Category Archives: Art

Book Cover Image for "Discovering Words" by Julian Walker

Discovering Words by Julian WalkerRecently Natalie was contacted by a representative from Shire Publishing in regards to an image she photographed of her Magnetic Poetry Project that was posted on our Flickr account.  In the project, Natalie used a printable magnetic sheet that she could feed through our printer.  Inspired by a similar kit she found at a bookstore, Natalie wanted to create a kit that contained words that she wanted.  The idea was to design many little magnets with a single word printed on each one.  The fun part is then creating word arrangements by going through the pile of words, arranging them until they form sentences or even poetry.  You can get some really neat results and some rather serendipitous combinations by quickly and randomly pulling words from the pile.  In a previous post, Natalie describes the process of how she created the kit.

Long ago, she uploaded the image to our Flickr account and was recently approached to to use one of the images from the kit’s creation for the cover of a new book entitled “Discovering Words” by author Julian Walker, to be published by Shire Publishing.  Natalie, being the utmost and consummate perfectionist, decided to create a newer, and higher resolution image for the book.  The book is an exploration of etymology of the English language and the origins of common words.  With excellent communication from the publisher, she created a new version of her original image that showcased some of the words that are explored in the book.

Shire Publishing describes the title as a “treasury of word histories, showing the variety of ways the words we use have evolved. The book is arranged into subjects, within which a selection of words are traced back through the stages by which they came to be part of the English language, and through more recent changes over time in form and meaning.”

The book is currently available for pre-order via and also through Random House, and will be available October 9th, 2009.

You can also download a desktop wallpaper image of the original magnetic poetry design to decorate your workspace.

We’re looking forward to getting our own copy!

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As a visual artist, I have often been asked to define my style, and nine times out of ten, I fail miserable at being able to defining my style in words.  Yet, if you look at my portfolio, my style is very evident.  From the bold colors to the crisp blacks lines, there is a common thread that connects my works of art that have been created over the years. 

Part of the hesitation to define my style comes from knowing that labels stifle creativity.  Yet, there is a balancing act that takes place in knowing yourself as an artist and giving yourself the creative freedom to explore.  As Julia Cameron states in Walking in this World:

“Art” is less about what we could be and more about what we are than we normally acknowledge.  When we are fixated on getting better, we miss what it is we already are–and this is dangerous because we–as we are–are the origin of our art.  “We” are what makes our art original.  If we are always striving to be something more and something different, we dilute the of what it is we actually are.  [In] doing that, we dilute our art.

This danger of striving to be something more, something different is exactly what I’ve been struggling with this past year.  Part of me questioned if it was time to move onto a different subject matter…something besides the series of senuous female portraits I have been exploring in recent years.  Then another part of me felt compelled to tackle larger scale paintings.  It finally reached the point where I took a break from creating any new paintings. 

Yet even during this creative break, I find myself embracing creativity from designing my own jewelry to painting glass candle holders for our bedroom.  And it’s been during this creative break that I’m rediscovering my style.

Several new ideas for paintings fill my head, but I’m taking one step at a time.  As Julia recommends:

Just as in romance, too serious, too fast, and the fun fizzles out.  We need to flirt with an interest, approach it with a sidelong glance … We must learn to explore, not repress, our intuition.  Intuition is key to creative unfolding.

So I’m getting back to basics, from going on meditative walks to taking artist’s dates.  Every day brings a new adventure, and in time, maybe I’ll finally discover the Holy Grail of paintings.  Until then, I embrace the little sparks of divine inspiration that each day brings.

Post inspired by this week’s theme at Sunday Scribblings

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Trusting in your intuition

During high school my art teacher awarded me as the outstanding senior painter of the year. That essentially sums up the extent of my formal education in the arts. I attended college, even graduated with honors. But I never took another art class. To some in the art community, I’ve been looked down upon for npeacock featherever having formally studied art.  But I firmly believe that you can learn anything if you put your heart, mind, and soul into it. So that’s what I did… I practiced self-study in the field of painting. I looked towards the masters to see what lessons they could pass on to me while still exploring my own theories in art.

