All posts by Barbara Hranilovich

Lifelong artist, teacher, learner.

Golden Apple Residency and Art Ladders

Last August I was blessed to attend Golden Apple Art Residency on the coast of Maine. This provided two weeks of focused and uninterrupted time to work—to research, take reference photos, to go inward, create, and at the end of the day to interact with other artists. We were treated like royalty and lively evening conversations were gently guided toward issues and questions that might help us understand each other and ourselves as artists.

I had no specific agenda going in, so packed every 2-d medium I have. The physical environment with walking paths and lobster boat sounds, the tide and the piney paths, and the long blocks of time, expanded the mental space I (as all artists) need to let concepts work their way to the surface. Just walking from the cottage to the studio set the day off right. Days were spent in the studio, nights looking up artists and history, researching, reading, or writing haiku poetry and in my journal.

There were a few ideas that needed to get out of my head before I could settle in on something new. One about the experience/process of losing a dear friend. Another was the only piece of what I had thought might be a series. It felt much too tight and I didn’t want to paint like that during the residency…or at all.

Some pieces went nowhere and were just stepping stones toward I didn’t yet know what. As I started to relax and loosen up I started to remember the joy of painting. On a parallel with writing haiku at night, the paintings became more and more succinct, removing anything that didn’t belong beyond what it would take to tell the story, like this…

A few pieces came from the woods and the wonderful knotted branches and roots. This “Gnarly” series, that is still in progress and will mostly be in clay, speaks of what it’s like to be getting older and the gradual acceptance of change and decay. If I can see beauty in the branches, perhaps I can find it in my aging self.


Old growth, twisted

battered, scarred, wind worn, and burled

Gnarly, as are we

I highly recommend this residency. It has all the elements of a great experience. Having caught Covid on the way there, I presented a roadblock the director Shelley Stevens and her husband Greg had so carefully worked to avoid. They rose to even that challenge, keeping us all safe and still pampered and allowing the important work to continue. They were gracious from start to finish. and I regret the limitations the illness put on all of us.

Art Ladders

Two of the other resident artists in our session, Valerie Allen and Armin Mersmann, produce a fun podcast about art called Art Ladders: The Creative Climb. They recently spoke with those of us who were at Golden Apple with them about our experience there. It was great fun to be in touch with them again and continue our conversations. Ours is episode 40 and you can listen HERE. I hope you will find it and other episodes interesting. If you are interested in applying to Golden Apple I would be happy to discuss it with you. Just pop me an email.

Upcoming exhibit, relfecting the times

The show that had to be postponed for Covid is finally happening, albeit with some concessions. The delay made some pieces obsolete, but allowed for new work. Some things never seem to change, so commentary is either very necessary, or pointless.

For this exhibit, shared with Deb Cholewicki, I found I was constantly reacting to what was going on around us. I worked in various media, depending on what I wanted to say and how. Here are some examples from the various threads woven into this show.

Politics….Passive Regression
About those who just want to float rudderless down the river waiting to be told what to think. The result is a ship of fools.

Climate Change…This Might Hurt
Controlling climate change is going to hurt. Not controlling it is going to hurt more, economically and on all fronts.

COVID…Invisible Barriers.
We have each had our own experiences with the virus. This is not political in any way, just an expression of my own sense of separation and disconnection.

Nature…The Waiting Game
The antidote to all of the craziness has been stepping out of doors to smell fresh air, hear some birds, feel the crackle of snow under my feet. Simple pleasures heal the stress almost instantaneously.

The show will open on Feb 7 with a “Meet the Artists” by appointment from 12-4pm, then through March 14.

At the Shiawassee Arts Center
Details here:
206 Curwood Castle Drive
Owosso, MI 48867

Work as sanity

Keeping my mind busy is my personal antidepressant. As the events of 202 have unfolded I’ve had to stay pretty busy to stay sane. That means creating things…fabric designs, experimenting with new techniques, making pretties for the garden, making sassy silly tiles for Bad Annie’s. Some things are pretty, some make me laugh. That’s good!

This week I tested a bunch of glazes for finials. I like the soda-fired ones, but we don’t fire up that kiln very often, so I needed some options for the reduction kiln. Here are a couple of glazes that could be keepers, though the blue still needs some tweaking.

Otherwise, getting out of doors every day is super important. Nature doesn’t give a hoot about politics and the birds sing and soothing breezes blow.

I hope you’ve found your way through the times. I’m sending hugs to you and the universe. May we hang on to our humanity!

The Show that Didn’t Happen

All that Glimmers_300

Today was supposed to be the opening of an exhibit of my work and Deb Cholewicki’s at The Shiawassee Arts Center. Instead of celebrating the completion of the work and getting it to the gallery safely and hung, I packed and tucked an entire body of work in boxes and stowed them till an unknown date in 2021.

I don’t think most people know how much of an artist’s brain gets occupied when working on a large body of work. In my case the thoughts of concept, engineering, scale, medium are a constant companion from booking a show till it’s up. My body keeps track of the calendar. Will I have time to complete/fire/frame the work? Do the individual pieces come together to tell a larger story? How do I find the line in telling that story in a way that makes a difference, but still makes something one might want to take home. I don’t want to live with my own work…I want to make space to make more.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the feelings of waiting another year to show the work. While finding place to store work safely and not lose track of pieces I got sadder and sadder. This may sound crazy, but I worry that when the work comes back out of the boxes it will no longer exude the energy I put into it, that it will somehow have gone dull. It felt like I was putting a blanket over a bird to shut it down. I also worry about whether relevance will hold with some of the work.

My take on the show was about current events, but heavily on climate change. I hoped to say something that might trigger thought or change, but now all of that has to sit in a box for a year…a very long time when we’re at a tipping point with climate.

I was sooo looking forward to seeing Deb’s work. We have not been able to easily share what we’re doing. What I have seen of her work is quite gorgeous and I don’t want to have to wait a year to see it with mine all in one place.

The above piece started out because I had read the there is a huge loss of lightening bugs, a trend I’ve noticed in past summers. They are canaries for pollution and climate change. In the end the piece became about hope. IF we act. IF we support others who act, IF we consume less, there is hope. I want to choose hope. We’re living in one-day-at-a-time times, but can also make one-choice-at-a-time to act in favor of future generations’ relationship with the planet.

Finding a Fit in Urns

Bird urn_box_raku_72

Over the years I have been asked to create funerary urns. In doing so I learned that it’s something I’d like to do more. It’s odd to say that I like to make them, but I do and here’s why:

They are somewhat small sculptural objects.
Each is unique.
They can tell a story.
They can help people process their grief…myself included.
They are spiritual objects. Creating them allows me to access that part of my being. This requires letting go completely to the process and trusting the results.
They can come with surprises.

In these ways, they hit all of my buttons. To me they are uplifting objects.

The Universe is in charge.

In one case the urn was for a dog and had flowers all over it, as the dog loved being in the garden. In firing one of the curly legs shortened, so  didn’t match the others. When I apologized to the client she laughed and told me her dog had one short leg, too, so it was perfect. These sorts of things happen all the time.

There’s some pressure in creating something so intensely personal, but it comes with rewards. In general I like to make vessels that could be urns, imagining a place where one could peacefully come to rest. Raku-firing brings a sensual quality I like. The black from the smoke and the scent are inviting and calming…very earthy and natural.

I look forward to having the time to delve deeper into this area. In the meantime, thoughts are burbling.

Tree urn_Sophie



Chasing the Etherial

In a short story about a watchmaker who strove to make a mechanical butterfly, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes…

Alas that the artist, whether in poetry, or whatever other material, may not content himself with the inward enjoyment of the beautiful, but must chase the flitting mystery beyond the verge of his ethereal domain, and crush its frail being in seizing it with a material grasp.

By attempting to express in words, paint, dance, or music, that which makes our hearts sing, we will always fall short. Much like the impossibility of explaining a dream, we will never capture the magic in our souls…a multi-dimensional, fluid, vital, fleeting compilation…glimpses of emotion, perception, and experience.

LaoTsu says it this way…The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

There lies the inherent struggle of the artist. Every piece we create will and must fall short and disappoint. We can only hope to hint at the whole. Some aspect may shine through. Scale, color, or form may delight and even awe, but will always only be a fragment.

But, we keep on trying, banging our brains and bodies against the impossible and by so doing learning, sharing the trial, creating something that, because the magic is the source, may still touch a chord for someone else as well.

We can only ever know a thin slice of anyone, even those we love. We can only share slivers of ourselves. It’s all that unknown that keeps things interesting.

Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 10.32.57 AM

Finding the Story

I’ve always felt that the strongest artwork tells a story, no matter what the medium.

I’ve been reading works of writers who tell of the process of writing. One of the best is Frank McCort in his “Teacher Man“.  He makes the path to finding the story as clear as I’ve encountered.

Dance is just fancy steps without a story, music just a string of notes. Story is easier to identify in literature. I love hearing people interpret what I may have meant in a piece of art—that it stirs conversation at all. That’s a connection from my head to the others. It might help someone, might open a door or help someome see things from different angles.

I just took a creativity “personality test” by Adobe. It’s worth it to see the fun animations. Apparently I’m a dreamer. In taking the test I was stuck between my super-ego and my ego. These two have been battling inside of me all my life. Rules and shoulds vs my own (free, at least in my mind, creative, introverted, but in some ways fearless) being. I respond to the needs of others. I do what I’m told and try to do the “right” thing. I have a hard time feeling worthy. I have almost paralyzing performance anxiety. It is VERY hard for me to cut loose, to take big weightless (not effortless!) leaps. I hate to use too much material. I can’t work terribly large in my studio space. I think I know what I’m capable of, but have rarely, if ever, touched the ceiling. I also know my limits. I’m a bit lazy. I like learning, engineering, exploration, and process…don’t care all that much for any final product. Or is that just an excuse? Much of what I make feels like a steam valve, releasing pressure, but not really satisfying, stretching, making me dig or connect with anything. Little pretties that will sell. That in contrast to this…perfection and story in dance.

But, I have faith in my hands, in their knowledge from experience. I have felt the flow when hand and head take off and leave me behind…bliss! Does there have to be any more to it all than that alone?

I have often felt like a racehorse at the gate…ready to run without constraint, strong, able, eager. If I let me out, would I just run away and not want to come back? How to I open that gate and still live in the context of others?

Maybe that’s my story.




Play Time

My to do list for 2019
Not seek approval
Be 4 (as in how I felt at 4 years of age at my teeny table of art supplies)

I’ve reached that delicious point in my life that I don’t have to worry so much about making a living. While I still want to work, the focus will be more on creating good work than “sellable” work. These two are not mutually exclusive, but the attitude in creation is certainly different.

I want to listen to the medium, trusting instinct, expressing ideas, making something that moves me in some way.

The other day I suddenly found myself painting. I had not painted for many months, so it was a refreshing change. I found photos of some paintings I had done decades ago and remembered how much I have always loved drawing the figure. I like simple figures in space, not a lot of detail in the background. Body language, color, marks. I had a blast. Maybe this was the first step on the new path.

This piece is called Upstream. It is about the never-ending effort of many women to get the same respect/pay/opportunity as men. It’s about having our voices lost in translation—when men discount what we may say, or the experience we’re trying to express. It’s most certainly influenced by recent and it’s-about-@##%ing-time focus on sexual abuse.



Bittersweet End of an Era

Grove Logo 300.png

Grove Gallery and Studios will be closing at the end of February after a run of 10 years. Bittersweet, indeed.

I’m sad, naturally. It’s been great to have a space where I can bring in pretty much anything I create, which has allowed me to experiment—a LOT—but still sell the work without having to commit to an entire exhibit. I’ll surely miss the excuses to see Deb Cholewicki, who was the reason I joined in the first place and whose friendship I cherish. We’ll find other things to do together…we just signed on to do another joint exhibit in 2020. I’ll miss seeing the people I’ve gotten to know or know better as a result of crossing paths at the gallery. It’s a great bunch of art enthusiasts and creative souls with good hearts.

I’m glad. For the last number of years I’ve been the gallery treasurer and marketer. Accounting is not my strong suit, but I’ve done the best I can. We’re legal, current, and on the up-and- up. This responsibility has used up a lot of my brain, and the wrong side of my brain at that. At times I’ve pulled my hair out with frustration and fear of letting the gallery down. I will not miss it one bit and will never ever ever sign up to handle bookkeeping again!

I’ve learned a lot about the coop format, both what does and does not work. I’m glad for that experience and the lessons learned.

I am truly proud of what we have built. We sold a lot of art for a lot of artists and provided something unique for East Lansing. The gallery is lovely and the workshops have been wonderful. We’ve grown and evolved and gotten ever better.

There’s no single reason for the closing. The lease ends in March. When we evaluated all the factors we deal with and anticipate in the future the scale tipped solidly toward closure. It’s simply time to say farewell and move on to new adventures. I look forward to having more time to be in the studio.

Thank you, my friends, and all those who have supported the gallery. It has meant a great deal to me to see you at events an workshops, to see your names on receipts, and to hear that you felt we brought something valuable to the area. I have total faith that some other creative folks will fill the void we leave.

So, I’m marking lots of things down for clearance and realizing just how much work I have at the gallery. I really don’t want to bring it back home. I hope you can come for the sale, starting at the party on Friday, Feb 1 from 5:30-8pm. Many artists will have at least some work discounted. Even fixtures will be up for sale between Feb 1 and 15 for pickup between Feb. 16 and 22. As things clear out it’s going to feel really weird…that will be on the sad side of the equation. That’s life, eh? Moving on.

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.