It’s that magical time of year when we have the TV playing for hours every day for three weeks so we can catch all of the Tour de France action. No really, it’s better than it sounds.
Anyway the Tour started last Saturday, and true to form my husband and I have been faithfully watching each stage and getting our daily fix of cycling action. This weekend the racers head into the mountains and the drama will really start. [hand rubbing]
The first time I worked a Tour trip back in my guiding days was in 2010. I remember most vividly the climbs on Col de Peyresourde and Col du Tourmalet. On the climb up Peyresourde, I ran into Didi the Devil, an iconic caped German spectator who follows the Tour each year wearing red tights and horns. On Tourmalet, between pouring rain and blasting winds, we got to watch the heavy-weights as they duked it out up the epic climb. One of the best parts of being on a steep climb during a big race is that the experience is so intense – you get to see the cyclists really suffering their way up – much more slowly than on flat terrain – so you can get a good long look at everyone. And the crowds are crazy at Tour mountain stages. With all the people there, it can be tough just to get a good spot along the road. Some people park and camp for days staking out their spot along the road.
This brings me to my Epic Ride series of paintings. 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. (These can also be based on an epic run or hike!) You can read a bit more about these paintings here.
I’ll be back in the studio next week, and I have a few open slots for commissioned paintings in the next few months. Email me if you’d like to chat with me about a possible custom painting of your own or just give me a call at (336) 283-0185.
And if you’d like to commission an artwork and want to spread out the cost over time, I’ll be happy to set up an interest-free payment plan for you. Read more about this here or simply email me to chat.
“Alpe d’Huez,” one of the paintings in my Epic Rides custom series.
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.
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.”
It’s my pleasure to announce that my first solo museum show opens at SECCA in Winston-Salem next month. Read on for the press release with all the juicy details…
(August 20, 2019, Winston-Salem, NC) Award-winning painter Jessica Singerman announces her exhibit of paintings entitled I MUST LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, opening at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) on September 17 and continuing through October 13. The opening reception takes place on Thursday September 19, from 6:00-8:00 PM, with an artist talk at 7:00 PM. Artwork will be available for purchase.
In Singerman’s monumental paintings, layered shapes meet muscular paint handling and a bold use of color to evoke a vast landscape and memories of time spent in the outdoors.
Says Singerman of these paintings, “There’s a line from a Mary Oliver poem that goes “If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.” Her writing cuts to the essential about what matters and what I hope to share in my work. It feels especially poignant these days – our world feels crazy and I’m afraid to lose the lands I love so much. One of my favorite such places is Pilot Mountain State Park. It inspires my work with its beauty as it overlooks the landscape surrounding it. This group of paintings came from time I spent hiking there with my family – views from the trail-side and of a pastoral landscape – not wild, but full of a vast energy nonetheless.
Mary Oliver’s writing encapsulates something essential about the human condition and about our experience in nature. If my paintings could speak, I like to think Mary’s poetry is how they would speak. Or rather, I hope that my paintings get close to the kind of transcendence of her poetry. Marks and color that transcend being and take the viewer to another place – a memory perhaps – and spur them to reflect on what it means to be human and on our relationship to nature. In any case, “if you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”
Arts writer Michael Solender wrote in the Charlotte Observer, “Singerman’s approach to her work and her outlook on life brings a broad perspective as a product of a bicultural upbringing. Her mother is French and her father is American.(…) Her work offers explosions of color, form and light conjuring imagery of motion and depth.”
About the artist: A resident of North Carolina since 1980, Jessica Singerman lived alternatively in France and the United States during her early life. Singerman earned her BA with Highest Honors in 2002 from the College of William & Mary, Virginia, and her Masters of Fine Arts in 2004 from the University of Delaware while on a fellowship. 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. Singerman lives and works in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For more information visit www.jessicasingerman.com.
SOUTHEASTERN CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART, including I MUST LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, by Jessica Singerman, September 17 – October 13. Opening reception Thursday September 19, 6:00-8:00 PM, and artist talk at 7:00 PM. 750 Marguerite Dr, Winston-Salem, NC 27106, www.secca.org, 336.725.1904
I’m fascinated by the wind. Cultures create all sorts of stories to try and make sense of the wind and how it affects us. My grandparents lived in Caen, France for a while when I was little. It’s a very windy place, and I will always remember how the wind there made me feel. It tossed me around, made me feel little, and made me feel generally uneasy. On the other hand, winds clean the air, carry scents, and even create power with wind turbines.
I made these paintings as I thought of the wind: how it feels when we’re outside when it’s hot or cold, how it shapes the earth…
The wind is mysterious. It’s such a powerful force and yet we can’t see it.
In these particular paintings, I’m layering shapes and color evocative of landscapes seen both from ground level and from above (from an airplane for example). I also layer gestural marks and shapes of color to convey the energy of the outdoors.
These paintings are currently available from my web shop until August 27th. Find them HERE.
There’s a strong wind called Le Mistral in the south of France.
According to popular culture throughout history, this wind has been accused of everything from making people crazy to inciting murder. So in that vein, here’s an interesting tidbit I found this week… Van Gogh, who famously lived in the south of France, maybe didn’t commit suicide. Recent forensic research shows that he may have been instead murdered by a local group of kids who used to bully him… Read more about why this could be true, how the story of his suicide came about, and why a lot of folks are angry about it on the Charmed Studio and on Vanity Fair.
If you found this the least bit interesting, please share it with others. Thanks!
In the fall of 2018, The College of William & Mary in Virginia, my alma mater, invited me to give a talk during the “100 Years of Women” anniversary exhibit. The talk was part of the Department of Art and Art History’s Alumni Speaker Series. It was a humbling experience to give a talk in the very lecture hall where I took my first art history survey class as a freshman in 1998.
I spoke about how motherhood spurred me to get serious about my art practice, how spending time in the outdoors fuels me and my work, my art-making process, some of the stories behind my work, and why art matters. Watch the talk below.
For the last year, I worked on the largest (literally and figuratively) project of my art life, Paper Mountain. The idea of creating this immersive experience for people – something much larger than any of us, that would evoke a mountain – was a driving force in my life. I consider it a major success and I’m really proud of that project. You can see images of this installation and read more about it here.
My other big motivator are my husband and son. It is super important to me to be the best version of myself so that I can be a good partner and parent – and continuing to make artwork is one of the best ways that I can follow my path and be true to who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. Having my son was hands down the biggest catalyst for reframing the way I perceived myself as an artist, and as soon as he was part of my life, I wanted to demonstrate strong work ethic and I wanted him to be proud of me and of my work. I do that by continuing to make art work. Read more about how being a parent has positively impacted my art practice on this blog post.
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On March 16th, a day after the opening of “Beyond the Mountain” at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, I sat down for a talk about the inspiration behind my work. I explain my painting process, where the ideas for Paper Mountain and Sky Project came from, and why art and going outside will save us. And if you scroll down a little farther, I added a little treat: a private tour of my work in the exhibit. Enjoy!
You can experience the exhibit for yourself until April 25th at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC. To see more of Paper Mountain and Sky Project, visit the project page HERE.
At the start of the year, I sat down for a conversation with Cory Huff, founder of The Abundant Artist, to talk about busting the starving artist myth. We talked about my trajectory from graduate school to becoming a parent, to being a professional artist and quitting my day job.
The Abundant Artist is an artist association, and our interview was featured last week on their blog, emails, and social media. Read the interview below:
CASE STUDY: JESSICA SINGERMAN
Association member Jessica Singerman recently quit her day job to focus on pursuing her art full-time! Woohoo! We sat down to learn more about Jessica’s trajectory: how she arrived from art school to quitting her day job, and what lessons other artists can learn from her experience.
Of her trajectory from art school to quitting her day job to create art full time, Jessica says it was “not linear.”
“I finished my MFA at University of Delaware in 2004 and I had been teaching while I was in school.
I kept teaching, so I was teaching art at University of Delaware and the community college as an adjunct in New Jersey. I was doing the adjunct thing and I was also working at a bike shop.
I was painting, but kind of inconsistently. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life after grad school. I would say the first few years out of graduate school I did not know what I was doing.”
It wasn’t just the sense of uncertainty about the way forward that was an obstacle to Jessica’s success at first. She shares that her understanding about the way that inspiration functions for the working artist was preventing her from making regular work:
“I had this misconception that you will work when you’re inspired. And now I know that that’s really far from the truth. You just work. You put the work in, and then inspiration comes.”
It wasn’t until her son was born and she experienced a crisis of identity that Jessica discovered how to incorporate a daily art practice into her life. She also found that this profoundly alleviated the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“I set this goal to do a daily project. I would do a project in one sitting, usually when my son was taking a nap, and I started hanging on to this for dear life. I did that for a few months. We were living in Australia at the time, so I didn’t have a studio. My studio was like the contents of a little box. I learned really quickly that I had to make my work space easy to access, and my projects quick to get into with no clean up. I wasn’t using oil paints at the time, I was using watercolors and inks and drawing. Everything was quick to set up and take down.”
Jessica has fallen into a new rhythm since that time. She is still somewhat beholden to her son’s schedule, but most often she chooses to make work first thing in the morning while her “critical brain is off”. It was those early days of motherhood that taught her the importance of making art everyday. Around the time her son was one, she met a fellow artist through a life drawing class who referred her to a gallery in Charlotte. The gallery took her on, which Jessica described as “very validating.” In the end the gallery didn’t work out, however, and Jessica had to flounder a bit before finding new representation that was a better fit. She says of her current situation:
“I’ve got this gallery in Charlotte which is a great fit. The owner trusts me, and she’s willing to take chances on my work, so I’m trying something different. I’m doing a big installation and a video projection in March as well as some paintings, to give her something a little more easy to sell. But I really appreciate that she’s willing to take that chance on me.
I also work with a shop in Winston-Salem. It’s a showroom for really high-end hand built furniture, and they also show other local artists there, so it’s a really nice fit. It’s a beautiful space. I also show at university galleries and other nonprofit spaces as well. This year in September I had a show at Salem College, I have some work going in to a faculty exhibit at a beautiful gallery at Winston-Salem State this month and then I’m showing in an architecture firm also next month.”
This is a surprising amount of activity for Jessica, who was not too long ago struggling to make any work at all and feeling adrift between teaching, a full-time job, and trying to make room for her art. When asked how she accomplished her current lineup of representation and ongoing shows, she shared the details of that “non-linear” path that led her here:
“A friend of mine is friends with the owner of the gallery in Charlotte, and had mentioned my work to her. I showed her my work, and the gallery owner actually approached me, which has never happened in my life, and asked if I wanted to show in a three person show last march. That was kind of like a trial.
The shop in Winston-Salem I found through Instagram. Someone who I didn’t even meet but we were following each other, had mentioned my work to their friends who run this shop. So when they opened the shop they asked me if I wanted to show some work there.
The show at Salem College last year, I found out who the contact was and emailed her. I asked her if I could show there, and actually it wasn’t gonna work out for a couple of years, but then all of a sudden she had a hole she needed to fill. The Winston Salem State show is because I taught at Winston Salem State and they’re doing a faculty exhibit.”
Perhaps one of the key takeaways from Jessica’s experience is that it’s all about who you know. She’s had the benefit of valuable friends and acquaintances both in day-to-day life and on social media who recognized the quality of her work and shared it with others. So the key? Talk about your work.
The flip-side of that coin is that not only does Jessica talk about her work with people she knows and maintain a good online presence, but she also jumps at opportunities that present themselves.
Jessica also has the unique experience of being an art-world native who has had to find her wings outside of the protective bubble of art school and academia. As she has taken steps to grow her own career both with and without gallery representation, he has encountered elitist attitudes about doing the work of selling her own art:
“It’s ego, you know? You don’t want to look like you’re selling your work, because then it’s like you’re selling out. And it’s such a misconception, because the idea is that the galleries are going to take care of it. But even now, I think it’s expected that you still represent yourself on social media. I have friends who are represented by plenty of galleries and they’re still working it on social media.
So for me, it’s ego. It’s been just swallowing a lot of the misconceptions that- I don’t know that they’re actively taught, but you’re definitely made to feel that if you try so hard to sell your own work, you’re selling out or that you’re not a serious artist. Not a lot of people talk about having day jobs in the art world, because it’s like this dirty word. It’s okay to be a teacher, and it’s okay to have a wealthy partner and not mention it. “
Jessica’s current focus is on improving her writing, producing more content for her marketing efforts and finding a new rhythm, having recently quit her day job to pursue art full time (way to go, Jessica!)
“My big thing now really is not to overdo it. My natural tendency is to work all the time. And the big thing I want to work on this year is spending more time with my son. With a day job and teaching, I was teaching last semester, and then my art practice and the business, I was not spending what I felt was enough quality time with him and that’s the big thing for me. That’s the big shift. Spending more time with my son. Not overdoing it. Setting boundaries for myself, and not burning the candle at both ends, which I’m really good at.”
Growing up, Jessica spent a lot of time drawing and making things. Looking back, the experience of making things was and still is the same for her: she is focused; nothing else matters except for what she is making at that moment, and in the best case scenario, she is in a state of flow. This feeling of being in the moment and fully engaged with her environment and what she is doing is similar to her experience when she is enjoying the outdoors. Whether in a forest or on a mountain top, what resonates with her are the feelings of being connected to the world and at the same time, of being small in a vast universe.
It’s through making things and being in the outdoors that Jessica is able to connect to the world and to find her place in it. In the outdoors, we are reminded of how small we are in the world. We experience the vastness of the universe and at the same time, the interconnectedness of it all. See more of Jessica’s work at www.jessicasingerman.com
Around the holiday season, I make a series of small works on paper to send to collectors of my paintings as a way of saying thank you. This time-lapse film documents the process of making the mixed media drawings I sent this year. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that I started working on light blue paper, but eventually switched to a white paper. The blue paper felt too flimsy, so I used a heavier-weight watercolor paper instead. You’ll also notice in the upper left corner when I cut the new watercolor paper. I think my favorite part of the video is seeing all the tools move around as I used them.
This was shot over the course of two days, with a photo once every 10 seconds. I used watercolor, graphite, ink, wax pastels, colored pencil, and gouache (opaque watercolor). Enjoy!