Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Beyond The Photo

It’s been awhile since my last Artists To Know post, and today I wanted to focus on photography. I have always been interested in photography, but never took the craft further than just “playing around”, and don’t really do any artistic photography anymore today. My favorite type of photography has always been work that shows us more than what we can already see in front of us, photography that is not objective but that injects part of the artist into what it is they capture (or create, as in the case of our first artist who uses found photos for collage). I hope this post gives you some Sunday afternoon inspiration, as these artists did for me!

Guy Catling


Catling is a graphic designer from the UK who works primarily in collage. He is known for his use of old black and white photos, especially of somber subjects such as war photography, which he gives new life through the juxtaposition of jarringly bright, cheerful patterns. As someone who loves pattern, his images just plain make me happy when I look at them, and give me quite the urging to dig out a book of old wallpaper samples and go to town making something amazing!

Tawny Chatmon


A self proclaimed “army brat”, Chatmon did a lot of traveling as a kid and had resided in 3 different continents by the age of 12. Once settled in the US, she turned more in the creative direction of theater. She didn’t start getting into photography until her early 20s, when she was gifted a camera at 19 and through self teaching and expirimentation saw an opportunity to make a living through the lens. After losing her father to a battle with cancer in 2010, Chatmon’s portrait photography became not only a career but a way to communicate and process emotions, an art. What first drew me to her work was the image above, part of her series titled “Deeply Embedded”. The composition and heavy use of pattern on the clothing reminded  me a bit of Gustav Klimt, one of my favorites from art history. Chatmon writes about this series on her website, “Deeply Embedded was created during a time where I continued to come across negativity centered around natural black hair & styles. Anger followed by frustration and sadness forced me to refocus that energy into creating work to speak for me as our words fell upon deaf ears.” There are many different forms of beauty in our world, and photography is the perfect medium to capture that fact.

Stefan Sagmeister


Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian graphic designer and typographer. He currently works in the US and is known for his work in advertising and album covers, for which he has won 3 Grammy awards. Much of his personal work centers around the elusive achievement of happiness, conveyed through statistics, personal experimentation, and design. Though I myself am very skeptical that there is a magical formula or set of steps that will universally make every human happy (I am a big proponent of “If it’s not true for one, it’s not true for all”.), I do enjoy art that gets viewers into the head of the artist and visually shows their thought processes.

Aydın Büyüktaş


Aydın is a Turkish artist who combines images he captures with drones to create mind-bending multi-angle landscapes. It is evident in his portfolio that special attention is paid to the use of pattern and line as he composes his imaginary worlds. I would have never thought of using drones for art, and it is fascinating to see what can be done with this relatively new medium.

If you know an artist you’d like to be featured (or are an artist yourself!) feel free to share with me. I love discovering new creatives!




Artists To Know

Artists To Know: My Personal Influences

People are constantly asking and being asked the question, Who are your influences? Who do you consider your hero? Who are your role models? giphyI never know how to answer and end up feeling like I’m having some sort of Mindy Lahiri moment. It sounds totally pompous and terrible to be like … Hm, well I’d say myself probably? but that is how I feel sometimes! I love art, and have seen many pieces that have spoken to me in some way, but I’ve never had that “master artist” whom I felt informed my whole artistic style and way of doing things. I’ve always had this strong aversion to even remotely copying or being influenced by anything at all. I remember growing up in school, my parents would ask me what I was working on in class at the dinner table. I’d go on about some paper I had to write, and one of my parents (usually my dad) would pipe up with, “Oh, I know! You can write about _________!”. I’d get so mad and exclaim, “Great, now I can’t write about that even if I was going to because you said it first so it’s not my idea anymore!”A lot of times it truly was the idea I’d had in my head already, which was super problematic.

I am a very visually based person, and images have always stuck with me more than individual people anyway. As a way to maybe untangle some of my artistic influences, I have shared individual images that have struck me in my artistic journey, inspired me to create, and made me excited about being an artist. You may see similarities between some of these images and the work I aim to create, and some may be as different from my own work as night and day. You will not see any flowers or landscapes. Enjoy!

One of the first pieces of art that really impacted me once I was in high school and actually started developing an artistic style of my own wasn’t actually traditional art, but a fashion editorial from Elle Girl magazine. Elle Girl was infinitely better than it’s preppy, air-headed sister Cosmo Girl, or so I believed at the time – Elle Girl had Emma Watson on the cover (in a marching band themed shoot of all things), and also first introduced me to the band Tegan and Sara via a short article featuring lots of photos of them leaning against walls in cool clothes and an answer to the all important question, what IS that weird sauce that Canadians put on their french fries? Its slogan was “Dare to be Different”, and it did tend to feature more unique, out-of-the-box photo shoots than other magazines geared towards teens. I was super into photography at the time as well as drawing, and though I had never thought of myself as a super confident person, I loved dressing up in fun outfits and makeup and crazy jewelry with my friends and taking photos. I loved doing this because it allowed me to be far more bold and outgoing than my social anxiousness normally allowed me to be. All the outlandish clothes and hair and bright makeup is like a protective mask where you feel more like you are playing a character than anything else, and you don’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed about anything.

I came across these H.R. Geiger pieces at Barnes and Noble of all places, while looking at calendars for my new dorm my first year away at college. I was most struck by his more figurative work. His pieces are super creepy but they tell a story, and I was so impressed by the striking monochromatic contrast and seamless, almost obsessive detail. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I didn’t end up buying the calendar because I had many more purchases to make and it was like 25 bucks. However, I took down his name to look up more of his work, and have been a fan ever since. Funny enough, I wouldn’t watch Alien, for which he did a significant amount of visuals, until about 3 years ago.

I discovered these works from CC Askew and Camille Rose Garcia respectively in the art magazines I started to devour in late high and school early college. I hadn’t seen a lot of art from current working artists at that time, because art classes in school tend to be overly focused on the past. I understand the whole learn your foundations thing, and appreciating the history of art is important, but I remember being somewhat surprised to discover that there were actually well known artists that existed past the 19th century ;). These solidified my affinity towards pop surrealism, and I fell in love with their heavy use of twisted-storybook-esque illustration, a mix of imagery that can be both childlike and nostalgic yet also deeply dark.

Two works I also discovered in glorious outsider art, street art, and pop surrealism magazines are these by Lori Earley and Sylvia Ji. Both were artists who focus heavily on portraiture, as do I in my work. They used contrasting, unusual colors and their pieces were delicate and feminine but not without a dark, surreal edge.

These pieces by Ray Caesar and Ruben Ireland were the first digital art that ever peaked my interest. For the longest time, I had harbored such a grudge against digital artists (those bunch of cheaters!), mainly because the only digital art I’d seen was poorly executed fan art or digital manipulations that could be done in about 5 minutes with the right mouse clicks on Photoshop.  These artists, however, utilize the medium to do things that you can’t do traditionally. For example, Caesar actually creates entire 3D worlds which he then rotates the camera view within and crops to create his final pieces.  I have recently done some experimenting with digital art myself, and it is challenging, let me tell you!

Another one of my inspirations is always, always my students! One of my students who comes to Express Yourself Artshop from an area assisted living home just taught me last week how to make crochet necklaces!


Fellow creatives out there, be it artists, designers, musicians, writers, actors, any part of the spectrum: who (or what works) inspire(s) you to create?



Techniques and Tutorials

Start Drawing Amazing Eyes!

Eyes have always been my absolute favorite thing to draw, and I tend to accentuate them in all of my artwork. They can also be one of the most difficult things to draw, and it takes a lot of practice to get them right. There are a lot of picky little details to pay attention to. When we begin drawing an eye how we “think” we should, without really observing an actual eye’s appearance as if we have never seen one before, we tend to end up with a drawing like below. Generic football shape, outlined individual eyelashes, harshly contrasting pupil and highlights, and those pesky little lines jutting out all around the center like a kid’s drawing of the sun. In reality, an eye’s darks and lights are much more subtle and blended, each person’s eye is a completely different shape, and unless we are drawing a huge zoomed-in eye filling an entire 18×24″ piece of paper, you wouldn’t actually see individual eyelashes. I’d like to share my tricks of the trade with you. Grab a piece of paper and follow along. It will be fun, I promise! Don’t worry about doing everything “perfect”, just enjoy sketching. Every artist does things slightly different, and the more you practice you may discover some of your own “tricks” that work for you.


  1. Lightly outline the contour of the eye. Don’t just draw an oval with half circles above and below it. Pay attention to the exact curvature of the unique eye you are trying to draw (photo references are always good.) Is it wider on one side than the other? Does the eyelid dip down drastically or does it curve more gradually? Are the curves of the eye and eyelid soft and smooth, or more angular? Is the eyelid rounded or more flat on top? Is the fold under the eye parallel to the bottom eyelid, or does it droop diagonally? Sketch lightly, as you don’t want to see harsh outlines through your shading.
  2. Shade the outside perimeter of the eyeball. The darkest shading is always at the two corners of the eye, and gradually fades as you get closer to the iris. There will also be a deeper shadow underneath the eyelid since the lid overlaps our eyeball, blocking the light from reflecting as much up top.
  3. Shade around the iris, again with slightly deeper shading closer to the top eyelid. Even if you don’t explicitly see shadows near the iris in your photo reference, the white of our eyes are never really pure white, and you will get a much more realistic look if there is a gradual transition between the iris and the white of the eye, rather than going from fully colored in iris to stark, clean paper in the white of the eye. This step helps the iris look “settled” into the eyeball rather than looking as if it is “hovering” on top if it.
  4. Add your darkest shading on the top of the iris. This should be a shade darker than your darkest value that you used previously underneath the eyelid when you shaded the white of the eye. Think of a crescent moon facing downward, with the thickest shading up top, getting thinner and then altogether disappearing as it trails down around the edges of your circle shape.
  5. Add in your pupil and reflections. The reason we do this next is because we want to have the reflection areas mapped out before you get to shading the rest of your iris. You can go in with an eraser and add highlights by removing shading afterward, but this can be messy and end up smudging work you don’t wish to be smudged. I find it easier to just leave the highlights white to begin with. The location varies by light source if you are using a photo reference. Without a specific reference, it is safe to add two highlights, one on top and one on bottom at a diagonal to each other. Fill the pupil in dark black. This will be your darkest value.
  6. Shade around the pupil using the same value you used to shade your crescent moon around the top of the iris, one step lighter than black. Again, this anchors the pupil inside the iris so it doesn’t seem as if it is floating on top. This gradual gradation from dark to light makes the separate parts appear as a whole.
  7. Fill the remainder of the iris with a medium value. Again, we want all our value transitions to be gradual, so get a little lighter when you begin shading around the edges of your highlight areas.
  8. While we don’t want radial stripes circling the inside or our iris, we don’t want to smooth all the visual texture out of it either, as the striations of dark and light we see are part of the deep beauty of eyes. Literally “scribble” some slightly darker shading shooting out from the pupil in the two areas between our highlights. Again, please scribble though it may seem odd and scary; we don’t want neat, individual lines extending from the pupil.
  9. Add the tear duct by simply finishing the shading around your eyeball, cutting off the little teardrop shaped dip in the inner corner.
  10. Shade your eyelid! Shade the darkest in a thin line over the crease you originally outlined. Don’t just trace your line darker, shade by moving your pencil back and forth swiftly in short strokes over this line. Above this, shade a touch lighter to again make a gradual transition from dark shadow to white paper. Shade darkly also over the curved line directly above your eyeball, the edge of the eyelid. This will provide a foundation for the eyelashes, which we will add later. Shade along the bottom eyelid like this also.
  11. Shade the bottom crease under your eye. This is not a direct “fold” so it should be lighter than the shading for the eyelid since it is less in shadow. Shade deepest along the line you originally sketched, and shade lighter around this line on top and bottom. Extend the shading up to the outer corner of the eye to really show the skin curving. Add some light shading under the dark crease of the upper eyelid.
  12. We’re going to scribble again! Add some jagged shading pointing out from the top and bottom eyelid where the eyelashes will go, more so on top than on bottom. Do this in a medium value.
  13. Now, you can go over and add some individual curved darker lines sticking out to add some detail to your eyelash area. Don’t make them all the same length, and try to curve them – no straight lines poking out! Add a bunch overlapping each other using swift, light strokes with your pencil. They should be dense and close together.

These are not hard and fast “rules”, and once you’ve practiced the basic guidelines you can twist them to create entrancing eyes in your own unique artistic style, both realistic and more comic or stylized.

Speaking of eyes, I just designed a new pattern for Redbubble covered in glamorous eyeballs for your enjoyment. Check out all the cool new products featuring my digitally drawn pattern Mascara Tears here!

Feel free to throw a comment my way if you have any other drawing questions, I’m always open for giving tips. Any best practices other illustrators out there have found helpful? Don’t hesitate to share!

New Work

New Toys + Favorite Patterns On Redbubble

For those of you who celebrated Christmas this past weekend, I hope it was a time of joy and reconnecting with friends and family. Along with all that non-superficial good stuff, I also received a Wacom tablet, and took my first foray into the world of digital art. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a new toy to play with the day after Christmas, and it made me feel like a little kid again :). Here is my first attempt at figuring out how all of this works … I actually am pretty happy at how it turned out.

panda merged smaller for publish on fb.jpg

That panda is so chill.

Next, I wanted to try my hand at making some patterns. I like the idea of clothing and decoration as a means of turning oneself into a living work of art, and expressing oneself as a unique individual. When I was in high school, I actually thought about going into fashion design later, and then I realized I really hate sewing machines. I could design a real snazzy, runway ready pair of sweatpants maybe but that’s about it. I loved looking at and pairing different fabrics together, but when it came to actually sitting down and making something out of them … I lost interest. Fabric design if anything was much more my thing, and it’s one of the main reasons I decided to take the plunge into art’s digital world despite my many fears and misgivings.

I finished my first pattern idea today, Black Apple, and posted it on Redbubble. I’m really pleased with how it looks.


Redbubble is just full of fun patterns, and I’ve made a list of some of my personal favorites out there right now.

90s Dinosaur Pattern By chobopop

I spent my childhood constructing elaborate environments for plastic dinosaurs in the sandbox with my best friend since age 2 (and still friends to this day! Shoutout to fellow blogger Erin Dalke!). Being a 90s kid in general, this struck a chord with me.


Rainbowaves (dark) By freshinkstain

I have a love affair with art deco patterns, and this updated colorful take on the classic fan pattern would look gorgeous on anything.


Midnight Magnolias By robyriker

I am using my interior design background to help my parents update their bathrooms, and we are going with retro black and white tile with pool blue accents. I love retro flowers, and having that project on the brain I couldn’t help but think it’s too bad this pattern doesn’t come in a shower curtain! The detail is lovely.


Lips By sleeping-tigers

This simple pattern is just so minimalist and classy, with a 60s pop art feel.


Hot Air Balloons – Retro, Vintage Inspired Print By Andrea Lauren

The detailed decoration on all the balloons are what grabbed me initially, as well as the bright pops of color against the dark, neutral blue background. Another fun pattern that would look great anywhere.


Funny Cemetery By Ekaterina Panova

I have a thing for whimsical skeletons, and I have never seen anything that makes death look more adorable in my life.



