How To Paint Like a Woman…

…(or Sculpt, or Photograph, or Perform, or….)

Savasana — The Release
oil on linen, 44″ x 32″
© Amy Funderburk 2008 – 2011, All Rights Reserved
Meditation image from the series Images From the Otherworld

 

Have you seen The Object, that iconic surrealist sculpture in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York? This fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon that likely graces the pages of your art history book was created in 1936 by artist and photographer Méret Oppenheim (1913–1985). Oppenheim, though born in Germany, was a Swiss artist.

And she was female.

In honor of Women’s History Month in March, after telling my college tale of being told by a fellow student that I “paint like a man,” I challenged you to list all the famous women artists and those artists who identify as female who you can remember. So far, we have a cornucopia of 109 artists!

Despite the noteworthy nature of The Object, Oppenheim was not mentioned on anyone’s list. However, it will probably come as no surprise that the name on everyone’s list was a different female Surrealist and Modern artist – Frida Kahlo.

Kahlo (1907-1954), was a Mexican artist known for her self-portraits that reflected her physical pain and tragedy. Like several of the women most often listed, though she was married to a fellow artist, through achieving her own fame, she managed to not merely stand in her husband’s shadow.

Since a quick Internet search for Kahlo’s name will result in a vast array of merchandise available for purchase, including pencil cases, makeup bags, and paper dolls, I think the argument could be made that she ultimately eclipsed the success of her spouse, muralist Diego Rivera.

I would also venture to say that American Modernist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), included by most of the contributors, is more of a household name than her albeit famous husband, photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz.

Unfortunately, none of us remembered to list Elaine de Kooning.1

Pablo Picasso fans will know the name Dora Maar (1907-1997). However, most of us do not know her for her own Surrealist photography, paintings and poetry, but for being a muse and lover to the infamous Cubist.

And for those who are well acquainted with that Artistic Wyeth Triumvirate of NC, Andrew, and Jamie, did you also know that Andrew had two sisters? Henriette (1907-1997) and Carolyn (1909-1994) were also artists.

Despite the absence of names such Oppenheim and Maar on our collective lists, I am happy to say that the Surrealist movement was well represented beyond Kahlo. Diverse American artist Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) – a painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet – was listed twice, and British-born Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), who lived in Mexico City, was mentioned by several contributors.

In addition to O’Keeffe, others who appeared on multiple participants’ lists included Impressionists Mary Cassatt (American, lived in France; 1844-1926) and Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895); Abstract Expressionists Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011); American figurative and portrait painter Alice Neel (1900-1984); American Feminist and installation artist Judy Chicago (b. 1939); conceptual and performance artist Marina Abramović (Yugoslavian-born; b. 1946); British Modernist sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975); French-American sculptor and installation artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010); and Postmodernist, conceptual and Feminist artist Barbara Kruger (1945).

Additional artists who are among those on my own list as well as appearing on the list of one other contributor were French Realist painter Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899); French sculptor Camille Claudel (1864-1943); Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653); German Expressionist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945); Japanese multidisciplinary, installation, performance, conceptual and Pop artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929); American photographers Annie Leibovitz (b. 1949), Sally Mann (b. 1951), and Cindy Sherman (b. 1954); American sculptor Louise Nevelson (Ukrainian-born; 1899-1988); and Japanese-born conceptual, multimedia, and performance artist and musician Yoko Ono (b. 1933).

Names new to me who were listed by at least two others include British artists Tracey Emin, Tanith Hicks, Paula Rego, and Jenny Saville.

Emin (b. 1963) and Saville (b. 1970) are both Young British Artists (YBA’s), a loose group of visual artists that also includes Damien Hirst. To create her autobiographical, often provocative work, Emin uses various media including needlework, traditionally considered a task for women.2 Saville is known for her large-format paintings of nudes.

Rego (Portuguese-born; b. 1935) is a painter, pastellist, and printmaker whose work is often based on folk tales, fables, and storybooks. Hicks, who creates jewelry, masks, and other items, is inspired from a similar source – European folklore, myths, and fairytales.

I was determined to reach 50 names on my own list – and I’m happy to say that I surpassed that goal! During this time period, I also ran across many other creatives who I had forgotten to mention – including another important Surrealist, the Argentinean painter, illustrator, and writer Leonor Fini (1907-1996) – as well as artists who were new to me, such as Agnes Martin (1912-2004), an American minimalist abstract painter born in Canada.

Alas, for every name, there are many others who we thus far have neglected to list, and, like all artists, they each have their own story worth telling. Eva Hesse (1936-1970) was a Postminimalist sculptor with a tragic life whose family fled Hitler’s Germany when she was only three. Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750), a Dutch floral still-life painter, enjoyed great success as court painter to the Elector Palatine in Düsseldorf, Bavaria, Germany.

Were you surprised when you read Ruysch’s dates? If you only know the names of contemporary women artists, you may assume that there were few to no female creatives in the age of the Old Masters. Such artistic forerunners laid important groundwork for those who came after, for we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Three noteworthy classical painters from the Renaissance through the 18th century who I am glad to have included are Lavinia Fontana, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun.

Renaissance artist Lavinia Fontana (1542-1614) became the first woman painter from Bologna to achieve fame throughout Italy. Though she had 11 children, Fontana pursued a flourishing art career while her husband tended to the household chores, in addition to painting backgrounds and frames for his wife. She was commissioned to paint religious, mythological, and nude subjects as well as portraits, thus expanding the scope of subject matter created by female painters in her day.3 According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Fontana is regarded as the first woman artist, working within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent.”4

Successful Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) brought the dramatic, theatrical “Caravaggesque” style of painting from Rome to Florence, Genoa, and Naples. Her version of Judith Beheading Holofernes (1614-1620) features a biblical heroine who looks like she’s fully capable of getting the grisly job done! Most versions of this theme by Gentileschi’s contemporaries make Judith look as if she is barely able to lift a sword. 5

Élisabeth Louise or Marie-Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842) became the court painter to the French queen, Marie Antoinette. After escaping Paris during the French Revolution, Vigée-Lebrun went on to enjoy fame across Europe as well as France, living for a time in Italy, Austria, and Russia. 6 During this period of exile, Vigée-Lebrun commanded much higher prices for her portraits than did her contemporaries. 7

Prior to the French Revolution, painter Jacques-Louis David paid Vigée-Lebrun a so-called “compliment” that may sound quite familiar if you read my initial article on this subject. After Vigée-Lebrun’s admission to the Royal Academy, during an exhibition at the Salon, David told his fellow artist that “one of her paintings was so good it looked as if it had been painted by a man.” 8

Fast forward to today, and my favorite “new to me” inspirational artist story has to be that of Phyllida Barlow. This British sculptor (b. 1944) celebrated her 73rd birthday in April. Her star began to really rise in 2010, and she was recently selected to represent the UK at the 57th Venice Biennale that opened to the public on May 13, and runs through November 26, 2017. 9

In her recent article about Barlow, Charlotte Higgins offers some insight into the artist’s recent rise to fame. While gender may have been a factor in delaying her success, Higgins also cites some good news: that “the art world has, over the past decade, been collectively in the mood to reassess the work of older women.” 10

In keeping with this trend, according to Andrew Goldstein in his recent article for Artnet, the Board of Directors of the Venice Biennale has recently been awarding the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement as a way “to embrace an accomplished older female artist whose contributions had gone without due recognition for too long.” This year, the honor went to Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939). Also a painter, this American artist is best known for her pioneering contributions to Feminist performance art. 11

Though only around one third of this year’s Venice Biennale artists are female, Liliana Porter (Argentinean-born; b. 1941), who lives and works in New York, is participating with a sculptural installation in the Pavilion of Time and Infinity.12 In contrast, the curators of the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York have selected a much better balance of both women and minority artists. Most of the oil and acrylic painters included this year are women, including 87 year old former Minimalist Jo Baer (b. 1929).13  14

I wholeheartedly agree with environmental artist Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009), another woman from my list, when she said that artists do not retire. Just ask 88 year old Japanese multidisciplinary artist Yayoi Kusama (b.1929), whose retrospective exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, just closed at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, featuring works from her 65 year career as well as recent paintings. 15

And of course, well-known American folk artist Grandma Moses (1860-1961) didn’t even begin painting until she was 78. But best of all is Aboriginal artist Loongkoonan (b. c.1910). This Nyikina elder from Western Australia began painting around age 95, and, now around 107, is still exhibiting her work.

