Thesis Plans Finally Revealed!

So now that it has been approved, and I have sorted out some of the details, I will finally divulge the premise for my thesis project.

The back story is this: when I was first considering giving up smoking a few years ago, I was discussing the difficulty of addiction with a friend and fellow occultist. He said to me “you just have to see it as it is. Your addiction to smoking is an elemental, and it has you.” I had never thought of addiction in those terms before, and this concept helped me grapple with, and eventually vanquish, that caustic demon. Around that time I also recalled a conversation I had with another dear friend about my issues with anxiety. She referred to it as a monster that I needed to name and conquer. I loved this idea equally, and informed her that someday I would paint my monster so that I may own it.

I stowed both of these concepts in my head, and over the years I have thought of many ways in which I could utilize them in my art. Everything from illustration series to serious apotropaic paintings. I finally decided that these are the basic concepts that would inform my thesis work here at PNCA.

My thesis will be a series of six, mixed media paintings depicting the metaphorical demons that enslave humanity. The work will utilize both traditional and digital media. The images will be tenebrous, figurative and allegorical in nature. I will take abstract concepts such as “disease” and “brutality” and personify them each within their own painting.

Here is a slide from the presentation where I pitched this idea for the first time, last week. It contains past work of mine that represent some of the ways I plan to approach the work visually, as well as some thoughts on research:

slide from 1st thesis pitch

The title for the project is “The Allegories of Subjugation.” I must admit, I really like the title. Good job, me. This weekend I narrowed down the number of pieces I will have in the series and what allegories I am going to create. The current step in this whole process is to create a mood board for the basic aesthetic of the project:

mood board for thesis
all images plundered from tumblr and google

So now that I’ve set this all up, I have to actually live up to the insanity of my own expectations. I will be scheduling photo shoots for photo reference in the next few weeks. For those of you in the PDX area who actually know me, let me know if you are interested in modeling for me. You could be immortalized as a demon!

“Sometimes my hands remind me of two snakes in love!”

I took advantage of my most recent illustration assignment to work with an idea I was kicking around in my brain for some time now.

The ram-horned serpent is a creature which has lived in my collection of personal symbols for several years. Horned serpents in ancient, Northern European art are thought to have been a storm symbol (snakes are shaped like lightening, ram-horns clap like thunder.) At least according to the speculation of art historians. Some Celtic scholars, like Miranda Green, suggest that they were a regenerative symbol as well.

detail of the Gundestrup cauldron

I’ve always appreciated this interpretation, looking at what happens after lightening or a fire obliterates a chunk of forest. The nutrients in the ground get recycled, the sun reaches stuff that was beneath the canopy, plant growth increases and spreads providing more food for animals, etc. As someone who has dealt with more than one trial by fire, I know the rush of creativity that follows personal transformation. I am nothing if not resilient.

The official Herron family crede is “Nil Desperandum.” Seriously.

With all of that in mind, I decided that my current assignment in Advanced Illustration would be a great opportunity to finally create something with this symbolism. The assignment was to create an icon or an iconic image with a symbol or animal of your choice. I decided that there needed to be two serpents for a few reasons. Visually, I was most interested in designing beautiful shapes with the subject matter. This is easy enough with one snake, but I think that snakes make some of the most impressive shapes in their mating rituals. This idea certainly fit the theme of regeneration that I wanted to capture, and I wanted an element of connection and sweetness in the image that lead the viewer away from their potential ophidiophobia.

I finally decided upon a composition I liked, spent a looooooooooong time hand drawing the line work, scanned it in, scanned in some watercolor texture, and finished it all in photoshop.

endurfæða, digital media
Valerie Herron, 2012

The resolution on the image that I’m posting here doesn’t do it much justice, it was created to be blown up BIG! My professor mentioned something about this piece getting displayed in a gallery show, I will definitely post details as soon as I find them out.

Endurfæða (pronounced: in-dur-fy-thuh) is the Icelandic word for “regenerate.” The image is a symbol and an affirmation. It’s appropriate that I finished this on Mabon, not only for the horned serpent – harvest connection, but for personal reasons too. If I can take anything away from the transformations that have happened to me this year, it is the overwhelming amount of raw inspiration I have garnered from my experiences. This piece is an act of thanks.

Classes, Thesis, and Faeries

Hello, everyone! I think I’m finally warmed up and ready to face thesis year. Here are a few updates as to what I am doing myself:

Both of my literature seminars are extremely captivating. I’m currently reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy for my american gothic lit class – I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave while doing so for the full Western Bloodbath effect. I just finished episode 10 of The Wire. I knew I wouldn’t escape that show emotionally unscathed. The 1st season isn’t even over!

I’m at the halfway point on my icon assignment for my Advanced Illustration class. I finished inking the line work and scanned it in so I can create some digital magic with it. Here is the line work I finished this weekend:

linework for icon piece
Valerie Herron 2012

I’m not sure, but I think my professor mentioned something about this piece being in a gallery show once it’s finished? Stay tuned!

I somehow managed to keep up on all this work on top of rehearsing and performing in my dear friend’s wedding ceremony. Congratulations Chris and Terry Hartgrove!

I pitched my basic thesis idea yesterday, and it was approved! So I will be spending the next several months researching allegories, demonology, and the Romantic & Symbolist painters. Woot! I will reveal my thesis idea when it is a little more realized.

The Nightmare
John Henry Fuseli 1781

Last but not least, for fans of the Faerieworlds/FaerieCon events: it was announced today that a new feature has been added to the upcoming FaerieCon East, The FaerieCon Book Club! The FaerieCon Book Club will give people a chance to join a discussion with fellow FaerieCon participants, hosts, and fantasy authors at the next FaerieCon East. You can find out more details about the book club at the FaerieCon East website, and you can join the discussion early at the FaerieCon Book Club Facebook page.

That’s all I have for now. I will continue to keep you all posted as thesis and the rest of these projects unfold 🙂

Thesis Year: Into the Fray

Alright, I am back in school for my senior year at PNCA. So far it appears that the whole process around my senior thesis will be a harrowing experience. Having my ideas ripped apart my the department head and classmates until they are distilled into something good, two speeches in front of the school and a panel of inquisitors, and a giant research paper. Not to mention the massive project itself. Pray for me. I will definitely show some of the process here as my thesis project develops.

please don’t break me.

I have two literature seminars that I am so insanely excited for. One of them is about American Gothic literature, and the other is all about The Wire. Will I have a shred of optimism, or any trust in my culture’s institutions at the end of this semester? I’m not bothered, I feel like both are going to inform my thesis quite a bit.

Omar comin’ y’all.

 

In my illustration classes, thankfully we are starting with some basic, warm-up design assignments. My first was to create a collage combining my work with the work of others (max. of 10 images total), and then designing it into a composition.

ATTENTION ARTISTS: It is only appropriate to do this sort of thing for educational purposes. I will not be putting this piece on my website or selling it. Do not use other people’s art in your work!

I decided I wasn’t going to make it some sort of homage to my favorite artists because A. that would be hard to narrow down and B. how fucking tacky would that be? I looked through the pile of images that I collected of work I love and made this weird, sci-fi image:

a collage of stolen goods

I’m sure you can recognize the work of Hieronymus Bosch, John William Waterhouse, and Stephanie Lostimolo. I collaged in Circe from my work. Oh yes I did just put a collage within a collage! I’m a loose cannon.

Then I added my Cernnunos icon, scanned and collaged in some textures, threw on text, and there you have it. It was a fun assignment.

Imagepath assignment, Valerie Herron 2012

The second assignment – the process for which is stretched out over the next few weeks – is to choose an image from a list of options and create an icon. I chose the option “your choice of animal.” Here are a few of the thumbnail sketches from Friday. Are those ram-horned serpents? Maybe…

I swear they’ll look fierce when they’re no longer thumbnails…

I’m still on the fence. They may end up just adders.

With my workload increasing, I’m not sure how often I will be able to post updates here, but I will do my best to stay somewhat consistant. I sleep now!

A quick review of Dead Can Dance at Marymoor Park

I discovered Dead Can Dance when I was 14, and shortly thereafter discovered that they had disbanded. They’ve since had a few reunion tours that I managed to miss, so I didn’t have high hopes for seeing them in concert, let alone a new album. Naturally, I was excited to find out about their plans for touring this summer to promote their new album, Anastasis. After months of waiting, I finally got to see Dead Can Dance on Friday, August 10th at the Marymoor amphitheater.

The Marymoor is a natural amphitheater just outside of Seattle, WA. Despite the outdoor setting, they managed to make the show feel more like a formal, orchestral event and not a hippy festival. This was accomplished by hugging the stage with several rows of seating for priority concertgoers. Meanwhile, the folks that bought GA tickets were stationed on the knolls (which felt like a mile away from the stage). People dancing were corralled to the back corner of the venue. This all made for less of an immersive concert experience than I would have liked, but that was my only complaint about the show.

The sound in the amphitheater was phenomenal. The set list mainly consisted of new songs, but they played some old favorites such as Sanvean and The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove. Their new music was not a huge departure from their previous work. It is all very Greek and Middle Eastern combined with the familiar vocal elements of Lisa Gerrard’s wailing glossolalia and Brendan Perry’s reverberance. I don’t believe I am qualified to review the new music, but I can say that I loved it instantly, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction to it.

The concert was absolutely beautiful, and I was elated to see Dead Can Dance in person, finally. I highly recommend going to see this show, the remaining tour dates and ticket information can be found here at their website: http://www.deadcandance.com/ 

Faerieworlds, Dead Can Dance, and Portraits

Heh, it’s been about a month, so I suppose it’s time for an update…

Faerieworlds 2012 Summer Festival was amazing, hands down. I drove down to Eugene with my dear friend, Tina, on Friday and Saturday. I ran into so many good friends and danced more in 2 days than I have all year. So necessary. Sadly, I had to come back from Arcadia.

Buddies at Faerieworlds. Clockwise from the bottom: Michael, Tina, Jason, and me.

Back to work. I just completed a portrait sketch for friend and local musician Kenneth Barton. His band Petal Songs is based in Portland and has been together for over a decade. He commissioned this another portrait, and we are talking about album cover design and illustration work coming up in the fall. I’ll continue to post all the work I do for Ken.

A sketch of Kenneth Barton.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a tentative painter. I hate the process of creating a painting when the piece is very important to me. For over a year I have been trying to start this portrait of my dear friend, Eleanor. Over a year ago I conducted a photo-shoot at her house in Seattle to capture the composition and have reference for the piece. Then I did a digital mock-up painting for a study, and then moved on to the actual painting. I restarted it twice. Then I put it aside. Then I did countless tiny studies, scared to death to start working on the actual piece. I finally started working on the final piece this week. I must finish this damn painting before school starts. Here are some pictures of the process so far:

On Friday I will be driving to Seattle to see Dead Can Dance in concert. This has not quite sunk in yet. DCD is largely responsible for most of the music I love. This may be the only concert I’ve ever attended where I get a little star-struck and manic. As manic as one can be while listening to droning incantations and folk dirges. If I can dissociate from my inner 14-year-old enough to notice various details of the concert, I’m hoping I can write a review of it on The Movement of Sound.

There, I’m that is enough update to make up for a month of silence!

Anna Fidler

Hello! I am back from a few weeks of birthday revelry interspersed with a billion projects. I hope the Summer has been as fun and productive for the rest of you. To kick off her newly renovated website, as well as her current exhibition down in Oakland, I wanted to write a bit about the awesome lady I’ve been an artist assistant for for the last few years.

Anna Fidler in the studio with daughter Willow
photo by Sabina Samiee

I first met Anna Fidler my freshman year at PNCA. She was one of my drawing instructors, and at the end of the semester she offered me an internship to work as an artist assistant for her. I have been working for her on and off ever since.

See all those lines? They took months to draw.

In my time assisting at Anna Fidler studios, I’ve helped work on a couple of different series. The first is comprised of several portraits of Victorian Oregonians, the second is centered around iconic women, but I can’t really reveal any more about it for the time being.

As an artist assistant I’ve done everything from research at the Oregon Historical Society, paint pours, transferring line work, applying color and texture with prismacolors, repair, prepping pieces for gallery display, and assisting in physically setting up gallery shows, and I’m sure a bunch of other things that I’m forgetting.

Anna’s style and process of creating these mixed media pieces is unique and fascinating, and I must admit it has definitely rubbed off on me in my own work.

Mister George, by Anna Fidler
20.25 x 15.25 inches Acrylic and colored pencil on paper 2012

Pieces from the 1st series, Vampires and Wolfmen, are currently exhibited at the Johansson Projects Gallery in Oakland, CA. The series will also be exhibited in Portland at the Charles Hartman Gallery later in the year, and in September the series will be exhibited at the Portland Art Museum. I will announce the dates as they come in. I urge everyone to go see the work in person. And once again, you can find out all of her background info and about her other work at her website: http://annafidler.com/

I must now get back to watercolor studies and writing comics. Soon I’ll have something I can actually share 😉