Category Archives: mixed media

Heart of the Matter

desk top hearts

After cleaning the house – vacuuming, dusting, Windex, etc., I sat back on the sofa to admire my work.  You know the feeling, when the house is camera ready and you fantasize it looks good enough for the pages of an interior decorating magazine.

view from dining room (1)

When you live in a small space, even though everything has a place, it will still read cluttered to a minimalist.  But to me at that moment in my little corner of the world, that  feeling of pride for my place filled me with a kind of home-sweet-home bliss.

heart in mirror (1)

I worked with this science teacher who had animal bones and carcasses, and taxidermied things all around his classroom, many dangling from the ceiling, like something out of a horror movie.  I had to substitute for him once and in my mind, I could hear the screechingly haunting scream-music from the movie Psycho as I turned and locked my eyes on the individual grossness of each object.

heart on wall 2nd bedroom (1)

So there I was staring at my own artwork covering literally every wall of my home and I noticed that my art is virtually littered with hearts.  I didn’t realize, you know what I mean?  Evidently, I am obsessed with hearts and consequently, with the idea of love in all forms.  I’m in love with love.  I love to love.  I love things, fashion, foods, exercise, art.  I love  friendship, intimacy…and  romance too, of course; who doesn’t?  I say I love you a lot.  Or I love this or that or I’m in love with stuff pretty much all the time to the point that some of my students have labelled me a creeper.  And some say I love you back.

dozen hearts

I can imagine what adults who don’t easily love would think of the overabundance of heart motif on every wall of my home.  I’m like a love psycho.

4 EVER

Paper collage, oil paintings, encaustic….it’s really all about the heart in here!

living room corner

Artists see beauty all around them.  There is beauty in symmetry and in rhythm, and texture.  My perception of the world is that it is a beautiful place.  I’m lucky that I get paid to color all day.  It might seem frivolous to people who are close-minded to aesthetics, and I have to say I feel sad for them.  Because life is a lot more fun with love in your heart and with hearts all around you to remind you of it.  To remind you to love. ❤

Good Fortune, 11" x 14", 2012, $100
Good Fortune, 11″ x 14″, 2012, $100
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Creating Links

I joined www.linkedin.com.  It’s like Facebook, but without all the personal stuff.  People only post things regarding their jobs.  I connected with a lot of people I don’t really know because it tells you that someone is a shared connection with someone else so you just press connect and they usually accept.   There are groups you can join so I joined a bunch of art and art marketing ones.

What I learned is that for every opinion about how to do something, from making art to selling it, there is a counter opinion and factions of people who start arguing opinions, and soon we have an occupation with no concrete way to assess it.  It reminds me of the family that airs their dirty laundry in public.  Art and artists seem to make other people uncomfortable.  I get the sense that people don’t respect art as a profession.  Mainly because they don’t understand it.

Non-artists need concrete information to understand things and the truth is, there is concrete information, but some people, including artists, just don’t know it.  A woman had asked one group to share how they know a work of art is a quality work.  I said I use the art criticism format – description/detail, formal principles of art, and emotional content.  She replied that she was surprised (read appalled) that details should go first.  I’m all, what?  The order is just the format used in the textbook I use at school called Art Talk.  I am surprised that more professional artists don’t know how to criticize art properly – how do they know if their own art is good?

The problem is that some people do not give equal weight to the three components (ultimately four because using the other three you determine if the artwork is successful, the fourth component being judgment).  This woman felt that emotion was the key to art and should have top billing.  (Later she revealed that she was, in fact, a self-taught artist).  Naturally, people in mathematics or the sciences, or any kind of non-art related business don’t think highly of emotionalism.  These are the people who call artists artsy-fartsy.  It’s all just very frustrating.

I connected with a gallery owner through Linkedin who viewed this website then asked me to bring a few things to the gallery so he could see them in person.  Naturally, I was very excited that it took only a day to receive an opportunity and I felt like the universe was finally cutting me a break.  When I did meet with him with a bin of paper collage pieces and two 18” x 18” paintings in tow lugged through the rain, he proceeded to share his opinion of why he didn’t think my artwork would sell in his gallery or this town for that matter, which was to do with price-point, materials, subject matter and pretty much my entire aesthetic.  His advice was I should find out what the customer wants and make that.  Landscapes would be a good choice, he said.

Funny that, because a few months ago, one of my students told me she was going to have a booth at the Ozstravaganza Fest in Chittenango, NY.  I asked her what she was going to sell.  She said she planned to take some fantasy drawings and make them into prints.  I told her she should draw Dorothy and the other Wizard of Oz characters.  That’s what people will be looking for – because locals tend to forget that this festival is international.  People do find their way to that yellow brick road from all over the US and Canada and I think there were even people from the UK there this year!  After the event, she told me she’d taken my advice, made the Oz art and ended up making over $500!  Not bad for a thirteen-year-old, right?

So, I understand the gallery owner’s advice.  I’d given the exact same advice myself to successful results.  When I told the Oz/student story to my dad he said, “Why didn’t you do that?”

I think you know the answer to that.  I can’t do that.  I can’t make art that satisfies a need.  Not now, not ever.  I’m peddling the art I’ve already made, not trashing it in favor of a fickle customer’s whim.  My whole belief system regarding art is that you put a piece of yourself in everything you make, kind of like a Horcrux in Harry Potter but without the negative part.  You educate the potential customer about who you are…and they see you.  They understand you, connect with you and believe in you.  I feel like I am speaking a visual language, one you may or may not understand fully, but you might walk away feeling like you know enough and fill in the rest with your own context.

Yesterday at my sister’s garage sale, I sold four paintings.  (Needless to say, I proved that gallery owner wrong – I can sell work in this town!)  I sold one of my encaustic horse paintings to an elementary school-aged boy.   I explained to him my decision to mount the work onto chalkboard painted masonite.  The intent is that the new owner could write on the board with chalk, maybe draw horses themselves or name the horse – really anything.  And in this way, he would be contributing to the meaning of the work and we would essentially be making art together.  I feel that art makes that transformation even without an actual physical change – once it leaves the artist, it takes on new meaning, the one its new owner attributes to it. For example, a playing card can mean gambling or it can have something to do with fortune telling.  Most likely it is a symbol of the spirit of gaming, which may be a nod to childhood, bringing along with it happy memories.  And a horse is a horse, of course, of course.

I want to believe that I am right about all of this.  Well, I am right.  I’m just not making hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove it.  But this woman is.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/04/story_n_5440513.html

She was a music teacher but something possessed her to start painting.  An empty wall in her house provoked her to think she could paint well enough to fill the space.  This led to her quitting her job and painting full time.  She then kept going to see a Manhattan art dealer for critiques.  The dealer’s advice was to paint something that no one else paints.  Be unique.  She kept at it for months until she happened upon a cityscape idea that the dealer liked and now she’s selling paintings for $100,000 each.

When I told my dad, he asked, “Is this a real story?”

I’m like, “Yeah.”

So he said, “Why don’t you do that?”

I don’t watch Glee and I’ve never actually seen the High School Musical trilogy, but I am forever breaking out in song at work.  I don’t seem to care that I am not a trained singer and never participated in chorus once I hit middle school.  Someone will say something that triggers the first lines of a song I know the words to, and off I go in what I believe to be the same perfect pitch Mrs. Firth said I had at Tecumseh Elementary circa the early 1970s.  I like the idea that life could be a musical, so maybe I will find success in music.  Wouldn’t that be funny if me and this lady criss-crossed and I became an unlikely pop star?

But that would mean that no one should go to school for art or music.  And that’s the other debate I’m finding on social media.  The factions of self taught artists are against formal training because they think it’s hokum while the educated artists virtually roll their eyes.  I think you know where I stand on this matter, being that I teach art and believe in the creative process, as well as a strong need to develop creative thinkers for all career professionals.  The time-traveler in me doesn’t plan to go back and reverse my decision to become a trained artist any time soon.

 

Jasper’s Legacy

There is this book called Why Cats Paint.

http://www.amazon.com/Why-Cats-Paint-Theory-Aesthetics/dp/0898156122

In it, the author presents a number of cats throughout the world who put their paws in paint and create abstract art.  I bought the book as a joke.  I had it for several years before I sat down and read the text.  What’s great about it is it’s written in a serious manner, like a master’s thesis, with various theories and evidence of proof to support them.  It’s hilarious but also brilliant, especially the part where the author convincingly suggests the cats are actually painting representationally.  That if you turn it all upside down you can spot clear contour line imagery much like they do on that show Ancient Aliens when they are trying to convince you that some stone mountain in South America is really an Egyptian sphinx.

Sometimes the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park’s animals make art that they auction off to raise money and there is a tiger who is an abstract expressionist master.  Her name is either Tanya or Tatiana – huge paw prints with the perfect juxtaposition of complementary colors.  Crazy, really.

Sunday was Jasper’s birthday and next Tuesday is his death day.  He was fourteen when he died.  I grew up with cats as pets but Jasper was the first pet I took care of all on my own.  He represented almost my entire career at work at that time (save the first year) and as well, he was the same age as the students I had just taught that school year.

He had cancer and I had to put him down, something I thought I would never ever do to an animal.  Never wanted to do.  It still haunts me.  He was alive in my arms when I kissed him good-bye and then I had him killed.  Everyone said I had done the right thing.  I saw the MRI.  Cancer appears as white spots on it and his whole body was pretty much snowflakes.  He was very ill.  He’d stopped eating and although the specialist said he was not in pain, I knew that pain was imminent.  I didn’t want him to suffer.

I just loved him so much.

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I found him at the Humane Association on Taft Road in Liverpool, NY.  I had called ahead looking for a tiger tabby.  I already knew I would call him Jasper after Jasper Johns.  He had been brought there one day prior and was sitting inside a milk crate.  If you have ever been there, at least it was like this in the ’90s, you would know that the cat area is one large room with cats of all ages roaming freely.  Smaller kittens were in cages.  Jasper was a kitten too but he was fifteen weeks old and about four pounds.

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I didn’t see him at first because I was busy trying to get a giant monkey-like black cat off my back.  It was clinging to my wool coat with monster claws.  I managed to escape and walked up to Jasper.  I picked him up and said, “Are you my kitty?”  I put him down and waited to see what he’d do.  I kind of walked away and he approached  me.  When other kittens his size did the same (I believe they were his brothers because I was told he came in with four others from his litter), Jasper hissed at them forcing them to scatter.

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I walked to the exit and checked to see if he would follow me.  He did and that was that.  Because I noticed that he had target markings on his fur!  Definitely a sign that we were meant to be.

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Karen Tashkovski, Roi, 30" x 30", 2000, oil, latex & collage, $675
Karen Tashkovski, Roi, 30″ x 30″, 2000, oil, latex & collage, $675

I made the bulk of my artwork during the Jasper years.  The cat paintings from the Echo/Rune series and Dream Time series were obviously peppered with Jasper references, both Jasper the man and Jasper the cat.  Lots of target markings and neutral colors, as well as stenciling and found object additions.

Rune-11, 18" x 18", 2005, mixed media
Rune-11, 18″ x 18″, 2005, mixed media, $200

I created hundreds of watercolors too.  Growing up I had a cat named Tiny who planted his foot in a watercolor painting I did in college, but Jasper never once wanted to paint.

Echo-3, 18" x 18", 2005, mixed media
Echo-3, 18″ x 18″, 2005, mixed media, $200

He was extremely feisty.  That hissing incident when we first met was not an isolated one.  He used to hiss at everyone except me.  Once he jumped on my sister’s friend (as she sat on my sofa) and bit her on the head.  The technician at the vet’s told me that she and Jasper were “blood-brothers”.  Yep, he did bite a lot too.  A lot a lot, and I was not the exception.  I still have scars on my arms to prove it.  Scarification, it turns out, was his art form.

Touch, 9" x 12", 2001, mixed media
Touch, 9″ x 12″, 2001, mixed media, $75

I have two cats now.  They are very cuddly and loving.  They do not hiss or bite.  More docile than feisty for sure.  I don’t know if they will turn out to be artists.  They are polydactyls, Georges (named for Georges Braque) with six toes on one foot and seven on the other and Pablo (Picasso, naturally) with five on each and both with nails intact; so with those giant tootsie paws they could well become the stars of the next Why Cats Paint if there is another edition planned.  They are already turning the wicker baskets into deconstructed confetti heaps, so, maybe sculpture is their thing.

Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Play, 18" x 24", 2000, oil, latex & collage, $500
Karen Tashkovski, Play, 18″ x 24″, 2000, oil, latex & collage, $500

 

 

 

 

Feet First

When I was growing up, I really hated being different.  Ethnic.  Whatever you want to call it.  The long last name that no one could pronounce.  A first generation American with a family from a country no one had ever heard of.  The funny thing is my dad actually added a letter H to our last name (making it even longer) so that people would be able to pronounce it.

Tash * Cough * Ski

Not so hard.  Of course the accent can be on either of the three syllables, and when I say it really fast people are like – what?

As I got older, I learned to appreciate my individuality.  It obviously helped that the world seemed to be heading in the same direction.  Actresses like Renee Zellweger, for example, were using their real names and we learned to accept that.  I loved signing my last name to my paintings.  It made me unique.  Special.  I may be the only Karen Tashkovski in the universe!  At least I am the only one who comes up in a Google search.  But if you search Karen Tashkovski – Artist, you’ll get a different result.

There is another artist with my last name.  Vasko Taskovski is a surrealist artist (think Salvador Dali) who creates these epic landscapes.  I’m particularly impressed with his series of horse paintings.  They morph into sand castles, mountains, trees, oceans and skies with the kind of attention to detail that is really breathtaking.

http://www.vaskotaskovski.com

My work may appear less intricate in comparison, although there are several layers to it.  There’s the texture of the canvas, the drawing, oil painting, stenciling, and adding found objects.  The paintings are about my life.  My move to Florida was meant to be my escape, the way Dad escaped the Iron Curtain to come to America.  In theory, I would plant my feet on the ground of a new state and make a name for myself.

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I do have an unusual footprint, I think.  One that my sister referred to recently as a deformity because everything about her is so terribly perfect in comparison.  I prefer to refer to my feet as unique and special.  Well, something has to be, since it is not my last name, right?

We all need that – to find what makes us special, and embrace it whether or not someone else thinks it is weird or stupid, or freakishly different.  At this stage of my life, I honestly don’t think anything embarrasses me.  I really don’t care what you think about my feet!  Everyone’s toes are kind of ugly anyhow.

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I found the above illustration on the Internet.  It’s one of those pictures people always post on Facebook to get a conversation started.  I would say that my “roots” must be Greek, which is no surprise since Velushina, Macedonia is literally a hop, skip and a jump to the border to Greece.

My low toe is not depicted in any of those images but I did happen upon it somewhere else.

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Archeologists found this 1.5 million year old human footprint fossil.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/science/27foot.html?_r=0

It is supposedly a man’s size 9 footprint and not a woman’s size 7 1/2.  But it looks like my foot, doesn’t it?  No, really.  It totally does!

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Am I a time traveler?  Who’s special now?

 

 

Christmas in July

I am on summer vacation from my teaching job – full swing.  It’s been a week of staying up late but still getting up early because I have two pets to feed.  They are not interested in having a summer schedule.

The art exhibit at Sullivan Library will continue through this month and possibly next.  I only say that because last year I had student work up in July and there was no one scheduled for August so I was able to keep the work up until school started and that was really nice.  I personally prefer a two-month run at a captive audience style venue – libraries, restaurants, etc. because it gives people enough time to eventually venture over there and see it.  I sometimes exhibit at the East Syracuse Free Library and when I took the last show down, (honestly, I can’t remember when – two years ago?) a preteen approached me and told me that she came to the library nearly every day that summer and she enjoyed the time she was able to spend with my work.  Yeah, that really happened.

I invite four artists a year to exhibit artwork in the library of the school and we have had so many phenomenal local artists in the past four years, among them, two who have passed away – Yolanda Tooley and George Benedict.

