Marks of a Migraine

Eyes Open  , watercolor and gouache on hand-stretched watercolor paper 

Eyes Open, watercolor and gouache on hand-stretched watercolor paper 

When people view my Migraine Series paintings at a gallery show, I hear similar remarks; These are beautiful, they are so happy, so lively and energetic. It would lead some to believe that these are fun whimsical paintings made by someone who is full of life and happiness. But, while making those paintings, I felt quite the opposite of all those things. Beautiful, happy, lively and energetic would not be words I would use to describe the way I felt when realizing each and every one of those pieces.

 

It’s sometimes easy to forget that my watercolor abstract work comes from a place of pain and hardship. I’ve been working on my Migraine Series for about four years, and I’ve loved every moment of creating the colors, shapes and forms that you see on the canvas surface. The energy put into them is real and raw. But, the momentum behind it is disheartening. They depict the feeling a migraine causes. The experience of a migraine is hard to describe to people who have never had one before. Cue my abstract obsession.

 

As an artist, it is my job to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be pleasant, but it also doesn’t have to be dismal. The idea behind the Migraine Series was to create something from a horrible circumstance. On some days, this thing was controlling my every waking (and also sometimes sleeping) moments. It was at university that I decided to take power away from this thing. This thing that would make me contort in pain, shake from nausea, and sulk from vision disturbances. It wasn’t until I created my first group of migraines on watercolor paper that I realized, I really had something here.

My very first watercolor migraine experiment piece.

My very first watercolor migraine experiment piece.

I dove head first into my work and ran as fast as I could with it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and my work didn’t appear overnight. I still keep my original work which has held itself as the foundation of what you see today as the Migraine Series. Scribbles and dabs, fiber, collage and even ceramic work that all collided to help me find my medium. Finding myself in watercolors and gouache was an amazing day. It was like this series and that medium were meant to be together. The way the colors flowed, mystified and drank up into the paper was exactly what I was trying to dig up from my experiments.

My fashsionable attire for an icepack.

My fashsionable attire for an icepack.

As I continued my work, here and there I would have vision disturbances, or fogginess that would blur my mind. When it got too bad, I had resources like ice packs, ginger chews, and when available, sleep to fall back on. Most of the time it would keep the pain at bay, but not always. And that’s why the paintings never stopped, because the pain wouldn’t stop. I have had people ask me, “What happens if your migraines stop? Will you stop making these paintings?”. I won’t have to, because the pain will never leave me. The feeling of a blackout in high school, or the pain in my head that rushes up the right side of my neck to the middle of my brain that feels like an electric eel zapping my nerves, or the tunnel vision and droopy eyes that I have when my head feels heavier than a bowling ball; that will never go away. Those feelings are with me forever. But, I am not special and I am very much not alone.

 

Someone that might happen upon my art, not knowing the core vision of my work will see flowery colors and shapes, but won’t get the message right away, and I don’t blame them. I don’t mind if people walk away thinking my art is a wonderful landscape, or a inventive structure of composition. I don’t even mind if they walk away thinking that their ‘five year old could do that’. More than 37 million people suffer from migraines. I was bound to meet one or two of them at one of my shows. I’ve had people tell me, “That looks like how my migraines feel. You nailed it.” It is an unimaginable and even unforeseeable force these migraines. And the viewers that see them, and enjoy them for their power and story are the ones I appreciate the most. I couldn’t describe them in any other way, so I described them with my hands.

 

Migraine Series, 8"x10"  , watercolor and gouache on watercolor paper and board

Migraine Series, 8"x10", watercolor and gouache on watercolor paper and board

I hope this short burst of energy of a blog allows someone to realize that migraines aren’t an end all. They slow things down some days, other days they make everything come to a sharp and violent stop. But, they shouldn’t stop you from living your life and seeking professional help when you need it. The fact that you have a migraine would mean that you are stronger than you thought you ever could be. My paintings say I’m an artist, but what they’re really saying is, I’m going to live my life my way, no matter what.

New Illustrated Prints

Illustrating has always been a big part of my art life. At a young age I drew comics, which led me to write and draw them for my high school and then college papers. I have always loved telling stories through images. I continue this work in four NEW illustrated prints! I originally created these images for a previous project that fell though (always learning new lessons as an artist). Now I created them so they can live on in print form. 

Two are a typography design while the other two are illustrated characters. I love the simplicity and clean look these designs have to offer. Comics are built on movement and and good storyline. With the whimsical line work crossed with carefree characters, these prints would brighten up anyones home.

Prints are not yet available in my Etsy shop (Suskie.etsy.com), but will be by the end of August. Can't wait that long? Visit me at the Bay View Art in the Park August 13th to pick up these prints or any of the other pieces I have in my Etsy shop. 

How I Clean My Brushes

Most of what I use for painting is gouache and watercolor paints. But, other times I have to use gesso as a base coat or acrylic for a top layer. These mediums can get dry and hard on the bristles of my brushes if I don't clean them right away. So over the years, I've found the best way to clean my brushes like brand new. It's simple and easy and I'll share it with you!

I like to wait until I have a few brushes that need to be cleaned so that I can get them all washed in one go. Paper cups, jars or old plastic cups you only use for paints are great for cleaning brushes in. All you'll need is water and few drops of Murphy Oil Soap cleaner. THAT'S IT! 

Murphy Oil Soap, as you can see, over time I have used a lot of it.

First, take the Murphy Oil Soap and put about a dime size or less in a cup. Depending on how many brushes you'll be cleaning, you could need more, but you never need too much. Then, pour room temperature water into the cup. I just pour enough water so that the bristles of the brushes are covered. If water covers any further than the ferrule, or the metal part of your brushes, over time you could damage the handle. I use different cups for different sized brushes if they can't all fit in the same level of water.

Culver's and Colectivo did not sponsor this post :P

Once the brushes are in the water, I stir it up a bit with the brushes so that the soap gets in between the bristles. I usually leave the brushes in the mixture over night so that they can soak completely in the soap. The next day, I take my brushes out and rinse them off in the sink with room temperature water again, dry them with a paper towel and voila! They're soft and clean again. Brushes that really have paint stuck in them I might need to pick off the paint or let them soak a second time in a fresh batch of water and Murphy Oil Soap. 

Soft and clean brushes, ahh...

I've found that this process is really easy and less damaging for the bristles on my brushes compared to other solvents such as turpenoid which dries and damages bristles after multiple uses. It works great for any size brush too.

I hope you found this post useful and let me know what you think if you try it out or have your own method of cleaning brushes!

March Art Haul

As March comes to an end, I thought it would be fun to show some of the art supplies I bought this month that helped out a lot in the process of my work. This Art Haul is inspired by @itsangelika_ on Instagram. You can check out her photos here. Now, here's a few of my favorite supplies this month!

ArtHaul_March

The big item this month was the PushMate, Point Driving Tool. This tool is GREAT for when I need to finish framing a piece. It allows me to push triangular metal points into wooden frames to secure glass in place. Not the most artsy part of being an artist, but a very important tool at that. For the longest time I was looking for this tool and now that I have it, there's no going back.

The second item is the Pigma, Micron 005 archival ink pen which is super fine in both it's width and style. I've had a Micron pen before, but never this thin, so I can get some super fine details in my pieces. The best part about these pens is that they're waterproof, so I can use all the watercolor and gouache I want over and around them and not have to worry about them bleeding. YES!

I'm no stranger to this third item. It's the Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache in Ultramarine (Green Shade). I use gouache in practically everything I do, but I've never had this color, and it's been one I've wanted for awhile now. The color is so deep and rich, it brings a great pop of blue into any piece. 

The last items are buttons. While I don't own a button maker, I am able to rent and use one for a low cost at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee's Studio Arts and Crafts Centre. This helps a whole lot when I am selling at shows or want to promote my work on a small scale. The button maker is easy and fun to use! So I included them in this month's Art Haul because I don't know what I would do without it. 

I'll leave links to the supplies listed here so you can find them easily if you are interested in trying them for yourself. I'd love to hear if anyone has ever tired these products before and how you liked them:

PushMate, Point Driving Tool: http://www.dickblick.com/products/fletcher-pushmate/

Pigma, Micron 005 archival ink pen: http://www.dickblick.com/products/sakura-pigma-micron-pen/

Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache in Ultramarine (Green Shade):  http://www.dickblick.com/items/00801-7942/

Kat Rodriguez Buttons: Are not sold online, but will be at the April Gallery Night and Day

February WIP

This month, I've been working on a number of different projects, but one I'd like to share with you is a larger watercolor piece.

