An Ending to a New Beginning.

As 2013 comes to an end, I find myself recently reflecting on the last year and the last four years in particular all the while being grateful for how much I’ve grown as an artist. So… I finally graduated from graduate school last week! Yippeee! It was a long four years. The first two of which I was a full time student and the last two I lived and worked a full time job in NYC and did online studies every semester. Not to mention I was a full time single mom the whole while through it. This marks an important milestone in my life, in which I actually feel like I can start to take my place in life and start doing what I love.

I learned so much through my schooling, four years ago I didn’t even know how to draw for Animation, nor did I even really know what I was in for until I got there! Didn’t even know that my drawing style would change so much or could change. I had been drawing before I started my MFA program, but I had no focus or concentration on anything. It takes a lot to just give up what you have or the life that you used to think that you had.

When I moved to San Francisco from San Diego back in 2009, I gave up everything. I gave up my life in San Diego to experience something new and to live differently. I left so many things behind, including family and friends. My heart was so broken, I had lost my job earlier in 2009 and lost someone in my family that I was very close to in a car accident. My grandparents sold the house I grew up in and decided to retire and live simpler. And on top of that my ex-husband was trying to fight me through court with child custody for our son. My foundations crumbled. But when I moved to San Francisco, I felt a sense of renewal. My spirit and spark that I thought was lost started to come back. Change can be very good for the soul.

Here I am now in Los Angeles, dreamy-eyed, full of inspiration and ready to live the best life that I am working towards! Moving back to the west coast was the best decision I ever made. Granted I had to resign from my secure job in NYC, sell everything, and re-start my whole life again in Los Angeles but it was worth it. I’m now able to see my family more often than I was in the last four years. Yet I can keep my life separate enough to pursue my own dreams and visions for the future.

Looking back now, I’m so glad I trusted my intuition above everything else– above family and friends who didn’t fully support my decision to go back to school. What may seem right to you may not be so obvious to others. And people can say what they want, they are entitled to their opinion. But at the end of the day, your opinion and your great vision for your life is the only thing that really truly matters. Trust me, I had a ton of haters from people who should have been supportive. It takes a strong person to really stand up for what they believe in.

Here’s to the ending of what I thought would have been a long four years of studying, yet it passed by in a blink of an eye. A new beginning awaits me, full of magic and mystery. An exciting, new journey to really discovering and exploring the possibilities of where life may bring me. We have to be open to new opportunities, that’s the only way we can ever expand to our fullest potential and uncover our deeper selves.

We are the sum of what we’ve experienced, where we’ve been, all the lessons we’ve learned, and all of the knowledge that we have accumulated in our own lives. Finding each of our true passions is never an easy journey, but staying true to our selves will give us the happiness that we are truly searching for.

As 2013 ends and winds down, I ask you to re-imagine your life or the life you want for the new year. It sounds cliche, but “any thing is possible if you believe.” Its never too late to re-start projects, or get back on the wagon again to pursue the things we are passionate about. The only thing getting in the way is our self-doubt.

I wish you a great Year for 2014 and a thousand new great things to come into your life!

“Destiny’s true path is rarely ever straight.”

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My friend Mahsa (left) and I at the Masonic Concert Hall in San Francisco. December 13, 2013.

I am a Story Artist.

This is a video of a presentation that I recently made at the Beekman 33 Salon in New York City this last March. It was sort of a Salon to give individuals a chance to showcase themselves, their creativity, or their business. I’ve been meaning to post this but life got so busy! I wanted to post this to give people an idea of who I am and what I do, I now realize that this video really does give others an insight as to who I am. As a story artist as you’ll soon come to find out in the video, I create concept art for the purpose of telling a story. I am grateful that I have found this career path and lucky enough to realize it while I’m still young. The business of telling stories that evoke the imagination and touch the hearts of others is what I enjoy doing the most. I hope you enjoy this video and that it inspires you in your own life. Comments, questions, please tell me what you think!

Salute!

Last week Plein-air Painting in Florence, Italy.

