All posts by Karen Tashkovski

Karen Tashkovski is an artist and teacher from Syracuse, NY. She is a graduate of Syracuse University (BFA-Fashion Design & Studio Arts, MS-Art Education)

Lost & Found

When you suffer a disappointment, the trick is to throw yourself into something that is fun, something that maybe you are good at, something that you love.

I made a painting.

Lost & Found,  encaustic on canvas panel,  11" x 14", 2014
Lost & Found,
encaustic on canvas panel,
11″ x 14″, 2014

I’m doing an encaustic lesson with my 9th period classes, using my own supplies from home – crock-pot of wax, two pancake griddles and my messy wax-only brushes.  The melted beeswax was seducing me with its pungency.  That plus thinking about Linda Bigness enjoying the bliss of mark-making.  She sold the painting that I watched her create during that video we made.

And so, when my friend Stephanie asked for a bigger painting of a heart, I complied.

I lacquered it and mounted it to chalkboard-painted masonite and added the dominoes as a frame.  It will be ready to ship to Florida in about a month.  Steph is officially a patron, owning four (and soon five) of my paintings.

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I want to make another series of heart encaustics now (no doubt due to my obsession with making a dozen of something – I know you were thinking it!).

In 2012, when I took that Syracuse University graduate course on encaustic with the amazing Davana Wilkins as instructor and mentor, I had this idea that I would just make a bunch of heart paintings. She convinced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and create other iconography, the result of which were the horse and cow paintings.

I’ve sold all but two of the heart paintings.  I need to take inventory of the rest.  I think I have sold four of the twelve horse paintings now and I gave away a cow painting to one of my favorite students, Zachary, who lives on a dairy farm.  The cows are more of a tough sell, I guess.

But hearts, now that is the motif of motifs.  You gotta love a heart. ❤

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Faith, Fate & Fashion

This was a crazy busy weekend what with everything that I usually do and the whirlwind of art events I mentioned last time.  I found the irony in meeting some Facebook friends for the first time at the Edgewood Gallery opening on Friday night so hilarious.  It was like a Saturday Night Live skit or something.  “I know all about you,” is what one woman said to me, along with insisting that I was stalking her on social media.  “You paint cats,” she said.  It was just so funny.  Later she spoke about her dream of meeting Faith Ringgold, to which I responded that I had met the artist.  Here’s the picture to prove it in case she thought I was totally lying.

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Faith Ringgold shared her art journey at Light Works at Syracuse University in 2007.  Her visit coincided with an exhibition of her work at the Community Folk Art Gallery here.  Faith is an incredible person – so inspirational and positive, and lovely.  She autographed her book for me and we chatted for a significant amount of time considering that she’d been signing books for a couple hours and there was a long line of people behind me.

https://www.facebook.com/drfaithringgold

https://www.facebook.com/faithringgold

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faith-Ringgold-Books/429143970457474

Faith is on Facebook – her daughter posts updates regularly.  She’s currently working on an app that is based on quilting, which is geared to the elderly and can help improve memory function.  I feel like if I can have just half her energy and attitude I will someday make a difference in this world.  But I am always vacillating – that confident vs. insecure yo-yo mindset that grips just about every artist from time to time.  Did I make the right choices with my life?  Am I even good at what I do – artist, teacher, etc.?

When I was in college, Frank Goodnow, my painting professor, was surprised to find out I was a fashion design major.  “You are a painter,” he said. I think about that a lot when I wonder if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing if one believes in fate.

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I was reminiscing about this with Laurel Morton, a former classmate and current assistant professor in the fashion program at Syracuse University.  I visited her studio at the Delavan Center on Saturday and we chatted about the past.  I haven’t thought about those dreams in years and so it resurrected that whole road not traveled thing.  Had I moved to NYC  and taken that job at Ralph Lauren, would I have eventually become Marc Jacobs famous?

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I don’t know.  Maybe.  At SU, you took foundations courses in art as a freshman at that time (not sure how it is now) then you re-applied to your major.  I had originally planned on going into advertising, but only because I thought I needed to have a reasonable art career to satisfy my worried parents who were spending all of this money to send me there.  I was the eleventh person chosen for the competitive advertising program based on my freshman portfolio but at the last minute I chose fashion design, which had no such competition.  I thought I could see myself doing that.

