Thursday, February 27, 2014

Volley XVIII: Back to work, jerk.

I've been in a slump. For a long time. Barely producing, and never finishing. I moved from Des Moines to Houston, to a much smaller space with many more distractions. Free time (and the internet) is your enemy when trying to work. Now that I've set up my drafting table and a flat file to store some of my junk, it's time to start cleaning things out and unpacking. And organizing. I'm working as a crate builder now, so I have access to lots of fancy cabinet plywood scraps. I'm getting some fancy knives in the mail to start working on woodcuts. The only problem is, I don't really have space to print, or access to places to print anymore.

Recently there was a figure drawing session at a gallery in Midtown. I attended, dragging many things in tow to scribble for a few hours. Here are some of  the results. Everything was done very quickly. With the longest poses being around ten minutes. But most averaging between three and eight minutes.

I really like this one. Something about the marks and the look of her hair reminds me of those sixties style graphic ads.

Drawing two people at the same time was interesting. I really wish they interacted more, as in twined limbs or some kind of embrace. Regardless it was fun to draw. They liked my drawings so much I gave them one. I didn't really get a picture of it, but the layout reminded me of a Mignola cover for Hellboy.

I'm glad I jumped back in to drawing. It's been at least a year since I've done any figure drawing from the model. For the amount of time allotted, there should be a lot more information here, and it should be done with a lot more confidence.You can tell. Well, maybe you can't but I can. It looks like I'm out of practice. I need to go outside and draw people.

Also, late new year's resolution. Update at least once a month.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Volley XVII: Tapes!

I got hired to do some album art by a friend of mine who owns a record label. I spent a night or two working on a few drawings to try to make something to fit the theme of the album. I haven't drawn daily for a long time. As such, it takes me longer to get started and my head gets in my way. The album is based on the film "Vampyr." The film itself is very atmospheric and ethereal. The sound is like a toned down Delìrium Còrdia. Granted, the original score long predates the Fantômas album by decades. I had seen the movie previously and found it creepy and surreal, but could not remember a lot specifically from it. Google image search wasn't super helpful either. There is however the iconic scythe.

So why not start there? It had to happen quickly, so I whipped something out in pen and ink. And started buzzing from fumes. Don't use ink designed for graffiti in a tiny apartment kids, protip.

Starting to look very metal, no? I sent it to Paul going "Ohmygudpleasehelp," because I'm an insecure bastard. In a typical Paul fashion-- that being very direct, but coated with a generous helping of unsparing humor, he responded.

He's right, by the way. And we went back and fourth for a bit about approach and planning an image. It's an interesting drawing, but what does it do? This guy's some goon with a scythe just standing there. There's no interaction or engagement with anything. Graphically it works, but it can be better.

At Paul's suggestion, I gave myself an hour (double the time it should have taken me), to hash out some thumbails and complete a new drawing. I was listening to things to put me in the mood, like Velnias. This is done in gesso and charcoal and was as far as I got in that time. The hands are derpy, but I like the textures that are happening, and the hazy quality of it. I was thinking of the vampire either coming from, or dissolving into the smoky background. That's not clear enough though (ha.) and I think I was just fixated on repeating that brush stroke. 

Finished product. Hands are less derpy and the girl actually has legs now. There are some really cool things going on, but still it's a constant reminder that I need to be drawing more. Unfortunately, this image wasn't used. The band had their own artist, but truthfully, she made a much more delicate and haunting picture than I, and that works much better for the sound of the band.

I did get to use an (older) picture on the back though, which works well to offset the delicacy.

The album is out now, so please go buy it. He's a good dude, and the sound is haunting.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Volley XVI: The Male Gaze

Recently, I sat in on a figure drawing class. I also had the time to shoot a bunch of them in between scratching my head to fix this. I'll be out of town for a bit, but you probably won't notice any less irregularity in updates. All of these were done in under half an hour, forty five minutes max. With charcoal and white chalk. 

 They all begin the same way, with a gesture/drawing of the skeleton in vine charcoal, and then I start building. My drawings don't feel very solid, or rather the figures don't feel very grounded, but they themselves do a good job of having mass. Like they're being sculpted. Which is weird to me because I focus on line and movement of it a lot. Or at least I think I do. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Volley XV: I look at myself way too much.

