesn't mean I should in this moment.  It'll be waiting for me down the my next art life.


Scratching the Surface Cold Wax Workshop

Stellar surroundings and the spacious painting studio at The Atlantic Center for the Arts, a great assistant, along with a fun group of artists made my first experience teaching a workshop just fantastic!

Charlotte Battle Everbach Painting Studio at Atlantic Center for the Arts

Charlotte Battle Everbach Painting Studio at Atlantic Center for the Arts

All set up and ready to go ~ all we need are artists!  What an amazing room to teach in!

Can't say enough how much I love Gamblin products and R&F Pigment sticks!

What a fantastic group ~ thank you one and all for making this such a great experience!  See you at the next workshop!  Stay tuned for details :-)

Here's what some of my students had to say....

"This workshop was wonderfully designed.  It moved along smoothly and new concepts were fully explained. I am excited to push the cold wax in new directions"

"BJ provided a friendly, non-threatening environment that allowed everyone to experiment without pressure.  It was a great workshop."

"Freeing.  supportive.  Informative. BJ is very personable."

"Fun! Playful!"

"BJ is a great teacher, very generous with her sharing of knowledge and experience with the medium.  I really enjoyed learning about and being able to experiment with the medium and techniques in a judgement free environment."

"Great class!  Can't wait to play around with more wax."

"Enjoyed it very much. So many things to choose from for the mark-making tools."

"Wonderful, inspiring & educational!"

Scratching The Surface

An Intro To Creating with Cold Wax Medium Workshop

Saturday • June 25, 2016 • 10 am - 3pm
Atlantic Center for the Arts • New Smyrna Beach

So many of you have been asking "When are you going to teach a workshop???"  Well... I listened!

Join me as I demonstrate the basics of getting started with cold wax medium & oil paints. This fun workshop will give participants hands-on experience with the medium.  Using an array of unusual tools, you'll experiment with layering, creating textures, marks and interesting surfaces. 

Discover this exciting, versatile medium and explore the many ways you can incorporate it into your own process.   This introductory class is a great (and required) base from which to move forward to a more advanced workshop planned for the fall of 2016.

A wide variety of interesting tools will be available for use during the workshop but students are encouraged to bring their own drawing implements and mark-making tools as well.

Workshop price is all-inclusive.  Wax, paint, solvent, tools, etc. included.  Each participant will leave with three panels in progress that they can continue to work on, a small jar of wax medium, a spreading tool and a drawing implement.  

INVESTMENT: $145 per person + $35 supply fee

Click here to sign up now!
Or call 386-427-6975 to register by phone and get ready to infuse your art practice with a fresh, new process!

10 Student limit*
*If workshop fills, add your name to the wait list.  If the list warrants, I will consider running a second introductory workshop!

Zina Nicole Lahr

I am deeply inspired by this video about the creative force that was Zina Nicole Lahr. She died in a hiking accident last month, and in sharing this, I hope each of you are inspired to listen to that wise, real, creative voice inside you and do even just one creative thing each day.

Work that Inspiration!

Ah yes, inspiration….we all want it and revel in it when it appears in abundance ~ but dang if sometimes it just isn’t there.  Oh, but we want it to be.  In fact the deadline you have nipping at your heels needs it to be.  You don’t have time for a creative rest stop, in fact, you don’t really feel like you need one – you just need an idea, a little fuel to get you going… Darn, nothing.

Work in progress

Work in progress

So you, go look in the fridge (a few times), walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, check Facebook, check your email (again), flip though a magazine or two….phone a friend…anything but work.

And that, is precisely the problem.

Work is where the ideas come from.  Have you ever decided to paint just one room in the house and it somehow snowballs into new carpet, new furniture, new throw pillows, new lamps, a party…?  Just as taking that first step with the wall paint led to a party, getting started doing something, anything in the studio will bring inspiration to you.  I have always believed that the inspiration comes from work itself ~ I have had far more ideas come to me while I am actually working than when I am sitting around trying to think of an idea ~ or scrolling through Pinterest

It works.  Try it today.  Pick up a pen, a brush, the keyboard…whatever…just get busy and the ideas will happen.  I promise.

Lemme know how it goes ~ I am on my way to the studio!


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Comparison ~ the Thief of Joy

Sorting It Out • 20x30 • Oil/Mixed Media

Sorting It Out • 20x30 • Oil/Mixed Media

This post is actually, in part, one I posted to my old blog.  I felt that, with a few tweaks that it was worth sharing again here.

A couple years ago, I spent a fun day crafting Valentine’s cards with a then-9 year old budding artist. Something we chatted about has stayed with me, still.  She mentioned more than once that my art was better than hers.  I told her she had at least 40 years to catch up with me and that she’d get there eventually (especially because she already had a great start).  I told her that I didn’t come out of the gate with all my skills.

Once I’d had time to reflect on her comments and my responses, I realize that it is more than years of experience that I should have addressed.

So here is an open letter to all my art friends, expanding on the topic….

I like to listen to podcasts of interviews with artists and other creative individuals and one topic that comes up ~ again and again ~ is that of self-doubt and comparison to others.  We all do it (and if somebody tells you they don’t, they’re fibbin’), and sometimes, we let this get the best of us.

I know that when I look at artwork on blogs, in magazines, at trade shows, on product in stores, etc., that I sometimes fall into that trap of thinking my work isn’t as good as somebody else’s.  What purpose does this attitude serve?  It is really just negative thinking that we’re imposing on ourselves.  How silly is that?  Silly it may be, but we DO it.  The trick is to recognize that we’re doing it and release ourselves from it. Piece of cake, non?

Here are two examples of this that I have experienced in my life….

When I started art school in college, the first day was an orientation into the program and at the end of the day we were shown a slide presentation of graduating students’ work.  I remember sitting in the dark, my anxiety rising with each new slide of great work after great work.  I held back the tears until I got to my car, but I cried all the way home because I thought, There is no way I am ever going to be that good.

I’m not going to say I came back to class the next day with a bright new sunny attitude, but I did remind myself that I had jumped a lot of hurdles to get into that program and I wasn’t about to quit and that I was going to just have to be the best I could possibly be and see where that would get me.  To my surprise in the coming months, I was better than I thought I was and came to the realization that perhaps by the time I graduated, my work might just be as good as those slides I’d seen on the first day. (and I hope that it doesn’t make somebody cry)

I realized that in order to ever be that good (whatever my definition of that was at the time), I had to put the work into learning, practicing and experimenting.  I wasn’t going to just pick up a tool and voila! be amazing.  I realized that it was a process that I would likely work at my whole life as I continually challenged myself to be better.  Am I still challenging myself, learning new techniques, experimenting?  You bet I am.  I’ll never think I have reached perfection or learned all there is to know.  Nobody ever does.

My second example occurred later in life, nearly 12 years ago, as I was making the transition from graphic designer to licensing artist.  I visited Surtex ~ a trade show where hundreds of artists put their work up in booths to show to manufacturers to use the art on their products ~ and, by the end of my first day walking that show, I was completely overwhelmed.  And sad, scared, depressed ~ you name it ~ I was wondering what on earth did I think I was doing getting into this business?  I wasn’t anywhere nearly as good as any of these amazing artists.  How could I possibly compete???

Again, I didn’t show up the next day with a brand new attitude, but I did remind myself about the story I just related about art school.  I remembered having the same feelings and knowing that I could overcome them.  So when I did return to the show the next day, I looked at the artists’ work differently.  I came to the realization that not only was I every bit as good as most of them, I allowed that I was in fact, even a little better than some.  Yet, I was still quite humbled by many.     But the important thing I came away with was that I was just as good as the artists I was competing with and that by learning all I could, I would make myself even better.

I have also come to realize that self-doubt and comparison to others’ are natural emotions and the trick is to recognize that I am doubting or comparing and to then remind myself that for each artist’s work that I admire and think is better than mine, I know that there is some artist out there looking at my work, thinking the same thing.  I had a lovely moment in Atlanta once where I met a very popular artist whose work I greatly admire (and compare myself to, wishing I were as good as her) and guess what?  She loved my work.

And finally, remember that nobody can bring to our art what we can individually.  So, feel free to admire somebody else’s work and even aspire to get your skill level to theirs, but remember ~ it may already be there ~ in its own, unique, wonderful way.

As the marvelous Mr. Wilde once said, Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

XO ~

What does critique mean to you and your art?

Winter Swim • 6 x 10.5 Oil/Mixed Media

Winter Swim • 6 x 10.5
Oil/Mixed Media

When I was in college taking art classes my absolute favorite day of the week was critique day.  Oh ~ am I the only one?  Possibly.  While I proudly arrived in class and put my work on the display board and took my place up front, others sidled in, put their work up and either sat as far in the back as possible ~ or left the room all together.  I knew even then that those artists would never make it if they couldn’t withstand the pressures of critique.  Hmmm….maybe I started building that thick skin earlier than I thought.

Scary word, Critique.  For some it can bring to mind mean tenured professors picking apart and tearing down every inch of their creative soul, or snarky classmates, or insensitive gallery owners, or (insert your own scary image here).

For me, it meant “time to grow”.  I was excited to hear feedback on my work ~ what worked, what didn’t ~ and most importantly why.  I was also extremely interested to hear feedback on others’ work as well.  I knew I could learn from their strengths as well as the things they needed to work on.

These critique sessions also helped me to learn how to edit incoming opinions about my art ~ I learned how to evaluate with a cold eye what was valid and what to dismiss…I mean seriously, not everything everybody says to you in critique is WORD ~ just like you can’t simply dismiss all feedback, you can’t take it all to heart either.  There is an art in and of itself to discerning the difference that can only be learned over time and with much introspection.

Speaking of introspection, what about self-critique?

I got a lesson in this at my first real graphic design job…or maybe it was more self-editing (I think the two are connected ~ maybe the same thing…?).   I worked for a small ad agency and one of our clients was a car dealership.  I was excited to get to do a full page 4-color ad~ Wow! Color! Yay!.  And I went to town on the color….boy, did I ever.  My boss (who was an amazing mentor) looked at my masterpiece thoughtfully then simply said, “Just because you have all the colors at your disposal doesn’t mean you have to use them all.”  I swear, I still remind myself of this.

So how do you self-critique or edit?  How do you know when something you’re working on is done?  I wish I could give you a good answer to that ~ for me it is a gut reaction…I just know…the same way I just know it isn’t done.  If it is a painting, it has to evoke something for me.  There has to be a balance, a flow, a flavor, a feeling.  If it is a pattern or a surface design the same applies, but perhaps in a more graphic manner, less emphasis on the evocative, more on the tightness, the pleasingness. Cold wax artist Rebecca Crowell has said that she has criteria that her pieces need to meet for them to feel done.  While she can enumerate them for you, she admits to just “knowing” when they’ve been met.

And, as my husband will remind me when I struggle with a piece ~ They can’t all be home runs, you’re going to have some dogs.  And he is absolutely right.  That’s when I stop trying so hard and just put it away and move on to something else.  Now and again those dogs come out and turn into show hounds, but sometimes they remain mutts, no matter how hard I try to fancy them up

So what does critique mean to you?

This topic was prompted by an interesting blog post ~ a creative (and much more eloquent) conversation between two artists, Rebecca Crowell and Janice Mason Steeves ~ in regards to critique.  You can read it here.  (Janice is teaching a 5-day class in June at Cullowhee Mountain Arts in North Carolina, called Visual Language and the Art of Critique)

Does Money Change Art?

This topic is another that has come out of a Creative Coffee session with Jamie Ridler & friends. Speaking of coffee, this is a longish post, so maybe you should get a cup… anyhoo, this post grew out of a discussion about creating art for art’s sake – something I’ve never really been able to do and barely have a grasp on understanding the concept.

I mean, I have been a professional artist my whole life, so whenever my thoughts would turn to making art for “fun” I would think “What’s the point in that?”  Yet….part of me yearned to understand it, to DO it.  But, because I spend most of my days creating art on demand for clients or dreaming up ideas for art or products to pitch to clients, the last thing I think about in my down time is, well, making art.

Does that mean I don’t enjoy making art?  No, not at all.  I love being an artist and wake up thankful every single day that I have the talent (and business brain too) to make a good living at it.  My favorite days are those spent in my right brain, getting lost in the process, whether I am sketching ideas, creating patterns on the computer or slinging paint in the studio.  I love it all.  But.  It is different than creating art for art’s sake.  My mind is constantly thinking about salability, are the colors appealing, who should I pitch this to (if I am not specifically designing for somebody), is this on trend?  These thoughts do direct the work to a degree.  They have to.

So several years ago, I decided I really, really needed to get out of this cycle of creation-on-demand.  My original thought was that I had to freshen up my creative well, TRY to create for the sake of creating, not selling.  So I took workshops.  And, after a couple, I even managed to loosen up a little, just create for fun….but it wasn’t long before I was taking what I’d learned, the inspiration I’d gained…and fed it into my commercial work.  ::sigh::  While this in itself really wasn’t a bad thing, I thought, “I am just not capable of creating for fun.”

And then, a few years ago I chose to take a painting workshop that scared the hell out of me.  And it changed everything.  I had never ever thought of myself as a painter.  Paint brushes scared me.  Way too out of control!  Yipes!  And work big?  No,no….not me.  So, creating two 30×30 paintings in one day that I actually love – Just for What They Are— and not to sell – was an amazing creative-life-changing experience for me.  It opened up my head in ways I hadn’t imagined.

I went home, bought an easel, an extravagant amount of paint, a literal shipment of canvas – and I got busy.   I loved every minute of it, not caring if anybody would want them.  But, of course, that could only last so long before I did (care)….I created a collection of paintings with licensing in mind.  And they’ve been very popular and done well.  And sucked the life and joy right out of painting in the process.  

This disheartened me a great deal.  I kind of walked away from painting for licensing…went more abstract…and the joy returned. Yay!   So I just went with it.  In fact, I rented a painting studio a few years ago and my painting process just exploded.  I became more prolific overall in the last few months than I had been in the last several years.  I’ve experimented with styles, colors, subjects, abstracts, you name it.

At first I did get myself a little wound up in the idea that “Oh gosh, now I’ve got rent to pay…I’ve got to sell this stuff, I’ve got to make this into a BUSINESS!”  After a few self-induced stressful months, I took step back and remembered what I really wanted a studio for in the first place – to play, to experiment, to explore, to paint, to create….for me.  I took a deep breath and got back to doing just that.  And what has come out of that has been an revelation for me.

I now consider myself a painter.  I paint as much as I can and only what I want to paint.  Interestingly, I have unintentionally developed a couple series where I realized there was licensing potential.  I showed the paintings to a few clients during the recent Atlanta GiftShow and have gotten a terrific reaction.  More so than I had expected.

So.  Food for thought here in the studio… Yes, creating with selling in mind does greatly influence one’s work…but creating for one’s self brings the heart out.  What are your thoughts on this?

What if Somebody Doesn't Like My Art?

Introspection 1 • 15x20 • oil/mixed medi

Introspection 1 • 15x20 • oil/mixed medi

A while back, once a month I would put down my brushes and log on to Jamie Ridler’s Creative Coffee. It was an hour of free-for-all typing with creatives from all walks of the creative life.  In between silliness about cookies, wine and fuzzy slippers, some great conversations got started.  I always logged off with something to think about.

One time, there was a discussion flying about how one feels when somebody doesn’t like their art.  I wrote that this had never actually bothered me and Jamie asked me why I thought that was and what advice I’d have for somebody who did feel tender and insecure about what others thought of their art.

Hmmmmm.  I couldn’t really answer it adequately at the time, so I promised to think about it get back to her.  So here I am, because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  And yet, I am no closer to a real answer.

My immediate reaction is that I’ve been a professional artist most of my life – nearly half of it in advertising, and if that doesn’t grow you a thick skin, nothing will.  I mean, if I took it to heart every time one of my designs was rejected by a client, I’d have been in the bathroom in tears every day.  All day.  

From advertising, I moved into art licensing for giftware products.  Basically the same cruel world, art-wise.  Maybe even more so.  Rejection is a daily occurrence.  And yet, I have never taken it personal, never gotten my feelings hurt.  I think I have always viewed it as: It’s just Business.  Just because one company doesn’t like it (or maybe they do and it just isn’t right for their line or the timing is wrong; sometimes you don’t know why you’ve been turned down) doesn’t mean somebody else won’t like/want it.

Another thing that comes to mind is that I don’t particularly like everything that every other artist in the world makes, do I?  So why should everybody in the world like everything I make?  My mother, for one, doesn’t care for my abstract painting work, yet, others love it enough to give me money for it.  I’ve even designed products that I didn’t particularly love at the direction of a client and they’ve sold like hot cakes.  So personal taste is just that: personal.  And, business is just that: business.  Just like you don’t like every person you come in contact with, and they don’t all like you either (it’s true!)….not everybody is going to love or even mildly like your art.  That’s just life.

Here I am reaching for that advice that Jamie asked me for….  And at the risk of this sounding like a cop out, I love these two quotes:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  – Bill Cosby

However,  I think Andy Warhol said it best: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

And, from my own lips… Be less concerned with who doesn’t like your art and more concerned with who DOES.

