Inside the Artist’s Studio with Heather Bivens: Weathered Heather

Throughout the years, creating has been something that I must do. The medium and process has changed and evolved, but my desire to create remains the driving force. Whether they are tests, collections, samples, mock-ups or finished works, they are simultaneously bridges and destinations.

When I was in high school, I studied illustration and copy preparation. In 2007, I obtained my BFA from SUNY Oswego with an emphasis in sculpture and drawing. During that time, I created a range of work that explored performance art, digital imagery, video and installation. In 2010, I obtained my MFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University. My graduate work investigated the art of adornment through wearable sculpture. During that time, my connection with nature became more profound and could be seen as a common thread between all of my works.

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Soon after graduate school, I taught a range of studio art courses as a part time instructor at Cazenovia College. There, I had the opportunity to work in a glass studio, where I learned to work with kiln formed art glass. Based on my interest in adornment, it felt natural for me to make jewelry from this new medium.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

My glass work has opened new doors for me as an artist and maker while connecting all of my prior experience into one art form. Today, I consider myself fortunate to be self-employed and make work full time in my home studio. My business is Weathered Heather, named after myself and my inspiration.

Weathered Heather

My jewelry making process begins by assembling compatible glass. The glass can be cut, crushed into small pieces or made into strands with the use of a torch.

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

I layer the glass using a temporary adhesive to ensure that they stay in place during the firing process. Earrings are designed at the same time to ensure that they are similar in nature. It is important to make sure that the same amount of glass is being used on each piece. If it is uneven, the design can become distorted or they can end up unequal in size.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

After each design is assembled, they are properly fired in a kiln up to 1500 degrees. In some cases, multiple firings are necessary to achieve the desired result. After the firing process, they are shaped and cold worked with diamond abrasives.

A small groove is ground along the edge of each piece of glass using a diamond disk. This grove provides a space for my wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Some of my newest work is created by hand painting the image with glass enamel. The enamel begins as a powder that is made into a paintable form using a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

I then cut a piece of glass slightly larger than the pendant or earrings that I would like to create. I paint the image directly on the surface. The image can be painted all in one sitting or it can be completed in layers if the design is complex. Each layer is fired to solidify the bottom layer before more enamel is added.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

After painting the image, I often place a clear sheet of glass on top of the image before firing it. This step embeds the image in the center of the glass, encapsulating it like a preserved treasure.
The excess material needs to be ground away with a diamond abrasive, giving the piece its final shape and size.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it's final shape.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it’s final shape.

The bubbles you see within the design are often described as “champagne” bubbles and are a characteristic of kiln formed glass.

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16" x 1 1/16".

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16″ x 1 1/16″.

For more information on Weathered Heather, visit Heather’s website at www.weatheredheather.com. You can also follow Weathered Heather on Facebook and Instagram (@weatheredheather).

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by painter Melissa Huang.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Melissa Huang

Painting is a very relaxing process for me. It’s the one thing that  clears my mind and allows me to focus. Painting is great for brainstorming and letting your mind work through all of the thoughts and concepts swimming around in your head.

My studio space is currently set up in the living room area. The natural light is something I really enjoy.

My studio space is currently set up in the living room area. The natural light is something I really enjoy.

A lot of my artwork focuses on things like trinkets, porcelain dolls, and other beautiful childhood objects. I’ve always been a collector, and I filled a bookcase full of fossils, crystals, and ornaments when I was younger.

Artists like Audrey Flack have greatly influenced the way I view still lifes. Symbolism is very important in Flack’s work, and I try to focus on the symbolism in my work as well.

Melissa Huang, Self Portrait, Oil on canvas, wood frame, sculpy objects, 48" x 36" plus frame, 2012

Melissa Huang, Self Portrait, Oil on canvas, wood frame, sculpy objects, 48″ x 36″ plus frame, 2012

I enjoy painting from life, but find creating photographic reference images to work from really helps my process. By rearranging objects and photographing them in different situations and different angles I can find compositions that capture the emotional intent of the piece.

