Detail of 'Transitions: What Next?'', embellished digital textile, ©2011 Helen R Klebesadel

I’m an introvert (despite a rather loud personality).  I am refreshed by being alone. I love nothing better than  working in my art studio alone.   I hunger for it.  I work hard to protect my art time from other obligations.  I can spend endless hours painting, creating, and seeking that place of flow that is timeless and thrilling.  It is my favorite thing to do right up until it becomes lonely, oppressive, and isolating.

It turns out I need people.  I actually like them.  Especially people who have decided to make a place in their lives for their creative thinking and art making.  Its become a part of my art making practice to seek a balance between time alone in my studio and coming together with other artists to share thinking, discussing, and making art, and sometimes, to  collaborate.

There are many forms of artist collaboration.  Some are much harder to grow maintain than others.  Here are  three creative collaborations I am currently participating in that promise me an exciting summer of creative thinking and art making.

Teaching as Collaboration

I taught college level art courses and administered a studio art program for over a decade before resigning to take a part-time day job in educational administration that supports my art habit and allows me the time to make art.   I also teach art adult art and creativity workshops in a variety of venues as time permits.  There are several reasons I prefer non-credit teaching adult art classes and workshops to for-credit art courses.  The first reason is that you don’t grade your students in non-credit courses.  You listen, you encourage, you instruct, and you get behind them and urge them to move a little more quickly in the direction they are already moving, and sometimes you learn.  For me its easy to think of non-credit adult courses and workshops as opportunities to collaborate with creative people who are working to claim their creative voices.

In August and September this year I will have special opportunities to collaborate with new students and an established sister artist.  I will be offering two weekend art workshops (Watercolor:  A Fresh Start and Finding Your Creative Voice in Mixed Media) with artist and sculptor Liese Pfiefer, who will be offering a weekend workshop that can be taken as three separate one day workshops (Give Meaning and Memory through Found Object Sculpture).

Patellas, mixed media sculpture by Liese Pfeifer

In her own art Pfeifer creates sculptures and installations reflecting human endeavors using wood, felt, glass and various found objects. Her environmental site specific installations are often temporary, with the photograph being the remaining documentation.  In the piece in the image above she combine found natural objects (lannon stone, and mahogany rings) with her own creations of wrought iron and wet felted balls.

With our workshop offerings, not only will we be bringing a collaborative approach to teaching our students, but we have scheduled our classes in such a way that Liese and I will be able to participate in at least part of each others’ workshop as students.  How fun!

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Wyoming Valley School, 1956, near Spring Green, WI

An additional bit of personal pleasure associated with these workshops is the fact that they will be held at the Wyoming Valley School near Spring Green, Wisconsin.  This is a Frank Lloyd Wright designed grade school that a dedicated group of local people are preserving turning into a Cultural Center for the community.  It also happens to be the school that I attended for first through sixth grade.  Recently Gayle Worland wrote an article about the communities efforts to save the school and turn it into a cultural center in the Wisconsin State Journal.  Now you can ‘friend’ them on Facebook and keep track of their upcoming events.

Collaborating On Thinking About Art, Art Making, and Exhibiting

I do like to plan collaborative projects with artist I like to hang out with.  Its a regular part of my life now.  I have been meeting every month or so for almost twenty years with a small group of artists who initially came together to think about and support each others’ creative work, and stayed together to be there for each other as artists and friends. The group has seen me through good and bad times.  It ensures there are always people around who understand my journey as an artist and care whether I make art or not, and I do the same for them.  (I’ll write more about what it means to create and participate in an artist support group in future blog entries if there is an interest.)

I have several shared artist projects planned in future months and years.  Two are coming to particular fruition now.

Fiber and mixed media artist Leslee Nelson and I have been collaborating on a particular project for almost a year and it is coming together in a small exhibition at the Overture Center here in Madison for July-September.  The resulting exhibition is entitled The Places In Between:  Transitions and Transformations.

The exhibition is a collaboration growing from our over  twenty years of creative connections.  Its been an exciting collaboration for me because is marks a return to using embroidery on fiber as a medium for creative expression, something I haven’t done in years.

