New Series and The Symbolism of Color

I’ve always been interested in the social significance of color, both in cultural symbolism and in the psychology of how color can affect our emotions. Showing solidarity for a specific cause through a group of people all wearing the same color on a certain day or for the attendance of a specific event has become a common practice. My partner has a viscerally negative reaction to the color yellow, and will be caused agitation if surrounded by a bright yellow environment (so basically he just loves the bright yellow flower print wallpaper that was complimentary with the bathroom in our home upon move-in). I have received shocked reactions even from people in my own young-adult age bracket at the mention that if I ever get married at some point, I probably wouldn’t choose a white wedding dress. These are just a couple of examples of the strong reactions people have to color as a form of communication, tradition, and emotional influence in both our exterior environment and more personally in how we choose to adorn ourselves and present our bodies to the world.

Of course, I will be working on other separate projects in between but my main focus going forward will be on a new series exploring the symbolism of different colors worldwide, taking the significance of specific colors from regions all over the world and integrating these often opposing meanings into a single story about that color. I will be focusing on 5 main colors, the 3 primaries of red, yellow, and blue and then black and white. The first color I have represented is white.

Depending where you are, white can symbolize new beginnings and a clean slate, or endings and mourning making it very much a bookend sort of color. It symbolizes traits that are considered more docile like purity, innocence and virtue, but also more courageous sentiments like protection and sacrifice. White is also a color that across cultures is often associated with femininity.

white final

For “The End Is Also The Beginning” I used a mixed media approach, choosing the mediums that would lend themselves best to the look I wanted to achieve for different parts of the piece. I used watercolor for the ice figures, snow, clouds, and water. I used prismacolor pencil (including metallic silver accents) for the figure, rabbit, and areas of fine detail like the blossom trees and patterns in the sky. I used scrap fabric for the pattern on the dress (actually left over from the hemmed curtains hanging in my art room. This is why you never toss scraps!), and flat-back acrylic pearls and beads for the decoration on the neckline of her gown, and her earrings.

I have a couple of juried shows coming up, and this will be one of the pieces getting sent off, so wish me luck!

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March Artsnacks Unboxing

Hello all! Obviously I’m a little late, but it’s been a weird month. I told myself I had to at least have this posted before March was over, so here I am!

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In this box, I received:

The Artsnacks gods must really want me to start using more green in my artwork, because I overwhelmingly receive green products where random color selection is concerned … And to be honest, I can only think of one other green artwork I have done in the last 10 years! That’s what I love about Artsnacks though, it gets you out of your box!

Now, for reviews! As a watercolor enthusiast, I was interested to try Ecoline’s liquid watercolor. It’s so runny compared to what I am used to using that it was a little hard to get used to at first, but it is definitely a quality product with rich color, just a different experience with a bit of a learning curve. I would be interested to try darker colors which are usually what I gravitate towards with watercolor, and also to experiment with how multiple colors blend or layer. I found it more difficult to get as wide a range of values with this product as I can with tube watercolors. To me it seems like these watercolors would be better suited to filling in concept sketches or more graphic illustrations like comics. Prognosis: Good product, uncertain operator!

Now on to the brush pen! It was really great to get to try out multiple Ecoline products being that this was a line I’d never tried before. I cannot get enough brush pens. I’ve mentioned before how my favorite have been Tombow’s water soluble brush markers, but what is great about these Ecoline pens is that they can be used in conjunction with Ecoline’s other products. Their brush pens, like Tombow’s, are water soluble and can be re-wet to blend even after they’ve dried. These Ecoline brush pens can be dipped in Ecoline’s watercolors or inks to mix colors and produce ombre and other blended effects which is a fantastic bonus. These products do seem to focus on the more pastel/tropical/ultra neon color spectrum which is not at all the palette I usually work in, but it is great for projects that call for a bright pop of color.

As someone who really enjoys using watercolor and ink pens together, I’m glad this box came with a pen to try as well. Drawing will always be my first love, and the bright colors available from the KINGART fine liners pair well with the Ecoline watercolors for seamless outlines. With a super thin, smooth line quality and no bleeding, I am definitely considering getting some of these as right now the only liners I have are black. They are also waterproof which make them a perfect fit for watercolor work.

Lastly, I will talk about the incredibly aesthetically pleasing pencils. I didn’t really get the brown sugar scent from the wood that was described on the information card I got with these products, but I also have had a habitually stuffy nose for the past 3 weeks so you can’t go by me! From a design perspective, these pencils are obviously gorgeous, and I can see them sitting on a side table next to a moleskin notebook in my soon-to-be mid-century-modern /slash/ industrial basement library that is right now just grey cement and a pile of wood scraps, but hey, we’ll get there ;). I’m a mechanical pencil girl for the most part, but I do get commissions for solely graphite works fairly often in which I use traditional pencils. It makes me happy to work with materials that are pretty, so these get a vote from me!

Another month, another great box! Until next time!

Slaying The Artist’s Block Monster

12One of the most frustrating things in the world for any creative person is that tricky artist’s block, lurking where you least expect it waiting to destroy everything that once brought you joy. It is quite literally the worst. I’ve experienced my own bouts of artist’s block on and off over the last year, and hope that some of the things that were effective for me may help other creatives out there. Without further adieu …

  • Get in the habit of daily practice. This first one is pretty standard yet still is, I think, the most difficult. You don’t have to complete something amazing every day. Even if it’s just a silly 5 minute doodle, do something to get in the habit of being creative on a regular basis. By keeping the creative part of your mind engaged daily, you will have an easier time getting in the zone when you have actual large amounts of downtime to work. As cheesy as it may sound, you can even try sketching something that made you happy each day. This is something I’ve done in the past that serves a dual purpose of not only helping me stay creatively engaged but helping me to focus on the gifts I am experiencing when the stuff of life is starting to get me down. Just think, even on your most awful days where you really don’t have much to be thankful for, look around you. Our world is pretty amazing, like a living work of art. We could live in a world where everything is brown and gray but we instead are able to live in a super saturated, colorful environment where everything that surrounds us naturally is so vibrant and intricate – even things many people think are gross or irritating like bugs ;). Ignore the schmaltz factor and just try it, I promise it works.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your own expectations. Just make time to create where and when you can. If you get too legalistic about daily practice or having to work on your art for x number of hours per week without factoring in unavoidable external circumstances, you are just going to get defeated and end up creating the fated Impossible Task for yourself. Don’t discount the smaller moments and tell yourself you aren’t being productive enough. I am a big fan of sketching ideas on scrap paper over a lunch break at work, and then really diving in over weekends. Something different may work for your life and schedule. Just don’t let the fact that you may not have as much spare time as you’d prefer to devote to your craft stop you from doing it at all.
  • The Rush HourDraw from what you are feeling. Sometimes we have these specific  plans of visuals we want to create, but for whatever reason we just can’t get it out of our own heads. In the moment, something isn’t clicking. Creative practice is different from forcing yourself to to exercise or do the dishes … Sometimes not being enthused or inspired can be a legitimate barrier to getting anything done. If you experience one of these blockades, then what I’ve found works is to just roll with it and draw from what you are feeling in that moment. Are you feeling tense and exhausted? Make something about it, which is exactly what I ended up doing when I began the above drawing, “The Rush Hour”. Creativity is such a personal experience that draws on bringing the inside out, so if you aren’t in the right mindset don’t force yourself to make art about something that you aren’t feeling right now.
  • Don’t be afraid to start multiple things at once. As creators there is always that fear of being the jack of all trades and master of none, or being that artist who starts a million projects but never ends up finishing anything. However, I have found that within reason, having multiple things going at once can actually help you to be more productive. Sometimes you just get sick of looking at a project or you get stuck and are not sure how to move forward, and may need a couple of days to plan your next steps. Also, our brains all work differently, and some people simply cannot focus on one thing for an extended period of time even if they desperately want to. If you have multiple creative things going, you can simply put what you are working on away temporarily and move onto something else when you get stuck or lose focus, rather than putting your art away entirely and just turning on Netflix for the rest of the day.
  • 53786370_10156360021179895_3968639679464472576_nCreate challenges for yourself. I don’t watch a ton of TV, but I am a big fan of cooking challenge shows like Chopped and Masterchef, and am a sucker for the mystery box challenge. You can do the same thing with art instead of food. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed participating in the ArtSnacks challenges while I have a subscription is because being limited to only a random selection of materials and colors and having to create something from that is a great way to generate new ideas and think of new ways to use familiar media. You can write different materials on scraps of paper, randomly draw 3, and make something amazing using only those 3 elements. This is something myself and other instructors have been trying to do with our Artshop Program students when we notice them getting stuck in repetitive ruts. Another idea is putting one of your favorite playlists on shuffle, and whatever song plays first, the words in that song title are your inspiration for what you are making. These are especially beneficial exercises for project control freaks like me (and probably some of you out there)!
  • 00000PORTRAIT_00000_BURST20190311175233624Get together with other creative people and do silly, low stress artsy activities. For my day job I run an art therapy based program, so I every day I get to see the power art has to inspire joy in both the creator and those around them, and how art has the power to make people feel heard and understood, and lift some of the individual weights we all have holding us down in our life even if only for a moment. Let’s be real though, art is also difficult and like any other skill takes practice and discipline. Make sure you have a balance in your life of serious artistic practice but also creative activities that are just for fun, where the process is more important than the outcome. I’ve recently been getting together with a small group of friends for monthly creative nights, and even if all we do is some silly home decor Pinterest fail project, just the practice of no-pressure creating is so rejuvenating. I’m also working individually on a screaming ceramic baby head paperweight, so there’s that. Ah, therapy…
  • Enter shows and events! Keep an eye out for opportunities to show your work. Sign up for things even when you feel you aren’t ready. To be honest, many of us are never going to feel ready so there’s just no point waiting around. To quote one of my favorite musicians, Amanda Palmer, from her very cool book for creators The Art of Asking, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you on the head with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand.” Having clear deadlines will also help you get projects done, whether you are a do-everything-the-night-before creator or someone who plans for months. Also, don’t skip the openings even if it’s painfully awkward and not something you particularly enjoy. Don’t skip out on opportunities to network and talk to other people about what you do. When people hear the word “networking” they automatically associate it with generating business and making money but for me it’s not necessarily about that, but more about building confidence in what you do and being able to explain why you do it. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to inspire someone else!
  • Have a visible list of goals. I am a firm believer in the sticky note. I’m old school in the respect that I have to have my goals and reminders and deadlines physically written out with ink pen or I don’t pay attention to them, but digital means are great too, whatever works for you. The important thing is that you have a visual reminder of where you are going and when you want to get there.
  • 54257592_2437512312986061_671208117400240128_oLet other artists challenge and motivate you, but don’t compare yourself. Talking to other more experienced artists and learning from them is fantastic (Though I’d also argue you can learn from those that may be less experienced as well; I learn from my students all the time!), but it becomes toxic when you start comparing yourself to them. Everyone has their own style, and their own timeline. Don’t feel like you have to completely model yourself after someone else to be successful.

I hope this is helpful to other creative people out there, and if you have other things that work for you please feel free to share! Now get out there and make things happen :).

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Young Adult Lit That Has An Impact

I love to read and the genres I enjoy cover a wide gamut. Still, I am often guilty of scoffing at YA lit as nothing but fluff, and even as a youngster upgraded to the adult section of the library growing up as soon as my parents would let me, though there was a heated discussion about gratuitous vampire sex when I started checking out all the Anne Rice books I could get my hands on, and my mom happened to flip through one while I was at school – oops! Despite this, when I really stop and think about it there are so many YA books I read and reread multiple times, and that I still remember to this day. These books had an impact, and though geared towards a younger audience still offer quality characters and rich story lines, and are worth reading today. Granted, my list is going to be revolving around the time period of when I was a young adult, so there may be brilliant new YA lit that I have never heard of. However, I believe these have stood the test of time and would still be enjoyable and thought provoking today. I let go of most of these when I stupidly did a book purge before going away to college, and I regret it to this day!

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

For a period of time when I was a kid, around 5th grade, my mom and I would choose books to read aloud together before bed, a handful of pages each night in my parents big fluffy bed that somehow always seemed so much more luxurious than my own, maybe because it was bigger and had more pillows :P. This was one of the books we read together along with one about a little girl with a best friend who has childhood leukemia – Apparently, we both had a penchant for sad stories, and don’t you just have the deepest sleep after doing a bit of crying before you lie down for the night? It’s a great energy burner. All jokes aside though, this is by no means an easy read but it is important, and for that reason has stood the test of time and is still being discussed to this day, over 20 years later. It centers around a young girl starting her freshman year of high school, who is ostracized for calling the cops on a party she attended over the summer, when in fact she was assaulted there but never told anyone. The novel follows her freshman year, and her personal journey as she learns to acknowledge what happened to her, call it by its name, and speak up. Sadly, this is still 100% relevant today if not more so though it was written long before this was a national conversation. Worth the read no matter your age.

sabriel_book_coverThe Abhorsen Trilogy, Garth Nix

Garth Nix was the Sci-Fi and Fantasy author for tweens in the late 90s/early 2000s. This series was always my favorite and I think the most powerful. The Abhorsen trilogy takes place in an imaginary universe based on early 20th century England. It centers around a family of Necromancers, and has an array of strong and complex female protagonists (as well as some interesting male characters!), and of course their equally fascinating daemon companions. What was always cool about this series was the exploration of necromancy as just another type of magic whereas normally it is portrayed as the “evil” or villainous vein. I’ve been hard pressed to find any other fantasy series young adult or otherwise that matched the elegant style of writing and creative and entrancing plot. The books also have gorgeous cover art, which is what made me check the little box when they appeared as a choice in the Scholastic book order 😉 (No Amazon! How’s that for nostalgia?).  I have actually not read them yet, but there is a prequel titled Clariel that came out in 2014, and apparently another new installment, Goldenhand, that came out in 2016 – so imagine my surprise to see that this series is still going after all this time!

I am Morgan le Fay, Nancy Springer

This is another book that humanizes the type of fantasy character that is often seen as “bad”. I’m a sucker for stories that are retold from a different perspective, and became deeply interested in Arthurian legend ever since watching this amazing made for TV movie in 1998, with the goddess that is Helena Bonham Carter playing miss le Fay herself. Though her actions prove abysmal, this story causes the reader to still feel some empathy for her as her ill fated lot in life, familiar to those aware of the classic tale, unfolds from her point of view and through her eyes. Living with the knowledge of her dark fate which she eventually gives in to and later even embraces, we are forced to contemplate, do we have control over destiny? Is fate really just a self fulfilling prophecy? Must our past control our future? Doe we change prophecy as we take our life into our own hands? It also fills in the blanks of her childhood, showing us how she learned magic, a part which is not usually included. Merlin is, in contrast to his usual whimsical self, portrayed as more evil and manipulative. At the end of the day, everyone is flawed, none are blameless, and that is what makes this such a compelling story.

scan0042Feed, M.T. Anderson

Dystopian futures – always a popular concept! This novel portrays a near-future in which the feednet,  an advanced form of the Internet, is directly connected to the brains of the majority of American citizens by means of an implanted device called a feed. The feed allows people to mentally access websites; experience shareable VR from entertainment programs, to music, to others’ memories; “continually interact with intrusive corporations in a personal preference-based way”; and communicate telepathically on closed channels with others who also have feeds, basically direct messaging but it’s in your head. Of course, by this point the environment is destroyed. There are artificial, trademarked Clouds™, you can custom design your own children before pregnancy, the entire national school system (called School™) is now owned and run by the people who run and own The Feed – it’s a total creepshow mess. Some start to question and try to resist The Feed … adventure and calamity ensues.  It’s interesting how wild all of this sounded when I read this in high school (That’s me, before prom, getting picked up and being like ‘Wait, imma read one more page …’), and how almost 13 years later I’m thinking in the back of my head, “I don’t know that could be feasible …”. Only time will tell …

The Alice Series, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I only read the books in this coming of age series from when our Alice protagonist was in junior high, and had no idea at the time that this huge series of books started with Alice in elementary school and went on to adulthood, where she lands a job in the fitting role as a middle school guidance counselor. What was interesting about this series, and her main character, was that she was not really interesting at all. I in no way mean that as an insult, she was just a perfectly average young girl that everyone could relate to, especially those that maybe hadn’t found their niche yet. I remember this series being pretty inoffensive, so I was shocked to hear later that they had been banned from a couple of school libraries! Alice was an average, realistic picture of the adolescent girl and as such she had an innocent curiosity about things like kissing, condoms, sex and babies. In the books, she didn’t have a mom to talk to about this kind of stuff, connecting with other kids who may be in this same situation. Apparently there was also a mention of homosexuality in one of the later high school aged books. Guess what guys, gay people exist and not learning about them doesn’t make them go away – Next! Can you tell I really don’t like censorship? The writer of this fantastic article and interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor sums up the appeal of the Alice books best when she says, “Katniss Everdeen’s bow and arrow are all well and good, but sometimes you just want a heroine whose current problem is heartbreak and a tragic haircut”.

Born Confused, Tanuja Desai Hidier

I was drawn to this book partially because I’ve always found it interesting to read books from the perspective of people that were very different from me, and also partially because I had a fast best friend I met in my 7th grade speech class whose family was from India. This was the first time I’d heard of the idea of cultural appropriation (though that term wasn’t used at the time), way before it would become a major discussion point. The book portrays the double standard of how when the main character of Indian descent, Dimple, wears her traditional garments and jewelry she is seen as backwards or conservative, odd, and out of touch, but when a blonde white girl (her best friend) borrows her clothes and wears them out she is trendy, cool, exotic, and bohemian. This novel is a coming of age tale explored through the lens of not just a generational gap between daughter and parents but a cultural one, and also a cultural gap between the main character and the rest of her peers. It explores both the feelings of uniqueness and identity and also loneliness and isolation in being an American citizen that is visibly from somewhere else. I found it funny, insightful, and moving.

aba-1-037Abarat, Clive Barker

I sadly never finished the series as I soon leveled up out of YA fiction, but this is another book that grabbed me with the cover art, if not just the name attached to it as a horror fan. I ALWAYS judge books by their cover, and what is amazing about these novels is that prints of Barker’s actual surreal, colorful paintings on canvas depicting the various characters and scenarios in the book are peppered throughout, some in the margins and some in beautiful full page inserts. Our main character Candy Quackenbush lives in Chickentown, Minnesota (hilarious!), and is just about as fed up as she can be with her dull school and boring life when she finds a point of entry to the fantastical archipelago of Abarat, filled with strange creatures both wonderful and sinister. It’s basically a weirder Alice In Wonderland, with a lot more adventuring on the part of our protagonist. I mean, it’s Clive Barker – it’s going to be a wild ride.

What were some of your favorite young adult books growing up?