Special Event! West Park Civic Association Plein Air Workshop!

I'm super excited about this special event! The West Park Civic Association approached me about a year ago to join with them in their endeavor to more fully integrate the arts into the community on the west side of Allentown. Thanks to JoAnn Jones from the West Park Civic Association and her exceptional grant writing that led to winning a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, we can now bring you the West Park Civic Association Plein Air Workshop–a plein air painting workshop in beautiful and historic West Park.  

So I'm going to teach a 3-Day Plein Air Workshop from June 2 to June 4 for the very accessible fee of $125.  All the funds raised from tuition will be donated in full to the newly established 'West Park Civic Association Arts Education Scholarships' to be utilized at The Baum School of Art

My goal is raise enough money to fund (at-least) four scholarships:

  • Senior Citizen Arts Education Scholarship
  • Young Adult Arts Education Scholarship
  • Adult Arts Education Scholarship
  • Youth Arts Education Scholarship 

My primary intention with this workshop (besides helping participants improve their painting skills) is to establish these scholarships as a resource for people who dream of pursuing an art education but for whatever reason cannot afford to. I've been in that situation and I've known countless students who have been as well. This small resource could be the difference that someone needs to become the artist they know they are meant to be. 

I've taught at the Baum School of Art since 2004. The school means a great deal to me and is a unique gift to the Lehigh Valley community. There is a history there that I am very proud to be a part of and know so many students, faculty, and alumni who feel the same. There is also a future ahead of it that I am eager to help cultivate. I want these scholarships to help provide opportunities for students to be a part of that future. Lately it feels as if the essential resources of creativity and arts education need extra attention, investment, protection, and encouragement. Let this be a start.

So, come paint with me this June 2-4th! It's a great opportunity to further your education while also contributing to someone's future education! 


CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO SIGN UP 


I was lucky to be interviewed
again by the great Kenn Michael
for WDIY's radio show called Musings.

Click the photo below to listen
to the interview. 

click the image to sign up 

click the image to sign up 


The 3-day format, content, and focus will all be the same as it is in all my plein air workshops. We'll start painting at 9am and go until 4pm with about an hour for lunch at 1pm.   Participants will also get the 10 page reference guide I made called 'Notes on Plein Air Painting' which serves as guide for all levels of painters. I also include some tools like viewfinders, value guides, and some other treats in your workshop package. All participants will also be featured in Allentown's acclaimed   'Arts-in-the- Park' festival on the weekend of June 17th. 

This workshop is for absolutely ALL SKILL LEVELS. It's for everyone who's always wanted to learn to paint plein air; beginners who want to learn fundamental techniques, intermediate painters who want to gain experience and move to higher levels in their current painting practice, and advanced and veteran painters who want to challenge themselves with three days of intensive painting and critiques. For more specifics on how I run my workshops please visit the plein air workshops page or feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. 



FOLLOW UP...THREE MONTHS AFTER THIS WORKSHOP

So I thought I would add to this blog post three months later and let everyone know that this workshop ended up raising $2500! My initial goal was to raise enough for three or four scholarships, maybe $1200 at the most. More than doubling my goal is absolutely amazing! I'm so thankful for the 19 students who enrolled. Because of them, many people will get to pursue their dreams and goals by getting an education at the Baum School of Art

Yesterday we launched the first search for scholarship recipients. I made the poster to the right and it was sent to thousands of people and circulated on social media. I'm looking forward to reviewing the applicants and working with new students this fall semester. We are offering two scholarships for students of any age that want to study with me in my Fundamentals of Landscape Painting Class, which is a 10 week course of plein air and studio painting. 

West Park is a really lovely place to paint. I honestly don't think I would have gone there to paint if it weren't for this workshop. I tend to be more drawn to vast views and the park has anything but that. Being way outside of my comfort zone really proved useful though. It made everything feel new again. The painting to the right is a demo I started on the first day and meant to go back to the following days. As I attempted to paint back into it I really couldn't imagine what to do next. It felt finished and had a character to it that I really liked. I only put a few highlights in and that was that. So far it's my favorite plein air painting I've done. On to the next one tho...

 
AF WPCA Scholarship poster fall 2017.jpg

For the Time Being- solo exhibition at Re:Find gallery on the arts walk, allentown, pa. April 20-May14. 2017

Impermanence is the most unfailingly consistent condition we experience. For better or worse it’s the most constant state of both poetic beauty and tragic suffering.

This awareness that everything is temporary can be comforting when we have to endure suffering. Then, we cling to temporariness, knowing that time will pass. We wish for it to go quickly and not drag us under it’s relentless forward motion so we can get to the other side of whatever is paining us. 

But temporariness can swing the opposite way, devastating us when we feel it’s too soon for something to end or someone to pass.Then, we cling to time, hoping that our grip will slow it’s momentum and bring us flush with what we hope to keep. 

‘For the time being’ is a phrase that has always felt like a bridge between present and future. A sometimes more comforting reminder of impermanence, the phrase seems to embody the awareness of time as both precious and transient. ‘This too shall pass’ simultaneously coupled with‘don’t wish away time’

Clouds have always been the symbol of that impermanence for me. Their forms constantly changing in service of and as a reaction to their environment. The expression of their purpose fleeting across their bodies making a short but sincere biography. They are at once the beginning of things and the end of things. Painting them from memory and imagination is a way to cultivate the practice and art of paying attention and refine mindfulness. 

This series of paintings started with the desire to make work that held both the motion and the rest, the action and the reflection, the present and the future, the inhale and the exhale. I also wanted to explore what it would feel like to paint large paintings quickly, sometimes in one or two sessions; to make them feel like they were built from an almost spontaneous impulse and not premeditation. The ultimate goal was to try and position myself and the task of painting to ride parallel to the momentum of time passing, being both witness and recorder.

 

The show opens april 20 with a reception from 5-8pm I'll be doing an artist talk/Q&A on may 7 from 2-4pm

 

Moving Like Music- An Exhibition to coincide with the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown Lenten Concert Series

Moving Like Music

Music is my first true love. I’m as much a musician as I am a painter, however, I doubt that many people know that. I’ve always been guarded about my musicianship for several reasons; some superficial (and rather silly), like stage fright, and some more deeply seated like, somehow I’ve grown to consider music making to be a bit like a monk’s prayer or meditation; a solitary act that serves as a direct line from me to a more broadly universal energy that’s way bigger than me;  a current in an eternally flowing stream of energy that I can plug myself into which will carry me away or bring me back home. So, along the way, the focus of music making turned inward and had little to do with performance and audience, and all to do with the moments spent alone with just an instrument and the silence to arrange sounds into. 

In those moments, a specific quality of alchemy occurs that changes an idle instrument and willing player into channels for music to move thru. Whatever music is, in all it’s intangibility and elusiveness, it suddenly takes form and becomes the air in the room. For all its immateriality, it registers so viscerally. And with no audience and no recording, one is left in the presence of an extended present moment. Just the instrument and you, alone together—conjuring an energy made eternal by it’s very intangibility and elusiveness, a tangible prayer. 

The most important influence on my painting process has always been the parallel it formed with musical composition, mainly improvisation. Of course, I have painters that I look up to and that have influenced me as painter, both technically and thematically. However, I am ultimately held to account by whether or not whatever painting I’m working on can move me the way music does. It has to live in that ether, or at least have one foot in that ethereal world and one grounded in the more material world. It has to at least be that bridge. Some of the most beautifully intense creative moments I’ve ever had come from musical improvisation and I think my painting process is a constant search to recreate those moments. Musical improvisation is a monument to what it means to be in the moment one is in, yet in full acknowledgement of the past as it exists in the note just played, and full awareness of the future as it exists in the yet-to-be played next note. 

My happiest painting process is that which echoes the movement and flow of music. I establish a key and move through it in the same manner I would if I were improvising on an instrument while a rhythm section played. It’s terrifying and supremely joyful at the same time. Without that movement, the process becomes something different, something less-than the optimal creative flow. I’ve tried amending my process to a more stable step-by-step approach in an effort to feel less precarious but as I begin I’m swiftly seduced by the high wire walk of starting a painting with nothing but an empty mind, silent and somewhat fearful of the mistake but enlightened by and in love with the potential energy that a mistake holds within it. The note I played before only matters by giving context to the note I play after and so on and so on, and the same with painting and mark making.

