Tuesday, July 9, 2024

 Ravi’s Sitar

(2) 14”x36”x1.5” Diptych on Cradled Panel

Pigmented Porcelain Clay Slip Paint, Graphite, Acrylic 

It’s a rare honor to inspire another artist!

Here is the translated poem written by ©Dirk Englage.

Original follows translated version.

Here I am

and i play sitar.

my heart goes

through fingers,

strings, wooden case

on the way.

find it

through your ears

access to your heart,

let it sing 

that to cry,


or cheer,

quite possibly?

just air

between us

but carrier

of my heart

on the way

to you?

Dirk Engelage

Hier zit ik

en ik speel sitar.

Mijn hart gaat

via vingers,

snaren, houten kast

op weg.

Vindt het

via jouw oren

toegang tot je hart,

laat het dat zingen,



of juichen,

heel misschien?

Alleen maar lucht

tussen ons in

maar draagster

van mijn hart

op weg

naar jou?

Thursday, June 27, 2024

What is the Role of Activist Art Today?



Mixed medium on Spunbonded Canvas. 

Artist: Melissa Erlenbach


There are times when, just like so many artists before me, my work reflects the contemporary social, economic, and political climate. I believe that art is a powerful medium for commentary and critique. It has the ability to capture the essence of a moment in time, to highlight issues that need attention, and to inspire change. When I create, I am often influenced by the world around me – the struggles, the triumphs, the questions, and the answers. My art is a reflection of my perspective, shaped by my experiences and observations. It is a response to the times in which I live. I hope that my work will challenge people to think, to feel, and to act. Through my art, I strive to contribute to the important conversations of our time, to bring awareness to key issues, and to be a part of creating positive change in the world. 

Art has long been a powerful medium for social and political commentary. From the bold graphics of Shepard Fairey's "Obey Giant" campaign to the provocative performances of Marina Abramovic, creative works have the ability to challenge our perceptions, spark conversation, and even inspire action. When tied to a specific cause or movement, art can become a potent tool for activism.

One of the most compelling aspects of activist art is its ability to distill complex issues into striking, easily digestible visuals. A well-crafted piece can cut through the noise of our information-saturated world, grabbing attention and making a point in a way that words alone often cannot. This is particularly true for painting, a medium that can be both deeply personal and universally relatable.

The vibrant, large-scale murals of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's introspective self-portraits addressed the struggles of the working class and the experiences of women in Mexican society. Their works not only raised awareness about these issues but also helped to humanize the people affected by them, fostering empathy and understanding that can be a crucial step towards change.

Of course, the impact of activist art extends beyond the gallery walls. Street artists like Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat have used their work to challenge authority and bring attention to social injustices in the most public of forums. Basquiat's raw, expressive paintings highlighted the experiences of African Americans, while Banksy's subversive stencils have tackled everything from war to climate change.

These artists, and many others like them, demonstrate the power of painting as a form of activism. By combining compelling visuals with powerful messages, they have the ability to challenge, provoke, and ultimately inspire us to take action. As Ai Weiwei once said, "Art is not only a reflection of society, but also a catalyst for change."

In an era where social and political issues seem more pressing than ever, the role of activist art is more crucial than ever. As artists continue to find innovative ways to express their visions and challenge the status quo, their work has the potential to spark meaningful dialogue, shift perspectives, and even drive tangible change.

If you are looking to harness the power of painting for activism, the key is to find a cause that resonates deeply with you. What issues do you feel most passionately about? How can you use your unique voice and vision to shed light on these problems and inspire others to take action? The most powerful activist art comes from a place of authenticity and conviction.

From there, consider how you can make your work as impactful as possible. This might involve creating large-scale, attention-grabbing pieces or using bold, easily recognizable imagery. It could also mean taking your art directly to the people, whether through street murals or online platforms. The goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible and spark a reaction.

Ultimately, the power of activist art lies in its ability to challenge, provoke, and inspire. By combining powerful messages with compelling visuals, artists have the ability to shift perspectives, spark dialogue, and even drive change. As the world continues to grapple with complex social and political issues, the role of painting as a form of activism will only continue to grow. - Melissa Erlenbach

Are you Ready to Develop Your Activist Painting Style?

  1. Identify Your Cause: What issue burns brightly in your heart? Climate change, racial justice, women's rights, animal welfare? Your passion will shine through in your art.
  2. Study the Masters: Look at artists who've used their work as activism. Diego Rivera's political murals, Frida Kahlo's depiction of Mexican culture, Keith Haring's pop art commentary on 80s issues.
  3. Develop Your Visual Language: Will you use bold colors and abstract shapes or realistic images with powerful text? Practice different techniques to find what conveys your message best.
  4. Create a Series: Focus on your cause from different angles. This builds a body of work that can't be ignored. Think Guernica's anti-war paintings.
  5. Engage Your Audience: Don't just paint - write about your art's meaning. Title pieces provocatively. Use social media to share your process and finished work. Build a community.

How Activist Art Makes a Difference

  1. Raises Awareness: Art reaches people emotionally, making issues harder to ignore. Think of the impact of photographs from Civil Rights Movements.
  2. Inspires Action: Seeing powerful visuals can move people to donate, volunteer, or contact representatives. Your art can be a call to arms.
  3. Humanizes Statistics: When we see faces and stories, numbers become people. This empathy can create lasting change.
  4. Provides Solace: For those already fighting the good fight, activist art can be a comforting reminder they're not alone.
  5. Leaves a Legacy: Long after a protest ends, art remains, continuing to educate future generations. It can be a timeless rallying cry.

Remember: The most important thing is to create from a place of love and a desire for justice, and authenticity. Your unique voice matters. Keep learning, keep painting, keep shouting your truth into the world.

Monday, June 10, 2024

(a tutorial)

Creating an abstract painting that evolves from  a written narrative into a visual representation of that story is a fascinating process. It allows you to translate words and actions into shapes, colors, and textures. Unlike painting from an emotional or healing perspective, this approach focuses on storytelling through visual elements. Creating an abstract painting in this way is not just about the visual outcome; it's about the process of transforming personal narratives into something universal.

Step 1: Choose Your Story

Select a story that has personal significance to you. The emotional connection to the content will translate into your artwork.

Your narrative can be anything—a myth, a personal memory, a scene from a book, a poem, written work, or even a moment from a movie. Select a story that intrigues you and has strong visual elements.

Step 2: Prepare Your Canvas

Choose a canvas size that feels comfortable for you to work on. Prepare the canvas by applying a layer of gesso if it's not already primed. This will help the paint and ink to adhere better to the surface.

Step 3: Write Your Story

Using a pencil, pen, or brush with thinned paint, (in my demo, I am using thinned out oil paint and cold wax oil on cradle panel) begin writing your story on the canvas. Write it out as many times as you can, overlaying the text, until the canvas is filled. The writing does not need to be legible; it's the act of writing and the layers that will contribute to the final piece.

Step back and observe the patterns, textures, and shapes that have emerged from the overlapping text. You may start to see figures, shapes, or forms that stand out to you. Reflect on what these shapes might represent in the context of your story.

Step 5: Enhance the Shapes -This step is optional

If you choose to, using a lighter pencil or a thin brush, outline any shapes or figures that you want to develop further. This may help these areas to stand out as you begin to add color. 

(I go straight to painting and omit this step in my demo)

Step 6: Introduce Color

Choose a color palette that resonates with the mood and theme of your story. For instance, a character's passion might be symbolized by a fiery red swirl, or a tranquil scene could be shown through soft blue strokes. Colors carry meanings and can set the mood of your painting. Textures can add depth and interest. If your story is intense and dramatic, sharp contrasts and heavy textures might work well. A softer narrative might call for pastel colors and smooth transitions. 

To apply color to your canvas, work into the shapes and figures you've outlined. Use brushes, sponges, or even your fingers to apply the paint, allowing your intuition to guide your choices.

Step 7: Develop the Composition

As you add color, pay attention to the balance and composition of the piece. Adjust your shapes and the intensity of your colors to create a harmonious composition that feels right to you.

Step 8: Layer and Texture

Continue to layer the paint, adding texture and depth to the painting. You can use different techniques such as dripping, splattering, sgrafitto, or scraping to add interest and dimension.

Step 9: Eliminate the Words

Work over the canvas until the initial words you wrote are no longer visible. Your painting should now be moving away from a literal narrative and towards a visual representation of your story.

Step 10: Finalize Your Visual Language

Step back from your work frequently to assess the overall effect. Make any final adjustments to ensure that the painting feels complete to you. Your story is now told in a visual language that is unique to you.

Step 11: Reflect on Your Journey

Once you feel your painting is complete, spend some time with it. Step back from your work. Does the painting evoke the narrative? If a stranger looked at your painting, you wouldn't expect them to know the story, but you would hope they feel a sense of it. Make adjustments as needed to enhance the storytelling.

Remember, abstract art from a narrative is not about painting a clear picture but about creating a visual experience that echoes the essence of the story. Embrace the freedom of interpretation and enjoy the process of translating words into your unique visual language. Reflect on the journey you took from the written word to the abstract visual

Friday, May 24, 2024

Why Do We Need Optimistic Art?

Optimistic Art plays a crucial role in society as it serves as a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive change. In a world often saturated with negative news and challenging circumstances, optimistic art can provide an essential escape, uplifting the human spirit and inspiring resilience. It encourages viewers to envision a brighter future, fostering a sense of possibility and progress amidst adversity.

The importance of such art lies not only in its ability to generate joy and hope but also in its power to motivate action. When people see representations of a more harmonious and joyful world, they are more likely to strive towards creating that reality. This vision can manifest in small personal changes or broader societal shifts, with art serving as both the mirror and the map for improvement.

Furthermore, optimistic art can be a unifying force, transcending cultural and linguistic barriers to deliver a universal message of positivity. In times of division, art that embodies optimism can remind us of our common humanity and shared aspirations for peace, love, and contentment.

Lastly, the creation of optimistic art is a testament to the resilience of artists themselves, who choose to focus on the light in the midst of darkness. Their work not only enriches cultural landscapes but also encourages others to find their own creative voice to express hope and joy, perpetuating a cycle of positivity that can ripple through communities and across generations.

Ready to create your own optimistic art? Click here for 4 projects to get you started and enjoy the journey!


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Abstract Art stands apart as an art form without the need 

for storytelling or recognizable imagery. 

It exists in its own right, without needing external context to make sense.


Abstraction allows artists limitless visual exploration. It enables them to express emotions, 

explore aesthetics, and ponder deep philosophical questions, 

inviting viewers into a reflective and imaginative space.


The true value of abstract art emerges over time, 

as it requires repeated viewings to fully appreciate its complexity. 

Rather than offering instant gratification, it rewards those who engage 

with it persistently, by slowly unveiling its emotional resonance and significance.

- Melissa Erlenbach

Explore the slide shows to see examples of abstract art & discover some of its history

  Ravi’s Sitar (2) 14”x36”x1.5” Diptych on Cradled Panel Pigmented Porcelain Clay Slip Paint, Graphite, Acrylic  It’s a rare honor to inspir...