Yolanda was someone I met over twenty years ago when we volunteered on the Visual Arts Committee affiliated with the Cultural Resources Council of Onondaga County here in Syracuse.  She was always such a positive force in my life.  She told me that I was very brave to create artwork that has such a personal meaning to me and I think about that any time I feel like I should revise my thought process and make art that caters to some unnamed consumer.  She was a photographer who used colored inks to hand color her images, many of which were done in collage to create her own personal visions of landscapes from her many world travels.  This one is of Venice.

yolanda tooley art

Mr. Benedict was my Studio in Art teacher circa 1976-77.  I could never call him George even as an adult (which probably means I will always be Ms. Tash to some people, I imagine).  He was the very first artist to showcase his landscape oil paintings (see below) at the school library.  He pretty much taught me, in that one year I spent working with him, everything that I know about teaching.  He was always so proud of me, and all of his former students for that matter, and made sure to stay in touch for many, many years.

george benedict art

They both had cancer, which brings tears to my eyes every time I think about them because they loved life, lived it  creatively and fully, and there is just never enough time for good people.  Cancer is evil.

I’m not sure if either of them made significant money selling art.  I know that Yolanda’s family sold much of her work at a retrospective after her death.  It kind of makes me wonder what the hell will happen to my stuff in the aftermath of me.  Will someone sell it, give it away, trash it?  Is it meant to last way past my expiration date?

Do people buy art to appreciate it for what it is – a visual representation of an image or idea?  Or do they buy it because they think it will go up in value once the artist kicks it?  I guess it depends on the buyer.  I was a little troubled by the fact that when I asked my Studio in Art students to tell me what they learned from viewing those art shows this past year, someone said something like – if you want to be an artist you have to take another job because you won’t make a living at it.

I can blame myself for that.  The comment was most likely directed at me as I was the second artist to exhibit, which I do on occasion when an artist cancels on me.  As you can imagine, many people think teachers teach because they can’t be successful in their respective fields, which as you all know, is not true at all.  I think we tend to work harder to pursue our hearts’ desires while still managing to encourage students to pursue theirs.

Selling art is as much about marketing as anything else and what I find difficult about it on a personal level is that although I have a job where I talk a lot (some may even say too much), I really am an introvert. I should have pursued more shows, gallery representation, grant money – stuff like that.  But I just didn’t.  Part of it was not knowing how to parlay one experience into the next, not having a business head on my shoulders, having that pesky burden of occasional self doubt.  You name it, and I will use it as an excuse.

My goal this summer will be to expand the scope of this website and hopefully reach people who are interested in my work.  Not that I plan to leave my job any time soon if money starts falling out of pockets and dropping into my lap, but it would be nice to nip that you-can’t-make-a-living comment in the bud. I don’t travel like Yolanda did and aside from my abstract Pompano paintings, I don’t create landscapes like Mr. B.  The landscape of my life is pretty much art and family.  So in the spirit of my mother’s favorite TV network, QVC, I will leave you with some Christmas in July.  Here is my mom reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to my sister’s best friend’s kids.

On Pins & Needles

I’m on Pinterest now.

It is very addicting, especially when you start to see all of your boards come together.  I found pictures on the site to illustrate found object items I use, like game pieces and fabric.  That was fun.  I still need to figure out how to add the widget to this site and all of that computer speak in order to successfully link the two, but I am working on it.  The site is a business site rather than a personal one so it will feature primarily art and art inspirations.

The paper collages I recently “pinned” haven’t been uploaded to this website yet so here they are –

Karen Tashkovski, Joie de Vivre, 11" x 7 1/2", 2001 mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Joie de Vivre, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001 mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Throne, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Throne, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

I created these in February 2001.  This was around the time my maternal  grandfather passed away.  I was living in Eastwood in a two bedroom flat where there was not much space to make art.  These could be constructed while sitting on the sofa.  I cut up some abstract oil paintings created on paper canvas.  Some of them have abstract watercolor hearts as well and so, these pieces combine literally all that I am as an artist!  Sewing, drawing, collage, painting, and two of my favorite motifs – hearts and kittens.

Karen Tashkovski, 40 Days, 11" x 7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, 40 Days, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Pink, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Pink, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Bien, Merci, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Bien, Merci, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Connect, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Connect, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Devices, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Devices, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, La Tete Me Tourne, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, La Tete Me Tourne, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, The 5th, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, The 5th, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Rhythm, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Rhythm, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Sands, 11" x 7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Sands, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50