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.