Forest Assemblages

July 12, 2017

Back story

Late Summer, Fall and most of Winter this past year, saw me spend an hour or two walking in our woods. Tom, my husband, discovered his naturalist side in retirement and he's now listening when I say, "Oh. This is wintergreen. Smell!" or "Taste this!" as I hand him purslane or sheep sorrel. Only took 30 years. :)

Part of living in rural Nova Scotia is dealing with hunters and (worse in my mind) trappers being able to freely use private property to ...well... hunt and trap. As Stella is always with me on my walks, I carry wire cutters at all times. When I also started carrying wire, that was the start of my forest assemblages.

I like putting metal hearts (cut from cans) on my favourite trees. Mainly beech, as it turns out.
Stars go on trees that strike me as being stellar on any given walk.
I'll also pick up sticks and pinecones and stones that beckon; wrap them in wire and create mobiles hung in branches along the multitude of pathways.

Perhaps someday I will create a continuous marker system but mostly they are random occurrences on our 130 acre woodlot.


Making hay

July 04, 2017

One of the giant differences between assemblage/mixed media work and straight painting is the thought process during construction. When I paint and am stuck ... I tend to move to assemblage. The painting remains on my easel and while I'm working at my table, I can glance back and ponder what comes next. Often. I don't even THINK about it. It just pops into my head while I'm banging away.

Not quite so straight forward with assemblage.
Well. For me at least.

 Many months ago I created this doodle in my travelling art journal ... a copy of Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist which resides in my purse at all times along with a bag of Sharpies and one of my fave pens (Pilot G-TEC-C4 ... no affiliate. I just LOVE these pens!!)

Original doodle drawing ...
I always figured it'd end up being an assemblage and thought it would be a perfect addition to my "Home. Wish You Were Here." project.

With some modifications of course.

Working through the steps on paper ...
Like, I wanted  the box to be more ...erm... house-y to fit in the theme.
And how to deal with those balloons? (think packing tape!)
Other elements popped up that would work for the post and base.
But each piece needed to build on the other so to my working journal!
I keep this in the studio where I, y'know, work stuff out.

Starting the construction ...
The photo above shows my original roof structure on the left(ish). It didn't quite work out. So I've opted for a cardboard mock-up. I *think* I'm going to plaster it. Only. I really love the super smooth finish of the box. I also have to figure out how to attach the pole/post. Which is going to mark up the interior ... aluminium tape? Go rough (and then I don't have to worry about that smooth finish)? Hmmm. What to do? What to do? (did you notice the "balloons"?!?)

And herein lies the solution to figuring stuff out while assembling/mix media-ing ... I break out the wire, pliers and hammers, a few stashed elements (in this case teeth and claws ... cuz don't we all have a drawer of those lying about? Okay. So *I* have a drawer of those kicking around!) and make ...well... more stuff!

The one downside of working like this is I often get so excited about one of these "side paths" that I forget what I was doing and THAT project ends up in the "Finish This Shit" box.

Really though. Hardly the worst thing to have happen.
Am I right?!?


Home. Wish You Were Here.

June 22, 2017

Last summer I went on an Epic cross-country journey. It was amazing. Every night (almost) staying in a different location soaking in local culture and landscapes. Each and every place we visited, folks couldn't wait to share how awesome their home town was.

On my return I kept pondering this duality ... the excitement of the New and Different while travelling, alongside this passion for where we choose to make our home.

Home. Wish You Were Here 

I'm creating a project that will include input (I hope!) from YOU about why you think the place you call HOME is pretty darned amazing.

HOW: Send me a postcard featuring your home town with a line or two about what is so special about your HOME.

Want to go a step further? Create a postcard from a photo you've taken describing what makes your heart sing about HOME and send it to me.

DEADLINE: In my hands by SEPTEMBER 15, 2017.


Jen Worden
273 Sarty Road RR2
New Germany, Nova Scotia
Canada B0R 1E0

I hope to get a card from YOU!

Please share, far and wide. The more, the merrier!

Real Life

This isn't about Art

June 01, 2017

Diving deep into one's inner workings is a noble, if discomforting, endeavour.
Not to mention a journey without  a destination.
Goals be damned!

Sitting with one's feelings as they come up is admirable.
In practice? It's hard.
Sometimes, insufferable.

It takes all my power ... mind, spirit, body... not to distract. To continue to sit in this primordial swamp letting what comes up, come up.

Look. Listen. Let go.

So. Hard.

Trying to remember that the best way out is through when all around lies sludge made up of tears and broken dreams. That the Universe has something even better.

But I have to let go first.

So. Fucking. Hard.



May 24, 2017

... also my Happy Place.

Yesterday (on instagram) I posted this photo with the caption: "Playing with rusty metal = my happy place."
I sometimes forget.
I'm not sure why.
That whole Living in the Moment thing.

There is a bit of backstory here. Of course.
For the past 3 or 4 months, as I've primarily been painting, I've been mulling over what I want to devote my energy to.  My wont is to get bored easily (no! really??? oh look shiny things!) but it's something I want to work on because as a friend so profoundly pointed out:
Once I realized that there was no possible way I could even come close to living long enough to try everything I'm curious about, it became so much easier to let go of the drive to try to get GOOD at everything...
And that's so very very true. We ... I ... can't expect proficiency, let alone MASTERY, if I don't put in the time. (that whole 10,000 hours thing raising its head yet again)

I've loved the time painting. I've learned tons. But my hands get itchy ... to hammer shit ... to add rusty nails ... to play with plaster ... and found objects.

So. I've been trying to hone down what it IS that I LOVE to do:
  1.  rusty found objects
  2. wire
  3. plaster
  4. and yep, paint 
Even though part of me really wants to be, I will never be James Michael Starr (who it appears isn't doing any minimalist assemblage anymore either). I will always end up adding paint to something. And, I think I'm okay with that. And as much as I love abstraction, I know figurative subject matter will end up in the mix as well.

So. Months of pondering, pondering. (man! this is going on waaaay longer than I intended.)
Trying to get clear.
Trying on different cloaks for size.
Imagining my Next Step.

Along comes a double whammy of a) Geoffrey Gorman friending me on FB and b) viewing the wonderful work at his workshop at Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's  Encausticastle.

Gotta say, I was pretty excited. And inspired.
I held off for a day or two, but hey! I needed to try this ... and ... and ...  I had some rigid foam kicking around from another project,  and I could probably pretty much assemble enough other stuff to give it a whirl ... unbleached cotton rather than canvas, gel medium and of course, rusty nails and wire. So off I went.

The bird's(?) head on the left is where I left off yesterday... pretty cool, right? Only.  A bit too close to Geoffrey's work to make me feel comfortable. (his is much MUCH more refined! As it should be. Cuz he's putting in the work. 10,000 hours, remember?)

So THIS morning, I start on the body and realize I'm gonna run out of gel medium (only the 2nd time in my artist life this has happened ... I'm trying to run down my supplies before the move to the new house/studio next year) and, here's where the MacGyvering comes in (lord! can I BE any more verbose?!?!) ... I start brain scanning ... what could replace gel medium? ... white glue? yep that'd work but not sure I want that tacky surface ... polymer medium? maaaaaybe. prolly not thick enough AND I'll likely run out of that too ... I could use plaster cloth ... definitely. don't have a ton but it'd totally work ... ohhhh. waaaait. what if I try to make a really thin slurry of plaster and run the unbleached cotton strips through it ... like wallpaper paste?? yahhhh. it might work!

The first strips on the body were quite thick ... plaster isn't an exact science. Wellll I guess it COULD be. If I measured shit. So I kept throwing in water to thin it down (which I know is a big ol' No-No but I'm macGYVERing here people!)  and the last few body strips? right where I wanted. Not sure though if it'd stick enough as it dried, I grabbed a hunk of leftover foam that was in a rough house shape and wrapped it with the thinner slurry. (the middle photo shows it quite well)

So here's where I am right now.
Waiting for shit to dry.
To see if it'll work.

MacGyvering. My happy place.


Getting back to normal

April 21, 2017

Normal is always subjective.
For me, right now, it means getting back into the studio on a daily basis. As well as walking every day. These seem pretty simple in the giant scheme of things but I've had The Ick for a month and it seems to be affecting certain materials usage again ... again meaning I had the very same issue last year after The Bronchitis/Pneumonia Debacle. Plus I get so tired, so easily that my walks are pretty short right now.

And this may be my NEW normal.

re: material sensitivities ... I'm staying away from known triggers (ALL the mediums plus, weirdly, gesso?!?) limiting my exposure to minutes rather than hours, slathering on a skin protector (beeswax/lavender handmade salve)  and remembering to turn on my overhead fan.

It's also interesting to note what or how one gets back into the groove after a studio hiatus.
Cleaning up, sorting/organizing has always been a tried and true for me. I'm always astounded what a dumping ground my studio ends up being when I'm away on a daily basis. (why???)

Once that's done, I move onto some journal work. Gluing shit down is always an easy segue into other creative work. And repetitive shapes ...stenciled, drawn, painted or collaged... also make for an easy introduction back into daily art practices.

Do you have a favourite way of getting your groove back?
I'd love to hear it!

Real Life

Next Step ... Divesting!

April 03, 2017

As we move along the design-build timeline ...even at these early stages... I look around our house and realize ... there is So. Much. Stuff. The life stuff ... accumulated dishes and kitchen detritus and shoved-in-to-fit furniture... is pretty simple to get rid of. (hello! massive Free-Cycle purge) But as ponder each room, each item, I see so many art pieces ...fellow artist friends and my own... that will not be making the move. And while it's still early days, I feel I need to start letting go, moving along so there isn't that "HOLY SHIT! We're moving in a week!" moment.

Over the next few months I will be posting items that need to be rehomed. If there is anything here that tugs at your heart strings, moves you, maybe something I've made in the past that you remember (likely I still have it!) let me know, would ya?!? Don't let perceived cost stop you. Cuz prices will be very fluid. I'm not trying to get rich here. But want the work to land in its rightful place.


Loving what you do

March 14, 2017

When did it become "normal" to feel it isn't okay to like our own work?

As children we are super stoked when we create something, "Look it! Look it! Look it! I did this! I'm great!" And maybe as a parent you feel it's necessary to take'em down a notch, but more likely you say, "You are AHmazing!" And Life is Good.

I've been working hard at painting these past months. I've taken class after class. Putting my ego on the shelf. Playing beginner.  With "Just because I know, doesn't mean I know" on repeat in my head.

And I've struggled. Oh how I've struggled.

Nothing looked like I wanted it to. Each canvas was an absolute grind. Someone else's voice was directing me: "make marks THIS way. arrange things like that. look for differences. flow is important. keep the values top of mind. use shapes but not too many."

I'd head to the studio with grit and determination. I was gonna master this thing dammit.

And then a week or so ago while I was listening to a podcast as one does (Art For Your Ear Ep.15 if you care)  working through all of this ... angst ... feeling like a stranger in my own skin. I'd switched tasks, putting down my brushes, giving the "Capital P)ainting" a rest, happily aging, patina'ing an assemblage shrine. Y'know. Doing my thing.

Danielle and Hollie were talking about how they'd tried other things ... graphic design, marketing, teaching, painting... because what was easy for them (collage) didn't seem like the Right Thing. Because, well, it was so easy.
And how much they loved doing what they do now.
And how much they absolutely love their work.

I looked down.
I soaked in the textured shrine in my hands. The smooth paint. The rough texture. My palette, colours running into each other. My paint covered fingers. And I looked over at the canvas that'd been staring me in the face, mocking me for days ... months.

That little intuitive gut voice, you know the one, said, "You know how to do this."
And I grabbed my palette and started applying paint to the canvas how I do for my assemblage works. With my fingers. Dabbing into this colour, and then that colour, smearing over the surface, into the texture. Dipping into water, smoothing out the prints. Back and forth. Back and forth.
 An hour passed.


No angst.
No one else's voices.

Within days I'd finished.
And you know what? I absolutely adore it.
Yes. I said A.D.O.R.E.

Because truly. If I can't ...or won't... then who will?


Thoughts on a Friday

March 10, 2017




the junction of two rivers, especially rivers of approximately equal width.
"here at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers" 

                      synonyms: convergence, meeting, junction
                            "the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel" 
an act or process of merging.
"a major confluence of the world's financial markets"

The world can feel like an odd place sometimes.
Grating. Bone on bone.
And then, just as quickly, barriers lift and all flows with such ease giving me pause to wonder, did I imagine it? did I create it?

Which of course I did.
And I forget.
Every. Single. Time.

And I vow never to forget again.
To remember. "Yes. You have the power. The answer lies with you."
All the while knowing, aggravatingly, irritatingly knowing, I'll move down this path again.
And again.

With my husband's words ringing in my ears, "Why CAN'T it just be about making? It doesn't have to be about more. Why are you making this so difficult?" after many, many conversations and then Stephanie saying, "If you've been avoiding something for a long, long time? Why is it still on your To Do list?" ... indeed, why is this freaking thing still on my To Do list?

I tentatively put it down.
And the weight just ... melted away.
And my very soul, breathed deeply.
And the little voice said, "Yessssssssss."

Interpretations as children lead to beliefs as adults.

Expectations ... looking for freedom.

Wholeheartedness depends on our sense of freedom.

We expect people to show up when we show up.

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
          ― Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

Works In Progress

round about paths

February 23, 2017

I was out  for my walk today ... February has been the Month of Snow ... and the only way to get up the hill is to follow Tom's snowshoe tracks. I was visiting the forest mailbox (not only is it a 'Welcome, Please Sign' for visitors but also serves as a sporadic weather log).

Just beyond the main path heading across the back of the hill I noticed another well-used pathway, "Oh! I thought, Tom must have gone over that way too." As I found the crossing I realized, Nope! it was actually a deer track ... a well trodden highway through the woods. As I followed it for a bit, meandering alongside trees, under branches through undergrowth, it was not straight forward. At.  All.And it got me thinking  how it wasn't unlike my art process. (bet you wondered where I was going with that, huh?!? ;) )

Case in point, my current work-in-progress.

Last week (on instagram) I posted a grouping of finished plaster and wax 4x4" pieces that I've been trying to finish up for well over a year.  For sake of clarity, I'd popped them in grid fashion onto a black canvas. On viewing the photo, it looked like an intentional thing ... as if they were all part of one cohesive piece. Which of course got me thinking, "hmmmmm.... how cool would THAT be?!"?

Month Project. This took way too long to complete. But it's done now. Cheese box plaster and wax. #mixedmediaart #waxonplaster #finishingshitup #artistlife #artistsofinstagram

I had 3 random almost square pieces of plywood that I thought would be good for some encaustic experiments. Unfortunately, after playing around with one of them I've found I've become quite reactive to wax medium. (dang it!) The shape however would be perfect for a grid of 9 of these 4x4" cheese box substrates.  I grabbed one of the other boards and covered it with book pages, old letters and stamped tissue paper. Floated a bit of molding paste over top and texturized it, then covered the whole thing with a thinned down wash of Titanium white.

After it had dried, I went back in and brought up the scrumptious ridges with a wipe on/wipe off layering that looks like it takes a minute? But really is a reedonkulously long process. Dark watery washes (quin gold/black or paynes grey OR raw umber/paynes grey) scrubbed down then back over with titanium white (or warm white). Less watery washes (wiped on/wiped off) followed by white. Then dry brushing (dark then light) and my final round is almost always applied, out of the tube, with my finger. First dark, then light. Painstaking process which sometimes I wish could be speeded up. But have yet to figure that out!

I added some text (and have since added some more since this photo!) transfers. Backwards. Always. And this base is close to being done save for its final thin white pouring medium coating.

The 9 plaster pieces are going through much the same process, sans paper base.

I'm getting close to assembling them and I can't wait to show you the finished piece.
Rambling paths indeed!