Thursday, August 16, 2012

Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area

There is some art that I do for myself and for an audience, just for the sake of doing art.  There is some art I do on spec or for cost.  But sometimes there's art that I do, free of charge, in order to further my experience.

A few years ago, I created a youth booklet for Hawaii State Parks.  It was mostly a coloring book-style activity pamphlet for kids of various ages.  It was an interesting experience because I got to work under a council of elders who oversaw my drafts and made sure that everything I was doing was properly representing the Hawaiian culture and environment.

Recently I was approached by rangers at the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, part of the State Parks system in California, to help them update their Junior Ranger program.  Personally, I perceive this as a much easier task already because I'm far more familiar with the ecosystems here than I was with those of Hawaii!  I've since sent them my first set of sketches, some of which you can see above.

It's always an interesting challenge to pick up projects like this here and there.  I think commissions like this really push your abilities...AND force you to work under constraints like time and material availability!  But all in all, it's FUN.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Untitled in Progress

Here's a canvas sketch of the mixed media piece I'm working on now.  It's never a dull moment - I actually pulled this sucker out as I was setting up for the P!ay Showcase, being well aware that this particular piece is a little too risqué to show at that family-friendly venue.

Updates to come over the next few weeks (months?  Hopefully not) that I'm working on this one.  As of yet, it's untitled but I'm pretty sure I know where I'm going with it.  Who knows?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Showcase @ P!ay Hair Lounge

All set up for my showcase!
Thanks to the awesome ladies at P!ay Hair Lounge and to my amazing husband and mother who came to help me set up yesterday!

We hit a few snafus - as one often does - like a frame that suddenly broke and a small mismeasurement that threw things off.  But there was no panic and there was much laughter and we had a great time setting everything up.

My Drill Sergeant!
It was pretty fun to play the part of director: I basically outlined everything and told Ian where to drill the hooks, and he did it.  Not only that, he did an amazing job, making sure that everything was level and perfect.  My mom played the hero and ran out to pick up another backup frame from the house when the one "Gamera" was in broke (and when I say "broke," I mean BROKE...the wood cracked, the glass chipped, the nails came out...wotta mess!).

But we got everything in order and it all looked great!  Brig, the owner, told me that it was the "most bizarre" display that they'd ever had up...and then qualified that comment by insisting it was a compliment!  I told her that there was no need to clarify, I DEFINITELY take that as a compliment!

If you make your way to Simi Valley in the near future, the display will be up at P!ay for 8 weeks ('til early October 2012).  The salon is right off of the 118 freeway at Kuehner Ave.  Some paintings are for sale (marked with the price), but some are for this display only.  If you do make a purchase, the funds are very fairly split between myself and P!ay, so you'd be supporting two local "businesses."


My mom, chronicling the display.  Awwww...thanks, Mom!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Showcase @ P!ay Hair Lounge - Teaser

One thing that hasn't changed in the past couple thousands of years of people making art is that they're always being really pushy about getting people to try and look at it.  I am definitely no exception!

This Wednesday night, you might be able to find me and my husband yutzing around at P!ay Hair Lounge in Simi Valley, where my art is going to be showcased for eight weeks.  We'll have a few hours that afternoon/evening get everything installed.  If you're in the area, please stop by!  P!ay is not "just" a hair salon (although I do get my hair did there and nowhere else), it's an artistic outlet: the salon is owned and operated by Brig Van Osten, the winner of Shear Genius Season 3.  She is one of those awesome business owners who helps out the artistic community by showcasing local artists and advertising them on their website.  It just happened to work out that she and I connected at the exact right time, and it just happened that she liked the digital mini-portfolio I provided.

With that luck, Brig extended the invitation for me to install my art.  So for the past couple of days I have been calling up folks who own my work and asking permission to borrow pieces for the showcase.  I've also been going back and touching up details on pieces in storage that I think may look too worn or that have been damaged in transport (I have moved twice in the past three/four years!).  It's not a very simple process, unfortunately, so my dining room has taken a pretty hard beating while I get organized for Wednesday.

This picture doesn't look too bad, but please don't be deceived!