Unlimited Thinking

Almost Forgotten • 20x20 • Oil/Mixed Media

Almost Forgotten • 20x20 • Oil/Mixed Media

So, I got thinking today…about limited thinking.  What do I mean by that?  Henry Ford said it best: “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right”

When I was in art school I realized something about myself ~ I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do something.  One of my instructors insisted that everyone show him what they intended to do for each assignment.  More than once I was told, “You can’t do that. It’ll be too hard.”  And yet, (nearly) each time, I proved him wrong, because I already had it in my head that I could do it.  He finally stopped saying I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something and started saying “Cant wait to see what you do with this” instead.

What if I had let him tell me I couldn’t do something?  What if I had dejectedly dropped my ideas and chose something easier?  Would I have grown as much?  Would I have made discoveries ~ both in what I was and wasn’t capable of on my own?  Probably not.  I shudder to think how many budding art careers he stunted with this approach.

Where in your life do you tell yourself you can’t do something, you’re not good at something or something is too difficult?  Any of these sound familiar?

I am no good at marketing.
I can’t paint.
I can’t draw.
I can’t write.
I can’t draw faces.
I can’t do lettering.
I’m no good at blogging.
I suck at networking.
I can’t speak in public.
I don’t even know where to begin to start an Etsy shop, it looks so complicated.
I cant keep track of money, time, work, deadlines, etc. (pick one or two…)
I’m terrible at organizing.
I can’t find the time to _________

I have been guilty of some of this myself at one time or another.  Still am, if I am being truthful (and I am    It is inescapable.  No matter how confident or capable you are, there is a chink somewhere in your armor.  Makes you human, you know?  And that’s OK.  But what if you WANT to be good at marketing?  Or drawing faces?  Or balancing your checkbook?  How do you get there?

Stop. Thinking. You. Can’t. and start thinking “How can I ________?”  Then do it.  Take a step towards doing it.  It really is that simple.  There is no magic solution ~ Once you stop the limited thinking and replace it with positive thinking (unlimited thinking??), all sorts of things become possible.

Further,  I am a big fan of Imperfect Action.  Just get started doing something gives you something to shoot at, to improve, to tweak, to learn from.  So Just. Do. Something.  Getting started is often the hardest part.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to think positively about how I can be a better blogger…  What CAN you do?

The Creative Rest Stop

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a break from all the…everything.  The deadlines, the client-driven work, the push to come up with new ideas, the production of said new ideas….basically, the creative-on-demand aspect of my art life.  I realize, as someone who has made her living as a professional artist in one form or another for the past 25+ years, it’s all just part of “the job”.

Last Summer • 20 x 20 Oil/Mixed Media

Last Summer • 20 x 20 Oil/Mixed Media

But sometimes, as much as I love the art, the creating, the process, the challenge, I hit a wall, I feel like I can’t come up with one more damned idea to save my life. I’m not talking about the “I just need a day off with a cup of coffee at Barnes and Noble” kind of wall here. No, more the “I feel like I am banging my head against a firmly locked door, willing it to swing wide open and show me the treasure chest of ideas I just know is on the other side” kind of wall.

Basically, at that point, I know I need a break.  A full-on, not even my sketchbook with me, kind of break. No Pinterest, no Instagram, no Cloth Paper Scissors or Where Women Create.  No computer (definitely no computer) or iPad for more than a minute to check email (and if I can get away with it, not even that!).  No blogs, Facebook or LinkedIn. No shopping to look at the bottoms of things to see who manufactured it.

The only way I seem to be able to achieve this total eclipse of the stubborn creative opposite of monkey mind is to GO AWAY.  I like to take a couple good books and just get lost in a story.  Forget for a while that I am an artist.  I like to eat good food, stretch, breathe, walk or hike, nap.  Watch the water lap at the shore, feel the sun on my face, look at the mountains, enjoy the sunset, or be mesmerized into meditation by the fireplace.

Then, after a handful of days like this, a miraculous things happens… The ideas start coming back.  The desire to create something fresh and new comes back.  The door swings open, a choir of angels sing, the sun shines…. And I go dig out the sketchbook I tucked at the very bottom of my bag.

Come on – really?  Did you think I’d leave it home?

And, of course, I always tell myself not to go so long without these self-nurturing practices, even when I can’t get away away.  But do I listen?  Do any of us?  Sure, I take mini-breaks (reference above-mentioned day off with coffee at B&N), have play dates with art friends, etc. but somehow, I always seem to find myself standing in front of that door at least once or twice a year.

So how about you?  What do you do when you come up against that locked creative door?