Category Archives: Other artists

Say, One Out of Two Ain’t Bad! Tales from my recent art workshops…

Originally published in my December 2015 issue of Off the Easel

Workshop painting ©2015 Amy Funderburk

Workshop painting ©2015 Amy Funderburk

…or the story of how one painting was indeed ugly, but one I rather liked. The biggest benefits of taking those weekend workshops last month were less tangible, however.

If you read my post last month, It’s OK to Make Some Ugly Paintings: the Importance of Artistic Exploration, I was prepared to make some not-quite masterpieces, but to learn from playing.

As I am referencing the adjective, to describe art as “ugly” is in the critical eye of the artist as creator, rather than the opinion of another viewer. If the artist fell short of his or her intentions, that artist might call their attempt ugly.

Art is, if nothing else, subjective.

My article sparked wonderful comments from some of my Twitter followers. My favorite came from fellow artist Karin Feickert, who wrote: “I love ugly or non-standard beauty.” As artist Alice Neel said:

“Nobody knows what makes good art. As an artist, when it happens, you’re grateful, and then you get on with it.”

Open to new creative experiences and prepared for ugly, I took two workshops that weekend. Making my choices carefully, I had selected topics that I thought would inform future paintings. I came to each class prepared with reference photographs, and can safely say that at least the end result pictured above turned out to be a proper study for the ultimate piece. But that wasn’t the true benefit of the weekend.

The first workshop was a full seven hour day on Water: Reflections and Translucence with David Dunlop. His impressive knowledge base in both art history and the Old Masters’ methods, as well as the science of seeing and perception, really gave my experience depth.

I found what David shared to both echo and augment my personal exploration of Old Masters’ techniques and my theories on how to paint faster, but still have a believable or “realistic” looking end result. One such Old Master technique is to use transparent colors within your dark values so as to give them depth, and save your opaque pigments later for the light.

David stressed “following the paint” rather than the reference photograph, and utilizing a “process of reduction and simplification” so as to exploit the brain’s physiological tendency to make sense out of what he called the “tableaux of confusion”. In other words, just as my brain easily sees animals in cloud formations, the brain has a tendency to make sense out of textured chaos. Such visual cacophony as you would find in grass or, say, the weathered texture of two life-sized standing stones awaiting completion in my studio, ahem, your mind wants to make sense from that visual information. In this way, the viewer’s brain does part of my job for me.

This was great news. Perhaps Edgar Degas was alluding to this phenomenon when he said:

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

The other grand pearl of wisdom that David rolled out that I immediately put in my basket was to remove stress for maximum creativity. Apparently, he explained, we have better access to subliminal memory when we are relaxed.

When David mentioned this, I immediately thought of one of my favorite Yogi brand tea tag quotes that inspired my blog post, A Relaxed Mind is a Creative Mind. If we learned nothing else in the workshop, David said, he wanted us to remember to take a deep breath before beginning a painting session.

Whereas David’s workshop was perhaps more cerebral, Linda Kemp’s three hour acrylic workshop on The Painted Nest was unapologetically my playtime.

In the workshop description, Linda’s techniques of concentrating on the negative spaces — she referred to them as “captured negatives” — seemed to be in tandem with my own way of thinking while I paint. She also uses glazes masterfully to push areas back in order to bring other shapes forward.

However, trying to replicate her fabulous splishy-splash method of creating an underpainting structure that she had demonstrated step-by-step with both ease and bravado had me feeling quite like Jackson Pollock — and having a great deal of fun in the process.

There was a bit of a “re-learning curve” for me, as I had not used acrylics at any great length since my college days when I switched to oil. Somewhere between a desire to improve my unfinished, ugly duckling end result from this workshop, and thinking that the faster drying time of acrylics would make them an ideal medium for future studies, I left the trade show with a sack of tubes under my arm.

I confess, I feel the pull to improve on the ugly painting, but upon examination, I find that this drive isn’t just habitual. I don’t feel the urge to make a would-be masterpiece out of it, but rather, I feel I have more to learn from the process.

