Inspiration is No Joke

Sometimes inspiration hits when you least expect it.

I know how I operate:  I am deadline driven.  When I take on a commission I want to know when I need to deliver it by.  Of course, there is always the circumstance when I ask, “When would you like this?” and the answer is “Oh, whenever…”  Let me give you a little background behind my latest commission which I just call “The Joker”…
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I am fortunate to have an awesome patron who has commissioned a number of works throughout the years who’s quite flexible with completion timetables.  It’s pretty funny really…sometimes I’ll finish a piece in a month, or two, or maybe a bit longer…About 5 years ago I dropped off a painting to his home in San Francisco and he said, “I’d like to have a joker painting in your style.”  We originally discussed my old-school gouache on wood technique and at first I was quite animated and inspired.  However this faded and I did not feel the same drive to paint this freaking awesome character.  I’ve always wanted to do the joker, why am I suddenly uninspired?  Time passes, I’ve embraced the encaustic medium and I now see my gouache work as a thing of the past.   During that time I have also moved up north to the Sacramento area and met new people.

Speaking of new people, one of my co-workers has a face made of rubber.  One day at work inspiration hit like a lightening bolt as I was talking to him.  I can’t remember the conversation but I do recall rudely interrupting him saying “OMG I HAVE TO PAINT YOU AS THE JOKER!” And the rest was history.

After seeing my friend’s rubber face I had a crystal clear vision in my mind of what I wanted to do.  This new idea wasn’t quite what my collector and I originally discussed but I just had to do it.  I decided to go in the new direction…

This commission was 5 years in the making:  I couldn’t force the painting into a style that I no longer resonated with.  I never forgot about the Joker, he was in the back of my mind and would pop up every now and again.  Inspiration comes out of nowhere and when it does strap yourself in and go along with the ride!

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Back in Black (and White)

Mane & Tail no. 1

I am a color nerd.  I am fascinated with color relationships and how they interact with one another.  I am a huge advocate using a limited color palette (if you’ve been in any of my classes you’ve heard me emphatically preach this concept).  I can spend hours painting swatches, color studies, deciphering pigments on the back of paint tubes – oh, I’m a hoot to be around!  “Color Nerd” is a term I learned from one of my teachers, Laura Moriarty, and it just stuck.  That being said…

Over the past few months I have been drawn to explore perhaps the most basic color palette of them all: Black & White.  There’s something to be said about the false simplicity of white and black and everything in between.  I began to truly appreciate the nuances of the mega-monochrome after studying the work of my colleagues, Wendy Aikin and Lisa Kairos, both amazing encaustic artists.  The Grey is a wonderland.  A continuum to see how far one can push and pull the extremes of light and dark.  Grey does not just become the backdrop to a painting – the subject must interact with it, Grey becomes the atmosphere.  

When starting my encaustic “Black & White” series I prepared multiple birch panels.  I limited myself to R&F encaustic colors: Ivory Black, Titanium White and Neutral White (pardon me as I wipe the drool from my mouth).  My only bling was Enkaustikos Antique Gold Pearl which I used sparingly for effect (again, relish!).  The natural color of the birchwood played an integral part to warming up the grey and drawing it towards brown.  The slight yellow cast of the beeswax also brought the Grey towards the light so to speak.  Grey is easily influenced and therefore the array of neutral tones is staggering.

The major inspiration behind this color palette was my desire to paint my horses.

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I wanted to keep the colors extremely simple to showcase the raw power, movement and line of the horse.  I wanted the attention to be on the animal.  What I wasn’t expecting was a 50 Shades of Grey love affair to develop within these colors.  You know you’re in love when your painting is complete and you don’t want to stop.  I had to pull myself away from the panel more than once during this series.  “Oh maybe I can just…”  NO!  Put the brush down!  This was the case with perhaps my most popular painting of the series, “Seahorse”.  The warmth of the birch panel fills in the gaps between brushstrokes and reads as brown.  The only colors used in this painting were Ivory Black, Titanium White and Neutral White.

This series has taught me that Grey is subtle.  Grey is powerful.  Grey is sexy.  Let’s see where this relationship goes…

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Inspiration From the Ashes

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 Life is a bed of roses!

You know what?  The last time I checked, not all of us live and breathe in a Disney movie.  Sometimes things can look pretty bleak.  It is unfortunate how easy it is to slip into a vicious circle of hopelessness and despair.  We’ve all been there at one point or another and hey, we might slip again in the future.  Perhaps this question sounds familiar: “Why me?” The real question to ask is “What now?”

To give you a little insight on why I chose to write “Inspiration From the Ashes” I thought I’d share something personal.  The past couple months have been a little rocky to say the least.  We recently learned that our pet chicken, Hops, has intentional cancer and we have been in a very sad place.  After a week at the vet we brought her home wondering how many days left we would have with her.  The first night home was sleepless.  We woke up in mini-panics whenever she’d fluff her feathers and we’d stare intently at this poor little bird who would stare back as if to say, “What the heck is wrong with you two?!”  The next day I did what I usually do:  have breakfast with Angel (my umbrella cockatoo), return some e-mails, then check on Hops every 15 seconds to make sure she was doing ok.  It was a nice day so I threw a couple of blankets on the porch and brought Hops outside so she could get some sunshine.  I decided to flip on the electricity and melt some wax.  Hey, I might as well do some art if I’m keeping my chicken company…

3 encausticWhile Hops settled in I looked at my messy, waxy workspace and smelled that wonderful aroma of beeswax in the air.  I learned a pretty cool technique a couple years ago from my R&F Advanced Teaching Workshop instructor, Laura Moriarty.   It’s not my first go-to technique but I thought it would be fun to just practice something outside my wheelhouse.  This particular process is all about texture through repetition of brushstrokes.  With each stroke the wax will catch on the micro ridges that are created.  Eventually a very organic-looking texture pattern builds into a unique (yet somewhat delicate) work of art.  I began carving or incising patterns into the first layer of wax to “train” my brushstroke texture.  A spiral here, a square there, a long “S” shape curving down a panel.  I started experimenting with colors next, “Hops, which one should I use?  Pthalo blue?  OK!”  Beautiful blues transformed into purples, deep oranges into sunburst yellows.  Before I knew it I was hooked.

Time flew by and soon I had created a small collection of mini encaustic “succulents”.  The whole process was very meditative and I used this simple technique to take my mind off my sadness – and it worked!  I would show my small creations to Hops and she’d cluck saying, “Is this something I can eat?”  I came back to the wax the following day, and Hops was content to roost on her blanket next to me.  Soon Hops and I were both in a much better frame of mind.  She was more comfortable at home, eating, dozing, and doing the little things that chickens do.  I was more relaxed and happy to see her feeling better.

The day came when I had to go back to work and I was allowed to bring my chicken-in-a-basket along with me – thanks boss!  I set up a small area for her in the back of the store and my buddies at work got to meet my little friend.  My co-worker’s mom, Kathy, was down the street so she swung by to take some photos and see what the commotion was about.  I told her Hop’s story and how she was at work so I can give her medicine and keep an eye on her.  As it so happens, Kathy is a preschool teacher.  She was so inspired by Hop’s story that she turned it into a lesson for her students.  The lesson was on kindness to animals.  “When your tummy hurts your mom and dad take care of you and make you feel better right?  We need to do that for our animals too!”all hops

I don’t really know why I’m always  surprised whenever I see the magic chickens are capable of.  A lot of times I will hear, “But it’s a chicken!” My usual response is: “Well of course she’s a chicken!  Did you know that chickens purr?”  It all goes downhill from there, quite often with a barrage of iPhone photos.  Perhaps life would be less stressful if we kept our distance from things that make us sad.  You have to wonder if going down that road might make life a little smaller.   Without Hops there would be less art in the world and one fewer lesson on Kindness to Animals.  My animals are extraordinary and what we’re going through with Hops is painful.  It must be a conscious choice to acknowledge the pain but not dwell in it.  This is an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute effort and maybe we’ll slip once in a while.  We’re not perfect beings – we’re human beings.  What would humanity be without Love?

