Artist's Prayer

Give us Your daily Inspiration
So, we can live a Creative Life.
And lead us away from self-doubt,
For to doubt our creativity
Is to doubt Your Voice within us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stenciled (FUN) Art Anyone....?

For the longest time I have considered the term 'Senciled Art' as nothing more than an oxymoron in relation to the fine arts.... my most frequent association of employing stencils was related to home decorating projects and occasionally to crafts. Well, all those old ideas were first put to a creative test and then thrown out the window.... I can happily report a permanent change of heart about this wonderful tool. Instead of mis~perceiving it as being limited in its repetitiveness of a single pattern to a 'linear dullness,' I uncovered a rich springboard of creative challenges, provided one is open to test new limits of self-imposed creative boundaries. 
My journey in re~discovering stenciled art begun with a spring brochure from Dick Blick which featured curiously stimulating patterns presented in a series of books. During my trip to the store I was drawn to the prominently displayed books, kits and accessories raising the stenciling fever ever so higher.... My heart was stolen by a treasure titled 'Stencil 101 Decor' by Ed Roth which contains not only step-by-step projects' instructions that made my already exhilarated imagination flooding my mind with more projects' ideas my brain could process in a week. However, most importantly this wonder of a book/kit contains a set of 10 12x12 re~usable plastic stencil patterns. Once I brought the book home, I thought to myself 'I guess if I start using the stencils I may have to eat all the words and loud opinions I, at one time, so cherished... Oh, what to heck, maybe instead of eating them, I'll just stencil something.... pronto!'

Thankfully I didn't have to look far for a stencil~ready surface.... the painting I've been slowly working on (refer back to the previous post) was calling my name. Not so long ago the idea of bringing a repetitive, structured, linear pattern to an expressive painting which, up until now, has been meandering along a very intuitive path, would have resulted in its very vocal and final dismissal. But somehow, as I'm trying to practice quiet consciously the process of letting go and surrendering to the unknown, I was attracted to embarking onto further experimentation with stencils and particularly by introducing a set of circular patterns to my painting.... with some vague hesitation I decided to give in.... here's what followed.

Once I was set on a particular stencil pattern, I found a center within a painting and used a Prismacolor White color pencil to gently draw the outlines of the circles.

My overall intention for this 'leg of the journey' was to develop a tactile texture while preserving some of the background composition. In other words, I felt that a medium which exhibits both translucent and textural properties would be an ideal candidate. That's how Golden Acrylics Glass Bead Gel 'came into the painting' ~ one messy application at a time....

Because of the size of the stencil, I had to work in a somewhat haphazard manner while applying the Glass Bead Gel, letting some circles dry completely, before moving along onto the next set. I washed and dried the plastic stencil in between each subsequent application (a good practice in strengthening the will power and patience for someone who possesses neither!)....

Once all the elements were dried I realized that there is such thing as 'too much translucency' ~ yes, once you can't see the element itself, you might have gone a tiny bit too far. To remedy this state of affairs I turned for assistance to a diluted application of Golden Liquid Acrylics Iridescent Silver (Fine).... afterwards there's a 'frosty glass' effect to the stenciled shapes and the irregularities of the glass bead gel come even more to life. For the time being the painting feels almost complete, there's a chance though, for a short, unexpected encounter with a thin application of Self-Leveling gel..... just enough to bring out that glossy 'pop' of texture. FYI the dimensions of the painting are 22x28 

Should you choose to bless your creative Self with an XXX~Large serving of delicious stenciling here's the book/kit that stole my heart....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In The Process of Letting Go....

As the above painting is gently and peacefully coming into being ~ one messy brush stroke at a time ~ I can't help but wonder how much it reminds me of my personal journey, especially the messy part... I was inspired to experiment with a more expressive and abstract composition while browsing through an online gallery of a friend of mine, Don Larson, who paints mostly nudes. I just fell in love with the very pronounced, chiseled~like brush strokes combined with a strong value variation which he masterfully employs in capturing the beauty and mystery of a human body.

I decided to challenge myself to a larger canvas size and additionally to explore new territories by working with a vertically oriented canvas instead of the usual horizontal placement. I deliberately abstained from taking pictures during the initial stages of painting itself.... more than anything the process was intended to be a safe channel of 'throwing out' from within and directly onto the canvas, through the very spontaneous and 'loose' gestures of my brush over the surface. My intention and hope was to create a sensation of emotional purging, letting go of whatever wanted to come out and letting it find its place on the canvas. I decided to let the paint colors to pick me, rather than the other way around... After I felt a sense of completion ( at the stage that is shown in the top photo) I let the painting sit and wait until the inner urge of continuation returned.... over a week later.

The next phase of working on this painting was marked by development of new layers and texture. Hence, I up~cycled a Starbucks paper cup and filled in half with a mixture of Golden Self-Leveling Gel, Quinacridone Crimson and Interference Oxide Red.

This cloudish ~ reddish mixture should not be mistaken for a serving of a gourmet coffee!

I tilted the canvas and spilled the content the gel/paint mixture over the surface.

Next, I decided to let the gravity assist me in finding even more in this creative mess.

Yet it wasn't until I begun to spread the wet mixture around the canvas with some serious help from a plastic shopping bag, that I actually started laughing.... the tactile delights and messiness of the process reminded me of childhood art projects.

The following day I went back to applying the initial spontaneous brush strokes over the surface, this time by applying a mixture of Golden High Solid Gel (Gloss) with Blick Acrylics Titanium White.

.... it looks that much more paint and gel texture is in the stars for this painting. In the above photo I added a layer of Golden Acrylics High Solid Gel (Gloss), Golden Acrylics Cerulean Blue Deep and Turquois (Phthalo). I feel a strong inclination towards a Glass Bead Gel as a next candidate of the list of possible texture 'contributors'...

On a side note, this week I had a chance to participate in the preview party for the Chicago Art Open at the River East Arts Center, downtown Chicago where one of my paintings 'circul~R' is on display until May 7, 2010. For more info visit the following link ~ Chicago Art Open 2010.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Creative Recycling ~ Interactive Art Installation

t-shirt design prepared for Whole Foods Market
designed by Tatiana Kuzyk
(for ordering information click here)

Here's a new way to challenge, explore and express your creativity ~ Up~Cycling!

It is a bit 'last minute' to make an announcement, but that's all the time I have at this hour.... April 22nd is celebrated as Earth Day and I've been blessed with having an privilege to coordinate and be a part of an interactive art event to be hosted at Whole Foods Market in Wheaton, IL (for details go the link at the top of the post). The idea for this particular event was born back in February when I was working on my recycled altered photo 'Chinatown' which employed as a strata a Whole Foods brown paper bag and a corrugated cardboard as a background. One thing led to another through a synchronistic chain of events which will culminate in a tomorrow's art installation. I will be working alongside Rachel, a brilliant and very creative store artist and designer in assisting and demonstrating numerous techniques of altering recyclable materials such as plastic containers, vitamin bottles, shopping bags, card boards which will be provided by the store and will also be brought in by the participants. There are many outcomes that we've set out for this event, with the two taking the precedence: 1. to teach Creative Recycling ~ UpCycling 2. to conduct a collection of various recyclable materials to be utilized in the store's existing recycling center. Most importantly my personal intention is to inspire and teach a fun and creative ways to recycle.

We will have tables set up with paints and art supplies for the participants to alter a recyclable item which will later become an element of a hanging art installation in the store.

The following is my statement as printed in the promotional materials for the event:

 Up-cycling requires thoughtful, creative planning in order to develop a new product, the rewards of which can be enjoyed for years to come. It’s easy, fun, and practical.

Up-cycling is the process of converting recycleable materials into products of greater value. This process has the ability to instill in its practitioner a sense of environmental responsibility. It can provide a “second life” to products and materials which would otherwise be destined for a landfill. Hybrid creations can result from the process thus combining the physical and functional characteristics of both original items.

On a side note related to Earth Day, my three upCycled artworks are currently on display (see the below photos), until the end of the month, at "UpCycled Art 2010" exhibit at It's Our Earth store in Wheaton, IL (follow the link in a sidebar for more info).

