Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Uncertainty Is Always There - Finished

Finished up on The Uncertainty Is Always There this morning. It's funny, but I try to be as true to my street photos as I can, but at times there are elements like a piece of litter or an architectural element in the photo just don't seem to make sense in the final painting. Those elements look like a mistake and detract more than anything, so it's best to edit them out. Nonetheless, I am not quick to omit them, usually paint them in initially and then reluctantly strike them out within the last day or two of working on a canvas.  One aspect of the original photo I kept was the angle. I felt it added to the precarious nature of being uncertain about the future and what one should do next.

I sort of relate to the main figure in this painting. He's the tattooed punk rocker type like me. He wasn't at ease like he had something eating at him. Something he didn't really know what to do to fix. I feel like we're all there with things in our lives, but we just push them to the back of our minds most of the time and get on with it. Even though they're pushed to the back burner - they resurface and bug us on our way to work later on. No matter what though - uncertainty is a fact of life and is always there.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Uncertainty Is Always There - In Progress

Here's a progress shot of The Uncertainty Is Always There acrylic and collage on canvas.  I've been using a subdued color palette lately instead of just black and white.  I like the added depth and playing the warm deep browns off of the  cool dark blue/greys.  It just feels more dynamic to me.

The title for this piece comes from the uncertainty of our times and the uncertainty I feel at times. It's the ghost that seems to always haunt us.

I've been entering into juried exhibitions and it will be a while until I know the results for a few of them.  It's kind of nice though to have the work from the last show in the studio on my shelves to look at while I'm painting more work.  It's interesting, but paintings feed off of each other.  My hope is that these paintings will dovetail into each other better. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Finished Fraction, oil on canvas 12x12 inches on Thursday night. My first completed oil painting in 15 years. Thankfully, Gamblin's new solvents and mediums don't trigger my asthma as badly as traditional turpentine and damar varnish do. The drying time of alkyd resin is a little bit different, but the window for the drying time in comparison to acrylics is nice.

I don't think I will be abandoning the act of painting with acrylics, but it's nice to have options, depending on the piece.

I opted to do a detail from Preoccupation. It's interesting, but sharing my work on Instagram (@jhowardpaintings) has enlightened my process a bit. Due to the forced square format I often shoot details of works in progress rather than the full piece. Sometimes I actually like the details better than the whole piece.

Now that the show is up at Modified Arts - "Lost in Transition" October 17th to November 16th. I'm still busy in the studio, just taking some time to play with new medias and techniques. Need to have a little fun before I get back to work on the next major body of work.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Day Like Any Other

Just a reminder tonight is the opening for my new exhibit at Modified Arts October 17th, 6-9 pm. Here's their website for more information 

Above is A Day Like Any Other, acrylic and collage on canvas 12 x 12 inches Monday morning. I've had a lot of fun painting these little square canvases. After working on that big 36 x 120 inch canvas that ironically feels rather small in the Modified Arts space with it's giant walls, it's nice to work on something with a different time table for completion.

This is fourth in a series of Phoenix cityscapes completed for the show. They're almost a small series in themselves.  When I painted Temporal many thought it was Phoenix last year and although it was San Francisco that particular intersection felt very Phoenix like with the bank and car dealerships with the more modern architecture. When I've painted these works I've used the same palette to much success.

With this piece and a few of the drawings with the mood and titles I have been drawn to the idea that a "ordinary" or "typical" day is something special. I feel like our society has been getting into a almost Disney/Hollywood mode where every day has to be great, spectacular, epic, and a technicolor experience of some sort. It's really an unhealthy premise to begin and end each of your days with. If everything has to be ultra eventful every moment - I think you miss the subtly and quiet beauty of life's more simple moments.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Finished Preoccupation, acrylic and collage on canvas, 36 x 36 inches this morning. It's nice that the last three and the painting still in progress are Phoenix based. Tomorrow evening I deliver the paintings and drawings to Modified Arts for my solo exhibit "Lost in Transition" with the opening this Friday October 17th 6-9pm.

It's been a long haul getting ready for this show. There were even two works that although nearly done that I juried out of the show. They will be great paintings when completed, but they didn't fit into the whole theme overall. 

It's odd how shows come together, really. I'm sure musical artist go through the same feelings when putting albumns together. There are just songs that don't fit and are either used for b-sides or saved for another albumn.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Little Comforts of a Busy Day

Finished The Little Comforts of a Busy Day, acrylic and collage on canvas, 12 x 12 inches last night. My hope is to get two more 12 x12 inch works done for the show. The title comes from the gentleman's baggy of convenience store items. It seems like when I'm working tons of hours that sodas and candy bars really hit the spot. They're the little comforts that help me get through my busy day. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lost in Transition - Finished

Just completed Lost in Transition, acrylic, ink and collage on canvas, 36 x 120 inches. It's the title painting for the show at Modified Arts this October wit.h the opening on Third Friday the 17th! There will be a healthy mixture of paintings and drawings. 

At the moment I'm basking in the glow of the two newly finished paintings. It's that time during the preparation of a show where works come together and are finished. Thanks, to my habit of working on several pieces at a time they all seem to just about finish together.

Initially, I was going to name this painting "Come as You Are", because that Nirvana song just kept popping in my head, but this morning I realized that it was the piece in the show that epitomizes what the whole body of work is about.

Everything is in a perpetual state of transition. A constant state of becoming something or someone else. Sometimes though a person, a society, or a place gets stuck and lost in the flux of this change. Two Guns, Arizona is such a place.  An abandoned and re-inhabited several times, but now only the ghostly remains of it's checkered past remain high on a desert plain with each season slowly cleaning the remnants of its history away.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Gift of Ordinary Days

Finished The Gift of Ordinary Days this last Saturday. It was a very crazy day being part of the Art Trends Magazine's Artist of the Year Contest. Just thankful to be in the running and glad that I was able to hang with the leaders for most of the voting throughout the day. It felt like running for an election, after the storm took out my phone line; I opted to go draw at the coffeehouse and finish this guy up. I saw that I'd been left behind in the polls and sat back enjoyed drawing this piece while sipping my mocha. The gift of going back to an ordinary day for me.


Just finished Standoff acrylic, ink and collage on canvas 12 x 12 inches. I've been working on the big 36 x 120 inches painting, but thought a break was in order, soirée turned toone of the smaller works. The large canvases can seem to last forever with tons of little details to wrap up in the end.

Using iPad to reference my photos instead of print outs has be extremely efficient. I wish I would have thought of doing this sooner. It's really nice to be able to zoom in when needed.

The Modified Arts show - Opening October 17th is quickly approaching. With what I complete this weekend I should be set, but as usual I will be trying to get a couple more works done. I think it's purely a case where; when you are at full throttle you just want to keep going no matter what. There's always more fleshing out to do. I think I'm done with the abandoned highway works for this show. I'm anxious to get out and photograph more stations. Kinda hungry for the open road as well. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Come As You Are or No Trespass in Progress

Come As You Are or No Trespass in progress. I have been working on a big 36 x 120 inches canvas for my upcoming exhibit at Modified Arts with the opening on October 17th. The show will be a mixture of drawings and paintings like last year. There will be a mixture of cityscapes and boonscapes (haven't figured out a good short and sweet term for my paintings of abandoned buildings in the middle of no where.

The bigger the canvas the happier these desert gas stations are. I think that the large canvases help convey the "vastness" of the West. With this one I'm working really hard to to capture the desert sky. There is the washed out blue, but in the morning and evening the sun highlights the dust in the air leaving a dirty yellow/gold at the horizon that fades into the washed out blue. It's the sky I grew up to and distinctive of the desert southwest.

A big part of what this series of works are about is the lose of these places. They represent the character of the west for me. In the west there is a constant wrecking ball and rebuild mentality. Old structures have character - granted when they were built they were as disposable as the buildings that are replacing them within the western landscape, but now they represent our cultural past.

Finally starting to get the studio in good working order. I'm amazed at what a difference putting drywall in has made. I put in some new IKEA shelves that have cubbies that I can put supplies in to declutter myself a bit and also serve as a shelf to place paintings in progress for the show on. It allows the paintings to feed off each other. It's been really humid the last few weeks, so the swamp cooler hasn't done me much good. I've just been working through it. I'm looking forward to the fall and winter months..

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All the Dreams We Waste

Finished All the Dreams We Waste last night. Part of the abandoned desert series. There are several more awaiting their turn in the studio. I also have a bridge painting or two planned.

This cafe and the motel behind it was along a frontage road off of I-40 outside of Kingman. I'm not sure, but the frontage road may be part of the old route 66. The modern ruins in the area seem to date from that time period. Just down the road was what was left of a old Standard station. Now the signs just stand like grave markers over cracked concrete foundations.

I guess that brings me to the title of this piece. I'm sure I have probably said this before, but to me I look at these places as someone's dream that they had to abandon. Businesses for one reason or another that didn't survive when the world left these places behind, but someone put their life's blood into running these places. They waited the tables of this cafe cooked food for it's patrons with a smile and started every morning by sweeping up the store front a little after dawn.

Now a guy like me photographs them with the wind howling through the empty shell of the building with the old wiring scraping across fallen ceiling panels. The paint bleached by the sun and cracking off the brick walls.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Illusions of Grandeur

Completed Illusions of Grandeur, acrylic, ink and collaged materials on canvas, 41 x 57 inches - last night. The focus and meaning of the piece for me is the size relationship of the man walking underneath the huge sign for the theater. During the process of painting Illusions of Grandeur I started to think about how truly big the world is and that although the events within your personal realm may seem to be earth shatteringly important - in the grand scheme of things it's mostly of little consequence. Along with re-watching the first episode of Cosmos, when Neil deGrasse Tyson is walking on the giant calendar of the universe and gets to humanity's place on that calendar which is the last minute of December 31st. It's humbling.  

With that said, your name is on the theater marque in the lives of those who love you. Just don't get carried away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lunch Hour: In Progress

A progress shot of Lunch Hour. Last night I was able to get a lot done with a nice monsoon storm. It cooled things down wonderfully and the really humid air  gave me a wonderful drying time window. The extra blending time was fantastic. 

This is the first piece of a series of works dealing with more intimate urban moments. Along with playing with extremely bright light. It's amazing how sunlight can be so bright that it washes everything out as well as causing details to be lost and forms to become abstracted.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Slow Down and Cinema Z

I'm doing two posts this evening. I just felt like Middle of the Day had a different feel than these two and a separate post was in order.

Above The Slow Down followed with Cinema Z. I just finished The Slow Down this evening and finished Cinema Z on Wednesday night. I'm very happy with the flow of this body of work. Each piece has been flowing right into the next. I think I should take vacations more often. 

I find it interesting how each time I go to the coffeehouse to draw that even though I may be in the same space and sometimes sit at the same tables the energy is different each time. It's a microcosm in a way for how streets and cities can be. Each day brings something new although the sense of place remains; it's transformed with the influx of the people that flow through them.

Middle of the Day

Here's a Drawing from last week that I did. I'm working on a large painting based on it now in the studio as well. I'll share that later this weekend. The drawings for the upcoming Modified Arts show are going really well. My habit has been to set up at the coffeehouse; drink coffee, listen to music and work. I like the energy of the space that matches what I'm drawing.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


A drawing that was completed upon my return from my Portland trip that didn't get posted. Ragtime, pen & ink and marker on paper. The title is from the sign of the clothing store in the background. It's sorta fitting considering that almost everyone in the photo looked as if they'd been shopping or were going shopping. I was standing outside of the Target City store at the time.

The drawings for my upcoming Modified Arts exhibit are going really well. I've really broken into a good rhythm. I find myself out of my studio sitting at a coffeehouse drawing with a mocha and a bottle of sparkling water drawing away as the people come and go. Something about drawing a street scene while sitting in a public place with lots of coming and going of people seems fitting - energy wise.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catching Up Part 2

Another Day and Unrecorded Moment were completed during the second leg of the trip before returning home. Another Day was started at a campsite in the Redwoods, which felt a little amusing considering that I was sitting in the woods performing a city scene. It was more of a matter of staying on course and getting some work done for the upcoming show though.

The tentative title for the show is "Lost in Transition". My thought is that the title is both about what I'm going through and what I see the world around me going through as well. It's more of an artist's view of the world at play, but it seems like music, fine arts, film and fashion seem to be borrowing from the past and remixing elements from different eras rather than creating something new. Now, something new can and will likely spring out of these explorations and that's the "transition" part of it. I feel like we're on the brink lost within that transitional moment. For the rest of the world I feel like we're running late, but that we haven't fully entered into a new age as well.

