Monday, December 22, 2014

The Trane Keeps Rolling

have two projects weighing on me as I come into this holiday week. I've scheduled an illustration to be finished before Christmas and I have an installation to finish by the first. 

I am putting together all of the artwork for the new Seasonal Disorders 7 inch EP that is coming out next year.  I've designed the front and back cover, the a and b side artwork, and possibly artwork for their t-shirt. I'm excited about the project and the drawings are coming along pretty well, but I've had the installation leaning on me heavy for the past coue of weeks. I feel like I can never get enough done for that. I would rather be assembling that the lady couple days than still painting and drawing. 

The installation is called Soul Trane. It is an assemblage of stereos, cassettes and trains. I've tried to listen to nothing but blues, hip hop an jazz while making the piece as an effort to channel some of the energy that I have garnered in my work from primarily black performers. I've been reading "Clawing at the Limits of Cool," which tells the story of John Coltrane and miles Davis. There is a lot of blues to reading the histories of famous black men, a certain reckoning and an overwhelming guilt. I'm a contributor to White Mans Burden ethos simply by not offering any alternatives, by not protesting, by not being politically active. I am not this outgoing extrovert, however. I am a painter, an introvert. My best friends are questlov, q-tip, Trane, Elmore James, lightnin' Hopkins and James brown. They give me a groove and a freedom to create. I am on the soul Trane and I will not get off, but I will not protest for anything. I will, however, hold the cause deep down in my heart and do my best to take that cause and push it along, push it along, push it along.....


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching, Reading and Feverishly Working

I am not the Bohemian I once was.  I have changed immensely.  My social demands have grown slack.  I seldom hang out with people in the evening, seldom meet for beers, and have a more regular schedule than I've ever had before.  I am matured, married, settling into a profession.  I don't really understand how all of this has happened all at once.  I do know that I have little desire to return to the party or to the sporadic schedule.

The fall semester is drawing to a close.  This last semester I taught two sections of 2D Foundations in Design.  It seems as though life has come full circle when you end up teaching the class that you had the biggest struggle with in undergrad.  I've also begun to settle into my teaching.  This semester I assigned a 3000 word essay on the formal aspects of one classic and one contemporary artist.  The process of grading these papers was intriguing.  There were some students who really gave me a window into a new world of artist while others rehashed ideas that I have heard for ages about the heavy hitters, like Van Gogh, Monet, and especially Keith Haring.

Teaching has helped me in my own art making.  I am reminded on a daily basis of ways to improve my images.  It is like developing a sense of zen with my work.  I am more present with the work than I have been in the past.  I am making more conscious decisions, whereas before I had been falling into a set of visual tropes that I had had success with and settling for compositions as they popped into my head.  I was much more concerned with getting to the paint and not so concerned with drawing.  While teaching has made me more present with my visual decision making, it has played a much heavier influence in helping me establish changes within my work.  I have begun to experiment as I have not done in the past.  I have attempted watercolor, worked in micron pen, worked on paper, played with scale in a more fulfilling way, and relied on my conscious decision making, not style, to make it all work within my overall body of work.

I have also spent this last year, truthfully since I was married a year ago August, feverishly reading.  I have been reading non-fiction about art, mushrooms, music, history, and physics.  I've also read a fair share of fiction.  My favorites have been by Saul Bellow and Haruki Murakami.  Reading has granted me more empathy.  I feel less exasperated when people don't understand my work.  Also, I feel like I have been making more work that fulfills a universal feel.  A friend of mine, Shirah Neumann, told me that one of her old professors spent a good portion of his career painting the interior of his studio.  Stuart Davis spent nearly a year working on Egg Beater paintings.  I've been developing empathy for the objects around me, the ideas that I have in my head, and the icons that I have utilized over the past decade to communicate my point.  I have simplified a good deal of my work.  Rather than showing a complicated setting of cloud constructors, or a world of audiophilic birds, or robots conducting human acts, I have been focusing on stereos, trains, city skylines, and tape cassettes.  I have been drawing and painting these objects and scenes and learning how to paint, how to express myself via the application of paint rather than worry about the big plot to pull people in.  It feels more natural.  It feels like my drawing and painting skills are improving again.  It feels like the challenges that I am presenting myself with are no longer based on production levels but more on experimental and quality levels.

Additionally, I have not been using this blog space as my sound board.  Most nights I sit across from my wife and we chat.  Often we chat about things that I am not wholly present for as I am still trying to find the calm after finishing painting work, reworking pieces in my mind, questioning where to go next.  I have not had that time to remain possessed by my work.  I have had to compromise with my wife and find a more inclusive manner of working out those post studio energies.  Perhaps I just need to refigure what my goal is for this space and that will help me determine how to proceed with it.  I have started to use instagram in the same manner as I used to use this space.  I never did cull many comments on this platform and I get a whole lot more feedback with just the image.  Maybe I ramble too much.

I had intended to share a couple images of current projects that I have been putting together.  I will attempt to post some more work from each soon, detailing the process behind each series.

These two images detail a recent series of miniature city scapes that I have been putting together of Portland, Me.  I thought that perhaps by looking in spots which were not quite so obvious I could find a certain kind of beauty in my surroundings that I cannot find by paying attention to the everyday things that I find in front of me while walking around the city.  I began the series with watercolor on wooden blocks and have since switched to acrylic paints for archival purposes.

This second pairing is from a series of works for a "soul train."  I have been listening to nothing by John Coltrane while I've been working on the piece, not because he did soul music, he obviously didn't, but merely for the tenuous connection between his nickname, "train," the "soul train," and regular trains.  The work is about music and repetition, about defying the left to right structure in music and letting the form of the instruments create the direction of the printed page.  The work is for a show in Illinois.

The last work pictured is from my small series of deconstructed boomboxes.  The work is spontaneous in the drawing so it made a lot of sense to color the work with watercolors rather than the more meditative acrylic paints.  The drawings are based in the roots of Malevich and Kandinsky but picture an archaic but more modern device.  I thought that by giving myself the rule that I was only allowed to draw the stereo, I would take my work to the level of abstraction which Braqcue and Picasso achieved with their violins and pitchers.  It has been a good experiment thus far.  I have even lined up a small show of the work with The Studio in Laconia, NH.

My life is different. I have had difficulties accepting this in every facet.  We hope, at times, that one thing or another will stay the same so that we may have something to depend on.  The fact of the matter is that as soon I was married the expectations of my time became different.  There were suddenly two people determining what I was going to be doing with my time.  It is a good thing, but it is very difficult, even a year and a half later, to get used to.