Bathroom Remodels – Inspirations On The Cheap!

I became a first time home buyer as of this summer, falling in love with a house that had great bones, a lot of potential, but some wacky aesthetic choices. The home had a single owner which was great … except that owner looked to have not made any design changes since she first moved in.

My boyfriend and I are both young-ish and not super rich, but there was no way we could live in this. So began a journey of creativity, (some blood while ripping out tack strips and carpet staples), sweat, and tears.

Bathrooms can be hands down the most expensive rooms to renovate. We really had to scrimp in some areas since we were trying to renovate an entire house in a little under 6 months. If you have a bathroom you hate that at least has fixtures that are in working order, it is completely possible to get creative and change the look without having to replace major features such as the toilet, tub, vanity, or even lighting.

This is what we started with. You can’t tell as much in the photos, but NOTHING matched! The stain on the door was different than on the paneling which was different than on the vanity. Mixing wood tones can be cool, but in a room this small … yikes! There was also silver in the (actually pretty nice) foil wallpaper as well as chrome hardware in the room but the mirror and lighting fixture were a brushed brass. The window was painted white as was the trim and the door to a small cabinet set into the wall, which was a bit odd, and the window had a scalloped decorative molding around it that just wasn’t doing anything for the overall look. The floor was just unfinished cement which we took as a blessing since we figured if there had been floor, we just would have been ripping it out :P. To me, the vanity and the lighting fixture were the biggest eyesores. However, we ended up spending over our predetermined lighting budget on new lighting fixtures for the rest of the house. Also, after many agonizing trips to every hardware and “everything” store in the area as well as many online perusals, we learned that it was going to be more costly than expected to have a vanity at least as big as the one we already had in the room. We were going to have to end up sacrificing either size or quality or both, and it just didn’t make sense to replace our current vanity with something smaller and less functional or with less longevity just to have a more modern look.

Just like The Rolling Stones said, Paint it black!

People seriously underestimate the difference a coat of paint can make. They always say you aren’t supposed to paint small rooms in dark colors, but rules were made to be broken. I have always loved black and golden yellow together, and I knew I wanted to keep the wallpaper in this room as the one thing original to the house. Keeping the room from being broken up into a bunch of smaller sections by having the half paneling flow right into the floor by using a deep black on both helps make the room feel less closed in. Painting the paneling a modern gloss black turns it from grandma’s house to vintage chic. I used the same gloss black on the vanity, which downplayed some of the carving and details on it I’d felt were too old-fashioned for my taste. All the molding and window trim in the house is white, so we wanted to keep that still. To tie that in as well as the white and cream swirl finish on the counter and the white tile in the shower, I spray painted the hardware with white lacquer spray. I used Rustoleum black gloss enamel on the mirror and lighting fixture. We used stick-on floor tiles in a black marble for the floor, which are super inexpensive but look way nicer than just putting in linoleum. They are not at all complicated to install oneself as they are literally¬† like giant stickers and you just keep building around the first tile you put in, keeping one flush to the other.

I made the funny (yet super convenient) little closet just a part of the woodwork by painting it in the same black as well, and following the design of the vanity by keeping the hardware gloss white. The bathroom window is very large, and people tend to be nude in the bathroom so we definitely needed a curtain. I didn’t want to add in another pattern with the wallpaper being so wild already but didn’t want it to look like we just had a big black sheet over the window either. So, I opted for a matte-on-shiny subtle pattern, in black again for consistency. You can’t see it, but FYI, we removed the scalloped edge on the window! The fun black and white artwork is actually a matted and framed page from an art magazine. Magazines are some of the best sources for inexpensive artwork if you need something in a smaller size.

I am well aware that not everyone would want to make friends with this wallpaper, but the same techniques I used can be adopted to fit any style. There were so many different simple choices that could have been made to lend vastly different results in this room. If someone wanted to keep the wallpaper but give the room a more cute, shabby chic, cottage look they could have painted all the woodwork white instead of black. A soft grey would have also been an option. The mirror and vanity lighting could have been painted white or grey to compliment the paneling color choice, or just finished in chrome to match with the sink and shower hardware. The wallpaper could have been ripped down and any color paint imaginable could have been put in its place for a more simple, traditional look without the retro nods. Or, it could have been painted and wall stamps, decals, or stencils could have been used over-top to add some pattern. The ideas could go on and on, and all without having to do any major construction or buy a bunch of new stuff. Remember, something like this can also be a great intermediary step so you can still be comfortable while you wait and save up for a complete overhaul. You don’t have to wait to win the lottery before you can love your home! ūüôā

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Year End Reflections And A New Project

As I mentioned earlier, after the completion of my “Unlimited”series I’d been experiencing a bit of artist’s block. I tried playing around with a couple new ideas, but nothing seemed to stick.

Design is pretty much my constant state of existence similar to, you know, breathing, so I stayed busy with commissions, crafting, my day job, and involvement in the Creative Team at my church. It was one of my projects for the team that would be the inspiration for my next piece. Upon the usual late December reflection, I discovered the themes explored in this piece really parallel what I’ve learned in this last year.

The series this image was designed for was titled Whole Heart, and though I hate being videotaped, I was somehow coerced into it so you can view this video explaining the concepts and thought behind the design. For a medium I chose a simplistic watercolor illustration with bold colors and sharp outlines. This would make the image clear and easy to read on a small app icon as well as in larger print form. The style would also appeal to any age from kids to older adults. I was surprised how even with a “story” that seemed so basic, people could strongly relate to it on multiple levels. Hearing how touched many were by image made me want to develop the concept into a more detailed piece in my usual surreal, mixed media style. Right now I just have the pencil outline, but keep checking back for in-progress shots!

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The girl in this piece is doing something absolutely terrifying, and in no way should she be smiling or feeling any positive emotions such as liberation or elation, and yet …

I’ve always read things or heard speakers in inspirational youtube videos talk about the difference between joy and happiness, but for the most part it just sounded like a bunch of nonsense to me until this year. Suddenly – I get it. Happiness is about things that make you feel excited and content in the moment – it’s situational. Joy is about a balance of fulfilling what you need to be content, doing what you can to fulfill the needs of others or even the world or society as a whole, and learning how to deal with and process those desires that are not yet fulfilled, or those instances in your surroundings that are unjust, upsetting, or draining. Joy is about being your best self not just personally but in how you affect others.

Self care has been a huge buzz word this year, from making being comfortable into an art with lists of specific tenants required to reach maximum coziness level such as in the Danish hygge trend, to the increased conversation around kids needing “personal days” or “mental health days” in school just as adults get personal days off from work to reach their optimum ability and stay healthy. Articles about self care tend to revolve around taking it easy and giving yourself permission to indulge guilt free for the most part, but I read a really great article recently that discussed a far less popular part of self care. I suggest you read the entire thing for yourself, but the main highlighted, bold font point from this article reads as follows …

“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.”

Self care could mean finally making that counseling appointment you’ve been putting off. It could mean finally seeking help for your alcohol or drug addiction you’ve been struggling with. It could mean having an uncomfortable, challenging conversation with a friend or family member. It could mean either temporarily or permanently cutting a toxic person out of your life. Doing the hard things will give you not the temporary happiness that comes from giving yourself a free day relaxing in front of Netflix with a fuzzy blanket and a bottle of wine (Because you’re still going to have to go back to that job you hate after the sun sets on your mental health day … I speak from direct experience.), but the joy of a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

I have felt the most content and fulfilled this year than any to date in my adult life, despite the fact that I still experience bouts of anxiety from time to time, I still experience periodic stressers in both work and personal life at pretty regular intervals, and the fact that the news cycle and goings on in my home country of America have really, really done a fantastic job in 2017 of pushing the exact buttons that make my blood boil.

And that is definitely an awesome thing, but it is not even all about my own or your own personal well being or fulfillment. More and more, I don’t think the point in life is necessarily to be happy all the time; I don’t think happiness is the endgame.

Most moral people tend to think that the reason we shouldn’t do bad things is because though we may think those things will make us happy, there will be some deep, dark void inside of us that will eventually eat us alive or something. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is always the case. I think there are plenty of people who are perfectly happy celebrating greed, lying, assaulting and bullying, and causing great harm to others … until they get caught. Just turn on the news. That is why the level of our happiness does not always correlate to a good life lived. We may feel happier and more internally at peace living with our heads under the sand, ignoring all the problems and injustices going on in our world, accepting the unacceptable because “I can’t do anything about it, so why should I worry?” But … if every single one of us did that, how would anything ever change? Not that every person is called to be a world changer that will end up in the history books, but plenty throughout history have put themselves in some pretty miserable conditions in order to speak up for what is right – certainly not the road to happiness and internal zen – because the purpose of life is not simply achieving momentary happiness over and over and over again.

My hope for this new year is that we all continue to grow into our best selves, and continue to flourish in awareness, in empathy, in bravery, and yes, in joy.

Come at us 2018, we’ve got this :).

Thanksgiving Weekend

It is frightfully easy, especially when there are so many things going on in our world that are unjust, frustrating, or just plain scary, to only focus on the bad. I am a strong believer in the fact that without recognizing and giving due acknowledgment to that which is not so amazing, real change will never happen. We need to talk about hard things sometimes, and we need to care and allow ourselves to feel pain over events or situations that harm our own well being or the well being of others. However, sometimes the negative can consume us and cause us to forget, ignore, or just plain not notice all the good that still persists in our own life and worldwide. Thanksgiving is always a good time to step away from the frantic, stressful pace of everyday life and constant barrage of bad news to reflect on the moments of joy we’ve experienced throughout the year, because they do exist.

This year, I am beyond grateful for the now 2 full years I have spent as Program Coordinator for The Express Yourself Artshop program at Creative 360 in my hometown of Midland, MI. Artshop is an inclusive arts and wellness program open to students of all abilities, including those with physical, intellectual, or psychological disabilities. I am thankful I have a job that I can look forward to each day, which I know can be as rare as winning the lottery. I above all am thankful for the amazing people I have met, the new friends I have made, and the feelings of love, acceptance, and belonging I experience when I am with them even on the toughest days.

I learn so much that I take home to my own personal art just from experiencing so many different approaches to creating. The photos above are from our recent pre-Thanksgiving bash put on by our Cooking Class. Side note, I even learned that it is possible for me to like green bean casserole. Now that truly speaks to the skill of our Artshop chefs. 

Working with our watercolor class has lit a fire under me to get back into the medium myself in my free time and try some new approaches and styles that are less cautious and constrained.

I love seeing different creators’ takes on inspiration images. An artist’s work shows others how they see the world, which I get to experience firsthand.

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One of my former students’ pieces, obtained in an art trade (that gorgeous red tree lady up there), is the focal point in my newly renovated art studio in the new house. (Another thing to be thankful for this year – saying goodbye to apartment living and having a studio that isn’t my living room! Extensive before-and-afters will follow in a later post – it’s been a real trip.)

I would encourage everyone, whether creatives or not (though I’d argue that seriously, every one of us is creative in¬†some way – it’s human nature.), to challenge themselves to spend more time with people who are different from them in some way. Ask them about themselves, get to know them on a personal level, have interesting chats … Though you are not going to get along with everyone, you will never regret opening up your world.

I’d also encourage you to remember that taking a different path than what you expected does not equate to failure. I graduated with a BAA in interior design, and wanted to work anywhere in the world¬†except Midland, the same city I lived in from age 2 on. Unmet expectations for the future are such an intense fear for most people, myself included.¬† However, sometimes our expectations just aren’t all that great, and aren’t what we need to be happy.

Sometimes, there is something better waiting for us.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Back After Design Overload!

Ok, so I have not posted at all really in the last 2 months. Shown below is the reason why…

I mentioned in my long ago previous post that my boyfriend and I had just purchased our first home. Well, as you can see the interior is pretty retro, though sadly not in the cute, hip, etsy sort of way. We have been doing a lot of DIY renovations, and though stressful and time consuming, it has also been such a rewarding experience to put my design skills to the test and recreate a whole house interior to my own specific tastes (Well, almost my own. There was my boyfriend to consider as well, and yes, there were fights, but we still love each other <3.). It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago I was working with my parents on their bathroom renovations. Granted, my budget as a just starting out 20-something was quite different ;), but that’s where creativity comes in! Our home hardly resembles these before pictures now, and we are nearing the home stretch. I don’t want to post any photos until everything is completely transformed, so be sure to check back later for the big reveal.

I am a person who fancies many different aesthetics, so the hardest part was deciding exactly what way we wanted to go with our renovation. Here are some of my favorite DIY renovations I’ve spotted for each major room.

Living Room

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Trees and other nature forms are one of my favorite accents for interiors because their shapes and sizes are limitless, and at least for me, bringing the outdoors in has calming qualities. Decals including the one shown above are available everywhere online, but can be pricey (This one would end up totaling $150 for all 3 pieces.). Simple branch forms are something even a non-drawer can put on their wall if they make a pattern or outline on the wall before painting. When you do it yourself, not only do you save money but you have more control over the color and shape of your design. A wall design should fill blank space to make a room look more balanced, and compliment the arrangement and flow of the furniture placement, as seen above.

Kitchen

If you spend any time on Pinterest, you will know that Scrapbooking paper has become as all purpose as duct tape. You can even use it to create a unique, artsy looking backsplash. Tile can be ultra expensive, but you can still get a fun tiled look using squares of scrapbooking paper, affixed and sealed with mod podge or any other clear sealer. From my experience, mod podge can sometimes still have a slightly “sticky” feel even after cured. There are a variety of other slightly more expensive sealers available at any local craft store that provide a better finish. It is key to use a gloss finish so any food splatters can be easily wiped off, and to remember that if your surface your are affixing the decoupage to is bumpy or rough, your finished design will be bumpy and rough. Sanding is your friend when affixing any sort of backsplash :).

Bathroom 

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What’s great about this superhero themed bathroom from DIY Network¬†is that once you repaint the shelving, change the accents, and switch out the comic book style artwork it can be re-themed at the home owner’s whim. I am a big fan of leaving the bones neutral so that you are not locked into a certain theme or style forever. Though this design was themed as a “little boy’s” bathroom, I personally believe it could also be a fantastic adult woman’s bathroom ;), and was actually planning on doing a superhero themed bathroom in our house until we happened to find a home with dreamy vintage floral wallpaper that we wanted to save.

Bedroom

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For whatever reason, I hate headboards. However, I am obsessed with finding ways to add extra shelving and storage in general. My boyfriend and I are both bibliophiles, so I thought this unique setup from Better Homes and Gardens was a great way to provide adequate shelving for books while staying space efficient, and giving a finished headboard look by bordering the top of the bed with blank wall. The sconces for extra reading light are a great functional idea as well.

Office

If you love color but don’t actually want to commit to rainbow walls, taping up paint swatches is an easily changeable idea. I love the creative genius vibe from the picture on the left, and can easily imagine notes and project ideas scribbled on each of the swatches as well, using the decoration as a kind of living idea board. If you find that look too chaotic, there is the more contained, orderly version on the right.

The final step in any interior re-do, which I will be starting on soon, is filling in with finishing touches such as artwork and other decor. These small final details often make the biggest impact in your space. Don’t just buy canvas prints from Bed Bath and Beyond, it is worth searching the online marketplace for original designs by working artists that are oftentimes more affordable and so much higher quality than mass produced, big box store pictures. Some wonderful sites include Redbubble, Society6, Zazzle, Ebay, and DeviantArt. It’s also worth checking out the Facebook marketplace if you use Facebook. I sell original artwork and prints on many of these sites, and have included links below. I also work with my art students, who are primarily adult artists with disabilities, in empowering them to market and sell their artwork in both our organization’s Ebay Store and Redbubble Shop. Besides art prints, many of the students enjoy glass and ceramics painting which make for great one-of-a-kind accent pieces.

Happy designing!

My Moongirl Designs Redbubble Shop

Moongirl Designs Ebay Store

Moongirl Designs Zazzle Store

Moongirl Designs Society6

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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.

 

Independence Day clothing

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!

 

New Art! 2 Down 2 To Go!

Struck by both some luckily timed inspiration and ever looming deadlines, I have buckled down on my series and completed 2 more pieces, which means only 2 more to go! I actually think these 2 new ones are among my favorites so far. Series-explanation-blurb time for those new readers!¬†“Unlimited” is composed of 12 mixed media portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. Women of all ages, races, and time periods are depicted, each communicating a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women‚Äôs collective experiences beyond their differences. We tend to think of time and events in terms of our own personal history or the history of the nation in which we reside. But of course, there are women everywhere living out their day to day life all over the world, with hopes, dreams, fears , relationships. Our situations and struggles are very different, but were we in some alternate reality all given a chance to meet, I suspect we would find some surprising similarities, maybe more than we ever expected. Pieces are primarily drawing and painting, accented with mixed media elements and metallic details.

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For the above, titled “October: She Is Full of Curiosity”, I incorporated a lot more mixed media elements which I felt meshed well with the “vintage study” atmosphere of the background. I used quilting fabric for the wallpaper, leather upholstery samples for the book cover, decoupaged book pages for the inside pages and title, an art book clipping for the picture on the wall, ink for the woodwork, watercolor for the outdoor scene, lace overlay for the girl’s collar, metallic acrylic for her hair, and prismacolor pencil for most of the figure and clothing.

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In this next piece, titled “July: She Is Free In Mind and Spirit”, I took almost the opposite approach, not using any fabric or found object materials and sticking solely to the traditional art materials of prismacolor pencil, watercolor, and acrylic paint. I’d had all the pieces for my series pre-planned as far as composition and subject matter since late 2015. However, this one took flight (haha, bad pun) on its own quite recently after I realized that I had a variety of ages and races represented in my planned artworks, but not a variety of abilities. Given that I work with an art program that serves individuals with disabilities, this oversight stopped me in my tracks. I’m always harping on inclusion and the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the public and entertainment sphere to anyone who will listen (and even those who don’t want to sometimes), and yet I realized they were not included in my project that was all about inclusion, unity, and representation. I was thus tasked with coming up with a visible disability that could be seen in just a head and shoulders portrait rather than a full body rendering. This lively young woman with down syndrome who exudes confidence, energy, and life evolved over the incredibly short course of two interrupted days with no pre-planning or sketching beforehand which is very uncommon for me. I don’t know that anyone else will see it, but this piece definitely holds the most emotional connection for me.

For more deeply personal and unconventional portraits, check out self-taught contemporary artist Stephen Martyn Welch’s “Everyone Deserves A Portrait” series inspired by his son who was born with Kabuki Syndrome. Keep checking for the last two! I’m on a roll ;)!

Artists To Know: My Personal Influences

People are constantly asking and being asked the question, Who are your influences? Who do you consider your hero? Who are your role models?¬†giphyI never know how to answer and end up feeling¬†like I’m having some sort of¬†Mindy Lahiri¬†moment. It sounds totally pompous and terrible to be like … Hm, well I’d say myself probably?¬†but that is how I feel sometimes! I love art, and have¬†seen many pieces that have spoken to me in some way, but I’ve never had that “master artist” whom I felt informed my whole artistic style and way of doing things. I’ve always had this strong aversion to even remotely copying or being influenced by anything at all. I remember growing up in school, my parents would ask me¬†what I was working on in class at the dinner table. I’d go on about some paper I had to write, and one of my parents (usually my dad) would pipe up with, “Oh, I know! You can write about _________!”. I’d get so mad and exclaim, “Great, now I can’t write about that even if I was going to because you said it first so it’s not my idea anymore!”A lot of times it truly was the idea I’d had in my head already, which was super problematic.

I am a very visually based person, and images have always stuck with me more than individual people anyway. As a way to maybe untangle some of my artistic influences, I have shared individual images that have struck me in my artistic journey, inspired me to create, and made me excited about being an artist. You may see similarities between some of these images and the work I aim to create, and some may be as different from my own work as night and day. You will not see any flowers or landscapes. Enjoy!

One of the first pieces of art that really impacted me once I was in high school and actually started developing an artistic style of my own wasn’t actually traditional art, but a fashion editorial from Elle Girl magazine. Elle Girl was infinitely better than it’s preppy, air-headed sister Cosmo Girl, or so I believed at the time –¬†Elle Girl had Emma Watson on the cover (in a marching band themed shoot of all things), and also first introduced me to the band Tegan and Sara via a short article featuring lots of photos of them leaning against walls in cool clothes and an answer to the all important question, what IS that weird sauce that Canadians put on their french fries? Its slogan was “Dare to be Different”, and it did tend to feature more unique, out-of-the-box photo shoots than other magazines geared towards teens. I was super into photography at the time as well as drawing, and though I had never thought of myself as a super confident person, I loved dressing up in fun outfits and makeup and crazy jewelry with my friends and taking photos. I loved¬†doing this because it allowed me to be far more bold and outgoing than my social anxiousness normally allowed me to be. All the outlandish clothes and hair and bright makeup is like a protective mask where you feel more like you are playing a character than anything else, and you don’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed about anything.

I came across these H.R. Geiger pieces at Barnes and Noble of all places, while looking at calendars for my new dorm my first year away at college. I was most struck by his more figurative work. His pieces are super creepy but they tell¬†a story, and I was so impressed by the striking monochromatic contrast and seamless, almost obsessive detail. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I didn’t end up buying the calendar because I had many more purchases to make and it was like 25 bucks. However, I took down his name to look up more of his work, and have been a fan ever since. Funny enough, I wouldn’t watch Alien, for which he did¬†a significant amount of visuals, until about 3 years ago.

I discovered these works from CC Askew and Camille Rose Garcia respectively in the art magazines I started to devour in late high and school early college. I hadn’t seen a lot of art from current working artists at that time, because art classes in school tend to be overly focused on the past. I understand the whole learn your foundations thing, and appreciating the history of art is important, but I remember being somewhat surprised to discover that there were actually well known artists that existed past the 19th century ;).¬†These solidified my affinity towards pop surrealism, and I fell in love with their heavy use of twisted-storybook-esque illustration, a mix of imagery that can be both childlike and nostalgic yet also deeply dark.

Two works I also discovered in glorious outsider art, street art, and pop surrealism magazines are these by Lori Earley and Sylvia Ji. Both were artists who focus heavily on portraiture, as do I in my work. They used contrasting, unusual colors and their pieces were delicate and feminine but not without a dark, surreal edge.

These pieces by Ray Caesar and Ruben Ireland were the first digital art that ever peaked my interest. For the longest time, I had harbored such a grudge against digital artists (those bunch of cheaters!), mainly because the only digital art I’d seen was poorly executed fan art¬†or digital manipulations that could be done in about 5 minutes with the right mouse¬†clicks on Photoshop. ¬†These artists, however, utilize the medium to do things that you can’t do traditionally. For example, Caesar actually creates entire 3D worlds which he then rotates the camera view within and crops to create his final pieces. ¬†I have recently done some experimenting with digital art myself, and it is challenging, let me tell you!

Another one of my inspirations is always, always my students! One of my students who comes to Express Yourself Artshop from an area assisted living home just taught me last week how to make crochet necklaces!

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Fellow creatives out there, be it artists, designers, musicians, writers, actors, any part of the spectrum: who (or what works) inspire(s) you to create?