Saturday, July 30, 2016

American Teenager

“Just Another American Teenager”, graphite on paper 26w X 18″.
Here’s the story on this piece. I was jumping in and off of trains in New York shooting. I decided to ride back to Brooklyn. The girl in the drawing was talking to her mother who was trying to console her. She was upset about firing in with the girls in school and the boy she had a crush on didn’t know she existed. At that moment it highlighted the fact that she wasn’t a Muslim girl, but just another American teenager in my mind. In short people are people. We divide ourselves over the color of our skins, our gender, gender identity, sexual preferences, religious views, social class and who our preferred Presidential candidate happens to be; but really we’re all just people. I can only hope one day that people realize that and drop the hate. 

#‎newyork‬‪#‎subway‬ ‪#‎graphite‬ ‪#‎drawing‬ ‪#‎artist‬ ‪#‎art‬ ‪#‎urban‬ ‪#‎monochromatic‬ ‪#‎pencil‬‪#‎brooklyn‬ ‪#‎dtrain‬ ‪#‎train‬ ‪#‎passenger‬ ‪#‎muslim‬

Monday, July 25, 2016

Street Pharaoh

Above is Street Pharaoh, graphite on paper 44w x 30h inches.  I've been busy knocking out drawings like crazy the last six months. A touch behind on the social media aspect I'm afraid.

When I think of the meaning of my work, I think I'd rather talk about what fascinates me instead. I find that the more I try to find meaning as an artist the more elusive the attainment of that understanding becomes.  I also find that when I decide that a body of work will be "about this" it ends up feeling really contrived and mannered - two things I detest.

With that said I do realize the importance of speaking about your work and taking a moment to know what you're about as an artist. I'm in the process of reevaluating how I define myself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Illusion of Paradise


Illusion of Paradise, oil on canvas 36h x 60 inches.  With the last post I wrote about the enigmatic way my paintings end up with meaning and how I'm sometimes oblivious even at the end of the full meaning of the piece. With this one, it definitely evolved, but I also know it's meaning.

This one started out with a source photo I took while in Honolulu, Hawaii on a mini-vacation.  I lived there for about a year when I was in 7th grade, so it was a sort of homecoming for me.  It was odd for it to still feel like home after all these years and really a small period of my childhood, but then again when I think of my childhood my year in Hawaii feels more like ten years.  I think the that moment of going from being twelve to thirteen is an very impressionable time.  

Needless to say, while in Hawaii in September I wanted to move back.  I was filled with this sense of "why on earth wasn't my Mom able to be happy here; it's so wonderful?"  That was while on the big Island and still how I felt the first day back on Oahu. After failed attempts of striking up conversations with a few locals though, it came back in focus how cold Hawaii was when we lived there.  

One person's paradise is another person's hell.  I can go into details, but really there's no point.

So, back to the meaning of this painting. I allowed the background to feel a touch stormy and abstract to address how our belief or what paradise is, is actually very abstract and merely an impression.  I also wanted to depict the disillusion of my perception. In Japanese woman's face, in roughly the center, I unconsciously placed all my conflicted feelings about Hawaii. My subconscious mind at work again.

How I feel about Hawaii is simply this.  It will always feel like home to me, I can and will visit it, but will never be able to call it home even though I love the islands dearly.  I also realize that paradise is merely an illusion and can never be attained.

Life Comes Too Quickly


Life Comes Too Quickly, oil on canvas 36h x 24 inches. The inspiration for this piece came from three places/events.  The photo was taken initially on a bike ride from Midtown to Downtown in Phoenix.  I was feeling a little bit frustrated with what was on the easel, so I decided to go for a ride and my habit now is to try to take a camera with me wherever I go. I was aimlessly cycling around with no real place to go or mission. I didn't even care how fast or how far. I still ended up doing a few sprints though. I was struck by the loneliness of this parking lot and wondered for a moment about the lives of the people who were still up around midnight and those who were fast asleep. The second piece of inspiration came from when I was flying home from attending the opening at Abend Gallery in Denver.  I was listening to Jesu and reading Sit Down and Shut Up by Brad Warner. One of the verses stuck in my head "Life Comes Too Quickly". I was feeling exhausted a combination of work and travel and it hit home. My life is flying past me at a million miles an hour it seems and I'm not actually being mindful of the moments I'm currently in.  Last, but not least as I was working on this painting there were a few days of rain and one of them I went for a ride despite the wet roads. I didn't go too crazy, but I passed by a few wet parking lots and decided that even though the source photo was of a dry parking lot didn't mean I couldn't paint a wet one.

This brings me to say something about art.  At the last openings I've encountered folks who want more meaning and some who want less within my works. For those who wanted more I didn't think of what to say to them until weeks afterwards, but I think I can say it here.  Art has it's own intrinsic meaning beyond what the artist feels or intends it to mean or at least this artist.  So much of my work is about process.  I have this initial concept and then the work morphs from that. I also can't help, but feel like my subconscious is trying to tell me something about how I feel about things in my life. In other words - my subconscious knows what's eating me long before my conscious mind is aware of it.  In the end after I complete a painting or drawing - I'm lucky if I know what it means, but understand that the work has meaning whether or not I know what that is.

I think these days artists are way too concerned about their work having meaning.  I don't know why this is really, but my guess is that when people watch a movie or read a book there's always a "point to it".  The thing is this, does the author always know what the book is going to be about when they start writing? Can it be that they just have a flash of a storyline pop in their head. An outline of the characters, scene and plot.  As all the puzzle pieces fit together and the characters are fleshed out the author then follows them through the story and their morality (the author's voice) is then imprinted upon the piece.

It's the same for me as I paint, but my stories are told visually.  The challenge is to verbally express what I've already stated visually without losing the nuance expressed within my brushwork. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Long Day's End


Long Day's End oil on canvas. 30w x 40h inches.  This is another painting for my solo show at Modified Arts this November the opening on the 3rd Friday November 20th.  It's based off of a photo I took on Market Street in San Francisco.

It's been a lot of fun returning to oils.  Over the summer with the studio just shy of 100 degrees with little humidity, it's been nice having a longer drying window.  Now that the Fall is finally here, I may need to switch over to faster drying mediums in order to get everything finished in time for the show.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Busy Fall Season


Admittedly, I've been neglecting the blog a little bit. This Fall has been a jam packed season for me with four shows one right after the other.  The work above will be in my solo show at Modified Arts called "Amor fati" this November - Crash acrylic, ink and collaged materials on canvas, 36w x 60h inches.

I had two songs from two different bands come up in my Pandora cue and both were titled "Amor fati", so I looked it up and it was a perfect fit for how I've been feeling lately. The loose translation is "love of fate" the concept being that whether good or bad at the time - everything that has happened in your life has made you who you are and is therefore for the best. Considering you wouldn't be who you are if you had not had to live through those experiences.

That fits for me. While painting my abandoned desertscape paintings I really have tried to make sense of the events of my life, particularly my childhood. I have also dealt in those pieces with feelings of disconnect and how my memories feel like empty shells or abandoned buildings, because I can't really go back into that past and most of the people within those memories are now gone from this world.

I don't paint it to dwell in the past so much as to deal with my feelings and to achieve a deeper understanding of who I am. I also feel that the message is ultimately - to let the past go and be in the present and that the present is all you have. Once it's past all you can really do is apologize, forgive or release it. 
There's no going back to fix it and constantly bringing it to the forefront of your life only cobbles your present and stifles your future.

On to talking about Crash.  With this piece I wanted to create the sense of it being a memory. There are strong shadows to represent our mind's natural tendency to dualistically view the world as black or white, but at the same time there is this murky, distant/untouchable, dreamlike quality.

I was interviewed by a journalist for Sunset Magazine who is doing an issue devoted to Roosevelt Row and Downtown Phoenix the month of my show. My fingers are crossed that they'll use one of my images as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Urban Life


Here's three of the new works that will be on display this month at Abend Gallery's "Urban Life" show in Denver, Colorado. The opening is this Friday, October 9th 6-9pm and I'll be there. If your in the area please stop by.  Here's my artist page on their site. http://abendgallery.com/html_artists/jonathan-howard-artist-page/#.VhWxcShuRGI