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Judith Monroe Posts

How to support the arts on a budget


I know that the “downturn” is supposed to be in recovery and that things really are starting to look up for our economy, but I also know from my own experience and pretty much everyone that I’m close to, that times are still tight. That’s okay, I have complete faith that things will get better, and I kind of think that a slow upturn is probably better for everyone. Personally, I’ve seen enough bubbles… But I also know a lot of people that love art in so many forms and that want to support artists but don’t feel like they can spend any money.


I want to address all of you that feel that way and let you know that it’s okay and I understand and that there are ways to support artists that you know or just admire that can fit your budget, even if it’s nothing. I know how you feel, I feel the same way; I know lots of artists – painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, photographers – and I really do want to support as many of them as I can, but I’m on a budget, too. But I’ve found I don’t always have to break the bank to do it.


First of all, easiest of all and cheapest of all (no cost!) is to support artists you admire on social media. I’m sure you already follow them, but it really helps an artist when you actively engage with them on social media. On Facebook, don’t just “like” their page, but “like” their posts, comment on them, share their page and posts with your friends to help spread the word. The same goes for Instagram and Twitter has similar kinds of engagement, as does Google+ and probably even Pinterest. (There’s no way I can keep up with all those things, so I only know a couple intimately, but whatever media you’re on, the idea is the same.)


If you live in the same geographic location as the artist you want to support, another nearly free way to support them is to attend receptions, musical gigs or open studios. Most are free to attend and it’s nearly always some kind of party atmosphere. Don’t be afraid of an art gallery or club you’ve never been to – bring a friend and make an adventure of it – those places are really not as intimidating as you might think! And I can tell you that having people who just want to support me coming up to say hello and wish me well really does help me. As an artist, I’m putting my work and myself out there and it can be scary sometimes; even if you can’t buy anything, it’s always good to feel appreciated.


The next suggestion I’m going to make actually includes reaching into your pocket, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Many artists use fund sourcing websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo and run campaigns to do anything from recording an album to publishing a book, or funding a trip to an exhibition far from home. I haven’t run any kind of fund raising campaign myself, but I’ve helped fund these kinds of projects and it’s a pretty cool feeling. Depending on how the artist is running it, you can often help out for as little as five dollars, and I usually end up helping in the twenty dollar range because I’m comfortable with that, and usually there are thank you “gifts” for supporting in that range. Among the goodies I’ve received on top of my good feelings are a postcard from France, a book and a CD.


 mixed media art by Judith Monroe


Finally, if you can manage to save up any cash at all, many artists offer something for people on a budget. You may not be able to get that huge piece that you wish you could get, but you’re doing both yourself and the artist a favor when you even make a small purchase. This mostly applies to visual artists, as usually a CD or book isn’t such a huge investment and many of us can squeeze that into a tight budget somehow. I know lots of visual artists that have something they offer for under one hundred or even under fifty dollars. If you don’t know whether an artist has something like that, ask them! Most of us are really pretty easy to contact and are happy to answer questions and do what we can to help our supporters. If you can’t manage to purchase what you want all at once, many artists offer lay-away, you just have to ask. It’s amazing how many of us really do want you to have a piece of our work when we see how much it touches you.


When it comes down to it – at least I know this is true for me – the biggest part of why I make art is to share a piece of myself with other people. I am driven by a passion to create and something created isn’t complete until it has been shared with someone else…

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Happy New Year or something like that


I understand that it’s the beginning of the Chinese New Year (or very close to it) and since I am never really ready for New Year’s stuff when it actually happens, I am going to adopt a new year attitude right now.


First off, I want to apologize to those who have commented and I haven’t replied to; I just now found those comments and when I tried to at least comment on the thread, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Yes. On my own blog. That is incredibly pathetic and I want to blame the server or my computer or something like that. So when I can figure out how to get this blog to notify me of comments and then how to reply, I will do so. Until then, I feel like a dork and I’m sorry. Email me, I’ll answer, I promise.


So what I really wanted to weigh in about is what’s up in the studio right now. I just gessoed over more than half a dozen artworks that I picked up from a gallery yesterday. Seems I’m in a starting fresh mood. Actually, my work has been shifting and improving and when I went into the gallery yesterday to bring new work, I had it in my head to pretty much swap out and give him all new work. Then, when I saw the pieces up on the wall I really just wanted to swap out and start over, so that’s what I’m doing. Now there is nice new work at Studio Kokomo in Calistoga (in the wine country) and I’ve got a table full of possibilities…


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I really have meant to post here more often than this, I could offer reasons, excuses, justifications for not doing it but would it matter? I have certainly thought about writing often enough, but it takes a little more than thought to make it all the way here, to sitting down and writing… but I digress.


Over and over again I keep seeing things, reading things, that say how important it is for me as an artist (or business person of any kind, really) to tell my story, explain myself. Here I sit, stand, whatever, creating what I create and putting it out there and asking you to like it, to love it, to believe, to put your money where your mouth is – but all the while you need a really good reason to do it. You need me to be clear, to explain why I do what I do and why you should care, why you should embrace me and join me in my journey. 


Fair enough, so I’m going to be as honest as possible and some of you are going to think I’m a lunatic. Some of you know it already, but that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure you love me anyway and I love you, too…


I honestly believe that I was put here on earth for a reason, for a purpose, that God in all his unimaginable self, created me to create, to be an artist and to bring him glory. (Now mind you, I may not always do a good job of it, but that’s on me, not him, just so we’re clear.) So how exactly does me being and artist bring him glory? I can’t say I always know, but I do know what I’ve always tried to do in and through my work.


So much of my artwork is a prayer, searching for peace, for calm, for a sense of feeling that I am with God and in the center of what he wants. It has always been that way, especially when I go out with a camera into some little wild place, trying to put together that perfect composition that feels just so… That feeling of wholeness, contentment, things that I can’t even really put into words, so I use a camera, then I use all kinds of other things, just trying to make my artwork convey that elusive something. 


In the studio, when I’m pulling together images and textures and colors, I am once again participating in a form of physical prayer; reaching out to God, trying to reflect back the little glimpses of heaven that I sometimes feel more than see. “Making the invisible visible.” That’s a phrase that I’ve read before about art making Christians and I can certainly relate. This world is so much more than all the physical things we can touch and quantify and while I’m creating, I’m trying to help make a little sense of it, both for myself and for you…


So that’s a complete ramble but it’s honest. Next time I’ll try to be a little more coherent. Probably. 



This is one of my very newest pieces, which I’ve title “Golden Hour” partly because that’s a term used in photography to describe the time of day when the light is low and golden and feels magical. It can be one of those times when our imperfect earth can feel a little bit like heaven, simply because what we see in front of us is bathed is such lovely light that we actually believe, if only for a moment…



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True Confessions

I’m a professional artist. I create art in my studio, I show it, I sell it, I get to teach at the college level, it’s a charmed life. Sort of.


It’s an incredible amount of work – forty hours a week? I don’t even keep track; if I’m not working somehow, I’m eating, sleeping, walking the dogs, going to church or maybe vegging out on the couch at ten o’clock at night. But that’s okay, I love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else and not going on some kind of postal rampage.


art in progress by Judith Monroe


I live for this, so the true confession? Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing. Really. Today, for instance, I walked into the studio to paint – I’m working on a deadline coming up incredibly soon – and I really don’t know what to do next. I have no grand plan, that doesn’t usually work too well for me, and sometimes that means I have to grope blindly and just pray for what to do next. I have some notion, sort of, but there are days that those first steps are incredibly tenative and I’m scared stiff that I’m going to screw things up but not working at all is not an option.


Of course, stopping to write a blog post will postpone it just a little… but I’ve got a deadline to meet, so here goes nothing!


In the Woods Artist Reception and Exhibition

Artworks by Judith Monroe and Michelle MacKenzie


I am pleased to announce the opening reception for my new exhibit with my dear friend, sculptress Michelle MacKenzie, at the Adamson Gallery in Sacramento. I hope you can join us for Sacramento’s Second Saturday Artwalk on October 12, 2013, from 6 to 9 p.m. The Adamson Gallery features uplifting contemporary paintings and scultures and is located at 1021 R Street, Suite 15,  Sacramento, CA 95811. Our Emerson inspired show runs from October 10 through November 2, 2013.


