Happy “Inspire Your Heart With Art” Day!

Happy “Inspire Your Heart With Art” Day everyone! As I’ve told you before, I love holidays – I mean really love them. There is always that slight letdown after the marathon of nonnstop holiday excitement from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years … Who knew there was this fun little holiday to tide us over until Valentine’s Day and Easter? I cannot believe I just learned of its existence this year … !

What a perfect opportunity to send some inspiration out into the world through sharing what my students have worked on throughout the beginning third of my first full semester as program coordinator for Express Yourself Artshop at Creative 360. My students pretty much feel like family members at this point, and I know I mention them a lot. But, for those new to the blog, Express Yourself Artshop is an inclusive arts and wellness program open to all students, including those with physical, mental, and psychological challenges.

I’ve worked with the program as an instructor since it was first established, and I am blown away by seeing how each student has grown since we first met a little over 2 years ago. Without further ado …

A snapshot of our amazing watercolor class! Everyone has such different styles and interests, so it is fun to see what each student comes up with.

Next, the gallery of Heather D.! I call this student and friend my “artistic soulmate” because we share a love of fashion, big eyed girls, and everything retro and vintage inspired.

Our classes are not all about art for your walls. Tons of cool functional and awesome looking wares are being created in our Woodshop class this semester as well. I love this log cabin inspired bird house, I think because it reminds me so much of childhood Lincoln Logs!

It is so much fun to be able to decorate your home with handmade pieces that are unique, and that no one else will have. You don’t have to be what people think of as a traditional “artist” to do it. The top two pieces, by Colleen D. and Amber E., are canvases wrapped in fabric with a cutout from an art print collaged overtop. The wreath below can be created easy and stress free with any medium sized to large craft punch, a wreath form, a free afternoon, and a lot of hot glue sticks handy.

Proud smiles!

Creating, whether your goal is to become a world famous artist or just to calm your mind and relieve some stress, is a HUGE confidence booster. It is also an important tool of communication and self expression, speaking from experience myself. I challenge all of you to try to make at least one thing today, even if it is just a doodle. Happy inspiration!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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With Opened Eyes, Prismacolor Pencil, 2005

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Redefining Pride, And The Daily Battle Of Artists.

From "One Thing To Say", 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

From “One Thing To Say”, 2013, Colored Pencil and Ink

As someone who has always been interested in perception, how it is formed, and generally what makes people tick, I sometimes have to turn the tables on myself and question why I have the knee-jerk reactions to certain things that I do. It all started when I saw a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “I love me” across the front in gigantic, metallic gold block letters.Wow, that’s obnoxious. I would never let my non-existent imaginary future-children wear something like that, went the immediate dialogue in my head. I’d seen shirts with variations of it, “I’m awesome”, etc at the stores lately and had a similar internal reaction. But the more I thought about it, couldn’t I have used a reminder at that age that I was pretty awesome? Most definitely.

I was very shy as a kid, anxious around new people and sometimes even around familiar people depending on the day. At about a .05 on the confidence scale, I constantly worried that if I did or said the wrong thing, the whole earth would explode (or something equally horrible would happen). By upper elementary, I felt like I wasn’t even worthy to talk to others in my class who were more outgoing or had a lot of friends. I felt like most people flat out didn’t like me, and it caused a lot of unnecessary heartache because really, I can count the times a fellow classmate said something bad about me on one hand. The only time I ever felt comfortable was in art class. I finally got to feel like a star, and I wasn’t afraid to mess up, like I was certain that I would everywhere else.

Most artists rage a daily battle with confidence. In order to get others’ excited about your art, you have to project the fact that you believe in the art form you are presenting, and that you know you’ve created something amazing. You have to exude excitement to share your craft with others before you can ever expect them to care about what you’re doing. Yet at the same time, real art, good art, is an extension of the artist themselves and a reflection of how their brain works and who they are as a person. Getting excited about ourselves can be really awkward. I cringed when I first saw that in the write up for one of my new classes I had been described as “The instructor, award-winning artist Allise Noble…” Why did I feel so uncomfortable being described that way? It’s not a lie, I have won awards. Why was I so embarrassed to be publicized? I’ve mentioned the book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking”, before. It deals a lot not only with asking for help and the journey of an artist; but with the struggle to recognize, yes, have the confidence, to call yourself an artist. She writes, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” – isn’t that the truth? You’re not an artist until you say you are, and often times our own minds are the hardest to convince. It doesn’t help that pride is even, what, one of the 7 deadly sins or something? Yikes. Thanks a lot past humans, you guys have done a really good job at making confidence seem like a flaw rather than an asset. Now, no one likes an obtuse, conceited braggart who thinks they are better than everyone else (I’m looking at you, Kanye West). That is in no way what I’m advocating here, balance is always key. However, I think that the idea of pride being something so heinous and despicable, something to avoid at all costs, pervades our culture in a myriad of negative ways. Just look at the comments on any body positivity blog or human interest article where people submit instagram photos of themselves feeling beautiful. The fact that a bunch of women have the audacity to take a photo of themselves and say “Hey, I look damn good today,” is apparently shocking enough to send multitudes of normal folks into a blind, troll-y rage.

[There is bad language in this comedy sketch so if that will cause you unhappiness, I’d suggest not clicking play. My aim is not too offend anyone, but this clip made me laugh out loud when I first watched it because it so accurately pokes fun at the philosophy I’d just been thinking about. For those who don’t watch, I’ll summarize. You know that moment when you compliment someone i.e. “You look really nice today!” and they respond with “Oh, you’re so nice, I look like I just walked out of a smelly, steaming dumpster!” Have you ever gone against this unwritten social code and when someone compliments you simply said, “Thank you. This is my favorite outfit,” and seen the complimenter now give you the dirtiest look ever? That’s the gist. For some reason, this seems to mostly happen amongst women. Ugh, women… I know I am one, but seriously!]

Human beings are really good at creating false dichotomies. After all, if I see one more film where a main character that has ambition and cares about or *gasp!* actually gains fulfillment from their job portrayed as a greedy, heartless ice-queen/king I’m going to lose it. Not that that never happens, but it shouldn’t be treated as the norm because it isn’t. You can love your family, and love your job! Similarly, we all actually have the capacity to love ourselves and still love other people! The definition of self-love isn’t self-centered, because our love is not a pie chart where we only have so much to give and if we give too great a percentage of love to ourselves, there will be less left for other people. Actually, someone who goes around saying “I wish I was somebody different, I’m a failure, I’m worthless …” is going to be the worst at reaching out to other people and forming healthy relationships. More wisdom from “The Art of Asking”; “When you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.” Pride may be a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I love who I am. I’m pretty darn awesome!” Whether it needs to be emblazoned across a shirt is a matter of opinion ;).