It’s something we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives. It’s something that challenges us, something that allows us to express our emotions, something that unites people who have nothing in common.
It’s something that used to be a huge part of my life. Elementary school brings back memories mostly of art class and recess. It was a time in my life that I couldn’t stop creating, but it wasn’t long until I did. I wasn’t the “creative one” in the family – this was made clear by the rollerblades, skateboards and footballs that were given to me as gifts rather than the fancy art kits I begged for.
Rumor has it, I finally just bought my own art kit.
Weeks ago, I added a new page to this blog: Gallery
This is intended to be a space where I showcase the projects I’m working on and the work that I’m proud of. You see, this space for me represents the “My Life” side of this blog. But, to expand on the images thrown in, I wanted to tell the story behind it all. Because what good is art if there isn’t any meaning behind it?
But, this story starts back in Elementary School.
My first gallery show. Mrs. Oppermann, my favorite art teacher decided that my abstract collage was worthy of being hung up on a wall and shown to the whole town. And so, it became an event for my family and we got to be proud of something other than “your child is being separated from the rest of the class to focus on more advanced reading”.
And soon after, my most exciting work of art and something to this day I remember incredibly clearly. The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program invited students to participate in designing their stamp, and our art class was sent home with the assignment to participate if we chose. I thought it was fun, and after a few weeks suddenly I was being handed packets full of paper and being congratulated as my piece had been selected to receive an Honorable Mention.
We got all dressed up and got to go to a formal awards ceremony on the conservation. When asked to share a conservation message I wrote “because if you cut down the trees, animals won’t be able to breath so we couldn’t eat or breath in air and we would die because their would be no air”
This was my first piece titled piece: All Alone ~ Canadian Goose in colored pencil
And then 10 year old me stopped making art.
With the exception of work required for classwork, the creativity didn’t really start flowing again until I started studying Architecture at Clemson.
And it wasn’t until I stopped caring about my actual architecture work, that I started treating it as art.
We were assigned to study an object that could be taken apart, that we could see the inside and the outside. Analyze how form and function worked together. Analyze movement. My milk foamer made the perfect study piece. And this project finalized my decision to be done with Architecture.
There were so many rules and so many guidelines and they all kept screaming to be broken.
So, I dumped (strategically) my coffee on my project. It was an early Saturday morning and to my knowledge I was alone in the studio. Out of no where my professor was there – she had to do some grading – and she kept coming over and questioning everything, especially the paintbrush being dipped into the coffee I was still drinking.
I outlined the stages of using the milk foamer and combined the movement, functionality, and overall essence of a coffeehouse. I did the base of this project with some Starbucks espresso, used pencil for the milk foamer iterations and affixed photos of the mug and milk pitcher with a coat of mod podge to add some extra shine.
It was incredible when we went to present, I half expected to be told I did the project wrong. Mine looked different, certainly smelled different, but I had been successful in breaking the rules without actually breaking them. My favorite critique was that “it makes me feel like I’m in a coffee house” and half the class took their time sniffing the paper to see if I’d really used coffee. I did successfully horrify my professor though.
By the time our large scale project for the semester was under way, I took the opportunity to play with materials I hadn’t used before.
I was studying House In A Plum Grove by SANAA and in displaying the unique library that is the only room that doesn’t have white walls, I chose to use charcoal to represent the contrast. We had to also show how light interacted with the space, which taught me different shading techniques and how to see perspective within the space.
After transferring, regular art classes were a part of my required curriculum. This project was my favorite because our instruction was to find a color pallet and create something that matches it.
Open ended projects mean I could create something I wanted to. I drew inspiration from the coffee house I grew up in – The Perc Place in Hartford, WI – that was adorned with paintings and quotes from famous actors and musicians. I wanted to recreate that feeling so I combined a quote from my favorite movie Dead Poet’s Society, and returned to the medium of painting with coffee.
One unique thing we did in this art class was create a file each week on Pinterest with a specific theme or art medium in mind. This project emerged from the theme “Immensity” that I had filled with things I associated with the term such as elephants, outer space, and the ocean.
The original idea comes from the episode of One Tree Hill, where Haley’s sister Quinn expresses her fear of the ocean and finally decides that she’s afraid of the immensity, not simply the ocean.
I used sharpie for this piece and worked to create something abstract and developed the elephant as a figure from a religious ceremony or traditional wedding.
This design presented a challenge, as we had to create a concept that combined to opposites. I started with the idea of lava replacing water. My first attempt involved a world map where the continents would be hardened pieces of lava and the oceans would be molten magma. This idea didn’t go over well with the professor, and so my volcano that spews water was created.
Although I wasn’t fond of this project, I did get to work with combining mediums and ended up working with both chalk pastels and oil pastels for the backdrop and smoke, then acrylic and chalk to create the water-volcano.
Most recently, I’ve been working with watercolor.
I decided early in this year that I needed to have multiple “hobbies” and going back to art has really given me a new purpose. I can’t spend every hour of my day talking about my condition, advocating, connecting with other people. But most days I’ve only got so much energy and being able to work on something that requires breaks and can’t be completed in one go is something perfect for me.
My Charleston Series was born when my best friend expressed she needed art for her new apartment. She had been looking for local, Charleston art but everything in that category breaks most people’s bank.
And so, I decided what better way to experiment with a new medium than creating something for your friend. And I learned so much. I learned how quickly pigment disperses and disappears when its grey or light pink. I learned how to wait for layers to dry and add on top to create definition and more intense colors. I learned the techniques for hiding stroke patterns. I had the most fun creating the aged look on the top of the building with the blue door.
This piece was for me. Some days we need to create for ourselves, because if we can’t create for our own joy we can’t possibly consider making something for someone else.
If there’s any truths in this world, it’s that I’m a huge One Tree Hill fan and that I too live behind a red door. And you see, Lucas Scott once told Brooke Davis that she was going to change the world one day, and I’d like to think on my best days I can channel Brooke and remind myself what I’m capable of.
Charleston Series 3 ~ Pink House
My most recent piece is extremely special. After my best friend got her pieces for her apartment, she decided that of all the things in the world, she wanted to commission me to create another installment to gift to her mom for her birthday.
Although multiple people own prints of my Immensity piece and my first coffee stained architecture project was purchased by my English teacher, I have never created something for money for another person. It’s a huge step and the concept itself mind blowing.
I don’t think commissions are necessarily for me, but I haven’t totally ruled it out.
For now I’m experimenting with what I call “watercolor adaptations of photographs” and each time I pick up a brush I feel more and more comfortable with what I’m doing. I intend to expand upon the Charleston Series throughout the next few months and maybe make a few more Tree Hill pieces for myself.
This is my life now. And I’m okay with it. It’s a lot easier to say “I’m a writer and I paint on the side” than saying “I’m disabled” and I’m thankful to have these outlets.
To quote from Dead Poet’s Society:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
This is my verse.