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On the Outdoor Experience and Art

me drawing, not sure when (4 years old?)

I moved around a lot as a kid. My mom is French and my dad is American, so we lived both in the US and France for a few years at a time. I didn’t feel like I fit in in either country. We also spent a lot of time doing outdoor stuff. We hiked, camped, ran, rode bikes, and played a lot of imaginary games outside. I remember building tree houses, making magic potions with mud and flowers, and pretending to be on secret missions and outdoor expeditions. I may have also made a fire in the middle of our backyard so I could make s’mores and cook beans in a can. (Don’t tell my parents.) Anyway, when I was in the outdoors, I was at home. No matter what country I was in, when I was doing stuff outside, I felt at home. 

Growing up, I also spent a lot of time drawing and making things. Looking back, I realize  that the experience of making things was and still is the same for me: I am focussed, nothing else matters except for what I am making at that moment, and in the best case scenario, I am in a state of flow. This feeling of being in the moment and fully engaged with my environment and what I am doing is similar to my experience when I am enjoying the outdoors. Whether in a forest or on a mountain top, what resonates with me are the feelings of being connected to the world and at the same time, of being small in a vast universe. While I can portray what an outdoor scene looks like by making a landscape painting, through abstraction, I explore what it feels like to be outside.

Jessica Singerman painting "Pilot Mountain 1"
Pilot Mountain 1, acrylic and oil on panel, 20 x 20 inches, 2018

It’s through making things and being in the outdoors that I am able to connect to the world and to find my 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. For me, I don’t feel like my words do these feelings justice. But in my artwork, abstraction in particular, I can explore the human experience in the outdoors, the spiritual element of being in the outdoors – that feeling of both being small and being connected to a vast universe.

Being a human is complicated. Spending time in the outdoors and making things helps me make sense of life – of my place in the world. When I make things, I express what I feel but that I don’t have the words to explain. Through abstraction, I try to communicate the complexity and the vastness of the human experience. 

Why I love the outdoors

I am obsessed with the outdoors. From a career in the outdoor industry for over a decade to making artwork that is a love letter to nature, my experience outside feeds my soul and my art. The best possible scenario for me is if after looking at my artwork, someone is reminded of the power of nature and is motivated to get outside and feel connected to the earth. If someone can share this experience with another person, that is the absolute BEST.

My newest project PAPER MOUNTAIN & SKY PROJECT creates an immersive outdoor experience. I believe that in an increasingly digital world, it is vital to go outside. My hope is that this installation will encourage people to commune with nature and experience the world directly. This project will give people the opportunity to dream and to experience joy as they share the project with friends and family. I’d love for you to share in this experience too! Click here to find out how.

Morning Walks

I walk in the mornings after bringing Noah to school. I look, listen, breathe. I take in the shapes of light and shadow, the myriad greens, the pinks, violets, reds, birdsong, my favorite wind chime. I get as close as I can to birds before they fly away, try to get close enough to see their tiny chests moving with their breath. I look up at the big sky, taking in the sunlight-filled blues, the racing clouds, or the broad plush grays. My morning walks are one of my favorite parts of my day. Moving, feeling the cold or warm air on my face, thinking, sometimes even figuring things out! I take the light, shapes, colors, sounds, smells, back to my studio. I’ll keep trying to filter all of these experiences into my painting.

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Project 9

Today’s enso photographed once over gravel and again on fallen leaves:
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I’m enjoying the contrasts between the smooth white of the paper and the burnt red watercolor with the texture of the cool gravel in one image and rough leaves in the other. The shapes and lines made by the gravel and leaves are also a nice counter to the watercolor on the expanse of paper.

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Project 7

IMG_0381I stumbled on a paragraph about the Enso (Zen circle) in a book this morning, and it was like coming home. Pretty funny that my blog is called “Making Circles”, and Enso weren’t even on my radar. I’ve used circular forms so much in my work, and have tried to figure out what it is about the circle that I am drawn to. The Enso completely makes sense to me, and in a way reaffirms circle-making for me. I like the idea of letting my hand do the work without my mind getting in the way (similar to folding the 1000 cranes). Although they are traditionally painted, I made this one on our walk today.

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