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 :).