Weekend Art Experience at Creative 360

This past Saturday I enjoyed being a part of an art experience at my workplace, Creative 360 Studio and Gallery. I call it a art experience rather than an art fair because it was so much more than just an opportunity for people to “buy stuff”.

We had a diverse group of local artists working in a variety of mediums and styles, and also featured beautiful art and handmade items from our artists with disabilities in the inclusive arts and wellness program I run, Express Yourself Artshop. Treats were catered by the program’s culinary class.

Throughout the day, we also enjoyed a number of performances by talent of all ages and abilities. Our Artshop Community Theater members each performed the monologues they wrote portraying themselves as their favorite artist, writer, or musician. There was a singer who performed a song they’d written about their personal faith. We were treated to a vibrant stand up comedy routine by a very young aspiring comedian, complete with some mind bending riddles at the end ūüėČ. A young woman with autism who has been passionate about playing piano since she was 2 performed a series of pieces.

One of my personal favorite parts about participating in fairs is the fun of art trades, and I was thrilled to go home with a cozy fleece blanket perfect for the sudden descent into winter over here in Michigan, and an amazingly unique “80s Death Mask” (Check out the artist’s shop for some of their other sculpture and mixed media work).

Attendees found the fair inspiring, joyful, and uplifting with an environment of openness that encouraged sharing and connection. These events can only be as successful as the number of people who come out to support our local talent and enjoy the atmosphere of creative community! We are hoping to do another fair in the Summer, and in the more immediate future we have our Express Yourself Artshop Talent Show coming up this Monday the 18th at 6:00 inside Creative 360’s gallery.

I am also working on adding more inventory to Artshop’s online store featuring all student made fine art and crafts. Having the opportunity to get their creations out into the world provides a sense of confidence, ownership, responsibility and motivation for our students and also allows them to make income for themselves. Be sure to check back as I am going to start filling the store this week and next! For those in the area, hope to see you at our next event :).

 

Interview With The Artist

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed for an article on the website of a local artists’ group I’m a part of. The interviewer asked some thought provoking questions, so I thought I’d share my answers here for those who are interested in gaining a little more insight behind my work and process. You can also check out the resulting article on the Exploding Circle of Artists website. Friend and fellow artist Heather Deogracia manages and writes articles for the site, and I’d also encourage you to check out her blog. She is an innovative artist, fierce mental health advocate, and regular volunteer and supporter of art happenings in the community.

1. Why do you do what you do?

I have been drawn to creating pretty much since birth, and was lucky to be supported and encouraged in this from a young age. Art has always been a therapy for me and a vital avenue for communication and expression as someone who has also experienced social anxiety well, pretty much since birth. In addition to creating art myself, I also run an inclusive arts and wellness program at Creative 360 geared towards adults with disabilities. Every day I see how creativity both empowers the creator and impacts those around them. Integral to my own personal art and my day job is the idea that everyone can be an artist, everyone can do something creative that touches another person and it is never too late to begin.

2. How do you work?

For the most part I work in my home studio. I started out as primarily a pencil and ink drawing and watercolor artist, but at this point it is rare that I only use one or two materials in a piece. I have fallen in love with mixed media, and though the main bones of my art are usually created in prismacolor pencil, ink or watercolor, I enjoy mixing in acrylic, metallic enamel paints, beads, fabric and lace, old jewelry pieces, collage from old books, and other findings. I especially enjoy using materials I have been gifted by friends or family that have a specific memory or story attached. For a recent project, I used sparkly lace scraps leftover from a very extra angel costume my mom sewed for me when I was five, and some mismatched clip-on earrings that belonged to my grandma.

3. What are the background themes and ideas that makes your work stand out?

With my art, I enjoy making the internal external. I’m very interested in the dynamic of the individual’s public/interacting self versus their private self. Rather than using dramatic facial expressions in my portraits, I tend to leave their expressions mysterious and neutral and let the external surroundings speak to the content of the subject’s mind and soul. This most likely stems from my interior design background, and the idea that the external environment should reflect the people who inhabit it. Much of my work involves psychology and is inspired by my own thoughts and experiences, but I like to leave the visual narratives open ended so that each viewer can bring their own experiences to a piece and connect with it in their own way.

I am fascinated with the detail in both the external and internal structure of all living things; humans, plants, and animals. The natural world around us is truly filled with the most amazing forms of living sculptures if we take the time to look, and keeping this idea in mind reminds me even on the worst of days how luck we are to be alive. This appreciation of observing and exaggerating the most minute details in the world around us is another element that finds its way into my work.

4. How would you describe your style and how is it integral to your work as an artist?

My style is very vintage inspired, and I like to make my art timeless in a way by incorporating visual elements from all different time periods. I am also influenced by surrealism, and always want to show people something in my art that they can’t see in real life. In my work with portraits and figures, I look to antique photos as a reference and usually combine multiple sources to create the exact body and face I am picturing in my head for a certain piece. I am very much a visual thinker, and one day a friend was venting to me over the phone about a stressful week she’d had. (I promise I was listening, but …) As she was talking, I started to see a little cartoon in my head of her standing staring at me, wearing a tall top hat, and her brain was growing out of the top of the hat with all types of different objects representing what she was thinking about sticking out of the protruding brain … The image was a nice blend of hilarious and disturbing, and also gave me the idea to start doing portraits with visual representations of each subject’s thoughts flowing outside of their body.

5. What role does the artist have in society?

Though we don’t always realize it, art and design is everywhere around us in our society … In the music we hear, in the buildings we live and work in, in the ads or posters we see, the clothes we wear, the furniture we sit on, the movies and tv shows we watch, and the list could go on and on. Without art, our world would be empty, inefficient, and without meaning. Beyond that, art has the power to give people a voice. Art is an important tool for communication, and is able to open people’s minds to ideas they may not be as receptive to if delivered in a different way. Each artist has to define their own role for themselves based on the goals they have for harnessing their own personal form of creativity. As for me, I feel called to use art as a tool for connection and reaching out to others. Sharing the therapeutic benefits of creating with others is a priority for me because of the anchor I know it has been in my own life. I aim to make art and creativity accessible to all, no matter their age, ability, income, or any other qualifier. Do artists have to use their skills to make the world a better place? I suppose no one technically has to do anything as we all have autonomy over our own lives, but I certainly think they should.

6. What is your favorite artwork you’ve created and why is it your favorite?

This is a hard question as I develop a connection to almost every piece of art I create like they are my children, no joke. That being said, at this point my favorite piece of art I created is “July: She Is Free”. This piece was from a 12 part series titled “Unlimited” that I showed at Founder’s Brewing Company for ArtPrize 2017. The series was comprised of 12 mixed media, surreal portraits in which the meaning was influenced by the use of pattern and color. The series depicted women of all ages, races, and time periods, each communicating a different story. The aim was for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. We tend to think of time and events in terms of our own personal history or the history of the nation in which we currently reside. But of course, there are women everywhere living out their day to day lives all over the world, with hopes, dreams, fears, relationships… Our situations and struggles are very different, but were we in some alternate reality all given a chance to meet, I suspect we would find some surprising similarities, maybe more than we ever expected. We are all worthy of love, safety, respect, and dignity. I am particularly attached to July because it depicts someone with a visible disability, something that is almost never seen in portrait arts. I am a huge proponent of disability rights, empowerment, and visibility. This piece was shown and awarded at the Midland Artists Guild’s Annual Juried Exhibition of 2018, and I actually overheard an attendee afterwards whispering to a friend, “But why would you want to draw those kind of people?” This is why I do what I do. Visibility and education are vital, as prejudice is rooted in ignorance. I aim to continue to challenge what beauty is in art.

Isaiah Zagar : Creative Minds Art History Project

I love to travel, and was lucky growing up to be part of a family who enjoys a change of scenery every so often as well. An experience that still stands in the forefront of my mind is accidentally happening upon one of the most breathtaking displays of public art I have ever seen while in Philadelphia on one of the last trips my immediate family and I would take together in our little quartet before my brother and I were “officially” grown-up with our own jobs, schedules, and lives.

Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar has his work across buildings all over Philadelphia and throughout the rest of the country as well, but his Magic Garden is something special, a truly immersive art experience that really does feel like you are being transported into a different universe temporarily as if by magic.

