Thursday, June 30, 2016

JFJ Big Idea Challenge

In June 2015, I was urged to create a daily challenge on the blog, and so the JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge came into being. For 30 days I asked participants to spend at least 15 minutes a day engaged in some specific art making task. I focused mainly on techniques and processes that could be easily done in 15 minutes, but which could be elaborated upon with more time.

I’m back just over a year later with a new challenge, The Journal Fodder Junkies Big Idea Challenge! Whether you have 15 minutes or three hours, each day’s challenge provides a starting point or a spark of an idea. There are no rules to this challenge other than allow the prompt to be a jumping off point for the work.

Here’s how it’s going to work. Each day throughout July, I will post a Big Idea along with some points of clarification and some points to ponder. For those of you who may not be familiar with Big Ideas, they are a notion that has come to a place of prominence in Art Education, and simply put, Big Ideas are the ideas that artists explore in their art. Big Ideas are large human issues or concerns that conjure a wide variety of thoughts, reactions, and possibilities. Big ideas are complex and ambiguous which gives artists room to develop individual lines of inquiry and to explore a wide range of possibilities.

Read the Big Idea and the points that go with it, and respond in any manner you see fit to that idea. Write, paint, collage, journal, draw, make a video, sculpt, or snap a photo. Remember that there is no right way to respond, so allow the Big Idea to guide the making and explore whatever possibilities arise. You might focus on a very personal and specific notion as you work, or you might explore the concept in more general terms. It’s up to you.

Like the 15 for 30 Challenge, this is not about having finished, glorious works of art or fully resolved journal pages. This challenge is about opening yourself up to an idea and seeing where it can take you. It’s about finding time each day to journal, to make art, to reflect, to create. It’s about opening to your creativity and giving yourself permission.

If you have a blog or if you're active on social media, you may want to post your responses for others to see what you have been up to. Use the hashtags #jfjbigideas or #jfj16.

But what if you get behind or miss a day or two? So what! Don’t worry about trying to catch up. Just do the challenges that you can, and don’t feel overwhelmed as if you have to do all of them. Besides, all of the challenges will be here on the blog for you catch up anytime you want or to explore in greater depth.

So, if you’re up for the challenge, it’ll all start tomorrow, July 1, so grab some art making materials and join in on the fun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Happy Anniversary!

Thirteen years ago today, I married the love of my life. I can't believe that it has been that long because it certainly hasn't seemed like it.

I first met Joanne nearly fifteen years ago, and I was struck immediately by her smile. But over the years, I have been continually awed by her compassion, patience, understanding, and support. Joanne has the biggest heart, and if she could, she would rescue every sick, old, stray, and abandoned animal that she could. We have quite the menagerie now, and it is because of her that I have become a firm believer in rescuing and fostering animals. That love and compassion for animals also extends to her job as a licensed veterinary technician where she works with sick and injured animals. It's a stressful job with long, busy days, but she loves what she does. The animals are lucky to have her.

It's not just her love for animals that I love and admire, it's also the continued support that she has given me over the years. Without it, I wouldn't be able to do the things that I have done over the last 15 years - writing the books, traveling for workshops, making art. Joanne has supported me in so many ways, and she has been extremely patient and understanding with me over the years. Knowing that she is there by my side, makes moving into a new chapter of my life much easier, and I can't imagine doing it without her.

I am so glad that I took a chance to get to know her all of those years ago, and I am so glad that she took a chance to get to know me. I can't imagine life without her.

Happy Anniversary to my beautiful wife! I look forward to many, many more years to come.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Modler!

Congratulations, Dave and Stephanie
Big news for the Journal Fodder Junkies, well, at for one of us. Dave got married!

I was very fortunate to be in Austin for the wedding this past weekend to share in this special day for my brother-from-another-mother and his beautiful bride. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate for Dave and Stephanie, but the rain didn't dampen the spirit of the day. They had their ceremony under the protection of the front porch, and everyone enjoyed a lovely reception/party afterward.

I wish Dave and Stephanie all the best in their journey. Here's to a lifetime of love, friendship, and joy!

Snoozing cats at the Blue Cat Cafe.
While in Austin, my wife and I were able to check out a lot of the city, and one of our first stops was the Blue Cat Cafe. This unique cafe has adoptable cats that live in and lounge around the place. There are many cat walks, cat beds, cat toys, and a massive cat tree, and the cats have the run of the place. Good food and cats - it made us miss our own animals a little less.

I need a cat tree like this in my house.
We also spent some time downtown and did a little shopping, but we were most excited to go to Voodoo Doughnuts. We first encountered these amazing doughnuts in Portland, Oregon this past spring at the original location, and we were very excited to see a location in Austin. We were able to stop by before our flight back to Northern Virginia, and we made sure to order extra to take with us on the flight.

The interior of Voodoo Doughnuts, Austin
 It was a very nice weekend trip to Austin, and I am so excited to welcome Stephanie to the JFJ family.

Doughnuts for the flight home.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Upcoming Workshops

School's out and the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour is over, so it must be summer time. If you've been looking to take a workshop with us, now's the time. The Journal Fodder Junkies will be returning to teach two workshops at Art Unraveled in Phoenix at the beginning of August. Good friend, Sam Peck will be there as well to teach a workshop.

Dave and I will be teaching an all-day stencil making class on Tuesday and an evening collaborative mixed media class on Wednesday. Sam will be teaching his all-day printmaking class on Wednesday. Click the links below for more info.

August 2-3, 2016 - Art Unraveled, Phoenix, AZ

We were also slated to teach at Art and Soul in Virginia Beach, but unfortunately, the classes had to be cancelled because of very few sign-ups at this time. We are very sorry to anyone who had signed up or was planning on signing up. We'll have to try again in the future.

So, we're focusing on getting as many people to sign up for Art Unraveled. We ask your help in spreading the word. Please post, share, tweet, and get the word out. Thank you so much!

We hope to see you in Phoenix in August, and we'll keep you posted as we add workshops for the fall!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thank You!

I want to thank everyone who came out this past weekend for the 11th annual Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour. It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend with a lot going on, and I appreciate everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to spend time with me in my studio.

I have always loved connecting to people through my art, and the Studio Tour affords me that opportunity on a large scale. I am so thankful to everyone who came out to support me and the other artists on the tour.

I would say that my monsters were the hit of the weekend in my studio, and many of the polymer clay sculptures found new homes. I'll definitely be making more of them in the near future.

If you couldn't make it because of distance or time, I will be putting some of my artwork for sale on the JFJ website within the next couple of weeks, so that people near and far can take a closer look. So, in the meantime, I thank everyone who has supported my art in anyway. I am very grateful to everyone who I connect to through art! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Monster Selfies

What if monsters took selfies? That's the question I have been exploring with my new series of drawings and paintings. I've been drawing full bodied monsters for a while now, but the compositions always seem so stagnant since I don't put in any background.

So, I began exploring close-up views. I've completed four ink drawings that I have added watercolor paint and colored pencil to, and I've completed four acrylic paintings on panel. They're all 6"x9", but I'm looking to possibly paint larger ones. If you're in the Northern Virginia area, stop by the Studio Tour this weekend from 10-5 both Saturday and Sunday, and check them out!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Letting Go: Part 2

Over the last week, I've been sorting, cleaning, organizing, and purging a lot of stuff in my classroom, and I've been able to let go of a lot things from my 20 years of teaching. That letting go has carried over to my studio as well, as I have been getting the studio ready for next weekend's Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour. I've been sorting and purging a lot of stuff from the studio - old artwork, old supplies, old fodder - as I have been cleaning and organizing. I've worked quite a number of hours, and still have a long way to go. The photo above was taken last night after spending a few hours working. I did even more today, and the studio is a complete shambles. Slowly, though, I am getting it put back together.

Even though the Studio Tour is a great motivation to clean and organize the studio, it goes deeper than just trying to get ready for next weekend. It's about getting ready to make the transition into a new chapter of my life, and I am looking to declutter, to simplify, and to let go. It's a new beginning, and I want to make a fresh start. I don't want to let the things of the past clutter the life that I am living now. So, if I haven't used something in a couple of years, if something doesn't serve a purpose for my life now, I'm letting it go.

I still have a ways to go, but the studio will be ready for next Saturday.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Letting Go

We all carry around so much baggage, both emotional and physical. There comes a point when we must let it go and stop carrying it. In a small way I have started to let go of some things.

For twenty years, I have been an art teacher, and I have filled my classroom with a lot of stuff - books, papers, objects, art, and so much more. But with embarking on a new chapter in my life, I needed to go through all of that stuff and let so much of it go. When I transferred schools four years ago, I sorted and purged. I let go of a lot of stuff then, but I still ended up with forty boxes and bins of stuff. That was four years ago, and I know that I have accumulated even more, but I don’t have the room to keep it all. After a while I just feel like all of these things are just holding me down and holding me back.

I began to sort and purge today with the goal that within a couple of weeks, I’ll just have a few boxes to move from my classroom. I plan on giving away all that I can, and I know that there are some eager teachers in my district that would love to have some of the myriad of things I have accumulated over twenty years, but there’s still a lot to get rid of, to recycle, and to trash. Over the years, my classroom became a place to put much of my old artwork - paintings, sculptures, and experiments from college and my first few years of teaching - things that I didn’t want or need at home, but things I didn’t want to get rid of. Some of these things are more than twenty years old, and I just don’t need them. I don’t have room for them, and they’re not things that I would sell or donate or give away. I no longer wish to hold onto the past, so these things need to go.

I began letting go of some of it today. I quickly filled a recycling bin with old files, miscellaneous papers, and outdated booklets. Those things were easy to part with, but I was surprised at how other things stirred up some emotions. I think it was part nostalgia, part fear, part sadness, and as I dumped some old artwork, notes, and projects into recycling (mostly things from college - things that I do not need and will never use), I felt some powerful emotions. It was hard to let these things go. Maybe part of it was that I spent so much time on these things. Maybe they just symbolized the past that is long in the past, but still some how still with me. But I let these things go, and much more.

I wanted to make the letting go more of a ritual - more symbolic, so I grabbed a few pieces and brought them home. In many ways these three things represent different stages of my past. The large head made of thin plywood was done in college during the spring of my freshmen year - 24 years ago. The red, orange, and yellow 3-D portrait was something I made from colored paper about 10 years ago when I taught high school, and the wooden tower was something that I did about a month ago as my elementary students worked building wooden sculptures. All things from the past - all things that I no longer need - all things I no longer want to hold on to.

I placed them in my fire pit in the back yard, and I set them ablaze. It didn’t take long for them to burn to ash. It was cathartic to see these things disappear - to let them go in such a concrete way.

In the end they were just things, and too often the things we have weigh us down. We all have baggage, and we seem to haul it from place to place. There comes a time when we just get tired of lugging it around and we need to lighten the load and just let go.

Here’s to letting go of the past, focusing on the present, and moving into an unknown future.