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.