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.