Drowning in work? Must be time to write a blog! (Or my weird way of being thankful)

The approaching end of the year, as well as the holidays have got me in a very reflective mood lately despite the fact that I should be hustling to get through the pile of work I’ve accidentally buried myself in.

This year has been one big, beautiful hot mess. On the one hand, I’m still learning the ropes of what it means to have crohn’s for me, and as such I’ve been sick more than healthy. But on the other, I had set out to start selling my work at shows, and I’ve far surpassed my original plan of only going to two, with six, soon to be seven shows! I’ve met nothing but support and such friendly (albeit sometimes strange) people. I’ve also had my first legitimate illustration job, got my own press set up, and have had my work in a gallery in Los Angles!

It still blows my mind that people actually want to spend their hard earned money on what I do. While money is a necessary evil, and I’m not saying it doesn’t make me happy, what really tickles me pink is seeing others excited about what I’ve made, and how some people just light up when they see something they really connect with.

Through it all, I’m so grateful that I can work on what I love, and even more so for the community I’m finding of people as weird as I am. Y’all make the long hours and working through the pain worth it!

Here’s to more insanity and art next year!

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Shedding My Skin – When I Stopped Resisting Change

Have you ever been so caught up in a whirlwind of change that you feel as though you’ve completely lost sight of what it was you were trying to do in the first place that caused such a shift? When all your goals and who you are get muddied and buried under a thin veil so that they’re still there, but somehow elusive to you?

That’s exactly where I’ve been the last few months.

I felt as though I’ve lost myself in the pursuit of finding my place in the world. Who I wanted to be was skewing from who I was, and I didn’t like it. I suppose having a large growth spurt in a short amount of time does that to a person. In the span of a year I’ve gone from having wild ideas to actually seeing my dreams begin to blossom and grow into reality, and I was swept away in the chaos that is trying to work a day job and be a full time artist at the same time. I lost track of why I was creating, and was going on a downward spiral of feeling like I need to just produce stuff, even if it isn’t something I feel attached to or done with the care and love I want to put into my work, and thus I was feeling inadequate across the board.

Though, the feeling had begun to change. Instead of feeling inadequate, I began to try to see it as a transformation. At first I thought it was relative to a moth, coming out of the chaos of it’s chrysalis, but now I realize it’s more akin to when a snake is outgrowing their skin. There’s lots of growth happening inside, but their skin is preventing it from being seen. Their outer surface becomes dull and tired looking, obscuring the beautiful new scales underneath. The radiant snake is still there, but only those who look deep can find it. The change happens slow at first, but then there is a sudden burst when the skin is shed, revealing all that was at work underneath while leaving the old, dull skin behind.

That’s pretty much how I feel at the moment, like a freshly molted snake. I was consistently feeling like I was missing the mark on a lot of what I was working on, but I couldn’t figure out what it was that I was missing. I knew there was potential, but it was hidden from me. That thought alone was driving me mad.

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So I gave up trying so damn hard, and just let things happen. That’s when this piece came along, coincidentally enough. I stopped resisting change (which I didn’t even know I was doing), and let go of the thick layer of skin of who I was and who I thought I should be that was building up around me. I let myself wander back to the my old haunts that make me happy; started rereading Dracula, doodled more skulls, oogled over my favorite artists while contemplating why it is I enjoy their work, and suddenly I feel like I can see my shiny black scales again (and obviously they’re a touch iridescent too).

Change is awkward, but if you can get through it, the rewards are many.

Artistic Style is an Accident!

Recently I’ve been really digging into thinking about what it is I like about my work, and how to replicate it more often. I’ve discovered that what totally works for me right now is doing layers of loose watercolors to flesh out the painting, then going in with gouache and tightening things up, with a lot of mark making and texture.

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This is a painting I recently completed with the lovely Noctemy as my muse was a really great “Aha!” moment for me. There have been a couple paintings recently where I had been playing with the concept of trying to replicate my drawing process with paint, and they had come out similar to this but I had no idea how I had gotten there! Most of it was total accidents, and it just kind of happened without me knowing.

So I sat down with this one and really tried to create some kind of formula for it, and I finally think I know what I’m doing now.

One thing I’ve been really learning lately is that this doesn’t just happen over night. If you look at my earlier work you can see these things starting to form, but there were only hints of it here and there. Over the course of several years this has been developing!

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While they are similar, there has been a huge leap between these last two years!

The best way to find your style is to try everything that interests you, just do it. A lot of it will fail, and you will stumble a lot. Eventually you’ll see something evolving and becoming more consistent. It helps to look at your inspirations to see how they do it, and maybe take small bits of their process and see how it fits into yours.

Heck, I’m still trying to evolve it! The best and worst part of art is you never stop learning and changing. And honestly, that’s a good thing.

What are your thoughts on finding one’s style?

The Evolution of Tiny Tapestries

I seem to have slacked on my desires to post more art rantings and long winded descriptions of processes, but let’s see if I can’t resurrect it once more!

 

This is a topic I’ve been meaning to breach for a while now, my tiny tapestries!

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They were kind of an accidental idea to begin with, stemming from wanting to make patches of my work to sell as an extra on a booth table or what have you. As most of you probably know, I currently work at a screen printing shop, so it’s kind of a big part of my life working with printmaking. While I don’t really do a lot of creative work during the day, I’ve always wanted to marry my art and my work. It just kind of fit.

While I was brainstorming for this project, I had happened on a picture of a printed pennant with some crazy artwork on it, and I fell in love. So that afternoon I came home and made the first tapestry! It was a crude little thing, and I will forever treasure it in my closet.

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For the process, it’s fairly straightforward. I use 100% cotton fabric, and I start by cutting it into squares of 4 tapestries. I set up my screens to print four at a time to save screen space, as well as time (printing 4>1 at a time). I print the fronts and backs, and then take them home for assembly!

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Once home, I get back to the cutting board and cut everything out, fronts, backs, and the little tabby things (that’s a technical term, right?). I like to have everything cut out before I start sewing them because it’s SO much easier to piece work them together then doing one at a time. It sounds like this all is a lot of work (and when you’re doing 100+ it definitely is), but I’ve learned how to break it all up so it isn’t so bad to do.

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I’ve completed my largest project so far with these tapestries, all of the Zodiac signs! I’m hoping to eventually make larger, taller ones as well, and possibly even custom ones! I have a feeling these little guys are going to evolve a few more times into something more exciting.

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If you’d like to check them out, I have all twenty (yes, 20!) designs up in my etsy shop, and will be happily carrying them with me to the Mutton and Mead Ren Faire in June, and the Massachusetts Ren Faire in July! Huzzah!

A Bit of Process – Usurpers

img_2552It would seem that one of the most mystifying aspects of being an artist is “How did you make that?”, and with good reason. For each artist it is a completely personal and variable matter, especially for different types of creators. While I can’t say the same for most artists, my process tends to be long and drawn out, but in the end it becomes worth it.

To explain a little of how I work, I’ve tried to document every step of the way for one of my most recent paintings ‘Usurpers’. Which is almost ironic since the painting itself was actually only a small part of another, larger work and was meant only to be an exploratory piece to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to paint monkeys. Most of my time seems to be spent in some strange paint-ception loop lately.

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Sketchbook scribbles

All of my work as of the last two years starts in the sketchbook with a simple, messy thumbnail. Sometimes it can take a page or two of thumbnails to get the composition exactly right, but I was lucky with this painting and was happy with the first idea. There’s a general triangle shaped composition going on, which I enjoyed because it went with the concept of having many enslaved, but only one who rules. I reminisced about Egypt and the pyramids, so the composition works.

Once I have my composition, before I get into the ‘good stuff’, especially on subjects I don’t often use, I have a phase of drawing studies from random photo references. For this particular piece I focused on the lilies and the monkeys, so I drew a lot of lilies and many monkeys, until I was satisfied that I could execute them confidently on the final drawing. This would be the part where I start an exploratory piece such as this one if I really want to be thorough and make sure I can paint them the way I’d like as well. I often tend to do small color studies at this point as well, especially if there isn’t a plan for an exploratory piece.

 

I’d like to take a moment here to emphasize the importance of preliminary work. I’ve learnt through the years and from some great teachers that the base of any excellent painting is having an excellent base. So if you spend the time to figure out your composition, and draw all the studies until your eyes bleed and it becomes boring (because that means you’re confident with it!), your final painting will thank you by being the best it can possibly be. While this might not apply to abstract art, as someone with an illustrative tendency it is crucial for everything to work as planned.

 

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My friend Bob likes to watch sometimes.

And now begins the ‘good stuff’! By this point most things are smooth sailing, and the final drawing begins. I like to typically start off with red erasable pencil to block everything in, then I slowly dig into the details and nitty-gritty of the drawing. I find it easier to erase and blend in stuff with the red pencil when shit goes wrong.

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Ignore the extra r in usurpers, I was tired.

After the red pencil comes graphite. This particular piece I started with graphite powder to quickly fill in the shadow areas and create some depth. This part is fairly straight forward, I just ‘paint’ the graphite powder on with an old crappy brush and use a kneaded eraser to clean up any edges that I want to be more sharp.

When I’m in a real hurry sometimes I skip the graphite phase and just noodle the red pencil farther than I normally do, which saves some time. But as I said before, a solid base makes for a solid painting so I try to do this step as often as I can.

Typically all I really use is a mechanical pencil, an eraser pencil, a kneaded eraser (not shown), a blending stub, and the red pencil. I also have a mechanical pencil with red lead in it for those times where I refine the red drawing instead of using graphite for cleaner line work.

When I am satisfied with the final drawing, I move on to transfer it to watercolor paper with a light table, then I mount the paper with gesso to either illustration board or a cradled wood panel depending on how I want to finish it (framed or not). Mounting the paper to something isn’t necessary, but it significantly reduces buckling and warping which is something that’s pretty important for me.

Once the paper is good and stuck to it’s stiffer counterpart, I then go over everything with pen and ink to clarify the line work and begin shading. I also like to add in some light ink washes to further begin the shaping of everything before I add color. It really helps on complicated pieces where I might accidentally put a shadow in the wrong spot if I’m not paying attention.

Finally! We have color! My favorite part of art is the painting in colors. It’s where everything comes together and breathes in life. I do color in stages, starting with the background and larger, light washes, then gradually becoming more saturated and adding in the darks. Typically the very last thing I do is add in highlights or details with gouache. This particular piece was just slightly off-white highlights, but in some pieces I like to have whole objects like bugs or flowers painted in gouache, and I like to do that bit last to prevent any mishaps with the watercolor.

 

It can be a long, tedious process sometimes, but in the end it is all worth it. Generally speaking, on anything over 6″ dimensionally either way it takes me a minimum of 10 hours of work. It can take upwards of 50 hours on even larger pieces! Usurpers was around 20 or so hours from sketch to finished painting.

 

How do you paint? If you have any questions about my process, I’d love to hear them!

 

I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. 

Morticia Addams

A loving man, two careers, two bunnies, three social media sites, and an endless array of extra hobbies. I’d like to think I’m not asking a lot of my time but frankly, with all that I like to think I have going on time tends to slip away and something gets lost in the ether. It seems that one of the many things that got lost for quite some time would be this little blog of mine!

So with my recent efforts of spending my time more focused on what I feel is important, and the general reorganization of my life, including my art studio (new to me table yay!), I thought I would give this another go.

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Never enough desks and lime green tool boxes. (And mess.)

 

My current goal will be to post monthly, if not biweekly about whatever it is I’m currently working on or going through. Which let me tell you, is a whole hell of a lot in both departments as of late.

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The prime fruits of July!

July has been a whirlwind of a month. Between waiting eight weeks to finally start treatment of my recently diagnosed Crohn’s Disease (yuck), a call for art for one of the galleries that I’ve been dreaming of (Arch Enemy Arts), and a general desire/obsession of just doing more art in general, I’m not sure how I survived in one piece!

In a good month I average about one large painting (or almost one), and a few sketches in my sketchbook or mini paintings. This July I completed three larger works, three smaller works, four plein air paintings, and double the sketchbook pages I normally fill! While I still feel as though I never produce enough, all things considered I had a fantastic month in my artwork.

I think a lot the motivation has been coming from my desire to not be sickly which has been nagging at me for the last two months. I realized that I spend a great deal of time doing nothing, highly unfocused and a little lost, and I decided that it was a complete waste of time. I almost felt like I was just letting my life and precious time just drift by unnoticed like a ghost in the wind. So A little at a time, I’ve been trying to reform my habits and ween out the nasty mindless internet and tv time, and replace it with focused-ish time on the internet and trying to have a pencil or knitting needle in my hand whilist binge watching American Gods.

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Also, there’s this Arnold Schwarzenegger motivational speech that really got me. Clearly my biggest problem is that I just need to sleep faster!

Here’s to hoping August proves as bountiful as July. I will be planning on another three larger pieces finished with some more plein air practice peppered in for September, as I will be a part of a local plein air paint in! I also hope to be making the trek to New York City this weekend to kick it all off by seeing JAW Cooper’s inaugural showing at Spoke Art. She has been a super source of inspiration as of late, and I’m dying to see some of her delicious paint work in person.

Also here’s to hoping I’m not as rusty as I feel I am at this blogging thing. It’s been two years that dust has been collecting, and even then I was never quite the wordsmith.

Cheers!