Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inspiration: Jimi Henrdix

Hi there!

As I may have said before, music is a great part of what inspires me to do what I do, whether it's painting, writing, decorating or getting dressed in the morning. One of the artists who most inspires me is Jimi Hendrix, whom many people (myself included) consider to have been the best guitarist the world has ever seen. Sadly, Jimi died in 1970, only a few years after coming into prominence with his group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jimi has been one of my favorite musicians ever since my dad (visit his blog at introduced me to his music several years ago. In my opinion, he was more than a guitarist of astonishing creativity and skill. He was also a very honest and deeply soulful songwriter, a caring and genuine individual whose music reflected his great sensitivity and a rather fantastic dresser as well!

This is one of my favorite videos of Jimi, because I think many of those qualities are apparent here...

Jimi's music never gets old. Despite the fact that he only recorded for a few years, there is always more to discover because of his constant need for creative growth. He hardly ever played a song the same way twice, so even old favorites like the song in the video are available in several different versions of varying lengths and styles.

His undeniable natural ability made it easy for him to improvise and take a song in whatever direction his heart would lead him at the moment. He played his guitar with a level of genuine, intuitive emotion that was unparrelled, even in his own time. I think that kind of intensity and belief in what music can say and accomplish is totally lacking in most music today. It is because of artists like Jimi that I mostly listen to the music of earlier eras.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Antiquated Workstation

Hi everyone!

Sorry it has taken me a while to get another post out. I am stilling getting up on my feet in the blogging world, I guess! I'm in the process of ironing out just what belongs on an aritist's blog and what people probably don't need to know! The way I see it, art and the way we express our creativity are really a reflection of our whole self. Our interests, the things we read, the music we listen to, the people we love, the places we've been or always wanted to go, our external environment, our creative space, all of these things make us who we are and have a vital impact on what we give to the world.

I have found this to be especially true of the place where I do most of my journalling, planning and painting: the area around my desk in my bedroom.

This little area is pretty much the home of all of my creative endeavors. Because painting fine detail requires highly concentrated light, the surface of my old desk glows while the rest of the room fades away into the darkness. In this way, it's almost like the world outside this small space exists only in my imagination, to be recreated and interpreted in whatever way the moment brings it to me.

With a quick glance, it becomes pretty clear that I like old things. I bought this desk for five dollars at a St. Vincent de Paul store in northern Michigan about ten years ago. It has survived two moving trucks (sitting in the corner of my bedroom at three houses) and a run-in with my mom and a can of silver spray-paint! The opening at the center is too low for most average-size chairs, the varnish is chipping off the top and the drawers squeak loud enough to wake the dead, but I have had it for so long that the idea of replacing it is unthinkable. Besides, it has so much useful storage space, I'm not sure I could replace it, even if I wanted to!

It's the only desk I've ever found that has enough room to store all of my projects, completed and otherwise...

Because the space I have to work with is so small, it's taken me a while to come up with creative solutions for storing the things I need to have quick and easy access to, things that have to be on the desktop like paint, brushes, things like sealer and varnish and the small wooden bits I use for making jewelry. My mom (you can visit her blog at recently picked up these wall-mounted wire shelves for me at a local consignment shop. They are amazing! Not only do they make my paints easily accessible, but they make it easy for me to see exactly what I have with just a quick glance.

My mom also introduced me to MCcoy Pottery at a very young age. She has been collecting their pieces since high school, long before they were popularized by magazines like Martha Stewart Living. She loves to buy the solid-colored victorian and art nouveau-style pieces, but, being a serious lover of all things 70's and psychedelic, I always snap up the drippy, multi-colored glazed ones. Apparently this also applies to lamps (my obsession with 60's and 70's lamps is another story entirely).

For years I have been collecting uniquely-shaped glass containers from garage sales and thrift stores everywhere I go. I love the way they look all grouped together! When I decided I needed to find a better way to store my brushes, beads and wooden brooch pieces I brought some of my collection down from the attic.

Here is a picture of the patterned scrapbook paper I use both for inspiration and to protect my desk from my tendency to end up with paint on everything within a 24-inch radius of my project. Mostly I get my paper at a northern Michigan craft store called Arnie's Arts & Crafts ( Having grown up in Houghton Lake, I've been going there my whole life, and they still have the best selection of craft paper I've ever seen. You'll probably notice that this picture includes a preview of what will likely be the subject of my next blog...

And here's a preview of the technique I am working on developing at the moment...

Well, that concludes this photo tour of my antiquated work area! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Inspiration: German Storybook

Hello world!

My name is Ashley, and I'm an art student at a community college. This will be the first post on my new blog! I have never had a blog before, so this is definitely uncharted terrirtory for me. I started taking Dutch tole painting lessons when I was ten years old. I draw a lot of inspiration from Gothic architecture (particularly the cathedrals of France and Germany), vintage fabric and clothing, carvings on antique furniture, nature and the decorative flourishes you find in old books. This would probably explain why I spend hours in the antique shops studying the smallest details of almost every item I walk past. I combine the strokes and techniques I learned in my folk art days with patterns I discover in my "research" or with my own patterns inspired by my discoveries. I love to use these things as inspiration because it's a way to add a real historical element to my designs. In my opinion, this gives a piece a special sort of depth and significance.

One day, several years ago, I was browsing through an antique store in the small town where I had watched my adolesence come and go, and I happened up on this German storybook. As I walked along the aisle between two rows of booths, I noticed it sitting on a shelf atop of a pile of shabby vintage books. It is in pretty rough condition, with packing tape for a binding and several loose pages, but the unusual design on the cover was so colorful and imaginative that I had to pick it up.

I know practically nothing about this book, save that it bears the name "Andersen's" on the cover and was published and printed in Leipzig, Germany. There is no copyright information, no publication dates of any kind, but when you glance at the yellowed pages or feel the scars in the worn fabric cover it is clear that it is both very old and has been very loved.

This battered old book was the beginning of something important for me. Although I had studied tole painting for several years, it was not an activity I often undertook outside the context of a small weekly class. Most of the work I had done was on projects shared with the other students in a back room of our teacher's house. This antique book, the stories it contained and gothic calligraphy in which they were recorded inspired me to use the techniques I'd learned and the knowledge that Betty Hobson had passed on to me to create something of my own.

This box was one of my first projects. After I decided to start creating my own projects, I began to look around and gather up other objects or books that I could use as sources of inspiration. Another, used here, was a book of 19th-century silhouette designs. In the future, I think I will continue to post pictures of the things that inspire me, my interpretation of them and the result in my designs.

For this box I used the first line of a story in the book. I have no idea what the words mean, but when I think back on it now it seems appropriate to start a new part of my life with the beginning of a fairytale.

This bracelet is another of my projects which was inspired by the gothic calligraphy font used in my German storybook. For this bracelet I used the last line in a story I believe, judging by the pictures, to be the German version of the fairytale "Thumbelina."

You can get a closer look at both of these projects when you visit my Etsy Shop at

Anyway, that's all I have to say for my first blog! Thank you for spending some of your time on me!