26 February 2015

"Voice Over Vogue" - Final Art & Inside Process

If you've read my recent article On Happiness and Fulfillment In A Plugged-In Culture, you'll likely see the correlation of concepts here.

"Voice Over Vogue" is an illustration of the corresponding, subjective emotions.

My previous post What's Inspiring Now - Kent Williams, Marc Scheff, Zelda Devon, & Eric Fortune shares some of the creative choices that inspired how I thought about Voice Over Vogue's composure and playful qualities. In this post I explain how the inspiration is not limited to these examples of work.

In executing this new piece, I was also considering design components for a call for entry by Microsoft's Lumia #Create #TileArt template.

Talenthouse sends out creative invites for projects they are hosting, and the Lumia #TileArt submission window for round one closed this past week. It is looking to feature original work by artists looking for further exposure and challenge. I was interested in how they were ready to offer fair opportunity to those who participated. And it happened to fit my idea for Voice Over Vogue ironically well.

So...two birds with one stone, scheduling-wise.

"Voice Over Vogue", Original Watercolor, Live Area 8x14", 2015
My process always begins with a kind of back and forth dance between small, abstracted thumbnail sketches and full drawings in the sketchbook. Each project has it's own conceptual needs in the early stages, so this process is a bit different in volume, each time.

Here's my sketchbook on this piece:


I knew I wanted more from the face, the expression, so I used my own:


In the end I chose to keep the likeness, as it is such a personally driven experience in the concept. A lot of illustrators and artists utilize the handy advantage of being their own model, in similar ways. And we all put ourselves into our work, intentionally or no.

I painted this piece on hot press, in about 30 hours over two days.

I do indeed sit on that ball, most of the time. Or I stand.
Process photo, midway.
Final art, Detail, Watercolor, 2015.

I wanted to push some things. The hands and feet are quite red because I wanted the expressive stylization associated with flush, strain, energy, blood, and life...I don't know if anyone has noticed, but there is a lot of this sanguine, ruddy tinge with figures in the scifi & fantasy genre work again, and I actually like it because for me it alludes to color theory and archetypes in mythology, as well as fairy tales like that by the Grimms.
Color and placement can be used as a powerful mnemonic device in visual story-telling, as well as an iconic emotional trigger. Red is a very ancient, heavily laden symbol in folklore, across cultures. I felt it was important to use.

And the compliment of greens was an imperative, not only because the healing, vital, fresh, growing energy of living things is that young spring green - and I wanted the organ of the heart to be growing her 'inner voice' in that color - but it also works so well as a dynamic impression on the negative space. I wanted the environment to seem to move with that vital, personal life force.

Here's my submission to Talenthouse, as per their template format:

Creative Invite, Call for Entry, Microsoft Lumia #TileArt, Round One, February 2015.

I am glad I got to this illustration straight away, further encouraged to completion by the deadline of the contest, but it is also rewarding to have repurposed the concept into an entry for an exciting and enjoyable public event!

Whatever happens, I feel good about the work, and still, it would be awesome to get some support with your votes for my submission to enter round two of the contest.

Share the love - VOTE HERE for my "Voice Over Vogue" and chance to design more art for round two!
Vote via Talenthouse, FB, or Twitter in a matter of seconds.

Thank you for the support and encouragement in advance.

If you're on the list for my Newsletter, I'll be in touch directly with the highlights for this quarter.
Don't want to be left out? Sign up HERE.

In the meantime,
Happy creating!

-Mairin-Taj

20 February 2015

"What's Inspiring Now" - Kent Williams, Marc Scheff, Zelda Devon, & Eric Fortune - And a New Project Preview!

To be entirely honest, there is far more than this brief selection of artists' work inspiring and informing my creativity at any given time.

I find my creative energy is best fed by multiple resources, project outlets, and playful directions at once. Otherwise, I tend to get too quickly bored, disheartened, emotionally stagnant, or just artistically dull.
And I'm learning more how I don't want to be dull with my creativity. It makes me feel like a big, worn spoon, and I'd rather hack away at the creative feast with a carving knife, honing finesse, precision, cleanliness, and impact.

If this need for split attention and divergent exploration means I have a smorgasbord of personal imagery to show as a result, then so be it. I'm keen to gain stronger direction out of ambidextrous expression.

Overspecialization is old.

I've been looking again at Kent Williams' work:

"Mother and Daughter" - By Kent Williams

Finding some new intrigue in a few recent pieces by Marc Scheff:

"Argus" - From the "Three Greeks" Series - By Marc Scheff

I've been really drawn to the conceptual flair of Zelda Devon:

"Fragments" - By Zelda Devon, Drawn by Kurt Huggins

And Eric Fortune's sleek stylization in emotive perspective is always intriguing:

"Lie's Objective" - By Eric Fortune

I've started a quick piece for a contest, which serendipitously came out of concepts I've been dwelling on - and writing on - considering inner happiness, creative voice, and the plugged-in tech vogue of current culture. 
I wanted to create something to begin visualizing this recent writing of mine, but it was an extra egging-on edge to have it repurpose into an external project.

