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My outdoor oil painting kit

I made this pochade box to use for plein air oil painting over 15 years ago and it’s still going strong. To give you a bit of background, a pochade box is traditionally made of wood, has a hinged lid that acts as an easel, a storage box to hold your supplies, and holds a palette. The concept of plein air painting started in the time of the French Impressionists who painted outdoors with the help of the cutting edge tube paints that became readily available in the 19th century. Before paint in tubes, painting outdoors was unwieldy. So here we go: I’ll share with you my kit for painting outside with oil paint.

Looking for more tips for artists? Check out some of my blog posts below:

How to pack a travel watercolor and drawing kit

Timelapse showing how I pack my plein air painting kit

11 Things athletes do that will make you a better artist

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A Portrait of an Artist

Me somewhere in the Pyrénées in 1987

I grew up in a bicultural household. My father is American and my mother French. French was my first language and I learned to speak English in kindergarten. I remember the very distinct feeling of not knowing what the heck was going on while sitting cross legged on the classroom floor. We moved around a lot: from Maine to North Carolina, to France where we lived in Montpellier, the suburbs of Paris, and Tours, and back to North Carolina. Then I made my way north through school: undergrad in Virginia, grad school in Delaware – studying studio art then focusing on painting in grad school. After falling in love with cycling during school, I met my future husband at a bike race in Pennsylvania and moved in with him in Philadelphia. While working as an artist, I also worked in adventure travel, raced bikes, taught yoga and art as an adjunct. We moved to Australia where our son was born, then back Stateside to North Carolina where we settled in Winston-Salem.

Throughout all the moving around over the years, the constant has been art-making. I have figured out that I am my best self when I regularly sustain my artistic practice. I have a visceral need to create. It’s how I connect to the world and how I make sense of things.

on the way to Bodega Bay in California… Photo Credit: Rebecca Falls

I have juggled many jobs, but over the last 13 years I have balanced two careers, one in the adventure travel industry and one as an artist. In 2005 I had been out of grad school for a year, was teaching art at University of Delaware and working at a bike shop when I first saw a Trek Travel catalog. I looked them up and saw they were looking for new guides. After a notoriously grueling hiring process, I got the job. It has taken me 13 years to figure out how to successfully juggle my work with Trek Travel and my art career. I started as a guide and now work primarily as a Trip Designer, allowing me to work mostly from home, where I also maintain an art studio. The outside spaces I’ve been lucky enough to work in over the last decade have been perfect fodder for my imagination and are a constant source of inspiration in my artwork.

Studio Visit!

Join me for a tour of my studio! I’ll walk you through how I set up my studio with different stations for acrylic, oil, watercolor, and drawing. Since I’m a mom and have another job, I have to be pretty ruthless about my studio time. I keep everything organized in a way that I can get right to work.

Thanks for joining me! If you know anyone who’d like to visit my studio, please share.

Good Books for Creative People

good books for creatives

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!

Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator, George Lois

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The world’s best selling book by Paul Arden

The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Clear Seeing Place: Studio Visits by Brian Rutenberg

365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life! by Noah Scalin

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland

I will update this list as I come up with other books that I find helpful. And if you have any suggestions, drop me a line! I’d love to hear what you’re reading when you need a creative boost.

Carolina Art Crush!

I’m excited to share with you that Happenings CLT featured me as their Carolina Art Crush today. Thank you to Grace Cote and the Happenings CLT team for the write-up! Read the interview below:

Jessica Singerman painting
Jessica Painting – Photo Credit: Tim Bowman

HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.

Jessica Singerman: empathetic, obsessive, driven

HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?

JS: While I’ve always made things, it wasn’t until the birth of my son five years ago that I understood the importance of making work consistently. In that time I basically went from being a highly trained hobbyist to being a professional artist.

In college and graduate school, I painted and drew all the time, but after grad school I had a hard time figuring out what to do and I painted sporadically. Two months into motherhood, I realized I was losing my sense of self, and the most obvious way for me to regain it was to make work every single day. I started making little drawings and paintings, small projects that I could finish in one sitting. We lived in Australia at the time, and I had very few materials with me. I kept a small box of watercolors and drawing materials on the dining room table, and would pull them out to work as soon as my son would go down for a nap.

When we moved back Stateside, I was eventually able to get sizeable studio space and my work subsequently grew in scale. I now understand that art comes from working regularly rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. I learned that I’m a better version of myself when I am sustaining a creative practice.

Among the Weeds and Other Blossoming Things, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, 2014-2016

HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?

JS: There are so many things that motivate me to work and artists whose work inspires me. Richard Diebenkorn and the Bay Area Figurative Artists of the 1950’s and 60’s, Amy Sillman and Cy Twombly are my art heroes. Mary Oliver’s poetry, the way she writes about nature and about the human experience resonates with me. As far as the what, the outdoors, specifically riding bikes, hiking, and running are what fuel my work most directly. My experience outside – the light, colors, weather, seasons, the feel of the air – all of these sensations play into my work.

HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work.

JS: 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.

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

HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas right now?

JS: The community of artists in the Carolinas is fantastic. It’s a hard-working, supportive bunch, and I’m fortunate to be part of such a vibrant community of people.

