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The shared thoughts and artwork of Eli Helman.

Eli is a visiting artist from Framingham, MA. His work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival on April 26-28, 2013.

Helman-Cabin Morning

Q. Can you explain the artistic style of Maximalist?

Maximalism is a term used in many forms of art that can be marked by, but not limited to, the juxtaposition of varying styles, a process oriented approach and an obsessive attention to detail.  Leaving virtually no space untouched, I apply these characteristics of the Maximalist style into a boldly intricate yet distinctly raw form of expressionism that combines elements of folk art, comic humor and whimsical surrealism with a strong focus on pattern to create a satisfyingly full visual experience.

Q. What is your artistic process?

My process is fairly basic.  Over time I have developed a particular language of recurring patterns that I mix and match within different contexts.  Once I have chosen a subject for a drawing, I design the piece with the subject as the main focal point.  I draw that first before filling in all the details.  If I have set aside the space for a decorative border, that usually comes last.  One way to think about it is to imagine starting with a simple line drawing and then “dressing it up” until there is no more spaces to fill.

Helman-Meeting Tree

Q. Your drawings are so incredibly detailed? How long does it normally take for you to complete a piece?

Each 8”x10” piece can take between 10-20 hours to complete.  The largest pieces (18”x24”) can take well over 100 hours each.  On average, this is about 15 minutes per square inch.  Some drawings take longer due to more time spent planning and designing the layout while others that are more free-hand, pattern-based work are measured by the drawing time alone.

Q. Are your drawings, or components of your them,  symbolic? And if so, how?

As my work has evolved I find myself incorporating more symbolic messages into more pieces.  While some drawings are straightforward (i.e. birds in trees or a cabin in the woods), others take on layers of meaning that speak to different aspects of the subject.  For example, my recent “Rope Bridge” drawing has a way of inviting the viewer in through its perspective view but, upon closer examination, the prospect of crossing over unsteady boards toward a mysterious and foreboding forest scene gives pause.  This can be a universal message about life in terms of the allure of danger, temptation and the unknown.  If I can convey an idea that works on both levels then I feel that it is a success.

Helman-Rope Bridge

Q. What influences you to interpret specific aspects of nature in a particular way – in shapes, patterns, and lines?

The limitations of the pen itself have been as much of an influence on my style of drawing as many other aspects of my approach. Since my early doodling days when trees were a major basis of many drawings, I have found that most things in nature are reduce-able to simple patterns.  It doesn’t have to look exactly like leaves or branches or bark as long as it communicates the essence of those things.  Lines and shapes drawn in black pen have very little impact on the eye without their relationship to the white space around them.  Learning how to balance the light and dark in order to make the appropriate parts pop out is the key to an effective piece in black and white art.  Patterns in nature lend themselves very well to this style because they are easily recognizable yet open to interpretation.  That duality is inherent when working with only one color on a white background.  So I hope to convey that while simultaneously tying in other dualities within nature – life and death, large and small, near and far, etc.

Q. How has your background in music influenced your drawings?

Having been an aspiring musician for years, I am heavily influenced by modern classical, avant-garde and experimental music. Listening to music with complex relationships often gives me visual ideas. Just as composers do in music, I think of my shapes and patterns as a language with a finite vocabulary. They each have their own personality and their own way of filling space. The challenge becomes how to reconstitute and reorganize the shapes and patterns in order to create a seamless flow within large contexts.

Helman-Hoop

Q. As a self-taught artist, what has been your biggest challenge to overcome?

Without any formal training I do find myself sometimes unprepared to fully execute certain ideas.  Most of my early work was two dimensional, for example. As I have grown into adding more depth, shading and meaning into my work I have been challenged by certain technical obstacles.  For years I have debated whether or not to take any drawing classes to tie up some of these loose ends, but it hasn’t happened yet.  So far I have been able to learn what is necessary to realize what I want to see.  While this can be quite time consuming I feel it is worth maintaining the rawness of my outsider style than to polish it too much.

