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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February ArtSnacks Unboxing!

Hey guys! So, I was very candid about hating the end result of my ArtSnacks Challenge from last month, and this month threw me another curve ball with a medium I have consistently avoided when at all possible, even in high school and later college art classes: chalk pastels!

In my February box, I received a:

As I eluded to, I have never been a fan of pastels, charcoal, or any chalky medium mainly because I struggle to get the fine detail I want as someone who also likes to work small; I can’t keep it from getting where I don’t want while I’m working (messy, messy, messy!); and I have a weird thing where I just hate the feeling of it on my hands as well. Still, I did enjoy using these more than most. The quality is great even for one like me who doesn’t know what they’re doing as far as pastels, the colors were rich, and they did stay put on the paper much better than lower quality soft pastels. I’m going to skip ahead to the Kraft Paper, because this paired perfectly with the pastels. Comparing the feel and ease of blending on the swatch of Kraft Paper compared to the mixed media paper in my journal, there was no contest. It just goes to show that the right paper can do wonders! The brown tone really made my colors pop too, and lent such a finished, harmonious look especially with my earthtoned set.

I’ve mentioned before I almost exclusively use mechanical pencils, and the Zebra DelGuard is another nice one! I’ve never been disappointed by a mechanical pencil sent in my ArtSnacks box. The led was smooth and dark, and I love the fact that there is a built in mechanism to keep leds from breaking! Though I don’t usually use kneaded erasers most of the time, the eraser that came in my box was also quite nice and will come in handy when I am doing commission requests that are entirely in graphite.

Last but certainly not least, the artist pen that came in this box was my absolute favorite item! With white paint pens, oftentimes it takes 2 coats but this India Ink based pen had perfect coverage with one go-over. I was also shocked at how well it wrote over the pastel! The tip didn’t even get much discoloration … It hardly absorbed any of the pastel and just needed a little scribble on a scrap piece of paper to clean it off at the end. I could see how a lot of neat effects could be created with this in much of my mixed media work, and will definitely be getting more of these.

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As mentioned, I am NOT a pastel artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I let the pencil outlining help me out and I do like this month’s result better than January’s! February being black history month, I chose to illustrate a portrait of Haben Girma with a powerful quote of hers that has stuck with me. Girma is a deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School, and a fierce advocate for disability rights which is an issue close to my heart, especially given that my day job is running an inclusive creative arts program open to adults with varying disabilities. I’d encourage you to read more about this amazing lady, and watch some of her talks.

“Fear causes people to lose so much. Lose potential knowledge, lose potential friends. I wish people would stop living in fear and start asking questions so that they can learn. “

 

 

Happy New Year! ArtSnacks Unboxing

Happy New Year everyone! I got a couple more months of ArtSnacks for Christmas this year, so let the unboxing begin! I will be honest, I hate the art journal page I created for the Artsnacks Challenge this month, which is too bad as it revolves around one of my favorite literary quotes :-/. No judging!

In this box I received a:

Starting with the fineliner – So sad, but I hated this pen. It comes down to personal preference, but I felt the tip did not allow for fine details, and as you can tell from my end result below, it cannot be used with liquid media without bleeding really badly. I had to go over a lot of lines again because they had nearly disappeared after I applied paint, and the bleeding and smudging is still visible. The ink was definitely dry, as I outlined one day and came back the next to finish the journal page. I feel like it would be better suited for writing than drawing.

As for the paints, I have heard of Golden Acrylics because many of the artists I know will only use this brand exclusively. These paints lived up to their reputation for sure – smooth to work with, nice blending, bold colors that keep their rich look after drying, and great coverage. If anything, this exercise reinforced the fact that I need to sign up for that acrylic painting class I’d been debating taking next month. I mainly use acrylics on crafts or for small scale accents in my mixed media work, and my skills are pretty rusty. I kept trying to use the paints like watercolors, and ironically this line of Golden paints is a great option for acrylic painters crossing over from watercolor due to their intentional transparency.

I also had good luck with the paintbrush. I adore fine line brushes since when I do use acrylics, as mentioned previously, it is mainly just for adding subtle outlines or small details to enhance a larger project in other mediums. Taklon is the material I prefer for my acrylic brushes, and I could tell that this was a quality brush that was going to last. It was the perfect Goldilocks brush – not too soft, not too firm. I haven’t replaced my paintbrush collection since… probably about 10 years ago, so I will definitely be keeping these in mind when I need to get some new brushes.

