Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Cuban Macaw, Extinction & Whatnot

I've had the Vestibule Gallery lined up for a couple months now. The space is prime; located right on Congress Street in downtown Portland, ME. I haven't even had a solo show in Portland since 2005 and that was in a coffee shop. Needless to say I've been trying to put something good together, to the point where I'd have to say I was overthinking it. 

Finally, I started to think about my life a bit more, and my career a bit less and realized that I've burned a bunch of bridges this year. Maybe this isn't a good thing, but maybe it isn't bad either. I've been able to focus my attention on my family and my work. I've started to think of friends that you can keep and maintain without a whole lot of effort to maintain a persona as "rare birds."  

Concurrently, I realized that I really wanted to make some work about our dying habitat. I pulled back a bit and started to work with extinct varieties of birds; species upon which we've burned the bridge. To speak more specifically on our impact on these species I've started to work with man-made patterns which take over the picture planes. 

Here are a few images of the piece I've started for the Cuban red headed macaw. 

The show is coming up in March and the work needs to be completed in the next month and a half, so I should have a few updates between now and then. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving and Painting Still Lives at my Parents Kitchen Table

It seemed like a natural act. I pulled my travel paints out on my parents kitchen table one by one. Austin and Courtney lay asleep in my old bedroom. We had gotten to my folks house at about 8:30 Thanksgiving night. It was the first Courtney was able to come with me. I felt so grateful for her, the time she spends sewing for our family, the way that she carries my anxieties just as I carry hers. She had left a spool of Guterman thread out on the table and as I looked at it and the way that the lines and shapes crossed and crossed and the feeling of the shadow on that object it felt like it was indicative of everything. 

I settled down to a painting of the thread, fairly unaware of the metaphor but arrested by the power of that object. I couldn't help but think of the connection between my mother the knitter and crocheter and my wife creating dish rags next to me the night before. My home town and my parents house always brin me pause, not as much comfort as I feel at home but a few quiet moments to live without the need for motion. 

Later that day, my wife had left out her thimble and her shears and I felt compelled to start another piece. I felt the need to live the things that were her. 

Then last night as we were waitin to go to dinner I started one last piece of the scissors open. 

It is interesting to find these still lives all of a sudden. I feel like I am drawing in a way that I haven't in years and am learning what it is to actually be a painter instead I a pusher of ideas. I wonder too if my ideas are not more accessible by doing these still lives to begin. Time will tell. 

Everything is feeling groovy right now. I think in ready to finish a couple things that I've been dreading and I am pleased that that is finally the case. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Slowing Down

My wife a and I have been slowing down. After two years of chasing our tails we are starting to settle into what I can only assume will be our life going forward. To maintain the illusion that everything will calm down and we will catch up, feel less stressed, or find our pot of gold seems less an less plausible. However, the joys within that rushed an stressed schedule are becoming more intense. People talk about the ability to focus when you have that time to yourself, whatever the time may be. 

I've always found that I am more likely to find my peace through organization and through my work. I am not very good at organization, but it is a battle I like to fight. My work is always there, but what I've been realizing lately is that I haven't been using it as a tool for my own self medication quite enough. When producing at the right time I feel that I am able to steady myself. One of the big steps in steadying myself is to ignore the outside voices; the voices telling you about marketing, success, the way to make it. I feel more steadfastly than ever before, even with my marginal bit of success, that no one ever makes it purely by following other peoples paths. Even if you do follow someone else's path, success is only reached if you own that path and make it yours. I am not the people from Red Lemon Club, CreativeBoom  or Illustration Friday.  I am something else. I am me. You're you too. 

I have lived my life creating work for galleries. There has always been that voice telling me I need to create illustrations, because I went to school for it and I am fairly good at it when given a project. The white elephant that I have chosen to ignore for so long is this; I spend so much time working, creating art, drawing and painting, but I do not spend this time creating illustrations. It is not a matter of discipline and I don't want to feel guilty about it anymore. I simply want to follow a different path. I am a painter. That is the life I want to live and teach.  There is nothing to feel guilty about in that. 

I have been working more with my studio mates under the moniker, Freehand Armada. We have a small show of remixed still lives coming up. It has felt so good to focus on still lives. It has allowed me to enjoy my use of color and arrangement of shapes. It has helped me create that order out of the mathematical chaos that roger Allard talk about in The Blue Rider Journal. Here are a couple of my recent pieces. 

It's nice to find the things that are slow. Life will always be hectic if you let. Drama begets drama. I can't do it any more.  I have to she'd the things that don't work an embrace what does. 


PS Courtney, it's all for you. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Queen City Piano Project: Creating Art with an Audience

Creating art with an audience seems at once both daunting and inspiring.  Even the most casual visitor to the studio often breaks my concentration for hours.  At the same time, I have long wanted to create a mural or some other piece of public art.  I enjoy the idea of artwork that is immediately accessible to a broad audience and not simply limited to gallery visitors and the sadly endangered creatures we know as "art collectors."  I have had some limited experience with viewing my work in a public environment.  In 2011, I participated in the Billboard Art Project in New Orleans.  It was incredible seeing my work at that scale with the actual earth and sky as the backdrops to my representative imagery.  That experience left me wanting for a more permanent experience, however.  While I was able to see my artwork on a grand scale, I did not experience the process of painting in the midst of the public; creating under observation.

It was with great pleasure, then, to be approached my Meg Shorette, of Launchpad and Central Gallery, to participate in the Queen City Piano Project.  Meg and her crew of volunteers placed 5 pianos in parks throughout Bangor, ME.  Each piano was to be hand-painted and designed by a different artist.  I immediately could see my random and spontaneous patterns working their way across the body of a piano.  It seemed to me the best opportunity I had had thus far to paint on a piece of found material and to create in the public.  Coupled with this excitement was also the fear of becoming some sort of natural history exhibit or feeling like an animal penned up on display in the zoo.  I imagined greetings from the public a la Steve Irwin.  "Well, look 'ere, mate.  I's an a'tist in 'is natu'al habitat.  Let's poke him, eh?"

I have always envisioned my favorite artists, like McGee and Jasper Johns to be impervious to an audience, capable of focusing on their artwork at all times, while conversing with visitors or not. Jackson Pollack seemed dependent on an audience while painting, to validate his creative act, his performance.  Alternatively, I was reading a blog post by Janice Mason Steeves in which she claims that she needs a space to herself in order to create work of consequence and quotes one of my favorites, Franz Kafka, who apparently couldn't bear an audience.

"You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write.  Listen, in that case I could not write at all.  for writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind…That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough."

In a blogpost on painting a hallway, writer, Paul Kleiman, talks about Stanislavski's "Circle of Concentration," the idea to choose your area of focus.  He suggests that when you are painting you are able to reduce your area of focus to the spot right in front of you on your painting, noticing its irregularities and the movements of your brush only.

In truth, my studio practice is very much like this.  It is all about solitude and the zen sensibility that a paint brush, palette and surface will elicit.  It is about rhythm an motion and being in tune with the surface.  I felt that this was a very private endeavor, but when I made it to Pierce Park to paint my piano, I found myself able to shrink my focus, to still create like I was in private.  For all intents and purposes, I was by myself.  I was unaware of the world around me but for the surface in front of me, but only using the idea of the "circle of concentration."

I dove into my piano without a clear image of what I wanted it to look like in the end.  I stuck with the locked box set of rules that I have been using in many of my patterns recently.  The shapes of included in the patterns are all rectangles and vary only slightly within my locked box vernacular. The patterns grow spontaneously; one shape at a time in relation to the previous shapes.  I was thinking about Thelonious Monk and Ahmad Jamal while drawing and painting this project, trying to solo using the limited locked box rules as jazz scales.  The result seemed to be the most mature realization of the pattern making that I have experienced thus far.

I had relatively few visitors while finishing up the piano, but the people who did visit were interesting to talk with and seemed pleased to have a piece of public art available in the small city of Bangor. Due to my thoughts of jazz soloing, the experience seemed performative even when there was no one there.  Ultimately, I found it compelling to create in an arena where people could see me working, enjoy the progress of the work, and take ownership of the process.  I hope to create more work in the public sphere in the future.  It felt as though the work was co-authored by the community that I was working in and that the work had a purpose to a wider audience.


A Clean Studio, Reading Japanese Fairy Tales, & Enjoying Your Successes

You always want to write yourself as a good character.  We always want to be the good guy, someone people empathize with.  I've been reading a book of Japanese fairy tales to my son the past couple days and it has me questioning the idea of good people.  We assume that if we are good people that people will treat us the way we should be treated, we will be addressed equivocally, our deeds will be remembered with satisfaction, but, as in these Japanese fairy tales, however, what if this just isn't true?  What if it's a misconception that people who are by and large good people are actually not doing enough, or what if without the awareness of their acts both good and bad they are not completely whole?

I struggle with this idea and many other smaller thoughts that may be my undoing, causing a lack in motivation, or may be conversely, my strength, providing my work, love, and character with that necessary depth to be whole.  Still, I struggle with empathy.  I get lost in the trappings of my work, the idea that I must keep working, solving my own life's mysteries, creating because creating is what brings me energy and peace. I made a promise to myself that I would work hard enough to get to that elusive somewhere with my art.  I set the sights at where certain artists, like Jeff Soto and Barry McGee were showing and creating, determining that I needed to get there in order to be successful.  For about a dozen years I've labored at this.  I've created a formidable body of work, but no piece of which has brought me the stardom or notoriety that either of these heroes have attained.

Along the way I've married and had a beautiful son.  I've stopped cooking in restaurants and am now an adjunct faculty member, teaching art to people in their late teens and early twenties.  I have a comfortable studio and a comfortable home.  I can create comfortably every day of the week.

It doesn't always make me happy though.  I long for so many things I can't have.  I long for places where I've felt that I was more creative.  I long for better galleries, better artist friends, more stimulating conversation and a deeper and more whole understanding of what it is that I do.  If I could just have a deeper understanding of what it is that I am doing, maybe I could focus, feel good about the course that I am on, be validated, both in the creative work that I do and the qualities that I have to offer at my workplace.  But the truth of the matter is that beyond receiving a raise, or a newer
shinier teaching position with a tenure track and benefits, there is little validation that I can receive that will affect my life and the life of my family.

Recently, I've felt like maybe I've been the bad guy in my own story.  I've felt short with my family and with my work.  I went through a month long period where I was searching for new opportunities, new jobs, gallery shows, creative outlets of any kind.  I wanted to live life filled to the gills with my art again, but it never occurred to me until I was reading fairy tales to my child that maybe my cup was full and that's why I'm having trouble pouring more into it.

I've created so much in the past two months and I am truly overwhelmed by the experience.  My work has grown, but I'm now at that stage where I need to let the soul grow into that space that the work has created.  Yesterday, I cleaned my studio again.  I consider it the rebirth, just in time for the winter, a season of rumination and creation.  Winter always provides me with that opportunity to go slow and reflect.  I hope it's long and cold, because I will be inside filled with the warmth of my family's love, the joy of my studies, and the satisfaction of my work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Fear that your Passion is Greater than Your Instructors Ability

Today was the first day of class for one of my sections of 2d design. Generally my 2d design class is filled with a number of non-art people. This is the nature of a community college, and I will say that most of the time, it is the complete privilege of teaching at a community college. I hae met some incredible people who are multifariously gifted and individual. 

On the first day of class I like to ask my students what their greatest fear about the class is. Often these answers focus around anxiety in drawing ability, shyness, inability to share, or the feeling that you might suck. Today, however, a student looked up and said, " I am only scared that my teacher (that would be me) will not be as passionate about art as I am. This is a bold statement to make. I am not sure how most artists would take that attack. Do you laugh it off?  Do you question its truth?  These students have so much more youth and energy. Clearly they might have a bit more gusto, a bit more juice in the tank?  How arrogant a statement. Was it anything but passion for art that put me in the position of faculty to begin with?  I am not offended, but I am completely intrigued with what this student brings in and it calls to light something I haven't thought about in ages. In order to be successful in the arts, I believe that you have to think that you are right. There is no one who can tell you otherwise. If they do your work fails. Pretty simple. It doesn't really attest if you are actually right, but I think you need to be so confident in yourself that you think critics are ignoramuses rather than that your work is ill founded or poorly executed.

Here are a few suprematist coffee pots that I have been working on. I'm interested in the order of shapes necessary to communicate the object. I'll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, thank you young lady for the reminder to remain passionate. We'll see how this plays out. Maybe you are more passionate than I am, but for the next three months I will say, that you have to deal with me believing that I am right. 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Diamond is Inside

I watched The Beautiful Losers with my wife tonight. It was her first time. And though the artists in that movie/book/show are much more successful, at least in monetary terms, than I am, I felt like it was an insight into my thought process; where my head and heart are at when they seem checked out. 

The distance is unavoidable. I try with all my might but have trouble staying present. We talk about all sorts of family matters but my head goes where it goes. The ideas are where the ideas are. The real diamond is inside, I think, but I haven't found the way to fully communicate it yet. That's my task; to communicate that which is inside me and uncommunicable. They wonder why artists starve!  It probably has nothing to do with how much they make but everything to do with priorities, man. Oh I forgot to eat. I was just too into this, but I digress. The diamond is inside. I am rich and I think I've known it all along. The wife and child added to my soul of millions, but challenge my ability to let the diamond out. It is like a volcano of love that covers up the city of gold. Anyway, here's what I was working on today. 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spontaneity: Painting with Ornette Coleman & Charles Mingus

I read a piece today on Ornette Coleman, by Miles Bullough, while settling into studio.  I was fascinated to read that bop king Dizzie Gillespie didn't even think of Coleman's playing as jazz.  The article went on to explain that Coleman didn't receive any formal education and didn't follow any of the previously accepted modal and measured solos.  Rather he played what felt right and sounded right to him in a spontaneous moment.  The head, or lead in the number would play, and then the sounds would be off to run the gamut.  I slipped The Shape of Jazz to Come on today after reading the article.  There was something in that album that felt so in tune with what I am doing in the "Gridlock" Series.  It is a spontaneity, an improvisation, but not one that has definitive rules.  It is more of a puzzle, finding the right piece to fit in response to the previous shape, with some basic intent at a cohesive whole, but nothing explicit.

Coleman's wandering bars seemed like just the fit to my shapes and as I added color to finish up my pieces, I started listening to Charles Mingus, Live at Antibes, one of my favorite albums.  "Folk Forms" is one of my favorite jazz pieces.  It aspires to this same sort of mindset, I think.  Fitting the current piece with the previous piece.  Don't obsess too much about the whole, because the decisions that you make are innate.  Let the artwork or music be.

It is important for me to allow this side of my brain to be.  When I over think work or focus too definitively on the details of the work, it never seems to happen.  I create a dud.  Only when I allow my intuition to take over to I find the peace of mind to make a successful work.  The successful work is a conversation, not in words translated to paint, but in paint to paint.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Letting Go: Allowing the Creative Mind to Wander

When I am busy with my daily life, I often have trouble maintaining my creative focus.  When I am allotted time to work in studio or at home I will often feel bitter that I must work right then, that I don't get a day to just be off from work, free to do what I want.  I begin to constrain my creative ideas by overanalyzing daily situations, absorbing outside pressures, and ultimately trying too hard to make as much of my time as possible.  When entrenched in one of these ruts it is difficult to remember that I am most successful when I allow my mind to wander.

The other night I was sitting in my easy chair looking out the window.  I began to draw a street light in a sketchbook and three days later have done over ten drawings of these street lights.  Mind you, were I not working full time over the summer, I would probably have more of these drawings done, but that's okay.  The idea is down.  I will be more prolific in the fall when I start teaching again.  For now the idea is down, I have something to noodle with, and I am not gritting my teeth trying to work too much out of myself.

More to come when it comes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

CSArt, Local Muscle, Frank O'Hara & the Hustle

I just returned from a late night painting in the studio. I was working four separate panels intermittently and split that time up by reading Frank O'Hara. The panels are part of a group of pieces that I will be showing with CSArt in te Local Muscle truck on first Friday in August, in front of Space Gallery. 

The work is starting to really evolve. At first I think I was mostly concerned with the drawing. While I was mixing colors it still was feeling a bit like paint by numbers. My brushes are all a bit too large for the size blocks that I am using in te various patterns as well. It has been very frustrating. Coupled with my decrease in studio hours over the summer and the work has been in this sort of in between phase. Tonight I really feel like I was moving beyond that. There is a tendency when I am working in my home studio to stick to one panel at a time, but at studio I work best when I have multiple panels going. The conversation seems bigger and more inclusive. All I needed was a reminder to get to that spot. Cue in Frank O'Hara who worked for the MOMA, wrote poetry on his lunch breaks as spent a great deal of his time meeting with artists in their studios. All te reminder that I need. 

I think that this body of work really has the capability to be something more special than what I have allowed it to be so far. Here's hoping for more positive energy moving forward. 


CSArt, Local Muscle, Frank O'Hara & the Hustle

I just returned from a late night painting in the studio. I was working four separate panels intermittently and split that time up by reading Frank O'Hara. The panels are part of a group of pieces that I will be showing with CSArt in te Local Muscle truck on first Friday in August, in front of Space Gallery. 

The work is starting to really evolve. At first I think I was mostly concerned with the drawing. While I was mixing colors it still was feeling a bit like paint by numbers. My brushes are all a bit too large for the size blocks that I am using in te various patterns as well. It has been very frustrating. Coupled with my decrease in studio hours over the summer and the work has been in this sort of in between phase. Tonight I really feel like I was moving beyond that. There is a tendency when I am working in my home studio to stick to one panel at a time, but at studio I work best when I have multiple panels going. The conversation seems bigger and more inclusive. All I needed was a reminder to get to that spot. Cue in Frank O'Hara who worked for the MOMA, wrote poetry on his lunch breaks as spent a great deal of his time meeting with artists in their studios. All te reminder that I need. 

I think that this body of work really has the capability to be something more special than what I have allowed it to be so far. Here's hoping for more positive energy moving forward. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Absolom, Absolom

I started "Absolom, Absolom" last year, just after Austin was born.  I remember reading it to him in studio.  I love the way that Faulkner wrote.  I unfortunately don't have the endurance to finish his books.  I have started three and gotten to about page 150 on each one and then I lose gas.  Today, while I was watching Austin, I happened into Longfellow Books in Portland and found a copy of "Absolom, Absolom" for my own library.  There is something about reading a book from your own library that can never be compared to borrowing the book.  You own that book.  It is yours to enjoy, feel, and love.  There is something important in starting this Faulkner over again for me; a thread that I left unravelled but not unravelled all the way to the end and not wound up again either.

It seems that my artwork is in the same headspace right now.  I am excited about the work but it seems foreign to me, like someone took all of my saved files on my computer and converted them to French.  I can still catch the gist of the work, but it is difficult to decipher and some of the motives are lost in the translation.  My time in studio has been reduced to such a great extent that I find myself feeling a bit lost, but I've begun piecing in hours.  If I can piece in hours then I will be better off.  I just need to retain my train of thought.  I suspect that I will need to write more; dictate to myself what steps I wish to take while I am creating.

I worked on two pieces today, neither of which is finished, both of which seem like steps in the right direction.  So as I sit here typing, listening to my last album of the day, Wilco "A Ghost is Born," I wonder what the next step is with this work.  I want to put up a show of new thoughts at every turn, but as I related in my last post, I think this does a disservice to the work.  Is the work really about my subject matter or about me painting my subject matter?  Would I be saying the same thing if I did 100 portraits of my son or if I were to 100 paintings of the Grapevine Epimenis?  Grad school suggests to a certain extent, yes.

There is a holiness in the pattern making.  It feels electrifying to fit myself into the spaces, but on the other hand I don't really fit into the spaces.  I haven't concerned myself with coloring in the lines totally since I was in grade school.  At the same time, I come fairly close on a regular basis.

Here is the piece from last night.  I've started to solidify the color, work in a ground which the tessellation will eventually seem to be growing out of and started to paint the succulent.  I realized two things today while I was working on the piece.  One, that I need to have the succulent in front of me if I am going to attempt a more expressive brush stroke.  The photo that I took to studio of the plant at home flattened everything, and the plant that I love felt lifeless.  I need to feel the weight in person, just like I would with a figure drawing.  Two, I realized that I needed to finish the tessellation layer as a whole the next time before I started worrying about where the additional elements might reside.  It is frustrating painting in the negative space around a subject when the ground is a pattern.  Really, it feels like two figures fighting each other; a mathematical and logical figure versus a natural progressing and aesthetically perfect logic.

I wizened up and created the tessellation before I determined where elements were going over top in this piece.  Right now the piece exists as a pleasant play between a cobalt turquoise and a yellow green.  I can already feel the weight in the tessellation, so now when I add in the succulent I feel like it will seem more like a counterweight than a figure being created in correlation to the tessellation. 

Absolom, Absolom.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Where Did I Leave Off

UThis summer has been so very trying on my creativity. I took a job in an art gallery and seemingly lost my creative mojo. There were so many works around me, very few of which I wanted to feel any influence by, and on the whole my little brain has felt completely an utterly overwhelmed. Compounded with the amount of time that the job takes up I feel like I have been in for it. 

This morning I woke up with a piece in my head though. I haven't in a while, but I know that when I do there is some soup about to get made. I'm off to the soup. I figured that if I couldn't figure out where I was going it was probably because I never got to where I was headed with the last body of work. Sometimes I forget that a new series of work doesn't have to concern an entirely new approach or concept. Sometimes it can just be a matter of the growth of your ideas. And so I have returned to the succulents with the tessellations, albeit a bit smaller this time, and my heart feels light. I know I'm doing something right tonight. 

I'm excited to see what the studio brings tomorrow. Peace. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

CSArt, Working for the Man & Goya

I've been plugging through Robert Hugh's "Goya" again. It's a good book, but long and heavy. It's just not something you sit down and read cover to cover in a few days. 

I've been working for a used car salesman turned art gallery owner and it is proving to be a difficult venture for me. I am expected to dress better there than when I teach. It seems silly to me. As I was thumbing through Goya I came to a passage on a portrait of Carlos IV in which his dog is sniffing obsequiously at his crotch. The collar of the dog is labeled G-O-Y... which implies Goya's name on the color, suggesting that he was the king's loyal servant. It's apropos that as I slog through a summer job working for a man I have a hard time respecting I read of Goya working for a King who primarily hunted and left politics to his staff. 

And so I humbly return to my work and accept my position for what it is. I am happy with these pieces of compartmentalization that I am working on. The drawings are born from spontaneity, defining a game and rules as I go. The color is becoming a play which is indicative of a study in Albers. Colors are changing for me based on what I place around them. There is no recognizable subject so I am allowed to convey my message and my empathy solely with color. It's working well thus far. Here are te five.completed pieces. 

I must remind myself to focus, keep my head up, and remember how good I have it. I have goals in mind which I must achieve. Getting to wrqpped up in work drama will not help get me to them. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

I Can Feel It

The emotion is all over me right now. I have felt so trapped by a new schedule necessary for my summer job that all my anxieties, interjections, thoughts and emotion has become bottled up. Today was supposed to be an all day studio day, but I decided to take my son to the park and stay home and work for a while. He's amazing. He makes me think things I've never thought and slow down for things that I would never have had patience for.  

While he was napping I started painting out a piece I had started to draw last night. It is a simple recurring set of shapes and colors arranged in the same locked box manner which I based off of the structure in a house of cards. 

I realized today what this method is to me. I am taking a set if shapes, creating a corresponding set of rules and then creating the drawings at random, a spontaneous quasi-mathematical creation. It is like understanding the functions in a trigonometry problem but getting points taken off on your test because you didn't use a ruler in your diagram. In other terms it is like taking a set of compositions from a logic that is nothing but fallacy. Sort of like everything everywhere on the internet. 

Here is the newest piece from the locked box series:


Friday, June 26, 2015

Some Inspiration - Found Wood - The Exploration

Summer is in full swing.  My show in Bangor has come and gone and now I am left with the itch.  I have a show of watercolors coming up in Laconia in October, but it is the end of June.  I am not done making paintings like those that I put in "The Dinosaurs of Industry," but in order to make more work, I need more materials.  I need some found wood.

When I get in this mood, I generally begin by taking some early morning walks.  The morning is the easiest time for me to think.  I have a clear head.  There is nothing to process from the day.  I can respond to objects that I encounter for their sheer aesthetic value and nothing else. There are several good spots to walk in Portland, ME to find found materials.  The Bayside community has two things going for it.  There is a high volume of low income traffic that roams through the neighborhood and sometimes you will find interesting tidbits of the night before, post-its, receipts, paper bags, etc.  There is also the architectural salvage store and a few warehouses and a drop off for a good will.  Sometimes people will drop off items, like plywood or busted furniture, which are not going to be useful to anyone in the future as actual furniture.  To me, these items are gold.  Often you will find small pieces of wood around warehouses that were used as packing or for trucks to drive over icy patches, etc.  I try to take nothing that looks like it is being used.  Lastly, the architectural salvage has a bin outside which houses pieces that they do not want to resell.  This usually results in a bunch of less than ideal looking surfaces, but sometimes there are some real gems.

I then tend to walk around the neighborhoods.  The West End is usually devoid of good building materials.  If you catch someone remodeling on the right day you could very well find something, but people in the West End clean up rather quickly.  It is the nice end of town after all.  If nothing else a walk through the West End is pleasant.  I then head down the hill and Close to the water.  Sometimes you will find some wood towards where the ships come in.  I do not generally walk up and down the docks as I don't want to irritate the folks working on the ships coming in.  It is generally early after all, and the folks on the docks usually have been up far longer than me.

I then swing  down Grant and Sherman streets.  Apartments are cheaper there, so there is a high turnover rate and you can quite often find interesting things that people have left behind when they are moving out.  Tomorrow I intend to try walking around on Munjoy Hill.  I haven't spent much time walking up there because until a year and a half ago it was way on the other side of town from me.  Now I live at the base.  There looks to be some good construction projects going on so I will probably be able to find something in the way of materials if I'm patient.

When I see something that I want to use, it isn't a casual thing.  It hits me in the face with the wave of creation.  I want to use it immediately.  I want to hold it.  I want to carry it, however heavy it may be. There is no question in my mind as to the materials I should pick up and the ones that I should leave behind.  The right piece of wood can fuel entire studio days.  My energies have settled a bit after some intense work.  It's time to find some creative fodder.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winding Down

The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man goes up on Friday.  This past week has been a feverish push to be ready to hang and packed up by late Thursday.  The work looks great, but I had thought that spending six months on the show I might have escaped some of the last minute ideas that always come to me, that I might be done and not looking for anything more out of myself.  I wonder if this isn't a ridiculous expectation, however.  That last minute expectation is the creative urge.  That is pure adrenaline, not in a diffused coffee sort of delivery but in the purest of idea forms.  It is a beautiful feeling and as much as my wife likes it when I am home in the evening I just can't do it this week.

I was so very concerned about the balance within this piece.  I didn't want the color to drown out the drawing and I didn't want the colors to be placed in such a way that it made the the contrast in the moth wings difficult either.  I started in the lower left of the piece and moved up, only to find that I had lost three sets of wings immediately above the foundry bucket.  At this point I determined that I needed to break the pattern and so I started to paint the shapes exploding out from their initial spaces.  It seemed to match the way that the moths were ascending out of their dark past.  Even still as I was creating the exploded pattern I was still set on covering the whole top bit of the image until I realized that it wasn't balanced at all.  I put out the word on Twitter and a friend suggested I just leave it the way it was.  I hadn't even considered that, but when I did the piece started to feel more and more resolved.  

The week has looked like a lot of this.  I realize that most people work upon panels that have already been made.  I work a bit counterintuitively on my pieces.  My studio is so small that is difficult to find space to move around a bunch of panels with backers and also I like the nature of found and weathered wood.  Sometimes these piece end up needing something different than the typical backer and so I like to leave the work open to options.

This is the last piece that I am working on.  I was uncertain about the left half of this piece for three months. The rest of the image was all figured out for three whole months.  I had drawn a robot head in the sketch that I was working from and it just didn't feel right.  It felt out of place with the rest of the elements in the show and so I returned to my sketchbooks and flipped through the development of the imagery within the show.  Upon doing so I became confident that I needed to place the moth eye in that space.  Today I am working on possible tessellations to occupy the negative space around it.

 This has been so much work and it feels so good to see the accumulation of images all in one place. I can confidently say that this is the best body of work that I've ever made.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

1 Week, 1 Day, and All's Well

The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man goes up in 8 days.  I feel surprisingly good and my nerves are doing relatively okay.  This is amazing.  I have been working on this body of art for roughly six months.  My stress level is low.  I am primarily working on finishing touches and making sure that everything hangs as it should.  Logistics in getting to Bangor actually look like the most difficult aspect of the week right now, so life is good.  Here's the card that I put together for the show.

If you're in the area, pop in and fly the flag.  It would be awesome to see some friendly faces.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Tainted with Success: Thought on Diamonds & a Few Drawings

 I have an image stuck in my head.  While waiting in the car with sleeping Austin, puttering in a sketchbook I started playing with triangles again.  I had been working with a checkerboard style of shading and primarily bounding my patterns in squares.  However, the sketchbook allows me to experiment more.   I was looking for a way to literally break out of the box.  This sketch grew organically, despite its measured geometric components. The result was a diamond.  I wasn't thinking about diamonds, nor has it been something that I have visually obsessed over before, but as this was hitting the page I knew that it was soon going to be something that I would obsess over.

Thinking back, diamonds have really only entered my conscientiousness when thinking about engagement rings and in a lone short story by F. Scott Fitgerald, Diamond as Big as the Ritz.  Fitzgerald is super important to me, as I read him exclusively during the rough patches at the end of my first major relationship.  Diamond was from "Babylon Revisited," a book of short stories that I read on the plane to and from Minneapolis.  My time in Minneapolis is qualified as both the most crestfallen and defeated that I've ever felt, but also the most able to function and live on a small means.  It was interesting then, to be reading Fitzgerald's Jazz Age stories of wealth and extravagance.  I think that the image of the diamond sort of sits in the back of my head as an unconscious sort of relic to that era and the subsequent breaking off of my first engagement.  It is all of the things of luster, but imperfect and valueless too.  

The diamond is also the perfect metaphor for the art star.  The poor, struggling artist attempts to create something to live on.  The story is colloquial, universal.  Our stereotypes depend on it.  The efficacy of the art object is lost out of prudence.  We've built a society that expects artists to remain poor and so, in order for the artist to make money, not only must they develop an authentic and unique style, but they must surpass the overwhelming hurdle of precedence, and vault themselves into the land of the prosperous.

The diamond is a sign of hope, however.  It starts life as just another rock and until it is discovered remains a rock.  Upon its discovery however it undergoes a metamorphosis.  It becomes an object of desire.  It signifies love and stability.  It is tainted with success.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ten Things I Would Tell my Younger Self

1.) The feeling that you have at 2 AM, when you finish a piece, and you are riding the creative high is your response to that out of body experience, the act of being a painter, what some referred to as visiting with a muse, but above all else, a beautiful thing to embrace, live in and realize as a goal.  It is not fair to expect other people viewing your work to experience your work in the same manner.  Distance yourself from the piece before you show it.

2.) If you want to sell paintings for $100 they will always be worth $100.  If you want to sell your work for more than that establish that precedent from the beginning.  If people do not want to fork over the $100, your work may not have reached the quality that you are aiming for.  Do not despair.  Keep your head down and work.

3.) It is never okay to forget the processes and rules that you learned in school.  You are welcome to break the rules and ignore the processes in the creative moment, but realize that doing so will not be without consequence.

4.) Once you have "made" it, there are still many levels to attain.  Try harder.

5.) Draw all of the things that you are too nervous to draw for fear of fucking up.

6.) Make your work.  You are fascinated by a bunch of artists that you hold up on a platform as having "made it."  They "made it" because they were confident in their own work and they had honed their skills to a level that allowed them to establish themselves in the art market.

7.) Selling art is business.  Treat it as such.

8.) Make, sign, and follow contracts.

9.) Do not accept a project that you will not have enough time to complete without sacrificing the work that you really want to be spending time on.

10.) People are quick to attach the term success to money and celebrity.  Whether you make a lot of money or not, whether you are well known or not, you can still be very successful.  Determine your own goals.  Live by them and have faith in yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Show Must Go On

I hang this installation in 18 days.  I also start a new job next week.  The semester doesn't end until the week after the show.  I feel incredibly overwhelmed.  It is no surprise to me that as one of my students was asking me to lighten up on the assignment today I relented.  Why should everybody have to keep working all the time?  That said, I've mostly been wishing for the ability to continue working all the time.  I want so much out of this show and I'm just not sure that I am going to be able to pull it off.  This isn't all bad.  If I don't succeed 100% that gives me a spot to start when I am through with the show, but of course I want everything to be perfect for my own sake.  The average viewer doesn't know when we fail ourselves and failure is healthy and desirable, a learning experience and a chance to change.

Yesterday I began revamping a piece that I thought that I had a clear plan on.  It was exciting to cover up the old design and bring a new design to the piece.  It doesn't mathematically fit together and I prefer it that way.  It is exploding from the lower left hand corner of the piece.  I'm not sure that it works as well as I would like but it's new and a bit more exciting.

I've also been really excited about a couple works that I am working on referencing both wallpaper and succulents.  The patterns easily translate into a type of wall paper and the drawings of succulents work well  in opposition,  geometric versus biomorphic.

The variation in this show may prove to be difficult to work with.  I haven't determined if it may be easier or if I will find difficulties working everything in together.  I know that I am interested in the show being a bit chaotic, disorienting and loud, but I am not sure how much I need it to sit still to be happy with it.

We'll see.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Dinosaurs of Industry & the Rhythm of Man

I received an email earlier this week pressing me for the artist statement and title for the show in May.  Quite honestly I didn't have either, so this evening I sat down with a new notebook which I had picked up from Rock, Paper, Scissor in Wiscassett, ME.  I began by writing some of the things which I've been thinking over and over while creating this work, and then slowly started to develop some more coherent thoughts.  Here's the artist statement in its totality.

"The Dinosaurs of Industry past loom over its creators; ineffectual reminders of bygone eras when a symbiotic relationship between man and machine seemed the answer to the meaning of life.  The current decade witnesses a hopeful return to work and the Earth, a desire to mutually benefit our fellow man by keeping our money close to home.  We are becoming more interested in the Earth and what it takes to preserve our habitat.  Naturally, we proceed as a species until we realize effect and then we attempt to bandage the wounds after the bleeding has reached a critical level.

In contrast to the things we have broken are the remaining edifices of the planet; plants, animals, fungi, and geological environments both big and small.  Our perception of these naturally occurring elements is through a lens of mathematics, a sacred geometry.  Geometry, with its clear cut answers, logic, and certainty approaches the holy.  We feel the aura which Walter Benjamin claims is only evident in the authentic artifact.

The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man is a series of drawings, paintings and three dimensional objects, utilizing pattern as well as depictions of antiquated technology and living matter to commence a dialogue on a present day computer aided eco-friendly society."

The work is starting to really take shape.  I've been cleaning work up and making it as tight as I can.  I feel like this show is going to be the best example of my work since 2007.  I'm really hope that it is received well.

For those of you in Maine.  The show is at Central Gallery in Bangor, ME on the second of May at 7 PM.  It would be lovely to see you there.