Though he started as a painter, he ended up becoming most known for his public mosaic work. He became an integral part of the “South Street Renaissance” in the 1970s, bringing excitement, inspiration, and beauty to the ignored and abandoned areas of his hometown. The interesting thing is, he only discovered this medium because of others’ willingness to invest and believe in the talents and well-being of those who are struggling. It was while being hospitalized for a breakdown related to undiagnosed bipolar disorder that he was introduced to mosaic making, and he credits this art practice with bringing him out of his depression. Zagar has stated that he was determined to use his breakdown as a springboard into positive mental and spiritual growth, and though mental health is a chronic struggle, he has done just that. At 80 years old, he is still here, filled with an enthusiasm for lifelong learning.

Zagar’s mosaics aren’t just glass and tiles. He utilizes a wide range of materials, much of it upcycled “trash”, and integrates painting and poetry into his designs as well. I had my students make their own mini mosaic on 12×12 tiles using a variety of mixed media materials such as glass pieces, broken jewelry, beads, discarded board game pieces, and more. This is a great way for art programs to use up any odd donations or miscellaneous supplies. I work with students with a wide range of abilities in my Express Yourself Artshop program, and we also have time constraints since we typically spend 1-3 weeks on one project before moving on to the next. To make mosaic art work for our needs, we had students paint the background of their tile whatever color they wanted to show through in between their mosaic pieces, and after they had chosen their pieces and laid out their design we used Weldbond¬†adhesive to attach the parts rather than using grout.

It was interesting to see the messages and themes students were drawn to include in their work, and I was happy to hear that many of them found the process inspiring and therapeutic, same as Zagar did.

If you are interested in learning more about this artist, one of Zagar’s sons created a fantastic documentary about his father’s journey. You do not¬†have to be perfect or feel like you have everything figured out to use your gifts and skills to bring light and life to others. Even through his intense struggles, Zagar has had a profoundly positive impact on his community and continues to do so to this day.

Caravaggio: Creative Minds Art History Project

Hello all!

I took a break from teaching my Creative Minds class with my Express Yourself Artshop crew over the summer since we had a bunch of other specialized activities going on, but am excited to be back! We started our new semester with a classic artist from the past, Michelangelo Merisi da Carravagio. Entertaining the masses through stories of epic violence before there were action movies, many of Carravagio’s paintings centered around religious and mythic themes and involved a¬†lot¬†of beheadings … Allegedly he also had to move around a lot to avoid getting his door knocked down due to a habit of “excessive brawling” – Life imitates art.

 

Though he also did the traditional commissions and practice of portraits, still life, etc., these intense and poignant scenes are what he became most well known for. One particular commission completed around the year 1597 for Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the Medici family’s agent in Rome, is what we drew inspiration from for our project. This ceremonial shield was painted with an image of Medusa just as she has been tricked into looking into a mirror, thus freezing and leaving herself open to guess what, another beheading! Students each picked a character from Greek Mythology to study images from, and drew from this to create their own image, blood and guts optional ;).

 

To achieve the atmosphere of strong shadows characteristic of Caravaggio’s work, we used black drawing paper as a base. Pastels show up bold and opaque on top of black, as do colored pencils if they are oil or wax based like Prismacolor colored pencils. This choice of black paper had a dual purpose; not only did it help us pay homage to Caravaggio’s high contrast style but it was a mental challenge in that students had to think about the process of shading in reverse. They had to think differently than with traditional drawing on white paper, adding shading with their colors to lighten an area and leaving spaces alone or coloring more lightly with their materials to “darken” them.

As always, feel free to share, steal, or try this at home for fun! Keep checking back as I will be posting more projects soon!

New Art + Forced Inspiration

So, awhile back I did a post on artist block, something I had been lucky to never really experience too much until very recently. It’s not that I didn’t have a ton of ideas, I quite simply wasn’t enthused about any of them for whatever reason and the execution just wasn’t flowing. I’m sure this had a lot to do with the crazy amount of stress I’ve been under this year for various reasons, but nevertheless I¬†really desperately wanted to make some art I was actually excited about. I remembered how when I used to write poems and short stories back in college to unwind, if I felt the urge to write but had no clue what to write about I would put my iPod (HA, who has those anymore?) on shuffle and use the first song title that came up as inspiration for my short story, or else I’d use a random word generator and the word that came up had to be the title.

I decided to revisit this old, rather silly process of chance to see if it would jumpstart my creative but very stressed and exhausted brain. I did 4 trios of word generations, wrote them down in my sketchbook, and started drawing. It worked! I instantly came up with 4 ideas that I could easily relate to thoughts that had been jumbling around in my brain anyway, but that I just didn’t know how to access and release.

For this first one, inspiration was to be drawn from the words lung, tie, and morning.

Constrict

I ended up being so happy with how it turned out that I’m keeping it! I have the perfect spot in my living room, and actually only realized after I’d hung it up that the fabric I collaged for her jacket matches a swatch on my fabric scrap pillow I made about a decade ago that is now sitting on my accent chair ^_^.

“Breathe” was drawn using prismacolor pencil for the figure, and ink for the background. I used fabric for the jacket, old book pages for the wall art, hand marbled paper for the exposed lungs, and embroidery thread for the vein detailing that trails up to her neck and tangles around her fingers. The figure is a mix of multiple references I gathered to match the image I had in my head of what I wanted her to look like.

As I mentioned before, this year has been rough. I’d been experiencing sensations of feeling trapped, confined, constricted, suffocated … Even simple acts such as breathing, eating, sleeping were in a way loaded issues, made more complicated by both external and internal factors. This was some of what was on my mind while creating this piece, but as always it is not without elements of hope and promise of a future through the oxygen giving plants and botanical imagery throughout, and sunlight pouring in through the open window.

I’m sure others may even see something totally different in the story as viewed by their own thoughts and experiences, and if anyone wants to share what they saw going on I always love to hear others’ interpretations – Feel free to send a comment or message! Love to you all, and remember, you always hear that you don’t want to force inspiration but … sometimes you have to to get anything done and that’s okay ;).

Though I’m not letting go of the original as of right now, prints will soon be available so check out my eBay shop to snag one!

Artists To Know: Discovered On Instagram

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Artists To Know Segment, and inspiration is everywhere. Despite being a completely visual based person, I resisted getting an instagram for longer than most just because the idea of yet one more social media account to manage filled me with a sense of intense existential dread if I’m honest ;). Finally, I realized as an artist trying to showcase and sell work I needed one for the business aspect alone and relented. Now I don’t know how I lived without it! I have discovered so many new and inspiring artists from all over the globe, but if I had to narrow it down to just 5 for right now, here are my tops.

Joram Roukes

1

Roukes is a painter from the Netherlands whose work has been exhibited worldwide, and he is one of the only artists that work in more “chaotic” scenes whose pieces I’ve ever been deeply attracted to. In my own work I am so orderly and controlled, repeating a select amount of the same visual tropes within one piece with balanced space for the eye to rest … I’ve always tended to get stressed out by work filled with conflicting styles and a ton of disparate elements bundled all together, but I have loved every single piece of Roukes’s work that I have seen. The vibrant, unique color schemes and photo-realistic detail¬† that combine classical influences with modern experiences and street art are unlike anything else I’ve seen, and the thoughtful composition makes combinations of visuals that shouldn’t work together somehow work perfectly. Beginning as a graffiti artist, he now focuses on large-scale murals that combine his own experiences, global politics, and pop culture in a dark but also surprising and often comical way.

Natalia Berglund

483e368f-19d7-434b-8173-b524d6452213_rw_1920

Berglund hails from Belarus, but received her arts education in the United States. Her focus is in portraiture. Unique takes on the portrait tend to be my favorite type of art, so I was intrigued by her work the moment I saw it. Berglund has equal parts Eastern and Western visual and ideological influence, which gives her a different perspective based on her experiences. Much of her work is also influenced by traditional religious portraiture, but at the same time aims to challenge religious iconography, and both Russia and the United State’s representation of what it means to be a woman. Though the work above was what first that grabbed my attention, if you visit her portfolio you can see the wide range of styles she works in, and the strength and story that is apparent in each portrait. Her mission through her work is similar to what I hope to achieve, and I find her a huge inspiration.

Cristian Blanxer

p343_orig

Blanxer is from Barcelona, and actually graduated from university only 2 years before I did, so what have I been doing with my life -_- (I kid, mostly.). He works in both exterior murals, covering buildings in large-scale artworks, and on canvas. His canvases still integrate the cityscape as he seamlessly combines reflective urban scenes with traditional portraiture. What amazes me is how nothing gets lost in the merger. He strategically places the human elements and the architectural elements in such a way that the viewer’s brain can fill in the blanks and complete both scenes. This series appears to me like the viewer is seeing what the subject of the portrait is looking at through their eyes reflected back over them, as if we are being allowed to gaze into their mind, and that is what makes his art so powerful to me.

