Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday, Gloom, and Updates

I've got to say I'm still waiting for Iowa to have an actual Spring. Granted we've had a few warm days and plenty of Spring-like rain, but we're on day three of cold and gloom. Being out-of-doors just doesn't sound all that apetizing.

So I've been plugging away at this DSM Art Festival mural project. I'm feeling better about it than I was a week ago, but it's missing something. I'm still debating on what's the best solution for the sky. The blue is ok, but it's not particularly engaging. I'm wanting to take it someplace different. There's plenty of of good brushwork going on but... hmmm.. It's like flat champagne. It needs bubbles. Figuratively speaking, of course.

What you're seeing today is the the work from my last two sessions. I'm spending my time working on the buildings. Making sure there's plenty of interesting brushwork and color variation. I'll hit it again tonight. Perhaps I'll do a little digging online for some image-inspiration.

Until next time.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Festival Updates

A few notes tonight before I attempt to crash out a little early. I'm hoping to get those pics I mentioned Monday. That means I've got to get out of the house early. has the sunrise at 6:20. i want to get to my spot before that. I want the buildings and streetlights lit up with just the first hints of morning light hitting them. The blue of the sky at that hour is truly astounding. I'd love to catch a red sunrise. Well, we'll see what we get.

I've been working on the painting and I like where I know it's going, but I'm dissatisfied with some of the colors at the moment. That will change as I progress and get a better sense of things. The colors as they stand are a little boring in my mind, but it's early and there are a lot of layers that have yet to happen. The sky has a lot of activity now, but it's going to get a lot more before I'm done. One of the caveats was that there should be as little "dead" space as possible. Meaning that I need to inject activity into every inch of the composition.

So when you look at these pics keep in mind that the color as it is now isn't where it's going to wind up.

Take a look. Feel free to comment. I'm turning in.



Monday, April 20, 2009

This is April?

So it's 40 degrees outside. Windy as Hell too. Unpleasant. I'm pretty sure my calendar says it's April 20th. By the end of the week it's supposed to be pushing 90. It was snowing two weeks ago. Iowa... what's not to love?

Thankfully the weather can turn the other way just as quickly. It turned beautiful just in time for my cousin, Joe's wedding. Congratulations to him and his new bride, Sarah. Best of luck to both of them. It was a lovely ceremony and a great party afterwards. I'd never seen my Mother dance much, or anyone else on that side of the family for that matter. It was a lot of fun.

Friday the boys and I attended the Bring the Spring reception at ArtDive. They were very well-behaved and polite, but it was a pretty good-sized crowd and that can be a little scary for a little guy. My youngest isn't hip on crowds so we spent some time hobnobbing with the outside crew. Thankfully the weather held up. Needless to say they didn't last too long so we headed out early. My oldest did find some pieces he really enjoyed and he's determined to get his own artwork hung there.
How cool is that?

Getting back to it tonight. I'm hoping to get some more supplemental shots for the painting. I want some of that morning light to work with. Waiting for the opportunity and the weather. In the meantime I'll continue plugging away at the buildings. I got a good start on the paint Friday. I'm all about starts.

I'll post some pics tomorrow.

Until then take some time to look at this guy's paintings. His name's Chet Zar and if you've seen Hellboy you've seen his work. I find it freakishly compelling. Anyone who knows me knows I've got a taste for the bizarre. That's one word that will most likely pop into your head when you see it. His characters are immediately engaging and each hints at some kind of back-story. Love it. Keep it coming, Chet.



Friday, April 17, 2009

Aaaaaand, We're Off... This time for sure

Ok, that's the last time with the whole, "aaaaaaaaaaaaaand" thing. It's just that after the series of minor setbacks I ran into I thought I should start over.

