Who’s Really Teaching Whom? Allise Tries Abstract!

One of my favorite things about working with Express Yourself Artshop is seeing all of the creative ideas our students come up with. A few of them create abstract work, some of them just now delving into it for the first time. I myself work most closely to a surreal, whimsical, dreamlike aesthetic, but I have never been able to go pure abstract. For all those out there who say “abstract art is so easy, it’s just splatters and shapes, anyone can do it!”, I challenge you to go home and try making a piece. Of course it’s easy to make crappy, half-assed abstract art, just as it is easy to do anything that you don’t put effort or thought into. Making good abstract art that actually looks dynamic and interesting and makes people stop in their tracks is not simple at all. I had dabbled in attempts in the past, and grew so frustrated I gave up on the whole idea of even trying.

Heather Deogracia is a fellow whimsy-addict when it comes to art, and has been in many of my Artshop classes at Creative 360. She has begun creating pen and ink abstracts within the last couple of years, and her illustrations have a ton of movement and always stand out in bold, contrasting colors.

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Find this design by Heather Deogracia on Redbubble!

Another student who is in the Artshop classroom nearly as often as I am, Colleen, has always had a great sense of color when painting with watercolors. Our painting instructor this semester prompted her to try an abstract piece and see how she liked the process. She reacted much like I did the first time I tried to create something nonrepresentational; quite apprehensive and not sure where to even begin. It’s hard to wrap your mind around creating texture, colors, and pattern without the “anchor” of a specific end goal, a plan that your picture will end up looking like a, b, or c when you are finished. With the instructor’s guidance, she ended up with this beautifully balanced, interesting piece.

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Find Colleen’s design on Redbubble!

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In fact, I liked the design so much, I couldn’t resist buying a travel mug from Artshop’s Redbubble Store. It’s so nice to be able to stare at 3 of my favorite colors while enjoying my morning coffee.

I use watercolors a lot, and after seeing how much fun it was for the students to play with bright colors, letting their paints blend and bleed and drip into each other, I had to try it at home despite my misgivings.

I ended up with two pieces that lo and behold, I am actually pretty happy with. The first is inspired by caves, gemstones, and geodes. I had a pretty well curated rock collection as a child, so maybe that is where the inspiration came from :). The second is a female figure fading into the dark background. I wanted to use a lot more contrast in both lights and darks and color for this one. In both pieces, I started with a basic background first, and then added the details over that under layer based on what I saw in the design, sort of like when you were a kid and used to lie on the ground staring up at cloud shapes, finding pictures in them.

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Cave of Wonders, 12×18 Watercolor, Ink, White Prismacolor Pencil, and Metallic Acrylic. Design available on Redbubble!

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The Power of Invisibility, 12×18 Watercolor and Ink. Design available on Redbubble!

A last bit of Artshop news, our fundraiser last weekend was a success! Quite a few students sold some of their work, and we also received over $170 worth of donated art supplies – woohoo! Check out Express Yourself Artshop on instagram to see more photos of students’ artwork and what we are up to :).

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10 Documentaries You Should Watch Yesterday

Not everyone thinks of documentaries when they think of “art”, but I believe they certainly fall into that category. Documentaries tell a story. They take facts and true events and make them dance before our eyes in an engaging manner that connects internally with viewers. My top 10 favorites cover a range of subjects : personal narrative, psychology, science, creativity, abuse, love.

Enjoy!

 

Monica and David

This documentary chronicles the romantic relationship of two adults with down syndrome in their journey towards moving in together and getting married. I love this documentary not only because it obviously pulls at your heartstrings, but it also takes the “otherness” away from disability. It is honest about Monica and David’s struggles, while at the same time showing that they aren’t that different from you or I in their dreams, hopes, and concerns for the future.

 

The Wolfpack

I just watched this one recently, and it stuck with me long after finishing. The story revolves around a group of brothers living in a family with an unstable father who for years would not allow them to leave the house or interact with others in society. Trapped in their own world, they turned to movies as a way to feel like they were living and experiencing the things that others outside did. They go as far as writing out entire scripts by hand (no computer/internet access) and then acting them out themselves, complete with amazing costumes and props made from things like painted cereal boxes. What they went through is horrible, but they have channeled their experience into something positive, and a couple of them ended up going into film production. The end of the documentary shows them working on a short film that you can view in it’s entirety, titled Mirror Hearthere.
We live in public

This documentary was absolutely fascinating to watch back in 2009 when it came out, and even more so when I think about it compared to how we interact with social media now in 2016. It centers around the life of dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris, and his social experiment which was a combination of reality TV and a live action version of Myspace. His predictions of social media in the future were so spot on it’s eerie. Definitely an enlightening if not somewhat disconcerting watch.

 

Bergman Island

This documentary chronicles the life of legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Much of it is done in an interview style. He issuch a character, equal parts insightful and hilarious, it makes for a fun watch even if you haven’t seen a ton of his films (which you should go out and remedy now, by the way, if this applies to you :)).
Advanced style

This documentary was created by Ari Seth Cohen, who has a blog of the same name. The story centers on a few of the stylish older ladies he’s spotlighted. Cohen has always been interested in fashion, and grew up very close to his grandmother. Because of this strong bond, he always admired and felt closer to older women, who incidentally are systematically excluded from the fashion world. Thus, Advanced Style was born. These ladies are so much cooler than I, or anyone else I know, will ever be.

Honor Diaries

This documentary is an open conversation between nine women’s rights advocates with roots in Muslim societies working to change their communities. What makes it even more powerful is the fact that there are a variety of faiths represented. Though the documentary starts out by discussing the issue of honor based abuse abroad, it ends by bringing to light the fact that these incidents are not isolated to outside of the US. Contrary to popular belief, surprising number of these killings and abuse stories happen in the states, in the UK, and throughout Europe. As I watched the women discuss the mindsets that lead to this type of violence and extreme male entitlement, it was hard for many of those same dangerous mindsets I see present in my own society not to come to mind. People like to dismiss hateful or repugnant attitudes as “Oh, it’s just their opinion, everyone is entitled to their view”. But, this documentary shows the havoc “just an opinion” can wreak when left unchecked, and when it grows into a group mentality.

WAR: Women Art Revolution

As I explain in an earlier post about women in art, this documentary completely reeducated me on the subject of feminist art. I was born at the tail end of the 80s, and since growing up in school I’d always been given the impression that art was a “girl thing”, I never gave a thought to inequality in art. I never thought to ask why all the famous artists we learned about were all men. I just figured that those men happened to be who was best at art way back when. I had no idea the struggle and the war that those women artists who came before me had to fight simply to be allowed to practice their craft, to be allowed to show in galleries. Spoiler: the fight isn’t over. This is an important documentary to watch for anyone interested in art and creativity. Am I suddenly in love with the aesthetic of feminist art from the civil rights era? No, but I have gained a huge appreciation for those ladies who took a stand so that I can do what I do today.

Alive Inside: Music and Memory

I work with a lot of older adults teaching painting classes, and I’d heard about the benefits of painting in improving memory and motor skills in the elderly, but never music. This heart warming and inspiring documentary shows an alternative way we could be nurturing and interacting with our older communities.

PBS This Emotional Life

This PBS series explains scientifically why we experience emotions the way that we do, and the role different emotions play in our day to day lives and how we function. Explanations are simple and accessible to all, even those with no background in science or psychology. I have always been an anxious person, and understanding the science between what is going on in my body when I start to panic actually helped me deal with anxiety situations better. To be able to tell myself “Ok, your body is signaling a fight or flight response but you aren’t actually in danger right now … what you are feeling is just chemicals in your brain tricking you … don’t let a bunch of chemicals ruin your day!” helped me to calm down, silly as it sounds. It doesn’t always help, and it may not work for everyone, but this is certainly an enlightening series regardless.

Earthlings

Growing up, I’d honestly just never really liked the taste of meat compared to other things (It always reminded me of cardboard with seasoning sprinkled on it), and it’s origins always left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. This documentary is in part what pushed me to finally eliminate most meat from my diet (I still occasionally eat seafood). I understand the importance of the food chain to our ecosystem, but in our present day we consume far more meat products than we should for either our health or sustainability. To keep up with this demand (and make a higher profit – Greed continues to be the unifying reason for most questionable decisions.), some pretty horrifying, unethical farming and slaughtering processes are being put to use. If you haven’t heard of Temple Grandin, she is an amazing woman on the autistic spectrum who has done groundbreaking work towards animal welfare in the food industry.

I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect. – Temple Grandin

I hope this list helps pass the time on those rainy Spring days coming up, and that something here stirs or inspires you. What are some of your favorite documentaries that I should add to my “Watch ASAP” list?

My Top 10 Favorite Shops On Etsy

I love Etsy. Though I myself have found far more success selling my own art on ebay, I do a lot of buying from Etsy ;). Around the holidays and birthdays, I try to get a lot of my gifts from places like Etsy or Ten Thousand Villages, or any local handmade shops because handmade items are always going to be unique, made well, and your purchase will actually brighten someone’s day and be an encouragement to the actual artist behind the product. Without further ado, here are my personal 10 favorite Etsy shops.

Nuptse

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This shop features beautiful, detailed bead-work all handmade in Kathmandu, Nepal as a way for the women there to be able to support themselves and make an income. This handmade business has also recently made an alliance with Hoste Hainse, a non-profit that focuses on women empowerment and sound working conditions for women, as well as education and daycare for their children.

PixieColdArt

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This shop offers super affordable prints of gorgeous artwork in the artist’s bold, colorful, high contrast style. These often surreal female and animal portraits are captivating, and definitely represent my personal favorite style of art.

SparkleBeastDesign

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Can you tell I like bright colors yet? The jewelry found at Sparkle Beast is like an elementary school art room closet collided with another closet full of “night at the opera” evening wear. I mean that in the best way possible. It’s like an upscale version of let’s-play-dress-up, and it is amazing.

nashpop

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Again with the bright colors, this shop takes old chipped, damaged, or otherwise hideous figures from secondhand stores and spray paints them in brilliant colors to turn them into fun, modern, pop art decorations. I am the proud owner of one of the most epic nativity scenes I’ve ever seen, shown above, and it is my favorite Christmas decoration I own.

CrimsonEtClover

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Crimson Et Clover is the wonderful inventor of the modern marvel called “bEARwarmers”, which I am rocking in the above picture. I’m a big fan of how they keep your head warm without messing up your hair. Also, the whole bear ears part.

MarisolSpoon

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This artist’s paintings just make me happy when I look at them, simple as that. She incorporates a lot of nature and vintage-style imagery into her pieces, which are two things I cannot get enough of.

berkleyillustration

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And the same to you, Sir Cheetah with an eye patch. Berkley illustration is one of the most fun shops around. Their personified animals aren’t just hilarious, but so detailed, realistic, and well done. I own the above bottle opener myself, because who would pass up the opportunity to toast with a swift jungle cat?

ohgoshcindy

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This shops features spot-on watercolor illustrations of pop culture icons, coupled with their well-known quotes and catch phrases – a dream for any tv or movie lover.

CartBeforeTheHorse

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This shop’s contemporary folk art has such a distinctive and unique style, I’d recognize it anywhere. I think it’s the faces that first drew me in. The designs are whimsical and fun without looking childish, and incorporate a vintage touch.

JooSweetie

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Look! She even has a hair bow. What could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shop styles lovely jewelry pieces around the artist’s adorable hand-painted faces. I raved about her artistry in an earlier post, and as of right now own one of her pieces (notice I said as of right now 🙂 … more to come!).

There you have it. It was unbelievably hard to narrow my list down to just 10. If you want to see more of my favorites and collections, you can follow me on Etsy. If any readers out there have Etsy shops of your own, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I will check it out! I am always looking for more shops to peruse.

Exciting News From Midland Artists Guild Exhibition 2016

Time has been flying, and I can’t believe the Midland Artists Guild annual juried exhibition has already came and went as of last night. There was such a diverse collection of amazing work. I think the shows get better every year, and if you are in the Midland area it is worth stopping by the Grace A Dow Memorial Library mezzanine to check it out. I was beyond excited to find out my piece “On My Mind” won one of the Merit Awards!

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This art nouveau inspired mixed media was so much fun to work on, and you can visit one of my previous posts to view the  step by step process .

My two other pieces that made it into the show were “Wonderland” and “January: She Is Far Away“.

All of these designs are available as art and ACEO prints in my ebay store, and prints on mugs, bags, pillows, notebooks, and all kinds of fun stuff in my redbubble shop. Next up, the Express Yourself Artshop fundraiser show and the Saginaw Township annual juried exhibition! Of course there will be many, many pictures :). Follow to stay in the loop!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I know I will be enjoying the rest of mine by drinking copious amounts of tea and not leaving the house.It may be Spring everywhere else, but not in Michigan! In fact, we’ve had four snow days in the last two weeks :P. So long for now!