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Stealing, or How I Rediscovered My Inspiration

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The one thing that I learned when I went on my trip to the Navajo Reservation in May was what was important to me and why it was important. For me, my art is important, and now that it’s my (pretty much) ONLY focus in my spare time at college, I find myself being happier and finding artistic inspiration and working wherever I go.

For instance, I found inspiration at a gallery showing in the Fine Art Building on my college campus.

WANT.

The exhibition was called “FOCUS” (if memory serves me correctly) and was a showcase of award-winning high school student art from the Northwest Ohio area. I’m sure many of these students got scholarships, and if they didn’t, they should have.

Yes, there were a few works that I felt didn’t meet my standard of “awesome art!” However, I did find works that constantly made me say,

“Why didn’t I think of that?!”

This book (besides being fun to flip through) was just one example of what I’m talking about.

And you know something? For an artist, that’s healthy.

It means you’ve just been inspired.

At least, that’s what I believe.

In my opinion, if you see an artwork and think or say to yourself, “That’s cute/cool/meh/fun/interesting,” but don’t think of much of anything else, then sure it’s visually pleasing. However, it’s just eye candy: something for you to look at that doesn’t get your juices flowing.

In other words, it’s not artistic inspiration.

However, if you find yourself looking at something you genuinely like for whatever reason, and then say to yourself, “Seriously, why didn’t I think of that?!”….that’s inspiration.

The reason it’s inspiration (in my line of thinking) is because it’s in a medium that you appreciate and they’re playing with either a principle, a technique, a material, or a subject matter that you yourself thought of doing, but never got to do. Now that you’ve seen someone actually do it, you know that it’s not only possible…but it looks great to boot.

I had actually thought of a technique like this, but didn’t know how it would play out. Now that I do….

So what do you do once you see these new artistic inspirations in play?

Do what an artist does: STEAL THEM.

This is not functional whatsoever, but I WANT.

Does this mean you steal the artwork itself? No. That’s RASL‘s job. Your job, as the artist, is to think about the principle/technique/subject matter/material/blahwhatever that inspired you in the piece, and take that thing that inspired you. Then play with it, and place it in your work.

These owls have inspired me to be more whimsical yet delightfully detailed in my art.

Should you feel guilty about this? No.

People play with ideas all the time. It’s perfectly ok.

If you want further proof that it’s all right for an artist to steal, go read this entry by Austin Kleon on the subject. Not only does he find a way to justify it in a more articulate way than I could, but he gives you WAYS TO DO IT.

Now what inspires you varies from artist to artist. For me, personally, I’m inspired by a few things:

  • Whimsy
  • Fine details
  • playing with the form/presentation of the piece
  • playing with the shapes/colors of the subject matter
  • bold, passionate colors
  • a straightforward, yet thought-provoking, message

The image above is inspiring to me because it’s straightforward (it’s an advertisement for a high school play) but it’s thought provoking: Why are the figures portrayed like that? Is it in stark black and white because the play talks about shadows versus light? I could, of course, answer these questions, but asking them is the fun part, and making up the answers even when you don’t know them is even more so.

This teapot inspired me to play with form: Not all teapots need to be perfectly round.
This inspires me not just because this looks like my friend Tori, but because it uses blacks and reds boldly.
I just thought this piece was too cool. It’s a box, with a clock face on the top. It actually runs!
This presentation had a very poignant message: it addressed the issue of human trafficking in Toledo, and how many of the victims are little girls. It’s a straightforward message, but it’s also thought-provoking.

 So did this post inspire you? What kinds of art/techniques/etc are you inspired by? Let me know in the comments!

Sincerely,
Kelci

Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

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Back at College! And Other News

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Yesterday I moved in to my dorm room (that’s right, I’m a senior and I still live on campus. I like campus life too much to move off it). Pictures of my newly-settled room may be coming soon. ;D

So as a teaser, I’m gonna’ post a sketch from my sketchbook.

This is Greta. She’s a main character in one of my graphic novels. In her story, she goes to summer camp, only to discover that there’s a cabin in the woods nearby that leads her into an imaginary world called Shadow Land. Unfortunately, in Shadow Land, she’s been branded as a wanted criminal because of a scar on her neck. It’s up to her to find out why.

