Animated Art Video

Last week, I was in Richmond, VA for the Virginia Art Education Association’s annual conference, where I presented two lectures and a hands-on workshop. I was also able to attend several other talks and workshops, as well as catch up with colleagues and friends.

The session that had my mind buzzing the most was a workshop by Greenwood Elementary art teacher, April Barlett. This simple workshop was all about using stop motion animation with elementary students, and it really had the ideas popping.

More than 20 years ago, I took an animation class as part of my education at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, but back then, it was all done with traditional film cameras. You were never certain how it turned out until the film was developed weeks later. It’s amazing that there are apps now that you can download to you phone, tablet, or computer.

I played around with the app on my iPad during April’s session, and though I no longer teach public school, I couldn’t help thinking of a variety of ways that I could use this with my kids classes at the Round Hill Arts Center. But more excitedly, I couldn’t help think of ways that I could use it in my own studio. So, I made this short film using Strathmore mixed media paper, Prang watercolor, Prismacolor watercolor pencil, and my uni-ball Vision pen.

I can’t wait to try it out with other art.

Purging, Letting Go, and Making Space


As I get ready for the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour in a couple of weeks, I have tackled not only cleaning and organizing my studio, but also painting the floor which means clearing the studio of pretty much everything. Though I began sorting and organizing a couple of weeks ago, I am feeling the pinch now, and I’ve kicked up my efforts quite a few notches. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished, but it’s a very daunting task.


One very positive thing has already emerged from all the cleaning and organizing. I have been purging — a lot. I’m probably like many artists who have tons of stuff — materials and supplies, unfinished work, old artwork, scraps of paper, experimental pieces, books, papers, and so much more. But here lately I have been really hating all the stuff that’s crammed into my studio, which is a one-car garage. Despite multiple purges over the past couple of years, there’s still so much that it’s downright overwhelming, and I’m tired of the clutter and the junk.

So, I’m purging, clearing space, and combatting the clutter.

It began a couple of weeks ago, as I began sorting through my fodder, ephemera, and scraps. Now, I’m not one to go to a store and buy stuff, but I collect a lot in my day-to-day life. I pick up postcards or business cards from businesses, restaurants, and shops. I get maps when I travel, and I keep my metro passes, bus tickets, and parking vouchers. I get stickers from everywhere, and coasters from breweries and bars. I collect much much more with the intention of gluing it all into my journals and art, but I don’t do a very good job of keeping up. It piles piles up.

As I began sorting through the fodder, I used some of it, held onto some of it, but got rid of so much more of it. Even though there was a part of me that wanted to hold on to it saying, “But I might need it in the future. I can use it in some art,” I had to let go, so many things ended up in recycling. Then I moved onto my artwork. This was a bit harder, and the emotional pull to keep it was even stronger. But I pressed on and sorted and purged and let go of so much. A lot of old, experimental artwork ended up in the trash or in recycling, and some of it ended up on the fire pit. It was a symbolic release of the stuff that keeps weighing me down. It was a symbolic purge by fire.

It’s liberating yet emotional to let this stuff go, much of it has been sitting around the studio for years, and though there’s that tug as I toss it, I truly know that I’m better off letting go. I’m never going to finish these or do anything with them, and much of this artwork is not my best. They’re pieces from long ago. Pieces where I was figuring out my style. Pieces that were experimental and crude and just not things that need to be out in the world. I have to let them go.

As an artist, it’s so easy to cling to the things that I have made — to the things that I have brought into existence, and there is a real attachment to these pieces because of the time, effort, and thought that I have put into them. But if I cling to these things, if I hold tightly onto all of these things from the past, I can’t move forward. The past can weigh us down, and the only way forward is to make space for the future by letting go of the things of the past. As long as all of this stuff clutters up my environment, my space, and my mind, I stay stuck when I so want to move forward, grow, and evolve. I need to let it go, clear the ground, and start new.

The process has continued with many other things in the studio, and I’m eager to get it all sorted, to let go of even more, to make space for new ideas, new work, new adventures, so I am slogging forward, digging through, and making space.

I can’t wait to share the final outcome.


I spent this past weekend in Asheville, NC teaching a two-day version of my Luminous Liquid Layers workshop at 310 ART in the River Arts District. I love Asheville, and I remember a time when there was no River Arts District, just a single building with the Wedge Brewery and a few artists spaces, studios, and galleries. Now it's a bustling art mecca with hundreds of artists, and an eclectic collection of galleries, stores, and restaurants. It's such a great place for artists and art lovers.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to teach in this exciting and creative place.

I had eight enthusiastic students who dove into the process of experimenting with liquid acrylics and building up layers of paint and collage. I've taught this class before, but only as a one-day class, so it was wonderful to go more in depth with the process and talk about developing images and incorporating mixed media like collage and image transfers.

I am always amazed at what the students are able to come up with, and it's always great to see their creativity emerge. I'd love to go back and teach more workshops in and around Asheville, so I'm hoping to set something up in the future.

But of course a visit to Asheville would not be complete without a stop at French Broad Chocolates. I had to bring home some of their yummy truffles for my wife!

A big thank you goes out to Fleta Monaghan, the owner of 310 ART for the opportunity to teach at her space, and heartfelt gratitude goes out to good friend and artist Erin Keane for advocating for me to teach there. Erin is an amazing encaustic and book artist and a member of the 310 ART gallery. She's also a wonderful teacher, so make certain to take one of her classes at 310 ART or elsewhere.

Larkin Arts

I was fortunate this weekend to spend a full day teaching my Luminous Liquid Layers at Larkin Arts in Harrisonburg, VA. I haven't spent much time in Harrisonburg since David graduated from the MFA program at James Madison University, so it was nice to go back. Larkin Arts is an cool spot right in the heart of the city, and it's an all-in-one stop for the arts. They sell art supplies, have a gallery, rent out studios to artists, and offer classroom space for workshops.

There were only three students in the class, so we were able to spread out as we worked. Using Golden High Flow Acrylic, we built layers, textures, and patterns, and spent six solid hours playing with the paint.

The process was one of discovery, and I encouraged the students to not have a preconceived idea of what they were painting. Allowing the painting to develop through cultivating the accidental and the unpredictable always leads to creative surprises that you can't get through meticulous planning.

I want to thank Valerie Smith, owner of Larkin Arts, for hosting me and the students as we made a creative mess, and I hope to go back and offer more workshops in such a eclectic space.

If you missed out on this workshop, I'll be offering a more in-depth Luminous Liquid Layers workshop at 310 Art in Asheville, NC in May.

Art Exhibit: Cascades Library

Today, I was fortunate to hang twenty-four pieces at the Cascades Library in Cascades, VA. It's a nice large space, and if I do say so, I think my work looks pretty great in the space.

Much of the work was from the past year, but a couple of pieces were from 2007 a few from other recent years. Although my work has undergone some stylistic changes over the past nine years, the bright colors tie everything together quite nicely.

If you're in the area, make certain to to stop by and check it out. The work will be hanging throughout January and February. Hanging an exhibit is a great way to kick of the new year.

This Is Not A Resolution

Happy New Year! It's hard to fathom that another year is done, and a new one has begun. 2016 has come and gone so quickly for me, and it has been filled with so much. But I'll save those reflections for another day. Instead I have had a thought, an inkling to try something.

Now this is not a resolution! The new year sees many people making these yearly promises only to have them fall to the wayside. They resolve to lose weight, save money, to make all of these life altering changes, but I've never been a resolution kind of guy. The new year is a symbol of renewal, and I've always had notions and ambitions for the new year. This year is no different. I want to try something. I feel like over the past couple of years that I have lost touch with my visual journal practice. When I got into the journal eighteen years ago, it changed my life, and I used it on almost a daily basis. Now that I have made a major change in my life, I want to engage in the journal like I did those many years ago. So, I'm going to try to work in my journal everyday for as long as I can, and post some of that work each day here on the blog and on social media.

I started my current journal a couple of months ago. I've done some work over those months, and I have worked on a dozen or so pages. Some are rather developed, and others not so much. I just have not engaged the journal in a way that I would like. So, today I dove into working with some watercolor on quite a few pages. I added to pages that I have already begun, like the spread at the top, and I have used watercolor as the beginning of other pages. I don't know how many pages I actually worked on, but these three spreads are just a few.

Look for more tomorrow!

The Best Gifts are from the heART!

If you're looking for unique, one-of-a-kind gifts for the upcoming holidays, I have a number things in the JFJ Big Cartel Shop. Although most of my larger work is on display in Lexington, VA at Gladiola Girls, I have quite a few smaller paintings and mixed media pieces in the shop, including the radiating design above, and the monster painting below.

I also have some polymer clay monster sculptures and monster pendants.

And for the teacher in your life, there are digital downloads!

Finally, I have an online workshop that I launched last year!

Check out all of my goodies, and act fast so things can ship in time for Christmas!


I've been attracted to mandalas lately. Well, I guess that I have been attracted to them for quite some time. I've always seen my radiating designs as mandalas of sorts, but it hasn't been until now that I have pursued making more formal mandalas. 

It wasn't until I saw the movie Doctor Strange that I decided to explore mandalas of my own. There was something intriguing in the way mandala designs were used within the movie. I've never read the comic books, so I don't know if these sacred circles were part of their visual vocabulary. But I was fascinated by the visual impact in the movie, and I had to start making my own. I didn't copy the ones from the movie, and there are lots of mandala images, resources, and tutorials on the web. But I needed to find my own way.

I grabbed a compass, a ruler, pencil, eraser, and my Faber-Castell Pitt Pens, and began exploring. I'm in the initial stages now of experimenting, and I don't know where this is leading. But that is the fun and excitement of art. An idea takes root, and through cultivation, you get to see it grow and change and bloom.

Have you created mandalas? What drew you to them? What insight did you take away from making them?