Tag Archives: Visually Oriented

Visually Oriented: Artist Profile – Ellie Howard


-Emily Fraysse

In her room that seems smaller than the size of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, Ellie Howard manages to pull four different copies of her latest print from her print-making class titled “Victory” out from underneath her white iron-cast bed. Her long blonde-ash locks are pulled back into a messy ponytail and her fingers, stained with different colored paints, are dead giveaways as to what she had been doing for the past six hours. Her room is plastered with ripped-out pages from fashion magazines, an American flag fan, a flag from Sienna, Italy, small cut-outs of famous paintings, a billboard collage of colored ribbons, and photos. Her voice is calm, yet she has a spark of laughter that’s contagious. Cracking jokes left and right, she sits Indian style upon her floral-printed bedspread as she tells me of her passion for art.

I got the privilege of talking with Howard, a senior and artist majoring in Studio Art and minoring in Art History at the University of Oregon.


What inspires you the most?

“I don’t know how to narrow down what inspires me other than what strikes me at a moment. I was thinking of an instance that this happened to me the other day. In the EMU I saw this golden drinking fountain…. It had a plaque to commemorate somebody. [It was] in this weird stairwell that broke off and there was a brick wall with this golden drinking fountain. And I was like, ‘that’s the coolest thing ever.’ I felt like I wasn’t done thinking about it…. I really like flowers, I really like clothes and looking at what people are saying and doing.… It’s hard to narrow down. I have a lot of interests. I get a pull from all over.”

How long have you been making art?

“Since forever. I have one of those second memories like where you remember the incident, but you don’t remember anything else really. I was probably five-years-old and everybody was out playing on the playground. I was sitting alone drawing a picture of my family under a rainbow or something. In Kindergarten, when we had that sponge brush and we had all the different cut sponges. And we did the coolest thing ever… I was like ‘This. Is. Awesome!’ I think it sparked in Kindergarten.”


What’s your favorite medium?

“There’s so many types of ways to make things which I definitely learned in undergrad. Taking printmaking, which is something you don’t do too much in high school if you take art. I really liked printmaking, but it was really stressful. It’s cool to be able to make copies of stuff. I really, really like painting, but it’s a struggle sometimes. It’s hard to be original and find satisfaction in your own work when there’re a lot of other people like that. A lot of people make art. I like all different mediums.”

Which era of art would you go back to and why?

“Probably the late 1800’s in Paris and England because they had these great exhibitions and it was so romantic, the notion that everyone was going out to see what had been painted. It was more in the public eye, which is cool. That’s why people make things for other people to look at.”


Do you usually have an idea first and then create it or do you start off with a plank medium and work from there?

“It depends on the class. When I have a prompt, it’s kind of like going at it like a math equation or trying to think back to what I’ve thought about recently or what’s in my sketchbook or collage. If it’s a literary reference, I think about all my books or pick an image that is blank. You just fill in the blank with something that pertains to your interests. It’s almost easier coming up with something. The carrying out of it is the hard part because it never turns out exactly how you pictured; well, not never, just rarely.”

Ellie plans on graduating from the University of Oregon this Spring and moving back to her hometown of Lafayette, California where she will begin looking at internships abroad.

Visually Oriented: The Alchemy of Mixology

-Emily Fraysse

Sitting on a leather and zebra-hair chair in a dark bar on the Hollywood Strip, rows of jars full of a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs are placed in front of me.

“What do you like? Raspberries? Cinnamon? Honey?”

“I like raspberries and vodka gimlets.”

“Okay, I’ll add little twist to it.”

That was the conversation between the mixologist and I at The Library Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Perfectly blending classic and artisan cocktails, a mixologist’s skill  is expertly preparing mixed drinks. By taking common drinks and putting a twist to them, they create original, interesting concoctions. They are commonly commissioned for particular events, menus, and themes. While generally considered to be a “higher” study of mixing cocktails than the average bartender, neither bartending nor mixology is better than the other. The difference between the two lies in the skills.

A bartender needs to know how to make the common, popular cocktails, serve multiple persons at once, and be the ultimate “people person.” A mixologist focuses more on creating a unique drink by studying the classics and then concocting new, exciting combinations. Mixologists tend to have a greater knowledge of obscure and lesser known spirits and mixers. There are many fine mixing professionals who fall in both categories as well as many more who specialize in one or the other. Some dismiss the term “mixology” all together and others are the opposite.

I was lucky enough that I just happened to find a mixologist, but beware: the specialized drinks can get pricey, especially in Los Angeles. There are many courses and schools that you can enroll in to become a mixologist like the Columbia Bartending Agency and School of Mixology or through the PBSA, the Professional Bartending Schools of America.

Image by Dan4th.

Visually Oriented: The Lost Art of Commissioned Album Artwork

-Emily Fraysse

On November 22, 2010, hip-hop artist Kanye West released his fifth album titled, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a collection of different musical components like baroque and soul with underlying themes of excess, celebrity, ego, race, drinking, drug use, and consumer culture. What gained a lot of attention, however, was the artwork album artwork. Kanye announced on Twitter that not long before it was released, the album had been rejected by major chain stores because of the graphic artwork.

The portrait, by George Condo, shows Kanye being straddled by an armless winged female. Both are nude. Condo’s Picasso-meets-Looney-Tunes style artwork was described by the New York Times as, “tasty, erudite stuff, freaky but classy, a Mixmaster version of old master, with a big glop of Pop tossed in.”

After the album came out, Condo announced that Kanye wanted a cover image that was risky and would be banned. He eventually created eight or nine different paintings for the album including a disfigured portrait of Kanye and a painting of a crown and sword in a grassy landscape. A second cover was made featuring a ballerina, which at the last second Kanye changed it to a photograph of a ballerina instead.

On the completely opposite end of the album-artwork spectrum lies a lonely, weary traveler by the name John Mayer. After disappearing from the public eye for about two years due to the surgical removal of a granuloma near his vocal cords, he returned with a brand new album and a brand new look. The fifth album for the singer/songwriter, Born and Raised, was his shot at redemption. And, he succeeded. On May 22, 2012, he released his folk and county rock album with an exquisitely designed cover. The recording companies Sony Music and Columbia Records had commissioned David A. Smith to design the cover at the beginning of 2012. Although they never met in person, Mayer and Smith talked regularly via Skype and on phone in order to get the exact look that Mayer was looking for. Smith specializes in traditional, ornamental reverse glass signs and decorated silver and gilded mirrors.

The handcrafted piece was first drawn out separately before vectoring and finishing it in Photoshop in only twenty-eight days. Smith documented the process and success of his work on his website and later in a video.

Both of these artists, Kanye West and John Mayer, did something that not many artists do these days: commission artwork. In John Mayer’s commission, people are claiming that he revived a type of lost art that is slowly coming back into popularity. These special commissions can add a certain uniqueness, beauty, and distinction for artists today.

Visually Oriented: The Aesthetics and Aroma of Latte Design

-Emily Fraysse

Driving toward the blur of the city lights on the Bay Bridge, I looked in my rear-view mirror to a sunrise that made Oakland and the Berkeley hills look like they were on fire. I never usually drive into San Francisco at this ungodly hour of the morning, but my mother, father, two sisters, and I all signed up to work the morning shift at Glide Memorial in the Mission District. After countless plates served of watered-down eggs and two-day-old bread, we were finally finished and exhausted. We began to wander about the Mission district, ravenous with a major lack of caffeine in my system. Bringing up the Yelp app on my iPhone, I found a good rating for a restaurant called “The Blue Fig,” so we went forth.

It was a bit of a hole-in-the wall restaurant despite the high rating on Yelp. I snatched up an order of mocha and eggs Benedict and when the food came, I was astonished. My mocha had been transformed from a typical latte to an elaborate form of art with the name of the restaurant carefully and eloquently poured in by steamed milk.

While this form of art is purely temporary, it is a worldly recognized and appreciated type of edible design. Since the early ‘80s, the action of pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso, or latte, while creating beautiful sketches and patterns is seen as a legitimate talent. Baristas, or coffeehouse bartenders, seek creativity and elegance when creating. Their goal is not only about flaunting their talents, however. It is also about making that single cup of coffee more special, sexy, and, consequently, more delicious  The artwork ranges from floral prints, to symbols, to portraits. For more design inspiration check out this gallery.

WikiHow provides a quick guide to creating a latte floral pattern.

Visually Oriented: Now that Hogwarts is vacant, where is J.K. Rowling?

-Emily Fraysse

In October 1999, when my sister and I were 7 and 9 years old, our mother picked us up from elementary school and took us to a local synagogue to see an upcoming author speak in my small hometown of Lafayette, California. She was on a promotional tour for the third book of her new series. She read the second book out loud to a crowd of a mere four hundred, while people with plush snowy white owls perched on their arms were gathered around the perimeter of the room. After, she sat at one of the tables and greeted every person while signing copies of her new book. Little did I know that the humble, hardly-famous woman that signed my copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban would, in just a few short years, create a magical world full of creativity that would spark the imaginative minds of all ages.

Before the first book of the series came out, Rowling experienced the death of her mother, a divorce, poverty, and depression. The idea for the first book came to her on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990, and she began scribbling down story after story of made-up characters–her friends, Harry, Hermione, and Ron–on a napkin. Since then, it has been a whirlwind. In the film “A Year in The Life” (2007), Rowling goes back to her old flat where she finished the first Harry Potter book. “This is really where I turned my life around completely,” Rowling says. “My life changed so much in this flat.” Stepping into the child’s room of her old flat, where the entire Harry Potter series resided on the bookshelf.

It has been fifteen years since the UK version of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out and Rowling has now produced a grand total of seven Harry Potter books, eight Harry Potter films, three children’s books relating to the Harry Potter series, a few articles, a short story (also relating to the Harry Potter series and was auctioned off for charity), and more recently an adult book called The Casual Vacancy. In June of 2010 the franchise developed a theme park, which was built in Orlando, Florida. Due to the success of the park in Florida, two other theme parks are under construction in California and Japan, both due to open in 2016.

Despite the enormous obstacles she has overcome and her overwhelming success, the most interesting fact about the first female novelist billionaire is that she is no longer a billionaire.

Dropped from the Forbes billionaries list in 2012, she has stepped down to millionaire status due to the high taxes in Britain and the overwhelming amount that she has donated to various charities (an estimated $160 million in total). She has even founded her own charity, Lumos, which helps disadvantaged children in Europe. Over the years she has won an array of literary awards and honorary degrees and in 2011 opened up “Pottermore,” a website dedicated to the franchise and is the only place to buy Harry Potter eBooks and digital audio downloads.

 With an uneasy relationship with the media, Rowling is seen today as more of a recluse tucked away in her Scotland home. She does very few interviews and talks, but when she does, it is brilliant. In 2008, she was the Commencement speaker at the Harvard University graduation and spoke about “the fringe benefits of failure,” something she has been quite familiar with during her life.

 Although the probability that more tales of the famous magical trio is slim, Rowling’s words and wisdom have taught the world about fear, friendship, and love.

Visually Oriented: Photos of the Past Looking Toward the Future

-Emily Fraysse

It wasn’t until years after the development of the “fort” my cousins and I created in the basement of our beach house in Carmel-by-the-sea, California, that I found out the basement was where color photography was invented.  Now consumed by cobwebs, dust, and god-knows-what-else, the basement stands empty. The brown-shingled house with a looming oak tree in the front is now considered a historical landmark, thanks to Arnold Genthe, the past owner and mastermind behind the photographic advancement in the late 19th and early 20th century.

However, as advanced as this once was (and still kind of is today), it is slowly becoming a forgotten technique. Film photography is becoming a lost art. The uncomplicated process of digital photography, as well as the accessibility of cell phone cameras and apps have become more and more popular over the past decade.

Instagram, Camerabag, and other cell phone apps allow users to apply filters by the click of a button, making them instantly much cooler than the original, and then allows users to easily share them with friends. According to statistics, as of April 2012, there have been over one billion Instagram photo uploads, forty million Instagram users, and the app-usage has grown 1600 percent between April 2011 and April 2012. Keep in mind, Instagram and iPhones are still very, very new. IPhones first came out in 2007, less than six years ago!

With these advancements in technology, where does that leave the future of photography? Living in this digital age, which is redefining and sharpening the techniques of traditional photography practices, will the world eventually completely switch over, leaving film photography behind? At this rate, it definitely seems like it. Yet, many people are making strides to save these valuable and incomparable techniques. With the scare of losing the classic white frame of Polaroid photographs a few years ago, the Impossible Project was created. This small team of ten former Polaroid employees in October 2008 gathered together with the goal of saving the last production plant for integral instant film and started to produce new instant film materials for Polaroid cameras. This has been a success with the development of the plant in the Netherlands.

Now, the real question is, will people have to do this for film photography? Is this what photography has come to: hundreds of tiny colorful dots per square inch of a screen? It may be too early to tell. So, I guess for now, we’ll have to wait and see.

Visually Oriented: The Story of a Boy & His Snowy White Dog

-Emily Fraysse

 “Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!”

“Ten thousand thundering typhoons!”

These common outcries are from the mouth of the fictional whisky-drinking character Captain Archibald Haddock, who is friends with the protagonist Tintin from the comic series The Adventures of Tintin.  This massively popular book series (1929) turned feature length film (2012) began with a Belgian artist and writer named Georges Remi (with the pen name Hergé).

But, long before the Tintin series began, Remi’s creative vision was displayed on the sides of his schoolbooks, where he often scribbled down the lives and stories of made-up characters. Although he was not an avid reader, he loved many British and American authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) and Mark Twain (Huckleberry Fin). After finishing school, he began to work at a Belgian newspaper and managed a supplement for children called Le Petit Vingtieme (The Little Twentieth). This got him thinking about a new character that was a journalist, “with the spirit of a Boy Scout.”

A round head, two dots for eyes, button nose, blue-collared shirt, baggy brown pants, and hair that stands straight up in the front are the characteristic physical features of Tintin. On his adventures, he always has his best friend Snowy, a sheet-white dog, by his side (who many times saves Tintin from peril). His look is simple yet iconic and easily recongnizable.  “Tintin is myself. He reflects the best and brightest in me; he is my successful double. I am not a hero. But like all 15-year-old boys, I dreamt of being one… and I have never stopped dreaming. Tintin has accomplished many thing on my behalf,” Remi states on the Tintin website.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was Tintin’s first adventure, which became an instant hit. With characters that mimicked famous people as well as family-based characters, Remi created a world full of splendor, thrill, and comedy. There are currently 24 published books that follow Tintin, Snowy, and his friends through perilous lands discovering Yeti, busting opium smugglers, narrowly escaping his head being shrunk by tribal warriors, and unraveling the mystery of stolen emeralds.

The mysteries and adventures of Tintin and all of his friends, like the comical twins Thompson & Thompson and the quizzical, absent-minded man named Professor Calculus, continue to spark the adventurous, fearless minds of youth.

Visually Oriented: The Theatre of Dreams

“Visually Oriented” is about taking a step back and observing the vibrant, skillful world around us. Whether it be a visually appealing advertisement stapled to a telephone poll or the mastery of iconic graphic novel illustrations, this column will dive deep into the minds and geniuses behind those skills and bring to the surface the story of what people make, the techniques they use, and the purposes of their artistry.


-Emily Fraysse

The strand of silver glitter letters spelling out the word “DREAM” glistened as they hung loosely behind the weather-beaten window. Cupping my hand to the window and shifting my view to the inside, a worn wooden table stands by the back wall with a Victorian-aged silver cash register placed on top. Slightly worn mustard-colored curtains illuminated from behind, casting the silhouette of a fairy onto the spectacle of the shop. On the other wall hung vintage French ribbons stamped with phrases like “DREAM” and “PARIS,” on another hung gilded wreaths covered in mirrors. On a second wooden table in the middle of the room is a display of cut-out clowns, elephants and other circus animals with silver-glittered doves and ornaments dangling from a brilliant Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This is the realm of Wendy Addison.

About an hour northeast of San Francisco between Crockett and Martinez lies the little town of Port Costa. Nestled among the Boo Radley houses is a main street lined by drooping locust trees that lead right to the ocean. The town consists of a single U.S. post office, cafe, hotel, and Wendy’s shop. What may seem like a sleepy little town is actually full of wonder and amusement; that is, once you’ve stepped through the light blue, weather-beaten French doors of a shop called The Theatre of Dreams.

Open only by reservation or when there is an open house, Wendy Addison has created a whimsical, mystical world full of vintage-striped French ribbons, German-glittered silver stars, and other imaginative trinkets. It is a world of nostalgia, wonder, and awe. Wendy does not have to wander far to where she handcrafts all of her items in her studio, rightfully named “The House of Memories,” which is located next door. Her tiny apartment, where she lives with her daughter and cats, is right behind the shop.

In 2008 she decided to do something new—create a book. In the same theme as her store and workshop, she delicately and intricately designed 400 hand-drawn books on vintage paper and materials. The Theatre of Dreams Notebook for an Imaginary Life contains around 12 years of drawings, scribbles, and a poem about the makings of an imaginary life.

When Wendy first opened her shop and created the items, she was unpatented. Unfortunately, other companies began copying her ideas and creating their own versions of Wendy’s creations. This problem is now solved and Wendy is on to do bigger and better things like decorating the Lincoln Center Christmas Tree in New York City.

For more information and updates on The Theatre of Dreams, you can go to her blog and check out her book The Theatre of Dreams Journal.