All posts by Barbara Hranilovich

Lifelong artist, teacher, learner. Free-lance illustration, graphic design, fine art.

Looking Back

Going Back_pastel_72

A couple of weeks ago someone brought me a bag of art supplies from the 1960’s hoping I could find a home for them. The first item he took out almost made me cry. It was an almost-pristine box of VanGogh semi-soft pastels. These were my favorite pastels…they were why I started doing pastels…I loved working with them…till the company stopped making them. I felt like there was some magic in their coming to me, of all people.

They’ve been calling to me and reminding me of a time when I simply loved drawing with them…the line quality, the tactile smudging, the layering, the absolutely glorious rich color.

I thought I’d warm up with an image much like I used to do in pastels…redhead, sensual, semi-graphic. My two most beloved pets decided to join the party. I was in heaven—lost track of time, just savoring the mark-making. These pastels can simply do things others can’t…at least in my own mind and experience.

They are meant to be used, but I will use them with care, doing little images, so I can get the most from this oh-so-precious box.

Echo…Lansing Art Gallery Exhibit

2018-01-05-17-51-27.jpgAfter 18 months of thought and work, Deb Cholewicki and I have ourselves an exhibit!

Lansing art Gallery is a medium-sized exhibit space. The worry is always having enough work. The BIG worry is always having work of which I can be proud.

Echo is about the conversation between us through our work. I peppered my studio with images of Deb’s materials. We showed each other our work along the way. We both worked on one piece, which was great fun. The fun was seeing my work together with Deb’s—to see how the pieces play off one another and enhance each other. Deb’s work has so much energy and texture. Mine is a bit more sedate, but our colors and marks parallel throughout.

The last piece in an exhibit it the exhibit itself. For us, at least, it works.

The overall theme was the healing power of nature.

Threads of concept:

Diversity…the importance and joy of variety
Paths…we choose our path with every action and non-action.
Nature…get out in it, it’s healing, we need to protect and advocate
Marks…the simple joy of making and seeing marks, the myriad tiny elements of a larger image

I’m glad that this broad arc of thought can come to an end, so my brain can start to think of other things.



The Chaos Phase

in search of the golden mean

I know the exhibit is not till January, but fall is a very busy time, so I was hoping to have work finished by the end of this month…didn’t happen. I’m not worried, but the buffer I always allow myself will be used.

This is the stage in preparing for a show when everything is chaos and confidence is low. I’m in the edge of the hurricane and just functioning…can’t quite get the clarity to see the whole. There’s a lot of work, but does it work together? Is it good enough? Can I finish the last pieces in time?

I do have the faith from experience that in the end some thread of style will hold things together. I’ve seen Deb’s work (Deb Cholewicki and I are exhibiting together) and am excited to see how our works play off each other. From what I’ve seen, yes! It’s so nice to share this experience with her.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll just keep keeping at it, one piece at a time, frame ’em up, and hope…the usual drill.


Focus, Grasshopper!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. That means there’s been a lot going on. Spring was nuts with setting up a new on-line course at MSU, doing my first Potters’ Guild Sale, teaching at Interlochen, learning and working at the Potters’ Guild as a VP (apprentice), and creating work for the January exhibit at Lansing Art Gallery. Too many hats to focus well on any one item.

Last week I realized that the Potters’ Guild work and the exhibit work were becoming a muddle in my head. I was trying to create work that would work for both the LAG exhibit and the VP exhibit, both of which take place in January. A little AHA moment helped separate the two…focus on one area at a time…I don’t have to do everything with every piece I make.

So…for the Guild work I want to focus on form…getting basic shapes and skills down. Lids that fit, handles that stick, shapes that are elegant, glazes that enhance those shapes. Seems simple, but it’s still an almost overwhelming puzzle for me. So many options. So little understanding of what happens when I use which glazes together and in which order and on which clay. Such a crap shoot till some systems get down, but I do love the mystery and the exploration.

The LAG show is starting to fall into place.

Deb Cholewicki and I are doing this exhibit together and we have been comparing notes. It’s exciting to see the cool things she is doing and have those trigger thoughts of what I might do next in response. This is why the exhibit is called “Echo”.

I love that in nature there are nooks and crannies everywhere and that things find their way into them…stones, bugs, nests, pine needles. These are intimate little places that take slow and close observation to appreciate. Below is a little ceramic piece of such a space. There will be more.


This summer will be the big push for the LAG exhibit. I can’t wait to get down to it and stay in that zone for awhile…be able to look at the big arc as well as the individual elements.

Pivoting at the New Year


Last year was quite nuts…the usual story of too many hats (but they were all such fun to wear).

• Exhibit of Porkies artwork at Grove Gallery

• 4 10-week ceramics classes at the Potter’s Guild of Greater Lansing, working toward applying to be a Visiting Potter, so that I can learn much much more

• First chance to include bowls in Empty Bowls, something I’ve always wanted to do

• Several pieces in “On the Edge”, a members exhibit at Grove Gallery

• Teaching at Interlochen in summer and fall

• Entry in Art Prize (interesting to do, but would not do again)

• Marketing and finances for Grove Gallery

• Creation of countless items for various galleries and holiday shows

• Illustration assignments

• Teaching and creating a new course in the College of Communication Arts at MSU

As I write this incomplete list I no longer wonder why I was whipped and stressed a lot, (though excited and content).


What I learned last year was that I can keep up with that schedule, so I don’t have to worry about whether it’s possible. Next year will be equally busy, but I’m working to streamline things…make the hats at least go together.  I hope to remember to just stay calm, so as not to pull energy from the tasks at hand.

There are three main priorities:

• Teach my MSU class, honing it to make it better and creating an on-line version for summer terms (I think I’ll relax a LOT once that has been developed…it’s the unknowns there that make me nervous)

• Continue at the Potter’s Guild with as much participation as I am allowed

• Continue work on pieces for a January of 2018 Lansing Art Gallery exhibit with Deb Cholewicki

The rest will fall into place around these.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have too much on my plate. I’d rather be busy than bored. Still, I want this whole year to be working toward what matters most and brings the most satisfaction…for me and in light of doing some sort of good. It’s a perpetual balancing act and learning curve.

All I know is that I’m really looking forward to this year and all the creative opportunities it promises.




I Am You Are We

The piece below was done ages ago. It’s titled “I Am You Are We” and addresses how we are all more alike than different.

It’s time to revisit that, so I’m starting to work on a series with that title. The first new piece will be exhibited at Grove Gallery in East Lansing in the September member show (if it survives…so far so good).

In light of many shootings in recent months—some targeting individuals, some singling out types of individuals, I am dumbfounded, for lack of a better word. We all want such simple things: safety, opportunity, love. It feels sometimes like that’s too much to ask. Can we not have empathy for one another instead of focusing on the peripheral and fundamentally inconsequential differences? In the biggest sense we are all one.

I am you are we…together. I hope I’ll be able to honor that with some work.

i am you are we 2


Finally There

It’s been a lifetime coming, but I think I’m finally where I was headed all along (though there’s more to the trip, I know).

A few months ago, after much much brewing,condensing,gut-checking, I made my simple plea to the universe…that I be able just make art and sell it as fast as I can make it.

It’s working.

That means that my work day now consists of going to the studio and doing my work…the work everything in my being says I should be doing. Sometimes it’s clay, sometimes encaustic, or glass, or acrylics, or…. The work may be for an exhibit, or just some whimsical items people seem to enjoy…whatever the mood or the current gallery needs may indicate. As long as I’m there with all of my toys I’m happy…make that blissful.

I’m learning to streamline processes for some things. I’m now able to attack larger pieces when I’m at peak awareness/wakefulness. I sometimes work 7 days a  week and may be cleaning off raku-fired pieces right before bed because I can’t wait till the next day to see how they turned out. I’m on vacation every day at work. I also know how VERY lucky I am.

I’m hoping to pursue just one more gallery outside of Lansing, just to keep the pull for work, since I always do best when I know where the work is going. Still, things are selling at a rate that is validating my choices The lower price-point items still keep the boat afloat. As long as I can average my self-proclaimed hourly rate I’m ok.

It’s such a great gift to be able to feel like myself, to know where I’m going every day. My basement studio isn’t much to look at, but it has everything I need and that makes it beautiful to me.

In Transition

Still Life with Yellow Mushrooms_SM

It’s done. The work for my next exhibit is completed,framed,inventoried, and packed up (well, one more frame to order). I think I’m happy and look forward to seeing how things work as a whole at the gallery.

Now I can jump fully into work for the next exhibit.

People often ask how artists come up with ideas. The truth is that once you start to get ideas they just breed more. It’s always easier when there’s a story to tell.

For the upcoming exhibit I’m talking about Michigan…the simple rustic beauty of the woods of the north and how it made me feel to be there. The artwork is pretty and not highly conceptual. My goal was to get viewers to feel just a bit of what I felt—the peace and wonder of it all. I hope that it may evoke some sense of home or longing that will help us all preserve what we have here, that they may look at things a bit differently.

Of course I have to think about whether things will sell. Will I recoup my expenses? Will I get paid for my time? I never know till it’s over. It may take months before all the work has found homes, if they do at all. Earnings will promptly go toward supplies and frames for the next show.

But those thoughts will fall away quickly because I have the work to consider. I’ve done the first piece for the September exhibit and can’t wait to get to more. And thoughts are already straying to the exhibit after that. I’ll try to hold those at bay for now, though momentum will be building deep inside and that bubble will rise in due time.

