Essential Questions

Do you feel it is important to be part of a community of artists?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

I’ve been thinking about the importance of community among artists. Our group, ProWax, and the International Encaustic Conference are communities I’m involved in. They provide information, lift me up when I’m down, and share in my success. Through networking and curating they are responsible for many of the good things happening in my career. I am not alone. We are not alone. Our members tell their stories here, but I hope anyone reading will use the Comments section to share their own experiences about community.

Dorothy Cochran I have always felt like an outsider with my intense focus on art. I have been involved with the arts as an educator and curator my whole life, but while this was wonderful in many ways, it did not lend itself to sharing on a deep level my own work. I loved graduate school intimacy and community, but that did not last. The community where I lived for 40 years was enriching in many ways but not in the visual arts. While raising two daughters, I painted, printed and roamed New York City’s art scene, but in isolation. Since becoming involved with the artists of the International Encaustic Conference, I have developed strong friendships and feel I have found the tribe I belong to. I have found colleagues who share my enthusiasms, challenges and work ethic. It has changed my life and brought me into a circle of trust that makes a difference every day.

pwj-issue15-pullquote-miller_rightAnna Wagner-Ott I live in a place where the population is 1000 and I am the only one making non-representational art. I feel like an outsider. At this point, I have not found [an artistic] community where I live. On the other hand, I have attended the Conference and met like-minded individuals and continued conversations in the virtual world. I joined the Raising the Bar Facebook group, and feel connected with the world. I don’t feel isolated anymore. Each year in June, I connect [in person] with my Facebook friends and have lots of talks about art. It is amazing, really, that one can get a sense of community through emails and on Facebook. It is very important that I have a community of artists where I can express my ideas and share my work, even if those discussions are through the internet.

Rae Miller The communities of artists available to me via the internet, and in person at the Conference, have made my life as an expat artist in Mexico not only doable, but more successful. Without the support of these people and groups, I would not have been able to move my career forward as successfully. I have learned untold volumes of information through various online forums and the International Encaustic Conference particularly. I learned how to function better in the business side of art, as well as [upgrade] technical aspects of art making. I also became a better teacher. Looking back, I feel that my recent solo exhibition at El Nigromante Bellas Artes, a prominent cultural center in San Miguel de Allende, would not have happened without the input and guidance I’ve received through community.

Kathy Cantwell I’ve been an isolated painter without a community for a great deal of my life. I had maybe one artist friend, not very supportive. In the last six years that has turned around. Connectivity via iPhone with Facebook and the Conference has given me a community where I’ve met and become friends with hundreds of artists. It’s been life changing. We encourage, motivate, and offer opportunities when they come up. What I’ve accomplished since that first iPhone is unbelievable to me.

David A. Clark I work in relative isolation and I had hoped moving to a more public studio would change that somewhat. It has changed the sense of loneliness, but social media cures something different. It cures my cultural loneliness. I love where I live, and it has great cultural events, but there aren’t many professionals here to dialogue with. Social media is a necessary touchstone for me. I enjoy reading all of the posts. I enjoy everyone’s triumphs and I feel all of the collective pain and frustration. It helps me keep everything a bit more in perspective.

Joanne Mattera One of the wonderful things about our encaustic community is the way it branches out. While many relationships have come about as a result the International Encaustic Conference, they continue regionally in person. When artists from the community travel for openings, for instance, they reach out to artists from that city or region. Also, we have recommended others from our cohort for exhibitions or gallery representation.

But I think it’s important to be part of other communities in the art world. I suspect many of you feel this, too. For instance, there are a number of artists I find myself showing with fairly regularly in New York City. We’ve gotten to know each other from these group shows, but I attend their other openings and they, mine. For me, it’s a chance to step away from encaustic. That wax mantle can be heavy, don’t you think?

pwj-issue15-pullquote-cochran_leftDebra Claffey I serve on the board of an art group working for gender equity and connect with others over landcare and eco-sustainability.

Leslie Sobel I have started an activist artist group rooted in the real world, not just social media. We’re primarily local but not just. The community is like-minded politics based rather than aesthetics or commonality of art-making approaches.

Jane Guthridge I enjoy the global expanse of this group, but I have also made a concerted effort to meet and be part of an artistic community in Denver. At one point I knew more artists around the world than in my own town. I have reached out to get to know more than just artists but gallerists, arts writers, curators, museum professionals and others involved in the arts. I curated several shows. Through this experience I was able to get to know the other artists. I remember being afraid to ask them to be in my exhibition, thinking why would they do this, they don’t know me. It turned out to be a wonderful thing and a great way to connect with other artists.

This summer I was invited to be in the exhibition, Colorado Women in Abstraction. One of the unexpected results of being in this show was how many of the other artists I was able to meet and start to get to know. We have talked about continuing the conversation and showing together in other venues and places. Creating friendships through community has enriched my life.

Nancy Natale Making initial connections around the medium of encaustic does not mean that is our only involvement, but just the bridge to more community. Having the opportunity to meet people at the Conference year after year and then share thoughts and ideas on FB leads to a much different kind of relationship. I think in many ways that it’s sometimes deeper than what is possible in face-to-face art friendships, because over time we have the kinds of conversations that are not usually possible when artists get to know each other through physical proximity.

pwj-issue15-pullquote-natale_rightI’ve lived in places where I’ve been very involved in organizing shows and open studios, showing together with people, and working on arts councils. Those relationships were centered around projects or activities, rather than establishing bonds and sharing thoughts and views over long periods of time. While we are mainly focused on work in encaustic here in ProWax, we are not chained to that medium. We are also aware of and appreciative of artists and shows that have nothing to do with medium.

I really appreciate the opportunity to share information and ideas about art and feel that our community extends across the country and even around the world. For all the faults of Facebook and the pokes we take at it, the community that it has let us establish is a rare phenomenon made possible by the internet. This is one of the joys of our time (as well as one of the banes.)

Krista Svalbonas I love Facebook and Instagram but social media only gets me so far. I find it a great way to keep up with people I know personally (some I don’t) who live away from me, but real human connection always feels necessary. I’ve always felt the need to be connected to my local community wherever I am. Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes not so much. I still find the best conversations are the ones had in person over a glass of wine or coffee and with real artwork in front of you!


Essential Questions

How Do You Expand the Audience for Your Work?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

I’m interested in getting your thoughts on how you market your work. If you have gallery representation, do you supplement that with your own marketing? If you do not have gallery representation, how do you market? How do you expand the audience for your work?

Dietlind Vander Schaaf I use my Facebook and Instagram accounts to promote my work. I use MailChimp to send e-blasts that promote exhibitions, workshops, and other news. I’ve written a number of proposals for exhibitions on behalf of New England Wax, and as part of that process I will often install work and design a catalog. I also mail printed postcards.

pwj-issue14-pullquote-winiarski_leftBecause I work at an art school, I am often in a good position to interact with or take advantage of opportunities to leverage myself as an artist. For example, I curate and install the annual staff exhibition at Maine College of Art. That was falling through the cracks before I took it over. I also take a class through Creative Capital once a year to stay up on what other artists are doing and using in terms of self-promotion.

Joanne Mattera Dietlind brings up a good point–the idea of taking on a job that not only provides a service for others but which creates visibility for the artist. That’s a great win/win.

Tracey Adams I do a lot of my own marketing, supplementing whatever the galleries do. I post daily images on Instagram, weekly on Facebook and send a quarterly newsletter. The newsletter links with FB, gallery websites, and my blog.

pwj-issue14-pullquote-wagner_rightI curated a show this year, Burned, Cut, Folded and Stitched. This included writing the exhibition essay and putting together an online catalog through Issu. I’ve taught classes at the Monterey Museum of Art, done demos and talks for docents, and have spoken on panels sponsored by our museum. I’ve produced a catalog either yearly or every other year since 1999. I gift collectors with a copy and split the costs with whatever galleries are featured in the catalog; they gift copies to their best clients, too.

Anna Wagner-Ott I have committed to adding artwork as soon as it is finished and only putting my best works on my website. A website is your artistic identity and so important for marketing.
Additionally, I do post regularly to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and keep a blog. These sites represent my identity so I am very conscious about what I post. I try to keep my posts professional so rarely mix personal posts or family photographs with the public/professional posts.

Elise Wagner I never rely solely on galleries to market my work. I always take it into my own hands, especially when I have a show up. I collaborate with my galleries on writing content for my media releases. No one knows your work as well as you do, so it’s important you give the gallery the information they need to sell your work. I devote a lot of time, like most of us, promoting on social media. I post on Instagram daily and vary it with images, videos and works in progress, and I update my site regularly with new work with professionally shot images. The photo shoots are scheduled, which gives me a continual deadline to meet.