Coming Full Circle. Writing a blog is not unlike journaling. Just as it is helpful to read back over old personal journal entries to discover connections — what Oprah Winfrey memorably calls the “ah ha moments” — apparently, it’s not a bad idea to review your other writings periodically.

As I recently uploaded my previous blog posts to their new home on my website, I found it extraordinary how entries tied into my article from last month about artistic experimentation, and the very concepts David Dunlop was touting in his reflections workshop.

If you will forgive me for quoting myself, in my post Seeking “whelment,” I share:

“Forgetting that it is about painting ‘the masses, the whole’ as one of the Old Masters said is admittedly one of my heavy things to put down. Why not let the viewer’s brain and eye fill in some of the blanks? There is no need to paint every blade of grass when the viewer could perceive the holistic massed texture of the grass instead….

“Johannes Vermeer painted in this manner — his clean style is what I love about his paintings. Everything you need is there; the extraneous is omitted. He may have only completed 35 attributed paintings in his short 43 years, but visually, Vermeer had no weights around his ankles.”

And from my post, Taming the Inner Critic:

“My studio neighbor recently attended a week-long art workshop. Last night he showed me the results — he’d gotten four new pieces done, and was now applying the concepts in the studio to another new piece. Taking this time away from the large painting he’d been working on for awhile helped him to open a new creative door, as he put it. In his new pieces, I saw an awakening of some dynamic visual breakthroughs. My friend’s inspiration, kindled from working quickly and with freedom during this workshop, was infectious.

“So instead of worrying about what we have to DO, why not just BE, and have fun with it? Let’s all create something experimental, unexpected, and freeing, and in releasing our Inner Critic’s expectation that everything has to be a just-so Masterpiece, who knows? You just might create one.”

David was fearless as he demonstrated his techniques in a variety of painting media. As he said in the workshop, “Embrace the accident — there are no wrong notes. It’s what you do next.”

I am eager to see what comes next.

All the best, and Namaste,


David Dunlop is the host of a national Emmy Award-winning series on PBS, writes an art blog, and offers an instructional DVD series. For more about David, visit: and also look for his presentations on You Tube.

Linda Kemp has published several titles for North Light books, and has been featured in various arts publications. Look for Linda on You Tube, and visit her website:

Above: Workshop painting:
Experimental Study for Reflection
November 13, 2015
oil on gessobord coated with polymer gloss varnish
©2015 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved
Madron Holy Well, Madron, West Penwith, Cornwall, England

Also posted in Creativity, Drawing and drawing techniques, General art discussion and philosophy, Inspirational Quotes, Painting and painting techniques, Works in progress Tagged , , , , |

It’s OK to Make Some Ugly Paintings: the Importance of Artistic Exploration

Originally published in my November 2015 issue of Off the Easel

If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you may have noticed that I have been branching out lately by experimenting with new media and approaches.

From recent works such as the charcoal rubbing drawing Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone to the as-yet-untitled triptych of found aged cedar inspired by votive coin trees, I have been exploring new ways to express my ideas.

Yet how does an artist balance an innate creativity and desire to discover new working methods with the need to keep a focus in his or her artwork? As fellow artists have surely heard, everyone from grantors to curators are usually looking for a cohesive, committed body of work. Such devotion best illustrates the artist’s point of view and gives a sense of dedication to his or her craft.

Another way of saying it? A focused body of work looks like the same artist did it all.

Yet, take two artists who worked in a variety of media — Picasso and Gauguin. An influence on Picasso, Gauguin painted, carved wood, did ceramics, and worked in various forms of printmaking, including woodcuts. But despite this variety, each work, undoubtedly, looks like a Gauguin. This artist who notoriously booked a ticket to Tahiti summed up his philosophy on creativity in a very succinct, polarized manner:

“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.”

Picasso was not only a trained painter, but also an accomplished self-taught sculptor, as evidenced by the current exhibit of his three dimensional work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And don’t forget his collage work with Georges Braque. But you can always tell, no matter the media he chose as the vehicle for his self-expression, that each piece is a Picasso.

You can look to style, subject matter, and intention to thematically connect works executed in various media. To compare Picasso’s Blue Period to Cubism, however, you must look for the developmental stepping stones in between. You must look for the element of artistic expansion.

One of my Twitter followers, Carrie Brummer, creator of Artist Think,recently asked in a thought-provoking tweet:

“Does art have to be important to be worth creating?”

Seeing this tweet was quite timely for me, because I had already been meditating on this notion. Since my previous technique of indirect oil application 2 was quite time consuming, I had already recognized that I had fallen into the trap of feeling that every piece had to be, to use Carrie’s word, “important.”

Stepping away from oil for just a bit to explore media in which I might work a little faster, like a charcoal rubbing, or materials where I can just explore new concepts and play, such as found aged wood, felt like freedom to me. The first step to working faster is to prove to yourself that you can, no matter what the media.

This month, I am looking quite forward to something I have not done in ages — taking a workshop! I am taking two, actually, from among a veritable buffet of choices held in conjunction with an artists’ trade show. I chose topics that I felt would directly speak to certain painting projects I have planned, and one workshop is even in acrylic. What better way to pick up the painting pace than with a media that dries so quickly?

In such an environment where the fostered atmosphere is to learn new techniques and approaches, you go with an open heart and mind with an expectation of growth. You open yourself to the possibility of artistic expansion.

Just think: if Picasso had never experimented, Cubism would never have been born. So to stay fresh and to reinvigorate your creative practice, fellow artists, remember to play.

Another artist who worked in wildly diverse art forms, including film and fashion, was Salvador Dali. He said:

“Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.”

Wondering what my response was to Carrie’s tweet?  I replied:

Every piece teaches and leads to the next. Break free of the “every piece has to be a masterpiece” mindset — experiment and play! As they say, you have to break a few eggs to make a cake. Studies or “ugly paintings” feed into the “masterpiece.” Thus, all art is important, even the studies, experiments, and flops that help you to get where you are going.

This is how we artists grow from our own version of the Blue Period to our personal Cubism. It’s OK to make some ugly paintings along the way.

All the best, and Namaste,


1 Indirect painting is the wet-on-dry technique of using layers. Each paint layer must dry before the subsequent one is applied. After employing the first layer, called an underpainting, the artist uses thin transparent layers called glazes to achieve luminosity on top of an opaque layer. Direct painting, on the other hand, is also known as wet-in-wet painting, or alla prima.

2 Be sure to check out Carrie Brummer’s fabulous website on creativity, Artist Think. On her About page, Carrie writes: “I’m here to help unleash your inner artist: our world is a better place because of your creativity.”

Also posted in Creativity, General art discussion and philosophy, Inspirational Quotes Tagged , , , |

The Day We Left Orkney. Part I: You *Can* Get There From Here


First edition originally published January 23, 2015

Hoy Sound Sylvia Wishart, 1987 oil and mixed media on paper, from the Pier Arts Centre Collection © the Estate of Sylvia Wishart

Sylvia Wishart – Hoy Sound
1987, oil and mixed media on paper
from the Pier Arts Centre Collection, used with permission
© the Estate of Sylvia Wishart

When I do my home yoga practice, the light comes in through the dining room window, casting rectangular reflections on the glass of one of my photographs of Loch Ness. This interplay of light and shape layered on shape always reminds me of an artist whose work I was delighted to discover while we were travelling in Orkney during our Scotland trip in the fall of 2012. Each time I see them, these reflections conjure up Sylvia Wishart’s compositions.

Part I: You CAN Get There From Here. 

When planning your itinerary to Scotland, don’t let the seeming remoteness of any of the outer islands deter you from a visit. While there are many daytrip tours heading to the Orkney Islands from the Scottish mainland, there is so much to explore, especially if you plan to do any island hopping, that I recommend you allow several days here. We allotted four, but could easily have stayed longer, and as fans of prehistoric sites, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Glacial erosion resulted in stone beaten by the sea. Stretches of treeless, windblown land are topped with distant rounded hills — a visual combination to inspire the artist’s heart and eye. This is the furthest north I have ever been, and place names here are derived from Old Norse as a reminder of Orkney’s history and your proximity to Scandinavia.

The Mainland, as the largest island is known, is particularly littered with prehistoric remains — including The Ring of Brodgar, an amazingly large stone circle that boasts Viking graffiti on one of its stones. As you drive along a thin strip of land sandwiched between two lochs through the archeologically rich Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, you will see such wonders one right after another. An ongoing archeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar reveals layers of history that hint at the great importance of this area to the ancients.

The Watchstone Near the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, Scotland digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2012 All Rights Reserved

The Watchstone — near the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, © Amy Funderburk 2012, All Rights Reserved

The weather was beautiful during most of our Orkney days, though my husband swears he saw snow mixed with the spitting rain as we boarded the small ferry to get to these islands. After all, they say that you can experience all four seasons in one day in Scotland. I was more enamored with the small pod of dolphins I spotted immediately as we pulled away from the dock than whether or not any of the cold precipitation was actually frozen. The day we went to the capital city of Kirkwall was rainy, but since we were inside the highly recommended Orkney Museum in the Tankerness House, the Earl’s Palace, and splendid Saint Magnus Cathedral for the day, our plans worked out fairly well.

Until, that is, the day we left.

It was my husband’s birthday. We had a grand itinerary planned — we were to board the departing ferry at 11 AM, then have a lovely drive down to Loch Ness, stopping at various points of interest to photograph along the way.

But Mother Nature had other ideas. A big storm was due, and it had started its approach the previous night. The waves crashed dramatically along the causeways as we drove around on our last  day. Our bed and breakfast hostess in Ophir was very accommodating, and offered us our room for another night should we need it.  But all seemed well according to her sources — the ferries were scheduled to run as usual the next morning. At any rate, we had already booked accommodations at our bed and breakfast on the northern shore of Loch Ness, so I was very relieved that all seemed well with our departure plans.

After eating breakfast the next morning, including a cute birthday cupcake for Jimmy, we packed the rental car and off we went to catch the ferry on South Ronaldsay. After a 45 minute or so drive, we pulled into the carpark for the ferry, only to learn from the office that during the crossing earlier that morning, the captain found the waves too choppy and treacherous, so if he made another trip, it would not be until the end of the day.

Not one for much spontaneity or the uncertainty of a crossing with no guarantee, I immediately went into lateral thinking mode as if I were a contestant on The Amazing Race. “The other ferry company!” I thought. “The one that sets out from Stromness — they have larger ferries. I bet they are running!” With a cartoon light bulb over my head that shone brightly with this idea, I eagerly called the number that was listed in my guidebook. Luckily, they were operating as scheduled! However, the next crossing wouldn’t be until 4:45 PM. So much for our leisurely drive on a sunny day, but at least we would be able to get off the island and keep to our plans to arrive in Loch Ness, albeit several hours later than expected. After making a booking, we headed out, driving north for an hour to Stromness.

We had hoped to visit this town of stone and narrow lanes on our trip, but as it goes with an overloaded itinerary, we hadn’t made it. Now we had a few hours to spend here before our ferry departure. The main draw for us was to visit The Pier Arts Centre, so after finding the ferry dock, the Arts Centre, and a place to park (the latter being easier said than done!), we set out to explore this artistic treasure trove of over 180 works by 20th Century British artists. Founded in 1979, as the name suggests, the Centre is right on the water, an old building originally converted to hold the collection of founder Margaret Gardiner.