I found the paper included very interesting as well. The surface is like watercolor paper, but the weight is like painting on a board. It’s a great option for acrylics when you don’t want to use a canvas, and I’d love to try it with watercolors as well … I feel like it wouldn’t ripple as much as traditional watercolor paper.

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As I said, I really don’t like how this image turned out but, nevertheless … I apologize, Mr. Vonnegut, for besmirching your memory with this so-so art. So it goes … 😉

Watch out for another unboxing next month! I also will have some new art and project ideas in queue for posting, so keep your eyes peeled!

Salvador Dali – Creative Minds Art History Project

Yikes, it’s been a whole month since posting last! My blog isn’t the only thing I’ve neglected … I must tattle on myself and admit that I gave up on Inktober after week 15! A half marathon if you will … perhaps I should have only committed to every other day! I have kept up with doing art every day though, which was the entire goal of Inktober to begin with. I was finding myself in the sticky situation of having to de-prioritize commissions and actual projects with deadlines in order to get my Inktober illustration finished for each day, which seemed counterproductive in the end. I do have a lot of fun art history based projects queuing up to share with you, and today our inspiration is an artist from my favorite genre of art: surrealism … Salvador Dali!salvadore-dali-simpsons-persistence-of-memory

Dali is best known as “that melting clock guy” from his famous piece “The Persistence of Memory” that has now become a part of popular culture, parodied regularly. However, he also had a thing for tall and spindly creatures as evidenced from two more of his more well known works, “The Elephants” and “The Eye of Surrealist Time”.

tall frameMy students in the Artshop Program love drawing animals, and the idea of depicting real things in a distorted way by stretching out their features was a concept that would be easy for everyone to grasp, so this seemed like a great jumping off point for making Dali’s work accessible.
Every work of art looks better behind glass, from works created by a master to works created by someone who specializes in stick figures. Though not every drawing or painting has to be framed especially in a classroom/learning setting, it’s nice every once in awhile. Pro-tip! Frames are expensive, but often times nice frames with ugly artwork in them can be snagged for cheaper than so-so frames that are empty at your local art supply store. These long, framed pastel-dyed crinkly paper guys were clearanced out, because this dentist-office-esque art is really bland and kind of hideous, not something that people would be racing to put on their wall at home. So, we got some custom dimension frames perfect for this tall animals project for super cheap, and just discarded the mass produced “art” inside! This project could be executed with any drawing or painting materials, but I had my students use watercolor markers because it was a medium not all of them had the opportunity to try before,  and the markers would allow us to get bright, saturated, unnatural colors like the deep reds and golds behind Dali’s elephants.

They found a photographic reference of an animal they liked for their subject, and then were encouraged to sketch on scrap paper and brainstorm how they could distort the image. They then made a pencil drawing on watercolor paper pre-cut to size, and used a sharpie pen to outline over the pencil so they wouldn’t lose their guide as they added the ink. The images were filled in with color and water, and there you have it! A simple, yet beautiful and intriguing end result where students had to challenge themselves to distort reality in an effective way. All ages and abilities could take this project in their own direction.

Happy creating! Remember, you are the artist, so you get to determine how you portray your world. Don’t be afraid to play with reality a bit ;).

 

Inktober 2018 – The 1st 14 Days

This is my first year participating in Inktober, a fun tradition encouraging artists and designers to develop consistent habits, and make time to sketch regularly. I decided to do my daily ink drawings in ACEO form. The small trading card size makes completing daily drawings doable for a busy lady ;), and I’m putting them all up for sale in my Ebay Store for a reasonable price. ACEOs are such a fun way to collect original art. Even for someone who loves to draw, drawing every single day is quite the challenge. I’m about halfway through, wish me luck!

June ArtSnacks Unboxing!

My ArtSnacks Challenge illustration this month was created using past profile pictures as a reference, an homage to my love of eccentric fashion and costumes year-round, and my lifelong fascination with what creates identity.

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I mentioned in a previous post how art has been an important tool of expression for me throughout my life. Turning myself into the things I wanted to be at the moment as if I was just another blank sheet of paper was another part of this. It always boggled even my own mind how in school I was too embarrassed to even stand up and go throw something away in the trash in the middle of a class lest I draw attention to myself, but I’d wander about town on the weekends in full zombie makeup in the middle of July and not feel a bit of trepidation. When people would talk about identity, or “groups” both in grade school and now, I have never known what to say for myself. I’ve never felt that I strongly identify with one certain label or category in any area of my life, but am instead either nothing or everything all at once. Most likely, I am the latter. It was fun doing something that was more of an actual, personal “art journal” page, and also reliving many fun memories through fashion of years past! As an adult at work all day, for the most part now I either wear meeting clothes or messy-art-class-clothes :-/.

