Sunday, February 22, 2015

Interview with Amy Turner, CPSA (IL) - Second Place Award Winner ET!11

I noticed the term "Acklfee" on your website. Tell our readers a bit about what that term means and how you use it. I think it's a great introduction into your creative process.

The word “Acklfee” (ack-el-fee) is a term that I had made up as a child to describe a joyfully silly person, one given to bouts of giggling and/or goofiness or, later in life, an exclamation made after experiencing an unexplainable synchronicity. The word followed me as I grew up and may still be heard on those rare, synchronous occasions. Oh yes...ever present beneath the shy exterior...the AckLfee silliness still ripples a tiny, badly-thrown pebble in a puddle.

AckLfee was recalled to life again in late 2007 when I became motivated to step up my personal artistic endeavors. I began by creating an online presence, in addition to joining my local art league and CPSA. And since “Turner” is rather a common name, I thought “what better moniker to use than AckLfee?” In hindsight, I'm not sure if this strategy has been altogether successful as it is not an easy word to remember...but it makes me happy none the less.

Up until that point in 2007, my creative process was mostly stifled by my work-a-day job as a graphic artist...rather mundane. So when I made the conscious decision to start creating for my own ends again, I called upon my old college love of photo-realism to regain my creative sea-legs. Since then, slowly, by introducing personal totems, favorite themes and dream-inspired imagery, my work has morphed away from strictly photographic to what I came to call an“improvised, stylized realism.”

"Soul Plexus - Tulips with Pearl Chakras"
Colored Pencil
Amy Turner, CPSA (IL)

What inspires your work that you describe as "improvised, stylized form of realism?" What inspired your "All in a Day's Work" piece from the ET! 11.

As I alluded to earlier, when I was younger, I was a hyper-realism fanatic, working mostly in ebony pencil. Couldn't get enough of it. It became my go-to style when I began in earnest to revive my personal art journey. What I found, however, was that the exacting nature of photo realism had lost some of it's charm for me. Although technically challenging, it just wasn't “fun” anymore. Maybe this was what an artistic mid-life crisis looked like??? I found myself improvising more with color, shape, composition and content. No longer relying predominantly on the photo, it seemed personal totems, themes and dream-inspired design elements had elbowed their way to the forefront. Now, many a composition is finding it's final incarnation in my cranium, not the camera.   A good many of these have actually come to me while waking in middle of the night, after which I scramble to scribble ideas into my sketchbook for further reference.

“All In A Day's Work,” however, harkens back style-wise to my earlier years of strict photo-realism. I took a wonderful photo while on a delivery with my husband for our business. Although I had seen this particular space many times before, on this day it was alive with a staccato play of light and a slightly warped view of reality which immediately drew me right in. Originally, I hadn't intended for it to be anything but a fun diversion from other projects and a dabbling process using a bit of paint and ink pens – and I never expected an award! I was elated simply when it was deemed exhibit-worthy!

In subsequent pieces, I have been exploring a creative side-street which still makes use of many of my personal totems - birds, pearls/jewelry, floral imagery - with a reflective, kaleidoscopic twist (as seen in the piece “Soul Plexus – Tulips With Pearl Chakras”). Occasionally, there will still be an image such as “All In A Day's Work” beckoning and begging to be drawn, to which I will enthusiastically surrender. Actually, a few are taunting me from inside my file cabinet even as I write this....

"All in a Day's Work"
Colored Pencil, paint and ink pens
Amy Turner, CPSA (IL)

ET! Winner of
CPSA District Chapters
Awards for Exceptional Merit $1000

I know very few artists who license their artwork. What made you decide to offer your work as licensed, and any advice for our colored pencil artists thinking of following that route? Does it work for you?

The licensing aspect of my art was initiated when I was asked to license 3 pieces of art for the set of the television series “Desperate Housewives” in 2010. Up to that point, I had never given licensing any thought. I have since seen quite a few of our CPSA members' artwork on products though, which speaks volumes for their beautiful artwork because it is a VERY competitive endeavor! But, there is a difference between a company wanting to use your existing art to showcase a product and actually making artwork for product design en masse. From what I gather, creating art for product design, for the most part, is an exacting, pre-determined formula (much like most graphic design) where you sell a body of artwork in a multitude of formats for differing products. Having spoken to other licensing artists, it is a full time job if you want to be successful at it.

In my case, my husband and I have been running our own businesses for over 20 years. The licensing aspect of my art has been more or less a hobby business since 2010. I didn't have the time required to travel to the major licensing expos or to concentrate on the large, wide-ranging image portfolios required by most art licensing agents (signing with a licensing agent is practically a necessity to get your foot in the door with many licensee companys). So, although I am open to licensing opportunities as they may arise and continue to fill sketchbooks with ideas, a full immersion into art licensing might have to wait a few years in my case.

What materials do you use (pencils, paper, etc.) You used inks and paints, in addition to colored pencil, in your award winning piece. What effects did the inks and paints achieve on the marker paper?

For much of my colored pencil work, I use Prismacolor Premiere pencils exclusively because they seem to give me the best coverage and creamy blending. Strathmore Bristol or Canson papers are a mainstay on my table – the less tooth, the better. The marker paper I used for “All In A Day's Work” was new for me. I originally purchased it to just dabble with some ink and markers but when I started this piece, I fell back into CP out of habit. It worked well, like a very thin bristol or Mylar, to hold the CP and allowed me to accent without any bleed with the ink/paint pens.

"Season of Remembrance"
Colored Pencil
Amy Turner, CPSA (IL)

Why did you join CPSA? What would you tell someone who is new to the organization, or someone thinking to join?

When my creative motivation returned in 2007, a fellow artist at my local art league asked if I had heard of CPSA, so I did a little sleuthing and joined immediately. In the end, credit must be given to CPSA for supplying the additional tinder needed to rekindle my creative fires after years of putting it on the back-burner. My first copy of To The Point not only inspired and encouraged me, but challenged me to take my work seriously again!  I marveled at the creativity and craftsmanship on display within those pages, and the willingness to offer insights, tips and encouragement so freely. I must confess, the members of CPSA never fail to blow me away with their talent.... I consider myself lucky to be a in their numbers!

For those who are new to CPSA or thinking of joining, I would say...”jump right won't be disappointed!” Not only will you be welcomed into a wonderfully diverse, creative, giving and enthusiastic family of artists, but you will have many marvelous opportunities to learn, share, network and exhibit your artwork. Don't hesitate to take advantage of all the that CPSA has to offer! Every artist needs a support structure to buoy and inspire them...and CPSA does just that for today's CP artist.

Amy Turner, CPSA (IL)
Thank you, Amy!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Part II - Interview with Julie Podstolski - ET!11 Best of Show

Part II interview with ET!11 EXPY award winner, Julie Podstolski, Australia.

Why colored pencil? Do you use a particular brand, what is your favorite surface, have challenges with the medium. I see where you added Neocolor Artist Crayons - what is the benefit for you of using them?

I was happily painting away in the 1990s. Then my husband, Matthew, dropped the bombshell. He wanted another child. We already had two daughters. I rose to the challenge and in 1994 produced Lucy. After I had Emily and Alicia (1984 and 1987 respectively) I had taken breaks from painting while they were infants. In Lucy's case I didn't want to stop producing art but oil paints were so wrong. I got so frustrated rushing away to mix up colours when Lucy had her rests, only to be interrupted when she would cry. I had a lightbulb moment. Why not try coloured pencils? After all, I had used them in the 1970s.

I zoomed down to the art shop and bought a full set of Derwent pencils and a 36 set of Stabilo Schwann Softcolor pencils. That was the real start of working with coloured pencils. Easy to pick up, put down, no mess, no smell, no waste - perfect. After years with oils pencils came naturally.

Lucy got older and for several years I alternated between oil painting and coloured pencils. I had an attitude problem to CPs. I didn't think they were respectable. Oil painting was real art while coloured pencil was like playing. Back then I didn't have a computer. I didn't know anybody else was using coloured pencil as a medium for fine art. I'd never seen any books on the subject. I was in a complete vacuum so no wonder I didn't know what to think.

