summer 2020

I just thought I’d jump in here with a little update on, well, where the hell I’ve been.

In a couple of days, it will be four weeks since I had surgery. I thought I’d only need a week or two off from posting, but boy oh boy, I’m still having pain and, oof, I’m exhausted. For those who don’t know, I had my uterus and several large (thankfully, benign) tumors removed. The incision was much larger than expected, about 10 inches across my abdomen, and there were a few complications during recovery. ANYWHO, I realize this is way too much information, but thought I should share in case you were wondering where my daily posts had gone. That said, I’ve been on Instagram 24/7 sharing artists’ work, their process videos, and whatever else I can find! If you want a daily dose of art, I’d suggest following along over there for the next little bit. Honestly, I’m not sure how many people even come to this site anymore? Anyone? Anyone? Are you there?

I will be back here with regular posts once my energy comes back. I’m bored out of my mind, but too tired to care. Thanks for hanging in there with me! ~ Danielle xo

STUFF TO DO {if you’re as bored as I am}:

1. I have a Skillshare class that launched in early June that I’d LOVE for you to check out… it’s all about creative breakthroughs thanks to aha moments I’ve experience from other artists like Amy Sherald, Wayne White, Ashley Longshore, Kate Bingman-Burt, Terrence Payne, Kirstin Lamb, Sarah Gee Miller, and Mark Bradley-Shoup. I’m really proud of it, and I hope it brings you an aha moment… or 8!

2. The image above is from my latest sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project at the Brooklyn Art Library. My theme is “Mother Nature during Quarantine”, and I’m using pressed flowers that I picked on walks this spring in combo with found images. You can do one too, if you wanna! Check them out right here.

3. I’ve started a collaboration with Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s, HITRECORD! The first project is a collective collage. I’m working on two pieces reallllllllly slowly, but they’re coming along. Again, feel free to join in on this if you’re looking for something to do during this weird, socially distanced summer.

4. I haven’t announced this officially, but I’m also at the VERY beginning of gathering tidbits for a short documentary I want to make. Again, this is through HITRECORD. It’s all about the impact teachers have had on your creative life… both good and bad impacts {you know which story I’ll be contributing, yes?}.  I’d love for you to contribute your story to this project! Check it out right here.

5. And I can’t not mention this… my kids’ book, “How To Spot An Artist – This Might Get Messy” is available for preorders and will be on shelves all over the world on September 1, 2020. I had a huge book tour planned which, of course, is on hold now. I’m disappointed, but the second we’re allowed to travel safely again, you better believe I’m going everywhere and reading this to every single art kid (young and old!). psst… Canada, you can find it at Chapters or; Australians, it’s on FishPond; Europe, check your big book chains or THANK YOU!

janna watson

Ahhh, the dreamy work of Toronto based painter Janna Watson. I have loved Janna’s work for years, and every time one her new paintings scrolls by on Instagram, I gasp! That said, seeing her work online just doesn’t do it justice… her WIP images help though! So. Big. If you happen to be in Toronto you can see her work in person right this very moment. Her latest solo show, titled ‘Falling Forward’, is currently hanging at Bau-Xi in Toronto from June 4th till June 20th, 2020. Janna’s work is always very personal but mysterious at the same time, hence her description of this show:

“This body of work represents the movement of energy from the mush of the unconscious, and translating this into some kind of human reality.”

‘Mush of the unconscious’. Nailed it.

“mimi and the mitfords”

Yep, as promised today’s guest is LA based artist, cartoonist, writer and graphic novelist Mimi Pond. I had so many questions for her – from her early days in New York, to a hamster show in California – and lucky for us, she had all of the answers. Mimi’s comics and graphic novels are filled with crazy stories, mostly from her own life, so you know she’s a good story teller! Listen right up there under Mimi’s self portrait, or subscribe right here.

First up, two gigantic projects… her first two graphic novels, “Over Easy”, and “The Customer is Always Wrong”:

I had to include that Instagram post with her book mug in the shot… A. because that mug is kinda perfect, and B. her hilarious captions about things like killer blueberry bread is just one of the many reasons I follow her!

Next, a bunch of her earlier illustrated books. They’re, like, totally awesome:


Hilarious! Speaking of hilarious… Mimi’s currently in progress graphic novel, featuring her latest obsession:

Ahhhh, I love it all. The stories, the illustrations, that lovely blue, and oh my word… the hand lettering! I’m not sure when this fabulous Mitford Sisters book will be out, but I’ll keep you posted.

Alright, this is a little random, but I purposely asked Mimi about this in the Not-So-Speedy-Speed-Round so that I could include a few snippets from this weird ‘n wonderful real life adventure. “A Squeak From The Void”, 2013:

Hahahaha! But there’s more. The whole story is right here.

And finally, a little look through the Pond/White family album, starting with Mimi in high school:

Oh, Mabel Brown ♥ … that is a really, really great stick! Thank you so much to Mimi for doing this with me {thanks to Wayne for asking her for me}, and of course, thanks to you for listening. I will be taking the summer to recharge and get more interviews lined up for SEASON FIVE of ART FOR YOUR EAR starting in September! ~ Danielle xo

Other links:

  1. Mimi on Instagram
  2. Mimi’s books
  3. Drawn & Quarterly
  4. Wayne White on AFYE, Episode no.176


rhonda wheatley

Oh my word. I couldn’t type fast enough when I found the work of American artist Rhonda Wheatley {and ps. if you need a bio photo, make it look like that one!}. Rhonda does all sorts of things from mixed media to performances, but for me… it’s all about her “Power Objects”. The final piece above, titled “Power and Energy Amplifier: Increases power and healing energy one receives and/or sends to others”, is exactly what I need right now. A vintage mannequin hand, barnacle cluster, titanium quartz crystals, cholla cactus wood, and acrylic paint… yes, please. Here is a beautifully poetic excerpt from Rhonda’s artist statement:

“My work is grounded in the speculative, metaphysical, and spiritual, and through it I explore healing, consciousness expansion, and transformation. As an energy healer, I imbue my work with meditative focus and intent. Each sculpture is attuned to the combined energies and symbolism of my materials—vintage found objects and electronics, as well as organic and natural materials, including fossils, cicadas, barnacle clusters, moss, and shed snakeskin. I treat these materials as ingredients that flavor each piece with purpose and power.”

Purpose and power, indeed. Speaking of which, as of today, I will be taking a break from my daily posts for a couple of weeks while I recover from surgery. See you on the other side. ~ Danielle

bisa butler

These absolutely stunning (and meticulous!) textile portraits are the work of New Jersey based artist Bisa Butler. Who are all of these colorful people? I’ll pass this over to Bisa:

“In my work, I am telling the story— this African American side — of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

My subjects are African Americans from ordinary walks of life who may have sat for a formal family portrait or may have been documented by a passing photographer. Like the builders of the White House, they have no names or captions to tell us who they were.”

Beautiful. Clearly, I have to get Bisa on the podcast in September when the new season starts, not only because of that powerful artist statement, but also because of this interview she did with Vogue earlier this year. Go read it… I love the reason she transitioned from painting to textiles.

Bisa’s work is available via Claire Oliver Gallery, New York.

“water, light, and infinite galaxies”

Oh my goodness, this episode. So, this weekend was supposed to be the last episode of the season featuring my interview with artist and writer Mimi Pond, but given the events of the past week I recorded one extra episode. Mimi will be up next weekend, but today I’m talking to LA based artist Calida Rawles. Honestly when I first saw her work, I thought ‘Wow, these photographs are stunning’. Turns out, they’re paintings. Beautiful, powerful, almost poetic, hyperreal, figurative acrylic paintings. I found her a few weeks ago in Amy Sherald’s Instagram feed, because crazy small world… they went to art school together! Anyway, we’re going to get into all of that, and a whole lot more. Listen right up there under “Radiating My Sovereignty”, or subscribe right here.

Okay, but wait! Before we go too far, go back up and look at that first painting. Do you see the two stars at the tip of her finger? Yes, the first hidden gem of many! Alright, now we can keep going. Here are the images I posted when I wrote about Calida earlier this week:

I mean, seriously. I just can’t believe how beautiful these are. Abstraction and realism living in perfect harmony.

Next, this is “In the Light (For Stephon Clark)” 2018, 48″ x 72″:

This is such a powerful piece, and even more so after hearing Calida tell the story behind it. I included the closest closeup I could find… do you see the galaxies? Beautiful, heartbreaking, and so powerful. I am so glad Calida shared all of the hidden bits of beauty to look for in her paintings. I was already emotionally invested, but those secrets took things to a whole new level.

Next, here are paintings that began her love affair with water. Vulnerable? Um, yes:

“Chrysalis”, “Converge”, “Blow It Out”, and “Holding It In – Pressure”. Wow. Brave, and so beautiful.

Next, more water. Here are the paintings Calida did for her longtime friend, and author, Ta-Nahisi Coates‘ first fiction novel, “The Water Dancer”:

Oh and look at that… there’s Oprah reading it. Yes, Ta-Nehisi’s book was Oprah’s 2019 pick for her book club… and there are Calida’s paintings on the front and back of it. Ah-mazing.

And finally, I had to include photos of her working, especially now that I can picture her up on that scaffolding listening to audio books for twelve hours at a time:

Gasp! Stunning… the paintings and Calida herself.

Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough. This conversation meant so much to me, especially right now. I pray that June 2020 will go down in history as an epic moment of change. I told Calida at the end of the episode that I almost cried a couple of times, and to be totally honest, I did cry after we said goodbye. I felt so inspired by her work/process, enlightened by her insights, and embarrassed by how much more I still have to learn. But I will. There will be more ART FOR YOUR EAR next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Bio image above from W Magazine / Photograph by Max Farago; Styled by Rebecca Ramsey
  2. Calida on Instagram
  3. Various Small Fires, LA {Gallery}
  4. Amy Sherald, Artist / Amy on AFYE, Episode No.127
  5. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Writer / The Water Dancer {Book}


gio swaby

This is the work of Gio Swaby, an artist from the Bahamas who now lives in Vancouver. I wrote about her a couple of years ago after we met at an art show, and yes, she was just as lovely as her work. The images above range from 2017 till now… the silhouette pieces, from a series titled “Study of Self”, are her latest work and were part of a show at United Contemporary in Toronto earlier this year. In all of her textile portraits, hair plays an important role… and even though I included this excerpt from an interview Gio did with SAD Mag in my last post, I think it’s such a beautiful statement / explanation that I just had to include it again:

“I was thrust into this very small minority, that really forced me to reflect on myself, my physical appearance, what people think, feel, experience, when they interact with me, how am I perceived in public spaces, and a lot of that – a lot of the interaction I have with strangers in Vancouver – is about my hair. Hair has always been important to me, as a black woman. I think for most black women, hair is a big deal – it requires or receives the most maintenance.  [which is why she chooses her medium]  … traditionally thought of as domesticity, or female-centered activities like sewing, or crocheting and knitting relates very heavily in my work – the passing down of tradition. That’s also echoed in the theme of hair and hair care, black women passing that tradition on to one another through generations. That’s why the medium of thread and fabric was so fitting. Using the thread versus pen or charcoal, communicates to the viewer a sense of labour, a sense of process, time, and length. It’s fairly painstaking, you look at it and feel that a lot has gone into creating the work, a lot of time, a lot of energy – and also a lot of love and care.” 

Love. Follow her on Instagram. Happy Friday.

rebecca belmore

This is “trace” {2014}, a breathtaking a community project by Toronto based artist Rebecca Belmore. This cascading blanket of beads has a permanent home at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Rebecca is a member of the Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe) whose artwork is “rooted in the political and social realities of Indigenous communities, [and] makes evocative connections between bodies, land and language.”  Yes, yes it does! Here is the description – that was written before the project began – of this very important project:

“With the creation of the large ceramic blanket, ‘trace’, Belmore honours the original inhabitants of the land upon which the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is built. This land bears evidence of over 6,000 years of Indigenous presence where 500,000 artifacts were excavated from the ground beneath the museum, including thousands of ceramic shards. Using clay from beneath the city of Winnipeg, thousands of small “shards” will be formed by hand. The action of squeezing a small lump of clay in one hand will produce an organic shape that will be pierced through the centre to become a “bead”. These shapes, although unique, will identify as being similar due to the hand-made process and because of their vast number. The beads will then be fired and woven together to produce the large-scale blanket-like form. The use of clay, the earth itself, imbues the artwork with a sense of timelessness. The modest gesture of forming these beads is a reminder of how precious and universal the bond is between humans and the earth.” ~ written by Lee-Ann Martin

Amazing. Rebecca, and fellow sculptor Osvaldo Yero, worked with the people of Winnipeg to create these hand-squeezed beads, and the result is absolutely stunning.

*Installation photos by Lindsay Reid via Wolfrom Engineering

nneka jones


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Gasp! This is the absolutely gorgeous work of Florida based, Trinbagonian artist Nneka Jones… an artist who “paints without paint”. Yep, this is all embroidery thread. Insane. Also insane? Nneka just graduated from the University of Tampa’s Art + Design Department about two weeks ago. What!? That’s right, you’re looking at several of the pieces from her final show. Not only are they striking and beautifully executed, her work also focuses on a huge subject… the sexual abuse and sex trafficking of women and girls. Here are Nneka’s words refers to the series the first two images above are from:

“This hand embroidered series highlights women and girls of different ages. This series gives power back to these victims, emphasizing the importance of women and girls having control over their bodies. The side profile and focal point of the eye for each target, reassures the viewer that each figure is demanding respect.

This contrasts with my previous series where the target symbolism is stamped on / around the front facing images of young girls. [bottom two images in this post]

With a traffic light being such one of the most important sources of control and authority, I thought I would use this as inspiration for the color symbolism in this series. The red border on each circular canvases puts these victims at the same level of significance regardless of their age and is a call of action to STOP sexual abuse and sex trafficking of women and girls.”

So powerful. Seriously, I cannot wait to see what’s ahead for this talented young woman. Contact Nneka via email to purchase her work… you might want to hurry:

calida garcia rawles

This is the beautifully painted, powerful, breathtaking work {acrylic on canvas} of LA based artist Calida Garcia Rawles. I’m going to hand this over to her, because this description from her ‘about’ page says it poetically and perfectly:

“Merging sharp photo-realism with poetic abstraction, Calida Rawles paints African-American women and men submerged in glistening water; bodies are swarmed by a flurry of bubbles, ripples, and refracted light. For Rawles, water is a spiritually healing element for all people – yet she recognizes its historical connotations to racial exclusion and cultural fears. She uses the complicated duality of water as a platform to address identity politics while reimagining her subjects beyond cultural tropes. At times, her work alludes to current events, even making topographical maps of cities where acts of racially targeted violence have occurred. In other moments, her works are purely celebratory of the resilience, strength, and beauty of African American culture.”

Beautiful. But wait, there’s more… as stunning at Calida’s paintings are, I just had to share a few images from her Instagram feed. Some of her paintings are so big that she works by sitting on scaffolding… but look how small her brushes can be:

The pay off for using such teeny tiny brushes on those great big canvases? Yet another solo show at VSF {Various Small Fires} in LA, not to mention a fantastic interview in W Magazine. So, so, so inspiring.