Tag: studio

Operation: DEADLINE!

“I don’t need time, I need a deadline.” 
Duke Ellington



You know how it is. Every time you begin a new piece of art work, especially if you are working towards the goal of an exhibition or a commission, you are going to get right on it and get ‘er done. At least that’s how I think. In fact, presently I have on the calendar three commissions, an exhibition that will be upon me before I know it, and my world famous blog to write, all with deadlines that I am going to meet, any moment now. Really.

Only that’s not how it usually ends up, does it?  Deadlines, whether self imposed or not, are something artists often have a love/hate relationship with. We like to feel that in order to create work we need the freedom of an open time frame, and chafe at the idea that anyone should suggest that we get things done by a certain time. Yet, when we really think about, how much do we manage to accomplish when the hours easily roll one into another, and distractions abound; when Facebook beckons, and the ding of messages on our digital devices entice us away from our work? Yep, just as I thought, not all that much.

So how do we embrace the dreaded deadline and make it work for us? Here are some suggestions:

  • Haven’t been given a deadline for an exhibit or commission? Give yourself one! Use your calendar to mark a finish-by-date and commit to keeping it. Put it in red, with stars around it. Look at it everyday and schedule work time to reach it. If a friend calls and wants to distract you with a playdate, and if it is on your work day, say “no thanks, I’ve got a deadline to meet!” Chances are they do too!
  • Partner with friends to make a deadline a mutual goal. Remember that old tried and true wisdom often shared about making resolutions and sticking to them?  If you tell someone of an action you wish to take, or a new habit you want to develop, you are more likely to do it. Find a friend or two who will hold you accountable, and you can agree to do the same for them. Post your progress on social media to share with your friends and fans! You’ll be amazed at the number of folks who like to follow the progression of the creative process.
  • Schedule regular meet-up dates with other artists for critique of new or works-in-progress as a way to keep to a deadline. Artists who form effective critique groups find them quite helpful for both feedback and staying on track to get projects done. You don’t want to be the one in the group who never has new work to critique or keeps showing up with the excuse, “I just didn’t have time! So here’s that old painting, again, that I bring every time for critique. Do you still love it?”
  • Does the scope of your project leave you feeling overwhelmed, making the idea of the deadline really dreadful? When I am in that situation I have found it more manageable to break up the task into small bite size pieces and give those mini-deadlines. Deadline #1 might be that by the end of the day, the imprimatura will be on the canvas, by day two, the drawing transferred, a week later, the first layer will be done, and so on.  As the old union song goes: Step by step the longest march can be won!
  • Remember when you were a kid and the teacher said if you got your desk work done you could visit the reading or games corner as a reward? Revisit that child in you and reward your deadlines, small and large. For example, if you set a goal that at end of one hour you need to have completed a certain task without distraction, and if you complete it,  give yourself permission to do something enjoyable, like walking to a coffee shop for a cappuccino. When I finish this blog post there is a piece of dark chocolate waiting with my name on it! Talk about motivation!

So face and tackle those deadlines, and when you are done it will feel as though a burden is lifted, giving you a real sense of accomplishment. As for me, I gotta run–a quick look at my red-penned, starred calendar shows that I have a deadline, post-haste to meet: I got to get this blog post published (and have that piece of chocolate)!

This Week in the Studio

Working on trying to wrap up paintings and projects by the end of the year, including beginning a commission, means I got to make and stick to deadlines. Stay tuned to see how I do.

One of my end of the year goals is to complete another self portrait. Can you guess the artist influencing this one?







Gone Fishing

Benny Andrews said: ”I take a lot of vacations. Little ones, a couple of days. It’s like coming up for air, when I’m preoccupied with my work.”

The Studio Journal is on a short summer hiatus and will be returning soon. In the meantime, I am working diligently in the studio and classroom, painting, teaching, creating and enjoying, now and again, our hot and beautiful Michigan summer.

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Progress on “Thought, Memory and Desire”.

I just want to share this image with you as I continue making progress on my latest work. These “rogues” keep caw-cawing me to step up my pace and get things done! Jeez, I’m flapping my wings as fast as I can!

Thank you to everyone who has come out to view artwork at my various exhibits this summer.  Your support means the world to me!


Stop, Drop, and Clean????

Space for the Spirit to breathe.

Rainer Maria Rilke

This past winter my sessions in the studio could best be described as a blitzkrieg affair, with me dashing in whenever possible, averaging only 3-4 hours per visit. Not ideal, I know, but I believe that you do as much as you can, when you can, and that by piano, piano, piano, things slowly get accomplished.

