Art Education, Techniques and Tutorials

Colors Aren’t Scary! Understanding The Color Wheel.

A new Artshop semester has started at Creative 360.  One of the biggest concerns my students bring to my attention in classes is “How do  I know which colors to use?” What colors can they mix together, and what colors basically turn to poo the moment they touch each other? Everyone probably has some vague memory of the color wheel from way back when in elementary school art class, but few remember what it actually is aside from a pretty rainbow circle.

printable-color-wheel-tertiary-colors2

Primary colors are like the color gods and goddesses. They are colors you don’t mix anything to get, they just are, and they are used to create all other color life. See the starred sections above, red yellow and blue. In between the primary colors, the color wheel shows you what will happen if you mix two of them together. For example, in between the red and blue space are various shades of purple, depending on if you mix in more red or more blue. If you mix all 3 primaries together, you get a neutral color (brown or grey/black depending whether there is more warm red or yellow, or more cool blue present).

Contrasting colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, note the black connecting line. Contrasting colors as a rule look amazing together due to how boldly they play off of each other (There are a lot of sports teams I can think of whose colors are blue and orange for example, and I don’t even follow sports!). However, if you mix them to try to make a new color, they will completely neutralize each other into a grayish or brownish color. Remember how all 3 primaries mixed together make a neutral? Well, think of why this would happen when you mix orange and blue, contrasting colors, together… Orange is made with red and yellow, add the blue, and you have all 3 primaries mixing.

Complementary colors are colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel. Because they are very similar, these colors always look pleasing together as well.

Look familar? The artwork on the left uses a contrasting color scheme of red and seafoam green. On the right a complementary color scheme is used with all different shades of purple, and some pink and dark red accents.

These color pairings aren’t just for artwork, they work well in interiors and clothing as well. Below is an interior idea based on my watercolor painting “If The Ocean Dreamed” that I mocked up on Polyvore, which is a really fun interior and style designing website to play around on. All items you can add to your “set” include links where they can be purchased as well.

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Once you’ve got the gist of it, you can become a C O L O R  M A S T E R and even get tricky and combine both contrasting AND complementary color schemes in one, like below. This is another fun set I put together on Polyvore using clothing I am selling on zazzle covered in my original artwork. This tank top features my piece, “Be My Eyes”. In styling this outfit, I used the contrasting color scheme of yellow and purple with the gold and plum apparel, but also added in some pink with the accessories as pink is a reddish hue that would be next to purple on the color wheel.

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The last type of basic color scheme is triadic. A triadic color scheme uses three colors that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. Using only the primary colors red, yellow, and blue would be a triadic scheme as they are spaced equally apart on the color wheel. Another triadic scheme is green, orange, and purple, which I’ve used in the interior below.

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Appropriate that I will be going on an adventure to Lowe’s to collect paint chips shortly after I post this as my boyfriend and I will be moving from an apartment into a new home by mid June, and this means …. I can paint the walls! 

I have to end this post like a proud art-parent with a selection of my Artshop students’ work from my watercolor class last semester. Looking forward to teaching another great class!

 

 

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Art Education

1 Year At Artshop

So, I have that goofy little timehop app on my phone, and as I was checking it the other day a text popped up in the “1 Year Ago Today” section in which I was telling my boyfriend, “I have an interview scheduled for tomorrow!” It’s been almost a whole year already since I started at what is basically my dream job. I became interested in art programs geared towards individuals with disabilities and mental illness after picking up the book It’s Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini at the library (Before I knew it was also soon to be a movie. As always, the book’s better). The role that drawing his “brain maps” plays in the main character’s recovery as well as how he uses his drawings to bring joy to others was something that stirred immense inspiration within me. I knew I wanted to work with something like this, but all I could think was … crap. I just finished an interior design/art degree. I will not accept that I endured 4 years of blood, sweat, and tears to go into the wrong field. And … I tried to push the thought from my mind. After some weird forays at furniture stores and hardware stores being promised by prospective employers that I’d “really get to do a lot of designing!” yet ending up as more of a sales clerk, I received a mass email through the Midland Artists Guild mailing list calling for instructors for a new art program offering instruction to adults with physical and mental challenges at Creative 360. I had zero teaching experience at that point, but knew I could make art so decided to go for it since I needed a job. The rest is history. This post title isn’t quite accurate, as I’ve worked with Artshop as an instructor for 2-3ish years before becoming Artshop’s Program Coordinator, but it’s been 1 year as an “official” employee. This date a year ago was my interview, and even though I already knew everyone who I’d be talking to, I was freaking out. Artshop is truly such an important part of my life. Yes, it’s my job, but my students feel like friends and family. I want to share with my readers the first full year of my new adventure.
december

December.

I was kind of eased into the job by happenstance because I officially started right around the holidays, which means there was a lot of fun activities going on and of course, parties. Basically, maximum events, minimal drudgery, and everyone was in a really good mood all the time :). The previous coordinator, who was quite an awesome lady herself, came back for a visit for our Christmas party.

 

January.january

I know I’ve mentioned my Art Clash buddy Heather-Dawn Deogracia before (psst! She’s pretty much Midland famous with her recent front page story. Next – the world!). Our artistic styles are pretty in-sync so we’d always clicked, but I had the opportunity to get to know her even better as I was around Creative 360 more often. We started sharing drawings with each other and giving critiques from time to time, and currently we are even working on a collaboration together.

february

February.

My dear friend Heather-Dawn again! When I started as coordinator, I was still teaching 3 of my previously 6 classes. With so many other things going on now I’m down to 1 fine arts class, and I do miss doing fun, crafty, pinterest-esque projects with students. A heart wreath made out of puzzle pieces covered in iridescent paint, what? I find myself sending other instructors lesson plans sometimes being like Do this! …. Or wait, I mean if you want, it is your class now but …. seriously do it. Luckily, most of them don’t see it as bossiness and actually appreciate the suggestions … at least I think ;).
march

March.

One of the things I’ve always been passionate about is empowering artists to get their art out into the world through selling it to the public. It’s not about the money, it’s about having the confidence to say my work is worth something. We opened our Virtual Gallery on facebook, and had our first “live” art sale at Dollar Daze. The guy in the blue Artshop T-shirt is Doug. He is our top salesperson, no joke. Like, I should tip off my previous employer Art Van about giving him a job.

 

april

April.

Our Artshop Redbubble Store is another opportunity to get students’ work out there. We sold a ton of these Easter cards. Look at that adorable pink bunny, how could we not?

 

 

may

 

May.

Everyone knows those wine and canvas or painting party things are all the rage and have been for quite some time. They’re super fun but can be pricey for those on a tight budget, and aren’t really structured for one-on-one assistance. I began teaching Creative Canvas Workshops for Artshop following the same format, and it has been a blast. The workshop in May was tiger day! What has been the coolest thing about these workshops is that a large number of participants often aren’t our usual Artshop students. There is a lot of research coming out now about the benefits of inclusive environments. I love getting together to paint with people of all abilities, and seeing how they encourage each others’ work and learn from each other.

june
June.

Summer is the season of outdoor art fairs. This time, I got to be a vendor not a looker in setting up a booth with the students’ creations. The temperature was in the record highs. I was hot, I was tired, and I realized that for my own art I am only doing indoor art fairs around Christmas, if I ever do any for myself at all. Did I say I was hot and tired?

july

July.

Another month, another art fair. The things you do for love … There’s Doug again! What did I tell you?

 

 

 

 

 

august

 

August.

This wonderful lady would come every Wednesday with a different animal she wanted to paint, and complete a piece start to finish without fail. Seeing what she would come up with next was seriously a highlight to my week. After the summer, she unfortunately had to move to an assisted living facility out of the area. Suffice to say we will all think of her for months and years to come. Her talent and cheerful spirit is simply amazing.

septemberSeptember.

The fall brought our long awaited showcase. Artshop students were able to show their work in a gallery setting along with pieces sent to us from VSA and Do-Art. There were also monologues, musical and choreographed dances performed. It was a celebration of joy, expression, and accomplishment.

october

October.

What’s this? Another art fair! I asked for more opportunities for students to show their work, and I got it. This fair right at Creative 360 was nice because it was indoors and also students had the option of setting up their own table so they could be there with their work throughout the day. The variety and skill level of the handmade works shown was incredible, as was seeing the excitement and pride on students’ faces, many of whom had never had the opportunity to participate in something like this before.november

November.

All in all, I am so glad I get to spend my the majority of my day around people who bring things like this into the world … yes, it’s a fierce looking hot pink and lilac unicorn. Things aren’t always perfect, and there are days I’m frustrated and just want to stay home like any other job. But overall, I love what I do and not everyone can say that. I’m thankful that I can.

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Uncategorized

I’m Not The Only One Who’s Been Busy This Summer …

The summer flew by, and while I think this summer for me has been the most productive yet as far as art making, I am not the only one who has been hard at work. My Express Yourself Artshop students really applied themselves creatively, and pumped out a lot of amazing art over this past semester. Hard to believe what one can accomplish in only 6 weeks! I’ve shared some of the highlights here.

