Welcome to the April issue of Amy Funderburk's newsletter, Off the Easel. Read on for details about the April First Friday Gallery Hop and the upcoming Spring Subscribers' Studio Soiree. Learn about my inspiration in Origin of a Painting, some very exciting news, and more!

Welcome to the April issue of
Off the Easel

Spring has certainly sprung here in North Carolina! Enjoying the flowers and sunshine outside is very tempting, so thanks for taking a few minutes at your computer or mobile to read the April issue of Off the Easel. I hope you enjoy it! A warm welcome to new subscribers, and thanks to everyone for your continued interest and support of my work.

Please note these two important upcoming events:

  • Please join us this Friday, April 3rd, for the Gallery Hop in downtown Winston-Salem, NC! Read on for more details.
  • Mark your calendar now! The 2nd annual Spring Subscribers' Studio Soiree will be held on Sunday, June 7th, from 2 PM - 5 PM. See below for more information on this exclusive event! Those of you who attended the inaugural Soiree last spring will remember my sister, poet Julie Funderburk, who shared excerpts from her chapbook. Please read on for some very exciting news about Julie and her poetry!

Also in this month's issue:
  • The Vermont Studio Center. This month marks a surprising ten years since my month-long residency at the VSC. In the article below, I share some memories and insights that illustrate why I found this experience to be so tremendously valuable.
  • Origins of Two Paintings. To round out this month's issue, since I focused on two Irish sites last month, for the April issue I am sharing a work that resulted from one of my trips to England, as well as a meditation image. I hope you enjoy hearing about my experiences that inspired these works.
Once you've read through this issue, I hope everyone can get out and enjoy the beautiful spring! We hope to see you at my studio during the upcoming Gallery Hop.

All the best,

Ten Years Since Mud Season

The passage of time to an artist often seems quite curious, since such concrete things as the clock and numbers are a product of the stoic left brain, while art, dreams, and the intangible are fruits of the creative right brain. In this spirit, I find it shocking that ten years ago this month, I spent four weeks being indoctrinated into the mysteries of the Mud Season of Vermont, while creating, expanding, and exploring my craft each and every day. 

In 2005, I was very honored to receive a full fellowship award to attend a month-long April residency at the
Vermont Studio Center. Nestled in Johnson around an hour's drive from Burlington, the VSC shares this small northern Vermont town with Johnson State College. Artists and writers from around the world are given a dorm-style room, private studio space, and three meals a day.

Noteworthy guest artists and writers rotate their visits throughout the month. During my stay, after attending their public talks, you were welcome to sign up for studio critiques with each well-known creative. While these talks and studio visits were optional, I went to all the events because I wanted to relish every aspect of the residency and drink in each opportunity like creative nectar. Two of the five visiting artists' studio critiques were on the high end of the praise scale, two left my artistic ego feeling a bit bruised, but the one right in the middle was extremely helpful and quite constructive. It is that critique from which I truly learned.

The opportunity to meet fellow resident artists and writers from around the US and the world was itself a rich and rewarding experience. From exposure to this audience, I learned that I did not need to explain away my narrative work. After meeting some sculptors there, I also found myself collecting natural materials and creating a very small 3D installation of sorts. Perhaps that experience took root in my subconscious and eventually contributed to recent works such as my project,
The Wishing Tree.

Your typical day-to-day grind can sometimes result in a creative rut for artists, particularly if you have a home studio as I did, where daily distractions can sometimes outweigh the convenience of working in the next room. One benefit of the VSC residency was the opportunity to separate my living quarters from my studio space -- I could feel my energy settling down at the end of each evening as I walked back to my room, and rising for each new day as I walked to the studio. I hadn't had a separate creative space since the university classroom, so this arrangement in and of itself was a shift in my energy pattern. Working solely on my artwork each day, with no worries for the more left-brained aspects of an art business, or mundane household tasks such as cooking meals or feeding the cats was the gift of realized potential. I find that whenever you take yourself out of your comfort zone, if you go with an expectation of experiencing the miraculous, you will find a wealth of creative inspiration. Such energetic shifts in an artist's regular routine, such as when my husband Jimmy and I travel internationally, can contribute to real expansion in your artwork if you are open to the possibilities.

