Springtime in Venice

Posted on: March 5th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
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The magical city of Venice

In two weeks I will be embarking on a brief getaway to Venice with an old camp friend. Italy has always provided me a boatload of inspiration; and Venice, one of the more sinister and magical cities on my list, is no exception. Two new sketch books are already bound and ready to go. I have no idea how realistic this plan is, but, I have visions of filling one just with bridges, and the other while I drink coffee in a different campo each morning. Spring may arrive on the calendar while I am there, but I suspect the weather will be more cold, wet and raw, than warm and conducive to spending hours at a time sitting outside sketching! So we’ll see how many pages I fill.

Preparation and Perfection

I’ve been distracting myself by trying to pick the perfect palette of colors to fill up my travel box – even if the “perfect palette” (other than my favorite travel tool: pocket-palette) is a pretty ludicrous idea. It’s been a fun exercise – making little swatches of color, putting them next to and mixing them with each other. It serves to remind me what brought me down this path in the first place: color. I can still picture myself as an elementary school child, happily spending countless hours rearranging magic markers in their box – preferably a great big set of them. Painting little swatches and moving them around on my table – or better still, moving the tubes of paint around – this week, transported me right back to those childhood days.

These will be new materials for me in Italy. It’s only in the last five years (the same amount of time in which I have not been back to Italy) that I have had the courage to work with ink and watercolors. I’m looking forward to seeing how I respond to that combination: Italy + Ink.

And perhaps most importantly, dreaming of how I will spend my 10 days is also doing wonders for moving me back towards some level of sanity – at least temporarily. Donna Leon’s books, which take place in Venice, are providing the backdrop for these dreams. I highly recommend them for well-written escapist mystery literature – even if you don’t have plans to visit.

12.31.16

Posted on: December 31st, 2016 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
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Drawing Table Portrait; 31 December 2016

Hopeful New Year

Today marks not only the end of 2016 – a year many I know are happy to see go, but also the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve been thinking of her all week. Thinking that I’m glad in some ways she is not here to witness what I believe will be a disastrous new administration in our government. Which leads me to my next thought obsession: what does it mean to hope?

What is hope? Is it merely an emotion or simply the opposite of despair? Where does it live? I guess since mid-November, I’ve been having trouble finding this elusive thing called hope. None-the-less, I am going to keep looking. And here is where I think I’ll find it: in the freshly fallen snow laden branches in the woods; the expectant look of a silly dog who can’t wait for me to snap on my snowshoes and head into those woods; the shed full of wood to keep my studio warm all winter long; that cozy warm studio; and all the people in my life who bring me laughter and light. Here’s hoping you too will find hope, strength and joy in all kinds of unexpected places in the year ahead.

Great Cranberry Island Drawings

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 by jmbroekman 1 Comment
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Great Cranberry Island drawings from my sketchbooks

I am home again, trying to get organized and settled. My studio is in need of a major clean-up, which is often the case after I’ve been away from it for a period of time. In the meantime, though, I’ve posted pictures of several pages of Great Cranberry Island drawings from sketchbooks I completed last month. You can see them here, or by clicking the link in the sidebar to the right under pages, titled “Great Cranberry Island”.

The drawings and sketchbooks are just part of what I did on that little rock off the coast of Maine. I spent most mornings out and about on the rocks, drawing from the magnificent landscape. In the afternoon I was in my studio working on several mixed media abstract paintings on paper. The paintings reflect everything I was inhaling on this spit of land surrounded by water: the light, the natural beauty, the sounds of the tides coming and going; and perhaps most importantly, the paintings are a reflection of the sense of freedom and joy that I felt there. Thank you Heliker-Lahotan Foundation!

Island Living

Posted on: September 27th, 2016 by jmbroekman 4 Comments
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Island Transportation

It’s been three weeks with my trusty bicycle, and I am finally getting the hang of getting up the island hills. There is only one paved road on Great Cranberry Island, and maybe only three other dirt roads that require a stop sign. It is indeed a small island. Using two wheels and my two legs and feet to power myself around this magical place has been nothing short of delightful. I was not a proficient bike rider before this month – so that is saying something. Turns out, “it’s like riding a bike”, as William, one of my house-mates exclaimed “is like drawing”!

Island living, at least on Great Cranberry, is magical. I’ve gotten a ton of work done – both in and out of sketchbooks. It’s been ages since I have really worked from the landscape, and though the paintings are abstract, they are definitely inspired by my surroundings. The light is extraordinary; every evening when I leave my studio, I am practically knocked off my feet, it is so beautiful. I hop on my bike and chase the sunset. What a gift.

In the last two days, the weather has turned – the woodstove is cooking, and riding a bike has become invigorating. We are in the home stretch of this delightful interlude. This afternoon we are going on an excursion to Little Cranberry (Islesford) to visit with Ashely Bryan. It will be my first foray off the island – but only as far as another one!

If you haven’t been following along there are pictures on instagram (j.broekman), and if you are in Maine, stay tuned; I may do an open studio at some point in October.

On Being an Artist – Part 2

Posted on: August 17th, 2016 by jmbroekman 6 Comments
The beginning of a new book of collages
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Thoughts on being an artist in this always-connected-digital world

This is a continuation of the most recent post in which I lamented that being an artist isn’t always as easy at it looks. Has being an artist become even more complicated in this always-connected-digital universe?

You could argue that the digital age makes being an artist easier, rather than more difficult. There are so many ways to reach your audience. Yet, there is something about putting work “out there” whether here on this blog, on FaceBook, or Instragram, that keeps a questioning eye peering over my shoulder. For those of us who lean sharply toward the side of self-doubt, this social media landscape often feeds our worst internal demons. I almost always hesitate before hitting the “post” button, questioning myself and my motivation, before sending whatever it is out into cyberspace. Are you sure that’s ready for prime time?

I am told, however, that as an artist not connecting is not an option. And if there is one lesson that being an artist teaches, it’s that you have to look fear right in the eye, and do whatever it is anyway. So in I jump with both feet and allow the crazy current to carry me where it will. On the plus side, I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback, and discovered a mess of really talented and inspiring artists out there. In the end, I like being able to stay in touch and share my work with all of you, near and far.

On being an artist – and finding time to disconnect

Courageous acts as an artist also include sending out applications (for grants, shows and residencies). As my grandmother always said “No you’ve got, yes you can get“, which I wrote about here. With that in mind, I applied for a residency at the Heliker-Lahotan Foundation. To my great delight, they invited me to spend September on Great Cranberry Island!

I am looking forward to working with abandon; letting my curiosity take me where it will, without expectation of what the work should be; slowing way down to live inside the work, and giving that little voice of doubt over my shoulder a vacation. This time away, I am confident, will propel my work forward for many years to come. Can you tell how excited I am about this opportunity?