Sunday, June 28, 2015

Journey Through the Human Lens - Artist Process

I just completed what I have been working on for the last 6 months, a painting series titled, "Journey Through the Human Lens," exploring physical existence through the perspectives of the microscope, naked eye, and telescope. This series was created as a project to be started and completed during my time as an artist in residence at New City Galerie from January 2015 to June 2015. The residency at New City Galerie is a work trade where you have to be at the gallery to keep it open one day a week for six months in exchange for a beautiful studio space in the heart of Burlington.

I found out about this opportunity just a few days before the application deadline and scrambled for an idea for my project proposal. At the time of application, it was December in Vermont, and I had just begun the deep journey into Netflix season, which I began by watching the re-make of the television series, "Cosmos." As someone coming from the West Coast with a lot of New Age Fluff Spirituality in my everyday life, and rapidly moving away out of that lifestyle while living on the East Coast, watching "Cosmos" was an eye opening experience about the mystical nature of reality as it is seen when investigated and discovered by science. And so I was inspired to do a painting series that used images showing our physical reality as it is seen by science, and travel from the micro to the macro.

Here was my official statement:

The main inspiration for my art comes from witnessing the beauty of nature, and feeling my body as a part of nature experiencing itself. I live in awe of the everyday natural processes occurring around me all the time. Clouds, rivers, trees, the dance of light on a landscape throughout the day, and seasonal transitions are just a few of the earthly wonders that captivate me. In this state of wonder I am filled with an urge to capture and recreate what I am seeing and feeling. Up until this point many of my paintings have taken the form of landscape and figurative work. 

During my residency at New City Galerie I will be working on a painting series, “Voyage Through the Human Lens”. This series will take the viewer on a journey from the tiniest visions of our earthly existence, seen only through a microscope, outward to what is seen with the naked eye, and even further yet, to the cosmos as seen through a telescope. My intention with this work is to deepen the connection with the nature that we are. I believe that the more we feel intimately connected to something the more we are driven to cherish and preserve that thing. In a time of technological disconnect from our natural origins and frightening environmental upheaval, it is my hope that my art will inspire a greater appreciation for the living system we are a part of.

My first painting in the studio ended up being a triptych because at the time I only had one canvas to work with and I was antsy to get started with a painting that encapsulated the theme within itself. And  so the Owl Butterfly triptych was created:

On the left panel of the triptych is a close up the Owl Butterfly's egg and on the right is a close up of the scales on the wing.

While I was working on the first painting I started a crowd sourced fundraiser, and received more support than I expected. I received a little over $350, which I spent on paint, canvases, and a few new brushes. It wouldn't have been possible without this support from my community. It was an incredibly empowering and inspiring experience to feel that my community truly values art making, and puts their money behind their praise. I was especially moved by the support of one of my amazing High School teachers, Alana Althaus, who was the first and last contributor to my fundraising campaign. It's a pretty amazing thing to have someone who was my teacher 8 years ago still really show up and support me in being great. To me that says a lot about her commitment to her role in the world as a teacher, creating a rich and nourishing environment for humans to flower into greatness.

Next I made another triptych, this time with a Dandelion:

 I followed the same theme that I started with the Owl Butterfly by putting the Dandelion seeds on the left (equivalent to the egg) and a close up the plant cells of chloroplasts on the right.

The third triptych I did was of a Morel mushroom, with spores on the left and a close up of the Morel's texture on the right:

(all the triptychs are 16"x20" acrylic on canvas)

I did one last triptych during the final weeks of my residency, but it was frustrating and I didn't have enough time to get it to a place that I actually found pleasing. It was most frustrating because I was working from one of my own baby pictures and I could not make the painted version look as cute as I was in the photo. Personal attachment I guess... I will include it here because it was part of my process, but I don't consider a finished part of this series. It is the Human triptych, with an embryo on the left, and chromosomes on the right.

Here is the adorable original photo, so you can know why I was so frustrated ;) Maybe I will finish it someday... Maybe I won't.

One of the earlier paintings in the series is this one of a hydrogen atom I did from a still of the beautiful animation from "Cosmos": 12"x14" acrylic on canvas

I had planned on doing many more small paintings exploring the atomic level of existence, but as usual, ambitions tend to be higher than what's realistically possible within a certain timeframe...

I spent the most time working on my two largest paintings of outer space. I started with the Milky Way Galaxy and then did the Orion Nebula. Both are 30"x40" acrylic on Canvas.

It wasn't until after I completed this painting of the Milky Way that I realized I painted it from an image that is an artist rendering of what the Milky Way might look like and not an actual photo from a telescope. It wasn't until someone made a comment about it being the most incredible selfie ever taken that I realized there is no way we could possibly have a photo of the Galaxy we are within. Someday...

Here I am excited to be starting the Milky Way painting, it was the biggest canvas I had ever worked on:

This painting of the Orion Nebula is my absolute favorite of the series, I spent the most time on it, was challenged incredibly by it, and found so much joy getting lost in abstract rainbow heaven. Nearly every color I know how to mix is in this painting. My disclaimer is that I'm having a really hard time getting a picture of it that does it justice, it's best seen in person.

a close up:

in very early stages:

One Saturday in the studio I was having a bad day, so I made this:

Bad can be good sometimes. It's important to let the paint flow in the direction it wants to go!

Residency Reflection:

Overall I am very grateful for the experience of being an artist in residence at New City Galerie, and I want to give a big thanks to Joseph Pensak for providing this opportunity in support of the arts. I would definitely encourage other local artists to apply!

The last six months did not come without some major ups and downs. In those six months I moved twice and spent months apartment hunting in between. I also worked two jobs for the first two months and had many weeks with no day off. It was exhausting and pushed me to my limits at times, but I must say it was great to have the structure of having to be in the studio every Saturday for six months. I don't think I would have ever spent a full day painting once a week if I wasn't committed to the work trade situation and had to be there. A little structure can go a long way for me. Another aspect of this series that was a new challenge for me was that I was working from photos sourced from the internet, and the hours scrolling through google images for the right photo was definitely my least favorite part of the process. I think I will stick to working from my own photographs in the future.

Most of all I am proud of myself for starting and finishing this project!

I just moved my studio back into my bedroom and am ready to start a new series :D Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Life

New Life

Riding the clouds,
storms carry me across this vast land.
The earth's beauty is everywhere,
I will always be at home.
It was not so long ago
the leaves were falling.
And now they are new again,
bursting green, beginning.

Illuminated by the sun shining
through changing skies,
a Great Blue Heron flies
low through the air above me.
And carries my eyes to a flock of birds
settling into a cattail marsh.

The ducks don't seem to notice 
the majestic cloud filled sky
reflected in the pond's ripples.
They are busy
fluffing their feathers
and wiggling their bottoms.
Calling in the one
to begin new life with.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Equinox ~ Dance of Quan Yin

Dance of Quan Yin

spring green
vibrant growth
ancient gnarls

the goddess opens
welcoming new life
rain soaked earth

sun kissed
oak and eucalyptus
radiant joy

Happy Equinox!

May you be open, compassionate, and joyful!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fertility of the Feminine Heart ~Artist Process~

Fertility of the Feminine Heart ~ 20"x14" acrylic 

I began this painting in late December 2013, and completed it in late January 2014. I don't like to force inspiration for a painting, so I waited a few weeks to let the background reveal itself to me. 

I am fortunate to have a sister who works with flowers (she has secretly always been a flower fairy) and  I am constantly receiving an abundance of flowers to fill my room. My favorite is the Lily, which has a feminine fullness and spiral that resonates with my long time love of the spiral motif. This photo of a Lily bouquet next to a sculpture I made long ago titled,"Feminine Fertility" captures the essence of what my painting, "Fertility of the Feminine Heart" embodies. 

I made the first concept sketches around the time of the winter solstice:

On the day of the Solstice I had a powerful experience on the phone with my mom. I was talking about how I was so tired of all the hype around the holiday season and how was I feeling exhausted from my job in customer service at a grocery store. 
Then a simple statement slipped from my mouth, "I just want to paint!", and I was caught off guard by an uncontrollable surge of tears, laughter, and convulsion. I opened my teary eyes and the sun was shining directly into them, casting glitter and rainbows all throughout my vision. This profound flow of shakti energy was a big wake-up call that I must paint! And so "Fertility of the Feminine Heart"was born.

She began with a flower:

At this point I didn't know how to approach the background and I left her sitting on my easel for several weeks. When I came back to her on January 22nd I did a witness writing to get clear on what she meant to me:

"Heart seed blooming

My intention for this painting was to show feminine flowering, the ripeness of a seed sprouting in the heart, flowering on the crown as divine manifestation. The hands hold the seed over the heart showing how I use my hands to craft and create the visions of my heart. The breasts are a symbol of fertility and the feminine power of creation. The background is empty and I intend to show ferns unfurling as a symbol of the regenerative power of nature that we as humans create alongside with. "

After painting into the wee hours of the night, I wrote an update in my journal:

"She found a home in the forest. Grounded with her back against a big sturdy trunk. Covered in moss and fern, the forest is teaming with life. Soon to come are mushrooms and dying/composting leaves. Her heartseed is glowing."

And so it was:

Final journal entry I wrote on 1/23/14 in a blissed out state after I completed the finishing touches:

I dedicate my life to making art!
I have so much gratitude for this clarity on my spiritual path.
I have never felt so alive as when I paint... I feel as if I am in the forest when I paint it. 
My expression of imagination transports me to the most beautiful place of my dreams 

Thanks for witnessing my process! much Love~ Shastina

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dance of the Ever Changing Landscape ~Artist Process~

"Dance of The Ever Changing Landscape"
 Acrylic 14"x18"  

Just as the Sun, Moon, and Seasons
 dance through cycles of death and rebirth, 
our spirit rises and falls in a wave of emotions. 
I fly high and sink low,
 knowing it will only last 
until the wheel turns once again.

The inspiration for this painting was sparked by the drastic changes I was aware of in my emotional wave during fall and winter 2013. This is something I have always witnessed in myself, one day full of optimism and exuberance for life, then the next day, or even hour, feeling overcome by grief, despair, and overwhelm. I envisioned my emotional wave as a yin yang, contrasting opposites that create the wholeness that is the full spectrum of my emotional human experience. I saw this mirrored in the opposites found everywhere in nature, and chose to portray this contrast through the images of night and day, sun and moon, spring flowers and winter branches. 

I drew the concept sketches in November and painted the faces in December, then didn't come back to it until I finished it in one day of strong inspiration on February 18th. 

Stages of Creation: