My friend Ben Weger emailed me a sketch of what he wanted for his King of All Creation album artwork, along with the words "I envision something very creation-y. Birds, sky, earth. I kind of see a starburst frame with a primarily sketched circular center with maybe some water color undertones and the title across the bottom in some handwritten old-school cursivey goodness? I don't know if that even translates lol..."
I love emails like this because although Ben was uncertain if he had effectively communicated his vision for the artwork, the entire picture popped into my head as a finished work--all that was left to do was to actually make the artwork in real life.
I started out by drawing the "creation-y" scene out in pen on paper, then scanning it to add the watercolor effects digitally in photoshop. Creating the entire image on paper would have been risky with a design like this--if the tree needed to be a different color or the sky needed to be a deeper shade of blue, I would have had to re-do the entire piece from scratch. By coloring digitally, I was able to alter hues and textures much more efficiently.
I also don't have a lot of experience with watercolor, and my experiments with the medium usually turn into brown mush-lands of trash. Photoshop watercoloring is much safer with my skill level.
Mountainous landscapes come into my works often--doubtlessly due to growing up on the Rocky Mountain foothills in Colorado--and two recent visits back to those familiar peaks greatly inspired my use of texture and composition in my latest work, Ancient Story. I find the stacking of elements in atmospheric perspective so interesting, and it is a beauty wholly missed here in flatland Florida (although there are, of course, other wonders of loveliness). Seeing a valley, then hills, then the clustered monoliths of city architecture, then a mountain range, all staggered up to the sky is such an expansive and finite experience.
Earlier this year, Dave and I drove up to the historic PAL theater in Vidalia, GA to see our friend Brian Ernst achieve one of his dreams--to record a live, two-disc album. I think that Brian had mentioned his plans for this album literally every single time we saw him for the past four years, and it was always clear that his passion for this project was immense.
When Brian asked me to design the artwork for his first live album Any Given Saturday, I wanted to showcase all of the tools that help make his performances so enthralling. One of the coolest things about watching Brian perform live is seeing him expertly switch instruments like a woogly octopus, stomping on his looping pedal while simultaneously dropping a didgeridoo on its stand and swinging a guitar over his head.
In a very quick hour, the design concept went from a sketch and a conversation to hurriedly tossing a bright green sleeping bag (improvised green screen) in the driveway and photographing each of Brian's many soundmakers. The resulting album artwork features every instrument Brian used at the time of the live recording. As a constantly travelling musician, he tends to have instrument turnover from tour to tour; I love the idea that album captures a unique moment in Brian's collection of tools both through the music and in the design.
I've been doing a few little experiments and studies with mixed medias lately in hopes of discovering weird new ways to combine materials. Sometimes the studies turn into piles of mushy garbage art. Sometimes they come out pretty cool.
These studies aren't really regimented or thought-out--when boredom strikes and I am trying to procrastinate cleaning the house, I go hang out in my studio and start grabbing things from a pile of project scraps next to my desk. There were a lot of fun-sized mat board bits hanging around from matting some pictures. Aching to stay away from sweeping and vacuuming, I began tossing a bunch of different media onto the boards.
These three studies are all efforts to explore ways to control the textural medium, enhance a sense of depth with the texture, and to use colored pencil, marker, and pen to add interest and color on top of the acrylic paint.
Vast experimentation with alternative and unconventional mediums helped to achieve the sense of depth in the details of my latest painting, Salt Fingers. Made up of four 14"x14" canvases, this tetraptych features heavy texture, translucent layering, metallics, interference colors, sheen variety, and eroding swaths of color.
Back in February, I made the irrational, irresponsible, and spontaneous decision that Dave and I needed to get chickens immediately.
We have always talked about having our own little backyard flock, but it was a distant-future sort of desire. Sketched plans for a coop adorned our refrigerator since last October. I leisurely researched chicken breeds, space requirements, and care for months. I thought that once I really had this backyard beekeeping hobby down, some egg layers would be a nice addition to our little ecosystem.
On Valentine's Day, after my creepy pillow creation went viral, I was feeling weird. February 14th was spent in a daze of interviews and emails, and everyone wanted to know all about my whimsical novelty craft. My brain doesn't deal with that kind of attention well. It felt like a big whirlwind of horror craziness that I couldn't control. So, after talking poultry dreams with fellow chicken-desirer Rox at a baby shower (which are big whirlwinds of horror craziness unto themselves), I drove to the nearest farm shop.
Admittedly, these are not entirely new. I created the drawings for this Artist Trading Card Print Pack series quite some time ago, but I only recently motivated myself to compile the drawings into a neat little set of prints. Artist trading cards are something I create often; the originals are perfect little gifts to include with thank-you cards, and because they are baseball-card-size I don't feel awkward about burdening someone with a piece of gigantic art that they might not like. Oh, thanks, it's...so great...I will allow this to take up space in my closet forever and feel obligated to never throw it away. No one wants that, and no art is for everyone.
Although normally I just draw whatever comes into my mind at the moment my pen touches the paper, many of these cards were intended for specific people or to capture an exact observation. Here are my three favorites:
Today (Valentine's Day)(also my sister's birthday; have a good one sis!) was definitely one of the weirdest days of my life. Five days ago, I posted my Make-Out Practice Pillows on my blog and made an Instructable for my creations. Three days ago, I started getting dozens of press requests from big news sites like Huffington Post, Metro, and UK's Daily Mail. They had seen my pillow on a number of share sites like DesignTaxi and Buzzfeed.
Yesterday evening I was on an Australian morning radio show--they interviewed me about the pillows and we all had a good laugh about the "kissing cushions." My creepy creations were featured on Tosh.O's blog and Perez Hilton. Suddenly, only a few days after I sat at my sewing machine and stitched these pillows into the world, the CPR mouths had gone viral.
When I was in middle school, everyone "joked" about making out with pillows for practice. I'm assuming that I was not the only one for whom the jokes had some truth. Let's just all admit that we all practice made-out with our pillows and we looked really silly doing it. Those poor pillows.
There seems to have been little innovation in the make-out practice pillow department despite the rise in popularity of decorative "Let's Make Out" pillows and cuddle pillows so it is time that I step in and offer a new solution to the middle-schoolers or lonely hearts of the world: a pillow with a mouth. You are welcome. You are so welcome.
I first studied reliquaries from the standpoint of Art History, and since then the concept consistently pops up in my artwork. They are fascinating vessels, elaborately decorated with gold and gemstones to house objects of supposed religious significance (like the remains of saints, cloth from the robe of Mary, etc.). The whole concept of "relic" is vexing and intoxicating to me--the construction of a garish house for something as simple and as lovely as a piece of bone seems like such a very human activity. We like to take humble things and cover them in wealth.