Contemporary Realism Painter David Cunningham aka Mistereducated

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You may or may not know that David Cunningham is my fiancé and long term love with whom I raise 4 children with, but before all of that he was an artist. We met because he was an artist, an art professor to be exact, and I’ve always felt strongly that his work is stunning. I felt this way prior to falling in love with him, his work is just shockingly rich. He inspired me endlessly to push myself further than I thought as a professor and as an artist and I never forgot those lessons.

His paintings themselves look as though they are windows peering into a space of stylized almost-photographicly delicate realism. I can most assure you that you will be amazed that *all* the small images below are actually paintings (or drawings) that he has spent hours upon hours on while detailing each square inch. The finished paintings are even more rich where you can really see the details; they are amazing because of the reality he creates within them. I’m a lucky girl to have this beauty and skill under my roof. Although he is male, and we have rarely featured males, I think it’s time. Skill and beauty know no sex, race or religion and nor does the unconventionality that is Miseducated.

How long have you been creating art?
That depends on what your definition of “art” is. Like most kids, I loved to draw, color, paint, build models, play with playdough, etc. Unlike most kids, I never stopped. As for “art” , art only happens on occasion. It is unique, personal, and beyond me as the creator. I think the first time that happened was around 2003.

What is your preferred medium?
Nothing beats the lumosity and color richness you can achieve with oil paint.

Did it ever become your main focus and when?
After Undergraduate school I opened up my own studio and made work full time (mostly ceramics.) Honestly, it was a very lonely time for me. I worked 8-10 hours every day and would go several days without seeing anyone. This was the days before podcasts and audiobooks a plenty that keep me company these days in the studio. It was lonely. I am an introvert but not that introverted. I found out in graduate school that teaching helped me become a better artist. It balanced me… giving me an opportunity to interact with others and exchange ideas. I have been balancing teaching as an art professor and studio work ever sense.

What has been your favorite exhibition or event to be involved in?
One of my stone paintings won Best in Show at the Contemporary Realism Biennial several years back. It really floored me. It was a national show featuring some of the best realistic art in America. It was an honor just to be included…to win was epic.

What inspires you most?
Beauty. Not beauty that others can easily recognize, but beauty that is overlooked. That is one of the things that I like about painting stones. They are extraordinary but no one really pays attention to them. The work I have to do as an artist is to make others see the beauty that I see.

How do you deal with artist’s block?
I make work. Often this isn’t the afore mentioned “art” but just studies or master copies. Anything to keep working. Pressure to perform… to make something great scares away the muse.

What has been your favorite work you’ve created?
I don’t really have favorites. Some are clearly better than others, but they are all my children. I am always surprised at what work connects with people. That is why I do it. It isn’t really important if it connects with me. My job is just to make the work. That’s it. Show up and do it.

Do you have any odd stories about one of your pieces?
I had a large painting that I had spent many hours on and all of the parts were beautifully painted, but the composition was off. I tried to sell it for cheap with no takers. I then got the idea to cut it up into 4 small paintings. Each of the small paintings sold for more than I was asking for the whole painting.

Favorites:
Color? blue-grey
Food? watermelon, steak, lobster
Animal? goats
Music? Coldplay, Radiohead, mellow indie rock
Magazine? I don’t have time to read! I listen to audio books and podcasts though.
Movie? Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction
Book? The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Do you have any advice for readers interested in turning their hobby into their main focus?
Read the War of Art and do what it says. Live as modestly as you can so you have as much time as possible to make your work. Don’t give up. Art is a war of attrition. Perseverance and hard work beats talent.

What do you feel is a recipe for success?
First you have to define what success is. Otherwise, how will you know if you hit it? Secondly, find mentors (people who are doing what you want to do). Do what they do and you will get what they get.

Would you say you’re Miseducated?
I am Mistereducated. Predictably logical unless you are a woman then I am a mystery.

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my sun sets to rise again by david cunningham

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Learn more here:
David Cunningham Official Web Portfolio & Shop
Official Facebook Page

Dream & Death Inspired Artist Sonya Fu

Sonya Fu next to her work "I love" (2014) at AP Contemporary, Hong Kong

Sonya Fu next to her work “I love” (2014) at AP Contemporary, Hong Kong

Sonya Fu is an artist whose works I feel really drawn to. She has taken inspiration from her dreams visually to a place of solitude. Her work, to me, speaks of the mixture of emotions we feel in dreams and the temporary yet lasting suspension we feel in the dreamworld. Not only do they evoke these feelings in me but she is graphic designer turned artist so her works are done digitally. I think it’s important to share her amazing creations in this age where many contemplate whether digital art is a fine art while it’s so obvious that it is. Enjoy~

You can find more work and information via her Facebook page or her website~

How long have you been creating art?
I started drawing when I was 3 or 4.

What is your preferred medium?
I work mostly with digital mediums. Digital paintings in which I paint brush stroke by brush stroke using a drawing tablet.

Did it ever become your main focus and when?
It’s become my main focus in 2010. I had my first group show invitation when I was still a graphic designer at the time.

What has been your favorite exhibition or event to be involved in?
This is a tough one because I enjoyed all of them!! They are all unique and they are all special! 🙂

What inspires you most?
Dreams. My crazy, wonderful, beautiful, whimsical, disgusting, scary dreams. Also meditation, mindfulness and music.

How do you deal with artist’s block?
I doodle, meditate, look at art magazines/blogs, talk to other artists, do things that I feel good about (when I feel good inspiration flows in faster).

What has been your favorite work you’ve created?
Another tough one! They are all special to me!

Do you have any crazy stories about one of your pieces?
Yes! My work “Tender Stillness”, the giant serpent girl, I dreamed about her a few times, she hovered in the sky and raised tsunami.

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Favorites:
Color? Black
Food? Kimchi fried rice served in hot stone bowl (no meat)
Animal? ALL
Music? Space music, Ambient music, Pink Floyd, Portishead, the Silent Hill OST… the list can go and on!
Magazine? Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz etc. I appreciate all art mags and art blogs, they are always so supportive of the artists.
Movie? Beetlejuice, Alien series
Book? Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul

Do you have any advice for readers interested in turning their hobby into their main focus?
Stay focused, believe in yourself, be positive and remember “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents” like Bob Ross said.

What do you feel is a recipe for success?
Believing in yourself and what you do, positive thinking, being appreciative and grateful, being a good team player, keeping your commitments, meeting deadlines, good time management, being picky about yourself and your work so you make the best out of it, welcoming and being open-minded about criticism because it helps us improve.

Are you Miseducated?
-I guess yes haha, I am both whimsical and unconventional!

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Tea Talk With ‘Maqaroon’ Maven Joanna

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Joanna is a Miseducated Eyecandy Girl through and through! Not only is she obviously adorable but she is a talented and successful business woman who owns and runs her own company filled with cuteness called Maqaroon. She creates jewelry, accessories and art inspired by Japanese fashion and unisex-friendly kawaii. She even blogs on her website and features female bloggers (most recently myself, so honored beyond belief) she feels drawn too in her super sweet, kawaii colorful and unique style of illustration. I am very happy to get a chance to chat with her and to share a bit of her world with all of you.

When did you start focusing on art and design as a hobby or passion and why?
I first discovered manga style when I was 8. I was in a tiny stationery shop in Beijing and found a Sailor Moon card showing all the characters wearing evening gowns. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and became obsessed with wanting to draw like that! I was a very geeky teenager and loved video games, animes and RPGs so drawing fanart fit perfectly into that scene.

When and why did you decide to take it online?
I became very involved in the online manga community (Deviantart, Animexx, Livejournal) during high school because it was a great place to post work, get feedback and stay motivated. During university I learned enough to create a portfolio website and several years after that, after working as a web-designer, I finally had enough experience to design and set up my own online shop.

What is most challenging about starting a business on and offline?
The hardest offline part was finding the right third party contacts who help your business work. These include web developers, event organisers, couriers, photographers, printers, bloggers, financial/tax advisers and countless suppliers in Europe and Asia. Each one involves a financial gamble and you only know if that pays off after you receive the product or service. I invested (or wasted) a lot of money in the process but unfortunately there’s no way around the process as each business is unique and you need to try out everything to find what works for you.

The biggest online challenge is maintaining a constant presence on all your social media, including coming up with relevant, unique and interesting content for each platform and meaningfully interacting with other people. This is a full-time job for most companies, but if you’re doing everything alone then you have to fit it in around all other tasks! I have utmost respect for bloggers/vloggers who manage to post every few days as editing content is so much more time-consuming than anyone could imagine.

What would you tell an artist starting out marketing and selling their work online?
Start with as low quantities of each product as possible, then participate in craft fairs/pop-up markets where you sell a lot in a short space of time. Once you discover what people like to buy, go and design a batch of new things based on the bestselling product or theme. Then repeat with another event, and keep streamlining your products based on sales.

I have to emphasise participating in offline events because I found this was the best way to get a lot of feedback in the shortest space of time. When you first start out, online sales can be incredibly slow so it might take months if not years to get an idea of product popularity and you don’t want to wait that long! Once you know what sells, it will automatically drive your sales up both online and off.

Another good tip for any online shop is to choose light, flat products which are cheap to ship and not easily breakable. And always keep a very close eye on profit margins. I made an early mistake of offering keyrings and items with very small margins (e.g. 2-3 dollars). If I ended up miscalculating shipping by a tiny amount, or having to replace the parcel if it got lost then I would have negated that sale or even made a loss.

Lastly, don’t worry about comparing yourself with other brands or businesses. Just like how people make their lives look shinier on Facebook, a lot of brands may present a successful façade but that’s no reflection on how well they’re actually doing. Some companies simply buy fake Facebook and Twitter followers, others plough tons of loaned money into their start-up but are actually in debt. From talking to many people behind the scenes, I learned that many small businesses that are professionally represented at trade shows are still only being done part-time, and the owner(s) still rely on other sources of income.

So in short, don’t doubt yourself if it appears like everyone else is more successful. Even if you’re selling a few handmade items a month, you could still be making more profit than a shiny start-up with several employees that’s actually being funded by investors or a bank loan. The only thing to focus on is how your business is performing compared to itself, and work on steadily increasing sales. If it does become stuck, then try to change direction, products or audience until you discover what works.

What inspired your brand?
The original inspiration was my overwhelming love for Japanese street fashion. Ever since university, I’d been fascinated by street style and collected a huge amount of research through books, magazines, blogs and two trips to Tokyo. I wanted to create an illustrated resource for all those styles, both for myself and for others so people can see at a glance what the typical characteristics of each one are. This image is actually from the cover of a book pitch but I never heard back from the publisher, so I re-used many of the character designs!

The inspiration behind Maqaroon’s jewellery is a blend of Japanese “sweets deco” scene with classical European design. I live in Vienna, Austria which is a very traditional and baroque city. There are horse drawn carriages all over the streets and people take black tie ball season extremely seriously. There are also tiny boutiques everywhere selling amazingly delicate necklaces and bracelets made out of precious metal and diamonds.

So considering the two big influences in my life, I imagined Maqaroon to be a classy re-design of kawaii style. I wanted to create things that are very cute, but would still fit into an elegant wardrobe or upmarket occasion.

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Where do you find inspiration when you feel exhausted?
I really value spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend. I think when you’re in the presence of people you care about, your mind unblocks easily letting ideas and inspiration flow. I definitely believe in ‘leisure investment’ for creative people i.e. prioritising things which make you happy in order to produce higher quality of ideas/art, which in turn generates more sales. I also love yoga and find it’s an excellent way to reboot you mind & body when you’re stressed.

What is your favorite work to do these days?
I like simple hands-on work the most, which includes making jewellery, gluing boxes, packaging products. This is what I missed most when working as a freelance designer/illustrator because I’d spend 10 hours a day in front of the computer. I developed bad neck and shoulder pain as result so that was another reason I decided to change careers. Now I really relish evenings where I can just sit in front of the TV and make things with my hands, almost like back in school!

Do you craft your own jewelry and if so do you have a glimpse into your workspace or studio? How does the space work for you?
I design my jewellery on computer and then have the raw components (necklace/bracelet chains, earring bases) manufactured in gold-plated stainless steel. Then I make additional elements such as resin clay macaron shells by hand and assemble everything in my studio.

Unfortunately I have a really small apartment so I usually work on my dining table or coffee table and have to take out and clear up all the supplies before and after. This is also why I don’t have any workspace photos as it looks quite messy and uninspiring :P. Though I’m in the process of moving in with my boyfriend and will have a studio room just for myself so I’m really excited about that!

I’ll finally also have space for a larger computer and plan to start making videos and craft tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Do you use inspiration boards or have any to show?
Yep, I’ve been using WeHeartIt long before Pinterest came out so I still keep everything here!

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Favorites
Drink: Starbucks Iced Chai Soy Latte
Food: Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry
TV Show: Girls
Book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Song: Everything by Michael Buble
3 words to describe yourself: Fun, Hyperactive, Artsy

What do you feel you communicate within your work?
I really want people to be happy when they look at it. I try to show all the creativity and happiness that still exists in the world through all the styles that young people choose to express themselves in. In addition, I believe strongly in diversity, tolerance and respect. This is why I decided to use animals instead of humans in Maqaroon, as it makes the issue of race and gender less contrived but still visibly present.

In terms of product and pricing, I’m a big believer in making good design accessible to many people. Graphic design is making things for the masses, whereas art is for the elite. Obviously having been a designer all these years, I don’t consider my work ‘artisanal’ or ‘special’ in any way and therefore don’t want to price it as such.
In this sense, I want Maqaroon to be a beautiful but fun and down-to-earth brand. If it were a person it’d be like that fabulously glam friend who you can always rely on as well! I didn’t want the brand to feel like an expensive, aloof and snobby girl who you sort of aspire to but feel you have to act slightly fake to be accepted in their clique.

Where do you plan to go next with your work/brand?
I plan to concentrate on jewellery and work on expanding the range to include delicate choker necklaces, bracelets and possibly rings. My dream would be to be stocked in stores that I love to shop at myself (like Topshop or ASOS). I’m also hoping to increase the non-sales side of the brand with a Youtube craft channel and more collaborations/portraits with bloggers!

Why does the “maqaroon” have a mustache?
Hehee this actually has an explanation behind it! I had two rules from the very start of the brand, which is that Maqaroon should not appear too childish and that it should lean towards being unisex. The risk with any kawaii brand is that it’s extremely easy to slide into using loads of pinks, creams, strawberries and flowers. I wanted Maqaroon to be cute but not over-the-top frilly and feminine.

So I decided on a neutral green as the main branding color, with virtually all backgrounds kept in white. When I was designing the logo I tried out loads of different facial expressions. I realised a typical kawaii mouth made it look too childish so I decided to use a moustache to show that the macaron is an adult male (this sentence is starting to sound a bit ridiculous XD). This again reinforces the unisex aspect, and not making it overtly girly.

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Lastly, are you Miseducated and why?
Yes definitely. Miseducated is about non-conformity, creativity and inspiring readers to follow their dreams, express themselves and live their best life. Too many people lose sight of these values when chasing after superficial things or trying to live up to other people’s expectations.

Growing up, I was always eager to please and would try to do everything right at school. I believed that you need to get good grades, get a degree, get a good job and somehow life would reward you. I spent many years doing different jobs and even though the experience was really valuable, I felt slightly disillusioned. I was working crazy hours yet barely making enough money to cover my living costs.

As it happened, in 2010 I became very ill and took several months to recover. During that time I had a serious think about my priorities and my conclusion was that I wanted a career with unlimited creative freedom, lots of leisure time and the potential for a much higher income. So here I am, three years later and doing what I’ve always dreamed of. There’s still a long way to go but I’ve never felt happier and more fulfilled!

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Strawberry Switchblade Sings My Soul

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One band I cherished since a child (much like Bowie but more relatable on a sensitive and misunderstood girl level) and never outgrew is Strawberry Switchblade. I formed a cherished online friendship with Rose McDowall in the late 90s and grew to understand her in a more personal way as the creative soul she is. In grade school I created a very cute, pink and polkadot website devoted to the band visuals and audio decadence, I had musical appreciation websites for Strawberry Switchblade, No Doubt, Veruca Salt and Shampoo (my all-time favorite bands), to which I thought why not create features here as I’ve been meaning to do for years.

Rose is as magical as her music is. She and Jill Bryson wove visual gumdrops for my eyes to munch on obsessively and still inspire me heavily to this day. Miseducated’s first layout and many layouts thereafter were created while blasting Strawberry Switchblade songs over and over (and I mean OVER AND OVER). When I met my very best friend Kimi online in 1997 it was like the magical world they wove, a world of polkadots and acid-like colors dripping with cute psychedelia, came to life in our relationship. As a troubled child I often felt Kimi was the one person in the world who understood me, who would always be there (she’s still there). Our song was “Since Yesterday” by Strawberry Switchblade. When she calls even today that song rings out to let me know it’s my soul mate calling.

If you’ve never heard of Strawberry Switchblade and don’t appreciate the delicious 80s whirlwind of drum machines and their unique electronic music filled with happy, depressed, in love, best friend adoring, memory mourning troubled girl lyrics then you might not enjoy it but I honestly, yes with a big bias, cannot imagine how anyone could not want to dance, twirl in daisies and sing to their music. When I listen now it transports me back to memories from childhood, the good and bad, middle and high school filled with love, loss and raves, as well as today the love I still have for my very best friend Kimi, my cherubic three year old daughter and my boyfriend who is, at last, my love dream come true. Step back in time and many of the photos in the gallery below were posters on my wall and locker. Can you get enough?

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Many who know me well see the photos and instantly understand why I was so odd as a child (or even as an adult!) with my polkadot dresses and big, offensive, neon bows. I stood out like a miniature pop star in a small town school and many thought it was hilarious at my expense. I still get it to this day if I visit the town, people look at me like I’m an obviously lost alien. Hell it even happens in the city I reside in occasionally, I only seem to not be an eye sore in southern California on my many summer visits to stay with Kimi and in Tokyo, Japan of course.. but never really here, and so I know Strawberry Switchblade is singing my woes in a way that I will always understand. When you find a band like that you rarely let them go, who would want to? I’m still ready to dive into their “Deep Water” and never return.

Step into StoopidGerl’s Delicious World of Wonder

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Kim (aka StoopidGerl) is one of my closest online friends. We are both colorful artists that had adorable baby girls very close in time to each other, her Chloe Pearl was born several months before Colette Fawn and we learned a lot from each other along the way. Our pasts share many similarities as well so it’s no wonder that we hit it off immediately once upon a time. I’ve been planning a feature on Kim and her amazing creations and splendid aesthetic for WAY TOO LONG and here it is!

So as you’ve probably noticed I’ve been featuring a lot of my favorite artists and handmade mavens. I feel Kim (stoopidgerl) fits with the Miseducated way of life as much as anyone I know, her work reminds me what earth would look like if many of our rainbow-obsessed, candy-coated brains puked all over the place. Her style is no ones but her own and if you look into her world you’ll never want to leave. Please visit her gorgeously kitschy shop to purchase any of her works of art.

How long have you been crafting your world (your intoxicating-eye-candy photos and dazzlingly-saturated-with-color pieces of jewelry)?
I got started a few years ago. Working from home has been a dream come true!

When did you decide to turn that hobby into a business?
After I graduated from school I somehow ended up working a super crappy job at a Sears Portrait Studio. Going to work there made me want to kill myself! It was HELL on earth. I got pretty fed up with it and ended up quitting one day. I needed something to do and I needed money. I had been selling on Etsy for awhile and then I decided to take the plunge and try to do it for a living. I don’t know how it happened but it was magical! My shop took off quite quickly. I really love what I do and I think that is the key to my success!

All of us reach creativity blocks at some time.. where do you find inspiration when you reach a block?
The nearest candy shop~!

A lot of my inspiration comes from the past… movies I’ve seen, people I used to hang with, places I visited, my childhood…

Sometimes I find that browsing Flickr is inspirational. I love to just get lost in Flickr. I could spend hours browsing photos and adding them to my faves! There is some phenomenal shit out there!

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that you have made?
Oh my goodness it is hard to pick just one but if I had to choose my absolute favorite I would go with this~
Rainbow Bright Heart
It is impossible to be in a crappy mood when you surround yourself with so much color. This necklace is a sure pick-me-up when you need one!

Do you have any exciting stories about the purchase of one of your pieces?
I shit myself with glee when Courtney Love purchased a necklace from my shop several years ago.

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What inspires you when decorating your space?
…the pursuit of happiness! I love all things that are sweet, rainbowy, clownlike, kitschy, and cool.

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What sort of things are must haves on display in your home?
I have been a collector of cameras ever since I went to school. I took a short break from collecting for awhile and recently got back into it. I have a neat little collection of minty green vintage cameras that sits on a shelf in our living room.

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I also have to have clowns… lots of clowns.

Do you have any tips for readers trying to design their world?
Don’t worry about sticking with any sort of theme… just go with the flow and hoard all the things you love!

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You can purchase Kim/StoopidGerl’s amazing creations at her rad Etsy Store.