art

Black Creatives Who Inspire: Karen Walrond

Karen Walrond

karenwalrond

Who:

Through keynote speeches, booksebooksin-person and online courses, workshops and one-on-one coaching, Karen Walrond and Chookooloonks Media are all about leadership, self-determination and the concept of thriving.  Ultimately, her work is a testament to beauty, positivity, creativity and kindness.  It's a body of irrefutable evidence that there is good in the world.  And a collection of tools to help you connect with gratitude, strength and joy in your own work and life.

Where:

Chookooloonks.com

Instagram: @heychookooloonks

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chookooloonkscom/

Why:

For nearly 7 years, Karen's corner of the Internet has been my favorite place to go to-especially when I'm overwhelmed by the ugliness, devastation, and injustice happening in the world. Her words and images remind me to always "look for the light" within and around me, and her book The Beauty of Different helped me heal from the impact childhood trauma had on my self-esteem and image. Her superpowers are many, but one of my favorites is her ability to empower others to recognize theirs. Her photography is lush and vibrant with colors that contrast with the existing shadows, and I enjoy how she amplifies the light in each of her subjects. As a creative, and as a friend, she pushes me to be a better artist and person. If you aren't following her work, do your soul a favor by starting to today. 

Salute, Karen! Thank you for being a light in the lives of so many and for doing dope sh*t. Thank you for using your #BlackGirlMagic and superpowers for good. 

 

*To celebrate Black History Month, I'll be doing short features of the Black women (and maybe a few men) creatives past and present who motivate, inspire, empower me in my life and work, and create incredibly dope sh*t. I hope you'll enjoy reading about them as much as I will be about amplifying their greatness! 

Intentionality & Expression

I've been thinking quite a bit lately on how I can grow as an artist, on what would stretch & enhance my visual work. For the last few weeks I've been feeling the compulsion to grow and reach for more...to root down even deeper and excavate what lies dormant, whatever is I'm searching for that's waiting for me to unearth  it. I hear its desire for expression and I've taken to trying out new tools, and studying new techniques in videos and books in an effort to find how to articulate it. In the process I'm learning what my limits are and where my capacity & skill need to be further developed. 

I'm exploring...and questioning, and "ruining" sheets of canvas in the process. It's honestly just as extremely frustrating as it is liberating.  I'm also making a mess on my work tables, which led to the current thought sitting at the forefront of my mind after an attempt at cleaning them up: As an artist, I'm afraid to let go & go deeper, press inward, and unearth what's calling me to be expressive but...unrestrained. As bold or declarative as my work may be with color & subject matter, I still find I've been holding back. It is wild but only within my self-imposed boundaries. I'm afraid to do the next level of work necessary to free my artistic voice even further. I also think this is largely due to my desire & efforts to become intentional & methodological with my expressions. 

That is, after all, the message I was given 2.5 years ago when I asked my arts & humanities professor what she thought of my work. I had only been painting for 6 months and was questioning if it was just a hobby or something more for me. She said she liked it-loved my use of color. "I think if you could bring intentionality to your artistry, you'd really have something here." Art should be...intentional, shouldn't it? Or perhaps not. We never really arrived at a definitive answer about that, or what art actually is or isn't, that semester. (Especially in regards to abstract & expressionism) I think I took that message and internalized it too deeply as I've created since then. I've leaned too far right, focusing so greatly on intention that I've shut out intuition and being at times when it probably would've benefited me creatively. 

That brings me to my work tables. Scattered across their surfaces are what's left behind: drips, drops, splatters & scrapes from pieces I completed. They are not organized into a structured composition. There is nothing intentional about these remnants that are scattered across my tables but when I stopped trying to scrape them off and just stared at them, I saw the freedom I've been craving to convey lately on page & canvas. It made me teary eyed because I recognized the kind of visual expressions I want to translate throughout my work. I saw that I've been thinking too much about the what and how-to of expression instead of just the act itself. Instead of just being and yielding to what's there. On some level I've come to care too much if my visual work is likable, digestible, or even meaningful to others. I've been trying too hard (mostly out of fear) and as a result I've been stifling my creativity. Maybe subconsciously I'm still searching for validity as I get used to identifying and calling my "untrained" self an artist...

It was this flurry of thoughts that forced me to quit trying to scrape away what's been left behind on my tables as I cleaned up my workspace earlier today. I'm going to keep them there and add to them as I keep pushing myself to grow beyond my current boundaries, piece by piece. I need them there to hold me accountable as I strive for courage & not fear when I show up and sit down in this arena to make. I need them there as a reminder to use everything I've got and leave nothing to waste. 

It it makes me wonder what my art (and my life) would look like if I became more intentional about just trusting The Muse & my intuitive urges. 


Austin's Power

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You. The force and power is strong with you. I hope you always know it and channel it to live life as it's meant to be lived: out loud, wholehearted, and on your own terms. Always stay connected to your power, and remember it's okay to remain unconventional in your approach to this Life, my Bandersnatch. Allow no circumstance or misguided opinion to temper your intensity as you grow into it either. Hold onto your joy as tightly as you hold onto your brothers when pulling them down to the ground with you to laugh and wrestle. Refuse to let go. Be you. Always. 

 

I love you my sweet, wild, beautiful, boy. 

             -Mama

Mood: Above & Below (Current State of Heart & Mind)

Internally, it's been a hell of a week. Externally, I'm doing what I can to function as heart, mind, & body continue to process current events and change.  

Floating above Life's surface and sinking below it. Lately I've been experiencing both simultaneously. It's an odd, agitating state of existence.  

I'm not as graceful and composed about navigating this cyclical up and down movement between surviving and thriving as I'd like to be, but my gut urges me to keep pressing my way through irregardless of appearance and ability. I've learned from experience that forward movement helps me maintain resiliency and fight. It's a survival skill that undergirds me with hope and helps me employ self-care tools along the way when necessary. It keeps me striving to find the beauty in the mess, brokenness, and chaos that comes with living, motherhood, bipolar disorder, and being a person who loves words & imagery, sound & color. 

My goal as I do is to keep heart and mind intact, even when both are reeling and leaping between multiple thoughts and feelings. 

It's not always a pretty or fluid process, but I guess not much is in this life, right? 

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Art as Protest: Janelle Monae & Wondaland Marches Through The Streets With "Hell You Talmbout"

Janelle Monae and her Wondaland crew (artists I wholeheartedly stan for) are currently doing secret shows across the U.S. in support of their latest EP, The Eephus. Yesterday they were in Philly, not just for a show, but to also help lead a march and rally w/Philly's Black Lives Matter chapter. The rally was labeled as a celebration of "Black Joy" and featured many young poets, singers, and community organizers from the city. 

#BlackGirlsRock #WondalandRecords #WondalandGoesPlaces #TheEephus

A photo posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

150 deep, they marched through North Philly chanting and later singing a new song titled "Hell You Talmbout", which Monae and Wondaland artists wrote to protest police brutality and honor the lives of those lost to state violence. 

#SayTheirNames #TheEephus #BlackLivesMatter

A video posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

#SayTheirNames

A video posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

I followed the action on Twitter and Janelle's Instagram feed yesterday, hoping to hear the whole song in it's entirety. It was released today on Soundcloud, and with every listen, I've had to fight back tears as I sing along. Take a listen...and feel the pain and power of it as you say their names.

Let's keep fighting for freedom y'all. 


Black Is...

My protest. My Black. Despair weighs heavy today. It sits in my belly like a brick, wraps it's fingers around my throat and squeezes until my breathing becomes shallow.

I can't breathe.

I can't move. I can't think through the fog unfurling in my mind, clouding my thoughts. I can't speak. But most of all I simply can't breathe.

I sit down to write but my words have left me to sit and feel the weight of hope's absence press into my chest. I want to write, but instead I can only collect myself to sit and stare out at nothing while despair continues to scoop out my insides and rend me hollow.

I want to yell, to scream "FUCK!" at the top of my lungs and let my hands do the talking for the rage consuming my heart raw. I want to do something, ANYTHING, EVERYTHING to bring injustice to it's knees and behead it in one swift, clean, blow.

But instead I just can't breathe, and sit immobilized by grief, the only sound able to emanate between breaths the gnashing of my teeth. My knees buckle. A sob erupts from my throat, the force knocking me to my knees. I keen there on the floor beside my bed, hands clawing and tearing at my clothes, heart beating painfully and loudly in my ears as I try to give vocal utterance to the grief rocking my body.

Despair weighs heavy today. It's left me gutted and has brought me to my knees (again), but I get up. I have to. Have to take Alex to school. Will have to pick up Brennan later. The baby needs changing. So I get dressed. I answer Feminista Jones' call and adorn myself in all black, reminding myself that even though it may feel like it in these moments that come to rob me of hope, black skin is not a curse. It is not a death sentence. There are systems and laws and beliefs in place that will say and carry out otherwise, but from my gut comes the truth: Black is not a death sentence.

I get dressed. I change the baby. I take his brother to school. I go for a drive in the rain while the baby sleeps peacefully in the back and strengthen my resolve to not give up. I have Black and Brown boys to raise. I can't give up. Their Black matters.

