The Devil’s violin is the embodiment of Mozart’s Requiem Lacrimosa. A haunting piece of music that he allegedly never completed. It is believed that he only finished the first couple of bars of Lacrimosa on his deathbed, while the rest is thought to be completed posthumously. It’s a dark, funeral-inspiring composition that’s been heard in countless films: The lament of life.
This piece of eerie music is the perfect inspiration for a drawing, which is what lead me to the idea for Violin del Diablo. String instruments are synonymous with mystery and melancholy, and some of them are unusual, with the most primal sounds. The violin is more light and airy, compared to the deep tones of a cello. Then, of course, you get the hurdy-gurdy, bowed lyre, and my absolute favourite: the nyckelharpa. Its ghostly notes reach deep within the confines of your soul. In this illustration, however, I opted for a violin.
Instead of playing the instrument, the arms become the instrument. Disembodied hands play it with a bow carved from bone, and the Lacrimosa plays through it. The strings are nothing but the blood running down the arm. My drawing reflects the incompleteness of the music, starting with definite lines and dark shading that fades into a slight afterthought. The cuts symbolize how time runs out from the moment we are born to our last breath. Life is a precious song that we play, and once it’s done, there’s no replay.
The title refers to the idea that the Devil could play such an instrument designed to torture His captives. I can imagine tears streaming down His face as He plays the lament of the human’s soul. Even in horror, there is poetry.
Listen to the composition here to get the whole picture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1-TrAvp_xs
“If you want to interpret a flower, you can mimic it,
and it will be everybody’s flower, banal, without interest.
Or on the contrary, if you put the beauty of that flower
and the emotions it evokes into your dead body,
the flower that you create will be true and unique,
and the public will be moved.”
– Kazuo Ohno
Welcome to the glorious month of May!
There is an eerie stillness descending around the area where I’m staying, and the realization that winter is here has dawned on all South Africans. Most are slipping into a seasonal depression, filled with grumbling and griping. Then, of course, there’s me: joyfully pulling out my woollen garments, and relishing the cold evening air with a cup of tea. (Here is the perfect ASMR tea party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72woNh5VXHk&t=807 ) The drop in temperature is a reprieve from migraine attacks, and my energy seems boundless.
Because I’m planning my exhibition, from start to finish, I’ve been scouring the net for all the elements I need. One factor that felt mountainous to conquer was putting together a decent-looking press kit. Once you have all the text and photos ready, it is quite simple. The hardest part is making the images fit the document layout. Press kits are not for events only, and many high-profile artists have it available in case someone wants to interview them. I’ve also had to submit one when I wanted a gallery to showcase my art, with great success too. For me, it is a cheaper option compared to printing x-amount of copies of my art in a brochure format. Plus, it’s more eco-friendly. So, if you wondered what goes into a press kit, and if the prospect of putting one together seems daunting, don’t worry, I’ll simplify it for you.
Firstly you need high-quality photos of your artwork, and by staging them with props, you can create dynamic images that also tell an appealing story. For great examples, have a look at @aneamies_welt and @sergiogomezart. Where Sergio posts photos of himself working in his studio and his art hanging on walls, Anne surrounds her art with crystals, her tools and various sprigs of flowers and leaves. Another great example is @auniakahn, who takes photos from unusual angles. Then comes the text. It would be best if you had a compelling biography and an artist statement. A biography is generally written in the third person and highlights your best achievements as well as tell the audience what type of art you make. Here are some helpful websites to get you writing a kick-ass biography:
An artist statement is slightly different because it’s a short paragraph that should describe you or your work. It’s usually between 150 to 200 words. My statement sums up my style, suits my personality, and I chose to write it in a first-person perspective:
My art represents a bewitching decomposition of nature, with macabre themes on the fringe of an absurd daydream. Inspiration finds me at the bottom of a teacup; floating on the colourful stream of a musical note, or dust particles exploding from a fallen leaf. My technique is a trapeze between realism and surrealism. You can find me, living and creating in the heart of South Africa.
If you need a little guidance on where to start, here are some links:
You will also need to caption your art where applicable: Title of the piece, medium(s), and dimensions. It makes it easier for the gallerist or interviewer to write about your artwork. If you had previous exhibits and interviews, list them as well. If you don’t have pages and pages of exhibitions, that’s fine too, list what you did in school or college as well. If you don’t have any shows under the belt, write an additional piece about the process of each artwork you’ve listed, along with some work-in-progress or in-studio photos.
It’s a good idea to add your resume, and here you can list all your achievements if you don’t have too much work experience. Mine has a summary of my work experience, even the admin jobs because I feel that I’m using and applying all that knowledge in my art career.
