Beneath the Water

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a new series that is both exciting and nerve-wracking. One, because my creative ADD makes it hard to stick to one theme and two, because that new theme is very different than my usual abstract/colorful work. The concept for it came when I was living in the Gold Coast, Australia. Far away from the city I love, I made an effort to jump into the ocean every day – even when it was cold, or the waves seemed scary, or I was nervous about what creatures I could run into. And every time it was worth it. There is nothing like getting tumbled in a huge wave or pulled by a strong current to make you realize how small you are and how insignificant your stresses are in context with the bigger picture.

Beneath the water – tries to capture water’s ability to reconnect us with our primal depths and subconscious while letting go of the excessive rationality and traditional conscious state. The dark water images capture how both the ocean and the unconscious can seem dangerous and almost impenetrable. The sea can swallow the strongest men and greatest human inventions. In its depths are ancient creatures as old as humankind and where the greatest earthquakes are born, leading to destructive tidal waves on land. But exploring the ocean, although dangerous, can also lead to new discovery. In the same way, the subconscious can wreak havoc on the waking life but exploring it can help us rediscover our deepest strengths, ambitions and identity.

Location 1980

New year, new home.

Last week I locked down a new studio space in the OC. Location1980 is an incredible warehouse/artist co-op spot in Costa Mesa. Not only do they house a bunch of incredible artists but they also host public life drawing nights (every Wednesday at 7PM), gallery exhibits and even Tuesday night yoga sessions (FYI if you are in the area). Couldn’t feel more lucky to be surrounded by such welcoming and talented people while also kicking off the new year with a place to fully focus on creating.

Sharing a few images of the space and the progress from my first painting session last night. These three pieces are the beginning of a collection for Spring 2016. 

Hold on

Another white graphite on black paper. 'Hold on' was influenced by Monroe and her many addictions. 

Graphite

'Merica c.2015

Headspace c.2015

Reflections c.2015

Conch c.2015

 

After an unsuccessful painting session earlier this month I pushed myself to draw every day after work no matter how exhausted I was or how much I wanted to procrastinate on anything else. And I am happy I did. My ideas are getting better. My imagination is getting more interesting. I love the fact that I will be driving home and think to myself ‘I really want to draw a girl falling out of a conch shell’ and then come home and do it. Why a conch shell? I honestly am not sure. It is a bit like dreaming where you let your mind go to random places. Although it does seem slightly random I have worked in consistent themes and imagery into each of the pieces to unite them – shading technique, symbolism through roses, people engaging with a focal point object etc.

I am excited about the progress and looking forward to the improved technical skill and imagination to translate into my next paintings.

Slumber

Unlocking creativity can be as simple as falling asleep.

Inventors and artists alike have been inspired by dreams.  Edison would nap with ball bearings in his hand so that as he drifted to sleep the balls would drop and wake him up just as he reached the first stage of the sleep cycle to access the pure creative genius of his subconscious mind. Many of Dali’s surrealist works were inspired by his dreams including the “Persistence of Memory”. Even Kupka (mentioned in the last post) focused his work on capturing his dreams and subconscious thoughts.

Creative sleep can be a powerful source of ideas as the experiences, emotions and information from waking life is synthesized through simplified archetypes and stories that give access to an untapped subconscious.

 

Original Copy

“Originality is the art of concealing your sources” – Jones.

It can be argued that there is no original art since every artist has been influenced by the art and techniques of the past. The choice lies in whether the artist intends to adopt or rebel against the style and techniques of the time. What makes a piece of work interesting is to reveal the unique way that the influences were registered and adapted with paint – to follow the sub-conscious path of ideas that sparked the thought. In our digital age, where we are constantly bombarded with ideas and content it is interesting to contemplate the art of the future.

Until the point in time where I can track my stream of consciousness/influences across my digital and physical life I will just tell you about it here. This past weekend during a visit to the LACMA I was inspired by two pieces of work.

  1. Irregular Forms: Creation by Frantisek Kupka (Bohemia, Opocno, active France, 1871-1957) . Kupka believed that thoughts were composed of matter like everything else and could be brought into the physical through creation. His compositions focus on form, lines and color without reference to the real world – the pillars of abstract expressionism.
  2. Toward Disappearance by Sam Francis (United States, California, active France, Paris, Japan, United States, Southern California,1923-1994). Francis was heavily influences by Japanese calligraphy and could do amazing things replicating the effects of watercolor using oil

From what I can remember of my Instagram searches and random walks through the internet I was also inspired by Greg Klassen’s River Collection of furniture and layers of mineral crystallization in rocks.

Here is the first layer of my painting in progress.

Blue Skies

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Spent the last weekend on a SF rooftop painting away the day and now have a new set of prioritized projects to get me back to creating.

 

Black & White

Training the eye to see shades of white over shades of grey. Focusing on the highlights that make up an image requires a mind shift but creates a different level of drama. Reverse value drawing can be achieved by covering a white page with black charcoal and then erasing to reveal the image or by using a white medium on black paper. My sketch above was created using a white charcoal pencil on a black page.

Open House Creative

Abstract art lays a path and gives the viewer enough of the right elements to build his/her own stories using imagination. The concept can be frustrating for people who focus on the meaning. Instead, focus on what confronts you (if anything). A shape, a colour, a pattern that makes you take a second look. Then contemplate why you felt you needed to look again…

For an artist there are two approaches to abstract art. You can either abstract reality or try to bring an abstract thought (or the metaphysical) into reality. The latter is generally the hardest and, in either case, the ability to edit your work and know when to stop is the biggest challenge. Personally I find working with acrylics (that dry fast) on multiple pieces at once helps the attention span. Working with other artists and learning from their approach can also be a great reset.

The focus for tonight was painting with other artists at OpenHouseCreative – a creative hub in Costa Mesa which brings together up and coming talent in the Orange County to showcase and to teach. Tonight’s Abstract Art session was run by local artist Kasey Murray. Here is what I came out with.

Pastel under your fingernails

There are days when all you want is pastel under your finger nails, paint in your hair and intensity on your face as you get lost in the process of getting your hands dirty and creating something.

Today is one of those days and the latest is a African-Sainer influence piece. Sainer – an incredible muralist from Poland – has perfected big chunky fabrics, piled on hairstyles and Eastern European influence in his portraits. His painting (http://www.etamcru.com/sainer/smoker2-1) reminded me of African head scarves and I am obsessed with the colours, patterns and textures that are playing an ever growing influence on western fashion.  Here is the outcome.

Open Studio

Einstein once said that logic will take you from A to B but imagination will take you everywhere. Now that life has taken me from Australia to California I am on a mission to discover the creative places that will spark imagination.

On the first weekend of every month Laguna hosts Artist Open Studios in Laguna Canyon. In an effort to find my Dust Temple replacement I checked out the event and was energized by John Repka’s studio. His textured oil paintings built around a grid are definitely worth seeing. He was awesome enough to tour me around – explaining all of his tools and creative process. Motivated as ever to build myself a similar place so I can start to paint again.

Until then, sketching it is. In honor of Einstein’s inspiring quote in this time of transition and my challenge to create content in each post I sketched the Einstein Trio. Influenced by Anser – a Toronto Graffiti artist known for minimalist one line contour portraits – the plan was to draw a continuous line portrait of Einstein (you can see the 3 attempts in order above).

Dust Temple

Coming out of a meditative state after two hours of sketching makes you realize there is nothing better than being in the flow. Funny that when Csikszentmihalyi first started to research the psychology of being ‘in the zone’ it was inspired through observing artists lost in their work.

This week I went to my first life drawing session of the year at Dust Temple in Currbumbin. First, Dust Temple is incredible – a hole in the wall art gallery and espresso bar breathing artistic life and culture into a surf town. It’s my dream to build something like this whenever and where ever I finally settle. Second, I’ve realized practicing figure drawing is the best way to get in the flow and emptying my mind.

Prerequisites for getting in the flow are said to be the balance of a higher than average challenge combined with the comfort with the skill required to meet it. In figure drawing you’re challenged to draw what you see, under a time constraint. A focus on fast passed sketching frees you from getting hyper focused on precision and skill.

From the sketches below you can get a sense of my process when figure drawing:

1. Observe

2. Plan composition – using the foreground objects to help with proportions

3. Draw the whole figure fast then add details and shading

4. Practice one line sketching – build confidence in drawing free form bold lines

Sunday Sketchday

Experimenting with new Brevillier’s Cretacolor Monolith Box pencils to brush up on my shading and highlighting technique. 

‘Gazelle’ c2015 Sunday Sketch is all about the impermanence of beauty.

Sketching at 30,000ft

Sitting 30,000 ft in the air with a napkin, airsickness bag or if you’re lucky – a sheet of paper has become an awesome time to be inspired. Everything from the inflight magazine editorials to the music I am listening to have been the source of ideas. First, Dolly Parton’s song ‘Jolene’ inspired the napkin sketch. Then, a combination of a man beside me with dreds, an octopus in a magazine and feeling of confinement in flight brought about the next doodle. And now the latest, word-vomit on the back of an airsickness bag with inflatable toys from an ad sitting on the tip of a tongue tattooed to the hand of a woman.

Next time you need a plane pastime…

The Art of Getting Started

With the early January momentum settling it’s time to figure out the art of getting started and more importantly, the art of maintaining the momentum. Instead of waiting for the perfect moment, idea or space to get creating – start small. Lee Crutchley, the talented illustrator responsible for the book and blogThe Art of Getting Started has a great approach – little tasks that get your creativity flowing and to inspire continuous bursts of productivity. Today’s task – doodle on a post it note.

Without the ominous idea of setting up a studio space I threw together these doodles in-between meetings. My 30 second creative process:

1) Inspiration: walking by the cactus in the Sydney office

2) Visualizing: how to make a post-it note interesting and checking out sample images

3) Outcome: Armored Beauty – A cactus flower and thistle surrounding  a dragon fruit

 

Snake Eating an Elephant

'Sailboats in a Storm' c.1998

'Sailboats in a Storm' c.1998

'Jungle Views' c.1998

'Jungle Views' c.1998

There’s nothing like scaling a 6 ft canvas and playing in a garage full of paint as an eight year old. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ is one of my favorite reminders to channel the unconstrained magic in art I encounter as a child.‘Sailboats in a Storm’ was one of my first “Snake Eating an Elephant” pieces that sat in our family living room. Although many hours were spent explaining it to adults that came to visit, having the painting on display taught me important lessons on creativity and appreciating the abstract.

“I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: “Frighten? Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?” My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constructor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always needed to have things explained.

The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If one person picks up a pencil...

When the head of design at one of our brand’s artist network showcases turned to me and said “maybe one day you’ll be able to afford this art” I snapped into a cold reality. I thought back to the time when art was my identity. Afford art? I was creating it. After years of studying business and working as a management consultant I felt like I couldn’t be a credible artist and so my creativity became such a secret that not even my closest friends knew about it.

So I decided to start to surround myself with content that inspires me to create, share an important part of myself and hopefully inspire some people along the way.

Whether we are paid to do it or not, creative expression enables strangers to embrace sameness – to discover the silent connection between all of us.

If just one person is inspired to pick up a pencil and sketch this will all be worthwhile.