New Work

Misunderstood Monsters & The Ugly Phase Of Art Making

Fragile, 16×12″

Being a lifelong lover of reptiles, I was always drawn to the figure of Medusa. Back in 1992 when Matchbox put out these fun little mini monster figures aptly titled “Pocket Monsters” that you could get inside cereal boxes, the Medusa figure was always my personal favorite.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so fun being the real Medusa, cursed by Athena because Athena’s husband couldn’t keep it in his pants. I’ve always had an affinity for those fantastical beings that can’t be understood by a story told only in black and white.

In the pose I chose for her, she is attempting to shield others from that dangerous part of herself, but only halfway. Butterflies turned to stone hang in her chamber. Is it easier to be surrounded by lovely, inanimate things after what had happened to her than real living beings? Is there a hesitation before punishing others in her misery?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about anger. Do we ever have a right to be angry? Can anger be constructive? When we unleash said anger, where is the line? Does the motive behind our expression matter? These thoughts as well as another unrelated project prompted me to finally dig out this piece that I started a little over 2 years ago that almost ended up in the garbage. I had the background done which I loved, and also had shaded in the figure. The page was filled with color and the piece was supposedly “almost done”, but for such a powerful subject there was no feeling coming out of it, none of that indescribable “spark” that makes me love art. So, in my portfolio it sat.

Over this summer I was chosen to participate in an art exhibit titled “The Chair Project” for my local United Way. Each artist was given a subject for their piece that fell into one of the major areas United Way services, with a real story from a community member. I was assigned mental health, and ended up using a lot of this similar reptilian imagery in the final project. For more details on my process and the thoughts behind my design, please check out the short video.

I spent a lot of hours outlining tiny, detailed little scales in metallic paint marker and the process became quite meditative honestly. This prompted me to give my Medusa a second look, and at least finish out her hair. The metallic accents had done so much to bring my chair design to life, that I knew it would do the same for the Medusa. Enter, silver foil and jewelry findings to the rescue!

There can be a wisdom to knowing when to let go of projects that just aren’t working, but as I always tell my art students, you have to push through that ugly phase. Every piece of art has a period in the dead center or even late middle – almost complete where it looks like a complete failure. However, sometimes even the smallest adjustment can fulfill your original vision or even surprise you with a new one. In my case, this at times can happen years later. Perseverance and faith are huge parts of creativity. So, I implore you, keep that ugly art! – At least for a little while longer.

Standard
Art Education, Project Ideas

Caravaggio: Creative Minds Art History Project

Hello all!

I took a break from teaching my Creative Minds class with my Express Yourself Artshop crew over the summer since we had a bunch of other specialized activities going on, but am excited to be back! We started our new semester with a classic artist from the past, Michelangelo Merisi da Carravagio. Entertaining the masses through stories of epic violence before there were action movies, many of Carravagio’s paintings centered around religious and mythic themes and involved a lot of beheadings … Allegedly he also had to move around a lot to avoid getting his door knocked down due to a habit of “excessive brawling” – Life imitates art.

 

Though he also did the traditional commissions and practice of portraits, still life, etc., these intense and poignant scenes are what he became most well known for. One particular commission completed around the year 1597 for Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the Medici family’s agent in Rome, is what we drew inspiration from for our project. This ceremonial shield was painted with an image of Medusa just as she has been tricked into looking into a mirror, thus freezing and leaving herself open to guess what, another beheading! Students each picked a character from Greek Mythology to study images from, and drew from this to create their own image, blood and guts optional ;).

 

To achieve the atmosphere of strong shadows characteristic of Caravaggio’s work, we used black drawing paper as a base. Pastels show up bold and opaque on top of black, as do colored pencils if they are oil or wax based like Prismacolor colored pencils. This choice of black paper had a dual purpose; not only did it help us pay homage to Caravaggio’s high contrast style but it was a mental challenge in that students had to think about the process of shading in reverse. They had to think differently than with traditional drawing on white paper, adding shading with their colors to lighten an area and leaving spaces alone or coloring more lightly with their materials to “darken” them.

As always, feel free to share, steal, or try this at home for fun! Keep checking back as I will be posting more projects soon!

Standard