Finally, you will need to add your contact details and if possible, a good photograph of yourself in your studio or a portrait. Because social media is such a massive part of my art career, I’ve added a few Instagram pics in my media kit.
While I’m no expert in press kit creation, I do feel confident that mine is a decent template to use. To make things easier on you and give you a leg-up, here is a blank template you can use to create the press kit of your dreams:
All the black boxes are placeholders for your photos, and you can change the fonts if you don’t like the ones I’ve used. Both are free fonts you can download here:
My template is designed to catch the eye at the right place and has all the relevant information, but not in an essay layout. Sure, it’s risky to present a more creative-looking resume, but that would also depend on who the recipient is. I definitely won’t be sending mine to a corporate stiff-upper-lip company. Do you have a resume layout that works well for you? You can also download my template and adjust it to suit your needs. I’ve made A4 and US letter sizes, and added a cover letter along with the other assets I used.
People often ask me how I take photos of my art for social media and what apps I use. I’d love to say I use only the best photography equipment, but the truth is, I use my smartphone the most. Occasionally I’ll use a DSLR camera if I want high-quality images, but that is an exception. When it comes to preparing my photos for social media, I use my laptop and apps that have a monthly licence fee: Adobe Photoshop and Envato Elements. But I also use the free version of Photoshop Express on my phone, as well as PhotoDirector. You can download them in the app store. Both are available for Android and ios.
Another trick is to take your photos in natural light, which reduces editing and increases the quality. I don’t use studio lights; I set up next to a window or outside. I also play around with the angle, and I love adding a few props such as leaves, my paintbrushes or sometimes my hand holding a pencil. Sometimes the original photo doesn’t look that good, and that is where a bit of fine-tuning is needed.
Although I’m a huge fan of Photoshop, it is quite pricey and has a considerable learning curve. Luckily, there are alternatives. If you want to try out some photo editing, here are some fantastic free apps for your laptop or pc:
Natural remedies are imbued with magical powers because they’ve been handed down through generations. I still use many natural remedies for minor ailments, especially when I feel a bit of a sore throat coming on. My favourite is a decoction of cinnamon, cloves and honey. It’s wonderfully soothing and always perks me up. Substituting natural remedies for actual medication is never a good idea, and I suggest you consult your doctor or chemist before trying this recipe. If you use a similar recipe, let me know, I’d love to try it.
Especially for my friends in the northern hemisphere, I have a little DIY to keep you fresh during the hot summer months: A cardboard paddle fan. It’s super easy to make, and I’ve added a few macabre touches to round it off.
You will need:
- Plain printer paper
- Glue of your choice
- Thick, sturdy cardboard of about 22cm x 21cm
- Popsicle stick for reinforcement
- Exacto knife or scissors
Simply print out your paddle fan on a standard piece of paper, cut it out and glue it to your cardboard. Once the glue has dried, cut out your paddle and glue the popsicle stick to the back. You are ready to give the royal wave to onlookers as you casually fan yourself.
Thank you once again for reading and please share with your art-minded friends and family. They can also subscribe to my newsletter here:
In next month’s edition, I’ll share some re-useable ideas for social media posts, a DIY I simply can’t live without and so much more.
See you in June!
If you missed out on previous editions, you can still read it and download the resources here.
Welcome to my April edition.
In this month’s imaginarium I’m looking into the practice of art card trading, a simple upcycled DIY tutorial, and what I learned about resumes.
Amidst all the chaos with Covid-19, and lock-down times, there is still some hope: if we work together by curbing the spread of the disease and lending emotional support to those who are struggling will unite the world. I hope we emerge from this with more compassion and tolerance for each other.
I’m reminded of the cycles of life when I see the leaves fluttering to the ground. It’s time to take stock and gather my thoughts for the tasks in the coming months. There’s a lingering feeling of ‘’closure’’ and things coming to an end, which is excellent for tying up projects. I’ve recently completed a year-long project, that’s leading to an entirely new, albeit daunting, project. I’m planning my first solo exhibition. It’s easy once you break it down to more digestible chunks, but the amount of work that goes into it is quite ulcer-inducing. It’s new territory or me, and I’m learning a lot as I go.
How would you tackle an art exhibition?
Speaking of daunting things, another one is polishing one’s resume for a prospective job. After college, I had no idea how to write a professional resume or Curriculum Vitae. Trial and error helped me get it just right. No one wants a boring text-only document with the same old information presented in the same old way anymore. It is imperative to stand out from the crowd and impress the person reading your resume.
A resume in its essence is a summary of your achievements and work experience. A good rule of thumb is to start with your name and contact details. Although I favour a 2-pager, most companies prefer 1 page resumes. Summaries about your application are generally on the page as well, but I prefer to keep it in a separate in a cover letter. The rest of the information is your education, skills, recent employment history, awards and achievements, and even your community involvement. It is preferred to keep the design clean and simple, but a little creativity can also be an asset. So what makes a CV or a Curriculum Vitae different from a resume? CV’s consist of a few more pages, listing your entire employment history and pedigree. It’s usually accompanied by copies of your certificates, diplomas and references from previous employers and educators.
My template is designed to catch the eye at the right place and has all the relevant information, but not in an essay layout. Sure, it’s risky to present a more creative-looking resume, but that would also depend on who the recipient is. I definitely won’t be sending mine to a corporate stiff-upper-lip company.
Do you have a resume layout that works well for you? You can also download my template and adjust it to suit your needs. I’ve made A4 and US letter sizes, and added a cover letter along with the other assets I used.
Something that I recently stumbled upon is the practice of trading art cards. These miniature artworks are traded or swapped and bring artists together, thus creating a global art community. Trades can be done at events or even online. Every medium is welcome as long as it adheres to the standard size of 2.5″ x 3.5″ (6,35cm x 8.89cm). They should be able to fit into a standard trading card sleeve. ATCs originated from the Swiss artist, Vanci Stirnemann back in the mid-’90s.
Vanci created 1200 art cards for an exhibition which culminated in him trading his cards with other artists. It was so popular that the idea spread like wildfire. Some artists opt to sell their cards, which is then called Art Card Editions and Originals (ACEOs).
The benefits of trading art cards include getting your name as an artist out into the world, and this could also open doors for opportunities such as collaborations, group exhibitions and even getting collectors to notice your art. These cards also make thoughtful gifts, and because they’re so small, their carbon footprint is low as well. There are many online groups dedicated to the trading of art cards, and you can join any one of them or start your own. Have a look at these groups if you want to join in or be inspired:
I’d love to start a digital swap group with you, and if you’re keen as well, you can download my trio of art cards here:
When it comes to the simplicity of using technology, we quickly take for granted that there was a time before computers, devices and typewriters. Not to give away my age here, but I remember the first computers, and how exciting it was to type on one of them. I tried out every character on the keyboard, and when I made a mistake, I could press backspace. Now typewriters, on the other hand, are a whole different beast. For a while, my high school offered typing and music as subjects, and because I didn’t have an instrument and typewriters were provided in class, I chose the typing. These were electric typewriters, and not what I had in mind at all. It was a horrible subject, and I suspect the teacher was Dolores Umbridge in disguise, with her grey, bland funeral attire and stern face. Whenever she looked at you, her round spectacles glinted evilly, and you could even hear her lips crack as she pursed them tightly. Even ‘til today I defiantly refuse to apply the principles she taught in typing class. I make a point to look at my keyboard, and I only use my right thumb, both middle fingers, and right index when I type. Vive la resistance! I also have a habit of typing too fast for the computer to keep up, I’ve managed to crash a Mac, various laptops and a pc on a few occasions.
And to think that there was a time when all typing was done by hand. My handwriting is just as fast as my typing and usually indiscernible. When I write thank-you notes, however, I pull off my Sunday-best: All block letters in a straight line. I cannot write cursive convincingly, and I wish I could blame it on being left-handed, but I’ve seen other lefties write cursive, and they put me to shame. I’ve seen handwriting that is so superb; you want to frame it behind glass and marvel at its beauty. Often I wonder what a graphologist would say about my writing.
Graphology, or handwriting analysis, dates back to the 17th century, but the word was only coined in the 18th century by Jean Michon. This method was used to identify the writer’s personality, especially in understanding the minds of criminals. Handwriting is analysed by looking at every element: the pressure of the pen/pencil on the page, the slant of the strokes, the straightness and curvature of the baseline, letter size, as well as the spacing between letters and words. All of this can allegedly determine the writer’s mood, and by comparing the sample to another document, it is easy to spot a forgery. This is good to know if you suspect someone forged your signature! If you want to analyse your handwriting, here’s a handy chart (ahem, pardon the pun) and a quick reference guide:
Boxes seem to multiply whenever I turn my back, and despite my best efforts, they keep cropping up. So I get quite excited whenever I find a DIY to do something with them other than storage. Here is a couple of useful DIYs for those delivery boxes that lurk around the house:
A stand for your smartphone:
A shoebox projector:
Vintage book storage box:
Thank you for reading and please share with your art-minded friends and family. They can also subscribe to my newsletter here:
In next month’s edition, I’ll share which desktop and mobile apps I use to get my images Insta-ready. I have another cute DIY and a template that got me noticed by a gallery.
To celebrate Ostara, here’s a yummy lemony sweet recipe for you to try out:
Until next month, #daretomakeart and have an inspiring April, and stay safe. Lisa If you missed out on previous editions, you can still read it and download the resources here.