Now personally, I guess I just feel like I'm entering into another big period of my work. A new level of understanding and working. I'm just in that transitional period right before making the next leap, of course you only know that you've made a huge leap a year after the fact sometimes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Catching Up Part 1

I've returned from my trip up to Portland, Oregon and back down the Pacific Coast. It was a fantastic trip and I lost count of all the photos I took for paintings. I rode around Portland one day taking photos and walked the downtown for an entire day for more photos. There are also all the barns, motels, general stores, gas stations and coastal photos I took as well. I'm in the midst of preparing for my next exhibit that will be at Modified Arts in October the opening on the third friday.

During my trip I did a number of drawings, (above) is Caught Adrift.

The Day to Day (above) was given to our friends in Portland to say thank you for letting us stay with them.

Followed with The Long Way Home.

All three were drawn while in my buddy's studio, while we were in Portland.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Clutching and Before the Rush - The Paintings

Finished up Clutching on Saturday morning. I worked really hard to capture the feel of the drawing while introducing the wonderful abstract distance and depth that happens more naturally within the medium of painting. What I like best about my drawings is the clarity that line provides, but what I love about my paintings is the brush strokes and ambiguous abstract areas that allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. With the last batch of works, I'm working to establish a  synthesis of the two almost a hybrid style that possesses both qualities.

With some of these works the collaged elements has fallen to the wayside for the moment. I guess to focus in on developing the new technique really. Another part of it is that each piece or body of work calls for it's own mode of working. If a piece needs collaged elements it comes naturally, if it doesn't that comes naturally as well. I paint very intuitively and don't really have a natural flowing way of working. Yes, my paintings start by inking followed with varnishing after the ink has set and the first layer of underpainting. This layer of underpainting is then followed up with another inking session, but this time around I will either paint directly into this layer or varnish before the ink sets fully, so that it will bleed and create distortion. Afterwards I typically clean things up and repeat this process until the work is finished. That is a fairly set way of working, but the collage aspect if needed for a given work happens between these varnishing sessions. The layers of varnish also give the paintings the luminosity that is seen within oil paintings.

I enjoy working with oils, but when I started collaging and incorporating drawing materials in my work, I found that acrylics provided a more ph stable environment for those materials. 

Another big part of this was that while in college two of my painting instructors joined together and received a research grant to explore new painting material technologies. Two painting classes were joined into one and I believe the class time was lengthened as well. We were given a huge amount of materials to experiment from a wide range of binders (different acrylic polymers, urethane, nylon, and more), powdered pigments to mix our own paints, additives that would either cause surface effects or prevent crazing, orange peeling and air bubbles, and a host of other things. The materials were free for us to use and we were to provide panels of technique exploration documenting what we had done to get the effects. I guess for me that really set the stage for moving away from oils and working with acrylics.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Distant Hush

Finished Distant Hush up last night. It's the companion to Midnight City though larger. The title comes from the fact that you can see at the base of the buildings the traffic whizzing by. Of course from where I was standing it was only a distant hush and spectacle of dancing light. It's amazing, but from a distance the annoying and the mundane can be beautiful. 

Not sure how to work this into a painting, but as I rode my bike home today a butterfly flew next to me for about a block or two. There was something simply amazing about riding alongside a butterfly for over two minutes. There are moments like this that remind me of why I ride my bicycle to and from work.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Midnight City

Just finished Midnight City. It's first of a series of distant night cityscapes. The night works seem to have more color than some of the other works, but these night works also express a different quality of life. I have to admit I'm more of a night person than a day person. I typically stay up until 2am unless I have a morning group ride or other bike ride planned. Early morning is the rule for cycling due to the lack of traffic early in the morning.

Actually, a night bike ride with my friend up in Portland, OR is really was really the first inspiration to paint works like this. We went set out around nine that night and didn't get home until about 2am. I took a bunch of photos alongside the river of the bridges, but none of them really turned out. Maybe, I'll get lucky this summer when I go to visit. The source photo for this painting was taken in San Diego this last November.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lost in the Reverb

Just finished Lost in the Reverb. I debated a few different titles, but felt this one worked the best. My thought with this piece is it's a typical evening walk home past the places you pass everyday to and from work, past the same people, and only the seasons vary it seems. Each day is like a reverberation repeating only slightly different.

I know that may sound boring, but our lives have a certain level of not necessarily monotony, but routine. There's kind of a safety and maybe comfort in traveling the same route to and from work each day. For instance, if I'm riding my bike to work and I'm playing tag with the 15th Avenue bus I know I'm running late and need to pedal harder. I also notice the same folks jogging, walking the dog or pushing strollers in the morning as well.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Any Other Evening

Completed Any Other Evening. It's a nice little piece. I kept to a more monochromatic color scheme to let the line tell the story. I'm starting to draw into my paintings more. I like the definition of the line and the less defined areas that cause the viewer to fill in the blanks more. 

The works for the show are now getting finished in a steady stream for the show. The show being "Night and Day" at the Lanning Gallery up in Sedona, AZ with the opening Friday evening April 4th. I'll make a link to the gallery's announcement when it's up.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


This is my favorite time period when preparing for a showing, when all the paintings that I've been working on for the last several months get finished up around the same time. I guess it's a bit like gardening.  Seeds are planted, you water, protect the plants from insects and birds and then harvest. Well, now is the harvest for me, since I work on several works at the same time bouncing back and forth depending on drying times and my mood.

Above is Afterglow, it's another small work. I love the afterglow of the evening when the sun is setting and the day is done. If I'm lucky to be somewhere like a coffeehouse I can people watch and sip my mocha; thankful that I don't have to be anywhere.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Finished up Numbers at last. Once I struck the one figure out everything just fell into place and it was simply a matter of making things tidy. The piece has been hanging out in the studio for over a year, so it's nice to have it completed. 

Making It Look Effortless

A strange thought occurred to me today. I again have Numbers up on the easel and try as I might this work has really been a struggle. There was a figure that was there that has now been struck out and magically everything works now. For some reason that figure just didn't play well with the others.  She worked great in the drawing that the painting is based on, but when it came to the actual canvas - she didn't work. Why I kept her in changed this and that followed with painting her over and over again. I have no idea. I stubbornly, doubled down without a single thought of striking her out. This is an aspect of my studio life that I haven't written about much and this morning I found myself asking "why?".

I don't think artists share the "struggle" part of making art. I'm asked all the time how long a painting or drawing takes at opening. I mean when you see the finished works the viewer doesn't intrinsically see the struggle that went into creating the piece and the artist doesn't typically confess the fact the piece was hard to do, except to maybe artist friends. Yet, in real life it's a bit like the tortured composer puppet on Sesame Street in the studio at times. There are the times when I throw my brushes into the water and hop on my bicycle to go get some coffee. Only to come back an hour later and see something I'd been missing for the last week and or several months.

Now, it's ingrained in me to not to share this, because instructors in my college days told us that it was bad form to let people know that you really had to work at it to get it right. It opens the door for the viewer to find fault with the piece. You want them to think that it just flowed from your hand and think your a genius. I didn't question it at the time, but I should have.

What strikes me now, is this. It's a bit of a disservice to the "work" part of an artwork. I mean I remember instructors also saying that "art was 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration", so why do artists only own up to the 10% part? 

I remember seeing a documentary that showed U2 in the studio recording "The Unforgettable Fire" album. They left in the arguing and the toil in the recording studio when they were recording "In the Name of Love". Brian Eno was interviewed and was really worried that the band would over work the song since they'd been working on it in the studio 24/7 for almost three weeks. He recalled that the last time they had done so with a song while recording the "War" album that they ended up just scrapping it and moving on to the other songs. It was really eye opening for me when I was in High School when I saw that. At the time I thought that "art" just magically happened and what was wrong with me, because I was always fighting to get things right. The funny thing is that every time I hear "In the Name of Love" I appreciate it more, because I know what when into recording it. I know that the transitions were difficult to weave together and hearing it in an earlier state has made me appreciate the craftsmanship within the final product just that much more.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Weight

Finished The Weight this evening.  I had pretty much called this one done a few weeks back, but decided to rework things a bit this week. The title for the piece is inspired by the fact that the woman walking across the street seems to me weighed down by more than just her groceries. For me it's as if the weight of the world is upon her shoulders. I think we've all been there. It's really a slice of modern life.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Almost Noon

Just finished Almost Noon. I have about seven works in the studio all in different stages. My apologies for being a bit bad about updating the blog. I've just kinda been painting and working on the preliminary drawings for a commission.

I have the show at the Lanning Gallery up in Sedona coming up this April, so it's crunch time. I'm in a pretty good place though with the paintings. It's the typical when I'm working on several paintings at a time for them to finish up around the same time.