100 Creatives 2014: Betirri Bengtson, Visual Artist, Creates Bodiless Soccer Players

Categories: 100 Creatives

photo provided by Betirri Bengtson
Mexico vs. USA

When he came to Houston from Mexico almost 17 years ago, Betirri Bengtson brought his country's fervor for soccer with him and poured it into his artwork.

"In Mexico, we're born and we grow up with futbol everywhere. In the streets, in the parks," says Bengtson.

His eerie and surrealistic paintings depict soccer players from around the globe, sans limb or jersey logo. "There are no people, but you can see the movement, the motion of the players, the teams and the colors. The essence of the game."

Bengtson took these pieces with him to Rio De Janiero last month, displaying them for soccer fans who'd come to the city for the World Cup from around the world to see. Before that, a Brazilian soccer team had commissioned him, which is when he knew that he should start pursuing art for a living.

"I wake up start, start working, take a break to go eat and work out, I come back to work until I go to sleep again. So it's just a lot of sacrifices, a lot of things that you really miss. But then you start to see the results. I was able to do my dream, and it was worth it."

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100 Creatives 2014: Melissa Maygrove, Romance and Happy Endings

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What She Does: Melissa Maygrove's mother likes to tell a story about constantly finding her daughter in the closet with a pen, flashlight, and spiral notebook writing away. She's made up stories all her life, but never really found the time to do it as an adult. Once she did, she passed off a throwaway novel she admits was terrible and after three manuscripts found her place in romance. She likes romance because the endings are happy.

Her first novel is Come Back. It follows Rebecca Garvey, a young girl who is left behind on a wagon train and heads off on an adventure with a handsome stranger. Readers will feel a kinship with Jean M. Auel's Plains of Passage as the two come to rely and love each other in the harsh, 19th century West. Even for a non-romance fan like me the first few pages will grab you.

And yeah... it's kind of nice to have a happy ending.

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100 Creatives 2014: Natalie Harris, Bridal Gown Designer, Damsel White Label Collections

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All photos courtesy of Natalie Harris
Bridal gown designer Natalie Harris, owner of Damsel White Label Collections and Custom Design, has been playing dress up with dolls her whole life, it's just that now her dolls are soon-to-be married brides instead of Barbies. Harris grew up in rural Indiana and remembers that before she could sew, she would glue scraps of fabric to her dolls to make their dresses.

Harris participated in 4-H in her hometown, taking on sewing projects every summer. When she got to high school, teachers created an independent study course for her that allowed her to delve further into sewing and design. "By the time prom came around and I had a head full of ideas about what the perfect dress should be, the deal was sealed," she tells us. "I consider myself blessed...and maybe a little cursed...to be one of those people that do what they do because they must."

This story continues on the next page.

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100 Creatives 2014: Larry McKee, Cinematographer, Knows How Light Behaves

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What He Does: Larry McKee was a still photographer in the late '70s and through the '80s. Once he learned how to light, he found himself analyzing movies as he watched them. It became an obsession with him, trying to figure out the way that scenes were lit to bring out the best a scene could be shot from a camera. Eventually, he realized that he could do that himself.

Just in the last few years he's proven he most certainly can. He's worked as a cinematographer for more than a dozen shorts and feature-length films alone. Some of these include working with director Travis Ammons on Suicide Notes and Divorce Texas Style starring Daniel Baldwin.

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100 Creatives 2014: Tiffany Heath, Filmmaker, Will Scare the Pants Off You

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What She Does: Tiffany Heath doesn't look like she's possessed of the kind of darkness that can make a seasoned horror film reporter go turn on all the lights in the house and consider taking up day drinking. By her own admission she's a forty-something-year-old girl who lives in an old antebellum farmhouse on six acres of land with my chickens, husband, dogs, garden, and children. Mostly, she spends her days feeding all of the aforementioned people, animals, and vegetation, but in her spare moments you can find her at Agora shedding her Donna Reed guise and exploring deep darkness, gore and childhood trauma.

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100 Creatives 2014: Jonathan Pidcock, Jewelry That's Off the Chain

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What He Does: Pidcock is another talent that I met along Artist Alley at Comicpalooza, and is married to author Angeli Pidcock. His work is chainmail jewelry, and I apologize for the horrible pun that I used in the headline. As you can see, though, his creations really are worthy of energetic slang descriptions.

He's been making things out of chainmail for the past decade so after being introduced to the craft by an armor-making friend and co-worker. Despite the fact that chainmail work is long and minutely detailed, Pidcock thought it was the sort of thing a relatively un-handy man like himself could accomplish and became obsessed with trying his luck.

