Womens Perspective At Studio 23

Thursday night was the opening for the show I was included in at Studio 23, their yearly “Women’s Perspective” exhibition. It was a great night, and I even successfully mingled and talked about my work with a gaggle of guests without my face turning green or passing out – yay! My boyfriend, who accompanied me, was literally poking me in the back with his finger saying “Get up there, go stand over by your work and talk to people!” After much hissing back and forth, I cautiously made my way over and ended up having a fantastic time once I got into the swing of talking to a ton of random people I had never met all at once. It’s funny because being an instructor, I talk all day, but it’s all very planned and orderly and I know what I need to say. It’s the spontaneous small talk I fear, but I’ve found that despite the gigantic nerves, once I get going it’s easy to talk about my work with others and answer questions because honestly what on this earth can I possibly know more about, or love sharing with people more? I think most creatives be they artists, writers, musicians, tow a line between crippling self consciousness and an almost nauseating level of confidence ;).

Ready to go! I'd been dying for an outfit to wear that Betsey Johnson purse with - half off baby! (Which is literally the only way I'd ever bother with a designer purse) The retro barbie look got me.

Ready to go! I’d been dying for an outfit to wear that Betsey Johnson purse with – half off baby! (Which is the only way I’d ever bother with a designer purse – The retro barbie look got me.)

It's the little things ... I was over the moon excited when I saw the cool graphic detail they added to my display wall - just amazing, thanks Studio 23!

It’s the little things … I was over the moon excited when I saw the cool graphic detail they added to my display wall – just amazing, thanks Studio 23!

Standing like a proud parent next to my creations :).

Standing like a proud parent next to my creations :).

They included information about myself and my two pieces next to the work, which I’ve included below for some additional insight:

Much of my work involves making the internal external. I enjoy visually exposing the unique mental environment of the subject in each work, and I believe art should let us see something we cannot in real life. Rather than using exaggerated facial expressions or gestures, I tend to let the external surroundings of a subject speak to the content of their mind and soul. This tendency most likely stems from my interior design background, and the idea that the external environment should reflect the internal person who inhabits it. I am currently an instructor in a variety of art programs, including a program at Creative 360 in Midland for adults with disabilities. I see every day how creation sparks joy in the creator and those around them. Everyone is an artist. Each person on earth has the ability to do something creative that can touch another person, and it is never too late to begin.

The Peacock

The Peacock

On My Mind

On My Mind

“The Peacock” is part of a series of conceptual portraits I did in which pattern and color are used to convey the subject’s personality, thoughts and emotions. This piece has a vintage feel with the hat and veil and peacock print dress. The dark stylized trees and floral pattern covering her hair merge seamlessly into the peacocks on her hat, and allow her mysterious and stoic face to become the focus. The subject is proud and dominant, similar to the animal covering her personage.

“On My Mind” is a mixed media conceptual portrait created using colored pencil, ink, metallic watercolor and acrylic, embroidery thread, and fabric. I was inspired by art nouveau design, vintage fashion, antique photographs, and the vastness of deep space. I used metallic acrylic and metallic watercolors for the background, acrylic for the space scene, colored pencil for the portrait, fabric for her dress, and embroidery. I was first inspired by an odd antique photo I found depicting a young woman holding her head as if weary or in pain, but with a hint of smile on her lips. I was drawn to the strong emotion it showed. From there, I developed what her inner psychology may look like if depicted as a physical environment. I think we can all relate at one time or another to the feeling that we have the weight and breadth of an entire universe trapped inside our head.

If you are in the area around Bay City Michigan, I’d love it if you’d check out the show! It’s running through October 23. If the travel is not feasible, at the very least you got your own (VERY)miniature “virtual tour” here. But truly, there is much more fascinating work besides just my own that I have shared, if you can it is worth a visit.