My best friend during college thought it was probably a good thing, and this is coming from someone formally trained in the arts as a graphic designer. Her rationale was that the professors probably would have done more harm than good, and in some ways, she was probably right.

Besides having one of the worst inner critics, I’ve never been one to create on demand very well. If you tell me to paint pretty landscapes, I’ll paint nudes. If you tell me to paint a nude, I’ll paint birds.

My brain naturally resists the slightest notion of creating on demand. However, I have successfully created commission pieces if I felt passionate about the piece.

As Julia Cameron states:

So much of art hinges on our ability to trust intuition, to follow our hunch about what “might” or “could” come next.

It’s good to make art part of your everyday life. But you have to be careful to not get too serious. To remember to laugh and remind yourself that it’s okay to fail, to have a bad day at the easel. To type 10,000 words of absolute garbage. It’s needed to let the muse have a chance to sing. She sometimes whispers, screams, or doesn’t speak at all. The point is to continue listening for when inspiration might speak. To continue being creative, even if it isn’t your masterpiece.

I find myself needing to consider this idea often right now as I work on an upcoming exhibit that is focused completely on my exploration of female portraits and nudes. It’s been an avenue of artwork that I’ve been passionately creating for years, but exactly when I receive requests to create more pieces in this style- larger pieces, full of expression- I freeze up. And I start thinking about painting peacocks or trombones or coffee cups.

Well, I might create a peacock painting eventually, but this weekend is going to be completely focused on painting pieces for the upcoming exhibit. We are going to make it the perfect weekend.

Brian has promised to keep me fed, watered, and well cared for as I delve into my studio.

More to come this weekend as I share my adventures so stay tuned…

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the art of finding balance

I received an e-mail today from one of my readers asking:

I was just wondering if you have any advice for the modern career woman who is struggling to have some time for herself. How do you find an outlet for your creative self expression and still manage to balance your financial responsibilities and so forth.

It’s a question that a lot of fellow readers might struggle with so I decided to post my response here on the site.

To give you some background history, I decided at an early age to choose a field outside of the art scene to allow me creative freedom in my art, and to give myself financial security. At first, I struggled at finding a real world job that fit my personality and skill set, but in time, I found myself working in the accounting field of all things…and for me it works.

Contrary to most misconceptions of accounting, I don’t sit in my cube counting beans all day. It is really more intense and exciting than most people realize. Of course, each day varies, but in a typical month, I’ve used a wide range of skills from using my detective skills to solve accounting mysteries to developing processes and procedures to prevent those “mysteries” from happening in the first place. And really, typically, they are never truly “accounting mysteries”, it’s just a way to add the element of fun back into my career. Something that’s missing from most corporate america jobs.

In other words, part of being a successful artist in the corporate world is a matter of perspective. Find elements of your work that you love and discover a way to transform it.

The other key part of finding balance between your work and life is in the art of recycling paper. Instead of throwing paper away that has only been printed on one side, find a place to stack it. Then when you need to brainstorm on an idea, reuse other side. Instead of wasting more paper through post-it notes, use your recycled paper when jotting down notes from phone calls. Part of you will feel good from doing this one good deed. Not to mention, that recycled stack of paper comes in handy sometimes when you realized that you might have thrown away something you need at a later date.

The other very important use of recycling paper comes with daily goal setting. Take of one those sheets of recycled paper and fold the paper in half. Use one side to list your goals for work that day, and the other side to list your personal goals outside of work. At the end of the day, cut the paper in half…leaving your work to-do list at the office as a mental note that it will still be there for you in the morning. Then take your personal list with you.

When it comes to personal goal setting, I have six main sections right now that I’m focusing on: Art, Financial, Health, Relationships, Spiritual, and the Mundane.

With my art goals, I look to accomplish something artistic every day. Whether it’s working on one of my paintings or simply brainstorming for new painting ideas, all of it counts. I also list my goals for the website as well as my recently opened etsy store. Basically, anything that has to do with my pursuit to make art part of my life.

Daily financial goals can be as routine as paying bills to downloading our Quicken statements. Again, remember, those small little steps add up over a week or even month’s worth of time.

As for my health goals, one of my main ones is remembering to take my vitamins. I’ve even taken in a pair of 5lbs weights into work considering I spend a lot of time in the office. They’re great for conference calls. Just put the phone on mute, do a couple bicep/tricep curls. Sure, I do occasionally get a few weird looks. But more often than not, I also get thumbs up for making that commit to keep healthy. Not to mention, I typically stay more focused on the call when lifting weights versus browsing my inbox.

Another one of my main areas for daily goal setting is relationships. From calling my mom on my way home from work (on my hands-free device, of course) to making a birthday card during lunch at work with friends, I always look for creative ways to accomplish my goals. Just remember that you’re not always going to get everything done in time. When it comes to cards, I’m always horribly late. As anyone that knows me will say, my sense of time is always off. But as someone once said, the wait is always worth it for my cards since they are typically homemade.

As for the spiritual realm, it can be as simple as saying a prayer, lighting a candle, or reading something inspirational before bed. The idea is just to make a little bit of time to step back and be thankful for the many blessings in life.

And then there is the mundane…laundry, dishes, mowing the grass…all those things you wish would go away, but never do unless you put a little elbow grease into it. So to prevent the weekend from being full of chores, spread it out throughout the week. Fold some towels one day. Do another load the next day. And if you really need help in this area, check out Flylady, a website dedicated to helping you find balance between life and chores.

Goal setting is just one part of finding balance in your life though. The other main part is your friends, family, and your significant other if you’ve discovered him or her. It’s these relationships that you build that will help you keep perspective, give you guidance when you need it, and inspire you to keep reaching for the stars every day. The important part is to develop these relationships across the different areas of your life that are important to you from work to your hobbies. And if you’re lacking friends in an area of your life, be bold, be daring…make the first step and ask someone to join you for lunch or coffee. Over the years, these friendships will become priceless.

When it comes to finding balance in life, sometimes you discover the secret through trial and error. Other times, you might discover it over a cup of coffee with friends. So if you’re still reading this, what are some of your own personal ways to find balance?

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Art as a Function of Evoking Memory

Wade SlaterLast semester I took a course in Color Theory. I have often been told that it was an odd choice for a culinary student to take an art class. However, I am of the school of thought that one eats with the eyes first. Food simply has to look appealing. And to me, food is art.

My instructor was Wade Slater, who had the distinct misfortune to listen to me blabbering on about theories regarding life, the universe, everything. (Brief nod to Douglas Adams.) I do tend to yammer on about whatever stray thought seems to enter my head, and yet he was kind enough to entertain my ideas. We spoke fervently about many subjects, and yet it always came back down to art and the power of color and shape and how it works in the imaginative space of the viewer. I am learning that nearly everything we do, say, or speak all comes back to the way in which we percieve the world through our tools of vision, our tactile senses, and the inner workings of the human mind.

During one of our conversations, Mr. Slater spent the time painting the above picture, which is acrylics on mat. He did it easily while discussing the impact imagery of any sort has upon our collective psyche and unconsciousness. Yeah, big words, but really quite profound and simple concepts. The whole time we discussed vast topics of color, he worked on this piece and spent energy into it, easily transitioning between color selections and concepts related to art.

The point of this post really isn’t the body of our conversation. I’d need a few hours to write it all down properly. The point is, at the end of the conversation, he smiled and gave the piece to me. He has this series of characters he has been working on. He even does sculptures and fridge magnets of these characters that he knows like the back of his hand. (They are on sale at a local coffee shop called Sacred Grounds. You should really go sometime.)

I was hesitant to take it because he obviously put alot of energy into it, but he seemed happy to offer it and I was more than honored to receive it. Yes, the picture is creepy cool. I love cool characters like this. The weird, the unusual, the freaky. But that’s not why I like it. This picture represents a moment in time. Its a meaningful conversation, that will forever be evocative of a specific moment for me.

Memories, while still in the moment of their birth, are the hallmark of future events, and the recall of them are the lens through which we create the present. I look back upon that conversation, and realize its significance for who and what I am in this very moment in time. I got to see the whole process by which this image was created. The paint being sloshed around in water to create a flowing medium, and the quick and sure hand that guided the brush across paper, all while the machinery of the mind was churning and struggling to give words to concepts and ideas that are, for the most part, in the realm of wordless and near-formless thoughts.

So right now, this weird little guy is on my bulletin board, staring at me every day, reminding me of a specific moment in time, much better than any Polaroid could. It is a pattern of thought, sigilized into an image.

So, along this line of thought, I now realize just how important it is to doodle, to keep the pen moving while thinking and to simply create, create, create. If thoughts truly become things, words and images seem to be the binding agent for triggering our subconscious to help it along.

When we pass these gifts out into the world, and sell our art, or post an image to a website I often wonder… Somehow, some way, is the energy and thought that went into making the image, and the pattern of chaos amidst the stream of consciousness that was alive inside the mind of the artist at the time of its creation, passed on and transmitted to the viewer?

The more I live, and the more art I allow into my own imaginative space, the more convinced I am that it is.

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mantra artAs a self-taught artist, there are a couple concepts I live by in order to grow as an artist. The first one is to study the work of the masters. And while you could leave it at simply exposing yourself to their artwork, I have found that I learn best by putting what I study into action. So I have created several pieces of artwork over the years in self-study of various famous artists, from Picasso to Jackson Pollack to Van Gogh, I’ve covered some of the major painting styles that influences the art we see today.

It was also during this process of self-study that I started to discover my own style. As one of my favorite art quotes by Robert Henri states:

Don’t worry about your originality. You could not get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick to you and show you up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.

It was during this period that I really started to focus on developing my skills with portraits, which lead up to this past year of non-stop art shows. And when it was all done, I could look back in amazement in the rapid transformation. But somewhere along the way, I forgot the basics. I became so good at creating portraits with soft pastels that I didn’t really challenge myself to take on new styles of art. And in this process, I’ve almost become lost as an artist. While I know I can create a portrait without a lot of effort, other styles and mediums outside of pastels seem daunting.

Whenever you develop your talents as an artist with one particular medium/style, it can almost feel like you’re starting over when you explore new territory. At first, it can seem overwhelming. Part of you may feel silly for acting like such a novice. But if you can get over the initial shock of starting all over again, you might surprise yourself. You might even discover a part of yourself artistically that you didn’t know existed.

So I’m at that point where I’m ready to experiment, to try different styles and mediums…to basically, allow my inner artist a chance play once more from exploring wire sculpture to watercolor. So stay tuned for new explorations in future posts.

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Rediscovering your dreams

sculptureI am now officially in the second week of Walking in this World by Julia Cameron, and if you have ever actively used any of her books, you’ll remember how she is great at getting you to rediscover forgotten dreams. For me, personally, I have been very fortunate to receive opportunities to experiment with different mediums. During college, I basically had art supplies given to me from fellow artists that were retired, which I still use to this day. However, for me, one of the unexplored territories that I long to dive into has been sculpture and working with clay. While I had the opportunity to experiment with clay during high school art class, it’s one of those mediums that requires access to special tools and supplies, which is hard to come by unless you either invest money into the craft or take a class. Thus, I have made a commitment to dedicate any upcoming funds received on my artwork to a class where I can explore and learn more about either sculpture or creating works of art with clay depending on what I can find offered locally here. So stay tuned for upcoming ebay auctions!

