I am an attorney practicing law in Chicago. Twice a year I have the good fortune to work as a Tour Guide in Italy for Il Chiostro Workshops. It was in Italy where I first met Joan. Il Chiostro hosts her Italian workshops. I observed her teaching her workshop in Tuscany in May of 2016 and October 2017. I’ve worked with over 20 various art instructors but had never seen anything like her approach.
I was fascinated by how she would give students very specific instructions, and yet in the end everyone's’ work was incredibly unique. I realized that beyond technique she was showing them all to respect and follow their own voice.
Without exception, I loved what everyone in the class was doing. There were professional figurative painters taking the workshop to “loosen up.” There was a landscape painter who would follow Joan's instructions and get beautiful hints, insinuations, or memories of mountains. A botanical painter who had never done abstract work was producing charming, warm, almost comforting pieces.
In October 2017 I was able to experience first-hand what was happening in these painting sessions. I was with Joan and her students and was able to participate in some of the classes. Students shared materials with me and encouraged me, while I painted along. This was the first time I had ever painted.
At the end of the week the class exhibited their work, and I hung two paintings I had done. I loved it. There was something so familiar to me about what I had created. It felt like magic.
After the workshop was over and I was on my own in Florence, I bought some cheap paint, brushes and paper. I painted some pictures. I explored techniques Joan taught me. It was interesting, exasperating and invigorating, I knew I wanted to take one of Joan’s workshops. I wanted to work with her, just paint, study, and to be a participant in a workshop. Before leaving Florence I had signed up for a workshop that started several weeks later in Sedona Az.
I arrived in Sedona with lots of preconceived notions about my ability. I was raised in environment that discouraged creativity and encouraged conformity. Though I have always been interested in art and the lives of artists, I considered myself a steak tartare (raw), “I am a lawyer.” “I’m a real estate broker.” These labels I could apply to myself, but not “I am an artist.” But Joan revealed to me in Sedona that I can make art. I am an artist. This experience was transformative.
Joan’s demonstrations of how to look at the art and not judge it as “good or bad” has been key. She has students constantly turn the composition 90 degrees to see it and make it from all perspectives, and to make marks without censoring. Now at home, spontaneously layering paint and marks, my painting has become a meditative practice. When I find myself being hypercritical or wanting to start over or stop a piece, I hear Joan in my head, “Turn the page 90°.”
Studying with Joan, watching her work and looking at her work, has been an inspiration to me. It has enriched my life.
I' have attached a detail of the painting I did soon after I return from Sedona. This part of the painting is especially beautiful to me and meaningful, as it incorporates two photos from my childhood. Profoundly sad, but ultimately, and more importantly, the process of doing the painting helped me to celebrate, to mourn, to process my life.
I’m excited for Joan’s online experience and encourage others to take the plunge!
January 8, 2018 Jim Cachey
"Paint Yourself Free" available Jan 28th: ONLINE CLASS
Paint Yourself Free!
Does the title of my upcoming on-line class have appeal? (I hope so because it is too late to change it!)
Paint Yourself Free! definitely fits my way of instructing.
An interesting aspect of freedom is that often you find greater creativity and freedom when you impose constraints.
With just a few colors, a few tools and a few methods of restraining doubts and fears, I have witnessed hundreds of my students make incredibly personal and fascinating paintings.
Do you want some added inspiration, a new twist on your studio methods, or do you want take your creative life more seriously? Maybe you're someone who has never painted but wants to try. (If not now, when?) I have a valuable class for you.
I am nearing the finish line of compiling video demonstrations and audio instruction you can listen to while you are painting; and I'm composing printable worksheets, information about art materials and my inspirational reading list.
Very soon Paint Yourself Free! will be available!
For more information, click on the tab at the top of the page: ONLINE CLASS.
Stephen Nachmanovitch's book, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art , addresses notions that I have been teaching for years...play, curiosity, ability to work with what shows up (improvisation), non-judgmental observation, and limiting the vast universe of options.