And you thought yoga, meditation, and a vegetarian diet were going to be my secrets for longevity.

Sometimes, good things take time to come to fruition. Just this March, the Musée Camille Claudel opened in Claudel’s former family home in Nogent-sur-Seine, France. Claudel was a student, studio assistant, artistic collaborator, and lover of sculptor Auguste Rodin, who cast a very large and dark shadow. After her breakup with Rodin, she destroyed much of her own work before entering an asylum, but the museum was able to acquire 43 surviving drawings, casts, and sculptures.16

Claudel does appear on our list below, along with 108 other creatives. Many you may already know, but for any names new to you, I hope you’ll take time to explore the bodies of work of these varied artists who work along the full spectrum of styles and media, including painting, photography, printmaking, performance art, installation, illustration, choreography, and activism.

While some participants chose to list their well-deserving colleagues as well as those women already in the Art History books, I had already chosen not to do so, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions, lest the list get too unwieldy. I have marked my contributions with asterisks. While I hope you will take the time to research the works of many of these women, I call your attention to a few particular favorites:

Diana Al-Hadid (Syrian-born; b. 1981): her striking, elegant mixed-media sculptures, installations, and drawings often contain figural elements. Al-Hadid now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Meinrad Craighead (b. 1936): this American visionary artist, a former Catholic nun, explores the theme of the Divine Feminine in her artwork, often including mythological elements and animals.

Evelyn DeMorgan (1855-1919): an English painter influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, particularly Edward Burne-Jones. Spiritualism was a recurring inspiration for the artist.

Julie Heffernan (b. 1956): an American painter known for her symbolic self-portraits and lush fantasy landscapes. Her most recent works have an environmental message.

Michele Oka Doner (b. 1945): an American sculptor who merges natural forms with figural elements in her most recent pieces. The wide scope of her work also includes public art.

Sylvia Wishart (1936-2008): a Scottish landscape artist from Orkney. She created layers of interest in her works by frequently depicting reflections and using texture.

My deep appreciation to all those who participated – thank you for remembering artists both known and unknown to me, and for remembering some of those who I had neglected to list.

While this was more of an exercise rather than an exhaustive overview, there are so many more names in my Women Artists book that I roll my eyes in frustration that I didn’t list them all. If you don’t see your favorites here, please add the names in the Comments section of my blog post and let’s keep the list growing!

I think I’ll add Suzanne Valadon right now and make it 110….

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

(Please note: I am humbled and honored that some of you chose to include me on your lists! I’ll do my very best to try to be remotely worthy of inclusion in such esteemed company.)

  1. *Marina Abramović
  2. *Diana Al-Hadid
  3. Jackie Anderson
  4. *Laurie Anderson
  5. *Phyllia Barlow
  6. *Jennifer Bartlett
  7. *Jackie Battenfield
  8. Vanessa Beescroft
  9. Gretchen Bennett
  10. *Rosa Bonheur
  11. Lee Bontecou
  12. *Louise Bourgeois
  13. *Romaine Brooks
  14. Laurel Burch
  15. Dora Carrington
  16. *Leonora Carrington
  17. Lorena Carrington
  18. *Mary Cassatt
  19. Karen Cater
  20. *Judy Chicago
  21. *Camille Claudel
  22. *Meinrad Craighead
  23. *Imogen Cunningham
  24. E.V. Day
  25. Jay Defeo
  26. *Evelyn DeMorgan
  27. *Elsie Dinsmore Popkin
  28. *Lois Dodd
  29. Marlene Dumas
  30. Tracey Emin
  31. Karen Finley
  32. Beth Fischer
  33. *Janet Fish
  34. *Audrey Flack
  35. *Lavinia Fontana
  36. *Helen Frankenthaler
  37. Amy Funderburk
  38. Coco Fusco
  39. Penelope Gavin
  40. *Artemisia Gentileschi
  41. *The Guerilla Girls
  42. Joyce Gunn Cairns
  43. *Grace Hartigan
  44. *Barbara Hepworth
  45. Tanith Hicks
  46. *Jeanne-Claude
  47. *Julie Heffernan
  48. Jenny Holzer
  49. *Anna Hyatt Huntington
  50. Jayne Johnson
  51. *Frida Kahlo
  52. Margaret Keane
  53. Karen Kilimnik
  54. *Käthe Kollwitz
  55. *Lee Krasner
  56. Barbara Kruger
  57. *Yayoi Kusama
  58. *Dorothea Lange
  59. *Annie Leibovitz
  60. Vivian Maier
  61. *Sally Mann
  62. Linda McCartney
  63. Paola McClure
  64. *Beverly McIver
  65. Julie Mehretu
  66. Joan Mitchell
  67.  *Merry Moor Winnett
  68. Polly Morgan
  69. *Berthe Morisot
  70. *Grandma Moses
  71. *P. Buckley Moss
  72. *Alice Neel
  73. Deirdre Nelson
  74. *Louise Nevelson
  75. *Michelle Oka Doner
  76. *Georgia O’Keeffe
  77. *Yoko Ono
  78. Catherine Opie
  79. Ru Paul
  80. Elizabeth Peyton
  81. Jody Pinto
  82. *Beatrix Potter
  83. Paula Rego
  84. Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger
  85. PJ Richards
  86. Bridget Riley
  87. Faith Ringgold
  88. Beth Robertson Fiddes
  89. Lorraine Robson
  90. Jennifer Robson
  91. Jenny Saville
  92. *Susan Seddon Boulet
  93. *Cindy Sherman
  94. Jill Skulina
  95. Elizabeth Siddal
  96. Kiki Smith
  97. Nancy Spero
  98. Aileen Stackhouse
  99. Rima Staines
  100. Dorothea Tanning
  101. Jocelyn Taylor
  102. Maggie Taylor
  103. Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith
  104. *Suzanne Valadon
  105. *Élisabeth Louise Vigée LeBrun
  106. Kara Walker
  107. Alison Watt
  108. *Carrie Mae Weems
  109. Rachel Whiteread
  110. *Sylvia Wishart

1 Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989), an Abstract Expressionist and Figurative Expressionist, was married to artist Willem de Kooning.

2 Tracey Emin Studio. “Biography,” accessed May 24, 2017 http://www.traceyeminstudio.com/biography/

 3 Nancy G. Heller, Women Artists – an Illustrated History (New York: Abbeville Press, 1987) 19-20

4 National Museum of Women in the Arts. “Artist Profile: Lavinia Fontana,” accessed May 22, 2017, https://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/lavinia-fontana

5 Heller, Women Artists – an Illustrated History, 29-32.

6 Heller, Women Artists – an Illustrated History, 58-60.

7 Lara Marlowe, “The French Feminist Painter Who Flattered Marie Antoinette,” The Irish Times, November 19, 2015, http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/the-french-feminist-painter-who-flattered-marie-antoinette-1.2435146

8 Marlowe, “The French Feminist Painter Who Flattered Marie Antoinette.”

9 Mark Brown, “Phyllida Barlow: an Artistic Outsider Who Has Finally Come Inside,” The Guardian, April 28, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/28/phyllida-barlow-artist-success-2017-venice-biennale

10 Charlotte Higgins, “Bish-bash-bosh: How Phyllida Barlow Conquered the Art World at 73,” The Guardian, May 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/09/bish-bash-bosh-how-phyllida-barlow-conquered-the-art-world-at-73

11 Andrew Goldstein, “Anne Imhof’s Brooding Goth Performance Wins the 2017 Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion,” Artnet News, May 13, 2017, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/venice-biennale-golden-lion-959171

12 Kevin McGarry, “57th Venice Biennale ‘Viva Arte Viva’,” Art Agenda, May 17, 2017, http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/57th-venice-biennale/

13 Jason Farago, “A User’s Guide to the Whitney Biennial,” The New York Times, March 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/08/arts/design/a-users-guide-to-the-whitney-biennial.html?_r=0

14 The 78th Whitney Biennial, not without its own heated controversy outside the scope of this article, opened March 17, and runs though June 11, 2017.

