Friday, December 31, 2010

Turning the Page

Happy New Year, friends! So here we are, inching towards another year, another decade. Like many of you, I've been taking stock of how 2010 has left its mark -- both good and bad -- on my life, and how it's influenced me as an artist. So, in no particular order, here are the 10 Things I've Learned This Year:

1.  Sometimes it's better not to look before you leap.

I've always had a nonrational fear of stingrays, and not just because of what happened to Steve Irwin. So you can imagine my reaction upon finding out that we'd be snorkeling among manta rays on a recent trip to the Bahamas. Nine-foot-wide mantas, in fact. "It's getting close to feeding time," said the resort snorkeling guide, "so they'll probably get pretty close." Great, I thought, securing my dive mask and pushing off into the lagoon anyway. The guide was right. There's nothing like looking down and seeing a behemoth of a manta ray -- and the above photo doesn't do it justice -- swimming straight up toward you. Climbing back on land an hour later, I felt hoarse from screaming underwater, but I also felt the rush of feeling very much alive.

Back in January, I entered my first art show, sponsored by The League of Reston Artists, a local art organization. I watched the other artists file in with their beautiful oil paintings and photographs, and couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated. After all, these were real artists. For a moment, I considered backing out. But I hung my work and went home.

A few weeks later, the League sent out an email announcing the upcoming art show reception, along with those who'd won awards at the show. Turns out I'd snagged an Honorable Mention in Painting!

2. Yes, you belong here.

In April, I'd entered another show at The Soundry, a venue known for its unorthodox, well, everything. For this show, which The Soundry coined F*ck the Machine (summing up its attitude of the traditional art world), the participating artists would become the art jury. We'd have to fight it out through three rounds of eliminations; the whole process would take over four hours. We got up before our peers and explained our work, fielding questions and defending it, if necessary. Likewise, the process was filmed broadcast live online.

I chose to submit And Another Thing, a graffiti painting I'd done for my younger daughter. The piece featured different lessons I wanted to pass on to her. At the end of the night, I returned home alone. The painting would hang in the exhibit.

Some works in the F*ck the Machine exhibit. Mine is on the right.

3.  Art feeds the soul.

In May, I had the great opportunity to take two classes with one of my mentors, Traci Bautista, at Art & Soul Hampton. Her book, Collage Unleashed, had been a huge inspiration to me. Meeting her in person, and working on projects with the very materials she'd used in her book, was unforgettable!

Art quilt I'd made in Traci's Spilling Canvas class

4.  Weather the storm.

This year has dealt its share of storms, too. Rejections, both professional and personal. Way too personal, in fact. But that's life. 

5.  You can bend only so much. 

I've felt torn in a million directions this year. Sure, lots of good things have happened, but I tend to take on too much at once. The best of intentions with the worst planning imaginable. Welcome to my life! 

And so, I'm slowly learning that I can't be everything to everyone all the time. You've been warned!

6.  It's ok to imagine being successful.

The more I do art, the more I understand myself. Taking Traci Bautista's Discovering Y.O.U. Art Marketing Course helped me sort things out a lot this year, and allowed me time to think about where I was in my art and how I'd like to see it transform. While preparing one of the homework assignments, I came upon an old journal I'd written over a decade ago while I was still living in NY. It was interesting to note the similarities between how I'd felt then, and now. I worked part of the journal into the graffiti collage in this photo:

7.  Everyone gets stuck sometimes.

In talking with other artists, one common experience we share from time to time is the fear of the blank canvas/page/etc. Maybe the solution is to just spill something -- anything -- on it, and see where it takes you. 

8. Don't overthink it.

In my opinion, the process of making art should free you. Maybe that's why I don't understand the point of agonizing over compositions. I've learned to work from the gut instead. 

9. Artists have a responsibility to inspire. 

Over the year, I've tried to connect with other creative types, both locally and globally. While this is still relatively new territory for me, the exchange of ideas has been a great learning experience. I look forward to meeting more of you out there!

10. Treasure random moments of joy.

This year, I'm helping to coordinate a volunteer-run art history program at my older daughter's school. It's a lot of work (especially for someone like me who's not a "kid person" per se), but I love seeing the kids' faces light up during our presentations. You'd be surprised how much they absorb from one lesson to the next. After they quiz me each month on how my purple hair "got like that," I admire how they attack the projects with sheer honesty, too. 

And so, my new year's wish for you comes from an old Irish blessing. Parts of it are incorporated in this graffiti collage:

Deep peace of the running wave to you. 
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photo Tutorial: Graffiti Christmas Ornaments

Yes, Virginia, there IS a new blog post!

(One that I'd hoped to get out much sooner.)

Christmas had always been a huge deal at our house, growing up. The Christmas tree took three days to put up, on account of how particular my mother was about affixing each of the 1,836,789 ornaments on the right branch, next to the perfect-colored light. Decorating that tree seemed to be the highlight of her year. She'd once left it up until Good Friday, but that's another story.

It took over a week to put up my tree this year, owing to a revolving door of art shows, illnesses, Nutcracker rehearsals/performances, volunteer commitments, and the usual chaos that rules my life. Still, I spent some time in the studio (aka Our Lady of Perpetual Chaos), working on graffiti-inspired Christmas ornaments. (You'll probably see some of that creative chaos in the final result.)

Start with a glass craft ornament.

Adhere strips of tissue paper to the ornament. You may wish to add several layers in some areas to vary the texture. Let dry.

I used several colors of tissue paper to cover the ornaments.

Next, mix up some acrylic glazes.

Using random strokes, paint layers of glazes over the tissue paper. Let dry between layers. Here, I also added texture by painting sections of rubber shelf liner with heavy body acrylic and then rolling the ornament over it.

Experiment with other materials you may have around. On these ornaments, I also used fabric spray paint, alcohol ink, and india ink.

To add even more texture, I painted the tops of the ornaments silver and, when dry, added a coat of glass bead medium. It would eventually dry nearly transparent.

Almost done!

Afterwards, I used markers to write Christmas sayings, such as Merry, Comfort & Joy, Noel, Silent Night, and Peace on the ornaments. I also decorated them with stars and hearts.

A lot of work, but a ton of fun!

Friday, November 19, 2010

On Being Thankful

Events from the past two weeks have again proved one of my favorite sayings about how unpredictable life can be: Whenever you think either A or B will happen, C will always win out.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous going into the recent Artisans Gallery at ArtSpace Herndon. It was my first time participating in an art show at a mainstream gallery. Likewise, after much planning and organizing, it was the first time ArtSpace had held such an event showcasing local Herndon artists.

I never know what to expect with art/craft shows. You're really at the mercy of who walks through the door. What will sell well one day won't necessarily sell well the next. It can be frustrating at times. Last year, I spent weeks preparing for one show the next county over, working on new products until the wee hours. The day of that show, I watched as shoppers smiled and bypassed my booth to visit the vendor at the next table who was very successfully selling gourds with pigs' faces on them.  Then I watched in disbelief as she lit candles in her gourds and placed them dangerously close to the drapes covering my metal grid, nearly setting my display on fire.

Fortunately, my experience at ArtSpace was a lot better. In fact, it turned out to be my best show ever! There wasn't a lot of foot traffic, but that was to be expected for a first-time show. However, the shoppers who walked into the gallery were there to buy. The more I chatted with them, told them about graffiti fusion art, how and why I do it, the more interested they were. Surprisingly, it wasn't only the younger people who were interested in this style, either. I had a great discussion with an older lady on how to use CitraSolv on old magazines to create interesting artistic effects.

On the second day of the show, I landed my first consignment agreement with the gallery. What a rush it was to display some of my Area 718 headbands and notecards with the other artisans' jewelry, pottery, glassware, and stationery! Have a look at the cabinet in the lobby:

The Artisans Gallery shop is now open during ArtSpace Herndon's regular gallery hours:

Sundays 12-5
Tuesdays through Thursdays 10-2
Fridays 10-8
Saturdays 12-5

ArtSpace Herndon
750 Center St.
Herndon, VA 20170

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     

After the show, I was over the moon. Thankful for the opportunity. Thankful for hard work paying off.  Thankful to have met and talked with many people who were interested in my work. Thankful for having met the other talented artisans. But there was one more surprise to come later that night, as I popped into Anthropologie to do some window shopping and look at color trends. At the time, I was thinking of my mother, who died nearly six years ago. Sometimes I wish I could just call her with the details and listen to her voice again. She often was my toughest critic, but would always admit after the fact, "See, I knew you could do it."

In the store, I accidentally knocked over a pillow. After picking it up and putting it back, I happened to see a stationery box on an adjacent table; it was marked Postcards From Penguin. I smiled. My mother always had a special fondness for penguins. She had hundreds (at least) in her collection -- stuffed, ceramic, glass, etc. Visitors to our house probably thought they'd landed in Antarctica. 

I ran my fingers over the box. Postcards From Penguin -- the letters grew blurry as I wiped my eyes and tried to smile. 

"Karen, you're crazy." 

I put the box back, walked over to a holiday display against the wall. And there it was -- a penguin ornament. 

"But I always knew you could do it."

Thanks, mom. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Next Stop... Artisans Gallery Shop

I'm proud to be a vendor at ArtSpace Herndon's first Artisans Gallery Shop! The event, which coincides with an open house at the gallery, will take place this Friday (12-8) and Saturday (12-5). I'll have plenty of Area 718 graffiti-inspired headbands, art journals, notecards, magnets, and wallhangings, along with some original art pendants. Stop by, say hi!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saturday at The Soundry

After this past Saturday's Art Market at The Soundry, I decided to warm up inside, grab a sandwich, and check out the current exhibit, TechnoPunk 1801-2099.  Here are a few glimpses from the show:

"Just Hit Send" assemblage by Heather Miller

"Hip-Hop Bot" collage on paper by Steve Loya

"A Conversation With a Humanoid Robot" in-motion assemblage by Deborah Rose Buterbock

"Time Breaker" mixed-media piece by Lisa Wagner

"Someone Call an Ambulance Cause Something's Not Right" oil and acrylic by Ivan Collich

"The Negative Nancy Complex, One of Two Ways" mixed-media piece by Matt Riegner

The TechnoPunk 1801-2099 exhibit runs through Nov. 22nd.

A number of artists featured in the exhibit also gave The Soundry's back door an extreme makeover. Well done, guys!

Friday, October 29, 2010

They're Here!

Four new art journals, which I'll have at Art Market 316 at The Soundry tomorrow morning! Each is a combination of tones and textures -- everything from manila folders, canvas, and dyed paper to transparencies, batik fabric, and small embellishments. Each features my original artwork, along with photos of NYC graffiti taken on my recent trip back home. Here's a sneak peak inside selected pages from each journal:

Journal 1

Journal 2

Journal 3

Journal 4