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

 

Jam session

Anytime one sees Paris on television or in the movies, as a character passes by a window or stops in front of one to gaze out and ponder some plot point, the Eiffel tower can be seen.

More often than not, this is not geographically accurate for where the action is taking place.

That aside, not a bad view to be sure. But I think there are more inspiring views which would have less ambient noise of tourists etc which can distract from living one’s life (working) in the city of lights.

Year after year I live in the same place, same arrondissement, in Paris. It is  a working neighborhood, meaning no tourists.

However, every other door which is not a residance seems to be a bar or boulangerie.

I am ten minute walk from places to sketch like the Luxembourg gardens.

I have, after all these years become a part of my neighborhood.

When I am elsewhere in the world, I dream of being back. I have decades long relationship with my wine merchant, butcher, greengrocer and baker.

There is established level of comfortability that I know I can sit in a bar sketching on the sly and not be perceived akin to one of those people with their laptops “writing” to be found in every Starbucks stateside.

It kept raining off and on…steady rain would be all right people would click clack down the wet cobblestone streets holding a newspaper or their jacket, cape like, over their heads.

Sporadic rain, it got humid. Clothes got wet, then you find yourself cold, followed by a type of sticky as body heat working over time dries away the rain.

Stop-start of the skies festivities,  people are just staying wherever they are at.

I am in one of the little intimate bars which despite my now having a studio, serves as an unofficial office.

There is a tall brown haired girl sitting alone at the bar. She wears a still wet dress whose true color is slowly being revealed as it dries.

I am at my usual table, stealing pieces of her with my pencil.

A guitarist is in the corner playing.

At first he is playing for her…his fingers conjure up abstractions which encapsulates something that could make one happy to be blue.

She is forgotten, now he plays for himself.

Her change on the counter, the cymbal fall, the end of a song.

He sees me, I nod.

I hold two fingers up to the bartender. He has never cared about busy versus dead nights so long as he sees the familiar faces of regulars over the course of the week.

We Klink our glasses.

I see him look at my sketchpad. Without hesitation I hand it to him to inspect.

He had originally wanted to be a poet using language and words as to convey the emotions which are now brought forth via his fingers. Words to make people feel.

I had wanted to, in my youth be a musician .

We had both found our way, just not in the manner originally envisioned.

Paris May ’18

 

Quick sketch

 

 

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Return to France

Before heading to my home in Paris, I was down in the south of France doing research for an essay of French gastronomy of a bygone era.

It was not conducive for my painting but I did sketch non stop. I utilized my ever present midori passport pocket pad.

I enjoyed the challange of such small size, 3×5 to create fully realized pieces.

Some of my reading inspired me to shake things up as I had long been familiar with the size. I started using both sides of the page, holding the pad vertically (so that what were the books edges became the too and bottom).

It was interesting ng in that more space does not necessarily equate to easier .

One has to think of compositional balance differently.

Back in paris. First morning in studio started a painting 5×8. The weather going from overcast to rain has not facilitated progress so I am back to sketching.

I find myself now also combining my own texts to pieces.

Even with the rain, it is great fun adding to myself in a way which shall remain with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Simmer D 2

Fairly soon after the selfie became part of North Americas’ cultural heritage (along w/Netflix) word spread from those “in the know” of the ideal position of the camera for a selfie (slightly diagonally above the head angled down from the left).

Social media and personal pages are now a glut of girls & women falling between specific ages regularly posting photos, bodies semi twisted to the side, camera in the now familiar angle, mouth forming the assumed to be sexy duckbill.

There is now the male equivalent of “the pose”

I was watching television. An I-Phone commercial came on. It showed a young collegiate in shorts on break at a beach. He went to take a selfie w/the surf at his back. He tilted his head to the left and partially opened his mouth in the manner of the beginning of a smile. (he might have also given a thumbs up, if he didn’t literally you got the feeling he meant to)

The show merely worthy of folding laundry to came back on.

The next commercial was a fit middle aged man w/silver hair . The advertisement was for a travel service where you can compare hotel rates and do specific search comparisons (i.e with a pool et al).

He then went on to say that it was how he found his great room w/an ocean view. A blue screened view was behind him as he raised his phone tilted his head sideways and half opened his mouth, start of smile, thumbs up and click.

What had been “ideal” poses are now hackneyed and overdone. While technically it may still help hide the start of a second chin or other imperfections that can’t be wished away, there is a sameness to all these images which renders them devoid of any flavor and personality.

We can now laugh or roll our eyes at the overly familiar poses. It will never go away though. It has become the standard.

Figurative art has its own version of these phenomenons.

