Archives: art

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!

These two quotes feed each other:

No painting is ever sold nor essay written nor band booked nor exhibition scheduled that is not the consequence of previous social interaction, of gossip, body language, fashion dish, and telephone chatter—nothing transpires that does not float upon the ephemeral substrata of ‘word of mouth’—on the validation of schmooze.

Dave Hickey

and…

It’s pretty hard to have a “career” doing any single creative thing nowadays. If you really make a stir as a “science fiction writer” nowadays, you’re likely to get swept up in all kinds of network-society fringe activities, such as blogging, going to conventions, comics, gaming, TV, movies, collectibles…. The days when you could be a “science fiction writer” and work exclusively on books and magazines seem to have vanished already.

Bruce Sterling

Both of these statements fit well with my experience over the last few years. It seems to me that successful contemporary creative professionals need to tend their social gardens. You have to make yourself a celebrity to be effective as an artist.

You don’t have to be big culture famous. You need to figure out how to be a social fulcrum and catalyst. It’s maybe oversimplifying this by just listing examples of channels through which this can be accomplished, as both of the above quotes resort to. In the “everything new is old” department, I don’t think this is actually a new development, but rather the fact that online channels now allow multiple ways to measure it that approach statistical rigor have made what up to now has been intuited machinery visible.

smoke

vulnerable

vessels

seeing

suspicion

These are five portraits from an evening with one of my regular collaborators.

That same night I also experimented a bit with some new drawing techniques. This first sketch is the normal pastel on paper:

paper

And this one is pastel on canvas, with some amount of using a water-wet brush as a blending medium:

canvas

The chalk on canvas felt good to lay down. I’ll be experimenting with other liquid mediums in combination with pastel dust soon.

standing

A hazard of not waiting for the perfect is that you sometimes end up with the good on inferior materials.

This started life as a series of four overlapping warm up sketches on a three foot piece of photo background paper. I’ve been cutting up this old roll of white background paper as it got too damaged and creased for its original purpose, but there are lots of stretches that are perfectly clean. To practice working larger (working large was the whole reason to start leasing an actual studio space to begin with) this paper has been pressed into duty.

By the time I realized I had something here that would be worth completing it was too late. So I’ll finish it on this and preserve it as best I can.

This one is likely to get much more elaborate, so there will be more updates.

artois

You have to get out of your own way.

I do this when I’m frustrated. I take two different colored pastel sticks, hold them sideways, look at a subject and very quickly scrape away with both hands at the same time.

In my head I call this “rubbing one out” because I’m still 14 years old in there.

It’s actually amazing how well proportioned and recognizable these messes are. If I were trying deliberately, with only my right hand and a lot of concentration, it would likely take me over an hour to get the relationship between her arms, her body and the bottle correct.

By handicapping myself I make deliberation impossible. My conscious brain cannot control both hands at the same time in this activity. It can only sit there and watch as some crazed homunculus yanks on my radial nerves from deep in its midbrain oubliette.

That little creep sure can draw.

Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, stress and sitting in a chair all day.

These are the opposites of the very few basic skills that should be mastered early in life, but somehow I didn’t. As a result, most of my creative efforts, requiring some amount of focused energy, just collapse into scribbles.

Take this picture.

orange green

It was intended as an attempt to get at some of what Kent Williams has got going so terrifically here:

Kent Williams

and sure, it needs more time, it was only an hour or so sitting, it’s pastel on paper not oil on linen, on and on. But mostly it’s me, exhausted.

I’ll be travelling over the next few days, so I’ll post more of these collapsed attempts over the next several days.