Anticipating my first pop-up

We’re busily preparing for the upcoming Pop-Up show Paola’s Vinum is hosting on Saturday. Jennifer Yang curated the show and selected the five of us from the Chicago Painters and Artists’ Group to display our work for one night only. We will bring our art pieces to Paola’s Vinum, 328 S. Jefferson St., Chicago, IL 60661 and you can peruse them between 5 and 10 p.m. on June 2.

Who can say no to chatting with up-and-coming Chicago artists while sipping on Spanish wines?

Pop-up Gallery June 2, 2012 in Chicago

I met Piotr Wolodkowicz at the Ravenshood Art Walk, and saw his beautiful Portrait of Trees show at the Athenaeum Theatre in December. As someone who looks up into treetops all the time, I could relate to those large pieces depicting vibrant trees.

He states: “My paintings start with a color idea and than I develop the composition in which the color is the primary subject. My art reflects my experiences and feelings. Balance, vibrancy and simplicity are my primary goals which I try to achieve through landscape and plain air paintings. My work romanticizes places that might not seem noteworthy but are beautiful in those short moments when they exist.”

Piotr was raised in Poland and has traveled the middle east, Europe and parts of Africa. He has had a solo exhibits at various places in Chicago, including the Ukrainian Museum.

Brett Edenton hosted our Art Share event at his lovely studio. He hosts open studios with live models on a regular basis, and I am curious to see his selection of portraits and still lifes.

A peek in Brett Edenton’s studio in February

Jennifer Yang has immersed herself in studying painting for the past few years. I’ve seen her draw at the Digital Art Demo, and look forward to seeing her paintings of figures and still life objects. She works with oil and traditional mediums, focusing on naturalism. She draws her inspiration from literature and film, and “plans to eat lots of Spanish tortillas at the event!” When not painting, she likes to read and write.

Jennifer Yang’s sketch-in-progress during the Digital Art Demo

I saw Jason McPhillips’  work at the Art Share event and was drawn to his Time triptych that seemed as three-dimensional as a real shadow box. He also “creates drawings, paintings, and sculpture based on the close study of nature.”

“Beginning his creative career as an aspiring filmmaker, an intensive period of drawing storyboards eventually gave rise to an obsession with painting. Jason’s art seeks to draw attention to the mysteries that surround us, from the play of light to the manifestation of form in space.”

“Recently relocated from the Rocky Mountains, Jason is enjoying the rich cultural environment and social opportunities afforded by life in Chicago. He is looking forward to the evening’s introduction to Spanish food and wines, as he will be traveling to Spain this September.”

Jason McPhillips’ Praeteritus at Art Share

Christina Caruso was painting alongside Jennifer at the Digital Art Demo, and was very forthcoming in explaining her process with me as I admired her travel-ready oil paint set-up. I look forward to learning more about her and her work at the show.

I’m very excited to be part of a pop-up gallery with these talented painters, and look forward to learning more about Spanish wines as well. Join us on Saturday!


Doing Chores

You know what I got excited about this week? Doing laundry!

It’s been so busy the past month that household chores have been neglected.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Maybe I’ll catch up a bit over the holiday weekend.

I have yet to sift through the photos I took at Shawna Moore’s workshop.

I meant to plug my own show this week but that too has to wait.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

So have a fabulous weekend, and see you next week with a bit more content…


Judging by the neighborhood, it’s time to swing by the rose garden one of these days.  First I have to wrap another deadline though.

photo by Maike's Marvels

Yesterday evening’s walk was nice. The neighborhood Comma decided to seek higher branches to sunbathe on, but Admirals still like the pavement.

photo by Maike's Marvels

This one let me snap a few shots.

photos copyright Maike's Marvels

The beach opens this weekend.

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Do you have Memorial Day plans?

Guest Blogging

I’m fresh off a two-day encaustic workshop which felt like a fun crafting party. I chatted with my FUSEDChicago friends while implementing techniques demonstrated by Shawna Moore. It was lovely to deepen existing connections and to meet new people while exploring these new techniques.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I felt particularly celebratory after finishing a freelance deadline on Friday.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Meanwhile, my guest blogs are posting on FUSEDChicago about the photoshoot and an evening with Kim Bernard.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I was also made aware of the Chicago Contemporary Figurative Art group a few months ago, for which I wrote about a recent art gallery visit. This group supports the local figurative arts community, which has quite a presence here.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It’s been a great week. Here’s to more reasons to celebrate every day this coming week.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Butterfly sightings

I have a personal mission. In April I participated in Coffee, Cameras and Chrysalides at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and as I perused the showcase of local butterflies, I noted the ones I want to see in person. The Buckeye and Red Admiral crossed my path last year, but this year I added these on my viewing list: a Lady, a Comma, a Question Mark, the Hairstreaks, the Dogface, and the Pipevine and Zebra Swallowtails.

Prior to visiting Lauren Levato this butterfly fluttered past me and posed for a bit.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Guess what, with the invasion of Red Admirals I also started spotting lighter orange wings. These turned out to be American Ladies. It took a few sightings before one actually settled down in a photographable spot, but I was thrilled to see a new (to me) creature.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Later that week, I even spotted the first Monarch of the season.

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

This Sunday, I saw another monarch glide by as I captured (I mean on camera—not in a net) a few more Ladies fluttering about.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Then, joy upon joys, a new butterfly crossed my path. I had no idea what it was but took pictures galore.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Upon examination, book perusing and googling, it’s a Comma.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I’d love to find a truly comprehensive book for butterfly identification, one that shows both underwings and the decorative top view. Have you come across any good ones?

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I also see a lot of skipper/moth-types in the grass these days. It’s hard to get close to them to truly identify what they are.

Butterfly spotting is such fun! Eventually I’d like to ‘raise’ a butterfly just to watch the transformation up close. Not having a garden I don’t have a resource for caterpillars though. The opportunity will arise when it is time I’m sure.

A fashionable morning at Cerato Boutique

“It’s not networking, it’s connecting.”
~ Fernanda Hopkins 

On Friday, while I will be slaving away on a deadline, my leading Ladies of WIN will gather at another monthly Innovation Circle. These are held every third Friday of the month, with a buffet breakfast while masterminding business strategies, followed by a private shopping event in a local boutique.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

“We believe in networking and having fun.
Why not have fun with what you do?”

~ Erica Thomas,

April’s Innovation Circle was held at Cerato Boutique on Southport in Lakeview. I tend to pass through this area, but had no idea this community had such fun places to shop and munch at.

Greens and oranges are trending, right in line with WIN’s organizational colors.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Cerato was founded in May 2010. Named for a flower that is meant to build power, the boutique focuses on Chicago fashion designers. The aim is to build recognition that Chicago fashion is on par with New York and Los Angeles.

Guest speaker Lara Miller, recent winner of a Chicago Online Marketing Contest award, is one of those Chicago-based fashion designers.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Lara Miller with a sampling of her collection

After her first fashion show in Wicker Park in 2002, Lara applied for a job at fashion boutique P45. “They didn’t have a job, but they liked what I was wearing. They asked if I did production. I had no idea what that meant, but I said yes,” said Lara.

Her first trunk show sold out, and her clothing line was in six boutiques by the time she graduated from the Art Institute. In 2005, Lara worked at her business full-time and 2008 was her strongest year. However, the economy did impact Lara’s business, and in 2009 30% of her boutiques closed.

“It is hard to stay positive when the money is not there,” Lara said.

Lara benefited from microlending organizations like, ACCION Chicago and JVS Chicago throughout her business growth.

As of 2009 she also supplemented her income with a position at the Chicago Fashion Incubator, from which she was recently able to step down to return to her business full time.

Environmentally conscious, Lara Miller knitwear is handloomed in Chicago and made from recylced materials: organic cotton, hemp, vegan ahimsa peace silk, organic wool, linen, lyocell, flax and soy fibers, hand-loomed bamboo, and recycled organic cotton.

However, “customers don’t have to sacrifice, it can still be luxurious,” said Lara. Her colorful garments indeed feel soft and flowy.

To make up for the price differential of not manufacturing in China, Lara’s pieces are quite versatile; they can be reversed, wrapped or flipped. Lara demonstrated how the sweater she was wearing changed into a dress by wearing it ‘up-side-down’. More tailored pieces can be worn backward or forward to where the collar-line changes. Her look-book is available here.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Valerie Beck sharing Money Mindset Tips

Addressing the financial constraints everyone faces at some point in their business, Valerie Beck shared her five exercises for a positive money mindset. These include:

1. “All the money you want is already in circulation, you just need to attract it into your bank account.
a. Be positive: when you raise your happiness level it raises your “deserve” level
b. When you wake up say: “I am having a great day.” Then look in the mirror and say “Good morning beautiful.”

2. Direct your money thoughts. As posted at a chocolate tour stop in Geneva, fear is mismanaged imagination. “We get what we expect.”
c. Write down what you believe about money (It doesn’t grow on trees)
d. Write down what you would like to believe about it (getting rich is easy)

3. Direct your self-talk
“We are either the building crew or the wrecking crew of ourselves. … Create a positive affirmation about your financial picture, such as ‘I love being great with money’.”

4. Be grateful
e. List 5 things you are grateful for every day

5. Track it
“We get what we measure, and success breeds success.”
f. Set financial goals
g. Donate
h. Imagine: add as many zeros to your bank account to get you excited

One guest added that we should also reward ourselves every time we meet a financial goal. Another guest mentioned that allows you to track your finances securely.

Following that inspiration, some of us assisted Cerato’s bottom line with additions to our Spring wardrobe.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Now I want to fill my closet with Chicago-designed garments!

“What WIN really brings to me is a lot of possibility.
WIN has a good energy, a good vibe. There is solidarity.”

~ Yasmina Marie Bacon, Belle d’Argane 

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

My first professional art photoshoot

The drawback of submitting to a few calls for art at once is that you also increase the likelihood of rejection. Both calls for art I submitted to in March fit into that category—garnering two rejections within two days. But hey, I had a 50% chance of being accepted, and that is 100% more likely when you do submit your work instead of thinking about it. The letters are very gracious, and they encouraged me to try again next year.

at Tom van Eynde's studio

The submitted photos were taken by me before I learned that having high-quality photos is crucial to entering juried submissions. While I have been taking photographs since my teens and did front-page photography for a newspaper years ago, art photography requires a different skillset. Not being alone in this challenge, I banded together with a few FUSEDChicago members for a joint photoshoot.

Art photographer Tom van Eynde was highly recommended for encaustic art, and on Saturday we met at his studio. Tom immediately sorted pieces by size and started snapping away. He is fast!

Art work by Maike's Marvels, Bridgette Guerzon Mills and Elyse Martin

Bridgette Guerzon Mills and Elyse Martin made a few trips up and down the stairs to bring their pieces (larger than mine) in. Shortly thereafter, Michele Thrane and Gina Vanderreyden brought in their work. It was lovely to peruse the variety of work and see the new pieces everyone had been working on.

Bridgette has thick layers and and earthy color palette, and also brought an acrylic painting.

Elyse’s recent work uses a light palette.

Gina’s delicate paper paintings have ethereal hues.

Michele created “patchwork” circles with monoprints and photographs.

It was such a fun morning of catching up on life and encouraging each artistic endeavor. We each eagerly anticipate receiving our gallery-ready photos on CD.

I do hope to arrange my own photography set-up over time, and as I was looking for tutorials, I was charmed by the doll-size set up on this site (scroll down beyond the deer). This site about photographing for juried shows will be one to revisit when I have new pieces to photograph.

Meanwhile, my current art work will be on display June 2 at a small group show. Six Chicago Painters and Artists will bring their work to Paola’s Vinum for a one-evening pop-up. You can sip Spanish wines at the bar while perusing our work, and maybe taking some home (both art and wine) if you’re so inclined. More on that soon.

A studio visit with Lauren Levato

“This Saturday, 14 unsuspecting souls will be coming to visit my studio
…dunh, dunh, duuuuunnnnnhhhhhh!”
~ Lauren Levato


This was the warning posted on Lauren Levato’s Facebook page, incidentally the  day after my sister-in-law announced it was Health Care Decisions day and urged everyone to get their living will in order.

Now if I were an insect, my testament would read “I donate my body to Lauren Levato to be memorialized by her.”

drawing copyright Lauren Levato

The unsuspecting souls are members of the Chicago Painters and Artists’ Group, and we were invited to visit Lauren’s studio and discuss the artistic life with her.

Lauren started ‘trending’ in my life a few months ago when I saw her title of Moth Wrangler on a Facebook group. I was in the midst of researching Maria Sybilla Merian, so seeing a contemporary butterfly artist in Chicago felt quite fortuitous. I clicked all the links Lauren so conveniently made available on her subscription-enabled Facebook page, and I enjoyed learning more about her through those articles and interviews.

copyright Lauren Levato

There are connections: a writing background and the inherent joy of linguistics, a fascination with butterflies (for Lauren insects in general), a great sense of humor through online banter, her perceptive and intelligent insights, the interest in linking (hi)stories we create to make sense of the world, a Dutch cultural link through her fiance, and the exploration and support of the Chicago artistic community (for figurative art in particular).

So I was thrilled when Jennifer Yang organized a studio visit with Lauren, and I was willing to risk my life to meet her (I am not a poser)!

“Scientists and artists are very similar,
you have to prove that what you do matters
and fight for funding.”
~ Lauren Levato

Lauren was always fascinated with insects, capturing lightning bugs (fireflies) in Indiana to make glow rings of them. While pursuing her English degree she almost traded it in for entomology, but is glad that she didn’t. After being a journalist and poet post-university, the visual started to take over.

vignette copyright Lauren Levato

Lauren started etching and had her first “proper” exhibit in 2003. Then she apprenticed intaglio. Career fluctuations led her to creating dimensional shadow box art with natural objects, pushing the “creep factor” with items such as a moving abacus made of beetles.

Lauren enjoys exploring the links between phobias, religion, spiritual beliefs and the occult.

“My passion has grown
and it is fueled by people being terrified of insects.”

~ Lauren Levato 

Not satisfied with the fragility of her assemblage work, “I didn’t want to become a widget maker of insects,” she said, Lauren discovered drawing with a book by Gail Potocki.

Now represented by Aron Packer Schopf, Lauren was initially rejected when she presented her dimensional art. After establishing a sales record over the past year, Lauren presented her pencil-drawn work with more of a business angle, and her solo show is slated for January 2013.

“I’m an overnight success ten years in the making.

I feel like I am doing what is authentically mine
and not copying mentors.”
~ Lauren Levato

Lauren said that you need to submit your work to galleries that display the type of work you do (although you need to have a unique aspect to it) and also take commissions into account when pricing your work. One lesson is to build it in when you sell on your own, so that you don’t have to take a price cut when a gallery starts representing you. However, she also cautions against letting your ego get too involved in the pricing process.

While Lauren advocates creating art that is genuinely and uniquely you, she also says you have to know where to market your art. “You have to think strategically, where is the place where people are interested (in your subject matter)?,” Lauren said.

Her aim is to have a show in Tokyo where people are “obsessed” with insects.

Lauren also mentioned that discussing her work with others will give her nudges to take ideas to a new level. She cited her fiance Rory Coyne (a figurative painter) in connecting some ideas, and also in influencing both the archiving of work (rather than Lauren’s impulse to destroy it) as well as being more willing to share works in progress.

Art work by Rory Coyne

When Lauren gave herself permission not to paint–which she had identified as a pinnacle of artistic success–she began working with colored pencils. Pencils give her more control over her work than painting does.

drawing copyright Lauren Levato

Inspirational artists include Marco Marzotti and Jeremy Bartion.

drawing copyright Lauren Levato

We discussed the concern of being known for a certain artistic style or medium, and then branching out into other forms or artmaking. While one must be cognizant of one’s brand (or personality), Lauren promotes following that inspiration, and incrementally adding elements to help coinnoisseurs adjust to your new direction.

“My career is not in doing
a single image of a bug over and over again.”
~ Lauren Levato

Her single-insect drawings have evolved to incorporating parts of the human anatomy, such as the heart in one of her most-promoted images. Recently, ribbons are part of Lauren’s exploration.

She is also exploring porcelain work, which has her striving to draw faster so she can devote time to both. Like many artists, she has a day job and draws on the train to make the most use of her time.

copyright Lauren Levato

Drawn mostly while in transit

“There are an infinite number of stories about insects
that are really about humans.”
Lauren Levato

Her drawing is also becoming more large scale, with a sketch covering her studio wall for the latest project she is working on.

Lauren’s work in progress,
working title: A Girl with Wings for Lungs

There was a brief discussion about the blackest pencils, ebony pencils, graphite and other pencil technicalities I wasn’t aware of. The discussion of 5H to 8B pencils was a foreign language to me, but does help me appreciate that each artist has a go-to set of tools.


Lauren shops at Genesis Art Supplies. Her desk is from there. She also recommends visiting New York Central Art Supply  in New York City.

We discussed the need to find mentors who inspire rather than stifle, and to ensure that passion, instinct and spirit override technicality in creating. Lauren is eagerly anticipating a course at Ox-Bow School of Arts on Insectology this summer. She also teaches at Klein Artist Works.

It was a pleasure to peruse Lauren’s cabinet of curiosities, pick her brain about the artistic career, and learn that she is an even more kindred spirit in person than online. I look forward to following her work and attending her exhibit next year.

Places Lauren studied:


bookbinding basics

Recently I attended a bookbinding workshop at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative.

It was an ambitious class, with a few too many projects for the 6 hours allotted, but I had a blast learning and surveying all the techniques.

We made a mini ‘origami’ book that can house strips of fortune cookie fortunes.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It makes an adorable necklace too.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

This book is made of one sheet of letter-sized paper folded into the pink cover without any adhesives.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Next up was an accordion book.

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Basic book-sewing skills created a small journal.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The challenging binding project became my homework.

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I look forward to completing this book when I have a weekend without other workshops to attend.

I’m also looking forward to filling these pages. photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Artrageous Extravaganza

Lincoln Park’s Artrageous event concluded Saturday with the Main Event Extravaganza. I had a lot of fun getting to know this corridor of Chicago. Knowing parking might be an issue with various events going on that day, I opted for the L and walked the long stretch to Clark Street.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It was quite the scenic route, with beautiful vintage buildings and the scent of lilacs.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The Chicago Creative Social Club met at the Artrageous Test kitchen, where local chefs held demonstrations of signature dishes.

The Chopping Block’s chef Jeff Adamek prepared a wonderful risotto dish.

You can learn to cook and eat your own creation during evening classes at the Chopping Block locations.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Then it became happy hour with Zapatista’s Guacamole and Margarita Fiesta.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The Zapatista Margarita includes 1 fresh squeezed lime, 1 fresh squeezed lemon, 2 oz Camarena blue agave tequila (it retains more sugar), a squeeze of 100% agave nectar, 2 oz Cointreau, and ice cubes.

The tequila boost wasn’t enough, we even received a gift certificate to dine at one of their locations!

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Zapatista’s Guacamole is just a blend of onions, peppers and one half squeezed lime mottled together, with one whole avocado and tomato mottled in after.

I took a quick walk with one Meetup friend and we were introduced to the Chicago Mosaic School, which was working on a Mosaic of the Clark Street logo.

I then returned for the Tuna Poke demonstration by Chef Jeremy Kiens of Dunlays on Clark. This will be an appetizer coming to the restaurant menu next week.

He recommended Safe Harbor as a resource for purchasing fish, and gave us tips on how to select a piece at the supermarket (have the vendor turn it over to make sure the flavor hasn’t been absorbed by ice—if it is white on the bottom, you don’t want to purchase the fish).

We made our way over to Elizabeth Grace, where Florentina Petcov was working on a bas relief of John F. Kennedy. It will be part of a bigger piece.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Inside this lovely stationery and gift store (it started with wedding invitations), we admired Florentina’s “Year” and were treated to champagne and chocolate.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Truffle Truffle doesn’t have a storefront, but ‘popped up’ for this event to sell some mother’s day goodies.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Our group then wandered over to the art making demonstration pop-up. Along the way we discussed jewelry making, local art schools, and sources of inspiration.

In the art-making pop-up, Krista August discussed Giants in the Park, her research project about all the statues in Lincoln Park. She has written a guidebook and also provides guided walking and biking tours herself.

This center also offered bead-making, iPhone photography, felting and decorating demonstrations. Outside, 3 bands, such as The West End Duo, traveled along Clark street to spread musical cheer.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The group dispersed after our fun morning together, so I strolled on my own, and bumped into some painters along the street.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Then I picked out some chocolate at KC Chocolatier. It was her darkest selection of the day, but that was no reflection on my mood!

The Austrian Bakery was a nice respite from all the walking and chatting.

Their Apple Strudel tea is made of dried fruit, yum!

Diversey and Clark had some fun signs as I made my way to the closing ceremony.

The Dixie Tornadoes played for us as Prosecco flowed and the pizza buffet was perused. Then the announcements were made.

2,000 votes were cast, of which 500 went to Triumphant Spirits #1 ‘Joy’ by Barbara Edwards. She also received the Judges’ choice in the Oils/Pastels/Watercolor category.

The Judges’ Choice Best of Show went to Gettysburgers by Bob Blinn, a transparency on sheet metal (which doesn’t photograph well).


Excellence in Photographic Arts was awarded to Rebecca Plotnick.

Judges’ Choice Sculpture/Woodworking was awarded to Rick Clubb’s bust of Sam Elliott (I didn’t snap a photo due to the glare in the window).

Deborah Hirshfield’s Gut Reaction won the Judges’ Choice Jewelry/Clothing/Wearable Art/Design/Textiles category.

More photos of the Meetup are here.

Artrageous has been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve had so much support throughout this event from all of you, and have become more bold in promoting my work and this show. I would have attended Saturday’s festivities even if my work had not been hung, but truly being part of it has made it all the more fun.

So thank you for your votes, for your encouragement, and for giving me such joy. I cannot wait to see how Maike’s Marvels evolves further.