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Films That Have Visually Inspired Me

I am a big movie watcher. I am subscribed to no cable at all, not even 5 basic channels, and am always completely out of the loop as far as tv shows go. Yet, I could easily watch 4 movies a week on netflix. I swear the difference is that television shows tend to ride on dialogue, where most movies depend more heartily on visuals. Being more of a visually-thinking person in every sense, I find that many movies are truly moving pieces of art, filled with beauty and intrigue if you take the time to train your eyes to pay attention to the details. Since the time I was a child, there were certain scenes in movies that I could rewind and watch again and again simply because of the captivating details to be found in a camera angle, an interesting pattern in the background, the decoration on a costume … I’m not going to get into the plots of the films in this list too much because a) I’m focusing on sources of visual inspiration, not story-writing and b) You should go watch any of these you have not seen for yourself :). I’m starting with the films that inspired me as a kid, and working my way forward. Many of my childhood favorites have stood the test of time and I’m sure you have seen, but I think sometimes we overlook the actual artistry that goes into media aimed towards children.

Beauty and the Beast

I still have a big spot in my heart for this movie. The detail of the quaint little village Belle comes from at the beginning of the movie, as well as the intricacies of the Beast’s castle later on, and even the emotive illustration of each of the unique characters themselves is unmatched. My favorite part of the whole movie was always the ballroom scene, where the view pans up to a grand painted ceiling with fluffy clouds and little cherubs. It was like the Sistine Chapel to me at 5 years old.

The Little Mermaid

Another Disney, the brilliant colors of this fantasy undersea world captured my imagination. I could pause the film and stare into Ariel’s grotto for hours, spying at each piece of salvaged treasure she had stacked upon the tall rows of rock shelves. As odd as it may seem, another thing I always remember about this movie visually is the strong lighting. Throughout the film, sunlight streaks contrasting colors across each scene just as I imagine it would shining through the water if one did live under the sea. Each framed looked like a beautiful painting, be it a children’s cartoon or not. Though I’ve come around a bit more with some of the newer Pixar films, I’m not fully sold on solely digital animation yet, as we seem to have lost that quality.

The Princess and the Goblin

This last film from my childhood stuck out to me because it wasn’t Disney, very uncommon for fantasy children’s animated films. The style featured far more pen strokes and outlines, unrealistically pink/pale skin tones, and a constant flowy, ethereal quality to the drawing that lent itself well to fantasy. It was a lot more outright whimsical than Disney. The grandmother was just regal – unbelievably gorgeous and a bit haunting all the same. It was nice to see an older woman not portrayed as a witch, also (Thanks a lot, Disney!).

The Wizard Of Oz

This is one of those movies that back in the days of VHS, I watched again and again until the tape nearly disintegrated. Ahead of its time in the use of sepia tone to represent Dorothy’s normal, mundane day to day life and the use of brilliant super-saturated color to represent the fantasy dream-land of Oz, this film is iconic in the way it used color and pattern to communicate meaning, which is something I and many of my fellow artists and designers need to understand how to do in their own work. The kooky whimsy of Oz created a world every child (and adult) wanted to climb into through their television screen, even with all the not so pleasant bits like green-faced witches and flying monkeys.

A Trip To The Moon

Watching this film birthed my love of the “silent film” aesthetic – harsh contrast black and white, vintage hair and makeup, DIY props and backgrounds with lots of moons, stars, and ocean waves on painted pieces of wood or cardboard. I have always been a fan of creepy-beautiful, and there is something fundamentally haunting aesthetically about even the most cheerful silent film, because of the harsh blackness of the background, the heavy drawn-on makeup around the eyes and lips, and the fact that often times animated details that seemed darling back then, like old moon face up there, seem way creepier to us now (This will be confirmed if you’ve ever looked at old toys or dolls in an antique store) because the fashion of what is considered cute or pleasant has changed. The two portrait drawings I have used as my design logo, current and former, were certainly inspired by this aesthetic.

Moongirl

Moongirl

Moongirl II

Moongirl II

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

I had to include more than one shot for this film so you can fully grasp the aesthetic since it is certainly lesser known. I was perusing one of those “Weirdest movies you’ve never seen” lists online one rainy evening, and this Czechoslovakian film from 1970 was listed, along with the thumbnail of a smiling, fashionable vampire draping herself in jewels in front of an ornate little shabby-chic round mirror I have shown first above. I knew I needed to find out what this was all about. The first time I watched it I didn’t yet own a Netflix subscription, and the only version I could find on YouTube was subtitled not in English but Spanish, so I had to use my limited knowledge from grade school to try to figure out what was going on. The good news is, if any, this film is certainly more visually driven than plot driven. The plot revolving around the nightmarish oddities accompanying the protagonist, a young girl’s, first week of “womanhood” is rather bizarre and convoluted whether presented in your native tongue or not. Every still frame looks like an avant-garde fashion editorial, and the monochromatic color palette rather in whites, ivories and beiges, or blacks symbolically represents innocent purity, legalistic and puritanical piety, and corruption.

In another life where I had more patience with a sewing machine, I could totally have seen myself as a fashion designer. The first thing I thought after absorbing this movie was, “I could build a comprehensive clothing collection and smashing runaway show off of this film”. It looks like I’m not the only one who had that idea, as hand-sewn gowns inspired by Valerie can be found on etsy, and so many clothing and accessory sets assembled with this film as inspiration can be spotted on polyvore.

Brazil

In this sci-fi satire by Terry Gilliam, a government bureaucrat attempts to correct a ridiculous administrative error caused by a fly landing on a typewriter key, and in the process becomes a suspected terrorist himself. Though some of the special effects undoubtedly scream “1985!”, The sets and of course the main character’s iconic robotic flying suit are unique and surreal. Gilliam is never one to skimp on atmosphere, after all, and one can always expect in his work to see a world they have never seen before. Also, those creepy, creepy giant baby head masks in the interrogation room … I don’t know how on earth he came up with that idea, but for some reason it works.

Mirrormask

Not surprising that this movie struck me artistically as Dave McKean, a well known illustrator and comic book artist, directed the film, also written by Neil Gaiman – what a winning combination. It is almost like a modern, darker and twistier, “Wizard of Oz” actually, following one young girl’s struggle through a fantastical dream world to find her “home”. Visually, watching it is a bit like viewing a moving comic book.

The Science of Sleep

Of all the films here, along with “A Trip To The Moon”, I’d have to say this film most captures my preferred aesthetic. The story itself is at times touching, at times awkward and funny, and at times awkward and stressful – it pretty much runs the gamut of emotions present in any real-life friendship or romantic relationship. Now for the fun part – EVERYTHING IS MADE OUT OF CARDBOARD AND PAPER AND CELLOPHANE AND FELT WITH BIG, CHUNKY, APPARENT STITCHES! I hate total realism. I love work that shouts “Look! I am handmade! I am not, in fact, real!” That charming, DIY aesthetic I love in old movies that mainly occurred due to lack of budget and technology, was here done intentionally with what I’m guessing is a pretty decent budget seeing as Michel Gondry directed it. I am in love, that’s all I can say. Sir Gondry also made one of my favorite music videos ever. Enjoy.

Across The Universe

I know most hardcore Beatles fans despised this movie, arguing that the film turned the band’s culture changing music into a sort of 1960s “High School Musical”. I know many of these harsh critics personally. However, I am not hardcore and I say, pish-posh! thought this movie was just lovely. Double exposures, a surreal use of green screen, and incorporating repeated visual tropes such as “strawberries” to not only reinforce the story line but the iconic music itself, made this one a winner in my book. The visuals were crazy, but not so much so that they took away from the emotions behind the characters’ story arcs. They were unique and creative but didn’t distract, and that can be a hard balance to achieve.

The Fall

This movie makes it onto lists for “most beautiful films” or “most beautiful scenes from a film” consistently for a reason. The colors and contrast of both the scenery and wardrobe literally make the characters in the story who they are, and since this film is all about stories, that decision is pivotal. I don’t want to give too much away, just watch it if yourself if you haven’t. See that little girl right there? She’s absolutely the cutest. Just wait until she speaks, she has an accent which makes it even better.

Ghostworld

This is one of the few movies that I thought was better than the book. After watching the movie and becoming simply obsessed with it, I decided I should definitely read Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel on which it was based. I absolutely hated it. The movie itself is a quirky, aloof, slice-of-life type feature and the backdrop is a pretty normal town, nothing notable. I included this film in the list only for the main character, Enid’s, wardrobe. From 90s-tastic fuzzy headbands to leopard print pencil skirts to odd, vintage old-lady dresses to fishnets with everything to the awesome keyhole yellow and black orient-inspired number shown above, I need all of her clothes from this movie. The purple polo above looks handcrafted and has an overflowing trash can made of felt embroidered on one side with the letters spelling out “RECYCLE” crookedly affixed on the other. I have no words.

And the raptor T-shirt! Who could forget the raptor t-shirt? I want to marry Enid … Because she’s adorable, and also, then we could share clothes.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I started with animation, I figured I’d come full circle back to animation – this time, animated films that I have enjoyed as an adult. Anything Miyazaki does is gold. Studio Ghilibi is like Japan’s Disney/Pixar, only it’s kind of way better. This movie can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. The imaginative mechanical details are what really get me. Now isn’t Howl’s bedroom a major upgrade to Ariel’s grotto?

Paprika

This film may be a cartoon, but there is nothing childish about it. See above, people are literally shedding their skin and morphing into different people, while one tries to strangle the other. His arm is also part tree branch. Yikes. At it’s core, however, this film is more a surreal, thrilling action drama tale then anything remotely horror. The premise of a device called the “DC Mini”, which allows psychiatrists to enter their patient’s dreams as a form of therapy, falling into the wrong hands allows for many magical, zany scenes to take place, both playful and beautiful as well as dark and terrifying, just as within the world of dreams. I’ve always secretly wished some technology like this actually existed even before I knew of this film or anything like it, so that is another one of the reasons I so loved this movie. Satoshi Kon was simply a brilliant artist as it is, and this film seems like it should have far too much going on for it to actually work as a story, but he has pulled it off and it is truly a masterpiece.

Mary and Max

My love for DIY as I’ve touched on a bit earlier has given me a soft spot for stop animation. I tried to make a silly, simple stop motion on paper once over a summer break from college and I threw in the towel after a couple days, lacking the patience. This film follows two pen pals; a shy, lonely little girl with a troubled family life and no friends and a middle-aged man with severe Asperger’s Syndrome, overwhelmed and bewildered by the very act of existing. The two connect by a pretty funny turn of events, and their relationship faces many ups and downs over the years, even as the young girl becomes an adult woman. Each of their somber, frustrating worlds they attempt to make sense of in their letters to each other are depicted in stunning monochromatic, hers warm sepia tones and his deep greys, both with flashes of bright red. It is one of the most adorable and also the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. By the end they are not made of clay but entirely real, flesh and blood.

Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart

I just watched this movie a couple months ago when it popped up on Netflix. It is a French children’s film that I was initially drawn to because the style of the figures reminded me of a merging of Tim Burton and Mark Ryden. It never stops being visually stunning, and the characters especially appear inventive and entrancing. It doesn’t hurt that the music is also awesome. Unlike the grating, overly simplistic, repetitive tunes often present in kids movies, the songs spread in between the action of the film actually sound like real songs.

Take a look at my absolute favorite…

I hope if there is even just one film on this list that sparks your interest, you go try it out! For the local folks, it looks like it’s supposed to rain all the next few days so here’s your chance :). Fellow creatives, movie buffs, anyone at all … do you have any films that have visually left you speechless? I’m always looking for suggestions of new things to watch, and like seeing what makes others’ creative wheels turn.

Coffee Is Love.

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So, I put an exhibit up in Espresso Milano for Midland Artists Guild last week. This was an especially fun venue exhibit for me because I pretty much lived here when I was in high school. For those of you unfamiliar with Midland, Michigan, it’s a nice town for sure but, well … there’s not a whole lot for young people to do! Hang out with friends on Saturdays drinking coffee all day, especially frappes in the summer? Not complaining too much. It was always either that, or spend the day at the mall reading comics and music magazines in Barnes and Noble, until they started shrink-wrapping the darn things so you actually had to pay for them to read :P.

Snooty face 2007.

Blast from the past : Snooty Face 2007.

My P.I.C., Erin - best friends since we were 2 and actually just had a craft day together last week!

My P.I.C. that day, Erin – best friends since we were 2, and still going strong. We actually just had a craft day together last week!

Speaking of coffee being just the best…

(a topic of conversation that I daresay never gets old, nor loses its truth), I have some really cool illustrated mugs for sale in my ebay store right now! On discount, too … sweet right? They are dishwasher safe, top rack, and really heavy and durable. I am an accidental collector of unique mugs, and can’t seem to ever stop buying drink-ware in general, so these made me super happy.

Designs available are Retro Flowers, Queenie, I'd Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Whimsical Peacock.

Designs available are Retro Flowers, Queenie, I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Whimsical Peacock.

Other things I’ve been working on over this Labor Day weekend are, shockingly, Christmas plushies! I sell some of my fun creations at Imagine That!, also located in downtown Midland, and I need to have my holiday wares ready by mid-October. It’s weird to be thinking so far ahead already, but I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed getting in the holiday spirit a bit early :).

Whimsical trees and some pretty rad angels with halos made of strung sequins <3

Whimsical trees and some pretty rad angels with halos made of strung sequins ❤

Midlanders (or Saginaw/Bay City dwellers nearby such as myself), if you happen to be downtown within the next 2 months don’t forget to check out the exhibit. And for those of you in the states, I hope you enjoy your Labor Day weekend as well!

This Is Why You Should Keep Old Work Forever.

The Beauty Of It All

The Beauty Of It All, 11×14 prismacolor pencil and watercolor

For about 2 years, I had an 11×14 piece of bristol board with this woman’s face covered in flowers on it, and a metallic silver world map view behind her. She was surrounded by nothing else but white space. I was convinced it looked absolutely horrible, and I had no idea what to do with the rest of the background. I chocked it up to a loss and tossed the drawing in my storage portfolio case. A couple times I ran out of paper and thought about just using the back of it when I had a new idea and didn’t want to delay inspiration with a drive to Michaels for more bristol board. Other times I almost chopped it up into pieces for scrap paper to sketch ideas onto. I thought of posting it on my artist facebook page as a giveaway for whoever wanted it, and letting them color all over it like crazy to see what happened; an impromptu collaboration over vast distances.

Luckily, I never did any of these things. I’ve been doing a lot with watercolor lately, and was wishing I had one more piece to hang in my upcoming exhibit. I didn’t have the time to start anything else from scratch, but when I found this I decided to play around with the background and see what happened. I spontaneously dripped blues and greens and metallic silvers over the entire background, throwing the paper this way and that to guide the drips. Once I stopped over-analyzing and worrying over how terrible I thought my piece looked and just started enjoying the process again, everything came together. Sometimes even something as subtle as a bold color splashed into the backdrop can turn an entire piece around. Mine went from a drawing of a girl who looked like she had a strange, alien, flower-shaped skin disease to a pretty nice finished piece.

This is why I cannot emphasize enough, don’t toss out old, unfinished work! Paper is flat, it keeps pretty easily. I’ve my seen students do some really cool things with incomplete projects they could have tossed away. In this piece below, a student cut out elements she liked from a “practice” acrylic painting from the semester before that didn’t really turn out. These made for some great smaller blooms popping out around the central focus of the pumpkin. Even if you don’t end up turning the leftover physical piece into anything, something half-finished could at the very least provide an idea or concept for a project you do later.

And again, I have the best students ever. Unique floral mixed media for autumn.

Nancy’s autumnal mixed media, salvaging cutouts from an old acrylic practice lesson the semester before.

I’m actually constantly revisiting old work, even from as far back as high school. Most of that is also unfinished because I, like any teen, had a real short attention span. This painting, which my mom fell in love with and now has hanging over the sofa in my parents’ living room, was created from scratch in 2012. But, it was based on an old colored pencil drawing from 2005 that I never finished shading in. The particular sketchbook the original drawing was in is still in the closet of my old bedroom in my parents’ house or I would post it here, but it was a color scheme of entirely red and black and the parasol people were dressed in old-timey but super goth attire, and the faces on the parasols looked like they could all be members of a My Chemical Romance copycat band. Trust me, it was something else. Behold, the reboot.

"Wait Out The Storm", 18x24 Watercolor and Ink

“Wait Out The Storm”, 18×24 Watercolor and Ink

Now that I’ve turned you all into hoarders, I have one more all-together new piece I’d like to share. I have always been deeply interested in the steampunk aesthetic, but never created any steampunk-esque art myself. This is my first, and I’m pretty excited about how it turned out.

"Dreams Of Gold", 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil and Chalk

“Dreams Of Gold”, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil and Chalk

The deep gold is metallic, though you can’t tell in the digital image. I was heavily inspired by the Victorian aspect of Steampunk, even turning the classic Victorian lace pattern into something metallic and industrial. I am finally going to be hanging all of these pieces up tomorrow in Espresso Milano, and will be sure to take pictures. Have any cool steampunk art you yourself have created or that you’ve seen by other artists? Throw me a link! I am a long time appreciator, but creation-wise, a novice. As I’ve promised, photos soon!