Archives for posts with tag: Student of the Month

And we’re back!  Happy New Year, Happy 2017, Happy January, and Happy New Edition of Mind of the Artist, our blog series featuring the talented and diverse artists of the Capitol Hill Art League.  We are lucky to have these great artists in our midst here at CHAW, and are especially pleased to start year two of this series on such a strong note.  Kim’s story is the perfect way to kick off this year, as her own telling of her life wends its way from printmaking to painting and, ultimately, to a deeper need–to connect through our personal stories to a bigger story, a greater universal heart.  



I am a painter, printmaker and collage artist. I studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where I received my BFA in printmaking and bookarts. I relocated west to Washington State University to complete my MFA, focusing on printmaking, monotype, and large format book structures. My time and travels in Washington and the Pacific Northwest ignited my interest in landscape as a visual language.



After graduate school, I worked on the Umatilla Indian Reservation at Crow’s Shadow Institute, a non-profit printmaking and art studio. We were building a studio at the pediment of the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon for the tribal members to learn and use printmaking in their art practice. I worked there for almost a year before I was offered a position at Tyler Graphics in NY as an etching printer. There I learned how to make fine art prints for artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Al Held, and John Walker. It was an intense and amazing experience to work with artists of this caliber. Their art and personality loomed large in the print studio. My personal artmaking took a secondary role until I discovered collage and watercolor. I began making small stories on paper in my spare time.

After working many years as a professional printer, I found painting to fit my personal artistic need. The act of painting was immediate, active, and focused. I wanted to remove the barriers and the patience of the printing process and dive into the storytelling of painting.



I paint to tell stories; my own personal story, a universal story, a story heard, an inspirational story. Stories about a place in time, a specific landscape, outer space, or an interior landscape are all folded into a painting.


My Heart

Essentially, I think of my images as landscapes. Abstracted and full of symbolism, I record the sights, color and sensations of being in that place. Rural and urban landscapes, mountains and oceans all feature in the paintings. Images of water: bodies of water, rain, weather, symbolize change, release of control, being lost, or unmoored. I am fascinated by the idea of finding a point of location on such a vast and always shifting ocean. Likewise, the sky and celestial markings are curious to me. I use the symbols of longitude and latitude, constellations, timelines, and temperature as markers of my internal position.


Lightning Bugs Study #1

I see my “landscape” paintings as a universal story that many may be able to relate to. I hope my paintings bring community and highlight what we have in common in our hearts and minds, rendering the ineffable in paint.


Anatomy of a Cloud

Kim Bursic, Capitol Hill Art League, Mind of the Artist, 2017.

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One year, eleven incredible artists: we are reaching the end of our first series of Mind of the Artist, featuring some of the talented, creative, diverse artists of the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL).  We are so proud to have CHAL as an integral part of our CHAW community, and especially happy to be able to share some of their stories.  Some have been artists for their entire lives, others have rediscovered a passion, and still others picked it up late in the game–but each story is a reminder that ultimately, the artistic journey is individual: there is no one “right” way to find art or to explore it.  Jill Finsen is a fantastic example of someone who has dived right into her passion–and is REALLY going for it.  Read on to find out just exactly how she’s doing that, and how she arrived at that truly exciting place in her artistic development.  


Self Portrait

My first remembered interest in art was when I was given a Brownie camera as a child. I fell in love with black and white photography immediately. My dad taught me some basics and then I pursued instruction through courses after college at the Cambridge Adult Education Center and set up a rudimentary darkroom in my Cambridge apartment. After leaving the Boston area I dabbled a bit and later reignited my passion when AARP, the organization for which I worked, undertook a major reorganization.


Two Boats, Three Islands

I decided I needed a more serious diversion to supplement work and took a series of courses at The Maine Photographic Workshop in traditional and non-traditional black and white photo processes. When I began a new job at AARP, I was asked to include honoring the public policy volunteers who I staffed through a photograph. I was given the time to make studies of the volunteers around the country honoring them in individual ways. One woman was a pilot and we were able to make the photograph at National Airport when one could still get on the airport field. Another was from Hawaii: she is placed at the Botanical Gardens, sitting with shoes off. And I photographed a die-hard New Yorker on the Staten Island Ferry with the Statue of Liberty in the background. I was so fortunate to be staffing policy development and spending many wonderful hours in the darkroom to produce a series of portraits for AARP’s national office. I also pursued courses at The Corcoran School of Art and Design and Northern Virginia Community College. I built a darkroom with other Corcoran open-program students.