Music is momentary and fleeting by nature and as every note leads to another note we are allowed to let our thinking selves go and just follow the flow, surrendering to that movement. As Alan Watts said, ‘To understand music, you must listen to it. But as long as you are thinking, “I am listening to music”, you are not listening’. The same is true of painting. It requires a similar surrender. When I think about painting, the painting I’m making suffers. Instead, I have to be like music, with it’s constant forward motion, kinetic and unattached to anything but that very movement. To paraphrase Alan Watts again, ‘…the purpose of listening to music is not to reach the end of the piece. The joy is found in listening to the music in each moment’. 

This collection of paintings is part of a long running series I’ve visited and re-visited since about 2007. It’s part moving meditation and part love letter to music and the creative process. There are quick one session studies, that can be likened to small improvisations or variations on a theme, as well as some fully developed, more orchestrated and polished arrangements of those themes. 

Thank you to Ann Lalik for the opportunity to show in the newly developed gallery space at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown. I’m honored to be the inaugural exhibit and thrilled that it coincides with the Gloria S. Snyder Lenten Concert Series. 


All paintings in the show are available for purchase in my store


Here’s a playlist of music that was integral in shaping my painting process 


This is obviously an abbreviated list. I left out so many important pieces of music and artists for the sake of brevity. But this is good example of what has informed and shaped my creative process so far. Perhaps I'll keep adding to it... 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Julia Fischer
I’ve listened to dozens of artists perform these but none seem to resonate with me as much as Julia Fischer’s. These sonatas and partitas feel like small, intensely focused studies, like plein air paintings or figure drawings. It takes a great deal of practice to make those feel fresh and uncomplicated and these musical studies are an excellent reminder of that spirit.   

Chopin Nocturnes, Yundi
Again, I’ve heard so many performances of the nocturnes but this performance feels more soulful and spacious to me. I feel I can hear the emptiness of the room the piano is in and it's beautifully haunting. I like to think of my fairly limited painting compositions mirroring the composition in these nocturnes; a beautiful, voice-like melody in the right hand and broken chords in the left, land and sky, respectfully. 

John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
I listen to this piece of music on repeat. My record for listening to it on repeat is 12 hours. I put it on and leave it until it transforms the room into a consciousness. There are so many Coltrane examples of masterful improvisation but this one has my heart. Probably because I discovered it early in life and it helped form my relationship between music and painting. 

Frank Zappa, Watermelon in Easter Hay
This stands as my favorite of Frank’s music because it’s one of the very rare appearances of beauty. Not that his music is ugly, but more that beauty isn’t really a prime motivation of his compositions. It’s more mind-centered than emotive and I love it for that, probably because my work is more devoted to beauty. When I first heard this song, I remember hoping midway thru that it would stay the course and not go off in a wholly different direction as much of his music is apt to do. It was the first I'd heard an emotive type beauty in any of his work. I was spellbound by it. Not to mention the little monologue in the beginning of the song became somewhat of a cautionary tale/ words to live one's creative life by. I do the same listen-on-repeat with this song as with the Coltrane. I also included the entire 'Shut Up and Play Your Guitar' album in the playlist because it's a master class in mind expansion by way of improvisation. I listen to it when I find myself getting too Yin, so to speak. It's a lifeline out of the emotive swamp. 

(Fun Fact: In college, the day after Frank Zappa died, I put this song on repeat and pointed the speakers out the window for the entire day as a 'tribute'. I was gone about 8 hours while this song floated around campus thru the air again and again. I got written up for it. #whatever. I also wrote two term papers on Zappa's music, one based on this song and it’s intro monologue, and the other on his orchestral work.)

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jewleh Lal
Qawwali music is an ecstasy like no other. Nusrat was otherworldly in his genius. The best description of what Qawwali music is comes from the liner notes Jeff Buckley wrote for Nusrat's Supreme Collection: 

In between the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit is the void. The Qawwali is the messenger who leaps empty-handed into the abyss and returns carrying messages of love from the Beloved. These messages have no words, per se, but at the high point of a Qawwali performance, they come in bursts of light into the hearts and minds of the members of the audience. This is called Marifat, the inner knowledge, and it is in the aim of the Qawwali tradition to bring the listener into this state: first through the beauty of the poetry and the weight of its meaning; then, eventually, through the Qawwali's use of repetition; repeating the key phrases of the poem until the meaning has melted away to reveal the true form to the listener.

Just the idea of sitting in between the world of flesh and world of spirit waiting to go get messages from God and bring them back for everyone is intoxicating for me. I like to consider that perhaps my invented/remembered landscapes are the waiting place for those messengers, or any viewer. 