View of the Harbor from Inside The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney digital photograph © Amy Funderburk 2012 All Rights Reserved With kind assistance and permission from The Pier Arts Centre

View of the Harbor from Inside The Pier Arts Centre on a Rainy Day, Stromness, Orkney
digital photograph
© Amy Funderburk 2012 All Rights Reserved
With kind assistance and permission from The Pier Arts Centre

Before our artistic exploration could commence, however, there was also the matter of notifying the Loch Ness bed and breakfast of our delayed departure. My calls weren’t going through on my mobile for some reason, so email was my only hope.

The Pier Arts Centre to the rescue! The staff was very accommodating and welcoming in our time of need. They had a room with free WiFi, so I was able to use my laptop to contact our next home away from home and alert the hostess to our impending tardiness.  Shelter from the cold rain, a rescued day spent looking at a rich, varied art collection, and a free WiFi hotspot as well — what more could The Pier Arts Centre provide?

I had first seen a piece of Sylvia Wishart’s work at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. Her signature use of textures and unusual reflected shapes, as well as her penchant for including rabbits and birds made Wishart’s distinctive style stick in my mind. As I sat in the meeting room that graced my laptop with WiFi capability, when I saw the large painting before me, I knew it was clearly painted by the same artist. It was there that I fell in love.

Stay tuned for my next post, Part II: Sylvia Wishart. The best artist you may have never heard of, unless you’ve visited Orkney.

Many thanks to the Pier Arts Centre for their assistance.  The above image of Hoy Sound by Sylvia Wishart — the painting that hung in the meeting room — was provided by the Pier Arts Centre and used here with their kind permission. For more information, please visit their website.

For a wealth of information about Orkney, I highly recommend the website Orkneyjar: the Heritage of the Orkney Islands.

All the best, and Namaste,


Also posted in Art Travels, Sacred Sites, Travel Tagged , , , , , |

“A Relaxed Mind is a Creative Mind”

Inspiration Iris digital photograph © 2014 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved

Inspiration Iris
digital photograph
© 2014 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved

First edition originally published May 21, 2014

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. 1 

That quote is on both my home studio door and on the inspiration board at my downtown studio. It comes from the tag on a tea bag by Yogi Teas.

The brand Traditional Medicinals also features inspirational quotes on their tea tags, but they take a more Zen-like approach by using just one or two words, such as two of my favorites:



Be heard. 

As I savor my tea each morning, I also enjoy a dip into Carl Jung’s pool of synchronicity as I read the daily wisdom printed on a small paper rectangle and suspended by a string from my steaming mug. These words can point me in the direction of inner peace as I start each day.

In addition to A relaxed mind is a creative mind, and along with a few particularly pertinent fortune cookie fortunes, I have the following tea tags on my studio inspiration board. I hope that some of these quotes speak to you as well:

Inspiration is an unlimited power. 1

When the mind is backed by will, miracles happen.1

Be yourself 2

Live from your heart, you will be most effective.1

Let your heart guide you.1

May your inner self be happy and secure.1

The Universe is a stage on which you dance, guided by your heart. 1

Empty yourself and let the Universe fill you.1

Peace 2

Joy is the essence of success. 1

Dream 2

Your intuition is your best friend.1

You are a living consciousness. 1

Have wisdom in your actions and faith in your merits. 1

In the spring, when time permits, I also like to start my day with a brief stroll around my garden to photograph the new blooms.

By enlarging the size of flowers that most people might walk hurriedly past, Georgia O’Keefe taught us to take time to notice the diminutive, thereby expanding our awareness of our surroundings. The shapes, inner light, and colors of a German Bearded Iris can become like flames — my plan for part of a particular future painting.

Irises also have a lovely scent — something that not everyone realizes. The purple ones usually smell like grapes, while the yellow ones have an lemon chiffon aroma.

Unfortunately, these dramatic showstoppers of my garden are temporary — my later bloomers didn’t produce this spring, so my iris season is now over until next year. Perhaps their temporary nature makes them all the more treasured when they reappear.

With memories of such walking meditations, I leave you with one last tea tag quote by Yogi Teas:

Meditation is the medicine of the mind.

All the best, and Namaste,


Yogi tea tag quote.  Used with permission.

