Category: Words


When art and religion intertwine it is often controversial, and frequently that is intentional. Art  can challenge us, and that’s a good thing.

Lately I’ve been working on a series about christianity. It includes pieces that will undoubtedly shock, and will likely offend. I don’t think anyone who is offended by those images would even bother asking me to remove them. Anytime you create images like that, you are aware that some people will be offended by them, and you would never have displayed them if you found that a compelling reason to change or hide them.

But recently I heard that one of the images from the Her Face series of Goddess portraits was offending some people. I won’t pretend to create suspense, I removed it from this website.

That may be a surprise, especially if you know me. But after a lot of thinking, and a wonderful exchange with someone who was kind enough to answer my questions and really explain his beliefs to me, it feels like the right thing to do in this instance.

I’ve learned that the Hindu view of art is very similar to my own.  Images of the Divine are more than simply pictures, symbols of the small part we can know, they are also invocations, and carry the song and whispers of the Divine themselves. For me, that happens in the creation of the piece, they are all conversations, prayers. For others that essence exists long after the act of creation by the artist is finished, it lives in and with the artwork.

Something that is very different from my own view is the connection between nudity and degradation. It’s hard for me to really deeply understand how that connection is made, but I can hear from others that it is true for them.

If the Saraswati portrait had been my commentary on the (dis)connection between nudity and degradation, I probably would have painted it exactly the way I did.  The white silk  sari She is wearing is so transparent that one can see Her body. But that was not my goal with this painting, in fact I was not even aware that it might offend.

There will probably be many more times when I say “I’m sorry that it offends you” than I will say “I’ve removed it” in response to knowing that a painting I’ve done offends someone. Offending someone is never the point of the art I do, sometimes it goes with the territory of the topic, but it’s never the true intent. In the Saraswati portrait  the thing that was offending people was not an integral part of the piece, and it won’t be impossible for me to rework the painting, to do a second version. As an artist  who does paint things that are controversial I think it’s lovely that there is an opportunity when I can say to someone who is offended by my work, “wow I didn’t realize that, I’ll change it”.

Here I am, a child and a citizen of western culture, painting Goddess portraits.  It is WAY more likely that people around me will be offended by my clearly polytheist viewpoint than by a hint of nudity. People who follow the Hindu path are not offended by the idea of more than one god, or by the idea of Goddesses, but it seems that in portraying a Goddess they know well I’ve run the risk of alienating the very people with whom I share many beliefs.

Another thing I learned is that Hindu people catch a lot of crap in artistic representations of them and their gods. It is not at all a stretch to believe that the concept of denigration comes from the very real action of persons denigrating Hindu people in both art and mundane life. While I can say with certainty that I am not one of the people doing that, it doesn’t mean I should not be aware of it and sensitive to it. I’m not a bigot but that doesn’t mean I can ignore that racism is alive and well in my culture. In fact the whitish skin I wear and all the unfair privilege that goes with it obligates me to speak out against racism when I see it.

And one would be a fool not to notice that the Goddess I am speaking of having painted is Saraswati, Goddess of learning, of wisdom, particularly in the area of the creative arts. I said earlier that for me the creation of these portraits are like conversations, and it would seem that my conversation with Her is not over.  How could one be anything other than grateful ?



I admit that I do not pay enough attention to this site.  It is a place I play, and post things somewhat randomly.  mea culpa.  Lately Ive been buried in a work project, in and out of town, and this site has been ignored more than usual. For the first time I really regret that. I’m mentioning this because I am sure that Srinivas Shakelly believed I was simply ignoring the request below. I was not, and am sorry to have given that impression.

Here are the two comments I received, and noticed just this morning:

To Laurel,
I am writing to you to convey my strong protest at your recent article “Saraswati” The nude picture of Goddess Saraswati you have published is hurting the religious sentiments of all the Hindus. You have no freedom to post Denigrating pictures of Hindu deities. God’s are meant for worshiping so as to achieve the aim of life. God’s idol or picture is associated with its sound, word, touch, form, taste, smell and energy. Thus a correct and appropriate picture of God will give good vibrations and pleased to be blessed. The Goddess is always depicted in pure Silk clothes (Saree).

However this is highly objectionable and hurting feelings of every Hindu and at the time you are adding sin to your destiny.
I request you remove this article immediately from your website and send me the apology letter.

Please get educated about Denigration at below link

On Behalf of Hindus
Srinivas Shakelly


You are calling her as “Mother of Vedas” if so will you let your mothers picture posted in nude. Goddess Saraswati is revered by all the Hindus for knowledge, devotion and sattvik music. It is incorrect depict her in distorted manner(nude). You are commiting sin. It is against Hindu’s faith. Any deity as per the scriptures will emit Devine consciousness (Chitanya) which lead us from unreal to Absolute truth.I once again request you to immediately withdraw this pictures.

Staunch Hindu,
Srinivas Shakelly


Srinivas I thank you for your feedback.  I am writing this before I explore the link you provided, I assure you I will do so,  just to let you know that I will give thought to what you have requested.  I am also posting this on the site because I would like to hear feedback from others if they have it.

I would also like you and anyone else who may have encountered the image to know that I meant no disrespect, far from it. In my religion the nude female form is revered, not at all an insult, so it never occurred to me that this might offend anyone’s religious sensibilities. Depicting Her nude form was not my motivation, although I found it beautiful, it was simply a way to convey the sheerness of the silk, something difficult to do in a digital portrait.

I cannot say yet if I will remove the painting, if I will adapt it so that the silk is not sheer or if I will do something else.  I haven’t yet given it enough thought.

For those folks who may be surprised that I am considering removing the painting(from the website, I don’t know what I could do about the book it is in): Many of the Goddesses portraits I paint are of deities in religions that are no longer practiced by many people (if any), and I believe that it may be quite different to portray a Goddess from a living religion.

Whatever the outcome, know that I appreciate the feedback and will give it the consideration it deserves.

One of the crowd

My experiment in crowd sourcing is moving right along.  I’ve learned a bloody ton about using Illustrator. I’ve also learned more about the sorryassed state of design and the sorrier state of the economy.

On Design:  I’ve now heard the same thing from crowdspring clients FIVE TIMES. My designs are “too artistic” for their use/audience/small-pea-brains.  The first time I thought it might be a joke, or sarcasm or something.  But numbers two and three came right on the heels and I realized it was no joke.  So, the current state of web and application design is clearly one where creativity is OUT, what the hell happened ? Umm, creativity in this field used to be a *good* thing, now it’s formulaic layouts and palettes that are in demand.  Keep in mind, the designs I submitted were for the most part not even what  I would consider creative or artistic, I was only going for slightly outside the cookie cutter for goodness sake.

On CrowdSourcing:  I’ve learned that it’s even WORSE for designers than I knew. On top of the known reasons there is:  theft. Here’s how it works…  A client signs up and posts a project, they pay a small project fee (which goes to crowdspring) plus whatever they set the compensation at for the design work. They rate the designs highly at first, this keeps the designers submitting (usually people will submit one part of a project and wait for feedback) so all of the screens the client was looking for get completed. At the end of two weeks or so, they have a boatload of designs, many of them decent to good. Then the client says they don’t like any of the designs. CrowdSpring talks with them and extends the project (this has happened on four of the projects I have been working on). After that if the client still doesnt like anything, crowdspring honors the moneyback guarentee and returns all the clients money.  THEN the client walks off with a number of designs and has someone else (either in house or at least cheaper) duplicate the design. The designers keep an eye out, complain to crowdspring, crowdspring investigates and in the end does something awful like.. ban them from the site.  This has already happened on one of the projects I was working on (separate from the four I just mentioned which may end up going the same route).

On top of that even the legit clients (the agencies, this a a good dal for them they don’t want to be banned) are dropping prices. If client A can get a website for 1,000, client B will attempt to get one for 900.  If it doesn’t work, the client can always add money to the compensation they are offering as the project runs (this has happened once on a project I’m submitting on).

That adds up to six projects with issues out of the fourteen I’ve worked on,  and eight of them are still in progress so that number might go up.  Those are abysmal stats.

The BEST part is the expectations from the clients.  They give urls of sites with concepts they like, and then they repeat themselves over and over in the pubic  comments “We really like the look of this-site-which-clearly-cost-100-grand”, they don’t get it, they think the designers are not listening to them. My favorite one of these so far was for a reality show, giving business advice no less, and they continue to insist it should look like, and “have the production quality” of the site for the t.v. show Warehouse13. Asshole, do you think they paid $750 for that ?  Besides, it’s ugly.

SO… I’ve got a few projects left there, I’ve been focusing on clients who insist they want artistic and creative… we’ll see if they mean it.  I doubt it actually.

What a sad sorry state of affairs.   So far after about two weeks of SERIOUSLY long working days I have earned: zero dollars. But I still can’t get around very well, sitting still is the most comfortable thing, so what else can I do that has any chance of bringing in money ?  I guess I could knit things. Scarves, not sweaters or anything hard…

[image title=”designadvice” size=”full” id=”1311″ align=”none” linkto=”viewer” ]

my life in the crowd

A few years ago I heard about a tech outsourcing/bidding site.  The idea was new then, I checked it out.  The deal was that people bid on projects posted, and the poster selected a contractor to do the work.  I was… appalled.  Get a buncha people to underbid one another in the hopes of getting work ?  Jerkoffs.

Fast forward a few years. Crowd sourcing is hot, the economy has tanked, and what do we have now ?  It’s happening with DESIGN.  It not just designers bidding on projects, trying to competitively undercut one another, no sir, it’s worse than that.  People put up projects, set a budget for it (“I’ll pay $500 for the design I like the best”) and designers compete, DOing the work, submitting the designs, and the winner gets paid.  The losers get squat. Can you think of a worse idea ?  Even ONE ?

There are several of these types of sites, three big ones: CrowdSpring, 99 Designs, and Design Crowd. CrowdSpring advertises that each project gets an average of 110 submissions.  Thats ONEHUNDREDNINE submissions that did not get paid.  And some typical prices ?  600 -1000 for a 3-5 page website design (uncoded).

Yes Virginia, I’m kicking Santa in the balls, and trying one of these despicable sites. If you’re at all inclined to lecture me on how I am destroying my own profession, myself, and probably going to hell – well no shit, ya think ?  I’m freakin desperate, okay ? Like… no cat-food desperate. Think I’d do this shit if I had any other option ?

Anyway. So I’m making the best of it, laughing snidely at the pisspoor designs of others, and greatly admiring the good ones, who tend to be from places in the world I have only heard of once or twice and I’m sure the cost of living is very different there.  But okay, so I’m an overprivileged american snot who is finally learning the hard way to live in a global culture. I’m also taking the chance to work up some skill in illustrator, where I can manage but could be much better, so I’m doing everything in illustrator (rather than photoshop which I know in my sleep). I’ve been doing it for about 10 days now, and am getting the hang of it.

The clients post requirements, then designers post designs.  The clients can publicly rate each design,  the numeric ratings, score of  0-5 where 5 is best, and can comment on designs privately. The designers who seem to know what they are doing, post ONE design, wait for feedback, and either start over if the concept is off or continue to develop if the rating is decent. The projects (competitions) usually last about two weeks.   Here’s what I’ve done so far…

Some Automotive conference wanted a design.  I thought they wanted a logo, so I submitted one, but DOH they wanted a poster.  The client really liked the concept I did, seemed a nice enough guy, and the project was almost over.  So I figured what the hell and did a poster that was completely and totally different from what everyone else was doing.  It was all 3d rendered highly glossy too many lights kinda stuff, in blues of course.  So I did a wild assed colored thing with a painted car.  Screw em, it was fun.  The client also has a week after the two weeks of the competition to make up their minds. So I’m not sure yet, but I would fall off my chair if I won that one.

Next up is this Norwegian company doing some sorta startup for event organizers.  They are gathering all kinda damn social blahblah data data, geo everydamnthing, tags, checkins etc etc.  They had two projects up.  I submitted for the first one, a 3 page website, $1,200. I did all three pages (wasn’t so savvy yet) and they got rated a ONE.  Say WHAT  ?!?  THAT pissed me off, so I did MORE designs. I also at some point realized that these folks rated most people a zero, so it wasn’t quite as bad as I first thought, but still.  Really. My next SET of designs got rated a 3.  Still pissing me off. Then a Four.  Then a few more fours . Then I checked out the other competition they were running.  Same startup, but they wanted three variations of  control dashboards for presenting the aggregated data. THREE completely different dashboard designs  for a whooping $700. It was such a lowball figure that only one other person was submitting, and their stuff completely sucked. I think they didn’t understand what a dashboard is. And why would they ?  The client provided NOTHING in the way of information on what type of data. Whatever, I did FOUR designs and submitted them, right before the project closed, sure that at least Id get that $700.  But noooo, I get an email from crowdspring saying that the client had asked to extend the time of the project.  Hrmmph.  3 more days.  How bogus, I looked on crowdsprings site and it says right there that clients can’t do that.   Guess they can. So now I’m waiting to hear.  I’ve done…. 8 concepts, three of them all three pages, and four dashboards.  Thats 18 pages of design, the max I’ll get is 1200+700 = 1900, and there’s a very good chance I’ll get zip. But I did get some cool dashboard ideas and I’ll actually use those eventually and GET PAID FOR IT.

Next up, an organic farm website, 3 pages, $1000.  I’ve done… 3 different concepts, one page each this time (gettin smarter) and am waiting to hear what the client’s feedback is.  Not the person who posted the project mind you, he’s been VERY communicative, very nice, but he’s not the end client.  ‘Cause guess who the biggest posters of projects are ? Agencies.  That’s right, they get the account, tell them they are doing it in house (crowdspring even has a set up for them to brand the submission with their agency  logo this is so common) and then they farm it out to crowdspring people, and end up giving the client a bunch of good designs to choose from and it costs them only $1000 !!!  Oh nooooow I’m getting it.

Next, a drupal theme for a data encryption company. Simple enough. We’ll see.  Then a website concept for an agency with a client who does bullion trading.  That the gold and silver kind, not the beef, chicken or veggie kind.  That one is still early on, but so far the other designs completely suck and so the agency guy loves me. Then I got solicited to submit stuff, one for a kids game interface ($600 bucks, but I got them to send me .ai files so it’ll save me some time and could be fun) and one for another game-like thingy for medical students($2000). I guess I got those requests because I’m doing obviously illustrator stuff ?  Or maybe it’s because I’m obviously a sucker who will work for free ??

So there you have it. I am part of the crowd. Working for nothing (I mean LITERALLY) like the downtrodden broken-boned out of catfood girl I am. But I am kicking Illustrators ass.  Vector that baby.

Google Wave, it’s the new black.

And it might be the new email, the new chat tool, the new blogging tool, the new online meeting tool, the new online collaboration tool… the list goes on and on.

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