Artsnacks Unboxing

October 2021 Artsnacks Unboxing

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Art Education, Techniques and Tutorials

Surprise Box Challenge! (Like “Chopped”, But For Art) Week 2

Those who have visited before may have noticed my affinity for art subscription boxes. Whenever I receive a new box, I always challenge myself to create a small piece of art using only the materials that came in my monthly box as a way to try new techniques and get to know the materials. I am also quite the fan of the cooking show “Chopped”, in which contestants are give a basket of mystery ingredients, some delicious and some just plain odd, from which they must make a cohesive dish. My “day job” is running a program for artists of all abilities, and this new Fall semester I decided to run a class based on this concept. Each week my group will get a surprise box filled with 3-4 different types of materials and be challenged to use only those to make a work of art. Everyone gets the same supplies each week, just different colors or designs. I will be sharing what people came up with, as well as some tips for those who want to try the materials featured at home.

Week 2 was all about collage, and using materials that may oftentimes be discarded. Students were given magazine pages, fabric scraps, a simple plastic beaded necklace, some acrylic paint to tie it all together, and an illustration board base. Collage is a fantastic method for telling a story with your art.

Some of my favorite collage artists are …

Julien Pacaud / Teesha Moore / Joshua Burbank / Rocio Montoya

Collage works well when, much like a narrative, there is a central “character” be it a person, plant, or animal. You also want to be sure to choose a color scheme, build in some “space” that is just color or all over pattern rather than more people or objects, layer and overlap cutouts in 3 planes to create a background, middle ground, and foreground (the very front), and include a variety of textures whether they are just visual or actually tactile such as by using some 3D/mixed media items like the beads.

Though many things today have become paperless, we all still have some old paper laying around our house be it magazines, ads, greeting cards … Put that paper to use and make some interesting art!

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Art Education

Surprise Box Challenge! (Like ‘Chopped’, But For Art) – Week 1

Those who have visited before may have noticed my affinity for art subscription boxes. Whenever I receive a new box, I always challenge myself to create a small piece of art using only the materials that came in my monthly box as a way to try new techniques and get to know the materials. I am also quite the fan of the cooking show “Chopped”, in which contestants are give a basket of mystery ingredients, some delicious and some just plain odd, from which they must make a cohesive dish. My “day job” is running a program for artists of all abilities, and this new Fall semester I decided to run a class based on this concept. Each week my group will get a surprise box filled with 3-4 different types of materials and be challenged to use only those to make a work of art. Everyone gets the same supplies each week, just different colors or designs. I will be sharing what people came up with, as well as some tips for those who want to try the materials featured at home.

I started the first week without anything too crazy. This week, our materials were: Tombo brush markers, Crayola Portfolio Series oil pastels, Lumineart Twinkling H2Os metallic watercolors, and a watercolor paper base.

Tombo is my absolute favorite brand for brush markers, and while these are often used for illustration and come with a colorless blender for drawing, they are also water soluble. This means they additionally work great as watercolor markers. I have yet to find another brand of watercolor markers that have such brilliant colors and blend as seamlessly. I’ve been a fan since I started using them for interior design project assignments and architectural drawings back in college.

When it comes to oil pastels, quality does matter. With cheaper brands, you will often end up with nothing but glorified crayons as you can see in my latest YouTube video where I reviewed art supplies from Dollar Tree (The oil pastels were actually the ONLY supply to get a poor review – Seriously, you should check this out especially if you have kids who love art.). However, we are also a non-profit with a tight budget. Though the Portfolio Series pastels are an art student spinoff of Crayola which is known for making “kid grade” products, these are decent for students and budget friendly. These particular pastels, staying with the kid friendly theme, are also water soluble. This makes for easy cleanup (yay!) but also allows for blending with watercolors for some cool mixed media art. Despite this, if you leave your watercolors more “painty” and don’t add a ton of water the pastels will still repel the color you are layering over for some great resist effects.

Last but certainly not least, I cannot say enough about the metallic watercolors we used. I’ve tried metallic watercolor sets in the past myself and they were underwhelming … Very translucent, hard and chalky texture that didn’t blend well, and only able to get a pastel hue when applied no matter how little water I added. This brand is absolutely fantastic. The metallic sheen is so intense it almost looks like a high quality acrylic, but it blends like watercolors. It also had plenty of bright electric hues and intense darks. I will definitely be getting a set of these for myself.

In my class with a variety of ages and abilities, including some students with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health struggles, here is what everyone came up with:

Some tips when using these materials together:

  • Metallic watercolors don’t look very metallic until they are dry, so have patience :).
  • If you draw with a light colored oil pastel first and layer a dark watercolor over, the light pastel will resist the watercolor and show through.
  • Tombo brush markers run with water, but can also be used for drawing just like regular markers. They can be brushed over with water for a paint like effect, but will not draw over a wet surface. They have two ends, including a fine tip that is perfect for adding details to watercolor paintings that beginning artists or those struggling with dexterity would have a stressful time adding with a brush.
  • Using multiple mediums works best when you layer layer layer! Pastels can be added right over the watercolor and ink. Often it’s easiest to create a light wash of background color over your whole surface first, and build up your design from there.

I hope as I continue to share, it will spark some ideas for your creativity at home. Stay tuned for next week’s challenge!

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Gifting, New Work

Support Artists With Disabilities! – Happy Disability Pride Month

As Disability Pride month comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the vibrant artists with disabilities I am priviledged to share my life with, and also remind you that we definitely shouldn’t confine our recognition of the talent and worth of those with disabilities to just one month. In fact, I never even knew there was a Disability Pride Month OR that disability rights had been part of the other early civil rights movements until I started working with individuals with disabilities and a disability rights activist informed me of all this.

For a fantastic, concise video on why there may be this disconnect and why it doesn’t make sense since we will all experience disability at least temporarily at some point in our life, check out Sitting Pretty.

I have never met a more innovative, unconditionally loving and accepting, open and expressive group of people than the neurodiverse artists I work with in the Express Yourself Artshop Program.

One of the hardest parts of supporting artists with disabilities is finding their work in the first place. We have an online store where you can purchase original art and handmade wares, as well as a print-on-demand Redbubble Shop that offers all our unique student designs covering wearables, bags, mugs, home decor, and a variety of other high quality products. I absolutely adore Redbubble and own many products from them myself. I feel they are the best value in a POD site. Myself and my team are passionate about discovering our students’ untapped potential, getting their art out into the world, and helping them support themselves through what they love to do.

This idea of inclusion and celebrating difference as something that makes our community better ties right in to my current largescale project: a “mini mural” for Midland’s Neighboring Week. I have 3 vastly different individuals represented: a middle aged white woman with down syndrome, a young black male, and a mid-late 20s-aged Latino woman using a wheelchair. Heart, Mind, and Spirit are represented by graphic elements connected to each individual. This symbolizes the importance of opening our hearts to others’ stories, and the fact that we need all different types of brains working together in order to be the best community we can be. 

Every person on earth has value, and every person’s story is important.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Happy (Late) Father’s Day Palette Knife Painting Demo

Sharing this nearly a week later, but my wonderful father at least received his palette knife bird painting on time ;)! I shared earlier how I’d been doing a lot of from-afar collaboration over the last year with my dad over quarantine through using his bird photographs as inspiration for illustrations and paintings. When looking through some of his more recent photos for inspiration for a painting to gift, this little guy stuck out to me. I loved the striking black and white pattern, which meshed perfectly with the already existing abstract background. (Seriously, if you want to paint more often prep a bunch of small canvases with random color blend backgrounds so they are already primed for when inspiration strikes!)

I hope you enjoy this peek into my process. I find birds to be one of the most accessible things to palette knife paint. If you visit my channel I have other videos with step-by-step verbal instruction accompanying the footage.

