Friday, April 29, 2011

Urban Carnage!

Get ready to shake your cans, folks -- Art Carnage is going urban this Saturday night at The Soundry!

This month's indie adventure will feature over 15 artists and craft vendors celebrating graffiti, urban, tattoo, and pop culture. Just a sampling of the lineup: Ivan Collich, Sticky Comics, UC Studios, Melanie Newlon, Underground Tree Projects, BrigaBauble. In case that's just not enough for you, how about four hours' worth of continuous entertainment? Live music, performance art, rap, poetry slams, burlesque, hula hoopers, and belly dancing brought to you by Belladonna, The Neon Rush, and Kym Spins, to name a few. Plus, The Improper Imps of Improv will find out what happens when they step blindfolded and barefoot onto a stage with 200 loaded mousetraps. Did I mention that all of this creative chaos was absolutely FREE? (Well, after you fill up your tank at $6.04/gallon to drive here.)

Here's a look back at February's Art Carnage:

The sibs from Ten East Read. They'll be back this time, too, selling their awesome handprinted textiles.

Deb's erotic art

Natural bath and body products -- including the MAN line -- from Herban Lifestyle

Interactive performance art by Cloudism. (Um, I don't know, either, but where else could you find Zorro carrying around a mannequin torso to be tagged?)

Here's the part I'm looking forward to MOST of all. Drumroll, please....  Albus Cavus, an international collective of artists that creates interactive public art projects with local community involvement, will be sponsoring the event. The organization, with branches in CA, DC, and NJ, will be bringing in walls for LIVE graffiti demos at Art Carnage by local artists! Not exactly sure how they're going to do that, but it's definitely something to check out!

I've been busy making a slew of new Area 718 notecards, along with some more graffiti fusion headband designs, to feature at the event. Here's a peek at two of the backgrounds for the notecards:

Member artist Matt Riegner will also be at this month's Carnage, gearing up for his solo show, I'MPOSSIBLE, to hit the walls of The Soundry on May 13th. In line with this show, Matt and several local artists will give back to the community by donating their works to a silent auction. Forty percent of the proceeds will go to fund Albus Cavus' creativity-based programs here in the DC metro area.  I'll be mixing up some special 3-D graffiti fusion for the auction, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Building the Reef Through Community Outreach

Chances are, if you give kids some paint, they'll smile. Give them some paint -- and some things they never knew they could paint with -- and they'll grin.

Recently, the League of Reston Artists (LRA), a local art organization to which I belong, asked me to design an art activity for Terraset Elementary School in Reston, VA. Each year, Terraset holds its Earth Day Carnival to celebrate its history, which is uniquely rooted in the environment. The school -- which features a rooftop garden -- was constructed into a hillside in 1976 as an energy conservation measure.  This year, the school wanted to expand the environmental theme into one that also encompassed good nutrition, exercise, and creative expression.  Terraset had approached LRA in hopes that our organization would be able to feature some artists at work during the event.

I decided to take things one step further. Because caring for the earth is everyone's responsibility, why not design an interactive eco-art project that would let both students and their families leave their marks on a larger work? And so, "Build the Reef" was born. A take on my sea-themed Graffiti Reef series, this activity would mesh with the carnival's environmental theme. Cardboard panels (measuring about 4'x3') would serve as the background. Students and passerby would help depict a coral reef using basic art supplies and everyday household items as painting and textural tools.

On the day of the carnival, fellow LRA member Ursula Griessel brought to the school a large drywall panel, along with lots of paper towel and toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, netting, and even some plastic packaging for apples. Before the event, we set to work cutting, assembling, and gluing some of the items into forms resembling coral. The apple packaging made for great "bubbles." Ursula's daughter even made little "clams" out of discarded plastic!

Good weather made for a great turnout. Kids -- and their families -- had fun scraping paint onto the cardboard panels with old gift cards; spraying fabric paint through doilies; carving into paint with chopsticks; and using scrub brushes, cut up bath mats, and toilet paper rolls as stamps. The smallest reef builders decorated cardstock sea creatures, which we later glued to the panels.

So many people stopped by our booth! In fact, four panels -- enough for an installation -- were painted by the end of the carnival. Ursula and I added some finishing touches and donated the panels, on behalf of LRA, to Terraset after the carnival. What a great experience -- thanks, Terraset!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tutorial: Easy Graffiti Canisters

If you're looking for a way to bring a bit of organization to your studio without losing any of the creative chaos, try this idea. It's quick, inexpensive, and a great way to leverage your artwork, upcycle something you may already have, and personalize your workspace.

One of my favorite -- and most useful-- things in the studio is a wooden lazy susan from IKEA. On it sit a bunch of old baby formula cans, which hold many of my paintbrushes, beloved Sharpie poster paint markers, brayers, and whatnot. One of these days I'll get around to painting the lazy susan, but figured I'd tackle the cans first.

For this project, you will need:

  • Old canisters (from coffee, baby formula, Costco-sized cans of veggies, etc.) 
  • Photocopies of your artwork. Try enlarging sections of your original work for interesting effects.
  • Aleene's Collage Pauge Instant Decoupage or other paper adhesive
  • Ruler
  • Scissors

1. Look through photocopies of your work and decide which would go well together. Don't be surprised if it's a combination you never thought would! This is also a great way to use up paper scraps. 

2. I love the look of alphabet stencils, and wanted to incorporate the one on this enlarged photocopy of my original work in this project. Because the canister I was working with was large, it was easy to work with a large photocopy. Wrap the photocopy around the canister to get a better idea of which areas you'd like to highlight, and other areas you may want to cover. Then, measure the photocopy and cut to fit. 

