New Work

Showing posts with label #FridayMusings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #FridayMusings. Show all posts

November 18, 2022

Do you believe in serendipity?

 I do.




the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

"a fortunate stroke of serendipity"

Similar: fortuitousness . providence . coincidence . chance . happy chance . accident . fluke

Every time I finish a deadline or series I feel a little out of sorts (just ask Tom!), a little lost, unmoored. So I tidy the studio, clean up the detritus of packaging and business cards, tape and bubble wrap.

Yesterday I was reshelving my Art Inventory binder (and yep. REALLY need to get that sorted out!) and underneath, I found a stack of gel prints I'd stashed there for future consideration. I even had post-its tacked to sectioned off prints saying: "drawing ink on top", "tissue paper transfers" and "almost done".  

Welllll... I might disagree (now) on the 'almost done' ones, but what struck me is, HERE is what I need to do next. Figure out how to  make these prints from ...last Spring, a year ago, two??... reflect who I am now.

Because in an equally odd and serendipitous find, I stumbled across a journal of notes (and doodles and diet stuff and ideas for future projects) to discover these words:

Content Crime

  1. Inconsistent  [not commited]
  2. not enough about Art
  3. ignoring mailing list [#1 Asset]
and underneath I'd noted "build trust" and in big letters, FOCUS ON THE ART.

And it's exactly what I needed to read/hear.
In this bash up to the most buyingest time of the year, I forget (every. frickin'. year.) that MY job isn't to try and sell you stuff. MY job is to make art. If you...they... want it? Great! If you/they don't? Well, frankly, not my problem (and yes, I know I am lucky enough not to HAVE to sell my work in order to eat. But I don't. So. I'm sorry?). 

Focus on the art.

November 11, 2022

When starting over is the only option

Last week on Instagram I mentioned in my stories how one of the pieces I'm working on for an upcoming show was kicking my ass. I've just put the final touches on it and thought it would be a good reminder to me, and, hopefully inspirational to you, on how sometimes Starting Over is the only true option. And that's okay!

These works are all on 6 x 6" cradled board. Six are bird themed. I often cover the panels with a mixture of old and new book pages (shiny and not so shiny) so it adds layers before I even start. I'd used a bird as a mask for the gel plate and I kinda liked how it looked with some grungy areas as well as stencils and patterns I'd used for that print.

I wasn't a big fan of the larger words so I used gesso to tone that down. Then I thought it'd be cool to have the bird singing a song with some sheet music I had. There were a couple of iterations but I ended up adding some white pouring medium as well as some stars and it sat there for a week or so.  It was NOT coming together the way I wanted. Further it wasn't telling me (or I couldn't hear) what it needed/wanted next. Which is when I posted about it kicking my ass.

I sanded back the song bubble and then realized, "Yep! The whole thing needed to go." Broke out the palm sander and took it back to the page layers. It felt better already!

I had another gel print of this same bird and cut it out to fit between the stars. Only when it came to adhering it onto the board, I turned it the wrong way gluing it down in the wrong spot. Doh!  As so often happens, serendipitously, I liked it better! Oh! The stars needed reorienting and the background needed finetuning but it was finally coming together, clear messages were being heard.

As an aside... does that sound too WooWoo to you? That the works "speak" to me? Obviously they don't ACTUALLY verbalize their wants and desires. Just my gut ...intuition...Muse...the Universe...experience, however/whatever you want to name it... tells/shows/intuits what my next move should be. Don't knock it until you've tried it. Seriously!
Adjustments were made. Marks were added. And THIS is the final product:

I love it when an artwork comes together!

And if you're still with me (thank you!) I've been thinking of doing another 10 Questions for Artists series in the New Year. If there are questions you'd like to ask me (or other artists), if there is someone you'd love for me to invite to be part of it or if YOU'd like to be part of the series, drop me a comment below or email me. Thanks!!

November 4, 2022

Final Touches

 Do you have regular Go Tos when your work is ALMOST finished but still needs that 'sumthin sumthin'?

I do.

In no particular order...and you'll probably notice more than one in each of these!

1. Letraset (or Geoset) lettering. I often burnish across an entire line rather than an individual letter or number. They give a graphic quality that handmade marks cannot.

2. Handwriting ... usually in graphite. Sometimes I actually write real words (maker of things has the t's to cross, i's to dot and upper and lower case letters), sometimes I use asemic writing (lines that appear to form words but that are without specific meaning).

3. Ink or paint spray ... often but not limited to black. This gives a linear work a taste of randomness. I have to be careful with this one as I very often go overboard. 

4. Using gloss medium or gesso as a 'bring up/knock back' effect. This has become really useful when using gel prints as backgrounds (gesso) . For a long time, I've used a coat of gloss medium where I want to add transferred text or an image as it takes the transfers so much better than a matte finish ( added bonus: if you don't like it? easily wipes off!) I noticed that the layer of gloss, when added to just part of the piece (the bird in this one for example), really makes it stand out without altering colour or intensity.

5.  Text. Usually found, in that the piece did not start with a text prompt. I like using backwards text a lot. But also upside down text or random sentences. Often as stripes.

6. Circles, swoops, dotted lines, stripes. There aren't very many of my mixed media collages that don't have some form of these. They are my visual language but also serve to unify disparate elements into a more cohesive whole. 

That's just a half dozen of some of my final touches. If you have any that are your tried'n'true, I'd love to hear about them!

October 28, 2022

The Sort of Annual Revamp


Greetings My Friends! Welcome to my newly revamped website. As an ex-webdesigner this used to happen bi-annually, sometimes MONTHLY, but I actually really, really liked my previous site. Until I started getting sporadic, then almost daily, notices from Google saying this thing was wrong or that thing was throwing up an error and I realized it was time to bring my site up to date. So whilst it isn't nearly as "design-y" as the other template, this one is made for today's internet which apparently is very VERY important to marketing-types and the google. So. Change.

It also happens to be the time of year when I get that itch to SELL ALL THE THINGS! (likely from all the ads blasted my way to BUY ALL THE THINGS) and though I'm currently preparing for a local show (more on that later!) I will have a few things for purchase this holiday season. No secret that I am the world's worst at marketing my own work...still waiting on that Benevolent Art Agent to swoop down into my studio and take all my work out to the world...but decided to use my long neglected newsletter, Travelogue of an Artistic Mind, as a means of  showing and purchasing these pieces.

If you've been following along on Instagram  (and if not? you really should!) you'll know that I've been obsessed with Grid Journaling (thank you Kellee Wynn & Color Crush). You can read about that in my previous post. I did some mini landscapes and had A LOT to say about them over on Insta. In the end, I've come to really like them and after finding some mini 4.5"x4.5" birch panels, at the Dollar Store of all places, thought they'd be lovely little works, quick and easy to ship. They'll be ready to frame (a floating frame would be perfect!) or prop up on a shelf. So if you haven't yet signed up for my newsletter? Now's the time! 

And a quick note: if you're reading this from my #FridayMusings  email update, I've added you to the newsletter already. (super easy to unsubscribe if you're not interested!)

October 23, 2022

The Grid Journal - What I've learned so far

 Back in May I started the Get Messy May journaling challenge and didn't get very far but I did do Kellee Wynne's grid journal class. I was smitten! And I've been making them ever since. 

Initially, simple small ones. 

When I took Kellee's free course Grid Journal Crush, I decided to dedicate my brand new big sketchbook to grid journaling and it's kinda been a game changer.

So what have I learned after making a grid per day for almost a month now?

  1. Even if the individual cells/squares don't quite work, the whole page/spread often does.
  2. Limiting your palette allows more freedom.
  3. Mark making is ALWAYS a Good Thing.
  4. Colour mixing is a whole OTHER ball game.
  5. Sometimes you make mud. Mud can be okay though.
  6. Burnt Sienna is my kryptonite.
  7. White Gesso is your friend.
  8. It's a sketchbook. Make the mistake!
  9. Add your notes because you won't remember what that colour was.
  10. Diggin' the Grid!

August 19, 2022


 I've been thinking a lot lately about how being an artist requires constant bravery and courage. Not the 'ATTACK!!!' kind but  the 'reinvention of self' kind. We are constantly forging new paths, acquiring new skills, honing a critical eye to new-to-us genres, mediums, subject matter. It's a GRIND!