Beach Point



Orange-Red Lamp Shade

My entry into drawing and painting classes began about 15 years ago. I got hooked on exploring ways to express myself through oil paint. My paintings dangle somewhere between abstraction and representation. Perhaps my work can be called modernist but I find it challenging to label it. I studied at the Art League and Rob Vander Zee School of Painting. Increasingly I found myself wanting to spend more time painting and when AARP offered a buyout during a staff reduction in 2009, I took it even though I had not planned to retire quite yet and knew it meant tightening my financial belt considerably.


Locale One

I had a wonderful career at AARP but have been grateful for the opportunity to pursue my art. Since then I have painted full time and availed myself of workshops and opportunities to stretch—including three intense workshops, called Marathons, from the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture (NYSS)—ten-day, 12-hours-per-day sessions. During the last one I yearned for a longer stretch of that intensity that challenged me and influenced my personal work significantly. I began discussions with NYSS’s dean, Graham Nickson, about the possibility of pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting. And by the time this article is published, I will have begun my two-year journey to delve further into painting and drawing at this small school, the original home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was established in 1964. I have relocated to New York for the duration while maintaining my membership in CHAL and hopefully will have an MFA in Painting in hand when I turn 71. It will be my birthday present to myself.


Rimmed Sun


Learn more & find many of Jill’s works on her WEBSITE.

And on that CHAWsome note: what a way to end 2016! We’ll be back in January with a fresh batch of artistic minds to explore.  Until then: CHAL & CHAW wish you the happiest of holidays, and can’t wait to see you for a creative new year in 2017.

We can’t imagine a better way to end the year than with a grand finale of not one–but THREE–featured artists from our friends at CHAL.  Each of these artists represents fantastically different ways of thinking about art in their lives, and each expresses herself so differently through the creative process.  It feels particularly compelling, as we move toward the end of the year, to reflect back on Mind of the Artist–and we’ll share more over the next two weeks of featured artists.  For now, we are delighted to introduce you to Judy Folkenberg, whose whimsical use of found objects speaks to the interplay of memory and present moment, to new perspectives, and to seeing the world around us as a space always for creativity, if only we are open to it.  Here’s Judy:
“the creative mind plays with the object it loves.”  c.j. jung

Falling Leaves

I like to play and create evocative and beautiful objects from all sorts of materials, so I became an artist.  I’ve loved books since I was a small girl so I focus much of my artistic passion on them.


Elephant Walk

I collect all sorts of things:  natural objects; boxes (ones I make or old ones bought from antique or junk shops); old hardware and other tools or implements; paper, books, illustrations, and photos; and other ephemera, and then play with them. I manipulate and arrange objects, rough them up sometimes; nail, paste, or sew them, paint, stain, and dye them.  I experiment.  For instance, I throw sawed off bound pages from a book into the bathtub, let them dry, and see the shapes that emerge. Then I dye or paint them.   And I make and play with books.


Hanging Pulley Over Eggs

Much of the time I have little idea where I’m going with a creation, but figure I have to just enjoy the ride, whatever the destination.


 “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Visit Judy on the web to see more of her amazingly creative explorations. 

And check back on this page right here for the next two weeks for our December Final Hurrah of featured CHAL artists!

Sometimes it takes a little re-prioritizing to return us to our authentic selves–which, so much of the time, has to do with filling up our creative wells and reminding ourselves that we are artists.  Now, not all of us will spend our lives designing, creating, and making, but let Linda’s story be an inspiration that we can always return to what makes us creatively alive.  Her extraordinary story, in her own words:

Much of my life has centered on art in one form or another. My father made a small table and chairs for me so that I could sit in the kitchen while my mom cooked. She would give me used paper bags, construction paper, and office paper and I would tear them up, pasting them together with that white paste to make “collages.” When I could use crayons I went crazy with color. I often attempted to use all of the colors in the large 64 crayon box…the one with the sharpener built right in.

