Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rusty Nails and Inspiration


My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

Maya Angelou


Yes, these are indeed rusty nails, 2” with square heads, pulled from boards in a circa-1905 Victorian home. I just purchased them from an Etsy shop. God bless Google searches.

So why are rusty nails so exciting to me today? They’re a demonstration of how much inspiration fuels my work. At 4:30 AM this morning this idea woke me up. The little rusted hand-made paper and wire sculptures I’m currently constructing could hang from rusted nails instead of bent copper wires. I wasn’t even trying to find a replacement for those copper wires! Now it seems the most perfect way to hang them, so I hope it works.

I love these surprising bursts of insight and inspiration most about being a creative. Do you ever experience such flashes of new ideas when you’re engaged in a project?


Here are some of the works in this installation, now nearing the finish line. Will the rusted nails work? I love the suspense of wondering while I wait for them to arrive in the mail.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Urban Wall Art/Creative Muse


Finished Omen mural at fedder building in rochester NY for wall therapy 2014


One day last summer I took my usual drive down East Main Street in Rochester to my studio building and this wall mural seemed to just have suddenly appeared on the Fedder Building (I’m sure it took longer!). When I did actually notice it, I did a total WOW-what-IS-this. Now I pass by her every day as I drive to my studio. She has become something of a personal creative touchstone in a neighborhood of old warehouses, rundown buildings and homes divided into numerous apartments.

She is one of many murals that have been painted around the city of Rochester since 2012 through WALL/THERAPY, which its website describes as “a community level intervention using mural art as a vehicle to address our collective need for inspiration.”

And inspire my three-story lady does. Perhaps she is not quite the face I might have imagined for my creative Muse, but that is exactly what she accomplishes for me each day I gaze up at her while I drive  past. She does more than just lift my spirits, though, she radiates a transforming presence in an area that needs an infusion of creative energy. Seeing a building wall thus transformed reminds me of the potential visual art has to surprise, uplift and delight through all of life’s circumstances and challenges.

For a view of the other wall murals now currently creating a new landscape in urban Rochester, please visit the WALL/THERAPY website.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Off the Wall!: New Small Sculptural Works



Jeanne Raffer Beck, “Dialogue”, 4” x 4” x 13”; wrapped wire, handmade pulp & paper, poplar base.

My first small, free-standing, sculptural wire and paper piece debuted in my studio a week ago. Most people see these forms as bonelike and ancient. I’m still debating price, which led to some surprising and enjoyable conversations about what people might pay for small works like these. The poplar base and slight rusting on the hanging forms and paper-wrapped wire holder all work together well. Two more single pieces are in progress, which you can see in the picture below.

JeanneRafferBeckorganicelementsin the meantime, I’ve been creating and stockpiling organic shapes for the multiples I’m creating now. If the finished piece is successful, I’ll enter it into Memorial Art Galllery’s biennial juried exhibition.JeanneRafferBeckpaperonboard_edited-1JeanneRafferBeckwetpaperonwood

By the time I closed shop yesterday afternoon, the whole space looked a bit like an assembly line. Yesterday was also our building wide Second Saturday at Hungerford but with storm warnings and snow, traffic stayed light. Still, I enjoyed great conversations with the people who did visit and made the most of the quiet; couching sheets of abaca paper and applying them wet over the remaining 6” x 9”  wooden panels for my 24 pieces. As the paper dries and shrinks, it will totally adhere to the wood surface.


Many thanks to my good friend Christina Laurel for sending me the darker value chai tea bag papers – a great surprise that arrived in a little package in the mail this week. Friends help take the chill away in winter!  These will join my other carefully saved papers to be collaged on their surfaces when I return to my studio this week and start to compose and collage.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Seeing, Feeling, Expressing


Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens. --Carl Jung

After enjoying hundreds of visitors who came to my studio last night for First Friday, I realize just how much of an equation there is between making art and sharing it. That exchange feels magical when what we make is well received by others. We encounter that energy in concerts, in live performances and sporting events. Athletes, actors, dancers, musicians all perform to audiences and whether small or large, our creativity comes full circle when shared. 

For many of us who are makers, our creative selves are always reaching. I’m feeling an internal desire now to focus on emotional content in new work.  What is it that makes some pieces evoke a deep emotional response?

Colors, shapes, lines and textures can communicate feeling, either what the artist feels internally or their responses to the world around them. The Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s believed the best way to express pure emotion was to create nonobjective or totally abstract artworks. They saw the use of colors, shapes, lines and textures as vital to expressing deep emotional states.

What feelings or emotions do you wish to express through your works? How do you choose color, shape, line and textures to communicate those? 