I do quarterly newsletters, and my list contains all the galleries I love across the country. I also maintain different targeted lists. After finishing a body of work or having a show, I routinely research galleries in key cities and submit like crazy, 20-25 per targeted city. I also research and set grant deadlines in my calendar, market through my classes, and give gallery talks—never demos—at most shows.

pwj-issue14-pullquote-wagner-ott_leftDavid A. Clark I do a lot of marketing, and now that I have a physical space I do even more. In addition to the galleries I am working with, I send out postcards to galleries I’m targeting, art consultants, designers, and curators about four times a year. I also send out catalogues to folks who may have expressed interest or to people I think may be interested in certain bodies of work. I have done some print advertising. I took out an ad in Art in Print magazine and also a regional arts magazine called Palm Springs Arts Patron Magazine. Those ads have generated a bit of interest and widened the profile of my work.

The complex of spaces that I am in right now has hired a PR person and is doing targeted outreach to local hotel concierges and the board of tourism to generate more traffic. We’ve had some press and that has been good. I am very active on social media. There are quite a few local media outlets checking out my photos on Instagram. So I’m hoping that will generate some additional press. It’s a huge amount of work but it’s finally starting to have some impact.

Deborah Winiarski In addition to postcards, newsletters, networking, and catalogs, I believe it’s important to be proactive in your community—even if you have to create your community. I’m fortunate to be teaching in a renowned institution. When I first began teaching workshops there eight years ago, most people didn’t know what encaustic was, never mind how it’s relevant today. I decided to educate the general population of the institution. I proposed a two-evening event where I demonstrated the medium and invited speakers to talk about the medium in terms of its history and contemporary relevance.

Beverly Rippel Besides posting regularly on Facebook and Instagram, I am part of the Boston Arts District community where I maintain a studio and am always present at Open Studio events. Here I meet artists, writers, curators, editors, and collectors, as well as college art students who are eager to converse. High school art teachers bring students bound for art school into the studio as part of their education. I have handouts with up-to-date images/website/ email that are available for the thousands of people who walk through the building. I do sell my work through this venue.

pwj-issue14-pullquote-mattera_leftAt present I do not have representation, but I have been showing works through corporate exhibition sales and rental programs since the 1990’s with such established [Massachusetts] venues as Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, The Cambridge Art Association, and the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston. Oftentimes the artist is compensated, the work is seen and insured, and you get the work back after a year to show or rent again. Recently a large painting was sold to the CEO of a law firm who saw the image when selecting work for his offices.

For the past eight years I have been the Chair of Exhibitions for South Shore Art Center, a large venue with educational courses and a gallery. We research museum curators and gallerists to jury our national exhibitions. This volunteer position has been educational, introduced me to great jurors, and continues to widen my vision.

Joanne Mattera I recently prepared for a solo show in Boston. The gallery posted images of my work on its website and produced a beautiful two-sided mailer, which it sent to its client list. I supplemented the gallery’s marketing with posts on my blog and on Facebook to promote the exhibition and then show installation images. I’ll also sent out a newsletter to announce it and the various other exhibitions and openings I have coming up this fall.

Relatedly, I recently completed a second edition of my catalog, Silk Road: Excerpts From an Ongoing Series. It’s got a new cover and numerous new pages to better reflect work that has been or is about to be shown. It is available for viewing online at no cost, so any gallery I work with can send the URL to potential clients as well as to local and regional publications as part of its PR outreach. Serious collectors of my work have been or will be given a copy. Copies will be available for sale to casual visitors to the galleries. Because I don’t do my own graphic design, this is a worthwhile–and deductible–expense for me.

I would note that artists at all levels are involved in promoting their work. Martin Kline, for instance, holds occasional exhibitions in his impressive studio on the grounds of his home in the Hudson Valley. And for the better part of a decade, Jasper Johns has been actively involved with an art historian in producing a multi-volume catalogue raisonné of his oeuvre.

Essential Questions: Who’s Using Instagram?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

A dealer I was talking with mentioned an artist whose work he was interested in for an upcoming show. “I found the artist on Instagram,” he said, adding that if people liked or commented on his gallery’s work he often would look at their feed. That comment prompted me to put this question to ProWax members: What has your experience been with Instagram? What have you learned and what can you share?

Lisa Pressman I have found Instagram to be a great tool for networking, for seeing connections in my own work, and I just made a sale yesterday. I follow and am followed by artists and galleries. I pay attention to who is responding to the work, for instance a gallery. I have followed up with a personal note through Instagram, Facebook or email. It is a great way to start a personal relationship. The sale I made yesterday was to another artist. A nice surprise!

PWJ.Issue13.Pullquote.Schaller_rightTracey Adams I love IG because it’s only about images, very little text or commentary. There’s a core group of artists from all over the world that I follow, and I enjoy seeing the connections between my work and theirs. I’ve had galleries and art consultants comment and follow my work. It’s the best way to see what’s most current studio-wise. For me it’s more about being consistent with posts and connecting with the right circles rather than making a sale right now. This will evolve as IG evolves. I post other’s work when I’m able to get out to see it and things that inspire my creative process. I’m always discovering new things on IG and expanding my circle. Hashtags are a great way to focus on what’s important, what will come up in your feed as well as the feeds of others. I think this is the most economical and best thing going for visual artists to promote their work!

Howard Hersh There are more artists out there than you can imagine, and the majority are very forgettable. However, by casting such a wide net you can gain exposure that would otherwise be impossible, or at the least, improbable. And conversely, I’m learning more about artists/galleries that have enhanced my daily practice.

PWJ.Issue13.Pullquote.Wagner_leftBeverly Rippel I am eight or nine months into IG now and find my work is being seen in a more global arena. I am beginning to investigate galleries that like my posts. I try to post a photo of my work when it is on a museum or gallery wall with other artists’ work.

Jeff Schaller It’s great to see social networking work! I did sell a painting on IG. It was from a client I hadn’t heard from in years. The nice thing about IG is its use of hashtags. People can search via these [words and phrases]. There are businesses and bloggers that search for them, thus there’s a better chance of getting seen and followed. It’s not like Facebook and shouldn’t be used as Facebook.

Howard Hersh Because I’m active on both platforms, I wonder about etiquette regarding liking or commenting on duplicate posts. I feel like I know most everyone who responds to my posts on FB. I post approximately once a week, trying to make those posts interesting and/or thoughtful about my work. I also have an album, Other Artists, that I post to. On IG, I post daily, with my current work and work in progress, casting as wide a net as I can. Both platforms are satisfying to me, but in very different ways.

Jeff Schaller I’ve heard it described this way: Twitter is what you are doing now, FB is sharing what you are doing with friends, and IG is what interests you.

PWJ.Issue13.Pullquote.Adams_rightKathy Cantwell For my professional development IG is a must. It’s about collecting credible followers and posting regularly so I can solidify my brand. The other benefit is that it drives people to my website. It has taken a few years to develop my followers so my advice is don’t wait, start now. I have found for every post I pick up at least one new follower. IG can become a nice habit, it’s free promotion, and you never know what will come from it. Please note that you can only post from your iPhone or Android and you cannot post from your computer.

Bottom line: IG and FB are equally important tools. FB has been very good to me with sales, opportunities, and allowing curators to get to know me. I believe IG will eventually culminate in sales and opportunities. FB and IG are free powerful self-promotion tools.

Krista Svalbonas I love IG, it’s made some great connections for me to galleries and art consultants that I would not have been exposed to otherwise and vice versa. I pay attention to those who follow or like my work. I comment on certain galleries I’m following. You’d be surprised what is paid attention to. I once had a conversation with a New York City gallery director, I introduced myself, and they said “Oh I know you, you’re following me on Instagram.” I’ve made connections to galleries this way too, letting them know I’m stopping in to see a show they have up, which then leads to a real live conversation at the gallery. I’ve included on my mailing list some of the advisors and galleries that follow me or I follow, too. In fact, one connection may lead to showing work in a New York City gallery (too early to tell just yet).

Jane Guthridge Krista, I noticed that besides posting your own work you post studio visits to other artists, galleries and museums. You comment on other artists’ work as well. This seems to help in networking and developing relationships.

Krista Svalbonas I’ve done a little bit of research on the subject. Feeds that are very consistent—meaning photos that use all the same treatment or feel very unified—tend to get a high percentage of IG followers. Whether your IG follower number makes anything better for you, I’m not sure. My followers are not in the thousands, partly because I choose to have a more random feed [with] my work, work of others, and travel images. I think that definitely helps build a rapport with various artists, and perhaps galleries as well, since I do tag them when I can. But it also makes my feed a little more unpredictable and followers are slower to join. I can’t tell you if quality over quantity is a plus or minus, but I know whatever I’m doing is working OK with me.

Howard Hersh When you really like someone you’re following, look just to the right of the “following” tab. There will be a drop-down with like-minded people. Very useful!

PWJ.Issue13.Pullquote.Hersh_leftElise Wagner I have found the suggestions that pop up of whom to follow very helpful in terms of finding the quality of artwork and subjects that inspire me. I look at everyone who likes my images and follow them if I know them, like what they do, or if they have more than 1,000 followers. I also look at what they follow and go down this whole other vortex of discovery. The hashtags are so helpful and have attracted galleries and art consultants. I also like the messaging feature and how easy it is to use. With each day my feed becomes more refined and specific to my interests. Without buying into the “get likes” or “instafame” scams, I’m gaining 5-10 followers a day. Don’t fall for any of those scams, the likes gained are all bad accounts (porn mostly). IG is addictive. The art world in a hand held device, total genius. Don’t delay!

Cari Hernandez One of the most helpful book I’ve read was Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It’s simple and to the point, making a case for positive ways for artists to use social media.

Susan Delgalvis Art.Post.Promote is a new private FB group started by AJ Grossman. It’s a great site affording an opportunity for the artist to navigate the world of social media. Ask to join it.


Essential Questions: How do you stay true to your vision?


When reading about Ellsworth Kelly’s passing, I came across a number of quotes about the artist’s fierce determination to adhere to his own vision. Roberta Bernstein said, “[Kelly] had his own vision of things and he stuck with it, and it wasn’t about following trends.” Artist Terry Winters said he admired Kelly’s “sustained belief in his own project.”

This led me to ask Pro Wax members the following questions: How do you stay true to your vision? What advice from others do you consider and take to heart and when do you decide to let it go?

Kathy Cantwell: When what I’m working on is honest and tantamount to who I am as an artist, then there is usually little that will sway me. However I always keep a door open for criticism to come in. Sometimes in my zeal to pursue my vision I may lose sight of certain aspects of the work that are unresolved. Letting in credible criticism from other artists, gallerists, and curators may lead me further into my vision.

Dorothy Cochran: I have always been an independent thinker and creator with specific ideas of what I wanted to express and how I would accomplish it. In retrospect, from decades of art making, I have adhered to my own vision, with only a side glance to what others are doing. Holding true to a course of action gives you deep satisfaction when looking back and seeing the continuity of your thought process (not necessarily medium).

Cheryl D. McClure: I listen to the people whose opinion I respect. That said, I keep with my own vision of what I think is personally authentic. Sometimes remarks will come back to me later, at a time when I might be more open to suggestion. What I hope I do is keep my mind open to accept other viewpoints about my work and to know when to keep my own counsel.

Tracey Adams: I’ve had to pull up the drawbridge when it comes to giving credence to what others have to say about my work. I listen, but don’t necessarily act, and try hard to stay firm with my beliefs. Not only does it take a lot of courage to be an artist, it takes courage to stay on course with what you believe is right for you at a given time. I’ve always worked on the organic to geometric spectrum and know this might discredit my work with galleries, curators and others as it swings to one side, then back to the other. This is how I keep my inspiration, ideas and work fresh — it’s got to be compelling and challenging or boredom sets in. Knowing and trusting oneself takes a long time.

Beverly Rippel: I have seen the situation in which an instructor/professor, or even a gallery owner, urges an artist to follow a course down a particular path that either resonates with their own thought patterns or financially satisfies their gallery’s needs. Here is where one must decide which path is the right one for personal goals. It may be hard not to be swayed, or to admit that we might be succumbing to pressure, but it is important to keep the brush in one’s own hand and not surrender it to anyone if one’s unique voice is to be fully realized.

That said, through the years there have been several people (museum curators and directors, professors, contemporary gallerists, and artists whom I greatly respect) who have said things to me in both critique and compliment, that I can remember nearly verbatim. Their words play over in my head and I believe they have encouraged me to grow along my own chosen path. From the outset I decided that I wasn’t going to make art just to make money; I could always wait tables for that. There is nothing in this world quite so exhilarating than to be in the act of making a thought materialize.

Krista Svalbonas: I most often listen to advice/critique from those individuals I trust or solicit advice from. Even then it’s important to consider those ideas against your own convictions. Once in a while an unsolicited comment from someone I don’t know very well may spark an idea or new thought process, but that is very rare. From the teaching perspective, I pay very special attention to give students feedback that is neutral and not colored by my own aesthetic. I try very hard to understand where students are coming from, see their motivation, and then foster that in a constructive way. I will say that allowing others in to comment and provide perspective can be a very wonderful way to make a breakthrough or to consider a direction that you would never have thought of on your own. That’s part of the nice thing about collaborating; even though it’s not a critique environment per se, collaboration does push you out of your comfort zone and into an area that allows you to bring fresh ideas into the studio.

Debra Claffey: It’s taken me years to learn how to listen and hear advice/critique without getting waylaid, especially from those I consider more knowledgeable and experienced. Like Beverly, I can remember some comments verbatim. I just have to work through each and decide for myself whether they apply and are useful.

Mitchell Visoky: I have had much advice given to me over the years. I always welcomed it and thought about how valuable it was. I try to evaluate the comments depending on how much I value the expertise or experience of the commenter. Sometimes my own personal issues get in the way of acting on good advice.

Patricia Dusman: If I am on a good path I try not to be exposed to a lot of outside influence to help keep me on track. We all need to remember a comment or critique is just someone’s opinion on that day, in that moment. If you feel strongly about your work, you are free to totally discard it if you choose. In a time of indecision or at a fork in the road you can reconsider those comments and critiques.

Nancy Ferro: I am my own critic. If suggestions are very far from my own thoughts though, I ask myself if my concept should be more clearly stated. I do appreciate looking back myself to see how they are all related and how my work has evolved and why.

Elise Wagner: The Ellsworth Kelly obit had a quote in it that really rang true for me as my own work is transforming. The quote was, “I wondered, ‘Can I make a painting with just five panels of color in a row?’ I loved it, but I didn’t think the world would. They’d think, it’s not enough.”

I couldn’t believe how in that moment with my own work, I could relate to this. I listen to the advice of many but don’t follow it. More and more, I try to follow the inner voice and vision I have for the work. This has been hard. I am leaving things out that have come to be known as trademarks or signature aspects in my work, which is exactly why I am now leaving them out.

Letting it go, listening from within rather than from outside, has transformed my work, my palette and my vision.

Essential Questions: How does the use of encaustic help to express your ideas?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

Going beyond medium to ideas and intent, how does the use of encaustic help to express your concepts? Do you work with other mediums as well and why?

Elise Wagner: For me it’s the organic nature of the materials. I’ve developed a way to create a surface that emulates the earth’s surface and topography or the surface of the moon. This fits perfectly with the overall concept and ideas that emerge for my work. I like both the predictability of the wax and what it will do and the unpredictability of it. I have always combined my encaustic paintings with my oil paintings and have now reached a point where the layering process of the wax is informing the layering process of the oil paint. Printmaking and creating encaustic collagraphs as studies of paintings to dovetail with my concepts also helps tremendously. My greatest challenge, but also my greatest joy, is harnessing what seem like millions of ideas whirling through my head and filtering them succinctly into bodies of work!

PWJ.Issue11.Pullquote.Addington_rightJoanne Mattera: For my “Silk Road” series, I use translucent layers of colors to create the color field. I couldn’t imagine using any other paint than wax because it offers subtlety along with substance.

But for a concurrent series, the hard edge “Chromatic Geometry,” I am taping and painting, and I’ve begun to think that acrylic would be a better choice. The color is opaque, and I could achieve the texture I want with a heavy-bodied matte medium. Using acrylic would also give me the option of working much larger. A model for me is the painter Steven Alexander, who uses acrylic in a way that does not look plastic.

Nancy Youdelman: I create mixed media sculpture and use encaustic medium as a final layer. To me, it is vital to the works, it creates a “skin” that transforms and unifies the individual units of the work, gives it a glow that would not be possible with any other medium. When Fanne Fernow visited my studio in July, she said this about my use of encaustic, “it holds the soul in.” I love that, thank you Fanne.

Fanne Fernow: I could not do what I do with any other medium. If I had to switch, I’d be doing something else. Elizabeth Michelman from Artscope wrote this quote about my work: “It really was one of my favorites in the show. It [goes] beyond “look, mom, I’m using encaustic” and simply seemed to rejoice in a material that allowed you to do what you needed to do in exploring your artistic vocabulary. I liked that it risked appearing simple-minded, repetitive, and understated. Saying less it said so much more.”

