Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Sense of Loss and Letting Go

I finished A Sense of Loss and Letting Go late last night. I'm really glad that I pushed myself to complete this final piece for the show. In a lot of ways A Sense of Loss the first painting that dealt with this station was the start of  the series and when I was painting it back in March and April I didn't feel resolved. I knew the painting was done and that it was one possible solution to the subject matter, but I had other ideas of where to take it. I still do. This painting is yet another possible solution. I guess for me this is the station that I photographed first and the seed for the whole series. 

I think what strikes me about this station is how it feels like the bleached white dry javelina skull parts I come across when hiking down around Sierra Vista and Bisbee. This station sits with it's bent up awning and broken out windows as an empty shell like a pile of bones surrounded by future tumbleweeds in the middle of the Southern California desert outside of Barstow.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

As the World Passes By

Just finished As the World Passes By this morning. The title comes from how I feel this morning and the fact that the people waiting to cross the street are just watching the traffic pass them by. This morning I looked through my newsfeed and just felt a deep pang of frustration. Later drinking my morning cup of tea looking at both this drawing and the painting in progress on the easel; I thought how odd it was that my work isn't political and that I don't actually express my political views on my blog.

That's not entirely true though. It's impossible in some ways for an artist's worldview not to come through in their work. My work is actually political, but it's not tied to the fashionable politics of the day that blow in every which direction depending on where the wind current is coming from on a particular day. My focus is on what it is to be human, the modern world and how I see the world (or rather my attempt to make sense of it).

I remember when I was in art school I had a drawing professor Jim Eder. It was my first life drawing class. He came up from behind me and pointed out that I was missing the subtle transitions of how shadows were criss crossing each other across the model's body. Once I saw it; I saw it everywhere I looked. Capturing it became an insane challenge for me. I quickly learned to keep my drawings loose and not to commit to early to strong heavy shadows. I noted that as the model's pose would progress that more shadows and highlights would reveal themselves to my eyes. Almost as if my eyes needed and adjustment period. I soon learned as Jerry Shutte another life drawing and painting professor taught, that after a pose is held the model will succumb to gravity and their body weight will shift as a result. It became important to either wait for that shift or quickly capture the initial moment. Becoming an artist is more about learning to "see" than learning to master your materials.

When I look at any of political issues that currently divide my country: the longer I look the more complex the problems seem and less clear the answers to those problems become. For me it's just like drawing or painting from life in that there are so many intricate details to capture that don't always show themselves in the beginning and that things are often so much more complex than they seem. When it comes to politics it seems as everyone wants to paint these problems over with a big broad brush of absolutes. There seems to be no middle ground, but in a world of grey...

I'll paint in my studio as the world passes by and hope that maybe my paintings and drawings with all their shades of grey will inspire others to see differently.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kingdom Come and Went

Just completed Kingdom Come and Went. It's another super wide piece. I think this format works really well for the abandoned gas station/desert works. I think it highlights the one aspect about the desert outside of the heat: it's expansiveness. The desert has several places where it's flat with mountains in the distance that in more humid climates would be obscured by the atmosphere. There's lots and lots of sky and the land just seems to stretch out before you in every direction; forever. It's odd to write about this, because this is really quite normal for a desert kid like me. Whenever, I'm away from the Southwestern Deserts it may take a while, but I notice the lack of expansiveness and endless blue sky.

The title popped in my head right after finishing the painting. The title has some religious undertones, but I think for me personally it's my perception of how these small desert towns were once booming and now are a year or so from becoming ghost towns. I just imagine a gas station owner, perhaps a mechanic by trade who buys the a station just off the highway and runs a prosperous business. Then over time with more fuel efficient cars business just slowly slips away until he can no longer keep the doors open. It's as if all his dreams came true to own his own prosperous company, but times change and he finds it slip from his hands like grains of sand. Like his kingdom came and went before his eyes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No More Time and Late Evening Walk

Finished both Late Evening Walk and No More Time this evening. I'm shooting to finish up two more drawings and complete one last painting for the show this weekend. I figure the rest of the week before the hang date will be framing and installing hanging wire. I'm looking forward to being finished with the work for the show. Of course, as soon as the work is delivered I will come home to work in my studio on the next body of work. I find it keeps me balanced to just keep working. I find that taking even a week off throws my work out of whack.


