Creative Evolution

Give me a tool and I’ll try to make something with it; even if I have no training or previous experience. I love exploring my own uncharted, creative territory. This is how I got started with knitting, sewing and silk screening. I watched a few online videos, bought a kit and started playing.

During the long, dark, wet winters here in Seattle I typically have 3 - 4 art projects rotating. For example I’ll hand-sew a pillow case while my photo emulsion film dries or start knitting a cowl scarf while I burn a new design on a silk screen in my tiny bathroom-turned-darkroom. Juggling these projects brings me as much joy and balance as dancing or getting out into nature.

And I’m always looking to learn more. Fine arts intrigue me. Especially since there is an increasing number of digital programs out there that can catapult design and creativity onto a whole new level. While it’s incredibly engaging and exciting to see, I find myself consistently pulled into a world of hands-on, raw materials. I want to capture texture with oil paint or illustrate shadows with a pen. I do, however, like the dichotomy of digitally capturing my micron drawings with photo filters. The dark winters bring lighting challenges so I’m grateful for my Nikon photo enhancements. So far, that’s as digital as I get.

Perhaps I’m reluctant to cross over into the digital world mostly because with my creative ADD I’m afraid to fall into a new creative rabbit hole and throw off my balance a bit. On the other hand, it could be exhilarating; new tool = new adventures. 

Micron Magic

I have been experimenting with micron pens and they are blowing my mind. The details I can create with a double-zero-5 tip have opened up a whole new world of design. I have always used ballpoint pens or roller ball tips to draw black and white designs and tattoos but they tended to smear or smudge. See the difference @Neeshagear on Instagram.

This past winter I was gifted some color microns! [Mind freshly-blown] I'm excited to pop out some color in my details.

Sunset Murder

My favorite time of day, during summer here in the PNW, is when the crows fly at sunset. They’ll sit for hours in the trees on the cliff near our house facing the Sound. As the sun crests over the mountains they get restless; the younger crows try to rally but the elders stay patient. The call to fly is unrecognized by my ears but once they take to the sky the chorus and black canopy over my head gives me warm chills and I smile wide. I’m happy to know these are my neighbors.

My admiration for these creatures inspired this piece, entitled The Call

Contact High

After being invited to paint live at a club in Seattle early May, I started brainstorming about the subject matter with the logistics in mind; I was informed the venue would have a space theme equipped with black lights and there would be some thumpin’ beats executed by some primo, local DJs. The idea came to me after thinking about my favorite childhood tribe – the lost boys from Peter Pan - and the thought of putting them in space with one key change – their leader would be a girl. She would lead them bounding from rock to cliff and beyond. Then I thought about how rad it would be to paint this scene in UV acrylics so it would POP from the canvas as the night progressed.

It was an amazing night! My painting came out the way I wanted but the icing on this space cake was the fact that I met so many wonderful, beautiful people. Artists and creators themselves, I was elated to make some new connections and friends. The DJs kept me dancing as I painted the night away. It was one of the most expressive fusions of dance, music and art I had experienced in a while. I’m so grateful to have spent an evening with so many open hearts.

Dance

I’ve taken dance classes since I was six. I started with ballet then tap then jazz. It helped me build confidence as a kid. When I got my driver’s license I took a break from dance to explore my new-found freedom behind the wheel. In college I tried to get back into dance but my heart wasn’t there yet.

When I moved to Seattle, one of my priorities was to find a studio and get back to movement. I couldn’t have been luckier than to find everything I was looking for, and more, at Exit Space in Green Lake. It’s the most welcoming, unassuming, down-to-earth dance environment I have experienced to date. And after nearly 8 years, I refer to it as my second home. Sure, I work full time, manage my small business and still love to travel, but when I need to escape life’s stress, work out something in my head or just not think at all, I hike or ride my bike but on top of all my favorite activities, dancing cures my soul and relaxes me the most.

Lately I have immersed myself in Modern dance classes. I’ve always been an admirer of the genre but always fell into the old habit of focusing on ballet when it came to study. Ballet is an incredibly important foundation for all dance and I will always love it, but my departure from it has led me, and my body, into a new wonderland of movement. On top of building a new muscle group, shedding my inhibitions to execute choreography to its fullest under the direction of someone I admire immensely, it has effected my dreams and most of all my art. I have been so inspired lately that I can’t keep up with the evocative compositions that continue to pop into my head. It’s truly a beautiful thing when two art forms compliment each other so much and I hope to ride this wave as long as I can. I am grateful to have found this new love. If only I could truly capture its essence on canvas. This will be my new goal.

Baby Socks

My most favorite thing to paint? Baby socks – hands down, no question. They’re tiny, they’re soft, they’re for babies so cuteness factor and color combinations have no limits. When a baby is sporting a white pair of socks, kicking her/his feet in the air all I see are two blank canvases waiting for fun. Baby socks allow me to doodle in three-dimensions. I can paint a cuddly monster gumming the baby’s toe or paint a flower stem coiled around the heel.  My favorite design right now: Pac Man grid with ghosts. I’m currently working on a glow-in-the-dark version.

My baby socks are for sale at Monster Art & Clothing in Seattle.

Feelin' the FIMO

I’ve had many recent conversations with friends about how we Seattleites deal with the dark days of fall & winter. Some use special daylight bulbs in our houses, some bury themselves in work or play, and some just can’t avoid the looming slump we sometimes fall into when it’s dark at a barely 4pm in the afternoon. January is getting brighter and brighter but the dark clouds over the Sound never help.

Today was gorgeous; bright sky, few clouds and people were soaking it in. It’s amazing how the weather here can effect daily interactions and I found myself reflecting on how it affected me. Usually when I’m stressed, I occupy myself with exercise (like a long bike ride, urban hike with my dog, or back-to-back 90-minute dance classes). It’s a challenge to get my creative juices flowing when I’m in ‘a funk’. I rely on those activities to break me out so I can appropriately apply myself to produce my best work.

Conversely, I have cranked out some of my favorite paintings while battling stress and anxiety. There have been many occasions when I had to cut myself off from social activities to deal with my stress (forcing myself to paint, draw or craft). It’s incredibly cathartic. Blinded by my emotions I ignore my inhibitions and, with this mental freedom, create something I might not have on my own.

This [stress] silver lining carries a lot of weight for me through the fall and winter in a small apartment. I can go stir crazy very easily, which is why I frequently joke that the dance studio is my second home. Having these escapes keeps me mentally healthy and happy. At the same time, acknowledging how stress gives me different creative inspiration is just as valuable. This month, I am experimenting with FIMO modeling clay. And I’m pretty addicted. I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s damn fun molding my stress away.

Hand-painted Monster onesies

I make my own screens to print on T-shirts and baby onesies. After I print the backdrop I hand-paint the details. This makes every garment unique. I carefully apply a color combination to every monster and every baby sock.  I use Scribbles, non-toxic 3D fabric paint, which allows me to blend colors like I would on a canvas. This helps every monster pop off the fabric. Some of my colors glow in the dark for a fun surprise.

hand-painted

TRIFECTA

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may see me post updates for Andrea Rangel (Andrea Knits), who is also my sister-in-law, and for my good friend Jessie Kwak (Bicitoro). The three of us are close friends but as of three years ago we’re bonded over something more profound.

While on a visit to Vancouver Island in November 2012 Andrea, Jessie and I formed TRIFECTA. It’s a support network for the three of us to develop our creative endeavors. It was the result of a weekend where over a bottle of red, we shared creative successes & struggles and came to the realization that our forum provided something more insightful. TRIFECTA became a space to outline our short-and-long-term career goals, business strategies and artistic ideas for feedback.

Before launching Concentric Designs, I had no idea how to do it. Andrea and Jessie, who both previously launched their own small businesses, provided the insight that inspired me to take the leap. They shared their strategies, resources and lessons learned. TRIFECTA allows us to empower each other while keeping our expectations for success based in reality. And it’s tradition to kill a bottle of red or two.

In October 2013 Jessie, Andrea and I met again on Vancouver Island to celebrate our 2nd TRIFECTA Retreat. That time we rocked a bicycle wine tour throughout Cowichan Valley.

Last week we celebrated the 3rd TRIFECTA Retreat in Portland where we cycled between pubs, cafes and chatted up new business goals. I was at Posies Bakery when I sketched the avatar for my new brand Neesha Gear.

Posie's Bakery

Concentric Designs

I launched Concentric Designs in January of 2013. The brand focused on three main areas: hand-painted T-shirt and onesie designs, original paintings and custom tattoo design. Each inspire the other and all share overlapping influences: dance, circus arts, world cultures and patterns found in nature. I have a very large, and very full, creative gas tank; when I’m not painting or sketching I’m taking a dance class, flowing with fire on the beach, hiking outside the city with my partner and our dog, cycling across town or trekking on another continent. Each has a profound impact on my creativity and imagination.

Kona beach

The seed. The root. The tree

I have been sketching and painting since I first discovered I could as a kid. My parents are both artists in their own right and nurtured my imagination from the start. Exposure to the desert colors and vibrant cultures in Tucson, AZ left me with plenty of inspiration. I thought developing my art through a degree would be a smart choice when I started college but found the art program too restricting and instead I graduated in writing, all the while keeping my art a side project in Flagstaff, AZ. I stayed for 8 years (earning undergrad and graduate degrees) teaching English composition as a Graduate Assistant and in my free time hiking, swimming and discovering even more cultures within the area. Art was something I needed to keep for myself wherein I could find my own voice and style. Flash forward 3 years and I find myself living in Seattle. I found Seattle to be a place where uber-creative people explored, collaborated and shared their art in all stages of development. I found this incredibly inviting and intoxicating. I wanted to soak it all up; I went to galleries, local café exhibits, attended local dance performances, went to music concerts and really tried to dive into the art scene. I felt I was merely scratching the surface of my art education. Besides the progressive metropolitan aspects, Seattle is blanketed in a lush, diverse environment begging to be explored. I put a lot of miles on the car and popped a few bike tires while navigating the area within my first few years. I gulped it all in and when I came up for air I had so much I wanted to say on canvas. This is how I started developing my style that would later become a muse for a small business brand I called Concentric Designs.