Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cheryl McClure: Six Miles Out of Overton, Texas

Cheryl McClure: teaching 
(photo by Nancy Johnson Standlee)

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were any early influences on your work?

I have not gone far afield of 150 mile radius of where I was born in southeastern Oklahoma to where I now live in northeastern Texas. I have been married forever…and have three grown children, three grandchildren. I have been free to travel quite a lot since they left home. I’m looking forward to another trip to Italy in 2012.

I now live on a 200 acre ranch/farm between Longview and Tyler, Texas. The property was in my husband’s family until we moved over here three years ago. I love living out here with all the trees, pastures, animals. The peace and quiet is wonderful.

Bee-line Straight-Line Secant
mixed-media panel 20 x 16

Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?
No, I am not formally trained in the arts. I married young and raised a family all while still wanting to paint. I just didn’t have a lot of time for it then. I can still remember the fingers in the oil paints smeared all around from a two year old. I have great admiration for the young women artists who can do both now. It is not easy. I did, however, take a lot of classes and workshops in painting from artists whose work I admired.

At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
Before my dad died (I was barely 9 years old), I told him I wanted to take lessons in painting from my third grade teacher. He even made me a small hand-held palette. Of course I didn’t know she was not teaching much more than paint by numbers. However, I did not want to paint that way, and with my little oil painting box and home-made palette, I chose pictures from an encyclopedia to try to emulate. I laugh now since I have a feeling at least one of those pictures was a Cezanne landscape when I try to picture it in my mind’s eye now. Strangely, I never really like coloring books. I didn’t like staying in someone else’s line. I’ve always been drawn to abstraction as well. After dad died and we moved down to Texas, I never had much chance to take other classes in painting other than the art offered in school. I never really called myself an artist then or made any conscious decision that I wanted to be one. I guess I just am.

What is your media?
I’ve been painting more than thirty years with acrylic mostly, although there were periods of using other materials to try them out. I also am very interested in collage and have discovered encaustic painting the past five years. Acrylic is still my primary medium. It is more about making a painting than it is about the medium for me. I’m still trying out different things like oil and cold wax right now. I think I like the hot wax better however. It suits me better with the instantaneous drying.

Meander, 2010
30 x 40" Acrylic on Canvas

What is your current work about?
My work is mostly about the process of applying paint….gesture, color, surface quality. Unconsciously, the land, landscape, and other natural forms always seem to appear even when I am mostly thinking about how I am layering, gesturing, mark-making to make a painting. I love the juicy paint, whether it’s wax, acrylic or oil. I’m really into making marks and how I want to place color and shape……hard and soft edges and that sort of thing.

What is your workspace like? 

For more than 25 years I worked in a converted garage in my home. When we moved over here to the ranch, I took over a 3 room garage apartment on the property near the main house. I LOVE having this space all to myself. Sometimes I wish I had higher ceilings and maybe less steps to haul down panels and canvases. Other times I’m happy I’m up a little higher so I can look down over the pasture, creek and our little lake.

I set up the kitchen area for my encaustic painting so I could reserve the other room for acrylic, oil and collage work. The living area is for storage, book shelves and paint storage mostly along with a hide-a-bed sofa we brought in from the house. (Good place for a nap sometimes.)

Main painting room

Do you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

Through the years I have been very involved in the local art community and with art organizations. I don’t do as much of that sort of thing any longer. In the past I was the adult education coordinator for the local art museum…all while holding down positions on the board, including President. I learned a lot while working at the museum. I became more aware of professional practices, what work looked like before it was hung on the wall, etc. 

I was active in several art associations here in Texas. Currently, I am involved with TX WAX and International Encaustic Artists, starting out with the group in Dallas. While I was learning more about encaustic painting, the Dallas group has participated in many exhibits around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It had been a long time since I had shown my work this way instead of in a commercial gallery.


View from  McClure's studio
How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues? 
After all the years of volunteering at the museum and involvement with Texas art societies and the like, I took time off so that I could spend more time concentrating on my painting rather than organizing for other people. However, I do love people and I do go to conferences or an occasional workshop since I wanted to learn more about encaustic painting. I spend a lot of time networking with other artists who are interesting to me or that I can share with. I recently held a workshop (my first) in Dallas and enjoyed the experience very much. You can learn a great deal from teaching when you have to organize and explain how you work. It was a rewarding experience but not one I think I would do too often as it takes so much thought, preparation and physical stamina. I want to reserve that as much as possible for the studio.

