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CityScape Escape

Image of an encaustic and ink painting by Janet Fox titled "CityScape."
CityScape | encaustic and paper (sold)

Escaping in a Cityscape

I recently took a trip to Brooklyn, New York, to relax, see some art, and enjoy the cityscape. While there, I visited the awesome artworks in the Brooklyn Museum. Here’s a bit of how my rejuvenating day went…

First of all, imagine having a yummy brekky and a spiced chai concoction in a gluten-free friendly cafe on a lazy, sunny Saturday morning. Next, we meander along the city sidewalks, gazing at this and that in an assortment of interesting stop windows. Along the way, we discover it’s also an open art studio weekend.

Walking half-way down the block, we see an open studio. So we climb the steps and enter artist Doug Beube‘s studio and gallery. We are absolutely WOWed by his beautiful bookwork, collage and mixed media art! After spending an hour exploring and enjoying his work and chatting, we decide to buy his book, Breaking the Codex. (Mr. Beube’s website has a fantastic variety of his art; I think you’ll be amazed, too!)

As a result of our visit, we have a renewed sense of creative energy and continue our journey to the museum.

Almost to the Museum now, we see lots of people in motion, moving this way and that. Some are sitting, soaking up the sunshine. As we sit for a bit at the Museum front plaza, imagine looking down from the sky and seeing all the others arriving from different directions.

Discovering ancient encaustic paintings

Imagine now, entering the Museum and roaming lazily through the exhibits. Suddenly to my surprise and delight, I discover the famous ancient Fayum Mummy portraits on display on a wall across the room! I recognized them immediately but didn’t realize they were in the Museum. These paintings are some of the earliest known pieces using encaustic paint, which has become my favorite medium. As a result, photos of them are in many books about encaustic painting.

My favorites include Noblewoman and Mummy Portrait of a Man. I stand mesmerized and study them for what felt like a very long time. So many questions swirl in my head. Who, specifically, painted them? What techniques did she or he use? Finally, did the painters back then have any inkling that many, many generations later, half-way around the world, people in Brooklyn would be viewing and appreciating their art with awe?

About Cityscape

I set out creating Cityscape by starting with one of my earlier paintings, Unwinding. After heating and scraping away the paint, I added new layers of paper shapes and encaustic paint and medium. The rainbow of colors and shapes the diversity of people, structures, green spaces and energy. Going to the city to unwind and discover somethings old and new can be quite rejuvenating!

How do you unwind in the city?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

 For information about purchasing a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Circling Back

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Circling Back."
Circling Back | encaustic (sold)

Circling back around

The end of 2015 has come and gone and we’re circling back around into a new year. Reflecting on last year, I saw various “Best of 2015” lists. What were the best movies, music and photos? Most compelling stories? Loveliest moments? Scariest events? What have we learned? What have we struggled with that needs more time to figure out?

On a personal level, I’ve felt a strong urge to sort through things, clean, rearrange, recycle what I no longer need, find new homes for reusable items, and discard what’s too worn to be useful. Some of this work is a sort of ending. And colder winter weather also keeps me inside more so it just feels like a great time to do these tasks.

Timing of new beginnings

Closing out an old year, while taking time with family and friends, allowed me to reflect on what is important. I’ve not been a big fan of New Year resolutions, but having a re-start date can be useful to focus on self improvements. This informative and humorous article by Elahe Izadi in The Washington Post points out why the new year starts on Jan. 1, noting it is a terrible time for renewal.

For me, though, the gradually increasing amount of daylight after the Winter Solstice on December 21st brings feelings of new growth. (Getting gardening seed catalogs in the mail help that along, too.) But I know the first of the year is not the only time for new growth.

Clean space for something new

With things I no longer need cleared out, I now have a blank space (or a blank canvas) to explore, create and fill. But what will I do and create? Something brings me back around to the words of the late Joseph Campbell, the famous American scholar of world mythology. His answer when asked this kind of question was “to follow your bliss.” The Painter’s Keys Art Quotes has this great list of Joseph Campbell quotes. I hope you enjoy them!

So I’m trying to stay aware and recognize what brings me happiness and joy so I can fill my space with more of that. Creating art and exploring my and others’ dream realms are a few of the blissful, energizing paths I am on.

About Circling Back Around

In this contemporary encaustic painting, I created roundish shapes and paths. Layering papers and colors reminded me of how I often repeat similar things, although no two times are identical. I chose a thin silver cord for skipping around, for a light feeling.

So here we go again, but with another year of experience under our collective belt. What changes need to be made… and can we muster the courage and energy to make them?

What blissful paths are you following?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.

Dreams in Wax at Westfield Art Festival

Image of an encaustic 3-D painting by Janet Fox titled "Dreams in Wax."
Dreams in Wax | encaustic

The Wheaton Art Festival

I’m thrilled to be part of the Wheaton Art Festival, on Friday, November 13 at Chuck Levin’s Music Center (Performance Space), at 11151 Veirs Mill Road, in Wheaton, Maryland. This juried pop-up art event is part of the Wheaton Arts & Cultural Series.

My entry Dreams in Wax, is part of my series of 3-D art pieces incorporating dream journals.

Dream Study

I began studying my dreams about 20 years ago. About one third of my studies have been in dream group settings; the rest, a solo endeavor.

This practice helps me discover my authentic voice, the one from somewhere deep within. This voice speaks in a unique, rich inner language of symbols. I trust that these dreams come to help me become a whole person.

And while I’ve explored personal meaning in a group setting, I’ve also seen others use my dream themes and symbols as a sort of mirror to project their own ideas. This is similar to a group of people viewing one piece of art while each seeing different things and feeling different emotions. I find that dream study connects me to others in wonderful and inspiring ways, enlivening my life.

About Dreams in Wax

I began this piece with a journal from back when. I decided to fold in the pages, covering them in encaustic medium as a way to preserve the pages. I also sewed the pages together, perhaps to not reveal too much. The red tassels represent the “loud symbols” that can show up in a dream. These are the ones that are packed full of emotion, brightly colored, shocking or jump out at me in a way to require further reflection.

The rectangular window on the inside of each cover represent dreams as windows into an interior world. I mounted the journal on a rich brocade velvet, reminding me of the richness of dreams. The entire piece is inside a 4 inch frame, again a sort of window looking inside to find something beautiful.

How do You Relate to Your Dreams?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

Comings and Goings aka Orbit Machine

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Orbit Machine #7."
Comings and Goings (aka Orbit Machine #7) | encaustic

Launching into orbit

Life is so busy. There’s much movement every day. I wake up and find the energy to launch from my home base, going to this place and then the next one. At the end of the day, I return home.

These paths feel like a sort of orbit, circling around my home but always returning to it.

Crossing paths

While traveling, I cross over streets and boundaries. My path intersects with many others. Sometimes our paths align and we travel together for a while. When we’re together, we interact in countless ways.

Moving around

The transportation machines of modern life, like bikes, cars, transit and planes, physically move us around.

Technology enables us travel even further, going to far-away countries, interacting with people around the globe, and connecting in online meeting spaces.

Spacecraft, like NASA’s New Horizons, take us to the far reaches of our known world, circling back to us through images sent through space.

Books transport the reader to real and imagined settings. Spiritual practices help us get to mystical, non-physical states.

About Comings and Goings (aka Orbit Machine #7)

This encaustic art, Comings and Goings (aka Orbit Machine #7), represents the motions of life moving around in a weekly cycle. First going here, then there, then over there, and circling back around to home. I layered colorful pastel-infused papers fused in encaustic media in this three-piece painting, cutting grooves to fill in more colors.

Where do your daily travels take you?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Transformation of a Scarlet Boa

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Crossing Over 2."
Crossing Over 2 | mixed media (sold)

Dreamscape… I’m in my apartment. Someone tells me to be very careful moving around because a scarlet boa constrictor has somehow gotten in. I creep slowly in a circular fashion through the living room, dining room and kitchen. I see it, coiled up in a corner next to a big basket. I know I must catch and remove it. For if it bites me, I will be poisoned and get extremely sick or die.

What is a scarlet boa?

With vivid and colorful dreams like this one, I enjoy researching the symbols and actions to explore connections that cross over into waking life. For example and to my amazement, I discovered there actually is a boa that’s partly red. Originally from tropical areas, the “boa constrictor constrictor” is also known as the red-tailed boa. Here’s a beautiful Wired photo of one and some interesting red-tailed boa facts from animals.mom.me. Many people have them as pets, as they are nonpoisonous. They can grow to more than 10 feet long, 50 pounds in weight and 30 years old in captivity.

As the name suggests, boas kill their prey by squeezing it to death. They are carnivores and eat small rodents, amphibians, snakes, and birds. They don’t eat people and are nonpoisonous. So within this dreamscape, what I thought I knew was not entirely correct and was, unnecessarily perhaps, causing me to be cautious and afraid. Nevertheless, I’m not a snake person and didn’t want to live with one in my space. But how on Earth did a boa, and a scarlet one at that, get inside my living space? Was it living in the blackberry patch outside and got lost?

The boa’s transformation

While previously working with this dream image, I created a painting of a large, coiled red snake. I placed it safely behind bars inside a cage. Recently, I cut apart this painting, transforming it into the three artworks in this post.

The first piece, at the top of this post, symbolizes the bridge from dream time to waking time.

The second painting symbolically moved the boa back outside. I put this one in a sunny blackberry patch, where I’ve seen other snakes.

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Sun Kissed Blackberries."
Sun Kissed Blackberries | mixed media (sold)

Since it is springtime with new growth appearing everywhere, I recreated the boa in the third piece. This new bloom appeared. The blossom’s color reflects a glimmer of its scarlet past.

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Scarlet Bloom."
Scarlet Bloom | mixed media (sold)

How would you make something scary safe?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about commissioning similar artwork or, contact Janet Fox.

You’re In My Heart

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "You're In My Heart."
You’re In My Heart | encaustic (sold)

What’s in a heart shape?

For the first time, I recently entered an annual Valentine Card contest hosted by the Montgomery Art Association, a local art group I am a member of. Getting started, I didn’t know what I would create, but I knew it would include a red heart.

I tried lots of different sizes and added paper and encaustic wax. After a few layers, the shapes of two people emerged. They face each other, their love captured in between.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Do you like to make valentines?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

Breathing Meditation

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Breathing Meditation - Revised."
Breathing Meditation (revised) | encaustic

Focus on breathing

We all must do it to live. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

From the moment we are born until the moment of death, we repeat this continuous cycle taking in air with the essential oxygen needed to break down food into energy. After, we exhale carbon dioxide and water as waste.

With breathing as a metaphor for life, we continuously take in new things, deciding which to integrate within us and letting go of the rest. What do you keep? What do you let go of?

Focusing on the breath

In many meditation practices, an important way to quiet the mind is to focus on breathing.

Focusing on my breath has helped me calm down and work through pain and difficulties. While belly breathing, I mentally focus on the points between the breaths, too. At the end of the inhale, I gently contract a painful muscle or hold a difficulty in my mind. I then focus on releasing it with the exhale. At the end of the exhale, I envision ratcheting down the original stimulus. After a few minutes, I usually feel better.

About Breathing Meditation

I chose a four-color scheme in this encaustic painting to represent the inhale, exhale and the points in-between. The red represents the inhale, focused on energized and raw pain or difficulty. The violet is the point of maximum inhalation and can be a point of remembering, contracting or holding. The green represents exhalation, letting out waste air and also releasing pain and difficulty. Finally, the white transitions back to the beginning of the breath, a bridge between the ending and a new beginning. The bottom section shows how the strength of each step can change over time.

How does it feel when you focus on your breath?

 For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Power Surge (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Power Surge (aka Hot Flash)."
Power Surge (aka Hot Flash) | encaustic

Power Birthing, the Latest Hot Flash

With Mothers’ Day nearing, here’s a timely dream and painting to explore. Enjoy!

Dreamscape… I’m visiting the labor and delivery wing of a state-of-the-art hospital. After nine months, a twenty-something female friend is in labor and having a baby! There’s much excitement and anticipation. After a few hours of labor, the baby is born and the doctors and nurses check her/him over. They give the baby to the mother to hold and after, they weigh the baby and make sure she/he is properly developed. After (and I gasp loudly at this part) they proceed to re-insert the baby back into the mother, head first. To my amazement, performing this latest “power birthing” procedure (which will last another month or so) is proven to give the baby a big advantage in its development. While still in shock at this newest of modern medical procedures, I think to myself, “Now I’ve seen a lot of medical advances and new baby things in my lifetime, like in utero surgeries, high-tech strollers, monitoring systems, and advanced gadgets of all kinds, but this new way to “power birth” takes the cake and is absolutely, no-doubt-about-it ludicrous! After going through nine months of pregnancy, hours of labor, and delivery, how on Earth could or would any mother voluntarily do this?” I am bewildered by this situation…

After awakening from this vivid dream, marveling about this surprising story, and laughing about its absurdity, I wondered why this particular sequence of images flowed through my sleep time. So I went into my studio and painted while contemplating this dream.

I decided to tap into my “mother” energy and birth my own “art baby.” Do you see it, there in the middle of this painting? This smaller rectangular section was a mixed media painting I had begun a while ago, but it had not felt quite finished. So I placed it in the middle of a larger blank, wooden board. I then added more artistic elements, taking about another month until I decided it was finished enough to sign. I assembled and mounted the piece in a handmade wooden frame, using my arm-powered saw and drill. While painting, I also explored the idea of what comes after being a mother, thus generating the painting’s name.

Who Has the Power to Decide When A Creation is Finished?

Creating this piece brought up some interesting questions and ideas for reflection.

  • What are the characteristics of the symbolic mother archetype? Here’s what Wikipedia’s says about Jungian archetypes and mother.
  • What symbolic “baby” is ready to be born, although a schooled part of me wants to keep working on it for another month?
  • When is a painting (or any creative endeavor) really finished? I’ve asked other artists this question and almost all replied that they work and rework their art until it feels “finished enough.”
  • Is finishing a painting (or other project) the end of the creative process? Perhaps it is. But I, and other artists I’ve asked, often revisit a previously completed painting and work another layer on top or incorporate it into a new piece. Some art remains in the form of an idea for years while others hibernate in drawers as “works in progress.” Some creations get gifted, donated, recycled, or thrown away.
  • What is power? Wikipedia offers this definition, involving the balance of both constraint and enablement.
  • Who has the power to say when my creative project is finished? The symbolic medical people? The mother? The baby? Some or all of the above?

As an artist and as a contributor to collaborative projects with others, this issue always comes up. How complete, detailed, or perfect does something need to be? How much time and energy do I have to focus on the task? Where is the balance?

For me, I’ve learned to find a point that feels complete enough. Then I sign my name and move on. But sometimes, I go back for a revisit like I did for “Power Surge aka Hot Flash.”

Here are some words of wisdom from others:

  • “Art is a birth, and you can’t go to a teacher and find out how to be born… you have to struggle… until that image, the one that comes out of your need to create, emerges.” – Malcah Zeldis, 1978 (at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, District of Columbia)
  • “The job isn’t finished until the floor is swept, the tools cleaned and put away in their place, and the shop lights turned off.” – Leonard Fox (my father)

How do  you know when your creation is finished?

 Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

Seeds of Creative Energy (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Seeds of Creative Energy."
Seeds of Creative Energy | encaustic (sold)

How are the seeds of creative energy sown? Where does creativity come from?

I think it is our essential life force, energy or spirit flowing through us that we somehow direct. Creativity comes in countless forms. When I look around, every human-made thing I see began as someone’s creative idea. The same goes for human actions and performances.

While studying energy and the body, I learned about chakras, a concept from Easter religions. Chakras describe the energy channels of our non-physical body. Our life force moves through these channels. In Western thought, seven colors represent the seven primary chakras. I generally think of the chakras associated with these colors and areas of the body.

  • Magenta is the color of the chakra focused in the area of the crown of the head. Its focus is on a state of pure consciousness.
  • Violet is the color focused in the region of the third eye (forehead area). This chakra is focused on intuitive abilities.
  • Blue is the color of the chakra focused in the throat; it concerns communication abilities.
  • Green is the color of the chakra focused in the region of the heart. It concerns strong emotions and the intersection of feminine and masculine energy.
  • Yellow is the color focused in the naval area and focuses internally and on one’s sense of self.
  • Orange is the color of the chakra focused in the sacrum and reproductive organs. It focuses on family relationships.
  • Red is the color focused at the base of spine and pelvic floor. This chakra concerns one’s security and survival in the world.

I also love organic vegetable gardening and am fascinated by the mysterious way tiny seeds, given water, nutrients, light, warmth and protection, can sprout and grow into incredible plants with the ability to capture the energy of the sun. We, in turn, must eat the plants to release their energy so we can live. Our survival depends on the energy in green plants.

My encaustic painting, “Seeds of Creative Energy,” weaves together these two energy concepts. I began with all seven colors of pigmented wax on a wooden art board. During my creative process, I began to focus on the lower four and the highest chakras and glazed over the blue. I really liked the result, perhaps because I have also been enjoying paging through many colorful seed catalogs and planning my vegetable garden now that warmer weather is here.

A Color and Energy Experiment:

Draw, color or paint to see what your energy can create.

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.
  For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.