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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Techniques and Tutorials

Inktober 2020

October not only means my favorite season is finally here, but it is now the time for the simultaneous joy and dread of every artist… Inktober! The basic premise is trying to do some sort of ink illustration every day as a way to integrate art practice into your daily life. I’ve been doing Inktober a little differently this year. I’ve made it less of a stressor for me by not worrying about having to do one EVERY single day as long as I’m participating every other or every 3, and I’m not using daily prompts, just creating whatever strikes me. I also am recording my process for each creation and posting it to my new youtube channel.

I’ve got a couple more up my sleeve though it’s nearing the end of the month, so check out my channel to see the rest of my Inktober demos as well as the new ones I’ll be posting this coming week!

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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?

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Project Ideas, Techniques and Tutorials

Charley Harper: Creative Minds Art History Project

I was first drawn to Charley Harper‘s work in the gift shop of a local museum. One of my dad’s main hobbies is birding and wildlife photography, and Harper’s Mid-Century-Modern style illustrations just screamed the perfect birthday gift.

Harper grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and was inspired by the wildlife he experienced around him. He called his style “minimal realism”, taking in the world around him and distilling the imagery he observed down to the most essential details. He said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”

Inspired by images from Harper’s body of work that capture his signature style, I encouraged my students this week to create their own minimal realist birds. Though Harper’s works were painted, they bare quite the resemblance to modern day digital art and graphic design. Instead of painting, we used a collage format to create our Charley Harper Birds. We used paint chip samples for our vibrantly colored creatures, colored cardstock for the background, and paint markers to add the linework details. From working on repainting the interior and exterior of a house over the last couple years, I had an accumulation of samples but never felt right throwing away even the colors I ended up not using. Upcycling to the rescue! At an arts non-profit, we love free materials ;). We outlined our geometric shapes onto the samples with a pencil, then cut them out and adhered them to a foam core board base (any heavier paper would work as well) with a standard glue stick. I’d suggest laying out the entire design before gluing in case you want to make some changes before the final masterpiece.

I teach adults with varying physical, psychological, and intellectual disabilities but this project is perfect for all ages and abilities. It is all inspired by simple geometric shapes and blocks of color, and can be done as simple or with as much detail as the artist desires. We created our works in an easy-to-frame 5×7″ size.

I hope you are inspired to try this at home (This would also be a fun project for bored kids, hint hint 😉 )! This is a simple, whimsical project that you don’t have to be an “artist” to enjoy. Unwind after work and get crafty with some basic, easy to access materials. As always, if you end up making one of these yourself I’d love to see pictures!

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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.

monica

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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