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Baseball & butterflies—my spiritual journey back to art…
I've carried the sunset moth wing scales and bold colors into my portraits to mirror the boldness I see in my subjects, and to remind them (and myself) that to be vulnerable is to be strong.
First, thanks for checking out my site! Your support means a lot, seriously. It's tough to sum up how I got here and why I paint, so I guess I’ll start with an important fact—I'm originally from Cleveland (aka The LAND). If you're also from Cleveland, you get it, and that's probably all you need to know. For everyone else, here's a little more...
For many years art was a supplement to other unrelated careers and adventures—professional baseball player, teaching English in Chile, helping fight white collar crime as a paralegal in NYC, brokering expert witnesses for big firm lawyers, launching a mobile app with a startup company from Cleveland, and most recently, helping travel baseball owners grow their clubs with an awesome software company making youth sports happen (s/o LeagueApps fam!). Throughout this period my now 93-year-old grandmother, who took up painting in retirement, would always ask “…and what have you been painting lately?” I never wanted to disappoint her so I made sure to do at least one painting every year, always of something real and usually as a gift for family or a small commission for a friend. So when I finally decided to pursue my passion for painting full time at age 33, I had built a pretty substantial body of work and a strong foundation for an art career, all thanks to my Gramma. She always signed her work using her first and middle name, Kathie Arden, so in tribute I now paint as Arden Douglas, or Arden D. for short. Her dream inspired mine.
Now two years into this professional artist journey, I work primarily in oils on canvas with mixed media elements for texture and sparkle. I spent much of my first full year doing commissioned dog portraits because...well...people really love their dogs, and it turns out I really enjoy painting things that make people smile :). Then the pandemic hit and, as hard as it was for everyone, it really gave me the time to explore new more contemporary styles.
My first original abstract series, Spirit King (after the Malagasy word Adriandolo meaning "spirit king") focuses on the illusion of color created by refracted sunlight bouncing off the iridescent yet miraculously pigment-less wing scales of the Madagascan Sunset Moth. I use bold colors, light-absorbing paints (that glow-in-the-dark!), pearlescent pigments, and a generous helping of glitter to create an ethereal energy that honors the poisonous moth's colorful warning to predators and the native Malagasy people's belief that it carries the souls of ancestors. I've also carried the wing scale pattern and bold colors into my figurative work and portraiture to mirror the boldness I see in my subjects, and to remind them (and myself) that to be vulnerable is to be strong.
Me channeling my inner Sunset Moth
If you're into loud conceptual paintings that spew out of me like teen angst, I do those too! Self-Destruction (see Word Art gallery) is my working title of this series because it's a visual manifestation of the noise in my head and the art of destroying it. Each painting captures a specific event or emotional experience in my life--everything from a fight with my youngest brother on family vacation (Fuck It) to my hometown Cleveland Browns pissing me off...again (Browns is the Browns). I use some combination of oil sticks, oil pastels, and spray paint to project what I’m feeling in words and symbolic imagery, and then promptly destroy them with rubber paint scrapers, paint erasers, or whatever I can reach. The result is a cathartic release from the ego that powers my perfectionism and self-indulgence (translation: it just feels really fucking good). Ya dig?
Lastly, I LOVE capturing light and form with photography and since taking good reference photos is a critical part of my painting process, I have A LOT of them. I've included some of my favorite images as printable wall art. I deeply respect the art of photography and have much to learn about this medium, so I invite you to visit my photography collection often to see how this journey unfolds.
Art for me is a spiritual journey back to the curious and fearless child that lives inside me. It’s about returning to a state of play and accepting my role as a vessel for whatever that creative child dreams up. The most important lesson I’ve learned as a practicing artist is that it’s not about believing in myself every day but about taking actions each day in spite of myself that inch me closer to accepting the notion that I’m worthy of a career as an artist, and that anything is possible when the grown-ups leave the room.
Thank you for believing in me, Gramma! And thank YOU for supporting my art.
FUN FACT: The muse for my moth and butterfly wing-inspired abstract paintings was a butterfly that landed next to me in right field and helped carry my professional baseball team, the Lake Erie Crushers, to three straight come-from-behind wins and an unlikely 2009 Frontier League Championship in the team’s inaugural season. It’s been my spirit animal ever since.
The most important lesson I've learned as a practicing artist is that it’s not about believing in myself every day but about taking actions each day in spite of myself that inch me closer to accepting the notion that I’m worthy of a career as an artist.
Art for me is a spiritual journey back to the curious and fearless child that lives inside me. It’s about returning to a state of play and accepting my role as a vessel for whatever that creative child dreams up....and that anything is possible when the grown-ups leave the room.
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