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The Beauty of a Residency

Posted on: September 19th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
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The beauty of a residency

I am back on Great Cranberry Island at the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation this month, and am struck by not only this lovely island, but also the beauty of a residency. This September feels quite different than last. I’m not sure I can pinpoint what it is that makes me say that. Maybe it’s the earlier changing leaves; Maybe it’s the fact it seems harder to get up the hills on my bicycle.

Printmaking. Maybe that’s what’s different this year.

This year, unlike last, I have a press in my studio. Maybe that’s what’s making the difference. The beauty of a residency is that I can wander. For the first time in ages I am exploring the myriad options that printmaking presents in an unmitigated way. The printmaker part of my brain has been in fully activated. It is something of a return to my roots – and interestingly, the work showing up harkens back to my early days of making art.

Landscapes. Maybe that’s what’s different.

Last year I filled a mess of sketchbooks with drawings of the landscape. How could I not be inspired by being surrounded by all this beauty? Those landscapes, however, didn’t show up in the work in a specific way. The abstract paintings did capture the light, the palette, and the feeling of freedom I had on the island. This year, though, there is a clear and conspicuous link between the prints and the drawings. The work feels even more fully integrated this time around.

The beauty of this time and place.

The sheer beauty of this gift of time is that the work has all this breathing room to lead me in unexpected directions. It took me completely by surprise when I gravitated toward more figurative based work. Unfortunately I spent the first week resolving all kinds of technical issues, and was pretty frustrated – wondering if I really wanted to make prints at all any more. Lo and behold, being the stubborn woman I am, I persisted. I am so glad I did. Allowing myself to try all kinds of approaches to making a print and an image has yielded completely unanticipated results – and that truly is the beauty of a residency.

Remembering

Posted on: September 7th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
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Top: I was once a teacup, mixed media on board;
Above: I was once a branch of azaleas, mixed media on board

Remembering my sister on her birthday

My sister was born on this date 64 years ago. So today I am remembering her.

That’s not exactly news. I am always both keeping Kukla in mind, and simply remembering in general. Remembering is always at my core. Whether elusive or more tangible, I believe memories and remembering are what completely shape and form who we are every step of the way.

Layers of remembering

Even though I don’t make narrative work, thoughts about memory, and remembering, have always permeated my paintings, prints, and collages. My work is always layered, and the pieces that sit below the surface, like the fragments of experiences that are lodged in our bones, play an integral part in building the ultimate artwork. I may start something as a drawing of teacup, or by putting down an azalea red ground; eventually that teacup will be obliterated, and the painting will become blue or green. There will, however, still be this one tiny bit of that red that shows through. And that sliver may be what makes that painting. The thing that makes it work, makes it interesting; it’s what catches your eye – that fragment of memory. So what came before, the experiences, the layers that lie below the surface – they are what make the present possible, the work what it is.

There is a story in the Talmud, that goes something like this: We each have an angel who walks besides us, and before we are born, our angel teaches us everything we will need to know to live this particular life. Then, just before we head down the birth canal, the angel knocks us between the nose and the upper chin, and we forget absolutely everything we’ve been taught*.

The seeds of that wisdom were already planted, and they are there inside our body. Guiding us along our journey here on earth. I wish my sister was still around; I know she would be as fascinated by these ideas as I am. Happy Birthday Kukla, wherever you may be flying.

*Side note: if you would like to read more about this phenomenon/idea there is an interesting examination/discussion of it here: http://www.aish.com.

Learning To Loosen My Grip

Posted on: August 21st, 2017 by jmbroekman 4 Comments
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Above and at right are snapshots of the studio painting wall with a few of the small 4″ x 6″ oil sketches done on the note card flat-backs. For more of the sunflowers, click here!.

Learning to loosen my dog-with-a-bone grip on everything.

It is a battle of internal wills. My procrastinator side has been winning these last few weeks, but I’m hopeful that today, finally, the get-it-done side will prevail. The procrastinator within has had some good arguments: why do I need to do this post anyway? do you really think anyone is going to read it and be helped by it? it’s summer, there are so many better ways to spend your time. The list goes on. But in truth, I need to formulate some ideas for the possibility of having to give an artist’s talk on Great Cranberry Island next month. I’d like to be better prepared than I felt I was last year to make a public presentation.

So maybe this will be the start of a few fast and furious posts, on a blog that has been long neglected. Or at least, maybe I will finally get this one posted. Which, if you are actually reading this, will prove to be the case!

