Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Fables of Faubus (on repeat)

It has been one full week since the United States elected Donald Trump to President.  This week has felt like years.  Social Media has become a task even more difficult to champion than it was during the height of Bernie Sanders Memedom.  I am tired of the internet.  I also depend on the internet.  Without it there is absolutely no audience for my artwork or my creative thoughts.  Without it, my creative community is limited to my neighbors and knows nothing of NYC or the West Coast.  Without it, I do not sell much work.  Without it, I do not get more shows.  And yet, with it, this is as depressing as it goes.

I read, and wonder, where is the love?  Why is everybody bickering?  Why am I bickering?  I did not come here to bicker.  I do not disagree with the majority of the people out there.  But I am tired.  I have been attempting to read the paper, to keep up, to know what is happening.  Sadly, the plot line has been similar to Hans Keilson's "Life Goes On," thus far.  But then today, I read the front page of the New York Times and there was news of series of beatings conducted by corrections officers in Marcy, New York.  I just felt so overwhelmingly sad.  More sad than I have felt thus far.  It seems that prisons and jails should be relatively safe, at least safe from violence by officers. I spent so much time with people in uniform when I was a child riding around with my dad.  There were so many very good people working in that policing community.  Marcy is not far from where I grew up.  This news hit me hard.  It felt like the root of all that is getting in between us.  Multiple inmates claimed to be called derogatory names for race and orientation.  Multiple inmates filed claims of broken noses, contusions on the head, being used as battering rams through dry wall.  This is not the world I want. A few officers should not be able to sully the name of all officers, and no inmate should ever be victim of such crimes.

The article listed what the inmates were in prison for.  One fellow was listed at serving 17 years for drug possession.  I don't know anything about sentencing, but 17 years is an awful long time.  I started to think about what one does when they get home.  Do they even have a home when they get out?  Seventeen years!!  That is just a little less than half of the time I've been on this planet.  I drew this blind contour from the portrait of one of the inmates that was printed in the New York Times.  

All last week I was consumed by two parallel lines of thought.  One was that white citizens do have power which is at a higher level than other races in this country.  It is undeniable.  We don't think about it.  We don't have to, because we are white.  But other races do.  People with different sexual orientations do.  Men seem to over women.  I've been reading W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk, trying to get a grasp on what it is to not have this power.  It is some sad reading.  Hopefully there are others who will read it as well.  It seems important, vital, to our improvement to understand the challenges that many people face.

I am interested in the structure of all things natural, and of things which are manmade that take root in the natural.  I think that perhaps if we understand the structure of everything better, we can come to more open conclusions, more inclusive decision making, decision making that will benefit everyone.

Inside the human body, barring any surgeries or birth defects we all have a knee that looks like the one above.  We all walk in buildings which have a structure like the one above.  We all witness insects which can be broken down into the parts above.  There is something wrong with the structure of our nation right now, but the people possess goodness at their hearts.  Let us find a way to help everyone in the best way that we can.  

I am not scared of the economy.  I am scared of creating more division.  Please don't brainwash us.  Please don't teach us to hate.  Please, stop being so ridiculous.

"Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

Then he's a fool! Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

Name me a handful that's ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.
Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello."


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Drawing From Life, Abstraction & Simplification

Drawing from life never held any allure for me.  As a young man I was obsessed with the Pop Surrealist movements of art depicted in Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose magazines.  I poured over the galleries in the ads and in the gallery directory on the Juxtapoz website.  I de-valued the ability to draw from a figure or to do a portrait.  I felt like the only work that mattered was work that elicited a higher purpose.  I never thought that anything in my daily life might hold enough interest for a viewing populace.  

Currently, I find this to be contrary to my whole practice.  I have found that I am tremendously interested in observation and communicating a figure as simply as possibly.  This has created its own issues.  When I was in school there seemed to be this heavy push to learn to draw the figure as well as possible using values and proportion perfectly.  That was freshman year, when a basis in this information is vital to your artistic development.  I didn't take many figure drawing or drawing classes after my freshman year.  Really I only took one, but it was that same figure drawing I course. I feel that I didn't fully learn the basics that I was aiming to learn.

That said, I do feel that I have learned a communication of a figure, albeit in my language.  I have been struggling with justifying this figure to the figure that I felt I should be capable of producing due to that undergraduate education.  So when I was reading about Gauguin's break with the impressionists this morning, when he was abandoning the comma shaped brush stroke and leaning towards more of a caricature style, it was heartening.  Gauguin referred to his new style as "the synthesis of a form and a color, taking into consideration [only] the dominant."