Christmas 2000 - for a present I was given "The Best of Colored Pencil" Volume 5. Oh? What's this? I remember thinking that it was too late. I used to use pencils, but not any more. However, I enjoyed looking at the book.
and actually I couldn't STOP looking at it. I distinctly remember feeling the grief of loss that I was no longer using pencils as I intently studied the drawings.

A couple of months later another light bulb moment. I must use pencils again. Once again I was out of my comfort zone. I wasn't even sure I could get through the first drawing as I didn't know what I was doing. But it worked - and I was hooked. I wasn't going to let it go again. I would change my attitude and MAKE coloured pencil respectable in my mind.

After trying several different brands I now primarily use Caran d'Ache Luminance because I trust the lightfast aspect to them. I also love the Japanese brand, Holbein Artists' Pencils. I did my own lightfast test with the Holbeins and while not as scientific as CPSA's tests, it certainly gave me some clear results. I have recently discovered Derwent 24 Drawing Pencils which I have added to my brands.

I have always had a set of Neocolor on hand since I was a teenager. I took the opportunity to buy a set of 84 Neocolor wax pastels and a set of 96 Neopastels (both by Caran d'Ache) when I was in London. I can't buy these where I live so I treasure them. I wanted to experiment by adding them to my pencil drawings. It was the Explore This! competition which gave me the idea. I wanted to combine the materials and see what range of textures would come from it.  The addition of Neocolor is particularly good for the out-of-focus areas. Pencil by itself then provides a sharp contrast for the in-focus areas.

For the last decade I have used a hot-pressed printmaking paper called "Pescia" 300 gsm by Italian company, Magnani. I have heard a rumour that the factory is closing down soon. Luckily I have about five years supply of the paper in a cupboard.

Regarding the challenge of the medium, every drawing is a challenge and if it wasn't I would be bored. I like to push the boundaries and sometimes this means failures. I publish the failures on my blog and on Facebook as I want my message to be that failures are an essential part of evolution no matter how experienced you are. You just don't want to be safe all the time. 

Colored Pencil
350 x 405 mm 2011
Julie Podstolski (Australia)

As an international member from Australia, tell us about your life there, are there opportunities for an artist, particularly colored pencil?

I do not think that it is easy being an artist anywhere in the world. I have been living in Perth, Western Australia since 1997. There were quite a few commercial galleries in Perth in the late 90s, but since then there has been a steady decline. I have exhibited with five commercial galleries between 1999 and now.  My last solo exhibition was in 2014. Every single gallery I have exhibited with in Perth has closed down. My September 2014 exhibition was the last one before the gallery shut its doors permanently. Artists aare having to find spaces and run their own shows. I have found a venue for my next show (2016) and will manage it myself.

Sometimes I feel quite depressed about the state of art and the future of it. My exhibitions have sold extremely well but many fellow artists have had a difficult time selling - no matter what their medium is.

Why did you choose to become a member of CPSA? 

For some years I knew of your existence but I didn't know I was able to join. I only joined Facebook a couple of years ago. Then I discovered Colored Pencil Artists and Lovers (CPAL) and found that CPSA had international members. The main reason I joined CPSA was to get hold of the "Lightfastness Test Results Workbook".

Coming from painting in oils, it never occurred to me that lightfastness was an issue with coloured pencils. If I read the word "permanent" on a pencil barrel, I simply believed it. It was a horrible shock when it finally sank in that many pencils fade. I realised that I MUST have that book so that I could cull my pencils. I don't visit my art supply store without the workbook in hand.

After I joined I found all the other benefits. I love the fact that I can enter some of your competitions, the ones which are online. It is such an expensive thing to physically send a work to America from Western Australia that I baulk at entering the main (international) CPSA show. Thank heavens you have "Explore This!" as well as two "ArtSpectations" per year. These exhibitions are very much appreciated by your international members!

I very much appreciate the professionalism of your publications and I read "To the Point" from cover to cover as well as constantly going back to recheck articles. So, in every way I love being a member of CPSA.

"Step by Step"
Colored Pencil and Artists Crayons
EXPY/Best of Show
Explore This! 11  (2015)
Julie Podstolski (Australia)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part I - Interview with Julie Podstolski - ET!11 Best of Show

Interview with international member and EXPY/Best of Show winner in the ET! 11 exhibition, Julie Podstolski (Australia). Julie has shared a wonderful view into her art, education, materials and life. It will be presented in two parts. Today's post, Part I, is about her art inspiration and her education. Enjoy! 

Cindy Haase, CPSA, 
Marketing Director

Julie, tell us about your concept of the geisha art and Japan. I believe I've read you traveled there. For pleasure, business? What about the culture and daily life makes you want to capture it in your art?

Matthew, my husband, forced my hand. He expected me to accompany him on a business trip to Japan in 2003. I was extremely resistant, especially as it was right when the world was in the grip of fear about SARS. However I was persuaded to go. Once I got there it took me a very short time for curiosity and wonder to overcome fear. Since that first trip I have been to Japan many times including several by myself. I am flying over next week. It will be my 16th trip.

On that first trip in 2003, after business was over, our group was taken to Kyoto to be introduced to some Japanese culture and history. We were walking in Gion on our final evening. Out of the darkness appeared two figures - a maiko (apprentice geisha) and her client. I could not believe my eyes and whipped out my camera. I took a couple of snaps which were the source of the first two "geisha" drawings. After that I read every book I could find on the subject of geisha. My appetite was insatiable. I couldn't wait to return to Japan after that first sighting.

I adore mystery and what could be more closed and mysterious than the world of geisha. On one hand I wanted to know as much as I could, but on the other I never wanted to lose that sense of secrecy which is so delicious. I still feel like this.

I love the drama of the costume and the elegance of the women. While the women wear the costume of geisha, they are custodians of several centuries of tradition. They actually become living, breathing works of art. "Gei" means art. They study and work extremely hard to perfect their music and dance.

I feel an affinity with these women. We are all artists together. Those of them who know my art appreciate it very much, just as I appreciate their art.

Finally, their numbers get smaller as the years go by. Even though young girls are drawn to the world of geisha, they usually only become part of this world for a few years and return to modern Japan. Geisha are an endangered species. I want to capture and highlight them while I can - and do so with the greatest respect.

"Rare View"
Colored Pencil
360 x 520 mm
Julie Podstolski (Australia) 2013

What is your background as an artist? How long have you been working as an artist, using colored pencil, do you work in other media?

As a child one of my main activities was drawing. I was fortunate in that we had an art stream at high school. I was able to choose that stream so from 13 to 18 art was one of my major subjects at school. I learned a great many sound principles from my wonderful art teacher, Jan Colosimo. We still write to one another 38 years later.

I was determined to study fine arts at university. My art teacher had to persuade my parents that art was a worthy subject to pursue at tertiary level. (My father had not been allowed to study art when he was a young man although his art teacher had appealed to my grandfather to let him.) In my case, I was allowed to choose art at university with the idea that I would go on to be a secondary school art teacher.

From 1978 to 1980 I studied fine arts (majoring in painting) at University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Even during those years I experimented with coloured pencils and Neocolor wax pastels. Mostly, however, I used oil paints. I graduated in 1980 with of Diploma of Fine Arts.

I learned so much about art both at school and at art school. To be honest, I wouldn't be the artist I am today without having attended art school. I think the main reason is that we students were so often taken out of our comfort zones and challenged to think outside our personal squares. At the time I loved it and hated it. In the years since I have never regretted for a second those three formative years at School of Fine Arts. I didn't pass with flying colours. I tended to be a B student - but I got through - that's the main thing. Abstract expressionism was "in" at that time. My laborious realism didn't go down too well. In the end I got into abstract expressionism as well. Maybe that helped me to pass. It certainly helped me to appreciate the universe of art styles!

I mostly definitely didn't want to teach. Two weeks or so after starting at Teachers Training College, I dropped out. I quickly got a job in the University Bookshop and saved up to come to Australia with my future husband.

I consistently painted in oils until 1994 - as consistently as one could while being mother and housewife.  

"Here Comes the Night"
Colored Pencil
360 x 520 mm
Julie Podstolski (Australia) 2013

To be continued in Part II on February 12...