TeaScapes grew out of an experiment and a need to do something with a collection of empty tea packages I had saved. One night during an adult watercolor class I was teaching, while the students were working, I played around with transferring a tea bag onto a stretched piece of Arches watercolor paper that I had stained with tea several years ago. It had been sitting in my studio untouched. It wasn't precious to me, which gave me the freedom to play with the tea bag.
It happened almost too easily - using a gel medium coated on the surface of the paper and the package, I laid it down with the print facing the page, dried it, and then rubbed off with paper with a damp sponge. What was left was intriguing texturally. At the same time, I had cut out some mid-century styled chairs from a furniture catalog, and thought to transfer that as well. In doing so, it dawned on me the connection between the tea packaging design and contents and the landscape out West. Each collaged paper is then paired with a watercolored landscape that suits the transfer - the papers tell me what they want to be. You can watch a video of my process here.
I got giddy over the juxtaposition - the way an artist does when she hits an "aha" moment. The meaningfulness behind the work how these pieces mirror my own personal growth through a traumatic period as a mother. The past two years took a toll on my spiritual, mental and physical self. The prior work I was doing with appliances no longer felt important, or relevant. With this, I was able to detach from my environment and go back to places where I felt whole, lightened and free. The works currently are focused on images that tie landscapes from Utah and Wyoming to the tea I'm drinking now (after my coffee - my first love).
The small size, 5" x 7", lends itself to having a sense of completion since my studio time has been historically choppy and short. Each one is painted on Strathmore 500 Series watercolor paper and then mounted onto archival cradled wood panels by Ampersand, coated with UV spray and varnish, and wired and ready for hanging. Since beginning these in February, I'm now verging on 16 #TeaScapes with hopes of creating more.
Six of them are already listed on my site, while any others not sold at this weekend's Maplewood Art & Music Walk, will be added next week. So, here's a peak at the pieces available online now, as well as new works getting ready for Sunday. If you purchase anything, they will be hung on Sunday and marked as sold, shipping next week. Stop by my booth on Sunday from 11 - 5pm - #42 on Highland Place, use 9 Highland Place, Maplewood, NJ on your navigation.
Now that Auggie, I mean my painting, "Jar of Optimism (Auggie)" has been delivered for tomorrow's opening of Paint the Town Yellow in Madison, NJ, at the Peg Williams Gallery hosted by INT-O Yellow, I had a break from my routine. Instead of studio work, I spent an afternoon working on an online course with artist, Amira Rahim, who is an Instagram expert. We chatted about ways to vary our feed. As I was looking around my studio, I glanced at my art wall and saw something amazing: the connection between the works I painted with INT-O Yellow, my older Appliance Portraits, and a self portrait done while studying with painter, Jerome Witkin at Syracuse University.
Unless you know me personally or have been following me for a long time, you probably weren't aware that I have a history of figurative works. I've always enjoyed painting the human form; both in sum and the portrait. I believe Jerome helped instill that love, as well as my high school art teacher, Nancy Bossert. But, I've always felt unsure of a direction, figuratively speaking, as I desired something beyond glorifying the body. I'm interested in concept. That's what landed me back to the portrait I painted for INT-O Yellow of my son, Auggie. I became aware of a device to synthesize with a figure to communicate something bigger, more important than just the human body.
This is partly a result of having worked with INT-O Yellow; it helped me bridge this gap. Working with a color and structure outside my comfort level (50% of all the works created for the show Paint the Town Yellow had to include INT-O Yellow), coupled with my interest in painting reflections and surfaces (the use of a Ball canning jar is related to my Appliance Portraits), made something new happen.
This was an a-ha moment for me. As a teaching artist, I'm always striving to find connections for my students. They don't always see them. I don't always see them. Sometimes it comes from outside yourself, or at a time when you have a break and come back to something after deep focus. That was this instance; I was so involved with the painting, that I had lost sight of where it grew from. Over the past year I've wanted to move forward with new subject matter, but wasn't sure where to go. Jumping out of my comfort zone and INT-O Yellow, yet again was the driving force of a burst of creativity. What gets you out of your comfort zone and into creativity?
