All posts by Uncommon Canvas

The Uncommon Canvas is an art blog featuring self-taught artists, visionary art environments, unusual places, and art made with non-traditional materials. It also includes art project ideas.

David Greenhalgh

Hello! Today we are rolling out our second interview from our artist interview series! Below is a recent interview with the incredibly talented David Greenhalgh of Green Phoenix Relics. David is an award-winning mixed media artist who works and lives in Los Angeles, California. He transforms vintage found objects and cast-offs into stunning works of art. Look at the intricate details of the artwork below! What an incredible way to repurpose things.

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Uncommon Canvas: When did you start making art? 

David: Having been brought up in a family of “Creatives” in Southern California, as far back as I can remember I was surrounded by people who were constantly making beautiful objects: My dad painted, made stained glass art and worked with photography while my mother made jewelry and shell ornaments/frames/baskets which she then sold in her gift shop in San Juan Capistrano. Our family also participated in The Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach, which was a great way to see all the local artisan’s different work. Besides my mom & dad, my mother’s sister worked as an animator for an Oscar-winning animation director and my brother designed surf clothing. The cool thing about being exposed to so many different ways in which to express oneself creatively was that I learned (and was encouraged) from a young age to explore any kind of artistic expression that piqued my interest. I think that’s why I enjoy working in 3-dimensional Mixed Media, because I get to incorporate almost anything I find interesting into my work. So, to answer your question, I’ve been creating since I was a kid. 

Read more…

Llanor Alleyne

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Today, I am excited to share these exceptional works of art by mixed-media artist, Llanor Alleyne. These really blow my mind. So gorgeous.

Llanor was born in Barbados, raised in New York, and is currently living in Tulsa. Her work is represented by Leonard Tourné Gallery in New York. Llanor’s first exhibition, Fugitive Ecologies, runs through November 15, 2020 and can be viewed online or by private viewing through the gallery. Check it out!

Here is a description of her process from her artist statement:

“Llanor Alleyne’s collages and illustrations explore metaphorical and physical inversion, often employing tearing, cutting, and layering of abstract, figurative, and floral shapes to interrogate empathetic feminine connections to nature while alluding to emotional disruptions that teem just beyond a first or second glance. Influenced by her surroundings as well as imagined landscapes, Llanor creates abstract paintings and drawings on mylar and paper that are the basis of her collages. The lines, colors, and curves of these impermanent abstract “first works” are the vernacular of her recent work—structuring figurative silhouettes and dictating their final emergence as whole, often lone female depictions, while sharing “first work” DNA across several portraits.” 

Learn more about her work at www.llanoralleyne.com. And read this great recent interview with Llanor on Visionary Art Collective.

Rachel Berkowitz

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 When one is alone in nature, the environment acts as a source of self-inflicted reflections and mental re-evaluations.

Rachel Berkowitz

Are these paintings not balm for the soul? These are part of the series, Illusion of Risk, by artist Rachel Berkowitz. Rachel is an emerging artist living in Los Angeles. We recently got acquainted with Rachel and her work, which focuses on the spiritual elements behind risk-taking, fate and chance “using natural landscapes as a primary creative resource.” She is a painter, printmaker, and photographer. Rachel shares thoughts about her artwork and process below.

My artwork prior to the global pandemic was all about gambling and taking everyday risks. I realized during this contemplative time that there’s a mental gamble in every choice we make. Now, even simple tasks, such as going to the grocery store, initiate additional risk factors that were not present prior to 2020.

When I depict the spiritual elements behind risk-taking, fate, and chance, I am simultaneously conceptualizing these elements, as well as representing them in a surrealist manner. There are particular symbols that I have associated with good luck; some easily recognizable, like a four leaf clover, a diamond or the lucky number seven. Others are in the form of flowers and plants, associated with good fortune derived from ancient societies and traditional rituals.

However, I do conceive spirituality to be a feeling, rather than a particular shape or form. The abstract work I make reflects this ideology in the brush strokes, compositions and careful color choices. Visually, I have also been inspired by natural landscapes from National Parks across the U.S. To me, the most spiritual and grounding feeling one can ever sense is from being surrounded by nature. When one is alone in nature, the environment acts as a source of self-inflicted reflections and mental re-evaluations.

At the current moment, I am most focused on a photography project on portraits of Los Angeles psychics and modern mystics. I am fascinated by both the aesthetic qualities as well as the mental capacity needed for this business to operate. I find it wondrous and completely exhilarating that psychics are able to help people with everyday problems as a means of therapy and spiritual guidance/healing.”

Rachel’s book based on this photo series will be available online for pre-orders, along with an expected gallery showing of the photographs in early 2021 at Gallery 1202. Check out her other photography series here.

Thank you for sharing your work and inspiring words with us, Rachel! We look forward to seeing your book when it is released! For more info, please visit her website: Rachel Berkowitz.

New Interview Series! Kat Brandao

Hello folks! We are excited to launch a new artist interview series today. Our goal with this series is to provide a platform for artists to share their process, advice, and inspiration in their own words. We recently interviewed Kat Brandao, a self-taught artist who lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more about her below, and get the added bonus of a Fall recipe!

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Uncommon Canvas: When did you start making art? 

Kat: I started making art about seven years ago. In my first attempt at painting I thought I was going to paint a poem, then I quickly fell in love with colors which led me to try abstract paintings. Once I started, I was hooked. 

Uncommon Canvas: What are your favorite materials to use?

Kat: I really enjoy experimenting with different materials. I use acrylic as my base and I like to incorporate wax crayons, painting markers, charcoal, graffiti, and anything I can get my hands on, really. I also like to try using different materials for mark making. For example, I have used leaves and wood that I’ve found during hikes in some of my paintings. I’ve also used the plastic wrap covering my canvases as an art tool. 

Uncommon Canvas: What inspires you when making art?

Kat: I find inspiration in everyday events where emotions are present; some examples are my walks in nature, my interactions with others, my dreams and my reality. Seeing, listening to, and making art in other forms also informs and supports my painting process. I find baking very inspiring, as an art and a connection with my grandmother, who taught me how to bake. 

Read more…

A Quick Update!

Hello friends & art lovers!

I finally set up an Instagram account for this blog. Follow @theuncommoncanvas on Instagram. It’s an easy way to stay up to date on posts, especially if you are trying to cut down on e-mails. I don’t know about you, but my inbox has been flooded lately! Of course, I will still send out the blog post updates vie e-mail if you are subscribed and prefer that. (I only send about one e-mail per week and only if there is a new post up.)

I will be posting additional content on Instagram, including artists not featured on this blog and book recommendations. Find me there and let’s connect!

One more thing! I should also mention that we have a new artist submission page here. After receiving many e-mails from artists about their work, I decided to create this submission form to make it a more streamlined process. If your art falls along the lines of the work shown on this blog, I would love to share it if it seems to be a good fit.

Take care and stay well!

Featured Artist: Marlon Mullen

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MARLON MULLEN is a painter living in California. He has been a participating studio artist at NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development) Art Center in Richmond, CA, since 1993.

NIAD is a visual arts program located in Richmond, CA. that promotes creative expression, independence, dignity, and community integration for artists with disabilities. Mullen is on the autism spectrum and is mostly non-verbal. As with many disabled artists, his art serves as a way for him to communicate and transcend barriers.

NIAD describes this in more detail:

“He certainly has his own understanding of meaning when it comes to words. Specifically regarding the content of his paintings, he has not verbally communicated at length his intent or fascination with the images that he copies. However, his paintings are sufficient in informing us of the nuances of what he sees.”

Mullen works from found photographs or art magazines (Art Forum or Art in America) which he transforms into obscure, bold colors and shapes. His art has been shown at many notable galleries and has been included in several exhibitions. His work was featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial as well as in SFMOMA’s SECA Art Awards exhibition.

Mullen’s work is represented by JTT in New York and Adams and Ollman in Oregon. He is a great example of an artist who was able to overcome obstacles that normally prevent inclusion in the art world.

“Just a few years ago, the idea that artists with developmental disabilities working in progressive art studios could develop serious careers as contemporary artists seemed idealistic and almost unattainable…These contemporary icons of the progressive art studio movement, however, demonstrate the great promise of inclusive culture – highly original ideas and fascinating new paradigms for understanding and defining art-making.”

– Disparate Minds: Marlon Mullen and Helen Rae (February 2019)

If interested in learning more about his work, please visit JTT (for purchase inquiries) or NIAD. NIAD has a long list of other talented artists to explore. Below is a video from SFMOMA showing Mullen working in the studio. Enjoy!


Image credits (top to bottom):
#1 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2018, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches
#2 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2018, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches
#3 Marlon Mullen, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 41 x 48 inches

Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice or permitted.


The Magical Realms of Aleksandra Apocalisse

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Aleksandra Apocalisse is a self-taught artist living in Portland, Oregon. Originally from the USSR, she lived most of her life in New York until moving to Portland in 2015. She studied behavioral neuroscience and has a broad and interesting range of experience including working as a circus arts teacher, science teacher, a counselor, and an organic farmer. She is currently a full-time professional artist working with acrylics, watercolors, and pen. Her prints are available for purchase on Etsy at ApocalisseArt, and she is a vendor at Portland Saturday Market.

Aleksandra describes her art below:

“For me, art is more than just a passion or a career. It is my therapist, my teacher, my guide, my meditation, and my truest form of communication. My artworks are, for the most part, bits of my subconscious mind in their attempts to become conscious content. I often get lost in my works, as I immerse myself in ineffable themes and ideas such as death, attachment, connection, the trap of memory, and many more. I like to incorporate in my artworks literary ideas and song lyrics that touch me. I am also greatly inspired by any rock, leaf, fruit, tree, mountain, pair of eyes, or body of water that I happen upon.”

More information about her artwork is available on Aleksandra’s website: www.apocalisseart.com. There is also a great article about her life and process here.


Image credits: (from top to bottom):
Aleksandra Apocalisse, Ghosts
Aleksandra Apocalisse, Cosmic Heron
Aleksandra Apocalisse, Cosmic Bear

Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice.

