Artists To Know

This Week’s Top 10 Happy And Creative Things

Because 2020’s got us all feeling a little poopy off and on, here are some things that made me happy amongst the ups and downs of this past weekend and beginning of this week …

#1 Molly Burgess Designs On Instagram

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Check this out … giant beautifully patterned fabric insects. I’m in love.

#2 Corinne Elyse On Society6 

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Vintage print aesthetic, lovely ladies, and lots of eyeballs, OH MY!

#3 Love On The Spectrum

Forming and maintaining romantic relationships is just freaking hard in general, but throw a neurological difference that can make one communicate in a way that is different from the “norm” into the mix…? That is what this show tackles as it follows adults on the autism spectrum as they start to date, and think about what they want in a lifelong partner. I laughed, I was moved emotionally, and I at times related closely to the protagonists of this series. I was impressed by how respectfully done this show was. As someone who works with adults with disabilities and considers myself an advocate, I was concerned the show would be another one of those “Unbelievable – people with disabilities/mental health issues can actually date and have sex!” sorts of shows where viewers are supposed to observe them like they are aliens or zoo animals. But, it is not voyeuristic at all, and is very sincere with much of the commentary being expressed directly by the individuals with autism.

#4 The Handler’s Wardrobe in The Umbrella Academy

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I’m not a big TV person usually, but as my little corner of the world has started to get a lot busier with classes and commissions I’ve been forcing myself to have downtime. So, #4 is another Netflix gem. Not only is this show fantastic in general with hands down the best character development I’ve seen in any superhero TV show or film, but this nefarious vixen’s costuming is simply to die for. I mean, it was good in season 1 but season 2 has taken it next level. I need that crystal spider brooch, and everything else.

#5 Beginning My Modeling Career

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Said a little tongue in cheek ;), but I have always enjoyed going out dressed unconventionally and taking fun photos with friends. This time my expedition was a bit more professionally done with fellow artist and excellent photographer Emiliano Vega. I express myself through fashion, and am in love with anything retro. This shoot was a bold expression of all my quirky style loves from 60s-80s throwback vibes to pigtails to metallics to a boycott of any footwear that’s not boots or tennis shoes. Technically this is from last week, but we’re not getting legalistic about it. If I could, I’d dress like this every day it was legitimately one of the most comfortable outfits I’d worn in a while – stretchy fabric and no pants, what’s not to like?

#6 New Portrait Project

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In the beginning phases, but I am going to be working on a series that makes my heart so happy. It will celebrate disability pride and independence, involve some of my students, and I honestly can’t be more thrilled about how all the pieces are coming together in a way that can only be described as divine intervention. More on this as it unfolds! For now, here’s an in-progress preview.

#7 Rad Student Artwork

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Major props to Sarah for this beautiful cardinal watercolor painting! Sarah will be live painting in a Community Art Party my program is hosting this weekend. Check back for a recap early next week!

#8 Nikki McClure’s Collect Raindrops

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An old bestie from college I’d kind of lost contact with over the years recently commented on my Facebook share about a book exchange (one of those chain mail sorts of things but way more fun). We exchanged the required info, sent books out to the first name on our list, the usual drill. Then yesterday, I got a beautiful surprise art book in the mail from said old friend as well! The paper-cut art prints are absolutely gorgeous and uplifting – love discovering new artists!

#9 Peacock Party!

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I have been into including peacocks in my art for a couple years now, and tonight I got to share the love with some other creative souls. Always love encouraging people to throw some paint, especially for the first time! My favorite part of doing these workshops is seeing how different everyone’s looks at the end after taking in the same inspiration image and step-by-step demonstration. It is so fascinating and exciting to see beginning artists’ style start to emerge <3.

#10 In-Home Thai Restaurant

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I haven’t been eating out much this year with the whole Covid situation, so I’ve been experimenting with recreating my favorite eat-out recipes at home. I bring you, Thai Coconut Curry, made with veggies from the garden!

What’s been keeping your spirits up during this very odd year???

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Artist Bio

The Power Of Saying No

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I must start off by saying this is not one of those articles that was written because the author is an expert on the subject; I am actually writing because I am very bad at this thing myself.

I have always struggled with saying no both personally and professionally. Yet, at the same time I’ve always been pretty sure of who I am and what I want … talk about some pretty serious dissonance! Let me tell you a bit more about myself… at this point in my life, I eat mainly plant based (aside from the occasional raw fish in sushi maybe twice a month), I seldom drink, I have no interest in smoking or drugs of any type (I don’t even take an Excedrin when I get a migraine!), and though I like being social I am one of those people who needs more quiet time than the average person to recharge so I have to strategically plan the amount of ‘going out’ I want to do each week and who I want to give my time and energy to … Oh, and I also am not interested in birthing children. You see where I’m going with this? Though there are a whole lot more things I say yes to, I find myself constantly apologizing, “Oh, I don’t ___________, I’m so sorry!” as if I should feel guilty for crafting a way of living my life that I’ve found makes me feel the most happy and healthy. I recently started going to counseling again, and I’m discovering that a lot of struggles in my personal life have been caused by my feeling like I always have to be the hero, and tying my performance and how I can please others to my worth and value.

Unfortunately, this is a trap that creatives can fall into professionally as well. Especially when we maybe aren’t the wealthiest, it is easy to feel incredibly guilty for saying no to a project or opportunity no matter how poor a fit it may be. The perception is often that we should be grabbing onto every piece of money or exposure we can get our hands on, and be eternally grateful for every opportunity that comes our way regardless of whether it really makes sense to take it or not. This whole “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality is not the way to build a life worth living, because the power is always in our hands regardless of our current status.

So, here is your daily reminder that you actually are allowed to say no! Trust me, I am reminding myself just as much as I am reminding all of you!

  • You are allowed to say no to projects that don’t align with your mission and values. 
    • Some projects are going to end up selling something you don’t support, whether that’s an idea or mindset or a person or product. You are not being judgmental or impolite by simply saying, “You know, this really just isn’t for me, I’d suggest you find another artist.” I found myself in a situation once where a longtime client asked me to create a small political piece. It wasn’t anything hateful, but it was celebrating a political figure that I really did not agree with. I was so concerned with offending a client that I’d developed a great rapport with that I accepted, even though inside my unease was through the roof. I told myself I do art to make people happy and if this was going to make someone happy, it was ok. Still, the discomfort just kept ramping up every time I sat down to get started. I ended up having to be honest and tell my client that because of my own personal opinions and beliefs I would not feel comfortable taking on this commission. It was a long, awkward conversation and they were a bit offended at first, but at the end of the day any tension blew over and we still were able to maintain a working relationship. Say a client wasn’t willing to work through something like this, do you really want to work with someone who treats you like a machine and is willing to force you to take on work that you don’t feel comfortable with? As a creative, you are your own brand and you do have to think about what your body of work, including commissions, says to the rest of the world.
  • You are allowed to say no if taking on a project would exceed your preferred workload.
    • No one else is allowed to tell you how to structure your life. You know how much you can handle at once in your business. Everyone functions at different capacities, and that’s ok. Just because you have the time, doesn’t mean you have to give it. I have had to reach the point of complete burnout to learn that I need to create margin in my life, which can be hard to do as someone who is partially or fully freelance. When you don’t have a “clock-in/clock-out” sort of job your life can easily become 24/7 work to the expense of your relationships, hobbies, and own mental health. Actively think about how many free hours you want to have each week, and make sure you get them. You are not lazy for wanting time to yourself to relax and enjoy life, and don’t need to play the comparison game. Some people need a bigger margin of downtime than others to function well, and you know your brain better than anyone else.
  • You are allowed to say no to projects that are outside of your preferred skill set or area of interest.
    • A lot of times people assume that when someone is an artist, they can do anything and everything related to art and creativity. While many creatives do dabble in a variety of artistic pursuits, no one is good at everything. It doesn’t do you or your potential client any good for you to force yourself to bumble through a project that is outside your area of interest and/or expertise. Trust me, I’ve tried. If you have a network of other creative friends or acquaintances with different skill sets than you, this is a great opportunity to throw them some work by recommending them to the client as an alternate option. Chances are, they’ll do the same for you in the future!
  • You are allowed to say no to projects or opportunities that put you in an environment you aren’t comfortable with. 
    • Toxic work environments are the worst, and unfortunately they can happen in any field including creative work. There is something to be said for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone every once in awhile, but if the people and environment a current project or opportunity requires you to be around is becoming soul crushing and making you hate doing something you once enjoyed, then it’s time to go. Any job that crushes your passion for your craft is not worth it; know when to say, “Well, I tried it!” and move on.
  • You are allowed to say no to projects that don’t have an equitable payout.
    • Art is very personal to me so I hate talking about money in relation to creating. However, if art is part of how you make a living then you have to view it through the lens of, every other field gets compensated for their time and expertise. Being compensated at all can’t be the only goal though, you also need to be compensated fairly. If you don’t really think about how you price out your work, you could end up working for less than minimum wage. I often will give friends and family a deal, and enjoy donating my time and skills to charitable efforts that enhance my community. However, I have had to sadly turn down potential clients whose amount they were willing to pay would not near cover the cost of my time and materials even with giving them a deal. I want art to be accessible to all, but I also have bills to pay like anyone else. I’ve gotten burned in the past accepting $50 for about 10-12 hours of work, and quite honestly that’s just not ok. Be generous, but also know your worth.

Closing doors can have such negative connotations, but by closing the doors that you weren’t meant to walk through you free up your time for the doors that are going to open up a vibrant new world. None of us can do it all, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Set boundaries, create how you want to create, and love yourself.

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

The Quirky Cats Of Louis Wain

For those new to the blog, my “day job” is running an inclusive arts and wellness program geared towards adults of all abilities, Express Yourself Artshop. Though we have a full staff of instructors, I love teaching so I always make sure I have the time to teach one or two classes each semester. One of my favorites is Creative Minds, an art history based class where students learn about a different artist each week and do a quick project based on their work. I especially like to focus on artists with disabilities or mental health struggles. Due to the whole Covid situation, I haven’t taught this class in awhile so I figured I’d share some of my fun ideas online! Cat lovers, today’s artist is for you :).

Louis Wain was a late 19th century artist who made playful illustrations of cats, oftentimes dressed and behaving as humans. Though his art was whimsical and light hearted, he had a very difficult life. He was born with a cleft lip, and doctors at that time advised his parents that he should not go to school with other children because of this. He received no education until age 10. His father passed away when he was 20 and he then became fully responsible for supporting his mother and sisters. He fell in love and got married, but shortly thereafter his wife became ill and passed. His illustrations, most of which he had done for his wife to lift her spirits while she was ill, became wildly popular and were being published in magazines all over the US. However, he did not have a strong business sense and was often taken advantage of. By the early 20th century he was destitute.

As his mental health began to decline, his cats became far more psychedelic, surreal, colorful, geometric, and fragmented. The fact that his art so viscerally reflected what was going on inside has made him an interesting artist to study. Though there is no way to know for sure, it is believed he probably had schizophrenia.

Were Wain “normal”, would his art have looked the same? The answer is undoubtedly no. Our differences give us insight and ideas that others don’t have. Sadly, back then mental health was very much a mystery. Today, help is available so that people can maintain their unique way of thinking, but for the most part not unduly suffer. Until the end of his life, art was an anchor for Wain when all else was instability, as it is for many.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Make A DIY Bib Necklace

I’ve shared my fun mixed media necklaces I’ve been creating in the past, inspired by a class project the week my Creative Minds students learned about artist Sonia Dealunay. Today I wanted to show you the creative process firsthand!

I use a lot of castoffs and odds and ends like scraps of jewelry chain and fabric, discontinued upholstery samples, and pieces from broken jewelry. Antique stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and ebay are all great resources!

I love how fun and unique you can make these necklaces, collaging in any shape you want though I’ve stuck with the classic bib collar design for now. Most of mine are very nature inspired but again, you could take something like this in a whole different direction. The possibilities are endless! I hope some of you are inspired to play around, but for those who’d rather just buy one I do sell the necklaces I make in my ebay shop.

As always, if you have any questions shoot them my way. Happy creating!

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Artist Bio

Guess Who’s Finally On YouTube?

Ok, so I must apologize for going MIA for the last couple months. Quarantine had a weird way of giving me more time than ever yet making me simultaneously less motivated and productive than ever as time went on. Also, the weather was beautiful especially in the last part throughout June, and I was spending a lot of time outside either at the beach or playing sports badly.

I did continue to work from home and part of my duties for the arts program I direct was creating virtual lessons. I’d been talking about starting my own YouTube channel for over a year, but was overwhelmed by the process of learning filming and video editing. Choosing to dive into this for work and help my teachers I work with do the same was the push I needed to get going, and once in-person worked resumed there was no reason I shouldn’t just start my own channel. It won’t be perfect off the bat, and I am operating off of a phone for the time being – no camcorder, no microphone, using a free editing app. I definitely plan to upgrade at some point, but I’m starting simple and seeing how things go before I invest in new equipment. This first video is an introduction to myself, my art, and what you can expect to see from my channel. I will also be collaborating with an artist I work with often, Emiliano Vega, for content.

Be sure to subscribe to see more! I have some more demos already filmed and am excited to post throughout the coming weeks. What do you want to see? Let me know! I love suggestions :).

 

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Books, Music and Film

Escape the Mundane: Supernatural Reading List

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As we’re on day ??? of quarantine and a big day out consists of going to the grocery store, there has never been a better time to let a book take you on a journey to fantastical realms. I have subsequently been streaming a lot of scary movies lately ;). Why I love taking a break from Netflix and enjoying a good book is because it allows me to engage the creative part of my brain even while relaxing to imagine what is being described in my own way. If reading just doesn’t work for you, remember there are always audiobooks too! Below are some of my all time favorite supernatural stories to get you started.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Speaking of Netflix, I was excited to learn this book had been made into a series earlier this year, and will definitely be checking it out soon. A young girl with no inclinations of settling down (definitely a pretty strong feminist before feminism was a thing) has a chance to save herself and her struggling father who was cheated in business from crippling poverty when a strange proposition is made … That she marry a wealthy family’s dead son to placate his restless spirit after he dies of questionable circumstances. She is pulled into a series of surreal adventures in the parallel world of the afterlife that are rich with history and Chinese lore. The vivid descriptions of ghost cities and the spirits she meets along the way are absolutely fascinating. This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read within the last year.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

This is another interesting story that though fantastical is rooted in real history and spiritual beliefs. It is based on the real life person Teresa Urrea, who was the great aunt of the author and allegedly got sick and passed away temporarily, then came back to life, after which she obtained the power to heal. Urrea spent 20 years writing this novel and researching the life of this Teresa, who was and is revered as the “Saint of Cabora” but was never recognized by the church, who instead referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Mexico”. Taking place in the late 19th century during the beginnings of Mexico’s civil war, there is a lot of history woven throughout the supernatural facets that add to the realism and make you question what actually happened back then …

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

This novel meditates on a lot of heavy themes: familial dysfunction, mental health, guilt, loss, grief … All through the connection between female family members, and parallel worlds and time travel. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and really defies a specific genre. When I found this novel at a used book sale, the teaser synopsis didn’t really tell me much about what the story was actually going to be about. I ended up giving it a try due to being sucked into the cover art, a gorgeous, bleeding watercolor and ink illustration of crying eyes on a stark white background. I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its cover ;).

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is another book that really defies description and you just have to check it out for yourself. It is an experience. I will be honest, you will probably either love it or hate it. The pages sometimes look like this …

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There are stories on top of stories in a way, but the main story focuses on a family living in an ever shifting house that seems to be impossibly larger on the inside, the text often shifting visually with us as we read. Love it or hate it, it definitely will leave you feeling odd and maybe questioning reality a bit.

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

This book is quite literally about an outer space missionary. A man of faith is called by a mysterious corporation to minister to an alien race looking for answers. As he is celebrated and thrives among them, he finds things are crumbling at home as his wife and he communicate back and forth. Natural and governmental disasters abound on earth, and his sense of responsibility is understandably torn. Both an odd sci-fi tale and a drama, I found this novel itself to be quite strange, but also incredibly moving and thought provoking. The focus really isn’t so much on purely religious faith, but the idea of how we determine the hierarchy between our passions and the people who depend on us.

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

First off, this novel was penned by a well known artist that was a part of the surrealist movement, even more remarkable that she was a woman in a time when people still thought women couldn’t possibly be good painters. Insert eye-roll here. Her work shown above was used as the cover for this story. The main character of this tale is a hilarious nonagenarian with a good bit of attitude who is about to be sent to an institution for the elderly. She is understandably displeased, but all is not as it seems … Her new home has apartments shaped like cupcakes and igloos, and some lively leaders. It’s like Alice In Wonderland but in a nursing home, and is one wild ride with some interesting occult spiritualism thrown in at the end.

The Golem and The Jinni By Helene Wecker

This book is based in Middle Eastern and Jewish mythology and features two mythical creatures that form an unlikely bond. A golem, made of clay and brought to life through occult magic, is created to be the devoted and unquestioning wife of a lonely (and let’s face it, lazy) man who ends up dying on the oversea voyage they take together to their new life. Golems traditionally have a master whom they are bound to forever obey, and without she is quite adrift. A fire-born Jinni, created and encased in a flask in Syria and released in the middle of New York city, crosses her path and these now unbound entities form a strong bond as they try to navigate together a life in which they do not belong. Similar to many of these other stories, history and myth are pivotal which makes this book all the more interesting.

The King In Yellow and Other Horror Stories by Robert W. Chambers

This book of short stories stuck with me long after finishing. They aren’t really scary in the traditional sense, just very odd leaving the reader with both a sense of subtle discontent but also fantastical inspiration. Though less well known perhaps, I actually enjoy this author far more than H.P. Lovecraft.

Are there any supernatural books you love? Please please please leave a comment! I am in desperate need of new suggestions. Happy adventuring (in your mind)!

 

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

Happy Mermay!