After I stretched the paper over stretcher bars, I let it dry and then started creating a light yellow hue for the background. I like to create black ink marks first so that I can work my way back up to the colors of the surface. Large and small brushes are used throughout every layer of watercolor and gouache.

There's still many more layers I'd like to add to this piece before I can call it done. So by the end of this month it'll be ready for viewing!

Kat Rodriguez Feb WIP
Kat Rodriguez Feb WIP 2

Happy New Year!

Happy_New_Year

Wow! What a year. When I reflect back on this year, I see a lot of time, effort and dedication that went into my craft. From that work came knowledge and love. My passion for art has grown and continues to flourish because of my family, friends and supporters. So thank you!

I look forward to the new projects and events ahead, which makes me happy and truly love what I do. The future may bring anything, but our drive though it all is what makes our lives worth living. I hope the new year brings you happiness as well as continued love. Here's to dreams in the making :) 

December Work In Progress

I hope everyone is having a great December. With Christmas past, the new year is right around the corner. With a new year, comes new projects. A few pieces I've been working on now are for a show in January.

I wanted to work directly on a wooden surface for these pieces. The bleeding of colors works differently when working from paper to wood. There's more drips and stains to experiment with and if you know me, I love experimenting with different art techniques.

After I gave my surface a couple gesso layers, I used watercolor to mark where I wanted my shapes to go, and then used gouache to get my rich dark colors for a second layer of paint. Neither pieces are in their final stages yet. There's still much to be done, but by January, they will be finished and ready for exhibition!

To keep up to date about my work throughout the month, head over to my About page to sign up for my artist email newsletter. It's free and fun :)

I use gesso to cover the surface of my painting first so that the colors will not soak into the wood.

I use gesso to cover the surface of my painting first so that the colors will not soak into the wood.

Watercolor is a great way for me to lay out my composition. Once that dries, I either go back with more watercolor, or start the gouache stages.

Watercolor is a great way for me to lay out my composition. Once that dries, I either go back with more watercolor, or start the gouache stages.

Gouache is applied over the watercolor to deepen and darken the colors I am looking for. At this point, I am almost at the midpoint of the painting. Many more layers of gouache, possibly acrylic and pastels will be added to finish this piece.

Gouache is applied over the watercolor to deepen and darken the colors I am looking for. At this point, I am almost at the midpoint of the painting. Many more layers of gouache, possibly acrylic and pastels will be added to finish this piece.

Christmas at Suskie

Shoehorn Ornaments by Kat Rodriguez

The holidays are coming up fast and tis' the season for gift giving. What better way to capture the holiday spirit then by creating ornaments for a Christmas tree? I recently designed three characters (a snowman, penguin, and Santa) for a very uniquely original ornament. My Shoehorn Ornaments are all lovingly hand-painted and finished with a red ribbon. I wanted to create a gift that was special to me and that I could share with others. I like re-imagining items from their original purpose to then utilize them in a whole new manner (proof that I watch too much of the HGTV show Flea Market Flip, but I digress.) So, when I had the opportunity to paint on a few shoehorns, I realized their higher potential. 

Ornaments are sold separately, but there is a deal for the set of three. A limited amount are available, so if you know someone who would love these or want one for yourself, make sure to order yours soon and before the Christmas chaos.

More information about my Shoehorn Ornaments and where you can purchase them is at Suskie.etsy.com.

'Fall Feline' Print Fundraiser Results

  

November 30th marked the end of the 'Fall Feline' Print Fundraiser at Suskie. I'm happy to say that we raised $56 for the WHS! Thank you to everyone who shared this fundraiser and purchased a print so the proceeds could go to a great cause.

And what perfect timing... 

Today is Giving Tuesday and all donations made today to the WHS are matched! So that was a nice surprise today.


The WHS does great things and I loved being able to do this and hope you loved sharing the love this holiday season (lots of love). Your generosity will go far. 'Fall Feline' was my first fundraiser, and it won't be the last, that's for sure. Below are a few screenshots of the donation transaction. I had to share the last message because it is for all who donated.

  

November Work in Progress

November WIP of  Vermillion Medallion

November WIP of Vermillion Medallion

With the Pop-Up Gallery Show in Wauwatosa quickly approaching, I've been busy working on a few new pieces. My favorite so far are the circle canvas wall plaques I've been making. The colors and lines I create are given a new way to interact with the borders of the canvas. I've also been trying to use color in the background instead of white to enhance the intensity of a few of the pieces. I love color so this was a nice change of pace for myself.

The artwork above and a couple more of these circle pieces will be for sale at the Pop-Up Gallery Show, November 20th. Join the event Facebook page here.

Behind the 'Fall Feline' Print

The 'Fall Feline' Print fundraiser is still in full swing! This illustrative print of a cat gazing up at the falling leaves might seem as simple as that, but there is actually more to the story.

The cat depicted in 'Fall Feline' is a female feral cat that lives in my neighborhood known as Charles. Charles, because at first we thought she was a he, until he got pregnant and had a litter of six kittens under our house. But, that's another story. Charles, after giving birth and nursing her kittens for the recommended weeks, was to be taken to the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program at the WHS. We took Charles, or more or less Charles reluctantly came with us to the WHS to be spayed, a procedure that cost us $20. Seems like a lot for a feral cat, but that allowed Charles to get spayed, vaccinated, and recorded for the register of feral cats that are allowed to live out the rest of their days in our neighborhood free without producing any more kittens.

According to a study, it costs about $16 billion to trap and kill community cats. TNR programs cost taxpayers about $7 billion a year. Charles is a direct asset to keeping other feral cats from roaming in the area, which reduces fighting, the population is obviously reduced, and rodents are kept out of houses, which, if you ask my neighbor, is why she loves Charles so much. 

Charles gets to live outdoors and enjoy herself for the rest of her days, and we get to enjoy her company as well. A rule of thumb for the TNR program is that once the cats are returned back to where they were originally picked up, a continued source of food and water must be provided. Just like feeding the birds. So, our house is greeted by Charles throughout the day.

So there you go. A little behind the scenes look at 'Fall Feline'. I'm glad I am able to use my skills to help the WHS in the smallest of ways and hope you see how important this program and establishment is to the community. If you want to read more about the TNR program here's a link:  http://www.wihumane.org/services/tnr. Or just visit the WHS to see all the adorable dogs, cats, birds, bunnies and more. 

It's not just me though. You donating is making this all possible. So thank you for those who have already donated, and I encourage those who are thinking about ordering a 'Fall Feline' print to do it today! No time like the present. 

'Fall Feline' up now through the end of November at Suskie.etsy.com

'Fall Feline' print

'Fall Feline' print

Charles

Charles

Charles (again), the cat depicted in 'Fall Feline'

Charles (again), the cat depicted in 'Fall Feline'

October Work in Progress

I'm using canvas to lay over circle plaques. These pieces are guided by the Migraine Series and bursts of color. What's really interesting to me for this piece so far is the upward growth of the 'dendrites' and how they are expanded off the canvas. I hope to create a couple of these to compliment each other. Stay tuned for more :)

The Treble with Alzheimer's

The Woven Images reception went well in September. The original end date for this show has been extended to November 5. So you have an extra month to check out the fibers pieces there. Since there are no descriptions for the pieces at the show, I decided to explain why my piece is called 'The Treble with Alzheimer's':

Playing the violin was a monumental part of my life from the fourth grade all the way to my senior year of High School, and something I found my Abuelito to be very proud of. Right around the time his mind was consumed by Alzheimer's disease, I played violin at a family function. From then on out, he couldn't remember my name, but he remembered me playing the violin and called me the Violin Girl. Unfortunately, the disease took its course, and as time went on, he was gone. I began college and played in the Milwaukee Community Orchestra for one semester, but found I wanted to focus more so on my work as an artist. The violin was put away and mostly not played anymore.

My vision for this project was to show a measure of silent music that deteriorates towards the end. The absence of the notes are overran by the geometric shapes that are to stress the idea of something being corrupted, obliterated or gone missing as did my practice of the violin and my Abuelito's memory. This parallel was something I wanted to express, and felt that with fibers it communicated quite nicely. An added music stand holds the piece up, and a violin bow holds it all together. 

The Treble with Alzheimer's by Kat Rodriguez

The Treble with Alzheimer's by Kat Rodriguez

The Woven Images show runs from September 10 - November 5 at the Kenilworth Square East 3rd Floor Exhibition Space. Open and free to the public on Saturdays 12-5pm. If you snap any photos at the event, use #KatRodriguezArt on your Instagram or other social media so I can see and share your wonderful photos on my Facebook page.

 

'Ripple'

I'm excited for this weekend because it's the Hidden River Art Festival at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts! Inside the Wilson Center building will be the Emerging Artist Exhibition featuring 11 early-career artists (including yours truly). I encourage you to join the festival's event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/366306900229611/ for more information. Get $5 tickets with code HRAFartist2015 when you purchase online! (Discount valid on advance purchase only; may not be used to purchase tickets at the door). 

I just finished my last piece called 'Ripple' and it'll be on view at the Emerging Artist Exhibition (September 19-20, 10-5pm) along with a few other pieces I selected for the show. Here's a sneak peek of the piece. A very blurry corner of the piece filled with circles and dots. I hope to see you at the festival this weekend!

11990471_1036758066337390_8070615403730201512_n.jpg

Suskie: My New Shop on Etsy

Prints of my original artwork are now being sold on Etsy! My shop name is suskie (https://www.etsy.com/shop/suskie). I've had the shop open since 2011, but just now had the courage to start it up officially. So check it out. Sign up on my website here in the About/Subscribe section to be notified when I'll be adding new prints to my shop and events I'll be at!

Aura in Green Print on sale now in my Etsy shop suskie.

Aura in Green Print on sale now in my Etsy shop suskie.

Milwaukee Magazine and Voting!

Be sure to check out the SEPTEMBER issue of Milwaukee Magazine. There will be an insert of art events happening in the area including the Hidden River Art Festival at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center September 19-20 in Brookfield. I haven't seen it yet and don't know what to expect exactly, but was told that there should be one image of each of the artists' work from the Emerging Artist Exhibition which I was invited to this year. So I hope you can catch that in a couple weeks! Also, a reminder that VOTING for 'PEOPLES CHOICE' AWARD is only on Saturday, September 19 and ends at 3pm. My fate is in your hands people! You have the chance to help me win a solo exhibition in the Wilson Center's Ploch Art Gallery in 2016. So tell your friends and share!

http://www.wilson-center.com/hidden-river-art-festival/

http://www.milwaukeemag.com 

Emerging Artist

Woven Images 2015

My piece The Treble with Alzheimer's will be at the the Woven Images exhibition which now has a website up here: http://psoacal.uwm.edu/event/woven-images-2015/

Also, I invite you to join the Woven Images Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/476300525879730/

The reception for this event is September 10, 6-8pm at Kenilworth Square East 3rd Fl. exhibition space. It's sure to be a fun night of fibers and the arts.

Exhibition runs from September 10 - October 9

The Treble with Alzheimer's  by Kat Rodriguez

The Treble with Alzheimer's by Kat Rodriguez


New Exhibitions Coming Soon

There is always a calm before the storm. Since graduation, I have been able to make a few comics, start learning After Effects, and create a few projects for my always developing art portfolio. I enjoy learning and creating new things so this was all very fun for me. But, now we are coming to a storm. Not a bad one by any means, just a lot going on. I've got a lot of busy work ahead of me in these couple months, so I thought I'd take a moment to collect myself and give some information on a few exhibitions my pieces will be at this summer. 

First off, the Tiny Treasures Exhibition in Madison, WI has a huge selection of tiny works of art showing from August 10th to September 26th at the Pyle Center. If you can not make it to Madison between that time, there is an online gallery right now of all the 2015 entries here: http://www.wraawrap.com/2015tinytreasuresexhibit.html Definetly be looking for image #232, that would be my abstract piece. More information can be found here: http://www.wraawrap.com/activities/tinytreasures.html 

Coming up in September, we have the Woven Images Exhibition at Kenilworth in downtown Milwaukee. I have a fibers piece at this show based on my influece of music and the devastation of alzheimer's disease. This exhibition will run from September 10th to October 10th. There is no online information on this exhibition just yet, but come back soon and I'll make sure to give an update on this event later.

And lastly, from September 19th to the 20th, my work along with a few other invited artists will be at the Emgering Artists Exhibition at the Hidden River Art Festival in Brookfield, WI. I'm excited about this event and am hoping to get a few of my new paintings out there for you all to see. More information about the event here: http://www.wilson-center.com/hidden-river-art-festival/

So, as you can see, it's gonna be a fun few months. I hope I'll see some of you at one or maybe two of these events as I love to share and meet with any and all art lovers :)