I posted last time that I'd gotten the stretcher made up, but didn't have the canvas. Well, I got the canvas and got it home. All ready to go, right? I prep the work area (read as "the floor"), get my materials together: stretcher, canvas, canvas pliers, staple gun, and stap.... awww, Hell! I was out of T2025 3/8" staples. I had a nice, new-looking empty box tho. Hrmm.... Needless to say I spent that evening working on the other new piece I posted last time.

Catching up... the canvas has been stretched and I've applied a couple of coats of primer. I didn't sand between coats. I like the canvas to have a lot of tooth to it. These are expressionist landscapes. Not portraits. I started in with a big, flat-headed carpenter's pencil. I like them for general use, but especially for my preliminary drawing on my canvases. The wide graphite holds up well and allows me some variety in my line work. Plus when you start laying on the paint the graphite doesn't smudge and screw up the lighter-colored underpainting layers.

I imagine I'll start painting tonight. I've got it all in my head. The Art Center folks agreed on the photographic image and initial charcoal sketch. They've asked that I lighten up the background from the original pic. While they like the lighting they're looking for a lighter composition. I'm thinking I'll need to make an early stop to catch some pics of that great morning light. I think that would be perfect for the piece now that we know what we're doing.

Gotta run. Lots to do this weekend. Firstly tho I've got a reception at ArtDive tonight at 5:00 (1417 Walnut in downtown Des Moines). Drop by if you want to see some great art by some great local artists (Brent Houzenga, Ron Wagner, Becka Ash, Christine Mullane)... and have some drinks and foods. Who can say No to free drinks and foods?



Monday, April 13, 2009

Aaaaaand, Go!.... Wait, What?

Last Thursday I got the greenlight from the folks at the ArtFestival. We've decided on an image (pictured here in charcoal) and the project's a Go. Needless to say I'm very excited to get moving on it since my contract dictates a finished piece by the first week of May. So I got the good folks at The ArtStore here in DesMoines to put together a nice, sturdy 50"x20" stretcher. Amazing, it was ordered and completed the same day. Cost a little more, but it's rock-solid and true. No warping which is the problem I was running into with store-bought stretcher bars. Seems like I just couldn't find a good set. I picked it up Saturday and later that night I settled in with a bottle of Sixth Glass and pulled out my giant roll of canvas. It was at that point I realized I'd been mistaken in thinking I had a ton of the unprimed, heavy-duty stuff. All I had left was a batch of pre-primed canvas I'd purchased by mistake a while back. If you want it, make me an offer. I've got a lot. Soooo.... there's a delay. Not to worry. I'll pick some up today and be right back on track.

In the meantime I already had a big canvas just sitting there so I started work on that. I laid down some charcoal Saturday night and some paint last night. I'm going with this underpainting thing some more. I'm liking the overall effect, and I'm hoping that continued experimentation with it will help me to create a more luminous, visually-arresting finished piece for the ArtFestival. You don't get too many opportunities like this. Better not let it slip by making mediocre, self-standard Art.

Lastly I want to say a big Thank You to my two boys who spent this weekend running Art-related errands. They've been dragged to shows, openings, receptions, installations, negotiations, sales, deliveries, etc. I tell them they're learning the Art Biz from the inside out. Hopefully they won't hate me for it when they're older. They've been exceptionally well-behaved, helpful, and even insightful.
Thanks, Boys. Daddy Loves you. Now go clean your rooms. They're a disaster.



Thursday, April 9, 2009


As much as it hurts a little heartbreak can go a long way for artists. Look at the music of people like Trent Reznor or Ben Folds. How about the art of Francis Bacon? There's a guy with emotional issues for ya. How about Clive Barker's painting and writi... ok, he's just a (brilliant) nutjob. Pain is that by which we define ourselves and can be the wellspring of creativity if utilized correctly.

Oddly enough I'm writing this at a time when I'm actually feeling pretty good about things. The subject came up recently via one of those Facebook time-waster quizzes. Apparently I was Pablo Picasso in my former life (like thousands of others, i'm sure) and one of the traits we had listed in common was "does not deal well with heartbreak". The comment then came down that, of course, nobody does. True enough. The difference I see is that as artists we take that angst, pain, frustration, whatever, and turn it into something else... If we so choose. There's the key word, "Choose". That's one of the things that sets us apart. We wear our hearts out on our sleeves or, more to the point, we splatter them all over our work.

If you're reading this I'd love to have you comment and give some examples of great art you've seen that stems from pain and what it meant to you if anything. I've got my favs and I'll post them after I hear from You. This is your chance to join the conversation (and thereby validate all of this blogging I do).

I'll leave you with a piece that looks like it could've been spawned from a horrendous breakup or the death of a favorite goldfish, but in truth pain was the furthest thing from my mind. I was having a blast.



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gotham Blitz

I'll start by saying, "worst day for an open house ever".
There. Done.

In other news my most recent painting is coming along very quickly. I got the areas of light and dark mapped out Thursday night. Last night I laid into the canvas like it owed me money. Some nights are like that. Painting is wonderfully cathartic for me. I was having a very good time playing around with the brushwork. I'm calling this angsty little guy "Gotham Blitz". It's moody and almost looks like a warzone. If last nights painting session says anything I'm thinking I'll be done with this one soon. Probably not more than one more session. I'm liking the textures and colors already and don't want to mess with it much more. We're trying to avoid over-working this stuff.

Speaking of which I'll leave you with these pics. I'll post the final images soon.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Proper 'Thank You'

With all the prattling on I do you'd think I'd remember to cover the really important stuff. It dawned on me last night while starting up a new painting (pictured at left) that since the beginning of this blog I've completely failed to mention some of the folks that have been instrumental in my development as an Artist and as a person.

How ungrateful. Boo on me.

So, that being said, here goes:
What really struck me was that in all of this chatter I've failed to mention a couple of teachers from my high school years that were a major influence on me. Without their presence in my life I probably wouldn't have pursued Art past my senior year. I'd have gotten a business degree or something more practical like that as suggested by my well-meaning dad and continued to doodle in my spare time. Dad was right about needing something practical as a fall-back. That's why I stay in IT for the time being. Hey, Jackson Pollock worked as a busboy. Why can't I work on computers?

Back to the subject tho...
Probably the greatest influence on me as an artist during those years was a man named Mr Calvin Wolf, or "Uncle Cal". Cal was one of those teachers that rides the edge between friend and disciplinarian: a true mentor. His teaching style put him right in the middle of the action nearly every day. He was a working artist which kept him frosty and ready to motivate. He was casual and friendly, but never lax. He was funny and thought-provoking. As his students we were never afraid to speak our mind, but his casually-commanding presence always kept us in check. When you were in his class you worked hard, but it never felt like work. He knew his students well and invested his time, energy, and emotions if they were willing to do the same.

When our high school, Waterloo Central, was closed he moved with us. At West High he was paired with a ceramics/sculpture teacher named Larry Skerries: a man cut from the same cloth. If you were willing to work he was right there with you every step of the way making suggestions, challenging you to really consider your vision. The two of them made a formidable team. They tag-team engaged our minds and pushed us to excel.

I remember applying for a studio scholarship late my senior year. Ever the procrastinator I'd failed to put together my presentation materials. Uncle Cal was pissed and justifiably so. He sat with me that day after school cutting mats, framing pieces, and lecturing me on the virtues of presentation and preparation. I'll never forget that (even if I still struggle on those fronts). That dedication really made an imprint on me. I've heard the line, "he must really care about you to yell at you like that" before. Fitting. He didn't actually yell, but I could tell he was on the edge. His voice rising as he reprimanded my lack of foresight. If he hadn't cared he'd have shrugged it off, gone back to his Morning Thunder tea, and let me sink.

So... Thanks, Uncle Cal. Thanks, Skerries. Hope you see this someday and know what an impact you made.