New Art! 2 Down 2 To Go!

Struck by both some luckily timed inspiration and ever looming deadlines, I have buckled down on my series and completed 2 more pieces, which means only 2 more to go! I actually think these 2 new ones are among my favorites so far. Series-explanation-blurb time for those new readers! “Unlimited” is composed of 12 mixed media portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. Women of all ages, races, and time periods are depicted, each communicating a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. We tend to think of time and events in terms of our own personal history or the history of the nation in which we reside. But of course, there are women everywhere living out their day to day life all over the world, with hopes, dreams, fears , relationships. Our situations and struggles are very different, but were we in some alternate reality all given a chance to meet, I suspect we would find some surprising similarities, maybe more than we ever expected. Pieces are primarily drawing and painting, accented with mixed media elements and metallic details.

october she is full of curiosity

For the above, titled “October: She Is Full of Curiosity”, I incorporated a lot more mixed media elements which I felt meshed well with the “vintage study” atmosphere of the background. I used quilting fabric for the wallpaper, leather upholstery samples for the book cover, decoupaged book pages for the inside pages and title, an art book clipping for the picture on the wall, ink for the woodwork, watercolor for the outdoor scene, lace overlay for the girl’s collar, metallic acrylic for her hair, and prismacolor pencil for most of the figure and clothing.

she is free

In this next piece, titled “July: She Is Free In Mind and Spirit”, I took almost the opposite approach, not using any fabric or found object materials and sticking solely to the traditional art materials of prismacolor pencil, watercolor, and acrylic paint. I’d had all the pieces for my series pre-planned as far as composition and subject matter since late 2015. However, this one took flight (haha, bad pun) on its own quite recently after I realized that I had a variety of ages and races represented in my planned artworks, but not a variety of abilities. Given that I work with an art program that serves individuals with disabilities, this oversight stopped me in my tracks. I’m always harping on inclusion and the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the public and entertainment sphere to anyone who will listen (and even those who don’t want to sometimes), and yet I realized they were not included in my project that was all about inclusion, unity, and representation. I was thus tasked with coming up with a visible disability that could be seen in just a head and shoulders portrait rather than a full body rendering. This lively young woman with down syndrome who exudes confidence, energy, and life evolved over the incredibly short course of two interrupted days with no pre-planning or sketching beforehand which is very uncommon for me. I don’t know that anyone else will see it, but this piece definitely holds the most emotional connection for me.

For more deeply personal and unconventional portraits, check out self-taught contemporary artist Stephen Martyn Welch’s “Everyone Deserves A Portrait” series inspired by his son who was born with Kabuki Syndrome. Keep checking for the last two! I’m on a roll ;)!

March: She Is Everything At Once

Obviously, though I had a fun idea of doing the whole “a drawing a month” reveal for my new 12 part series, that didn’t happen as I am on March and it is now almost September. I would like to enter this series into Art Prize next year, and decided if I have until next Fall, why impose such a crazy impossible deadline on myself simply for the sake of themed blog posts and risk the quality of the work? Impossible self-imposed deadlines are this thing I like to do that I really need to ease up on. For those who haven’t read my previous posts, my new series involves 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme and season. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I want the series to flow together in its mainly black and white scheme with pops of color, soft mixed media application, and it’s classic portrait composition. However, I wanted each month’s portrait to still be distinctly different “characters” from one to the other, achieved via aesthetic theme and accent colors. For this piece, I went with bold, dynamic primaries and a nod to pop art. You can view January and February from earlier posts.

In this piece for March, my goal was to take the commonplace negative stereotype of women being “emotional” and turn it on it’s head, marrying caring and empathy with strength, and sadness and despair with hope for a better future. A surreal merging of classic pop art, which often featured dramatic beautiful women sobbing,  with realistic portraiture was the perfect fit for this concept.

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Women are constantly being told they are too much of something, despite the fact that they are often expected to wear far more different hats responsibility-wise than their male counterparts. Google searches have become an interesting way to peek into mainstream society’s views. Anyone who uses the internet knows when you begin to type something in, google will finish it with the most popular searches and subjects. A UN Women ad from 2013 was the first to make a statement using this innovative approach.

un-women-search-engine-campaign-1

I tried the same concept, only typing in the starting phrase “women are too…” What I’ve found is that women are apparently too picky, but also too easy, too intelligent and successful to find love, yet too weak and too emotional to be leaders, the president, or involved in politics at all, but at the same time also too dominant. It looks like we’ve got a Goldilocks problem here.

As one who believes that sometimes problems we assign dominantly to one gender are still just basic human being problems, I didn’t want to negate the idea that there may be similar findings for men. However, when I tried “men are too…” I got nothing. In fact, when I simply pressed enter to see what articles would come up, the main article up top was “Monkeys turn into grumpy old men, too” about aging primates and behavioral changes. While hilarious, it is clear that this whole “Be everything at once yet also be nothing at all” contradictory expectation is something that, while maybe not entirely absent for men, is something that women face more in mainstream culture.

A descriptor routinely used to discredit women’s abilities is the fact that they are “too emotional” by default of their gender. However, when men step out of their perceived box by showing any degree of emotion aside from anger, they too are often chastised and ridiculed. This shows that our revulsion towards caring at least is a societal problem on the whole, not just a women’s issue. For some reason, people seem to view caring as weakness. This can be seen clearly in the dismissive term bleeding heart, always used with a strong air of disgust. (A note to be made here… when I talk about caring I am not including people sitting behind a laptop screen typing angry, obscene responses to random articles that they don’t agree with because they get off on being offended and telling people off. Nor am I talking about people who shut down and throw a fit every time they have to hear something that they don’t agree with. This is not true caring or passion, this is an addiction to “being right” all the time and putting people in their place, and it is unhealthy.)

I recall a conversation had with a person from my past 5-ish years ago. We were discussing some political or sociological issue. The other person, whom supposedly respected me, was nevertheless making zero effort to understand my view though I myself had stopped and listened to theirs. I remember growing frustrated and stating, “I don’t know why you are refusing to try to listen and understand where I’m coming from when this is an issue that is so important to me.” Their response was given bitingly and with a wave of the hand, “Oh, everything’s “the most important thing” to you.” Though it was meant as an insult, the more I pondered it the more I thought, I’m ok with owning that. Because everything does matter, in some way large or small.

In our culture, it’s cool not to care. You can see this fact brazenly displayed in popular entertainment (The Hangover 1,2,3,4,5? They just keep going.) People are routinely being told the answer to their feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety is to just “let go”. But is the “ignorance is bliss” model really the one we should be following? This idea in and of itself seems to admit that caring is not weakness, but strength. Experiencing emotions of concern and empathy is an active state; not caring for anything outside of your own pleasure and needs is passive. To put it simply, caring about things is hard work. It can force us to take steps towards action that may make us uncomfortable, and take up a lot of our time and resources. It can be mentally and psychologically draining.

Caring is strength. Let’s lift up our mothers, our fathers, those taking care of an adult family member, our nurses, our teachers, our home health aides, our daycare workers, our counselors, our missionaries, our activists … No matter what societal norms tells us, they are our true heroes.

 

Happy Staycation! + New Work Reveal

be my wings

I’ve been working on this new mixed media drawing for awhile, and with my decision to take a little staycation, I’ve finally had the time to finish it! It is titled, “Be My Wings”, and measures 18×24″. I used prismacolor pencil for the face, prismacolor markers for the ravens, watercolor for both the hair and the background with grey, black, and white chalk overlay, and fabric for the clothing covering the neck and shoulders.

Of course, I have added this design to my Redbubble collection, as well as some new designs inspired by a couple of fun, newly finished ACEO illustrations.

I love buying from all kinds of artists on Redbubble, and have a design of almost every type of product in one form or another except the throw pillows! I’m dying to get one, but it is impossible to decide which design to choose, especially since I feel like changing around all the colors and decor in my apartment yet again. It’s a yearly thing :P.

I know this is a brief post after not writing for so long, but I’ve actually been aiming to spend minimal time online over this week-long break as it is simply gorgeous outside! Lately, I’d been feeling like there was a gloomy bad-luck cloud looming over my head, skulking around and following me just about everywhere I went. However, something seems to have turned a bit in my favor, because I sure picked the right week to take off! Every day has been nothing but perfect warmth and blue skies.

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Can’t beat swimming and a view! Now, onward to more adventures…

Coffee Is Love.

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So, I put an exhibit up in Espresso Milano for Midland Artists Guild last week. This was an especially fun venue exhibit for me because I pretty much lived here when I was in high school. For those of you unfamiliar with Midland, Michigan, it’s a nice town for sure but, well … there’s not a whole lot for young people to do! Hang out with friends on Saturdays drinking coffee all day, especially frappes in the summer? Not complaining too much. It was always either that, or spend the day at the mall reading comics and music magazines in Barnes and Noble, until they started shrink-wrapping the darn things so you actually had to pay for them to read :P.

Snooty face 2007.

Blast from the past : Snooty Face 2007.

My P.I.C., Erin - best friends since we were 2 and actually just had a craft day together last week!

My P.I.C. that day, Erin – best friends since we were 2, and still going strong. We actually just had a craft day together last week!

Speaking of coffee being just the best…

(a topic of conversation that I daresay never gets old, nor loses its truth), I have some really cool illustrated mugs for sale in my ebay store right now! On discount, too … sweet right? They are dishwasher safe, top rack, and really heavy and durable. I am an accidental collector of unique mugs, and can’t seem to ever stop buying drink-ware in general, so these made me super happy.

Designs available are Retro Flowers, Queenie, I'd Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Whimsical Peacock.

Designs available are Retro Flowers, Queenie, I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Whimsical Peacock.

Other things I’ve been working on over this Labor Day weekend are, shockingly, Christmas plushies! I sell some of my fun creations at Imagine That!, also located in downtown Midland, and I need to have my holiday wares ready by mid-October. It’s weird to be thinking so far ahead already, but I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed getting in the holiday spirit a bit early :).

Whimsical trees and some pretty rad angels with halos made of strung sequins <3

Whimsical trees and some pretty rad angels with halos made of strung sequins ❤

Midlanders (or Saginaw/Bay City dwellers nearby such as myself), if you happen to be downtown within the next 2 months don’t forget to check out the exhibit. And for those of you in the states, I hope you enjoy your Labor Day weekend as well!

This Is Why You Should Keep Old Work Forever.

The Beauty Of It All

The Beauty Of It All, 11×14 prismacolor pencil and watercolor

For about 2 years, I had an 11×14 piece of bristol board with this woman’s face covered in flowers on it, and a metallic silver world map view behind her. She was surrounded by nothing else but white space. I was convinced it looked absolutely horrible, and I had no idea what to do with the rest of the background. I chocked it up to a loss and tossed the drawing in my storage portfolio case. A couple times I ran out of paper and thought about just using the back of it when I had a new idea and didn’t want to delay inspiration with a drive to Michaels for more bristol board. Other times I almost chopped it up into pieces for scrap paper to sketch ideas onto. I thought of posting it on my artist facebook page as a giveaway for whoever wanted it, and letting them color all over it like crazy to see what happened; an impromptu collaboration over vast distances.

Luckily, I never did any of these things. I’ve been doing a lot with watercolor lately, and was wishing I had one more piece to hang in my upcoming exhibit. I didn’t have the time to start anything else from scratch, but when I found this I decided to play around with the background and see what happened. I spontaneously dripped blues and greens and metallic silvers over the entire background, throwing the paper this way and that to guide the drips. Once I stopped over-analyzing and worrying over how terrible I thought my piece looked and just started enjoying the process again, everything came together. Sometimes even something as subtle as a bold color splashed into the backdrop can turn an entire piece around. Mine went from a drawing of a girl who looked like she had a strange, alien, flower-shaped skin disease to a pretty nice finished piece.

This is why I cannot emphasize enough, don’t toss out old, unfinished work! Paper is flat, it keeps pretty easily. I’ve my seen students do some really cool things with incomplete projects they could have tossed away. In this piece below, a student cut out elements she liked from a “practice” acrylic painting from the semester before that didn’t really turn out. These made for some great smaller blooms popping out around the central focus of the pumpkin. Even if you don’t end up turning the leftover physical piece into anything, something half-finished could at the very least provide an idea or concept for a project you do later.

And again, I have the best students ever. Unique floral mixed media for autumn.

Nancy’s autumnal mixed media, salvaging cutouts from an old acrylic practice lesson the semester before.

I’m actually constantly revisiting old work, even from as far back as high school. Most of that is also unfinished because I, like any teen, had a real short attention span. This painting, which my mom fell in love with and now has hanging over the sofa in my parents’ living room, was created from scratch in 2012. But, it was based on an old colored pencil drawing from 2005 that I never finished shading in. The particular sketchbook the original drawing was in is still in the closet of my old bedroom in my parents’ house or I would post it here, but it was a color scheme of entirely red and black and the parasol people were dressed in old-timey but super goth attire, and the faces on the parasols looked like they could all be members of a My Chemical Romance copycat band. Trust me, it was something else. Behold, the reboot.

"Wait Out The Storm", 18x24 Watercolor and Ink

“Wait Out The Storm”, 18×24 Watercolor and Ink

Now that I’ve turned you all into hoarders, I have one more all-together new piece I’d like to share. I have always been deeply interested in the steampunk aesthetic, but never created any steampunk-esque art myself. This is my first, and I’m pretty excited about how it turned out.

"Dreams Of Gold", 11x14 Prismacolor Pencil and Chalk

“Dreams Of Gold”, 11×14 Prismacolor Pencil and Chalk

The deep gold is metallic, though you can’t tell in the digital image. I was heavily inspired by the Victorian aspect of Steampunk, even turning the classic Victorian lace pattern into something metallic and industrial. I am finally going to be hanging all of these pieces up tomorrow in Espresso Milano, and will be sure to take pictures. Have any cool steampunk art you yourself have created or that you’ve seen by other artists? Throw me a link! I am a long time appreciator, but creation-wise, a novice. As I’ve promised, photos soon!

New Work Reveal – On My Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art Clash 2015

Art Clash 2015

Art Clash 2015

"Inner Strength", 18x24 Watercolor, Ink, and Metallic Acrylic

“Inner Strength”, 18×24 Watercolor, Ink, and Metallic Acrylic

As promised in my last post, I wanted to share my finished piece from this year’s Art Clash! I was definitely feeling the time limit this time around, and did have to either hurry through or leave out some additional details that I wanted in the piece. I may consider a simpler composition next year haha, but I’m still happy with how this turned out, despite my having to be in literal hyperdrive just to finish with 5 minutes to spare.

I combined a variety of vintage photograph references (For those of you that don’t know, antique photos have been kind of my “thing” over the past year.) for the figure, coupled with classic superhero imagery. My concept was grappling with the idea that how we feel inside is rarely how the rest of the world sees us. We have this entire vast, complex universe inside us. We must never forget no matter what we are going through, that we are so much more than others may portray us as. We can be the heroes of our own story even in the small, day-to-day decisions that we make, and actions that we take.

Heather and I had a fantastic time, saw a lot of amazing art, and I got to work next to this awesome little kid watercolor painting his favorite scene from Star Wars. All in all, it was a good day.