Here's a detail shot of the drawing in the meantime:

Detail Snap Shot - WIP - Graphite

Much appreciation and respect to the inspiration, as always.

-Mairin-Taj

19 February 2015

Hoth, NY - Illustration & Products

I've been posting a steady stream of process snap-shots of this #wip on social media recently, and the positive response has further boosted my excitement to get this particular piece out and accessible for you all.

Hoth, "New York" is a Star Wars pastiche of sorts, playing on the winter experience in Western NY/Buffalo, as well as the upstate regions.

Having spent most of my childhood in Western NY, I am familiar with the Winter lake-effect snows. The last couple of seasons around my holiday visits have reminded me of the force (pun intended) of the regional storms.
As a kind of inside joke amongst Star Wars fans and natives of the area alike, the reference to Hoth has been circulating. On a visit recently, I made the reference myself; if you've got the thick skin from living and working through our winters, then you know that it fits!

So here’s my contribution to the movement. It's a different kind of NY pride:

    {And then check out the T-SHIRT version with more information below!}

(Hoth) New York - Star Wars Pastiche - Mixed Media, 2015.




New Yorkers, Star Wars junkies, you know what it takes to get through our winters, and you’ve consequently got the experienced toughness to make it on Hoth.

Want a print for your very own? HERE

Share your NY grit with this allusion to hard-core winter and the epic planet Hoth from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, original trilogy. SHOP HERE


As always, if you've got some thoughts to share, you know where the "comments" tab is at the bottom of every blog post. I want to hear from you!

And again, contact me directly with your questions HERE, or in the "Contact" link in the side panel to your right side of the page. 

Share the love!

-Mairin-Taj

08 February 2015

"Tell Me A Story" - On Happiness and Fulfillment in a Plugged-In Culture

I've been reading on the 'how' of being an accessible artist, about being seen, doing the 'right' kind of work, knowing where to talk, and to whom, how the tech tools on hand can be used to drive all of that in the face of the goals we have, et cetera. The key words here are exhilaration, immediacy, accumulation, 'making it'.

I'm an artist, I have high - if not unconventional - goals, and I have to say, I don't warm to the race of jumping through hoops going on. I know, for me, it won't bring home HOW I want to live my life.

I was reading a discussion from TED Global in October 2014 between molecular geneticist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and journalist/writer Pico Iyer, exploring how meaning comes out of taking a step away from society, from unplugging.

My creativity as an artist has a characteristic intimacy with my personal life, so I come out of the gate already primed with the urge to minimize any "screen-crowding" in my professional work.
Yes, I'm in the younger crowd of the industry, which means I poke and prod at promotional methods as they are being praised and torn down, but my willingness to participate with various social media and software vogue stems from my quest to learn what's right for me, not what's the best way to mimic the trend of "making it".
Things have seemed to get heavier with pressure to be in the online crowd, to do as they do, in order to be able to do, at all. But something's not right with this mantra.

When I read Pico Iyer's articulate thoughts on this very issue, this quest to learn gained further clarity for me:

"It’s only by keeping a distance from the world that I can begin to see its proportions and begin to try to sift the essential from the fleeting. I feel that so many of us now have the sensation of standing about two inches away from this very crowded, noisy, constantly shifting big screen, and that screen is our lives. It’s only by stepping back that we can see what the screen is communicating."

Iyer points to a thing I have personally felt lacking in the pursuit of living life happily.
He calls it "the virtue of sitting where you are"...

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard quotes the Dalai Llama to have said, "the problem in the West is people want enlightenment to be fast, to be easy, and if possible, cheap"...

(Let's keep geography out of it. I think the point is bigger than that)

...Cheap here refers to casual, to not a lot 'put in', not a lot of effort or expenditure of energy involved...Short cuts...

I think what we create in response to this cultural conundrum, and how we create, is spinning perpetually round the same problem; we create so to make the creation fast, easy, and therefore, cheap. Cheap monetarily, at times, but certainly in the value of expended energy as well.

I read Austin Kleon's book "Show Your Work" recently, which was a delight of carefully arranged tidbits for creatives, and he clarifies the amateur as "the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love", referencing the literal French translation of  'amateur' as 'lover'.

Now, it makes me happy, deep-down happy, to know myself as a lover of my pursued passions. I can honestly get behind that.

I can't get behind the race of hoop vaulting, as an artist, or anything else. I can't get behind making my milestones in art about mileage on the internet, or on social media, marking with competitive fever the relative frequency and genius of my posts. I can't get behind feeling I'm a valid artist only if I do what everyone else in the scene of art are doing. It's standing those two inches away from the Big Screen and it's killing my original drive.

There is a dangerous, false correlation between this casual desire - the cheapness - and lasting happiness.

Consider our work, our purpose. We're taught to chase achievements to the grave, starting with impressive resumes and then progressing through the hunt of status advancement, ever craving more consumption, as a means to satisfy fulfillment. How fast can you get that promotion, finish this job, impress that client, beat that record, play the system, show to the world? Can you compare to your colleagues and mentors while doing so? Now do it all on a universal screen, for everyone to compare and contrast to.

When I was at Illuxcon IV, at the time still in Altoona, PA, I was having a discussion with a fellow artist and our cab driver. The driver felt, not unlike so many others I've talked with, that we artists have a "given talent", a "gift", an ability that could not be recreated or attempted by anyone without the same bestowed blessing. As if by magic. Unexplainable prestige!

Besides this perspective being incredibly insulting to the already misunderstood, ceaseless hard work artists commit to, what does it say about appreciating true, earned happiness?

Let me put it this way; what do we know about love and relationships? A tried and true simplification might be:
                                       quality equals work over time plus love

Achieving this quality creates happiness as a direct result of fulfillment, because the deepest self is being given purpose and longevity. And that process is uncomfortable, inherently.

Like that cab driver, many people want their 'enlightenment' to be casual, to be fast and easy. Comfortable! Try each new trendy, shiny gadget, relationship, job, or promise that looks like another easy gift. Seek short cuts. Accumulate 'plugged in' experience. That screen opens in on it's own world, and it will feed you reasons to stay in it, if you let it. Maybe there is the thrill of the chase, the high of workaholic lust, but it's superficial happiness.

If we're looking for gifts, for fast, for casual, then we're bypassing what is fulfilling, and therefore how we live to create that fulfillment. We're weeding out a deeper way of life, in favor of the accelerating trends.

Perhaps this will come off as audacious, in a naive way, or archaic, and maybe my fellow artists won't agree, but I'm not ok with measuring my skill, commitment, or success by what is so fleeting. I'm not interested in standing up close to the frenzy, loosing my vision for all the things I could fixate on. I want to unplug.

I'd rather be a lover of what I do, and HOW I do it, in order to participate with the world. There needs to be a balance to achieve this in our new tech age. Iyer says:

"The machines aren't going to teach us how to keep our sense of balance. That part is up to us...The one thing technology can't teach us is how to make the best use of technology, how to keep our sanity in the face of technology. For that, we can't go online."


Read TED Global's 2014 discussion HERE

Buy Pico Iyer's "The Art of Stillness: Adventures In Going Nowhere" HERE

Buy Austin Kleon's "Show Your Work!" HERE

In the meantime, until next time, I'm unplugged.
Happy creating.

-Mairin-Taj

28 January 2015

New Year = Renewed Stamina

This may be belated - if a wish for a good year ahead can be belated still only within the first month of said year - but nevertheless, Happy 2015!

I'm making a healthy spread of updates, changes, and additions to the online presence that represents my work and conveys my art to you fair members of the world.

For a start, the blog has been refreshed with some key new imagery and features; I'm calling it the 'Illustration/Art Dispatch' to more accurately title a space designed for sharing and connecting on my 'art right now' experience.
You can also translate the blog, read up on what I'm about, where I'm coming from, G+1, join me on Google+, shop directly in the store for a piece of art you enjoy in print, for your iPhone, on a t-shirt, or tote bag, and directly join my Newsletter, which is released just four times a year. Everything is readily available on the right side column.

But there's more I want to add!

So forgive this first post of the year serving as a 'to-do' outline, of sorts. I want to provide some information about my ideas, and I think this is a good place for doing so.

This year, this blog begins to function as an all-in documentation of the process I go through, dishing out choice but abundant behind-the-scenes extras, offering a kind of daily dispatch, if you will. I want to include new 'sub-categories' of content as we move forward and implement a better experience.

Here's what I have in store for you:

     "What I've Learned" - Reflections on Failures
     "What I'm Reading" - Sharing Discoveries
     "Scrap Sneaks" - Wherefores, Clowns, Small Previews (more on what that means later)
     "What's Inspiring Now" - Influential Art Works
     "Tell Me A Story" - Inspiring/Entertaining Writing/Experiences

And of course, in amongst the additions I will continue to document the process of illustrations and commissions, from concept to completion.

And to conclude the first post of the year, I'd like to remind you that it's more fun when you join in - Jump in with your comments, ideas, questions, or contact me directly using the right-side Contact Link, and I'll not only reply back within normal business hours, I will include relevant stories, contributions, or content in future posts!

I'm excited.
Let's get to it.

-Mairin-Taj