steele yourself!

Ah, breakfast with Van Gogh. What could be better?

A crunchy bowl of Ben Steele’s Earrios will get you off to a great start. What’s that? You want more? Can’t say I blame you.

Once you’ve seen one Ben Steele painting, you crave another and another . . .

Ben in his studio with some of his product inspirations.

Originally from Washington state, Ben relocated to Utah when he was in his teens. He earned a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Utah, then moved to Helper, Utah, where he studied under the instruction of David Dorman and Paul Davis at the Helper Art Workshops. He recently converted a vacant bottling and beverage distribution warehouse into an enormous studio that will accommodate large scale work.

Ben’s paintings are a unique mash-up of art history and pop culture, a wide-ranging oeuvre that includes landscape, still life, portraiture, and other things in-between. He calls himself a “pop realist,” an artist with an ever evolving style who’s successfully imbued classic techniques with a contemporary sensibility.

With equal measures of playfulness and nostalgia, Steele taps into America’s collective imagination by incorporating iconic brands such as Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Campbell’s Soup. Referencing the American West, Hollywood legends, and major figures in American history (to include several Presidents), his art resonates across generations with its social, political, and cultural overtones.

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catherine nolin: rooms with more than a view

 

Catherine Nolin’s paintings take my breath away. Her gorgeous room portraits, still lifes, and botanical designs are defined by rich, vibrant colors, intricate patterns and luscious textures, each a sensual feast for the eyes steeped in antiquity.

 

 

A self-taught artist based in Andover, Massachusetts, Catherine says she’s always thinking about color and became fascinated with the emotional impact of various color combinations at a young age. The youngest of six sisters, she grew up in a family where Italian traditions were fundamental.

When I was 10 years old, a family friend, an artist, recognized my talent and enrolled me in a class at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After that seminal experience, I continued to draw and in high school I practiced drawing furniture pieces and chairs with fabric patterns. The Italian Renaissance became my favorite art history period and I often incorporated objects and themes from this period into my work. In college, I studied pottery, figure drawing and art history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting became a necessary form of therapy when she had her third son, who is autistic. This “part-time escape” soon evolved into a full time profession.

 

 

 

 

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cool and quirky: stephanie birdsong

 

Well of course. How could I not love an artist who paints a 24-hour SOUP restaurant? 🙂

At her blog, California based creative director and illustrator Stephanie Birdsong (cool name, no?) describes her picture this way:

Daisy packs up the kid and the dog and hops in the car to get some extra-delicious soup from Ida’s. It’s just down the lane. I started with a painting in my sketchbook, & added a storefront and, of course, a bear!

You gotta love that she thought to add a bear (Mr Cornelius was especially pleased about that).

Much as I love Ida’s, this wasn’t the first of Stephanie’s gouache and acrylic paintings to catch my eye. It was actually this piece:

 

 

It spoke to my inner Brownie (I still have my beanie from when I was six). I like the freckles, the pigtails with a mind of their own, and the general kookiness of the whole thing. It’s called “Kicked out of the Brownies.” 😀

 

 

 

 

Stephanie’s fun and irreverent style reminds me of Maira Kalman and Jessie Hartland — sophisticated and childlike at the same time. Since there’s usually a surprising detail or two; you can’t help but look closer. Both Maira and Jessie have illustrated children’s books — I hope someday Stephanie will too. Long live the quirky!

 

 

 

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Indie Artist Spotlight: Sarah Walsh of Petit Reve

Today I’m pleased to welcome Kansas City-based artist, illustrator, and hand letterer Sarah Walsh to Alphabet Soup!

Pictured above is a collage she created this past summer called “Aqua Daydreams.” I loved it the moment I saw it — mermaids, jellyfish, the different shapes, lines, colors, and overall composition of the piece with its touches of whimsy and playfulness. It feels childlike and sophisticated at the same time, definitely invites a closer look, and much like the rest of her work, elicits unabashed joy and happiness.

“Horsie Love”

A graphic design major, Sarah worked at Hallmark for 12 years, has also illustrated for other card lines, helped Crayola create a character-based tween girl brand (Pop Art Pixies), and has designed typefaces and surface patterns (client list includes Usborne, Peaceable Kingdom, Land of Nod, Perseus, Red Rooster Fabrics). She and her artist husband Colin (love that name!) share a basement studio in their home and sell prints and other goodies via their Etsy shop Petit Reve.

Artists and illustrators Colin and Sarah Walsh of Petit Reve

Most recently, Sarah published three awesome coloring books for Rockport’s Just Add Color Series: Day of the Dead, Carnival, and Circus. (Have you read the recent HuffPo article about how coloring books help adults combat stress? I think we should all order Sarah’s coloring books ASAP! ):)

I know you’ll enjoy learning more about Sarah and feasting your eyes on her charmingly quirky, fun and vibrant creations. She counts among her major influences 50’s and 60’s illustration, family, friends and love in general. It’s so easy to see the ♥ in her work. 🙂

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a purrfect visual feast

Just in case you’re feeling a tad winter weary and color starved, thought I’d share some gorgeous paintings by award-winning artist, illustrator, author and teacher Carla Golembe, who currently lives in Delray Beach, Florida.

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One of Carla’s children’s book illustrations.

Carla is a particular favorite because she illustrated my third picture book, The Woman in the Moon (Little, Brown), and her rich, color drenched, dreamy acrylic paintings always lift me up and transport me to a place far away from the troubles and uncertainty of this world.

Recently, Carla has been painting mermaids for the Mermaid Expo to be held at the Gallery Galleon in Puerto Rico on March 8, 2013. A devoted cat lover, Carla also painted some beautiful tributes to her beloved Zippy (who passed away last summer), as well as several whimsical pieces featuring her new cat Vinny.

This is how Carla describes her work:

My paintings are the product of my dreams and experiences. They speak of hope and love, of mystery and delight. My work expresses the harmony between individuals, between people and animals, people and nature, within a person’s soul.

They are colorful and sensual, reflecting the tropical beauty of my home and travels. The full spectrum of positive emotion echoes through my work.

Although the pieces express an optimistic attitude they are not naive, rather they come from an understanding that pain and anxiety are part of life but joy is a more desirable place to dwell. Although my compositions are designed and defined there is no gravity in my visual world. The figures often inhabit ambiguous spaces, places where sky and water flow into one  another and where light and darkness merge. They are frequently caught in a moment of being or becoming, for it is in that moment that all dreams are possible.

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