8 Strange Sculptures You Won’t Believe

January 18th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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When most of us think of sculpture, we think of cool, well-lit enclosed galleries, polished floors and glass cases where either a well-realized human form or some crazy angular abstract thing is on display. To the average human (aka me), sculpture is a weird, rather unapproachable art form for these reasons.

Thankfully, there are sculpture artists who think differently–who have literally thought outside the glass box and created amazingly weird (and funny) pieces of art that we can study, laugh at, and even interact with. In this way, they exemplify what it means to be creative: making stuff that no one else has attempted, just because no one else has done it and it sounds cool or funny. Here are some examples:

hangingoutman
Looks like a pretty normal statue…except it’s hanging by one hand! How’d they do that?! (image source)

spilledcoffeefaces
This sculpture just speaks to me–it says “STARBUCKS.” (Also, you might be addicted to coffee if your whole face is made out of it…image source)

weirdblueguitar
Awesome way to both celebrate music and a musical instrument, with this neon-blue outdoor guitar sculpture. (image source

babystrollerwatermelon
Aww, this is cute–sculpture can be small and sweet (and edible), yet still bring happiness! (image source)

tracksculpture
These slender metal sculptures out in the middle of nature are what I like to call “Earth decorations.” (image source)

flexiblepapersculptures
Stretch it, play with it (or prank somebody with it) and yet it retains its shape–nope, it’s not some sort of goop, it’s PAPER! (image source)

singingringingtree
Not only is this a really neat-looking tree made out of pipes, it also makes sounds when the wind blows! (Video/audio of this “Singing Ringing Tree” available by the following link–it sounds SO creepy and cool. image source)

pugpeople
And sometimes, sculpture doesn’t need to make people think deeply–it just needs to give them a “What the–LOL!!” reaction. (image source)

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Glasses Off: 4 Delightful Fine Arts Sites

December 7th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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No matter what kind of art your heart revels in, you can turn to the Internet, much as I do, for both inspiration and information. Whether you dance from your heart or sing from your soul, paint or sculpt with all your energy, or bring characters to life from your mind, here are four sites you’ll enjoy browsing:

Zhibit
Do you make art? You can make your own free art website here, and explore others’ websites to find kindred spirits!

Musicovery
Musicians and music lovers of all sorts will enjoy this site, which allows you to discover music you might like based on a specified mood.

DanceSpirit Magazine
Learn what’s happening in the world of dance, from dance tutorials to health information and getting a dance job.

TheatreLinks.com
This site is a great links resource for learning more about drama/theater–it lists sites about theater history, stagecraft, the acting industry, and much more!

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Online Artsy Fun: Sketch ‘n Paint!

November 30th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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sketchnpaint
Feeling artsy, but don’t have a sketchpad or image creation program handy? Check out Sketch ‘n Paint! over at OneMotion.com–it’s what Microsoft Paint wishes it could be.

colorselection
You have a palette of already-chosen colors down at the bottom, and you can further customize your color by hitting the HSL and RGB tabs to play with color sliders. Mix white and black into your color to your heart’s content, choose how saturated you want the color to be–it’s ALL there!

brushselection
Right beside the color selection panel, you’ve got settings for your brush. Play with brush size, pressure, diffusion, and other settings by clicking and dragging over the individual words–the more red that covers the word, the stronger that setting is. (For instance, a Size meter fully colored with red means a REALLY big brush)

fileundoetc Along the right side of the browser window, you’ll see various file settings; the top ones are for creating, opening, and saving files, plus undo and redo buttons.

Farther down, you can open and close the Paint module (the color and brush panels), modify the lines on screen, erase lines, and pull a color back into your brush with the eyedropper.

And, way down at the bottom, you can zoom in on your image, move things around on it, and even put masking on or take it off. (Like I said, this is what MS Paint wishes it could be!)

This completely freehand tool is easiest to use with a physical mouse rather than a touchpad, but it’s great fun regardless. Visit and start playing around…you might just find yourself randomly making a masterpiece!

Link: Sketch ‘n Paint!

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Don’t Have a Steady Hand for Drawing? Don’t Let That Stop You!

August 10th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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If you are an artist (or a frustrated artist) who lacks a steady hand, fear not: you can still draw even without a perfectly controlled hand! How do I know that? Because you’re not the only one who has difficulty with this–many artists do! And it’s not something that should stop you forever; it is something that can be mastered, often with just a shift in your thinking.

