Showing Up: Daily commitment to making art opens creative doors

Artist Jessica Singerman in the studio
Artist Jessica Singerman in the studio

Thank you to Lisa O’Donnell, the Winston-Salem Journal, and Relish for publishing a story about my work today. The article is below or check it out on the Journal website.

Shortly after giving birth to her son five years ago, artist Jessica Singerman had a revelation.

“I realized I was losing my sense of self,” said Singerman, 37. “The most obvious way to get it back was to start making art every single day rather than sporadically. I regained my sense of self, and I wanted to show my son, as he grew up, that I was hardworking.”

It’s doubtful anyone would question Singerman’s work ethic. For years, she worked for an outdoors adventure group, leading bicycle trips through Europe. She has scaled that back to about one trip a year, with the birth of her son, but still designs trips for the group. This semester, she is also working as interim director of Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University.

 Once her son goes to bed, she retreats to her home studio around 8:30 p.m., to paint for about three hours.

“At this point, I’ve been trying to figure out how to be a professional artist, how to make a living as a fine artist,” said Singerman, who grew up in Davidson and France.

She and her husband, Tim Bowman, who teaches in UNC School of Arts’ film department, moved to Winston-Salem about two years ago.

Singerman’s art can be viewed and bought at her website, www.jessicasingerman.com/shop. Her work is also at Sunnyside Mercantile, 724 N. Trade St.

Q: How would you describe your art?

Answer: My paintings are abstract with references to nature: mountains, forests, fields and big skies are conjured through layers of shape and line in vivid color. For my large pieces on canvas and panel, I use oil and acrylic paint. With smaller works on paper, I use a variety of media: watercolor, graphite, ink and collage for example. My work is inspired by the poetry of nature: color and light in the landscape, seasons and the passing of time.

Q: How have you evolved as an artist?

Answer: My working habits have changed as I have gotten older. I now understand that art comes from working regularly rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s about showing up every day, making mistakes, exploring, plugging away at paintings and drawings until the good stuff happens — the magic. I trust my process. If I set out to work on a large painting, I know it will go through a variety of stages before it is complete. Some of these stages are pretty awful-looking and some have interesting things happening. A finished painting strikes a balance between refinement, roughness, drama, romance and awkwardness — this is what makes it beautiful and human.

Q: Who has influenced your art?

Answer: The artists whose work I study most often are Richard Diebenkorn and the Bay Area Figurative Artists of the 1950s and ’60s, Amy Sillman and Cy Twombly. Mary Oliver’s poetry is an influence. My parents have been steadfast supporters of my work as an artist — and have influenced my work ethic. They are both hard-working people who have always and still work — day in and day out — without complaining. They are positive and forward thinking about their work, even when it’s difficult or doesn’t go the way they planned.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

 Answer: I imagine it’s the same challenge most working parents deal with. I’d like to spend more time with my son. I work two day jobs in addition to painting and running the business side of art making, which is a small business in itself. On the one hand, I want to demonstrate a hard work ethic for my son and keep growing my art career. On the other hand, I’d like to spend more time with him.

Q: What does art do for you?

Answer: Painting connects me to the world. When I paint, I am a part of something bigger than myself, a whole lineage of painters and artists and the current community of artists who explored and continue to explore what it means to be human through their work.

When I am working, I am drawn into a realm that transcends me. I am reminded about what is real and what matters most. It is through painting that I can quiet my mind, make sense of life, and explore spirituality. Making art is my voice.

Q: Any advice for other artists?

Answer: Show up. Don’t wait for inspiration. If you have to get a day job, get one that leaves you with enough mental energy to still do your artwork. Get in the studio even when you’re tired. Work your ass off. Prioritize your time in the studio. Have your work space always ready so you can get to work quickly. If you don’t have a dedicated work space, pack a kit with your supplies that you can easily move around as needed. Stay consistent. Keep chipping away at your work. Even 15 or 30 minutes of work a day can add up to something big if you do it religiously.

Be nice to people. The art world is small.

Meditation in Painting

Last night we shot the process of painting a series of small works on paper. Working on this particular set of paintings is a meditative process. While I work on pieces like these, I focus and get into a “zone” if you will. For these paintings I used a very limited palette and improvised. During this process I am looking at composition – the way the marks of paint, ink, and graphite interact with each other and the space around them. Elements such as how light or dark a mark is against another mark, the speed of brush marks, the direction in which I pull the brush, all these aspects come into play in the finished piece. I enjoy how paired down this process is – I’m not working with an image or a plan in mind. This is a truly meditative process during which I am 100% focused – all superfluous thoughts fall away. For me, this is the essence of painting and it ties into being in tune with nature. This sense of being in the “zone” or at one with a process is similar to the feeling I get when I am riding my bike or running hard – when all the extraneous noise falls away, and the experience of moving through space becomes the only thing that matters at that very moment.

Get organized! A quick and easy art inventory

This post is for artists looking for a professional solution to keep an inventory of their artwork. I use Microsoft Excel, but you could also use Google Docs or Numbers, so this technique is free and pretty painless.

To begin, I used this tutorial to make the basic inventory:

If the video doesn’t load properly, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl-jgdl0fnQ

As you build your inventory, be sure to use low resolution images, otherwise the excel document becomes too big and performance slows down.

As I used this method, I made a few modifications to better fit my needs and to make using it a bit more efficient. 

In each record, I add the following headings:

  • Exhibitions: List any exhibitions where the work has been shown.
  • Place: If the work is at a gallery or has been sold, write that here, including the name of the collector and city/country.

To speed things up, I replace images rather than deleting and entering another. This way the image goes in the right place and doesn’t need to be reformatted again. To do this, right click on an image  and select “Change Picture.” I use this method on each tab after I copy it and in the master inventory sheet.

Also on the inventory sheet, I add hyperlinks to each thumbnail. This way, when you click on each image, you instantly go to that image’s tab. To do this, right click on an image, click “Hyperlink,” select “This Document,” then scroll down to the tab number and select it. Click “OK.” When adding new images in the inventory, you can copy and paste images, replace each image, then right click and select “Edit Hyperlink” to change the links to each new tab number.

If you found this post helpful, please share!

Behind the magic: exploring my painting process

I am writing a series of blog posts in which I will answer questions from friends. If you have a question, connect with me on Facebook or Instagram and ask!

The second installment in this series comes from a question by Amber Dalholt, owner of Sunnyside Mercantile in Winston-Salem. She asks: “When you’re working on your art, do you have a method you go through for each piece consistently or do you go about it more chaotically as you feel?”

oil and acrylic painting, abstract landscape
No Wrong Season, oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, 2014

I begin a painting with a limited palette – just a couple of colors – loosely putting down large shapes, and as the painting advances, gradually introducing other colors and integrating more line and defined edges. As the process evolves I begin to have more of a conversation with the painting: adding elements, shifting things around, hardening or softening edges according to the needs of the painting. At this point, I am responding to what is already on the canvas. This can mean combining many smaller shapes into one larger shape, changing a component’s color so that it sings a different tune relative to what is around it, breaking up a shape into multiple parts, covering things up, and adding shapes and marks. In my smaller work, the process is more streamlined. Because there is less space, each element in the painting has more weight to it. I still want some quiet space to balance the activity, so there are fewer elements to a small painting than in a larger piece. Small pieces are a good exercise in making decisions and being concise.

My non-representational (abstract and not featuring people or places or things) work is very improvisational. I don’t have a plan when I start. I decide a painting is finished when nothing feels extraneous, but I don’t want the painting to feel over done or static. I like some sense of awkwardness in the finished piece because this is what makes the work human.

Even if I am making a picture of a person – like my most recent paintings of athletes –  when I start, I don’t know how the painting will look in the end. For those paintings, I start with a drawing to make sure the composition works before I commit to it in paint, but I don’t know which colors I’ll use in the finished painting. I trust the process. Some stages of a painting may look strange at first, but I trust that in the end, I’ll pull it together. All the layers of paint – once they are partially covered up and integrated into the top layers – are what make the painting more compelling in the end. That’s part of the magic.

“Where do your inspirations come from?”

Light Igniting Fields, Trailing Clouds, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches, 2016

I am writing a series of blog posts in which I will answer questions about my work from friends. If you have a question, connect with me on Instagram or Facebook and ask!

The first part of this series comes from a question by Mark Sullivan, owner of the Cycle Path bike shop in Cornelius, NC. He asks: “Where do your inspirations come from?”

Riding my bike – whether surrounded by fields, forest, or mountains – inspires me. The feelings associated with outdoor activities inspire me: warm sunlight on my face, cold wind on my cheeks, the way light changes when you are hiking in the woods and step into a clearing, the elation after reaching a mountain summit, the feeling of flying when you are cycling fast on the road, the sense of oneness when you are quickly weaving through trees on a narrow trail, and so on. I am inspired by the poetry of nature: color and light in the landscape, seasons, and the passing of time. In my abstract paintings, I am translating these fleeting moments onto the canvas. Rather than painting a landscape that looks like a photograph, I am interested in evoking the feelings associated with being outside or conjuring memories of outdoor experiences. My work is both inspired by the outdoors and also a reminder to go outside.

Racing short track – Photo credit: Mike Byrd

 

Why I’ll keep painting amid the shitstorm

How to Satisfy the Bird, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, 2017 — $2300

If we pay any attention to the media these days, it seems current events defeat logic.

It’s all depressing and makes us feel separate from each other and alone.

So I will continue painting because it cuts through the noise. When I paint, I am a part of something bigger than myself. I am connected to a lineage of painters and artists who explored what it means to be human through their work.

Making art and looking at it builds empathy. When we look at a painting, we are standing where a painter – another person, stood before us. We are confronted with what they saw when they painted, seeing what they saw through our own eyes. We find stories in paintings, and connect to those stories through our own experiences. When we look at art we connect to other people we may never meet.

When we look at art, we think about something bigger than ourselves. We are reminded about what is real and what matters. Because my experience outdoors fuels me as a human and as an artist, painting is a reminder to go outside and BE and look around myself and to be appreciative.

When I paint shapes and their edges bleed into each other, I am reminded of the truth of what it means to be human. Walls fall away. We are all more similar than we are different. We are connected by our experience as human beings.

So I will keep painting. I’ll keep waking early and staying up too late, puttering around in the studio and pushing paint, and trying to make some sense of things with my colors.

Intersections and Transformations

All Flame, oil and acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 inches, 2017 — $1000

Hi all, If you are in the Winston-Salem area in the next month, check out the group show in the Womble Carlyle Gallery at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Four of my paintings are on view there along with the work of 7 other Winston-Salem artists: Annie Grimes Williams (Jewelry)
Katie Chasteen (Photography)
Sean McNamara (Digital Art)
Ricky Needham (Painting)
Rose Jerome (Photography)
Travis Phillips (Installation and Video)
Woodie Anderson (Painting).

The exhibit is up until November 7th, and the gallery is open Monday – Saturday.

The unglamourous part of making art

Behind the scenes this week…
I’ve been using torn bits of my drawings as collage material in my new mixed media pieces. After brushing the back of the paper with acrylic gel medium and placing the paper where I want it, I flatten it with a piece of wood and weigh it down with something heavy – in this case, gallon paint cans. I typically let it sit overnight so that it’s ready to go in the morning. Once dry, I can work on the paper and panel with paint, ink, pastel, or whatever other medium I choose to use on it. With these particular pieces I am not using oil paint. This allows me to keep the paper exposed because I don’t have to prime the paper to protect it from the oil paint.