Bumblepost: Art without a visual imagination

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about how my brain works.

I found out recently that I have aphantasia. I’m including some links about it below, but here is a brief summary: I don’t have a visual imagination. More specifically, I have a teeny tiny visual imagination that can barely do anything. Somehow, I didn’t realize I had this until some recent articles came out describing the phenomenon.

How can this be? You’d think I have noticed, right? Well, my brain is also good at lazy abbreviation. So if someone says, “Imagine a car,” my brain simply says, “We are imagining a car” without doing any of the work to make it manifest. In my particular case, I can imagine bits and pieces of the car one at a time, or I might imagine something that has to do with what the car does. A fast red blur for a corvette, for instance. I’ve also drawn what I was dreaming about directly after waking up, and have ended up with images that could weren’t even advanced enough to belong to an old low-polygon count video game. During the dream, however, I was content with my brain’s explanation that these are people. I didn’t realize what was going on until I learned that aphantasia was a thing. Basically, I knew I was having an experience, but didn’t fully acknowledge it until I was told it was possible.

There are disadvantages to this. I get nothing out of most hypnosis and meditation that requires visualization. I can’t retain what people look like when they are out of sight, even if I see them every day – though I do recognize people when I see them. (That would be called Prosopagnosia, or ‘face blindness.’) Since I am bad at names, this means I don’t put up any pretense about whether I remember someone.

Making Art

I find that aphantasia does not hinder my ability to make art. Learning perspective and proportions was not as difficult as finding useful ways for me to learn them. However, where my skills really shine is working with patterns. When making patterns, I don’t have to know exactly where everything is going to be. (And I don’t recommend that as a way of making Celtic knotwork or any large busy pieces – though if you can do it that way, I salute you!) Instead, I block out areas where I want something to go. Then I choose a place to be the focus, decide where large things will be, and then go about the work of filling in details.

I don’t entirely know why a pattern should be any particular way. I fill in space, and see if it works. At this stage, I don’t entirely know why a particular mix of patterns works. I just know it when I see it. The same goes for the level of detail. Some pictures work best with minimal detail, while others really need every crack to be filled in. I never know when I’m done until I am! It is a very exciting way to work, for sure!

What I can visualize:

Now I’d like to close with a little on the specifics of my imagination. I mentioned that I have very little visual imagination – so yes, I do have some. However, it is so miniscule that it doesn’t help me to do much of anything with my art.

What I can visualize amounts to dots or lines. I can only imagine one color at a time. And I am able to get maximum visualization in the dark. I can imagine the vague outline of an object or it’s features, but not both at the same time. When I do try to have all the details, the features distort. For instance, when I try to picture a face, I can imagine an oval. Then I can imagine an eyebrow. And then I imagine a closeup of a vague outline of an ear – more of a bean shape. If I try very hard to picture the oval with eyes and eyebrows on it, I instead get very large dark eyebrows superimposed on the thin oval. That image is only fleeting, though.

If you look at my current work, you’ll bright glowing lines of color and dots on dark background (Mostly black or dark blue). After finishing my most recent pieces, it has dawned on me that I am attempting to recreate my imagination on canvas. Realizing this has given me a lot more ideas about where and how to travel in my artistic journey.

Aphantasia links:

A test to see if you have aphantasia

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

http://www.eugencpopa.ro/wp-content/uploads/Afantazia-.pdf

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Mino Re

Owen here! Today I’d like to introduce you to the work of Mino Re, of Innovative Stone Arts.

Mino Re works in cast stone, oils, and carved acrylic. I am personally drawn to his work by the intricate and delicate knotwork that is carved and molded into stone. He does classic knotwork with lovely innovations – beautiful fluid lines; figures and shapes that are modern yet still distinctly celtic.

From his Etsy page, he explains a bit about his history:

I create original, affordable, unique stone art for home and garden. I find inspiration in intricate geometries like Celtic knots, fractals, spirals, and paisleys. These become decorative elements applied to my sunfaces, whimsical creatures, and interpretations of historical statues and antiquities.

I was born in Italy and learned from my father, an expert sculptor and painter. I worked in the field of architectural precast for thirty years, designing and engineering solutions for new construction and restoration. My art is now my focus, and I enjoy sharing my work at shows as well as on Etsy.

In addition to my cast stone, I work in other media as well: oil paintings, drawings in pencils and charcoals. If you’re interested in learning more about how I create my art, visit my website and blog at www.innovativestoneart.com or convo me and ask a question!

My favorite Mino Re design is this gorgeous tiger, a stone plaque cast from a plaster mold. You can see more examples of his designs here, including some that are for sale.

When presented with beautiful, complicated work, it is easy to imagine that the artist behind it simply popped into existence with highly polished skills. They snap their fingers and poof! A new masterpiece appears. This is easily disproven when given the chance to view the work that goes into creating a piece of art.

Thankfully in Mino Re’s case, he provides a thorough explanation of how some of his pieces have come together. He also has a blog where he posts photos of his work in progress – so you can see for yourself how the complexity arises!

For more, you can visit Mino Re’s:

Etsy Page
Website
Blog

 

Free downloadable coloring page: Celtic Knotwork Wheel by Owen Wills

Feeling stressed out by the holidays? Take some time to chill out with this free coloring page by Owen Wills.

To get it, click on the image below. That will take you to the full sized image you can then download & print. Then all you have to do is get out your favorite coloring implements!

CelticColoringDownload

Find more stuff to color at our Free Printables page.

Bumblepost: Yay for that pumpkin themed holiday!

Owen here!

It’s getting colder, and a lot of people are getting ready for various holiday celebrations. The end of the year is creeping in. And that’s when I like to take a moment to celebrate…Halloween!

Again? Of course!

Well, it is a little early to be carving Jack-o-lanterns just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the creepy!

In the spirit of the season, I’m watching the original Frankenstein film, and listening to the audiobook version of Mary Shelley’s classic. Also perusing Halloween art online and making some of my own. (But then, when am I not making Halloween art?)

Here are two of my all-time favorite Halloween designs of Tod’s:

Cat Witch Party Invitation
Cat Witch Party Invitation by ninjahijinx
Find more Cat Invitations at Zazzle
Halloween Spider Stickers
Halloween Spider Stickers by ninjahijinx
Browse Spider Stickers online at Zazzle.com

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: The Creative Frog

Owen here! Today I’d like to introduce you to the Creative Frog!

Recently I made the decision to reach out to creative people in my area, and to share what I learned. I had just decided on the format I wanted to use when I stumbled across the work of Margaret Nathon, the artist behind the Creative Frog.

She makes whimsical felted wool dolls called Jabberwoolies. Turnip is an adorable adaptation of the vegetable she’s named after.

Margaret also offers hand puppets, which give her a way to use up any leftovers from her doll making (Thus eliminating waste!) This bright and cheerful one is named Saffron, and is made up of parts from 7 different sweaters!

I’m also a huge fan of her felt foods, which have simplified designs but also contain wonderful and clever details. Check out the crinkles on this set of burger and fries!

Now that you’ve seen some of her work, it’s time to get to know the Creative Frog a little better! Margaret was kind enough to take time out of preparing for the holidays to answer a few questions.

Q: How long have you been making art?
A: Creating with fibers has always been part of my life…you brush your teeth, you create. My mom and her mom were tailors, quilters and seamstresses. It was just something we all did. Guess I started selling my items in the 70’s when I was at home while my children were young. I started working with wool in 2006.

Q: What has been your favorite art experience?
A: One of the sweetest compliments was overheard as a customer looked at a grid of my dolls and commented “Well, this person certainly LOVES her work!” Humor and whimsy are important to me and my soft sculptures also evoke a sense of the past…figures in pleated skirts and cardigans…the “Nancy Drew” look.

Q: What has been your biggest hurdle?
A: So…fiber is my medium, inspiration is from my past and the desire to make people smile. My technique is to take wool fibers and manipulate them… Recycled wool is dyed, twisted, felted and manipulated until a soft sculpture figure appears! My dolls called Jabberwoolies, are little testaments to my having overcome the fear of putting myself out there. I never have a set plan when I begin. The dolls just evolve and no two are alike. I sometimes look at photos of all my dolls and puppets and can’t believe I actually made and sold them all. I think hand-crafting is sometimes considered a second class art to studio art… but I have always been drawn to folk art of all kinds. I have never taken art classes and my college degree was in English lit and creative writing.

Q: What piece are you most proud of?
A: All of my creations are special but I have 2 painted muslin frog dolls, one is dressed in vintage linens to look Eastern-European…with a babushka on her head; the other is wearing a petticoat only and has a red wig.  They were created in the 1980’s. That is why I use The Creative Frog as my business name.

Q: What advice would you give someone just starting out?
A: It is wonderful to create art that people like to buy so then you can keep doing it. NEVER create to sell would be my advice to a new artist. Create for the sake of creating. I rarely duplicate any doll or puppet. Look everywhere for inspiration…library, museums, thrift shops, photos, nature…and be patient as your craft evolves.

Here are some of the places that you can find Margaret Nathon’s work:
The Creative Frog site
Etsy

Bumblepost: The most important thing I’ve learned in art

Owen here! I’ve been lucky enough to receive all kinds of advice and lessons about making art over the years, but there is one thing I can point to as the most important: Make friends!

Why?

Other artists can point out different ways to do things.

When I have trouble figuring out how to draw something, I will often turn to Tod and ask him to show me how he would do it. I can then take that lesson, practice it, and overcome my problem – much quicker than if I struggled by myself without help. The same thing goes for criticism. If other people point out flaws in my work, then they are solving problems for me.

I’ve saved a ton of time and heartache by having other artists around who can point me in the right direction.

 

Networking is useful in any group.

It’s important to know people who do similar things to you. They can point out opportunities that you would otherwise have missed. Also, if you make friends who do art, you are likely to meet other artists they know too.

 

It’s more fun to create together!

I personally have a hard time getting through all my projects if I have to do it all by myself. It’s way too easy to get distracted or disheartened. So I chat with people about art online, and once a week I go to the Bellingham School of Comics, a local art group. It helps immensely.

 

You get support while slogging through being unhappy with your work.

I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t get down in the dumps about their work at some point. I usually get that way after finishing a group of projects. Then for at least a few days, I don’t even know what I’m doing or why.

When this happens, it is invaluable to have other people I can turn to to keep going.

 

Bumblepost: Simple Knotwork Tutorial from Aon Celtic

Having simple knotwork that can fill a space is very useful, and it can be very simple (but time consuming!) to do. If you only want to learn a little knotwork, this is one I definitely recommend!

http://www.aon-celtic.com/learn/basic-knot/knot-basic1.html

Aon Celtic, a site created by the artist Cari Buziak, is full of other useful stuff. I highly recommend her free downloadable dot paper. Making grids from scratch or modifying graph paper is probably the most tedious part of knotwork!

http://www.aon-celtic.com/learn/aon-dotpaper.html

Bumblepost: Learning Celtic Art – Suggested reading

Hi! Owen here! I want to take a minute to babble at you about learning how to make Celtic art. Specifically, about how I learned to make it.

Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction
– Written by George Bain

I started learning about Celtic art a few years ago when I stumbled across a very helpful book. “Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction.” It was written by a teacher named George Bain. He traveled around Europe finding examples of knotwork and recording them. He also did a lot of research into how and why it was made, at a time when there was a lot of scholarly disinterest. (Among other reasons, scholars dismissed celtic art as having merely been copied over from the art of other cultures.)

This book contains information on knotwork, plants, animals, and humans. It also has a section on a few different calligraphy fonts. The illustrations are large and, despite being in black and white, are easy to follow. Most of the text is hand lettered as well, which is charming. I personally miss seeing that in texts.

The step by step instructions in this book are easy for people who prefer to skip over written text when learning. So if you are the type to go from picture to picture when assembling pre-designed furniture, that should be a plus!

2. A Beginner’s Manual
– Written by Aidan Meehan

There are a whole lot of very interesting and helpful books written by Aidan Meehan, but I think the very first of his books will be the most useful to start with.

In “A Beginner’s Manual,” Aidan Meehan provides very clear and easy to read step by step instructions. The pictures are very easy to make out. There is more reading involved here in the instructions than in “The Methods of Construction,” but the pace of instruction is also a bit slower. I think it works well.

Once you finish this one, there are a ton of other books on every conceivable subject regarding knotwork. (Note: I haven’t read all of these, though I intend to once I can get my hands on them!)

Lastly, I want to show some of my older knotwork pictures. I have plenty of newer stuff I’ll be showing off soon, but I thought it would be fun to pull up a few of my older examples from Zazzle. I made these while first learning with “The Methods of Construction.”

First, some round tile pieces that I decided to experiment painting gradients with.

These last two are transgender symbol designs. I saw there were plenty of trans symbols making their way around the internet, but they all seemed to be the same – either black and white, or with a colorful photoshopped gradient. I wanted to see other kinds, and so here are some of mine:

BumblePost: Owen’s got some stuff in the store!

Mr. Bumblepants here! When not scarfing down candy corn with Cadaver Dave or marveling at all the glorious Halloween decorations around town, I’ve been pretty busy making art. (But not too busy! Rest is important!) After much help from Tod with getting all the photographs and setting up my products, I am the proud new owner of a section in the Storydragon Store.

You can find a few things here:

Owen’s Art

And now a  little about my journey with art. I’ve had an interest in art for most of my life, but did not have much access to good instruction until about five years ago. That is when I met my husband, Tod Wills. He introduced me to a number of creative people both locally and online. The welcome I have received has been nothing short of astounding. If making art taught me nothing else, knowing how good and loving people can be would have been worth it alone.

I started out learning how to do basic drawing. My proportions were quite bad, and what I produced I wasn’t happy with. I challenged myself to show off my art no matter what state it was in, and the critiques I received were extremely helpful. Other people have been able to point out things that I would have taken many more years to learn on my own.

Over time I have also tried my hand at a lot of different forms of art. I used my previous sewing experience to make puppets with Tod. (Which also led to my discovery of puppetry, something I love doing!) I stumbled onto celtic art through a chance encounter at the library (the most magical of places!). In the oversize section I found a book by George Bain called “Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction.” It clicked with me more than anything else! Now whenever I try out a new art form, I always try incorporating knotwork into it.

After my first attempt at selling art, I had to take a very long break. I eventually got out of this by deciding to draw only one thing: Red pandas. They made me happy. They helped me to not be anxious. Eventually I was able to move on. I tried and failed at woodworking, while playing with a whole lot of things.

Most recently, I came across hot glue art – something I would never have imagined existed. I’d seen some quick fun holiday crafts done with it, and decided to try my hand at it. I loved the result, and decided to try adding it to the woodworking skills I’ve already been building. I also managed to acquire some tools that were sharper and easier to handle. Something magical clicked then, and suddenly I can’t stop making art. My anxiety disorder continues to exist, but it no longer affects my productivity with art. I found my niche!

To conclude, I want to say that I feel very grateful and happy to be able to make beautiful things. I hope they bring you joy!

Have a creative day!
– Mr. Bumblepants