Traditional Medicinals,  Used with permission.

All material, unless otherwise noted, is copyright Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved.

Also posted in Inspirational Quotes, Meditation and yoga

Seeking “whelment”

First edition originally published April 8, 2014

As my husband once cleverly pointed out, people never talk about feeling “whelmed.” They only go on about being overwhelmed. At very busy periods like we’ve been recently experiencing, we would prefer to just feel whelmed.

In the lovely book The Tao of Pooh, author Benjamin Hoff takes us on a tour of the Hundred Acre Wood as seen through the lens of Taoism and illustrates this Eastern wisdom through A.A. Milne’s characters. Hoff describes the Western, Type A, doing-too-much-without-enough-time personality as a Bisy Backson.

One day, Christopher Robin left a note on his door that should have read “Busy — back soon,” but instead he spelled it “Bisy Backson.” Hoff describes this personality as being “almost desperately active.” As you may recall from the A. A. Milne classic, Rabbit was the perfect example of a Bisy Backson.1

During overwhelming, Bisy Backson times, I remind myself to prioritize; whatever I don’t get done can wait. I remember to breathe as I try to quiet my mind. Hopefully, the screeching monkey thoughts that race quickly through the trees of my brain turn into puffy clouds, gently floating above the green canopy as they slowly drift across the cerulean sky. At such busy times, I am happy to come across an inspirational quote as if it was a mental life raft.

My sister-in-law Judy gave me a wonderful birthday gift last year. I call it the Judy Jar. Purple ribbons hang out of the top of the jar like the lush center of a peony, each tied to a different quote Judy selected for me.

One of my favorite quotes from the Judy Jar is often on my mantle:

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.”

This seems a particularly good quote for springtime, a time of new beginnings — by putting down that which is heavy, we become lighter like all the things we associate with this time of year. I did not know the origin of this quote until I did a web search for the purpose of this blog post. It comes from author C. Joybell C., and the remainder of the quote is:

“So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” 2

One of my favorite yoga books is by Judith Hanson Lasater: A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life. 3 This small volume is a perpetual calendar of daily quotes and short meditative paragraphs to accompany them.

For those of you who have seen my painting Savasana — The Release with its grainy hardwood floor, you may be as amused as I was by the entry for my birthday. “We are seeking wholeness, not perfection,” Lasater begins. What a good meditation for someone who, ahem, may have tried not to paint every splinter within those wooden boards, but somehow managed to do it anyway.

Lasater then suggests you look at the knots and irregularities in a wood floor, pointing out that “these imperfections are what give the floor its beauty and character; they make it real.” True enough, had I painted each board of that hardwood floor like identical soldiers in a row, it would never had looked accurate, but would have become my stylized symbol for the floor. This, however, is one of the very things that led me to work in a photorealistic style — I wanted to make my surreal subject matter look real.

Forgetting that it is about painting “the masses, the whole,” as one of the Old Masters said, is admittedly one of my heavy things to put down. Why not let the viewer’s brain and eye fill in some of the blanks? There is no need to paint every blade of grass when the viewer could perceive the holistic massed texture of the grass instead. Advice I have given to many painting students I now give to myself so as to paint in a more “whelmed” way.

Johannes Vermeer painted in this manner — his clean style is what I love about his paintings. Everything you need is there; the extraneous is omitted. He may have only completed 35 attributed paintings in his short 43 years, but visually, Vermeer had no weights around his ankles.

What then is the best way to find whelment?

I think the secret lies my very favorite quote — Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your Bliss.” I will leave it to you to look up the remainder of his statement, but the essence of Campbell’s wisdom is encapsulated in those three introductory words.

All the best, and Namaste,



  1. Hoff, Benjamin.The Tao of Pooh. Penguin Books/Viking Penguin, 1982. ISBN 0-14-006747-7 Used with permission from the publisher.
  2. This quote is available under Public License via
  3. From Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life, copyright © 2006 byJudith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., P.T. Used with permission from Rodmell Press.

All material, unless otherwise noted, is copyright Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved.

Also posted in Inspirational Quotes, Meditation and yoga, Painting and painting techniques Tagged , , , , |

Really Seeing a Place

photograph © James C. Williams 2010 All Rights Reserved

Funderburk sketching at the White Horse of Uffington, England. © James C. Williams 2008 All Rights Reserved

First edition originally published March 18, 2014

The last crocuses have now been joined by armies of cheerful daffodils, bluebells, and hyacinths, all bowing their heads today under the weight of today’s sleet and freezing rain, but still promising that spring is on the way.

My friend, Winston-Salem pastel artist Elsie Dinsmore Popkin, said she never felt as though she had really seen a place unless she had drawn it. Elsie passed away a few years ago, but this insight has always stayed with me.

I came across her 1997 Artist’s Statement yesterday when going through some old curatorial files from my days as an Exhibitions Coordinator. In her statement, Elsie also shared:

“I hope that the experience of seeing my pastels will open the viewer’s eyes to her own surroundings, will help her to see and rejoice in the forms and colors and beauty of the world around her.”

Indeed, I share in this intention, and perhaps Elsie’s concept of drawing a location in order to fully connect with it was an inspiration for me when I started a travel sketchbook. Since our first trip to Ireland in 2001, whenever I feel moved by a particular site on our journeys, I will take the time to draw, attempting to harness the energy of the place with my pencil onto paper. When creating final works, I refer to these drawings along with my reference photographs.

As Elsie put it, we try to express “the essence of the landscape,” as if to distill the fundamental nature of a location into a few marks of graphite instead of selecting a single, potent word.

On this St Patrick’s Day, I wish you slan agus beannacht,1


Irish Gaelic for “health and blessings.”

Image credit: Amy Funderburk drawing in her travel sketchbook at the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire, England; 2008. Photo by James C. Williams, copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved.

Also posted in Art Travels, Drawing and drawing techniques, General art discussion and philosophy, Sacred Sites, Travel Tagged |

What is your word?

First edition originally published March 18, 2014

One night at the beginning of Restorative Yoga class, the instructor suggested we select a word to mentally repeat on our inhale, and another for our exhale. I chose the words “Allow…release. Allow… release.”

Some time ago, my husband Jimmy Williams told me about an app that was patterned after the work of street artist Shepard Fairey. Perhaps you saw Fairey in the 2010 fantastic documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, or have seen his graphic, black and white image of Andre the Giant’s face with the word “Obey” underneath in all capital letters on a red field, but you definitely know his iconic Hope poster that the artist created for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. This work became the springboard for the HOPE Poster Photo Filter app,1 which features several options for changing the style of your image, and the opportunity for you to input your own word in lieu of “hope” or “obey”.

Hearing about this app made me think – what would my word be? What one word would I select to sum up my true self, my personality, my existence?

For someone so verbal, it seemed an important, daunting task – almost like a New Year’s Resolution that had to be condensed into one word. I savored several contenders like one amuse bouche after another.

During my contemplation, I thought of a scene from Eat, Pray, Love.  While in Rome, Liz Gilbert had a conversation with her friends. They told Liz that each person and city has a representational word (though I personally did not agree with the word they selected for London!).2 At first, Liz can only think of defining herself as “writer”, a word vetoed by her friends as being her profession rather than who she is. 3

What word would you select? How would you sum up your individuality and inner self?

At last, I decided on a word that I felt could mean many things, and could be applied to various areas of my life, though on the surface, it may seem just a reflection of my career. I chose…


All the best, and Namaste,

Amy Funderburk


The HOPE Poster Photo Filter app, 2010, copyright 3DTOPO Inc., is available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad.

2 “Stuffy” was their word for London, which didn’t reflect my experience there. I haven’t yet been to Paris or Rome, but so far, London is my favorite major city in the world.

3 Liz ultimately decides that her word is an Italian one:  Attraversiamo, meaning “Let’s cross over.”


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