17 December 2008

completed piece

I have done other stuff since my last post, but this is the first one I remembered to photograph and upload. So.... there you have it.

14 October 2008

The Heartbreak of Post Modernism

Last Saturday, I went to the local museum of contemporary art here in town, for a show on biomorphic forms in sculpture. This is right up my alley, if I had to choose one tidy phrase to describe my own sculpture, it could be that. As far as I can tell, the Kunsthaus Graz is generally regarded as a fine example of contemporary art exhibition - lots of group shows on interesting themes, a center just for Austrian photography, emphasis on mixed media and integration of electronic arts exhibits, and so on. Well curated, well documented (pamphlets and artist statements and all that). Presumably this means they are experts in their field, and when I go there I am visiting a shrine to St. Luke, holy ground, consecrated to the higher realms of capital-A-Art.

So.... why is it that every goddamn time I go to an exhibit of contemporary art, I come out angry? Am I not achieving the necessary enlightenment? Am I really so ignorant of what makes art good, in the sense of being worthy of my regard?

There's an argument that suggests that modern art is egalitarian. It's there for everyone, and so by extension, we can see that it's not there for ME (that would be elitism, you see). But I don't buy that. I am part of everyone, and if I am continually repelled by what's selected as an example of Art... there may be something amiss in the selection criteria.

One thing that really baffles me is that I can't for the life of me figure out what the selection criteria are. The selection isn't necessarily about quality of craftsmanship. It's not obviously about Concept. They have themes, so there's a vague sense of unity, but surely they don't simple accept the first 30 artists who have a good story about how their work connects to the appointed theme? Or maybe that IS the case.

Maybe I should just start submitting things to museums when they open calls for shows. I am persistently plagued by the belief that this is more about who you know than what you've got to show, but I could be fooling myself. Maybe I should sew breasts on a bath towel and start shopping it around to contemporary galleries, as Louise Bourgeous has apparently done.

06 September 2008

Unfinished Business

The hiatus here has been long and unwarranted, but I figured it was better to stress about not creating, than about not blogging about not creating. In any event, I finally got back in the saddle about 2 months ago, and have been trying to learn a bit of oil technique. Having just come off watercolors, it's been challenging, to say the least. However, I'm starting to get a better feel for it. Still not sure this is the right medium for me (in fact, pretty sure it's not) but it can be somewhat satisfying nonetheless.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me is the long open time of the paint. I've got all these unfinished paintings around. Some are, truthfully, unstarted. Don't be fooled by how much paint is already on the canvas. It might be good for me to have to look at my unfinished work every day, though. Although I'd like to have a studio space separate from my living space, I also like to live in the work. This is not an office job.

I'm posting these unfinished images without comment, without editing, and in some cases, apparently without even focusing the camera. When the things are complete, I'll get more pictures. Please feel free to comment, all feedback is welcome, even if it's the basic like/don't like reaction.

Every post needs a title, or I can't find the comments later!

05 May 2008

Warning: Brilliance Ahead!

There's a feature on the news here about Kehinde Wiley. The paintings speak for themselves, and the link just takes you to a Google search. It's f'ing brilliant. Just go look.

17 April 2008

Still not dead, still no mojo.

But, nonetheless, check Nick Veasey, xray art photographer.

Holy crap that's cool.

27 March 2008

I'm not dead, but I play one on TV.

Until I get my mojo back, please enjoy these HDR pictures of graffiti.


01 March 2008

Easily Amused.

I'm going to go take some pictures of things I've done this week RIGHT NOW, but for the time being, and because I'll want to review it later myself, I give you The FBI Art Crimes Web Site where you can read about what's been stolen from where and when. They say art crimes is a $300 billion annual losses for the law abiding world. I think if I'd known about this when I was going though career counseling in high school, I would've wanted to do that for a living.

The real down side of art theft, of course, is the movies about art theft, which are almost always trashy vehicles for people in the Top 10 Sexiest lists to make out in exotic places. (After the Sunset, Entrapment, Ocean's Twelve, and Bean*.) And, you know, if that's what art crimes is all about, than I guess I'm OK with being in the FBI team that works on that.

* Really, I just wanted to know if you are paying attention. Although the thing with the turkey was memorable, it wasn't in the same league as seeing Pierce Brosnan lick Salma Hayek's navel.

