Category Archives: Self-Taught Artists/Artists

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…

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 Artists of Project Onward

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These artworks from Project Onward do a great job of lifting my spirits. I hope that you feel the same. We all need a break from the doom and gloom.

Project Onward is a studio and gallery located in Chicago that supports the work of artists with disabilities. Project Onward started in 2004 and currently has over 60 artists participating in the program.

I had the opportunity to volunteer there when I lived in Chicago. It will always be one of my favorite arts organizations. The artists are truly amazing people who have overcome many challenges, and their art is a way of healing and building their self-esteem while gaining well-deserved recognition for their talents. Their creativity is endless.

The artwork made by Project Onward artists ranges from spectacular glitter masterpieces to intricately detailed drawings. Some of the artists specialize in portraits, including amazing pet portraits. (I admit that I have a growing collection of pet portraits that I will cherish forever.) Artwork can be purchased through the online shop. Half of the proceeds go directly to the artists.

We exist to give artists with disabilities a “visual voice” to tell their stories and change the perceptions of the world. Project Onward is a studio and gallery dedicated to the creative growth of adult artists whose lives are impacted by mental illness and developmental disabilities. Our non-profit studio is inclusive and we embrace artists with a wide range of life experiences. Some are self-taught artists who have Autism, while some are formally-trained artists who have bipolar disorder. There are other artists with challenges that are equally complex. However, all of them willingly explore the innermost recesses of their minds to create powerful works of art. 

via Project Onward website

Artwork credit from top to bottom:
“Eden of the South Shore” by Blake Lenoir
“Butterfly” by Safiya Hameed
“Cat Family Picnic” by Ruby Bradford
Fantasy scene by Jacqueline Cousins

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.

The Art of Sofia Bonati

I instantly fell in love with these paintings! The patterns are so intricate and the female subjects have so much to say to us their bold stares. Sofia Bonati (1982 – ) is a self-taught artist and illustrator from Argentina. She was raised by two artists and learned a lot from observing them. She arrived at her own artistic career in 2013, shortly after moving to England. Her work quickly gained recognition from galleries and collectors. Working with gouache or watercolor, she creates these striking portraits of female subjects. 

“At first, I drew men and women alike. I’m not sure why I ended up creating mostly female portraits. My style used to be caricature-like and surreal; discovering other artists, their techniques and style helped me develop my own.”

Society6 interview with artist

More of Sofia’s work can be viewed on her Facebook or Instagram pages, and her prints are available for sale on Society6.


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. Images in this post are © Sofia Bonati.

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
Nathan Nicholls 5 of 12 Recycleart Sculpture Garden

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.

Featured Artist: Kevin Sampson

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We recently returned from a trip to Mystic, Connecticut, where we got to see the work of Kevin Sampson – an incredibly talented self-taught and community based artist living in Newark, New Jersey. His work is currently on display at the Mystic Seaport Museum as part of their artist residency program. 

During the summer of 2018, Sampson stayed on a boat docked near the museum as he and the staff worked on preparing the exhibition. Community members and museum visitors were invited to learn about his work and process.

Read more…

Featured Artist: JJ Cromer

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Bruised with a Mouth Full of News Featured Artist JJ Cromer
JJ Cromer, Bruised with a Mouth Full of News
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JJ Cromer (1967 -) is a self-taught artist originally from West Virginia. JJ and his family currently live on a farm in Pound, Virginia with a flock of geese, chickens, and other animal friends.

Although not formally trained in art, JJ obtained a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in writing and library science. He went on to work as a librarian for several years until he discovered his passion for art.

In 1998, shortly after he was married, JJ decided to make art to cover the blank walls of his new home. At the same time, he had reached a point of frustration with his librarian job and was eager to try something new. Devoting as much time as possible to art and through trial and error, he developed his unique and obsessively detailed artistic style. He has been making art ever since and is now represented by galleries, including two of our favorites: Henry Boxer and Grey Carter.

JJ’s work is also featured in private and public collections, including the High Museum of Art, The American Visionary Art Museum, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, and The Taubman Museum of Art.

For more information, check out jjcromer.com and watch this video interview with a former staff member from Intuit: the Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art.


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 cool! Images in this post are © JJ Cromer, jjcromer.com.