One More Series Reveal + More On Redbubble!

december she is connected to everything

Say hello to December – She Is Connected To Everything. What can I say, I’ve been on a roll lately. I don’t think I’ve ever finished so many different pieces 2 days at a time in my life … Granted, I haven’t been doing much of anything else in my free time, as the pile of dishes in the sink will tell onlookers ;). Though all the pieces in my current series I’ve been working on are similar in style and use of medium, I wanted to keep them different enough that each could stand alone as well. I went a lot softer and less graphic, high contrast with this piece. I even used some leftover dried moss I had purchased for a felt floral arrangement commission earlier this year in the girl’s woodland crown. There is something I never thought in a million years I’d ever use in one of my drawings!

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I have been getting all my series posted to my Redbubble Shop as well, available for print on a variety of gorgeous items. My series also finally has a name … Unlimited. Each individual piece has it’s own title and the works cover a variety of different themes, so coming up with one title to encompass the whole was a struggle. At it’s heart though, this series is about the best of humanity, and about the strength, curiosity, compassion, and vibrancy of women across time, nationality, and ability. It is about the common ground that unites us, and when people come together, they truly become unlimited.

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 ;)!

New Work – September: She Is An Atlas

This was one of the most challenging pieces in my series thus far, because I was working with multiple layers of meaning and thoughts. It also is the most “mixed media” of all my series installments, utilizing not just mixed fine art mediums but fabric, metal chain, tiny rhinestones, and torn book pages. I have been so into metallic accents since the collaboration with my friend and student, Heather. I also blame her for the inclusion of rhinestones – she encourages me to be sparkly.

she is an atlas

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that when I feel, I feel BIG or not at all. There is no other way. The sketch that inspired this piece started as a way for me to process the weight of my own emotions and feelings of powerlessness. As  I began further conceptualizing this current series, I realized the idea could fit as one of the 12 pieces. For new readers, here’s my blurb briefly explaining the series (If you are already in the know, feel free to skip ahead 😉 ): I am creating 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. Each of the 12 will represent a month of the year. 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. The title of each piece starts with the month it represents, followed by “She Is _______”. The figure in this piece quite literally has “the world on her shoulders” through the pattern on her clothing, much like the mythic Atlas. Atlas the physical object is also defined as a book of maps or charts, and can signify one feeling that they alone must have all the directions and answers to all of the world’s problems, a grand and impossible responsibility.

The exposed heart necklace represents empathy, an open heart waiting to be wounded , left unprotected and raw. She leans against a bulls-eye wall, surrounded by an outline of thrown knives, a target girl like in the well known circus act. With each act of injustice and malice directed at others, she feels as if she is standing in their place, each offense a knife thrown at her, just missing. Though fearful, her face is strong and even. I’ve written before about how compassion and empathy does not equal weakness. To stick one’s head in the sand and be ignorant of the world’s ills is weakness; foolish, avoidant, and selfish.

Another way the subject can be viewed is not as the empathizer but as the victim. Some people are born into situations that are so difficult, living day to day is much like standing against a target with knives being thrown at them. It can be their geographic location, their income, the people that surround them or lack thereof, and the list goes on. Though yes, our personal choices certainly can influence outcomes, isn’t so much of life like a gigantic, living lottery when you think about it? Yet we shake our heads and wag our fingers when we see people who are struggling both around us and abroad, because certainly they must have done something wrong or things would look different? This way of thinking frees us of the responsibility to help others, and gives us a false sense of power that by doing certain things we can be 100% sure we attain the exact sort of life that we want. It all goes back to empathy and control.

One of the things I love about art is the way people can discern completely different meanings from a piece based on their own thoughts and experiences. Did something different strike you as you looked at this piece, did it remind you of something? Please share, don’t be shy!

 

Exciting News From the MAG Annual Exhibition!

Friday was the opening reception for the Midland Artists Guild’s Annual Juried Exhibition. What’s awesome about this year is that the show actually took place at the gallery I work at as Coordinator for one of their major programs, Creative 360. The piece that was accepted into the show was “She Is Everything At Once“, the 3rd installment in my new series I’ve been working on since late 2015. There was so much amazing work this year, I truly was just excited to get into the show and did not go in expecting any further recognition… and then my name got called for an Award of Excellence. No matter how many years I spend involved in art, I don’t think I will ever lose that factor of complete surprise when something like this happens.

 

For those of you who may have missed previous posts on my new series, I will be creating 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. Each of the 12 will represent a month of the year, the one featured in the MAG show being March. 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.

My goal is to get this series into this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. With the positive responses I’ve been seeing to images from this series thus far including an award for my January piece at the Greater Michigan Art Exhibition last Fall, I’m certainly feeling hopeful!

Artists To Know: My Personal Influences

People are constantly asking and being asked the question, Who are your influences? Who do you consider your hero? Who are your role models? giphyI never know how to answer and end up feeling like I’m having some sort of Mindy Lahiri moment. It sounds totally pompous and terrible to be like … Hm, well I’d say myself probably? but that is how I feel sometimes! I love art, and have seen many pieces that have spoken to me in some way, but I’ve never had that “master artist” whom I felt informed my whole artistic style and way of doing things. I’ve always had this strong aversion to even remotely copying or being influenced by anything at all. I remember growing up in school, my parents would ask me what I was working on in class at the dinner table. I’d go on about some paper I had to write, and one of my parents (usually my dad) would pipe up with, “Oh, I know! You can write about _________!”. I’d get so mad and exclaim, “Great, now I can’t write about that even if I was going to because you said it first so it’s not my idea anymore!”A lot of times it truly was the idea I’d had in my head already, which was super problematic.

I am a very visually based person, and images have always stuck with me more than individual people anyway. As a way to maybe untangle some of my artistic influences, I have shared individual images that have struck me in my artistic journey, inspired me to create, and made me excited about being an artist. You may see similarities between some of these images and the work I aim to create, and some may be as different from my own work as night and day. You will not see any flowers or landscapes. Enjoy!

One of the first pieces of art that really impacted me once I was in high school and actually started developing an artistic style of my own wasn’t actually traditional art, but a fashion editorial from Elle Girl magazine. Elle Girl was infinitely better than it’s preppy, air-headed sister Cosmo Girl, or so I believed at the time – Elle Girl had Emma Watson on the cover (in a marching band themed shoot of all things), and also first introduced me to the band Tegan and Sara via a short article featuring lots of photos of them leaning against walls in cool clothes and an answer to the all important question, what IS that weird sauce that Canadians put on their french fries? Its slogan was “Dare to be Different”, and it did tend to feature more unique, out-of-the-box photo shoots than other magazines geared towards teens. I was super into photography at the time as well as drawing, and though I had never thought of myself as a super confident person, I loved dressing up in fun outfits and makeup and crazy jewelry with my friends and taking photos. I loved doing this because it allowed me to be far more bold and outgoing than my social anxiousness normally allowed me to be. All the outlandish clothes and hair and bright makeup is like a protective mask where you feel more like you are playing a character than anything else, and you don’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed about anything.

I came across these H.R. Geiger pieces at Barnes and Noble of all places, while looking at calendars for my new dorm my first year away at college. I was most struck by his more figurative work. His pieces are super creepy but they tell a story, and I was so impressed by the striking monochromatic contrast and seamless, almost obsessive detail. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I didn’t end up buying the calendar because I had many more purchases to make and it was like 25 bucks. However, I took down his name to look up more of his work, and have been a fan ever since. Funny enough, I wouldn’t watch Alien, for which he did a significant amount of visuals, until about 3 years ago.

I discovered these works from CC Askew and Camille Rose Garcia respectively in the art magazines I started to devour in late high and school early college. I hadn’t seen a lot of art from current working artists at that time, because art classes in school tend to be overly focused on the past. I understand the whole learn your foundations thing, and appreciating the history of art is important, but I remember being somewhat surprised to discover that there were actually well known artists that existed past the 19th century ;). These solidified my affinity towards pop surrealism, and I fell in love with their heavy use of twisted-storybook-esque illustration, a mix of imagery that can be both childlike and nostalgic yet also deeply dark.

Two works I also discovered in glorious outsider art, street art, and pop surrealism magazines are these by Lori Earley and Sylvia Ji. Both were artists who focus heavily on portraiture, as do I in my work. They used contrasting, unusual colors and their pieces were delicate and feminine but not without a dark, surreal edge.

These pieces by Ray Caesar and Ruben Ireland were the first digital art that ever peaked my interest. For the longest time, I had harbored such a grudge against digital artists (those bunch of cheaters!), mainly because the only digital art I’d seen was poorly executed fan art or digital manipulations that could be done in about 5 minutes with the right mouse clicks on Photoshop.  These artists, however, utilize the medium to do things that you can’t do traditionally. For example, Caesar actually creates entire 3D worlds which he then rotates the camera view within and crops to create his final pieces.  I have recently done some experimenting with digital art myself, and it is challenging, let me tell you!

Another one of my inspirations is always, always my students! One of my students who comes to Express Yourself Artshop from an area assisted living home just taught me last week how to make crochet necklaces!

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Fellow creatives out there, be it artists, designers, musicians, writers, actors, any part of the spectrum: who (or what works) inspire(s) you to create?

 

 

New Work! (In Which I Present Probably The Cheeriest Art I’ve Ever Done)

Hey all! I recently finished the 4th piece I’ve added to my current 12 part series. Each piece represents a month of the calendar, and this one is June so it would actually be installment 6 but I’ve skipped around a bit. To catch up new comers, I am working on a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I give you, June: She Is Constantly Evolving.

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I think this is quite literally the happiest piece I’ve ever completed – There’s even a puppy … that is unreal. I mean, a couple years ago I actually was told by the manager of a local restaurant that I had to remove a couple of pieces from a show I’d hung there because they were afraid it might send patrons spiraling into depression. You’re not a real artist if your art has never been ousted from anywhere, or so I’m told. Not that everything I make is gloom and doom, but to have butterflies, puppies, flowers, smiling with teeth, and cotton candy clouds all together in one piece is not usually my jam. All of my work centers around people’s inner worlds, and sometimes confronts difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Even my pieces that convey overt happiness usually have some sort of edge or oddity to them.

I remember meeting my blindly assigned roommate in college for the first time. Once she found out I was an artist, she wanted me to do some large paintings for the common room, but “They have to be cute! Not scary!” Apparently she thought I was some sort of dark , twisted soul, which is quite funny as I had Sanrio posters all over my bedroom and Bart Simpson print pj’s for god’s sake. (I was to find out later that until we became friends she was afraid to put out any of her Hello Kitty themed toiletries in our shared bathroom, and also only watched America’s Next Top Model in secret when I wasn’t home for fear of my scorn.) To fulfill the cute requirement, I made a painting of a girl holding her kitten surrounded by retro, colorful power flowers. But … I gave the kitten purple dragon wings.

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This is so Museum Of Bad Art worthy in the most hilarious way, that I’m actually saddened I tossed it. It’s one of those compositions that is so bad it goes right past bad and back to good again.

All this to say, this is a rare piece to be one that conveys nothing but pure, unadulterated joy and exhilaration. It’s ironic that I created this at a time when joy and exhilaration were about the two farthest things from my mind. As seems to be the general consensus, 2016 has been more than a little trying, and it sure decided to go out with a bang in November and December.

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This piece is about transformation, as symbolized by the presence of butterflies, and maybe it was the idea that change is certainly most appealing during the most wearing of times, mixed with a bit of my love of holidays that makes it impossible for me to stay cranky around Christmastime. Either way, this piece speaks not to who we are right now but who we wish to be, and reminds us that nothing is permanent, and that sometimes that isn’t a bad thing.

See this design and more in my Redbubble Shop.

 

March: She Is Everything At Once

Obviously, though I had a fun idea of doing the whole “a drawing a month” reveal for my new 12 part series, that didn’t happen as I am on March and it is now almost September. I would like to enter this series into Art Prize next year, and decided if I have until next Fall, why impose such a crazy impossible deadline on myself simply for the sake of themed blog posts and risk the quality of the work? Impossible self-imposed deadlines are this thing I like to do that I really need to ease up on. For those who haven’t read my previous posts, my new series involves 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme and season. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. I want the series to flow together in its mainly black and white scheme with pops of color, soft mixed media application, and it’s classic portrait composition. However, I wanted each month’s portrait to still be distinctly different “characters” from one to the other, achieved via aesthetic theme and accent colors. For this piece, I went with bold, dynamic primaries and a nod to pop art. You can view January and February from earlier posts.

In this piece for March, my goal was to take the commonplace negative stereotype of women being “emotional” and turn it on it’s head, marrying caring and empathy with strength, and sadness and despair with hope for a better future. A surreal merging of classic pop art, which often featured dramatic beautiful women sobbing,  with realistic portraiture was the perfect fit for this concept.

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Women are constantly being told they are too much of something, despite the fact that they are often expected to wear far more different hats responsibility-wise than their male counterparts. Google searches have become an interesting way to peek into mainstream society’s views. Anyone who uses the internet knows when you begin to type something in, google will finish it with the most popular searches and subjects. A UN Women ad from 2013 was the first to make a statement using this innovative approach.

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I tried the same concept, only typing in the starting phrase “women are too…” What I’ve found is that women are apparently too picky, but also too easy, too intelligent and successful to find love, yet too weak and too emotional to be leaders, the president, or involved in politics at all, but at the same time also too dominant. It looks like we’ve got a Goldilocks problem here.

As one who believes that sometimes problems we assign dominantly to one gender are still just basic human being problems, I didn’t want to negate the idea that there may be similar findings for men. However, when I tried “men are too…” I got nothing. In fact, when I simply pressed enter to see what articles would come up, the main article up top was “Monkeys turn into grumpy old men, too” about aging primates and behavioral changes. While hilarious, it is clear that this whole “Be everything at once yet also be nothing at all” contradictory expectation is something that, while maybe not entirely absent for men, is something that women face more in mainstream culture.

A descriptor routinely used to discredit women’s abilities is the fact that they are “too emotional” by default of their gender. However, when men step out of their perceived box by showing any degree of emotion aside from anger, they too are often chastised and ridiculed. This shows that our revulsion towards caring at least is a societal problem on the whole, not just a women’s issue. For some reason, people seem to view caring as weakness. This can be seen clearly in the dismissive term bleeding heart, always used with a strong air of disgust. (A note to be made here… when I talk about caring I am not including people sitting behind a laptop screen typing angry, obscene responses to random articles that they don’t agree with because they get off on being offended and telling people off. Nor am I talking about people who shut down and throw a fit every time they have to hear something that they don’t agree with. This is not true caring or passion, this is an addiction to “being right” all the time and putting people in their place, and it is unhealthy.)

I recall a conversation had with a person from my past 5-ish years ago. We were discussing some political or sociological issue. The other person, whom supposedly respected me, was nevertheless making zero effort to understand my view though I myself had stopped and listened to theirs. I remember growing frustrated and stating, “I don’t know why you are refusing to try to listen and understand where I’m coming from when this is an issue that is so important to me.” Their response was given bitingly and with a wave of the hand, “Oh, everything’s “the most important thing” to you.” Though it was meant as an insult, the more I pondered it the more I thought, I’m ok with owning that. Because everything does matter, in some way large or small.

In our culture, it’s cool not to care. You can see this fact brazenly displayed in popular entertainment (The Hangover 1,2,3,4,5? They just keep going.) People are routinely being told the answer to their feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety is to just “let go”. But is the “ignorance is bliss” model really the one we should be following? This idea in and of itself seems to admit that caring is not weakness, but strength. Experiencing emotions of concern and empathy is an active state; not caring for anything outside of your own pleasure and needs is passive. To put it simply, caring about things is hard work. It can force us to take steps towards action that may make us uncomfortable, and take up a lot of our time and resources. It can be mentally and psychologically draining.

Caring is strength. Let’s lift up our mothers, our fathers, those taking care of an adult family member, our nurses, our teachers, our home health aides, our daycare workers, our counselors, our missionaries, our activists … No matter what societal norms tells us, they are our true heroes.