Artists To Know: Black History Month

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Artists To Know post, and I wanted to take the opportunity for February to highlight some of my favorite black artists currently working – most new, some mentioned before. Enjoy, and be inspired!

Lina Iris Viktor

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Viktor is a British – Liberian artist based in New York who creates “queenly self portraits with a futuristic edge”. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for surreal, fantasy-like portraiture and after coming across the image above, I had an instant new favorite! Viktor studied film, photography, and design and uses all of these backgrounds to create her unique fantasy worlds that combine elements of painting, sculpture, photography, and performance. What makes her art so compelling to me is the contrast of seemingly opposite elements … Her works are detailed with a lot of pattern and texture to look at but the colors are kept minimal; many of the scenes she creates are contemporary or futuristic in appearance, but still contain elements of the classical. As well as a diverse study of art, she also had a diverse upbringing as far as culture, being raised in London by Liberian parents and also spending time living in Johannesburg, South Africa. Viktor aims to use her immersive scenes to convey a philosophical commentary on both a social and historical “preconception of blackness”. Her work is a category all its own.

Woodrow Nash

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Nash is an artist from Akron, OH who works in stoneware, earthenware, terracotta, and porcelain. He is most well known for his unique bust sculptures that capture an expression, depth, and personality that I have never felt before in this type of art. He began as an illustrator, working as a fashion illustrator in New York in the mid 70s and then returning to the Midwest to do technical illustrations. Just as he uses multiple materials for his sculptures, he also employs various firing methods from pit firing, to electric, to raku (one of my personal favorites!). He calls his style “African nouveau”, because although it is influenced by African cultural aesthetic he blends in elements of art nouveau, and his sculptures tend to appeal to a wider audience beyond just those of African heritage. Each gorgeous figure he creates has a story, and they draw you in instantly.

Kehinde Wiley

If you can’t already tell, creative portraiture is my thing. I love portraits that transport the viewer to a new place of the artists’ making, where every pattern that is used is not only decorative, but an element that is used to speak to the subject’s unique psychology. I have been a fan of Wiley’s unique, powerful style of portraiture for a long time, and was excited when he was chosen to do Obama’s official portrait. Possessing a MFA from Yale, he combines contemporary figures with aesthetic elements from the past, giving his portraits a surreal, timeless feel. One of his most recent projects for the Saint Louis Art Museum featured oil paintings of black men and women dressed in their own clothing, styled for their usual everyday, posed in traditional poses from European and American art history to make a comment about under-representation. The photographic realism coupled with ornate pattern and creative approach make it no wonder his work has garnered the acclaim it has. His art is a testament to the fact that it is possible for an artist to stay true to themselves and not follow the crowd, and still be successful.

Tawny Chatmon

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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 experimentation 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.

Pierre Jean-Louis

 

I love art that plays with the merging of people and their environments, which is why I found this 26 year old artist’s work so inspiring. This self taught artist from New Jersey grew up in a deeply conservative religious household, but also a deeply creative one being the son of successful Haitian painter Bonaventure Jean-Louis. He moved beyond his roots with multimedia approaches, taking his inspiration from the beauty of the natural world that God has created, and with his series “Black Girl Magic”, explores specifically the beauty of natural hair. Models’ hair is transformed into forest, flowers, and galaxies, making a comment against exclusionary beauty standards.

I hope you will take the time to explore more of these artists’ amazing work. It was so hard to pick just one or two images to highlight!

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Pantone Color Of The Year 2019: Living Coral

One of the most exciting things about the changing over of a new year is finding out what Pantone’s new Color Of The Year will be. No, I’m not kidding – I am a dork. Purple being my favorite color, I knew 2018’s Ultra Violet hue was going to be hard to beat. 

2019’s Living Coral is by no means an unpleasant color, but it isn’t a color I wear a lot or use in my art or design. I think it’s a little too pastel and preppy for me, but I’ve found I like it infinitely better when paired with black or grey, because black makes everything better. This was my philosophy with making some original-to-the-house bright yellow and silver foil wallpaper work in my bathroom update last year, and this personal rule of mine has held up!

I was hard pressed to even find any art I have done over the last 10 years that included this coral hue aside from “The Rush Hour”. This piece of art can be seen below, along with some of my favorite interiors, wallpaper, fabric, clothing, and flowers that pay homage to our 2019 Color Of The Year.

I am going to make it my goal now to create some coral colored artwork for the new year! I’m excited to see what comes from working with unexpected colors.

Enjoy the last wee bits of 2018 everyone! I hope it’s been a good one!

Gustav Klimt – Creative Minds Art History Project

I got a bit behind on sharing my projects, but have now caught the awful Fall cold that is going around, so no better time than the present to sit and type with a hot cup of tea at my side. Gustav Klimt’s work, like that of the earlier covered Van Gogh, is one of those bodies of historical work that is recognizable even by non-artists because of his unique style that has been made readily available in print form to this day, and is appropriated and referenced constantly in new art. Though I’ve never experienced an emotional connection to his work, I love the use of metallics and vivid, overwhelming detail of his pieces as well as the merging of both realistic and painterly elements.

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Klimt began as a decorative painter under the belief that art’s true purpose was to show viewers something beautiful, and got his start painting murals on the walls and stairways of lavish, wealthy homes. His personal work was charged with an eroticism that was not present in art at that time, and it earned him a good deal of disdain but he remained committed to depicting the beauty of the world as he saw it. His pieces have resonated and stood the test of time, enough that virtual immersive experiences of his work were made available this year in Paris and Austria.

Not all of his work is sensual in nature or contains nudity, and there are plenty of other examples to show as inspiration if you are doing this project with younger audiences.

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Klimt’s work incorporated figures and portraits, but learning how to draw faces and the human body properly is a whole semester of lessons within itself! To make a Klimt project that was accessible to all skill levels, fun, experimental, and stress free, we used collage. Some of Klimt’s portrait work does remind me of a very early form of fashion editorials, so we cut out models and celebrities from Elle and Vogue magazines to become the subjects in our Klimt inspired artworks.

Students were then encouraged to place their magazine cutout where they wanted it on the page, and trace around it with pencil to save the space. I recommend gluing the magazine cutout on last so it doesn’t accidentally get smeared with paint. After outlining, students could add on and sketch the outfit of their dreams with pencil. Once the basic outline was complete, students filled in the background and clothing in different shades of metallic paint first, and then could add detail overtop with pattern. As I’ve mentioned before, I work with a lot of adults with disabilities and seniors in my art program. Painting small patterns with a brush can be hard for some depending on their dexterity level so we made this project more accessible by also introducing the use of ink stamps for those who were struggling with fine motor skill. Innovation can lead to some simply amazing results, as can be seen by the work-in-progress above! Be sure to check back soon for more artist-inspired project ideas!

Monster High Doll Repaint – Peacock Punk

I mentioned that after my first Monster High Doll repaint, I had become addicted and immediately was flooded with ideas for future dolls. I wanted to do a doll where I altered the hair next. A lot of re-painters remove the hair entirely and use doll wigs, but for now I want to focus on using supplies I already have in my bountiful storage. This Draculara doll’s hair was a big ‘ol mess, practically beyond saving. I’d been wanting to do a doll with short hair, so she fit the bill perfectly.

After I’d taken her hair out of it’s ponytail, I took a deep breath and started chopping. I was never one to cut my dolls’ hair as a child, being very protective of them and keeping them in as pristine condition as possible, so this was a bit painful but I knew it was for art’s sake ;). Once I combed the remaining hair out, I was left with mostly the pink with spikes of black in between. I used fray check to mold the hair into the style I desired.

The perfect feather shapes were cut from the leftover fabric of a dress I made years ago (With tons of help from Mom. I am not a sewer.), using a funky vintage pattern from the 70s. I have a bit of what has always been lovingly referred to in my family as “tactile stress”, and so I never ended up wearing this dress a ton because the elastic wrists and extra fabric flopping around on the sleeves irritated the living hell out of me. I ended up eventually selling it to a very excited new owner, sans clothing neurosis.

I left the original skirt underneath for volume, and layered fabric feather shapes with synthetic feathers underneath, accenting  with tiny crystals here and there. There are also feathers embedded into her hair, on her shoes, and hanging from her ears as earrings. Her original face was removed with acetone, and her new face was painted with both metallic and matte acrylics blended with matte medium. I used a gloss medium over the eyes and lips to give them a wet look. Her eyes are also circled with crystals, and a feather pattern grows from her hair onto the side of her face. Her tiny nails and toes are painted to match her lipstick. I’m really digging the 80s rocker /slash/ anthropomorphic bird-human hybrid look this little lady has going on.

I also have one of the werewolf (Clawdeen) dolls, and I am pretty sure my next doll is going to be an Egyptian cat deity, so look out!

These dolls and other fun creative objects can be found in my ebay shop! Here’s to (literally) making new friends!

Doll Repaints – My Addictive New Hobby!

I first heard of the art of doll repainting when I came upon an article about Tree Change Dolls. An Australian mother, doll lover, and recycling enthusiast had begun repainting discarded dolls found at secondhand shops and giving them a new life. Word got out, and her hobby took off in a bigger way than she ever expected. She primarily works with Bratz dolls, giving them her signature make-unders to make the dolls bare a closer resemblance to the kids that likely play with them.

By the time Bratz dolls came out I was already in 7th grade and getting out of playing with fashion dolls, though I did still covet the collectible, for-display Barbies with elaborate costumes and often retro styling. Still, I always thought Bratz dolls’ over-the-top iridescent makeup and decidedly not vanilla clothing was a lot of fun. These girls were definitely not going to a yacht club or garden party. Dolls for girls do tend to either look like either teens/young adults or babies, with a curious lack of dolls that resemble the age girls that play with fashion dolls usually are, so I can definitely still get behind what this mom is doing. Also, watch the video – she is just having a blast, hoping to make people happy along the way, and her enthusiasm for her craft is contagious :).

I very recently was commissioned by a regular ebay customer and art doll collector to draw an ACEO illustration of one of her Monster High Doll repaints she purchased from another artist. Monster High Dolls by Mattel are another line that came after my childhood, but that I always wished I had been young enough to play with. Their colorful, surreal appearance coupled with the fact that they use a wide variety of facial sculpts (i.e. not just offering the same basic mold in different skin tones and eye colors) attracted me right away. The more I looked up other repaints on ebay and etsy, the more I was convinced I absolutely had to try this myself. I bought a lot of 4 previously loved dolls, and stayed up until after midnight working on the bulk of my first doll, originally a MH Operetta model, completely lost to time.

I used nail polish remover to clear off all the factory paint, and gave her hair a good brushing and a new ponytail. I used a translucent metallic copper paint first to add shading and give her the look of a fantastical creature made of a merging of metal and skin.  I dry brushed more heavily over the side of her body covered in the embossed swirls to emphasize this unique design feature, using a clear matte medium along the edges of the wet paint to blend. I mixed a peachy acrylic with matte medium to add blush to her cheeks, and then used acrylic on her eyes and lips, covering both with a gloss medium to give them a moist, realistic appearance. I used a detail brush to paint her teeny tiny fingernails and toenails. I too love recycling, and used a variety of lace, ribbon, and cotton fabric scraps to craft her gown. The velvety strawberries and leaves are from a lot of vintage millinery florals I’ve acquired, some from ebay, some from antique sales. And thus, The Princess of Strawberries was born!

My style definitely leans more towards the fantasy couture, and this doll is a display-only unlike the creations of the fun mom above. Maybe for one of my others I will make a more every-day version for play, who knows!

My princess is for sale, and you can see her in more detail here.

Artists To Know: In Dreams

I haven’t done an “Artists To Know” installment in quite awhile, and have bookmarks of inspiring artists piling up by the minute – The internet is wonderful ^_^! The artists I have picked today all create dreamlike worlds through their art, causing the viewer to get lost in detailed landscapes that could only exist in the artists’ imaginations, almost as if they are inviting viewers into their own inner fantasies. All are 2-dimensional works this time except the last, which is really something special, so be sure to look all the way to the end! This style of fantasy-like, surreal art is my absolute favorite. I hope you enjoy, or at least see something you’ve never seen before!

Lucy Hardie

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Lucy Hardie is an Australian artist who began her education at a Waldorf school built by her parents. With her parents’ encouragement, she studied art history and the Masters at an earlier age than most. This foundation was obvious to me right away in the style and subject matter of her work. Parts of it look like they are from another time… but then other parts resemble a time that has not yet existed, and this seamless meshing of the two along with the exquisite fine details are what make her work so captivating to me.

Hsaio Ron Cheng

 

Hsaio Ron Cheng hails from Taiwan, and is a digital artist and illustrator. The bio on her website says she was born in 1986, only 2 years before me which makes me feel like I’m slacking! Her portfolio encompasses a wide range of personal and commercial work, all in her signature palette of peachy, pastel, diluted colors. The unusual color choices are actually what first drew me to her work, and made her illustrations stand out.

