Twelve Art Goals for the New Year!

Happy New Year!!! 2022 is going to be a fantastic year!!! You can tell from all the exclamation points I’m using that I really mean it!

Are you a goal setter? A podcaster I listen to asked his Twitter followers how many of them made New Year’s resolutions. Eighty percent did not. Eighty! They don’t know what they’re missing out on. Goals are so super fun if you do them right. (i.e. Don’t beat yourself up if you are less than perfect in achieving them.) A little known fact about goals is that you can change your mind about them any time you want. For instance, I used to have a goal to own a motorcycle. Now? No part of me wants a motorcycle- those things are death machines! So I took it off my list. Boom. The bucket list police didn’t arrest me and I get to live to see my children grow up. Win/win.

All this to say: Art Goals. Are you setting any? For the first time ever, I am! Here they are:

  1. Get a stair mural. (This one is already in the works! Stay tuned!)
  2. Finally find a painting for a naked wall in my house that’s been driving me nuts.
  3. Make a piece of art. (I see it in my head and it looks awesome. It’s just that execution part that’s tripping me up….)

If you want to make some art goals, but aren’t sure where to start, may I make some suggestions that might be fun? Take them or leave them- in any event, they’re safer than buying a motorcycle.

  • Start an Pinterest board of art you love.
  • Follow an art blogger. (Hi!)
  • Plan a tour d’art museum. (I smell a road trip!)
  • Find a local artist you love.
  • Create an art scavenger hunt to do at a museum or around town!
  • Follow your town’s art gallery on Instagram.
  • Go to some art shows. (May I recommend ArtPrize? Or Michigan State University’s Spring Arts Show?)
  • Get in touch with your artsy side and make something. Anything! (See the title picture for inspo. My daughter made me these toilet paper roll gnomes for Christmas and I love them!)
  • Throw an art-themed party! For inspiration, see this post.
  • Vow to see your favorite painting in person.
  • Be a groupie for a year- pick an artist you like and attend all their shows, exhibits, openings, etc.
  • Watch four different documentaries/movies on artists this year. See this post for one suggestion.

These are just a few ideas to get your resolution juices flowing. The possibilities are endless! Either way, I am super excited to explore more art with you this year!

Here’s One For the Kids

The first thing I did when I got a job and apartment after college, was A.) sent flowers to myself B.) splurged on an all-new wardrobe, or C.) went to a home decor store and went bananas, or D.) all of the above.

The answer is D! And my first stop at said home decor store, was… the kids’ section for my artwork. I may have been an adult on paper, but my favorite show was still Lizzie Maguire. Plus, one thing that hasn’t changed since the days of that cute apartment in the Twin Cities is my love of color. And art made for children is always vibrant and colorful and fun. Just like I used to be before a mortgage and laundry and stressing about forgetting my daughter’s freshman orientation wore me down and beat me up. I digress.

Here are a few artists whose work would look amazing in either an office OR a playroom.

Matt Lyon (aka C86) is a London-based artist that I’m sure I can’t afford. He’s done work for Nike, AT&T, and AOL (remember aol?!) among others, which tells me he’s out of my price range, but maybe not yours! In any event, we can appreciate his fun, funky designs like Cloud Blusters. To see more of his happy-go-lucky designs, check out his website here.

If I could commision something for my kids’ nurseries, it would have looked like this.

Matt Lyon isn’t the only Matt whose creations are kid-oriented, parent-appreciated. Matt Mabe illustrates animals and is there a kid’s room in the world without some kind of animal art? No. Even as an adult I wouldn’t dream of living in a home without some animal art. And his is perfection. Matt Mabe began creating a series of animal prints (one for each letter of the alphabet) for his kids’ bedrooms. They should definitely take them when they move into their first apartments.

Mabe- he thinks outside the fox.

Finally, I’d love to introduce you to a local Michigan artist. I was grabbing a cup of coffee a few weeks ago at a Full Circle Coffee (Byron Center- a few miles from the ice arena, incidentally.) and there was this beautiful, whimsical art on the walls. Mary Litwiller creates the most precious scenes- sometimes with fairies, sometimes not, but always cozy and/or interesting and/or fun. Check her out on IG at miss.artiste. Her feed is chock full of goodness. Not to mention… the mushrooms! Swoon!

I hope you’re doing something for your inner kid today! If you need some inspiration, look no further than your local home decor store!

A Great Day to be a Redhead!

Daisy Buchanan said “I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.” Well, friends, I always plan for National Redhead Day and then miss it. But not this year. It’s today! I’m celebrating with red wine and red vines. Because I’m classy.

Like fanny packs or white-washed jeans, red hair goes in and out of style in art. For instance, Pre-Raphaelite artists loved painting redheads. Why? Nobody knows. We can only assume some redheaded witch cast a spell on them. Here are three paintings featuring gingers.

John William Waterhouse painted redheads like Squid Game kills characters off. Easily and often. He loved painting mythological figures and creatures! He painted A Mermaid in 1901. His most famous redhead painting is Lady of Shalott, which I love so much I recreated it during quarantine when I had nothing better to do than paddle around in a canoe with candles and blankets. But I’d like to feature another painting of his, that I like just as much.

In Waterhouse’s other version of this scene, Miranda’s hair is put up and tidy.
I always prefer wild, tangly hair, wind storm or not!

In The Tempest, Miranda is a compassionate, kind character, which is another reason I love this painting. Often redheads are witches or villains or have questionable morals. Case in point- Waterhouse also portrayed Lamia as a redhead and she was a child eating demon. So. When there is a good redhead in media, I just can’t resist her!

Historically, Mary Magdalene has also been portrayed with red hair. Along with Judas, Eve (after the fall), and sometimes Abel (after he killed his brother). I told you! We get a bad rap. Mary Magdalene turned out to be a gem though, and Frederick Sandys painted her beautifully. The model was probably Lizzie Siddal, who modeled for everyone who was anyone in the Pre-Raphaelite era.

Wikipedia thinks this is a sensual portrayal, but I sort of think she looks like she’s about to be sick in the alabaster jar. Opinions? I do like the eyebrows he gave her because they are faint like mine. Like she also has to add color to them before parent teacher conferences or tailgating or whatever redheads did back then.

If this next one looks familiar, it’s because you’ve visited my “About Me” page! But I promise I’m nothing like Lilith, who was horrible. In Jewish culture she was Adam’s first wife and a self-absorbed seductress and murderer. And those are the kinder descriptions.

That cold shoulder! So scandalous!

This painting is a great example of Pre-Raphaelite art. There were lots of redheads, but does anybody every talk about the abundance of candelabras? Freckleless faces? Flowy dresses? Flowers? How women loved to play with their hair or hold something close to their chest?! What a time!

Happy National Redhead Day! You don’t need permission from a redhead to celebrate, but if you feel you do, here it is! Tell me how you are celebrating today!

A is for “Aussie” and “Awesome Art”!

I know what you’re thinking: “Today is National Deviled Egg Day!” You’re right, but there aren’t as many deviled eggs in the world of art as you may think. Instead, let me direct your attention to the Melbourne Cup race, which is also today! I didn’t care about the Melbourne Cup at all until I watched “Ride Like a Girl” on Netflix (I highly recommend it, you guys!) PSA: The horses to watch this year are Twilight Payment, English King, and Verry Elleegant. If you’re the betting sort.

In honor of the Australian race, let’s check out some Australian artists!

  1. John Olsen: In reading about Olsen, I got the feeling he’s just always been famous. Like he was born a famous painter 93 years ago and has been ever since. His kids seem to have been bitten by the art bug too. His son is a successful art dealer, one daughter is a painter in her own right, another was a designer before passing away. It wasn’t all family fingerpainting and wholesome pictionary nights though. The family had their fair share of obstacles, you can read about this article, if you’re interested. We’re here for the art though, and the paintings emerging from John Olsen’s studio are noted as the best in Australia.

