New Toys + Favorite Patterns On Redbubble

For those of you who celebrated Christmas this past weekend, I hope it was a time of joy and reconnecting with friends and family. Along with all that non-superficial good stuff, I also received a Wacom tablet, and took my first foray into the world of digital art. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a new toy to play with the day after Christmas, and it made me feel like a little kid again :). Here is my first attempt at figuring out how all of this works … I actually am pretty happy at how it turned out.

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That panda is so chill.

Next, I wanted to try my hand at making some patterns. I like the idea of clothing and decoration as a means of turning oneself into a living work of art, and expressing oneself as a unique individual. When I was in high school, I actually thought about going into fashion design later, and then I realized I really hate sewing machines. I could design a real snazzy, runway ready pair of sweatpants maybe but that’s about it. I loved looking at and pairing different fabrics together, but when it came to actually sitting down and making something out of them … I lost interest. Fabric design if anything was much more my thing, and it’s one of the main reasons I decided to take the plunge into art’s digital world despite my many fears and misgivings.

I finished my first pattern idea today, Black Apple, and posted it on Redbubble. I’m really pleased with how it looks.

 

Redbubble is just full of fun patterns, and I’ve made a list of some of my personal favorites out there right now.

90s Dinosaur Pattern By chobopop

I spent my childhood constructing elaborate environments for plastic dinosaurs in the sandbox with my best friend since age 2 (and still friends to this day! Shoutout to fellow blogger Erin Dalke!). Being a 90s kid in general, this struck a chord with me.

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Rainbowaves (dark) By freshinkstain

I have a love affair with art deco patterns, and this updated colorful take on the classic fan pattern would look gorgeous on anything.

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Midnight Magnolias By robyriker

I am using my interior design background to help my parents update their bathrooms, and we are going with retro black and white tile with pool blue accents. I love retro flowers, and having that project on the brain I couldn’t help but think it’s too bad this pattern doesn’t come in a shower curtain! The detail is lovely.

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Lips By sleeping-tigers

This simple pattern is just so minimalist and classy, with a 60s pop art feel.

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Hot Air Balloons – Retro, Vintage Inspired Print By Andrea Lauren

The detailed decoration on all the balloons are what grabbed me initially, as well as the bright pops of color against the dark, neutral blue background. Another fun pattern that would look great anywhere.

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Funny Cemetery By Ekaterina Panova

I have a thing for whimsical skeletons, and I have never seen anything that makes death look more adorable in my life.

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Cameos – Blue By Fabio Mancini

I adore cameos, and I like the fun, whimsical, cartoonish renderings shown here because they are so different, and stand out from the traditional formal, ornate renditions.

snx1313-bgffffff-u3Modern Matryoshka By Joanne Stead

Lastly, I have to love patterns with a sense of humor. What first drew me in was the beautiful rendering, sharp details, and bold colors. The closer I looked, the more hilarious personalities I noticed in each little “modern matryoshka”.  This was a really fun idea, executed perfectly.

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If any of you have any digital art tips, feel free to shoot them my way – I’m definitely still in the “learning” phase. I’ll continue to share the new patterns I’ve been working on. I think butterflies are next!

Merry Christmas (Art) Baby

It’s hard to believe this week is Christmas already. Seasonal art typically gets lumped into the same category where we heap images of puppies in baskets and kittens playing in flower gardens, pigs in dresses going shopping and maybe even some dogs playing poker: all that silly, cutesy, uncreative nonsense. However, just like it seems every musical artist has recorded a Christmas song or two at one time or another, most artists have tried their hand at a design that some may call “seasonal”. Christmas art doesn’t have to be all Thomas Kinkade snow villages and fuzzy animals wearing santa hats.

Camille Rose Garcia

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Camille Rose Garcia’s work often deals with the dilemma of capitalism and its relationship to greed. “The Saddest Place On Earth” describes the story behind her pieces that feature the nefarious “Peppermint Man”. Apparently, he solves the overpopulation problem by luring all the “bad” little children  into his pastry factory, where he then feeds them poison candy and re-purposes their bodies by baking them into treats he serves at his chain of all-you-can-eat Peppermint Town Buffets. Lovely. I know quite a few people who aren’t much of Christmas fans due to its emphasis on over-consumption. However, I’d say any celebration is what you make it to be. If you don’t like all of our culture’s current traditions, then toss them out and make new ones of your own. Rather than becoming horrified by overeating and Black Friday shopping and tossing out the whole Christmas thing entirely, decide to make your celebration about experience, giving, and reconnecting. If you don’t like the way something is done, do it differently. Too often we don’t realize, it’s really all up to us.

Catalina Estrada

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I became hooked on Catalina Estrada’s work after purchasing a box of Christmas cards with the blue angel artwork shown above from an art museum gift shop in Chicago. Her use of color and pattern is pretty spot-on.

Leonid Afromov

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This year in Michigan, we have been enjoying anywhere from 40-60 degree days leading up to Christmas. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, this is freaking unheard of. This painting almost, almost, makes me miss the usual piles of snow. If you look up more of his work, they all exhibit his characteristic use of rainbow, prismatic color to depict strong light. I actually recognized many of his other paintings, I just had never known the artist behind them. His work is pretty much everywhere, and for good reason.

Artist Unknown

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If anyone recognizes whom the artist of this piece may be, please fill me in. I am absolutely scandalized at drawing a blank after all my years and years of art history instruction. This image caught my eye on pinterest but when I followed the link, it led me to a website boasting “Buy hand painted images from photos”, advertising even replicas of “Starry Night” and “The Mona Lisa”, among others. That’s not sketchy at all …  But, back to the lovely, totally legit painting at hand. Normally another painting of a pasty, blonde Mary and Jesus would elicit from me a lengthened sigh. Still, something about this piece caught my eye. Because of the mix of traditional garb, updated to be far more ornamental than it would have been during the actual time period of the Christmas Story; with the even further out of time decorative banisters and modern era floral wallpaper behind, the piece has a shifting, timeless kind of feel as it embodies many periods. The timelessness makes this a far more relatable piece to me. Adding to this is her facial expression. Her eyes are downcast, and she doesn’t seem unhappy, but doesn’t seem altogether cheerful and light either. Her mind still seems slightly burdened though overall she is at peace, and this makes far more sense given the situation in the story than the usual oversimplified portrayal of, “Immaculate conception? Cool, you know that sounds totally fine to me, let’s get to it!” Acceptance of any trial, or “new adventure” if you will, doesn’t mean you will never wonder or doubt. For if that were the case, I would fear the absence of a brain.

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On a less serious note, once again, artist unknown. These fun little pastel-colored nativity characters that look like cheap knockoffs of “Precious Moments” must have been really popular around the early 90s, because I had jigsaw puzzles of them, coloring books, even window clings my mom would always decorate the kids’ bathroom mirror with around Christmas time. I found this picture on accident and had to include it, though it is definitely of the cutesy, sappy variety I described at the beginning that I promised I was not going to show. I cannot be the only one who remembers these.

Mark Ryden

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A new take on a favorite Christmas tale from a pop-surrealism master – the Grinch, painted in eerie photo-realism. The sickly pepto-bismol color present throughout only adds to the arresting nature of this picture. You can almost feel the poor Grinch’s distaste for this entire Christmas-y situation.

Express Yourself Artshop also kicked off the holidays with the last week of classes, topped off with a holiday bash the Monday after the semester’s end. This was my first Christmas as program coordinator for Artshop (an arts and wellness program for adult students of varying abilities, including those with physical and mental challenges), and I feel more proud than ever to be a part of everything as I saw firsthand the joy bubbling over from this wonderful, inspiring, close-knit community of fantastic people.

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Louie with his very Suessical stocking

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Beautiful finished projects on display at the end-of-the-year Ceramics Class Party

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Friends and food, pretty much all that is required for a killer bash.

Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.

Artists To Know! Installment 7 : Seeing The Unseen

I have always been the type of artist and art appreciator who tires of complete realism. I abhorred the same old make-it-look-like-the-photo landscape assignments in school growing up. I liked portraiture a bit better, but only if I made it my own, whether desired in the class assignment or not.

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Circa 2005 – Oh noes! The punk’s left eyeball has cracked and now little rainbow glass shards are floating out into the universe towards the viewers eyeballs, surely meaning to skewer them!

I always believed art should only show us what we cannot see in reality, or else what was the point? However, how much of reality do we really see, and how much simply slips from our view unnoticed? Human perception is a funny thing. You could have two people walk down the same stretch of sidewalk in a park, and if in the end you asked them to describe the scene they just participated in, I am 99.9% certain that they would each describe it completely differently. We notice what draws us, and ignore what repels us. That idea is the basis of the following artists’ work, work that shows us the marginalized and disenfranchised; the very people who often slip to the periphery of our awareness either consciously or unconsciously. Viewing these works, we are shown a reality that seems like a completely different world.

Aaron Draper

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For his “Underexposed” series, Aaron Draper captures lit photos of the homeless, aiming to portray them in the most pleasant, visually appealing way possible. Draper sites author John Steinbeck as an inspiration, and admires how he used his craft to highlight the plight of the poor, and expose social issues and inequities.  With this series, Draper is using lighting to draw viewers towards the person shown, causing the subject to be viewed with humanity and compassion. Draper says, “When it comes to social activism, you achieve greater public awareness by communicating hope as opposed to hopelessness”.

Diane Arbus

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Famed photographer Diane Arbus takes almost the complete opposite approach to the previous artist. The black and white photographs of her subjects seem to be developed in such a way as to accentuate each imperfection, every wrinkle, blemish, and flaw. Her work turns its lens on society’s outsiders : those with physical abnormalities, nudists, transgender individuals, those with extreme tattooing or body modification, and rarities such as twins. Unlike Draper’s work, there is a darkness to it and a definite surreal quality (One of her photographs of twins actually inspired Stanley Kubrick’s iconic “The Shining twins”.).  She is certainly a disputed artist. Some argue she was voyeuristic and exploitative , her photos no better than the circus “freak shows” that thankfully no longer exist in this day and age. Her motives and connection to her subjects have been called into question since her photographs were not necessarily being used to communicate a social purpose or to inspire a change in the treatment of the individuals, but more for striking visual interest. Additionally, her series in which she photographed individuals living in group homes for those with mental challenges, of which the above is a part, brings up a consent issue. Since the photographs were taken between 1969 and 1971, a time when individuals at such institutions were given little to no rights, the permission to photograph the residents was not given by the individuals themselves but the institution. Such a project would not be allowed publication by today’s standards. Others argue she is possibly one of the most misunderstood artists of the 20th century. Consent between photographer and subject is important, and I cannot speak to the validity of the permission she received. However, to me, Arbus wasn’t looking at her subjects with revulsion and disgust. They don’t appear isolated or lonely but confident, happy and uninhibited. They are comfortable in their own skin and are completely unaware of how they appear to others. Arbus had a great respect for her unusual subjects she sought out, saying “Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.” (though I do flinch at the way she throws around the “f-word”.) If anything, it was the so called “normal people” Arbus portrayed as lonely and disconnected and silly.

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Asa Johannessen

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The subjects of Johannessen’s “Looking Out, Looking In” series are individuals who don’t identify with any gender, male or female. An article in Independent about her show describes the portraits as “challenging the onlooker defiantly to try and categorize them”. All photographs are untitled, the subjects unnamed. The goal is to draw the viewers in to whom each individual is as a person, rather than the viewers obsessing over the single facet of “Are they male or female?” This is an interesting concept to me as someone who has always felt gender is about the last thing I notice about someone. This has led to some interesting social kerfuffles in the form of myself ending up on dates I never knew I was on. I pretty much am this comic below anyway, only with brown hair and zero barista skills.

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All that aside, the point is once again using art to bring humanity to those who are often misunderstood or ignored. Everyone struggles with identity crises from time to time, but most of us can’t even imagine feeling that such a basic component of our personhood is alien to us. Many of us can’t imagine the feelings of confusion, isolation, and despair such a conflict would bring. Individuals like the ones in Johannesson’s photographs often get treated like unicorns, an interesting idea, but they don’t really exist. This series confronts those misconceptions head on. No matter what we each individually believe, empathy and above all love is possible, and I daresay required.

Debbie Rasiel

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The goal of photographer Debbie Rasiel’s “Picturing Autism” series is to explore what autism looks like across language and cultural barriers. The series spans New York, Mexico, Peru, Indonesia and Iceland.”I wanted to offer those not familiar with autism an opportunity to see what autism looks like, a safe space where social mores would not prevent them from staring,” Rasiel stated in an article for The Huffington Post. Again, art has urged people to lock eyes with and confront images of individuals from whom they normally may avert their gaze due to unfamiliarity or uncertainty.

Art not only has the ability to show us things we can’t see in real life, but it has the ability to force us to see the unseen, and that is a wonderful and magical thing.