When lamenting my delay in beginning to paint seriously again, an artist friend told me– you needed time to fill up. Looking back on the experiences of the last five years, I realized how very right she was. Florida has its own beauties and is inspirational in its own right, but it wasn’t until we began traveling the Northwest that something long buried was awakened in me.
My first job in the art and design world post-college was as a photo researcher for a stock image licensing company. I worked in the editorial department, selecting images for publishers of books and magazines. I distinctly remember being especially enthralled by images from the Northwest, specifically Olympic National Park. I was particularly taken with the images from the Hoh Rainforest— a rainforest? In the US? I knew I wanted to see it.
We’ve been lucky enough to live a close distance to the Olympics twice now, the first time being our very first travel gig. We made our way to ONP as much as we could during those first thirteen weeks, we hiked and backpacked, taken in by the cool, lush, fern covered forests, turquoise Hoh River, and towering Olympic Mountains.
I had my first from-the-trail bear sighting in the Olympics. The feeling there is of a primeval wilderness, something out of another time. Driving into the park, you lose cell service and don’t miss it. You are transported to a different century.
Not being a “major” national park, there is a peace and a sense of quiet in the Olympics that can be hard to find in the more popular parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone. What you hear is only the rush of a waterfall, the rustle of the wind through the forest, your breath as your climb.
The Olympics continue to inspire and inform my work, the lushness and sense of quiet, its coolness and mystery.
favorite trail | Staircase Trail
There may be more dramatic and challenging hikes in ONP but this one holds a special place in my heart. We took to this hike on a sprinkly Fall morning and after a hectic summer in Seattle, the quiet and peace we found was exactly what was needed. The trail leads past enormous felled cedars, fern covered forest floors, rocky riverbeds.
don’t forget your | Layers and rain gear
The weather in ONP can be variable and unpredictable, temperatures range depending on the area of the park and elevation. The Hoh Rainforest gets an average of 144″ of rain per year, so definitely make sure you have your rain gear when venturing into the Hoh.
what i love most | What the water brings
The wet atmosphere of the Olympics provides the ideal conditions for a lush, incredibly green forest. The ferns and mosses make my heart happy, especially when sunlight streams through amidst the misty rain.
Have you been to Olympic National Park? What was your impression? Favorite area? I’m always on the lookout for tips because I never know when we’ll be back on the Olympic Peninsula!
To see more images of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series, follow the #findinglatitude hashtag on Instagram!
1 | the angular distance north or south from the equator of a point onthe earth’s surface, measured on the meridian of the point.
2 | freedom, room to move
Before I was approached by Teresa Roche at Art & Light last Fall to present a solo show of work in March of this year, I had already been working on nature based abstracts and abstract landscapes. Exploring wild and scenic places is a big part of our life and travels, so it has been a natural well of inspiration.
When beginning to think about the body of work I wanted to create for my first solo show, I knew I would be seeking to capture not just a place on a map but the feelings of freedom, peace, and beauty in the experience of a particular moment in that place– LATITUDE.
mr. f on the rocks in trinidad, california
mt rainier, washington
Traveling the Northwest with my hubby provides me with endless artistic inspiration and with both of us endless moments of beauty to share. While many of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series are incredibly beautiful, often the sense of specialness was not simply in the place itself, but perhaps in the way the light bounced off the water, the quietness of a morning beach all to ourselves, the way the landscape brought us peace, brought us joy.
friday harbor, san juan islands, washington
Over the coming weeks leading up to LATITUDE’s opening, I’ll be sharing more images, experiences, and inspiration from some of these very special places. You can see more of the places inspiring LATITUDE on Instagram, by searching #findinglatitude.
As any artist will tell you, having a studio space to call your own is a privilege, a luxury. Since Mr. F and I are moving from furnished rental to furnished rental as we travel, the options among rentals in our budget range can be slim. And to be able to have a studio space to boot? Such splendor!
I know what it is to work from the dining room table or a corner of a 500 square foot studio, right across from where we sleep each night. So imagine how spoiled I’ve felt in our Idaho Falls and Ashland rentals, where I’ve had actual studio spaces from which to work!
While we are traveling, Mr. F & I often debate how we want to live and work when we settle down for good. As my painting practice grows, the conversation around my eventual studio also increases. Do we want to try to incorporate a studio space within the walls of our home? Or a backyard building? Or how would renting a studio nearby work for me and our lifestyle?
Not everyone gets to try out their options before making such a monumental decision. But lucky me! I’ve had two separate studio spaces now and find myself comparing and weighing the pros & cons of each. Since you may be on the cusp of making a similar choice, I thought I’d share some photos and how each space does and doesn’t work for me as an artist.
IN HOME STUDIO
Finding a rental in Idaho Falls was more of a challenge than we expected, especially after coming off of renting in the Bay Area. The little apartment we settled on was in a 1920s Craftsman triplex near downtown, admittedly not the nicest or biggest rental we looked at but what sold me on it was the tiny extra room on the front flooded with light– perfect for my studio.
When I say tiny, I mean teeny tiny. I think the space was about 50 square feet, the size of a small walk in closet. But there was a desk and room for my portable easel and thanks to the west facing windows, tons of sunlight. And bonus– the historic nature of the building meant charming details like wide window casings and a coved ceiling.
What I loved–
Ease of work time. I could paint and sketch whenever I wanted to. Early morning ( not usual, not a morning person ), in between freelance work/emailing, while doing laundry, while beginning dinner, late at night.
Keeping the work close. Having my workspace in our living space keeps my mind in the work nearly all the time. It helps with the germination process, the thoughtful process that happens when you’re examining what you’ve done and where you want it to go. I like to take peeks at my work in different lights and times of day. I find myself gazing critically and lovingly while passing through to the bathroom in the middle of the night. That’s not weird or anything, right??
Proximity to the hubby. While we were in Idaho Falls, we were camping in Yellowstone or The Grand Tetons every weekend but one. But normally, I spend at least one weekend afternoon painting while Mr. F works on his CEUs or brews a batch of beer. It’s always nice to be in the same space, even when we’re engaged in separate activities. Lovey-doveyness and all that.
What I didn’t love–
Lack of separation between freelance work & studio work. Because I used that tiny space as both my office and studio, it made it a bit too easy to continuously check work emails while waiting for paint layers to dry. So instead of being totally in a creative headspace, my mind was often distracted.
Lack of space. The extra room was very, very small. There wasn’t much wall or floor space to speak of, which meant my work and supplies found themselves drifting out into our living space. Not really ideal, especially when trying to find a place to put unattractive things like shipping materials. Since the plan for our eventual home is a living space around 800-900 total square feet, studio space within such a small size would be minimal. So in the future, especially as I paint more and bigger work, we might be dealing with these same issues.
Westward facing windows. The west facing windows meant lots of light on overcast afternoons but on sunny days I was driven out of the studio around 3:30 due not only to the intensity of the light, but also how warm it got. Our apartment was on the 2nd floor and fully 10-15 degrees warmer than downstairs at all times. Sunny afternoons in the studio felt like being in a broiler. The position of your light is something it’s easy to overlook but can definitely cause headaches. Literally and figuratively.
I loved this little studio. It holds a special place in my heart, perhaps because it is where I started my work for LATITUDE and my work grew into something I began to be truly excited about. The architecture of the space felt very “me” and I loved keeping my work so close.
Every time we move, we head into the unknown, especially with our living space. I was very nervous to give up my tiny IF studio and go back to working from a corner of our rental. I never dreamed I would be gifted with access to a 400 square foot studio.
So when I told our Ashland landlord I was a painter and planned to put up Dexter-style sheeting in a corner of our rental’s bedroom as my studio, he met my idea with a surprising offer. Turns out the building next to our duplex housed his woodworking & blacksmithing workshop and upstairs he was finishing the building of– you guessed it– a painting studio. Which he offered me use of, free of charge. What??!!! Talk about a god send.
What I love–
Space, space, space! To go from the tiny studio in Idaho Falls to a space in which I could really spread out was a dream. I have the space to work on the larger pieces I had planned for the LATITUDE show at Art & Light and to be able to see all the pieces for the show as I’m working and allowing them to influence what’s on the easel.
Close but separate. The studio is next door to our rental, so I can pop over when I need to, but preserve the separation of living and work spaces. Mr. F doesn’t see as much of my process, so it leads to a fun “reveal” moment when I take him over to the studio to show a finished piece. I also leave the laptop at home, leaving with it the tendency to multi-task between freelance work and painting.
Freedom to work dirty. Even though the space was newly finished, my landlord assured me that it was OK to let the paint fly. So no putting up sheeting or worrying too much about drips and splats. It definitely helps keep my mind on the process when I don’t have to fret that I might be getting paint anywhere but the canvas.
What I don’t love–
Shared space. For an introvert like me it is hard for me to work in a freely creative way in a shared space. While I usually have my painting studio to myself, I have to walk through my landlord’s workspace to get there, which means– gasp!— small talk. He is perfectly nice and lovely and I do enjoy our interactions, but my little introverted brain just wants to go to my studio and work. For the first month, I had the space upstairs completely to myself, but part of the space is now being utilized three afternoons a week for music lessons. Which puts a kink in my schedule but also means that there are eyes on my work when I may not want them to be and I can’t spread out in the same way as before.
Less than ideal use of space. While the space is large, it isn’t totally mine and there are fixed furnishings whose placement wouldn’t make sense for a permanent studio, at least for me. In the middle of one wall is a giant flat screen over a gas heater/stove. While the stove makes things cozy, the placement of the tv and stove in the middle of a large wall limits the usable space. There is a separate utility sink and sink in the studio bathroom, the utility sink taking up usable space in the studio when it could have been placed in the bathroom. A space that’s not your own will always mean compromising your ideal way of working. A disadvantage to renting a studio away from home.
Separation from my work. I miss not being surrounded by my work. After finishing a painting, I go through this kind of honeymoon period where I want to gaze at it and analyze it. Not being able to see the work whenever I want to makes it a challenge to keep it dominating my headspace, important when working on a cohesive body of work for a show.
Separation from the hubby. As I mentioned above, Mr. F and I often spend a weekend afternoon engaging in separate pursuits. I do miss being close by while I paint. Yes, it’s just a few steps away, but it feels much farther because it isn’t our space, if that makes any sense.
I feel incredibly blessed by having access to this beautiful space. If it were my own, would I change some things? Absolutely. But do I pinch myself every day I use it? Definitely.
Would love to hear what type of studio you’re working from and how it works for you!
Artsy Forager is now Lesley Frenz! On social media, anyway. Here on the blog, you can still call me Artsy. Or Lesley. Or hey you with the paintbrush!
With the advent of a new year I decided it was time to retire the Artsy Forager handle on social media.
Obviously, I’m still blogging here at artsyforager.com, but with an increased focus on my personal studio practice, I need to be known as an artist who occasionally blogs rather than a blogger who sometimes paints. Know what I mean?
I still own the Artsy Forager handle on all the various social media platforms, so if you tag AF I will still see it, but I won’t be updating any of those feeds.
Let’s go, 2016!
It has been an amazing year despite the stress, the worrying, the painful loss. I am ready to get a new year underway as I prepare for my March show at Art & Light Gallery and can’t wait to see what else 2016 brings!
Hiya artsies! I’ve been super sick this week with a horrible cold– that always seems to happen around the holidays, doesn’t it? But I just had to pop in and tell you about this amazing show opening at Voltage Coffee and Arttonight!
The show, Jealously Curated, is the brainchild of artists Jenny Brown, Jessica Brilli, and Anna Jensen. Jealously Curated is a collection of work by East Coast artists who all have one thing in common: they have all been featured on Danielle Krysa’s wildly popular blog, The Jealous Curator. For the first time on the East Coast, alums of the blog have organized a show at Voltage Art and Coffee to share their latest work—and to celebrate the blog that inspired and brought them together.
Artists and art bloggers are an incredibly supportive community and I absolutely loved this idea when I heard about it! If you’re in the Cambridge area, be sure and check it out! You can find more info on the show on the Voltage website.
Fall has been my favorite season since I can remember. Maybe it started with the excitement this little nerd felt for going back to school. Fall marked the beginning, a time for new friends, new teachers, new books and pencils!
Last Fall was bittersweet. I was in Florida helping care for my mom, not much in the way of excitement or autumnal color. Instead of a new beginning, it was the slow, languorous middle of what we now know would be her last days. Cherished moments and memories amid so much frustration and sadness.
This morning we had our first snow of the coming winter season in Ashland. Fall is coming to an end and I can’t help but think back, not just on where I was last year, but on what life has been like since.
As blue sky peeks out among the clouds after this morning’s rain and snow, so Fall has felt like the return of joyfulness after the sadness of this summer. Watching the color change among the beauty of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons refreshed and renewed my heart.
My studio practice also felt the magic of the advent of Fall. Influenced and inspired by the beauty surrounding me, my paintings have felt more and more like my own unique voice. I am filled with gratitude to be able to begin to call myself an artist, to focus on finding my way, to have time to paint every day– a dream held close to my heart but buried deep for such a long time.
This week, my heart bursts with thankfulness. For Mr. F, his unfailing love and support, for my friends and family who have shared tears and laughter, for those who have encouraged and bolstered my painting practice. And you, dear friends, for continuing to share in this journey with me.
I’m trying really hard not to be one of those artists who never has their latest work on the website. So, new work has been added to my artist site!
above us only sky I & II ( diptych ), 2015, acrylic on masonite panel, 12×24 overall
As I prepare for my solo show, LATITUDE, at Art & Light Gallery in March and waiting for my Ashland studio to be ready for me to use, I’ve been working on small works on panel at the kitchen table. Not ideal, but creating these smaller pieces helps me work out composition ideas and palettes. Some I love, some I don’t. OK, there’s only one I don’t love. I’ll leave you to guess which one.
Being an artist, especially a painter, requires a lot of alone time in the studio. Solitude can be blissfully peaceful and lovely but it can also be a bit lonely. To stave off that feeling ( and to get the creative juices flowing ), I like to choose a studio soundtrack that fits the mood of my work for the day.
My work often begins with the inspiring wild places Mr. F and I visit. Eddie Vedder‘s Into the Wild soundtrack captures the haunting majesty of big mountains and vast landscapes. I even created a Pandora* station based on the soundtrack, filled with wilderness-evoking music by Nirvana, Iron & Wine, Nick Drake, etc. It’s my favorite music for working on large canvases– mellow but full of energy.
*side note– is Pandora still a thing? There is probably a better source for online listening, but I’m still using Pandora. I’m uncool like that.
When working on smaller pieces, I bring the energy down a notch or two. The Innocence Mission provides a dreamy, misty atmosphere that gets me in the mood to settle in and lose myself in creating small beauties.
And then there are times when music just doesn’t fit. Usually when I’m gessoing or at the very beginning of new work, I find myself craving conversation and podcasts fill the bill. My favorite these days is Danielle Krysa‘s ( aka The Jealous Curator ) Art for Your Ear.
Danielle has a relaxed, easy interview style that makes it feel like you’re chatting with friends over cocktails. Seriously fun and such good information. Artists getting real.
I’ve also recently started listening to Cheryl Strayed‘s Dear Sugar Radio. I connected deeply with Strayed’s book, Wildand the ways our journeys parallel– the loss of a beloved mother to cancer, the love of hiking, how we’ve both found ourselves literally and figuratively in the Pacific Northwest.
Fresh Air is also a favorite, along with John Dalton‘s interviews with artists. I like to concentrate visually on the work, so I try not to watch videos in the studio while I paint but during breaks I love the Art Documentaries You Tube channel, especially the What Do Artists Do All Day series– the Tracy Emin episodes are especially wonderful.
What are you listening to these days? Any inspiring podcasts I should know about? Beautiful and beauty-filled music to inspire?