Loveless Animals

loveless cane wall seahorse 430x989 - Loveless AnimalsLet us allow Jon Stuart Anderson’s cover piece dictate the theme this week … animals full of color and pattern. Although, unlike Jon’s bull on the cover of the upcoming Summer 2017 issue (due out end of May) is a three-dimensional sculpture, this piece is a wall mosaic by Mary Anne Loveless who just so happens to be gracing our pages as well in the gallery section of that same issue.

Even though this is a two-dimensional approach to using canes to create the shape and flow of an animal’s likeness, the mind-set is probably not dissimilar when the artists sit down to work out where the canes will go. What canes and where would they best serve the image of this animal they want to convey? Mary Anne is using mosaic and pointillism to create the form of the seahorse here while Jon uses a three-dimensional form. Does seem pretty different from that aspect but the patterns are what form the details of these animals in both cases.

I really enjoy picking out the individual canes in both cases. I am enthralled by Mary Anne’s choice of color juxtaposition in this. The aqua next to the reds and the beige and peach being the color the blues fade off to like in the chest area. It’s just beautiful.

Mary Anne really likes seahorses, as you will find upon opening her Flickr page which as of this post, is pretty much all seahorses. But she also likes fish and flowers and faeries!  But mostly she loves, and is very good at, pattern and color which you can see in full evidence on her Flickr pages and her Etsy shop.

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Illusionary Color

straschel-artichokeSince this week seems to be about juxtaposed color that causes visual shifting, I thought I’d check in on Sandra Trachsel of Koniz, Switzerland who creates some of the most splendid three-dimensional looking cane layouts. Her pieces are visual illusions of space and movement, all created with changes in shades and values of color and how they line up.

Here is one of her pieces from about a year ago. She calls this Necklace Artichoke which, as it is with a lot of her pieces, was inspired by a quilt pattern, this one from quilter Sylvia Schäfer. Although the cane work looks very much like the sample quilt, this arrangement and repetition takes it a step beyond. The variation in the side and background colors of the beads adds to the energy and dimensional feeling. If you try to look at the necklace as a whole, the beads then look to glow from their centers. It’s a beautiful adaptation of the original pattern.

Even though a lot of Sylvia’s canes come quite directly from quilt patterns, her precision and choices as she reinterprets them in polymer is quite inspiring. Take a look at her collection of pattern dominant work on her Flickr photostream.

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Fragility and Strength

saitok-frost-neckpiece-2006Although New Year’s Eve allows for all kinds of bling and shimmer to be pulled out and showed off, sometimes the most impressive statement is understatement. That’s what I think this strong but delicate piece from jewelry designer Kayo Saito is about.

I imagine this necklace it is quite large so it will show off  size wise for certain, but I think the organic shapes in semi-translucent fabrics draw the eye for its juxtaposition in the fragile look of the forms within their strong directional orientation and dense composition. Both the fragility and strength are unwavering which makes it quite a sophisticated and intriguing piece.

I know … I just posted two items in a row this week that weren’t actually polymer. But in both cases, they could easily have been polymer with the same impact. It doesn’t matter what material a piece is made from, only that it is done well and that it inspires. Right? Art is inclusive, not exclusive. Just go take a look at Kayo’s website to see more inspiring, strong and sometimes frail looking work in fabrics and metal.

I also picked this piece because I think its characteristics represents how many of us feel as we head into 2017. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. We don’t know what our leaders are going to do and we don’t know how the conflicts across the world will play out in the coming months or what it will mean for us. This has left many people feeling frail and exposed. But the issues that have arisen have also given many, many people a new sense of direction as well as a swelling sense of responsibility and need to speak out and be heard. We may feel vulnerable, we may even appear frail, but I think a lot of people today are actually strong and resilient. We have already been through some seriously trying times this past decade and we have, for the most part, bounced back. I think recent experiences show that whatever comes this new year, we can meet it with strength, ingenuity, and compassion. A bit more creativity and beauty in the world won’t hurt either.

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Outside Inspiration: Through the Trees

michelle_mckinney_treesI’m going to end this week with something that is translucent although maybe not the way you are thinking, a piece that shies away from the fall colors, moving into Winter, as so many of us are, at least in terms of upcoming plans if not weather.

I share this work with you upon one condition (okay, maybe it’s not a condition, but it is a very strong urging) … that you visit the links I have for you for this artist. Michelle McKinney is one of those artists whose work you need to see in its many variation to really understand the scope and beauty of her vision. She works in what she calls ” hand cut translucent woven metal”. The images she creates are so delicate and yet they are generally rife with energy and, in my view, struggle.

That fact that she calls her material translucent and we see it as delicate makes for a fairly dramatic contrast with our understanding that this is metal. There is further contrast between concept and material in that images are almost all organic and yet what they are made of is industrial. More impressive though, is the undeniable beauty in her subject matter, the usually simple images that are a bit torn and twisted. I think it garners empathy for the idea of something so delicate being in such a state. It’s rather hard to put one’s finger on exactly what it is that is so striking about these but it is there without question.

You need to look at her collection of work for yourself and see if the pieces speak to you in a similar fashion. Please treat yourself to the beauty of her pieces on her Facebook page which looks to hold the largest collection of images like these trees here. But also stop over at her website to see the black and white prints she is creating with these sculptural pieces, developing a collection she calls Ghost Editions. They are eerily beautiful and not to be missed.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Design or create something whose imagery is one thing but the texture, color or embellishment would say something else. Work in conceptual and visual contrast. Don’t think too hard about it or too long. Start with a few ideas and see where the muse takes you.

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Scratching Out Unusual Design

m-catijanI’m not sure what the theme is going to be this week. I am just going to start here with this fairly unusual piece and see where the ideas take us. Some Mondays, you just gotta go with the flow.

Flow is part of what had me contemplating this piece by Marjana Cajhen. What caught my eye first–and was what you probably first noticed too, I’d guess–is that puzzle piece. This is looking like a progression of square shapes and then a puzzle piece shape pops up. Is this a geometric shape? It’s not organic but it seems a tad too complicated to be geometric yet it’s shape is balanced and measured and feels squarish in a way. However the edge of the shape keeps shifting gears. It’s that constant moving edge that makes it stand out, of course, but is this a good thing?

At first I thought this pattern change from squares might be too jarring but to take it away would take away all its draw. The unexpected shape is a type of contrast not to mention adding a bit of fun in what might otherwise be a bit of a static piece, even with the energetic linear texture. The other thing I wondered about was that choice of texture. Each piece has a different textural pattern but there is consistency in that inconsistency. And since the textures also  are all made up of lines, there is a relationship between them there as well as in their black and white nature.

But you know what delights me the most? That spray of cord ends splayed across the corner of that end square. Between that and the puzzle piece, it seems Marjana’s choices are trying to break up an orderly gathering of stodgy squares and force them into a bit of play time.

This juxtaposition of geometric shapes and use of line , especially the scratch marks, are a regular theme in Marjana’s work. You can compare her ideas on her Flickr photostream or read up on her various adventures and explorations on her blog.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece with a repeated form but change one along the way in some unexpected manner. Try to think of something that is both related but not commonly seen with such forms. A string of light blue round beads could be interrupted by a miniature peach. A pattern of deep red flower canes can give way to a large yellow fireworks cane. The idea is to keep the repeated element related in at least a couple of aspects and then challenge yourself to come up with something no one would expect but somehow makes sense–the blue beads relate to the peach in terms of shape and size and the orange color is a direct contrast to the blue so they can work dramatically together. Flowers and fireworks have similar centrally blooming structures and the yellow and red are both warm colors so they work together. See where this is going?

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A Pastel Presentation

mabcreaI was hoping to find a good example a of cool white but these are not often used or they appear to be merely gray and if you are going to play with grays, richer, deeper grays seem more committed and elegant. The alternative is pastels, which can be warm or cool. Cool green leaning whites, like the palest mint color are delicious but what do they express? Cool blue whites in their palest manifestations can actually look even more brilliantly white and those with a hint of purple definitely head towards looking gray or even silver. But pastels are more definite in their expression having strong associations for us with springtime, delicacy and femininity. However, cool versus warm pastels do have different connotations.

In this piece by Cecilia Button (Mabcrea), you can easily see here how the warm colors come across compared to the cool colors. The warm ones still retain some of the energy associated with their fully saturated hues but it’s very muted while the cool colors, associated primarily with calm and relaxation, still feel that way, maybe even more so with their paleness. Juxtaposing warm and cool colors usually makes for a riotous presentation but being all things graduate to white, there is a cohesive feeling of peace and a surprising sense of simplicity event though there is really nothing simple about this piece. But simple and peaceful are meanings we closely associate with white so it’s dominance here literally colors the whole piece.

If you have not discovered Cecilia’s intense explorations of polymer, you might grab a cup of something and spend some time wandering through her her Flickr pages and her blog site.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Mix some pastels (start with white and add pinches of color, not the other way around, as you usually need a lot of white compared to colors for a pastel) and play with them using some of your favorite forms or techniques. Compare the feeling of the pastel colored pieces to how a more saturated color palette works in that same approach. How does the tint of the color change the mood or message?

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Painting a Story in Polymer

Angenia CreationsI thought I’d continue with the theme of story which, visually, can be told abstractly or with much more literal images. Today, we’re going to look at a literal set of images.

Today’s bit of story was created by Angenia (also known as Tonia Angenia Lupo) of Italy. I am not posting this because of the mermaid, although she is nicely executed and the curled and wavy polymer of the tail has a particularly nice flow to it, but I wanted to show you this painting. Because it is all polymer. It is rather hard to grasp that at a glance, but if you take time to peruse her blog or even just go through her process photos on Facebook, you will be amazed at the detail and work involved. It appears that she applies this all with a toothpick from tiny dabs of soft polymer clay. It’s so well done, though, that it looks like it might be a print set in a frame simply to accompany the mermaid, but no, the real masterpiece is the painting. Granted, the image is actually one of Thomas Kinkade’s, but the execution in clay is a great testament to what can be done with polymer in a painterly fashion.

The story here is being relayed purely by imagery with juxtaposition providing another layer of story. The ship out on the ocean, hit with rays of sunlight as a storm breaks behind it (or gathers around it, as I might have thought had I not just researched the original image), has its own story of courage. The mermaid creates another element to the story, including the possibility of other dangers in the sea. But only because the myth of mermaids are rather dark, not cute like this one. A more sinister air or refinement for the mermaid would have been a better pairing, style wise, for the seriousness and subtly of the painting for the sake of style consistency, but Angelina’s talent is undeniable.

If you have a couple of moments, take a look at her blog or Facebook page to admire her processes and other mini paintings, as well as her doll art and other miniatures.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Today, play with juxtaposition. You can do this with elements you already have if you don’t have time to create from scratch. Take two or three disparate things and arrange them together. Can you find a satisfying, if imperfect, way to compose them? Try this with a few other items, keeping track of what you’ve done (take photos if you can). Now, which ones worked better? You will usually find that the pieces that end up working together have something in common–sometimes its a design element, like similar textures or complementary colors or similar styles like geometric or organic or tribal. The other thing that makes things work is the stories in our minds. Like seeing animals in the clouds, our minds will try and make connections between elements even if they were not intended to be related. Is there a story in the compositions that worked best?

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