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If there’s a Will, there’s a Way

quick studio

You can paint anywhere no matter the space.  If there is a will, there is a way.

Recently my husband and I made a big move up north toward Sacramento and let me tell you that moving can be a bear.  During this time I’ve been working on a piece that I need to submit to the Triton Museum of Art and the deadline is fast approaching.  My studio is packed in haphazardly labeled boxes scattered around the house and I have no idea where I put my blowtorch.  After a preliminary unpack I was able to gather what I needed to complete this painting.  Let me tell you how much of a relief it was to be using a limited color palette!

Our new house has a delightful little cinderblock porch with an overhang that I was able to set up underneath.  I gathered a few tables, found my extension cords and set up an impromptu encaustic studio.  One thing I failed to mention about our new home is that it is close to a water nature preserve, two ponds and levy, so I quickly became familiar that the mosquito population quintuples around 4 pm (note to self: pick up Deet and Citronella candles at the store).

It is easy to want to just cannonball into a painting but you need to have a space set up where you can successfully paint–and by successfully I do not mean painting a beautiful painting.  What I mean is that you don’t have to go digging around for what you’re looking for to make the next brush stroke.  This can be a frustrating and time-consuming activity that is not at all creative.

I was impatient to begin working so I had my extension cords crossed everywhere, my fuses were blowing and I was beginning to feel the pressure of needing to complete this piece.  When my husband walked outside and saw how frustrated I was he said, “Why not just take a couple minutes and get yourself set up?” What a novel idea! If only I’d practice what I preach.  I did just that and rearranged my cords, drew power from another room, and cleared my head a little bit by refilling my water.  I also grabbed an additional table and organized my tools.  When I came back to my painting I was stepping into a much more “successful” creative space.  I set up a couple of my dining room chairs as an easel to raise the height of my painting and it worked out perfectly.  After these minor adjustments which only took a few minutes I was able to get much farther on my painting than if I had just kept fighting through my inconvenient slap-dash studio space.
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How can I stress the importance of having an effective area to create?  If you work at your dining room table then clear it off!  Put the piles of mail somewhere else, clear away those dirty plates, and put down your painting tablecloth so you are inspired.  If you live in a studio apartment you can make a small corner of your room your workspace.  If you like working large then work it out!  Is there a spot outside where you can set up a large painting and drop off?  I’m sure you can find something if you want to paint badly enough.  I needed to complete another piece to submit to a show so I hauled my traveling encaustic studio to a friend’s house and set up outside next to her roaring air conditioner.  Not the most ideal working space but I finished the piece and that’s all that matters!

I teach classes at a variety of venues and every classroom is different.  I need to adapt to each space to make it a successful teaching and learning environment for my students and me.  When I do private lessons at someone’s home very frequently do we spend a few minutes organizing their studio space: if they are right-handed we move the majority of their supplies to the right side of their easel or worktable, we will select a limited amount of brushes to work with from the overflowing brush bin.  We will put away the miscellaneous paint colors that we will not be using and only have the color palette that we will be working from in front of us.  Simplify your space and only pull out the tools which the current project requires.  This will streamline your creativity and is as equally important as learning new techniques.

fb studioThis is the way I do it, it is not the only way.  If you have ever seen photos of Francis Bacon’s studio you might say to yourself, “How on earth did he ever get anything done?!”  Well he did!  He created a plethora of amazing, inspirational, and edgy work.  His version of a successful studio is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  On a side note Francis Bacon is one of my favorite artists of all time but I could never work in his studio.  The photo on the left was taken by Carlos Freire of Francis Bacon in his studio, 7 Reece Mews, London.  Everyone is different and everyone works in different environments.  This photo is a perfect preamble to my next point:  Having an effective studio space and having a “pretty” studio space are two different things however they are not mutually exclusive.  Let me help you prioritize: It is more important to have an effective studio space than one that looks good in Better Homes & Gardens.  Get yourself a working environment first, then you can break out the wicker baskets.  Your studio is ever changing.  You have permission to change it whenever you want to make it a more creative space for you.

I look forward to settling into our new home and fine-tuning my studio 2.0.  It’s a huge change and it gives me the opportunity to exponentially grow in my art career so I am thankful.  If I can move a 3 bedroom house, an art studio, 2 horses, a cockatoo and 2 house chickens then I have faith that I can find my blowtorch and finish this painting.  Piece of cake!

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Abstract Choices

Cactus Flower by Frank Krause / Final Abstract Study by Jaya King 24″ x 36″

So you’re inspired by a realistic image be it a portrait, landscape, flower, bowl of fruit, your grandmothers shitzu, whatever.  How do you go about abstracting something realistic?  Last month I was inspired by a photograph that a friend of mine took of a cactus flower.  I knew immediately that I wanted to “abstract” this image.  After my “Wax With Whimsy” workshop at Wax Works West earlier this month I was inspired to explore an abstract workshop idea.  It’s still in formulation but I thought that using my friend’s photo reference would be a perfect example of this process.  After the hustle and bustle of the holidays I found a window of time to do my walk-through so I plugged in my hot plates and turned on my space heater.

In my mind there are 2 essential components to a successful abstract and I think of these before even picking up the brush…

1materials.  Color:  LIMIT YOURSELF!  I am wholeheartedly a fan of the limited color palette.  Before buying every color under the sun it is imperative to learn how to work with a simple palette of colors.  This will teach you color mixing and harmony, two key ingredients to strengthening your artistic sensibility.  I ask myself, “Can I simplify my color choice further?  What can I do without?”  I leave the rest of the colors in the drawer.

2.  Composition: Vertical, horizontal or square?  You do not need to match the composition of your reference photo.  In fact, it is an interesting exercise if you play with cropping.  How would you turn a horizontal into a vertical or visa versa?  What I look at even before I begin painting is “where is my negative space?”  Negative space is where the eye rests.  I consider negative space to be just as important as the subject matter itself.  Where is your focal point going to be?

Put it together:  In the case of this demonstration I selected a mix of malachite green, quinacridone magenta, titanium white, pthalo blue, indian yellow, cadmium yellow light, mars yellow light and Mile’s Conrad’s sunset orange.  I decided to keep the horizontal format and have my cactus flower “burst” towards the left of the painting.  This way I can demonstrate an apples-to-apples abstract so you can see creative process side-by-side with the reference photo.

abstract process(1)  I tone my background with transparent colors that I’ve diluted with wax medium.  The piece begins as a sad homage to 80’s spatter paint, oh 90210 where have you gone?  It’s pretty messy in this first stage:  drips and disjointed brushstrokes layering together in a vague semblance of my reference photo.  I continue layering in this fashion, periodically sealing in color with an isolation coat of wax medium, until I see a solid composition form around my focal point.  The colors are fun to move around with the torch but I keep in mind that most of these initial layers are going to be lost.

(2)  When I want to reign in those crazy disjointed colors I begin block in my negative space and reassert my focal point.  In this second photo you can see how I’m using the purples and greens to fill in the gaps.  I am using more opaque colors to add body.  It is also important to consider your brushstrokes.  Notice how my strokes have direction to create movement?  An out of place brush stroke can awkwardly draw the eye off course.  Would a blog post on brushstrokes just be way too technical?  Perhaps not as technical on my future post of how Green Gold differs from brand to brand…ahhh, the color nerd in me.

(3)  Compared to abstract painting I usually fall into the “realist” category.  When you look at my paintings you can see – that is a person, that is a cow, that is a house.  For me, abstracts are a way of flipping a real object inside out.  It is an exercise out of my comfort zone.  In this step I was able to catch myself veering off into realist territory.  I started to get a little more “literal” with my cactus flower and buds at this point so I remind myself that I’m painting an abstract.   I use my torch to release some control.  The flowers melt into themselves and become more of a color suggestion of flowers.  Phew!

