Off Book by PBS

After being all gung-ho on starting homework on Monday, I think I overdid it a little and messed up some muscles in my neck. I don’t remember inking being so hard… body, y u hate me? ;_;

So as I sit here smelling of bear balm with a heat pack on my poor neck, I thought I’d take a minute to share something really cool I stumbled upon through twitter- wait, maybe it was reddit… or was it tumblr? I think I have a slight social media overload going on here. Anyway, PBS’s Off Book is a series of videos about art and design related goodies. The only two I’ve seen so far are embedded below, but there are a handful of others I’ve yet to watch (since I have to get homework done at some point).

After watching this, my love for illustration was renewed! As I’ve progressed through school so far, I’ve been trying to soak up as much information as possible on fine art and illustration careers. The line between them is not as blurred as I thought, it goes much deeper than originality versus commercialism. I haven’t really made up my mind on which one I’d like to pursue over the other, and this video made it a bit harder. I was initially leaning towards fine art because I wanted absolute freedom of expression. However, listening to artists talk in this video about how being unique is so valued as an illustrator these days, and seeing some of the amazing works presented, it looks like I’d have more freedom with illustration than I believed.

I’ve found myself giving fan artists a bit of a hard time lately (in my head mostly). It seems too easy to take someone else’s character idea and put a face to it in exchange for fanboy’s/fangirl’s money. This video has softened me a bit to it, though I still prefer original work. The sense of humor and community in fanart is hard to match and certainly something I participate (ie: lurk) in with my favorite shows. As a bonus, there’s a short interview with Sam Spratt, a digital artist I’ve fawned a bit over.

Alright, I’m almost through my second coffee of the day and need to get back (no pun intended) at it. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish up homework by Friday, since I’ll be visiting home over the weekend to touch base with family. With any luck and lots of frequent breaks, my neck will be back to normal by then. Cheers!

Jumping Into Digital Art

A few days ago (on a Wednesday night, surprisingly) my new Wacom Create tablet showed up! Once it was installed I had to give it a test run:

Wacom Doodle

Wacom Doodle

This tablet has pressure sensitivity, but unlike the Cintiq I had access to earlier this year, it doesn’t detect tilt-motion from my wrist. To be honest, so far I don’t miss that aspect of the tablet, and really love how lightweight and mobile it is. I don’t even mind the fact that it’s not wireless. It feels very similar to what a sketchbook is like, and instead of hunching down over it, I’m looking up at a screen.

I’ve been trying to gather resources to build a nice “digital workspace” for myself. This includes going through the art magazines I’ve purchased over the last few years and copying the resource CDs that came with them, to scour them for content. Many magazines, ImagineFX in particular, have downloadable tutorials and brushes in each magazine. Every so often they’ll have some really beautiful art inside and I’ll pick one up. Now, I have a chance to take advantage of the Photoshop brushes and tutorials they offer.

While going through one of the tutorials, I learned that some artists use 3D software to simulate models to use as reference. What a brilliant idea! My next thought was, what software should I use to do this? 3D software can get pretty expensive and can be very complicated to learn. After some research, I came across the Daz 3D Studio software. To my surprise, it is freely and legally available right now! This will be hugely useful when trying to come up with realistic lighting and anatomy references! I was skeptical at first since it seems too good to be true, and was afraid it would end up being trial software, but found an article explaining why the devs decided to make it free. They have customization packages that you can buy to add-on to the software, but on its own it’s more than enough to give me anatomy reference. They have landscape modelling software I’m going to look at as well.

This brings me to the next part of the workspace: software. There are so many programs out there for digital artists, so which one is the best? The answer to this greatly depends on what kind of art you like to do, and who your audience is. While I was researching different software online, including Corel Painter and Easy Paint Tool SAI, I found this Fur Affinity forum thread. A user by the name of Arshes Nei compares sketching and painting in 6 different pieces of software, results shown below. It’s highly educational and totally worth checking out!

