Each winter I go through a reflection period that should really be described as creative withdrawal. I'm not sure why this is but I think that it's partly because it's the time of year I have more difficulty working in the studio. The kind of work I do can't really be done inside my house, at least not entirely. So I need a space I can cut, carve and sand wood, spray paint, etc. Part of the garage tends to be transformed into this space. But even with attempts to insulate or heat the space, it's still too cold to work the majority of the time. At one point I was able to rent a studio space. It was wonderful to be in the creative environment with other artist studios and it was a little warmer. I enjoyed the experience while it lasted.
Artists are nothing if not flexible to change. We can create pretty much anywhere. I recall reading about how Eva Hesse traveled to Germany with her husband and spent much of her time in the warehouse he was using to create his art. At that time she was a painter and he was the sculptor but she decided to explore the warehouse and started creating from the random things she found discarded there. Through that experience came she came into a body of work that otherwise may not have happened.
From personal experience, I can attest to being flexible about the space available to work. I've taken over my kitchen table and the living room, converted a second bedroom into a studio and even utilized a corner of my bedroom. On a warm sunny day, the deck or driveway served me well. I also took my work with me to art shows, which I still do. Even now I have dedicated space in the living room and garage but I create in pretty much every room and outside. But there are still limits to the kinds of things I can create in the spaces I have available. I'm a mixed media artist so I use a lot of different materials, some traditional, some not. Not everything is appropriate to work on in a house. If you've ever seen an artist studio, then you know it's a place where it's ok to get paint on the wall or sawdust on the floor. Not so much in the place your spending time with your family or cooking.
So feeling once again not whole despite the little creative projects of crocheting and sketching I am doing, and missing the creative energy from being in a space with other creatives, I started searching for a space I could work year round. Surprising, Greensboro is lacking in terms of affordable studio space. Thanks to a fellow artist who knew of a space, I now have a small studio at the Creative Aging Network-NC at Bell House. I only just signed the contract and haven't moved one thing into the space yet but already there is an excitement inside me about working again. The ideas are almost overwhelming, even for the few pieces I have in progress that I couldn't finish because of the weather. I don’t know how long this studio space will be available as the building is up for sale, but that's ok because I'm flexible. #jnicholsart #lifeofanartist
It's snowing, still, in my area. It was expected to hit us early in the morning. And this time, the threat was real. Everyone raided the grocery store on their way home, even me. Though I was in search of broccoli for the recipe I was planning for that night and creamer for my coffee because we were getting low. To my surprise, the vegetable section of the store was more barren than the milk section. I lamented not squeezing in time the day before when I was already out and about. But I wanted to get back home to finish my sketch of an owl peeking through a cluster of branches. Luckily the rush at the store was over quickly and I found one of the last heads of fresh broccoli in the organic section. Home I went with aspirations of creativity. The only creative energy I had left was to write an entry in my journal, exploring what it means to me to live a creative life. Perhaps one day I will share that entry on my blog.
Today I have found myself with a snow day, like when I was a child. Though the excitement of going out to play in the snow was short. My husband, running late because I am too talkative over our morning coffee, needed a little help getting out the door on time. Since I made him late, I packed his lunch while he was showering and rushed out the door to clean off the truck and get it started. That was enough playing in the snow for me. It's beautiful, as long as you don't have to be out on the roads. Years of working in the long term care industry have soured me on the joys of playing in the snow. It is mesmerizing. At least from the comfort of my favorite chair. I did manage to finish the book I have been reading, 'Paradise Lot'. Seems like it took me forever to finish. Not because it wasn't a good book, but because I was reading two others at the same time. It definitely rekindled my ideas for transforming the front flower bed into an edible garden. My husband cleared the bed for me after I trimmed back the overgrown bushes. A soil canvas awaits the transplanting of some of my herbs that have out grown the raised bed and greens for salads.
