Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Guide to Artists for the Non-Artist, Part 1

I love going to art museums. Love love love. Whether seeing my favorite works or meeting a new artist or just leaning in a wee bit too close to admire the artist's technique, I could spend hours immersed in art with my camera and a sketchbook. Love love love.

But it has come to my attention that I have friends that don't know many artists, so while they're admiring art and wandering around, sometimes they'll turn to me and say, "Andy Warhol...you've mentioned him, right?"

WAHH.

I started looking around online, trying to find a short little guide to artists that could explain many popular artists in a few words and give a sample or two of their work. I could use the refresher every once in a while - because I'll be honest, style periods are starting to mesh together - and I want my friends to recognize a few artists when they go to the art museum, so they can feel fancy.

I mean, who doesn't like to have fancy time in the art museum? It's the greatest.

But what I found was a odd lack of short little guides to artists. The internet is so great and vast, how can this be missing? I'm generally good at finding the right keywords and ferreting out what I'm searching for, but I turned up empty every time. (If anyone finds something, put the link in the comments for me!)

So you know what that means. I'm making it myself.

This first part of hopefully more to come, is going to start with a three minute video from one of my old animated favorites, Gay Purr-ee. Why? Because it covers 11 famous artists and their respective styles in three short minutes. All this from a 1962 film. And people say cartoons are just for kids. Hah.


This clip features the main character of the film, Mewsette (voiced by Judy Garland) posing for these famous artists. Here's the break-down, in order: Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso.

Ones you should recognize and why:
1- Claude Monet
You'll see his artwork on stationary in paper shops all the time (I myself own some and I love it). His work is all very beautiful and fluid, much like his famous water lily paintings. He also did a study of haystacks in painting. Yes, haystacks. And yes, they're famous. He was the founder of Impressionism, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "a  style of painting that began in France around 1870, that uses spots of color to show the effects of different kinds of light, and that attempts to capture the feeling of a scene rather than specific details." He wasn't fully appreciated until after his death. 
2- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
You may seen him immortalized by John Leguizamo in Moulin Rouge!. I'm not going to say it's an accurate portrayal, but Toulouse-Lautrec did often hang out at the Moulin Rouge to draw the dancers back in the day. He suffered from health problems as a child that left him with the torso of an adult but the legs of a child, which is partly why he took up art. He was considered a Post-Impressionist and he focused more on people as his subjects. Besides being a painter, he was a printmaker and illustrator.
3- Georges-Pierre Seurat
His famous painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is highlighted in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, when Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane go to the Art Institute of Chicago. Cameron spends a long moment staring at the painting, in particular the child in the white dress and hat at the center of the painting. As the clip above explains, he was a known for creating pointillism, the way of using small dots to form an image.
4- Vincent van Gogh
He created Starry Night, one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. If you're not sure, just Google it and I'm sure you've seen it. There's also that Doctor Who episode where they meet him and he apparently paints the Tardis. He was a tortured artist, with bouts of mental illness and an early death, who like Monet, was not recognized for his great work during his lifetime. He was also a Post-Impressionist.
5- Pablo Picasso
Much like Monet and van Gogh, his work is everywhere. It's also usually pretty recognizable for his depiction of people in an abstract fashion, known as cubism. One particularly amazing and controversial painting of his is Guernica, which depicts the brutalities of the Spanish Civil War. There's an interesting story behind it as well!

So there's the first bit. It should give you a very brief introduction.

And to those of you who wanted me to get back to Andy Warhol, he was a leader of the Pop Art movement and he created the famous image of the Campbell's soup can and the many different styles of Marilyn Monroe's face. Wikipedia nicely explains that his "works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Grieving of Animals

I had no intention of plastering this all over the internet or telling everyone about it, but while part of me is doing okay with this new change in my life, another part of me is in a lot of pain. I know this blog is to be dedicated to other things, but writing has always helped me work through things, so please bear with me.