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Me painting outdoors in Fiesole with curious little onlookers!

As my study abroad program winds down, I can’t believe its been exactly 7 weeks that I’ve been here in Italy. I’m truly grateful for this experience of being able to experience living and studying abroad for something that I love to do. It’s been “eye opening” and a whole lot of connecting back to my heart center. Painting, especially with oil paints has always intimidated me. And when I was in my early 20s I often found myself going back and forth, my patience was always rocked with oil painting. I didn’t have enough patience with myself back then, but now I have a deeper love and appreciation for painting.

After doing at least two paintings a day, four days a week for the last seven weeks has incredibly improved my technique and understanding of plein-air painting. Plein-air painting requires a person to think on their feet and improvise, composing a scene into a small 9×12 or 5×7 quick study allows the artist to narrow in and focus on the beauty of the environment, in regards to color temperature, weather climate, and composition. The most important thing with Plein-air painting is to do quick studies so you can relate what you see and the mood has to come across quickly, we aren’t painting masterpieces or finished work. From the outside studies you can go back to your studio environment and expand upon it to either make a larger and more finished painting from it.

Plein-air painting allows the “seer” to adjust to the environment and scenery, a moment that you feel present in the here and now. 

The impressionists started plein-air painting when tubes of paint were invented and it was easier to transport the paints for use outside. Monet was said to have gotten up at 5 am every morning to paint outside and as the light changed in the morning, he would do 2 or 3 all before noon.  The light tends to change every 2 hours and after noon or mid-day you have to stop because that’s when the light is the brightest and its unbearable to paint outdoors! It’s recommended to paint in the early morning to noon or 1 pm. Or pick up again when the light changes at sunset when there is dramatic lighting. The goal of plein-air painting is to pick a scene that looks like a painting, something simple is beautiful. We’re not painting for exactness. We also have to ask ourselves, what are we inspired by to paint? And the colors that we mix should convey the mood– we’re not always going to come out with the same color of the sky or the building that we are painting in, but to express it in a way that the viewer understands what we are trying to convey.

I am truly happy that I got to experience taking this class in the heart of Florence, it was a magical moment in my life. I have changed from what I’ve learned out here both academically and also learning about the rich history of the Italian people. I really did step outside of myself from being a quiet introvert in the comfort of my own home in NYC to really immersing myself in the culture and language of a different country. I really enjoyed myself out here and had the time of my life! You only live once, make it count. La Dolce Vita.

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Before I got a dark tan!

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Rome in 3 days, Part 3 The Colosseum.

Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered.

Our third day in Rome concluded with a visit to the Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum. The Colosseum is a symbol of Rome, more than 70,000 spectators have sat and been here in its hay day and was originally known as the Flavian Ampitheatre. It was said that on opening day in 80 A.D. that 5,000 wild beasts perished and food and entrance was always free to the public. This was a statement from the Roman government that they controlled the masses, a way for them to not rebel – because they can provide and take care of you, it was a way to set some ground rules. Gladiator combat and staged animal hunts ended by the 6th century and later during the Renaissance it served as a quarry. An interesting fact was that any slave could buy their freedom after 5 years of surviving the games, they were sponsored and medically taken care of by some of the wealthiest families of the time, but also they could die within that time. But no Gladiator took part in the games more than 2 or 3 times a year, they didn’t live in constant risk of death. They were also pardoned or saved by the magistrate, he could also be swayed by the crowd whether the Gladiator’s life should be spared.

Anyway, the whole experience of going to the Colosseum was very exhausting! As it was a very hot day close to the high 90s, it was unbearable heat! Even when we got there at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday, the lines were still pretty long and it was crowded. Luckily, we got a combo ticket for 12 euros that admitted us to the other sites like the Roman Forum and etc. It is advisable to buy your tickets before you get there or you can also pay a little bit extra to get a tour and the line is shorter and quicker. The ruins of Imperial Rome is definitely worth seeing as this is one of the most ancient sites.

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Inside the Colosseum.

Rome in 3 days, Part 2 Villa Borghese and other sightseeing.

The second day of our Rome trip was exhausting! We saw and did too many things! The first thing we all did was a class field trip to Villa Borghese! Which by the way you have to make an appointment before you go there! This park is Rome’s largest, this villa was built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1615 for the purpose of showcasing his fabulous and amazing antiquities collection. Among them are Bernini’s famous sculptures of Apollo and Daphne, David, and the Rape of Proserpine. They also house some of Caravaggio’s paintings including his famous “David and Goliath” which was actually a present to the Pope of Rome begging him to pardon his exile for killing a man. Caravaggio was 37 when he passed away in exile, before the news could reach him that he was allowed to come back to Rome.

Other things we did and saw:

1) The Pantheon – One of Rome’s ancient buildings and best preserved monuments, it was built by Hadrian in 120 AD.

2) The Capuchin Crypt – beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini. Be advised: You need to cover your shoulders and knees, dress code is enforced as it is considered a holy place.

3) Giolitti – By far the best Gelato I’ve tasted in all of Italy! Very famous indeed! I tried the Bailey’s Irish Cream flavor, so delicious.

4) Piazza de Barberini – The 17th century Palazzo Barberini is here and was the residence of Rome’s leading art patron, Pope Urban VIII. A great place for local art being displayed by artists, as well as some restaurants etc. The Fontana del Tritone is also located in this area.

5) Open Baladin – Where we ate for dinner, American style food and craft beer! I ordered the Chicken burger, a must try with their house beer!

6) Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna – Houses neoclassical and romantic paintings, their collection is worth seeing as there are tons of landscapes and cityscape paintings as well.

7) Fontana di Trevi – Famous fountain with sculptures of mythical sea creatures and cascades of splashing water. The fountain is the world’s most spectacular wishing well, make a wish for fun! I’d suggest going at night when it’s lit up, it’s kind of amazing! But be prepared for the hundreds of tourists also standing around near the area. Keep your belongings close to you!

Other noteworthy eats in Rome (list from one of our instructors who’ve visited Rome several times before.)

  • Sora Margherita – Jewish ghetto, great lunch, try the fried artichoke.
  • Ristaurante Vecchia Roma – Jewish ghetto, romantic dinner, great outdoor seating but expensive!
  • Bartaruga – Jewish ghetto, undiscovered wine bar, turns into a party spot in the late hours.
  • Trattoria Da Lucia – In Trastevere, cheap eats, try the spaghettie all gricia.
  • Bir and Fud – Trastevere, best mushroom pizza.
  • Piperno – Jewish ghetto, Highly recommended.
  • La Nova Cappanina – Restaurant near Pantheon in a quiet alley, great mom and pop restaurant for lunch.
  • II Portico restuarant – Near Piazza Della Cinque Scola, good spaghetti alla pecorino e pepper.
  • Sabatini – On piazza Santa Maria Trastevere, more expensive and fancy.

Other Places we didn’t get to see that are worth seeing:

The Spanish Steps, Sant’ Ignazio Church, Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Sant’ Andrea della Valle, San Clemente, Piazza della Republica.

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Villa Borghese

Rome in 3 days, Part 1 Vatican City.

My class and I went on a three day trip to Rome last weekend. I have to say that I don’t think we had enough time to explore everything but we did end up seeing quite a bit of the main attractions that Rome has to offer. First off, no trip to Rome is ever complete without a visit to Vatican City. We stayed at a hotel called Residence Candia on Via Candia which is just a few blocks outside of the Vatican walls. We ended up touring the Vatican for three hours!  Vatican City is literally a tiny walled city inside of Rome, an independent city-state. That blows my mind.

The Vatican is ruled by the Popes, it is the seat of the world’s Catholicism. It has some of the greatest architectural achievements of the Renaissance. A word to the wise: You must wear appropriate clothing that covers the shoulders and knees upon entering, dresscode is strictly enforced. The Sistine chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica is considered a holy place. That means for ladies wear scarves and long skirts! But boy is it hot!

