Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

New goodies

Guess what! Bright Idea is finished! I'm waiting for it to fully dry so that I can put a coat of Liquin on  it (to seal and finish it) before I unveil the finished piece. Stay tuned! In the meantime...

I love new art supplies! After finishing Bright Idea I decided to take a little break from painting on metal and give some other surfaces a shot. So, I headed over to Forstall Art Center and got a couple new things to try.
First up- this lovely artist panel. Already primed and ready to go. I like the deep profile (it comes in a smaller profile as well). The surface isn't as smooth as metal (what is?), but it's smoother than canvas. Plus, the fact that it doesn't give and flex like stretched canvas will preserve the painting over time.

I also got this Birch panel. It's got a deep profile like the artist panel. It would actually be fairly easy to make yourself- it's basically a shallow box, but time is at a premium for me right now. I love how smooth it is- almost as smooth as metal. Look how pretty! Plus I like that if I wanted to I could let some wood show through in parts of my painting. The downside is that you can't use oil paints directly on wood (it degrades over time), so it needs to be primed. I think I'll use some clear Golden Matte Medium to prime. So, I'll try these out and give y'all a full report.

P.S. I also got a new filbert brush. Not that y'all REALLY care that I got a filbert. I just like saying the name. It makes me feel like I've given my tools a nickname. Maybe I'll come up with nicknames for some art supplies as well!

What about everyone out there? Are you trying something new? What's your favorite thing to paint on and why? Do you nickname inanimate objects (like Filbert)? You're not alone. Let's chat!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shop local

I just heard a crazy statistic. For every $1 spent at a local store, 45% goes back to the community compared to 14% from big box stores and 0% from online stores. I guess it's not really that crazy. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. The numbers just make it hit home to me.
My favorite art supply store here in Birmingham is Forstall Art Center. Everyone who works there is truly knowledgeable and helpful. Plus I never feel like they're trying to sell me on things I don't need. Alabama Art Supply is another great one here in town with an equally knowledgeable and friendly staff. I've found that the prices at both these places are competitive with big box stores (like the one that starts with an M and the one with the initials HL) and actually have a better selection.
The fact that 0% goes back to the community from online stores is really major to me. What a huge impact it could have if we all shopped locally! Admittedly, the online stores can be cheaper and as artists you probably don't have tons of loose change, but even buying some of your supplies locally can make a difference. And just think, you as an artist are a local business, in a way. Support the community and it will come back around.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Work in progress: Movin' right along!

Thanks to my wonderful baby getting on a nap-time routine, I've really made some progress on Bright Idea. I've decided that in a weird way working around baby girl's schedule has actually made me a little more disciplined. I know that I only have an hour to paint and I get right to work rather than letting other stuff get in my way and distract me. Here's how it looked my last post:
The next time I painted I mainly focused HERE: 
And here it is now:

I think all I have to do is figure out those silly corners that are giving me such trouble. Any tips anyone?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Autism and the Arts

Warning: This post might be a little wordy. However, I think the information is useful and interesting.
Thursday I did a presentation at UAB (University of Alabama in Birmingham) entitled A Different Point of View: A Discussion of Autism and the Arts. It went so well! I had a great and attentive audience and we had a really good discussion after the presentation. A few people who weren't able to attend have asked me for more details about the presentation, so here's an overview!

Involvement with the arts can have great therapeutic benefit for anyone. Specifically, though, we talked about autism and the characteristics of a person with autism and how the arts can be used as part of their therapy. For brevity's sake I'll just briefly outline some benefits of art (as well as specifics of why they are benefits to someone with autism). Then, I'll give some ideas for creating art with someone with autism (or other disabilities as well).

Social benefits:

Most arts do not require language skills- Many individuals with autism have a hard time with language and communication. Art can be a way for them to relay their emotions without needing to speak.

If done in a group setting art can give everyone in the group a sense of community and common ground- Many individuals with Asperger's syndrome (a syndrome on the autism spectrum, but usually differentiated by strong language skills) suffer from depression because they realize that they are different and would like to belong, however their difficulty in understanding emotions and relationships makes it tough. Art done as a group can help that.

Art in different forms can help them to understand emotions- Some people with autism have an easier time understanding emotions portrayed in books and movies than in real life. I knew a little boy who loved Dr. Seuss and when he didn't like a situation he would yell, "I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM! I DO NOT LIKE THEM, SAM I AM!" The written word helped him to communicate his emotions.

The art community may be more accepting of the unique qualities of someone on the autism spectrum- There is a documentary called Autism: The Musical about a woman who discovered that people she hired from the local theatre made better progress with her autistic son than many therapists she'd hired. She ended up starting a theatre group for children with autism.

Physical benefits:

Art can help develop motor skills- Many people with autism have trouble with fine or gross (large) motor skills. Fine motor skills can be developed through painting, drawing, cutting paper, making jewelry, etc. Gross motor skills can be developed through dance and theatre

It can be a way to introduce new smells and textures gently- Some people with autism have a strong dislike for certain textures or smells. If, for example, a person dislikes gritty textures, art can be used to help them get over their aversion. You might first have them finger paint with smooth paints, then, if they're enjoying it, you can gradually add just a little bit of sand or salt to the paint. If they start reacting badly to the texture, you can backtrack by having them use a brush instead of their fingers. Eventually, you may even get them to paint on sandpaper.

Behavioral benefits:

Art can be used to either calm and focus a hyper individual, or relax an uptight individual. More on how, specifically, below.

Art can be an outlet for favorite subjects or topic or give them a chance to be as repetitive or detail-oriented as they like-
Many people with autism or Asperger's have a favorite topic. They usually have volumes of knowledge about that one thing, however that may be the only thing they want to talk about. Also, sometimes that thing is not socially appropriate. However, art can give them some freedom. While some people might say that they should not have any opportunity to explore their obsessions, I think that everyone should have a place where they are allowed to be exactly who they are. I knew one boy who was obsessed with toilets... he knew the model number and the flow volume of every toilet on the market and that's all he wanted to talk about. Obviously, that's not a very socially acceptable topic to always discuss. However, he could have painted pictures of toilets and no one would have batted an eye. Us artists sometimes paint weird things. After all, we all know how obsessed I am with my sink and the shininess of my faucet!

Ok, so now some ideas for getting someone with autism involved in art so that they can receive the most benefits possible:
1) Reduce distractions. If possible avoid florescent lights and loud rooms if the person you are working with is easily overwhelmed or distracted. If they are VERY easily overwhelmed, start with familiar items. For example, if they have never used paint before, try ketchup and mustard instead.
2) To calm and focus someone with autism (or anyone, really) don't give them a large canvas and paint. That will only make them more unfocused. Instead give them a small piece of paper and a pencil and maybe a small item for them to draw. Conversely, if he or she is uptight, a canvas and paint may work well.
3) Follow his or her lead. Making someone create is not going to be an enjoyable experience for anyone. Maybe he or she isn't enjoying painting, but is interested in music. Explore all your options.
4) Is he or she practical? Some people may not see the point in creating a painting to hang on the wall, but they may like making something that they can use. Some ideas are: A name plate or "keep out" sign for their room, a bowl, decorating a picture frame, decorating a table or chair, etc. I know you can come up with more!
5) Make sure the setting is safe, both emotionally and physically.
6) Be aware that they may or may not be ok with you in their personal space.
7) Accommodate any physical limitations. If they have trouble using their hands, don't make them make jewelry with tiny beads. You want this to be fun! You can gently add in challenges later at their own pace. There are paint brushes with large, short, rounded handles for easier grip and control as well as other adaptive art supplies on the market.

That's it! If you're in the Birmingham area, VSA of Alabama is a GREAT place to volunteer (all the pictures in this post are courtesy of VSA alabama. I work with them a lot). They have all kinds of arts programming for children and adults with disabilities or terminal illnesses. VSA is a national organization, so no matter where you are, you probably have a local VSA affiliate near you.

So what about y'all? Any of you work with special needs? Have any great ideas, tips, or projects that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

...A Discussion on Autism and the Arts

I'm doing a presentation entitled A Different Point of View: A Discussion on Autism and the Arts today at UAB (University of Alabama in Birmingham). So, for any of you that are in the Birmingham area and free around lunch time, come on over! The presentation starts at 11:30 in room 549 of Heritage Hall.

I'll let you all know how it goes and I'll also talk about the content of the presentation in my next post.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Work in progress (or "Guess who's back!")

I have an announcement. I, yes I, mother to a 5-month-old (and disorganized owner of 3 dogs AND now aspiring Pilates instructor- more on that later) am FINALLY feeling back to normal and am painting again. So, back to my work in progress, tentatively called Bright Idea. You may remember MONTHS ago, back before I wasn't so pregnant that painting was an aerobic endeavor, I started a painting. You can see the first posts here, here, and here. Well, I've gotten to work on it a few times lately and here's the current progress:
I'm going to have to stop categorizing my progress by day (day 1, day 2, etc.) because sometimes I get to work for 10 minutes, sometimes 2 hours, but the important thing is, I'm working and it feels great!

I need some help, though. The corners are bothering me. The bowl that I placed the lightbulb in to "pose" for this painting has a lattice-type pattern around the lip. I'm not sure how I feel about it in the painting, though. So talk to me people. What do you think? Is it distracting? Interesting? Does it add to the picture or is it just pointless? 

Tell me what's going on with y'all, too? Life changes making time for art difficult? How are you coping? Update me.