Who Writes Better?: A Battle of the Sexes

The fine folks at Grammarly (a grammar checker) were kind enough to share the following infographic with me. I wanted to share it with y’all because I think it’s an interesting debate. What defines “good” writing anyhow? Is it the characters? Plot? Description?

Checking out my Goodreads list reveals that so far this year, I’ve read six books written by women and four books written by men. The thing is, I don’t really pay attention to the gender of the person writing; I tend to focus more on the type of content or plot I’m interested in at the moment. But my statistics would say I prefer women.

Hmmm, what do you think? Are women or men better writers?

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

Artist Spotlight Follow-Up: Chris Ernst

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

About one month ago, I posted an Artist’s Spotlight on Chris Ernst. This is a follow-up post featuring one of his local NJ exhibits.

On February 5, his exhibit “Urban Pop: 1989-1990″ opened at the TrentonWorks Art Gallery in Trenton, NJ. As soon as I walked in the door, I could feel the the good, old-school vibes. Bel Biv Devoe was playing, and among the crowd, I found Chris talking it up with some of the art admirers.

When I walked around to look at the pieces, I found a nice sampling of varied styles. Sure, Chris tends to specialize in pop art, but he also does landscapes, as shown below.IMG_1438

The colors and repetition of the circles were particularly intriguing.

True to the title, the exhibit largely featured work that related to late-80s/early90s pop. Among my favorites were the paintings of Edward Scissorhands, Janet Jackson, and the 8-bit Nintendo controller.IMG_1434 IMG_1433 IMG_1437

I wasn’t the only one taking photos either. Many folks observed the paintings with great interest and took their phones out to snap a few shots.

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All in all, it was a great evening filled with laughter, mingling, and, of course, great art. Congrats to Chris on a spectacular opening!

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All paintings shown are for sale. To get in touch with the artist, Chris Ernst, you may either reach him via Facebook, e-mail (cernstart [at] gmail [dot] com), or Instagram.

An Imagined WA (Workaholics Anonymous) Meeting

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

(Note: This post is the first of it’s kind for me—I wrote it in about five minutes. No editing. No nothing. Stream of consciousness. Makes me nervous, but I trust this is a safe place to let some of this out.)

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I’m a workaholic.

(All: Hi, Michelle).

It might be the result of being the only child of a single parent or just beginning my life with a type-A personality, but I tend to work myself to death. No one asks this of me—I demand it of myself.

And yet, as I get older, I realize I can’t keep up the frenetic pace. I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up break-neck speed. But it wasn’t until my husband said, “I’m worried about you” that I was willing to admit that it was my schedule and the pressure I put on myself that was the problem.

This means taking on less work. This means less money, which, as a former welfare recipient, honestly scares the shit out of me. I don’t ever want to rely on the system again. But that can’t be synonymous with not relying on those closest to me.

Yes, it means less of what I’ve grown used to, but what else might it mean? More free time for sure. More time to write, to make art, to sleep (oh, glorious sleep!). More energy for my students. More time with my husband. More reading. Kinda makes the old adage “Less is more” take on a whole new meaning.

Its tough redefining who you thought you were. I thought I was the perpetual happy-go-lucky person, then my depression worsened. I thought I was a type-A person through and through. I think it might be true to a certain extent, but it’s wiping me out. It’s wrecking my health.

I’m scared. I’ve been here before. But all the scary steps I’ve taken in the past have paid dividends, though not always right away. I have to trust (God, myself, the people in my life) that this will also turn out OK.

For the Ice Cream Connoisseur

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

I recently came across a nifty infographic, made by VanMonster, that details the evolution of the ice cream van. As an ice cream connoisseur, this was super interesting to me. I’ve thought a lot about the evolution of ice cream, but not the mode in which it was delivered to me as a child—the van with the ever-playing jingle. Enjoy the infographic.

Did you learn something new from this infograph? If so, post below!

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Photo courtesy of http://www.vanmonster.com/

Artist’s Spotlight: Chris Ernst

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I’m delighted to introduce you to Chris Ernst, pop art painter extraordinaire! I met Chris in December at a craft fair put on by The Center for Contemporary Art. His work is so funky fresh and innovative. So without further ado, here’s Chris!

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Chris Ernst: I have been a constant doodler for as long as I can remember.  I completed a few paintings in high school and knew it was a passion I would eventually follow but I first took a ten year break between college and grad school.  Once I graduated I began to pursue painting more seriously.  It wasn’t until 2011 before I really dove into painting and it wasn’t until 2013 before I actively began pursuing selling my art.  Now I can’t imagine a future without drawing/painting/creating.

Bruce Buns 1.1

Bruce Buns 1.1 – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: What first inspired you to art?
CE: I think it probably started with my grandfathers.  Both were woodworkers and one was an illustrator to boot.  During the period of their lives when I knew them they were both at a point where they could concentrate on their passions.  I remember being amazed at my paternal grandfather’s work ethic – he would disappear for hours in his workshop.  I remember being very inspired by the process and care he put into the wooden banks he would create.  From a personal standpoint, I vividly remember being given a drawing assignment in the fourth grade and immediately tackling one of the hardest assignments available.  It was of a church steeple and I went all in – making sure I captured all the details, including every shingle.  The accuracy wasn’t there but the scope and fearlessness were evident.  I remember it was chosen as a work of the month and placed on display in the school.  My mom, who has always nursed my creative impulses, was so excited to see it in the school hallway and eventually framed the piece.  It is still hanging in my old bedroom.  All around it was a very exciting experience and something I can look back on and say, “That was the spark. . .”

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
CE: Acrylic painting is by far my favorite medium at the moment.  I love the immediacy of it and I am a huge fan of color so the wide palette is something that is very appealing.  I have also begun working on turning more of my drawings into paintings over the past year.  I am a big fan of lines and seeing them evolve from a simple pencil drawing to ink to an acrylic painting is a process I can study over and over.  I took my first screen printing class about a year ago and have enjoyed that as well.  There is something about being able to run 20 prints in a row that really speaks to the pop artist in me.

Mario Muertos

Mario Meurtos – Acrylic – 24″ x 24″ – 2015 (it will debut at my solo show at Trentworks)

As far as future mediums are concerned I have a solo show opening at a great gallery called Trentonworks.  The show is called “Urban Pop: 1989-1990” and it will be up in the gallery from February 2nd – 28th with an opening reception at 6 PM on Thursday, February 5th.  I have been working with a team to bring some pieces alive three-dimensionally, more as an installation, so I am super psyched to see how that ends up.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
CE: I believe in the deconstruction of pop art through the process of human fabrication.  The original inspiration for my process came from studying Andy Warhol during a high school art class.  Early in his career he would take an image, project it onto canvas, trace it out and then hand paint it.  As he moved along he got into screens and then had engineers and was removed from the process from a technical perspective.  However, I am inspired by that nascent period when he was still painting.  I believe that capturing the “artist’s hand” adds to each piece, from the slight imperfections to the balancing of colors.

Of course, the artist’s hand doesn’t touch the work without the original inspiration.  Lately I have been finding my inspiration in tons of influences from my childhood – everything from early 90s skate graphics to Star Wars to early hip hop.  My favorite pieces of the past year have combined something from these early influences with my own personal flourish, most often through the abstraction process of hand drawing and then painting the image I am chasing.

Tongue Tied 1

Tongue Tied – Acrylic – 40″ x 30″ – 2014 (currently up at VAM Art in Metuchen)

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
CE: I had to look this up because I keep a pretty detailed journal.  I knew immediately which work it was but wasn’t sure on the time to complete.  The winner is “Tongue Tied”, a 40” x 30” acrylic painting I completed in 2014 that is currently on display at VAM Art in Metuchen through the end of March.  It started off as a doodle at work and grew from there.  When all was said and done it was 30 hours of work and I was tired of painting but love the outcome.

RO: You’re part of a collective called Fresh Milc. What is it like to be part of an art collective and how has that influenced your art?
CE: MILC started off on a lark.  I was with a group of friends at a club in Brooklyn and there was another group there with matching t-shirts.  We were a little jealous so we decided to create our own.  I crafted a painting and then we turned that into a vector and eventually our own t-shirt.  We liked the process so much we decided to press up a bunch and sell them.  MILC was born.

The impact has been twofold.  First of all, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some great friends, thanks for everything, Noah, Adrian, Bobby and Laron.  Sorry, I just had to give them a shout out.  Having them as a soundboard and fellow crafters of our vision has been an inspiring experience.

MILCY Doom

MILCy Doom – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

The second impact has been finding our mascot, MILCy D, as a muse.  As Warhol had his celebrities and Campbell’s soup cans I have MILCy.  I have completed well over twenty paintings of him at this point and launched close to a dozen t-shirt and sweatshirt designs with him.  Speaking of which, I need to get cracking on our Spring 2015 t-shirt.

RO: In addition to being a part of Fresh Milc, you are a staple in the New Jersey gallery and art fair circuit, including the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the Center for Contemporary Art’s Holiday Boutique. What would you say is the most important lesson (or lessons) that you’ve learned about the business side of art as a result of participating in these ventures?
CE: I was a business major in school and have always believed Warhol’s adage of “good business is the best art”.  So I have never had an issue with the “art vs. business” conversation.  If people see something they like and want to own it that is a beautiful thing, regardless of the impetus behind the creation.

The biggest lessons I have learned center on having multiple price points for your work and knowing your audience.  In particular, it is important to have price points that can provide an entryway into your art.  Being accessible from a pricing perspective is important to generating interest at fairs.  If you are priced too high it is a non-starter.  Knowing your audience is also very important.  You list two great examples in the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the CCA holiday boutique – two very different crowds.  Knowing your set up and which works are most likely to appeal to the appropriate crowd are important.  Of course, one of the most rewarding experiences is having work that is universal and sells to both crowds.

S&M - Acrylic - 12" x 12" - 2014

S&M – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: I noticed that much of your work is in the pop art genre. What drove you toward this style of painting?
CE: It is a style of art that has just appealed to me aesthetically and, the more I delve into it, from a philosophical standpoint as well.  Warhol laid the philosophy but I think Roy Lichtenstein is the perfect embodiment.  His work with benday dots is pretty close to perfect but I also get the mindset.  I look at all the punk band stickers that are plastered on the stop sign outside the Court Tavern in New Brunswick and I just think it is fantastic – those stickers will wear and eventually fade away to only be replaced by the next layer of stickers.  It is disposable and permanent at the same time.  I love that.

RO: Is there a subject you have yet to approach/wish to approach in the future?
CE: Right now I am in grind mode prepping for my solo show at Trentonworks so it is hard to think what is next after the very next project.  I have another installation in Jersey City in March and I am hoping to incorporate a Jersey rock theme.  I will be doing different variations of a logo from an 80s punk band called The Circle Jerks but with a Jersey twist.  After that I am not sure, maybe do a series of more abstracted paintings and some political work.  These feel like nice touch points but will probably get thrown away once I have my next job in front of me.

DOC 1 (8 Bit Bullet)

8 Bit Bullet – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014 (it will be in an upcoming show at Blank Canvas Gallery in New Hope, PA)

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
CE: Great question – three things immediately come to mind.  At home I have a wooden bank and a jewelry box that were in my grandfather’s workshop when he passed away.  They mean a lot.  At my parent’s house in Manasquan I have a truck bed made by my other grandfather.  It is in a bit of disrepair but I can’t wait to have it refinished and let my kids use it.  I also have several Christmas ornaments that my fiancée made and I love bringing them out every year.  Oh, do handwritten notes count?  I have a lot of those that mean a lot to me and provide me strength and encouragement.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
CE: Invisibility, but I wouldn’t desire it for any nefarious reasons.  I am just curious.  I would love to be a fly on the wall for important meetings – what is a presidential cabinet meeting like?  How are NFL draft choices really made?  What about important NASA meetings?  I think it would help me win more bar arguments.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
CE: A lesson I have learned is to have a great support system.  My fiancée Jamie is a great co-creator, sounding board and all around positive force.  I wouldn’t be where I am at without her or my family.

Also, some advice I have found along the way from some other folks.  Jack Kerouac wrote “what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict” about writing and I think it applies to art.  Also, and I am paraphrasing, but one of the guys from Vampire Weekend used to get hung up on criticism.  But then he realized when people don’t like something they will just move on.   You don’t play music or look at art you hate over and over. But if they love something it will stick with them forever.  Art is like that.

Frank N Furter

Frank-N-Furter Has a Posse – Screen Print – 11″ x 8.5″ – 2014

Thanks for sharing your art and your insight, Chris! Love your style.

If you’d like to follow Chris and his art on the web, check out his Facebook, Instagram, Etsy shop, and blog. And if you’re in the area, come out to his solo show reception at the Trentonworks Art Gallery on Thursday, February 5 from 6 – 8 pm!

If We Were Having Coffee…Winter Edition

No picture of me with a drink today. I'm sniffly :(

No picture of me with a drink today. I’m sniffly :(

(Not sure what this series is about? Check out the first post here!)

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m not quite ready for school to start. For as much as I enjoy teaching, the holiday break didn’t quite feel like enough time. Perhaps this is because I was sick through most of break (see above photo) and am still trying to get over whatever it is I have. I had my first day of class this past Thursday and am happy to report it went well. This week starts the real grind with assignment sheets and keeping up with reading and grading.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that Poetry Monday is on a hiatus. My poetry well is experiencing a bit of a drought. I started Poetry Monday because my cup was full, and I had so much to share. Now I’m struggling a bit, so I’m putting it on an indefinite hold (though I’ll reassess at the mid-year point) to fill my well again. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing other fun things on Mondays (and other days too).

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I just wrote a letter to a friend. And it felt awesome! I think letter (or card) writing is a long lost art. Sure, people do it during the holidays, but what about the rest of the year? I vote we bring back snail mail somethin’ fierce!

I’d ask you what you thought of letter writing. I’d also ask when was the last time you wrote an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that so far, I’m doing OK with my New Year’s resolutions. I think trimming down the number of goals has a lot to do with it. My goals also focus on areas of my life I really want to improve rather than on areas I “should” improve. Perhaps my favorite goal to work on thus far is daily meditation. I find I look forward to this practice. Who knew sitting still for a few minutes each day could be so rewarding?

I’d ask you what you hope to accomplish this year.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I want to offer one or two writing e-courses this summer and am nervous about it. The usual questions pop up (What if no one signs up? What if people sign up but don’t like it? etc). I’d tell you that I’ve been pushing those thoughts aside and have been trying to move forward.

I’d also tell you there was a way you could help me form these courses. I’ve prepared a short, eight-question survey to gauge interest in these types of courses as well as collect stats on the type of content people would love to see in a writing e-course. Interested in giving your two cents? Take the survey!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that my life has all the marking of an adult life, but I still feel like a kid. I’m married. I have a somewhat steady income from my freelance work. I pay rent. But I’m always silly! I don’t know…I guess I figured that at some point I’d feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m actually just enjoying playing….that seems like the real me. I feel like even when my husband and I decide to have kids, we’ll still play. Perhaps that’s a big part of what parenting is: showing your kids how to play well at life.

I’d ask you if there was a moment that really made you feel like an honest-to-goodness adult.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

What My Grade-School Self Taught Me About Owning My Art

I wasn't quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

I wasn’t quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

When I was in first or second grade, my class read a book and then did an art project based on it. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember that the main character was a ho-hum-looking man. The assignment was to draw clothes on the paper doll version of the main character in the style of any activity we wished. Some put leather jackets on him, some made him a painter or a fighter.

Keep in mind that this was the early cusp of the 90s, so 80s fashion was still prominent. I decided to do something a bit different and outfit the guy in workout clothes—short shorts, lemon-yellow headband, and all.

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“Funky Doodle” Colored Pencil and Micron Pen in sketchbook

There are two things I’ll never forget about this assignment after seeing the bulletin board with all of my classmates’ paper renditions of this book character. The first is how awesome my friend’s outfit came out. She was known for being a fantastic artist, even at that young age. Her paper doll looked like he was ready for the cover of a J. Crew catalog. He sported a smartly cut-out leather jacket made of brown construction paper, complete with a drawn-on zipper. Her paper doll had swagger.

The second thing is this: I admired the bulletin board behind two of my classmates. They pointed out their own work, then began commenting on the work of others. I’ll never forget what one of them said. He swept his eyes across the bulletin board and exclaimed to his friend, “I like all of them…except that one.” He was pointing to mine.

I don’t think the two boys knew I was behind them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know the paper doll outcast one of them had just singled out was mine. All I know is that one sentence rung so deep in me because it pointed out something I already felt: I’m no good at art.

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Writing was a different story. That has always come fairly easily to me. My mom recently told me that around this same time in my school career, the stories I wrote during free time were shown to the principal because my teachers thought they were that good.

Yet I was hung up on that paper man. I knew that, technically speaking, mine wasn’t the best or most attractive of the outfits. But, dammit, I’d spent time on it!

I’ve gone back to this memory a few times throughout my life, convincing myself that perhaps it meant I shouldn’t pursue art in the public eye because people will react like my classmate: love absolutely everything out there except what I make. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that praise isn’t what truly matters (though it is nice). Community does.

And I now accept that paper man with short shorts and headband that I made all those years ago (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the snow lady I drew around that same time. She had a red bandana and nunchucks, a la Ninja Turtle style).

"Circle Study" Micron Pen in Sketchbook

“Circle Study”
Micron Pen in Sketchbook

In years passed, I’ve set out to make art more regularly and it never quite worked out so well. This year, I’m making it one of my goals to do a bit of art once per week, even if it’s a little doodle and even if I end up doodling a male Jane Fonda like my grade-school self did. And, dammit, I will own every last bit of it.

(Note: all photos in this blog post are part of this project so far. Already on a roll!)

IMG_1276Want to join me in owning your art? Include the hashtag #arteveryweek2015 on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are no restrictions on the type of media you use. Just have fun! Let’s collect our creations via this hashtag and create a community of artists that says, “We love all of them!” No exceptions :)