Whether it is painting or drawing, i like to use amateurs as much as possible. The main reason for this is their manner of posing. I want natural body language. Emotion is the most important aspect of my work and the first step in achieving this is  honesty.

When faced with the task of posing for an artistic picture, what can rob it of its power is the subject striking a glamor or traditional pose. The traditional figure poses are still utilized in schools and classes. No matter how good the painter, it will always give the work an academic air which robs it of really compelling the viewer.

Glamor poses by their very nature have an artificiality that is to emotions what porn is to romance.

The pose of the subject also effects the composition of a work.

I reject the academic but also (sometimes) the “correct” compositional lay out of what the viewer sees where.

I like to think that most of my work conveys the feeling that the viewer is seeing a part of a story or a small self contained story. Some of the odd angles and unorthodox compositional balance bolsters tension & emotion facilitating this.

In real life when looking at someone, whether it is one table over in a cafe or laying on a couch, we do not necessarily see all of them or all of them in proportion.

To some who have formally studied or taken classes, unless doing a specific exercise it may seem awkward or counter intuitive  but it is well worth finding new ways to visually tell the story of a subject’s body besides the tried & true.

 

“Simmer D 2” watercolor & Paper 5.5×8.5

 

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On The Road

I travel a lot. One thing I have noticed is that for the last twenty years or so, go to any great city in Europe and inevitably you will see tourists walking down the main streets filming.

Excitedly, they want to capture what they are seeing and where they are as to show friends & family back home.

This is faulty logic on several levels:

Technology is constantly changing. One year i saw people walking down the Champ-Elysees using the camcorders that you just insert an actual VCR tape into. The next year cameras were far smaller. People are inherently lazy, no one is going to do transfers of all the footage shot over the years and even if you had the gumption to do so, it will look terrible.

When showing footage to friends  back home, although somewhat of a sitcom cliche, it quickly becomes  boring. A shakey cam view of streets, unless something amazing is caught on film, quickly becomes dull. And although most friends most likely will not say so, the mind starts to wander as they watch the footage.

 

Photos are a little better. A photo potentially offers a more obvious immediacy of what is “important” that the viewer should be noticing.

However photos offer their own drawbacks. People in search of the perfect instagram photos are so busy concentrating on that, that they are not in the moment. Go to any museum and watch as people run up to an immortal work snap a photo with it behind them, then run off. Yes, one may have “seen” a Van Gough et al but aside from location and year of trip little else is remembered despite getting massive numbers of likes & retweets on their sites.

I am by no means anti technology. I enjoy the instant gratification of emails, skype & texting when on the road. I also do take some photos. These things though are given very little of my times.  I have found that I absorb more and it becomes more memorable doing quick sketches and some notes of what i am doing and seeing.

To whomever I show these records of my journey to, they are seeing what was important to me and it is more engaging. (Even the best photo one takes or Paris, Rome etc etc thousands of other people have gotten the same exact shot!)

Not everyone can draw but anyone can jot down the interesting or odd little things they come across. Anyone who would claim to not come across anything to write is probably missing it because they are texting or posting to social media.

For any journey the thing is not to be ourselves as we are at home, making everything around us adapt. Rather, it is  to explore and be open to a life lived differently  as to draw new things into ourselves fostering evolution (intellectually, spiritually etc)

 

Charcoal Text & Image improvisation 9×12

 

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Charcoal

I have just started experimenting with charcoal. I am sure as I use it more, I will become even better but right away I feel it a successful medium for me.

There is a looseness to charcoal which lends itself to an emotional expressionism. When I do a charcoal piece, i do not use pencil first. To utilize the safety net of being able to erase is to miss the point of what charcoal has to offer.

Here are my very first tries. With the portraits i have done, there is a sort of gauze like effect. For myself, i generally work fast. Charcoal seems to want the speed of hand as to offer up more organic depth.

“Miles” 9×12 “Left Bank,Paris” 9×12

 

 

The Stripes Are Black

Watercolor & Cotton Paper 7×10

When I initially started doing portraits I would paint whatever was going on in the background of the subject, the room. While I still do that sometimes, at others I reduce it down. The mattress/bed etc will just become the color of the sheet or the wallpaper.

My choice of color in these situations is whatever the actual color is as I feel it part of the story I am portraying. Green wall w/bookcases or whatnot becomes green square in which the subject is enmeshed, all other objects dropped away.

 

The stripes in this piece matching up w/the shirt was not a contrivance but lucky happanstance. I did change their color from black to blue as I felt the black gave it an air of :

I have compositional weakness and so inserted stripes to help fill up space.

 

Others might not have thought/felt this, who knows.

 

With my drawings I still mostly portray what else is going on besides the subject. Paintings it is a piece by piece basis.