Flowers more your thing? Check out my Mother’s Day demo.

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Artist Bio, New Work

Art And Outreach

I know I’ve lapsed lately on my writing … since Mother’s Day actually, and I only realized how long it has been when I was preparing a Father’s Day project post for Sunday ;). I’ve been continuing to spend a lot more time teaching and working on some unique commissions, but I certainly haven’t been sacrificing my own creative spirit for “work” as some might assume. I have enjoyed the shift as a way to recharge and do some new and different things, and stretch my own personal style into new avenues.

The bulk of the first quarter of this year was spent preparing for a Fashion Show with my Express Yourself Artshop Program. The theme was upcycling thrift store clothing, perfect for the big reveal on Earth Day. The majority of my students are adults with disabilities, and I was amazed to see how they took to this project. Some who struggled to create imagery on canvas or paper created breathtaking designs when given a piece of suede to paint on or a pair of jeans. Fashion shows and pageants for people with physical and intellectual disabilities have definitely come into the spotlight more as our society has begun to demand more diversity in the bodies we see in fashion, film, and advertising. What I especially loved about our show is the fact that the focus was on what our students made, not just “looking pretty” (although our students did look fabulous showing off the clothing they created!). It was very ‘come as you are’, models didn’t have to wear makeup or fancy shoes if they didn’t want to, or do their hair a certain way. Everyone was invited to show up as their authentic selves and just have fun. This was a huge leap of confidence for our student ladies that participated along with our staff and some models from the community, and I could not be more proud and impressed.

The second big workplace project that is still in progess was planning a community mural incorporating themes from the students’ artwork. It was difficult for super detail oriented me to put together a design that would be accessible enough for community members of all ages and abilities with little to no art experience to come and paint and not have it look crazy ;). I payed homage to my love of retro illustration to come up with a design that was very simplistic, but still had an artsy vibe.

My life has been filled with color lately as I also progress on a very unique commission, a cosplay sword and shield accented in PINK leather! Just a teaser for now, I will share the finished products soon!

Though art is an intrinsic expression of the artist who creates it, oftentimes it is about so much more than the individual artist. We all have preferences for how and what we prefer to create, but sometimes art is about lifting others up into the spotlight. Sometimes art is about using our skills to help someone else’s talent and creativity grow. Sometimes art is about helping someone else’s vision come true that may be creative, but doesn’t have the tools to make their idea a reality. Sometimes art is about creating in isolation and baring your own unique soul, but sometimes art is also about outreach. As one who has often been the former, I’m enjoying this exciting new chapter.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Palette Knife Tulips Demo (Dedicated to Mom!)

For Ashley

I’m going to start off by saying I used to be really bad at painting anything outside of my quite narrow areas of interest. I went through a phase where I was putting dragon wings on everything, for example, and only did fantasy or surrealism inspired art. I remember my roommate freshman year of college asking me to paint a picture of a teenage girl holding a cat surrounded by flowers after she found out I was an artist (She was the opposite of me, into all pastel cutesy stuff). Hence, this dead eyed girl and cat with guess what, dragon wings, was born. If I still had it, I’d consider submitting it to The Museum Of Bad Art.

Over the years and especially through teaching, I’ve learned to enjoy the process of creating itself and not just the end result, so that even if I’m making something that isn’t necessarily my go-to aesthetic, I can still harness the therapeutic benefits of creativity. This makes accepting commissions a lot easier, and creating art for loved ones that may not fancy surrealism and oddity as much as I do. I have literally never painted tulips in my life, but my mom loves them and while we were recently out walking remarked on the beauty of a particular variety planted at Dow Gardens. I hope you enjoy this visual walkthrough of the process!

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Surreal Sculpture At FIA

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve done an Artists To Know post (or a post in general!). Now that things are opening back up again in Michigan I visited the Flint Institute of Art a couple of weekends ago on a whim and saw so much beautiful sculpture work. This was the perfect opportunity to break my hiatus, especially since I myself have finally been taking some clay classes at my workplace after being intimidated by basically any sculptural medium for over a decade after some pretty big fails in gradeschool :P.

