Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monarch Mudras, Sunflower Sutras, continued...

Here are a few images of the works, their progress, and the show itself.

This would have never been possible without my wonderful mother (an exceptionally talented seamstress), and the keen eyes of Tim and Betsy Forcade of Forcade Associates in Lawrence, Kansas - their fantastic view of color and its effect on a printed piece allowed my work to be seen in a way I have never viewed it before - rich, vibrant, and alive. I extend my thanks to everyone involved in this project.

Before the pieces were placed in the gallery space, I spent my time taping up paper that was roughly about the same size of each work. 

Laying out each print. This was the first time that I had seen the final printed pieces - I was breathless! My mother drove them all the way up from Kansas with her, and we stationed ourselves in a hotel for almost a week to finalize the work. 

Picking out a coordinating fabric for each thangka.

My mother removing thread and other miscellany from inside the Red Tara piece. We just thought it was too goofy to NOT take a photo. 

I apologize for the horrendously blurry photo! A side-by-side of the Guanyin and Red Tara in their final state. 

The final layout. 

Not the most flattering photo (especially my vampire eyes), but you can get the gist of just how large each work was. 

Looking back, I'm remembering just what a rewarding experience it was to make these pieces. I don't think I am completely done with the concept just yet. It still has so much room for growth, and there are other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas that were unable to make the cut for the show (due to time constraints), that I would still love to explore. Eastern imagery never ceases to inspire. 

As a footnote, feel free to take a peek my thesis featured in a few small publications!: 

Until next time! 



Monarch Mudras, Sunflower Sutras: An Exploration of East Meets Midwest

Though thesis has come and passed (I can't believe graduation was almost half a year ago!), I have been yearning to post these to my blog, as well as their process. For those who were not able to attend the show, this body of work focused on my Buddhist upbringing, combining Eastern aesthetics with common Midwestern imagery. I researched various flora and fauna, and combined them with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that have found themselves in my life. For a better explanation, here is my thesis statement that stood alongside the pieces:

"Creating art is similar to meditating. One must be present, constantly recognizing each and every mark they make. The level of concentration for each process is deep, and immovable. For as long as I can remember, art has been my meditation. It always brings me back to a state of awareness that no other process can recreate. 

Growing up, meditation was commonplace in my family. As a child, I remember sitting silently next to my parents, tracing the patterns I found in the woodgrain on the floor. At other times, I would intensely study the artwork that sat above the altar. As a result, these images etched themselves into my mind. The rich, illustrative paintings told fantastic stories of Buddhist deities and tales of compassion and awareness. Each figure existed for a specific purpose – to aid those in need, to provide spiritual and physical healing, to magnetize good thoughts, and to care for those who suffer. 

While I have passed through life and shared its experiences, I have found my own meanings of compassion, healing and spirituality. These pieces are the manifestation of those findings. They are a combination of tradition and experience. While the Eastern imagery has been the backbone and heart of these works, my midwestern roots have become the soul. In turn, creating these pieces became a meditative process that lead me to new personal discoveries.

I have found that divinity, strength and compassion find themselves in each and every individual’s own worldliness. From homeopathic remedies, to traversing the hills of Northeastern Kansas, to witnessing the extravagant monarch migration, I have experienced the presence of these spiritual figures – these are my monarch mudras, and sunflower sutras."

The Thousand Hand Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara) - The Bodhisattva of compassion, the Guanyin was granted with one-thousand arms in order to help all those who suffer in the world. In this piece, her arms spiral around her, forming the shape of a rising sun. She is one of the most popular feminine figures of buddhism, and rose to represent the female form of Buddha’s compassion.

The Medicine Buddha - A healer of inner and outer illness. A fully enlightened being with unbiased compassion for all living things, and protects them from all dangers and sicknesses. Here, he is depicted as a healer with Eastern medicines, holding acupuncture needles and tea.

The Shakyamuni Buddha (Gautama Buddha) - The Shakyamuni Buddha is one of the most common depictions of the teacher who founded Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. ‘Buddha’ translates to ‘awakened one’, and ‘Shakyamuni’ refers to the Shakya Clan. The Shakyamuni Buddha obtained enlightenment after 49 days of meditation. The many blooming flowers around his figure represent his awakening. 

Vajrapani (The Defender of the Dharma) - Often translated as “thunderbolt”, or “diamond”, Vajrapani is the protector and guide to the Buddha, and has become the symbol of Buddha’s power. In many depictions, he is usually looked at as wrathful, but is extremely active in a positive nature. This depiction pulled influence from Kansas artist John Steuart Curry’s painting “Tragic Prelude”, which hangs in the Kansas capitol building.

 Sarasvati - The Goddess of wisdom, music and the arts. Her name originated from ‘saras’, which means ‘flow’ and ‘wati’, which means woman. Although she originated in India under Hinduism, she eventually became a figure in Buddhism as well. Now, she is known as a guardian deity to the Buddha, offering protection and assistance. She represents the knowledge of creativity, such as music, literature, and the visual arts.

The Red Tara (Kurukulla) - A Bodhisattva of magnetism and enchantment. Some researchers compare her to the Western goddess Aphrodite. With her alluring red skin, she is called upon to bring others under her power, such as evil spirits, demons and humans who work against the welfare of humanity. 

When I first started this project, I admit that I was nervous to put this part of myself out in the public. Though I personally respect and support Buddhist teachings, I worried how the public would respond. I feared that people could take offense with my more stylized approach to these figures. However, I placed those fears aside, and decided to focus on the process and the joy it gave me to see these six works take shape. Each one was an intense learning experience. What has been even more rewarding however, is the absolutely positive response I have received in the last few months from practicing Buddhists and communities. These works have found themselves in Kansas, Seattle, and Milwaukee - in personal altars and within galleries. People have found them empowering, healing and meditative, and this is one of the major reasons I decided to pursue this project. Their greatest accomplishment has been their communicative nature, and their ability to reach people near and far.  

I will be adding a few photos of the progress and the people who made these possible in the next post! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Okay, so remember when I posted waaay back and mentioned that my furoshiki design was going to be in print?

Well, I finally got around to getting photos of the actual printed work! Before I received these in the mail, I was just expecting tiny little swatches with my work printed on them, all thrown together in a box - but I was very pleasantly proven wrong!

While having a much needed Skype date with friend and blogger Sara Pace, the doorbell rang. I ran downstairs to find myself face to face with a GIANT cardboard package. I opened it up to find 25 of these wonderfully packaged and printed pieces.

Each one was wrapped this way. So cute and delicate!

Taken after the box was opened up - Goodies!

I was so delighted to see each one of these packaged in such an elegant manner. Every box included a printed band/wrap, and additional papers that somehow featured the artwork (pardon the blurry photos... the best camera that I have on me currently is my phone). 

Instructions! If you ever need two bottles of wine wrapped with a foxy fabric, this lady has got you covered. 
Featured: Sushi pillow!

This little booklet features the title, my name, and my artist's statement for the piece, in both English and Japanese ... and a few little spelling errors. They're adorable in their own way, though.

It was a lot bigger than I was expecting! And by some wonderful chance, it matches my living room.

Meticulous folding. I felt bad unwrapping it...

Now I will never be able to fold it back up ever, ever again. Ah well. I'm still so happy about the results. It's so exciting to see something like this successfully put onto a fabric, and in a package design. 

Now that I have finally posted this, the next step should be fixing up this blog with a pretty banner or something of the sort. I'm starting to cringe every time I look at the top of my own page. 

'Til then! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Furoshiki Design - In Print!

So, just this last year, I entered in the Japan Foundations' Annual International Furoshiki Design Contest. This was the first year that the contest was opened to the States, and after seeing the posters scattered about the illustration department (and a nice tip off from a few teachers), I decided that this was something that I couldn't pass up.

The idea was to create a work that pushes interaction between Japan and the respective designer's country. As an avid lover of folklore from both countries, I decided to incorporate my favorite furry animals as creatures that often find themselves the subjects of these stories. Besides, who can resist these little charming critters?

Tomodachi, "Friends", 2010

To my surprise (and I mean that - I didn't know this happened until I was feeling self absorbed and googled my name, only to find it on the Japan Foundation website), this piece was chosen for an honorable mention! Well, just this past week, I received an email saying that they were going to ship me twenty copies of this work, printed on actual furoshiki fabric! I am absolutely delighted!

I will be sure to take a photo of the actual fabric when it comes in the mail - Glad I have something to look forward to in the coming weeks.

'Til then!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You Are What You Eat!

I've always wanted to post this somewhere, but until now, I've never had the time!

These are some simple, silly, and fun spot illustrations for an assignment last semester. We were asked to pick from a list of potential subjects (love, food, medicine, business, etc) and create some simple images that could be sold as a stock illustration. Being a girl who is completely food obsessed, this was a no-brainer for me. I decided to go with the commonly known phrase "you are what you eat", and put my own spin on it. I also have a minor obsession with drawing hair. Seriously, give me an excuse to draw a green afro and I will have a ball doing it!
"Lilly, anytime I talk to you, you're either eating, or talking about eating." 

The Tweet on Milwaukee

Last year, I was lucky enough to find my illustrations in Milwaukee Magazine alongside an article titled "All-a-Twitter". The story focused on what numerous "Tweeters" (I feel like I made that word up. Hum.) had to say about Milwaukee. There were a few that were colorfully pessimistic, but many did hit pretty close to home for myself and a few other fellow Milwaukeeans. I also had the perfect excuse to incorporate one of my absolute favorite neighborhood restaurants' logo - the Comet rabbit! Now I'm craving some of their macaroni and cheese ... and maybe some coffee ... Mmmm.

Never forget - Home is where the heart is (and the cheese...and the beer...)!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Well, hello!

I know it appears that I've dropped off the planet (yes, yes, I'm sure all .... eleven... of you noticed), but I just wanted to inform everyone and myself that I have not forgotten about this blog! I have had a tremendous amount of work to do since I last posted -- flying back from Paris, traveling back to Kansas, then back to Milwaukee to greet my second job -- it's been keeping me busy, to say the least.

Currently, I'm trying to finish up my final project for the Paris trip (and final project EVER), and work on a few pieces for some freelance clients. I'm very excited about all these projects ... I just hope I can find the time to finish them between a 50 hour work week!

Well... a 50 hour work week and some wine...

Anyway, once everything has been cleared out, I will be customizing this puppy and finally making it look like my own blog.

'Til then!