Category Archives: In the studio

CASA and Marva’s Heart

Marva came up from Tucson for my Luscious Abstractions class last April. She enjoyed the critique so much that afterwards she asked if I would do something similar for her art group. Marva is the program coordinator for the Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona (CASA). So we came up with a plan, and in October I drove to Tucson with slides, demo, and critique supplies in hand.

My morning presentation was called “Honoring the Paint: Layers and Pouring in Abstract Painting.”

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The program included a pouring demo, but on seeing a CASA show the evening before, I realized that the canvas I had brought was not suitable. The group would benefit more if I used a regular store-bought canvas instead of my hand-stretched one where the paint runs at a much slower speed. So Marva offered a canvas of her own.

This gesture, and Marva’s whole nature, was so generous that when it came time to pour the demo and I needed a title, the first one that popped to mind was “Marva’s Amazing Heart.” Here is the way the painting evolved:

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This was the initial pour during the demo. Look at that yummy yellow! Pours are luscious when wet.

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I added a second pour when I got back to my studio. The painting needed more action in the corners, and I wanted a soft, neutral gray to offset the active red.

Marva's Amazing Heart, by Julie Bernstein Engelmann, Latex and acrylic on canvas, 24"H x 20"W

The finished painting: “Marva’s Amazing Heart,” by Julie Bernstein Engelmann, Latex and acrylic on canvas, 24″H x 20″W.  I turned the canvas vertically and completed it in acrylic. First, I seated the diamond shape on the beautiful base. Then, I integrated the corners by modifying the colors and activity. Finally, the center suggested a “story,” which also served to give it definition.

A group of artists stayed for the afternoon Mini-workshop, “Revitalize your abandoned artwork! In-process critique with Julie Bernstein Engelmann.”  Each attendee brought a piece she was stuck on or hadn’t finished in a previous workshop. Using acrylic on glass over the painting, I demonstrated the thought process for enhancing the magic you do see in the paint, rather than letting frustration blind you to it.

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The next day, heading home my daughter and I stopped at the studio of a friend who wanted a private art class. It was a special and sacred time.

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Maryanne Maldonado and her magical mystery painting. Photo by Paul Maldonado

My favorite kind of trip: as an art emissary!

 

Dear deer: Creating through desire and allowing

For the Sedona Arts Center 36th Annual Juried Members Show, March 4-28, 2016, I entered two paintings; both got selected. One of them was an odd painting that came out of me after I had moved to Arizona, yet didn’t feel settled yet.

I had been looking at a pink and yellow canvas for quite awhile. The rectangular pink form on the lower half had begun to take on a life of its own.

That’s when my friend Scott, forever passionate about deer, commissioned me to paint a deer portrait.

Quiet, detail, acrylic on canvas, 20"Hx24"W, 2014. Private collection

Quiet, detail, Julie Bernstein Engelmann, acrylic on canvas, 20″Hx24″W, 2014. Private collection

In the course of looking at deer faces and deer paintings I got onto the wavelength. Suddenly it became clear what the vision was on my pink and yellow canvas:

Julie Bernstein Engelmann, Creating Through Desire and Allowing, acrylic on canvas, 25"Hx25"W

Julie Bernstein Engelmann, Creating Through Desire and Allowing, acrylic on canvas, 25″Hx25″W

The force of those antlers was very masculine compared to my usual flowy forms. I may have to return to such imagery one day! The eye needed to remain in transition – an abstraction transition…

The title, “Creating Through Desire and Allowing,” was a subject on my mind. How do you manifest something in your life? The object coming into view between the antlers represents to me the oscillation between desire and allowing that occurs in the process of bringing a creation into being, into reality.

 

Let it be easy

To watch a good artist on a roll is to see ease in motion. Like a trickling brook, the artist cascades from one brushstroke to the next, allowing the gravity of ease to carry them. 

Less experienced artists may struggle. Overthinking and under-observing make it hard to hear the natural voice of ease and flow.

Let it be easy!

For example, does the motion of your brushstroke seem to expand your joy, intrigue, and relief? Or does it contract, like your mind is taking control because it doesn’t trust the muse? Expand or contract: that distinction makes it easy!

Listen richly to life.

See if you have room, right now, to loosen up and let it be easy. Allow the light and sound around you to help you — you are in an ocean of Source!  Each moment is a chance to open to expansion and ease.

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Let It Be Easy, by Julie Bernstein Engelmann, acrylic and latex on partially primed canvas, 24″H x 30″W

Pouring Table

New digs, new studio space, new painting methods!

I designed a flexible table easel for using latex brushwork along with pouring. Next thing I knew, my husband Chip had created it for me!

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Note my lovely new shelves for my paints.

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Here’s the Arizona sunlight on one of my paintings in my other studio. Gorgeous textures!

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And the sunlight on the wall, competing with my painting!

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I had a feeling

I had a feeling

…Or, art is an experience of resonating

What exactly is a feeling?

Isn’t it funny that we all seem to know what feelings are, but can you really pinpoint one? Like a color, there is no particular reason to believe two people are having the same experience named by a certain term.

Yet, for all that ownership of our private emotions, some of them can sure be scary. Why, if no one else is inside our head to insist that we feel a certain way, can’t we just change it?

You can’t change a feeling directly, because you can’t unfeel. But you can transmute it by feeling it openly, with more curiosity than judgment, giving it the time it needs in the light of day.

Some people are so good at this. I only learned the skill a few months ago by trial of fire. Luckily I had just bought a big, fat notebook to start doing Morning Pages.

Morning Pages

You have probably heard of Morning Pages, a technique by the trailblazer of creative process, Julia Cameron in her famous book, The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

Basically, you write 3 pages every morning. No matter what. No matter what about.

Amazing things happen inside of you.

I found that out for myself, having had nothing better to write about than this humongous, uncontrollable shame that had come up in response to a sharp criticism I received. I wrote and wrote, and then collapsed into bed. (Okay, I didn’t wait for morning to do my Pages.)

I woke up at dawn and jumped out of bed, feeling like the sun was rising in my aura with birds singing in my head and a million bucks in my pocket.

Since then, I’ve become quite practiced at diving right into my feelings. It’s the first thing I do when they come up, which is so weird and wonderful compared to my previous procedure of shoving them into a burlap sack and praying they don’t make a peep when the inspector comes around.

Art is a experience of resonating

Art, like Morning Pages, can be a transmuting process. Luckily. More on that in a future post.

I tell my students that what you feel goes into your painting and can be felt by the viewer. So, be easy. Allow the paint to speak, rather than forcing it.

I think that’s why we love the work of a master. It feels so easy — and masterful! We resonate to these exquisite feelings!

Looking at an artwork is an experience of resonating.

“How does an artwork make you feel as you take the trip through it with your eyes?” 

This simple question, from my free ebook, How to Bring Your Abstract Art to Life, speaks volumes about why people buy art.

If you’re an abstract painter and you wonder why one of your paintings sold and another didn’t, look no further for the answer.

So, about my ebook

Have you read it yet? Perhaps it, like abstract art, is deceptively easy. There’s a lot packed into its simple language.

Let me know what you think. And, if you incorporate the ideas into your artmaking I’d love to hear your stories.

Bringing your art to life

What does your art mean to you?

When the subject of making art comes up in conversation, I notice three types of responses:
1. “I couldn’t do it to save my life.”
2. “I love painting; it helps me relax.”
3. “I am an artist.”

While person #3 may go on to tell me about their process or work, their eyes belie the ease of their conversation, conveying a range of emotions that says, without words:

There is no way you will ever know what I feel about my art, what it has meant to me in my life, what I go through to make it meaningful, what it means to me now.

Artmaking, for an artist, is an ultimately personal experience and exploration. No one celebrates the day they transition from person #2 to person #3. We aren’t really aware of what just happened. It’s a private sea change: from doing your art for a reason, to doing your art for You.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

My ebook

I’m excited to tell you that, after a long winter’s imagining and work, I’ve written an ebook to help person #2 transition to person #3, and to help person #3 gain mastery in abstract painting.

Free to you, my ebook is called How to Bring Your Abstract Art to Life, A Manifesto of freedom and confidence for the creative soul. (33 pages)

It will help you to see abstract painting in a new way, so that you have a way to move forward to make your paintings better.

Birth of Abstract Painting Mentor.com

I’m excited to announce that I have created a new website for my business of mentoring artists: AbstractPaintingMentor.com.

Several years ago, a student in my Abstract Acrylic Painting class in the Continuing Education department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, asked me whether I taught privately. Julieann had taken several classes with me and we had become friends. Another student and friend, Candace, who had also taken many classes with me, piped up that she wanted to join us.

That was the beginning of my mentoring of abstract painters, a business that has continued growing ever since.

Julieann, Candace and I still meet for mentoring, and have a great time together discussing their art (with a little gabbing thrown in!).

Candace Joseph and Julieann Knox at a recent mentoring session in Candy's studio.

Candace Joseph and Julieann Knox at a recent mentoring session in Candy’s studio.

Please check my site out at www.abstractpaintingmentor.com. The home page tells about my new, free ebook, How to Bring Your Abstract Art to Life, A Manifesto of freedom and confidence for the creative soul. Then there’s an About page and a Mentoring page that offers you an “Art to Heart” mentoring session.

I’m thrilled to have a vehicle for reaching artists who want to further their abstract painting training.

Let me know what you think!

 

Who is this infinite being?

I had gotten a couple boxes of 20″x24″ canvases to make paintings that I could bring on an airplane. It was freeing to have so many canvases to experiment on, do demos, and, in a way, use them as sketchbook pages.

Here’s one that made it into the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Juried Group Art Exhibition, Nov. 15, 2013-Jan. 11, 2014 at The FrameHouse Gallery in Ice House Studios, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA.

Who Is This Infinite Being

Who Is This Infinite Being, by Julie Bernstein Engelmann, 20″H x 24″W, Latex and acrylic on canvas, 2013

This was a case of it takes a community to name a painting. I started out with the title, “Am I really still with this man?”

Have you ever looked in awe at your spouse like: who is this person? How odd that after all this time–I’m changing every day, he’s changing every day–we are still together as if it is the same relationship? How is it possible that two beings could evolve so dramatically, in two different minds and world views, yet still enjoy each other, pretend to know each other, work around each other’s life plans, and laugh often? It is beautiful and weird.

So I used that title for the demo painting I did in my residency at IUP. (I’ll write about the residency next.) While my fellow teachers were nodding their heads, I think it alarmed the students, who still had their tender lives ahead of them and might not have felt comfortable attaining this extraneous piece of wisdom from their elders.

So I changed the title to, “Am I really still here?” and posted it on my Facebook page to ask whether this new title still sounded negative (which was the opposite of my intention). It came back with a lot of nodding and suggestions for positive ways to convey my meaning.

Thanks to all the good ideas and some playing around with them, I came up with the right title that suits my painting perfectly: “Who Is This Infinite Being?” Ahh.

 

My Museum Show is Open!

I had a great follow-up trip to Arizona in December. Incredibly, I was able to get into another fabulous Arizona gallery, this one in Sedona. I’ll give you details when my first artworks are on display there.

When I got back to Pennsylvania, I had just enough time in the studio to create the final, large diptych for my SAMA show.

It’s called, “No One Else Knows Better,” 48″H x 72″W.

Soon the truck came to pick up my 39 pieces. I can’t tell you how great that feeling is!

Here I am in the truck, beaming, with Scott Dimond, Curator for Visual Arts for the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

 

The show, called “Julie Bernstein Engelmann: Being Spirit,” is now open to the public at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, Pennsylvania, through April 20, 2013. Here are a couple of shots.

Site Coordinator Barbara Jo Hollander did a beautiful job of hanging the show. It is sort of like swimming through a sea of vibration that keeps changing.

Here is Barbara with artist Steve Gilbert of Altoona, who coincidentally, is the only other artist I know in western Pennsylvania who, like me, studied with abstract expressionist Milton Resnick in New York City around 1980.

There will be two colorful public events for the show. One is Blue Monday, with the popular bluegrass music of Mountain City Grass. Totally by chance, it turns out that my fellow ArtsPath artist-in-residence Tom McCarty is in that band. This event, reputed to be raucous fun, costs $20 and will be held on Feb. 11, from 6PM-8PM.

The other, quieter event is Lunch a l’Art, where you get to munch at tables among the paintings and then listen to me tell stories about my artwork for about 15 minutes. That will be held Wed., March 13 at noon, and costs $13.

Find all details about the show and events, along with more pictures, here.
Oh yes, two pieces sold before the official opening!

I hope you will find a chance to see the show. If so, let me know what you think!

Abstract Painting Spirit

This summer I was asked to speak to a group about my creative process. I offered to create a video, because my process is in the living color! So this is my first video, showing the process of making two of the paintings for my Lily Pads exhibit. It’s 9 minutes. P.S. The group responded well!

Abstract artist Julie Bernstein Engelmann demonstrates her creative painting process (acrylic and poured latex) and discusses the Spirit in the paint. Beautiful music by composer Bruce Mitchell. 9 minutes.

Lily Pads
I was fortunate to be offered the second-ever exhibit at The Artists Hand Gallery, our new art center in my town of Indiana, PA. Here is the postcard:

Why Lily Pads?
Artist Statement for Lily Pads exhibit (excerpt)

This summer I took my annual sojourn to northern Wisconsin. On a day trip, our pontoon ambled through a chain of lakes and channels to a secluded area strewn with lily pads.

I was struck by the majesty of the water lilies: their confident blooms bursting forth from the impervious, sashaying leaves swaying above the secretive, sinuous stems swishing in the undertow. I took countless pictures.

Back in Indiana, Sandy asked me whether I had come up with a title for my show. In a leap of faith, I decided to create my show around that inspiration, even though I only had three weeks to prepare new paintings. Luckily, many of my current paintings fit the feeling of the theme: bold yet fluid. I set about creating several new pieces.

You may notice some interesting titles. These are taken from my journal. I name my paintings before I paint them. I don’t always keep the titles, but they provide a meaningful starting point for my embarkation from blank white canvas into the land of discovery. They guide me along the way, and they usually turn out to be uncannily suitable.


Color – joy – refreshment – intuition in overdrive – unexpected, thrilling color-texture blends – lush beauty and tactility – childlike freedom – releasing the left brain – being alive to this moment : these are reasons I create art. Can you see them in the paintings?

– Julie Bernstein Engelmann, August 21, 2012

Best of Show
Earlier this summer I was very proud to receive the Best of Show award in the Indiana Art Association 71st Spring Show at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Museum. It was a big surprise, because there were several other pieces that could easily have taken the award. Here is the winner: Saved by Flaw 36″Hx40″W.

Best Art Sales
Thanks to my wonderful patrons and dear fans, I had the best summer ever in painting sales. I sold 17 paintings through my Silent Auction, plus three more after-auction sales. On top of that, two realistic commissions paid for my summer travels to Ontario and Wisconsin–a great way to go.

So I have had a very good summer and am looking forward to a fantastic fall. I hope you are, too!

Yours, Julie