Jeff Buckley, Grace
 If I could be one song, it would be this one. It's my best friend and soul mate and I hope I find it in every life time. It's what I want to be in life and after it and what I want my art to feel like. It shaped me more than any other music, particularly the live version from Sydney. If I could make anything that evokes and holds what this song does, then I'll have done something. 

Creativity Is Everything

I’m a painter. I use the sky in my paintings as a metaphor for consciousness and approach painting clouds very much the same way as I would if I were painting someone's portrait. Clouds are in constant motion, always changing form and evolving, always beginning and ending simultaneously. That serves as a good reminder that we are in a similar state of change and evolution yet, we ultimately remain ourselves, even as we redefine our form or place in the world. 

Contemplating and accepting that kind of impermanence can be very comforting or very disturbing depending on how grounded one is.
I try to set up that sort of tension and comfort
in the paintings.

There's not much that I don't consider beautiful or meaningful in the natural world and it's not difficult for me to be truly amazed by how powerful simplicity can be but how difficult it is to simplify. That process alone motivates and inspires me every day in the studio. But for me, inspiration is mostly a slow and steady smoldering fire rather than a lightening flash, although the lightening flashes do happen once in a while. 

Inspiration takes cultivating and I have to nurture it rather than wait for it. I have to be mentally and spiritually wide open and vulnerable yet focused and protective of a daily practice. So inspiration becomes more a way of living than a direct cause and effect relationship. 

Cultivating that kind of inspiration is a practice- like everything is. And a practice is a sacred place. It’s a dialogue. And if you’re really present, you’re mostly the listener. If you think a creative practice is commanding something to bend to your will, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve learned to always stand humbly in the face of creativity. It's a conversation--an exchange rather than a command. It's better to approach it graciously and have it unfold in layers than to barge in on it and try to force something to become what you want it to be. It wants what it wants. If you are making marks or decisions with the medium that are consistently not working then it’s a call from what you are creating that it wants something else. And you better listen to it. When you don’t, you foster an energy that breeds frustration and that can lead to killing your creative spirit by strangling it with harsh judgement.

I was having one of these moments once, when out of nowhere this little phrase just started playing on a loop in my mind:
“Every mark is the right mark, every mark is the right mark”.  
When I really allow that phase to permeate every part of me and my studio, it has the ability to transform
my perspective and can turn an absolute mess into more of an investigative mission to find the simple
in the complicated.

Building my life around creativity has taught me many things. I’ve learned that there’s never a time when the answer to the question: ‘what should I do to solve this?’ is  ‘…make it more complicated’. The answer to that question is always, ‘simplify’. Painting is simple. But painting simply can be a very difficult thing. 

None of us is born knowing who we are. Creativity can make you stop postponing who you need to be. Mostly because when you are fully engaged to or in a creative process, it’s very much about the moment you are in and nothing else. You are sort of compelled to move forward thru the beautiful
and sometimes painful paradox of needing to let go of a choice that you built every other choice around; where you learn the lesson that the foundation of a creative life is not a devotion to a craft or skill, rather it’s a devotion to detachment.

 

 

There's no such thing as going backwards when you’re fully in creativity. In my experience, even ‘backwards’ steps have forward momentum, in that, they may work to slowly awaken you, rather than jolt you awake. 
Sometimes the slowness of a backwards step is the greatest gift you can give a choice you’re having a
hard time making. 

As artists, or creators, we all at some point seem to have this idea that whatever we are making, needs to be perfect before it’s released into the world or even before we accept it as our own. We want to make the perfect thing, perfectly. There’s this illusion that what we are making is just sort of born there; without mistakes, without failure.

But that kind of perfectionism is a trap. It’s the anti-creativity. It’s this prison we build around what we make in an effort to save ourselves the humiliation
of failing. But you can fail. You can fail elegantly and with grace. And within the creative process those failures are where profound insight lives and so the whole definition of ‘failure’ is transformed and reborn as purposeful forward momentum. 

So much of the work that I consider successful in my career so far has been built on that kind of elegant failure, which really translates as a letting go of what
I thought the outcome would be before I started
and allowing whatever I’m creating to help in it’s
own creation without getting in it’s way with ego
and judgement. 

There’s a great deal of letting go involved in the way I work. I can start out with an idea of what I want but it inevitably gets to a point in the process where what I want isn’t as important as what needs to happen for the greater good of the painting. I used to fight that and it made me miserable. But now, I court the unexpected. I nurture the happy accident. Because I believe the truest and highest forms of beauty happen unexpectedly.

I agree with the author, Paolo Coelho, who said, ‘Creativity is an act of courage’. I would add that Creativity is never finished. It’s an ongoing eternally sourced energy, infinite in its scope to restore, to guide, to enlighten, to transcend. and to override whatever it is in us that makes us think we can’t do something.  

Creativity is power, but it’s not force. Creativity is an energy that stretches far beyond art. Creativity is a healer. And it can heal you by way of profoundly deconstructing you. I say let it. Let yourself be deconstructed. Creativity will build you again—Even with the smallest engagement. And in turn, it will connect you to every other creator, meaning every single other person who has gone thru anything at all and had to figure out a way thru it. They are part of you, and you are part of them. Creativity unifies. 

Creativity deconstructs as well as it builds and it does so simultaneously. Which is why art making and life can sometimes feel chaotic and messy. But there's music in that mess. Creativity is an energy fed and sustained by the struggles within the process as well as by the resolutions.

Creativity is never finished. It’s a bridge to beauty—which itself is a bridge to a version of ourselves that we are born to reveal but that can take a lifetime of work and re-working to uncover. 

Sometimes the most comforting words in the world are, ‘Work in Progress’.

Creativity is Everything. 

 

PechaKucha Talk, Easton

Creativity is Everything

Last week I was part of volume 4 of Easton's PechaKucha Night. If you've never heard of it, you can find out more about it here. If you haven't been to one before, consider finding one in your city and going. It's a fun night but also a way to gain insight into the community you live in and the people you live among. 
Below is the talk I gave that night with the visuals included. I also made a different post without the visuals. Thanks to everyone who came that night.
I loved being a part of this.


 

WDIY Interview

Here's the interview I did with WDIY about my plein air workshop. There's another full day of painting coming up on September 12th and you can still sign up!

A demo from the first workshop day 

A demo from the first workshop day 

Me being interviewed in my studio by the great Kenn Michael for the 'Musings' show on WDIY.   Lucia was being uncharacteristically rowdy so I had to hold her like that the whole time. 

Me being interviewed in my studio by the great Kenn Michael for the 'Musings' show on WDIY.   Lucia was being uncharacteristically rowdy so I had to hold her like that the whole time. 

 

Plein Air Workshop-September 5th and 12th, 2015

Really looking forward to this! 

First real plein air sketch of the season. Spent about two hours at a lovely spot along the Lehigh Canal. Getting ready for a plein air workshop I'm running for the Riverside Festival of the Arts in Easton on September 5 and 12. More details to come soon. In the meantime....more practice in the field!

First real plein air sketch of the season. Spent about two hours at a lovely spot along the Lehigh Canal. Getting ready for a plein air workshop I'm running for the Riverside Festival of the Arts in Easton on September 5 and 12. More details to come soon. In the meantime....more practice in the field!

Solo Show

Brick and Mortar Gallery in Easton, Pennsylvania

I love Easton. 
I've lived here for over ten years and I've watched it evolve in waves. It's a wonderful thing to see a place grow and become itself and fulfill it's potential. I love being an artist in this town. Nothing builds, nurtures, and sustains a true sense of community like creative energy. That's one reason why the opening of Brick and Mortar Gallery feels like more than just another business opening. It means that creativity has taken root here and Easton's cultural identity is primed to start thriving on a higher level than it ever has. I was thrilled to be asked to be part of their second show. Thanks to all who came to the opening. Here are some photos of the gallery.   


In Chemistry, 'Equilibria'  is a state in which a process and its reverse are occurring at equal rates so that no overall change is taking place


In the studio the night before installing the show. 

In the studio the night before installing the show. 

New Site

Welcome to my new website. There is new work coming soon...

In the meantime you'll find selected paintings from about 2008 to 2013 as well as some small works and oil sketches from 2013. The Journal section will provide some insight into the studio and creative process as well as travel, teaching, and thoughts on being a painter. There's a Shop section where small paintings, drawings, and limited edition prints will be available for purchase directly from the site. Feel free to keep up with other news by following the social media icons.  

 

Thanks. 

A.