Art Connections Gallery is excited to feature three wonderful artists in our January Second Saturday Soiree "Triple Play" on January 11, 2020 from 4 to 7pm. One of the three is New Ulm artist Jean Blais Oliver. We were able to interview her this week to find out a bit more about her and her experiences as an artist. Read below and enjoy.
Tell us a little bit about your life before you became an artist.
I have always been something of an artist. I drew even as a child and all through school. I did work for many years in business, teaching and also as a legal secretary.
Did you do art or artsy things growing up?
Yes, I always was drawing, coloring, making paper dolls and such.
When did you start to make art and why or how did you make the decision to do this?
I have made art throughout my adult life, much of which was commissioned portraits. I started my current work after retiring 8 years ago.
Who was your first mentor or person of inspiration?
I didn't really have a mentor although my father did a bit of oil painting when I was a kid so I got a bit of an introduction to art that way. I also had a few drawing teachers in college who were quite influential.
Who is your favorite artist?
I don't really have a favorite: there are so many I like and admire. I was always partial to the Impressionists, especially Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. I also admire the drawing skills of Norman Rockwell and M. C. Escher.
Where have you studied or learned to do what you do?
I majored in fine art in college with an emphasis on drawing. I began working with colored pencils about 25 years ago and am basically self taught although a lot of drawing principles apply to that medium also. I frequently study books, magazines and articles of other artists to learn new techniques.
Where do you get your inspiration for each drawing? How do you decide what to draw? Tell us a little bit about how you approach a drawing. The process that you use to work through one.
I am inspired by nature, especially how the seasons affect the foliage, light, etc. I take numerous photos and study them for their compositional strength and general appeal. I then do an initial drawing, making adjustments as needed to strengthen it. I then work from dark to light to fill in the detail.
Tell us any other details about yourself or your art that have made you the artist that you are today,
I can only say that years of drawing and training my eye have made me the artist I am today.
What is your favorite thing about being a professional artist?
I can't say I really consider myself a professional artist since I don't make a living from it. But I will say that I draw because its like second nature to me. Now that I have more time to indulge I am happy to share my art and perhaps sell some as icing on the cake.
It was a few weeks before Christmas and down at the square
People were shopping in stores and Santa was there!
He wanted some gifts, unique and handmade,
For lovely Ms. Santa, the elves, and his reindeer brigade.
He knew just where to find some really great gifts:
In the middle of Texas in a very special place.
Art Connections Gallery that is--
On the square in La Grange,
Where everything inside is artisan made.
Santa hurried right there with his list in his hand.
He opened the door and entered a magic land.
He was met by Renate who gave him a hug
And then smiled and asked if she could give him a hand.
She looked at his list and gave up a laugh!
“Oh Santa, this will be so easy, don’t sweat.
We have so much stuff here, on that you can bet.
All those on your nice list will get such special surprises.
Each are made from the hands of an artist you see,
And are meant to fill their hearts with love, that I guarantee.
So first on his list was Mrs. Santa, of course.
She loves bling, how could she not,
She lives on the North Pole surrounded by sparkly whatnots.
He looked at the jewels, so much to choose from,
But found a perfect bauble to please the heart of his lady love.
He went through his list, not naughty, just nice,
And found something just right for each creature on that list.
A warm scarf for Rudolph ‘cause it’s cold in the snow,
for Dasher a really nice salad bowl.
A painting for Comet, and some flutes for Blitzen
(who does sometimes get “blitzened”, you know).
And for the reindeer who looks out at the world, a new point of view.
After a rest in the Book Nook, onward he goes,
To the back gallery where he finds some little elf girl hair bows.
And these wee shoes for little Eddie Elf
Who has been really quite good
And, never forget,
This beaded bag for his sweet mom, Ellen Elf.
Finally, when the list is all complete,
Santa checks out and pays,
Not surprised in the least.
For he knew when his shopping was done here,
his wallet would still have a little something
For the homeless man on the street.
Renate piled on his packages (and piled on his packages) and to the door he did stroll.
Down the sidewalk he went and so the story goes.
Those also shopping on the square could hear him say,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good day.
I’ll see you at Christmas in just a few weeks.
Remember how I like cookies and always be sweet.
Mary Faust Carradine is Featured Artist for this Saturday's Second Saturday Soiree. We were able to visit with her via email about her life as an artist.
