Saturday, September 24, 2011

Father Son Show

Remember all that talk about a show I have coming up? I just got the flyer in my e-mail. Ooh, la, la.

This is a really exciting show for me. My dad and I have always connected through art (and general manliness), and while our media couldn't be more different, we go about our work in similar ways: i.e. we always let Mom give it the seal of approval.

This is the first time that I will have a specific show that I am featured in, and it is the first of many that my dad and I are taking part in. If you aren't in Ohio, show up anyways, and if you are in Ohio, you've no excuse. Just drive there. Or ride horseback, it doesn't matter.

I lied, it does matter. It would be super awesome if you rode horseback.

EDIT: Silly me, how are you supposed to get there if you don't have the address? Now that I am putting this up, I fully expect everyone and their mother to show up.

Visit Bear's Mill
January through March
Thursday 11-5, Friday 11-5, Saturday 9-5, Sunday 11-5
April through November
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 11-5
Saturday: 9-5, Sunday: 11-5
Open every day except Christmas: 11-5

Bear's Mill address:
6450 Arcanum-Bear's Mill Road
Greenville, Ohio 45331
937 548 5112

Cowboy part 3: the final resurrection

Before I show you the shiny finished product, let us take another look at where it was before.

Shudder. This painting took the downright scenic path to completion. And for an entire year, it spent it's middling existence being 'sort of' finished. So once I started working on it, I decided to make a little change and ended up painting the entire canvas over again.

Am I happy I did? Oh yes.

Is it a better painting? Ten times better.

Would I do it again? I think next time I'll work on a clearer image before executing the final.

Am I going to paint over all of my old paintings now? Of course. Scarlet Letter, your number is up.

Just kidding.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

End of a legend

I'm not sure what I'm calling this piece just yet, but the title is one option... I am also throwing around Sheriff Wilhelm and Live by the Gun. None of them is turning me on yet. If you have a suggestion, I'd love you hear it! I know you read that sentence and thought, well, sure, someone, but not me. Yes, you.

When trying to figure out how to fix my painting, I knew that I couldn't be tentative. But painting right into the canvas without careful planning would be worse that fixing it in the first place. That's where, in this age of computers, Photoshop is a life saver.
Yes, it looks absolutely silly. But in about ten minutes flat I can get a working idea of what would usually take six to ten hours to do. I even used this photo to judge size and distance from other parts of the painting. I wasn't painting randomly, hoping my sizes where correct. I would look at the canvas and say, OK, the hand is this far from the edge, and the pinky is this far from the shirt, et cetera. It made huge changes of little consequence.

I took progress shots pretty much every time I came up for air on this project. Enjoy.
I almost tried to call it done here, but I knew there was something hiding from me. The sky wasn't finished yet.

I also realized that his arm still looked awkward. I went back to the drawing board and shot reference one more time, and added it into my frankenstien photoshop monster. Then I executed it:

I still have to go back into the hair and add just a touch or two of detail, and I have to paint over the forearm to give it a little bit more dimension. Otherwise, anything else I do to the piece is polish. If all goes according to plan, tomorrow you'll get to see the final product, signature and all. Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If you give a moose a cookie...

It is a dangerous thing to paint on old paintings. Most times, if they didn't get finished, I set them aside for so long that they become 'too old.' That is to say, I've learned enough about paint handling and composition that any new paint I put on it would be obviously better. This happened just recently.

My Cowboy Carrion piece, an early jewel in my collection, had a long-planned companion. About a year ago, I began painting on this guy.

I have a show coming up with my dad, and for the show, I wanted to finally get this cowboy done so I could put both of them up. According to my calculations, all I had to do was paint in the pants.

My calculations were wrong.

When you give a moose a cookie, he's going to want some milk. If you give him some milk, he'll want a napkin. So on and so forth, until he either charges you in sexual frustration to gore you with his awkward antlers, or you shoot him. The same goes for this painting. Minus the awkward antler goring. Maybe still with the sexual frustration.

I finished the pants in two hours flat. But then the rest of the painting looked faded, because I was better at painting contrast than I was a year ago. So I painted over the rest of the painting just as it was, except I darkened everything. But then asked for a damn glass of milk.

See what I did there? The first cowboy has the bullet going straight through the composition. I decided to do the same for this cowboy. But with a bullet going straight through him, his pose looked awkward with both hands in front of him. So I made his pose more awkward by breaking his arm and putting it behind him.

I was stuck between the pose I wanted him to have and the pose I had painted a year ago. At this point I could do one of two things. A: I could paint the other hand back and call it quits. B: I could paint an entirely new pose that fit with my mind picture of a better composition. I really, really wanted to be lazy and do 'A.'

But the more I stared at it, the more I knew it had to change. I wasn't about to have my most recent painting be, for all intents and purposes, a failure in my own eyes. I first tried painting part of his shoulder away, so that he looked like he was twisting. When I did that, it worked a little better. But something was off.

I pondered the problems of my painting while I ate cereal in my living room. Then it occured to me. I set down the cereal, stood up, and did my best 'getting shot in the back' impersonation. I tried to fling my arms into the same pose as the painting and react from the impact of the bullet. It was very method.

So I put both my arms out, and flung my head back. No, that wasn't right. Shoot me again, imagination. I flung both my arms out, and threw my head back. Dammit! I tried one more time, this time I was determined to make it work. I swung my body around, arms flailing, and tucked my chin like I had it in the painting. Ow. Not only was it painful to do deliberately, it was against the laws of physics if I was really being propelled by a bullet.

So I stewed and whined and acted like I wasn't going to do anything else to my painting. Then I shot reference and pretty much destroyed everything I had done up to that point.

Beautiful, I know. At this point in the game, it was more about making a new, worthy painting than it was about finishing an old one. There was no place for tentative changes here.

I worked quickly, keeping the panic at bay.

He isn't done yet, but he is finally on the road to recovery. This was one painting that really could have been thrown away. But I knew that beneath its mediocre mediocreness, a painting that I would be proud of was waiting. It took not being afraid to make big changes and having no tolerance for a product any less than the best I could come up with.

I know it looks like he is smiling and skipping, but the blood and an angle on his face that better captures his anguish should heartily quell that notion

This is essentially the same story as the Dark Pearl, with the same moral: plan ahead. Don't get 90% done and a year down the road on a painting before you figure out the solution to its woes. And also, never give a moose a freaking cookie.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

November Mourning

Ah, the changes. I sent my first version of this painting to an eagle eyed artist, who mentioned that either my scientist is the world's largest man, or the robot has a really tiny head.

I realized a relatively simple solution to my problem: make the army bigger. I also added snow. Which I hate. But you live some and you learn some. And then you never paint snow like that again. Ever. I'm pretty happy with it, though. He got his foot awfully close to the edge of that frame, didn't he?

Friday, September 2, 2011

What is Art?

What is art? If you are a college student, you have heard this question. It could have been in philosophy class, which is much like Nascar but without a winner after all the driving in circles.

Perhaps you heard it at a party, if you were one of those people still awake in the kitchen after all the alcohol is gone and you try to talk about intellectual things to forget that you are sobering up. Well, maybe there's some Pabst left, but you're not that drunk anymore.

Maybe you had a studio class, and during breaks, the smokers in the class would walk outside in sub-zero temperatures and ask this question to feel smart about giving themselves cancer, pretending that a flipped collar and an American Spirit cigarette is all they need to stay warm on Planet Hoth.

If you were at art school, you heard this question at all these places. And everywhere in between. It was a question that defined your existence at art school. The question, mind you. Not the answer. Because the answer is a unicorn. The answer is the pot of gold in each rainbow. The answer doesn't exist.

Why not? Well let us try to define it, shall we? Art is an image.

Wrong, what about performance art? Art is an experience.

OK, is Transformer's 2 art? It is certainly an experience. Throwing up is an experience too. But neither of them is art.

We could go on like this all day. I will share with you a talk I had with my Critical Analysis of Art and Literature teacher:

It began as a field trip. We all went to the auditorium to hear a presentation by the art director for CCAD's galleries.

Among many post-modern offerings, there was one artist in particular who had done a number of works in other countries. One of this artist's pieces was a large concrete square built in the center of a town.

This marvelous sculpture inspired musical artists to perform on it and speeches to be held on it. Rallies would gather around his artwork, and it became a focal point for performance centered art. Wow, right?

Let us review. It's big, made out of concrete, in the shape of a square, and has people perform on it. That sounds a lot like a stage. I'm sorry, what I meant to type is: he built a stage.

For the artist's next piece, he was planning on coming to Columbus, OH to paint bike lanes. Not, like, colors in all flavors of the rainbow lanes. Just bike lanes. The kind that they pay construction workers to make. Usually that is called a public service. But no, this was art.

When we got back to class, we asked the question: What is art? If the bike lanes and the concrete stage are both considered art, then what else falls into this category? Is a playground art? No, says the teacher, goateed and bespectacled as he was.

Is the Ohio Theatre building art? No, again, comes the reply from the man sipping a tall mocha-chino-latte-salted-hopscotch-foursquare at the front of the classroom. What, then, classifies these projects as art?

"That an artist does them." The words ease out like cigarette smoke and fade into the silence. So if I, an artist by my own definition, dug a hole in the ground, would it be art? No. This time the answer is hesitant. His glasses fog with the effort of his thoughts.

What, then, makes something art? I ask, the whole class asking the same question (except for the kid in a torn jean jacket and floppy Chucks who almost certainly spends his days thinking thoughts so deep he craps ideas). The lips purse. The silver mustache bristles. "A signature from an artist."

So if I bought a hamburger bun at Kroger, I was an artist, and I signed it, it would be art. "Yes." If I scribbled on a napkin and signed it, it would be art (oops, Picasso did this). If I, as mayor, ordered that an on-ramp be made, and I called myself an artist, and I signed that on-ramp, would it be art? Stunningly, the reply was yes.

I think you all know which side of the bike lane I'm on. I've never been quiet about my disdain for the post-modern movement, and I did not and do not agree with the definition of artwork given to me by my teacher. Much of this probably comes from my illustration roots. But the fact (my opinion) remains, the definition of 'art,' especially 'fine art,' has been diluted beyond significance.

I want to hear the words 'fine art' and see the work of masters in their craft. Someone who has something to say and the skills to say it with. That isn't to say that post-modern artists don't have anything to say, or that they are bad at what they really do. If I walk into an art gallery full of holes in the walls and the message is in the hundreds of pages making that artist's thesis, he is a writer. Probably a good one. But he is bad at art.


I know, I used the dreaded word: craft. No other profession has been so successfully lampooned by over-educated egomaniac fart-sniffing paintbrush-diddlers as the art world. A plumber can fix my plumbing (as they are wont to do), and he can do this with varying degrees of craftsmanship. Of the best plumber in the world, it could be said that he is an artist in his field. But if plumbing were defined in the same, nebulous manner fine art is, he could have walked into my home, hammered nails into the pipes, told me that my face was a vagina and signed the front door.

Disclaimer: For anyone who might be outraged by my post, or even want to argue about it, it is meant to entertain and be humorous. Also, I am right on all points. Ever.