2 min read

Distracted in the Studio? Five Tips for Gaining Focus

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 01/18/2019

There is a saying that 80% of success is showing up. How difficult could that final push across the finish line be? Yet, inspiration and drive vanish upon entering the studio. You're showing up! Why isn't the work following? While each and every artist has their own unique way of working and setting up a studio, here are a few quick and easy adjustments that may make all the difference in your productivity, or at least 20%.

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4 min read

Five New Year's Resolutions for a Creative 2019

By Catherine Hoke, Executive Director on 12/26/2018

Feel like you start the new year ready to reinvent your life, only to find that, a month later, those aspirational resolutions have gone by the wayside?

Maybe the problem isn’t you. Maybe you’re just tired of making and breaking the same resolutions over and over again. You know the drill: lose weight; eat better; work less; exercise more. It’s no wonder you’re uninspired to keep them going past January.

So why not break the rut this year? Try a new resolution. Do something fun, creative, interesting.


Looking at art not only elevates your mood, but it can boost cognitive growth as well. Make a habit out of getting up close and personal with art (not just on the screen).

  • Make a resolution to visit a different gallery or museum each month.
  • Find a listing of public art and galleries near you and take a year-long art tour. Reference the list often, spend a few moments investigating new parts of your community and look a little more closely at those places that you know well.
  • Go to gallery openings (there’s often music and free food — yay, date night is covered and you can share the experience with your loved one!)
  • Make it a family affair. Museums and many galleries are kid-friendly and offer activities and Family Art Days for the littlest creatives.

There’s a trap that a lot of creatives fall into, and it’s that you have to succeed and do things on your own. While that’s possible, a great resolution for those who want to branch out is to meet and network with other creatives. Connecting with other artists allows you to learn through others – this could be technical skills, or simply learning about a material, or piece of equipment that improves your creative process. It can also provide critical feedback on your own work, helping to move your work in new directions or get you “unstuck.”

With technology and the growth of maker spaces and shared studios in many communities, there are lots of places to network and make connections, including:

Make it a goal this year to meet or connect with other creatives once a month.


Learning fuels our creativity. Ideas can come from making connections between seemingly unrelated things, so learning something new in one area of our lives can trigger ideas in another. Curiosity and creative thinking go hand-in-hand.

Maybe you have always had an interest in printmaking, handmade pasta, pottery, or history. Why not take your interest further by learning more about it? Your resolution could be to:


It was artist Paul Klee who said, “a drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” His quote aptly captures the simplicity of sketching — an art form so beautifully uncomplicated it requires only a piece of paper and a writing utensil. You don’t have to be a successful early 20th century painter to excel at the technique.

A sketchbook is a great place to keep track of creative ideas and get in the habit of regular drawing. Not every drawing you do needs to be a finished work of art. You can use a sketchbook for rough notes, thumbnails and “lightbulb moments.”

So much of our lives are spent rushing from one thing to the next, plugged into some sort of technology. In the new year, disconnect and reconnect with the world around you. Put a sketchbook in your pocket instead of your phone on the next walk you take, and instead of taking snapshots to post on social media, take out that pencil and paper and draw what you see.

If you like to collage, try filling a box with inspiring paper scraps that you keep in a space that you like to create in. Find some good paper glue and fill the sketchbook pages with paper creations.

Do you need a deadline-based project to motivate you to create? For a small fee, The Sketchbook Project will put your sketchbook in the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can read it.


Being receptive to different ways of doing things can open your mind to new possibilities. If you normally believe that your way is the right way, then you may never realize that there is a better option.

Once you become more accepting of new ideas, you’ll find yourself exploring other ways to solve problems. The phrase “think outside the box” may just become a part of your life. You might try to come up with different methods rather than what you are used to doing.

Open-mindedness adds to your creativity and allows you to discover something out of your ordinary. Make a resolution to:

  • Talk to a stranger every week
  • Say yes to everything for a day, week or even a month
  • Throw a dart at the map and take an impromptu road trip
  • Host a dinner party once a month and cook or share a new cuisine

While New Year’ resolutions may not be a magic bullet, consider creativity is a journey. It's a way of seeing, a way of approaching the world around you with curiosity, and looking for the connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Here’s to a creative 2019!

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2 min read

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 11/30/2018

Critiques are an indispensable component of every artist's education, growth, and individual path. Unfortunately, far too many see it as a setting to be feared. Rather, look at it as a rest stop along your studio practice's ongoing journey; a place to stop, check your direction, clear the trash out of the car, and refresh yourself for the next leg. Filled with practical information from a variety of perspectives, critiques provide you with the means to reflect on the purpose and progress of your artistic journey.

Peninsula School of Art's Critique Group aims to do just that! Made up of artists of all backgrounds and each a rich source of information, monthly critiques will provide feedback and dialogue specific to your goals and needs. One participant may help you to solve a technical issue; another may provide references of other artists tackling similar topics in their practices; and another may almost seem psychic, sharing thoughts about your work that you immediately resonate with, but are not yet sure why. See? Indispensable!

If you're still not sure if this experience is right for you, here are answers to a few commonly asked questions that might just convince you.

  • How does PenArt's Critique Group work?
    Our first convening on Friday, December 7th will serve as an introduction to each other and our work. Each artist will bring one piece, in-progress or finished, to share with the group. One-by-one artists will give a brief overview of their practice and chosen piece - a few sentences - and feedback will be delivered in written form using a fan favorite critique method called The Triple Threat. Artists will take their individualized feedback home and review at their own pace.
    The following meetings will each focus on a select number of artists - approximately 4 - 6. Artists will reserve a 20-minute block to show and discuss their work with the group. The number of pieces and focus of the conversation are the artist's choice. Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education, will act as a moderator to keep the discussion on track and on time. 
  • When and where do we meet?
    Critique Group meets on the first Friday of every month from 3 to 5pm in the painting studio at Peninsula School of Art year-round.
  • Who can participate?
    Everyone! This program is designed as a safe space for artists to share their work and start a dialogue with peers. Everyone is welcome who is interested in participating in a constructive and creative community.
  • How do I reserve a spot to share my work?
    Email Elysia at workshop@PeninsulaSchoolofArt.org with your desired date. The only prerequisite for sharing your work is that you have attended once before. If you're visiting from out of town or have another reason you cannot attend a meeting before your critique, email Elysia.

We hope to see you and your work on Friday, December 7th! If you have any questions, call or email Elysia at 920.868.3455 or workshop@PeninsulaSchoolofArt.org.


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1 min read

Everyday Gifts

By Catherine Hoke, Executive Director on 12/13/2017

Time and again I am amazed to find how accessible and giving the artists in the Door County community are. Peninsula School of Art is located in the heart of Door County, its location a metaphor for the regard these artists have for the organization.

This devotion became evident recently while I prepared for the upcoming SOUP! project, which benefits both our outreach programming and the needs of a partnering nonprofit. Using a clay project as a vehicle for the community to create saleable objects, this year we created tiles instead of bowls. It seemed a simple transition. I soon discovered that although we were utilizing the same medium, tiles and bowls are two very different "animals." I came to rely heavily on the help of the members of the Door County Potters' Guild.

What could be different? For one, the inherent warping of a flat tile if the clay is not handled correctly. Other issues included a specific method of glazing and the preparation of the tile before both the bisque and glaze firings. Another particularly trying problem for me was to get air bubbles out of the clay through the wedging technique. I couldn't do it, but Ellison Bay Pottery's John Dietrich volunteered to help me out -- wedging over 100 pounds.

Reneé Schwaller, of Off the Wheel Pottery, and Jeanne Aurelius, of Clay Bay Pottery, instructed me in the decorative techniques of sgraffito and knife-and-slip, respectively. Schwaller and Aurelius, as well as Tony Staroska from Juddville Clay Studio, shared with me their techniques on how to keep a tile flat as it dries. I also sought the advice of "Thor" Thoreson from Gills Rock Stoneware regarding successful handling of the tiles.

It has always taken a village to make the SOUP! project a success. But, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sharing of the Guild in this year's project. It truly could not have been accomplished without them.

When thanking Thor for his help, his reply was typical of those of the other Guild members, graciously calling to mind the late mentor of the group, Abe Cohn, whose example promotes a pay it forward attitude of giving.

"We are more than happy to help, just as Abe Cohn gave to us," he said.




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1 min read

Tiles are Hip to Be Square

By Catherine Hoke, Executive Director on 11/10/2017

When a tradition is in place for a dozen years, any change might be met with trepidation. Such is the case with the humble, handmade ceramic bowls associated with our SOUP! benefit. For the past 12 years, PenArt has hosted SOUP! on the first Saturday in February to raise funds for both our outreach program and the needs of a partnering nonprofit. Up until now, each year, the Door County community, including school groups, has created 500 ceramic bowls to be sold at SOUP!. The event includes a complimentary and bountiful soup-and-bread buffet for those who purchase a ceramic piece.

This year, we took the risk of replacing the popular bowls with 6" square ceramic tiles. School groups only have 45 minutes to complete their project and the tiles seemed a great way to make the best use of the kids' time. Freed from forming a bowl, the design of the tile, as well as learning new surface techniques, takes center stage.

To gauge the results of our new project, informal polls were taken with each classroom we've visited so far. The result? The kids were engaged in the process and created some very fun designs. You could have heard a pin drop.

The art teachers were only too happy to prepare the students with information on decorating/carving techniques and had the kids sketch their designs on 6"x6" squares of paper in a previous art class. This year, we are partnering with the Northern Door Children's Center in Sister Bay. The theme for the tile making is Nature's Toys and Joys. The idea is for tile makers to think of the ways that nature is our playground.

Tomorrow night's Hip to Be Square tile making event for adults will help to solidify if our new project has the support of the community for future years. Check out our tile slide show. What do you think?

All adults 21-years-old and older are invited to attend Hip to Be Square on Wednesday, November 15, from 6-9pm. The event includes materials for tile making, as well as food and libations. A $5 goodwill donation is encouraged.



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1 min read

The "Quiet" Season

By Elysia Michaelsen, Director of Education on 11/09/2017

Fall is here and winter is coming. For many artists along the peninsula, it is the most prolific time of the year. The busy days of the tourist season are fewer and farther between, allowing time to hunker down in the studio to experiment, determine a new direction, and produce a body of work. For Peninsula School of Art, the quiet season brings community partners into our studios through outreach programming, as well as artists interested in pursuing longer-term and more self-defined projects; complementing our summer workshop offerings.

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