Interview with WXLV abc45

A couple weeks ago I chatted with Carol Andrews, station host at WXLV abc45, about my mural project along the Longbranch trail in Winston-Salem, NC. We talked about how the project came about with Innovation Quarter and what it was like painting outdoors along the trail. The interview just went live, and you can watch it HERE on the station site.

Thank you to Carol Andrews and Lori Bates for the opportunity and for their excellent work on this story!

 

What’s in a name?

People often ask me about my painting titles, “how do I come up with them?”or “what do they mean?”
Well I have a sort of system for titling works that don’t have an obvious name (unlike my installation Paper Mountain that was named just what it was). I keep a little notebook for title ideas. When I need to title a painting, I look through the notebook for inspiration. If none of the ideas feel right for the work, my ritual is to pull out a stack of Mary Oliver poetry books and to read until I notice words or snippets that resonate with me. I write them down and then riff off those or combine them to make my new titles. In the end I pick titles that I hope will invite curiosity, thinking and dreaming.

Below you’ll see “Among the weeds and other blossoming things,” one painting that I named using some Mary Oliver poetry and my little book of ideas. This painting is 40×30 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, and available from my shop where you’ll find other paintings with names that are hopefully as evocative.

Among the Weeds and Other Blossoming Things, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches

Winston Salem Journal Features Long Branch Mural

I came home from a bike ride Sunday morning to find a lovely feature on my newest mural in the Winston Salem Journal. Thank you Lynn Felder for the interview and Walt Unks for the photography and WS Journal for the feature! Scroll down to read the interview or see it on the Journal website.

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August 15, 2020 – On a bright August day with a blue sky and puffy clouds overhead, Jessica Singerman was working close to the ground, lettering her signature onto the lower right-hand corner of a large, outdoor painting – the traditional spot for artists to sign their work.

Singerman, an avid painter and nature lover, was putting the finishing touches on a 50-foot long mural on a retaining wall that borders the Long Branch Trail. The trail, which was opened in 2018, runs from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, through the Innovation Quarter and under Business 40 to Salem Creek Greenway.

Making a painting on a biking-hiking-walking path let her combine several of her passions.

“For me, the project was 100% aligned with what I believe in and love,” Singerman said. “Making the painting along the path felt perfect to me, because people who bike and run and walk can enjoy it. It really felt aligned with the things I care about.

“Going into the outdoors has always been like coming home to me. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I often felt like an outsider. Now being outside — or looking at photos of the outside — serves as fodder for my work and feeds my work as an artist.”

Artist adventurer

Singerman’s mother is French, and her father was a French professor at Davidson College, so she grew up going back and forth between the two countries. She variously lived in Montpelier, Tours in the Loire Valley, and in suburbs of Paris.

“My father taught French, French culture and French cinema,” Singerman said. “The faculty at Davidson would take turns directing the Junior Year Abroad program. My husband and I speak French at home, so our son is able to have a relationship with my mother’s side of the family who still live in France.”

She and husband, Tim Bowman, who works in the School of Filmmaking at UNC School of the Arts, have a son, 7. Her interest in cycling and art developed simultaneously. She’s also a runner, took ballet, was a modern dancer and a yoga teacher.

“I rode to get around as a kid in Davidson,” Singerman said. “And I got more into it in graduate school — road biking, racing, cycle cross. I started running as a kid.”

She has had many peak biking experiences, starting with touring France for the first time in 2003: “(It was) the hottest summer on record. Then I worked for Trek Travel for a while. I guided trips for them all over the world and managed different destinations.”

Singerman is president of the Piedmont Flyers, a local bicycling club, but they are inactive now because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“As a kid, I was always drawing,” Singerman said, but a life-drawing class when she was 15 at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours made her begin to take her art more seriously.

Singerman received her Masters of Fine Arts in 2004 from the University of Delaware. Her watercolors are the subject of a book published in 2017, “Little Watercolor Squares,” and her award-winning paintings and drawings are exhibited and collected internationally.

After graduate school, she said she struggled to find her footing as an artist. She taught for a while. In Australia for her husband’s work, she kept her art supplies in a cardboard box and would unpack it and work a little every day.

Back in the states in 2013, she and Bowman moved into a home with a garage that was at her disposal. She began a steady practice of working daily and has been at it ever since.

“Having my son was big turning point,” she said. “I had an about-face and realized that if I didn’t do my work every day, I would lose myself in motherhood, so having a baby at 32 re-focused me.”

Singerman works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, drawing media, mixed media and video. “For me, it’s about the idea, and if it makes sense to use other media, that’s what I’ll do.”

She also coaches other artists.
“I feel strongly about my work, and coaching is a way to give back,” she said. “Many of us are having to juggle life and an art form, and I like being able to show that it’s possible — keeping up your creative practice, whether it’s carving out time for it or dedicating your day. … It’s difficult but possible.”

Mural connection

Lindsey Schwab, director of community relations for the Innovation Quarter, was part of a committee that selected Singerman to create the mural.

“Jessica was chosen because her pieces are fueled by nature and are landscape-driven, and we were really interested in applying that to an urban greenway,” Schwab said. “The impetus to start this project was a desire to create a piece of art on the Long Branch Trail that people could enjoy during this time of COVID-19.

“More and more people are enjoying the outdoors during the pandemic.”

Schwab said that the name of the piece is “Winston Strong.”

“The Long Branch Trail is such a resource for our community,” she said. “And Jessica’s mural is an example of the connectivity that the trail brings to the community.

“I love that it incorporates all the different elements that you can see from the trail — Pilot Mountain, the Innovation Quarter, and the United Metropolitan Baptist Church.”

Lisa and Bernard Faulk, out walking for exercise on the trail, were happy to see the mural, and were excited that their church was included.

“I like the range of images. The colors are calming. It’s a great location. As I climb that hill, it will probably be motivating,” Lisa Faulk said, laughing. “We walk Winston-Salem, here some days, some days at Reynolda and at Meadowlark.”

Singerman said that she is pleased to have done a project that contains both representational work and abstraction and combines her twin passions for art and the outdoors.

“It feels good to make something that can be seen by everyone,” she said. “Art is for everybody.”

Long Branch Trail mural in Winston Salem, NC

Last week I completed a mural along the Long Branch trail in Winston-Salem, NC. It was a real pleasure to paint outdoors with passing runners, walkers and cyclists giving me words of encouragement and approval.

The mural is 50-feet long and varies in height from 6’2″ to 7’6″. The project was commissioned by Innovation Quarter.

Know someone looking for a mural artist to paint something BIG? Send them here.

Long Branch Trail Mural in Winston-Salem, NC
detail of hand lettering on mural 
Jessica Singerman painting a mural along the Long Branch trail in Winston-Salem, NC.

On painting and making mistakes and ego

One of my favorite artists, Richard Diebenkorn, used to talk about purposefully making “mistakes” in the early stages of a painting. This would give him something to change as he worked. I often think of this as I make paintings. In the early stages of a painting, I’ll purposefully use colors that don’t feel like they go together – or make shapes that aren’t right, so I can make changes as I build up the paintings. This process of searching for an image is something that I enjoy. By working in this way, there is no pressure to get it “right” in one go, and the finished painting is a result of this process of making changes.

Maybe it’s tied to my ego – that I feel I need a certain amount of layers of paint to make it worthy of putting into the world. Maybe when I’m making paintings at 90, they’ll be very minimal Motherwell-like pieces because I’ll have no need to prove anything anymore.

In the meantime, if you want to see some monumental paintings layered with shapes and color and muscular paint handling like my painting above, Try Again, Grow Calmer, you’ll like what I made for you. I designed a brand spankin’ new catalog featuring a collection of paintings that will knock your socks off.

If you’ve ever felt an emotional reaction from looking at abstract shapes and color and wanted to know more, this is for you. Want to get the goods? Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive your copy of this catalog. You’ll find some of my largest, most gut-grabbing paintings set in beautiful spaces with the stories behind them.

Prices increase February 1st, so if you’ve been thinking of adding one of my paintings to your collection, you’ll definitely want to take a look.

2019 Year in Review

artist jessica singerman painting in studio

2019 was a big year for me and as we wrap things up and look forward to 2020, I want to thank you for your support. I took the big leap of going full-time with my art career at the start of 2019, and I survived! Well I did more than survive. I did great and I’m learning a lot about running my own business. Bring on 2020!

To anyone who bought artwork, supported a project, liked and followed me on social media – Thank you so much.

Here are some of the things that your support made possible this year:

I successfully made Paper Mountain and Sky Project and exhibited them at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in the spring. Making this large scale installation and video project took almost 2 years of planning and required fundraising to make possible.

I gave a talk during the exhibition, and you can watch it here.

I had my first solo museum showI must love you very much” at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in the fall.

Cory Huff from the Abundant Artist interviewed me and we talked about busting the starving artist myth and my trajectory from graduate school to becoming a parent to being a professional artist. You can read it here.

88.5 WFDD Public Radio invited me to participate in an interview as part of its Radio Camp. You can listen to it here.

I donated 1% of my sales to Yadkin Riverkeeper, a local non-profit that “seeks to respect, protect and improve the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin through education, advocacy and action.”

For those of you who own my artwork, you might like to know that prices of my original artwork are increasing February 1st, 2020.

Thank you so much for your continued support along my journey.

The case for abstraction

artist painting in studio

Why do I make abstract paintings? Well it’s an instinctive thing and it’s what has primarily interested me in my artistic practice over the last two decades. For me, the experience of making a painting successful with nothing but marks and color keeps me interested and engaged. It also allows me to express a lot of the ideas and images I think of in a way that is more sensorial.

I don’t paint so that people can see what it’s like to be outside. I paint so that people can FEEL what it’s like to be outside.

When a painting features a thing or person, we are drawn to those recognizable elements and the possible stories around them. Abstraction is so vital because it captures the things we cannot see. When it’s done well, abstraction pulls at our gut in ways that we may not be able to express with words or photos. It taps a line directly to our emotions. This is why some people cry when they are in the presence of a Rothko painting. I am one of those people. It never fails that if I see a Rothko and I take the time to sit in front of it, I’ll soon be sobbing. (It was embarrassing at first, and then I just gave into it.)

I paint both totally abstract and representational paintings. I consider my more representational work – like my plein air landscapes – an important part of my practice. All of that looking at the world and recording it and making decisions about what to include affects my more abstract work. I think of the small landscapes as finished paintings, but they are also studies for my larger more abstract works. When I paint or draw, and am not simply copying something, I make a series of decisions about how to translate what I see or think of into marks and color. With time, as I keep practicing my craft, my eye and hand become more agile and my decision-making is strengthened. With experience, I’ve become more confident in my decisions while I work. When to make big changes or when to stop are not easy problems to solve, but I trust my process.

Life is a big paradox. I think abstraction often does a more compelling job of expressing this than a photo-representational artwork. I’ve accepted that life is chaos and I’m ok with not having it all figured out. Painting is what helps me explore this and share it with everyone else.

How does abstraction make you feel? Do you have any questions about this you’d like to ask me? Email me and I’ll do my best to answer.

I’ll leave you with this excellent video from PBS’ The Art Assignment. This is “The Case for Abstraction.”

Shared Spaces: a new project

A couple weeks ago I posted about depression on Facebook. I had hit a particularly low point and decided to share my experience in a public forum. I had never openly shared about depression or anxiety on social media in the past and was uncomfortable about doing so, but I decided to do it anyway. I knew other people were struggling too, and I figured that talking about it openly would be a step to help de-stigmatize it.

To my surprise, many friends commented on my post with words of support and openly shared about their struggles and their loved ones’ battles with depression. Other friends wrote me privately to share their experiences. I responded the best I could to everyone’s messages and comments and wondered if there was anything more I could do. There was clearly a need for a safe space to share about our common pain.

Lately I’d been feeling particularly lonely and missed working with a team, so I wondered what I could do to engage others and also to harness this outpouring of shared experiences.

I decided to ask my friends on Facebook and Instagram to share images of outdoor spaces that bring them joy so that I might make paintings using their images as inspiration. This project became a way to sublimate people’s pain and turn it into something beautiful. Somehow in my mind I made a leap from hearing people’s stories to asking them to look outside of themselves to what brought them joy and sharing that. I am not so naïve to think that my project will fix the way people feel, but I do see a need for people to connect on a profound level and since I know the benefit of going outdoors, I think that sharing what we find beautiful outside, is a good place to start.

The project is called “Shared Spaces.”

So below is the project. Please share your images if you want to participate.

I am making paintings of outdoor spaces using photos shared by you as inspiration. If you’d like to participate, here’s what to do: take a photo of a landscape, cityscape or any outside space that you find beautiful or inspiring. Post it to Facebook or Instagram, tag me (Jessica Singerman on Facebook and @jessicasingermanfineart on Instagram) or email it to me and share what this place means to you, why it brings you joy or inspires you. I’m excited to see your images!

Please share this post with anyone who would like to participate. Thank you!

This is a preparatory watercolor sketch I made from a friend’s image.
Preparing the panels for this series of paintings. This is sizing to prepare the wood for the oil primer that will go on top.

The drawings behind the paintings

For the paintings in my exhibit at SECCA, “I must love you very much” I did a bit more planning than I normally do. To be honest, I don’t typically plan my paintings, but for these paintings I did have a specific feeling that I wanted. I liked the idea of making a group of paintings big enough to surround viewers such as Monet’s “Water-Lilies.” Some of his water lily paintings were mural sized works that filled specially made rooms at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
I’ve been obsessed with Pilot Mountain for a couple of years, and have made a lot of paintings inspired by the place, but they were smaller works. For this project, I wanted to make paintings so big that a person looking at them would have the feeling of being transported to Pilot Mountain. While I’m not interested in creating a photo-realistic image of the place, I am interested in evoking the myriad sensations we feel when we are there.
To determine the size of the paintings, I measured the space I had available for my exhibit at the museum. I planned to make the paintings as large as I could make them while still leaving a bit of white space – or breathing room – around each one. I made four paintings, one for each wall.
After determining their size and taking reference photos on some hikes, I made preliminary watercolor drawings to loosely plan out the composition for each of the four paintings. I used a photo as the first point of reference, then reinterpreted the image by looking for the essential shapes that I would use in my paintings. As I worked on the large paintings, I referred to these drawings as a sort of map to give structure to my paintings. These are those drawings:
 

Want to see how I made these paintings? Check out this time-lapse video I made documenting the process.

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