Artists To Know: My Personal Influences

People are constantly asking and being asked the question, Who are your influences? Who do you consider your hero? Who are your role models? giphyI never know how to answer and end up feeling like I’m having some sort of Mindy Lahiri moment. It sounds totally pompous and terrible to be like … Hm, well I’d say myself probably? but that is how I feel sometimes! I love art, and have seen many pieces that have spoken to me in some way, but I’ve never had that “master artist” whom I felt informed my whole artistic style and way of doing things. I’ve always had this strong aversion to even remotely copying or being influenced by anything at all. I remember growing up in school, my parents would ask me what I was working on in class at the dinner table. I’d go on about some paper I had to write, and one of my parents (usually my dad) would pipe up with, “Oh, I know! You can write about _________!”. I’d get so mad and exclaim, “Great, now I can’t write about that even if I was going to because you said it first so it’s not my idea anymore!”A lot of times it truly was the idea I’d had in my head already, which was super problematic.

I am a very visually based person, and images have always stuck with me more than individual people anyway. As a way to maybe untangle some of my artistic influences, I have shared individual images that have struck me in my artistic journey, inspired me to create, and made me excited about being an artist. You may see similarities between some of these images and the work I aim to create, and some may be as different from my own work as night and day. You will not see any flowers or landscapes. Enjoy!

One of the first pieces of art that really impacted me once I was in high school and actually started developing an artistic style of my own wasn’t actually traditional art, but a fashion editorial from Elle Girl magazine. Elle Girl was infinitely better than it’s preppy, air-headed sister Cosmo Girl, or so I believed at the time – Elle Girl had Emma Watson on the cover (in a marching band themed shoot of all things), and also first introduced me to the band Tegan and Sara via a short article featuring lots of photos of them leaning against walls in cool clothes and an answer to the all important question, what IS that weird sauce that Canadians put on their french fries? Its slogan was “Dare to be Different”, and it did tend to feature more unique, out-of-the-box photo shoots than other magazines geared towards teens. I was super into photography at the time as well as drawing, and though I had never thought of myself as a super confident person, I loved dressing up in fun outfits and makeup and crazy jewelry with my friends and taking photos. I loved doing this because it allowed me to be far more bold and outgoing than my social anxiousness normally allowed me to be. All the outlandish clothes and hair and bright makeup is like a protective mask where you feel more like you are playing a character than anything else, and you don’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed about anything.

I came across these H.R. Geiger pieces at Barnes and Noble of all places, while looking at calendars for my new dorm my first year away at college. I was most struck by his more figurative work. His pieces are super creepy but they tell a story, and I was so impressed by the striking monochromatic contrast and seamless, almost obsessive detail. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I didn’t end up buying the calendar because I had many more purchases to make and it was like 25 bucks. However, I took down his name to look up more of his work, and have been a fan ever since. Funny enough, I wouldn’t watch Alien, for which he did a significant amount of visuals, until about 3 years ago.

I discovered these works from CC Askew and Camille Rose Garcia respectively in the art magazines I started to devour in late high and school early college. I hadn’t seen a lot of art from current working artists at that time, because art classes in school tend to be overly focused on the past. I understand the whole learn your foundations thing, and appreciating the history of art is important, but I remember being somewhat surprised to discover that there were actually well known artists that existed past the 19th century ;). These solidified my affinity towards pop surrealism, and I fell in love with their heavy use of twisted-storybook-esque illustration, a mix of imagery that can be both childlike and nostalgic yet also deeply dark.

Two works I also discovered in glorious outsider art, street art, and pop surrealism magazines are these by Lori Earley and Sylvia Ji. Both were artists who focus heavily on portraiture, as do I in my work. They used contrasting, unusual colors and their pieces were delicate and feminine but not without a dark, surreal edge.