Amber George: For my Sewing Series, encaustic was the perfect medium. It allowed me to layer papers and fabric into the work as well as create texture. The layers imparted the idea of how many different roles I felt pressured to take on as a woman in contrast to the roles of my grandmothers who were critical in my early creative experiences. I also work extensively in monotype, using a more traditional approach, though not with encaustic. The layering possibilities with the ink and multiple passes, plus using stencils, allows me a similar but more immediate effect. After 10 years of consciously and thoughtfully volleying back and forth between the two mediums, I’ve noticed that the monotypes usually inform the next body of work in painting.

PWJ.Issue11.Pullquote.Roland_leftSarah Rehmer: Being that my work revolves around memory loss, being able to have vintage [book] paper take on a skin-like quality and become semi- transparent, to see the text become a jumble of words, plays perfectly into conveying the idea of memory loss, and where do these memories disappear to. It gives stability to the paper also, yet because you can see through it a bit, it imparts this feeling of complete fragility.

Haley Nagy: I work in a variety of media but often choose to incorporate encaustic into my works because of the inherent symbolism it brings. The way wax both absorbs and reflects light lends itself well to a spiritual metaphor. The way it adds transparency to a page in an artist book fundamentally changes the way that book is read. And when I am dealing with topics of religion in my work, one cannot overlook the connection between wax and the church: the candlelight amidst a religious ritual, the reference to stained glass, the way it both obscures and illuminates. These are all ideas I intentionally evoke through the use of encaustic.

Lorraine Glessner: My work is rooted in linking the earth and body through physical patterns and marks found on both surfaces. In grad school, I explored a lot of materials that were skin-like and translucent, such as latex, wax and polymers. I fell in love with encaustic because of its smell, its luminosity and tactile qualities that I couldn’t find with any other medium; since beginning to work with it, I’ve never looked back. There is a definite process to working in encaustic–applying the paint, fusing the layers, then adding more or scraping back–it’s like a dance or a poem as the creation and meaning of each step or verse hinges on the one before it. I work intuitively as each collaged layer I apply is in response to the one beneath it. Because of the inherent transparency of wax, many layers of information are collaged within the medium, so invariably many levels of meaning merge and coexist within the painting. Conceptually, this process speaks to the symbiotic relationship between the earth and the body and further supports my ideas. I also work with acrylics, gouache and watercolor, but I’m always exploring ways to bring these mediums into my encaustic work. For me, encaustic must be present in the painting or the meaning lies flat.

Paula Roland: The qualities of wax embody metaphors for natural phenomena and life events. Heat and cooling, flow and dispersion, erosion, and light play are a few examples. Through the physical action of slashing, forming, heating, and scraping wax paintings I have found connections between remnants of environmental devastation and scars and imperfections on my own body. Finding deeper connections in the work is inspiring and I will continue to use whatever medium is necessary to that end.

PWJ.Issue11.Pullquote.Glessner_right For me there is a magical process of transformation that is achieved with wax that seems almost alchemical. I find that my ideas and intentions are informed by the medium, which keeps my process very open ended and fluid. I am a painter who likes subtraction and erasure so scraping and digging into the wax is a very satisfying process.

Dan Addington: In my paintings, I tend to think of my chosen materials the way sculptors often think of theirs. I’m interested in the qualities and meaning that the pure materials bring to the table. My first paintings with wax addressed issues of mortality. The body has always figured into my work, and the wax has almost always referred to flesh, both revealing and concealing the musculature of the painting’s structure buried beneath.

Krista Svalbonas: Since I work in a variety of mediums the question of media is an important one for me and it certainly factors into my conceptual process. I started working on felt to build connection between modernist architecture’s devotion to industrial, cheap and simple materials as well as drawing a link in color to concrete. With my recent photographic series I used Dibond, a common architectural substrate for signs and renderings. When I started using wax it was really about what the paint would allow me to do in the constraints of an overall conceptual idea. That’s similar to how I’m approaching using oil with my paintings now. Oil is the only paint that allows me to achieve the surface I wanted with the substrate (felt) that I’m using. Things often become a mixture/balance of concept and aesthetics, but I always start off with the idea and move on from there.

Jeff Hirst: In my work, I am drawn to the material density of encaustic…it has substance. The wax density is what first hooked me almost 20 years ago. I like the paradox of the wax being dense yet translucent. Building an image is a big part of my work and wax plays a major role in how I construct images; because the wax sets so fast, I am able to work at a faster tempo. My work moves in a process-oriented path and I am interested in transformations, change, and organic and geometric (architectural influences) co-existing–the wax plays an important role during this process. As an artist who makes prints, I see many overlaps/parallels between working with encaustic and mediums such as intaglio, relief and silkscreen because of the layering nature of both prints and wax.

Timothy McDowell: I think what all of you are referring to is vocabulary. Visual vocabulary. As a painter or a printmaker one selects the most appropriate way of creating an image (or an object) and wax, as one choice, has an eloquence and a range. But so do oil, ink and numerous other mark-making substances. As artists, I think we ought to choose the most appropriate tool for the intention we have in mind. That doesn’t always mean the most convenient, maybe sometimes it’s the most conducive to the intention. For me, painting medium is a consumable commodity, not the subject of my painting. It may become a qualifying trademark or a defining method but in my own work, I prefer the image to capture the viewer’s attention. Wax is beautiful, that is why I use it but so are all the other toys in the painter’s box.

Howard Hersh: I think I was initially drawn to encaustic for its texture, but that was quickly replaced with the ability to create atmospheric space. This is a crucial element in any figure/ground work. My Structure paintings, which are done with encaustic, rely heavily on the luminosity of the wax to complete the illusion.

My other work, which is actually 3D, has no need to create an illusion of space, and seems better suited for acrylic.

Leslie Sobel: my work is environmentally focused so the organic physicality of encaustic is important to what I do. Its translucence and materiality let me build work that echoes my content and works so well with collage. I do work with other media when they seem particularly suited to an idea–have used paper, printmaking and both oil and acrylic over the years as well as all matter of drawing materials. Nothing has held me for as long or as deeply as encaustic because of its versatility and materiality.








Essential Questions: What Did You Learn in Art School?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

In this group we often talk about the value of an art education. I’m interested to know: What did you learn in art school?

Leslie Sobel: I was exposed to a lot of artists, art history, and technical skills including composition, color, and most of all critical thinking about what I was saying and how best to express it given constraints of media and time.

Patricia Dusman: I learned process but most importantly how to study the work and think critically about it. How to conceptualize as well as talk about it.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.46.02Cat L Crotchett: I learned how to conceptualize. [I learned] critical thinking skills, professional practices, process and technique, research skills, art history, how to talk about my work and other’s work, self motivation and the discipline of creative research. I was also influenced by the critical mass of other artists studying the programs, both undergraduate and graduate.

Joanne Mattera: I learned to see as an artist, and to think of myself as an artist. I learned to talk about art in a language that respected both the art and its maker. The design and color stuff–first and second year foundation–was useful, too, as was drawing.

Important to me as a painter is that I took a painting materials class in which I learned how to make and use four paints: encaustic, egg tempera, oil, and acrylic–and with each, I learned the appropriate substrate and ground. I’m not sure I would have gotten involved in encaustic had I not had that initial base to return to. Equally important is that I met people who provided opportunities that have helped me become the artist I would become.

On the negative side, I was given very bad career advice (“Selling well means selling out,” “It will ‘happen’ for you if you just work in the studio,” and “The dealer is your enemy”). I even had a professor who said to me, “You have an excellent color sense. But you have to decide whether you want to be a woman or an artist.” The second wave of feminism was just building, but I found it in me to respond, “I don’t see that you’ve limited yourself to being a man or an artist.”

Cat L Crotchett: Joanne, your post has reminded me that one “great” complement when I was in art school was to be told, “you paint like a man.” By the time I was applying to graduate school, I did so using my first initials and, when I got acceptance calls, discovered that the schools had assumed I was a man.

Joanne Mattera: Women really got the shit end of the stick in art school back then, didn’t we? That negative stuff was very negative. It is better now.

Nancy Azara: I learned to look and see, a revelation because that’s not an often mentioned skill and then to translate into a visual form.

Kate Miller: My program was edgy, not based on technique and materials. Rather, I was inundated with conceptual critical thinking with no limits on how to go about expressing what I wanted to say. I think that is the type of artist I am anyway so I naturally drifted more towards professors who were more interested in content and context than technique and design.

Deborah Kapoor: My undergraduate experience was a mix of technique and conceptual emphasis. At the time I was very interested in the physical making of mixed media works and that really hasn’t changed. Art history was important. In graduate school I felt like I was in a dream. I had a full scholarship and had a huge studio and time and money. I took a materials and techniques course, and color theory, both of which have proven invaluable to my process of experimentation.

There was some attention given to the business of art too but I think that within both experiences I found good and bad teachers. Some were busy becoming famous and others were devoted to teaching, and as a result, I learned from both (especially what not to do in later years as a teacher myself). I have a relationship still with my graduate advisor and he has been for me a great example of being a working artist, teacher, and human.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.44.54Fanne Fernow: I learned the value of intentionality. I learned how to consider a painting and develop my critical thinking. I also learned some skills that I later adapted to my own methods. But, the skill part is secondary.

While I was teaching at Mount Holyoke, I took a class called Methods and Materials. Ultimately, that’s the learning I find I draw from so many years later.

Kathy Cantwell: It helped tremendously to have the hands on learning of the basic foundation courses with an added focus on my major, painting. Sculpture, printmaking, drawing, color theory and art history were awesome. The only regret is that no one guided me towards getting a master’s nor did anyone ever really discuss what one had to do to make it as an artist. The school gallery director’s advice to me on graduating was to walk the streets of SoHo. At that time I didn’t know where SoHo was. It was 1978.

Jane Allen Nodine: My undergrad experience was mostly about technique with a strong dose of art history, but my grad experience was almost all about theory. Lots of reading, artspeak discussion about what IS art, and maybe what is not art. No real-world advice–that was learned after I was out on my own.

Graceann Warn: I did not go to art school and for years wrestled with that. The two times I did return to school as an older student (making art) I chose fields that gave me stories and inspiration for my work (Classical Studies and Theater Design). I find it interesting that I could never just dive in and go for an MFA. My degrees are in design, and from that study I got color theory, composition, thinking in three dimensions, defending work and maybe most importantly, problem solving. In grad school I learned a great deal of professional practice, which set me up beautifully. Cat, I laughed when I read your post. One of my most memorable crits from school included a professor “flattering” me by saying I was a male designer. I’ll never forget that.

Krista Svalbonas: I learned many formal and theoretical ideas, historical context, but most of all how to challenge myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. To have a strong dedication to the work I make and to never give up and see it through. Loved school, both undergrad and grad and I hope I take that love and passion and give it to my students now.

Jane Guthridge: I came across “What I learned in Grad School” by Quinton Bemiller. The things that really resonated with me were:

•Your work is the most important thing. The quality has to be exceedingly high. Do this and the shows, reviews and sales will follow
•Know art history and contemporary art as it applies to your own art
•Guard your reputation as an artist. Don’t show your work just anywhere. Don’t sell your work to just anyone
•Teachers/artist never share all their secrets. Some things you have to learn on your own
•Know what the driving force is in your work, the main concept or premise on which all other things are built
• Your peers will do more to help advance your career than anyone else

How many of you learned anything about professional practices at art school?

Jennie Frederick My experience at the Kansas City Art Institute was fabulous, however I have to say that my knowledge of and experience with professional practices came during my MFA and apprenticeship with Twinrocker Handmade Paper. That is where I learned the business of art/paper-making.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.46.19Debra Claffey I went back to school in 1977, when the Museum School in Boston offered its first-ever professional practices class. Aside from that I experimented with all the mediums I wouldn’t be able to afford after school. I learned how to listen to critique (painful!), how to think about intention, and to think of making art as my vocation, regardless of sales or attention.

Deborah Martin I earned my MFA in the early 1990’s. At that time I was the only older student in the graduate program. It was a fabulous experience for me. I learned about hard work, never giving up, trusting myself, critical thinking, how to talk about art and who to trust, things that proved invaluable on the road to becoming an artist. I also discovered that I could teach and was awarded a scholarship and a teaching position. Graduate school gave me the focus and the determination I needed.

Joan Stuart Ross In undergraduate school, I had a wonderful art professor, Richard Lukosius, who tried to teach me self-reliance and self-confidence. He Socratically watched me as I followed my path in my own time. I learned color theory. I developed an increased love of drawing and of oil paint in graduate school. How to manage day jobs, studio time and art biz stuff were ongoing and never-ending lessons in later schools of some very hard knocks. I often muse on these varied lessons.

Kate Miller I’m not sure that higher education is the right place to learn the business of art . It should perhaps be preserved for the pure academics of research and experimentation, real world slams you into marketplace competitive mentality soon enough, that is one reason that conferences like Joanne’s are perfect places to learn from panels and presentations.

Joanne Mattera Thanks for the kind words about the Conference, Kate, but I respectfully disagree about the business of art. Art is a two-sided coin. On one side is the theory and practice of artmaking. On the other side is the business of art. You can’t have one without the other, especially now that the bill for undergraduate and grad school can hit a quarter of a million dollars. Having a plan for showing and selling, for thinking entrepreneurially, allows us a way out of the poverty ghetto.

Fanne Fernow The Conference does provide a great place for those of us who did not get the business of art anywhere else.

Joanne Mattera Yes, of course! That’s why I schedule so many professional practice events. I know that any artist over 35 or 40 did not get this information in school–and they need it, because students now (undergrad and grad) are getting Professional Practice courses and seminars. The Conference is helping to even the playing field.

Kate Miller A course covering the business of art near one’s educational end might be a pragmatic and useful addition but I still think that the emphasis in universities especially at the MFA level should remain on theory, research and expansion. When else but grad school do most of us really get the opportunity to go way out on a creative limb, as far as we can get with support, materials, space and critical analysis available at all times. I know a few people who continue to push boundaries in their work and keep growth as the central component, but most of us find that we must “bring it down to earth” to one degree or another in order to 1) sell, and 2) have the time and concentration to teach or find other art related business that will make a living.

Jane Guthridge To me taking risks and pushing yourself in school and also learning the basics of business and professional practices are not at odds with each other. I think you can and should take risks with your work in school and as a professional artist it’s the only way to move your work forward. There are not many jobs other than in academia that are going to hire you to be an artist. As a professional artist you will be self employed. I think knowing some basic business skills as well as professional practices will help you to be able to make your way in the world as an artist.

Carol Pelletier Professional practices is a must these days. It needs to be incorporated into the curriculum. There are too many students in excellent programs who leave without the confidence or knowledge of how to create websites, manage their portfolio, create catalogs, artist statements and resumes. The artwork might be there but they don’t always know what to do with it, or how to approach a gallery or even prepare a packet for grad school. Some students do have the mentorship and guidance from either a faculty member or visiting artist (or an artist they may have interned with) if the professional practices component is not built into the degree. These relationships are very valuable. The students recognize it and maintain these relationships for years.

Essential Questions: Experimentation in the Studio


Following are some responses from a discussion among ProWax members.

What is the role of experimentation in your practice? Early on, it’s all about the materials, trying new paints and techniques, but once we get to the place where we understand what we want to say and how we want to say it, content takes precedence. Where are you at in the process?

Christine Shannon Aaron: I find I am constantly toggling back and forth. I have concepts I want to express through a certain process or medium, but as the series develops it invites new ideas. Then I find myself back on the material end. I need to figure out how to use new materials, where to source them, learn the properties of the materials so that I can combine them, all in an effort for the concept to speak through the materials. Goller_EQ_RRight now I am investigating more sculptural pieces with wood and shattered mirror. This has required a learning curve about adhesion properties, sealing and attaching.

Pat Spainhour: Currently I am experimenting on collaborative work with my blacksmith husband. This has lead to incorporating iron supports, as well as charring the wood panel prior to encaustic. I find it helpful to keep a journal. Everything I do is an experiment; that is the thrill!

Debra Claffey: Well, content is still part of the experimentation process, even after learning what the materials and techniques will do. I need to figure out which materials will express my content most strongly. Drawing or collage, paint or wax–the experimenting is an integral part of the constant decision-making.

Amy Weil: I’m using the grid as a jumping off place, thinking about a psychological space and interiors that invoke memories from my past. Color and composition are key to achieving these places in time and space. The technique is taking a back seat these days to my ideas. Maybe not so much a back seat but it is in the service of my ideas.

Jane Guthridge: I am currently working on a new series that I started at my residency this fall. It involves capturing and suspending light and shadows. While still trying to express the same ideas, I am always looking for new ways to do that. The new work is dimensional so requires experimenting with new materials and methods of display. It is a long and often frustrating process, but keeps my work moving forward.

Judy H. Klich: I continually push myself to dig deeper into my message and that has led me to look at developing the art to convey my intent more concisely. I have another side of me that wants to go in a whole new direction but I struggle to maintain my “style” so I am consistent with my work. I am also starting to work on making jewelry and crocheting as hobbies and today I had one of those ah-ha moments where I would love to incorporate [those materials into my work]. That idea is just starting to bubble.

Cheryl McClure: It is not a direct process, as we all know in art making. I am a ‘mature’ artist in age and time spent in the studio. I still do not know where I am going most of the time. I am also an intuitive painter using gesture and color, organizing it with line. I experiment, YES, when I need to. NO, I do not go looking for every new thing coming out. I use something new, I have to think about how I will use this and if it will be useful to my process and me. I still think of using a material and then analyzing if it will be appropriate since I do sell my work.

Krista Svalbonas: I’m constantly experimenting. The thesis of what I’m saying usually stays consistent but I find many ways and media to explore its potential. I never thought my photographic documentation, which I use as part of the painting process, would launch into the series of collages that I am making now. With this work, I’m finding new materials and new display methodologies. It’s pretty invigorating, sometimes frustrating, but really fabulous when everything comes together.

Hylla Evans: Being in a new place, I’m witnessing seasons that have lighting completely different from Northern California. Returning to colorist landscape work and pushing through a tendency to overthink combine to form new challenges. It’s unclear whether I’m documenting the light I see or capturing what I feel. Working initially outdoors and maintaining the emotional thrust of the sensory moment are harder than painting a scene. I’m pushing myself.

Rae Miller: I am experimenting for at least part of every day I spend in the studio. At times I am a voracious consumer of new materials: seeking, trying, casting away or totally adopting. Currently, I am in a reductive mode. I’m working on a series about “lightness” and am stripping down to basic elements. The push and pull of content and materials is what keeps me interested.

Miller_EQ_LJoanne Mattera: When I was writing my book, back in 2000, one of the questions I asked Jasper was this: “Over the past few years, encaustic materials have become increasingly available. Has this changed how you approach your work?”

He responded: “There has not been a change for me, because I formed my habits under earlier conditions and have stuck to the same procedures. I know now that there are catalogs of materials. I ordered some paint but haven’t used it yet.”

I understood it then, as I was 15 years into my own involvement with the medium, but I really understand it now, as I dig deeper and deeper into a small field of interest.

Cat L Crotchett: It’s rarely experimentation for the sake of experimentation. Even when I’m learning a new technique, the content of my work is consistent. That said, the content shifts and moves over time. I have found that during the summer, when my son is out of school, it’s hard for me to maintain a rigorous studio schedule and so I’ve accepted that by giving myself permission to do plein air work when we’re at the beach or on vacation. This work is entirely about experimentation.

Karen Nielsen-Fried: I still find that I am totally entranced by the endless possibilities of encaustic paints and oil sticks. I find that my experimentation has more to do with content than medium, because encaustic just seems to deliver the material needs I have and it is up to me to figure out how to transform it to meet my content needs. That’s a challenge I give to myself and I never feel that I am hitting a wall with it. I do occasionally go on exploratory side trips with gouache, cyanotype, cut paper, but I always come back to encaustic.

Lisa Pressman: Experimentation is key to my process and the content of my work. Beginning as a ceramist, turning to sculpture in various media and then painting with oil and cold wax in the 80’s, to encaustic and back to oil, I am always trying to think of my studio as a lab. I approach my work with the ‘What if” question not only with the materials but also in content. My process of layering while painting allows for the freedom of experimenting both with image and materials as I can always cover it up and use it as history. I find that my ongoing content–inside and outside spaces, mark making and abstract narrative –are the structure for my meanderings.

Krista_EQ_RHelen Dannelly: For me, experimenting can be very uncomfortable, but it’s the only way I stretch the boundaries of my work–jumping off into the void and wondering what will come of it. Sometimes it’s a lot of “failure” before I seem to land upon something. As Thomas Alva Edison said, ” I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

Marilyn Banner: My work has always been content driven, starting from something that moves me deeply, something that makes me stop and hold its image–a certain light, a certain spot of sand, the ways two objects bump in the midst of flow. Encaustic has been my main medium since 2003. It is the perfect medium for my way of working, which has always mixed adding with subtracting, layering, mixing image with abstraction. I experiment and “muck around” until the “accidents” bring me closer to what some part of me is after, but I never know exactly what that is until I get it.

Nancy Natale: I feel that every piece I make is an experiment of one kind or another. Perhaps it’s not evident to others, but to me each piece presents problems to solve and reaching a solution is key for my relationship with the work. I also toggle back and forth between my tribal-looking work and something more conservative. The methods I use on all the work are pretty much the same but the content changes.

Laura Moriarty: I used to experiment like mad with materials, and I still approach every piece with some kind of question in mind. But as the content of my work has become clear and understood (I think) by viewers, I am challenging myself in that regard. So instead of resting on my geologic time/human time laurels, I am asking myself how my work might approach ideas that I’ve held myself back from, like human activities that disrupt the environment. I never wish to be didactic, but I always push my work as a form of communication.

Deborah Kapoor: I don’t think it’s necessarily an either/or answer. I think of the word ‘experiment’ as pushing oneself somewhere new. With encaustic, there are many options of ‘how’ to use it, which I now see as a great strength. If you spend time learning about new materials, I think you can afford to try something new as it serves your idea.

Essential Questions: Self-Criticism in the Studio

by Jane Guthridge

Graceann Warn recently opened this stimulating discussion in ProWax:

“Writers talk about a concept called ‘killing off your little darlings.’ For me, that means that once aware of the ‘hook’ in my work, the thing I rely on to finish the piece, the thing that was once fresh but now may be stale (although still tasty), the thing that is perhaps a little lazy on my part or might be too often repeated – this is a ‘darling’ that needs to be retired. I either have to stop cold turkey and come up with something new or be super conscious and critical of each use. Is my little darling an element (technique, color, manner, whatever) that is germane to this painting, or am I being lazy? Am I losing the ‘here and now’ of my process? What are your ways of being self-critical in the studio?” 

Several of our members responded:

Nancy Natale‬: The term ‘little darlings’ does not refer to making work of a similar style, approach, or genre but to little features in our work that we fall back on all too regularly and almost without thought.

Cheryl D. McClure‬: I think just the fact that you seriously consider this off and on is the first step in getting yourself away from the box or little darlings or whatever you want to call them. Some people never question themselves this way. I just do little things now and then like take a color off the palette or start in another way or switch to another medium for a time.‬

PWJ8_Jan_2015_EQ_WagnerElise Wagner‬: Determined to take a minimal approach and make a white on white painting – I’ve reached my darling moment. I can’t help but want to add color! I am looking and letting it tell me what to do next, to reveal the next move. Will it be a hook? That remains to be seen. This painting is at that juicy stage where it is going to take a turn. ‬To answer your question, I am always thinking of ways to shake it up slightly and often turn to different colors and scales for this. My biggest problem is that I don’t stay anywhere for long and am always revisiting ideas to bring them more fully into focus.

Shawna Moore‬: Elise, it’s so crazy that you mention the white on white as those have become some of my most redundant darlings of late. They come really easily and I love the comfort. But, I also have also been stuck on a big red painting. It is quite formal, minimal, and I am having a really hard time finding my way in. So I keep thinking if it were only white, then I would know what to do. Solution? I may start a white painting that I have going simultaneous to Big Red. The hope is that the ease, comfort, and darlingness of Big White acts as a roadmap to find my way into this new territory of more saturated color. So, I guess I find myself babysitting my darlings this week instead of killing them off completely. Thoughts?‬‬

PWJ8_Jan_2015_McCGraceann Warn‬: Shawna, it sounds like you are trying to do the ‘sneak up on it’ approach. I like it! I will also say that sometimes I just slap my little darlings, not kill them off entirely.‬‬

Elise Wagner‬: That’s a great solution, Shawna‬. Having something familiar around to jump from adds comfort to the unknown waters.‬‬

Graceann Warn‬: Sometimes it is absolutely painful to go through the process but it’s good to see some light here and there. Once the thought comes into my head that I should revisit a trusted idea, I feel a certain hesitancy to go down that road. But once you think it, you know there’s truth there to be dealt with and so onward you go into that dark abyss!‬

Deborah Winiarski‬: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about emotional vulnerability. I think the little darlings begin to show up when we protect ourselves from or put up our guard against our own authenticity. It’s hard not to do that, but it’s vital. It’s so important to give everything we have each and every time we walk into the studio – to risk it all.‬

Elise Wagner‬: I think the little darlings show up as a safety net to soothe the fear of the unknown.‬

Graceann Warn‬: So much truth there, Deborah.‬ Somehow it’s getting easier as I get older. Probably knowing that time is ticking makes me more willing to embrace the authentic even if it feels like being up on a wire without a net.‬‬

PWJ8_EQ_N-FKaren Nielsen-Fried‬: My little darlings are often, as Deborah suggested, something not truly authentic, but rather are defensive maneuvers. Sometimes my darlings are the crutches I pull out when I’m lost in the middle of a painting. They can be very beautiful; I love them because they might have worked in another painting but I hate them when they show up in this way and block me from getting to the authentic stuff of the moment. Even so, it is hard to kill them. The worst studio days are when I’ve got a ‘live little darling’ in one painting that has become way too precious and I’m beating dead horses in whatever else I’m working on. My husband can tell when I come in from that kind of studio day, “Beating the dead horses again, are we?”