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I eventually found my way back to painting and art, and teaching.  I mean, I can still design clothes.  But these days I only do it to create Halloween costumes.  My specialty is coming up with something that relates to an artist, art movement or culture for a costume that goes with an art lesson at school.

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Frank Goodnow was right- I am a painter.  I really cannot imagine my life without mark-making.  Designing clothes is just another thing I can do.

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http://archives.syr.edu/collections/fac_staff/sua_goodnow_f.htm

The Edgewood Gallery show of work by Amy Bartell, Linda Bigness and Todd Conover will continue until January 2nd, 2015, btw, if you want to see it or buy something.

http://edgewoodartandframe.com/

 

 

The Unicorn Festival

Most teachers can relate to this simple fact.  Students always react strangely when they see us outside of school.  It’s either a hyper-freak out – OMG! Ms. Tash, Ms. Tash! or the total reverse; a shy backing away and a chorus of whispers – I think that’s Ms. Tash!  What’s she doing here?

Do they think we are robots that are turned off and put away at the end of the day, like a stack of I-Pads?  I talked to my sister about this and she said, “Look at it from their perspective.  Seeing you outside of school is like seeing a unicorn.”

I am a bit of a unicorn.  Because in this day and age, in a culture of me, me, me social media and with it the belief that we are all the stars of our own reality shows, it seems that everyone wants to be recognized for their individuality.  Their spirit, creativity and the like should make them the black hole of the universe, sucking everyone else inside their vortex.  Everyone wants to appear cray-cray, the risk-taking artist that deserves all that attention.

Maybe I’m the opposite.  The crazy person who just wants to be normal.  Am I crazy?  Sometimes people say I am, but maybe I’m the only sane one in the room and everyone else is crazy.  My last blog post generated a flurry of comments in the group postings on www.linkedin.com.  Mainly camaraderie in despair, which really made me wonder if they understood me at all.  Something made me feel sad last week.  I’ve had my share of ups and downs, wearing my heart on my sleeve and on the walls of my home, as I’ve shared in a previous blog post.  But my emotions don’t swing on a Vincent Van Gogh-caliber pendulum.  I’m still sad about that particular thing but it’s compartmentalized now and I’m, yes, perfectly normal.

Emotion certainly plays a chunk part in the world of art, though, and it’s funny how important it is to many that they are perceived as more emotional than another.  It’s not a competition, you know.  There are all sorts of emotions that come into play when making art.  It doesn’t have to be sadness.  It can be serenity, anger or euphoria….

Whatever it is, it should be nurtured and supported.  I have not been doing this as often as I should.  I get invited to local art openings and events all the time and I just don’t go.  I want to be a better friend.  This Friday  from 6-8 pm, the Edgewood Gallery is holding a reception for an exhibition and sale of artwork by Amy Bartell, Linda Bigness and Todd Conover.  Edgewood is located down the street from my parents’ house – you can see the house from the gallery’s front door if you look east.  It’s on Tecumseh Road in Dewitt, NY, right across from the Nottingham shopping plaza.

http://edgewoodartandframe.com/news/

On Saturday from 10 am-4 pm, the Delavan Center will open its doors for a holiday event and sale.  The Delavan is a building filled with local artists’ studios, many of them are Facebook and personal friends of mine.  Linda, of course (find the link at the end of this post to the video we made on Columbus Day weekend), and Amy plus Laurel Morton and a slew of others.

http://www.delavancenter.com/Coming%20Events.html

This unicorn plans to make a cameo appearance at both events.  I’ll be in black, naturally, but I draw the line at wearing a beret on my horn.  That’s way too cliche, don’t you think?

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 http://www.bignessart.com/encaustics.html

Emotionalism at Play

This morning I woke up in tears, the kind typically reserved for when Oprah interviews you.  I guess my life sometimes feels like I’m in a labyrinth, one that seems to be a lot easier for other people to navigate but incredibly road-blockey for me.  I’m sure I’ll find a way to laugh about this later but not now.  The crummy weather day is insisting I remain miserable, sad and hopeless.

The good news is that I’m going to try to bottle the feeling and use it later as an element in a new series of paintings.  I have a vague idea of what they’ll look like – I often tell my students that I tend towards having psychic visions of future work, which helps to focus me during the process of going from thumbnail sketch to reality.  There are no thumbnail sketches yet.  Just feelings, colors, and fleeting imagery.  The planned series will be titled Futura, which is funny that I know that  – the way I knew I would call my cat Jasper before I met him.