So, I just learned that Mermay was a thing in the online arts community. Ironically enough, I’ve jumped on the Disney Plus bandwagon over quarantine and just finished watching The Little Mermaid for the first time in probably over a decade :). Though I have too many projects going right now to fully participate in the daily mermaid art prompts, I did create a fun demo that will show you how to paint a simple, adorable mermaid with watercolors. No art experience necessary! This is a fun and quick project for all ages and skill levels. You will need: Watercolors, watercolor paper or a heavier paper that can survive getting wet, and a variety of sizes of round brushes.

Despite my being late to the Mermay party, I must have still had mermaids on the brain because I also recently adapted my original human girl plush doll pattern to create some stylish mermaids!

These new mermaid friends along with a huge selection of original art and other goodies will be shown in a Virtual Live Art Show on facebook tomorrow at 6 pm. Be sure to mark yourself as going or interested in the event to get a reminder when I go live! This show will benefit Express Yourself Artshop, the inclusive program geared towards adults with disabilities and mental health issues that I lead. Help us ensure we are ready to rock once we are able to safely open again, and get your hands on some original works at way discounted prices.

If you enjoyed this demo, I am still doing watercolor and ink paintings live each afternoon from my Artist Facebook Page, so you can check that out as well. As always, if you end up with questions after trying this demo feel free to ask, I’d love to help. Hope to find you visiting the show tomorrow!

 

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Exhibitions and Other News

Quarantine Art Update

So, the first half of 2020 may be cancelled but art is not! I wanted to give you guys an update on what I have going on for the next couple weeks, as well as what I’ve been working on aside from the tutorials I’ve been sharing :).

Once per afternoon I am streaming live ink wash paintings of all different animals from my Allise Nicole Noble Artist Facebook Page. Below are what’s been shown so far …

The pieces are created on 5×7″ watercolor paper, and are available for sale at $15 each plus shipping. The finished illustrations are also posted in an album on facebook, so let me know if one strikes your fancy! I take requests so don’t be shy!

In general I’ve been on a watercolor kick, and have also been using this down time to finish up abandoned started projects. Also available for sale are some departures from the norm for me as far as subject, a watercolor landscape of the gardens in the Japanese Cultural Center located in my home city of Saginaw MI, a favorite location, as well as a still life watercolor painting titled “Anenome and Anatomy”. I’ve enjoyed expanding my usual subject matter while still maintaining my overall style and continuing to depict the things I love that I hope will spark inspiration and joy in others as well.

My current big project is another watercolor piece; a super detailed, costumed, Venetian Carnivale woman. I’ve always had a thing for Venetian masks and actually based my capstone project for my interior design degree around that theme back in the day, but had never made it the subject of my art. I’m excited about how it is coming, and proud of my own patience as I have never painted so much lace in my entire life. It’s something else, guys.

If you’ve been enjoying the art and demos I share here, I’d also like to encourage you to check out one more new thing and visit my Patreon page. Myself and my frequent fellow artist collaborator Emiliano Vega have joined forces in this creative community, and have a lot of cool opportunities planned for supporters including exclusive in-depth virtual lessons, behind-the-scenes work-in-progress videos and interviews, fun downloadables, and free art and prints. I’ve already posted footage of my Venetian Mask watercolor process, and our first print giveaway will be May 15.

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I’m also working on a series of Patreon portrait drawing demos for both people and animals that break the process down into individual features and skills such as eyes, nose, lips, hair, etc. to make drawing people and pets accessible and understandable for all skill levels. Art should be fun not stressful! Don’t miss out!

I’m about to go paint some more ;), but I hope everyone is staying safe out there and remember, if you want to check out my daily live ink wash paintings go ahead and give my page a follow! Love and hugs!

*<3* Allise

 

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Artist Bio

Throwback Thursday – Art and A Story

Today’s post is going to be a bit different … I’m going to share a story. I used to do a lot of short story or flash fiction writing 8-10 years ago while I was in college, but got out of creative writing in favor of technical as other creative pursuits took over. My first mixed media piece was actually inspired by a story I wrote, and was a bit of a self portrait. I was very committed to and unapologetic about the use of rick-rack. Hard to believe this is where it all started … It’s crazy what 8 more years of practice will do!

Another reason I’m sharing this is because next on my list of new art things to try is to make some sort of illustrated short story or children’s book. The following story is not a children’s book, or a bedtime story. It’s actually rather sad and strange but if you feel like giving it a go, below is the weird little tale about self expression, human connection, grief, dependency, identity, and odd characters that inadvertently got me started in the wonderful world of mixed media art and birthed the piece that was the first inkling of what would be my future defining art style.