I come home and open my laptop to come here and write. Some words have returned and are ready to be spoken. They don't feel like enough for such a moment as the one we are living, but they're all I have, born out of a desperate need to not give up.

Black is...our life. Black is meaningful. It is resilient. It is rich. It is love. It is home. It is beautifully resplendent in its glory and it is strong. It is important. It is human. It is living and breathing flesh and bone wrapped around heart and lungs. It is the brawn that built this country. It is the brilliance that has driven American innovation. It is dynamic, multi-faceted and nuanced in its genius. It is the creativity that's given birth to some of the greatest art and music the world has ever borne witness to. It is proud. It gets beaten and is pushed down by hate but it rises. It has survived the mass destruction that is white violence time and again and will continue to do so. It is worthy. It used to be sold at the highest price on the auction block but whether it be enslaved or emancipated, it will always be priceless. It is more than. There is nothing "minor" about it except the place your ingrained bias chooses to house it in your mind. It is my sons. It is my mother and sister. It is my brother. It is me. Our Black matters. Your negation of it doesn't cancel out this truth. Our Black MATTERS. 

******

I'm selling two prints the art shop. Profits from one will be going to organizations dedicated to racial justice and empowering Black youth. Profits from the other will be sent to a fund that's been set up for Tamir Rice's family. You can buy them here and here.

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Trayvon

State of Affairs: Black & Blue in America

I have words about the grand jury indictment verdict in Ferguson. I have words about their choice to not indict Darren Wilson for Mike Brown's death. But I'm not ready to share them here yet. I've shared some initial reactions on Facebook and have spent the rest of the week just oscillating between grief and rage to be quite honest. My voice hasn't settled enough yet for me to express anything in written word.

Before the decision was announced on Monday, I shared my initial reaction to the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice over on BlogHer. You can read it here.

Last week I wrote about the death of 37-year-old Tanesha Anderson over on BlogHer as well. You can read that here.

Sigh.

My heart is the heaviest it has been in a very long time. Fear and despair have been gripping my lungs so tightly in the wake of all of this that breathing is a struggle when I look at my boys.

The only way I could really cope with it all this week was to paint, so I did.

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I have words to say about all of this. But until I feel settled enough to share them here, I'm just sharing this. I started three others as well. They're a response to the terrorism and white violence being inflicted upon Black bodies and Black humanity. I've made this first one available for purchase as a print in the shop. (https://www.etsy.com/listing/213041581/state-of-affairs-black-blue-in-america) Profits from its sale will be donated to Race Forward (https://www.raceforward.org/) and BYP 100 (http://byp100.org/about/). Once I find a fund that will support Tamir Rice's family, I'll be making a print available to donate profits from as well.

It's the only thing I know to do right now that will help.

June 29, 2002: A Beginning

June 29, 2002: A Beginning

To this day there is only one other person who knows the exact whys and hows of that season and what had been happening over the two year time period that finally forced me to leave. That person was my closest confidant and more importantly, believed me when I told her what was happening. She was the only one who ever has. I didn't always do right by her as a friend, I couldn't I was too much of a mess mentally and emotionally, but I'm grateful for what she gave me: a place to stay, friendship, an escape through writing and art journaling...an identity. It was she who first told me I that really, I was an artist and was born to create. A poet. A wordsmith who's words bore power. When I had told her that I was afraid to write because writing had always been dangerous for me, that my words unfiltered and raw on the page pushed others to silence my voice and invalidate my sense of being upon discovery, she gave me an alias: Nicole Paul. My middle name + my favorite apostle.

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10 Beautiful, Amazing, Breathtaking Experiences I Want to Have With My Art This Year

"List ten beautiful, amazing, breathtaking experiences you want to have THIS YEAR with your art," my friend and story coach Elora wrote on the wall of our writing community's Facebook group last Monday. As I watched the women in our group start to brave the vulnerability that comes with speaking your desires and dreams out loud and post their lists of ten, I sat with my heart pounding and wrestling itself, hands frozen over the keys, barely breathing.

"I'll be back. I have to think about this...I can't answer this yet." That was my response.

I couldn't answer right away because I was too afraid and unsure of how big I should dream for the next 12 months. To break through fear's paralysis, I pulled out the Life Menu I hadcreated at Lime Retreats last month and looked over the things I had written, at the light words that had emerged as themes on that list.

[embed]http://instagram.com/p/vJQgRSwGSS/?modal=true[/embed]

I re-read notes I've been jotting down as I read my way through Desire Map and reminded myself how I want to feel as I go about my life as a writer, artist, advocate, and mother. I sat in my living room after tucking the boys in their beds and meditated on new horizons as I stared at this painting above our TV.

New HorizonsI had my answer by the end of the week, but I didn't sit down and write them out until yesterday. In the end, I decided dreaming big and wild with some wouldn't hurt anything. Writing them out, however was another, scarier matter. My hands shook and Doubt shouted all kinds of not so nice things as I wrote out each one in my art journal. Afterwards I jumped on the computer, pulled up Facebook and wrote my response on the group thread:

"Ok. Here goes:

1. Finish writing my memoir.

2. Launch Kintsukuroi Women's website/blog and self-publish the KW anthology for women of color living with mental illness. 3. Hold an art show or exhibit my work at a local street fair.

4. Paint 100 canvases.

5. Have a post published either on Brain Child Mag, Mamalode, HuffPo, or ONE.org, Oprah.com, Bipolar Hope Magazine, or some other website/publication I enjoy reading.

6. Enhance what I offer in my Etsy shop or find a more comprehensive selling platform that affords me the chance to offer more of my artwork on products and make a bit more money.

7. Pitch a conference idea for creatives/writers/artists to BlogHer or some other media entity.

8. Become fully rooted in my identity as a writer, artist and activist.

9. Lead an art journaling or painting class w/a humanitarian organization in Africa, South America, or Asia that empowers girls and women. Help them find the beauty in brokenness through artistic expression.

10. Begin writing a web series pilot that focuses on a black woman navigating mental illness and motherhood and pitch it to Issa Rae's creative content startup."

There they are. Ten beautiful, amazing, breathtaking experiences I want to have with my art & words between now and the end of December 2015. I want to inspire, empower, connect to and equip others as well as create art that provokes, moves, and enlightens myself and others in some way, on some level.

Will they happen? Who knows. Perhaps some will, others perhaps not, but what if it's less about accomplishing all ten and more about learning to dream and live intently, driven by "goals with soul" as Danielle LaPorte describes it in Desire Map. As long as I'm focused on the WHY I want to do those things and find ways that allow me to live the Why out loud, I don't think it'll matter so much if any of these exact things happen as I wrote them out...and that's completely ok.

It's less about exactness and completion and more about embodiment and purposeful living, for me.

Here's to THAT in the coming months.

FRESH PAINT: New Horizons & A Foreboding Joy

I painted two pieces last week, and tried something new with both of them. First, instead of reaching for the 16x20 bundle packs I normally grab (and can afford) I listened to a heart whisper and went BIG, purchasing sizes I had yet to explore: 24x48 and 36x48.

(How would I fill such large spaces? What was my inner creative longing to release that required more space to tell it's message on?)

Second, instead of reaching for the brushes in my box, I found my hand landing on the rag I normally use to wipe my brushes on, and used it to distribute the paint across each canvas' surface.

The results? Left me breathless to be honest. I look at both pieces now, in my living room and am in awe of what's staring back at me. Maybe it's vain to say I absolutely love these pieces and I think the messages they convey are important ones for me...but...it's the truth-my truth anyway and it's not often I find myself in love with something I've created on canvas.

Two of my words for this year are "explore," and "pursue." In regards to painting I told myself  that I would explore my new found passion for painting and experiment with various styles and techniques to find what "fits," if that makes sense. Working with a rag and my hands instead of brush and with larger spaces exposed me to a freedom I hadn't realized my inner creative had been longing for. I'm looking forward to doing more in this fashion, and I think I have a theme that can make the pieces in this style an actual collection....we'll see.

Both pieces are up for sale in the shop along with other pieces from the last 7 months. Feel free to stop by for a look....

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This one was inspired by a lyric from the song "New Horizons," by Flyleaf: "Bring your normalcy to the edge and watch it drown in new horizons...new horizons..." It speaks to the new horizons that have been stretching themselves across my life these past months: new decade (30's!), new city & home (AUSTIN!), new marriage (details and photos in a forthcoming post) and.....one completely unexpected and unplanned that I will share in a post later this week :)

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This one took me by surprise-it started out very dark with just black and white paint blending together to create a very heavy, grayish-moody base. I didn't really think about it much as I worked, adding layers of color and I moved quickly through it, finding myself a little winded at it's end. As I sat back to wonder what the hell it was, my mind rested on a comment made by Dr. Brene Brown regarding joy: “If you ask me what’s the most terrifying, difficult emotion we feel as humans, I would say joy.” She had made the comment to Oprah, during a Super Soul Sunday discussion, and was speaking to how joy terrifies us so we never allow ourselves to experience it in it's fullest. Watch her discuss it here: http://www.yidio.com/show/super-soul-sunday/season-0/episode-0/3088395102

I realized that as overwhelmed and happy I am about all of the newness in my life, every time I've felt joy trying to take over, I've immediately pushed it away...this piece represents that tension, that fear....

So...those are my latest pieces. Thoughts?

Painting: Don't Think. Just Feel

Today I sat down, brush in hand, colors spread put around me, and just stared at the canvas in front of me. I wanted to paint but my thoughts were too scattered to focus on a concept or any kind of intentionality. I closed my eyes and just sat there. Alex came and sat in my lap, and proudly began naming the colors he recognized. I dipped a brush in red, his favorite color at the moment, and handed it to him. Without saying a word, he snatched the brush from me and got to work covering the canvas in frenzied streaks of red. When he was finished, he said "RED!" did a little hop, dropped the brush and ran to his room with a smile on his face.

I know at some point I would like to work on developing intentionality, so that I'm better at communicating what I'm trying to say through my paintings. For now though, I'm realizing that I'm content to just pick up a brush and attack the canvas much like Alex did. I might have one thought I focus on or I might have nothing but emotions, and I like that. I think some of my best pieces have come from when I've turned down the volume on my reasoning and listened instead only to the emotions that were waiting to be acknowledged & allowed to speak. I can't always articulate what they are in words but on canvas, they pour out of me with each stroke; their voices speaking through each color and layer I apply.

If you were to ask me why I painted what I did today, I'd simply shrug & say I don't know. It's just what came out. They were directed purely by emotion, with no direct thoughts or intended meanings. They're simplistic & maybe look amateurish, but I'm okay with that. I'll get better with more practice and exploration.

The first one is untitled for now. I have to study it & "hear" what it's saying before I name it.

The second one? Well, I'm not sure, but when Bertski looked at it, he said it kind of reminded him of the early 80's and the New Wave music era...I laughed because I was born in '82...and I'll be 30 on Saturday...so maybe it represents that? Not sure but I thought it was a fun interpretation, considering how much I love music and the bright fashions from that time period.

So here they are. OH-in honor of said 30th birthday, I'm having a sale in my Etsy shop-all unreserved listings are 30% off now through Saturday. Stop by & have a look :)

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Painted: Layering

So I've spent the last two days painting. It's been awhile so my creative vibes didn't flow as much as I hoped they would. Maybe it's the new med combo I'm on. Or maybe I'm just rusty. It maybe I just feel more inspired & creative when I'm hypomanic. Who knows? Anyway, the first canvas I gave up on, but the second, I liked how it started taking shape, so I decided to try and take what I've seen other artists do on YouTube, and try my hand at layering.

I did the base colors and started some blending last night...

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and spent about an hour and a half tonight adding, blending & building upon what was there.

The result? This....

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Not sure how I feel about it. I do at the very least like the brushstroke work I utilized throughout the painting.

What do you think? And seriously be honest, criticism is welcomed as long as it's constructive. Also keep in mind I'm a newbie who knows nothing about technique.

I Miss My Paints & Artists Who Inspire Me

I haven't posted anything about painting in awhile, and I think it's mostly because I haven't painted in nearly two, almost three months. I miss it...

I'm slightly worried that my passion for it and the creativity that drove me to paint in the first place has faded away...

I've been asking myself if it was all just a fleeting fancy-just some form of manic expression that isn't really...me.

Not sure if that makes sense...I wish I could articulate what I mean a lot better, but I've had two glasses of wine so articulation is swimming in Lake Moscato at the moment.

Ahem...

What I'm trying to say is that I'm a creative person who hasn't been able to create in a few months and I'm scared this particular form of creative expression has moved on and out of my life much like dancing has....which makes me incredibly sad.

I miss my paints, and having my colorful creations adorn my walls. I gave away & sold about 15 of them, but those I have left are still locked up in a storage unit back in PA....I miss the excitement that emanates all the way from my toes to my fingertips when I sit down in front of a blank canvas to paint. I miss the adrenaline rush of the creative process and how it leaves me pregnant with possibility.

Anyway, enough lamenting...I'll save the rest of this for a time when I'm less tipsy and a little less apt to talk about being impregnated by creativity.

I'll leave you with some videos of artists I found via YouTube who are helping me keep my love and passion for painting alive....trust me when I say they are worth taking the time to watch.

Enjoy!

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Christopher Mathie...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxncnnFEHeE]

Nicole Hoschke...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVaQ6xvTYuk]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCDrZA5kobY]

Mel McCuddin...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3wz9wg0Dos]