Artzpirationz: Lioba Brueckner!

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The haunting fantasies of Lioba Brueckner. All photos courtesy @liobabrueckner

Lioba Brueckner’s work is at once whisper soft and powerful. These paintings murmur about memory and secret, shadowed places. These paintings speak to the sanctity of imagination. When I was in elementary school I had a poster on my bedroom wall that I spent a lot of time staring at. It was a moonlit scene, with a towering waterfall and two glowing unicorns. Behind the waterfall, you could barely make out the vaguest impression of a cave. I think. Anyway my mind remembers a cave, and it remembers, too, indulging in long expanses of daydreaming about what was in that cave, what its dimensions were, why it was there (assuming it was there). I even wrote a story about it when I was recovering from bad bout of pneumonia in the first grade. That’s what Brueckner’s paintings made me feel when I first set eyes on them: these were creations from that cave, all moonlight and lavender and blue and soft sprays of waterfall mist and unicorns and something dark and important, the feeling of my lungs slowly clearing out as I dictated my fever dreams. It goes almost without mentioning that Lioba’s technique is masterful, staggeringly, enviably so. Her portraits of women remind me of the “stunners” of the Pre-Raphaelites: models with soft lips and wide eyes that are fleshy and earthy, but ultimately otherworldly. Nighttime walkers. Ghosts and glimmers. Cave explorations.

More of Lioba’s work can be seen on Instagram @liobabrueckner and at her shop

Artzpirationz: Lisa Junius

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Blue moon rising: the celestial ceramics of Lisa Junius. All photos courtesy of @lisajunius

*Sigh* Lisa Junius’s creations are just a special, blue-filled slice of witchy heaven (or maybe the soothing and forgetful waters of the River Lethe, since we are talkin’ witches, here, girl). Dig, if you will, the picture (RIP Prince) of me as a five year old, tagging along with my teenage sister to my cousin’s house, where I was, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, allowed into her bedroom. Picture incense. Picture fairy paraphenalia. Picture a giant black and white tapestry of Jim Morrison tacked to the ceiling and a lot of candles and the Grateful Dead on tape. This is the sort of magical bliss I feel when looking at Junius’s work. Her ceramics are deeply steeped in magical and mythological references, while also being, well, sort of sweet and welcoming, albeit mysterious. Moons, wild women, starry night skies, black cats, all of which make me want to put on Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and slip into a lavender scented bubble bath with a crumpled pack of clove cigarettes (tres forbidden!) for company. In other words, these are pieces that speak to the eighteen year old rebel in us all, as long as that rebel also really dug Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology.”

More of Lisa’s work can be viewed via Instagram @lisajunius, and her Etsy shop

Artzpirationz: Sierra McClain!


Bright bursts of color and rushes of movement. All photos courtesy @sierrarmcclain


To describe a painter’s work as “happy” seems reductive, but that’s by no means my intention in employing the term to refer to McClain. These paintings are “happy” in the most deeply felt and purest sense of the word: happy like memories of pancakes on Sunday mornings as a kid, like the clarity of light through your favorite window on certain spring days. There’s a sense of upward motion throughout McClain’s work, reminiscent of clouds scudding across sky, or flower petals caught up in a water current. Hopeful, ebullient, friendly, her paintings invite, rather than bristle or confront. These are happy paintings.



More of Sierra’s wonderful, inviting paintings can be seen via her Instagram, @sierrarmcclain, and on her website

Artzpirationz: Whimsy Calling!

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Unicorn wonderland: the wonderful works of Whimsy Calling; all photos courtesy Dayna Corbitt, @whimsycalling

If you were wondering, I love unicorns. I also love sparkle, magical, tiny bits n’ bobs (what some might call “knick-knacks” but I lovingly refer to as “tiny littles”) and, of course, pugs. Do you know how obsessed I am with pugs? Well, thankfully, Dayna Corbitt of “Whimsy Calling” has plucked visions from my version of a lizard brain (imagine an eight-year-old getting a full line of Lisa Frank merch while sitting inside of a glitter kaleidoscope with Candyland’s Queen Frostine for company and you’re roughly there) and made a whole line of amazingly magic, little clay figurines and other ephemera. And yes, she has made both pugicorns (pug/unicorn hybrids, duh) and Ziggy Stardust kitty cats. Life is great!



 You can see more of Dayna’s too-fun-for-this-world makings on Instagram @whimsycalling, and in her shop at

Artzpirationz: Claymate Creatures!

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Fairy tale beauty: the creations of Claymate Creatures. All photos courtesy Daria Lapto, @claymate__creatures


I’ve always liked dolls. I liked dolls past the age it was cool to like dolls (0-11? 12?) and before it becomes okay to say as a grown ass human that “Hey, I like dolls” (19+? Never?). You know, that weird sweet spot of existential horror that is your middle school years, when you’re supposed to start focusing your energy less on books or jumping or Legos or whatever you, you know, actually like (like dolls) and more on things like learning how to blend in and becoming a (willing or unwilling) sexualized being.

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Claymate Creatures’ take on “Little Red Riding Hood.” Photo courtesy Daria Lapto, @claymate__creatures


During this time, my Mom and grandma would pick me up various, specialty doll magazines as treats (so cool!), and I would drool over the customized Blythes and Genes, their tiny, detailed clothing, the strange little worlds they presumably inhabited, all while hiding from anyone I might see, um, anywhere that I really just wanted to be somewhere quiet and private (preferably with a lot of photogenic moss) designing my own weird dolls and their accompanying accoutrements.

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Meeting the wolf. Photo courtesy Daria Lapto, @claymate__creatures


Well, I sure wish I could have seen Daria Lapto’s “Claymate Creatures” during this time, because I know their strange lonesomeness, their awkward beauty, their magical overtones would have been just the thing to keep me company. Every one of Daria’s dolls feels full of story, and the stories are the best sort: lovely and scary and full of misunderstood outcasts and princesses behind veils. These are fairy tale dolls, the way fairy tales were originally intended, with all the amputated toes and crystalline tear drops intact. I like dolls. I like these dolls a lot.



You can view more of Claymate Creatures haunting dolls and other sculpture via their stunning Instagram, @claymate__creatures, and via their Etsy,

Artzpirationz: Tiffanie Turner!

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Floral abundance: the sculptural work of Tiffanie Turner. All photos courtesy Tiffanie Turner @tiffanieturner


Tiffanie Turner makes paper flowers. Big Ol’ Paper flowers. Of course, that’s a description that’s both accurate and a gross oversimplification. Turner’s are works that take the concept of the nature study and twist and examine and exaggerate the findings until, viewing the results, the audience feels as though they’ve been party to a divinely private bit of performance (it comes as no shock that Turner’s muse led her also to the world of burlesque, another bit of amplified voyeurism).

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Performance in paper: Tiffanie Turner’s “Late Spring Dahlia”; image courtesy Tiffanie Turner @tiffanieturner


Looking through Turner’s portfolio I’m reminded of another master of the nature study, Albrecht Durer, and his achingly detailed works in pastel. Where Durer seems to turn inward, though, carefully recreating the gloss of a wing or the turn of a feather in small scale, Turner’s work projects outward: ebullient creations that make the minute large, allowing us to note how that fringe of petals recalls a broom, or how this petal twists up, and that down.

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Top: Tiffanie Turner’s beautiful (and carefully calculated) botanical decay in “For Shame”; Bottom Left: Albrecht Durer’s “Wing of a Roller”; Bottom Right: Jan Davidsz de Heem “Memento Mori.”


There is also a heavy whiff of another Renaissance tradition: that of the memento mori (art drawn from a Latin philosophy which encouraged reflection on death and the brevity of mortality; in practice this often translated to: skulls, skulls, skulls) with the papery fragility of Turner’s flowers echoing the fleeting bloom of their organic counterparts. More than anything, tough, Tiffany Turners works are beautiful, whimsical, and approachable, art that invites further inspection and reflection (there’s a bit of a feel of a grown up, hands-on science museum that’s particularly enchanting) and that’s a damn fine thing.



More of Tiffanie’s breathtaking works and peeks into her process can be viewed on her Instagram @tiffanieturner, and her website She will be finishing up a residency at San Francisco’s prestigious de Young Museum on May 29


Insta-Faves: Candy Colored Feeds!

I’m all about art around these parts, and about featuring some of the amazing artists I’ve found in my hours of internet surfing important research. Today I’d like to shout out some of those artistes of the new frontier: peeps whose Instagram feeds become carefully curated, beautifully photographed works of art in their own right. Right now we’re talking candy-colored feeds, chock full of bright and whimsical content. Let me take you to CandyLand, grrrl!


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@tres_she: utterly crumbelievable acrylic nail art with a wry, kawaii-infused, pop culture literate take. Think “Rupaul’s: Drag Race”, Prince (R.I.P), and Barbie paired with petal-pink, bondage-influenced pentagrams. Hell yeah.



@sugarbone: a pastel goth fantasy of a feed whose original art features kawaii-friendly heroines more likely to tie you up and flog you than giggle.



@elorasaurus: sweet, fun, girly art from prints to pins. A whole feed infused with sugary fun and candy-colored inspiration. Bonus points for the sweet-tooth friendly pics of magical sprinkle mixes and other tasty goodies.



@fluffegram: the fluff-fueled feed of gourmet fairy floss (that’s cotton candy to us Americans) producer Fluffe features exotic cotton candy creations in lots of yummy (and unexpected) tooth-achingly sweet pastel scenarios. One of the most original Instagrams I’ve ever seen and one of my personal faves among faves.

Artzpirations Q&A: Brett Manning!

I first discovered the Brett Manning’s art via an Instagram reference from Mab Graves (another amazingly lovely artist whose work you should familiarize yourself with NOW if you aren’t familiar already; she’s @mabgraves on the ‘gram) and immediately fell in love with her fantastically weird (and right up my alley) sense of humor and her fantastically fantastical art. I took a chance and reached out to Brett, just hoping she wouldn’t mind if I used some of her images to write a blog post about how much I loved her art. Well, Brett, being a super awesomely supportive artist, did me one better and actually offered to take part in a little Q&A. She gave me some wonderfully thoughtful insights into her art and process, and, of course, “Twin Peaks.” So, without further ado, here’s our conversation:

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Spooky, magic realness. All photos courtesy Brett Manning; @brettmanningart,

Q: I love that you use a relatively limited palette in your work. You employ a technique of, for lack of a better word, magical swirliness that calls to mind both Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and a certain sort of airbrushed 90’s unicorn poster. Was this a consciously developed style, or something that just naturally evolved?

Brett: That is totally just something that came about organically. I’m really into patterns and textures, and soft, but vibrant pastel colors. I call them saturated pastels… and i think when visible brush strokes are paired with other softer forms like people, animals, and plants, it does evoke a sort of van gogh meets 90’s school folder art! haha! But I’m not sure WHY i am so find of these colors and textures. my work is all created with a sort of manic or spur of the moment mind set, it’s a very autonomous process… almost like if I stew on an idea for too long it just becomes irrelevant to me and I have to move on to the next idea. I like things fresh and meaningful.

Q: I’m totally obsessed with your “Magical Girls” series; they’re the sort of thing my weirdo 14-year-old self would’ve just lost it over and wanted to plaster all over my locker. There’s something so encouraging about their diversity of appearance and their straight magical sense of quiet confidence. What started you on them?

Brett: I happen to personally know sooo many amazing women, others I only know via social media or am just their dorky fangirl, so I just had to create a series dedicated to some of them. This series could go on and on, but I chose to draw or paint girls I see or hear from everyday or check out online like the enthusiastic creepster I am, haha! they all have something about them I admire, many being artists, musicians, or just creatives in general. They are also all very unique and independent people!

Symbolism plays a soft and subtle role in my Magical Girls collection too… I’ve been using things like butterflies, bumblebees, foliage, stairwells, quilts, and other patterned blankets. To me, stairs represent the elevation of ones self to a higher plane of thinking, the blankets and quilts are almost like a cozy reminder and comfort that everything is okay. The butterflies represent the ability to change, and bees and foliage remind me of constant growth and the need to care for or nurture yourself.

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Brett Manning “Born To Sit”

With this collection, i really just hope to inspire and encourage girls to be themselves, as cheesy and cliche as that sounds, but it’s so important and can lead to inner happiness and a sense of fulfillment in life. Because honestly, who cares what people say or think about you?! It doesn’t matter! Just be you! You are the only you that there ever was or will ever be. Why not embrace that?