After stumbling across M.A.I.L. (Maille Artisans International League) Pidcock switched his focus from armor to art after seeing what his peers were able to accomplish in the medium. It really became an addiction, and Pidcock would spend hours fiddling with piles of loose rings and trying to learn the weaves he found in the M.A.I.L. database. The more and more complex the weaves became, the more he wanted to build. Then one day a co-worker at his day job saw one of his pieces on his desk and asked if he could purchase it. Now, he makes all kinds of jewelry for paying clients through his website, Digi-Dog Designs.

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100 Creatives: Mallory Bechtel, Musical Theater Triple Threat (Actor/Singer/Dancer)

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Mallory Bechtel in the Bayou City Theatrics production of Brooklyn
There's a story in the Bechtel family about the moment they learned that then four-year-old daughter Mallory could sing. "I was in a dance class," the now 14-year-old tells us. "We had to sing a Christmas song while we danced ... when I came home I told my mom, 'They all sang it bad. They did it all wrong.' So she asked me how they were supposed to sing it and I got up on our coffee table and I sang."

Mother Annette Bechtel knew talent when she saw it. She pulled out the Annie album and the video camera and taped young Mallory performing some tunes.

"When my dad came home, she showed him the tape and he said, 'Oh, you have to turn down the Annie vocals; you can't hear Mallory.' My mom said, 'That is Mallory!'"

"Then she put me in musical theater classes right away and I've been doing it ever since."

Less than a year later, the tiny talent was cast in a production ("It was either The Wizard of Oz or The Jungle Book. I can't remember which one I did first.")

Fast forward to today, and Bechtel has some 30 shows on her resume. The latest is the musical Brooklyn where Bechtel plays the lead character, a teen on her own in New York City in search of her missing father.

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100 Creatives 2014: Janine Hughes, Visual Artist

Categories: 100 Creatives

All photos courtesy of Janine Hughes
Eye of the Storm
It was October 31, 1993 when visual artist Janine Hughes went blind. She was 18 years old.

Hughes says her blindness was more of a whiteout than a blackout. She describes it "like driving on the New Jersey Turnpike in a sudden snow storm." After months of fear, pain and invasive medical testing, she was left with just a vague neurological diagnosis and little hope from her doctors.

Despite their dour prognosis, Hughes recovered her eyesight. "At 18 years old, I was remarkably naïve," she says. "I never considered that anything would happen other than complete recovery. The doctors ... were very negative and told me that I would have to have surgeries and procedures and that the condition was degenerative. I never believed them and went with acupuncture and exercise instead."

The incident was the first of two medical experiences that would affect Hughes's art.

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100 Creatives 2014: Nyssa Juneau, Artist With Postcards From Space

Categories: 100 Creatives

What She Does: The best thing for me as an arts blogger about going to Comicpalooza is that you meet so many new local artists who come out to show off their wares. Nyssa Juneau was literally the first person I ran into this year, as the two of us asked each other if we knew where the registration set-up was and struck up a conversation from there.

Juneau has been drawing ever since she was a child, sending art back and forth through the mail with a favorite cousin in an awesome version of pen pals. Currently she's an artist in residence at Box 13 Artspace. The work of hers that got my attention at Comicplaooza was a series of planetary post cards, each one detailing an exciting figure of the rest of the objects that share our solar system. My favorite in the series is the Jupiter you see above, showing the roiling storms that dominate the planet's atmosphere.

"I don't get to travel a lot, but I liked the idea of being able to send someone a postcard from another planet in the solar system," said Juneau in an email interview. "The idea was that if you made a trip to another planet and visited a run-down tourist shop, what feature of the planet would be on the postcard to send home? That interested me, and in the process of doing those illustrations I learned a lot of really fascinating things about the planets in our solar system."

Juneau also specializes in something she calls iPhone Drawlings. Childlike doodles done in a smart phone app. It's an interesting concept that allows her instantly publish her work, and comes across as a combination of Impressionism and Saturday morning cartoon. See her gallery here.

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100 Creatives 2014: John Merritt, He Brings You Tentacle Kitty

Categories: 100 Creatives

What He Does: People have been telling me for years that I needed to check out Tentacle Kitty, but I honestly just never had any idea what it was. Was it a web comic or something, or a series of paintings? It seemed really hard to quantify John Merritt's adorable but bizarre creation.

After having finally got some time to speak with him while at Comicpalooza Tentacle Kitty has become one of my favorite things. He drew the original cartoon as a present for his wife as he waited for her to get out of work, and now it's expanded into a webcomic, posters, T-shirts, and even an animated series that is currently in the works.

Who is Tentacle Kitty? She's a kitten with tentacles that has come to Earth in search of hugs. Her best friend is Ninja Kitty, who fell in love with her when she came to Earth. Also, beware the rat-tailed unicorns that eat your hair and poke holes in valuable things for fun. In the dark they reveal their scary eyes.

See? I told you it was bizarre and adorable.

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