Sergei Isupov

Shadow

Anyone who knows me knows I am all about portraits and figures, and representing the human essence in art. On his website, Estonian-American sculptor Isupov states, “Everything that surrounds and excites me is automatically processed and transformed into an artwork. The essence of my work is not in the medium or the creative process, but in the human beings and their incredible diversity. When I think of myself and my works, I’m not sure I create them, perhaps they create me.” I really connect with these thoughts, and feel the same way about the portrait based art I create. I am drawn in by the surreal nature of his work and the strong story arc of his pieces. As a primarily 2D artist, I also appreciate how he incorporates 2D processes into his 3D art, such as the detailed paintings over the surfaces of his sculptures, almost as if the images across their body are allowing you a glimpse into their memories or fleeting thoughts. I am excited to learn more about this artist and investigate his other work.

Christopher A. Vicini

Idiotheim

Surprising nowadays, but I could find no online presence for this artist, aside from a closeup of this sculpture I photographed on Flickr. Therefore, I wasn’t able to learn much about the artist or his process, but I can tell you what made me stop and look longer at this piece. Like the previous piece, there was a strong story being told, but one that was not necessarily obvious and left the viewer to get creative with their narrative to an extent. It is assembled like a collage of Grandma’s nic-nacks, but when you look closer you see all is not what it seems. It reminded me of something you may see when you are walking around a house inside of a dream, familiar but with an odd twist. I also thought making it all white had an interesting effect – all form and detail being dictated by light and shadows.

Rudy Autio

Autio was born in Montanna where he has remained for most of his career, heading up the ceramics department at the University of Montanna for almost 30 years. Like with the first artist, I believe I was drawn to this because of the aspect of wrapping a painting around a 3D form. The style feels classic and modern at the same time, and the fact that there is a “hidden” scene on the back, making it almost a different sculpture depending how you are viewing it, was a lot of fun.

Joan Bankemper

Pimlico

I was interested to learn upon visiting Bankemper’s website that she actually primarily creates public installations based on sustainability and community gardening and farming. In her sculpture, she utilizes discarded or broken tableware and gives them a new life by combining them with ceramics pieces from molds she has collected over the years. Her work reminds me of walking into an antique or thrift store, but in Wonderland as Alice.

Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen

Falcons Series

Karen collaborates with her husband Devin as an artist team to create amazing glassworks inspired by nature. She does a lot of work inspired by birds, which is what grabbed my attention as birds are one of my favorite motifs in art. I love the concept of this trio, and would never have guessed that something like this could be formed out of glass. I like that the birds are stylized, and the flowers winding up the arms remind me of gorgeous 3-dimensional tattoos.

Pavel Hlava

Flower

Plava was “a pioneer for contemporary glass art in the Czech Republic” and came to be quite well known in the United States over the course of his career. As you can see from the other pieces I selected to highlight here, I am not usually as into art that is purely geometric and abstract. However, his pieces, of which this one was my favorite, were a different story. The detailed, fractal quality that shed beautiful rainbow light in patterns around the piece and the unique colors as well as the fact that there were layers of geometry even inside each of the external patterns gave his pieces a depth that had me standing in front of them staring, losing track of the world around me.

Lucio Bulbacco

Watcher

You can’t tell here but this piece is TALL. The first thing I must note is the deep grape purple color choice because though purple is my favorite color, it is not a color you see a lot in art. Even in my own work it just doesn’t come up often, which just adds to the regal mystery of this figure. The scrolling organic shapes that make up her form give her the look of a mystical spirit made of vapor, and there is a soft, wafting smokiness to her despite the fact that she is made out of hard glass.

It was so difficult to choose only a selection of art to highlight – I took a lot of pictures! I hope what I’ve shared inspires you, and if you have any favorite artists please share with me in the comments! I’m always looking to discover more creators.

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