This rare moment has also afforded me some much needed time to create. The studio is not heated or air conditioned so there are limits to the time I can spend in there. I often find myself exploring other areas of creativity during the cold months of the year and returning to projects in progress in the spring. Some of my projects include crocheting scarves and watercolor sketches. I've been sketching owls and decided to order some printing supplies. I haven't explored print making since college. Linoleum block print making is a close cousin to wood carving. It will at least temporarily satisfy my desire to carve until I can return to my current project. I am excited about it. I love owls as much as I love flowers. This may even be the beginning of a new series for me. That is the good thing about exploring creative techniques. It opens up the mind to possibilities that have not been considered. I have thought about exploring wood block printing before and this may just be the stepping stone. It certainly would not be a complete move though. I am a mixed media artist at heart. Even now, as I finish my sketch to be transferred to the block I am thinking of the many handmade papers I have and wondering which one I should print on; if I need to glue it to a thicker mixed media paper so it won't tear when pulled from the block and how the glue will affect the print quality. A test block is definitely needed. That I have learned from jumping in too soon!
As I close, I cannot help but feel blessed that I no longer work for a company that can't close during bad weather. In years past, I would have been clutching the steering wheel, a bundle of nerves, hoping to make it in to work and a stressed out mess once I arrived. But there are jobs that require people, no matter what and we should be thankful they will go in, no matter what. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. And remember those not blessed to have a home or shelter. They suffer the most during this harsh weather.
Such a beautiful day for a workshop outside! Spring has definitely sprung. The rain yesterday had me nervous we might not be able to hold the workshop outside in the fairly new Cone Health Cancer Center Healing Garden. But the sun peaked out and the weather warmed so we could stick to our plans. The upper space was perfect for our mixed media workshop with lunch in the lower level of the park. The Healing Garden itself was the perfect setting for this therapeutic exploration. Together the participants and I explored the use of color using beautiful handmade papers. We discovered how to use every day items as focal points in our flower themed creations. While creating we learned about different glues and what materials to use them with effectively. We journeyed through the creative process without a demo piece, without constraint and without expectation. At the end of the process each person had a unique mixed media flower and a new outlook on the creative process. It was a wonderful day and such a blessing to be able to hold this workshop for Hirsch Wellness Network.
The creative process truly is a therapeutic journey. I encourage you to try something creative you have never done. Take a workshop or a class. Put aside your fears and jump in with an open mind. You'll be amazed at the experience. #jnicholsart #hirschwellness #lifeofanartist
It's been some time since my last post. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things I wish to create and write. There are many simple pleasures in life. For me one of them is the smell of freshly cut wood in the studio. There are many ways to create art. Many of them use technology or power tools. While I do use some power tools, I prefer to continue to use my trusted carving tools to hone and shape the wood into the image in my mind. There is something peaceful and relaxing in the systematic carving process. It's a creative expressive release that is definitely the foundation of art therapy. I truly believe in the healing capabilities of the creative process. Everyone can benefit from the creative process. Whether it is the rhythmic movement of the paint brush against the canvas or the flow of the pen gliding across the paper, quieting the mind, focusing on opening the mind and exploring helps center oneself. We all hope to create something beautiful in the end, but truly it is all about the process. If the end result turns out to be something beautiful, well then that is simply a bonus. I encourage all of you to create for the sake of the process. Explore a new medium. Don't let fear or doubt hold you back. Just jump in and let go. You'll be glad you did. #jnicholsart #lifeofanartist #trusttheprocess
When I first started to use glues in my art work, I reached out to other artists for advice. I also tested several glues, just like I tested glazes in college. Under a time constraint working on “Spring For A Doughnut” my dad volunteered to test a glue I had never used for an element with little contact area. Now artists contact me for advice on which glue to use when they begin exploring mixed media art. A complement indeed. That got me to thinking, I teach the Activity Director Course to share my knowledge with others perhaps a little information on glue would help an aspiring Artist.
Before I jump ahead into sharing what glues I use, let me preface the article with a few fine points. I do not recommend any particular glue. I am not a paid spokesperson. I am only sharing my personal experience with the products I am sharing with you. Only you know the piece you are working on and only you can choose the glue that is the best option for that work. Always read the label for specific directions regarding the particular glue. It’s not a bad idea to obtain the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on the product. Protect yourself. Test first if possible. I always keep scraps to use for testing. I will include some tips I learned at the end that will save you some time and agony.
