New Series Re-Imagines Childhood Drawings

Now that I got all of my work finished for the upcoming Michigan all area shows I am entering, I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time on a new project that I’d done sketches for about 2 years ago and never revisited after getting distracted by mountains of other projects. Working with kids and youth over the summer at Creative 360 while Artshop was on break,  we did lots of acrylic painting. Acrylics is a medium I’d abandoned over the last couple of years, and it made me miss it.

I had a teacher once who said you will always be who you were when you were 8. You may drift in the in-between teen years; who doesn’t go through an identity crisis at least once in high school or within early young adult age; but you will always come back to the most basic facets of personality you exhibited as child. At your core, you are who you were at eight years old and will still be at 80.

When I think about it, at 28 I do share many of the same traits with my 8 year old self. I still adore books, I still have my own distinctive and at times highly experimental fashion sense (I was wearing sun glass frames with the lenses popped out far before hipsters ever existed.), I am still always actively finding ways to meld creativity with vocation, I still am obsessed with all things design oriented (Look how pumped I am about my digital runway show I’ve put together on that snazzy Windows 95), and I still can’t sleep unless buried under 3+ layers of blankets even in summer :P.

Luckily for me, and this project, my mother is amazing and has the best of my childhood drawings from each year of my life archived in a neat, chronological little binder, so finding artwork examples was no big thing. I have chosen a drawing from each year, 2-10 (nothing for year 1, I’m not that amazing.) I will be using the same subject matter, colors, and proportions to re-imagine these childhood drawings as fine art acrylic paintings. Here is the first piece I’ve completed for age 4.

Kid drawings aren’t all the same when you really look at them, and you truly can tell a lot about someone from what they create, same as with adults. Here are some other fun projects people have done taking inspiration from kids’ drawings.

Bored Panda / Go Monster Project

Cafe Mom / Parents Turn Their Kids’ Art Into Tattoos

Huffington Post / Mom-Toddler Painting Collaborations

Busy Mockingbird / Artist Collaborates With 4-Year-Old Daughter

Doodle Your Toys / Custom Handmade Plush Toys

 

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I’m Not The Only One Who’s Been Busy This Summer …

The summer flew by, and while I think this summer for me has been the most productive yet as far as art making, I am not the only one who has been hard at work. My Express Yourself Artshop students really applied themselves creatively, and pumped out a lot of amazing art over this past semester. Hard to believe what one can accomplish in only 6 weeks! I’ve shared some of the highlights here.

Grace, Watercolor

Grace, Watercolor

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Lacey, Acrylic

Lacey, Acrylic

For those who haven’t read my blog before, Express Yourself Artshop is an art program I work with that is open to those of all abilities, and is an accepting, friendly and safe environment to artists with physical and mental disabilities. I know myself how important creating can be as a tool for expressing what you feel like you can’t with words, and how it has the ability to calm the mind and soul out of tumult and provide a reprieve from the stress and sometimes heavy weight of everyday life. One of my students loves owls, and so we collaborated on some trippy, colorful owls done in my go-to style for these birds (shown below). I drew in pencil, she outlined and painted. Along with an affinity for owls, we also share a love of Deco Art’s Glamour Dust craft paints – a win-win.

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

I love these people, and the unfamiliar environment of being in a truly judgement-free space … Everyone simply accepts and embraces each other as they are. I feel so loved in return while I am there, and it is one of the few places I don’t feel pressured to put on an act (Convenient, as I’ve never quite mastered the art of situationally adjusting my personality. For better or for worse, I just can’t seem to grasp that particular life skill.). I can’t wait for next semester. I’m going to be channeling my inner Mark Montano and doing a really cool DIY decor class, so hopefully that gets some interest. I am right on the cusp of finishing two new projects that will be going up with a selection of other pieces at Espresso Milano coffee shop in Midland in September, so I will be sharing that soon.

Montano, seriously, what a snazzy guy.

New Work Reveal – On My Mind

My new piece ended up coming together rather quickly. I’m guessing it was due to a combination of the sudden dismal weather over the last couple days and also on and off feeling like I was coming down with something and being low on energy over the last week or so. Neither of these occurrences are fun, but they did force me to have lots of sit-down, indoor time when not at work which certainly upped my art production. Like the last conceptual portrait I did, I wanted this piece to be mixed media so I could use the artistic medium best suited for each part of the composition. I ended up using prismacolor pencil for the portrait, acrylic for the space scene, watercolor for the background, and fabric for her dress – the star print was just too perfect. I added some embroidery detail around the figure at the end to finish it off and really highlight the figure and bring her into focus despite her subtle, lighter tones. I found the inspiration photo first, and then built from there. I love finding interesting bits and pieces of inspiration in the unexpected. One wouldn’t expect a piece of art to spring from a blurred antique photo with poor lighting of a girl holding her head sulking as if she has a headache. But, I saw that photo and instantly thought of a heaviness or vastness she must be holding inside her mind. Hence, the universe concept. I wanted to add art nouveau detailing because I’ve never done an art nouveau inspired piece, and it is truly one of if not THE absolute favorite design period of mine. I knew the iconic swirling, rounded patterns would be perfect to compliment the outer space motif. I’ve actually been remembering to take progress photos to some extent. I’ll get the hang of this blogging thing yet ;).

Initial portrait shading finished, and just filled in the space scene with acrylic.

Initial portrait shading finished, and just filled in the space scene with acrylic.

Adding the art nouveau detailing by filling in the pencil outline with metallic gold acrylic.

Adding the art nouveau detailing by filling in the pencil outline with metallic gold acrylic.

Darkened some of the shading on the figure to balance the dark areas of deep space and the moon phases pattern, and added layers of metallic watercolor to the background. Also detailed some constellations over the watercolor.

Darkened some of the shading on the figure to balance the dark areas of deep space and the moon phases pattern, and added layers of metallic watercolor to the background. Also detailed some constellations over the watercolor.

More layers of watercolor, the final embroidery design around the figure, and voila!

More layers of watercolor, the final embroidery design around the figure, and voila!

Happy Easter! (Plus some fine looking doors)

The Bunny Invasion has begun!

The Bunny Invasion has begun!

Sorry boyfriend, I'm leaving you.

Sorry boyfriend, I’m leaving you.

I discovered something wonderful a couple days ago, namely, the city of Saginaw Michigan had been taken over by giant bunnies. I love art like that, the kind of art that pops up and surprises you in your everyday environment. It makes you stop in your tracks, whatever you are doing, and just enjoy the moment. I ran around like a little kid visiting every single one; it was a great time.

Since Creative 360 was closed for Easter weekend, I also finally got the opportunity to finish the murals I’d been painting on the doors! These doors used to be a really gross shade of brownish-grey, and the goal was to wake them up to go with the rest of the imaginative, creativity-inspiring interior. You can’t exactly tell in these cropped shots that only show a part of the building, but this place is really really colorful – the ceiling gives a hint. I wanted to use the design on the door leading to the lower level to act as an indicator of what activities go on in the basement. I also wanted what was behind the door to be visually communicated in a clear manner so guests and customers wouldn’t be confused, but  without having to write out a big ugly, block lettered, “DOWNSTAIRS, or STEPS” plastered right over the mural. Since the door to the basement is usually left propped open when classes are in session, I also needed a design for the backside. I’m happy with how they turned out, especially stepping back and seeing all 3 together. Enjoy the photos!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter, and even if you don’t have traditional activities planned, do/see/experience something that is out of the ordinary and makes you smile, even if only for 5 minutes.

The two restroom doors, and the exit to the downstairs classrooms.

The two restroom doors, and the exit to the downstairs classrooms.

Men's and Women's Restroom Doors

Men’s and Women’s Restroom Doors Closeup

Exit to downstairs classrooms where art, dance, and exercise classes take place

Exit to downstairs classrooms where art, dance, and exercise classes take place

The other side of the door to downstairs, which is often left open while classes are going on

The other side of the door to downstairs, which is often left open while classes are going on

Closeup

Closeup

Approximately 2 years ago. Clearly, I am no stranger to making friends with rabbit sculptures.

Approximately 2 years ago. Clearly, I am no stranger to making friends with rabbit sculptures.

Express Yourself Artshop – The End of Another Semester!

Another semester of Express Yourself Artshop is coming to a close, and so many amazing things have happened in just 12 weeks. I’ve watched students gain confidence and try new types of art, achieving inspiring projects that earlier they were convinced they wouldn’t be able to do. I’ve seen new friendships form. I’ve seen abilities grow – three of my students even got their work into the juried exhibition “Piece By Piece” that I showed work in as well in Creative 360’s gallery space, and one of them even made a sale!

My student Nancy's awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! :)

My student Nancy’s awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! 🙂

I am so glad that a little less than 2 years ago I responded to a mass email looking for instructors for a new program in Midland for adults with disabilities who love art. I sat on the email for awhile, and then finally shrugged my shoulders thinking, “Well, I don’t really teach but I do know quite a bit about art, so I might as well see what this is all about”. With that one decision to just go for it, I went from jumping between one uninspiring job to another, never feeling that I quite fit, to a job that I know I can excel at and that I actually feel passionate about. I have to be honest, I was feeling pretty defeated after doing quite well in college, expecting immediate success and a super-fun-creative-awesome job thereafter, and … you know, life happening. I was left bouncing around from one temporary job to another that was more of the same, where I wasn’t able to use any of my skills and the main goal wasn’t how can I invest in the people I came across on a day to day basis, but basically, how can I convince them to buy a ton of stuff they don’t need. Since then, Express Yourself Artshop has opened so many doors, and now I teach in a variety of locations and work with a wide range of programs for all different ages and abilities. I am so excited to work in a venue where the focus is on the personal growth, learning, and achievement of the individuals I work with, not how much money they can shell out for one product or service or another. Despite loving all my different classes, Artshop will always be a teensy bit in the lead as my favorite program to work with. Working with students with disabilities has opened my mind to new project ideas and materials, as I am forced to get creative in how I involve each student in a way that is best for their personal strengths and weaknesses. Be it cliche to say so, I’ve learned just as much from them as they have from me. I’d like to share an overview of the types of projects my students have worked on this semester. As you can see, we’ve been busy.

Mixed Media Pond Scene - Exquisite Detail!

Mixed Media Pond Scene – exquisite detail!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings - I loved how these turned out so much I'm making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings – I loved how these turned out so much I’m making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles inside a fabric tube with pony beads in between

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow :)

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow 🙂

No Canvas, No Problem! – Using Unexpected Materials

I first discovered my love of corrugated cardboard when the movie “The Science of Sleep” came out. If you haven’t watched it, it’s an extremely visually fun movie and you should check it out. If you have, the various imaginary cardboard-based sets depicting the main character’s dream worlds, such as the car chase sequence or the cardboard cityscape, attracted me to corrugated cardboard’s simple, whimsical, DIY charm. I started using it for projects in college not only for the charm itself but for utilitarian reasons. After having to buy so many canvases and large pieces of illustration board for studio assignments, by the time I got around to my own personal projects I simply didn’t want to have to buy another damn thing! It was light and easy to transport for painting outdoors on nice days, and was readily available at no cost.

Cardboard also offers more easy textural options than canvases simply by layering or ripping away at its surface. Tearing away at the cardboard’s outer layer reveals the interesting ribbed texture beneath to be used as a design component. Layering torn edges automatically gives your piece an industrial, time weathered feel like the monochromatic cityscape below. Scraps can even be used to roll, crinkle, and fold 3D elements, such as the rosettes at the bottom of my fish bride piece. There is a story to this one; my roommates and I had 2 feeder goldfish we rescued from the tank at the grocery: Mr. Mustache and Mistress Bouffant. This is why I don’t have pets. Even the death of this tiny, normally dinner to bigger fish, goldfish caused distress, and I decided I needed to immortalize her. I used broken glass as bubbles due to the clear, reflective nature of the pieces. I still remember smashing bottles with a hammer on the front porch of our apartment. A neighbor asked what I was up to, to which my quick answer was, “Our fish just died.” I only realized in retrospect how that must have appeared, me furiously hammering away with that statement as my only explanation. No wonder they were never too chatty with us.

I’ve included some photos of my own experiments as well as some cardboard art by other artists as inspiration. The next time you get a package in the mail and have some extra cardboard laying around, I’d encourage you to give a project like these a try.

RIP Mistress Bouffant, Mr. Mustache will morn your absence. (A side note, the other goldfish really did have a black marking above his lip that looked exactly like a drawn on mustache.)

RIP Mistress Bouffant, Mr. Mustache will morn your absence. (A side note, the other goldfish really did have a black marking above his lip that looked exactly like a drawn on mustache.)

Painting on layered cardboard, using the texture of the corrugation as part of the design.

The flawless, traditional black and white portrait contrasts with a work surface left rough; with dents, tears, and even leftover paint smeared here and there as if the artist was cleaning off their brush.

Valery Koshlyakov – High-rise on Raushskaya Embankment (2006) – Tempera on Cardboard

Retro Barbies, acrylic on cardboard

My retro Barbies, acrylic on cardboard

Textured Painting With Mixed Media (Or, The Upside of Hoarding)

Express Yourself Artshop, the art program I work with focusing on providing art instruction for adults with disabilities, runs mostly on donations. Because of this, I’ve gotten used to brainstorming how to transform materials not commonly used in art into something awesome. Though I appreciate sculpture, my passion definitely lies in creating 2D art. However, 2D doesn’t always have to mean “flat” – and that’s where mixed media comes in. Mixed media literally means “the combined use of 2 or more media”. Many times, it involves assembling multiple non-flat elements to a drawing or painting, working them into the overall composition. Knowing how to add all these extra elements in an effective manner, as well as recognizing when to stop so that the piece doesn’t become a massive junk pile, can be intimidating on the first go. An easy way for an artist who has never worked in mixed media before to dip their toe into the genre is by simply creating texture on their work surface, and then drawing or painting over it as they would were they using a flat canvas. The effect is something far more extraordinary that draws the viewer to come closer and really examine the finished piece, touch it even (if you allow it).

The main component you will need is a bottle of gesso; a white, thick, paste-like paint that can also be used to cover over used canvases. It can be pricey, but lasts a long time. This is the only thing you will need to purchase. Everything else used to create texture can be common household materials. Paper towel, especially if it has a pattern imprinted on it (you can use that!), is great as well as tissue paper. Are you an avocado or citrus fruit enthusiast? You know those net bags they come in at the grocery? Those are simply fantastic. Once you have your materials, lay them out on your canvas and pile on the gesso. It will act as a glue, but takes awhile to dry so don’t hesitate to manipulate, move, crinkle, your materials as you are covering them. After a few coats, you will have a paintable surface. For the octopus painting shown below, I used liquid watercolor. Watercolor is great because it will show darker on the textured areas and lighter on the flat areas, accentuating the visual texture. This next piece I’m trying with the black background I’m doing in acrylic this time. Play around, make some samples on cardboard until you find something you like (old cereal boxes work great to experiment on), and keep on the lookout for interesting textures in your everyday environment – they could come in handy for your next masterpiece!

New textured work, in progress.

New textured work, in progress.

Closeup, texture achieved using a net fruit bag and wrinkled tissue paper.

Closeup, texture achieved using a net fruit bag and wrinkled tissue paper.

Gilded Creatures, 16x20 mixed media - Behold, the wonders of gesso!

Gilded Creatures, 16×20 mixed media, and one of my more popular pieces – Behold, the wonders of gesso!