Welcome to the July issue of
Off the Easel
Happy Summer! A warm welcome to new subscribers, and thanks so much to everyone for your continued interest and support of my work.
July Celebrations. July 1st is Canada Day to our neighbors to the north, just as July 4th is Independence Day here in the US. What we know here as Bastille Day, commemorating the start of the French Revolution as well as the unification of France, is properly known as La Fête nationale or Le quatorze juillet -- the 14th of July.
Thinking of July 4th reminds me how travel brings history to life, and a journey abroad can even reflect the past of your own country with fresh perspective.
When we were touring Edinburgh Castle, I was fascinated by the display of doors inscribed by the prisoners of war who were held in the vaults there from 1757-1815. One door featured a prisoner's carving of an early version of the US flag from what was labelled as the War of American Independence. I was intrigued that the same war we in the US know as the Revolutionary War was known by another name on the other side of the Pond, and seeing such a familiar symbol engraved on that door really brought history to life.
During our first trip to Ireland in 2001, we learned a lesson on the perspective of time while at Boyle Abbey, Co Roscommon. Here we saw graffiti from 1724 carved into the stone wall from when the Abbey housed a garrison of troops. This date struck us as a time older than the year the Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, which put the age of this Cistercian Abbey, built in 1161, in sharp perspective.
Of course, we saw things far older than this while we were on that first magical trip. But there is something about personal markmaking such as this, clearly done by an individual hand, that drives the point home. It causes one to meditate on permanence and longevity, the temporal and temporary.
I hope you enjoy the photographs of these two examples of historic graffiti, included below.
Reminder: Closed for the July 3rd Gallery Hop. I'll be closed this Friday, but read on for more details about future Downtown Arts District Association's First Friday Gallery Hops.
Seeing this newsletter on Twitter? Why wait to find it there when you could subscribe and have it sent conveniently to your inbox each month?
Also in this July issue:
The Soirée Lowdown. Many thanks to those who attended the recent Spring Subscribers' Studio Soirée. Please see the Spring Soirée Report article for highlights, photographs from the event, and to learn who won the raffle prizes.
Currently On the Easel. Learn about the new drawing I recently started, inspired by a Pictish standing stone in Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland.
Unraveling a Subject Matter Mystery! A mystery has been solved by a Soirée attendee as to the history behind of one of my color photographs. Read on to learn the secret of The Track to Nowhere!
I hope you enjoy the July issue of Off the Easel. Whatever and wherever you may be celebrating this month, have a happy holiday!
All the best,
A lovely group attended the Spring Subscribers' Studio Soirée on Sunday, June 7th! Thanks to all those who gathered at my studio; it was a true delight to see everyone. Please see additional photographs from the Soirée below.
My great appreciation goes to our Special Guest, pianist Shane Horton. Shane's over 20 years of experience showed in his prowess at the keyboard, and he performed very thoughtfully selected compositions. As he is currently in pursuit of a career teaching piano, please remember Shane when you schedule those lessons!
Raffle winners! Subscriber Briana Wright was our first winner, who selected my very favorite Li'l Devil by photographer James C. Williams for her prize. Thank you so much, Jimmy, for your generous donation of one of these charming small photos. Jimmy is now available full time for all your photographic needs, so contact him today.
The two $25 gift certificates for delicious Lebanese food at Mooney's Mediterranean Café went to Cassandra Sherrill and Grace Washko. Mooney's great generosity is only matched by the high quality of his food, and I can't thank him enough for his contribution. Please visit him on the corner of 4th and Liberty Streets the next time you are in Winston-Salem, NC!
Sam Simmons was the lucky recipient of some pampering at Yodi International Hair Salon with a luxurious shampoo, conditioning treatment with scalp manipulation, and hair and scalp consultation. Thank you again to owner Yolanda Moses for providing this marvelous prize! Be sure to check out their great new website design, and schedule an appointment with Team Yodi today!
