ProWax Journal 1: Featured Article

The Artist’s Give and Take

 By Maritza Ruiz-Kim

“To create:
a.) to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.
b.) to evolve from one’s own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.”

High standards in professional practices, made up of proper give and take, bring out the best in a creative community. I’m not referring to give and take as compromise, but to the partnership of giving and taking. We give of ourselves as we share our ideas, work, resources, and professional standards. As members of a community, we bring our built-in values and skills as we forge an exchange. In an art community, there’s an implicit trust as artists share with one another. The understanding is that since creative artists all invest so much in their work, individuals will protect others’ work as much as their own. We take as we use resources from others to produce the best practices in our own studio work, such as relevant texts, safety and process information, as well as exhibition and funding opportunities. The ProWax Facebook group of artists who work in the medium of encaustic is one such group (see the About page here). This artist community thrives from rich exchanges and dialogues that not only clarify our positions on current art issues as we discuss them, but also challenge the content of our work, enabling us each to be more articulate. Here in ProWax Journal, we are offering to the public readership a “listen in” on some of the great discussions we’ve had.

Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums — they must be present in all possible activities. The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level. – Michelangelo Pistoletto, in Art’s Responsibility

The give in the life of a working artist is constant. We strive to sustain ourselves and our studio work. Artwork is work in many senses of the word. We consistently engage with our materials and examine our processes, discerning when to solicit feedback and when to focus on personal vision instead. The output can sometimes be astounding, as it waxes and wanes with deadlines, day job conflicts, and the demands of our personal lives. The additional work of the artist—securing sources of funding, negotiating with gallerists, curators and so much more—is the necessary supporting component to the studio work of exhibiting artists. Many artists teach. Besides making the promotion of best studio standards an essential part of their lessons, they bring an exclusive take on whatever materials, technique, or information they impart to students. Collegial dialogue with other artists is an essential piece of the puzzle, and it also takes a time commitment. As we aim to better our artwork and practices, we seek out seasoned advice from others. An artist’s work—the creativity, teaching, community, and even the business of keeping it all going—involves so much more give before it involves take. Still, it is often a labor of love as creativity enters into every aspect of our work.

The future artist finds himself or herself moved by a work of art, and through that experience, comes to labor in service of art until he can profess his own gifts. –Lewis Hyde, in The Gift

The take is the half of the formula that is fraught with complications. In a specialized artist community such as one built around a medium, information shared becomes much more specific. Artists who work in encaustic carefully walk this line of giving and taking. Best practices for information on safety, archival work, display, and shipping matters should be published in the medium’s various forums in order to promote the highest quality artworks. Communities based on an art medium often share take-aways on intermediate and expert level processes.

Certain techniques might have a known lineage of attribution in a small community, yet there is a way to pass on technical knowledge without infringing on the creative work of other artists. Teaching artists who become experts in a new technique in their own work are able to go on to teach others what they have learned, easily citing the inspiration of other artists when teaching. Without the investment of time in perfecting the use of a technique, it is not only easy to pass on wrong information, it is easy to rely heavily on the visual imagery of a technique without knowing the intellectual and technical genesis behind it.

A serious artist does not look to the successful creative work of another and adopt it as his or her own. There is no creativity in working this way because the Art would be removed from the new work. It would look creative, but it would lack the supporting creative substance that makes it Art. Additionally, instructors should never use the name of an artist who is not directly associated with a class. These kinds of professional tools have more than a hint of pure marketing to them; they violate professional courtesies and boundaries. Creative communities that become rampant with “inspired by,” “in the manner of,” or “with the techniques of” take quite a short cut. They turn themselves and their students into product makers instead of promoting the use of true artistic practices. Imagery might sometimes become the provenance of particular artists in a specialized artist community, but if the highest artist practices are kept by art makers at all levels, an artist’s work will not be duplicated. An attempt at duplication is hollow and empty at best, plagiarism and/or copyright infringement at worst.*

As professional standards are assumed among a group of trusted colleagues, the freedom to share work and define the best practices for an art material such as encaustic can be achieved. Without this kind of artist community, the widespread understanding of the fundamentals of this specific medium can be misunderstood by professionals in each sector of the larger art world. With this kind of community, a healthy give and take occurs and high standards are discussed in a collegial manner, supporting us to make our best work. We can inspire the best in the work of our colleagues. Thus we will be able to see more of the kind of Art that moves, changes, surprises, challenges or quiets us in this medium we have made our own: Encaustic.

Ruiz-Kim is an artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her BFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. She enjoys exploring human inter-connectedness and she examines underlying sociological themes using diverse subject matter and materials. She has shown nationally in New York, Miami, Santa Fe and Provincetown. Her website is and she has an artist blog at  © Maritza Ruiz-Kim 2013

*These online resources can provide helpful guidance for ethical as well as legal matters in the visual arts:

1. Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement, University of Connecticut
2. Exceptions to Copyright that Do Not Constitute Infringement, University of Connecticut
3. A Fair Use Printable Checklist, University of Minnesota
4. The Four Factor Fair Use Test, University of Texas
5. Visual Plagiarism, Academy of Art University
6. Visual Plagiarism: When does inspiration become imitation?
7. Plagiarius Awards

ProWax Journal 1: Artists and Community

An Artist’s Community

By Milisa Galazzi

Click. I turn out the studio lights. Alone, I leave my art making space. Driving home in continued solitude, I ponder… . Intrinsic to my work as an ‘artist’ is hours on end in my studio in partial or full seclusion. How then do I create an artistic community? How does my community involvement benefit my art making, my art career, or simply assist me as an artist?

I recently asked this question of a few art colleagues. New Jersey artist Krista Svalbonas fosters community in several ways. In addition to the academic environment at The Art Institute of New York, where she serves as a professor in the Design Program, Svalbonas finds connections through cultural ties.  “I’m Latvian,” she says. “There are many art related groups for Latvian artists including a conference and a camp dedicated to art.” She continues, “I had work acquired by a European museum after it was in a traveling show in Latvia.”

Debra Claffey, recipient of the 2011 Artist Entrepreneurial Grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, highlights the opportunity for influence as a member of an arts community: “I’m a long time member of Women’s Caucus for Art, which I view as my ‘giving back.’ I can share what I learn and help with ‘raising the bar.’ It’s also my political contribution to gender equity since WCA is an non-governmental agency that supports the United Nations by using art platforms to address such issues.”

Social media connections have erased boundaries that limit artists to meeting locally. Jane Allen Nodine shared, “Networking via electronic media has been a very rewarding experience for me.” Nodine is the Assistant Chair of Fine Arts and Communications Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She adds, “Participating in these online groups and knowing there is a place  I can go to voice concerns and ask questions and get respectable feedback is worth its weight in gold!”

Catherine Nash, who balances her studio work with artist-in-residence teaching, lectures, and workshops across the country, offers, “One has to reach out to find like minds.”

Artist community is not a passive experience. Artists must bring professional standards and expect the same of colleagues in order to best benefit the whole. Like many artists, I am stronger for being part of multiple artistic communities; in some I share the mediums in which I work and in others I simply interact with like-minded art colleagues. In future ProWax Journal articles, look for Q&A with artists who have successfully completed time at various artist residencies, both national and international. Stay tuned for more dialogue about art and community!

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass. © Milisa Galazzi 2013

ProWax Journal 1: Essential Questions

Essential Questions for ProWax Artists: Successful Mentoring

Q: What makes up a successful artist mentoring experience, either as a mentor or as a mentee?

A: I believe that mentoring and collaborating go hand in hand. I’ve been a mentor for many years, as a professor and as the President of a paper-making company, Kansas City Paperworks, Inc. I have been a mentee, through apprenticeships as I’ve stated before and as a life long learner. And…I collaborated with Paula Roland in her studio and at the 7th International Encaustic Conference. Whether mentoring or collaborating, I have absolutely loved all of these experiences and they have all helped me grow as an artist…and to stretch in new ways. I learned the business of art through being a mentee, collaborator and I became a better technician and artist because my horizons were broadened. I can’t imagine my life/career without these experiences.
Jennie Frederick
Kansas City, Missouri

A: I was a self-taught painter who wanted to learn more, so in 1988 I decided to become a studio assistant. I was introduced to Ron Gorchov who hired me immediately. We attended dinners, openings and had many philosophical discussions with artists such as Lynda Benglis and Dennis Oppenheim. I saw firsthand the perseverance and drive it took to be an artist. I am forever grateful to him for his support, inclusion and invaluable guidance.
Ruth Hiller
Boulder, Colorado

A: For me, a successful mentoring relationship is all about trust and exchange. Trust in the advice and support you are given and trust in the advice and support you give. A good relationship would need to have some kind of exchange, as well. An exchange of ideas, support, kindness…whatever it is it’s important to realize that the relationship goes both ways.
Krista Svalbonas
Jersey City, New Jersey