I already have the first 5 chapters of her story written, but I haven’t converted the script to a rough comic form yet. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks I can do that.

Also, remember that challenge I did where I made a graphic novel script in one month?

First, I’m going to post some sketches of that over the next couple of days.

Second, I’m thinking of doing the challenge again in September. I have a 220-page sketchbook ready, and I have a story idea. So I think I’ll jump on it, even with school and friends and family there.

Anyone want to join me on this challenge?

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Sketches! At last!

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God I suck at updating this blog. I should get back to posting sketches, because I’m not very eloquent with words.

I kept a sketchbook when I went to Arizona back in May. Here’s some of them, taken by my phone’s camera:

These are some of the ruins at the top of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. We went there in our first two days of the trip. I loved looking at the ruins of the kivas, or the round houses. People who study the ruins say some of the smaller kivas may have been homes, while the larger ones were ceremonial rooms.

It fascinates me to think that people lived in these small spaces, and it ignites my imagination to think of what a finished kiva would look like and what happened within it.

This one is the blurriest picture I’ve got, mostly because the pencils are REALLY light. In this one, we were at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, and we got the chance to watch the sun set over Spider Rock, which is a pair of giant columns that stretch up to over 1000 feet in height. This was the first time I ever recall being afraid of heights, because we were so close to the edge of the cliff as we watched the sun set. I think that was part of the beauty of watching the sunset was knowing that you were on the edge and that at any moment you could fall. It scared the piss out of me.

This is by far my favorite sketch. This was drawn at the top of the Black Mesa in Arizona as the other students and I explored Amos Johnson’s property (Amos Johnson is a Navajo Tribal Council member, and let us stay on his property for a few days). James thought it would be a brilliant idea to climb this particular standing rock. Once he got to the top, he looked down at all of us and said, “…I don’t know how to get down from here.”

After laughing at him, I drew him and the rock.

I hope to be posting more sketches soon. I’ve got SO many sketchbooks and awesome ideas I’ve been playing with this summer. I don’t have a scanner, however, so you folks may have to put up with cell-phone quality photos unless I can get my camera and computer to like each other again.

Don’t Forget to be Awesome. :D

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Day 1 of the Navajo Trip: In Which We Meet Chris

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From May 8th to May 22nd, I went with 27 students and 3 professors to New Mexico and Arizona to visit the Navajo on their reservation. The adventure there was unorthodox, to say the least, since our “schedules” were loose and subject to change at the last minute without warning. We also had no electricity, no cell phones, and we very rarely had running water. Communicating with the outside world in any way was discouraged, and we would spend hours isolated in the 3 vans we packed for the trip with nothing but each other for company. However, what we got out of this trip—new sights, new people, and a new culture—was worth all the risks.
So on the first day…
I had spent the night at the Common Good, which is Bowling Green’s local experimental living community, and I was awoken at dawn by the sound of people walking in to wait on the white vans to take us to New Mexico.
For about an hour, I rushed to get my crap together, then went out to the vans to figure out where the other kids in my van were. We were packing ourselves in, doing a headcount to see if everyone was there, when someone said, “Wait…where’s Chris?”
Chris was the name of one of the boys that had signed up to go on this trip with us. We all had different descriptions of him, though I’m fairly sure mine was the most honest: “tall, gangly, blonde hair and weird bushy eyebrows.”
Jamie, one of the drivers for our van (the drivers would rotate in shifts on the drive to New Mexico) got the papers and permission forms he filled out pre-trip, and started trying to call him. It was 7 am.
We were suppose to be on the road at 7 am. And we weren’t.
One of the vans, driven by Gordon Ricketts (one of the professors on this trip) zipped out of there in a hurry. Phil’s van (Phil being the British Professor who taught—surprise, surprise—American Literature) waited with us, though the other students in his van were getting impatient.
The students in my van—Lauren, Laura, Rachel, Andrew Peet (sometimes known as “Peety”), Madga, Natasha, and myself—were talking while Jamie was calling Chris’s number. Rachel remembered how Chris, during one of our pre-trip meetings late last month, was asking what kinds of electronics he could bring with him. He had a GPS, laptop, some kind of high-powered telescope…but the rule on this trip was no electronics, so he couldn’t bring any of that.
Jamie looked at us, hung up her cell phone, and said, “Guys…the number he gave was a Canadian number.”
“What?” we asked.
“Seriously! I looked it up on my phone–” she had a Blackberry that connected to the Internet, “–and the area code was for Toronto!”
Chris never told us he was from Canada.
So Jamie hops into a car with Gary, one of the guy in charge of the Common Good, and they drive off to the address Chris gave as his home address. Thankfully, it was in Bowling Green. Not thankfully, they came back and said, “His house number doesn’t exist.”
“What?” we asked again.
“Seriously! He says his house number on this street–” she points at the permission form in her hand that he signed, “–is 1123. When we looked, the houses jump in number from 1119 to 1200.”
We were all unsure of what to do at this point. It was 7:30 am—we were half an hour behind schedule—and we were still missing someone in our van that we didn’t know how to contact. Phil’s van and his students drove off and waved at us while we panicked a little.
“You know something,” someone, I can’t remember who, said. “I bet Chris is a Canadian Russian Spy.”
At the time, it made sense. Asking what electronic gizmos he could bring, giving us false phone numbers and addresses, and his bushy eyebrows had us fairly convinced that he was, in fact, a Canadian Russian spy whose real name was Boris.
We called Bill Thompson, who was another professor on this trip and was already in New Mexico because he took a plane and wasn’t able to drive anymore. He said to wait until 8 am, and if Chris (Boris) still didn’t show up, we could leave without him.
So we wait until 8 am. No Chris/Boris.
We drove off.
We were told this was the first no-show student this trip had ever experienced.
I was in the passenger’s seat, navigating for Natasha since she was the first driver of the trip. While I was sitting up there, we passed the exit to Wapakineta, Ohio at around 9:30 am, and I hear a half-asleep Jamie, woken from her nap, say, “Hello?”
She was speaking on her phone. It was Chris on the other end.
He said he slept in, and was walking over to the Common Good right at the moment to go on the trip. Jamie replied with, “Don’t bother. We’re down by Wapakineta, we can’t turn around.”
There was some more talking, and then she hung up the phone.
Of course, when we heard it was Chris on the phone, everyone was awake from their morning car naps, and looking over at Jamie. “Why was he late?” someone asked.
Jamie said, “The only excuse he gave was ‘I fucked up.’”
“Seriously?” Laura asked.
“Seriously.”
We were rather disappointed in this. We were hoping that he was talking to his Russian operatives to figure out how to infiltrate our society.
Despite the anti-climax, he became an almost running joke to the rest of us. Two days later, when we were hiking on a trail to see cave drawings in New Mexico, we would see graffiti left behind by tourists from years past, and I went nuts when I saw that one of the tourists left behind his name on one of the rocks:
“Chris!” I shouted, pointing at the name carved to be immortalized in one of the rock faces at the ruins.
Lauren jumped. “What the hell?”
“No wonder he didn’t join us in the van! He was here in New Mexico before us!”
Thus ends today’s story time. Next time, I will share the events of the second day on the trip (with photos) in which we get to Chaco Culture Canyon.
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Ok, I Obviously Lied; Plus, a New Story.

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Yeah, remember how back in June I said I would update regularly? Well I lied. Sorry. I have no excuses.

In other news, I decided to make a challenge for myself: I’m scripting out an entire graphic novel in a 220-page sketchbook this month. That means I’d have to make 7 or 8 pages a day! Whew!

Why am I doing this? Well, because there’s a particular story I want to tell, but I have yet to write the rough draft. So this project will serve as the perfect way to get a first draft of the story done.

What’s the story? I’m not telling….for a number of reasons:

1) I don’t want any criticisms yet for the story. I just want to let the ideas fly without worrying about editors, inside or outside of my own brain.

2) The idea is going to change in subsequent drafts, and I don’t want to get people who say, “Oh, why’d you remove the talking donkey and the samurai?!” or something like that. I don’t want to answer that because I have more important shit to do.

Notice I said nothing about being afraid of people stealing my ideas?

Anywho, next post I’ll share what happened when I went out to New Mexico back at the beginning of May. I’ll start with the van-ride down on the first day, because there were some shenanigans that happened…

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