Sunday, March 30, 2008

American Consumption Art - Be Prepared for a Guilt Trip

I found a link to the art of Chris Jordan on Digg while searching through the "Art" section. The piece above was done with cans - the average number of cans Americans throw away in 30 seconds, which is about 106,000. Although not to scale - most of Chris's pieces are an impressive size. Which then leads to the argument, isn't it just as wasteful and presumptuous to illustrate waste on such a grand scale? But it is interesting; I think about this sort of thing often (esp. when I am in places like the $1 Store), yet even with the visuals, I have difficulty fathoming just how much waste we generate on this planet. It's truly mind-boggling and makes me really scrutinize the meaning of the word "progress". My intention is not to appear "holier than thou" - I am just as guilty of contributing to the mounds of waste currently in our landfills - but I make attempts to reuse and recycle where I can. If everyone put forth just a small effort, the difference would be huge. read more

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gypsy By the Water

"Gypsy by the Water" was about 2 years in the making. It's inception was simply an image of a young woman with wavy hair that popped into my head one afternoon - sort of a pastoral image, vaguely 19th century in essence, somewhat romantic, but timeless too.

So I endeavored to put this image to paper, but with no real person to reference, it wasn't working to my satisfaction. I decided to embark on a mission to find the perfect model that would make this image in my head come to life. Months and months passed as I tried to "cast" for my masterpiece (insert tongue in cheek here), but to no avail. I began to wonder if this thing would ever get painted.

At the time I had a little shop smack in the middle of Savannah's historic district, where many an interesting character passed, several of whom ended up in other paintings of mine. But the illusive gypsy woman refused to show her face. I got angels, Lilith, wood nymphs, heroic figures of Greek mythology, but no gypsy woman.

Then one day, while eating at my favorite establishment, I happened to look over at the hostess, a person who I had seen almost every day for over a year - and it hit me. There was my gypsy woman. Now, in my defense, her hair was usually cut fashionably short, highlighted and sometimes streaked with neon colors, like pink - so it wasn't as though she was always walking about looking like a Mediterranean goddess. But her dark hair had grown out to her shoulders and the highlights were toned down, and in the dimness of the restaurant, with only the outside light filtering in - she was a vision!

So I said conversationally, "Hey, Heather - you wanna model for a painting for me?" She looked at me and said, "Sure."

We set a date where we could meet so I could shoot some pictures. We borrowed some clothes and jewelry from a bohemian friend of mine and with a combination of what Heather brought, managed to come up with an ensemble that worked without being stereotypical or insulting. I have gotten confirmation by real Gypsies who have seen it and who have told me they thought it was very tastefully done and they thanked me! Wow - how's that for a compliment?

I actually did go to some lengths to insure that the portrayal of my Gypsy woman was accurate for the time I chose. I used a lot of Gustav Dore's drawings for references. He was said to be very enamored of the Gypsy culture in a positive way, and documented their way of life very accurately.

The photo shoot took place in one of Savannah's oldest cemeteries - Laurel Grove. There is a little area between the North and South plots if you will (not as in the Civil War North and South) where a little water trickles through and it's kind of overgrown with vegetation and really quite beautiful and serene. It was the perfect stage for our photo shoot. She was quite the sport, went barefoot in the underbrush and stuck her foot near the mud, and I got some great shots of her lying down in the ground cover. All in all, probably the most productive shoot in terms of usable imagery.

At that point, I decided this painting was not going to be small.

With my subject matter all preserved in a series of photographs I had to splice together in order to make a complete image, I set about making the supports for the canvas, stretching it, and then covering it with thick layers of gesso to obscure the weft of the canvas. This painting is over 6 feet tall and looks like it is painted on a piece of plastered wall.

It is painted in acrylic, and before snobbery about what mediums bear infinite praises and which ones should be shunned at all cost sets in, I felt that in this case, where I used such a thick coating of primer on the canvas, the elasticity of the acrylic would wear better than oil. And actually, in this case, you can't tell the difference. I did use professional grade, light fast pigmented paint.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Here are examples of some pen and ink ATCs I've done over the past few months for various group swaps and some one on ones. I am a pen and ink nut - I love the medium and anyone who has the skill to do it well. My main influence is American artist, Howard Pyle . Since I was a kid I have been fascinated with his work, and have managed to collect many books he has illustrated. He is also the reason I love pirates - and if you have never seen "Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates" you are sorely missing out. Pyle created the iconography - and did it better than anyone. His pirates look scurvy and smelly and, well - pirate-like. Another artist I have come to appreciate over the years is Franklin Booth . His pen and ink technique borders on insanity. They don't make draftsmen like this anymore. If you admire his work and don't own the book from Flesk Publications, you are doing yourself a disservice. All of the pen and ink work I do is of the dip pen variety - I find it very medieval and grounding - the "scritch scritch scritch" just makes me really happy - and I envision dark abbeys with monks stooped over high wooden tables in cold dimly lit rooms. It's great!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I have recently become involve in the making of ATCs (artists trading cards) which is essentially art you make and trade for someone else's. It can be challenging and stimulating creativity-wise, which is always a bonus for me. So this is a series I did recently for an online group swap about the circus, which came out pretty well for art done on a 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" scale, dontcha think? This is a link to one of the best sites for trading hand-painted/drawn ATCs - illustratedatcs. It's a juried site and it is advisable to read the submission guidelines thoroughly before submitting work for review.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oak Tree Spirit

I have a thing for trees. It saddens me when they are felled for progress. There are many beautiful mysterious and majestic oak trees where I live - in fact there is one in the vacant lot next to my house. I have always liked them for their stateliness and how the really old ones exude a certain awesomeness, like they have their own mythology. "Oak Tree Spirit" is my attempt at embodying the life essence of the trees I love so much. Hope that last bit didn't make me sound like a nut job.

The Chase

I did this image a couple of years ago, in gouache and colored pencil. It was inspired by a little fairy tale I am writing off and on which is essentially about a prince and his faithful hunting dog. As of this writing it's sort of on hold; I haven't decided how "adult" I am going to make it yet, so I keep going back and forth on whether or not to keep the the writing style simplified like a fairy tale or go a little edgier. We'll see. I've got so many projects in the works(I'm a bit AD). This little illustration came about as part of the creative process and it sort of grew on me. As I look at it now, I tend to forget how much I liked it (which is rare for me to admit) and I think I might revisit the story, perhaps do some more illustrations. Thanks to George Arnett-Hutto for thinking enough of this little piece to purchase it. I think he owns most of the action pieces I've done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"I Like for You to Be Still"

This is one of the few larger oil paintings that I have undertaken in some time. A couple of years ago, while listening to an NPR program they showcased poetry by Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. One of the poems, read by Glenn Close, really impacted me, and like so many things I hear and see, stayed with me until it manifested itself into the image you are currently entertaining your rods and cones with. The poem can be read in its entirety here. The painting can be purchased here.

Dawn Kisses Night

So this is my latest painting, entitled "Dawn Kisses Night" (in case you missed it at the top). It's not a large piece around 8" x 5" give or take. I am new to the arts and crafts site, Etsy, where this is for sale currently, but I will continue making smaller, more affordable works which will coincide with the mission of the Artery Street Team that I am involved with. You can go here Dawn Kisses Night for more info on this piece.