Leslee and I have spent the last year coming together to make art that considers transitions occurring in their lives, work, art, and community. The exhibition includes artworks in the media we are best known for as well as new artworks created through our year of collaborative thinking, creative exploration, and the fun of friendship.

'I Love You,' embroidery on hankey, Leslee Nelson

We are both well established in our media:  Leslee in non-traditional fiber arts and me in watercolor painting.  For this collaboration we combined our traditional approaches to creative making and added new technology.  We started by talking about the transitions and transformations we were experiencing in the world and our lives and creating paper collages based in our concerns.

Source collage for Leslee Nelson's 'Transitions: What Matters?"

Next we transformed the collage into canvas panels using digital process and new print-on-demand technologies now available.  (I used, the same place I sell my fabric designs, to create the canvas panels we worked on.)

Source collage for Helen Klebesadel's 'Transitions: What Next?'

Meeting weekly in the fall as Day Fellows at the former Madison art residency, Edenfred (now closed and  a huge loss to the Madison art community).  We soon found ourselves embroidering the panels with phrases that reflected our discussions, including those words that most of us need to hear far more often than we do:  “I love you. I’m sorry. I forgive you. Thank you.”

'Transitions: What Matters?" embelished digital textil, ©2011 Leslee Nelson

We spent this spring embellishing our individual panels through out the spring, while checking in with each other on ideas and our progress.  The artworks now record of a year of creative changes, collaborative thinking, and valued relationship.

'Transitions: What Next' emberlished digital textile, ©2011 Helen Kelbesadel

Our exhibition reflects our past and present as artists and positions us to think about our future in a way that puts the process and pleasure of art making with others as a greater part of our process.  Please stop in and see the exhibition at the Overture Center if you are in Madison, this summer and join us July 15th for the opening reception too.

A Painting a Day:  From Alaska to Wisconsin and Back with Love

'Care Giver.' watercolor, 14 x 18, ©2010 Nikki Kinne

The final collaboration I’ll feature today will really launch tomorrow in the form of sharing the 33 paintings in 33 days I am creating with sister artist Nikki Kinne of Fairbanks Alaska.

Nikki and I have know each other for more than seven years.  We met online when she sent me a wonderful email telling me how much she liked my artwork (that always gets my attention).  After some correspondence she told me of her own ambitions as an artist jumping into a full time career after retiring as career as a social worker.  Our relationship grew over the years and resulted in me heading to Alaska to teach art workshops that she had  arranged to bring me there (so I could see her work in person).

We have developed a strong mutual admiration for each others’ art, teaching, and creative process.  We have learn from each others’ journeys because we stay in touch and pay attention.  Now my spouse and I head to Alaska every few years, and she and her wonderful spouse Ken come and visit us too.

'Toward The Light,' 12 s 17, watercolor on yupo, Kenya Falls, ©2005 Nikki Kinne

I am very much looking forward to having Nikki as a guest artist and instructor (she is a plein air artist extraordinaire among other things) in the week-long version of my ‘Watercolor: A Fresh Start’ watercolor workshop I am offering in Baileys Harbor in Door County, September 18-23, 2011 at Bjorklunden.

Recently Nikki and I both have dealt with health challenges that slowed us down in our attention to our art making. I had two partial knee replacements in May and have been focused doing the fiber works mentioned above to the exclusion of painting.  Nikki ran into her own heath issue, coupled with a rigorous travel schedule and responsibility for the her membership in the wonderful Fairbanks art co-op,  Co-Op Arts (owned and managed by her husband Ken Kokjer)  that put art making on the back burner for a bit.

We decided to get ourselves painting again we would enter the Daily Painting Movement and paint and share a painting a day for 33 days.  This is a huge commitment because of our individual commitments and business, but it was an idea we couldn’t refuse once we came up with it.  We agreed to make a painting a day that could be any size (from artist trading cards s of 21/2 x 3 1/2 inches on up), in any style, as loose or tight as our mood desired, reflecting what ever caught our attention for the moment.   The goal was to carry on a visual conversation for a month to keep us in contact, and challenge ourselves to play a little in our art making.  So, starting tomorrow I will share the paintings each of us have made-matching each other day by day for 33 day.

I hope you will join use for the next 33 days  as Nikki and I are enjoy our art journey!