“Sacrifice”, a drawing of George Floyd, graphite on paper, by Jessica Libor 2020.
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“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” —Henry James, 1869 • I was fortunate enough to spend a summer in Florence a few years ago, studying painting with the @florenceacademyofart . It was the first time I experienced a step by step process of building a painting, and was amazed at the results that could be achieved—paintings that looked like old master works—by following the same steps they used carefully. I was instantly hooked in this ultimate fantasyland of classical painting. That summer seems golden and beautiful, in part because of the overwhelming art that filled the city. This photo is from Florence, Italy, at the Villa Medicea de Lillian… I couldn’t find the photographer, but it is representative of the beautiful structures and paintings that are around every corner in the beautiful city. What is a city that has influenced your art?
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Into the coppery halls; of beech and intricate oak; to be close to the trees; as they whisper together; let fall their leaves!
—Whim Wood, by Katherine Towers ✨. The first frost has come and winter is almost upon us. Each season brings its own aesthetic I enjoy for its own reasons. The end of autumn feels very mysterious and elusive to me.
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Color is powerful, especially to us creatives. Color can determine your mood, and has been proven to effect the way that we feel. I’ve always been drawn to purple and lavender colors. I love this current time of year because it’s socially acceptable to let your personality really shine with unusual costume choices. I was able to break out my lavender wig this week, and it was so much fun! It definitely let out a different part of my personality, something more playful and more creative. Just seeing myself embody this color made me feel differently! So what about you? What’s your power color? Here’s an interesting list of colors, and what some experts think they represent. Red: ambition energy, confidence, bold, passionate. Pink: sensitive, intuitive, loving, caring, respect. Purple: fantasy, creativity, distinguished, modesty, deep. Black: strength, power, professional, accurate. Orange: freedom, social, warmth, motivation, impulsive. Yellow: optimism, energetic, fun, logical, attentive. Gray: balance, neutral, timeless, practical, solid. Green: growth, nature, equilibrium, positivity, stable. Navy: responsible, integrity, trust, peace, order. Blue: ambition, perspective, aware, open. Let me know your power color and what you associate with it in the comments, I’m curious to hear!
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I don’t know about you guys, but I often feel like I am rushing around every day, trying to check off a list of things to do and never seem to have quite enough time. It gets to the end of the day, and I always wish that I had more time to get the needed things done. The to do list actually never ends. There’s always more that we could be accomplishing and that we could be striving for in life. I took some time out this week and allowed myself to just relax for an afternoon. I allowed myself the luxury of a bubble bath. I read a few articles that were interesting to me and generally enjoyed doing nothing for a few hours! I honestly can’t remember the last time that I did this. At the end of that time, I realized that I was in such a relaxed and creative state of mind. I felt more playful, more optimistic, and so excited to dive back into the paintings and the projects that I’m currently working on. The time away made those things feel interesting and dynamic again. Also, we must remember that we are not machines! We are organic human beings who need rest I need variety in our lives. We can’t be healthy if all we do is work and all we do is put stress on our self to constantly be accomplishing things. Life is about more than that. Also, what is the point of accomplishing all these things if you can’t even enjoy life? So, I highly recommend taking some time to just relax and guilt free do nothing for a few hours once in a while. You might be surprised how positively it affects you, when you are so much more excited to be present in your artwork, and in your life!
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I met Alessandra a few years ago in New York City at an opening at Arcadia Gallery, before they relocated to California. I remember connecting about art and the passion needed to be an artist, and talking about the process of making work. When she showed me her work I was struck by her clear vision and stunning imagery. There is something very mystical and monumental about her work. It takes me to another time and place, feels like another dimension not of this world: like a curtain pulled back to reveal a complex, many-layered, precious representation of a moment or story.
Alessandra is currently working on large scale pieces to be on display at Gallery Fledermaus in January 2019. Graduating from Pratt in 2012, she now works in Boston and describes her work as an exploration of personal iconography. I hope you enjoy the interview below and gain insight into Alessandra’s practice, inspiration, and words of advice for artists everywhere.
What are you excited about in your practice right now?
It’s a secret! Wish I could tell you, but suffice to say I’m working on some larger scale projects.
When did you become interested in becoming a practicing artist?
When I was in college I majored in graphic design, and later realized that I hated it. After switching to Illustration, I further realized that I wanted to be 100% self-directed in terms of what I make and why. It was at that time that I realized I wanted to be an artist.
Describe an experience of other artist’s work you have seen that has influenced your artistic path.
When I was in college, I encountered Klimt for the first time in person at the Neue. It completely changed by life and gave me a fervent desire to make something that gave me the same feeling. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like a new world had been opened up to me.
How did you develop your unique style of work? Was there an experimenting phase before you made the kind of work we see you making now?
It was simple, but not easy. I had an image in my head that I needed to make, and had to learn how to use my media properly in order to create it. I always fall a little bit short, but with each piece I manage to get closer and closer.
How do you organize your daily studio time? Around how many hours per week do you work on your art?
I used to just work as much as possible, and it was incredibly disorganized and less effective than it could have been. My email inbox was always a mess, my studio was in disarray, and I would often work for 14 hours straight and just collapse at home in a heap of exhaustion. There was always something more to do. I’ve always been into self-help books and organization strategies, so in recent months I’ve been troube shooting and researching to streamline my process; in particular, I’ve modeled my work habits off a book called Deep Work.