Finished up on Crossing this morning. It's really nice to spend some time drawing. Unlike paintings drawings are very much about getting in and getting out. It's very easy to overwork an area and destroy the piece. In fact one false move and you may very well have to start over completely - at least with pen & ink. That's the beauty of the medium though. After any length of time spent only painting canvases I find that I get accustomed to be able to monkey around with a passage until I'm happy with it or just the opposite. I also forget that less is more.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gum Wrappers and Fancy Cars

Just finished Gum Wrappers and Fancy Cars. It's a whimsical title really.  Maybe a musing really.  As I was looking at the drawing thinking of a name it dawned on me that there's fancy cars, dirty streets with gum wrappers, lots of signs and...

I think it's an interesting contrast between super clean expensive cars and liter strewn sidewalks. I respond somehow to San Francisco - Chinatown's mixture of glitz, high intensity colors, decaying buildings and liter strewn streets. I remember when I was a kid the first time I went to LA's Chinatown I felt like I'd stepped into a scene from Bladerunner that I'd only seen six months earlier. 

When I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii it was very similar. Once you made it out of the touristy parts I remember walking down alleyways where there were street vendors, grocers with chickens hanging from hooks, the guys with merchandise inside their coats, street performers, street preachers and lots of people. I lived in three different buildings. Initially, we stayed in a 20 story building that was okay, then we moved and lived in a 40 story and ultimately lived in a 30 story on the 28th floor. The last building was really the best for living space, ocean view and location. It was only five blocks from the beach where the bus stop that I rode to school was as well. It's odd to think about it, but I rode a public bus to school in Hawaii rather than a school bus. Nonetheless, I thought I was in heaven to be able to watch the waves and smell the ocean air during my 30 minute wait for the bus every morning.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hanging On a Curtain

Completed Hanging On a Curtain last night or really early this morning. I'm in the last days of preparing for the show. I have enough work, but I'm pushing to have even more. I haven't actually had a solo show at Modified since the remodel, so there's a lot more wall space to fill than before. Most of my works are large horizontal pieces, so it should be okay.  Nonetheless, I'd rather push myself to create as much work as humanly possible before the hang date.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Left To Your Own Devices

Finished Left To Your Own Devices, pen & ink and marker this evening. I spent the afternoon at a coffee house I know with nice big tables. The music was a bit loud, so I was cranking my iPod since working with my own soundtrack is a must when I do art. The coffee house was moderately busy, but I noticed that crowds would pour in shifts around 3pm. To my knowledge no one paid me any mind, but of course I was pretty absorbed in my work. I can see why people go to coffee houses to work on things. There's a nice energy and it's also a pleasant change of pace.

This drawing is based off of a photo I took in Chinatown - San Francisco. There will be a pencil drawing as well. To work out the perspective I had to draw the scene in pencil first, I then proceeded to trace it in ink. I find that the pencil doesn't always erase to my liking and gets the markers dirty. I also like the fact it gives me and opportunity to contrast the medias with the same subject.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

There's More To It Than That - Completed

I completed There's More To It Than That today. The real finishing detail was finishing off the light area of the sky on the left side, but adding dirty semi-opaque glazes. The sky just needed to have the small clouds defined and the bright yellow toned down and dirtied up a bit.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

There's More To It - Working

Here's a working shot of There's More To It Than That a new 72 x 36 inch mixed media on canvas work. I have to laugh at my titles at times.  I bounce back and forth from single word titles to long The Smiths like titles. It's what comes to me while painting them, so it is what it is. 

When I worked abstractly I used to make lists of titles for a show and then if a title didn't come to me I would then go down the list until something fit. Often times I found myself in the predicament where the title that came to me while painting a piece had already been used. I stopped using that system.

Today, I just wait for a title to come to me. If it doesn't come to me I will look to the collaged text to invent something or will open a book randomly with my eyes closed and point somewhere on a page. If it makes sense - I use it. Titles these days typically don't require any special rituals, however. They've been flowing easily.

This piece is an answer to There's No Going Back. I chose to have a sunset with an impending monsoon storm coming in. In this instance a storm coming in is far from negative. In the desert the storms are awaited for, not dreaded; bringing cooler temps and life to the landscape. The sunset is representative of turning the page or putting false perceptions to rest for a new day tomorrow. In many cases there is no going back, but sometimes there's more to the circumstances surrounding past events than you may have known at the time or even been capable of grasping. In fact I have recently found that everything I thought I knew at one time was based on false perceptions and assumptions. In short, there may be no going back, but there is returning to where you once were and beginning a new. In the same place; just at a different time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Just completed Reckoning working title was Lonely Outpost 2. I think the new title fits better with the definition of "the process of calculating or estimating something" or "a judgement or opinion", rather than the "avenging for past misdeeds". Of course I guess all could apply depending on you the viewer's interpretation.

I guess for me buildings are representative of souls with the wear and tear. With this series I have known that it speaks of my childhood, but of course it sometimes takes years for me to figure out what my subconscious mind is saying to me. That's okay though. I like the mystery. What I do know is that I have been doing a great deal of reckoning in regards to my childhood past. Somethings have become clearer to me, mythologies shattered, lies exposed, family members that were once lost found, and today new beginnings. 

Of course my way of processing it all is in paint. One of my favorite verses from a Folk Implosion song is "I never know what I'm thinking, until I dream". For me that hits home on how I am. Of course, I dream in paint. Come to think of it that's what inspired the gas station series to begin with. I woke up remembering a dream of me painting a huge series of gas stations out in the desert. I found the photo I'd taken three years earlier of an abandoned gas station outside of Barstow California and it felt right.

I also think that the concept of reckoning is a big part of this body of work in subject matter alone. These gas stations in the Southwestern deserts of the U.S. speak volumes about American culture. The West and the underlining Manifest Destiny philosophy has influenced the politics of the region from the pioneer days to present day. The perpetual bust and boom fueled by the cowboy spirit of American independence. Yes, speaking of this paradigm can get politically charged rather quickly, but I'm not playing politics here. At least I'm making no judgement calls, but rather just exposing the essence of what I see in myself and the world as I know it.  My family members and myself are the products of this culture, these deserts and only through the exploration of this culture and the underlining themes; can I understand them and myself - not to mention all that went down. I guess I'd rather author this story in Paul Bowles' fashion with a rather dispassionate exploration of characters and events without letting you know which character represents the author's voice allowing the reader to make their own calls. In the end there is more gray than black or white and no clear answers to be found.

For my personal history, a big part of my childhood was spent traveling these roads and fueling up most likely at these very stations moving from place to place as my mom desperately tried to find herself with my sister and I living in a temporal state of constant flux. The result of this is her son chose in adulthood to take the existentialist view that "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" I saw this magnet at the art store my last trip, but I've thought in a thousand times - just worded differently - when thinking about all the places I lived as a kid.

For me it was both fun and dreadful at the same time. For an introverted, socially awkward kid being in a new school having to make new friends every year wasn't a lot of fun. I turned to my art as my companion. In the end I have no regrets, because I realize that I'm the artist I am today as a result of moving all over the place. Yet, I guess the time for reckoning has come.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Completed Sunrise this evening. It was more of a matter of fine tuning things.  I've been bouncing back and forth from this painting and three others. There has been a lot that has happened in the last month or so in my life. This painting is about the beginning of a new day.