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I didn’t have a working title for a series of paper collage works I displayed back in 2004.  I received a grant from Senator John DeFrancisco and subsequently was granted a lot of press on the show that accompanied the artwork.  It didn’t actually work that way, but in reverse.  I made the art a couple years before, secured an art show at Pastabilities restaurant in Armory Square (downtown Syracuse), charged up a storm to frame the art then applied for and received the $1,000 grant (or was it $1,500?  I don’t remember).

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I used to teach at Bryant & Stratton, my second job out of college, in the long-defunct Fashion Merchandising program where as a business college professor, I learned and taught students to write press releases that would get them noticed.  I had a lot of success with my own press releases, frequently getting follow-up articles about my work published in the local papers.

John DeFrancisco is someone I’m following on Twitter.  Yeah – I tweet now.  You can see the link somewhere on the side of this blog post.  It’s https://twitter.com/karentashkovski.  I’m @KarenTashkovski.  I’ve tweeted a handful of times, mainly links to my social media activities – Pinterest, Facebook, here, etc.  I’m learning the whole hashtag culture or as I refer to it – number sign.  And I’m re-tweeting and following back.  Cyberspace is a vast black hole but it has the dichotomy of being a small world as well.  Kim Kardashian (yes, I’m following her – who isn’t?) could easily flick a thumb and retweet to her universe and all of a sudden as a consequence because we’ll become besties, I will be able to identify a Kanye West song (or not, probably not.  I’m more of a classic rock/alternative person).  Hopefully the real consequence will be resulting sales.  People have a lot of power at their fingertips, to friend you, connect with you and know you or at least your on-line persona.

I have a google email now too.  It’s ktashkovski@gmail.com.  I needed it for something, I can’t remember what now – and used it successfully to send Linda Bigness those videos through google docs.  So they should be up shortly on You Tube and on here.  Oh yeah, that’s what it was.  I’m on You Tube.  I have a channel (meant to be said with a posh British accent).  I posted three videos, two of them of my students in my super secret (not so secret) Harry Potter club at school.

The hope with that is to seek a fairy-godmother-wizard person who will pay to send my students and their families to Harry Potter World in Florida.  Oprah, are you listening?  Because I’ve mentioned you twice now.  And if you want to do a surprise interview first, then I will be well prepared.  I have mastered the ugly cry and everything.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFc9d1i6QGQcQBsimYyWyQ

 

 

Retrospective Reflection

My mom is not a hoarder.  Everything she has is organized – she just keeps a lot of stuff. In her defense, it’s a lot of our stuff, my sisters and me, things we left behind when we moved out.  I can ask her for the most random thing – a super-ball for playing jacks for example, and she will produce it in thirty seconds or less.

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I went over there today to hunt for vintage bridesmaid dresses for a Halloween costume idea I have and found a dress from 1978.  Yes, it still fits, which is hilarious because it just feels so weird to put something on that I wore when I was fifteen.  More so because it even exists, lol, and is actually in decent condition.

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I started looking at the old photo albums stored in heavy duty plastic bins in the basement, which took the better part of the afternoon – all the bad hair and bad posture pictures that make me cringe and think thank God we didn’t have Facebook then.  I’d rather be the keeper of my own image and so I brought the albums home with me.

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Yesterday I went to visit Linda Bigness in her art studio at the Delavan Center in Syracuse, NY.  We did a video interview and as soon as I can figure out how to send her the video through email- it’s about 45 minutes long – she will edit it for a future post.  Watching her work made me wish I had a studio like hers and that I was as compelled to paint everyday as she is.  I used to be.

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In 1997, I worked as a Master Teacher at the New York State Summer School of the Arts.  It was held at Cazenovia College that year.  I was thrilled to have been hired by former Syracuse University professor James Ridlon because at the time they were looking for high school art teachers and I taught elementary  (although my certification is K-12) and I didn’t even have tenure.  I taught one class in the morning and spent the rest of the time in a studio space painting 36″ x 36″ canvases.  This was right after my first year at my job.  I was still living in my parents’ basement (cellar dweller) and right after that two-week stint complete with living in the dorm, I got my apartment on Woodbine Avenue where I ended up existing for nine years.

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I had lunch every day with a Cazenovia art professor, Corky Goss, who later offered me the opportunity to exhibit in their gallery. Bring everything you have is what he said, because the space was so big.  I took that literally and framed a heck of a lot of paintings for the show the following year.

