Fieldtrip: Fredrick Meijer Gardens

The Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Gardens in Grand Rapids Michigan is a sight.

EH Sherman at the Sculpture Gardens

I was on a solo trip to Grand Rapids Michigan that weekend (about 2 hours away from Ann Arbor) so on the way back I thought I'd swing by the gardens for a little sightseeing and sketching.

SO. MUCH. has changed since the last time I was here (late 90s) and being a working artist now, I experienced what did remember in a totally different way.

Walking around the grounds is like an artifact hunt. While some of the sculptures are easy to spot from the highway, some are tucked deep within the foliage and it almost feels like some secret to stumble upon. It is a DELIGHT.

After walking around for a few hours I decided to find a quiet spot to do a little sketching. While it was very crowded that day, there are so many little paved alcoves leading to more sculptures I was able to find a bench to myself without much trouble.

EH Sherman sketching Ai Weiwei

I chose Ai Weiwei's Irontree (2013) as my subject and began with a few gestural contour drawings in my sketchbook. I was initially drawn to the treatment of the bark, to the rough texture in the surface and the lines that ran across each branch section, but as I worked I found myself more interested in the way the branches joined together and the shadows created.

EH-Sherman-Art-sketches2.jpg
EH Sherman sketching at Fredrick Meijer Gardens

After the sketch I was dry, I headed back into the park for more exploration, then to the cafe for a quick lunch.

AND THERE WAS A PLANT WALL.

EH Sherman at Fredrick Meijer

On leaving I was greeted by a sight from one of my personal favorite artists, Michele Oka Doner; Beneath the Leafy Crown (2009) 

EH Sherman at Fredrick Meijer gardens

She also created the floor in the Miami airport - which I have spent YEARS admiring.

Icing on a very beautiful cake.

If you find yourself in the area DEFINITELY make a trip over, there's so much to see and so many beautiful paths to walk (not to mention an entire Japanese garden and greenhouse!) and there's more planned for the coming years too.

Learn More Here!

<3

 

 

My Brush Story

If you follow me on instagram you know how long this first segment has been in the works. Originally I assumed I would get a few neat stories and maybe a picture or two in response to my post (see here) - but I was blown away by the multitude of thoughtful, heartfelt stories - and I’m still receiving them! I couldn’t simply do one small post and capture the depth, breadth and journey of paintbrush experiences.

So I’m introducing the first of a monthly series: My Brush Stories. Each month I’ll pull a few stories from the collection I’ve been assembling and share them on my blog here, my instagram and other media (still in the works, more information soon!).

So without further ado, here is the first of what I hope will be an exploration into other artist’s practices, their work and how it’s made - starting with our favorite tools.

(To submit yours, head over to the My Brush Story page!)

 

Katrin Bauck | @katrinbauck

At first glance, there's nothing special about my favorite brush - it's a usual bristle brush, natural wooden handle (light brown), which I think I have bought for my son's school equipment years ago.

When I started painting in 2016 I tried out every brush I could find in our house so also this one went into my toolbox. :-) Immediately I fell in love with the shape and softness of the handle, the broadness of the bristles and their wildness.

In summer 2017 I took a small selection of brushes with me to our family vacation trip to the Baltic Sea, including that brush. After days of lovely laziness, long walks at the beach, collecting shells and stones and taking countless pictures, one afternoon back “home” at the lovely Danish cottage I took out my brushes and was stunned by their beauty, especially by this one’s paint splattered handle.

Inspired, I googled for a lovely quote on brushes and found this one, which is still one of my favorites, by Henry Ward Beecher:

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

I wrote it into my sketchbook and took two pictures, one with the quote and the brush and one just a close-up of the handle (see both attached). And somehow then, in the soft afternoon light in the Danish cottage, I connected that lovely slow summer feeling and that quote with this brush and whenever I hold it now, it inspires me to slow down, to watch for the beauty and when I paint, to dip my brushes in my soul. :-)

 Katrin Bauck

Katrin Bauck

 Katrin Bauck

Katrin Bauck

Julia Cusworth  | @juliacusworth

I have had this thick, flat brush for about 5 years. Once I decided to start pursuing art in my spare time, I delved back into my old supplies from college and university but found myself lacking in the brush department. I ordered a pack of iconic yellow Daler Rowleys and although I love them all, this is my favourite. It creates the most beautiful thick, fat strokes; stripes, swirls and ink splatters. It is bold and obvious - much like my art. It is the brush I reach for first and the one I know I could never replace. It helps guide my work when I don't know where to go next and it understands me. Not breaking or giving up when I don't always wash out the ink or glue but instead developing it's own unique texture, making it even more personal to me.

 Julia Cusworth

Julia Cusworth

 Julia Cusworth

Julia Cusworth

Sabrina Cottrill  | @sabrina.cottrill.art

My brushes are definitely not fancy or expensive and yet I realized a large chunk of my brushes have been with me a really long time. To some of the first ones I purchased back in high school for my first painting class. (Hello early 2000s) To then my college art days picking some up here and there when I could afford. Eyeing up the clearance ones working part time at an art store. They've moved from home to home and I got used to being a new mom and have finally found their way up from the basement and into my studio. 

 Sabrina Cottrill

Sabrina Cottrill

There is just something so magical about seeing into other artist's creative worlds.

Thanks to everyone for sharing the stories thus far, I am so looking forward to sharing more next month in Volume 2.

Have a favorite brush you want to share? Tell me about it in the comments, use the hashtag over on instagram or head over to the page and submit there . Can't wait to read them!

<3

 

 

How my Tools and Space Inform my Process

My favorite paintings to work on usually are borne out of two conflicting modalities; Chaos and Order.

The push and pull between the two forces drives a lot of the interaction and movement of my work - and it’s something I only “half” control.

I control the sketches, the fine details, the colors of the paints I mix - but I don’t control the way the paint moves on the surface. I don’t control the spills, the drips, the intermingling of pigment and resulting colors. Working in this intuitive way imparts a focus that I haven’t found with another process. The work is informed by the process and the process informed by the work. It’s a cyclical opposition that relies heavily on my space and tools.

EH Sherman - tools and process

My space is crooked.

My studio is in a building that pre-dates 1891 and the floors show it. There is a 2.5 inch slope from one side to the other, which doesn’t seem like much - but when you are working with water media it’s very noticeable. I absolutely could have evened the floor out, but chose to accept another facet of the unplanned; gravity was going to change my work. When I put down a pool of paint it runs downhill. I can leave it as it, or spin the work to change it’s course, but that is about the extent of my control. I can’t leave a work unattended either, as sometimes in the drying process areas of the painting will overflow into another, pushing the paint down the canvas. This has resulted in a relatively different studio experience for me - rather than leave as a work dries I now sit there (usually with another painting or some other facet of my job that needs doing - like blogging!) and literally - watch. Paint. Dry.

Sometimes I catch the drips and move the painting, sometimes I happily let them spill all the way down, grabbing other colors as it moves.

It’s another part of the chaos and I love it.

My tools also have a part to play in the balance between planned and unplanned.

Probably best characterized by my two favorites; the loose hake brush and the precise rubber wedge (or squeegee). I frequently have one in each hand and move the drying paint around with both, one making hard to control splutters of the pools, the other cutting through and leaving small, tight lines in it’s wake.

Eh Sherman squeegee
Eh Sherman Fine Art - hake brush

It’s in their interaction that I learned to love and embrace the dichotomy of chaos and order and begin to seek it out as I worked. And then, I saw it everywhere.

The flower growing in the crack in the cement; just a flower in a field - but here in this moment it’s transformed into something miraculous.

But I have to love it loosely. If I let myself get too caught up in the order aspect and find myself ‘planning’ the chaotic elements, I lose that magic that the flower possesses. Then the work is an exercise in making something look ‘unplanned’ and in my mind, fails at it’s purpose.

Allowing my tools and my space to contribute their essence and spirit to my process has made for a far more fulfilling and challenging studio practice.

I’d love to know more about your practice - do your tools inform your work? Does your space change your paintings? Leave me a message below!

<3