Let’s start with a must have in your glue arsenal: a reliable all-purpose glue such as Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue. It truly is versatile and durable. It dries clear and excess glue can be wiped away with a damp cloth. The bottle says water clean up. This is before it dries, just an FYI. It does not list a set up or drying time. Allow 24 hours for wood or glass, or heavy items. A paper product will dry within 6 hours but if you have multiple layers, increase the drying time. Aleene’s products are wonderful and I have several for specific uses such as fabric. While I have several, this is a staple in my glue arsenal when it comes to all-purpose glue.
My next must have is a dependable wood glue such as Titebond or Gorilla Wood Glue. Wood glue works best when the wood pieces you are gluing together are not painted, stained or sealed with a varnish or polyurethane. It is preferable the pieces be clamped or weighed down. Contrary to what you would think wood glue should be generously applied so that it seeps out from the joint (or both pieces of joined wood). This ensures the glue spreads evenly between the two pieces you are joining so there are no air pockets or weak points in the joint. Use a damp cloth to wipe away this excess glue before it dries and check back to wipe away the little bit that will continue to seep out as the glue sets. It usually takes a full 30 minutes for the glue to set and 24 hours for it to fully dry. Do not work on the piece until it is fully dry or you will weaken the glue joint. Wood glue dries with a yellowish tint, can be sanded and painted over. If you intend to stain the wood, stain it before you glue it unless you are going to run the piece through a wood planer. Wood glue seals the wood fibers so it will not absorb the stain.
Fairly new to my glue arsenal is the industrial strength adhesive E6000. This glue was recommended to me by a ceramicist when I could no longer find a similar product. It works great on ceramic and glass but is also effective with metals. I do not recommend it for wood. It is a clear adhesive that dries clear and cannot be cleaned with a damp cloth. A little goes a long way so test first and avoid seepage. Use this product in a well ventilated space as it is harmful to your health due to it containing perchloroethylene. It usually sets up within 15 to 30 minutes and dries fully within 12 hours.
My first love was Liquid Nails! It was recommended to me by another mixed media artist. I have used it successfully and it is still in my glue arsenal. However, I have learned there are more reliable products. I intentionally included both the multi-purpose and clear Liquid Nails products in the picture above. I no longer use the clear. It is, in my opinion, a great sealer but not a great adhesive for the work I do. But it does work on foam. Foam does not like glue so if you don’t have the expensive Styrofoam specific glue, use the clear silicone Liquid Nails. The multi-purpose Liquid Nails is white, has a creamy consistency and dries white. It spreads so be aware of seepage and use the applicator if you need to target a specific spot. It can be wiped away with a dry cloth but is not water friendly. It works best on wood, tiles, glass, concrete type materials and more. It’s not my choice for metal objects. I have had it fail (should have read the instructions right!). It sets up within 30 minutes but does take a full 24 hours to fully dry. The package says it is sandable but I have not found that to be the case. It is paintable.
A quick fix must have in your glue arsenal is a super glue such as Gorilla Super Glue or Loctite (not pictured above because I ran out). The only drawback I have found is that like most super glues, the Gorilla Super Glue is so sensitive to the oxygen in the air that it dries in the bottle. Loctite seems to have a better lid design so I carry it with me to each show just in case. Things happen when you are moving art. In the middle of show set up or dropping off a piece for an exhibit, something might need to be re-glued. It’s a reliable quick fix. You may have to repair it when you get it home but I have found these two glues work great and the customer has no issues later. They are both easy to work with, have a rapid set up time and dry time. It’s super glue, so don’t get it where you don’t want it!
My last and most important glue to share with you is J-B Weld. There are a few varieties including the Quick-Setting Epoxy and Original Cold-Weld Epoxy. I have both but usually use the quick-setting. You have to work fast! When they say quick-setting, they mean it. It sets in 6 minutes and is fully dry within 4 hours. It’s a hardener that’s grey and what they call steel that’s black. It has a strong odor when mixed together so use in a well ventilated area. It is black in color and dries black, cannot be sanded because it dries to a glass or ceramic hardness, but can be painted over. There is a ClearWeld Quick-Setting Epoxy in a plunger style container that is easy to use, has a set time of 5 minutes and a full dry time of an hour. It’s their strongest of the three J-B Weld products and it dries clear. If you need more working time, I suggest the Original Cold-Weld version. It gives you more working time with a set time of 4-6 hours and a full dry time of 15-24 hours. It also dries black. Refer to the Strength PSI that is listed on the package when determining which J-B Weld product to use.
