Monday, May 14, 2018

A Year of Watercolor – 5/14/18

5/14/18 – A Year of Watercolor

There are many ways to measure growth because it’s always happening, we’re always changing.  Our bodies, hair, fingernails but also, our attitudes toward things, how we handle problems, how we perceive ourselves.  It’s an interesting part of being human, being self aware, having the ability to see the course we’re on and make a conscious decision to stay on it or take a sharp turn.

I think anyone passionate about their work spends a great deal of time analyzing it.  At least that’s true for me; I remember the satisfaction in college of hanging a finished piece or an edition of prints on the wall and reveling in that feeling of success and completion but, also wondering what I could’ve done differently, what I can change for the next project, what I could try that I haven’t thought of before.  Eventually after a series of decisions, we get to a place we can see what the next few steps might be but, more importantly, we get to see how far we’ve come.

I find myself today at the 1 year mark of moving in with my boyfriend, Brian and setting off on the journey of being a working artist.  I was never a painter in college but, it made sense to take a small palette of watercolor paints with me on my bicycle trip in 2016.  I did some small, quick sketches along the coast to coast journey and when I came home to live with my parents again, watercolor was a very easy medium to set up on my kitchen table between breakfast and dinner.  It wasn’t the ideal studio space but, it was all I had.  However, I think a person’s potential is limited by the space they’re allotted to grow in, and while my kitchen table worked fine, a whole studio dedicated to my painting practice gave me a lot of room for my roots to grow.  

Below are a handful of the first paintings I made at my kitchen table after coming home.  I made small work very cautiously, often outlining in pen the key elements I didn’t want to lose track of when the water and paint hit the paper.  While I was very proud of the results of my exploration, I knew I barely scratched the surface of knowing what the hell I was doing.

'A Mysterious Ripple Made Me Question Everything' 6x8"

'A Brief Moment of Clarity Has Left Me Questioning Reality' 7x10"

'I Heard a Gentle Voice' 6x8"

'Among the Ancients' 7x11"

That’s part of life though, right?  There’s no excitement in pursuing something if you're already proficient in it.  I don’t remember learning how to speak but, don’t you think there was some excitement and satisfaction in being able to translate your thoughts and feelings into words that your parents or sibling could understand?  I feel that excitement when I set out to try something new in a painting and I end up with the results I was aiming for.  

I’ve dedicated a lot of time in the last year to making the images I see in my head.  Lots of days in the studio, plenty of good, plenty of bad and just as many abandoned paintings as finished pieces that I’m happy with.  No matter what you’re passionate about, stopping to reflect and appreciate the hard work you’ve put in is an important part of growing; it’s like checking in with the compass and the map, even if you don’t have a destination in mind, you don’t want to be wandering in circles.

Below are a handful of the paintings I’ve started and completed in 2018 so far.  I have a better sense of the trail I’m following but I’m also becoming more aware of the smaller paths that branch off and take me to new discoveries.  Some paths dead end while others bring me back after seeing things I never would’ve seen had I not wandered off.  It’s an interesting journey, this whole artist thing and I can’t even imagine what I’ll have to look back on in ten years from now.

'The Same Old Moon in the Ever Changing River' 16x20"

'Nature's Cathedral Spires' 11x14"

'The Sudden Burst of Warmth, is the Earth Blushing?' 22x30"

'The Silent Spinning Universe is Drowned Out by the Last Crackling Embers' 11x14"

Please visit to see a complete collection of watercolor paintings from 2017 and 2018.  Feel free to get in touch about visiting my studio and starting a conversation about the creative process; learning from and inspiring one another is one of the greatest aspects of being an artist.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Day with Big INK – 4/4/18

'The Big Tuna' printing press

It’s hard for me to sleep in unless I have to wake up to do something that I don’t want to do.  That honestly hasn’t happened too often lately.  I wake up and stretch and eat breakfast and drink coffee and go into the studio and create.  But seriously, I actually would’ve loved to sleep in a little bit today after such a long and exciting day yesterday and yet, I found myself on the floor at 7:30, reaching for my toes.  As I was down there, I noticed a few wood chips still embedded in my rug and I just had to laugh and smile–remnants of a project that had been coming together slowly over the last few months that all added up to an unforgettable day yesterday.