Gauguin developed this style while looking through the print works of Hokusai and Hiroshige, styles and theories which I also am very much fond of.  As I've been working in watercolor, I've started thinking about how to communicate shapes using a single line much like Asian artists working with Sumi ink.  

As I read this morning I realized a connection.  I am simplifying my brush stroke which I use while working in acrylic paint, aiming for a more gestural and abstract expression of my subject.  Lost is the noodling pixellated looking brushstroke.  I never suspected that I would discover so much more emotion by painting subjects from the everyday.  I thought that the allegories that I had created were more powerful than my work from natural subjects, but I am beginning to think that this is false.  I guess only time will tell.  

While I do not suspect that I will entirely abandon my all of my silly character work, it is rather fun after all, I do think that I am excited to continue this level of discovery within the natural subjects.  I don't feel that it is nearly the sell out that I thought it was every time my mother asked me for a painting of "something pretty."


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Typee: Why so Serious?

Herman Melville writes some great adventures.  A couple years ago I read the book "Omoo" and now I am reading "Typee."  It seemed an excellent counterpart to the book on Gauguin's symbolism that I am reading as the entirety of the book is set in the Polynesia.  Melville's characters are always interesting, as the narrator is ultimately him.  He allegedly experienced something akin to what happened in his books on Polynesia, but what interests me, is that when his characters find themselves in the dramatic situation that catapults the plot of the novel, they always find a buddy.

Similarly, as I've been working through the ups and downs of my personal life I've been looking for company as well and as a result I have reached out to the members of Freehand Armada and I've started a couple new projects.  When life gives you lemons, make something new.

I've started two new projects with Freehand.  The first is a zine of varmints performing skateboarding tricks.  I will share some of those as the sequential pieces materialize more.  I have the first, a badger doing a nollie kick flip, almost done.  He just needs to land.  The second project that I started is a newsletter project.  I want to do some reviews of all sorts of things in my Portland community; a couple artist studio visits, reviews of gallery shows, reviews of new pinball machines at Arcadia, and a segment that my buddy and I just came up with, The beverage review.  We will review whatever beverage we are consuming while working on our other projects.  Mostly this will become a rolling review of our cheap beer of choice.  The first was of Narragansett and you can read it here.  Each beverage review will be accompanied by a drawing of the can.

I've also begun a #nanodrawmo project for the month.  I am going to do a small watercolor of 50 different shorebirds.

I've been really into the way that watercolor feels and how mobile it is.  I have gotten to the point where I pretty much carry my watercolor kit around with me everywhere.  These drawings have been pretty quick.  The interest in shorebirds really sprung from a book that I was reading earlier this year on the migration of the Red Knot, a type of Sandpiper, who travels all the way from Tierra Del Fuego to Nova Scotia every year.  That is a long trip and seems fitting to the way that I've been feeling about my life of late.  What a long strange trip try to account for all of my needs.

So I'm finding that in order to really be creative and loose, it has been really helpful to push silly projects with my friends.  I was beginning to take myself too seriously.  I need some friends to accompany me on my journey.  Hopefully we don't take our art directly into the maws of cannibals.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

I am, of course, Surrounded.

We are who we imagine ourselves to be.  I still have this Vonnegut line stuck in my head.  Is this what I imagine myself to be?  I think I just am.  I'm torn between the life of a dreamer and the Taoist principles focusing on existence.  Both ideals have merit.  In order to attain something we must first believe that we can attain it.  However, if we spend too much time dreaming, we lose track of what it is to be, we lose track of how to be ourselves and there isn't any purpose in attaining things if we have completely lost our identity.

I find myself living the slow/fast, big/small struggle on a daily basis.  People push and pull at you, demanding things of you constantly.  It is just a matter of personal interaction, vital to our very existence perhaps, but it doesn't allow for solitude.  I need solitude, but I also fear that same solitude. I fear that I will disappear, but I also enjoy the idea of drifting off into people's subconscious, only to return with a weighty and solid statement on existence and the moment.

Today, I have felt a bit behind.

I'm taking this moment to acknowledge that I am letting outside forces dictate my speed and my mood today.  It is time to take pause.  I did not used to believe that a bad mood or day could be recovered, but I am now feeling more of the opinion that the only moment that matters is the present. I must focus on the present.

I am planning a trip to Big Sur.  Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac's books both had a huge impact on me.  I think that Miller sought the same solitude that I seek.  I feel disenfranchised with a social media driven world even as I use it on a daily basis.  Miller loved and doted on his daughter to his wife's fury.  I understand that position better than I ever thought that I would.  Miller feels like my voice.  He's a bit bitter but sees hope in the individual.  Kerouac on the other hand seems like a lovable failure.  As he drifts about in his head, coming down, he feels both foreign and near at hand. We distance ourselves from the moments of vulnerability which might be evident in these passages. I am currently in a very vulnerable place, however.  

