Community Art for Relationship Building

I’m taking a look back at the community art projects I led over the past year with a couple of my favorite community organizations, and I’d like to share some of my tips for planning and developing art projects for community groups.

I approach community art projects differently from my classes in schools or with small groups, although the goals are similar: access to art practices and materials, engaging creative processes and building relationships.

In the case of community arts, I focus mainly on relationship building, letting the art project be a foundation for coming together, like a family meal or celebration, but with paint! For me, this shift in focus means that I want to keep the art projects open-ended and low-risk so that participants can engage with the projects based on their own comfort and skill level and focus on relating to the others around them, sharing ideas and creating space to be together, virtually or in-person. These projects are open for any level of engagement so that if someone wants to really dig into the project, they can be there right alongside another person who just wants to sit back and observe how others work with the materials. There’s actually room for anyone in these creative spaces.

With relationship building in mind, I focus on specific elements when selecting materials and methods for community art projects:

  • Accessible materials – something we have in abundance or can be easily collected and shared.
  • Open-ended instructions – I like a project that can be done in 3 – 5 steps, maximum, with the option to build on a practice or explore materials more.
  • Time-investment accessibility – these projects should be something someone can do in 2 minutes, but could also spend 20 minutes or 2 hours, if they wanted.

And, since this is a relationship-building experience, I try to consider basic needs as part of the art project: how will folks arrive to the project (transportation); will there be food/ resources available for them; are the spaces physically accessible, safe and comfortable; are the instructions and plans for the project accessible (consider spoken or reading language, understanding pictorial instructions).

In 2021, I had monthly art projects between a few different groups, coordinated with a couple of local nonprofit organizations. Here are a few standouts that were really fun and some of the planning that went into them:


Pour Painting at Jackson Street Youth Services
– Space for Learning Together

Community art projects are often great opportunities to experiment with new artistic practices for me. Since I focus on togetherness and exploration rather than mastery of materials or skills, I can try out practices that I don’t have a lot of experience with already and help set the tone for trying something new. This has been a way for me to learn new skills and lean into curiosity with art materials while also enjoying community building. Pour Painting/ flow acrylics was exactly that kind of experience for me. By practicing this with Jackson Street Youth Services– a local nonprofit serving youth in the community with safe shelter, case management, and community enrichment– I was able to join in with the community in experimenting and learning about an art form I’ve long been curious to try!

I did research ahead of time and tried out my own paintings before bringing materials to the group, but by the time we had our afternoon class in the summer of 2021, I had probably only made 1 or 2 paintings myself.

I knew enough to set up the project and make suggestions to the participants, but I was also able to keep back too many suggestions and allow participants to experiment freely.

Materials for Pour Painting

  • Flow acrylic paints in various colors
  • Flow acrylic medium
  • Small dixie cups
  • Stir sticks
  • Canvas panels of various sizes (8″x8″ and 4″x4″)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Silicone oil
  • Gloves
  • Aluminum baking trays and lids (like for a turkey)
  • Plastic table cover
  • Foam brushes

Set up & Tips

  • Individual spots: I set up each spot with a baking tray or lid, and showed participants how to turn dixie cups upside down to prop up their canvas panels (this allows the paint to flow down over the panel and into the tray)
  • Priming the canvas: The paint pours more evenly if there is a layer of wet paint on the canvas first, so I showed participants how to use the foam brushes to paint the canvases with a thick layer of paint before pouring.
  • Mixing flow medium with paint: I started out by showing participants how to mix the flow medium with the paints in the dixie cups, using a 3:1 ratio medium to paint (or whatever the instructions on the paints/ medium suggested).
  • Mixing colors: I had several different colors, including the typical blue, red, yellow, white and black. If participants wanted a color we didn’t have, I showed them how to mix paints together in the dixie cups BEFORE adding the pouring medium.
  • OR! Participants could mix up separate colors with pouring medium and then pour different colors+medium into one cup to create a marbled effect.