In The Flowers: The Art of Annie Randall

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These beautiful hand-printed cyanotypes were created by the self-taught artist Annie Randall. Annie lives in Bristol, UK. Her work explores the relationship between humans and nature, and the deep need for humans to reconnect to the natural world. Her art delivers an important message – especially during these times. Here is an excerpt from the artist’s website:

“Much of the work shown here was created during the coronavirus lockdown, where the world quickly came to a halt, and our personal worlds suddenly became much smaller. Undoubtedly a difficult and tumultuous time for many, our interactions, smell, touch and feel became restricted. It highlighted humanity’s need for these sensations, both with people and nature.

We’ve become observers of nature, fearful of the unknown, yet equally destructive in our path. Multiple narratives (colonialism, patriarchy, capitalism) perpetuate this relationship, which permeates into the intimate relationships with each other and ourselves. We’re taught to be individual, but we’re intrinsically social just as multiple animals and plants communicate with one another for sustenance and support. My work questions these toxic relationships that we have with the natural world and ourselves, so that we might be able to conjure new connections, and develop a deeper appreciation and awareness of our place in the living world.”

Annie uses her sketches and photos to create digital negatives for her prints, which she then places on cotton paper and leaves in the sun. The above artworks are printed on handmade paper made from recycled t-shirts. (You know we love seeing artists creatively reuse materials to create their work!) Her process is described in more detail here.

In addition to cyanotype prints, the artist also creates pencil sketches, and sometimes works with watercolors and oil. Her work can be purchased on her website: www.annierandallart.com. Annie is donating 10% of the proceeds from the sale of her artwork to the Free Black University Fund.

Best of luck to you, Annie, and thank you for letting us share your artwork!


Artwork credit (from top to bottom): 
 Annie Randall, Plant Head
Annie Randall, Moon Face Flowers
Annie Randall, In the Flowers


Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not nice.

Anna Zemánková

 “I am growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else.” 

Anna Zemánková from “The Dawn Drawings of Anna Zemánková” by Jo Farb Hernandez in Raw Vision, No. 14, Spring 1996. 40-45.
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Anna Zemánková is a self-taught artist known for her beautifully abstract and imaginative botanical drawings. Anna (1908-1986) was born in Olomouc, Moravia (now the Czech Republic).  She loved making art as a child but was told to focus on more practical pursuits. She became a dental technician, married an army officer, and devoted her time to raising her children. 

From the outside, Anna’s life appeared full with the busy activities of family life, yet she often felt like she was missing something. She still carried sorrow from the loss of her first born son and began to feel more depressed about the state of her life.

In her early 50s, needing a positive outlet to manage her depression, she turned to art again. One of her three sons was a sculptor, and he happily encouraged her to channel her sadness into art. He helped her buy art supplies and from there her creativity took off. She worked on her drawings in the early morning hours while the house was quiet and still. In the 1970s, Anna expanded her exploration of art, adding collage and embroidery.

Over the years, Anna hosted art showings or “open house” exhibitions. Her work gained the recognition it deserved after being viewed by French painter and sculptor, Jean DuBuffet. (DuBuffet coined the term art brut.) He included several of her pieces in the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne, which is the world’s most notable collection of outsider and self-taught art. Zemánková was also included in a show at Hayward Gallery in London in 1979. Since then, her works have been widely exhibited and cherished by many collectors.


More info and artwork images can be found at:
Cavin Morris Gallery
annazemankova.org


Please note that all images are copyright © of the individual artists, collectors, or gallerists and used on this blog for educational purposes. Selling, printing, or repurposing artwork without an artist’s permission is not cool!

Recycleart Sculpture Garden

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Nathan Nicholls 12 of 12 Recycleart Sculpture Garden
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Recycleart Sculpture Garden is located in Waldoboro, Maine. It was created by the late self-taught artist and welder, Nathan Nicholls. Through his art, Nathan encouraged others to think twice before throwing an object away. There is not an object out there that Nathan could not recycle into a beautiful artwork. He welded nails, tires, bike parts, and broken farm equipment into sculptures of owls, flowers, frogs, and cats. Even the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland makes an appearance in his garden.

Nathan was originally from Massachusetts. He moved to Maine after his teenage years. He took on odd jobs, from harvesting blueberries to repairing lawn mowers and motorcycles. The latter job introduced him to the beauty of scraps and discarded objects. Inspired by these objects, Nathan started making sculptures in the 1990s. In 2003, after his mother passed away, he began devoting even more time to his art in order to comfort himself. After many years of creating art, his 5 acres of land is now covered with sculptures.

Nathan passed away in 2014, at the age of 52. His family is working to preserve his artistic legacy. They are in the process of figuring out how to ensure the safety and longevity of his art, especially during the Maine winters. Ideally, it is best to keep an art environment as the artist left it but this leaves the risk of the artwork being destroyed. We hope they come up with a solution that works for them because his sculptures are truly unique and inspiring.

For more information, please visit the Facebook page for the site.