All posts by Jayel Aheram

Molds of Introspection

An artist introduces us to his creation. Written by Devin Swick for Jayel Aheram.

I am an artist of duality. My passions include culture and love; dreams and nightmares; death and fear. My work, Oriental Intension, is an image of imitation and appreciation of Japanese art. When I begin working on something, I usually don’t know what the final result will be. I watch the colors and shapes in my subconscious spring to life what I think needs to be said about myself. The rest of the world does not exist in these moments — I have to drag it in with me — and we become witnesses of creation, within isolation.

I started with a blank, white backdrop, and experimented with the colors of my mood at the time. I cannot say that blue equals sadness and that yellow equals happiness, it is just a color that feels right, and it’s never the same. Next, I stroked my digital brush to fill the spaces I felt needed to be filled, guiding it with emotion and maybe even psychological need. I brushed in one direction, copied it, and repeated the process. There was a collection of these before I was done, which I layered together in differing opacities.

What was left was a raw mold of introspective design. Trimming what needed to be trimmed, arranging what needed to be arranged, I came out with a shape resembling nothing less than a kanji symbol. I took a step back and considered how best to represent this revelation. Between contemporary simplicity and a love for ancient design, I had many choices. I decided with something much less current and had to then decide how to go about it. This was my first time doing anything like this, ever.

At a low opacity, I burned my way through areas of the backdrop, and, using Retouch, smudged colors together to create an illusion of paint and age. I placed an illumination of a sun to give a stronger presence of Japan in the image, and then wrapped it up in a sepia tone to further emphasize aging. After, I painted a line down the image to contrast over the yellow sun, in which I feel was successful. Now, I needed detail.

Smudging the black line to give the impression of “running paint” gave less balance over the consistency of detail in the image, so I looked online for texture and found one that felt appropriate. It was an aged paper texture with some ineligible writing on it. Then I created an overlay layer that blanketed over the entire image, and lowered the opacity quite a bit to fit it snugly into the backdrop. The intention was to give the illusion of a painting on aged paper. After layering a Gaussian blur and adjusting the contrast (for dramatic effect), before I knew it, I was finished.

What I enjoy about the piece is that while it is not presumptuous or pretentious, I can believe in it. Some have even had to ask me if it were digital or painted on canvas. To an aspiring artist like me, it has made me feel proud, and in some way, validated, over what people may think of when their eyes explore my work, and in essence, explore who I am: an isolated person being discovered — dragging the world with them.

Devin Swick is an artist currently living in Arizona.

What Blogging Has Meant to Me

A blogger explores the consequences of blogging in her life. Written by Liz Fine for Jayel Aheram.

First, let me say I don’t think I would have had the courage to start my blog without the support of friends. In 2004, I was hanging out in New York City with a friend venting about my horrible job. My friend suggested we make a blog featuring talented everyday people, shining some long overdue light on them. The process seemed monumental, but so terrific. Even though I was filled with apprehension, I couldn’t let go of the idea. Right away, the voice in my head kicked in and told me a person needed an Ivy League college degree and loads of writing experience to start a blog. Typical, counting myself out before I even got in the game, but this time, my friend was pressing me so I pushed forward.

Right away, I set about designing my page and making all the decisions concerning content. I reached out to other bloggers for advice and they told me just to start writing and don’t stop. As time went on my blog began to reflect my life and it felt good to be in control of something that was evolving daily. Anything I did that was fun or interesting to me made it to the blog usually with pictures. When I traveled, the blog reflected my excitement for the next location. When I pondered life’s meaning, my blog became a spiritual place filled with food for thought. I created a relationship category and talked about my interpersonal struggles. When I discovered a great new face cream or lipstick I was suddenly a beauty editor.

Four years into a soul sucking, 9 to 5 job, I was thoroughly discouraged about my work life. I felt I had potential that would never be tapped in my cubicle-shaped prison and without realizing it, I began escaping through my blog. I was conducting interviews, taking loads of photos and generally spreading the word of my blog. I was shocked that people were taking me seriously. Eventually, my employer did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. One day, she called me in the office and said that she knew I was unhappy and I was fired. A weight immediately lifted from my shoulders and I felt free!

Shortly after being fired, I interviewed a young artist from Temple University. I took my own photos for the article and it was published in a magazine about edgy, up-and-coming musicians, designers, writers, and DIY entrepreneurs. Blogging had given me a safe place to spread my wings, take risks and most of all find out what doing something fulfilling actually felt like. Today, I’m at a job that I love. I still travel and still live for the next great lipstick shade, but since starting my blog, I have gained three beautiful nieces and become politically active. Today, blogging is still a big part of my day to day life. As I update with new people, places, and events, it remains my tried and true form of expression and yes, even dare I say… a friend.

Liz Fine is a long-time blogger and chronicles her thoughts, relationships, and travels in her blog Urban Addiction.