22 February 2008


Not as excited about this one as I would like to be, but it might be growing on me. I will give it time to ripen, but I'm not going to run out and get it framed just yet.

Thanks to some excellent advice, you can see my "extra white" paper now at least looks like it might be "at all white." (Not to be confused with "hussy white.") Still not a great photograph, but better. And I expect yet better in the future.

Which reminds me... I have spent a little quality time with my camera in the last couple of days. I confess, I've kind of been treating it like a flashlight... it's a handy electric device that I need to use sometimes, and I try to keep the battery fresh, and I can work the buttons without any thought. BUT! I've been shooting auto. Auto focus, sure, 'cause I have problems with that (eye-based problems) but also letting the camera work out the exposures and all that. And that's just lazy. Pure laziness, on my part. I can admit this.

So, I dug up the manual, learned the last 3 things I needed to know, in order to own the manual settings, and shot a few "rolls." As in, literally, I treated it like I was shooting film. 12, 24, 36 exposures of this kind or that (B&W, color, different speeds, etc) to get back in the swing of working the aperture and shutter settings. Sure, I took a lot of crap pictures, but then I eventually evened out, and can take the picture I want much, much faster and easier than trying to coax the full-auto modes to give me what I want. Hell, it was faster and easier than getting those same shots would've been on an old school SLR (non digital), even not counting developing & printing..

It amazes me sometimes how being lazy can actually make me do more work. Besides that, I bought the camera I have specifically because it has some features I really wanted in a digital--it's compact, it allows 100% manual control, it can shoot silently, and it's fairly powerful (considering the size). So there's really no excuse to treat it like a flashlight.

A Special Time

In every art project, I experience a moment of clarity. I know if it works, or if it does not. I know if the time I've already spent is worth it.

Sometimes, I know before I begin, before the first stroke of paint, before the first sketch. Sometimes I don't know until a long time after it's finished.

In the case of one of my current projects, the moment of clarity came to me after about 30 hours of back-bending, eye-squinting detailed painting. More, if you count the sketch I did before I started the "real" thing.

It's very encouraging, that moment of clarity. I won't make any sweeping generalizations, like "it's what artists live for" or even "it's what I work for" but I do think it's a vital part of the process. It's part of the creativity high, and it's an important part. No matter how much satisfaction one gets from the actual execution, the certainty that it's going to be all right is invaluable. Hard to explain, but it's a big relief. It's more validating that anything anyone else could ever say about the piece--fundamental, intrinsic satisfaction.

18 February 2008

Last one for today, I promise.

Today I spent some time rummaging the stash of older drawings and paintings. I hung a framed thing on the wall, and took down a bunch of not-framed things. I chose some papers to stick in the recycling bin. I chose some items to frame, and I found new enthusiasm for some things I'd stick in the portfolio instead of the trash. All of which means I'm learning some things.

One of things I'm learning is not to judge too fast, or too harshly. I have learned that no matter how much I hate something when I'm working on it, if I stick it in a file until later, I can get some objectivity about things. I can throw it out later, too, and this practice significantly reduces the likelihood of discarding something that wasn't so bad after all.

The significant consequence of this habit is that after some period of time passes, I am confronted with some evidence of productivity, and of progress, and of the accumulation of a body of work. See, if I throw out every single piece I work on that doesn't satisfy me in some way, I would have exactly zero works left.

Today, after doing the spring cleaning, I actually felt somewhat pleased about what I've done in the past year. I can see the progress. I can see some directions to go. I have enough things in the file that I actually need to see about a new file. This is very encouraging. It flips the bird in the face of my inner critic, which is good.
One of life's quirks: This paper is advertised as "extra white" and in fact generally seems pretty white when I'm working with it. Then, when I go to photograph it, I plunk it down on a larger sheet of a different kind of paper, and it's immediately obvious just how much more white the other paper is! Since I'm working in part with chalk pastels, maybe I should just be brave and try a darker/black paper anyway.

I think the lighting I have is contributing to the problem. The sun brings the yellow flavor, as do most of the lights in the house, which are one flavor of compact fluorescent or another. I probably need to just suck it up and buy a halogen lamp or two.

Hey, while I'm buying things for art, I probably ought also to get a matboard cutter, and a shrink wrap machine. And an agent. And possibly also one of those Andy Warhol wigs, to help me get in the groove when I'm working.

