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.