We all know the masters: Van Gogh's watercolors, Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" and even Warhol's archetypal pop-art prints -- they each have a way of striking our souls.
But what about those yet-to-be-discovered masters who can elicit the soul in their own, creative ways? We reached out to college students across the country -- art students, to be precise -- for some fresh inspiration.
Many of the students provided insight into the process of their work. Jeremy Mendoza, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote to The Huffington Post in an email, "Though drawing this piece was a long and grueling process, I find it important to tap into the creative part of the mind that helped me to complete it. I believe that we should live everyday of our lives balancing between the creative and critical thinking portions of our brains."
Creating art is cathartic for some. Others see it as a meditative practice: "By staring into the center of this painting I find that I am able to feel balanced and relaxed. The circular and entwined motion of the rainbow form in the center eases my being and helps me to enjoy the silence of that moment," Yale student Hayley Josephs wrote about her piece.
Whether you are an artist or an observer, the images below are sure to evoke your soul in some way.
PLUS, we've added our Soul Songs playlist into the slideshow, so you can fully engage your senses.
"This piece aims to capture the peaceful stage between awake and asleep, right as a thought ebbs through, materializing into a dream. When I was six years old I taught myself how to lucid dream: become aware that I am dreaming. Since then, I have treated sleeping almost as a job -- trying to discover more about dreaming each night. When one starts to gain control of their subconscious life, I believe it brings them to a state of balance." <em>Submitted by Jennika Bastian, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em>
"In this piece I looked at many different concepts from nature blended together. I am very fascinated by when one observes a natural object very close up it becomes abstracted, in the same way a landscape does when seen from a far distance. In turn, I am intrigued by how strikingly similar these scenes are: from molecular structures, to veins, tree roots and so on. I want to capture the metamorphosis and transformation of these elements and the fibers that connect one to the other into one breathing, organic structure that can be recognized as human; portraying the human as a landscape. This piece soothes ones soul in that is invites the viewer to appreciate tiny, inexplicably beautiful details and how humans connect with the world around them." <em>Submitted by Jennika Bastian, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em>
"The process of creating the piece brought a great calming effect over me. There is a sense of solace in knowing that the artwork is a direct result from my very own hands. Though drawing this piece was a long and grueling process, I find it important to tap into the creative part of the mind that helped me to complete it. I believe that we should live everyday of our lives balancing between the creative and critical thinking portions of our brains." <em>Submitted by Jeremy Mendoza, University of Wisconsin-Madison Medium of graphite pencil and charcoal, dimensions: 15"x21"</em>
Gelassenheit Fur Meine Mutte
"By staring into the center of this painting I find that I am able to feel balanced and relaxed. The circular and entwined motion of the rainbow form in the center eases my being and helps me to enjoy the silence of that moment. I am able to loosen myself from reality and I become more aware of my spirit, my "soul" and my "heart"; the core of my being." <em>Submitted by Haley Josephs, Yale School of Art </em>
Self Portrait 8
"This piece restores me to balance by reminding me that like life, I am imperfect and I can embrace my flaws knowing that they make me unique. This piece is one of a serious of self portraits done in modified contour aiming to improve one's keen observation of the details in front of you. It is a simple and quick illustration that aims to capture real detail and avoid generic stereotypes or preconceived notions of what a person looks like." <em>Submitted by Anna Miller, Yale University</em>
This piece is about a figurative inner journey manifested as a physical journey through the desert. I used my face in the piece to speak of the inner journey I'm undergoing as I begin college and take on various personal challenges. I tend to find pieces with tension more soothing than overtly calm works. Honesty in the portrayal of the human condition is what draws me to a work of art. <em>Submitted by Catherine Rutledge, University of Madison-Wisconsin</em>
Wolf Moon On East Rock
This piece reminds me of a great experience I had my freshman year in college. I was out hiking and just generally exploring with a friend, and, while we ended up misjudging how far we'd gone from campus and how late it was in the day, it turned out to be a beautiful experience: It had just recently snowed, the sun had gone down, and the moon came up, only tonight was the Wolf Moon (the brightest full moon of the year). It was so bright reflecting off the snow that we had no problem finding our way back, and the image of the experience was permanently stamped into my memory. I feel that sense of peaceful wonder and awe when I think back to it. Acrylic on canvas. <em>Submitted by Autumn Von Plinsky, Yale University</em>
Pandora Sphinx Moth
I've always found something serene about moths; something in their symmetry, their quiet, and their easily overlooked beauty. It makes me feel more balanced just by looking at them, and this piece tries to present the moth, straight on, as it is, simply. Watercolor on paper, text added in GIMP <em>Submitted by Autumn Von Plinsky, Yale University</em>
Making Art is an exploration of realities. When I started this painting I didn't know where it would take me, which is the nature of exploration, but I ended up with <em>Terra Cruda</em>, a reality within the death of a friend I lost. Articulating what I don't know helps me to know it, to process it, and to live with it. <em>Submitted by J. Antone Könst, Yale University</em>
I reflect on the trees I know firsthand of New England, I reflect on the trees summoned by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herman Melville--they are rough and dark against a late afternoon sky. Something strange, inexplicable, some bat or ghost of the mind flocks near. There is the young man, the scholar in the wig of so many forefathers, clutching to his chest some book as dark as the beast that he beholds with one up-turned eye. I reflect on the tension of color and darkness, light and murk, the winged and the rooted, the dumb creature and the intelligent man, the grace of the young and the marks of the past. In reflection, I can feel that tension as balance. <em>Submitted by Cole Tucker-Walton, Yale University</em>
