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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Techniques and Tutorials

10 Minute Winter Watercolors

Happy Winter! I know I am already getting sick of the cold, but there has been some beautiful snow and bright blue skies lately which have been nice to admire out my window 😉 … Winter can be one of the most attractive seasons if not always the most comfortable, and winter scenes are so fun to create with watercolors.

These quick tutorials are an easy way to take a bit of time out of your day no matter how busy you are to do something for yourself, relax, and get creative. They are also great practice at blending color and working with white space for beginners to the medium. If you have kids, these simple projects would be fun to do together. Grab a watercolor palette, 3 different sizes of round brushes, and let’s paint!

As always, if you run into any problems or have questions feel free to shoot me a comment or message. I’m always happy to help with troubleshooting! Have fun!

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New Work

(More) Quarantine Art

Since about mid-November, my state when through a second, more mild, quarantine which put classes and activities in my Artshop program temporarily on hold and sent me back to working from home again. I will be plunging back into things as they reopen TOMORROW, so today I’d like to share some of the work I finished over the last couple months.

This first piece was a very fun commission where I was asked to do a surreal portrait in my signature mixed media, vintage inspired style but based on the song “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix. I was given some guidelines as to the type of figure portrayed and color scheme, but otherwise the project was completely open ended. And so, this piece was born, communicating a sense of love and positivity, openness, kindness and warmth, and creative spirit.

Little Wing Commission, Prismacolor Pencil and Mixed Media

It felt really good during this time, which to be honest though less restrictive seemed to be a hell of a lot more frustrating than the first full quarantine, to continue the trend of just working on creating some beautiful, uplifting imagery. The piece below is my largest to date at 4 entire feet high! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but everyone who knows my work knows I work small, “big” for me usually being 18×24″. Also note, no people or animals in this piece! I have another large canvas still untouched, and to really step out of my box I think I should do something architectural next.

Where The Light Is Held, Acrylic and Fabric

I also finished a full size bird palette knife painting, the rest of what I’d completed being minis. Yes, these are real birds! I’m always saving photos of exotic and interesting birds on Pinterest, and the colors and adorable yet zany plumage coming out of the top of these guys’ heads was irresistible. I found a couple of reference images, and decided I had to throw a baby in there too.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my new year starts tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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New Work, Techniques and Tutorials

Happy 2021! Pantone COTY Inspo

Finding out Pantone’s Color Of The Year is always one of my favorite things about New Year’s Day (dork, I know). This year is a combination of 2 colors … Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. I’m not a big yellow person on its own, but love it paired with gray or black so I’m digging this theme (See my bathroom). To celebrate, I created a fun 9×12″ mixed media artwork using ink and water on watercolor paper, and some fabric scraps and old book pages for the background.

What’s interesting is I also started a new project late this year in collaboration with a supporter of the inclusive arts program I run, Express Yourself Artshop that ended up in this same color scheme. The project celebrates the independence and unique homes and lifestyles of adults with disabilities. My friend Ric LOVES yellow. More on this to come at a later date!

What do you think of this year’s colors? What kinds of videos would you like to see me share in 2021?

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New Work, Techniques and Tutorials

Hand Drawn Damask Print Demo

I am a big fan of damask print. I know the design had a big moment about half a decade ago, but I’ve always loved it, especially since under the pattern umbrella there is so much variety. I always thought a snake would lend itself well to the curving, scrolled shape of a damask print but could never quite find exactly what I was looking for. When you can’t find the print you want, it’s time to make your own!

I used metallic ink and prismacolor pencils on black pastel paper that has a visible cross hatched texture to the surface. Since this sort of print only has one element to it that is repeated in an offset pattern, this was a relatively simple one to try for someone who is newer to creating all-over print.

I’m thrilled with how my snake damask turned out, and can’t wait to order a skirt or shirt for myself. To see more of my designs, visit my Redbubble Shop. Redbubble’s products are all reasonably priced and excellent quality – these art-covered wares make perfect holiday gifts. If you enjoyed the video showing how I created my print, please give me a follow! I will be posting some fun palette knife painting tutorials in the coming weeks as the weather gets colder and we find ourselves needing more indoor forms of entertainment.

For all my American friends out there, enjoy your Thanskgiving week, and thanks for stopping by my creative little corner of the world :).

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New Work

Creativity In Seclusion

This very odd year is getting nearer to a close. Everyone has been affected both personally and professionally in some way, and many of our ways of thinking about and performing even the most mundane daily tasks have been drastically altered.

Art comes from the psyche, and I know oftentimes I can look at a piece of art from my past and remember exactly what was going on at that time in my life. The colors, the style, the motifs all relate to what was reverberating inside my mind at that time even if it is not obvious to an outside viewer. This got me thinking, how has this year, and specifically quarantine, affected my art? I have had the most uninterrupted creation time at my disposal than I’ve had in years; life has taken a much slower pace. At the same time, there is the permeating sense of distance and anxiety that has overtaken all of life.

The art I completed over the first half of this year during quarantine deviated from the style I’d been focusing on over the last couple years. Now that I look at it all together, I can see the focus was more on developing techniques and creating something visually stimulating than my usual conceptual, symbolism heavy work. I credit both having more time to develop and hone different skills such as acrylic palette knife painting and realistic watercolor, and also the fact that with all the uncertainty and isolation; two things that I don’t always handle the best even in normal circumstances; I wasn’t doing art so much to communicate as for therapy for myself. I was painting whatever made me feel good in that moment.

I also did a lot more with animals and nature over quarantine, specifically my almost daily live ink wash animal demos. Nature was vital over this time as the only form of release and entertainment, and the appreciation I already had for the outdoors further deepened. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with my dad from afar as I used many of his wildlife photos as inspiration references for my ink washes.

The gallery where I work, Creative 360 in Midland, currently has an exhibit going titled “Art In Isolation” which can be visited in person or viewed virtually. I’d encourage you to visit the link and check it out!

What are some of the things that kept you going during quarantine this year?

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