2 min read

A Conversation with Painting Instructor Mark Daniel Nelson

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 09/21/2017

I read in a statement about your practice that you create work in pursuit of the "contemporary sublime". How would you define that?
It's kind of a yin-yang idea in relation to the nineteenth century idea of sublime. I feel there's always a strong urge to get kitschy when trying to do something that communicates awe and wonder, but there's a unique contemporary language we can maniuplate to that end.

Have you achieved it yet?

Occasionally, I think, yes. I have a series called Arcadia that sometimes gets close. It's a mash-up of minimalist abstraction and twentieth century regionalism or american realism. However others like them simply because they are paintings of houses, which I'm fine with too.

What are you working on in the studio?
I'm coming off of a massive, many months-long failed abstract project. I was inspired by some great shows last fall in Denver to work in a new mode. I gave it a try on a larger scale, and...catastrophe. I'm now getting sketches ready for my next round of work. It will likely be a more conservative body of work, so I can get back to my comfort zone for a few months.
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
For me, they are one and the same. I teach a kind of detached-attention to making work, so as not to occupy the judgemental side of the experience too closely. Working on quick projects, multiple ideas, and looking at works by other artists is common to both my teaching and painting practice.
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
With every workshop I look forward to being around curious, intelligent people talking about interesting things and trying to solve the puzzle what makes good art.
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
www.markdanielnelson.com, Pinterest, and Instagram @markdanielnelson.

Topics: Faculty Painting
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2 min read

A Conversation with Painting Instructor Susan Ploughe

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 08/24/2017

In your statement, you discuss avoiding formulaic approaches to making work. When working on a series of paintings that address a similar subject matter, how do you combat that?
There has to be something unique that is drawing me to paint the subject each and every time. If there isn't, I shouldn't be painting it; I think this is why commissioned work can be difficult. Similar subject matter doesn't mean similar intent or focus; I could paint the same scene fives times, but in one I am interested in the sky, in another the light on the buildings, in another the moody atmosphere. My intent drives my decisions - the size of the work, the composition, color choices, the quality of the brushwork - every choice is new every time! I love to learn and I also want to continually improve my work, and I can't do either of those things if I am mindlessly repeating myself.
 
What are you working on in the studio?
As usual, a variety of things: landscapes, figurative pieces, portrait and animal commissions, florals, Chinese subjects - whatever strikes my fancy. Some are quick, alla prima works and others are large, carefully planned compositions. I have some works-in-progress in one corner of my studio and they reveal that I am in a blue - but happy - period!
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
I like to balance the theoretical and the practical. While I love learning principles of design, color, light, atmosphere, brushwork, and so on, I have found that they are best understood with paintbrush in hand! I almost always have teaching in the back of my mind when I am painting. As a result, I take a lot of in-progress photos that I can share with my students, and as I discover techniques or principles, I am generally thinking about how I can best communicate them to others. And because I paint a variety of subjects, I am able to bring practical experience to whatever my students are working on.

On the flip side, teaching has made me a better painter. During class, I have to be able to quickly come up with suggestions for each student's painting dilemmas. No time for dithering, just decide and do! This has made me more decisive in my own work.
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
Do I have to pick one thing? The students, staff, facilities, and location all add up to a wonderful time! What I always look forward to in my workshops are the "aha" moments, when students experience growth and gain more confidence in their abilities.
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
Visit my website www.SusanPloughe.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there. Or, send me a friend request on Facebook.

Topics: Faculty Painting
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2 min read

A Conversation with Mixed Media Instructor Sarah Rehmer

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 08/10/2017

How does the medium of encaustic contribute to your work, technically and conceptually, in ways that other paint media does not?
Encaustic is an incredibly versatile medium that I can use for anything from painting applications to adhering collage to  casting three-dimensional elements for the surfaces of my wall-based work. When I graduated from college, I was making mixed media works with acrylic mediums. Shortly after, I discovered encaustic. The transformative power the material has on paper, which acrylic doesn't, has allowed me to push my work in new directions over the years. The biggest leap being when I began using it as a stiffner for paper-based sculptural elements, without the need for armatures.

From a conceptual standpoint, my work has always tied into the theme of memory in various ways. The antique books I work with have had these lives prior to ever entering my studio. Dipping the paper in encaustic medium makes it take on almost a skin-like quality, with all the marks of time and age. There is a preservative quality, yet it retains its lightness and vulnerability.
 
What are you working on in the studio?
I've been working more and more with mixing photography and encaustic. I have spent a number of work days in the darkroom at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan learning to make cyanotypes from scratch to incorporate into my works.

I also have been experimenting with other materials to bring into my practice, such as encaustic on clay, and even learning how to use a laser cutter.
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
I always come home from a workshop having learned a new technical aspect of working in encaustic. There tends to be a cross-section of students from varying disciplines in the class, and sometimes questions come up for things I have never tried before. So I usually say, "I'm not sure how this will work, but let's think through it and try it out so we can see what the outcome is." My goal for a workshop is to have the students leave with a working knowledge of the materials. So when they are working in their home studio, they can apply that same thought process and be confident that they are working in a both a safe and archival way. But, still feel free to experiment!
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
I think this is my fifth year teaching at PenArt, and it is always such a pleasure to head up to Door County. I always look forward to meeting new students - and seeing returning ones - because everyone brings their unique voice and studio experience to the workshop. It makes for a great collaborative environment of information sharing.
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
My work can be seen on my website at http://rehmer-studio.com/

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2 min read

A Conversation with Metals Instructor Julie Sanford

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 07/13/2017

When did you begin working in metals? How did you find this path?
I began working in metals in high school, but my interest in making jewelry came from my dad. He was a lapidary and silversmith hobbyist. He passed away when I was sixteen. While I didn't have a chance to learn from him, I was fortunate to receive his rock collection and tools. My high school art teacher helped to identify my potential and taught me the basics of fabrication and casting. At that time, I knew I wanted to work with stone and metal. After a few years, and several classes at a local art center, I started my own business. 
 
What are you currently working on in the studio?
I just finished restyling some family jewelry for a local client. Together we designed a ring that incorporated several pieces of diamond and gold jewelry. It was inspired by a ring I had in the gallery and was a fun project.

It's also art show season and I am working on fresh new collections for show inventory. I purchased some great material in Tucson this year that I am working through this summer.
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
My teaching perspective follows my professional background in the jewelry industry; both as a fine jewelry maker and retailer. I think having that history adds value to the student who wishes to make an income as a jewelry artist. I not only teach how, but also why, and from a few different points of view. Being an instructor also challenges me as a maker. Students look at my work more critically and use my work as an example of standard. I take that very seriously and, as such, am personally challenged to push creative and technical boundaries.
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
I am looking forward to meeting new metals students and helping them on their creative journey. The amazing environment of PenArt is certainly a huge draw as well. I'm really excited for my first visit!
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
My website is JulieSanfordDesigns.com I am also on Facebook at Julie Sanford Designs, Twitter @JulieSanford, and Instagram @Julie_Sanford

Topics: Faculty Metals
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3 min read

A Conversation with Drawing Instructor Liz Miller

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 06/29/2017

Your practice is rooted in painting. In what ways does that sensibility translate to your collage-like drawings and large-scale installations?
I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting, but it's been years since I've painted in any traditional sense. That being said, my works are always concerned with some of the very basic concepts of painting - edge, color, illusionistic space vs sculptural space. I think I approach my works on paper and installations in a very painterly way - nothing is permanent. I work from a place of intuition, but calculated intuition. I try to have a plan... but in the middle of the process, I might deviate from it wildly; the same way that one might start a painting anew by painting over 95% of it. I think a strong painting background has allowed me to be spontaneous in my work, in ways that those with more formal training in areas like sculpture or installation might struggle with. Sometimes I wish I had more of the technical background in 3D that some of my peers have, but I try to embrace my limitations and use them to my best advantage.  
 
What are you currently working on in the studio?
I'm currently working on three separate installations for solo exhibitions this fall in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Maine. I tend to alternate between works on paper and installations. I imagine that when I finish the trio of exhibitions this fall, I'll return to works on paper for a bit. The installations and works on paper tend to feed off of one another, but I have a difficult time working on them simultaneously.

My current installations are incorporating a much wider range of materials - I just came back from a fabric shopping expedition with some awesome textured vinyls and patterned upholstery fabrics. I am interested to see how these play out in the forthcoming installations, and how they show up in the works on paper.

Although my work often explores tensions between imagery that has its roots in beauty and imagery that has its roots in violence or destruction, lately the forms have become far more ambiguous. At this point in time, I'm less interested in specific sets of imagery and more interested in calculated ambiguity that creates a strong psychological or emotional response. It's a difficult shift. For so long, I relied on the works being tied to specific source material. I am letting much of that go. I am now interested in elaborate fictions that can be conveyed in a very non-objective way.
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
My studio practice leaves a lot of room for deviating from the plan - I like to be able to respond to something exciting in my work and not worry about the plan! Of course, improvisation requires a ton of practice. It's harder to do in my teaching, because I have an audience full of expectations and I don't want to let them down! That being said, now that I've taught college for over a decade, and taught in quite a few other settings, I feel that one of the most important aspects of teaching is knowing when to steer away from a set plan to explore something else. Often, the experience and the results are even better than I anticipated.
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
I am thrilled to finally visit Door County! Although we live in Minnesota, I've never been to that part of the Midwest and I've heard rave reviews. I'm also excited about the short and focused format that the workshop will offer. There's something so terrific about having that kind of intensive time, both as an instructor and as a student. Life often forces us to bounce from one thing to another without really being able to become engrossed in the task at hand. This is an opportunity for everyone to really immerse themselves in the experience without the usual distractions.
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
My website, www.lizmiller.com, is currently undergoing a big transition, so I don't know if it will be up to date by the time of the workshop. It shows examples of past works, but not as many current works. The best place to follow me in real-time is on Instagram @lizlenoremiller. I post often about art...and if you follow me, you'll also have to tolerate a few posts about poodles and making juice. 

Topics: Faculty Drawing
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2 min read

A Conversation with Photography Instructor Travis Roozee

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 06/15/2017

When did you start working in photography? How did you find this path?
When I was about eight years old, I used my parents' Kodak to make snapshots of race cars, our cat, and my friends. Recognizing my interest, my grandfather bought me an advanced camera and took me on camping-photography trips in Door County. He explained lighting, composition, and introduced me to printing in a darkroom. My grandfather's lessons continue to have an impact - they influence my teaching and guide my practice. 
 
What are you currently working on in the studio?
I recently learned how to screen print, which is a departure from working exclusively with lens based media. It's exciting to be working with an unfamiliar process. I've made bold patterns that riff on color, scale, and basic shapes. Additionally, I've been creating computer-rendered vignettes that are then printed with 19th century techniques. This hybrid workflow allows me to design with precision while the final piece is an object that is lush and a little magical.
 
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy described the constant flow of learning and self-improvement as "restless experimentation". His philosophy is a framework for my practice and my teaching. In the classroom, I challenge students to create a path for themselves, to dialogue with peers, and accept successes and mistakes as part of the learning process. The advice I give to my students is similar to my own evolving philosophy.
 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
This is my first workshop at PenArt, though I have been visiting the peninsula for many years. I look forward to merging my longstanding appreciation for Door County with new experiences at PenArt.
 
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
Via my website www.travisroozee.com and Instagram @travisroozee

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