Saturday, June 06, 2015


Chuck Close nailed it: “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”

It was almost like divine intervention when my friend and fellow artist, Marla Fasano, tagged me in a Facebook status about doing this 30 days of art challenge. The last couple weeks I had been so focused on getting my yard and gardens tidy, I went gangbusters on that and then when I returned to the studio, I was sort of lost and unsure of myself all over again. I did some crafty things, I cleaned and tried to organize. I know I worked every day for long hours and yet by the end of the week I had so little to show for it. This was very frustrating, to say the least. 

So when I saw this challenge pop up (that just happened to fall at the start of the month of June AND perfectly timed with Monday being the first of the month) it just felt like the answer I didn't even know I was looking for. I had to do it. Something to hold me to the fire to paint every day. To FOCUS.   

And so day 1 began that familiar feeling of painting again after a little break. It's tight and controlled, it's falling back on old familiar routines. Every. Time. I made some art, but it wasn't ground breaking or anything...

Day 2 I began to loosen up and everything opened up from there. The rest of the week flew by and one idea evolved into the next, paint flowing freely and straight from the source. No over-thinking, fast and loose. By the end of the week, I had a couple of big paintings and an idea for a new series. Not bad for five days! 

Here's my journey so far via images... First, some pics of what I got myself into before this began.

My wacky little artsy herb garden out by the studio. One of several outdoor projects I worked on that are decidedly quirky.

One of the projects I got sidetracked by. Love this wire mermaid sculpture (sorry the photo chops off her tail) and what I have in mind for it, but the beading will take forever. A project to save for another day...

 Day 1 was rainy and I was tentatively working small. It's like I have to tip toe my way back into painting... 

Day 2 I started to open up working much larger. (I also worked on that floral.)
 By the end of day 3 I had a completed painting and a newly stretched canvas. Now things were really on a roll...

Day 4 was all about working on this 48" x 48" canvas, as was day 5...

And now I have these paintings completed and listed in my shop!
 Summer Meadow - Acrylic and oil pastel on two 16" x 20" canvases
Phoenix - Acrylic and oil pastel on 36" x 36" canvas
  Undercurrent - Acrylic on 48" x 48" canvas

Today is day 6 and there is work to be done! You can follow along with my daily progress on facebook, and be sure to check out Marla's page Sorcha Moon to see her daily silverpoint work, as well as Deana Diefenbach's BellaCosaArt page for her 30 days of creating updates.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back To School... Sort of, Part 1