Group Painting at Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
– Opportunities to Grow in Relationship

The CMLC is a special organization to me, and one that I am quite honored to serve as a board member (at the time of this writing, I’m the new board chair). The work of this organization is about sharing educational and community resources for folks arriving to Corvallis from outside of the US. As a university town, we do tend to see a lot of international students and their families, but our organization also supports folks who are arriving to Corvallis for permanent residence and to pursue citizenship.

As I became a new board member this summer, I was in good company with other new members and staff at the organization. I wanted to get to know the people who were also invested in the organization and to also share my interests in community building through creativity by hosting a group paint session.

I set up this group paint event to focus on sharing creative space with one another, and for the opportunity to connect and talk with each other. For that reason, I specifically avoided a more standard paint with me tutorial, and instead brought a bunch of paints, canvases, brushes and music and while I made suggestions for how to approach the project, I didn’t lead the participants in creating anything specific. I simply guided us all in selecting color, brush, and putting paint onto the canvas.

This was a bit riskier for being the most loose-form project, and the lack of structure for some folks did create discomfort and confusion. But I’m not sure that I’d change any of that. In hindsight, I would prime the community more with discussion about staying present rather than focusing on what something “should” look like. This was an eye-opening experience for me and the community participants and I’m so grateful for the experience.

Materials for Group Painting

  • Four 6-ft tables
  • Chairs
  • Table covers
  • Wooden easels, offered to each participant
  • Acrylic paints in red, blue, yellow, black, white, gold, pink, teal, purple, plus modeling paste, glazing medium, and iridescent medium
  • Brushes of various sizes and shapes
  • Stretched and panel canvas of various sizes
  • Plastic tubs (like yogurt or hummus containers) for water
  • Pencils
  • Plastic-coated paper plates
  • Rags

Set up & Tips

  • The Round Table: All the tables were actually rectangular, but I set them up in ao open rectangle so folks could all see each other and chat. With our group of about 14 people, that meant three or so to a table. Outdoors and with space to move around and everyone vaccinated (and COVID infection rates low for the summer), we felt comfortable enough to take off our masks and see each other.
  • Setting a tone: Being outside in the shade was a nice touch, plus having music from a portable speaker that create atmosphere but didn’t compete with conversation helped create a celebratory tone, like a community meal, except with paint.
  • A variety of possibilities: I made some suggestions to pick colors that jumped out at folks as they surveyed their options, with the intent to encourage leaning into instinct and trusting themselves with the process. This was uncomfortable for some folks, who perhaps already felt vulnerable with art-making. As a community educator, I have the privilege to help people push their comforts and try new things, as well as help them to see possibilities in that trying.
  • Showcasing special materials: I did bring along modeling paste, glazing medium, and iridescent medium. Throughout the session, I introduced those separate mediums whenever someone asked about them or there had been some time for folks to settle into what they had begun to make. This meant announcing to the group that a material was available to them, and if they’d like to try it, there were a couple of ways I was familiar with the material, but they could try it out themselves. The sparkly stuff was, of course, the most popular.

Glass Painting at Jackson Street Youth Services
– Observing Each Other’s Skills and Experience

Part of my volunteering with Jackson Street this year was offering enrichment activities for the mentorship program. It was a real joy for me to spend time with the mentors and mentees in this program, and get to see their relationships come together.

This faux stained glass project turned out to be a really cool way for the groups to share their interests and skills with each other. The set up was classic: basic materials and process with enough possibility that participants could dig deep into the project.

The finished pieces came out looking so cool, and there were so many instances of genuine astonishment and joy at what each person could create with dark lines and glass paint (and it makes me want to add glass paint to my personal collection for sure!)

One of the challenges of hosting monthly art sessions is to come up with enough interesting and different subjects and practices for participants. As an illustrator, sure, I could spend all day everyday drawing, and that’s great if the goal of the art practice is to develop skill and style. But in community arts, that’s emphatically NOT the goal. Focusing on skill has the chance to create a split between who’s “good” at art and everyone else, which in the best of circumstances becomes one or two people making gorgeous art and everyone else watching. The worst outcome would be some of those spectators feel discouraged about trying the project. For community arts, I want to hold space for all participants with any skill level to share their exploration with each other. This is why unique and surprising projects can be perfect, like this faux stained glass project. Although there was linework and painting involved in the process, there was enough adaptation for someone who hasn’t practiced those artistic skills to still create something unique and for those who did have that practice, to share their skills with others. It also wasn’t something anyone at the table had tried before (I did one practice the previous night), and so there was zero mastery at the table, just as I like it 🙂

Materials for Faux Stained Glass

  • Glass sheets (like from thrift store picture frames)
  • Black fabric/ puff paint
  • Black Sharpie
  • Glass paint in various colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Paper
  • Optional (suggested): outline drawings of flowers, mandalas, shapes printed on paper

Process

  1. Draw a design on a piece of paper that can fit inside the area of the glass sheet, or select shapes and drawings that are printed on paper.
  2. Place the drawing/ print under the glass.
  3. Use the sharpie to trace the drawing or outline onto the glass.
  4. Use the puff paint to paint the lines of the drawing. Allow to dry completely.
  5. Use glass paint to paint inside and around the puff paint lines.

Set up & Tips

  • An example is worth 1000 questions: I prepped the evening before the class by creating an example at home. I also prepped some glass sheets with basic lotus and star designs with the puff paint so they would be dry and ready to paint for the class.
  • Note: the drying time of the puff paint was about 45 minutes, which for the 90 minute session means that participants were able to sketch out their designs and trace with puff paint and then color with the glass paint in the same session, which was cool.
  • Opportunities to work together: Some of the glass we had, which we took out of old picture frames from the thrift store, were various sizes, and one was quite large. For that one, the pair that used it created something together using this method, which was actually really neat to see and made a very unique keepsake for that pair.

Family Art Classes at Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
– Building Community

In an on-going collaboration with the CMLC, I’ve been hosting family classes for community members to create together at the center. As our global community continues to grapple with the effects of living during a pandemic, staying safe and building connection can feel like they are at odds.

Mediating between those choices are our obligations as community leaders and educators.

For these family art programs, I have been working alongside the CMLC program coordinator to plan for safety and health and maximum engagement. Good communication and planning has helped us successfully bring folks together.

Working closely with staff and volunteers for community projects has been essential. Together, we have covered as many possible questions and scenarios as we can to make sure we put safety and health above all. Our art projects have been a way to invite community members back into space with each other, while observing cautions for safety.

The first project we made together was decorating masks, both papier mache masks (which I had for a different project that was disrupted by COVID issues earlier in the year), and cloth face masks. This project brought us together into the center to share creative ideas and also practice healthfulness with sanitation and observing social distancing.

For our second project, we made posters and stickers, which is simple but honestly my favorite thing (yay stickers!). This second project was more focused on being together and exploring the space and opportunities the center offered.

Part of each of our activities has been to offer snacks to the young children, which is a matter of principle for me as a community educator. It’s another way for us to highlight the resources available at the CMLC. For our pandemic-friendly snacks, we offer a perusal of our packaged snack closet for kids to select from.

Materials for Mask Decorating

  • Papier mache masks
  • Cloth masks for adults and children
  • Fabric markers
  • Coloring markers (keep separate)
  • Glitter glue (the superior form of glitter)

Materials for Posters and Sticker making

  • Poster board paper
  • Sticker sheets (I used the kind for die cut machines)
  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Glitter glue (love this stuff)

Set up & Tips

  • Room enough: A challenge at the CMLC is to make physical space for participants and observe social distancing. We manage this by separating participants into different rooms with the same supplies and a volunteer or staff in each room.
  • Keep it simple sweetie: These projects are so simple, they’re really drawing and coloring. And because of this, parents who attend the sessions with their children can chat and meet each other, which children can be imaginative and have freedom to create.

As a community arts educator, my work is focused on bringing folks together over creative projects, with an artistic perspective and methodology. I’ve learned from my experiences with organizations like The Center for Artistic Activism and Theatre of the Oppressed NYC about approaching opportunities for learning and conversation with an artistic framework, which is confronting challenges and taking on new opportunities to learn new skills and see from others’ perspectives. Looking back on the creative projects I’ve been a part of over the year, I’m struck by how naturally art and creativity became sources of community building, and our collaboration was affected by careful consideration of the particular challenges and desire for connection and growth our participants experienced.

In 2022, I’m looking forward to a new year of collaboration with these and other local and national organizations. Are you a community educator? How do you engage your community through arts and creativity? I’d love to hear about what other folks are doing to bring communities together!

Lane Arts Design Apprenticeship 2021

This winter, I joined Lane Arts Council as a design mentor for Lane County youth. I had the privilege to work with four amazing teens in the Eugene area, discussing design work, personal expression, and market design strategies. We were definitely not without challenges in this project; our group met entirely virtually and we had to compete with our own hectict school and work schedules to prioritize our collaborative process. Through the experience, I aimed to mentor the youth with experience-based guidance in creative collaboration work, as we focused on a final presentation that wrapped up last Friday at the Eugene First Friday Artwalk.

The students came up with the focus of our project while I supported with facilitation and helping them determine objectives and deadlines.

Their focus was to create a fashion line that helped wearers express personal identities. In this work, we talked about the different ways folks identify themselves– everything from “food consumer” to “go-with-the-flower” and (my personal favorite) “challenger”. This conversation turned out to be a great way for us to get to know each other and begin developing genuine connections.

We also talked about the reasons for design work: for functionality, aethetics and communication. Being entirely virtual, we had the benefit to look around our own spaces and discuss the design of objects we interact with daily, creating comparissons between the different focuses in the designs of objects including utilitarian (functionality) to pure expression (aesthetics) to message-making (communication).

As our project clarified, the student designers focused on how to design fashion and accessories to tap into identity niches, which we dived into, fully imagining who our target fashion wearers would be and what their lives would be like.

Students designed sketches and drafts based on aesthetics and functionality for the target markets. They then worked with each others’ designs to create accessories and characters that captured those aesthetics plus ways to communicate to target markets about the designs created (marketing communication).

For the final presentation, we printed boards and stickers and students talked about their work with art walkers at Spark Labs during Eugene’s First Friday Artwalk. The stickers were super popular and really showed off the students’ work in graphic design to communicate style and person expression through aesthetics.

Interested in the Lane Arts Council Design Arts Apprenticeship program? Learn more about it here on their website: lanearts.org/arts-apprenticeships/


Student Presentations and Artist Statements

Artist Statement: Amelia

What is your design?  My design is the logo(s) for the fashion brand Lovebun. The logos shown are for the brand itself and three of its fashion lines. 

Who is your design for? Lovebun’s clothing and accessories are meant for young teens to adults so they can express what they feel makes them unique, whether it’s their aesthetic or their gender/sexual identity. Lovebun is “for everyone and anyone.” The people who are most expected to purchase from Lovebun are ‘alt’ teens who spend their time on tiktok or other social media and enjoy the products of similar brands. 

What was your experience like in this class?  Stressful at times due to school and other activities getting in my way, but overall it was a fun and great learning opportunity for me. I’d recommend it to others who want to step foot into a possibly new experience or want to learn what it may be like to go into a professional arts career. 🙂

Artist Statement: Lizzie

Describe your design: I drew 4 models with clothes I designed myself based on Harujuku streetwear. I also drew multiple mascot characters depicting different styles I’ve seen at school and on the internet. 

Who is your design for? I based my designs around people I’ve seen around school and on the internet. I tried to recreate styles directed toward girls around 14-17 years of age. These people want to express their style and personality through bold, cutesy fashion.

What was your experience like in this program? I had a good experience. I liked seeing everyone’s different art styles. It did get a little stressful when I tried to take on too much work, but I’m happy with my results.

Artist Statement: Joyce

My brand is called Esteem by Eve, and it is made for women who needs confidence. It is a formal attire, high fashioned one piece dress, perhaps worn with gold earrings and bag with gold chains. The clothing brand is targeting women 20-40 who needs to wear formal attire in work or events such as performances or exhibitions

Little Painting, Big Message

This year, I participated in The Arts Center’s annual Arts Alive! event with a chill little paint-with-me video that I was pretty into.

Grab some paints, a brush or two and set your mind to something you want to say (to yourself or, heck to the world!). Don’t worry about it being perfect, just sink into the process and chill with me.

Plus! Super cool extra thing: you can get the kit we made for this video so you (or someone you think could use some creative time) paint with the same materials I used at home! Make your own little garden of encouraging/ rebellious messages by getting your kit at my Arts & Crafts shop on Etsy: Art Kit – Little Painting/ Big Message (materials are SUPER limited!)

We’re going to the market!

This month I’m going to bring my artwork and crafts to the Autumn Fest Art Show in Newport, OR! I am SO JAZZED about this, I can’t even calm down and haven’t been able to for weeks, alternating between really enthused and totally overwhelmed on a regular cycle.

This will be my FIRST artist market/ bazaar ever as an independent artist. Sure, I’ve been to tons of fairs and markets before, as a shopper and as a tabler, and always that for organizations I’ve worked for, or as a volunteer hosting kids activities and doing outreach. But this time, I’ll be showing off my art; I’ll get to see how folks react to my artwork LIVE, which, yes is quite intimidating, but I”m excited.

I really love markets, and these past couple of years, I’ve missed them terribly! A friend of mine (Alexandra Schaefers, another Oregon artist) told me about Autum Fest and I practically jumped on the registration form. Since signing up, I’ve been working on desiging my booth and creating inventory to show off. I might have gotten a little over-excited as I’ve been discovering new crafts and arts I want to try out and possibly make to sell at the market.

In addition to the original paintings and illustrations, prints, cards, and stickers, I’ll also offer up my hand-bound sketchbooks (new covers and re-bound covers) and jewelry. This has been an awesome opportunity to explore my interests and really organize my work for my online shop and local shops, too. One of the most fun parts of this market prep has also been working on figuring out my aesthetic and desiging my table and booth display, and these days I’m going with dark-forest-planty-craft-good-witch-who-likes-to-make-pretty-necklaces. That’s a thing, right?

If you’re in the area, please come check out the Autumn Fest Art Show in Newport on November 13, 10-4 pm. If you’re not in the area, you can follow me on Instagram for pics from the fair, plus notices on updates to the Etsy shop!

Draw with me Livestream FAIL!

Well, that was a fun experiment! My livestream today for the Corvallis Arts Walk was DOA, the whole thing: frozen vid, bad audio… that’s it, I guess, but that’s still like EVERYTHING in a livestream.

But, the best thing about failures is the chance to learn! So I’ll work on my set up, figure out the bugs and the bats and then come back next month (?) with a new video or stream.

If you came here looking for my stream, thank you so much! ❤ I’m an independent artist/ educator/ designer, and that means my whole thing is all independently run. Your support in the fact you even clicked over here is amazing and so very much appreciated!

Please check out the other (working-ish) videos on my channel, and follow me on Instagram for updates. If you’re feeling REALLY into it, you could also sign up for my newsletter or even check out my Patreon.


Jen

We be Art Walkin

The Corvallis Arts Walk is back! It’s been a good amount of work and creative thinking, but I’m super proud to announce that we’re ready for ambulatory arts tomorrow (Thursday, September 16, 2021) 4:00 – 8:00 pm (check out the map and online gallery here).

The CAW was started in 2015 by local artists here in Corvallis. The walk highlights the people and places that make this community creative and it’s been a thrill to be part of the team that’s bringing it back from the brink after the global pandemic put everything on hold.

We don’t have all the answers, that’s for sure, and we know things will likely change again (and again), but we’re working on our collective agility and resiliency, starting out with this first comeback walk as a hybrid virtual and in-person event (with strong encouragement that all artists, galleries and walkers observe social distancing and wear masks to help keep folks safe and healthy.)

I’m going to be stretching my streaming legs with a Draw with Me Livestream during the event from 4-6 pm on my YouTube Channel.

This artwalk COULD NOT HAPPEN without the hardwork and perseverance of artists who are dedicated to community arts, especially Eileen Hinckle, Wanda Buck, and Jennifer Moreland from the Downtown Corvallis Association.

Check out all the artists and spaces on the CAW website at corvallisartswalk.com
If you’re in town, doing the walk, maybe I’ll see you as I go around taking pictures after my stream!

Fiesta Cultural: Celebrate & Create Craft Kits

This year I got to be part of the Eugene First Friday Artwalk by creating a take home craft kit to hand out at the Lane Arts Council table!

For a whole week, my apartment was a full-on art kit production space while I handmade paperclay scuptures, filled paint pot strips and added a few of my favorite artsy treats, too.

Check out the video below for a peak into the kit, plus some chill painting.

These art kits were made special for the event, but I’ll be putting up more kits in the Arts & Crafts shop soon!

Haulie, the Hollerin’ Crane

My friends and I made a giant puppet crane and then took it to the circus.

This is the life of an artist.

And yes, I’m serious, a GIANT crane puppet, which my friend animated by being entirely inside it, and walking around backwards. And apparently, being larger than a human might not actually be all that GIANT for a crane because ours is based on the Whooping Crane, which can grow to 5 feet tall. So our 9 foot monstrosity is still really big, but is is giant?

Why did we do this, you may be wondering… That’s a very good question!

Before Haulie grew her wings
Continue reading “Haulie, the Hollerin’ Crane”

Summer Story Makers at The Arts Center

This summer, I set up some blankets in the park and got together with a group of young artists to create fantastical stories and explore new worlds!

Stories are at the heart of all art for me. Whenever I observe art, I’m always wondering about the stories being told: the one I imagine, the one the artist was thinking of, and what someone else, sometime and some place elese, might see. Stories hold important magic; when we share and listen to stories, we’re taking part in observing the world and ourselves, we’re sharing life.

One of the best things about teaching art is the opportunity to encourage people (of all ages) to think about the stories they like to tell and listen to; to use their imaginations and speak up and give life to their creations by sharing them. I’ve developed the curriculum over a few different iterations, including online virtual classes and in-person. This class is interdisciplinary, drawing on writing skills, drawing, and theatre arts, plus practice in presentation and embodiment.

Interested in taking the class? Check out the class page and sign up for the newsletter to find out when the next Story Makers class for kids, teens or adults (in-person and virtual) will be coming around!

In this post, I’ve included my class breakdown, with some downloadable writing prompts and story charts. For any educators out there, please feel free to adapt this class outline to your students’ needs, and let me know if you have any ideas for the class!

Continue reading “Summer Story Makers at The Arts Center”

Art v Artist 2020

(This post was originally published on InklingsIllustrated.com on December 14, 2020)

It’s the end of 2020 so here’s a look back on my art and creativity this year.

I don’t need to tell you this, 2020 has been a year that will remain with those of us conscious enough to remember it *looks at children age 5 and younger with suspicion and envy*. I’m not going to try to silver lining this wackadoodle experience we’ve all had of 2020. For me, like many, it’s been a year of struggle, confusion, a lot of YouTube, and sure, some opportunities.

When this year started, I made a bold decision to quit my career in arts administration. At the end of January, I had figured if the time to prioritize art and community education in my life wasn’t now when would it be? What was I waiting for? So, at the very end of February, just as we collectively in the United States were becoming aware of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I made the jump to full-time independent artist/ community educator, supporting myself with a part-time job.

My reflection on this decision I want to sum up as simply as possible: it has been really hard and I’ve often struggled to support myself, but I’ve also gotten to re-focus on my favorite things about being me, and I don’t for one moment ever regret the choice I made. I have been so very lucky, because just like everything else in life, luck has played a huge part here in the success I’ve experienced. It’s only been with the incredible support from my family, friends, and community that I’ve been able to make this transition.

Angel’s Landing (2020) ink – my first all-ink illustration

Making time in my life to make art has been an incredible investment into my own existence. This experiment that was half-chosen/half-pandemic-induced, in which I had several days/weeks alone in my home with my cat and the art supply collection I’ve been bulking up for years, has resulted in the profound gratification of knowing precisely what I want to do with the time I have here, on this planet, in this body, in this world.

I want to make art.

And I want to encourage others to make art.

