Adventure and Inspiration

Sometimes things get tough. Sometimes it seems to take every modicum of energy to perform the most minute of daily tasks, from getting dressed in the morning to remembering that you’re supposed to say hello to people as you walk into work at 9 am. Sometimes you can’t even detect why everything suddenly seems so hard.

September has been a tumultuous month, but it has also been a month filled with excitement and events, travel and possibility. These little adventures, no matter how minor, are most needed when you are tired, ready to give up, and just want to stay at home sitting on your couch playing Sims.

Creative 360 had been preparing for its Artshop, Do-Art, and VSA Exhibition and Showcase for over a year, and it finally came together in the beginning of this month. It was so amazing to see the students I, as Program Coordinator, along with our many gifted instructors, had worked with finally get to perform their music, dances, and monologues as well as display their beautiful artwork in a gallery setting. For many, it was their first time showing their art to anyone other than friends and family.

I had to “entertain” guests in between performances, a challenge because I don’t think I am an overly entertaining person except for when I am not meaning to be. However, I lived to tell the tale, and was told I said many wonderful things although after the fact I could not for the life of me remember what they were😛. When having to speak publicly I tend to enter a sort of fugue state. Luckily, it is a brilliant one. There were a few kerfuffles along the way, but the whole show really came together in the end. (Kerfuffle is one of my favorite words, as it can be used to describe such a wide variety of daily societal occurrences.)

Our special highlighted projects made a splash as well. We had a 3’x4′ canvas composed of 80 squares in which each student filled in a square or 2 with the media and subject matter of their choosing to create an expressive patchwork. If you like what you see, it’s available in print form in Artshop’s Redbubble Shop.

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Another project by artist Heather-Dawn Deogracia was another that expressed the unique personalities of the students taking part in our show. Heather-Dawn asked students to write down their favorite colors and something about themselves. She used this information to create blind contour drawings for each, resulting in a series of vibrant abstract portraits.

There was another opening shortly thereafter at Studio 23 in Bay City, MI for their All Area Michigan show. I got 3 of my pieces in; Be My Eyes, I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Be My Wings; which needless to say was ridiculously exciting. I also got into the Midland Center For The Arts Greater Michigan Art Exhibition which I applied to the last 2 years and didn’t get in. I almost didn’t apply this year but last minute decided, what the heck. That just goes to show … never give up and all that good stuff😉.

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My last recent adventure was a trip to New Orleans with my boyfriend. The first adventurous moment of this trip was traveling with nothing but a “personal bag” and a carry on between the 2 of us. I like to be prepared for any possible occurrence (or “kerfuffle” if you will, there’s that word again!), so this was a struggle. I’m so type A I made an excel spreadsheet listing everything I needed to pack with accompanying check boxes.

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Literally everything was rainbow colored, and everywhere we went there was music playing. It was like having your own theme music as if you were a fictional TV character, so basically amazing. It was so weird to return at the end of the week to shades of brown and grey, and peace and quiet.

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There was this great band that played Sinatra and Louie Armstrong covers  we discovered on the first night that we revisited every night afterward until we left.

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I also got to see a Warhol painting in person. Even though he seems like he was kind of an ass and didn’t actually do his own work, I must admit it still felt awesome.

Next up, Art Prize 2016! Check back for my “Artists To Know” Art Prize 2016 Edition post, where I will share my top picks from the art I was able to see over the weekend.

 

 

March: She Is Everything At Once

Obviously, though I had a fun idea of doing the whole “a drawing a month” reveal for my new 12 part series, that didn’t happen as I am on March and it is now almost September. I would like to enter this series into Art Prize next year, and decided if I have until next Fall, why impose such a crazy impossible deadline on myself simply for the sake of themed blog posts and risk the quality of the work? Impossible self-imposed deadlines are this thing I like to do that I really need to ease up on. For those who haven’t read my previous posts, my new series involves 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme and season. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I want the series to flow together in its mainly black and white scheme with pops of color, soft mixed media application, and it’s classic portrait composition. However, I wanted each month’s portrait to still be distinctly different “characters” from one to the other, achieved via aesthetic theme and accent colors. For this piece, I went with bold, dynamic primaries and a nod to pop art. You can view January and February from earlier posts.

