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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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abstract artwork

“Just Keep Painting” – July 29, 2016

Without a solid plan, without a sketch to paper, I broke out my paintbrushes to experiment with a few different abstract techniques. I am still trying to discover my flavor as an artist in the abstract realm.

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The artwork basking in the sunshine

Anything can be used to apply paint to a canvas. It can be a blessing that glorifies your painting or some huge mistake that ruins your work. Using unconventional tools isn’t a rule made specific for abstract art; it can be used throughout every style of art and painting.

I didn’t get too crazy this time around, but I did use my hands as the primary tool for most of the following paintings. Utilizing traditional techniques helps create a solid branch to stand on when experimenting with new techniques.

Imagination can be an artist’s greatest weapon, but sometimes your hands don’t always do what your brain tells them to do…

There were a couple of paintings in this group that started out with a different end result in mind. They didn’t look ANYTHING like what I had imagined, but when I started to make mistakes, I kept going, I kept adding, and the results were so much more entertaining than what I had started with. Sometimes, making mistakes is a good thing. Sometimes, when you are trying to execute a solid idea, and it doesn’t come out right, and that is okay! Just paint over the canvas and start from scratch. This happened for me a few weeks ago, when I painted Envy, in the Seven Deadly Sins collection. Sometimes, you just want to keep going to see what will happen. Regardless of what happens, the artist should always keep these things in mind when diving into abstract art: balance, color coordination, and purposeful execution.

I NEED TO ASK A FAVOR FROM ALL OF YOU: Let me know what grabs your attention. Let me know what colors you like/hate, and give suggestions for alternative colors, if you want. Any and all feedback is appreciated, so much! I have a thick skin, so if you hate it, tell me. If you love it, tell me. If you think it is “just alright”, tell me. I don’t take it personal. Art is subjective, anyways.

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24″ x 36″ – Acrylic on Canvas
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11″ x 14″ – Acrylic on Canvas
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18″ x 14″ – Acrylic on Canvas

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12″ x 9″ – Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas

 

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30″ x 40″ – Acrylic on Canvas

‘Til next time!

“Lizzie” – July 20, 2016

My sister-in-law, Lizzie, asked me to paint something for her that was “Big!” and “Gold and Black!” and she wanted “Glitter!”  In my last collection “The Seven Deadly Sins” there was one painting that many people gravitated toward and that was “Greed”.  Lizzie wanted something that looked like “Greed” but without the yellow and white.  She just wanted gold…and glitter.

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Nes anticipating everything…2011
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Cabaret set painting, with Nes – 2011

I am not unfamiliar with large painting projects.  In 2011, my dear friend, Nes, and I were commissioned to paint the set of “Cabaret”, which was made up of many gargantuan rolling set pieces.  They were more like walls on wheels.

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Detail work for some “small” set pieces – Cabaret 2011

It was quite fabulous playing around with perspective and house paints.  Nes owns his own photography company, Fragoso Photography, in the San Jose Bay Area.  (You should really check out his work!  He does head shots, special events, holidays, and even product shots!  He is excellent!) 

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All the glitter!
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You can never have too many paint brushes!  (This is a fact…)

 

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The work space, in all its glory.

The canvas that Lizzie picked out was the largest one I had on hand, at 40 inches by 60 inches.  I prepped it with black gesso.

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“Lizzie” – 40″ x 60″- Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 19, 2016

Here is the finished painting!  “Lizzie”.  What looks like black paint on the canvas, in the complete composition, is actually very dark purple.  Using subtle hints of complimentary colors works very well in this type of artwork.  It isn’t something that most people would be able to see, but if I had used flat black and just gold, the painting would have looked like it was missing something.

Small details bring a lot of character to artwork!  Remember, it is all about the little things!

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Detail shot of a portion of the bottom of “Lizzie” – tons of speckles in between a little bit of glitter
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Detail shot of a portion of the top of “Lizzie” – more subtle speckles and some glitter!

When looking at this composition straight on, you can’t really see the small speckles of different shades of gold paint.  The glitter almost hides the “speckle” effect.

I was a little hesitant to add the glitter.  I was afraid that it would take away from the natural speckle effect of the painting, and a part of me still feels that way, but the glitter is a very fun effect.  I might try it out with some other pieces in the future.

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One more “painting” shirt to add to the collection!

With speckling comes a mess, and another ruined shirt, but it is welcome!  Sometimes artwork can be messy, which is why it should be done outside.  The natural light that you get from being outside in the sun (not direct sunlight, but overcast light or in the shade of a tree) really helps with color blending and the color choices that you make.  There are light bulbs that you can purchase that help with indoor painting.  But, many lights have a yellow tinge, or aren’t strong enough to project enough light throughout the room to reflect the true colors that you are painting with.  So, if you are picky about colors, make sure your work space is flooded with enough natural light…or just go outside and enjoy the air!

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“Greed” and “Lizzie”

A week ago, I was convinced that my “Seven Deadly Sins” collection was painted on fairly large canvases that measured 24 inches by 36 inches.  They were large, but the canvas that I used for “Lizzie” was HUGE!  It really put size into perspective.  I found out that I really like painting abstract art on a grand scale.  Truly, it makes me want to re-paint the “Seven Deadly Sins” collection on these large canvases so that they engulf the viewer.  I’ll think about it…

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I could barely fit this canvas in my car!  How am I going to transport anything larger than this?!

I am about 5 feet 9 inches tall.  Here I am standing next to this monster!  And I feel like it should be even bigger!

Ody thinks so too…

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Contemplation…look at that intense focus…
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His eyes match the painting so well!  Good job being the epic cat that you are, Odysseus.
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DO THE ART!!!!

‘Til next time!

“Abstract Art: Part 2” – July 17, 2016

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

***The titles for the collection and each painting are listed below.  The end of this article also contains “behind the scenes” photographs.  Enjoy!***

This is part two of “Abstract Art”.  You can read “Abstract Art: Part 1”, here!  

The only requirement of an abstract artist is to make people feel.  An artist might touch a white canvas with shades of misty purple and powder blue to invoke the feeling of calm, or the thought of peace, or emptiness.  These critiques are welcome and subjective.  At this point, the artist has done his job:  their work is “good enough” to absorb into the public eye, so that they may “feel”.

If “White Fox in a Snow Bank” is deemed the title for the same piece then the interpretation changes.  The free-floating composition that was once left to graze the mind is placed in the artist’s mental gate.  It is a part of the experience that the artist wants to guide you though.  There are large debates in the art community in regards to titling works of art, and it is even more relevant in the abstract world.  I think that titling artwork has its place.  Sometimes, it is less appropriate.  But, this decision should be made by the artist and accepted as an element of the art itself.

The artist should title their piece if they do believe that it will “open the eyes” of observers and guide them, so that they may see clearer, and so that they may be able to further melt themselves within the piece.  If the artist believes that titling their work will hinder the excitement of feeling what is on the canvas, and if it is not specifically associated with any other relevant outside items, the work should not be titled.

In the case of my first abstract collection, I have decided to reveal the titles.  They are a group of actions and feelings and each one is a part of our lives, in one form or another.  The planning process was difficult, because researching the theme hit so many emotional nerves.  Focusing on the goodness of people can be refreshing.  Diving into the worst characteristics of humanity is gruesome, and those laced in what seems to be goodness makes one reevaluate their own nature.  Trying to create art that represented and embodied these feelings and actions was a challenging feat.

The only tangible pieces of research that were obtained for my collection were the assignment of colors and the order of their display.  At the time of their “creation”, each feeling had an official hue assigned to it.  Their order is from least to greatest.

I hope that revealing these titles will enhance your understanding of the collection, and maybe lift the curtain back so that you may be able to see.

Enjoy!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

The Seven Deadly Sins
July 2016 – Erika Robertson
Lust
“Lust” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Lust

Color:  Blue

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Lust is extreme yearning.  Because it is the only sin that is shared with animals, and it is a sin of the flesh, it is labeled as the least of all sins.  It is more often labeled as a sin of perverse sexual desire, but it can be applied as a yearning for almost anything: lust for money, power, food, the latest iPhone, and so on.

It is the movement of lust, and the feeling of lust, in all of its smoothness and sensuality.  It can be the silk sheets of two lovers, or the smooth finish of the next unneeded electronic gadget.  Lust is the calm movement of desire, or the supple air of breath from a kiss that is wrong “but feels so right”.  Sleek, comfortable, and often described as beautiful.

gluttony
“Gluttony” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Gluttony

Color: Orange

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Gluttony is overindulgence.  It is consumption to the point of waste.  Society often pinpoints gluttony as “eating”, but the sin covers so much more ground.  Overeating, under eating, and purging, can all be labeled as gluttony.  It is hoarding money, wasting material goods or non-material items.  And as a whole, putting your desires and your needs above everyone else and their well-being.

