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.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thirteenth Volley: Oodles of Doodles

This might be a bandwidth killer. There are a lot of images here. This is the finished product for the Brooklyn Art House Co-op show. The premise was you could pay to receive a sketchbook from them and had to have it completed by the end of January. It, along with 4,999 other books of various themes will now travel the lower 48 for the next few months. It was kind of scary, working in a theme (Fears and tears), or with one in mind as opposed to trying to modify/bullshit something I already to to fit. I was paralysed in the beginning. Only working when I had an idea. It is a sketchbook after all. It's supposed to be incomplete. The idea of a body trying to fit a theme as opposed to a singular piece. As such, I was much happier about some of the drawings as opposed to the majority of them. And when I started screwing up, I would tell myself to keep going. If you added up all the ugly parts you would at least get something, while not beautiful, at least would be unified.

I figured I'd do a quick, and loose painting for the cover. Inside I stayed with sumi ink and watercolor. I started to tell a story about things I'd been through, like the loss of my sister. I'd falter, backtrack and also look for found imagery to help augment what I was looking for.

Between dead birds and burning trucks, I was looking to convey things loosely. Which was harder than I expected. There's a certain push and pull between expressiveness and context I think. I can make a very angry image, and you can get a sense of the violence of it, the energy that animates it. But I worry that that might be the only thing perceptible at that point because you lose sight of the subject matter. I like to maintain a balance of both.

A lot of the text comes from songs I was listening to at the time. Some stuff you'd expect, like Leonard Cohen. But some things came from surprising places to me. Like Sheryl Crow, or snippets of things I heard on the radio that just seemed to fit at the time. I'm no poet, but I enjoy reading it a lot. And a huge influence on both how I read it, and what I look for stylistically comes from Graham Foust. The book's title, As in Every Deafness, as well as the lines I butchered on the fourth page, come from his poetry. Which is very minimal but has a quiet and frantic desperation to it. Like the last moments of what I'd imagine some one being buried alive feels like - minus the euphoria that comes with asphyxiation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Pardon the awkward line breaks. Myself and technology are polar opposites. Next time: Painting up dates!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Twelfth Volley

I'm in another show. Go me. The title is "Spirit, Hand, Vision. A Confluence of Self." But actually the idea for this piece is a response to another work. He was looking at the idea of ritual. We were (if you don't want to click the link) looking at butoh, and Baronness. I decided to tie the two even closer together by blending some Neurosis video into the mix. Or rather a more literal take on ceremony and butoh.

So I liked the idea of a ceremony, of creating something and losing oneself in the process. It's sometimes a painful journey to bear an idea to fruition. And making stuff is always a fight with me. I took a few photos for documentation this time because I always send stuff off in progress to Paul for critique. He's pretty merciless, and that's a great thing. So here's the earliest iteration. A quick pencil drawing on gessoed Arches printmaking paper, and water colored for some basic underpainting.

There's a detail.

I started with oil sticks and a turpentine wash. It became a very structural drawing. I have the build of a bridge troll, but I like drawing leaner folk, because I like bones. So I photographed a few poses of myself clinging to things and extrapolated structure and lighting from them. And then I started going into it with actual oil paints.

Oh look, something Freudian. I actually try really hard to consciously avoid phallic imagery. And by trying really hard to avoid it, means it pops up fucking everywhere, in everything I do. Oh well.

Here's a not so great shot of the submitted version. When it comes off the wall, I promise I'll shoot it better.