nine cool things on a tuesday

1. There’s nothing ho-hum about Oregon-based ceramicist Sara Swink’s work. She creates human and animal figures that tease our thinking and beg interpretation. She takes something familiar and gives it a dreamlike, bizarre, or even humorous twist. Her distinctive pieces definitely compel us to take a second or third look.

Her love of clay began when she was eight, with the encouragement of a neighbor who was a potter. She learned to throw on a potter’s wheel, hand build and mix glazes in high school, even buying her own wheel with money earned cleaning houses.

Some twenty years later, she began taking ceramics classes, then studied art history, printmaking, drawing, and foundry work at several universities while teaching. Studying with Coeleen Kiebert (whose approach is to fuse artmaking with the psychology of the individual) was pivotal in shaping Sara’s work. Sara’s pieces can be seen as expressions of her inner psyche; there is a personal narrative that runs through all her art.

Sara opened Clay Circle Studio when she moved to the Portland area in 2006 and continues to offer workshops. Find out more about her classes at her official website, where you can also view a wonderful archive of available and past pieces.

*

 

Continue reading

a bit of loveliness: vanessa bowman’s still life and landscape oils

 

Thought we’d brighten your week with some of Vanessa Bowman’s lovely still life and landscape paintings.

Vanessa lives and works in Dorset, England, and graduated from the Winchester School of Art with a First Class Honours Degree in Printed Textile Design. She comes from an artistic family — both her father and sister are also painters.

 

photo of Vanessa by Greg Funnell

 

She works entirely in oils, thinning her paints to achieve the fluidity of watercolors. She loves celebrating the beauty of everyday objects. As a keen gardener and ceramics collector, it follows that her own flowers and found treasures often appear in her still life paintings.

I grow flowers which aren’t usually found in shops – dark, almost black flowers in Tulips and Centaureas, a beautifully marked hellebore in an unusual shade of green and dark Nasturtiums, jewel like Dahlias, fiery Crocosmia, Cosmos with their frond-like leaves and many more.

 

 

She begins her days by taking a walk with her dog, gathering her thoughts as she immerses herself in her beautiful surroundings, noting seasonal changes and checking her garden to see what’s in bloom on the way to her studio. Gentle hills, hedgerows, and regional flora and fauna appear in her landscape paintings — charming depictions of idyllic country life.

 

 

Typical of her landscapes is a detailed foreground of seasonal blossoms or berries that invite the reader into an intimate portrait of the Dorset landscape.

 

 

Her still life paintings center around the colors and shapes of her chosen flowers:

I am drawn to flowers as my main subject matter as I am captivated by the variety of colour and detail they offer. I am fascinated by the elements of colour and shape each flower offers, from the simplicity of a snowdrop to the complexity of, say, a dahlia, with its jewel-like colour and complex petal formation.

 

Continue reading

jane massey’s pictures make me want to hug myself

Why, hello!

There’s nothing like seeing the world through a child’s eyes.

Position your Cheerios and take a look at these adorable illustrations by UK author/illustrator Jane Massey.

 

 

You may know her from the dozens of children’s books she’s illustrated — books she’s written herself and by many others (Alexandra Penfold, Joyce Dunbar, Dawn Richards, Claire Freedman, et. al.).

 

 

I confess I first noticed her work on Pinterest and Instagram, where she regularly posts THE CUTEST drawings and sketches. I marvel at her childlike instinct. We would expect her art to speak directly to children, but I was also struck by how deeply her pictures spoke to the child in me. I discovered recently that I certainly was not alone in my reaction.

 

 

Not too long ago, I posted the above drawing, called “New Shoes,” on Facebook. People LOVED and identified with it, recalling their own childhood experiences. Comments ranged from “simple and beautiful,” to “I adore this!” to “awwwwwww. . . ” Some of these people had never commented or “liked” any of my posts before. Jane’s art had grabbed them, and for a fleeting moment, they remembered what it was like to be two or three again.

 

 

Isn’t it amazing how something so simple could elicit such a strong emotional response? And that’s what characterizes Massey’s work: a posture, an expression, a nuance of emotion — all the feelings and heart of a child are ever present.

 

 

There are many artists who can draw children well, but not all are able to capture such believable emotion in just a few masterful strokes. This is especially evident in the drawings she posts on Instagram — not necessarily part of a specific book project, yet each subscribes to the “less is more” philosophy — where character is instantly established, and a larger narrative is implied. Brilliant!

 

 

 

 

Look at the Cheerios girl at the top of this post. Don’t you already know her? Can’t you already imagine the trouble she could get into?

 

Continue reading

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Here’s something to make National Poetry Month even more fabulous: a new activity book by London-based illustrator, designer and cut-paper collage queen Clover Robin!

Origami and Poetry: Inspired by Nature (Nosy Crow, 2019), was just released in mid March, and is a wonderful way for kids to extend their enjoyment of poetry with hands-on fun.

This stunning book features nature-inspired poems and origami. For each animal or object, children will be able to read a poem and then make a corresponding origami figure! With clear, simple directions and links to helpful videos for how to make thirteen animals or objects and fifty sheets of origami paper, this is the perfect introduction to the art of paper folding.

You may remember we featured Clover Robin’s work not too long ago; she is brilliant and her love of nature shines through in all her projects. Snip snip snip!

*

 

2. Look what’s coming out later this year: Sesame Street postage stamps! In honor of Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary, the U.S. Postal Service is issuing 16 Forever stamps featuring some of the beloved characters from the show, including Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo and Grover. Nice to see that Julia, a new character with autism who was introduced in 2017, is also part of the line-up.

My favorite has always been Elmo, though when I get some of these stamps I will use Oscar the Grouch to mail all my bills. 🙂

*

Continue reading

of dogs and cats and flowers and birds: the whimsical beauty of vanessa cooper’s paintings

“Next Supper” (2015)

The other day, in my ongoing quest for art that makes my heart sing, I stumbled upon the work of UK-based artist Vanessa Cooper.

Can you see why I instantly fell in love? Why shouldn’t doggies be treated to a variety of scrummy cakes and a homey checked tablecloth?

Dogs aren’t the only ones who receive special treatment at the dining table. Vanessa also includes lots of cats, the odd budgie, goat, or whatever stray she might happen upon. I love her sense of whimsy.

She’s a Hampshire native who studied at Portsmouth University. She started painting in her teens and her style is defined by her bold use of color, striking compositions, and charming details.

Continue reading