It is too much.  It is abundance.  It is waste.  It is no coincidence that most food companies use a combination of yellow and red in their business logos.  Most fast food chains use these two primary colors because when they are seen together they trigger hunger on a subconscious level.  It is also no coincidence that gluttony’s color is the combination of yellow and red: orange.

greed
“Greed” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Greed

Color:  Yellow

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Greed is a sin that is linked to material possession.  People think of money, gold, wealth, and over-indulgence.  It is a sin of desire and cupidity.  A person can also be greedy in love, feelings, and actions.

In its purest form I saw greed as wealth.  It is yellow and gold, it is diamonds.  In our society wealth is beautiful.  More is better.  Greed is the finish line that no one will ever reach.  Greed only spends on  what it wastes.

sloth
“Sloth” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Sloth

Color:  Light Blue

A sin that contains no love or is the deficiency of love

Sloth is to be “without care”.  It is the ONLY sin that revolves around a LACK of action.  It is the absence of interest.  Boredom, apathy, slow responsiveness.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I do think that “Sloth” was the most curious and disconnected from the collection for the people who saw them face-to-face.  When displayed side by side, left to right, it is the center of the display.  It is also the most blinding with its foggy color, and confusing in its lack of movement.  It sits there, doing nothing, as if wandering through a mist.  The brush strokes are boring, lacking, lazy.

wrath
“Wrath” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Wrath

Color:  Red

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Wrath is unbridled feelings of rage, anger, and hatred.  It is seeking vengeance.  It is the “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite”.  Anger, in itself, is not a sin.  Anger is a natural feeling, but it becomes a sin of wrath when it is directed toward an innocent person, when it is abnormally strong or enduring, or when it fancies overindulgent “justice”. (punishment).

It is decay, rot, death, and blood.  It is unfounded war.  It is unjustified death.  Wrath is an abundance of spilled anger.   It is the slitting of the throat of a lover, and it is the pools of blood in fields that were once green.  She yells at him.  He hits her.

envy
“Envy” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

Envy

Color:  Green

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Envy is the second worst sin.  It is the result of pride, the greatest sin, becoming wounded.  Envy makes good things feel bad.  It lowers another person’s reputation.  It finds joy in another person’s misfortune.  It grieves at another person’s prosperity and causes sorrow and hatred.   “Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin

If you want to know what your greatest desires are, pay attention to who you envy.  It calls into question everything that you think you are.  It exposes what you value and where your heart is.  You experience joy in another’s sorrow, and sorrow in their joy.  It is a never ending whirlwind of suffocation and destruction.  If you cannot prevail, and become better than the person who you envy, then you try to bring that person down to your level.  Envy is the great leveler.  It is wanting something you never had.

pride
“Pride” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Pride

Color:  Violet or all of the colors

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Pride is the father of all sins.  It was known as the devil’s most prominent trait and is viewed as the “anti-god” state.  All other sin acts out because of pride (which is why purple is used in all of the paintings – what looks like black, in some of them, is purple).  It is the abundant admiration for one’s self.  It is failing to acknowledge accomplishments of others, and the twisted belief that one is better than others.  It is disconnected from people and reality.  Pride honors those that the WORLD sees as worthy.  It is hungry for attention, respect, and worship.  It searches for fault in others.

Pride is deceiving.  It is best at hiding beneath good qualities, such as humbleness.  It is the donation that you give that flaunts your name so the world may see your generosity.  It is the shy individual who is preoccupied with how the world views him, and what he will do when the spotlight is flashed on him.  It is the voice inside your head that says “I’m better at that than her”.  You don’t even have to speak; it is there.  It is self-centered love that sparkles and gleams behind tainted humility.  It is all about you.

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A short glance behind the scenes:

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A collection, like this, starts with notes and sketches.  What looks like random spots and lines and colors are planned movement and a combination of elements.  There should be cohesiveness in the painting.

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Here is some of the aftermath of Wrath.  The trees suffered a little with all of my gashing and slashing movements.  (It was a lot of fun though.)  I might have shared a hand-full of orange paint with the neighbors when I was working on Gluttony, too…woops….

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Here they are sitting out to dry, with Greed.

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I struggled the most while trying to capture Envy and Pride.  I wanted their flow to relate to each other more than between the others.  Envy is pride that has been broken.  And pride is the root of all evil and all sin.  It is fitting that when most people look at Pride, they see the universe.  And isn’t that the point?  I was very happy with the response to the piece.  I felt like I did my job, as an artist.

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Envy was the most difficult.  It’s okay to make mistakes!  How many times was the Mona Lisa re-painted?  (too many!)  I scrapped the first version of Envy, and painted over it.  The flow wasn’t right and the colors were not what I had envisioned, and the texture I wanted was non-existent.  When it comes to artwork I rely heavily on instinct.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

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Envy – the one we won’t talk about……
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When all else fails, start over!

I had to sit down and try to revamp what I had wanted.  I tried salvaging it, at one point, but it got to be too much.  When all else fails, paint over it and start over!

ody
This fat!  Odysseus.  Aka: Ody

Sometimes you need a little helper to motivate you and keep you going.  This is one of my helpers, Ody.  (Short for Odysseus).

envy
Envy – the final version

After all was said and done, I was very happy with the result.

Thank you for joining me on my first journey through abstract art!  I hope that you were able to open your eyes a little, like I did, and expand your understanding of the strange and subjective art style.  I hope that you pick up a paint brush and try some, yourself!  I promise that you will have a lot of fun!

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS
“The Seven Deadly Sins” – Erika Robertson – Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

‘Til next time! 

“Abstract Art: Part 1” – July 13, 2016

***My first abstract collection is below!  “Abstract Art: Part 2” will contain the tutorial and titles for the compositions.  Enjoy!***

I FUCKING HATE ABSTRACT ART!

I was never certain when my loathing for the style started.  It had always been the primary scent of who I was as an artist: anything but abstract.  I do know that my hatred solidified when I was in college and I remember the precise moment in all of its disgusting and jealous glory.

One of my teachers had the class travel to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in San Francisco.  Our assignment was to evaluate our favorite piece of art and our least favorite piece of art.  I couldn’t tell you what my favorite piece of art had been, but without taking a millisecond to recall, I could tell you what my least favorite exhibit was.

One would think that the ordinary plaster-white toilet would have taken the prize for first  worst place, as he basked in the museum lights, and grinned with pompous arrogance.  Fuck that toilet!

toilet

I walked into a huge room, and looked to my left, and to my right.  The canvases were about five feet wide and eight feet long.  Two were spaced the same distance apart from each other on all four walls, and all of them were painted a familiar elementary school crayon color:  pumpkin orange, cherry red, cobalt blue, lemon yellow, royal purple, emerald green, fucking black, and fucking white.  (The last two aren’t even colors!)  I walked around with my mouth dangling.  They were PLAIN SOLID COLORS!  No texture.  No hint of any character, except maybe in their massiveness and hue, or lack of hue…did the artist even PAINT the white canvas?!  This artistic experience got so much better, though.

In the center of the room sat a lazy cement block.  From the top of that lazy cement block a thick metal rod grew like a flower stem that was on the verge of wilting.  A natural sponge, the size of a small watermelon, had been dipped in cobalt blue paint.  It was quite apparent that this poor blue sponge had lost all faith in life because he decided that he had no choice but to impale himself on the top of that metal rod.  Thus, the art exhibit was complete.  Fuck that blue sponge!

Needless to say, the nature of my essay was not uplifting.

My next huge run-in with abstract art punched me in the face two years ago at the Getty in Los Angeles.  I walked into a room that hosted one of Jackson Pollock’s famous compositions.  It plastered the museum wall and beckoned all living creatures in the general vicinity to come and share in its narcissistic breathing room.  My first thought was “it’s so big!”  My second thought was “why do people think that this is good?  It’s just paint that’s splashed and twirled on a board.  Yeah, it’s big.  But, why do people like this?!”  I wandered through the rest of the museum and left in a rage as Pollock pricked his untalented needle fingers into my brain.  FUCK FUCKING POLLOCK!

pollock

WHY IS ABSTRACT ART SO GREAT?!

During my journey in “all things art”, I made the decision to explore the abstract world; I tried to figure out what made this sloppy, child-like, finger painting so lovable and mesmerizing to millions of people.  There had to be something that I was missing.   As I absorbed the characteristics and commonalities that the most famous abstract pieces were composed of, my respect for abstract painting started to take shape.  When I started to paint, I understood and appreciated the style.

So, what made good abstract art?

Well, “anything goes” in art.  Art is subjective, on all levels.  Just because one person likes one style of art doesn’t mean that the next person will feel the same about that style.  But, what is consistent across the board, for all good art, is the presence of technique. It is the purposeful application of texture, balance, layers, color compatibility, and the formation of emotion.  These categories are all present in good abstract art.  What looks like paint splattered on a canvas is coherent.  Every stroke and detail should be intentional in its thought.  With that being said, famous art isn’t always good art.  There are many famous singers who cannot sing well, but they are marketable. Marketability and talent aren’t one in the same.

