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.

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.

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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.

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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!

Artist’s Spotlight – Eric Valosin

This installment of Artist’s Spotlight features an artist I’ve known since he was a wee undergraduate. It has been a joy to see his work grow over the years, and I am so happy to share his work with you all! Please enjoy this interview with a great artist and friend—Eric Valosin.

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Eric Valosin: I’d give the stock answer of “ever since I was a little kid” and tell you anecdotes about drawing for hours as a toddler at my mom’s office, but I’m starting to believe that I hadn’t really ever made art until a few years ago. I went through school as a painter, developed a lot of conventionally artistic skills, and made a lot of things that masqueraded as art. Conceptually I began searching for the intersection of art and spirituality, but went about it all in a very naive way. In grad school it was like the scales fell from my eyes and I truly saw art for the first time.

I started to see beyond the cults of personality, beyond the push to find your “voice” in some stylized gimmick, beyond the pretenses of rigid, over-aestheticized formalism. I felt duped. I started to discover the real power of art to encapsulate and grow out of a complete worldview. I started to learn not just how a medium is used but why it’s used indeed, how and why a medium is invented in the first place. I learned how to learn from my own work and let it propel me to deeper questions about the world around me. Most of all, I learned to be more genuine, giving up on making what I thought art was supposed to be, and instead simply trying to work through those deeper questions and respond to what materializes. Dynamically immersing oneself into what philosopher/theologian Paul Tillich calls “matters of ultimate concern” – and manifesting that into something others can experience – that’s art. It took me a long time to really grasp that. It also happens that that’s Tillich’s definition of religion as well.

Cosmos on Gray 1-0In terms of media, in grad school I also came to terms with the fact that I painted mostly by default. In order to get closer to the more interesting parts of life, I had to move beyond paint to whatever medium helped me best get at those big questions, which I also began refining. That led me to my current work with light and projection installations, drawing, and interactive new media, exploring the possibilities of mystical experience in a world that has begun transcending traditional transcendence, and whose space in more often cyber than sacred.


RO
: What first inspired you to art?
EV: In the sense above, I was entranced to realized that art had the breadth to contain the wild diversity of my interests. It was more than aesthetic. It gave me an excuse to live a very curious life (both in the sense of being driven by curiosity and in the sense of sheer oddity!). In the name of art I could on one day find myself making shadow puppets, the next reading Heidegger. One day teach myself Greek, the next day JavaScript. One day talk to a monk, the next day to a fire juggler. As a child I was drawn to the idea of creating and exploring a world in which anything was possible. As an adult I realized that art lets you explore the impossible in the world that already exists.

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?
EV: I have a complicated relationship with light. It’s the perfect mystical medium, paradoxically both particle and wave, present only by way of absence/contrast, a rigid, constraining universal constant that somehow also seems to be flexible and constrained by other forces. It inherently tends toward the sublime when used right, and with all the religious metaphors and scriptural allusions, you end up with a medium preloaded with more spiritual content that you can shake a censer at.

ValosinHyalo2Arch1However, it’s also by far the most difficult and finicky medium I work with. I often use it in ways that require a high degree of optical precision, like blending painted color with digitally projected color, or projecting onto glow-in-the-dark paint. In many of my installations I spend hours fighting with ambient lighting, calibrating colors, and negotiating with gallery staff as I try to get the balances just right. In a recent show I spent an entire day fine tuning a projection, only for the gallerist to change the lighting on a photo at the far opposite corner of the gallery, instantly sending me back to the drawing board as I watched my piece suddenly optically fall apart. I try to go out of my way to be pleasant to work with because I know how much patience, trust, and flexibility some of my work can demand of a curator or institution, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to try to prove it’s worth it!

Lately I’ve also gotten more and more into interactive new media. Interactivity and user-definability is increasingly at the forefront of contemporary life. As I pushed my questions about technology’s role in spiritual experience, I found myself getting into creative coding, hacking Xbox Kinect sensors, programming Arduino’s, and crashing Maker Faires to pick people’s brains about LEDs and transistors.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the tech spectrum, I’ve began experimenting with gouache in my drawings. Someday I’d love to get into holography too; talk about a perfect contemporary expression of Plotinus’ mystical notion of “formless form!” Most of all I enjoy tampering with convention and inventing entirely new ways of working when known mediums and techniques seem to fall short.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
EV: A lot of my work begins as a response to a site. The 14th-Century mystic Meister Eckhart said that if you love a painting on a wall, you love the wall as well. I’ve found you cannot make paintings if you don’t at least consider walls; In fact, many great artists have made entire careers of exclusively building walls, so to speak. Once I know what space I’m dealing with and set out some goals or a challenge to tackle, there are four criteria I keep in the back of my mind for all of my work.

Firstly I want to engage with what’s known as apophasis, or “negative theology,” which is the branch of mysticism that says that in order to get at the unknowable God, we must negate all that we can know. This leads me to create visual negation or paradox like in UnKnowledge and Triptych, or make marks by way of erasure like in my Cosmos on Gray series. Sometimes the apophasis is more subtle, like how the anamorphic, pixelated imagery in As Above, So Below falls apart when you try to approach it.

Secondly I want to merge the old and new in terms of media, pushing traditional mystical strategies through high levels of contemporary mediation. That might mean hand drawing a scannable QR code like in my Meditations series, digitally projecting onto a painting, or even merging the physical and virtual self, considering the body itself as a medium like in Somatechne or Venae Cavae.

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness Elseness Omnipresent) AdjustedThirdly, I try to blend the old and new conceptually as well. Each work reflects the tension (or synergy) between the medieval metaphysics (and far earlier) which underpin most of our religious paradigms, and contemporary philosophy which has largely been regarded as secular and humanistic. It gets hairy once you play out the practical, ethical implications of religion after globalism, the death of Nietzsche’s God, and the mess postmodernism made of Platonic idealism. I don’t want to be naive about the sticking points of declaring God in today’s world. I think its entirely possible and exciting though to find inroads into a complex, new, relational metaphysics.

Fourthly, I want my work to be interactive, to cause the viewer to move, to make them more aware of their own body and the space around them. The body is paramount to our experience of God.

I try to imagine anything is possible and then google later to find out otherwise! When all this comes into alignment and is working well, it amounts to a highly mediated, sublime experience that’s both confounding and enlightening.

I think the last part of my creative process involves looking at what I’ve made and really critically evaluating it. I want to see what worked, what didn’t work, and find all the really good happy accidents that might lead me to a new experiment. There’s a constant back and forth between ideas pushing my work and my work pushing my ideas. Some of my best work has come out of co-opting prior failures.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EV: I have a few pieces that I’ve been working on for a couple years, many still in the idea/prototype phase, but I tend to work relatively quickly. A lot of time goes into research, experimentation, and preparation, but with installations most of the elbow grease has to be applied in a limited time frame. In a perfect world I’d plow through one project at a time, mostly because the longer I stew on any one project the more likely I am to intimidate myself out of it. For practical purposes though I always end up with several in progress at any moment and some get shelved for a while. But then there are those projects that really just take a long time.

I very much enjoy process. I’ve done several pieces in which the process becomes the end product like my earlier projection piece It Is, and a few that don’t technically have an completion point at all, like my performance/installation piece Circle. I like the idea that the meditative energy of creating a work can somehow translate into a meditative process of viewing.

RO: What subjects do you like to work with? Any subjects you’d like to see more of in your future work?
EV: As we’ve already been teasing out, each project of mine explores some corner of the unfolding terrain of a sort of postmodern (even posthuman) mysticism. I do tend to come back to a few themes and references: stained glass, circles, mandalas, sacred geometry, shadows, the body. As I move forward I’m always looking for unturned rocks in the conceptual terrain. For example, I’ve been starting to mull over what religion looks like from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint. I’m also very deliberate in letting accidents and experimentation lead me to entirely new places.

Valosin_AsAboveSoBelow1RO: I notice that you work a lot with the subject of faith. How has your faith shaped your work? On that note, do you feel you have a different experience in the art community because of your faith (access/limits to certain venues or connections? Different responses to your work than, say, a more secular artist)?
EV: I grew up Christian and was very active with various faith communities through college. I’m the son of a church secretary, and now the husband of a United Methodist minister. Proud of those roots as I am, I began to be very disillusioned by the politics and dogma of religion, and I’m appalled by the atrocities of hate and exclusivity so often committed in the name of God. I started to poke holes and find logical inconsistencies in the faith of my upbringing, and that’s where this artistic practice began. I want my faith to be alive, relevant, and socially responsible. I want to connect to God as God is, not as I have concocted God to be. I still consider myself a Christian, but I’m probably not quite your typical United Methodist anymore. I also saw a severe lack of quality artistry in the church. I crave a collaboration between art and religion that doesn’t water down either. A lot of my efforts outside the studio go to mending the gap between the church world and the art world.

My dual citizenship in these two worlds (as if they were truly separable) have certainly afforded me some interesting opportunities that would otherwise not be available. This past July I completed a commissioned interactive new media installation for a church and held a special contemplative service revolving around my work, as well as a discussion forum on art and faith. In November I’ll be installing a solo show at Andover Newton Theological School outside Boston, and teaching a continuing education class on art and worship at Drew Theological School in NJ. I actually anticipated more dead ends and glass ceilings because of how stigmatized religion can be, but I think if you’re doing something well enough and being genuine, people respect that. I do have to be very intentional about where I place my work and walk a fine line between being provocative and polemical. But then again all artists do to some extent.

RO: You have taught several workshops revolving around art, worship, and even artist statements. Is there any subject you particularly love speaking about? Is there a past class that was a favorite or the most amusing?
EV: When it comes to teaching I’m most passionate about conceptual development. I find there’s tons of fantastic formalist instruction on how to make art (which shouldn’t be undervalued), but it’s rarer to learn how to think about the art you make. Only the luckiest of BFA students learn anything about parlaying their technique into a meaningful, robust studio practice that’s truly impactful to the world. Most students don’t get that until grad school, even though it’s in some ways primary to even deciding to learn to paint or draw in the first place. It’s about helping people flesh out their world-views and the implicit meanings and relationships their work gathers, and then respond to that in the studio.

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This particular storefront project was a collaboration between Eric and Marc D’Agusto.

One time I taught a 4-session workshop using experimental drawing to discover how the medium itself carries meaning even before subject matter. I agonized over how to accommodate a potentially large audience without sacrificing individual attention. I ended up teaching to one lonely student, who misunderstood the course description in the first place! She was preparing for an upcoming artist talk at the time, so we ended up adapting the class material to help uncover what her work was saying and help her talk about it. I attended her presentation and she did very well, and I started to see how important it was to be able to interpret and speak about one’s own work. That’s what led me to offer an artist statement workshop. That one ended up being a packed house!

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EV: I am particularly attached to a painting I have that my grandfather made. To be honest I don’t even like it all that much as a painting, but it’s a reminder to me of why I looked up to him. He was a carpenter who built the house my dad grew up in, as well as a veteran who earned a purple heart. He was always getting into something that piqued his curiosity and painting was one of his many, many hobbies, among bee keeping and coin collecting. I also inherited an old Gibson guitar and electric mandolin of his. When he passed away we found tubes for glass blowing stuffed in the rafters of the basement that he had been meaning to experiment with someday!

I can remember him sitting with me looking at a new drawing of mine when I was young and saying, “Well, that’s really good there. You’ve got your lights and your darks… don’t be afraid to go darker.” The painting I saved of his has particularly good contrast. We used to joke that if you asked him what time it was he’d teach you how to build a watch. But I hung on every word. He was a real renaissance man and in that regard very much a role model for me.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?Valosin_UnKnowledge2
EV: Hands down, the power to stop time. 24 hours would be more than enough if every now and then one of those hours could last a couple days. Of course I’d have to be exempt from my own stoppage of time. What a waste that would be, being able to stop time but never knowing it because you’re stopped right along with it! …Come to think of it, maybe I already have that power.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
EV: I’ve found there’s no wrong way to make art, but there is a way to make the wrong art. Context is hugely overlooked, but it’s what makes a Miró a masterpiece instead of a scribble, or an Allison Knowles more than just a meal. As an artist you have to push deeply into your own “matters of ultimate concern,” but you also have to consider how all those matters fit into relationship with history and the world around you, including the matters of other people’s ultimate concerns.

Life is full of complexity and relational interdependence, and every single person’s worldview is in some way valid, perhaps especially those with which you disagree. After all, we live in a world made of meta-histories and socio-cultural paradigms that have allowed all those worldviews to exist, and for that reason they all represent some real truth about that world. Where they clash and intersect is where life gets intriguing. Art is not just drawing or painting; it’s learning to play at those intersections.

Thank you so much, Eric, for your insight and for giving us a window into you journey!

If you’d like to check out more of Eric’s work, visit his Web site here.

Artist’s Spotlight – Robert Garcia

When I first met Roberto Garcia a few years ago, what stuck out to me was his incredibly easy-going and fun personality. As I got to know him, I realized he had much insight as well. These qualities make their way into his artwork. Enjoy the interview with my good friend, Roberto Garcia!

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Roberto Garcia: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. As a kid I’d take my toys apart and combine them. GI Joe’s with Transformer body parts, and stuff like that. Then I tried my hand at comic books and portraits. Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic paints, markers, and newspaper. Let’s see where that goes.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
RG: Hmm. I suppose it’s just something I had to do. Writing, drawing, and music just called to me. It didn’t hurt that my mother had all kinds of books on hand at home. I was just moved to do it all the time.

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?photo1
RG
: Writing is my favorite medium, but I love painting with acrylics. Something about what you can imply with the colors. I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
RG: I like to explore my world and see what it gives me. It could be an article, a scene, a photograph, or a moment. I try to complicate whatever it is that inspires me, and present it in a thought provoking way.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
RG: I spent a year on a really terrible piece of art! It was pastel chalks, acrylics, an actual poem glued to the canvas, and it was horrible. I finally let it go, but after that I painted four to five pieces that I really like. So, I guess I had to get that ugly out. Haha.

RO: Your chapbook, “Amores Gitano,” was recently published, which is very exciting! Could you speak a bit about putting together the chapbook as well as the publishing process? How would you describe the feeling of holding the chapbook in your hands for the first time?photo2
RG
: Most of those poems came from an erotica themed reading a friend of mine put together. I worked them and worked them, and sent them to the editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the rest is history. It’s a fun book because it morphed so much as I revised it. They could be read as poems of desire and longing, or the artist’s struggle with art, and the muse. I was fortunate to deal with a professional press, and they made everything smooth and painless. When I finally held the chapbook in my hand I was like, Wow!! The publish date was right before AWP, and the Cervena Barva press had issues for sale at their table, so it was surreal. I was at AWP Boston and copies of my chapbook were on sale. Wild!

RO: Your chapbook has a Spanish title, which means “Gypsy Loves.” Please speak a bit as to why you chose to have a title in a foreign language for an English market. What does that title mean to you?photo4
RG
: Might seem cliché, but everything sounds better in Spanish, and French. The title is a nod to Garcia Lorca. These are passionate poems full of longing, searching, and the mysterious. I had an English title for the book, just in case. Thankfully Gloria Mindock, the Editor/Publisher at Cervena Barva Press, insisted I stay with the Spanish title. I think it captures the feel and passion of the poems. I should also add that the title is in no way a slight to the Romani people.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your visual art? Conversely, how does your background in visual art inform your writing?
RG: Sometimes a line of poetry will spark an image, and I find myself kicking a painting around in my head until I put it on canvas. However, art greatly inspires my writing! I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and flash fiction pieces based on art work I see.

RO: Every artist has subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
RG: Race always pops up in my work. As I study race relations in America I’ve begun to realize why. Everything in America is hypersexualized, and hyperracialized. So in a way it is inevitable for an artist to either write/draw about it, or avoids it. Relationships are also a subject that comes up in my work. I find interpersonal experiences fascinating, and that comes up a lot.

photo3RO: If you could spend an evening with any writer, living or deceased, who would you choose and why? On a similar note, if you could spend an evening with any visual artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
RG: Wow. Can it only be one? That’s impossible. However, I’ll cheat a little. I’d really like to go back, and hang out with the Harlem Renaissance artists, the whole crowd, at one of those big band jazz swing clubs!  I believe that the artists of the Harlem Renaissance are the American version of all those European writers that wrote under communist, and dictatorial regimes. The conditions they endured, (racism, brutality, being marginalized, economically) and they still produced amazing work. Yes, definitely the Harlem Renaissance.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
RG: I like to collect old stuff, but nothing handmade that I can think of. I have an old Olympia typewriter from the 60’s.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
RG: Easy, a healing factor. Wolverine is one of my favorite characters for that reason. Yep, indestructability, if I could have a second, The Force! I want to be a Jedi slash Mutant!!

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
RG: I’d like artists to know that working at your craft every day strengthens the muse. It’s nice and whatever to think about the muse. However, hard work is the best muse. Or maybe it is the best thing we can do for the muse. Thanks Michelle!!

 

And thank you, Roberto, for sharing your insights! If you’d like to follow Robert’s happenings, visit him on Tumblr and Twitter.

Artist’s Spotlight – Stephanie Levy

I have to say that I’ve loved doing this feature and all of the artists included thus far, but I must say that this particular interview is close to my heart. Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features collage artist and e-course leader extraordinaire, Stephanie Levy. I’ve followed Stephanie’s work and have been a participant in her e-courses for about two years now. I’ve greatly admired her work and her generosity, so I was overjoyed when she agreed to do this interview. Enjoy this fresh and inspiring interview with Stephanie, one of my art heroes 🙂
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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Stephanie Levy: I began studying Fine Arts at the university when I was 18. I’ve worked in all sorts of media, from painting and watercolor, to collage, jewelry, ceramics, photography, and sculpture.
a+a.berlin400RO: What first inspired you to art?
SL: I was one of those kids who was always drawing and painting and making books. And I guess I just never stopped!

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?
SL: Now I mostly work in mixed media collage and photography. Actually, I’m pretty happy with this combination, but I would like to create books in the future that combine my collage art, photography, and writing. This is my personal dream!

RO
: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
SL: I mostly work very intuitively and I’m often inspired by specific materials or colors that catch my eye. I usually work on small series of collages at one time, maybe 3-4 collages at one time, or sometimes larger series of 6 or 9. I like to listen to music when I’m creating visual art, but when I’m writing, I need quiet and a peaceful, cozy atmosphere. To make my photographs, I love walking around Berlin and taking snapshots of the beautiful and absurd things that I notice. That is one of my favorite creative activities at the moment (maybe because it gets me away from the computer and outside 😉 ).
30daysofcollage1RO: Most artists have subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
SL: For years I worked on drawings and collages of interiors. Before that I worked on chairs. I tend to enjoy drawing still lives and objects more than people or animals. That is actually the same when I’m taking photographs too.
I would like to do more abstract collage and painting work in the future 🙂
stephanielevy.journalRO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
SL: It depends on how you define that. I usually need a few days to a couple of weeks for a collage, but there have also been times when I’ve been frustrated with a painting and I’ve just painted it white and started over. Which obviously delays things…

RO
: You are originally from the United States, but you now reside in Germany. How has that transition informed your artwork?
SL: I’m not sure how my move to Germany has influenced my artwork because it was so long ago, already 18 years. Most likely I’m a different person in Europe than I would be had I stayed in Tennessee. But I do love Berlin, and I truly enjoy taking photographs here. The city is so fascinating and creative and vibrant and changing—I don’t think I could ever get tired of living here and documenting what I see through my photographic walks. Berlin as a place has become a central feature of my artwork and life!

RO
: Your Creative Courageous e-courses have become very popular! Please talk a bit about what inspired you to create these sessions. Also, your sessions involve so many wonderful goodies, like recipes and interviews. How do you go about preparing a session? Lastly, what is your favorite part about running these e-courses?
chickpea.spinach.soup480SL: Thank you, Michelle! I love putting together my Creative Courage e-courses, and the new year long course, Creative Courageous Year, is so much fun because it is so multidisciplinary. I myself enjoy the changing seasonal aspect of the course, and it makes me happy to create new recipes and projects for our wonderful international group.
Preparing involves a lot of brainstorming, some reading and research into beloved books and notes that I’ve gathered through the years, and then actually preparing and documenting the recipes, projects, photos, and other materials for the course. It is a lot of work, certainly not boring, and a true labor of love.My favorite part about the courses is seeing the connections made by the women around the world who are taking the course, and when I get positive feedback from someone who has enjoyed a course, it honestly makes my day!

stephanielevy_raspberry.lemon.tart

RO
: You are a woman who does it all! E-courses, artwork, and family, to name just a few. The audience, particularly the ladies, would like to know: how do you make time for everything? In other words, how do you do it all?
SL: The real truthful answer is: I don’t! I believe in our online world, sometimes other people’s lives look more fulfilled, organized, and/or “perfect” than they really are. I do a lot—but there is always more that could be done 🙂 I have unanswered emails in my inbox, laundry that needs to be folded, drawers and closets that need to be organized, bills that need to be paid—just like everyone else. Some days I’m better at getting these everyday things done, and other days I’m terrible.
berlin.sept2.400I think we’re all just plugging along, doing the best we can, and it is important to take time for our real life contacts—as well as our online ones. It can be a lot to juggle, and it is something I struggle with. I’m also learning that you can never make everyone you know 100% happy all of the time. It is impossible. So it’s important to set your own priorities and then go with that. This year, I’m making plans to begin delegating more responsibilities—with taxes and housework for example. I tend to try and do everything myself, and there are just not enough hours during the day. So I’m trying to learn to be less of a perfectionist, to let go and to let others help me out 🙂 It’s a process!

RO
: If you could spend an evening with any artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
SL: Hmmm, that is an interesting question. I would choose Ernest Hemingway because he was also an American who loved living in Europe—and we share the same birthday, July 21st. I know Hemingway was a big macho and womanizer, but I do love his writing and he had a lot of great artist friends. I imagine hanging out with him for an evening in 1920s Paris would be quite an adventure!berlin.sept2.400

RO
: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
SL: Yes, I have a few handmade quilts made by my Aunt Pearl in Tennessee that I love dearly, and I now happily have these in Germany with me 🙂

RO
: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
SL: Time travel and the ability to beam myself wherever I’d like in an instant—for sure!!
berlin.400.june2RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
SL: The main lesson that I’ve learned from life and from creating art is: just do it! Make whatever it is you want to make, do whatever you want to do now—and without hesitation. Two of my favorite quotes are:
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.” —Marie Beynon Ray

and

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” —Simone de BeauvoirStephanie, thank you so much for generously sharing your process and experiences with us today! If you’d like to check out Stephanie’s work, visit her website, blog, e-course website, and Berlin workshop website. If you’d like to keep up with Stephanie’s exciting happenings, sign up for her newsletter.

Artist’s Spotlight – Elizabeth Catanese

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features my very talented ekphrastic artist friend, Elizabeth Catanese. I have admired Elizabeth’s work for a few years now. She deftly combines two of my favorite types of media: words and paint. Enjoy the interview, which is quirky and profound—just like her!

artistphoto copy - Elizabeth Catanese

 

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Elizabeth Catanese: Humans are born symbol-makers and art has been my form of symbol-making for as long as I can remember. Currently I am making acrylic and mixed media paintings, but I have created conceptual art installations, sculptural work and photography. I also write poetry and fiction.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
EC: My aunt Tricia Catanese Adler, a visual artist, would often have my cousins, Mary Anne, Tricia and me over to her apartment to make art. We did a variety of projects like sewing imaginative creature pillows, painting bird houses and making crazy hats. I liked being around her free spirit and having social time with my cousins, but I was also learning how art can be an important way to express individuality and engage with emotions. Many of my relatives are visual artists who taught me how to draw and paint as well as how to observe the world with compassionate, fresh eyes. I am surrounded by creative friends and students who always inspire me.

BrickFlameRO: 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?
EC: My most recent favorite medium is mortar on canvas. I like it because it’s what masons use to close the gaps between bricks and this feels metaphorical to me. My art is about trying to both close and expose gaps in my life. For example, my painting “Red Brick House” is about recalling formative moments at my grandparents house (closing the gaps of memory) and also about the fact that these moments can never exist in their original form again (exposing the memories themselves as gaps). Mortar also allows me to stick a lot of stuff onto my canvases and it’s a really fun material to blend with acrylic color.

I have a lot left to explore with my current media, but I would someday like to learn encaustic painting.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
erasureEC: My creative process for painting is a little bit different each time, but generally I go to the color-organized book shelves in my living room and pick a book to look at for a bit on my blue beanbag chair. It might be an photography book like The Lines of my Hand by Robert Frank or a painting retrospective like Cy Twombly by Richard Leeman. I might read poetry by Lynda Hull or Dean Young or even an excerpt from an old college bulk pack about Freud and the uncanny, medieval music or how to differentiate classroom instruction. I don’t look at the book for long. I’m really just trying to absorb some of the creative energy in the words and pictures created by others. Then I draw a spacial arrangement in my sketchbook. This is how I think shapes might appear on the canvas. After that, I go to my art studio and freewrite with permanent marker on the canvas. I might be inspired by the book I just looked but I am always ultimately freewriting to get at the “shadow” side of myself: whatever is going on in my life that I’m trying to deny. After that, it’s a non-cognitive visual process of putting shapes and colors on canvas and, at times, adding relevant textures. It’s also an emotional process because as I go, I learn what the painting is really about. When I’m finished with one session of painting, I wash my brushes and clean up to clear my head. Then I sit on the red couch in my studio and look at my work. I can usually tell why I’ve put that wire there or that patch of red in the corner or why the whole thing looks like a dress or a skeleton or a flame. I think about what I might do to the canvas the next time I return to my studio.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
EC: The longest time I’ve spent on a piece of art is eight years. That’s how long it took me to write my first (and only!) middle grade novel. I still have more to do! My conceptual art installation at Bryn Mawr college, “Once Upon a Time is Now,” was completed over three months with about five hours a day spent working on the art and another four to five hours reading for inspiration. These days, I usually don’t paint for more than two hours at a time, but I will often have many two hour sessions with the same painting or edit a painting even when it’s supposedly “done” and hanging on the wall in my living room. It’s only truly finished when it’s been purchased and is hanging on the wall in someone else’s living room!

healingRO: You are currently teaching. Do you incorporate visual art into your courses? If so, how? How do the students react?
EC: I incorporate visual art into all of my courses. In my Humanities 101 class, I just taught my students how to do formal analysis papers where they describe an ancient Chinese landscape painting of their choosing. In my composition and reading classes, I often take students to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts or the Philadelphia Museum of Art to work on specificity in writing by engaging with paintings. In my poetry writing course, there is a unit about ekphrasis, or writing about art, in my syllabus. We look at visual art and write poems based on the art.

Overall, students have responded well to studying art! In a world that is fast paced and all about multitasking, one of the best skills that can be taught to students is how to slow down and look.

I’m very grateful to work at Community College of Philadelphia. My colleagues have taught me a lot about incorporating art into the classroom, and the administration has been very supportive of my desire to create and deepen partnerships between CCP and local art museums. I love how open my students are to different ways of learning and thinking.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your painting? Conversely, how does your background as a visual artist inform your writing?proust
EC
: Studying and making art always gives me something to write about and writing always gives me something to paint about. Having multiple projects going allows me to not feel stuck for long. I love creative hybridity. In addition to writing on canvas, I love graphic novels. I am currently experimenting with this form.

RO: You mix both writing and painting onto your canvases, which gives a nice layered effect and allows you to broach sensitive subjects at times. Is there a subject you have yet to approach/wish to approach in the future?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEC: When my work was in the Layers and Folds exhibit at the Therese A. Maloney Gallery at the College of Saint Elizabeth, a viewer came up to me and asked me where my words came from. I said “from my head” and suddenly realized that it was important to me to incorporate voices other than my own into my work. I began a painting called Mistakes, Hopes, Desires where I emailed people about mistakes they had made, hopes they had and desires they had. I recorded my voice reading their responses and played it in a loop while I painted. The mass of voices made for a cluttered canvas (even though the canvas is five feet tall!) I haven’t resolved that painting visually, but I’m interested in keeping at it. I want to integrate other people’s sensitive subjects onto the canvas in addition to my own.

There are so many subjects that I haven’t approached because I’m scared to approach them or I feel that doing so might betray others. Overall, I think it’s important to let myself approach those subjects whether or not I share the painting or the writing afterwards. I’m not always ready to be open right away.

firedress copyRight now I am painting a lot about the death of my grandfather, with whom I had a really wonderful relationship. It’s been a profound loss for me, and I’m thinking about how I wish I had told him certain things or spent more time with him. I have much more to paint about this.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
EC: Yes! My favorite handmade object comes from the artist Arlene Gale Milgram. She is a very good friend and was my first art teacher. Years ago, she made me a wall hanging that was a small book made of handmade paper. On the inside it said “get crazy, find inspiration, fulfill your dreams.” I had an apartment disaster that caused me to lose all my stuff, and I wrote to her to tell her how sad I was to have lost this gift. Within a week she had made me a new wall hanging which I treasure just as deeply as the memory of the first.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
EC: I’d like to have the ability to fly powered by my own arms. To be clear, I would not like to have to flap my arms, I just want to spread them and soar.

I love being up high. As a kid, I loved swinging as high as possible on swing sets, and now I love balconies that overlook landscapes of any sort. I wish I could say that I want to have a superpower that will create universal harmony, or something that I think sounds more noble, but the truth is I’d like to fly because I think it would be the most fun thing ever.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?ElizabethCataneseRiver
EC
: I have learned, through making art, that being vulnerable and authentic with oneself can make life easier and happier. Art has made me more integrated as a human being (okay with both the outward presentation and shadow side of myself) and better able to form genuine connections with others. It has helped me become less anxious and more able to be present with others. In a lot of ways as I make art, art also makes me.

 

 

Elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing your creative process with us! To check out more of Elizabeth’s work, visit her website.

Artist’s Spotlight – Mike Brennan

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features talented multimedia artist, Mike Brennan. I’ve known Mike for a few years now and am continually inspired by his dedication to his craft (he posts at least one sketch just about every day!). Enjoy his enthusiasm in this interview!

Mike Brennan

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Mike Brennan: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. Drawing was my main go to, mostly pencils and ink. In high school I was introduced to chalk pastels too. I really loved the vibrancy of them. I was fortunate enough to have exposure to a variety of mediums along the way, and so I feel like for me it’s trying to figure out the best (or most interesting) media for a particular concept.

RO: What first inspired you to art?1286_10151559958660958_1936653038_n (1)
MB: My earliest memory of creating art was making cards for family members. And I also used to trace comics from the Sunday newspaper, Comic books, and when I was a little older I also remember recording cartoons on my VCR, pausing them and taping paper on the TV so I could trace them. I wasn’t aware of light boxes at the time 🙂 Tracing helped me understand lines and shapes.

From there I took as many art classes as I could in High School, and started to gravitate towards graphic design. I knew I wanted to go to art school for college, so I was fortunate enough to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology earning a degree in Advertising and Design, and then the School of Visual Arts majoring in Graphic and 3D Design. 

That set my career course in graphic design. Sadly with each passing year I did less and less personal drawing and painting, because really, who has time for that when you are creating all day for someone else? I also convinced myself somewhere along the way that I really couldn’t draw because I couldn’t do realistic renderings. I swallowed that lie until I didn’t even try anymore, until I read an important book last year by Danny Gregory called “The Creative License”. 

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?
MB: Watercolor has been my media of choice lately, but I’m starting to experiment into mixed media a bit too.I still like drawing with inks, pastels, colored pencils. I try to mix it up from time to time, but not at the expense of being a jack of all trades master of none, 😉

1470246_10151871997180958_552693694_n (1)RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process? 
MB: It depends on what I’m working on. Lately, I feel like I’m trying at adapt and change my process as I continue to learn new things. Sometimes I get inspired by photographs, or books I read, other art. I tend to try to collect ideas BEFORE I need them. I use an app/website called Evernote. It lets you collect and organize your ideas so it’s easy to find them later. Once I want to move ahead on something, I usually start with a sketch or loose idea and begin developing as I go. Most times I just give myself over to the process to see what comes rather than have an established final image in my mind I’m trying to force myself to create. Happy “accidents” (and even not so happy ones) can be great learning opportunities.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
MB: I’m pretty impatient and get bored easily. Most days I spend an hour to three on a piece, before I feel like I need to move on. When I was attending the School of Visual Arts, I had the opportunity to design a 3-D skeleton based on the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I designed a life sized skeleton made of dog biscuits that was selected for a show in the Whitney Museum in NYC. It took me several weeks to create. That piece was a turning point in my art & design. The basic thought going into the design process was to come up with a strong concept, then figure out how to do it. In other words, don’t let cost, knowledge or skills, materials or anything else be a deterrent from a strong creative idea.

RO: You make a habit of taking art courses (a habit that is certainly admirable and 1525098_10151935307620958_212921335_nnecessary for any artist!) What is your favorite art class you’ve taken recently and why? In that vein, do you have any plans to perhaps teach a workshop in the near future?
MB: I hadn’t taken any art classes for years until recently. There was a million excuses of no money, no time, no energy, etc. What broke me out of the cycle was just deciding one day that if I really wanted to reembark on this creative journey aside from my day job as a graphic designer, I needed to do something different. I enrolled in a printmaking class. It was great because it put me in a place where I was experimenting just for the fun of it, meeting new people who were artists too and peaked my curiosity on new techniques and processes.

From there, I’ve taken a few watercolor classes as well. I really have loved those. It’s been a great mix of learning techniques, being in art community and setting myself up with challenges to grow and learn.

Even if you can’t enroll in a class at a local art center, I would advise checking out Craftsy.com. I purchased two art classes for around $20 each, where you watch a video instruction at your own pace and there’s even a place to ask questions and upload your progress.

The bottom line is if you really want it, you will find a way.

As far as teaching – I would LOVE to do that at some point. I’m always watchful to see what opportunities come my way, so who knows, maybe one day. It would be great to combine my love for art and my people-oriented heart.

1601030_10151929659680958_1095639281_nRO: You recently opened up a wonderfully quirky Etsy shop. What lessons have you learned from running the shop? Any advice to someone who is thinking of opening an Etsy shop?
MB: It’s a big undertaking, honestly. I started mine as a way to keep me doing some of my art, and have an outlet to sell some of my photographs as well. It’s like anything – what you put in, you get out. I haven’t been the greatest on keeping up with all the promotion that should really go into it. I find that I lack the energy/time/focus when I’m done creating my art to switch hats to PR and marketer.

RO: What subjects are your favorites to sketch? Any subjects you’d like to sketch more of in your work?
MB: Mostly people – Men, women, faces, poses, feet (much easier for me than hands). I also like to sketch dogs, birds, fish…I suppose it’s the organic nature of these subjects. I was just talking with someone the ether day about how I hate to do buildings, or mechanical objects, basically anything that requires me to be precise and controlled in my art.

My faith is a big influence in not only themes of my work but also in how I do my work. But not in a propaganda or preachy sort of way. I want to create art that engages people, moves them, makes them think, smile or see beauty. For me all those things trace back to my Creator.

I also have to be authentic in my art. Hence, doing what’s important to me or had influence 1607049_10152021340435958_1970299082_nin my life. That’s what led me to the Star Wars themed greeting cards I have on Etsy – combining two things that had tremendous influence in my past as a child.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
MB: I feel like I should say yes…But honestly, the only thing I can think of are 2 things: 1. I have a picture that hangs by my desk at home from my youngest daughter Faith that says “Daddy, I enjoyed being with you”. That reminds me of how important it is for me to stop working and just be with my daughters, as well as a reminder for me to spend some time with my Heavenly Father like that.

The other is an illustrated note that an artist friend of mine had sent me during a difficult season. She’s a fellow old soul.

1464695_10151805099480958_709725966_n (1)RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
MB: That’s a tough one. I loved so many different super heroes when I was younger (and still do). These days, maybe teleportation. But perhaps that’s a byproduct of living in the traffic infested NY/NJ area. When technology catches up to offer this, I’ll want to renegotiate.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
MB: Ok. Can’t decide on just one, so forgive me…

Be in it for the long haul. Don’t look for shortcuts. They will only hurt you in the end even if they advance you in the immediate.

Practice your skills but also put time into figuring out who you are so it impacts the art you create. The world needs YOUR art, but it needs to be YOURS, coming from the unique blend of who you are – your skill set, interests, influences, experiences (including pain and “dark” seasons of your life).

Never stop learning. Read. Observe. Asks questions. Be in community. Take a different approach to something that you consider yourself really good at.

Do the next best work you can do right now and don’t worry so much about being “successful”. Make art because you HAVE to. Because to not do it would stifle your soul. 998792_10152008955150958_99723871_n

Establish a challenge for yourself. I decided to do a daily drawing or painting for an entire year. It’s been tough at times, and sometimes i only manage a five minute line drawing, but the experience and journey is something that could never have happened apart from putting in all that time. April will be the year mark for me and it’s also fun to look back on my Instagram feed to see my progress over the past year.

Invest in a sketchbook and draw something daily. If daily sounds too daunting, just do something more than what you are doing right now. Then in three months increase that again. Just keep moving forward.

Have Fun and figure out how to make your art a GIFT to those who experience it!

 

Mike, thanks so much for sharing your heart for creativity and people! If you’d like to check out more of his work, visit his blog, website, and Etsy shop.

Artist’s Spotlight – Dave Williams

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features an artist and blogger I’ve been following for a few years: Dave Williams. I never quite know what to expect from Dave’s blog, and I love that! He was gracious enough to let me interview him. His answers feature his delightful simplicity and humor.

DaveWilliams

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Dave Williams: In the mid- and late 90s, I wrote a lot of fiction—but then stopped to focus more on graphic design, which was paying the bills. About five years ago, I started drawing cartoonish stuff and writing silly poems in the attempt to make my twin daughters laugh (some of it was actually successful). Doing this led to the wonderful habit of sketching and writing regularly. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a paintbrush after one of my daughters was finished, and I really enjoyed painting with it, so I bought some acrylic paint and canvases and did some more. Then, a few years into my blog, I rediscovered writing through flash fiction. By simply having fun creating things, my kids inspired me to try out my personal creativity rather than just using it for client projects in my graphic design work.

Underwater-LightRO: What first inspired you to art?
DW: I had a couple of influences as I was growing up (although some would say I haven’t done that yet). Having an artistic mom who creates beautiful artwork and who encouraged my brother and me to draw was a huge influence. She still continues to come up with projects that amaze me. The other big influence was growing up working in my grandparents’ bookstore. I filled many an hour with my nose stuck in a book when there were no customers in the store. That was usually in the middle of the day, as we were in a beach town, and all the tourists were soaking up the sun then (some possibly reading as well). All that reading caused me to fall in love with the stories and adventures of books. And it made me want to become a writer to make up my own stories.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites?
DW: I feel most comfortable with a ball-point pen and a sketchbook. These help me turn down that inner skeptic that throws doubts at me while I work. With lots of sketching, I’ve grown to enjoy making mistakes. They become part of the process. Screwing up over and over has helped me avoid striving for perfection or “just right” and instead focus on simply drawing and writing, and then seeing what comes up. There are surprises and frustrations in that. I keep coming back for the surprises. The frustrations are just part of the deal.

engarde_avantgardeRO: Your blog is not only delightfully quirky, but also has a great name: Zooky World. What inspired that name and what does it mean to you?
DW: I wanted my blog to be something different from my name, so it might be easier to remember. I first thought about calling it Chewy, since that’s the nickname my daughters have called me for many years, and it’s more fun than my name. But since a large part of my effort to make money with my own work has been through t-shirts, I worried if Chewy T-Shirts would cause people to scratch their heads and wonder if the shirts were supposed to be edible. Zooky World came out of my wish to have something easy to remember and sound fun. A wide variety of animals at the zoo, and a variety of projects I publish on my blog. It reminds me of my want to keep pushing myself to create new things.

RO: As mentioned in the previous question, your blogs a very unique flavor to it. That is in part because of the name, but also because the entries range from flash fiction and poetry to cartoons and photography. Is it difficult, delightful, or a mix of both being able to work carnivalswingswith so many different types of media? Is there one medium you feel you work best with or is a personal favorite?
DW: Delightful, for sure. Since I started working on my own projects, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different formats of expression. There are times I like getting outside with my camera and seeing what my eye is drawn to that day and taking lots of photos. Or I’ll draw for a couple of hours. I probably draw more often than work in the other formats. Ideas hit me when I’m at a sketchbook or walking or driving or any time, and it’s a curious journey to see in what form these ideas will end up. Some drawings I jolt out, and I like how it looks. Other times, the ideas I thought would be a simple cartoon shifted, as I continued drawing, into a strange illustration that was different in mood than when it began. Working in these various formats has helped me keep asking questions of how I feel about things, and they give me avenues to come up with different answers. Lately, I’ve been trying to blend formats. Could an illustration or photo with a sentence written on it become more like flash fiction and give a hint of a larger story that the reader conjures? Things like that.

As for favorites, I’ve mentioned sketching being comfortable. Beyond that, my favorites would have to be writing and painting. These are the ways I’m most likely to fall into the page (or canvas), like how the writer in Stephen King’s novel Misery described. When the work clicks right, I lose track of time, and my focus immerses in the project. It’s a beautiful thing. Doesn’t happen every time I’m working, but it’s a great high when it does. And I’m usually proud of the result that comes out of it.

fishman-atpartyRO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
DW: It all begins with sketching. Throwing down ideas lets me capture the things bouncing around in my head. Lots of sketches aren’t used later, as I’m not satisfied with how they look. Yep, a lot are corny and childish as hell. The ones I’m satisfied with are published on my blog. Often, an idea leads to another idea, and I explore some “what ifs?” and the second and third images are more interesting than the initial one. This is a big reason why I enjoy working in different modes of expression, as an idea can go in various directions, and I can try them out and see which sticks. I suppose the process in a nutshell is try, try, try, and make tons of mistakes until the project resonates for me on some level. Could be a simple laugh or could be making me think about something in a way that’s different than before. There’s the hope it will resonate for someone seeing it, but that’s a whole different matter.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
DW: I spent many, many months writing a novel in coffee shops. This was in the late 90s, and I never finished the novel. It was a very personal thing, and it helped me work out some of my feelings about different relationships at that time in my life.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?redrhino
DW: Loads of artwork done by my daughters. I love their creativity and their willingness to run with it. A cartoon of an alien creature who devours princesses? Check. Mobiles of neon pipe cleaners? Check. Jackson Pollock-type abstracts? Check. Anything seems possible in their art. I want to keep encouraging that. I fear the day they say, “Nah, that doesn’t make sense” and start putting limitations on themselves, the kind that seems to come with growing up.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
DW: The ability to fly. I’m seriously jealous of those damn birds up there.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
rivercurvesDW: Creating art has helped me see things literally and figuratively. In drawing and painting something, I’ve noticed details I didn’t see before. That was first the case when I painted a sunflower, and the design of the flower’s center stunned me. As for the figurative “seeing” part, art has helped me explore questions to work out some of my feelings. There’s certainly a therapeutic aspect to it. I recently read Miriam Engelberg’s graphic memoir, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, and it’s a good example of this. Miriam used the combination of handwritten text and simple, direct drawings to simply, directly convey her experience of undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In it, she talked/showed about how others in cancer treatment were finding comfort in activities like meditation and yoga, but these didn’t click with her. What did click was drawing. I think she was brave for publishing her artwork. It was open and vulnerable, and it resonated with me. I bet it resonated for many others, too. My thought to share would be that creating my own art and viewing the art of others has been wondrous on many levels. If you try it, don’t worry if it doesn’t look “perfect.” Push for something genuine instead of perfection. Have some serious fun with it.

Dave, thanks so much for sharing. Love your perspective on art and the creative process! If you’d like to see more of Dave’s work, check out his blog, Zazzle store, and Society6 prints.

Artist’s Spotlight – Nancy van den Boom

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features talented painter, Nancy van den Boom! She and I took part in an artistic challenge last year, and I was always blown away by the texture and expression of her pieces. Enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at her craft.

Nancy_Artist Photo

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Nancy van den Boom: As a kid, I was drawing all the time, like my Dad did. I looked at him a lot when he was sketching in his free time. I am painting since 2009. Before that I did clay modeling and filming. When I discovered painting, I was hooked! I used pastel, too, and acrylics.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
NVDB: Is it ok I answer I just love to paint? It is part of my system, my life. It’s my passion. I have to pick up that brush and paint! It makes me feel good. That is inspiring!

IMG_6214RO: 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?
NVDB
Oil paint is my favorite type of medium. I feel most comfortable with it. Lately I am working with acrylics too. It is so different.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
NVDB: I look outside, and I think the light is wonderful, or the skies are dark and tempting! I decide to paint outside! Nature and being outside are big inspirations.

I prepare my “shopper on wheels”! I need to take a lot with me: canvasses, paint, medium, brushes, cloths, field easel. Oh and I need to take something to drink and eat too! I wear my painting coat, which looks like an abstract painting after 2 years of painting outside. I am very fond of my coat! I am getting impatient, the paint is calling me….

IMG_2082I take my gear in the car and start looking for a good spot to paint. It is lovely to do that search and when I find the right place with an interesting composition, I  get excited and put the easel up in the field. I prepare the palette, looking at the landscape and sky. Outside I work quite fast actually. I use a big brush to keep it loose and quick.

Painting a portrait is a lot different of course. I paint a portrait from a live model or with a picture for reference. Preparing a portrait starts by sketching with charcoal, but quite fast I take the brushes and paint! I like to find out during painting and not filling in a sketch. With portraits I build up the painting more than painting outside, but mostly I paint wet-in-wet, which means I paint the scene or portrait in 1 session. Sometimes I work on the painting some more in the studio, when the paint has dried a bit. For certain parts of the painting, that is better possible when it is a bit more dry.

RO:. What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
NVDB: I think when I got my first commission on a portrait of a family, consisting of 5 people. It was quite big, 120 x 100 cm.

I wasn’t very experienced and it was quite a struggle but I enjoyed it a lot. I worked for 10 days on it. Very different from painting outside, when I work about 2-4 hours maximum on a painting of about 30 x 40 cm.

BaaiRO: Your paintings are so vibrant and wonderfully textured, whether they are the result of you painting outside or in your studio. Do you find you that you have a preference for painting either indoors or outdoors?
NVDB: Painting outside I prefer definitely! Being outside, in the space where we live in the Netherlands. Often I look for a lonely place. It is just wonderful. Standing in nature, choosing my subject, seeing the sky changing all the time, and the light is wonderful. And then, on top of that, paint what I see!

RO: What is your favorite subject to paint? Is there a particular subject matter that you would like to paint more of?
NVDB: I like lots of subjects to paint: animals, people, landscape, interiors, still life. I would like to paint more of portraits, landscapes, seascapes, dogs, ….. 🙂

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?Drie-palen
NVDB
I own handmade pieces of my family: my kids, my parents, my father in law, friends…I cherish these works. I collected quite some during the years. In December, we added a wonderful impressionistic work by Hans Versfelt to our home collection.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
NVDB: End wars and starvation, for obvious reasons.

Brug-over-de-DeijeRO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
NVDB: I have to be patient to prepare before I start painting. Often I start too quickly (passion!). When I prepare the composition with more attention, or look better at shapes and colors than I thought I was already doing, it improves a lot. It’s all about looking hard and taking time to be at the spot where I am. That is just wonderful in itself already!

Thanks for sharing, Nancy! If you’d like to see more of her artwork, check out Nancy’s website and Etsy shop.

Artist’s Spotlight: Lynne McEniry

This installment of Artist’s Spotlight features Lynne McEniry—our first poet! I met Lynne when I started my MFA program. We both started together in the program’s first class. Since then, we have kept in touch, and she is one of the warmest, most inspiring people I know. I recently interviewed her, and she answered with her signature authenticity and enthusiasm.

lynne2

Roaring Out: What first inspired you to write?
Lynne McEniry: Curiosity and insecurity, I think.  Very early on, I felt like my world was so small.  I wanted to know more, see more, experience more.  Not having confidence in the fact that what was going on inside would matter to anyone if I said it aloud inspired me to write it down because even though I was painfully shy and insecure, I also felt like if I was thinking about it, wondering about it, it must matter somehow.  Through my life, I have been voiceless for various reasons, and writing was a way to have voice.  I could write anything I wanted then scribble over it or tear it into tiny pieces and scatter it into different trash cans.  I’m grateful today that the need to do either of those things is rare… and that now, for one:  I’m old enough for matches, and two: there is always the delete key.

Lynne Sea ScapeRO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
LM: I tend to be a very slower writer, things working inside me for a long time before they make it to paper.  I often have to walk with them and sleep with them and eat and laugh and cry and read and swim with them before they take shape on paper or the computer screen.  A poem is also often a quickly-jotted thought or idea or group of words in my pocket journal or some scrap piece of paper that I then carry around for a while, reading and re-reading, adding more word or phrases over the following weeks and months before I actually start to shape it into the “first draft” of a poem.  When I’m working intently at a poem draft, I most like to write between 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. when everyone I love is safely sleeping, when the world is dark and quiet and I don’t have to feel like I should be paying attention to other cares or responsibilities.  Doodling helps, and old school coloring books and crayons, too.  Smoking used to help a hell of a lot, and although I’m glad I’m healthier, I haven’t found anything that keeps me at my notebook or computer screen like smoking did.  Oh, and I love to write in sight of the ocean at any time of day or night.  Lots and lots of reading is always happening. I think that everything about living is part of the process.  And any kind of writing utensil and any flat surface encourages the process.

RO:
Do you have a favorite subject to write about? If so, why do you like writing about this subject? Is there a particular subject matter that you would like to write more about in the future?
LM: Sometimes I come up with an over-arching idea for a collection or a series of poems or a chapbook.  Although there are a few I haven’t abandoned, I haven’t followed one through completely yet.  And, I don’t intend it, but grief, hope and resilience are often “subjects” in my poems.  Human relationship is another “subject” that comes up often.  I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself that I’m going to sit down and write about “X” unless it is an assignment or a project I am working on with someone. I “like” writing about loss and hope and relationship because they are common human experiences and I am always open to ways we can explore and celebrate how we are different and what we have in common.  In the future, I want my writing to keep exploring what I still have to learn… I think about home and exile a lot, so I might like to write about them.  I like to make leaps and connections between and among what I’m experiencing in visual art, film, music, pop culture and what is has to do with our deepest questions and concerns.  I know it sounds corny, but I do hope in the future the poems I write create beauty and peace for people who encounter them.

RO:
What is the longest time you’ve spent on a poem?
LM: I have a couple of poems I started in 1998 that I just can’t give up on…they are on paper and in Word files in many revisions, so we’ll see what happens.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

RO: Do you find that visual art inspires your writing? If so, how and who are your favorite visual artists?
LM: That’s a BIG YES.  Sometimes I turn to a painting or sculpture or photograph with the intention of writing my response to it and hoping it will shape itself into a poem.  As it does for many, the visual inspires so many ideas and emotions. Spending time with a work of art also creates a space in which the mind and the eye can wander along together or be taken in two different directions at the same time. A few weeks ago I went to the Frick for the first time ever.  I went with every intention just to take in the art.  I tried to make a deal with myself not to take out my notebook, not to be a poet for at least an hour or so.  But the minute I saw the glistening on the lip of Vermeer’s “Girl with Pearl Earring” I was writing a poem about the glisten.  I thought I was done with that, that I could experience some more of the art with that out of the way…and then I met the tiny bunny in Bellini’s “Saint Francis.” Joan Miro is a favorite.  Raul Villarreal Vivian Maier (her photographs could possibly be a future “subject”), Henri Cartier Bresson… I could go on for pages.

RO:
Although you focus on poetry and writing, is there a different artistic medium you’d like to work with in the future? If so, why?
LM: I spend a lot of time with my cameras, so I would really like to do a collaborative project with my prints and poems some time.  I would love to take classes in both pottery and water colors.  And then oils, and then….

Lynne Name TagRO:
Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
LM: The painting, “Memories of a Voyage Never Taken” by Raul Villarreal…one of my poems inspired this painting that Laura then bought for me for my 50th birthday!…and that painting inspired a poem by Yesenia Montilla! (You can see a very small photo of the three of us and the painting here.) I have a variety of things made by my own kids and other kids I love over the years.   I have a necklace pendant that I’m wearing a lot right now made by a woman in Virginia…it is a beautiful piece of sea glass – not round but about the size of a 50 cent piece, wrapped in a web of fine silver wire.  I have photographs hanging in my office of Provincetown and LBI taken by two different friends who then framed them.  And more 🙂

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
LM: A combo of flight and the ability to multiply loaves and fishes so I could fly all over the world bringing food to everyone who needs it.  If I absolutely had to narrow it down, I would take the multiplying food one because then I would have enough for everyone where ever I could get to to meet them. The flight one is a little self-interested, too, because I have a strong desire to travel the world and haven’t yet had the opportunity or funds to do so.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
LM: A commitment to truthfully, passionately, openly exploring the deepest questions will get us where we need to go.

Thanks so much for your word-spiration, Lynne!