In elementary school the teachers tended to put me in charge of anything vaguely “artistic,” such as seasonal decorations and bulletin boards. Then when I was about eight or nine, the local Richmond television station, WTVR, participated in the launch of a new line of dolls, the Teri Lee dolls. As a part of the publicity they asked their young viewers to design a wardrobe for the dolls. I worked diligently and actually won the contest. The prizes included the dolls with complete wardrobes and an appearance on the television show. It was all very exciting and I still have these dolls, which launched a career in the arts.


I continued a focus on art in high school, designing the school stationary and yearbook covers. In college I majored in Art (and Secondary Education, just in case the becoming a famous artist didn’t happen right away). I then taught Art at Elementary, Junior High, and High School levels. By then I was married and my husband’s job brought us to Washington. As it was not the right time of year to get a teaching job I went to work for an Interior Designer. I worked my up through the ranks until I started my own design business and enjoyed that profession for over twenty five years.

In 2000 I survived a brain aneurysm and re-ordered my priorities. What with raising two sons and running a business, I had been absent from doing my own artwork for quite a while. That was when I joined Gina Clapp’s drawing class at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. I found that drawing was something that came back easily and improved with practice. I ended up headed back into watercolors and pastels.


The second year of class we had the luxury of being invited to spend time on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. Most of our class and some spouses went on the trip. After almost two weeks together, we were great friends and we remain so today. The art on the trip centered on keeping a travel sketchbook.

Since that time I always travel with a sketchbook and small supply kit for drawing and watercolor work. These completed books are some of my most treasured possessions.


I have now published two small volumes: Capitol Hill is Home, celebrating the vibrant community on Capitol Hill, and Hiram Blake Camp: a sketchbook, which honors the 100th year of that family camp on Cape Rosier, Maine.

Learn more and purchase Linda’s beautiful books on her website.  And don’t forget to stop by the CHAL wall in the CHAW gallery to see the latest pieces from this talented group!  Next up is Stu Searles’ show, “In the Square,” opening Saturday, July 16 with a reception at 5pm.

We are thrilled to feature Dagny Fisher on the blog this month, an inspiring young artist from DC. At age 13, Dagny has demonstrated a deep love of art and a perspective on women’s issues through the lens of her creative work. This summer, she worked with teaching artist Carolina Mayorga in a 3D-mixed media camp to develop major installation pieces and share her story. We were so inspired by Dagny’s genuine, insightful, and honest artist statement that we wanted to share it here on our blog–along with some great photos of her artwork from this summer.

Dagny Fisher’s Artist Statement:

I was born in Washington, DC on December 3rd, 2001. I have lived in DC my whole life and am 13 years old at the moment. Art is something that I enjoyed in my childhood, coloring in color books, finger painting, etc. I never took it seriously, but as I got older, I began to realize that art has meaning and depth. It’s not just something that you use to waste time. It is an expression.

I like art because it’s fun! I can make whatever I want and call it a masterpiece. My interest in art is more in painting and sculpture, not so much drawing. Drawing is not one of my strengths.

The project I am doing right now is called Blonde and Dumb. It is based off of dumb blonde jokes hurting me and other blondes. It shows that not all blondes are ditsy and dumb. Many of them are extremely smart and talented! I feel very strongly about this because it is a stereotype that is wrong and hurtful towards many people.

So far in my project, I have made four different pieces of art: a self-portrait; a 3D cardboard self-portrait; a collage; and an installation. The self-portrait is made with pencil and only the hair is colored. The 3D self-portrait is made out of cardboard and only the hair is colored. The collage is pictures, famous women from magazines, and quotes from blonde women that all have a blue line coming from them to the word “Blonde” on the corner of the page. The installation is yellow string wrapped around the railing of the staircase at CHAW.

In the future, I hope to be doing more artwork and more projects for everyone to see. I am a young artist ready for my artwork to be seen!!