I hope you'll join me tomorrow in Madison, NJ, at the Peg Williams Gallery to see Auggie in person (the painting, I mean) and the opening of Paint the Town Yellow.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
"You teach best what you most need to learn." - Richard Bach
Tonight marks the first of five art exhibits and opportunities to see and purchase my work this month. This show features nine works that focus on food gelato, aprons, appliances, and vintage cars. You can preview the work and purchase from out of the area, here. Any shipping charges will be determined after purchase.
Additionally, it's an opportunity for me to help Save the Children, an organization that is actively supporting children in 120 countries including the U.S. have a healthy start to life and have the opportunity to learn and have care when disaster strikes. Given the many recent disasters here and around the world, as well as the growing refugee crisis, I wanted to give back through my work. Throughout the month of September, I'm donating 20% of my profits of art sales from The Maplewood Grille, the Maplewood Art Walk and any direct art sales through my studio / web site.
If you're in the New Jersey area, please join me from 6 - 9pm at The Maplewood Grille, 144 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood. If you can't make it tonight, check out my other upcoming shows on my exhibit page.
Although I have found ways through our modern food system to incorporate blueberries in my diet year-round, I always anticipate Jersey blueberry season. Even growing up in PA on the border of NJ, it was a much-anticipated part of the summer. Back in 2012, while on our annual family vacation to Cape May, my husband and I discovered a local jewel, Beach Plum Farm. We rented bikes, plopped our then 3.5-year old on the back, and rode out to West Cape May in search of local produce. Not only did we enjoy the ride and the food, but were astounded by the beauty of the farm.
Upon entering, at the time, was a front garden, planted in an English-style, with herbs, flowers, and smaller vegetables. We were welcomed to follow the rustic seashell path to the back of the farm to tour the rest of the crops and stumbled upon ripening blueberry bushes. Amazingly, this was the first time I had ever seen them in person. The shades of blue got me thinking of my palette and which pigments I would use; surely manganese, a little ultramarine, maybe turquoise, definitely some pthalo.
The work above was created upon my return from several photos I took. We've been back to Cape May since, but have had another son in the meantime and haven't had the opportunity to take the bike ride out to the farm. Hopefully we can make it work this August when we take our annual trip, now that the youngest is capable of sitting in a bike seat and the oldest has the endurance to probably bike the distance himself.
In the meantime, I'm offering the above piece at a reduced price in honor of the start of Jersey blueberry season, now through Friday only, along with a summer print sale of my works available on Fine Art America.
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Our local ShopRite is selling flats of Jersey blueberries that I keep hoarding. I used to be able to freeze the extras, but with a family of four, and a 3-year old that could live on them alone, they aren't making it to the freezer. (Great tip: you can pop the blueberries directly in the freezer in the clamshell). Enjoy!
35 has been a long time coming. While I'm no longer 35, I began this painting when I was 34, I think. Sometime in 2012, I believe, or maybe 2013, those years are a bit of a blur. I was running my gallery in Newton, NJ, a large 1250 sq' space where I was teaching, curating and exhibiting shows, and painting. Those years were great, and I have fond memories of the space, the art, and the people I connected with through art.
At the same time, it was tough. We honor and lift up women who do it all, and laud all the hard work. But, behind all of the successes, events, and work, I was struggling. My oldest son was 3 and in daycare 4 days a week, I was working tremendous hours, and my husband was commuting an 1 1/2 by to Millburn, NJ, and traveling on top of it for work. In the midst, we wanted to have a second child. I grew up with a sibling, as did my husband, so we wanted that for my son. All the while, my husband and I were discussing a move from Newton, which on top of everything was draining; not knowing whether to close my gallery, where we would go, what I would do.
The second time around, this process was not easy. Looking back at my life at the time, I can see why. I eventually got pregnant sometime in 2011, and was so thrilled that I wanted to tell my family and close friends, earlier than most do. I always felt if something did happen, I would want the support of my family. Sadly, something did happen, and I miscarried around 6 weeks. It was hard. I sometimes minimize the difficulty by saying, well it wasn't as hard as others' situations, but it doesn't matter. A loss is a loss and it is emotionally difficult to deal with. Beyond that, recovering physically was something I wasn't prepared for. It took a toll on my body and it took me almost a year to move on, not so much emotionally, but to normalize my body and physically let go.
This piece was started sometime after I miscarried, which the term in itself has a negative connotation and suggests that the mother did something wrong. I never felt it was my fault, and was hopeful that I would be able to conceive in the future. During that time I put so much pressure on myself, that I ended up with increased anxiety, a trip to the ER for a panic attack, and of course the side effect was an inability to let my body relax and be open to a pregnancy. After therapy, many doctors appointments for various issues, I finally found an answer from a doctor who, after some minor medications worked, told me your body is healthy, you can start trying. He worked with me, he was honest with me, and his statement lifted a weight off my shoulders. About a month later, I was pregnant with my, now, 3-year old son.
I've dealt with appliances as a subject for various reasons; maybe out of fear or just not knowing yet how to deal with the figure. They have become metaphors for people. Many are unfamiliar with the small appliance depicted in my work; it's a Sunbeam egg cooker. It was my mother's; she gave it to me several years ago to use in my work. This entire work is an evolution from my Maésta paintings featuring an appliance version of a Madonna and child seated on a throne. No longer is the chair the seat of the appliance, but a reference to a kitchen sink that has been collaged with egg shells. If you count the pearls, you will see there are 34. At the time after my miscarriage, 35 was the year when all things fertility-wise start going downhill (so we were told) and you become classified as high risk. This year hung over the head of many of my friends, including myself at the time. I ended up pregnant at 34, and delivered at 35, a healthy natural birth.
We ended up selling our house and closing my gallery two months prior to his birth, and relocating to a temporary apartment in Short Hills. All of my art supplies were boxed up shy of a sketchbook and a few watercolors. We were there for only 5 months before moving permanently to our home in West Orange. I took the time after having my son to care for him, minimize the time my oldest was in pre-school and get our house settled. That first year and a half are a bit of a blur with lots of sleepless nights and very full days. I produced little if any artwork during that time.
I gradually set up my studio, began teaching again, and I believe it wasn't until last year, that I pulled out this painting to resume work on it. I'm not one that easily lets go of things (as you can see). And, while some artists can just toss out a painting, say it's not significant for me, that wasn't the case. I needed to finish this, see it through to the end; it was important. So finally after 3 intense months working on this a few hours a week, I felt it was completed. It is done. That period of my life is over, but not forgotten. It was beautiful, tough, and while I often felt discouraged, there was hope that a second child would come, despite 35 hanging over my head.
Now, 35 is not such a problem and new research is coming out that suggests women who give birth at later ages, actually live longer! I stumbled on an article in The Daily Beast by Jean Twenge, psychologist and author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, that noted 35 was derived based on French birth records from 1670 and 1830! It was thought that 1 out of 3 women could not get pregnant between the ages of 35 - 39. Those statistics lasted so far into the future that it affected my thinking about my pregnancy capabilities only a few years ago. New studies show 80% of that age group does become pregnant. So to those who have experienced miscarriage, struggles with pregnancy, fertility, you are not alone. I'm so thankful that this is a conversation that we are starting to have, and am very grateful that my second child did arrive, and thrilled that "35" has been resolved and is no longer on my easel.
Head over to my Facebook album of works in progress if you'd like to see the development and transformation of "35" over the past several years. Contact me for interest in the "35" or exhibit opportunities for the work.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Deemed the Kitchen God's Artist by NJ Savvy Living for my sainted appliances, I'm now known more for my vibrant, meditational paintings of chairs set surprisingly in landscapes. Since relocating to NC from NJ, mothering my two sons, and caring for our rescue pup, Cider, took the lead. Now, that my Durham home studio is renovated it's open again for virtual art coaching and the resumption of my personal art and commissions. The work I make is inspired by my joy of teaching, exploring nature, and traveling. On The Teaching Artist Blog, I share my approach to teaching and educate my readers about my creative process.
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Want to read more from the past? Click here to read archived blog posts from my previous blog on Blogger.