Haig holding up a print from his 7 foot woodblock

Earlier this year, my former printmaking professor, Haig, told me about an upcoming event at Salem State, the school I graduated from and where he still teaches.  Big INK, a mobile printshop led by Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet had plans to come to Salem to share what they’re most passionate about: large-scale woodblock printing.  The duo travels from New Hampshire with their portable printing press, appropriately named ‘The Big Tuna’.  While it is still 500 pounds, it may be the only printing press in the country that can be readily transported to print woodblocks up to 8 feet long.  Watching them set this thing up in the room was like seeing a couple kids unfold a plastic table for a lemonade stand; it truly seemed so simple but, the capabilities of this press are mind blowing.  

McKenzie rolling up her 6x2 foot woodblock with ink

Lyell and Mckenzie holding up her print titled, 'Listen'

Along with myself and Haig, a handful of other printmakers, both professors and students, began the process of designing, drawing, and carving our own woodblocks months ago.  I’ve only printed something this size (3x4 feet) once before and it’s actually been years since I carved and printed anything at all.  I was a little intimidated but, I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  I’m sure we all endured the same struggles while we worked to get these blocks ready: the immense decision to come up with an image worth spending so much time with, the physical fatigue of cutting away the wood for hours on end, dealing with knots and inconsistencies on the surface, maybe cutting away something unintentionally and fearing that the image might be ruined...  Art is something a lot of us make because we just don’t know how to process the world without it.  But sometimes it gets to us and gets us down, even fills us with doubt.  I think being isolated in the studio can be hard sometimes as much as it’s something all artists strive for.  It’s good until it doesn’t go right and then there’s no one around to relate to your frustration or your mistakes, no one to remind you that as important as all this may seem, we’re all just playing and having fun.

Mike and his first woodcut titled 'Queen of the Night'

While some bad days in the studio are part of the artist’s reality, days like yesterday with Big INK are a reminder that interacting and working with a community of artists is more rewarding than any good day spent alone in the studio.  Seeing the woodblocks everyone had spent months on was so exciting and working together through the whole process –from laboriously inking them to peeling the paper off for the first time– was so joyful whether we were printing my image or someone else’s.  Whether it was a combination of too much caffeine and not enough sleep or some sort of reaction to the ink, there was something in the air yesterday in those rooms we were working in, this whirlwind of excitement that I’ve only experienced when the passion of one person is matched by a roomful of people all working toward the same goal.  I’m very grateful I got to be part of such an experience even if I never get those wood chips out of my rug at home...

My 3x4 foot print titled 'There's Nothing As Comforting as Warm Light on a Cold Night, Other Than You'


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

3/21/18 - Remembering, Reflecting, Rewriting

It’s been more than a year since my cross-country bicycle journey came to an end.  I still remember waking up for the last time in Joshua Tree National Park.  Covered in a blanket of gray clouds, the sun was not there to greet us like she usually was.  It was by far the dreariest day I had seen in my month of staying in the park, a sign that our plan to leave that day was the right choice.  

Vinny and I crawled up off the ground and sleepily started packing up.  When the first few rain drops fell, we started moving much more quickly.  Driving out of the park for the last time was an emotional experience that the heavy wind and rain emphasized quite nicely in a sad sort of way.  Our 2.5 day drive to Austin, Texas had begun.  From there, Vinny would travel South to Mexico and I would fly home to Massachusetts.  

I was truly excited at the time, I had accomplished what I set out to do and the most rational thing next was to go home and process everything that had occurred.  At the point of walking through my front door for the first time in 7 months, everything I had seen and done on my journey was such a blur, a long strip of film balled up and stuffed in a box in a drawer in a desk in my head.  But now, more and more, I can simply close my eyes and find myself reliving all the little moments of my trip in great detail: the feeling of crossing into New York realizing I wouldn’t be back in Massachusetts for a long time; rolling over the hills lined with corn in Illinois and Iowa; the subtle shifts in the landscape once I entered South Dakota; the moment I saw the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and all the miles I rode next to that great expanse of blue all the way down to SoCal.  I’m still transported when I listen to music I heard on the seat of my bike and just the smell of peanut butter brings me back inside my tent where I ate many sandwiches topped with m&m’s or trail mix.

