Island Living

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

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

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?

On Being an Artist

Posted on: July 8th, 2016 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
No why just hereI was a bunch of sunflowers

It ain’t so easy, this being an artist thing

Being an artist and making art is hard work – not nearly as “fun” as it looks. I recently found myself trying to explain to a visitor to my studio that fun is decidedly not how I would describe what happens inside these walls. This is not a complaint, and I’m not sure why I find it necessary to defend what I do in that way. It’s also not to say that I wouldn’t like to allow fun to play a bigger role. I would, and I’m working on that.

I’ve been kicking this blog post around inside my head for at least a month. It writes itself at 2 AM when I should be sleeping; but when I sit down at the computer it is nowhere to be found. Just like painting. Conjuring up the paintings I want to make, or think I want to make, is so much easier than actually squeezing out the color onto the palette and transferring that color to the substrate. Why is that?

What is fun anyway?

Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics. I chose the images of recent work above as an example of my process and the roundabout way I arrive at some of my paintings. On the left is a drawing from my 120 days/120 drawings project that I completed last fall. On the right is where it is now – 9 months later.

I can still remember arriving at the drawing, back in September; It had been a good day, and I was definitely lost in the making of marks on a giant piece of paper on my wall (*see below: an image of the big sheet of paper with multiple drawings from last fall). It was one of those moments of what is now referred to as “a flow state”. I was completely present in the act of looking and putting down marks. Until I stood back. That’s when the judge inside my head showed up and told me all the things that were “wrong” with it; that part was too big, that was too far left or right … on and on. Then I had a long conversation with myself about whether or not I should try and “fix” it. That conversation – about making art in this age of social media – probably needs to be discussed in a different post.

So I wonder, is that state of flow actually different than fun? Maybe not. Maybe it depends how you decide to define fun. Amusement park rides are decidedly NOT fun in my book, yet I know they are for most people. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon who makes art.

If you’d like to see more of my drawings from last fall that have morphed into (in most cases entirely different) paintings, you can follow me on Instagram: j.broekman.

big sheet of sunflowers

Off to Ireland

Posted on: May 7th, 2016 by jmbroekman 1 Comment

and home again

OK, so it has been forever since I’ve posted something on this blog, and I started putting something up before leaving for Ireland. So much for good intentions; I never finished that post. In fact I only got so far as the photo, my lovely new paintbox, which it turns out wasn’t exactly meant for travel – all that neatly placed paint got all jumbled up on the flight over. Luckily, I needed a lot of grey.

Ireland was lovely, beautiful, new and different. We spent our time on the west coast, did a lot of hiking/walking, a fair amount of pub hopping (not just for the beer, but to hear music, which was terrific). And now we’re home with miserable colds! To make up for my lack of posting, here are a mess of photos; Hope you enjoy the scenery!









Brief descriptions, from the top: First row – Doolin, hiking the Cliffs of Moher; Second and third rows – The Dingle Peninsula; Fourth, fifth & sixth rows: Killarney National Park, including Muckross Abbey, the lakes, and hiking into the Gap of Dunloe; Last two rows – Bantry Bay and the Sheepshead Peninsula, with the last photo from Cork City.


Posted on: December 31st, 2015 by jmbroekman 7 Comments

The end of another year

Today marks not only the last day of 2015, but 11 years since my mother died. Last night, in her honor, and to celebrate the coming new year and finishing the 120 days (more on that in a minute), I made her famous chocolate mousse. Famous because, when I was growing up, legend has it, she could never make a batch big enough. If Dad was bringing home the crew (Joy, Gil, and Humphrey), and my mom made enough for 8 they finished it; if she made enough for 12 they finished it. Never a drop left. Famous too, because at her funeral, my sister lamented that she never got the recipe. Little did she know, I already had it. And now, it has also been safely passed into the hands of my friends Shirley and David, for whom I’ve been making it on Swan’s Island every summer for the last 4 to celebrate their wedding anniversary. I’m glad there are ways to pass traditions around.

So, the chocolate mousse is chilling, soon the lentils will be simmering (you have to eat lentils on New Years Eve for prosperity – in case you were wondering), and for the first time in 121 days I did not make a drawing (yet). Yesterday was the last day in my self-imposed 120 days/120 drawings challenge. And a challenge it was. I am still trying to figure out what I learned other than that even after 4 months of daily practice, I can still get tripped up by the same old objects and mental road blocks. I think the most interesting part may be to see what comes next. Some more good work, I hope.

Here’s hoping you and yours will experience a sense of well-being, good health, and plenty of laughter in 2016!