So the reason I titled it Magical Girls is because I’m a huge sailor moon fan. I love that squad of girls, they are all so supportive and  kind to each other, but also have the strength and wisdom to know when to fight. The girls I’ve painted and drawn have been elevated to magic wielding super humans! They might be awkward, eat all the cupcakes, drink too much coffee, have crooked smiles, be shy to a fault, or trip over their own feet, but they still all harbor something powerful and otherworldly within…

Q: It’s obvious from your work that you’re a real lover and uplift-er of the weird girl in us all. What were you like as a teenager?

Brett: All I cared about was art. In high school they actually created a new art class just for me during my junior year because I had literally taken EVERY art class offered, even the senior classes! I even received an award my senior year for having only gotten A’s ever in art during high school. I was a huge art nerd. I was very quiet. i colored all over my clothes or sewed thingies on them. My friday nights consisted of me alone in my room painting and listening to Bob Dylan or Beck. I was very bad at making friends, and always felt bad about myself for that, but at the same time deep down I didn’t care at all.

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Brett Manning “I Like Being Alone”

Q: As a fellow lover of all things spooky, magical, and mysterious, what do you think is so alluring about these themes as an artist? 

Brett: Well, i am a firm believer that we are not alone. However you want to interpret that. And it’s important to be okay with that–at peace with the natural world. I used to feel very anxious about spooky things when I was little, but also always super intrigued and needed to know more, so I watched unsolved mysteries and bigfoot shows (before they got REALLY dumb)…

The way I see it we are only able to know so much, to the extent of our own abilities to perceive things, and I am not okay with throwing out the possibility that we, human beings, are the ONLY ‘intelligent’ life forms out there, anywhere, even right here. that’s such an arrogant mindset.

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Brett Manning “Winter’s Coming”

I’ve also experienced strange things in my short life: 2 ghostly encounters, I’ve seen crazy lights in the sky which I guess would technically be called UFOs,  and several stranger, more celestial, metaphysical experiences. And i’ve taken only positive things from these events. They’ve opened my mind and heart, have humbled me, and to this day keep me hopeful. My art acts as a way to make my experiences accessible to others in a sort of visual storytelling way, but I also hope that it inspires others to have an open mind.

Q: You’ve got a sci-fi themed show up right now, featuring lots of pieces inspired by all sorts of nerd culture classics like “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner”. Do you feel like, beyond being dreamy to look at, your paintings, with their soft technique and pastel colors, traditionally tied to being “girly”, are a way to reclaim nerd culture that’s often seen as being the domain of boys?

Brett: Yes! I couldn’t have said it better myself. sci-fi movies traditionally seem to have a hyper masculine quality to them, like white guy saves cute waif from horrible alien creature! Boom! Explode! Huge fire IN SPACE! blah blah blah… I mean, not all are like that of course, but the more mainstream ones seem to come off like that. My favorites are sci-fi movies with amazing female characters like “Alien”, “Ghost in the Shell”, the new Star Wars movie,”Ex Machina”, and lots of Luc Besson movies. And the show that you mentioned was titled Space World! A silly play on worlds of Spice World, the Spice Girls movie! my intentions were to create the ultimate fan art show with a teen magazine feeling; a little obsessive, but totally dedicated and sincere. And lots of girl power!

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Brett Manning “Imperial Pout”

Q: Beyond movies and television, I suspect that you might be a fellow fantasy/sci-fi book lover. Any favorite books, or ones that particularly inspire/d you?

Brett: I’m horrible. I don’t read as much as I’d like because I’d rather be painting, but some of my favorite reads are “Ghost in the Shell”, “Alice in Wonderland”, David Lynch’s “Catching the Big Fish”, and the “Meat Cake” collection by Dame Darcy.

Q: A very important final question: which “Twin Peaks” character do you think is your Black Lodge doppelganger? (I like to imagine I’m an Audrey, but I am most definitely a Log Lady). 



Visit Brett on her fun and cozy Instagram @brettmanningart, and check her website and her amazing Etsy shop at