Welcome to the April issue of
Off the Easel
A very warm welcome to this month's new subscribers! Thank you to all of you for your interest in my work, and for sharing in my artistic journey through your subscription to this newsletter.
- If you are seeing this newsletter on Twitter, please subscribe and have it sent conveniently to your inbox each month! Subscribers will receive an invitation to attend the exclusive Subscribers' Studio Soirée, so this is the perfect time to get on board.
In my feature article this month, Spreading my Wings: the importance of artistic experimentation, I share a page from my artistic process -- painting studies in preparation for the final works.
Also in this issue:
I hope you enjoy the April issue of Off the Easel. My deep appreciation to everyone for your continued interest and support of my work.
All the best,
No fooling! For April Fool's Day, take a look back at one of my favorite paintings -- and a look forward as I depict the same archetype in a very different way.
Website updates. The list of my blog posts has recently grown. Read the details below to learn what I have added, and then please visit my site to see my progress!
Save the dates! Upcoming open studio events include the exclusive Subscribers' Studio Soirée. Mark your calendar now!
Artists' Quotes. I hope you also enjoy this month's selection of artists' quotes on nature.
Don't forget that my studio will not be open for the Downtown Art District Association First Friday Gallery Hop on April 1st. (No fooling.) Be sure to check each monthly newsletter to learn when I plan to be open for these events.
Spreading my Wings:
the importance of artistic experimentation
I am excited to be painting in oil again!
Like a knight armed with a paintbrush instead of a sword, I have been on a quest for some time, exploring how I could shift my approach to paint application. I seek to paint faster but still create, for lack of a better word, a "realistic" end result.
When I took David Dunlop's workshop last November, one of his pearls of wisdom that I took home was that physiologically, the brain wants to see order out of chaos. Such a freeing concept!
Since the workshop, I have been studying the work of the Masters -- always a good idea -- and seeing examples of what David was referencing.
One week in March, in preparation for an upcoming triptych, I executed the first layer on three small oil studies of a bird's nest. In these studies, I am experimenting with various application techniques. I am simply taking note of what I enjoy doing, as well as what will lend me the results I desire via the "working smarter, not harder" route.
I also prepared an underpainting layer on four 5" x 7" panels. Through these studies of stone texture, I will determine my preferred path for finishing those life-sized standing stones from Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, The Portal.
Artists often create small, looser studies of an idea to work out their compositional concerns, or to test a concept. When working outside, some oil painters use different media such as watercolor that is a bit easier to take on the go to develop their ideas, and then they complete the final oil in the studio.
While the artist's purpose behind such an exploratory study is educational in nature rather than to create a finished product, often times, some nice little paintings can result from this process. The watercolor sketches of the Romantic artists were quite extraordinary, for example.
I have felt stimulated by the symbol of the nest for some time and am eager to explore this idea. In the Bird's Nest Mudras triptych, I will depict three different mudras -- the energetic hand positions used in yoga. In each of the 12" square cradled panels, the hands will hold a bird's nest.
Stay tuned for more information as I develop these works.
Above image: Three studies for the Bird's Nest Mudras triptych, in progress
oil on gessobord panel; each panel 9"x9"
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Left: Nest Study #1: The Floating Nest
Center: Nest Study #2: The Vortex Nest
Right: Nest Study #3: The Tangled Nest
Website and Blog Updates
Blog posts. I recently posted two remaining topics to my new site that had their first appearance on the earlier version of my blog.
If you haven't been to the various gallery pages on my site in awhile, you'll find plenty to discover, so why not make a visit today?
Above: Sketching at the White Horse of Uffington
© James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved
Uffington, Oxfordshire, England
Sunday, June 5th. The annual Subscribers' Studio Soirée will be held Sunday, June 5th, from 2:00 to 5:00 PM.
This exclusive studio event is open only for newsletter subscribers, and you get a raffle ticket just for attending. Stay tuned for more details in your May and June newsletters on this spring's fabulous raffle prizes, our special guest entertainment, and more! I hope to see you at this very special gathering.
Friday, May 6th. To hop or not to hop, that is the question! Please check the May issue to learn if I will have my studio open for the Downtown Art District Association's First Friday Gallery Hop on May 6th. Hop hours run from 7 PM through 10 PM.
Above: The Soirée Raffle Box
created by Chris Williams of Creations by Chris
In my painting from 1999, 0. THE LEAP OF FAITH, I depict a rich and misunderstood archetype -- the Fool. What better work to feature here for April Fool's Day?
The only Major Arcana tarot card to survive the transition into the modern playing card deck is the Fool, known today as the Joker. Often it is considered the card of the querent. The Fool denotes the beginning of a new journey as well as the end of the previous cycle.
A playful character as well as a bit of the trickster, the Fool’s complex wisdom lies beneath the veneer of seemingly foolish behavior. What may be judged as foolish by others may be just what is needed to dislodge old energetic patterns. Who else but the jester was able to satirize the king in front of the court and get away with it? In fact, an important function of the court jester was to act as the king’s spy, since he could move within any group.1
Such ambiguities abound with the Fool, from the motley garment to androgyny. Even the designation of zero helps to explain the Fool’s great dichotomy, for zero is both nothing and everything. What happens to a number when followed by a zero?2
Within the Fool is the potential for every possibility; like the concepts of yin and yang, within all these apparent opposites is wholeness.3
The Fool is often depicted with a few bundled belongings tied to a staff, but in this painting she carries only a hazelnut. In Celtic lore this is the symbol of wisdom, for all three realms of the Celtic universe are said to be contained within a hazelnut poised on the edge of the Well of Segais.4
Nine hazel trees grow over this Well. The Salmon of Knowledge lives within, attaining his wisdom by eating the nuts as they fall into the water. Whoever partakes of the Salmon of Knowledge then absorbs that wisdom.
The hazelnut represents the end of the year cycle for the parent tree, yet is also the beginning germ of new life. While it appears to be a small thing, it is the seed of new potential with which we all jump. Like the nut, The Fool is the first step towards manifestation.
On the far right of the composition, at the edge of the cliff, is a copse of hazel trees, with the waters of the well running forth in three streams.
The inclusion of the hazelnut is the result of a dream in which the model, Robin, came to me with a hazelnut in her hands, saying she had dug it up in her backyard. Within the dream, I proceeded to tell her the story of the Celtic hazelnuts of wisdom. Upon waking, I knew this had to be included in the painting.
My mother said of this painting that the dog was the one who really had faith, loyally accompanying the Fool wherever she goes. Does the dog warn of impending danger, or does she encourage the jump? The Fool does not look down; she is joyous and not afraid.
I am revisiting this archetype in the upcoming work, Dreaming of the Fool. This time, I get to wear the jester's cap!
The imagery for this new painting was inspired by meeting a gentle fellow who was dressed as a perfect Fool while we were at the Merry Maidens stone circle in West Penwith, Cornwall -- but that is another story for another time.
1. Sallie Nichols, Jung and Tarot – an Archetypal Journey. (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1980), 23.
2. Nichols, Jung and Tarot, 37.
3. Nichols, Jung and Tarot, 41.
4. John Matthews, The Celtic Shaman – a Handbook. (Rockport, MA: Element, 1995 edition), 37.
Above: O. THE LEAP OF FAITH
oil on oil primed linen
36" x 48"
© 1999 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
My depiction of The Fool tarot card in the series, Wisdom of the Ancient Lore.
"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."
- Pablo Picasso
"A love of nature is a consolation against failure."
- Berthe Morisot
"No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings."
- William Blake
"The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Above: Oil palette for Salem Lake study
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved