Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: R. Christopher Vest

"Sunrise on the Marsh 2: Sandhill Cranes" by R. Christopher Vest

Artist R. Christopher Vest creates painted photo montages of all things nature: whether his subject is landscapes, wildlife, or domestic animals, his camera and tablet bring that subject to life and celebrate its natural beauty.

Something that makes Vest's work so eye-catching is the nuanced degrees of realism.  As the viewer looks at a piece, he or she might reflect on how beautiful the lighting is, how perfectly an animal is posed, how delicately a leaf is turned in the wind--and as the viewer continues to look, more and more of the piece's painted aspects emerge, showing just how fine the line can be between a photograph and a painting.

Vest lives on a farm in Colorado, and is working with his partner Cathy to restore the land while also operating a small animal shelter.  Like so many artists, his life outside of his art still seems to inspire his pieces.

"African Starlings" by R Christopher Vest
I asked Vest about his creative process and life as an artist:

Describe your technique of painted photo montage.
I coined the phrase 'painted photo montage' to describe my process of building images with both digital painting and photography. It seems there is a bit of bias against this evolving medium from pure photographers and painters. While photo-manipulation is accepted in computer gaming and in the movies, in the fine arts realm we still have some respect to be earned to get beyond the notion of trickery accomplished by the pushing of a button in Photoshop. I like to remind folks that many of these techniques were pioneered around the turn of the century (that would be 1900, not 2000) by a group of photographers called the "photo secessionists" organized by Alfred Stieglitz. The movement strove to bridge the perceived chasm between photography-- which was thought of as merely a documentary medium-- and fine art.

'Ein Sommertag' by Kuehn

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: Erin Ashley

"DAY DREAMS" by Erin Ashley

"I begin my work without any preconceived ideas at all what the finished work is going to look like.  I like the idea of each painting being a journey, ending at a beautiful destination.  My paintings are made with lots of color and textures, bringing out the old with the new."

Artist Erin Ashley has a hand (or brush) in everything, it seems, with a resume that includes designing a logo for Cartoon Network, selling work to Dream Works Studios, displaying art at a castle in Italy, and having art shown behind the scenes on the Rosie O'Donnell show--to highlight a few items!  Her work is full of texture, boldly proclaiming itself to the viewer with thick lines surrounding layers of mixed media.  Once Ashley's portraits have the viewer's attention, they invite further exploration of all the unseen layers: both on canvas and in meaning.

"Lost Love" by Erin Ashley

Ashley's art is at once contemplative and joyful, celebrating the composition of line and color, form and shadow.  Each stroke appears to have fallen on the canvas exactly where it was meant to fall, but is actually the result of several strokes covered by several more, building towards a final painting that would have as deep a history as the earth's layers, were we able to peer down to the core.

I asked Ashley about her process, both in the studio and in self-promotion:

Where do you draw inspiration? 

I see abstracts in so many things, it could be anything from an old dumpster to the way a shadow forms on an object. I don't really search for inspiration, it just comes to me in a natural kinda raw way; I don't think you can force inspiration, you have to feel it first and believe in what you see and create like you want, never questioning yourself or your talent.
"ENVY" by Erin Ashley
How do you promote your work?
I promote my work on a few art sites but mainly my art publishers do a lot of my promoting through selling my art prints in major stores, catalogs, magazines etc..

Describe your workspace.

My workspace is in a 3 car garage.  It's clean at this moment but that's because I worked on it yesterday. Normally it is a disaster! I am a very messy painter, when I get into a piece there is no stopping me and paint goes everywhere, I use the floor sometimes as my palette tray.. you get the idea.

How do you decide when a painting is "finished?"
A painting is finished when I stand back stare at it, leave and then look at it 15 minutes later. If something is bugging me and just doesn't feel right, it's not done.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: Michael Creese

"Paint" by Michael Creese

Artist Michael Creese has created a body of work that is simultaneously striking and meditative, inviting the viewer to imagine the world slightly differently.  Whether in compositions showing the creative process, or exploring the human psyche through intensely dramatic portraits, his paintings are at times almost three-dimensional, even in print form, because of the thick strokes he employs to create these colorful canvas worlds.

"Pandora" by Michael Creese
"Color and composition are two key elements to my creative process, but the application of paint is perhaps the single most important factor in defining my style, from loose brush strokes and rich texture to an almost frenzied use of palette knife marks. The colors that I use are frequently blended directly on the painting, adding liveliness through visibly distinct transitions in color and shade."

Creese's paintings as part of a designer collection
Creese has quite a prolific career as an artist, having developed that much-sought-after balance of unique compositions and marketable paintings.  He has a long list of gallery exhibitions to his credit, including showings in places like New York and Pennsylvania.  His work has been reproduced and sold as ceramic and marble tile murals.  He has even had art used in a set design for an SNL comedy skit.  But what's more impressive is his ability to consistently create interesting paintings with an instantly recognizable style.  A visit to Creese's print gallery is almost a walk through the subconscious, full of impressionistic portraits and landscapes that seem to be hovering between two worlds, always characterized by cloudy, dreamlike whites and deep, thoughtful accents of color.

"Origami Rose" by Michael Creese
I asked Creese about his life as an artist, wondering how he reconciles his surreal style with practical process:

Do you draw any inspiration from your surroundings?
Pretty much everything. TV, print, internet, and everyday life. It's all around.

How do you promote your work?
I sell originals on eBay and at Starbucks, and I also sell prints through various print-on-demand sites such as I have also had my prints sold in major retail stores. Imagekind is a great place to display your work and get it noticed by gallery owners and print publishers at the same time.

What's the best and worst thing about being an artist?
The best thing is that it gives you a real purpose in life. It's great meditative and reflective time. The worst would be that you can't put down the brush and your social life therefore suffers due to this. You sometimes lose track of normal existence.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Grimm Revival...

Philip Pullman's latest novel

As I sit here with a Macintosh Apple candle burning, listening to the wind chimes outside, and getting ready to edit my own fairy tale, I am distracted by the most delicious of distractions: someone is re-writing the tales of the Brothers Grimm?

None other than Philip Pullman, author of The Northern Lights (better known in the states as The Golden Compass), of the series "His Dark Materials."  Although I heard bits of that story secondhand while passing down the hall as my mother (who also sent me the link to this news) read it aloud to my little sister years ago, the parts I did absorb were so imaginative and wonderfully dark that I began reading the story myself.  I especially liked Pullman's style because he did not water down or flatten his evil characters in consideration of a younger audience.  Fantasy stories, like life itself, are full of complex motives and people, and should not pretend otherwise.

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I have always loved fairy tales, particularly their ability to take simple morals and weave them into entertaining, magical stories that have lasted long enough to be published, and published again, over many years.  Therefore, I can't wait to read this newest collection, especially as its author seems to have a keen understanding of why those fairy tales work so well:

(from NPR interview with Rachel Martin)
"[The Grimm fairy tales] move very quickly. There's not an ounce of narrative fat in them. They go very, very swiftly from event to event. And another thing is you see very few adverbs in them, so I'm trying to cut down on my adverbs. You choose the right verb, and you don't need an adverb to qualify it."

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Pullman's book re-tells fifty of the fairy tales, which include some of the lesser-known stories.  I personally am looking forward to his take on "Hansel and Gretel" and "Cinderella," since those two tales, which have been changed again and again to be "more fitting" for today's children, are particularly violent with dark imagery.  I always picture Pullman's worlds filled with windy mountaintops, veiled characters, and danger seeping through every wall.  Much more akin to fairy tales than brightly colored forests with singing birds and dimpled children skipping about!

See print
This will definitely be a book I have to own--my apologies to the library, but I'm sure I'll be wanting to pull this off my own shelf many times for one reason or another!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to editing my own humble story, and possibly cut out a lot of the adverbs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: Blenda Tyvoll

"Sunrise Sunset" by Blenda Tyvoll

What better way to celebrate our fall weather than with the paintings of Blenda Tyvoll?  Her treescapes are particularly striking, with stark, delicate frames offset by vibrant, dynamic backgrounds.  Each painting is a joy to explore, containing that painterly quality of thick, rich strokes while simultaneously embodying a graphic style as well.

Tyvoll's paintings are a journey of color and symbols, and a careful eye will see layers upon layers of work creating the space within them.  Her compositions are so simple and yet intricately woven together by vivid, seamless textures.  The heart of Tyvoll's paintings are their backgrounds, and the viewer should take time to drink them in.

A Thank You

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Thank you to whoever purchased my "Train" print from my prints site.  It's always encouraging to know that people enjoy more than just my holiday cards!  I had a lot of fun creating these simple scenes for children.  It's nice to see they're appreciated.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In Celebration of the Cold!

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Here in northern California, we are finally experiencing colder weather for longer than two days at a time, and it's made me want to decorate the living room with candles, put pumpkins on every possible surface, and start making new Christmas cards.

Actually, I'd already done most of those things before the weather turned, but now I feel justified.

See card
Now that Halloween is over and the wait for Christmas has begun, it is also perfect story writing weather (see my October 21st entry) and when I'm not doing that, I'm thinking about taking down the pumpkins, wondering why it's so hard to come up with Thanksgiving card designs...and then eventually giving in and making Christmas cards!.
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National Novel Writing Month

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I've been researching a lot of writing websites lately and have discovered that November is National Novel Writing Month.  November has become quite a busy month, what with Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Movember, and Vegan month!  I feel like I should've known about National Novel Writing Month over those last two, but what can you do?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Our Fellow Artists: Svetlana Novikova

"Young Woman" by Svetlana Novikova
In a previous entry, I mentioned my bias toward realistic pieces that had fantastical undertones.  Artist Svetlana Novikova embodies that style in her work, although the elements of fantasy are a little more subtle.

Color either explodes from or hovers dreamily around her work, almost becoming the painting's subject itself.  It characterizes her style and demands attention, whether in effervescent cityscapes or surreal glowing portraits.  The color never overwhelms, but enhances each piece.

Can We Skip Thanksgiving?

I just have to say I'm looking forward to Christmas so much more.  Even though the thermostat is still reading between 70 and 75 degrees, I'm having that after-Halloween wishful thinking of snow, desire to bake hundreds of cookies, and urge to wrap everything in sight!

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Luckily, our Christmas culture lends itself naturally to artists, and I have been busier than Santa's elves making cards and prints of all things Christmas.

Okay, okay, I'll back off a bit on the joy.

Going around town during the holidays is another one of my favorite ways to enjoy the season, and I thought I'd share my new Christmas cards as well as some places where I enjoy Christmas.

Old Sacramento has long been a favorite, with stops at:
Artists' Collaborative Gallery
Taylor's Art and Soul