Artist in the Spotlight-Sue Bleiweiss, The Sketchbook Challenge & Art Camp for Women

One of the best parts of Art Camp for Women that you can’t see – is that we meet many amazing artists. Many of these women also have a kind of pioneering entrepreneurial way about them which we also greatly admire. We can only hire so many artists every year and scheduling etc. also weeds out many others. Thus was born our Artist in the Spotlight series.

Our Artist in the Spotlight this time is Sue Bleiweiss. We want to let you get to know the woman behind the Sketchbook Challenge – an anthology of a blog that has a monthly art theme. Sue organized some of our favorite mixed media artists to show what art they make using the theme. Sue also authored the book derived from that blog: The Sketchbook Challenge: Techniques, Prompts and Inspiration for Achieving Your Creative Goals.

sue bleiweiss headshot

ACFW: Sue, thank you for taking the time to put this interview together for our readers.

ACFW: Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were early influences on your work? Where do you live now?

SUE: I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire and I currently live in a small town about 40 miles west of Boston.    I didn’t begin a career in art until 12 or so years ago.  I had just decided to leave my corporate job for a slower less hectic lifestyle and signed up for a weaving class.  I was hooked from the first moment I held the shuttle in my hand.  I wove for a few years doing a lot of commission work until a shoulder injury forced me to hang up my shuttle.  At that point I made an attempt at making a traditional quilts, which didn’t go well because I hate following directions.  Once I realized that I just didn’t have the patience or skill for traditional quilt making I started exploring mixed surface design and mixed media techniques and that led to becoming obsessed for quite a few years making books and journals.  Something I still love to do.  I started dabbling in art quilts as a way to explore creating art to hang on the walls and that led me to where I am today.

AC4W: What is your art media of choice, do you consider yourself a mixed-media artist, a book artist, a fabric artist or all of the above and more?

SUE: My media of choice is fabric and I label myself an artist, teacher and author.


AC4W: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?

SUE: Well I don’t think that in the beginning  when I first started dabbling in lots of different media that what I was doing was making art.  I’d call it more about experimenting with different processes and techniques.  It wasn’t until 3 or 4 years ago that I really got focused on making art.

AC4W: Did you receive any formal art training?

SUE: No I am all self taught.

AC4W: Do you have any off-the-cuff tips for beginners? Women that would like to become full or even part time artists?

SUE: Try everything until you find the techniques and medium that speaks to you.  Don’t get hung up on worrying about not having focus or stressed out about not having a voice or style.  That comes much much later after you’ve spent time dabbling in lots of different things.   I found my voice gradually over the course of many years of experimenting and dabbling in several different styles.  It evolved naturally and got stronger and louder once I found the style and method of working that I found myself coming back to use again and again with each new quilt that I began.

AC4W: When you get stuck with your work – do you have any tricks to get unstuck?

SUE: I rarely get stuck but when I do I will flip through some of my old sketchbooks or art books for inspiration.  Sometimes I’ll take a trip to the museum and just wander the exhibits.   I have found that the best thing to do when I’m stuck is to not force myself into the studio – that tends to just make it worse because I end up feeling bad about being stuck.

I think one of the most important habits that I’ve developed over the years is the ability to say no.

AC4W: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?

SUE: I am a very organized person and I think that helps make it easier for me to be a prolific art maker and I’m fortunate enough to have a studio right in my home so it’s easy for me to keep regular studio hours.  I think one of the most important habits that I’ve developed over the years is the ability to say no.  There was a time when I would say yes to every request and project that came across my desk but all that did was lead to a crazy schedule full of deadlines.  Now I’m much more particular about which projects I will take on and I make sure that there is plenty of room on my calendar for art making on my own terms.

AC4W: Do you have other jobs other than making art?

SUE: No I am a full time artist

AC4W: Why do you teach?

SUE: Well there are a couple of reasons.  I enjoy interacting with other like minded people who are enthusiastic about learning a new technique or project.  I also like being able to pass on to others what I’ve learned and to help them along on their own creative journey.

If you’re going to teach, teach it all

AC4W:Do you have a particular method or slant on teaching others to make art?

SUE: Back when I was weaving I took a week long class from Joan Tallarovic.  It was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had and during a conversation I had with her about her experiences teaching she said something to me that I have used as a model for my own teaching method and that was (and I’m paraphrasing here)  if you’re going to teach, teach it all.  Don’t hold anything back from your students to let them figure it out on their own.  You’ll enjoy the process more and the students will have a much better experience.  I took that advice to heart and have adopted it as my own teaching philosophy.

AC4W: Do you have a community of artists in your everyday life?

SUE: I don’t have a local one but I am part of several online communities.

AC4W: How did you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

SUE: With regular communication and respect for their opinions and feedback.

AC4W: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?

SUE: I don’t like to plan that far ahead, a lot can happen in 5 years but I hope I’ll still be in the studio dyeing fabric and making art.Sue B. Beachhouse

AC4W: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you as an artist?

SUE: My DVD Coloring Book Fabric Collage: Dyeing, Fusing, Designing, and Quilting will be available through Interweave Press sometime in August.  Readers can sign up for my newsletter here:  to be notified when it’s released.