While the greatest source of inspiration I've experienced in my career to date remains our first trip to Ireland in 2001, this VSC residency was a close second. While at the VSC I made my first preparatory sketches for what were to become the first two paintings in my series,
Images From the Otherworld. Since our first two trips to Ireland in 2001 and 2003, I had long been expecting to somehow merge my resulting Irish landscape series with the intention of my earlier figurative symbolism paintings. I didn't yet know how to combine the sacred landscape and the narrative subject matter, but I just trusted that one day I would develop the answer. Little was I to know that the inspiration was to be borne from An Unfortunate Temporary Studio Tragedy in Vermont.

One day, a VSC friend gave me some cut pale pink tulips, and I put them in some water in a small can on my studio work table. If you've ever brought tulips inside, you know that given a few days, they droop. And droop they did -- making them too top heavy for the soup-sized can. Unattended, overnight they toppled, taking the can of water with them. I came into the studio the next morning to find water all over my work table -- drenching a brand new art book by one of the visiting artists, and worst of all, my small Ireland travel sketch book. As you might imagine, I was not at all happy with this soggy turn of events. Not in the mood to paint after trying to salvage my belongings with copious paper towels and a hair dryer, I got out my new large sketchbook. With my earlier figurative work, I'd always worked out my compositions on the canvas itself, only using small thumbnail sketches to express my ideas. This day, however, I started a preparatory drawing based on my experiences at a remarkable Irish holy well dedicated to St Mary. This drawing was to become the basis for my painting
Well of the Creatrix. I soon followed this with another drawing for Manifestation of Rabbit, which was to become the first painting in this new series. Even a disruption such as water spilled in a studio carries within it the potential for new growth through lateral exploration, ideas like latent seeds germinating at last in the right fertile compost.

But why do they call it Mud Season, you ask? When we arrived in Burlington at the end of March, Lake Champlain was still frozen, and quite beautiful at sunset. Champy, the lake's Nessie-like inhabitant, must have been quite cold during a winter hibernation. During the course of my residency, while I ate in the VSC dining hall, I could hear the frozen river that runs right outside the Red Mill dramatically creaking and cracking loudly as the ice flows broke apart and escaped as solid winter became liquid spring. By the end of the month, the river ran completely unfettered. All this April melting created -- you guessed it -- mud. I was all the more appreciative for the heated bamboo floors in what was for me a great bonus for the residency -- a lovely yoga studio conveniently located between my room and my studio building.

Such a residency is intense, powerful, and transformative. Once home, you must sift and sort through your experiences and decide how best to incorporate your new playing cards into your artistic deck. A word of advice during your stay -- leave the tulips in your bedroom, and put them in a tall, heavy container!

Want to apply? Visit their website for more information; the next fellowship application deadline is June 15th (April 1st for a special International fellowship). General applications are accepted year-round. Over 120 fellowships are offered each year; these awards vary for each of the three annual deadlines. Both special eligibility and general merit-based awards, as well as need-based financial aid and work-exchange residencies, are all available options for which international artists and writers may apply. 

Above image: The Red Mill With River
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson VT

digital photograph
© April 2005 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved

Above: Day One - Amy Funderburk's VSC studio space
Wolf Kahn Studio Building
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
© 2005 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved
Below: Amy Funderburk's VSC studio space
Wolf Kahn Studio Building
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
© 2005 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Featured painting:
Pisces: Amphitrite and Poseidon in the Piscian Age
oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
© 1997 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved


Poet Julie Funderburk to be Published by LSU Press

I am delighted to share the news that my sister Julie Funderburk's full length poetry collection The Door that Always Opens has been accepted for publication by Louisiana State University Press, to appear in Fall 2016. 

