Archives: art in progress

Back in the studio today after a long time away. Two models at the same time, which was a new challenge, but look what happened! About a half hour warming up led to a two and a half hour sprint through to this:

back to back-a

I think struggling with oils unkinked my artbrain.

Oils? Yeah, I’ve been working with those too:

whisky glass-a

in the chair-a

Those were alla prima attempts done all in one sitting each, separated by a couple of weeks. You have to go fast, and the paint is always wet so you can’t fuss too much with fine detail because you keep smearing it away accidentally. Alla prima favors the bold.

Something I haven’t seen talked about much is the way working in different media helps you improve in the media you aren’t using. Every time I take a break from pastels, for example, to do a bunch of inks or watercolors or oils, I come back to pastels and suddenly they work so much better. This has even worked with photography. Focusing on one form of making images pays off in other forms.

I’m guessing it’s similar to the thing that happens in your brain when you practice something right before sleep. You go away from one set of problems and practice against a different set, but both problems use the same wiring to solve. What you learn in one is useful in the other. But the real key is that unless you jump to a different related problem, you don’t learn as much because you keep hitting the same routine solutions in the problem set you are familiar with.

It’s almost as though we are wired for a kind of altruism. Fix someone else’s problem to fix your own.

These are hard lessons for an introverted functional nihilist to absorb. Sometimes focus doesn’t pay. Sometimes play does.

Oh! Also I let loose another one of these:

The Occasional Bitslice: Volume 3 Number 1

It’s a newsletter I sometimes do, when I have something worth talking about. It tends to be more personal, sometimes, than the writing in this blog, though this one is split about evenly between recriminations and a long pep talk about the virtues of branding yourself. Lots of the people who read this are my friends, but it’s aimed at a wider audience. I like the idea of there being a channel of writing that slides into your inboxes rather than sits out exposed, staring off into the empty horizon, contemplating it’s loneliness.

The bitslice is too needy for that Clint Eastwood routine. The bitslice needs to be warm, inside your mail client. Read the bitslice, so it stops shivering. And if you like it, adopt it by subscribing:

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That’s all for now. Stuff is being worked on. There’ll be more soon.

the bleed

I’m paralyzed with intentions. Every time I move toward one action the pull of five others stops me. There are a dozen photoshoots, three web projects, a comic, some videos, two audio projects, and lots of physical artwork.

If even two of those get done this year it’ll be an accomplishment!

ink

Where am I?

November. Still sketching, but more to purpose this month. The goal is to accomplish a large piece this month. A thing with some weight.

cold

I’ll tag the posts that include work towards this project as ubi sum.

Where am I?

That’s the question this effort is meant to advance.

ubi sum

It’s about time for a check in on some new pieces and some old ones that have been worked on since they were seen last.

drawing

wake

venomous

tendrils

maybe the world should burn

These are four different models who I’ve been working with on and off for a couple of years now. This started for me as a way to meditate creatively. Having someone sit and drawing them from life shut down the work obsessive parts of my brain and allowed me to free associate with shapes and colors. I deliberately started doing this with no goals in mind.

Now I’m several years into this practice and I feel like it is owed some greater effort.

More on that soon.

face

Here’s a peek at some photo and body art work I’ve been experimenting with. As with all things, I’m not sure where I’m going with it, but I’m sure it’ll get somewhere at some point.

curve

The bodypainting was a lot more difficult than anticipated. Go figure – but living skin is not a very good surface for this. I could not get fine detail, especially once we had applied a full covering of cream based white. It was like painting on top of a layer of wet paint.

The original plan was abandoned and I had to improvise. We’ll try again with some kind of stencil scheme, I think.

painted

Animating paint with muscle driven skin could be a point to connect to the performance work I did decades ago.

Maybe there’s a way to take this in a tableaux vivant/performance art/dance direction, and produce pieces that can be shown in the context of a performance but the components can still be sold in pieces?

Bonus experiment: I’m still trying to make these anaglyphs work. Eventually I’ll have to give up and build a rig for mounting two cameras and slave them to each other so I can fire both shutters at once. There are limits to what can be done asking someone to stand really still and moving the camera slightly between shots. (You need those red/blue glasses for this to work.)