Learning to loosen my grip and getting it right – two sides of the same coin

This may very well be a continuation of the “getting it right” post from earlier this year. Learning to loosen my ironclad grip on trying to get it right. Loosen my grip on the pencil, the bow, the neck of the cello. Cello lessons applied in the studio. Trying to relax that illusory hold on controlling the world at large.

In the past few weeks in an effort to loosen my grip, I’ve been making small quick oil sketch paintings on leftover note card flat backs. The waste-not-want-queen is alive and well; as is the Avis girl. It’s the latter that I am attempting to put on a train to elsewhere. She’s the one who can’t give up trying harder. Holding on with all her might. Using leftover scrap materials (the flat-backs that go in the packs of note cards to describe what’s in the pack), is my way of making a stab at caring less. It’s decidedly not-beautiful paper, so who cares if what I put down works or can be called a painting with a capital P? Inevitably this is what I need – an attitude of “so what”. It’s the attitude that frees up space in my head so that courage and curiosity have a void to fill. I take bigger chances; allowing myself to just go for it with abandon––loosen the grip on what I think it should be, what I want it to look like. Finally let it be whatever it wants to be. Using scrap materials, crummy paper, pushes me to be quick, loose and decisive, and most importantly not so labored. It is about letting go of all that tightly held effort.

Now maybe I can go out and enjoy some of the rest of the summer!

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2017 Note Cards

Posted on: July 17th, 2017 by jmbroekman No Comments

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Time to make the donuts – oh wait, I mean the 2017 note cards

Fear has propelled a flurry of drawing activity in my studio in recent months. It often happens that some germ of a thought lodges itself inside my head; I find myself utterly convinced that I’ve made my last decent drawing/painting, whatever. This year I wondered if maybe I was done with the flower drawings. Evidently not, and I’m ready to produce the 2017 note cards.

The beauty of this propensity – allowing fear to fuel a bunch of work, is that I’m going to be able to print the new note cards earlier than usual this year. Here’s where I need your help. I’ve created a page of 24 drawings (which you can access by clicking on those underlined words, or over in the sidebar anytime – 2017 Note Cards). I’d love to have your input on which are your favorite six. I will tally all the votes, and then decide which ones will get reproduced as blank note cards.

I hope you are finding many ways to enjoy summer. Eat lots of strawberries, dip your feet in cool water, and enjoy this beautiful planet and all it’s gifts.

04.16.17

Posted on: April 16th, 2017 by jmbroekman No Comments
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I am still trying to get it right, always.

In my more evolved brain, I realize this is an impossible task: getting it right. Whatever “it” is, and whatever “right” is. In April, when the days are longer and the moments of spring peek out from under the leftover snow, “it” is the darkness of memory. “Getting it right” is not letting it get me; an endeavor that appears to be a lost battle. No matter how I try to avoid it, or ignore it, or pretend it no longer exists, grief has a way of slamming me up against a wall every year at this time.

This year I tried giving in to it. I cleared my calendar/schedule, and allowed for some uninterrupted time in my studio, where I worked on writing my sister a letter, by way of a painting. Though I didn’t manage to finish the letter/painting, I did find a certain amount of calm and peace in the process. And I spent a lot of time with her favorite color: purple.

Fifty shades of purple

Purple, it seems, comes in an infinite number of shades and variations. I wonder, did Kukla prefer one that leaned toward blue, or one that was more rose colored? I spent the better part of this past week mixing at least fifty shades of puprle for my sister. It made me think of how hard it is to define what color any particular lilac bush is: is that the “true” color lilac? When I look at the image of the painting on the left – the result of all that purple mixing – it appears more blue than purple; and I suspect there are those, including Kukla, who might argue with me about whether or not you could call this a purple painting.

While I’m not sure I got any of “it right” – the purples, the paintings in general – throwing color and paint around did at least keep the grief, if not at bay, at least in some kind of manageable perspective. The fact that little purple flowers are popping up all of sudden, helped too. I still miss my sister with all my heart and soul, and am beginning to accept that longing as simply a part of what life has handed me. Now the key is to integrate that understanding into my being with some grace.

And special thanks to my friend Debbie Schmitt, for bringing me a box of pansies yesterday, which added to my purple arsenal, and inspired me to get out my watercolors and start a new batch of flower drawings. ‘Tis the season.

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