Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Updated Timeline movie

Just a quick note to show you the latest updates on one of my current commissioned pieces.
Aviva Commission: Chicago in-progress



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Equivalent Exchange

Enthusiasm.  As a child and even into adulthood my level of enthusiasm for certain things has been a source of inspiration to some... a severe irritant to others.  If you get me on the right topic I'll latch onto it and run it into the ground and beat it into a fine pulp.  I remember one evening after a particular instance in college in which I'd been put down a bit for over-talking a subject I was particularly jazzed about an older friend said, "I hope you never lose your youthful exuberance no matter what anyone says about it".  I heard that loud and clear not only because it in some way validated my total geekdom, but because it was the key to something.  It took someone else to confirm for me that there was value in what I'd been led to believe was a character flaw.

If you've ever watched a child do something they love you've no doubt noticed the way they throw themselves into it without reserve.  That abandonment to the thing that engages oneself can get lost as time goes by.  It's an easy thing to lose... like car keys or drunken friends.  Life gets hectic.  Sometimes projects take longer than expected or you hit a point somewhere in the middle where you've lost your enthusiasm for the piece.  Enthusiasm is hard to come by when you're up in the air about how to proceed with something or you're exhausted from the daily grind.  

It's at precisely that point when your enthusiasm is at it's lowest that you have to persist.  Maybe you put the project in question off to the side for a bit and work on something else, but whatever you do don't stop.  Momentum is an easy thing to lose and a hard thing to regain.  Bull-headed determination has always come through for me in times like those.  By way of making the decision to see something through to the end we solidify the act of completion in our minds.  Being stubbornly adherent to a cause may not be youthful exuberance... it may even be a bit quixotic, but it'll carry you through when your inner child is too pooped to pop.

That's where the good things happen in my book.  When you're beat down and looking for answers (or worrying about deadlines) you get creative.  You're inclined make decisions you might not otherwise make.  You take chances.  You look for new perspectives.  Your wheels get to spinning.  Next thing you know you're excited about it again.  

I've floundered a bit on my current project, but the simple fact is that I have work to do.  I made some big changes and I'll be showing them off soon.  In the meantime I'm taking some time to put time into some other pieces.  Giving myself the opportunity to get perspective and to recharge.  The new work's got me excited again.  

I watched my youngest son tonight with his new paints he got for his birthday.  He painted and painted until the table was covered with canvases and streaked with colors.  Seeing him do that was a great reminder... 

What you put into something you get back out.  Equivalent exchange.  Between the enthusiasm and conviction and a hell of a lot of hard work you get the best out of yourself.    

It's 11:15 in the P of M.  I'm going to go throw down in the studio.  




Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Note on... Things

I feel like I'm always trying to get myself organized.  I do all sorts of things to try and keep myself on the straight and narrow, but it seems like once I get a system set up for myself something comes along and changes things in such a way as to ruin the relevancy of said system.  I'd like to say that it's the fault of the Universe, but ultimately it's probably a testament to my inadequate organizational skills coupled with a sheer lack of time.
We're working on that "time" part.

As the work's started piling up I'm rehashing my routines to fit my current situation.  I think that's the key although obviously I'm no expert. Perhaps it's supposed to work the other way around.  A solid routine is important.  It helps bring order out of chaos.  Not to that I'm altogether against a healthy dose of Chaos.  I do have two sons.  I'm trying to set aside certain times for certain activities although at this point I'm trying to stay flexible.  When I had the studio outside of the home it seemed easier for some reason.  I'm willing to bet it has something to do with the presence of the amenities of the Home itself.  At the studio I didn't have a computer, television, refrigerator... Only the materials, a stereo, a coffee maker & some seats.  It wasn't necessarily comfortable.  That kept me on the move and probably kept me more focused.
I have issues with focus.  Ask anyon....
Holy Mother of Pearl! That potato looks just like Richard Nixon!

Where was I?  Right... Focus.  See what I mean?

I think what got me to realize this was the sheer amount of work I'm looking at right now and how much more I'd like to do.  It's a wonderful problem to have, but it made me realize just how unfocused I'd become.  It made me consider just how much I need to further simplify my life and my processes.  A good little bit of self-realization that I keep coming back to.  We could all use a dose of that from time to time.  I've got three pieces in the works on my current commission list and three more to go.  I've got ample time, but that's no reason not to keep moving forward. One mustn't lose momentum.

I'm on the last nit-picky bits of the Singapore painting.  About 3/4 of the way through the NYC piece and 1/3 of the way done with Chicago.  I'm starting preliminary drawings on the rest.  I'm also blowing through paint, brushes, and carpenter's pencils at an impressive rate.  Perhaps if I cared for my brushes a bit more... Mostly I just use them to death and move on (I know a few people like that).  I'm rotating the current three pieces on and off the easels allowing them a bit of time to dry and allowing myself a bit of time to contemplate my next steps.  The process is working well enough so far although by the end I'd like to have all six up side by side.  In my current studio that pretty much means looking at them in the round.  You do what you can with what you've got.

So here are the updated shots.  I'll let you know when I've made my final decisions about the rest.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Little Jaunt Across the Water

I've just returned from a great week in Dublin and London.  My camera's full.  So's my imagination.  I'm exhausted.  I'm probably sick.  I'm not overly thrilled to be returning to the day job.  I'm so glad I went and I'm just as glad to be home.  I'm even more glad I had good company along.  Good traveling companions are hard to find.
Thanks, Monica.

I've got a ton of pics to sort through.  Most of them won't be useful to my current project, but there's always future work to consider.  I'm hoping to get the field narrowed down by the end of the week.  I desperately need to get back into the studio and start digging in.
If I keep digging like this I'll find myself in China.
(note to self: find a better way to get to China)

I'd love to post all the shots I took and tell the stories of all the wonderful people I met, but there's just no time.  Let me sum up one of the more entertaining evenings: 17yr old Jameson, Irish hotel owner, Italian restaurateur, glass eye, plans to save a night club at 4am.
Yep... Only in Dublin.

I loved it.  The people were fantastic.  The food and drink, amazing.  The history overwhelming.  Everything a good vacation should include.  Some would add warmer weather and sandy beaches... to each their own.  Give me full pint, a good story, and a hot meal and I'm in Heaven.
Plus they have the Francis Bacon studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery.  Each little dirty odd and end reconstructed meticulously to give you a little insight into the mind of a true original.  He definitely had a screw loose, but you've got to hand it to him: He was brilliant.
See for yourself Francis Bacon Image Search Results

London was much as I remembered it: Stately, crowded, fast-paced.  Not for the timid.  A definite must-see.

At any rate I've got a ton of thinking to do about which of these shots will fit the bill for the Aviva commissioned pieces and which ones I'll be marking for future reference.

I've got a web album posted if you want to see more: London - Dublin 2010



Friday, October 8, 2010

Number 3, Chicago. Getting Started

This might be fun if I can keep consistent.  I've always wanted a time lapse movie of my painting process, but I was never disciplined about taking the pics.  We'll see how I do.

So here it is in-process: Number 3, Chicago.  This would probably be cooler if I weren't standing there muckin' up the shot.
The embedded video quality wasn't great so here's the link.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010


"Time is an illusion.  Lunch time doubly so"
I know I quote Douglas Adams a lot, but he had such a way of delivering simple, everyday things to you in a manner that made you rethink them.
Like the  relativity of time.
I'm not talking about Einstein.  I'm talking about how time is relative to your amount of engagement in any certain activity.  Ask any child who's been out playing with friends or is wrapped up in a video game and you'll invariably get a level of perceived time dilation rivaling the event horizon of a black hole.  My son will play a game for an hour (max) and will swear that he's only been at it for "five whole minutes, Dad.  Jeesh".
He actually makes a sound like "jeesh" more than he actually says it.
Time flies when you're having fun.  And even when you're not.  I've recently gone from knee deep to eyeball deep in an IT project for my day job.  Embroiled is a good word I think.  It's an enormous amount of pressure that sprung up from a rather unexpected angle.  It's funny tho.  How time flies and slows down all at once when you're in a crisis mode.  Things are flying by at a daunting pace and yet somehow it all passed by you like bullets in The Matrix.
I don't necessarily dodge them like Neo however.  That's how it is when you're not protected by script immunity.  It's a level of engagement that I haven't had in a while.  It's hectic and time is flying, but in a perverse way it's fun sometimes.
Not all the time.
That's come along with a lot of work on the current projects.  There's a soft deadline looming, but the time dilation's kicked in and I'm starting to envision the pieces in a different way.  I've gotten more engaged in them.  I've put down some underpainting on two and am starting to work on the successive layers.  I'm heading down there in a little bit actually.  I'm working in an every-other-night rotation in different areas of each piece.  As soon as I get the next image green-lighted I'll start putting down pencil and will begin canvas number three, Chicago or Toronto.  I'm sure at some point I'll be working on them all at once.

Here's where the fun part comes in.  Looks like I'll be going to Dublin and London to get photos for myself.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I haven't been to London since I was a teenager and I've never been to Dublin, but have always wanted to go.  Simply put.... Fanf@ckingtastic.
Hey, this is a family show.
I plan on taking about a bazillion pics and touring the Jameson distillery.
And NOT kissing the Blarney Stone.
If you live in either of those places and want to get together for a meal or a pint keep your eyes peeled.  I'll be posting pics the entire time.



Monday, September 6, 2010

In Development

Every time you think you know yourself you go and do something that surprises you.  I've done that a few times recently.  A complete change of scenery can do that to you.  A couple of the things were good.  One of them wasn't so much.  That's how it is though and you learn and you move on.  Hopefully you take something from it.  In this case, I'm thankful to say, I did.  More proof that at nearly 40 you're still a work in progress.

Becoming involved in a large-scale Art project like the new Aviva building in West Des Moines was a bit step towards changing the way I look at Art.  I'd become so used to my way of doing things that getting involved in someone else's process was an eye opener.  Especially when those people are imagining projects on a fairly massive scale.  The coordination of industrial processes can be an exercise in project management.  I was very glad for the opportunity to get to pick these artists' brains on how it all goes together.  I'll post some links as things develop.

I'm also working on a series of pieces for the same project so I'm seeing it from both sides.  My project has me paired up with the Artist team of Andrea Myklebust and  Stanton Sears who've got a resume full of sizable projects such as this.  I'd better bring my A-game.  I'm looking forward to further collaboration with them on this one.  Right now we're working more or less independently, but there are decisions to be made regarding palette, etc.  Size and subject matter are already solid.  I'm doing developmental charcoal sketches to tweak composition.  My apologies for the awful pics.  I'll post some better ones later.

This has led me to throw my hat in the ring for some public Art projects that have cropped up statewide.  I've put in for one and have got plans to get my submission materials out for one later this month.  I may be completely out of my league, but frankly I don't care.  I'm leading with my chin a bit, but the worst that can happen is that I get rejected.  Eff it.  I'm past worrying about that.  As Agent J said, "Don't start nothin', don't Be nothin'".

So... that was a bit of a surprise.  Two years ago this would never have crossed my mind.

The Not-So-Great thing I did led to a bit of self-discovery.  That led to a bit of brainstorming and Hell, you know what that leads to.  



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It Begins with a Trip to Chicago

It was time.

Like I said in my last post I've got a lot of work staring me in the face.  It was time to get a good start and I have.  I've spent nights digging through my photo archive (read as seriously huge arseload of pics) and searching photos online.  I've also reached out to some fellow artists who've posted images of some of the cities I'm searching for.  They have graciously given me permission to use their images should I need them.  Old pics are one thing and someone else's pics are another.  Sometimes you just need to get out and get them yourself to be satisfied.  Of the cities I need to represent Chicago is the closest to me both geographically and personally.  So... I had to go.  

I've got loads of pics of Chicago.  I try to get shots whenever I'm in town.  It's a city that likes to be photographed.  It really does.  It'll even pose for you, but you've got to keep your eyes open.  Last weekend turned out to be a grand opportunity to get out of town and go in search of iconic Chicago.  I took a lot of shots.  Many of which I was well aware would not go with my current assignment.  Sometimes an image speaks to you.  You just go with it... shut up and take the shot.  I imagine I'll have need for those pics soon enough.  I've got some ideas you see... Ideas I can't act on right at the moment because I've got a deadline.  We're filing them away for later.  

It was exactly the kind of weekend I needed to get me on track for this project. It got me on my feet and moving.  I've been working on studies for some other cities, but I hadn't really felt "Started".  That and some other news got my creative mojo workin'.  I'm too tired to go on tonight and for once I think I'll give in and go lie down.  Like a toddler who won't admit he's tired I'll fight sleep until I fall over.  I'm not sure if it's virtue or vice just yet.  Perhaps it's a bit of both.   

I won't post everything here.  Not all of these are on my list of possibilities...  Some of them I just like.  If you find me on Facebook you can see the rest.

At any rate... I think Chi Town can wrap this up well enough on it's own.  



Ps: The man playing the clarinet is Kaliq Woods.  He was brilliant.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time Flies

I looked up today and realized that it's been a month since my last post.  I've been a little preoccupied you see.  I just took another step in reconstructing what I perceive to Me.  I've moved into a new place and shortly thereafter moved my studio as well.  It's been a busy 4 weeks since I moved in, but I'm incredibly happy about the way things have gone.  I've made a concerted effort to stay optimistic throughout the process and have been very lucky to have had a lot of support from friends and family.  Moving, as you all know, can really blow goats.

That being said I've taken it as an opportunity to restructure the way I do things.  Due to financial constraints I've moved out of my space at Northland Studios.  I will miss the atmosphere in that place, but I will miss the other Artists most of all.  What moving means however is that I can go back to being able to paint when I have my boys AND when I don't.  I'd love to have them in the studio with me, but I'm not the kind of person that can paint with a lot of distractions.  A little conversation is one thing if you're in the right frame of mind, but little boys can be demanding of your attention and I don't like to split time in that way.  They should get my full attention so long as we're together.  One day they'll have to take care of me and I don't want them thinking, "Hey, he used to lock us in our rooms while he painted. Phil Spector style.  What a dick... SlummyView Acres it is".

Once I get the studio reassembled I'll post some pics.  Looking for an alternative to the chalkboard-paint wall.  The new space doesn't lend itself to that.  If I could find one of those old slateboards like my Grandmother used to have that would kick ass.  We'll see.

I've recently become overwhelmed with new work and I'm wondering how I'll do it all.  I've been spending a lot of time simplifying and reorganizing.  Re-acquiring my discipline.  I let it go during the move, but now it's time to get back on the horse and get moving.  No time to be resting on imagined laurels.  The fun stuff's just starting and I'd better represent because this feels like a turning point and I'd better not eff it up.

Lastly... since I don't have any new pics to post I thought I would take the opportunity to pimp a friend's work.  I recently acquired a piece from this amazingly talented artist.  One of my first non-trade Art purchases.  I just brought it home and can't wait to get it framed and on the wall.  I'll let you guess which piece I got.
Without further ado I give you Larassa Kabel: One of Des Moines' most skilled Artists.  If you haven't seen her work up close and in-person make it a point to add her next show to your calendar.  Her level of prowess with pencils and oil paints will knock your proverbial socks off.

Boys to Men



Thursday, July 8, 2010


Greetings and salutations

I justed wanted to post one last reminder about the "Submerged" exhibit at Instinct Gallery this Saturday from 6-10pm.  If you haven't been there before it's in the Des Moines Social Club right across from the sculpture garden at 1408 Locust Ave.  The show will feature the Art of John Bosley along with Luke Elliot and myself.  Should be a pretty good exhibit.  I'm anxious to see how it looks.  They were hanging work on Monday and I was pretty happy about what I saw.  Hope to see you there!
If, like most people, you weren't up at 7:30 on July 4th you (and I) missed an installment of KCCI's "In the Artist's Studio" featuring little old me.  I had a lot of fun doing the interview although the studio was unpleasantly hot that day and I was painting in my work clothes.  Like most oil painters I wouldn't dream of painting while wearing anything I actually wanted to keep clean.  It was a good time and I enjoyed seeing the different camera shots that were taken.  All in all a very good experience.  Check it out here: .

See you soon!



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Endurance Tests

You can always count on Iowa weather.  It can be really beautiful watching a storm come across the rolling hills.  Not so much when it heads downtown on a Friday at 5 dumps torrents of rain on your reception.  I think, however, that it didn’t affect the attendance at the Visiting Artists exhibit reception last Friday.  After the rain the evening was beautiful. There was a very respectable turnout.  I got to chat with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I am, as always, very grateful to my friends who came out.  It was a genuine pleasure to be featured with such a talented group.  
To see work from the other artists in the show click HERE
No sooner had that ended than it was time to engage myself and others in the “Found And Donated” project for the Des Moines Arts Festival happening this weekend.  Each of us was tasked with creating a design on pre-made wood panels featuring found or donated materials.  As I mentioned before I chose CDs because of their prevalence in my life as a techy, but also because they were readily available thanks to several generous donations… and they’re shiny. 
Many many thanks to the help of a wonderful friend and human being; to whom I owe one of my kidneys; who stood by me in the toasty-hot studio smashing CDs and gluing them to boards.  By our estimation we used around 1200 CDs in all… or 840gb of data.  It took roughly 4-5 hours per board once we got a system down.  It was an unpleasantly hot, muggy week here in good ol’ Ds of M.  It was exhausting and fun and the second June I’ve gotten myself (and others) into a grueling ordeal for the sake of Art (see last June’s posts).  I love it.  Wonder what we’ll do next time…
One mooooore thing and then I’ll go for now.
There’s another group show coming up at Instinct Gallery in downtown Des Moines.  John Bosley contacted me a few months back about this show and I’ve been looking forward to seeing more of his new work.  Plus Luke Elliott’s work looks pretty intense.  I’m anxious to see it in person.  We’ll be seeing you at the reception July 10th!



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pew! Pew! Pew!

Greetings, True-Believers!  Why "Pew Pew Pew!"?  The show at RayGun was a real success.  Get it?  RayGun?  it goes pew... oh forget it.

This has been a banner couple of weeks at the Reeves household.
First and foremost: my youngest son learned to tie his shoes. I'm extremely proud of him and take a lot of personal joy in his accomplishments. Especially the little things.  I mean how far can you get if you don't learn how to tie knots?  I know. I know. "Velcro", you say but c'mon.

Secondly I got to spend an evening in the company of some great people by way of my solo show, "Finding a Place to Stand" at RayGun last Saturday.  We had a lot of people through and I, for one, had a great time getting to chat with friends and getting acquainted with a few new ones. My friend, Michael's bacon-chocolate cookies were so good they very nearly brought one person to tears.  Ah, the power of bacon.  Thank you, sir.  Thanks to everyone for coming.  Maybe you only stayed because of the brief, but torrential rain, but I'll take it. 
I'm happy to say there are a number of other things going on, but I won't go into them at this point with the exception of one.  A group of local artists are designing large recyclables containers for the Des Moines Arts Festival.  We were each tasked with coming up with a design and then creating it from found or donated materials.  I work with a lot of software in my day job.  A lot of useless, excessively-distributed software.  CDs are like shiny, round cockroaches.  They turn up on your desk.  In your drawers... So with the help of a number of generous people I'm going to try to turn them into something new.  I have a lot of CDs to shuck (ie: remove from the little, paper sleeves).  Then I'm going to find a way to wholesale smash or shred them.  I've got a few options.  If you've got any suggestions I'd love to hear them.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Drawing Board

I was up working on some pieces for the show at RayGun opening next Friday and I was struggling.  I'd been given a very helpful critique and was trying to work through some problem areas, but I just kept missing the mark.  I often take pics of my work in progress to help give me some perspective.  Taking a step back only does so much.  
I've recently updated to a camera phone.  It's handy when I want a few quick pics.  So I stepped back to get a shot and noticed something through the view finder I hadn't noticed while looking at the piece directly.  I reached out my hand to make a small, finger adjustment and had a little bit of a revelation.  I got the benefit of perspective with the ability to touch the work directly.  Like having very long arms or a video touch screen with perfect, instinctive control.  
Hmmm... There's an idea.
When that happened I was suddenly able to realize the solution to my problem.  It was a little awkward at first, but the results were surprising.  I'm not sure if working through my phone's view screen is a good solution, but it was a bit of a revelation at the time.  Then again it's amazing what can become a revelation at 1:30am when you've got to wake up for the day job at 5:45am.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

As of Yet Untitled Solo Show Coming Soon!

Let's say I've been a little preoccupied lately.  I'm pretty sure the days are getting shorter.  I know that's contrary to common logic, but I've been keeping track.  I swear.

I'm proud to say I have a solo show coming up next month at RayGun here in little ol' Des Moines and I'd be knocked out several times if you would join me with Des Moines' best and brightest.  The sexy and savvy.  The willing to come and grace RayGun and myself with your presence... You can nibble, mingle, look at Art, shop for clothes that say funny things about living in Iowa.  You can shop for Art too.

In all seriousness I would love to see you there.  I've been working on some new charcoal pieces as well as a couple new paintings.  I'll be burning some midnight oil to get ready, but I'm looking forward to it.  Doing the charcoals has necessitated some changes to the way I work.  I've enjoyed the immediacy.  My sinuses aren't so crazy about it, but they'll have to deal.  I like the way they've been working for me.  I'm still looking for the perfect paper.
Also still looking for some suggestions.

Saturday, June 5th from 4pm - 7pm
400 East Locust
Des Moines, IA

See you on the 5th!



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Of Hindu Gods and Plane Rides

I've never been all that keen on flying.  I find the entire experience somewhat distasteful.  Hauling around luggage, slogging through security checks (God knows I couldn't possibly pack several 3oz containers with the same explosive substance.  Sorry TSA, but it's true), being packed like sardines into metal canisters and tiny seats.  Don't even get me started on turbulence.  The only parts I rather enjoy are liftoff and touchdown.  These days, however, it's a necessary evil.
I had the opportunity to spend some time this week on plane rides to and from Chicago for my day job.  I'll chalk the trip, for the most part, as one of my worst experiences ever.  I was in Chicago, but I didn't get a chance to enjoy the Windy City.  Being one of my favorite American cities this was a big disappointment.  It wasn't Chicago's fault, however.  I was there to help move an office from one building to another.  While the final outcome was good for the office workers the experience itself was nothing short of hellish.. or at least Purgatory-ish.  I was raised Baptist.  We didn't have Purgatory so I'm guessing here.  I'll have to arrange another trip this Summer to wash the taste of it from my mind.

I was able to find a few distractions, however.  I like to draw while flying.  It helps to keep my mind in a happy place: concentrated and lost in my work.  Some potential clients have inquired about me doing an image of the Hindu god, Ganesha.  I've always been fascinated by Hindu imagery.  Frankly I find mythical imagery from nearly all cultures completely enthralling, but that's a topic for another day.  So with the plane sitting on the tarmac I started doodling.  At the end of the trip I had this. I like his eyes.  They seem a bit weary, but peaceful.

It was short flight and I was doodling with a ball point pen which makes mistakes a bit hard to correct.  Is it a masterpiece?  No, but it IS a start.

I'm all about starts. 



Monday, April 19, 2010


Access... It's an all-encompassing word, but it helps to describe one of the bigger benefits of moving into a studio space.  I have access to all sorts of things and people I didn't have while working from my basement.  I've been able to connect with people from a number of other artistic disciplines: Photography, Architecture, Music, etc.  It's been an enriching experience thus far.

It's that level of access that has allowed me to do a bit of growing lately.  I've now got access to other points of view.  Other impressions of the work I'm doing.  Other people's work.  It's hard to get a decent critique working from the bowels of your own home.  Sure you can post items online, but most of the commentary you get is overwhelmingly positive with little or no critical observation.  The remainder is overwhelmingly negative with little or no supporting discussion and the ubiquitous anonymity the Internet provides.
For the record: I have zero problem with negative criticism so long as there is an intelligent, well-thought discussion that accompanies it.  I'm looking to get better at what I do.  Not just hear how talented (or talentless) someone might think I am
BTW: Thanks, Mom!

One of the other great things about being in a shared studio environment has been having not only the space to bring in a model, but easy access to people who are willing to model.  If you've been following this blog you'll know I've been spending more time focusing on the human form.  Easy enough if the subject is male.  I can always look in the mirror if no one else is willing.  It's a different story if the subject is female.  I don't always set out to do figurative work, but some nights the opportunity just presents itself.  When that happens you go with it. The result of which has been a lot of development in my figure drawing abilities and my ability to stage scenes the way I want.  I always equate creating Art to problem solving.  Having models in easy supply is a big problem solved especially since I'm starting to envision works featuring a larger number of figures.

Got some good figure sketches from one of last week's figure drawing sessions.  I had a photographer in along with the model to take some pics at angles from which I just couldn't work. I'm looking forward to seeing those.  Hopefully tonight.  When things have gotten a little farther along I'll share.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting My Hands Dirty

Charcoal has been my friend lately.  I don't remember when I first used it (probably Drawing I in college), but I just love it.  For home studies I'll settle for a cheap-o ball point pen, a Sharpie, or litho crayon to avoid the mess, but for studio drawing few things make me happier than charcoal.  Charcoal is immediate.  It has the potential for great boldness and amazing subtlety.  It's messy and it gets everywhere. 

It's for this reason that I think my next shows will be increasingly dominated by works on paper.  I'm starting to tape large sheets of the stuff to my studio walls and am looking for yet more ways to make it available at a moment's notice.  In doing so I'm setting myself up for doing a lot of framing.  We'll see if I don't break down and have someone else do it.  Framing charcoals can be dicey work.  I was a framer in a gallery in a former life and have spent many hours picking bits of charcoal and pastel off archival matte board while trying to get all the pieces situated in a frame.  There's nothing like sealing up the back of a piece only to flip it over and find that somehow another magical, black speck has found its way onto the facing board.  When framing charcoals or pastels you should always put in a separating layer between the piece and the front matte to let future dust settle behind the part you want to remain clean.  Even then it's no guarantee.  A good fixative is your best friend, but take it easy on the application.  Too much and you can screw up some of the subtlety of your drawing.  Not enough and your drawing starts falling off the paper. 

