Category Archives: Inspirations

Things that I love, and that make me want to create art.

…like a psychedelic Cat in the Hat

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss
Ever since I was in preschool I’ve been a huge fan of Dr Seuss. To this day I can recite “If I Ran the Zoo” word for word, in its entirety. In my freshman year English class when we had to give a speech about an author, I chose Dr Seuss. It was actually pretty fascinating research, learning how he wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet (that he couldn’t write a book using fifty words or less), and how The Butter Battle Book was a nod to the nuclear arms race. You never picked up on it as a child, but he actually touched on some pretty heavy subjects. Yrtle the turtle a reference to Nazi Germany? Yup…really.
 
For my birthday eight-ish years ago my mom got me a book called “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.” Its page after page of brightly colored watercolors that he did, just for fun. It’s actually kind of strange, because the style is definitely Seuss like, you recognize that right away, but its hard to get used to all the bright vibrant colors. Most of the illustrations in his books used two, maybe three colors to help the publisher save on printing costs. What you get in this book feels like Seuss to the tenth power. Its colorful, and silly and weird and everything I love. You really need to check it out.

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frazzled, overstimulated, and in creative hyperdrive

Why is it that when life gets chaotic and even the idea of spare time is a joke, that’s when all the creative ideas come pouring out? It’s never on a lazy Saturday afternoon when the kids are napping, or one of those rare (exceedingly rare, actually) days when someone else is watching them and I have the day to myself. Nope…it’s when I’m stuck at my desk at work, wading through a sea of emails and desperately plowing through my “to-do” list…that’s when inspiration strikes. Or when I’m sitting at a stoplight in the car with the music on full blast, and I hear some song lyric that strikes a chord and turns on the lightbulb above my head. It’s when I have my little sketchbook in my purse but can’t a single pen. Or pencil. Or highlighter. Or crayon. Ideas just LOVE to pop us when I have no time to actually execute them.

Life has been slightly insane over the last few months. Between looking for a new house, packing everything to move, sick kids, sick babysitters, crazy work…I’ve barely had time to breathe. Yet, oddly enough, I’ve been bombarded by idea after idea for art projects. Maybe my brain is so frazzled and overstimulated that it’s just gone into overdrive and started firing off ideas like crazy. I’ve filled the little sketchbook in my purse with 30 second scribbles I HAD to get out between emails at work. I have a list of words and phrases scratched out in a notebook that I’m just SURE have the potential to turn into something. There’s that fear that if I don’t get the seeds of these ideas OUT and physically recorded somehow, that I might forget about them and I’ll lose them forever.

I’ve redesigned my website in my head but haven’t had time to pick up my Dreamweaver book to refresh my memory and really dig into the project. I painted over a half-baked canvas on my easel that just wasn’t working out and sketched out the framework of my newest idea over it. I started a new marker piece, thinking it would be easier for me to work at that for minutes at a time (because sometimes that’s all I get) than working on a painting with all the messy supplies involved.

What gives? In a way this rush of creativity is awesome, and in a way it seems horribly unfair. I just want to get these ideas OUT, bring them to fruition, and get at lease ONE completed piece out of this whirlwind of creativity. But so far, I haven’t. And I almost feel like I need to build myself an arsenal of ideas to come back to later, for when I do actually have time (ha!) but I’m feeling somewhat uninspired. Because I guarantee, as soon as I have the time again, this gush of ideas is going to slow down to a trickle.

All I want is a day to lock myself in a room and paint for ten or twelve hours, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. So I guess the best I can hope for is for those ideas to just keep coming….

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toys and art and fun and whatnot (or why Spirograph is one of the coolest toys ever)

Spirograph - the old school 1980's version

I had a blast from the past yesterday that left me wondering…how much of our artistic future is seeded in our childhood toys?

My mom got my daughter a Spirograph for Christmas. Remember those? You probably do. I even vaguely remember my mom saying that she had one as a kid. I remember the one I had as a kid had this little clip with spikes on it that you used to keep the ring from sliding all over the paper. No matter how cool your design was, you always ended up with these two holes punched into the paper…an ugly scar on your beautiful creation. You got an assortment of various sized rings, circles, and other various oddly shaped gears that could be rather difficult to trace around the ring. Sometimes the gear got stuck, or your pen slipped, and you ended up with an ugly imperfection in your design where the lines no longer lined up in perfect symmetry. You also got a couple of colored pens that dried up almost immediately, and it was always an ordeal to find another colored pen that fit into the tiny hole on the gear. Crayola markers were usually too big to fit, and who wanted to make an awesome drawing using only black or blue bic pens? Not this girl!

...and the slick new 2011 version

Despite all it’s flaws, that toy was nothing less than awesome. I would spend HOURS experimenting with the infinite combinations of shapes and patterns that could be created. I filled out page upon page with beautiful kaleidoscope like circles, each completely different from the next, just by altering my technique in some slight way.

Fast forward to the present. I’m working at a painting at the kitchen table, and my daughter digs her Spirograph out of her arts and crafts cart. I’m immersed in my own work and don’t really pay much attention to what she’s doing, until I look up and see that she’s just tracing her pencil inside the stencils that came with the kit (they didn’t have that when I was a kid) and around the various sized circles. I don’t really think she understands how it’s supposed to be used. So I show her.

She was AMAZED. Intrigued. SO PROUD that she can create something so intricate and complicated all on her own. She played with that toy for the next hour and a half.

Until she got one, I had completely forgotten that Spirographs ever existed. Now that we have one in the house, I can’t help but think it might have had just a little influence in the artistic direction I embarked on. You be the judge.

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best.book.ever. (gotta love when inspiration finds you)

I think it’s cool that most often, I don’t need to seek out the things to inspire me. It always seems that they just appear. It’s pretty rare that I have lukewarm feelings about something. Either I’m ambivilant about something, or I LOVE it. Hot and cold, black and white. The things I love, I love intensely and passionately.

I was in Hobby Lobby about ten years ago buying art supplies (I’m a big fan of the 40% coupon in the paper when buying those big expensive Prismacolor sets) and I somehow wandered over to the poster section. I’m generally not that excited about that area, as I don’t want the same art in my house that millions of other people do. I don’t need puppies in paint cans, or babies in flowerpots, or a black and white photo of the Eiffel tower in my living room. Nothing against anyone that likes those things, but my personal tastes gravitate a little more toward the exotic, funky, or intriguing.

So I flipped past print after print of Monet’s haystacks, Degas’ ballerinas, and charts of kinds of chili peppers, and suddenly this jumped out at me:

Cosmos of the Enlightened Vision

 I LOVED it.

 I’ve always been a huge fan of Eastern art. To me it always feels fresh and interesting, probably because we’re not exposed to it nearly as much as European artists. I especially love the rich colors and exquisite details of Tibetan Art. I looked at the title: “Cosmos of the Enlightened Vision.” It had so much detail that you could practically fall into it and lose yourself forever.

Of course, I bought it. And hung it up. And every time I moved, although some things would fall in and out of the wall art rotation, that one always found a place.

Fast forward to last springs. My boyfriend and I were in a bookstore browsing in the bargain books section. For any artist, this is a GREAT source of cheap reference art. All of a sudden, a book caught my attention. The cover read “The Celestial Gallery” and the art reminded me of my beloved poster. It wasn’t anything I’d ever seen before, but it felt very familiar.

The Celestial Gallery - Romio Shrestha

I picked it up. Flipped through the pages. Page after page after page of gorgeous paintings just like “Cosmos of the Enlightened Vision.” Of course, they were all completely different, but every bit as intricate and beautiful and captivating. Then, smack in the center of the book, was “Cosmos of the Enlightened Vision.” That confirmed it. I had to own this book.

The best part was that, being in the bargain book section, this $39.99 book was marked down to $7.99. Even better, they were having at 50% all bargain books sale (I somehow had failed to notice the gigantic signs hanging up all over the section) and when I got to the register it was only $3.99!

 I went home that day the happiest girl ever.

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One of my favorite artists you’ve never heard of (because I hadn’t either)

I love school. I especially loved Art History.

Friends and family have called me out for saying this. They point out that from the middle to the end of any given semester, I’m a sleep deprived, caffeine guzzling, short-tempered, bleary eyed, twitching, stressing, crying, whacked out bitch. To this I retort, very matter of factly, that it’s not SCHOOL that’s the problem. It’s the combination of school on top of working full-time, on top of being a mom, on top of the stresses of everyday life. It’s the lack of hours in the day that’s the problem, not school itself. In fact, if school was the only thing I had to worry about, it wouldn’t be stressful at all.

Getting back to my point, I LOVE art, and I’ve actually taken four different Art History classes. All the paper writing we did meant a lot of research into artists, paintings or cultures that I never knew much about before. I wrote about everything from ancient megalithic statues, to the Christian catacombs of Rome, to the graffiti art movement of the 1980’s. My favorite discovery from writing these papers was the artwork of Remedios Varo, a Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter. Most people have never heard of her, although almost everyone has heard of the surrealist Salvador Dali who painted around the same time period. Although I love the weirdness of Dali, I like Varo’s work even better. She blends elements from astronomy, alchemy, geometry, metaphysics, medieval architecture, machinery and music into paintings that are magical, otherworldly, and mystical. Her work is beautiful, solemn, and feels like something from a dream. Within seconds of discovering she existed, she instantly became one of my favorite artists.

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bleary eyed and confused (or why StumbleUpon = digital crack)

I think I have an unhealthy addiction to StumbleUpon. I’ve lost hundreds of hours of my life to it. For someone like me who gets very easily sidetracked on the InterWebz, it’s a very very dangerous time-suck. It’s never good when you start messing around on the computer shortly after the kids go to bed, get sucked in, and all of a sudden it’s 4:15am, you have to get up for work in 2 hours, your brain is crammed full of amazing images, and you’re not really sure where all that time just went.

can't.....look......away.......

StumbleUpon, if you have no idea what it is, is  personalized search engine. It introduces you to random sites across the web that other people have marked as interesting. Based on whether you like the site, you either give it a thumbs up on thumbs down (or if you’re feeling neutral, do nothing at all). When you’re sick of looking at the site you’re on, click the “stumble” botton, and another interesting site pops up. The more you “stumble” and use those little thumbs up or thumbs down icons, the more personalized your recommendations get. Once you sign up for an account and have your preferences saved the experience gets even better, because it knows your likes and dislikes right away.

StumbleUpon breaks down the websites of the world into a ton of categories, and you can go through the list and choose the ones that you find the most interesting. My categories contain everything from Punk Rock to Ancient History to Photography to Art to Cooking. You can even go through your categories to find which ones you have “liked” the most times, or choose to stumble only one particular . Wake up one day thinking that you only want to check out sites about modern architecture? You can do that.

If you consider yourself a creative type, this site is nothing less than awesome. I’ve discovered so many cool artists and works of art on here, and if you’re trying to kick-start your creativity, this is a great way to do it. When I need a jolt of inspiration I love going back through my Favorites list, and usually rediscover something that makes me want to go running for my sketch pad and just CREATE.

Today I stumbled across Threyda.com. There is some absolutely gorgeous work in there. I was completely captivated by the work of two of the artists – Peter Westermann and Peter Rodulfo. It’s everything I love…saturated colors, intricate patterns, repeating geometric shapes… it’s the kind of art that makes me want to dive through the canvas and just immerse myself in it. I want to plaster the walls of my house with it.

PLEASE…check them out. 

Peter Westermann - Mandala Blue

Peter Rudolfo -Hight Tide and Green Octopi

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down, down, down the rabbit hole…

…burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.  In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again….”

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved the story of Alice in Wonderland. I guess even then I was drawn to Weird. I loved the idea of a world so off kilter and bizarre. I loved the idea of it being so near that one might walk past it every day, but unless you sought it out and were willing to take the dive down, you would never know what existed at the bottom. I wanted to be Alice and explore that world, where weirdness was normal, and normal was weird.  I remember my mom taping “Alice in Wonderland” off the Disney channel when I was a kid, and watching that VHS tape over and over and over until it was practically worn out. I remember getting older and reading the book by Lewis Carrol and absolutely falling in love with John Tenniel’s illustrations. Sometimes in life you can’t explain exactly why something appeals to you so strongly…it just does. 

When I took a web design class last spring and had to come up with a theme for my art portfolio, “megandowntherabbithole” seemed like a natural fit. Creating art is nothing but following your own personal white rabbit.  You never know where he’ll lead you, but it’s always guarenteed to be interesting.

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