Adventure and Inspiration

Sometimes things get tough. Sometimes it seems to take every modicum of energy to perform the most minute of daily tasks, from getting dressed in the morning to remembering that you’re supposed to say hello to people as you walk into work at 9 am. Sometimes you can’t even detect why everything suddenly seems so hard.

September has been a tumultuous month, but it has also been a month filled with excitement and events, travel and possibility. These little adventures, no matter how minor, are most needed when you are tired, ready to give up, and just want to stay at home sitting on your couch playing Sims.

Creative 360 had been preparing for its Artshop, Do-Art, and VSA Exhibition and Showcase for over a year, and it finally came together in the beginning of this month. It was so amazing to see the students I, as Program Coordinator, along with our many gifted instructors, had worked with finally get to perform their music, dances, and monologues as well as display their beautiful artwork in a gallery setting. For many, it was their first time showing their art to anyone other than friends and family.

I had to “entertain” guests in between performances, a challenge because I don’t think I am an overly entertaining person except for when I am not meaning to be. However, I lived to tell the tale, and was told I said many wonderful things although after the fact I could not for the life of me remember what they were :P. When having to speak publicly I tend to enter a sort of fugue state. Luckily, it is a brilliant one. There were a few kerfuffles along the way, but the whole show really came together in the end. (Kerfuffle is one of my favorite words, as it can be used to describe such a wide variety of daily societal occurrences.)

Our special highlighted projects made a splash as well. We had a 3’x4′ canvas composed of 80 squares in which each student filled in a square or 2 with the media and subject matter of their choosing to create an expressive patchwork. If you like what you see, it’s available in print form in Artshop’s Redbubble Shop.

wp-1473636565223.jpg

Another project by artist Heather-Dawn Deogracia was another that expressed the unique personalities of the students taking part in our show. Heather-Dawn asked students to write down their favorite colors and something about themselves. She used this information to create blind contour drawings for each, resulting in a series of vibrant abstract portraits.

There was another opening shortly thereafter at Studio 23 in Bay City, MI for their All Area Michigan show. I got 3 of my pieces in; Be My Eyes, I’d Have Been Happier As A Bird, and Be My Wings; which needless to say was ridiculously exciting. I also got into the Midland Center For The Arts Greater Michigan Art Exhibition which I applied to the last 2 years and didn’t get in. I almost didn’t apply this year but last minute decided, what the heck. That just goes to show … never give up and all that good stuff ;).

wp-1473636570890.jpg

My last recent adventure was a trip to New Orleans with my boyfriend. The first adventurous moment of this trip was traveling with nothing but a “personal bag” and a carry on between the 2 of us. I like to be prepared for any possible occurrence (or “kerfuffle” if you will, there’s that word again!), so this was a struggle. I’m so type A I made an excel spreadsheet listing everything I needed to pack with accompanying check boxes.

imag3756rimg_20160921_150104656

Literally everything was rainbow colored, and everywhere we went there was music playing. It was like having your own theme music as if you were a fictional TV character, so basically amazing. It was so weird to return at the end of the week to shades of brown and grey, and peace and quiet.

imag3766rimag3810r

There was this great band that played Sinatra and Louie Armstrong covers  we discovered on the first night that we revisited every night afterward until we left.

imag3925r

I also got to see a Warhol painting in person. Even though he seems like he was kind of an ass and didn’t actually do his own work, I must admit it still felt awesome.

Next up, Art Prize 2016! Check back for my “Artists To Know” Art Prize 2016 Edition post, where I will share my top picks from the art I was able to see over the weekend.

 

 

Advertisements

Who’s Really Teaching Whom? Allise Tries Abstract!

One of my favorite things about working with Express Yourself Artshop is seeing all of the creative ideas our students come up with. A few of them create abstract work, some of them just now delving into it for the first time. I myself work most closely to a surreal, whimsical, dreamlike aesthetic, but I have never been able to go pure abstract. For all those out there who say “abstract art is so easy, it’s just splatters and shapes, anyone can do it!”, I challenge you to go home and try making a piece. Of course it’s easy to make crappy, half-assed abstract art, just as it is easy to do anything that you don’t put effort or thought into. Making good abstract art that actually looks dynamic and interesting and makes people stop in their tracks is not simple at all. I had dabbled in attempts in the past, and grew so frustrated I gave up on the whole idea of even trying.

Heather Deogracia is a fellow whimsy-addict when it comes to art, and has been in many of my Artshop classes at Creative 360. She has begun creating pen and ink abstracts within the last couple of years, and her illustrations have a ton of movement and always stand out in bold, contrasting colors.

heather7

Find this design by Heather Deogracia on Redbubble!

Another student who is in the Artshop classroom nearly as often as I am, Colleen, has always had a great sense of color when painting with watercolors. Our painting instructor this semester prompted her to try an abstract piece and see how she liked the process. She reacted much like I did the first time I tried to create something nonrepresentational; quite apprehensive and not sure where to even begin. It’s hard to wrap your mind around creating texture, colors, and pattern without the “anchor” of a specific end goal, a plan that your picture will end up looking like a, b, or c when you are finished. With the instructor’s guidance, she ended up with this beautifully balanced, interesting piece.

colleen34

Find Colleen’s design on Redbubble!

12677691_790238767786941_1618605374_n

In fact, I liked the design so much, I couldn’t resist buying a travel mug from Artshop’s Redbubble Store. It’s so nice to be able to stare at 3 of my favorite colors while enjoying my morning coffee.

I use watercolors a lot, and after seeing how much fun it was for the students to play with bright colors, letting their paints blend and bleed and drip into each other, I had to try it at home despite my misgivings.

I ended up with two pieces that lo and behold, I am actually pretty happy with. The first is inspired by caves, gemstones, and geodes. I had a pretty well curated rock collection as a child, so maybe that is where the inspiration came from :). The second is a female figure fading into the dark background. I wanted to use a lot more contrast in both lights and darks and color for this one. In both pieces, I started with a basic background first, and then added the details over that under layer based on what I saw in the design, sort of like when you were a kid and used to lie on the ground staring up at cloud shapes, finding pictures in them.

cave of wonderslt

Cave of Wonders, 12×18 Watercolor, Ink, White Prismacolor Pencil, and Metallic Acrylic. Design available on Redbubble!

the power of invisibility

The Power of Invisibility, 12×18 Watercolor and Ink. Design available on Redbubble!

A last bit of Artshop news, our fundraiser last weekend was a success! Quite a few students sold some of their work, and we also received over $170 worth of donated art supplies – woohoo! Check out Express Yourself Artshop on instagram to see more photos of students’ artwork and what we are up to :).

12424924_1027228804019301_48805503_n

 

The Art of Surprising Oneself

As many of you may know, I have a love affair with redbubble. Of all the print on demand platforms I’ve tried, they seem the most user friendly, visually appealing, and reasonably priced. For the past couple months I’ve been collecting photographs of my Express Yourself Artshop students’ work in preparation of opening our own shop, and the time has finally come!

I actually went to school for interior design, and the former furniture salesperson in me is so psyched about these throw pillows, because a good looking pillow really makes or breaks a sofa (even though they end up thrown on the floor 99% of the time).

I’d recommend that anyone in arts education do this, whichever platform you end up choosing. Many of the students have made the same surprised comment to me, “Wow, I feel like a real artist now!” And many of us can relate to that feeling – I know I can. A piece of art almost doesn’t feel real until it’s shared with the world, no matter how big or small that “world” may be. A drawing or painting on a loose piece of paper is one thing, but when it is matted and framed or transformed into a print product, treated and presented like the work of art that it is, it can take the new artist aback at first – “you mean  really did that?” Whether an artist cares about making money off of their art or not, there is something to knowing that other people are seeing the images they have created, that people even want to take something the artist has created home with them so they can look at it every day! Some artists make art their business, some may donate their art to auctions or causes or give it away to people. Still, the art has a life, it is being touched and seen, not in hibernation in some dark basement or storage closet.

If you’d like to see more, please visit our new shop celebrating artists of all abilities, artists that continue to surprise themselves as they learn that yes, they definitely are real artists!

Art As A Tool For Expression

I had the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in awhile last night, so I thought it was a good time to reconnect with everyone. My lack of continuous rest can usually be attributed to one of three things:

A. Keeping myself awake having imaginary conversations with people in my day to day existence that will never happen in real life.

B. Making lists on various topics that I will never remember in the morning anyway.

C. Being kept awake by the sound of air molecules gently bumping into each other, even through my earplugs. Seriously, I am the auditory equivalent of “The Princess And The Pea”.

It was also the first week of a new semester at Express Yourself Artshop, which brings a lot to do and think about, so item B in particular was happening a lot ;).

It will be my first full semester as program coordinator after being involved as an instructor for a little over 2 years, and the fascinating idea of art as a tool for self expression is something that one is immediately confronted with the moment they enter the classroom.

kurt-vonnegut-arts

Many great thinkers and creators of all types have spoken on the importance of creatively expressing oneself, but rather than posting a list of 20 quotes or articles, I’d rather share with you through personal experience. Yes, I am an artist, but no, you don’t have to be to use something musical or visual or written to release whatever you are holding back. Often times, through written words or sketches is the only time anyone is afforded the opportunity to see our true selves, the selves we know we are on the inside that look so much different from others’ perceptions of us. It is why I panic whenever anyone I don’t know too well asks if they can look at my sketchbook. It’s not some temperamental artist thing where I am like “No, but it’s not beautiful yet! I can’t possibly reveal my rough beginnings!” It is because it reveals a 100% transparent view of my every thought and emotion, and that can be a bit embarrassing.

transparency  bright

Transparency, 2012, Watercolor and Ink

I had a lot of social anxiety growing up. Even through early high school, I would often go through an entire day without speaking a single word. I’d go home after school and my mouth would have that yucky stale, dry feeling like when you wake up in the morning, because I had literally not used my vocal chords for around 7+ hours. Then of course, lovely acquaintances would ask the oh-so-helpful question,”Why are you quiet all the time? Is there something wrong with you?” which made me want to clam up even more. If people already thought I was odd, God forbid I should open my mouth! Then they’d really have something to talk about. I knew that the person I was presenting to the world wasn’t the real me. I was actually pretty damn opinionated and strong-willed from a young age (I think in one of our garage sales I saw that my mom actually had a parenting book called something like “The Strong Willed Child”, meant to advise parents in coping with this particular sort of, ahem, “gift”). I had ideas and interests and things to say, and I hated the fact that others may see me as dull or demure, but I couldn’t break through this seemingly invisible force that held me captive. That is where I turned to art, my sketches being anything but safe, quiet, or boring.

When I look back, my frustration with the self imposed isolation that I didn’t know how to navigate around is encapsulated in these visual expressions. Figures are often shown bound, missing one of their senses with eyes hidden or mouths literally sewn shut, or rendered immobile in an isolated environment.

blogexpressionwithopenedeyes

With Opened Eyes, Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

blogexpressionpatchestearsandloudnoises

Patches, Tears, and Loud Noises ; Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

blogexpressionofthesea

Of The Sea, Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogexpressiontimebound

Timebound, Prismacolor Pencil, 2006

blogexpressionsburied

Frozen, Prismacolor Pencil, 2006

 

Though emotionally painful at the time, I luckily connected with a few good friends junior and senior year who struggled similarly and could understand what I was going through, something that I couldn’t explain since it was all internal. This, coupled with going off to college and being forced into uncomfortable and unknown situations in which I would have to communicate out of necessity, helped me adapt and change, growing away from this extreme anxiety. Did it completely disappear? No, but it greatly lessened. Within the last couple of years I have also found that when I have a purpose to my communication and am passionate about what I am sharing, such as with art instruction, no matter how large the group of strangers may be my fears disintegrate (Ask me to talk about menial conversation fillers like the weather or how my day is going, and we may have a problem. I always say I prefer “big talk” 😉 ). Not all are so lucky. Some individuals are permanently nonverbal due to developmental disorders or injury. For them, finding alternate means of communication is not just therapeutic but necessary.

I am going to close with another Kurt Vonnegut quote that I’ve probably shared before, because it’s that good:

many_people_need-95908

By expressing ourselves creatively whether the result is a masterpiece or not, we are not only helping ourselves, but are touching others positively as well. Through making oneself vulnerable, we “give permission” to others to do the same. We all think we’re the only one; the only one who thinks _________, the only one who feels _______, the only one who has experienced ________, when the truth is most likely we are not, everyone else is just too scared to say how they really feel. I can’t count how many people have looked at the piece below and simply said, “Yeah, I know the feeling …”

The Rush Hour

The Rush Hour, Prismacolor Pencil, 2014

Of this next piece, viewers have commented that looking at the work was actually uncomfortable because they could feel her claustrophobia. They understood the feeling of being confined and held back, of feeling like you have outgrown your current life or situation, of wanting to move and change while everything and everyone around you is staying the same. Everyone experiences feelings like this, there is just this unspoken rule that you don’t talk about it.

actually it is this world thats too small

Actually, It Is This World That’s Too Small; Mixed Media, 2014

You don’t always have to be expressing negative emotions, either. A student in Express Yourself Artshop’s Painting Exploration class this week wanted to tell a story about bright colors, music, and dance with her piece, and made a modern art version of a dancer playing the flute, referenced from an old painting from an art history book that she had found and connected with right away. Another tried painting for the first time, and chose to celebrate her favorite colors and the things that make her happy, like gardens. Besides aiding in dealing with difficult emotions, de-stressing and joy are two other side effects of self expression through art.

colleendancer

Artist : Colleen D.

michelle3

Artist : Michelle D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just pick up a pencil and play … you may be surprised what comes out, or whom you connect with and inspire along the way.

 

 

 

 

I’m Not The Only One Who’s Been Busy This Summer …

The summer flew by, and while I think this summer for me has been the most productive yet as far as art making, I am not the only one who has been hard at work. My Express Yourself Artshop students really applied themselves creatively, and pumped out a lot of amazing art over this past semester. Hard to believe what one can accomplish in only 6 weeks! I’ve shared some of the highlights here.

Grace, Watercolor

Grace, Watercolor

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Nancy, Ink Drawing

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Brenda, Handmade Tote Bag

Lacey, Acrylic

Lacey, Acrylic

For those who haven’t read my blog before, Express Yourself Artshop is an art program I work with that is open to those of all abilities, and is an accepting, friendly and safe environment to artists with physical and mental disabilities. I know myself how important creating can be as a tool for expressing what you feel like you can’t with words, and how it has the ability to calm the mind and soul out of tumult and provide a reprieve from the stress and sometimes heavy weight of everyday life. One of my students loves owls, and so we collaborated on some trippy, colorful owls done in my go-to style for these birds (shown below). I drew in pencil, she outlined and painted. Along with an affinity for owls, we also share a love of Deco Art’s Glamour Dust craft paints – a win-win.

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Look familiar? So glad to share my enthusiasm for quirky, surrealist owls!

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

Anne Marie, Ink and Acrylic With Glamor Dust

I love these people, and the unfamiliar environment of being in a truly judgement-free space … Everyone simply accepts and embraces each other as they are. I feel so loved in return while I am there, and it is one of the few places I don’t feel pressured to put on an act (Convenient, as I’ve never quite mastered the art of situationally adjusting my personality. For better or for worse, I just can’t seem to grasp that particular life skill.). I can’t wait for next semester. I’m going to be channeling my inner Mark Montano and doing a really cool DIY decor class, so hopefully that gets some interest. I am right on the cusp of finishing two new projects that will be going up with a selection of other pieces at Espresso Milano coffee shop in Midland in September, so I will be sharing that soon.

Montano, seriously, what a snazzy guy.

Artists To Know! Installment 5

I know I promised sculpture in my next Artist To Know! post; I even had all the images picked and everything! But, with another semester of Express Yourself Artshop coming to a close, it seemed like a good time to share some of the empowering art about disability and mental health I’d been archiving. I hope these images encourage, inspire, and maybe get you to think a little differently about the people you encounter in your day to day life.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. – Wendy Mass

Carol Rossetti

Manu

Kelly (inspired by this beautiful video – I implore you all to give it a watch. I never cry during touching videos but this one had me tearing up).

Lorena

I have been in love with Carol Rossetti’s “Women” project since I first discovered it. Since then, her incredibly personalized drawings have gone completely viral, and I’ve been seeing them everywhere in the great, vast world of the interweb! Her pieces highlight different women’s stories of judgement, with a response of affirmation from Carol herself below. Many of the stories are about women who have been judged based on their age, physical appearance, or life choices; but I’m so glad she also decided to include women with disabilities. Clicking the link on her name and also visiting her facebook page, which shows all of the stories, is worth a look. Some of the women’s stories I found myself nodding along with thinking “Oh my god, I know exactly how she feels!”, others were as far removed as can be from experiences I’ve had or decisions I’d ever find myself making. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We all have stories to tell, and judgement gets us nowhere, it just blocks our ears from reading and our eyes from seeing a new story different from our own. As well as hurting others, we miss out on reaching out and forming important connections.

Christian Hopkins

20-year-old Christian Hopkins says he was never good with words, which is why he loves communicating with pictures. He is studying biochemistry, but has had to take some health leaves due to severe clinical depression that he has dealt with for the past 4 years. This struggle is the subject of his photography. Though his work has gotten notoriety, Hopkins says photography for him is just a hobby, and a medium through which he can express himself. He has never had a single photography class or any form of instruction, which is pretty amazing when you see his intense, moving images. Using creativity as a means to come to grips with personal struggles, and explain parts of your life you find hard to talk about with others is something I wholeheartedly believe in, and one of the reasons I have such a passion for art. Creating is so much more than making pretty pictures.

Viktoria Modesta

This Latvian singer and model was born with a dislocated hip and leg. She endured terrible bullying at school because of her disability, and underwent 15 unsuccessful surgeries. She moved to London for better medical care, but still the surgeries she underwent didn’t help. Finally, weary of surgery after surgery that did nothing she convinced doctors to amputate her leg. She has never looked back. She has more confidence now after what she went through than she ever did, and is living her life doing exactly what she loves. She is the first widely known amputee pop star, and is paving the way for other talented individuals with disability to take their turn in the spotlight.

Steve Rosenfield

The tagline for Rosenfield’s powerful photography project is “Building security through insecurities”. Rosenfield himself didn’t start out in photography, but network administration. He describes how his former self of over a decade ago as “a very opinionated and materialistic person with a huge ego”. He never shared his feelings or insecurities, afraid that they would shatter his carefully constructed image, and this left a lacking in both his relationships and personal happiness. Fed up, Rosenfield began to “research” why he was so unhappy through reading and journaling, trying to get to the bottom of the lack he felt. When he found that the key was honesty, compassion and transparency, he quit his 9-5 to travel the world and start over. A friend he met in France got him into photography. In his series “What I Be”, subjects are exposing a side of themselves normally hidden from the world, and proclaiming “I am not my ____”. It isn’t about whitewashing over their struggles, but admitting that though they have these issues in their lives, the struggles do not define them. “I am not my amputation.” “I am not my cycle.” “I am not my fatness.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed another art immersion! Lastly, I’d like to leave you with some work from some super cool artists with disabilities that I know personally through Artshop, my wonderful students. We’ve had another great run :).

Adorable mixed media birds

Adorable mixed media birds

Bright watercolor flowers

Bright watercolor flowers

Cool collage mandalas

Cool collage mandalas

Watercolor tiger

Watercolor tiger

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Naked no more! These bears have a snazzy new wardrobe thanks to the sewing class.

Back to Artshop for Spring!

We’re about halfway through the new spring semester of Express Yourself Artshop, and I wanted to share what some of my students have been working on. My two painting classes in particular are pretty full this time around, which has been a lot of fun. It is exciting to discover everyone’s own unique preferences and styles. I really must just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring Painting

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring Painting

Acrylic Abstracted Roses

Acrylic Abstracted Roses With Gold Outlining

Acrylic and Pastel Abstracted Figure

Acrylic and Pastel Abstracted Figure

Metallic Acrylic Owl

Metallic Acrylic Owl

Anyone interested in education, teaching, or mentoring in any way should give this video I found awhile ago a watch.

Yes, it’s focus is on kids and tech, but I found the takeaways applicable to many ages, abilities, and fields. People really do have unimaginable potential when they are actually allowed to experiment, explore and discover.

“Get out of their way, and let them be amazing.”