Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Last Post of 2013

The year 2013 is apparently over.  It has been an eventful year to say the least.  I know this is true when I start my last blog post with "the year 2013 is apparently over."  I've realized that the majority of my work I has historically been made while I am down in the dumps, coping with life issues or just plain trying to get by.  It never occurred to me that making artwork while I was perfectly happy with my life might prove to be more difficult.  It is hard to make something complaining about your life when you have no complaints with your immediate life.  The past three months seems to serve as a good example of that.

I got married this year and my first baby is on the way.  I can wrap my head around the idea of creating artwork that is fully positive, but sometimes I wonder if that needs to be done as much as the cathartic art process of dealing with inner pain.  Today, however, on the last day of the year, I realized that your joys sometimes need to be understood through cathartic measures as well.  I haven't given myself much of an opportunity thus far to fully really what it means to me to be married or have a child on the way.  I have struggled with creating schedules and giving enough time to my wife and my art, but today, I feel like I got one step closer to understanding how to do this.  I even made a piece of art about my wife.  Here is some of the work that I started to finally put together for my show this coming February at The Studio in Laconia, NH.

Life is good.  Thanks for hanging out with me all year long.  I hope to bring you some cool stuff all next year and for many years to come.  Perhaps I'll even share a couple baby pictures on the way.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Mostly Moving but Still Working

Moving is such a drain on creativity, resources both financial and mental, and time.  Since my wife and I found out that we had to move, we have had our noses to the ground trying to make a bit more money, find a house, and keep ourselves sane.  Throughout this process the only thing that has kept me okay is sharing my friend Shirah's studio space.  I have a show coming up in February and another in May.  I have several projects on the drawing boards that I wish to give my attention so much more than I want to give my attention to a move that at times I feel so completely nonplussed by.

That said, there is no way around the move.  It will happen, and so, that studio space has become a bit of a safe haven for me.  Recently I began to think about the pieces that I was making in the different divided segments on the 6" X 6" panels.  I wondered if I couldn't combine the ideas of pattern that I had been studying in Franz Boas's Primitive arts with the ideas behind those segmented images.  Franz Boas suggested that patterns change vertically but become repetitive or symmetrical to the left and right.  This mimics change in our everyday setting.  Consider the skyline, treeline and land.  They are three different segments to our everyday which change vertically but repeat in a sense laterally.

I have always felt like I work better in constrained proportions.  Long vertical or horizontal pieces have always seemed more comfortable to work in than the traditional canvas shapes.  When I have been stacking these pieces I've realized that I am actually creating a different type of pattern.  Check out the images below.

In addition, I've been trying to do more index card pieces for the show in February.  It is a show of advice and words of comfort from media, relatives and my own sketchbooks.  These word based pieces have struck me as slightly uninteresting as of late, but this morning I started using one of the new sketchbooks that my wife got me for Christmas.  I started to think about the word based pieces as text out of silent movies.  Here is the result.

The patterns grow.  I am beginning to think of words as a really complicated pattern.  That is all that a pun really is; manipulating the patterns that we have created for letters.  I'm off to studio for a bit more work.  I hope you enjoyed the images.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Comfortable in the New Studio, in Maine, and with my Family

This has been a week of major ups and downs.  On Tuesday my wife received some terrible news which we spent the majority of the week immersed in.  That same Tuesday I had started work on a new lighthouse piece.  I had found a piece in the art studios in 401 at MECA last Saturday which started me drawing.  The piece reminded me of some of Jeff Soto's work and a myriad of other artists whose work had graced the pages of Juxtapoz.  Blaine Fontana's animal works seemed to be definitely of the same vein as well.  The thought that really struck me was that whoever this art student was, he had taken a universal symbol, in this case a bird, and placed it within the constructs of symbols which makes up his artist language, rays, drips and cloud blobs.  It suddenly dawned on me that that was one of the missing links to my work.  I work with some many different symbols, the drops, the squares, the waves, and the creatures, but I don't mix them.  I have never been dependent on backgrounds or setting to create images, so it would seem that I should utilize something to enhance the picture plane.  It only makes sense to develop more of a pattern out of the symbols that I use regularly.

If I do make these patterns and mix them with the character imagery as my major point of interest I think that will create the best picture that I am currently capable of.  Patterning is something that I do naturally.  I simply wasn't aware that I was making patterns until I looked at this student's work.

I was very impressed with the way the image began to develop when I just started thinking of my normal shape making as patterning.  It allowed me to think of things purely from a design sense.  When I am only concerning myself with shape, scale and color I can create something far more cohesive compositionally and dynamically than when I am attempting to manufacture the proper space.
Yesterday my friend and I loaded up my little S10 with two loads worth of stuff to take to the dump and moved some more stuff into studio.  I am finally all moved in.  It feels so good to just have a space that is settled.  Today I spent a couple hours organizing and then set to work on an old piece that was never very well thought out.  I realized that the smoke that I always make is a pattern.  Much like in poetry there are styles which are very formulaic and measured in contrast to other styles which are more free form, this pattern is closer to the free form pattern side than the more rigid patterning rules like checker boarding or honeycomb.  

Here is an image of the new studio set up.  There is a lot of space for books and stacks of sketchbooks and small paper products like circulation cards and index cards.  I love it.

In conclusion, I realized while working on these patterns that life is very much a free form pattern.  People are born just as other people die.  Good times are often immediately preceded or followed by more trying times.  We make friends and we lose them.  We buy new objects to replace our old objects.  All in all, the actions are always very similar.  We are a freely flowing pattern.  I am a pattern that has found some more comfort with the up and down.  It is a pleasure to face the trying times knowing that my decisions influence not only my life but the life of my immediate family.  It is also with great joy that I am able to accept the good times as I know that those times will positively affect my family. 

I feel a bit more whole.  Keep up.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Color, the Kaddish and Jets to Brazil

Today I finished work early and came home to an empty house.  It was lovely.  I packed up some books, stretched out on the couch, read a bit of Allen Ginsberg's The Kaddish, and listened to Jets To Brazil's Perfecting Loneliness.  It was a completely peaceful moment.  Then my wife came home, made a lovely dinner, minus her chipped tooth.  Darn you Whole Foods and your ready to eat Edamame.

After dinner, Courtney shipped me off to studio for a bit with a thermos full of coffee.  It was a great night.  At studio I worked on her Christmas present, which I can't share and a pipe in the clouds piece that has been coming slowly along.  After about an hour of working on the piece, I decided that it needed more color, a little pop in one direction or another.  I retrieved my cobalt turquoise which I hadn't used in ages (way back in the days of the cloud constructors and my show at Lunar Boy Gallery in Astoria, OR.)  After a bit of experimentation I was reminded of exactly how awesome the color was.  While this isn't a terribly good photo I think you will get the idea.

The piece has definitely taken a turn for the better.  I can't wait to go work on it again tomorrow.  Courtney is actually packing me lunch for studio tomorrow as we speak.  Life is awesome.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hole in the Chest Boy, Good, Deep Friends, and Confidence

I have wanted to make a graphic novel for a long time.  I have never had the patience to really work on one, however.  Usually a writer will provide you with a script and it seems like they are not looking for you to add or subtract from the title.  The illustrator's input appears to not be needed for the story.  This isn't a very good outlet for me though.  I prefer to write my characters, understand them, and make them more about the words and poetics of the situation than I do to show my immense ability to move a character around into a million positions.  In fact, I don't have an immense ability to move my characters around in a million positions.  I am constantly attempting to get better with this, but am definitely not as good as other artists. 

I have been teaching illustration for the past year at a local community college, and this is giving me some more confidence in my work, however.  I have found that by teaching the students the proper steps to go through to build a character and a plot, composition and layout, I find that I am more and more capable of doing so myself.  That leaves the only issue with making a graphic novel the unfortunate fact that most people that seem very interested in writing work for a graphic novel are interested in some fantasy character, science fiction, or violence.  I am not particularly interested in any of these.  I am more of a sensitive kind of guy.  I don't draw to work out dragons or mythical creatures.  My idea of cool is much more reading Sartre and listening to the Cure than it is watching the newest season of Game of Thrones or watching the new Batman series.  I am more the speed of a Daniel Clowes than I am a Rob Liefeld, but everything that I grew up with was more Liefeld.  It took a long time for me to admit this, but once I did, I realized that I can get into this graphic novel thing if it is just a little more sad.

As I was chatting with a friend at work, we began to talk about our writing and drawing styles and it dawned on me that one of my characters aligned very well with his writing.  We met yesterday and started talking more ideas for our character, plot development, and supporting cast.  The result was an idea influenced by Sartre's Nausea, Emo records of the nineties, and a bunch sketches from sadder times in my life.  I am very interested in looking into these characters from the sadder spots in my life as I feel like it will help me identify the character more when he shows up within me.  Perhaps by fully understanding him I will be able to help myself when that character comes around again.

Here are a couple panels from what I've been working on so far.

I am very excited about this project.  I plan on printing the first book in two 8 page zine formats and sewing them together.  The outside cover I think will be a black construction paper cover with a piece of fabric sewn over top.  A hole will be left out of the center of the front cover in the fabric showing the black construction paper behind.    The whole book will be 5" X 7".  This should be rad.  I've been drawing for it pretty much constantly since I met with my buddy.


Working in a New Space, on New Ideas, and New Thoughts

The past two weeks have been as stressful as any in recent memory.  The day after arriving back from Thanksgiving festivities my wife answered the door to the landlord giving us 30 days notice.  Apparently our apartment was the cheapest one in the building and in order to comply with his mortgage terms he is required to reside in the building.  Ergo, we got the boot.  As we began our search for apartments I recalled a conversation with my good friend Shirah about sharing her studio space.  I immediately got on the wire with her and she told me that the offer was still on the table.  Eureka.

Two days later I was moving my stuff into her space.  It is a gorgeous space in the old State Theater building in downtown Portland.  I moved a number of my surfaces, my studio table, my shoe boxes full of small projects, sketchbooks and artist books into the new space.  There isn't enough room for my pile of found wood nor, perhaps, for my drill press or wood working table.  I haven't crossed that bridge as of yet.  That said, there has been plenty of room to make some new work and to escape from the emotional battle that is apartment hunting.  My studio assistant put up a quick blog post about the spot here.

The new space has left me thinking about some new ideas, but mostly has provided me some privacy in my creative habit.  Since I've been married my schedule is much more chaotic.  There is a lot that needs to be organized and prioritized in a relationship that is quite often completely ignored when you are a bachelor.  I've started reading a couple art theory books there.  One is by German philosopher, Johann Gotlieb Fichte.  He argues, essentially, that we only know our own perspective and that we cannot understand any others, because other perspectives are still filtered through our own perspective.  While this is certainly an obvious thought, it is an obvious thought which I had not given much attention to recently.  An old friend used to tell me when folks were making life difficult for him that their perceptions and opinions were "their story."  I couldn't help but think of that concept while reading through Fichte's theories.

What this really meant from a creative stand point was that I felt more open to the work that I had in various stages of development in the studio.  There are times when I feel like work that is a little older is actually work produced by an entirely different individual and to be sure, I don't think that this idea is far from the mark.  I've heard that individuals live a different life every five years.  I might have thought this a load of malarkey roughly 8 months ago, but am thoroughly confident at moments when I am sitting in a midwife's house watching my wife's blood be drawn and asking questions about hemoglobin levels etc., that life is completely different now than when I was 28 years old. 

With this new ability to accept some of my old work as work done by another hand, I started to work in a sketchbook that my studio assistant brought to me the night of the last art walk in Portland.  I filled at least ten pages of the book with new ideas, heads, characters in more elaborate scenes and lighthouses.  Lighthouse paintings, for obvious reasons, have not been a source of terrible interest for me in the past, but for some reason it dawned on me that it would be interesting to manipulate some of the imagery that is most common in tourist pieces. 

The fourth piece is an old piece that I never finished.  I've actually done some more work to it since this point.  It is now referencing some Hiroshige trees and landscapes that I really enjoy.  I have always wanted to find a way to mimic some of the color in the old Japanese and Chinese scrolls as well, so it would appear that there is some learning to be done within this piece.  Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to work with the old and bring in the new.

Lastly, I have been working on a small series of city scape slices.  While I was looking out the window during a class I was teaching I began to draw the top of a building that I have always loved, and the sketchbook drawing later worked into this piece and two others very similar to it.

The piece is very tiny.  I have been working on some tiny interpretations of the old birds with headphones within these works as well.  I need to get a few more tiny brushes to finish the paintings up, but it seems more appropriate to fit the avian audiophiles into scenes with ordinary birds.  The audiophiles were always meant to be representative of some sort of outcast, an individual cut off from the rest of their own by choice.  Music serves as the friend that sometimes people cannot be for those of us who have found a spot inside ourselves that is perhaps too accepting of the sad.  That is what I was always trying to get at with those birds and I am not sure that I was getting it across.  The bird paintings were always a little too happy.  I am hoping that the moody atmosphere will make that point a little more obvious to the folks who look beyond the city scape. 

So, let me thank you for listening to my perspective.  Please do enlighten me with yours.  It would be good to hear from you.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Index Card Art, The Metamorphosis and A Night Off

Yesterday my wife volunteered her time to help paint a new wellness center that our good friend is spearheading.  I was granted the opportunity to an entire day in studio, but alas when I was left alone in studio I was not very capable of working.  My energy wasn't there.  I didn't really care what I was making.  Sometimes this happens.  Usually this happens when I have been waiting for days to have a good long studio day and haven't been granted one.  This was the case yesterday, I think.  At about four in the afternoon I gave up and traveled out to my old, pre-wife haunts.  I visited my friend Mattie and my friend Shirah.  I talked about teaching and my frustrations therein.  I talked about art making and its traps and I talked about how my students never show up to class on time.

Shirah is an amazing painter.  It is lovely to take time off to speak with her.  She has a habit of setting my head straight.  It proved to be no different this time.  I woke up today refreshed and ready to get some work done, at ease with the wife being gone all day in place of my former reluctance, and curious as to what I was going to make.  I am now wondering if maybe being curious as to what to make is better than being certain of what you are making.  Today I made some small pieces of jewelry and traveled to the craft store to pick up more supplies for necklace making.  I then set to making a number of small drawings on index cards.  My artist assistant was busy making backers for each of these.  You can read about that at my Tumblr blog which she manages.

It donned on me that the index card paintings would look a lot better as acrylic paintings than as watercolors.  I determined that I would leave the background as index card and the foreground would be painted opaquely.  I was very pleased with the results.

The other day I had made a single watercolor which I was trying to recreate.  The recreation did not go so well.  I think that may have been the root of some of my problem yesterday.  I had to abandon that method as the expectations were too high and it was influencing the quality of my piece.  Here is that original piece, however.

It was good to abandon that drawing for a little while.  Painting opaquely requires a different type of focus; one that alleviates my stresses and makes me more in touch with my anxieties.  I become a better person, essentially when I paint opaquely.  I think that perhaps this is what people mean by having a calling.  It made me think back to the weekend.

This past weekend I read the Metamorphosis.  Since about Monday I have been questioning why Gregor ever needed to turn into a bug in order to create the resolution to the story.  Why wasn't he just sick or completely immersed in his work or why didn't he just disappear on one of his many train rides?  The fact of the matter is that I have spent four days wondering why the construct of the story happened.  It is a success.  It is stuck in my head.  It didn't need to be anything more than it was.  It was simple.  I have been looking for a big punch again, an answer that will solve the world's problems; my problems, but I have forgotten once again that the world's problems start as something very small within the citizens of the world.  The inconsistencies and anxieties that each individual feels feeds the dinosaur that is our society.  The whole turns about and eats the constituents.  To solve the worlds problems we all need to find our own balance and let the other guy be the other guy.  That is, at least, what I keep reminding myself.  It is, I think, just as correct as many of the sociologists hypotheses.

Til next time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Mug from My Hometown

This evening after bowling, I was sitting having a cup of tea in the kitchen while my wife was looking through her many cookbooks.  She has been meal planning.  It is a creative process that I do not share the joy for.  As she was meal planning she began talking about "real Mainer" type dinners.  My response to this was to draw something from my hometown.  The last mug of the four for Artstream Studios was a fund raiser for the Volunteer Fire Department in Croghan, NY.

It felt good focusing on my hometown.  I remember the Fire Department before its expansion.  When I think about its location I can visualize Vinny's Pizzeria, the library and 7 year old me.  I can see the Monnat brothers running to the station from Monnat and Nortz Garage at the sound of the fire whistle.  I can hear that it is noon everyday when the whistle goes off.  In a little less than two weeks I will be home for a few days.  I can't wait.

I am excited to do some more work like these pieces.  I think that there is something much more personal in drawing your personal belongings than there is in trying to tell the stories that are in your head using metaphors.  It is like drawing a very sensual portrait verses making a caricature of someone.

I'm off to bed with the sounds of The Fruit Bats, Hobo Girl in my head.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Dangling Man, Coffee Mugs, and Solitude

This afternoon during Experimental Painting class I finished The Dangling Man, Saul Bellow's first novel.  Saul Bellow's characters always bear such a sense of solitude.  In Dangling Man, Joseph is waiting for the draft board to call for nearly a year and in the meantime, slowly loses his sense of control and balance, but also gains a sort of comfort with the solitude.  It is a feeling that I am often curious about.  Much of art is this solitude.  Until my recent marriage, the majority of my studio days were accompanied only by feline companions.  To be sure I played a variety of music in studio and listened to a number of podcasts and different musicians but at the end of the day an art practice is a quiet practice.  It is one that has traditionally been accomplished in solitude.  What of this type of man in wait for his calling?  Joseph was waiting to be called by the draft board.  Is that so different than waiting to hit your big break.  Eventually we see in Joseph that his inability to act, which is exacerbated by his depression which is in direct correlation to his loneliness and lack of purpose, becomes the very source of his lack of happiness.

With this in mind, I started to think about my ability to act.  I have been taking some solid steps in the right direction these past few months, but still have a couple major steps on the way to success.  An inability to act on these steps will only result in loneliness and depression, or as the rock band AC/DC put it back in the 70's, "It ain't no fun waiting 'round to be a millionaire."  I've got to take some action and it is important for me to prioritize these actions.

In contrast to this thought I have also been very much involved with a new series that I am producing for Art Stream Studios' "Off the Grid" show coming up in December.  All work is 6" X 6" and under $250.  I started these four panels by painting a color pattern field in the back.  Actually, to be fair, I indicated the colors, mixed them and laid the panels out like paint by numbers for my studio assistant.  You can read about that a bit over on my Tumblr blog, which she has taken over as a sort of process diary from the studio assistant perspective.  It is certainly different hearing these perspectives from outside of my own head, but I digress.  As I looked at these color field paintings, I had originally planned on doing a few more pipe and drop pieces, but realized that that had nothing to do with the way that I was feeling about this show.

