Where Line and Paint meet with Jerry Shawback

Jerry Shawback is the most dedicated artist I know. His daily practice can rack up 500 sketches a week. Add to this his paintings, and we have ourselves a full-time talented artist. His line drawings capture depth and powerful expression with the strength of their minimalism. His self-portrait paintings always leave me craving to know more. As I flip through his flickr site I often ask “who is this artist – really?”

Then sometime over the summer, I notice something different happening in Jerry’s paintings. Lines familiar to me in his drawings started to appear in his paintings. I was hooked. I kept slipping back and spying from just off the side of the screen to see what he would do next. Finally, I mustered up my courage and asked if I could interview him for a dedicated feature here on Creative Potager. To my delight he said yes. So get your favourite cup of something warm and pull up a chair….

Born in small town Streator Illinois about 80 miles outside Chicago, Jerry lived in town but there was also a family farm. After the divorce of his parents when he was eight years old until he was sixteen, South Florida was home. This was followed by some time in North San Diego country where he completed high school.

Los Angeles is the only long-term love Jerry shared with me and the city has been his adult home since college though he spends a chunk of time in Nevada where he has few distractions and gets most of his painting done these days.

Jerry Shawback’s art:

Q. What is your training and background?

A. I went to Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, a division of the new school for social research and studies communication design and illustration. Otis had a great foundation year program where all the students from different disciplines all took the same classes giving everyone a solid understanding of the basics of art as well as forming relationships between the different departments.

Q. Is there any particular aspect of your formal training which is fundamental to your current creative process?

A. Only one class in art school really stands out. History of graphic design was a brutal course. In 3 hours there were 200 slides and continuous lecturing. The following class there was a test on one of the slides. We covered the entire history of design and how it related to the broader world of art. When I got out of art school is when I really started focusing on my drawing. I found some great workshops and spent most of my available time drawing.

Q. I am curious about what got your thinking about drawing with paint? Do you remember what got you thinking about this?

A. There can be a disconnect between painting and drawing. I see it in the work of artists all the time. There are some artists whose finished pieces I find lifeless and uninteresting but when I can find an oil sketch or rough drawing it is just delightfully.

I went to the national Gallery in washington DC and saw several pieces by Toulouse-Lautrec. These oil on cardboard drawings, of women in various stages of undress are, for me, one the most thrilling experience viewing art I have ever had.  The Lucian Freud show which brought me back to painting again after a long hiatus would be another. I may do up to 500 drawings in a week in many different styles. This allows for experimentation and results in some very spontaneous work.

Q. How did they end up separate in the first place?

A. Unfortunately I think they have always been separate for me and what I am working on now is trying to integrate the two.

Q. What process or guides do you use in choosing your colours when painting.

A. Painting a color and drawing the colors I see with line are very different things.

I never put a color on the canvas that I do not think is wonderful on its own. That does not guarantee that it will work with the other colors on the painting. But it is a good start. I enjoy the process of mixing colors almost as much as I like making the marks with them.

Q. What has life taught you about your creative work?

A. All of our experiences good or bad make us who we are and, if we are open to it, will come out in our work. Art, just like any other kind of work, requires effort and discipline and is not something that just happens on a whim.

Q. I often experience a sense of loss or sadness edging into your work. Can you tell us a little about this?

A. We often hold our emotions just below the surface in a very quiet way. This is revealed when we are less guarded. I try to capture this. I think every one has a certain amount of sadness and loss as well as joy and hopefulness. If you are sincere as an artist, it comes out in your work. I work with the human form so it may seem more obvious but this would show if I was painting landscapes as well.

Jerry Shawback’s plans:

Q. What is next?

A. Continuing to learn and grow as an artist.

Q. Five years from now?

A. It would be nice to be involved with a gallery who could market my work a year out and the most difficult thing would be getting the work done in time for the shows.

Q. Ten years from now?

A. It would be great to have an exhibit / workshop space so I could have an environment for developing artists to show as well access to space to work.  I have come across so many terrific artists that could benefit from somewhere to work in a group environment  with other artists on occasion as well as show their work.

Thank you Jerry. It is always a pleasure to have you here on Creative Potager.

Jerry Shawback’s Sprout question: What two things are you working to integrate in your art or life?

Pssst! dear readers, to do your own spying on Jerry Shawback in the corners of cyberspace, you can find him:

On flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawback

And at http://www.thewhole9.com/jerryshawback

And you can  follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/jshawback


© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Searching for lost and soft edges

When we see, we see around corners because of our rapid eye movements, our moving feet and bobbing head… and because we touch things.

Tuesday’s post “Seeing and Creating” talked about how the brain builds a visual field using rapid eye movement to create the image we are seeing. Some of the information that the brain uses to build an image comes from a history of spatial measurements that we have gathered through touch.

Seeing takes more than our eyes. We must learn spatial relationship, specifically our spatial relationship to other objects. We discover how to see where things are through practice using our hands and feet to touch and move around our world. Babies reach for our faces. Children will crawl, climb, run and jump with varying degrees of success as their brains and bodies learn to coordinate the distances of time and space. Our brain gathers and reuses these measurements in combination with information received from our eyes to provide context and relational information about what we are looking at. This complex relationship of gathering and building our visual field happens constantly and rapidly. Most often we are not even aware of the process.

However when we are creating it is helpful to understand and consider this information in our work. Some of our work in building a visual field will happen intuitively.  In fact, many situations a lot of our work in building a visual field will happen intuitively. We won’t know why we at first place a certain word in a particular sentence or why we paused the music on that particular note or why we made that particular mark off on the left side of the page or why we decided to include a particular boulder in our photograph. Mostly we just do what we do.

We can strengthen our work by increasing our conscious ability to build a visual field. A current practice of simplifying photographic images through noise reduction and sharpening and taking out what is not adding to the image is one way to play with how the visual field is built in the photograph.

Practices of adding, leaving or taking away in our creativity are not absolute creative positions but a tension we hold during the process of creating. It is in searching for lost and soft edges that I find I can most consciously building a visual field in my photography, painting and writing.

One tool or exercise we can use is to make marks or write words around your desired subject until it “appears” in your work. This helps us discover what clues or cues in the surrounding area are supporting our ability to see. In photography I do this by placing my desired object in various off-centre relationships in the frame. I change the height I take the image or the distance from the subject and so on.

Sprout Question: How do you know when less is no longer more?

Note: Here is a great reference I discovered as part of researching for today’s

The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies by Mark Paterson (2007)

Also here is an online article that is also helpful – Eyes and Hands: The relationship between touch and space http://people.exeter.ac.uk/mwdp201/space.html

A question I can not answer is how people without use of hands or ability to walk develop spatial relationships in building their visual field. Does anyone know the answer or have a resource?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Creative Community

As I mentioned on Monday, I have been reading about Camille Pissarro and admiring his work and that of other impressionist painters that were part of his community. There was Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Cezanne to name a few. The influence of these fellow artists in Pissarro’s work is sometimes mentioned when author Linda Doeser discusses a particular painting.

Ah, to have been part of these passionate (and at the time unacceptable notions) about rendering the quality of light by exploring the spontaneity and immediacy of lively colour and rapid brush strokes with no hint of drama or sentimentality.

“spring salad” photograph rendered coarsely in oils – view full resolution and purchase here.

Then I thought about Creative Potager and those of you who regularly through your comments and my connections to your own sites are part of my creative community. To name just a few…

The use of line and creating greater connection between drawing and painting. Jerry Shawback http://www.thewhole9.com/jerryshawback

Always giving our best and writing from a place of showing rather than telling. Laurie Buchanan. http://holessence.wordpress.com

Bringing the flow of her everyday into focus for the rest of us. Kathy Drue http://upwoods.wordpress.com

Sharing the exquisite world of film as a creative medium of expression. Sam Juliano http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com

Discusses the practicalities of promoting and selling art work. Itaya http://itaya.blogspot.com

Shares her studio process and her success while celebrating and acknowledging yours. Martha Marshall http://artistsjournal.wordpress.com

Sprout Question: With whom are you presently discussing your creative ideas?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada


Exactness is not the same as expressing the exact emotion in our work.

Our discussion in yesterday’s post “Shadow Memories” entered into my dreams, leaving various images and reflections scatter around at dawn where small birds and coffee tell me it is now morning. Shadow memories are distorted reflections, yet their fleeting brilliance, can engage our emotional responses more deeply than the original image or experience.

From my training and experience as a counselor, I know that some memories are stored in our brains differently. These memories can be trauma memories or any experience that is overwhelming. We store these experiences without “feeling” first. When the time is right, we can “reflect” on those memories and experience the emotions connected with that moment for the FIRST time.

Why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with writing, painting, photography or other forms of creativity? I believe it may have everything to do with creativity. Creative work that moves us, positive or negative, must elicit an emotional response. Countless examples tell us that it is not the perfection or accuracy with which the creator has captured the original experience but rather, the accuracy with which an emotion is captured that makes, impactful work. The entrance to that emotional connection is likely a distorted emphasis or reflection of a subject.

Take for instance the sketches above. When sketching, I have little ability to edit. I sketch quickly. My marks are made in rapid succession on the paper. I “feel” rather than show you exactly what I am seeing. The feelings are not just the ones present at the moment but also the ones that flicker in the shadows connecting through all time and space that I define as my experience. The sketches are far from being an exact replication of the nude male model I was drawing. Yet, in the distorted strokes of the charcoal on paper there is little doubt that they reflect a nude masculine form. Shadow memories flicker through or prance in the forefront of our creativity providing passages into deep emotions for ourselves and then for others.

Today I shall write as I sketch. I shall not edit. I shall write and allow the distorted brilliance of shadow memories to catch my imagination with vivacious autonomy.

Sprout Question: How do you access the exact emotion expressed in a piece of work?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Talking Bread Loaves

“Talking Bread Loaves” PART 1 and artist Jerry Shawback

Self Portrait (18″X24″) by Jerry Shawback

For many of you that regularly read Creative Potager and its “sprouts,” artist Jerry Shawback’s contributions are a familiar sight. There is no direct connection between “Talking Bread Loaves” and Jerry Shawback. I am simply impressed with his work, his community building and his support of artists. Later in today’s post, Jerry is featured along with a few more images of his work.

“Talking Bread Loaves” will be told in three parts over the next three days. I am considering it for inclusion in my new book Mona’s Work.

Mona’s influence is multi-generational. My mother, Mona’s daughter, learned the art of amusing children, while she was cooking, from her mother. This is how I end up knowing about talking loaves of bread. At the age of five my family and I lived eighty miles from the nearest store. We went to town for supplies once a month. Good homemade bread was a staple. It was also my favourite food, particularly still warm from the oven, cut thick and slathered in butter with wild raspberry jam dripping off the edges and running down between my fingers.

Each week my mother would use her “magic “to make eight fresh loaves of bread. The reason mom needed magic was mostly to keep me amused, not because it was necessarily part of making bread…

Wrestling my way out from under a mountain of covers, I make my way to the kitchen. I know bread is going to be made by the bowls and pans already on the counter. Mom has the yeast set aside to soften in a very large, heavy bowl. The melted lard and yeast are floating on the warm sugar water. Standing on a stool, I stick my nose right over the bowl. I can smell the beginnings of bread. Mom makes a crater shape out of the flour on the table.

I put my fingers in the flour but mom scolds “Ahk! You will make the dough run out and spoil the magic.”

I knew that to spoil the magic meant the loaves of bread wouldn’t be able to tell her when they were done. So I take heed, carefully twisting my fingers together to keep them out of the flour crater.

Continued in PART 2 …

Sprout Question: How do you use your creativity to arouse the imagination of others?

Bonus: I connected with Jerry Shawback through his twitter account and was blown away by his generous “retweeting” of links tweeted by artists he is following (his support of Creative Potager tweets has been incredible). Sometimes I spend an hour or more just viewing the links he has sent along. However, one of my challenges has been getting to see Jerry’s work because his tweets about his own work are minimal. This is one of the reasons I asked Jerry if I could feature him on today’s post. I want us to pause and take note of Jerry Shawback’s art as we recognize his support of other artists.

sketch by Jerry Shawback

sketch by Jerry Shawback

More of these exquisite daily line drawings can be viewed in Jerry’s flickr portfolio. I suggest watching them as a slideshow.

Self Portrait (11″X18″) by Jerry Shawback

On March 13, 2010 Jerry’s portraits will be shown as part of the Gallery 9 “FACES” exhibit. Gallery 9 is affiliated with thewhole9.com, an international community for creative people where Jerry is a recognize community builder and active participant on the site.

p.s. Who is Jerry Shawback?

“Self portraits have the inherent ability to expose the depth and breath of human nature.” – Jerry Shawback

The artist’s self portrait series explores identity through multiple approaches to the same subject matter. Stylistically varied, they reveal the strange and vulnerability essence of the human condition.

His affinity for people, observation of life and strong draughtmanship is apparent in his depiction of the human form and informs Jerry’s painting. Other influences include: Rico Lebrun, Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and his mentor Cornelius Cole III.

After studying communication design in Los Angels at the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of design, a division of the New School for Social Research, Jerry worked as a freelance designer, commercial artist, and animator for the entertainment industry.

In 2007, after a ten year hiatus from the art world, Jerry returned to painting as a primary focus. He is currently working on a series of self portraits encompassing various artistic motifs, while maintaining an underlining vision, cohesion and emotional honesty. Jerry also produces works on paper documenting the lives and experiences around him, and his continuing study of the human form. His work has been featured in shows throughout Southern California as well as in private collections.

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada


Today’s winter wabi room quick sketch 8″x11″ artist pen .

Wabi-sabi is a difficult concept (particularly for westerners) which can have reverberating impact on our creativity. We have been dancing gently around wabi-sabi in recent Creative Potager posts.  In particular, Laurie Buchannan has repeatedly articulated and demonstrated a link between minimalism and her creative clarity. In North America, such a practice is counter to material capitalism, advertising and socialization. Yet, when we experience wabi-sabi – when we live in humble, harmony with natural decay and the beauty of imperfection – we know an inner peace that the latest gadgets can never provide – because it would be contrary to their purpose. I believe wabi-sabi is a creative necessity and fuels for originality and creative resilience.

What is wabi-sabi?  I will break it down into several posts over the next few days. Though there is much to read on the subject, since we are focus on the theme of “home” for the month of February, my primary source is The Wabi-Sabi house: the Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty (2004) by Robyn Griggs Lawrence.

Wabi began as a literary concept in fifth and sixth century Japan poetry to reflect melancholy. Wabi has come to mean simple, minimalist, humble and in tune with nature. It is often said that if you are a wabi person you are content with very little. However, it is more than being content… it is the enjoyment of very little with an appreciation and the awareness about how “less is more” in a way that bubbles from the inside over the sparse surfaces of our outside. Wabi is a preference for very little in recognition of its unequaled abundance in the face of all else.

One winter wabi room at dawn this morning…

Tomorrow, we will look at “sabi” and its connection with wabi.

Sprout Question: Does wabi have any part in your creativity?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

Everyday objects

Our creative journeys are journeys shared with other creative human-beings. Even if we tend to be reclusive, their presence is with us in our homes, in our everyday objects. A sensual blue image combined with a thought-provoking article Epreuve 05 :: Epreuve d’Artiste :: Altered States by Ian Talbot of London UK, inspired my still life sketch this morning of an everyday object. Thank you Ian.

8″x11″ graphite quick sketch

As I was standing at the counter doing my “awakener” sketch of our medium-sized Bialetti stovetop (Yes it has the little man on it but it is on the other side – I’m left handed. Handles are always on the opposite side of what one usually expects.) I started thinking more about Ian’s article and how I often overlook the creativity and artistic qualities of my favoured everyday objects. Yet, aesthetics and wabi-sabi charm generally influences my choice in the first instance when acquiring the object. Why is it that the creative care embodied in the stovetop coffee maker doesn’t leap out at me before my fingers can grip its black handle? I adore my coffee ritual with a zest that not much else can compete – particularly at 6:00 am. I can see its every detail with my eyes half closed. Well, that is mostly how I see it so that isn’t much of a revelation. However, I think you get the idea….

Though living is often a messy process, simplicity and functionality attract my sense of a world-as-should-be. This simplicity can be in everyday object or in everyday nature as in the image below.

View and purchase full resolution image of “amazement” here.

Sprout Question: When was the last time you recognized the creativity in everyday objects?

p.s. I was interviewed this past week by Stephan Weidner COO of Noomii for coaching blog article “Dealing with your Spouse’s Stroke: Terrill Welch’s Coaching Journey” The interview provides a concise account of how Creative Potager came to be.

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

Winter Studio

Quick sketch of trees as seen from studio window.

For the month of February, the Creative Every Day challenge theme is “home.” Leah does an outstanding job of hosting creative development. I decided for this month the theme was perfect for Creative Potager and I’m going to play along. The reason it is perfect is because I have too much stuff. My home is ruling me with its perpetual care and clutter. Yet, if I wait to draw, or paint or take photographs until it is the slim Zen-like space I desire my creativity will come to a standstill for far too long.

Here is my plan:  The theme will be “home” in some form or another while I create, clean and clear everyday for the month of February.

During the winter, I have my studio in the main house as the studio building is not insulated. This year in particular it has been important that I was in the house. I may not even move my working studio back to the other building in the spring but keeping it as a display store instead.

As you can see, my winter studio space is small but with a good-sized east facing window which I like because I am a morning person. However, even at 8:00am this morning I needed to use back lighting to be able to show you this space.

I like that I can see down into the rest of the house from my desk.

I am doing a morning sketch every morning Monday to Friday for February. These are not keepers they are awakeners (my made up word).

These quick sketches are to awaken my creative brain to thinking about light, space, and composition.

There will be no excuses – if a morning sketch means putting my art apron over my nightgown and slipper clad feet – so be it!

May your home be a space that inspires your creativity.

Sprout Question: Have you noticed if the physical space of your home impacts your creativity?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.