In this piece for March, my goal was to take the commonplace negative stereotype of women being “emotional” and turn it on it’s head, marrying caring and empathy with strength, and sadness and despair with hope for a better future. A surreal merging of classic pop art, which often featured dramatic beautiful women sobbing,  with realistic portraiture was the perfect fit for this concept.

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Women are constantly being told they are too much of something, despite the fact that they are often expected to wear far more different hats responsibility-wise than their male counterparts. Google searches have become an interesting way to peek into mainstream society’s views. Anyone who uses the internet knows when you begin to type something in, google will finish it with the most popular searches and subjects. A UN Women ad from 2013 was the first to make a statement using this innovative approach.

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I tried the same concept, only typing in the starting phrase “women are too…” What I’ve found is that women are apparently too picky, but also too easy, too intelligent and successful to find love, yet too weak and too emotional to be leaders, the president, or involved in politics at all, but at the same time also too dominant. It looks like we’ve got a Goldilocks problem here.

As one who believes that sometimes problems we assign dominantly to one gender are still just basic human being problems, I didn’t want to negate the idea that there may be similar findings for men. However, when I tried “men are too…” I got nothing. In fact, when I simply pressed enter to see what articles would come up, the main article up top was “Monkeys turn into grumpy old men, too” about aging primates and behavioral changes. While hilarious, it is clear that this whole “Be everything at once yet also be nothing at all” contradictory expectation is something that, while maybe not entirely absent for men, is something that women face more in mainstream culture.

A descriptor routinely used to discredit women’s abilities is the fact that they are “too emotional” by default of their gender. However, when men step out of their perceived box by showing any degree of emotion aside from anger, they too are often chastised and ridiculed. This shows that our revulsion towards caring at least is a societal problem on the whole, not just a women’s issue. For some reason, people seem to view caring as weakness. This can be seen clearly in the dismissive term bleeding heart, always used with a strong air of disgust. (A note to be made here… when I talk about caring I am not including people sitting behind a laptop screen typing angry, obscene responses to random articles that they don’t agree with because they get off on being offended and telling people off. Nor am I talking about people who shut down and throw a fit every time they have to hear something that they don’t agree with. This is not true caring or passion, this is an addiction to “being right” all the time and putting people in their place, and it is unhealthy.)

I recall a conversation had with a person from my past 5-ish years ago. We were discussing some political or sociological issue. The other person, whom supposedly respected me, was nevertheless making zero effort to understand my view though I myself had stopped and listened to theirs. I remember growing frustrated and stating, “I don’t know why you are refusing to try to listen and understand where I’m coming from when this is an issue that is so important to me.” Their response was given bitingly and with a wave of the hand, “Oh, everything’s “the most important thing” to you.” Though it was meant as an insult, the more I pondered it the more I thought, I’m ok with owning that. Because everything does matter, in some way large or small.

In our culture, it’s cool not to care. You can see this fact brazenly displayed in popular entertainment (The Hangover 1,2,3,4,5? They just keep going.) People are routinely being told the answer to their feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety is to just “let go”. But is the “ignorance is bliss” model really the one we should be following? This idea in and of itself seems to admit that caring is not weakness, but strength. Experiencing emotions of concern and empathy is an active state; not caring for anything outside of your own pleasure and needs is passive. To put it simply, caring about things is hard work. It can force us to take steps towards action that may make us uncomfortable, and take up a lot of our time and resources. It can be mentally and psychologically draining.

Caring is strength. Let’s lift up our mothers, our fathers, those taking care of an adult family member, our nurses, our teachers, our home health aides, our daycare workers, our counselors, our missionaries, our activists … No matter what societal norms tells us, they are our true heroes.

 

Retro Tile Bathrooms Before and After

Even though I studied interior design in college and ended up going in a different direction afterward, I still love it. From time to time, I do still assist friends/family/acquaintances with their designing woes, and I’ve had a couple of fun opportunities over the last year or two to work with my parents in updating my childhood home. I worked with them to choose fixtures, finishes, and furnishings for the home’s guest and master bath, and they used a kitchen and bath design business and a remodeling contractor from the local Midland area to bring the project to completion.