Lynne McEniry has poems and reviews published or forthcoming in 5 AMAdanna, The Stillwater Review, Paterson Literary ReviewThe Lake Rises Anthology, and others. She won Honorable Mention for the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award with her poem, “Sunday Sauce” and her poem, “My Son, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Me” was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize.  Lynne curates readings and workshops, including those in conversation with visual arts.  She is a regular guest editor for Organs of Vision and Speech (ovsmag.com) and Adanna Literary Journal for which she edited two special issues, “Hurricane Sandy: Students Speak Out” and  “How Women Grieve.” Lynne earned her an MFA in Poetry from Drew University and works at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. To keep up with Lynne, visit her blog at: www.lynnemceniry.com.

Artist’s Spotlight: Beth Laky

Here’s this month’s Artist’s Spotlight, featuring the lovely mixed media artist, Beth Laky!

Beth Laky Artist Photo

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what mediums?
Beth Laky: Gosh, I’ve been creating since I was an little girl. As the firstborn in my family, my creative and crafty Mom had more time to do art projects with me, and we did A LOT of them. As a child, my days were filled with construction paper and crayons, Fashion Plates and fingerprinting. By the time I was 8, I was taking watercolor lessons and dabbling with all sorts of different mediums. I created quite prolifically all through my school years – looking back I’m thankful to have had exposure to so many different arts and crafts.

Orange Fox Collage with Milkweed Seeds

Orange Fox Collage with Milkweed Seeds

RO: What first inspired you to art?BL: I’m not sure I was first inspired to art. I never made a conscious decision to pursue art as a child – it just seemed natural and right to create with my hands – as if it was placed in me and couldn’t help but pour out of me in one way or another. As I grew, I’ve discovered that I must be creating – it helps me stay sane! But more than that, it seems it’s just what I was always meant to do. I believe my job as an Artist is to point to the wonder in the world, storing up beautiful things in my heart to share and bring joy to others.

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?
BL: I’ve gone through many different phases where I’ll focus on exploring one medium. For years I’d say my medium of choice was watercolor, which I do still love, but since discovering the vast possibilities of mixed media, I’ve been on a roll. I love mixed media because the possibilities are so endless, and I can draw from the many tools and techniques (including watercolor!) that I’ve stored up over the years and incorporate them into one piece in a new way. Lately I’ve also been working on a lot of embroidered pieces. This was another craft I dabbled with as a teen and it offers a nice break from oil pastel and paint when I need it.

Tomato Embroidery, Kitchen Wall Art

Tomato Embroidery, Kitchen Wall Art

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
BL: Being highly introverted, I am a big observer. It’s not uncommon for me to sit in silence while driving and simply take in the environment around me. For example, this morning I was quite taken with the dense fog caused by the unseasonably mild winter, paying particular attention to the layers of vanishing trees as I drove through the woods. I am constantly looking at the details of life (something I write about often on my blog). A hike in the woods will find me fixating on the color and texture of a mushroom or the brilliance of one red berry tucked in a mass of prickers. These outdoor discoveries are my greatest fuel when I create art. I am endlessly fascinated with discovering beauty and simple truths in places that are easily overlooked.

I admit I’m very bad at keeping a sketchbook, and this is something I’m trying to do more of. More often than not, I develop a picture in my head, and a sketch hardly does it justice, but if I don’t draw or write it down, I’ll lose it over time.

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be?
BL: This is a tough question, but I think I would say mixed media because I can incorporate many of my other creative loves into this medium.

RO: I know you have a background in advertising.  How has that experience informed your

Indian Corn Mixed Media Painting

Indian Corn Mixed Media Painting

artwork?
BL: When I worked in advertising as a graphic designer, I found that my personal pursuit of art all but died out for a period of about 10 years. It seemed that I was unable to balance my creative energies between work demands and my own projects. Eventually I lost all interest in graphic design and moved into a more administrative role at my current job in the non-profit sector. So if anything I’d say that leaving advertising and graphic design has actually been the greatest influence in my own artwork, by allowing my desire for it to be rekindled.

RO: You opened up a fabulous Etsy shop in November 2011.  Can you talk a little bit about the process that led you to opening up your own virtual storefront?
BL: Oh, thanks for the compliments! 🙂 A few months prior to opening my shop I had both taken a few art classes to jumpstart my creative juices, and gone on a humanitarian trip with Liquid Water Inc. and Living Water International to serve a poor community in El Salvador. On my trip, I had the opportunity to work with a small village which lacked clean drinking water by drilling a clean water well with my team. Having my eyes opened to the poverty and lack of basic necessities in countries like El Salvador, I began to wonder how I could use the skills I’d been given as an artist to make life more beautiful for, and bring hope to others.

This conviction was the primary motivation for opening my shop, Bettina’s Treehouse, on Etsy, where I determined to donate a portion of my art sales to Liquid Water Inc. for the drilling of clean water wells in developing countries.

Sunflower Collage with Burlap and Buttons

Sunflower Collage with Burlap and Buttons

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
BL: Well, I have some pieces of art that I started a few years ago and have not yet finished. This doesn’t mean I’ve been working on it constantly over all this time – rather I find that many pieces I start go through a sort of “waiting period” where I know they aren’t finished, but I am trying to decide where to take things next. The inspiration does come. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes a few months, and sometimes longer than that! It helps to be working on multiple pieces at once so I can move on to something else if need be.

RO: What do you enjoy when you are not arting?
BL: When I’m not creating, I can be found working with my hands in other ways – cooking, gardening or enjoying a quiet life puttering around my home. I love time with my family and friends, as well as reading, watching BBC movies or enjoying the great outdoors.

RO: As someone who takes great care in making each piece of artwork, is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
BL: Well, I’m a big supporter of buying handmade and supporting other artists and crafters on Etsy. One of my favorite pieces is a print by Katie Daisy of The Wheatfield which is an illustrated quote by Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I have this print in my living room and it often serves as a reminder to me that my life here on earth has purpose and meaning, and I must keep at the calling to be an Artist in every way.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
BL: If it weren’t so cliché I’d say “take time to smell the roses”! Seriously though, creating art in this new season (post my advertising job ) has helped me to realize how imperative it is to pause in our increasingly loud and distracted lives and reconnect with who we are, what we are passionate about, what is truly important. Our busyness causes us to miss out on true life. I hope that my art can illustrate this reminder to stop and remember, uncovering beauty in the most surprising places.

Moons and Stars Mixed Media Collage

Moons and Stars Mixed Media Collage

Thanks for sharing, Beth! Check out her lovely Etsy shop, Bettina’s Treehouse, and stop by her blog of the same name.

Artist’s Spotlight: Jeff Maksuta

So, remember when I started the new feature of the blog called Artist’s Spotlight?  I’m bringing it back to stay this time!

Here to revive the almost-gone-but-not-forgotten section is animator and cartoonist, Jeff Maksuta.

The professional shot

The professional shot

The artist in his natural state: playing!

The artist in his natural state: playing!

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what mediums?
Jeff Maksuta: I’ve been drawing since I was little, but I would have to say I didn’t really get serious about art until late in the game, which is around when I was 21.  So 7 years. As far as the mediums I work in, I like to start my work using an HB pencil and some computer paper.  Then once I get my drawings to a good point, I scan them into the computer, and ink and color them digitally.  When I shift over to the computer, I use a Wacom Intuos 2 and Adobe Flash.

CucumberMan_final

Cucumber Man

RO: What first inspired you to art?
JM: I was raised on video games, cartoons, and comic books, so those things really inspired me to start drawing.  I remember collecting those 1990’s Marvel Cards and being really fascinated by all the different superheroes and villains.  Reading up on their back stories and powers, in combination with their visual appearance, I thought was really awesome.  The Mortal Kombat games also had the same effect on me.  Each character driven by their own reasons to enter this fighting tournament, and want to kill each other, was/is pretty freaking cool.  So really, it is this combination of visuals and story that I’m passionate about. Sure, art is good on a strictly aesthetic basis and writing a story can be fun, but the combination of the two…well, let’s just say I nerd out pretty hard.  I could list a bunch of cartoons and other things that have inspired me over the years, but my biggest inspiration has come from my good friend Marc Basile.  He is the one I really attribute to helping me open that door to becoming serious about my art.  I cannot thank him enough for how much he’s encouraged me and how much he has taught me over the years.

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?
JM: An HB pencil is where I like to start (Staedtler Mars Lumograph is my favorite brand).  Sometimes I’ll start laying things out with a non-photo blue Prismacolor pencil.  As I mentioned earlier, I like to draw on copy paper and then bring it over to the computer.  If I was to do everything minus doing it digitally, I would finalize my work using Prismacolor markers and/or Micron Pens.  When I go digital, I feel most comfortable using Adobe Flash, because it gives me exactly what I like; I can get graphic with it.  The brush tool in the program, in conjunction with the Wacom tablet, can be compared to a brush tip marker.  I usually work in a limited color gamut; often times, I use flat colors with some minimal cell shading.  I’m also a big fan of applying heavy, black outlines to my figures.

A work in progress - Predator

A work in progress – Predator

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
JM: Usually my creative process begins with just a simple idea.  Then in this almost automatic, ADD kind of way, my brain runs with the idea, throwing in nonsensical twists and filtering through “what if’s”, which ultimately leads to a point where its spun into something I like.  So the story aspect is built on this snowball effect.  As far as the visuals go, I like to start off by designing my characters, and then once I figured out their look, I start roughing the story out with some thumbnails to get a feel of what the overall composition is going to look like.  Once that reaches a good point, depending on the project, I start the full-sized pages or storyboards.  Then I’ll scan everything, and digitally ink and color.

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be?
JM: Any form of sequential art.   As I mentioned earlier, I like the combination of art and story, it’s what I get really passionate about. So as long as I’m making cartoons and/or comics, I’m king of the world.

RO: I know you are a part of a comic group you helped start called Sideshow Comics.  Can you talk a little bit about what led you to create this group?
JM: Well, I remember talking to my buddy, Chris Mitchell, about wanting to create a web comic, and being that Chris is like a bother to me and knowing he has a great sense of humor, I asked him if he would be interested in creating a website together where we can post funny comic strips.  He was all for it, and so Sideshow Comics was born!  Actually we were having a hard time coming up with a name for the site.  I remember Chris said something about how it would be cool if we had a name like Sideshow Comics and we were both like “Alright…yeah -that sounds good!”  Haha. So yeah, me and Chris write and draw our own comics that we post on Sideshow.  We’ve also had Marc Basile and Joel Casimiro contribute some of their work to the site as well.  As of right now, Sideshow is slightly on the back burner, but it’ll be rockin’ socks once again…by which case I mean, it’ll make people explode because they can’t handle the awesome, which usually happens when I just walk down the street and people look at me.  But that’s a story for another day.

Mortal Combat Haiku - from Sideshow Comics

Mortal Combat Haiku – from Sideshow Comics

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
JM: Actually the longest I’ve spent on a single project was about 3 months.  It was an animation I did for my thesis project, titled Onion Boy.  The whole process from writing the script to animating the visuals took a good chunk of time to finish.  But I had a lot of fun with it, and I am thankful that my very talented friend, Dan Kypers, could hop on board and do all the voice acting.  So overall it was pretty time consuming project, but seeing everything complete and in action is an amazing feeling.

RO: What do you enjoy when you are not arting?
JM: I like to eat bags and bags of cheese doodles…Haha, nah other than arting, on my free time I like to watch a good movie, read comics, play some video games, be a dinosaur, fly a spaceship, make a burrito, eat that burrito…mmmm Taco Bell. I don’t really like fast food, but T-bell is one of those guilty pleasures of mine; just like Ghost Adventures, which is actually the only TV show I watch…Well, now I’m going to put my sunglasses on, because I realize how cool I sound!  Free time well spent.

RO: Do you have anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?

Last Laugh

Last Laugh

JM: Not to talk so much about my own art, but it’s really nice to hold onto old sketchbooks.  Thumbing through them not only helps me realize how much I’ve progressed over the years, but also it helps me appreciate a lot of great memories through the art I’ve created.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
JM: I think its really important to set deadlines for yourself.  It’s something that I need to do, otherwise I’ll procrastinate like crazy.  Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to get started on a project.  Once I get going, I don’t want to stop; I have a very obsessive personality.  So setting deadlines kind of forces you to take on this challenge of pushing forward with your initial idea instead of being tied down to a strictly mental projection of the project having to be some grandiose masterpiece.  Other than that, I’m going to reiterate the famous artistic proverb of draw, and keep drawing!  (Or, do the art you enjoy most on a consistent basis).  It’s important to build a good foundation, studying things like anatomy, perspective, lighting, texture, etc.  Study your favorite mediums; study artists who really speak to you.  Most of all though, have fun with it.  Don’t get bogged down by not creating something perfectly or not producing exactly what’s in your mind onto paper.  Sometimes we have great ideas in our heads, and it just doesn’t come out quite right on paper, but that’s okay.  This is part of the challenge and the fun of communicating ideas visually.  You’re having a dialogue with the page and coming to an agreement.  If you feel your art work hasn’t turned out quite the way you wanted it to, start again and try approaching from a different angle.  Also, whether you like it or not, a part of your personality is projected onto your artwork, so if you feel you’re “failing” at imitating a particular style, that’s okay. It’s in your own personal approach, your touch, that really makes your artwork yours.  I could keep going and get all artsy fartsy on you, but blah blah…just art.  ART!

And now for a quote:

“Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”

……………………..*Cough*……

Alright fine:

“The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.” -Chuck Jones

Thanks for sharing, Jeff!  To see more of Jeff’s work, check out his website at: www.jeffmaksuta.com.

Artist’s Spotlight – Vanessa Himeles

Welcome to a new feature of the Roaring Out blog!  I’ve decided to start an “Artist’s Spotlight” to highlight some great visual artists.  First up is Vanessa Himeles, a fabulous acrylic and seaglass master! You can check out her work at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChromaGoth

I recently interviewed Vanessa about her craft.  Check out her responses below.

Roaring Out:Your current creations are so fanciful!  How long have you been creating pieces?

Vanessa Himeles: I started drawing when I was 9, but it was around 15, that I started developing a style and completing pieces instead of just sketches or attempts. I still have some of my high school projects and I treasure them as much as my current work.

 

RO: What first inspired you to art?

VH: My older sister showed me how to draw a horse when I was a little kid. That’s how I got started. As I improved and moved on to new mediums, I realized that I could use art to create all the weird and often twisted fantasies in my head. The more unusual ideas I get, the more eager I am to express it through art. A lot of my inspiration for pieces is the desire to shock, creep out and, well, disturb the viewers. I also read a lot of Stephen King, so I’m sure his dark novels have influenced some of my style and inspired some of those fantasies.

 

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?

VH: Sea glass! The past 7 months I’ve been living in Castine, Maine, and having multiple beautiful beaches within walking distance keeps the sea on my mind. I think the combination of sea glass with acrylic paint is beautiful. My ocean-themed art is not “disturbing” at all, but rather calming and pleasant. How weird is that?

 

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be? Could you choose just one?

VH: I would choose paper mache sculpture. It’s time consuming to make a good base, build it up with paper, cover it with paper mache, and then paint or decorate, but the finished product is always rewarding. If space were not an issue, I would love to create 10’ tall goblins and a gothic style castle. Oh! And a giant chihuahua! Or maybe a giant paper mache ocean wave covered with sea glass? Maybe I’ll try one of those after I finish the interview…

 

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?

VH: My senior year of college I made a paper mache demon. It was about 3’ high and 1.5’ wide and took me about 25-30 hours to complete over the span of a week. A lot of that was done between midnight and morning.

 

RO: What do you enjoy doing when you are not arting?

VH: Reading Stephen King novels ♥, playing with our cats Mark and Addie and applying to law schools mostly. I am currently taking a year off before I begin law school this summer, so for now I try to spend my time relaxing. One of my goals for the year is actually to focus on art, so that’s what I do most days.

 

RO: Could you please talk a bit about your creative process?

VH: A project usually starts by me seeing some natural arrangement, like a large pile of snow, or playing around with some medians, like oil pastel, sea glass or paper mache, and thinking either,“I bet if I did this, it would look really freaky” or “maybe if I did this, it would look beautiful and intriguing.” I admit my projects almost never finish they way I thought they would. I make mistakes that I end up loving, or sometimes I take a step back, look at the piece and make a split decision to change something dramatically. For example, today I made a 6’ tall snow demon in the front lawn of my house. I planned on giving the demon small slanted eyes and two large horns, but upon stepping back and looking at the work-in-progress, I suddenly thought large rounded eyes and one large horn would be better. I know the project is finished when I no longer feel the urge to make sudden changes. I’m trying to get better at knowing when that point is!

 

RO: It’s obvious that you put a lot of effort into your handmade pieces. Is there something handmade that you own that is particularly special to you?

VH: One that is particularly special to me is a classroom activity from 1st grade. We used different colored paints to design a Chanukah stained-glass-like wall piece. Even though all I did was fill in the predetermined spaces with different colors I had a fun time trying to arrange the best combination. I remember taking the assignment really seriously and being so excited once it was done. I plan to always keep it.

 

RO: As a woman who works with many different styles, do you have any advice for someone who hasn’t quite found their artistic niche yet?

VH: I didn’t know I had a unique style until friends saw a work-in-progress in my high school art class and, on her own, knew it was mine. I still don’t understand how it developed and I only recently started to realize that there are certain forms of art I am particularly good at producing over others. I do know that I tried many forms of art, used dozens of different medians, and experimented with tons of ideas over the years. It didn’t happen over night, but rather over years. I know no one wants to hear “practice and it’ll happen naturally,” but in this case I really do feel it that as long as an artist is always practicing their work, styles and specialties will develop.

Thanks so much for checking out this first installment of Artist’s Spotlight!  If you like the work you’ve seen featured here, then don’t forget to check out Vanessa’s etsy store-front at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChromaGoth