Monday, March 2, 2015

Let's Scrap Design Team

You may remember that in my resolutions post back in January, one of my goals for the year was to become a part of at least 2 design teams.  Having never been on a design team before, I wasn't sure how realistic this goal was- it seemed pretty reasonable to me, but still, artists know the fear that's always lurking in the back of your mind that your work is total crap and no one is going to be interested in it.  So, working to overcome those feelings, I set out and started applying.  And I'm happy to announce that I have been accepted to my first design team!  Let's Scrap Sketches
I'm really excited about being on this team because for their challenges and inspirations, they post a scrapbook layout in sketch form that everyone uses as inspiration.  It's fascinating to see what everyone comes up with, and how the same sketch in the hands of different artists can inspire so many different layouts and designs.  

Here's the sketch that was posted for our DT application.  

And here is my take on this sketch that earned me a spot on the DT.  :)  

A bit different, but this is how I was inspired.  I have to say, I absolutely LOVE this BoBunny paper- such a beautiful collection!  And although I love the colors in this layout, I have to admit they make me feel very cold...

Check out my blog on March 15th to see my take on the next sketch, and don't forget to see what the rest of the design team is up to.  Also were doing a month long challenge for International Scrapbooking Day (March 4th), so come play along!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

This is a piece that I've been working on for several months, and it is very religious in nature.  For those 2 reasons, I'm both super excited and very nervous as I share this with you now.  An artist always hopes that their work will be understood and appreciated.  I am definitely feeling that way today.  
Every 3 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has an International Art Competition that is open to all of its members.  I decided that this time, I was going to be brave and participate, even though the caliber for entries is extremely high. Here are some of the best from the last competition in 2012.   As you can see, many are oil paintings, but there are also sculptures, fiber art, assemblages, etc.  When I get the chance to see the exhibit in Salt Lake that has all of the winning artwork, I'm always in awe at the talent and testimony of so many different people from around the world.  
The theme for this year's competition is "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus".  I knew that, as an abstract artist, telling a specific story of Jesus would be a bit of a challenge.  However, relating my testimony of the Savior's ability to change even the most hardened and brazen criminal into a sanctified soul through his atonement is something that would be much easier.  The truths of the Savior's power almost need to be related abstractly.  

Though the artist statement I included in my submission had to be much shorter, here is my original statement explaining my piece and what it means.  

             One of my favorite stories from the Savior’s earthly ministry is related in the New Testament, John 5:2-9. Here we learn of the pool of Bethesda.   This particular pool had a reputation for healing when it was “troubled” and as a consequence was surrounded by the sick and crippled.  They believed that only the first person to step into the troubled water would be healed.  This meant that the sickest and most helpless would be passed over by someone strong enough to make it into the water first.   An intense rush would occur when this spring came to life- perhaps hundreds of people striving, even fighting, to get into the water first.  For those who could not move on their own it would have been a constant battle of hope vs. hopelessness- always being within sight of this miraculous pool, and never being able to claim the blessing of healing. 
John tells us of a particular man who had been lame for 38 years.  He had been waiting by the pool, hoping that someone would help him into the water when the time came so he could be healed.  We don’t know how long he had been waiting, but I can imagine the scene when the Savior appears at this pool one Sabbath day. The pool is thronged with ill and injured people. The spring has just burst into life and many are quarreling with each other, hoping to reach the water first.  This man sits alone in a place fairly far back from the crowd, surrounded by filth and the evidence of his lengthy wait.  He doesn’t move- he knows there is no chance he can get to the water first. The Savior is drawn to this man, out of every other person there, and approaches.  They watch each other for a few moments, the beggar wondering why this man seems so interested in him.  No one has noticed him for so long…  Finally the Savior draws nearer and asks “Wilt thou be made whole?”  The man sadly explains that he has no one to help him into the water. He has already lost his chance to be healed since he couldn’t get there on his own.  The Savior kneels down and looks deeply into this man’s face, lined with wrinkles and coated in dirt. His powerful gaze penetrates the despair in his eyes as He then commands him, His voice powerful, resonant, and full of love- “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Immediately this man, unable to walk for 38 years, is healed of his infirmity and is made whole not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well- for when the Savior extends His grace to someone who is reaching out, the effects are all encompassing. 
                I love this story because it illustrates so perfectly the atonement: the Savior’s infinite power to heal.  Each of us is that lame man, weighed down by sin and its consequences, unable to heal ourselves. Many of us in this condition put our trust and hope in things that cannot bring us peace and forgiveness, and we end up waiting and despairing.  Many of us view the sins of others, particularly if those sins are deeply wicked and humiliating, and say to ourselves, “What he has done is unforgivable.”  Though the path to redemption may be harder and longer for some, the power of Christ is infinite, eternal, and open to all who come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit.  My piece represents the transformation that each of us can experience through the grace of Christ. 
The bottom panel, or “Sinful Man”, is a visual representation of a life plagued by sin, addiction and selfishness.  In this state, a man is capable of the worst crimes imaginable:  murder, immorality, and countless other acts of greed and corruption.  As his sins accumulate, his burden of misery becomes heavier and heavier, and the way back seems harder and harder to reach.  Red and Black are central to this panel, and represent sin and corruption.  I specifically referenced Isaiah 1:18- “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool…”  I used paper clay to add dimension and represent the heavy burden of sin, and the strips of paper that I have shaped into thorns, pustules and knobs represent worldly habits and the infection that comes with them.   I covered much of the clay with painted muslin to symbolize the way a sinful man seeks to cover his sins, but in the place where the heart is represented, the muslin is not able to hide what’s inside.  Though the stitching is desperately trying to keep things shut, we see more paper elements covered in wax, representing a hard heart that is unwilling to change, despite the pain. 
The central panel or “Repentant Man” represents this sinful person who has now turned to the Savior for help.  Despite still struggling with many imperfections and the consequences of wrong choices, he is experiencing the Savior’s grace and the change of heart that comes with it.  Complete repentance is not simply a passage of time, but is a matter of complete submission, of recompense and humble acceptance of all the ramifications of our sins, which can be especially difficult for those whose sins are numerous and grievous.  We can see that the heart has changed- instead of being filled with wax and thorns; it is white with white elements that represent the cultivation of Christlike attributes.  The repentant person has humbled himself, and no longer has the desire to do evil.  We can see that there are still red splashes and simple thorns. He is not yet perfect, but through consistent choices that draw him closer to the Savior, the red and black are receding and white is becoming common place.  There is truly no life that is so burdened with sin the Savior cannot heal them. 
 The final panel or “Sanctified Man” represents this man achieving his, and God’s, final goal- to be made perfect through the power of Christ.  In this panel, we see all the good and ennobling traits that are branching out from his now sanctified heart.  I used many of my favorite scriptures to represent the intimate relationship this person has established with Christ and God the Father through study and the keeping of covenants.  The many paper elements are those same Christlike attributes from the second panel, magnified through the Savior’s Grace.  This man’s heart, that was at one time black and hardened, is now pure and sealed to God.  He has become an heir of all that the Father has. 
The miracle of the atonement is that we can progress from the bottom panel to the top through the enabling grace and sanctifying power of Jesus Christ.  It is my prayer that all who see this piece will understand that it represents  every single person who answers the Savior’s query “Wilt thou be made whole?” with a humble and submissive “Yes.”   

I don't know when I'll hear back about my work, but if I make it to the next round of judging, I'll be asked to ship my piece to Salt Lake so they can review it in person.  I'm hoping I can at least get that far- the photos I've included are the only ones I could include in my submission, and of course all my pieces are much better in person anyway.  Don't worry, I'll be so excited if I go to the next round I'll have a whole post just filled with exclamation points and smiley faces.  :)

Thank you for letting me share both my artwork and my testimony.  I absolutely love how art can be the vehicle for sharing truth and ideas.  I hope what I've shared has been uplifting- that was the entire reason I created this piece.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Time and Movement

Ok, so I know I'm a little late today.  Goodness, it's taking me a while to understand this new camera.  Don't get me wrong, I'm super happy with it!  But there is a significant learning curve and it's taking me a lot longer than normal to take photos I can be happy with.  I still think they could be better, but I'm getting there.  
Anyway, my  new piece!!  I went to AC Moore this weekend and found a few stencils on clearance that I was so excited to find.  (Here are a couple affiliate links so you'll know which stencils I'm talking about; Clocks, and Gears)  I absolutely fell in love with these and decided that some DecoArt black modeling paste would be perfect to use with them.  I painted my canvas with some bright reds and purples that would stand out well behind the black, and after some chipboard gears and painted flowers, I'm pretty pleased with my first attempt at a more scrapbook-type of canvas.  

Though I'm happy with the way my piece turned out, I can't help comparing my work with other mixed media pieces that I see that are so popular.  There are so many wonderful mixed media pieces that use layers upon layers of embellishments and found items that result in breathtakingly beautiful artworks.  I don't quite have the vision for one of those pieces yet (think Finnabair) but these artists didn't start out where they are now, either.  If art is in your blood the way it is in mine, we'll be able to get there.  It's just gonna take a little bit more modeling paste.  

Let me know what you think and don't forget to include your experiences and tips.  I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Maria Grossbaum-Fondler

Maria Grossbaum-Fondler is the artist I'd like to highlight today.  She is a mixed media artist that specializes in thick layers of paint and paste, as well as other elements.  She is inspired by her travels around the world, so her works are amazingly colorful pieces that are full of texture.

