This is the fifth and final installment in a series of stories about outstanding Oregon-based artists to follow on Instagram. The series focuses on accounts that are regularly updated with engaging content and high-quality images that allow followers to enjoy artwork regardless of location. Curated by the artists themselves, Instagram accounts offer a relaxed opportunity to view completed and in-progress artwork and to get a glimpse into the artists’ ideas, process, and studio practices.
As the summer flies by, I find myself trying to hang onto the season. I want to bask in the effulgence of the summer sky before we return to the more familiar gray of an Oregon fall. I want to eat my fill of local berries and stone fruit while they are still so ripe and perfect that they taste like sunshine. I am delighted by summer’s brash shapes, bright colors, and clean lines—in the topography, in my neighbors’ gardens, in the beautiful seasonal produce, and certainly in art.
The strong shapes and bold patches of color drew me to the work of painter and designer Jude Morales, potter Jess Faulk, and graphic designer and illustrator Madeline Kate Martinez. But the more I thought about these artists’ Instagram accounts, I noticed something I initially overlooked: all three include numerous images and videos of their process and works-in-progress. Morales, Faulk, and Martinez grant viewers access to their work both in the sense of finished artwork and in the sense of labor. They allow us to see the careful shaping, arranging, and editing that goes into making forms that are striking because they have been carefully, even painstakingly, simplified.
Salem-based artist and designer Jude Morales’ (@studio_morales) figurative acrylic paintings use abstraction to capture the vitality of the world around us. In Oregon Coast Breeze, a child in a striped shirt and shorts has waded into clear, blue water placid enough to hold undisturbed reflections on its surface. In the foreground, oblong tide pools filled with pink and purple starfish and anemones break up the solid black of the rocky shoreline. In the background, rock formations jut out of the water, serving as dark, static, contrasts to the whimsical, undulating movement of the patterned lines that make the breeze visible. Strong, simplified shapes and rich colors create a summery vision of the Oregon coast that is rooted in reality but infused with wonder.
Similarly, the colors in Breezy Day are so saturated that they teem with energy. Patches of yellow, tan, white, and pink dot a hillside set against the intense, flat blue of the sky. Blades of high, scrubby grass sway in the wind, leading the eye from left to right along the crisp incline of the land. On the left, a child wearing a fuzzy white hat with black ears, a striped shirt, and shorts has stopped to look out at the viewer, one hand gripping a branch as a walking stick. In both Oregon Coast Breeze and Breezy Day, there is a sense of playtime temporarily interrupted. As adults, we see the vivid colors, the striking shapes, and sense the exuberance of the outdoors, but the paintings also seem to invite us to remember the excitement and freedom of childhood explorations.
Morales’ Instagram is takes viewers behind the scenes of his works. His posts of Breezy Day are exceptional in that viewers can see nearly every step of the painting’s development, from the arranging the composition, to four different images (here, here, here, and here) documenting the layering of colored grasses, “I like for people to see the how my artwork comes together,” says Morales. “I think part of this comes from my own curiosity with how other artists make their pieces.”
One thing that gives Morales’ work its distinct look is his use of pochoir, a technique typically used in printmaking. A labor-intensive form of stenciling, pochoir has traditionally been valued for “its crisp lines and brilliant colors.” Morales uses it to create clearly defined color so that, “Although each piece starts as a line drawing, the end result reveals no linework, just shapes and forms combined to create the subjects.” A video here shows a time lapse of Morales’ multi-stage process of drawing, taping, creating stencils, and painting.
Portland-based potter Jess Faulk (@jfaulk) makes stunning ceramics decorated with the big, bold shapes of flowers, plants, birds and insects. Both her lemon bowl and strawberry mug capture the abundance and richness of summer.
In her lemon bowl, sunny yellow lemons, star-shaped white flowers, and tapered blue-green leaves arc gracefully across the white interior. On the right, a smaller stalk of white flowers—some in bloom, one still a closed bud—curve subtly toward the lemons. This effect, along with the shape of the bowl and the linear pattern on its inside rim, keep our eye sweeping across the surface in a continuous circular motion. It is a design that complements the shape of the vessel rather than overwhelming it—an example of Faulk’s passion for “making things that leave my studio and join people’s homes to become quiet objects of utility.”