These pieces by Ray Caesar and Ruben Ireland were the first digital art that ever peaked my interest. For the longest time, I had harbored such a grudge against digital artists (those bunch of cheaters!), mainly because the only digital art I’d seen was poorly executed fan art or digital manipulations that could be done in about 5 minutes with the right mouse clicks on Photoshop.  These artists, however, utilize the medium to do things that you can’t do traditionally. For example, Caesar actually creates entire 3D worlds which he then rotates the camera view within and crops to create his final pieces.  I have recently done some experimenting with digital art myself, and it is challenging, let me tell you!

Another one of my inspirations is always, always my students! One of my students who comes to Express Yourself Artshop from an area assisted living home just taught me last week how to make crochet necklaces!

img_20170212_144208_773

Fellow creatives out there, be it artists, designers, musicians, writers, actors, any part of the spectrum: who (or what works) inspire(s) you to create?

 

 

Art Discussion: To Suffer In Your Arms

to-suffer-in-your-arms

Happy February! This art discussion seems appropriate given that February has been appointed the month of all things lovey dovey. This drawing is one of my older ones, from about 8 years ago. Still, I’ve remained attached to it even though I can see spots where my pen and ink skills have certainly improved. It’s just the right mix of elegant and morbid, and I used an interesting process to come up with the concept. I had an assignment in my college drawing class in which we had to create a collage first, and then draw from that image we created. I used to be big into collaging (This collage actually won a contest in Deviantart’s collage club, of which I used to be quite the active member.), so this technique was right up my alley. I liked how collaging helped me come up with new image pairings I may not have thought of through sketching only. The loving couple used to be a cheesy perfume ad – major upgrade.

Outdoors, people are rioting and attacking each other. The couple are “safe” inside, shut out from all the cares of the outside world. But, even though they seem deeply in love, they too have wounds that they have imparted on each other. The woman is so enthralled with the picture in her mind of that perfect embrace, that oneness, that sense of not being alone that she ignores her own suffering. A dead dove lies shot and bleeding on the table, his blood bright red like the cuts and bruises on the woman, and the morbid image of the smiling, bleeding woman on canvas hung on the wall.

Love and peace are two words that are often spoke of together, as if married. What is odd is that despite all this, love is often in fact a destroyer of peace. People do all sorts of things in the name of a feeling they call love. In favor of love, common human decencies are thrown out the window without a look backward. People ruthlessly force their own ideas on others, sometimes to that others’ demise, all the while saying and wholeheartedly believing that this behavior is only because they love them and want good things for them.

Take a look at the relationships of any number of people you know as well as your own: you will find that often times once romantic love infiltrates a bond, you can expect things to be anything but peaceful. Love adds two entirely new dimensions to the already multifaceted structure of a relationship between two people, each different person with their own separate ideas of what both giving and receiving love is supposed to look like. 7 years after I pondered the simplification of love as the solution to everyone’s problems, this fantastic article was posted to Observer; “When we believe that “all we need is love,” … we’re more likely to ignore fundamental values such as respect, humility and commitment towards the people we care about. After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other stuff — all of the hard stuff?” Love, like any other experience, can be healthy or unhealthy and it would do us all well to remember that. 

Love of only one or few things can easily grow into an obsession. With obsession comes possessiveness, jealousy, and a loss of attention to all else causing any other parts of life to shrivel and decay. Our perceptions can be tricked into a sort of bubble of “only I and what I love matter in this world”, when guess what, a whole lot else matters. The world keeps turning, and we let things that will inevitably be missed later fall away. Similarly, an intense, burning, passionate love of too many separate entities can cause overwhelming anxiety and leave an individual asking,”How can I show love to all of THIS when I only have _______”. One can end up feeling like the only spring left in a world of thirsty travelers. It can be hard to forget you are not the center of all that you love. In the case of love that is unrequited, you may not even be on the edges of what it is you love. And inner peace further erodes.

I, however, am still quite a fan of love (and always have been) and believe it can
accomplish wondrous things. I guess what matters the most and what we must think about always is where our love is coming from. Does it come from our own fleeting wants and demands, is it forced or artificially manufactured out of a sense duty with no real
compassion behind it, or does it flow from a deeper source? Love should always be external, because of who other living beings are, not internal, because of what we long to own. Love that comes from selfish desires undoubtedly leads to brutality.

Art Inspired By The Women’s Marches

A good friend and I recently talked about the series of Women’s Marches that happened in the US the day after Trump’s inauguration, she saying she supported the right to protest, but didn’t really understand how Trump’s election caused all of the things the women organizers seemed to be fighting against. I explained that to me, these weren’t “anti-Trump” rallies but a public outcry over a variety of issues affecting many different groups that make up our country, groups that wanted to remind the current leaders, “Hey, I’m here! I’m one of your citizens!” After we’d finished talking, she said that with all those issues at play, ‘I guess it seems to me why now? These marches should probably have happened a lot sooner’. And she’s right, Donald Trump didn’t cause many of the disturbing attitudes we are seeing all of a sudden pushed to the forefront of our culture. As another friend posted on facebook the other day, “Hey everyone, the world was messed up before Trump took office. Thank you and goodbye.” The comment made me mad at first, but in all honestly the statement is true. What cannot be trivialized, however, is the fact that many of our leader’s words and attitudes have given a lot of messed up people the green light to say and do things they may not have before. He has lifted the yoke of social acceptability. He is in the position to make our messed up culture worse depending on his choices. Though the marches were most definitely a reaction to Trump’s Inauguration, they were not “just an anti-Trump rally”. They were less against anything in fact, and more FOR … Gender Equality Disability Advocacy Affordable Healthcare Affordable Family Planning Options Women’s Health Racial Equality Prison Reform A Fair Living Wage Immigration Amnesty 

The original event that inspired multitudes of sister marches is known as the “Women’s March On Washington” because it was organized by women. However, the issues at stake effect everyone. Little known fact ignored by most of the media who want to paint these protesters as a bunch of crazies wearing giant vagina costumes (Seriously, the aftermath of such a positive, hopeful event has been so hateful and brutal. I know we should come to expect it, but still …), this event bridged barriers between gender, race, pro-life and pro-choice, and even between party lines!

As all historical events often do, it also inspired a lot of fantastic art. By now almost everyone has seen the more well known poster collections, but I wanted to highlight some perhaps lesser known illustrations that embodied the spirit of this important time. Apathy has all but disintegrated. Time to grow.

Penelope Dullaghan designed an awesome pin showing the ASL sign for love, the hand depicted in bold rainbow hues. The graphic is simple and eye catching, the message being immediately clear at first glance. These pins are sold through Pincause, an organization started by Kate and Nate of Ann Arbor, MI (Props to some fellow Michiganders!). For each pin purchased, a donation is made to ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Pincause is non-partisan, because, and I quote “No party has the market cornered on love.” ❤

0cbea908cbcb91d711006720ea098e30

 

Lois Keller ‘s Colorful Manifest For The Women’s March On Washington is literally a portrait of the event itself and the spirit it embodied. The colorful watercolor effect is just gorgeous as well.

picture1

 

Jillian Adel ‘s poster designs for the Women’s March are so bold and youthful, and capture such a riotous spirit. They have a throwback vibe, and remind me of something I would have hung on the back of my bedroom door in high school which I absolutely love. You can see the whole collection of posters in Jillian’s Behance portfolio.

6526a947222775-58743827714a6

 

Giulia Zoavo ‘s work revolves for the most part around character design. This United We Stand illustration was made for an article on the US’s marches in Italian Women’s Magazine Cosebelle. It’s amazing how much personality is in each figure though their designs are so simple. You can even get a free download of this image as a cool banner for the top of your facebook page! Thanks, Giulia ;).

58236f47701207-58821262d7bec

 

Tamar Moshkovitz is a freelance artist and designer sending support from Berlin. This illustration certainly wins for most adorable. Who hasn’t wanted to share one body with their best gal pals? Obviously, not I – see Halloween 2007.

I think we would all do well to start listening better to other’s concerns, stop treating far right or far left leaning media as the be-all-end-all as far as perception formation, and start asking others questions rather than assuming their character. I vow to try and do the same.

 

clear-495a83e08fc8e5d7569efe6339a1228ee08292fa1f2bee8e0be6532990cb38521

 

 

Art That Celebrates Life

Let’s be honest guys, the world is a mess right now. The world is not without hope, not without flashes of brightness, joy, and kindness, but we must admit situations could be better. Our world has a lot of problems; I would argue not any more problems than it has had in the past, just new and different problems that come with a changing world. It makes sense that with all the doom and gloom in the news day in and day out, it is easy for people to get overwhelmed. Unable to deal in their own mind with all the issues being plummeted towards them at once, they develop a sort of tunnel vision. With tunnel vision towards one particular issue, we get the culture wars, two sides so obsessed with one particular facet of our society that they are dissatisfied with that everything else, all the other big, important things that also need our help and attention, fall by the sidelines in favor of childish bickering. One of the worst examples of tunnel vision I’ve seen is the right to life debates.

Comedian and social critic George Carlin said of members of the pro-life movement in a well known monologue, Pro-Life, Abortion, and And The Sanctity of Life, “They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re f*****.” 

That may be hard to hear, and no, I’m sure it doesn’t ring true of every pro-life supporter out there. But unfortunately, most individuals that tout a pro-life belief are deeply lacking in a holistic advocacy for all of life. This can be seen clearly in this past election, which I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about, but it is important. The number one reason I have heard for why individuals didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton was her stance on abortion. Now, I am by no means a ride or die Hilary fan. Both candidates had issues, it is which had more that was a matter of personal opinion. However, think about this: people were saying they can’t vote for Hilary because she is a “murderer” based on her belief that the government should not outlaw abortion, though she personally believes it is a morally complicated issue. However, the alternative candidate’s first course of action that he just can’t wait to get started on as our new chief is to yank away the ACA, a provision that has allowed people with life threatening conditions and chronic or mental illness to be able to afford the care they need to, quite simply, not die. It was not perfect, but its impact was still not to be downplayed, as you can see from the many personal stories on Faces Of The ACA, a website started by a woman who credits surviving cancer to the Affordable Care Act.  As someone who works with individuals with disabilities and chronic illness, it is heartbreaking to see the people I care about fearing for their life and their future. Our new VP advocates for the psychological and at times even physical torture of LGBT youth in an effort to “change” them, often leading to eventual suicidal acts. But wait, with this option we were supposed to have “chosen life”. Many people knew of these concerns beforehand, and just couldn’t find it in themselves to care. This is the danger of tunnel vision.

Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister‘s words have famously made their rounds in the media over this past year, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

I wonder if we don’t focus on unborn babies because it is easier and less messy to care about someone who doesn’t exist yet, rather than the people who we already cross paths with in our day or hear about in the news, but who may be different from us, may be hard to understand, may make us uncomfortable, may have cultures or views or lifestyles that are different from ours.

Art speaks, so below, I would like to share a selection of impactful art that celebrates all life. I’m not telling anyone they have to stop caring about the things that they do; you have the right to your beliefs just as I do mine. However, I’d ask that you make an honest effort to open your scope and act on what you see, because there are so many who have already been thrust into life on this earth that need your help and support.

Illustrator Cloudy Thurstag – A beautiful visual reminder of the value of self care, important for everyone but especially relevant to those suffering with chronic or mental illness.

f9b7ad27493161-5790b93ccdc83

Model Yazemeenah Rossi –  Because beauty, confidence, and poise doesn’t have an age limit.

56f2de891e0000b300705214

Stencil Artists Icy and Sot” using public art to envision a world freed from borders, war and gun violence.”

img_3894

Dancer Mary Verdi-Fletcher – There is more than one way to dance; innovation has no limits.

download

Artist Joel Bergner in Collaboration With Syrian Refugee Children In The Za’Atari Camp In Jordan – Exploring conflict, dreams, fear, conservation, generosity, and hope together through art.

zaatariwatermural

If you have thoughts, feel free to share. Deep discussion can be quite a rush :D.

 

 

Art Discussion: New Year’s Resolutions

I have to admit, I never make New Year’s resolutions; partly because if you are truly dissatisfied with something, it seems silly to arbitrarily wait until the turning of the calendar to fix it. In part also because we all tend to set the same goals, those goals that we know everyone else is setting so we can easier relate to those around us as we share that we want to find our soulmate, get a promotion, or lose weight, and we can all laugh together about how we probably won’t actually do anything to work towards most of those things. But, what would happen if we committed to doing one thing that we were truly passionate about in this new year, one thing that we didn’t over analyze to death, asking ourselves, Should I want this? Is it too silly? Too shallow? Too lofty? Too weird? No one would understand anyway … 

1.jpg

During my senior year of college 7 years ago (Whoa! 7 is a big number.), I entered an art book into the Annual Student Exhibition at Central Michigan University. I asked a sampling of the people I encountered in a day, some I knew well and some I did not, to think of a couple of experiences they would like to have before their life was over, and pick the most obscure one to share with me. I chose 35 different submissions to illustrate, and Underneath was  born. This was my first experiment with creating art based on collected personal stories, something I would use to create many more projects in the future. I also ended up winning the Grand Award for this piece, which was the first time I’d ever won anything for my art aside from a coloring contest in 4th grade, and not a bad way to exit my college career ;).


As annoying as it may be that the first thing anyone asks when meeting someone for the first time after “What’s your name?” is, “So what do you do?”, we kind of are what we do. This doesn’t have to mean our day jobs, or even be workplace related at all. What we do with each day is a choice, and it is these choices that reflect what we value and shape who we will become. True goals can give immense insight into each individual’s unique personality, drive, and psyche. That is why I so enjoyed sifting through the responses I received for this project.

I was reminded of Underneath recently for an unfortunate reason. The young woman who 7 years ago submitted the far right response above took her own life in a murder-suicide earlier this month. She attended my high school, but our school was so large growing up there were tons of people who walked in graduation with me that I felt like I’d never laid eyes on my whole four years there. I never knew her well, but our paths did cross and I remembered her submission deeply affecting me back then, as the news of what occurred deeply saddened me now. A couple of my good friends had had classes and clubs with her, some even keeping up over the years at least through texting and facebook, and the news hit them even harder.

This may not be a typical resolution, but something to be mindful of in the new year is this: we do not know everyone else’s story. We have no clue about everything the people we run into in our day to day life may be going through. People learn to adapt, and to act, and to portray themselves in person, at work, and in social media as how they want others to see them. I know I do it; I think we all do to a point. I have always been fascinated with the dichotomy between individual’s alone personas versus their public personas. It is a concept that is interesting to explore. It can also be a concept that is dangerous, because it can prevent people from reaching out who need help. If you make one resolution (aside from foregoing all convention and chasing your oddest dream / within reason and lawfulness, of course), resolve to be transparent and authentic, and resolve to be someone who is willing to make that reach when someone needs support either in the form of just a listening ear or otherwise. Christmas falling on a Sunday, I attended the Christmas morning church service at MFMC with my family this year. We spoke about how there is the whole Christmas story which most of us, churchgoers or not, have known since childhood. But, we all have stories, and our story, how we live and interact, can change someone else’s story for the better if we allow it to happen. We have nothing to lose for trying.

To see the rest of my art book in order, visit the album on my website.

New Work! (In Which I Present Probably The Cheeriest Art I’ve Ever Done)

Hey all! I recently finished the 4th piece I’ve added to my current 12 part series. Each piece represents a month of the calendar, and this one is June so it would actually be installment 6 but I’ve skipped around a bit. To catch up new comers, I am working on a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I give you, June: She Is Constantly Evolving.

she-is-constantly-evolving

I think this is quite literally the happiest piece I’ve ever completed – There’s even a puppy … that is unreal. I mean, a couple years ago I actually was told by the manager of a local restaurant that I had to remove a couple of pieces from a show I’d hung there because they were afraid it might send patrons spiraling into depression. You’re not a real artist if your art has never been ousted from anywhere, or so I’m told. Not that everything I make is gloom and doom, but to have butterflies, puppies, flowers, smiling with teeth, and cotton candy clouds all together in one piece is not usually my jam. All of my work centers around people’s inner worlds, and sometimes confronts difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Even my pieces that convey overt happiness usually have some sort of edge or oddity to them.

I remember meeting my blindly assigned roommate in college for the first time. Once she found out I was an artist, she wanted me to do some large paintings for the common room, but “They have to be cute! Not scary!” Apparently she thought I was some sort of dark , twisted soul, which is quite funny as I had Sanrio posters all over my bedroom and Bart Simpson print pj’s for god’s sake. (I was to find out later that until we became friends she was afraid to put out any of her Hello Kitty themed toiletries in our shared bathroom, and also only watched America’s Next Top Model in secret when I wasn’t home for fear of my scorn.) To fulfill the cute requirement, I made a painting of a girl holding her kitten surrounded by retro, colorful power flowers. But … I gave the kitten purple dragon wings.

2006_0910art0037retouchnew

This is so Museum Of Bad Art worthy in the most hilarious way, that I’m actually saddened I tossed it. It’s one of those compositions that is so bad it goes right past bad and back to good again.

All this to say, this is a rare piece to be one that conveys nothing but pure, unadulterated joy and exhilaration. It’s ironic that I created this at a time when joy and exhilaration were about the two farthest things from my mind. As seems to be the general consensus, 2016 has been more than a little trying, and it sure decided to go out with a bang in November and December.

920x920

This piece is about transformation, as symbolized by the presence of butterflies, and maybe it was the idea that change is certainly most appealing during the most wearing of times, mixed with a bit of my love of holidays that makes it impossible for me to stay cranky around Christmastime. Either way, this piece speaks not to who we are right now but who we wish to be, and reminds us that nothing is permanent, and that sometimes that isn’t a bad thing.

See this design and more in my Redbubble Shop.

 

Best Christmas Songs Never Played On The Radio

Once Thanksgiving hits, I am all about the Christmas music. The fact that there are multiple radio stations devoted to playing nothing but Christmas music around this time makes my morning commute a whole lot cheerier, which is quite a feat as I am not what you’d call a morning person. However, like radio is apt to do, they tend to cycle the same 20 songs over and over and over again. Now, you can play Sinatra every hour on the hour and won’t hear me complain, but enough Mariah Carey already! All I Want For Christmas Is You wasn’t that great the first time around, let alone by the 100th listen! Here are some of my Christmas favorites that for whatever reason don’t make the radio.

First of all, I want that Jack Skellington pillow in the background of this music video. I liked The Raveonettes quite a lot in high school, and I have to say they have some mighty fine dreamy, atmospheric Christmas tunes.

I think this next one is the most beautiful Christmas song I’ve ever heard in my life. I can never get tired of it. I still have yet to listen to any of Calexico‘s non-holiday music, mainly because all I’ve been listening to is Christmas music … need to get on that!

Classic, what can I say?

Pretty much anything Christmas by The Polyphonic Spree gives me chills. Their videos are such fun too, aren’t they?

I always hated the song Blue Christmas, mainly because I’m never a fan of whiny breakup music at any point in the year but at Christmas, man? Don’t be a downer. Also, Elvis = intense need for earplugs. However, apparently Conor Oberst is magic (like I didn’t already know that), and turned me around on the whole thing.

Another classic … punk rock Christmas forever! Give all the toys to the little rich boys.

Ok, this last one is a little cheesy but I included it because I have fond childhood memories of this song. The 60s/70s were big on family bands, and my mom loved The Partridge Family TV series growing up and had a couple of their cassette tapes. This band was my first introduction to music that wasn’t Disney. Well, them and ABBA. This was definitely a dance around in the basement in my tutu kind of song. My tutu was black with silver stars on it, however, so I was still kind of punk rock ;).

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs or covers?