15 Hirshhorn. “About the Exhibition,” accessed May 24, 2017, https://hirshhorn.si.edu/kusama/the-exhibition/

16 Brigit Katz, “Museum Devoted to Camille Claudel, Long Overshadowed by Rodin, Opens in France,” Smithsonian.com, March 30, 2017, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/museum-devoted-camille-claudel-overshadowed-rodin-opens-france-180962718/

Posted in Current Events, General art discussion and philosophy, Other artists Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

That Time When Someone Told Me That I Paint Like a Man

South Tawton Ceiling Boss:
The Green Man (Simhasana — Lion’s Breath)
oil on panel, 16″ x 16″
© 2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
South Tawton Church, Dartmoor, Devonshire, England

During the reception for the 2013 exhibition in which I debuted the painting above, South Tawton Ceiling Boss: The Green Man (Simhasana — Lion’s Breath), I caught the eye of a visitor. She repeatedly looked back and forth — first at me, then up at the painting, which I had hung from and parallel to the ceiling.

The viewer approached me and asked, “Is that you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s a self-portrait.”

“But it’s called The Green MAN,” she objected, puzzled.

“Exactly,” I replied with a smile.


When I was in college, there was a fellow art student who liked to make misogynistic comments to his female colleagues. In his case, his main motivation seemed to be a misguided attempt at getting attention, because the more one of his targets objected, the more teasing she received. As a result, though I certainly didn’t care for his offensive banter any more than my fellow female art students, I tried my best to not reveal my irritation, and since we also had a fellow male friend in common, he usually left me alone.

One day after he saw some of my paintings, he intended to complement me by saying,

You paint like a man.

Upon deeper discussion, it became clear that he was responding to certain qualities about my style that he chose to assign to his gender, including bold colors and brushwork, and the way I approached my portrait subject matter. Yet the irony was that my main influence in college was a female artist: Alice Neel.

Since I was ever one to eschew gender-specific roles and mores, I did not forget his comment. Why should anyone assign gender specificity to any certain style of painting? For the first couple of years after I graduated, I ended the initial version of my Artist’s Statement with this colleague’s comment; I felt it was important to make it clear that I was a woman artist.

Fascinated with the story, a curator polled viewers of my work during a 1992 exhibit. When pressed to choose, most thought that I was a male artist until they read my signature.

I hadn’t thought of these experiences until the recent International Woman’s Day and the Day Without a Woman strike on March 8th. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I give you this challenge: how many women artists and those artists who identify as female can you name? No cheating by looking in your art history books or online – just list the ones who come to mind. Post your list by making a comment below, and then I’ll share a compiled list in my next newsletter.

In the meantime, while you are listing your artists, if you haven’t seen the film Big Eyes, be sure to check it out this month.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

Posted in Archetypes and symbolism, General art discussion and philosophy, Other artists Tagged , |

Inspiration in Paradise: A Love Letter to Puerto Rico

Tropical Flower on Wet Asphalt
digital photograph
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved
At the parking area near La Coca Falls, El Yunke Rainforest, Puerto Rico

In December, Jimmy and I took a much-needed vacation to a place where we can just relax and recharge our batteries – Puerto Rico. This was our third trip to the island, so it may surprise you that this destination now ties with both Ireland and England for the number of visits we have made.

We seem to have a thing for islands.

Even though this wasn’t a working art trip, you can’t turn off being an artist – it is in your soul, and always takes hold when you see inspiration. The muse of Puerto Rico never disappoints.

The narrow, cat-filled, cobblestone streets of Historic Old San Juan are lined with textured color: the crumbling decay of buildings perhaps kissed by one too many hurricanes stand side-by-side with restored, repainted beauties, all from a by-gone Spanish colonial era. Without staying here any longer than they seem to, I don’t know how the day-tripper cruise ship tourists can get a true feel for this vibrant city.

This time, we took in Castillo San Cristóbal, conveniently located just a couple of blocks from our bed and breakfast. There was a small arts and crafts fair happening there during our stay, and two of the fort’s stately iguana invaders made for fascinating models. One of these scaly friends may aspire to be the basis for a dragon one day!

One night after dinner, we took a stroll down to the side of the fort, lit only by the cool, almost-full moon on the ocean side, and just a bit of golden street light spilling over on the right. Inspired by the limited range of low key values I could discern, I decided to invoke the Victorian expat artist Whistler and think “Nocturne!” as I quickly drew the 15 minute sketch shown below.

Considering just the touch of light I had to work by, I didn’t really know exactly what I had until I returned to our room! When I saw the drawing, I felt I had responded to the values and shapes in a rather energetic way. As I worked, I couldn’t help but think of the Old Masters creating by candlelight. However, I’m in no danger of reenacting the legend of van Gogh wearing a halo of candles around his straw hat.

Calle Sol, Old San Juan
digital photograph
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Mourner, reference photograph
digital photograph
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved
Statue, Cementerio de Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

As our top pick for artistic inspiration in Old San Juan, the sheer magnitude of the Cementerio de Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis makes it a don’t miss – this was our second visit.

Dramatically situated above the ocean, these large grounds are awash with statues of angels and stone mourners. I have yet to visit the renowned cemeteries of Paris, but this Cementerio has set that particular bar quite high.

The oldest section of the cemetery dates from 1863. After photographing just a few potential candidates from among the many beauties there, I spent the afternoon under a hot sun with the figure shown above, first executing a pencil drawing to warm up, then honing my watercolor skills with some painting studies.

It was here under the bright blue Puerto Rican sky that a preference for my beloved panel surfaces by Ampersand swelled to the devoted level of a firm and lasting commitment. As I worked, I completely gave up on the watercolor block produced by a leading manufacturer after it refused to perform remotely how I expected. It simply would not tolerate my predilection for scrubbing and lifting (isn’t that just like an oil painter?), unlike the tolerant Aquabord and Encausticbord Ampersand panels. Indeed, these panels seem to revel in my oil painter-like behaviors.

The Formation of Clouds, reference photograph
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Pico del Oeste (West Peak) from the Yokahu Tower, El Yunke Rainforest, Puerto Rico

In the El Yunque Rainforest, even if you aren’t up for a hike, you can enjoy lush natural beauty from your car as you drive down the PR 191. Several waterfalls, most notably the impressive La Coca Falls pictured below, are right by the road.

As home of Yuquiyú, the indigenous Taíno tribe’s “Good God,” El Yunque is sacred ground. To protect his people from destruction, Yuquiyú was said to do battle with Guabancex, the fierce Goddess of storms and chaos; her storms were the Juracán. Indeed, the mountains of the El Yunque rainforest do just that, acting as a hurricane barrier to the land beyond.

The Yokahu tower stands guard beside an impressive overlook with a view all the way to the coast. From the top of the 69 foot tall tower, we could see the Los Picachos and El Yunque peaks in one direction, but the real show was happening around the Pico del Oeste, the West Peak (above).

Jimmy realized what we were witnessing – the actual formation of clouds as the sun dramatically sucked up moisture vapor in slow, snaking tendrils. When the light would occasionally break through the sun’s fast-moving, thick cloud collection, it was pure magic. My very quick watercolor pencil sketch felt like a meager attempt to capture just the essence of this ever-changing weather drama in action.

This cloud nursery is the very reason they don’t call it a sunforest, however. As soon as we began our hike down the Big Tree Trail, the rainforest began to live up to its name.

After remembering the old travel adage that it’s about the journey rather than the destination, my perception changed to one of appreciation. I immediately began to notice how eerily limited the depth of visibility was within the canopy of surrounding lush vegetation. We were inside the moisture-laded clouds. You can see what I mean in the photograph below. Art supplies stuffed into my backpack remained unused – nothing like soft rain to impede the creation of a watercolor.

La Coca Falls, El Yunke Rainforest
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
El Yunke Rainforest, Puerto Rico

Value Changes, El Yunke Rainforest
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
El Yunke Rainforest, Puerto Rico

My View of Paradise with Sailboat
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Our spectacular island backyard, Puerto Rico

School of Blue Tang with Friends
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Snorkeling in our backyard, Puerto Rico

After leaving Old San Juan, our next stop was one of the smaller remote islands off the coast of Puerto Rico. It takes a bit of extra effort to get there, which is part of what keeps these islands from getting too commercialized. Staying in such an off-the-beaten-path location can give you a different perspective on the elements, even if you are someone who tries to stay in connection with nature as much as possible in a modern world.

Before we left, I was sure to purchase a wide range of watercolor pencils in those saturated blues and greens that unmistakably say “Caribbean.” Of course, snorkeling gives you a window into a remarkable world fit for sprites and mermaids that you can never imagine if you only look at the surface of things. Not to mention, a chance to swim with the unassuming underwater rock stars – the sea turtles!

Since our rental house used a cistern for its water supply, we were careful not to leave water running unnecessarily, and had to use bottled water for cooking and toothbrushing. Nothing makes you even more conscientious about your water use than repeatedly returning to the supermercado for mas agua.1

While you might not normally want any rain during a vacation, after a few days without it, I began to wonder about the water level in our cistern. We welcomed the pattern of quick-moving, brief afternoon showers that started midway through our stay, knowing that they replenished our supply.

This shift in perception to an island mindset about rain was best illustrated during a fantastic local drumming performance. The bayside restaurant that hosted the event had been built with one side open to allow little boats to dock. When a brief shower suddenly blew in, instead of voicing any irritation over getting wet, the drummers simply moved their drums three feet forward, and everyone cried joyously, “Mas agua!”

Underwater Rock Star: Green Sea Turtle
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Snorkeling in our own backyard, Puerto Rico

Orion and Friends
digital photograph
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Winter Solstice, Puerto Rico

Of course, these rains are carried on wings of air.

While the trade winds alleviate the need for air conditioning or a clothes drier, when it is strong, the wind is a magpie that likes to steal things. It pulls clothes off the line, hides papers in corners, and folds yoga mats into origami.

It also stole a bit of my sleep. A couple of days into our stay there, the wind got so loud at night that I repeatedly woke up. A pair of earplugs later and this was sorted, but it certainly gave me respect for what it must be like to wait out a hurricane – an infinitely larger proposition than just the harmless rush of a noisy, thieving gale.

At night, we could see the Milky Way, and more stars than you could ever count. My old friend Orion was easily recognizable in the Winter Solstice sky, and perhaps brighter than I’d ever seen him. I could even discern the Orion Nebula without a telescope as the fuzzy middle “star” in his sword. The only light pollution was the warm glow of St. Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands, at the horizon.

We had the seasonal visual cues of charming holiday decorations, some a bit weather beaten and sun faded. But who knew winter could look like this? Suffice it to say that we didn’t miss the bitter cold snap that hit home while we were in this tropical paradise. But even though the first day of winter here was quite warmer than what I am accustomed to, the days felt noticeably shorter in this place where we wanted to spend all of our time outside.

This is how we were able to mark the season.

Somehow, my conceptual experience of the elements on this trip is going to make its way into the broader scope of my work. Going beyond your daily routine to color outside the lines of life can lead to wondrous experiences that are rich creative fodder.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

Sunset Behind Cayo Luis Peña from Playa Tamarindo
watercolor study on Encausticbord, 5″ x 7″
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Culebra, Puerto Rico

Castillo San Cristóbal at Night
December 12, 2016
5 1/2″ x 8″
sketchbook drawing, pencil on paper
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico


1 Mas agua – Spanish for “more water”; supermercado is a supermarket.


 

Posted in Art Travels, Artists' Materials and Resources, Creativity, Drawing and drawing techniques, Painting and painting techniques, Sacred Sites, Travel Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Liberty Leading the People: Art Reflects History

Aberlemno Stone #2: The Battle of Nechtansmere, reverse of Pictish carved stone, Aberlemno kirkyard, Scotland photograph ©2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Aberlemno Stone #2: The Battle of Nechtansmere
reverse of Pictish carved stone, Aberlemno kirkyard, Angus, Scotland
photograph ©2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

As the world watched, there certainly seemed to be no room for a grey area reaction to this November’s US presidential election. It is no secret that this nation finds itself tremendously polarized, resulting in a cycle as pockets of violence born of fear create yet more fear.

In her post-election article, “Dear Artists: We Need You More Than Ever,” Katherine Brooks, Senior Arts and Culture Editor for the Huffington Post, quoted writer Toni Morrison:1

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”

Of course, artists have been a mirror for society for centuries, documenting and satirizing historic events. The famed Pictish carved stone from Aberlemno, Scotland shown above depicts a battle, most commonly believed to be the famous Battle of Nechtansmere, an important Pictish victory fought in 685 CE.

Certain dissident artists, including Ai Weiwei from China, are well known for work that is steeped in social activism or political commentary. One look at Guernica, Picasso’s mammoth monochromatic painting from 1937 in which he depicted the brutal bombing of a northern Spanish village, can show just how powerful the voice of an artist can be.

According to legend, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, Picasso’s apartment was raided. After seeing a photograph of Guernica, an officer asked the artist, “Did you do that?” Picasso replied, “No, you did.”

“If I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.”

— Eugène Delacroix

In 1830, the French Romantic artist Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People. His masterpiece was apparently considered so politically revolutionary that it was placed in storage for years after being purchased by the French government. 2

In sharp contrast to the sequestering of the Delacroix work, Picasso’s Guernica went on tour to raise international awareness for the Spanish Civil War. The artist decreed that the painting could not enter Spain, however, until the country enjoyed “public liberties and democratic institutions.”3

Both Delacroix and Francisco Goya are frequently cited as influences on Picasso as he planned Guernica. In Goya’s stirring work completed in 1814, The Third of May, 1808 in Madrid, the artist shows an emotional event: French troops systematically massacring Spanish freedom fighters.

In juxtaposition to such dramatic imagery of specific historic events, even the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their followers based certain works on social themes, including the plight of the Victorian woman.4 Through allegory and symbol, these British artists reacted against what they perceived as the societal ills brought about by the Industrial Age.

Art reflects history and preserves it for the future like a time capsule. Art is a catalyst for change, growth, and self-awareness. If you are a fellow artist moved by current events, think about how your visual voice can make a difference.

One of my friends in New York City, artist and photographer Gina Fuentes Walker, told me about the Subway Therapy project, a wall at the Union Square subway station now overflowing with primarily uplifting messages written on sticky notes by passers-by. Artist Matthew Chaves (who goes by Levee) started the community project to give people a place to express their feelings about current events. 5

“I was quite moved by the project because in addition to participating in a collaborative art installation, it was a moment to gather and come together as neighbors and residents of the city,” Gina said. Participants were respectful during their visit to the Subway Therapy wall, she added. “Occasionally the adhesive gave way and a message floated to the floor. Someone always picked it up and reattached the note to the wall.” This is a perfect example of how a simple idea can have powerful results and how art has the potential to make a difference in people’s lives whether they directly participate or are moved by the messages of others.

“Art is one of the most positive reaffirming things we can do in the face of adversity,” says Camille Seaman, who affects change with her stunning photographs of the melting Polar Regions.6 A champion for the issue of Climate Change, her recent works include portraits of the First Nations water protectors at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

What is happening now politically has made me examine my own body of work, and what I aim to say through my imagery about the significance of the landscape and human condition.

However you may have voted, we can all make a difference. In my opinion, subjects that benefit everyone like the environment and the arts should be non-partisan. Such things that nurture the soul should be safeguarded.

If you are an art appreciator, now is the perfect time to be a patron for your favorite creatives who give voice to your shared points of view.

If you are a fellow artist, let’s roll up our sleeves now and get to work.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

Detail of Aberlemno Stone #2: the Battle of Nechtansmere Aberlemno kirkyard, Angus, Scotland photograph © Amy Funderburk 2012, All Rights Reserved

Detail of Aberlemno Stone #2: the Battle of Nechtansmere
Aberlemno kirkyard, Angus, Scotland
photograph © Amy Funderburk 2012, All Rights Reserved


1 Katherine Brooks, “Dear Artists: We Need You More Than Ever – A Trump Presidency Requires Artists Get Political,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com, November 10, 2016
 
2 Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, speakers. “Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People,” Video, Khan Academy, accessed November 28, 2016, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/romanticism/romanticism-in-france/v/delacroix-liberty-leading-the-people-1830

PBS.org. “Guernica: Testimony of War,” accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/guernica_nav/main_guerfrm.html 
 
4 Christopher Wood, The Pre-Raphaelites (New Jersey: Crescent Books, 1994) 12
 
Malcolm Warner, The Victorians: British Painting, 1837-1901 (Catalog for the exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, New York: Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1996)

5 “Subway therapy: Artist creates an outlet for postelection venting in NYC,” Yahoo News, November 11, 2016, https://www.yahoo.com/news/subway-therapy-artist-creates-outlet-174618305.html 
 
Michelle Young, “Governor Andrew Cuomo Adds Post-It Note to Union Square Subway Therapy Project,” Untapped Cities.com, November 15, 2016, http://untappedcities.com/2016/11/15/governor-andrew-cuomo-adds-post-it-note-to-union-square-subway-therapy-project/
 
Check out #SubwayTherapy to view examples and learn more about this project. You can find Gina on Twitter @gfuenteswalker and check out her work by visiting www.ginafuenteswalker.com.

