Art Discussion

Creating Is Vital Yet $$$ : Let’s Make It Accessible

For those who don’t know, I am here to tell you today that art supplies are ridiculously expensive. Creative expression has so many mental health benefits; it can be a productive way to release negative emotions like stress and anger, a relaxation tool, a way to divert oneself from anxious thoughts, a way to inspire oneself about life again and provide something in the day to look forward to, and a tool for communication when one is feeling unheard. Sadly, the high cost of accessing the tools to pursue the arts limits who can participate. Oftentimes the people who could benefit most from creative expression also have the most significant barriers in accessing supplies and classes, such as low income individuals of all ages, those with disabilities, and older adults. Aside from the mental and emotional benefits, with enough practice creative pursuits can provide important side income for those who are struggling, but first they need to be able to get in the door to begin with. 

I direct an inclusive arts program for adults of all abilities at Creative 360 Studio and Gallery. It is open to everyone, geared towards being an accessible and comfortable environment for adults with physical, intellectual, and psychological disabilities. I love where I work because their mission is to open that door to allow all people to experience the creative process. With the Express Yourself Artshop program, we have a host of professional working artists offering classes with collegiate level instruction, broken down so that all different levels of experience and learning styles can follow along. We offer affordable costs of instruction, provide materials, and offer scholarships. We have a Student Of The Month program where we award a special gift in the form of specific supplies in that student’s area of interest to someone who has stood out as going above and beyond to learn, grow, and succeed. It isn’t always easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Think of how much untapped potential is out there, simply because someone didn’t have access to even get started.

What can arts organizations do to help everyone tap into their undiscovered potential?

  • Always have a scholarship fund through grants, sponsors, and donations, not only for classes, but for juried shows as well. I understand the need to charge entry fees to cover salary for employees prepping for a show, reception costs, and advertising. I also know many artists who never exhibit or enter competitions not because they are “lazy” or don’t want to bother, but because they can’t afford the $35-50 entry fee. 
  • Seek donations so supplies can be provided, even if just for certain special classes or programs. You have no idea how many artists have brand new or like new supplies mounted up in their studio just collecting dust, and artists love to de-stash especially to causes that are getting more people into the arts. Another idea is to start a personal needs pantry, but with a twist … instead of food and toiletries as is traditional, creative supplies!

What can working artist do to help their fellow creatives get off the ground?

  • Donate when you can! Donate money to scholarship funds for local arts programs, or directly pay for a class or sponsor an entry fee for an artist in your life who you know wants to participate in something but can’t afford it right now. If you can’t donate cash, but have some extra supplies you don’t use as much, share with someone who doesn’t have access to supplies right now. If you get an amazing BOGO deal on paint, brushes, canvases, etc. share the extra or donate it to an organization that provides arts education. 
  • Share skills! Get together with other artists you know, and commit to showing the group how to do one thing that is within your area of expertise for free in exchange for them doing the same for you. Trading knowledge is always a win-win. Volunteer together to host a free art event in your community.  What is daunting to try to do alone won’t even feel like work when you have a group of talented and passionate people pulling together.
  • Don’t be a supply snob. Don’t scoff at other creators or be judgey when you see them using dollar store or economy grade supplies. Starting somewhere is better than not bothering to try in the first place, and at the end of the day a non-skillful artist can have all the fancy, expensive supplies in the world, but their work is still going to fall flat.

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This portrait was created during downtime at Artshop by fellow artist, Artshop drawing and painting instructor, and frequent collaborator Emiliano Vega using 50-cent-per-bottle craft paints. Mic drop.

Due to Covid, many schools are eliminating “extras” such as art, music, and gym. This is the only place many kids can get free art instruction. Now more than ever, making art accessible is vital.

I love sharing demos of affordable projects I’ve done with my Artshop crew, especially those inspired by art history. Check out these lovely Matisse inspired bowls!

If you’d like to snag some of Emiliano’s work, he has prints for sale on his featured page in my ebay shop.

 

 

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Project Ideas

Creative Minds Art History Project – Vincent Van Gogh

Hello all! This is my first post I’ll be doing on my Creative Minds class projects I am leading with my program this semester. Each week we will be learning about a well known artist from the past or present, and completing a project based on their process and style. I work primarily with adults with disabilities or mental health issues, and though we will not only study artists with disabilities, mental health issues, addiction, or chronic illness, these individuals will be a special focus.

Today I’ll be walking you through an enjoyable and easy project inspired by the art of Vincent Van Gogh. Being the Coordinator as well as an instructor for an inclusive recreational arts program, there is always a wide range of abilities and experience levels in each class. I am excited to make art history accessible and fun for all ages and abilities. Vincent Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite historical artists, so of course he had to be the artist I chose for week 1. I know that he’s a lot of people’s favorite, but I have always felt a special kinship with him as we also happen to share the same birthday!

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His use of light, color, and movement through swirling, visible brushstrokes has become iconic and easily recognizable even to those with no knowledge of art. Also common knowledge are Van Gogh’s struggles with mental health throughout his life. He was blessed with a supportive and loving family member, his brother Theo, who financially supported him so that he could continue painting despite being unable to hold a job or make an income for himself. It seems his brother saw firsthand the transformative power of art, giving Van Gogh at least a few more days, months, years, or sometimes just moments of peace and joy than he would have experienced otherwise.

Oil paints are pricey, require copious amounts of time to complete a piece, need adequate ventilation that may not be available in all classrooms, and can be frustrating for beginning artists. So, we ditched the oil paints for oil pastels!

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The first step in our project was to make a simple outline in pencil first. Students were encouraged to be inspired by the provided images of Van Gogh’s most famous works, but not necessarily to copy. They could make a scene, a still life, a person or animal, or anything else that came to mind. They could then use the pastels to trace over their pencil outline, and add more lines in between to mimic Van Gogh’s iconic style. Students could fill their paper with as many swirls, stripes, or dashes as they wanted as long as they still left white space behind, because next the magic happens!

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After their pastel outline was completed, students could fill in their different areas with watercolor washes, and watch the oil pastel repel the water. Though not a requirement, this technique is especially amazing to watch when washing darker watercolors over bright or light pastel. One of the students even commented that it was “like magic”. This process is simple enough to be enjoyed by students of all abilities with minimal frustration, but also fun for more advanced students. Pro tip: make sure you have enough water in your paints! If your watercolors are brushed on too dry, they won’t repel as strongly. Also, be sure to use paint brushes with soft bristles. Stiff, scratchy brushes are harder on the oil pastel and will not give as neat of a result.

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There is a common narrative that Van Gogh suffered so much because while he was alive his art never became famous and people wouldn’t buy his paintings. I don’t know about that … I am a Doctor Who fan, and for those of you unfamiliar with the show it’s about time travel. Who would have thought, but this whimsical sci-fi TV show ended up moving me emotionally more than any work of cinema I’ve ever seen, and I watch a lot of movies! In my favorite episode, our adventurers go back in time to pay a visit to Vincent Van Gogh. They end up whisking him away to the future, where he can see all his paintings on display in a museum, and hear his fame being lauded. It is hoped that after seeing this, Van Gogh’s spirit will be renewed, and once he is returned to his own time he will not end his life as he did in history. They hope that when they visit that same museum again after their adventure, there will be walls of new Van Gogh paintings, having altered the past by showing Van Gogh his future. That does not end up being the case.

We put so much emphasis in our culture on fame, money, talent, and popularity that it is hard to accept that these things are not a magical panacea to fix all of our problems, and that sometimes these things are not enough to make us happy.

We need to keep reaching out to each other. As this episode concludes,

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

Make it your goal to add to the pile of good things for the people you encounter each day.

A student that had been reluctant about this project at first because they don’t draw or paint ended up having a blast, saying they felt like they were getting to play and be a kid again. A lot of times, that is exactly what art is about! As Van Gogh himself said,  If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. I hope some of you will decide to play and try this project yourself at home! Be sure to check back in the following weeks for more fun project inspiration.

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