Since I now live in Winston-Salem, I particularly enjoy visiting the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, an incredible resource. They curate inspiring and thought-provoking exhibits, and admission is free. The grounds and trails around the museum are open to the public. The center also generously allows the local cycling community to run a series of races each fall. This is pretty amazing considering that we mark trails and put up course tape all over the grounds once a week for an entire month.

HCLT: What is your number one art piece/place/event in this area?

JSReynolda House and Gardens, also in Winston-Salem: Not only do they bring in fabulous exhibits, but the gardens and walking trails are always open and feel like a respite from the city. Full of orchids, succulents, herbs, and all sorts of other colorful plants, the greenhouse there is dare I say it, magical.

The Field You Think You Own, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches, 2014

HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?

JS: I always have a big stack of books on the nightstand and on the floor by the bed. Currently I’m working my way through Roar, a sports physiology book for female athletes by Dr. Stacy Sims, Mary Oliver’s UpstreamThe Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair, and Ann Powers’ Good Booty, on sex, race, and music in America. There’s also another stack of books I’m rereading to write a blog post.

HCLT: Best meal in the Charlotte area?

JS: I grew up in Davidson, and the Soda Shop holds a special place in my heart because I got some of my first taste of freedom there. I was allowed to walk there with friends sometimes after elementary school, and it made me feel like a “big kid.” Also, their “Big O” drink is delicious.

Pink Sun Fell Like Glass, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches, 2015

HCLT: Where can we see your work?

You can see my work at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art and on my website In addition to showing my artwork, I write a blog where I share art musings: tips for artists, the stories behind my work, and other art-related posts. You can also follow me on Instagram @jessicasingermanfineart and Facebook @jessicasingermanfineart

HCLT: What is up next?

In Charlotte, my paintings will be exhibited at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art’s March Invitational, opening on March 2nd. You can find out more at, Instagram @elder_gallery_clt, and Facebook @eldergalleryclt

2017 Year in Review

We made it to 2018!

2017 was a pretty crazy year. When all was said and done, it was a good year for me and my family, and as I regroup and lay out some plans for 2018, I am feeling thankful. So let’s take a look at all that happened in the last twelve months:

My solo show Among the Weeds and Other Blossoming Things opened at Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, NC in the spring.

Noah skips by my paintings at Intersections + Transformation

Some of my work was selected to be shown in the Intersections + Transformation juried exhibition at the Womble Carlyle Gallery in Winston-Salem in the fall. I shared the space with a small group of wonderful artists whose work I admire and who I am lucky to call my friends.

At the end of the year, I was interviewed by Lisa O’Donnell from the Winston-Salem Journal. We talked about my background, work process, challenges, and what art means to me.

In the fall I launched my E-commerce site, making it easier for collectors to see my available work and to more seamlessly purchase it.

I served as Interim Director at the Diggs Gallery at Winston Salem State University during the fall semester.

Little Watercolor SquaresAt the beginning of the year, I published my first book, Little Watercolor Squares, a love story to life and painting inspired by the poetry of nature.

My family bought a house this summer – with a fabulous studio, a darkroom for Tim, and plenty of storage. YES!!!

And thanks to my collectors and friends who bought paintings, drawings, prints, and books, I was able to donate 5% of all 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.” THANK YOU!

I’m happy to share this with all of you. Thank you so much for reading and for your support. It means the world to me.

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11 things athletes do that will make you a better artist

Jessica Singerman racing short track
Racing short track – Photo credit: Mike Byrd

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.

  1. 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.

Jessica Singerman painting
Painting – Photo Credit: Tim Bowman

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.

Looking for more advice for artists? Check out my latest interview with the Winston-Salem Journal. We talk about my background, work process, challenges, and some more tidbits to help you in your path.

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Thanks for reading!

Painting a painting

finished Pilot Mountain paintingOver the course of the last couple of weeks, I made a small painting using a photo I took during a hike on Pilot Mountain as reference. A few weeks ago during a particularly snowy patch, my family went on a day hike up and around one of our favorite spots: Pilot Mountain. This rocky hill that rises abruptly out of its surroundings (called a monadrock) is a place where we love to hike, picnic, and camp. It was historically used as a navigational landmark by the area’s first inhabitants.

They appropriately named the mountain “Jomeokee” or “great guide.” 

During our hike I was struck by the contrast between the stark lines of the trees against the softer shapes of rock, patches of snow, and sky. This is how the painting progressed.

Singerman Painting Process
The buildup of layers over the course of making a painting.


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Being an artist is more that what happens in the studio

“Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourselves, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components will also become the raw material for the art you make.”

-Teresita Fernández

Teresita Fernandez poses in her studio
Teresita Fernandez poses in her studio Sep. 18, 2005 in New York. Photo by Zack Seckler. Courtesy of MacArthur Foundation

Teresita Fernández is a sculptor and installation artist who explores the connection between nature and technology. She received the prestigious MacArthur fellowship in 2005, and gave the keynote speech at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in 2013. In this inspiring speech she goes into what it means to be an artist and ends with ten practical tips for artists. To read more and to listen to the speech, visit Brain Pickings.

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