Daria Hilazatova

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Daria Hilazatova describes herself as a “full-time artist, part-time elf” in the bio on her website, and sites her inspiration as “fairytales, theater, and nonsense”. Whimsical and fantastical theatrical elements abound in all of her drawings. Her illustrations are distinct and different from anything else I have ever seen, truly 100% from the artist’s imagination. The other element that differentiates her art from anything I’ve seen previously is the insane amount of detail! One has to squint to see all of the intricate patterns making up each image, and the longer one looks, the more they notice details they had originally missed.

Alexandra Levasseur

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The image above is what first prompted me to investigate more of Levasseur’s work, but she also has a ton of fantastic paintings in which the subjects are merging into painted landscapes which I’d encourage you to check out on her website. There is strong movement and emotion in each of her pieces, all of which are incredibly surreal. Her figures are realistic, but she mixes in a lot of more painterly or sketchy elements as well, making it look as if her subjects have jumped inside a delightful hand painted world and gotten lost there.

Benjamin Shine

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I told you the last one was a good one! I can’t even wrap my brain around how this works, but below is a video that shows artist Benjamin Shine in action as he creates his tulle “paintings”. Shine studied fashion design at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design and Central St Martins in London. I can’t even iron shirts properly, so conceiving of how these gorgeous, smokey portraits can be born out of an iron and some thread makes my head nearly explode. Who said there is nothing new under the sun? Shine has certainly discovered something that has never been done before.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Sunday inspiration! Get out there and do something amazing with the rest of your weekend! 🙂

 

Artists To Know: Amazing Artist and Designer Parents

In homage to this season where we honor parents through mother’s and father’s day, I wanted to highlight successful artists with families. There is this widely accepted perception that artists (especially women artists) can’t be successful if they start families. The stereotype of the the lone artist dedicated to their craft, eschewing any and all serious relationships lest it distract them from their ultimate purpose of creation still reigns supreme. Acclaimed feminist artist Marina Abramovic has repeatedly spoken in interviews about how having children holds artists back and is a disaster especially for women’s careers. However, isn’t viewing parenting, a role that is traditionally considered feminine, as less then an inherently sexist view? Disclaimer, this is all coming from someone who actually doesn’t want kids! However, it boggles my mind that being an involved parent is often looked at in society as “doing nothing” or underachieving one’s potential. I never thought about it much when I was a kid or teen myself, but how much of a full time job parenting truly is has really hit home for me as friends of mine are beginning to have children, and I see and hear firsthand about their experiences. Even with pretty awesome, well behaved kids, parenting is a 24 hour job. After 18-20 years, the hours may be cut back a little but really it doesn’t end there, it’s a lifetime commitment, and a vocation that is far from “nothing”.

Abramovic made headlines and sparked heated debate when she told German newspaper Der TAgesspiegel: “In my opionon, having children is the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There are plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family children – a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that”. The following amazing artists and designers with kids prove that you don’t have to.

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Mark Ryden,  forerunner of the pop surrealism movement, used his daughter as the model for this famous (or to some infamous) piece, Rosie’s Tea Party. The painting ended up in the middle of some controversy over the inclusion of Catholic symbols embedded in the piece. Asked amidst the uproar whether he felt people were imposing their own interpretations on his work, Ryden responded, “There are many symbolic meanings in my art that I myself am not necessarily conscious of. The most powerful meanings in art come from another source outside an artist’s own literal consciousness. To me, tapping into this world is the key to the making the most interesting art. Some people find my refusal to explain everything in my work deeply dissatisfying. They can’t stand mystery. They need to literalize it all and tie it up in a neat little package”. As someone who has had people misinterpret the intent of some of my work based on their own bias and subsequently fly off the handle over it, I can empathize. Wrongfully interpreted or not, I am also very against censorship in general and feel people need to be able to handle being confronted with things they don’t always agree with. Ryden’s wife Marion Peck is a successful working artist as well.

 

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Jason Lee, a wedding photographer working in San Francisco, started this project in 2006 when his mother became ill. Because of the need to be careful about germs, her granddaughters’ visiting was restricted. Lee started a blog with these whimsical photos because he wanted his mother to still feel connected to what was going on in the girls’ lives, and he also wished to give her something that would cheer her up and make her laugh. Lee collaborated with his elementary aged daughters to come up with a host of ideas for surreal, comical photoshoots to share with their grandmother. More of the creative and adorable results can be seen here.

 

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Remy Coutarel is an illustrator from France, now residing in Seattle. He sites his young twin boys as a constant source of inspiration for his work, especially with his children’s book illustrations. His cheerful and imaginative illustrations span a variety of styles and subject matter, all with a recognizable sense of movement and unique character creation.

 

 

Children’s clothing line Princess Awesome got its beginning on kickstarter, the collaboration of two moms and good friends, elementary educator Rebecca Melsky and stay-at-home mom, part-time web developer, and seamstress Eva St. Clair. Melsky had a daughter who loved cars and dinosaurs, but would only wear skirts or dresses. Of course, there were no patterns of cars, trains, or prehistoric beasts to be found anywhere except the boys’ section. The two moms saw a gap in the clothing market, and decided to fill it. They started bringing their designs to craft bazaars, not sure whether other parents would like their designs that featured fabric patterns far different from what could be found in the typical girls’ section in department stores. The clothes sold out immediately, and they started getting orders. St. Clair also home schools her 4 children (She’s basically a superhero), and the two knew there was no way they’d be able to keep up with one person sewing out of their home, which is when they turned to kickstarter to fund their business. The rest is history. I love this company. As I think of myself as a child, one who was also not a fan of wearing pants and liked playing with dinosaur figures and matchbox cars and collecting  bugs and rocks just as much as playing with Barbies, I know I would have adored these clothes. Most clothing companies that pop up as an alternative to the typical “girls section” fare tend to veer entirely in the opposite direction of no pink, and no dresses, so that the girls in the middle who may love  stereotypical “boy” things and stereotypical “girly” things end up left out. The company even makes scarves for adults featuring the fun fabrics covering their kids clothing. I need that dinosaur scarf ASAP.

 

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Independence day clothing is another line of designs created by a mom that saw a need that wasn’t being filled, and rose to the challenge. ABC news interviewed designer Lauren Theirry in 2015, shining a spotlight on the new company that aims to provide accessible and fashionable clothing to the autistic community. Theirry was a financial news anchor for over a decade before she decided to make the change to becoming an advocate for autism full time. Theirry had no fashion design experience when she started, but she had been helping her son with autism get dressed for 17 years and knew what others like him needed in a piece of clothing. Because people with autism often have issues with fine motor skills and can also have heightened senses, zippers and buttons or rougher fabrics can be extremely vexing and uncomfortable for them. Theirry decided that people with autism, “… deserve better than T-shirts and baggy sweatpants.” She designed a line of clothing in soft fabrics that feature no zippers, buttons, or laces that men and women with autism could easily take on and off themselves. All designs are also completely reversible with no defined front or back side, and are not designed to be gender specific, so that everyone can feel confident and comfortable while wearing them.

 

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The Huffington Post interviewed this last fashion entrepreneur, who is not just a designer mother but a designer grandmother. Karen Bowersox already had business experience from running her husband’s medical practice, but the decision to dive headfirst into the clothing business at 65 was inspired by her granddaughter with down syndrome, Maggie. Finding clothing that fit Maggie’s proportions properly was always a struggle for Karen’s daughter, especially with jeans or pants. Maggie’s family was not alone in this. Having no prior fashion experience, Bowersox reached out to designer Jillian Jankovsky in order to start her own company tailored specifically to children and adults with down syndrome, then called Downs Designs. Bowersox’s company was rebranded in 2016 to NBZ Apparel International after it expanded to provide jeans and slacks not only for people with down syndrome but individuals with other varying disabilities as well, including styles with no buttons or zippers for those struggling with fine motor skills. Bowersox wants people who look at her granddaughter and all individuals with disabilities to see the person first, not the disability first. She believes having clothing that individuals with disabilities can feel comfortable and confident in and that fits correctly is the first step. In the interview with Huffington Post, Bowersox said, “I can’t believe I’m changing the world, all with a pair of jeans“.

These artists, illustrators, and designers are successful because of  their family, not despite them, and their children have inspired them to generate ideas they would not have come up with otherwise. Don’t let others define what limits your potential based on their own fears and prejudices, and to all the parents out there, thank you!