My current schedule involves 4 to 5 “blocks” of 1.5 hours of work a day. I leave my cell phone in my car, I don’t have internet in my studio, and I work in complete silence – this ensures I am completely focused on what’s at hand. It’s mentally exhausting, so between each block, I will take a small walk for about 20 minutes. ON Mondays (today, when I am writing this), I answer all my emails and get to inbox 0, and organize my projects for the week.
It’s crazy. I am working less actual hours, but the quality of those hours is so much greater that I don’t need to do more. Because I have to concentrate so hard during the 6 to 7.5 hours a day, I often am incapable of doing meaningful work beyond that.
Do you have a favorite space/studio you like to work in?
My studio right now is my favorite I’ve ever had. It has more space than I know what to do with, and tall ceilings with plenty of light. I love being there everyday.
What would be some advice you would give artists who are not yet full-time professional artists, but would like to be? What are some of the most important steps they can take?
To me, there’s three components that are crucial to success: quality, production, and mindset.
Regarding quality, a quote from one of my teachers in college, Chang Park, hits the nail on the head. “Never compromise your aesthetic.”
For production, this is going to sound a bit harsh, but it’s crucial, and maybe the most important of all three: stop *** procrastinating. I’m often amazed by how many students fail to make their work because they haven’t “had time” to go to the art store and just buy the tool they need (sometimes for weeks, which often turns into months and then years), how many put off learning to work with a media but will get to it “someday”. I’m not saying this in a judgmental way, I struggled with it too. But it was so massively instrumental to my own success to learn to quash that urge to put things off.
I don’t believe discipline is something someone just “has or doesn’t have”; learning to be action-focused and never procrastinate is a skill, I think, and one that has to be practiced and fostered. For anyone who wants more information, read the book “Willpower.”
Lastly, for mindset: be humble. Don’t get caught up in the “tortured artist” stereotype; self-aggrandizement just serves to make you less capable of seeing your work objectively, which means you can’t improve it in a meaningful way. A sense of humility with your own work is massively important.
What do you think the role of artists are in society?
To tell the truth. It’s broad, but that to me is the most encompassing definition that covers the myriad forms of practice and expression out there.
What is one mindset artists can adopt that will help them succeed?
Imagine with me for a moment that you walk into a gallery, and in front of you is the most astonishing, amazing, jaw-dropping work you’ve ever seen. The sort of work that makes you want to sit in the gallery for hours and just be with it. Really try to imagine this – I do this exercise frequently.
Now, go make that work. Make work that’s 100% for yourself.
Learn more about Alessandra Maria and see her work at www.alessandramaria.com.
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Dear readers, during the month of May I did a creative exercise; daily sketch works! Every day for 30 days, I created a new piece of art. During this period I experimented with soft tones in inks, watercolors, and gilding. Originally, I had planned to do a daily piece for 90 days. However, I found that the time and creative juices that it took to create a daily piece was being sapped away from the creative energy I needed to create my larger pieces for my solo show coming up. So, I capped it at 30 days–but will certainly look forward to doing this again!
Below are a few of my favorite pieces from this time. If you are interested in any of these pieces or would like a link to the full available collection, please email me at email@example.com.
Everyone has creativity within them. The creative process has two parts: the impulse of inspiration, and problem solving on the paper or canvas. Tonight’s class at the Main Line Art Center I was able to share with students this process. First, through a “flow” inducing exercise, students were able to experience what the inspiration and joy of creativity feels like, without worrying about the outcome. Then, we learned more technical aspects of drawing like line, value and composition; all of the problem solving that is done within the bounds of the canvas or paper! Here I am with some of the drawings I’ve made in ink, charcoal and graphite. Drawing is a learnable skill; what makes the best drawings is a marriage of life within the marks and technical proficiency. Everyone has life within them; you just need to give yourself permission for your hand to let it out on the paper. And anything technical is just like any other skill, able to be learned!
There are still some spots open in my classes I teach this summer and fall at the Main Line Art Center. Go to the website to register and see what is open!
I also teach semi-privately in my studio on Mondays from 2-4pm in Philadelphia. If you’re interested in these sessions that help you privately to reach your artistic goals, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Are you playing to win or playing not to lose?
I heard these words this week and it made me think. I don’t like to view the art world as competitive— in fact, I think the only person you compete with is really yourself in this life.
But, it’s interesting to think of how the mindset of “playing not to lose” looks like rather than “playing to win.”
In a small example, perhaps I’ll do a small painting rather than a large one, to minimize cost loss in case it’s not bought for a long time. In that way I’m not playing to win (or, to really actually use my vision in the size which would make it look best). Or maybe when applying for a grant I don’t spend too much time on it because if I DO spend too much time on it and I don’t get it, I would have lost that time. In that way I am playing not to lose (time) rather than playing to win (believing I have a shot and giving it my best).
I can tell when I’m playing to win because there’s a sense of leaning in and commitment. What do you guys think about this concept? Have you ever “played to win” or “played not to lose?” How does it feel for you?
What are you looking forward to in the Spring? I am looking forward to turning over a new leaf in my work, making some work that is more fine and delicate, and traveling. I went for a run this week and was encouraged to see the very first signs of Spring on the forest floor.
I am planning a trip to California in April with a painter friend and we are going to paint our way up the coast! I’m excited about feeling the freedom and beauty of the sun and salty air. I’m also very excited about coming together with the Actors Lab Philly and Era Contemporary in creating a group show in May, “The Art of Performance.” Tell me what you are excited about for when the weather begins to turn a bit warmer?
Photo credit: Kerasan Lamar Photography for the portrait image, Jessica Libor for the nature image.