Artis Michelle MacKenzie in her studio
Ceramic sculptor Michelle MacKenzie uses clay to express her “celebration of life through art”, with an emphasis on the horse and other animals with spiritual significance.  Michelle concentrates on The Connection, the things we all share as humans, passage of time, family, spirituality.  Inspired by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, she has recently created a collection of animal sculptures that depict the simple truth, beauty and spirit of the wild.  Michelle enjoys sculpting with a mixed media approach, using reclaimed wood panels, branches, wire, nails, and metal to compliment the clay. A grey wolf stands atop a wood stump, a red tailed hawk’s legs and talons are nails and wire, an old shutter door becomes the backdrop for a woodland scene of a grove of Aspen trees that become a white tail deer.  A herd of colorful horses adorned with leaf designs toss their patinaed copper wire manes.  Michelle finds renewal by hiking in the Auburn foothills, the Sierras, or Point Reyes.
“When my friend Judith Monroe and I decided to make “In the Woods” our theme for our 2 woman show at Colleen Adamson’s Gallery, I was sculpting primarily horses.  I was excited to commit to a project like this that would force me to stretch and expand my scope.  I decided to concentrate on wolves, birds, deer, and tree horses!  If you’ve read Emerson then a tree horse shouldn’t be a surprise!  I enlisted the help of my friend Phil Myers to construct reclaimed wood panels for my wall sculptures.  These are made from wood salvaged from an old water tower, complete with bee tunnels.  He was also my source for the wood stumps.  Kristen Hoard made the rusty metal platforms for my bird sculptures from old scrap metal.  My intention is to capture some of the wild spirit of the woods, as well as the endearing charm of the creatures who inhabit them.”
Michelle MacKenzie
Artist Judith Monroe working in her studio
Mixed media artist Judith Monroe is always “fascinated with nature and encouraged by faith” while creating her photo based artworks. Taking a cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith,” she has created a body of images that blend her inclinations toward recording the visual literally through photographs with translating her spiritual inclinations through paint and collage. The result are artworks that appear realistic, yet otherworldly. Though many of her photographs were taken locally, some were captured from farther away, like Yosemite and Sedona, Arizona. When Judith isn’t in her art studio or teaching photography at Sierra College, she can often be found wandering trails in Northern California or farther away.
“One of my favorite things is to wander along trails through woodlands, just breathing in my surroundings, listening to whatever birdsong I can hear, looking for what creature just made that rustling sound in the bushes, or finding little fish hiding in the shadows in a creek. Whether it’s a place I’ve never been to before, or a path I’ve wandered many times, I am always eager to see how the light falls through the leaves, what bird I might be able to identify or what animal I might catch a glimpse of. These are the places where I feel most alive, most in tune with God and with nature, and most at peace, regardless of what is happening in my life elsewhere. This body of work is a documentation of those places, memories and emotions. Every photograph is attempt to capture a moment in time and preserve it, like a dried flower or leaf. Not content to only take photos, I collect fallen leaves, make sketches and pull them together with maps or papers, my own journal entries or collected words that resonate with me. Each piece I create embodies a part of my hopes and dreams, memories and faith, an overflowing of all the things I hold dear, poured out as a blessing for whoever would be willing to take it on.” Judith Monroe


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1200 square inches

Been working on lots of pieces for my upcoming “In the Woods” show at the Adamson Gallery (next month!)  Today I spent some time on this 20″ x 60″ piece, coloring details with pencils on the photos that nearly fill it. Let me just say that 1200 square inches is a lot…

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Introducing Specimina

This past weekend I painted live onstage for four services at my home church, Bridgeway Christian Church. We have live painters onstage during the whole service (one and a half hours long) semi-regularly, an acknowledgement that our creator God has given us many different kinds of creative gifts that we can honor him with. I also happen to coordinate this fledgling program, now halfway through its first year. We have five painters that rotate through, choosing the various scriptures that are to be taught that weekend, based on what we each have felt called to translate into our own visual language. It’s a wonderful experience for painter and congregation alike.


Prayer and meditation are very often a part of my creative process, regardless of the subject or intended audience. I have long now understand that I was created to create and take my calling seriously. Somewhere in this creative process, I felt very much compelled to begin a new series that I have no idea where I can begin to show it, but somehow that has become secondary to the fact that I must create it. The first three pieces were smaller and produced to submit to a specific call for art that they were not accepted for, and I’m now looking for where they will go – I’m sure it will become apparent at some point.


When I first sat down to consider what I would paint for the weekend of July 20 & 21, I came to the scripture with an open mind. But when I started reading through Isaiah 59 & 60, it was almost immediately that I realized this would be the next phase of my new series. 


I have decided to call this series Specimina (Specimens of Faith,) illustrating basic concepts of the Christian faith with various natural specimens that I have collected. For all of these pieces for Isaiah 59 & 60, I chose a square format as a reference to the New Jerusalem in Revelation, that is described as a cube, and I chose a light palette, to represent how God will be the only light needed both in the millennial Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem.


mixed media artwork by Judith Monroe


Like Doves to Their Nests
“Look and see, everyone is coming home!.. flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests.” Isaiah 60:4, 8
Not only illustrating the verse written on the piece, a nest is a symbol of home, heaven, and Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, inspired by Isaiah 59-60. The dove is also used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, who has put a seal on believers, promising them the joy of eternity with God.


mixed media art by Judith Monroe


Arise Jerusalem
“Your sins have cut you off from God… Among the living we are like the dead.” Isaiah 59:2, 10 “Arise Jerusalem!” Isaiah 60:1a
In Matthew, Jesus says that God knows when even a sparrow falls, and how much more he watches over each of us, so sparrows have become a common symbol in my works. Death is the true consequences of sin, so there is dual meaning in the dead sparrow here, and Isaiah 59 specifically points to the consequences of Israel’s sin. The ram was inspired by Isaiah 60:7, “The rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars” and can also symbolize how God provided the appropriate sacrifice for both Abraham and for us. Butterflies allude to the new life we have in Christ, as well as resurrection of the dead.


mixed media artwork by Judith Monroe


“The glory of Lebanon will be yours – the forest of cypress, fir and pine – to beautify my sanctuary. My temple will be glorious!” Isaiah 60:13
A magnolia blossom, surrounded with pine needles refers to the trees of Lebanon in Isaiah 60 and to the beauty of the earth that God has created as well as to the future glory of Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom. The sparrow is a reminder that God watches over his children, as Jesus told us in the book of Matthew.


mixed media artwork by Judith Monroe


Joy to All Nations
“I will now have mercy on you through my grace… I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all nations.” Isaiah 60: 10, 15
As believers in Christ we are co-heirs with Israel and promised a new life in Christ, symbolized here by the butterfly. My personal recurring symbol of the sparrow refers to how God has promised to always watch over me, and I often include it to remind myself of that truth, as much as to share it with others. Nests are a home, another personal symbol that refers to heaven, or can also be a reference to Jerusalem as where God will make his home in the millennial kingdom, fulfilling his promise to Israel.

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Running Into the Woods

I love wandering around in little wild spots, whether it’s on the coast, in the mountains or in the Valley where I’ve spent so much of my life – lately I got to spend time wandering in the desert and I loved that, too. (Wow, yeah, that was an unintended biblical reference, but I’ll leave it, read into it what you will…)


photo montage


But one of my favorite places to wander is in wooded areas, and especially among the oaks here in the Valley and the nearby foothills. Maybe it’s because when the valley heat is like it is now, the woods offer cool respite, shelter and a sense of mystery. The trees can hide whatever development might exist just beyond and muffle traffic that would echo across an open field. And I’m blessed to live in an area where we have little pockets and swaths of wooded areas, often along creeks or rivers, right amongst our city and suburbs, always there for a quick retreat into nature.


So when I sat down to consider a theme for a two woman show with my dear friend Michelle MacKenzie, the woods were practically the first thing that popped into my head. From there, you might say I just led her “Into the Woods…” that became our theme, and even the title of our upcoming show this fall.



