Monday, June 29, 2015

I Can Feel It

The emotion is all over me right now. I have felt so trapped by a new schedule necessary for my summer job that all my anxieties, interjections, thoughts and emotion has become bottled up. Today was supposed to be an all day studio day, but I decided to take my son to the park and stay home and work for a while. He's amazing. He makes me think things I've never thought and slow down for things that I would never have had patience for.  

While he was napping I started painting out a piece I had started to draw last night. It is a simple recurring set of shapes and colors arranged in the same locked box manner which I based off of the structure in a house of cards. 

I realized today what this method is to me. I am taking a set if shapes, creating a corresponding set of rules and then creating the drawings at random, a spontaneous quasi-mathematical creation. It is like understanding the functions in a trigonometry problem but getting points taken off on your test because you didn't use a ruler in your diagram. In other terms it is like taking a set of compositions from a logic that is nothing but fallacy. Sort of like everything everywhere on the internet. 

Here is the newest piece from the locked box series:


Friday, June 26, 2015

Some Inspiration - Found Wood - The Exploration

Summer is in full swing.  My show in Bangor has come and gone and now I am left with the itch.  I have a show of watercolors coming up in Laconia in October, but it is the end of June.  I am not done making paintings like those that I put in "The Dinosaurs of Industry," but in order to make more work, I need more materials.  I need some found wood.

When I get in this mood, I generally begin by taking some early morning walks.  The morning is the easiest time for me to think.  I have a clear head.  There is nothing to process from the day.  I can respond to objects that I encounter for their sheer aesthetic value and nothing else. There are several good spots to walk in Portland, ME to find found materials.  The Bayside community has two things going for it.  There is a high volume of low income traffic that roams through the neighborhood and sometimes you will find interesting tidbits of the night before, post-its, receipts, paper bags, etc.  There is also the architectural salvage store and a few warehouses and a drop off for a good will.  Sometimes people will drop off items, like plywood or busted furniture, which are not going to be useful to anyone in the future as actual furniture.  To me, these items are gold.  Often you will find small pieces of wood around warehouses that were used as packing or for trucks to drive over icy patches, etc.  I try to take nothing that looks like it is being used.  Lastly, the architectural salvage has a bin outside which houses pieces that they do not want to resell.  This usually results in a bunch of less than ideal looking surfaces, but sometimes there are some real gems.

I then tend to walk around the neighborhoods.  The West End is usually devoid of good building materials.  If you catch someone remodeling on the right day you could very well find something, but people in the West End clean up rather quickly.  It is the nice end of town after all.  If nothing else a walk through the West End is pleasant.  I then head down the hill and Close to the water.  Sometimes you will find some wood towards where the ships come in.  I do not generally walk up and down the docks as I don't want to irritate the folks working on the ships coming in.  It is generally early after all, and the folks on the docks usually have been up far longer than me.

I then swing  down Grant and Sherman streets.  Apartments are cheaper there, so there is a high turnover rate and you can quite often find interesting things that people have left behind when they are moving out.  Tomorrow I intend to try walking around on Munjoy Hill.  I haven't spent much time walking up there because until a year and a half ago it was way on the other side of town from me.  Now I live at the base.  There looks to be some good construction projects going on so I will probably be able to find something in the way of materials if I'm patient.

When I see something that I want to use, it isn't a casual thing.  It hits me in the face with the wave of creation.  I want to use it immediately.  I want to hold it.  I want to carry it, however heavy it may be. There is no question in my mind as to the materials I should pick up and the ones that I should leave behind.  The right piece of wood can fuel entire studio days.  My energies have settled a bit after some intense work.  It's time to find some creative fodder.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winding Down

The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man goes up on Friday.  This past week has been a feverish push to be ready to hang and packed up by late Thursday.  The work looks great, but I had thought that spending six months on the show I might have escaped some of the last minute ideas that always come to me, that I might be done and not looking for anything more out of myself.  I wonder if this isn't a ridiculous expectation, however.  That last minute expectation is the creative urge.  That is pure adrenaline, not in a diffused coffee sort of delivery but in the purest of idea forms.  It is a beautiful feeling and as much as my wife likes it when I am home in the evening I just can't do it this week.

I was so very concerned about the balance within this piece.  I didn't want the color to drown out the drawing and I didn't want the colors to be placed in such a way that it made the the contrast in the moth wings difficult either.  I started in the lower left of the piece and moved up, only to find that I had lost three sets of wings immediately above the foundry bucket.  At this point I determined that I needed to break the pattern and so I started to paint the shapes exploding out from their initial spaces.  It seemed to match the way that the moths were ascending out of their dark past.  Even still as I was creating the exploded pattern I was still set on covering the whole top bit of the image until I realized that it wasn't balanced at all.  I put out the word on Twitter and a friend suggested I just leave it the way it was.  I hadn't even considered that, but when I did the piece started to feel more and more resolved.  

The week has looked like a lot of this.  I realize that most people work upon panels that have already been made.  I work a bit counterintuitively on my pieces.  My studio is so small that is difficult to find space to move around a bunch of panels with backers and also I like the nature of found and weathered wood.  Sometimes these piece end up needing something different than the typical backer and so I like to leave the work open to options.

This is the last piece that I am working on.  I was uncertain about the left half of this piece for three months. The rest of the image was all figured out for three whole months.  I had drawn a robot head in the sketch that I was working from and it just didn't feel right.  It felt out of place with the rest of the elements in the show and so I returned to my sketchbooks and flipped through the development of the imagery within the show.  Upon doing so I became confident that I needed to place the moth eye in that space.  Today I am working on possible tessellations to occupy the negative space around it.

 This has been so much work and it feels so good to see the accumulation of images all in one place. I can confidently say that this is the best body of work that I've ever made.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

1 Week, 1 Day, and All's Well

The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man goes up in 8 days.  I feel surprisingly good and my nerves are doing relatively okay.  This is amazing.  I have been working on this body of art for roughly six months.  My stress level is low.  I am primarily working on finishing touches and making sure that everything hangs as it should.  Logistics in getting to Bangor actually look like the most difficult aspect of the week right now, so life is good.  Here's the card that I put together for the show.

If you're in the area, pop in and fly the flag.  It would be awesome to see some friendly faces.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Tainted with Success: Thought on Diamonds & a Few Drawings

 I have an image stuck in my head.  While waiting in the car with sleeping Austin, puttering in a sketchbook I started playing with triangles again.  I had been working with a checkerboard style of shading and primarily bounding my patterns in squares.  However, the sketchbook allows me to experiment more.   I was looking for a way to literally break out of the box.  This sketch grew organically, despite its measured geometric components. The result was a diamond.  I wasn't thinking about diamonds, nor has it been something that I have visually obsessed over before, but as this was hitting the page I knew that it was soon going to be something that I would obsess over.

Thinking back, diamonds have really only entered my conscientiousness when thinking about engagement rings and in a lone short story by F. Scott Fitgerald, Diamond as Big as the Ritz.  Fitzgerald is super important to me, as I read him exclusively during the rough patches at the end of my first major relationship.  Diamond was from "Babylon Revisited," a book of short stories that I read on the plane to and from Minneapolis.  My time in Minneapolis is qualified as both the most crestfallen and defeated that I've ever felt, but also the most able to function and live on a small means.  It was interesting then, to be reading Fitzgerald's Jazz Age stories of wealth and extravagance.  I think that the image of the diamond sort of sits in the back of my head as an unconscious sort of relic to that era and the subsequent breaking off of my first engagement.  It is all of the things of luster, but imperfect and valueless too.  

The diamond is also the perfect metaphor for the art star.  The poor, struggling artist attempts to create something to live on.  The story is colloquial, universal.  Our stereotypes depend on it.  The efficacy of the art object is lost out of prudence.  We've built a society that expects artists to remain poor and so, in order for the artist to make money, not only must they develop an authentic and unique style, but they must surpass the overwhelming hurdle of precedence, and vault themselves into the land of the prosperous.

The diamond is a sign of hope, however.  It starts life as just another rock and until it is discovered remains a rock.  Upon its discovery however it undergoes a metamorphosis.  It becomes an object of desire.  It signifies love and stability.  It is tainted with success.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ten Things I Would Tell my Younger Self

1.) The feeling that you have at 2 AM, when you finish a piece, and you are riding the creative high is your response to that out of body experience, the act of being a painter, what some referred to as visiting with a muse, but above all else, a beautiful thing to embrace, live in and realize as a goal.  It is not fair to expect other people viewing your work to experience your work in the same manner.  Distance yourself from the piece before you show it.

2.) If you want to sell paintings for $100 they will always be worth $100.  If you want to sell your work for more than that establish that precedent from the beginning.  If people do not want to fork over the $100, your work may not have reached the quality that you are aiming for.  Do not despair.  Keep your head down and work.

3.) It is never okay to forget the processes and rules that you learned in school.  You are welcome to break the rules and ignore the processes in the creative moment, but realize that doing so will not be without consequence.

4.) Once you have "made" it, there are still many levels to attain.  Try harder.

5.) Draw all of the things that you are too nervous to draw for fear of fucking up.

6.) Make your work.  You are fascinated by a bunch of artists that you hold up on a platform as having "made it."  They "made it" because they were confident in their own work and they had honed their skills to a level that allowed them to establish themselves in the art market.

7.) Selling art is business.  Treat it as such.

8.) Make, sign, and follow contracts.

9.) Do not accept a project that you will not have enough time to complete without sacrificing the work that you really want to be spending time on.

10.) People are quick to attach the term success to money and celebrity.  Whether you make a lot of money or not, whether you are well known or not, you can still be very successful.  Determine your own goals.  Live by them and have faith in yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Show Must Go On

I hang this installation in 18 days.  I also start a new job next week.  The semester doesn't end until the week after the show.  I feel incredibly overwhelmed.  It is no surprise to me that as one of my students was asking me to lighten up on the assignment today I relented.  Why should everybody have to keep working all the time?  That said, I've mostly been wishing for the ability to continue working all the time.  I want so much out of this show and I'm just not sure that I am going to be able to pull it off.  This isn't all bad.  If I don't succeed 100% that gives me a spot to start when I am through with the show, but of course I want everything to be perfect for my own sake.  The average viewer doesn't know when we fail ourselves and failure is healthy and desirable, a learning experience and a chance to change.

Yesterday I began revamping a piece that I thought that I had a clear plan on.  It was exciting to cover up the old design and bring a new design to the piece.  It doesn't mathematically fit together and I prefer it that way.  It is exploding from the lower left hand corner of the piece.  I'm not sure that it works as well as I would like but it's new and a bit more exciting.

I've also been really excited about a couple works that I am working on referencing both wallpaper and succulents.  The patterns easily translate into a type of wall paper and the drawings of succulents work well  in opposition,  geometric versus biomorphic.

The variation in this show may prove to be difficult to work with.  I haven't determined if it may be easier or if I will find difficulties working everything in together.  I know that I am interested in the show being a bit chaotic, disorienting and loud, but I am not sure how much I need it to sit still to be happy with it.

We'll see.