Jun 30, 2014

the beauty in a back

I keep thinking about Leigh Bowery's back. (see previous post) It had to be very strong to support the weight of all those costumes.  He showed it off a lot and Lucien Freud painted it every last plane. 

What a pair. 

It brought to mind a drawing I did in a figure class at Flicker Street Studio a couple of years ago.  The model's back was exquisitely wonderful to navigate.  I want to make a painting based on the shape of her back. 

This is a revisiting of source material because I believe I actually posted this soon after I drew it.  It's been tucked away in a pile but recently I pulled out all my drawings and flipped through them.  A rediscovery of a shape.   

Jun 9, 2014

It's fine with me not having a dishwasher because I get a lot of good thinking done standing at the sink and staring off into what we call the 'bird bath bed'. 

Jun 5, 2014

Thank you, John Waters.  I always appreciate hearing your voice in my head, seeing your colors, breaking it down, and putting it back together again.

the white cloud is the son of the blue mountain

"The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud.  The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain.  All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain." 

Tozan, from Zen Mind, Beginner Mind

Jun 4, 2014

I'm in no rush

Certain paintings act as spirit guides – like animals I see in the woods that feel more like arrows than just a sighting.  Was that owl, beaver, or deer really just crossing my path? I really don’t know. But what I do believe is that artists make particular pieces that are more than just a sighting.  They are guides pointing toward the next place to go.  

I’ve been drawing a lot in the last year and out came these are the three paintings. It’s not many.  I usually make at least triple that in a year.  

This slowness needed to happen.    

The pace of my studio life churns consistently and daily.  The pace of this year has been quiet on so many levels.  Not many people besides me have actually been in my studio, but lately I’ve been asking people over.  A different perspective makes me ask myself different questions. 

Speaking of questions, below is an interview I did with my old friend Brian Pera for his blog on Evelyn Avenue way back last autumn.  I’m putting it here because it’s where my head was when I made these three paintings and it’s what I’m still thinking about.   

Actually, I could continue asking myself these as long as I make art.

I’ve known Melissa Dunn for over twenty years at this point, and every six months or so, when she invites me over to her home studio – or I invite myself – I get a gut punch reminder of what a good artist she is and how many things someone who’s really paying attention can do with color. The last time I visited, over the summer, she took me through her garden, an experience which was a little like walking through one of her paintings. Afterwards, we went inside with some cuttings and she arranged them in a vase, rearranged them, arranged some more. I wondered what happens when the garden dies down in the fall, and where that specific energy then goes. A few months ago, she posted a picture showing a work in progress (above), hashtag “weirdestfuckingpaintingever”. Maybe it was the season? Naturally I was curious…

1. What are you working on now?

I'm working on a painting for a group show that hopefully I'll finish up in this week. There's a lack of resolution in it that I'm ambivalent about.  I love the problem solving at the end of a piece but I also dread it because I don't want to rely on standby solutions.  It's in the problem solving where evolution happens and I'm really pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone these days.

2. Color and the way color touches other colors seems very important to your work. What are you learning about color on this project?


I'm learning that I paint in a brightly lit bubble of spotlights that is far from how color looks in the real world. The bottom half of this canvas is an olive green color that has a glowing effect under the spotlights of my studio that I really like.  When I turn those off and the painting is limited to the illumination of just the ceiling light, the yellows in the green that make it glow disappear and it that area gets very dark. It's difficult for me to paint with room level lighting but at some point in each painting I use less light so I can apply the color in the real world instead of the extra-illuminated world of my studio. This painting is really teaching me about how yellow looks in different lighting conditions.  

3. You've talked about the instructiveness of gardening to your practice. Where is your garden at right now and what kind of consciousness is that bringing into your studio and this work?

Autumn just knocks me over.  I could never live in a place that didn't have all four seasons.  My internal clock would suffer and I would be a mess.  Starting at the end of August I notice the light changing.  In September so many plants have one last bloom before going dormant.  Some blooms last until November and are bright and gaudy among the dead plants around them.  I've been walking in the woods regularly lately and it's so showy and on fire.  All of this annual change is coming into the painting I'm working on now because I feel like there's a last gasp of life in this particular piece.  Starting in January I'll be preparing about fifteen canvas for a show a year from now and I'm already envisioning how I want to move my work in a direction that let's evolution, life, death, regeneration all have it's say.  With that, nature is my teacher.

4. What did you see today that you hadn't noticed yesterday in the piece?

A couple of days ago I posted a snap of this painting on Instagram and basically called it a weird fucking painting.  My friend had two words of advice - get weirder.  That hit me over the head like a ton of bricks! I wrote GET WEIRDER! on a piece of paper with black magic marker and pinned it on my studio wall.  I want to dig deep inside myself and extract the strangest, freakiest, most subversive part of my being and paint with that as my guide. I feel like I'm playing it way to safe, and for what?  The art market?  Ha!  My clients?  Ha!   What I noticed today that I hadn't noticed yesterday with this painting is that I need to  get weirder, get weirder, get weirder.