It’s almost eerie in a way to be able to jump back in time with such clarity by a sound or smell or simple thought.  I can understand how soldiers coming back from war find it difficult or impossible to return to civilian life.  At least my trip was a positive experience.  And its positive effects on my life seem to be getting clearer and clearer.  Since I’ve been home, all I’ve been doing with my time is making art.  Lots of images just came out of me as I was trying to get back in the habit of drawing and learning how to use watercolor.  I just wanted to make pictures.  But now, a year into making art full time and rewriting my artist’s statement for maybe the fourth time, I finally see how much that bike trip has influenced my life and how much of painting is processing the memories and emotions experienced on that ride.

It’s hard to remember what life was like before I left for the West coast, it really is.  My life was a certain way for so long and having such an intense experience makes me feel like a different person now.  Maybe it’s just that some part of me is more alive.  After graduating college I did not have the same dedication to studio time as I did when I was a student.  In fact, I felt devoid of all ideas, direction, and inspiration, lost in the act of “trying to make a living” through an unsatisfying job.  After a few years, I didn’t quite know what I wanted, I just knew I didn’t want what I had.  And so began the planning for the trip of a lifetime.  I pulled a U-turn on the dead end road I was driving down; or maybe I just parked the car and left in the opposite direction on my bike.

All I know now is the act of making art is an attempt to portray the power of the journey, the spiritual evolution that can occur in a person when they give in to the unknown and allow it to guide them.  Without my cross-country ride, I don’t think my life would be the way it is now, pursuing a career in art, full of fire and inspiration, a healthy relationship with myself and a wonderful relationship with a man I love that’s been blossoming almost since I came home.  A lot of great things can happen when we make the changes we feel are necessary in our lives.  However, a lot of tension and anxiety can build and consume us if we don’t go after the things our heart truly wants.  You might not know what you want but, acknowledging you have something you don’t want can be the first step of a new and exciting journey.

What follows is the latest concoction of words I’ve used to describe my intentions in making the art that I am making, thanks for reading:

A journey begins with a conscious decision to stray from the path that we tread every day, a willingness to encounter the unknown and allow it to guide us in hopes of discovering a better understanding of life and ourselves.  I once felt trapped by the decisions I had made and in trying to work my way out, everything changed.  Life seemed to unfold before me in ways I had never experienced or imagined possible and I portray the feeling of liberation and continuous mystery of life in my art.

My paintings depict figures wandering through dramatic and colorful landscapes often pulled from my imagination based on memories and emotions felt on my own journey.  The inhabitants of my images are often a smaller part of the composition which gives the environment it’s own presence and power over the figure.  Humans aren’t as dominant in the world as we like to believe, there are forces much greater than us and we can see evidence of that in all the diverse and dynamic landscapes Mother Nature has shaped.

I want the viewer to feel small, like standing on top of a mountain or at the roots of a mighty redwood; the same feeling you have in your gut when you realize you’ve never been so far away from home and suddenly you get a sense of your scale: a tiny spec, untethered, roaming across a world that, by chance, came to be and has existed for what seems like an infinite amount of time and will outlive us for even longer.

Jump to my Gallery or Website to see or read more.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

9/20/17 - Things Change

Change is good because sometimes you need a penny when your coffee comes to $2.01 and you don’t want to get .99¢ back.  It’s also good to change your underwear and it’s totally okay to change your mind.  Also, it can be confusing if you don’t change the calendar, so that’s good, too.  And you can’t forget about that song, ‘Changes’ by David Bowie, that song is pretty sick.  The season’s also change and if nature’s doing it, you know it’s good!  Changing your perspective is interesting, too.  Like, standing right here can be a lot different than over there.  Change is happening all the time which might be the only aspect of change that doesn’t change.

I don’t think there’s anything that excites me more than new scenery.  How beautiful it is to experience a place for the first time; the excitement of drinking in the sights, the unique colors and shapes never before processed by the brain, fresh impressions of a memory.

I was lucky enough to have new experiences in new places everyday for about 6 months last year on my bicycle trip.  Sure, a lot of the corn fields in Illinois looked a lot like the corn fields in Indiana and Ohio but, they were still different.  It’s a true blessing to have a stretch of time vary so greatly from day to day.  I think this long stretch of time on the road helped me break out of the mindset of ‘same shit, different day.’

Maybe two years ago, I truly felt like a goldfish swimming in a very small bowl; I was training endlessly for my cross-country journey.  Walking and riding in small circles around the towns I grew up in.  The scenery became numbing and everything about being home was exhausting.  I felt like I shot myself out of a cannon when I finally left on my bike with my bags packed.

A year ago I was right in the middle of my journey.  I finished the cross-country portion and was about to head South for another few months down the West coast.  I have to make fun of myself because Ia big part of this trip was to escape the monotonous pattern of everyday life at home but, I essentially traded that in for another monotonous routine on the road.  Instead of waking up and going to work all day everyday I was waking up and riding my bicycle all day everyday.  No matter what us humans do our lives have a way of falling into a groove but, that doesn’t mean we have to feel trapped.  

Last weekend my boyfriend and I were driving home from Provincetown.  The day had ended and night had already fallen before we started the two and a half hour ride home.  At a certain point I remembered the first time we went to Ptown together at the start of our relationship.  We had also driven home in the dark through a landscape that was new to me in a situation that was new to me.  It was wonderful to realize and acknowledge these two similar scenarios and think about how much has changed in the six months that separate these two points in my life: how much we’ve grown individually as well as closer together, the home that we share, we’ve travelled, together and separately, dealt with changes in our families and changes in our careers.  Anyone can pause for a moment, think back 6 months and add up all the things that have happened and are different now even though so many people feel their lives fall in the ‘same shit, different day’ category.  We have more control than we allow ourselves to believe.  I never knew how I could make art my full-time job but, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) how to change the way I understand what that means and how to approach it.  

Humans are very good at creating a model of reality in our minds that we then limit and imprison ourselves within but, change is something we’re all capable of initiating.  Nobody is making us live the same way day in and day out.  The things we want to accomplish may seem impossible or too much for us to handle, it’s important to keep in mind nothing happens all at once, small changes add up.  So maybe start with something small and change your underwear.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

8/31/17 - Coming Together

Taking it all in can feel like trying to hold water in your hand.  It’s there, so clear and cold as it slowly slips away.  But each handful is different.  Trying to process something that is always changing is a great challenge that I see worth exploring through art.  There is something special about conveying ideas through imagery: reading into colors and forms that echo into different meanings.  There can’t be a dialogue without different points of view.  Let us all welcome each other to stand on one another’s ground and although it may look different than our ‘normal’ view, it’s all part of the same landscape.....

There are moments in waking life or in dreams that we perceive a connection between ourselves and the universe... or, mother nature, the infinite, the unknown, or god if that’s what feels right – it’s all the same to me.  Whether we are alone in some personal physical endeavor, deep in meditation, desperately injured or ill, in an altered state, seeing clearly in sobriety or through the hazy veil of drugs, faced with the weight of reality or the blinding lightness of insignificance, within ourselves or with the one we’ve become entangled with in the tapestry of love... life offers, at times, a mere glimpse beyond what we normally see and hear, smell, taste, or touch, that comforts us and scares us, that keeps us guessing, and trying to understand this living riddle. 

There’s no one answer for us all, we see the same world but it filters through all our senses differently.  Little points of consciousness we are, thinking we ‘get it’ when everyday, everything is changing.  What is there to hold onto?  Life can feel fluid and confusing but then, there are those quiet moments of bliss and clarity where everything seems to stop; moments that only mean anything to us until we try to describe the indescribable to others and realize there’s a bigger picture here and we can’t see all the way to the edges.

Friday, August 18, 2017

8/18/17 - Home Sooner Than Expected

I’m guessing I’d be somewhere in Kansas right now if I had continued on the bicycle trip I planned for this year.  Tires turning mile after mile while I take in all the new places and people that are tough to avoid on a long-distance ride.  The daily dangers of weather, angry drivers, and hungry wildlife would be the rushes of adrenaline I’d be feeding off of as well as the excitement of finding the perfect baseball field to pitch my tent in, free of charge.  But I’m not dealing with any of these things right now and I’m actually super happy about it.

While last year’s bike trip was everything I hoped for and more, I couldn’t seem to take in anything else from the experience this time around.  I was on the road for about a month, traveled up through Vermont and into Canada and all the way over to Toronto by the time I’d had enough.  I was presented with an easy way home and I saw it as perfect timing, something too good to be reduced to a coincidence.  I took the ticket and in a long, overnight drive with some friends, I was back home like nothing ever happened.

There were a few moments on the drive where I was wondering if I was making the right choice.  I trained so hard for this trip and wanted so badly to feel the freedom of living on the road again.  When my 7 month long bike trip ended this past Winter, I couldn’t wait to get out and do it again.  I felt more myself on the road than I had ever felt; more confident, and more connected to nature and the powers of the universe that we’re all victims of, for better or worse.  Maybe it was the adrenaline, all the endorphins my brain was firing off with all the physical activity but I was definitely addicted to something, and I wanted more!

More....anything, you could say.  We’re all capable of achieving anything, we just need to want it badly enough.  In a short time after being home in March, I decided to push myself into other uncharted territory, online dating.  Yikes.  It even seems corny to write despite how many people I know that’ve had success with finding someone on the internet.  Dating quickly lead me to further unknown territory and before I knew it, I was in love.  I had been out to my close friends and immediate family for quite some time but, talking about my sexuality with anyone further seemed pointless when I wasn’t dating or even interested in it at that time.  I would never pretend to be anything I’m not but I must say, I’ve never been more proud of who I am than right now.

Needless to say, this new love in my life was certainly a major factor in my decision to come home early from this years bike journey.  I felt I was leading myself down a massive, unnecessary detour that would yield no benefits to what I was trying to do with my life: be a full time artist among my friends and family and my boyfriend and embrace what it means to have a home.  

Damn, love is good, love is great...someone ought to write a song about it.  I’m overjoyed to be sitting at my studio desk as I write this out, finished and unfinished pieces of art all around me, table covered in tubes of paint and pencils, a hot cuppa coffee within reach; as well as a head full of inspiration and a heart full of love.  I feel uninhibited, invincible and excited for the future.

Friday, February 3, 2017

1/19/17 - Stoneham, MA - Home Again

Vin’s odometer ticked passed 200,000 miles on our way to the airport but his sleep-filled eyes didn’t notice.  Barely 3:30am.  I was too focused on directing my sleepy chaufer.  This trip became much more than a cross-country bicycle journey – that ended 4 months ago.  

The timeline in my head is a knotted ball of yarn, my most recent memories involve ropes and rocks in the strange stretch of land known as Joshua Tree.  

But, I can still listen to certain songs, close my eyes, and be transported back to the plains of South Dakota, riding along the Columbia River in Oregon or winding through the Redwoods of California.  

Countless moments of solitude from the seat of my bike, so many miles of scenery fly through my mind like a bright red ribbon over my eyes and suddenly I’m home like it never happened, like a compelling dream that stays with you for the rest of your life.  I intentionally put the pen down a couple days into my month-long stint in J-Tree, I knew it would be a blur no matter how hard I tried to hold onto details.  

It’s a fuzzy memory, unlike anything I saw in the landscape – ok, all the mice and rabbits and coyotes are pretty fuzzy.  All the plants are rigid and defensive, a harsh place to grow.  

Even the rocks are anything but smooth, they’ve taken their fair share of skin and blood from me and many others.  I like to think we’ve all given our blood and our skin, a gesture of respect.  

There’s something compelling about that place, it takes hold of many people and beckons their return year after year, the dirtbags who live out of their cars and survive off rocks and adrenaline and meals crafted in communal dutch ovens by campfire coals.  

I’ve never seen so many people so stoked on nature.  I’ve never spent so many days in a row sleeping without a roof overhead.  The night sky became my ceiling and shooting stars were the sheep I was counting.  

To wake up outside, ready to watch the sunrise is a special thing, even when a layer of frost covered my sleeping bag.  

The sun would be up soon enough to dry it all out, to heat up the rocks for us to climb.  Everyday, we had to opportunity to defy death, to trust science and each other’s ability to implement science to get our Earthbound asses up on top of some rocks, screaming and swearing at times when we were giving all we had and sometimes a little more.  

I never thought I’d be a rock climber but damn, that’s some good adrenaline.  I’ve felt small many may times over the course of 7 months but, how humbling it is knowing a wrong move, some man-made error on a sheer rock wall can send you to your death.  

I’ve thought about death a good deal and even though I have a lot of trust in myself and my friends at the end of the rope, I never felt closer to death than my month in Joshua Tree.  

It’s something we can’t avoid, we might as well get used to it.  It still blows my mind all the things I’ve seen and done and the people I’ve I am at home with a roof over my head and all the people I’ve shared my life with except the last 7 months.  

I want them all to know and understand what went on and how I feel but damn, no words or drawings or photos will ever make anyone understand.  This whole ‘life’ thing is intensely personal but, we’re all trying to make at least one other person know what life is like in our own skull.