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on running and getting hurt and painting

I started running when I was 11 or 12. My dad and I would run down Highway 115 and at the Davidson College track. He taught me to kick at the end of a run and to stretch out stomach cramps on the move. I raced him to imaginary finish lines and we’d laugh  because we were having fun and we both knew we were trying to outrun each other. He’d let me win sometimes.

 

I ran track and cross country in junior high and struggled with shin and knee injuries until one day when I couldn’t move without excruciating pain in my knees after a long run. As athletes we learn to differentiate between discomfort and pain. There is a level of discomfort and sometimes even pain that comes from pushing yourself. And then there is the kind of pain that leads to injuries, and unfortunately it can take a while to figure out the difference. After that long run, I did months of physical therapy to try and solve my nagging knee problems. This competitive streak – with others and with myself – is possibly what has continued this cycle of running and hurting myself over the years.

 

There is a popular quote incorrectly attributed to Einstein that says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Don’t ask me who actually said this, because I checked on the internet, and apparently no-one actually knows.

 

I’ve dreamt of running marathons since I was 14, and I have yet to run one because I keep hurting myself. I still want to run a marathon, and I’d like to do so comfortably. Also I’d like to be able to keep on running for as long as I am able, so it’s time I do things differently.

 

Last weekend I started running again using a new tactic: running and walking intervals. Coming from an old-school “no pain, no gain” type of mentality, where walking while running is a sign of weakness, I am having to change my way of thinking about running and remove my ego from the equation.

 

In my current body of work, Searching on the wind, I am also pushing myself to try new and uncomfortable things in painting. My vision is still the same: Ultimately I’d love for my work to get people excited about the outdoors and to get out for a hike or run or ride or really anything outside – and better yet with others.

 

While making these paintings, one challenge I set for myself was to stick with acrylic paint rather than switching to oil paint part of the way. With acrylic it’s more challenging for me to make the paint do what I can rely on oil paint to do – to easily push it around and for the paint to still have presence on the canvas. Oil paint has more body (it’s thicker and well… more oily) and is naturally more opaque than acrylic paint. While I am able to make paintings that are not obviously either acrylic or oil (a skill that I value), acrylic has traditionally not been as satisfying as oil for me to use. With these paintings, I resisted the urge to switch to oils because I wanted to see if I could get the same paint-feel for myself while sticking with acrylics. This is more of a personal goal rather than something that others will notice, but I think that for my art practice to be sustainable, I have to set parameters, rules or challenges for myself to keep things spicy.

 

As for the ego thing, this can come into play as an artist. We sometimes want our work to be more than what it is or to show off our skills or to be high-concept. While it is important to me that my work be transcendent  – that the finished piece be more than the sum of its parts – it’s also important that the work be honest and not try too hard. The finished piece should feel like it happened naturally, that no elements are extraneous and all are essential. While sometimes maximal is the way to go, with these particular paintings, I wanted a simpler, more elemental feel. I think of these as meditative, poetic paintings that whisper rather than shout.

 

You can explore the works in the Searching on the wind collection here.

Two years in the making of a painting collection

Two years in the making of a painting collection… What started this body of work was a question I asked on Facebook: What outdoor spaces bring you peace and happiness? Friends sent me photos of their special landscapes, and I used those images as a jumping off point to create these paintings.

In this series of landscapes the feel of wide open spaces meets a soft geometry – a meditative play of shapes and colors.

Explore the paintings in the Searching in the wind collection HERE.

“Searching on the Wind” a New Painting Collection

In this series of landscapes the feel of wide open spaces meets a soft geometry – a meditative play of shapes and colors. 

What started this body of work was a question I asked on Facebook: What outdoor spaces bring you peace and happiness? Friends sent me photos of their special landscapes, and I used those images as a jumping off point to create small paintings, my Tiny Landscapes.

Using those paintings, I then created the larger works in “Searching on the wind.” Some of them stayed true to the small paintings, and some veered in other directions. After working on a painting for a while, it starts to take on a life of its own, and if you know how to listen, paintings will “ask” for one thing or another. Finished paintings are a conversation between the artist and the painting – or maybe with the muse or the universe…

I hope these paintings will evoke the poetry of nature and bring a sense of wonder and a breath of fresh air into your life.

Find them all HERE.

If you’d like to read more about what I was thinking as I started these paintings, check out this blog post about slowing down and enjoying the process.

 

The Mountains are calling and so is the Giro

It’s May… which means it’s Giro d’Italia time. This iconic race around Italy means we get to watch the drama of cycling unfold over three weeks while cyclists race their hearts out through gorgeous Italian landscapes. And since we’re well into the race, it means we’re hitting the mountains. And you know I’m obsessed with mountains – especially Italian ones.

Whenever it’s Giro time I think back to my days guiding bicycle tours in the Italian Alps.

In honor of the Giro and mountains here are some of my favorite mountain paintings available.
These are part of a collection inspired by my time guiding cyclists in the Dolomites, one of my favorites spots in the world. By playing with color and brush marks, I am sharing what it FEELS like up there. Bright hot sun, sharp cold air, big skies, vast sweeping green lush hills, and big jagged rock… The effort of making it up a climb and the elation of flying downhill afterward… These paintings bring this energy into your space.

Simply click each image below to find them in my shop.

Go Easy, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
How to Keep Warm, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
Among the Weeds and Other Blossoming Things, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
How to Satisfy the Bird, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches

If you’re looking for something made just for you, check out the Epic Ride paintings I’ve made. These custom paintings are based on your favorite – most epic – maybe even legendary – rides you’ve done, want to do, or have seen the pros ride.  And for those of you who have an Epic run or hike in mind, I’d love to make that painting for you.⁣

Interested in getting your own Epic Ride, run or hike painting? Email me to start the conversation. ⁣
I’ll create a beautiful, custom work of art to bring your dream to life or memorialize your accomplishment, so you can share the story of that adventure for years to come.

Botanical drawings to be featured in a wildflower guide!

I’m excited to announce that some of my botanical drawings have been licensed for use in a soon-to-be-published wildflower guide!

I got the news last week after a publisher found my drawings and contacted me about making some others for a new guide they are working on.

When the project is completed, I’ll share images and links to the finished guide here. In the meantime, you can find some of my original botanical drawings here, and if you’re looking for a gift for the writer in your life, my greeting cards are back in stock! These feature ten of my botanical watercolors of flowers, seeds and leaves found in North Carolina. Find the cards here.

The Ultimate Guide to Building a Studio Practice

I was recently invited to write a post for The Abundant Artist Blog on the mindset needed to build a sustainable creative practice, and I’m happy to share with you that it’s live!

artist jessica singerman painting in studio

“For many people, when they think about an artist at work, they envision uninterrupted marathon hours of studio time… something that isn’t realistic for most artists.

A studio practice needs to be sustainable – meaning you can keep it up for many years, whether you have family obligations or other jobs – without burning out. There are obvious necessities for a studio practice – like space and time – but to sustain a practice for a lifetime involves your mindset.

What is mindset? Simply put, mindset is the way you think. You can reframe the way you think to make your thoughts work for you, not against you.

I talk about the artist mindset in two ways: the mindset for your creative practice and the mindset for selling your work. In this post, I dig into how to cultivate an artist mindset to drive your creative practice. How do you prioritize the making part of the equation and keep creative momentum?

With mindset, people often focus on having a positive outlook. Positivity is part of it, but I advocate having a resilient mindset. The resilient artist mindset means being equipped to keep making your work even when you don’t feel like it. Develop the tools to carry you through lulls in your work and to break through blocks. Recognize that life might not be all kittens and roses, and you will have challenging moments. Having resilience lets you know that you can and will work through external and internal obstacles.

I’ve found nine keys to building a resilient artist mindset and sustainable studio practice…”

Continue reading this post on The Abundant Artist blog.

On working slowly and enjoying the process… and color

Lately I’ve been living and working more slowly. I realized working at a break-neck speed isn’t sustainable or enjoyable anymore, and that since I work for myself, I could give myself permission to work more slowly. The fact is I will always get my work done, so I can choose to take my time and enjoy the process. I’m not a procrastinator, so it doesn’t make sense for me to anxiously work fast anyway. This is all easier said that done however. I realized I needed to slow down in 2020, but it’s taken me a year to actually put it into practice.

I’m also deliberate about not multitasking if I can help it. Most of the time, genuine multitasking isn’t actually as effective as singletasking for me (not sure this word exists, but I’m using it) and at the end of a long work session of multitasking, while I might feel virtuous, everything feels like a bit of a blur, and the process definitely isn’t enjoyable.

There are certainly tasks I can complete relatively quickly and painlessly, but generally speaking these days I’ve been mindful about my thought processes and the way I do things, and I feel overall more content while working and living more slowly. Except on certain designated bike rides when speed is kind of the point of the ride – that’s different.

On that note, here’s what’s happening in the studio right now. And yes, I did mention that I don’t multitask, but I typically do have multiple projects going on at once. I just don’t work on them simultaneously.

I’m working on a series of landscapes where I’m playing with shapes and colors. I’m working slowly, trying to figure out the kind of color-play I want, refining the edges of shapes, thinking about the feel of the surface…

It feels good to take my time and work meditatively. These are the first two in progress.

I started in reds and pinks and oranges, colors that I knew would be mostly covered up and dissonant with the colors in the finished paintings. I like to allow little sections of the underpainting to show between shapes or through brush marks. Now that I’ve covered up most of the underpainting, I’m reworking the colors to fine tune how they relate to each other.

I’m thinking of what I’ve learned through experience over years of painting and back to grad school in one of my favorite and most challenging classes: color theory. In this class we studied the Munsell color system, which breaks down color into three properties or dimensions: value, chroma and hue. The way I put this into practice as I paint is by making some colors darker or lighter (adjusting the value), making some more or less dull (chroma), and in some cases changing the color completely – like turning a violet into green (the hue).

Because the paintings are paired down with a few interlocking shapes, the colors become even more important. I think that as art becomes more minimal, each decision becomes more significant because everything is there to see, plain as day.

As I make changes in color, edges of shapes shift around too: some edges get more crisp and some become softer. This process is both intellectual and intuitive as I think through what I know about color relationships and how I want the paintings to feel.

These paintings feel like an important bridge for me. For years, I’ve been wanting to integrate the landscape with the geometric work I did in my Little Watercolor Squares series. (See some of the paintings here and the book here.) Last year, I made geometric interiors for my show at Elder Gallery. (See that work here.) These new paintings feel like an integration of all that past work, and that feels good. This work isn’t ego-driven. It’s not trying to prove anything. It just is.

On the other wall of my studio are some small paintings I made to test out compositions and colors for this new series. These little guys will be available at the Ardmore Art Walk on May 8th.

The larger painting on the right is a commissioned piece that’s drying. It was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Day poem.

To be the first to know when the landscapes above are available, subscribe to my Insider’s List here.

Botanical Drawing Greeting Cards for pre-order this week!

violet botanical drawing

Due to popular request I’m doing a print run of my Botanical Drawing Greeting Cards this spring!

Pre-order your cards here until Thursday April 15th. ⁣

This is a pack of 10 greeting cards with my botanical drawings on the front. Each card features a different plant and is ready to be personalized on the inside. They come with envelopes.

The plants featured are all found in North Carolina and according to a good friend, the cards are a perfect gift for a teacher, neighbor, friend, family, minister – particularly if they love nature.⁣

Cards will ship in May and are only available direct from me.⁣

See them all and get the details HERE.

Camping, grit, resilience and mountains

 

I spent a long weekend camping with my family at one of our favorite spots, Pilot Mountain State Park. We love spending time in this special place, and we hike there year-round.

We went to the summit one evening just before sunset and I couldn’t resist shooting a short video to share this landscape with you. The first views above are from that evening, looking toward Winston-Salem and then the Blue Ridge.

The second view is from one of our hikes in the morning, of Hanging Rock and Sauratown Mountain toward east of Winston-Salem. One of the unique aspects of this spot is that as you do different hikes in the park, you’ll have the chance to see 360 degrees of landscape from Pilot Mountain. Since the mountain’s rocky formation juts out of the surrounding hills, it’s not surprising that it was used as a navigational landmark and was called Jomeokee or “great guide” by the area’s first inhabitants.

My family and I often have interesting conversations as we walk. One of the ideas that came up was the meaning of the words grit and resilience. My husband took the position that they are one and the same. I argued they aren’t, but that there is overlap and that the two qualities can go hand in hand. In the last year since the pandemic hit, I’ve been thinking of resilience a lot. I didn’t realize it until relatively recently, and it feels like an important quality to cultivate now. Anyway, my brother, being the rational person he is, recommended we simply look up the definitions. So here they are from my good old American Heritage College Dictionary:

*grit: indomitable spirit; pluck

resilience: the ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy

I often feel gratitude to have such beautiful places just a short drive away from home. Spending time at Pilot Mountain walking and looking and listening fills me with contentment and with inspiration for my work. Now it’s back to the studio!

Find some paintings inspired by my time at Pilot Mountain here and bring some peaceful energy of the outdoors into your space.

 

*I like the way Angela Duckworth talks about grit in her aptly named book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You can watch her TED talk here.

Introducing Portraits!

Last night I read an article in the *New York Times Style Magazine about terroir. It describes a vintner in Cleveland who planted vines in an abandoned city block to make his wines. It also features a baker who put out sourdough starter in various spots in New York City so that each one would pick up flavors from its environment. (Note this was pre-COVID times.)

If you’re interested in wine, you might know terroir as a French word used to describe the environment in which a particular wine’s grapes are grown. The makeup of the soil, altitude, sunlight and rain, all of these factors influence the flavor of a wine. This got me thinking about how I could apply the concept of terroir to portrait painting.

Last week, I made a painting of my husband Tim while he napped in my studio. I’ve drawn him many many times, but over the course of 16 years together, I hadn’t painted him yet. I purposefully included the studio space, tools, a cool chair and bright blanket around him. All these elements were fun to paint and gave me an excuse to play with line and colors. And all of these elements around Tim contribute to how his finished portrait turned out. All the elements in the space around him are a sort of terroir for this portrait.

Making that painting reminded me of how much I love painting people, so I decided to launch portraits this week.

I’d love to make paintings of people in either indoor or outdoor spaces… with things that bring them joy… a bike… some books… plants… musical instruments perhaps… 

You’ll notice I’ve included my painting of two dog buddies on a mountain top because our fur babies make great portrait companions!

I currently have some beautiful birch wood panels I’ve been preparing, and these will be ready this week to start making paintings. They are 24×18 inches with 1.5″ edge (painted white), and will come wired and ready to install on your wall. A portrait of this size is priced at $2300 for 1-2 people (or pets!), and I’m happy to work in other sizes and with larger groups as well.

Check out my custom artwork page for details on how the commission process works, or email me if you’re ready to get started. I look forward to making your portrait!

*Ligaya Mishan. “The Growers, Bakers and Beekeepers Embracing the Terroir of American Cities.” The New York Times Style Magazine 26 Mar. 2021.

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