I was first drawn to her because of a few of the pieces I saw where she uses modeling paste.  I was beginning to experiment with it myself, and I was having trouble manipulating it.  She so obviously understands the mediums she is using to create her pieces.  Even the cracks that appear in the paste fit perfectly with her work.  

Original mixed media painting, abstract small canvas Octopus Garden #1, glass, tree branch, iridiscent , wall art, jewels, rhinestone

One of the things I struggle with is combining different colors into a cohesive piece, but I have yet to see one of Maria's pieces where the different colors and shades don't work perfectly together. Once she adds her glass and rhinestone elements, the finished piece is breathtaking. 
I've added links to her Facebook page and Etsy shop in the photos above.  Check out her Art Finder shop, too, and let her know what you think of her use of color and texture.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Symbolic Text

I've been thinking lately about text as a symbol in artwork.  Letters and words at their core are just a mix of curved and straight lines.  Language is the art of taking those lines and giving them meaning. The result is that when we write down certain line shapes in certain order, we understand the meaning behind the markings.  It's pretty fascinating to think of text in this way- as symbols we use to communicate thoughts and ideas to each other.  Without understanding how these lines and curves form letters, words, and sentences, language is meaningless.  

In that sense, how does text add additional meaning to our artwork?  For example, the word "memory" above- how does this word gain additional meaning as part of my collage?  How does my collage become more symbolic through the use of this word?  The words we include in our art become more than just words- they serve as symbols on mulitple levels and lend our art a depth that is difficult to achieve in any other way.  What are your thoughts on adding text to your artwork?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Inspirational collages

According to Wikipedia, “Collage (From the French: coller, to glue) is a technique of an art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.”

ancagray Etsy shop
ancagray Etsy shop
Anca uses book pages, clothes patterns, etc. to create her beautiful collages.  
I love the last part of that definition- creating a new whole.  Taking bits of different things, whether paper, ribbon, clippings, metal, fabric, etc. and creating something completely new and different requires vision and talent, and an intelligent sense of space and form.  I personally am fascinated by the different ways artists can take old, used, meaningful single pieces and combine them into a new whole that conveys brand new ideas. 

Carol Nelson
Carol Nelson
Carol's collage is full of texture and depth, and to me conveys the idea of rising above, perhaps through language.  
Collage is a perfect medium to employ symbolism because of its’ abstract nature and the combination of elements.  The individual pieces can carry meaning, the arrangement of those elements can create meaning, and the finished, overall whole brings everything together in a symbolic way, as well.  In Carol Nelson's piece, above, I see tattered individual pieces that are arranged in such a way that the whole piece makes me think of above vs. below.  I think of the theme of progression with this piece- the tattered elements of our souls are lifted up, perhaps through language and communication (her use of the alphabet) to something greater.  
Is this the idea the artist is trying to convey?  I don't know.  Am I reading too much into a simple abstract painting?  Hmm.... perhaps, but that is something I love about abstract art- each person sees different themes and ideas because each person brings to the piece their own experiences and ways of thinking.  What do you see in Stephanie Devaux's piece below?  

 stephanie devaux
Stephanie Devaux
Stephanie's work is brilliant in her use of text and the way she is able to draw the eye with the forms she creates in her collages.  
These three artists constantly amaze me with their talent.  Take a few minutes and click on each picture to check out their pages and shops- you won't regret it, I promise!  

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Colors of Winter

How do you control the inner voice inside you that always seems to say, when you're working on a piece, "just a little bit more- it's still missing something"?  There are times, like with this current piece, that my inner voice was just a little too vocal, and I listened to it.  I should have stopped before all the purple splatters and left it more simple and less messy (at least over certain areas), but I just kept going.  It's always such a balancing act.  I tend to really take my time and agonize over what elements to add, but I had started practicing on a few other pieces working fast and not thinking too much about what I was doing.  It was a great experiment and helped me to really come up with some different pieces, but I should not have used it in this case.  I do have a long way to go as an artist, especially recognizing what techniques and strategies I should be using for different pieces.

I was experimenting with colors with this piece and that part I feel was a success.  I love the way the purples and greens show each other off against the black, especially with the hints of blue in the paper elements.  The pictures all have different filters (I couldn't help playing around a little bit), but the real piece is closest to the top picture.  The idea of putting purple, green and blue together doesn't really scream "cold" to me, but these shades against the black canvas convey that feeling well, at least in the top 2 pictures.  What sort of feeling does this bottom picture have?    

Oh, and one more exciting piece of news- I ordered a new camera that's coming this week.  I'm really looking forward to having better, more detailed, clearer pictures.  Yay!