New Work: Space Is A Lonely Place To Be

Like many, my life has been affected by COVID-19 this month (though not as drastically as it could be, thank goodness). Here in Michigan, everything is closed but grocery stores and hospitals, and we have been urged to keep to our household until the spread slows down. I met this unexpected turn of events with a lot of anger, disappointment, and frustration at first. I had a lot of things scheduled professionally all beginning in guess when? March and April, that are now postponed until some mysterious pending date. My spring and summer last year weren’t so hot as I was dealing with a variety of personal issues, many which were out of my control. I was really planning to harness this year to its full potential to make up for what I saw in my mind as a lot of lost time in 2019.

These feelings right now are universal; we are all dealing with processing this in some form or another. One thing I came to realize though is being frustrated or feeling angry or cheated by the universe doesn’t change anything about the current situation. We all have this forced downtime right now, and we can either waste it or use it to our advantage to learn a new skill or otherwise work on personal development, relax if we’ve been overworked, and try to fill our days with simple things we enjoy.

I work primarily in drawing mediums and watercolor. I have always struggled to work with acrylic paint, especially when it comes to realism or painting portraits and figures. I decided to take this time to practice a medium I struggle in, starting with a self portrait.

persona

There were a lot of late nights involved with this piece, and some amount of cursing. I would show you what my acrylic attempts looked like just a month ago if I still had them, but I ended up re-using the canvases for other projects. Just believe me when I say, the difference is night and day. When we take the time to practice something new and fully devote ourselves to studying a skill, magic happens!

space is a lonely place to beThis brings me to my second acrylic piece, “Space Is A Lonely Place To Be”. For this piece I was very inspired by silent film fantasy/outer space imagery and costumes, with a touch of art nouveau. I am certain a lot of this came out of feeling a bit isolated and as if I am floating outside of time … It’s strange out there right now.

It’s looking like things may stay strange for a couple more weeks, but in light of using this experience to a positive advantage, here’s what I’ve learned so far …

  • I need to be mindful of building margin into my life when at all possible. I feel so much more healthy physically and mentally right now than I did when everything was normal, despite the current uncertainty in basically all areas of life and threat of danger. This is absolutely mind boggling and should not be.
  • I need to learn to say no. This kind of goes with the previous statement too, as not being able to say no is how I end up with zero time to breathe. I miss my friends and students, but I did notice myself in this time of social distancing feeling a tad bit of relief that I was free from a barrage of social obligations I didn’t feel like attending because, well, all social obligations are pretty much banned right now. Life is too short to fill all your time with things you don’t want to do. Yes, as a good friend and family member there are times you need to show up for people when you don’t necessarily feel like it, but there is a balance to this, and they need to be willing to do the same for you.
  • Wasting time is ok. I don’t have to have something to show for every moment I’m alive, sometimes just existing is ok! It’s ok to just sit down and read a book, or lay in bed thinking, or watch a movie in the middle of the day sometimes. It’s ok to spend time playing with a new project or idea and have it not end up turning into anything. Had I not been willing to experiment or practice with the risk of ending up with nothing at the end, I never would have learned how to acrylic paint!

What have you all been up to in your downtime? What have you learned about yourself?

Mid-Century Modern Tea Party – Ladybug

The Mid-Century modern design style has been having a moment for awhile now, and while I’m not usually one to latch onto trends I have always liked the geometric, retro aesthetic of this period.

Illustrations from this period are colorful and based on combinations of simple shapes and lines, which make them accessible to even those who don’t consider themselves “artists”. In this series, I am going to show you how to create some cute mid-century modern inspired bugs and flowers in honor of Spring. I will be painting on glassware (I’ve been dying to do something with these clear tea mugs!), but you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand.

Start with a red vertical oval for your ladybug, and scatter some different large polka dots around it for our flower heads. Paint goes onto glass differently than on paper because it can’t absorb into the surface, so you will need to let your shapes dry and add another coat or two for solid coverage. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”.

Once we have our red oval, we are done with our ladybug for awhile. Focusing on the flowers, I added two sets of concentric circles to the bottom of my large dots in different colors, letting the paint dry in between each addition.

