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Taking Some of My Own advice

Recently I was re-reading the introduction that I wrote for Open to Interpretation: Water’s Edge and was struck by this paragraph.

As artists we have a human impulse to create art, as well as the human need to define or make sense of the work created. Artistic expression has long been a tool through which we share our individual and collective experiences. Inherent in its very existence, is art’s ability to communicate, engage, and inspire its audience.

I’m always looking to create artwork that is intelligent, has an implied narrative, and leaves room for the viewer to finish the image.

That’s a pretty tall order. Creating images that compel the viewer’s participation is a crapshoot at best. And every viewer comes at it from a different perspective. So really all we can do is work from an authentic place within ourselves.

But what does that mean? This is where I always get stuck, especially when I’m beginning a new project. For me, it always seems to take time (usually more than I want) and experimentation (usually more than I want as well).

So recently I took some of my own advice. My favorite assignment during [The Artistic Image] comes in the first week when I ask students to look at the work of other photo encaustic artists and choose 10 images they wish they had created. Then I ask them to really look at those images and pick them apart—to discover what they are drawn to in the image.

This exercise isn’t about trying to copy another artist’s work. It’s about looking for what draws you to certain images, what emotions are evoked by these images and what similarities arise.

It’s become a habit of mine to screen shot images as I move through the internet. I’ve been doing this for years. I just file the images in a big ‘inspiration file’ – almost like a Pinterest board. Most of the images aren’t photo encaustic (and sometimes they are merely an aspect of an image) but there is something that I’m drawn to in the image. And what I’m drawn to changes over time.

So when I’m stuck and not sure what direction to go, I sit down with my inspiration file and pay attention to those images that make me stop, look and think—the images that transport me to a time, a place, a feeling, or a memory.

This is the list that I came up with from my 10 inspiration images:

  • Color + Texture
  • Obscurity
  • Subtleness
  • Timeless
  • Ethereal
  • Movement
  • Square
  • Otherworldliness

And then I experimented.

I’m still not 100% certain this is my new direction, but it’s a good place to start.



I’d love to hear from you. What draws you to certain works of art?  Tell me what you think in the comments below.

With all good wishes,



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