Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Who are you?

 I walked the tracks behind my studio this morning, through the train yard, and into the city. The air had the familiar smell of unfamiliarity. It reminded me of walking out of Damascus a few years ago, into the dry and dusty depths of it's sprawling incompleteness. It was the feeling of a child staring from the shadows of a doorway at a pale foreign face, and my staring back in overwhelming awareness of my isolation. I do not know the language here. I do not know the customs. I only know where the sun rises, and where the sun sets. So do my best to speak the language of faces, of sorrows, of incompleteness and isolation. I do my best to speak the language of yearning, of reaching, of the sun rising and the restlessness of the heart as it sets.

" 'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar. 
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.' 
'What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!'
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.' "
-Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I do not know who I am. I only know the experiences that have conspired to take up a this form. A form of ragged disposition and a longing gaze. I am the boy in the door way. I am the street sweeper. I am the fresh turned grave. I am the rising and the setting sun.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Life Lessons from Painting. Painting Lessons from Life.

These are a few things that I've learned  over the years in regards to painting and everyday life. This is the short list, and there are many more. But this is what seems important right now.  You could almost roll all of these into one. But I separated them for brevity. I'm sure I'll add more at a later date but this the unedited 5am version.

1. Fall in Love for the right reasons. A painting should be something that you can fall in love with over and over again. You might see it's faults in technique or execution, but it's over all theme always speaks to you. A painting should be something that you can create a relationship with and not just have a fling. And enduring painting requires a balance of passion and restraint. I've been lucky enough to have found a partner that I can love passionately but still talk directly with. We can argue all night long, both intelligently and with foolish abandonment of reason, relying only on emotional convictions. Yet in the morning we can always look at each other and be in love because we appreciate the "theme" of the other's existence. Fall in love with your paintings.

2. Step Back. Perspective is key. It's always easy to obsess over the details in life. We too often become entranced with that one little wrinkle in hand or that high light in an eye and forget about the rest of the painting. Then when we step back we realize that the whole thing is out of proportion. The same with life. It's too easy to get caught up in the stress of everyday events. Bills are due, groceries need to be bought, paintings aren't finished and deadlines are fast approaching. Stop. Breathe. Step back. Life is to be appreciated. There will always be deadlines. For paintings, for bills, for buying groceries. There is no point in stressing over these deadlines and dues that you think will aid in creating the life you want, if you are not already appreciating the life you have. Hug your loved ones, enjoy your coffee, simplify your life. Don't lose perspective on what life is all about.

3. Quality over quantity. Too often I have watched a deadline approach and not had paintings finished for it. I found myself rushing to complete works and cutting corners in the process. I learned that it's better to cut out works from a show and focus on making a smaller amount of higher quality than trying to fill the walls. Isolated mastery is always better than a multiplicity of mediocrity. Cut out extraneous things, don't cut corners.

4. Have convictions! Know what is important to you and stick to it. Speak your mind and defend your ideas and feelings passionately. This doesn't mean that you can't change your mind later, or be open to new ideas now. It just means that you shouldn't flounder in the tepid waters of safety. This goes for painting and everyday life. Decide what you want to say and say it. If you're found to be wrong later, don't be afraid to apologize. Generally I've found that in painting apologies are rarely needed, because it tends to be a natural evolution. Same with life. You might have regrets and mistakes that you've made, but you've recognized them and learned from them, and they have made you who you are today. Say what you mean, mean what you say. It's ok if it's not the same tomorrow. Nothing lives in stagnant water.

Well that's all I have right now. I suppose my point is that you should be yourself and own that shit. Don't be afraid to fuck up. Nothing was every achieved by not trying. And always be in a conscious dialog with yourself, your work, and your surroundings. And always fall in love with everything you do.

I'll leave you with a detail of a painting that I currently love, but her little quirks are really driving me nuts right now. she has yet to be finished. Happy painting everyone!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Bee Nymph of Parnassus

A process post about the creation of my painting "Thriae"

"There are some Fates sisters born,

maidens three of them adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled with barley meal,
wind they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practice
round my cattle while still a boy."
                                              - Homeric Hymn to Hermes

Thriae, Oil on Linen with Gold and Silver Gilding

The Thriae were nymphs (Bee larva are also called nymphs), three virginal sisters, in Greek mythology, who were able to see the future and interpret the signs of nature and omens. Their names were Melaina, Kleodora, and Daphnis. 

The bee has always been a symbol of the divine feminine, and as a certified beekeeper in the state of NC, I have alway been fascinated with them. Their history and archetypal symbolism pervades history. 

I won't go too deep into that history because it could take multiple posts, but I will tell you what the bee means to me. 
For me the bee is a symbol of values. It is a reminder of the virtues of feminine nature that are often forgotten and lost in today's culture that is washed over with the message that pure masculinity should be idolized.  They are also a "canary in a coal mine" for our modern world. Bees are dying by the the millions everyday we have forgotten our natural role in the world, and how to live within nature instead of trying to control her. The bee is also a symbol of intuition for me. Something that I always try to be conscious of, especially when painting. There are many subtle nuanced things that I associate with this wonderful creature, but those are just some of the main ones.
I highly recommend that everyone spend some time researching the historical symbolism of the bee as well as the current crisis of their vanishing numbers in the world today. It's time to return to a balance. A respect and honoring of both the feminine and the masculine is necessary for the future of our world.
A great three part site is this one if you're interested in the history side of things

But enough of that! So here's the piecemeal process that I went through while creating this painting.

     “And not of every water do the Melissae carry to Deo, but of the trickling stream that springs from a holy fountain, pure and undefiled, the very crown of waters.”                                                                                - Callimachus, from his Hymn to Apollo

So I started this out on composite leaf. (a mixture of copper and zinc that imitates gold) I wasn't about to waste all of that money by putting down real gold leaf if I ended up not liking it. It's a good thing I did this, because I tend to "feel" my way through paintings. Instead of having everything planned out ahead of time I tend to zig zag my way through a process until I feel like the right emotion was achieved. 
Here's where I decided that I didn't like the gold. Silver was the right way to go!  I'm also starting to feel out what sort of pattern I would like to see in the background. This is also the point where I went through a fiasco of trying to get silver and gold leaf mailed to me. A two day shipment turned into three weeks of hell trying to deal with the company and the USPS, which ended in my not having any leaf at all. I do not recommend
I ended up purchasing locally from Binders. The price was higher, but it involved less hassle.    And I like the folks over there. 
So while I'm going through this leaf trouble. I go ahead and paint the background to a relative value of what the silver leaf will be so that I can see my color relations better. I have also progressed some on her figure. I have decided to paint the lace of her dress in a thick, chunky, and loose impasto. I'm not too concerned with detail. Just with obtaining the "feeling" of lace. 
We skip forward a bit, because I didn't take more pictures. Sorry. I now have my leaf! I've put down the silver leaf for the background and I've started to stencil in the motifs surrounding her. I use a stencil because it's faster than painting those damn things the slow way. The black that I have used here is actually a mix of Transparent Oxide Red and French Ultramarine Blue. I used to use Burnt Sienna but I've found that the depth that transparent oxide red achieves is far superior. I actually hardly ever put black out on my palette. This mixture when mixed with white also makes a fantastic grey that can be easily made cooler or warmer. I typically use this grey for my underpaintings. 
The white line in the picture is actually tape that will define the gold accents that I will soon put down. I have to take most of the tack off the tape by pressing it to my pants a couple times before placing it down, because it will otherwise pull up the leaf beneath it. And then I have to go and fix all those damn holidays. (holidays are the missed parts or mess ups)

GOLD! So I put some gold in. Wrapping her arms like vines or ferns.

And here are some detail shots and the final piece! I will probably go back into this painting and nitpick some things, but for now she is done! I hope that you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have! 

I took out the gold in the upper corners because I felt that it made the painting feel too heavy. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sleepless Summer

Well, most of you haven't heard from me in a very long time, unless it's been via this computer. I've been working hard to finish up my paintings for the WOAS show in Raleigh at the end of October. Painting what is basically a small solo show in 3 months has not been easy. But it has been a good lesson on diligence and determination. I've currently split my days into segments allowing for two, four hour naps a day, so that I can paint around the clock. Saving my old coffee in the fridge has been a blessing these days.
Southern Summer, Oil and Silver Leaf on Linen, 33x17

I've also started working with a lot of gold and silver leaf of late. It has been a learning process. Most days my studio looked like a gilded snow storm had swept in. It was like watching a blizzard of dollar bills blow around getting stuck to anything with tack and rendering them absolutely useless. Thankfully my learning curve was short and there's not so much waste now. 

Not yet titled, Oil with gold and silver leaf on linen, 36x24
(in progress. background will eventually be silver leaf with gold accents)

So I'd much rather be back at work, but this is the obligatory post since I just set this blog up. Back to work, back to making mistakes, and back to fixing them. I'll try to update soon. 

Life sized painting, Untitled, just started. eventually to be gilded and colored up. 

Happy Painting Everyone!