The berries that decorate Faulk’s strawberry mug seem to burst off the white background, the subtle curvatures of the mug enhancing the effect that the ripe fruit is pushing forward as if into real space. The red berries are eye-catching, but so too is the close arrangement of leaves, each one creating a spray of lines moving in different directions. It gives the design a sense of movement and dynamism, anchored by the small white and yellow flower at the center of the composition. The lively image calls to mind the simple pleasure of a sun-ripened berry, heavy with juice.
Faulk is also bringing that seasonality into “a new collaborative body of work” inspired by seed packets. It is collaborative in the sense that the seed packets that inspire the decorative elements on the vessels were ones Faulk “gathered from studio mates and other folks in the community.” She has thus far created mugs and bowls with designs from seed packets for bush beans, cantaloupe, chamomile, tomatoes, and petunias, with more added as the project continues.
Like Morales, Faulk posts lots of images of works-in-progress, such as the unpainted lemon bowl, pre-fired and finished versions of a woodpecker mug, and hand sculpted clay transformed into a diverse array of earrings. Time-lapse videos of wheel throwing, hand shaping, trimming, and painting and glazing let viewers see parts of Faulk’s process. “Ceramics is quite a lengthy process that requires a lot of steps, most of which are time sensitive and require setting aside and coming back to many times- not unlike starting and tending a garden,” she says. “By showing folks little glimpses of the pieces as they are in progress I hope people feel like they are working with me and invested in the journey.”
If you feel inspired to try ceramics for yourself, Faulk is teaching a Pinch and Coil Mug workshop via Zoom on September 12th and will be offering in-person, socially distanced ceramics classes in the fall at Radius Community Art Studios.
Graphic designer and illustrator Madeline Kate Martinez (@madelinekate_illustrates) studied art in Virginia and is now based in Portland. Much of her work is inspired by her daydreams and travels, and the desert is a recurring theme in her work. “I spent some time in the Sonoran Desert on both sides of the US/Mexico border in 2015 and was deeply impacted by my time there,” says Martinez. “The warmth, openness, and purity of the desert is something that has stayed with me, and I love illustrating it as a reflection of those feelings.”
In one illustration, a figure with a long black braid, a white dress, and several tattoos stands barefoot amidst some patchy green succulents and a towering saguaro. Beneath a full moon that illuminates the pink and tan earth and the line of blue mountains in the distance, the figure stands with their back to us, looking out at the landscape. The simplified forms give this contemplative scene a sense of focus. While there are some details—in the tattoos, in the fronds of a plant in the foreground—the streamlined forms help viewers sense the desert’s vast stillness. Martinez’s limited palette of pinks, greens, blues, and whites is typical of her desert images, and a means by which the artist creates “balance between simplicity and impact.”
In another illustration, Martinez uses bolder colors but still finds that characteristic balance. A brown-skinned figure reclines on a red and white rug, basking in a mustard yellow sun the same color of their swimsuit. The details on the figure’s eyebrows and the little lines of the patterned rug feel almost extravagant in comparison to the flat geometry of the background. Every object in the background—the two bulbous, white vases, the plant fronds on both sides of the frame, the repeated forms of the staircase–is clean-edged and distinct. As in much of Martinez’s work, the hues of blue and green retains enough warmth that the background feels sleek rather than spare, and the bright colors in the foreground draw us into the scene.
Like Morales and Faulk, Martinez includes videos of her process. “Posting my process videos is a very vulnerable part of how I connect with my Instagram audience,” she says. “Sharing an illustration from start to finish can be intimidating – you’re showing all your thought processes and the mistakes made along the way. As a perfectionist, it can be hard to show the rougher side of my work, but I find that others enjoy seeing the failures and challenges in a piece as much as the final success.” Process videos like those posted here, here, and here are, in Martinez’s words, “a good reminder that my art is an expression; a verb, not a noun. The act of creating is as important as the finished product.”
The renowned British artist David Hockney once remarked, “It takes a long time to make it simple.” Morales, Faulk, and Martinez take us through their process, showing us the time, talent, and labor that goes into carefully planning, arranging, and making work that is stunning precisely because it is simplified. Earlier this year, Hockney titled a new iPad painting Do remember they can’t cancel the spring, a gentle reminder that natural cycles continue and there are still pleasures to be had even during times of turmoil. For me, Morales, Faulk, and Martinez’s work is a reminder that sometimes less is more, that quiet contemplation and enjoyment can be acts of boldness, and that taking the time to truly work through a process yields beautiful and refined results.
This article was made possible with support from The Ford Family Foundation’s Visual Arts Program.