The Artist Challenge – A Private Art Club

During the summer of 2008, an interesting concept in online art developed between me and fellow artist Vikki North. An “art challenge” was proposed based on a theme or topic, and we both produced interpretive artwork in our respective styles and mediums. The result was overwhelmingly successful, I enjoyed the personal growth as an artist, and the response to the artwork was encouraging.

The Artist Challenge - A Private Art ClubThe experience instilled a desire to make art challenges more inclusive and accessible to artists and art patrons. And with that in mind, I’d like to present the culmination of our recent joint effort: “The Artist Challenge!”

The concept is still the same; a theme or topic is proposed, create your own unique work of art and interpretation of the theme, submit your work to the site, and we’ll share the many inspiring perspectives for all the world to see. We even link back to your site so visitors or art patrons can learn more about you and your artwork!

Additionally, we’ll be moderating a knowledgeable and fun filled forum “Dante’s Pub” that will eventually be made private for contributing artists only.

So are you ready to take the art challenge?!

The first challenge has a final due date of February 14th, and the theme is: UNREQUITED LOVE! Perfect for February. 😉

Stop by The Artist Challenge for more information, view previous challenge galleries, register a forum account, and we’ll see you in the Pub!

~Michael
aka Captain Mike

HOPE | Reflections of Hope in Art

Hope is difficult for me to draw or paint. It is even more difficult to write about.

Hope is always in me. I take it for granted, usually, unless things get bad. But things have to get really bad before all I have left is hope.

I think this is due to hope being an emotional state rather than an optimistic point of view reached by conscious logical thought. Hope happens when reason is gone. When life feels so overwhelmingly bad, all I have left is hope… for something better.

Although, I can’t deny when life feels positively good, I feel an undercurrent of hope for stability. “I hope that nothing bad happens!” Hope can work against change when things are good and comfortable. Maybe that reflects the arbitrary nature of emotion.

Each of the drawings and paintings below are reflections of hope. The artworks are approximately 9″x12″ on card stock paper, created with markers, pens, watercolors, paint pens, and acrylic paint. The first piece of art is a Face of Hope at its time of overwhelming need. The second artwork is a Ray of Hope, shining through the darkest hour; a time it’s most clearly visible. And the third drawing is a nod to the American Democratic political party which connected popular culture’s idea of hope to a campaign, in the Smiling Eyes of Hope.

Special Thanks to Martha Marshall for contributing the idea for this 4th Art Challenge! And check out Vikki North’s blog (the originator of these art challenges!) to see her interpretation of HOPE!

~Michael

Abstract Drawing and Painting of the Face of Hope

Abstract Drawing and Painting of a Ray of Hope

Abstract Drawing and Painting of the Smiling Eyes of Hope

Artwork Inspired by Dan Eldon Journals | The Journey is the Destination

The story of Dan Eldon is powerful. I know little, but feel a lot. Most of what I learned is from the Wikipedia entry on Dan Eldon’s life, and scans of his journals at the Creative Visions Foundation.

Daniel Robert Eldon (b. 18 September 1970, Hampstead, England – d. 12 July 1993, Mogadishu, Somalia) was an English photojournalist. He and three colleagues were killed by an angry mob in Mogadishu. He left behind a series of journals, which his family has exhibited on a worldwide tour.

Vikki North proposed a new art challenge a few weeks ago, which focused on the book The Journey is the Destination, by Kathy Eldon, Dan’s mother.

After viewing Dan’s work I was affected very deeply, especially after reading about his death. The fear, confusion, and sadness hit hard in contrast to his enduring altruism. The contradiction of his compassionate life and violent death flashed like the thunder of a night and day all at once.

For example, how many fourteen year old people have started a fund-raising campaign for open-heart surgery to save the life of a friend. Dan helped raise $5,000, but due to the hospital’s neglect, his friend died.

Or during college, Dan spent his summers raising $25,000 for a venture to a refugee camp in Malawi. With friends from six countries, they met in Nairobi and traveled thousands of miles in three vehicles. Then they donated one of their vehicles to the Save the Children Fund, as well as money for three wells, and blankets for a children’s hospital.

These stories are commonplace. Altruistic action seems to have dominated Dan’s life.

And on the day of his death at 22 years old, he was working as a photojournalist in a Mogadishu refugee camp ravaged by war. A mob, confused by erroneous attacks, focused their aggression on Dan and three young colleagues.

My response to the challenge, and Dan Eldon’s journals, is a series of sketches that I worked on over the past few weeks as I thought about his story.

At first, frustration set in. I struggled to get past angry feelings, drawing numerous dark sketches driven by fear and confusion. I couldn’t see Dan clearly. But as I sketched, forgiveness and amnesty trickled in slowly. The first two drawings below are from that period. They are approximately 11″ x 14″, drawn and painted with markers, colored pencils, paint pens, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal and chalk.

Abstract Drawing/Painting Inspired by Dan Eldon's Journals, Journey

Dark Abstract Drawing/Painting Inspired by Dan Eldon's Journals, Journey

Eventually I stumbled across feelings of inadequacy as an artist for this challenge, and guilt about the less than altruistic aspects of my own life. Thankfully with support from friends and family, I began to focus on the Journey rather than the Destination. It was a wonderful feeling, to see clearly again. All that time, right in front of me, it was the essence of this challenge! All I could do was cry a little and laugh.

A few days later I re-approached the artwork with a portrait of Dan. I left the color and emotion behind and around him, and was inspired by his own self-portrait with a red eye. Many more sketches followed, but I’ve only posted a few. The two below are also 11″ x 14″, drawn with pen, markers, paint pen, watercolor, and gloss varnish (not visible in the digital reproductions). The two at the very bottom are 3″ x 5″ drawings, sketched with pen, markers, watercolor, and paint pens.

Pen, Ink, and Marker Portrait Drawing/Painting of Dan Eldon

Abstract Drawing / Painting of Dan Eldon and Refugees

Now that I am running in this space, I’m reminded of a quote that Vikki sent me from one of Dan’s Journals:

“What’s the difference between exploring and being lost? The journey is the destination.”

The journey is the destination, and I’m comfortable knowing that I’m not done working with Dan’s legacy yet.

Visit Vikki’s Red Chair Gallery Blog to see her contribution to the Journey. Also, check out Martha Marshall’s Blog, she’s an amazing professional artist who is also contributing to the challenge.

And thank you Vikki, for a challenge that lived up to its name. 😉

~Michael

P.S. I read on Wikipedia that Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, will be playing the role of Dan Eldon in the upcoming biopic movie entitled Journey. And with Kathy Eldon working on the project, I hope for its truth to be uplifting for many more people for years to come.

Abstract Drawing Inspired by the Life of Dan Eldon and His Artwork

Abstract Drawing of Dan Eldon's Red Eye from Journals, The Journey is the Destination

Blue’n Red | Vikki’s Challenge – The Red Balloon

Vikki North is an amazing artist who’s artwork can be seen in the Red Chair Gallery, and often deals with the ‘human condition’. In June 2008, she visited my art blog, and enthusiastically offered a challenge entitled “Jealousy, The Green Eyed Monster“. The experience was fantastic spontaneous FUN.

A few months later a new challenge was proposed… “The Red Balloon”. The Red Balloon was one of my favorite childhood movies. Minimal dialogue, as it transcends language, and contains visuals that both children and adults can enjoy. And it stars a boy and his big shiny red balloon!

From Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic Steven Rea:

“”The Red Balloon” is a beautiful little meditation on childhood, on imagination literally taking flight. The story of Pascal and his balloon represents the longings of the young – and the not so young – to escape the mundane business of daily life, and find a way to transcend, transcend.”

My response to the movie and this challenge is a reflection on sharing creativity.

There is a scene in the movie where the little boy, Pascal, and his red balloon stroll by a little girl, who also has a balloon. A bright blue one. The balloons play together briefly, a passing moment, but one that struck me, and seemed to fit this challenge.

It reminded me that when I see someone else with their own ‘balloon’ of imagination, it’s beautiful and wonderful and a joy to share. And in that regard the final scene in the movie becomes particularly overwhelming and memorable.

I think we all have unique creativity. And sharing it and working with others often takes me to new heights. I’m particularly intrigued by the online presentation of this challenge, and the exchange of viewers that are a part of the experience. Vikki and I are posting our finished artworks on the same day, without having seen each others’ work, and I encourage you to visit her Art Blog to see what she has created!

So without further ado, “Blue’n Red” is a 9″x12″ paint/drawing created with colored pencils, pen, marker, paint pen, and watercolor mediums. The artwork is comprised of two children’s faces in a sea of creativity, surrounded by the balloons of all the people in their world, swirling around, and enjoying the fun. A multitude of colors and affect, coming together to form something bigger than one can do alone.

Thank you Vikki!

Abstract Impressionistic Drawing of Two Childrens Faces in Red and Blue Balloons

Macabre Series 1 – Blood, Skulls, and Paranoia

This is a series of pen and ink drawings called Macabre Series 1 – Blood, Skulls, and Paranoia. Each drawing was sketched to stand on its own, but there is a theme in the style, subject matter, and overall feeling of each artwork. Deep black shadows and abstract designs mix with grey and red gradients to create symbols and images that typically represent death, invoke fear, and suggest an undercurrent of foreboding. Some of these elements specifically include skulls, ghosts, insects, unusual creatures, red coloring for blood, and abstract distorted faces. Each drawing is approximately 4″ x 6″, and each artwork was drawn and painted in 2008 with pen, ink, marker, and watercolor mediums.

Macabre Series 1 – Blood, Skulls, and Paranoia

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Skull

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Ghost

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of an Insect

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing Expressing Paranoia

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Skull

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Skull with Blood

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Flower

Epilogue | Macabre Series 1 – Blood, Skulls, and Paranoia

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of the Face of Death

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Death Skull

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Bloody Death Skull

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing Expressing Extreme Paranoia About Death

Abstract Macabre Pen and Ink Drawing of a Bleeding Death Skull