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Is it beauty or expression that you love?

For me, it’s a joy to make beauty out of a “mess” on the canvas. I love nothing better than to make things beautiful, whether transforming a canvas, graphics, or a room.

I hadn’t thought that hard about whether other artists are this way.

Then one day my friend Greta remarked, “Well you artists, you love to express!”

I was taken aback. I realized for the first time as it came out of my mouth, “Some artists love to express. Others love to make things beautiful.”

Julie Bernstein Engelmann, “Like Rain in the Desert,” 28″H x 34″W, Acrylic and latex on unprimed canvas

Thus began a period of observation and introspection.

For one thing, the distinction between expression and making things beautiful led to an awareness of my superpower, helping other artists to see and bring out the beauty & spirit in their unfinished paintings.

For another though, I began to wonder whether my artistic expression was actually locked inside of me. I had gone through a long process to free my verbal expression after an unsafe childhood, but had thought my art haven was not subject to the same suppression.

Meanwhile, my longstanding fascination with intuitive painting came to the foreground. What would show up in my paintings if I were truly willing to express freely?

For many years I had enjoyed a book considered the mother lode of wisdom on intuitive painting: Life, Paint and Passion, Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression, by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley. Then last October I had the opportunity to attend Stewart Cubley’s workshop, The Painting Experience.

Stay tuned to hear about my expressive Painting Experience in my next blog post.

And let me know which you love more – expressing or making things beautiful – if you had to choose. I’m curious!

Acrylic or oil – and the acrylic palette solution

A blog post on The Painter’s Keys caught my attention.

If you haven’t heard of it, The Painter’s Keys is a twice-weekly post for artists written by a father-daughter team, Robert and Sara Genn. The father passed away awhile back, so the daughter has been re-posting his fascinating art musings intermixed with her own.

The particular blog post of interest this day was called Acrylic Snobs. It should rightfully be called Oil Snobs, but hey. It talks about the bias of oil painters against acrylics as an inferior medium. The post praises the wonders of each medium, then goes on to specify further pluses of acrylics and minuses of oils.

I completely agree. I switched from oil to acrylic when I had kids. Oils are too unwieldy to use in 15-minute spurts while a baby is napping.

“What about acrylics drying so fast,” you might counter. “Don’t you waste a lot of paint because your palette dries each time?”

Ha, thanks to motherhood I developed my magic solution to the acrylic-drying problem. It is a legacy passed along to generations of my students!

Notice the plastic sandwich containers in the photo above. A quick spray misting before putting the lid on preserves acrylic paint in plastic food-type containers for weeks, even months for most colors!

Usually the container can be larger so mixing can occur right in it. In Pennsylvania I used a casserole-size container upside down with the flat lid as the palette and the rounded bottom as the palette lid.

Here in Arizona the air is so extremely dry that I have my students use these smaller containers for the paint blobs and mix on a separate surface like a pie tin. (In the studio I literally keep the lid resting on the container while painting and lift it up to grab dabs of paint!)

Back to the subject.

One day after my kids were school-age I was dropping paintings off at my gallery in Pittsburgh and heard myself make the kid-excuse for using acrylics. That got me thinking. I went home and pulled out my oils with the intention to transition back.

Several heavy, cakey paintings later I developed a new technique of starting with acrylics and ending with oils. That was nice…until the oils started darkening. Oy!

I know that with proper quality, use, and understanding of oil mediums darkening probably does not occur. But I was just not interested enough in chemically experimenting on my own artwork.

I decided that, as fabulous as oils are, to me they were not worth the unpredictability of their aging. I wanted my paintings to continue to look the way I painted them for years into the future!

I returned to acrylics and have never looked back.

P.S. Hopefully I’m not an Acrylic Snob. Like enjoying someone else’s kids-but you wouldn’t want to have them, I do greatly admire the artists who devote themselves to the beauty of oil paint. 

Meaningful Slinky Dress

I just had to laugh. I had carefully crafted an email promoting my Meaningful Abstracts workshop, written copy, and selected a painting. I always choose whatever painting feels fun to include.

Well, this time I chose “Slinky Dress.”

Much too late, it dawned on me that the title might not exactly seem to demonstrate a deeply meaningful abstract!

Slinky Dress, Julie Bernstein Engelmann, 18″H x 24″W, Acrylic on paper

But I love the painting. It started out with a different title, and I think one can feel the power behind the painting, even if the title doesn’t fully reveal, ha, what’s under the slinky dress.

“Choose What You Create” exhibit at Gallery 527

My show, “Choose What You Create,” is now on view at Gallery 527 in the artist-colony tourist destination of Jerome, Arizona. Below is the press release, which got printed in all of the local newspapers!

Keep scrolling down to find photos from the show and from First Saturday Artwalk, which served as my artist reception.

Artwalk is a fun, active time with visitors roving the galleries and shops of Jerome sampling treats and wine from 5-8 pmThe final Artwalk and Artist Reception for my show will be held Saturday, December 2, 2018, 5-8 pm. Please come!

“I’m Ready” (40×30”) embodies the crucible of a decision in the show Choose What You Create – all new work by Julie Bernstein Engelmann featured at Gallery 527 in Jerome, opening October 7 during Jerome Art Walk.

Choose What You Create

Abstract paintings by Julie Bernstein Engelmann

October 7, 2017-December 29, 2017

Gallery 527, 527 Main Street, Jerome, Arizona 86331

Opening Reception at Artwalk, Saturdays, Oct 7/Nov 4/Dec 2, 2017

Gallery 527 announces a new exhibition, “Choose What You Create” – all new work by Julie Bernstein Engelmann, opening Oct. 7 from 5:00-8:00 pm. Each of Engelmann’s dramatic abstract paintings embodies a quality she chooses to create in her life.

“Paintings vibrate with the intention behind their creation,” Engelmann says. “So I use the painting process to consciously dive into an experience or vibration that I want to amplify.”

“For instance,” said Engelmann, “I notice that my posture aligns when my heart is open and I’m at my best spiritually, so I painted ‘Open Chest’ to focus on that aligned state. ‘Gift from a Child’ comes from an imagined experience with my childhood self where she gave me a weed. I realized weeds are wild and free and unapologetic, so I painted the gift to bring it into my life. Another painting, ‘Ask Your Body,’ is a reminder that whenever I have a question about my health or emotions, my body knows the answer and will reveal it if I ask.”

Gallery owner Donna Chesler says, “The paintings are like personal stories, only just their distilled essence. Each one has a very specific feeling, which is unusual in abstract art.”

Engelmann’s lush abstracts have won numerous awards. She was honored with a retrospective exhibit, Being Spirit, at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, Pennsylvania. Site Coordinator Barbara Hollander stated, “Julie Bernstein Engelmann combines passages of poured and brushed paint that remind one of stained glass creations. Her technique relies partly on many years of study and partly on an intuitive, creative interaction with what she refers to as the painting spirit. The resulting works are spiritually resonant and ineffably uplifting.”

Engelmann holds an MFA from UCLA and a BA from Barnard College, where she studied with Milton Resnick, first-generation Abstract Expressionist. She teaches Luscious Abstractions on the faculty of the Sedona Arts Center School of the Arts.

“Choose What You Create” will be on view at Gallery 527 in Jerome from October 7 through December 29.

For more information about the Jerome Art Walk please contact Donna at 928.649.2277.

Donna Chesler
Gallery 527
527 Main Street
PO Box 1265
Jerome, AZ 86331

To view any of the paintings more closely, just click to my website gallery or back room.

Tucson Workshop and the Abstracts of the Chiricahuas

I love combining travel and teaching. In April my sister Minda from Montreal came to Arizona for a reunion with me in Sedona and our other sister Beth in Tucson.

We were excited to plan the trip so they could both attend my Luscious Abstractions class. As it turned out, my daughter Amber attended too – as well as a dear artist friend from western Pennsylvania, Kathryn Galey!

Here are some moments from this special Luscious Abstractions class at the Sedona Arts Center, April 2017:

Then we sisters headed for southern Arizona. Here are some stunning abstractions from the Chiricahua National Monument:

Finally, knowing I would have a couple days to spare while Minda and our husbands went on a birding jaunt, I set up a workshop at the beautiful studio of Don Canada in Tucson with the help of amazing Marva.

Here are some of the sun-drenched moments of the workshop, Layers: Intuition to Composition in Tucson, April 2017:

The following month I had another opportunity to visit Beth in Tucson, and took advantage of the time to have a followup mentoring session with Marva at Don’s studio. Beth and I also hiked among the saguaro.

I needed some art supplies, and while at the store with Beth, got the inspiration to suggest that she buy some paint too! Next thing we knew, she was all set up with her own studio outdoors by the pool, painting ecstatically.

Sunfire doll and the desert

My sister Beth invited me to Tucson to take a doll workshop with Gretchen Lima, her favorite doll creator, who happens to live nearby in the desert.

It was delightful to learn from taking another artist’s workshop, relax into her instructions, and see her fabulous studio setup. Here is a rare picture of my sister sewing (on the right).

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And here is my doll creation, called Sunfire, inspired by my sunshiney red-headed daughter Amber.

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Can you see the resemblance?

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Ha, that’s a funny picture of Amber a few years ago, but it looks closer to the doll than most!

Here is some desert beauty from our hike: a field of prickly pear; ocotillo flowers in the deep blue sky; palo verde branches with a bird’s nest; and…a little prickly pear love!

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Wonderful Beautiful Mess class

What a wonderful From Beautiful Mess to Strong Composition class! It was a full house at Sedona Arts Center at the end of January, with many artists traveling from a distance.

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Midpoint critique. Photo by Sandy Duckett

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Laura Pennington

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Jeanette Cassin and Michelle Erickson

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Kimall Christensen, Stacey Aikins, and GloriaRothrock

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Gail Dishman and Diana Grady. Diana came from Alaska!

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Sandy Duckett

My longtime mentoring client, Sandy Duckett from Phoenix, inspired everyone with her warm heart.

Trash-to-Treasure workshops

As part of a community-wide Earthflows event in January 2016, the Sedona Arts Center held a juried exhibition called The Art of Recycling – Turning Trash into Treasure. “It is art that makes materials valuable, not the other way around,” said their School of the Arts director, Vince Fazio.

In conjunction with the show, he asked me to do two 2-hour Trash-to-Treasure workshops using recycled materials for assemblage. Like paint, found materials inspire through color and texture. Unlike paint, they also inspire through association, stories, and form.

The workshops were filled with lively people juicing it up with their creativity!

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Dreamtime show at Sedona City Hall and Mayor’s office

I was invited to show at one of the Sedona City Hall buildings, Oct.-Dec. 2015.

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I called the exhibition Dreamtime,” an aboriginal term for the eternal place where the uncreated spiritual essence of form exists. 

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My daughter Amber at my Dreamtime show

Two of my paintings were hung in the Mayor’s office. Do they look gorgeous or what on those purple walls with the arch window! Check out the beautiful sculpture on the left, too.

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Here I am with Mayor Sandy Moriarty at the Artist Meet and Greet closing reception on January 6, 2016.

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