Work area before Spring cleaning.

With this approach it meant that my time had to be maximized: visiting with office neighbors kept to a quick hello, eating with a sandwich in one hand, paint brush in another, getting down to work ASAP and, except for cleaning the  brushes, not accomplishing much in the ways of house (er, studio) keeping. Oh, the occasional swoosh of the vacuum now and then, and emptying the trash every session, but not much to write home about unless you count a quick scrawl in the book shelf dust. With the conclusion of the winter/spring semester (and, yes, sigh, summer session is now underway) there’s the urge to do some late spring cleaning in the studio. Part of the that was the need to corral the clutter, and really clean the floor surrounding the easel (are those cracker crumbs at my feet? Oh, surely not confetti!?). Another part of urge to clean lies in the much-needed psychological lift I feel when I organize my surroundings. Like Rilke noted: “Space for the Spirit to breathe.”

I know artists who have said that the fact that they can constantly and instantly see what’s on hand, and thus they don’t need to look through drawers and files to find anything, aids them in being more creative; they find both comfort and efficiency being surrounded by their “stuff”. However for me, my mind thinks better and my spirit feels calmer and I am more focused when my environment is somewhat organized.

Ah, breathing space!

Now please don’t think I’m a regular Clean Martine. When deeply involved in a studio project, organizing is not a priority. Once I’ve determined what color palette I’m using, and what brushes and tools are needed, I leave everything out within reach. Only once the artwork is done do I truly tidy the work area. While I clean and regroup, putting caps back on the paint tubes, returning pencils to the drawer, scouring out my coffee mug and errant eating utensils, my mind wonders and wanders. I daydream, plot and plan my next creative undertaking. It’s a lot like the feelings I get when doing the annual yard clean up at home before the garden gets planted.

Now as I am going into the summer season, I feel ready to give expression to the artistic seeds that have laid fallow all winter. My supplies are replenished, my brushes clean, my studio feels in harmony. In regards to my spring cleaning at home, please don’t ask. I just now found my missing shoe buried in a pile of sweaters and I swear I can hear mocking sounds coming from the closets!

This Week in the Studio

Happy to announce that work delivered for jurying in the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors (DSWPS) latest show proved fruitful. I had two mixed media sculptures accepted into the exhibit, “Soliloquy”,  June 10-30, at the Anton Art Center, 125 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens, MI 48043. Opening reception Saturday, June 11, 1 – 3 p.m. Then the works travel to Crooked Tree Art Center September 17-November 19! Huzzah!

Nest 7 - Upward Bound

The Pathway

To Be or Not to Be (an Artist), That is the Question

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.”

Charles Horton Cooley

My name is Martine and I am an artist.


“Hello, Martine”

Yep, that’s me alright; I admit it freely. And I ain’t sorry. However, there are times when I do wonder, as any reasonable person might, why.

Why be an artist when the financial rewards are so slim?

Why be an artist when you must decline invitations and limit social gatherings because you need the time to create?

Why be an artist when you must forego the friendship of certain people because their demands, craziness and drama, however exciting, detract and drain you from art making?

Why be an artist when there are hundreds, no thousands, of other artists out there, making art more accomplished and innovative than yours?

Why be an artist when you can find programs and websites and technologies that will  produce “original” artwork for pennies on the dollar?

Well, as we say in Italian class: Perchè? Perchè! Why? Because!

True, most of us aren’t making enough money selling our work to support a flea. If we are lucky we find jobs in art related fields, or otherwise we work at something to pay bills. We may occasionally sell a piece or two. So if we set aside financial reward as the mark of success and look to the success of a task well done, to the best of our abilities, then why not be an artist?

Instead of thinking of all the times we say “no” to social invitations, perhaps we should see that those “no-s” are the times we say “yes” to our creative spirit. When we are so fortunate as to be able to say yes to spending time with our Muse, that gracious being, then why not be an artist?

There will be relationships that impede our artistic undertaking. We then wish those individual peace and Godspeed, leaving space to open our artist arms to those who feed our souls, encourage our undertakings and provide us with needed emotional support. With such folks in our corner, why not be an artist?

Out in the great big world there are artists more accomplished in technique, salesmanship, and luck than you. If you know that you are doing your best work, find joy in the process, and create something that resonates with another human being, then why not be an artist?

Technology and some markets provide cheap labor, producing an inexpensive product that looks like original art. Accept that it is not your job to try to undersell either them or yourself, and somewhere there is someone who can’t live without your work. With such knowledge, then why not make art?

How fortunate as artists to be given both the creative hunger and the means to satisfy that desire! You will always find plenty of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t be an artist. Like a newly found shiny penny, flip the excuse over and see the answer to the question: why be an artist? The answer: why not?  Why not indeed!

This Week in the Studio

Slow week in the studio as we  wrapped up the Spring semester and began plans for the Summer sessions. Still–made progress on the Mondrian inspired self-portrait, and worked on the honey comb  and pineapple rondel.

IMG_3186 bees, in progress







On Holiday: A Visit to Asheville

“Art is all around you”

street painting: Asheville, North Carolina

12494782_10205899619917606_7910882265048209098_nEaster week found me away from the studio on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. There, my sister Josephine and I, along with our very understanding spouses, spent time researching family history, going to cemeteries, and visiting the local county historical society. Genealogy is one of my sister’s long held passions and one of the site visits she was particularly looking forward to was an afternoon outing to the Earle-Chesterfield Mill Company. The mill, built c. 1890, was situated along the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the French Broad River in Asheville’s industrial area. It was there that our great-grandfather, leaving the family’s mountain farm, found employment.

But we were 21 years too late. A fire in April 1995 destroyed both the Earle-Chesterfield, and extensively damaged the Asheville Cotton Mill, originally built 1887. While that discovery was disappointing, our spirits rallied because we found out that whole area is now designated the River Arts District! Now just how cool is that for an artist on vacation, especially one who loves visiting other artist’s studios?

Beginning in 1985, the rundown area underwent urban renovation. Where once abandoned and rundown buildings stood,River's Arts District the former economically depressed area is now vibrant. Today 22 historic industrial buildings and warehouses provide more than 200 artists spaces to create and share their work. Our self imposed time limit meant that we couldn’t visit all, or even a significant number of studios, but our quick in-and-out visits refreshed and inspired. A perfect complement to the time spent with one foot in the past.

Now I’m back on home turf, playing catch-up in the studio and classroom, thinking and dreaming about current and future work. Without a doubt, Asheville, and other cities embracing the arts, show how art and artists possess transformative qualities.


IMG_1954   IMG_2949



This Week in the Studio
I have been able to spend some time in the studio since returning home. Next week, I’ll share the small increments I have accomplished. Perhaps, the Muse willing, those increments may be of significant size. As usual, stay tuned!

A Table of One’s Own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own. . .” 
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Cutting the Heart AsunderFirst published in October 1929, Virginia Woolf’s extended essay, A Room of One’s Own, has served as a feminist rallying cry and a raised banner for what artists need in order to accomplish their calling. For Virginia understood that in order to produce creative works, one must have the means and the space to do so. Her ideas still resonate with me; although at one time there was little money or room. What could I do?

When my longing to be an artist was crying out not to be a downy dream but manifested in reality, I was a mother with young children. I worked part-time, contributing much needed income for household expenses; there was not a lot left for extras. Our 1930 era home, though comfortable in size, did not have a finished basement, nor a spare bedroom, and had a living room, but not an extra family room. My interest at the time was in the book arts, and occasionally I would garner a commission, be in an exhibit, or sell small work. Any creative endeavors on my part were carried out on the dining room table, in the midst of family activities, in snatches of precious moments.

That table was the settings for meals, the kids’ homework, crayons and puzzles, toys and books, and that same table had to be cleared after every activity and be made ready for its next use, including my current art project. At least half my creative time was spent setting and cleaning up, and I often felt cheated and frustrated.

What to do? My first step was to get a folding table and I left my “stuff” out at all times, easily at hand. When I had a bit of time, when the kids were occupied or asleep, I could get right back at my work. The second thing I did was to break down every project into steps that could be accomplished in small segments of time, anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Third, the table was off-limits to small and big hands alike! In such a matter, on my little studio table, I was able, bit by bit, to produce artwork.

In time, I cleared everything out of the 5 x 5 foot breakfast nook, claiming it as my own. Eventually, as a Wayne State University grad student, I got my first “real” studio space. When the kids got older, and money less tight, and we converted some unused space into a home studio. Finally, I outgrew the “Happy Place” and with money earned from teaching, and by sharing the rent with another artist, I took on my first public studio.

IMG_2110Now in my current location, The Office, I look around and think how far I’ve come from the folding table in the corner of the dining room. These days, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is a warehouse to call my own! Haven’t convinced my husband of that. At least not yet.

This Week in the Studio


I’ve been working on a concept that I’ve carried around in my head for some time, a mixed media piece, oil on board and canvas, it will measure 12″ by 48″. There will be 5 small rondos mounted on the longer board. The two pictured paintings here are in the underpainting stage. Can you guess my influence?