So hi. How’s it going? It’s been a challenging few weeks, hasn’t it? Yes, it has. It freaking damn well has been challenging. And I’m sure those whose idea of fun is to make life harder than it needs to be have plenty more challenges in store for all of us.
But you know what? The hell with them.
Because you know what else happened since my last post? NASA started receiving the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and it’s spectacular! Here is NPR’s report about it.
Our universe is bigger, fuller, and more sparkly than I, for one, dared to hope.
To quote Jane Rigby, operations project scientists for the JWST, “Everywhere we look, there’s galaxies everywhere.”
It’s so wonderful, and honestly, by comparison, I’m just done with all the petty, trivial, back-biting toxicity that some people on our little planet want to waste everyone’s time with.
Look around you. There are galaxies everywhere! And flowers, and bees, and rainbows, and rabbits. The other day, I baked a cake with raspberries from my own garden. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of King Arthur Flour (an employee-owned company; no affiliation): Late Summer Berry Torte. It’s super easy, and you can make it with just about any fruit.
This is what matters in life.
So here’s what we’re not going to do: We’re not going to waste any more time with crap that doesn’t matter. We’re not going to let the bastards take away our rights, ruin our environment, get us sick again, or otherwise make our lives revolve around them, because they are tiny, stupid, pointless, and they don’t matter.
Here’s what we are going to do instead: We’re going to make art and look at art. Read stories and write stories. Eat yummy things. We’re going to keep everybody’s rights – period. We’re going to keep transitioning to clean energy and saving Planet Earth – period. We’re going to pay attention to the countless galaxies and stars sparking like jewels out there in the forever and ever.
And we’re going to know that this is the reality we all live in together, not some bleak, zero-sum, dead-end bullshit a certain bunch of raging randos dreamed up for themselves.
In the Reality Universe, we live in light, color, sparkles, and bunnies, and we have cake, so we win.
Poetry: Four new poems are up for reading. Click the Books & Writing tab to check them out. They were all written one sunny day when I was trying to work on my porch but got distracted by the perfection of the afternoon.
Web Novel: An Alchemy of Dragons, Chapter 1, is coming next week, around July 20, hopefully. Here’s a rough hint about the in-progress illustrations, from my sketchbook:
June is one of those times, isn’t it? It’s a quarter month, when the year takes another turn. The summer solstice is – checks calendar – Tuesday. Already! Omg. Things are happening. The garden is blooming, bees all over the place, beans shooting up. The baby birds are flying. I can’t help but keep moving, too.
Three new small paintings are in the Shop now. Two abstract landscapes and one representative image of the moon over my street at 2:00 in the morning. I’ve been working late a lot. See below, and Shop here.
My second ever poem to be released in public is up. Titled “Spilled Ink,” it tells the story of the painting of Abstract Landscape 6, and I think something more as well. Read it here.
An Alchemy of Dragons continues in progress. The beginning is the most daunting part of an adventure, don’t you think? It’s the first and potentially most fatal test of one’s competence. I have to start a key set of wheels turning in these first chapters, and I admit, it’s taking longer to get it right than I’d hoped. But I think it will be worth it. Aiming for July on that one. Be sure to sign up for the Newsletter for alerts when chapters are posted.
Finally, I’ve taken on a new project, a commission, which will stay a secret for now. It’s pretty big. I have no idea how long it will take to finish. I will post hints and progress reports as I go.
It’s actually a bit intimidating when I list it all out like this. It’s all been happening in just the past few weeks. Sometimes, I don’t even feel the pace of work, like the dizzying speed of the Earth’s rotation, and I have no idea where I am in my To-Do list, just as I have no innate sense of where I am on the planet. I’m just here, now, doing whatever I’m doing – painting, drawing, writing, business, gardening, house stuff, people stuff, world stuff, giving a freaking interview for crying out loud, making good on commitments, oy-geez.
Maybe I just need to put my nose back down on its comfy grindstone and avoid that big-picture perspective thing for a while.
Welcome to Aeldreth, where gods live among mortals, magic is mundane, and two unlikely heroes stand between an ancient curse of poison and hate and the very soul of the world.
Erran Fox, a Ranger of the Earth Realm, loves his job. He gets plenty of fresh air, time to himself, and keeps well clear of his family’s politics. That is, until he is sent to quell a rampaging wyvern and runs into a web of conspiracies, lies, and a mysterious bard who might be as dangerous as the dragon itself.
When the wyvern’s blood gem is stolen, Erran must find it before its deadly magic spreads. Is there anyone he can trust as he chases the thief through a maze of sorcery, betrayals, and enemies from his own past?
Iarius Venzo, the Bard of Perna, has many faces and many secrets. In bawdy taverns or glimmering palaces, weaving lovers’ dreams or royal plots, there is purpose in all he does. That is, until he tangles with a mad wyvern and a dedicated Ranger who is more than he seems and won’t take no for an answer.
With Fox at his heels, and treachery hidden everywhere, can Iarius pull off the most delicate and dangerous gamble of his life? Or will the Realm and his own fate unravel in his hands?
From magical cabals, to enchanted hearts, and one mystical beast after another, Erran and Iarius race against time to save the land – and themselves – from An Alchemy of Dragons.
The full description of the upcoming web novel!
I’m having so much fun writing it. I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy reading it, too. Sign up for the newsletter to get email updates when chapters are posted.
In addition, a new poem,” Spilled Ink,” is up for reading. Check out it and the novel info on the Writing & Books tab.
Also, three new small paintings will be added to the Shop soon. Watch this space.
News! I was recently interviewed for The Somerville Times by poet, publisher, and arts editor, Doug Holder. We touched on my personal history, my creative process in art and writing, and my sources of inspiration.
It’s perhaps a little more of a glimpse behind the curtain than I often give out, and I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s drawing me out of my burrow, as it were, just a bit.
I’d like to thank Doug for his kind interest in my work and for asking wonderful questions that made it easy for a recluse like me to talk about myself.
Pareidolia is the tendency to see specific, meaningful images in random or ambiguous patterns.
I like to pick out order from chaos. And I like to go a-wandering, and find random things of meaning.
Uncontrollable media like water are good for me because the randomness breaks my perfectionism. They force me to cede some control and to find a rapport with accidental occurrences and effects. They make me listen and look. Rather than obsessively planning every detail of an artwork – and I can get real obsessive – by following the movements of fluid media, I feel like I am receiving art brought to me by the universe.
It seems the universe brings me a lot of landscapes. I guess I have nature on the brain.
Here are four new abstract landscapes in watercolor, all 9 x 5.75 inches. In all of them, I randomly messed about with paint, water, brushes and tools, and then considered the results from various angles to find the views that emerged in the drying. Two of them work so well in different orientations that, rather than pick one, I signed them on all the sides I liked.
Maybe a seascape – waves on a beach? I enjoy the play of color and the storminess of it.
Definitely a seascape. Is there a figure, perhaps walking along a sandbar at low tide?
Two for one. In one orientation, it’s rolling hills, with perhaps a pond, and distant buildings. In another orientation, it’s a forest.
Abstract Landscape 4a, b, c, d. Four! Count ‘em – four coherent images on one piece of paper. I see a sort of darkening, perhaps twilight, marshy view, then a forest, then heavy rain over what might be a farmhouse, and finally another forest view.
Drop a comment and let me know where these images take you. And how do you feel when something random – a cloud, a pattern of light through curtains, whatever it may be – suddenly connects with you and tells a story?
Please click on the shiny new Writing & Books tab.
At long last, the Letters half of the classic Arts & Letters combo has arrived. Wait until you see – omg, I’m so happy about it.
Writing & Books is the index page to my written works. You can read the stuff, comment on the stuff, follow the stuff. Eventually, you will be able to order print editions via that page. At some point, I will likely add artist books and zines as well. Basically, anything bookish goes under Writing & Books.
So what is it, exactly, that I do write?
Well, similar to my visual arts, I like to switch and blend genres. You may choose among fantasies, mysteries, romances, or thrillers, but they are all linked by certain common themes. Just as nature, memory, and dreams run through all my artworks, so I think you’ll find most of my writing deals with emotions, relationships, and wild, sometimes dangerous landscapes, both external and internal.
Right now, you can dive into four of my 50-word micro-stories: “To the New World,” “The Runaways,” “A Lot of Frogs to Kiss,” and “Faith.”
Some of you may remember my 50-word story challenges, based on a surrealist word game, in which a complete story had to be told in precisely fifty words, no more, no less. I liked to raise the ante by randomly pre-selecting five of the words, which every participant had to use in their stories. It’s actually quite a lot of fun.
You can also read the very first poem I feel brave enough to show to anyone, “Night, April.”
Inspired by the American-style haiku of such intimidating giants as Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg, I decided to experiment with this form because why the hell not? To me, this is such a perfect and basic form of expression – to capture the essence of a moment, to make a picture in words of ephemeral experience – I really think everyone should try their hand at something haiku-esque, just to get the feel of it – the feel of one’s feelings. Go and take a look, and let me know what you think of my effort.
Finally, there’s the big project. Oh, boy, this is the one that’ll have you saying “Wow, Jen, you really went off the edge this time.”
Yeah, you’re damn right. I’m going straight off the edge – of the map – where there be dragons. A whole alchemy of them, in fact.
An Alchemy of Dragons
One peace-loving ranger with a past. One audacious bard with an agenda. And one deadly conspiracy – with dragons.
You’re not hallucinating. It is, indeed, a fantasy novel. What’s more, it’s a serialized web novel, which means it will be a hell of a lot longer than a haiku or some fifty words. It will be posted on this site by chapters, as they are written. It will probably be illustrated, too.
Now granted, fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we don’t drink tea here at the Jen Fries Arts studio – we spill it. (Actually, we do drink tea, every day, but you get what I mean.)
Yes, An Alchemy of Dragons will feature both swords and sorcery. It will have creatures and fancy outfits and very high stakes, but this is not going to be that Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings type stuff.
This is a Jen Fries project.
So check out the stories and poetry, reacquaint yourselves with the artwork, and you’ll get a sense of what you’ll be in for. I think you might enjoy it, and I hope you’ll give it a try. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t already, to get email notifications when chapters are posted.
In other news, it’s spring time. And yes, a lot of shit is happening in the world, but the trees and bulbs are flowering and the birds are courting, and that’s what I’ve decided to focus on. Look for an upcoming blog post about spring time artwork, soon. Also please visit the Shop for seasonal works available now.
This one is about the gifts the universe sends us, the treasures we pass by on the road.
The moon was particularly beautiful over Somerville last night, when the storm clouds parted. It was bright enough to light my room, overcoming the street lamps. The wet air smelled of spring.
By the way, we call April’s moon the Pink Moon, not because it looks pink, but because it’s the month for pinks, the flower, to bloom. Indeed, my city is filling up with flowers now.
I repurposed one of my blue landscapes for this collage. Sometimes an image has more to say, and I will often revisit older pieces that seem like they want to go in a different direction. In fact, I won’t let go of a piece until I’m sure it is what it wants to be.
The big news this March is that I have launched a new online shop for my artworks. You can visit the Jen Fries Store at Artrepreneur by clicking the Shop menu tab, above. (Right-click to open the shop in a new tab or window, if you prefer.)
Artrepreneur is a multi-service platform for visual artists, and so far I am very pleased with them. I think you will be, too.
I try to keep third-party services to a minimum. I don’t like interposing other people between me and you. I like to deal direct. I had planned to set up my website for e-commerce so anyone who would like to own some of my work can just, you know, go ahead and buy it off me, direct.
But I have learned that there are a lot of schnickety little tech details to setting up one’s own online e-commerce site, and I suck at them. Mmm, boy, do I ever suck at that stuff. I learned this the hard way. Ugh, ye gods.
So, to quote my favorite author, Lawrence Sterne, “I did at last what I should have done at first.”
Namely, I found a third-party platform to provide the service I need at this point in my career. Yay, Artrepreneur!
Artrepreneur’s main selling point to me is that it is designed specifically for visual artists, by visual artists. The people who run this platform know how the arts business works, and also how it doesn’t work. What it is, and what it isn’t. They have put together a raft of systems and services that make a lot of sense to me, and have so far been easier for me to deal with than just about any other marketplace or business platform.
I no longer have to try to shoehorn myself as an artist into a site that’s really designed for different kinds of work and business. And I no longer have to try to force myself to learn a skill set that’s way far outside my comfort zone at a time when I need to put much more energy into the creative side of my career.
Also, as of this writing, Artrepreneur charges no transaction fees or commissions, unlike almost every other arts platform and marketplace out there. Artrepreneur is a subscription service. I pay them an annual membership fee, for which I get the services I need, and that’s it. They have no other involvement in any transaction between you and me. Simple.
So please, visit the Shop. Take a look at the first set of works I have ready for immediate sale. And let me know what you think of the set-up via a comment or email.
And of course, if you prefer to deal really directly, or would like to buy a work you see on this site which isn’t listed for sale yet, or if you have any other questions, please always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently in the Shop
Click the Shop tab for prices, shipping, and details for these works.
I struggled to write this post – any post, really – for a long while.
I have things to say, news to tell, but how can I write about my career and work and personal life in the horrible and tragic context of the world right now? It seems so discordant and even inappropriate to talk about myself. I guess I’m not alone in this feeling.
But I think maybe I’m wrong about it – not wrong in my emotions, but maybe wrong in my thinking. I don’t know, but freezing in place is not an option, regardless of anything else. I must work, I must speak, so here I am.
Because I’m an artist. A creative. If I’m not speaking and showing, then what am I doing? Why am I here? These times when things are so bad, when our hearts are being crushed every fifteen minutes by the news of war (and before now, by pandemic, and before that by racist brutality, and before that by environmental disaster, etc., etc.), this is when people in my line of work have to step up. Whether we provoke or comfort, give clarity or reassurance, this is what our profession is for, ultimately.
So I hope, in the coming days, you will find something in what I offer this year – relevance, escape, inspiration, whatever. I hope it will help – me as well as you.
Finally, since I do express my opinions on this site, I will state for my own public record my personal support for the nation and people of Ukraine and my absolute condemnation of Putin, his indefensible war of choice, and his crimes against humanity. I also express my anger and disgust at the general tolerance for fascism and aggression in many countries, including my own, which I believe helped to encourage that murderous bastard to do this insane thing.
My feelings on this are strong, and honestly, together with other strong feelings I have, I’m reaching the limit of my willingness to soften my manners for the sake of politeness. No, really, I have actually been doing that up to now. Things can and probably will get even pointier and slappier here at the studio, so I hope you’re okay with that, because I’m kind of thinking I’ve been wrong in my approach, like so many of us in so many ways. And I’m kind of done with that.
Anyway, the experts all say the public want to get to know the artist. So, okie-dokie then. Blame the experts.
PS: Sketches, new works and projects, and studio news will begin flowing shortly, in a series of posts. Watch this space.