What Inspires Me: Travel

The past few months have been a WHIRL WIND of life, which has caused me to neglect my creative life and unfortunately this blog….sigh.  Working hard has its benefits and in this case, it came in the form of VACATION…YES!  I just spent the last two weeks at home in Asheville, in my eyes a little slice of heaven.  Spending time with my sweetie and other loved ones, was good for my spirit, and it has given me the energy to bring my life and work in Brussels to a positive end.

What a wonder it was to do the most simple things…walk barefoot, plant flowers, cook, hike, play with the cat, hold hands…everything I have been missing and can’t wait to get back to.  While this trip was not to an exotic location to experience new things and meet new people, this trip reminded me of what’s important and it has given me direction in both my personal and professional life.  I have come to learn that travel does not have to mean exotic to be meaningful, but it does have to challenge me to think in a different way, and that is exactly what this vacation has done.

Mixed media work:  “Tell me, where are we going again?”  Paint, collage, ink, graphite on paper.  Inspired by travel, challenges, and moving forward.


What Inspires Me: Self Portraits

Self portraits are a tricky thing.  When I ask my students to do self portraits, many times they get caught up in creating a physical likeness rather than all the other stuff that makes them unique.  Lately I have been asking them to take a more conceptual approach to the self-portrait, and create something that could look like them but focus on capturing the essence of who they are as a human being.

I love this work by Yue Minjun, which looks like him, but in reality it is about so much more, drawing on iconic eastern and western images to create a sort of psychosis on the canvas.

Yue Minjun, Between Men and Animal, 2005

Another favorite of mine, Cindy Sherman, uses herself in her photography, but again the pictures are about more than her physical self.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #56

So what is my point…Well, I think one of the best creative exercises is to reflect on experiences and use them as a means of inspiration.  Lately I have been thinking about the past, especially my childhood, the things I experienced and the adventures I had.  I also have been thinking a lot about my present state of discontent and the excitement of the future, especially the transition home…..

I found some pictures and scraps that I usually hang up around my house, but I just have not done that here in Brussels, but yesterday I decided to go for it.  It was a tremendously cathartic experience and in the end I created my own self-portrait that identifies many of the highs and lows of my life.  I wasn’t really thinking about how or where to put the pictures, I just got caught in the moment and taped them up in a stream of consciences. In the end creating the essence of me rather than a likeness. What I like about this piece is that it is transportable and every time I take it down and put it up it will change and maybe even grow or shrink through time.





I’d like to challenge you to creat your own self portrait, not worrying about likeness, but just focusing on you and consider how you would express what is important to you and about you. It’s a great way to find inspiration for artworks or for writing.  If you do make a portrait, I’d love to see it!

Take care and thanks for reading!


What Inspires Me: A Whirlwind trip to the Tate Modern

What!  We’re going to London for the DAY??!!…..And so begins the all day adventure of 28 teenagers, my two colleagues, and I.  Off we went to visit the Tate Modern Museum in London.  I was so excited as I had never been.  I knew they had a room dedicated Mark Rothko, one of my all time favorite artists, and I was looking forward to spending some time with his paintings.

We hopped on the EuroStar and off we went………..

After some train delays……………………we finally arrived.  I am always surprised by London and how cramped everything is, especially the Tube….so imagine traveling through central London with 28 teenagers using the metro…YIKES!

Already behind schedule, a fellow traveler thought it was a good time to lose their wallet…and after more delays, we finally arrived at the museum…YES!

We had approximately 3 1/2 hours now to view the collection, have lunch and get back to the train….So I went searching for the Rothko room and… it had been taken down!!!! Gasp, sigh, cry….to quote one of my friends, “somebody call me a waaaaambulance!”  I recovered rather quickly when I saw this work by Do Ho Suh, “Staircase III”

It’s the first time I have had the opportunity to interact with his work in person.  As you approach the room you start to see this curious red glow emanating from it, and then WHAM!  When I walked in, I gasped, it is truly amazing, beautiful, and interactive.

Here is a great short clip of Doh Ho Suh talking about the piece when he was installing it at the Tate Modern.

Here are some other images from the day…

I love traveling with students, they make some incredible observations and really make me laugh.  The day was fun, inspiring, and a whirlwind.  Take care and thanks for reading!

What inspires me: Isolation

I have long been a fan of Edward Hopper, I love the subject matter of his work, capturing every day scenes and filling them with different emotions such as loneliness, isolation, and boredom.  The figures in his paintings, their expressions, their body language, their quiet interactions, help to convey the mood of isolation in his work, but for me, I feel it most from his use of dramatic light and shadow.

Edward Hopper "Summer in the City"

In this painting the woman and her emotions are highlighted through Hopper’s dramatic and somewhat structured use of light.  I can almost hear her saying “what am I doing, where am I going,” and feel her loneliness despite her company.


I particularly love this painting by Hopper, “Sun in an Empty Room”  It is bleak, but it is warm, it’s uncomfortable, but it is also inviting.  This is a place you can go to look out the window and wonder.

Edward Hopper "Sun in an Empty Room"

I have been thinking about how I can put some of Hopper in my own work. On a recent trip to Copenhagen to visit some dear friends, I used my iTouch and Hipstamatic application to capture some images of landscapes and buildings as I was moving along in the train headed to their house.   At times I like the Hipstamatic because it seems like it can produce magic with the simplest effects.  Here are some of my images that have been inspired by Hopper….

I like the low dull winter light in these…

What’s next for these photographs?  I am not quite sure, but I think I might use them for some etchings.  How will I keep exploring Hopper?  I would like to continue to capture some of his ideas with photography, using some lovely laundromats we have here in Brussels.  The light, the metal, and the repetition of shapes and forms found in the laundromats appeals to me and conveys a deep sense of isolation, boredom, and loneliness.  I am excited to see if I can capture the mood I am looking for and share it with you.

Take care and thanks for reading!

Friets with a side of mayo

Sometimes I just gotta create, even when I don’t have ideas or perhaps they are not very profound,  I need to make something every couple of days to keep from twitching, or at least that is what my friend Lauren says.  When I am in that mood and don’t know what to create, I make a little mixed media piece based on something that has happened during the day, be it some thing I saw or phrase I heard, it’s just enough to get the creative juices flowing….

This piece entitled “Dear Diary”, is about feeling out of place, like a fish out of water or in this case, a black bird on a bicycle.  The text in the back is a diary entry that deals with just that notion of being out of place and isolated.

During meetings I have this tendency to draw these goofy characters, more and more they are making their way into my work.  Here these characters just don’t know what to say, “Blah, blah, blah” is that moment in time when you want to say everything but can’t say anything.

“My Boots are Heavy Without You,”  I read the phrase “my boots are heavy” in the book Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud, (way before it became a film) and fell in love with it.  I have been away from my sweetie almost 6 months, and my boots are real heavy.

One day at school I was messing around with a release print after printing an image of a heart on a transparency.  By the time I got home I saw the heart as a head, and drew a portrait. The rest of the imagery just started pouring out as I was creating.   I call this piece “A Portrait of What it Looks Like to Think with Your Heart.”

Many of these pieces were done in a day or even in a few hours.  It’s my belief that not every artwork has to take weeks and months to create in order to be special.  Each of these pieces helped me deal with issues I have been having that come with being away from the ones I love.  Some people write, some play music, I like to make stuff.  I hope you all have some kind of outlet that allows you to move through your challenges.

Take care and thank you for reading.

What inspires me: Birds

I love birds and for the past few years they have inspired a lot of my artwork.  You can see them in my photographs, textiles, and mixed media work.  My Grandma Harriet loved birds too.  She loved their song, their colors, the sweetness of them.  Every time I see a little Wren I think it’s my granny coming to say hello to me.

This past summer at Penland School of Crafts, I did an entire series of bird prints using various types of printing methods.  I also incorporated old photographs that I had bought at a rummage sale.  I tried to associate what was going on in the minds of those in the photograph and associate that with the behavior of the birds.  In my head I could hear the dialogue the people were having and that the birds were having.

Here are some examples:

The print above  is a multi-layered dry point etching.  The photograph was scanned and printed on kitakata Japanese paper and applied using the Chine-collé method.
The print above  and the one below were also done in multi-layers and utilize two different etching techniques, dry point and soft ground etching.  The photographs were added using the  Chine-collé method.  I love etching, to me it is quite magical and I loved the texture that the  plate tone  creates while wiping the plates.  To learn more about etching check this out.
Lately, crows have shown up quite a bit in my work.  I think they are beautiful birds with their shinny sleek feathers, sometimes they almost seem metallic.  I am also drawn to crows because of their intelligence and their adaptability.   This is an amazing TED Talk that talks about the intelligence of crows.
Thanks for reading!