3. Apply Collage Pauge or other adhesive to the back of the photocopy and spread with a foam brush. I preferred using Collage Pauge for this project because it has a thinner consistency and quick drying time. 

4. Wrap the photocopy around the canister and smooth. Because I wanted to add texture, I chose to leave the paper "wrinkles" in. 

5. Rip pieces off other, contrasting photocopies of your work and collage them onto areas of the canister.  Experiment with different textured looks and colors. When you are happy with your new design, finish by sealing entire surface with Collage Pauge.


Here's another example. For this one, I chose another background derived from the same original work. However, I'd photocopied it in a different color. To provide contrast, I incorporated brightly colored scraps of graffiti.   

Done, and done! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Coloring Outside the Lines

My daughters' artwork

There is vitality, a life force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action -- and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost.  -- Martha Graham

Last week, while preparing for this month's G.R.A.C.E. Art in the Schools topic -- women artists -- I came across a children's library book and, as Oprah would say, an A-ha Moment. Willow, written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, and illustrated by Cyd Moore, compelled me to sit down in the stacks and read it cover to cover. Twice. And then, to think for awhile.

Willow tells the story of an unflappable young girl who routinely gets in trouble in art class. Her art teacher, the rigid Ms. Hawthorn, is a fan of green trees with straight trunks and red apples. Willow prefers pink trees with blue apples. "That's what I saw when I closed my eyes," she tells Ms. Hawthorn, who scoffs at her work, even when Willow shows her similar examples in her book of famous artists. Just before winter vacation, Willow is the only one to give Ms. Hawthorn a present. Ms. Hawthorn opens the box to find Willow's beloved art book. This gets the better of her and, "For the first time in her life, Miss Hawthorn doodled." Something unlocks inside her, and she finally lets go, allowing her creativity to shine through. After the break, Ms. Hawthorn's students return to find the art room bathed in color, and their teacher a changed woman, inviting them to add their contributions to a mural that stretches across the walls.

Awhile back, a fellow artist friend and I had signed up to take a mixed-media collage class. Since we were the only two who had signed up, and my younger daughter was only an infant at the time, the instructor agreed to hold the class at my house. She seemed friendly enough on the phone. In fact, she reminded me of Paula Deen, the bubbly Mama Bear of Food Network who would reach through the t.v. and give you a hug if she could. However, it soon became apparent that we were on opposite sides of the same different libraries, even. 

I had wanted to incorporate a heart in my composition. "Are you making a valentine for your husband?" the instructor asked. "Because that's the only time they should be used. Hearts are for Valentine's Day." Apparently she'd never picked up a copy of Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine

"Hearts are subjective," I respectfully disagreed. "I think they could stand for a lot more than just Valentine's Day." Actually, I had been thinking of doing a piece for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day, which I was participating in that year, but never got the chance to explain because she snapped, "Are you teaching this class, or am I?"

For her piece, my friend had chosen to incorporate words with special meaning. But the instructor shot that down too, saying -- with authority -- that only comical language should be used in compositions. "I prefer an air of mystery to my work," she said with authority. As I watched her adhere a section of tissue paper marked with the Chico's logo to her composition, I wondered whether to bring in a fast food wrapper the following week and paste the "Put Burger Here" section in the middle of my composition.   

This instructor never asked us about our opinions on art. But over the next hour, I came to learn an awful lot about her, most of which I didn't want to know, and the rest, which I didn't particularly care for: She looked down on our middle-class neighborhood. Her husband, an executive, liked to pamper himself with daily spa visits. And she hated the DIY paint job in my dining room so much that she had to "restrain [herself.]" She also revealed that she was mentally ill. "Don't worry," she said. "I'm not dangerous." Then she spilled her ginormous cup of Starbucks frappuccino all over my table and expected me to clean it up. So much for self restraint. At that moment, I pondered two mysteries of the universe: why I cannot get through a morning, afternoon, or evening without something spilling somewhere in this house, and why I seem to be a magnet for the mentally imbalanced. 

She left half an hour early, and also left her trash behind in my driveway. Two days later, she sent us an email stating that she chose not to work with either of us. She didn't feel like she could work with me, she wrote, because I seemed to be set on doing it my way regardless. And she didn't want to waste her time arguing with someone who was unteachable.

I wish I could send her a copy of Willow. Stay classy, Susan!


Fast forward a few years.

"So how many of you are afraid to start, afraid of that blank page, that blank canvas?" I asked the class of seventh grade art students. Most hands went up. "Many professional artists struggle with that too," I said. "It can be an uphill battle." I offered them a solution. "Spill something, anything, on it and see where it takes you." 

Meanwhile, whenever I go into a first-grade class, they can hardly wait for me to give the instructions before diving, headfirst, into the project. These are the kids who LIVE creative alchemy because they ARE creative energy. It's so inspiring to see all their different takes on any given project.

Environmental sculptures made by first graders

So what happens to them? We teach them to color in the lines, follow the rules, don't speak out of turn. We teach them what is real, what is normal, what is fact. And surely, there's nothing wrong with that. But there has to be room for pink trees and blue apples. For hearts and words of emotion. For divergent views.  Children learn a lot, but they forget just as much.

From the time my older daughter learned to write her initials, she liked to inscribe them on most anything -- including the walls and the furniture. We've had many talks about this, after which I'd make her erase them. On occasion, I still find her initials in the most unexpected places. But when I do, sometimes I leave them. 

So we both remember.