Exhibitions and Other News

Now Showing : Breaking The Stigma

I have not been making as regular and in-depth posts as usual over the last year as I’ve gotten busier and have been devoting more time to youtube, but I wanted to share about a very special show I am a part of this month running through February 20 called “Breaking The Stigma“.

I was beyond thrilled with both the priviledge and responsibility of being invited to be part of a show centering around using art as both a personal therapy and a way to communicate inner experiences in a way that makes them accessible and understandable to people from all walks of life. I’ve written often on this site on what an important communication tool art always was to me as someone with anxiety, especially social anxiety. In a recent Throwback Thursday post (Yes, I promise I will be getting back to those!), I talked about how even as a young kid I was prone to using art to tackle darker themes or difficult emotions. Art allows for a method of transparency and vulnerability that can often be easier for others to understand and embrace than by using words alone. Aside from the end result, the process itself of art making has the power to manifest a sense of purpose and peace no matter what else may be going on around the creator.  Creativity allows people to unlock their untapped potential. I see this firsthand in the classes I teach where many of my students are beginning artists or artists with disabilities

You can read the article announcing the show opening which introduces the other artists involved in this show and shows photos of some of their work. I wanted to also share some of my personal thoughts about their art.

David Feingold’s art was exciting for me to see because a lot of it I would consider surreal portraiture which is the subject I myself enjoy creating most, but it was digital rather than traditional. His narratives were very personal, and spoke directly to the title of the show as they addressed the idea of mental health stigma head on. I found myself inspired to once and for all fully explore creating art digitally this year.

2 of Rebecca Allen’s pieces have been familiar to me since before I knew they belonged to her, as they take up residence in our elevator lobby display where I also maintain a showcase for my students with their work for sale. I loved the surreal nature of her figures. They are raw and honest, and the pain they feel is visually represented in the sharp, rough textures of her sculpture. They invite you to step into another’s shoes and imagine yourself in their situation and struggles.

Cynthia Keefe’s art dolls were very … approachable and trustworthy to me, though that may seem odd to say. They felt alive. Many of them have serious or even near faceless expressions and some in contrast are reaching outward, with mouths contorted in anguish or extreme emotion. Still, they seem like beings I would come to for reassurance or counsel in the important act of seeking the perspective of an older and wiser female. They have seen and experienced much, their story woven into their skin and intricate clothing.

For those in the area, we will be having a discussion panel on February 3. Follow the Creative 360 website and get on the mailing list for regular updates :).

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Throwback Art

Throwback Art Part 1: Beauty In The Unfamiliar

When people ask me when I first got into art and my answer is shortly after birth, I inevitably end up mentioning my mother’s astonishing archival skills. I have drawings from every year of my life starting at 1.5 years old. After mentioning this, the response is usually that they sure wish I would share some of these older drawings on my website. As I was going through my past sketches and choosing some to post, I realized though my style over the years has changed quite a bit, there are common themes and purposes behind my work, including within my childhood scribbles. So begins the first part of a series using the past to delve into why I create what I do… I hope others find this interesting and entertaining, and I hope it helps readers reconnect with their past selves and realize how all of those different “us-es” had a part in creating who we are today, even those versions of us we don’t like to spend too much time with.

I have always been drawn to art depicting people. Portraits and figures were typically the vehicle for my art’s story from early on. Growing up I loved studying the differences in faces, how some could look so similar but no two were exactly alike. I would sit for hours studying my elementary school yearbooks as a kid, just staring at the different faces, observing. From a very young age I found beauty in that which was different and unfamiliar to me. I grew up in a very non-diverse setting, and didn’t see many people of color in my day to day life. However, I loved watching movies and television shows. As I started to see people who looked completely different from me and my family on the screen, I was fascinated by the wide range of hues and textures that could be present within these other faces – beginning to see people as truly living, breathing sculptures. I went through a period in younger elementary school where much of my figures I would draw were actually POC, much to the amusement and at times confusion of those around me. I also drew plenty of scenes from my day to day life; illustrations of my family, of my friends and neighbors playing outside; but only creating art depicting my own day to day existence just seemed so boring to me. Though a very socially anxious kid, I loved learning about other people and what their life was like, and even enjoyed when friends would show me photos and video of trips their family went on and other important life events. As you can imagine, they were quite pleased to have a not only captive but eager audience.

I’ve been told I was always one to stand up for the underdog, and this extended into the realm of art and fantasy. Although of course I drew princesses, I was also interested in the stories of supposed villians, witches, and other outsiders despite being quite the kind hearted soul and a bit too much of a rule-following goody-two-shoes, at least outside of the home ;).

Once I got a bit older and started actually learning about art, I connected instantly with surrealism, especially as it relates to the human figure. In junior high one of my favorite shows to watch was Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. My favorite stories were the aesthetically bizarre tales of extreme body modification which are all over on youtube now, but back then such slices of life weren’t as readily available. There was the man who had turned himself into a human-tiger hybrid, the woman who got specialized dental implants so she could live out her dream of being a real life vampire, the one who got their tongue split into 3 independent forks that could all move on their own … Though I am in no way a big advocate for plastic surgery, there was something interesting to me about individuals “making the internal external”, a term I use often to describe the aim of my artwork. The idea of people crafting their external persona as a living sculpture to match who they are on the inside was captivating, and though these exact characters never made their way into my art, I did end up drawing a series of 4-legged ballerinas and people with animal heads.

As I continued to develop my surreal portraiture, I depicted facial expressions that wouldn’t typically be captured in a portrait drawing or be considered beautiful, such as negative emotions like fear, anger, or anguish. I also continued to blend human and animal physiology in some of my portrait and figure drawings under the observation that oftentimes, animals can be seen acting like people would and people can act more like we assume an animal would act and react. The lines blur more often than we’d like to think.

Today, uniqueness of spirit, self expression, and animal representations still play a large part in my art just in a different way. When I look at my aerialist mixed media works, I can’t help but be reminded of the dark, vintage circus aesthetic of my earlier 4-legged ladies. I have no tie to gymnastics or dance myself – I am horribly awkward and unskilled at anything requiring physical coordination and spent my time in gymnastics lessons as a kid climbing up to the highest possible spot at the recreation center and simply jumping into the foam pit over and over. I took a ballet class once as well and recall ending the day giggling with a friend as we rolled ourselves up in the dance mats and pretended to be burritos. I pretty much joined just for the outfits. But, again there is that attraction to the completely foreign, those characters that are completely different from myself. Animal imagery abounds, mainly in the form of birds, but it is no longer a bodily extension and more instead a physical representation of the figure’s soul.

I continue to celebrate beauty in all of its forms, especially that which is underrepresented. One of my favorite pieces to date that I’m sure I will cherish forever is the portrait in the center that was part of a 12 part series I created for ArtPrize on year depicting a young woman with down syndrome. She exudes joy, confidence, and freedom.

For a number of years I have worked with an inclusive arts program suited for young adult and adult artists of all abilities, including those with disabilities. I suppose looking back I was always meant to use my gifts to reach people of all abilities. I have a distinct memory from first grade. 2-3 students from special education would spend the first half of the day in the traditional classroom I was a part of, including recess and lunch though during lunch all of the kids from special education would sit at their own separate corner of the lunchroom. One of the girls who visited our class in the mornings wore a fantastic velvet dress with black and pink flower print on it one day, and though remember, I was severely socially anxious at this age and only ever spoke to my one neighborhood friend in class, I gathered my courage and told her I liked her dress because it was just too cool to not say something. From that point on we were kind of friends. She asked me to swing with her at recess, and eventually invited me to sit with her at lunch. Ridiculously enough, I accidentally caused quite a scandal by breaking social lines and sitting at (I will not repeat the name fellow classmates had for this particular table) with my new friend. Differences were never seen as anything for me to fear, but parts of another to appreciate and learn about.

Appreciation for all living beings that make up our wonderful world are a large part of the emotion that goes into my current work, and though sometimes I fail at this concept in practice as do we all, I hope the impulse to draw towards and not shrink away from diversity is a part of myself I always keep with me.

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Art Education

Surprise Box Challenge! (Like ‘Chopped’, But For Art) – Week 1

Those who have visited before may have noticed my affinity for art subscription boxes. Whenever I receive a new box, I always challenge myself to create a small piece of art using only the materials that came in my monthly box as a way to try new techniques and get to know the materials. I am also quite the fan of the cooking show “Chopped”, in which contestants are give a basket of mystery ingredients, some delicious and some just plain odd, from which they must make a cohesive dish. My “day job” is running a program for artists of all abilities, and this new Fall semester I decided to run a class based on this concept. Each week my group will get a surprise box filled with 3-4 different types of materials and be challenged to use only those to make a work of art. Everyone gets the same supplies each week, just different colors or designs. I will be sharing what people came up with, as well as some tips for those who want to try the materials featured at home.

I started the first week without anything too crazy. This week, our materials were: Tombo brush markers, Crayola Portfolio Series oil pastels, Lumineart Twinkling H2Os metallic watercolors, and a watercolor paper base.

Tombo is my absolute favorite brand for brush markers, and while these are often used for illustration and come with a colorless blender for drawing, they are also water soluble. This means they additionally work great as watercolor markers. I have yet to find another brand of watercolor markers that have such brilliant colors and blend as seamlessly. I’ve been a fan since I started using them for interior design project assignments and architectural drawings back in college.

When it comes to oil pastels, quality does matter. With cheaper brands, you will often end up with nothing but glorified crayons as you can see in my latest YouTube video where I reviewed art supplies from Dollar Tree (The oil pastels were actually the ONLY supply to get a poor review – Seriously, you should check this out especially if you have kids who love art.). However, we are also a non-profit with a tight budget. Though the Portfolio Series pastels are an art student spinoff of Crayola which is known for making “kid grade” products, these are decent for students and budget friendly. These particular pastels, staying with the kid friendly theme, are also water soluble. This makes for easy cleanup (yay!) but also allows for blending with watercolors for some cool mixed media art. Despite this, if you leave your watercolors more “painty” and don’t add a ton of water the pastels will still repel the color you are layering over for some great resist effects.

Last but certainly not least, I cannot say enough about the metallic watercolors we used. I’ve tried metallic watercolor sets in the past myself and they were underwhelming … Very translucent, hard and chalky texture that didn’t blend well, and only able to get a pastel hue when applied no matter how little water I added. This brand is absolutely fantastic. The metallic sheen is so intense it almost looks like a high quality acrylic, but it blends like watercolors. It also had plenty of bright electric hues and intense darks. I will definitely be getting a set of these for myself.

In my class with a variety of ages and abilities, including some students with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health struggles, here is what everyone came up with:

Some tips when using these materials together:

  • Metallic watercolors don’t look very metallic until they are dry, so have patience :).
  • If you draw with a light colored oil pastel first and layer a dark watercolor over, the light pastel will resist the watercolor and show through.
  • Tombo brush markers run with water, but can also be used for drawing just like regular markers. They can be brushed over with water for a paint like effect, but will not draw over a wet surface. They have two ends, including a fine tip that is perfect for adding details to watercolor paintings that beginning artists or those struggling with dexterity would have a stressful time adding with a brush.
  • Using multiple mediums works best when you layer layer layer! Pastels can be added right over the watercolor and ink. Often it’s easiest to create a light wash of background color over your whole surface first, and build up your design from there.

I hope as I continue to share, it will spark some ideas for your creativity at home. Stay tuned for next week’s challenge!

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Techniques and Tutorials

10 Minute Winter Watercolors

Happy Winter! I know I am already getting sick of the cold, but there has been some beautiful snow and bright blue skies lately which have been nice to admire out my window 😉 … Winter can be one of the most attractive seasons if not always the most comfortable, and winter scenes are so fun to create with watercolors.

These quick tutorials are an easy way to take a bit of time out of your day no matter how busy you are to do something for yourself, relax, and get creative. They are also great practice at blending color and working with white space for beginners to the medium. If you have kids, these simple projects would be fun to do together. Grab a watercolor palette, 3 different sizes of round brushes, and let’s paint!

As always, if you run into any problems or have questions feel free to shoot me a comment or message. I’m always happy to help with troubleshooting! Have fun!

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New Work

(More) Quarantine Art

Since about mid-November, my state when through a second, more mild, quarantine which put classes and activities in my Artshop program temporarily on hold and sent me back to working from home again. I will be plunging back into things as they reopen TOMORROW, so today I’d like to share some of the work I finished over the last couple months.

This first piece was a very fun commission where I was asked to do a surreal portrait in my signature mixed media, vintage inspired style but based on the song “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix. I was given some guidelines as to the type of figure portrayed and color scheme, but otherwise the project was completely open ended. And so, this piece was born, communicating a sense of love and positivity, openness, kindness and warmth, and creative spirit.

Little Wing Commission, Prismacolor Pencil and Mixed Media

It felt really good during this time, which to be honest though less restrictive seemed to be a hell of a lot more frustrating than the first full quarantine, to continue the trend of just working on creating some beautiful, uplifting imagery. The piece below is my largest to date at 4 entire feet high! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but everyone who knows my work knows I work small, “big” for me usually being 18×24″. Also note, no people or animals in this piece! I have another large canvas still untouched, and to really step out of my box I think I should do something architectural next.

Where The Light Is Held, Acrylic and Fabric

I also finished a full size bird palette knife painting, the rest of what I’d completed being minis. Yes, these are real birds! I’m always saving photos of exotic and interesting birds on Pinterest, and the colors and adorable yet zany plumage coming out of the top of these guys’ heads was irresistible. I found a couple of reference images, and decided I had to throw a baby in there too.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my new year starts tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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New Work, Techniques and Tutorials

Happy 2021! Pantone COTY Inspo

Finding out Pantone’s Color Of The Year is always one of my favorite things about New Year’s Day (dork, I know). This year is a combination of 2 colors … Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. I’m not a big yellow person on its own, but love it paired with gray or black so I’m digging this theme (See my bathroom). To celebrate, I created a fun 9×12″ mixed media artwork using ink and water on watercolor paper, and some fabric scraps and old book pages for the background.

What’s interesting is I also started a new project late this year in collaboration with a supporter of the inclusive arts program I run, Express Yourself Artshop that ended up in this same color scheme. The project celebrates the independence and unique homes and lifestyles of adults with disabilities. My friend Ric LOVES yellow. More on this to come at a later date!

What do you think of this year’s colors? What kinds of videos would you like to see me share in 2021?

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New Work

Creativity In Seclusion

This very odd year is getting nearer to a close. Everyone has been affected both personally and professionally in some way, and many of our ways of thinking about and performing even the most mundane daily tasks have been drastically altered.

Art comes from the psyche, and I know oftentimes I can look at a piece of art from my past and remember exactly what was going on at that time in my life. The colors, the style, the motifs all relate to what was reverberating inside my mind at that time even if it is not obvious to an outside viewer. This got me thinking, how has this year, and specifically quarantine, affected my art? I have had the most uninterrupted creation time at my disposal than I’ve had in years; life has taken a much slower pace. At the same time, there is the permeating sense of distance and anxiety that has overtaken all of life.

The art I completed over the first half of this year during quarantine deviated from the style I’d been focusing on over the last couple years. Now that I look at it all together, I can see the focus was more on developing techniques and creating something visually stimulating than my usual conceptual, symbolism heavy work. I credit both having more time to develop and hone different skills such as acrylic palette knife painting and realistic watercolor, and also the fact that with all the uncertainty and isolation; two things that I don’t always handle the best even in normal circumstances; I wasn’t doing art so much to communicate as for therapy for myself. I was painting whatever made me feel good in that moment.

I also did a lot more with animals and nature over quarantine, specifically my almost daily live ink wash animal demos. Nature was vital over this time as the only form of release and entertainment, and the appreciation I already had for the outdoors further deepened. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with my dad from afar as I used many of his wildlife photos as inspiration references for my ink washes.

The gallery where I work, Creative 360 in Midland, currently has an exhibit going titled “Art In Isolation” which can be visited in person or viewed virtually. I’d encourage you to visit the link and check it out!

What are some of the things that kept you going during quarantine this year?

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Techniques and Tutorials

Inktober 2020

October not only means my favorite season is finally here, but it is now the time for the simultaneous joy and dread of every artist… Inktober! The basic premise is trying to do some sort of ink illustration every day as a way to integrate art practice into your daily life. I’ve been doing Inktober a little differently this year. I’ve made it less of a stressor for me by not worrying about having to do one EVERY single day as long as I’m participating every other or every 3, and I’m not using daily prompts, just creating whatever strikes me. I also am recording my process for each creation and posting it to my new youtube channel.

I’ve got a couple more up my sleeve though it’s nearing the end of the month, so check out my channel to see the rest of my Inktober demos as well as the new ones I’ll be posting this coming week!

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Techniques and Tutorials

The Quirky Cats Of Louis Wain

For those new to the blog, my “day job” is running an inclusive arts and wellness program geared towards adults of all abilities, Express Yourself Artshop. Though we have a full staff of instructors, I love teaching so I always make sure I have the time to teach one or two classes each semester. One of my favorites is Creative Minds, an art history based class where students learn about a different artist each week and do a quick project based on their work. I especially like to focus on artists with disabilities or mental health struggles. Due to the whole Covid situation, I haven’t taught this class in awhile so I figured I’d share some of my fun ideas online! Cat lovers, today’s artist is for you :).

Louis Wain was a late 19th century artist who made playful illustrations of cats, oftentimes dressed and behaving as humans. Though his art was whimsical and light hearted, he had a very difficult life. He was born with a cleft lip, and doctors at that time advised his parents that he should not go to school with other children because of this. He received no education until age 10. His father passed away when he was 20 and he then became fully responsible for supporting his mother and sisters. He fell in love and got married, but shortly thereafter his wife became ill and passed. His illustrations, most of which he had done for his wife to lift her spirits while she was ill, became wildly popular and were being published in magazines all over the US. However, he did not have a strong business sense and was often taken advantage of. By the early 20th century he was destitute.

As his mental health began to decline, his cats became far more psychedelic, surreal, colorful, geometric, and fragmented. The fact that his art so viscerally reflected what was going on inside has made him an interesting artist to study. Though there is no way to know for sure, it is believed he probably had schizophrenia.

Were Wain “normal”, would his art have looked the same? The answer is undoubtedly no. Our differences give us insight and ideas that others don’t have. Sadly, back then mental health was very much a mystery. Today, help is available so that people can maintain their unique way of thinking, but for the most part not unduly suffer. Until the end of his life, art was an anchor for Wain when all else was instability, as it is for many.

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