Case in point. I am gearing up to create a dozen new works for a show in late Fall. Pretty sure I'm done with 'the ladies' in encaustic and I haven't enough skills for abstract paintings. (yet? maybe ever? jury is still out on that one!) Collage is where my head and heart have been this summer. I think my skills are good enough to move down that path. (are they though??) I know assemblage shrines sell well but I haven't made any for almost a year. And frankly? Not really into it. (that should be enough to nix the idea but selling IS always a mitigating factor. *sigh*) 

As an aside, this image came across Google Photo memories and I became smitten all over again. It was SUCH a challenge and felt very satisfied with the end result.  

And yet? I'm pretty sure I'm done with assemblage. I know. I've said this before albeit 12ish years ago. The other day, I was looking... REALLY looking... at my studio shelves and there are (neatly labelled!) boxes I haven't opened since they were placed there after I moved in... FOUR YEARS AGO!

Back to courage...changing paths as an artist is so hard. Not even just the mental state of change but also in finding new inspiration, learning new skills with no, or few, tried and trues to rely on. We really are reinventing the wheel. And it's EXCITING, exhilarating even, but also scary AF. Also because our audience is interested in what we DID not necessarily what we are doing. I notice this whenever I post old work whether it be assemblage or wirework or jewelry or plaster and wax (so. many. paths.) and the folks who follow me for whichever path, comment 'OMG. I LOVE your [fill in the blank'].  And of course I LOVE to be loved but also know that those are now creative Cul de Sacs for me. Forging NEW paths means doing it alone. And even though I'm solidly comfortable as a singular unit, it still gets a bit lonely not having that positive nurturing feedback. 

 What's all this got to do with the price of bananas?

Collage is a new path. It excites me. I see many roads of exploration. It feels new and interesting. And yet? I'm not sure I'm good enough for it to be the basis of a new body of work. (only. isn't that the whole POINT of a new body of work?!?) Guess it's time to put on the big girl panties, pony up to the bar and just DO IT! 

There's no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
Courage, my word, it didn't come, it doesn't matter

July 22, 2022

Mini Collage Recipe


As mentioned in my last post, I've been enjoying making small collages in my small journal. Limited parameters ...rules as it were... help my brain SO. MUCH. during my creative process, be it subject matter, materials, colour palette, series of 3 or 5 or 7, I pretty much always limit my options in some way. Here's what I've come up with in the last bit for these small collages:

Mini Collage Recipe

    1. Pick TWO colours. Complementary or harmonious (analogous or monochrome). Doesn't matter. But just two. Sometimes black is one of those colours (aka not a colour)
    2. Make some brush strokes. You can follow a specific design composition (cruciform, diagonal, unbalanced etc) or just let the paint lead you. Big swathes or tiny splotches.
    3. While those are drying, choose a dozen, preferably less, pieces of collage in a similar palette. These can be anything from torn bits from other collages, magazine imagery, your own painted collage papers. I like to add in some tissue paper for their transparency options. But whatever feels right. Don't over think it!
    4. Once your paint is dry, arrange some collage pieces however they feel to you at the moment. Sometimes, I try and be really minimal leaving lots of white space. Other times I cover the entire piece of paper. I try to get a pleasing arrangement but I still really try not to over work/think. These are meant to be fairly quick. Minutes vs hours. Glue down your final arrangement.
    5. Grab a black marker, paint pen, Stabilo or graphite pencil, oil pastel and make some marks. 
That's it!

Have fun and I'd love to see what you come up with. Tag me @jenwordenmakerofthings on instagram!

July 8, 2022

The benefits of Small


Something I've been doing lately in my art practice (as an aside, "art practice" sounds rather highfalutin for what actually is simply a nom de plume for what I do: Make art. Every day.) is make small things: paintings, theraupeutic doodles, collages. I purchased 4-4x6" art journals which may or may not have something to do with this. I love their size and portability. But it is the collages that are really floating my boat at the moment. 

Back in  Get MessyMay (May?! blows my mind that we are already in July!) Kellee Wynne  demonstrated the mini collage, dividing a page into 4 then having at'er in these smaller than usual spaces. It was revolutionay. And I've been making them ever since. 

What is it about such a small space that is so compelling?

  1. The size itself. It's fast. Takes little to no resources. And it's CUTE!
  2. Though small, it actually requires a little more thought. In a bigger piece sometimes a corner can get carried along. In this size, every inch COUNTS!
  3. Using up all those torn off corners of larger collage papers that were too pretty to throw away suddenly come into there own. A boon for this paper hoarder!
  4.  Exploration on this minute scale gives immediate feedback. Trying a particular colour palette? Know in a few minutes whether you want to try it out on a bigger scale. Same goes for markmaking or composition.
  5. Speaking of composition: with such limited acreage I really have to get CLEAR on what I want to convey. Something I've been trying to do with larger works (and sucking badly). 
In fact, I can't wait to take these to a grander scale and see what I've learned. 

June 24, 2022

Close Encounters

 ...of the Third Kind

These days I'm feeling a bit like 'Roy Neary' (aka Richard Dreyfuss) from the 70s movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Instead of building mountains in my livingroom, however, I've been on a zentangle/doodle/pattern kick. (Aside: it really drives me nuts when folks try to copyright/trademark an activity. I mean, I've been doodling my entire life, well before 2004, pretty sure I'm not gonna stop simply because someone used a ™ . But I digress.) 

For the most part, they have been organic floral thingees, created singularly as the main focal point in various journals, added to existing journal pages, on bits of paper which I've cut out to look sorta like stickers and even started a painting with them.

And I have no idea where any of this is going. I have paintings waiting my attention. And I'm eager to get on with those but every. single. day. I head down into my studio and I end up sitting down and doodling my way through the morning. I've even dedicated a small, recently purchased 4x6" journal to these non-stop meanderings.

I assume that eventually I'll head back to the easel with renewed interest or a different direction or a more clear path. But until that time, I have to remember that the muse wants what it wants and it's all creative fodder. Right??

June 16, 2022

What is Too Precious?


Recently I've been embarking on a deep dive into abstract expressionism? intuitive painting? slapping paint on the canvas (read: board)? And in every piece I've created so far, I come to point where I suddenly discover I'm using a small brush, less than a #8, on paint mover or palette knife and am faffing about, trying to preserve sections I'm already in love with (or think might work in the whole...see? already conceptualizing the end product). And in every single case, I am, probably, less than halfway finished. It's a problem. 

And that's where a painting becomes Too Precious. 

I start visualizing the end result vs reacting to what's in front of me. My decisions are based on a preconceived, even vague, notion where intuition and emotion and flow go right out the window. The piece becomes stifled, ending up with PIECES I love but the whole isn't cohesive. The eye sticks at those pretty bits OR on the rest of the unresolved, "less than" whole. 

The work above had some lovely things going on but you can see the start of that "preciousness" in the bottom right hand corner. I LOVE those leaves. And I started wanting to preserve them. So I started limiting marks and paint and the whole thing became this rigid framework.

What to do? Well. I'm trying two things. The first is to STOP. Sometimes that means putting the painting aside and ponder it, not head on but from the side, quick glances as I pass by, noticing where my eye goes (usually to the uncomfortable, needing work bits). And...or...I take mark making tools, pencils, pens, oil pastel, or my favourite, Woody Stabilos and write or scribble over the parts I LOVE. I know.  It's hard! I confess, sometimes it feels horrible as I sully those bits that have already attached to my heart. But that's just it. They are BITS. The WHOLE thing has to work. And so I scribble and mark away. This is often the precursor to me setting it aside as I figure out, "Okay. Now what?"

Another that is sitting, waiting for my next move:

Maybe your experience is different (and I'd love to hear about it - TELL ME below!), maybe you're able to create something cohesive but I  haven't been able to resurrect it once I've let a piece become Too Precious.

October 27, 2021

The Process of a Series

I'm making progress on the pieces for the Spring show and I thought it may be of interest to show how I go about developing a series, one of my favourite things, actually.

There are generally three stages/criteria that virtually all my series have in common.
  1. Subject matter. Theme and visuals.
  2. Size. Yep. It matters!
  3. Look and Feel. Unifying palette and markmaking.

Subject Matter

Almost always there are words that kick things off.  For this current series, the show theme is 'Memory'. I wrote about this paragraph in my last post:
"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some detail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."
Which got me thinking about the reliability of our memories, the lives we construct and alternate realities.

Right on the heels of a paragraph or phrase are the visuals, which often show up as if they had been connected all along or something. In this case, a bunch of photos found while looking for something completely unrelated. I'm super lucky to have my husband's family photos land in my lap, all very prolific photographers from the turn of the Twentieth Century forward.

The phrase 'like a made-up thing' kept repeating in my head as I thumbed through this grouping. Perhaps it was the decided lack of males or the, often, solitary poses or maybe my perceived feeling of trust and intimacy between (female) photographer and subject, all I know is these ladies sure got my attention. And my theme 'A Made Up Life: Lost Moments, Remembered, Reimagined' came into being.


Deciding on final sizing comes right after choosing my central images. The first stack was winnowed down to twelve cohesive photos, naturally falling into four groups of three. I knew I wanted to incorporate some assemblage pieces into the mix which are often smaller than my bigger works. The original photos were a teeny tiny 2×3 inches and wouldn't be practical to use, so it allowed me the freedom to dictate the finished dimensions. I also had a bunch of older paintings I wanted to scrape down and reuse which became the basis for a couple of the groupings. Sizing ranges from the smaller (8×8 inch) assemblage works to the larger (20×24 inch) repurposed paintings that were languishing around the studio. 

Look and Feel

The next step is to coordinate the colour palette across the entire series. Limiting to three or four colours really ties the series together, with an additional colour or two linking each subset. Subject matter can often dictate where I pull these from ... an ocean series, for example, could use anthraquinone blue, paynes gray (a perennial favourite) and teal. When reusing old substrates there are often little bits of colour left on that give me a jumpstart for colour palettes as was the case for choosing Prussian blue, Cobalt Blue and Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.

Similarly, cohesive mark-making across a series unites the different parts into a satisfying whole. Frankly, I make many of the same marks on ALL of my pieces - three circles, three squares, three lines (yep. I like threes) dressmakers pattern wheels, roadmap-like lines (often white), stars, circles, dashed lines - but I try to be mindful when working within a series to tie each subset together.

I work on all pieces at a time though some are at different stages. I try to get all the substrates finished at once, so the messy parts of construction, sanding, plastering etc are done in one fell swoop. Subsets are worked on almost as a singular painting with each stage... background, imagery, top washes, additional transfers, mark-making, encaustic layers, final incised markings... being done simultaneously across all substrates. As a result, I often have 5 or 6 works in progress come to fruition at the same time. Which can be a little hectic (not to mention using every horizontal space) but is super satisfying as they reach that final hoorah!

If there's anything you'd like clarified, maybe things I glossed over or missed altogether, comment down below! If you found this interesting or helpful, please let me know that too.

Next week I'll talk about Why I like working in series.

October 1, 2021

A Net Full of Holes


What is your very first memory?

What if it wasn't true?

What if WHO you are is based on lies-okay so not lies but mistruths and faulty memories?

This is what I'm thinking about right now. 

Shortly after I closed up shop at the end of June, ready to head out into the garden for the summer, I received an email from a gallery curator asking me to participate in a show next April. 

You may recall (or not - here's the link) my answer to question 9 ("Describe THE thing that would make you think 'I've made it'") in 10 Questions for Artists was "A gallery owner that comes to ME and asks for a solo show. Yep. That'd pretty much be nirvana for me."

If you ever doubted for one minute that The Universe is always listening, trying to help you out? Let this be a gentle nudge to say, "Yes. Yes it is!" Thoughts become things, my friend. And lest you get all hot under the collar saying, "Yah. Well, Jen. I've wanted to earn a million dollars (big house, fancy job etc etc) and it hasn't happened!" a couple of hints/tips:

  1. Write that shit down! A cloudy, ill fleshed-out, fleeting, passing thought isn't the easiest thing to manifest. Writing it down helps YOU articulate exactly what you want. 
  2. Sometimes what you receive doesn't end up looking exactly how you thought it might. Likely you weren't completely clear in your own head OR The Universe has something else planned for you. Patience Grasshopper. Go back to #1. Refine. Hone. Get more specific. It will happen. This I know.