Yes. That's the ticket.
Another in this series. I'm starting to think it's time to explore the meaning behind these things. The problem with raw creative impulses is that they often don't make sense. There's nothing wrong with that, but the part of the brain that contributes development and exploration and .... furtherance... needs to know more about what's going on in order to proceed. Otherwise, you just wear a path in the carpet from pacing.

So.... the idea I'm working with here relates to some kind of form emerging from behind a layer of a different material. The emerging forms are rounded, soft (in form and color), and multiple. The covering material is essentially featureless, except where it begins to unravel, jagged and torn. It seems to be pushed back, peeled, cracked.

Cover material: Blank, clean, smooth, damaged, boring?, like skin or sheeting
Emerging forms: Colorful, unanimous, plural (safety/strength/power in numbers?), egg-like, undamaged, perhaps damaging.

See how there are judgment calls mixed in with the descriptive terms? This is what gets at the essence of what's going on in this series. If I were going to actually drill it down to the level of "concept"--meaning, articulate specific values and points of interest about this, I'd probably talk about an examination of the power of collective efforts, about groups overpowering suppression, about interest winning out over homogeneity.

Fortunately, no one has asked me to do that. I find that artists are capable of the loftiest heights of articulation, but also the murkiest depths. Often, concept turns to bullshit in the blink of an eye. It's probably good practice, but I worry that over-analyzing will undermine that raw creative urge. How about a metaphor: Flowers grow best in soil with a fair amount of shit in it, but if the concentration of shit gets too high, your flower will die. Deep, huh? :)

The Blue Phase

No, it's not Klein blue. It's actually my supposedly-lavender-scented ink, which turns out to be a good ink, despite its sad lack of appealing aroma. It's smooth and thins well, and doesn't clump. These are postcard sized, and I'm having immense difficulty getting good pictures today--I swear these are both on the same kind of paper, which is more or less white. I kind of like the style, even if the execution is not everything I'd want. These are both painting on extremely toothy paper, which tends to be at odds with my style of making marks--I use a light touch, but I don't like the characteristic skipping you get that way. I've only got about 4 more sheets of it left, and then it won't trouble me any longer.

This reminds me, I've long thought that artists should get together regularly to trade supplies. We've all been in the position of coming into possession of some material that isn't suitable. The wrong paper, too much paint, so on. Most of these are relatively expensive and relatively perishable, and if nothing else, it's a damn shame if something goes to waste.

14 February 2008

As Promised

This is another step in the right direction.

I guess one advantage I have in the perpetual struggle to realize visions is this: While my technical skills can improve, the level of detail in my head is not really changing. It's NOT a moving target. Yes, the ideas might become more sophisticated, more resolved, more detailed. But they don't actually become less technically feasible. That remains fairly constant. I assume I'll have finally achieved sufficient ability to execute my visions, when I'm having a heart attack or something at the drawing board. Death does love a good joke.

In related news, I spent some time at the library yesterday perusing the art books. I came across a design book that showed samples of industrial and commercial design, mass production objects, and fashion trends from the 1890s-1990s. I learned a few things from this.
  1. Recreating a period Look is probably not as easy as it seems, given that most of the fashion pictures in the book struck me as being specifically recreations. It's possible that's what those Looks would've looked like if photographed with modern equipment, but somehow I doubt it.
  2. The sailor suit for children came from a portrait of a British prince.
  3. Cubism might've made bad fine art, but it made kick-ass mass production decor.
  4. It's kind of a shame dressing like a grown up is somewhat out of style.
  5. Also, hats.
  6. The late 40s/early 50s American is my favorite lady fashion.
  7. The stove, refrigerator, and sink should not be a single kitchen appliance/fixture.
(What? I don't recall claiming I learned anything DEEP from it.)

11 February 2008

Closer to the Mark

The closest I've been to executing a design as planned. It's a bit flat, and a bit fuzzier than I wanted, but it's essentially what I was after. I can see I'm going to have to explore this theme some more.

I realize I haven't been great about certain details, but for reference, this and the previous 3 images are on 30#, cold pressed, extra smooth, extra white watercolor paper. Somewhere in the 4x6" range. It's basically cardstock that takes watercolor like a champ, no wrinkling, rumpling, or sogging.