Speaking of framing... I'm looking for a corner vice and a V-nailer.  Let a guy know if you have a line on one OR would like to go in on one (other Northland Studios residents, I'm looking in your direction).  Otherwise I'm waiting for a good sale.  This stuff ain't cheap.

Come visit Northland Studio most evenings and you'll find me there... hands blackened and face streaked like a kid playing happily in the dirt.  You can join me.  I've got paper and there's always more charcoal.



Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays

"It must be Thursday. I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays"

Arthur Dent said it in "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and for some reason it's carried with me all these years.  Thursday is like the Monday of the second half of the work week.
Think about that for a bit.
Ok... aaaand we're moving on.

What brought that on, eh?  Maybe it's because Thursday is the day when you realize that the week is really slipping away from you.  You start the week with so many things you want to accomplish.  By Thursday you're starting to realize that your lofty aspirations of hyper-productivity sort of went by the wayside.  This week has gone that direction for me.  I started with such high hopes for the amount of work I would complete this week.  To be fair to myself I've run into a couple of snags here and there.  That's always the way it is right?  You make plans that are meant to go off flawlessly in a perfect world.  A world where you always leave on time.  Where your kids are standing at the door (shoes on) waiting instead of beating each other or strangling the cat.  Where you don't get hung up doing unexpected work for people because you just happened to be standing near them ("I've got this problem with my email...").  A world where you can work in blessed peace and quiet. 

I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever been to this world.  Time management is a difficult subject.  You can't just make plans.  You have to give yourself tasks with realistic expectations as to your ability to actually complete them.  Something always comes up and you've got to account for that to some extent or run the risk of operating in a constant state of frustration.  This is part of where road rage comes from.  Well, that and people driving around 5mph below the speed limit with their signals on...

You know who you are.

Part of time management also includes making an effort to avoid situations (and people) that continually drain you of your precious time.  Oh there are vampires in the world.  They suck your time and energy away leaving you exhausted and feeling like you've literally aged while being near them.  You know them well.  They're not bad people.  Many times they're people you like or can at least tolerate.  This part comes down to discipline.  Sometimes you just have to tell  people you're busy.  Lock your door.  Put up a sign.  Learn to say "No".  You won't permanently damage them unless by "damage" you mean "educate them to the understanding that other people have things to do too".  You're not being rude... Just honest.  It's OK to be honest and not so accommodating sometimes.  In the Midwest we're taught to be pretty accommodating.  It can be a shackle nearly as often as it is rewarding.

I did manage to get a few things done this week, time vampirism not withstanding.  I posted new prints on my ETSY page ( ) for your purchasing pleasure.  This time I've included our birdie-headed friend, "The Numbers Man".  I managed to get some good work done on 2 new paintings and a charcoal.  I also had a couple of new ideas crop up that I quickly committed to my wall-sized chalkboard.  AND I helped my aunt with her cable TV.  So not an unproductive week.  Just not quite what I'd planned. 

I'm getting a "Do Not Disturb" sign for my studio and another for my forehead.  "Do Not Disturb" sounds better than "Piss off I'm busy, love Rob". 
Then again maybe it doesn't.



Monday, March 29, 2010

The Land of Diminishing Returns

My father always railed against the Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.  As a child I never understood his furor and frustration.  As a child you only dully grasp the source, and function of money.  It's there.  You get stuff with it.  It grows on trees.  What happens along the way is that we forget money's purpose.  It becomes an end in  itself. 
And it's indicative of and in direct proportion to our sadness as a species.

I think Douglas Adams nailed it when he said,
"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."
Pretty good, huh?  Why are our solutions for unhappiness always fringed with greenbacks? The paper's happy enough.

I was taught much the same thing as most of the rest of us: You go to school and study hard so that you can get a decent-paying job.  You get a house and some cars.  You have a family.  Aaaaand then sometime thereafter you kick the bucket.  As a teenager you naturally rebel against this thinking, but what happens more often than not is that you wind up doing exactly that which you swore you'd never do.  Before you know it you've got a house (mortgage), cars (loans), TVs, stereos, furniture (credit cards), and children(medical bills, etc, etc)... and expectations to live up to.  We've been taught that this is the normal course of things.  We've been taught to follow the money because we have to do all of these things to lead a normal, fulfilling life.  Oh, and don't forget... bigger is better.

If watching our televisions has taught us anything it's that being rich is no guarantee of happiness.  We see a constant stream of celebrity train-wrecks.  The pain of Love, intrigue, betrayal, jealousy, hatred, indifference... these things don't care how much you take home after taxes.  You routinely see people who could literally spend money for the duration of their lives and never go broke crash and burn like gnats around a bug zapper or drown soaked in their own despair.

What does this mean?  To me it means that money doesn't necessarily have a direct correlation to happiness.  Everyone has heard this.  Not everyone believes it.  Those that do rarely take it to heart.  I make pretty decent money at my day job.  Not enough so that I didn't have to find other ways to earn cash to keep the lifestyle I'd lived afloat.  I'd pursued money and possessions beyond my means.  I'm not ashamed to say that now.  Looking back I let myself get caught up in that very thing I said I'd never do: Allow myself to get over-burdened with things and the pursuit of The Almighty Dollar.  I had things.  Not tons of things and I was never much for keeping up with the Joneses, but a fair lot of things nonetheless.  Turns out these things did not make me happy.  They did not resuscitate my marriage.  They did not shield me from self-loathing or a crushing self-doubt.  No amount of money was going to fill in the gaps.

