Artists To Know! Installment 5

I know I promised sculpture in my next Artist To Know! post; I even had all the images picked and everything! But, with another semester of Express Yourself Artshop coming to a close, it seemed like a good time to share some of the empowering art about disability and mental health I’d been archiving. I hope these images encourage, inspire, and maybe get you to think a little differently about the people you encounter in your day to day life.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. – Wendy Mass

Carol Rossetti

Manu

Kelly (inspired by this beautiful video – I implore you all to give it a watch. I never cry during touching videos but this one had me tearing up).

Lorena

I have been in love with Carol Rossetti’s “Women” project since I first discovered it. Since then, her incredibly personalized drawings have gone completely viral, and I’ve been seeing them everywhere in the great, vast world of the interweb! Her pieces highlight different women’s stories of judgement, with a response of affirmation from Carol herself below. Many of the stories are about women who have been judged based on their age, physical appearance, or life choices; but I’m so glad she also decided to include women with disabilities. Clicking the link on her name and also visiting her facebook page, which shows all of the stories, is worth a look. Some of the women’s stories I found myself nodding along with thinking “Oh my god, I know exactly how she feels!”, others were as far removed as can be from experiences I’ve had or decisions I’d ever find myself making. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We all have stories to tell, and judgement gets us nowhere, it just blocks our ears from reading and our eyes from seeing a new story different from our own. As well as hurting others, we miss out on reaching out and forming important connections.

Christian Hopkins

20-year-old Christian Hopkins says he was never good with words, which is why he loves communicating with pictures. He is studying biochemistry, but has had to take some health leaves due to severe clinical depression that he has dealt with for the past 4 years. This struggle is the subject of his photography. Though his work has gotten notoriety, Hopkins says photography for him is just a hobby, and a medium through which he can express himself. He has never had a single photography class or any form of instruction, which is pretty amazing when you see his intense, moving images. Using creativity as a means to come to grips with personal struggles, and explain parts of your life you find hard to talk about with others is something I wholeheartedly believe in, and one of the reasons I have such a passion for art. Creating is so much more than making pretty pictures.

Viktoria Modesta

This Latvian singer and model was born with a dislocated hip and leg. She endured terrible bullying at school because of her disability, and underwent 15 unsuccessful surgeries. She moved to London for better medical care, but still the surgeries she underwent didn’t help. Finally, weary of surgery after surgery that did nothing she convinced doctors to amputate her leg. She has never looked back. She has more confidence now after what she went through than she ever did, and is living her life doing exactly what she loves. She is the first widely known amputee pop star, and is paving the way for other talented individuals with disability to take their turn in the spotlight.

Steve Rosenfield

The tagline for Rosenfield’s powerful photography project is “Building security through insecurities”. Rosenfield himself didn’t start out in photography, but network administration. He describes how his former self of over a decade ago as “a very opinionated and materialistic person with a huge ego”. He never shared his feelings or insecurities, afraid that they would shatter his carefully constructed image, and this left a lacking in both his relationships and personal happiness. Fed up, Rosenfield began to “research” why he was so unhappy through reading and journaling, trying to get to the bottom of the lack he felt. When he found that the key was honesty, compassion and transparency, he quit his 9-5 to travel the world and start over. A friend he met in France got him into photography. In his series “What I Be”, subjects are exposing a side of themselves normally hidden from the world, and proclaiming “I am not my ____”. It isn’t about whitewashing over their struggles, but admitting that though they have these issues in their lives, the struggles do not define them. “I am not my amputation.” “I am not my cycle.” “I am not my fatness.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed another art immersion! Lastly, I’d like to leave you with some work from some super cool artists with disabilities that I know personally through Artshop, my wonderful students. We’ve had another great run :).

Adorable mixed media birds

Adorable mixed media birds

Bright watercolor flowers

Bright watercolor flowers

Cool collage mandalas

Cool collage mandalas

Watercolor tiger

Watercolor tiger

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Redefining Pride, And The Daily Battle Of Artists.

