Friday, March 11, 2011

"Art is a universal Language", Art Blocks for Ghana fundraiser starting March 12th, 2011

Art Blocks for Ghana is a project by the Picture Book Project Foundation. The Picture Book Project foundation presents Art Blocks for Ghana in Los Angeles on March 12th, 2011, an art gallery event sponsored by AOL Artists and Digital Domain in NYC. The artwork will also be entered into an online eBay auction from March 12-19th. 

Art Blocks by founders Margaret Wuller and Rachel Tiep-Daniels. "The patterns of my art block are from the Handpainted glass beads from Ghana when you see someone wearing these specific beads... you know they are either from Ghana, visited, or know someone from Ghana." Rachel

in order left to right Constance(guardian of 5 of the children). Edem, Margaret Wuller, Emanuele, Rachel Tiep-Daniels. "We were visiting the boarding school where the some of the children were currently attending..  One of the Schools Josephine found to place the children.  Emanuele is one of the kids I had not seen in 4 years. and that we were close too! it was amazing to see them" says Rachel.

Sika drawing from the Picture Book Project Limited Edition Book

Interview with Rachel Tiep-Daniels, President of the Picture Book Project Foundation

What inspired you to the Art Blocks for Ghana project? 

The Children of Ghana....

In 2007 I volunteered with my sister Kimberly Daniels in Ghana, West Africa
That summer we spent several hours per day teaching, at an orphanage and spending time with the children. We worked particularly closely with Evelyn, Emmanuel, Patience and Elolo, four of the children who had not been enrolled in school. We grew very, very close to these kids. While the time we spent there was precious and valuable, we knew we needed to find a way to do more. Before leaving Ghana, I made a promise to the Evelyn that we would not forget her, and that we would be back.Margaret Wuller (Co-Founder of PBP) and I traveled back to Ghana Dec, 2010 to visit the children.  It was one of the most important trips we were to take.  We really gained a true understanding of what we needed to focus on for each child.  It was also clear that Evelyn needed our help more then ever.Josephine Hopkins, a past CCS volunteer from 2006, had also left Ghana with a promise and commitment to do more. She started the Hopkins Foundation and had been financially supporting S.W.O.D.C. When the children lost their home in 2008, Josephine traveled back to Ghana and found all 21 children.  The children had been temporarily sent back to the same relatives and guardians who had originally placed them in the orphanage, due to the inability to care for them.   Her goal is to provide an education and find a safe and healthy home for each child.  She would eventually like to build a home for them where they will be cared for as a family unit.  She has found a wonderful Ghanian women Constance who is caring for 5 of the children and is the liason with all the Schools.

4 years later.. the promise became this incredible foundation, the Picture Book Project Foundation. 

What has it been like developing this project? Why do you think art is so important for children?

I have experienced first hand how art can inspire , create a universal connection, and make a difference in a child's life.  The goal is to take the right steps to assure the children a safe and bright future, and  help support the efforts of the Hopkins Foundation, and put the children through school.
I was told that education in Ghana is not a right.. it is a privilege.  “It is the only way out of the vicious cycle of poverty. It is like the saying goes that “It is better to teach people how to fish as oppose to giving them a fish”. With education, you are setting them up for the future”  by Joseph Dzamesi-(Administrator-Sonrise Christian High School, Ghana)

I think it is important for Children to explore their Creativity, Inspiration, Imagination and Dreams.  Art is a universal language, I was not an educator, I was an Artist I was able to communicate to the children in Ghana through Art.  It was an instant connection. There smiles light up!.   Bringing the Artwork of the best artist in Animation to the expands their imagination.

I still remember the impact art had on me when i was a child, and what I was exposed to.  We want to expose the children to incredible art and minds.  These are the artists behind everyones favorite movies..the artist and the imagination that makes these blockbusters possible!

I am constantly amazed by the generosity of artists in animation industry, and the sheer talent.   After setting up the New York Show,  standing in the middle of this incredible artwork, it really set in how much care and dedication each artist put into their Art Blocks, .. and how much a difference we can all make by doing what we love.  it is pure inspiration.

It has been a big undertaking within 7 months, 3 Event/Gallery Shows,226 Art Blocks from Artists and Illustrators Around the World.  

We could not of done this without the support of the Artist Ambassaders and our Sponsors Digital Domain Media Group and AOL Artists.

 Can you describe a special moment you experienced during the project? 

Just recently I got a phone call from my 6 year old niece Brooke Brennan, she told me that she had $9.25, and she would like to donate her money to help the children in Ghana.  She went to school that day, and told her teacher that they should donate too. By the end of the day, the school (Peter Noyes) had written and asked us if we would partner up with them for there Hopscotch Around the World Event, and that the Picture Book Project Foundation would be the Charity of Choice.  

Not only am I touched by the power of my sweet niece and her persistence....but
this is the school that my sisters and I attended when we were in Elementary School.  This was a very special moment. 


The Picture Book Project Foundation 

Rachel Tiep-Daniels, president: "The Picture Book Project Foundation was founded by myself(Rachel), Margaret Wuller and Russell Zack.  The idea of the Picture Book Project came from spending hours with the children coloring, drawing, and creating art projects. When I came back from my trip to Ghana my friend/artist and Dreamworks Co-Worker Margaret Wuller had shared similar experiences volunteering, and working with orphans in Tijuana.  Together we developed an idea to have a collaborative coloring book.  One created by the Top Artists in Animation.The Goal being, the proceeds of the coloring book would help support the Children in Ghana, as well as donating copies of the coloring books.We tapped into our Network and asked artists to contribute a page to the coloring book.  The theme being “monsters” ..One b/w drawing, and there version “colored”.   Which turned into some beautiful paintings.  70 Artists contributed to “The Picture Book Project” and Jeffery Katzenberg wrote a beautiful foreword for the Book.  We will be self-publishing the coloring book this year, release date June-July, 2011." The Picture Book Project Book, was the seed that started our foundation."

Art Blocks for Ghana, project by the Picture Book project foundation 

Rachel Tiep-Daniels, president:"Art Blocks(square wood panels) represent the building blocks to a child’s bright future.  And using art to make a difference.The Picture Book Project Foundation provided the artists with  the wood art panels- 3 different sizes( square- 6x6”, 8x8” and 10x10” ) The artists were asked to design each panel around the theme “home”. There were no restrictions or limits to what medium the artists could use.  Sculpture, collage, mixed media, oil, acrylic..The Panels were shipped to the animation studios, cities, countries  where we had a key artist, and point person.  Our “artist ambassadors” would pass the blocks out to  individual artists, collect them and send them back to me in New York. ( Participants were Dice Tsutsumi at Pixar Animation Studios, Gerald Guerlais, Paris-France, Margaret Wuller:Dreamworks Animation, Aaron Blaise-Digital Domain, Stephane Kardos, Disney, Daniel Williams, Seattle, Sho Murase-San Francisco, Rachel Tiep-Daniels-Blue Sky Studios and Individuals(Independent).  Our Goal was to have 200 pieces in the Auction, we now have 226."

Liam Stevens "Spontaneity is the key"

Paper cuts by illustrator Liam Stevens (  for the Music video, acoustic version of "Waiting" by My Robot Friend (featuring Jay Kauffman). This stop motion animation is made entirely of pencil & cut paper and took just over three months to complete. (Production and technical assistance; Chris Tozer,
With tradeyourtalent Liam speaks about creating memories on paper and why his paper cut animation video was a real challenge. 

You just need pencil and paper to create magical scenery. What themes do you like to play with? 
Liam: Nostalgia seems to have surfaced a lot in my work. I have not really fully understood why but I indulge myself on creating memories of places I have never been. I am drawn to photographs and pictures that capture something quixotic and inspire me to create their full surroundings, even if I am not motivated to depict them on paper they resonate in my head.

With narrative landscape drawing I am interested in creating an atmosphere that draws you into the picture. When creating landscapes either from memory, imagined, or from old photographs I imagine myself being there inside the vista and I often work with my head almost touching the paper as I render each small area at a time. (Though I wouldn't recommend it - I now have glasses) Each crude but small detail helps portray a greater sense of the world inside the frame.

I am influenced by nature documentaries. Learning about the planet we’re on and the amount of life it contains is exciting and that feeds into the worlds in my work. I regularly play a documentary on mute while listening to music to stimulate the eyes and ears, looking up for a quick refresh while I work.

Abstract design devices and type also inspire me. I like to keep a balance between densely worked landscapes and graphic quick fixes. Paper cut is a great medium for moving shapes around a piece of paper and solving visual puzzles. Working outside a computer with real cut out shapes you can’t change the size or alter the shape digitally to work with a space; you have to work with its actual size. The shape based abstract elements in my work are usually produced from a pile of cut paper shapes and are not premeditated. I push and pull them around the page until I feel I have found something that works for me.

You recently did some animation videos with your illustrations. That was hard work?

Liam: Animation is hard work. I hadn’t really put as much time into one before and I wanted to experiment with a technique that was born out of a pop-up poster I made at Uni. I had illustrated a train platform and cut around all the figures waiting for a train. Once you got down to eye level with the characters in the poster it felt like you were in their world. I liked this and I wanted to see it move. I made lots of tests to see how I would give these static pop-up people life and the process that evolved was long and fiddly. Each moving element was animated free hand over a light box and then cut out and stuck onto thicker paper and then cut out again. The hardest part about the animation process was probably the registration of each frame. If I hadn’t scored the fold in exactly the right place the character would pigeon walk with its whole body tilting forwards and back, Likewise with the angle of the paper on the other axis – towards and away from you along the fold. I had to try and keep the character from not bending and tilting too much as it would lose the nice ‘choppyness’ and just become an absolute incoherent mess, fluttering around the set like a grounded butterfly on methamphetamine or something.

What is your favourite part about illustration?

Liam: I enjoy rolling with an idea or experiment or whatever that seems to present itself. I had once envisaged an entire animated short scene by scene in my head on my tube journey home and as soon as I got out the tube I had to lean against the first tree in sight and super roughly storyboard the entire thing to work up at a later date. (I still really want to make the short when I get the time.) I suppose having studied a degree in illustration it has helped me to communicate my ideas to paper more effectively.

When did you make your first paper cuts? 
Liam: Can’t remember, probably as soon as I was allowed to use plastic scissors.

Do you ever run out of ideas?

Liam: I find spontaneity is key; something always manifests itself. I often don’t try too hard to find something. Most of the time I let it appear before me and run with it. Often the best ideas are a reaction to something or an instinct.

Katarzyna Rojek "Open your eyes"

Katarzyna Rojek is an illustrator from Poland studying Fine Arts at Politecnica of Valencia. With tradeyourtalent she speaks about patterns and why it is important to find your own style. 

 Where do you get your own inspiration?
All around the world actually. And all around me in my everyday life.
There are so many really amazing artists just everywhere you look, that it's actually just that thing to open your eyes and have a careful look around. Also, I'm really interested in patterns, so I use to have a walk through the city and find those details on the buildings that are useful later on while creating a pattern. It's like you see something cool and you just want to make a note of it on the paper.

When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
I wouldn't call myself an artist at all. Artist is a person ( in my opinion) that lives art everyday, has it's own workshop, goes to every exposition...and me...I'm just a normal person that always liked to make images;)I draw in my free time. And when don't...I've got  a whole life apart.

Did you ever want to leave the path of becoming an artist?
Make it living a moment. Not thinkin' 'bout the future.I would like to make once a book for children that I would illustrate. I would like a lot of things...;)

Is it hard, being an artist today?
For sure.
There are so many people that create really beautiful things and nobody will ever know that they even exist.

If you worked together with young artists, what advice would you give them?
Don't try to do what others do. Try to find your own style, paint and draw what you've got inside. Put out on the paper the content of ur own mind. Coz the mind is something  unrepeatable.

Karyn Ellis "Wherever you roam, no matter how wide / Wherever you go, remember you'll be fine! / So fly! Little sparrow / Fly! Little teacup/ Fly! Little arrow. Heart's an archer, points you to the marrow

Karyn Ellis is an acoustic folk-pop singer/songwriter from Ontario, Canada. With tradeyourtalent she speaks about words and melody slipping into place, the emotional challenges of being an artist and why happy is hardest to bring across in a song. 

When is a song special to you?

I get a skin-tingling sensation, and I know I am experiencing something that is bigger than me, bigger than the song. It is visceral and at the same time intangible. On one song it will be the particular way the drums are played, another song it is the expressiveness of the vocalist, often it is well written lyrics that set off a chain-reaction in my creative spirit… I get a kind of echoing, like when you drop a pebble in a barrel. The waves that form are like the music that resonates in me. I find melodies start to bubble up in me after I hear a great band or wonderful piece of music.

I am far more inspired by emotional authenticity than technical mastery. I am willing to forgive an out-of-tune voice if they are genuine and letting the musical spirit flow through them. Technically fabulous, but flat performances… *yawn*. I mean, I can appreciate all the dedication and work that goes into it, but most of the time I'd rather do crossword puzzles. Lyrics are especially important to me, the wrong words (ie cliches, shallow or negative concepts, unnatural phrasing) can throw me out of an otherwise fantastic song. The right words, on the other hand… wowsa! I love creative juxtapositions, turns of phrases and unique viewpoints. Tickles my brain! The people who make me tingle are the ones who are solid in their craft and open emotionally. I like the frailty and the risk that a person takes when they are playing from a deep, open place.

In terms of my own process of recognizing a "special" song when writing, there is usually a period of word wrangling that happens, and I think "How wretched! This isn't going anywhere!"  Then suddenly words & melody will slip into place like the song has always been there waiting for me to discover it. I love that feeling.

Which artists have inspired you?

There's amazing alternative music scene happening in Canada right now…
Off the top of my head some artists I admire: David Newberry, Kim Beggs, Trish Robb, Tanya Davis, Christine Fellows, Evalyn Parry, Hey Rosetta, Dan Mangan, Emma-Lee.

Has it been difficult getting to where you are now?

In some ways it has not been difficult at all. What I mean is, I feel like I really didn't have a choice in the matter of being an artist. It is true I spent years muddling around waiting tables, singing telegrams, selling Christmas trees, stocking a needle exchange, anything to avoid making music… but in spite of all my efforts, the universe kept throwing me back into art by sending well-timed invitations to record and perform, or touching feedback from someone who heard my music somewhere (requests such as this invitation to be interviewed by your blog are deeply nourishing.) And every time the money burden has been too much and I have a plan to  "quit for good", some sort of cheque has shown up in the mail to keep me afloat long enough to keep doing what I do for a little longer.

But let's be honest here, there is also a big yes to the question.

Let's start with the emotional challenges of being an artist: every day I struggle with the question of meaning: why do art? Does it matter, my one little world view that things could be so much better? What possible ripple can my tiny pebble make in this crazy, overwhelming world?

When I first started playing music publicly; I did a lot of busking on the streets. It upped my singing-loud chops, and it also inured me against indifference… or so I thought. I remember one time a guy walking by me on the street as I was singing my heart out. He yelled at me to "get a job"; he was menacing and his words stung. His comment brought up for me the damage I had sustained over the years: the idea that art didn't matter, that larger society didn't see art (and by association, me) as relevant.

I wonder if that attitude has changed much? It does seem that with the interconnectivity of the internet, respect for the arts among certain demographics has increased. And yet we continue to see funding slashed and declines in attendance at cultural events. In order to keep working I often have to remind myself that it IS a real job… an artist works to absorb and synthesize the world around them into a piece of music (or canvas, or whatever their particular field is) that can speak to the events/emotional landscape of the day. To affect change and social growth. Being open all the time to the world like that, it's painful. Even so-called light songs require letting things in if you want to make good work that resonates.

I sometimes let my heart break over other people's opinions (or worse, indifference) about my work. Intellectually I know not everyone needs to dig what I'm doing, but it tugs at my desire to be loved by everyone. My little approval seeker gets very clingy at those times, and I start to feel like I'm working in a vacuum. It also happens when I feel jealous (and then guilty) about fellow artists receiving opportunities over me for awards, events, grants etc. That being passed over sometimes happens is no surprise, since there are few opportunities and so many wonderful, talented artists out there. But the facts don't soothe me when I'm feeling sorry for myself. This is true even when things are going well for me… it is a barometer of my emotional, not reality, state.

It's also a yes from an administrative point of view because the reality of being an artist in today's creativity climate is that I end up wearing an awful lot of hats at any given point in time. I am manager, booker, publicist, graphic designer, web manager, sales rep, accountant, cheerleader… all in effort so that on occasion I get to be artist! The basic practicalities of being an "entrepreneur" (rrrrrrrrolll those r's, darrrrlings): dealing with money, being organized… I confess these are not things I have much talent for! Alas, a lot of creative drain goes into the simple running of things.

I also wonder sometimes if I am being suckered financially, since the burdens of making records and touring often weighs me down. Terrible economics: just when I'm getting into recording bigger production albums that serve my music better, CD sales are down. Well, at least Visa loves me!

Mind you, it beats the old Record Company model that only a few "discovered" can make it as an artist. There is so much more direct connection between artists and audience now that make it possible to eke out a profession in the creative arts. Over time, too, it has gotten easier for me as people have stepped in to help me out with some of these jobs, and I am freed up to spend more time with the music itself.

Oh my oh my, one might wonder why I do art at all with all this baggage weighing me down? That is a whole other essay, but I have figured out one thing: I continue doing art for the same reason flowers press their petals into the sun. It makes me feel whole.

What emotions- are hardest to bring across in a song for you?

Happy is hard!

The first place I go when I sit down to write is the minor chord, and my lyrics naturally resonate with sadness -- judging by my many break up and longing songs! Yes, I definitely gravitate towards melancholy. The funny thing is that I am a pretty happy gal offstage. I look at the world through the philosophical lens, yes, but every morning I am genuinely delighted to open my eyes and curious to see what the day brings. However, I find it quite challenging to express those positive emotions in my songs. I have it in my head that if I go too "happy", I will come off sounding cliche or worse… chirpy! Ugh!!

Having said that, I made it a goal on my last album to at least *try* to be a bit more chipper in my melodies and lyrics than on previous albums. There are still plenty o' sad songs on the record, though some of the lyrical doozies (I'm thinking of "Low" in particular here) are disguised in upbeat, cheerful tunes. But this record marks the first time that one can describe some of my songs, like "Little Grey Sparrow" as downright joyful!

It also impresses me when I hear other artists write eloquent political and real world event songs. I personally don't have much of a gift for that sort of thing; my attempts have bordered on preachy… or boring. Instead I tend to write metaphorically/emotionally about those sorts of issues. Maybe that's one of the reasons I write so much melancholy… because it is a beautiful, sad world out there.

If you could give advice to young artists with just a couple of lyrics, what would you sing to them?

Wherever you roam, no matter how wide --
Wherever you go, remember you'll be fine!
So fly! Little sparrow.
Fly! Little teacup.
Fly! Little arrow.
Heart's an archer, points you to the marrow.

I think as an artist it is essential to remind yourself that just as migratory birds are born knowing where home is, so do you. Artists do well to follow that internal compass; it takes you where you need to go. A reminder to myself as well: trust in that.

For more on Karyn Ellis visit: 

Red Cortez "Mistakes you need to get there"

Red Cortez is a band from East Los Angeles, band members are Harley Prechtel-Cortez, Ryan Kirkpatrick, Diego Guerrero and Calvin J. Love. With trade your talent Harley Cortez speaks about recording their debut album, idiosyncratic choices and studying phone books. 

You recently released your debut album. Has the path leading up to it been hard?
Harley: We've recorded our debut record but haven't released it. The path leading up to making the record wasn't so hard, but choosing which songs to put on it was a little tricky--we had written so many songs at that point. It's been said you know you have your whole life to make your first record a just a short time to make your second. I supposed there are pressures with both as one makes a statement and the other reaffirms that

What inspires you to your songs?
Harley: Our songs are filled with odd characters, idiosyncratic choices, the average outsider, influenced by bizarre films, adversity, writers, pirates, and about 100 years of varying musical styles. I used to write a lot about taking down kings, then it became a little more about taking down walls, now it's more about taking down blame --as long as it doesn't lead to taking out the trash.

Which other bands influenced you to your music?
Harley: Influences are probably so innate that we wouldn't even know. We're all so different from each other and at the same time very the same in our music palette. One day Philip Glass or Charlie Parker and the next day Link Wray or Suicide. Stax records or Trojan records or Creation records. Just got a great Alan Lomax record 'Saints and Sinners' . We're like sponges. Everything influences us.
When we go into our rehearsal space we never try to make anything that
sounds like a specific thing -- we just make what comes out...

If you had a meeting with young talented artists, what advice would you give them in order to follow their dream?
Harley: I wouldn't give any advice, I would listen but not try and aside in any way - if you have a dream then that's all you need right there, everything else are just the mistakes you need to get you there.

Do you have a favorite song on your new album?
Harley: They are all pretty special in their own way - however cute or scary.

If your band has time off (do you ever?) what is it you do?
Harley: Build cabinets, draw, travel, see alot of music, spend time with girlfriends, friends, pub crawl (ive been nick named the pub philosopher, sadly), make films, read phone books and cook vegetarian food.

More on Red Cortez and free songs: 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pauline Adair "Every person is so unique"

Pauline Adair is an artist from Queensland, Australia. With tradeyourtalent she speaks about being an artist in Australia, working together with young talents and the creative state she likes most. 

When did you know you wanted to become an artist? 

Since I was about 5 or 6 I think..... I used to make picture story books for my brothers and sisters - looking back now they were hilarious - I wanted to become an artist then, and I still do...!!!

 Your work is about Body Art. What inspires you?

My 4-year-old grandaughter asked me once why I mostly paint people with no clothes on. I answered that it was because I haven't learned to paint the clothes yet.   She looked down her nose at me and said '"Well...... I can paint clothes, and people."Seriously though, I like best of all to paint faces and hands. They, in themselves are so expressive.  The body is just a necessary extra to hold the parts together!  Every person is so unique that I can still name my subjects in my drawings from years ago just by looking at the hands I drew or painted.  

What is it like being an artist in Australia?

Wonderful.... there is so much support for the arts here.  For those who paint the Australian landscape it's a fabulously rich continent of exciting colour, texture and inspiration.

Do you work together with young talents.  What do you learn from them?

I do love to work with young artists.... I sometimes teach workshops for beginners to intermediate, and I love to impart the secrets I've learned over the years. Well, they're not secrets any more....... I do share all the tricks and tips I've learned over the years. On the other hand I always come away having gained a whole lot more knowledge from them as well.  They share back to me!

When are you most creative? 

When I have done all my housework and have nothing on my mind I can then slip into my studio and go into my meditational state of creative conciousness and sometimes unconciousness....where things just happen!  That's the art I like best, and somedays it works, some days it doesn't.... but it's my passion.  I  paint and/or draw every single day if I possibly can... I mean to use up all my paints and I don't want to go to my grave with my paintings still inside me!

Sara Christian "Femininity"

Sara Christian is an artist working in San Francisco. Sara observes femininity, nature and she likes to play with colours and textures. With tradeyourtalent she speaks about expression and why trends rule. 

What does creativity mean to you?

Expression, through any tool or object or sound that can be an outlet. To play in the world, let your voice be heard, or seen, or imprint left somehow. Imagination and letting go of thought, ones that hinder. 

Which role does art play in your life?

By day I'm a designer at an awesome book publisher. Then squeeze the rest of the day being creative and free in anyway feels good. What I really enjoy is drawing and playing with color and textures. If that means I just stay in the studio moving scraps of paper around 'til it forms beautiful and unexpected colors and shapes, it makes for a relaxing, fun evening. 

How difficult or easy is it being an artist today?

I try to make life challenging on purpose at times for fun, or a competition in my head. But art is something I try to keep in mind as a tranquil experience, not forced or worried about getting reimbursed financially. I keep making pieces because I can be lost in enjoying the process. Yet, sometimes the hesitant blank thoughts and insecurities creep in, or wanting to experiment because you dont know a technique or how-to hang a show and time is running out. Inspiration can usually handle that problem.

Today I think art (performance, visual) is appreciated as any other time in history, too. As long as there are these creations in the world, people will be motivated. It is cool: illustration and outsider art are still strong and loved. And then lovers of the traditionally taught painters and fine-art craftmenship. Art is accepted in any shape or form, so we can get away with about any thing we want as an artist. Pretty easy.

Your favorite themes?

Clearly I love girly. Since I was a kid, I'd draw rows of women lined in a catwalk. Trends rule. And it's the female's perspective of expression or society's influence on them that intrigues me. The reoccuring theme is big adornment right now. Life themes at the moment: fashion magazines and then a walk admiring the trees and birds. 

For more on Sara Christian visit: 


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