Someone like Hamlet the tragicomic Prince of Denmark stands above a grave. Witnessing absence, in the midst of a near-total darkness he gathers his strength and raises his hand to the sky--a plea, a curse, a blessing, a claim, or a farewell. A thin rainbow of gloom hangs above him, the all-night lights of a McDonalds glow in the distance. History changes, we are not princes, we are not in Denmark, or at the Globe, and fast-food chains gird the Earth--but we face darkness, as ever, and death and our own consciousness, and still we gather ourselves to raise a hand against the sky at night. <em>Submitted by Cole Tucker-Walton, Yale University</em>
Materials like ocean, sky, and flesh converge in a radiant light, a whorl of darkness. Suspended above is a small red figure, dead. In this moment of suspension and convergence, four black holes open, marking the corners of an unseen plane that vibrates with a dark energy. As I made this painting, and as I reflect on it now, I see it as a summoning of an impossible portal to an impossible realm. For me, giving a face to that small red knot of paint gave a place to the dead, made explicit my meditation on the death of my father, and also put him in the company of all the dead, one modest, humorous, generalized figure. Here the energy, emotion, love and mystery of the dead is given tangible shape for me, and for others, to behold. <em>Submitted by Cole Tucker-Walton, Yale University</em>
Rose In Hand
Before my Grandma Claire died she gave me a pink rose. It was dried and put in a frame to remind me of her. Her rose was my inspiration for this piece. It is consoling to know that she is with me in spirit and through my artwork. <em>Submitted by Meghann Stelzner, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em>
Portrait Of Emilie Mei
This piece restores me to a state of balance through its process. The process of making it was very rewarding. It was great to see the subject emerge out of abstraction during the painting process. This goes two ways because I feel looking at the finished piece I am able to still enjoy the process because of the way it is executed. Painting for me brings me into a relaxed and realized state-of-self, as perhaps reading or meditating may do for others. Also, I paint with a limited color pallet- one that I feel is natural and organic. I find using natural colors creates a sense of security and grace that correlates with my subject matter. I find it interesting and soothing to see a work of art come into realization. In this painting I attempted to leave remnants of the process in the final work as to give the viewer a similar emotion of what I was able to feel creating it. <em>Submitted by Samuel Stiver, University of Madison-Wisconsin</em>
To Kill A Mockingbird
My first impression with graphic design was one of apprehension. Coming from a background in painting and drawing, I did not expect to create artwork with the same meaning and context through graphic design. Fortunately, my previous impression of graphic design completely changed last semester. Through my enlightenment, I began to make art which not only leveled my thoughtfulness as an artist but perhaps surpassed my previous endeavors. To Kill a Mockingbird portrays the innocence expressed in three novels which deeply influenced me as a person: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bluest Eyes, and The Kite Runner. A person's innocence stays with them throughout his or her life even though it may become overshadowed by more dominant aspects of his or her personality. However, innocence is the foundation of goodness. It is what aids a person in believing the good in people and the world which then becomes ingrained within the person's being. Therefore, my artwork, To Kill a Mockingbird, depicts the survival of this innocence as a person grows and, at times, loses the core ingredient of his or her childhood. Through this loss, in my opinion, a person loses a part of their selves. My artwork is a warning to preserve the child and innocence living within us all. In the novels To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bluest Eyes, and The Kite Runner, the main characters fight to defend their innocence and use this fight to mold their selves as more complete individuals. “So was I once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be.” --Robert Frost <em>Submitted by Vatsalaa Jha, University of Wisconsin- Madison</em>
Pin Cushion Fairy
Hobbies represent our quiet places and help balance our minds through creative tedium. The pin cushion fairy is quiet and patient; she contemplates. Her craft is the tranquil afternoon spent in thought. The colors of this piece were meant to invoke the plethora of patterns and materials one encounters in creative spaces while representing the bright, peaceful light that pours through thin curtains reminiscent of many crafting rooms and spaces. The yellows were intentionally bright in this mixed media piece in order to facilitate an uplifted state while the blues help to center the mind, drawing attention to the fairies centralized gaze. This is the second rendition of this piece. The original was done in watercolor only; however, the use of mixed media worked to give more strength to the various personalities and conversations outside the character presented by the pin cushion fairy. Funny enough, in the original piece, the fairy’s hand was backwards, a vexing point akin to the moment you realize you are off by one stitch. <em>Submitted by Jenny Quilty, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em>
I completed Motherland in May of 2012, about a year after my mother was diagnosed with neuroendorcine cancer. The painting contains dark, cloudy areas that suggest sickness, which are countered by warmer, less contained, forms. The central mass in the painting can be seen as a kind of womb, or abdomen, that is at once giving life and challenged by life. Painting allows me to make sense of things, or at least, to accept them. <em>Submitted by Olivia Baldwin, University of Wisconsin-Madison</em> <a href="http://cargocollective.com/oliviabaldwin/">http://cargocollective.com/oliviabaldwin/</a>
Care to contribute? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo of your soulful artwork, the title and a short description of how the piece soothes the soul or restores balance and we'll be sure to feature your work in our next edition.