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Fine Art

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.
Please click on the orange and white envelope icon to receive email updates.

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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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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Vector vs Raster

On 27, Jul 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

In order to have the best possible out come for their web and print communications it is helpful for my clients to understand the differences between vector and raster art. This understanding permits us to work together closely so that all of the images we use are clear and appropriate.

I enjoyed reading the explanation on UCreative and have borrowed excerpts and photos to create a simplified “white paper.”

Raster Image EnlargedA raster graphic is an image made of hundreds (or thousands or millions) of tiny squares of color information, referred to as either pixels or dots. Pixels refer to color blocks viewed on an electronic monitor where as dots refer to the ink dots on a printed piece. 

The most common type of raster graphic is a photograph. The designer’s preferred program for creating and editing raster files is Adobe Photoshop.

Popular raster file format extensions include: jpg/jpeg, psd, png, tiff, bmp and gif.

Pros of Raster Images

Rich Detail: “DPI” means “dots per inch,” a measurement of how much detailed color information a raster image contains. If you have a 1” x 1” square image at 300 dpi—that’s 300 individual squares of color that provide precise shading and detail in your photograph. The more dpi your image contains, the more subtle details will be noticeable.

Precise Editing: All of those individual pixels of color information can also be modified, one by one. If you’re a true perfectionist, the level of editing and customization available in a raster image is almost limitless.

Cons of Raster Images

Blurry When Enlarged: The biggest downfall to raster images is that they become pixelated (aka grainy) when enlarged. This is because there are a finite number of pixels in all raster images; when you enlarge a photo, the computer takes its best guess as to what specific colors should fill in the gaps. This interpolation of data causes the image to appear blurry since the computer has no way of knowing the exact shade of colors that should be inserted.

Large File Size: Remember how a 1” x 1” square at 300 dpi will have 300 individual points of color information for the computer to remember? Well let’s say you have an 18” x 24” photo— that’s 129,600 bits o’ info for a computer to process which can quickly slow down even the faster machine.

vector-image-enlargedA vector graphic uses math to draw shapes using points, lines and curves. Whereas a raster image of a 1” x  1” square at 300 dpi will have 300 individuals pieces of information, a vector image will only contain four points, one for each corner; the computer will uses math to “connect the dots” and fill in all of the missing information.

The most common types of vector graphics are fonts and logos. The designer’s preferred program for creating and editing vector files is Adobe Illustrator.

Popular vector file format extensions include: eps, ai and pdf.

Pros of Vector Images

Infinitely Scalable: Vector files can be scaled up or down as much as you want without losing any image quality. Whereas a raster image must guess the colors of missing pixels when sizing up, a vector image simply uses the original mathematic equation to create a consistent shape every time.

Smaller File Size: Using our previous 1” x 1” square example, a vector file needs only four points of data to recreate a square versus 300 individual pixels for a raster image. For simple graphics, like geometric shapes or typography, this means a much smaller file size and faster processing speed.

Edibility: Unlike popular raster-based formats, such as a jpg or png, vector files are not “flattened.” When reopened in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, all of the original shapes exist separately on different layers; this means you can modify individual elements without affecting other objects in the image.

Cons of Vector Images

Limited Details: Because of the way that vector files retain data, they are not practical for complex images that require exact coloring. You can create basic color gradients, but will never be able to match the color detail available in a raster image where each individual pixel can be its own individual shade.

Limited Effects: By definition, vector graphics are created from simple points and lines. This means they can’t handle certain styling effects, like blurring or a drop shadow, that are available with raster images.


All Stars on the Fringe

On 20, Jan 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I’ll be participating in Continuum West Palm Beach this week. The evening of January 21, a pair of Converse All Star high top sneakers that I “styled” with fringe will be auctioned off  to benefit Faith’s Place after school program. The sneakers are wearable and comfy! CONTINUUM is a pop-up art gallery at 501 Fern St. in downtown West Palm Beach that takes place during ArtPalmBeach and the American International Fine Art Fairs; January 21 – February 7, 2015 Please visit the gallery or let me know if you would like to bid on this super unique, stylish foot ware. Hackman-all-stars-on-the-fringe

Anatomy of a watercolor painting

On 27, Aug 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

As a regular columnist with The Rickie Reportan online news source for artists in Palm Beach County and beyond, I was asked me to share a behind-the-scenes look and step-by-step process that I use to create a watercolor painting.

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes area of New York State I was captivated by the lovely old homes. I decided to paint a watercolor of my friends’ 19th century home. When I am commissioned to paint a house, I generally draw the home out very carefully in pencil using my drafting tools to avoid distortion. For this painting, I elected to keep my drawing and brush strokes looser and more spontaneous looking. I penciled the outline of the home onto an 11” x 15” sheet of  Arches 100% rag watercolor paper. For a more personal touch, I added the family’s golden retriever to the front porch. I squeezed the paint colors that I thought would be useful onto my palette and selected four brushes of various sizes for the job. Most paintings begin with a larger, very wet brush, and work through to a smaller, drier brush for the final details. Please click HERE or on the photo sequence below to see the step-by-step process.


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How Do You Approach A Gallery About Exhibiting Your Work?

On 13, Jun 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman


Mary Woerner with-'Green Dress' by Ida Fry

Mary Woerner with-‘Green Dress’ by Ida Fry


Mary Coyle with 'Watermelon Jack' by Alec Monopoly

Mary Coyle with ‘Watermelon Jack’ by Alec Monopoly

The Rickie Report receives numerous emails and phone calls from readers asking a variety of questions. I respond to questions that pertain to visual communication, extending some of the basic information covered in my book, Graphic Design Exposed.”  For this article I interviewed Mary Woerner (owner of Mary Woerner Fine Arts), Mary Coyle (an exhibiting artist and manager of ArtHouse 429) and Ann Griffith (owner and exhibiting artist at Studio E Gallery) .  The article focuses on how to approach a gallery to exhibit your work.  This information is shared with the intent to inform, help and encourage artists to move beyond their own studio and share their creativity with the world.

I would like to thank Mary Coyle, Mary Woerner and Ann Griffith for taking the time to speak with me. Please click here to read the full article.

StudioE, Bjorn Davidson with his painting

StudioE, Bjorn Davidson with his painting

Japanese Nihonga painting

On 10, Jun 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I loved the work of Hiromi Katayama’s the first moment I saw it at the Armory Art Center. From a short distance her work is captivating. Up close, the gorgeous, layered pigments intrigued me. They looked completely different from any media with which I had worked. I asked her about her painting technique. Hiromi explained that she was working with traditional Japanese paints, using fairly traditional methods. In conjunction with an exhibit of her work at Palm Beach Gardens City Hall, Hiromi offered a three hour workshop to learn about Japanese Nihonga painting. The workshop was both exhilarating and challenging. Hiromi demonstrated how she uses her fingers to mix the pigments with binder and water in tiny porcelain dishes. She explained that she places her art on the floor and works on her paintings while squatting. If a painting is large, traditional Japanese painters will build a small bridge over their artwork, permitting them to access all parts of their work in progress. I hope to have an opportunity to try Nihonga again soon.

My Nihonga painting of koi

My Nihonga painting of koi

This site offers a fairly good overview of Nihonga.

Hiromi uses her fingers to mix pigment and medium in a shallow porcelain dish

Hiromi uses her fingers to mix pigment and medium in a shallow porcelain dish



On 14, May 2014 | One Comment | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

Wayside-House-logo-emailFor quite some time now I’ve been noticing the increased use of the color pink in graphic design, home decor, and clothing.

I am fond of the color pink, but have been hesitant to use too much pink in my graphic design or my artwork for fear that it would have limited appeal.

Prior to World War II blue was associated with the fairer sex. Red, and by association, pink were reserved to signify the strength of the male gender.

Since the 1980’s, prevalent advertising trends have drawn girls to pink and boys to blue. At birth, most children prefer blue and primary colors. By age three, social pressure and current advertising trends influence them to associate pink with girls and blue with boys. 

Pink has been popping up everywhere. T-Mobile has a pink logo and the London Olympics logo included pink. According to PantoneView, “when brand consultancy Wolff Olins first unveiled the logo for the 2012 London Olympics, the reception was mixed – not least because of the prominent use of pink.”  Recently opened Queen Elizabeth Olympics Park  includes the Olympics Stadium and employs the olympic color palette, which includes pink.

During online searches of major men’s clothing brands, I noticed an uptick over the last few years in pink clothing for men, ranging from soft peach to bright magenta.

The only pink logo that I have designed to date, is for Wayside House, a women’s recovery center. Will I have an opportunity to design a gender neutral logo that includes pink anytime soon? Do you think that pink and blue will ever become gender neutral colors?

Olympics Park

Queen Elizabeth Olympics Park


T-Mobile logo


2012 London Olympics logo

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