What looked like blobs of paint colors on a canvas, in Pollock’s painting, were actually layers of compatible colors.  They were applied with different tools, in different paint weights.  They ended up creating a mishmash of artistic patterns that were executed by the trained, seasoned, and unique movement of Pollock’s arm and body.  No artist can replicate another artist’s work without fault, because so much of the character of an artist’s composition comes from unique body movements.  No two people move in the same way.

When I look at Pollock’s work, now, I can see the glory behind the artist.  He was talented and created with purpose.  I can see which colors he started with, what weights the paints were, what kind of tool or surface he might have used to create that kind of stroke with that specific paint color, and in what way he moved his arm based on the splash angles and how the medium hit the canvas.  What I didn’t know, until a few weeks ago, was that most people don’t know how to dissect a piece of artwork and analyze the details.  But, that didn’t matter.  Breaking down the technicalities of a composition was a great skill to have, but I was missing the whole point of abstract art:  subjective emotion. 

I decided to whip up a collection of seven abstract paintings.  Painting a landscape or cartoon characters that formed a story was talented in one way.  Painting subjective emotion, was talented in another way.

The following collection of paintings is displayed in order.  I would like to invite you to analyze and try to figure out what they are.  In my next article, Abstract Art: Part Two, I will reveal the titles for the pieces, as well as the intense planning process that was built up behind their execution.  There is so much more to abstract art than meets the eye and I would like to challenge all of the critical purists to explore the medium in the same way that I did.  Doing so might end up killing the pride that has clogged your arteries due to your fattening arrogance.  And you might have a little fun in the process.

‘Til next time!

Lust

gluttony

greed

sloth

wrath

envy

pride

24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

Titles of pieces and collection to be revealed in “Abstract Art: Part 2”

 

Tie-Dye with Mia & Karlie – June 22, 2016

The day before yesterday I woke up and drove across town to my sister-in-law’s mom’s house.  Karlie and Mia were preparing the materials that we needed to use for our tie-dye hippie adventure.

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I walked into the backyard and said ‘hi’ to a barefoot Karlie as she filled a miniature army of bottles with hot water and dye.

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Soakin’ it up in the California Sun

Recycled and unloved pieces of clothing were floating around a few bins full of murky soda ash water, awaiting their second calling.  We were joined by their friend, Elizabeth, who, like me, was a tie-dye virgin.

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At nine in the morning the sun was already sending us her rich warmth that would later decorate our necks with glistening sweaty diamonds.  Sunscreen and umbrellas tried to hide us from her overbearing infatuation.  Bottles of dye were shaken and set on our wobbling work table, while Elizabeth and I watched Mia as she swirled up one of the soaking shirts.

swirl process
Rollin, Rollin, Rollin – All the rubber bands!  ALL OF THEM!!!

She fastened the medallion with rubber bands and set it aside.  Elizabeth and I put on some gloves and joined Mia, who taught us variations for tie-dye designs.

Creating tie-dye for the first time was nothing less than mysterious and adventurous.  It was a great way for me to start to break out of my perfectionist shell;  I couldn’t plan anything that was absolute and I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.

dyeing process

I was so excited when Mia and Karlie invited me over to their house for a lesson.  I had waited for this moment since they first showed me their tie-dye collection a year ago!

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There was no solid rhyme or reason for placing the dye on the twisted pieces, except that the colors needed to soak through all of the layers on all sides.

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Sweeney Todd was here

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The table was drenched with a pool of rainbow dye, our feet turned into an effortless canvas of abstract art, and our carefree laughter carried us through the beginning of the blinding afternoon.

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rubber bands = shooting practice

Our dye-soaked pieces basked out in the sunshine, on plastic mats and in plastic bags, so that they could meditate and prepare themselves for their new lives.

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layed out pieces
Now, we wait…24-48 hours…     …But we are NOT patient, soooooo, 24 hours later…

The next day I went back to help unwrap the blobs of fabric; we were as impatient as small children on Christmas morning.  Each piece of cloth, that was released from the grips of the rubber bands, was greeted into their new world with ‘oooooo’s and ‘aaaaahhhh’s, and the occasional sound of overwhelming excitement.

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YAAASSS!!!  ALL THE COLORS!!!

They were rinsed off, rung out, tossed in the washer and dryer, and our mini tie-dye hippie adventure was over.

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Peace, love, tie-dye, and hugs!  Until next time!

You can purchase tie-dye items or request orders from Karlie and Mia, HERE!  I can’t wait to tie-dye with them, again!

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Karlie and the ghost sheet

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