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Musings from a lone artist



I spend many long hours pouring over the fine details of a photograph to capture the nuance of a person and translate it into a likeness for a portrait.

My relationship to the subject is very one sided. I’m communing with an image, deeply thinking about that individual I’m portraying, connecting with that person, meditating on this person, familiarizing myself deeply with their essence. For months. But it’s only on my side. The sitter sat for a photo that was snapped months ago or more. A millisecond of time. That was the extent of our exchange. I’m out of mind after that, while here I’m laboring tirelessly over a shadow on the tip of a nose until I get it just right; hours and hours of looking.

This app, My Talking Pet, has given me a little joy in having a response from my creations. Like Geaseppo and Pinocchio, it makes them respond to me. I feel validated. Like, “Hey, I see you too.” To make your own, the app is available for both iPhone and Android and it’s free.

Jack Johnson detail, by Tess Felix, before it was completed.



Promotional Artwork for International Non-Profit ‘Project 0’

Tess's Final Artwork

Tess Felix, Project 0 promotion, photo courtesy of The Image Flow

I love it when my friends do something fantastic! Project 0 is the brainchild of my long time friend, Michele Clarke. The non-profit organization she helped to establish is dedicated to saving our oceans, a noble cause I support. It will be a vehicle to raise public awareness and also raise funding for further scientific research, projects, and organizations committed to ocean health. I’m excited to offer my support and pleased to be included in my small way.

Following are my notes from the project journal about the final execution.

Right now I am planning an original piece made with plastic debris collected on the coast close to home. It will be used in social media and for advertising. I wanted to share this process with you since it is such a compressed timeline. But first I must collect, sort, and wash and dry ocean plastic debris.

My plan is to make a sign reading ” PROJECT 0′” and include a social note to use in any post the world over, #getintoit. The final image of this piece will be used for marketing purposes to direct traffic to Project 0.

Process for creating #getintoit – mouse-over the slide for info
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Day 1
It’s raining outside, pouring rain, and it’s a perfect day to wash plastic marine garbage. There is a handful of individuals around the world that do this and as I wash and scrub, I know I’m not alone. The process of washing garbage is very time-consuming, but necessary when using this awful waste as a pallet for creativity.

As a first step, I ‘ve had KINKO’s print the words in a large format. I hope, when I pick up the print I will have printed it large enough for the project. Tomorrow, I’ve arranged for studio space at The Image Flow and plan to spend the day creating this piece in place. Assembling it on the floor of the studio, I will create my mini-wasteland.

I will fill in the letters and background with black, white, pink and turquoise. These are the brands colors for Project 0. There will be some challenges when covering the lettering with plastics because the letters are round in shape and plastic is generally angular. I imagine I’ll have to do a lot of cutting to make bits and pieces fit. Trying to do this in one day is, in truth, rather ambitious. Even though I am not gluing they still need to fit like a puzzle in order for this to work properly.

But for now, I am washing–black widows have begun to crawl out of the floating plastic island in my bathtub; big and shiny, they look for refuge.

Day 2
Picking up at Kinko’s I was happy to see that the size of the print was just right. This will be used as a reference to size the letters properly. After arriving at the studio, I will paint the background black and then begin to lay in all of the pieces. Blue and pink will highlight the social messaging.

Annie Greene joined me at the studio and helped lay out the plastic pieces. I was thankful to have such a great assistant. Her help made the entire process much quicker than I had thought it would be. She’s also my daughter so it’s always an extra treat to be able to spend the day with her.

When it was complete, Stuart Schwartz, the owner of The Image Flow in Mill Valley, caught the light beautifully with his camera. The result came out just as I had imagined. It’s so satisfying when a project goes from an idea to completion.

I’ll be doing more work with Project 0 in the future, so stay tuned and don’t forget to share Project 0 and add #getintoit to all of your social media so the Project0 team can see all of the wonderful comments coming to them from the world over.

Learn more: Project 0
I also want to thank Stuart Schwartz, founder of The Image Flow for your support throughout the year.



Artist Retreat in Italy, Summer 2015

An artist retreat can be a fantastic time to try out new mediums or just have unbroken time to focus on your art. This summer I was fortunate to be invited for a retreat in Italy. It was everything I hoped for and a very productive time.

First, I completed a portrait of Pope Francis made from plastic debris, a mix of things I collected along the coast by my home and in Italy.

Pope Francis by Tess Felix, 2015

The Beautiful Question, paper maché wings, were created for an outdoor installation on the Italian Coast. They have been installed at The Circle Agriculture to Capalbio. Commissioned by the event organizer, Maria Concetta Monaci, it is part of a winery tour in the region surrounding Tuscany.

The Beautiful Question by Tess Felix 2015



From Waste to Art event in Baku, Azerbaijan

Kara Karajev

Kara Karajev

I’m about to embark on another artistic adventure, this time to Baku, Azerbaijan where I have been invited to participate in the IV International Exhibition From Waste to Art to be held June 14th through 18th.

Tamiz Shahar, the organizer, is a state organization providing waste disposal services to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The objective of the company is to establish up to date and sustainable waste management system in Baku and bring the latest novelties in the waste management sphere to the country through sharing experience with foreign countries and international companies. This includes a number of activities to increase public awareness on waste problems and stimulate people to protect the environment through proper waste treatment. The art exhibition is one of the ways in which they are achieving this goal. Last year 59 artist form 27 countries came and created original art on sight from the waste.

I’ll be creating a portrait of a famous composer, Kara Karajev from Azerbaijan. This will be challenging to create a portrait in such a short amount of time. I haven’t any idea about the work space provided, or how jet lagged I’ll be. It will be an unfolding mystery.

I’m packing my art supplies now and wondering what to wear. Baku is a big modern city. I leave on Saturday. The journey alone is heroic: flying first to LA then to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Baku. I’ll have 10 days of art making and then I return home. Wish me luck.


Listen to a small example of his works. This piece, performed by Konstantin Scherbakov, piano – Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, Dmitry Yablonsky conductor, is from the music he created for a ballet called The Seven Beauties.




Celebrate the ‘House of Fish’ Italian Style

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Slideshow of the first day

I am walking the beach La Feniglia-Ansedonia on the Tyreanean Sea. I have just arrived in Italy and today, even though my body is teasing me with a small cold, I am beginning my portrait of Pope Francesco. I was invited to participate by Grosseto Culturale Foundation in an event created to bring attention to ocean health along this ocean land and sea route.

The event is called Casa dei Pesci. This translates to House of Fish. Don’t you love that! What a great way to personalize the event and call attention to it in a way we all understand–home. I have just 2 weeks to collect the debris from the local coast for my ‘pallet’ and complete the portrait for this event. Even in this tight time frame I am loving my time here. I feel – at home. Until next time, Caio!


How to say ‘fish’ in Italian