In this box I received a:

I appreciated the sharpener not only because of the snazzy ArtSnacks exclusive color that is very close to what I’ve just painted the front door on my house, but also because I had previously only had cheapie sharpeners akin to what kids bring in their elementary school pencil case. This is admittedly odd for someone who works so much with colored pencils! They had me at their automatic stop function as I tend to be rough on pencils and am always breaking the leads. The fact that you can sharpen the wood and lead separately for the perfect point is also a very unique feature. I like it!

The SumoGrip eraser was another favorite. I’ve mentioned before how nothing beats Pentel Click Erasers in my mind, but I think my old friend may have finally met its match! I was freaked out at first by the black color, expecting it to leave dark smudges on the paper but it left no traces behind, and did not require a lot of pressure or abrasion to lift graphite from the paper. I’m impressed.

The pencil was also nice, and I can’t say I have any complaints but I will always be a mechanical pencil girl overall. Still, if I ever need to reach for a traditional pencil this will not be a poor choice.

I love brush markers, and the one that came with this box was no exception. What I noticed right away is the lack of bleeding for an alcohol marker. Another bonus is the fact that you can replace nibs and refill the ink in each marker base rather than having to replace the entire body when it runs out. Excellent performance – I will definitely be looking into buying some more of these.

Lastly, the Millennium pen. Longevity was a big focus of these pens which is very important to me as I don’t just sketch with pens, but incorporate ink drawing into many of my finished fine art pieces as well. It made a nice line, and did dry far quicker than the other pens I usually use which helped avoid smudging, and it did not bleed at all when the marker was applied. Another win!

This is my last unboxing for a bit since I only got a 6 month subscription at first to try it out. (I also need to get a chance to really explore these supplies in more than just my art journal and see if I want to get a full set of any of them to use in my large scale art!) All in all I have enjoyed having ArtSnacks as my first experience with subscription boxes, and have felt there was great value in the supplies that were sent each month. I’d definitely recommend.

Happy drawing!

May Artsnacks Unboxing!

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This month’s Artsnacks box came with something scary – a calligraphy pen! Calligraphy pens are my mortal enemy, mostly because I don’t know how to use them properly. I played around a bit, and still don’t know how to use it properly and mainly treated it like a normal liner but – hey look! – it’s a tiger!

Now for the breakdown…

In my May box, I received a:

flat800x800075f-u1So, first the scary thing which is the Copic Multiliner. I’m sure it would be a fantastic product if I knew anything about calligraphy, and that is about all I can say as I have no basis by which to judge calligraphy pens. (Appropriate image by Nathan Moore on Redbubble.)

Now onto the Tombow MONO Graph pencil … I have professed my undying love for Tombow in past unboxings. This pencil is unique because you don’t have to push a button for the lead to extend, you just shake it and then click a lock on the side when you have the amount of lead you want … Which means you still have to push a button haha. I found this feature a bit useless and gimmicky, but it is a nice pencil otherwise and claims to feature the most popular eraser in Japan. I can corroborate that this pencil has a damn fine eraser.

ddSpeaking of erasers, the next product was the KUM Correct-Stick eraser. I just now realized this product was hiding and didn’t make it into my picture, but here is what it looks like …  This eraser did work really nicely and had a comfortable ergonomic grip, but I feel like it will lose its precise, pointed shape with use. As far as fine detail erasers I think my favorite will always be Pentel’s Click Erasers.

The Faber-Castell Big Brush Pen was my favorite product in this box.  The color is smooth and bold, probably owing to the fact that the ink used is India Ink. Though it was great for filling in large areas, the brush tip made it perfect for filling in details and making thin strokes as well. I struggle with sensitivity to strong smells so for me an added bonus was that this pen didn’t stink like alcohol markers do! I will definitely be getting more of these.

Last is the Liquitex Paint Marker. Not surprisingly given the quality of Liquitex paint, this marker was excellent. Of all the paint markers I have been sent since January, this one was my favorite. I liked that it didn’t look like solid acrylic paint when applied to paper, but being water based had a degree of translucency to it, probably because I am partial to watercolors over acrylics. Overall a decent box, while not necessarily my favorite one thus far.

Now, for those of you awaiting pictures of the progress on my Painted Piano Project, wait no longer …

It’s getting there, but still more to do – Guess what I’ll be up to this weekend? 🙂