Again With The Silver Ink

Silver ink + black watercolor. Bits of this are working. Most of it, not. At least I stopped before making it really, really bad.

Take Two

Similar to the previous painting, but lacking in black detailing, silver ink, and general mojo. It's not quite there, either. It's further from being scrap, but also, it's further from being a successful composition. Maybe this one will reveal its secrets in the fullness of time. Or, I'll spill some coffee on it, and be done with it.

In hindsight, I can see that the yellow/orange band was a mistake, and that I should've just had a red band on a blue field.

Partial Credit

With some kinds of painting, if you just keep adding paint, eventually you'll get what you want. Watercolor is *not* one of those forms of painting. Some days, you can add paint all day long, and into the next day, and still not get what you want.

Sometimes, in fact, the blank sheet of paper was more aesthetically pleasing than whatever happens after you pick it up. This painting positively reeks of potential, and I know I'm right on the cusp of either turning into a successful composition, or turning into a scrap for the recycling bin. The pisser is, I don't know what comes next. Ahh, well.

The bits that look flat/grey on the blue sections are actually silver ink. It looks much less flat in person.

03 February 2008

Copyright: Infringed!

You Thought We Wouldn't Notice offers a good venue for folks who have been ripped off. Maybe you can't afford to sue them, but you can seriously increase the chance of them being embarrassed publicly. Especially if you plaster the internet with links to the write up when you're done.

02 February 2008

Self Portrait

It's actually on white paper and graphite, but through the power of low lighting, it looks like it's conte on yellow paper. Yay, low lighting! (It didn't look better with the flash, and I figured that if I waited until tomorrow to make a photo, I'd probably just forget entirely.)

New Inks!

Oh, the joys of new ink. From left to right, copper ink, smoke gray ink in a fetishy little tin, and lavender scented dark blue/purple ink. The scented ink isn't quite as scenty as I would've liked, but I do admire their restraint.
And for the tin fetishists, a close up of the gray ink tin. I probably would've bought it, even if I hadn't spent the last year looking for grey ink. Fortunately, I had.


In no particular order.

The Gabriel García Marquez excerpt, from One Hundred Years of Solitude, that I mentioned last week:
Don't talk to me about politics," the colonel would tell him. "Our business is selling little fishes." The rumor that he did not want to hear anything about the situation in the country because he was growing rich in his workshop make Ursula laugh when it reached her ears. With her terrible practical sense she could not understand the colonel's business as he exchanged little fishes for gold coins and then converted the coins into little fishes, and so on, with the result that he had to work all the harder with the more he sold in order to satisfy an exasperating vicious circle. Actually, what interested him was not the business but the work. He needed so much concentration to link scales, fit minute rubies into the eyes, laminate gills, and put on fins that there was not the smallest empty moment left for him to fill with his disillusionment of the war.

That's more or less exactly the relationship that I'd like to have with things I make. It would keep me fully occupied, so that life's annoyances could be held at bay. And, ideally, people would pay me directly with art supplies. All the better if it's pure gold!

Next: Go and see about Brandon Bird's art. He's *awesome*. In my opinion, his obsession with Christopher Walken only makes it better. Also, the Last Supper was, in fact, in desperate need of a good RoboCop. There's a good chance you'll recognize at least one or two of them, the one with David Hasselhoff and the cuttlefish has been around. The Law & Order coloring book and greeting cards, and Nobody Wants To Play Sega with Harrison Ford are some of my favorites. Also, Blood Sport would've been a much better film had it in fact starred Abraham Lincoln. There is a line drawing of the mythical, mystical creature known as the Wooly Norris, as well. Any time spent roaming around Bird's galleries is time well spent!

Next: Mr. Man took me over to the super-mega-god-shops-here art supply today for birthday goodies, and I got all manner of frivolous, silly stuff. Scented purple writing ink. (It was that or the invisible ink, but to be honest, most of my handwritten letters go to my 86 year old grandmother, who probably already has enough trouble reading my letters.) Copper flake brush ink. A nice smoke grey fountain ink in a fetishy little tin. I also picked up some starter materials for sculpting, and I'm itching to get back into some 3D work. So, hopefully you will see some of that here soon.

Finally, check out Little Robot, a Glasgow based paper/low relief artist whose work I first encountered on Etsy. I really dig her use of twilight color schemes, and the way anyone can have a beard, even a lady. Especially a lady. I think some of those gentlemen are ladies, anyway.

If you think of art as a bunch of cats, this is where René Lalique's Persian got over with Mark Ryden's moggy. Very stylish and nostalgic, but not in the maudlin way.

Of course, sensible people probably don't think of art as a bunch of cats. But I wasn't going to point fingers.

28 January 2008

Excellent Combination

Just read an article in Wired online about Christopher Conte, who makes good use of his skills as an artificial limb designer, artist, and sci fi fan. I dig it. It's not quite was elaborate or Victorian futuresque as I'd like, but hey, that's me. It's awesome nonetheless. Here is his actual web site.

25 January 2008

That's Pretty Much It

Self portrait sketches, after the style of the Mac OS X Photobooth application....

23 January 2008

Where Are You Going With That?

Sometimes I wonder what the various shapes and forms that plague me mean. And they do signify, one way or another. Would it take the fun out, to know what the story is? Would it add to the fun, to know where the connections lie? Who knows. Someday maybe I'll sit and think about it, and perhaps tell myself a satisfying story about that. Maybe I won't. There are definitely some strong recurrent images, themes, and relationships, not only in what I draw, but also with things I make in 3D, and in the techniques I prefer for making the magic happen.

Someone remind me later to put the quote from One Hundred Years of Solitude that basically sums up how I'd like my relationship with art to be. Unfortunately, I don't have time to dig it out right now, because I've got a class to get to. But it seems more or less relevant to the thoughts of the day.

Second Verse...

I've been thinking lately about the tension I feel between what's necessary for any kind of remuneration in the art world, and personal satisfaction as an artist. If you continue reading past that last sentence, please bear in mind that I know my situation is not the same as some other artists, and I'm acutely aware that my stuff isn't exactly going to win the Grand Prix. However, given that by any objective comparison, there is ample evidence to support the idea that my work is no worse, and substantially better than, much of what's for sale in the world. I could, in theory, be getting paid for this. At least enough to keep me in expensive papers and slick mechanical pencils.

What's needed to get paid for art is, in a nutshell, marketing. A person has to be willing and able to show their work to other people, and not only expect them to like it, but also expect them to want to pay for it. These things have historically been difficult for me, for a variety of reasons. I'm starting to get on top of it being OK to show my stuff to people, and I'm starting to be OK with the idea that some of them will like and possibly want to buy some of it. What's still troubling me is that final step about expectation, and the further bit about setting a price and collecting the money.

I feel dirty when I think about making art to sell. I don't know how to explain it better than that, but let's just say that whatever I make generally gets made because it seemed right, in the part of my brain that governs my sense of how the world should look. I can see that the perfect combination is to make stuff that appeases that part of my brain, and then package it in a way that sells. For instance, a scribble on a cocktail napkin looks like a scribble on a cocktail napkin... but if you have it professionally mounted and framed, it will then look like art... even if you don't LIKE it, you'll still recognize that it is an object that someone is trying to pass off as art.

So... when someone looks at something I've done, and says, "Oh, you could totally sell that" I am immediately seized with the urge to destroy it. Why? Who knows. I'm not sure that matters. But this puts me in a bit of a bind. Sure, agents and gallery representation is GREAT for people like me, because I don't have to get my precious psyche dirty. But in order to get an agent or gallery representation, I have to show it to someone, and I have to expect them to like it, and as soon as I start thinking about that, my brain seizes.

Probably my best bet is to stockpile a portfolio, and then get it all professionally mounted, and photographed, and then sucker someone else into showing it around. Preferably someone with style, and charm, and a general lack of scruple. I think that'd be worth a percentage.

Long Time, No Post

It's not that I haven't been drawing or painting. I have. (Mostly drawing.) My brain seems to be chewing on some different directions to go in, and it takes a while to get from cocktail napkin quality drawings to something I'm even willing to waste digital camera memory on.

... and here it is: Something I'm willing to waste digital camera memory on.

Nothing here particularly new, but it sometimes takes me a while to see what comes next. I tend to revisit and revisit and revisit until I like it, or until I get so annoyed that I shred the sketches and pretend none of it ever happened.