For Lazandria

This week I received my first official piece of fan mail. Lazandria, an 11 yr. old aspiring artist, singer, and violin player, wrote me a lovely letter. (She also gave me a drawing and hand-made bracelet!) It took me by complete surprise and almost made me cry. Too many times I focus on the things I haven’t done as an artist/musician: I still haven’t recorded my first album, still haven’t had a solo exhibition, etc… But I forget that, even before I reach those milestones, I have the opportunity to create and share art on a daily basis. I was so encouraged by Lazandria’s letter that I made a drawing for her*:

Lazandria

And while I’m posting:
My favorite part of this style of sharpie drawings is the process. I start out with the lightest color (in this case, yellow) and add one color at a time until the whole page is full. The final background color (in this case, royal blue) completely changes the way the other colors look. It’s exciting how the text, which is almost unreadable in the unfinished image below, comes alive with the addition of the dark background:

LanzandriaWhite

*Lazandria, if you are reading this: I will deliver this drawing to you soon, along with a response to your letter!

2014

It’s 2014 already.  I haven’t updated my website since June 2013.  Busyness and laziness were enough to stop me.  When they failed there was always the daunting feeling that I would not only be responsible to post something new, but that I would be obligated to make up for lost time by posting an incredible amount of artwork/songs/excuses and worthy explanations for my absence.  I could talk about playing gigs around Lansing, both of my own material and with the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, about working on community art projects through REACH, and about new milestones in my personal life, but who has time for that?

This past October two of my siblings and I were fortunate enough to attend a Derek Webb* show in Ann Arbor.  He pointed out that many people have the idea that they have wandered too far from God and that to find their way back to Him would mean trekking through a whole mess of desert and wilderness.  But Webb posed the question (this is, of course, my paraphrased version of it): what if God is following us around, and if we are ever lost all we really have to do is turn around?  What if God is, to use Webb’s words, closer than you think?

On that line of thought, I am taking the turn-around approach to updating my website.  Instead of finding some path backward to get on track with web posting, I’m starting from where I am.  Will I ever “catch up” on the posts and updates I had hoped to get done in 2013?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it’s a new year, a new opportunity to set goals and have high expectations for myself, instead of feeling guilty for all the things I haven’t done.  Here’s to a productive 2014!

–Abbey

*Derek Webb is one of my biggest inspirations as a musician/singer-songwriter.  I could (and really should) write a whole post about his influence on me.  I am particularly challenged by his honest, slap-in-the-face lyrics (definitely not background/party music!), which often wrestle with the teachings of Jesus and call out those who claim to follow Him.  And Derek is a perfect example of a musician who can play with a band and produce memorable studio recordings… yet he still holds his own when it is just him and a guitar.  Definitely something I aspire to.

I just posted a new song called Stuck that is deeply influenced by Derek Webb.  First of all, I’m gonna give credit where credit is due and say that musically it is almost identical to his song “A Savior on Capitol Hill.”  I was playing chords, singing, and at some point realized it sounded similar, but I love that song and how Derek sings it, and I have been wanting to experiment with different sounds/styles.  So I decided to keep it how it is.

Lyrically the song started off with a phrase that made me laugh, but as I started writing it took a turn for the serious side.  Context: I took communion at church one week and while the rest of the congregation moved on to pray and sing songs, I couldn’t ignore the fact that some of the cracker was stuck in my teeth.  You know that feeling: when you’re in a public setting and feel food stuck way back there, and the subtle tongue maneuver to get it out just isn’t working…  So I’m sitting there in church wondering if I should just pick it out, but symbolically (for me it is symbolic, I know this varies based on denomination) it is the body of Christ in my teeth!  How can I justify picking it out with my finger?  I smiled as I penned the first line in my notebook, thus the song “Stuck” began.  But it evolved into a song about feeling stuck in the habit of going to church, not getting much out of it, criticizing authority, and wondering if the problem is them or me…  I guess you’ll figure that out if you listen to the song…  :)  I am happy to report that a lot of my feelings have changed since writing it (hence my hesitancy to post it), but that is another reason I intend to post more often.  There are many experiences and sentiments that are as fleeting as they are powerful.  I want to capture as much as I can while I am present with it.  Tomorrow will bring new sorrows and joys.

Mid-Year Update

Hello folks!

It’s been a while since my last post, but I am home from tour and finally getting back to creative work.  First things first:

Today, June 30th, marks the half-way point in my 2013 Quest for Excellence (an attempt at a weekly post of visual art.)  Allow me to catch up with the weeks I missed:

Week 23

Week 23

Week 23: June 9th
“Freedom Within” revisited (work in progress)
Acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas

This has been a work in progress since autumn 2011.  I had moved back in with my parents (from Queens, NY to Lansing, MI) and bought a canvas and some orange paint, just to see what would happen.  I painted the whole canvas orange.  I started to paint an image over it, but quickly lost my creative juices and left it alone.  Every couple months I would come back to the canvas and try something new.  One day I began to paint an image based on one of my drawings from Puerto Rico, 2012.  The painting has been on my wall for over a year, and every few months I will add something new to it.  (After Christmas I placed glass nativity figures atop the canvas, just because I needed a place for them to sit.  6 months later and they still rest there, unattached.)  One of the most recent additions is paper cutouts of a photocopy of the original drawing.

Week 24

Week 24

Week 24: June 16th
Bunny-tiger sketch
Pencil on paper

The month of June means the beginning of summer art programs at REACH.  I am thrilled to be a part of Teen Open Studio.  Last week we had a new student who wanted to draw for the first time.  I helped her sketch a bunny rabbit step by step (by drawing on my own paper and having her follow).  When she proudly showed off her first drawing I looked back at my paper to see that one of my demo rabbits was headless.  I glanced over at the tiger eyeing me from the cover of an animal book and couldn’t stop my imagination from combining the images.  And that’s how the bunny-tiger came to be.

Week 25

Week 25
Week 25: June 23rd
Chameleon 
Acrylic paint on wall

Back at REACH we have a new building.  Since it is about to be renovated we got permission to paint on the condemned walls.  The assignment: each student should paint his/her “spirit animal.”  The first day I walked around the room admiring the work of the teens.  The second day I decided to join the fun and paint an animal of my own.

Week 26

Week 26

Week 26: June 30th
Like a Child
Watercolor, pen, and acrylic paint on paper.  8 1/2×11″

This month I went to a birthday party for a 4-year-old.  I bought her a basic set of watercolors and brushes (gotta start ‘em young!)… and proceeded to buy the same for myself.  That was a few weeks ago.  I finally sat down and played with them.  The work started out so simple and subtle, but I kept adding and adding to it until I reached the point of, “Ummm…. just took it too far.  It was better before and now it looks like a hot mess.”  Which, in my book, means that it’s time to make things even messier.

Thus completes the first half of the 2013 Quest for Excellence!

–Abbey

Waste Not

I was touching up my tattoos (kids: don’t try this at home), and I had a small amount of india ink left over.  A little bit of that stuff goes a long way, I couldn’t bear to toss it.  Without too much thought I brushed the remaining ink onto 15 postcards, just to get something started.  This week I had some “studio” time, so I kept working on the cards, drawing over them with pens and sharpies, adding orange and white paint, and even starting to add some elements of collage and mixed media.  They are all still in-progress.

Week 22

Week 22: June 2nd
Postcard in progress
Mixed media on cardboard,  5×7″

This one was the closest to finished so it gets posted for Week 22 of the Quest for Excellence.

–Abbey

Dios Mio

My friend and fellow musician/artist/entertainer Stefa Marín has joined up with Abe Cavin to form the incredible duo Dios Mio.  For months they have been writing and recording original songs for their upcoming EP – a concept album about a trip to space, brought to life by their dynamic electronic/vocal fusion.  (The EP has not yet been released, but you can listen to one of my favorite tracks – the hauntingly beautiful The Odyssey - on Soundcloud.)  Stefa and I were discussing possibilities for album art, and I was so excited to be a part of this project that I immediately sketched out their first idea.
DIOS MIO
Week 21: May 26th
Album art for Dios Mio, Sketch 1
Pen on paper, 4×4″

While my Quest for Excellence post is complete, the journey with Dios Mio is only beginning!  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress.

–Abbey

Collaborative Art

It has been a busy and beautiful month so far.  I flew out to New York City to celebrate my birthday with old friends and got to spend a full day making collaborative art with Melissa Misla.  This was the first time we were actually together since beginning our Quest for Excellence in January, so we thought we should at least work on one drawing.  We ended up with four larger “drawings”… and 15 postcards.  I say “drawings” because I don’t know what else to call them.  Our process involves lots of impulsive mark-making with whatever materials we can find in her studio.  (And when it comes to her studio… let’s just say I’m jealous.  I mean, where else can I receive permission to use the carpet as a paint rag on which to wipe my dirty brushes?)  Here is the first drawing we created together upon our most recent reunion:

Week 19

Week 19: May 12th
Untitled Collaborative Drawing 1 (with Melissa Misla)
Mixed media on paper, approximately 18×24″

It was a thrill to work with Misla again.  We fell right back into “Puerto Rico Mode” – listening to Hector Lavoe and Radiohead, smoking Marlboro Menthol Lights, and attacking each other’s lines and shapes with oil pastels, graphite, acrylic and oil paint, medium, markers, oil sticks, and whatever else our brushes or fingers would allow.  Making messes, then making sense of them, constantly rotating the paper for a different perspective…  I am so pleased with our work that I created a new page on my site featuring our collaborations.  Check out all the work we did last weekend in NY, as well as our initial collaborative work from our time in Puerto Rico last year, on my Collaborations page.

The Quest for Excellence continues, even though Misla and I are apart again.  While I was bored and waiting to board my delayed flight back to Michigan I began to experiment with the “Quick Memo” feature on my phone.  My wallpaper was set to one of our drawings, so I used that as a backdrop and experimented with color, line width and transparency.  This is the result:

Week 20

Week 20: May 19th
Airplane Mode
Screenshot of digital drawing

That brings me up to speed on the Quest for Excellence posts!  Time to get moving on this week’s project…

–Abbey

 

 

Week 18

It’s been a long, beautiful week.  Between babysitting, thrift shopping, Open Mic night at Dagwoods, working at a coffee shop, busking my songs for the first time, my first official gig with the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle at Macs Bar, band rehearsal, and taking time to enjoy the long-awaited spring weather… I thought I had nothing to show for this week’s post in the Quest for Excellence.  But I looked through my photos from the week and came across this photo of collaborative art from REACH Teen Open Studio students:

Week 18

Week 18: May 5th
Collaborative painting with REACH Teen Open Studio students
Tempera paint on paper, approximately 3′x5′

When I first began the Quest for Excellence, I stated that my goal was to explore the love of art-making.  It was a joy to make this piece with teens and to see them discover painting in a new way, in terms of scale and technique.  One told me, “I’ve never painted this big before, it’s great to move my whole arm!”  When all the color was added I took white paint and began to add some dots in a spiral pattern.  Another students approached me and said, “Can I use the white?”  After I handed her my brush she began spattering and dripping paint all over the bottle (and maybe just a little bit on herself).  I love how it turned out!

–Abbey

Take a Walk

This week I walked to work after dropping my car off at the mechanic.  It was a nice change from my routine of driving everywhere.  I remembered how much I love walking – the leisure of it, the ability to take in my surroundings and to speed up or slow down as I please without worrying about the flow of traffic or stop lights… I paused to snap a picture of this boat on my way.  I was drawn in by the hanging, tattered fabric and used the photo as a reference for this sketch.

Week 17

Week 17: April 28th
Around the Corner
Ink drawing on paper, 8 1/2×11″

I would love to go back and sketch it on site.  (Project for next week?)
All this to say… good things happen when you take a walk!

–Abbey

Good News!

Hello world!

Lots of updates today.

First and foremost, I would like to officially announce that I have been invited to join the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle (the L.U.V.S.) as their newest singer!  I have hesitated to share this until now because I kept waiting to have the right words to describe my simultaneous excitement, gratitude, slight disbelief… that I am now a part of this awesome family. And I still don’t have the right words…  But I will say this: I first heard a few members of the LUVS perform at a Dagwood’s Open Mic last June.  (There are 14 of us.  Or is it 15 with me in the group?  I’ve lost count at this point…)  I was completely shocked at what I heard.  My (then new, now dear) friend Jeana-Dee had said her husband Dylan was in a vaudeville band, I had no idea what to expect.  I had already convinced myself that Lansing was a pretty boring place, but what I heard and saw and felt when the LUVS performed was the complete opposite of boring.  (I would try to describe it, but again I feel that whatever words I have to say won’t capture the essence of their sound and spirit.)  Over the course of the past year I have had the opportunity to see and get to know the LUVS on multiple occasions, and I am honored to sing alongside such wonderful people, both in talent and in character.  This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my musical journey, and I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation for what is about to unfold.

I have been singing at Dagwood’s Open Mic for the past three weeks, both with the LUVS as well as performing my original material, but my first official gig with them is next week!  You can find all the details on my Upcoming Shows page.  Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter, so you can get tweets about last minute Open Mic performances or find out where you may be able to catch us busking.

Other exciting news:  I have uploaded three new videos to my Youtube channel, including a new song called Never Mine.  You can now find lyrics pages for Never Mine and Good Dude, Bad Man.  And you can watch my Youtube videos straight from my website on my new Video page.

And now is that point where I realize that I’ve been working on web stuff so long I forgot to eat dinner!  Time for some food (yes, I know it’s 1:30am).  I’m sure I’ve left you with plenty of material to stay busy without me for a while.  :)  Thank you again for your support.

–Abbey