6 Currently Camille is seeking sponsorship through a GoFundMe campaign, “Into the Ice: Return to Antarctica.” (https://www.gofundme.com/returntoantarctica) You can discover her haunting iceberg photographs and other works on her website, www.camilleseaman.com. 

 

Posted in Current Events, General art discussion and philosophy, Inspirational Quotes, Other artists Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your First Look at Studio 111

Studio 111: gallery side, first look November 8, 2016 ©2016, artwork ©2004-2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Studio 111: your first look at the gallery side
November 8, 2016
©2016, artwork ©2004-2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Studio 111 is coming along! Between painting trim and windows, installing light fixtures, and handling other assorted prerequisites to set up my new creation space, settling in has been a slower process than I imagined. It seems all the slower when compared to how very quickly everything had flowed to get me to this location!

Here is your first look at the so-called gallery side of my space, where I will showcase completed, framed pieces. In this area, you can get a feel for what the artwork might look like in your home.

What you see on the wall to your left is just the start of what will ultimately be a salon-style installation – not my favorite style of art presentation to be certain, but a necessity in this studio.

As you can see, I had the electricians move the chandelier from the working side of the studio to the gallery side, and I think it looks quite stylish! This warmer light was not helpful among the cooler, daylight bulb shop lights, but by showcasing the fixture on the other side, it has become a real asset.

Next month, I’ll give you a peek at the working half of the space. I look forward to your seeing the new studio in person!

Want to see where the artistic magic happens? Contact me to make an appointment for a private studio visit.


Above: Artwork from left to right, all works © Amy Funderburk All Rights Reserved:
 
Sunset at the Mooghaun Hillfort (oil on linen, 22″ x 15″, © 2004); Second Sight/2nd Site (diptych, oil on oil primed linen, 12″ x 30″, © 2012); Turtle’s Progress (oil on linen, 17″ x 24″, © 2011-12); Red Mother (watercolor and holy water from the Chalice Well on paper, 5″ x 7″, © 2009); The Wild Trees of Madron (archival pigment print, 12″ x 18″, © 2012); Savasana – the Release (oil on linen, 44″ x 32″, © 2008-11); The Track to Nowhere (archival pigment print, 12″ x 18″, © 2012); corner: Central tree trunk post, The Wishing Tree installation (wood and bark, © 2012); Well of the Creatrix (oil on linen with holy water from the well in the gesso layers, 30″ x 36″, © 2007); bottom: Double Rainbow Over Loch Ness (archival pigment print, 18″ x 12″, © 2013); top: Cloud Planet with Jack-o-Lantern Face, Corrimony Cairn (archival pigment print, 18″ x 12″, © 2013); Manifestation of Rabbit (oil on linen, 30″ x 36″, ©2007); Knockfennell by the Shores of Lough Gur (watercolor pencils on paper, 7.5″ x 8.5″, © 2005)

Posted in The Artist's Studio

The Skies Have It

Maxfield Parrish Sunset June 24, 2016 Winston-Salem, NC digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Maxfield Parrish Sunset
June 24, 2016 Winston-Salem, NC
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

On October 2nd, we were very fortunate to attend a lecture by renowned surreal photographer Jerry Uelsmann at the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, NC.Uelsmann delivered an insightful, sincere talk. His lecture was the best I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard more than a few.
 
If you are familiar with Uelsmann’s work, it will come as no surprise that I love his surreal vision. At a time before digital imaging software, he created such imagery – and still does – using only darkroom techniques.

As he mentioned old favorites like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, I was on the edge of my seat. I will undoubtedly refer back to more of Uelsmann’s many pearls of wisdom in the future, but one of the recurring themes he stressed was the need to be authentic in your work.

I completely agree, and believe that as you create work that is true to you, you can also discover even more about yourself in the process. Dancing back and forth, these two aspects feed each other as an artist goes deeper within. I often say that the more personal your imagery becomes, the more universal it is – the essence of the human condition, if you will.

“The camera basically is a license to explore.”

– Jerry Uelsmann

In the lecture we attended, Uelsmann elaborated by saying it this way: “A camera gives you license to stare at a crack in the sidewalk and folks don’t think you’re crazy.”

It is usually best for creatives to let go of such judgments or labels imposed on them by others, but Uelsmann’s aphorism reminded me of an experience Jimmy and I had in late September.

While we were in a store, we missed quite a hail storm. We emerged just before sunset to a dramatic sky, so when we arrived at our chosen restaurant for dinner, we immediately starting taking photographs. It was a clashing combination of drama meets delicate color and value shifts. J. M. W. Turner would have been proud.

Then through her open window, a woman in a nearby car asked us in a perplexed but innocent tone,

“Why are you taking photos of the sky?”

I was quite puzzled by her inquiry. But why wouldn’t we photograph such a sky? We are usually delighted to see others alongside us in a parking lot, comrades in admiration of nature’s beauty.

“We’re artists,” I replied simply. She nodded, seeming to accept this as a carte blanche reason for us to do anything she considered eccentric.

As an artist, I stockpile such moments as potential future reference photographs for paintings. You never know when you’ll need just the right dramatic sky with backlit clouds to complete your composition.

Yet even if I didn’t have the “art excuse,” there is something about capturing these fleeting moments that I find satisfying. The sky is never the same twice, which is quite a meditative concept to me. Skywatching instills a sense of peace within me as I navigate this busy modern world.

Dramatic Sky on the Way to the Beach Near Raleigh, NC, May 14, 2016 digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Dramatic Sky on the Way to the Beach Near Raleigh, NC, May 14, 2016
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Serene Pink and Grey Sunset October 3, 2016 digital photograph for painting reference © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Serene Pink and Grey Sunset, October 3, 2016
Between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, NC
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Here are some of my more successful recent attempts – because despite my best efforts, since I didn’t have my professional gear with me, capturing the delicate drama of the post-hailstorm sky on that particular day eluded me, so the results looked a bit lackluster.

I took all of these images spontaneously from various parking lots or on the street with just my mobile phone camera, so here they are complete with power lines and street lights.

Warm Dappled Sunset Clouds on a Vivid Blue Sky August 28, 2016 Greensboro, NC digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Warm Dappled Sunset Clouds on a Vivid Blue Sky
August 28, 2016 Greensboro, NC
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Flock of Sheep Clouds at the Beginning of Sunset, June 23, 2016 digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Flock of Sheep Clouds at the Beginning of Sunset, June 23, 2016
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

So the next time you see a striking cloud or dramatic sunset, go ahead – grab your license to explore and stare at that proverbial crack in the sidewalk.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy


1. Uelsmann, Jerry N. Keynote Artist Talk, Click Triangle Photography Festival and Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC, October 2, 2016

Voldemort Sky, Winston-Salem, NC September 26, 2016 digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Voldemort Sky, Winston-Salem, NC
September 26, 2016
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Sunset with Light Rays, Liberty Street, September 14, 2016, Winston-Salem, NC digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Sunset with Light Rays, Liberty Street, September 14, 2016, Winston-Salem, NC
digital photograph for painting reference
© Amy Funderburk 2016, All Rights Reserved

Posted in General art discussion and philosophy, Inspirational Quotes, Other artists, Photography and photography techniques Tagged , , , |

Amy and Jimmy’s Top Ten List of Haunted Places

The first edition of this post first appeared as two feature articles in the October 2015 issue of my newsletter, Off the Easel.

Haunted Wistman's Wood 1 digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2010 All Rights Reserved Two Bridges, Dartmoor, Devon, England

Haunted Wistman’s Wood 1
digital photograph
© Amy Funderburk 2010
All Rights Reserved
Two Bridges, Dartmoor, Devon, England

Decisions, decisions!

Narrowing down our list of favorite haunted locations turned out to be quite difficult. Even though you may frequently find them on such lists, some of the most meaningful places to me I would not call simply inhabited by ghosts, but rather, are sites woven into the rich tapestry where mythology, folklore, and history become one. “Haunted” seems too limited a word for these complex places. Lough Gur and its surrounding sacred landscape in Co Limerick, the Republic of Ireland, is one such place. 

Certain locations also have a rich history of association with the origins of this holiday long before it was known as the Halloween we know today. Two of my other favorite sites in the Republic of Ireland — the otherworldly Oweynagat Cave in Co Roscommon and the Hill of Tara in Co Meath — both have powerful historic and legendary associations with this time of year.

Wild expanses that I love dearly such as Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England almost seem too broadly spectred to narrow down to just one listing. A wide variety of manifestations call Bodmin Moor home — from the well-documented Beast of Bodmin, the Arthurian Lady of the Lake and the ghost Jan Tregeagle at Dozmary Pool, to  a variety of spooky denizens at the reputedly well-haunted Jamaica Inn, immortalized by author Daphne du Maurier. Like Dartmoor in Devon, England, Bodmin Moor is much greater than the sum of its parts.

By this definition, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA should be here rather than kicking off our Top Ten. You might say our ghostly travel adventures began in this city that certainly deserves an honorable mention on our list. October marks our honeymoon in this, the birthplace of Anne Rice’s vampires. Be sure to take a walking haunted tour as well as a cemetery tour here. You’ll see the famous tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, as well as the House of the Rising Sun, an 1800’s brothel haunted by its madame that was the inspiration for the 1960’s song. We also drove out to Oak Alley Plantation, the focus of numerous professional ghost hunts.

These favorite places have inspired my art as well as my heart, and have only served to further feed my wanderlust. 

Amy and Jimmy’s Top Ten List of Haunted Places

It’s no secret that my husband James C. Williams and I gravitate to liminal sites — if it’s ancient, mythical, folkloric, or haunted, whenever possible, it goes on our itinerary! For October, I thought it would be fun to list our Top Ten Haunted Places we’ve visited.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, for I’ve come to realize that I could list almost every location we’ve ever been. Our home state also has its fair share of ghosts. Deciding which site should rank higher than any other also felt like splitting hairs — a visit to any on this list should prove rewarding.

Famous haunts like the Tower of London and Edinburgh Castle are definitely well worth a visit, but for the most part, we’ve tried to create a list of sites slightly more off the beaten path. I highly encourage interested readers to learn more about the fascinating history behind these sites — and their preternatural inhabitants! 

Not a believer? No problem. Each of these sites are well worth a visit solely on the merits of either history or dramatic location, factors we also took into account when making our selections.

Dunnottar Ghost archival pigment print 12” x 18”, framed to 27” x 20” © Amy Funderburk 2013 Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

Dunnottar Ghost
archival pigment print
12” x 18”, framed to 27” x 20”
© Amy Funderburk 2013
Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

10. Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It’s no wonder Dunnottar is considered one of Scotland’s most haunted castles, considering these stones have witnessed such events as William Wallace’s army burning down the chapel containing a garrison of English troops in 1297, and the cruel mistreatment of a group of Covenanters seeking religious freedom, who were imprisoned there in 1685.

You will enjoy this spectacular cliff-top location whether the ghosts decide to show themselves or not. While neither of us had any such encounters there, the rich tales of Dunnottar’s plentiful otherworldly occupants inspired me to create the photograph above. Email me to learn the full story behind this piece! 

After a lovely day at the castle, for a truly hair-raising experience, head to the nearby Dunnottar Woods and take a walk to the Neolithic cairn known as Gallows Hill. 

Dunluce Castle - Ruin View silver gelatin print 5" x 7", 2001 North Antrim Coast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland © Amy Funderburk 2001

Dunluce Castle – Ruin View
silver gelatin print 5″ x 7″, 2001
North Antrim Coast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
© Amy Funderburk 2001

9. Dunluce Castle, near Bushmills, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland. You might recognize Dunluce as the castle inside the Led Zeppelin album cover for Houses of the Holy, or more recently, as a shooting location for the popular HBO program, Game of Thrones. Like Dunnottar, Dunluce is strategically built on a dramatic promontory. Here you may experience tell-tale cold spots, poltergeist activity, and will hear tales of a white-clad Bean Sidhe (Banshee).

My favorite story of Dunluce is the contested local legend that during a fierce storm in the 1600’s, part of the kitchen fell into the sea, along with the pots, pans, and servants! During storms, it is said that you can sometimes still hear their cries.

I did not have any personal experiences here, but I was artistically inspired by the atmospheric location and evocative ruins. 

Be sure to also take in the nearby Giant’s Causeway. Legend says it was built by the Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill.

8. Wistman’s Wood, Two Bridges, Dartmoor, Devon, England. This eerie and moody grove of ancient, stunted oaks could very well be the most haunted place on Dartmoor. 

Stories of a ghostly procession, spirits, and black hell hounds leading the otherworldly Wild Hunt all abound. Boulders are thickly covered with lichens and mosses underneath the twisted dwarf trees. Their undulating branches evoke the adders associated with this Wood, and you can easily imagine the ancient Druids worshiping underneath them.

The whole of Dartmoor is well worth a visit, as it is littered with prehistoric remains as well as more haunting locales. Should you find yourself “Pixie-led” across its bleak beauty, beware the Hairy Hands on the B3212 road between Two Bridges and Postbridge! 

Second Sight/2nd Site diptych, 12" x 30" oil on oil primed linen, © 2012 The Rollright Stones, King's Men Stone Circle Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, England

Second Sight/2nd Site
diptych, 12″ x 30″
oil on oil primed linen, ©  Amy Funderburk 2012
The Rollright Stones, King’s Men Stone Circle
Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, England

7. The Rollrights, King’s Men Stone Circle, the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire border, England. These weathered stones had an undeniably supernatural air, and Jimmy’s friend was previously knocked down here by an unseen force. This is a place chock full of myth and legend, and while it may not fit our personal definition of haunted, because of what happened to our friend, we have ranked it fairly high on our list. 

To read my full account of our visit to the Rollrights and how this stone circle inspired me to paint the diptych pictured above, please see the article, Origins of a Painting, in the April 2015 issue of my newsletter. 

6. Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Chapel at El Morro is definitely one of those places where you feel like you are being watched, even though you are alone. Despite your proximity to the busy visitor’s entrance of this popular tourist destination in the light of day, the hairs are firmly raised on the back of your neck.

Based on the strong sensations I felt in this chapel, I wasn’t at all surprised to see El Morro appear on a popular US ghost investigation program. The lighthouse is also said to be haunted.

While you are in Old San Juan, be sure to stay at Hotel el Convento, a former convent converted into our favorite hotel. After she became a widow, a Spanish noblewoman transformed her home into a Carmelite Convent, and she still haunts the hotel. If you oversleep, you might be awakened by a ghostly nun, and bats visit the 300 year old Nispero fruit tree in the open air courtyard!

5. West Kennet Long Barrow, just over a mile from Avebury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. Though you may read stories of a man and his dog appearing at Midsummer on top of this Neolithic burial mound, I tend to classify this powerful site as more ancient and primal that simply “haunted”, though haunted it may be. Around 50 prehistoric ancestors were buried within, after all. One definitely does not feel alone here, and for me, the presence was tangible as I approached the entrance. 

While in nearby Avebury, one of my favorite sites in England, you might as well pop into The Red Lion, said to be quite haunted. Considering the village is in the middle of such a large, impressive stone circle, why not?
 
4. Quin Abbey, near Ennis, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland. Jimmy relates his experience at this 15th century Abbey during our trip there in 2003:

“When we approached the abbey, Amy went one way around it and I went the other. As we met on the opposite side, she told me to investigate the inside of an arch which seemed creepy. 

“After I got to that location, I pointed my camcorder upward into the arch, and then down. As I turned the camcorder downward, I thought I saw a face in the monitor, and yes, Amy was right — that spot made me physically shudder! I later told Amy about my experience, and we reviewed the tape. It only showed stone and shadows — no ghostly face.

“Several days later, before returning home, I bought a book of tales from that region by storyteller Eddie Lenihan.1 As we were flying home, I read a ghost story from Quin Abbey. In the tale, while some boys were seeking treasure, they encountered the ghost of a monk in the bottom of that very same arch where I had seen the face!”

3. Alsia Well, St Buryan, Cornwall, England. Alsia is one of those Cornish wells where if you don’t already believe in Piskies,2 you will be charmed into it on your first visit, for this is one of the most magical places in Cornwall. 

Once we found the right house, the delightful landowner gave us a warm welcome, entertained us with enchanting stories, and led us on a personal tour of the grounds. On the way to the well, he pointed out the remains of an ancient wall, which may suggest that the Alsia well was indeed venerated long ago. 

A swath of frothy blackthorn — a tree symbolizing death and rebirth — made a natural archway over the simple entrance gate. The low well, surrounded by lush, delicate vegetation, sent its gentle trickle of water out onto the ground. A green-clad earthen embankment rose behind the well.   

Prior to approaching the well, I opened my backpack to get a bottle for gathering water. I had just placed it in my pack in the car, but now, it was not there. As I turned to go back to the car for another, there was my empty bottle, right by the gate! It was resting several feet away, at an angle where it could not have rolled — not to mention, I believe I would have noticed such a large item falling out of my bag!

Later, while seated in front of the well, I saw the reflection of a woman in white, as if she were standing on the embankment above the well in front of me. Her face was in sharp perspective, making it impossible to see facial features. After daring to glance up, I saw no one, and then the reflection was gone. 

Excited by what we had experienced, we returned the next day to tell the landowner about our encounter. He then told us a story that offered an explanation, and we were treated to his own tales of such phenomena. 

There had recently been a healer in the village named Jean. When she passed on, it had been her wish to have her ashes buried at the gate to the Alsia Well. Had Jean taken my water bottle to get our attention?  

2. Penrhiwgwair Cottage, South Wales. Please note this is a private residence, in use as a bed and breakfast at the time of our 2008 stay. When we made our reservations, we did not know of its haunted status.  

Some guests have experienced animal phenomena during their stay. This 16th to 17th century Welsh longhouse may date from as early as 1542. On the ground floor, cows were originally kept in what became the breakfast room so as to keep them warm and to protect them from thieves. 

A bedroom above used to be the hayloft. One guest thought the hosts had a cat, since she felt the weight of a feline presence curl up on her bed one night – only to discover the next morning that no physical cat lived there! 
 
But it is the other resident of the house who we encountered.
 
Our first evening there, I got up in the night, and when I went into the hallway, I felt an extraordinarily strong presence standing there. It seemed very accusatory and territorial. I could not move fast enough to rush back to my room and get under the protective covers!
 
The next morning over breakfast, as casually as I could muster, I asked our hosts, “Uh, so, by chance is the cottage…haunted?” It was then we learned of the woman who had lived in the cottage and died within recent memory, the grandmother of a local man. As a result, Jimmy and I refer to her as Granny. 

A friend of the homeowners had a more tangible experience with her. As he climbed the stairs, he spoke to a lady on the landing. “She asked what he was doing, and when he said he was visiting friends, she said, ‘Well, that’s very nice for YOU,’ in a slightly huffy way,” the homeowner recalled.
 
I felt Granny in the hallway every night, until our host’s young daughter came to visit during the weekend. At that point, I felt Granny retreat into the daughter’s bedroom, as if to protectively keep watch over her. When asked about his memories of this apparition, Jimmy said, “Granny gave me the shivers!”
  
The region around the cottage is also rich with folklore. A pwca 3 lives just up the road, and a ghostly woman searches the moor looking for her lost buckle.
 
My friend just told me of another house legend at the cottage. If you hear the horses and hounds of the ghostly Wild Hunt outside, death is imminent. When a guest who did not know this story came down for breakfast, he told his hosts that he’d had a vivid dream about a hunt gathering outside the window. “We did check him out online for quite some time,” shared my friend, “but all seemed fine!” 

And for Number One, we had a tie: 

Bluidy George Mackenzie's Tomb infrared photograph © 2012 James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

Bluidy George Mackenzie’s Tomb
infrared photograph
© 2012 James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved
Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

1. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland. This is Jimmy’s Number One on our list, because it is the only location where he has ever captured a full body apparition with his infrared film. Based on the grisly history of this cemetery, Jimmy exclaimed, “It’s no wonder the place is so haunted. I’m surprised I only caught one apparition!”

Founded in 1561, Greyfriar’s saw a particularly tragic event in 1679. Some 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned and mistreated in an area of the churchyard that featured vaulted tombs; the area became known as the “Covenanters’ Prison.”

Reported poltergeist activity experienced by visitors in the so-called Black Mausoleum includes bruises, scratches, burns, being knocked unconscious, and broken bones. Thankfully, no one in our tour group had any such unwelcome advances. 

This poltergeist activity is attributed to Bloody or Bluidy George Mackenzie, whose tomb is depicted in Jimmy’s photograph. In life, the Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie persecuted the Covenanters, but since his death in 1691, he haunts Greyfriars — or at least since a homeless man disturbed his tomb in 1998. 

What do you see in Jimmy’s photograph above? The ephemeral figure does NOT appear in the frame just before this shot, so you decide — ghost, or a trick of the light? 

Harry Potter fans will want to ramble around the tombstones of Greyfriars in the daylight to find the names that inspired J.K. Rowling as she was writing her first novel about the young wizard hero.

Be sure to take a walking tour of haunted Edinburgh that also takes in the Edinburgh Vaults. After the vaults were opened in 1985, numerous accounts of paranormal activities have been reported. There was one particular vault that I felt was quite haunted. It is perhaps not for the faint of heart, however, for the presence did not feel at all friendly.

1. Pengersick Castle, near Praa Sands, Cornwall, England. Said to house an excess of 20 ghosts, some call Pengersick the most haunted castle in all of Europe. The tower bedroom is at the very least considered Cornwall’s, if not Britain’s, most haunted, and based on my own experiences there, I concur! This earns Pengersick my vote for the top of our list.

We had the pleasure of attending a haunted investigation at the castle. Every one of our numerous personal experiences and vivid impressions were substantiated afterwards by reading the books of evidence, history, and other visitor accounts that were placed in each room, as well as in conversation with our guide following the investigation. I appreciated that our excellent guide, a published author, recommended that visitors consult these books only after having sufficient time within each room so as to draw our own conclusions.

I will refrain from elaborating on the specifics of our experiences further so as to give you the same opportunity to confirm your own encounters there, but if you’d like more information, feel free to contact me!

OK, you caught us — this ended up being a Top Eleven List, but where’s the alliteration in that?

I hope you’ve enjoyed our haunting itinerary! Just think, we haven’t been to places like Ireland’s infamous Leap Castle, the Paris catacombs, or The Stanley Hotel in Colorado yet — what stories will we come home with next to fuel our art?

Where should we go next? Do you have a location you would recommend to readers seeking a haunted itinerary? Please leave a comment and let us know your suggestions!


1. Eddie Lenihan, Long Ago by Shannonside (Mercier Press, 2002), 55-57.

2. Cornish pixies

3. Pwca: Welsh; in Irish it is the púca. Also pooka, a shape-changing creature who can be benevolent or mischievous.


 

If you have any questions about his photograph, please contact Jimmy.  Many thanks for his assistance in preparing this Top Ten List!

Many thanks to our friend in Wales for the information she provided for the entry on Penrhiwgwair Cottage!

Posted in Art Travels, Celtic history and mythology, Halloween, Sacred Sites, Travel Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Great Studio Migration!

 

My new studio! © 2016 Amy Funderburk All Rights Reserved

My new studio!
© 2016 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved

Things have been happening very quickly for me lately! After diving down Alice’s rabbit hole and following a proverbial trail of divine, gluten-free bread crumbs, what is the exciting end result?

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer: September 22nd will be my last day at my current downtown studio location. 

As of that date, I will be moving to a gorgeous new space that can only be called…well, sexy! Take a look at the photographs above, and you’ll see what I mean. And I will even have a lovely view of trees outside the windows, as opposed to my current view of a brick wall. The natural light in this space is phenomenal. 

Not much says “Amy Funderburk” more than that painted floor. Some splashes of my ubiquitous purple and some additional lighting, and I’ll be off to the races.  

For those of you who are familiar with Winston-Salem, my new studio will be located in the historic West End Mill Works community, in the cobalt blue building at 915 Bridge Street. I am delighted to be joining this thriving area, home to a variety of creatives and businesses, including The Breathing Room Yoga Studio and The Olio Glassblowing Studio.

Once I get settled in, I look forward to hosting some sort of Open “Studio Warming” Event to show off my new space. When you visit, you will find ample off-street parking here too, another asset of this move.

And if you don’t want to keep calling it Sexy, you can call it Studio 111.

Stay tuned to future newsletters for details!

My new Studio in the West End Mill Works community Winston-Salem, NC © 2016 Amy Funderburk All Rights Reserved

My new Studio in the West End Mill Works community, Winston-Salem, NC
© 2016 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved

Posted in The Artist's Studio

Complementary, My Dear Watson!

Still Life for Mastering Color workshop, August 27-28, 2016 Lit by green gel to show red shadows © 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Still Life for Mastering Color workshop, August 27-28, 2016
Lit by green gel to show red shadows
© 2016 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

In this Still Life, what colors do you see?

If you aren’t familiar with the Color Wheel, in essence, it is a system of organizing the colors of the rainbow by placing them in a circle that flows from one color into the next. Red and yellow make orange, so red flows into orange which in turn moves into yellow. Yellow and blue create green, so yellow melds into green, which flows into blue, and so on. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet move around the Wheel, then violet connects back to red.

The way colors combine with other colors on the Color Wheel, interacting with our eye to create certain optical effects and emotional reactions, are called color schemes.

For my recent Mastering Color workshop, after setting up these objects, I lit them with a spotlight covered with a green theatrical lighting gel to demonstrate how a color will create natural shadows of its complementary color. Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel — in this case, green and red.

Look in the shadows cast by the objects in this still life. Once my angled green light hit the objects, the shadows appeared dramatically redder.  The complements look for one another.

They also neutralize each other when mixed, and look for one another. This is the most dramatic of color schemes, and provides the highest color contrast. As artist Marc Chagall said, All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”

Claude Monet knew this when he painted his wife and son in Camille and Jean on a Hill — or any number of other works, for that matter. He did not hesitate to daub red within the dramatic cast shadow in the green grass, rather than simply relying on a darker green. This results in a lively, rich shadow.

The other main pairs of complements are yellow and violet and blue and orange. Start looking around you!

The Report on Mastering Color

On the weekend of August 27-28th, I hosted the Mastering Color workshop at my studio, and was thrilled with the color scheme projects created by the participants.

We explored the nuances of that most emotionally evocative of elements with the help of the Color Wheel, and examined some of the reasons behind our physiological and psychological reactions to color. The participants’ enthusiasm was infectious!

Many thanks to all those who attended! If you missed it, I hope you can join me the next time I offer the workshop.

All the best, and Namaste,

Amy

August 27-28, 2016 © 2016 James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved

Mixing demonstration in watercolor, Mastering Color workshop with Amy Funderburk August 27-28, 2016
© 2016 James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved

Posted in Creativity, General art discussion and philosophy, Other artists, Painting and painting techniques, Photography and photography techniques Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Art Requires Courage

O. THE LEAP OF FAITH oil on oil primed linen, 36" x 48" ©Amy Funderburk 1999, All Rights Reserved My interpretation of The Fool tarot card in the series Wisdom of the Ancient Lore.

O. THE LEAP OF FAITH
oil on oil primed linen, 36″ x 48″
© Amy Funderburk 1999, All Rights Reserved

My painting professor once called me fearless. I have since come to realize that this is the highest complement I have ever been paid as an artist.

“I’m frightened all the time. But I never let it stop me. Never!” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Pursuing your dream, in art or any other field, brings its own rewards. Yet art requires courage. It is a leap of faith in a society that prizes safety nets and security. Art, however, feeds on risk taking.

Fear is a wide umbrella that gives shelter to many shadows lurking in our minds: fear of failure, of rejection, of being judged, of not being good enough, of not making enough money. Much has been written about the artist and this, our creative nemesis.1

In his blog post, The Perfect Creative Personality, David J. Rogers describes his ideal recipe for an artist of any discipline. According to Rogers, the perfect creative is bold and fearless, and one who creates sincere work with integrity.2

Boldness, observes Rogers, is important for achieving success in any field, but “…especially in the arts where courage isn’t a luxury but a necessity. The great creative personalities couldn’t have attained success had they not taken bold risks.”

“What I do is face the blank canvas, which is terrifying.” – Richard Diebenkorn

What Diebenkorn (one of those great creative personalities) describes is a painter’s version of the infamous writer’s block faced by pressured wordsmiths. This is perhaps the first taste of fear experienced by a budding artist.

One of the advantages of the underpainting technique is that you cover up the intimidating white surface. When you apply this initial thin, lean layer of pigment to the primed substrate, it physically loosens up your arm and gets both your mind and your painting jump started with broad, energetic strokes. Then you’re just adding more paint on top of paint, which looks much less intimidating than a pristine canvas staring back at you.

Fear fades with more practice. There are ways around – or better yet, through – the fear.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – attributed to Joseph Campbell

But like all great challengers, sometimes fear – or more precisely, the learning from it and moving beyond it to a higher emotional state – is what helps us mine up the deeper riches of creativity. You may have thought of the memorable cave scene from Star Wars: Episode VIthe Empire Strikes Back when you read the above quote. Our greatest so-called enemies are usually ourselves, and whether or not we move forward depends on our choices. Do we listen to the often crippling voice of fear or boldly follow the light of inner growth?

Your hope and fear are often opposite sides of the same coin. Perhaps you hope for success, yet fear it as well. By avoiding the quest for your goal, you give fear a comfortable home by choosing not to try. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Being in the present moment assuages fear of the unknown.

“The two terrors that discourage originality and creative living are fear of public opinion and undue reverence for one’s own consistency.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 3

I feel that the more personal an artist’s or writer’s imagery is the more universal it becomes. With just the right doses of inspiration and skill, a creator can depict a firsthand experience and birth a symbol or narrative for the human condition.

What results from portraying such intimate subject matter is a certain peeling back of the usual protective emotional layers. You can be left feeling as though your soul has been stripped bare, all the while hoping that other people like what they see or read.

Emerson goes on to say, “The great figures of history have not cared for the opinions of their contemporaries.” 4

Yet meeting someone who fully connects with your work and “gets” what you do may feel like emerging into light after a journey through a dense forest. If fear of being misunderstood or not accepted has held sway over you, there is a sense of relief.

To move through such fear, first and foremost, create for yourself instead of trying to please the critics or chase the buyers. Write, paint, or draw what you feel called to create for the joy of it and then you can find the right target market for your work.

If you fall into the trap of trying to match everyone’s sofa, then you end up with a lot of framed wallpaper that camouflages the furniture. Then how will you know where to sit down? Be bold and sing with your own unique voice.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

As I read Rogers’ description of his artist friend who never finished a painting because she was terrified of it, I thought of certain unfinished works in my own studio. I vowed to pick up my brush and palette like a sword and shield at my next earliest opportunity.

I am always surprised when people who haven’t seen me for awhile ask me if I am still painting. Those who ask must have seen other creatives leave their path for some reason, or perhaps their inquiry is a reflection of their own experience. As Rogers astutely points out, “That’s why the top is such an exclusive place – because fear stops so many people from reaching it.”

Being waylaid by fear or doubt is often part of an artist’s story. For me, however, I agree with one of my artist friends, Jeremiah Miller. As he put it, as long as he is still breathing, he’ll still be painting.


Be sure to visit David J. Roger’s blog to read his eloquent post in full.

An internet poll called David’s book Fighting to Win the best motivational book ever written. He is working on a “how to be a writer” book. His blog is followed by creative people of all kinds. He lives in the Chicago area with his wife Diana.


1. David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. (Santa Cruz, CA and Eugene, OR: The Image Continuum, 1993)

I highly recommend this book for creatives working in any discipline.

Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, will also enjoy the book I am currently reading:

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2105)

2. David J. Rogers, “The Perfect Creative Personality,” davidjrogersftw (blog), June 10, 2016, https://davidjrogersftw.com/2016/06/10/the-perfect-creative-personality/

3. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays, First Series, 1841

4. Emerson, “Self-Reliance.”

Posted in Archetypes and symbolism, Creativity, General art discussion and philosophy, Inspirational Quotes, Other artists, Painting and painting techniques Tagged , , , , , , , , |