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I found pictures from that show in one of the photo albums.  I think they were pictures Mom took because you can see the reception spread and Mom always documents the food.  Upon reflection, it’s so funny because I still look at that show and remember how much I thought I had arrived as an artist and how I thought I was going to be phenomenally successful and all I would need to do is wait passively for the accolades and the next step to just happen to me.  The rollercoaster ride, you know?  Like it would just happen.

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I wonder how many other artists have had that same feeling.  Probably everyone of us at one time or another.  The moment arrives and you are so sure it is a turning point but then it isn’t, wasn’t.  Art is quite a ride, whether it is visual or performing arts.  You have to have a thick skin to deal with the rejection.  Maybe nobody has a thick skin.  It’s more that we try to focus on the positive experiences and remind ourselves of them when things are not going so well.  In my career, it was never so much about not going well, it was more success-nothing-nothing-nothing-success-nothing-nothing, etc.

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Maybe things will change, maybe not.  I’m not discouraged because I do feel very lucky.  I have my family and memories complete with decades old paraphernalia.  Reflecting on the past makes me realize that there have been so many good chapters in my life and a great many goofy ones.

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Artist’s Dozen

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So when I create art I have this thing about crafting a dozen pieces in a series.  It has to be twelve for some reason and when it’s not I feel a little bit like the the TV detective Monk – a little OCD-ish about it.  You can imagine what this is like for me when I sell only one out of a series and I’m left with stupid eleven.  It is, I don’t know – I’m weird, let’s just put that out there right now.

If you watch New Girl on Fox, you would have caught the last episode where Jessie explains about how we all have stupid stuff wrong with us – we’re all weird.  It’s a wonder anyone ever finds anyone to love, really. (Or am I the only one who identified with that episode?)

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These pieces are meant to be purchased together, so they are technically one work of art even though I signed each one for some reason.  They are 12″ x 12″ canvases, layered with thick canvas and painted with latex paint.

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I traced a heart stencil I hand-made and cut up all sorts of textures to attach resulting in individually unique hearts.  I added playing cards, suede and other fabric, and photographs from old calendars – Pre-Raphaelite imagery as well as Harry Potter film photos and international pictures from Paris, Greece, Scotland, Venice…and maps.

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I don’t travel at all but I feel like a traveler in a way because my artwork can go anywhere in the world and I can feel transported by it. I almost can’t believe how many people from different countries have viewed this website, by the way.  People from every continent.  I assure you that I have no cousins in South America or Africa.  I really need to get a passport and put myself out there for real, but then I would probably want all my pages stamped in the united colors of the over fifty countries represented here.

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The finished hearts are stitched with embroidery floss then I added collage items – checkers, Scrabble pieces, wooden spools, tinker toys, buttons, sea glass and coins.  Each is a separate entity but when together they tell a story, like always, a puzzle of my life or yours, or whoever embodies them/buys them and adds their own interpretation.

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The one above now resides in a friend’s house and I can’t tell you in words what that means to me because it is poetically emotional in a way I just cannot express.  It’s supercalifragilistically amazing when someone else cares for my work as much as I do.  If you want one of these sets, let me know.  I think I have five of them ($600 for a set of twelve).

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Cards in the Corner

Here are pictures from my art exhibit last week!

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I sell the 5″ x 7″ cards for $5 each.  They can be framed or used as  greeting cards and mailed.  (They are blank inside).

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They take hours to make so in terms of being paid what I’m worth?  Lol.  People seem to equate time with money.  Non-artists frequently ask me how long it takes me to make an abstract painting, as though it should cost a lot less than realism even though there are a million Bob Ross types who sell “realistic” landscape paintings made without reference materials.

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The answer, naturally, is it took me my whole life.  My whole life to figure out that I had a style, a body of work that represents me as an artist and as a person.

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The cards contain stitched fabric and paper – some watercolors, some oils, and all of my favorite collage items – coins, stamps, sea shells, sea glass, playing cards, leather bits.  I love the smell of leather or as my colleague at work and I call it, leathaaaaaaaaaaa!

They are among my favorites of my body of work because they engage all the senses.

These types of art shows are mainly for the experience, the social aspect, the putting yourself out there business of being an artist and rarely about sales.  My mother generously spent the day with me so it was more about hanging out with her and laughing and eating roast beef sandwiches.