Lack of Confidence in Art Skill -> Shaking Hand -> Lack of Confidence in Art Skill

I used to believe that I was a terrible artist, because of one thing: my trembling hand. Unsteady hands have plagued me for as long as I can remember–I can remember even before entering kindergarten, I had a hard time drawing a perfectly straight line, even when I concentrated really, really hard.

My experience in subsequent art classes in elementary school only confirmed what I already knew: I couldn’t draw anything well, because my lines weren’t clean and sharp-looking like I wanted them to be. I could only sit and marvel at my classmates who could produce beautiful visuals without shaky lines everywhere.

But there was a slight problem with my thinking, as I discovered much later on. Well, let me rephrase that: there was a HUGE problem with my thinking. I considered myself a terrible artist because of my unsteady hand, so I was not confident while I held the pencil or pen; because I was not confident, I always concentrated way too hard when I drew, and ended up with–guess what?–shaking, quivering lines. A vicious cycle!

Though part of my trembling hands may be heredity, I certainly wasn’t helping matters when I focused so hard on trying to draw a straight line. I kept noticing that whenever I was just dashing off a quick little doodle, a drawing I didn’t care about, my lines WERE clean and sharp. It seemed like the less I cared about “getting it right,” the more often I in fact did “get it right!”

A Possible Cure: Just Draw, Don’t Worry

For anyone else who’s struggling with an unsteady drawing hand, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to just draw. Act as if whatever you’re working on is just a carefree doodle, just a random little piece of art rather than something that has to be absolutely positively right. (I found that thinking this way helped get rid of a lot of my hand’s quivering, because I wasn’t holding the pencil SO HARD trying to get everything right.)

Having confidence in your skill, even when you think you’re not “good enough” to be observed yet, is important for any art, not just drawing. Keeping your judgment separate from the creative process is key. Don’t worry about how it looks on the page, don’t worry if that line looks out of place–just draw for the sheer joy of the art. Reshaping your thinking can be the first step toward becoming a better artist!

Additional Help for Unsteady Hands

If your confidence in your drawing skill is fine, but you’re still having a little trembling getting in the way, check out the advice on this thread over at ConceptArt.org. From moving your shoulder and entire when you draw (instead of just your wrist and hand), to practicing large cursive handwriting to improve coordination (not kidding, it helps!), these artists give a lot of ideas on how to steady your lines!

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Graceful Shades and Lines: The Art of Rebecca Guay

June 13th, 2013 by , in Thursday in the Zone
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Of all the art in Magic: the Gathering, many of my favorite card arts come from one artist: Rebecca Guay.

She’s well known throughout many fantasy gaming franchises, such as Magic: the Gathering, the World of Warcraft TCG, and Dungeons and Dragons, but I first became acquainted with her art through M:TG. I was immediately drawn to her use of subtle shading, thin lines, and overall soft coloring, plus the general subject matter of beautiful natural landscapes and graceful yet powerful ladies dressed in flowing, soft fabrics. All the pictures seemed like the kind of illustrations I remembered from fairy tale books, just right for some of the fantasy flavor that M:TG included in its worlds.

So, with this appreciation for her artwork, it seemed only right that I should honor some of my favorite Magic: the Gathering card arts by her in a blog post. Scroll through and see what I mean about “graceful shades and lines!”

angelicpage angelicrenewal
angelicwall atalyasamitemaster
auramancer calmingverse
devoutharpist dwellonthepast
elvishlyrist enchantresspresence
gaeasblessing haruonna
nantukoshrine oborobreezecaller
planeswalkersfavor predict
resuscitate samiteblessing
seedtime serrasblessing
silentattendant starlitangel
sustainingspirit travelerscloak
wallofwood wanderlust
wordsofworship yavimayadryad

For More Information

MagicCards.info (where I retrieved all the card images)
RebeccaGuay.com
Wikipedia article about Rebecca Guay
Gatherer Card Search: Cards illustrated by Rebecca Guay

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The “Virtual Museum:” GoogleArtProject.com

June 8th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Ever wanted to visit all the world’s museums and art collections just to view all those amazing artworks? Well, you’ll definitely want to check out one of Google’s newest projects: GoogleArtProject.com.

googleart_landingpage
When you land on the website, a random artwork will be displayed as the background–you can mouse over this image to see more detailed information, and click through to see more pictures by the artist, more artwork from the collection, etc. (Click and drag on the image to see a small portion of the artwork in more detail!)

recentlyadded_ticker
Down toward the bottom of the page, you can see a ticker full of recently-added collections going by–this is a great way to stay updated!

browse_specificcollection
If a collection intrigues you, you can click its title and go straight to its specific page, seeing all the images housed together within easy viewing reach.

browse_collections
Or, if you’d like to see the full list of available collections to view, you can browse by the “Collections” tab at the top left.

browse_artists
Browsing the “Artists” tab (second tab from the left) brings up an alphabetical click-through list, so you can go right to the artist you’re searching for. (This would be great for art history research!)

browse_artworks
And most certainly, if you just want to take in some gorgeous, thought-provoking art, you can browse by “Artworks” and see a randomized assortment of beauty.

You can also browse user galleries, and you can sign in to Google and make your own gallery, too.. (There are not a whole lot of user galleries quite yet, but you can change that ;) ) All in all, this is a great Internet tool for discovering, appreciating, and studying art–well worth a visit (or 100!)

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4 Ways to Be a Kid Again (For 5 Minutes)

June 1st, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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As a kid, I always thought I had it pretty rough in terms of school responsibilities. That was, of course, before I grew up and found that out in the “real world” lay tons more responsibilities, more than I could have ever dreamed. Being grown-up can be very, very stressful…no wonder we’re all medicated and in therapy these days!

So, instead of trying to medicate our stress away, how about we approach it a little more creatively? How about we access some of that crazy kid energy we used to have? It’s actually still there, if we take the time to tap into it.

Create a Crazy Masterpiece…in MS Paint

Remember when art was fun, not something you worried over? Remember when the coloring of a single page in a coloring book could consume your whole being till it was done? We may not have coloring books for adults, but we have software programs that can stand in.

mspaint_1
Start off by drawing something like this, just wild and crazy lines streaking across the image…

mspaint_2
Then add a little color, whatever color you want and wherever it ought to be…

mspaint_3
Keep going, focusing only on the task at hand, till you either get tired of it or you’re finished! If you get tired of it or want to start anew, no problem; if you finish it and yet don’t want to save it, no worries–kids crumple up drawings and restart all the time. (And who knows, you might just inspire yourself with the random art you create!)

Go Outside for No Reason

Kids always seem to be drawn like magnets toward the outdoors, but as adults, we somehow lose that desire to be out and about as much, especially if it doesn’t have anything to do with our jobs or our more “grown-up” relaxation time. More of us end up staying indoors where the technology (and the to-do lists) reign.

So, how about just going outside, for absolutely no reason other than to be outside? Feel the air temperature, breathe a little easier, and just be open to whatever you discover. “Enjoying the day” doesn’t have to be part of a vacation itinerary, nor does it have to be penciled in on your calendar. It can happen any time, any day you want or need it to happen. For most of us, just taking time to see the actual environment we live in would be a revelation of senses. This is not necessarily about “getting in tune with Nature,” but about experiencing the physical world around us rather than being locked in our own mental world full of deadlines and other “grown-up” stuff.

Make Up a Silly Game

In childhood, almost anything could be made into a game–remember that? We didn’t need hardly anything to create a game of our own, either to play by ourselves or to play with others. Making super-long chains of paper clips to stand in as “jump ropes” (I remember doing that–it was kinda successful, LOL), or wadding up great quantities of paper and rubber bands to make monstrous, lumpy creations that were sort of like baseballs to throw around…and making up rules as you go along, like “You can only jump over the paper-clip chain 3 times, and then you have to toss the paper ball as far as you can.”

These days, it can be hard for us to think about making our own games when so many fun technology-based games exist. But what about turning everyday tasks into little games? Like Mary Poppins said, “in every job there is an element of fun–you find the fun, and SNAP! the job’s a game!” Challenge yourself to Housecleaning Games, where collecting the most trash in the fastest time gets you points–and even more points for collecting it with style. Or turn your daily to-do list into a game where every item is a “level” to be conquered. It doesn’t matter what the game is or what the prizes are–sometimes, the prize can be in the creation of the game itself!

Imagine Something Outlandish

As children, we are taught that imagination is wonderful; as adults, we learn that imagination is “not company policy,” “not the way things are done around here,” etc. Sometimes that can really leave us stymied when it comes to creativity–we constantly self-censor and push aside the most wildly creative impulses as being “too childish.”

So, to let that childlike creativity out to play again, try the following trick: Imagine that a character from your favorite TV show/book/movie is doing something totally and hilariously out of character. Where does that action take him/her? What happens when other characters from the TV show/book/movie see or hear about this? (Here’s my example: Cinderella becomes a punk rocker and writes songs about her stepmother and stepsisters.)

Follow this story out as long as possible, adding details, making it as outlandish and funny as you want. Even when it gets kind of “awkward,” keep pursuing it–this is how you let your inner child free!

Summary

All of these ideas might sound a little silly to us “grown-ups.” But then again, we used to revel in being silly, and we had a whole lot more fun back then. We don’t have to completely give up our adult life, but we can put it aside just for a few minutes, to get back a little childlike joy. Isn’t that worth trying?

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Making Your Own iPhone Backgrounds

April 27th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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No longer do you have to download pictures from other websites for your iPhone backgrounds, nor do you have to rely on pictures you’ve taken with your iPhone. If you’ve made an image you want to move to your iPhone, you can!

Please pardon my enthusiasm–after a few months of owning my iPhone, I finally figured out how to load self-made pictures onto my iPhone, and I’m very happy about it, as you can tell. :D If you’re like me and enjoy playing around in image creation programs, your iPhone provides you yet another outlet for your creative expression; it just takes a little time!

Some Visual Examples!

Here are a few (shrunken) examples of iPhone background images I either made myself or edited:

neptune
glassheart
colorful_lake

sagegray starry

The first three images are edited from images I downloaded from the Internet; credits are at the bottom of this article. The last two are simpler abstract images I made myself.

Here are some tips and tricks I came up with while I was making, editing, and transferring these images:

Image Styles Technical Stuff
  • For home screens, it’s generally best to have more abstract/simpler backgrounds, since most of your picture will be covered up by app icons.
  • For lock screens, anything goes–recognizable images or photos work great, since you’ll be able to see more of the picture.
  • Want to be able to read the app icons’ text? Then make sure your background image is darker so the white text stands out.
  • Images can be in JPEG, GIF, or PNG format.
  • Because you can move and scale the image once you load it onto your iPhone, the picture’s width and length doesn’t much matter–but pictures which are taller than they are wide usually work the best.
  • Keep your file sizes as small as possible without skimping on quality, so that your iPhone’s memory isn’t stuffed full of just background pictures. Photos saved as JPEGs usually have smaller file sizes; so do fairly simple abstract images saved as PNGs.

Putting These Works of Art on Your iPhone

WonderShare.com has an excellent, simple tutorial to help you through transferring your images to your iPhone. If you don’t want to sync all your photos/images to your iPhone, simply make a separate folder for your created/edited iPhone backgrounds, and just sync that folder to your iPhone.

Credits/Resources

There are lots of image resources on the Internet which can provide you with beautiful pictures to use as iPhone backgrounds (and lots more). Here are some of my favorites:

FreeFoto.com
FreeImages.co.uk
Vector4Free.com

Swans on a Colorful Lake Photo

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Upcycling: Transforming Useless Junk into Art/Useful Objects

March 16th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Plenty of artists have been doing it–making art from trash, I mean. The Web is alive with stories of it: Vivan Sundaram’s trash photography exhibits, as well as trash-to-art-object best-of lists from Noupe and WebUrbanist. Even ordinary folks are collecting pictures of amazing art being created from junk or trash via Pinterest or other such sites, like this list over on Indulgy.

What I love most about this new-old trend in art is that it encourages all of us to recycle and repurpose old things. Too often, we think of creativity springing from an eternally new source–art’s always somehow gotta be new new new and anything old is worthless. But this trash-to-art and junk-to-art movement helps us all revision items in new ways. The movement is even trickling down to children’s art projects through sites like Kid-At-Art.com, which shows kids how to recycle trash and junk and make it into something beautiful.

But how does this trash-to-art movement translate into doable creativity for the everyday crafter/artist? Simple–by saving up materials that others would likely throw away and making/decorating gifts for others, or making and decorating useful objects for your own home.

Upcycling: Recycling and Repurposing All in One

Upcycling, as this article from Shareable.net details, gives old items new purpose, or can give items bound for the trash a new lease on life. Say you’ve got a few random old items which still have some life in them, yet they need a little spiffing up. Upcycling can work for these–giving them a fresh coat of paint and revisioning them can give them a new place in your house!

Example #1: An old train case with a top handle can be cleaned out, repainted/refinished and made into a kid’s treasure box, storage for a teen’s small electronics, or even a mobile office-supplies carrier for your car.

Example #2: An old bread box can be repainted/refinished, then mounted on the wall near the front door as a family mail sorter/key holder…or you can mount it in the living room to corral all those remote controls…or you can put it in the bathroom for small toiletry items (like nail clippers) that always seem to get away!

Or, say you’ve got some items that aren’t in the best condition anymore, that used to hold stuff but don’t anymore, or that have some pieces missing. You can still upcycle these, if you allow yourself to think outside the box!

Example #1: Coffee cans (metal or plastic) can become pencil holders, mail sorters, snack transporters, trinket hiders–soak off the label, clean out the can, and you have a new storage container for just about any small objects!

Example #2: Old VHS or DVD cases can become storage for printed-out photos, important labels, bills, or anything else that needs to be kept away from sun, water, and dust till you can deal with them. Plus, you can slip a changeable label into the outside plastic clearly marking what’s inside!

Plus, what about all those used gift wrap and cards you find yourself swimming in after the holidays, or after birthdays or other special events? Instead of throwing it all away, how about taking a few of these tips:

Summary: Upcycling is Crazily Creative!

With these ideas and more, you can make even your own junk pile transform into useful and pretty objects again. All it takes is a moment to stop and think, “Hmm…what could this become?”

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Don’t Hate Your “Work in Progress”

December 29th, 2012 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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I have a little confession to make: I’m often disgusted with my own efforts while I’m making art.

If I’m trying to design a web layout, I get frustrated if the design or the implementation just won’t align right; if I’m writing a bit of story, I get mad when I just can’t seem to script out the scene stuck in my mind. And that’s to say nothing of how I try to learn a new piece of music. I absolutely hate how slowed-down and imperfect the piece sounds if I can’t seem to play it correctly at normal speed. (As a child, I used to burst out crying and run from the room because that sound created such anxiety in me–playing it slow made every song sound stupid, and it made my skin crawl!)

This is part of my perfectionism, and I would wager that many fellow creative people go through similar emotions–the gripping fear/frustration of the physical creation not matching the mental idea. But this isn’t a healthy mindset, either for your creativity or your sanity. In fact, this mindset has kept me from a lot of my best work.

How This Actually Stunts Your Creativity

This fear, disgust, and frustration is one reason my novel isn’t published; it’s a reason that I wait so long between layout designs for my websites. I hate looking at (or listening to) a half-finished product and detesting what I see because it doesn’t match the perfection in my mind. But as much as I hate seeing the terrible, muddy chaos of a half-finished work, it’s part of the process–and it must be endured, if I’m ever going to finish anything!

For example, this week, I’ve finally begun to write on my novel again after six months of being completely stalled. As I began to write again, I wondered, “Why did I wait so long? What had me stalled?” The answer: I hated looking at my unfinished work and seeing how badly it compared to the awesomeness in my head. (Thus, this article came about, documenting my own silliness and fear; like a bad dream, the negative emotions get easier to bear if you share them.) But I lost six months of writing time just being stalled because I thought the work wasn’t worth finishing. I stunted my own creativity with my perfectionism.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes I’ve Made!

If you’re suffering these same feelings, and you let them stop you, then you too will be stuck as I have been. Remember, nothing looks or sounds right until it’s finished, whether it’s a painting or sketch, a piece of music, a poem, a novel, anything. This is part of being an artist–being courageous enough to dig into your own work and finish it. And in fact, once your piece is finished, you end up with a much better product, because you’ve subjected it to your own criticism first, and you’re more aware of any flaws or mismatches in your work.

So, today, I encourage you to go back to an unfinished work of yours. Go back to it, and just see what you can do with it. If you have to push aside your first idea and try something new, go ahead; if you need to rework just a bit of your previous efforts to continue on with your next idea, that’s perfectly fine, too. Just don’t be afraid to dig in and get your hands dirty. I promise you, it will turn out better than you think.

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