Guest Post by Kim Prior
This is the final installment in my series of articles shining the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. Friendly reminder that, for the purpose of these articles, I am spotlighting some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!
As I explained in the previous articles, “art” has a multitude of definitions. If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. Art is photography. Art is painting. Art is drawing with graphite, charcoal, or ink.
In this article, you will learn that Art is a multitude of things. Art is painting and drawing, and it is also mixing in a plethora of other materials into these creations. Art is taking a piece of wood and fashioning a piece as unique as your idea. Art is taking wire and stone and other bits and pieces and forming these materials into beautiful pieces of wearable art. Art is taking an idea and adding your creative touch. Art is finding the right words to create pieces that evoke every emotion under the sun. Art is fabric and stitching and sewing and creating unique pieces. Art is, quite literally, a hundred… a thousand… tens of thousands of different things.
Take a walk with me, friends. Join with me in this journey into Art as I celebrate the talents of Amanda & Sammie, Anne, Candice, Jilly, Paula, Lisa, and Jodi!
Before I get to the first two artists, I want to be completely honest… *whispers* I have never read fan fiction. I read one piece a few years ago; I beta’d another piece not long after. Both pieces were pure… straight up… uninhibited… unadulterated… pornography. From those two experiences, combined with the bits and pieces I have seen on social media, I formed the opinion that all fan fiction was pornographic. To be clear, I am not judging, that’s just not my kind of thing. So I have never explored it any more than those two pieces.
I absolutely wanted to include fanfic writers in this series, in this article. So I approached two friends of mine, and I told them I’ve never read any fanfic, and I asked them to explain it to me, to convince me that I am truly missing out on a wonderful form of art.
Amanda and Samantha were quite happy to try to sway me into this fictional world. I must admit, one of Amanda’s comments really intrigued me. She said her favorite genre is romance because she loves “people in love… I enjoy watching them fall in love, I enjoy seeing them overcome struggles because of love, I enjoy seeing them explore their fears or embrace new things via the emboldening power of love.” Okay, seriously, who doesn’t love that? Then Samantha explained that she likes to switch genres sometimes (fantasy to sci-fi to more standard fiction, etc) because it gives her an opportunity to “stretch different writing muscles, because different genres employ different tropes, language styles, etc.” I understand that! It can be so refreshing to step outside of the box sometimes!
They talked about their writing process. They take notes, jot down simple ideas, make lists of storylines and characters, expand those lists into outlines containing more detailed thoughts. They use Google docs, in part because it is a great medium for sharing and collaborating with others on any given piece. They also talked about Archive of Our Own, a site that is both organized and user-friendly. They talked about doing challenges, such as a Reverse Bang challenge where pieces of art are submitted and you choose one that inspires you to write… okay, seriously, I wanna do this.
I asked them about writers who have inspired them. While they did mention a few names, like J.K. Rowling (hello, um, #Lifegoals ), the actual statements they made about the source of inspiration was, frankly, inspiring. Samantha said, “I have been particularly blessed to receive encouragement and praise from writers I admire, and have recently been in a position to give that back to readers who have expressed similar feelings to my writing (a completely surreal, humbling, and heartwarming experience).” And then Amanda said, “These writers make me laugh, they make me cry, they make my heart hurt and soar in turns. They create beautiful worlds and scenarios that completely immerse me, and all just with their words. It’s amazing. It is simply my goal to try to do the same, just in my own way.” Wow. No really – WOW. What a community. It must be so rewarding to be in this fanfic world of support and collaboration and inspiration!
Okay, okay. Maybe I’ll check out this Archive of Our Own thing, maybe I’ll try to wade through the tags to find something a little less pornographic. Maybe I’ll look at this community of writers, and explore their works and their talents. Maybe I’ll start writing again… ok, no, I won’t go there again, but maybe I can at least try to read this fanfic stuff one more time.
My next featured artist is Anne Kirn, aka House of Darkly. If you look up ‘jack-of-all-trades’ in the dictionary, I think it says ‘See also: Anne Kirn.’ She’s a photographer. She’s a graphic designer. She sews. The list goes on. And on.
In my opinion, the single most fascinating detail about Anne – and it is also the most inspiring – is her attitude. She’s incredibly talented, true, but it is her attitude that shines through in her work. I asked the artists about their process for creating their art. Anne’s comments included “self-taught, largely by finding the 99 ways that don’t work. Occasionally this has ended in setting something on fire. But only slightly…” and “My process involves staring, angst, and some cursing, usually all at once.” Anne tries things. She experiments. She fails. She tries again. She’s able to take a step back and study her project, re-think it, and try again. And through her method of trial-and-error, she maintains this wicked sense of humor. Frankly, I love that about her, and I think that’s a lesson we could all apply to our own lives.
Anne is inspired by anyone who’s accomplished in an area or genre and is dedicated to encouraging other people to create. It is therefore no surprise that she is an encourager. Her tip for other artists is simple: “If you want to be doing the thing, do the thing.” She went on to explain that it is important to pursue the so-called dumb ideas because sometimes these turn out to be the best ideas. She said that it is also important to take a break or step away sometimes. But the most important thing is “just be doing something.”
My next featured artist is Candice Langham. Her preferred genres include abstract realism and grunge art. She uses a variety of materials and mediums, including colored charcoal and wood/wood burning, and she enjoys creating sculptures out of different materials.
Candice is involved in Art 4 Kindness, a project she started and whose focus is raising money for charitable causes. She has raised money for several organizations including RAICE (an organization of lawyers that helps immigrants with legal assistance), Suicide Hotline and the Tiger Frances Foundation (an L.A. based non profit animal rescue). Candice also works with a children’s hospital, teaching free art classes.
Her process is more a visual thing. She finds inspiration in photographs and photographers, tv shows, and so on. She sees something, and an idea starts to form in her mind, causing her imagination to kick into overdrive. She explained, “Once the idea is formed I will stop at nothing to complete it.” Art is very fluid and has a way of speaking to you. I’ve always just gone with the flow, even mistakes in a piece can be important. This is why I love abstract art.”
Jilly M. is the next artist. Although she has recently began drawing again – using colored pencils and focusing on Baby – her main area of creativity involves sewing, knitting, crocheting, and so on. She uses a variety of fabrics, including cotton, cotton/elastane, lingerie weight polyester, polyester toy stuffing, and yarn.
She wanted something unique to get autographed at a convention, but she couldn’t find what she wanted, so that motivated her to make her own item. She’s been making Supernatural dolls ever since.
Her favorites are the original Sam and Dean set. She has taken them to cons, and both dolls have been autographed by Jared and Jensen; the dolls have also appeared in a couple of J2 photo ops, so they’re very special to her. Mark Meloche (Supernatural VFX Supervisor) called her an artist! She said she hadn’t thought of herself as an artist until that moment. Oh trust me, you’re definitely an Artist!
Making the Supernatural dolls is Jilly’s hobby, but she does sell a few. Typically, she makes a set, then advertises them for sale, rather than looking for advance orders. The dolls are very labor intensive, but she just doesn’t feel right unless she’s working on a doll. She plans to introduce different characters to her expanding collection.
These dolls are quite complex. Each doll is approximately 13 inches tall. The faces are embroidered. She designs and sews the clothing herself. She buys clear buttons and then hand paints them to get the colors needed. Although the cowboy hats came from Build-A-Bear, she did her own design for Bobby’s hat. She said the work with these dolls is “mostly improvisation – I’ve learned whole a lot about thinking outside the box.” It takes at least 10 hours, and oftentimes more, from starting to finishing each doll.
Paula Mould is the next artist. She worked for years running her own tech business, painting off and on over those years. Two years ago, she began working as an artist professionally, putting to use her three art diplomas (Art Fundamentals, Interpretive Illustration, and Post Graduate Graphic Design).
Paula’s preferred genre is anything pop culture, including a slew of topics such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel, and of course Supernatural. She uses a multitude of mediums and materials, such as acrylic paints on canvas or wood; she often uses shells, stones, bits of bark for her mixed media pieces; she also uses inks, powdered copper, and glitter. Another interesting medium is something she called “encaustic mixed media.” This type of media involves painting with hot wax and oil paints. She said, “Ecaustic is difficult to work with because it has a mind of its own, but it smells amazing and for me it feels like mediation. Plus, the real bonus is you have to work with fire. I use a blow torch to burn the wax in.”
And for the record… someone once told her that fine art did not include glitter. She has used glitter in 14 different paintings, just to prove them wrong.
Paula is currently involved in a few projects. If you have been to a Supernatural convention recently, then you might have seen her paintings at the Attitudes In Reverse tables. She is the artist behind the large IMAlive paintings.
She is also part of The Cabal Creative; this group recently held their first international art show in Spain. Paula is also running a project called Finding Inclusivity (www.FindingInclusivity.com) . For this project, she is interviewing about 120 women (or people who identify as women), painting their portraits and writing their stories. “My goal is to take the usual story we have about women, especially in pop culture, and change it.”
Lisa M. Rourke
The next featured artist is Lisa Rourke. Not only does Lisa create pencil and color pencil/water color portraitures, she is also the artist behind the amazing customized Funko Pops! She has been customizing these for about two and a half years. She uses a variety of materials, including acrylic paints and brushes, Apoxie Sculpt and Milliput, sculpting tools, Xacto blades, sandpaper, pencils, and pastels.
Lisa was gracious enough to explain to me her process of customizing a Funko Pop. Sometimes she takes an existing Pop and repaints its features, per a customer’s order. However, other customization, called a Kitbash, takes much longer and is significantly more complex. The process begins by – literally – boiling the various Pops in water, to loosen all the glues. Then she starts taking apart the Pops, replacing parts, re-gluing, and creating a new customized item. From there, she begins adding the details, such as hair, clothing and accessories. She paints on the finishing touches. A Kitbash creation often takes a few weeks to complete.
Lisa surprised me with her answer to the question, who inspires you? She rattled off a list of names from several Funko Pop customizer groups, saying, “their work constantly amazes me and inspires me to keep practicing and improving my sculpting.” Let me repeat that. There are Funko Pop customizer groups. How freakin cool is that?! It just goes to show that no matter your passion, there are other people out there who not only share your passion, but also seek to encourage and support you in that passion. #Famdom
Jodi Zulueta is the final artist in the spotlight. If you have been to a Salute to Supernatural Convention, then you have probably seen her in the vendors area. Her table is full of unique, beautiful pieces of jewelry… but let’s call it what it is – what Jodi creates is Wearable Art. She loves working with wire and glass, creating some stunning pieces!
Some artists begin with an idea. Others begin with a simple sketch. Others begin with a series of notes and thoughts scribbled onto napkins and pages, or as in my case, sticky notes. (I should probably buy stock in Post It, wait, let me jot that down…) Anyway, Jodi begins with the title. She said, “the pieces are inspired by the titles; the titles are what I was thinking of at the time I created it.” With the title in mind, the piece begins to form and take its shape. It can be finished in as little as half an hour, but usually much longer depending on the technique she is using, such as hammering, weaving, wire wrapping or painting.
Although Jodi’s “favorite” piece changes from time to time – I mean, look at her work, how could I even think of choosing a favorite – but right now one of her favorite pieces is “Family Don’t End with Blood,” a piece Lynn asked if she wanted to design. This piece is one of her favorites because of what it represents – particularly the chapters in “Family Don’t End With Blood” written by Kim Rhodes, Ruth Connell, Briana Buckmaster, and Rachel Miner. Jodi went on to explain that as she read these chapters, she came to realize the common thread through all them – embracing what made them different, finding strength when they were at their weakest, being absolutely transparent whether they’re in front of the camera or speaking with a fan, ultimately finding each other and creating their family.
With that commonality in mind, and being inspired by Family Don’t End With Blood, Jodi designed a piece that is “akin to a continuous journey with an embrace; finding ourselves and our families; choosing our families.” The piece is a gray/blue round luminous glass wrapped in layers: a silver layer, a black layer, and another silver layer, with a red crystal on top to represent family.
Jodi draws inspiration from a number of different people in her life. The support and encouragement from her husband and her children are immeasurable. She also mentioned the Vendor Squad, a group of vendors traveling the country, often attending the same conventions together. She said, “Their spirit, work ethic, and dedication to their crafts are beyond inspiring.” She also explained this Squad is a constant source of support and encouragement. They band together and promote one another’s work. If only we could live in a world where this kind of support and encouragement existed between corporations… what a world that would be.
I asked all of the artists a few key questions, and below are some of their responses.
Thoughts on tagging celebrities:
Anne summed it up best when she said, “My rule of thumb on tagging is never assume they will see it, but always assume they might see it, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
To Post, or Not to Post, that is the Question:
(and the answer seems to be – think first, and use some common sense!)
“In cases of hate/slander, it should be shut down immediately. Anything with the subject of malice and hate to me is not art. If you are creating art and truly love the subject, you should have respect for that and choose to display that love and respect.” – Candice
“These type of things should at least be tagged so people can choose whether or not to see it. There’s room for everyone, but I also believe we have an obligation to show respect to each other, and to the people we admire. There are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed.” – Jilly
“I think freedom of expression is very important and an artist should be allowed to post their artwork on social media. That being said, there’s a place for everything and I believe content should be rated or given a warning label so that if you do not want to see graphic pictures of violence or sex for example, you would not have to see it.” – Lisa
“Think to yourself… “Would I walk up and show this to a million people in the middle of times square on the coca cola marquee? No? Then maybe I shouldn’t post it.” We are all unique individuals that enjoy the right to be able to enjoy what we do enjoy. It’s about respecting others and knowing your audience. Basic manners is what it all comes down to. Embrace our differences, folks.” – Jodi
About crediting artists:
Without fail, they all agreed on the most basic of points: Don’t. Remove. Watermarks. It really is that simple, folks. Just don’t do it.
I think my favorite part of doing these interviews has been reading their advice for other artists struggling with self-doubt. Sometimes their advice sounds simple, such as “practice, practice, practice!” That might sound easy enough, but when your head is swirling with self-doubt and negativity, it can be hard to find the strength to practice your art on a given day. In times like that, Amanda, Samantha, and Lisa recommend reaching out to your fellow artists, seek out encouragement and support from your artist community.
Candice and Jilly both said, “Don’t give up.” They talked about the importance of making mistakes and learning from it. They said to stop comparing yourself to others, stop worrying about other people’s opinions, just keep going, keep working on the art you want to make.
Jodi said, “Strive for uniqueness, but don’t get hung up on perfection. Perfect is boring. Develop your own style and technique.” Anne echoed that when she said, “If you’re hung up on one thing, do something else.” Anne also said something that really resonated with me, “If you wouldn’t let someone say it to a friend of yours, don’t say it to yourself.”
And then there’s the advice from Paula. (I’m not crying, I just have something in my eye) She said, “If you paint or write for “likes” or validation, you’re doing it wrong. Paint because you can’t live without it. Write because the words are pounding inside of you, trying to get out. Be relentless in living up to your dreams. Don’t listen to the naysayers. But most of all, give yourself a break. If you need to feel your feelings, then feel them. These feelings will lead to new creations. Relish them.”
Another look at their wonderful art!
Everyone’s advice is powerful and worth repeating, every day. But for me, it was this statement from Paula that really hit home, really punched me in the feels:
“If it’s in your blood, then do it. Create. Make. Be.”
I’m gonna need that on a shirt.
Please check out the links (found beneath their names throughout the article) for all of these wonderful artists!