Mixed Media Collage on Canvasboard
step-by-step instructions of this project were published as "Turn Your Shopping Bag into a Collage" (follow the link in the sidebar)

Mixed Media on Canvasboard

Mixed Media on Cardboard

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mandala.... Universal Symbol of Wholeness

... as yet untitled...
Mixed Media on Paper

The research on my masters' thesis becomes more tedious with each passing day, yet also immensely enriching. After months of false~starts, finally I'm moving my feet, or actually my eye balls across the pages and my hand over countless sheets of paper while taking copious notes.... The subject matter is ~ Mandala As a Universal Symbol of Wholeness~ interestingly enough it gives me an opportunity to combine the two favorite areas of self-expression (art and spirituality) by marveling at the depth and intricacies of the mandalas' iconography and symbology from a perspective of visual arts. Additionally, mandalas of the world have been created since the times of prehistoric caves in every culture on Earth as means of providing a visual 'map' for an individual to find the way back to the Center within. Mandala is an archetypal path to wholeness, or more specifically, to realization, or remembrance of our wholeness be it from a psychological standpoint ~ integration of the psyche, an encounter with one's unconscious by establishing and promoting an active dialog between these to distinct entities, as a necessary means to a lasting sense of inner balance. From a spiritual perspective, mandalas (meaning 'circle' in Sanskrit) have been created by Native American Shamans, Tantric Tibetan Buddhists, and spiritual adepts in India for the millenniums. These 'curiously' looking circles, often depict a quiet gruesome imagery symbolizing the 'inner demons' every individual must conquer before reaching a lasting realization of complete wholeness and oneness with All that Is ~ AKA~ enlightenment. Mandalas find they shape imprinted in the micro- and macrocosm ~ from a circular shape of one's eyes' pupils and atoms as building blocks of all physical forms, to the circular orbits and shapes of planets and galaxies....

Drawing and painting mandalas provide a 'container' for emptying ourselves out, ideally done in a spontaneous, no~linear manner. There's no 'magic' or any type of 'specialness' to making mandalas and they are not considered as objects of worship. Being symbolic, mandala could be likened to a symbolic reminder, or a guide posts depicting a 'way back home'....within. In modern psychotherapy mandalas are often encourage to be drawn or painted by patients exhibiting a wide range of maladaptive behaviors, from addictions to A(H)DD, borderline personality disorders and schizophrenia, not to mention their groundbreaking role in art therapy. In the early XX-ieth century Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, begun a consistent practice of drawing a mandala every single day and later decided to implement this method as a mode of therapeutic approach with his patients with great success. His findings has been well documented and adapted in various modes of psychological healing.

If you're not snoring yet, there's only one thing be added, regardless of their specific application, they're fun to draw or paint, there's something very grounding and internally soothing when you let the images come to life inside a circle... recently one of my favorite bloggers posted some fun images of mandalas called 'Zendalas', check it out....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Arranged Marriage ~ Mixed Media & Altered Photography....

Mixed Media & Paper on Canvas
Tatiana Kuzyk

.... 'Focus' is a completed artwork from the previous post.... B&W hand colored photo of a landscape ~ mounted on an un~streched canvas...

Historically January & February are marked by a deep introspection and a somewhat dormant extroversion in my life... hence my 'cyber absence'.... In the beginning of February I had to prepare almost all of my artwork for a solo exhibit which will conclude in a week. At that time I did a lot of framing of the pieces which up until then had been basking in a frame~less glory around my house. One thing I learned from my framing experience ~ (mostly installing open~back frames) ~ that the creative development came to a completion for the majority of my artwork, only after a long process of selecting a 'perfect mate' for every single painting and collage.... in the end the final transformation took place... and, to much of my delight, I re~discovered some of my pieces anew....

But let's talk about romancing the altered photographic images and introducing them to the ever more versatile mixed media, acrylics and waterColors... During the last six weeks I did a lot of experimentation with pushing the boundaries of stratum and mediums applied to the selection of B&W photos. As you will soon see, the majority of images are the same and that was a conscious choice on my part since the beginning.... I wanted to use the exact, same image and to discover how it comes to life, or becomes buried under the myriad of 'over~done', 'over~applied' mediums which I use with much abandon... I mostly worked with a standard full-page, letter-size images which I printed on an ink jet printer. Simplicity and ease of duplication was key for me from the perspective of an initial image preparation ~ in other words ~ my outcome was to be able to do a 'show & tell' of the process that could be repeated by anyone having an access to an ink jet printer and an image source. Then the rest, the most stimulating and fun part of the journey was left up to you, the artist....

On a side note, I'd like to address a question that's often being posed regarding the difference between using an image editor software, such as Photoshop or Picasa, and altering a photograph 'by hand.' When it comes to the almost miraculous capabilities of Photoshop in image alteration, the output is always in a ready-to-frame form that could be admired for the technical skills and aesthetic qualities of its creator. However, if you're up for a bold, adventurous journey filled with not only visual delights, but also offering you much treasured tactile feast, unexpected texture development, spontaneous applications of paint and mediums that can result in a 'creative dead~end' and an eventual 'break~through' into a newly emerged layer that turns out to be 'just~the~thing' your photo has been anxiously awaiting for.... Perhaps, in the end, the question is ~ how would like to engage your visual image development process at the moment....? Is it by using your computer mouse? By playing with your paint brushes & palette knives....? or would you forge your very own path, a hybrid of the many techniques that's uniquely yours ~ just like your Creative Self....

In order to prevent any unintentional injuries of your wrist due to excessive scrolling down;) I decided to limit the selection of images posted below.

Both of the following altered B&W photo~journeys begun with the shot I recently took from a parking lot in downtown Chicago. Just like the image from a 'ChinaTown' piece, I'm mesmerized by hanging fire escapes adorning 'the less prominent' side of an old building....
Using a Picasa software, I first cropped the desired image out of the entire photo and later I used B&W filters, sharpening options, shadows & light buttons until I felt that the image was ready to enter a mixed~media playground....

(besides my subjective preference of B&W photos, I suggest for your own project to make sure that the image is sufficiently sharpened and that there's much shadows and light contrast ~ almost to the point of 'overdoing,' because during the printing your image will 'loose' a lot of contrast, especially if printed on a more adventurous background, ie. fabric, brown paper, acrylic skins).

First, I cut out a letter-size piece of water color paper to fit into the ink jet printer and I proceeded to build the under~printing background with a diluted application of Golden Liquid Acrylics Cobalt Turquois mixed with Golden Heavy Body Cobalt Teal.
While the paint was still wet, I gently tapped a tissue against the surface to create a variation in the visual texture. Once the surface was completely dry, I printed the image ( I strongly suggest you first do a test~print to make sure the image and its placement is 'in line' with what you see on your computer screen).

In order to perform any physical manipulation with your printed image, it must first be safely preserved behind a layer of a varnish. I find that only a spray varnish will do the job right ~ it will eliminate the necessity of making any direct contact with the surface by using a brush, which will almost certainly result in an ink bleed. I like to apply a generous coat of Golden Archival Varnish with UVLs, either Satin or Matte.

After the physical 'prepping' of the surface is finally complete, we can smoothly move onto the texture development. I begun the process with two subsequent layers of Golden High Solid Gel (Gloss), followed by two, thick layers of Golden Self-Leveling Gel ~ letting each application to dry before proceeding with the subsequent one. Also, should you choose to work with these products, make sure that your artwork will stay positioned horizontally throughout this process.
By using a black paint marker by Deco Color I accentuated the structure of the building in the photo ~ I drew the lines with a skech~ing hand gestures. Next I applied the last coat of Golden Self-Leveling Gel which always dries to excellent clarity and and a high glossy sheen.

I decided to permanently mount my altered photograph on a 11x14 canvas board using a gel medium as an adhesive. Next I 'framed' the image by applying a heavy, irregular layer of Golden Hard Molding Paste to the exposed canvas board. By choosing a flat angle brush as a tool, I was able to build a ridge~like texture with the paste.

After the sculpting paste had dried overnight, I painted its surface with a black gesso to bring out even more definition form the image of the building.

Finally, a thick layer of Golden Liquid Acrylics Iridescent Silver (Fine) paid the closing credits to this altered photo.

~ the above process had added a contemporary feel to this somewhat 'rugged' imagery by juxtaposing contrasting hues of turquoise, black, and silver ~

Let's see what happens when the same image will be 'endowed' with a more 'age~appropriate' color palette....

This time around I begun with the a mixture of Golden Liquid Acrylics Quinacridone Crimson and Golden Heavy Body Quinacridone Magenta being applied to the surface of a water color paper.
I decided to test drive a Crackle Medium to see how much of an authentic aged look a $2 bottle can bestow on my altered photo.... Here's an interesting piece of information I found out about this product ~ turns out that a fine art supply store does not carry such a must~have of any altered art aficionado! None of the big brands manufacture this fun medium (perhaps one day soon Golden Acrylics or Liquitex will offer such product in their line...?) So far the only brand that blesses us with a Crackle Medium is folkArt which available at any craft store (JoAnn Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc.)
After the Crackle Medium had dried I painted the surface with a somewhat watered~down layer of Golden Liquid Acrylics Titan Buff and the 'crackling metamorphosis' slowly begun to take place right in front of my eyes...

Following the printing of my photo image I sprayed a generous coat of Golden Archival Varnish w/UVLs (Matte) over the surface.

Using a fine tip, black Deco Colors paint marker I accentuated selected areas of the photo in order to bring out the inherent antiquated character of the image and to create a more 3~dimensional composition.
Nothing creates a more definite tactile texture variation like an un~even application of a High Solid Gel.... I spreaded it across the surface with a palette knife while leaving behind multiple, vertical gelly 'ridges.'
Two steps in one photo: 1. I painted the surface with Golden Liquid Acrylics Quinacridone Nickel Azo while omitting the windows areas of the photograph, 2. With a little help form a palette knife I deposited tiny bits of white gesso along those previously created 'ridges.'
The final touch of a 'once~over' with a paint marker down the fire escapes, windows and door frames....
Though the completed altered photo~painting is not permanently mounted to any particulr background, I had placed it against the surface of a black gesso painted cardboard for the time being...

As I said in the begining of this marathon post, in these two distinct alteration processes, the image itself stayed the same.... yet does it still feel the same to you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is There Such A Thing As 'too much' Of Creative Fun....?

Altered B&W Photograph
Mixed Media & Paper on Wood
15'x21' by Tatiana Kuzyk

When it comes to Creative Fun in the process of art~making, 'too much' turns the preceding expression into an oxymoron.... I've been savoring long hours of indulgence of transforming my B&W photos into something quiet stunning, marked by a definite character of their subject matter re~captured anew through a creative application of a brown paper bag as a strata and element of design in its own right, as well as re~framing of selected elements of the photograph itself through an unexpected application of colored pencils, acrylic gels, paints and mediums, not to mention corrugated cardboard background and an eventual wooden support (not seen in the photos)....

I feel internally re~juvenated by 'pushing the envelope' of my inner resistance in a somewhat unorthodox manners through which the seeming 'boring', visually uninteresting composition can come to life and actually shine, the way it was intended to when my camera first fell in love with the imagery in front of me....

So, let's get off our butts this winter season and pull out some real ugly piX that have been collecting dust in an album or on your hard drive and see how an 'ugly duckling' can become your very own masterpiece.... and I'm not talking 'scrapbooking' here, this process takes a healthy dose of creative courage when it comes to imagery manipulation that is quiet 'physical' in its scope while it reaches the deep recesses of your Creative Self through this wonderful journey.....

To get your creative juices flowing let me throw in few creative 'prompts' by providing an imagination~stimulating list of suggested materials to use in your process:
  • as a strata experiment with printing your image on fabric, transparency, or a previously printed surface (newspaper, magazine, old poster, calendar, greeting card, your wedding photo...)
  • use leftover interior latex paint that may collect dust in your basement, or garage to prime the background before printing, or afterwards
  • stain the printed surface with tea or coffee
  • cover randomly selected areas of your photos with a sticky tape and paint, or color the rest of the surface, in the end leave, or remove the tape
  • cover the surface with stamps or stencil images
  • spill something on the surface: red wine, ink, etc.
  • burn the edges of your photo (paper only)
.....I think, by now you may be taking a mental stock of the photos you've collected, or find something intriguing online at any of the royalty free image depositories..... the possibilities are endless, my friend....

I look forward to seeing snapshots from your Adventures In Altered Photography....!

Below are few pictures of my latest Altered Photo~Journey, that particular image was taken last fall during one of my walks in the dog is also printed on a brown paper bag which is congruent with the theme of my upcoming exhibition in two weeks....

The original color photo for this project.

....what can a brown shopping bag do for a photograph....? Bless it with beauty, uniqueness while being up~cycled, from the profane to the profound. After all how much of conscious attention do we pay to an 'ordinary' paper bag...?

I used a shape of one of my view finders and a round lid to accentuate few selected areas of the composition with a white charcoal pencil....

A light waterColor wash will create lens~like quality and a series of focal points throughout the surface.

For more contrast I re~drew the contours with a permanent Deco Color paint marker.

After aging the surface with various liquid acrylic paint colors, I set out to fill in the pre~drown shapes with Golden Acrylics Self-Leveling Gel that will bestow some much needed 'glass~like' surface character while extending excellent clarity....The rest of the surface will retain its matte quality for a more dramatic contrast...

After finding an appropriate cardboard backing, I used an Xacto knife to expose its corrugated core.... to be continued.....