Going to the Dogs

IC pupToday, let’s look at when cute works. Because cute stuff is, of course, a legitimate form of art which, like any contemporary or statement piece, still needs to follow basic design guidelines, along with that touch of artistic inspiration, to work well.

This adorable cane covered pup, fighting the chill of a spring morning on a distant northern European coastline with a little neck muffler, has been in my queue for some time. It was created by France’s Isabelle Chatelain. I don’t know what I had in mind when I grabbed it and even after looking it over, mostly what I can say is that it just makes me smile.

It does work design wise though. There is a limited hue palette made up of various greens and a splash of orange and the eye and button have you playing a bit of eye tennis as you glance back and forth between these two obvious focal points but you’ll still stop to admire the patterns and the overall ‘cuteness’ of this guy with his little neckerchief. Isabelle has a whole set of these guys on her Flickr page but this one, by far works the best. Why is that?

I think it’s very, very simple. The button. The button is a darkest point against the lightest background which creates the most contrast aside from the eye. That makes it the primary focal point and gives us a very calm but certain spot to rest between checking out all the pattern. Is there anything else that you think really makes this one work so well? I have a couple other thoughts but I’d love to her yours!

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Go back to basics. Create something without worrying about pushing the design. Chose classic color combinations you enjoy, basic shapes, and easy finishes you find attractive. Don’t reference anyone else’s work though and don’t worry about what others might think. Follow your own whim on this classic creative road.

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Boldly Big and Metal Bright

S Parenkova sheildsI have another bit of design contemplation for you today, this time in terms of color and finish.

This necklace, created by Svetlana Parenkova, as you can see by the watermark, has a lot of attractive details, things that on their own might draw the eye. The metallic shimmer of the shield like disks are a primary draw–human beings do like their sparkle and shine. The texture aids the shine by causing more varied reflection with dark contrast in the shadows of the texture. The blue and orange (copper in this case) is a classic color combination that has been enjoyed through the ages. The graduated size of the disks are also a classic necklace composition.

So with all these classic and long used elements, what makes this necklace stand out? Or perhaps you don’t think it stands out that much. If so, why not?

For my two cents, I think the bold size and clean finish certainly helps to carry it but perhaps it comes down to the centered notch in the sides of what would have been a background disk if it was not cut like two emerging fans.  This cut-away creates a space for the pieces to nudge up close to one another, for a more united front. The lack of spacing matches the sense of strength that shield like objects convey as well as working well with the bold size of the elements. What do you think?

This strong and bold look is fairly common in Svetlana’s work as you can witness on her Flickr and Livemaster pages.

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Ordinarily Wonderful

creasanscess green shapeletI very much enjoyed the comments and the interaction of last week. Maybe we’ll do that once a week or every other. Getting you to think about art is definitely one of my high goals!

So let’s ponder a few together this week. I find it curious that some pieces, even though very much like other pieces we see, will just strike you as working so much better than similar work. Like this set by Cécile Bouesnard. It is quietly striking although the shape is a common one these days and the composition of shape and focal point is what one might expect.  But the coloring and the marks keep it from becoming just ordinary. So why is that?

Success is not always easy to define, primarily because the success of a piece is really due to the sum of its parts. Key elements will often shine but if everything else didn’t work with it or support it as needed, those key elements would not have the same impact. So what is it here that is working? I think everything supports the overall feel. The soft shift of a rich green to that mellow yellow and the lime green snuck into the middle of it (did you even notice it was there?) gives the surface a glowing effect. The softness of the coloring contrasts with the perfectly trimmed shapes but those black marks, like the careless placement of a messy bottle contrasts with both the soft coloring and the clean shapes. These subtle but consistent contrasts make for an interesting and fulfilling piece to look upon.

That is my take on why this works. If you have other ideas, please add them to the comment section at the end of this post. In the meantime, you can see what else Cécile created with a similar combination of elements in varied compositions and colors on this post of her blog.