Tell us a little about your life before you became an artist.
My first recollection of someone recognizing that I may have artistic talent was in Kindergarten. At an open house my teacher told my mother I had the ability to differentiate form and reproduce what I saw. When the other kids were drawing stick figures, I was drawing people with recognizable body parts and facial features, although clumsily and inexperienced. Thus began my art education.
Did you do art or "artsy" things growing up?
When I attended school, art was still part of the curriculum. I always excelled in art classes, and in eight-grade was placed in the advanced class. I remained in advanced classes through high school. My first "commercial" jobs where making hand drawn posters for the Community League events in my hometown, where my mom was an active member. I got to experience constructive criticism at a young age. I realized pleasing the "boss", in this case my mom, could be a challenge. Learning to take criticism helped during critiques and in jobs. I also drew a few cartoons for my high school newsletter, and made a few screen printed posters for high school events, where I developed my first interest in printmaking. Eventually the interest I developed in doing posters led to a career in the graphic arts later in my life. I attended the University of Wisconsin Stout. In the Printmaking class, I experienced stone lithography for the first time and just loved the feel of the crayon on the stone and still do lithography, occasionally.
When did you start to create art, in particular printmaking, and why or how did you make the decision to do this?
I worked in various major retailers' display departments, and had a freelance display business for many years. When store display became less about creativity and more about merchandising, I changed directions and became a graphic artist. During that time I worked as the Publication Specialist for a large school district, I designed and produced the district's newspaper for the Communications department. One of my functions was to take pictures during school events, at the many campuses in the district, to be included with the articles; I developed an interest in photography. Later down the road, after being reorganized out of my job in the marketing department at JCPenney's corporate offices, I decided to concentrate on my own work, and sold my photographic work through fine art fairs across Texas. Saturation of this market –and various severe weather events– prompted me to stop doing fairs, go back to my roots and concentrate on making art. Because of my background in publishing, and prior experiences in high school and college, printmaking seemed a natural progression.
Who was your first mentor or person of inspiration?
Unable to afford the presses and other expensive equipment involved in printmaking, I attend Brookhaven College, and am in my tenth year in Printmaking. My mentor is David Newman, who teaches Printmaking and Photography, and is the Gallery Curator at Brookhaven Community College. He has expanded my horizon and broadened my knowledge of printmaking techniques. I also enjoy having in-depth art discussions with him. Michelle Martin, Professor of Art at the University of Tulsa, and Wisconsin artist Paul Yank both contributed to my current direction in mono prints. Jon Goebel, Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii Hilo, influenced the direction of my imagery. He was the first to tell me my images should include a narrative. Lithographic artist, Katherine Polk, showed me that delicate mark making can be very powerful. Caravaggio has influenced my background composition, mysterious shapes within a darkened background. I relate to Georgia O'Keefe because we're both from Wisconsin and made our way to Texas, and try to emulate the fluidity of her lines and color in her work.
Where do you get your inspiration for each piece?
Having grown up in Wisconsin, I feel especially attuned to nature. Elements from nature are featured in most of my work. Travel plays a huge role for inspiration. I use my photographic images as a resource for my artwork.
Tell us a bit about how you approach making a print and the process that you use to work through one.
I begin the process for my mono prints by placing different textures and shapes on an inked –using a split or rainbow roll– plexi-glass surface; placing a sheet of paper over it and running it through a press. Once I have the background made, I look at the patterns created and try to see the image in it. Sometimes the image is immediately revealed; sometimes it takes awhile for me to see it. After I have an image in my mind, I tape the background print to a piece of transparent vellum and draw the image on it. I remove the background print from the vellum, turn the drawing over and trace it with magic marker; and then tape it back-side up to a piece of plexi-glass, which becomes my plate. Using rollers and brayers, I ink the plate. After I have the ink where I want it, I take a rag and wipe away the excess ink, where I don't want it. Once I have the plate inked just the way I want it; I wet the paper, put the image side on top the inked surface and run it through the press. I start with the lightest ink color. By layering the ink, blending different colored inks to make new colors or darker colors to create value, you can get your desired result. This technique is similar to reduction wood-block relief prints. I can also use stencils, for crisper edges, or dab with my hand, rag or sponge to blend or make softer edges. I normally have more than 15 runs though the press. Although time consuming, I find it very rewarding.