Grace, Watercolor

Grace, Watercolor

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Lacey, Acrylic

Lacey, Acrylic

For those who haven’t read my blog before, Express Yourself Artshop is an art program I work with that is open to those of all abilities, and is an accepting, friendly and safe environment to artists with physical and mental disabilities. I know myself how important creating can be as a tool for expressing what you feel like you can’t with words, and how it has the ability to calm the mind and soul out of tumult and provide a reprieve from the stress and sometimes heavy weight of everyday life. One of my students loves owls, and so we collaborated on some trippy, colorful owls done in my go-to style for these birds (shown below). I drew in pencil, she outlined and painted. Along with an affinity for owls, we also share a love of Deco Art’s Glamour Dust craft paints – a win-win.

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

I love these people, and the unfamiliar environment of being in a truly judgement-free space … Everyone simply accepts and embraces each other as they are. I feel so loved in return while I am there, and it is one of the few places I don’t feel pressured to put on an act (Convenient, as I’ve never quite mastered the art of situationally adjusting my personality. For better or for worse, I just can’t seem to grasp that particular life skill.). I can’t wait for next semester. I’m going to be channeling my inner Mark Montano and doing a really cool DIY decor class, so hopefully that gets some interest. I am right on the cusp of finishing two new projects that will be going up with a selection of other pieces at Espresso Milano coffee shop in Midland in September, so I will be sharing that soon.

Montano, seriously, what a snazzy guy.

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Artist Bio

6 Surefire Ways To Make Artists Cringe

Of all the many articles composed entirely of lists published online on a daily basis (Thank buzzfeed for that one.), “Things Never To Say To A _________” seem to be the most popular. As a society, we are becoming more conscious of the power of words and how they influence our perceptions of others we share this world with, and though hypersensitivity and searching for reasons to be offended can be some of the natural fallout from this kind of shift, I think all and all it is a good thing. Individuals no longer feel the need to stay silent about things that bother them to avoid a possible awkward confrontation. It’s like hey, I deserve respect just like anyone else in this world, and it’s actually ok to ask for it! Plus, raising awareness via the airing of grievances normally shoved deep inside just begging to be unleashed is fun, deny it all you want. Artists or anyone in a creative field tend to hear the same sorts of grating comments over and over again in their day to day life, and it can get mildly irritating at best, at worst totally defeating. I am a person who honestly believes most people are not jerks, and at least in my experience these comments are normally not ill-intended, but offered up as a lighthearted joke, or meant well and even supposed to be complimentary. Whether trying to compliment or get a laugh, these common comments really have opposite effect on the creative person in question who has spent a lifetime developing their specific skill. Hey, nobody’s perfect, but knowledge is power, right?

G.I. Joe, what a guy.

1. Let’s just umbrella this one: Basically any comment that questions one’s intelligence. “Cool! I wish I could go into art, then I wouldn’t have to go to college!” “Wait, but you’re smart, why did you go into art/interior design (or insert other creative field here, I’m simply speaking from my own personal experience.)?” Or my personal favorite, “Oh, that would be a great field for me, I hardly passed high school.” This should be common sense, but for those for whom it isn’t, it is seriously rude to address anyone, be it an artist or individual of any other vocation, with any variation of these comments. Some of my favorite artists are self taught, and some didn’t finish high school. Everyone learns differently but despite that fact, education and skill assessments are mainly based on rote memorization so some are destined to struggle. Income is also a factor: college is freaking expensive. There is absolutely no shame in not attending college if it doesn’t work for you. The issue has nothing to do with the level of education and everything to do with implying certain fields are easy or “blowoff work”. Most if not all creative people, through obtaining a degree or alternate means, had to work their butt off to get where they are regardless. Don’t assume. Also, comments like this are kind of a slap in the face to someone who did spend four years and insane amounts of money getting a degree. Not necessarily freelance but most other graphic design and illustration jobs require a degree, and in many states one must have a bachelor’s to officially call themselves a licensed interior designer (versus a decorator or something else).

2. Starving artist jokes. If a person really is starving, then it’s probably not something to laugh in their face about anyway, huh? Have some compassion and buy them a sandwich. If this is not the case then… what are you even talking about? The joke kind of loses its punchline. I (and many others sharing the field) am not some delusional crazypants hanging on to a pipe dream of stardom and fame. That’s why I teach, and also went to school for interior design so I could still use my creativity but open up the field a bit. Options, baby. Also, realize that working a creative job besides “world renowned painter” or “international rock sensation” is not giving up or settling. It’s not a failure. I love what I do and I honestly would get bored if all I did was work in my studio creating fine art pieces all day, every day.

3. “So you just get to play around with paint all day? What a fun job!” Yikes. This is the adult equivalent of acquaintances in college thinking I had coloring for homework. The reality, “Yay! Because I’m an interior design major art minor, all my classes get to be 3 hours each session instead of 1, and I get to stay up till the wee hours of the morning finishing studio projects no matter how well I budget my time, because workload expectations are completely insane compared to other disciplines!” Certain semesters, I pretty much never went out. This is one of those comments that I’m sure the person meant well, like “You have an awesome job!”, but after running around like a chicken with my head cut off all day keeping track of different jobs at multiple locations, diffusing student difficulties or outbursts, spending most of my spare time at home prepping for free (I’m not complaining, I love my students, I love my job, and I feel in some small way I am making world better place, but still.) in between finishing up commissions and keeping up my multiple online venues in which I hope the time I put in will actually pay off eventually, equating my job to “playtime” is the last thing I want to hear. “It’s cool you get to do what you love” is probably close to what you meant, and a much better way to communicate the sentiment.

4. “Can you do Project A/B/C for me? I’m not going to pay you but it will be great exposure!” when in reality the only exposure you will be getting is the precedent that “Hey everyone, this guy will work for free.” I’m not saying be a Scrooge, but there is a difference between helping out a friend/family member, doing volunteer or charity work, or supporting a small business or non-profit whose cause you want to help get off the ground and who really can’t afford to pay, versus someone who can pay but is just being lazy and wants something for nothing. David Thorne also has some hilarious insight on this subject via a colorful email exchange.

(Excuse the language, but I think we can all appreciate the sentiment)

5. “You’re so lucky you’re good at art.” Luck hasn’t got a thing to do with it. We are willing to acknowledge the part hard work plays towards proficiency in other fields, but with creative areas we act like the art fairy sprinkled rainbow pixie dust on certain people’s heads and now they are good at everything. Hours of study, practice, observation, classes learning from those more experienced (even in summer!); a lifetime of all of these things has gotten artists (and musicians, actors, etc.) to the level they are. As a kid, I wasn’t involved in after school clubs and activities and didn’t do much with friends. I came home and drew till bedtime; every day. It sucks to feel like your hard work goes unnoticed, and when others always use the words “luck” and “talent” as an explanation for why you’ve become successful, it negates all the sacrifices and sweat and tears and failures that went into the process to get where you are. This view is definitely a cultural thing. Here in the states, if we are bad at something, our response tends to be, “Well, I’m just not a _______ person I guess” and we move on to the next thing. In other parts of the world, especially in Asian countries, if you do poorly at something, your response is to work harder to improve; “I must not have practiced enough”. You can’t expect to be good at painting if you’ve never picked up a brush before. Why are you surprised when your work doesn’t turn out looking like a Van Gogh? You haven’t put the time in yet. This “you have it or you don’t” mentality with the arts is a psychological brick wall I run into time and time again in teaching, especially with students starting as adults. This attitude may seem harmless, but at best it’s simply not constructive, and at worst it’s self-sabotaging.

6. “So then do you do a lot of drugs?”

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Art Education

Gender Inequality : Not Just A STEM Issue

Piece from a project tallying art world inequality and creating posters out of the data collected.

In this post, I’d like to talk about an issue that is close to my heart. It covers a range of bases, so I’ll try not to jump around too much. I have to start off by giving a little bit of history. I have always had a hyper-awareness towards injustice. I have a vivid childhood memory of cringing whenever the old Trix cereal commercials would come on in between my morning cartoons. I could just feel the righteous anger bubbling up inside of me as the kids taunted the Trix Bunny with choruses of “Silly rabbit …” They have no right to say that Trix are only for kids, not rabbits! He invented the freaking cereal! He’s on the cover of the box for crying out loud! There would be no colorful fruity shapes without him! (This was, of course, when I was young enough to think the animated characters running around before my eyes actually existed in real life.) So naturally, when I began to perceive instances of gender bias in the adult conversations I eavesdropped on and the kids around me at school, I did not approve. Basically, Lisa Simpson and I would have been soul mates. It was kind of a shock, since my home growing up had been completely void of any such thing. My brother and I were given the same expectations, and when we were approached differently by mom and dad it was due to our completely opposite personality types, not our gender. We were four years apart, kind of the perfect gap: close enough in age so that we could still relate to each other well enough to play together, but far enough apart so that we weren’t constantly feeling like we needed to compete. We shared toys all the time, and both played with stereotypical “boy” things and stereotypical “girl” things from time to time. It wasn’t really a big deal.

Despite what people think (I mean, everyone can vote now so it’s all good, right?), gender discrimination is not just a distant memory, and it continues to hurt both men and women, though for today I’ll mainly be talking about women. Gender separation in toys has gotten way worse than it ever was in the past, with every single little toy down to a basic set of blocks relegated to being pink or blue. Some consumers are finally saying enough is enough with the “Pink vs Blue” binary madness, and are also seriously starting to question what the doll section in any local walmart or toy store is communicating to young girls. I myself have wondered that same thing, and my queries have most often led to nothing good. Enter Lammily, a doll with realistic body proportions, moveable joints that allow her to do more than simply be a human clothes hanger, and stickers to add imperfections we all have like acne, scars, and cellulite.

The toy problem is just the tip of the iceberg. The US has one of the worst science gender gaps in the developed world, and marketing ridiculous shirts like these below to young girls certainly isn’t  helping.

It’s no wonder educators and innovators are doing anything and everything they can to encourage young girls towards STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics).

Every little bit helps, and I am in no way downing any of the goodhearted initiatives mentioned above, I just think we can do more. We can always do more, do better, be more comprehensive in our reach. I have to admit, if the Lammily doll would have existed when I was a kid, taking one look at her ultra-preppy wardrobe of mostly simple solids, I would have totally still begged for the anorexic doll with giant boobs, ideals be damned. Why can’t a realistic doll still wear lace and sequins or giant earrings or crazy neon floral patterns once in awhile? Realistically, that’s how some girls actually dress! Giving her a more subdued, athletic looking, polo-shirt-laden wardrobe isn’t revolutionary at all. In fact, in the real world, that sort of style is actually preferred and women who step outside of that and dress more “girly” are more likely to be perceived negatively. It has been proven that women who wear more masculine clothing (simple, straight silhouettes, angular lines, dark neutral colors) are perceived as more competent in the workforce, taken more seriously and given a higher level of respect in their current job, and are more likely to get hired to a new position. This is also why you see frantic posts by young women online asking whether it’s ok to be a feminist and wear makeup or dresses or high heels. Yes Virginia, there is as of yet no official uniform for thinking equality is a rad idea.

Similarly, encouraging a girl towards STEM who is truly interested in science but is simply intimidated or feels like “Well I’m not supposed to do this because I’m a girl,” or encouraging a girl who is worried to stand out from her peers and be teased if she admits she thinks math is fun, is truly awesome. How amazing for a kid to realize what their passion is so early in life, and to help them grow and learn in that passion is a beautiful thing. However, I sometimes worry that in trying to tear down walls we are simply creating a new sort of box. What about the artsy girls?

New York Times explains why we actually need STEAM (Science Technology Engineering ART Mathematics), STEM alone is not enough. The idea that a person is either right brained or left brained doesn’t work. We need to use both sides to be effective. I took science all 4 years of high school even though it wasn’t required. The decision was at first at the urging of my parents, but though the exams were killer, I loved getting to move forward into taking Chemistry and Physics and found the information and experiments in class fun and inspiring. When I teach children, I love integrating scientific experimentation into art. It’s great for keeping kids focused and involved. Recently I did a project with my children’s watercolor class where we tested how lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, salt, oil, and milk reacted with the paints, and afterword they made pictures incorporating the new textures they learned how to create.

Yes, girls are underrepersented in STEM fields but the fact of the matter is they are also woefully underrepresented in the art world. Art News reported this year on findings from over the last 7, where on average women artists exhibited in only 10-20% of the solo shows at American Institutions over the last 7 years. A slightly smaller percentage of women artists were featured in group shows. Before you protest, “But they are just picking the best art!” these percentages apply to non-anonomous submissions. Truthout reported in their article, Women Artists Still Face Discrimination, that studies have shown if you submit work to a juried exhibit and the jurors don’t know the gender of the person submitting, it ends up pretty equal in terms of who is selected. But as soon as the artist’s gender is known, women drop back to one third. It is why pen names are still a thing in art as well as literature. Famed writer of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has been pretty candid about the fact that way back when she was told she should publish the series under her initials rather than her first name, Joanna, because young men won’t want to read books written by a woman. (They will not only assume it to be poorly written, but will fear catching any residual “cooties”.)

Why choose only one genre of barrier to break down? We should be smashing all of them, all while encouraging our own children and the kids around us to excel in the area they love, whatever it ends up being.

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Art Education

Back to Artshop for Spring!

We’re about halfway through the new spring semester of Express Yourself Artshop, and I wanted to share what some of my students have been working on. My two painting classes in particular are pretty full this time around, which has been a lot of fun. It is exciting to discover everyone’s own unique preferences and styles. I really must just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring Painting

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring Painting

Acrylic Abstracted Roses

Acrylic Abstracted Roses With Gold Outlining

Acrylic and Pastel Abstracted Figure

Acrylic and Pastel Abstracted Figure

Metallic Acrylic Owl

Metallic Acrylic Owl

Anyone interested in education, teaching, or mentoring in any way should give this video I found awhile ago a watch.

Yes, it’s focus is on kids and tech, but I found the takeaways applicable to many ages, abilities, and fields. People really do have unimaginable potential when they are actually allowed to experiment, explore and discover.

“Get out of their way, and let them be amazing.”

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Art Education

Express Yourself Artshop – The End of Another Semester!

Another semester of Express Yourself Artshop is coming to a close, and so many amazing things have happened in just 12 weeks. I’ve watched students gain confidence and try new types of art, achieving inspiring projects that earlier they were convinced they wouldn’t be able to do. I’ve seen new friendships form. I’ve seen abilities grow – three of my students even got their work into the juried exhibition “Piece By Piece” that I showed work in as well in Creative 360’s gallery space, and one of them even made a sale!

My student Nancy's awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! :)

My student Nancy’s awesome mixed media piece, SOLD opening night of the show! 🙂

I am so glad that a little less than 2 years ago I responded to a mass email looking for instructors for a new program in Midland for adults with disabilities who love art. I sat on the email for awhile, and then finally shrugged my shoulders thinking, “Well, I don’t really teach but I do know quite a bit about art, so I might as well see what this is all about”. With that one decision to just go for it, I went from jumping between one uninspiring job to another, never feeling that I quite fit, to a job that I know I can excel at and that I actually feel passionate about. I have to be honest, I was feeling pretty defeated after doing quite well in college, expecting immediate success and a super-fun-creative-awesome job thereafter, and … you know, life happening. I was left bouncing around from one temporary job to another that was more of the same, where I wasn’t able to use any of my skills and the main goal wasn’t how can I invest in the people I came across on a day to day basis, but basically, how can I convince them to buy a ton of stuff they don’t need. Since then, Express Yourself Artshop has opened so many doors, and now I teach in a variety of locations and work with a wide range of programs for all different ages and abilities. I am so excited to work in a venue where the focus is on the personal growth, learning, and achievement of the individuals I work with, not how much money they can shell out for one product or service or another. Despite loving all my different classes, Artshop will always be a teensy bit in the lead as my favorite program to work with. Working with students with disabilities has opened my mind to new project ideas and materials, as I am forced to get creative in how I involve each student in a way that is best for their personal strengths and weaknesses. Be it cliche to say so, I’ve learned just as much from them as they have from me. I’d like to share an overview of the types of projects my students have worked on this semester. As you can see, we’ve been busy.

Mixed Media Pond Scene - Exquisite Detail!

Mixed Media Pond Scene – exquisite detail!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings - I loved how these turned out so much I'm making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Awesome rings upcycled from vintage earrings – I loved how these turned out so much I’m making one at home just like the ring on the right for myself!

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles inside a fabric tube with pony beads in between

Vintage style fabric necklace made using marbles

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow :)

Watercolor and Ink Silhouette, complete with 3D attached bow 🙂

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Artist Bio

The C Word – Every Artist’s Worst Nightmare

Though I’m sure many sweary virtuosos out there could come up with a laundry list of words unspeakable in polite society that begin with C (I’m pretty sure I know some of these people, quite well actually), the word I’m talking about in this case is criticism. Artists put so much emotional energy, so much of themselves into every piece, it is hard not to take “I don’t really like this” as “I don’t really like YOU, I don’t like your THOUGHTS, I don’t like your FEELINGS, YOU as a person are UNACCEPTABLE”. We have to develop a pretty thick skin.

My junior year of college, I had the opportunity to meet with a guest artist and have them review my work. I’d gotten kind of lucky up to this point, and most feedback I received went along the lines of “Whoa, this is so cool!” so I wasn’t too worried. I got there early for my scheduled appointment, and waited, and waited … and waited. I had carried my laptop bag and ultra-gigantic portfolio case packed full of stuff all the way from my apartment, through the woods, to the art building (I sound like Little Red Riding Hood). At that time I didn’t work out regularly, so I was feeling the strain on my non-existent biceps. I had also been wearing a winter coat, and seeing as I tend to sweat like a 45 year old obese man, by the time I had been standing in the heated building for more than 5 minutes I was embarrassingly drenched. I had to keep holding my stuff because I was just awkwardly standing outside a door in an incredibly narrow hallway where people were traversing, and there was no unobtrusive spot to set everything down. I thought my arms might break off. After waiting for an hour, it was my turn to meet with the visiting artist. I got 15 minutes before he dismissed me. In that 15 minutes, I was told that my art looked like it was done by mental patients or someone with no prior artistic knowledge whatsoever, but that it was “interesting and unique” (Seeing as I know many wonderful people who have needed mental health assistance at one point or another, I didn’t take the first half of his comment as an insult at all, though probably not the best choice of words.). I was also asked pointedly if I was trying to be an artist or an illustrator, the word illustrator spoken as if it was synonymous with “cocaine dealer”. I’m still not sure I understand this disdain. He also kept comparing me to the earlier student he had gone over by an hour with, to the tone of “He’s making art about important social issues and here you are drawing robots and silly cartoon animals”. The thing is, this kid and I were totally different people with totally different life experiences. To try to speak about what he was discussing with my art would be ignorant and a little offensive – I had never been close to any of those issues, why should I be spouting off about them as if I know? Even for my more whimsical pieces, I always have a message in mind that spurs me on to create the images that I do. There are different ways to speak, both in ways that are graphic, blunt, and in one’s face and also ways that are more symbolic and open to multiple interpretations. We need all types of art.

The next week, my drawing professor asked how it went. When I told him an abridged version, he simply scoffed and said, “Oh, well he has no idea what he’s talking about”. But, we should never entirely dismiss a critic despite their bedside manner. We simply have to sift out what is constructive from what is just a difference of taste or opinion (also knowing that some people just have that wonderful grouchy, never satisfied personality type). At the meeting I was also told that the figures’ proportions were off in some of the ink drawings of people that I brought. It was a movement-heavy piece including quite a few people on a busy street, but instead of getting references for each different position, I collected a few references to use for the main figures and for the rest simply filled in the blanks with guesswork. Now, even if I have to pose and take them myself I get references for every detail that is going to be included in a piece. It is time consuming, but worth every moment for the stress-free creation process from then on out as well as the end result. I was also told in some of my portrait drawings that the central figure looked disjointed from the background, as if cut and pasted on top of a flat stage-set. This is because I would always detail first not what part of the drawing made sense to begin with, but what part I found the most interesting (for me, always the person). Whenever you completely detail the foreground before the background whether in drawing or painting, it is much harder to try and color around that fully detailed, finished object and therefore you end up with the cut and paste on top of the background look. Background to foreground : this is something I tell my own students to this day.

In the years since then, I’ve done solo shows where the venue wants everything BUT the one or two pieces that I had considered amongst my favorites and had been really excited about exhibiting. I’ve had pieces of mine rejected from display due to a complete misinterpretation of the message, which then ended up upsetting someone. I’ve sold hand-sewn dolls at art fairs and had a begging child’s mother say right in front of me, “No, I’m not getting you one of those dolls they’re too ugly!” Art elicits strong reactions, that’s what makes it so powerful a force for communication and inspiring thought and change. We don’t know another person’s story, what causes certain images to trigger a negative reaction inside of them. Artists can’t take these things personally. Just because someone doesn’t like a piece that we’ve done doesn’t mean it should go in the garbage, but at the same time we need to recognize when negative feedback could be absorbed into our process to teach us how to do better next time.

Yes, on the surface, this is just a personified octopus slumped over a desk. Titled "The Devastating Awareness of Absurdity", the title is a concept drawn from existentialism. This image embodies the absurdity that we as humans face when we are forced into meaningless roles in which we will never fit, and don't belong living within. It also may just amuse someone, and if it encourages a smile, then that's good too.

Yes, on the surface, this is just a personified octopus slumped over a desk. Titled “The Devastating Awareness of Absurdity”, the title is a concept drawn from existentialism. This image embodies the absurdity that we as humans face when we are forced into meaningless roles in which we will never fit, and don’t belong living within. It also may just amuse someone, and if it encourages a smile, then that’s good too.

Another one of my drawings I brought to the critique. This is why you don't get discouraged just because one person doesn't care for a piece you've done - It was so well received elsewhere that I ended up using it as the main image on my website's homepage, as well as my logo for all business cards and print material before the newest one.

Another one of my drawings I brought to the critique. This is why you don’t get discouraged just because one person doesn’t care for a piece you’ve done – It was so well received elsewhere that I ended up using it as the main image on my website’s homepage, as well as my logo for all business cards and print material before the newest one.

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Artist Bio

Throwback Thursday – Art Is An Organism

I have always had an attraction to the unreal. Part of this is I have always been a vivid dreamer. I recall crying one morning, my heart filled with the sting of injustice, because I’d dreamed my mother had promised to fill my room with pink balloons and when I awoke, lo and behold not a single balloon! I unfortunately also had frequent nightmares, see first drawing below. Coupled with this was a fierce sense of individualism. I had a strong aversion to directly copying any influence. It seemed like cheating. I was also a coloring book addict, and due to this strong attachment to individuality, I ended up with quite a few pictures of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” with purple hair, or green skin, or even shooting metallic red and gold lasers from her fingertips at the personified wardrobe. Color her jumper blue? Please.

I suppose I always figured if you’re going to draw something that you can already look at right in front of you in real life, the live version is always going to look better anyway. Show me something I CAN’T see. What I’ve learned, however, is that the whole “You have to learn the rules before you can break them” thing I was always told in school by teachers (which I HATED, by the way) is totally true. Just as an inventor certainly can’t go about building a time machine if he doesn’t know how to rewire a lamp, if an artist doesn’t know the basic techniques that allow him or her to replicate reality, he or she can’t know how to bend it. The very last drawing of the girl with the crazy possessed sword was a project for school my junior year based on a fantasy novel I was writing at the time. I said, “gather drawing references? Grid the facial proportions? Psh, boring!” and went full steam ahead. Note the oddly shaped alien skull, the giant mutant hand larger than said skull, and the strangely sized and placed nose and eye. Like, her eye is literally way up where her hairline should be. If you have innovative, mind-bending, insane ideas, never abandon them! Keep sketching! But in between all that, practice some of that “boring, mundane” stuff in between, because this practice is the key to unlocking the worlds inside your head, allowing you to transfer them into plaster, paper, wood, corrugated cardboard…! Go on google image search and look at pictures of eyes, of hands, and practice sketching them. Look outside your window and even if it’s just for 10 minutes, grab a pencil and try to draw what you see. Use scrap paper, the backs of envelopes from all those credit card applications that fill our mailboxes day after day and just DRAW WHAT YOU SEE once a day. I promise you’ll notice a difference. Each person’s art is like a little organism, and it has to keep evolving.

So there's the regular mom, and then there's the mom with sharp teeth. Note the little girl on the left looking up and being like, "Oh shoot, it's on!"

So there’s the regular mom, and then there’s the mom with sharp teeth (Thank you real mom for the convenient labels!). Note the little girl on the left looking up and being like, “Oh shoot, it’s on!”

Early 80s punk hair, fangs, a bug infested abode with poor sanitation standards and broken windows ... nothing good can come of this.

Early 80s punk hair, fangs, a bug infested abode with poor sanitation standards and broken windows … nothing good can come of this.

Lest you think I'm morbid, here's a perfectly normal drawing of a girl in a bohemian skirt and bangle bracelets jamming out to a cassette player.

Lest you think I’m morbid, here’s a perfectly normal drawing of a girl in a bohemian skirt and bangle bracelets jamming out to a cassette player.

Behold, Emmie the four legged girl! Having only two legs is for squares.

A later drawing from high school. Behold, Emmie the four legged girl! Having only two legs is for squares.

Amethyst Eyes, the fantasy epic that never was. What evil being is living inside that sword, and why does that woman have such a flat head???!!!

Amethyst Eyes, the fantasy epic that never was. What evil being is living inside that sword, and why does that woman have such a flat head???!!!

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Artist Bio

Allow Me To Introduce Myself …

I always loved art growing up. My parents noticed this right away, as early as 3 years old, and from that point on I was highly encouraged. I have hazy memories of special craft days once a week when I was in preschool and kindergarten where my mom would get out containers filled with sequins, silk flowers, ribbon, pom-pons and foils and boxes of fabrics, paint, construction paper, crayons, markers … anything imaginable. Although the details over time have become vague, I still remember there was always something magical about that round plastic container. I currently work at Creative 360 in Midland, MI with an art program for adults with special needs or mental illness, or anyone who wants to learn new skills in an open, friendly and relaxed environment. I see every day how creation sparks joy in the creator and those around them. I also occasionally teach beginning drawing and painting workshops at Michaels, also known as the happiest place on earth. Yes, craft stores are my Disney World. I love working with beginners because so many people are threatened by art, convinced that maybe that other person standing over there can do it, but not me, no, I’m not an artist. In reality, creating is not only for this elite group born with special genetic super powers. Everyone can create something, and even if drawing or painting turns out not to be your thing, there are so many other avenues through which to use your creativity. A lot of times, people who were at first scared to even touch the brushes finish a painting, sit back and look at it, and declare, hey, that’s not that bad! I love that moment. I also love that there is no expiration date on art. I have students come to me that are in their 70s and have never picked up a paintbrush, nor even drawn a stick person in decades. Everyone is an artist. Each person on earth has the ability to do something creative that can touch another person, and it is never too late to begin. Creating allows us to form connections with other people, and gives us the power to turn our world into a more interesting, beautiful place. Are you ready? Let’s go.

The artist is always more productive while wearing her designer red carpet attire, which may or may not also be an old nightgown.

The artist is always more productive while wearing her designer red carpet attire, which may or may not also be an old nightgown.

My students rock! Beautiful hummingbird.

My students rock! Beautiful hummingbird.

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

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

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