Tackling Inspiration From The Side

I haven't written in a while because I have been stuck. I've been drawing a lot, even improving. Definitely, learning. But I have been in a state of discomfort with my artwork and battling this question: How do I make images that don't add to the already over saturated market of white upper middle class representation, without appropriating cultures that are not my own? 

I've been wanting to draw alternative images to parenting than the mainstream white males and females in jeans and polos (google image search parenting and you will see what I mean). I have witnessed other beautiful images that are just as real and powerful. However, creating these types of images from my imagination seems dangerously close to cultural appropriation. So for the time being, as I struggle to find an answer to my question, I have been focusing on documenting scenes that surround me. 

This same problem has also manifested itself in the form of artistic inspiration. How do I learn from work that inspires me without having my work look like that work? 

My boyfriend recently attended a workshop facilitated by a wise saxophonist. At the workshop, the saxophonist mentioned that we should tackle inspiration from the side. By this he meant that we shouldn't play (draw) the specific idea that inspired us, but to play off of that idea. That is a very hard thing to do that I am still trying to learn!

Being My Own Teacher

I have a secret/not so secret goal of creating a children's book someday! Recently, I have been drawing a young female penguin character and trying to get her to fit nicely into an environment. Like all my work, I want each image to breathe, feel alive, and have a sense of mystery.  I am well on my way to figuring  out how to do this in black and white, but in color--- not going so well.  As soon as I start creating from my imagination and trying to establish a believable sense of space in color, my work becomes tight and rigid (or at least too much so for my taste). To help me master light and color so much so that I can imagine it with enough confidence to get loose but accurate marks, I have decided to go back to the basics and draw light and color from life.  Hopefully it works! 

Here is the drawing from my imagination that I would like more if it felt a little less constrained: 

Here is the drawing from my imagination that I would like more if it felt a little less constrained: 

Staying Authentic

Authenticity may very well be one of my core values. I strongly value work that attempts to stay true to its intentions from beginning to end.  Understanding this about myself, I have been thinking a lot about how to market my work and coming across these challenges as I try to stay authentic in my process:  

Can you make something with the intention of being a product and not have it driven by sales? Can you make holiday cards and not think, that last card sold really well so I need to make another one just like it?

Does mass production deteriorate value? Small wall weavings, for example, made a comeback, became extremely popular, and ended up in target.  Their mass production made it hard for those artists who make a living off of carefully crafted weavings to now make a profit. 

Paintings sold in galleries have to be priced high not only because materials are expensive, but also because both the gallerists  and the artists have to make a living from the sales. The high costs of paintings limits your audience to a very elite group of individuals who can afford to spend a lot on art.  Sometimes, gallerists will ask an artist to make a certain style of work based on the artist's previous sales. Can one really get away from creating work that is not driven by sales? 

Perhaps which path we take to sell our work is less important in our attempt to stay authentic than the decisions we make within the path we choose. Yes, I believe one can make products without creating work that is driven by sales if one makes conscientious decision to do so. Yes, mass production can deteriorate value, so one has to decide how much is too much and turn down opportunities that feel inauthentic, if authenticity is the goal. And yes, selling work in galleries can sometimes lead to making work driven by sales, so one has to decide what feels honest when faced with that decision.  

If you value authenticity in your work and process, no matter your career path, I would love to hear about your experiences and struggles in your attempt to stay genuine.  

 

Cheers!

Happy Holidays everyone!  I have made another set of holiday cards this year, three wintery landscapes and three holiday foods.  5.5"x4" and blank on the inside. They are $15 a set or $3 individually (envelopes included) . Message me if you want some or visit my etsy shop. :) If you're in Chicago and are free next Tuesday the 15th, come say hi at the Emporium Arcade Bar (2363 N. Milwaukee Ave) for the Night Market by Sauced. I will be selling these holiday cards alongside my great and talented friend/illustrator Theora Kvitka.  Do yourselves a favor and check out her work! 

In Need of Practice

How does she do it?! 

Drawings by illustrator Gabrielle Vincent.

I mean look at them! Each drawing perfectly captures the emotions and body postures of a toddler...and each one is imagined! There are hundreds of drawings just like these.  It's amazing.  It's inspiring!

I have been spending a lot of time transcribing (as my jazz friends would say) her drawings in an attempt to unpack her magic and learn something. Here are a few things I have learned:

1.) Be specific with your lines. Recognize that humans are comprised of bones, fat and muscles that give  definition and form to our bodies.   

2.) Hands and feet matter! Learn how to draw them...in hundreds of different positions. 

3.) Toddlers have big heads, which means their ear falls in the middle of their head.

4.) Pay attention to the darkness/thickness of lines. They create depth and emphasis.

5.) Practice. Practice. Practice. With intention. Try to understand body postures and memorize them. 

 

I tried to apply what I had learned to my own drawings. Unfortunately, these are not from my head, but I will get there someday. 

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Summer Wedding

My brother recently got married!! I was honored to design the stationary for his wedding, which included the invitation, program, wedding itinerary and even beer labels for his best man's homebrews served at the wedding.  It's been a long time coming, but I am so happy to finally share this project with you!

The invitation is a tri-fold panoramic view of the farm where they were married.

photo by Regnier Tempels

Here is the story behind the beer labels:  my brother and his best man made a bet prior to the U.S. vs. Belgium 2014 World Cup soccer game-- if the U.S. lost, my brother had to brew beer for his best man and vice versa if Belgium won. Belgium won! Consequently, the first four beers are in honor of the bet. The last two were brewed in celebration of the wedding. 

I had so much fun combining drawing and design layout when creating the program and wedding schedule! 

Spring

 

 

I know it has been a while, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you!  I officially started my job at ArtReach this month, and what a gratifying whirlwind it has been.  We have all been working hard over there to help underserved Chicagoans have access to art! I am sure many of you know how healing art can be and how empowering it can feel to make something with your hands.  The populations ArtReach serves are in great need of an outlet for expression and communication. We have awesome programs for formerly incarcerated women, disabled adults, seniors, and underserved youth. If you want to learn more about who we are and what we do, visit  artreachchicago.org .  Send me a message or email if you would like to be added to our mailing list.

The ArtReach team at our Spring Fundraiser.   So thankful to be working with these inspiring ladies!

The ArtReach team at our Spring Fundraiser.  

So thankful to be working with these inspiring ladies!

As for my own art practice,  I am so excited to finally share this project with you!  My friend Kristina Priceman, a wonderful and talented violinist, asked me to create these drawings for her website. If you don't already know about her music, treat yourself by visiting   thetina.com

AND...here is a sneak peak at some exciting projects I have coming up: 

YoYuu

 

Yoyuu is a japanese word meaning the presence of a momentary pause.  It is an imagined space you take for yourself to arrange mental or physical clutter.  In the noun form, it represents a balancing act where external actions are guided by internal stability.  (Kinfolk, Volume 15)

In an attempt to relax, arrange my mental clutter and find internal stability, I picked up a more forgiving medium than watercolor and ink--acrylic. If you make a mistake with acrylic, not to worry...acrylic can be applied thickly and opaquely to fix all errors. To my surprise, I can get it to act like watercolor as well! The result is that I can relax more as I paint/draw and get the loose effect that I love.  I have started drawing  into my paintings rather that painting into my drawings.  I had almost forgotten how much I love painting and its ability to define borders through color rather than lines. 

Sometimes opening our eyes to knowledge’s blind spot can reveal fresh solutions to old problems and give us an appreciation for the unknown.
— Kinfolk magazing, volume 15

Juggling

I have been juggling many tasks lately, as many of you do.  How do you do it? I have been trying to find ways to live calmly and sustainably amidst the clutter and commotion.  I am realizing, more than ever, the importance of not letting my mind wander too far from the task at hand. 

I took the tip of a friend, and walked to a conservatory to calm my mind and thank my skin with a little humidity.  The healing powers of chlorophyll are amazing, especially during the endless month of grays and browns--March. 

Sketching soothes my mind. I imagine the lives of my characters and wonder how my mind came up with them. 

"It's not so much a question of us telling the story as the story telling us." - Paul Broks in Into the Silent Land

Virunga

I have discovered the magic of Quink this week!  With this ink, you barely even have to try. 

Even the strongest are vulnerable. 

The latter drawing was inspired by Virunga, a documentary about how poachers, army rebels, and an oil corporation threaten one of Congo's biggest hopes- the Virunga National Park.  It is currently streaming on Netflix and I strongly recommend it. This heart-wrenching documentary asks thoughtful questions about how greed and hatred can arise out of ignorance, vulnerability, and distance. 

These questions seem to be a theme in my life recently, as they are also addressed in the book I am currently reading -- Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson.   Greg Mortenson seeks to bring education to children in Pakistan and Afghanistan by building schools in the region. The book discusses at length the dangers of grouping all Muslims together and the necessity for education in the fight on terror. Pakistan general, Bashir says, " The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever." p. 310

This morning I read this relevant passage as an introduction to Ch. 23:

Our earth is wounded. Her oceans and lakes are sick; her rivers
are like running sores; The air is filled with subtle poisons. And the oily
smoke of countless hellish fires blackens the sun. Men and women, 
scattered from homeland, family, friends, wander desolate and uncertain 
scorched by a toxic sun...

In this desert of frightened, blind uncertainty, some take refuge in
the pursuit of power. Some become manipulators of illusion and deceit. 

If wisdom and harmony still dwell in this world, as other than a dream lost
in an unopened book, they are hidden in our heartbeat.
And it is from our hearts that we cry out. We cry out and our voices 
are the single voice of this wounded earth. Our cries are a 
great wind across the earth.

-From The Warrior Song of King Gezar

Art Alone Endures

"Art Alone Endures", written in the entrance hall of Chicago's Fine Art building, reminds us that regardless of  the debate about the value of art and the funding art does or does not receive, "art alone endures".  Art must be a fundamental part of who we are collectively as humans because art stands the test of time.  It prevails regardless of what mindset we have towards it. 

Photograph by an unknown source. Thank you to my co-worker Ben Gray for mentioning this statement to me and to all my co-workers at ArtReach for asking these important questions! 

Photograph by an unknown source. Thank you to my co-worker Ben Gray for mentioning this statement to me and to all my co-workers at ArtReach for asking these important questions! 

I have thought long and hard about what I do and why I do it (probably more than I should), but I won't bore you with the details. I will say however, that it always seems like I make the art first and find the meaning for why I made it afterwards.  The words come second, but they inform the work I make after.  Art endures, but the words we use to describe art influences how it progresses. 

In college, I became increasingly interested in the imagination and how our external world (outside our minds) informs our imagination (read more on my  about page).  This idea started to seep into my paintings without me knowing it and consciously continues in my drawings today. 

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This drawing was inspired by a man I saw at a bus stop in Chicago.  The point was not to draw the man in the photograph, but rather to draw what this man sparked in my imagination. 

30 minute challenge

When I get stuck, I have started drawing from my imagination for 30 minutes. No imagery allowed! Just materials and music. A while back, when I was having difficulty getting into a routine, my boyfriend challenged me to do this everyday. Here are some drawings from my imagination: 

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Welcome to the Neighborhood

In the year and a half since I moved to Chicago, I have slowly been piecing together experiences, observations and stories to help me understand this place I now call home.  What is Chicago's pace, people, culture and history? Which reminds me, you should really listen to this fascinating podcast on cities  http://www.radiolab.org/story/91732-cities/ !

   

 

 

Recently, I got to take part in a wonderful project that helped me gain a deeper understanding of Chicago.  "Welcome to the Neighborhood" was a collaboration between 1,001 Chicago Afternoons and The Anthology of Chicago on a literary event that took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art on January 20th. Local writers and poets told stories about various neighborhoods in Chicago and  were paired with artists who created artwork to go along with their stories.  

I was able to engage with Chicago's people, culture and history in a unique way. I pieced together images, information and stories to recreate someone else's memory of a neighborhood on Chicago's south side that I had never been to and that took place the same year that my parents turned 3 years old. Here is what I came up with: 

You can read more about the event and the story that inspired my artwork in the article written by Megan Kirby in the Chicago Tribune

Photograph of Plasm One taken by Taylor Glascock, for the Tribune. 

Photograph of Plasm One taken by Taylor Glascock, for the Tribune. 

No Tricks

For the past year or so, I have been on a quest to find out what artists I really admire and why I respect their work. Something I have come to realize is that the illustrators I most enjoy are artists who can  draw with no excuses and no tricks. They have just learned how to draw and they own it! Of course, what it means to be able to draw is different for each one of us.  To me, it means they can capture movement, expression, and body posture extremely well. They don't use detail or tricks of the material to seduce the viewer. They are true observers of the world around them.   

Drawing by Quentin Blake

Drawing by Quentin Blake

Drawing my Gabrielle Vincent

Drawing my Gabrielle Vincent

Drawing by Gabrielle Vincent from her children's book series Ernest et Celestine.

Drawing by Gabrielle Vincent from her children's book series Ernest et Celestine.

Drawing my Beatrix Potter.   Look at that light pouring out of the windows onto the cat!

Drawing my Beatrix Potter.   Look at that light pouring out of the windows onto the cat!

I have been trying to study and memorize body postures and textures to improve my own drawings for some time now. However, a recent drawing I did pointed out to me that I should revisit the rules of perspective as well.  I hated perspective drawing in beginning drawing classes, it seemed so forced and tedious. Luckily, I later learned that you could forget those rules when drawing from life because you could just draw what you see! :) The problem is, now I want to be able to draw from my imagination. I want to be able to set up environments without having something to look at. Doing that requires going back to the rules. :( I learned this with color, during my undergrad years at IU.  After many classes of painting from life, I found myself in my studio wanting to paint from my imagination. I wanted to create depth and space with color and struggled through many paintings before I tried recalling rules about equal value and how our eye perceives color as it recedes in space. 

All that to say… I have a new goal: work on perspective drawing! 

It's that time of year...

I have been telling myself that I should make holiday cards for years. This year I finally made them! I didn't stop there either, I made t-shirts, prints, and tattoos to sell at my first couple art fairs. The fairs were a great success and I loved having a chance to chat with the people who stopped by. 

iPhone Drawings

Lately, I have been trying to learn how to draw more imaginatively from my imagination. Doing so requires closely observing the world around you in the first place though. Here are some drawings from life and some drawings from my imagination done on my iPhone. The app is a little tricky because using my fat fingers as my pen makes it hard to see exactly what I am drawing, but hey...that is part of the fun!

Art to The People

Art Reach celebrated with their annual fundraiser yesterday! I was lucky enough to design the artwork for the event and also have my first stab at portrait drawing during the fundraiser. It was so fun! Thank you to everyone who came out and supported Art Reach! 

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Painting Retreat

With a couple of days off of work, I decided to treat myself to a 2 day painting retreat.  Here are some pictures I took along the way (sorry for the poor quality). Besides the toxic fumes, it was great! It was the fastest I have ever painted.

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