Project Ideas, Techniques and Tutorials

Charley Harper: Creative Minds Art History Project

I was first drawn to Charley Harper‘s work in the gift shop of a local museum. One of my dad’s main hobbies is birding and wildlife photography, and Harper’s Mid-Century-Modern style illustrations just screamed the perfect birthday gift.

Harper grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and was inspired by the wildlife he experienced around him. He called his style “minimal realism”, taking in the world around him and distilling the imagery he observed down to the most essential details. He said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”

Inspired by images from Harper’s body of work that capture his signature style, I encouraged my students this week to create their own minimal realist birds. Though Harper’s works were painted, they bare quite the resemblance to modern day digital art and graphic design. Instead of painting, we used a collage format to create our Charley Harper Birds. We used paint chip samples for our vibrantly colored creatures, colored cardstock for the background, and paint markers to add the linework details. From working on repainting the interior and exterior of a house over the last couple years, I had an accumulation of samples but never felt right throwing away even the colors I ended up not using. Upcycling to the rescue! At an arts non-profit, we love free materials ;). We outlined our geometric shapes onto the samples with a pencil, then cut them out and adhered them to a foam core board base (any heavier paper would work as well) with a standard glue stick. I’d suggest laying out the entire design before gluing in case you want to make some changes before the final masterpiece.

I teach adults with varying physical, psychological, and intellectual disabilities but this project is perfect for all ages and abilities. It is all inspired by simple geometric shapes and blocks of color, and can be done as simple or with as much detail as the artist desires. We created our works in an easy-to-frame 5×7″ size.

I hope you are inspired to try this at home (This would also be a fun project for bored kids, hint hint 😉 )! This is a simple, whimsical project that you don’t have to be an “artist” to enjoy. Unwind after work and get crafty with some basic, easy to access materials. As always, if you end up making one of these yourself I’d love to see pictures!

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Artists To Know

This Week’s Top 10 Happy And Creative Things

Because 2020’s got us all feeling a little poopy off and on, here are some things that made me happy amongst the ups and downs of this past weekend and beginning of this week …

#1 Molly Burgess Designs On Instagram

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Check this out … giant beautifully patterned fabric insects. I’m in love.

#2 Corinne Elyse On Society6 

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Vintage print aesthetic, lovely ladies, and lots of eyeballs, OH MY!

#3 Love On The Spectrum

Forming and maintaining romantic relationships is just freaking hard in general, but throw a neurological difference that can make one communicate in a way that is different from the “norm” into the mix…? That is what this show tackles as it follows adults on the autism spectrum as they start to date, and think about what they want in a lifelong partner. I laughed, I was moved emotionally, and I at times related closely to the protagonists of this series. I was impressed by how respectfully done this show was. As someone who works with adults with disabilities and considers myself an advocate, I was concerned the show would be another one of those “Unbelievable – people with disabilities/mental health issues can actually date and have sex!” sorts of shows where viewers are supposed to observe them like they are aliens or zoo animals. But, it is not voyeuristic at all, and is very sincere with much of the commentary being expressed directly by the individuals with autism.

#4 The Handler’s Wardrobe in The Umbrella Academy

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I’m not a big TV person usually, but as my little corner of the world has started to get a lot busier with classes and commissions I’ve been forcing myself to have downtime. So, #4 is another Netflix gem. Not only is this show fantastic in general with hands down the best character development I’ve seen in any superhero TV show or film, but this nefarious vixen’s costuming is simply to die for. I mean, it was good in season 1 but season 2 has taken it next level. I need that crystal spider brooch, and everything else.

#5 Beginning My Modeling Career

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Said a little tongue in cheek ;), but I have always enjoyed going out dressed unconventionally and taking fun photos with friends. This time my expedition was a bit more professionally done with fellow artist and excellent photographer Emiliano Vega. I express myself through fashion, and am in love with anything retro. This shoot was a bold expression of all my quirky style loves from 60s-80s throwback vibes to pigtails to metallics to a boycott of any footwear that’s not boots or tennis shoes. Technically this is from last week, but we’re not getting legalistic about it. If I could, I’d dress like this every day it was legitimately one of the most comfortable outfits I’d worn in a while – stretchy fabric and no pants, what’s not to like?

#6 New Portrait Project

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In the beginning phases, but I am going to be working on a series that makes my heart so happy. It will celebrate disability pride and independence, involve some of my students, and I honestly can’t be more thrilled about how all the pieces are coming together in a way that can only be described as divine intervention. More on this as it unfolds! For now, here’s an in-progress preview.

#7 Rad Student Artwork

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Major props to Sarah for this beautiful cardinal watercolor painting! Sarah will be live painting in a Community Art Party my program is hosting this weekend. Check back for a recap early next week!

#8 Nikki McClure’s Collect Raindrops

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An old bestie from college I’d kind of lost contact with over the years recently commented on my Facebook share about a book exchange (one of those chain mail sorts of things but way more fun). We exchanged the required info, sent books out to the first name on our list, the usual drill. Then yesterday, I got a beautiful surprise art book in the mail from said old friend as well! The paper-cut art prints are absolutely gorgeous and uplifting – love discovering new artists!

#9 Peacock Party!

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I have been into including peacocks in my art for a couple years now, and tonight I got to share the love with some other creative souls. Always love encouraging people to throw some paint, especially for the first time! My favorite part of doing these workshops is seeing how different everyone’s looks at the end after taking in the same inspiration image and step-by-step demonstration. It is so fascinating and exciting to see beginning artists’ style start to emerge <3.

#10 In-Home Thai Restaurant

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I haven’t been eating out much this year with the whole Covid situation, so I’ve been experimenting with recreating my favorite eat-out recipes at home. I bring you, Thai Coconut Curry, made with veggies from the garden!

What’s been keeping your spirits up during this very odd year???

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Techniques and Tutorials

The Quirky Cats Of Louis Wain

For those new to the blog, my “day job” is running an inclusive arts and wellness program geared towards adults of all abilities, Express Yourself Artshop. Though we have a full staff of instructors, I love teaching so I always make sure I have the time to teach one or two classes each semester. One of my favorites is Creative Minds, an art history based class where students learn about a different artist each week and do a quick project based on their work. I especially like to focus on artists with disabilities or mental health struggles. Due to the whole Covid situation, I haven’t taught this class in awhile so I figured I’d share some of my fun ideas online! Cat lovers, today’s artist is for you :).

Louis Wain was a late 19th century artist who made playful illustrations of cats, oftentimes dressed and behaving as humans. Though his art was whimsical and light hearted, he had a very difficult life. He was born with a cleft lip, and doctors at that time advised his parents that he should not go to school with other children because of this. He received no education until age 10. His father passed away when he was 20 and he then became fully responsible for supporting his mother and sisters. He fell in love and got married, but shortly thereafter his wife became ill and passed. His illustrations, most of which he had done for his wife to lift her spirits while she was ill, became wildly popular and were being published in magazines all over the US. However, he did not have a strong business sense and was often taken advantage of. By the early 20th century he was destitute.

As his mental health began to decline, his cats became far more psychedelic, surreal, colorful, geometric, and fragmented. The fact that his art so viscerally reflected what was going on inside has made him an interesting artist to study. Though there is no way to know for sure, it is believed he probably had schizophrenia.

Were Wain “normal”, would his art have looked the same? The answer is undoubtedly no. Our differences give us insight and ideas that others don’t have. Sadly, back then mental health was very much a mystery. Today, help is available so that people can maintain their unique way of thinking, but for the most part not unduly suffer. Until the end of his life, art was an anchor for Wain when all else was instability, as it is for many.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Happy Mermay!

So, I just learned that Mermay was a thing in the online arts community. Ironically enough, I’ve jumped on the Disney Plus bandwagon over quarantine and just finished watching The Little Mermaid for the first time in probably over a decade :). Though I have too many projects going right now to fully participate in the daily mermaid art prompts, I did create a fun demo that will show you how to paint a simple, adorable mermaid with watercolors. No art experience necessary! This is a fun and quick project for all ages and skill levels. You will need: Watercolors, watercolor paper or a heavier paper that can survive getting wet, and a variety of sizes of round brushes.

Despite my being late to the Mermay party, I must have still had mermaids on the brain because I also recently adapted my original human girl plush doll pattern to create some stylish mermaids!

These new mermaid friends along with a huge selection of original art and other goodies will be shown in a Virtual Live Art Show on facebook tomorrow at 6 pm. Be sure to mark yourself as going or interested in the event to get a reminder when I go live! This show will benefit Express Yourself Artshop, the inclusive program geared towards adults with disabilities and mental health issues that I lead. Help us ensure we are ready to rock once we are able to safely open again, and get your hands on some original works at way discounted prices.

If you enjoyed this demo, I am still doing watercolor and ink paintings live each afternoon from my Artist Facebook Page, so you can check that out as well. As always, if you end up with questions after trying this demo feel free to ask, I’d love to help. Hope to find you visiting the show tomorrow!

 

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know: Art About Resilience

As this strange year has progressed and people are adjusting to more and more temporary lifestyle changes each day, I have seen the role creation and the arts are playing in people’s mental and emotional survival. More and more people are turning to creativity as a release from stress, uncertainty, news, disappointment, grief, and longing. Art also has the power to remind us of things, like the fact that we as a society are more resilient than we think. Today I’m going to share some art with you that conveys hope and resilience, something we should be sharing more about right now.

Yoriyuki Ikegami

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Ikegami is an illustrator from Tokyo, Japan. I discovered Ikegami’s illustrations during some mindless Instagram surfing on a not-too-cheery quarantine day, and they truly did have an effect on my disposition. I left my screen time feeling at least a bit more cheerful, inspired, and in an unexplainable way kind of hopeful. That’s the power of art! To me, these illustrations speak to hope as their characters see what might be in the colorful reflections of their landscapes. So often when we imagine futures we go towards the worst case scenario, but what if things turn out alright in the end? What if we aren’t as alone as we think?

Brooke Smart

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Smart is a successful illustrator with clients including : Random House Kids, Penguin Workshop, andThe New York Times. Her bright watercolor style illustrations made with a sketchbook appeal resonate with both kids and adults alike. This illustration in particular caught my eye with the strong symbolism of pictures and scenes drawn on band-aids. Each experience adds to our story. We don’t always need to regret or curse difficult circumstances or wounds, because these occurrences add to our story and what type of character we will become in our own life. Oftentimes, as shown by the hands carefully applying a bandage, there will be someone there to share our story with – don’t be afraid to accept that support.

Abby Aceves

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Aceves is a fine artist with a BA in fashion design from The Advanced Center In Fashion And Styling in Mexico. She is now based in California, and had her own fashion label for 7 years before transitioning full time into fine arts. Her paintings celebrate women’s narratives and unique personalities, their place in the world, and within Mexican culture. This both jarring and elegant piece speaks to me about the pain of growth, and the contrast between beauty and pain. There can be no transformation without discomfort. I have always been a highly sensitive human that experiences strong emotions. I’ve often wondered if I’d be happier a different way, but came to the conclusion that if I had to give up the brilliant highs I experience; the way I can get lost in the detail on a piece of bark while walking outside to get the mail, the childlike joy and excitement I get out of seeing a sunset or an interestingly shaped cloud, the way my brain can turn something pretty basic into a fun adventure … it wouldn’t be worth it. I would never want to give that up even though sometimes the negative emotions I experience are intensified too. When we experience struggle as we all are collectively right now, we can choose to grow from it so that nothing is wasted, not even time. We can as a society and individually choose what we want to learn from this, and what we want to carry into the future.

Polina Bright

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Bright is a watercolor artist from Sydney, Australia. Her main sources of inspiration are plants and animals, and she is a strong believer that there is “an unconditional bond between a Woman and Nature” because “Love, Beauty, Strength, Power and many others traits are shared between a Woman’s inner world and wildlife.” This piece of hers struck me the most, not only because of the dynamic composition but because it is one of the best representations of an internal mental battle that I’ve ever seen. It would be easy to become devoured by fear right now, but who would that help? Mental strength and developing healthy emotional habits has never been more important than now. I know creativity, keeping active, and making sure I enjoy the outdoors for at least a little each day has helped me stay focused.

I hope something here today has inspired you, and I will continue to regularly share art demos accessible to all ages and skill levels to try when you are feeling bored or anxious. We got this!

<3XO<3 Allise

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Techniques and Tutorials

Happy Heart Art Watercolor Demo

Hope you all are staying safe out there! This easy do-at-home illustration project is inspired by all the happy heart art I’ve been seeing in person as I walk through my neighborhood and in photos and videos online. It is a difficult, unfortunate situation we are experiencing across the globe, but we can always turn to creativity to make connections to others even when we cannot be in close proximity, and to create joy in our own life in uncertain times.

For this project, you will need only paper (obviously watercolor paper is ideal but if you don’t have any on hand, any heavier paper that will take water a little better can work), an assortment of brushes, a permanent fine liner pen (Sharpies will work), watercolor paints, and water soluble markers (classic washable crayolas work if you don’t have traditional watercolor or art markers).

This is a fun illustration to try for all ages, and you can really get creative and make it your own. You can even make it a self portrait to express how you are feeling! Give this simple project a go, and if you have kids in the house encourage them to join you :).

 

Sending love <3! As always, if you try this out at home and have any issues feel free to shoot me a comment or message, I’m here to help!

If you enjoyed this, check out my other watercolor tutorials:

Barn Owl

Jellyfish

Tiger

Stained Glass Tree Illustration

 

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

Ink and Water Tiger Illustration Tutorial

So, I promise I have been continuing to make entertaining quarantine content to keep hands and minds busy for those spending a lot of time at home, but have just gotten behind on posting it here. I’m excited to share a popular project that I often do with my watercolor class at Creative 360 Studio and Gallery.

For this project, you will need:

  • Watercolor paper (or a heavier paper that can take getting wet)
  • Water soluble markers (I use Tombo brush markers, but if you don’t have art markers on hand washable Crayola markers can work too)
  • Pencil
  • Round brushes in a variety of sizes

This tiger combines both drawing and painting techniques, and is fun for all skill levels, even those who never do art. Join the fun and give it a try!

If you find you have some questions or need advice, feel free to leave a comment. I’m always willing to help! 🙂

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

Mid-Century Modern Tea Party – Butterflies

I’m back with another mid-century modern spring illustrations tutorial! Moving on to my next teacup, today I’m doing butterflies. Similar to my last tutorial, you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand. If painting on glass, keep in mind you will need multiple coats if you want solid coverage, but you may also like the transparency – it’s up to you. To keep your designs permanent, they need to be heated in a conventional oven. Put glass pieces in a cold oven, then set to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and LEAVE the glass in the oven until completely cooled down.

For this design, you are going to start with 4 teardrop shapes for your butterfly wings. The top 2 should be tilted at a downward diagonal, and the bottom 2 at an upward diagonal. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”. I used a flat brush rather than a round, pointed brush to achieve more even coverage. For the flowers, add some upward facing bell or “cup” shapes at different heights. Once the orange dried on my butterfly wings, I chose to streak some yellow over as well with a smaller round brush.

Next, I added some accents over my solid shapes in white. I painted a smaller identical teardrop shape inside each of my wings. I also added an elongated almond shape to the top of each of my bells which will be the opening of each flower.

I also added the leaves by painting green teardrop shapes tilting diagonally upward centered under each of my flower heads. I dipped the opposite end of my paintbrush in paint and stamped dots down the center of each leaf as an added decoration.

The last addition after the leaves was a small orange diamond in between the bottom butterfly wings. This will start the body. The rest of the body will be added with line work.

Next, I added one more set of teardrop shapes inside the white on the wings in yellow. I also used a fine detail brush to add yellow stripes across the small diamond shape in between my wings.

Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline Your outer bell shape, white flower opening, and leaves.  Add a line connecting the flower head to the leaves. To finish the flower, I then used the tip of my brush and a light touch, hardly pressing on the surface, to add 4 streaks radiating up from the base of the flower head. I also added 5-6 short lines inside each flower opening, and then used the opposite end of my brush to stamp tiny dots on the end of each of these lines on the inside of the flower.  For the butterfly, I outlined each teardrop shape that make up the wings, as well as the small diamond shape.

The last detail was adding a line down the center of the wings, with two curved antennae branching off at the top. 

It’s amazing what you can do with simple shapes! I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more! The final set will be available for sale in Express Yourself Artshop’s Virtual Gallery, an ongoing fundraiser for the arts and wellness program I direct.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Mid-Century Modern Tea Party – Ladybug

The Mid-Century modern design style has been having a moment for awhile now, and while I’m not usually one to latch onto trends I have always liked the geometric, retro aesthetic of this period.

Illustrations from this period are colorful and based on combinations of simple shapes and lines, which make them accessible to even those who don’t consider themselves “artists”. In this series, I am going to show you how to create some cute mid-century modern inspired bugs and flowers in honor of Spring. I will be painting on glassware (I’ve been dying to do something with these clear tea mugs!), but you can create any of these designs the same way on paper with any drawing or painting materials you may have on hand.

