Art Discussion – Legacy

Legacy, 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil

Legacy, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil

Today, I wanted to unpack a piece from my conceptual portraits series I’ve been working on since beginning of last year, titled “Legacy”.

The script scrolling from her head at the top right reads “I fear being ordinary most of all”. For this piece, I had been thinking a lot about how many decisions we make are rooted in a fear of mortality. We fear that once we are gone it won’t matter… we will have left nothing behind to be remembered by. We long to be KNOWN for something, to be successful at something, for others to know our name. Sometimes we don’t even care if what we are noted for is positive or not, just as long as our existence is eye-catching and out of the ordinary and commands fame and astonishment for good reasons or for terrible. LIke Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. Everything we do, in the relationships we build, the work and pleasure we choose, is leading towards a legacy we hope to build and the perception by which we will be remembered. I used the repeated pattern of the skull and grave markers on her clothing as a motif symbolizing mortality. You will also notice the burning city in the background at the bottom of the composition, which she turns away from smiling, so inwardly focused that she takes no notice of the external destruction.

I have always been interested in masks, mainly because I am interested in almost any form of art that involves faces. Masks can also symbolize so many different things. They can symbolize falseness, pretense, anonymity, invisibility, the concealment of sins. But, they can also symbolize celebration, personal expression, the fact that human beings are flexible and multi-faceted and shades of grey – not black and white, and the power we have over who we want to be in our own story. I am especially drawn to the aesthetic of Japanese Kabuki and Noh masks, two forms of classical Japanese musical drama that involve masks and elaborate costumes to aid in telling the story. In Noh, each mask symbolizes a different type of character. For the background of this piece, I chose to tile the demon character mask (destructive, powerful) alternating with the traditional woman mask (usually symbolizing a character who is beautiful, refined, elegant, and demure). This symbolizes the interplay between a person’s two choices (or more accurately, what we perceive as our only two options). Too often we think that the only way to get ahead, be noticed, be outstanding, is to forgo our ideals and do what is best for ourselves and ourselves only. Those who make history do tend to have an awful lot of skeletons in their closet. But does doing what is right condemn us to having to play the role of the mouse smiling and curtsying in the corner? I’d ask you to also look to history (Think of Martin Luther King Jr., the most well known example!) and see that no, that is certainly not the case.

It is always interesting to hear others’ thoughts. Who are some of your favorite notable figures who broke the societal assumption of power and success being inseparable from selfishness and violence? What kind of legacy do you want your existence to build?

Express Yourself Artshop – The End of Another Semester!

Another semester of Express Yourself Artshop is coming to a close, and so many amazing things have happened in just 12 weeks. I’ve watched students gain confidence and try new types of art, achieving inspiring projects that earlier they were convinced they wouldn’t be able to do. I’ve seen new friendships form. I’ve seen abilities grow – three of my students even got their work into the juried exhibition “Piece By Piece” that I showed work in as well in Creative 360’s gallery space, and one of them even made a sale!

My student Nancy's awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! :)

My student Nancy’s awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! 🙂

I am so glad that a little less than 2 years ago I responded to a mass email looking for instructors for a new program in Midland for adults with disabilities who love art. I sat on the email for awhile, and then finally shrugged my shoulders thinking, “Well, I don’t really teach but I do know quite a bit about art, so I might as well see what this is all about”. With that one decision to just go for it, I went from jumping between one uninspiring job to another, never feeling that I quite fit, to a job that I know I can excel at and that I actually feel passionate about. I have to be honest, I was feeling pretty defeated after doing quite well in college, expecting immediate success and a super-fun-creative-awesome job thereafter, and … you know, life happening. I was left bouncing around from one temporary job to another that was more of the same, where I wasn’t able to use any of my skills and the main goal wasn’t how can I invest in the people I came across on a day to day basis, but basically, how can I convince them to buy a ton of stuff they don’t need. Since then, Express Yourself Artshop has opened so many doors, and now I teach in a variety of locations and work with a wide range of programs for all different ages and abilities. I am so excited to work in a venue where the focus is on the personal growth, learning, and achievement of the individuals I work with, not how much money they can shell out for one product or service or another. Despite loving all my different classes, Artshop will always be a teensy bit in the lead as my favorite program to work with. Working with students with disabilities has opened my mind to new project ideas and materials, as I am forced to get creative in how I involve each student in a way that is best for their personal strengths and weaknesses. Be it cliche to say so, I’ve learned just as much from them as they have from me. I’d like to share an overview of the types of projects my students have worked on this semester. As you can see, we’ve been busy.

Mixed Media Pond Scene - Exquisite Detail!

Mixed Media Pond Scene – exquisite detail!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings - I loved how these turned out so much I'm making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings – I loved how these turned out so much I’m making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles inside a fabric tube with pony beads in between

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow :)

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow 🙂

Wait, I Have Swag Now? There’s A First Time For Everything + New WIP

The Conceptual Portraits Collection

The Conceptual Portraits Collection

So, remember way back in the beginning of March when “I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird” was featured on RedBubble‘s front page? Well, one of the cool perks of that was I got a voucher to see some of my own designs in print, and I promptly ordered some greeting cards, a T-shirt, and a tote bag. I had been anxiously awaiting my fun packages trickling in (isn’t getting mail in general just the best, even when you’re expecting it?), and as of last week I received them all and wanted to share. I also have a new work in progress photo for an 18×24 conceptual portrait I’m working on, this time of a young girl rather than an adult which is something new. I tend to never take WIP photos, so appreciate it while you can! I’ll be sure to get better about that and share more of my progress as I begin new projects. I have quite a few idea sketches mounting up, so time to get to work!

Super cool T-Shirt in "I'd Have Been Happier As A Bird", and tote bag in "The Peacock"

Super cool T-Shirt in “I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird”, and tote bag in “The Peacock”

A little bit better lighting to truly see the designs ...

A little bit better lighting to truly see the designs …

Matching greeting cards! I was really pleased with how heavy they were, and with the sharp, high quality, gloss prints.

Matching greeting cards! I was really pleased with how heavy they were, and with the sharp, high quality, gloss prints.

"Wonderland" WIP

“Wonderland” WIP

Hello Spring! Holidays Are The Best.

The first day of Spring is here (Well, I live in Michigan so it sure doesn’t feel like it yet, but at least there are blue skies and lots of SUN!). For those like me who may in fact be some sort of human/plant hybrid as we absolutely wilt in the cold and require a certain amount of sun each day to function happily and properly, this is fantastic news. I must say, I didn’t get the winter doldrums this year like I usually do, and I think being busy creating has a lot to do with that :).

Along with the possibility of temperatures above 20 degrees (woohoo! Again – Michigan), spring also brings us into the holiday times again after that lull that falls following the nonstop celebration over the 3 months from Halloween through Christmas. I am a big holiday person, mainly because my family has always kept up special traditions for all the major through minor holidays, and I look forward to any reason to do something out of the ordinary and shake up the routine of life. Any excuse to get excited and celebrate something? I’m all over it.

Along with my birthday in 10 days, Easter and Mother’s Day are coming up! I love finding people unique gifts that they aren’t going to find anywhere else, especially items with beautiful artwork that really fits the recipient’s personality. Local handmade gift shops as well as Etsy, Redbubble, 10,000 Villages, and other online shops featuring independently designed or handmade gifts are always my go-to. Back to the thing about my family really loving holidays, I still get an Easter basket. I’m turning 27 end of this month. If you too have Easter baskets to fill, I have a lot of fun, super affordable gifts that will make both younger (and maybe older) kids smile.

Small, inexpensive wallet size prints of my artwork (called ACEO for Art Cards, Editions, and Originals if you haven’t heard of them) are available on ebay in a ton of different designs and are an easy gift to stick inside a basket or card. In addition to the fun stuff I have on etsy and ebay, I also have a RedBubble shop which offers a lot more functional items and home decor featuring my designs. For kids, there are die-cut waterproof STICKERS of my art. Who doesn’t like stickers?! There is a wide range of unique gifts handy for Mother’s Day, even if all you need is a card.

Paper doll sets available on both etsy and ebay

Paper doll sets available on both etsy and ebay

Plush hair clips perfect for Easter - bunnies, strawberries, little birds, and more on etsy!

Plush hair clips perfect for Easter – bunnies, strawberries, little birds, and more on etsy!

Coloring book enjoyable for kids and adults alike featuring lineart versions of my most popular illustrations! Available on ebay and etsy.

Coloring book enjoyable for kids and adults alike featuring lineart versions of my most popular illustrations! Available on ebay and etsy.

All kinds of earrings from chandelier to stud on etsy

All kinds of earrings from chandelier to stud on etsy

Surround yourself with art, and turn someone else's world into a more interesting, inspiring place :).

Surround yourself with art, and turn someone else’s world into a more interesting, inspiring place :).

This Spring, why not surround yourself with art? I promise it will help to melt away that dull, uninspired winter fog. As for me, I am going to continue being my own little self-sustaining factory and will be cranking out more designs daily so be on the lookout! So long for today, going on a nice long walk while the sun lasts :).

Creating Mixed Media Work Inspired By Photography

I love mixed media work that layers and collages varying elements into one piece, but still creates a cohesive universe, a dreamworld with the same depth and breadth as the natural world around us. I’ve found the best way to create mixed media work that maintains perspective and three-dimensionality is to base your piece off of photos you’ve taken. I usually build a concept first, then find photos that support the design I’ve constructed in my head. Those that don’t know where to start can begin with a photo that has meaning to them, one they find inspiring, or one that just plain looks pretty and build from there. I’m going to take you through my process for creating mixed media pieces inspired by photography, but each person may approach their own process a little differently once they get started.

The Dance, Awarded Best 2D; prismacolor pencil, ink, watercolor, fabric, book pages, embroidery thread

The Dance, Awarded Best 2D “Piece By Piece” at Creative 360 Gallery; prismacolor pencil, ink, watercolor, fabric, book pages, embroidery thread

Quite literally, frolicking in the woods. I knew these poses wood come in handy for something one day ...

Quite literally, frolicking in the woods. I knew these poses would come in handy for something one day …

An outtake from playtime :)

An outtake from playtime 🙂

Once you have your concept and your photo(s), the first thing you want to do is break your image down into components, and decide what material will be used for which component. A sketchbook comes in real handy for jotting down notes during this part of the *adventure*.

For “The Dance”, I first thought of what needed texture, and what didn’t. The ground covered in fallen leaves was certainly full of visual texture, as was the bark on the trees. The figures and the path could be left flat – you don’t want to overdo the texture or a piece can get confusing. Framed by the raised texture, this would also help the figures stand out as the focus. Only a handful of the trees in the woods were actually birch, but I knew I wanted a lot of light colors so the girl’s gowns would be in stark contrast to the background, similar to in the black and white photograph. Therefore, I decided to make all the trees in my mixed media birch bark. FYI, book pages are fantastic as birch bark. The color is already spot on, and the all over text compliments the black circles and rings that tattoo its surface. I twisted the paper into thin tendrils for the roots and branches to bring the trees off the page. As for the ground, I used torn muslin fabric. The white color allowed me to use the fabric similar to plain paper once applied, and layer watercolor paint over it until it reached the desired color. Torn fabric is great for ground cover because it frays, creating a believable texture all on its own. I knew I wanted the dresses to be done in ink because ink appears lighter in weight and airier, and would communicate the translucent flow of the skirt. Colored pencil works well for tiny, precise detail and I also am far better at drawing the human body than painting it, which is why I used pencil for the head and hands. Ink was used for the path as well, because once again I wanted a “light” feel to the path to help it stand out and so I could better capture the strong light source hitting it from the sun. The ink also transitions well into watercolor. Transitions are still important even in more “assemblage” type projects. When creating mixed media scenes, though you are in essence collaging, you don’t want to completely have that seamed together, cut and paste look.

The choices I made for “The Dance” were based on two things; first, what look do I want to achieve but also second, what is practical based on my strengths and weaknesses with the various materials? This second deciding factor will be different for each artist. I have learned from teaching that many, many other artists do not enjoy drawing people as much as I do, and quite a few even flat out despise it. If this is you, for a piece with people in it you may choose to have the figures printed and cut them out, pasting them into the scene rather than drawing them. A way to work photography into the piece so it doesn’t look separate from the rest of the environment would be to perhaps print them in black and white or sepia and then “colorize” the photos by lightly shading over the eyes, hair, cheeks, etc. with a colored pencil. You can also add three dimensional elements over the photo such as some fabric leaves blowing across the body, a small paper flower on the person’s jacket or in their hair, or gluing actual fabric over their clothing. This “anchors” the photo of the person/people within the environment to become part of the entire piece rather than a separate cutout element.

"Actually, It Is This World That's Too Small", Mixed Media

“Actually, It Is This World That’s Too Small”, Mixed Media

My 10 year reunion is coming up next year, and the clothes I used to wear are officially beginning to look silly. Short sleeved turtleneck sweaters for the win! And always striped tights, because The Dresden Dolls (would still rock those!)

My 10 year reunion is coming up next year, and the clothes I used to wear in high school are officially beginning to look silly. Cap sleeved turtleneck sweaters and pre-worn jean skirts for the win! And always striped tights, because Amy Brown fairies and The Dresden Dolls (I would still rock those!)

“Actually, It Is This World That’s Too Small” is a mixed media piece I based on a photo a friend took in high school while we were hanging out, playing around with cameras in my basement. I never felt that I shared much in common with “typical” teenage girls, but a desire to constantly take photos of each other was one stereotypical trait my friends and I all did share – just sometimes my photos involved face painting or cardboard masks rather than manicures and false eyelashes. I found it interesting how the angle of the photograph made it look like the door behind me was miniature, like the door the white rabbit escapes through in Alice In Wonderland. You can see how the photo serves as a guide and an inspiration, but by no means dictates what your final piece has to look like. Creative alterations are always an option, and encouraged.

Old family photo with Grandpa (I can't believe I'm posting this, but for the sake of art ... I will publicly expose baby photos - at least the non-embarassing ones).

Old family photo with Grandpa (I can’t believe I’m posting this, but for the sake of art … I will publicly expose baby photos to the online universe – at least the non-embarassing ones).

What’s really awesome is that beyond conceptual art, you can apply this same technique to family photos, and make a truly meaningful piece of work that is entirely personal. I’m going to talk you through how I would approach this photograph above if I were going to turn it into a mixed media piece. This will give you another example that will hopefully help you solidify how to proceed on a project of your own. I would probably draw the people since I adore portraits and figures, but once again if figures are not your thing, you could print yours from an enlarged photo and collage them in – it’s totally allowed :). There is really no reason to just color in a solid red shirt, so I would probably trace a pattern to get the right shape, and then cut the sweater out of fabric and paste it over my grandpa like I did with the purple dress in the staircase piece shown previously. Remember, always look for places to add interest with different materials. Due to the light, reflective nature of the window glass, I would use a mix of ink and watercolor for that part. The bricks are definitely the most textural element in this particular photo, so for those I would mix a gritty element like sand into acrylic paint, and create a rough, uneven texture in dark red on the wall. Once dry, I would then paint the grey cement lines over with a thin brush. For the sake of my sanity and also to make it more interesting and less institutional looking, I would probably change the brick to an uneven pattern of varying size and shape as opposed to the uniformity that was there in real life. How else can we add interest? In the photo, there are no flower boxes on the windowsill, but why can’t there be? You can cut flowers out of paper or white fabric and color them with ink or watercolor, or you can glue on small ribbon rosettes available in the floral or wedding aisle of most craft stores.

I hope this post has given you some ideas, and I’d like to end with a simple (though not set in stone) guide as to when certain materials are most beneficial when creating your own mixed media wonderland.

Watercolor: overall background coverage, light or translucent forms, florals, glass, water

Ink: flowers and plants, light or translucent forms, fabric, glass, water, figures/faces/skin/hair

Colored Pencil: small details, figures/faces/skin/hair, birds or furry animals, stone or bark

Fabric: clothing, flowers and plants, ground cover (soil, grass, leaves, etc), interior wallpaper

Book Pages: trees and bark, interior wallpaper, flowers

Sand Mixed With Paint: brick, stone, dirt

Other Accoutrements: embroidery thread sewn through the paper as anything composed of thin lines: tree branches, eyelashes, veins, flower stems …; small ribbon flowers, tiny prints on photo paper as interior wall art, strung seed beads or glued on flatback rhinestones as jewelry, use your imagination and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Feel free to comment or message if you need any advice on a project you’re working on or a new one you are beginning. I’m happy to help!

Artists To Know! Installment 3

Today’s Artists To Know Installment is all about faces!

Natalie Foss

I discovered this artist on Behance. She is a Norwegian illustrator who works mainly in colored pencil. I wish more magazines used interesting illustrations like these; I would subscribe to all of them just to save the pictures :). I adore how focus is brought to the faces of her subjects by making their skin the only three-dimensionally rendered element of a piece, leaving the rest flat and filled in with solid color or pattern. The unusual colors she uses also catch the eye. She makes blue toned skin completely believable by placing the undertones like pinks and yellows in just the right places. The faces have a reflective quality, and make the viewer believe they can reach out and touch them. I’ve truly never seen portraits quite like these.

Natalie Foss

Malinda Prud’homme

This artist I found on twitter via my newly created account (Look at me, getting with the times. @AlliseNoble if you’d like to follow :)), and was immediately drawn to her comprehensive range of portraits styles from photo-realistic to more stylized, in a variety of mediums. There are even three-dimensional mixed media elements in some of her pieces, like gems adhered to the surface of a subject’s jewelry rather than simply painting the ornamentation. It is rare for one artist to work in so many different styles, and they all look fantastic. On her website Malinda states, “My greatest passion is portraying a variety of natural female beauty in order to express that all women; regardless of age, size, style, or ethnicity; are beautiful in their own unique way.” – right on!

Malinda Prud’homme

Arisa Nakahara

I found Arisa Nakahara on pinterest. There is way more to pinterest than just recipes and cute wedding ideas – pinterest is another fantastic place to find some truly mind-blowing, excellent art. I love how most of Arisa’s portraits are painted straight on, and look you right in the eye. It’s a bit jarring and also captivating, especially since the eyes are the most detailed part of her faces. She says her theme is “The power to live”, and I can see that thread throughout all of her colorful portraits, saturated in lush fruits and floras and insects. All of her designs transport you to that magical warmth as spring and summer are just beginning. Her entire body of work is so cohesive and timeless, and the images, quite simply, make you incredibly happy.

Arisa Nakahara

Elsa Mora

Another artist I discovered on Behance (seriously, even if you don’t create art yourself it’s worth having a profile simply to browse and favorite all the amazing projects to be found here!). Elsa works in a variety of mediums including drawing and illustration and even extending into 3D mixed media sculptures and jewelry design, but I first found her through her paper cutting work. It is truly a testament to patience which I can never even imagine attempting. She creates whimsical storybook universes and achieves an unbelievable depth all with layered paper.

Elsa Mora

Lucy McLauchlan

I discovered this artist back in late high school when I still actually subscribed to magazines, and she was featured in an issue of Juxtapoz. Lucy McLauchlan is another artist whose work you can spot as hers from a mile away. The combination of heavy black and white contrast and the balanced flow of designs made entirely of undulating lines and stylized faces is hard to look away from. I would love to walk around in this place (and maybe have my bedroom painted like this, hm?)

Lucy McLauchlan

Ruben Ireland

Another artist who favors dramatic black and white contrast, Ruben’s art is one more find from pinterest. He uses the black and white to divide elements of the body and draw out or recede features into the dark. He seamlessly weaves animal and woodland/nature imagery through his portraits as well, forming almost a psychic connection between the two. His subject’s facial expressions are ambiguous and stoic, leaving you to look to other cues to imagine what is on their mind.

Ruben Ireland

Are there any other types of artists or artwork you’d like to see? Let me know! I’m always open to suggestions!

Art and Furniture … It’s That Time of Year Again!

Since I first learned about the opportunity back in 2012, I’ve looked forward to participating in the Midland Area Homes furniture art auction every year. The organization assists in finding safe and affordable housing for low-income families, or those currently at-risk for homelessness or already homeless. I am not the richest person in the world, and I know many people who think if they don’t have dollar bills bulging out of their pockets like Mr. Monopoly, they can’t do anything to help. Anyone can give, because there are more things to donate besides just money. For me, it happens to be time (which I happen to also greatly enjoy spending – bonus!) and some of the extra paint I have lying around from previous projects. For you, it may be something else. Yes, we all have our own problems to deal with, but if we think we have to wait around until our own life is perfect before we are willing reach out and offer help, I have a sinking suspicion that we never will.

This year I’m working on upcycling a donated sofa table that used to have that horrible, 1980s bright orange oak stain. It is now covered in lovely gold, white, and grey retro flowers and since I can’t keep it, I am most definitely planning to smooth talk my boyfriend into letting me refinish his/our? coffee table like this. I really don’t have a definitively “feminine” decor style AT ALL, yet he is still always accusing me of trying to make his stuff *foofy*. I am literally staring at a t-rex skeleton home decor accessory as I type this right now. I am so not foofy.

I adore any opportunity to combine my two deepest loves of art and interior design, and I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my pieces over the years! Hint hint, if you are desiring a cool design over any boring old piece of furniture you own that’s seen better days, I’m your girl.

2012 Wizard of Oz children's picnic table

2012 Wizard of Oz children’s picnic table

2013 Whimsical Under The Sea  Adirondack chair

2013 Whimsical Under The Sea Adirondack chair

2014 outdoor coffee table accented in graphic diamonds and cameo decoration

2014 outdoor coffee table accented in graphic diamonds and cameo decoration

Upcycled sofa table for this year in golds and greys and retro-fantastic flowers!

Upcycled sofa table for this year in golds and greys and retro-fantastic flowers!