Photos above: Dia de los Muertos 2014
Photographers Todd Powers and Ande Castaneda
Models Berlin and Lucy Cruz
Hair Styles by Jen Raven and Ande Castaneda
Makeup Artist Ande Castaneda
Body Art and Hair Accessories by Jen Raven
Wardrobe by Jen Raven and Lucy Cruz
Special thanks to Fortino Alvarez
Photo left: BTS with artist Jen Raven and model Lucy Cruz
Photo below: BTS with Fortino Alvzrez, Todd Powers,
Jen Raven, Ande Castaneda, Berlin, Lucy Cruz
I've started working on a new series, in ink and acrylic on canvas. Each piece begins with a rough figurative sketch over written lines of prose or poetry, and then layers of acrylic gesso, paint and more sketch are build up on top of the words.
the lines unread 14x11" acrylic on canvas 2014
Over the last six months, Todd has been teaching himself the art of crafting costume armor pieces out of foam. He's starting to get pretty good at it, and he's just received his first commission request.
I am collaborating with Todd on this project; we discussed what our client requested, and I drafted a master pattern for the arm guards, which I then copied onto a square of canvas, to create a sturdy template.
Todd will use the template to cut and mold foam pieces for the arm guards; he will do the majority of the work on them, from here.
Progress photos, drafting the pattern:
Todd is nearly finished with the arm guards. His progress:
The arm-guards are nearly finished.
It's time for me to step in again, and help complete the guards. Studio Cat is on hand, to supervise.
Before I stitch the pleather trim together to form straps, I'm sure to wipe a bit of silicone spray over the top of the trim, so that the pleather doesn't catch on the presser foot and wreck the tensions --and break my machine. I learned that lesson the hard way, a few years back!
After the pleather becomes straps, I sew on the buckles, then we sew and epoxy the straps to the guards. We add grommets to the straps, Todd pops in the LED lights, and Studio Cat gives her final approval. The project is complete and the client is ready for Labyrinth Masquerade!
More progress photos:
Rawr! Client Claire Rock is ready for the Labyrinth Masquerade.
Follow Todd on Facebook, to see more costume armor and other projects.
Follow my Facebook page, to see more of Studio Cat.
"I'm so much cuter than that costume armor. Pay attention to ME."
'Please Keep Off The Grass' is my tongue-in-cheek response to the ongoing debates concerning marijuana and its legalization.
This work is 14x11" acrylic on artist-wrapped canvas. It has wire hanging hardware on back, and is available for purchase.
Below: Work in-progress shots of 'Please Keep Off The Grass' from completed line work to finished painting.
'Please Keep Off The Grass' 2014
14x11" acrylic on artist-wrapped canvas
Portfolio Photography by Todd Powers
My first Los Angeles exhibit -and I'm so excited! This is a mail-in exhibit, with participants sending in work from around the world --Asia, Europe, South America, as well as all over the USA and Canada.
'PAIN' group exhibit, curated by Ted Meyer, is hosted by The Gallery at the LRC, the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. In the slide show; my shown works are #90 and #91.
In April, I had postcards created through my PIXELS page, of a few paintings that fit this theme, and I also printed two photos from my first concept shoot as director, which also fit the theme. Below, a slideshow of how I prepared a few of my works for mailing, and another from the day of the exhibit opening:
I also created some new work to wear, for the opening reception. "We get by with a little help from our friends" seemed appropriate, given the overall theme of the exhibit.
"PAIN"runs May 7 through August 30th, 2014, at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.
These last few weeks have been all about the chickens.
... And also, about paints, fabrics, wires, clock parts ... and plenty of five minute epoxy.
I've been creating a new collection of work, especially for Bunny Gunner Gallery's 'All U Can Eat' small works group exhibit, opening in Claremont CA this weekend, 4.4.14.
The title of this collection is 'We get by with a little help from our friends,' and each work tells a different set of stories within that theme.
Each small work explores larger truths, concerning the ways that we, as people, depend upon one another, to get by --regardless of our age, station, or situation.
'Out of the Frying Pan' 3.5x7"
I don't know where I would be, if not for all the help and support I've been fortunate enough to receive, over the years; teachers and mentors, colleagues and patrons, family and friends --these fine people make all the difference. And I am so grateful.
My husband makes costume armor out of foam sheets, and the scraps from his work come in handy (or, help me get by! ) when small, delicate pieces like these are ready to ship: Each one will travel securely within it's own custom-built case, inside the box.
Hanging hardware is on; labels are secured, and the pieces are ready to ship!
'All U Can Eat' is a popular exhibit, and many pieces had already flown off the wall by the time we got there ... including a few of my own works!
By the time we arrived, 'Escape Artists' had already flown the coop!
Sales had been made, all over the gallery --and with good reason! The work in this exhibit is consistently excellent, year after year. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be included in an exhibit like this, with so many skilled and talented artists.
Another of my pieces sold, while we were at the exhibit!
'Out of the Frying Pan' sold right in front of me!
Evidence of sales was present all over the gallery, in the form of lovely little red sale stickers, and holes in the neat lines of beautiful artworks, still available for sale.
"One of the great grounds of study for all of the arts is friendship. Arrive daily without expectation of your friends, only gratitude and understanding." ~John Gielgud
With friend and colleague, artist Lisa Klassen-Barnes, at the 'All U Can Eat' exhibit
To see more photos from the exhibit, please visit Bunny Gunner's photo album of this event on facebook.
Event photos by Todd Powers
Portfolio photos of artworks by Todd Powers
In May of 2013, I had the pleasure of working with model Jin n' Tonic, for a body painting photo project we titled 'Dandelion.' I was inspired to continue with the dandelion theme on canvas, and early this year I finished 'Long Way to Somewhere' (acrylic on canvas 10x8"):
'A long way to somewhere' is an homage to the poet David Whyte.; this line was taken from his work, 'Glentrasna,' which spoke to me on a very personal level, as I worked my way through the project. An excerpt from this poem wound up on the project board, and kept me inspired in the weeks leading up to the shoot.
". . . and horizons held their own unspoken promise,
that grief could be its own cure . . .
. . . as if even the sharpest pain
could be a long way to somewhere after all . . ."
~David Whyte, excerpt from 'Glentrasna'
On a personal level, working with the dandelion theme over the past six months has been wonderfully healing. I'm so grateful for paint; for poetry; for people.
Slideshow: Progression of 'Long Way to Somewhere' (May 24, 2013 - January 1, 2014):
Progression photos of 'long way to somewhere' by Jen Raven
Portfolio photos of 'long way to somewhere' by Todd Powers
Update! Photos from my collaboration work "One" with Todd Powers and Alala Archer have joined a new group arts exhibit, "PAIN" at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in the Gallery at the LRC .
Chickens appear often in my work.
Born with wings, but rarely given the chance to fly, they represent deep, often unsatisfied longing, for that which cannot be --for paths not taken; for unrealized dreams; for unrequited love.
I've recently had the opportunity to play with my theme of chickens in a new medium: Concept Photography.
I've been working with Todd (my husband) on his photography projects for many years, as a set dresser, designer, and manager, as a body painter and costumer. I enjoy this work; it provides opportunities to stretch my creative muscles, and think outside the bounds of my usual mediums, the canvas or mixed media.
This was to be my first photo shoot as director. I pitched my concept to Todd, and to model Alala Archer; we all agreed on a test of the concept, to get our minds working.
I collected my supplies and grew the necessary properties for my concept:
For several weeks, lemon seedlings adorned my windowsill.
The day of the test shoot arrived. The "test" however, produced such lovely results --too lovely not to publish. We decided to properly edit this set, and release it:
I have titled this set "One," with a nod to the old axiom:
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
Photographer: Todd Powers
Model and MUA: Alala Archer
Concept, Direction, and Properties: Jen Raven
With this shoot, I was hoping to do more than continue my theme of broken dreams (represented through chicken imagery); I was also exploring the unexpected opportunities which often arise out of thwarted plans, if one is present enough to be able to see them. As the saying goes; every cloud has a silver lining. In this way, my 'One' series is also a bridge to my 'Dine-In, Take-Out' series:
Dust is a real problem in Bakersfield; fabrics and other materials often need storage options that will keep the dust out, between projects. For several years, my stash solution was plastic storage bins, on the studio closet shelf:
These bins are heavy and awkward; I found myself avoiding sewing projects, just because I didn't want to wrangle the storage bins. So I decided to make a change.
First, I gave the studio books a new home in another room, to clear the shelf I wanted:
If I want to store my fabrics on a shelf, I need to transform that shelf into a dust-free cabinet. I asked Todd for his input; we decided on clear sliding doors. That way, it would be easy to see what I had on hand.
First, Todd re-purposed some old screen framing into sliding-door tracks:
We used 5-minute epoxy to fix the tracks to the shelf, top and bottom:
A double-row of repurposed screen framing, top and bottom, to hold the doors:
Studio Cat 'helping' with the project:
While Todd and Studio Cat finished the tracks, I pulled plastic sheets from several old poster frames, to create our sliding doors:
We measured and marked the plastic, and then cut it to size with the hot knife. We used a large scrap of old mat board to protect the cut table from the hot knife:
Once the plastic was cut, it fit right into the tracks, no problem.
After cutting, we used the epoxy to fix that scrap of mat board to the back of the shelf, to keep the dust out. Then we moved my fabric stash into its new cabinet:
Now my fabric is eye-level; it's easy to see and reach. The doors slide to either side,
or can be easily removed and replaced, if necessary.
I don't have to wrangle those heavy fabric bins, any more.
This entire project was done in one evening, with re-purposed materials we had on hand. Didn't cost a dime. No more pulling heavy bins down from high shelves.
This project has been approved by Studio Cat.
My first Red Carpet at Costume College!
How did I wind up in this line?!
After five years of watching, this year I jumped in, though not voluntarily: Every year we go down early to catch a good spot, take photos and see the costume parade. This year, I had planned a costume, but didn't finish it in time.
Studio Cat, 'helping' me with my costume, which, partly thanks to all her help, was unfinished in time for CoCo.
I decided to bring my Dia de los Muertos outfit instead, for the night of the Red Carpet, but I was definitely not planning on walking; I just wanted to watch.
Because painting my face took longer than I had planned, we were late to arrive, and it was crowded. We were trying to make our way to the end, where we could catch the best shots; there was a bottleneck at a narrow part of the hall, and somehow I got stuck in the line --definitely not on purpose-- and then I couldn't get out; I was surrounded on all sides by a fast-moving river of crinoline skirts, poufy sleeves, and fantastic wigs.
I was caught between THIS:
I realized that, if I wanted to make a run for it, I'd have to push past someone's beautiful costume and possibly smudge it with my face paint. I was trapped. And where was Todd? He'd escaped ... and he was laughing his ass off, at me. Cameras were snapping everywhere and people were asking me questions about my paint and I realized with horror that I was caught, and in line with some of the most amazing costumes in the room --and I'm wearing a nine dollar dress from Ross.
Coming out of the bottleneck in the hall and realizing, with horror, that I am in the line.
As soon as I could escape, I did. I doubled back to a safe corner where I wouldn't have to worry about getting paint on anyone, and fortunately ran into a few friends, who laughed at my discomfiture, and one of them told me that nobody could see me blushing, because I was wearing paint. Good point.
With Patty at the Red Carpet; her costume is divine!
This experience was especially intimidating to me, because it was the best Red Carpet I've ever seen at CoCo ... or anywhere else, for that matter. I must not have been the only one who thought so, because not long after CoCo was over, one of our more well-known members, Jennifer Rosbrugh, posted this comment on facebook:
"With all the chatter about Costume College & the great weekend we just had, I want to point out that this event is for EVERYONE -beginner & experienced alike. Seems CoCo is producing more & more fabulous hall costumes that can be quite intimidating even for us who've been around the block for years. This was not always the case. The event is for education and sharing, not trying to one-up another costumer. So as you make plans to come in 2014, remember you are very welcome -no matter what your skill level. More info: http://costumecollege.net/ ."
I really appreciated Jennifer's posting that. The parade of awesome is inspiring, but can also be a bit daunting. It's nice to be reminded that we all have to begin somewhere.
Todd and I at our first Costume College, 2007.
In spite of my feeling flustered, it was still a fantastic night:
Caught by Predators in the lobby!
Black and White ... and Red all over.
And then, there was THIS . . .
**head explodes from too much awesome**
Because I made us late, we didn't get photos of all the costumes this year. Fortunately, CoCo has a great Flickr album posted, from that night:
There are plenty of other photo collections online as well:
Bring on the wick jokes; we're making candles!
When we have enough old candle ends saved up, we melt them down to create new candles, with the rescued wax.
I braid candle wick with twine left over from Todd's photo shoots:
Masking tape, twist-ties and rubber bands ...
I like to think MacGyver would be proud:
Yes, there are a lot of other ways to get the wick to stay put.
No, I don't want to argue about them.
While I prep the molds, Todd chops the candle stubs into smaller chunks, removes anything that isn't wax, and creates his own version of a double-boiler--
--Yes, really: That is a glass Pyrex measuring cup filled with melting wax chunks, floating precariously in a pot of boiling water, over an open flame. Kids, don't try this at home (seriously, kids; don't. This is dangerous, and even kind of stupid, given all the things that could go wrong. You don't get to do this sort of thing until you're a grownup, at which point you really ought to know better).
Todd wrangles the (abused) Pyrex with a pot-holder, and pours the wax into the molds:
We leave the molds to cool overnight. Sometimes there's some sinking in the middles; Todd pours the last of the wax into the centers, making sure to soak the top wick in wax as well.
Occasionally, a bit of steam will become trapped between the wax and the glass. To be safe (because obviously, safety is our first priority), I pop the candles from the molds and let them air (you don't want any trapped water heating up under the glass; it could cause the glass to crack, possibly sending shrapnel in all directions).
These candles are a little off; so the fit right in, over here.
It takes about an hour to create them; we keep useful goodies out of the landfill; we save money on candles; Todd gets to do crazy (read: hazardous), things in the kitchen. Everybody wins!
Obviously, we aren't pros at this, or even hobbyists, and some of our methods are decidedly MacGyver-gone-Jackass. So, if you want to try this at home, please do your research first, because there are safer ways to pull it off.
It's not uncommon, in my studio, to be working on two, or even three paintings at once. I try to keep it at two; not because three is a crowd, but because my oldest easel is warped, and increasingly,
just a pain in the ass to use:
Not only warped, but bent (insert jokes here; you know you want to), the cross-pieces don't fit properly, and the bolt heads often slip right through the misshapen center groove:
Tonight I found myself in need of a third easel. I was sick of fighting with the old one, and decided to fix it. What I needed, I mused, were bigger washers. No; I needed giant washers. So I made a pair, with two old medication lids and the handy hot-knife:
Now, I had a pair of giant-sized washers to keep the bolts from slipping the groove; I was finally able to tighten the frame correctly, and get the pieces to fit.
Support leg no longer slipping and sliding:
Cross-piece fits the frame again! Woot:
No more issues with tipping or wobbling! She's back in business:
Old easel is now working good as new, and the repair didn't
cost me a dime. The whole project took about five minutes,
and I can get back to painting!
Todd has been working with model Jin n' Tonic on a series of monthly print releases, and they asked me to collaborate on 'May Flowers.' Lisa Klassen-Barnes agreed to bring her skills to the table, and we had a concept meeting in April.
Jin and I agreed that It would have been easy to slap a few roses on her and be done with it; but we wanted something more meaningful.
Dandelion, we discovered, is a significant bloom for both of us, and worthy of a labor-intensive project.
Dandelion is an outsider of sorts; a lovely wild flower, wrongly named a weed. Jin and I both appreciate Dandelion as an irreverent, tenacious little survivor --she flies on the wind and blooms wherever she lands; no shame, no apologies.
On the flip side; the Dandelion is tough to capture, visually. She's complicated ... One more reason to like her. I am still new to body painting, especially in color, and I had only ten days to research, sketch, plan . . . and practice, on anyone who would sit still (thank you, Lisa)!
The day of the shoot arrived, and I was nervous. The group had great energy, though, making it impossible to stay tense.
Lisa created something uniquely wild and beautiful with Jin's hair; And I was able to let myself get lost in the paint. The practice paid off, as I finished painting Jin sooner than I'd anticipated.
To complete her look, Todd air-brushed some blue-green into Jin's hair, and she was ready to go.
Jin, Todd, and Lisa had all been scouting potential locations, in the ten days I was learning Dandelion, so no time was wasted during the shoot, either.
(above and nsfw) behind the scenes video created by Jin n' Tonic!
(below) slide-show of Jin's four-hour transformation into the Dandelion:
To view Todd's finished edits from the shoot, please visit
my collaborations gallery, here at jenraven.com.
Dia de los Muertos celebration at First Friday Art Walk, Bakersfield CA.
"Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction."
It began with a wall.
A creative wall, that is, and one that I was eager to break through. I've been longing to finish up my current series, and move on to new things; but for one reason or another, I've been stuck --both on, and off, the canvas.
The take-out box has been for what you take with you, from your experiences in life. Dine In, Take Out. I've enjoyed playing with that idea.
The TV has been for the deliberate numbing, or drowning out, of that which you've taken, but you aren't ready to 'digest.' But lately, the TV has come to represent more of a cycle, for me; I worked on these same three pieces all summer, and I'd paint in the figures, only to paint them out, over and over again. I began to see the absurd in my creating, only to destroy, these three paintings ... I wasn't really getting anywhere.
The layers of gesso are really starting to pile up on these guys.
Whenever it goes thus for too long, I put aside my painting, and play with assemblage instead. Todd knows how much I love random found objects, and that's why he surprised me with the forks, which of course I loved, and put to good use:
These tiny silver forks are begging to become wearable art.
I'm a great believer in Serendipity, and this instance is no exception. The fork is an excellent visual representation for being 'Done!' -and I've really enjoyed playing with this whole new form of take-out; I feel that it mirrors my own situation perfectly. The time has come, it says, to clear your plate, so that you may be excused from the table. Release what is no longer necessary, and make room for new adventures.
Time to take this show on the road!
I've really let myself enjoy the forks, and I'm happy to say they've worked their way into my acrylics, as well.
The time has come, to push back from the table and say "No more Jell-O for me, Ma!"
I was ready to let the forks carry me to the finish line in 2012. What I wasn't prepared for, was the way other people would respond to the forks, and embrace the idea of being Done:
It seems I'm not the only one who's had a transformational year --I'm in good company, with folks who are ready to clean their plates and ask for dessert. They are quitting old jobs and finding new careers; they are finishing up college degrees or taking classes for the first time; they are putting aside old heartaches and beginning new relationships.
They are saying 'Done' to the old, and making room for the new. Just being in their company has been energizing. I'm now feeling ready to tackle my studio full of half-finished paintings, and get some things Done, myself.
It ended with a wall:
We gathered for one last shot in front of the yellow wall, on the corner of 19th and Eye, to say "Stick a fork in me; I'm DONE!" What are you done with, as 2012 begins to wind down? What new adventures are you ready to make room for, in your life?
This photo above: David Karnowski Photography
All other photos: Todd Powers Photography
"Shiva is that aspect of the divine which is both creation and destruction -- the cosmic dancer who dances the universe into existence and non-existence at the same time, and outside of time." ~Sheila Chandra
Finished at last! 'Holding Pattern' 2012 triptych, acrylic on canvas 12x14" x3
'Stick a fork in me, I'm done!'
Special thanks to: Todd Powers, Poet Bakersfield, David Karnowski, Lavinia Marigold, Zack Forker, Devin Riane, Sarah Purdy, Robin Jonesensteinowitz, Katie Campbell, Jesse Arenas, Lisa Klassen-Barnes and Brenden Barnes, Allyce Owens, Lisa Bell, Natalie Ray, Fortino Alvarez, Lucy Cruz, Tsunami McCorvey, Jessica Franco, Christinev Bayb, Baby Lilli, Tabitha Paige Bruner, Brenda Saucedo.
We are so grateful to model Valerie Vickers for volunteering her time -and talent- toward our study of body painting! Todd and I both learned a lot from this test shoot.
Thank you, Valerie!
Catch model Valerie Vickers on Facebook.
I'm so grateful to model Devin Riane, for all the hours she has cheerfully volunteered herself as a human canvas toward my study of body painting.
Thank you, Devin!
How grateful we are, to model Jessica Franco, for volunteering her time and talents toward our study of body painting! I learned a great deal from this test paint, and Todd also learned a few new things with the test shoot.
Jessica was quite patient. She sat very still, for over four hours, as I learned some new designs; then she modeled her paint for Todd on a test shoot as well.
Thank you, Jessica!
We are so grateful to model Scarlett Reign, for volunteering her time -and talent- toward our study of body painting! Todd and I both learned a lot from this test shoot.
Thank you, Scarlett!
'For Gallantry in Action'
2010 acrylic on canvas 24x20"
I was invited to create a piece for the upcoming “Heroes” group art exhibit at The Foundry. Women’s issues are always important to me, so it was not hard to decide on a piece about women serving in the military. As proceeds from artwork sold in this exhibit will go to the Wounded Heroes Fund, I chose also to focus on the women medics serving. Online research led me to a Washington Post article about a young army medic named Monica Brown. It’s not a recent story, but it got my attention:
“Army Spc. Monica Brown, a medic from 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, is the second woman since World War II to earn a Silver Star award for gallantry in combat.”
From there I found a story and video about Spc. Brown … and then another … and another. Her story struck a chord with me; and while I hadn’t originally intended to create a piece based on a single individual, that’s what I wound up doing. I created a portrait of Spc. Brown in my ‘bobble-head’ style, as Todd calls it. I hope she doesn’t mind. I have to give props to vets Matt Ruth and David Reichelt, who helped me figure out some of the finer details concerning army uniform insignias, and the M-16 rifle.
As a military brat, raising money for the Wounded Heroes Fund is a cause I’m happy to get behind, and I hope you’ll all be able to join me for the Opening of our “Heroes” exhibit at The Foundry on Thursday, November 4, from five to seven p.m. Entry is only $5, and well worth it. Veterans admitted free with I.D.
UPDATE! 4-17.17: 'For Gallantry in Action' has been adopted! Thank you, Lucy Cruz, for supporting the arts! And thank you, Solmayra Ocampo, for your service! Here's to strong women everywhere: May we know them; may we be them; may we raise them.
More photos of this and other works can be viewed in the gallery!