(4)  I still feel a lot of busy-ness happening so I tone down my malachite green and make a commitment to my negative space.  You’ll notice that a lot of my initial layers have been covered.  I cannot express enough that art, especially abstract art, is a process.  You’ll create something, you’ll sacrifice it.  In this case I sacrificed some background color.  Remember, it’s all for the greater good!

incision(5)  One of the joys of the encaustic process is carving, or “incising, into your painting.  This reveals hidden layers and creates effects that you can’t get if you’re just applying paint.  There is a delightful sculptural appearance that is easy to get lost in.  I could paint a layer then scrape it away until the cows come home.  This is a close up image of the first incisions.  They create an even stronger sense of movement and there is an interesting contrast between the sharp lines and bold background strokes.  I finish this step by painting color inside the incisions and scrape away the excess.  Now my lines are a multicolored textural element.

Encaustic is a process that can move quickly because the wax cools so fast.  You can immediately layer upon layer because you are not waiting for paint to dry.  Encaustic and abstracts go hand-in-hand which is probably why you see so many of them.  To stand out in the crowd it is important to have your own artistic voice.  To strengthen your abstracts I suggest practicing realistic techniques.  To strengthen your realistic painting I suggest practicing abstracts.  Go figure!  When you sit down to a blank canvas and you plan on painting an abstract, the best advice that I can offer is to release whatever preconceived image you have floating around in your head.  It’s ok to have a plan, be more ok with letting go of it.

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Face to Face With My Comfort Zone (part 2)

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Now that I’ve got the itch to get back in the classroom I signed up for another workshop: “Making Faces with Charlie Levin”.

The months passed and boy was I excited!  As the weekend drew nearer I began researching Charlie’s work and chatted anyone’s ear off who’d listen about my upcoming adventure.  I had prepared extra boards to bring because I just knew I’d blow through them like popcorn.  The day before the workshop I began researching portrait work that I found inspiring. For my reference material I had printed out a small collection of Francis Bacon’s self-portraits as well as one of my favorite paintings by Johannes Vermeer, “Girl With a Pearl Earring”.  My proverbial bags were packed.

The next day driving to Wax Works West I had my radio on full blast, “I’M WALKIN’ ON SUNSHINE! WO-OAH!” When I arrived and smelled the delightful aroma of melted beeswax the butterflies in my stomach were flitting every which way. Man, I was pumped! After the usual meet and greet we were able to watch Charlie in action. She spoke about line work, seeing the face sculpturally in terms of facial planes, shading techniques, proportions, and how to use this information to define a specific face. After watching her translate this information into an encaustic painting I was chomping at the bit to get my hand in some wax (figuratively speaking of course). We were allowed to begin practicing the demonstrated techniques and loosen up.  The picture above was my first piece of the day where I practiced integrating each technique.  Yeah!  Point for Jaya!webBLOG-6-sketches

I also enjoyed working on thumbnail sketches.  Multiple renderings of the same face helps you become very familiar with facial features, shapes, planes, shadows, etc…I easily forget how much I enjoy just sketching (note to self: do more of that).  Initially we worked from high-contrast photos with dramatic lighting but eventually we sketched from very flat-looking, blurry photos as well.  She touched on a point that I thought was very important: draw what you’re seeing verses what you think you see.  I appreciated the challenge and was instructed to stick with the soft, blurry photos for my reference.  Charlie handed me a very alien-looking out of focus photo of a child, “Try this one out!”  I wasn’t fond of the image so I put it aside and found a soft-looking black and white image of a geisha.  This one was also blurry and flat so I decided to practice from her.

webBLOG-6-geisha-1I felt I was quite familiar with this geisha by the time we jumped into the wax.  We continued with the thumbnail theme and worked on 3″x3″ Bristol paper.  This was a challenge in of itself – I had never really sketched with wax before and I was using an Enkaustiko’s slanted bristle brush which was quickly becoming my new best friend.  Working so small forced you to not get lost in the details.  And don’t even think about fusing!  I am the fuse queen – smooth seamless wax surfaces?  Fuget about it!  Charlie’s work is super textured with dynamic brushstrokes and she doesn’t worry about fusing her pieces.  So for two days I put the torch on the back burner (pun intended) and embraced the textured brushstroke.  What I learned from the geisha was that I was working too opaquely.  I could build up layers of un-pigmented wax medium instead of just laying down WHITE.  This was an eye-opening revelation.  Take a closer look at the 3 geisha thumbnails.  (left) My first attempt (middle) Charlie’s example (right) my second attempt.  There are two sides to the coin with this type of layering.  On the one side you can build up beautifully transparent layered highlights.  On the flip side the build up creates a 3D effect.  Did I mention how I covet the flat encaustic surface?  By building up these layers I totally had to release the flat surface.  Tough to do, but hey, I came here to learn so flat surface OUT THE WINDOW!  Smooth brushstrokes OUT THE WINDOW!  Fusing OUT THE WINDOW!  Charlie came by and gave me some advice and instruction, “Why don’t you give this one a whirl?”  Out comes the blurry alien child and once again I feel my blood pressure rising.  I thought to myself, “I don’t like this picture.  I don’t like babies.  It’s not that I couldn’t paint this picture – I could paint it if I wanted to.  I just don’t want to.  I hate this picture!”  Once again I put it aside.

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“Sweet Little Bullet” detail. Gouache on panel. In my comfort zone.
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Encaustic studies. Out of my comfort zone.

Day 2:  By this time I realized that my masterpiece study of “Girl With a Pearl Earring” wasn’t going to happen.   I was also secretly disappointed that I hadn’t painted anything “pretty”, especially because I’m darn good at painting portraits and I know my way around encaustics!  I can paint a rockin’ portrait!  I teach encaustics – I should know how to do this stuff!  What are the other students thinking when they look at my pieces?  How come this is so hard?!

Ahhh there it is…My comfort zone!

Oh internal dialog how ridiculous you are, but thank you for being there to remind me that I need to get back on track.  Let me summarize the above paragraph:  I don’t know about you but artistically speaking I hold myself to a very high standard.  I teach art so I should know what the heck I’m doing.  This means I must produce “good” pieces.  What does a good piece of art look like?  Something produced with skill.  What I had been working on was not skillful therefore it was “bad”.  My encaustic comfort zone is creating smooth surfaces with calculated brushstrokes.  When you are in your comfort zone there is no room to grow, I mean, why would you need to?  You are already good at whatever it is that you’re doing.  In your comfort zone you can paint pretty pictures ’till the cows come home.  When you are out of your comfort zone it feels uncomfortable, unnatural, and awkward because you are in unfamiliar territory.  Only then when you are faced with a challenge do you have the opportunity for personal growth, to learn new skills.  It was at the beginning of day 2 that I realized I was way out of my comfort zone.  Well about time – now I can get down to business!

My frame of mind changed instantly.  I am in Charlie’s class and I am going to learn what Charlie has to teach how Charlie’s going to teach it.  Where’s that alien baby head?  I spent the remainder of the class practicing the same techniques, only this time I didn’t care if the final product looked “good”.  I was really able to let loose.  During the rest of the day I thought about the many parallels between taking this class and my own students.  It was like a spotlight was flipped on:   practice what you preach.  A common quote of mine is “We are not here to re-create the Mona Lisa”.  At the beginning of each of my classes or workshops I make it very clear that I could care less if you paint a beautiful picture.  All that matters is that you understand the techniques.  Mastering the techniques will allow you to paint a hundred beautiful paintings on your own outside of the classroom.  This, of course, does not stop the attempt of painting something pretty.  Soon the “frame-worthy” painting attempt takes over and technique takes a backseat.  Some students come into class with an agenda (to paint a pretty picture to hang on the wall) and these students will have the toughest time.  Here I am coming into this workshop with my Vermeer print out and my multitude of extra panels.  Talk about an agenda!  me-and-charlie

Once I came face-to-face with my comfort zone I was able to recognize it and change my frame of mine, thus totally shifting my classroom experience.  Something I wasn’t expecting to gain from this workshop was a renewed appreciation for my own students.  Every class they come to I take it as my responsibility as a teacher to challenge them and in doing so provide them with room to grow.  And they keep coming back!  That says a lot about their bravery to face their own comfort zones.  By the end of the “Making Faces” workshop I felt honored that my students keep coming back to paint un-pretty pictures.  I can only hope that I am brave enough in my future learning experiences to continue to face my own comfort zone.  Only in this way will I breakthrough to new artistic heights.

Thank you Charlie Levin!

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Class Act

In every class there is a dynamic. You see, I am usually the loud funny one. This is my natural group role – I am funny, hence people will like me and I will fit in. I am loud so people will pay attention to me and I can dominate the conversation. I am a good student so the teacher will like me, ergo, I win. These are roles we learn during childhood and we play them to some extent during our whole lives. Well this time I decided to leave the stereotypical Jaya at home, shut up, and absorb everything like a sponge…

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A garden view of Wax Works West

At the beginning of this year I had the opportunity to take an advanced encaustic course through R&F Paints. This week-long workshop helped me to focus my teaching style and direction. It also gave me something else that I wasn’t expecting: the itch to take another class! I never really thought about it before but I had become used to being the instructor in front of the class, and of course being “ON” for x amount of hours. If I had the desire to learn a new technique or try a new product I would do it on my own (that’s how I got into encaustic in the first place, scanning the pages of Joanne Mattera’s “The Art of Encaustic Painting” in the bookstore changed my life). I’ve got a decent mini-library in my studio and if I was missing the proper book or tools I didn’t have a problem investing in something new. The way I see it is that I am developing my skills which rounds me out as a teacher. The thought of actually TAKING a class hadn’t really crossed my mind. However, this encaustic course flipped on the floodlight.

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Art is where you create, create where there’s art

The class was held at  Wax Works West, a magical state-of-the-art encaustic facility. I had been wanting to take a class there for months and it was even more inspiring than I had dreamed. Everywhere you turned there was art, art, and more art. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. Walking into the workspace opened my eyes to what was possible in an encaustic studio, I mean, the bar was SET. I was introduced to my instructor, Laura Moriarty, and I found a workstation where I could set myself up. While organizing my tools I quietly looked around at the other students, some knew each other, some were quietly looking around just like me. We were summoned to “gather round” so I grabbed my notebook and the butterflies in my stomach. Now here’s the interesting part. I walked into the workshop expecting to learn a few new techniques and make some awesome sample boards. Well I got something way more valuable than that. Not only was the class extremely informative but being able to objectively take in the class dynamics was amazing. Watching my instructor, Laura Moriarty, INSTRUCT was helpful beyond measure. You see, I am used to how I teach, how I answer questions, how I troubleshoot, and how I demonstrate. Observing someone else in this role was better than cable.

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Downstairs gallery at Wax Works West

I kept my nose down and ears open during the week.    I didn’t chat much with the other students which is unusual for me because I am the social butterfly.  I ate lunch quickly so I could jump back into the classroom to perfect another sample board.  Finding an environment that fuels your creativity to the point of boiling over is an adrenaline rush.  Working in the Wax Works West facility solidified my goal to be an awesome teacher as well as a masterful encaustic artist.

After the last day of class I spoke to Laura asking her advise on how I could get my foot in the door. I’m so glad that she took a few minutes to give me some suggestions. The weeks passed, lesson plans were fine tuned, and emails with the ladies of  Wax Works West were exchanged. In a meeting with owners Wendy Aikin and Judy Stabile my dream came true: I was officially invited to teach the workshop I had developed called “Wax with Whimsy”. I think the only thing keeping me from floating away into the Corralitos sunset was my giant encaustic notebook I carry around with me. They suggested that I audit one of their encaustic basics classes to get the feel of how their workshops ran. Once again, I was on cloud nine. It took all my strength not to jump into the ring and begin offering encaustic pearls of wisdom – I had to keep silently reminding myself that I was there to observe. Being able to watch Wendy and Judy in action was beneficial because I was able to resonate with their teaching style. I could visualize myself teaching and see the areas where I can improve. I learned so much just by watching their interactions with the students. That’s it, I was hooked: I promised myself that I would sign up for as many classes that I could afford in order to learn how to be a better teacher. So that day I registered for “Making Faces” with Charlie Levin

Tune in for my next post: “Face to Face with my Comfort Zone”!

 

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