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Through this website and blog it is my hope to offer news bits about current graphic design challenges (my own and others) as well as fine art news. To continue with the theme of my new book, "Graphic Design Exposed," this blog will expose the development of graphic design and fine art projects. From time to time I will invite guests to blog here in order to keep the news and views fresh and informative.
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In Blog

By Caren Hackman

A communications plan is good marketing strategy

On 10, Nov 2015 | No Comments | In Blog | By Caren Hackman

A recent client project involved designing communications materials for preschool programs. I worked closely with Christy Potter at Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County to develop materials for the Strong Minds preschool program.

What is Strong Minds? 

Strong Minds is Palm Beach County’s voluntary, quality rating improvement system (QRIS) for child care providers. This is a national movement, with more than 30 states implementing their own quality rating improvement systems, so more U.S. children enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Quality early learning programs, like those participating in the Strong Minds Network, can make a big impact by:

  • Improving children’s learning and development
  • Encouraging strong adult-child relationships
  • Empowering families to be more involved in their child’s learning

Please click on the two brochure cover images below to view two of the items that I designed.



In addition to creating brochures that explained the Strong Minds program, projects included templates and a tip sheet to assist preschool staff in utilizing the materials to communicate in the most effective way. The tip sheet went beyond the collateral materials and offered suggestions for consistent communications through all media including a scripted phone greeting.

The project helped me to realize the importance of developing a supported communications plan. Beautifully designed web and printed collaterals have little worth if they are not part of a consistent communications plan that is flexible and easy to execute.

Upon completion of the preschool project I wondered how a school principal at public elementary might handle the challenges of communicating with a large, diverse, and very busy parent and caregiver population. I asked Teresa (Tere) Stoupas, Principal of the Conservatory School @ North Palm Beach. My conversation with Tere Stoupas will be published next Tuesday, November 17.

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Artist, Yogi, Cousin: David Michael Hollander

On 13, Oct 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I have a cousin with whom I’ve only met once or twice as a child. I have no idea what circumstances kept us apart, but we never had an opportunity to become well acquainted.

We both became artists. David is also a highly respected yogi and instructor in New York City. And I, after experiencing several years of very serious back pain, have found myself very devoted to practicing yoga as therapy for my back and my psyche.

A recent trip to New York City seemed like the optimal time to develop a dialogue with David. Upon meeting, questions came pouring out about David’s choices of subject matter, the relationship of the yoga practice to his artwork, methods of drawing and painting and the figurative art scene in New York.

One of my first questions to David was an instructional one. I plan to begin doing life sketches in yoga class. Because, I haven’t drawn from life in some time and feel very rusty, I asked David, who draws everyday, and attends life drawing classes, how to begin. He told me to prepare by familiarizing myself with structural artistic anatomy. The skull, rib cage and pelvis are the most important.

David professes to be an anatomy geek and has worked with master dissectionists to study the human body. He has gone so far as to attend human body dissections that help to inform his work as well as his yoga practice and teaching. In January David will work with Tom Myers, Master Dissector, in Arizona, to learn more about human anatomy.  For his personal work, David prefers to work with live models, but also uses photos.

He advised me to treat the process of drawing a person the same way I might draw an apple; as light on form. I’ll be publishing more art, anatomy and yoga Q and A with David Michael Hollander in the future. For now, wish me luck in my yoga class sketch endeavor!

David Michael Hollander with portraits

David Michael Hollander with portraits

Sandra Hollander, David's mother, who is currently suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

Portrait of Sondra Hollander, David’s mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.


The big art insurance question

On 06, Oct 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

badge-nyu-art-bizOnce again, I was asked to exhibit my work in several locations during the coming season. Each location sounded like a wonderful opportunity for exposure and possible sale. The downside was that few of the venues provided insurance. In fact some insisted that I sign an agreement, not holding the venue responsible for the safety of my work. This sad situation is all too common.

I turned to Sheryl Wood to see if she could enlighten me about art insurance for artists. Sheryl is an attorney who has studied the art business and fine art appraisals at NYU for the last several years and will be attending Art Law Day in November. This article serves as an overview. We’ll compile some more detailed questions about art insurance for Sheryl for a future article. Please submit a comment in the area provided below or email me to ask some of your own questions.

Please note: This is not intended as legal advice.  Any advice will always depend on the specific facts and circumstances of a particular situation.

CH: Do artists need to have insurance?

SW: Dependent on value of course, it is important for professional artists to insure the work that is in their studio. Certainly galleries and museums need to be covered, but the artist cannot always count on that when consigning work or loaning out for an exhibition.  It should be clear in their agreements who bears the risk of loss.  Not something artists like to talk about when getting excited about doing an exhibition.

  1. Artists should always have an agreement.
  2. READ it BEFORE signing it.
  3. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.

Agreements are usually one sided as to who drafted, that is why it is a good idea for the artist to have their own agreements that can be negotiated.  Obviously, depending on who bears the upper hand and how badly the consignee or museum wants the work will play a hand in that negotiation, but that doesn’t mean the artist shouldn’t take the lead when it comes to his or her work.

CH: how does an artist determine the value of their work for insurance purposes?

SW: If insured for replacement value, make sure it is for “retail” replacement value, not the artist’s cost for the materials (which unfortunately is what the IRS allows when the artist makes a donation of his work — as opposed to a collector who gets a fair market value deduction for the same donation).  You have sales comparables for work so I would imagine you can use that for reference. Then I would think you would need some sort of schedule that allows for rotation when you make a sale.

CH: Sheryl thank you so much for your time and expertise.

SW: You are very welcome. I look forward to responding to more questions. I can be reached at

Illustrate Your Resume

On 22, Sep 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I recently worked with an enormously talented arts-education integration specialist and photo-journalist, Jean Hart Howard. She asked if I could add some interest to her resume. The resume was robust. It was filled with lists and descriptions of Jean’s credentials, experience, exhibits and awards. However, the text heavy resume prevented the reader from grasping her high level of creative energy and expertise.

We worked together to select photos  from her arts integration teaching classes to create a grid in the center of the resume that showed the work of her students. Text  was edited and headings were bolded and colored to match elements from the featured artworks.

Visual elements add more interest and “personality” to a resume or one page business information sheet.

Below are a couple of links to previously published articles about this topic:

  1. on my blog:
  2. A very comprehensive article that I wrote for The Rickie Report:


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Steve Blackwood, In Three Simultaneous Exhibits in Palm Beach County

On 15, Sep 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

poppyA few weeks a go The Rickie Report asked me to complete an article about internationally acclaimed sculptor, Steve Blackwood. I always enjoy working with Rickie but this time I was particuarly excited about the request to write an article. I had recently returned from the “Reimagined” exhibit at the Delray Center for the Arts at Old School Square. I found much of the work captivating and was thrilled to learn that I now had an opportunity to speak directly with Steve Blackwood, one of the artists whose work I admired.

My focus was on Steve’s process. I have a background in industrial design and currently work as a graphic designer and fine artist. I appreciate that in order to produce the mixed-media, sculptural pieces Steve must combine numerous materials, forms, and finishes.  For many of his smaller pieces, Steve works with found objects. The smaller scale permits him to experiment with the elements’ position and relationships until the assemblages look just right. The larger pieces are planned more carefully because of the time and cost involved with experimenting. Many sketches are begun in Photoshop which allows Blackwood to simulate how parts will come together. Sometimes Steve uses ebay and etsy to get parts for projects. When the items in his imagination cannot be found, he calls upon other artists and craftspersons to fabricate items.

Please visit The Rickie Report to read the entire article: Steve Blackwood, Internationally Acclaimed Sculptor, In Three Simultaneous Exhibits in Palm Beach County


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In Blog

By Caren Hackman

Disciplining my vacation brain

On 01, Sep 2015 | No Comments | In Blog | By Caren Hackman

I returned from vacation two weeks ago but my brain refuses to submit to its previous work schedule. I am indoors working on some wonderful and fulfilling graphic design projects for clients as well as paintings for a future show.

I am happy, and yet, I cannot eliminate that nagging feeling that there is a mountain to climb or a beach to walk. Have you ever had this kind of feeling? What is the solution. Must I discipline my “vacation brain”? Shall I make time during daylight hours to enjoy the outdoors and finish work when the sun has gone down?vermont-cloudscape2

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Has your organization fallen into the tagline trap?

On 25, Aug 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design | By Caren Hackman

This blog article is a cautionary tale about adding taglines to logos.

A graphic designer (sometimes me!) will design the perfect logo for an organization. The logo will be a clean, concise visual communication piece that clearly brands the organization or company. But then, some of the powers that be at the organization feel that a tagline is necessary. The graphic designer is asked to add a tagline, URL or CEO’s name to the logo in a permanent “lock-up.” This means that the logo will always appear “locked” with the tagline or requested text. The impact of the clean, concise visual brand image becomes diluted and lost.

Sometimes the tagline and CEO’s nteamworks-example-reduceBame really are necessary. Sometimes, not. Consider developing a guide that defines the circumstances under which a lock-up will be used. Some considerations include, the overall size of the logo in the layout, type of media, or duration of use of the communications piece. The additional parameters will assist in making the most visually strategic decisions.


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Is a rainbow the promise of good things?

On 18, Aug 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I always feel sad on the first day of school. The long sunshine and freedom filled days of summer suit me better than any other time of year. Even now, as an empty-nester, I still feel a little sad as autumn approaches and days grow shorter.

Nearly every time that I have dropped one of my precious children off at a location that caused me sadness or anxiety; first day of school, sleep away camp, or college, I would look up into the sky and see a rainbow. I always felt that it was a sign that things would work out well.

Today is the first day of school for Palm Beach County school children. As I took an early morning walk with my greyhound, I enjoyed two rainbows in the sky. One was the largest I’ve ever seen and the other smaller. I hope there are parents who enjoyed the show…or maybe it was just for me and my first day back in the studio after vacation.


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Painting Aquamedia with Texture

On 10, Aug 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

In the summer of 2012 friends hosted me for a few idyllic days at their vacation home off the coast of Massachusetts. This summer I’ll be returning to the island to share in their wedding celebration. As a gift, I thought that I would paint one of the inspirational scenes from the island. I chose the subject matter, worked on the composition and began to paint a very straightforward rendition of the scene. My work looked OK but lacked the energy that I felt during my visit. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed my carefree textural painting style.

For many years, I had thought of the textural painting style as a way of cheating my transparent watercolor expertise. I began using the painting method as a way to salvage paintings that were not progressing as planned. My first discovery of this technique was when I had an expensive piece of 40″ x 25″ watercolor paper fastened to a large board. The painting on which I was working wasn’t developing the way I’d hoped. I decided to wash off the paint so as not to waste the paper. I took the 48″ x 30″ board into the shower and scrubbed. Some paint came off and some had stained the paper.  Thinking that I had nothing to lose I mixed media, scraped paint, added handmade fiber-filled paper and generally had a grand time! The painting was a great success. Over time, I did this more frequently. I stopped waiting for accidents and began paintings incorporating these techniques as part of the overall plan.

I used the traditional rendition of this island scene as a study and restarted on fresh paper using the textural technique.

When the painting was completed I scanned my large work table and dirty fingers to assess all the materials involved in the process. I’d used traditional watercolors, gesso, acrylic paint, thai unryu paper, mat board scrapers, sponges, button thread,a stiff bristled oil painting brush, traditional watercolor brushes, my fingers, a toothbrush, and spray water bottle.


To view more recently completed work using this techniques please visit.

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First Encounters With Art

On 03, Aug 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

As a columnist with The Rickie Reportan online news source for artists in Palm Beach County and beyond, I respond to questions that pertain to visual communication, extending some of the basic information covered in my book, Graphic Design Exposed. This article is a little different and a lot of fun. The Rickie Report invited me to investigate how best to introduce young people to art and at what age.

The article appears on The Rickie Report site in two installments. For this article I consulted with three experts. I am very grateful to Glenn Tomlinson and Lyda Barrera and Christina Barrera for taking the time to answer my questions and share their experience.

Below are some excerpts from the interviews with Glenn, Lyda and Christina.

barrera-student-awardLyda Barrera has taught elementary school art in the Palm Beach County School District for 25 years. She and her daughter, Christina, also work privately with students to prepare them for auditions at Bak Middle School of the Arts and Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Christina, a professional artist, is an Undergraduate Admissions Counselor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She spent two years working as a Museum Educator at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Caren: You’ve told me that most children draw freely without instruction before they begin taking classes. Then you ask them to draw from observation.

Lyda: Drawing from observation engages the brain in a different way than free expressive art, which is also important but is not engaging their brains the same way.

Christina: It’s important to make sure that young kids be told that there is no wrong way to make art. Later, I think it’s important for students to gain skills and challenge their brains to learn to analyze what they’re seeing and draw from observation, but it’s also so important to tell kids that there’s no wrong way to make art — it can’t be “right or wrong.” It helps prevent them from getting discouraged because a project doesn’t look “right” or they’re “not good”. Seeing and making art, developing motor skills and creativity are all important parts of development and can enrich someone’s life forever if they’re creativity isn’t invalidated early on.

Young visitors examine Stuart Davis’ painting at the Norton Museum of Art

Young visitors examine Stuart Davis’ painting at the Norton Museum of Art

Glenn Tomlinson has served as the William Randolph Hearst Curator of Education at the Norton Museum of Art since January, 2001.  Prior to that time he worked in museum education at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He lives in Jupiter with his family. The Q and A with Glenn can be found here.

Caren: Are there basic principles to which beginners should always be introduced as a first exposure or lesson? Or do you work with exhibits that are available in the galleries?

Glenn: There are so many points of entry into art.  One of the ways that we like to work is by developing literacy skills and critical thinking skills.  Exploring the elements of art (line, color, shape/form, space, texture) is a good way to help develop a vocabulary for looking at art (and everything else, btw!).  Then, by discussing how the elements of art work together to create composition, for example, you exercise a child’s critical thinking skills.  Take it one level further, by looking at a second artwork, and comparing the second to the first… learning can happen in such meaningful ways through this kind of process.  And we can use a wide variety of artworks for these lessons, so we do use special exhibitions and the collection.

Please read the articles in their entirety.

The full Q & A with Lyda and Christina can be found at First Encounters with Art – Part One

The full Q & A with Glenn Tomlinson can be found at First Encounters With Art – Part Two

The Rickie Report a FREE publication, is read worldwide. You can subscribe to it HERE.

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