My oil paintings are intentionally soft and feminine with melancholy undercurrents. Broken dolls and figures intertwine with bright and colorful flowers that could represent new life, or possibly death. We are intruders, viewing these figures from an intimate perspective.

Melissa Huang, In the Flowers, Oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2014

Melissa Huang, In the Flowers, Oil on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2014

Melissa Huang, Muhammad, Oil on canvas, 20" x 20", 2014

Melissa Huang, Muhammad, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 20″, 2014

Melissa Huang, Sammy Mouse, Oil on canvas, 20" x 20", 2014

Melissa Huang, Sammy Mouse, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 20″, 2014

Recently I’ve been using gold leaf in my paintings. During my study abroad in Florence I visited as many churches as possible, and saw many beautiful altarpieces with gold leafed panels. The subjects of the paintings were made more important by the glimmering leaf. I wanted to lend a similar sense of importance to the subjects I painted.

JordanMaya

Melissa Huang, Philip, Oil on canvas, 48" x 36", 2013

Melissa Huang, Philip, Oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2013

Melissa Huang, Garden, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6" x 6" (each), 2014

Melissa Huang, Garden, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6″ x 6″ (each), 2014

Using gold leaf in my work allowed me to play with a sense of depth versus flatness, as well as brought a more graphic quality into some of my paintings. If you’d like to learn about the gold leafing process I’ll be leading a gold leaf workshop at Main Street Arts on Saturday, February 21st, from 1–3pm. This workshop relates to the current Solid Gold exhibition, featuring nine artists using gold leaf, gold paint, and gold lustre.

Working on paintings on gold leafed panels

Working on paintings on gold leafed panels

Melissa Huang, The Aviary, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6" x 6" (each), 2014

Melissa Huang, The Aviary, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6″ x 6″ (each), 2014

Come see Melissa’s paintings in person during Solid Gold, or check out her upcoming exhibition Upstairs at Main Street Arts.

You can see more of Melissa’s portfolio at www.melissahuang.com or on Instagram: @melissahuangart. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by painter Amy Vena.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Amy Vena: Process

Art is my life-long passion. I’ve always maintained a connection with art, specifically drawing and painting. However, it wasn’t until graduate school that I really investigated using industrial materials as painting mediums. My relationship with high-gloss epoxy resin began in 2011 and has continued since then. Applying resin to both canvas and panel has taught me about the medium and it’s behavior.

photo

Amy Vena, In her studio

My painting process is inspired by both contemporary and past artists. Similar to Abstract Expressionist painters of the mid-21st Century (like Helen Frankenthaler), I strive to produce paintings that are active and contain energy. The focus is to achieve expression through tonal variation, depth, and color.

Most importantly, creating artwork is fun and spiritual. When I am in the studio I work through thoughts and problems until everything drifts away. Thoughts about life turn into brushstrokes. Eventually, my mind is quieted by work. Space, healing, and peace are all achieved while painting.

Image 1

By Amy Vena

The pieces contributed to Solid Gold were recently created. They are part of a transitional phase coming from a previous series inspired by images of nebulae. These new paintings are not meant to be representational images. They are  abstract, diverging from themed work. They focus on color and movement.

By Amy Vena

By Amy Vena

I often incorporate objects into my artwork prior to applying epoxy resin. Leaf skeletons and gold leaf add subtle detail. The actual process of creative development is pretty standard between pieces:

  1. Lay gesso and modeling paste on canvas to create the foundation texture and organic ambiance
  2. Use Acrylic Inks to develop a composition
  3. Create or enhance depth in certain areas working the entire painting
  4. Apply aerosol spray-paint
  5. Saturate each end of the value spectrum
  6. Allow the paint to dry
  7. Apply the clear or colored resin
  8. Create striations with iridescent acrylic/epoxy resin mixture
photo copy

By Amy Vena

Layering is one of the most valuable elements in my creative process. It takes patience and time. The application of epoxy resin bears the heaviest risks. Epoxy resin is toxic, and all precautions must be taken when handling the medium. Mixing must be closely monitored, as the epoxy resin will not cure if mixed incorrectly. Complexity level is something to consider when deciding to work with epoxy resin, but when done correctly the medium is fantastic and exciting.

Painting is a journey, and I am excited to see where each new painting will lead me.

For more information please visit Amy’s website, amycvena.com. You can see Amy’s work in person during our current exhibition, Solid Gold. #amycvenaart

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by multimedia artist Jeanne Beck.

Solid Gold

Thank you to everyone who made it to the Solid Gold opening reception! It was a great night viewing golden artwork. We appreciate everyone who came out to support the gallery and our artists.

Solid Gold visitors standing by a work of art by Brian O'Neill

Solid Gold visitors next to a work of art by Brian O’Neill

Solid Gold is an exhibition of shining, glimmering, and glowing works in a variety of media by invited artists who use gold leaf, gold lustre, or gold paint. This exhibit includes paintings, mixed media pieces, ceramics, and sculpture.

Gallery visitors view a series of bird paintings on gold leafed panels by Melissa Huang.

Gallery visitors view a series of bird paintings on gold leafed panels by Melissa Huang.

A series of beautiful cups with gold trim by ceramic artist Katie Carey.

A series of beautiful cups with gold trim by ceramic artist Katie Carey.

Artists include:
Katie Carey, Jeanne Raffer-Beck, Melissa Huang, Mitch Messina, Brian O’Neill, Peter Pincus, John Ruggles, Bill Wolff, and Amy Vena.

Artist Amy Vena discusses her artwork with a gallery visitor.

Artist Amy Vena discusses her artwork with a gallery visitor.

Artist John Ruggles wears gold shades in front of his mixed media gold leafed painting.

Artist John Ruggles wears gold leafed shades in front of his mixed media gold leafed painting.

Stop by before February 28, 2015 to see Solid Gold in person! To see more images of the show, check out our Solid Gold album on Flickr, or see video of the show on Vimeo.

Exhibition Dates: January 10–February 28, 2015

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeanne Beck: Coming Home Through Creating

www.jeannebeck.com

Jeanne Beck at work in her studio in Rochester, NY’s Hungerford Building

It seems to me my whole life has been a slow, steady evolution of coming home to myself. I suspect a lot of women of my generation feel that way. My earlier life didn’t offer a lot of stimulation or opportunity to study music or dance or art, all of which interested me greatly, but I did read voraciously. I fantasized about writing novels and started writing short stories at age 12, but then I became absorbed in teen-age concerns. I turned to keeping a journal, which I wrote in faithfully from 7-12th grade. I’ve done personal journaling in some form for most of my life and have a storage box filled with composition notebooks and more recently, sketchbooks too.

Book of the Ancients 6, 18" x 18", mixed media collage, gold leaf, acrylic paint. Cut, collaged, screen-printed and stenciled.

Book of the Ancients 6, 18″ x 18″, mixed media collage, gold leaf, acrylic paint. Cut, collaged, screen-printed and stenciled.

When I decided at mid-life to become a visual artist, I made a total commitment to it. Lose, win or draw, I have invested myself fully in my own creative potential. And, as a result, this midlife adventure has become the most passionate, committed period of my life. Since I began exploring visual art, I have been drawn to combine more than one medium or techniques, as well as create multi-layered surfaces.

The Writing in Air pieces utilize a variety of processes and techniques to create a dimensional , cut and manipulated surface that suggests  cursive handwriting. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

The Writing in Air pieces utilize a variety of processes and techniques to create a dimensional , cut and manipulated surface that suggests cursive handwriting. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

Melding media and techniques to express a concept drives most of my choices. So I might stitch thread structures and dip them in paper pulp, for example. Layering and combining materials and methods is a fluid process and varies with each new idea. I like to envision my pieces accumulating layers over time and bearing the marks of use and age to build their own personal history.

Distressing the leafed surface with layers of acrylic paints and screen printed texts creates a patina of aging. Private collection, Boston, MA.

Distressing the leafed surface with layers of acrylic paints and screen printed texts creates a patina of aging. Private collection, Boston, MA.

Seemingly random numbers cut in fiberglass screening punctuate the aged surface of this piece. They are a list of street numbers from the houses where I've lived over the course of my life. They are as I remember them, but I have no idea whether the memories are accurate. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

Seemingly random numbers cut in fiberglass screening punctuate the aged surface of this piece. They are a list of street numbers from the houses where I’ve lived over the course of my life. They are as I remember them, but I have no idea whether the memories are accurate. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

I am drawn to aged surfaces and tend to try to and create them in whatever medium or technique I’m using. Rust, decay, and layers peeling away attract me. They also relate to my interests in memory and aging and what happens to personal histories over time.

Most of the scattered  images on this piece refer to The Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting instruction. Once  a part of elementary school curriculum, cursive handwriting  has become almost obsolete.

Most of the scattered images on this piece refer to The Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting instruction. Once a part of elementary school curriculum, cursive handwriting has become almost obsolete.

The earliest concept for my current series of language-inspired pieces started in 2007. I had done extensive research on Etruscan and other forms of ancient writing remnants and the marks  intrigued me as visual elements. Then my focus shifted to an interest in 19th and 20th century found journals, diaries and bits of cursive writing.

This work lists all the names of the teachers I can remember from my elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA. Book of the Ancients 9: Bethel Park Elementary, won a prestigious 2013 Niche Award.

This work lists all the names of the teachers I can remember from my elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA. Book of the Ancients 9: Bethel Park Elementary, won a prestigious 2013 Niche Award.

Green World IIMy metallic leaf series began in 2011 with the idea of “fluttering pages.” The exploration of ancient texts and languages to gather ideas for this series led me to an unexpected realization, “ancient” is a relative term. To someone entering adulthood today, the 1950’s and 60’s seem ancient. Amused by that recognition, the first works in this series focus on remembered bits from my childhood. We often refer to ‘turning a page’, ‘ getting on the same page’, ‘starting a new or closing an old chapter of our lives’ in our everyday conversations. These pieces offer a visual take on such ideas.

Green World II is a new organically-inspired, dimensional  work with layered kozo fibers over a  richly textured, painted surface.

Green World II is a new organically-inspired, dimensional work with layered kozo fibers over a richly textured, painted surface.

The pages series still doesn’t feel finished and I will continue to work on new ideas. However, I am also working on a new series of organic, two and three-dimensional works using handmade paper, pulp and wire armatures.

You can see more of Jeanne’s work in our current exhibition, Solid Gold, or visit her website: www.jeannebeck.com.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Colleen Pendry.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Colleen Pendry: Materials, Metaphor & Memory

My name is Colleen Pendry and I am originally from the suburbs of Washington D.C. I live on a small piece of Heaven in Rockbridge County, Virginia with my husband of 32 years and our assortment of furred and feathered friends – four rescue dogs, one cat, three goats and fourteen chickens.  I received a BA in Studio Art (Painting) from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA and a MFA from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  I am currently a professor with Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, VA where I teach Drawing, 3-D design, and Art History and Appreciation.

I think I have always been an artist in one capacity or another.  I remember when I was a kid, taking those “art tests” found on the cover of matchbooks. I must have drawn hundreds of those matchbook characters over the years.  My mother was a writer and a folk singer and my father a jazz musician and storyteller. They encouraged creativity very early on, and for that I am eternally grateful!

SONY DSC

fragility ii

SONY DSC

fragility i

My current work fragility, is an ongoing series which began following the death of my mother in March 2008. I remember my mother being in institutionalized in the early 60s when I was about  five years old.  A diagnosis of “tantrums” seemed apt during that time.  She told me once that she had some poems and memoirs for me, but it wasn’t until after her death that I received the faded, nicotine-stained manila folder, stuffed with her past.  A past I never really knew.  Her writings are intense and seem to reveal, in fragments, the taboo of mental illness and her literal way of coping with the silence.  The timelessness of these pages ultimately lead me to a place from her past – the former Western State Lunatic Asylum.

In early February 2010 I was granted access to the sprawling, once iconic campus of Greek Revival style buildings built from 1827–1842. In its inception, the asylum was perceived as a resort-style facility at the cutting edge of rehabilitation and healing for the mentally ill. By the mid 19th century those utopian ideals vanished and the buildings came to be a formidable warehouse for the poor, ill, and transient.

For two years, with camera in hand, I walked the halls, basements,  and attics of the abandoned relic, documenting my steps.  In the winter it was bitterly cold, and I found myself following the light through an endless maze of doors, corridors, and stairways.

East Stairway

Chamber 213

Chamber 213

My Mother, Myself

My Mother, Myself

While painting has always been a foundation in my work, it seemed not enough. Over the next few years I sought out new media and new techniques that would push the work further in an effort to capture the essence of time and space, emotion and memory–bringing the depth of solitude into tangible form.

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel – 24×32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acrylic panel – 24×32 inches

In early 2013 I had watched a documentary on objects and memory, centered around the building of the 911 Memorial. At the same time, I was reading the Psychoanalysis of Fire by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, and The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter.   Shortly after, I began to strip down works in progress hoping to reflect the emotive and sometimes treacherous process of memory. I asked myself, how do we remember? A face, a song, a verse, a single word, a smell, a taste, a space, a color? An iteration of all the senses perhaps?  And what are the tangible things we hold so dear when experiencing the euphoria and harshness of reminiscence? A stained photo, a tattered poem, a trinket? Then it came to me…

During my final few days of photographing the asylum I filled three paper bags with green paint fragments scraped from the walls of the asylum, later placed in a drawer in my studio.  For months I had recurring dreams of windows, doors and those deteriorating green walls.  I found a strangely comforting familiarity in that specific green.

P1110186   beeswax

After combing through hundreds of images, I chose those imbued with the notion of time and place.  I printed each image on t-shirt transfer material and–after much trial and error–was able to peel the image away from the paper backing, revealing a hauntingly skin-like transparent image, which I then bonded to the paint fragment with beeswax and flames.    These images ultimately became the subject matter of the fragility series and the paint fragments, ironically, the “trinket”.  The copper wire was re-purposed from other works which became not only a base to cradle each piece, but a depiction of the instability of the past.

fragility iv (2014)

Outside of the fragility series, other memory projects include:

 The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014) Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014)
Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

Study for Short Stories

Study for Short Stories

And, as my parents did for me, I am encouraging my grandson to embrace his creativity and have turned him loose with a camera. We are working on a project together titled Below the Horizon Line.  He is four.

Colleen Pendry’s two fragility pieces won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. Stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see Colleen’s artwork in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by enamel artist Katharine Wood.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Katharine Wood: A Lifelong Passion

I was born and grew up in Manhattan, New York, the oldest of four children with two brothers and a sister.  My father was a well-known editor and book publisher and my mother, although a stay-at-home housewife, was an accomplished artist.

I always loved to draw and paint, and was allegedly into art from the moment I could hold a crayon.  I never attended art school, although I was continuously involved in art-related activities and organizations.

I inadvertently became involved with the medium that would be my life-long passionenamel!  One day, while home from college, my mother asked me if I would like to make a piece of enameled jewelry. How could I refuse?  After my first firing, seeing the piece go into the kiln and come out minutes later glowing with color, I was hooked.

Red enamel container

Red enamel container

City Sunrise

City Sunrise

The pieces above are done in champleve enamel; the metal (in this case copper) has been etched first and then enameled into the recessed areas.

Recently I moved.  For the first time, I no longer have a separate room for my studio, but I feel I have done a good job in setting up an area in shared space (i.e. one wall behind a sofa in the living room).  My kiln is in the kitchen.  Overall, because I have less space, I have made what I do have much more efficient, and so far it has been working out well.  I am only limited on the size of the work, but I always have preferred working smaller anyway.  New Yorkers are usually cramped for space, but you see it can be done!

view from the left of my 'studio'

View from the left of my ‘studio’

view from the right of my 'studio'

view from the right of my ‘studio’

my kiln!

my kiln!

I have made efficient use in a small space by use of a cabinet, which I have stocked full of my enamels. I also make sure I have all the ‘tools of the trade’ at hand, ready to use.

cabinet of enamels

cabinet of enamels

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Although I have limited space, it doesn’t hurt that I have a limitless view from the studio window!

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City sunrise

Coop City sunrise

So now that you have seen my studio, what exactly is enamel?  Basically, it is glass (usually grains, like sand or finer) fused to metal (usually copper, silver, gold, or steel) at very high temperatures (usually around 1400-1500F).  The colors are unparalleled, and, being glass, will never fade—or at least not for hundreds of years!  It is generally applied either dry, in a sifter, or wet, with a fine brush or spatula.  You may have guessed by now that I am also an instructor of enamel.

Over time I have created everything from wallpieces and jewelry to objects, such as boxes and bowls.  Here are a few pieces that show the range of what is possible.

Rocket Machine Shop I

Rocket Machine Shop I

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Leaf Dish

Leaf Dish

Katharine Wood’s two Transit Diaries enamel portraits won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. You can see more of Katharine’s work at her website, www.antoniatile.com. Or stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see two of Katharine’s enamel works in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by Rochester plein air painter Phyllis Bryce Ely.

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phyllis Bryce Ely: Look Out the Window

“Look out the window.” My mother said that to me again and again. If I was bored, she would say, “Look out the window, what do you see? Make something to tell me about.” If I complained of long trips in the car she would say, “Look out the window.” Over time we drove and we drove and I looked and looked, and in my head I practiced drawing lines and shapes. I tried to count the different kinds of blues and greens I could see. I thought about how I could mix colors of paint to match what I saw. I wondered about the bright and dark places in clouds, and I wondered why the full moon followed our car so perfectly. That’s when I began to feel the need to move the images in my head onto paper and canvas.

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Becoming an Artist
I have a distinct memory of deciding I was an artist while sitting on the dull brown carpet of our living room floor in front of our black and white television watching Captain Kangaroo and waiting for the “Magic Drawing Board” segment. Every morning I waited with oatmeal cartons, crayons, paper, scissors, and glue—anything the Captain may tell us we needed for the day’s project. My mother kept me stocked and ready. When Magic Drawing Board finally appeared, I loved watching the dark lines appear out of nowhere on a white board. In moments, a complete drawing would emerge. To me, that was truly magical. I clearly remember deciding I would be just like magic drawing board and I set about the business of making art.

Uncle Deek and the Endless Paper
My Uncle Deek worked at the Democrat & Chronicle and would bring my sister and me endless reams of fresh, plain newsprint for drawing. I loved when a new pile would arrive. I was small and the paper was large—more magic. Today, I get the same thrill when I visit the astounding paper room at Rochester Art Supply.

My First Studio
My parents built a new house when I was six. Many of the rooms remained empty as they saved money to buy furniture. I thought the empty rooms were great, so many places to make things! I remember my “64 ounce Welch’s Grape Juice can period” when I built giant sculptures and rockets snaking throughout the house (this was the Apollo space era). I had important projects and paintings in every room. That was about the same time my friend and I made “Jackson Pollock art” in her family’s newly finished basement. Without a strong grasp of physics, we weren’t paying attention to the paint flying off our brushes on our backstrokes as we hurled paint at a canvases shouting “Jackson Pollock!” I was sent home, and she was left to clean the basement walls and ceiling. As I remember, the paintings were pretty good.

Getting Serious
Throughout school, my teachers encouraged my artwork (“Phyllis’ creativity should be encouraged”). In high school, I began to think seriously about developing a portfolio and applying to art school. My art teachers coached me through the process and I ended up at RIT with a degree in painting and printmaking in 1981. I still recall conversations, critiques, and ideas that inform my work today. Friendships have endured, certain colors remind me of certain people, and challenges from gifted teachers like Bob Heischman, Bob Cole, Judd Williams, Phil Bornarth, and Ed Miller still resonate.

On My Own
After my RIT years focused on figure painting, I popped into the world ready to make art. I had relied so heavily on the figure that I floundered alone in my studio. Eventually I realized my mother had already told me what to do—I only needed to look out the window. I found myself sitting in Ellison Park, learning that the hills, trees and sky offered me the familiar shapes of the human body. More magic! My favorite place to make art is sitting on the ground in a beautiful place trying to describe my experience with paint and pastel.

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Today
I have been painting landscapes en plein air in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years. My paintings offer a narrative of color, movement, shape, light, and pattern through rolling fields, moving water, and dramatic skies. Features of the landscape become characters in the story as I paint the places I love to be. In the studio, I work from still life compositions and use my plein air work as source material to further explore and indulge in the shapes and colors I enjoyed in the field. Whether in the field or studio, my paintings simply explore the idea of place. I feel I am successful when viewers feel a connection to the place I offer or remember a favorite place of their own.

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

"Little Pine Between, Adirondacks", Acrylic on panel, 8" x 10", 2012

Little Pine Between, Adirondacks, Acrylic on panel, 8″ x 10″, 2012

Small is BIG
My mom wasn’t an artist but I believe an artist’s spirit was in her somewhere. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2012. It occurred to me while writing this blog that in her final months I would draw pictures of the view out her window while she watched. I just made that connection. Watching me draw soothed her.

Artists’ work is always changing, but our small beginnings are fixed. I’m grateful to the people in my life who knew my need to make art was big.

You can see more of Phyllis’s work at her website, www.behance.net/phyllis_bryce_ely. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see two of her landscape paintings in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by encaustic artist, Virginia Cassetta.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Virginia Cassetta: The Road Taken

I was raised in a very traditional Italian family and and when I graduated high school the only road open for me was either attending nursing school or becoming a teacher. I chose a career in nursing, although in my heart I wanted to work in the arts and move to NYC. I married, had children, and pursued a career in healthcare. At 57 I was working at a job I had fought hard to get, only to discover that it was not for me, and not where I wanted to be. I began to take night art classes at MCC, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I came home from work late one afternoon, stepped out of the car, dropped the weighted briefcase, undressed from my suit of armor and began to run through the fields naked (we lived in the country at that time). I came upon my husband, who was quietly reading his daily newspaper, sat down next to him and said, “ I am going to change my life”. And then I did. I quit my job, my husband took early retirement, and we relocated to Portland, Maine for 3 years, when in 2004 I obtained my BFA in Sculpture. We relocated back to Rochester, NY and in 2006 I obtained my MFA in Sculpture.

A scholarship to Florence, Italy, and art residencies served to give me solid working experiences in both sculpture and painting, as well as forcing me to understand what I wanted to communicate in my work. Women, the aging process, identity, nature were all issues that I was drawn to. It has been an ongoing struggle to narrow some of those ideas down and build cohesive bodies of work. My website virginiacassetta.com will give you an idea of some of the artistic methods that I have worked with over the past few years.

Womanscape Series 2012

Womanscape Series, 2012, 21″ x 19″, Thread, oil on linen

This oil painting of “Three Women” incorporated sewing and painting on a linen background. With this series I was able to add sculptural qualities to a painting by first sewing the design onto linen and then paint over the thread in oils.

I was seeking a way to continue this method of incorporating texture into my work when I discovered Encaustic Painting. Encaustics is an age old art that was practiced by the Greeks and dates back to the 5th Century. It involves the painting of hot pigmented beeswax & resin (which hardens) on a structured panel. The hot wax is then manipulated by the process of melting, brushing, layering, fusing, scraping, filling and gouging to reveal imagery that can result in a glossy translucence, or texturally sculptural works. “House II” was one of my first ventures. In this image I use heavy brushes to create the textured look.

HOUSE II

House II, 2012, encaustic on panel board, 24″ x 18″

I wanted to learn more about this technique so I began watching the tutorials from Enkaustikos Paints, and when the opportunity arose I took a week long workshop in Encaustics to develop technical skills and learn how to incorporate other materials into the wax process. It was here that my artistic energies began to unfold, and encaustics’ is now my medium of choice.

In my Small Scapes series, I turned to the landscape for my inspiration and created a series combining the layering of paints to create a translucent effect. With metal tools I drew in much of the detail work.

2014, 6" x 6"

Smallscape Series, 2014, encaustic & oils on panel board 6″ x 6″

The melted wax process is difficult to control. The fusing and multi- layering of pigmented wax (sometimes 5 or more layers) will create visual narratives that tell their own stories, and as the images and colors change, so may my original designs. This is why Encaustics is my medium of choice. I am continually challenged to draw on my hidden creative energies. The end result surprises me and will often change the direction of the series I may be working on.

A series called the Big Bang speaks to positive energies and the motion of life; we are not alone in our universe. This again presents the effects of the layering, fusing, drawing and scraping of images and colors to present the movement of female images and objects in space.

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4' x 23 1/2", encaustic & oils on panel board

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4′ x 23 1/2″, encaustic & oils on panel board

So where do my ideas come from. I love poetry and much of the Big Bang series came from reading the poetess Sappho. My house series came from reading the Poetics of Space. Womanscape came from my own direct life experiences as a women and how I see women functioning in today’s world. Observation of self and my experiences of being female over the past 70 years has become a metaphor for me; I draw on the female form to express the social, cultural, and religious conditions of a woman’s life. Nature and landscape imagery represents the sensuality, feelings, fecundity, and the colors of femininity.

2014, 6" x 6", encaustic & oil on panel board

Half Moon Scape, 2014, 6″ x 6″, encaustic & oil on panel board

Night Scape is new and in development. I am intrigued with the comets, planets, and star formations. Following the Big Bang, this series brings me closer to our ever expansive universe and our spiritual interactive roles within.

Night Scape, 2014, 24" 25", encaustic & oils on panel board.

Night Scape, 2014, 24″ 25″, encaustic & oils on panel board.

For the past 13 years I have been engaged in exploring, discovering and experimenting with various art mediums and media. I see this as a lifelong engagement with the artistic process. I have a newly remodeled studio room in my garage at home, I recently put together my own website, I am on Facebook, and have two new shows coming up in 2015. At this new age of 70, I have not looked back and glad I choose art as my road taken.

You can see more of Virginia’s work at her website, virginiacassetta.com. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see one of her encaustic landscapes in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Vanessa Rivera.

Festival of Lights in Clifton Springs, 2014

For this year’s Festival of Lights, Main Street Arts had two artistsZach Dietl and John Rugglescarving 300 pound blocks of ice outside of the gallery.

Artists Zach Dietl and John Ruggles beginning to carve the 300 pound blocks of ice.

Artists Zach Dietl and John Ruggles beginning to carve the 300 pound blocks of ice.

The artists did a great job carving their individual blocks, with John creating an ice octopus and Zach carving a beautiful holiday wreath.

John Ruggles and his octopus ice carving

John Ruggles and his octopus ice carving

Zach Dietl and his ice carving of a holiday wreath

Zach Dietl and his ice carving of a holiday wreath

John Ruggles and Zach Dietl are also exhibiting artists in our Small Works exhibition. Drop by the gallery before year’s end to see Zach’s cast iron groundhog, or John’s Pacman paintings on gold leafed panels.

See more of John Ruggles’ artwork here. You can see more of Zach Dietl’s artwork here.