Last but not least, it was time to draw the Grand Prize Winner -- and the raffle ticket that literally jumped into my hand belonged to none other than our own Special Guest performer, Shane Horton!
Additional thanks. As always, tremendous thanks go to my constant helpers, my husband James C. Williams, and his sister, Chris Williams.
The Grand Prize was inspired by my Wishing Tree Project. I have already burned the oak branch that held everyone's wishes, tied on by participants during the Soirée (see photograph below). With the resulting ash and charcoal, I will be creating a custom 8" x 10" or 9" x 12" unframed drawing for Shane based on his wish.
Congratulations to all our raffle prize winners!
Chris and Jimmy are always front and center to help with each Soirée event, as well as each monthly Gallery Hop. For the Soirée, Chris also provided some marvelous munchies to add to the refreshments table. Thank you so much, Chris and Jimmy!
The day prior to the Soirée, I discovered that my siblings, Carl and Julie Funderburk, both have an excellent eye for exhibition design! Much appreciation to Carl and Julie for their invaluable help with setting up the studio space, including redesigning and rehanging my artwork. Figuring out how to add additional work in my space without removing anything presented an interesting engineering feat! Thanks, Carl and Julie!
Be sure to look for Julie's upcoming full length poetry collection, The Door that Always Opens, to be published by Louisiana State University Press in the Fall of 2016.
Above: Special Guest pianist Shane Horton performing at the Spring Subscribers' Studio Soirée
© Amy Funderburk 2015 All Rights Reserved
|Above: Homage to the Wishing Tree installation at the Spring Subscribers' Studio Soirée.
A single oak branch held everyone's wishes, tied on by participants during the event.
Below the branch: the base of the full Wishing Tree installation.
Behind the branch: the first four drawings in the Wishing Tree Project.
Each drawing: Wishing Tree charcoal and ash on watercolor paper; 14 ¼” x 21 ½”, framed to 23” x 29” © 2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved.
From upper left to lower right:
Lower right: a basket holding prepared paper clooties, ready to be turned into wishes!
- 1) Success – 32 Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England
- 2) Peace – 26 Playa Melones, Culebra, Puerto Rico
- 3A) Health and Healing – 24 Carrick Creek Falls, Table Rock State Park, SC, USA
- 3B) Happiness – 24 Reynolda Gardens, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
© 2012-2015 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
When visiting Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast, England in 2010, I was determined to find the ubiquitous ammonite fossils that, to hear the internet tell it, are virtually jumping off the beach into your eager hands. This quest wasn't anywhere near that easy -- but that humorous tale of my frustration and stubbornness will have to wait for an upcoming blog post.
What I did ultimately find down the beach, however, was a strange stretch of track that only lasted a few yards. This track ran parallel to the beach, with no obvious source or destination. I loved the colors and textures that now adorn the aging metal.
I photographed several different compositions of my find. When reviewing my photos after returning to the States, I realized that this subject matter was symbolic enough on its own, without need for narrative embellishment or addition of a figure.
After our earlier travels to Ireland, I hand processed my black and white film and photographic prints in the darkroom, and used my color shots only for painting reference. Now that we were set up to print digitally, however, it occurred to me that I could now print my color photographs as art prints in their own right, rather than slavishly copy the photograph in another media. So with The Track to Nowhere, I started offering framed color photographs to patrons.
At the Soirée, a couple of attendees asked me if I knew the history of the track. Since it was just a relatively short length, at first I had wondered if it had somehow washed down from the cliff above during one of the many landslides, though this seemed quite unlikely since it ran so perfectly parallel to the beach. Thanks to one curious friend who did some research after being intrigued by the photograph, I can now report the mysterious history of the track.
As it turns out, they used to quarry limestone on Monmouth Beach to serve a cement factory near the Cobb. These are the old tramway tracks, and as I suspected, they are only visible at low tide.
Above: The Track to Nowhere
archival pigment print
12” x 18”, framed to 20” x 27”
© 2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Lyme Regis, Jurassic Coast, England
Reminder: Closed for the July 3rd Hop. Due to the holiday weekend, I will be closed during July 3rd Gallery Hop. However, I am available for studio visits by appointment.
August Hop. The next Downtown Art District Association's First Friday Gallery Hop will be held on Friday, August 7th from 7-10 PM in Winston-Salem, NC. I am planning to be open, so be sure to visit my studio to view merchandise options at a variety of price points, including original artwork in a variety of media, greeting cards, and giclée reproductions!
If you didn't attend the Soirée, there will be many new things for you to see at the next Hop in August! Come view the two new archival pigment prints from our trip to Orkney that I debuted at the Soirée. I also unveiled my new greeting card for attendees; Savasana -- the Release is the first oil painting that I have reproduced in this format. I am extremely pleased with the quality of the photograph and the exactness of the color matching, for since its completion, this painting has always proved a difficult one to reproduce. Much appreciation to James C. Williams for his talents, and for working with me to duplicate this piece so perfectly.
Visitors to the June 5th First Friday Gallery Hop and the Soirée were also invited to participate in my new interactive drawing project. Stay tuned for more information in my August newsletter about this evolving group of communal drawings, and come to my studio on August 7th to participate!
Please see additional details on the August Gallery Hop in next month's newsletter. We look forward to seeing you then!
Above: Detail, Manifestation of Rabbit
oil on linen, 30" x 36"
© 2007 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Standing stone on Cnoc Áine,
Knockainy, Co Limerick, Republic of Ireland
Currently On the Easel...
...or, Why Does Amy Have a Snake in Her Studio?
I've had an odd collection of seemingly random items on a work table in my studio for some time. If you've visited recently, you may have seen them, along with a test strip of mulberry paper that I have covered with various media trials and experimental application methods. A fake snake, an antique mirror, a spear, some textured stones, and some old combs. What do these items have in common? These are all frequent symbols found on certain Pictish engraved stones.
Seeing these carvings was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Scotland. In fact, our first stop after leaving the airport in Edinburgh was the Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum, much to the delight of the excellent guide there.
The mysterious Picti, a Roman slang term meaning "Painted Men," were a society of tribes who were descended from area Iron-Age Celts. The Irish called these tribes the Cruithni, "The People of the Designs," and what we know about them primarily comes from Roman sources, other enemies and contemporaries, as well as place names.
The Picts gave the Romans a run for their money; they were the reason the invading legions built the famed Hadrian's Wall in an attempt to keep these northern tribes at bay. Various factors and historic events contributed to the ultimate unification of the Picts and the Gaelic Scots, including the threat from destructive Viking incursions. The rise to power by 848 C.E. of Kenneth MacAlpin, said to be the first King of Scots, ultimately sealed the fate of the Picts by forging the two into one under the new kingdom of Alba.
While Pictish culture declined after this, they left behind a rich array of remarkable pictographic carvings. Some were incised on natural rocks or repurposed Stone Age to Bronze Age standing stones, while others were quite deeply carved in relief, usually on cross slabs. Some document the story of certain battles, while others whisper their potential symbolic meanings, leaving historians only guessing their narratives.
At one time, it was commonplace for visitors to do rubbings of these designs. To protect the stones, this is no longer permitted. The idea for Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone was born from my inability to create rubbings from the actual designs.
I was inspired by one of my very favorite Pictish stones that we visited. Sometimes referred to as Aberlemno I or The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, it is one of a set of famous stones in Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland. Most likely a prehistoric megalith repurposed by the Picts, this stone would have been carved around the 7th century C.E. Tell-tale cup marks on the back side highlight the likelihood of an original neolithic use.
Pictured below, this stone sports some very common Pictish symbols. Reading from top to bottom, can you find the snake, the Z-rod (a broken spear with two discs and a rectangle), a mirror, and finally, in the lower right where the round part of the mirror meets its handle, a small comb?
I wanted to execute a life-sized drawing as if I had actually done a rubbing, but I couldn't find a large and wide enough roll of rice paper commercially available from my sources. The delicate but strong mulberry paper I am using speaks to the ultimate fragility of the stones and the need to protect their precious designs, despite the size, weight, and seemingly eternal strength of the rock. The translucent, ephemeral quality of the paper is in stark contrast to the concept of the hard stone. The mulberry fibers are not interested in being erased or overworked, leaving me with a substrate as potentially unforgiving as the stones themselves.
I experimented with a variety of media to determine which would be best for the rubbing technique, including powdered graphite and black and white soft pastel. Nothing gave me the exact look I wanted until I tested a tried and true option -- charcoal. Both vine and hard charcoal gave me the best definition when rubbing the textures of the various symbolic items on the mulberry paper from behind (see photograph below).
I also needed to experiment with application techniques, especially considering the fibrous nature of the paper. I started with smooth pastel sponges, but in the end, large cotton balls were my best answer for blending.
Due to the size and fragility of the paper, I am working from the top to the bottom of my composition and completing each section as I go, rather than working all over the surface at the same rate of speed. I am rubbing the textures of my actual items along the guidelines of an initial contour drawing, and using stones from my garden for the overall texture.
Ultimately, I based the drawing on or slightly taller than my height of 5'10". And incidentally, I had to buy a bigger snake. How will I ultimately frame this piece? That remains to be seen!
Above: Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone rubbing items and materials test on mulberry paper
© Amy Funderburk 2015, All Rights Reserved
References: I am really glad I picked up these two books when I was in Scotland:
If you would like to learn more about the fascinating Pictish culture, I easily found a slew of websites when searching to confirm and cross-reference basic factual information.
- Harden, Jill. The Picts; Historic Scotland; 2010
- Jones, Duncan. A Wee Guide to The Picts (6th edition); Goblinshead; 2009
Above: Aberlemno I (Aberlemno Serpent Stone)
Class I Pictish standing stone, Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland
© Amy Funderburk 2012, All Rights Reserved
Above: Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone materials test: comb rubbing
charcoal on mulberry paper
© Amy Funderburk 2015, All Rights Reserved
My Blog is Back!
...But My Website May Go Down.
My blog. My blog recently went through a slight migration. If you have been kind enough to bookmark it, please update your link to:
I had previously pointed this version of my blog address to its actual home, so please be sure to refresh your browser and favorites.
Remember, your subscription to this newsletter is separate from signing up for blog notifications, so please subscribe today! I look forward to writing a new blog entry very soon.
My website. Stay tuned for some exciting, dramatic changes as I overhaul and update my website. As a result of this upgrade, it is quite possible that the website may be down while I am working on it. I hope not, but in the event you visit or click on any of the links in this newsletter this month but you don't reach my site, please check back again soon. I'll announce it in my newsletter when I launch the new version, and I appreciate your patience.
Above: South Tawton Ceiling Boss:
The Green Man (Simhasana -- Lion's Breath)
oil on panel, 16" x 16"
© 2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Inspired by the ceiling bosses of St Andrews Church, South Tawton, Dartmoor, England
Seeing this on Twitter?
Thank you, Twitter followers! We did it! Thanks to everyone who read my June newsletter on Twitter, and to those who generously retweeted it and favorited it -- because we not only cleared my goal of 5,000 link clicks, but as of this writing, we hit 5,271! Wow!!! Thank you so very much for your interest, and I deeply appreciate your favorites and retweets.
So what are you waiting for? If you are a Twitter follower and you like what you see here, why wait to find my future newsletters on Twitter when you can subscribe? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list today! That way, you can more easily return and read it all at your leisure.
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© 2014 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro, NC USA
Above: Prisoner door graffiti from the War of American Independence
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
© 2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Above: Boyle Abbey Graffiti, 1724
Boyle, Co Roscommon, Republic of Ireland
© 2001 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved