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Outsider Artist – That’s Me!

Can I help you? My creative response to the stressors of working in long term care during the height of COVID crisis. The title asks the viewer – “who needs help?” This is a prime example of outsider art.

Discovering my artistic ability occurred by chance. I picked up markers one day and just started drawing. I would get feedback from family and salespeople at art supply stores. The feedback would involve giving me snippets of info on how to use certain objects and materials. YouTube was also a helpful resource. I would wonder how to improve in some way and search YouTube. After a few minutes, I was off and running.

Now, this has all led to my diving headfirst into creating art using charcoal, pastels, and paper. I never knew what I was. I felt a bit like a phony. People bought pieces and encouraged me assuring me I had talent. I never had any training, but I showed talent. I mean I never even took one single art class as an adult! I started this venture in August 2020 – that’s just nine months ago!

What was I? What was my genre? I am definitely not a realist. I am expressive and not a surrealist. Sometimes, I have drawn ideas; I called that my concept art. The idea of being confined by rules and all that made me feel constrained. All I could think of was how many of the masters had spent years unlearning their art school training.

I had the good fortune of meeting Dan Goldberg, contemporary artist, at Somerville Open Studios recently. On this occasion, I enjoyed his artwork and fell into a conversation about my artwork. He very graciously viewed some of my photos of my artwork and immediately stated, “You’re an outsider artist.” He was complimentary and gave me some good feedback. He stated that finding my voice is what happened through my “raw art”.

I was thrilled! I had a definition! I researched the topic and found that this is what an outsider artist is: “the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who are, instead, motivated by their unique personal visions.” art.org. Outsider art is “The development of the awareness of forms of creative expression that exist outside accepted cultural norms, or the realm of “fine art”. rawvision.com. Outsider art was called “Art Brut or Raw Art, which were works in their “raw” state, uncooked by cultural and artistic influences.” rawvision.com

Here are some examples:

Maria, my greyhound. Hard pastel on paper. My son said that he could almost smell her breath. I posted this on a Facebook artist page and got lots of responses – mostly good – some with recommendations on how to improve aka become more mainstream.
Sarah Vaughan, charcoal on paper
Cardinal – hard pastel on paper. I love the angle of the bird. It’s as if the cardinal is saying, “What you looking at?” or “I see you.”

I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback.

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Why a Male Belly Dancer?

Encouragement for pursuing art comes from many places – both internal and external. One of my external influencers is my esthetician, Zubeda. Zubeda is the owner of Zubeda Spa and Salon on Salem Street in Medford, MA.

During my visits to the salon, Zubeda and I would talk about my artwork. I was inspired to create a belly dancer for her salon due to the Persian-like interior design.

Interior of Zubeda Spa and Salon – photo from Zubeda website
Another image of Zubeda’s Salon – photo from Zubeda’s website

I thought, “A belly dancer would be a good subject. A female belly dancer is too common.” I knew that male belly dancers existed. I also knew given the nature of Zubeda and her salon that both would support a more edgy subject. It was a great opportunity to push the envelope and create a male belly dancer!

I felt anxious about creating this subject. For one, I had never done it. Also, it needed to be something that would support Zubeda’s brand. The pressure was on!

I wanted it to be colorful and vibrant. I ordered some more oil pastel colors to support the piece. I added more flesh tones and metallic colors. I also bought some bedazzle because I knew the piece would need sparkly additions.

I also knew that I would need the definition that charcoal would add to the piece. I had just learned that charcoal and pastel can be used together.

I found a reference photo. My style is to be a bit abstract. I am definitely not a realist when it comes to my artwork!

Per usual for me, I plunged into the project head first with two failed first attempts. I was frustrated, but continued on.

First attempt – way too just wrong for me.
Second attempt – getting there, but just not quite. Later used for scrap to check my pencil colors.

It’s been said that the third time is the charm. This proved to be true for me with the male belly dancer piece. I took my time and focused. The sketch is the basis for success or failure. I really focused on that and the colors.

Success!! I was over the moon! I knew I had done it!!

I loved the stillness of the dancer, position of his arms, and continuing skirt movement. The colors! I just loved the colors! The gold oil pastel on the top of the skirt was just right.

I matted and framed it. The male belly dancer found his home.

Male belly dancer at Zubeda’s Salon and Spa.
A closer image of the male belly dancer at Zubeda’s Salon and Spa.

Thanks for sharing in my story of the making of the male belly dancer. And my triumph as well!

My artwork is for sale on pontiusartist.com. A small Mother’s Day exhibit of my artwork will be at Zubeda’s Salon and Spa on Mother’s Day. And I’m having an Art Sale on the Lawn 6/12 10a-4pm.

Let me know what you think. I love dialogue!

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What is it about flowers anyway?

What attracts me to the subject of flowers as an artist? The question could be posed as “Why do artists choose the subject matter that they choose?”. This could lead to an extensive discourse on the subjects of inspiration and creativity. My previous blogs delved into this subject somewhat through discussing different facets of this phenomenon.

I have been interested in the creative process of artists. I have mostly heard musicians interviewed about different aspects of their craft such as being asked about the meaning of lyrics or musical style. Their responses have been on the continuum of nothing of consequence to much deeper existential experiences. In the end, the musicians have expressed that the meaning of the music is unique to each listener. However, there does exist a collective experience in which the music has a similar impact on the listeners leading most people to agree on its meaning and expression.

Creative types often play a societal role in which their expressiveness opens doors to further understanding the human condition. The audience enjoys creativity that is moving and touching. The spectrum of all types of art do this in varying degrees to differing audiences depending upon their lived experience.

I have found this to be true in my eight months as an artist. I am a curious person with varied interest. These qualities have led me to delving into a variety of subjects in my artwork along with a variety of ways to express them. Along the way, the greatest joys that I have experienced have been the satisfaction of a work well done and the expression from others when they see my artwork.

This leads me to my topic of “What is about flowers anyway?”. For me the answer is flowers are beautiful, colorful, and delightful. Flowers add to the beauty of nature and provide a continuum for growth. Natural beauty feeds my soul. It would be expected then that I would choose flowers as a loved subject matter for my artwork.

Here are some examples:

Hydrangeas, colored pencil on paper
Red tulips and purple irises – soft pastel on paper
Lilacs – oil pastel on paper
Pansies – soft pastel and oil pastel pencil on paper
Magnolia Blossoms – oil pastel pencil on paper
These Violets are African – soft pastel on paper

Flowers are a popular subject matter for my artwork. I like to explore the subject matter in close up or as part of a group. In the case of “These Violets are African”, I loved the whimsical nature in which the play on words of African violet could be used to create a new view. I love the use of color and vibrancy that it brings to this piece. I also love the color and vibrancy that all the flower pieces contain.

I have been scolded by my 28 year old son that the flowers are trite and lack creativity. He also told me that I needed to broaden my horizons on subject matter. However, I have also had people tell me that the flowers are beautiful. There is a segment of the public that just loves them! What do you think?

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback. My flower artwork is for sale at pontiusartist.com.

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Musicians – How did I start creating these portraits?

In my first blog post, I talked about how I became an artist. I also said that I would continue to discuss my journey into this new identity and realm. Today, I will talk about how I started to create musician portraits.

Initially, I was loving the plein air aka outdoor painting. As the season progressed and my work schedule intruded, making it impossible to be outside, I had to release my passion indoors.

I continued to be curious about my ability to create. So, I expanded into musicians. My husband and I share a love of music. My husband loves John Lee Hooker, masterful blues guitarist and singer. So, I drew this:

John Lee Hooker, charcoal on paper. Fun fact: My first date with my husband was to see him on stage.

I was scared when I started this. I’ve learned that the fear is performance anxiety and self doubt. I pushed through it. I focused on what I saw.

I never drew a face before and I knew that fabric can be tough. I know the Masters have pieces of art just focusing on fabric! I pressed on and I loved the outcome!

Another of my husband’s favorite musicians is Jimmy Page. I thought, “Ok, I’ll try this one, too.” I knew that the subject would require a larger paper due to the magnitude of it.

Jimmy Page, charcoal on paper

I loved being able to capture the hands, body, clothes, jewelry and hair!

Now, it was time for me. Who did I want to draw? A little about me first: I am a feminist, am a social justice warrior, and love strong women! I looked to these women as role models , in my younger years, to upend the misogynistic upbringing that I had endured. I still love them dearly!

So, Sister Rosetta Tharpe needed her due! She was quite a woman! A black woman guitarist and vocalist in the 1950s! She was awesome! Here’s my homage to her:

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, in her early years.

Then, I branched out into jazz. I was visiting my grandniece and she was studying jazz musicians as part of Black History Month in 7th grade. So, I drew these:

Louis Armstrong , charcoal on paper
Ella Fitzgerald , charcoal on paper
Billie Holiday, charcoal on paper

I took a jazz vocalist from Newport Jazz Festival 1957 class recently. We talked about and listened the the incredible Sarah Vaughan. I knew she had to be next.

Sarah Vaughan, charcoal and soft pastel on blue/gray paper

What I have loved the most about these drawings is the opportunity to capture their emotions as they are performing. I knew faces, hands, and clothing along with emotion are difficult to capture.

The earlier pieces have sold. The jazz pieces are still available on pontiusartist.com. MultiMediaExpression is my store’s name.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback. If you enjoy my blog, please follow.

Next week…. flowers – how I draw them. The following week … The Making of a Male Bellydancer.

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My Journey as an Artist, Rebecca Pontius

The author, Rebecca Pontius

My journey as an artist began August 2020. One day on a family vacation, I picked up some markers and paper and drew the scene across the street. I was given some ideas on technique from the young adults who were vacationing with me. Here’s my first piece:

My first artwork – markers and paper – I called it The Sky is Falling. I gave it to my 6 year old grand nephew, who added some of the flowers and birds.

I thought “Hey, this is kind of good.” I received feedback of this kind from others and I began to feel emboldened to try other things. I would see something and say “Can I draw that?” I found that I was looking at the details of the subject and seeing things I never saw before.

Salt Marsh, colored pencil on paper.
Here’s my attempt at a sand pail on the beach. I had a lot to learn😆

Then I started to learn about other mediums beyond colored pencils and markers. I fell in love quickly with oil pastels. I watched brief You Tube videos. I also got some assistance about what to buy from the sales people at the art store.

Herb Garden In August. One of my first oil pastel pieces. I used a lesser quality oil pastel.

I discovered then that I loved plein air drawing. I also got introduced to better quality products. Once I found Sennelier oil pastels, a passion began! I started to pursue beautiful places to draw.

On one occasion, I went to Heritage Gardens in Sandwich, MA. Quite a few passersby stopped to check out what I was doing. I was a little bit intimidated, but I thought, in my best extroverted way, that I would talk to people; show them my work; tell them my story; and tell them that I love an audience.

One person, who stopped on this occasion, asked if I sold my artwork. She also said that she could tell I was good. I was only about 20% done with the piece. She bought the piece I was working on right then and there. Of course, upon completion, I mailed it to her. She asked that I add the dog and was thrilled to be my first commission.

My first sold piece!

Having sold my first piece of artwork, with only one month as an artist, thrilled me to no end! I felt so validated!

I became emboldened and started to branch out in my efforts to sell my artwork. I created an Etsy shop. I sold my first piece on Etsy in 7 days!

Marblehead Harbor, oil pastel on paper. My first Etsy sale! I was over the moon!

Who Was I Before I Became An Artist An Entrepreneur?

Before this art journey, I worked in helping professions – human services and most recently as a Registered Nurse. I have always been a patron of the arts. I am 55 years old and have been happily married for the past 30 years.

I live in Medford, Massachusetts with my husband, greyhound, and cat.

Look for my future blogs where I will continue to describe my journey. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

My artwork is for sale on pontiusartist.com.