Tag Archives: studio practice

Artists’ Blog Tour

BLOG TOUR . . .

Studio of Judith Joseph, 6-2-14

Studio of Judith Joseph, 6-2-14

A wonderful artist and compassionate spirit, Catherine Meyers, from Catherine Meyers Art Blog,  invited me to participate in a Blog Tour.  It’s been going on for a while, with many wonderful studios involved!  So in order to participate, I’ll answer a few questions and then introduce the next couple of artists who will be the next stops on the Blog Tour.

What am I working on?  I have been creating works of calligraphy and illumination.  I specialize in the Ketubah (illustrated Jewish marriage contract, a folk art.)  Since marriage season is in full swing, I’ve been busy writing out texts by hand in calligraphy with hand-painted, customized illustrations.  I’ve also been producing art for reproduction, where the image is printed with a digitally-produced text that I generate in a graphics program.  Here are some recent works:

I also participated in a gallery show in March at ARC Gallery called Fractured Yet Rising, about violence against women, where I hand-wrote one of my poems on the gallery wall.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?  I think of myself as a painter who includes calligraphy, rather than a calligrapher who decorates text.

Why do I write/create what I do?  I was raised in a family environment that was richly steeped in my Jewish cultural heritage, and text (reading lots of books, learning to read and write Hebrew as a child) was a big part of this.  So, it seems natural that text would be an integral part of my artistic expression, along with narrative imagery.  I also am a people person, and I find the collaborative aspect of my work to be very joyous and inspiring.

How does your writing/creating process work?  My commissioned work begins with people requesting a ketubah.  I interview them and sketch, which leads to the finished work.  For work I produce independently, I work with ideas or materials that engage me, and this feels more like play.

Ghost Scroll, cut and painted,mixed media, 3' x 4'.  Judith Joseph, 2014.

Ghost Scroll, cut and painted,mixed media, 3′ x 4′. Judith Joseph, 2014.

So, now you know a little more about me, let me introduce you to the next amazing artists in the tour.

Peggy Schutze Shearn is a Chicago area painter whose work incorporates letterforms, abstract calligraphy and text into colorful semi-abstractions.  Her sense of color and pattern is gorgeous.

Nancy Charak is a committed abstract expressionist who makes paintings and drawings in Tucson, Arizona, recently transplanted from Chicago.  Her watercolors are sensitive and reflective of nature.

Get Up, Get Out, Go See Some Art

Kerry looking out at Lake Michigan from the Milwaukee Art Museum

Kerry looking out at Lake Michigan from the Milwaukee Art Museum

I like to organize and conduct art tours.  It’s a good way to make sure I get out and see what’s around in the art world.  I offer the tours as a class to my painting students, artists and friends.  I spend time going over gallery and museum schedules and calendars, and map out itineraries of exciting work in Chicago and environs.  Ssometimes we visit artists’ studios and invite them to be our guest for lunch.  This offers a great opportunity for discussion of practical and creative issues.  We get to to see where and how artists work; ask what problems arise and how they solve them; and get an inside view to their creative process where it happens.

Desk Chair by Charles Rohlfs, 1898

Desk Chair by Charles Rohlfs, 1898

Recently, I took five artists (including Talia, an insanely talented sophomore at the Art Institute of Chicago) and an art fan to the Milwaukee Art Museum. We watched the sailboats on Lake Michigan from the wonderful outdoor cafe at the museum..  We viewed American Modernisms, two shows featuring the paintings of The Eight (a group of early 20th century American artists, including Robert Henri and John Sloan) and a fantastic exhibit of the eccentric, idiosyncratic wood furniture of Charles Rohlfs.

Portrait of Talia, by Ruti Modlin (her mother), acrylic on canvas

Portrait of Talia, by Ruti Modlin (her mother), acrylic on canvas

Afterwards, we traveled south to Kenosha and visited the Niemi Gallery.

Bruce Niemi with one of his sculptures; Ruti (artist in group)

Bruce Niemi with one of his sculptures; Ruti (artist in group)

Artists (and art fans) tour Niemi Sculpture Gallery

Artists tour Niemi Sculpture Gallery

Bruce is a successful sculptor with works in many public and private collections.  He lives just over the state line within spitting distance of I-94,which is convenient for clients to visit from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.  He represents a varied group of artists, most of whom have works installed in the beautiful outdoor grounds of the sculpture garden.  Suzi (Bruce’s business partner and wife) mows the garden paths, being careful not to knock over any of the sculptures or take out the teeming beds of wildflowers surrounding them.  While we were there, a blue heron took off from the pond at the edge of the property.

Suzi handles the business end of running a gallery, while Bruce produces his own work and selects their stable of artists.  He finds that representing other artists doesn’t compete with sales of his own work, and that all the artists benefit from increased exposure and traffic at the property.  He participates in SOFA annually.  A graduate of NIU, he was chosen to create a memorial for the five students who were slain at the NIU campus in 2008 in a campus shooting that also wounded 18 others.  As an alumnus, he is donating a substantial part of his time to the memorial.

Bruce varies his work to suit the demands of his clientele and also his weathered body, which feels the effects of his work.  He has to pace himself to prevent the onset of numbness resulting from prolonged use of the grinder, which he uses to refine the edges of his welds.  He finds that there is a preference these days for stainless steel over steel that rusts, due to the misuse of Cor-Ten steel by artists in the sixties who didn’t weld their sculptures properly, resulting in monumental failures that have given rusted steel a bad name.

niemi_studio_floor

floor of Bruce Niemi's welding studio

In addition to the sturdy works outdoors, the Niemis feature more fragile works in a small indoor gallery.  Vivian Visser, whose delicate constructions containing natural materials are shown at the indoor gallery, connected us with Bruce and accompanied us on the art tour.    Her work was seen at the Niemi Gallery by curator and botanical artist Derek Norman, who invited her to exhibit in a group show of botanical art at The Art Center, Highland Park.

Vivian Visser discusses her work (center) at Niemi Gallery

Vivian Visser discusses her work (center) at Niemi Gallery

I always come back from these trips with inspiration, ideas and insights into how artists make it work.

What Makes You Hot? (Creatively)

Get sweaty… (from dancing).  Paint until your eyes are ready to roll out of your head, your tendonitis has your tendons singing, your back cracks, your neck creaks like a gravel pit… don’t write to me if you’re avoiding your creative work.  But if you’ve been strumming guitar strings until the callouses broke and bled, take a break and share your creative foreplay with the rest of us.

How do you get yourself to start working on art?  For me, it’s not always easy.  If I find myself in avoidance mode, but I really want to work (or am on a deadline for a project), here are some of my tricks:

  • tidy up the studio, get the stage set for fresh work
  • do the easy part first, work up to the harder parts
  • get my hand moving, even if it’s just mixing colors.
  • Mix those colors, they’re like an aphrodisiac to a painter
  • Listen to music for inspiration
  • Honestly, in season I listen to the Cubs on the radio (and the hours fly by).  If they’re winning, I feel confident that even an artist can make it in this world.  If they’re losing, I wallow in the sweet, solitary pain of the artistic life (which is a lot like the life of a Cubs fan– moments of joy in a life of unrequited love)
  • show my artist friends what I’m working on– get feedback.  If I show it to them, it makes me more excited about what I’m doing
  • make something else, like cookies or a little sewing project, to remind me that making stuff is fun
  • use some tools– find an excuse to cut some wood, or use my power tool (power is empowering)
  • take a good walk with Willow to get me out of the house and moving

What do you do?

The Arsonist, 2008, mixed media on canvas, Judith Joseph

The Arsonist, 2008, mixed media on canvas, Judith Joseph

Glorious Summer

the view from my studio

the view from my studio

Most of my time is spent at my drafting table, where I am working on ketubot.  This is my view, through a sliding glass door.  Willow, my golden retriever, is my pal.  She has learned to open the sliding screen door by herself, so I keep a yardstick handy to slide it shut so I don’t have to quit painting and get up to close it.

Blue Hamsa Ketubah

I just finished this ketubah.  Blue sky outside and inside.