Return to Play in Your Art Practice - VAS Interviews, Part 4  

[00:00:00] Kellee Wynne Conrad: ​

Well, hello. Hello everyone. All of my friends, artists, creatives, newcomers, and those who've been sticking around a while. This is Kellee Wynne and I am your host of. The Made Remarkable podcast. Right now we are in total virtual art summit mode, and I couldn't be more excited because this is the time of year when I get to bring together some of the most talented, amazing artists from across the globe.

And today's no exception because we're gonna be interviewing three of our guest artists from the Virtual Art Summit as we have for the last. Couple of weeks. If you have not caught up yet, I encourage you to go back just a couple episodes and you'll be able to hear from a few of our other Virtual Art Summit guests, and each one of them is remarkable.

Without a doubt, I couldn't be pulling off this amazing summit without their help. I love the art that they're teaching. I'm super excited about the artists that I get to introduce to you today, but when the summit launches on June 2nd, you are going to have almost 10 hours of high quality content lessons that you get to learn from 16 different artists.

All of them are mixed media artists. Every single one of them have a take on our theme this year, which is a return to play, and every single one of them has a point of view that I know will make a difference in your creative process. The joy of a summit like this is that it's gonna open you up to new techniques, new ideas, new points of views, and maybe something that you hadn't thought of doing before in your art practice.

I think that the summit is designed perfectly for. Everyone, literally from those who are just beginning, you can get started learning about the different types of materials, how to put them together, how to get. Playful and messy again, you know? And then for those of you who've been painting or making for a long time, now's a chance for a really affordable price to sign up and get inspiration to reinvigorate your practice.

We all need something to give us momentum. We all need something to inspire us and keep us learning and growing as artists. And this is it. This is your chance. To get something that's worth hundreds of dollars for only $97 to keep and. Enjoy for years to come because you get to keep it and watch it on replay.

Plus you get a bunch of bonuses now. Yes, I still have, equity pricing for those who can't afford the virtual Arts summit. There's still a free option, but I really encourage you to purchase it and support the art, support the program. And support the artists that are participating because it really makes a difference to us when you can help us grow as artists, as entrepreneurs, and to support our families that goes around more than you would ever even imagine.

In the years past, I've been able to donate thousands of dollars to programs like Doctors Without Borders and to our scholarship fund, which I've provided at least 20 artists every year for the last. Three years with scholarships to my programs plus art supplies, and that's valued at over, probably over $20,000 worth of product that I've been able to give away.

I love being able to support. I love to be able to create free offers. I love to be able to create this podcast and show up for you on social media and, and give you, Options in which you can engage in the creative community for low ticket or no ticket price. But in order to do that, I need your support.

I need to get. Everyone excited, riled up and cheering on the Virtual Art Summit, so come on over to virtual art summit.com/go and sign up. Get your ticket before June 2nd, cuz on June 2nd when we launch with our classes, the price is gonna go up. So save yourself now. Get a ticket and you'll be able to enjoy and keep this content forever.

Today's guest on the podcast we have. A amazing artist by the name of e bond. Her name is e, lower Case e, and I love it. She tells us why. She's also a book artist, a graphic designer, a nature lover, and she and I have flipped places because she's from the east coast and now lives in California. I'm from California and I now live in the east coast, but it was a lot of fun to be able to catch up with e and talk to her about what inspires her, about how walking in the woods and communing with the trees makes a difference and how she's really fallen in love with book arts.

Her project is so much fun. It takes words and inspiration and mixed media, and it's gonna give you a whole playful, poetic, fun project to work on. And we are also going to be talking to Carissa Gan, who is from Malaysia. Like I said, this is a global event and I wasn't joking about that. Her work first caught my eye on Instagram with her beautiful use of warm, neutral colors and the way she mixes up the marks that she makes for abstract.

She's a photographer, self-taught artist, and Though she says she wasn't good at drawing or painting when she was growing up. She, has come to a point now where she realizes she is an artist and she's pulling that out of herself in beautiful ways using paint. Watercolor acrylic mark making.

And I think that you're gonna love the way that she expresses herself through bold colors and wild brush strokes. If you wanna find her, her whole passion is under the moniker of Wild Flower Culture. And you're gonna fall in love with her work just as much as I have. And finally, we have. Jennifer Wilken Penick, who is a collage artist, and I really love the way she does collage.

She was inspired in childhood by her mom who would have her cut up magazine pages and encourage her to make mosaics. Just simple little projects like that would keep her inspired and making art and not even realizing that this simple process could lead her to a lifelong mission of creating collage and mixed media artwork.

What I love talking to her about are two things. One, she lived in Rome. Yes, she did. And the flea markets inspire her. Just the way when I travel about flea markets inspire me, we can find those bits and pieces and then use them in our collage work. And I find that. Very relatable. Like most of us who are artists and collage artists. Mixed media artists. We love all those beautiful found objects. And the other thing that I love is that she works at Georgetown University Hospital as the visual artist in residence. So imagine that as a career, helping those who are there, whether for health reasons or to support family, or just for their mental health to be able to experience arts, through. An actual artist in residence there at the hospital, and you're going to hear all about it in today's episode of the Made Remarkable Podcast. I really appreciate you being here, and I so much appreciate your support and all that I've been doing. I know that there's so much going on in the world today, so many options, so the fact that you're still tuning in here, Listening, sharing and supporting us.

I just, it means the world to me, and I appreciate all the support that you've been giving me over the years. This Virtual Art Summit means the world to me, and I am so excited to bring it to you. Now enough, go get your tickets to the Virtual Art Summit, and then tune in to listen to these three really amazing women and the art and their voices on the idea of return to play.

So start with your name. E. Your name is E.

[00:08:40] e bond: Yes it is.

[00:08:41] Kellee Wynne Conrad: But letter E.

[00:08:43] e bond: Yes. A lowercase E to make any lower were interesting.

[00:08:48] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, I thought I had it hard with K E L L E E to spell Kelly, but apparently you just went for the E instead and skipped all the other letters. Well, your mom.

[00:08:59] e bond: Yeah. She did. She did. It was, yeah, definitely all my mom. She is a very interesting, kind of revolutionary human

[00:09:08] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Love it. So tell us a little bit about that and let's just go right into the creativity and nurturing of your childhood and, and where that name came from.

[00:09:18] e bond: Yeah, sure. My mom was a painter and an artist, before me, before I came along, and a teacher you know, an art teacher and I grew up with my mom and my grandmother, and they just were. Amazing. But the name came from her wanting me to have a clean slate. Like that's kind of how she described it, because my name is E Bond. And, she said that, of course this was a long time ago before the internet and before everybody documented everything and every human right.

You would have to meet me to learn anything about me. So you couldn't tell race or gender or religion or ethnicity. You couldn't tell anything by that name. So it was a clean slate.

[00:10:02] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That's a pretty fascinating way to come up with a name. Like I honestly have never met anyone with that kind of a story, and I love it.