Yellena James

biomorphic-art-yellena-james-1

James grew up in Bosnia, but moved to the US at 18. Her background is in both fine art and graphic design, but she says she has always preferred paint and ink to digital means of creation (yes!). In addition to her personal fine art she continues to design for well known brands like Anthropologie and Crate and Barrel among others, and has published an interactive art book about applying the geometry of nature to drawing practice. James creates imaginary ecosystems inspired by the natural geometry present in the world around us, and says the process of building details in each piece is a form of meditation for her. I find myself getting immersed in her colorful botanical illustrations, imagining myself as part of her magical worlds, and her work has an intensely calming effect on me. I’m calm about 5% of each day, so this is nice.

Ritchelly Oliveira

tumblr_p0pdny3bqu1qlp2xwo1_1280

Oliveira is from Brazil, and is also mainly a portrait artist. I have a draw, I can’t help it! His drawn portraits are photo-realistic but incorporate surreal elements from nature or at times unfinished boundaries. There is a strong, silent emotion that resonates from his figures’ calm, reserved facades that is so moving, relateable, and true to life.

I hope at least one of these artists have left you feeling inspired, and if you ever have ideas of artists or types of art you’d like to see featured let me know!

sign (1)As for what I’ve been up to in my own creative universe lately, I was chosen to be part of the 50 Artists of the Great Lakes Bay Region Exhibition, and will be showing my new piece¬†Torn¬†in Studio 23’s gallery in the Fall. A metal print of my prismacolor pencil and mixed media work¬†Wonderland¬†will also be on display along Bay City’s Riverwalk trail for the next 2 years. It’s a couple days from September, so I am also officially in production mode for my annual Halloween ACEOs, so look for those in my eBay shop with more still to come! Check back soon to see the collaborative projects I’ve been working on in the meantime alongside some portrait commissions and logo designs. I’m ready for a busy Fall <3.

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Dead, Here’s Some New Art!

noboringwalls2I’m back again! I’ve been pretty quiet on here and have been taking a bit of a project hiatus in general as I go through some life transitions and changes in a couple of areas, but have completed a few smaller stand alone projects. I talked about some of my anxiety struggles previously, so while dealing with that at a higher intensity especially over this Spring and Summer, I really needed to focus on art that was purely therapeutic; not a job or another task to complete or something with an intense deadline or something that was going to take months to complete.¬†

I am obsessed with raven imagery, and parted with one of my favorite pieces recently as a gift for my brother, a fellow creative who just bought a new home and is getting married this fall. I knew I wanted to do another similar piece, but with a bit more color this time. I lead an art therapy program for adults with varying disabilities, and see every day how creation can be a life saving force that reminds people that they are worthwhile if only because they have made something that day. Art can be a window in an otherwise dark room. Part of the art therapy aspect of my forcing myself to keep making art even when all I wanted to do was watch movies or go to sleep early after getting home for the day was to inject my own personal thoughts and feelings into the chosen aesthetic of what I was creating. In “Flight Response”, the subject’s face is deliberately calm and expressionless while the birds flying around her appear fast and chaotic. Both she and the birds are done entirely in high contrast black and white to appear connected as one entity. They could be physical manifestations, or projections of the woman’s psyche. The background being almost opposite the woman and birds, a more expressionistic landscape in bright, peaceful colors, is also deliberate. There is hope, and there can always be better things ahead. Though not always aware of it, she is in control.Flight Response

I also wanted to take the opportunity to play around with some different techniques and combinations of materials with no pressure on achieving a specific result, another important aspect of art as therapy. In “Waiting”, I¬† tried watercolor painting on wrinkled lace, wire wrapped with yarn, embroidery, and weaving strips of hand marbled paper along with my traditional ink and prismacolor pencil drawing. Again, there is an aspect of sadness and isolation but not without a lingering hope. I aimed to craft a story based on what I was experiencing as a way to process my thoughts, but a story that is open ended so the viewer can create their own narrative as well.

waitimg

As the smoke is clearing, I’m still working on my series based around color psychology and looking forward to doing more teaching again in the Fall. Both of the above pieces are available for purchase, and I’m starting early on some small and affordable Halloween-time art that will soon be posted in my eBay shop, so keep an eye out! For a time lapse of some of the background illustration for “Flight Response”, check out my artist facebook page.