From "One Thing To Say", 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

From “One Thing To Say”, 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

As someone who has always been interested in perception, how it is formed, and generally what makes people tick, I sometimes have to turn the tables on myself and question why I have the knee-jerk reactions to certain things that I do. It all started when I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “I love me” across the front in gigantic, metallic gold block letters.Wow, that’s obnoxious. I would never let my non-existent imaginary future-children wear something like that, went the immediate dialogue in my head. I’d seen shirts with variations of it, “I’m awesome”, etc at the stores lately and had a similar internal reaction. But the more I thought about it, couldn’t I have used a reminder at that age that I was pretty awesome? Most definitely.

I was very shy as a kid, anxious around new people and sometimes even around familiar people depending on the day. At about a .05 on the confidence scale, I constantly worried that if I did or said the wrong thing, the whole earth would explode (or something equally horrible would happen). By upper elementary, I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to talk to others in my class who were more outgoing or had a lot of friends. I felt like most people flat out didn’t like me, and it caused a lot of unnecessary heartache because really, I can count the times a fellow classmate said something bad about me on one hand. The only time I ever felt comfortable was in art class. I finally got to feel like a star, and I wasn’t afraid to mess up, like I was certain that I would everywhere else.

Most artists rage a daily battle with confidence. In order to get others’ excited about your art, you have to project the fact that you believe in the art form you are presenting, and that you know you’ve created something amazing. You have to exude excitement to share your craft with others before you can ever expect them to care about what you’re doing. Yet at the same time, real art, good art, is an extension of the artist themselves and a reflection of how their brain works and who they are as a person. Getting excited about ourselves can be really awkward. I cringed when I first saw that in the write up for one of my new classes I had been described as “The instructor, award-winning artist Allise Noble…” Why did I feel so uncomfortable being described that way? It’s not a lie, I have won awards. Why was I so embarrassed to be publicized? I’ve mentioned the book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking”, before. It deals a lot not only with asking for help and the journey of an artist; but with the struggle to recognize, yes, have the confidence, to call yourself an artist. She writes, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” – isn’t that the truth? You’re not an artist until you say you are, and often times our own minds are the hardest to convince. It doesn’t help that pride is even, what, one of the 7 deadly sins or something? Yikes. Thanks a lot past humans, you guys have done a really good job at making confidence seem like a flaw rather than an asset. Now, no one likes an obtuse, conceited braggart who thinks they are better than everyone else (I’m looking at you, Kanye West). That is in no way what I’m advocating here, balance is always key. However, I think that the idea of pride being something so heinous and despicable, something to avoid at all costs, pervades our culture in a myriad of negative ways. Just look at the comments on any body positivity blog or human interest article where people submit instagram photos of themselves feeling beautiful. The fact that a bunch of women have the audacity to take a photo of themselves and say “Hey, I look damn good today,” is apparently shocking enough to send multitudes of normal folks into a blind, troll-y rage.

[There is bad language in this comedy sketch so if that will cause you unhappiness, I’d suggest not clicking play. My aim is not too offend anyone, but this clip made me laugh out loud when I first watched it because it so accurately pokes fun at the philosophy I’d just been thinking about. For those who don’t watch, I’ll summarize. You know that moment when you compliment someone i.e. “You look really nice today!” and they respond with “Oh, you’re so nice, I look like I just walked out of a smelly, steaming dumpster!” Have you ever gone against this unwritten social code and when someone compliments you simply said, “Thank you. This is my favorite outfit,” and seen the complimenter now give you the dirtiest look ever? That’s the gist. For some reason, this seems to mostly happen amongst women. Ugh, women… I know I am one, but seriously!]

Human beings are really good at creating false dichotomies. After all, if I see one more film where a main character that has ambition and cares about or *gasp!* actually gains fulfillment from their job portrayed as a greedy, heartless ice-queen/king I’m going to lose it. Not that that never happens, but it shouldn’t be treated as the norm because it isn’t. You can love your family, and love your job! Similarly, we all actually have the capacity to love ourselves and still love other people! The definition of self-love isn’t self-centered, because our love is not a pie chart where we only have so much to give and if we give too great a percentage of love to ourselves, there will be less left for other people. Actually, someone who goes around saying “I wish I was somebody different, I’m a failure, I’m worthless …” is going to be the worst at reaching out to other people and forming healthy relationships. More wisdom from “The Art of Asking”; “When you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.” Pride may be a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I love who I am. I’m pretty darn awesome!” Whether it needs to be emblazoned across a shirt is a matter of opinion ;).

6 Surefire Ways To Make Artists Cringe

Of all the many articles composed entirely of lists published online on a daily basis (Thank buzzfeed for that one.), “Things Never To Say To A _________” seem to be the most popular. As a society, we are becoming more conscious of the power of words and how they influence our perceptions of others we share this world with, and though hypersensitivity and searching for reasons to be offended can be some of the natural fallout from this kind of shift, I think all and all it is a good thing. Individuals no longer feel the need to stay silent about things that bother them to avoid a possible awkward confrontation. It’s like hey, I deserve respect just like anyone else in this world, and it’s actually ok to ask for it! Plus, raising awareness via the airing of grievances normally shoved deep inside just begging to be unleashed is fun, deny it all you want. Artists or anyone in a creative field tend to hear the same sorts of grating comments over and over again in their day to day life, and it can get mildly irritating at best, at worst totally defeating. I am a person who honestly believes most people are not jerks, and at least in my experience these comments are normally not ill-intended, but offered up as a lighthearted joke, or meant well and even supposed to be complimentary. Whether trying to compliment or get a laugh, these common comments really have opposite effect on the creative person in question who has spent a lifetime developing their specific skill. Hey, nobody’s perfect, but knowledge is power, right?

G.I. Joe, what a guy.

1. Let’s just umbrella this one: Basically any comment that questions one’s intelligence. “Cool! I wish I could go into art, then I wouldn’t have to go to college!” “Wait, but you’re smart, why did you go into art/interior design (or insert other creative field here, I’m simply speaking from my own personal experience.)?” Or my personal favorite, “Oh, that would be a great field for me, I hardly passed high school.” This should be common sense, but for those for whom it isn’t, it is seriously rude to address anyone, be it an artist or individual of any other vocation, with any variation of these comments. Some of my favorite artists are self taught, and some didn’t finish high school. Everyone learns differently but despite that fact, education and skill assessments are mainly based on rote memorization so some are destined to struggle. Income is also a factor: college is freaking expensive. There is absolutely no shame in not attending college if it doesn’t work for you. The issue has nothing to do with the level of education and everything to do with implying certain fields are easy or “blowoff work”. Most if not all creative people, through obtaining a degree or alternate means, had to work their butt off to get where they are regardless. Don’t assume. Also, comments like this are kind of a slap in the face to someone who did spend four years and insane amounts of money getting a degree. Not necessarily freelance but most other graphic design and illustration jobs require a degree, and in many states one must have a bachelor’s to officially call themselves a licensed interior designer (versus a decorator or something else).

2. Starving artist jokes. If a person really is starving, then it’s probably not something to laugh in their face about anyway, huh? Have some compassion and buy them a sandwich. If this is not the case then… what are you even talking about? The joke kind of loses its punchline. I (and many others sharing the field) am not some delusional crazypants hanging on to a pipe dream of stardom and fame. That’s why I teach, and also went to school for interior design so I could still use my creativity but open up the field a bit. Options, baby. Also, realize that working a creative job besides “world renowned painter” or “international rock sensation” is not giving up or settling. It’s not a failure. I love what I do and I honestly would get bored if all I did was work in my studio creating fine art pieces all day, every day.

3. “So you just get to play around with paint all day? What a fun job!” Yikes. This is the adult equivalent of acquaintances in college thinking I had coloring for homework. The reality, “Yay! Because I’m an interior design major art minor, all my classes get to be 3 hours each session instead of 1, and I get to stay up till the wee hours of the morning finishing studio projects no matter how well I budget my time, because workload expectations are completely insane compared to other disciplines!” Certain semesters, I pretty much never went out. This is one of those comments that I’m sure the person meant well, like “You have an awesome job!”, but after running around like a chicken with my head cut off all day keeping track of different jobs at multiple locations, diffusing student difficulties or outbursts, spending most of my spare time at home prepping for free (I’m not complaining, I love my students, I love my job, and I feel in some small way I am making world better place, but still.) in between finishing up commissions and keeping up my multiple online venues in which I hope the time I put in will actually pay off eventually, equating my job to “playtime” is the last thing I want to hear. “It’s cool you get to do what you love” is probably close to what you meant, and a much better way to communicate the sentiment.

4. “Can you do Project A/B/C for me? I’m not going to pay you but it will be great exposure!” when in reality the only exposure you will be getting is the precedent that “Hey everyone, this guy will work for free.” I’m not saying be a Scrooge, but there is a difference between helping out a friend/family member, doing volunteer or charity work, or supporting a small business or non-profit whose cause you want to help get off the ground and who really can’t afford to pay, versus someone who can pay but is just being lazy and wants something for nothing. David Thorne also has some hilarious insight on this subject via a colorful email exchange.

(Excuse the language, but I think we can all appreciate the sentiment)

5. “You’re so lucky you’re good at art.” Luck hasn’t got a thing to do with it. We are willing to acknowledge the part hard work plays towards proficiency in other fields, but with creative areas we act like the art fairy sprinkled rainbow pixie dust on certain people’s heads and now they are good at everything. Hours of study, practice, observation, classes learning from those more experienced (even in summer!); a lifetime of all of these things has gotten artists (and musicians, actors, etc.) to the level they are. As a kid, I wasn’t involved in after school clubs and activities and didn’t do much with friends. I came home and drew till bedtime; every day. It sucks to feel like your hard work goes unnoticed, and when others always use the words “luck” and “talent” as an explanation for why you’ve become successful, it negates all the sacrifices and sweat and tears and failures that went into the process to get where you are. This view is definitely a cultural thing. Here in the states, if we are bad at something, our response tends to be, “Well, I’m just not a _______ person I guess” and we move on to the next thing. In other parts of the world, especially in Asian countries, if you do poorly at something, your response is to work harder to improve; “I must not have practiced enough”. You can’t expect to be good at painting if you’ve never picked up a brush before. Why are you surprised when your work doesn’t turn out looking like a Van Gogh? You haven’t put the time in yet. This “you have it or you don’t” mentality with the arts is a psychological brick wall I run into time and time again in teaching, especially with students starting as adults. This attitude may seem harmless, but at best it’s simply not constructive, and at worst it’s self-sabotaging.

6. “So then do you do a lot of drugs?”

New Piece Finished – “The Idealist”

“The Idealist” 18×24 Watercolor and Ink

The great thing about teaching art is that as I am demonstrating techniques with my students, I myself have periodic “Aha!
moments where I think of something that I just have to try in one of my own projects at home. I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor classes with all different ages lately, and really wanted to incorporate “wet on wet” watercolor application that allows for a free-flowing merging of colors in which the materials almost have a mind of their own. I tend to work more “exact” for the most part with every little bit planned out before I begin. I still didn’t want to have to lose the attention to tiny details that is something that is really fun for me in art. I’d been doing a lot of pieces lately that were inspired by concepts, and wanted this time to start by being inspired by color, plain and simple. I love drawing birds, and have become quite a pro at quick-sketching them because many of my Express Yourself Artshop students (a program for adult artists with disabilities that I work with) in my painting classes are very attracted to birds as a subject matter, but need some help with the pencil outline to guide their work. I set to work collecting images of colorful birds of all types. They almost look dressed up, don’t they? For this new series, I’m incorporating interesting birds and their natural environment with fashion and costumes inspired by the birds’ colors and forms. I did the detail work in the birds themselves and the branches with prismacolor markers, a new obsession of mine. Where have you been all my life? Yes, they are pricey, but well worth the investment. With art supplies, I have to say it really rings true that you get what you pay for.

The bird that inspired this piece is the Paradise Tanager. I have a bunch more bird/dress pairings saved in a folder on my desktop and am antsy to start with some of those (I’m saving my favorites for last), but I have some commissions to get to first so it may be awhile.

As always, prints are available in ACEO size, 8×10, and 11×14 in my Ebay Shop, and I’ve also uploaded it to Redbubble for T-shirts, stickers, phone cases, and more! Let me know what you think :).


Gender Inequality : Not Just A STEM Issue

Piece from a project tallying art world inequality and creating posters out of the data collected.

In this post, I’d like to talk about an issue that is close to my heart. It covers a range of bases, so I’ll try not to jump around too much. I have to start off by giving a little bit of history. I have always had a hyper-awareness towards injustice. I have a vivid childhood memory of cringing whenever the old Trix cereal commercials would come on in between my morning cartoons. I could just feel the righteous anger bubbling up inside of me as the kids taunted the Trix Bunny with choruses of “Silly rabbit …” They have no right to say that Trix are only for kids, not rabbits! He invented the freaking cereal! He’s on the cover of the box for crying out loud! There would be no colorful fruity shapes without him! (This was, of course, when I was young enough to think the animated characters running around before my eyes actually existed in real life.) So naturally, when I began to perceive instances of gender bias in the adult conversations I eavesdropped on and the kids around me at school, I did not approve. Basically, Lisa Simpson and I would have been soul mates. It was kind of a shock, since my home growing up had been completely void of any such thing. My brother and I were given the same expectations, and when we were approached differently by mom and dad it was due to our completely opposite personality types, not our gender. We were four years apart, kind of the perfect gap: close enough in age so that we could still relate to each other well enough to play together, but far enough apart so that we weren’t constantly feeling like we needed to compete. We shared toys all the time, and both played with stereotypical “boy” things and stereotypical “girl” things from time to time. It wasn’t really a big deal.

Despite what people think (I mean, everyone can vote now so it’s all good, right?), gender discrimination is not just a distant memory, and it continues to hurt both men and women, though for today I’ll mainly be talking about women. Gender separation in toys has gotten way worse than it ever was in the past, with every single little toy down to a basic set of blocks relegated to being pink or blue. Some consumers are finally saying enough is enough with the “Pink vs Blue” binary madness, and are also seriously starting to question what the doll section in any local walmart or toy store is communicating to young girls. I myself have wondered that same thing, and my queries have most often led to nothing good. Enter Lammily, a doll with realistic body proportions, moveable joints that allow her to do more than simply be a human clothes hanger, and stickers to add imperfections we all have like acne, scars, and cellulite.

The toy problem is just the tip of the iceberg. The US has one of the worst science gender gaps in the developed world, and marketing ridiculous shirts like these below to young girls certainly isn’t  helping.

It’s no wonder educators and innovators are doing anything and everything they can to encourage young girls towards STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics).

Every little bit helps, and I am in no way downing any of the goodhearted initiatives mentioned above, I just think we can do more. We can always do more, do better, be more comprehensive in our reach. I have to admit, if the Lammily doll would have existed when I was a kid, taking one look at her ultra-preppy wardrobe of mostly simple solids, I would have totally still begged for the anorexic doll with giant boobs, ideals be damned. Why can’t a realistic doll still wear lace and sequins or giant earrings or crazy neon floral patterns once in awhile? Realistically, that’s how some girls actually dress! Giving her a more subdued, athletic looking, polo-shirt-laden wardrobe isn’t revolutionary at all. In fact, in the real world, that sort of style is actually preferred and women who step outside of that and dress more “girly” are more likely to be perceived negatively. It has been proven that women who wear more masculine clothing (simple, straight silhouettes, angular lines, dark neutral colors) are perceived as more competent in the workforce, taken more seriously and given a higher level of respect in their current job, and are more likely to get hired to a new position. This is also why you see frantic posts by young women online asking whether it’s ok to be a feminist and wear makeup or dresses or high heels. Yes Virginia, there is as of yet no official uniform for thinking equality is a rad idea.

Similarly, encouraging a girl towards STEM who is truly interested in science but is simply intimidated or feels like “Well I’m not supposed to do this because I’m a girl,” or encouraging a girl who is worried to stand out from her peers and be teased if she admits she thinks math is fun, is truly awesome. How amazing for a kid to realize what their passion is so early in life, and to help them grow and learn in that passion is a beautiful thing. However, I sometimes worry that in trying to tear down walls we are simply creating a new sort of box. What about the artsy girls?

New York Times explains why we actually need STEAM (Science Technology Engineering ART Mathematics), STEM alone is not enough. The idea that a person is either right brained or left brained doesn’t work. We need to use both sides to be effective. I took science all 4 years of high school even though it wasn’t required. The decision was at first at the urging of my parents, but though the exams were killer, I loved getting to move forward into taking Chemistry and Physics and found the information and experiments in class fun and inspiring. When I teach children, I love integrating scientific experimentation into art. It’s great for keeping kids focused and involved. Recently I did a project with my children’s watercolor class where we tested how lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, salt, oil, and milk reacted with the paints, and afterword they made pictures incorporating the new textures they learned how to create.

Yes, girls are underrepersented in STEM fields but the fact of the matter is they are also woefully underrepresented in the art world. Art News reported this year on findings from over the last 7, where on average women artists exhibited in only 10-20% of the solo shows at American Institutions over the last 7 years. A slightly smaller percentage of women artists were featured in group shows. Before you protest, “But they are just picking the best art!” these percentages apply to non-anonomous submissions. Truthout reported in their article, Women Artists Still Face Discrimination, that studies have shown if you submit work to a juried exhibit and the jurors don’t know the gender of the person submitting, it ends up pretty equal in terms of who is selected. But as soon as the artist’s gender is known, women drop back to one third. It is why pen names are still a thing in art as well as literature. Famed writer of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has been pretty candid about the fact that way back when she was told she should publish the series under her initials rather than her first name, Joanna, because young men won’t want to read books written by a woman. (They will not only assume it to be poorly written, but will fear catching any residual “cooties”.)

Why choose only one genre of barrier to break down? We should be smashing all of them, all while encouraging our own children and the kids around us to excel in the area they love, whatever it ends up being.

Revisiting Photography

In the last post I introduced you to some inspiring photographers with intricate, fantasy based, mind-bending designs. Little known to many, I myself enjoy photography as well. Photography is certainly more of a hobby for me than something I was ever interested in pursuing professionally. I mostly use it as a relaxing exercise for stress control :). I have not actively gone out to take photos in quite a few months now. Between working on my own pieces, working on commissions, teaching, and crafting accessories and plush toys I’ve had to pick and choose which creative pursuits to focus my time on to avoid the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” trap. When I do get out with my camera, my favorite things to photograph are street art, graveyards, and nature (though I’m not too into flowers, unless they are ridiculously colorful). Most of my street art photos are from when I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe with my family back in 2008. “Street art” in Midland, MI where I grew up is rather uninspired … mainly consisting of F-bombs and anarchy symbols, the actual political meaning of which is probably lost on the perpetrators anyway, sloppily scrawled in red spray paint. For some reason, it is always red, and any additional words are usually misspelled.

I was going through my photo storage drive last night, and realized that though I’ve taken a lot of photos over the last 7-ish years, I’ve never really done anything with them. I enjoyed the journey of traveling to a new place, or hiking in a wood nearby to town, dumped my camera card, and then just kind of left the images sitting there in limbo. I decided it wouldn’t take too long to put them to good use, and began uploading them to my Zazzle and Redbubble shops. If I’m going to enter a piece into a gallery or a juried exhibit, it is always going to be a drawing or painting rather than a photo print because that is where I want to focus myself and that is what I am known for, but where my watercolor paintings or pencil drawings are softer and more flowing, the bold colors and sharp graphics of a digital photo really bring a nice look to a T-shirt, skirt (I am absolutely in love with how the rose one shown below turned out!), tote bag, or phone case. I will be continuously adding more products and different photographic images over this next week (I do have 7+ years worth to sort through :)) including cards and stickers. With the nice weather, maybe on my next day off I’ll even dust off my camera and go for a good hike, see what catches my eye.

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble