Thursday, August 27, 2009

Artistic Influences: Dulac, Rackham, and all the mermaids

There are two other fairy tale illustrators from the "Golden Age of Book Illustration" whose work influenced me as a child. Though Kay Nielsen was probably my favorite (see August 20 post), I also greatly admired the work of Edmund Dulac and Aurthur Rackham. These illustratiors used mainly watercolor or gouache, which, now that I think about it, may be why I prefer watercolor to other painting media. I love the clarity and transparency of the colors; to me they seem infused with light.

"Undine Lost in the Danube" by Aurthur Rackham

I think it's important to understand the origin of this "Golden Age", and why it produced such a proliferation of great illustrators. Dulac, Nielsen, and Rackham are only three of the great number of fine illustrators whose work graced the pages of fairy tales, story books, and magazines around the turn of the century. It all had to do with technology. "Until the mid-1890s, there had been no economical method of reproducing color plates. Printing methods in those days varied from printer to printer and were most often patented - and were always being improved. The invention of the process we now call "color separation" made it possible to mass-produce color images and by 1905 they improved the process to create images that were very faithful to the originals. The only drawback was that they had to be printed on a special coated paper and therefore couldn't be bound into the book with the rest of the pages." (

"Brunhilde" by Aurthur Rackham

Rackham is the quintessential story book artist, and his work has perhaps been seen by more people than any other illustrator of this period. Traits of his famous style include "a sinuous pen line softened with muted water color; forests of looming, frightening trees with grasping roots; sensuous, but somehow chaste, fairy maidens; ogres and trolls ugly enough to repulse but with sufficient good nature not to frighten; backgrounds filled with little nuggets of hidden images or surprising animated animals or trees." (Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr.)

"The Mermaids had Sea Green Hair" by Aurthur Rackham

"Earth, Sea, and Sky" by Sharmon Davidson

When I saw the Rackham picture of the mermaids, I couldn't resist putting my own mermaid in here- especially since she also has green hair! I had never seen this one before, but it's a great coincidence, isn't it?

"Mermaid Sparkle" by Edmund Dulac

Dulac's sensuous, jewel-like colors are what sets his work apart. Jim Vadeboncoeur says, "Dulac, though capable of pen and ink work, was primarily a painter and used the new technology's ability to reproduce exact tones to let the color hold the shape and define the object. This is one of the effects of Dulac's timing. The color separation process was "perfected" just at the exact moment he arrived and he never had to deal with the old-fashioned necessity of an ink line bounding the color to hide misregistration."

"Stealers of Light" by Edmund Dulac

"Beauty" by Edmund Dulac

These lovely pictures revealed to me the magical power of images. If you look with an open mind and heart, they can open doors to other worlds that lie beyond our everyday lives. I am forever grateful to Nielsen, Dulac, and Rackham for opening those doors.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Transformation 37

Well, I've just completed the 37th piece in this ongoing series. In an earlier post, I described how the Transformations series came about as an accidental act of desperation. Ironically, these pieces are what's selling right now, which keeps me making more- and now even more. The Promenade Gallery in Berea, Kentucky has been having quite a run on them this summer.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by an interior designer who wants to use 9 of them for a Decorators Showcase project in Lexington, KY, and another for a silent auction benefiting Capacity Inc., an organization that helps impoverished girls/women prepare for employment. I'm extremely fortunate to have this opportunity; it's exciting, but a little scary, too. Having a demanding day job makes it a little difficult to keep up with everything, but I'm sure going to give it a heck of a try!

Here is an article about the event, written by Sherry Piersol for Natural Awakenings Magazine. They still need artists and vendors to set up booths, if you're interested.

Capacity Inc. & Lorillard Lofts Presents:
“Naturally Chic” Decorators Showcase

Upon visiting Lexington, Kentucky’s first eco-friendly interior decorators showcase one will have an opportunity to reconnect with self, home and the community. “Naturally Chic” will focus on creating comfortable, stylish, elegant and creative loft living, naturally! This is a great opportunity to obtain eco-friendly, affordable, new trend insight for anyone’s home. Most importantly the $10.00 ticket per person goes to a great cause.
The decorator showcase is a result or our desire to obtain employment for the unemployed women in the community. This project is a fundraiser for Capacity Inc. an international non profit dedicated to the advancement of women, The Lorillard Lofts Decorator Showcase will serve as a model for other cities worldwide.
We began with two goals, first to introduce the community to examples of environmentally friendly, urban development and décor. Lorillard Lofts was selected because fabulous living spaces were created from the renovation of an old tobacco warehouse, see
Second, Capacity Inc. is a cutting edge organization which advocates transforming women of today into women of tomorrow. Thus, the decorator showcase and the career advancement initiative is a project about transformation.
“Naturally Chic” is about looking at yourself and how you can make a difference in creating a healthy environment at home, speak out about the future of our community from a conservative, historical and humanitarian point of view and make a difference in the lives of women.
How do we begin? The first step is to attend the Lorillard Lofts “Naturally Chic” Decorators showcase and experience first hand natural, beautiful living styles for your home. Ask me about becoming involved in the Career Advancement Initiative for Unemployed Women. By attending any of the events below you will benefit from a wonderful experience and your ticket purchase will change the lives of the women in your community for the better!
Capacity Inc. and Lorillard Loft “Naturally Chic” Decorator Showcase Dates:
Tickets may be purchased through pay pal at or visit the site and see a list of local businesses selling tickets.
Group Tours October 16 through October 22nd 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Minimum of 10 participants (2 free tickets) $100.00 per 12
Premier Party Special Event – October 23rd, Friday 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Special guest appearance, first bids on décor items, food, drink, music and dancing.
$50.00 per person
General Admission: October 24th and 25th 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM Sat and Sun
$10.00 per person Specialty gift shop & food vendors on location this weekend also.

We are in need of sponsors and vendors. Please call Sherry at (859) 583-8007

All lofts and decor are for sale!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Darkness and Light

Every picture has its shadows
And it has some source of light
Blindness, blindness and sight
The perils of benefactors
The blessings of parasites
Blindness, blindness and sight
Threatened by all things
Devil of cruelty
Drawn to all things
Devil of delight
Mythical devil of the ever-present laws
Governing blindness, blindness and sight
Suntans in reservation dining rooms
Pale miners in their lantern rays
Night, night and day
Hostage smile on presidents
Freedom scribbled in the subway
It's like night, night and day
Threatened by all things
God of cruelty
Drawn to all things
God of delight
Mythical god of the everlasting laws
Governing day, day and night
Critics of all expression
Judges in black and white
Saying it's wrong, saying it's right
Compelled by prescribed standards
Or some ideals we fight
For wrong, wrong and right
Threatened by all things
Man of cruelty-mark of Cain
Drawn to all things
Man of delight-born again, born again
Man of the laws, the ever-broken laws
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Wrong and right

-"Shadows and Light" by Joni Mitchell

Sorry, I don't mean to be cryptic, but sometimes our feelings aren't all shiny and bright. Today, mine are dark and twisty.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Artistic Influences: Kay Nielsen

Recently I was asked about my early artistic influences, so I thought I'd try to re-trace my personal path, as an obsession with one artist or style led to another. Immediately I thought of the surrealists I had studied and so admired when I was in high school and college. But one day it suddenly occurred to me that Surrealism was not my first influence at all, that my artistic sensibilities had also been informed by images I encountered much earlier in my life, a time that was buried deeper in my memory.

"Snowshoes" by Kay Nielsen

Being a child of ample imagination, I loved to read fairy tales. My fascination with these stories went beyond listening to an adult read "Red Riding Hood" or even watching Disney's iconic "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty"; I went to the library and checked out every book of fairy tales I could find, and devoured them.

"Pop! Out Flew the Moon" by Kay Nielsen

I was captivated as much by the pictures as the stories; the stunning illustrations in many of these books sparked an aspiration to draw like that myself. I populated my own imaginary world with knights, princesses, horses, and dragons that I drew and cut out. I would make up fantastic tales, and act them out with these 'paper doll' characters.

"A Large Flock of Birds" by Kay Nielsen

Some of the most inspiring illustrations were done by Danish artist Kay Nielsen, who worked during the Golden Age of Book Illustration in London around the turn of the century. According to Terri Windling (From Fairy Tales to Fantasia: The Art of Kay Nielsen), "Kay left Copenhagen for Paris to study art in Montparnasse. It was there that he, like so many art students, discovered Aubrey Beardsley's work, with its fine use of line and ornamentation and its aura of dark romance. Beardsley's drawings made a considerable impression on him, containing as it did two of the things he loved best: imagery from myth and folklore, and the strong influence of Japanese art."

"How Morgan Le Fay Gave a Shield to Sir Tristram" by Aubrey Beardsley

"The Sea off Satta" by Hiroshige

"The North Wind Went Over the Sea" by Kay Nielsen

I loved the drama and emotion these pictures evoked, the lush colors, the stylized figures. For me, they were an integral part of the stories, as important as the words. The strong sense of composition and use of flowing line are aspects of Nielsen's work that I unconsciously incorporated, over time, into my own work.

"Dakini" by S. Davidson

I think the function of artwork as narrative has also been an aspect of my work, and one that has come to the forefront again in my recent work.

"The Traveler's Tale: As the Crow Flies" by S. Davidson

"Then He Took Her Home" by Kay Nielsen

It's strange how these things we've forgotten about have influenced us so profoundly. Perhaps they lay so deeply and thoroughly imbedded in our past that they've become a part of us.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cool Water

I find myself becoming increasingly more fascinated by water, photographing it over and over again. Constantly changing in endless permutations- visually, it never disappoints. It appears to play some age-old game with light, one that only they understand. It can be a mirror, reflecting the colors and forms around it, while keeping its own secrets hidden beneath. It can stay absolutely still, or become a rushing, raging torrent against which nothing can stand. It can be life-giving relief and sustenance, but just as swiftly take life and wash it away as if were nothing.

It seems a mystery to me- something that's so common, and so necessary for life, but is really quite unique. We take water for granted, most of us wasting it without much thought. Yet we can live only a week or so without it; we can go a month or more without food. Our bodies are 60- 70% water. While approximately 75% of the earth's surface is covered with water, 97% of that is salt water, and 2% is frozen in the polar ice caps, which means about 1% is drinkable. It's the only substance that occurs naturally in all of matter's three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Somehow, the scientific facts don't begin to capture the truth of it, or what it means to us human beings on this planet.

Since the beginning of recorded history, water has been important symbolically as well as physically. According to Avia Veneficia of What'

The symbolism of water has a universal undertone of purity and fertility. Symbolically, it is often viewed as the source of life itself as we see evidence in countless creation myths in which life emerges from primordial waters.

Interestingly, we are all made of water, and so we can liken many of these myths and allegories to our own existence (the macrocosm mirroring the microcosm and vice versa). Further, we can incorporate symbolism of circulation, life, cohesion and birth by associating the creative waters of the earth with the fluids found in our own body (i.e., blood).

In Taoist tradition, water is considered an aspect of wisdom. The concept here is that water takes on the form in which it is held and moves in the path of least resistance. Here the symbolic meaning of water speaks of a higher wisdom we may all aspire to mimic.

The ever-observant ancient Greeks understood the power of transition water holds. From liquid, to solid, to vapor - water is the epitomal symbol for metamorphosis and philosophical recycling.

Among the first peoples of North America, water was considered a valuable commodity (particularly in the more arid plains and western regions) and the Native Americans considered water to be a symbol of life (further solidifying the symbol affixed in many creation myths).

So it is also with the ancient Egyptians as we learn their beloved (and heavily relied upon) Nile river is akin to the birth canal of their existence.

A quick list of symbolic meanings for water include (but are not limited to):

* Transformation
* Subconscious
* Fertilization
* Purification
* Reflection
* Intuition
* Renewal
* Blessing
* Motion
* Life

And from Pure Inside Out:
The holy books of the Hindus explain that all the inhabitants of the earth emerged from the primordial sea. At the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story of creation, the spirit of God is described as "stirring above the waters," and later, God creates "a firmament in the midst of the waters to divide the waters" (Genesis 1:1-6)

Finally, I'll leave you with the words of one of my personal heroes, and a great Kentuckian:

by Wendell Berry

I was born in a drouth year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemys soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Business of Art Business

Here are some examples of business card designs, or just backgrounds, that I've considered and discarded.

Thanks to my good friends Dona Iona Drozda and Kathleen Krucoff, along with important info from R. Garriott, I have once again changed my mind about the business card thing. And no, I'm not being sarcastic; this is a good thing.

Dona and Kathleen gave me wonderful advice, including that I should check out R. Garriott's post about having business cards printed (link above), and the VERY convincing reasons not to do them yourself. Two reasons in particular stood out in my mind: 1)frustration due to poor print quality, images not lining up with the cards, and PAPER JAMS, and 2)it actually costs more to print them yourself. The cost thing is self-explanatory, but frustration due to technological problems drives me CRAZY! Here is the expression on my face when I have computer problems of any kind:

Obviously, this is not my face; it's a picture of my son Colin's girlfriend from a really funny "emotions-of-the-day" refrigerator magnet they made (sorry, Lindsey!).

So, I'm off to do a different design, and have it printed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Transformation 36

I can't believe I've done 36 of these! It really doesn't seem possible (somewhat like the fact that it's already August). Some have been scrapped, some sold, some are at the gallery, and some still sit in the portfolio in my studio. The strange part is that the series came about entirely by accident. When I was in the Master's degree program at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, we were given a horrifying (to me, at least) assignment. At the end of the week, we were told we had to make 50 pieces by Monday. FIFTY!! This was inconceivable to me. Me, the super-perfectionist, think-about-it-for-a-million-years-before-starting, self-questioning, mind-changing, oh-my-god-i-can't-do-it- ME?

I was freaking out. Perhaps I misunderstood, or my hearing was going bad. But, no. Obviously, the instructors weren't serious, right? They were.

I had no idea where to start, but I thought, there has to a way to cheat...or- something. After all, necessity- and 430 dollars a credit hour- are the mothers of invention. I looked at the discarded work laying around the studio- the ones that didn't quite work out, and said, "Why not?" I started cutting them into pieces and gluing them together. It seemed a lot easier than starting from scratch. I don't remember how or why I came up with the 7x7 inch format, but for some reason I made them all that size. I worked all weekend, every minute, without stopping. I got my children to help me. Whatever, just so they were done.

Finally, I had 50 pieces. Granted, some of them looked like pieces of dog poo, but there were a few that were actually not too bad. Oddly enough, my instructors didn't hate them completely. I kept some of them. Then, I began to make more. Eventually, they became a series; now people even buy them! Who'd a thunk?

There must have been a point to all this- what was it? Oh, yeah... my point was... well, you just never know, do you? Also, thanks, Kim and Paige. I guess that 430 dollars per credit hour wasn't a total waste, was it?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Business of Art

Believe me, the last thing I ever wanted to be was a business person. I just had no interest in it whatsoever, and naively believed that it had nothing at all to do with my life. This was many years ago, of course. There were many, many things I didn't know at that time; so many that I didn't even know what I didn't know, if you follow me. When I thought of being an artist, I was sadly ignorant of what that would entail.

In the meantime, a lot of life happened, prompting me to put my artistic career on the back burner (actually, it wasn't even near the stove) for quite a long time. Eventually, I began to make art again, and at this point some practical concerns had begun to enter my head. Such as: what do I do with the art I'm making? If I want people to see it, and preferably even to purchase it, how do I accomplish this?

To make a very long story short, this was where I came right smack up against the "business" thing. I had to face the ugly truth that in order to be an artist, I also had to learn how to be a business person (unless I knew someone who would handle that for me- no such luck). This was a pretty revolting revelation, considering the fact that I had no business training of any kind, and had not even taken a typing class. I had no idea where to start.

So began the slow and painful process in which I drag myself, kicking and screaming, through each little tiny step on the way to learning how to conduct the business of art. I am not very far along with this endeavor, but I am beginning to make progress.

I have been trying to design a business card for some time now, but have never really been satisfied with any of my designs. Now that I have several different people waiting for me to send the cards I promised them, time's up. So I just stayed up late last night and said, "Whatever I come up with, that's it." So, for what it's worth, this is it.

Now, how do I get it to print on those little cards?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Good News(s)

Upstream People Gallery has informed me that "Dimensional Shift”, “Moon Shadows”, “Rise”, “Transformation 10” and “Transformation 29” have been selected from approximately 700 entries from various parts of the world for the “8th Annual Summer All Media International Online Juried Exhibition”.
The summer exhibition will debut worldwide on August 1, 2009 at and be on view through July 31,2010. If you can, please take the time to view the show; there is some really excellent and interesting work on display.

Dimensional Shift; this piece received Special Recognition, and will be placed in the gallery's permanent archive.

Moon Shadows


Transformation 10

Transformation 29

Also, "Kalachakra Matrix" was juried into the 16th Annual JCAC Juried Exhibit in Jasper, Indiana.

I feel very honored to have my work chosen and recognized by other artists, and am grateful for the opportunity to share my work.