Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

Last post of 2011: the year of a lot of reflection, personal growth in life and creative spirit, and a new found peace that I never expected.
Well, here are seven best things that have helped shape me along the way.

#7 Best Album

An exclusive from my Starbucks obsession (see #4), Feist's new album was highly anticipated, especially with the first track, "Bittersweet Melodies" on repeat in my head.
My leading Canadian lady didn't disappoint.
Beautifully composed songs and signature poignant lyrics on folk beats make Feist's fourth studio album a blissful treat for the ears and tender heart. Standout cuts include the soft, melodic poetry of "Caught A Long Wind," the swingy uptempo, "The Bad In Each Other," and the smooth, laid back, "How Come We Don't Go There." The added choir background vocals in "Undiscovered First" and "Graveyard" are also quite compelling to note.

#6 Best Dayton Art Museum

2011 was an incredible year of art in Dayton.
First Fridays and Urban Nights are amazing, surefire ways of getting the public to see how wonderfully talented local and well known artists are!
The Dayton Art Institute certainly had a variety of shows that kept a solid interest going- from Arthur Primas's African American Collection, the contemporary show that featured Marilyn Minter, a Winslow Homer reflection and the current Norman Rockwell Exhibit, the historical art museum has everyone on their toes waiting for what's coming next!

#5 Best Dayton Art Show

James Pate's "Kin Killing Kin" up at Willis Bing Davis's Ebonia Gallery in the heart of West Third Street has just been extended for a reason. The powerful, guttural show is one of the most talked about conversations in the art scene.
I can't express enough how beautiful, raw, and sad the truth Pate revelations are, but it's definitely a can't miss!

#4 Best Tasting Sinful Indulgence

No secret that I have made this popular coffeehouse a second home.
It was more than a new place to write my novel, utilize the Internet, and chill.
The hot soy chai tea, the iced lemon pound cake, and those nice baristas got me.
Soy chai is foamy, sweet (I add sprinkles of chocolate and vanilla powders plus extra cinnamon to mine). The spicy zip of black pepper comforts me too.
It's an absolutely delicious addiction.
I would like to thank those baristas for all of the free chais.
I'll never forget that thoughtfulness.
Iced lemon pound cake, so light, lemony zesty, and moist with that delightful tease of vanilla icing (that sometimes has yummy coconut in it!) is to die for.
Sadly, I won't be eating these things any longer.
They aren't vegan.
I would have to make them at home and bring them to the spot.
My body cannot tolerate any coffee, but here are some of the vegan options I am willing to try : soy hot chocolate, tea lemonade, and vivanno smoothies without whey.
Maybe next year, Starbucks will find itself back here?

#3 Best Television Moment!

On the daytime serial, "Days Of Our Lives" actors James Scott and Alison Sweeney are incredible together.
One has to applaud that!
But on November 18-21, they brought something in an hour segment that moved and brought an audience to their knees.
Saddened, embittered parents, EJ Dimera and Samantha Brady are rocked to the core when it comes to light that their first born son, Johnny Dimera has died. Though consoling and then blaming one another, raw angst and tormented grief turn into a rather, dark visceral display of angry passion and explosive vulnerability.
Did you really think I was going to pick EJ running for mayor?
Maybe next year.....

#2 Best Hair Style That I Should Be Sporting!

I love this!
It's freaking hot.
Essence Magazine emails me all the latest in natural sistah style. I must say that after about 300 pictures from the year, this one just jumped out at me. Her think, well managed curls are moisturized and shiny.
I bet the wind breezes through it all cool and collected.
Plus, her scarf is beautiful!
Currently, my mysterious hair kept under satin scarves and winter caps, is on a shampoo/condition every two weeks and twisted regime.

#1 Best Non-Guilty Pleasure!

In February, I started a new third shift job and got pretty hungry a lot.
For some unknown reason, I scoped out the power bar section, wanting to be revved up on a sweet, guilty free snack. Tried Luna, Bora Bora, Clif, and these beautifully packaged sensations called, Larabar- the raw fruit and nut bar.
Needless to say, after one bite of cherry pie, Larabar proved to be the only bar I would ever need.
Using nine ingredients or less and with loads of potassium, a bit of fiber, and protein, and no added sugar, they were way better than cookies and cake!
Thus, I saved every wrapper, collecting every bold color for a future not yet created artwork. So far the tally goes: 41 cherry pies, 22 apple pies, 20 lemon bars, 15 chocolate chip brownies, 14 peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter chocolate chips, 8 chocolate coconut chews, 5 key limes, 4 coconut cream pies, 3 cashew cookies and tropical fruit, 2 banana breads, chocolate chip cookie doughs, and 1 gingersnap, cinnamon roll, and this never before tried flavor- blueberry muffin.
So I followed and tweeted larabar, telling them just about every week how much I love them. In March, they sent a package of more larabars, a wrist band, bumper stickers, and other goodies, thanking me for spreading the word! That of which made me love them even more. Not just the bars themselves, but the people behind them.
I say 2012 is about quadrupling the load! Heehee! ;)
Thank heaven most of them are vegan and as many know, 2012 will be the year I give up all dairy, egg, and honey products.
However, no more chocolaty larabars. :(
I love them and am thankful for discovery!
Now 2012, not to sound selfish, but what will you bring me?

Jolly About The Trolley!

(Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority Trolley Circa 1996)

As a kid, I loved riding the yellow bus.
Not the school bus.
The Dayton RTA trolley.
Is it was always an adventure, especially around the holidays when Santa sat in the back seat handing out candy canes to eager children.
Those days are long past.
As well as the original trolley design.

People frown heavily on public transportation- saying that it’s the poor man’s ride and that things are better efficient with a car!
While there are pros and cons of every way of transport, I will always enjoy a good bus ride.
With new environmentally friendly buses (they have trolley hybrids now!) and a cost effective way of saving money, buses, trains, and subways are certainly wonderful way to travel.
Sometimes they can be late.
At times very early.
But I truly love buses and appreciate the people driving them.
I especially enjoy long journeys and going the distance on buses I’ve never boarded.
That of which I can do more of since receiving a surprise monthly bus pass for Christmas.
On particular bus rides, I always find myself leaning against the window either daydreaming, reading books, writing in my journal, or drawing in the sketchbook.
My favorite kinds of buses are trolleys.
That much is obvious! Not a single diesel will be pictured! Haha!
They are nostalgic, perfectly constructed, and now have comfortable seating.
There’s something about standing at the bus stop and watching as it approaches. The perpendicular wires attach on a cord giving it the power it needs to “survive” and that beautiful yellow shade gets my eyes pumping.
Is it any wonder that my novel series are called The Yellow Trolley Chronicles- stories about a young, troubled artist and her friendship with a kind-hearted bus driver?
Loosely based on actual events, I do believe it was destiny to meet a person that inspired a passionate, poetic side to emerge. Aspects of the novel are quite lovely, especially the two characters’ interactions, but other parts are ugly, dark, and brutal realities that happen in life.
In between writing this, creating duck fashion illustrations and African centric portraiture, I’m starting a new painting series on nine by twelve inch canvases- small scale.
Purposefully abstract, these stylized exaggerations are a reflection of a woman who has loved the evolution of buses since forever. I plan on adding more than local color and value in these works. Oranges, pinks, blues, and reds will be squeezed next to the greens, whites, yellows, and purples palette.

This was just a dorky colored pencil sketch.
The shapes are not exactly square, but the exterior design of a trolley is a series of complex angles and edges.

Two rough acrylic paintings in the beginning stages of epic bus greatness- the green trolley hybrid and the yellow trolley.

Smooth, sleek elegance.
Will be probably finishing this one first.
It's my favorite.

Ah, the coveted, yellow trolley.
I adore you.
If it were possible, I would love to get married on one!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Shockingly Self-Absorbed Mall Trip

Went strolling through the Fairfield Commons Mall searching for the perfect gifts for Mom and brothers.
Fruitless and empty handed, I ventured into two of my favorite shops, Nirvana and SHE Fashions (formerly Sleepy Hollow) looking for bargain deals.
Of course, I knew that there would be more "presents" for me here and not my family.
Still, nothing wrong with harmless window shopping!

Belly Dancing wear on sale!
Ummm yeah.
Could totally see Mom and brothers enjoying these things.
Nothing in my color spectrum unfortunately- only purples or darker blues for me!
Not that I planned on making purchases for myself.
But can't help imagining how amazing at home belly dance training would be if I wore something similar to what the other Shimmy ladies are wearing!

Bob Marley!
Except Mom isn't necessarily big on reggae and my brothers probably aren't interested in a dread locked Rastafarian rapping about peace and love.
Though one brother might love the "green" aspect of Marley's poetry!
Now when summer comes along (in about 5 1/2 months boo hoo!) these sized small tank tops would look amazing on a certain someone.....

And a little Marley to sleep on too?
Nirvana has thought of everything!
Err.... for my family.
Not me, of course.

Marilyn Monroe!
Oh wait...
Mom's not really big on the old Hollywood glamorous bombshell and brothers....
No comment on that.
These handbags are popping!
I'm more of a tote bag over the shoulder gal, but for a night on the town, one of these in hand would be perfect.

This tee is soooo beautiful.

A girl always needs a few long maxi dresses in her closet.

And a little reminder that bandannas rock!
Whoo hoo!
Go get em cowgirl!
Since no gifts could be found for the family, off to SHE Fashions- a store that features elegantly designed, rainbow hued dresses, vintage t-shirts, and finely crafted artisan jewelry for the most special of occasions.
Many cutesy intricate items that I absolutely adored.
Unfortunately, nothing screamed, "Mom would love this!" or "how about this for my brothers?"
It was an all "me" situation.

Nothing there either.
Leaving empty handed, I couldn't help thinking that Christmas time is difficult!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wow. This Old Work Is.... Well, It's Old

I walked into Dayton Technology School on First Street downtown to take photos of the old work that was still displayed there.
Students were nice to say that I didn't look my age, (17 really? C'mon now!) but the snorting at the "valley girl accent" will never end.
Alas, I no longer care anymore.
I sound how I sound and that won't ever change.
Anyway, back to the art.
These twelve pieces need to be taken home very, very soon.
But one can't haul large pieces of work to and fro on these hour long journeys...

"The Darkest Tree in the Neighborhood," 18" x 24," acrylic, oil pastels, Mod Podge, and deco markers on canvas, 2006.

Long ago, I had an obsession with language and writing on paintings.
Stemming from a maddening desire to weave my loves together, this was just another attempt.
A dominating headless figure over a sideways landscape.
The repetitive statement, "I am the darkest tree in the neighborhood" is in an abstract tree form at the top and between the legs.
Dark depressing poetry and created during freshman year, I was trying to find my place at art school and in a new city.
This painting simply reflected my feelings in this unusual fragmented world.

"Betrayal of the Two Mothers," 54" x 54," oil pastels on paper, 2008.

In sophomore year, (so long ago!) we had an intriguing assignment project in drawing class: create a self-portrait in an artist's style and write an essay about the experience.
Naturally, I chose my woman, Frida Kahlo and this was a loose replica of her "Dos Fridas."
I worked this very large drawing to death on my apartment floor with Holbein Oil Pastels (at 99 cents per 2 inch stick it added up!) for several weeks and got important feedback during my in progress.
It's layered upon layered with pastels, the chunks similar to paint on canvas.
Originally, there were not going to be hands.
My drawing professor said, "look. This may be the time that you start working on them. You don't want to be known as the artist with no hands. Trust me."
End result- hands are too small, but at least I made an effort of some sort.
"Betrayal of The Two Mothers" features a lot of iconography.
Symbols that tell a personal narrative.
By this time, I had transitioned my hair from relaxers (had been kinky hair straightening since age 7) to just being natural, but there was a nasty, ugly perception about it that always stung deeply.
Growing up, "nappy" was deemed as "African" and that wasn't a great thing.
Hence the Mother Nature aspect in the portrait.
Her giant green face is in the background- left her hair is black, spirally, and knotted while on the right her hair is blond and straight.
With the continent serving as a visible heart, the left "black" side is holding onto strong, African pride and beauty, but the right "white" side is brainwashed by American beliefs.
Yet the both of them are connected via severed neck cut cords to a celestial portrait of a saddened mother.
One question asked to me:
"Why Africa? You're not from there. Why make art as if you're an African when you're just an American?"
I don't think she got what I was trying to address.

"Rubber Duck Race," 18" x 24," oil pastels on paper, 2009.

Another oil pastel double portrait, this is less intense.
No metaphors here.
Of a tender, lighthearted nature, it's about daydreaming and wondering if childhood would have been better if numbered rubber ducks had been racing in a filled bathtub.
Adult me is in the background while the child version takes full stage.
Yes, I really do have a big shiny forehead.
Well aware of that.
This drawing was the first and last time I entered into the AAC's year end art competition, but as it's not real realism or particularly interesting in a classical sense, it lost against the many others that participated.
Plus there was that little tear in the right corner.
Perfection a must! An Academy rule.
Speaking of duckies and their cuteness, I so miss my first music video from freshman year- it was about rubber ducks starting off in a bathtub and their travels all over the world. Very bad pixelated images, mediocre instrumental music, and crappy editing, but I loved the effort!
Too bad I didn't get to save it on CD. :(

"R.I.P. Jamaal Newland," 15" x 15," acrylic, oil pastels, and Mod Podge on canvas, 2009.

When Jamaal Newland, a former middle school classmate of mine died, I felt that I had to honor him in art.
Tall, dark, handsome, smart, and eloquently spoken it broke my heart finding out that he passed away.
He was one of those people, not a friend, but a kind confidante that I shared thoughts with.
Often he made me laugh and smile.
Middle school was a horrid experience and not one that I remember fondly.
Yet he helped me get through it.
One memory, I'll always recall. We were at the library. This man kept passing gas rather loudly. We couldn't stop laughing. Three times the security guard told us to be silent- mainly me. So of course the man kept right on breaking wind, I got kicked out, but Jamaal graciously followed me outside where we let our laughter roam freely.
I painted his signature bright white smile on a happy face. With his arms outstretched across powdery blue skies and green, lush grass, the white, fluffy winged angel is escaping into an enlightening place that is far beyond our reach.

"The Bathroom Door," 16" x 20," acrylic, oil pastels, deco marker, and Mod Podge on canvas, 2007.

An awesome artist friend of mine gave me this fascinating, crescent moon faced mirror, which was in "Betrayal of the Two Mothers."
So of course I decided to incorporate this beautiful object into many sketches, drawings, and paintings over the years.
In this painting, a shocked, mortifed woman holds her hand up protectively to her chest as a white man enters.
Handwritten words are everywhere, questioning identity and privacy.
I was told that this seemed a bit sensual and risque.
For her mouth was parted, her hand is poised almost seductively, and the amount of her visible bare skin invites viewers to look at her though she acts completely innocent.
What is she doing in the bathroom?
Why wasn't the door locked?
Is she fully clothed?
The intention is not really to read the words, but some people have and it's delightful to watch them because my handwriting is microscopic! Haha!
As for the other seven pieces, they're commissions and Aaliyah portraits.
These five were the ones that communicated
I hadn't seen any of this work in a year or so.
Viewing it with refreshing eyes, I took a few pointers from this old body of work.
Bold, vibrant color, narrative, and language are still at the top of my hierachy.
The next series of art deals with Africa and integrating the continent's aesthetic into the human face.
In my sketchbook, there are the Prismacolor colored pencil and Sharpie marker drawings. Also I have cut through "Essence" magazines for collage ideas through a friend's suggestion.
Ready to move onto the next phase, switch gears just a teensy bit.
But I can never forget how far I've gotten.
Art is a growing experience.
So much one can be taught. Not just from prior artists of the past, but from our own art history.
It's the residue that tells us to keep being creative!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

R.I.P. Meano: Best Dog Ever 2000-2011

He aggravated me in the mornings whistling for outdoor freedom.
Awaiting the tiniest bit of scrappy crumbs, he impolitely stared hard as I ate anything.
Even foods that wouldn't interest him like chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.
Only once had I seen him ever consume an orange carrot.
He strangely howled along with the ambulance trucks, gnawed nosily at the fleas on his back and tail, and at times he barked for no reason at all.
But he was a very good buddy.
The friendliest, most sweetest, most lovable pal anyone could ask for, especially from a woman who feared dogs her entire life.
When I first met Meano, a huge, gorgeous, mixed breed dog, six years ago, I pleaded for him to be put outside every time I came over.
Gradually, after a few hesitant pets on the head and the occasional lap humping that male dogs love to do, we became good friends.
In the vast, opened backyard where the big protector roamed free with lively, exuberant energy, I would watch him growl and chase strangers, run after the neighbors' small white dogs, beg for scraps of food, and sit underneath huge tree shades to catch his breath.
Panting with his long pink tongue out and smiling, he was easily the happiest dog in the world.
We would go on wonderful journeys together around the neighborhood and beyond, star gaze on the roof, and sit in front of the fireplace on wintry nights, his head nestled in my lap as I stroked his fur.
At restaurants, he was boxed actual doggy bags- favorite most likely a big Styrofoam container of Tanks Bar and Grill French fries, rippled potato chips, and leftover burger platters.
A great, patient sitter, he was a perfect subject for many artworks over the years too.

Two months ago, on a late afternoon at Riverscape was one of the last times I ever saw him.
He rudely placed himself into my lap, scaring me away from typing.
Before I could ask why this dog was being bothersome, I looked up, exclaimed, "Meano!" and petted him with heady enthusiasm. Happy to see his marble cake face- yes, I always thought he reminded me of yellow and chocolate cake- his soft, velvety fur all rich browns and golden undertones.
I thought he would live forever.
Well, at least a longer time.
Though a bit lazy in house, seeing him in the yard, his haven, he ruled with fiery, abundant spirit.
I recall every adventure walking, skipping, running, and laughing.
He enjoyed smelling every tree, jumping in crushed leaves with me, treading through white, fallen snow, encountering stray dogs, watching birds, even a little duck that slowed down traffic for crossing the street, and that one rare moment we saw a red fox underneath the highway.
I have missed him, but it's even more painful now that he's truly gone.
On Sunday night, he left the earth.
And it hurts so much.
Even now.
It cuts like a knife to the heart when someone you love has passed away.
I hope that he knew that I did love him.
That I still do.
And I find myself crying at the oddest moments and places, staring at saved pictures and wishing that I had taken more.
He was the best dog ever.
One of the truest friends I ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Sketches

Besides Christmas cards and rubber duck fashion design, I've been exploring a new arena.
Ever since I got my results back from and Dr. McDonald, I've been trying to figure out how to create a body of work.
Can one make art from being identified as 87.8% African and 12.2% European?
Art is so universal that anything can be!
I love the face.
The many emotions, the movements, the features.
A billion adjectives can describe how much I enjoy creating art about the face!
So in combining the research and facial enthusiasm, abstracted portraiture seemed to be my answer.

For this upcoming project.
The shape of Africa is in various crevices of the human face.
The lips are my favorite- I enjoy creating the mouth- its variations of reds, pinks, browns, and purples. It's a feature that seems to stand out the most in my portraits.
This isn't any different.
The eyes are closed, lashes peering down at that strangely shaped sideways, African continental lips- perhaps a commentary on where this specific feature of mine has derived from.
In lightly drawing this, I can't help but think of Lip Letters, from a previous blog post. I hate my own lips, but this makes me love a bit them more.
Not a lot, but bit by bit, I'm starting to realize their exception and rarity.
By rarity, I mean in the media, by what I see in television and magazines.
Barely do women of color have full lips, but white women with "pouty" mouths are all the rage and that baffles me so much.
The shape of this mouth I've created speaks of such exoticism and cultural beauty that simply fascinates me. Though it is just a sketch, I'm rather proud of it and seek to draw more!
African lips- not strange, but unique and lovely.

The full cheek.
I'm thinking of filling in the African continent with each individual country with red, black, green, and yellow.
Maybe even bold rainbow colors featured in globes and the maps I've Google'd.
Not sure.
Still playing around with the idea.

At the beginning very rough stage of the nose.
Interesting enough, it seems a perfect fit!
Like the much needed line at the center of the lips portrait, I'll be adding nostrils here.
This body of work is gradually building.
There will been an eye, a hair, and maybe a brow and/or ear piece, but for now, I'm working on weaving this concept together with language and figuring out how to incorporate that tiny 12.2% European aspect.
But the thing is, I don't want to use my own face.
Having made so many self portraits, I want to escape that.
Weird huh?
Considering that I'm utilizing my own results....
As for final explorations, rich oil pastels on dark papers or acrylic paintings?
Maybe oils?
Until I get all of these sketches properly uniformed, I'll get to that place.
For now, it's the sketchbook and Prismacolor colored pencils for now.