Friday, December 26, 2014

In honor of the holidays I present to you a few fun little paper cuts inspired by the cheer of the season. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'm flattered to announce that one of the textile designs I did for The Om Collection has been picked by Yoga Journal as one of the best yoga pants of 2014! Visit the page here!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I know I've sung their praises before, but I just have to mention once again how honored I've been to work with both the beautiful songstress Ayla Nereo and her partner The Polish Ambassador. This duo exemplify so many inspiring qualities, whether in their creative effulgence or in their genuine efforts to make a positive impact in this world. Earlier this year, they transformed their fall tour into what they called The Permaculture Actions Tour, where they organized thousands of people to volunteer within their own communities on projects that ranged from planting trees to transforming unused urban lots into community gardens. It was a brilliant idea to get the people who attend concerts and festivals to put their energy and numbers to use for a greater good. Here's their Kickstarter video from before the tour:

The Permaculture Action Tour turned out to be a huge success, and many communities across America benefited from the positive impact. TPA and Ayla are continuing to find ways to spread environmental awareness, permaculture wisdom, and the inspiration to join together to be stewards of this planet. I was delighted to work with them both yet again to create the poster for The Roots Gathering, an event they have organized in Costa Rica in May. 

The image I created is a homage to the eminently powerful life-force of this planet and the beauty that springs forth from it. The lighting reminded me of a sun rising from behind trees, so I named it "Dawn." May a new era in humankind's history dawn in which we learn the priceless and irreplaceable value of this Earth and the plants and animals who share it with us. 

In other news, I was asked earlier this year to display my work at the Academy of Art University's library in San Francisco. As part of the semester long show, the library conducted an interview with me, which you can read on their website here, or below, if you care to know a bit more about me!

Where were you born?
I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado where I garnered my deep appreciation of nature from a childhood spent enveloped in the forests and glades of the Rocky Mountains. The formative experiences I had in the dense woods and sun-dappled meadows of these mountains heavily influenced both my paradigm and my visual interpretation of the world. This connectivity helped me develop an acute awareness of detail. The fluorescent dabs of chartreuse lichen on cold, grey granite, or the delicate follicles of soft downy hair on the unfurling frond of a fern delighted my eyes and taught me about beauty. It was in nature that I learned about art, through the symmetry of a butterfly’s wing or the iridescent greens and reds of a ruby throated hummingbird’s tiny feathers.
When the tides of my life pulled me away from the Colorado mountains I so loved and placed me into the chaotic cacophony of a California city, I began to understand that the experiences I had as a child were uncommon to many who didn’t have the fortune to grow up amongst the trees. Reflecting on this, I began to understand my purpose as an artist. I feel that is my role to visually depict the sacredness of the human experience, especially as manifested in nature, so that others may connect to this powerful source of abundant primordial magic. In my art I strive to provide a window into the sacredness of the ordinary world and the latent spiritual potential of every human individual.
What is your major at AAU?
I’m working towards a master’s degree in Traditional Illustration. I also have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in Editorial Journalism and have written for a wide array of publications, including JuxtapozHi-Fructose,Climbing Magazine, and Elephant Journal.
How would you describe your work to someone?
I strive to capture the organic framework that makes up the world we live in, the underlying patterns that become visible in elevated states of consciousness. While my work is constantly evolving, at the moment I have two very distinct styles I’m working with. Both styles are very design-based with a graphic sensibility. One style uses cut paper and is more geared towards children’s books, while the other style is predominately pen and ink with intricate detail and allegorical content. I like to explore the design potentials created with dynamic symmetry while using imagery borrowed from nature- flowers, birds, fish, animals, trees, etc.
Who or what influences your work?
Although I find inspiration in thousands of places, nothing influences my work or my perception of the world as much as my daily meditation practice. I’ve been studying Tibetan Buddhism for a little over a decade and have attended numerous meditation courses including a month long retreat. Nothing focuses and cleanses my perceptions as powerfully as meditation does. It’s like wiping the dust off of a pair of glasses- suddenly you notice the small beauties and intricacies all around you. I also find that meditation greatly heightens my creative powers, as well as my ability to concentrate.
As far as other artists go, I find inspiration from artists of the past such as William-Adolphe Bourguereau, John Singer Sargent, and John William Waterhouse. I’ve always been inspired by Frida Kahlo and Georgia O Keefe, not only for their art, but also for their boldness as female artists and fearlessness with which they lived their lives. I’ve been very influenced by Alphonse Mucha’s design sense and am a fan of Maxfield Parish and J.C. Lyendecker. Contemporary artists that I admire include John Baizley, David Hale, Nicomi Turner, Josh Keyes, James Jean, Jeremy Mann, Nikki McClure, Emily Hogarth, Nimit Malavia, Sylvia Ji, Tiffany Bozic and Joao Ruas.
I find a lot of inspiration in literature and poetry, as well as in music. I am also inspired by strong emotions, whether it be sorrow or joy, happiness or loss, love or grief; I find they provide potent creative fuel. My ultimate muse is found in nature- in redwood forests, granite mountaintops, desolate deserts, or the vastness of the sea.
What is your process for creating work and what materials do you prefer?
My process begins first with inspiration, which comes sometimes as vague and fleeting images that flash before my open eyes. I attempt to capture these with quick and messy sketches that would be intelligible to anyone else. The next step is generally collecting reference photos, which can sometimes be the most time-consuming part of my process. For my pen and ink drawings, I’ll often use Photoshop to test out compositions before starting a pencil drawing, which I’ll eventually ink. Recently, I’ve started scanning my finished pen drawings into Photoshop to color them.
My cut paper illustrations come much more organically to me, and I often just draw the designs straight from my head without reference. The process of cutting the paper, then assembling and gluing the layers is extremely tedious and time-consuming though.
What is next? Upcoming exhibitions, trips, graduation, etc.
I’m planning on graduating in December of this year. Between now and then I have several commissions I’m working on, including a few album covers and concert posters. I typically spend every break from school traveling, rock climbing, and being out in nature as much as possible.
The 6-on-6 Artist Interview series consists of 6 questions for student artists asked by the Library staff on the 6th floor.
Marisa Ware’s interview was conducted by Audrey Ferrie, Library Director, in January 2014.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween and final day of #Inktober! This piece, "Effulgent Flux," began as a simple pen and ink drawing, so it seemed appropriate to finish off the month with and to celebrate this day of remembrance for those who have come before. May we embrace the ephemeral nature of our precious lives; may we live and love fully while we still have breath in our lungs and warm blood in our veins. 

My dear friend and ardent yogi Matt Champoux wrote a beautiful interpretation of the visual imagery of this piece, which was a delight for me to read. I love hearing what other people see in my work, especially when it is in line with what I was trying to convey. While I may not have been aware of the specific meaning of the imagery I chose, Matt's interpretation of this piece as a conversation on impermanence and the myriad variety of appearance is spot on. 

He writes, 

"This piece illustrates the twin wings of the dharma practice and the inseparability of compassion and understanding the interdependence of all phenomena. The skull powerfully us of our own ephemerality, which is the common fate for all of creation - change and impermanence. The swan shows the gentleness required as we begin our journey on the spiritual path, but it is also the true nature of all awakened beings. The swan is also a coded image referring to the unspoken mantra that rides on our breath - the japa ajapa mantra - which calls out to Shiva, or pure consciousness, as the nature of our true self.  The snake is a potent representation of the ferocity required to cut through our deluded perspectives of the conditioned mind. It is also symbolic of the primordial power of creation and harkens back to the imagery associated with tantric yoga and kundalini worship. It's venom represents the poisoned confusion of samsara, or the wheel of cyclic existence. The butterfly holding it all together reminds us of the great benevolence underlying the process of all yoga practices rooted in tradition and the fire of sincere inquiry."

In closing of this month, I'll leave you with this sweet little morsel of beauty and truth:

"You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret - you return to the beauty you have always been." - Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#Inktober Day 30, "Silence."

"Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning."

-Mary Oliver

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inktober Day 27... a little owl to be finished tomorrow. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

#Inktober Day 25, "Progeny." 

"In darkness things merge, which might be how passion becomes love and how making love begets progeny of all natures and forms. Merging is dangerous, at least to the boundaries and definition of the self. Darkness is generative, and generation, biological and artistic both, requires this amorous engagement with the unknown, this entry into the realm where you do not quite know what you are doing and what will happen next. Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you're doing, by walking into darkness, not staying in the light. Ideas emerge from edges and shadows to arrive in the light, and though that's where they may be seen by others, that's not where they're born." 

-Rebecca Solnit, from The Faraway Nearby

Friday, October 24, 2014

Inktober Day 24- a work in progress.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#Inktober Day 23, "Luna."

"The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes. 
And as I love you, the pines in the wind 
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire."

-Pablo Neruda, from "Here I Love You"

Monday, October 20, 2014

#Inktober Day 20, "Through the Gates."

"Perhaps the death mother like the birth mother
does not desert us but comes to tend
and produce us, to make room for us
and bear us tenderly, considerately,
through the gates, to see us through,
to ease our pains, quell our cries,
to hover over and nestle us, to deliver
us into the greatest, most enduring
peace, all the way past the bother of
beyond the finework of frailty,
the mishmash house of the coming and going,
creation's fringes,
the eddies and curlicues."

-from "An Improvisation for Angular Momentum," by A.R. Ammons

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#Inktober Day 19, "Messenger."

"My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever."

-Mary Oliver

Saturday, October 18, 2014

#Inktober Day 18, "Ancestor."

"Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.
Be still, they say.
Watch and listen. 
You are the result of the love
of thousands."

-Linda Hogan

 It's so neat to see past creations of mine showing up in the world independent of me. Yoga Journal just posted a few photos of one of the leggings I designed for The Om Collection (see the rest of the article here). This was from my first foray into textile design, and I'm excited to say that I'm working on another set to be released in the near future!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Inktober from yesterday, Day 16, titled, "Sky Walker." 

While that may sound like a Star Wars reference, in this case it's referring to a dakini, a female spirit in Tibetan Buddhism. Dakini translates to "she who traverses the sky," "she who moves in space," "sky walker" or "sky dancer." Dakinis represent enlightened energy in feminine form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. Though generally of a volatile or wrathful temperament, they act somewhat as spiritual muses or inspirational thoughtforms. May we all be visited by a dakini today! 

“In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.” 

-Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today I had the opportunity to do live art for the first time at Morning Gloryville in San Franscisco. It was a really great experience and I'm excited to do it again next month! As an artist, I end up spending so much time alone in my studio, drawing in solitude. While I love being immersed in my own mind and imagination, it was a really refreshing change to be creating in the midst of a packed dance floor, my easel shaking from the bass of DJ Rachel Torro's beats. 

In other news, here are the last few days of Inktober drawings!

In progress! 
"We do not do this easily. We have lived so long in the heaven of touch, and we maintain our mutability, our physicality, even as we begin to apprehend the other world. Slowly we make our appreciative response. Slowly appreciation swells to astonishment. And we enter the dialogue of our lives that is beyond all understanding or conclusion. It is mystery. It is love of God. It is obedience."

-Mary Oliver

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#Inktober Day 11, "Night."

Oh, and there's Night, there's Night, when wind full 
of cosmic space 
feeds on our faces...

Many a star
was waiting for you to perceive it. Many a wave
would rise in the past towards you; or else, perhaps, 
as you went by an open window, a violin 
would be utterly giving itself. All of this was

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, October 10, 2014

#Inktober Day 10, "Wet With Rain." Borrowed from what may have been a song: "No Guru. No method. No teacher. Just you and I and Nature, in the garden, wet with rain." 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#Inktober Day 9, "Rise."

Ink has always been my favorite medium, though it is an unforgiving one. It requires constant attention- one moment of lapsed mindfulness can have unalterable effects. In this way, drawing with ink is a great awareness practice. I've really been enjoying the Inktober challenge so far- thanks for all the support along the way!

"Be humble for you are made of Earth, be noble for you are made of stars." -Serbian Proverb

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#Inktober day 8, "Root."

Sleeping In The Forest

I thought the earth remembered me, she 
took me back so tenderly, arranging 
her dark skirts, her pockets 
full of lichens and seeds. I slept 
as never before, a stone 
on the riverbed, nothing 
between me and the white fire of the stars 
but my thoughts, and they floated 
light as moths among the branches 
of the perfect trees. All night 
I heard the small kingdoms breathing 
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night 
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling 
with a luminous doom. By morning 
I had vanished at least a dozen times 
into something better.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#Inktober day 7, "Dive." Inspired by my friend, musician Ayla Nereo, and the words she shared this mroning after visiting Lake tahoe, whose waters are low due to the drought. 

"Thank you sweet waters, for taking my prayers today, for receiving my tears of a heavy heart.

May our carelessness as a species be replaced with wonder and caretaking. May our hearts crack open to the utter perfection all around us, inherent in nature. May we protect all species so no more go extinct, with a fierce dedication to our role as beloved stewards of life. May we remember the gift of being human, and walk upright, with eyes open, and heart leading."

Learn more about Ayla here. Her music is honest, melodic, and raw. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

#Inktober day 6. 

"Life had taken everything from me. 
Everything I had & everything
I had ever known to be true.
Any tiny comfort I had ever clung to,

It was then that I began to understand
the truth.

Life is like being in a tiny boat
on the wild sea. We only have control
over two things: the way we feel in that little boat, and the direction we keep
trying to steer.

A strange smile spread across my heart
as I felt myself move to the bow if my
little vessel,
ready to rise and crash in a whole new way."

-Padhia Avocado

Sunday, October 5, 2014

‪#‎Inktober‬ day 5. Maybe this is cheating because I worked on it for more than one day, but it seemed liked a good time to unveil it. Stay tuned for a color version coming (very) soon. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

‪#Inktober day 4. "The Offer," titled from an excerpt of poet Mary Oliver's poem, "Wild Geese." "Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over announcing your place in the family of things." 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Inktober Day 3

In the last few weeks I've happened upon numerous snakes out in the wild, and even been quick enough to catch two or three of them (just for a moment, and gently- I always let them go). After seeing a tiny sidewinding black snake quickly dash across the dirt path I was walking in Redwood Regional Park yesterday afternoon, I decided to do my next Inktober drawing of a snake. I also reflected on the meaning of the snake, and how they act as a metaphor to us, instructing us to shed our old skins when we no longer need them, showing us how to let go.

This little sketch was also inspired by a quote I recently read by author Herman Hesse about the wisdom of trees. 

"For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness."

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Every October, artists from around the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge to do one ink drawing a day for the whole month. I'm going to attempt to do the same.

Day 1 was given away as a gift before I took a photo of it, but here is Day 2, "Winged Life." It's titled after William Blake's poem:

"He who binds himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise."

If you want to follow me on Instagram to see a daily update, you can find me at marisaaragonware. Happy Inktober!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Learning new tricks

During the spring I had the amazing opportunity to learn the art of paper sculpture from one of leading artists in the field, Jeff Nishinaka. If you're not yet familiar with his work, I highly recommend checking it out. His style is extremely precise and detailed while simultaneously maintaining a graceful sense of movement and flow.   

Before learning from Jeff, I had experimented with cut paper as a medium, but only in a two dimensional approach. Here's an example of one of my older cut paper pieces, a children's book illustration titled "Solstice," from 2013. 

While I really enjoyed working with paper in that way, I was interested in learning how to bring more depth and dimension into my pieces. Jeff specializes in created intricate three dimensional worlds with his paper sculptures, using mainly only white paper. 

The concept that I came up with for my first paper sculpture was a human rib cage with an anatomical heart inside it from which the tributaries of the vascular system would branch out like tree limbs. From these veins would grow tropical flowers, which would attract hummingbirds to feed. Below the ribcage and spine is a lotus flower and leaves, forming the shape of the pelvis and representing the energy of the base of the torso. 

concept sketch
This concept was inspired by my deepening understanding of the practice of yoga. I've been dealing with a chronic injury that has made it difficult to engage in many of the athletic pursuits that I've been passionate about (such as climbing, training, and running), but the upside of that has been that I've developed a whole new relationship to yoga. Though I've practiced yoga on and off for over a decade, it's really only been in the nine months or so that I've really devoted myself to it, practicing almost daily. What I've learned is that it's an incredibly subtle practice, one that just continues to open to greater depths, with a seemingly unlimited breadth of new things to teach me about my body and mind. The concept for this piece was to express the opening, expanding, and enlivening potential of yoga and meditation practices on a physical, energetic, and spiritual level.

If I would've realized how complicated and time-consuming this piece would end up being, I might have gone for something a little more simple for my first paper sculpture. Luckily, I naively thought I could handle it- and with the help of a great teacher, I managed to pull it off after numerous weeks of effort. 

To begin, each element of the sculpture has to be analyzed and dissected into smaller pieces in order to plan out how each small flower or bird will be constructed. After the planning comes the cutting, where hours upon hours are spent with X-acto knife in hand. Then, each small piece of paper is individually rolled and sculpted to have the desired curve or bend, and then it's carefully glued together with other pieces to form the intended object. 

I started with the hummingbirds- the first one took me around five hours. The rest were quicker, but not by much. 
After a day spent working on hummingbirds in my studio, I came upstairs to find a real hummingbird perched on a chandelier in my living room! Luckily we were able to get her back outside safely.  
detail of lotus flower
 In addition to learning paper sculpting techniques from Jeff, he also taught me how to use an airbrush on the vascular system and anatomical heart I had created.

Airbrushing! It's quite fun. 
One of the best things about art classes are meeting other artists and being inspired by them. While there were many talented artists in the class, I particularly enjoyed meeting fellow Bay Area artist Julia Cone. She makes the most colorful, sweet, and cheerful creations out of cut paper, with a keen eye for shape and design. Her style is very different than mine, which made it really fun to observe her working and also easy to glean a lot of inspiration from her art. 

Julia working on tiny birds. 
"The Paper Ladies," one of her many incredible paper sculptures. Yes, these are made entirely out of paper! 
Another Julia Cone piece- visit her website!
 Once I finally completed the cutting and construction of each individual element of the piece, the time came to arrange it all on one larger sheet of paper (reinforced with foam core and mounting board) and glue it all down- very carefully, of course.  

Getting every piece in the right spot

detail of hummingbird and flower
It was a very long process from start to finish, but the result was unlike anything I've ever created. I was really pleased that it got accepted into the 2014 Academy of Art Spring Show! 

In its custom-built plexiglass frame 
Hanging at the Spring Show 
Jeff with my piece at the Spring Show
I didn't have a chance to get it professionally photographed yet, which makes a big difference due to the shadow and lighting effects. Here's the best photo I was able to take:

"Prana" or "River of Life"

As of now, the piece has two names. One is "Prana" a Sanskrit word referring to the life force of all beings. Think of a tree branching upwards towards the sun- that's Prana. The other title for now is "River of Life" which refers to the rivers of blood that flow in our bodies as veins, sustaining and nourishing us. It's also an homage to one of my Dharma teachers, Reggie Ray. To hear some of his teachings in the form of free podcasts, please visit Dharma Ocean here

Which name do you like best? Feel free to comment and let me know! As always, thanks for reading. It's an honor and a privilege for me to create art to share with you. 

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

–Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 – April 1, 1991)

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