After that, it’s time for the leaves! Our leaves will just be simple teardrop shapes, placed next to each other at an angle centered underneath our flower heads. Once the green was dry, I added some white dots down the center of my leaves for some extra decoration. You can add a dotted pattern by dipping the end of your paint brush in paint, and touching it to your glass (or paper) using the paint brush end like a stamp.

Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline all of the shapes that make up your flower in black. I added a teardrop shape to the very center of my flower, but you can also just outline the concentric circles and leave the center alone. I added a line connecting the head to the leaves to finish our flowers. For the ladybug, I put a line down the center of my oval and outlined around the entire shape. I then added a half circle in black sticking up from the top, with two short lines for antennae. I used the end of my paintbrush to add a dot to the end of each antennae. If you have some larger paintbrushes, you can also use the end to stamp the larger dots on the ladybug’s body. Otherwise, just use a round brush with a pointed tip to outline a circle shape in the size you want and then fill it in.

Voila! See, that wasn’t so hard :). You can make some beautiful Spring designs to cover anything your heart desires once you learn the basics of how to build forms with simple shapes. I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more!

 

 

Women’s Centennial Celebration Exhibit At Art Reach

Amidst a lot of bad news on a worldwide scale lately, I was blessed to receive some good news: One of my pieces shown in Art Reach’s Women’s Centennial Celebration Exhibit, July: She Is Free In Mind and Spirit, was awarded Best Of Show. This piece received a 2nd place award previously in 2018’s Midland Artists Guild Annual Juried Exhibition, and was a part of my Unlimited series shown in ArtPrize 9 in Grand Rapids. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to delve into this work deeper.

she is free

July: She Is Free

A vital part of my Unlimited series was being sure I represented a variety of ages, races, and also abilities in my portraits. Though varying abilities can mean many things and a lot of disabilities are invisible, I wanted to represent an easily recognizable visible disability that is not often seen represented in art. I chose to depict a young woman with down syndrome.

When people think of the lives of individuals with disabilities, often all they can see is the struggles. Yes, we need to be aware of the struggles and be sure that we stand up for the rights of individuals with disabilities, make sure they have access to the healthcare they need and tools to help them live as independently as possible in their communities. But, like all people, individuals with disabilities are multifaceted beings. People with disabilities are rarely seen depicted in art, and are seldom shown in any media as empowered beings with their own unique personality beyond having a disability. I wanted to depict a woman who was confident in her own skin, and believed in her own unlimited potential.

The symbolism in this piece can mean different things to different viewers, and I love the fact that art is open to interpretation. That being said, I wanted to share what I was thinking when I created this piece. But remember, even as the artist, my interpretation is by no means the only interpretation :). I drew the face in prismacolor pencil. I wanted a scene around the head(mind) that exuded peace, so I filled in the hair with a watercolor landscape scene. Along with inner peace I wanted to depict the idea of freedom, of this woman not being limited by anything despite what others may assume. Birds taking flight have always been one of the biggest symbols of freedom to me, so I used prismacolor markers to draw birds in the same colors as the landscape circling around her. I reinforced the bird imagery with metallic gold prismacolor pencil in a radial flying bird pattern on her shirt, with an empty birdcage in the center of her chest. I wanted the figure and background to be seamless and flow into each other, but also wanted something to set off the figure so that she was the main focus. I wanted her face especially with its welcoming, content, confident expression to stand out. Using a black base created contrast, and I filled in this galaxy background with stars in the same pastel colors used throughout the rest of the piece. In most of my portraits I use the background to speak to the content of the figure’s mind and soul, and a galaxy fit perfectly to me as something vast and unlimited. 

“July” is very close to my heart, and the meaning behind it signifies why I am involved in the arts to begin with. In running an arts program for adults with disabilities, I feel I have found my purpose. I am excited to continue using art to form connections between all different types of people, help others tap into their unexplored potential, give a voice to those that often go unseen, and challenge ideas of what beauty is in art.

Art prints are available in my ebay shop!