3D

This flickr slideshow collects some of the better results of the last five years or so of my working in pastel, charcoal, ink, watercolor and digital.

And this one collects some of the better photographs I’ve made over the last two years. (There are photos that I’ve flagged as “moderate” as they contain some nudity, and those don’t show up in this embedded slide show, but I’m pretty sure if you click through to it and don’t have safe-search enabled in flickr or live in Singapore you’ll be able to see those as well.)

It’s time to wrap up this stage of work. Starting about five years ago I began hiring models to pose and just working on figure drawings with no purpose other than recreation and practice. My job ate up most of my energy and this was something I could do to keep some creative resonance and benefit from the meditative quality of the act of drawing without the pressure of performance. Which is to say the drawings were for their own sake and have no ambition. They aren’t about anything. Except my sanity. Which was important to me at the time.

That time is slipping.

I’d like to start a Journeyman phase. At least that’s how it makes sense to me to think about it. Starting in 2014, for the three years that follow, I’d like to make some increasingly significant work, that is about something, or feels substantial.

So this year I need to wrap up the above. Put up a show of it. Sell some of it. Bring it to a conclusion. Graduate.

This is me beginning to think about how to do that. If you find this work at all interesting I’d love to hear what about it you like.

I didn’t get those show pieces together in time, so I’ve set them aside. I’ll try finishing them by the spring and aim them at a different show.

I’m a leaf in the wind.

So…

When last we left this one, it looked like this:

standing

I’m not sure it’s obvious from these photos, but this is a pretty big painting, at least for me. To continue with it, I needed a bigger easel, because the backing board it’s clamped to is too heavy for the portable. On Wednesday night I built this:

It’s just some planks sawed apart and screwed together with bent angle brackets. It is as crude as can be, but it works. You can waste a lot of time finely crafting the tools you need to do other work, and never get to the actual work. That’s a chronic problem of mine. This thing doesn’t need adjustable sliding bars, it doesn’t need to fold up for storage or transport, it doesn’t need to be carefully measured. Cut it, screw it, and move on.

See, it works fine.

Thursday night I shut myself in the studio with a six pack of Newcastle Brown Ale and obliterated the background.

This one has been painted over and over on top of itself about three times now. The thing about how these started is, I was just playing. I wanted to try working bigger than my usual 20″x30″ rectangle but I had no real idea what to do so I had a model pose and just drew. The beginning of this was just three poses on the same sheet. When the center figure came together, really when the weird magic started happening around her hips where the drawing gives out to a cone of blank white with an arm shadow crossing it, I knew it was worth elaborating. But at this point it was also obvious that the thing needed a point. It was improvised, not composed. I had to look at it a lot, then set it aside and let the confabulation engine grind on it a bit.

Something about cloth, a skirt of white butterflies, twin presences hovering and touching. It was enough to start again, and it’s going this way now:

I’ve rubbed out her face again, mostly. Her head was just too big. It happens, and I’m learning not to stress too much about the mistake. Even if there is good detail in the face, even if it is, by itself, well rendered, if it blows the balance of the whole, better to just repaint it, even at the risk of it being rougher.

Besides, I really think the heart of this one is going to emerge around these hands:

I’ve been filming my work on this one in bits as I go. Hopefully when it’s done I can put together a little video.

ardor

This is a challenge. Can I complete three high quality pieces around the theme of love’s birth and decay, and have them done before February 2nd for possible entry into a Valentine’s Day group show?

ardor arms

I need to stay away from nudes for these. I also need to get out of my thematic rut and do some more fully conceived pictures.

These are a couple of sketches of the core idea in progress. It’ll stay somewhere around this, but it’ll also change quite a bit before completion.

My head is full right now of pop surrealism and art nouveau. I watched Meredith Yayanos and Thomas Negovan record a Theramin onto an Edison Wax Cylinder yesterday, and stared at several Alphonse Mucha ‘Le Pater’ lithographs.

The result is this, so far.

P.S.:

I’ve got a facebook page focused on my artwork now. It just launched, so there’s not a lot there, but I’ll be filling it up as I work this year. I’d be delighted if you felt inclined to click over there and like it!