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I am nothing without my telephone. I know when to wake up each Sunday morning because my neighbor and the only man I think I’ve ever loved calls me that day every week at 8 am. He suffers from delusions whilst he sleeps and every Sunday at 8 thinks he is calling his ex-girlfriend who lived in my apartment before me but died a few years ago. When he wakes up, he has no idea he even called. He used to sleepwalk and leave roses at my door too, but now he just calls. I saved them all and pressed them between the pages of a phone book, pretending they were for me.

I have 240 clocks in my one-room apartment, all 11 inches in diameter. I like to perform surgery on them so they all tick to slightly different beats, though I’m sure one of them must read the time right, I just can’t see which one. There are no doors in my apartment save a curtain in front of the bathroom so the 240 sets of clicks can be heard throughout the entire home, a pleasing tune that helps me keep my own personal rhythm in the outside world.

My telephone is how my best friend and I talk when she’s feeling depressed. She feels depressed often. I’ll pick up, and she’ll lament in a timbre so tragic I’m sure it could make angels scream, “I have no one at all. I am completely alone.” When I ask her if she’d like me to come over, she is only a six minute drive away after all, she usually says no, that’s fine. And then she’ll hang up.

If we are what we eat and it is what’s inside that counts, I wonder if I ate my telephone what would I become? I guess it depends if we believe we are defined by what we need or instead by what needs us. It depends if we are defined only by ourselves or by the other living beings that surround us, and if the latter is true whether the ones that shape us are those that choose us or those we chase after.

There is a group of people I call my friends that meet at the same bar every Thursday night. I know they meet there because social media tells me so. I know everywhere they go. I have a theory that the internet is so popular mainly because it is the only other communicable entity that can be as into you as you are. It also allows us to assume everyone else is just as interested. My mobile has a clock in its tiny right-hand corner, a sad clock that does not tick, a clock with no soul at all. These friends never tell me they are going but they say hello to me once I arrive, so that must count for something, right?

I have another theory that says human beings can be paralleled quite closely to furniture and architecture. Some people are chairs, tables, bedside lamps. Some people are windows, doors. Some people are picture frames or Persian rugs, and some people; some people are the entire room. They are the walls that contain all the other items that have no real value or function without them, just a hapless collection of what could have been a catalog worthy design if only there were walls and a floor to set the tone. I was a chair, and my friends were all the room.

They discussed memories from parties I never attended and shared stories about people I’d never met. I laughed along with them as if I had. I was a chair. People always liked the fact that I existed, but were all the same vaguely disinterested. As I sat on the end of a long table sipping a beer the conversation turned to a concert last week that I had actually attended, and when the break in conversation flow called for it I interjected. The others hardly so much as nodded in my direction. I could say the same things they said, use the same mannerisms and vocal inflection, dress the same way and listen to the same music but still my voice would remain at that inaudible frequency that results when chairs attempt to speak to rooms.

I was not the room, and nothing I or anyone else might do would change that fact. You see, rooms are only attracted to other rooms, and so houses are built of big, vacant cubes with no doors leading from one space to another, no windows to see into the other aside from themselves.

Sometimes, often, I feel different than how I seem to have been born. I am tall walls with cathedral-cut windows and boldly colored masterpieces on all the walls, masterpieces that can make viewers involuntarily excrete from one or more orifices, that induce early labor in pregnant women and that make the old and toothless drop their dentures. Only, there are no viewers. There is a round glass table, jade green glass and low to the ground with silken plum colored pillows surrounding; a place where no one sits. And this entire world fits inside a modestly sized rust-orange armchair, covered in dots shaped like pimento-filled olives. I’ve outgrown myself, my skin just a sack of old clothes too short at the ankles and awkwardly fitting under the arms. My visions of myself cannot fit inside my worldly receptacle but they have nowhere else to go, and I realize this now more than ever.

After leaving the bar I walk to the local everything store and pick up a roll of plaster bandages. That man I love, my neighbor, I didn’t tell you before but he works at a morgue. I imagine he too feels out of place, immersed in death yet his own organs and tissues still very much alive. He knows I am “one of those creative types” and together we have a special understanding. When he works the night-shift, dressing and embalming the newly deceased for funerals, he’ll let me in a back door most people who haven’t worked there for at least ten years don’t know about. “Hello,” he smiles and ushers me inside. New for today is an elderly man with a wide, exactly forty-five degree angle wedge of a nose and a distinguished, curled upper lip, a young woman in about her mid-thirties with round marshmallow cheeks and deep set eye sockets and a middle-aged gentleman with an extremely pronounced brow, a cliff casting a dark haze over the collection of facial features below. I set to work covering each cool face, like leather in air conditioning, with a thick layer of Vaseline.

“Not very old at all,” I indicate the one with the cavernous eyes, “What happened to her?”

“Poisoned. Something she ate they said. A severe allergic reaction.” He stops and tips his head up, away from the grey pillow before him, stuffed full with soft, springy fat and tender organs. His hair sways back against his face in one smooth, rhythmic motion, swinging forward again as tangled ropes hit against his elastic skin. Strands move and jump like pendulums and I wish he were made of wire and metal so a sound might reverberate, a sound I could record and add to my clock symphony. He was a clock, that was his parallel. He was a time bomb, but in this place more than any I knew that all humans were in their own way. He’d always said what he wanted to be more than anything was a broken tree branch, torn in a breeze carried far away from its tree.

“You remember how I told you my mother was mentally ill?” I nod. I have finished with the old man and am now laying the wet strips of plaster over the Vaseline, an old tin bucket at my side. Once the strips are smoothed and set, I move on to the poisoned woman, rubbing clear jelly around her soft cheeks, over her eyelids, the skin jiggling back into place after it is rubbed like pudding left sitting too long in a pan. “Well she tried to poison me once. I was home from school sick, nine years old, and she put something in my tomato soup. My neighbor stopped by to drop off the homework I missed for the day since she had a kid in my class. My mom had been outside gardening. When the neighbor realized how sick I was she insisted on taking me to the hospital right away. I could have died.” He shrugged and looked out an imaginary window, for this room had none, “I guess I just thought you should know.”

I didn’t really know how to respond, so I just looked up attentively. Most stories like that don’t want a response. These stories just yearn for the simple knowledge that the storyteller is no longer the only one who knows. We spent the last twenty minutes while waiting for the plaster to dry in silence. This was not uncommon though. There are a lot of people that wouldn’t believe me but sometimes relationships can be built simply by both persons existing at the same moment. A misconception is that interaction only applies to two of the five senses, hearing and touch. Simply by thinking about someone you are interacting because they are occupying a space in your mind, changing your thoughts and perceptions either by replacing those you would have had were you not thinking of them or by interjecting within your psyche some of their own words or ideas … just as I was interacting with the dead. Twenty minutes later I had lifted the faces from their fallen owners and bid farewell to the clock and his companions.

Why do I do it? Why do I collect the dead’s faces? It is not for the reasons you’d expect. It, for starters, has nothing at all to do with preservation or memory. The dead are just subjective faces no longer present in the world at this given moment. Their fleshy counterparts do not speak and move and act out a life independent of the plaster faces any longer. They can be whomever I imagine.

In my apartment I have 240 clocks hanging right now. I grab three new faceless clocks out of the storage closet, housing clocks being all it is used for, and affix my new faces to them with strong, chemically smelling glue. I will have to find a space for them somewhere; the party is getting crowded.

I need these faces to define myself, just as much as I need my telephone. That is why I do it, face collecting. This way I am not the only one who knows I have a world inside of me with cathedral windows. It’s another question that bothers me often: Are we the people we see ourselves as or are we a collection of how others see us? Do we define ourselves or are we defined by the effect we have on others outside our own world, by the adjectives we bring to mind in their world? Or are all definitions as useful as broken clocks …

It is 4:30 am when I hear a frantic pounding on my apartment door. The rattling of the wood adds a new pattern to the rhythm of the clocks, their own sounds offset by the fact that they shake along the walls. I run to the door before the whole place comes crashing down. Through the peephole I see that, thankfully, it is just my neighbor from the morgue. I unlock the door and ease it open; he forces it the rest of the way and jumps into my arms, knocking me backward over the arm of my couch. My form is instantly surrounded by soft pillows and I can feel the contours of his limbs pressing into mine, imprinting. His breath is warm against my chest, my heartbeat pushing his face in and out. He is sobbing, the tears containing as much heat as his breath so that it feels as if I am being soaked in blood.

“It’s my fault she … it’s my fault … it’s my fault she died,” he gasps for breath. “She drank poison. I poisoned her.” His eyes are upturned and silvery blue, moisture on the tips of light yellow eyelashes like dew on a field of grass dead from winter. “I had meant the poison for me, but she accidentally drank from the cup …I, I hadn’t wanted her to be left knowing I killed myself. We were together, I loved her … I couldn’t have her knowing that was the cause of my death, I couldn’t do that to her. I was trying to protect her, have her think it was just a random act of fate. Instead, she’s left this miserable place and I’m all alone, still here …” he paused, “I wasn’t meant to live since I was nine years old, and now, now I can’t die. But if I would have, she would never … she would still be …” He turns his head and brings up his arm to caress the face of a clock on the wall behind the couch. “I’m so jealous of them all, every single day,” he caresses the plaster as one would a lover. His hand is shaking until suddenly in one final act of brutality he throws the clock from the wall, afterward burying himself inside of me once again. The woman from earlier now lies broken, dead a second time and so soon amongst scattered golden screws and clock parts, still making a slight twinkling din as they roll across the floor and into each other. Her eyes are in pieces now, but I can still feel those dark holes upon us, judging, always judging.