Last year, Julie published a chapbook of poetry, 
Thoughts to Fold into Birds (Unicorn Press, 2014). Her poems appear in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, Blackbird, The Cincinnati Review, and Ploughshares, and she is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers' conferences. The poetry editor of storySouth, she teaches at Queens University of Charlotte.
Above: Poet Julie Funderburk, 2014



This past February marked a year that we've been open for the Gallery Hops at the Artists On Liberty Building, and June 7th will be our third Subscribers' Studio Soiree. I could not have managed everything without the generous help of both my husband, James C. Williams, and sister-in-law, Chris Williams. From newsletter editing to helping at my studio during every Hop, Jimmy and Chris are invaluable members of Team Amy! My deepest appreciation and love goes out to both of them.   

Turtle Always Gets There

Not all of my paintings are derived from physical sacred sites -- some are a result of meditation. One such work is Turtle's Progress.

A few years ago, I experienced a temporary knee injury. During the rehab process, while meditating on the issue, I saw myself as a turtle, heading towards my higher self -- my future healed self, if you will. The uplifting thought I came away with from this image was, "It may take Turtle awhile to get there, but Turtle always gets there." 

My husband took the reference photographs of me in a field at a park just north of our city. I was pleased that daffodils were blooming at the time, because I saw them as a symbol of the new beginnings and growth that I felt was inherent in the message of the painting. 

As for the turtle, my model was Jack from a nearby Nature Science Center. I selected him from three candidates, and after I described what I needed to the Center's helper, she placed Jack on the floor, heading in the direction of the light. That box turtle could really move! He was quite the sprinter -- I have several reference shots that are out of focus because he was moving so quickly! A couple of years later, I was delighted to see Jack again and to learn that he and his wife were expecting, as she had recently laid a clutch of eggs: Turtle's new beginnings.

Above: Turtle's Progress
oil on linen, 17" x 24"
© 2011-2012 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved
Meditation image


April 3rd
Gallery Hop

On Friday, April 3rd, please visit my studio at the Artists On Liberty Building during the upcoming Downtown Art District Association's First Friday Gallery Hop from 7-10 PM, in Winston-Salem, NC. I have invited my husband, photographer James C. Williams, to also have a few works on display.

Not able to make the Hop this month? I am available for studio visits by appointment. 

The Artists On Liberty building is located at 521 North Liberty Street in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, between 6th and 5th Streets -- please refer to the photograph above. Starting at 7:00 PM the day of the Hop, Liberty Street will close between 6th and 5th Streets, but parking is available in nearby parking decks, as well as on Main Street just behind the Artists On Liberty building. Look for a sidewalk sign out front featuring our poster on the night of the Gallery Hop. We look forward to seeing you!


Above: The Artists On Liberty Building
521 North Liberty Street, Winston-Salem, NC


Spring Soiree Time Coming!

In appreciation for your support of my work through your subscription to this newsletter, on Sunday June 7th from 2 PM to 5 PM, I will host the second annual Spring Subscribers' Studio Soiree. This exclusive event will be open only to newsletter subscribers and, since I've had such an enthusiastic Twitter response to my newsletter, to my Twitter followers as well.

When and Where. The Subscribers' Studio Soiree will be held Sunday, June 7th, from 2 PM to 5 PM at Studio #107, the Artists On Liberty Building, 521 North Liberty Street in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. 

Special Events. Look for further details in the May and June newsletters, but we'll definitely have several special activities and items on display that you would not be able to experience during one of the monthly Gallery Hops. Past special guests include a poetry reading by Julie Funderburk, and a performance by the two founding members of Happy Beat Drumming. 

Raffle: Attend to win! I have already lined up several excellent prizes for this Spring's raffle -- think food and massage! Further details will follow in the May newsletter. No purchase is necessary, you need only be present to win. You may increase your chances of winning, however,  by earning extra raffle tickets through your purchase of an original work of art, giclee reproduction, or 5-pack of greeting cards between now and the Soiree! Email me for further details. We look forward to seeing you there! Please RSVP by Sunday May 31st.

Above: Our fabulous Soiree raffle box
by Chris Williams of Creations by Chris

Origins of a Painting

Before leaving England on our 2008 trip, I was determined to see the Rollright Stones. After all, many visitors describe this as an eerie site, and the King's Men Stone Circle was where my husband's photography mentor was pulled down by an unseen force. An internet search will yield you a bumper crop of folklore and interesting stories about this site. I confess an additional appeal for me was that this megalithic site was the shooting location for the Tom Baker Doctor Who episode The Stones of Blood.  How could we resist working the Rollrights into our itinerary before heading back to London for the return flight?

The Rollright Stones are actually comprised of three sites. Joining the late Neolithic King's Men stone circle are the Neolithic dolmen called The Whispering Knights, and T
he King Stone monolith dating from the middle Bronze Age.  Since we were not pulled down in the stone circle, I surmise we were welcomed by the guardians of the location. As I circumnavigated the circle -- legend says that you cannot count the stones since you will get a different number each time -- I was struck by the unusual, contorted and weathered appearance of each limestone form. The stones truly looked as though they were the frozen spirits of various totem animals and ancestors.

As I came to one stone in particular, I was drawn to the nearly circular opening within the limestone. Compelled to look through the hole as if it was a frith divination tube from Irish and Scottish
tradition1, I found my message in the limited depth of field inherent in human vision. I was reminded that if you look at the stone, that is what is in sharp focus to the exclusion of the hazy background, whereas if you focus on the fields beyond, the texture of the stone becomes soft. To me this was a metaphor: what you focus on is what you see, both literally and figuratively. If you look for the positive aspects in your life, you will find them, but if you look for the negative attributes, you will see only that and no longer notice the good things in your life.

I photographed the stone focusing both ways, using the low light on this cloudy late afternoon to my advantage and exploiting limited depth of field with my camera. After printing a reference photograph of the stone the way it actually appears (as seen on the viewer's left of the diptych), I flipped the other version with the landscape in focus using photo editing software before printing. Once I had both reference photographs in hand, I played with cropping the proportions and the location of the intersection between them until I arrived at a pleasing orientation. To echo the concept of sight, I wanted an arrangement reminiscent of eyes or a mask. I folded the two reference photos along the guidelines I had drawn, but when I placed the two sides together, I discovered something quite amazing -- at the intersection between the two photographs a perfectly formed swallowtail butterfly appeared at the very top edge of the stone! When painting this, I only had to clarify the bottom forked edge of the hind wing; the butterfly shape was clearly there. Had I cropped and joined the photos in any other way it would have gone undiscovered. When unplanned events like this happen during my creative process, I delight in such synchronicities.

(1) The frith divination seeing tube was formed with one's hands, and was particularly employed to located someone or something who was lost. The origin of this augury is attributed to St Brigit or St Mary.

Above: Second Sight/2nd Site
diptych, oil on oil primed linen, 12" x 30"

© 2012 Amy FunderburkAll Rights Reserved
The Rollright Stones, King's Men Stone Circle
Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, England


Seeing this on Twitter?

Wow! My March newsletter link has received 1,289 clicks on Twitter, the highest number yet! If you are reading this via Twitter, thank you very much for your interest. If you like what you see, why wait to find my future newsletters on Twitter when you can subscribe? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list today! 

If you are a newsletter subscriber and you are on Twitter, remember that you can follow me here: @AFunderburkArt. It is a great way to augment your newsletter subscription. My husband, photographer James C. Williams, can be found here: @JCWilliamsphoto.  

Please be sure to also visit my blog. Your subscription to this newsletter is separate from signing up for blog notifications, so please subscribe today!

Above: Bluebird
© 2014 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved
Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro, NC USA


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Copyright © 2015 Amy Funderburk. All rights reserved.


Studio 107, Artists on Liberty Building
521 North Liberty Street, Winston-Salem, NC USA 27101

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