Life it at its best when I’m pulled forward toward the next idea. What could happen? I won’t know till I get there. It’s the easiest sort of adventure to have and as good as any I’ve ever experienced.

MSU Wine Lables…the project from heaven.

I can finally talk about it…

I was so lucky to be asked this summer to create wine labels for MSU Hospitality. The wines are coming soon. Bottles will be served at the State Room, given to special guests and much more. It’s just an honor and fun to be part of such a project. This is the first time MSU has had it’s own wine labels.

Each label is based on a Spartan notable…Cynisca and Leonidas. I have to admit, I was not up on my Greek history, so I learned a bit on this one. The red wine is from Black Star Farms, and the white from 45 North, both in Michigan. I’m looking forward to that first taste.

This project was fun from beginning to end. You never know, when you get a new client, just how it will go. I know when I’ve gotten a dream job and this was definitely one of those.

CyniscaFA Leonides_front

Porkies Residency

For the last two weeks I’ve been effectively off the grid in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s upper peninsula for an artist residency…15 miles from then nearest Verizon service. The residency is defined as the opportunity to stay in Dan’s cabin, get to know the park, then make art about the experience, either during the residency period or later. Here’s the cabin—a work of art built with historically-correct methods and hand tools of red oak and cedar. It was tucked in a little spot, not high, not low, at the corner of a creek and a river.

cabin path

   cabin back 2

The weather was perfect, just post-black fly season and almost at the end of the mosquitoes (they bit, but it never itched). I took lots of walks in various areas of the park to get to know the area while I adapted to the isolated surroundings. The area was indescribably quiet. Just a little burbling of the creek nearby and the ringing in my ears…until the mouse got in and made quite a ruckus at night (got him out the door!). Light came through the tall trees, so tended to be vertical and dappled…ever-changing. One hike took me to my limits…up almost 1,500 feet in a shortish span. Coming down things seemed much steeper and I had my Bob’s shoes with NO tread. Still, it was worth it for being in this old and gorgeous forest. No bears for me (not that I wanted any on that walk, though at peek at one from the cabin window would have been fun).

It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t like painting out of doors, so I’d spend mornings gathering information, then come back to the cabin to work. The table became the studio and I had my dream home of studio/bed/kitchen. This photos shows about as much light as the table ever saw, but I got used to it and read by the window till the last bit of light allowed.

work table 2

For art supplies I took water-miscible oil paints, gouache, clay, sketchbooks, and a book on writing poetry a friend had given me (“A Poet’s Companion”) that helped me work on some writing.

The artwork is pretty straightforward…capturing the feel of the environment and facts. I’ll be curious to see how new work, using the reference I have, will change when I come back to it in my home studio. I have lots of sketches for clay pieces and can’t wait to get going on those!

It was pretty amazing to be on my own and have this uninterrupted time to work. I slept more than I could even admit to…long DARK nights (so black there was no waiting till eyes adjusted!), and not much sense of time. One night I looked up and the stars were deeply layered—the smallest being brighter than our brightest. I SO wanted to get down to the beach to see the whole sky like that, but just didn’t have the nerve to head out into the woods with it that dark. I prepped to be able to do it later in the week, but the skies were never clear enough again. I’d go back just for that!

On Thursday I did a presentation (gouache demo) and got to meet several of the people who built the cabin. What a great crew! It was a real pleasure to meet them all. They are dedicated Friends of the Porkies, and supporters of the Folk School there.

From October 9-18 I’ll have the work (including subsequent related work), sketchbooks, and journals at Grove Gallery in East Lansing. On Sunday the 11th I’ll be there to talk about the experience to anyone who is curious or may want to consider applying for a residency for next year. 10% of any sales of any work will be donated to Friends of the Porkies.

Here are just a couple of pieces and a poem.

2015-08-09 16.46.57 

2015-08-09 16.49.20

Trail’s End

The weightless red dragonfly darts jaggedly

ahead on the dusky trail through ancient hemlocks.

This way, she beckons, then disappears

returning suddenly like an anxious child.

Follow me.

The wind, a constant compass, races through

treetops turning to rubber

as they sway against his stream—

here below barely a breeze.

Trust me, he whispers.

The path, like a new marshmallow

beneath my torqued arches

curls through rooted terrain

mossy, fern-flanked, and at times

barely discernible from all the rest.

So, I cede my fate to the dots.

Flat. Blue. Paint.

In succession

appearing just as confidence turns to doubt.

Gratefully I follow their lead

And wend my weary way home.

Here are a few photos to show what the park is like. I saw only a small fraction, each area as beautiful as the last, but the area around the cabin was my favorite.

clouds  falls to paint  clear superior river to superior  looking up  woods