Posts Tagged ‘Boston Artist’

Detail from "Faegan's Pub" (acrylic on board) by Andrew Slezak

In the crisp, bright vastness of the John Hancock Tower’s Blue Glass Cafe, viewing an exhibit by local artists filled with vibrant colors and bold shapes, the piece that completely drew me in was a dark and atmospheric painting called “Faegan’s Pub,” by Reading, MA artist Andrew Slezak. This interior scene of a seemingly quiet bar in Syracuse, New York, captures the contemplative spirit of dark little haunts with a rich and comforting play of diffuse light through glass, and the subtle texturing of surfaces gives it a palpable earthiness—not just a place for contemplation, but a place I could imagine reaching in to touch.

Slezak’s portfolio of mostly landscape and seascape images includes a small collection of figurative paintings, and I asked whether he prefers one over the other. “Landscape comes more naturally through my experimental process,” he said, “but I like the conversation that situating a figure in a setting can create. Both are important as far as my background goes, but landscape seems to be more the direction my current work is heading.”

Although Andrew Slezak’s work is more influenced by natural environments, he has received positive feedback about “Faegan’s Pub” and is inspired to paint a series of similarly atmospheric interior paintings. His many landscapes and seascapes are equally mesmerizing in their textural qualities, with a sense of lingering movement captured within them.

Slezak, whose mother is an art teacher and father is an architect with an undergraduate art major, enjoyed drawing and painting from an early age. Working mainly in acrylic and watercolor, he prefers to stay open to experimentation. I find the range of styles and mediums in Slezak’s work compelling, and can see a voice emerging among the images and moods, so I am as curious as he is to see where it will lead him.

"Wave" (acrylic on canvas) by Andrew Slezak

“My current work has definitely had a more experimental direction. Dripping and spraying paint is a technique that I have been incorporating into my experimental pieces, and exploring limits with the paint is where I find a lot of the excitement and interest in my work,” says Slezak.

"See Through" (acrylic on board) by Andrew Slezak

He has no particular direction in mind for his experimentation at the moment, but he is optimistic about figuring that out eventually. He has even done some experimentation with ArtRage 2.5, a computer program that “simulates actual painting with realistic feel for texture and brushstroke.”

“Working on large surfaces is the only constant when it comes to my process,” he says. With art and artistic experimentation as the main focus in his life right now, he is working and living at his studio in his parents’ Reading house until he goes to grad school in the fall.

While in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2009 as part of the Syracuse University abroad program, he took a drawing and glass making class. In the glass class, he learned to make mosaics and to fuse glass, and since then has made some glass mosaics including a commissioned piece.

"Seascape Mosaic" (Panel II, glass tile) by Andrew Slezak

"Seascape Mosaic" (Panel II, glass tile) by Andrew Sleza

It didn’t surprise me to find the same rhythmic movement and subtleties of light in his mosaics that is present in so many of his painted works. The medium lends itself naturally to this artist’s style, and I see it as a fine complement to his affinity for texture.

To see more of Andrew Slezak’s work, visit his artist website.


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Linda Cordner in her studio

The SOWA artist district studio where Linda Cordner creates her encaustic paintings is strikingly tidy. The work table is clean, and the pegboard of tools and paintbrushes behind her has a balanced geometric orderliness about it. There is a hot palette on one end of the work table. The palette’s surface is covered with little tins, each containing a compound of beeswax, damar resin (from trees), and pigment the same as found in oil paints. The goal is to reduce them to liquid on its 175 degree surface. These tins are where she mixes colors and thins the medium with plain beeswax until translucent. She decides on her colors before starting to paint, and working on a flat surface, begins by applying a chalk gesso for a stiff and chalky absorbent surface. A heat gun and iron are on hand to melt the surface of the paintings and keep them smooth.

"Cobalt Cluster" by Linda Cordner

“If you heat too much, it will turn to liquid and run,” says Cordner. “You want it just to fuse layers.” The heat gun is good for covering larger areas at a time, and the iron works for smoothing more isolated areas. The paintings are buffed with a bare flat hand, and the translucence of the paint brings light forward from the white gessoed board.

Cordner painted with oils in college. She first began to see encaustic paintings about ten years ago and they always jumped out at her. After taking a 3-day workshop in encaustic painting, she realized she loved it. She set up her own materials and began painting with it. “It’s like getting a tube of oil paints,” she says, in describing the medium which can be purchased in colored blocks. “There’s a whole learning curve —you experiment with technique first. Once you get that down, you can go on to making paintings.”

"Obscura 1," by Linda Cordner

In recent years, she has stamped shapes into the wax paintings with wood blocks, sometimes filling the lines in with oil paint, as well as incorporating patterning, collage, floral stencils and geometric images. Currently her focus is on landscape-inspired images.

Early on, she was influenced by some of the encaustic paintings of Jasper Johns. And the graphic elements of many of her works come as no surprise  given her background as a graphic designer—“It has a lot to do with the colors I use and the images I like.”

Cordner belongs to New England Wax, an organization of about 80 professional encaustic painters in the New England states. The group was started by Kim Bernard, another New England based encaustic painter. Artist members trade ideas and information, and exhibit and network with one another. Cordner says there are so many more encaustic painters out there now than ten years ago. More groups have been starting around the country. Once, R and F Paints was the only company to buy supplies from, but paint companies and suppliers are more accessible now. A fifth annual International Encaustic Conference will take place this June in Provincetown, MA. “The conference is great, “says Cordner,”and they have demos of different techniques. There are lecturers,  too. This year, Jackie Battenfield (nationally acclaimed artist and author of The Artist’s Guide: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love) will speak on making a living as an artist.”

A wall of landscape-inspired encaustic paintings in Linda Cordner's studio

When she moved into this South End studio nine years ago, the view out her windows was of a trash-strewn alley. That has changed, as has so much of this South End neighborhood, and now she looks out onto a pleasant, if not particularly fascinating, section of the otherwise charming pedestrian way known as Thayer Street. The building’s original 450 Harrison Avenue entrance eventually gave way to a spacious high-ceilinged lobby off Thayer Street, with art galleries and shops occupying the lower levels. On Sundays in season, the building’s back lot abutting Albany Street is filled with white tents occupied by artists, bakers, farmers and honeymakers selling their wares.

Ball of Wax

Linda Cordner is in a group show called “Luminous Landscape” now through July 8 in Charlestown with five other regional artists working in encaustic. For details on that, and to see more of her work, visit http://www.lindacordner.com.

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Cat Bennett

The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind, by artist Cat Bennett, was the subject of yesterday’s post. Today I get to welcome Cat Bennett as a guest blogger here at Boston Art Images.

Thanks, Cat, for sharing the following thoughts with us.


It’s All Good!

Every Saturday morning I teach drawing. I begin every class with an exercise in which we can’t be judged—like scribbling or drawing upside down. These explorations level the playing field because there’s no right way to scribble and because no one does a totally accurate drawing upside-down. It’s a way of practicing, seeing what’s possible, focusing our minds and training our eyes.

It’s so important to see drawing and art as a practice. Keep a pencil and sketchbook on hand and set aside a few minutes every day. Showing up every day builds momentum—there’s no other way. It teaches us to know ourselves, grow our strengths and enter the realm of pure creativity with ease. We all get so screwed up from our years of being evaluated and graded in school. We sometimes wonder whether we’re good enough or if our work matters. We often think that every time we put pencil to paper we have to do something “good.” Trying to do something “good” can stop creativity in its tracks. To be really creative, and to draw with confidence, we have to make mistakes and go where we’ve never been before. That’s messy.

Creativity is an organic process—one thing leads to another.

Of course, when we’re drawing, we can notice those niggling thoughts that drift through our minds. Especially the ones that say, “This is terrible!” or “I’ll never be Picasso!” It’s true, we will none of us be Picasso or Damien Hurst. Whatever we think of other artists, we can only be ourselves. That’s freedom! Negative thoughts come to us all and we can just let them go. We might notice too that a great artist like Matisse left plenty of mistakes in this work. He knew that the strength in his work would overcome any weakness. It will in ours too.

When we make a habit of drawing, it can liberate our creative selves by giving us a chance to reconnect with pure exploration. We’ll soon bring the attitude of inquiry to all of our creative work. When we do this, we soon connect with this beautiful free part of ourselves again. And that’s where art comes from.


Thanks to the very creative Paula Ogier, for her beautiful review of the book and for giving me this space to add a few words!

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If you’re looking to give your creative spirit a fortifying shot in the arm, and frankly, even if you aren’t, I recommend artist Cat Bennett’s The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind (Findhorn Press, Scotland, 2010). Upon immediate inspection, it’s a lovely book to behold, generously laden with drawings and paintings by Ms. Bennett, her contemporaries and her students. The images meander from quirky to dreamy, from humorous to contemplative, and from sparse to luscious. The even sweeter surprise is the simplicity and kindness of this book’s message: creativity need not be about producing a final and polished product. It is inherent in all of us, arising quite willingly with openness and acceptance of its distinctive voice. Reading it, I remembered a time in my life, decades ago, when I would get together with a friend for the evening, put on music, and the two of would just begin to draw. Often, there was no specific goal as I was being drawn myself down a path, and sometimes one that materialized in what someone many years later described to me as a “happy accident.”

I have happy accidents a lot in my art, and I hope to never stop having them. I’m not against being guided by an artistic vision — I typically am when I’m working on something — but I’ve learned the wisdom of letting the road twist and turn when something unexpectedly moving happens.

The Confident Creative offers drawing exercises to loosen up our occasionally rigid minds, such as drawing upside down (the image is upside down, that is, not you), drawing with your non-dominant hand, drawing with shapes, or drawing from your imagination. They are not new ideas, but gently and simply explained, they have the ability to open up space in the mind and let the reader find the relaxation in unedited creative exploration. My experience is that something profound happens in this space, and I like the respectful way that The Creative Confident encourages this process. In some ways I see it as a kind of prayer book, affirming the joy to be found in being alive and confident of our own expression.

Cat Bennett lives in the greater Boston area and teaches drawing in her “Saturday Morning Drawing Club” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA. Her career as a professional illustrator began more than 25 years ago at The National Film Board of Canada. She went on to make short animations for CBC Sesame Street and Nickelodeon TV. Her illustration client list includes The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, and many others. For me, it’s touching to see that someone with so much drawing experience under her belt still understands the beauty of letting the hand follow where the mind and spirit wander.

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