There are many choices in glues. Too many to list here. And we haven’t even talked about working with paper or fabric! Only you can determine what is the best product for your work.
As promised I will leave you with some tips: What everyone needs to know about glue
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it helpful. I know I appreciated other artist’s being willing to share their knowledge with me. Best wishes on your creative journey!
Jennifer Nichols, Mixed Media Artist
#jnicholsart #lifeofanartist #wallrelief #mixedmedia
For upcoming show information, visit my website http://www.jnicholsart.com/exhibitions.html
I attended an artist entrepreneur workshop a few months ago. As I listened to each artist introduce themselves and as I introduced myself I realized that many of us refer to ourselves as mixed media artists. But after the introductions I was no closer to understanding what kind of art they produced then they were to understanding what I created. This dilemma got me thinking. What is mixed media? Am I really describing my work accurately. What is the difference between mixed media and assemblage?
In college my professors kept it simple: painting, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking. The art history books focused on explaining the period of art, influences that transformed it and its evolution. The art historians created the labels that categorized art. But in this world of creatives, artists are now encouraged to label themselves in order to market to the right audience or enter the right show. I have always found this challenging as I enjoy using a variety of materials.
When I graduated college, I don't recall the term assemblage being used by artists. I had created my first wood and metal wall reliefs and considered them sculpture. Sculpture is often thought of as a three-dimensional form that can stand on it's own or be secured to a base. As I entered shows I found the distinction between sculpture and mixed media. The term mixed media seemed to be a better fit for my work therefore, I started using it to describe my work. I have been using it ever since.
So what is mixed media?
According to Wikipedia: "Mixed media, in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_media
If mixed media is more than one medium than what is the difference between mixed media and assemblage?
First lets look at the definition of assemblage.
According to Wikipedia: "Assemblage is an artistic form or medium usually created on a defined substrate that consists of three-dimensional elements projecting out of or from the substrate. It is similar to collage, a two-dimensional medium. It is part of the visual arts, and it typically uses found objects, but is not limited to these materials." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assemblage_(art)
So if a mixed media artist uses a three-dimensional element in a piece and maintains it's three-dimensional form, then the artist would and should describe the work as assemblage. In my work, I do like to break the flat two-dimensional surface. I use many items in my attempt to do so. Some items may borderline the question of is it three-dimensional or projects enough off the surface to be considered assemblage. But so far, I am comfortable exploring mixed media through my removable (or non-permanent) wall reliefs.
I hope this helps you in understanding what mixed media art is versus assemblage and why I refer to myself as a mixed media artist. I have learned that it is helpful when introducing myself to elaborate a little more than I have in the past. Often our first impression is through the words we describe ourselves or our art with and not images of our art. As more artists explore the vast possibilities mixed media provides, the ability to accurately describe ourselves to consumers becomes more important.
#jnicholsart #mixedmedia #wallrelief #lifeofanartist
Branch Family Benefit
Sunday, July 31, 2016 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at My Fitness One
1209 Shields Road
Kernersville, NC 27284
On June 14, 2016, Jeffrey Allen Branch was in a serious car accident and while at home now, has a long rehab process ahead. As a community continues to support them with prayers, we want to do more. Jeffery is already making great strides in his recovery. He has recently gone through jaw surgery and some extensive rehab, so let’s come together and support our favorite local fitness family!
In support of the Branch family I have donated "Blue Bird" to the Live Auction. Mark your calendar for this important event to help the Branch Family. I'll see you there! #jnicholsart #familymatters #helpyourcommunity #superjeff
Events at the Benefit:
I've always drawn and doodled but I never really cared if it was all organized in a sketchbook. Funny because I am actually quite an organized person. I had sketchbooks, but I just wasn't always restricted by them. I would pull the pages out and explore. But when I went to college that changed.
If you went to UNCG, you may have had a class or two with Mark Gottsegan. He was an intimidating man in my eyes. During my freshman year my locker was across from his office. Several times a day I passed by his office. Among the many things plastered on his office door was a cartoon with the question "what can you do with an art degree?" There was no need for an answer. The cartoon was of an artist flipping hamburgers. Now Gottsegan, (no one called him Mark or Mr., just Gottsegan) had an interesting sense of humor. But as an impressionable freshman, I was discouraged by that cartoon. Now, I think of it fondly and laugh at the half truth behind it.
Gottsegan taught drawing and painting. He was one of three professors who taught drawing but somehow I usually ended up in his drawing class. I loved drawing and was skilled at drawing anything except people. Give me pencil, charcoal, colored pencil or pen and ink any day. Before college I drew all the time. My dad saw me doodling at an early age and invested in books that helped teach me to draw. I didn't get to learn by studying my dad draw as much as I would have liked. So I learned from the drawings he had framed around the house and tucked away in the closet. I never have been able to draw figures like my dad, even after Life Drawing class.
One of the requirements when taking a class with Gottsegan was to draw in a sketchbook every day. Ugh this was such a chore for me. Me, the avid drawer! I dreaded it and would put it off. There was something about being made to draw that soured the practice for me. Every few weeks we had to turn in our sketchbooks for his review. I know he could tell I waited and sketched a weeks worth the day or hours before. It was a struggle to maintain it in between all the homework we already had to complete. And, it's not how I was accustomed to drawing. I spent hours working a sketch, developing it into a pen and ink drawing or a colored pencil drawing. I really didn't sketch just to sketch. At the time, I didn't realize that last part. I knew it because he constantly told me I was an illustrator not an artist. My sketches did look more like illustrations. Strangely, his comments didn't phase me. They made me stronger. I was proud of being an illustrator.
I had learned how to draw from my father and from books. My father was both a talented illustrator and artist. I had taken every art class in school but we only drew in middle school. The other classes were about exploring mediums and specific art projects that may have involved sketching but not in depth drawing like we were doing in college drawing classes. Which is not a slap in the face of my high school art teachers. They shaped me into becoming a mixed media artist. But it was Mr. Jackson in middle school that hired a portrait artist and introduced us to charcoal and chalk because he saw talent. For some of the students it was torture but for me and a few others, it was phenomenal. Had I had a teacher like him in high school, I would have developed my drawing skills to the level that would have truly prepared me for Gottsegan's drawing classes.
In sculpture class we were encouraged to keep a sketchbook but we were given the freedom to use it the way we wanted. I used mine for collecting images of things that were inspiring me. That was before cell phones had taken off or had a camera feature, before digital and before Facebook. I've lost track of those precious books but I remember almost every image.
Even today, I struggle to keep a sketchbook. The organizer in me likes the idea of all my sketches neatly bound in one place but the creator in me doesn't like feeling restricted by the book. Self-imposed restriction of course. I'm working on breaking that mind-set. I've come across a few artists who had sketchbooks I envied. It wasn't the book I envied so much as it was so apparent they didn't struggle with this silly issue. They painted in their sketchbooks. Painted! That never even seemed like an option to me. Paint! Paint equals color. Color! I only ever used pencil and once or twice used charcoal. I drew with colored pencils but not in a sketchbook. Oh the possibilities! The other thing is my sketchbooks always turn into journals. I end up writing in them more than sketching in them. In my mixed media work, some ideas have to be problem solved in a structural sense. Hence, more words than images.
An artist's sketchbook is a very personal thing. It's a living thing really. It's a window into the chaos of their creative mind. Their precious thoughts. You could almost describe it as feelings on a page. So when an artist shows you their sketchbook, if you are so lucky, it's a big deal. So the other day an artist friend opened hers up to me and I was not envious this time. I was inspired! It was a combination of phrases from books she'd read that had touched her, color, paint, pencil, glued in pieces of things tied to a memory. It was at that moment I remembered Gottsegan and that sketchbook requirement and how much I detested that process. And it was at that moment I realized I can do that! I'm allowed to explore and express my ideas and thoughts how I want in my sketchbook. What a freeing feeling. I went home and searched the house for the latest sketchbook I had tucked away, waiting for me to have this epiphany.
We all overcome obstacles in ourselves as we develop as artists. Perhaps it is the illustrator in me finally letting it's hair down a bit. We shall see. I have pulled out the colored pencils. No paint yet. But I'm only on the first page.
#jnicholsart #lifeofanartist #mixedmedia #art #wallrelief
Something is happening. I am not sure what, but there is something. Sounds crazy I know. But truly I feel that since I have stepped back from things and challenged myself to look at my world in a new way that something is happening. I believe we all get complacent. My students do. We all do. Even if we are reluctant to admit that we are complacent. Complacency stagnates creativity. I am in a unique environment at the company I work for when I am not creating art. The vision of the CEO and being surrounded by all types of art and creative expression is uplifting creatively.
On a personal level I am revisiting the things that help spark creativity, such as reading and gardening. I do not have a green thumb but being connected to nature is so central to me. I can never remember the name of plants but I know how they thrive and I love my herbs. I didn't grow up gardening, except for cultivating my little green bean patch that my mother still talks about to this day, so gardening has been a learning experience. I love learning. That too is a creative spark inducer. That's why I am exploring felt and embroidery stitches right now. Totally not art by art standards but I have always teetered between art and craft. Difficult not to appreciate and merge both when you grow up with a creative father who remodeled an entire house from the ground up and became a master carpenter.
I see art in what most people call craft. So be it. I'm content not being a fine artist or a painter. Give me wood, paper, clay, non-traditional materials any day. After all, Eva Hesse is my favorite artist. She threw out the accepted notion of traditional materials. Though I must give credit to Picasso for giving me permission early in my artistic career to explore all mediums. But he led me to her and I am forever grateful to both to never feel limited by the materials. In college it was the opposite. I was studying ceramics and my ceramics professor talked about pottery as sculpture. Inspired, I took every sculpture class I could. But because I had committed to ceramics, in my finally studies I was only allowed to work in clay. I explored and pushed the limits with the organic forms I wanted to create. Many of my complex creations exploded in the kiln. I felt constricted by the material. I wanted the piece to tell me what it should be made out of not force it to be made of a particular material. In my final independent study class I was allowed to explore a medium outside of clay. By then I knew I didn't want to be a potter or only work in clay. To my father's surprise I turned to wood. I had been studying him working for years, absorbing it like a sponge. I was drawn to Mondrian at the time. Frustrated with the organic forms I had been trying in clay, I turned to geometric forms and explored wood. I created several pieces and then stopped. Sometimes artists just stop for a while. I was searching again.
What finally burst out of me was a combination of my love of wood and my need to explore mixed media in a truly organic and abstract way. I was not ready really for that piece. I had started it and put it away. I revisited the piece and finished it many years later. Still, I was not ready for that piece. The work that followed and has followed since has not been similar. And now, I feel that burst brewing and I am trying not to hold it back.
As I said, I teeter between art and craft. I do like to challenge the notion of craft and ask the question, why. Art history is full of why. I didn't like studying art and having to memorize painting names, dates, etc. But I loved learning about the movement of art. I still get excited when I share a summary of this movement as I lead up to my most favorite period, modern art. Art has lost the "movement". Each decade has already challenged art down to it's essential components and exploded into contemporary art and social art which was a natural and likely result. But now we are here which is where I don't know. I would have enjoyed living in the 60's creating in the modern movement next to artists like Eva Hesse. Chef's today are experiencing a similar creative movement through food. But not art. Though some art historian somewhere will find a name for the art of our decade. In my opinion, we are stagnant. We need an art movement. All I can hope for is that my own personal art movement will happen. That it will not be like the tomato on my poor tomato plant. It is on the verge of blossoming but just sits there, in a holding pattern. Nope! I'm ready for the burst!
#jnicholsart #lifeofanartist #mixedmedia #wallrelief #art #flowers
Mark your calendars for my next show! This is the first time I am participating in the Greensboro Summer Solstice. I truly do not know what to expect but I am excited to be a part of this fun and creatively charged experience. Join me Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
401 Ashland Drive, Greensboro, NC 27403 (Greensboro Arboretum and Lindley Park)
#jnicholsart # mixedmedia #art #handmade #wallrelief
I'm Jennifer Nichols, a mixed media artist from North Carolina. I enjoy capturing the essence of nature through a variety of materials. I incorporate found objects such as strainers and bottle caps into my work. I am drawn to these items but it is also important to me to do my part to protect our environment by keeping things out of the land fill.