Main Attractions:

Basilica di San Pietro – The largest church of Christendom, it covers 18,000  square yards, extends 212 yards in length, and carries a dome that rises 435 feet and measures 138 feet across. Inside the chapel is Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion called the Pieta. Emperor Constantine built this church in AD 319 over the site of St. Peter’s tomb. (Shocked that I was getting good signal on my internet data plan on my phone inside the church! A friend made a joke about the cardinals and priests there being addicted to the their social media! Sure enough I tweeted a photo of Vatican City and a cardinal from Rome favorited it! Too funny)

The Grotte Vaticane – in the basilica contains the tombs of John Paul II and St. Peter’s. The Stanzi di Raffaelo – Rooms decorated with biblical scenes by Raphael.

Musei Vaticani – The Vatican palace is the papal residence since 1377, estimated at 1400 rooms, with chapels and galleries. The main attraction here is the Sistine Chapel and the ceiling was painted by Michaelangelo. He worked on the ceilings alone for 4 years, which he stood on scaffolding and painted up! The painted ceiling tell creation stories of Adam and Eve, the temptation and exclusion of paradise, and the stories of Noah and the arc. He was considered a special man during his time since he lived until he was 90 and in those days people died young. The frescoes are also a must see as Raphael’s famous frescoe “The School of Athens” was painted on one of the walls of the Vatican Palace, he was 26 when he painted this and died at 37. The Italians thought it was a miracle that all theses geniuses were born during this time.

Castel Sant’ Angelo – For hundreds of years this fortress guarded the Vatican. According to legend it got its name during the black plague in 590 when Pope Gregory had a vision of an angel sheathing its sword atop the stone ramparts. Originally this was built as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian in AD 135.

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Vatican City
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Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

Plein-air Painting in Florence, Italy.

Plein-air painting is such a sport!

“Plein-air” is a French term that means quite simply “open air” or used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

Where do I even begin to talk about this? I’m taking a summer abroad program where we set up and paint our easels with the class in different locations around Florence. Florence has such beautiful sceneries to paint and there are always amazing things to paint. But, we are lugging around our heavy outdoor easels that weigh anywhere from 10-15 pounds along with our art supplies and hiking up and down Florence! I’ve literally been feeling hunger, feeling like I’m not satisfied by what I’m eating because I’m always walking and moving around!

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Hey its me! No joke! I have to make sure I put on bug spray (I have Deet 100 from REI) and sunblock before I leave in the mornings. A hat is so necessary, we don’t know if we’re going to get a shady spot to paint, or sometimes the lighting changes significantly as the day goes. The easel is called Craftech Plein Air Easel which I bought online for  $101.99 through Madison Art Shop.  I also have oil paints and brushes, a thin board with a handle to carry the wet painting home– as well as all the necessary paint gear like turpenoid, linseed oil, and some 9×12 canvas paper, paper towels,  and I have a disposable palette that I just toss at the end of the day. We do about two paintings a day. Or we can sketch the second one. Its really a great experience being outdoors and drawing what you see.

Sometimes we’re at the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the Boboli Gardens, Piazzale Michaelangelo, or at different Piazzas around the city. Every thursday we go on a field trip to different cities and its optional to bring our easel or we can walk around to take photos and sketch. We’ve been to Fiesole, Cortona, San Gimignano, and will still go to Lucca and Siena in the next few weeks. Having the experience walking around the city everyday has given me a sense of space and dimension and I am starting to see things in a different perspective. You have to walk outside to really experience the details in the architecture and buildings, and also being able to tell the difference in lighting at different times of the day. For example in the mornings, the light is lower to the ground. But then after noon it peaks and is much higher and a bit brighter. I usually notice the difference when my shoulders start getting burned! And then at the point its time for lunch or a new afternoon location around the area!

My first week’s paintings weren’t too impressive, but now I’ve noticed I’m starting to compose my background paintings a bit better. There also simple rules and guidelines that we follow when composing a painting. I won’t go into depth but the basics are too have a foreground, middle ground, and background. Then having a focal point or area of interest where the light is and having a contrast between the values. The rule of thirds is also important because of the way you divide up the canvas, the horizon line can’t be too dead center– or it can become boring and uninteresting. Its either better to have a higher or lower horizon.

Here are a few that I was able to remember to photograph! I will need to scan the rest of them soon! But, none o f these pieces are too finished since we are working on a 9×12 sized canvas paper and the goal of plein air painting is to have loose sketch paintings to convey the mood and weather of the location.

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Firenze!

This week has been surreal living and being in Florence. I’m studying abroad for the next seven weeks and taking a plein-air painting class through the Academy of Art University of San Francisco but we are using a Florence campus called the Santa Reparata International School of Art.

It has been quite a stressful week starting last Monday getting to Florence. First I took a plane from Dublin to Rome. Then took the train from Rome to Florence, which was a good 2 hours away. Then I finally arrived around 4:00 pm to check into my school apartment. I seriously got lucky and was able to get my own apartment here through the school for the summer.

Then Tuesday was a whole day of orientation for the school, safety living in Florence, and everything else about learning the Italian culture. Here are a few things I learned about living in Italy for a week:

1)    Coffee after 11:00 am is frowned upon, they’ll look at you funny.

2)    Most of the restaurants are closed between 12-4

3)    Aperitivo is Italian for Happy Hour and they do happy hour between 7-9pm every evening. You buy a drink and get a free buffet of food. Then dinner is 9pm on.

4)    All the stores here close early.

5)    Italian people live much more slowly. (In contrast to the fast paced living in New York.)

6)    Italians don’t get too drunk, they are somewhat classy. They allow themselves to have a drink or two at dinner every night. (They view Americans as drunks, which I think is quite true. Ha.)

7)  If you make noise in your apartment past 10:30pm, your neighbors can call the police and fine you a 1,000 euro. ( I wish they had this law in New York City).

8)  Italian men can never come on to Italian women. Why? Because they are known to ignore and avoid pursuers on the street.

Pics of Florence and Fiesole below.

We’ve been plein-air painting starting last Wednesday and Thursday, first going to a park location nearby the school and then we went to Fiesole on Thursday to paint on top of the hill. It was a magnificent and breath-taking view. There are photos below to give you an idea of where we went. Fiesole is only twenty minutes away by bus from Florence. But it was also a hell of a time lugging all of our art gear and fold up easels up the hill! Plein-air painting really is a sport! You have to be prepared with all of your supplies, packing everything you need to make painting as smooth and comfortable as you can—and having enough sun block and insect repellant on your skin so that you don’t burn and get bug bites! Also having a hat and sunglasses on also helps to keep the sun out of your eyes. I’m going to be buff and dark by the time this summer is over!

I’m still getting used to painting with oils and painting landscapes on the spot. I sort of get a little bit intimidated with oils since I’m not a fine art major and don’t have much practice with oils. But my goal is to get really comfortable and work independently with paints by the time my class is over at the end of this summer. It’s a good way to learn especially since I want to get really good at painting backgrounds in animation and adopt traditional principles that I can carry over to painting digitally in Photoshop.

I’ve learned that in the few trial runs we had as a class this week that I work best by drawing small thumbnails before I begin painting because it somehow forces me to really look at the contrast between the light and dark shadows of a landscape. And also what recedes into the distance and what colors in different areas are much more vibrant when the sun is hitting it. If you have expressed a sense of atmospheric perspective with a foreground, middle ground, and background—then you are expressing the landscape very well. A focal point is also a good element to have in your painting as you are helping the viewer to have something to focus on and having an “S” curve where you lead the eyes through the painting.

If you are curious about what I packed for plein-air painting or what methods we used, let me know! Or if you have similar experiences with plein air painting that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them!

CIAO!

Should you attend art school?

So you like to draw or design? Don’t know what to do with it? Should you go to school or just learn it on your own?

I think you should go to school. And I’m not saying this because your work or skills are not great, but I’m saying this because schooling provides the artist a foundation for success. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. If you’re an artist wanting to take your art to the next level– to make it your livelihood and really prosper from it not just financially but to grow creatively – then you my friend need to hunker down and do your research on some great schools that offer the best learning for what you want to do with your life. And take your time, make sure it’s what you want and will be ultimately happy in doing so.

On the flip side I do know a few friends and acquaintances who got by with a year or two of training or hardly any schooling at all and make a good living out of doing/selling their art. But I prefer the latter. Attending art school has so many benefits, at least from my experience it was a valuable time for me. I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn from some of the best teachers in the industry that I want to work in, not only that but the feedback I got on how to improve my work was exactly what I needed to learn. And I met some of my bestest friends in art school. The connections you make while you are studying goes a long way, you never know if that person can connect you with other people to work with in the future. And you get to learn from other people and see how they approach things creatively, sharing techniques, ideas, and interests. I have grown from the connections I’ve made, the friends that I met and still keep in touch with many of them, their feedback was helpful and life-changing. The reality of an artist’s life is very lonely, since we work on projects alone for long periods of time, that its great to connect with other artists who are on a similar path. In a way it provides us with some support.

And you may not like this, but let’s face it– you need DISCIPLINE. Without it you won’t be able to finish projects or keep track of them. Like the real world, when you’re ready to plunge into it and either work within a company or decide to go the freelance route– you’re going to need to finish projects by the deadline.

Explore your options. Going to art school allows you to explore other methods of doing things, challenging your creativity to think outside the box. And you want this. If you are to grow as an artist and sharpen the skill set in your toolbox, you need to learn many things. You can explore different mediums, other styles, other processes, etc. I have been going to school for what seems like a very long time! Believe me, it was no picnic! I started going to an interior design school for two years and for the first time learned to draw, that was in 2002. Then deciding that I couldn’t see myself having a career as an interior designer, it felt limiting at that time. Then I found another school and focused on Graphic Design and it felt right as I still work in the industry doing design, marketing, branding, and web, that was in 2007. But working in that industry for two years I wasn’t satisfied I want to get better, learn new things. And that’s when I enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and joined the MFA Illustration program in 2009. My first semester there, my mind was blown– it was the first time I learned about Visual Development for Animation and I quickly changed my major to that. It was a great fit and I didn’t even know I wanted it before then but once I learned what it was, I was hooked! I finally found something that I think will help me to continue on growing as an artist. Four years later, here I am going to graduate in the fall and working on my thesis. It takes a long time! I started late but better late than never. I’m 31, and I have a ten year old son at home. Single mom trying to do everything, that hasn’t ever hindered me from pursuing my dreams.

MY POINT IS: we don’t need to have all the answers right away, just a drive, an ambition, a passion to pursue something great. And the rest happens through DOING and learning hands on. I always say that experience is the best teacher in life. Trial and error, if you end up not liking it then you can always do something else, instead of sitting there and wondering what if I had done this?

I come across so many young artists now who appreciate my work and wonder how I got here… HARD WORK. There is no other answer but that. There are no shortcuts either.  The motivation and drive to want to get better, to be better. The perseverance, will, and determination to be awesome. When you do decide to put in all that hard work and all those hours spent behind your desk, you’ll start noticing that you’re improving. Hard work pays off. There comes a moment, a pivotal time, a crossroads, or even a self-realization in an artist that you are a CREATOR and an unstoppable force when you decide to engage and toil away at perfecting your craft and skill set. It will show in your work. I know that this realization came when I stopped going out on the weekends and put outside distraction away and spent my weekends working diligently perfecting my drawings.

Whether you are a young artist or a seasoned professional, training allows you to acquire new skills. Talent means nothing when there is no commitment or discipline to your work. Stay consistent and focused on your work and doing your best.

And if I don’t sway you otherwise, here is a good article I found called 7 Reasons to go to art school  this person had the same idea as me and explains it well. Great minds think alike.

I bid you well and good luck!