I earlier reported that a group of talented artists created the Tori Amos 2004 RAINN Benefit Calendar, which you can now order at RAINN.org. Herb Leonhard pointed out that there is an interview with 10 of the artists who contributed to this calendar at sequentialtart.com as part of their October 2003 issue. The article is called Beautiful Charity: The Artists of the Tori Amos RAINN Calendar by Mia MacHatton. I found the article VERY interesting!
You can read this article at sequentialtart.com or below. Be sure to check out the online version of the article at sequentialtart.com because at the end of it there is a list of links to each of the artists' web sites!
The Artists of the Tori Amos RAINN Calendar
by Mia MacHatton
Most fans of Tori Amos know that many of her songs stem from her experience with sexual assault. Her music has not only offered healing, but has raised the consciousness of the community about sexual assault. The charity closest to her heart is the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), of which she is a founding member and the advisory board chair. For those not familiar with RAINN, it is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. RAINN also publicizes the hotline's free, confidential services, educates the public about sexual assault, and leads national efforts to improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
However, RAINN does not receive any government funding, so fundraising projects are a necessity to keep the organization going. The latest fundraising project is a beautiful 14-month calendar featuring Tori Amos. It is a collaboration between thirteen artists, each image inspired by Amos' music. Kelley Bevis, RAINN's Outreach Director, elaborates, "The calendar project was started by a couple of artists, and it just took off from there. Tori's fans are a pretty tight-knit community, and the artists really just found each other." Ken Meyer Jr., David Louie, and Herb Leonhard spearheaded the project by collecting the work, ensuring printing, and soliciting the calendar at stores as well as their websites. The diversity of talent is impressive, including illustrators, artists from the comic book community, digital artists, and a doll maker. Some artists had done previous work with Amos or RAINN. Amos herself approved the images used. "With the help of people close to Tori, we were able to ensure that she would see all of the images that we were going to print, and she was more than happy to give her approval for such a project to benefit RAINN," says Bevis.
Usually, 88 cents of every dollar donated to RAINN is used to directly benefit program services for victims, the rest going to operating costs. Since all the artists donated their work for the calendar, 100% of the proceeds are going to RAINN. Bevis explains, "While we do many outreach and education programs, the proceeds from this calendar will go towards funding the actual hotline. This year, our calls are up more than 20%, and we are receiving more than 10,000 calls a month, so demand is high and funding is necessary." The Tori Amos calendar, only $13.50, is available for purchase at http://www.rainn.org/calendar.html
With all this information in hand, Sequential Tart decided to go straight to the source of the project: the artists themselves. Only ten artists were available due to email issues: Ken Meyer Jr., David Louie, Herb Leonhard, Laurie "Pan" Paris, Paulina Stuckey, Pat Kochie, David Mack, Chris Moeller, Tony DiTerlizzi, and Janine Johnston. They explained their involvement with the calendar project as follows:
Sequential Tart: How did you get involved in the Tori Amos calendar project?
Ken Meyer Jr.: Basically, earlier I had done an original piece for a RAINN benefit auction and before that a few prints. I just had the idea that I could get some great artists for a calendar as a benefit project, loving art calendars myself. I headed it up pretty much by default, having started it, having design experience and knowing a pretty fair amount of artists. I just called or emailed the ones I knew and got positive results from almost everyone. A few didn't get back to me and one was too busy, but other than that, the reaction was great.
Pan (Laurie Paris): Thru my best online "girlfriend", Herb Leonhard.
Paulina Stuckey: Herb Leonhard contacted me early in the year regarding this project — the idea sounded inspiring, so I immediately began work on a piece.
Herb Leonhard: I had done a 2003 poster calendar for RAINN and afterwards Ken Meyer Jr. brought up the idea of doing a collaborative calendar project on a larger scale, involving a number of different artists. I thought it was a great idea, especially since I'd always wanted to do something in collaboration with people like Paulina Stuckey, Pat Kochie and Laurie Paris, all of whom are both fabulous artists and good friends. I also thought that it would be a wonderful way to bring together people from various worlds, so Ken had a number of people that he wanted to approach, largely from the comics & fantasy genre, and I had various people that I wanted to get involved, more from the Tori Amos online community, and it all kind of came together in the middle.
Chris Moeller: I've been friends with Ken Meyers, Jr. for many years, and when he contacted me about doing a painting to support RAINN, I jumped at the chance. I've personally witnessed the damage that sexual abuse can do, and I want to help survivors, in whatever way I can, as an artist and a human being. I was unfamiliar with Tori's music when I began the project but I immersed myself in her work for the duration of the project. She has become one of my favorite artists, so I'm very grateful to Ken for having been exposed me to her!
Tony DiTerlizzi: I was actually invited into the project by fellow artist Ken Meyer Jr. He had seen a piece that I had done a few years back and figured me for a Tori fan.
David Louie: I heard it about it through the grapevine from some other artist friends. I have helped out RAINN before on various fundraising projects so I was glad to contribute again.
David Mack: Ken Meyer Jr. invited me to be a part of it. He has done Art for Tori in the past, and he did a Kabuki painting for the Kabuki Gallery in 1995. He was organizing the calendar event for Tori's Charity RAINN and asked me to be a part of it with all proceeds going to the Charity. Since then RAINN has contacted me about also donating some work to another Tori Charity event and I have agreed to.
Pat Kochie: I was first asked by Herb Leonhard if I would do a piece for the RAINN calendar. I've done a few pieces that were to benefit RAINN and knew this could be something really big.
Janine Johnston: I found out about it when Chris Moeller sent in his gorgeous piece to an artist's forum — and being a fan of Tori's work, I asked him what it was for and whether they needed any other artists. He kindly passed on the info, and I jumped in.
Sequential Tart: Each piece was either based on one of Tori's songs or on Tori herself. What was the inspiration behind your contribution?
Ken Meyer Jr.: I have always loved ["Beyond the Mission"] and, like many of Tori's songs, the interpretation is or can be fairly wide open. I liked the idea of a ghostly Tori, using a Mission of some kind as a backdrop or setting. I lived in San Diego for a while until recently, and remembered some really neat Missions.
Pan: The song ("Virginia") is full of visual imagery and color, harmonies and contrast. One morning I woke up and pretty much just saw it as I drew it only it was moving. It's always hard to figure out where to stop the movement, get it all on the paper.
Paulina Stuckey: [Regarding "Night Music"] I wanted to create something in regards to music, as it's one of my main creative inspirations. Nature spirits and music go hand in hand, so I thought it would be fun to paint an interpretation of Tori as a faerie, charmed by the enchanting insect sounds heard in the night. The faerie is as mesmerized by the cricket's melodies, as we are of Tori's.
Herb Leonhard: Both ["Sister Janet" and "I Can't See New York"] were songs that I instantly felt a connection with upon hearing them for the first time. The thing about Tori's songs is that I often can't put my finger on exactly what it is that I'm responding to so strongly, it's an intuitive reaction to the imagery and ambiance of the song, and often it's only later that I feel I understand what the song is "about". For me, "Sister Janet" instills in me a sense of making a connection with something on a metaphysical level and deriving a certain healing from that. On the subject of connections, "I Can't See New York" is my memorial to an event that brought the entire planet together as we helplessly watched history change before our eyes, it's about a sense if disconnectedness with the world that was before, and a connection to that hole in the skyline, it's something that has affected all of us, even those who've never seen New York.
Chris Moeller: What I wanted to communicate with the piece was a sense of directness. Courage. Living in the shadow of fear, but surviving and facing it directly. Maintaining one's humanity. The rebirth of laughter.
Tony DiTerlizzi: [Regarding "Black Swan"] I enjoyed Tori's early music, particularly her B-sides. There are a lot of neat eccentric lyric and music combinations that create some interesting visuals. I took some of that energy and put it into a surreal image of her (in a dress inspired by Gustav Klimt) surrounded by muses in various forms. It's also very inspired from artist Alan Aldridge's work in the 70's. He did some fantastic images for The Rolling Stones, Elton John, and even some children's books. His artwork and characters are almost Hieronymus Bosch-like. Something I tried to capture with my piece.
David Louie: The song is called "Your Cloud"; it's off of Tori's latest album Scarlet's Walk. In addition to being a really beautiful song, it stirs up a lot of interesting imagery about rainbows, and clouds. There's a line in the song that goes "If there is a horizontal line that runs from the map off your body straight through the land shooting up right through my heart." I tried to capture that visually. I do a lot of air travel and the various natural phenomena in the sky such as clouds, glories (round rainbows), northern lights have found their way into my consciousness. These have inspired my painting as well.
David Mack: Tori's music, really. I've seen her live, and I wanted to do a painting that evoked the presence and charm and mystery of her and of her music.
Pat Kochie: As to my inspiration for this piece, there really was nothing that specific I had in mind. I don't work with a fixed idea in my head or even a sketch. I work from what I'm feeling at the time. This piece is positioned a bit differently from my usual work because the picture is a horizontal. (She's sort of spread out sideways.) The song "Silent All These Years" was my *wake up call* and gave me the courage to try my hand at doing something I had only dreamt about.
Janine Johnston: Well, I came into the project around deadline time, without ever having drawn Tori at all, so first of all I gathered all the photos of her I could find. It ended up coming down to either a 'focusing on her eyes' picture, or this one. But Chris had already captured the up-close intense eyes perspective so well that I went with the cozy tree pic. My intention was to capture a feeling — one of the many moods of her music — plus render a reasonable portrait with a slight twist of fancy. Thus the twining branches instead of jewelry.
Sequential Tart: What medium did you use to create your piece? Was it photo-reference, or did Tori do any posing? Did you discuss your approach to your piece with any of the other artists on the project?
Ken Meyer Jr.: I used watercolor, with a little bit of digital manipulation for the little symbol above her head. As for Tori's figure, I looked around, found a face I thought looked interesting and mysterious (not a hard thing for her to do), combined that with a photo of a body I had shot earlier, then combined that with some reference I had found on some religious missions. As for my approach and the other artists, I just told the ones I thought might need Tori reference, that I had some books and calendars they could borrow. Christopher Moeller used one for his piece, but the others all used their own. I told each one that they could do a simple self-portrait or illustrate a song (or both).
Pan: Prismacolor pencil/illustration board. I like using them because you can layer the color. Unfortunately it's very time consuming and Virginia was rather large (15x20). But fate conspired with circumstance, which left me trapped recovering from surgery with little time for anything else. The only photo reference was Tori's face. I am not intimately acquainted with her, never seen her close up so don't know all her facial curves and angles, how light bounces off them. Therefore no other choice. Photographically, she's Morpheus; in every shot she's someone else. I wanted a profile shot, I think she's got a great one but doesn't show it off. That was a gamble, considering the paucity of Tori profiles and fan's consequential unfamiliarity with them. In portraiture there's always that "that doesn't look like her" pitfall, if you select a photo/pose that doesn't get too much exposure. All else was from my mind, except the owl feathers, those I have collected over the years. Everything in the image has some meaning/reference to the song; it's a visual puzzle for the viewer to figure. We discussed which photo references we'd be using, so there would be no duplication. I was one of the first people to start, so I showed my semi-finished work. It was like Xmas morning every time another completed image was added to the page Herb set up for the preview.
Paulina Stuckey: I used watercolour, pen & ink and watercolour pencils on an 80lb textured cover stock. The piece was fully created from imagination, and began as a pencil sketch. The approach was not discussed with anyone beforehand, as I tend to create my best work when I allow the piece to form its own personality as it moves along — in other words, the result is usually a surprise.
Herb Leonhard: Both of them were done in acrylic for the most part, on masonite board, which has become my favorite medium, particularly for portrait-related work, where I prefer the opacity of the acrylics put down in layers, painted as much with my fingers as with brushes. I really like the tactile nature of painting that way, it becomes almost like a dance, if that makes any sense. I almost always work from photographs (gathered from various places) when I'm doing portraits, which is in some ways both a blessing and a curse. The good news is that I can be pretty accurate in a technical sense; the bad news is that I become a slave to the photographs. One of the things that I really love and respect about Paulina's work is that she can be much more stylistically free with her source material but it always ends up looking like the subject who she's painting, and always full of life and personality. I did have some discussion with a few of the other artists in-process, particularly Laurie Paris, whose piece I had the great fortune of seeing in various stages of completion and whose job it is to keep me out of mischief in general.
Chris Moeller: I work entirely in acrylic paint, in this case on Illustration board. I would have loved to have had Tori pose for me, but I didn't think she'd have the time to fly out to Pittsburgh and sit for me! So I used photographs. Reference material is necessary when painting a portrait, since there is really no other way to get a true likeness. The characteristic shape of Tori's eyes, her mouth and face are very distinctive, but subtle. The difficulty with working from photographs of celebrities is to make the image your own. I used lighting, cropping and color to try to remove my piece from the photo reference. Although the artists on the project were in contact via email for the duration of the project, I didn't discuss my piece beforehand. I'm amazed at the quality and variety of paintings we ended up with. These are some incredibly talented artists, and it was a privilege to get to know them.
Tony DiTerlizzi: This piece was done with colored pencils, watercolor, gouache, and a touch of airbrush. It's a little different than how I would paint an image today (I use gouache almost exclusively now), but I think it still holds up. I referenced Tori's likeness from several existing photos and created the rest of it out of my head. The interesting thing is that the original image was just the vertical portrait, but that didn't fit the format of the calendar. So, rather than cropping it to fit, I merged the image with another one (created around the same time) and redesigned the whole piece with this lavish, illustrated border.
David Louie: I did a pencil sketch based off of a photo that I took of Tori earlier this year. I then scanned that in and painted the rest with Photoshop. I also borrowed some colors from some photographs of the sky and ocean that I took while flying.
David Mack: It is a watercolor wash. There is some gesso and some acrylic in it too. Ken Meyer e-mailed me some photos to work from. But I'd be happy to have Tori pose for me or to draw her from life in the future.
Pat Kochie: I use an oven-cured clay called Cernit for the head, arms and legs with a stuffed, wire armatured body. (I have to be able to put a heart in my work and I like that they can be squeezed.) The hair is from Angora goats and the clothes are all made by me. I've seen Tori up close many times and use those *memories* as well as working from many photos and video.
Janine Johnston: It is acrylic on canvas board. Definitely photo-refed! It's from the "Hey Jupiter" single. I did it rather quickly and didn't really have time to talk about it, except with Ken who was organizing the art — I ran everything by him.
Sequential Tart: Why did you donate your work, rather than receive any of the proceeds? What are the benefits in doing this, to you as an artist (or even just as a person), or to the greater community?
Ken Meyer Jr.: Well, the proceeds need to go to RAINN, it being a non-profit organization ... they can use all they can get. The benefits are, firstly, a good organization getting a helping hand and secondly, my feeling good about doing it and ending up with another good piece of work. Hopefully, it can get others to doing something similar, for RAINN or a similar organization.
Pan: I'm not in the habit of making money off my personal therapy. LOL. I'm extremely unambitious, Brutus would have had no problem with me. That's what my art is for me a large amount of the time, exorcizing my personal demons. For me, participation in this was sufficient reward. This opportunity rather dropped in my lap. I felt like Paris had rolled the golden apple in my direction. Weeeee!
Paulina Stuckey: It's a pleasure to know that one of my creations will help RAINN. It was also a great experience to work with the other contributing artists, who are very talented and supportive.
Herb Leonhard: I think that what it comes down to on a pragmatic level is that I want to see RAINN get as much of the money as possible, and I'm more than happy to give a little of my time to help them out. It's a cause that I feel very strongly about and if I can do something to help someone somewhere deal with these kinds of situations — I've certainly had far too many friends who have — I feel as though I have to do something, however small it may seem on an individual level.
Chris Moeller: The entire point of the calendar, for me, is to support RAINN. As an artist, I don't often get the opportunity to help people in need by doing what I do best. I'm not a doctor or a fireman, I'm an entertainer. There's a tremendous feeling of helplessness I have as an artist, watching the world go by, and feeling like I'm having no impact on it (in my professional life). Working on the calendar has been very exciting to me. It's my chance to help make a difference.
Tony DiTerlizzi: I have donated my work for benefits in the past. In 2001 I rendered an illustration for a book project headed up by Steven Spielberg, called Once Upon A Fairy Tale. It was published by Viking books and the profits went to help terminally ill children in hospitals. That, like this project, is great in that I can use a talent that I have to (hopefully) do a little good. To donate my time and energy for a good cause.
David Louie: RAINN is a great cause and I was happy to have my work benefit them. It was an honor to be included with the other talented artists.
David Mack: I was happy to be a part of this as an event to raise funds for RAINN. It increases the awareness and effectiveness of RAINN to help those in need of it.
Pat Kochie: As a sexual abuse survivor, I feel compelled to raise money for RAINN however I can. It gives me a way to express myself and know I'm doing something that can at least touch others. I can also express myself differently from when I'm doing work *for sale*.
Janine Johnston: It's an important cause that I believe in. I hope this can help shine a bit of light and support towards RAINN. And as an artist, it's always nice to be printed in good company, and even better when it contributes to a useful purpose.
Sequential Tart: What do you hope fans get out of this? In your opinion, how does this project raise awareness of RAINN as an organization?
Ken Meyer Jr.: I hope they love the art as much as I did as I saw each piece, for one thing. I hope it raises their awareness a tad, if they didn't know about RAINN beforehand. Maybe it might lead others to get involved in whatever organization they would like to help with also. I hope this project raises awareness as much as a small project like this can. The calendar will be in some Tower records, some local (to DC) stores, online, and anywhere else we can get it!
Pan: My hope is that it will inspire people to think in visual terms, perhaps create their own images ... at least give them a jumping off point for their own. I also got to meet some really cool artist types to knock heads with. [As for awareness] ... Here's 14 months of RAINN, 24/7, in your face, on your wall, sending a message of hope. Noah sent forth the dove.
Paulina Stuckey: There's a great deal of excitement generated over this beautiful calendar, in large part because there's so much creative energy placed into it through the team efforts of the artists and organizers, coupled with the fact that it raises awareness and money for such a fabulous charity. I know the fans will be very pleased with the quality of the calendars once they have them in their hands! And whether it's one of the contributors to the calendar, or one of the buyers, it makes everyone feel good to be able to support RAINN.
Herb Leonhard: I think that one of the great virtues of this project is that it does bring together artists from various backgrounds, who may appeal to various groups of people who might not be aware of one another otherwise, so there's that idea of "connection" again. This of course raises the awareness of RAINN and what it does and stands for to this wider collective audience. I think that it's going to be both a very special artistic project and a wonderful collector's item.
Chris Moeller: I hope that fans enjoy the calendar on two levels. First, that they enjoy it simply as a thing of beauty. As a celebration of Tori and her work. Second that they think of the help that they've given others through their purchase, people who are truly hurting. I am very impressed by Tori's support of RAINN. By lending her name and music to RAINN she has already increased public awareness a thousand-fold. What we've done is simply building on her work.
Tony DiTerlizzi: Knowing that all proceeds of this calendar go directly to RAINN is commendable. If a fan purchases this they can know the money is being used for a decent cause. If it takes a noted personality (like Tori Amos), or a passion for a particular artist's work (like me) to create awareness of this cause to a consumer, then that's a good thing, right?
David Louie: Well first off I think fans will enjoy the calendar simply for the gorgeous artwork. The calendar will be available at retail stores including some Tower Records and Barnes and Noble so I think it will have high visibility. Most people who are into Tori's music already know about RAINN but with a lot of the artists from the comics field, I'm hoping comic fans will learn about RAINN too. Neil Gaiman, who is a good friend of Tori's, mentioned us in his journal as well.
David Mack: Fans of Tori are already aware of the organization. And I know that there is a lot of crossover between readers of Kabuki and fans of Tori's music. But having one of my paintings in the calendar will bring my readers and fans of my work to a new awareness of RAINN and increase its effectiveness.
Pat Kochie: I think having such a wide range of artists will certainly raise awareness for RAINN. I love being included in such a prestigious group!
Janine Johnston: I hope that the calendar might bring exposure for RAINN to fans who are otherwise unaware of it (it was how I learned about it, actually). I am thankful to be involved in such a great project!
Sequential Tart: Any final thoughts, or anything I might have missed asking about?
Herb Leonhard: It's been a great learning experience in many ways, and the support that we've received from everyone involved has been phenomenal and inspiring. The Dent has been a great help, as have all of the various websites and forums that have helped to promote it. Also, much credit and a big thank you should be given to Kelley Bevis at RAINN, for bringing this project together and for putting up with all of the babble and informational overload that went along with doing that.
Ken Meyer Jr.: Well, just to remind everyone that it doesn't take that much to get something like this started ... almost anyone can do it, to some degree. Activism requires activity, so get active! Also, I want to add what a great site Sequential Tart is, it is always great fun to read and very informative, with a great new point of view.
Original artwork is for sale at the discretion of the individual artists, who can be contacted through their websites. Many of them are doing other projects to benefit RAINN, such as the Tori Amos Tribute Show. Again, the Tori Amos RAINN calendar is available for purchase via the RAINN website. If you are EVER a victim of sexual abuse and need help, please call RAINN at 1.800.656.HOPE. The line is open 24 hours a day, and services are free and confidential.