Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A visit from Nigeria's Art Ambassador Ibiyinka Alao

Nigeria's Art Ambassador Ibiyinka Alao

Nigeria's Art Ambassador Ibiyinka Alao ("Call me Ibi") visited my studio this past Sunday and I was overjoyed at his positive reaction towards my work.

He kept looking around at my work with a huge smile and saying, "Yes! Yes!" as if in complete understanding of who I was and what I was doing with my art. I told him that my mandalas were an extension of my drumming- of the rhythms I loved to play, and that's when he told me how his people believed that "art was music frozen in time." Can you believe that? I love it!  We spoke about Nigerian (Yoruba) drum rhythms such as Ibo and and of the late great Babatunde Olatunji.

I currently have a large canvas on my wall primed with black gesso and he asked about it. I told him that it was awaiting a vision and how I preferred to work on black because of the bold way my colors look over top of it. He told me how Nigerian artists from the Osohgbo tribe often work in a similar manner.

Ibi was visiting the Banana Factory to teach a workshop as part of their new heART Series. You can read more about him and view his work here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Donna's Mandala

Donna with her new mandala
This is Donna with her new mandala painting. I am calling it "Donna's Mandala" because it was untitled when she purchased it from me during a recent First Friday event at The Banana Factory.
Donna's Mandala - Very Beginning
I'd started this piece sometime around June of last year (2012) when I was still in studio #249  - right around the corner from where I am now. Notice that I was playing with the same colors as in the piece with the three girls.
Donna's Mandala
I had no real intentions, just me and a palette knife.
Donna's Mandala
A thin brush adds additional elements.
Donna's Mandala
Closer.
Donna's Mandala
Adding more details with a brush.
Donna's Mandala
Adding red.
Donna's Mandala
Closer
Donna's Mandala
Closer yet.
Donna's Mandala
Pondering how to proceed.
Donna's Mandala
From another angle
Donna's Mandala
Waiting patiently to be finished,
Donna's Mandala
I decide to do my trademark white details over black and I declare it finished. Donna's Mandala
The off-center mandala. I've noticed that people seem to comment more on the off-center pieces than the ones I "try" and center. I wonder why?
Donna's Mandala
Closer.
Donna's Mandala
This piece had been included in a recent exhibition called "Impromptu" in the Hallway to the Arts on the 1st floor of the Banana Factory. That's also my piece on the right.

Donna with her new mandala

Monday, April 22, 2013

Frequently Asked Question: How did you start making mandalas?

010607 Prismacolor Meditation Mandala

How did you start making mandalas?

I had seen a drawing labeled as a mandala on a photo sharing website. It included the description: “this is a meditation i do … begin in the center and work out, breathing and praying, until i think i am finished. must be finished in one sitting.”

This was at the beginning of 2007- right around the time I was becoming much more serious about personal growth and once I tried this “meditation”, I was instantly hooked. I had already learned to access what I like to call “my higher self” through drumming and the repetition of energetic mantras so it was easy to see how this circular art form would become a natural extension of the work I was already doing. With my brain constantly working in hyper over-drive, the rhythmic nature of these creations has been one of very few things which has allowed me to shut down the chatter.

“Finished in one sitting” meant instant gratification and that’s something I needed at that time - to see physical proof of my transformative progress. And since the description of this exercise didn’t offer any specific rules on the construction of the mandala beyond working from the center out, this gave me permission to make them in any way I desired without ever feeling like I had to judge their quality. By removing the element of self-judgment and critique often connected to traditional art making, mandala art would prove to become a huge foundational element in helping me open up not only to myself, but also to future artistic possibilities.

Mandala above was the first I'd consciously created 01/06/07 after learning of the mandala meditation. 


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Intention is Everything

Intention is everything
I choose to believe that we can greatly increase the quality of a situation by setting a specific intention prior to its inception.

Do you agree?

The mantra in the background of this piece is "Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha" a devotional mantra to the elephant headed Hindu deity Ganesh. The mantra is repeated to bring about change and transformation.

Mixed media art (acrylic, colored tissue paper on recycled mat board) by Stephanie Smith. Original art currently in a private collection.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Constant Work In Progress

DSCF0180
We change, we grow- we are always a work in progress. What I think I know today, may very well be challenged tomorrow. A year and a half after emerging as an artist in the Lehigh Valley, I thought by now I would have a better idea of what I was doing and what I wanted to accomplish, but the truth is that I still don't really know.

So what do I know? What have I come to learn about myself? Here's a few things:
  • It makes me feel really good to share my knowledge and experiences. Whatever I create, that's my legacy. If I offer you a new way of looking at things or help to guide you towards your own creativity- I feel successful in my "work". 
  • I enjoy writing and I enjoy making art. It feels good to make things. 
  • I am mind-numbingly self critical of all my actions. I must hear "You're too hard on yourself" at least once a week. My husband is a saint for living with someone (for 26 years!) with such ridiculously high standards. 
  • I recognize the courage required to be a sustainable/successful self-employed creative because there's no set path to follow. One must be opportunistic, resourceful, business-minded, self-motivated, forward thinking, able to communicate both written and verbally, AND have a marketable creative skill. 
  • My time management skills need improvement. I often feel like I have too many things going on at once and I don't think each "thing" gets the proper amount of attention. This also hinders my ability to fully develop new ideas. 
  • I learn and assimilate knowledge very quickly by observing the world round me. 
  • My mind is constantly "on" and as productive as that might seem, I often feel like I can never really relax and "let go". 
  • Per one of the freebie Meyer's-Brigg's tests online, I recently discovered that I am equally introverted and extroverted. (ENFP for those who want to know) I always thought I was more of an extrovert - especially having worked in retail, customer service, as a trainer, event organizer, workshop facilitator... Over the last few years, it seems as though my journey of personal growth and transformation has led me more in than out and these days, I often feel like my introverted tendencies are suffocating me.
  • I'm not sure I know what "happy" is. I know what it is to be content, but joy and happiness seem fleeting.
  • As empowered as I felt when I'd first started drumming, as an artist I often feel an awkwardness that I haven't experienced since childhood. Of not fitting in anywhere. 
IMG_2383.JPG

This was a piece as it was finished it in November of 2011.

New version of older painting

And this is what it looks like now. As it was, it no longer seemed to fit the rest of my work, so I changed it. This leaves me to question the idea of "fitting in" and of judgment, but while I totally believe in creating for the sake of creating and creating without judgment and creating without regards to quality, there may be a time when it feels natural to improve upon what came before.

Now is that time.

This piece is on display in my studio (yet untitled) and is not yet available for purchase.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lights Out: Reworking an old piece in a new way.

Lights Out Mandala
This is a close up of the center of a painting I recently finished.
IMG_2262
I started this piece it in my kitchen during the Halloween Snowpocalypse of 2011. I was using a palette knife and just pushing the paint around to see what might develop.
Lights Out Mandala
This was as far as I got because the power went out, (it was out for days) and I somehow never got back to it. Before I had a studio, it hung in my living room along with a lot of my other art but once I moved to the Banana Factory, I took everything with me. I never wanted to sell it because I liked that it came to represent a particular moment. I told myself that once I'd created enough new work I'd take this one down and bring it back home.

A few weeks ago I brought it home and hung it in it's old spot. I expected to feel happy about this but instead, all I could see was an unfinished painting. So I took it back to my studio and decided to see what I could do with it.
Lights Out Mandala
No real plans, I just start expanding on what's there.
Lights Out Mandala
Many things I try don't seem to work and at least 5 times I'm tempted to just paint over the whole thing. I keep feeling I've "broken it" but I press on because there is no reward without risk. The worst that can  happen is that I learn what not to do the next time.
Lights Out Mandala
I get to this point and I am somewhat satisfied with the overall balance but I push on...
Lights Out Mandala
and end up working in an intentional illusionary way that I've never done before and I am thrilled with the results.  It reminds me of the Mayan calendar.

This piece is currently available for purchase - please message me for details.
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