You see somewhere along the line I'd hit a plateau.  Seems to me you can only get so happy and you peak.  Throwing wads of cash on top doesn't really improve the experience.  My favorite experiences in life came from the simplest events: A canoe trip with friends. Watching leaves float down the gutter toward the storm drain when I was a kid.  Bass fishing with my dad.  Playing with my sons.  Drawing and painting late into the night.

But Gordon Gekko in Wallstreet told us that Greed is good.  Good for the economy.  Good for America.  Good for you and me.  Wrong.  Unbridled greed has landed us where we are today.  Our air, land, water, and culture have all been poisoned in the pursuit of the Dollar Almighty.  We're some greedy bastards and we've gotten what we deserved and it's landed us in some serious shit, but no one seems to care because we're getting what we want and so long as we get what we want that's OK, right?

Pass the Budweiser, baby, Jersey Shore's on.

We want what we want and we sure as hell want more of it... and cheaper while you're at it.  It's become a religion.  In some cases it's even been adopted into popular religion.  If you're looking you'll see it.  Funny what a little "translation" can do. 

What's it all for though?  Really?  I like games, but does an XBox360 make me smarter?  Does an expensive suit make me more of a man?  Do I really sleep better on a $3000 bed?  Or is it all just more junk?  Maybe if we were hermit crabs and carried our homes around we'd be more selective about how choose to fill our lives.  In truth we do carry the weight of these possessions with us everyday.  If we didn't want all of this stuff would we need the money?  And if we didn't need the money well, what would we do?

I'm not saying I'm going to give up all of my possessions and live in a tent, but recent events have made me consider just where my level of diminishing returns is.  Where is the point where I've got the things I need and I'm happy?  How can I simplify my life?  How can I be fruitful without taking more than I really need? 

I'll leave off by restating this burning question:  If you didn't need the money what would you do with your life?

If you can answer that question you're like me.  If you're like me... you've got some work to do. 



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Lucky One

Just a quick note this morning to post a pic of my new charcoal, The Lucky One. There are still some funky issues that I'll be working out in the finished painting if and when that comes around. I like him the way he is right now and that's enough for me. He gave me some food for thought and now my studio chalk board is filling with ideas. Many of them may never see the light of day, but that's the way it is with ideas sometimes. Some of them come along to help us find others.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tales from the Happy Hour

I knew from the moment I was struck with the impulse (notice I don't say "Idea", but "Impulse") to give one of my best friends the head of a crow that the resulting character would inevitably gain companions.
I've had a number of the characters milling around in my skull for more than a few years, but I never really knew what they were for until recently. Some are nightmares from my past. Some are permutations of characters I've come to know through books I've read, songs I've heard, or stories I've been told. I want to keep them rooted somehow in a reality that's tangible to the viewer. I've decided that I want to base these characters on some sort of photographic reference. That poses some interesting problems and possibilities for me. Thankfully these days we have the miracle of Photoshop, but that's only going to get me so far. I've got some very specific ideas about some of my new works. I'm sure that with enough web-dredging I'd be able to come up with an acceptable series of images upon which I could base my next piece. My problem with that is simple however: The images wouldn't be mine. With a very few exceptions I've always taken... exception to working from someone else's photos. There's a connection missing that keeps me at an uncomfortable distance. Like if I never knew the subject first-hand I'd never truly understand the context. I want these to be my own images or engineered by my hand at least. I've had some opportunities open up recently that might help with that. Oh the new-found joys of working in a studio setting. I'll have better access to models, decent lighting, and photographers who actually know what they're doing. I've got some pretty specific things in mind and I'm going to need a hand. I've been so used to walking around and finding the shots that show me potential. I stumbled on many of my favorite images. While I'm always open to the joys of the happy accident I want to try to achieve something more intentional. I really want to embrace a different way of working.

We'll see how I do. Frankly, I'm excited. So I'll introduce you to Cocktails with the Crimson King II: The Lucky One. This is a preliminary study and it's not finished, but I'm pleased with many things about him. We'll see how much of it makes it to the final painting. Doing studies like this has encouraged me to start including some larger charcoal work into my upcoming shows. I'm looking for recommendations on a good, over-sized charcoal paper. Let me know if you've got any favorites.

In the meantime I'm going to keep finding ways to help these guys and gals come out into the light... or at least a dim, lounge-y glow.



Monday, March 8, 2010

Let it Shine

There's a a line from a Morphine song that always gets me. It goes something like, "People always wanna give ya free advice. Well, it's something that I always try, but you get what you pay for that's what I say..."

A long time ago I got some free advice. Actually it wasn't the only time I ever got this particular bit of advice. One time it came from a college prof. The others were from gallery owners. I was told to eschew one side of my work in favor of the other. I've discussed in the past how my work tends to swing from the highly representational to the personal and surreal. To use a bit from an interview I did last week:
"I've always felt like I had two distinctive sides to my work. I've wanted to find a middle ground between the two. On one hand I paint buildings and streets. I work mainly from photos I take myself. They're somewhat orderly and rooted more or less in reality. Then I paint these other pieces because I've got these pictures bouncing around in my head. They're snippets from dreams and stories."
I was told early on that the more surreal pieces, although more personal, would have little or no commercial value and that most galleries would avoid them like the plague. I respected the sources so I followed the advice. I still drew and painted my rogue's list of characters and dream-scenes on the side when possible, but my focus became architectural painting. Urban Landscape, if you will. Let me be the first to point out that the advice wasn't necessarily wrong. Galleries, for the most part, did like the Urban Landscapes and did turn me down when I presented my menagerie of characters for review. I enjoy painting architecture so it's not like I was really sacrificing per se, but it did create a situation where I began to stagnate. I've gone on about that at length already so I'll spare you. If you really want to read about it check my posts from last Fall. With the show I put up last week at The Lift I wanted explore how my two styles interconnected. Hanging them all together seemed like the perfect way to go about it.

You know what happened? The response to my more personal work was overwhelming. It was surprising and reaffirming. It cemented the notion that my bizarre ideas and characters do indeed have worth that others can perceive. They come from a place deeper inside my Self and is, to quote one of my good friends and strongest critics, "...more honest and open. Some of your best work."

So it seems that for all my blogging, showing, & self-promotion I've really been hiding my light under a bushel.

Think I'm gonna let it shine.
Better watch out.



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Places Where They Intersect

I know I've posted this event already, but here it is again with an image I've put together and a few extra details.

The reception officially runs from 6-10pm on Friday, March 5th. Feel free to show up whenever and stay as late as you like. I'll be there.

The Lift features excellent martinis, a pretty decent selection of brews, and some great atmosphere.

Catering will be provided by Out of Box, LLC. Anthony always produces something interesting and unexpected. Looking forward to something aside from the standard wine & cheese trays.

The Art will be a mix of my cityscapes and more figurative works. I'm thinking that putting them all up in one room will help me (and others) to figure out where they come together. Thus the clever title.

If you don't get to make the reception you can still see the Art which will be hanging up through the end of April.

Looking forward to seeing you there!



Monday, February 8, 2010


Grace (grs)n.
1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
3. A sense of fitness or propriety.

This week I was reminded of something. I was reminded of a choice we all have. About how we choose to carry ourselves from day to day. Our lives are hectic. Some say that we as a species are subjected to a historically unprecedented level of stress. I don't know if that's true, but I can say speaking strictly for myself it seems like things never stop. There are getting to be fewer and fewer opportunities to sit down and decompress. These days it seems that if I stop moving for too long... I just fall asleep. Those of you with children will understand.

Through all of this chaos (organized or otherwise) we still have some choices as to how we decide to live. Recently it's occurred to me that the only good choice, barring the ability to remove the stress, is to go through it all with a certain measure of grace. We can choose to walk effortlessly through our daily struggles letting the difficulties wash over you as water to a duck's back OR we can choose to let these adversities crash against us as though we were rocks on the ocean shore. While the latter may sound like a position of strength and endurance you have to remember where all that sand on the beach came from to begin with. It seems to me that moving with grace is the only logical choice.

People have been encouraged to forget this option. It doesn't sell. But when I look at the individuals I've admired in my life I think that one of the things that they all have in common is that, to me at least, they moved forward with a certain grace. It used to be the order of the day. Glamorous movie stars living so effortlessly. Heads of state with honor and strength. I know... I know. The past is largely an illusion created from memories of real events airbrushed by a sense of nostalgia, but I can't think of too many people that routinely make the headlines these days that I can say, "Yes, I want to be like that". I think they're out there. I think people prefer to see the Trainwreck. It's easier to look down on others and demean than to look up and aspire. Maybe it's also easier to stomp your feet and act like a child that it is to make the effort and inspire.

As for me: I've made my decision. I can act like a child. I can be a stressed-out trainwreck. I can be unorganized and confused. I can suffer the slings and arrows... I'm going to try to keep that on the inside for a while.
For the time being I'm going to try to walk with a little Grace.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mark Your Calendars - Solo Show at The Lift !

Here's a quick update on what's happening:

A quick reminder that you can still show up for Drawing classes Monday and Wednesdays nights at the Des Moines Social Club. Beginner's Drawing class runs from 6-8pm Mondays and costs $10/session. You do NOT need any prior experience to attend. In some cases it's preferable. It's always easier to fill an empty cup. The full ones just keep spilling over.
Drawing II classes run from 6-8pm Wednesdays and are $12/session. I do require either prior attendance at my Drawing I class or some level of demonstrable skill.

Now for the big news:
Mark your calendars for Friday, March 5th. I've got a solo show coming up at The Lift and I'd love to see you all there (and your friends, their friends, their imaginary friends, relatives, pets... you get the idea). Drinks will be served. Food will be eaten. People will talk. Art (and people) will be stared at, potentially discussed and hopefully purchased.
The Art. Not the People.

More details to follow.



Friday, January 29, 2010

Narcoleptic Posting

So I come to on the couch with my laptop half on and half off my lap and the TV on static. I get up. I grumble a bit and blearily slouch off to the bed... such as it is. I get up. I go to work. Then it happens. I start getting FaceBook comments about my blog post. Hmmm... last thing I remember I'd clicked "Save Now".

or was it "Publish Post"?

Somehow I managed to publish the last entry from behind the wall of sleep.

At any rate I meant to include some pics.

It needs some work yet and I'm not much for interior design, but I can tell you this much... it feels good.