Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Day Aside

Saturdays were made for leisure or at least for the pursuit of things not involving the stress or the daily grind of the work week (ie: hobbies, home projects, etc). Doesn't always work that way tho. Like I tell my kids, "work before pleasure". So the day started with fried egg sandwiches and housework. Well, at least that's out of the way for now.

I'd set the rest of this day aside for myself. I had a lot of Me stuff to take care of. Aside from some personal grooming events (read as Haircut and a decent shave) I promised myself, Universe willing, that I'd get a start on taking pics for the upcoming Art Festival Mural project. I've spent the last couple of hours walking around downtown looking for good shots. I need something that definitively says "Des Moines". I'm working with some constraints so I'm looking for compositions that hold up well in a long, horizontal format. Size not necessarily withstanding, the painting will need to be produced in a 5:2 ratio. Plus the composition needs to be, for lack of a better word, busy. People will be painting small sections of the final piece and I can't imagine that there are that many people out there that would want to paint an all blue square for example. It needs variety. Ultimately I'll need to take more than a little creative license with the image to make sure the instances of that are as few as possible. I plan to go back out around sunset and again once it's dark. Thankfully the weather's working with me. It's a great day. Calm, relatively warm (damned near 50! woohoo!), and sunny. I could personally go for a few more clouds... for variety's sake, but they can always be brought in from other, later shots. Not to mention I've got a stash of DSM pics going back nearly 5yrs.

I've also managed to make some more progress on my latest NYC piece. I'm wanting to make this piece a little less "slick" than some of my more recent work. A conversation I had last night confirmed my own feelings that, although it's not as bad as stuff I'd produced a couple of years ago, my paintings are feeling a bit overworked. Funny, the person who made the comment was quite apologetic about it, but in truth he merely said what I'd already been thinking. The wet streets, long shadows, and bright lights I think will lend themselves to a looser approach. I'm seeing areas of unpainted canvas and looser brushwork. I've been trying to stick to my mural-sized brushes for this (3-4"). I'm thinking there'll be time for some more work on it later tonight.

That same discussion brought up another point that I'd been kicking around. Many times after seeing a web-posting of one of my pieces people will comment on how much they look like photographs. This is a little disappointing to me because in person they don't look like that at all. The brushwork tends to be loose and energetic. At least, that is, when I don't overdo it. I'm thinking I need to incorporate some sort of zoom mechanism into the site. If you know of anything that would help with that please let me know.

Sunset's coming in an hour or so. Time to start thinking about where I want to be when that happens.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bracing for the Storm

As a general rule I like to keep busy. I like to be occupied with... something. I don't like lengthy periods of inactivity. They drive me nuts. All I wind up doing is thinking about what it is that I could/should be doing instead of relaxing. That being said I do enjoy taking a break from my usual grind to spend a little time doing nothing. As much as it might bother me I know that it's also necessary to have physical and mental downtime. I did this last night for a couple of hours. I played some games and watched some DVDs that I need to return to a friend. It's been a rough couple of days and for some reason I'm seeing it getting worse before it gets better. Homelife issues, shows, work. Such is life though. So... I took a break. My way of bracing for the storm. You can see it coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it so you sit back and watch it roll in with the knowledge that you're going to get rained on at the very least. At worst, blown away.
There is a quote I always think of in these situations:
"There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything".
I like this quote a lot and I apply it to any situation where something bad or very strenuous or taxing is inevitable. It helps me to focus on the end result and not get muddled up in the middle. So there is unpleasantness that I'm dealing with in my personal life, there is the grind of the day-job (which I'm happy to have at the moment), and there's a looming list of projects, shows, and new work that all need to be addressed. AND let us not forget that taxes are upon us. These things may weigh on my mind, but I'm happy to have the work. As for the homelife situations that loom I am resolved to get through them and so I won't dwell on them or let them take my focus away from the present.
With that in mind I've started a new piece to help me meditate on the upcoming wave of activity. Fittingly enough the source photo was taken during a rainstorm. People rushing around trying to stay dry. People hurrying from awning to awning or from one doorway to another. My friends and I walked down the middle of the sidewalk... getting soaked, but comfortable in the knowledge that there was a dry, warm place waiting for us at the end. In this case at the Tir na Nog Pub across from Penn Station. I've just laid down the first layer of paint, but I'm already excited about what's going on. I'm hoping to complete this one quickly. There are shows in the near future. I have much to do and people are counting on me.

And an extra special Thank You to my very good friends who have spent a LOT of helping me to work through this stuff recently.
I don't know where I'd be without you.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Last Dance

I'd have to say it was an all-around good day. I spent most of the day with my boys. I was able to blog twice. I finished a painting. I visited the new collaborative workspace, the Market Street Foundry (very cool!). My oldest got to spend the night with his bestest buddies. I got to spend the evening with my little one. I even managed to slide in a run to the grocery store without the kids. Yep. Good times.
Tonight I feel like I've finally finished Spiral. Here's the final pic. I've made the changes I set out to make. I feel like I can put this one down. I've got another canvas on deck and a couple of those NYC pics to choose from. I'm hoping to work a large cityscape in. I've gotten to a point where I need to redirect.

I'll say no more tonight tho. It's late. Jackie Chan's on the TV and it's time to relax.



Saturday, January 24, 2009


Another week has gone by before I'd really even gotten a good start on it. So much has happened lately that my head's spinning. Not all that unusual for me I suppose. Not all of those things have been good, but that's life, huh.
I did manage to sneak in a couple of painting sessions and am nearly done with Spiral. Good thing too. More and more opportunities are coming my way and I need to buckle down and get working. It's good for me to have some deadlines. Keeps me focused. Keeps me moving forward.
I figure I've got one more session before Our Lady of the Many Arms is finished. She's needing some finishing touches on her hands and arms plus I need to soften up her torso. The line of her ribs and tummy is too hard. I want her to be muscular-looking, but feminine, lithe. I'm thinking tonight's the night. We'll dance one last time and then I'll let her go. Other projects are looming. That means putting her down, but not before we've finished with each other. I've got ideas for some other surrealist pieces, but I don't have time for them right now. So I've sketched and notated enough so that I can come back to them in the future. Stay tuned. I went waaaay out in left field for a few of them. It's a place where I feel at home with the things lurking behind the curtains of my subconscious. Private things.
So on to the new work. Right now I'm doing a logo for an architectural firm in Chicago thanks to an old and good friend. I don't do a ton of graphic design work, but I do enjoy it and would like to do more. So if you've got a line on some... think of me.
In some really great news I've been commissioned to create a new cityscape of Des Moines for the big Des Moines Art Festival this Summer. It's a great event attended by thousands and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. The image will then be enlarged and divided into about 1000 squares which will be reproduced by Art Fest attendees. Those squares, when completed, will be mounted onto a framework resulting in a billboard-sized reproduction (roughly 30'x50'). That's HUGE! I'm really pumped up for this project. Working with specific contraints and with a committee will be a new experience, but I'm totally up for it and can't wait to get started.
On top of that there are shows coming up and contests, AND I might be speaking to an Art History and Architecture class. I love public speaking, but I'm a little nervous about this one. I'm up to the challenge tho.
I'd like to give thanks now to those people that have presented me with these opportunities and to those people that have and continue to believe in me. I won't let you down. I appreciate you more than you know.

When opportunities arise you rise with them.
Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, but it's better than starving.



Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Flurry of Activity or Our Lady of the Many Arms

So much to do. So much that's been done. So much that gets left on the wayside.
It's been an all-around busy week. Seems like everything happens at once. I'm sure there's a law of causality that governs it or at least makes a flail attempt to explain it. I've been happy to be busy. It keeps you from dwelling on any one thing excessively. That works for me. I'm kinda all over the place anyway.
Got great news this week. I'm keeping it largely under my hat, but there are those that know. Just want to get going on it a bit before I talk to much more about it. Suffice it to say that it's a great opportunity and I have some serious Thank You's to dole out.
Had a great weekend. Got to visit some friends and had a great night out at some very cool places. More Thank You's.
My social life has taken a bit of a front seat lately. Perhaps it's time to ease up on that a bit. It can be a bit addictive and can hinder one's productivity, but it can be good too. You can't hole up in your studio and expect anything to happen to you.
As a result of all of this Our Lady of the Many Arms has taken a bit of a break. I have some pics from my last session with her. I'm thinking her arms are a pretty good metaphor for things as they are right now. I'm reaching in may directions at once, but doing it gracefully. Or at least making an attempt.
Does this mean my feminine side is a six-armed woman?
She's lost some arms and the ones that are left are feeling more or less right to me. I just need to spend some time on their shape and pose. Then we'll refine form. I think she'll be done soon. I've got other projects that need tending to though so she may take longer than I think. The paying projects take precedent right now.

Gonna be a good week.



Thursday, January 8, 2009

Getting There and Gaining Limbs

More updates on Our Lady Spiral.
Sometimes when I'm working on cityscapes I feel stuck or sortof blah about the piece. It can get hard to move forward or at least feel like you're making progress. A college prof of mine used to call these Slave Paintings. Pieces you feel like you're tied to. They can become a burden. They can even make you feel like you don't want to go to the studio and work. Sometimes though, all you have is dogged determination. I've got a couple of pieces on the easel or in the sketchbook that are started to feel like this. Projects that I've started or should start that I just don't want to touch right now.

This piece has stepped in and wiped all of that away for a while at least. It's taking focus away from my core portfolio work, but I like painting this way sometimes. It has really gripped my imagination. Painting without references is pretty liberating to me although I'm still grumbling about the lack of a figure-model to help with the arms and final leg positioning. You do what you can sometimes. There IS a life drawing group that gets together at a local gallery. Perhaps I'll get off my ass and get down there. I'll have to make do. Improvisation is a big part of creativity in my book. If you can't improvise you can quickly find yourself stuck. When you don't have what you need you find a way to get it or get around it.

I feel like I'm getting to the end of this one even tho I'm still unsure as to how many limbs she'll have when we're done. Plus I'm still fiddling with the final positioning of the one's she's got. I've got some ideas for a new one, but I've got to get some more cityscapes done. Some potential shows coming up that I'll need them for. I don't feel like this work should mix with the rest. Pieces like Spiral are more personal to me and need special attention. Their own show



Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Miss Spiral

I've noticed something. Since I've started painting Spiral I've started seeing things a little differently. I've noticed that I don't feel as isolated. My work for the most part depicts either empty streets, or streets with one or two people (minus the cars... they don't count as people). A lot of my paintings are, then, studies in isolation or the juxtaposition of isolated individuals.
I think you get back what you put out. So here I am depicting these singular elements under darkness. You see what I'm getting at.
Since I started working on her I've had a slightly different outlook. My social calendar is filling up. I'm spending more time involved hands-on with things. I'm wanting to involve people and get involved with them. I find myself sketching again. An act that had become more and more rare in the last few years. I don't know if it's just the change of subject matter. Perhaps I'm opening up more.

I'm shooting from the hip more on this. I don't have any photo-references to make my decisions for me on what goes where. No pre-built skylines or people walking about. I'm having to get more involved and take the work a little more personally. I don't think this is going to be necessarily where my work is going, but I'm definitely going to be spending more time with this part of my personality.
So, she's got me going. I've added and removed arms. Repositioned legs and breasts. Her head's about the only thing that's left intact from the original canvas sketch. I'm hoping to get some help soon with the poses. After that it'll be a little more academic. I'd like to finish her, but I can't do that until I'm satisfied. Perhaps I'll have to put her aside for a while to play catchup on some other work, but honestly I can't really go down to the studio and not work on her.
Preparing to tangle with those arms tonight.
Wish me luck.