Cameos – Blue By Fabio Mancini

I adore cameos, and I like the fun, whimsical, cartoonish renderings shown here because they are so different, and stand out from the traditional formal, ornate renditions.

snx1313-bgffffff-u3Modern Matryoshka By Joanne Stead

Lastly, I have to love patterns with a sense of humor. What first drew me in was the beautiful rendering, sharp details, and bold colors. The closer I looked, the more hilarious personalities I noticed in each little “modern matryoshka”.  This was a really fun idea, executed perfectly.

matryoshka modern

If any of you have any digital art tips, feel free to shoot them my way – I’m definitely still in the “learning” phase. I’ll continue to share the new patterns I’ve been working on. I think butterflies are next!

Artists To Know

Artists to Know! Installment One.

In my first installment of Artists to Know, there are actually two digital artists, still unbelievably underrepresented in this day and age. Digital artists are highly under appreciated, and wrongly viewed as art “cheaters” in the fine art world. I myself have played around with digital work, and absolutely HATED it! Take it from me, what one can do in 10 minutes with a brush seems to take 10 hours on a computer. Digital art is used to achieve a desired effect, it is by no means a shortcut. I hope you see something new today, maybe something that sparks ideas of your own.

Ray Caesar

Ray Caesar describes his art on his website as “facing something unpleasant with calm and looking beyond what you’re viewing to see the beauty within”. His work is influenced by the time he spent working as a photographer and graphic designer at a children’s hospital, many of whom were abused or suffered from serious physical deformities. After his mother’s death, he had a dream in which she appeared to him as a child. The childlike figures in his pieces aren’t really children but the manifestation of people’s souls. His work is certainly not for everyone, and I know many who find his art too  creepy or disturbing, but it goes to show that as artists, our experiences do inform what we create. He uses digital programs to create a 3D world in which he can change poses, adjust the viewpoint angle, open and close drawers … He has said there are hidden secrets that never show up in the prints such as what are in the figure’s pockets or inside closets. If you have the time, read more in depth about the process by which these digital worlds are created because it is truly amazing and eye-opening.

Ray Caesar

Catalina Estrada

This lady does everything – Besides the typical art prints, she covers greeting cards, bedroom comforters, clothing and bags, even umbrellas with her beautiful designs; prints wallpaper; has her art made into difficult 1000 piece puzzles that I would probably end up throwing across the room in frustration! She embraces the concept that art doesn’t just have to hang on a wall, and captivating designs that make people smile and feel inspired can cover every imaginable surface. She makes her work accessible, and that is awesome.

Catalina Estrada

Elena Kotliarker

From the Ukraine, Elena classifies her work as Judaic Art. The flow from one element to the next in her pieces is so spot on, the effect is calming and dynamic at the same time. I love all the tiny details within each piece, so that you keep noticing new things the longer you look at it. Also interesting is the cultural symbolism she integrates into each work. I discovered her on ebay actually, and now have a gorgeous little ACEO prints as a souvenir.

Elena Kotliarker

Camille Rose Garcia

Camille Rose Garcia is an artist you can spot immediately. I love that all her art just GOES TOGETHER to form a cohesive body of work based on her distinctive style alone. While maintaining this continuity, she continues to keep things fresh and different with widely varying genres, stories and narratives, and color schemes. Much like Ray Caesar, I feel like her work is something you get or don’t. Being the fan of almost any form of surrealism or warped storybook illustrations that I am, I am in love.

Mia Araujo

Mia Araujo is interested in the complexities that make each individual unique, and the invisible universes that thrive inside us all. Manifesting inner landscapes through art, making the invisible visible, is something I am also passionate about as I touched on in my last post. It’s no surprise why I am so drawn to her work. Each piece has an entire fantasy story within it to absorb. For lovers of portraits, you’re in luck, because within each piece are embedded innumerable portraits, from the main subject(s) to the tiny faces embedded in the background and sometimes even within the subject’s hair or clothing. Can you tell I’m into detail?

Mia Araujo

I hope you’ve enjoyed exposing yourself to some artists you may not have heard of before. I did go heavy on the surrealism as that is what I tend to be drawn towards most, but even if the subject matter or style is not your bag, there is always something to learn by observing other artists’ technique. I’m constantly finding new artists and images that inspire me, so I will definitely be sharing more in the future – be on the lookout!