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.
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.
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?
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!
Because 2020’s got us all feeling a little poopy off and on, here are some things that made me happy amongst the ups and downs of this past weekend and beginning of this week …
#1 Molly Burgess Designs On Instagram
Check this out … giant beautifully patterned fabric insects. I’m in love.
#2 Corinne Elyse On Society6
Vintage print aesthetic, lovely ladies, and lots of eyeballs, OH MY!
#3 Love On The Spectrum
Forming and maintaining romantic relationships is just freaking hard in general, but throw a neurological difference that can make one communicate in a way that is different from the “norm” into the mix…? That is what this show tackles as it follows adults on the autism spectrum as they start to date, and think about what they want in a lifelong partner. I laughed, I was moved emotionally, and I at times related closely to the protagonists of this series. I was impressed by how respectfully done this show was. As someone who works with adults with disabilities and considers myself an advocate, I was concerned the show would be another one of those “Unbelievable – people with disabilities/mental health issues can actually date and have sex!” sorts of shows where viewers are supposed to observe them like they are aliens or zoo animals. But, it is not voyeuristic at all, and is very sincere with much of the commentary being expressed directly by the individuals with autism.
#4 The Handler’s Wardrobe in The Umbrella Academy
I’m not a big TV person usually, but as my little corner of the world has started to get a lot busier with classes and commissions I’ve been forcing myself to have downtime. So, #4 is another Netflix gem. Not only is this show fantastic in general with hands down the best character development I’ve seen in any superhero TV show or film, but this nefarious vixen’s costuming is simply to die for. I mean, it was good in season 1 but season 2 has taken it next level. I need that crystal spider brooch, and everything else.
#5 Beginning My Modeling Career
Said a little tongue in cheek ;), but I have always enjoyed going out dressed unconventionally and taking fun photos with friends. This time my expedition was a bit more professionally done with fellow artist and excellent photographer Emiliano Vega. I express myself through fashion, and am in love with anything retro. This shoot was a bold expression of all my quirky style loves from 60s-80s throwback vibes to pigtails to metallics to a boycott of any footwear that’s not boots or tennis shoes. Technically this is from last week, but we’re not getting legalistic about it. If I could, I’d dress like this every day it was legitimately one of the most comfortable outfits I’d worn in a while – stretchy fabric and no pants, what’s not to like?
#6 New Portrait Project
In the beginning phases, but I am going to be working on a series that makes my heart so happy. It will celebrate disability pride and independence, involve some of my students, and I honestly can’t be more thrilled about how all the pieces are coming together in a way that can only be described as divine intervention. More on this as it unfolds! For now, here’s an in-progress preview.
#7 Rad Student Artwork
Major props to Sarah for this beautiful cardinal watercolor painting! Sarah will be live painting in a Community Art Party my program is hosting this weekend. Check back for a recap early next week!
#8 Nikki McClure’s Collect Raindrops
An old bestie from college I’d kind of lost contact with over the years recently commented on my Facebook share about a book exchange (one of those chain mail sorts of things but way more fun). We exchanged the required info, sent books out to the first name on our list, the usual drill. Then yesterday, I got a beautiful surprise art book in the mail from said old friend as well! The paper-cut art prints are absolutely gorgeous and uplifting – love discovering new artists!
#9 Peacock Party!
I have been into including peacocks in my art for a couple years now, and tonight I got to share the love with some other creative souls. Always love encouraging people to throw some paint, especially for the first time! My favorite part of doing these workshops is seeing how different everyone’s looks at the end after taking in the same inspiration image and step-by-step demonstration. It is so fascinating and exciting to see beginning artists’ style start to emerge <3.
#10 In-Home Thai Restaurant
I haven’t been eating out much this year with the whole Covid situation, so I’ve been experimenting with recreating my favorite eat-out recipes at home. I bring you, Thai Coconut Curry, made with veggies from the garden!
What’s been keeping your spirits up during this very odd year???
As this strange year has progressed and people are adjusting to more and more temporary lifestyle changes each day, I have seen the role creation and the arts are playing in people’s mental and emotional survival. More and more people are turning to creativity as a release from stress, uncertainty, news, disappointment, grief, and longing. Art also has the power to remind us of things, like the fact that we as a society are more resilient than we think. Today I’m going to share some art with you that conveys hope and resilience, something we should be sharing more about right now.
Ikegami is an illustrator from Tokyo, Japan. I discovered Ikegami’s illustrations during some mindless Instagram surfing on a not-too-cheery quarantine day, and they truly did have an effect on my disposition. I left my screen time feeling at least a bit more cheerful, inspired, and in an unexplainable way kind of hopeful. That’s the power of art! To me, these illustrations speak to hope as their characters see what might be in the colorful reflections of their landscapes. So often when we imagine futures we go towards the worst case scenario, but what if things turn out alright in the end? What if we aren’t as alone as we think?
Smart is a successful illustrator with clients including : Random House Kids, Penguin Workshop, andThe New York Times. Her bright watercolor style illustrations made with a sketchbook appeal resonate with both kids and adults alike. This illustration in particular caught my eye with the strong symbolism of pictures and scenes drawn on band-aids. Each experience adds to our story. We don’t always need to regret or curse difficult circumstances or wounds, because these occurrences add to our story and what type of character we will become in our own life. Oftentimes, as shown by the hands carefully applying a bandage, there will be someone there to share our story with – don’t be afraid to accept that support.
Aceves is a fine artist with a BA in fashion design from The Advanced Center In Fashion And Styling in Mexico. She is now based in California, and had her own fashion label for 7 years before transitioning full time into fine arts. Her paintings celebrate women’s narratives and unique personalities, their place in the world, and within Mexican culture. This both jarring and elegant piece speaks to me about the pain of growth, and the contrast between beauty and pain. There can be no transformation without discomfort. I have always been a highly sensitive human that experiences strong emotions. I’ve often wondered if I’d be happier a different way, but came to the conclusion that if I had to give up the brilliant highs I experience; the way I can get lost in the detail on a piece of bark while walking outside to get the mail, the childlike joy and excitement I get out of seeing a sunset or an interestingly shaped cloud, the way my brain can turn something pretty basic into a fun adventure … it wouldn’t be worth it. I would never want to give that up even though sometimes the negative emotions I experience are intensified too. When we experience struggle as we all are collectively right now, we can choose to grow from it so that nothing is wasted, not even time. We can as a society and individually choose what we want to learn from this, and what we want to carry into the future.
Bright is a watercolor artist from Sydney, Australia. Her main sources of inspiration are plants and animals, and she is a strong believer that there is “an unconditional bond between a Woman and Nature” because “Love, Beauty, Strength, Power and many others traits are shared between a Woman’s inner world and wildlife.” This piece of hers struck me the most, not only because of the dynamic composition but because it is one of the best representations of an internal mental battle that I’ve ever seen. It would be easy to become devoured by fear right now, but who would that help? Mental strength and developing healthy emotional habits has never been more important than now. I know creativity, keeping active, and making sure I enjoy the outdoors for at least a little each day has helped me stay focused.
I hope something here today has inspired you, and I will continue to regularly share art demos accessible to all ages and skill levels to try when you are feeling bored or anxious. We got this!
Mixed media has become very popular in art over the last couple of years, and there is no question as to why … It is wonderful to be able to sit down and work on a project and not be limited to only one or two materials despite what may convey your idea best. It is also a way to make 2D art more tactile, introducing elements of 3D art and design onto a 2D surface.
I’ve found that introducing mixed media to my drawings has given my pieces a new life. There is nothing at all wrong with using one material, and I enjoy a lot of artists’ work that create art that is all ink, or all watercolor, or all acrylic. However, for my own art working with multiple mediums has enabled me to break through the possibility of my work becoming repetitive or stagnant, and has helped me develop my own unique style.
It’s easy to be intimidated by mixed media art because it involves a lot of choices, but using multiple mediums can actually make the artistic process easier by removing the limitations of using one material at a time so that for each part of our piece we can use the medium that will lend itself best to creating the visual effect we desire. It can also allow us to be more efficient with our work; for example, yes I could find a fabric I like and copy it by hand onto the dress of a figure in my drawing, or I could add something tactile and interesting and adhere the actual fabric to my drawing as the figure’s dress.
Wondering how to incorporate mixed media into your drawings or paintings?
- Start with what you know. Create a base drawing or painting first, and then assess where you could add some 3-dimensional or tactile elements. In the image below titled “Artist At Work”, fellow artist and art friend Emiliano Vega painted the scene first with acrylics and a palette knife, and then I applied mixed media accents evenly dispersed throughout the scene to finish it off. Think about what the objects depicted in your drawing or painting are actually made of be it wood, metal, fabric, leather … and try to incorporate those materials. I used thin cutouts from sheets of wood samples for the wood of the window frame and easel. Real fabric and leather samples were used for the furniture, with paint applied overtop for shading. Prints of an actual sketchbook were used for the book on the table, as well as a a closeup section of an actual painting for the work on the canvas.
- Go gathering and narrow down your choices! Look for materials with a similar color scheme, pattern, style, or period look to the 2D image you are creating. Once you’ve accumulated a store of like elements, it will be a lot easier to decide what you want to place where to add to your piece. For “Lunar Fantasy”, I painted everything in watercolor first and then determined what to accent in mixed materials. I gathered fabrics in dusty, muted tones of black, ivory, gray, blue, and violet. I also collected some gold metal/metallic pieces that reinforced the vintage style. Everything I collected was pretty and feminine with a definite older feel to it (think Grandma’s craft drawer) but with a whimsical, luxe element to it as well. I gave myself a couple fabric choices, a couple edging choices, and a couple metal choices and narrowed it down from there. I used actual fabric and ribbon for the top curtain and her outfit, and accented any of the metal with gold cord. I also reinforced the vintage circus look by using scavenged vintage jewelry for decoration.
- Maintain your original style. There are literally no rules to mixed media art. When you google “mixed media art” or even watch youtube tutorials, a lot of what comes up are mixed media styles that are very “on trend” with a heavy art journaling influence. Much of it is very busy and colorful with all-over pattern and texture, visible paint strokes, and super stylized figures, flowers, or animals with a lot of elements of paper crafting and collage. If you’re a fine artist who likes sharp detail and realism you may feel like this is an area you aren’t able to dabble in but that isn’t true at all. I integrate mixed media into my pieces as an accent and an enhancement to the work I am already doing in either paint or pencil. The piece on the left is all colored pencil, and on the right colored pencil with the introduction of mixed media, both other 2D mediums as well as some 3D objects. In this piece on the right, I was able to use prismacolor pencil for the figure to achieve the sharp detail and realism that was desired, and watercolor for the background to create a softness and “fog” to the view through the window. I used prismacolor markers for the eye pattern undulating out from her line of vision because I wanted that to have a more hard-edged graphic print look with no visible pencil or paint strokes. I used actual fiber materials for the gold edging on her outfit and her dress as well as actual decorative gems for her jewelry because yes, you could imitate it by drawing, but using the real thing adds a surprise 3D element that makes viewers look twice and gives the piece depth. That is part of the fun of mixed media art – it draws viewers in encouraging them to investigate further, because it’s not just a painting or just a drawing – they are invited to try to figure out the artist’s process, and what they used for different parts of the piece. There are new discoveries the longer they take the piece in.
- Start small. Try out different techniques and materials on a small surface. Bulk value packs of 8×10″ canvases or mixed media paper sketchbooks are great! Get out your paints, pencils, fabric, beads, odds and ends and play!
With many things being cancelled right now resulting in a lot of downtime, it’s not a bad idea to get creative and try something new! Fine art and crafting materials CAN coexist!
It had been awhile since I’d gotten out of town to do something fun, so I took a day trip this month to the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, because who can say no to free inspiration? In addition to an array of art from centuries past with an especially robust Asian art section, there were some more recent pieces that really impacted mem resulting in some new favorite artists – all with amazing stories.
I am a mask enthusiast as well as a fan of anything inspired by surreal or dreamlike imagery, and the composition and color in this piece propelled me over to it like a magnet the moment I walked into the first room.
Meza is known for fantastical landscapes and distorted figures. He grew up in Mexico City, the son of tailors. His family was not wealthy and he himself only completed school through 9th grade, but they were a family that valued arts, music, and culture, and he started drawing as a child and never stopped. He helped support his family by illustrating for magazines. Other working artists took notice, and he was recommended to Galeria de Arte Mexicana by none other than Diego Rivera. I love his story because it shows that yes opportunity helps, but what more so determines success or failure is an artist’s skill and devotion to creative practice.
Marcus Jansen is originally from South Bronx and now resides in Florida. He was always interested in art, but chose to enlist in the military as a career. He is a veteran of Desert Storm who upon returning to civilian life in 1999 found he had trouble adjusting, and struggled to find work. He started selling his paintings on the street, and garnered recognition for his unique, abstracted landscapes that often include social and political metaphor. He is the founder of the Marcus Jansen Foundation Fund, which assists low-income community organizations in South West Florida by bringing them arts, music, and cultural awareness. His foundation also supports organizations that help veterans diagnosed with PTSD, bringing them art as a form of expressive therapy. This is another artist who I liked even more after not only just seeing their physical creations but researching their personal story. His work for me created a dynamic new world that I couldn’t step away from, with a unique blend of realism and abstract and a specific style that is completely new, a hard thing to achieve in this time when it sometimes seems everything has been done.
The above piece was part of the Peace Art Project of Cambodia. PAPC is a project sponsored by the European Union as well as some celebrity donors in which students at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh worked on projects turning weapons technology into peace time vocations by using them as an art material for beautiful sculptures. This particular piece depicts Asapara, a female Buddhist figure whose traditional dance holds an important place in Cambodia’s culture and history. The juxtaposition of the elegant, peaceful figure with what she is created out of is a strong image conveying the end of violence.
I had already been a fan of this artist, so in this case it was a very special moment for me to see one of her installations in person. I hadn’t even checked out the website for the museum beforehand, just decided to go, so I didn’t know she would even be showing. I love random life surprises like this! Mari Katayama is a Japanese artist who was born with a rare developmental condition. She had to have both her legs amputated at age 9, and has only 2 fingers on her right hand. She began photographing herself at first to understand her own identity beyond society’s simplistic, “one size fits all” view of individuals with disabilities. She says that she doesn’t view her images as self portraits though, more that she uses her body as an art material to communicate messages about body image that she feels speak to both individuals with disabilities and able bodied individuals. It’s no secret I’m big into mixed media, and I love the idea of someone using their own body as an art medium. I also am interested in her use of recreated fiber art limbs, and the mix of indoor and outdoor environments used in her overall installation. There is not near enough disability visibility in arts and entertainment, and Katayama’s work is incredibly important.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my favorite finds! As always, if you have a favorite artist feel free to leave their name in a comment. I love discovering new sources of inspiration!
I took a break from teaching my Creative Minds class with my Express Yourself Artshop crew over the summer since we had a bunch of other specialized activities going on, but am excited to be back! We started our new semester with a classic artist from the past, Michelangelo Merisi da Carravagio. Entertaining the masses through stories of epic violence before there were action movies, many of Carravagio’s paintings centered around religious and mythic themes and involved a lot of beheadings … Allegedly he also had to move around a lot to avoid getting his door knocked down due to a habit of “excessive brawling” – Life imitates art.
Though he also did the traditional commissions and practice of portraits, still life, etc., these intense and poignant scenes are what he became most well known for. One particular commission completed around the year 1597 for Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the Medici family’s agent in Rome, is what we drew inspiration from for our project. This ceremonial shield was painted with an image of Medusa just as she has been tricked into looking into a mirror, thus freezing and leaving herself open to guess what, another beheading! Students each picked a character from Greek Mythology to study images from, and drew from this to create their own image, blood and guts optional ;).
To achieve the atmosphere of strong shadows characteristic of Caravaggio’s work, we used black drawing paper as a base. Pastels show up bold and opaque on top of black, as do colored pencils if they are oil or wax based like Prismacolor colored pencils. This choice of black paper had a dual purpose; not only did it help us pay homage to Caravaggio’s high contrast style but it was a mental challenge in that students had to think about the process of shading in reverse. They had to think differently than with traditional drawing on white paper, adding shading with their colors to lighten an area and leaving spaces alone or coloring more lightly with their materials to “darken” them.
As always, feel free to share, steal, or try this at home for fun! Keep checking back as I will be posting more projects soon!