First Art Snacks Box, First Art Journal Entry!

artsnacks boxSo, I was having a really rough week y’all … and then I got this in the mail.

I had gotten an artsnacks subscription for Christmas, and being a virgin to subscription boxes in general, was excited to see what it was all about and hopefully discover some awesome new products for art making!

art snacks janThe January box came with:

  • A Uni-Posca PCF-350 Brush Tip Paint Marker
  • 2 Maribu Graphix Aqua Pens
  • A Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen
  • A Sakura SumoGrip Mechanical Pencil
  • And a cat joke: What do you call a painting by a cat?
  • A green Lifesaver

art journal artsnacks janI decided to do what a lot of artsnacks subscribers do after receiving their box, and join the fun of challenging myself to create a little picture using only the products in my box for the month. This is also a great way to test out the materials, especially if they are unfamiliar to you. Another fun thing about artnsnacks is the fact that the colors of the products you receive are totally random … The royal blue was lovely, but that olivey/sage green and bright orange? – maybe ok separate but kind of yikes together. So, here is my unique green penguin, swimming beneath the chilly arctic waters.

All in all I thought this was an interesting first box, especially for someone like me who is primarily a drawing based artist but also holds a lot of love for watercolor. I’ll start with my favorite products, which were hands down the mechanical pencil and Tombow pen. I own a lot of black liner pens in a huge range of line weights, but I had never owned a pen whose line weight is dependent on the pressure you apply. This is a fantastic feature for adding more depth to outlines, and it is pretty intuitive. The brush tip is firm, and it is easy to control the weight you want. I.e. – it doesn’t suddenly “blob” out a big fat black line with the slightest pressure. The mechanical pencil has a fantastic eraser which is a huge plus – The quality of your eraser sometimes matters even more than the quality of the pencils you are using! The rubber grip, besides having a cute name, practically gives your fingers a massage as you are drawing – even for someone like me who holds their pencil wrong ;)!

Next, onto the Aqua Pens … The colors are super saturated and these are obviously artist grade. These were marked as a staff favorite. I have to say though, as far as pens that can be used with watercolors I still prefer Tombow’s Dual Brush Pens. The Aqua Pens seemed to not blend as well as with water as the Tombow ones I am used to – you could still see the original sketch marks though the color did spread with water. I noticed they washed better when I worked on smaller areas at a time without letting the ink dry as much in between. When you want more of an illustrative look with super BOLD color that doesn’t fade with the water, however, these would be perfect.

Lastly, the brush tip paint marker – marked on the product list as brand new to the market … I experienced a bit of sticker shock reading the retail price of these – 10 bucks for a SINGLE marker! But, they are unlike any paint pen I have ever seen given the fact that the brush tip is an actual bristled nylon brush. It is more rigid than a traditional painting brush and maintains it’s shape even when pressure is applied, so it is a true hybrid between marker and paint brush. I can see these being fantastic for the classes I manage with Express Yourself Artshop at Creative 360. The added control of using a paintbrush in pen form like this would be great for painters who have mild to severe dexterity issues or shaky hands due to age, injury, or disability, or anyone who struggles with fine motor skills but loves to paint. If it weren’t for that darn price tag … we are a non-profit after all. Donations, anyone? 😉

My assistant at work /slash/ really cool art friend /slash/ art educator teaches an art journaling class and has been trying to get me into starting an art journal. Another surprise Christmas gift I received was lo and behold, a mixed media art journal! It’s a sign. I’m a big reader, so, in addition to my monthly artsnacks challenges, I am going to play around with journaling some of my favorite quotes from books I’ve compiled. With my first two, I kept them mainly illustrative with a lot of white space but I am going to do more with texture/mixed media backgrounds for my next one, whatever that may be.

Be sure to check back for more unboxings! ❤

P.S. The answer to the joke was a paw-trait.

P.P.S. I may be so opposed to the orange and green color combo due to new home renovation trauma. This was what our mud room looked like when we moved in.



The Value of Including Others’ Stories In Your Work

I’ve been talking a lot about stories lately.

Last year, I had the privilege of participating in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI. ArtPrize is an international art competition held annually and decided by public vote in which the entire city is turned into a gigantic art gallery. For ArtPrize, you want to go big so I devised a 15 part series of drawings titled “One Thing To Say”. There was no guarantee of getting to display, so I was on pins and needles (I mean, 15 drawings take a long, LONG time) until I had secured a venue at Monroe Church.

A selection of the 15 part series "One Thing To Say".

A selection of the 15 part series “One Thing To Say”.

The premise was this: I asked a sampling of individuals this question: “If given the chance to say one thing that would be transmitted into the ears of every person on earth simultaneously, what would it be?” Methods of communication, of reaching people, in this modern age are virtually limitless. There have never been more avenues with which to share one’s views publicly, to impart something to multitudes of other people all at once. It is an amazing and fascinating opportunity. Yet, with so much freedom to express, one of two things seem to happen most : The ability is taken for granted, so we say nothing that is truly meaningful to us at all, or we abuse that which is so readily available, leading to a projectile vomiting forth of our thoughts and opinions on all things big and small, so easy to reach multitudes with one button click and little revision or afterthought. If we had to boil down our communication from pages and paragraphs into a small collection of related thoughts, a single sentence even, what would each person say? With one shot to speak to every person alive in our current time, what would be revealed as the most important to each of us, and what would that say about us personally?

"One Thing To Say", Monroe Church ArtPrize 2014

“One Thing To Say”, Monroe Church ArtPrize 2014

Me, timehop to 5 years past, showing my completed "Occupancies" series and some very black hair.

CMU Student Exhibition: Me, time travel to 5 years past, showing my completed “Occupancies” series and some very, very black dyed hair.

This was not the first time a design was prompted by the responses of other people outside of myself, some strangers some not. The first time I tried this approach was for the Student Exhibition my senior year at CMU. I entered two projects. One was a four part series of drawings. I asked a random sampling of individuals “If the inside of your mind were a physical space, what would it look like?” I then created four opposite environments in which I placed the “cast of characters”, or individual answers I received. Open “boxes” atop their heads depicting their described environment laid each person’s thoughts bare. This project was a way to combine my two loves, art and interior design (well, 3 loves – I also enjoy people watching /slash/ discovering fascinating intimate information about complete strangers). The second project was an art book. For this one, I asked the question “Think of all your life goals, those things that MUST happen before you die. Then pick the most obscure one. Funny or serious, just be honest.” I turned these answers into an illustrated book entitled “Underneath” that ended up winning the Best of Show Grand Award.

Underneath, art book

Underneath, art book, cover

Underneath, art book, watercolor and ink

Underneath, art book, watercolor and ink

Letting others’ stories inspire you in your work allows you to reach out to more people, and bridges connections between those you reach across ages, races, backgrounds, and beliefs.

One thing I aimed to reinforce with “Occupancies” as I chose whom I placed in which setting and how they interacted with the others, was that there do exist universal threads in our emotions and struggles and striving, no matter how different our brains might seem to work compared to those around us. With “Underneath”, I aimed to give a voice to those longings within us that we keep silent. Everyone wants to talk about wanting kids, finding true love, getting that dream job, but come on – we all know deep down that isn’t all there is to life. For most of us, that just isn’t enough. I hoped people would read the responses and smile, and laugh, and sometimes even nod in agreement as they realized, “I’ve imagined that before! I thought no one else thought about doing that, I thought no one else wanted that, I thought no one else…!”

Kurt Vonnegut wrote one of my favorite things once, “Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.” We are taught to cling to what makes us different, and wave it as a banner, and uniqueness is good, but it sure can be a lonely feeling to be convinced that your mind and soul is an isolated space with no doors and windows, a place that no one can see into or understand. I’ve been there, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Communicating others’ stories through art is a unique challenge (and one that I don’t take lightly!) to consider life through a different state of mind in order to depict another’s inner thought life, and to realize through the eb and flow of a life, we all have different experiences but go through similar stages of feeling, positive and painful, doubting and confident. We just think we are the only ones so no one wants to vocalize how they feel, and therefore everyone else feels they are the only ones and …. so it goes, the cycle continues. But it doesn’t have to.


“Underneath” and “One Thing To Say” can be viewed in greater detail on my website, “Occupancies” can be found on my behance portfolio. High quality prints of my recent ArtPrize illustrations are also available in my ebay store or etsy shop.