Q. Are you working on any new work? Can you share what you are exploring?

My most recent pieces are eclectic as usual, ranging from animal drawings (whale, elephant, birds) to objects (fireplace, typewriter, accordion) to sports themes (basketball hoop, baseball field, hockey player on a secluded mountain lake).  I have been exploring some new patterns including wood grain, brick buildings and a starry night sky.  I am constantly chipping away at an ever-growing list of subjects that I hope to bring to life one at a time.  In addition, I have just self-published a book of drawings entitled LIFE IN FORMS: 50 Maximalist Ink DrawingsHelman-Hearth Ave



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The artwork and shared thoughts of Jennifer Moltoni.

Jennifer is a local artist from Melrose, MA. Her work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival on April 26-28, 2013.

Moltoni_seagulls3_8_5_12Q: What is your connection to Melrose? How has the area shaped your art?

A: I’ve lived in Melrose since 2007. I have these wonderful big, old trees on my street and I find myself taking pictures of the branches, which seem to either influence or become incorporated into my artwork.

Q: Do you have any formal training?

A: Not really. I had to take a couple of theater-design classes in college as part of my degree program. We had to draw, take pictures, think about the how and why of designs, and do various projects. I remember that one of our final projects was to design and build a chair. The chair could be made out of anything we wanted, and the only requirement was that the instructor would need to be able to sit in it — without the chair breaking. None of us had ever built a chair before, and we were given no instructions on how to do it. We just had to make it up as we went along. It was stressful, because we were being graded — and we didn’t want our chairs to break when the instructor sat on them — but it was also fun.

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Q: What is your current work about?

A: There are two main areas of my current work:

The Cut Outs (2011 – present)

This series started because two of my dearest friends remembered an art project that I had done in a French class in high school (I’d made a bunch of pictures in an attempt to get out of doing a written report). They were expecting their first child and asked me to create something similar to that project for their new baby’s nursery. I enjoyed creating these pictures for them so much that I have been doing it ever since. I paint large pieces of paper using acrylic/gouache/watercolor paints and then cut the paper up into random shapes and paste these shapes onto canvas or canvas board. I cut up photographs and use those too sometimes. These pictures are fun to make because I’m never really sure what each picture will be until the end, but they mostly feature animals or boats. I think that the more that I do these, the more open my mind is to what shapes can actually become.

Moltoni_Sailing9_9_2012

Beaches & Branches (2010 – present)

These works are made up of several canvas panels and acrylic paint. When I am creating these, I am thinking of colors, the ocean, sand, seaweed, shells, trees, and sky. This project has evolved from my weekly visits to the beach and the pictures that I take when I’m there. I really enjoy taking random pictures of things and then thinking about creating something that combines the elements of what I’ve seen. I also tend to obsess over some object that I’ve stumbled upon –- a shell, or a piece of seaweed –- and then, the overall theme of the painting becomes my re-creation of that object.

Q: What advice do you have for younger artists, particularly local ones?

A: Doing a little bit of art every day can be helpful. I can’t always do art every day, but if I’m not doing art, I’m thinking about it. Living in the moment is important, as is becoming a good observer. Try to really see what’s around you, and use that. Try to avoid the urge to self-edit –- if you give yourself permission to be as free as possible in your artwork, it can produce very interesting results.

Moltoni_flowers8_8-5-12

Q: What is your artistic process? How do you get your creative juices flowing?

A: In general, I get inspired by things that I see randomly – tree branches, seaweed, sea shells, twisted metal, colors, etc. My processes are varied.

When I do my cut outs, I’m never really sure what I will end up with – I just let the random shapes I’ve created guide me. I’ll go through times when I’ll do 2 or 3 of these kinds of pictures a day for a couple of days in a row, and then I’ll put everything away for maybe a week or two. Then, when I feel that it’s time to create more, I’ll dump out some of the old shapes that I cut out earlier and didn’t use, or the pieces of paper that I painted and didn’t cut up, and see if anything moves me.

When I do my larger acrylic work, my process takes a long time. Each step takes a few days, and there tend to be lots of pauses between each step that I take. I’m usually inspired by, say, how the waves looked at the beach one day, or a cool shell that I found – something like that. First, I’ll map it out, and decide the size and which canvases I’ll use. Then, I’ll work on it a bit, hate it, put it away, take it back out, re-discover its potential, and continue painting. Repeat.

moltoni-workspace20121

Q: What do you do when you’re not working on art?

A: I’m a mom, and so I’m always doing a bunch of kid- and family-related stuff. I work full-time at a university. I try to exercise a little every day. I spend lots of time in the kitchen. I usually go to the beach at least once a week, and I spend time with friends whenever possible. Laughter is important. Having fun is important.

The shared thoughts and artwork of Tracy Levesque.

Tracy is a visiting artist from Lowell, MA. Her work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival on April 26-28, 2013.

TracyLevesque_002

Q. What does Art mean to you?

Art is life itself in its truest expression. Nature is constantly creating, evolving and changing and so is art. As human beings we can’t help but respond to the changes we see going on around us and recreate them in our own little universes. An artist embodies this creation on a very small and individual scale in comparison to nature, but I think art is a very innate expression for human beings. Creativity is as natural as breathing and as essential.

Q. What role did art play in your life as a child?

Art was (and still is) to me what Oz was to Dorothy and what Wonderland was to Alice – a wonderful world completely of my own creation.

Q. As a self-taught artist, how did you develop your talent and artistic perspective?

I grew up in a creative environment where drawing and making things were the normal everyday activities. My parents and grandparents encouraged my sisters and I to read, draw, use our imaginations and spend time outdoors playing in and observing nature. I was always in love with the magic of our world; the uniqueness of people’s faces, the beauty and color in their expressions, landscapes and trees and of course, the mystical moon. I practiced painting these things over and over until I found my own way of seeing. Later, I read every book I could find on the technical aspects of drawing and painting as my interest in the arts grew. I also asked working artists lots of questions on technique and process. I researched the work of artists I loved and started to understand where and how inspiration could be funneled into technique. Experience, in the end, is always the best teacher. Life takes us all on an amazing journey and we can pick choose what we let into our own personal world and as an artist, this is the most important part of the process. Life, more than any school, technique or person, is ultimately what makes an artist.

TracyLevesque_006

Q. How do you interpret life through your art?

I use the color, texture and line to evoke and emotional response from the viewer. People have a strong reaction to bright color – it truly makes them feel happy. I use the line and texture to draw them in – they follow the lines and get lost in the textures. It makes them think about what they are looking at because even though they may know what it is, it’s a fresh and rather unconventional interpretation that sparks their imagination.

Q. Through the capture of nature and life, your paintings balance fantasy with reality? What influenced this?

We all love to dream, but no matter how fantastical the dream, it’s always rooted in reality. I started out as a realistic artist staying close to the traditional interpretations of landscape and portraiture, but over time this process evolved organically and I moved further away from realism into the kind of work I do now. I think it’s important to learn to draw things properly in the beginning and be true to nature before you find your own voice. I believe realism is important in the sense that people need to recognize what they are looking at in a painting, but I think that is all that is necessary. I have always loved to read and I think that has influenced my work a great deal. I love telling stories through my work and inspiring people to see something special in everything. Like I said before, people like to dream, they like to be happy and be surrounded by beauty and I think when a person looks at a painting they should be completely whisked away into an enchanted world filled with magic. Reality is everywhere and too much so nowadays, so it’s important that a painting should take you back to your imagination. For instance, I paint a lot of birch trees and people always know that they are looking at birch trees but then, they find something else there between the expressive lines and exaggerated colors – they find a personal memory or a place they once knew and they are happy. I feel the same thing when I paint. I love these beautiful places that the world is full of and I want to share them with the world.

TracyLevesque_004

Q. Your work displays an importance to lines and abstract shapes. How do you relate this to what you are capturing?

If you look close enough at nature, everything has texture and is abstracted in a way. Leaves become seas of color and tree bark transforms into geometrical patterns climbing towards the sky. When you are standing in a forest all your senses come into play, not just your eyes – you smell things, feel things and hear things. A two-dimensional painting needs to be exaggerated to recreate this kind of sensation, so my work tends towards a more tactile representation. I use a painting knife and thick impasto paint juxtaposed against smooth brushwork to evoke this kind of response. I want to capture the flavor of he visual feast so I exaggerate and play with visual representation quite a bit.