Dagny’s Reflections on Summer Camp:
In the art class I took at CHAW, I made a lot of different pieces of art. I made a self-portrait, a cardboard self-portrait, a collage, cardboard animals, a house, a painting, and installation art. I took the art class because I thought it looked like something fun to fill up my summer! What I’ll take away from the class are all of the great tips and tricks I learned from my instructor Carolina.
at PLAY, exhibit at AAC
In Carolina’s words: 
I had the pleasure of working with Dagny Fisher for the multimedia camp designed for middle-schoolers. During the 2 week camp we worked on building a conceptual basis that would connect with the different art forms explored. We studied artists and visited exhibitions than inspired students to understand art as a way to communicate thoughts and ideas. Working with middle-schoolers and specially with Dagny was an opportunity to go beyond my usual teaching practice as sharing my own experience as an artist encouraged students to find their own voice through their work. Dagny‘s clever investigations resulted in a group of visually engaging 2d and 3d artworks about stereotypes associated to blonde women. 
 Interactive sculpture by Dagny working on installation self protraitIMG_1299
Interested in finding out more about our middle school programs? Take a look at the Fall Afterschool Youth Arts Program Schedule for Grades 6-8 and check out class descriptions.  Ready to get going?  Register HERE today!
Inspired by the National Endowment for the Arts’ 50th Anniversary call for #ArtStories, we will be posting some of our favorite student stories from the CHAW e-newsletter.  This month we are featuring Wan, a fixture of the Wednesday Morning crowd in teaching artist Ellen Cornett’s class, who has been a treasured part of our CHAW community for years.  Ellen wrote to us recently to let us know how “pleased and proud” she is that Wan has not only been juried into the Potomac Valley Watercolor Society, but also was awarded an Honorable Mention in his very first show with them.  We are so grateful to have Wan’s presence at CHAW and are especially thrilled to be able to share his story, below, in his own words: 
Wan in his artistic element

Wan in his artistic element

Growing up in Malaysia, Chinese lion dances inspired my first childhood drawings.  The lavishly colored lions shattered the light of the tropical sun into a pulsating spectrum that seduced me.  I drew a lion dance for a third grade contest, and the thrill of winning first prize set me on the journey that decades later brought me to CHAW.

I started learning to paint watercolor in high school.  After graduating, I spent several years with a local master learning traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy with its pale pastel shapes, and bold black lines.  I had produced dozens of such paintings by time I immigrated to the United States.  Dealing with the challenges of day to day life in my adopted country left neither time nor energy to paint.

By the end of my first decade here, I had established a more stable and satisfying life living on the Hill and practicing massage therapy, but something was missing.  Eventually, the boy at the lion dance returned to remind me why I became a painter back in Malaysia.  In a mostly drab world that focused mainly on survival, painting made me happy.

I had read about CHAW in the Hill Rag and thought a long time about taking a class in watercolor painting.  Inertia and frustration interfered with my actually enrolling, until a client, who happened to teach at CHAW, introduced me to Gina Clapp.  Gina asked me to show her my paintings, then over a decade old.   I brought them to one of her classes.  She looked at them, and invited me to stay.  Gina recognized the artist in me.  CHAW has given me a home where the artist can grow.

Every class at CHAW provides me with a safe space to enter into myself in the way I must in order to paint.  Each class also offers a group of talented and supportive artist friends to whom I can turn for help at any time; and an opportunity to help and support them in return.  Painting heals me.  It makes me happy.  Each stroke of the brush also helps me to express many other feelings for which I have no words.  Not in Chinese, nor in English.  Colors become my language, and the painting, my story.

With the support of Gina and my many friends at CHAW, I was recently accepted into the Potomac Valley Watercolor Society.  I had two paintings accepted into a recent show, and received an award for one of the paintings.   When I heard my name announced at the opening, I went from the man I am today to the boy I was in third grade, thrilled with winning a prize, and grateful to CHAW for giving that boy a home.

Have a student who exemplifies our CHAW community to feature in this section?  Email us at to nominate a CHAWsome member of our community; we welcome and encourage nominations for kids, adults, adults who act like kids, and everyone in between.

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