My family and I lost our dog on Saturday afternoon. I keep playing it over and over when I have too much time to think which makes me melt inside.

My mother carried our dog, Chloe, to the car and into the vet's office. It reminded me of the moment in Big Fish when the son carries his father. Putting Chloe on the bench in the waiting room and watching her stare at the floor, her front paws dangling over the front still hurts. She would look up and put her head on my knee before letting her head go back to that spot on the floor she was so concentrated on. We brought the blanket from her bed for her to lie on before she left our world to join Heaven, so while my mother carried her into the room on the end, I carried her blanket.

My mother and I agreed she was ready to go. She had stopped eating anything, with the exception of Thanksgiving when she ate some turkey wholeheartedly. But after that, she didn't want anything, not even her favorite foods. As a dog who loved peanut butter as much as the rest of my family, she had stopped eating it a week ago, even if it was held in front of her while she laid in bed. She was losing her fur rapidly in the season she should be keeping it and was getting unsure of her footing. She fell twice. She was an old lady ready to move on, we just weren't listening to her.

Watching her before the doctors came into the room and talking to her, while we stroked her fur and held her paw was one of the hardest moments. I didn't want to tell her what was happening. I'm sure she knew, but I just couldn't say it out loud. I didn't want to. I didn't want to say it.

When it was all over and I was still holding her paw, I realized I had never winked at her in her last moments. She was always winking at me. We would get into staring contests that would often end with her winking at me. Likely, she did it by accident, but it never stopped me from winking back. Until then. And by then, I just couldn't. I got up looking at her body and how she was gone. Part of me wanted to keep holding on to her but the other part gently reminded me that it was just a body; she, as I knew her, was gone.

I had been strong for my mother before we left and got into that room, but once it was over she was the strong one. She held me as I hung onto her before we had the courage to get back into the car, without Chloe, and go home.


I have experienced grief before, with the death of family members at ages I was aware of death and ages I was not. It was hard and difficult and I still wonder to this day if I actually finished the poem I was reading at my grandmother's funeral or if my cousin did have to come up to the podium to help me finish.

The point being, this death is harder for me. My first pet died. The first animal that I lived with from 9 weeks old to almost 14 years. I taught her tricks and trained her. I played with her. I talked to her. I kept her company when she was scared. I gave her baths. I gave her chin rubs. I took her on walks. I took her on car rides. All those things. She was my sister, as a girl who had always dreamed of having a sibling.

I keep looking for her, even though I know she's not there. I keep thinking she's around the corner or I'll hear her nails on the floor (she hated cutting her nails - must have got that from me) or her collar shake, even though I know it's in a box near my bed.

I miss her so much and even though I know she hated it, I want to give her another long hug so badly.

But she's gone. And she's in a better place. She's there with her brother who died years before her that I know she missed so much when he moved away. I'm sure they're playing and having a blast and that my grandparents are keeping a good eye on her for us. And none of them are in pain any more.


I keep thinking of her beautiful brown eyes and the depth I saw in them everyday. Even though she couldn't tell me outright how she felt, I always thought I could see it in her eyes, if I looked hard enough. Chloe is the reason I understand how important animals are in our lives and how 'human' they are. She taught me that on a daily basis. Which is why I've always looked into an animal's eyes when I met one, in order to see them more clearly. What I really think I'll see from now on though are Chloe's eyes staring back at me, winking.


"Look here, all of you," he said entreatingly, as soon as Nana had gone into the bathroom. "I have just thought of a splendid joke. I shall pour my medicine into Nana's bowl, and she will drink it, thinking it is milk!"
It was the colour of milk; but the children did not have their father's sense of humour, and they looked at him reproachfully as he poured the medicine into Nana's bowl. "What fun!" he said doubtfully, and they did not dare expose him when Mrs. Darling and Nana returned.
"Nana, good dog," he said, patting her, "I have put a little milk into your bowl, Nana."
Nana wagged her tail, ran to the medicine, and began lapping it. Then she gave Mr. Darling such a look, not an angry look: she showed him the great red tear that makes us so sorry for noble dogs, and crept into her kennel.
-excerpt from Peter Pan [Peter & Wendy], by J. M. Barrie

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recycling Apps. iRecycle

Maybe some of you are aware of this, but there's this really nifty app from Earth911.com that tells you where you can recycle just about anything, whether it be locating the closest place to drop off your plethora of plastic grocery bags or finding a place for that box of broken appliances your family member never threw away (which was a good call, honestly).

The app is called iRecycle and it's a FREE download. Easy interface. Easy to use. Easy everything.


Check it out, it'll make you feel like a Lorax. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shopping Cruelty-Free & Environmentally; All that 'Hippy Dippy' Stuff.

To cut to the chase- yes, I am the worst blogger on the face of the planet, but no I will not just stop writing. I like it too much, I'm just a pansy sometimes.

Moving on, here's why I shop cruelty free. In a few words, it's because I think animals are too important to be treated poorly and I can't bear the thought of an animal whimpering in a cage. Whenever I see those television commercials for animals in need, I have to get up and hug my dog until she basically tells me in her own way to "take a hike, needy." While I know these are different arguments, I have been educated by friends armed with facts, photos, and real accounts of the atrocities of puppy mills and if those horrors are a fraction or more of what's happening to animals in laboratories, then I think some reforms are in order.

So before I go further, I'm going to tell you not to buy a puppy, kitten, or whatever from a pet store unless YOU KNOW where the animal is coming from. If they say "Oh idk a farm?" ask them to be more specific, because not only could your cute new friend be extremely afraid of you, it could be incredibly unhealthy and need an expensive trip to the vet. Which is why you should adopt from a shelter or go to a breeder directly. If you choose the later, make sure you check their credentials. I got my dog from a breeder when she was a puppy and we not only got to meet her parents and her siblings, we got a file with all her healthy history and a bit about her ancestry (she came from some show-dogs with funny names; no wonder she's such a sass sometimes). Of course those animals from mills deserve to be loved, no doubt, but now this is where the double-edged sword comes in; they need homes but the people making a profit off their misery need to be reprimanded.

Oi. The feels.

But I'll get back to the point at hand. I'll  admit, I am not a scientist, I am an interior designer. Which means I do not know what tests need to be done to advance mankind and cure disease and all other such important things. I am but a humble player on the world stage. However I believe in the golden rule and I think that rule should extend to animals and the environment. So keeping all of that in mind, I think it's important to think about what you're buying and bringing home.

That's a daunting task, but it's something we should be thinking about more. Example, even though those mozzarella sticks are on sale at Wal-Mart for $2.99, what is going into them? What are all those ingredients that sound like stuff found in a lab and not in your food? And what does 'organic' actually mean? Is something actually 'organic' when it says it is? What about those chairs you just got from La Z Boy, all brand new. Do you know where they came from or how made them? Have you ever imagined the people putting together your chair and what their lives are like? You can do that for everything and anything and honestly, it all gives me a headache. I'm amazed I function some days or even get up in the morning. I would much rather hide in bed, almost smothered by my pillows and sheets from Target, pretending fairies from other worlds made them because they love working and just charged me for the materials. It's exhausting.

But it's thinking like this that can make us more inclined to shop wiser and make working standards for other people, animals, and the environment better and more, for lack of a more universally appropriate term, human.

So if I got your wheels turning, here's a way to get started:

1- Research, yo! Start looking up the companies you buy from the most on the web. Their website usually provides you with information about what they're doing these days and where they stand, if applicable, on the environment and animal testing. If you can't find anything about either, that's usually a sign they're hiding something which will require extensive investigating or, you can just start exploring new brands, which is pretty fun.

