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.