Wow. It has been about two and a half years since my last blog post. Sometimes life takes over and rocks you around a bit. I thought about deleting this website, but when I looked back at my posts and compared them to who I am today it brings me happiness. Life is a journey, and discovering passions and purpose is a journey too. A lot has changed with me, and my art, so I am going to touch VERY briefly on what happened, what is happening, and what will happen.
Rediscovered watercolor and ink mediums
Created a ton of nerd art (mostly Star Wars) digitally and with watercolors
Went to Hawaii with my friends for a week (woot!)
Did a few art shows with the nerd art and pretty lady art
Met the love of my life
Stopped all of the above around April 2018 because my mom’s cancer went terminal
Took care of my mom who passed away in August 2018
Respite – time to mourn, find happiness again, spend time with my love
October to December 2018 Harvest Festival art shows featuring storybook watercolors
Lost my grandfather and my little fur baby love, Maximus (what a wonderful cat)
Developed a new style of artwork using ink, watercolor, crepe paper, and crystals
January 2019 JOB HUNTING because BILLS and DEBT
Hired at Manresa March 2019 to June 2019
Hired at Lisa’s Tea Treasures June 2019
Moved to a happy home October 2019
Debt free in January 2020! Finally! Woot!
Realized that I need to pursue art, and took a leap of faith to open Art With Erika
Everything happens for a reason. I believe it. I am the queen of pursuing dreams and burying them, and I think it is for the ultimate good. I am more than good at a lot of different things, and having an array of talents and skills made life complicated sometimes because I never really knew what I wanted to do. Now that I had tested different careers and paths and tossed them aside, I feel like I am focused. I have found a formula for what will work for me, and what I love to do, and what I can give back. (The latter being the most important)
I am currently pursuing art full time. This might change, and it might not, depending on how sales rack up over the next few months. I am trying to enjoy the process as much as possible. My website is up and running, I updated my blog, I updated Instagram and Facebook, I am getting all of my ducks in a row. NOW, I can sit down and actually DO art!
What Will Happen
Art With Erika has started. It’s out in the open, it is lovely, and it is a small dip into a collection of whimsical art that I want to dive in to. I am signed up to participate in a few local shows. Lisa’s Tea Treasures in Campbell will be a primary spot to take a look at art prints and cards and make purchases if you want to buy something in person as opposed to my online store. I am very proud of what has happened in the last month, and I am excited to share more with all of you in the future as things progress.
Aside from the art itself, I have become a certified life coach, and am working on getting a master’s certification, so that I might be able to help people find their own artistic purpose. But, details with all of this will come a little later. Art classes and training will probably be offered at some point too.
I also started dabbling in writing, again. Whether or not I will share my poetry openly has not been decided, but it is out there on instagram somewhere if you want to find it.
My focus is ultimately on contentment and positivity. I believe that there is a silver lining with every situation. I do think that sometimes we have to look at dark things and dive deep in order to appreciate what we have in front of us, so that we can move forward. But no one should have to sit in the dark for a long time.
This blog will serve as a home base for all of the activities that I dabble in. I will be updating it periodically with personal dark art projects, personal insights and stories, and things that matter to me most. Not all of this is great for happy whimsical watercolor marketing on Facebook or Instagram, but I wanted the flexibility to help people on a deeper level and in a raw human way, by sharing my own experiences and giving perspective on different topics. I hope you will come back often if this blog speaks to you. If not, I’ll see you on the light and happy side of the Art With Erika platform.
Narcissism is a term that has been loosely used to describe celebrities, people who are over-confident, individuals who are proud or full of themselves, and even a whole generation of young people called Millennials. While many teenagers and youngsters can go through a ‘narcissistic’ phase, it doesn’t make them narcissists. And some people can be a little too confident in whom they are, but it doesn’t make them narcissists, either.
Every person has some narcissistic qualities, and it is healthy to have confidence and a SOBER minded view of yourself that is in balance with the world around you. People who accomplish amazing things do have a right to claim greatness among people, and others with a crap load of talent should weigh themselves accordingly, though it is more palatable for the rest of us if they are a little more humble than boastful. Realistic acknowledgement of accomplishments and who one is and isn’t doesn’t make them a narcissist.
What makes a person a narcissist is GRANDIOSITY. It’s when a person thinks TOO highly of who they are, what they have done, what they deserve, and what they can do. More importantly, their image comes at the expense of those around them. They do not have the ability to look at themselves with clear eyes and see where they fall on the scale of life compared to other people. It is a heavy and dangerous psychological disorder. It effects more men than women and it is estimated that probably about 1% of people have NDP (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
The wonderful thing about narcissists is that most of them are fun-loving people and they blend in with the American culture effortlessly. The stereotype that society has formed features a good-looking, selfish, business man who rambles on about himself and shoves backhanded compliments in people’s faces. But, most real narcissists are not the people who you would expect. Not all of them are attractive, most of them aren’t rich, many of them aren’t famous, and not all of them dabble in business. They are charming and witty, and start out as good friends who seem to care. Their charm is what makes them dangerous, and you can hang out with one for decades and never know who they really are because of the ever-changing beautiful and intricate masks that they switch out for you.
A narcissist is a master manipulator and an expert at discarding or shuffling people around in his life in order to suit his needs. His innermost circle of pawns will be the only ones who really see him with his mask off and these people usually only include spouses or long-term lovers, and children or his most immediate family (family that he currently lives with). Friends (including roommates) and non-immediate family, though seemingly close from an outside perspective, will usually be placed at a far enough distance so that they don’t experience the genuine intimacy, and eventually the abuse, that stems from the carelessness of a narcissist at close quarters. It is because of this distance that a victim’s outreach for council from friends or family is corroded with statements that echo the words “are you sure he is a narcissist? He doesn’t seem like one. I think he’s a really nice guy. I’ve never seen it. It doesn’t sound like him.” Well, he is a nice guy, until you get to know the real person. It can take months or even years for the mask to finally slip. No one can wear a mask forever; there is a breaking point with every narcissist. And once that breaking point is reached, the mask that was made specifically for you starts to crumble quickly, and abuse runs rampant behind closed doors.
Diagnosing narcissism is difficult because of the character of the narcissist himself. He doesn’t like to be told that there is anything wrong with him (God forbid) and it isn’t unlike him to start gaslighting the psychologist herself. The result is that she feels that SHE is the crazy one who has been wrong about him all along. Narcissists make excellent crooked lawyers and politicians, and are amazing at making you think that everything that comes from their lips is gold and that everything that comes from your lips is pure crap and lies. Even if a narcissist were to cooperate in a therapy session, he wouldn’t have enough genuine insight into his own mind, or the proper emotional analysis of his friends or family, in order to heal. He is a living and breathing catch-22, which means that his narcissism cannot be cured. But those around him can learn how to create healthy boundaries so that the narcissist doesn’t rule over their lives, and they may find a semblance of sanity and balance. If this seems depressing, believe me, it is. A narcissist will forever be stuck in his patterns and ways, but will be somewhat content. Those surrounding him are the ones who suffer for lack of genuine intimacy, and the need to stay distant or even disconnected from him.
It is not certain how Narcissism is formed, but one pattern that has been present in every Narcissist in my life has been their upbringing. I don’t believe that anyone is born a narcissist, but a person is groomed to become one. The narcissist child is usually raised with a sense of entitlement whose every need is catered to and who is taught to believe that they deserve and can have whatever they want, without regard to anyone else. On the other hand the child might be given special treatment, or might have been allowed to do things, break rules/skip punishment, or have things that didn’t fit the status quo. This was allowed to happen because of the lack of something else in his life (usually the presence of loving adults is lacking). This in turn creates a sense of entitlement in the child that follows him into adulthood, and he ends up using coercion and charm to get what he wants from the people around him. He is never taught how to properly love people, but only exchange with or take from people.
Our childhood patterns ALWAYS follow us into adulthood until they are broken. At the root of every Narcissist’s heart is probably one of the most damaged and insecure individuals, though initial reactions with them would seem to prove otherwise. As much as they have been a thorn in my side, I feel bad for them, because I know that they are damaged, but, on the other hand, they will never know it. They can’t take criticism very well, but they also think much too highly of themselves to even think twice about the criticism. (And they will never let you forget about that critique for as long as you live, either, so choose your words wisely). Narcissists feel pretty good about themselves, because they think too highly of themselves to even know that anything is wrong, even if every scrap of evidence is thrown at them. If you do decide to fight or fix him, you will be gaslighted, and it will be thrown back in your face, and you will feel like you are insane, and he will confirm that theory, and you will briefly question what just happened as he turns around and gives you the silent treatment for however long he thinks you deserve it. He needs you to be obedient to him and he will punish you if you fall out of line.
Diagnosis for Narcissism is rarely official because they “know more about psychology than psychologists”. But, those around him who have been through therapy, who see common patterns of abuse, can piece together his unofficial diagnosis. Most narcissists are verbally and mentally abusive as opposed to physically abusive (but some can be physical, too, especially with significant others). A person needs to embody five of the following traits in order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These are not to be taken lightly:
– An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized without achieving said achievements)
– Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
– Believes that they are “special” and unique and that they can only be understood by, and should only associate with, other special people or high-status people or institutions.
– Requires excessive admiration (doesn’t need to be genuine)
– Has a sense of entitlement. Has unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
– Is exploitive of others. Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
– Lacks empathy. Unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
– Is often envious of others or believes that they are envious of him.
– Regularly shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.
A narcissist is a beautiful creature, at first glance. His mask is intricate and distracting, his words are silky and charming, and he is exactly what you think you need. He has made this mask especially for you, because you are special, too, and he wants to add you to his collection of desirable people. You don’t realize it, but he has turned himself into your perfect person, and all he wants in return is for you to do whatever he desires, no questions asked. But, he is a black hole, a broken creature, and a parasite. A narcissist will never know his real, insecure, and abused childhood self, but he knows what he wants right now. He will manipulate everyone around him in order to play out his perfect façade to the rest of the world, and he will crush anyone who tarnishes his image or anyone who gets in the way of achieving his desires, especially his family…
Not long after I moved down to Los Angeles, four years ago, I broke out my sketchbook and walked through some evolving ideas that turned into the “Women and Wine” collection. As I was doodling page after page of crappy thumbnails, my brain stumbled upon the idea of collaborating women, fashion, and cocktails. My first scribbles were of women standing next to over-sized glasses of alcohol wearing beautiful dresses. The thumbnail sketch for “Champagne” featured a woman whose dress turned into bubbling liquid in a shimmering flute. From there, the collection of three women named for white, red, and rosé wines took shape and was finished in the fall of 2016. I decided to revisit my original inspired sketch so that I could bring “Champagne” to life.
I enjoy the idea of collaborating my old profession, costume design and fashion, into my artwork. Over-exaggeration, extravagant elements, and lots of little details thrill me to no end. It’s an unfortunate thing that I don’t have the finances or the time to create costumes, as many of them cost well over $1000 in materials to create – and I am an all or nothing kind of person with those projects. But, my newfound love of painting in Photoshop has proven to be more than satisfactory.
I enjoy painting and drawing in raw media but more often than not, a lot of very tiny detail is lost within pen scribbles and paint blotches, unless the canvas is over-sized. (And I don’t have room for that in my 200 square foot tiny space.) What I love most about Photoshop is that I can achieve an incredible amount of fine detail that would have been impossible to achieve if I had tried to paint the same thing on the canvas. A lot of my costuming in the past was consumed by rhinestones, bead work, and the tiniest of details. In person, you could see the fine elements on the costumes themselves, but the artwork that went along with them (the concept sketches) were not as exciting. (At least, not to me).
“Champagne” features an abundance of small detail. From her strands of hair, to her delicate jewelry, and the shimmer and glimmer of champagne and chiffon, this painting embodies a subtle strength and definitive elegance.
It is a wonderful feeling to be able to see the improvement in my artwork as I complete each piece. The digital learning curve is starting to straighten out, and I feel that each project that I take into my hands becomes a new favorite of mine.
Above is a video featuring a slideshow of stills from start to finish for “Champagne”. Below are select step-by-step stills and close-ups along with walk-through descriptions and notes. (You will be able to see the detail better on this blog post, as opposed to the video, but the video is fun, too!)
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog! I hope you enjoy reading about and watching “Champagne” as much as I have enjoyed creating her.
A dear friend of mine reached out to me recently, in light of some hardships that she was dealing with in regards to her health. She asked me if I would be able to draw her the concept of “healing”. With her humble permission, she allowed me to post a step-by-step process of this painting.
I hope that this picture brings you joy and lifts your spirits, Tori. I hope that you ask for help when you need it, that you will allow others to love you, and that you will also take the time to love and take care of yourself as much as you love and take care of others. Trust in God. May he lift you up and comfort you; may he free you from worry and give you peace. I hope that you get well, very soon.
Love Your Friend, Erika
The following is a Photoshop tutorial, using a twist on a new layering technique that I stumbled upon at the end of last year. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for visiting, everyone. And thank you again, Tori, for your permission to post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
Here they are sitting out to dry, with Greed.
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.
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.
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!
Sometimes you need a little helper to motivate you and keep you going. This is one of my helpers, Ody. (Short for Odysseus).
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!
***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!
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!
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!
24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016
Titles of pieces and collection to be revealed in “Abstract Art: Part 2”
***A walk through tutorial for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” is below! Enjoy!***
It’s about the little things…
My first pen sketch was of a single tree branch. I used black to emphasize the shadows of the branch and twigs, red to emphasize the shadows of the berries on the branch, and a touch of green on top of the red for a little more shadow. From a distance, it looked like a simple branch scattered with berries. It WAS a simple branch scattered with berries. But, when my college teacher took a closer look, he asked me, “Do you know why this is so good?” I shook my head. I didn’t really think about why I did certain things in my artwork at that time, I just did them according to what I felt was right. He continued, “It’s because of the eye candy.”
‘Eye candy’ was a term that my teacher used to describe the subtle and unnoticeable elements of a drawing that brought it to life. Without these elements the piece would be good, but it would fall flat and taste stale; Eye candy gave the composition a playful and entertaining aura. It was the “random” swoop of purple in the shadow of a golden pear, or it was the messy hatched bundle of lines in the shadow of Superman’s face. Eye candy gave the drawing personality, but not in a distracting way.
There were dots in my branch. From a distance these dots looked like solid lines. In reality, they broke up into pinpoints that came together to form a “line”. Green pen created shadows on the edges of the berries; they were also made from dots, and from a distance, they looked like brown lines. If I had used brown or black to shade the berries, instead of layering the green within the red, the berries would have lost their vibrancy. If the dots had been drawn as thin lines they would have been too harsh, the composition would have lost its delicate flavor, and an observer would probably look at the drawing and think that it was nice, but that something was not right.
Eye candy is what separates good artists from great artists. Being a great artist is about detail. It is about listening to your intuition when it says that something minuscule is missing. It is about shading that strawberry with a swoop of purple, green and yellow, and not just black or brown. It is about dots that don’t seem to matter, layer upon layer of colors that don’t even look all that different, and the tiniest textures of paint that only a few people will be able to point out – if they take the time to look up close. Most of the time, they won’t, and that is quite alright. It’s about the little things…
I hope you enjoy the walk through for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”!
Sometimes the biggest surprises come in the smallest packages. My sketching started with the tiniest, squishiest, and most unassuming of characters: a mini marshmallow. It was not just a regular marshmallow, but a mini marshmallow. It was tiny, and cute, and the smallest of all of the marshmallows. I like cute…
I thought it would be ironic if he was a super hero. He seemed to be the opposite of everything that a super hero embodied, and he could be a great foundation for an uplifting children’s picture book story! (It is the field I am aiming for, so I ran with it). I added a cape and an “M” symbol for his costume and drew a scribble of light beaming from behind him. I would pretend that this was the cover of the picture book. Because he was a superhero, he needed to be more than just a mini marshmallow, so his title leveled up to “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”.
I started with a fresh Photoshop document at 300 dpi and worked with a blue pen to sketch out the rough drawing of the marshmallow. It was important that the first sketches had solid proportions and that the movement was what I wanted in the marshmallow and the cape. It was at this stage that foundation for the rest of the drawing would be built. If the foundation was bad the final drawing would be bad, too!
