Here is a list of books, in no particular order, that I like and keep on my bookshelf for when I need inspiration, a boost, or just a kick in the pants. I’ve linked each one of these to its listing on Amazon, but I encourage you to go find these at your local bookshop instead!
While I’ve been making things since as long as I can remember, I’ve also been training and racing since I was a kid. I’m still trying to figure out the relationship between athletic performance and creativity as an artist, but in the meantime there are some habits I have learned as an athlete that serve me well as an artist.
Show up. You can’t win if you’re not at the starting line. In this case, winning means making the work. If you exhibit your work, find avenues to show it.
2. Commit. Started something? See it through. It’s ok to have multiple projects going on, but make sure you finish them.
3. Setbacks will happen. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.
4. Learn from your mistakes. If something doesn’t work, move on. Try another approach. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP.
5. Strengthen your mindset. Practice staying positive.
6. Keep working on basic skills. It’s helpful to return to basics every so often to keep your skills and your eyes sharp.
7. Cross train. If you are primarily a painter, draw or make three-dimensional things. Do other stuff that feeds into your artwork. Read. Go for a hike, a bike ride, a run – something that will get you moving and out of the studio. You will get your best ideas when you are not in studio.
8. Walk away. When we do something for hours on end and things aren’t going well, it’s hard to see clearly what’s happening. When you can’t figure out what to do, get some space from it. That may mean just taking a few steps back to get some distance. Or it may mean working on another project or getting out of the studio to come back with fresh eyes.
9. Fear: As an artist, you might be afraid of using a certain medium, afraid of color, afraid of showing your work, afraid of failure, or afraid that you’re not making the right decision. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Fear can be a good indicator that you are stretching yourself. On the other hand, some fear is helpful to keep us from doing stupid stuff. Learn to tell the difference.
10. Keep a regular schedule, whether that means late night, early morning, or middle of the afternoon studio time. Stick to your schedule.
11. Be kind to yourself. You can only go so far if you don’t sleep enough, eat right, and get exercise. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long. Don’t feed into that starving artist myth.
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 is a staff member of the 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.
Today we photographed some new paintings. Our technique is straight-forward and delivers good results. We shoot outside on overcast days or in indirect light, so the sun doesn’t shine on the painting and no shadows are cast across it. We prefer shooting outside because it is more straight forward than shooting with artificial light. Shooting outside in indirect light means that the light is soft and even across the painting and there are no “hot spots” or glare off the more reflective areas of the painting.
We use a Canon 20D SLR camera and a 35mm lens with a remote so there is no camera shake when shooting each image. As you can see the painting is propped up on a crate so that it is as close to vertical as possible. The trickiest part is adjusting the camera so that it is pointing perpendicular to the painting. This means adjusting the tripod so the camera sensor is parallel to the painting surface.
We then use an 18% grey card to check exposure, and an X-rite Color Checker Classic color chart for color correcting purposes in post. Each painting is photographed with the color chart on it before shooting the painting, so that color correction can be done more easily. We know that the color is accurate on our monitor because we calibrate it using X-rite i1Display Pro colorimeter.
We use photoshop to crop and color correct. I save the camera raw files, but primarily use TIFF’s and JPG’s for prints, web, and promotional materials.
So obviously we are using some specialized equipment, but we aren’t spending a fortune to do this professionally, and we get high quality digital images as a record of my work.