Thursday, November 20, 2014

open studios, guest lectures, travel journals, big art and other thoughts

Okay. So. It's suddenly mid-November, it's freezing here in downtown Boston and I have so much to tell you about! I hope you like pictures and some good art/life rambling.


My first ever Open Studios happened this past weekend and it was a big success! Since moving into my live/work studio here in Fenway Studios back in March I've had lots of individual visitors, but this was my first time ever opening my whole workspace to the general public. I'm still processing it all but here are some thoughts on the weekend.

I didn't know what to expect, but I was hoping that I'd have at least a few people stop into my studio despite being relatively new here (some artists have worked in the building for 30+ years) and not having much of a reputation just yet. I posted about it on Facebook, deep cleaned my studio, made a playlist full of the reggae and beachy music I listen to while painting, stocked up on snacks and wine, set out a painting to work on in my downtime, opened my door and then just hoped for the best.


And it was great! My studio was packed from opening to close each day. At least five or six hundred visitors came in over the weekend and a dozen original paintings went off to new homes, including Sunset over Newport Harbor, Winter Birds I & II, and In Harbor. Despite being the start of a busy time of year, so many of friends and family travelled into Boston to hang out and support me in my studio. I met a huge number of people, including several people who have been supporting my work for years online… two fun, hilarious ladies even drove two hours from southern Connecticut to hang out and see my work in person! Talk about making an artist feel good.



Two days of sharing my workspace was an experience. To be honest, I'm better at writing than talking. Years of bar-tending and traveling alone have made me love chatting up new people, and participating in last summer's SoWa Open Market gave me great practice explaining my techniques on the spot, but I'm still a little shy when it comes to talking up my work in person. Maybe there are a few artists reading this who can relate?

However, this weekend I lucked out with just about the best visitors I could have asked for, most of whom seemed really intrigued by my techniques and genuinely interested in my artistic vision. The depth of some of the comments and critiques of my work was really encouraging, and made me feel like I'm achieving what I hope to be with all these photos and paints and paper. Like the visual story of I'm trying to tell -- one of nostalgia and wanderlust and layered histories and experiences -- is being heard loud and clear. That feels good.

At the end of the second day, Mike popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate with our last few guests and then we called it a night. I was simultaneously exhausted and invigorated, ready to get my workspace messy again. (Not shockingly, that didn't take too long.)


Another big first around here: I was invited to give a guest lecture (my first ever!) about mixed media at none other than Mass Art, the second oldest art school in the country. Again, I sometimes have no idea how to talk about my art -- I just travel and paint, and sometimes it works -- but overall it went really well, mostly thanks to the great group of students I presented to who had lots of questions and a good sense of humor.

(Side note… the most common piece of advice I got about public speaking was to start off with a joke, which worked really well, not because the joke was any good but rather because it was sooo bad we all cringed together and after that there was nowhere to go but up. Success! If you're a regular public speaker, I would love to hear your best advice.)

I brought a few pieces of my own work and some books to pass around, including my ragged, much loved copies of Dan Eldon's journals that first opened up the world of mixed media for me. The conversation wove between my start as a self-taught artist, how to do various collage techniques, choosing materials relevant to your intended vision and other hands-on specifics, but also touched on issues of finding inspiration, maintaining originality, navigating and respecting copyright, licensing, blogging, staying true to your artistic goal and other, broader creative topics. All of these events and opportunities are giving me more confidence to maybe offer workshops and online tutorials.


On the topic of art workshops… my new passport arrived just in time for a very exciting project I had the fortune of joining. I'll have to wait just a bit to share all the details but it is really, really awesome.

Also, it's so nice that the passport office returns your old passport along with the new one, isn't it? I got my first passport during my senior year of high school when I was applying to colleges in Switzerland and London (happily, I ended up choosing a drivable destination) and it's funny to look back at my neat high school handwriting and all the stamps and dates accumulated since then. The Canadian stamp was from mine and Mike's first date after reconnecting in college, and the first British Virgin Islands stamp was nearly washed away when our overloaded dinghy capsized in pitch darkness and we had to swim to the nearest beach with a purse full of everyone's passports held above my head. Adventures! I think my New Years Resolution will be to have more of them next year.


Back in my studio, I've been doing a lot of work with the photos and material I collected on my last road trip through coastal Maine. The photo above was the nearly-finished background of Rose Morning, a 60"x36" seascape featuring Portland Head Light and a huge amount of vintage lettering and materials from around the Portland area. I toned all that bright tan and yellow down a bit with a grey overglaze and a lot of sanding and ended up with a perfectly hazy dawn scene. It's my largest non-commissioned painting yet, although not for long ;)



I've also been working on a little collaged travel book solely dedicated to my Maine findings.



It's only about five pages in so far, as it hit a roadblock that so many sketchbooks of mine encounter due to the paper and spine of the book not holding up to all the glue, paper, photos, sanding, etc. that I throw at them. Self-publishing a travel sketchbook or two (if there is enough interest) has been on my mind for a couple years and I'm torn between continuing this one as a genuine sketchbook that visitors can flip through in my studio, or working on it in a more book-friendly format that is easier to scan and publish. Thoughts on this one are welcome!


What else? Mike turned 28 in October. We celebrated three years since bringing home sweet Chubby Boots, paper-ball-fetcher and blanket-nest-maker extraordinaire. The temperature has hovered around freezing for a few days and we've had a few fires in the fireplace, and somehow only just discovered the best all-day breakfast in Boston a few blocks from us (inside a bookstore!!) on Newbury Street. Jametown Revival rolled through town again last week and were as great as ever, and we got to hear the Dalai Lama give a speech in person the week before. I'm finishing up new artwork to display in Flour next week, gearing up for the SoWa Holiday Market in December, planning a west coast road trip to see my family and as always, trying to find a good work-life balance. Advice on that appreciated as well :)

"The days are long, but the years are short." - Gretchen Rubin

16 comments:

  1. Mae~ My daughters(your age) love your art and we have followed you since you were in the studio with the blue walls ~ how I remember that I am not sure but that's when we bought our first art print ~ so great to see you finding new opportunities and growing as an artist and a young woman~ Best of luck. Janna Jefferson

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    1. Wow, that was almost 5 years ago. Thanks for the support all these years Janna :)

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  2. That quote is perfect, are you going to use it in a painting? Wait until the day you have children. The years go faster than you could ever imagine. Congratulations on your open studio!

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  3. I would have loved to be at your lecture! You should record your next one and post it for us to watch, or even just a Q&A video blog or something? i've read your blog for a couple years but it would be nice to have all that info in one place!

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    1. That's a great idea… I'll do a Q&A post soon :)

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  4. Seeing all your work together in your studio is just breathtaking. I would run to purchase a travel sketchbook that you published. Wonderful idea!

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    1. Thanks a bunch Loretta… I hope to be able to self-publish something like that soon! Maybe a few more long road trips are in order to make that happen :)

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  5. Congratulations on all these great achievements! Being in London, I would definitely buy an online workshop and a published sketchbook. I love your work and your photos so much! They really draw me in. Thank you for sharing your work and wishing you lots of success.

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  6. Congrats on your open studios and your guest talk! Both are milestones in the life of an artist. Your work is beautiful, keep creating.

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  7. I am so happy for you and one day will make the trip across the country and see your space live for myself. Until them keep blazing the trail of layered beauty and self taught awesomeness. Your work speaks to more than you can image. If you are ever in Los Angeles I know a highschool for girls (St. Lucy's Priory) that would thrive having you lecture to their art class as well. Congratulations. www.mishkablack.com

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    1. Michelle, I'd love to have you visit my studio! I'm definitely going to be planning a trip out west very soon and L.A. is on my list.

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  8. Congrats on your open studio! I've been following your work on Etsy for a while now and finally found your blog! I'd love to see you teach some online classes. :-)

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    1. Thanks Kelly! I'll definitely let you know if/when online classes happen :)

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  9. Such wonderful experiences. Wish I could have been at your studio and seen your work in person.

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  10. Congrats Mae! You do inspiring work and I love your blog. I found you about three years ago from Etsy. It's really great to see artists following their passions and to see all their successes. Give me hope I'll be there one day myself :)
    -- Becky RG

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