As for the rest of you readers, what forgotten dreams do you have? Is there anything artistically that you’ve always wanted to explore and never got around to? If so, what is a small step you can take to make the dream a reality?

[Sculpture shot at Mirta's Gallery...while it's definitely not the best shot...I love the play on shadows this one creates.]
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why do you paint naked people?

naked people art

With my last art exhibit, the press actually asked me:

Why do you paint naked people?

Which sounds like a weird question if you think about it, and to be quite honest, I’ve never really thought about it. To me, painting is about expressing myself. And my nude studies seem appropriate to showcase a wide range of emotions. Clothes tend to color our moods. Sometimes they even mask what we’re really like. So it’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. Throughout the exhibit, I received a ton of positive feedback. Many women that attended the opening reception expressed how the artwork even captured powerful emotions they felt at one point or another, which was wonderful to hear. To me, when artwork not only moves someone deeply, but expresses a feeling that they can relate to, it’s accomplishing its mission. Yes, there are artists out there that explore the realms of painting complex scenery, but I prefer to lean towards the simplistic side of painting. Not that it’s easy. Some artists remark that capturing human emotion is difficult. But that’s the wonderful aspect of creating art…there are no limits to the boundaries that you can achieve.

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Final Exams

final examsI’m in Finals…

For a culinary student, that means hard labor and an artistic creation all in the space of a few hours. And later in the week, you do it again.

Ever see Iron Chef? Two great chefs compete, not really knowing what the secret ingredient is before the show begins. They have to use their skill and understanding of preparation methodology to create dishes.

And that’s sorta what we had to do. Granted, there are differences. Firstly, I am nowhere near as good as Hiroyuki Sakai, my favorite Iron Chef. We have a few hours, not one, and we have the luxury of knowing what types of dishes to make (One soup, two salads, one starch, one protein, etc, etc.) We get turned loose on a pile of ingredients the day of the exam, not knowing what we will have to work with ahead of time. We have to pump out anywhere from 8 to 50 items, depending on the exam.

Yeah, I understand most cooking methods, and the theory of flavor profiles (what makes something taste Asian, Indian, Cuban, etc.) So, I usually do fairly well, but there’s a kicker.

And, to top it all off, we have to be artistic and creative. Yup, those fancy schamncy platings with exotic sauces, carrots carved to look like dragons, etc.

I call it “Art Under The Gun.” Most artists have a difficult time with pressure and deadlines. Three hours isn’t much of a deadline to come up with something spectacular, but I think it is forcing me to work my “creative muscle.” No dirty jokes, please. ;-)

Basically, I am being given a palate of ingredients, a plate as a canvas, and I can use proper theory and arrangement to stylize how the food appears on a plate. Matching colors, contrasting flavors, weak and strong lines, everything.

So my challenge to you is to, sometime this week, pick up your medium of choice, be it food or pastels or pen and ink. Time yourself. Stop when your time runs out. Force yourself to come up with something new and unexpected. Don’t be disappointed it it doesn’t turn out perfect right off the bat. Keep spontaneously creating.

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The Art of Not Selling Out

Commercialism runs rampant in our society. Its true. EVERYTHING, to some degree or another, has been made into a mass-marketed form that is palatable for the average, everyday person. (Which I believe is a misconception. No one is average unless they allow themselves to become so.)One-Size-Fits-All solutions invade our life in regards to everything from mass-marketed pop “music” to religion, our jobs, our fashion, and to some degree, even our relationships. But don’t worry, I’m not about to debate our culture and its merits or lack thereof. If you are a person that “gets it,” then this post will make sense to you. If you aren’t, hopefully you’ll understand what I am talking about over the next few days. If not, I just stole 3 minutes of your life.

Okay, before you start thinking to yourself “Oh crap, here goes another hippy on a rant,” I should probably say that I understand that this is how the world works, and I am okay with it. Sort of. No, really, I mean it. Well, I wish it weren’t, but lets talk about that.

A few years back, the only thing I could think of doing was working in television network news. As I have mentioned before, I have a profound ability to talk all day about nothing, so this seemed to be a good fit for me. I interned at a television news station and, before you know it, I was slinging information fast and furious at the masses. My job was, essintially, to put together all the resources so that we would have a news show. I would send this reporter here, this photographer there, arrange for interviews, sort through satellite feeds, examine Reuters and AP stories, etc., ad infinitum. If you boil it down, it was to make sure we got the video first, best, and beat the other guys to the punch.

I loved it. I was a kid, mostly, and a little clumsy on the job, but I really loved it. Perhaps it was the action, or the fast pace, or the interminable line of cute interns that was constantly marching through the door, but it seemed like a pretty good fit at first. (The real trick to impressing a cute intern is to take her up in a news helicopter and fly over the Bay. Yeah, shameless, I know.)

During this time, I wasn’t really aware of how marketed everything in our society has become. I was, literally, a cog in the machine. It was an interesting time to work for the news station because they were in the process of changing ownership when I was hired on. They were primarily a CBS station that was bought out by Fox. I literally heard the building creak over a few months as the news changed its “slant.” But I had bought into the system. I thought I had found my place in it, and I was happy.

Working there was very good for my soul, I think, in the long run, but much like the phoenix, I had to crash and burn before I rose from the ashes. I was exposed to quite a large number of things that are too many and varied to talk about in this particular part of the post. Things I saw that led me to where I am today. But a turning point for me was a night I won’t ever forget.

I had just finished a very long day at the station. I don’t quite recall if this was before or after Princess Diana died, which was a media farce behind the cameras like you wouldn’t believe. The word “circus” doesn’t even describe it. I wasn’t too far from leaving the station in my little car and then *WHAMMO!*

I witnessed a horrific car accident, right on Kennedy, just before Dale Mabry. For you local Tampa residents, you’ll know exactly where this area is, and will be nodding knowingly. For those of you that are not familiar with the area, picture a sign above the intersection that reads “Abondon Hope, All Ye that Drive Through Here.” Yeah, it was that bad back then.

The driver, the car, and a half dozen cars behind her were simply mangled. One of the drivers was trying to beat a red light on a left turn and ended up T-Boning another driver, and then then a horrible cascade of other cars getting caught in the crossfire. I was lucky enough to have been in the other lane and far enough away from the initial crash that my vehicle was largely unaffected.

There is a police and fire substation not too far from the intersection and within about 90 seconds, they were on the scene.

Thinking like a good news boy, I grabbed my cellphone and called the station, thinking “Damn, this would be good video for the six o’clock show.” I threw on my media badge and waited for the duty officer to show up and immediately started to pepper him with questions, and I jotted down all the answers.

In the middle of all this, the EMTs started to load one of the victims into the ambulance. And that’s when it happened. I broke. I got into my car. I drove home. Within days, I would no longer be working in television.

My first instinct was to call the news station. My first instinct was to get the story. It should have been to get my ass out of the car and run towards the accident, trying to help anyone that I could. Instead, I was behaving like a cog in the machine. I was doing what I was trained to do.

Over the brief few years at the station, I came to regard individuals as tools and resources. People were stories, or video waiting to happen. There was a sublte dehumanization that took place that was sneaky and powerful. And all it took for me to realize this was a half dozen people to almost die right before my eyes.

I shouldn’t have been thinking about my job. I shouldn’t have been thinking at all, actually. Somewhere, deep inside me, there should have been a gut reaction to immediately get out of the car and just try to help another human, regardless of financial gain or job prestige.

So I quit. And then I went into radio. Yeah, I know. Just as bad, right?

But it was an important part of the process. A process of learning how to jump out of the machine, and navigate life on my own terms…


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