Yeah, she's giving you the opportunity. I think the closest to that I've ever heard was Peekaboo Street. Do you remember that she was not given a name at birth and they waited until she could create her own name, like, but of course a kid is gonna. A name like that, that's so, yes. My, I think e's probably a little bit easier.

[00:10:34] e bond: Yeah, yeah. No, it's so true. But that's so cool. Yeah, cuz I mean, I remember my mom even saying that at one point. She's like, well, you can change it to whatever you want. You can, name yourself if you want. But of course by then I loved e Well, I always did. So there was never a problem.

I think the problem is, It's usually other people understanding it. You know? It was never me.

[00:10:55] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. I know I double checked like three or four times because when I reach out to someone and invite them to participate in anything, I wanna make sure I get the name right. I'm not just being general and I'm like, E Okay, so we'll just call her E then and yeah. Guess what? That's your name. That's it. Tell me more about like the creativity of your childhood and how that influenced you.

[00:11:19] e bond: Well, it was just perfect because I didn't have any pressure to be anything, like the way they raised me was just very open-hearted and open-handed.

So whatever my interests were, I was able to pursue them. Like there were no issues around, art. Or, like, oh, maybe that's not a good career. You know, they didn't have those kinds of ideas so for me, early on I just went toward art and I was always making things, always making collages.

There were all, always these projects around and there was never an issue, so I never thought anything of it, so I just figured, this is what I'll be when I get older or whatever. That's gonna be fine, you know? So it is a gift. Because as you grow up, you start to meet so many people who've had all these restrictions put on them.

Mm-hmm. By ideas or, you know,

[00:12:11] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Societal norms of picking a reliable job. And an artist apparently is not a reliable job.

[00:12:17] e bond: Yeah, yeah, totally.

[00:12:18] Kellee Wynne Conrad: And yet, but that's been your whole life now is something in the creative field, right.

[00:12:24] e bond: Exactly. Exactly. So for me, I don't know any different, it's hard to kind of even compare.

[00:12:30] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That's a real gift. A real gift. It is for it. Sure. So you ended up going to art school.

[00:12:37] e bond: I did, yeah, I went to an art high school, at 14 or whenever you go to high school. I can't remember. It's been so long. And then I went to a four year art college and then just continued to, pursue. Art in jobs and all sorts of things, and outside of jobs. So I've always thought about my life too, as just if I have a day job, that's great and then, but my real life or the life that continues, no matter what job I have, is always my art practice. Yeah. Which happens, in real life.

[00:13:10] Kellee Wynne Conrad: In real life. Yeah. You were a teacher, an instructor as well, weren't you?

[00:13:16] e bond: Yeah. I taught college for almost like a dozen years back in Philly. And I taught art, I taught typography and book binding Of course. Yeah. A lot of book art and a lot of things related to graphic design, cuz graphic design was my undergrad major.

So, I taught things that were also related to that, but I loved it. I loved teaching, I loved it just from the beginning.

[00:13:39] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, you're still a teacher in a lot of ways still now, aren't you?

[00:13:42] e bond: Totally, totally.

[00:13:43] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I mean, its different, different format,

[00:13:45] e bond: Just different formats. That's it. Yeah. And I think that's just kind of the same way our art practices do too.

Like we just will keep evolving. But you know, hopefully if we stick with it, we're just still making, it might not be the same medium or in the same way, but it's all still there.

[00:14:04] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, as long as that curiosity keeps leading you to the next thing. So what led you to California from Philadelphia? I don't know if there was something in between that, but you're not instructing in Philadelphia anymore, so where did the shift happen for you?

[00:14:20] e bond: So I lived in Philly for about 20 years and I always say I was doing like two of the three things, meaning like practicing art, like making books, teaching and or being a designer.

So like two of those things were always in rotation. Mm-hmm. Which is how I was able to sort. A really content life for me. But, I kept wanting to go back to grad school. That's what it was. And I tried multiple times in Philly at different points in my life and it just never worked out.

It just never stuck. Mm-hmm. And finally I thought, maybe if you wanna continue teaching, maybe at other, not just in art schools, but in. Liberal arts kind of colleges, you should probably get a grad degree. So that's what kind of started to send me on this idea and. Going back to school, older, I went back to school at maybe like 38. I knew I'd had all this life. I'd lived all this life. So I was like, well, if I'm gonna take a pause and, change my entire life, like sell my house and sell my studio and do all these things, and I just wanna go back to school for something that I will utterly enjoy, it's just gonna be Yeah, complete.

Joy. So I decided, and it was a hybrid program of book art and poetry. And there was only one place in the country that did like this hybrid, degree. And it was in Oakland, California.

[00:15:44] Kellee Wynne Conrad: What school did you go to?

[00:15:46] e bond: I went to Mills College.

[00:15:47] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Okay. I have heard of it cuz I'm a Cali girl, that's exciting.

[00:15:52] e bond: Yeah, so that's what sent me here to, to California, and I've just been here ever since. It's been almost 10 years now.

[00:15:59] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Wow. Do you miss the East Coast?

[00:16:01] e bond: Oh, totally. Are you kidding me? It's just in you, you know, I'm definitely an East Coast person on the West coast, but I love the extreme differences that that is too,

[00:16:14] Kellee Wynne Conrad: it's so amazing how much of a difference it is and, and unless you've experienced it, like literally lived it, it's taken me a long time to be a West Coast girl. Living on the East Coast. On the East Coast, yes. And it is really, really, now it's ingrained in me and I do love it. I don't know that I'd ever go back to the West coast. My husband is here of course, but Right. Yeah. There is a little bit more of a freedom and a natural, tendency to go creative on the west coast.

Mm-hmm. I think on the east coast. People wanna be more sensible. Mm-hmm. We put that in air quotes. Right? Right. So I have to bring in my West Coast beliefs and vibe to my kids. Like, you don't have to do all the traditional things. You don't even have to finish college if you don't want to. You just have to find something that will make you happy and support you and so far they've decided that they don't wanna do art, so,

[00:17:06] e bond: ok. You know, they gotta like follow their own path. Right. Right. Exactly. It's so interesting what people pick and how humans evolve.

[00:17:15] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, exactly. I love it. Like what are you doing now then? You've been a decade in California. And what kind of magic has happened for you there?

[00:17:25] e bond: I think so much magic has happened, but In the beginning, when I was in this graduate program, I kind of fell in love with the actual landscape of California because it mm-hmm. Such a very, very different mm-hmm. Like physical space.

And so much of that started to affect my work on all these levels. And you know, my master's thesis literally was about old growth redwoods and you know, like, The stories, and so I would travel up and down the coast. Here I am in grad school, but I was spending like every moment, traveling up and down the coast, going to every single redwood forest I could find, and the more old growth, the better.

I'd been all the way up to Oregon, all the way back down, to Big Sur and it was becoming this obsession. It wasn't even about grad school anymore. It was about. What was I learning from these really ancient systems so I think the magic that California gave me was this different way of thinking about time.

And about how systems work together, how things grow. And that has become such a integral part of kind of like what I make, like the marks I make, and the way I approach just almost everything now is it because of like that learning i I got from these forests? You know?

