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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“Champagne” – June 15, 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

‘Til next time!

 

 

55FINAL
“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017
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Original thumbnail sketch for “Champagne” from 2013 (It’s been a long time!)
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First sketch following the flow of the original drawing.  But it isn’t looking too great…I need to change the angle of the body.
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Much better positioning of the body, but some adjustments still need to be made.  The flow is really sloppy right now.  It needs to be more straight forward and confident.
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This positioning is much better.  There is also a great balance of straight and curved edges which makes the foundation interesting.  I love the straight line on one hip that contrasts with the heavily curved hip on the other side.
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I re-draw the left arm to bring a little more life and purpose to the angles of the arm.  I didn’t like the way the hand cupped over the hip.  The fingers grazing the waistline give it a little more tension.  I also adjust the size of the figure and the glass flute.
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The background is black, so I lay the color down.  I know I will love the contrast of the glitter and champagne colors against the dark background.  I also change the color of the lines of the figure to something closer to a flesh tone.
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I play around with the idea of draping fabric that circles around the glass, as well as arm jewels.  All of these elements mimic the shape of the champagne glass and I work with trying to find a solid balance of all of the accessories before moving forward.  It’s important to plan out your steps as much as you can before proceeding, otherwise you will have to edit TOO MUCH later on.  Plan in the beginning and save time later on.
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Since the glass is a solid object that doesn’t move, and since the figure is emerging from it, I finalize the outline of the glass right now.  It will not change at all, save some minor reflections, and this way I can build the rest of the painting up around it without worrying about it.  I start to lay down color for the figure.
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Shading and layering the basic lines of light and shadow.  The main light source is going to come from above.
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I add the facial features, as I think they are one of the more difficult parts to balance out.  I try to do the more difficult elements first, so that they don’t weigh on my mind and seem so daunting.
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I smooth out the skin and adjust the color to make it pop a little more.  I want a darker skin tone, but not too dark.  Something that will look beautiful against the gold of the dress.
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One of the last things that I do, before trimming the boarders of the figure, is to highlight the skin with a white light brush.  It makes everything pop a little more, and it is nice to have that reflective look of the light bouncing off of the skin.
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I erase the edges and make them crisp!  But, I trimmed off a little too much and made her TOOOOO thin….I don’t like it.  (She is already skinny enough and I don’t want her to look unbalanced)
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This is much better.  Now, I need to work on the hands….One of my least favorite parts…….
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I haaaate drawing hands and feet (which means I should probably draw them more…)  They just take a long time to do, and I used to actually draw blocks for hands or hide them behind the figure.  But, they are so expressive and such an important piece to most of my work, now.  They can add or take away so much in a painting.  I highly recommend them, even though they do take a long time to draw.  🙂
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I lay down the color for the hair and placement for the bun.
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I paint color upon color, and strand upon strand, layer after layer.
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I add more detail and a splash of light to her hair.  I think I used about 10 different shades of brown and black to get the richness that I wanted.
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I thought I wanted a “light-filled” champagne liquid in the glass, but it looked like it was too much, so I decided to go with a “see through, against the black” look, instead.
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I add just the slightest hint of champagne color to the edges of the glass, and add the bubbles.  I had always been fascinated by champagne bubbles, as a kid.  I loved how they started out so tiny and concentrated only to float straight to the top of the glass in little lines.  (Fun fact:  Champagne was my favorite smell when I was little.  I used to ask my mom if I could sniff her glass of champagne when she would order it on that rare occasion.)
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The dress is going to be a see-through jewel-encrusted chiffon.  I add the base layer of the dress to the figure and blend it into the champagne.
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I was going to draw the shawl in the same way as I drew the figure (layering and then erasing the edges), but I decided to change my method…
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I referenced the original rough outline of the chiffon fabric that was sketched out in the beginning.
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On a different layer, I start drawing the back half of the shawl.
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I want the shawl to be very very see-through, so I start taking away color until I find my “happy place” and am satisfied with the see-through effect.
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On a separate layer I do the same with the front of the chiffon fabric.
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And I erase the layer until I am happy with how it looks.
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Jewels are so satisfying to paint.  Thousands of little dots give the illusion of chains or jewels draping from her arms.  The design isn’t planned out, but an art deco theme emerges with each strand that I add.  I usually let intuition lead me with details like these.  I feel like I am summoning Erte.
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I finish the other jeweled sleeve.
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The longest strand in the back was a little too wide and it didn’t look like it was falling properly, according to the weight of a chain of that size, so I fixed it.  I also added four more strands to the back to balance out the area.  I want the busy work to be on the arms, though.
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The rest of the gold shimmer is added to the dress and the chiffon fabric.  Hair jewels wrap around her head and connect to the back of a simple minimal earring.  (I really love this element)
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White shine is added throughout the painting on the jewels.
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Finally, the shine of the glass is added along with a sparkle on her lips and eye.
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017

“Healing” – January 22, 2017

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.

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Sketching the rough outline.  I always start with a light blue brush and sketch out a few layouts and concepts.  This is a very organic process, but once I figure out the general layout, I need to get the lines as proportionate as possible.  This is probably the most important step, because if your drawing is “off” in the beginning, it will be very tough to fix, later on.
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I add a light wash to her skin and change the color of the outlines to match the wash.
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This is a rough hair placement.
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Her beautiful hair needed to be trimmed back, so that it didn’t distract from the balance of the whole portrait.  There will be a sense of “energy” coming from the palms of her hands, so I wanted her hair to react to that source instead of being scattered about the whole frame.
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I add in a background base and shadows.  I chose purple, with highlights of red and blue, to bring out the yellow and orange tones of her hair.  I want the background to be very dark and I want this piece to have a lot of contrast because…
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…I am going to add a focal point of blue-ish light in her hands to represent healing, calm, strength, and peace.  I am testing the color combinations to see if they balance, before proceeding with the drawing.  I also see if this is the exact concept that I want to move forward with.  I need to make sure the elements sit well, together, and sometimes testing is a good thing.
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I take away the blue highlights, so that I can fill in her hair to test its truer color against the background.
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I start to add skin tones and shading.
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Deeper shades and highlights are layered on each other, and facial details are added.
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The pastel strokes are smoothed out.  But, her skin is a little too pink…I need to fix it.  Her hair also needs to be brightened.
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An eraser is used to trim around her hair and body.  Skin and hair colors are balanced out and a lot of pink is taken away.
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The orange vibrancy of her hair is bumped up just a little to give more contrast against the purple/blue background.
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Hair strands are drawn and scattered about.  Texture is added to her hair to give a little more depth.
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A drastic last minute change put most of this piece in the shadows.  Because a lot of “light” is going to be added, at the end, having the darkness will create an intense dramatic effect.  I love that a sense of mystery is brought out in this step, also.  This will also bring the attention to her face and the light, first, as opposed to her figure.
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The light is added to her palms and engulfs her body and hair.
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More shadows, details, and depth are added before the final magical touches.  I love the rainbow of colors that appeared within her hair.  It was unexpected, but so beautiful!  Happy accidents, right, Bob Ross?
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I start with the darkest shade of color that was used in the focal light, which was light blue, and scatter magical dots all around her.  I make sure that the flow is balanced and feels right to me before adding the next layer of magic and healing.
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An off-white is used to highlight the magical pathways even more.  The off-white is still very bright next to the dark colors, but can be brought out just a little more…
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The foreground “magic” is highlighted with an opaque pure white brush, to add extra depth and pop against the purple background.  “Healing” – digital painting – Photoshop.  By Erika Robertson – 2017 – For Tori

“3 Day Novel Challenge” – September 7, 2016

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The best things are worth the wait…

Over Labor Day weekend writers from all over the world, published and unpublished, participate in one of the most heartfelt, stressful, and ambitious writing competitions of their lives:  the 3 Day Novel challenge.  With only an optional outline and character backgrounds, to shield and protect themselves, they walk out to the battlefield with the hope that they will return on Monday evening with the remains of a one hundred page novel.  It would be messy. It would be bloody.  It would have so many typos that the thought of having someone read it…—-shudder.  Who, in their right mind, would participate in such a self-mutilating, time sucking, caffeine-fueled weekend of torture? Yours truly, of course! (Those who know me shouldn’t expect anything less, by now.)

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Filling in the blanks between the disasters
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The outline is complete, with detailed notes to reference via laptop on the side.  YES!

Preparing for the weekend was a little more involved than I thought it would be. For three weeks, I worked on creating the outline for the book based on the characters that I had come to know. The four days leading up to the competition would consist of plotting out my characters’ stories, page for page; I filled in little details, scenes, and kept track of the change in mood within each scene – there was a beautiful flow.  I displayed it on a massive cork board with index cards and pushpins, so that I could see the overall flow of the book. By the end of the holiday weekend, I would have a one hundred and ten page manuscript!  – At least, that is what I thought…

I stocked up on food, so that I wouldn’t have to leave the house.  Every minute counted, and wasted time at the grocery store or the nearest fast food joint, held the risk of ‘the loss of inspiration and flow’. I put away my phone, turned on the computer, and sat down to write on Saturday morning.

I had been waiting for this moment the better part of twenty years.

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I was too young to understand everything in the books, at the time, but I still read them…

My nose was always in a book when I was little. I was nine years old when I picked up Jurassic Park; after that it was The Lost World, and after that I would read The Andromeda Strain – all by Michael Crichton.  Reading made me want to write.

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The infamous “School Wars”
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Flashback to the 90’s!

When I was ten, Star Wars made its second appearance in the movie theater, and I wrote my first memorable book, School Wars.  It starred my classmates, and featured our teacher, Mrs. Kilbourn, as the tyrannical Gail Vador.  It was so popular that the summer school drama class asked me to rewrite it as a play and we performed it on stage.  It was my first taste of writing, and I loved it.

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The dedication and the opening sequence for “School Wars”
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My classmates – many are featured characters
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The stars of “School Wars” – brings back so many memories…

In seventh grade I tried to write my first novel, and failed. I was too young but that did not stop me from trying.  I still have the notes for each one of my friends who I turned into characters.  There was a lot of heavy influence from “The Outsiders”.  (S.E. Hinton was my favorite author at the time.)

In high school, I picked up my pen and paper, again. My English teacher was the one who mentioned that I had a lot of promise.  She loved my poetry and my short stories.  But, like all young writers, I lacked life experience and understanding. I hated hearing that it was too soon for me to write, because I wasn’t old enough, because I wasn’t seasoned enough. I wanted to prove her wrong. I was apparently accepted into a writing program (I found the letters, in the binder holding the research notes for my novel – I forgot all about it, until I stumbled upon them, yesterday) but I never followed through and I never even started writing anything – always stuck at writers’ block.  I knew that I had to put away my pride and accept the fact that I wouldn’t be able to write until I was older. I hated that stupid block SO MUCH!

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The notes from my fantasy novel – based in Ireland – I believe that I was 14 years old

When I was twenty, all of the extra-curricular activities I signed up for revolved around poetry, creative writing, and essays. One of our assignments was to write a scene, an excerpt from a book. We were required to share it with the rest of the class, and I got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of notes. I talked to my teacher after class one day to ask for her honest opinion about my writing. She said that the writing was pretty good, but that the characters were muddled and confusing.  She encouraged me to keep going, but told me that there was a reason why so many writers were older: they had more experience with life. They understood life just a little better. They understood people a lot better than a twenty-year-old did. At the time, I thought my writing was good. But, I listened to her words and took a hiatus from writing.  I would know when it was time…

The next decade of my life was consumed by my own personal development: acting and psychology, the art of understanding people, and the start of understanding myself and the people surrounding me.  My intuition and observation had always been prominent, but diving into myself had been the most difficult battle of my life.  When I was twenty-nine, I had a huge breakthrough, and it was at twenty-nine that I revisited my twenty-year-old self and re-read what I had written in that college classroom.

It was shit.

It was the smelliest of shits.  I couldn’t believe how shitty it was.  I closed the pages of the folder, and sat on my bed. I started to laugh. It was a horrible piece of literature. But, the fact that I could identify that it was a horrible piece of shit, and that I could break down the reasons why it was a horrible piece of shit, made me realize that I could be ready to start writing.  After twenty years in limbo, I was ready.

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The outline, broken down by page number, in all its theoretical glory

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, 2016:

It is 8:30pm, on the evening of day two of the three day challenge.  I stare at the cork board, plastered with the pristine outline of my 110 page novel.  I look down at my laptop screen:  page 31.

It’s beautiful. Its margins are perfect, the whiteness of the double spaced ripples glisten over my eyes. It is page 31…but I’m only on page 12 of my outline.  Page 12.  Page 12 of 110.

It was 8:32pm, when I decided to concede.

I walked downstairs to the freezer, grabbed my pint of ice cream and a spoon, and turned on the next episode of Breaking Bad – season 2, episode 4 – what a kick ass show.

I learned a lot about myself on Labor Day weekend:

I found out that I am a slow, but articulate, writer.

I found out that I pay attention to what my characters are telling me, which tells me that I’m heading in the right direction. (The moment you start trying to force your characters into situations instead of letting them lead you is the moment that you shoot yourself in the foot.)

I found out that if I decide to do this competition again next year that I will need to tell a much simpler story.

I found out that it takes much more than half a page to describe a scene. It takes at least one and a half, which turns my one hundred and ten page novel into a three hundred page novel. But I’m okay with that.

The most important thing I found out was that I do, in fact, love writing. Art has been an active part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I have been waiting to write for almost as long as I can remember. It doesn’t matter if anyone ever reads what I write. It doesn’t matter if I get published. It doesn’t matter if I submit my manuscript to anyone.  It doesn’t even matter if anyone knows that this is what I like to do.  All that matters is that I am enjoying this. I am cherishing the journey with each one of my characters, and thank God I didn’t sacrifice the quality of my characters, or my writing, so that I could bust out this novel in three days!  This is so much more fun than I could have imagined.  It has been worth the wait.

‘Til next time!

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“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

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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