Art Discussion: To Suffer In Your Arms

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Happy February! This art discussion seems appropriate given that February has been appointed the month of all things lovey dovey. This drawing is one of my older ones, from about 8 years ago. Still, I’ve remained attached to it even though I can see spots where my pen and ink skills have certainly improved. It’s just the right mix of elegant and morbid, and I used an interesting process to come up with the concept. I had an assignment in my college drawing class in which we had to create a collage first, and then draw from that image we created. I used to be big into collaging (This collage actually won a contest in Deviantart’s collage club, of which I used to be quite the active member.), so this technique was right up my alley. I liked how collaging helped me come up with new image pairings I may not have thought of through sketching only. The loving couple used to be a cheesy perfume ad – major upgrade.

Outdoors, people are rioting and attacking each other. The couple are “safe” inside, shut out from all the cares of the outside world. But, even though they seem deeply in love, they too have wounds that they have imparted on each other. The woman is so enthralled with the picture in her mind of that perfect embrace, that oneness, that sense of not being alone that she ignores her own suffering. A dead dove lies shot and bleeding on the table, his blood bright red like the cuts and bruises on the woman, and the morbid image of the smiling, bleeding woman on canvas hung on the wall.

Love and peace are two words that are often spoke of together, as if married. What is odd is that despite all this, love is often in fact a destroyer of peace. People do all sorts of things in the name of a feeling they call love. In favor of love, common human decencies are thrown out the window without a look backward. People ruthlessly force their own ideas on others, sometimes to that others’ demise, all the while saying and wholeheartedly believing that this behavior is only because they love them and want good things for them.

Take a look at the relationships of any number of people you know as well as your own: you will find that often times once romantic love infiltrates a bond, you can expect things to be anything but peaceful. Love adds two entirely new dimensions to the already multifaceted structure of a relationship between two people, each different person with their own separate ideas of what both giving and receiving love is supposed to look like. 7 years after I pondered the simplification of love as the solution to everyone’s problems, this fantastic article was posted to Observer; “When we believe that “all we need is love,” … we’re more likely to ignore fundamental values such as respect, humility and commitment towards the people we care about. After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other stuff — all of the hard stuff?” Love, like any other experience, can be healthy or unhealthy and it would do us all well to remember that. 

Love of only one or few things can easily grow into an obsession. With obsession comes possessiveness, jealousy, and a loss of attention to all else causing any other parts of life to shrivel and decay. Our perceptions can be tricked into a sort of bubble of “only I and what I love matter in this world”, when guess what, a whole lot else matters. The world keeps turning, and we let things that will inevitably be missed later fall away. Similarly, an intense, burning, passionate love of too many separate entities can cause overwhelming anxiety and leave an individual asking,”How can I show love to all of THIS when I only have _______”. One can end up feeling like the only spring left in a world of thirsty travelers. It can be hard to forget you are not the center of all that you love. In the case of love that is unrequited, you may not even be on the edges of what it is you love. And inner peace further erodes.

I, however, am still quite a fan of love (and always have been) and believe it can
accomplish wondrous things. I guess what matters the most and what we must think about always is where our love is coming from. Does it come from our own fleeting wants and demands, is it forced or artificially manufactured out of a sense duty with no real
compassion behind it, or does it flow from a deeper source? Love should always be external, because of who other living beings are, not internal, because of what we long to own. Love that comes from selfish desires undoubtedly leads to brutality.

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Art Discussion: New Year’s Resolutions

I have to admit, I never make New Year’s resolutions; partly because if you are truly dissatisfied with something, it seems silly to arbitrarily wait until the turning of the calendar to fix it. In part also because we all tend to set the same goals, those goals that we know everyone else is setting so we can easier relate to those around us as we share that we want to find our soulmate, get a promotion, or lose weight, and we can all laugh together about how we probably won’t actually do anything to work towards most of those things. But, what would happen if we committed to doing one thing that we were truly passionate about in this new year, one thing that we didn’t over analyze to death, asking ourselves, Should I want this? Is it too silly? Too shallow? Too lofty? Too weird? No one would understand anyway … 

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During my senior year of college 7 years ago (Whoa! 7 is a big number.), I entered an art book into the Annual Student Exhibition at Central Michigan University. I asked a sampling of the people I encountered in a day, some I knew well and some I did not, to think of a couple of experiences they would like to have before their life was over, and pick the most obscure one to share with me. I chose 35 different submissions to illustrate, and Underneath was  born. This was my first experiment with creating art based on collected personal stories, something I would use to create many more projects in the future. I also ended up winning the Grand Award for this piece, which was the first time I’d ever won anything for my art aside from a coloring contest in 4th grade, and not a bad way to exit my college career ;).


As annoying as it may be that the first thing anyone asks when meeting someone for the first time after “What’s your name?” is, “So what do you do?”, we kind of are what we do. This doesn’t have to mean our day jobs, or even be workplace related at all. What we do with each day is a choice, and it is these choices that reflect what we value and shape who we will become. True goals can give immense insight into each individual’s unique personality, drive, and psyche. That is why I so enjoyed sifting through the responses I received for this project.

