Herbert West Sings Songs of Romance

This piece upon initial glance can seem an arresting or slightly off putting subject. Continued observation allows for awareness of the delicate coloration and despite subject matter, a beauty.

This dichotomy is what I was after.

The piece is part of an ongoing series “Drinking with Doctors”.
The paper is a mixed media paper 98LBs It is my second ever painting using this paper

 

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Bastille Day

Happy Bastille Day.

 

Had to get a friend a gift from Shakespeare & Company. Perfect symmetry. Victor Hugo had always been against the title “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

 

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Urges

Some of the greatest painters considered drawing not a preparatory work for painting but rather complete works unto themselves. I get as much pleasure drawing as I do putting brush to canvas and deeply share this point of view.

People talk of the “lizard” part of the brain. This might exist on deep subconscious level but i think closer to the surface of modern man is a simian. Few now are gracious in defeat or frustration of not getting what they want. I myself am constantly throwing bananas at my more primal self to keep him compliant as I make my way through society.

 

Urges 9×12 Graphite & Paper

 

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A Perfect Circle

For my paintings I change up both the type of paper and size with every piece. This keeps things fresh and makes me have to think differently for compositional balance. Were I ever to only use one size, eventually i would inherently know the proper choreography. The properties of color too can change with the size of a piece.

There is an established range of sizes for me though. The smallest being 5.5×8.5 to the largest 11×14.

Each size of paper is different from vellum to French cotton to mixed media to American cotton.  All the different materials posses their own inherent properties which call for slightly different touch from one medium to the other.

The mixed media paper is the most unforgiving. I enjoy the challenge and  much like a runner training for a race using ankle weights, when I use French Cotton paper which I find to be my preferred, it seems “easier”.

Visually I still get the effects & results I want with the mix media paper. It looks slightly different from when I am using cotton paper. My voice still ever present it is similar in effect to the effect of playing different venues for a musician.

I use three different sizes of mixed media paper but all had been the same brand, Canson.

By happenstance I just came across another company when at the art store to buy pencils. Strathmore in the same size and weight as my Canson.

It seems obvious now, but I had not thought to vary or explore companies with my mixed media paper.

Right out of  the gate I enjoyed the Strathmore. My first piece gave me results I wanted.

With all my paper I just mentally have them arranged in a circle, each has a number and there is no thought given to which paper to use next as the subject matter may be up in the air but the type & size of paper is already predetermined. I will now add the Strathmore to my perfect circle of paper.

 

“Absinthe Eyes” 9×12 Strathmore (98lb) Mixed Media Paper

 

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Giovanna

There is something sprite like and summery about Giovanna. The emotions which play across her face occur naturally and this organic component helps bolster the work.
I intentionally choose to work in smaller sizes. I have in mind people for whom space is at a premium. Also there is consideration for the new collectors.

When just starting out in collecting art, one is developing their aesthetic sense. Unlike larger works, smaller pieces will not dictate the timber of a burgeoning collection’s style.

Smaller works in different genres never look out of harmony even when sharing wall space.

Lastly, i want the collector to enjoy and live with my work, not under it. A smaller piece is akin to a good conversationalist who speaks softly so that attention is called for in listening.

 

Watercolor & paper 5.5×8.5

 

 

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Audrey’s Birthday

Audrey wanted to do something different for her birthday which was one of those momentous numbers, more so for women than men. The thought of drunkenly lurching about town with some of her girlfriends all festooned with cheap feather boas while being too loud held not appeal for her.

She asked if I would paint her and then afterwards would be a party.

I agreed readily enough as there was something of an awkward swan or perhaps giraffe about her which I thought would make for a compelling piece.

There was no preconceived notion of  how I wanted to put her,  organic body language was of the most importance to me.

“How do you want me?”

I told her to just get in any position that was comfortable. While I worked fast, she still needed to be able to maintain the pose.

I began to study the way her shirt draped on her shoulders, the bunching of material at her wrists.

She settled by the window but there was too much light coming from behind her. Moving to the couch she stopped a moment inhaling then exhaling deeply as would a diver before a fall.

One of the buttons to her shirt went missing with a sound that reminded me of candy as it hit the floor. Now nude, Audrey took a Cleopatra pose on the couch.

To my surprise she was calm during the session. It was only afterwards, at the party she seemed to become a little giddy as she told people what she had done.

None of us want to talk about the weather. I understand the etiquette need for small talk. For someone who has just done something; come back from a trip, bought a house or dog, executed a painting, it is more fatiguing as the same comments and questions are presented over and over.

I did participate until I had encountered one example of everything there was to say on the matter of being an artist & the painting I had just done of Audrey.

I found a quiet corner to sit and nurse my drink. Audrey’s friends were all polite so that she could put out the good stuff and the crowd would show some restraint, allowing it to last the whole night as opposed to merely an hour as some other crowds would have done.

An old man sat across from me. He had on a short sleeve powder blue shirt in whose pocket i saw poking out an eyeglass case and the rounded end of a cigar. We gave each other the casual nod of our chins.