Start with a red vertical oval for your ladybug, and scatter some different large polka dots around it for our flower heads. Paint goes onto glass differently than on paper because it can’t absorb into the surface, so you will need to let your shapes dry and add another coat or two for solid coverage. Try to smooth out your paint as flat and even as possible, spreading out any “globs”.

Once we have our red oval, we are done with our ladybug for awhile. Focusing on the flowers, I added two sets of concentric circles to the bottom of my large dots in different colors, letting the paint dry in between each addition.

After that, it’s time for the leaves! Our leaves will just be simple teardrop shapes, placed next to each other at an angle centered underneath our flower heads. Once the green was dry, I added some white dots down the center of my leaves for some extra decoration. You can add a dotted pattern by dipping the end of your paint brush in paint, and touching it to your glass (or paper) using the paint brush end like a stamp.

Last is the line work that brings everything together and makes it pop. For this part, you can either use a black paint marker or a small detail brush with a pointed tip. Outline all of the shapes that make up your flower in black. I added a teardrop shape to the very center of my flower, but you can also just outline the concentric circles and leave the center alone. I added a line connecting the head to the leaves to finish our flowers. For the ladybug, I put a line down the center of my oval and outlined around the entire shape. I then added a half circle in black sticking up from the top, with two short lines for antennae. I used the end of my paintbrush to add a dot to the end of each antennae. If you have some larger paintbrushes, you can also use the end to stamp the larger dots on the ladybug’s body. Otherwise, just use a round brush with a pointed tip to outline a circle shape in the size you want and then fill it in.

Voila! See, that wasn’t so hard :). You can make some beautiful Spring designs to cover anything your heart desires once you learn the basics of how to build forms with simple shapes. I will be doing 4 designs in all with different flowers and insects, check back for more!

 

 

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New Work

New Art + Forced Inspiration

So, awhile back I did a post on artist block, something I had been lucky to never really experience too much until very recently. It’s not that I didn’t have a ton of ideas, I quite simply wasn’t enthused about any of them for whatever reason and the execution just wasn’t flowing. I’m sure this had a lot to do with the crazy amount of stress I’ve been under this year for various reasons, but nevertheless I really desperately wanted to make some art I was actually excited about. I remembered how when I used to write poems and short stories back in college to unwind, if I felt the urge to write but had no clue what to write about I would put my iPod (HA, who has those anymore?) on shuffle and use the first song title that came up as inspiration for my short story, or else I’d use a random word generator and the word that came up had to be the title.

I decided to revisit this old, rather silly process of chance to see if it would jumpstart my creative but very stressed and exhausted brain. I did 4 trios of word generations, wrote them down in my sketchbook, and started drawing. It worked! I instantly came up with 4 ideas that I could easily relate to thoughts that had been jumbling around in my brain anyway, but that I just didn’t know how to access and release.

For this first one, inspiration was to be drawn from the words lung, tie, and morning.

Constrict

I ended up being so happy with how it turned out that I’m keeping it! I have the perfect spot in my living room, and actually only realized after I’d hung it up that the fabric I collaged for her jacket matches a swatch on my fabric scrap pillow I made about a decade ago that is now sitting on my accent chair ^_^.

“Breathe” was drawn using prismacolor pencil for the figure, and ink for the background. I used fabric for the jacket, old book pages for the wall art, hand marbled paper for the exposed lungs, and embroidery thread for the vein detailing that trails up to her neck and tangles around her fingers. The figure is a mix of multiple references I gathered to match the image I had in my head of what I wanted her to look like.

As I mentioned before, this year has been rough. I’d been experiencing sensations of feeling trapped, confined, constricted, suffocated … Even simple acts such as breathing, eating, sleeping were in a way loaded issues, made more complicated by both external and internal factors. This was some of what was on my mind while creating this piece, but as always it is not without elements of hope and promise of a future through the oxygen giving plants and botanical imagery throughout, and sunlight pouring in through the open window.

I’m sure others may even see something totally different in the story as viewed by their own thoughts and experiences, and if anyone wants to share what they saw going on I always love to hear others’ interpretations – Feel free to send a comment or message! Love to you all, and remember, you always hear that you don’t want to force inspiration but … sometimes you have to to get anything done and that’s okay ;).

Though I’m not letting go of the original as of right now, prints will soon be available so check out my eBay shop to snag one!

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