Artist Spotlight: Jill Allyn Stafford

Jill Allyn StaffordJill and I have been friends for a number of years and her work has delighted and inspired me from the start. Using a combination of magazine clippings, tissue paper, newsprint, and photographic transfers along with modeling paste extender, pumice gel medium, and other mediums, Jill Allyn Stafford creates richly textured mixed-media art the expresses conflict, love, humor, and loss. Her style and techniques have evolved and grown over the years and am excited to announce that her work featured in her first solo show.

In addition to making art, Jill is a mother and a legal assistant in a small health-law law firm. She actively works to fund raise and increase awareness for children’s literacy and for breast cancer research. She donates art to multiple non-profits and charities and attempts to coax other artists into sharing their work with the public. Jill also helped form the nonprofit arts group Vox Sacramento, and is a current board member of 916 INK.

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What got you interested in creating art? What draws you to mixed-media art?

I stopped making art when I was in the 6th grade. I became so disillusioned with my inability to draw anything realistically, and so threw in the towel and labelled my self as “not creative.” Fast forward to my 30s when I felt this urge to create. I still couldn’t draw, but I could cut up magazines and put the images together. It just fell together that way. And that’s also why I enjoy mixed media art — you can have no drawing or painting skills, but if you have an eye for putting things together, you can!

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What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern

Untitled Painting by
Untitled Painting (1965) by Michael Baldwin

As I was walking through the Tate Modern, I came upon “Untitled Painting” (1965) by Michael Baldwin, which is a work with a mirror attached to a canvas. The description noted that historically painting has often been referred to as window to the world, a perspective captured within the frame. However, the mirror in this piece shifts the gaze of the window, revealing the viewer in the act of viewing rather than an image the artist made themselves. In addition to being the viewer, you also become the subject of the painting as well.

As I stood observing myself, now the living and temporary subject of the painting, I started to think about the nature of art and the artists who create it. Since it’s been years since I’ve taken an art history class and I don’t tend to speak critically of art, bear with me as I may misinterpret some things.

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Imaginary Architectures

When I walk through an art museum, I seek out works that move me, pieces of art that resonate in some way or in some way make me stop in my tracks and consider it further. The art that moves me is not always the most famous or most popular art. It may capture my imagination, sending me off into a story, or it may provide and emotional gut check.

I especially look for this in modern art museums, such as the Tate in London. I’m drawn more to modern art (much of the older art prior to the 18th century can sometimes all look the same to me no matter how beautiful), so local modern art museums are always a must when I travel .

The Tate has many great works of art in a variety of styles, from cubism to minimalism and everything in between. There are a few Picassos there among other well known artists.

However, one set of pieces that stood out for me were the imaginary architectures from the Projects series of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, which presented dreamlike architectural imagery in old style etchings that had me imagining steampunk landscapes and Victorian industrial and fantastical cities. I would love to post some images of the art here, but I’m not sure what the copyright rules are. You can see one of the intricately detailed images on the Tate Modern website.

More can be found posted here.

Both artists are “paper architects” who created seemingly impossible designs out of paper. I plan to follow up and learn more about both of these artists and their work. But in the meantime, I think I’m going to have to go back to the Tate later this week and buy a print from their Projects series for my wall.

St. Michael's a jerk and other paintings at the National Gallery

The National Gallery in London holds oodles of amazing paintings across many centuries, from the medieval religious works (including a piece by Leonardo Da Vinci) through to Renaissance to some expressionists (with some works by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gough). But here are a few paintings I found amusing beyond the quality of the art. I admit that this post is partially inspired by Women Having A Terrible Time At Parties In Western Art History, which is far more hilarious than I am capable of being.

Saint Michael Triumphs over the Devil (1468), painted by Bartholomé Bermejo, in which Saint Michael comes off as something of a dick.

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Local Sandman Art!

So, apparently the Cartoon Art Museum is hosting a special exhibit of original artwork from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, such as paintings, sketches and other rarities in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the comic book series.

I may be freaking out just a little bit. You know, or maybe A LOT.

First, I ha no idea San Francisco had a Cartoon Art Museum, which is awesomeness in and of itself.

Second, it’s a FREAKING M-F-ING Sandman artwork exhibit!!

Sandman is not only among my favorite comic book series, but among my list of favorite books of all time. The myths and tales that Gaiman weaves together combined with compelling characters and amazing artwork is just… so… fantastic I don’t even have eloquent words for it at the moment.

I am ridiculously excited to go to this exhibit.

Of course, I’m still going crazy with NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo and work crazies and other challenges this November, so my visit to the museum will have to wait until December. But when that day comes — GLEE!

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From Action Comics Vol 1 #894 “The Black Ring, Part Five”

Wonderland Lettering Completed

I’ve been avoiding writing. But since I’ve been avoiding writing by doing something creative, I don’t actually feel too bad about that fact. I spent much of my evenings last week and part of my weekend finishing the “Sienna in Wonderland” art work for my niece’s room by adding layers of paint to each panel. I always kind of kick myself when I do super thin lines in the forms of spirals like this, because I don’t have great brushes for that kind of detail work. It turned out fine, though, and I’m happy with the final product.

Sienna in Wonderland wall art

in

Sienna in Wonderland wall art

I have also painted the frames, so that one will be bright blue and the other bright purple. It should make a great addition to my niece’s bedroom.

The wood cutout of a teapot will be painted by my sister Pilar (aka, Auntie No. 2), so once it’s all complete and hanging on my niece’s wall, I’ll be sure to take a final picture to show you guys.

I’m not posting a goals list this week and probably won’t next week either, since it’s impractical to expect myself to complete a big long list of to-dos when I’ll be traveling both this and next weekend. The first weekend trip with be half for work and half for play with me spending a few days on the Pensacola, FL beach. The second weekend trip will be to Washington, DC to meet up with some of my tumblr buddies, and we’ll be checking out the local museums and other fun stuff.

Still, there’s opportunity over the next couple of days to, as Pilar says, “get sh!t done,” so we’ll see how it goes. Mostly I don’t want to overwork myself, because I want to stay healthy for my trips.

"As human beings, we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces." – Will Shortz

One submission was made last week of a previously rejected story and I finished the sketch stage of creating my niece’s wall art, which you can see below.

Wall Art – Part I
Wall art for my niece

Wall Art – Part II
Wall art for my niece

In between these will be a wood cutout of a teapot with the word “in” on it (which my other sister will be creating), so it will read “Sienna in Wonderland” once it is all completed. The next step with these pieces will be to add paint in yellow, teal, purple, and/or blue. I will probably do some test patches before deciding.

I have been out of the groove with writing lately and I’m having a hard time getting back into it. I need some deadlines I think, or at least a schedule to kick me back into gear.

To be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish second half of Chapter Six of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three morning yoga workouts (0/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Do color testing and final paintwork on niece’s wall art

– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Buy shower curtain hooks for organizing scarves
• Find a way to better organize shoes with double shelf or slots
• Buy a tie hangar for necklaces and create rack for earrings
• Shred papers and dispose of them
• Measure pictures and buy frames

Whoops. I'm a day late. Just pretend it's Monday (or don't, I want the weekend to come too much).

I felt fairly productive last week, not as much as I could have, but still fairly productive. I wrote several poems, including some blackout poetry and one in particular was written for a specific market, but needs some more polishing first. I also posted a quick youtube video, after I found out that I now have over 100 subscribers. I got some more of my Germany stuff posted, too, but should really wrap it up soon.

On Saturday I went to the open studios art tour in Santa Cruz with my mom (after a giant greasy breakfast, of course). I was hungover, so I felt like I was floating the entire time I was there, but I really enjoyed seeing all the art work on display. Some of my favorites were:

  • Robert Larson, who takes discarded cigarette and matchstick packages and turns them into art work.
  • Nick Anderson, who does amazing fantasy and surreal paintings that just drip with eerie beauty
  • Susan Vaghan, who creates elaborate, sculptural assemblage pieces out of a variety found objects
  • Jennifer Pond, who’s paintings are playful and funny

There were many other amazing arists, of course, but these were the ones whose cards I managed to grab.

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To do in the coming week:
— finish posting photos and any write ups for Germany (some were done last week)
— write/edit 2-3 poems (already on my way, as I wrote one poem this morning and began another)
— submit something for publication
— post a youtube video
— draw anything
— get some words down on that blasted short story

Thoughts on Interpretation

As you probably know, I’ve been posting various art-related entries to my tumblr. I recently received an interesting comment there to one of my posts with my morning journal pages (this partucular one incorporating my drawing of a tree), and I thought it was interesting enough to share here.

searchingforsuperpowers wrote: 

your tree is bent to the “mother side” which would lead me to ask questions about your relationship with your mother. You added bark, which signals the need for protection… i could go on… my own quote.. (the tree is the wondow to the soul) 

My response: 
Wow. Hah. I can’t say that I put that much thought into it. I just sort of needed something to draw, saw a tree on the cover of a book similar to this, and so I drew it. But perhaps your suggesting there are some subconscious tendencies to this, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s common that unexpected meaning comes out when you create something.

Or to think about it another way, once any art or writing is made, it owns itself and is free to be many things to many people. Anyone can take any piece of art and interpret it as they will. At that point, the art begins to say less about the artist than it does about the person interpreting it. 

Your response tells me a bit about you, that which fascinates you, and the way in which you view the world. You seem to show your spiritual side here, and certainly your passion for trees. (I would be interesting to learn how you developed your theories on trees.)

As to my relationship with my mother… we are very close, always have been. I must admit to some recent tension due to a series of recent challenges, which have affected the entire family. The result of this was that I have been the stable rod supporting my mother’s emotional rollercoaster. A role I’ve been honored to play, able thus to clearly see my mother grow and become a stronger person. But I’ve also recently reached a place in which I have had to seek my own sanctuary, my own space for personal emotional growth. A goal I’m still in the progress of working toward.

Maybe all that is in that little sketch that I threw together yesterday morning. I’m not inclined to think so (it was such a quick little drawing based on an existing tree), but who knows. Many, many things are possible. (^_^)

back in the groove, discovering black out poetry, and getting some art done

Things Accomplished in the Past Week
In writing… I’ve finally pulled out my short story and started editing it. I’ve worked through two scenes, which is a good (re)start. These were the most polished scenes in the story, though, and I have a feeling that I will have to do drastic rewrites to make them work. *sigh*

On top of putting down the rough draft of a new poem, I’ve also discovered a kind of found poetry called blackout or erasure poetry, which is fabulous fun. There have been several books, published using the style, include Mary Rueffle’s A Little White Shadow, which I reviewed here, and I’ve learned about a book called Newspaper Blackout, which I’m itching to buy.  I’m obsessed with this form, and can’t seem to look at Newspapers the same way again. Every time I pick up the paper, I start scanning it to see what words might come together to form a poem. I love the visual element that is inherent, and as a lover of collage, I try to incorporate that into it.

Not only am I having fun creating blackout poetry, but It’s a relaxing way of getting into the poetic mind. I’m finding that working in this way is helping me to feel more inspired when I face the blank page, too. You can see a few of my blackout poems here.

In art… Several sketches and a new drawing were completed, all in good fun. You can see them here.

In body… I have not done much yoga or running this week. I blame the stress of going to press, and the fact that I’ve had to work overtime several days this week. Which is all well and good, but means that all I want to do when I get home is rest.

To Do in the Coming Week
— continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
— write, edit and/or polish 1-2 of my current poems
— write a 500 word article to submit to Matador
— submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
— do 3 walking/running routines for Couch to 5k
— do 5-7 days of morning yoga
— post a youtube video
— art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either here or there.]

I'm all arty inside – Monday Update

Things Accomplished Last Week
In art, I’ve been doing fairly well. I’ve done some fun sketches in my morning journal, one of them in color, and I had a good time making a collage inspired by India. It’s not really surprising that I’m keeping up with my art, my tumblr is like a shiny new toy and I want to keep playing with it (sometimes to the neglect of my other toys, like writing or livejournal or even twitter).

In writing… well, thank god for my morning poetry journal, because if not for that I would have no new words to report. I’m trying to get back into the habit of things, but trying is not the same as doing. I also received a rejection this week for one poem. Well, on to the next!

In body, I did excellent. I finished Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan, which is an amazing feeling. I now need to keep up with my morning routines as suggested at the back of the book.

I also did week one of the Couch to 5k running plan. I’m feeling pretty good about it. Saturday was a real push for me, though. I think this was because I ran midday when it was rather warmer out than I’m used to. I tend to get lethargic in the heat, so it felt like a much harder run. This is good to know about myself, because I’m going to need to keep that in mind whenever I get around to actually participating in an

To Do in the Coming Week
— continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
— write, edit and/or polish 1-2 of my current poems
— write a 500 word article to submit to Matador
— submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
— do 3 walking/running routines for Couch to 5k
— do 5-7 days of morning yoga
— post a youtube video
— art, doesn’t matter what, but something

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment here or there.]

Andrea's Art Box

While art — from sketching to painting to collage — is not my primary focus, it is something I rather enjoy. For a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of creating an art blog, in which I would post artwork as I create it, good, bad or in between, as well as pages from my morning poetry journal, in which I have started to sketch as well as write poetry. I’ve also been thinking about the idea of creating art pieces that would incorporate both my poetry and some mixed media art.

To that end I have created a blog over on tumblr that will feature the art and poetry ideas that I’ve noted above. The goal is to post (ideally) everyday, but since I can’t seem to even post here everyday, we’ll go with as often as I can — preferably once a week at a minimum.I’ve already posted some older pieces up there, so if you feel to, then take a moment to check them out.

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you wish to comment, you may do so either here or there.]