The time investment I made since the start of the year to make art as often as possible – for me that’s mainly drawing and painting with various media – has yielded the most prolific creative year of my life and from that I can see exponential growth in my artistic skills. It can be hard to self-evaluate creative growth, but I’m in the fortunate position to have made SO MUCH ART this year that I have a collection of pieces that describe in sometimes awkward detail how much my art has changed.

I compare my Angel’s Landing piece from March, to the Seekseequa mountain illustration (bottom 3 of the top compilation image) and I see so much development in my skill, specifically my line quality and detail work. I get so chuffed to see that change in my art, it’s like I’ve been exercising regularly all these months and I’m seeing results that I feel really proud of. And the earlier piece is already a far cry from where I started, 3 years ago when I quietly said to myself, I think I’m ready to be an artist.

It’s also really fun for me to compare these two illustrations: Phases of the Moon, which I did in April, and Enlightenment Now, which I finished last week. I can see the ways I’ve gotten stronger: in composition, in figure drawing, in painting and in digital enhancement… I could go on (although it looks like my clothing illustration can still use A LOT of practice). But the thing that I like the most is how this is so clearly a subject/ composition I like to illustrate. I mean, I kind of forgot that I had drawn the moon illustration in April, and I found it while going back into my files for pieces for this retrospective. I should do this kind of illustration again in another 6 months to a year to see how it’s changed: dark hair girl, giant black bird, something celestial and lots of blues, purples, and greens. One thing for sure to say about the skill development, thank goodness I picked up colored pencils! They really make that bird LIVE!

Community Education was something I had all but given up for lost this year: with gathering so risky, how could I teach art for kids, teens, and adults? This really was a blow at the beginning of the pandemic, arts education was (and still is) 80% of my soft business plan. Teaching is essential to me, and I realized late last year that I truly need to be teaching, working with kids and adults to exercise their creativity. I was hanging out with a class that my arts org was hosting, and being able to be with those kids, making a gigantic mess that I had to clean up afterward (and they helped a lot, really) was one of my happiest moments at work last year. So then when I quit my job to be a full time artist and educator, and the educator part was pretty much impossible because of the global pandemic, I was like a lost sailor at sea.

I’ve reclaimed my bearings, little by little, by offering public and private classes on my website at Inklings, and with local organizations like Linn-Benton Community College. I have also had the beautiful opportunity to work with the local youth services non-profit, Jackson Street Youth Services, to offer art classes and creative projects for their shelter and mentor programs.

I’ve been participating in more classes, which has been a big boost to my energy. Being isolated and disconnected is rough on me, as a highly social person. It’s my normal to have every night of the week planned for some social interaction — and although that was often exhausting and I’m quite grateful for the reset to my typical commitments, I still quite miss the opportunity to connect with others’ creativity and to learn and explore with other people. Participating in webinars to learn about social justice and the arts, Theatre of the Oppressed, Solidarity Economy, Transformative Justice, yoga and advocacy, all of these have been important experiences to keep me involved in my communities and to inspire my creative teaching. I have the beginnings of plans for 2021 classes that go beyond visual arts that I am very excited about.

And that’s brings us to now, looking ahead. I have the sketch of a chubby little kitty that’ll end up being my New Year postcard (watch out loved ones, Dynamite is coming!). I have class plans that I’m working on, and connections and relationships that I’m nurturing.

So, yes, it’s been a year, and one I would have changed for all of us, if I could. But since I can’t and this is the year we had, I’m glad it went the way it did for me. I got really lucky, to have enough support to get through this year, including generous friends and family, a part time job, and absolutely no questions about what I should have been doing with my time when I suddenly had a lot of time. I knew I should be making art. And I did. That’s something I feel good about feeling good about.

❤ Happy and safe holidays, and f*** 2020
Jen

P.s. Want to follow along and get more Inklings? In 2021, I’ll be posting more about the work of being a creative entrepreneur, the process of artistic skill development, and probably a lot more random project posts and cat pictures here on the blog. Subscribe on the blog front page to catch all the updates.

You can also support me and see more of my art (plus get free stickers every month) by joining my Patreon.