NFTs, Digital Art, and Robots- Oh My!

The wild, weird, wonderful thing about art is that it is forever evolving, pushing limits. Being an artist now doesn’t necessarily mean sitting with an easel and palette on the banks of the Seine. Now art can mean creating with sand or carving pumpkins or painting with beer. Even payment methods are changing for artists.

Enter Beeple. Aka Beeple Crap. Aka Mike Winkelmann. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his digital piece, Everydays- The First 5000 Days just sold at Christie’s for $69 million dollars.

Sixty-nine million dollars.

69K.

No matter how I type it, it’s a cryptoload of money. To put it in perspective, Twitter sold on Monday for 2.9 million dollars as an NFT.

Beeple is an NFT artist. The Paris Salon probably would have labeled him “newfangled” and moved on, but let’s be a little more open-minded than Salon members (they shunned Impressionism, for pity’s sake!) and slow our roll. NFT is a type of digital ownership. It stands for non-fungible tokens, which does not mean fungus-free tokens, contrary to popular belief. It’s (very) basically a kind of currency tied to assets that can be traded, bought, or sold. It’s blowing up the art world because it means more artists are getting paid! Art majors everywhere are squashing their parents’ argument that, “You’ll never make a living doing art.”

NFTs aren’t the only crazy new development in art. Sophia is making a name for herself as a talented artist. Inasmuch as robots can be talented, I suppose. She’s been interviewed on the Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and by Will Smith. Not even Da Vinci can claim those bragging rights. Sophia just celebrated her fifth birthday (she ages very well, FYI) but I just recently learned about her propensity for art. Incidentally, one of her paintings is up for sale for the first time ever today (also as an NFT). Watch this video and tell me what you think.

It’s lovely art, that’s for certain. But call me old-fashioned, I’m most impressed with artists who have a full scalp. No ifs, ands, or robots about it.

Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with These Irish Paintings!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! A PSA: remember to wear green, so you don’t get pinched! Let me thank you for taking a moment in between green beers to read this post. Your shepherd’s pie is probably waiting, so let’s get right to it: Irish painters.

One of Ireland’s most famous painters is Charles Jervas. He had the distinct honor of painting Jonathan Swift (redhead!) and Alexander Pope, as well as other dignitaries. Fun fact: he also did the translation work for a little book called “Don Quixote.” (Which Wikipedia tells me is the second most-translated book in the world besides the Bible.) Jervas was notorious for being more than a little confident. You might say he was straight up conceited, in fact. With good reason, I suppose. He did have a knack for portraits. Or McPortraits as they call them in Ireland.

Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton. Survivor of the appleocolypse.

Jack Butler Yeats was another big name in Irish art circles. If the name is familiar, it’s because his family was super artsy. His dad, John, was a portrait painter and his brother, William, is the famous poet. No doubt Jack grew up under a barrage of limericks at the dinner table. Let’s try one:

My brother Jack likes to paint

My mother swears he’s a saint

But I know better

It would just upset her

Instead of “isn’t” he says “ain’t.”

– A fake William Butler Bates limerick

Jack was talented in his own right, creating paintings like this. Ain’t it lovely?

The Birds are on the Move. This title makes me laugh because, um… I don’t see any birds.

Mary Swanzy (are we all picturing Mary Swanson from “Dumb and Dumber”?) is one of many talented Irish female artists. Nano Reid, Mainie Jellett, and Letitia Marion Hamilton are just a few others. But I love Swanzy’s swanky paintings that are so bold and colorful. She lived in Hawaii for a while, and the influence is clear in her paintings.

Aloha! This is called A Voyage No Longer Overlooked.

Please resume your St. Patrick’s Day celebration now, wowing your friends with your knowledge of Irish art history. And pro tip? Guinness pairs perfectly with Lucky Charms.

Kelly Reemtsen: Michigan Native and Amazing Artist

I am a sucker for Michigan paraphernalia. In fact, just the other day I bought another Michigan shirt at Sam’s Club, of all places. Do all U.S. citizens love advertising their state as much as Michiganders? Is it because we’re shaped like a little mitten and scarf? Because we get ten cents for every returned can? Because we have more freshwater than we know what to do with? I don’t know, but from Copper Harbor to Paw Paw, Michiganders really love getting our state “out there.” Shirts are the least of it. Car stickers, pillows, hand towels… my kids have little chapstick holders covered with Michigans, for pity’s sake. We are all about this state of ours.

Just a couple Michigan-themed items we have around.

You can imagine my delight when I stumbled across Kelly Reemtsen. I fell for her artwork, like November leaves along Michigan’s Route 22. Her work is darling and powerful, fun and meaningful, lovely and important. It’s not easy to find all these adjectives all in one artist, but she nails it. And she’s from Michigan.

Reemtsen was born in Flint, and went to CMU (Fire up, Chips!). These days she lives in LA, raking in her millions (is that true? I hope so.) Her paintings are celebrated for their bright colors atop light backgrounds, the headless subjects, and of course, the feminine models with their axes, sledgehammers, or shovels. A stark contrast with the sparkling high heels and polka-dot dresses.

Here are some of her pieces. What do you think? Should she feature a model in a Michagangster shirt, yay or nay?

I vote Yay.

Pumpkin: Not Just A Term of Endearment

Happy almost Halloween! Gone are the days of triangle eyes, square noses, and gap-toothed smiles! As I’m sure you’ve seen, pumpkin carving in this millennia is next level. Here are my kids’ pumpkins. Pretty basic compared to the others you’ll see in a moment.


If you’re confused, you’re not alone. The far left pumpkin reads, “MEIJER,” (the hockey team my daughter plays for), the middle is a face, but with a black eye (pumpkin hockey fight), and the far right says, “PIG” (not hockey related. Just. Random.) Last year, my middle carved “TACOS!” into her pumpkin. We really love words in our family. And tacos. Obviously.

My cousin and her family live in Thailand, where pumpkins aren’t easily accessible, so they get creative in their carving mediums. Here are a few food items they’ve carved in lieu of pumpkins.


How cute are these?! 


Back to pumpkins. If we’re going to have a post about incredible pumpkin carvings, we first have to talk about Ray Villafane (www.villafanestudios.com). Villafane is an American sculptor that SLAYS the pumpkin carving scene. No plastic knife, choppy mouth, uneven eyes from this guy. His pumpkins are scary cool.

Look at the detail on the snake skin! Almost TOO lifelike! 

So clever! So fun!

We don’t have all day or I’d post a hundred more of his creations. Give yourself a Halloween treat and Google his other works.

If you like a more classic pumpkin, fear not. Maniac Pumpkin Carvers (maniacpumpkincarvers.com) has got your back. Their pumpkins have been featured at MoMA, the Whitney, and other such commonplace museums. Every year they feature a famous piece from a classic artist and blow everyone’s minds.

Picasso so cool. 


This is not a pumpkin.

Finally, the Pumpkin Geek, aka Alex Wer (www.thepumpkingeek.com). Another amazing talent, and will also take orders if you want- say, your kid’s face on a pumpkin! Or your pug’s mug! You get the picture! (groan.) You must visit his website too. I wanted this post to be at least a little scary, so I was going to post one of his horror movie carvings, but honestly, they creeped me out too much. This was the best I could do for you:

I feel like Edward would also be good at pumpkin carving.


If Covid was a person.

Whatever you do this Halloween, whether it’s trick-or-treating, or dressing up to pass out candy, or tailgating in an ice arena parking lot between your kids’ hockey games with cider mimosas, I hope you have a moderately spooky day!

Next Generation Art

I love it when my favorite things collide. Peanut butter and chocolate, Diet Coke and pretzels, wine and dancing, hiking and friends…. in fact I was able to enjoy that last one on Monday! My friend Carla and I went for a hike at one of our favorite places (Lincoln Brick Park- if you’re in the Lansing area, be sure to go!). After, we decided to walk around downtown Grand Ledge a bit and grab coffee.

But first things first, I had to run into the library for a second, where to my delight, they were featuring local high schoolers’ artwork! Books and art! Another amazing collision! Here are a couple pieces that were on display:

I know, right?! That is talent!
I want to live there!

I cannot get over these beautiful works of art. There were certainly some talented artists in my high school, but I wasn’t one of them, My daughters and I discussed later, and my 6th grader pulled a few things out of her art portfolio that I thought were fascinating. I think I’ve mentioned before that Art class for kids now is waaaaaay better than it was for me. While I was rubber cementing magazine clippings to a piece of computer paper, they are doing more useful things like this:

My favorites are “wash,” “salt,” and “thick paint”

That’s right. They are learning actual techniques! It’s a little sad they will never know the cell-killing, heavenly odor of rubber cement, but I rejoice in the knowledge that our Art teachers are raising up a generation of da Vincis! Degas! Pollocks! Hoppers! Today: the Grand Ledge District Library, tomorrow: The Met!

A Prodigy and a Prince

There is a Molly shaped hole in my house (and heart!) this week because my oldest daughter is at her middle school retreat. She was so excited to go, and I was excited for her. It is her first year of middle school and the retreat is a big rite of passage at her school. I know she’s having a blast. Without me. Hard to believe, but I know it’s true.

I miss her, but I wasn’t worried about her going. Her class is a great bunch of kids; not to mention, I know the chaperones and they are keeping me posted on all the things. I’m pretty sure I was never as cool or confident or smart or artistic or, or, or, as Molly and her classmates. Middle schoolers now just seem more advanced than back in my day. Probably thanks to Fortnite.


It reminded me of Akiane Kramarik who, by the time she was in middle school (3rd grade, actually) had painted Prince of Peace, shown below.
Akiane used a carpenter (of all people!) as a model for this painting.
Again, she was 8. Just as a point of reference, I made a shoebox diorama when I was 8 and my teacher told me to take it back and try again. Prince of Peace became famous not only because of her age or it’s beauty, but because it was mentioned in “Heaven is for Real,” as an accurate portrayal of the Jesus that Colton Burpo met when he died. On her website, you can search her gallery by age to see what works she accomplished at each stage of her life. I’m pretty sure she would have been a huge hit at the crafts table at her middle school retreat!

Piet Mondrian Sure Can Boogie

Artists, cover your ears. Everyone else, you know the art you see and think, “Well, I could make that!”? We’ve all said it, right? (Right? When you first saw Jackson Pollock’s work, for instance?) Anyway, here is the gentleman that made me re-think that.


Some people call that moustache “The Charlie Chaplin” but I prefer “The Toothbrush.”

Piet Mondrian. A Dutch artist who lived from 1872-1944, which shocked me because I really thought his art was waaaaay more contemporary. Take a look at my favorite “cube” piece he did:

Broadway Boogie Woogie

Is that funky or what?! Clearly he was not only forward-minded, but also great at naming his pieces. It just looks like I would imagine Broadway Ave. in 1943, and it really does make me want to Boogie Woogie! Or play Frogger. This is the kind of thing I used to look at and think I could do, but guys? I can’t. I totally cannot. For you millennials, I can’t even. But here’s what really kills me. He also made this: 

The Red Tree

Isn’t it gorgeous?! I never would have guessed it was a Mondrian! Don’t you love an artist that can paint an entire tree series (Yes! There are more!) that is somehow colorful and spooky at the same time, then turn around and make totally progressive cubes? Mondrian’s talents are far and wide; his trees are exquisite, but I am so thankful he decided to branch out.

Putting Stephen Wiltshire on the Map

The second season of one of my favorite Netflix series starts today! Atypical is about a teenager on the autism spectrum (and his family) navigating life, and specifically, romance. It’s a little like The Rosie Project, if you’ve read that book. It’s sweet and serious and funny and I’m hooked. Check it out if you are so inclined and let me know what you think!

The most noteworthy painter (that I know of) who is rumored to have been on the spectrum is Michelangelo, but more recently Stephen Wiltshire has rocked the world with his cityscapes. Wiltshire is autistic, and a genius with buildings. He was commissioned at age 8 by Britain’s Prime Minister for heaven’s sake! 

Can you get over this detail?!?! The soft waves! The Eye! The buildings!

And did I mention he does much of his work from memory? He takes a quick helicopter ride, then draws these perfectly detailed cities and we commoners fall flat on our faces over them. Wiltshire has drawn other big cities like New York, Sydney, Rome, Hong Kong, and the list goes on. If you haven’t heard of Stephen Wiltshire yet, you will. He is getting more and more recognition city by intricately drawn city.

I Hate to Harp On, But….

As we happily determined yesterday, it is most definitely September! I won’t bore you with more praise for my favorite month, but I will just give you one more reason to love it: hummingbirds. My heart’s delight! I swoon over these little flutterlovies all summer and especially this time of year because they visit me more frequently to beef up for their upcoming migration. I see my little hummingbirds multiple times a day throughout the summer, but get excited every time. And can we all just agree that JK Rowling must have fashioned the Quidditch snitch after a hummingbird?

Charley Harper is an artist who appreciated a hummingbird too. All birds, it seems were muses to him. His work is lovely and respected, but what I love most is that it can hang in the most highly regarded museums, and is also cheery and fun enough to put in say, a baby’s nursery. (In fact, that’s a real option if you like- just do a quick Google search!)

I think I’ve seen this guy at my feeder!
If you think of it this December 8th, know that while all the birds he may have fashioned his art after are down south, the city of Cincinatti is celebrating Charley Harper Day! 

Wave, Hello!

I’m not going to lie- much of my art knowledge comes secondhand from what my kids are learning about in Art class. (By the way, their Art teacher is amazing. Gone are the days of making collages with rubber cement [which I’m pretty sure isn’t even legal in schools anymore. It smells too good to be legal.]) These kids are learning actual things. It warms my heart. My art heart, if you will.
Last year Adrienne came home and told me to Google The Great Wave.

What did the ocean say to the shore? Nothing! It just waved.
It turns out The Great Wave isn’t just a fun stadium game at sporting events! It is a woodblock print created by Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai between 1829 and 1832; the print is fully named, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and is just one part of a series showing Mount Fuji from several angles. Frankly, I never realized what an influence Japanese art had on…. well… art! I’ve been reading about Mary Cassatt lately and when she discovered Japanese art, her paintings quickly took on an Asian “feel.” Among others, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec were also enamored with Japanese prints, and (wisely) let them influence their work.
When I read up a little on The Great Wave I learned Claude Debussy composed “The Sea” after being inspired by Hokusai’s print. Don’t you love it when art inspires art?! More importantly, I found The Great Waveis a popular tattoo. Way to go Hokusai, almost 200 years later you still aren’t washed up!