I hope to find something on my pilgrimage.  I have not traveled to either coast solely for myself in some time.  I think that all of my introspective friends that I've been drawing would appreciate this position of self discovery that I am entering into.  

Today feels fast.  I don't know why.  I'm going to get up and take a walk.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Artists are weird, socially awkward, self absorbed, depressed and not terribly intelligent.  At least that is what I should think if I am to believe what I have heard for years from so many people who find out what I do.  You find yourself catering to people's assumptions.  "Oh, well geez, I'm just an artist." So it came as no surprise to see this meme pop up in my Facebook feed today.  

I am not angry.  These stereotypes have a foundation in truth.  Most do.  In a society that is dominated by value in investment rather than self worth, why would an artist seem like a good occupation?  There are a limited few who do very well.  It is assumed by some that if you stick at it even though you are not one of these few that you are doing something wrong.  

I have recently had my world turned upside down.  Once again, my love for art making has come in the way of a relationship.  It is a complicated affair.  I cannot bring myself to be as attentive as many partners would like.  I am ruled an unhealthy relationship choice.  I love to make art.  I will make art no matter what my time constraints and I will upset the person who is trying to make it in the system. I think that the system is broken.  I see no reason to rush from gym, to work, to home, and then to collapse on the couch to have my happiness fed to me via television wavelengths.  I will not have my happiness dictated to me to support somebody else's system.  This is a social handicap, to say the least, but not one that I am willing to budge on.

I would ask, however, why are artists considered poor?  Why is living life outside of the system considered a threat.  There are different types of wealth.  I feel that I see more than many people.  My powers of observation are quite developed.  I see more quiet moments of love than I think some do.  (I cannot be sure of this, but I've read a lot of hate on the internet, and that hate is not what I see.)  I have hope, not in some grandiloquent plan for equality or economic prosperity for all, but that you and I, he and she, us and them can all see eye to eye.  I think this starts at the quietest possible spot.  It starts in ourselves.  We must be at one with ourselves.  We must love ourselves.  We cannot experience love for everybody else if we do not love ourselves.  I think there is something in there that big government and big money don't want people to know.  Our system demands that we be dependent on our system.  Otherwise there is no system.

 I do not think that I am poor.  Weird, depressed, so messy, tortured souls; these qualities are all products of perception.  What is weird to me is not weird to you, but might be weird to someone else. Is it just me, or did an entire hipster movement just try to make their whole statement to be as "artistic" as possible.  Shake all of the stereotypes you can out of that branch, but it doesn't make you creative because you have a handle bar mustache and a South Dakota shirt on while you are roaming the streets of a booming metropolis.  It just makes everything at the thrift store more expensive, which is a bit counterintuitive to the number one item on that list of Google suggestions, no?

That said, even the people who adopt the creative guise, are looked down upon.  Everyone loves to hate the hipster.  What is wrong with the hipster?  The only thing that I can see wrong with a hipster is the matter of authenticity.  There is, perhaps, not a genuine need to shop at the thrift store, for instance.  But as soon as the hipster dons the clothing of the artist, they become misunderstood.

Not all artists are gay, and what is this 1985?  Are we still scared that there are men who are attracted to men, women attracted to women, people that don't even identify as a sex?  Oh, good lord!  What will they come up with next?  Reputable third party candidates?  

Am I depressed?  A friend suggested to me last night, that circumstances make the feelings of an individual, not the fiber of the individual's being.  I do feel depressed at times.  I see people hating each other.  I feel hated at home at times.  I will never, at this rate, pay off my loans from graduate school.  Is it wrong to feel a bit depressed about that?  Let me go get some medication that also costs money so that I can ward off the anxiety of not being able to pull down a job that allows me $450 a month to pay off graduate school in ten years.  OR, maybe everyone could chill out for a second, because we all feel different, and we all have emotions.  The minute we try to evade our emotions is the minute that we lose sight of who we are and what we want to be.  

I don't care if I make a lot of money, if I have a 401K or if I have a new car.  I don't care if I have a beautiful house that everyone wants to come to.  I don't care if people think I am weird.  I make art and art makes me happy.  I live life slow when I can and I've found, that life is all that it needs to be. I'm happy.  Please don't project your unhappy on to me.  