 

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A Riot of Color and Emotion

AGenser tie-DyeI am going to leave you with this colorful piece today. It is a type of mosaic, one could say so it fits the theme but I chose it primarily because the colors felt right, matching the riot of emotion that this day holds for my family and I as we lay my father to rest. We celebrate life today though, rather than mourn it. That’s just how we roll.

Amy Eisenfeld Genser, on the other hand rolls paper. That is what you see here–the cross sections of many rolled piece of colored paper. It could easily be a polymer cane application though, don’t you think? Well, here are some questions to ponder over. Leave your thoughts in the comment section if you have a moment.

What emotions or reactions do you have to this piece? Are you drawn to the texture and composition as much or even more than to the color, which likely grabs you first? What design element or design related terms comes to mind first when you ask yourself why this works so well or why it doesn’t if you don’t think much of it?

If you enjoy this piece, you will probably enjoy getting lost in Amy’s website where she has work in her gallery from the last dozen or so years.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: This week, take a critical but very forgiving eye into your studio or to the photos of your work and look at some older pieces of yours. Find the ones you think were really good and ask yourself why the pieces work so well? Just focus on the good stuff today, your successes and the work that makes you happy. Then create or enjoy your weekend as you need to.

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Stories in Pieces

Ctoops dragon fightingThank you for the responses on Tuesday’s mosaic. I loved reading your different views and loved the level of enthusiasm in the comments. I apologize that they took a day to show up–the mysterious ways of the internet did not let us in to approve them until late in the day. Technology often reminds me of when the kids were around four. You just never knew if or when they would cooperate. Actually, that reminds me of 14 year olds, too. But, wait … that is not our subject today!

We are going to get back to mosaics and I hope a few of you will chime in with your thoughts again. Let’s look at a completely different type from Cynthia Toops, who is just mad about micro mosaics.

Cynthia’s images often invoke a story but how important is the story to the success of the work? Do you easily find a story here, even with the disparate types of critters wedged into it? Do you not care if a story is easily drawn from this but enjoy it any ways? If so, why? Does it feel crowded to you or is the abundance of detail part of its charm?

Cynthia has a website here but her collaborative silversmithing partner, Chuck Domitrovich, keeps the best collection of their work on this Pinterest board.

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Looking at the Big Picture

LMika Peace be with youThis week, I will be needing to step back as much as possible as my family is gathering to celebrate my father’s life.  But I am not going to leave you without some pretties and something to ponder so I am dashing off and scheduling posts for you to enjoy through the start of next week but they will be a bit light on the chatter.

I will leave you with some key words and questions and your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to fill in the blanks, so to speak. Try to answer the questions I pose or verbalize what works in this piece for you and/or what I might be getting at with the keywords and questions I leave. Thinking through what works in a design is a great exercise for helping hone one’s innate design sense.

It would be wonderful and rather enlightening for you and other readers if you add your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this post so we can all read what other people see in  the work. If you get this by email, click the title of the post in the email to be taken to the website then scroll down for the comment section.

Okay, let’s start with a little message from Laurie Mika. This message might be helpful for many of us, especially considering the many sad and scary news stories lately. What message–not just the words–do you get out of this piece when you consider the colors and patterns alongside the words? How do you feel about the preponderance of red? Do you think the long vertical shape adds, deletes or plays a neutral part in the work? What do you like most and least about the piece?

Go ahead and take a peek at more of Laurie’s soulful work.

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Into the Trees

Ivana brozkova Into the ForestLife got a little rougher this week for the Bray clan although we are a strong and resilient bunch and just get stronger for having gone through the trials put before us. Nonetheless, we need a respite too and I have been immensely grateful that I am so lucky as to have a retreat of sorts in my own backyard. Here we are surrounded by trees beyond which is a presently green open space and hills. Below we have the soft burble of the creek as it skips along and the calming, consistent splash of three little waterfalls and the fish that play in the pond just outside my studio door. I have no idea how we managed to find, much less come to live in, such a place in this part of California but I am grateful every day. Especially lately.

I was doing a check in on the Into the Forest project page on Facebook and saw Connie Clark had posted a link to an interesting article on “forest bathing“. I had never heard the term but I am very familiar with the recharging that one gets from being out among trees and in the natural world in general. That is part of the reason I thought the “Into the Forest” project would be so interesting. Have you ever noticed just how prevalent the inspiration of nature is in art, even by artists who live in densely urban settings? We have an inherent connection to nature that draws us to it. It is no less important than community and feeling that one belongs. That is what I see as the heart and purpose of a project like this–connecting to things that make us feel whole and fulfilled, including nature, community, expression and connecting with others, in this case, our fellow polymer artists and the people who will come and see this monumental project. How often do we have the opportunity to be part of something that does all that?

The image here is Ivana Brozova‘s contribution to the project which the organizers shared last week. Her pods are wonderful in her jewelry art but I can only imagine how magical they will look hanging in this fantastical forest of ours. You can see my post about her pod jewelry from last year here.

There is still time to participate in this project but the deadline of May 2nd is quickly approaching. Even if you just create some crazy polymer grass, you will have helped make this dream that much more wonderful. Polymer artists from all over the world are participating. The list thus far includes work from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and in the USA, artists living in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia have pitched in. For more information on the project, see the information listed on this FAQ page.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Get out into the trees! Just go out and soak it up, recharge, let inspiration just wash over you then go back to your work table and, without thinking too much about it, start creating pieces that translate how it made you feel or what you saw. Consider making 10 or more of certain items and send it off to the Into the Forest project.

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Put a Little Heart Into It

Here is what caught my eye today.Anna Kokareva uneven heart earrings I decided to peruse Flickr this time and came upon the pages of Anna Kokareva (aka Annie Bimur) and although there were a lot of pieces to grab my attention, it was this pair of not quite matching earrings with the heart just hanging out among all the crackle that really grabbed me.

I was a little thrown by that initially since I’m not much of a heart girl but the contrast of the simple sweet heart in all that texture really spoke to me. The uncomplicated things in life, like pure love and joy, set against a back drop of chaos … this is often what life is like, isn’t it? We just have to stop and appreciate the beauty within the bedlam. And in this case, we can appreciate the differences between the two earrings and probably find a smile on our faces when the little heart catches us by surprise.

The one thing I would improve is actually the background of the image. It is usually better to use a contrasting background, especially where texture (and color) is concerned or your work can blend too much with it, as it tends to here.

More little surprises as well as a riot of color and texture can be found on Anna’s Flickr photostream.

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Childlike Abandon

LynTremblay fun necklaceI don’t have a theme set for this week but I thought I’d just pull the first thing that grabbed me when opening Pinterest today and see where we go from there. It wasn’t a huge surprise that I grabbed this fun and colorful piece by Lyn Tremblay. This is really the antithesis of things I am entrenched in right now but my mind is definitely storing up lots of information on color as our next issue’s theme is “Color!” and it is shaping up to be more than just another great issue but rather an indispensable reference on color in polymer design. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to share with you the amazing articles our contributors are whipping into shape right now. But good things come to those that wait. Be sure you have your subscription up to date and keep checking in here to see the cover and get the release date.

In the meantime, let’s see what besides all the color grabs one’s attention in Lyn’s piece here. Fun is definitely a theme, not just in the colors but the playful forms and the perfectly imperfect placement of dots and spirals. There is a childlike quality in just about every aspect here yet it is well-balanced, with just enough contrast in color, texture, and form to keep it interesting while still establishing a relationship between all the disparate parts.

Do you notice how everything is of, or bows to, the circle form without being obvious because it is shown in so many widely varied ways? That’s the overriding relationship between the parts which allows us to take in its joy and the childlike abandon without it running all helter skelter over us. It just invites you to settle in and enjoy its playtime.

Lyn Tremblay’s primary outlet for showing her work looks to be her Facebook page where you can enjoy pieces that range from colorful to tribal to organic without leaving behind that sense of joy and exploration so well represented here.

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