Q. What importance does your work hold in your life?

My work is paramount in my life. I truly love what I do and I am always working towards improving my abilities and understanding of my craft.

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TracyLevesque_007

Q. What do you do when you are not painting?

I’m an avid reader and do a lot of reading. I teach beginning painting to novices. I also have been practicing Tae Kwon Do now for almost 10 years and really enjoy studying that art. I like to stay active and love skiing. I do a lot of art festivals around New England throughout the year and travel around a bit too.

Q. What advice would you give to other emerging artists?

Stay open to everything and always keep an open mind. The process of finding your creative voice is a bumpy journey filled with many ups and downs, but if you hold on and stay patient you will get there. The key is finding courage to keep going every day and never stop.

Q. What legacy do you hope to leave through your paintings?

I hope someday when I am long gone, people will still smile when they see my paintings and see something beautiful in them.

TracyLevesque_001

The artwork and shared thoughts of Luke Volpe.

luke volpe

Q: What first compelled you to become an artist? Who/what were your influences?

A: In grammar school I discovered that I had some drawing skills. It was fun to draw. I garnered lots of attention from it, and my parents encouraged me by buying pencils, paper, and other supplies.

Newbury st in the rain

Q: What is your connection to Melrose? How has the area shaped your art?

A: The city has a very active art community that I have been involved with for many years.

Road to Yosemity

Q: What is your connection to the Melrose Arts community?  Is it important to you to be part of a creative community?

A: Approximately 30 years ago, I was associated with a group of Melrose artists interested in organizing and implementing one of the first art exhibits to be held at Memorial Hall. Over the years since then the Melrose art community has continued to grow.

About seven years ago, MACA (Melrose Arts and Cultural Association) was established. I have been associated with this organization, both as an exhibiting artist and as a committee member, since its inception.

I have also been a member of the Beebe Estate Association for over 10 years. The organization plans and implements monthly art exhibits in the first-floor galleries of the Beebe Estate building. Participating artists are selected from Boston and the surrounding North Shore communities.

From 2000 to 2005, I was the Gallery Manager, selecting artists to exhibit and coordinating the monthly shows.

Being associated with the local art community is one of my top priorities

Violin still lifeQ: Do you have any formal training?

A: For many years I studied watercolor painting technique with Carolyn Latanision of Winchester. Those years of study with Carolyn have greatly influenced my subject matter and style of painting.

Q: What is your current work about? What are you trying to explore and how has that evolved since you started?

A: My subject matter is a mix of cityscapes, landscapes, people, and still lifes. My still-life paintings are collections of objects that I have selected and arranged: i.e., tea cups, flowers, etc. My land and cityscapes may be a composite of several photographs that I have taken of a single subject. The photography and the compositions are always mine alone.

My intention is to create a sense of drama with the composition, color, light, and shadows.

Tulips 2011 Gifted to Kathy ReynoldsQ: What do you do when you’re not working on art?

A: I am a retired engineer, having spent most of my 52-year career in semiconductor-related industries. Most recently, I retired from Dynamics Research Corporation, Metrigraphics Division, after 32 years as Engineering Manager and Director of Engineering. I continue to be connected to the technical community.

My hobbies include sailing, painting, and volunteering at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I also participate in the weekly current-events discussions group at the Milano Senior Center.

The artwork and shared thoughts of Elaine McMichael.woodland series 17

Q: What first compelled you to become an artist? Who/what were your influences?

A: I have always been an artist. I have always loved drawing, painting, and making art from the earliest time in my life. Encouraged by my parents, I enrolled in art classes early on, including the MFA, local art studios, and workshops.

Q: What is your connection to the Melrose Arts community? Is it important to you to be part of a creative community?

A: The Melrose arts community is vibrant and welcoming. Members of the arts community offer encouragement, support, and great camaraderie.

surfs up

Q: Do you have any formal training?