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Apple Still Lifes by Arshes Nei

Paint Tool SAI has become very popular as of late because it’s a lightweight piece of software (in comparison to Photoshop and GIMP which can be resource hogs, and slow down your computer) and is relatively easy to find. I’m going to play around with that a bit, keeping in mind that when I eventually get a Macbook (way down the road when I stop being a poor art student), I’ll have to switch to something else since there’s no Mac version.

Armed with references and painting software, I should be ready to go! I was drawing in my sketchbook when the tablet first arrived, so I may start off by translating the sketch to the laptop…

I’ll end this post with my Foundation Computer final project. We used Adobe Illustrator frequently in that class and I fell in love with vector drawing. Our final project for the class was to do an animation, any way that we wanted. I used Illustrator to draw the frames and put them together in iMovie. I recommend watching it in the highest resolution available on Youtube’s website. Enjoy!

Linocut Christmas

I had such good intentions to post more this holiday… ah well. I was busy making more art!

Last year I made everyone’s Christmas cards by hand and decided to do the same this year. While I chose to do them in water colors last year, which was a blast, this year I wanted to use some skills that I’d learned at NSCAD. When we did our linocut prints in printmaking a few months ago, I knew immediately that that was how I wanted to do Christmas cards this year.

I bought some 4″ x 5″ linoblocks (linoleum with wood-backing to make them easier to carve), two large sheets of Stonehenge paper, a couple tubes of water-soluable print-making ink and was on my way!

Linocut Xmas Cards by Jess Lingley

Linocut Xmas Cards by Jess Lingley

I think they turned out decently, though I’m still not sold on the owl. I wanted to keep the designs minimal so I wouldn’t break my back on them. Carving is hard work, and even these had my elbows and back aching the next day… but enough whining! These were fun to do and not that difficult, either! If you want to do your own linocut cards there are plenty of great resources to help you online, like this Instructables tutorial.

(via Instructables)

(via Instructables)

They suggest printing on papers that have patterns on them which can yield some interesting results. Overall, I found print-making at school to be a very finicky business. If you don’t ink the plates enough, or don’t put enough pressure down, you won’t get a clear image for a result. This can be desirable at times, however. It can be very unpredictable which some people like in art. I tend to like things to be a bit more controlled, but it was interesting to push my boundaries in print-making class. Linocut prints and dry point printing were my favorite techniques by far, but dry point isn’t really possible unless you have a proper printing press to get the right amount of pressure down.

If you don’t feel like making your own linocut prints, but would still love to have one or gift them, Etsy carries a ton of beautiful linocut prints from hundreds of different artists.

(via redcatpress on Etsy)

(via redcatpress on Etsy)

(via AtlantisPrints on Etsy)

(via AtlantisPrints on Etsy)

Finally, though technically these next prints are wood cuts and not linocuts (the technique used to make them is identical as far as I know), they’re absolutely stunning. I was introduced to Tugboat Printshop through BOOOOOOOM’s website. A two-person operation, they do large-scale woodblock prints.

"The Moon" 35.5" x 30.5" Woodcut Print on White BFK Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

“THE MOON” 35.5″ x 30.5″ Woodcut Print on White BFK Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

"THE FOUR ELEMENTS SET" Four 12" x 10.25 " Color Woodcut Prints on Ivory Somerset Paper Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

“THE FOUR ELEMENTS SET”
Four 12″ x 10.25 ” Color Woodcut Prints on Ivory Somerset Paper
Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth, 2012.

The amount of tiny detail in these equates to hours upon hours of careful carving, but even if you ignore that, observe the multiple colors. In order to do multiple colors in a linocut or woodblock print, you need to have different blocks for each color. You basically need to carve the same thing for as many colors as you wish to include in your final print. There is so much room for margin of error in these kinds of works. I can’t imagine how long it would take to go from start to finish. Paul and Valerie talk about their process a bit here.

People wonder why prints like these are so expensive; beyond the insane amount of work that goes into them, there are a limited amount of prints that can be done before the wood wears down and becomes unusable. These beautiful prints are worth every penny in my books!

This may be my last post before going back to school, so everyone: have a great holiday and a happy new year! I have so many things to look forward to in the new year and I’m totally ready to get started! Let’s go, 2013!

Finished My First Semester!

Last Wednesday was my official last day of classes! I’m so relieved that I have some time off to recuperate and enjoy the holidays, but I enjoyed myself immensely and can’t wait to see what semester #2 has in store for me!

These last few months have gone by fairly quickly, but I had a lot of work to push through in that time. I’ve got almost more material from my first semester than I had putting my art school portfolio together. Drawings, paintings, prints, writing papers… I’ve been very busy! The great thing about the subject matter at school is that it all ties together. I used an idea from a computer project in my final drawing project, and used illustration skills in a computer project, for example.

It would take forever to describe each and every piece I did, so I’ll post a few of my favorites over the next few weeks. I recently updated my deviantart page with some new art while applying for a scholarship, so here are a few from there:


Self-Portrait 2012
by ~soulexposed on deviantART


Gouache Color Study by ~soulexposed on deviantART


Linocut Sugar Skull by ~soulexposed on deviantART

I haven’t had a lot of time to collect outside material for this blog, and I’m just now catching up on my Google Reader, tumblr and pinterest. Between that and some upcoming personal projects, I’ll have plenty to do over the break! Anyway, I wanted to share this Jen Mann painting video I came across on tumblr yesterday.

Jen Mann- Speed Painting from Wolf & Sparrow on Vimeo.

She’s using my favorite colors, pink & blue, so naturally I’m in love with this piece! She paints with her work flat on the wall, using a photo reference, with oils. It’s very interesting to see how small she works right off the bat, rather than putting down blocks of colors and working over top of them. She blends each section of the face beautifully. Also worth noting is that she paints in a very planned-out way, from the top left corner to the bottom right. It was very educational and inspiring watching this painting come together.

I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned, as I hope to update several times a week while I’m on break, and maybe even stockpile some posts for when I’m back in school in January.

Cheers! 😀

The Charming & Exotic Oils of Tatiana Suarez (nsfw)

Tatiana Suarez‘s exotic paintings are filled with elements of nature and beautiful dreamlike creatures, all blended with rich oil paint.

Leopard - Oil on wood 2011 by Tatiana Suarez

Leopard – Oil on wood 2011 by Tatiana Suarez

The eyes of the girl above are hard to ignore. While they’re large and pretty, the bags underneath them give her a jaded and cynical expression. The creature around her neck, a combination of lizard and snake, is drawn to her floral tattoo. Despite this she seems comfortable, almost starting to smile.

Kooka Burra, Oil on Wood 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

Kooka Burra – Oil on Wood 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

I really like the composition of this painting, with flowers growing up from the bottom and a bird’s feather framing the girl’s head. All the different elements of this work flow seamlessly together. Tatiana mixes a more tattoo-style art, with thick outlines and flat shading, with a more realistic method of painting best shown in this girl’s lush pink lips. The light source in this work is particularly interesting with the backdrop being a glowing pink, and the light against her face being warm yellow.

Suki - Oil on wood 2008 by Tatiana Suarez

Suki – Oil on wood 2008 by Tatiana Suarez

Tatiana’s paintings are a strange cross between pinup-style models and cartoon characters. The exaggerated facial features and her rich palette of nature-esc colors give her subjects a twisted fairytale vibe. As I mentioned earlier, there looks to be a lot of tattoo inspiration in her paintings but she’s pushed it a step further, giving her subjects far more depth. Again, the background in this piece is luminious and beautiful, almost like a landscape that’s out of focus.

Miami 2011 Tati x 131 (by Tatiana Suarez)

Miami 2011 Tati x 131 (by Tatiana Suarez)

She doesn’t limit her work to canvases; she does murals as well! Her work seems suited to larger surfaces where she’s free to add as much detail as she wants whether it’s flowers, creatures from the forest or elements of the sea. She’s also able to push the painting further out than a normal tattoo-sized piece would allow. The blue details in the back really make her pink and orange tail stand out on the wall. I like that, rather than ignore the pipe on the wall, she’s painted right over top of it. The art takes over this space.

BoyrĂĄ - Oil on Machete 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

BoyrĂĄ – Oil on Machete 2012 by Tatiana Suarez

This is the first time I’ve seen a machete used as a painting surface; what a unique idea! I really like the psychedelic color palette used here. Complimentary colors of pink and green are balanced by her flowing neutral hair. Working on a surface like this really forces you to be aware of your space, and to be careful of your composition.

Tatiana Suarez has a definite style that she’s able to use to explore a lot of different themes, and her website has tons more to look at. Her style is a kind of jumble of illustration, tattoo and cartoon which makes for very interesting pieces to look at and admire.

Janice Wright Cheney

Last week in my Visual Culture class, I was asked to do a formal analysis of a work (from a select few exhibitions) at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS). Any excuse to visit the gallery is a good one! Plus, since I’m a student now I get free access which is aaaaawesome! Anyway, a friend and I spent an hour and a half going through the entire gallery and taking everything in, but I knew which piece I wanted to write about as soon as I walked in the door.

Janice Wright Cheney had two pieces at the SKIN exhibition at the AGNS, which is sadly not there anymore (closed October 1st). One of her works was a life-sized taxidermy-form of a bear, covered in roses, entitled The Widow.

The Widow by Janice Wright Cheney

The Widow by Janice Wright Cheney

It was hard to miss, posed at the entrance to the exhibition. For my formal analysis I was only allowed to talk about the physical aspects of the piece, which left much to be desired. Normally taxidermy has a cold and morbid vibe for me, but with this piece it felt completely opposite. It’s warm and doesn’t threaten me at all. I was fortunate to talk to a nearby docent about the piece and got some interesting insight to its history: Cheney saw the bear on the side of the road and was moved to create this piece, based upon her recent loss. She had wanted to do some kind of art piece to deal with it, but loss is such a personal and vulnerable thing to describe, so the bear allowed her to project without exposing her own very personal wounds. It’s important to note that this piece isn’t simply about loss; the roses are there to represent love & survival.

The Widow (detail) by Janice Wright Cheney

The Widow (detail) by Janice Wright Cheney

The roses are all painstakingly hand-dyed and individually attached to the form with pins. It creates an absolutely breath-taking form and I found it easy to study, hard to pry my eyes away from. The bear looks very naturally posed, almost docile. Could this be a commentary on how death is just another aspect of life, beautiful in its own way? The bear above isn’t angry or threatened, but relaxed. It’s rare for a work based on death to not bother me; normally I have a kind of visceral reaction to paintings or sculptures that incorporate the death theme. This work is beautiful and moving; to turn energy from such a terrible event in her life to something so gorgeous is a hugely successful thing to me.

The Widow is no longer showing at AGNS, but there is a sister bear to the one above that might be accessible somewhere in Fredericton, NB. I would start looking at NBCCD, since she currently teaches there and resides in Fredericton (which was a pleasant surprise since that’s where I’m from!).

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

At the other end of the exhibition I was drawn in by another one of her works, Coy Wolves. They are a commentary on the recent development regarding wolves mating with coyotes. I like these pieces because of the reaction I get from them. I’m drawn to their beauty even though there’s a sort of cannibalistic-type effect with them wearing wolf pelts. Something tells me that they’re not as pretty or glamorous as they look.

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Again, these are taxidermy forms covered in lace and textiles. The forms are thin and graceful, taking on the stylings of fashion models. Is it wrong that I would love one of these in my living room? This work walks the line between art and deco. The docent I was talking to mentioned that the gallery had actually received death threats about these pieces from animal rights activists! This is a bit ironic, since (as far as I understand) Janice only uses taxidermy forms based on animals, and fur from animals that have died naturally or were found on the side of the road. She does her work as humanely as possible and doesn’t go out hunting for sport. I really wish these activist groups would do their research before bashing work like hers.

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

Coy Wolves by Janice Wright Cheney

From the interview I found at Archive 7:

At center of these concerns is the idea of vermin — creatures that are not wanted. Bear, coyote, rat, insects, they are all intruders on human territory, and Cheney is fascinated by the casual violence we condone in the name of wildlife encroaching on human-claim ed territory.

These pieces are dogs masquerading as something they’re not. They’re very eye-catching but a more sinister idea is hidden beneath the lace and fur.

I couldn’t take any photos inside the gallery, but fortunately you can find photos of these pieces and others at the AGNS website (NSFW, some nudity in the exhibit). Furthermore, you can find a nice big photo of Coy Wolves right here on the AGNS flickr page!

Funky Items for Your Office Space

Whether you work in a cubicle, have your own office or even work at home, there are tons of ways you can spruce up your boring work space! Since there are so many options out there, both permanent and easily reversible, I may revisit this topic again or even make it a regular post topic. For now, let’s start with some small ways of bringing color into your space that aren’t permanent and can change with your mood.

Vintage Rainbow Mug (via Etsy)

Vintage Rainbow Mug (via Etsy)

A rainbow coffee mug is a great way to start your morning, or kick-start your afternoon. Having a personal coffee mug at the office always made me feel more comfortable, like I was bringing a little piece of home with me.

Metallic Gold Zebra Business Card Holder (via Etsy)

Metallic Gold Zebra Business Card Holder (via Etsy)

I saw this and had to post it just because of how ridiculous and hilarious it is! Why keep business cards in a boring old wallet or flip book when you could stack them in this fabulous gold zebra holder?! It may catch some eyes in your cube, or even become a conversation starter. If your client takes a card from this and laughs, perhaps that’s a little something to help remember you by. Or maybe it just makes you smile, and that’s great too. A smile or laugh is a great way to perk up on a dreary day.

Kantha Quilts (via Decor8)

Kantha Quilts (via Decor8)

If your building is drafty or you’re like me and always get chilly when sitting down for long periods of time, bring in a nice afghan or quilt to wrap up in. The patterns, colors and price ranges of quilts vary wildly so there’s something out there for just about everyone’s tastes. I like the mix of the floral and textile patterns on the above Kantha quilts. These are a great way to brighten up a boring chair, as well. If you have more space or an office of your own, you could even hang them on the wall to really brighten up the space.

DIY Color Block Cabinet (via Say Yes to Hoboken)

DIY Color Block Cabinet (via Say Yes to Hoboken)

These next two items are ways to change your furniture to give them more color, but they’re at least semi-permanent, so make sure to get permission from your boss first. Or go crazy if you work from home! The above image links to a tutorial on how to color-block wall storage. Without the paint I would’ve thought that shelf a bit old and dingy, but giving it bright stripes of color really helps to modernize it.

The Latest DIY: Faux Snakeskin Table

The Latest DIY: Faux Snakeskin Table

This is one of my favorite finds over the past few weeks: a tutorial on how to re-do a table without painting it, but instead by laying fabric over it! You could use this tutorial on just about any piece of furniture, but simple is probably better and easier. With a bit of glue and a lot of your favorite fabric, the possibilities are endless. Why have a solid block of color on a table when you could have snakeskin?

If you’re going to be spending long periods of time working, I feel that it’s important to make your work space as comfortable and inviting as possible. Even if you don’t have a lot of choice on where you work, there are both small and large ways to make the space more enjoyable.