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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“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”

 

“The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”- June 28, 2016

***A walk through tutorial for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” is below!  Enjoy!***

mini mighty marshmallow final
“The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” – Photoshop – June 27, 2016

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”!

drawing1

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…

drawing2

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”.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

9

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.

10

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! 

mini mighty marshmallow final

Manresa – June 17, 2016

The stepping stones of food and art have left a solid path in my mind that trace back to my happiest childhood memories.  There are very few moments I can recall that are not laced in food or art, and many of my most prominent recollections revolve around taste.  My days off of work are a marathon of field trips to local eateries.  Good food makes me happy.

01a

My mom and I had the privilege of celebrating not only my 30th birthday, which was on May 27th, but, my mom’s survival and defeat of stage four kidney cancer.  It has been a month since her surgery and in two months she will return to the hospital for a series of tests, but the doctor told us that, as of now, she is cancer free!  My dad was gracious enough to treat my mom and me to a ladies’ night out at Manresa.

1

My only partial regret is that I did not research much before walking into Manresa.  But at the same time, it was delightful to have been surprised.  There is something so exciting about having no clue what will happen next.

Our three and a half hour marathon of flawless performance was satiating and over-the-top in a certain and unassuming manner.  As we walked onto the property and through the doors of Manresa, we were greeted with a quiet nod from the staff and Chef David Kinch, before he withdrew to the kitchen.  The ambiance was clean and unnoticeable, the only elements that stood out were those of the woodwork fixed throughout the rooms that served as a perfect canvas for the colorful cuisine. 

23

We started our adventure with a few glasses of complimentary champagne from the Chef.  A personalized card was waiting for me on the table that was signed by the heads of staff.  Sean, our main waiter, was kind and professional.  The assisting wait staff floated around without fault.

The freshness of California produce is placed on a French-inspired pedestal and glazed with an almost indistinguishable hint of Japanese flavor.  The only relief that breaks a victim from their hypnotic food-staring is the overwhelming temptation of their salivating taste buds and the promise that another dish will eventually come out of the kitchen that is of equal or greater value.

4

Our courses began with small bites, granola crisps, savory “candy” jellies and savory Madeline cookies (Petit fours “red pepper-black olive”), and caviar beignets that exploded with flavor.  I could have eaten twenty of those little beignets and I would have been happy for the remainder of the evening.

5

A farm egg that glistened with honey was adorned with the tiniest purple coriander flowers.  It seemed to balance on the side of a plate, and it burst with the combination of flavor from hidden chives and crème fraiche.  It was divinity in an egg shell.

12

We moved into small plates and starters that featured seafood and Manresa’s “into the garden” green and bitter salad.  The salad was quite literally one of the most beautiful dishes that I have ever laid my eyes on and it tasted better than it looked.

6

Buttery tapioca with radish and parmesean created a miniature ocean around floating islands of abalone and tamago.

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Fish, seafood, and light proteins were gifted to us, each one just as flawless as the next.  The presentation of the colors and flavors of the vegetables and fruits, mixed with the proteins caused my eyes to sparkle more and more with each new course that came to us.  It was heaven.

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Dishes featuring heavier proteins, such as spring lamb and poularde, were presented toward the end of the main courses and were adorned with no less than perfect sauces and produce.

Throughout the main presentation, Manresa breads were offered to us.  They do sell their bread in Los Gatos, as well as the Sunday Campbell Farmer’s market.  There is always a well-deserved line at their stand.  Their brioche is to die for!

At the end of the featured courses we were given the option to partake of the cheeses that were waiting patiently on their little red cart.  With great reluctance we decided to opt out because we were so full.  But, the aroma of the smelly cheese was astounding as it wafted through the entire room every time someone caved in to the pungent temptation.

Chef Kinch came over to our table to talk with us.  He told us that he gave us the best table in the house:  the corner, in the main room, facing the entirety of the dining area.  We did not miss a beat and we were able to absorb everything that happened around us.  We thanked him for such a fabulous experience and he withdrew, once more.

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Dessert started with matcha green tea meringue wafers, cherries, and lime that stacked into a beautiful miniature tower; it turned into a bloodied mess after one vicious swipe of our spoons.  Tart and bitter was balanced with the sweetness of the cream.

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A small slice of semi-fredo cake and a simple candle topped off our night of celebration.

Our next two desserts were displayed together as a pair of battling flavors.  (I do regret not taking pictures of these two desserts because they were gorgeous!)  One was wrapped in a thin layer of solidified dark chocolate, and showcased strong and pungent summer herbs in the form of gelato and sauce.  Bitter, interesting, and full of so much green flavor, it was unlike any dessert that I ever eaten.  Her sister dessert featured strawberries, pistachios, and toasted milk gelato;  it was the sweeter and more traditional dessert of the two.  Together, they were a grandiose symphony of flavors that violently teased our senses.

To conclude the ceremony, guests were given a closing dessert course that was scattered with sparkling chocolates, familiar-and -yet-different sweets, and the most delectable variety of French macarons. 

As a parting gift, we left with keepsake personalized menus to and small boxes of house-made “oh-so-California” granola featuring dehydrated strawberries that caused me to giggle under my breath; Chef David Kinch’s nod to “Nor-Cal” granola techies was veiled in satire that was hella subtle.  Bravo, Chef.  Bravo.

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Thank you, to the entire staff of Manresa, and to Chef David Kinch, for creating such a memorable experience that my mom and I will be talking about for years.  I cannot wait to visit, again.

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