Thursday, August 19, 2010

Encaustic Workshop with the Fab Five

When food, friends and fine art combine, the results are sure to be memorable. Indeed, on August 9, my close artist friend, Karen Eide gifted four of us with the most amazing day in recent memory: a "Studio Day" to learn her medium of encaustic painting which dates from at least the 5th century B.C.

Judy Cowling, Iona Drozda and I gathered at 9:30 a.m. at her and her husband, David's, lovely home in rural Carrollton, VA. (Sheila Giolitti joined us later in the afternoon.) The day was simply glorious and the slightly less than an hour's drive completely pleasant (no, it was grand, as my dear friend Iona rode with me and we reveled in conversation going and coming).

In Karen's charming detached cottage studio (with her cat Miles lolling in the loft above), she provided us with background and safety information, lots of mouth-watering samples, and a demo. Then she set us loose at stations she had created for each of us. Inspired by her work and encouragement, her samples, and each other, we went to it; and I think it's safe to say that we are all completely hooked. Though encaustic literally means "to burn in," it is, in fact, painting with melted and pigmented wax into which and on top of which one can collage, draw, stamp, stencil and more. I find it the most luscious and flexible medium ever.

My piece, entitled "Fifty," is at the top. I found that old funnel in a potting shed and had to draw it because I was attracted to its rusted form. The crossword puzzle was in a piece of newspaper I had brought and I had tucked the seagull stencils from a previous painting into my sketchbook. I decided to just work with those three elements and what resulted was an ode to my 50th birthday next year--egads!--and is about "funneling" energy in new directions, as well as trying to solve the "puzzle" of how one balances structure (all of the many references to the grid along with the seagulls standing in a tidy row) and freedom (as represented by, among other things, the flying seagulls).

I love many things about the work we all did that day, including how individual it is. With the guidance of our teacher-friend, Karen Eide, we were all able to transfer the work we do in other media into her medium of encaustic. Karen would not accept any remuneration for sharing her knowledge, expertise, home, studio and supplies. Not a penny. So we insisted that she let us bring lunch. But I know we are all trying to figure out how best to "pay it forward." The least I can do is share a little taste of the medium with all of you.

Though formal workshops and institutes have their place, if you have mastered a specific technique, process or approach to the formal or conceptual aspects of artmaking, I would encourage you to share it informally with a small group of artists/teachers as Karen did. It is truly a gift that will keep on giving.

Here's to old and new friends, ancient and contemporary art forms and paying it forward!

Top Photo: "Fifty," Betsy DiJulio, encaustic and mixed media, 2010
Bottom Photo standing, l to r: Judy Cowling, Sheila Giolitti, me and Karen Eide; seated: Iona Drozda. Stay tuned for posts with our artwork.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dodge Virginia Beach Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon 2010 Poster Art

For all but the first year in 1990, I have been chosen as the volunteer "Official Artist" for the Virginia Beach Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon put on by San Diego-based Competitor's Group. The race is held every Labor Day Weekend and here we are already at the 10th Anniversary. My original painting is raffled off annually and, in the last few years, has earned between $8,000 and $9,000 for the organization's charities, such as the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. In addition, proceeds from the sale of posters made from the painting also benefit their charities.

My concept for this special commemorative edition was to paint beach-related objects with the number "10" on top of a collage of news clippings from past races, trying to use physical layers as a metaphor for the many layers of the race, from athletic achievement to personal triumph and much more. Early in the summer, my good friend Sharon Tanner accompanied me to the beach on a photo treasure hunt where we found the the 10th Street sign, the "$10 Beach Parking" sign, and the hotel clock tower. When we looked up and saw it, believe it or not, it was 10 a.m. The weather vane was inspired by one at Rudee Inlet for which I simply replaced the swordfish with a guitar.

Last summer, I became enamored with the crab/lobster buoys on a cruise up the coast of the Northeastern U.S. and, since we are known for our blue crabs and since the buoys are always identified by numbers, I had to include them based on an Internet source. I also used an Internet source for the "Runners Next 10 Miles" sign since I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. Even still, I had to combine two signs. And, while we have channel markers with osprey nests just like the one in the bottom right corner, we don't have them in the area where we were photographing, so I also used an Internet source for it. Finally, I used an Internet source for the nautical flags which have been a favorite symbol system of mine for many years; the ones in the painting spell out "RNR;" and the stenciled seagulls--10 of them, of course--provide movement and rhythm.

Each year, a highlight of the whole experience for me is signing posters for the runners and their families in the "Artist's Booth" at the Fitness Expo where all runners receive their registration packets. They come from all over the U.S. , some year after year. While I always love to meet the new participants, it is especially gratifying to laugh and joke with old acquaintances who return again and again, some with the addition of spouses, children and more children. Every year finds me laughing and crying--even blushing (I'll never forget the "Rock 'n' Roll Virgins")--in the booth as people request very personal inscriptions for their posters, some to honor loved ones whom they have lost and others to celebrate milestones.

It really is a "human race" and it is an incredible honor to be a small part.
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