[00:18:53] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Did you just feel so connected, like you were part of it?

Did you see? Yeah, it was, did you see that? Like that's how I felt because I grew up amongst the redwoods. Like I think that's why I will always. Lean towards forest and mountain over ocean. I love the ocean too, but there is something very magical. And I would spend more than one time a year, we would go camping in the redwoods or stay in cabins or lodges or whatever.

And Sequoia was my home. Like, it's still my home in my heart. Those redwoods. You can just touch them and feel the energy. It's so magic.

[00:19:30] e bond: Yeah. And you can't explain it, right?

[00:19:32] Kellee Wynne Conrad: And it's so weird. Cause I was thinking of that the other day. Like the lifespan of a human or of a mammal.

Yeah. Versus the lifespan of a tree. A redwood tree. Yes. Yes. Who's been here before?

[00:19:45] e bond: Before time.

[00:19:46] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, before the, before the Europeans came and this whole new world that we created around it and almost destroyed it, but like, seriously, what a magical thing to infuse into your art.

And how did it show up in your art?

[00:20:01] e bond: Well, it showed up so much in the writing, like in the poetry. Mm-hmm. But also in the mark making. So I started to think about perspective more in terms of, who was telling stories and how were they being told? So for instance, if I were telling a story based on a human who's lived half of a century versus a redwood who's lived 2400 years mm-hmm. Like, what would the difference in those stories be so the biggest things that kept being infused into the work, and it's very unconscious or subconscious in the beginning, you know, you're not knowing that you're being affected on all these levels. Mm-hmm. But everything started to become almost like these map-like. Drawings or these ways of me thinking about systems, thinking about how things are growing. So the actual marks I was making started to change even as much as the words and the poetry or whatever, that would also be infused in the work. Because so much of my work too, is always words and images. Words and images, and I think it's because of my design background. I'm used to, infusing those things together and it's so fun for me. I want to always. Be thinking about language and always be thinking about marks.

[00:21:19] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I love that it comes hand in hand for you and where your inspiration comes from.

Is it still what's influencing you now, or are there other things that are influencing the mark? Making the art. Making the book. Making the word making.

[00:21:34] e bond: Yeah. I think it's always this underlying thing, and I'm always reading about. Science more I just feel like science becomes more and more a part of the background of how I am trying to see the world.

Mm-hmm. but also language has become a huge part of how I've been making a lot of marks. I've been designing fabric, recently, and all the fabric I've designed three lines of fabric so far, and all of those are rooted in. Language. And so the marks that I'm making it starts with this origin story, that I made up of like, well, what would happen if we got to reinvent how we, Communicated with each other.

And what would that alphabet look like? What would those marks look like? So that collection was called glyphs, and then next one was called Root, which was how do we share certain words with different subsets of how we think. Like how does a forest use the same words as say, the digital systems of the internet?

Things like that. Mm-hmm. And then the third one, is about, disintegrating language or having an alphabet like the Roman alphabet that we all, Speak with at least in America. And then taking apart those shapes and trying to see like what happens when we literally like take it back apart and bring it back to just glyphs again.

So I think language has become such a huge part of what I've been interested in lately or the past, five, six years. But the trees are still in there. I think they're all in there.

[00:23:13] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well it's understanding the connection with that, but it's more than just language. It sounds like. It's also the written word, like what are our Oh, yeah. Right. That's so exciting. Like, I'm excited. Dive into what you're doing and learn more from you. Like, this is where I wanna go with art. Like it's, yeah. It's purposeful in a completely different way.

It's a process that's really divine and I appreciate that about you. I think that caught my eye just from seeing you in social media and in your feed, but also the bookmaking is really fascinating to me as well, so I love that you've found that as to be like your constant.

Yeah. That's really cool.

[00:23:57] e bond: It. Is that's a perfect word for it. It's my constant. I think I have maybe two in the world and it's bookmaking and sketchbooks, always have a sketchbook going and it's nothing that I ever have to think about or I don't have to force my, it's just it's usually just on the coffee table or somewhere and something happens in it and it's just a daily thing. And bookmaking is also that, although it's not always daily, but it's always this through line running in the background where maybe it's because It's with my hands and mm-hmm. Like I sew. Like last night I'm watching some bad tv, but I'm sewing book blocks.

Yeah. You know why I'm doing it. It's just that idea of such a lovely thing to do with my hands. And after like 25 years, your hands know what to do. It's muscle memory. Yeah. So you're not thinking it's that beautiful thing, like when your mind can wander, but your hands are moving.

It's like when you go walk meditative. Walking. Yeah, it's the same thing. I think kinda from the like walking a trail, it's the same thing. Just like a different part of your body's moving.

[00:25:02] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I love that. So the theme of the summit is return to play. So I'd love to hear some advice from you on returning to play and how you incorporate that or how you like to teach it to your students.

[00:25:16] e bond: Well, I loved this theme. That was why immediately I was like, yes, I wanna do that one, like that, do the virtual art summit because I love play. I love the idea of play, and I think it should just be. Integral to everyone's life, let alone their practice. Right. Like, forget about art. Just life.

[00:25:35] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Just life. There you go. It's not just about art. This is about our whole life.

[00:25:39] e bond: Our whole life. Like cuz you think about like, why did we ever think that we shouldn't be playing? We grow up playing. Did we think just because we got older, somehow we don't need that release anymore? For me, of course it does come out most of the time in art, or in my art making. Mm-hmm. So it is easier for me to talk about it, through that lens, And again, a lot of it's sketchbook, like the things where you're not thinking about end product, you're not thinking about outcome.

You are just making for the pure joy of making, and to me, play is very much about in the moment creation. So when I'm teaching it, I always am trying to get people to stay in that mode as long as you can. Sustain it, you don't have to change to your editor brain or to the place where you start to critique or whatever.

Try to stay in that moment of like pure creation. Because I really think you learn so much there, and that's what I'm always trying to get, I'm trying to learn as much as I can because then I can. Draw a circle around that stuff and then you can take it into your formal work. But just learn as much as you can, pay attention to what you are,

doing while you're playing or the things you're interested in and the things you're curious about. Like in those moments, pay attention to yourself in those moments. Cuz I think those are the things that really tell you what you wanna be pursuing,

[00:27:06] Kellee Wynne Conrad: And the key word you said there that I caught was turn your editor brain off. And we do that. We self-edit all the time. Well, this isn't good enough and I need to change this and it should be like this. And that's the wrong color. But what if it's not the wrong color? What if having picked the most wackiest things that your intuition just called to you and you're playing? That's where the most amazing results are gonna come from. So yeah, turning off that critical mind, the editor mind really makes all the difference. But it's easier said than done. I think it's our human nature. however, I'm hoping with the whole advent of this summit this time around, we're really going to bring back that shift.

And yes, return to play meant for me. As people just in our daily life because we need it so bad that walk amongst the trees that mark making that hands busy while your heart is full and you're like maybe filling your head with ridiculous television shows, right? Sometimes that pleasure is just such a release from the day to day, and I'm with you a thousand percent on that.

Like we just need to bring more of that play and joy into our lives. Yeah. Yeah. So I have one more question for you, and I love to ask this of everyone that I have on the podcast and that I get to interview. What are your big audacious goals?

[00:28:31] e bond: Woo. Big audacious goals. I like that cuz that means I, oh, I should be more like big audacious dreams.

B a d bad. Let's be bad. Bad. Okay. Okay. Big audacious dreams. Like specifics.

[00:28:45] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Sure. It doesn't matter anything. What pulls up in your heart? Like, this is the playful part of us. Remember when we were kids and we thought that we'd be pirates or astronauts or whatever. Like when you really dream.

[00:28:58] e bond: Yeah. I usually want to be writing books about the trees and, Somehow combining science and art and sketch booking in these like weird wild ways. I wanna be making books, that adults. Can be reading that almost feel like the books that we got to read as children, where there's images and stories and all these things in one.

Because I love reading so much and I read so much and I just miss, the integration of words and images in adult fiction, non-fiction literature, all of it.

[00:29:37] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Right. Okay. Well, I'm gonna encourage that from you because honestly, that would be a book that I would buy.

[00:29:47] e bond: Yeah, yeah. Right.

[00:29:48] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Make the thing that you wish existed, and I bet you a million bucks that

you would make a million bucks on that idea? My personal opinion, because it's a beautiful idea. Like more than just diagrams, it's like

[00:30:04] e bond: No, yeah. Emotional. Yeah. How do we interpret this information? Both written on the page and also visually on the page. How do those things come together?

Mm-hmm. And for topics that normally wouldn't get that kind of treatment, like it always seems to be reserved for certain topics or genres, but why not everything, we get beautiful pictures in cookbooks, but we don't get them in a science book or in, a physics book

[00:30:29] Kellee Wynne Conrad: yeah. And then we just add to that dream is to put you in a little beautiful cabin or lodge in the middle of the trees. There you go. So that you're constantly absorbing all their beautiful, magical energy

[00:30:42] e bond: and all of their lessons. Yes. I need it.

[00:30:44] Kellee Wynne Conrad: All their lessons. Yeah, exactly. I love that so much.

Thank you so much for joining me in the Virtual Art Summit and for this interview, and I cannot wait to get to know you better and learn more from you.

[00:30:57] e bond: Thank you so much for inviting me to the summit. and I hope that a lot of people really enjoy, they're going to what they're gonna make cuz it's about like, again, about words and images.

[00:31:06] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think it's gonna open up their minds and hearts in a way that they

[00:31:09] e bond: weren't expecting.

Okay, great.

[00:31:12] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Thank you.

[00:31:14] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So glad that you said yes and that I get to see the inspiration behind your beautiful art. I love like there's just something so soothing and gorgeous and like captivating. When I see it come through my feed, plus you use my favorite Colors helps.

[00:31:30] Carissa Gan: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[00:31:33] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Thank you. I think that it really, you did the grid journal, didn't you? That really drew me into, I'm like, oh, now I'm paying attention. I'm seeing what she's doing, and I see how it really relates to the rest of your work too.

[00:31:49] Carissa Gan: Yeah. And I really like how the theme about this whole thing is about return to play. Cause I feel like that is something that has really, really resonated with me throughout my whole journey as an artist as well.

[00:31:59] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, tell me more about that journey. I see that you're like very multifaceted, you have a lot of interests and you live in a beautiful country.

That must be inspiring all the time. So just tell me, tell us everyone who's listening, like your story of how you ended up where you're at right at the moment.

[00:32:16] Carissa Gan: Okay. For me, I feel like as a child, I never considered myself an artist, but I've always enjoyed colors, and just because I can't paint like everyone else, like a lot of my talented friends, they can draw, they can paint really well, and I would always feel that, I cannot, paint objects or nature and things like that.

So I just never thought that art was for me. But, I've always liked colors and so I started photography around 17, and I really enjoyed photography, but I think what I enjoyed the most about it was the color editing process, like the post-processing part of it. So I only started my abstract art journey in 2020 when my country went into a lockdown because of the pandemic.

And so art was my way of like escaping away from, whatever was going on with work and everything else, and just, Disappearing into this whole zone where I dug out my old watercolors and I just started practicing putting colors on paper just for fun. I didn't really know anything about abstracts at the time, so, for me it was just, the joy of seeing like different colors interact with each other.

And it just kind of started from there.

[00:33:20] Kellee Wynne Conrad: 2020 did that for a lot of people. A renewed sense of creativity as an outlet. We were all in lockdown to one level or another, and yeah. Needed that expression. And what I love is that you've just like exploded since then. I see your work and your account is growing and your talent is growing.

It's really fun to watch like this journey and I've seen it for many, but it's just really fun to see how many more people are coming back to creativity. Mm-hmm. I think a lot of it is, is after the pandemic, we all realized that we can't let life pass us by. And so of course I chose Return to Play because things have been so serious and we just need that outlet.

Where does that leave some of your other hobbies? Like, do you just lean in more and more towards your art practice now?

[00:34:11] Carissa Gan: I really love photography and writing. So I used to do freelance photography, but now I do it more for myself and I don't do like weddings and events anymore.

And my other hobby, is writing. I used to do a lot of creative writing. I've always wanted to write a thriller novel, but I haven't started. Yeah. I think most of my time right now has been dedicated more into my art because I recently went full-time into making this a business as well.

[00:34:38] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Oh, you are full-time. How exciting.

[00:34:42] Carissa Gan: Just very recently, in the last like five, six months or so.

[00:34:46] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. So what are your goals with that? Like to sell your work? Are you looking towards doing more teaching

[00:34:53] Carissa Gan: I feel like I have a lot of goals for my business. I'm one of those very ambitious people.

So, definitely to sell more, that is a dream to sell more, to take on more commissions, and also to be able to sell my work to like cafes or hotels. I think that would be really fun. I did an in-person workshop for the first time last year, and that was really fun. So I'm looking at doing more workshops, this year and maybe also doing like an online workshop for the international audience as well.

[00:35:23] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. Is most of your audience Malaysian or do you have a global audience?

[00:35:29] Carissa Gan: I think it's a good mix of local and a lot of them are also based in the US and internationally as well.

[00:35:36] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So you're reaching the far corners of the earth.

[00:35:40] Carissa Gan: Oh, thanks to Instagram. Yeah.

[00:35:42] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Tell me more about like your inspiration.

You said with photography a lot of what you loved was the after process of color editing, and so mm-hmm. That's informing your art style and art and your color choices. I'm sure. But where is your inspiration coming from? Where the color palettes that you choose to use and just how it all comes together?

[00:36:05] Carissa Gan: Yeah, I think that's really interesting because I feel like I get inspiration from a lot of random things, sometimes it's nature, sometimes I'm looking out at the sky and I just see colors, the way colors are together. For instance, the cloud and the grayish sky. And I would think, oh, maybe gray and white and a little bit of blue would be a nice palette.

When I go out and I go to parks, I really like earthy colors, like browns and greens. I think those are my favorites still. But recently I've been really drawn to the pinks. The peach and the oranges.

So I feel like even with my art style, I do find myself, really interested in trying new colors in the season as well.

[00:36:44] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. But I do notice that they have, instead of being like a pure saturated, they have a muted tone to them that are, are much more earthy and calming. And I love that aspect about how those colors come together.

That's really gorgeous to me. And I noticed you've been using some pops of gold.

[00:37:04] Carissa Gan: Yes. I love gold.

[00:37:06] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That's like the fun. Contrast to the soft colors.

[00:37:12] Carissa Gan: Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned that because I think I've been using gold from the beginning, and I don't know if I've ever painted a painting without gold. It's like I have to always add gold in into everything I do.

[00:37:25] Kellee Wynne Conrad: There's your little signature mark.

A little bit of gold to make it pop. I love it. I feel the same way. Like when I'm really in the mode of inspiration and like where I'm drawing it from, it's almost like you just have to open your eyes. Mm-hmm. whether it's like you're passing, like for right now it's spring and so the blossoms are coming out and how does that contrast with something else?

And like you said, just looking at the sky and you're like, it's not just blue, it's like a million different colors. So, yeah. Yeah. So it is a lot about. Just opening your eyes to what's around you. Yeah. Do you work more rurally or are you in a big city?

[00:38:03] Carissa Gan: I'm in a big city, unfortunately,

[00:38:06] Kellee Wynne Conrad: unfortunately. Well, Malaysia's one of the most densely populated countries in the world, so

[00:38:12] Carissa Gan: Yeah. Yeah. It's so, I'm the middle of traffic all the time, so I really wish I lived near nature, or, when you walk out of your door, there's a beautiful, outdoor area to explore or like the beach, but I don't have that.

I have to go maybe drive four hours to a beach or two hours to a beach.

[00:38:29] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. So where do you get the inspiration for nature? You just have to find the little pockets of it, I guess.

[00:38:36] Carissa Gan: Yes, I have plants at home, but I guess like when I go out sometimes, and like I do, I live in a condo, so I have like the view of.

The roads in the sky, and I'm really blessed that I have a very. A good view of the sunset. So I love sunset, so I think that's one of my inspirations as well. The color pellets.

[00:38:56] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, the sunset. Yeah. That's a great inspiration. I can see that completely. Well that pop of gold is almost like the sun glimmering as it's setting, huh?

[00:39:06] Carissa Gan: Yeah. Now that you mentioned it, that might be it.

[00:39:08] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So you started back up with watercolor, and I see you mix. The different mediums quite often. Mm-hmm. What's your process? One of my favorite things about what you do is like this I don't even know how to describe it, but like, it's centered on the page.


[00:39:22] Carissa Gan: and there's Oh, right, right

[00:39:23] Kellee Wynne Conrad: around your work. Yeah. So it's like those little gem sitting on the paper, like, what's your process and the materials that you love to use?

[00:39:33] Carissa Gan: Yeah, so I started with watercolor actually because that was what I had at home during the pandemic when I wanted to paint.

And then I started to include more tools, more mediums I suppose. And so for paper, I think it's a mix of watercolors and sometimes acrylics. I've also discovered that just watercolor alone is very beautiful on its own. And you can have that almost acrylic like thickness with watercolor Oh, just without adding so much of water.

So my process is usually, I think of what kind of colors I wanna use or, sometimes I don't actually have the full color palette in my mind. I just wing it as I go. I might start with, maybe I want like a paint gray, like a blue, and then I add on from there and I just go with whatever I think, compliments that look.

The first layers are normally for me putting colors down and then I will go back and maybe add more marks or add in more layers and textures.

[00:40:26] Kellee Wynne Conrad: More, more thickness and opacity. I noticed that. Yeah, there is a contrast between the translucency and then the opacity as you build up those layers.

It's really beautiful. Yeah. Well, thank you. I noticed you use your sketchbook a lot. Do you use that as a reference? I see you like mapping out little color palettes and like just sketch.

It's almost like the mode of a grid is, seems to be a natural outlet for you.

[00:40:55] Carissa Gan: Yeah, I feel that, there's something about the tiny, four little square grids. Yeah. That make me feel very relaxed when I paint as compared to one large painting. But I do the grids mostly just for color exploration, or just to play, have fun, test out colors together.

And it's also because sometimes I feel like I have a lot of. I don't know whether creative energy is the word. So having four things helped me to spread it all out, if that makes sense.

[00:41:23] Kellee Wynne Conrad: That's why I love the grid as well, or if I'm not working on a grid, I'm usually working on several paintings at one time.

Yeah. One mark forms the other mark, and so it's like, okay, I like how this works. Now what if I like reversed the amount? Like if this is blue and a little bit of orange? What if I did a lot of orange and a little bit of blue? Like Yeah. Yeah. Or multiple pieces for that reason is like your brain starts working in these what if possibilities

[00:41:49] Carissa Gan: That's exactly it. Yeah.

[00:41:50] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. You can really play with it that way, but that's a lot of fun. Tell me about play and the meaning of play in your life and like I'm hearing this often. Mm-hmm. Most of the people who are participating in the Virtual Arts Summit are like, the theme really resonated with me, which is, Very delightful for me because I know that it's gonna resonate with everyone who's participating.

Cuz we need play so much right now. And not just in our art, but in life in general. So talk to me more about like, how come, why did it resonate with you and what advice do you have about play?

[00:42:24] Carissa Gan: So play is a very personal thing for me because I think that when I first started painting, like during the pandemic, I wasn't thinking about even creating an Instagram account for my art.

I was just doing it for fun, because it was therapeutic for me. I really enjoyed it and there were no expectations or boundaries that I set when I was doing it. And I think once I started to sell my art, I think that I, being a perfectionist as well, I put a lot of. Pressure on myself. And initially I would get very frustrated, especially, when you're spending hours painting on a canvas and, at the end of it you're not happy with it.

And I would just get really frustrated. I used to throw canvases away, which I learned later on. You don't have to, you can actually put 'em aside and go back and rework them. But, I think that, for a while I had a bit of a fear of painting because I was afraid that. I lost it or that, I didn't enjoy it anymore.

But when I learned to just let go of that expectation of how I needed it to turn out, I realized that I could create in a much more clear way. And I think the fear, the expectations that I put on myself and on my work had been like boundaries that I set and it restricted me from. coming through

so I think that play is really important for every artist, to allow your inner self to come out, explore. and I think that a lot of times we're afraid of, making mistakes with our art. And so in my art nowadays I try to just. Allow myself to make mistakes.

Just play, have fun, allow the process to be what it needs to be.

[00:43:59] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah. But then they're not really mistakes, they're just part of the journey. And the perfectionism really hits hard for a lot of people, especially those who want to sell their work. That changes the whole.

Objective of creating. Now you're like, oh, I need an end product. And like you said, it goes from why you fell in love with the, the creative mode in the first place. Mm-hmm. It changes everything to be thinking about a product rather than the, the process. And I think it's been a very similar conversation with almost everyone that we've talked.

For the virtual art summit is. Mm-hmm. So how to shift from that perfectionist mode, from, from thinking that you've gotta get it right or it's a waste of time to, I'm just here for the process and in the process. We do end up with product. There's no doubt about it. Like you said, you don't have to throw away something cuz it didn't turn out.

Turn it over. Don't look at it for a week or two months. Paint over it. Do whatever you've gotta do and let that inform the decision. It's hard to let go of that perfectionism though.

[00:45:07] Carissa Gan: It's, and especially cuz I'm the kind of person where I like to finish. What I start in the moment, and I don't like to go back to things, so I always feel the need to, I have to finish this now and I think that was one of the wrong mindsets I had when it came to art, like you were saying.

For me, I think when I allowed myself to just have fun and not think about, oh, I'm gonna create this to sell. When I stopped thinking about that, then I felt like I was able to just play. And try all these bold marks, bold, crazy marks. Not caring if it was gonna be pretty or pretty bad. And


[00:45:41] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Did you see a big push in your artwork to evolve to the next place when you finally let go and were able to to do that?

[00:45:50] Carissa Gan: Yes, I think so. So I think at the start of this year, I started painting a lot more because the previous years I was. pretty busy I had like a freelance copywriting job that I was doing, so art was always an aside for me, and I wasn't able to create as much.

When I went full-time, I started to paint a lot more. And I think that creativity came back again, that joy to play and have fun just came back.

[00:46:13] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, you're without the time constraints, I'm sure that opens up, but for some people, more time just means freezing up more. Yeah. Yeah. So like, just put yourself in that playful mood.

What are some of the most playful things that you do for yourself as you're creating it, that advice that you can give to our listeners? Like give us an example. I know I'm putting you on the spot, but give us an example of something fun besides, I know the grid is a great solution,

[00:46:39] Carissa Gan: like when I'm creating? Yeah. How I get into that relaxed mode is I like to play music that I feel gets me in the mood for creating, usually it's sometimes it's pop music or instrumentals and I just try different tools. I love using a lot of random tools when I paint, not just brushes, but like wedges or even, butter knifes and the brush when you dye your hair like the hair off. Yeah. So all those random things. And I feel like that adds a lot of fun into the art that we're creating.

And sometimes I just squeeze the paint directly from the tube directly onto the paper. And I like the spontaneous mark that it makes because it's not like a clean thing where you apply with a brush. It's random, right? So I feel like these are little elements of play that do come in.

I think that the more I paint, the more I realize that I like my work to be not so. Clean and not so neat. I like it imperfect. You know? I like it with all these edges and stuff. Yeah,

[00:47:39] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think that's why there's so much interest in your work, because if it was clean lines, it wouldn't have that depth, and it definitely has depth.

So I love that about you. Thank you. Okay. I'm gonna ask you my favorite question that I love to ask everyone, and I'm going to put you on the spot because everyone is like, huh? What is your big audacious dream?

[00:48:00] Carissa Gan: My big audacious dream. I do have a lot, but I think one of it is I love to travel.

Mm-hmm. So I would love to travel the world and be able to either live in a few countries for maybe a few months and, and do like workshops there or, sell paintings there. I think that would be really lovely, but, might be in the future. I hope

[00:48:23] Kellee Wynne Conrad: that's a great plan. I love that. What more could we ask for as artists? Who put our whole work is in our art. So not everyone has the freedom to move about, but especially because you're so young, it's the time to just go and explore and take our art on the road. That would be really exciting.

I love that dream. Yeah. I, I think I'm almost to the place where I could do it too, because my youngest is in high school, so mm-hmm. We're almost, you could do it. I can do it too. My husband, he can take a break from me for a little bit.

[00:48:58] Carissa Gan: You should come to Malaysia.

[00:49:00] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I would love to. You see so many really exciting things about Kuala Lump Perso.

It would be a really, interesting and probably unexpected trip because I know less about Malaysia than I do about some of the other Southeast, Asian countries. But I love that. The internet, Instagram has helped us connect. That's such an exciting thing, and we have artists from around the globe.

This time we have one in China even. So it's like really fun. Connect with so many different points of view and voices and I'm so glad Carissa, make sure that you tell us. How do we find you on Instagram? It's wildflower culture. And everyone can find Carissa and her gorgeous art there.

And of course the Virtual Arts Summit. So thank you so much for joining me.

[00:49:51] Carissa Gan: Thank you, Kellee, for having me. It's been so fun chatting with you as well.

[00:49:56] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So, hello neighbor. I haven't even gotten to talk to you before, but Jennifer, thank you so much for participating in the Virtual Arts summit.

[00:50:03] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Thanks for inviting me.

[00:50:05] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So, what's new lately? Let's just start with like, what are you doing?

[00:50:11] Jennifer Wilken Penick: One of the things that I have been working on just recently is a call for art. I'm artist in residence at Georgetown Hospital and we thought it'd be fun in conjunction with World Collage Day, since I love collage. Mm-hmm. To have a call for art where people could send in four by four inch collages, we would display them inside the hospital.

For world collage day, and then we'll attach them to blank greeting cards to give to patients, caregivers, their families and hospital staff. I hadn't anticipated how appealing that would sound to people. It has been forwarded and published so many places that so far I have close to 1000 submissions.

Oh wow. Every day I spend about an hour just logging in all the art that's arriving. And what most people are saying is, thank you. And I, it's a powerful message that artists or creative people can create something that then brings joy to others. And so people have just loved this idea. So it's sort of like the practical side of what we do. It's fun to make art and then to think you could actually give it away and, make someone's day. So it's been, an unexpectedly big part of my life because I somehow thought maybe we'd get a couple hundred and I'm thinking it'll be closer to 2000.

[00:51:31] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Probably, and now I wanna participate because honestly, what's appealing about it is it's an easy ask. It's not a big piece, it's not complicated. You don't have to overthink it.

[00:51:42] Jennifer Wilken Penick: And people, write and say, shall I frame it? Should I put it on canvas? Nope. Just pop it in a regular envelope. So it's very accessible, we've had children do it. We've had accomplished artists whose work I love do it.

So it's very egalitarian. Like everybody gets to do it. Everyone's gonna have their work on equal footing with artists from around the world. We've got submissions so far from about 15 or 16 countries.

[00:52:06] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Wow. Oh, I love that. I know. It's such a feeling. I'm right there in my backyard and I wasn't even paying attention. See, this is the thing about social media. We see things, we scroll, we stop sometimes, but we don't always read everything that's available. And I follow you and I love your work. I'm, but like, did I notice that you were doing this?

[00:52:28] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Well, Now you do.

[00:52:30] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Now I do. See, but that is the thing that I hope people realize that. Just things go so fast on social media that we miss it. That's why we have to repeat it many times. And you probably have, and I've still missed it,

[00:52:43] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I actually don't post too much about it because I also manage the hospital's Instagram account, so I mainly post it there. And you probably, yeah. Following Georgetown Hospital, understandably. But it's true. There's, there's also so much interesting work out there to look at. But we only have so many hours of the day we can devote to scrolling Instagram, so it is easy to miss things, and it's great to have some in-depth looks at what people are doing.

[00:53:08] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think that might be why I love podcasts so much is because it's actually a slow connection rather than a quick connection. So I've really enjoyed this medium a lot, and then I get to know artists, even artists that are neighbors to me.

[00:53:21] Jennifer Wilken Penick: In DC you have to come over for a cup of coffee.

[00:53:24] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, I would love to, or even to stroll the museums because it's been a while. I mean, it's been pre pandemic since the last time I went.

[00:53:31] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Oh, wow. Yeah.

[00:53:32] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Seen art in person. It's like such an important part of being an artist, being a human, really.

Right. I would love that. I would love to know more about your journey. I love your art. You have really clever and. Intriguing ideas. I scroll through and I'm like, oh, I love how she put that together. I'm really excited for your summit lesson, but tell me about your art journey.

[00:53:58] Jennifer Wilken Penick: So I did study art as an undergraduate and then at a certain point I thought, this is completely impractical. I should get a practical degree. And so I did a fifth year so I could get a degree in English literature. Well, I'm not sure that was super practical. I went on take a Master's in art history. I lived in Italy for 25 years, which is, A great place to learn to cook, learn how to drive and have access to Rome's amazing flea market, which is right near my house.

So I would've all these really cool papers, that just cost, nothing, 18th century Italian letters and engravings. Oh, and I've always loved paper and collage. From the time I was an undergrad, it actually goes even back further. But, I was a university administrator. For an American university while I lived in a Rome, but I always made sure that I made time to make art and I would always have friends over and have what we called art days.

And so when I fell in love with someone who lived in DC and after 25 years moved back to the US, I thought, what am I gonna do? I can't possibly be a university administrator anymore. My cell phone was on 365 days, 24 hours for student emergencies. So I wanted something. Totally different. And I started out by volunteering at a local contemporary art museum, in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river.

So I helped hanging exhibitions and that allowed me to get to know a whole community of. Great women who are working in the arts and doing outreach. And I started teaching classes for kids and then I morphed into teaching classes for adults. And now it's been a decade, and I loved it, but I think that everything influences everything else.

So teaching kids has kept me trying to be spontaneous and playful and use, fun colors and repeating shapes that are really accessible and I teach online for the hospital. I'm a paid artist in residence, not, a volunteer, but my participants are all over the world and I can't count on them having a lot of, art supplies.

I usually have a class of about a hundred people. I teach a same class. Twice a week. So I reach a lot of people and my thing is, is whatever I make, you can make it with whatever art materials you bring to the table. So that keeps things loose and playful, and super accessible so that, so what I've ended up doing has influenced my own art for sure.

[00:56:20] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Well, for sure, because that means like whatever paper is on hand, you need glue. And almost everyone has pencils on hand, so it's like, where do you resource the paper? My junk mail's a great source for, for paper.

[00:56:33] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Absolutely. And I tell people, they think, oh, I don't have like special collage glue and a great source of papers.

And I said, actually, you can use. Your junk mail, mail order catalogs, wrapping paper. And so I often make collages with whatever is currently on my desk because I always have paper scraps on my desk. Right. And, it's just a fun lesson to keep it loose, keep it fun, which is why the topic of this virtual art summit is so great because I really concentrate on fun and accessible.

[00:57:04] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, play is really like the main reason why we wanna be making art all the time. Right, exactly. Yep.

[00:57:14] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Ever since the pandemic, that's when the hospital started having these classes. And people would write to me and say, it's amazing the time I spend in your art class. I'm not thinking about the anxiety I feel about covid or loneliness or, isolation.

I've realized what a great way it is for people to deal with all kinds of situations.

[00:57:32] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So the people who are joining you for these, you find 'em through the hospital, are they just. The public in general, or are they connected to the hospital somehow?

[00:57:43] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Originally, we just sent out a mailing to people who had some affiliation with the hospital, which meant most of them were cancer survivors or people in dealing with cancer currently.

But then we realized that for the same amount of effort I could actually teach a much bigger class. I have assistants in class. Mm-hmm. So someone who handles a chat and the questions, and it actually works out, it sounds like it would be too big, but we've created this sort of big community and we opened it up to.

Basically anyone who wants to sign up. And so there is this core, of people who are affiliated with the hospital or are local. But now we had a woman yesterday in class who said, I'm gonna go, I'm really tired. I'm in India and it's midnight. You should go then. but so now it definitely reaches, a much broader audience.

But the name class is de-stress with art, creativity, jumpstart de-stress. So it definitely appeals to people who are feeling stressed out for some reason and thinking that's what I mean. I need to try art to chill.

[00:58:43] Kellee Wynne Conrad: But it works too. That's the thing, story over and over and over again, especially from 2020 on, is how much it's helped.

Really save people's wellbeing. So it makes sense. I was like, what's the connection with the hospital in making art? But art is therapeutic. Art is healing, art is nurturing, art is playful. So it's all the things that make us feel better. We gotta reduce those cortisol levels right.

[00:59:13] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Yep. No, it's just been reinforced again and again. And now I've been teaching these classes well since the beginning of the pandemic, and they're still going strong. The hospital also realized it's a great way to make known what they do. This arts and humanities program is a robust one. They've got 15 artists on staff, and now everyone knows about it.

We hear about, other people doing arts and healthcare. So it's been a win-win for everyone.

[00:59:40] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Okay, now let's go back a little time to Italy because I don't know many people who've lived overseas. I got to live overseas for a short time, for less than four years. And I lived in Belgium, Southern Belgium, in the French speaking part.

And I'm obsessed with all things like Italy, Europe, France, Germany, the Netherlands. Like I probably should have just done what you did and moved there and lived there for life. But I still had responsibilities with kids wanting to come back to the US to go to school. So, maybe one day I'll return again.

In fact, I keep dreaming about that. But the paper for me, and probably for you as well, it's like, it's not in English, it's not American stuff. And it's really old oftentimes. So I'd love to hear, just like you said, you're near the, the flea markets, near the antiques, and really, honestly, there's treasures to be found. What was like the catalyst to inspire you into collage with that?

[01:00:44] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I always did collage Like my mom started me collaging as a kid by cutting up magazines and giving me paste. So I've always been drawn to collage. I loved it even in art school. I think there are these vendors in Rome where they have tables of vintage paper and books and postcards and photos, and I just thought that having a piece of paper that sort of spoke so much of. Nostalgia in time and history for an art historian. It just looks so beautiful and so rich that, and then I realized that the guy who sells the paper, I got to know him on a first name basis and I'd say, come on, who's buying this paper?

I'm buying like half sheets of weird things cuz I'm gonna use them in collages. So he would give me terrific discounts cuz usually the paper would cost one euro a piece. Right? Which still is cheap. But I would get, a good deal and get a whole wad of paper. And then every time I go, I still have some because I haven't worked through all of it, right?

Sometimes I would just get things that would be good for backgrounds or just sort of interesting like letters. but when I go back, I almost all. Always planned to be in Rome on a Sunday so I can go back to the flea market. I was back in December, my guy, I said, where are all your letters and stuff?

And he said, I didn't bring them today. And I said, I can't. I should have like been in touch with you. He just had postcards and books, but I still, I got a bunch.

[01:02:01] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So you get to go back regularly?

[01:02:03] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I try. I mean, I've only been back once since the pandemic, but before that I actually led tours to Italy for a while. Like five art and food and culture tours, which have been really fun.

[01:02:14] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Oh, do you have any work though? It's a lot of work. Are you have any intention of bringing that back again? Because I might nudge you for a trip to Italy.

[01:02:24] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I know I have. The problem is now that I don't know, somehow since Covid and since not doing it for these years, I have so many people who want to go.

So when I do another one, I think I'm gonna need to do like two or three back to back, so they're not too big and I can accommodate everybody. I would like to do another one. I just feel like for a long time I didn't wanna do them. I was afraid that with Covid there would be problems with people not coming and me arguing with, hotels about deposits and stuff.

So I thought, oh, well just wait till that's no longer a concern.

[01:02:52] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think we're finally getting to that phase.

[01:02:56] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I think so. Yeah, I think so.

[01:02:57] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I was able to start traveling again last year. It's hard to not travel when you're used to it, but it's also now hard to get out of my house when I've gotten so comfortable here.

[01:03:07] Jennifer Wilken Penick: I know. I'm so happy hanging out at home now. And also, I'm so lucky that I have, my studio is in a little carriage house behind our house, so it's just sort of little oasis that during the pandemic. I just basically would hang out here all the time and my classes all pivoted to being online. So my whole world just sort of shrunk into the size of my studio.

But my husband and I have traveled, and I know that people are traveling more easily and more willingly, so yes, and Italy tours in my future, I'm sure.

[01:03:40] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Right. We still need to see each other in person. I think that's calling a lot of us. Yeah, we are really comfortable here being at home and meeting on screens, which I'm very grateful for because I've stayed completely social over the last four years.

Like three years feels like eternity anyhow, the last three years it's been completely social and thanks to, video, but. We kind of need that energy of being around each other when you get to make art around other people, it like really feeds the soul. It feeds the community and it, and it helps spark new ideas the way that like online doesn't quite do.

[01:04:22] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Yeah, I love being able to look around a table and see how things are progressing in different people's work. And I've been teaching occasional classes online for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Arlington, where I've been teaching on and off for 10 years. But certainly less than I've been teaching online. I still teach kids in person and I actually love being, influenced by their art as well. Most of the kids I teach are under 12, and so they tend to have that sort of wonderful spontaneity and looseness that I think all of us grown up Artists strive for.

[01:04:57] Kellee Wynne Conrad: For real. Like they're in the process. They're the epitome of play and not thinking about a finished product. Yeah. And so what's some of the most unusual found papers and products that you or all of your students, like when you're encouraging them to use what they have and not worry about having to buy artist materials because to a real artist, everything is a material that you can use.

[01:05:23] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Oh people bring all kinds of interesting things into play. In my online classes, I always joke about people getting an award for the most curious material of the day. This week, someone said I can't remember why, but they decided to do their work of art on a flattened out aluminum foil baking pan, which they then colored with Sharpie.

So they sort of incised the lines. They decided they didn't wanna work on the paper. Oh, I know. We were doing a project inspired by Mary Blair's illustrations for Disney of Castles, and they said they wanted theirs to be all glittery, so they did theirs on aluminum. And I thought, whoa, that's original.

But I've had people use cut up straws, toothpicks, they'll combine in their collage whatever things they have. It's really fun to see. And what I do is I try to encourage them to take photos of their work and to upload them so that we can all see them better, even though we can't see them. In process of being made, we can see them online and then we start each class by going over the previous week's artwork.

[01:06:22] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Very fun. So any advice you can give on play?

[01:06:31] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Well, you just said it. I always tell people don't focus too heavily on the final product. A lot of times you think making art is all about making something that's sort of beautiful and meets some image you have in your mind of a finished product.

And if you can let go of that and let it be about experimenting and process and having fun with your materials, you'll find more of an original feeling in spontaneity and. And it's a better way to find your own direction than it is by trying slavishly to get something to look, the way you thought maybe it should look.

So when I give, creative prompts for my classes and try and keep 'em very loose and encourage them, now you take it and whatever direction appeals to you. And I think sometimes people think I wanna be told exactly what to do. You need to have fun be playful, be experimental because I think.

Experimenting is the key.

[01:07:27] Kellee Wynne Conrad: You give 'em the prompt, the starting point where they go with that. I wonder how often you run into people, like you said, they want the exact directions. Like, am I doing it right? Like, I'm sure you hear that, but when I teach, I hear people say that, am I doing it right?

I'm like, if you're doing it, you're doing it right.

[01:07:44] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Yeah. I think I've, taught them not to say that, not to say that with me because they know I repeat incessantly, take it in your own direction. make the project your own.

[01:07:53] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Okay. I'm gonna ask you one of my favorite questions to ask everyone and I think this is when we can get into our most playful spirit. What is your big audacious dream?

[01:08:06] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Big audacious dream? Well, I guess big is relative, like maybe someone else would think that's big. I would love to have the time to, turn a series of my own art into cards, but I want somehow to have words that go with the images and I'm not a very good word person.

And so I've always thought, if I had like an artist residency, I could just sit and I could work on this and not let all the other things I do creep in Something along those lines I think would be fun.

[01:08:37] Kellee Wynne Conrad: So you need an artist's residency where you can just be, and I'm assuming when you say make a series of cards, you're probably thinking of being able to have reproductions of them.

[01:08:48] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Right. Things that I would like to reproduce

[01:08:50] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I think your designs would lend really well to that. And many other like products I could see on journals or whatnot, that would be a lot of fun.

[01:08:59] Jennifer Wilken Penick: It'd be fun. Yeah. But I do feel like I'm always good at making things cause I'm always making things in my classes and with my students and participants, but it's really hard to find the time to just stop and work on elaborating something for a specific purpose.

[01:09:14] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Yeah, I'm with you. I struggle with that too. Oftentimes my art making is really directed by the lessons that I'm teaching. And I oftentimes will like get into a playful mode with it and stumble upon an idea, and then not having enough time to just explore it deeper.

[01:09:30] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Exactly. I'm always like making those like, oh, remember when you have time? Go back.

[01:09:35] Kellee Wynne Conrad: I was playing with Fluorescence and Black the other day and it was so much fun and I haven't had time to pick it up again, and now I'm on to the next project I need to work on. So maybe that's what we'll, encourage every one of the virtual Arts summit is to do it and then do it again, and then see where it takes you and do it again and set aside some actual time to play.

Yeah. Yep. Thank you so much, Jennifer. It was so fun to connect, and I do hope to make it to DC sooner than later in this beautiful spring weather that we're having.

[01:10:04] Jennifer Wilken Penick: Well, if you do, let me know and maybe we can meet up and see an exhibit together. I would love that.

[01:10:10] Kellee Wynne Conrad: Thank you so much.


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