I love you.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ordinary Life as Symbol

This morning I was reading on the bus from Henri Dorra's The Symbolism of Paul Gauguin, and one passage in particular struck me as interesting.  In another letter to Schuffenecker, Gauguin said, "In certain almost supernatural states of the soul, the profundity of life reveals itself full in the display before one's eyes however ordinary it might be.  It becomes its symbol."  As I was reading this it dawned on me what that feeling of documenting daily life in a sketchbook really is: It is this moment of self-awareness, that this moment matters.  There is something to this moment that means something to me.  It is poetic and important.  Working quickly in a pocket sketchbook allows this sort of snap judgement to really come alive.  

I wonder, however, how one can take these visceral moments and communicate them without the aid of a camera.  Would I need to draw from memory?  Would I simply draw from the sketch and end up with a very loose piece?  I don't know that painting that loosely would carry the same gravity as the moment seems to encapsulate.  The other night on the bus, I saw two girls splitting the earbuds from one phone playing music.  It conjured memories of my days playing sports in high school, riding the bus next to my friend Steve.  It seemed important to document the moment more because of the universality of it than anything else.  However, if I communicate that to a final piece it will lose something that the drawing holds in documentation alone.

Later in the week I was listening to Social Distortion on headphones with a petite punk rock girl sitting several rows ahead of me.  I thought back to this nature that I've had the majority of my life. Punk music talks to a scene.  People who listen to punk rock are often considered a community. Wouldn't it make more sense to sit next to the punk rock girl and strike up a conversation than to listen to Social D contentedly in the back of the bus.  I've built these barriers with the music as my companion rather than breaking down the barriers using the music as my weapon.  I wonder how many people do that?  The moment felt important, inherent in my nature.

So many moments that I experience with my son seem like something bigger than what they actually may be.  He is learning all about the world, how he interacts with it and what it is.  I have the opportunity to experience everything that we see again for the first time.  Explaining to another human being is experience at an all new level.  We observe more and in an entirely different way than we do when we use the "I know what that is" eyes.  Our familiarity with daily life kills our sense of the moment.  People will often tell you to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings, but I think there is no better way to do this than to attempt to record your surroundings and yourself. These moments of observation so easily do become a symbol.  You are no longer looking at one couple sharing headphones or one fellow sitting in the back of the bus, but you are now looking at BFF's and the solitary individuals, the Saul Bellow characters walking through your daily life.  Perhaps they feel more sadness or introspection, or perhaps they are more comfortable with accepting their own sadness and introspection.

Children are generally understood as new to all of these games.  There is both a positive and a negative connotation to the word naive.  It is perfectly acceptable for a child to be naive and deplorable for an adult to be so.  And so it is interesting to partake in play listening; to purposefully allow yourself to behave in a naive fashion in order to better the development of a child's psyche.

What is it to make artwork utilizing this voice?  Is naivety an issue because adult must go to work and be grown up or because somehow it assumed that you will miss out on something more profound?  I am growing to think that there is something very symbolic to the act of seeing things like a child.  If a person is able to approach a situation without a Deuleuzian Rhizome of understanding, perhaps you can experience that situation or object for the first time.  You can through what it is supposed to be.  I think it is just a symbol of hope, but do any of us, as adults, really understand what hope could be?


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We Are What We Pretend to Be

As I've settled into my study of great master draftsman and portrait painters, searching for suitable compositions to replicate, I stumbled upon a book of Degás that I had tucked away in the studio. I believe I found the book at a rummage sale for a buck. For the better part of the past 15 years I have collected art books but it wasn't until I was through with graduate school that I really started to read them. I suppose my patience just hadn't arrived yet. But I digress, there were two anecdotes that I wanted to share from Degás' history. 

The man was a bachelor, but he delighted in the movement and rhythm of the human figure, studying ballet dancers, opera singers, and horse jockeys. He studied from class Greek and Italian works, venturing to Italy several times. His aim was to be as immediate as the impressionists who worked outdoors trying to capture precious moments of lighting while drawing the figure with an understanding of classic anatomy and drawing. It is said that many women desired that they have their portraits done, to which he would respond, "I would love to paint your portrait, but would probably dress you in the hate and apron of the servants."

I adore this mindset. The expectations of people seeking portraits is often counter to the dialogue that is painting. One can make an accurate portrait but have achieved nothing in the sense of emotive paint. I've had a good deal of struggle with this with people who have wanted to model for me in the past. I am just not seeking the same thing in the portrait that they are. 

The second tidbit from Degás that I was looking to share was to the point of his funeral. He was said to have suggested, "If there has to be [a duneral], you, [Forain], get up and say, He greatly loved drawing. And so do I."  There is something so cavalier and charming I. This statement. As a person who struggles feeling love for one person greater than the love I have for many, and who certainly feels more passion for the act of drawing than I do for any person(other than my son) this is music to my ears. I feel, suddenly, less alone. So hears to you Edgar Degás. You were a champion drawer and a true inspiration of a life. 

Here are a couple more drawings that I have put together in preparing my homage to Gauguin's "Woman Carrying Flowers," from 1889. 

I am very excited for this piece. My model seems to breathe a similar life into the pose which Gauguin's model also did. My line work is getting a little softer and a little more confident. The process seems like it is more akin to the lifestyle that I'd like to maintain. I saw a Kurt Vonnegut quote online yesterday, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."  I'm going to pretend to be as great as Gauguin and Degás.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Be Impressionist to the End, and Fear Nothing

"Be impressionist to the end, and fear nothing," Gauguin replied to a friend upon the accusation of terrible mysticism.  A terrible mysticism is surely what an artist needs to avoid in order to escape the labels that society so often casts upon creatives. How then, does one tow the line between symbolic, purposeful and thought provoking work and pedantic dribble?  Grandiloquent gestures aside, it still seems imperative to couch your work in some form of symbolism.  And symbolism almost always finds itself speaking for too much; racial issues, religion, or ecological issues.  There is too much there.  Hopefully the artist is capable of utilizing the juxtaposition of symbols in such a way that it will speak to these larger issues without either growing too big for its britches or being too straight forward.

We all utilize a library of our own symbols.  In the past I have relied on a myriad of archaic devices and machines, like the cassette, steam engines, and antique telephones to attempt to begin a dialogue about what it is we've discovered, used, and ultimately cast off.  What is that process I've wondered. This has allowed me to create a fairly vast body of work that I've been proud of on the whole.  As I've been drawing more and more in my sketchbooks over the past 9 months, I've realized that utilizing these symbols isn't really achieving what I had hoped for.  I had hoped to make some pretty grand statements, to provide pause, and to ultimately affect people in some way.  I am not getting through. When I created a show of extinct birds, I received comments on how pretty the birds were.  When people saw the patterns that were coupled with each bird, they assumed that they were random.  People did not look and try to solve my riddles.  Perhaps there were too many riddles.

I've realized that what I want to communicate is a compassion, an acceptance, a contentedness in the daily routine.  It isn't so much about what we have cast off.  While I do care about what we have cast off and I think that what is left behind does say a lot about our level of contentedness in life, I think that I have, perhaps, missed the mark a bit.  That said, I do think that some of the symbols are important, just not all symbols all of the time.  It is the juxtaposition of symbol, of the signified and the signifier that I need to master.  Gauguin understood that dichotomy very well, even if he didn't always expect the viewer to come along for the ride.  He went on to say, "It is evident that the symbolist path is full of potholes, and I have only treaded it with the tip of my foot, but it is, after all, part of my nature, and one must always follow one's temperament.  I know well that I shall become less and less understood.  What does it matter if I separate myself from the others?  For the masses, I shall be a riddle, for a few, I shall be a poet, and sooner or later quality finds its rightful place."

In studying Gauguin, I am finding a language within myself that I had given up on.  The human figure is making more sense as a moving object, capable of communicating allegory and emotion.  I am finding in the figures that I am studying the very slimmest inkling of an idea of how to communicate what has been swimming in the ether just beyond my mental grasp, and it excites me deeply.

"For the masses, I shall be a riddle, for a few, I shall be a poet..."  I am slowly stamping out my creative fears one by one.  I shall be a painter to the end.  I will find my voice.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Stars not where they seemed or were calculated to be, but nobody need worry.

I finished reading "The Hunt for Vulcan" this morning.  The book follows the trajectory of the theory of gravity and how it relates to the celestial bodies in our solar system.  For approximately a 100 year span it was believed that the imperfect calculations on the location of the planet Mercury were due to another small planet named Vulcan.  The book covers the empirical research of perhaps a dozen different scientists, culminating with Einstein, who disproves the existence of the additional planet. Towards the end of the book, Levenson, shared the original headline from the New York Times, which stated, "Stars not where they seemed or were calculated to be, but nobody need worry."

This statement is such interesting poetry to me.  In the same sense that I've been determining that my failures are in fact necessary for my growth, this is a wonderful illustration of how it took a number of different scientists to figure out what seems to be a relatively well accepted and understood idea now; the number of planets in our solar system.  In order to arrive at Einstein's final steps, however, it was imperative that he modify Newton's theories, which was a sort of Physics Holy Grail for a couple centuries.  These were laws, information that could not be altered.  It involved a number of very stubborn people who believed, but did not know that there was a planet closer to than the sun than Mercury.  They believed that Newton's numbers had to work.  It was belief versus a search for truth.  As I spend more and more time trying to learn to draw again, it dawns on me that in a sense, we have come to believe in the theories presented to us in art over the past fifty year.  We believe modernism and post-modernism to be the lens that we need to search through because everything has been discovered, we have seen in before.  But here we have a science that didn't quite figure, that was accepted for over 200 years, suddenly come shattering down because one person was willing to put the work in.  I'm not sure what I'm after, but as I was reading about Einstein and his penchant to be alone, thinking and working, I felt akin to him.

I am not for a minute claiming the genius that was evident in Einstein, but I do feel the singularity in purpose that he exhibited.  I feel drawn to artwork; the studying, teaching, and making aspects all.  I feel inclined to avoid close relationships, blow up romantic relationships, and focus on my work.  I feel a definite similarity to Mr. Einstein there.

I am wondering what to do with my sketches.  I am not sure that I have made any that I am eager to make into any large scale pieces as of yet.  It used to be that I would grow so excited about my ideas that I would have to put them down on paper instantly.  I am not feeling like that anymore.  I am very much into the idea of creating some figurative pieces with compositions referencing famous artists.  Currently I have most interested in works by Gauguin, Goya, Cezanne, and Sargent.  I love Sargent for his ability to make all of his subjects look remarkably noble.  I enjoy Cezanne and Gauguin for their abilities in abstraction.  Goya seems to me the master of transcendence.  His works elicit such a vocal response from the viewer.

With that in mind, I think my plan is to stick to making drawings.  I cannot make pieces that reference famous masters if I do not believe that my drawings belong in the same realms as said masters.  I have essentially determined that I will learn how to do all of the parts of my artwork that make me uncomfortable.  I thought that graduate school would encourage behavior like this and I think that that is what I most wanted out of that experience.  It didn't end up being the case, however. I have, on the other hand, realized that where I used to think I didn't have enough time to complete everything that I wanted, that I now am more interested in working as often as I can rather than worrying about how much I create.  These undue stressors only make my work more claustrophobic and constipated.  I am looking for a freedom in my mark and I think that I am getting closer to it.  I merely needed to reject the idea that learning how to draw very well doesn't necessarily mean a break with the current trends and goals in modern art.  It is just my journey.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Create

My brain is open.  It is open to all sorts of information and ideas, but it is far more evident that it is open; as in it is open spilling out of my ears and pooling on the floor.  There is just too much to keep track of all of the time.  I am combating it like a champ though.  I am drawing and taking it slow.  I am keeping up, but keeping myself at a good pace.  I've been making my coffee with a pour over.  I made myself lunch.  I did the laundry and picked up the house.  I have been more efficient with my lessons and grading, more prolific in my tiny doodles, and much more apt to have my nose in a book.  I have been working on watercolor studies and final pieces and every morning I create a watercolor bug.

 My phone is the devil.  I need to put it down.  It is just oh so easy to pick it up and check Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and repeat though.  Chasing a toddler around makes your brain feel like soup.  The release of the phone feels like a nice crusty bread to mop up the last of the broth.
It makes sense.  It is a fight to be able to create.  

In order to help myself both calm down and keep up the momentum of creating I've started to catalog all of the quiet moments I have with my son.  I've drawn just about everything that he has brought me or given me as a present, and also some of the moments that we share.  It has been a major help in attempting to be slow.  The world operates very quickly.  It is a fight to be slow and meticulous just as it is a fight to be creative.

I am not always winning this fight (see thoughts on smartphone above.) but I am feeling better about the it.  I am slowly trying to implement changes in my life to return myself to the creative entity that I once felt myself to be.  I am also realizing that for all of the time that I spent telling myself that I was working, I think I produce almost as much work now.  It is quite possible that it has more to do with the type of time you spend rather than the amount of time.  I've had several ex's try to express that to me before.

I've been fascinate about this idea of time, however.  There are periods of time where all I do is produce artwork and other times where in the past I have spent with my girlfriends or wife.  It does seem like this is one of the better instances of balance that I have ever mustered.  I feel as though I am making but not impeding progress.  Now all I need to do is line up a couple more shows for 2017.  Although, that might just break my balance that I've been trying to cultivate.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Failure is the Journey

A Man and his Beer Van is almost ten years old.  My general person has seen so much evolution over the course of the making of this blog.  The past two years have been filled with, "I'm backs," "I'm going to get around to its," and, "I've accepted its."  Ten years is a significant amount of time.  This blog has changed immensely and it is obviously reflective of me.

I am currently going through some of the most fierce emotions that I have ever felt.  After three years of marriage, my wife has determined that this is the wrong path.  We've been split up, but living in the same apartment, for roughly three months now.  I've received advice from a number of people, friends who have emerged from the woodwork from high school and graduate school, to my ex-fiance.  It is comforting to know that these people care about me.  It is more comforting, however, to feel as confident as I have in my own person.  I've still managed to create every day.  I have continued to create my fishing fly watercolors everyday, worked more in more in tiny sketchbooks, and even started to clean up studio a bit, working on larger pieces again and gearing up to create a miniature gallery space in the corner.  I have not been idle.  I am proud of this.

I have been worried about what will happen to my son.  He is the single most important person and priority that I have on this Earth.  I have changed, my artwork has changed, my goals have changed, and my expectations have changed, and it is all for the better.  

When I started this blog, I started with a poem written while driving a beer van.  I moved on to sketches and ideas and my thought process.  I then became obsessed with the idea that each move that I made needed to be commercial.  I needed a style.  The blog was a good way to make people aware of my various attempts at pitching products.

Now I am teaching art, however.  I have been to graduate school and spend my days with a 2 year old.  To say that I think the perspectives of 26 year old me are limited is perhaps an overstatement, but I would say that my perspectives have expanded.  I am more interested in a broader range of mediums, ideas, and styles.  I do not think that this has hindered me as an artist.  What I do think, is that often times, we become so focused on being a thing, that we lose sight of enjoying the journey.  I talk about this a lot, but I wonder how much I actually allow myself to live it.  

My journey has been immensely fruitful.  I am content with how I live my life, the people that I have met and choose to keep, and with being a father.  I am content with making art in whatever manner I can.  Sometimes I feel restrained by my responsibilities, tied to a lifestyle that doesn't seem to fit the goals that I thought I had.  But as I sit writing this, I can see that I am now making sketches, drawings, and thoughts bridging the parallels between the quietude that I experience in living with my son, the mercurial waves of urban development and destruction, and nature.  I am finally finding what my work is about.  I cannot see the future, but I bet that I will continue to feel more pleased with my work as time passes.  

As to this blog, I've determined that I would like to return to my roots a bit more.  I am tired of showing pieces in progress as my process has changed.  I am more interested in the ideas and thoughts that are crossing my dome.  That is what I'd like to do here.  Here are a few recent images from one of my tiny sketchbooks that I've been working in from Albertine Press.  They are wonderful books with some good paper.  You should check them out if you like working small but with mixed media.

In conclusion, I'm feeling more comfortable in being what I am, making what I make, and working how I work.  I am sure that the manner in which I work will change more as I grow older, but now, at 36 and working through a divorce, I feel like I am the most pleased with the work that I make that I have ever been.  I think that it is reflexive of my life.  Both are full of failures and that is wonderful. Failure leads to new opportunities.  Failure is another chance.  Failure is the journey.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Two Year Old's Impressions of the PMA's Women Modernists

As my son and I were sitting in the Pidgy Park, Congress Square Park in Portland, ME, last night, I glanced across the square to the Portland Museum of Art, where they were hosting Free Friday.  I scooped up my boy with relatively little resistance and we scampered across Congress and Free Streets and into the museum.  After stowing our bag in a locker I set my boy on my hip and we proceeded to read the curators statement on the exhibit, "Women Modernists."

As we walked into a a colorful wall of Torr and O'Keefe paintings, I was taken by the naturalistic shapes.  My boy, however, cried out, "green bite," at the top of his lungs.  We were standing in front of a rather dark Torr image, with strong geometric shapes surrounding a single and exquisite green leaf.  My son would apparently eat this painting, but only if everyone else had a bite at the same time. We turned the corner to a wall of Georgia O'keefe.  Her works were splendid; more grand and colorful than I've ever been able to imagine from color reproductions.  Austin was also quite taken with her work.  While many, I'm sure, were thinking about the seductive nature of the pieces, Austin was more taken with their edible characteristics once again.  "Ice cream," he cried, in front of each O'keefe painting in the first room.  After 6 years of academia I was having a little trouble at first seeing what my son saw, but after a bit I realized that her Jack in the Pulpits did indeed bear a strong resemblance to a sugar cone, the flowers, white and pink and rich browns.  They were lavish and smooth and looked immensely tasty if you blurred your eyes a bit.

On to the third wall we strode to a wall of Florine Stettheimer, a painter who I had never heard of before.  As we stood in front of her busy scenes I was taken by her textures and warm color schemes, but my son was mostly taken with an object in a painting at Asbury Park that looked an awful lot like a boat.  "Boat," he screamed to the disdain of the gentlemanly dressed "art viewer" next to us.  You know the kind, my friend Melissa would describe them by very demurely removing her glasses and resting the bow on her bottom lip, wagging her finger up and down, side to side, while offering a slight head shake.  This was the moment that I realized that I was in a museum with a two year old and all bets were off.  You do what the two year old wants if you want to escape Vesuvius in the Galleria.

We passed to another wall.  This one had rocky looking landscapes, interesting in their abstraction perhaps for an adult, but reason for getting off of Dadoo's hip for a two year old.  Austin bolted into the next room.  We stood in front of a portrait of a woman on a very teal background.  His mother loves teal.  "Mama," he cried, and made a quick escape to another wall with more architectural and industrial looking pieces on it, and it was here that I realized that two years of graduate school had taught me nothing that living day to day listening to a two year old would not have.

"Chicken," he screamed, crawling out of his own skin, "Bok, bok, bok, bok, bok. Dadoo, CHICK-EN."   I looked at painting of a corrugated tin roofing taking up the lower two thirds of the picture plane.  Two pieces of industrial scaffolding were in the background just poking over either side of the roofing.  Upon closer inspection, the roofing looked like a large chicken wing structure and the red scaffolding looked like the very top of the chicken's head.  My son had trumped me.  I feel humbled and excited.  We rambled around the rest of the museum, mostly looking for paintings with boats, and I felt happier looking at art than I had in a long time.  My son had reminded me of Rene Magritte, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."  It is all illusion.  The metaphors and allegories there for the taking or the leaving.  We were looking at art and it was fun.  We broke my masters degree in a forty minute trip to the museum and that is just fine with me.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Introversion, Reading, Podcasting, and Making Peace

Everything seems different right now.  Life is not going as planned and so I find myself fighting the urge to delve further and further into self.  I've started reading more as a way to ground myself. Social media and personal interaction seems to exacerbate my feelings of indecisiveness. With this lack of stability in my daily life comes a more clear idea of what it is that I want for my work and my work goals, however.  More specifically, I've been thinking about the way that I work and the way that I prioritize.  These are two things that I have had issues with for a little over a decade.

I have, for as long as I can remember, been of the mindset that more to do is better than less to do.  In order to be successful, I thought, you must always be producing.  I see now that this isn't really the case.  It is hard to be "on" all the time and that isn't even accounting for all of the time that a person needs to spend marketing, promoting and building relationships with clients.  There is too much other work to do to realistically work on your artwork all of the time, and yet, that is what I've often tried to do.  It isn't terribly successful from a business perspective.  I have, however, my craft has gotten a lot better than it was when I first started working.

Lately, with problems stemming from what I think I would sum up as maturation issues, I've been thinking about the steps that I've skipped.  I can't go back and make myself not skip those steps.  I can try to build a new foundation, working my way from the bottom again.  This seems hard.  Everything can seem hard.  I've found, however, that there are several things that I've wanted to do in my life, that I haven't.  There is no reason for this other than fear of failure and rejection.  And so I have to ask myself if fear of failure and rejection is worth the price of never trying at all?  I don't think that it is.

One of the things I've wanted to create is a podcast.  I always wanted to start one, but never felt like I had anything to offer that wasn't already out there and if I did, then it wasn't really worth people listening to.  My daily watercolors have given me a bit more confidence, as I realize that I've put in work that maybe other people haven't.  I know a thing or two, even if it isn't, at times, the expected knowledge.  Now I am beginning to think that maybe this different sort of knowledge may actually be a strength and not a weakness.  Isn't that what individuality and creativity is all about anyway?

And so, I've started a podcast where I vocalize the thoughts in my head while I am creating my daily fish bug watercolor.  It began as a way to try to get myself out there in a different way and now I am realizing that it helps me see the value in what I do, the methods that I am capable of, and that I am actually able to vocalize what it is that I know how to do.  These three things seem to me like the root of the ability to sell oneself.  So as my confidence grows in podcasting, I suspect my confidence will grow in speaking about my work.  You can check out my podcast on itunes, under The Mighty Lark or on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/mighty_lark.

Here are some of the more recent bug illustrations that I have created after I started the podcast.  I had to start a second book to house the second half of the year.  These milestones feel so good right now.  

I mentioned that I also had started to read a bit more again.  Yesterday, I took an hour to myself, and went to the park to read a book.  I intend to take some similar time today.  I felt surprisingly more at peace just by allowing myself that time.  I think that going forward the biggest key to being successful in my artwork is to allow myself to be successful in daily life, with my wife, my son, and myself.