Friday, October 28, 2016

Silvia Engel, Glass Jewelry & Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

To many people, “tradition” is a word that means looking back to how things once were, but to me, as an artist and jewelry maker, tradition is what drives me forward. In my fused glass and jewelry artworks, as well as alcohol ink paintings and textured mixed media tiles, I incorporate my understanding of tradition through color and texture, while using innovative techniques to further explore what those traditions mean to me.

Art is what keeps me balanced and tuned, and everywhere I go and everything I do revolves around art, whether I’m enjoying a color pattern or texture or spending a day in my studio.

Sunflower - Alcohol Ink Painting

I come from a family of artists — musicians, painters, potters, and singers. It makes sense that art and the process of creative expression were always around me as a child.

My native Mexico is also one of the greatest influences for how I design, color, and texture my fused glass jewelry. The beaches and the sea, as well as the colors, sounds, people, and energy of my Mexican home, were always changing and never the same from one day to the next. This has influenced the way I create and handcraft my jewelry and my art, and I love creating one-of-a-kind works.

Although I create different lines of similar jewelry based on themes, no two of my pieces are the same, and this means that every owner of my jewelry is the owner of a piece made just for them. There’s no better feeling than that connection between the artist and a person.

Love Ashes Butterfly

When I came to the United States 26 years ago, I brought my culture with me, and about 15 years ago, I started translating that culture and tradition into glass jewelry. The process of fusing glass intrigued me so much, and from the fun to the sense of fulfillment, I just knew it was my calling.

Red Heart Love Ashes

I currently specialize in fused glass cremation jewelry (that’s glass jewelry and memorials that have the cremated ashes or hair of a loved one or a pet fused into the actual work of art). And it’s the most fulfilling, yet challenging, way that I can use my art to connect with other people. What inspires me most is the letters and thank-you notes I get from grieving families, who say that wearing my jewelry has helped them feel close to passed loved ones. My company, Love Ashes, gives me a deep passion for glass fusing as well as motivation to continue evolving and enjoying my artistic process every day.

Hanging Fish - fused glass

Today, I find myself continually inspired by random things. It could be a pretty color combination or the way the sky looks. Sometimes I’m inspired by a tile at a restaurant or a song on the radio. My studio is, by most people’s standards, probably a bit messy. But I know where everything is; it’s my sanctuary and where I find the most peace. I never sketch my work, instead, I take a more stream-of-consciousness approach to the design. Once I begin cutting the glass, the idea for the jewelry, its combination of colors, and its design come to my mind. Since I also dream of designs, I keep paper and pencil on my nightstand.

To the Moon and Back - alcohol ink painting and mixed media

Although every day brings new challenges, I couldn’t be happier. Creating art, making jewelry that helps other people, and growing in my artistic process and creative expression are all part of this wonderful way that I get to spend my days and make an impact on others. In the future, I want to continue finding new partnerships for my cremation jewelry. Recently, I developed a big interest in mixed media work that incorporates alcohol inks as well as fused glass and calligraphy, to create beautiful painted tiles. I hope to feature my mixed media works in more galleries, and one day I’d like to do a solo exhibit.

Love Is - alcohol ink painting and fused glass

This is Week 42 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Silvia’s story today. To connect with Silvia and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Judith Black Horn, Photographer, Tells Her Story

Originally from Indiana, I moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1999 and lived there for 11 years. When I started to fall in love with photography Myrtle Beach was full of subjects to capture. The ocean, flowers, Brookgreen Gardens, Atalaya, spiritual retreats, and much more that I had never had the opportunity to see before.

The Atlantic Ocean seemed to be the most mesmerizing to me. Lakes had been my only connection to a larger body of water, so the ocean consumed me and made me want to capture that beautiful part of our world.

In December 2010 my job took me to Sarasota, Florida. After relocating to Sarasota I entered a zebra canvas project and won Honorable Mention. I was thrilled because there were 356 entries in that contest. That award was a sign for me to continue with photography, which is what I really wanted to do anyway!

My favorite quote is: “Nature Does Nothing Naturally” so that is one reason I want to capture nature at its best. My coffee table book, Mother Nature, Captures of Her Children, published in 2006 is an example of what I wanted to accomplish at that time. It shows how I felt when I was photographing nature.

My energy now goes to building my metal prints for great memories. I focus on pet portraits more than anything, and I give 20% of each sale to a rescue of the customer’s choice. If they do not have a specific one, I donate to Vintage Paws, operated by Jennifer Hummel in the south Sarasota area.

The tears flow when I produce a metal print for those that have lost one of their pet families. I grew up with animals so the passion to help families remember their beloved peta makes me happy in the end, but at the time I’m making it, it is very emotional for me. However, the faces of my customers are priceless when they see the finished product.

I have also had the honor of producing metal prints for the most wonderful part of life including book authors, family portraits, events such as weddings and event award plaques, which I do every month for the Span Networking Group in Sarasota.

Business adventures with my metal photography is something that I strongly want to pursue, as the deep colors, light weight, and scratch resistant metal prints are the way to define offices, contemporary designer homes and hotels.

After all is said and done, I am living the rest of my life fulfilling my passion for photography in its many different forms. Wildlife is yet another area I am intrigued by. In April 2017, I will be traveling to Africa on the trip of a lifetime to photograph the amazing wildlife there.

I recently began online sales of a variety of products including fashion, phone covers, pillows, totes, cups and more fun merchandise using my photographic skills. I have been approached to help with a cookbook, do a photo shoot in local gift store and to photograph an event venue. All of these adventures just continue to fuel my passion for photography! Thank you for taking the time to read about my passion.

This is Week 41 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Judith’s story today. To connect with her and see more of her work please visit the following links:

The Voice, cover
Sarasota Downtown Association’s magazine, January 2015
Florida Creative Living magazine, online
Backyard Getaway
Because of Tuscany, a romance novel by Karen Ross

Social Media Sites:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Laura-Leigh Palmer, Painter & Photographer, Tells Her Story

Trying to understand the world is what I am always trying to do through my many interests and activities. The most successful means I have found for myself is through my 2d art creation, something I have been doing all my life according to my family. I personally don’t remember drawing the neighbor’s cat when I was 4 years old and then the owner coming to ask me for the picture the next day since the cat had died during the night. I have been told that I said she could have it for a $1.00 which she did give me. My Grandfather was not pleased. 

Perhaps equating art with money might have spurred my initial enthusiasm. I don’t know but I must admit that it isn’t the main reason for my creative urge. Sales are nice and help make for a less cluttered personal environment and for myself, once I create something, I am not very concerned with keeping it. Unless of course I think it needs to be done again or explored further. Some of my work is realistic, and some incorporates imaginative subject matter, and other work is about local-events.

What interests me is showing the world to people like they have never seen it before. I am interested in the storytelling potential of art. Once something is created, it is interpreted by the viewer, perhaps not in the way I meant it but the viewer's story might be far more interesting than my own. 

Linking up with others and their input multiplies the power of the piece and drives me to show my work. I want to hear their ideas, which I have discovered are far more forthcoming if they don’t know I am the artist. This is not difficult since I don’t have a “style” although my sense of humor sometimes does come through. I don’t think having a style is a bad thing, it is just not something I have considered for myself. 

What interests me is deciding what is the best way to get my idea across. Is it a detailed ink sketch, a photo composed of 33 images, an acrylic impressionistic look? I spend a lot of time planning work, perhaps to the point where I fear procrastination creeps in, fear that this great idea is not going to live up to its potential in corporeal form. But once I actually decide to get it done, the actual creation usually takes very little time. 

There are exceptions. I am currently painting one of my friends in a parody piece reflecting Renoir’s Boating Party. This is a painting that I wanted to do for over two decades. First I decided to copy the Boating Party, a painting that is responsible for me first falling in love with Washington DC. Many years I ago I visited DC as part of a group of young visiting artists from high school's from all over the country.  We had two weeks at a college in Virginia with trips to various sites, saw plays at the Kennedy Center, which had just opened, saw GodSpell at Ford’s theater, met the Director of the National Gallery, ate Chinese food and had a visit to the Philips. It was there that I walked into a room and almost fell into the Boating Party and I was awed that a city could have so many beautiful things and also be so clean. 

I grew up in West Virginia and Pennsylvania with coal mines and steel mills so having people in Washington DC talk about air pollution was very confusing since it wasn’t something I could see. At home we would hang out laundry and it would turn gray. Here in Washington DC snow stayed white and melted in a couple of days. No one here knew what wall paper cleaner was and museums for the most part were free! What a magical place. To this day I go as close to my birthday as possible and visit my painting. It was rather difficult when the museum was remodeling and the Boating Party was on loan throughout the country. That year I whined so much the people at the gift shop gave me a print. 

But let’s get back to the issue at hand.  It was that print that made me think that perhaps I should make a copy for myself. So I bought a canvas and decided to make it two third's time the original since I didn’t have wall space to accommodate the actual size. I gridded my print and my canvas and sketched it out in pencil and that is where the project stalled for 19 years. 

My boyfriend at the time (and now my ex) had a fit every time I started to work on the actual painting. To this day I do not know why but just ended up putting it away for years. However, I believe that stopping projects can hamper and nag at us. However, I did talk about my idea and take photos of it to friends to the point that they would laugh and say that they doubted I would ever do the project. 

When the MAA started a gallery in Westfield Wheaton in Kensington, Maryland, I dragged the canvas out of the closet, worked on it and eventually finished the copy of the Boating Party after 90+ hours total painting during my gallery shifts of 4 to 8 hours. I titled it: "Amazing what you can get done after a Divorce".  

I did the piece in acrylics which was far more challenging than I wanted to tackle when painting the friends so I switched to water-based oils. What fun this has turned out to be! They dry faster but not so fast that they cannot be pushed around and mix with the colors around them. I had used them in the '70s and I believe they are much improved. The most fun is that the colors are what I expect when they mix, which is not something I have been found to be true with my use of acrylics. Everyone in the painting needed to be alive and all of us are getting older. I am sad to report that my dog Toby has died but he will remain on the canvas since he is the favorite of many. It wasn’t until the painting was over half done that I finally had all the reference sketches and photographs I needed. 

The painting is at my house and perhaps I can finish it before the end of October. This is my birthday month and I treat my birthday as my new year and try to finish things up to make room for new ideas and new projects. And this is definitely something that needs finishing. 

I have several other long term projects. I am fascinated at how we each perceive time. And when we start time. When do you celebrate the New Year? I already said that I consider my birthday in October (the 5th) as mine. But over centuries and even in our own time many people celebrate at different times and attach many meanings to the event. I believe that all we own is what we do without time so it’s passing needs to be recorded and remembered.

I am working on a series of images for the Chinese New Year's 60-year cycle as well as a book about New Year's in different cultures and times. Another long-term project is a chart about culinary herbs. I would like to create a series of charts on various foods and how to use them. Over the years I have become more interested in actually using photography to describe my world. 

I only have vision in one eye so I do not see in 3d (3d movies have no interest for me and create terrible headaches) and have discovered that taking panoramic images and combining them can create an image that is more real than real since all parts of an image are in focus. This effect is more pronounced for people that see with both eyes - or so they have told me and I can only take their word for it. This was something I attempted to do before the advent of digital tools and I must admit that I am far happier with them than without them. Besides the expense going way down, the images are a lot more compelling. I also recently started working with optical illusions and am exploring different concepts.

So in summation or perhaps in conclusion, I create from a compulsion within - from something beyond my level of daily thought. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, 

     “One writes a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, not by 
     means of botany and soil science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of 
     the leaf mold of the mind; out of all that has been thought or seen or read that
     has long been forgotten descending into the deeps." 

Perhaps it is just as well it took over 20 years to do a painting of my friends tucked into an imaginary environment! I love to picture them at a party laughing and talking and eating. 

This is Week 40 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Laura-Leigh's story today. To connect with her and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Francie Hester, Painter, Tells Her Story

After more than three decades of painting, I have come to understand the ebb and flow of creating work in the quiet of a studio.  The challenge to create something out of nothing takes patience, passion, and dedication. A sense of humor helps, too.

1. Unfolding #3 - 60" diptych acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel

For me, the painting process begins with the poetic voice and the intuitive and cognitive decisions are woven together to form the structure and ultimate support. I think of the painting process not as an artistic journey; it begins and ends not as a venture but to deepen that which is inherently known but not understood.

2. Intertwined #31 - 16' x 16' acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel

I try not to worry about traveling on a well-worn or fresh path, but to engage the process from one’s own perspective, extending that to its fullest potential.

3. Intertwined #16

I do not have any direct influences, so to speak.  I see, read, and hear, as much as I can, and things seem to surface when I need them. I gather outside influences, but it is more a process of weaving inward rather than extending out to reach a point where I did not begin. Differing perspectives and orientations can stretch the personal dialogue that runs through the work, and strengthen the voice from which the work is created.  But, for me, the voice must ultimately come from within if the work is to be authentic.

4. Vessel #1 30 inch acrylic and wax on steel disc

This is Week 39 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Francie’s story today. To connect with Francie and see more of her work, please visit her Website, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Descriptions of Francie's work featured here is detailed below:

5. Relic #4  - 29" acrylic and wax on sculpted aluminum

6. Convex #20 - 29" triptych acrylic and wax on aluminum honeycomb panel


1. The Unfolding series reflects on the fluid nature of memory and on the passage of time. Pivotal moments occur with great clarity and precision, yet they evolve and revolve with distance and time. 

2 & 3. The Intertwined series examines two contrasting principles. Time is marked and measured; and time is unbounded, fluid, infinite. 

4. The gentle arc of Vessels creates a space for reflection, contemplation, healing, remembering. Thought, time and memory come together as a collective.

5. The Relic series takes its shape from the Bi Discs of ancient Chinese burial sites. The series explores the concept of infinity.

6. The Convex series examines pathways and repetition creating patterns and cycles of memories -- ones lost and found.