Like many, my life has been affected by COVID-19 this month (though not as drastically as it could be, thank goodness). Here in Michigan, everything is closed but grocery stores and hospitals, and we have been urged to keep to our household until the spread slows down. I met this unexpected turn of events with a lot of anger, disappointment, and frustration at first. I had a lot of things scheduled professionally all beginning in guess when? March and April, that are now postponed until some mysterious pending date. My spring and summer last year weren’t so hot as I was dealing with a variety of personal issues, many which were out of my control. I was really planning to harness this year to its full potential to make up for what I saw in my mind as a lot of lost time in 2019.
These feelings right now are universal; we are all dealing with processing this in some form or another. One thing I came to realize though is being frustrated or feeling angry or cheated by the universe doesn’t change anything about the current situation. We all have this forced downtime right now, and we can either waste it or use it to our advantage to learn a new skill or otherwise work on personal development, relax if we’ve been overworked, and try to fill our days with simple things we enjoy.
I work primarily in drawing mediums and watercolor. I have always struggled to work with acrylic paint, especially when it comes to realism or painting portraits and figures. I decided to take this time to practice a medium I struggle in, starting with a self portrait.
There were a lot of late nights involved with this piece, and some amount of cursing. I would show you what my acrylic attempts looked like just a month ago if I still had them, but I ended up re-using the canvases for other projects. Just believe me when I say, the difference is night and day. When we take the time to practice something new and fully devote ourselves to studying a skill, magic happens!
This brings me to my second acrylic piece, “Space Is A Lonely Place To Be”. For this piece I was very inspired by silent film fantasy/outer space imagery and costumes, with a touch of art nouveau. I am certain a lot of this came out of feeling a bit isolated and as if I am floating outside of time … It’s strange out there right now.
It’s looking like things may stay strange for a couple more weeks, but in light of using this experience to a positive advantage, here’s what I’ve learned so far …
- I need to be mindful of building margin into my life when at all possible. I feel so much more healthy physically and mentally right now than I did when everything was normal, despite the current uncertainty in basically all areas of life and threat of danger. This is absolutely mind boggling and should not be.
- I need to learn to say no. This kind of goes with the previous statement too, as not being able to say no is how I end up with zero time to breathe. I miss my friends and students, but I did notice myself in this time of social distancing feeling a tad bit of relief that I was free from a barrage of social obligations I didn’t feel like attending because, well, all social obligations are pretty much banned right now. Life is too short to fill all your time with things you don’t want to do. Yes, as a good friend and family member there are times you need to show up for people when you don’t necessarily feel like it, but there is a balance to this, and they need to be willing to do the same for you.
- Wasting time is ok. I don’t have to have something to show for every moment I’m alive, sometimes just existing is ok! It’s ok to just sit down and read a book, or lay in bed thinking, or watch a movie in the middle of the day sometimes. It’s ok to spend time playing with a new project or idea and have it not end up turning into anything. Had I not been willing to experiment or practice with the risk of ending up with nothing at the end, I never would have learned how to acrylic paint!
What have you all been up to in your downtime? What have you learned about yourself?
Amidst a lot of bad news on a worldwide scale lately, I was blessed to receive some good news: One of my pieces shown in Art Reach’s Women’s Centennial Celebration Exhibit, July: She Is Free In Mind and Spirit, was awarded Best Of Show. This piece received a 2nd place award previously in 2018’s Midland Artists Guild Annual Juried Exhibition, and was a part of my Unlimited series shown in ArtPrize 9 in Grand Rapids. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to delve into this work deeper.
A vital part of my Unlimited series was being sure I represented a variety of ages, races, and also abilities in my portraits. Though varying abilities can mean many things and a lot of disabilities are invisible, I wanted to represent an easily recognizable visible disability that is not often seen represented in art. I chose to depict a young woman with down syndrome.
When people think of the lives of individuals with disabilities, often all they can see is the struggles. Yes, we need to be aware of the struggles and be sure that we stand up for the rights of individuals with disabilities, make sure they have access to the healthcare they need and tools to help them live as independently as possible in their communities. But, like all people, individuals with disabilities are multifaceted beings. People with disabilities are rarely seen depicted in art, and are seldom shown in any media as empowered beings with their own unique personality beyond having a disability. I wanted to depict a woman who was confident in her own skin, and believed in her own unlimited potential.
The symbolism in this piece can mean different things to different viewers, and I love the fact that art is open to interpretation. That being said, I wanted to share what I was thinking when I created this piece. But remember, even as the artist, my interpretation is by no means the only interpretation :). I drew the face in prismacolor pencil. I wanted a scene around the head(mind) that exuded peace, so I filled in the hair with a watercolor landscape scene. Along with inner peace I wanted to depict the idea of freedom, of this woman not being limited by anything despite what others may assume. Birds taking flight have always been one of the biggest symbols of freedom to me, so I used prismacolor markers to draw birds in the same colors as the landscape circling around her. I reinforced the bird imagery with metallic gold prismacolor pencil in a radial flying bird pattern on her shirt, with an empty birdcage in the center of her chest. I wanted the figure and background to be seamless and flow into each other, but also wanted something to set off the figure so that she was the main focus. I wanted her face especially with its welcoming, content, confident expression to stand out. Using a black base created contrast, and I filled in this galaxy background with stars in the same pastel colors used throughout the rest of the piece. In most of my portraits I use the background to speak to the content of the figure’s mind and soul, and a galaxy fit perfectly to me as something vast and unlimited.
“July” is very close to my heart, and the meaning behind it signifies why I am involved in the arts to begin with. In running an arts program for adults with disabilities, I feel I have found my purpose. I am excited to continue using art to form connections between all different types of people, help others tap into their unexplored potential, give a voice to those that often go unseen, and challenge ideas of what beauty is in art.
Art prints are available in my ebay shop!
There will be virtual tours of the show available through Art Reach soon. I can’t wait to see all the other work up close!
Time has been flying, and I can’t believe the Midland Artists Guild annual juried exhibition has already came and went as of last night. There was such a diverse collection of amazing work. I think the shows get better every year, and if you are in the Midland area it is worth stopping by the Grace A Dow Memorial Library mezzanine to check it out. I was beyond excited to find out my piece “On My Mind” won one of the Merit Awards!
This art nouveau inspired mixed media was so much fun to work on, and you can visit one of my previous posts to view the step by step process .
All of these designs are available as art and ACEO prints in my ebay store, and prints on mugs, bags, pillows, notebooks, and all kinds of fun stuff in my redbubble shop. Next up, the Express Yourself Artshop fundraiser show and the Saginaw Township annual juried exhibition! Of course there will be many, many pictures :). Follow to stay in the loop!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I know I will be enjoying the rest of mine by drinking copious amounts of tea and not leaving the house.It may be Spring everywhere else, but not in Michigan! In fact, we’ve had four snow days in the last two weeks :P. So long for now!
As promised in my last post, I wanted to share my finished piece from this year’s Art Clash! I was definitely feeling the time limit this time around, and did have to either hurry through or leave out some additional details that I wanted in the piece. I may consider a simpler composition next year haha, but I’m still happy with how this turned out, despite my having to be in literal hyperdrive just to finish with 5 minutes to spare.
I combined a variety of vintage photograph references (For those of you that don’t know, antique photos have been kind of my “thing” over the past year.) for the figure, coupled with classic superhero imagery. My concept was grappling with the idea that how we feel inside is rarely how the rest of the world sees us. We have this entire vast, complex universe inside us. We must never forget no matter what we are going through, that we are so much more than others may portray us as. We can be the heroes of our own story even in the small, day-to-day decisions that we make, and actions that we take.
Heather and I had a fantastic time, saw a lot of amazing art, and I got to work next to this awesome little kid watercolor painting his favorite scene from Star Wars. All in all, it was a good day.