If it's already painted in your head, why paint it on canvas. To really create is to be a little lost.
Each mark, each shape you place on the pictorial stage creates context and story. One simple, small line says something remarkable based on placement: high, low, or in the middle. It indicates emotion based on thickness, velocity, fluidity, direction and color. You are telling a story whether you are aware of it or not.
Imagination, metaphor, and improvisation are more important than the color of your paint or what brush you use. We crave meaning, we desire "story". Be aware and receptive to what your lines, shapes and colors are suggesting. Ultimately it is all about cultivating curiosity!
To watch some of my "Intuitive Process" on YouTube.....CLICK HERE.
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Come a Little Bit Closer Now
When composing art, my goals include wanting to create powerful images, bold enough to be appreciated from across a large room, and delicately embellished enough to captivate and entertain upon intimate viewing. I don't want you to "get" it completely at the first viewing, but rather I encourage you to become acquainted over time and from different vantage points.
With this detail of the painting, you will see a spot of pale yellow which could be a small sun residing low in the forest. You are likely to discover the delicate lines at the horizon, marks which animate and perhaps suggest life on the earth; you might enjoy the embossed gold drizzle on the large tulip-like shape, reflecting light and sitting above the surface, and you might even discover the small 5 white spots, which for me represent family.
If I had painted a representational landscape, I would have offered less for the viewer to contemplate. The magical aspect would not be part of the visual design.
"If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse...but surely you will see the wildness." Picasso
Evolution of a painting
This painting from "30 Paintings in 30 Days", hosted by Leslie Saeta, I titled: Perfect Vision.
Of course, perfect vision is impossible, unless you decide "imperfect is the new perfect".
That we all have a biased, fuzzy, fluctuating and partial vision of life, we have our own unique vision. I say embrace this!
My process involves:
It about persevering beyond your initial solutions...digging deeper. Sometimes I regret having covered over a previous stage, but what I learn by further investigation is priceless.
Diebenkorn suggests we attempt what is not certain; doing this certainly entertains me!
Creativity isn't about talent, it is a way of operating.
In this second version I added the bird,
created a flower in a cut out section,
discovered a very small bird to the top
right of the flower, and I greatly simplified
This final version has greater visual depth because of
the layering, I added the house image
providing a more poetic statement,
and the copper leaf sits on top for some dazzle.
To see this on my website go here.
Asking "What if"
As a mixed media intuitive artist, I put down random marks, colors and shapes, and with each action I ask myself, "what if". "What if" I add a darker, a warmer, or a larger shape? "What if" I over-lapping it? "What if" I scraped through that area, or drizzled a thick paint into that wet space?
Asking "What if" with a sense of excitement and possibility, is creative. It's very different than asking yourself "what if" with a negative, fearful attitude: "What if" I really mess this up, look stupid, or fail.
I am always teaching and reminding myself to be positive; to respond with confidence, and to realize the idea that just popped into my head is a gift.
In the book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the power of "thinking without thinking". When you have a decision to make in life or in art, getting into your head and analyzing it, opens the door to making excuses, procrastinating and coming from "control" rather than from "trust"... it inhibits expansive living. Gladwell provides proof that your gut responses to life are based on more information, more truth, and they are likely to be more satisfying. If that freaks you out and seems too impulsive...you might have a voice in your head saying "be careful...something bad could happen. If you learn to trust your crazy notions, the fearful feeling will become "excitement". You will be saying "yes" to life's opportunities and you will be making art that is "alive" and more uniquely yours.
These watercolors are from my 1999 sabbatical in Italy. They are representations of me saying YES to "what if". "What if I went to Italy to study and paint?" "What if I juxtaposed a Giotto painting with the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, or framed a watercolor of Cortona, Italy with my drawing of a total eclipse of the moon a month later in Denver, CO
Have you ever wanted to experience Italy with a journal, sketchbook and camera? With time to savor and reflect? "What if" you said yes to joining me in Italy this May?
Don't wait to register...the deadline is March 1st. For more info go here! Joan Fullerton Italy Workshop
From the End of Summer newsletter
Summer where did you go? I love the crisp fall air, back to school excitement, football games, and pumpkin spice coffee; The bitter part of that sweetness, is knowing trees will soon be naked, days will become shorter and cold, and like a bear I will hibernate... longing for flip-flop weather.
In art and in life, variety and context create meaning. Each mark, each shape, each color you place on the pictorial stage, creates a relationship and a "story". One simple, small, line says something remarkable based on its placement, high, low, or in the sacred middle. It indicates emotion based on thickness, velocity, fluidity, direction and color. Cultivating curiosity rather than judging the visual relationships you create, will help you make art that is more uniquely YOU. If you decide too soon something is "good" or "bad", you might miss an opportunity for something new to be revealed.
To illustrate this, I told my recent Arizona workshop the following Taoist story:
An old farmer's horse ran away and upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe," said the farmer.
The morning after telling this parable, I discovered a flat tire on my vehicle, and called AAA for a repair. Everyone in class was sorry about my misfortune, but I said: "Maybe......Maybe the repair man will be my next boyfriend!"
Students, patrons, friends, family, and AAA repairmen, you mean the world to me. Thanks for following and supporting my creative endeavor!
Wishing you lots of glorious color this fall!
Smokin' Hot Creative Experience
Last year while teaching in Pensacola I found a fake cigarette in my purse...the kind we used to "pretend" smoke as kids, with paper covering the long chewing gum center. (How it ended up in my purse is another story.)
I believe in using whatever shows up in life, therefore smoking while teaching seemed to be the thing to do. Puffing and tapping my ashes into a fake ashtray, I discovered this prop was a fine way to maintain a perspective of less "ego". This year in Pensacola I had "cigs" for all 24 students and they smoked their way to greater creativity!
Being in your head and trying "too" hard can limit the creative experience; I suggest inventing reminders for yourself that might encourage artistic freedom.
At least that is what the visiting NYC art critic told us many years ago in graduate school. This advice was appropriately given, as we were trying hard to "perfect" our craft. If you are trying too hard, your art might be stale and predictable. I strive for exaggerated, simplified, abstracted, quirky, or free-flowing raw expression. Here lies the potential to evoke emotion, reveal an essence, or stimulate questioning. I encourage my students to make big mistakes! Why not get more creative with scale, proportion, color and texture?
"I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty." (Georgia O'Keeffe's reply to people asking her why she painted her flowers so large. She also mused that they never asked her why she painted her rivers so small.)
There's time to join me May 30th-June 1st at Madden Museum of Art in Denver, for a 3 day "Intuitive Abstract Painting" workshop. Contact Hillary to sign up! And check out my workshop schedule here.
Making art often triggers insecurity. Recognizing this offers a powerful opportunity to those who learn to "keep on keeping on". The canvas is a safe training ground for learning to "trust" your intuitive voice. Who cares if you make a mess when your brush splashes paint without a known destination? Embracing doubt and fear as part of the process, letting go of your ego, and allowing new insights to grow, will all impact your art and your life. I teach students to relax and play their way through uncertainty, to appreciate whatever shows up, embrace it, transform it, and to learn from it.
My next workshop is May 30-June 1 at the exquisite Madden Museum of Art in Greenwood Village, CO. From 9-3 we will practice Creative Improvisation with acrylic paint and a sassy attitude. We will talk art, make art, be spontaneous, laugh, eat great lunches, and leave with confidence and a new body of art. $420 Contact Hillary to enroll: Phone 303-763-1970 or email.
Welcome everyone! There will be some fun happening here. Hot tips for art-making, opportunities to laugh at me, musings about the mystery of life, and information about scheduled events.