My parents and I have pretty different design styles. They can be a little uneasy at times about bold colors, and favor timelessness. My mother definitely has a traditional style, and is not one of those people who wants to change a design up every other year (or even every 5). She especially wants more “permanent” aspects such as tile and cabinetry to be something neutral so that the space can be updated in the future if need be with not much more than a different color of paint on the walls.

The house’s original bathrooms were done up in (now vintage) tile, as were many in the neighborhood when originally built. My best friend down the street actually had an identical guest bathroom to ours, only accented in white instead of grey and sans crazy wallpaper. We decided to pay homage to the origins and stay with the idea of retro, bold, fun tile, but this time in black and white.

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Before: I may have mentioned the original guest bathroom was pink. In fact, this bathroom was just so into being pink that even the door and the window molding is pink. This is basically Dolores Umbridge‘s dream bathroom. It’s so odd and distinctly vintage, however, that it did have a certain charm and I was a little bummed to see it go. Yes, the ceiling is wallpapered – pretty trippy.

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After: Saying bye-bye to the original vintage was so worth it, however, for the end result. Since we didn’t have to worry about the guest bathroom transitioning into a bedroom like we did for the master bath, we could go with a fun color not present anywhere else in the house, and chose a cheerful pool blue. Being the only color present that isn’t a neutral, the room is pleasant even for those who don’t like to be surrounded by rainbows 24/7. The white is broken up by pops of black in the striping and the textile accents. The ceiling is still kind of fun, though certainly not wallpapered! I chose a paler shade of blue rather than just going with a stark white to balance the already ever present, high contrast, bold blue- to – bright white transitions. My parents also love antiques, and there is a variety of vintage glassware and decor scattered throughout. We also chose some unique vintage inspired hardware that further adds to the little air of whimsy in this room. The artwork on the wall is a print of one of my watercolor and ink pieces, The Idealist.

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Before: The master bath had already been through one soft redo in the 90s due to some cabinetry that was not faring too well. It had mainly been done for utilitarian reasons, and had pretty much the opposite problem of the guest bathroom … it was very, very bland.

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After: Hello, gold! Black and gold play off of each other so well, so a lot more black was incorporated into this bathroom. The cabinetry and shower are opposite each other, so to balance all the white tile with the dark counters we outlined the shower itself and the inset shelf in black tile, and used a more concentrated floor tile. The photography on the walls are photos of birds my dad took, one of his hobbies being hiking and “collecting” birds on his journeys via snapshots. And, of course, more vintage glassware (I have an addiction! Luckily, they love it too).

Another fun project completed! Next, my parents will be picking my brain about the living room. Maybe I can talk them into more brightly colored walls … maybe even purple! Only time will tell😉. (Mom, if you are reading this, I promise I’m joking).

Reunion … Alternate Title: Holy Crap I’m Old.

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Just this past weekend was my 10 year high school reunion, to which I actually made an appearance despite many fervent vows over the years that I, when the time came, most certainly would not. When I think of high school, I just think of awkwardness and lots of crying. I will let the following Daria memes do the talking for my overall thoughts on the whole experience, seeing as we were pretty much the same person. I even kind of looked like her when I didn’t wear my contacts.

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I put in a half-assed effort at mingling, but the real reason I was there was to see my core group of friends who I am still close with to this day. The golden opportunity of us actually all being in the same place at the same time was too good to pass up. The following day, I attended a baby shower for one of them with the rest of the squad, which is another thing that made me feel all awkward and adult-y.

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It is actually one of my life goals to never change a diaper even once, and I think I am putting in some good strides towards its achievement. I wish her all my love and the best though, and can’t wait to meet the little miniature version of my best friend sometime soon.

It’s funny to think about how completely 99.9% different we are after 10 years, but in some ways still so very much the same. This idea is something I touched on in my last post about my new project. You’re always going to have thoughts about the past like “I wish I would have known, I wish I would have done …” etc. etc., but putting some things in perspective early on never hurts. To conclude, I will leave any current highschoolers who may be reading this with some things I wish I would have realized that would have made the journey a little less tumultuous.

Not to use a cliche phrase, but you do you.

If you are naturally more introverted and are content to not be flapping your gums 24/7 during a school day, then don’t feel pressured to interject yourself into conversations just so that you look more “social” or “normal”. You will end up completely draining yourself. On the other hand, if you are aching to talk and get to know people but are holding back because you feel like you may say something awkward and embarrass yourself, don’t – just let it out. I mean, you totally will do it, that saying something awkward thing, but it happens to everyone and if you’re confident and can just laugh at yourself no one is going to give you a scarlet letter for it. By the way, you’re going to put your foot in your mouth plenty as an adult so you might as well practice up.

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Definitely work hard and do your best, but enjoy learning. Don’t overestimate the significance of high school as it plays into the rest of your life so that your only goals are to look good on paper.

Don’t waste your times on classes, clubs, or activities just because you feel like they somehow make you “look good.” Seriously, if I wouldn’t have spent every day coming straight home from school and going right down to the basement to draw until bedtime, I would not have the skills I have today in the field I actually ended up going into as a career. Having a long, exhaustive list of all this stuff that you do is only just that… a long exhaust(ive)(ing) list. Spend your time doing what you like. If that’s being involved in 15 different sports and after school clubs, then more power to you. If it isn’t, then don’t sweat it and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re lazy just because you have different ways you like to spend your time. You’ll wish you had as much free time as you do now when you’re an adult with a full time job.

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Don’t obsess over having a date for formal dances.

Dates are boring. I had exponentially more fun during the homecomings I attended in a group with my single friends. You’ll have plenty of time for uncomfortable dinner dates as an adult, trust me.

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It’s ok to not be invited to parties. They aren’t that fun.

I know fomo can be rough, and as one who understands I have but one life to live and wishes to maximize the potential joy and newness of every moment, I still struggle with it hardcore to this day. But, I promise you, you truly aren’t missing anything. When you’re in your mid-20s, you will actually start making up excuses to avoid having to go to parties, because gigantic loud house parties filled with sloppy drunk people and bad music are tedious.

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And lastly, your hair doesn’t look bad.

No one is looking at you that closely, because in all actuality they are too busy obsessing over what their own hair looks like. I used to be hard-pressed to be out the door an hour and fifteen minutes after waking up for school, and that was with showering the night before and my mom making my lunch. Now, I get ready for work and am in the car in 20 minutes, and I don’t actually look like an ogre from outer space. Score!

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If you just aren’t feeling like high school is the “time of your life” it’s supposed to be, take solace in this … It’s basically all uphill from here.

New Series Re-Imagines Childhood Drawings

Now that I got all of my work finished for the upcoming Michigan all area shows I am entering, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time on a new project that I’d done sketches for about 2 years ago and never revisited after getting distracted by mountains of other projects. Working with kids and youth over the summer at Creative 360 while Artshop was on break,  we did lots of acrylic painting. Acrylics is a medium I’d abandoned over the last couple of years, and it made me miss it.

I had a teacher once who said you will always be who you were when you were 8. You may drift in the in-between teen years; who doesn’t go through an identity crisis at least once in high school or within early young adult age; but you will always come back to the most basic facets of personality you exhibited as child. At your core, you are who you were at eight years old and will still be at 80.

When I think about it, at 28 I do share many of the same traits with my 8 year old self. I still adore books, I still have my own distinctive and at times highly experimental fashion sense (I was wearing sun glass frames with the lenses popped out far before hipsters ever existed.), I am still always actively finding ways to meld creativity with vocation, I still am obsessed with all things design oriented (Look how pumped I am about my digital runway show I’ve put together on that snazzy Windows 95), and I still can’t sleep unless buried under 3+ layers of blankets even in summer😛.

Luckily for me, and this project, my mother is amazing and has the best of my childhood drawings from each year of my life archived in a neat, chronological little binder, so finding artwork examples was no big thing. I have chosen a drawing from each year, 2-10 (nothing for year 1, I’m not that amazing.) I will be using the same subject matter, colors, and proportions to re-imagine these childhood drawings as fine art acrylic paintings. Here is the first piece I’ve completed for age 4.

Kid drawings aren’t all the same when you really look at them, and you truly can tell a lot about someone from what they create, same as with adults. Here are some other fun projects people have done taking inspiration from kids’ drawings.

Bored Panda / Go Monster Project

Cafe Mom / Parents Turn Their Kids’ Art Into Tattoos

Huffington Post / Mom-Toddler Painting Collaborations

Busy Mockingbird / Artist Collaborates With 4-Year-Old Daughter

Doodle Your Toys / Custom Handmade Plush Toys

 

Music To Create To That Isn’t Classical

I’m sure there are a couple out there, but I don’t know any artist who creates to complete silence. The music we listen to can definitely have an effect on how we create. Earlier this year I worked with a group of kids and helped them paint while listening to an orchestral score, the kids painting what they envisioned as they listened to the music. I know as a highly visual person, whenever a song comes on I automatically see flashes of images in my head while I listen, even if it is just colors or patterns that the music brings to mind.When it comes to good art-making music, most people seem to swear by classical. I certainly don’t mind classical music, but I tend to prefer songs with lyrics to solely instrumental. I have a wide range that gets me going. Some days I love painting to Minor Threat and The Misfits, but I have found that for fine detail work calmer is better. I love accompanying art with coffee as well, so if the music is too energetic and I am too caffeinated, I will literally just pace and dance around and get about 1/2 as much work done. Also, when I’ve worked all day and been around lots of noise and chaos aka students (gotta love ’em) for the past 8 hours, it’s nice to listen to something tranquil. For your perusal, I’ve assembled a list of calm and creative music that is my muse while working, at least for right now.

Broadcast

Aside from the fact that the lead of Broadcast had one of the most soothing voices I’ve ever heard, the title of this album is called “Future Crayon” so you know it has to be good art-making-music.

San Fermin

I had the pleasure of seeing San Fermin live last fall, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ve never seen a group of people play so many instruments at once, and play them all like masters.

Michael Nyman

I’ve actually never watched the film this song is from, but a yoga class I took in college used this song in a playlist that would be on repeat during every session. All of his music is equally stunning and tranquil, though this song has remained my favorite.

Elliot Smith

What can I say, I love sad songs.

The Entire Old Boy Soundtrack

Ok, so this movie is far from peaceful as you can see from the featured movie poster above – so brutal – but the soundtrack is ahhhmazing. The music varies in style, but most of it is mainly instrumental and it’s very creative and fun, a perfect backdrop for art. This song I’ve featured is my absolute favorite. The movie is pretty visually amazing as well, if you have a strong stomach (or a blanket to peek through intermittently ;)). Watch the original, do not watch the shitty American version, please and thank you.

Beach House

Again, amazingly soothing vocals and creative melodies. I feel like I’m entering a mythical dreamland when I listen to this band.

Morrissey

I may get accused of being a fangirl, but I seriously do make the best things while listening to Morrissey. Both his solo lyrics and those from his songs with The Smiths also tend to have an eerie way of stating what I’m always thinking.

80s music videos … oy.

So, what do you listen to when you need to concentrate but can’t stand the quiet?

Artists To Know: Amazing Sculptures From The FIA

My boyfriend and I visited an interesting sculpture exhibit at the Flint Institute of Art this summer titled Form, Function, and Fantasy. The exhibit was divided into 3 rooms, each embodying one of the aforementioned themes. I captured my absolute favorite pieces from the exhibit, and wanted to share them with you. I know I discovered many new favorite artists in the process. I think all of the pictures I took were from the “fantasy” section, which for me is honestly not surprising. We accidentally went through the exhibit backwards, viewing fantasy first which may also have had something to do with it. Let’s be real, in art as in life, everything’s a letdown after that😉.

Irina Zaytceva – Twins

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I was actually drawn to make a trip out to this exhibit based on this image I saw on the FIA website. I love the melding of old world artistry with fairy tale mermaids. The bold red coral shapes growing off of it give this piece add an element of abstract and modernity to the piece as well, bringing one more dimension to the mix. I am personally so much more of a drawing and painting person than a sculpture person, so I think I loved the fact that the surface of this 3D form was used as a canvas for 2D art as well, incorporating both types of design.

Richard Notkin – Heart Teapot: Ironclad Hostage II

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As a tea enthusiast, I absolutely adore looking at uniquely designed teapots. My absolute favorite thing about days off is my cup of tea right after I wake up in the morning, no joke, usually accompanied by doing some sketching, reading a book or the news. I am such an old person at heart at a mere 28 years on this earth. In all seriousness though, the design of this teapot inspired sculpture is flawless. Combining industrial elements with anatomy and figuring out how to transform the shape of a human heart into a vessel for tea somehow could not have been an easy task. You don’t even notice it’s a teapot at first, it just looks like an interesting sculpture. The fact that it hides its more mundane function is rather interesting.

Sergei Isupov – Zombie Fish

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I love the tall, thin forms, the monochromatic color scheme, and the detail that makes this piece look like a pen and ink illustration from a children’s scary story picture book come to life in 3-dimensional form. Very fun and inventive.

Krisaya Luenganantakul – Happy House #1

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As I read more about this artist, I discovered she has a whole series of these lovely, whimsical houses in vibrant colors and with floating, dreamlike, organic detail. The project is titled “Homemade – a project where the womb, the home, and the female are interpreted under a new light.” This project discusses the idea that oftentimes feminine traits are associated with weakness and fragility. However, patience, tenderness, forgiveness, and love are strengths that have made them universal protectors and caretakers for every family over time. And, important nurturing that determines the growth  and well-being of all humans takes place in both the womb and the home, centered around the female. It is interesting and different to see a project about female empowerment that is based on the value of women’s more traditional roles. I was originally drawn by the visuals, but found the idea behind the design very thought provoking as well.  

Michael Lucero – Hunter (Reclamation Series)

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There is no way I could not be drawn to this piece by color alone. I absolutely love pops of bold red amongst neutral tones, and use this color scheme in my own work often as well. There are a lot of interesting details the longer you look at it, and the contrast between the style of the head and body is staggering. Yet, when you look at the piece as a whole it is unified. I myself was working on sketches for a series incorporating faces being covered in various winged things, so of course I was first drawn to the most noticeable visual element of the moth over the figure’s face.

Akio Takamori – Karako With Striped Kimono

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I found this sculpture to be so incredibly calming to look at. The soft, round forms, harmonious pale colors, and flowing watercolor-like drips along with the neutral, solemn face were very peaceful to me. I think if this was in my house and I could just look at it whenever I got tense, I would never lose my temper.

Sunkoo Yuh – Horn Blower

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I loved the dripping glaze application in this piece because again, it reminded me of watercolor. I also loved the totem quality it had to it,the many figures and faces stacking atop one another. Each is such a distinctive, unique character in the composition.

Sara Lisch – Lion’s Journey

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This was another piece that reminded me of a children’s book illustration come to life. I love the muted color scheme, and the stylized features of the human and animals. There is definitely a story here, and it is left to the viewer to imagine where they are all headed to.

I’d encourage you to visit the links to see more of these artists’ work. All of their pieces are just as fantastic as these. I am forever in awe of 3D artists. The best sculpture I ever made was this cardboard, modeling clay, and found object punk-diorama time-based piece pictured below.

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It was a final project for my intro to 3D class in college, a time-based assignment meaning a piece that would somehow change over time as part of it’s presentation, not lasting in its original form. Basically, the so-so sculpted clay girl in the center was all white and pristine at the beginning, and then everyone in the class got to take turns sticking the different objects to her, dumping paint on her, and otherwise altering her form. It dealt with how perceptions shape identity, and was all anti-conformity, anti-media, and all that good stuff – very much what I was thinking about at that time of my life. Of course, my best sculpture would be ephemeral. What rotten luck. At least I’ll always have the pictures.