Anyway. So of course I said YES. And then put it on the back burner as I went outside for the summer. Fast forward a few months and I'm starting to think about the show and its loose theme of "the past" or memory.

Recently, I was reading "Sweetland" by Michael Crummey and came across this passage:

"He hated confronting those lost moments, being presented with some deail from his past and having to look on it like a stranger. It made his life feel like a made-up thing. A net full of holes."

It landed. Hard.

I've always had a very, VERY good memory. Conversations decades old, word for word, childhood situations, people, faces, names. I was the family historian. "Just ask Jen" was the go to around our house. Then I read a study suggesting our memories are not as good as we think they are and that some psychologists believe we may even make things up as time goes on. THAT gave me pause. If what I remember isn't accurate - or worse, completely fabricated - it truly does make "life feel like a made-up thing". A net full of holes, indeed.

I find the whole idea fascinating. What defines us? Which memories make us who we are? Where is the line? What would you have to find out that wasn't real (or was!) to sit you on your butt, to readjust your sense of self? Some memories are sweet but never made themselves building blocks of your persona. Others are integral to creating who we are. Matthew McConaughey relates a story where he thought he'd won a contest as a child only to find out years later he was only runner-up. Pretty sure he didn't retire to his bed moaning "What IS true?!?" even though the mistruth of winning likely had a huge impact on who he became. And does it even matter? Say I found out that I wasn't actually perceived as "the family historian"; would that change my feelings about myself? My position in our family? (Note: VERY possibly!) Which of course leads down that brambly path of what IS real, anyway?!? 

I sure would love to hear what you think. How you would answer the two questions: 

What are your defining childhood memories?

What if they weren't true? 

Comment here, on Instagram or shoot me a DM or email. I sure would appreciate it!

July 2, 2021

In the garden

Wednesday's 10 Questions for Artists was the tenth and final installment for this series. I may revisit it in the fall, so if you'd like to join in, let me know.

This also marks the beginning of my hiatus on posts and published artmaking. I'll be focussed on my garden, swimming in the lake (well, sitting in my floatie) and taking a media break until September.

I'm sure there will be a photo or two posted on Instagram so be sure to follow me there, if you aren't already.

A big thank you to all the artists who took time out of their busy schedules to answer my 10 Questions.

See all y'all in the Fall!

May 28, 2021

An Epiphany and Uncertain Future

When you realize you are not a WORKING ARTIST.

And maybe not even an Artist at all.

    Maker of Things
aka Lesser Than.

Does it matter?

   I don't know.

What I DO know is posing as a "working artist" when I'm not... feels like I am sullying all those who truly are working artists.

How do I define that... "Working Artist"??

Someone who strives to make their livelihood from the sale of their artwork.

Someone who strives to create a Body of Work. As Legacy.

Someone who seeks out representation and galleries and collectors.

I. Am. None. Of. These.

At once it feels devastating and also? A tiny bit freeing. The weight of expectation, moving off my shoulders. And the need to apologize to those who've bought my work thinking I was in fact all of those things. Or who felt, maybe, I was destined for bigger things. Who wanted my work to have meaning and longevity. Substance.

I am also a bit concerned I'm stopping or quitting or dropping my responsibility. Because I've definitely done THAT in the past.

But. I don't think so.

I think, maybe, I just realized I'm not as great as I thought I was.

And I'm sort of mortified. And kind of relieved.

I wrote this more than 2 weeks ago and I've been sitting with it ever since.

It still feels correct.
It still feels a bit raw, unprotected, vulnerable.
And I'm still not quite sure what it actually MEANS.

Making Things will always be in my life.

For sale? For show? For anyone else? THAT'S what I'm not entirely sure about.

What I do know is that I will be taking the summer OFF. Maybe from Instagram. Certainly from FB and this website. 

I have commitments to artists who have answered 10 Questions for Artists and I will still be publishing those until the end of June. Sign up HERE be notified when they're LIVE. 

After that? Well? All bets are off.

Taking time off, I hope, will allow my true interests and passions to rise to the surface. And I'll take it from there. 

Until we meet again! 

     ciao for now ... Jen

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