I lightened the opacity of the blue sketch and created a new layer so that I could draw my clean black outlines. I wanted thicker lines to surround the cute marshmallow because he was my main point of interest. (My secondary points of interest were the cape and the “M” symbol.) I also wanted to emphasize the placement of the shadows using different line weights on the marshmallow. I made the lines just a little thicker around the backside of his lower body.
Once the boarder was drawn for the “M” symbol, I used the blue pen, on a separate layer, to sketch out the rough lines for the “M” in the center.
This project was a good exercise in simple line weight logistics. Foreground objects, such as the front section of the cape, would have thicker outlines than objects that were in the distance, such as the back section of the cape. I also used thinner lines to de-emphasize certain elements, like the “M” symbol; I wanted the focus to be on the marshmallow, initially, not his costume. Once I was happy with the line weights I started to color him in!
I used the wand tool and filled in all of the colors on different layers, so that highlighting them and shading them would be easier. These base colors were the “medium tones.” (Not the brightest and not the darkest shades). If I wanted a bright red cape, I would use a handful of shades darker than bright red, so that I could highlight it and make it pop with the bright red, later. This technique gives a little more depth to the drawing.
Before I started shading and highlighting the marshmallow, I dropped some color into the background so that I could weigh out the true tone of the marshmallow’s colors against something other than white.
I was so excited, because I already had a slight learning curve in my shading technique! For my first digital drawing “Going Fishing” I used the shadow colors as the base colors for the cat and fish. I took an opaque white brush and brightened up the whole drawing in a multitude of swoops and layers. I wanted to try something a little different for the marshmallow, this time around.
For each shaded section, I grabbed the base color and made it a few shades darker. I colored everything that had a hint of shadow touching it. I repeated this but picked out a slightly darker shade and colored the darker parts of the shaded areas. I never used black, but only dark colors, and only with an opaque brush at about 15% most of the time. I used this same technique for the highlights but transitioned into lighter colors. The background was layered with more color and an opaque “off-white” brush added bursts of light behind the marshmallow. A halo of glory, in the slightest tinge of orange and yellow, was added around the outline of the Mighty Mini Marshmallow.
At this point, I saved my drawing as a jpeg, and brought him into Illustrator. Photoshop was wonderful for drawing, but it was a horrendous program to use for anything related to fonts and text. (If you ever have to add text to a photo project, do it in Illustrator, lest your letters be pixilated.) I typed out the title of my would-be children’s book, and set out all of the different fonts that caught my eye. Once I found a few, I looked at them on the drawing to see if the feel of each one matched the feel of the composition. Fonts tell a story all their own. Picking the wrong font (or combination of fonts) can make or break your product. Picking the right fonts can bring closure to a piece. Once I found one that was the essence of what I was aiming for, I tested out some colors
Color can be just as important as the font itself so be aware of the balance of the anatomy of the text, your product, and the message you want to convey. Because this font was for a would-be children’s book I decided to go with something that was cute, but strong, like the Mighty Marshmallow, and I chose a color that emphasized the marshmallow, and not the font.
Red is an eye-catching color, which is why so many magazines and companies have red labels and titles. When “The Mighty Marshmallow” title was red, I found that the eye went to the title of the book cover, first, and not to the drawing of the marshmallow. When the title was blue, my eye went to the marshmallow, and then scanned the rest of the space to see what this marshmallow was all about. It’s the little things that make a big difference, and if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. That being said, a publishing company might want to use the red title, because it does draw so much attention and catches your eye while it floats in a sea of children’s picture books throughout Barnes and Noble. For this project I liked the blue a lot more because it wasn’t distracting.
I surrounded the blue font with a boarder of “gold” that matched the marshmallow costume, and rearranged the letters and font so that they weren’t so static; it needed to be fun! I played around with the size of the words. I made “The” (an insignificant word) small, and “Mighty” large, next to a smaller “Mini”, and separated the “Marshmallow” from the adjectives to bring a little more emphasis to the rounded composition of the layout.
I had so much fun whipping up this little character, and as I did, I could see this a small glimpse of this cute story come to life. Maybe I will have a chance to work on developing it, later on. We shall see!
Thank you for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my mini marshmallow walk-through!