AC4W: Sue, thank you again for taking the time to share your art and your art process with Art Camp for Women and our readers.  We can’t wait to see your new DVD!


Paperbag Journal Tutorial by Sue Bleiweiss

Paper Bag Journal

Click here for link to Paperbag Journal Tutorial

By Sue Bleiweiss

A Free Tutorial by Carla Sonheim adding PanPastels to the Silliness!

Mini-Tutorial: PanPastel Critters by Carla Sonheim

I am really looking forward to returning to Art Camp for Women in just a few short months! We will draw and paint using a variety of media — including PanPastels! I fell in love with them over a year ago and have come up with several new ways to use them since then (that I will present for the first time next October).

The following mini-tutorial shows the process of how I created the creatures on the cover of my book, “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim.”

Imaginary Animals Cover

Supplies Needed:

3-5 colors of PanPastels (or regular soft pastel will work, too)
paper towel or white cotton rag
ballpoint pen
kneaded rubber eraser
hard eraser (like the end of a pencil)

Pan 1
Using the paper towel or white cotton rag over your index finger, lay down several splotches of one color.

Pan 2
Repeat Step 1 with a second color. Do not try to “make” anything at this point, but just lay down colors fairly randomly (though close together).

Pan 3
Repeat with a third color.

Pan 4 STEP 4
Using your kneaded rubber eraser, apply medium pressure over the whole shape and blend the edges into each other. This will also lighten the colors a bit. (Some of the pastels will adhere to your eraser; simply “knead” it out and it will go away.)

Now, look at the shape you have started. Do you see anything? I kind of saw a bird at this stage, so…

Pan 5

… I took the eraser and “drew” the bird shape in by erasing areas to define the beak, chest, etc. So Step 5, then, is take your eraser and define your animal (or face, house, plant, flower, or whatever else you “see”).

Pan 6

Add other colors with your rag and finger to define it more; add darker areas if desired for shading.

Pan 7
Use your kneaded eraser to back off any areas that are too heavy-handed compared to the rest of the piece, or the pencil eraser to pull out finer details (like the hair on this bird).

Pan 8STEP 8
Outline your drawing with ballpoint pen. Use shorter strokes rather than one continuous line (click to enlarge to see detail).

Pan 9STEP 9
Using more short strokes, add shading. I imagined that a sun was peeking from the upper right corner, and so shaded the areas underneath the bird’s beak, face and chest (which would be in shadow if there was a real light source there).

Pan 10STEP 10
Finish your drawing by adding details such as wings, eye pupils, etc. You might also need to touch up areas around the drawing with your eraser if the pastels have smudged. Done?

Pan Final
Even though your drawing is finished, there are ways you can improve it digitally if you would like to share it online. In this case I lightened the background and made sure the color was even. I used the “clone” tool in Photoshop to touch up some of the pastel remnants (under the bird’s face, for example). I even took liberties with the cropping so the bird was now flying rather than almost sitting.

NOW it’s done!
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A Meet-up with Traci Bunkers-Art Camp for Women

We heard through the grapevine (aka Facebook) that Traci Bunkers would be coming to Colorado for the Wool Market, a great fiber fair in Estes Park.

So we packed up the car for a day trip into the mountains. Traci Bunkers Spins

Traci B Close Up It was Traci the Fiber Artist who we met at the Wool Market!

Traci’s booth at the Wool Market was a testament to her love of color and fiber. And from the hanks and hanks of hand-dyed and hand-spun fibers in her booth you could just guess at the hours she puts into her art.

Traci's Booth 2013

Having met Traci once before and having devoured her books I felt I “knew” her but this Fiber Artist was a whole new side of the artist and the woman. To talk with Traci you would not guess that she is the author of two of the best mixed-media books on the market.

The Art Journal Workshop Book

Print and Stamp Lab

The Art Journal Workshop – 2011 and Print & Stamp Lab – 2010.

When you look at Traci’s blog it appears that she must never sleep! Her one-woman business is Bonkers Handmade Originals, where she sells the hand-dyed spinning fibers and yarns, original rubber stamps, handmade books, kits and original artwork. She also randomly creates an artzine called Tub Legs, designs knitwear, and is a knitting, spinning and crochet technical editor. She also has an interest in photography.  She has been teaching workshops across the US since the early 1990’s and has branched out into online workshops. She is so genuine and approachable that she took the time to talk with my 14-year-old granddaughter about her 10 years of raising Angora Rabbits and what all is involved.

Wanna-be Rabbit Rancher

Wanna-be Angora Rabbit Rancher and the Pro

Thank you Traci for taking the time at your busy booth to show us how to spin and tell us about rabbit ranching.


NTS-Note To Self! From Becky Nunn

See Becky Nunn’s post today on Nunn Design’s Blog!

The Nunn Design Team having an art day together.

The Nunn Design Team having an art day together.

Becky pokes gentle fun while urging us all to stop reading,  ‘surfing’ and downloading and get on with making some art!

If you haven’t already – see the  free tutorial for making a gorgeous ring with Nunn Design.

Also on the Nunn Design blog there are several more to while away your long weekend – enjoy!