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looking back, looking aheadIt's time for end of the year reflections and a few thoughts on what lies ahead...I'm back in Wisconsin for a few weeks, leaving behind the sun and warmth of northern New Mexico where we've been staying in our new winter home. The transformation of our 100-year old (and once decrepit) adobe into a simple but beautiful home has been a highlight of the past year.
My studio in New Mexico is small, but I've done several large paintings since arriving there in late November. When we go back west after Christmas, I have plans to spread out a bit and do some water-based work on paper on the enclosed sun porch, along with additional large paintings on panel. With two big exhibits coming up ( at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, opening March 1, and at Jen Tough Gallery, opening May 11) I'm focusing on painting as much as time allows. I'll be away in Ireland for a month this spring, so productive studio time--especially for making large work-- is a bit tight. I've optimistically ordered a bunch of big panels though, and will do my best.
Many Layers, 48"x36" oil/cold wax on panel
Strong shapes and contrast continue to feature prominently in my work; these changes have been asserting themselves in every painting lately, whether I invite them to or not! Sometimes it seems I'm just along for the ride, as over and over these elements come through. A question that Jerry and I often ask our students as they search for personal direction is "does this painting feel like you?" But with this work, I prefer the inverse...do I feel like this painting--each one ia presence that is strong, bold, dynamic, yet subtle and nuanced. It is exciting to work with this duality, and to recognize a personal as well as technical challenge. It's teaching me as I go...I want to understand and "own" this work, as I watch it unfold.
Shifting Light, 48"x36" oil/cold wax on panel
In other aspects of life--outside the studio--2017 was heavily impacted by the publication of my book, which I co-authored with Jerry McLaughlin, Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations(Squeegee Press, Dec. 2016). The positive response from artists, critics, and bloggers has been overwhelming and gratifying, and the demand is such that we have just ordered a second printing. Squeegee Press keeps growing with new plans and products, including our upcoming full-length instructional video. This will cover everything that an artist would learn in a five-day workshop, and more. To be honest, I'm a little nervous about making my film debut-- but fortunately we've found a really nice and very professional videographer, and I trust he'll bring out my best side. Jerry and I are putting a lot of thought into what we want to cover, and how best to reach our goal of a clear, clean, and well-paced video. Lastly--as many of you know by now, I'm cutting way back on my teaching schedule in order to spend more time on my own work. I'm planning to semi-retire in 2018 from doing workshops, and will teach only two (both of which are full with long waiting lists). Of course, I have mixed feelings about making this change. Teaching has given me rich rewards, personal connections, and experiences. But at 63, I'm looking forward to a new phase of life in which I am not always juggling my calendar to accommodate everything. Painting, traveling, writing, exhibiting and working on Squeegee Press projects--along with just an occasional workshop--will be enough. I'm reassured to know that the book, the video, and the workshops run by my partner Jerry and other great instructors in the cold wax community will fill any gap I'm leaving. A few years ago, I thought that 2017 might be the beginning of my semi-retirement--but somehow, it didn't turn out that way! Instead, I taught this past year in New Zealand, Italy and Ireland as well as in the Bay Area and New Mexico. All were excellent experiences, and some included extra travel and even painting time. I'm not intending to give up these great opportunities completely--I'm just aiming for a slower pace. As I move away from my former full teaching schedule, I want to express deep gratitude for all of my students over the years. Their trust, enthusiasm and support has given me the opportunity to grow as an artist and person, and it feels really good to know I've been helpful to others. Before I began teaching, I used to sometimes view my life as an artist as too narrow, too self-absorbed. Teaching changed that completely. And there was a bonus I'd never anticipated--what I would end up learning from my students as I helped them with their struggles, listened to their stories, and observed their unique approaches to art-making. Wishing you all Happy Holidays, and may we look ahead to 2018 with hope and optimism for for positive change in our own lives, and in the world.
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