When I was younger and asked about my work or art in general there was an over earnest need to try to make people understand. Now I realize that , when it comes up in the casual conversation, at best it is on account of a mild curiosity. No one wants to to sit through a soliloquy on painting at some social function.

I had expended all my painterly small talk.  A woman holding a martini glass at a perilous angle wandered over to our spot. She asked the old man:

“What is it that you do?”

“I…am what you call a tinkerer.”

A friend called to her from across the room and she flitted away.

“I was going to say that.”

He pulled out his cigar.

“Do you mind?”

“Not at all.”

As he lit up with three deep puffs his eyes twinkled.

“I know I am not supposed to be smoking in here but no one ever yells at an old man. An old man and midgets can get away with anything, taking the last slice of pie, over staying our welcome, anything. Because no one wants to reprimand us. One would think it would be similar for children but if a child annoys, you can let go at them and then make yourself feel better by telling yourself that it’s a teaching moment.”

The scent of his cigar was good. I thought of my grandfather’s study while imagining that Berlin now was very different.

 

“Audrey’s Birthday” 9×12 watercolor & mix media paper

“Sy” 9×12 graphite & paper

 

 

 

 

Trumpets

I am near on obsessive in exploring properties of different equipment & materials I use for my art. This is one way of avoiding repeating myself or having the process, which in itself brings me great joy, from becoming mechanical.

There is the preferred equipment & materials I use but i constantly break things up. I utilize paper & pencils of drastically different quality over the course of my weekly woodshedding. The challenge of working with not so great paper or pencils makes it so that when i use my ideal it is easier. It also allows me to work under any conditions and to even improvise at a moment (in a bar, cafe or party) when I had no intention of doing so to good results.

The most important aspect for me in not being rigidly locked down in how i create is that I want a recognizable voice but to never slip merely into mannerism(s).

With my painting, for every piece i switch off the size and style of paper. It keeps me engaged in the work and far from mannerisms.

With Miles, he sounded great regardless of which of his trumpets he used. However, he did have certain trumpets he would use for specific pieces.  Of course he could have used any trumpet for any song and sounded great but he felt that although his voice was ever present when playing, each trumpet had its own properties which it injected into the overall feel of the song.

So it is for me with the paper I use for painting. Different paper has inherent properties which add a component to the work. My voice is always there but effected to a certain degree by the medium.

Even with knowing this, I do not change my method of which paper I use. There is specific rotation regardless of which I feel is best for portraying flesh etc. This too is a nice challenge and discipline which I find invaluable.

 

 

“Hommage John Lurie” 9×12 Canson Multi Media Papper 98LB

“Foot Brace” 7×10 French Cotton Paper

Making Movies

For my own amusement, when on the road I sometimes make odd little films. They are low tech affairs not usually longer than a minute or two in length.

I am lucky in that i have a small group of people who, year after year indulge me by being in them. Not something I would necessarily do were the shoe on the other foot.

As lighthearted as this activity is , I do sometimes find myself making serious art inspired from material from the films.

One of the reasons I get such satisfying results from doing my serious work based off things connected to my movies are the organics.

Few people look good formally posing. More often than not they will be either wooden or artificial when posing.

The movies are strange, often done while out having drinks and so bizarre faces are made, odd voices utilized, this Artaud like outrageousness when captured in a static work actually makes for a more natural feel & look.

 

Portrait: Watercolor & French Cotton Paper 7×10

Drawings: Pencil & paper 9×12

 

 

 

Hot House

People have forgotten how to look at figurative art.

This largely is on account of the always present phones in our lives. Ever present and ever ready to capture whatever we deem important or interesting. The ability to now document the minutia of our lives has made it so that the “merely” representational images seem “off”, wrong or not impressive, so used to the availability of actual photos have we become.

Now, if you draw a person, it needs to be hyper real to be appreciated by the casual art peruser.

It is all right for a portrait to look like the subject but also like a painting/drawing.

We treasure the paintings of Matisse and while when he portrays a woman on a couch we know what we are seeing, no one is going to ever use it to do a technical anatomical study from. The emotion resonating from his work not technical portrayal is where the joy is to be found.

Another aspect which seems largely forgotten are the dynamics between artist & model. While most artists want to convey the likeness of their subject, ultimately it is as if the artist is describing the model using their words, words in this case being their style (technique).

A final important component in portraying a subject is that none of us look the same all the time. Mood, health, ambient surroundings all dictates changes on our faces, bodies and even body language.

I often use same people over the course of many works, each time there are little differences. This is not imperfection of technique nor chops operating only at a certain skill level.

Doing it right, a series of pieces using same subject is not dissimilar to Bird & Diz riffing off of Hot House. The basic structure remains familiar but with changes built off the initial theme, always slightly different but containing recognizable components.

 

Here is informal series I did. I never think of what I want to portray, I just execute what I see without agenda. After the first piece, this series showed a playfulness along with a bemused surprise at a until then, thought secret vulnerability.

Music Addict Paris ’18