Actually, I don't. It's a real problem. I have body image issues, in that I'm pretty fuckin' ugly. I used to give the description "bridge troll like," when people asked about my appearance, but for the sake of maintaining a type of chaotic good/chaotic neutral, Paul gave the descriptor "Taco Dwarf." Which fits perfectly.

Regardless, as money is tight and I haven't gotten out much to draw others, I had a friend come over and photograph me. And a deer skull. I was remembering Hamlet, or rather the grave digger and Yorick in particular. I want to make a picture that is whimsical (for me, in that no one is screaming) and has elements that are in conversation with eachother. I also like the idea of ritual, and the me in the painting is not holding the skull in a manner of study, but rather one of contemplation, or as if he were engaged in conversation with it.

Now based on these images, you might be pondering "what skull, you dope? All I see is a weird looking chubby dude doing an Errol Flynn (and failing) impersonation?" Well fear not viewers. It is said that Sargent, in his attempts to capture Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, he composed multiple watercolor studies. This may have been due to the fact that he was struggling to get her skin tone correct and she kept hiding it behind (as was customary for the time amongst celebrities) piles of leaded white makeup and unnatural coloring. So here's study number one. More to come soon. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Volley XIV Down in the Cellar

So, getting hung up on the painting. I completely obliterated the torso to pale it out even more, but lost all the structural marks in it. I sat in on the tail end of a class taught by an artist I respect very much (including the fact that she's a giant nerd, and very charismatic) and she asked me what my finished plan was for the piece. I responded in the mindset of "oh, I don't know, I want to play with some gilt work, and he might be clothed and...."

To which she said "yeah, but how's the bottom half going to be?"

"I'm not sure. I was thinking maybe his guts could be falling out and I will demolish the bottom half with a hammer..." She asked if I had any studies done for that. Nope. Not a one. She said I need to get the idea for the image completely fleshed out. She's right of course, but it's completely antithetical to the way I work. It's also what separates the big dogs from the puppies, if you will. I've always largely made work by a call and response. I put something out there, stare at it, and then it tells me where to go. It makes me move so much slower. It also makes my images not strong. And never finished. So at this point, I think I'm going to return to the stock photo. It won't be a hundred percent translation.

 I think painting in the style of photo realism (or as much as I'm going to attempt to ape it)you have to push the depth, space and form more than you can achieve with a photograph.

Saying that, you can actually see how the photo has completely flattened out, even though I've pushed space in the background. I've actually painted in the hakama. Complete with ridiculous bow in front of it, and it has helped to anchor the figure.You can see the difference between the scabs of paint on the left arm and the blended quality on the right arm. Hopefully the two will meet somwhere in the middle.

 Remember me talking about how things are never finished? I intend to cover every inch of this panel with paint. and then destroy it with a hammer and knives. But it's the coverage, and the completion that counts. You may be asking: "Why?" Well, it's a challenge to myself to complete something as opposed to just get it resolved enough to be "show ready." Which is bad-artist speak for "I ran out of time, but no one will know that I consider it not done." Scratch that. Some people know. And you sell yourself and your work short that way. I've made lots of work that I feel comfortable with calling done. But they're not done because they're finished, they're done because I have nothing left to say, or to offer by continuing to work on the piece. So this is an exercise in completion. At the very least it's "let's see if the primitive monkey can finish the pretty picture." Pay attention to FLCL especially. God I love that show.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eleventh Volley: Building a Language

First off: Updates.

I'm veering away from my usual earth tones and muddiness to a newer more purple muddiness. In the images I'm working from and trainwrecking together, you have pale skinned folk with white make up and body paint on. It's a challenge for me to get close to believable skin tones, and now there's the difficulty of representing that underneath paint. How meta, I'm painting paint.

In school I read an article on Sargent's struggles capturing Madame X. He is a master of depicting flesh, and the subtleties of flesh tones, and yet, because the Young socialite spent so much time doctoring her appearance, he struggled with capturing it. It threw his colors off, and according to one historian made her look like a corpse. According to the wikipedia entry, he actually enjoyed painting her, and staying at her manor. College vs the internet. Who will win?

I bring this up because I'm (while being nowhere near the same level) having the same difficulties. The painting has actually progressed further than this and looks even paler. Still struggling with how to resolve the bottom of the figure, and will  be attacking it with a hammer as I get more indecisive, or the painting progresses to a near finishing point.

Lucio Pozzi in a lecture once stated, he was amazed when he asked a janitor for feedback on a painting. The janitor gave him a response that he later used for the title, and it was the most spot on description of what he could not articulate while making the piece.

I'm giving painting lessons to a friend. My student and I were discussing plans for the future, and in her bluntness captured an angle that I could not communicate to myself, or others. I was floored. She remarked after hearing about my troubles, that all of my work was dealing with and silently screaming about my inability to get away and start over. I was (and am) mired in debt. I work a horrible dead end job that utilizes so little of any functioning part of brain or body (that counts) that I wake with dread every morning at the aspect of returning to it. I am abused by slum lords and anybody I've ever owed money to, who strong arm, harass and threaten me on a daily basis. I've been walked over, chewed up, and burnt out to no end. And putting up with all of that, outside of the fact that all I've done is survive (but oh, to have survived!), I have nothing to look back on fondly. Very little accomplished for so much effort.

So I guess art is my spine that I never had. It's the telling those that would walk over me to go to hell, and take their friends with them. And in knowing that (Thanks Emily) I can take steps towards getting out of this shit hole and working towards what I want to do. Which is paint, a lot. I'm not out from under the gun yet. But I can see a direction to go now. 

I promise, more art talk next time around. Also, ending on a happy note. I'm in a show! If you find yourself up in the twin cities of the Great White North, swing by. I like talking. Albeit awkwardly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eleventh Volley: Updates.

I once saw a Foglio doodle of a snail straining at its shell, going "urrrrrrrr." As if it were trying with all its might to go faster and harder than it was capable. Sometimes I feel like that. Between getting caught up watching episodes of Breaking Bad, The Legend of Korra, and reading various books and anime, I've barely got time to paint. I know, distractions, distractions. Well, that and a full time job. And other jobs. As the late Levon Helm sang once, "I've got more debt than an honest man can repay." Here's a protip, kids: when your school tells you "go ahead, it's good to borrow as much money as you possibly can, because you never know when you're going to need it..." Set them on fire. Many times.

Sigh. What can I say? I was young, poor, and stupid.

So any ways, that has nothing to do with this. Presenting: UPDATES.

I took a formal color theory class recently that taught me how to re examine how I paint. Of course then I had to drop it half way through taking it because life. The idea being that I'll paint quicker, or rather, more efficiently, and thicker. At some point my paintings will be mine, instead of merely aping technique. I'm also working on oiling in, because I'm away from the painting more often than I'm working on it. I've noticed quite a bit of difference when starting back on a painting. It's easier at that point, after oiling, to get a more even spread of pigment, as opposed to building up a wet surface to paint into and move things around with. This thickness without what I'll call cheating (using meglp and galkyd drying agents to create resiny, buttery, plastic-y goodness) is more difficult for me to achieve, and it's something I hope to work through in this painting. I love the way Rembrandt paints, and in Houston; a place I make a pilgrimage to once a year; are two Rembrandt portraits. They are beautiful and I've spent many an hour staring at them. He makes his impasto look so thick, without out actually making it pile up on the canvas. I'd like to have that kind of aggressive delicacy at some point. I've also mentioned Saville and Freud before, but I'll also add Robert Henri and Sargent as masters of a looseness that still manages to create a coherent and luscious image. The masters of the "painterly" method. Painter's painters, if you will.

I'm nowhere near that league. But that shouldn't stop me -- or you, if you're of the creative persuasion, from making things. And I will probably never love ninety nine percent of what I do, but I'll try to learn as much as I can from it while doing it, and afterwards, take those lessons with me.

So the short version of it is: Hooray progress!

More next time. You know, once the framing and house(s) renovating is out of the way.