A: Yes. In addition to taking art-major electives through my K-12 schooling, I majored in Fine Arts at Emmanuel College, majored in Media Design for my Masters Degree, and, for my Doctoral Dissertation, I explored the role of Visual Arts pedagogy with English Language Learners.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working on art?

A: Think about art, teach art and art education in higher education, and consult about art and art education.

reflection series

Q: What is your current work about? What are you trying to explore and how has that evolved since you started?

A: The places I know, visit, and explore evolve endlessly in my textural paintings. Each of my images focuses on landscapes and the environment, the conditions that surround us and affect the way we live – all the external factors influencing our lives such as light, heat, wind, movement, and precipitation. I invite the viewer’s participation and visceral interaction. I look for responsiveness to the environmental impact of the work.

Q: Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced your work?

A: The impressionists and some of the many expressionists – especially in light of the evolution of my work into more abstr

 garden at giverny

Q: What is your artistic process? How do you get your creative juices flowing?

A: My art is a reflection of my life’s realities, as I perceive them. My art evokes places in which I live and places I have been, the connections I make to other people, recollections of travel, and the constant discovery of new vistas. With this in mind, every day opens a new vista of creativity – so I sketch, take photos, write, and doodle in a journal….

Check out her online gallery at the Cape Cod Art Association.

The artwork and shared thoughts of Marlene Richey.

Marlene picture 1

Q: What first compelled you to become an artist? Who/what were your influences?

A: I am not a practicing visual artist but a consultant to individuals who are trying to run an art-based business. I teach, lecture, and write about being a successful artpreneur, and consult artists/ craftspeople/businesses both nationally and internationally about how to be successful. I was raised in a family of artists, have a BA in art, and ran an award-winning jewelry design firm and gallery for 35+ years. I agree with Andy Warhol, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” What compelled me to be a creative consultant is that I have seen too many artists not be able to follow their dreams simply because they lacked the skills and knowledge to make it possible.

Q: What is your connection to the Melrose Arts community?  Is it important to you to be part of a creative community?

A: It is vital to be a part of a creative community, whether locally or nationally. Other individuals in your field are the ones who understand the challenges and opportunities in your particular media. I am new to Melrose and wanted to participate in whatever way I could. Luckily, I have a large base of friends and peers in the art world and have been part of many organizations.

Q: What is your current work about? What are you trying to explore and how has that evolved since you started?

A: My current work is in the realm of teaching, consulting and writing. I was recently the keynote speaker at Creative Albuquerque, taught for years in NYC at the Fashion Institute of Technology, have a book out called Profiting by Design, write a regular column for Art Jewelry magazine—“Business Savvy”—and a “Business Know-How” blog for Rio Grande, a jewelry-supply company. I am working on a third book/webinar series called “A Complete Guide to Exhibiting in a Show.”

Marlene picture 2

Q: What advice do you have for younger artists, particularly local ones?

A: The one word of advice I give every client, student, and attendee at events where I speak is that they have to take a bookkeeping class. It is vital. You can’t just hire an accountant. If you don’t know how to speak “accounting” then how are you going to know if your business is making a profit, loosing money, if your work is priced appropriately, where your money is going, in what areas can you save money, etc.?

Q: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?

A: I strive to promote the idea that being an artist and making money at your art are not mutually exclusive. It is not only a good thing to make money at your art, but desirable. I want to help artists understand who they are, where they are going, strategies to get their work in front of the right clientele/patrons, how to brand themselves, and how to have a strong, cohesive, identifiable look and style.

Q: What is your artistic process? How do you get your creative juices flowing?

A: When I am writing I know it takes work and self-motivation to consistently sit down in front of my computer and write about my subject, but I get up every single morning and often work late in the evening. Just getting the first word down is the best start. Then ideas and thoughts flow.

Q: What are the challenges of being an artist today?

A: Money and cash flow. Intellectual property and protection of your ideas. Reaching the appropriate market. Understanding that you need to be branded. Having some business experience or knowledge. Taking advantage of technology. Knowing how to sell and market your work. Knowing what your artistic, personal and business goals are and how to achieve them. Clearly defining your idea of success. Having a strong, supportive mentor.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: If you aren’t having fun at your art, what’s the point?