Artist Bio

Living Without Limits, & Learning To Love Surprises

My new year began with some disappointments and being laid out with a wretched cold, so rather than sulk I thought it was a good time to pen this entry I’d been thinking about for awhile. Hopeful messages are good medicine for the brain at least ;). The first week of January is a time that seems to be made for reflecting, as a new season begins and things are still slow after the rush of the holidays. As I made some professional changes this year that will allow me to put my whole focus into not only my own art business but teaching, something I’ve discovered I love doing no matter the age or ability level I am working with, I feel compelled to share something about myself that many may not know.

Though I now talk all day as my vocation, this is not something I originally would have thought possible. I had a speech delay which I went to therapy for as a young child. It was discovered I knew and understood words, but just wasn’t saying them. I’ve been told even as a baby I was quiet, no babbling or anything, just silence and the occasional prolonged grunt that sounded like a lawnmower motor. I can only imagine what my parents must have been thinking! Though I was soon able to communicate fluently at home, around people I wasn’t as familiar with it was still a struggle. No one that heard me playing in the backyard at home would ever think of me as being “reserved”. Still at school, which I found for the most part enjoyable, I just didn’t know how to communicate with others. I remember one of my most embarrassing 5-year-old moments was when I got called out while playing in a group for participating in the imaginative play by just repeating whatever my best friend made her dinosaur say over and over (We were all playing with plastic dinosaurs at the indoor sandbox station, THE best station in the entire kindergarten). “Why do you just keep saying what she’s saying?” I was asked, followed by the dreaded “You’re weird!” Sigh … my camouflage had failed. When playing by myself I could think up all sorts of great lines and fantastical stories – I was never short on creativity – I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get my brain to “work” around other people.

Even up to high school I experienced a degree of what I now know is called “selective mutism” in public spaces, though public speaking or giving formal presentations in front of a group never bothered me a bit. In college, I ended up choosing to study interior design and had also thought about web design, because I figured there would be a little bit of back and forth interface with clients since I did enjoy people and hated being entirely alone, but then I could go back into my little office space and be creative without constant social pressures – the perfect balance. What do they say about the best laid plans?

I had an English teacher in high school once tell the class “Who you are at 10 years old is your truest self, and you will always come back to that”. I think about that often. As an 8-10 year old kid, I thought I wanted to be a teacher and loved “playing school” with my dolls so much that my parents even got me special little stamps and grade books from the local teacher supply store to enhance the realism of my playacting. I volunteered as a helper for kids programs in the summer, and even job shadowed at my old elementary school when it was required in my first year of middle school. However, I found it stressful not knowing how a real person was going to act and react, whereas with my dolls I was writing the script. I never did like surprises.

I pretty much wrote off that future life plan as I became a teenager, realizing I just didn’t have the skills for it. After graduating from college and experiencing a parade of poorly fitting jobs and pretty toxic work environments which is its own story for another day, I got an email from some mailing list I was on advertising that a local gallery was looking for instructors for a new day program. At this point in my life my confidence in my ability to be a functional human was at an all time low, so I decided what the hell, at least I know I can do art. Let’s give this a go. The rest is history.

I personally have a faith, and I believe receiving that email (and the fact that I actually opened and read it at just the right time!) was quite literally divine intervention. I teach at a variety of locations now outside of my main “hub” where I started, but I truly believe if I hadn’t began my foray into art instruction with the Artshop prograrm at Creative 360 in an environment of radical acceptance that embraces people’s quirks and operates like its own odd little family, I probably wouldn’t have kept at it. The main point of all this personal storytelling is, don’t limit yourself.

What you can do at the moment is not all you’ll be able to do forever. Sometimes, it isn’t that there is something wrong with you, it’s that you aren’t in the right environment.

I am in no way doing what I thought I’d be doing when I was 18, but my 10 year old self may not be that surprised. Guess what? I still am terrible at socializing with new people and making friends. But, I’ve been told I’m a wonderful teacher and that I make people feel valued, and help them believe they can do things they never thought they could do. I’m good with that.

Standard
Project Ideas, Techniques and Tutorials

Hello 2023! : Pantone Color Of The Year Project

I’ve mentioned previously that aside from Christmas my favorite thing about the end of the year is the unveiling of Pantone’s new color of the year. Since I started on youtube, I have enjoyed doing a project demo revolving around the chosen color each December. Another holiday artist tradition I have is creating a new series of whimsical, themed Santa ACEOs for my ebay shop. This year, I combined these two traditions into one project as I show you how I illustrate my miniature Santa portraits, this one with a Viva Magenta theme.

By a stroke of good fortune, one of my most popular teaching projects I developed this year features a heavy accent of this vibrant color. Pre-Covid, I was teaching a Creative Minds class to my adults with disabilities at Creative 360. After teaching, I shared many of the projects here if you’re inclined to take a look. The idea of Creative Minds is to learn about accomplished artists from the past and present and create projects based on their process with the goal of discovering our own artistic voice. Creative Minds has a special focus on artists who think differently than what is considered “typical”. They have disabilities, mental health struggles, weren’t classically educated, dealt with poverty. It’s important for people to see examples of why having different types of brains and backgrounds in our world is vital and something to be celebrated, not approached with apprehension. After Covid, like with many things, the class series died for a bit. This Fall, I brought it back successfully and opened it up as an evening workshop series to make it more available to all ages and abilities.

I covered globally exhibited artist Judith Scott previously, but streamlined the project a bit more this time. Scott is an artist who had down syndrome and was deaf, and was unfortunately discounted and underestimated for most of her life. When her twin sister became her guardian and brought her to a groundbreaking arts program near their home in California, Judith on her own grabbed any objects nearby and started wrapping them in yarn. Her eye for composition was soon recognized, and long story short her art has now been exhibited worldwide. This is why art is not a luxury. Art gives people a voice, and unlocks hidden abilities.

For this new iteration of the Judith Scott project, students were given an 8×10 canvas, a stick, and a plethora of yarn. The yarn that has a different texture like fuzziness, or that is netted and stretches apart is especially fun though the old standard would still work well. We painted the canvas with an abstract design. I used a large round brush to dab streaks across the canvas one color at a time until there was no white left. Then, while that’s drying take the stick and wrap wrap wrap! Yarn can be tied at the beginning and ends points, and the tail tucked under the wrapping. I also added some felt leaves as a finishing touch but that part is in no way necessary. If the branch has a lot of contact points where it touches the canvas, it can be glued at those points but my stick was extra twisty so I poked holes in the canvas which I threaded wire through, twisting the ends in the back of the canvas to anchor it. If any readers are in the Midland, Michigan area I’d encourage you to stop by Creative 360, we are always doing something new and fun!

Color is a fantastic starting point for inspiration. You can view my previous Color Of The Year projects below.

Standard
Artist Bio

5 Things I’ve Learned As A Working Artist

These last two years have been tough for a lot of people, but especially tough for creators. As we are just now shifting towards some degree of normalcy, I wanted to share 5 things I’ve learned as a creative over this strange journey.

Your reason for creating and metric for success needs to be something you can control.

Reasons that depend on the public’s reaction and choices that are completely out of our control, such as money and popularity, will ultimately lead to a whole lot of frustration and angst. Making money off of what you do is valid and necessary, we all have bills. However, it is nearly impossible to be happy if this is the core reason you are creating. Many people create for self expression or therapy. Not everyone creates for themselves, and that’s ok too. For some, just the act of creating itself doesn’t do it; their work is meant to be shared, seen, and heard in order for the process to be complete. Reasons for creating along this vein can be to inspire others to look at the world in a new way, to make other think about x, to connect with and speak to x group of people, to spread joy, to educate. Everyone’s reason is going to be different. My reason is a combination of public and private, which makes sense for me as a hybrid INTROextrovert. I create for self expression and as a form of communication, but also to share the joy of art with others. When I teach, I especially like reaching those who have previously felt limited. I love releasing untapped potential and work a lot with adults with disabilities and older adults beginning artistic journeys late in life. You can control outreach and expression by actively seeking opportunities. You can’t always control fame and fortune.

Don’t include others by limiting yourself.

In other words, don’t do less to make others comfortable – take them alongside you. Creating is so personal, it can be devastating when your work is getting overlooked. Creative fields are also so niche and not as prevalent as other pursuits, so that creators often feel like they are in constant competition with over creatives. It can get weird when a fellow artist starts having a ton of success and you feel like you’ve been working just as hard. I’ve been in both places. I’ve felt like a fool for devoting my life to the hard work I am doing to see things keep falling into place for everyone else. I’ve also recently been in the place where certain things finally began to come together, and I’ve felt some pushback. At times I’ve questioned whether I should move out of the way for other emerging creators. Especially if creating is life-giving for you, do not do less because someone else is asking why not me? Take them along for the ride, collaborate, invite them to share a space with you at shows or festivals. They may end up saying nah, and that’s ok, but don’t crush your own momentum that you’ve worked so hard for. Everything is an eb and flow, up and down like much of life. If you sense a jealous vibe, reach out as a mentor because you know how it is – you’ve been there. Don’t be inclusive by holding yourself back.

There’s nothing wrong with grabbing onto trends that are fun, but follow trends because you want to not because you think it will make your art better. It won’t.

The thing with trends is, the market ends up becoming oversaturated with copies. There is no guarantee your watercolor paintings of Pokémon will take off more than the other 5000 artist on Instagram doing the same thing. (As you can see, I tend to not be so great at following trends. I’m pretty sure Pokémon is over, but I just started playing Pokémon Go last year. Late to the party as always!) If it’s fun and makes you happy, then that’s reason enough to go for it. But, don’t struggle through trying to force your work into a shape it doesn’t fit just to be trend aligned.

Doing art you aren’t good at isn’t a waste of time.

As working creatives, it’s important to set aside time for art to be play as well as work. I recently took a clay hand building class after putting it off for the longest time because my head kept telling me, “In school clay was the only time you ever got Bs in art class, it’s not like you’re ever going to go buy a kiln and start doing this professionally so what’s the point”. The point is to play. For me, it is the same thing with piano. As I plunk along on my little keyboard learning the same song I started trying to play a year ago, do I ever think I’m going to play for a crowd or write my own music? Absolutely not. But in that moment, am I feeling relaxation, joy, and a sense of growth? Certainly.

Going digital isn’t all bad.

Social media and now especially Covid has changed how artists are expected to interact with the public. It can get tedious to constantly curate online media and feel like it is taking away from important time that could be spent creating. Virtual classes can feel impersonal and lacking an important social and experiential element. Virtual exhibits can flatten work and we all know viewing a tiny jpeg on a phone screen can’t compare with standing in front of a largescale work immersed in it. Neither is the experience being at a venue hearing live music the same as watching a livestream. Valid points, but all artists should be excited about the increased accessibility technology provides. I saw an artist I love post a discussion about how harmful it is to consider digital art to be just as valid as traditional art, because an important element of emotional connection with art is the artist physically touching the materials, moving their hands to create. As an advocate for creators with disabilities, the first thought that popped into my head is, what if an artist can’t move their hands the same way as everyone else? Why is art invalid because it uses a different process? What if a person doesn’t have access to transportation but would like to take an art class? What if a person gets anxiety in crowds but wants to experience a live concert or theatrical performance? What if a person can’t afford to travel to a big name art museum but wants to become inspired by some of the world’s most famous masterworks? I get it, change is hard for me too and I truly don’t enjoy creating digitally as much as I do traditionally. Creating video content doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s not perfect. Inspiring others to create who live on the opposite side of the country and will never attend one of my in-person art classes? That’s amazing regardless.

Other creatives – what is something you’ve learned recently?

Standard
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!

Standard
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!

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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!

Standard
Uncategorized

Judith Scott: Creative Minds Art History Project

Judith Scott is a world renowned fiber artist with down syndrome. She spent most of her life in an institution, and her natural gifts may never have been discovered had her sister not fought for guardianship later in Judith’s life and enrolled her in an arts education program. It was here that they discovered she had a natural eye for form and color as she started combining and wrapping objects in yarn entirely on her own to make fantastical abstract sculptures. Being that my group I work with is primarily adults with disabilities, I love sharing stories like this. I also thought this project would be a nice break from a traditional art assignment because it’s completely open ended.

This project is intuitive, fun, and a little crazy. Repeatedly students throughout the process would laugh and say, “I have no idea what I’m trying to do…” but they were engaged and smiling! Sometimes you need to just let loose and allow creating to be about nothing more than the process, enjoying the act of assembling, the feel of the different textures of material, just let your senses take everything in.

We started with an armature, frankensteining together random objects to create the shape we would wrap with yarn. Then, we got to wrapping. It works best to use as little glue as possible to still have the wrapping stick so you don’t get a soggy mess. I used some at the beginning and end, and just wrapped tightly so the rest holds on its own.

Some became inspired by a real living thing they chose to abstract, and some just let the shape of their chosen object speak for itself. It was very interesting to see what each individual came up with!

This is a great boredom buster for kids as well, and doesn’t use a lot of materials… Just yarn and literally anything laying around the house you would usually toss or just don’t know what to do with. It is also a wonderful segway into discussing that individuals with disabilities have rich inner lives; interests, goals, and achievements just like we all do – and that we all reach our full potential best when we have someone who is willing to come by our side, be a friend, and believe in us!

If you end up trying this at home, please share I’d love to see pictures! Have fun :).

Standard
Techniques and Tutorials

Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Tutorial – Scarlet Tanager

I’ve recently been doing some experimentation with palette knife painting, though for now my forte is mainly just birds! (I tried an octopus recently with disasterous results 😉 ). As someone who was previously very skeptical about palette knifing, I wanted to share how much fun it really is! As someone who is very sharp detail oriented with art, I was worried about not having the control that I can get with a pencil or brush. In the end, I found the expressive process of smearing and marbling colors with the knife incredibly calming and meditative. This is beginner level, so anyone can try it even if you have no painting experience. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

What do you think I should try to palette knife next?

Standard