I’ve always photographed alot on my wandering in the woods, so I have lots of imagery and of course, I’ve been shooting even more over the past few months preparing for this work. And now I’ve finally starting putting work into a physical form, diving into the deep end, so to speak, with a large 3×5′ reclaimed canvas. (See the previous post for more on that.)


These things always happen in several stages, first with sorting through photographs, then starting to envision how things might come together, picking through papers and dried leaves and ephemera. Then adhering the first layer to the substrate, adding texture, starting to add color with pencils and wax pastels, all interspersed with general staring and mulling of the overall composition – this time said mulling included going through a two day cleaning fit – the creative process can be a funny thing.


colored pencils


At some point when I feel I’ve worked enough details with fine pointed things like pencils, I dive into the painting process, working again in layers – generally transparent – adding more collage layers as planned or inspired. At this point pencils and wax pastels can come into play as well, always after waiting for the last layer to dry.




At some magical moment it all starts to look right – I try not to envision too much before hand, because that’s when I really screw things up, but more I try to keep my ideas very general. With this piece I was keeping the color palette in my head (which I’ll try to keep for the whole show) and then follow the cues of light from the base photographs.




I’m calling this “New Day” but more about that another time…

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Old vs New

I’ve been looking at all the artworks I have in my possession with a critical eye lately. Sometimes pieces come back from galleries or exhibitions and they haven’t sold, they’ll get rotated from one gallery to the next, come back to the studio, go back out; it’s all part of how the business works. Sometimes a piece that doesn’t sell in one place sells right away in the next. Sometimes it takes a couple years for the right person to find it, and I’m ok with that.


But sometimes a piece has been around for while and I start to look at it and realize that maybe it wasn’t as wonderful as I first thought it was. (Or maybe I wasn’t sure but I put it out there anyway, see my last blog post on that…) And then I have a new question, what to do with it now? When I start looking at a piece of work that I really don’t feel good about putting out in public, then I have a couple of options, at least with the way I’m currently working. 


Summer Song 2008


First, maybe I can fix what’s bugging me about the piece. Maybe it just needs some minor tweaking to make it stronger. Or maybe it needs some major tweaking. I’m in the process of re-working a piece just like that right now. “Summer Song” was one of my first large mixed media artworks and I really liked it for a long time. But it didn’t quite seem to connect with anyone else. And then I started looking at it with a more critical eye and realized it didn’t seem quite right to me, either. After some more mulling, I decided I still really liked it, but I just hadn’t finished it yet. So I pulled it down off the wall and started working on it again. It’s almost finished, but I think it needs just a little more tweaking. And I’m really feeling much better about it now, so I’m happy and I’ll put it out somewhere again soon, I’m sure.


Summer Song in progress 2013


But sometimes there’s nothing that I like about a piece. Years have passed and it just bugs me more and more and I’m sure as heck not putting it out in a gallery. And then it starts getting in the way. We’re blessed to have a good sized house and I’ve got a great studio space, but it’s not like I have an unlimited warehouse to store stuff. And certainly not things I’m not happy with. And I start to eyeball the potential of a new substrate that I wouldn’t have to pay for, because it’s sitting right there in front of me and just needs a coat of gesso to start over again. And that’s the place I’m finding myself in when I’m looking a some older works around here right now. 


Small things are somehow easier. Most of the time, my emotional investment is less with a smaller work and because they have lower price points, they’re more likely to find that right person. So if a smaller work hasn’t sold after a couple or three years, it’s most likely because it really wasn’t up to par. I recently gessoed over a couple of smaller pieces and they’ve become new vineyard works in the wine country. I have no doubt that they’ll find new homes and we’ll all live happily ever after.


gesso covering old work


But I have a couple larger pieces around that I’m feeling the same thing about and it’s not so easy. A large work generally entails much more work and effort and emotional investment. The higher price point means they sell much slower but I’m used to that, so I’m more patient. And then I start looking at it… I have a couple right now that there were things about them that I was never completely in love with but I put them out there anyway. Then the things that bugged me start bugging me more and today I gessoed over a large 3×5 foot piece. 


It felt weird but okay, I think as I start to transform it into a whole new better work, it will feel better and hopefully cathartic. And it’s not on the wall buggin me anymore.

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