Graceann Warn‬: I know those days, Karen! I look like I’ve been in a fight – which I have.‬

Karen Nielsen-Fried‬: Exactly, Graceann!‬

Deborah Winiarski‬: A mentor of mine would refer to this as the guy hiding behind the rock, always waiting to jump out and say, “Gotcha!”‬

Graceann Warn‬: It’s comforting to know that so many of us experience the same things.‬

Tracey Adams‬: So apropos of where my work/head is at the moment, it is a conundrum that we artists deal with constantly, but is so important! ‬

Essential Questions: Works on Paper

by Jane Guthridge 

“For those of you who work on paper, do you find more of a reluctance from galleries to show your works on paper rather than works on canvas? I ask, because the response I have been getting from galleries on my latest body of work is, ‘We love your work, and would love to show you, but we don’t represent works on paper, we mostly sell paintings.’ This response is driving me to consider other ways of expressing the same ideas in a more concrete, painterly form.”

This was the question posed by a member of ProWax recently. Several of our members responded:

Joanne Mattera  Most of the galleries that show work on paper tend to show the work of artists who are well known for their painting and sculpture, so having lower-priced work on paper by these artists would be an affordable bonus. The print galleries are showing the work done under their own aegis, which is what we see at the Print Fairs. I suspect that once you have a body of work that is painting or sculpture, you’ll be better able to show your prints and drawings.

Pullquote_Wagner_EQHoward Hersh Works on paper that are mounted on cradled panels, (without the paper border), become mixed media “paintings.”

Shawna Moore I would agree with Joanne.  When you create a body of work, some of the paintings or drawings that are on paper can be exhibited alongside paintings. For example, I have had good luck with selling framed encaustic on paper pieces in galleries. The price point is lower and when collectors are nervous about wax, the glass acts as a protector. I myself collect almost exclusively work on paper because I love paper and can afford art in this form. Framing is always a dilemma for work you make or collect. A good frame is usually expensive.

Elise Wagner This is a well-established problem among galleries. They always like my collagraph monotypes and take a few for inventory. They often like showing the versatility that exists in the work between printmaking and painting but most often they only sell the paintings. Yet, time and time again, I invest in framing a few prints to go alongside my work in each show to illustrate the process of its making. What I’ve done over the years to make the works on paper more marketable has been to mount them onto panel and embellish them with oil or wax or both. This solution works and I am contemplating creating a body of prints on panel and framed plates for my next show in Boston.

Pullquote_Nodine_EQJane Allen Nodine I have encountered this problem many times with galleries. I think there is a mindset that works on paper have less “value” than works on canvas or panel, maybe not always by the dealer but by their clientele. Also, many dealers feel they can charge higher prices for panel/canvas. For example, it takes the same energy to sell a $500 work on paper that is does a $2,000 work on canvas. This is more about marketing than about “collecting art,” but it is true. I hear the same discussion from sculptors. Dealers feel it is much easier to sell paintings than 3D works.

Pamela W. Wallace A gallery interested in showing some of my encaustic work has also requested thematically related work on paper to demonstrate the evolution and contrasting technique involved.

Jeff Juhlin All my galleries resist works on paper. The one gallery that has taken my monotypes has sold most of them and wants more but that is the exception.

Pullquote_Cochran_EQDorothy Cochran There is a pecking order for galleries and clients and paintings reign. There is a long history here as drawings and prints have been seen as preliminary studies and not original works in themselves.

Cheryl McClure I intend for the work I do on paper to be incorporated into “paintings” mounted on panels and then painted into more. I am sure I will end up having some that will remain on paper, too.

Christine Aaron Once mounted on board/canvas, what do you “protect” the surface with? That’s why works on paper are behind glass. Sounds like some here are using encaustic medium, but not all. An artist friend mounts her woodcuts on dibond (aluminum) and they are coated with something that can literally be wiped down. It is not a noticeable “surface” on the piece. That said, it is a very contemporary look. I know that with certain pieces I’ve sold, the purchaser wanted the piece in a float frame at least.

Rebecca Crowell I sold works on paper at a wonderful gallery in the past that would give the purchaser the option to either keep the frame that I had used or to buy the work unframed and then re-frame it themselves. (A lot of people do have their own ideas about framing.) If they bought it framed, the cost of the frame was added onto the overall price and that amount went directly back to me (as reimbursement, not split with the gallery). If they didn’t want my frame, I got it back and could re-use it. That seems to me like a very fair policy to handle the whole issue, at least with relatively simple frames. It worked very well. But I haven’t found any other galleries that would consider doing this.

Pat Spainhour I am excited to read this discussion. This is a problem I deal with. I have float mounted monotypes as well as mounted on panel, but I am not satisfied with either. I like the high contrast of black encaustic on white paper. When mounted on panel, if I lightly wax, then the paper becomes yellowed. If it is behind glass, again it’s not as bright. Not the effect I am looking for, but galleries and shows want it framed. I am still searching.

Shawna Moore It is interesting that so much of this has to do with selling. If you love paper, work on paper.

Pullquote_Roland_EQ_PWJ7Paula Roland Thoughts on the topic from my experience: some galleries like paper; some don’t. Keep looking. Art consultants often like unframed works on paper for clients. If an artist is “known” for paper works it makes it easier. Presentation is important. I think alternative framing makes the work more “object-like,” and it is looked at differently. Some of my galleries only want my back-lit works; some don’t want to be bothered. Having a lower price point body of work is often a plus. Yes, it should be lower because it is usually much less time involved. You have to follow your passion, really, and you will be rewarded. Be ambitious in what you create; no artist ever made it by playing it safe. Consider an installation or other project that will get attention. If it does not sell, it will bring attention to your more conventional works. No one gallery will want everything you do so find markets for paper and if you want to make paintings or sculpture, hopefully you can find the home for those, too. Or maybe they can all support each other in the same venue. You gotta do what feeds your soul.

Jeff Juhlin All of your points are well taken. We use paper because everyone on this post loves paper but we still have to deal with it somehow. A few of us make part or all of our living making art. We are always faced with the conundrum of art and income and try to stay with our passion and purpose, always being mindful of why we do this but still considering the realities of the market. Shawna and Paula and everyone else has great points that it can’t all be about selling and $$. We all know being a visual artist is one of the worst business models out there but we do it anyway and thank god we do. In our own way we make the world a richer place because of it.

Elise Wagner The mounting of prints is really a process unto itself that doesn’t end with a layer of wax. I love to draw and like that I can manipulate a print by adding colored pencil or ink to it, then reference the texture and color in the print through the wax. There is a point in its evolution and layers that it does become a painting though and it’s priced the same as a painting.


Essential Questions: Expectations for Teaching Standards

by Jane Guthridge 

Questions were asked by Joanne Mattera after listening to the 90-minute panel on teaching at the 8th International Encaustic Conference (“Raising the Bar: Standards and Practices in Teaching Encaustic” with Milisa Galazzi, Sara Mast, Cherie Mittenthal and Toby Sisson):

If you are a teacher, what kind of experience do you bring to teaching? Just technique? Technique with some encaustic history? Technique and history with an understanding and articulation of where encaustic fits into the mainstream of contemporary art? Do you hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in art? Are you an experienced teacher? Do you exhibit regularly?

If you are a student, what do you expect of your instructor? Technique only? Or a guide to larger issues in encaustic and the art world in general? Do you look for a teacher with exhibition experience, a degree in fine arts, teaching experience? Or is it about price and proximity?

A: I look at the description of the workshop, lecture, or demo to determine if I want to attend it. I want to know that the person presenting is knowledgeable whatever that might mean determined by the description. I respect all the education the presenter might have but it is more than just formal education. For a workshop I look to see what the work looks like, what the artist actually says about her work and what s/he will bring to to workshop. What will be covered in that particular workshop? Sometimes it will be a particular area of their expertise. You can’t cover everything in one day, one week, etc.
Cheryl D. McClure

A: For me, it’s less about encaustic and more about formal art considerations – how do you make a painting, how do you look at your own work and evaluate it, what makes a good painting specifically, etc. How to use the medium enters into the conversation but only as an aside, not as the primary focus.
Nancy Natale

A: When/if I’m looking at learning something new, I look for an arts center with an established professional standard (Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA is one). No matter what I’m setting out to learn, I want to learn from someone with extensive experience in the subject matter. Otherwise I’d probably be disappointed and be wasting my money. Being picky serves the quality of my work.
Maritza Ruiz-Kim

A: I think first someone has to have an interest in a workshop. There may be fine artists with interest in a workshop, and there may be people who are just in a position to pursue knowledge about something that interests them. The exchange of ideas is vital to keeping forward momentum. Techniques without ideas and the understanding of art in a larger sense and development of a personal vision will only go so far. The pursuit of more and deeper knowledge will depend on the individual. There will be a natural falling away of those who just jumped in because it seemed like a fun thing to do and those who are truly curious and seeking more ways to express their artistic visions. I do not think an art degree necessarily makes a person a good teacher. Some people are born teachers and do not have a degree. To get back on subject, the level of teaching professionalism in a workshop will attract a similar level of student. I appreciate the discussion you’ve begun here, Joanne.
Rae Miller

A: The level of teaching professionalism will also inspire a student to reach higher than s/he might have thought possible.
Joanne Mattera

A: I have a BFA and MFA and have taught studio and art history courses at the college level. My favorite part about teaching is finding ways to help the students locate their voice. That is the point. There are many ways of doing this, including but not limited to technique. I always have a slide show component in my teaching as a reference point about how other artists may have approached an idea. It is meant to provide a ‘jumping off point’ for students to begin their ideation/brainstorming process and I feel it is a successful way of framing what it is we’re doing. I also don’t spend a ton of time doing demos in the classroom. I prefer working one-on-one and having that face-to-face dialogue – as each student is unique and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ style of teaching doesn’t work. This is why YouTube videos on working with encaustic are a joke! (Talk about ‘no standards’…) As a student, I learned the most from a mentoring kind of relationship. I have been on hiring committees for faculty and someone who ‘looks good on paper’ does not always translate well in person, so it’s not just about having degrees.
Deborah Kapoor

A: I realize that a lot of un-degreed artists who teach may be feeling defensive, but education is in large part what makes a good teacher a great teacher. Because of their BFA and MFA, they see a world–and live an art life–that is broadly scribed. They maintain a studio practice, show regularly, interact with other artists. They know art history, they keep current and–really important–they know how to talk about art, something they can convey to their students. In selecting presenters for the Encaustic Conference, I look to the university model. Most of our presenters are degreed with college or university experience, or many years of entrepreneurial teaching. Deborah Kapoor states this well. I also know that there are gifted teachers who do not have a broad personal practice, or those with an established practice who do not have academic degrees. But, but, but, right now in encaustic there are way too many artists teaching after having taken one workshop. They are doing a disservice not only to their students but to the encaustic community, teaching watered-down versions of what it takes good teachers years to learn.
Joanne Mattera

A: Printmaking is by it’s nature a fairly technical enterprise, encaustic less so than intaglio and other disciplines, and the root of learning printmaking, whether artistically or simply technically is information and enlightenment. I always tell my students that there will be lots of technical information coming at them, but the key is how they put it all together and the “why.” It’s akin to learning a foreign language. One studies vocabulary and grammar, but it is how one puts those components together that governs how well one is able to communicate and communication is key. One has to have ideas and a need to say something in order to fight through putting the fragments of language together and forming a phrase. Teaching art is no different. One is instructing students how to communicate utilizing a visual language. And printmaking can, at times, be a demanding technical exercise. Anyone can string a few words or some technical skills together, but it is learning to communicate that takes time. Communication begins with having something to say and then taking the tools of language and putting them together in a fashion that communicates one’s point of view. But, it all starts with the idea and the why, the need to communicate. Ideas and a point of view are essential. All students share the need to communicate in varying degrees; the key to great teaching is guiding that student toward putting the tools together in a way that translates the ideas more fully, either technically or artistically, and connects them more organically, articulating those ideas and communicating them to others.
David A. Clark

A: As a student or teacher, I think “informed feedback” is the key, i.e., constructive critique and dialogue. A process of working, talking, working talking – both sides of the brain – both parties involved. Inching and leaping forward.
Deborah Kapoor

Q: We’ve heard a lot from the teachers. Now how about from the students? What do you look for in a teacher or workshops? Can you describe a great workshop you’ve taken?
Joanne Mattera

A: I know artists without an art degree who are strong artists and teachers. And the skill to teach does not automatically come with having a BFA or even a strong studio practice. Teaching is it’s own skill. As a student, learning/brushing up on a new technique (by which, I mean a new skill: bookmaking, printmaking, using my digital camera better). I don’t want an instructor to spend half the workshop talking history, etc before focusing on the skill I want to acquire, but good discussion is part of the foundation of a workshop. It also depends if it’s day-long or several classes. When a teacher has a depth of knowledge and experience, it’s communicated even in the little conversations that happen. I’ve been to two versions of the same class: one was taught by a gifted teacher whose knowledge of the material went deep. The other class was also taught by an artist; although her work and teaching style were adequate, I wasn’t inspired.
Maritza Ruiz-Kim

A: I’ve taught for 25 years professionally and have recently found that there are certain things I look for in a workshop. I am usually familiar with the artist’s work and in many cases the artist. When I’m not, I will contact the organization hosting the workshop for additional information. I recently considered taking a local plein air workshop by a visiting artist. When I contacted the organization to get more information (materials list and painting sites), it took them a long time to get back to me. When I did get the information, I could tell that the artist was leaving a lot open ended and I didn’t see much in the way of visible structure for how the workshop would be conducted. This made my decision easy; this workshop was not for me. I look for structured learning experiences that are thoughtful, organized and knowledge based.
Cat Crotchett

A: I have always sought out teachers with expertise in their fields, whom I consider to be masters in their fields, who have art degrees, exhibition experience and teaching experience. I also hold undergraduate and graduate art degrees and I’ve apprenticed with some of the best. As a well seasoned college art faculty and chair, I have taught many techniques while interjecting historical and contemporary exemplars. I also give assignments that challenge students conceptually and personally. Of course “the principles of art” are always a part of it. Proximity means nothing to me. I have studied with mentors, artists, as far away as California, New York, Indiana, and New Mexico and Provincetown of course.
Jennie Frederick

A: Following up on Jennie’s comment: I took a Post-Conference workshop with Patti Russotti on “Imaging for Artists” because I wanted to learn more about preparing my images in Photoshop. From the moment I walked in I could see that Patti was prepared (she had installed a particular version of Photoshop on every Castle Hill laptop), organized (she covered her topics point by point) and generous (she allowed us to download a huge amount of information to take home). She took material that was difficult for a non-mathematical thinker such as myself and made it understandable. I came away with an enormous body of knowledge about what I need to do next.
Patti is a professor in the Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT. Her education, training and experience were present in every word she spoke. When you have a good teacher, this is apparent.
Joanne Mattera

Jane Guthridge’s work is inspired by the natural world – the rich colors of the land, the play of light on water, the way light and shadows continually change.  A fascination with light and it’s transcendent qualities has shaped her work.  Guthridge’s work is represented by galleries around the U.S., is contained in numerous corporate collections in the U.S. and abroad. She was selected as the 2008 artist of recognition for the State of Colorado and her work was recently added to the U.S. Department of State’s collection of American Artists.

ProWax Journal 3: Essential Questions

Essential Questions for ProWax Artists: the Business of Artmaking

Q: What business practices do you consider essential to your life as an artist?

A: I’d say for me… keeping tabs on information: deadlines (fellowships & grants), galleries I’m interested in, calls for entry that would benefit my practice… that kind of thing. Also: I need better financial record keeping. On the back burner but very needed: updating my inventory list.
Maritza Ruiz-Kim
San Francisco Bay Area

A: Keeping the documentation/inventory/website up. Keeping promises and contracts with galleries or commissions.
Cheryl McClure

A: Integrity….in every aspect.
Jane Nodine
South Carolina

A: Being a good art citizen would be at the top of the list. Being honest and cultivating relationships with colleagues that give me honest feedback. Keeping track of information. Getting out and being seen, and more importantly heard. And not being afraid to make the ask.
David A. Clark
Palm Springs, CA

A: I agree with everything everyone has said. The things that top my list:
. Organization: Of projects, time, priorities, studio setup, finances, files, images–everything
. Honesty across the board; relatedly, don’t sell out of your studio if you’re gallery represented
. Reciprocity: Someone does a favor for you; at some point you find a way to return it. Doesn’t have to be quid-pro-quo, but you need to acknowledge the good faith, kindness, information, energy or time that another has offered you
. Being visible: go to openings, make studio visits, blog, write, comment on Facebook. Create and live your presence
. Don’t be afraid of blowback from people who don’t like what you have to say. That means bracing yourself for the negativity of those who are invested in mediocrity
. Know when to take the lead and when to follow
. You can’t do it all–though you try, you try
Joanne Mattera
New York, New York

A: Yes to all above!! And… Really important to keep news, resume, workshop dates, etc updated on your website.
Jeanne Frederick
Kansas City, MO