I was reminded of Underneath recently for an unfortunate reason. The young woman who 7 years ago submitted the far right response above took her own life in a murder-suicide earlier this month. She attended my high school, but our school was so large growing up there were tons of people who walked in graduation with me that I felt like I’d never laid eyes on my whole four years there. I never knew her well, but our paths did cross and I remembered her submission deeply affecting me back then, as the news of what occurred deeply saddened me now. A couple of my good friends had had classes and clubs with her, some even keeping up over the years at least through texting and facebook, and the news hit them even harder.

This may not be a typical resolution, but something to be mindful of in the new year is this: we do not know everyone else’s story. We have no clue about everything the people we run into in our day to day life may be going through. People learn to adapt, and to act, and to portray themselves in person, at work, and in social media as how they want others to see them. I know I do it; I think we all do to a point. I have always been fascinated with the dichotomy between individual’s alone personas versus their public personas. It is a concept that is interesting to explore. It can also be a concept that is dangerous, because it can prevent people from reaching out who need help. If you make one resolution (aside from foregoing all convention and chasing your oddest dream / within reason and lawfulness, of course), resolve to be transparent and authentic, and resolve to be someone who is willing to make that reach when someone needs support either in the form of just a listening ear or otherwise. Christmas falling on a Sunday, I attended the Christmas morning church service at MFMC with my family this year. We spoke about how there is the whole Christmas story which most of us, churchgoers or not, have known since childhood. But, we all have stories, and our story, how we live and interact, can change someone else’s story for the better if we allow it to happen. We have nothing to lose for trying.

To see the rest of my art book in order, visit the album on my website.

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.

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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 ;).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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Find Colleen’s design on Redbubble!

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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.

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

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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 :).

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New Work Reveal – Wonderland

I have been slowly adding to this piece over the last couple months. It went through some stages where I wasn’t really sure if I even liked it, but lo and behold, in the end I think it all turned out just fine :). I usually use only one or two shocking, bright colors in a piece at a time (with the exception of illustration/graphic design stuff when it calls for it) and never primaries like this, so I must admit the color scheme did freak me out a bit and I was sure for a moment that I’d made a terrible mistake. However, adding the dripping watercolor from the bottom to blend into the blurred figures in the background really tied it together. I wanted to use these “childlike” colors to reinforce the idea that we are seeing the environment through the eyes of the girl. This is also the reason why I made the drawn on windows on some of the buildings in the back simplified, and more “sketchy” and didn’t use a straight edge. This decision also greatly freaked me out at first. Apparently I don’t do a whole lot of “childlike” illustration. This was definitely something new, and it’s been a wild ride and I am pumped to move on to the next thing :). I really don’t know how some artists work on one piece for years, I’m always anxious to finish up and get on to the next big idea! I took in-progress photos this time, a first, and really must remember to do this more often.

WONDERLAND – 18×24 – COLORED PENCIL, INK, AND WATERCOLOR

Starting with the midtone shading of the skin ... I know I have mentioned before it's usually best to start with the background first. However, since I knew I wanted to do the background in ink, I reversed the process. Since primsacolor pencils are oil based, they provide a barrier so that the ink mess doesn't get all over the area where I want the figure. Sometimes you have to alter your process to best suit the materials, learned mostly through trial and error.

Starting with the midtone shading of the skin … I know I have mentioned before it’s usually best to start with the background first. However, since I knew I wanted to do the background in ink, I reversed the process. Since primsacolor pencils are oil based, they provide a barrier so that the ink mess doesn’t get all over the area where I want the figure. Sometimes you have to alter your process to best suit the materials. I’ve learned this mostly through trial and error.

Next on to the hair, and I did a little trial filling in the rabbits in color on her shirt ... still scared of the bright color!

Next on to the hair, and I also did a little trial of the color idea by filling in the rabbits on her shirt … still scared of the bright colors!

Decided to fill in black behind the pattern on her shirt to balance the dark areas in the composition, and also to "anchor" those darn rabbits to something! I also inked in the blurred figures rushing by in the background, softened the edges with water, bleeding the ink.

I decided to fill in black behind the pattern on her shirt to balance the dark areas in the composition, and also to “anchor” those darn rabbits to something! I also inked in the blurred figures rushing by in the background, softening the edges with water, bleeding the ink.

Added more color by putting a pattern on the lapel of her jacket, and began rendering the cityscape in the background in ink.

I added more color by putting a pattern on the lapel of her jacket, and began rendering the cityscape in the background in ink.

Buildings inked in!

Buildings inked in!

Further developed shading on the skin where needed to have harmony with the values of the background, dripped colorful watercolor up from the bottom of the composition, and chalked dark clouds over the background to recede it further back, and draw the eye to the figure. I believe it is now finished :).

Last, I further developed the shading on the skin where needed to have harmony with the values of the background, dripped colorful watercolor up from the bottom of the composition, and chalked dark clouds over the background to recede it further back, and draw the eye to the figure. I believe it is now finished :).