Saturday Creative Stroll: April 19, 2014

Diego Fazio is known online as DiegoKoi. His artwork is frequently mistaken for black-and-white photography. The work, which he does only with a pencil, is hyper-realistic.

hyperrealistc-portraits-with-a-pencil-by-diego-fazio-diegokoi-6Before he did the portraits, he was a tattoo artist in Italy. He started drawing in 2007. It takes Diego hundreds of hours to finish a piece.

Jason de Graf also does hyper-realistic art. The Canadian artist, born in 1971, uses acrylic paints to create paintings that look like photographs.

hyperrealistic-still-life-paintings-by-jason-de-gaaf-2Above: Aether, acrylic on canvas, 27″ x 44′

Of his paintings, he says, “Many of my paintings are about the relationship of light with reflective and transparent surfaces and my journey to understand those qualities and convey my sense of wonder and intrigue over them. In all of my paintings the subject matter is a springboard and a means to explore my ability to communicate something unique to the viewer.”

Seattle artist Bing Wright spent the last 10 years experimenting with black-and-white photography, and has recently returned to color photography. But not just ordinary color photography.

broken-mirror_evening-skyagfacolor-by-bing-wrightHe photographs sunsets, projects the photograph onto a broken 14″ x 11″ mirror in his studio, and re-photographs it. The result is a stained-glass effect of rich color and startling line.

Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or just love Spring, have a beautiful weekend!

–Quinn McDonald loves dedicated and focused artists who create outsider art.



Outsider Artist

Outsider art is often shrugged off as the creative work of people with a mental illness. And yes, some art brut (the French word for outsider art) is done by a human being who happens to have a mental illness. But not all. And the idea that we need to separate art into a definition of the creator bothers me.

"Alchemy" © by Quinn McDonald. Ink on watercolor paper.

“Alchemy” © by Quinn McDonald. Ink on watercolor paper.

Would we say “the artist who dyes her hair”? or “the left-handed collage artist? Nope. But we sure would add the elements that create a frisson of fear–and that includes mental illness, a checkered past, and other facts that divide “us” from “them.”  I am an outsider artist. I don’t consider myself weird or worthy of being cast out. I just consider  myself dedicated to creativity.

Jean Dubuffet, the French artist who came up with the name art brut (rough or raw art) defined it as art created outside the mainstream of the established art scene. This includes artists who have not gone to art school, who do not have gallery representation, and whose art illustrates fantasy scenes, unconventional ideas and approaches.

The magazine Raw Vision, which focuses on outsider art, includes several other definitions, including Intuitive Art. My favorite is Visionary Art, which is what the museum of outsider art in Baltimore, Maryland, calls it.

Outsider art is the creative work of people who work on the edges of the existing, acceptable art scene, and often do not make a living from their art.

Nine years ago, I made a conscious decision not to have my art be my main income. For about 15 years before that, selling my artwork paid the mortgage and bought groceries. One afternoon, I had a great idea for a piece, followed by the idea that I couldn’t create it because it was not going to be popular. And at that second I also knew I didn’t want to make creative decisions through a profit/loss spreadsheet.

Now I make a living being a creativity coach. I also design and teach business writing and business creativity workshops. And I teach art and writing workshops and retreats. And I write books. All of those things contribute to an income. When one of them threatens to drain my creativity, I shift to working on another. It keeps me fresh and takes away the onus of income producer from any one of my niches.

Most of all, it frees me to do the art I love. Several times in the past year, I’ve sighed and wished I were one of the cool artists–the ones you see all the time on Facebook, with Etsy shops and classes and lots and lots of connections. Then I realize that, since childhood, I have always wanted to be on the inside, but rarely am.

And finally, I realized the power of being an outsider. You can see what’s happening inside, but not be ruled by it. (A space at the cool kids’ table wasn’t free in seventh grade, and it’s not free now.) You can frequently be more daring, create right-on-the-edge art, and speak your truth more freely as an outsider. You can, in fact, live your creativity. Your real expression. Out loud.

Yes, sometimes it’s lonely. But other times the wonder and glory of following your vision and creating directly from your soul is worth the loneliness which feeds you.

-Quinn McDonald is an outsider artist. She will be at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) in Anaheim this weekend, signing her book at North Light books and demo-ing at the Niji booth.

Creative Weekend Boost

Some interesting creative ideas on the intertubes:

Not nearly as weird what you are thinking, it's a colored pencil drawing of chewing gum.

Not nearly as weird what you are thinking, it’s a colored pencil drawing of chewing gum.

Julia Randallis a colored-pencil artist. Having taken colored pencil classes, I think it’s a beautiful medium, but very, very difficult to get right. Randall does. In this beautiful collection, she draws. . . bubble gum. In different colors and at different stages of use. It’s funny and weird and somehow lovely.

Looking closely at the work, the incredible patience needed to be a successful colored pencil artist becomes obvious.

Not into gum? She also has a series called Decoys, on the dangers of genetically modified plants.

Eric Cahan's painting. This is a sunset.

Eric Cahan’s painting. This is a sunset.

David Emitt Adams is a photographer. It’s always fascinating to find someone who has a clear vision of something totally different. Adams does. In Conversations with History, He finds old cans in the Arizona desert, then prints desert photographs on them. “I use these objects to speak of human involvement with this landscape and create images on their surfaces through a labor-intensive 19th century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion,” Adams said on his site.

What? iPhone oil paintings? Not what you think. If you’ve talked on the phone and then discovered oil and makeup on your screen, you are in tune with  JK Keller’s vision. He wipes his face with an iPhone, and then uses them to create screen art. To advance the show, look for the green triangles on the center, outer edges of the page frame.

Eric Cahan is a minimalist. His paintings are all either dawn or sky. He identifies them only with time. Somehow, no more is needed.

Have a creatively exciting weekend!

Saturday Dip in Creativity

It’s Saturday, so it’s time for a skip through the interwebs, looking for creative ideas and projects. The Wellcome Collection describes itself as: “Wellcome Collection is a free visitor destination for the incurably curious, exploring the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. ” Sounds good. I was intrigued by an exhibition called Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan, which talks about identity and the relationship between names and letters.

Rome Rooftops by Isaac Tobin. Details below.

Rome Rooftops by Isaac Tobin. Details below.

There are many other areas on the site that I haven’t checked out yet, including High Tea, a game you can play on line, in which you try to make money in the teas and drug trade, 10 years before the Opium Wars. Before you wrinkle your nose, there are related articles including one which considers whether or not drug use is a sin, a crime, a vice,  or a a disease.

The Color Of is an app that shows you the color of abstract ideas. It does it by going to Instagram, grabbing photos that mentions the word, then creating an abstract by overlapping the images. Interesting.

The Graphics Fairy publishes hundreds of copyright-free images that you can use on cards or stationery. Sort of online ephemera, printable.

Nerhol is a two-artist collective who uses photography in unusual ways. In this series, subjects were asked to sit still for three minutes, while a camera clicked away, taking a series of photos. The photos were then layered and cut to show the subtle movement and facial changes of the “sitting still” subjects.

Isaac Tobin designs typefaces and works for Chicago University Press designing book covers. But the work of his I love are his minimalist collages. That’s one of them up there, but there are many more, some of them so spare, so not “layers on layers” we are used to loving now, that they are refreshing.

It’s the weekend! Enjoy your own creativity.

Quinn McDonald is working on a collage of her own. It’s done with letters and numbers. Again.

On Being Different

There is a certain frisson in being different. Most of us really don’t want to be. We want to think we are different, but not actually be different. Different enough to still be interesting, maybe eccentric, but not stand-alone different. There is fear in having to explain ourselves—and failing.

When communication is too different, it requires a lot of translation.

There was a recent uptick in “be different and proud” quotes on Twitter and it set me to thinking. As an artist, there is a certain threat level to being different. There are fads in supplies and techniques.  Several years ago, anyone who could push a thread through a bead became a “jewelry designer;” those with more patience and talent made amulet bags. If you didn’t make them, your talent was suspect—as if you hadn’t reached an expected artistic developmental stage.  In the collage world, there was a huge surge in illustrations of big eyed women with bent necks. Adding a bird somewhere in the collage was close to a requirement. . The bird was first a sign of individuality and moved to cliche, with defenders and detractors.

“Different” varies from “early adopter” to “outsider artist. It’s hard to feel connected to your path when you are alone and a large group of successful others are pouring out the fad of the minute.

Being different in the corporate world doesn’t often win awards, either. I once refused to fire a writer who was labeled as different. He was serious, bright, and had a talent for concise, image-rich, clear prose that drove home a point.  He was also an introvert and overweight. The department head pointed it out as “not fitting in with our image” and urged me to fire the writer. I refused, pointing to the employee’s serious talent. Suddenly I was the one who didn’t fit in, Within six months, I was called in for a review and told, “You are different and seem to enjoy it.” It wasn’t a compliment, and I was pushed out of the company. To my satisfaction, the good writer remained.

It’s hard being different if it affects your livelihood or your ethics. It’s easier to go along to get along. Being different isn’t a label; it’s is a daily decision-making process that balances providing for your family, being accepted by your friends, and standing up for what you believe. Sometimes that can be quite lonely. It can cost you a client or friends. You doubt yourself. You struggle with the possibility that you are simply wrong.

We live in a world of image, driven by consumer values. There is huge pressure to be accepted, to fit in, to have supporters, successful Facebook “Like” pages, Re-tweets. Do you express your opinion if it is different from your client’s and she is expressing hers as the right opinion? Do you stay silent? What about a friend’s veiled slur against a religion?  What if it is your religion? What about a snarky remark about looks? Weight? Who do you defend, except yourself? We make small decisions every day, and they shape our character, our jobs, our lives. Be careful of the little ones. They change the shape of your soul.

–Quinn McDonaldis a writer, artist, and life- and certified creativity coach. She is the happy author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.