I've also been super motivated to finish a couple of pieces that have been on the backburner for too long!  All three peices in mind happen to be parts of series.  You remember the untitled photo series I hinted about a while back?
Photo Project: No.6 (left) and Photo Project: No.13 (right)

I've finally got these two babies mounted and completed.  The only thing I don't really like about them is the size of the photos themselves because so much photographic detail is lost, although that's what happens to work best with the additional pieces of the collage.  My goal was to have the photos work with these other pieces to evoke a sense of poetry...although there are 11 more parts of this series that are not completed and not ready for display yet, so a lot of that poem is lost.  Hopefully these will stand on their own for the time being!

I AM super excited about the dried flower in got preserved better than I'd even hoped!

Gamera Tours Tokyo!
Then there's a new piece in my series called "Animals That I Like, and Some I Don't."  You may recognize another piece from this series called "Paul Eats the Moon!"  I'm still sketching this series out, but it's been a lot of's a huge mood leap from the Photo Project, if not a complete 180.  But it's something I feel like people of all ages can smile at.

Just as a sidenote, you may recognize the name "Gamera" from such Japanese monster movies as "Gamera vs. Viras" or "Gamera vs. Giron" or even "Gamera Strikes Again."  Tokyo DOES get destroyed in a lot of these kinds of movies; however, Gamera is the name of our turtle and she doesn't actually live in Tokyo, she lives in a tank.  She's also far too fat and lazy  to destroy anything the size of a bread box, let alone a city.  We do take her for walks on the lawn every now and then, but I thought it would be nice to take her someplace a little more exciting.

The current view at P!ay Hair Lounge
More updates to come later this week! For now, I will leave you with the nearly-empty walls of P!ay to muse over.  See you soon!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Untitled: In Progress


This may eventually become a part of a bigger piece in progress.  I'm not quite sure yet.  Right now I'm just having fun with the wonky hands and lines...they're kinda my THING. :-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fellow Arists: Francesca Eastwood and the Birkin Bag

(image copyright Tyler Sheilds)
I'm sure that, at this point, everyone has heard how 19 year-old Francesca Eastwood took a $100k Birkin bag and destroyed it in the name of art.  If you haven't, 19 year-old Francesca Eastwood took a $100k Birkin bag and destroyed it in the name of art. 

Yes, THAT "Eastwood."  Francesca is the daughter of actor-director Clint Eastwood.  That said, let's be perfectly honest: no other 19 year-old artist would ever have the funds to obtain such an extravagantly-priced item, only to 1.) take a chainsaw to it and 2.) then light it on fire.  But Francesca clearly had the connections and thereby had the means.

Say what you will about Francesca's decision to artistically waste $100k.  She purchased that Birkin bag and it was thereby her right to do whatever she wanted with it, right?  Plenty of people would disagree: according to TMZ, Francesca has received "death threats" (okay, that's too extreme for any situation) and plenty more negative reaction from the general public for her artistic decision:

"Sources close to Francesca tell us ... the 19-year-old said she knew people would be shocked, but never expected this level of hatred. We're told she's been telling friends ... people just don't understand art."
(, 28-May-12)
All Birkin-burning aside, that last part is what I have trouble with. 

When you become an artist, it is because you are utilizing your ability to create.  That's it.  There's no guarantee that your work is going to be any good and there's no guarantee that anyone is going to understand your creative intentions the same way.  In fact, as much as you might have a particular message you are trying to convey, this is a blunder that many artists - especially young artists - make:

You can not control your audience's perception and it is not up to the artist to decide how the audience will interpret their work.

In this particular case, the viewer's reaction was not up to Francesca Eastwood, and she committed what I think is a very severe faux pas: reacting by insinuating that "people just don't understand art."

No, actually, people get art.  In fact, people LOVE art.  It's why this abstract communication concept has survived since man first began conveying his feelings on cave walls:

CAVEMAN 1: Look, I paint self on wall!  I kill wooly mammoth!  I great hunter!
CAVEMAN 2: Why you make penis so big?  Your penis not that big.
CAVEMAN 1: Is metaphor!
CAVEMAN 2: Yeah, is metaphor for how you wish you had big penis.
CAVEMAN 1: Gragh!  You just don't understand art!

If I had to venture a very specific guess, Eastwood was making some statement about society's overbearing and wasteful attachments to useless material goods.  And she made that statement in a way that she intended to be shocking and controversial in order to get people to take notice.  Something like that, right?

The problem is, that's an exceedingly easy statement to make when you have an extra $100k lying around, which is more than double what the average person living in the United States takes home in a year.  And it's that fact which severely detracts from your art's creation process.  The creation process is just as important - if not more important than - the final result. 

It's clear that Francesca understands the idea behind creation process.  The series of bag-destroying photos show it being captured on film.  But perhaps she doesn't quite understand the depth of the process: it starts with you as an artist, the materials you are able to acquire, et cetera.

To be perfectly clear, I really do enjoy the photo series and I'm interested in following Francesca as an artist.  I think this series is stimulating and interesting.  There's nothing special to me about the candid-instagram-style photography, but the shots are still kinda cool and the subject matter is stirring.  I have no problem with Eastwood purchasing a $100k bag and then obliterating it: that bag was going to cost $100k whether someone lit it on fire or whether someone stuffed their Yorkshire-Terrier-poop-machine in it as they walked down Rodeo Ave.  If anything, I think it shows that this 19 year-old celebuspawn has an understanding over the ridiculousness of how much that bag cost for the purpose it's supposed to serve.

My problem is with her reaction to her audience's reaction.  It's an easy cop-out to react to criticism by saying, "Meh!  You just don't get it."  People DO understand art.  Sometimes it's just the artist who doesn't understand that people have the right to think your art sucks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

...Was There a Point to All This?

I think that, as an artist, sometimes you need to have what I like to refer to as "tangental train of thought."  To be fair, it definitely helps to be focused and driven most of the time.  But sometimes, you really just need to let your brain off the leash and see where it takes you.

(on a Saturday)
Me: "Hey, is my brother there? He's not answering my texts about lunch."
Friend: "He doesn't wanna talk to you. Said something about a camel incident in the French Riviera."
Me: "God, he never lets anything go."
Friend:"Guys know how to hold a grudge properly."
Me: "He got all his doubloons back and I even replaced the fez. I'm not sure what else he could possibly want."
Friend: "The camel? The hump(s)? The dowry he would have gotten for the camel?"
Me: "I don't know how many times I have to tell him: THAT'S NOT WHERE HONEY COMES FROM."

...and you'll find that, oftentimes, the world works in such a way where it all comes back full-circle, whether you try to control it or not.
(on a Monday)
Me: "Did my brother have fun?"
Friend: "On the ride to the airport?  DUH!  He was with me!"
Me: "Ha ha...I meant overall."
Friend: "Of course!  He was actually really helpful in getting stuff organized for us, too."
Me: "Sweet!  I'm glad he likes [my fiance]."
Friend: "Yeah...they did get in a big argument, though."
Me: "Really."
Friend: "But they talked it over so now they're both mad at you about the camel."

...Anyway, I hate posting posts without pictures, so I'll leave you with some crazy reference shots I took at the beach a few days ago.  I still hate digital cameras, but I DO find them very convenient for taking reference shots of weird patterns in nature to capture abstract inspiration.  Enjoy!

El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's Personal: Wedding Boutonnieres

So I'm gettin' myself married soon!  That's right - I found some guy who's not completely terrified out of his mind by the prospect of waking up next to me for the rest of his life!  How fortuitous!

One of the things that my Dear Fiance is super duper obsessed with is comic books.  It's kind of his thing.  I let him nerd out about that, he lets me nerd out about my bug collection.  It's a fair exchange.

At any rate, I wanted to give a little nod to his love for comic books without letting them overwhelm the day and turning our wedding into "that comic book wedding."  The solution: comic book boutonnieres!

Here's where they are now: little comic book roses, constructed out of old ("but worthless" - his words, not mine) books with some hot glue.  I've made six of these suckers and have since added a couple of very discreet and suuuuuper tiny silver rhinestones to them at random, just to give them a little extra wedding sparkliness without someone being able to look at them and say, "HEY THAT'S SPARKLY."

The string they are tied with in the picture is just temporary, to hold them in place.  They will ultimately be paired with a little sprig of baby's breath and tied with some thin twine.

Art!  It's useful!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Old Bedtime Story

Private Product
(in progress)

Concept art for a children's story...I know what you're thinking: what kind of f***ed up children's story is this?  Personally, I have this weird fascination with black widow spiders.  I am simultaneously awed and terrified of them.  Seeing one - for realsies or on the internet - literally gives me the creeps, making my skin crawl.

The children's story represented here, however, is actually kind of adorable.  I'll share more about the plot once the concept art is finished, but it's for a direct-to-video release pitch.  The goal for this piece is to portray a feeling and theme that will encompass and represent the entire production in one shot: gloom, trouble, inspiration, triumph!

We'll see what happens!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Day Off

Private Collection

Private Collection

Shh...don't tell anyone, but I have a secret retreat.  I don't ever specify where it is, but it's the source of a lot of my various project inspiration.  These photos were taken there.  The colors, patterns, textures of everything are just always so vivid and healthy-feeling.  It's all very far-removed from urban noise and distraction...the perfect escape!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Character Concept



Concept design for a character of a fantasy comic/book series.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Contest Cuteness


I'm in a volunteer group that was hosting a contest for their 2012 t-shirt design. The winner gets a free t-shirt!

This is my submission, using their mascot as the inspiration for the design.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Little N's Room

"Little N's Room"

by Dani Selvaggio



One of my dear friends is SO PREGNANT right now. Her baby is due soon and she asked me if I would, as my gift to her, do a mural in the nursery. I am so full of love for her baby already that there was no way I was going to say no.

She is filling the room up with a set from the Carter's brand that features a bunch of little woodland creatures, so we agreed that the mural needed to reflect that. I painted a couple of trees, bees, birds, and fuzzy little animals in Little N's new nursery, centering around a little nook where my friend will be putting her rocking chair for snuggly naps and storytime.

The mural took about a week's worth of work (that is, a WEEK, not seven friend was extremely patient with me since I only had time to come over in the evenings after me regular job and work for about an hour each night). At any rate, it's done and I can't wait for the little woodland creatures to welcome Little N home!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How can I...

...make a full-body cast of myself on a completely limited budget? Hm.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


by Dani Selvaggio


"Nerd Love"
by Dani Selvaggio

Nerds in love. 'Nuf said.


by Dani Selvaggio
(for sale)

Here is the finished version of the DIA DE LOS MUERTOS piece that I had been sketching out in September of last year. Initially I had planned to have it done in time for Dia de los Muertos, but of course - work and other time constraints prevented me from being able to sit down and actually finish it. Incidentally, it all worked out for the best because I definitely needed the practice with watercolors that I hadn't had the time to develop.

At any rate, it's done. My goal was to make something that was very visually "Californian." I think I achieved that with the color palette (to me, California = dusty), but there are other things I would have changed, knowing how it's come out now.



by Dani Selvaggio

When I was little, my dad spent a lot of time in the formerly-known Soviet Union on business. When he came home, he'd always bring a little souvenir for me and my brother that was very Russia-esque. One of my favorite things was a book of Russian Folktales and I very quickly became obsessed with the story of Prince Ivan and the Firebird. When I started this sketch, I intended for it to be completely firebird-centric. It quickly turned into a sketch of my favorite symbols that I remember from the book.

...I have no idea what happened to that book. Hm.


by Dani Selvaggio

Happy 2012, everyone! My resolution this year is - once I've gotten through my long list of commissioned projects that I'm working on - to do more art for myself. The last few days have been especially fruitful: I got a new set of watercolors for Christmas and just played around with them all weekend. The next couple of posts will be some examples of what resulted from that...mostly just playful sketches, nothing of too much depth!

First up is KEYBOARD. I've started calling it that because everyone who has seen it starts referring to it as "that one with the keyboard." Well, why not? The sketch was outlined with ink and then I used masking fluid before applying the watercolors. I also used a technique of defining some edges with tape (just good ol' scotch tape leftover from Christmas wrapping) and did a sort of layered watercolor application.

To say that I feel like this at work a lot is an understatement. Art is life...I can't even begin to explain how suffocating it is when you're trapped in a little box without any windows in sight for the majority of your waking hours.

...not to worry, viewers! The next few posts are not so angsty-dramatic! Enjoy!