Friday, February 12, 2016

We Are Elephants, We Are Whales

"I had a baby!" 

This is what I say to people I haven't seen in a year or so.  So this is what I say to you, too, dear reader.  Though I have been updating my website regularly, and exhibiting and creating new work, I have not written a blog entry for quite some time.  Well, I had a baby.  

Now, the math doesn't quite add up here, since my last post was August 2014.  But I promise you, I have been busy.  From acceptance into the Artists Association of Nantucket to the creation of a new website, to participating in the Sustainable Nantucket Farmers & Artisans Market, to building more and more new work... and among all that, I got married and had a baby.  (While I don't love posting personal information online, these are two legal facts that are not hush hush.)  

Many artists may not want to let the art community in on life changes such as these.  The art community is made up of single, starving artists, right?  Artists who are successful do not get married and they certainly do not have babies.

Whatever.  Having a baby for me is the ultimate act of creation.  She is a moving work of art -- and she inspires me every day!  Although more time is devoted to her than to art (as it should be), I continue to be successful as an artist, by my own measures of success.  I continue to create work.  I continue to show work and be inspired artistically.  

And here are the successful results!

You Are Mine, cut magazine paper on wood panel, 8"x8"
copyright Nicolette Callaway 2015

We Are Whales, cut magazine paper on wood panel, 10"x10"
copyright Nicolette Callaway 2016

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Tour Through

My friend and talented colleague, Liz Zunon, invited me to a blog tour, which I am very excited to hop on... It's wonderful to participate with the artistic/illustrative community in this way, and to be considered by my fellow artists. 

It has been quite a while since I have posted, mostly due to the fact that lately I have been spending my non-desk job hours creating new work, rather than going to markets this year.  In fact, I have only participated in one market/festival this summer--Troy River Fest.  I have found that refraining from doing markets limits the amount of time I have to be "on," in a sense, selling something (my desk job is very customer service oriented).  Not adding a sixth "on" day has greatly contributed to my ability to reserve energy and sanity.  I have also provided myself with self-evaluative time, to let the creative process work. 

I've been very interested in birds lately-- colors, meanings, songs... I have been noticing the cardinals flitting about, and am excited every time I hear a "pretty bird" warble in the distance, or see a glimpse of red flutter in the green.  I've begun a triptych, three 4"x4" wooden panels, each with a different bird of a primary color (yes, indeed, a cardinal is one), to create a complete piece about happiness, self-worth, and abundant creativity.  It is the most commercialized I've been able to make my artwork, and still maintain my convictions about the work I do.

So what are those convictions?  How is my work different than any other artist out there working in the field?  A lot of it has to do with the material I use.  I take fashion magazines like Glamour and Vogue, as well as pop gossip magazines like People and US Weekly, and cut them up to use their color and texture like paint.  By doing this, I differ from other artists in a few ways.  The first is that I choose these magazines for the very fact that they are exploitative-- not just of women, but of people.  They promote an idealized, consumerist, wasteful, over-sexualized approach to life, economics, and social interaction, that is devoid of love, connection, and humanity.  Some of this is through the articles, especially in the case of the gossip magazines, but most of this approach is conveyed through advertising.  So I cut it up and turn it into something else.  The second way I differ from other artists through my use of materials, is that many collage artists will reappropriate images in their work, which I do not do (although most illustrators who use collage do create their own images).  The third way I differ from other collage artists is the scale of the work and the exclusive use of magazine paper -- the tiny cuts, without paint or other media to layer or fit them together.

So what is it that I illustrate?  What is the new content of these colors and textures?  All of my artwork contains the four natural elements in some respect-- earth, air, fire and water.  This is the backdrop for all my work.  All of these elements exist in the world in which we live, all working together, and we can view this cooperation as a model for ourselves.  Although, like in the game rock, paper, scissors, one element could trump another in some way, this natural intertwining is not how the elements play.  Rather, new phenomena are created-- storms, smoke, creatures... and rather than any force winning, these phenomena add layers to our world.  The foreground of my work focuses on totem animals.  I cull meanings for animals from various Native American cultures, choosing the ones that best fit the piece and the meaning I want to convey (occasionally I will draw from other cultures, i.e., African, East Asian, when an animal I want to use is not native to the Americas).  Sometimes I will juxtapose two animals together, or have their meanings run alongside one another.  For example, in the piece "To Know Bounds," I wanted elements that represent not only relationships and the deepening of them, but also elements that work together to suggest an intuition about boundaries and knowing one's limits within a relationship-- when to move forward, to prod, and when to sit back and let things go on their own.  The moth and rabbit were perfect for this. 

Progression for Keeper of Secrets © 2013.
To create a piece, I first start with a sketch.  I use many reference photos before I get a sketch I'm really psyched about.  Then I start cutting.  First I go through magazine after magazine to form a little bank of colors and textures I want to use.  If I'm lucky, I may already have a pretty good bank from the last few pieces I've worked on.  Then I choose an element (usually the animal in the foreground) and start with the tiny cuts.  I paste them together with acrylic medium.  Once the animal elements are done, I start with the background.  This part is difficult.  If not done correctly, it can fall flat, or be too chaotic.  And oftentimes, the paper can get bubbly and crinkly, which doesn't lend itself well to reproductions, so those pieces don't get printed.  Once I've completed the piece, I go over the surface with an acrylic varnish, to protect the paper and keep all the little bits together.  Then I scan the piece into the computer, for later use in reproduction, and just to have a record of the work.

So... to further this blog tour, I invite you to take a look next week at the work of Ali Herrmann.  Although not an illustrator of books, she is another artist who is illustrating our world.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"For The Nest"

I recently completed the following collage, which is inspired by a good friend of my loved one.  At a friend's wedding this past fall, he talked to me for hours about his spirit animal: the osprey.  I so admired his conviction that the osprey is the best, most stately and graceful animal on the planet, and I had already been thinking of doing a piece on an osprey.  So, after several months of letting my mind work with that inspiration, here is the art!

This piece is about commitment: to the pursuit of one's own goals and desires, to holding onto those achievements once they're attained, to others (particularly family), and also the commitment of others to oneself.

"For The Nest"
5"x7" cut paper on wood panel
© Nicolette Callaway 2014
I also currently have a piece in a juried group show, "Small Works," at the Shirt Factory Gallery in Glens Falls, NY through the month of April.  If you're around, check it out, but otherwise, please feel free to view online.
5"x5" cut paper on canvas
© Nicolette Callaway 2013

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Measure of the Artist

The question of artistic success is one that has plagued artists for centuries, and often weighs heavily on me as an artist.  I wonder whether what I'm doing makes a difference in the world, or whether the simple creation of a piece of art is valuable absent a monetary amount that someone is willing to pay for it.  Of course, pricing one's work is a whole other animal that is similarly problematic, and I recently faced this when I created a commissioned piece for a fellow Albany-dweller. 

We had spoken of the piece and I produced a rough sketch along with a discussion of the work's meaning, as well as a ballpark price.  Once I had completed the work, I realized it did not take me as long as I had projected, and, having used an hourly rate as a basis for pricing my work for a number of years now, I quoted a lower price.  My commissioner (and artistic supporter) immediately let me know how foolish this was, and told me to leave the hourly rate for my "survival job," stating that as far as the artistic work goes, if I can do it, I can, whether it takes me 15 minutes or 15 years.  Quite encouraging, I'd have to say. 

So back on to success -- certainly, having had a piece of art commissioned and sold, I felt momentarily more successful as an artist.  But does this mean that if several months pass from this point without another commission or original piece sold, that I will feel less successful?  Possibly.  Or will I feel successful as long as I am creating work?

In 2012 I completed two pieces.  For this, there were a number of factors.  In 2013, I created 12, one of which spanned three large canvas panels.  I figured that as long as I am creating one piece a month, with a full-time job that is unrelated to my artwork, I'm doing pretty well.   It is now March of the next year, and I have created three pieces, one of which I am not completely sure is finished.  This is my first experience of having to put a piece away in hopes to come back to it later with fresh and clearer perspective.  Does this mean I have reached the depths of what it is to be an artist?  Or does it mean I am working at too surface a level?  I don't know.  But I do know that in 2009, when I was not working full time, I created 20 pieces of art, and none were as sophisticated as the work I am doing now.

And I guess the biggest measure of personal success is really only individual feeling, anyway.  I just keep reminding myself: art is slow. 

And I do feel successful.

"The Time Is Almost", 4"x4", cut paper on wood panel 

"Song Springs Devotion", 6"x6", cut paper on wood panel

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daily Grind, new Website

I have artwork currently on display through the month of August at The Daily Grind in Troy, NY. Definitely check it out if you're over that way.

Also, I have launched my new website: Woohoo! Take a look! 

Friday, July 5, 2013


This past holiday time I ventured to Nantucket for my first encounter with this island... A beautiful place it is, magical and filled with delicious-smelling flowers and salty sea air. During my stay, I was pleased to have another summer moth encounter. This moth did not fly at my head, and was slightly smaller and more traditionally brown-colored, though not to mistake the brilliant orange when it opened its wings. Remark how you will upon that... And it has been quite a while since I have traveled on a boat, on the ocean, and never that I can recall with white-crested waves rippling on top of blue. Always it had been dirty brown. Without further detail, I experienced much for art inspiration. 

Tonight, I return to Albany, for 1st Friday art openings, and I hope you come out. I will still have work at Mingle, but I will also have artwork at The Cheese Traveler, and in the "Midsummer Night's Dream" show at Upstate Artists Guild. I'm excited for the shows.

Tomorrow morning I'll be back in Delmar, selling cards, prints and stickers at the Delmar Farmers Market, and I hope you'll join me in the sun.

Monday I turn 30.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Troy Night Out, Delmar

It's that time again! Troy Night out tomorrow night-- my piece, "Keeper of Secrets," depicting a lynx, will be exhibited in the Fence Select show at the Arts Center. 

Then on Saturday, from 9am to 1pm, I'll be at the Delmar Farmers Market at Bethlehem Central Middle School, selling prints, cards, stickers, and original collages. 

As a reminder, you can purchase my prints and cards online at, or at The Cheese Traveler in Albany or T and J Soaps in Troy. Or just email me.

Upcoming: First Friday in Albany (7/5), I'll have collages exhibited at The Cheese Traveler, at Mingle restaurant, and at the Upstate Artists Guild gallery on Lark Street, in their "Midsummer Night's Dream" show. Don't miss it!