There will be virtual tours of the show available through Art Reach soon. I can’t wait to see all the other work up close!

Jellyfish Watercolor Tutorial

Another day, another tutorial! I’m making my way through my favorite animals first, with yesterday’s owl and now today a colorful jellyfish. Let’s paint!

You will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I used a 6×6″ piece, but you can work bigger if you’d like as well)
  • 3 Paint colors: A blue of your choice, and 2 accent colors. I chose magenta and lime green. You could also use 3 different shades of blue if you want. Jellyfish come in many colors!
  • A large (I used size 8), medium (I used size 5), and detail (I used size 0) round brush (The brushes that come to a point at the end).
  • A large flat brush (The brushes with rectangular bristles, flat on the end).

Start by adding a good amount of water to your main blue color choice to dilute it down to a light wash. Use your large flat brush to fill in the entire paper pale blue. Use long back and forth strokes, brushing in the same direction horizontally across your paper. There may be some streaks and this is ok as we are trying to create our water :). If you want to even anything out a bit more, you can brush over darker areas with plain water using the same brush to blend. Let this dry. Once the background is dry, grab your medium round brush. Dip the brush in some of the same blue color, but with less water so it goes on a bit darker. Outline a shape that looks like the top of a cupcake in the upper right corner.

Rinse off your brush, and with just water run your brush along the inside edge of that outline to blend it inward. Grab some more blue, and make 3 squiggly lines coming down from your cupcake shape. Curving them on the end makes it look more natural, like how they would be flowing as the jellyfish swims through the water. Using the same brush, grab some more of that same blue and add a paint streak along each side of your jellyfish top, and make some short strokes also along the bottom edge.

Rinse off your brush, then go over these blue streaks you just added with water to blend. Using the same brush, take your chosen accent color and make some squiggly lines over your blue ones in that new color. Next, we are going to use our small detail brush. Take your other accent color and make a curved bridge shape near the top of your jellyfish body. Streak some lines coming down from that bridge. Use your detail brush to make some thin tentacles flowing out from the body as well. Use the tip of your brush and drag it across with a light touch, hardly putting any pressure on the paper to get thin, flowing lines. If you are having trouble making a continuous stroke, just add more water. Your tentacles can flow in all different directions as they float through the water.

Rinse off your detail brush, and grab some of your first accent color that you used on the squiggly center tentacles. Make a broken scalloped outline along the bottom of the jellyfish body. You can also add an oval up top with some short, radial streaks coming down from the circle, like a simple sun shape. For a finishing touch, take your large round brush now and dip it in some watered down paint in the original color you used for the background – You don’t want this to be too dark. Make some bubbly, cloud-like texture in a portion of the blank space around your jellyfish by filling in the areas using a circular motion with your brush. Your brush should be laying at an angle as you do this.

These are so fun to make in different colors – You could create a whole jellyfish army!

Be sure to follow for more art fun to keep your mind and hands busy :).

Barn Owl Watercolor Tutorial

In light of social distancing precautions, we all are ending up with some unexpected downtime. It can certainly be discouraging and frustrating, but we can also use this time to our advantage to bring something positive out of a negative situation. I will be posting some simple tutorials on a regular basis over the next couple weeks. The best thing to do when things are uncertain is to occupy your mind, especially with something creative. Let’s have some fun!

To create this owl, you will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I used a 6×6″ piece, but you can work bigger if you’d like as well)
  • 3 Paint colors: Grey (or if using black add a lot more water to lighten it), Burnt Umber (or any dark brown), and Raw Sienna (or any bright, warm brown)
  • A large (I used size 8), medium (I used size 5), and detail (I used size 0) round brush (The brushes that come to a point at the end).
  • A medium size flat brush (The brushes with rectangular bristles, flat on the end).
  • A pencil
  • Optional: Black liner pen (Like a fine point Sharpie!)

Start with a light pencil outline made from basic shapes to guide your painting. Draw a circle for the head, a teardrop shape coming diagonally out from that circle for the body, and another smaller teardrop shape sticking out from the bottom center of the body for the tail feathers.

Using your large round brush, water down your raw sienna paint – you do not want this first layer too dark. Following the shape of the body keeping all your brushstrokes in the same direction flowing downward, fill in the wings, leaving the head and the chest white for now.

Using your detail brush, make some jagged up-and-down strokes with a watered down grey along the front of the chest, underneath the head, and along the back of the neck.

Rinse off your detail brush, and using the same brush strokes go over your grey you just added to the chest and neck with water. This will help blend the grey so your transition from grey to white is more gradual, and you end up with a soft, feathery look. Next, using your detail brush and watered down grey, outline a pointed “U” shape in the center of the face. Make some radial brush strokes sticking out from the top of the U where the eyes will be using your detail brush.

Still using your detail brush, add some radial strokes along the outside edge of the head, including one ray down the center from the top pointing to the beak. Add some grey to fill in the end of the beak. Rinse off your brush, and lightly brush over what you just added with a damp brush to blend it.

Continuing to use your detail brush, add a border around the head with raw sienna using short, radial strokes pointing inwards towards the face. Don’t forget the widow’s peak up top :)! Water down your raw sienna a bit more, and add some of this pale warm brown to the area where the eyes will be, using radial brush strokes again pointing outward from the top of the U shape.

Next, we are going to start adding texture to the feathers. Dip your medium round brush in some raw sienna with a little less water so the coverage is a bit darker than the base underneath. Stamp up and down over the entire area to create blots of color (This is called stippling.).

Do the same thing overtop while the raw sienna is still wet with the burnt umber on the top section of the wings. Add a bit of water to your umber first, but you still want it to be pretty dark.

Then, use your detail brush to create some thin outlines in burnt umber. Hold your brush at a 90 degree angle to your paper and use a light touch, hardly pressing down at all as you drag your brush to create thin lines. Create a darker outline around the inner edge of the raw sienna outline around the face. Outline the wing, and add some lines to the bottom section of the wing and tail feathers following the direction of the shape.

Still using your detail brush and burnt umber, make some groupings of short, vertical brush strokes to create striping in the wing and tail feathers in between the lines. Make them jagged and uneven for a more realistic feathery look.

Next, using your flat brush add some more water to your burnt umber. Using the width of your brush, drag a diagonal line underneath the owl starting at the bottom of the chest.

Go back to your detail brush, and grab some burnt umber with a little less water mixed in so you get a darker color. Add some short streaks of this darker shade over the post while it is still wet. Then, using the very tip of your brush, lightly add some speckled dots over the chest. Less is more! You still want to see mostly white.

IMG_20200317_110314

Now for the finishing touches! Use your detail brush to create a hooked shape with the burnt umber for the talon. Use your medium round brush to add a dark burnt umber feather shape visible from behind, between the tail feathers and the post. The last step is the eyes. Create a downward slanted football shape in the area we shaded for the eyes. You may use your detail brush to fill in the eye in grey or black, but you can also use a black liner pen for a little extra control. Be sure to leave a small circle open near the top of each eye for the reflection – This is what really makes your owl look alive!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! If it didn’t come out exactly how you expected the first time, remember it just takes practice and the goal is experimenting and fun. No matter the outcome, you know more than before you started!

You don’t have to use natural colors for this project either. I think it would be fun to try a whimsical, fantasy owl in wild colors like purples, oranges, magenta, lime green … There are no rules! If you feel like sharing, post a picture in the comments of how yours turned out and as always, if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask! Stay safe everyone!

 

Mixed Media In Fine Art

Mixed media has become very popular in art over the last couple of years, and there is no question as to why … It is wonderful to be able to sit down and work on a project and not be limited to only one or two materials despite what may convey your idea best.  It is also a way to make 2D art more tactile, introducing elements of 3D art and design onto a 2D surface.

I’ve found that introducing mixed media to my drawings has given my pieces a new life. There is nothing at all wrong with using one material, and I enjoy a lot of artists’ work that create art that is all ink, or all watercolor, or all acrylic. However, for my own art working with multiple mediums has enabled me to break through the possibility of my work becoming repetitive or stagnant, and has helped me develop my own unique style.

It’s easy to be intimidated by mixed media art because it involves a lot of choices, but using multiple mediums can actually make the artistic process easier by removing the limitations of using one material at a time so that for each part of our piece we can use the medium that will lend itself best to creating the visual effect we desire. It can also allow us to be more efficient with our work; for example, yes I could find a fabric I like and copy it by hand onto the dress of a figure in my drawing, or I could add something tactile and interesting and adhere the actual fabric to my drawing as the figure’s dress.

Wondering how to incorporate mixed media into your drawings or paintings?

  • Start with what you know. Create a base drawing or painting first, and then assess where you could add some 3-dimensional or tactile elements. In the image below titled “Artist At Work”, fellow artist and art friend Emiliano Vega painted the scene first with acrylics and a palette knife, and then I applied mixed media accents evenly dispersed throughout the scene to finish it off. Think about what the objects depicted in your drawing or painting are actually made of be it wood, metal, fabric, leather … and try to incorporate those materials. I used thin cutouts from sheets of wood samples for the wood of the window frame and easel. Real fabric and leather samples were used for the furniture, with paint applied overtop for shading. Prints of an actual sketchbook were used for the book on the table, as well as a a closeup section of an actual painting for the work on the canvas. the artist at work
  • Go gathering and narrow down your choices! Look for materials with a similar color scheme, pattern, style, or period look to the 2D image you are creating. Once you’ve accumulated a store of like elements, it will be a lot easier to decide what you want to place where to add to your piece. For “Lunar Fantasy”, I painted everything in watercolor first and then determined what to accent in mixed materials. I gathered fabrics in dusty, muted tones of black, ivory, gray, blue, and violet. I also collected some gold metal/metallic pieces that reinforced the vintage style. Everything I collected was pretty and feminine with a definite older feel to it (think Grandma’s craft drawer) but with a whimsical, luxe element to it as well. I gave myself a couple fabric choices, a couple edging choices, and a couple metal choices and narrowed it down from there. I used actual fabric and ribbon for the top curtain and her outfit, and accented any of the metal with gold cord. I also reinforced the vintage circus look by using scavenged vintage jewelry for decoration.

lunar fantasy

  • Maintain your original style. There are literally no rules to mixed media art. When you google “mixed media art” or even watch youtube tutorials, a lot of what comes up are mixed media styles that are very “on trend” with a heavy art journaling influence. Much of it is very busy and colorful with all-over pattern and texture, visible paint strokes, and super stylized figures, flowers, or animals with a lot of elements of paper crafting and collage. If you’re a fine artist who likes sharp detail and realism you may feel like this is an area you aren’t able to dabble in but that isn’t true at all. I integrate mixed media into my pieces as an accent and an enhancement to the work I am already doing in either paint or pencil. The piece on the left is all colored pencil, and on the right colored pencil with the introduction of mixed media, both other 2D mediums as well as some 3D objects. In this piece on the right, I was able to use prismacolor pencil for the figure to achieve the sharp detail and realism that was desired, and watercolor for the background to create a softness and “fog” to the view through the window. I used prismacolor markers for the eye pattern undulating out from her line of vision because I wanted that to have a more hard-edged graphic print look with no visible pencil or paint strokes. I used actual fiber materials for the gold edging on her outfit and her dress as well as actual decorative gems for her jewelry because yes, you could imitate it by drawing, but using the real thing adds a surprise 3D element that makes viewers look twice and gives the piece depth. That is part of the fun of mixed media art – it draws viewers in encouraging them to investigate further, because it’s not just a painting or just a drawing – they are invited to try to figure out the artist’s process, and what they used for different parts of the piece. There are new discoveries the longer they take the piece in.
  • Start small. Try out different techniques and materials on a small surface. Bulk value packs of 8×10″ canvases or mixed media paper sketchbooks are great! Get out your paints, pencils, fabric, beads, odds and ends and play!

With many things being cancelled right now resulting in a lot of downtime, it’s not a bad idea to get creative and try something new! Fine art and crafting materials CAN coexist!