2. If we’re talking about Australian artists, the world wide web insists I mention Sidney Nolan. I don’t know if he intended for his paintings to be funny, but I can’t help but find them humorous. His most famous work is a series of Ned Kelly paintings. Don’t know who Ned Kelly is? Me neither. He was a bushranger. Don’t know what a bushranger is? Me neither. They were escaped convicts, surviving in the outback. Outback outlaws, basically. I think Ned Kelly was like the Jesse James of Austalia. Nolan painted such an expansive series of Ned Kelly paintings, they could practically make up a comic book. Nolan lived through the Great Depression and agonized over his involvement in WWII. He had no shortage of inspiration for his art, but he most loved the Australian landscape and local history. It’s no wonder he’s noted as an Australian great.

3. After stuffing my eyeballs with tons of Australian art and tearing my clothes and gnashing my teeth, I picked Margaret Preston to highlight as our third and last Australian artist du jour, but I’m going to give you a list of honorable mentions if you’re feeling saucy about the Aussies and really want to dive in to their art like a scuba diver at the Coral Reef. You know still-lifes aren’t my favorite, but something about how Preston painted flower arrangements makes me all warm and fuzzy. I love the bright flowers, and the unique touches she takes the time to include. For instance, in Anemones, I am completely enamored with the pitcher the flowers are in. Where are those houses, what inspired her to include them, and why are they so close together?!

Happy Melbourne Cup Day! Here’s the answer to the question we all really want to know: The horses run counterclockwise in the Melbourne Cup as they do at the Kentucky Derby. See here for more info.

As promised, here are some Honorable Mentions: Albert Namatjira (his landscapes are beautiful!); Ben Quilty (if you’re into disfiguration, check him out); Fiona Hall (her sardine can sculptures are chef’s kiss! Mwah!)

A Few Paintings for the Romantics

For some reason my husband and I both have a hard time remembering our anniversary every summer. For some other reason, I have a really easy time remembering our proposalversary. I never forget it, and it is today! We don’t celebrate, except I may use it as an excuse to buy myself fancy chocolate. But I just do that on random days too. Even better than chocolate (Maybe? That’s up for debate.) is art! So to celebrate my (very, very long-awaited) engagement eighteen years ago, here are some sweet, lovey-dovey paintings.

Let’s kick it off by steaming up the windows with Watteau’s La Surprise. Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French Rococo painter, who, in true French fashion was enamored with love. His paintings are all titled things like, The Worried Lover, Pleasures of Love, The Feast of Love, and other things that would make any kid bear his cootie-protector like a cross to a vampire. My favorite is La Surprise, which is the most intimate of his paintings, in my opinion. But the most interesting part, I think, is the guitarist. He is watching unabashedly, while tuning his guitar. Critics seem to think he is sad or lonely, but I think he just looks intrigued. Way to make things weird, guy.

La Surprise keeps disappearing (between 1770 and 1848, then between 1848 and 2007), then surprise!! Showing up again!

Fast forward a couple hundred years and Kerry James Marshall is creating beautifully intimate works about love. (Fun Fact: Marshall was named as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 most influential people in the world in 2017!) Marshall painted a lovely, tender reimagining of Harriet Tubman and her husband, that I love. (And that sold for a cool 5 mil.) He also painted Slow Dance, which I think captures the everydayness of love. But I think my favorite Marshall piece that (literally) says “Love” is Vignette #2. There is a whole series of vignettes at the Art Institute of Chicago, but how sweet is this one? For once, I’m thankful for the lack of color. I think it is so dear in its simplicity.

Jim has never lifted me in the air lovingly like this. Until today. When I will demand it.

Finally, a steamy painting from Roy Lichenstein: We Rose Up Slowly. I love words as much as paintings, so you can imagine my delight when an artist include words in their art. Lichenstein’s comic-y vibe really speaks to tweenage Julie, who spent a full summer reading Archie comics, weeding through them for the few glimpses of romance. I didn’t care if it was between Archie and Betty or Archie and Veronica. I didn’t even care if it was Moose and Midge. Lichenstein’s portrayal is a little more grown-up than what I remember in the Archie series, but it makes me nostalgic and romancey. (Sidebar: Roy Lichenstein was born in 1923!! Does that surprise anybody else?!)

Forget the romance of it- how about those killer eyebrows?!

Let’s hear it for a great November, my friends. And tell me- do you have/celebrate/remember your proposalversary?

This Halloween Post Has Some Bite!

It’s almost Halloween! The other day my sister gave me a kiss, marry, kill scenario that was the worst I’ve ever had to categorize. In the spirit of the season, I will share with you, so you too can lose sleep over this. If you had to choose, which of the following would you kiss (deal with for a bit), which would you marry (live with for an extended period), and which would you kill (not have to put up with at all)? Ready?

  • Lice
  • Mice
  • Pinworms

This was the worst decision I’ve ever had to make. Normally our kiss, marry, kill options are things like Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos. Challenging, but not impossible. And certainly nothing that makes me pull my car over so I can bang my head on the steering wheel, while she laughs at my misery.

Don’t worry- I did not look for art featuring any of the above monstrosities. Instead- a different monstrosity. Teeth.

This horrifying model was part of an art exhibit in London in 2018. It is what dental students of old used to learn their craft. Why the figure had to have such creepy eyebrows, nobody knows.

This poster was included in the same exhibit, but is normally housed in the British Dental Association Museum (a new bucket list item, perhaps?) It reminds me a bit of the Guinness beer posters, but those are ads… I’m not exactly sure what this is advertising. That exclamation point really communicates some pride, doesn’t it? (Sidebar: nowadays, the number is more like one ton, apparently.)

A simple search on Etsy pulled up some relatively cute teeth paintings (for dentists’ offices, I presume). And then there was the above picture that stuck out like a sore thumb. Or a toothache. Here is the link if you’re interested. You can get five “random” teeth for $35. That’s $7 a pop, which is not what our tooth fairy pays.

Happy Halloween, friends! Stay tuned for next year’s Halloween post on pinworms!

One Sweet Artist

If you are looking for a great excuse to eat a doughnut today, let me help! The world’s first doughnut was fried on this day in France (1917) by Salvation Army volunteers for the soldiers fighting in WWI. This means that everything that happened before 1917 happened in a doughnutless world. Imagine. The victims of the Titanic went down without ever having a doughnut. Henry Ford could not drive his first Model T with one hand on the steering wheel and a doughnut in the other. Without a doughnut in the world, Albert Einstein published his Theory of Relativity, which I have never enjoyed. Know what I have enjoyed? Doughnuts.

Because I have academic pursuits regarding doughnuts, I did a Google search for “famous doughnuts in art.” I didn’t really expect anything to turn up, but the results were as abundant as sprinkles in a bakery. If you have a hankering for some doughnut art, here are some recommendations. Check out this site to see your favorite artwork in doughnut form. Visit Emily Eveleth’s site to get up close and personal with some doughnuts. Kenny Scharf takes a cosmic perspective in his doughnut art. Even Banksy gets in on the action. Here is a great article: 10 Things to Know About Banksy’s Donuts. Truly, I did not realize doughnuts were such a “thing” in pop art right now. It makes me hungry.

But if we’re going to be serious about our doughnut art, we need to talk about Jae Yong Kim out of South Korea. His art is nuts! Doughnuts! He sculpts doughnuts from clay like many a preschooler, then glazes it like many a baker, but then he paints and decorates it like nobody else! I want one for my kitchen, as a matter of fact. One of the Swarovski crystal ones, to be specific. Too bad they go for about $950 a pop.

I love that Jae Yong Kim was like, “yeah, I like donuts. I’m going to make some art out of this humble passion. And it’s going to be bright and funky even though I’m color blind. And I’m going to take it all over the world and make millions.” And he does. His shows are sold out for months because who wouldn’t want in on this fun exhibit? His attitude is as bright and shiny as his artwork, as you can see if you give him a follow on IG.

Like so many of us, my fifth grade teacher had a doughnut addiction. To convince himself not to eat any, he called them “do nots.” I remember because he talked about them a lot, as you do when you’re passionate about something. In any event, do not sleep on Jae Yong Kim! He is one delectable artist.

A Pocket Glossary of Art Terms

I don’t know about you guys, but we are in full-on school mode around here. This year I have a high-schooler, middle-schooler, and elementary kid and they all have tests. Every single day it seems somebody has a test or quiz. In the spirit of learning, I thought it would be fun to put together a little (very, very little) glossary of art terms. You probably know most of them and that’s because I picked my favorites. I did throw in a few I was unfamiliar with because I am trying to learn a thing or two about art, after all. You may notice a meaty thread running through the sample sentences. I’m not sure how that happened, but here we are. Sink your teeth in, friends!

Action Painting: Think Jackson Pollock. This is a method of painting involving more movement than standing at an easel. The artist specialized in action painting, which was even messier than when he made bacon and splattered grease all over the stovetop.

Avant-garde: Artists or works of art that are new, innovative, unusual. At one time sculpting with meat was considered avant-garde, but once Lady Gaga wore her meat dress, meats are all the rage in any form!

Curator: A person who researches and assembles an exhibition. The curator did not anticipate the slew of pyromaniacs who wanted to view her exhibit: “Flame Mignon.”

Diptych: Two pieces of art side by side (often two parts making a whole). Not to be confused with dipstick. The diptych featured the giraffe’s body on one canvas, his head on the NECKst one over.            

Ecole des Beaux-Arts: An art school specializing in classical arts, using Greek and Roman art as their foundation for learning. Little Otter Preschool is no Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but those kids can fingerpaint like nobody’s business.

Fin de siècle: Translates to “end of the century.” The ending of an era. Usually referring to the end of the 19th century. Impressionism became popular at the fin de siècle, around the same time Lizzie Borden was leaving her own impression on the world.

Gallerist: The owner of an art gallery. The gallerist liked to speak with a faux British accent, to which his patrons muttered, “the gall of that man!”

Gouache: An opaque watercolor. The artist used gouache to paint a still-life of goulash.

In situ: In its original position or place. I’d love to visit Van Gogh’s untouched room in Arles, where everything is still in situ. (Untrue! Sometimes a girl just needs a sentence.)

Montage: A collection of pictures put together to make a new work. (This is my most used art term that I didn’t even consider an art term until now.) Every Sunday night my family watches America’s Funniest Home Videos and laughs at the ridiculous video montages.

Motif: Recurring feature in a piece of art. The artist’s nude motif was very revealing.

Muse: An artist’s inspiration. (Sidebar: Don’t you just love that muses are a thing?!) When the artist told me her muse for the painting was her daughter, I was crying before I even saw the work.

Oeuvre: An artist’s body of work. To honor the artist’s life, her family displayed a personal collection, proving the common theme throughout her oeuvre was sausage.

Salon hang: A bunch of artwork hung on a wall, usually very close together. It was so awkward to see my in-laws still had wedding portraits of my husband with his ex-wife in their hallway in a Salon hang fashion.

Tempera: A painting medium, usually made by mixing colored pigments with water and egg yolk. Paintings made with this medium are also called temperas. The angry, redheaded artist lost his tempera and had to find more eggs to mix up another batch.

Triptych: Three pieces of art side by side. The triptych featured one, two, three photographs of the family’s… well, trip.

Vernissage: A private viewing the opening night of an exhibition. Only the swankiest people and the artist’s pet lemming were invited to the vernissage.

Viscosity: The thickness of a liquid. The meat sculptor found the viscosity of bacon grease to be just right for his masterpiece.

No need to make flashcards! You all get an A in my book!

Three Steps to an Epic Art Party

It never rains, but it pours. There are days I randomly pick artists or topics to write about here, but this week? So. Much. Art. And I have to tell you- it’s my favorite art in the world, because it was done by my incredibly talented friends. I don’t know how they put up with an art peasant like me, honestly.

Last week they threw a party, nay! A soiree that would make any art lover’s heart race. I took notes, and gleaned three steps to throwing an epic art soiree:

  1. Set the mood. Look, you don’t have to have an art party at a gallery or museum, or banquet hall. In fact, if this is going to be truly unique, you have to do it in a garage. Which we did. And it was epic. It gave the whole party a much edgier feel and you know how art enthusiasts love to be edgy. Mix in a bougie Spotify playlist (any jazz or instrumental will do), some red wine (or white if it has a punny name- see Exhibit A), wear black, exclusively, and BOOM! You have the makings of one swanky, (but not too swanky) art party.
Exhibit A.
Everyone must wear black. Non-negotiable. Or not. Whatever.

2. Invite all attendees to bring a creation. This is the most critical piece of the party. This is what makes it extra, meta, uber! All the slang! You guys. We had it all. All kinds of mediums, genres, textures- everyone brought their A game. And nobody brought video art because my friends know what’s what. I was talking too much, I’m afraid, and didn’t take enough pictures, but let me share a few with you. Now, I knew my friends were insanely creative, and I was still surprised by their brilliance. If you think your friends aren’t creative geniuses, please give this a go anyway. I think you will be very surprised.

3. Mingle. Absorb. Enjoy. Pretend you’re at the Uffizi. Float around the room together, discuss, get each exhibit’s backstory, sip your drink, channel your inner snob until you bust out laughing because there is nothing snobby about this! Your friends are so cool! Try on the paper mache masks, get teary over beautiful photography, poke fun at your own silly creation (I literally added tacky stickers to an ironic flag.) Chit-chat all evening, but be sure to take more pictures than I did. Finally, share your pictures on social media, because if there’s one thing I know about art, it’s best when shared with friends.

Three Girls Pick Three ArtPrize Favorites

This was the first year I was able to go with my whole family to ArtPrize! And Jim’s first time ever! The girls had a hockey tournament in Grand Rapids right around the corner from the world-renowned art show, but by Sunday afternoon I still hadn’t been. I sent a text to my friend Carla on Saturday that reads, “I’m going to ArtPrize if it kills me.” After a bold declaration like that, I had to go. We were exhausted after a weekend of playing hockey (Molly, Adrienne, and Charlotte) and tailgating (Jim and I), but I promised everybody food, and we hit downtown!

Another first for me was going to ArtPrize on a weekend. It was a zoo. We scored a parking spot at the Gerald Ford Museum, but that was an ArtPrize miracle. Friends, if you can go on a weekday, go on a weekday! Even better if it’s cold. The gorgeous weather brought people out in droves! I was so happy to see people out and about, enjoying art, it just made it very hard to take all the pictures I wanted. I know, boo hoo.

You guys know the kind of art I love, but I thought it would be fun to share my daughters’ favorite pieces for a change.

Molly: Molly actually went to ArtPrize on Saturday with a friend while we were watching one of her sister’s games. It was very handy when we all went together because she had already scoped out some sweet artwork she wanted to show us. Her favorite piece was a painting by Natalya Doudell in DeVos Place titled Unity. From several feet back, it’s a cool painting, then when you get closer and look take another look, you can see little people make up the whole painting! There were tiny portraits of people walking their dogs, eating ice cream, playing soccer… it was awesome!

Adrienne: A’s favorite exhibit was the three steel bears outside Ruth’s Chris Steak House. I wasn’t surprised she picked this installation- Adrienne loves anything cute. The message the artist, Martha Cares, wanted to convey was that hugs are healthy! She points out hugs decrease stress, boost immunity, and increase good moods. Incidentally, Adrienne is my snuggliest kid, so again- no surprise she was drawn to this exhibit. Martha Cares has had pieces in previous ArtPrizes and her messages are always cheery. I love that in an artist!

Bear Hugs by Martha Cares. Featuring one extra little bear.

Charlotte: Once again, Charlotte’s choice should come as no surprise to anybody who knows her. She is an interactive kind of girl, so her favorite ArtPrize entry was the egg vending machine (Egg Prize by David Kail). For fifty cents, you could get a little plastic egg with a tiny piece of art by Kail inside the egg. How could you not love that?! And look how bright and fun it is…. this is what I love about ArtPrize. Where else are you going to see a giant art vending machine in the middle of the sidewalk?

If you go to ArtPrize this year, please tell me what your favorite was! And if you follow me on IG, there will be more ArtPrize pictures there, and maybe another post soon!