Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Maria Saracino, Figurative Polymer Clay Sculptor, Tells Her Story

I am a figurative artist and my medium is polymer clay. I’ve been working with polymer since the mid 1990’s; however, it is still considered a relatively new medium in the art world. It’s only been around for 30 or 40 years, which is a nano-second compared to traditional sculptural mediums. During most of that time it was considered primarily a craft product. Only recently has it been recognized as a fine art medium and we are finally starting to see polymer clay artists in galleries and museums. For those who don’t know what polymer clay is, it’s basically plastic – PVC plastic. It’s non-toxic, and doesn’t require any special equipment. Also, because it’s oil-based rather than water-based, you have time to work on your sculpture without worrying about it drying out.

Lunch in the Park - 11"H x 26" x 6"

I have wanted to be a professional artist for as long as I can remember. I actually know the exact moment the switch turned on in my head. I thank my first grade teacher for recognizing and igniting my passion for art. But like most artists, as an adult, I had to deal with the practicality of earning a living. For the first 18 years of my career I worked as a graphic artist in the days when ad layouts were waxed and pasted and typesetting was done with a dark room wet processor. During that time, every chance I had, I painted, did portraiture and explored just about every creative medium I was able to get my hands on. Discovering polymer clay, however, resolved many of the frustrations I experienced with traditional art mediums. With polymer clay I am able to create dimension, realism, movement and emotion. More than just sculpting, it also incorporates several other mediums I enjoy, sung as textiles.

Playtime - 18"H x 14" x 11"

During the last 20 years, as I honed my sculpting style, polymer clay has also been developing and improving. Several brands and grades of polymer have been introduced that have resolved many of the growing pains of the early clays. When I was first introduced to polymer I started by making old world Father Christmas which then led me to the world of art dolls. During the middle portion of this journey I was designing and manufacturing a seasonal gift line, all the while working on my sculpting skills. During this period I certainly paid my dues - from the hardships of being on the road travelling from one show to another, to the lows of rejection and criticism to the highs of winning competitions or appearing in publications - it’s been a roller coaster ride. Regardless, I have a passion for what I do and I’ve stayed on this path relentlessly. I am extremely lucky that my husband has supported and encouraged me throughout my career even during the low periods, which in retrospect were probably harder on him than on me.

Yes Chef - 35"H x 14" x 14"

Although I still have many goals and dreams I want to fulfill and I work tirelessly at promoting my work, today I am a full time artist and am recognized as a figurative sculptor and master polymer artist. I have appeared in three museum exhibits, am represented by three art galleries in Canada and have been featured in exhibits in both Canada and the USA. I am often commissioned to do portraits or special sculptural installations. My influences include Joe Fafard and Ron Mueck, but my biggest influence, and who my sculpting style is often compared to, is Norman Rockwell. Like his illustrations, my sculptures are familiar; they are about triggering a memory, a feeling. They are realistic yet whimsical. My sculptures are like looking at candid moments in time in everyday situations. 

As a matter of fact, “Moments in Time” is the name of my new solo exhibit that runs until March 6th at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa, Canada, which also carries my work year-round. I am also represented by Gallery On Gore in Perth and the Rimawi Fine Art Gallery in Montreal.

Moments in Time

Most recently I have started teaching. I offer beginner and intermediate workshops in polymer clay. I’ve resisted teaching for years for fear of being one of those teachers who is too hands on and turns all her students work into her own. I’ve overcome that problem by sculpting alongside my students so they can see my technique without me actually handling their work. I also break down the process into steps and offer videos or printed tutorials with lots of photos so they can work on the techniques on their own time as well. Turns out I’m a pretty good teacher and I enjoy it very much. My students enjoy it too; they often sign up for additional classes and are always looking for new challenges. My workshops are available through my website - the direct link is http://saracinocollection.com/pages/workshops and they include beginner and intermediate classes, video and PDF tutorials. Anyone interested in purchasing an online tutorial can order directly through the website or if you would like to participate in an in-studio open class you can contact me directly at maria@saracino.caor book online as well.

The Gamers - 12"H x 16" x 8"

One of my favorite quotes is “Being creative is not a hobby . . . it is a way of life.” This is my life.

The Haircut - 24" H x 10 x 10"

This is Week 7 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Maria's story today!

To connect with Maria and see more of her work, please use the following links:

Commissions: Portrait Commissions start at $1,000 Cdn for a single character. Contact Maria for details and a quote.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dwij Will, aka David Gittens, Inventor & Musician, Tells His Story

Inspiration, focus, and visioning clearly have been the foundation and stepping stones on my creative walkabout . . . so ‘tis fun to reflect on the journey.

In this moment, traversing the whirl of an elder, my creative canvas explores the calling of music . . . a calling to this neophyte that is soulful and has no defined goal other than the nurturing and deep felt gift of its own unfolding journey. My brief introduction to classical Indian music at the Ali Akbar College of Music inspired me, some years later, to create Dwijveena (shown above), a 23-string fretless guitar strung like a sarode, as a vehicle for meditation and relaxation. I am deeply grateful when its enchanting resonance awakens in me, when I learn that its voice touches others, and when my playing merges with the voices/instruments of other creators. My joy and truth is that there is a depth in this unfolding musical canvas that echoes of a soulful center and homecoming.

My earliest recollection of a creative awareness, or an initiation into a world of amazing depth and mystery, was that familiar and welcoming vista called daydreaming. For me, this domain was a rich and infinite realm of imagery and imagination, stories and music with beings and creatures that were guides into a magical world far beyond the boundaries of our Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. It was a world that was enhanced by the stories coming from the big Philco upright radio that our family gathered around every Sunday after dinner; rhythmic Caribbean music from the crank-to-play Victrola, my first books, which had mostly monotone images, or from exploring the fascinating worlds that one could experience when visiting the great New York City museums we frequented.

However, daydreaming was harshly frowned upon and in a sense it set in me the foundation for an ongoing confrontation with the world of defined structure, rules, and pre-conditioned limitations that dulled my spirit with boredom and suppressed the imagination. This daydream gift connected me to realms of wonder, information, communication, and possibilities that grew to be my source of “universal attunement”—my definition for an evolving construct that links past and future in this moment—a fulcrum in my maturing process that I’ll simply refer to as soulful . . . in a spiritual and not in a religious construct. The greatest gift of radio, for me, was that it had “no cultural face”; I could imagine self in any of the characters whose accomplishments were inspiring, heroic, and future-linked.

Mataji: Watercolor, brush and airbrush, 16x20 reproduction

Our Brooklyn neighborhood was safe enough in the late 1940s that my best friend Peter Bobbitt and I, at age nine, could take the trolley car for a nickel to the Saturday art classes at the Brooklyn Museum where, for many years, we could explore art and music in an always exciting and changing environment; and where chamber, orchestral and symphony music were often our backdrop . . . his heart/art with sculpture and music and mine with drawing and painting.

Phoenix Rising, 1982: Limited edition of 125, 22x28, pen and ink/pointillism, is in a number of collections

Since those formative and memorable times, creative exploration in one form or another held my interest and eventually led to my acceptance as a photography major at the High School of Industrial Arts. This was an awesome and endearing experience, attending school in mid-town Manhattan, although it sometimes seemed perplexingly out-of-touch with reality as a camera smaller than 4x5 format was prohibited and our Photo Chemistry class required us to know how to make flash powder and film emulsion . . . neither of which was of use in my soon-to-blossom world of professional photography.

Often times I have bobbed and weaved to evade the “title” of painter or illustrator, sculptor or designer, playground creator or photographer, videographer or playwright-embraced-by-mythology, which have been my many canvases of exploration on a round-the-world walkabout over the years. Instead, I embrace my center as a wellspring of unlimited and untapped psychic and intuitive possibilities, perhaps akin to the disc of a sunflower . . . and I vision its petals as the individual expressions of the core, which every creative being may explore as vehicles for creative expression; some for a few moments and others for a lifetime.

My creativity has flourished in many cultures and has manifested as photography in New York and Europe, automobile design/building in Europe, connections of heart with Mayan villagers drawing on shells that were exchanged for food and shelter in Yucatan, the design and creation of a solar-heated community shower system for UNICEF that was built close to the shore of Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala, and the concept, design and construction of the stage set in the General Assembly for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in New York, the latter underwritten by the MTA, New York Port Authority and NYC businesses. 

Tapping in to different aspects of my creativity enabled me to create award-winning rotary wing aircraft in New Mexico, present a workshop on creativity for researchers at Mitsui’s Advanced Technology Center in Chiba, Japan, and for middle school teachers and students at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It is especially fulfilling to design and present community events that merge the arts community, the wellness community and the spiritual community.

Whilst my creative process is one that is often nurtured in solitude, a place of balance, learning, and humility that is meaningful to me is visioning and embarking on projects that flourish with the input of others . . . having the experience of artistic, engineering, and production collaboration has oftentimes created magic and in many instances I have discovered that co-creation and rule-bending leads to the most astonishing and inventive discoveries.

Ikenga GT Automobiles: Concept/Design, London 1966 to 1969*

A mantra I often sang when beginning challenging projects, especially those that later achieved successes beyond my imagining, was to “jump off the cliff and learn to fly before I hit the ground.”  My Ikenga automobile projects of the 1960s, culminating with the 1969 MK-III GT being the most acclaimed British entry in the 1969 Italian International Auto Show, were a success because of this and reflected the close collaboration with my guide and friend, British coach builder Charles Williams, and many other technology wizards and sponsors. 

The prototype 23-foot Ikenga catamaran kit, built of recycled materials in Mendocino, California, was strikingly futuristic, whilst the Scootboard, a hand portable and collapsible 35mph scooter developed initially as my emergency transportation in the face of a NYC transit strike, was later manufactured in New Mexico as a minimal structure inner urban vehicle.  The award-winning Ikenga autogiro aircraft projects of the 1980s (the Ikenga 530Z resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC) was also a successful manifestation of my mantra and exemplified how grassroots teamwork can morph into a project or process that surpasses one’s original goal. Most importantly, I honor these projects, and other creations of mine, as being Spirit-guided.

Ikenga Aircraft: Concept/Design/Construction. Santa Fe, NM 1985 to 1992**

My life is the canvas and my various creative exhalations are the mechanism and vehicles for the very survival of my spirit . . . and perhaps my humanity. I am in awe of the vast creative ability that resides in each of us . . . and I grok how the harsh challenges and obligation of life can cruelly diminish one’s creative flame. Our creativity, yours and mine, may be small, whilst also being a catalyzing and life-affirming spark that resonates in ways that can alter the world-stage beyond our imagining.  And should we cross paths on the journey, share in a project, or motivate each other from a distance, may the exchange/experience be one of shared inspiration, brightening each other’s path as the talisman that ushers us towards our greatest possibility and potential.

This is surely the spirited diamond that we all can nurture and share with each other on the journey towards self-realization during this brief walkabout on spaceship earth.

Way Station Earth: Watercolor, brush and airbrush. Limited edition of 150, 24x30 GiclĂ©e

Richard M. DeVos wrote: “The only thing that stands between a person and what they want from life is often merely the will to attempt it and the faith to believe that it is possible.”

May our success on the creativity journey be the celebration of the manifested possible.

—dwij/David Gittens

This is Week 6 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing David's story today. To see more of David's work and to connect with him, please see the following links:

Email: dwij@aol.com

Inspirational/Visionary Art:  http://dwij.org/dwij/gallery.html

Music on my 23-string creation with soundscape artist Edward Cosla: https://youtu.be/CzIr_ndIIJ0

Aircraft design segment:  http://dwij.org/dwij/aircraft.htm

Rare first flight film: The 1988 Ikenga 530Z Autogiro:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65GTibxR2hY

Automobile design segment: http://dwij.org/dwij/ikenga.htm

Rare film: The 1968 Ikenga MK II GT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK7rCTfU06o

My old webzine created in 2000 may interest you:  http://dwij.org

Projects page: http://dwij.org/about_us/dwij_projects.htm

Exhibited in London, Paris, Turin and Stockholm, the 1969 Ikenga MK III was a feature of the Manx Motor Museum in England for many years and is now in an automobile collection on the Arabian Peninsula

** The award winning 1988 Ikenga 530Z autogiro resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Catherine Anderson, Photographer & Mixed Media Artist, Tells Her Story

It has been an interesting journey from attorney to photography franchise owner to creativity workshop facilitator and artist. The phrase “Feel the fear and do it anyway” has been my constant mantra. It is always a stretch to move from something you know to living at your creative edge. I believe courage is more important than talent when living a creative life. It takes courage to be a beginner again, to put your work out into the world, and to share your inner self with others. And that is what I believe our art is – a sharing of our soul.

My creative work is constantly evolving, and I love working in different media - photography, collage, mixed media art journaling – as I find that the forms influence and inform each other. Everything I create I do for myself as an attempt to get to know myself better and to make sense of the world. I am constantly in awe of the beauty of the world we live in and try to convey this in the images I make.

This collage was created for the book, Inspirational Quotes Illustrated: Art and Words to Motivate by Lesley Riley. It speaks to me of the hundreds of creative ideas out in the world which are constantly visiting us, and the need to focus on what is right in front of you to bring an idea into reality.

This digital image was made using papers I created for my art journals, together with a photograph of the nautilus shell, a symbol I find very meaningful. Spirals often find their way into my work, and the labyrinth is a pattern that speaks deeply to me. The path of the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of life, its twists and turns, feeling lost. However, because there is only one path in to the center of the labyrinth, it is also a symbol for trusting that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

I have inserted my photographs along the path of this classical labyrinth design. I’m drawn to photographing things that remind me of my connection to the earth and to the heavens, images that touch my soul in a symbolic way. Using this image as a finger labyrinth allows me to let the images inform my inner and outer journey.

The door is another symbolic image that resonates with me. I photograph doors everywhere I go and use them in my art journals and on my SoulCollage® cards. I have amassed a large collection of doors from India, Italy, France, Africa, Ireland and many other places. I love adding quotes to the images, as I often find that a quote will deepen the images’ meaning, while at the same time the image deepens the meaning of the quote. Together, the words and image create something more meaningful.

The iPhone camera has opened up a whole new world for all of us. Now we always have a camera with us and can record moments of beauty that appear in unexpected moments. I particularly love using a macro-lens on my iPhone as it opens me up to a new way of seeing, a fresh perspective. This photograph of bubbles in a glass of wine is something we would not usually notice, and yet what beauty we can find when we take the time to see!

My love of photography led me to study the history of photography and I became obsessed with vintage photographs, collecting them wherever I could find them and giving them new life in my paper and sewn collages. There is something magical about collecting these old forgotten moments in time and turning them into new moments of inspiration. This little muse talks about what I love to do most, which is encourage others to find their own creative passions. I really believe in the power of creativity to enhance our life in so many ways – by encouraging mindfulness and giving us a way to sit quietly with oneself and process the confusion of the everyday in a life-affirming way.

May you find a way to express your own unique creativity in our world -- Catherine

This is Week 5 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Catherine’s post today.  To connect with her on social media, please use the following links:


The Creative Photographer Blog: