A Seat by the Firehole, Watercolor and Gouache with Image Transfer on Paper, 14" x 9.75", ©2018 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world. - Amy Poehler, from Yes, Please
I think I forgot over the past few decades that I was one of those dreamers, a thinker, somehow magical for what I do. I grew up as a dreamer - playing, creating, and then I became a mother, at the same time as opening a studio / gallery in a storefront. A lot of energy went into creating that space, the events, the shows, the lessons, and some artwork along the way.
Since closing my brick and mortar in 2013, I birthed another son, took time off from creating art, but then slowly started pulling myself up and out of my house. My art classes moved locations, grew in number and then shrank again while I tended to some very personal needs for my family. All the while, I was making, exhibiting, but something was shifting. During that contrition, my artwork started blossoming again, changing, emerging as something wholly new.
While motherhood may spark dreaming in some people, I have found in some ways the opposite. There were moments of creativity and bursts of ingenuity that surprised me, but for the most part I was tired, exhausted, and spent - trying to juggle so many things. The truth of motherhood is that it is so damned hard. And, it doesn't get easier. But, somehow in the past two years, I have worked equally damned hard on myself and have found a burst of growth that is too amazing not to notice. I have found peace, I have found more space for my ideas, and I have found new places for my work.
From left to right: Ginger Thermal, Mint Hemlock, Cold Season
WRITING AN ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
I began making TeaScapes in early 2018 after returning from a trip out west. While I've been offering the works in exhibits and in my online shop, and writing about them, I never officially wrote an artist's statement specific to them until last week. I submitted several of them to a juried show (which will remain secret until I hear the results) and needed a 1000 character statement. Every show has different requirements, and for this I began with a longer version, then whittled it down to what's included below.
Writing an artist statement usually pains me. Writing is never an act I come to with ease, and over the course of my education was always criticized for my inability to be succinct. Since becoming a professional artist I write more now than ever, and in the early years of my business, my husband who has a degree in English, helped me tremendously. Read on, and if you feel so moved, send me your feedback - I'd love to hear how readers and art lovers respond to my work, and to improve how I talk about it.
A GREAT RESOURCE:
Last week I stumbled upon a user friendly blog post by Sarah Hotchkiss on writing an artist's statement. The Creative Independent broke things down into an understandable format that helped me craft my latest statement. I didn't use all of her techniques, and I was writing at the last minute - against her recommendation - EEK! So, read on, and if you feel so moved, send me your feedback - I'd love to hear how readers and art lovers respond to my work, and advice on improving how I talk about it.
"After a family trip to Wyoming and Utah, I wanted to imbue my art with the peace and spaciousness that I experienced there – to make those places and feelings permanent in my art, and life. I started meditating and playing with image transfers of tea packaging, and made a connection between the tea and the places I had travelled. The surfaces could be layered with watercolors and gouache over the transferred packaging, connecting the teas’ ingredients, their colors and intended purpose to the landscape. I could both hold those places for myself and help viewers explore the landscape more deeply – creating a meditative artwork.
The paintings have become stylized interpretations of the landscape – while maintaining a clear reference to the location. I’m interested in using highly pigmented paint, often employing strong linear elements to help describe the energy in a place. The reversed labels from the packaging create a subtext of pattern, inviting the viewer to see more."
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
If you'd like to read the full version, subscribe to my newsletter for a free download. The entire current collection of available TeaScapes are available at traillworks.com.
If you're in the NJ area the weekend of November 2 - 3rd, I'll be exhibiting my work during the SOMA Artist's Studio Tour in Maplewood, NJ.
Empty hooks where sold work hung on the wall going up the stairs to my studio.
I'm loving all of those empty hooks and it's because of so many of you that I achieved my goal. During the month of February, I held a studio sale to accomplish three things: clear out old work that was no longer serving me, create space for new work both physically and in my mind, and to raise money for a local charity. BAM! BAM! BAM! We did it!
I have space, I've been creating new work, and I'm able to breathe in my studio again. At times it felt like my art and the walls were going to cave in on me. And, the bonus was that I was able to contribute a $190 donation last week to the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris from profits of my sale. They are an incredible organization that offers many services to mental health consumers and loved ones, maintaining a deeply held belief that recovery is possible. I personally have availed myself of some of their services and can't thank them enough.
My easel / oil painting area - bathed in midday northern light.
Shelf displaying TeaScapes as they are produced.
I still have some older work on my site still available. Over the upcoming months as I produce new works, I will be tweaking my store, reorganizing artwork, and adding new works that haven't been uploaded. A newsletter is going out soon detailing events coming up in May, new TeaScapes available online, and a Dachshund painting being made available to those lovers of the furry persuasion. Want first dibs? Get on my email list for those exclusive opportunities.
I’m in the midst of shifting gears in so many ways - personally, artistically, and the word that keeps coming up for me is SPACE! I’m grateful for the spaces I have, both physical and mentally, but am working on creating more. In my body, my mind, and reconfiguring my physical spaces.
This includes my studio. I love it - it’s my own private room with a lockable door, on the 3rd floor of my home, with decent light. Quite a good commute! But, in working in it for over 5 years, it’s feeling stale, cluttered, not painted in a way that’s me and filled with old, but GOOD work. I have storage, but not a ton for the amount of work I have. So most is hung on the walls and I need to start with a blank slate. I'd like to repaint the beige to a bright white, and paint my display wall a dark blue grey. I'd also like to better organize the work that remains, my supplies, and build a new desk area. I'm working towards better flow which will eventually result in new works.
What does this mean for you? I'm having a STUDIO SALE! My online shop has been temporarily taken down. So, I'm sure you're asking, how do you participate? SUBSCRIBE TO MY LIST! Subscribers will be notified this Friday with a password to enter the sale and will have through Sunday to shop exclusively. After Sunday, the shop will be offered to all and only remain up for a week.
Works, including oils, watercolors, drawings, and prints (excludes my TeaScapes and newer pieces) will be available up to 50% off retail price AND I will be donating 10% of profits to the Mental Health Association of Morris and Essex Counties in NJ. I'll be posting more on Instagram and Facebook about works included in the sale, as well as about the MHA. I hope you'll join in the rare opportunity to add something of mine to your collection. Know that in doing so, I'll be opening up spaces for new work and supporting a very valuable organization.
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.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching.
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