One of my best friends has been a lifelong learner, taking tons of classes through the years on a variety of subjects ever since we met in college. If you put them all together she could probably have degrees in at least six subjects, but that hasn’t been her priority. I love that about her and respect it tremendously. Meanwhile, I always felt wildly different about education. I was all about getting in and out of college in four years flat – get my degree and I’m outta there. (Purely coincidentally, the class of 2015 graduated today from my alma mater, UNH – congrats fellow Wildcats!) 
But ever since I’ve really focused in on my art making career, I’ve been open to the idea of re-educating myself on my own terms (which basically translates to free and when I feel like it). Fortunately, there’s no lack of free resources online – from podcasts to Ted Talks and more – wonderful insights from the minds and experiences of successful artists, business owners and self help enthusiasts. Topics explored include, but are not limited to…
How to manifest your greatest dreams. 
How to figure out what those dreams are in the first place.
How so-and-so became a successful artist.
How to best market your art.
Since I came to this conclusion that I need to embrace education as part of my journey towards the career of my hopes and dreams, I’ve been almost manic in my consumption. I thought since my audience tends to be other artists, I’d share a little of what I’m learning here on my blog. I have to say though, if you aren’t an artist by trade, this information tends to apply across the board in all matters of life, so read on – I think you’ll dig this stuff too.
Pause for an art break…
 My latest custom painting commission 
Reflections 2, Acrylic on 40" x 40" canvas
The first thing I’d like to talk about is this idea of GOING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
It’s something I’m getting from almost any and all of these interviews and discussions, “You have to go outside your comfort zone.”
Full disclosure: Any time I’ve ever heard that in the past, my gut reaction has always been as follows…
I don't want to. I’m an adult, and therefore I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.
The end.
What, am I supposed to jump out of a plane to gain a deeper appreciation for life? Please. No way, not in a million years. I like comfort. I like knowing what makes me comfortable and I like remaining comfortable. (I’m also a Taurus, that’s sort of our "thing".) Besides, life throws enough curve balls all on its own to actually want to seek out more things/situations/experiences to unsettle me. Why would I do that? It just never made any sense to me.
But I think I was missing one key point to all of this.
FIRST you must figure out what you really, really want and THEN you must be willing to go out of your comfort zone to attain whatever that is. It isn’t about nonsensical risk taking - duh! (Why did I think it was?) No one will be waiting for me with a million dollars on land if I jump out of a plane (PS even then I wouldn’t do it). It’s about being very aware of what it is that you want and then open minded about the path of achieving and actualizing your dreams and goals, not letting any fears stand in your way or limit how far you can go.
So, in the business of making and selling art, maybe this means “putting yourself out there” on social media platforms or making connections with local galleries, or maybe it's getting started on a big (albeit intimidating) concept/project/series. In general life terms, it can mean opening yourself up to failure if you try something new, facing some of your biggest fears and doubts on the road to love, or challenging your ability to communicate in order to strengthen an existing relationship.
It just never clicked until recently, but now I get it, and in a way, it’s almost scarier than the concept of jumping out of a plane because these particular challenges are now unavoidable and necessary if I want to achieve my goals. But what better encouragement is there to do them than a. to prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to, even stuff that scares you and b. to get yourself closer to living the life you’ve always wanted to live! In one of the many Ted Talks I listened to the other day, someone said this line that I had to write down so I’d remember it…
Success is the freedom to do whatever you want to do.
That may sound like pure hopeful rubbish, but let me tell you, after listening to one successful person after another, it is absolutely true and possible.
The trick, if there is one, is simple. You have to be willing to work extremely hard and take risks boldly and with conviction, and that includes going out of your comfort zone. And that’s a challenge my comfort loving self is willing to take... firmly on land, thank you very much.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite educators thus far…
Lisa Congdon - She's everywhere right now... for good reason. Check her out. 
Alyson Stanfield aka The Art Biz Coach - I've only barely scratched the surface of this excellent artist resource, including tons of free podcasts
Kesha Bruce - I've been following Kesha for years now, she's fantastic!
Elle Luna - I just love her attitude and spirit! This essay in particular is a must read, "The Crossroads of Should and Must".

I know I'm missing some new favs here, follow me on facebook and twitter where I am most likely to share my latest great finds! 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Week in Review - Hello Spring!

Spring has truly arrived here in New England, and I can't think of a more inspiring time of year to embrace change and transition, and feel the surging power of creative energy and motivation.

Every day, something new blooms or rapidly evolves from early bud to blossom. It's really quite spectacular and awe inspiring if you think about it. Life GROWS on.

In the studio, I'm already mentally launched into summer and I've "arrived" at my favorite place to be - the beach! I created this triptych of three 18" x 24" canvases that I titled (thanks to my aunt's suggestion!) "Timeless Ocean".

I've been enjoying using metallic paint (gold, silver, copper) to recreate the shimmer of sunlight on ocean water. It's a lot of fun to work with, and one thing I've discovered is that it's best to go back and forth between seeing the sheen and not seeing the sheen. (If someone were to catch me in the studio they'd be perplexed by me constantly bobbing my head around as I work!) 

When you see a piece with the reflection really shining, that layer pops in an almost 3D way to the eye. It's important that those lines or shapes, or however you are using it, make sense from a complete compositional perspective.

I so enjoyed painting this, I'd love to paint a dozen more. In fact, I have another triptych in the works in a bit of a different palette and I'm eager to get back out to work on it right now! 

I'm really trying to live in the moment, and it's working beautifully (*much easier to do with gorgeous weather and flowers!). But I'll be honest, a part of me is like... 

 (In more ways than one.) ;) 

Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Moving on to greener pastures...

My sketchbook with a series of designs for custom vegetable stamps, a few of my hand carved stamps, my favorite ink pads, tools of the trade, and test papers...

With a hint of trepidation and a whole lot of excitement, I am officially making the move away from my rubber stamp shop, Green Garden Stamps, and focusing entirely on my ART...

...for now? (More on that later.)

I opened my rubber stamp shop in 2010 after finding that I really enjoyed the medium and the ability to express another side of my creative aesthetic. Here's a collection of my favorite kinds of designs to carve - rustic, country, garden-inspired.

As the years progressed, I learned a lot operating this business. I also connected with tons of amazing people, businesses and organizations. Creating custom stamps was always such a pleasure. Here are some examples of my custom work.

Perhaps my favorite of all was connecting with the good people of Max's Love Project -

Such a fun stamp carved for two great friends for their wedding.

At some point along the way, I saw an example of stamps being used to show meal selections at a wedding on escort cards. It was in a magazine or online somewhere, I can't recall. But it got me thinking and sketching... and I came up with this set of four designs. 

Each measures about 1" x 1", for beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian. They quickly became a hit. Soon I had people contacting me about other options - do you have a pig? Can I get a pepper instead? After compiling a list of custom requests, I expanded the product line to include more options.

I've been selling them in various numbered sets and they are by far my most popular product. These meal stamps have often paid for much needed winter oil deliveries, weekly groceries - you name it! I'm incredibly thankful for all of my customers, press and social media sharing - it's been an amazing ride.

So why quit when you have a successful business? 

That's the million dollar question isn't it?

The answer requires me to take a deep breath because it's rather personal, actually. To a degree that I'm not quite sure how much I want to reveal. But this time in my life right now is about taking greater risks, so here goes...

Toward the end of last year, my undiagnosed lifetime of depression and anxiety hit an all time high and I finally had to confront it and deal with it. I "talked" (spurts of words in between sobbing) with my doctor and acknowledging it to a medical professional alone felt incredibly healing - a huge weight lifted. It was the first step. And now I've been on medication for the last five months and it has dramatically changed my life for the better

(At this point I feel like adding some caveat like "hey I'm no expert" or "talk to your own medical professional" or something like that. It should be obvious that I'm speaking solely about what worked for me, right? Moving on...)

It isn't as if I haven't been aware of the existence of medication for such things. But I'm about to get real here - as an artist, I was seriously scared that whatever unknown spark made of rainbows and/or stardust that "made" me an artist would go away if I was medicated. THAT plus whatever quirks I felt made me "me" kept me away from what would end up being a godsend for much too long. But I'm not in the business of looking back right now - it's too potentially destructive. I am just happy and thankful that it has come into my life here and now. However, I feel like it's important for me to say that my fears were entirely unfounded and in fact, I feel like I've never been a better artist than right now.

Medication hasn't taken away my unique self. Instead, it has relieved a ton of distractions, road blocks, obsessions, paralyzing fear and doubt, and rabbit holes that prohibited me from being really present in the moment. I feel joy and peace sincerely now, and I mean that sincerely. It isn't "numb", it isn't "fake" (as I had feared).

I read somewhere that when a person lives with chronic depression and/or anxiety, it erodes/eliminates certain neural pathways that medication can "reconnect" in a way. That makes so much sense to me and speaks to that feeling that my states of inner calm/peace/joy now don't feel "phoney" - they feel entirely natural - clean and clear.

All that being said and revealed (YIKES!), I have found that the one thing that has changed is my carving ability. Perhaps that was the lone area in my life where my anxiety actually served me well? ;) Because without it, something feels different when I carve now. Honestly, I just don't care for it anymore. At least not as something I have to do all the time. I think it used to calm me down, and now that I don't need that as much, I'd just rather be doing other things. (Painting, hiking, reading, cooking, gardening, etc, etc.)

