How it began

Collage showing a few pages from my nature journal, a new stoneware form before firing, and images from a docent-led walk on the preserve. Background image is a photo of a new embossing plate that will be used in the next stage.

Last year, I read an account of an illustrator who traveled to a rustic cabin along a windy shoreline as part of an artist residency. She was there on a mission: To delve deeply into the environment and incorporate her new understandings in her work.

I was immediately intrigued with her story and decided that I would develop my own residency.

Mine would be a 12-month residency. And my study area would be my very own neighborhood and surrounding area. After all, my studio is just steps away from the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, a Wild Preservation Area that I have access to throughout the year. The ocean is just down the street, where I can safely climb down to wander along tide pools on many days.

What I wanted from the "residency" was a structure that would:

  • Prioritize: Give priority to this personal project. Without it, other work, commissions and sales would take up my studio time.
  • Include research: I would observe and record on solitary hikes, as well as walks conducted by docents of the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch and other naturalists.
  • Provide a framework for experimentation: I would try out new ideas related to my environment and what I'm learning.

At first, the whole project seemed overwhelming. So, the first order of business was to organize my time, studio and art-making to accommodate the project.

Here's how it's panned out after three months into the residency:

EXPLORATION: I've reserved time for several hiking/sketching/photo sessions each week. Some have been half-days out exploring the trails; others an hour or so close to home. I've also participated in two docent-led walks on the trails of the Wild Preservation Area. This is all a luxury of time and attention made possible by the residency.

SKETCHING: Using my photos and nature journal as a starting point, I've been sketching in a software drawing program and incorporating maps, photos and ideas for studio work.

STUDIO: In the studio, I've dedicated these first months as time to explore with new techniques and materials. I'm now narrowing down the project ideas.

I'm interested in using a collage approach, telling the story of the trails and tidepools through a combination of processes. My next step is making "embossing plates" from area plants.

What is a home-based artist residency?

An artist residency is usually provided by a host organization and enables a guest artist to work in a new environment, often away from the restrictions and pressures of their everyday lives. But now there is an alternative – virtual programs conducted with online guidance, community and support. While my residency is totally self-directed, I've structured it based on some of those models.