Since the 5th International Encaustic Conference, five of us who attended decided at the conference to get together to talk and share our work…take in some art shows and generally just have fun. I’m looking forward to our first meet-up in Dallas in September where we will also exchange work.

I’ve also been an active member of Mississippi Art Colony for about 11 years. We all get together to paint and share our work as well as learn from visiting artists who come to tell us about the world outside our own. 

Acrylic on canvas 36 x 48

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
HA HA… of course. This happens mostly if events have conspired to keep me out of the studio too much. When I am there all the time, work and inspiration just comes from the work being done. I, also, love to get out now and then and make gallery shows in Dallas or wherever else I might happen to travel.

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
That’s a good question. Although I am an organizing type person, the past couple of years I got a little off course due to the move and the remodeling of some rooms of our home.

I keep a database inventory so that I can be professional when working with galleries or organizations. I’ve had a website since about 1996 or so. I always designed and kept it up myself. Recently, I had another person, for the first time, set me up on the technical design of a new Word Press based site.

I have great respect for my gallery owners/directors. I try to help them in their efforts to sell my work by being professional in my dealings with them. I keep my promises and schedules. I find it very off putting to hear someone say they can be late or flighty…”after all, I’m an artist.”

I try to always be disciplined about my studio time. With that said, I am always thinking about making paintings, looking at shapes, colors. I feel agitated if I can’t get in enough studio time. I’m happy to have the quiet time out here so I can be in studio without interruption more than I was in town. I try not to get too down on myself if time is short in the studio occasionally. After all, you have to have life experiences if you want something to come out in your work.

Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Making art is my job…other than wife, mother, grand-mom, cook, laundress, etc.

Pink Sky
Encaustic on panel, 30 x 30

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
I don’t generally make myself a list of long range/short range goals. I know I should, but like my painting process, I prefer to know generally where I am going and let the practice/painting tell me what I think will be best as it happens.

I hope that I will keep evolving slowly with my painting. I don’t want to stagnate or stand still with where I am. It is hard to evaluate your own progress when you are so close to it. I keep up with gallery and museum exhibits so I hope to continue sharing my work through commercial venues and possibly an occasional art center or museum show.

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
I don’t right at the moment. I have work in five commercial galleries. Some of them no longer have ‘shows’ per se. Possibly when the market gets a little better, they will start setting up more solo or two person shows again.

You can see more of Cheryl's work on her website and you can read her blog here.

Jack Meier Gallery,   Houston, TX
P's Gallery, 912 Glencrest (upstairs), Longview, TX

Thank-you, Cheryl!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tamar Zinn: New York City

Tamar Zinn
Photo: Harry Wilks

Where did you grow up and when did you become interested in making art?
I’ve lived in NYC my entire life and from the time I was quite young, music, dance and art loomed large in my life. I was fortunate to grow up near the Henry Street Settlement (on Manhattan’s Lower East Side) where I was a serious student of classical music, taking violin lessons along with music theory and history. Saturdays were filled with modern dance classes and orchestra rehearsals (also at Henry Street Settlement).  At some point, I also managed to squeeze in art classes at the nearby Educational Alliance art school.

By junior high, art had fully replaced dance as a major activity for me. I attended classes at the Art Student’s League for several years and I think it was at that time that I was first conscious of the joy of making marks on paper. The smell of turpentine was intoxicating and even the chore of cleaning brushes was somehow special to me. I was the kid who painted the team banners at summer camp (instead of playing volleyball) and illustrated the playbills for theater productions at my high school. Painting and drawing, alongside violin lessons and chamber music, were activities that I enjoyed—with no thought of pursuing either professionally. 

Broadway 70
16x16, oil on panel

I began college as a double major in art and music. However, it quickly became clear to me that I was obsessed by art—drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, looking at art, reading about it, running the student art group—there weren’t enough hours in the day to satisfy my hunger. The art department at the college I attended had some fine teachers but offered little in terms of practical career advice, so the very idea of earning a living as an artist seemed preposterous. Few of the people I studied with had active careers outside of academia. I just knew that painting made me feel good and that I could spend endless hours at it, so somehow I was going to keep at it. 

After college, I worked full time for a commercial printer and painted at night and on weekends. A few years later, I did a month-long residency in Woodstock, reveling in the freedom to paint 12 hours a day. At that point, I knew for sure that this was what I had to do with my life. Not long after the residency, I had the audacity to show my paintings to a couple of NY art dealers and found there was some interest in my work. After that, there was no looking back.

Do you have other jobs besides making art?
Except for a short period in the late 1990s when art sales were booming, I’ve always had part-time (and sometimes not so part-time) work outside the studio, often in fields unrelated to art. And I’m grateful to have that second income stream when times get tough in the art market. Both my husband and I (photographer Harry Wilks) have kept our feet in two worlds—pursuing our careers as artists while juggling other work to pay the bills.

      Studio progress shots, June 2011

What was your early work like?
Before turning to abstraction about ten years ago, my imagery was primarily that of invented landscapes. Throughout my formal art education I studied almost exclusively with figurative artists and had little if any exposure to abstraction (a rather incomplete education, to say the least). When I went to museums and galleries most of my time was spent looking at landscapes, portraits, still-lifes, so I began by painting what was familiar to me. Since I never enjoyed working directly from the subject, I rapidly turned to making invented landscapes, generally with a palette quite disconnected from reality. I continued in that direction for about twenty years but became increasingly preoccupied with the areas of the image that were most abstract and not about the landscape. At museums and galleries I was increasingly drawn to the work of Diebenkorn, Scully and Marden.  Although I periodically dipped my toes into abstraction, I kept returning to the familiarity of my invented natural world. That finally changed for me when the pull of abstraction was stronger than my fears about where it might take me. 

Fermata 4
10x10, oil on panel

What is your current work about?
I see my current work as an exploration of rhythm and movement. The Broadway series mirrors how I experience my surroundings—intense engagement in small areas of activity set against a quiet field. These paintings are in part a reflection of the music I listen to, particularly jazz and salsa, with themes and improvisation occurring across the series.  It is critically important to me to find the just right balance between paring the image down to reduce the amount of information and having enough complexity to keep me engaged. My goal is to take the viewer on a bit of a journey.  Another series I’m working on right now is called Fermata (fermata is an Italian word used in classical music which means pause). The Fermata series began with my desire to slow down the image by stepping in closer. Fermata gives me an opportunity to be more contemplative and think more deeply about the layers and surface, rather than focus on activity.

Broadway 72
16x16, oil on panel

Can you describe your process?
Although I begin each painting with a general sense of direction, the images emerge slowly through an organic process of exploration rather than by using a system. Of course, all artists establish rules, consciously or not, but what I want to convey is that my images are driven by looking and reacting, rather than through a preconceived program. I begin by layering in broad areas of color to have something to work against and after several painting sessions, the geometry and palette begin to offer clues about where the painting is heading. I’m always open to accidents, such as stumbling across an unexpected patch of color that can make the image sing. To work against the compositional formality of geometric abstraction, I scrape and coarsely sand areas to reveal some of the history of the making of the painting. I also rotate the paintings from time to time—which can reveal dialogues between different areas of the painting that I might not have noticed. 

      More studio progress shots, June 2011

Do you ever get stuck and how do you remedy this?
Is there anyone who doesn’t get stuck?  Getting stuck and failing are both part of the routine of making art. But there is always jumping back in the next day with total optimism that on this day, the image will sing. There is getting stuck when you know you are onto something good, but don’t yet know how to get there. And there is getting stuck when you know in your gut you are moving in a fruitless direction, but you keep going. It continues to surprise me just how far I can go in the wrong direction, frustration and helplessness growing, until I get so angry (or filled with self-pity) that I finally get myself to STOP. Sometimes I look to other pieces in the studio to help me understand why I’m struggling, more often I start flipping through art books and find solace in the work of others. Sometimes I’m stuck because I’m working around and around a wonderful small moment in a painting that I desperately don’t want to lose. On a good day, I’ll put the painting aside until I understand why I am so in love with that one area.  It is only when I’m ready to risk painting out that small moment that I get unstuck.  

Broadway 68
 24x24, oil on panel

Who are the artists whose work has most influenced you?
There are so many I could mention and of course some of the artists that loom large have changed over time. But these artists consistently top my list:
Morandi:  I was introduced to Morandi through his etchings, which I admired, but was speechless when I first saw his paintings.  I was immediately pulled in by the way the forms are in dialogue with each other; the deliberateness with which he placed the objects and the way he could make muddy colors look so passionate. The show at the Met a couple of years ago brought me to a state of nirvana. It is Morandi who I turn to most often when I’m stuck. 
Cezanne: Cezanne’s still life paintings are deeply satisfying -- apples and pears on tables that are distorted to such perfection, table corners that tilt up instead of remaining flat, distended plate rims. I’m also drawn to the odd portraits of his wife—she is often seated quite awkwardly and framed by sculptural drapery.  
Diebenkorn: I gravitated towards the paintings of Diebenkorn long before I pursued abstraction or had a conscious understanding of the vocabulary. The vigorous gesture of his brushwork reigned in by the geometry of the paintings was enormously appealing.  And there is so much going on in the perimeter of his paintings.  Although I first became familiar with his Ocean Park series, I also very much enjoy his earlier work from Albuquerque. 
Scully:  Sean Scully is another painter whose work I started to follow many years ago when I was still deep into landscape. Although I didn’t understand why the paintings appealed to me, I knew I had to keep looking at them.  I find that his paintings have a powerful structural certainty but also incorporate a sense of questioning and unknowing.  
Some of the other artists whose work I keep going back to include Bourgeois, Heilman, Marden, Serra, Puryear, Manet and Goya as well as medieval Spanish ivory carvings. 

Do you have particular habits that support your art practice?
Looking, looking and more looking. Going to gallery exhibits and museums shakes things up—helps me to break out of stale patterns. In the studio, the first thing is always a cup of tea. It helps me to sit quietly rather than impatiently jumping in (usually a mistake when I let that happen). I need quiet time to find my way back into the paintings, to see what needs working on that I missed the day before. Since I have several paintings in progress at the same time, I generally start with the one I am least afraid of destroying and build up my courage as the day progresses. I try to end my day in the studio as it began, by sitting and looking for a while—looking for an opening of where to begin work the next day.  And I need to leave the studio neat and orderly. It totally throws me off if the studio is a mess when I first walk in.

Fermata 12
10x10, oil on panel

How do you develop a sense of community with other artists?
Apart from a small handful of friends who are painters, I‘ve tended be fairly isolated in the studio. This certainly is not a good thing in terms of building community, but I’m slowly coming out of that isolation. Through Facebook and by following blogs, I have developed connections with more artists. Although I’ve only met several of them in person, the online dialogues have often been very satisfying.  A residency at VCCA several summers ago also provided a wonderful experience of being immersed in a community of visual artists, writers and composers and I look forward to more of those nourishing experiences. 

Where do you want to be in five years?
Taking more risks in the work and experimenting with new materials, connecting with more artists, participating in group exhibits, and possibly blogging. Of course the greatest challenge is finding time for it all.

Do you have shows upcoming that you would like to mention?
This summer, two paintings from my Broadway series are at The Painting Center (NY), in the Grey Matters exhibit, from June 21 – August 6.

Where can your work be seen?
The best place to see an overview of my work is at  I also participate in, Julie Karabenick’s wonderful compendium of contemporary geometric abstraction. My work is available in NYC at Kathryn Markel Fine Art and at Swenson Fine Art in California. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tracey Adams: Carmel, California

Installation of eleven scrolls in Adams' show:
Between Gesture and Geometry,
Fresno Art Museum
Fresno, California 2011

LH: Can you tell us a little about your background? 
TA: I was born in L.A. and am the daughter of a ceramic artist. My Mom provided many opportunities for art expression in her studio and through summer programs and classes. Her sensibility was Japanese minimalistic drawings and prints, obviously a very strong influence on my work.

Adams at work

After college in L.A., where I majored in music, I received a scholarship to study conducting (grad school) at the New England Conservatory of Music. At the same time, I realized I wanted to be an artist, but did not have a portfolio to support my being accepted anywhere. I enrolled in many drawing and printmaking classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and MFA courses later on at California State University at Long Beach. I studied with Michael Mazur, Hugh O'Donnell, and others who influenced and shaped me as an artist, but this was many years ago. I've been painting in a focused way since 1978 and creating art since I was a child. Art and music have been the primary focuses of my life since I was young.

LH: What is your current work about? 
TA: My current work is about the "cannibalisation" of my prints, both encaustic monotypes and etchings. I cut and tear my works on paper into fragments deconstructing them, then proceed to construct new images in a jigsaw puzzle-like process. This way of working allows me to recycle my long scrolls, which have been exhibited in many public installations as well as creating new smaller works. For the last 2 years I've been working on collages on paper as well as on panel. The works on panel use encaustic and oil as a basis for embedding the collages. To provide a little history, I attended New England Conservatory of Music and am a trained musician. This helps me visualize things in a musical way. In other words, people who choose to spend time with my work view it horizontally as well as vertically, much like a piece of music. 

Collages photographed by Renee Balducci Huston

Collage on paper 

17" x 14" 

LH: What is your studio like?
TA: My studio is on the second floor of my house and looks south to Point Lobos, though now it mostly looks out to trees which have grown and blocked my little ocean view. I have an etching press, 2 hot boxes bought from Paula Roland, an inking table and a table for working on encaustic paintings (I work flat).

Adams at work in her studio 

LH: Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? TA: At various times I've been involved with the Los Angeles Printmaking Society and a group of women who are printmakers where I live on the Monterey Peninsula. For many years, I offered workshops through my studio and the Monterey Museum of Art, but have not done so for quite a while. I am a member of IEA, but don't participate. I live 2+ hours from San Francisco which makes active participation difficult. I am also a member of the San Francisco Collage Collective, a group of artists who get together on an informal basis to collage and share work and ideas. Recently, some members of this group had work featured in a collage show at Bryant Street Gallery in Palo Alto. The demands on my personal life have become such that I don't have very much time to be involved in arts organizations.

Collage on paper 

17" x 14" 

LH: How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
TA: I have a few good friends/colleagues who live locally and we share our work and our struggles, helping each other out as needed. I also have 2 close friends who live in Santa Fe, one being Paula Roland, and we share issues pertaining to art and the art world. I receive many emails and requests via my website and Facebook, usually with questions attached about how I create my work, how to find a gallery and getting started as an artist, etc. I always answer these questions.

Collage on paper 

17" x 14" 

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
TA: Habits? Yes, I meditate daily and try to live as presently as possible. I am a quiet and introspective person by nature which allows me periods of observation and contemplative time. As I've gotten older I realize these moments of solitude are essential to my creation process, not to mention my well-being. I do a lot of drawing where I turn off my brain and see what happens. This practice is a prerequisite to almost everything I do in the studio.

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art? 
TA: I have another job that is really important and essential. I teach yoga at 2 studios: Yin, Restorative and Gentle yoga, and Pilates. I love sharing with people and helping others learn to relax and work through the stressful moments of their lives. Most of my classes are filled with women who are between 40 and 60, trying to connect with something that gives them peace and balance in their lives.

LH: Please describe a bit about your process.
TA: A few years ago, I realized that I enjoy process. Process in printmaking, process in painting, specifically in encaustic. I was a member of the first R&F Encaustic workshop in San Francisco in 1998 — we came close to burning down the post WWII wooden building in Sausalito where the workshop was held. I am a restless artist who works in series and when they come to their natural completion, I move on to another body of work. My work is deeply connected to the music, to the coastal area where I live, and to my spiritual life.

LH: What is your media? 
TA: Drawing, printmaking, painting in oil and encaustic and for the last 2 years: collage. I combine and reconfigure many ideas that I've worked with for the last 30+ years.

LH: What are you reading? 
TA: I don't have a lot of time to read, but find I like to constantly educate myself about yoga and Pilates. I'm currently reading Allen Menezes: Joseph Pilates' Techniques of Physical Conditioning.

Photo from

Where would you like to be in five years from now? 
TA: I try not to go there as it gets me in trouble when I think about the future too much. I love to solve problems within the art making process and am satisfied to let this lead me down the road to wherever things end up. Everything has always worked out during the last 30 years of art making, not without the usual bumps in the road and struggles, but that's when the good stuff happens. I love struggle and get concerned when the "process" goes too easily. There are times every few years that I stop working for a few months because I'm stuck. The last time this happened was the end of 2007 for four months and that was followed by an incredibly fruitful period of collage work and scroll making.

You can read another interview with Tracey on

And you can see more of her work at There are inks on her website to galleries where her work is shown.

Thank-you, Tracey!