2- Cruelty free? Check this website! If you're looking to go cruelty free, here's a website to get you started: http://leapingbunny.org/shopping.php It's an easy way to check into cruelty free with just a few clicks. It may not be completely extensive however, since my favorite company skin and hair care company, LUSH, is not on the list currently even though they are actively fighting animal testing and their stuff is all 100% vegetarian (http://www.lushusa.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Lush-Site/en_US/AboutUs-OurStoryShow?cid=we-believe). I'm a little bit in love with them, even if they are more expensive. After all, your money is your way of showing you support a company's product; why not make it count?

3- Go vintage; shop secondhand! Well this is obviously not for everything, but for clothing, furniture or furnishing type things, this can save you money as well as keep landfills a bit lighter, which I am ALL ABOUT. There are all kinds of great stuff to be had at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and local shops with witty names. I spent a lot of time in a great place in NYC called Beacon's Closet (http://www.beaconscloset.com/) that was all about secondhand clothes. As a poor twenty-something with a style that includes wearing her mother's old clothes, this was a goldmine. I've found similar places all over the USA, so I'm sure it's trending near you.

4- Make science! If you're more of the 'hands on' type, then you'll appreciate this. You can actually make some of your own hair, skin, and cleaning products. I haven't gotten on that bandwagon yet, because, well, I don't have time for that. It is on my to-do list, but I don't have much information to pass on. When I get there, I'll have links to add here...AND A NEW ENTRY TO MAKE. BOO YAH!

 So there you have it. A few ways to start being a part of the 'hippy dippy' movement. Rock on, sons and daughters of the revolution.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unpublished Editorial

Alright, I am not very good at updating a blog, but like I said, this is a work in progress for me. I'm still getting the hang of this. Eventually, I will use this to talk about art, design, and sustainability, which are all important to me, but for now, I'm just trying to get into writing more regularly.

Once that's down, I'll be able to start getting into this more seriously.

But as I promised, here's something more thought-provoking. This is my unpublished editorial for my university's newspaper that I did three years ago, while I had a friend as opinion editor. To make a long story short, it ended up getting shelved and I forgot about it. Until recently of course, when I started thinking about how true it still is today. Which is why I would like to share it now.

In the meantime, I'll work on my writing habits, once and for all. For reals. For science (not really, I just wanted to say that).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Did you know that pandas eat…” “Many Americans are faced with…” “How many times have you…” “When you were a child…” “Imagine being in line for lunch and…”

Attention grabbing devices. We must have heard 4/5ths of them by now, the last fraction making it through the strainer of boring, recycled trash to become a plate of new, tantalizing anticipation. “How difficult do you think it is to…” “Have you ever noticed…”

I went to a version of summer camp for artsy kids the number of musketeers ago. During a project that required long walking by foot forth and back from a beach, one of our teachers (this was when the whole first name calling of teachers began for me, but that’s as useful as this bad simile) talked about a philosopher ex-boyfriend whose life goal was to have an original thought.

“At the time…” “I bet you’ve had many…” “Do you know how difficult…” That memory pops into my head the way a dysfunctional Jack-in-the-box likes to pop out and scare Will Ferrell because I imagine original thoughts are rarer than unicorns and all the good attention grabbing devices are a member of their private poker club on Tuesdays.

I’m guilty of using these stale bread, don’t-stop-I-want-to-hear-this-joke-again-even-though-I’ve-heard-it-500-times, phrases every day and in everything I’ve ever written. I spend a cornucopia of my time simply rearranging words and these phrases the way I would the furniture in a room just to make them seem fresh and more new. I expect Ezra Pound to smile at me and say, “It’s good  kid,” if he indeed talked like that, over my shoulder while he disappears in and out like the Cheshire Cat. What I do is the same. Same as you. Same as her. Same as him. Same as J.K. Rowling sitting at that café writing a story on napkins about a boy with a weather related scar on his face. This one is called repetition.

“Life would be so much better …” “If we changed our old incandescent light bulbs with…” More original ideas. Scientists are inventing new advancements in technology as fast as rabbits spawn and we’re still using the same phrases of words. Anybody know why? Is there security in these phrases? Are they just that much fun to say? Am I the only one complaining?

I think it’s time for us to evolve our writing. Together we shall brandish our pencils, pens, quills, fingertips, and pointy-sticks and begin a new age of creativity – let us now write new phrases every time we write! Make our generation the ones with words! No longer shall it be the land of milk and honey, now it can be whatever you want, as long as you promise to get out there and think with ferocity and hunger! Otherwise, may Ezra Pound haunt you in the form of a broken Jack-in-the-box and follow you around until you strive for creativity. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging...

So I know it's been awhile.

I haven't forgotten about you, not at all. I've actually been thinking about you quite a bit, in that I've been trying to determine what I want to write about first. I've made some lists, weighed some options, did a bit of research...you know, all the right things. But then, I started watching cartoons and Veronica Mars.

Yes, you heard me. Cartoons. Veronica Mars.

As a kid, I had an interest in animation. I was addicted to drawing. I drew on everything. I was never into coloring books, because I wanted blank pages to draw on instead. I even drew on chalkboards. I remember one time, when I watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks for the tenth time, I paused the screen to draw the possessed knights marching to battle on my largest chalkboard. It was my favorite scene of that movie and truth be told, it still is my favorite. So I really wanted to draw it. I took out my easel and everything. So it should come as no surprise that to finish my drawing of the knights I went so far as to glue feathers to the chalkboard. You know, to get their helmets just right.

Fast forward to my phase where I would stay up late at night to watch the more 'adult' cartoon shows. By which I mean, Toon Heads, The Tex Avery Show, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, etc. Kids generally were into the newer ones, which I was into as well (who didn't like Doug, Scooby Doo, Dexter's Laboratory, or a little Courage the Cowardly Dog?), but these were the ones that were on later, closer to the average kid's bed time. My parents learned fast that they could send me to bed but not to sleep, so I was able to stretch out my bedtime more and more, until they finally would push me into bed and close my door every night. Before then though, my mind was filled with the old-school cartoons and great animators, showing me things like, "The House of Tomorrow" or the Flintstone's "The Swimming Pool" episode. I loved it. There were even sometimes these short clips that would get my imagination engine humming:



Then The Powerpuff Girls came along and I became a complete and utter slave to them, in that I watched them incessantly and drew them everywhere. I drew them so much, it's something I can do in my sleep or with my eyes closed. I have drawn them for kids I've babysat. I've left them scrawled on chalk/whiteboards from middle school to college. They're all over about 3 of my sketchbooks, cover to cover.

I'm not joking.


Then, after coveted evenings spent watching Kim Possible, Darkwing Duck, and Teacher's Pet passed, reruns of The Powerpuff Girls feigned to hold my attention, and I had seen almost every episode of Pokemon and Digimon worth seeing, it suddenly stopped.

And for a long time, it stayed that way. Years passed and the most animation I saw was the yearly Pixar film.

Until in the last few years of college, it came back to me. Suddenly, I was hooked by Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. I had to see Coraline. I wanted to re-watch my favorite Disney film, The Great Mouse Detective. I had to get my hands on Gay Purr-ee and Cats Don't Dance again. It was necessary to watch the entirety of Brendon Small's Home Movies. I made lists of foreign animation films I needed to see, from The Triplets of Belleville to Persepolis.

Anyways, this is my explanation for watching cartoons: because I'm still that little girl that loves drawing and seeing other people's drawings. It doesn't matter to me if they're in a gallery, or if they're playing on the television to a bunch of kids; I see art.

Cartoons, or rather animation, are under-appreciated sometimes, because they are generally thought of as for children. Yes, some actual 'adult' cartoons exist, like Futurama, Family Guy, The Simpsons, and all that, and while they have their place, they're not what I'm talking about. Cartoons have the capacity to appeal to both children and adults, whether it be because the adults are kids at heart or just parents trying to keep their child quiet for 90 minutes. Pixar has been changing the way animation is perceived for years, making adults fall in love with their films and shorts, not just the kids they aim to please. Other studios have started stepping up, creating films like Despicable Me or How to Train Your Dragon, which have big followings of their own, particularly in the tween/early twenties crowd.

And don't forget, it's a lot harder to actually create characters, write a story, and animate it to last anywhere from 10-90 minutes or less, than you think. Even more effort if you're doing something like stop motion, such as Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas. Wrapping my brain around that sort of animation makes my brain hurt; it requires a completely different set of dedication. Can you even imagine spending more than 5 minutes just making a character blink and wave their hand? Now think about how long it must have taken Disney's animators to create the first Disney full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in 1938. Without computers.


I'm proud to watch cartoons. I will quote Regular Show in my daily life. I will watch Adventure Time with Finn and Jake by myself. I will spend nights re-watching Teen Titans and admiring the style and use of expressions. I will watch Hey Arnold! and reminisce about my own childhood. I hope other people my age and older will join me, but if they don't, it won't stop me.

As for Veronica Mars?

I can only ask why it has taken me this long to get on the bandwagon in the first place. It's amazing.

New, and more serious entry, next week.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Salutations & Explanations.

Hi there.

If you were looking for me, you found me. If you weren't, then let me introduce myself; my name is Davalyn L. Stepzinski. I graduated from Iowa State University in December of 2012 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and a minor in Performing Arts. In other words, I'm a big fan of the arts and I have a fancy piece of paper to prove it. 

I am a interior designer looking to use her knowledge and skills to make the world a better place. 

I believe that design is important to our well-being, because it is apart of all aspects of our lives, from your bed, to your coffee-maker, to your desk, to your computer, to your clothes, to even the collar on your fuzzy friend lying on the floor in slumber. Yes, that's a generalization of the term, but you get my point, being that design is running rampant in your life and shockingly important. 

My next point being, that so are your surroundings, because they're what helps you get your job done or your good times rolling, whether that be creating rocket ships, writing the news, flipping burgers, or sharing a round at your favorite hole-in-the-wall. Unless you're sitting outside in a field somewhere, you're sitting in a space created by man that was meant to fit your needs as a human functioning within society. 

If it's not helping you function, then that's where me and my fellow interior designers come in; we're here to help make your surroundings better, in both function and aesthetics, because we want you to be able to work comfortably and enjoy life. 

Because seriously, life is beautiful. Have you looked out your window lately? It's great out there!

In all seriousness, that's what I do. It's pretty important stuff that usually goes unnoticed, but it's still there, like the slumbering fuzzy friend that you forgot was still in the room. 

Which reminds me, I also think being good to our surroundings is essential, in the 'being kind to the planet and our fellow man and animals' kinda way. Just like I think art is important and essential to life. My life is all about finding ways to live in harmony with the planet without sacrificing the creature comforts we have grown to love so much. In other words, finding the perfect balance between it all.

And that is what this blog is about in a nutshell: design and sustainability. Oh, and humor because who doesn't love to laugh while they're learning? Let's have fun here in my little writing adventure, shall we?

Two last thoughts. 

One, if you want to learn more about me that my blogger profile can't give you, my website URL will soon be on this page. I'm still working out the kinks, like the perfectionist I am, but as soon it's up, you'll be one of the first to know! ;c) 

Two, leave me lots of comments. I love feedback and I hope to get a lot of it, positive and constructive. I'm constantly improving.

Until my next entry, sláinte.*
*sláinte (Irish Gaelic. Pronounced slawn-cha, meaning cheers/health.) 

EDIT. WEBSITE IS NOW ACTIVE! You can find the link under my 'About Me' and right here: http://dstepzinski.wix.com/davinmotion. Thanks!