Also, arthritis runs rampant in my family and I'm starting to sense its creeping presence in my hands and wrists. If I let myself go there, this can scare me a lot, most especially thinking about my future painting (because painting is a passion I don't ever plan on retiring from). I'm already looking into compression braces and ways to work around this, but there is no question that carving stamps exacerbates the problem. If anyone has seen the movie Words and Pictures, you may recall Juliette Binoche's amazing performance as a painter coping with severe rheumatoid arthritis. She comes up with some very creative work-arounds that were quite inspiring. (PS I really recommend this movie!) Time will tell how much this will affect me, but considering how my grandfather was already greatly suffering with terrible arthritis by my age, and working a very hard job, I have no excuses to not do anything I want. He was body surfing well into older age. Tough stuff!

And finally... unfortunately Life once again brutally smacked me with this hard truth very recently... Life is short. Just how short is unknown. In the face of that, there is really only one question - what do I really want out of my life? It can all get really heavy (and heady) thinking about this stuff, but it's important work. Checking in every now and then to see how your day to day aligns with your "big picture" goals.

It's been ten years since I quit my job picture framing and jumping - mostly clueless - into being a self employed artist. For half of that time, stamps helped compliment my painting business and pay the bills and I'm so thankful for that. But I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to move on and focus entirely on art. On top of everything else I just shared, it simply comes down to this...

MAKING LIVING BREATHING ART is ALL I want to do, and be, and surround myself with. That and being with the people (and animals) I love, and appreciating life, and simple pleasures/blessings, as much as possible.

That's it.

Carving stamps stopped feeling like "being an artist" a long time ago, and after carving well over 2500 of them, I'd say I'm more than ready to let it go! I've cleared out my shop of almost everything but my meal stamps and some simple leaf stamps. One more wedding season maybe? Or maybe they'll all be gone next week. I'm not entirely certain. ;)

 Hungarian stamp set. Floral folk art inspired by my grandmother. 

What I do know is that this aesthetic is still very much a part of who I am and a "wing", you could say, of my creative vision. That's why I'm not so sure that Green Garden Stamps is going away entirely. I'm thinking of changing the shop name to Green Garden Studios - or something like that - and changing focus. Perhaps more digital stamp collections... (all of my digital stamps will remain available). I'd really like to get a tablet to make my own digital clip art (I worked with a graphic designer who perfected scans of my stamped images for my current designs). It's on my wish list along with a new camera because I'm also thinking of adding digital download photography of gardens, nature, and the countryside. Some of my favorite things that keep consistent with the design aesthetic I created with the Green Garden brand.

There are lots of ideas brewing around for what this could evolve into, but for now, I'm putting it allll on the way, way back burner and embracing THIS instead:

Leo last year in front of my studio at the start of painting season, around this time of year.


Recent commission - Three 30" x 36" canvases for a Houston, TX orthodontics office. I'm loving this ombre style and have created a listing for custom paintings in all sizes in my Etsy shop here:
In closing, this is all totally terrifying. Hahaha!! Putting my truth "out there" as well as boldly leaping into my greatest dreams, aspirations and desires as a painter. In a lot of ways my stamp shop was a crutch that took the pressure off of my paintings. It worked when I needed it to and I'm entirely thankful for it. Now I want more and it's sort of hmm... arrogant? to presume that I can even do it. At least that's what the nay saying voices in my head tell me, which I am learning to silence one by one and listen, instead, to a gentle and loving voice that encourages and says simply, "Go for it. What do you have to lose?". 

Many thanks to all of my Green Garden Stamps customers throughout the years and fellow shop owners that helped promote my shop! It's been a wonderful journey... :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Light In Flux

Light In Flux - Acrylic and oil pastel on 16" x 20" canvas

Late winter sun, blue shadows on snow and birch, resilient brown brush... 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Not enough hours in the day

When a fellow artist friend visited me in my studio last summer, he asked, "What do you do in the winter?". My reply was something snarky and self deprecating. If I had to guess, "Hibernate and wallow" was the exact response. 

The truth is, there is never any lack of work to be done. When you sell online and promote yourself as a self representing artist, the list of new sites to update, new tricks of the trade, and the ever changing environment of selling/promoting online can keep you so busy you may consider cloning yourself (but I wouldn't advise it, watch Multiplicity if you don't believe me).

With that being said, I've got a list of things I've been up to that I'd like to share, and I could really gab about each one at length but I'll try and be as brief and succinct as possible because, you know, time is precious and all that. (ETA: Brevity is not my forte - see below).

Facebook - I think I figured out the best way to utilize my art page JUST as everything was about to change (exposure of posts has been limited as they are encouraging more paid posts, aka "boosts", from pages). If I had clued in about a year or so ago, who knows what it could have done for exposure/sales, but alas, it is what it is. We only have the now to work with, right?

That being said, I greatly increased the number of likes on my page by doing a few simple things. First of all, I made it a New Year's resolution to only give myself a little time in the morning and at night to look at my "regular" facebook feed - if any time at all. As anyone on facebook knows, it is so easy to discover you've just spent an hour looking at pictures, following links to stories to read, or watching videos that make you laugh. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that! But for me, it was an easy distraction through the day that took me away from my work. When you are your own boss, it's easy to let things like that slide but, again, there are only so many hours in the day. Cutting back on "regular" facebook time was also for my own mental well being. I began to realize how depressed it could make me or anxious/enraged depending on my mood (and what might be happening in the world at any given moment). 

Focusing on my art page, I began to like more pages as my art page, therefore giving me a feed that was nothing but art... what a refreshing change! Now I look at facebook and comment/like in a totally different way. Not as Jessica liking her friend's picture of a recently devoured dish of crème brûlée (as scrumptious as it may appear to be), but as Jessica "the artist" liking and sharing pictures of fellow artists from all over the world. This has led to making new connections with other creators and entering into dialogues about my favorite subject... ART!

Also - and this seems so simple, because it is - the more frequently you post, the more action you'll see happening on your page. That's pretty much the case with every site out there across the board. A "no duh" observation? Maybe. But hey, it took me long enough to catch on to the obvious, maybe it can help a reader or two as well.

My final note on this is that I am still always tempted to bounce back onto my regular facebook account to see what people are up to, some days more than others. But on the whole I have a new attitude about using facebook, and it means a lot more art time every day, which has been great.

Pinterest - I'll admit, I really didn't "get" Pinterest at first. My husband still doesn't and probably never will. (He's the first person to support and cheer me on in my work, but you should see his eyes glaze over when I excitedly show him a new board. Just. Doesn't. Get it.)

The way I look at Pinterest now, and have begun to see the whole world of presenting yourself online, is that it is a reflection of your unique aesthetic, interests and abilities. Yes, Pinterest is a great tool for promoting your own work, but if that's all you do there, you may not get many followers. Creating new boards that are AUTHENTICALLY interesting to you (more on that later) is where it is at. For me, I feel like I have different versions of myself that are side by side, just as real and "me" from one to the next. One version of myself would ideally live somewhere tropical by the sea, wearing flowing white dresses and turquoise jewelry, barefoot 24/7. Thus, Coastal Style and Coastal Home were created. Another version of me lives in a funky, artsy house wearing colorful fashion that screams "I'm an artiste!". I also could see myself in a chic NYC loft, or a country cottage with a kitchen garden outside, or a rustic, natural home in the woods. None of that may sound like it has much to do with art per say, but they each have a unique, true-to-me aesthetic. Most importantly, it's something that I get real enjoyment from, and so finding the time (and items to pin) to make these boards interesting is genuinely FUN for me.

As for art, well that's what 90% or so of what my pinning is about. I do pin my original work, reproductions, etc, but my Contemporary Art board of other artist's work gets a ton of action regularly and is my most popular board, not surprisingly. As with my other boards, I don't pin anything and everything that could possibly fit. I only pin images that I truly love and connect with. That makes my board something unique amongst the plethora of other boards out there about art, painting, abstract art, etc. because no one has exactly the same tastes as I do (Or you! Just think about that for a moment and begin to see the real value it has!)  I also enjoy pinning work of great artists in history that I admire, and images of where artists work.  

Once I shifted my perspective from "how can I use this to make me sales" to "how can I use this to present my unique perspective and aesthetic as an artist and a 'taste-maker'", everything changed. That's when the world of Pinterest really opened up for me and things took off from there. In the process, this genuine content sharing leads to views and possible sales for my own work, so, in a roundabout way, I've ended up accomplishing my original hope for the site - getting views and sales!  

Twitter - For a long time Twitter was simply the dumping ground for any content I shared online. Post a new pic on Tumblr or my facebook page? Off to Twitter it goes. I didn't pay attention to it, I didn't think of it as its own entity, I just let it fly. If someone followed me, I most likely followed back. I never spent any time there, so who cares who I add/follow? 

Well, I am in the midst of changing all that. First of all, the ability to upload pictures makes the experience of using Twitter SO much more enjoyable when it comes to following and sharing artist's work (let alone your own). It's all about a visual experience when it comes to sharing your artistic vision, so a bunch of images rather than verbal soundbites are much more interesting/engaging. Second of all, in the process of discovering new artists and interesting people to follow, I'm also unfollowing a lot that have no use for me. (That sounds harsh but clearly I mean me personally, not that they have no use at all... ok... you get it). By selectively choosing who to follow, it makes the experience of Twitter a lot more enjoyable and engaging. If I follow you, it's because I am genuinely interested in what you have to share and/or say rather than hoping to have an "I'll pat your back if you pat mine" relationship. I think the former has a lot more value ultimately. Which leads me to my final point about all of this social networking...


For a long time, I did whatever I could do to promote my work, get seen, get sales, etc. Sometimes it felt right, a lot of times it felt like desperate scrambling or clawing at any nibble of potential. I am so over that way of looking at my work and the world of social networking. I don't think it actually serves anyone to create or share something that isn't truly of interest to them. To boil it down... create what you want deep in your heart to create. Share what genuinely interests or excites you. Otherwise, what's the point? If you don't honestly care or feel passionate about something, why would anyone else? 

With that in mind, the next piece of this puzzle fits together and comes about rather effortlessly. 


Maybe that's not exactly the right word for it, but what I'd like to convey here is the potential of utilizing interconnected content across many different platforms. (Whoa... that was a mouthful.) In simpler terms, and as an example, I could easily go on a pinning binge sharing unique artwork I discover one after another, being led down a rabbit hole of new boards to explore, and more and more art to gaze upon. Once I come up for air from that, I can go back and copy/paste the names of each new artist I've pinned on Facebook, adding their pages (if they have one) and in some cases, sharing an image I find particularly striking on their page. Or when I'm on Etsy, I look at my favorites now purely as curating. What would I genuinely wish to offer customers if I owned my own dream gift shop/gallery? Or how would I stage a fabulous beach home, or arrange a fashion spread in an niche catalog? Once again, I look at "favoriting" as another opportunity to reflect my aesthetic authentically. In the process of discovering artists/shops that strike my fancy, I can follow them on Facebook or Twitter and/or pin something I love. You see what I mean? It becomes a dance between these various sites, a "synergistic swirl" if you will, and when done organically and sincerely, it's actually quite a lot of fun as well as SERIOUSLY inspiring. There is no lack of value in that department.


Now that I've shared all that, guess what? There is SO MUCH MORE WORK TO BE DONE! But as far as understanding and best utilizing these three sites - for now - I think I've got a pretty solid system worked out that is going to work for me. And really, that's the advice that I've give to anyone . Do this stuff if you actually like it, find a way to make it work uniquely and sincerely for you, and if you just don't enjoy it, no matter what, then don't do it! It's not worth your time. Speaking of... someone's got to cook dinner and that someone is me.