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Exploration: Sculptural Forms


Three-dimensional forms are my current focus – O.K, more like a fixation.  I’m working on a new series to combine wire armatures and handmade paper – using either freshly couched, wet sheets  or dipping armatures into paper pulp. The high shrinkage of 4-hour beaten abaca pulp from Carriage House Papers  lends itself to this process. The results are incredibly durable, even though they look very fragile.



. Jeanne Beck, Layers, 6” x9”, wire and paper sculpture mounted on hardwood covered with handmade paper, tea bag papers, gesso. I’m researching sources for a thin drop-in frame for these. Any suggestions for sources? My husband hopes you will please share them to get him off the hook for more R&D assignments!


Freshly dipped wire forms, drying on a wooden rack in my studio. The drying process takes three to four days. The moisture rusts the ungalvanized wire I use. Some pieces may be dipped, partially dried and dipped again several times to accumulate layers.



My resident R&D department has been helping to design stands to provide another presentation option for these small works.



My vision for this series – much like my current fluttering pages pieces – is to work with repetition. I visualize rows and rows of them hanging together.

I’ll  work this week to complete 11 more pieces. That will allow me to see how they look as multiples. If successful, then I’ll create 24 in this first series to hang 6 across and 6 down. If not successful, then back to the drawing board. Ideally, working with multiples will allow galleries and collectors flexibility for purchasing and presentation. More ideas for combining and hanging these together are evolving.

Special thanks to two excellent workshop teachers, Mo Kelman and Melissa Jay Craig, for providing so much excellent information and assistance in starting down this trail. Melissa is teaching 3-D papermaking again at Women’s Studio Workshop this summer, if you are interested.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Shiny Winter Tonic


Main Street Art Gallery, located in a picturesque two-story building in Clifton Springs, NY, decided to counteract winter’s chill by inviting an eclectic mix of artists (my absolute favorite type of show) to participate in Solid Gold, a celebration of glowing 2 and 3-D works featuring ceramics, sculpture, painting and mixed media. All works incorporate metallic paint or gold leaf on their surfaces.



The opening was great fun, one of the best ones I’ve been to, friendly and down to earth and the perfect tonic for a cold, dark January day. 


Main Street Art Gallery also invited me to contribute a post to their Inside the Artist Studio series and I hope you will click the link and take a look.

Confession. I haven’t blogged in over a year. I was questioning so many things about being an artist including what place art has in our culture. Then I realized my job is to be true to my own inner inspirations and share that with anyone who is interested. I can’t control or often understand what’s happening in the rest of the world but I can choose to live my own life each day connected to my spirit of adventure and creativity.

So creating – the research, experiments, failures, explorations and victories that all go into turning ideas into form – are where we’ll go this year on these pages. Comment, share, join in the dance – those who love creating are a tribe and I’m eager to meet more of mine.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mindful Marketing Practices, Step One



       This image is from

 Since I’m endlessly curious, clearing my mind to practice mindfulness is important to me. So are setting intentions. I started this year with a personal vision quest – eight full days -- through snowstorms and subzero temps (in Chicago, I’m told, the zookeepers even brought the polar bears indoors!). 

 My retreat unfolded this way. First I happened onto a self-inventory called "The Gifts of 2013" from Susannah Conway. I spent New Year’s Day writing until I had filled it all out.  When I reviewed what I had written about the pluses and minuses of 2013, I savored the confident, positive woman I saw reflected back to me.

 A few days later I met with two fellow artists with long corporate careers and much expertise to discuss our desires and directions for 2014. I acknowledged that I am very savvy about marketing for others but not on my own behalf.  Could I change that mindset and still be true to my own values? Indeed I can.

As I take steps this year to make my work more visible, then my audience -- those people who will invest in my works -- will find me. How can people purchase my work if they don’t know it exists?

Just who is my desired audience? As I visualize them, here's what I see:

  • You appreciate contemporary art. It ignites your interest and delights you. You surround yourself with original art in your home and office.
  • You have confidence in your taste. You trust your instincts.
  • You're informed. You learn about the artists who interest you.  If possible, you visit their studios and connect with them personally.

  •  You're comfortable with contemporary art. You make it a point to visit museum exhibitions and gallery shows because you enjoy learning.  You spend time with a work to really see and appreciate it.
  • You share your enthusiasm for the arts and artists with your friends, family and co-workers. You may be low-key about it but you are definitely an advocate for artists. 
  • You think for yourself. You enjoy purchasing art that will increase in value but you don’t make your purchases based on profits. Today’s stars come and go in contemporary art as in music and movies; you choose to buy art that captivates you rather than follow trends and passing fads.
  • You are a genuine, compassionate and interesting person. You probably wouldn’t find visual art appealing if you weren’t!

My audience is out there – and since I  have a clearer idea of who they are, it will be easier to develop ideas for how to reach them.