His frame is so tiny and fragile in my arms, I’m cradling him like one would a small child. I want to protect him from the woman’s gaze. His arms reaching tight around my neck, I can feel the smooth contour of muscle against my shoulders and clavicle and I know he could hold tight enough to strangle me but despite all his strength, I have never seen anyone look so small. “I’m just like my mother,” he whispers. “No matter how hard I tried to stay away, how hard I tried to make my branch fall. I became her I became her I became her …”

I hold him tighter until his face seems to seep through my chest … his eyes crying my blood my heart pumping his tears until I can feel us containing each other. His eyes might seem vacant now, his face expressionless but that is only because he is wandering in the room with the cathedral windows, looking outside upon a tree with many fallen branches. I can hear the clocks even louder now as he has stopped crying, and to their rhythm I in my own mind chant, I am the room. I am the room.

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Art About Resilience

As this strange year has progressed and people are adjusting to more and more temporary lifestyle changes each day, I have seen the role creation and the arts are playing in people’s mental and emotional survival. More and more people are turning to creativity as a release from stress, uncertainty, news, disappointment, grief, and longing. Art also has the power to remind us of things, like the fact that we as a society are more resilient than we think. Today I’m going to share some art with you that conveys hope and resilience, something we should be sharing more about right now.

Yoriyuki Ikegami

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Ikegami is an illustrator from Tokyo, Japan. I discovered Ikegami’s illustrations during some mindless Instagram surfing on a not-too-cheery quarantine day, and they truly did have an effect on my disposition. I left my screen time feeling at least a bit more cheerful, inspired, and in an unexplainable way kind of hopeful. That’s the power of art! To me, these illustrations speak to hope as their characters see what might be in the colorful reflections of their landscapes. So often when we imagine futures we go towards the worst case scenario, but what if things turn out alright in the end? What if we aren’t as alone as we think?

Brooke Smart

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Smart is a successful illustrator with clients including : Random House Kids, Penguin Workshop, andThe New York Times. Her bright watercolor style illustrations made with a sketchbook appeal resonate with both kids and adults alike. This illustration in particular caught my eye with the strong symbolism of pictures and scenes drawn on band-aids. Each experience adds to our story. We don’t always need to regret or curse difficult circumstances or wounds, because these occurrences add to our story and what type of character we will become in our own life. Oftentimes, as shown by the hands carefully applying a bandage, there will be someone there to share our story with – don’t be afraid to accept that support.

Abby Aceves

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Aceves is a fine artist with a BA in fashion design from The Advanced Center In Fashion And Styling in Mexico. She is now based in California, and had her own fashion label for 7 years before transitioning full time into fine arts. Her paintings celebrate women’s narratives and unique personalities, their place in the world, and within Mexican culture. This both jarring and elegant piece speaks to me about the pain of growth, and the contrast between beauty and pain. There can be no transformation without discomfort. I have always been a highly sensitive human that experiences strong emotions. I’ve often wondered if I’d be happier a different way, but came to the conclusion that if I had to give up the brilliant highs I experience; the way I can get lost in the detail on a piece of bark while walking outside to get the mail, the childlike joy and excitement I get out of seeing a sunset or an interestingly shaped cloud, the way my brain can turn something pretty basic into a fun adventure … it wouldn’t be worth it. I would never want to give that up even though sometimes the negative emotions I experience are intensified too. When we experience struggle as we all are collectively right now, we can choose to grow from it so that nothing is wasted, not even time. We can as a society and individually choose what we want to learn from this, and what we want to carry into the future.

Polina Bright

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Bright is a watercolor artist from Sydney, Australia. Her main sources of inspiration are plants and animals, and she is a strong believer that there is “an unconditional bond between a Woman and Nature” because “Love, Beauty, Strength, Power and many others traits are shared between a Woman’s inner world and wildlife.” This piece of hers struck me the most, not only because of the dynamic composition but because it is one of the best representations of an internal mental battle that I’ve ever seen. It would be easy to become devoured by fear right now, but who would that help? Mental strength and developing healthy emotional habits has never been more important than now. I know creativity, keeping active, and making sure I enjoy the outdoors for at least a little each day has helped me stay focused.

I hope something here today has inspired you, and I will continue to regularly share art demos accessible to all ages and skill levels to try when you are feeling bored or anxious. We got this!

<3XO<3 Allise

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