I’m Back With Some New Art!

This first piece in a new series was a long time coming … I am obsessed with working small, and tend to work in 11×14 or maybe 16×20 max, and wanted to start doing pieces that were at least 18×24 or larger to allow me to include more detail and further develop the background in my pieces. My new series, Dwell, really taps into my background of interior design study. These pieces will contemplate how our environment affects us, but also how we interact with and affect it. The word dwell also has a double meaning, not just the physical space where we live but the places we create inside us that we allow our mind to dwell in. How are these psychological spaces affecting us, and how much control do we have over them or they over us?

“Dwell In Possibility” was a challenge for me because it involved a lot of brown, a color I literally never use in art. I tend to create pieces that are mostly grayscale tones with pops of bright color, and gray just would not have been right for the earthy feeling I wished to evoke. The other challenge to this piece was that I was creating an interior that was not very attractive or intricate … the remains of a decaying building, dirt floor, rough wood paneled walls, weathered plaster ceiling once grand but now stripped of any color or design … The only furnishing an abandoned, sun bleached chair frame.

dwell in possibility

I did a lot of layering of different media overtop one another, and used my clear prismacolor pencil blender for the first time in my entire life. I usually use a white pencil to blend, but this time I couldn’t use an opaque blender because I wanted to be able to still see the underlayer of watercolor through the blended pencil. I left the flowers and hair purely impressionistic watercolor as opposed to the detail in the background and the model’s face. I didn’t use as much dimensional mixed media as usual, not wanting to add too much clutter, and stuck to a lace fabric overlay on her dress and clusters of beads for the centers of the poppy flowers.

dwell in possibility progress

The closer you look, you will see there is a lot more going on than just a smiling woman holding a bouquet. She is already stationed in an odd setting, an old deteriorated building. She is surrounded by decay, including uprooted, dying plants. Even some of the flowers in her hands are dead or dying, but they are slowly coming back to life as she grasps onto them, holds them and nurtures them. Behind her through the door there is a cavern of light, where a grand tree has taken hold. There are no leaves yet, hardly any soil for his roots to grasp onto, yet he is still alive somehow. Robins circle around, a bird that symbolically means rebirth. Change and growth are always possible.

As you can also see, I can’t seem to put down the metallic gold acrylic lately! At work, my students always want to cover everything they make in metallics and glitter, which often makes me shake my head, but I can understand the temptation ;). Speaking of which, I am starting a new class called Creative Minds where each week students will be learning about an accomplished artist of the past or present, and completing a small project based on that artist’s iconic style with a focus on artists with disabilities and mental health. I will be sharing my projects as well as some of the students’ interpretations, so be on the look out for a new project post each week! I am hoping some of you reading this will want to try it at home yourself. It’s always fun to play :D!

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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

Final Artprize 2017 Series: “Unlimited”

Last week I finally finished the last piece in my 12 part series for this year’s ArtPrize, titled “Unlimited”. For this series, I created 12 mixed media portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. Women of all ages, races, and time periods are depicted, each communicating a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s 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. I was able to connect with Founder’s Brewing Co. as a venue for my series. I love art, and I love beer so I must say it is sort of a match made in heaven ;).

she is a dreamer

May: She Is A Dreamer

I really learned a lot from working on this project. I got experience in drawing portraits of a variety of ages and ethnicity, and with that different bone structures and proportions of features. I also furthered the skill of not choosing an arbitrary medium just because “this is what I want to use”, but choosing the medium that makes the most sense both aesthetically and functionally for a given part of a piece. All 12 in order can be seen below.

In the midst of all this Artprize excitement, life has been filled with a variety of other creative endeavors such as an art trade with former student turned instructor at the arts program I run, some fun summer painting workshops I’ve been teaching, and the purchase of a home which my boyfriend and I are aiming to completely renovate in one month with a combination of hopes, dreams, and elbow-grease ;). I knew that bachelor’s in interior design would come in handy one day!

But seriously, though I adore the unexpected job I found nearly by accident, I also love design. I have assisted friends and family with projects here and there, but I’ve never done something on this large of a scale, and best of all, the project is not for a client but for ME, so I get to tailor everything exactly to my tastes (Well, mine and my partner’s. My other half is so not one of those “whatever you say, honey” kind of guys when it comes to design, and actually wants to be a part of the process. This is equal parts amazing and frustrating depending on the moment ;).).

He didn’t put up a fight about keeping this trippy metallic wallpaper in the bathroom, so I guess we’re alright <3. Now, back to ripping down all the other wallpaper that is not so rad. See you in 10 million years -_-.

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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’s 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.

october she is full of curiosity

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.

she is free

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 ;)!

Collaborative Art, Or, I Guess I Do Work

A couple of months ago, something of a milestone in my artistic journey happened, and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to get around to sharing it. I completed a collaborative piece with another artist. Whoa, am I right?

I don’t always like working closely with others. I was the kid that dreaded group projects growing up. In college, for my huge final project I actually chose to do 4x the work of everyone else simply to avoid working with a group (Let’s be real, I always ended up doing all of the work anyway.). I like control, I like all the responsibility for either my own success or failure falling entirely on me. I have distinct memories of 5th grade in which we were tasked, in groups of 3, to build this big house out of cardboard, decorate it inside, and wire in actual working lighting with those fun little battery circuit kits you get to play around with in grade school.One of my group members was dancing around the room singing “Oops, I Did It Again” using her pencil as a fake microphone, I do not jest. The other group member  was insisting on wiring everything in such a way that none of our little ceiling bulbs would light up, and she would not take instruction. I finally couldn’t take it, and quiet mouse me who never made a peep all day told her bluntly that all her ideas were stupid. A temper tantrum by the accused ensued. I actually didn’t get into trouble because I was such a quiet kid, I think the teacher was just glad I finally spoke up and said something, anything, even if it was to berate a fellow student’s ineptitude.

Art is so personal too, to alter your vision, to compromise to allow room for someone else’s vision as well is super hard.

I first met my artist-in-crime, Heather, about 3 years ago when she took one of my Artshop classes at Creative 360. We felt a connection right away due to our similar artistic leanings and interests, and have been sharing our art and our journeys with each other ever since. There were certainly some rough patches along the way, but we’re still friends and have this adorable, girly, sad, disturbing masterpiece to show for it. So much metallic watercolor was used in the making of this art, that my sink is still sparkly.

This piece explores the idea of being taken advantage of, and seeing the best parts of you ripped away by the other’s abuse. It also conveys the idea of the sympathetic but complicit observer, who is silent as they witness harm and injustice.

Our styles meshed super well, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. Though we favor similar subject matter at times, we have totally different approaches to drawing. Who did what, can you guess?

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Icing On The Cake, by Allise Noble (left) and Heather Deogracia (right).

Without the urging of a “Dynamic Duos” curated show at Studio 23 Gallery in which you were required to submit only art made in tandem with a fellow artist, I don’t think Heather or I would have attempted such a harrowing feat. Now that we’ve done it once, we may just try a second go around in the future… only time will tell.

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