I started to think about the ordered chaos of the color patterns.  None of the shapes were really the same scale.  The colors alternated back and forth and so the pattern was the same but the color and size varied from piece to piece.  They were all very much related but would never be mistaken for being in the same pattern.  They fit together more like a quilt.  Recently I had been visiting my nieces and had broken my favorite coffee mug which they have set aside for me at their house for some five or six years now.  I have since found one which I use at my own house, but that has only been in use for maybe 2 years.  I thought about how objects hold some of that relationship, working as a sort of totem and concluded that I needed to do a series of mugs over the top of these patterns.  It would serve as my source of mental pause over top of the ordered chaos that is the world these days.

This first mug is the mug which I spoke of that my nieces would always hand me.  It carries with it my memories of my past relationship, the roots of a couple fantastic friendships and a family which is not really mine but which I will always feel is mine.
 This second mug is a mug which I purchased on a trip back to Seattle after I had moved away the second time.  I was staying with my friend Jill in her First Hill studio apartment, where she had shown me images from her recent trip to India and her adoption of Buddhism.  It was a defining moment in my life.  Her apartment was so simple and cozy.  We had tea.  We lived quietly those two nights and she worked very hard.  The morning after I finished staying there we had coffee at Victrola on Pike Street.  I left with this mug and it now carries that story with it for all time.
My father was a forest ranger in New York State, as followers of this blog well know.  There were two mug designs that I remember from growing up.  There was this one and one with a simple green tree on a very tiny mug.  This commemorative mug is the mug that holds my paint brushes.  While drawing this mug I couldn't help but think of Jasper Johns castings of his mug and brush set up, but also was taken with thoughts of my dad, and drinking coffee at home.

It is a little odd to be drawing from life and perhaps a bit odder to find so much meaning in these inanimate objects, but it seems natural and I really like the way the pieces are coming out.  I'm doing at least two more; one more for Art Stream and an additional one of the mug that I won at a muzzle loading match with my father in the 90's for my folks.  Coffee mugs have always been my family's jam.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Drawing More

I am starting an experiment.  In efforts to draw more and fit artwork into my day in the in between spots I am carrying notebooks that are specifically for a certain subject.  I have started a bird, robot and monster book.  The books are just memo books and, as such, are not incredibly precious.  I feel like the nature of these books will make it easier to deal with mistakes and to work quickly.  This morning while I was experiencing my beginning of the day studio time I tried to work through a few different characters in my monster and robot memo books and it seemed to get me by the working kinks that start every studio day.

I have always kept sketchbooks so this practice doesn't seem completely new, but this is the first time that I have ever challenged myself to fill a particular book with variations on just one subject.  I think this will prove interesting.  Often subjects become boring when you draw them too much because they become all very much the same.  As I am attempting to create a different creature for each page I think that this will make me think a bit more out of the box.

 At any rate, it was at least a pleasant way to end my night last night and begin my day today.  I wonder what other subjects I will try to fit into memo books.  They are cheap.  I'm looking forward to the drawings.  I hope you dig them too.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Clouds and Paint

Last week I went to visit several very good friends.  Each stop revealed multiple works that I had painted.  My style has been very different than most of that work in the last two years.  While there is something really great about my newer drawing based work, I have been missing the layers evident in my more painterly style.  I really had started drawing more as a way to work on my skills where I felt they were wavering.  It was not that long ago that I wouldn't worry about the state of drawing so much because I knew that once I started painting I could make the work look like whatever I needed it to look like.  I had kind of lost sight of the fact that the strictly drawing based work was an exercise.  It is time to paint again.  I want some more serious shows again.

With these last two thoughts in mind, I started at one of my sketchbooks during the middle of a class that I was monitoring on Saturday.  I visited some cloud motifs that I had worked with a couple years ago.  They were really a modification of the clouds in the old Cloud Constructor works, but with more of the express intent of making the clouds characters in their own right.  I started crossing this imagery with the rain marks.  Rain has always signified a sort of cleansing and rebirth to me.  Perhaps it is like a continued sort of baptism?  The rebirth brought me back to me child who is on the way.  I started mixing the baby badger into the piece as well.

Finally I was able to get some real painting in the other night.  My wife was asleep on the couch and I was listening to Ben Kweller ( I love pop music when I am working through new ideas. )  I took a panel that I had nailed together in attempts to entertain her little brother at one point.  Side note: that plan did not work.  I liked the shape of the pieced together wood and I thought that cloud forms would add a nice contrast to the rectilinear shapes making up the larger shape of the surface.

Slowly everything started to form in my head.  The clouds and the rain are a way of thinking of media and ideologies which saturate our vision and thoughts.  It is all one confusing cloud or blob.  I began to think about my child.  What are all of these extraneous bits of information going to feel like to a small child learning the ways of the world?

The larger piece felt pretty good and I felt like the colors were working really well.  It felt like the right thing to be painting again.  I started to wonder if there might be something in working the painterly and the drawing back and forth a little bit more.

This is what I ended up with when I started to think about the two as one.  I think that there is probably some success in here that I had not been aware of before.  We will have to see.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Luckiest Man Alive

Change has been brewing.  Nothing seems to have stayed the same this year.  I started teaching.  I now make more money from art related ventures because of teaching than I do from working in a restaurant.  I am now a dishwasher again.  Dishwasher Pete thanks for the power.  I am married.  I have a child on the way.  My wife is starting to show the tiniest little bit and everything has finally started to settle in.  As a result I've used my number one coping resource, drawing, as a way to work through my thoughts.  I'm going to be a dad and I am so incredibly grateful and excited for it.

As long as I have been growing up in the fashion, I figured that it was about time to make some other steps.  I have begun matting my artwork.  I am excited about that too.  As my incredibly talented friend Caleb told me, it's"like a suit coat for a drawing."  My pieces have looked rad that way.

I have also been extremely excited to be working solely on index cards and circulation cards from libraries lately.  There is something very interesting to me about working completely on supplies which are over the top ready made.  I recently read an article in Art Papers mentioning Dave Joselit and his view points on authorship.  Also nestled within the article were some comments on Duchamp and his ready made ideas.  It said he considered all painting to be ready made since someone else was making the paint.  After I read that comment I determined that it didn't make sense for me to be using art paper any more, especially since my art panels are reclaimed.  I determined that I would use either twice used materials or I would use the most mass produced materials that I could find to do my artwork on.  I think the results have been really great.  I am very much into them.

The library due date cards I plan on making into several small books.  I have wanted to do 50 monsters, 50 robots and 50 birds for quite some time.  The disposable quality of these materials makes me feel more capable of working through that idea.

I hope you dig the new work.  Keep up.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

About the House

A number of months ago I started working with falling house imagery.  The idea was that everyone around me was settling into a family.  I was surrounded by families comfortably living in homes.  I thought that this family situation was something I couldn't obtain, so I began to obsess over the falling houses.  The house became a symbol for me of a prosperity that is indicative of the American populace who is paying off homes, cars and health insurance.  These are things that an artist sometimes lives without.  It is, I am well aware, not simply the artists that live without these things.  Surely service employees of all shapes and kinds suffer from the same afflictions as artists do.

My thinking has for obvious reasons shifted a little bit on the whole thing.  While I do think that some of the amenities that Americans accept as normal and necessary are completely attainable for every human being living in this country, it is obvious, especially with the most current government shutdown, that this is not the case for every citizen.  I am also now the main income for what is going to be a family of three.  Insurance is a necessity.  A reliable vehicle is a must in order to get a mother to the hospital to deliver a baby, to take a baby to the doctor and even to make it easier to obtain groceries and the general odds and ends of a small family.  I was raised in an apartment building, but I know that it would be far more beneficial to a child to be raised in a house.  Optimally that house would have a yard.  These are the things that I am now left thinking about.

Today as I was muddling through the doldrums of watching a good friend leave from his visit and trying to settle back into a work schedule, I happened upon a show in Arizona which is focused on the idea of the home.  I had started a large piece last fall featuring the raining houses.  It seemed a natural connection.  Perhaps the old imagery would work with this new line of thought? 

If anything I think that these houses are taking on more of a life for me.  Bottled up within these nuclear families are all of the anxieties that come along with being the main bread winner in a family.  I've toyed with the idea of giving up painting, finding a new shiny job which will pay for everything that my family will ever need, but then, then I start to work on this, and all of my anxieties disappear.  Well, almost all of my anxieties disappear.  I still don't want to wake up my beautiful wife from her afternoon slumber.

I am so completely excited by this piece and I am even more excited that I worked through the anxiety that I was feeling at the beginning of the afternoon.  I am not much of one for believing in art therapy, but I do believe in the cathartic benefits of repetition.  I believe that making marks for me is my greatest skill.  I take comfort in doing the things that I feel good at.  I hope that I can feel as comfortable making decisions with and for my family.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Family Totem

I have been obsessing over the art of the Pacific Northwest Natives again.  The Tlingits in the Alaskan territories are fascinating, but what I find even more interesting are some of the tribes on the Olympic Peninsula and in the present day Seattle Tacoma area.  The form lines and characters in the Pacific Northwest characters are beautiful, but the story behind the tribes makes the the topic even more rich.  As I've been checking out the artwork and reminiscing about my time in Seattle, I've started putting together my own ideas of creation and tribes.

I've read that at ceremonies the costumery which members of the tribe wear is dependent on ancestry.  If you are descendent of the person who first experienced a rainbow for instance, you would wear regalia at ceremonies and potlatches which were indicative of that moment.  This idea got me thinking about a shift in ideology.  I've used the idea of totems, a story documented from top to bottom, generally expressing the story of a tribe, creation, or parable passed down through generations, as a catalyst for using my own creatures in made up parables.  As my wife has just reached her tenth week of pregnancy, I've been wondering what spirit my father passed along to me.  My father was a forest ranger in the state of New York, Region 5.  His area encompassed parts of the Adirondack State Park through some waterfront on the St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.  The area he was left to cover was huge.  I've always searched for a way to express this authoritarian figure that I remember from my childhood.  I've started multiple paintings, some good and some particularly awful, but have never been able to indicate the amount which I have looked to my father as this figure of guidance and as my way of learning to both assimilate and to exist independently of this world.

A portrait of someone doesn't seem to be the best way to get at the type of respect that I am looking for.  I needed something that stood for my father's role professionally and paternally.  As I was reading about totems it dawned on me that Smokey the Bear was indicative of my father's role and his profession.  Eureka.

The Mighty Lark sketch became necessary as an indication of my own influence on the baby badger that is inside of my wife.  Notice the badger to the right page of this sketch.  Originally I was thinking of keeping the Mighty Lark more Pacific Northwest in design with formlines defining the eyes and beak but I think that I'd rather keep the figures notably mine.

Here is the final drawing laid out.  I will post the finished painting very soon.

Be sure to keep up.  I'm positive that my posts will get harrier and harrier as the weeks ensue in this pregnancy.  I'm also curious what type of art I will be thinking of as I keep reading about being a partner.  That word has always kind of made me gag.  I like wife.  Wife is good.  Partner, bleck.


Friday, October 11, 2013

3 Valves, 2 Conveyors, and The Hope of Tomorrow

Yesterday I finished a large scale commission for a client.  The piece was 11 months in the making.  There were times that I hated the piece, times that I loved it, times that I thought that I was onto something new and other times when I knew that it had most certainly been done before.  Through it all there was part of me that thought that I should just spit it out and get the paycheck.  I did, however, manage to dispel this line of thought rather quickly each time it would come up.

The piece is called Three Valves, Two Conveyors, and the Hope of Tomorrow.  Within its multitude of panels there are four systems interacting.  There is the system of pipes, conveyors, drops and system of layered construction.  The pipes, conveyors and construction do not aid each other.  They are separate systems existing in the same dimension.  They do not really harm one another, but they do nothing to help the others existence.  Sometimes one system does, impede the progress of another by overlapping or being painted a particularly commanding color.  I think that perhaps it does not take too much effort to see where I am taking this metaphor.  The drops are the hope of tomorrow.  Colors coexist, rain, and permeate a new landscape.  Where there is new, there is always hope.

Here are a couple images of the construction, the install and the finished piece.

Now it is on to the next several projects, and I should probably get my plans together for tomorrow's two classes as well.  The best never rest.  Let's hope that that is true, for I can tell you that I do not get much rest.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Experimental Painting. A.K.A. Painting

I was asked to teach a weekend class to high school students called Experimental Painting.  One doesn't really think about a word like experimental until they are thrown in a lab coat or they are watching old Boris Karloff movies.  I was left wondering what experimentation even means.  What does it mean in reference to painting?  The definition seems innocent enough at first: "(of a new invention or product) based on untested ideas or techniques and not yet established or finalized."  Experiment on the other hand seems much more approachable.  Of the two terms, it certainly has all of the charisma: "a scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact."  I then was left trying to relate the word experimental to the creative process.  At the outset it seems fine.  Everyone attempts to make work that is inherently new and different, however, do any of us make things that are on the regular, "not yet established or finalized?"  Who of us has made something that does not neatly fit into some curator's little catalog of monikers? 

It does seems that perhaps a painter could experiment.  Why wouldn't we, as artists and people, attempt to make new discoveries and test our own beliefs on a regular basis?  It is part of the responsibility of being human. 

This led me to think of the word experimental once again.  I decided to break it down into its parts.  If you cut the word in half it becomes "Experi" and "mental."  I took the liberty of translating "experi" into experience since the word is almost there to begin with.  Mental already makes sense without me trying to decipher it.  This left me with "Experience Mental."  Now all that was left was to flip flop the words and I had "mental experience." 

I was left with painting leading a student through a mental experience.  This makes a lot more sense to me even if it is not what the description in the course catalog is suggesting.  Painting takes me through mental experiences on a regular basis.  I think out every important detail of my life while ensconcing myself in surface after surface.  The process is cathartic. This is not even to mention that by analyzing something, painting that thing, and then looking at the painting may make an individual realize that what they see and recognize as thing a or thing b, may not be that essence of thing a or thing b at all.  Because as we look at things long enough, we realize what we are really looking at.  Preconceived notions fall by the wayside.  Is that what I am supposed to be teaching?  I don't think so.

This piece has totally messed with my mental state.  I am love with it even though I'm fairly certain that right now it may in fact hate me.  We're fighting.  It doesn't want to be done next Thursday even though it needs to be.  My mental is experienced.  Thanks Jimi.

In other news, today I hired an artist assistant.  She will be in studio on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This is a big step for me and I am very excited about it.  That's all for now.  So much to do in the interim. 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Wife Is Sleeping Next to Me, The Story of Balance

Last week I was watching my wife's little brother.  I took the trucks off of an old skateboard of his and put them on a different deck.  The screws were next to impossible to get out, but after about a month of staring at them I determined that I was going to finish the project.  After drilling the screws out a bit I was able to finally get the trucks off of the old skateboard.  It was good to finish the project and even better adjusting the trucks to the lad's liking.

After he had tried his board for a bit, he suggested that I try.  I had not attempted to ride a skateboard in a while and even when I had attempted to ride a skateboard in the past I would never have described myself as good.  He grabbed my hands and rolled me along on the board for a while.  I am sure that this was a ridiculous sight to anyone happening on the 9 year old boy helping the large 33 year old man along on a skateboard.  It was amazing though.  Suddenly my feet seemed to better understand what was going on.  It was as if they had new, much better informed life.  I am grateful to the boy for teaching me balance.  To say that I was missing it only in the realm of skateboarding would be a lie, so I will not sit here pushing your leg.  Rather let me say that I realized that everything that I have been missing has been a result of poor balance.

I am eager to use this calm, because rally balance leads to calm, within the practice of my art and my daily life.  I already have felt much more relaxed and accepting of some of the changes that have been occurring within my life.  The next day I finished a piece that I had been working on for a bit and the day after that I started another.

The first was part of a new series that I thought of in reference to an old mail art piece that I sent and the second is a further development in a commission that has been taking me forever.  

I have a planner now.  Little Wife gifted me a daily organizer, one of the big ones that teachers used to use while I was in grade school, to me for my birthday.  It is slowly filling up.  I am feeling more organized.  The rest of the week has a lot of small tasks planned out and a series of large chunks of time devoted to finishing the commission that has been taking forever.  Organization is awesome and Little Wife is a savior.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Of Monsters and Me (The "Will I Make a Good Dad?" Version)

It was a very tumultuous weekend.  My bowling night became a night that I jumped in a car and rode two hours north to Belfast to make a family emergency room visit.  I had to take yesterday morning off from my cooking job.  I have been away from studio for two days.  It is good to be sitting in here again.  I have so much to do, but organizing my thoughts becomes increasingly difficult the more time that I spend out of the studio, and so I am sitting here acclimating myself to my surroundings again.  I've got to get this place cleaner.  My wife has been slowly moving the rest of her stuff in, which is great, but it does mean boxes all over the place in studio.  This is not always the most conducive situation to getting work done. 

But now, here I am, sitting in studio.  This is great.  The sun is shining and the temperature is a little crisp.  Today I have to put together an illustration for a Bard t-shirt and two designs for buttons that I will be packaging with my friend Aaron over at Monkey Chow for Treat-Yo-Self in Boston on Halloween.  I also need to get the back cover of this album put together a bit more.

I think that the two button designs are going to sport my new monster creatures.  I call them new.  They are the first thing that I was drawing out of art school back in 2003, but they have taken on slightly different forms and seem to be better characters than they used to be.  Perhaps they just are starting to look a bit more like me.  I am starting to think of the idea of being Dad to someone.  It is bringing out this very soft and hesitant side in me.  I always loved my father.  He is a great man, but I wonder about how I was raised a little.  In the eighties the honor your mother and father routine was supported by the threat of an angry father still.  "You'll have to talk to dad when he gets home" kind of statements were still the norm.  Part of me sees no issue with this.  I stand here and say, "Well I turned out okay.  I'm fine," and maybe I am, but I am very sensitive.  I take things out on my characters in my art.  I construct characters to feel and say the things that I want to say.  I am very hesitant.  My wife seems to like me the way I am.  I am grateful for that, but I know that it is a difficult way to be at times and I wish more for my children.  I'm trying to work a bit of the monster out again as a result.  I can't work too much of it out though.  The monster is still very much part of me.

 I've even been doing a few at work.  Every time that I have to put something in the oven over night, I leave a character for my co-workers to find.  Like so many restaurant jobs there are plenty of artists and musicians who work with me that seem to appreciate the drawings.

 The creatures all remain more cute than scary.  I am not sure why if I am trying to work "monster" out of me I would try to work the cuter aspects of "monster" out of me, but it seems appropriate somewhere back in that section of my head that makes decisions in my art without me really be aware of what they are.

The originals of all of these little monsters are available through the Mighty Lark Etsy shop.  Should you be interested pop on over and check them out.  I can also do one pretty quickly on commission too.
The Orange Room is the cover art that I have put together for The Woulds, a local Portland band.  The project has dragged on longer than it should, partially because of me and partially because of the client, but at the end of the day, when I went to Syracuse University for Illustration all I wanted to do was make album covers and do illustrations in Spin and Rolling Stone.  One more life goal complete.

There's more stuff.  I'm settling in again.  I should be back soon.