Friday, December 16, 2011

Just KidsJust Kids by Patti Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”
--Jack Kerouac

This is a dual biographer of the rock star, poet and artist Patti Smith and the photographer and artist Robert Maplethorpe.

The first portion of this book, poignantly portraying struggling young artists Patti and Robert broke, hungry and totally committed to art reminds me of this quotation. They both have a touching willingness to sacrifice most everything that is conventionally treasured: even an acceptance of autotomy if it leads to autonomy. They both share a deep bond of struggle that is never broken, of understanding, first as lovers, then as friends. In autobiography there is always the possibility of the dual self, the self that looks back, and she has a compassion and understanding for both their younger selves, that both admits their and admires their idealism and naivete. They have the good fortune to be in a nexus of places where many famous, artists, actors, playwrights, and musicians pass by. Later on, all the while encountering an amazing cast of the famous and almost famous, those who make it, those who survive and those who don't, both Patti and Robert become successful and famous themselves. Without being much of a spoiler, the dual biography ends on a very sad note, redeemed by love.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Thoughts About the Restoration of the Sistine Chapel

We tend to think of an art object as one thing for all time, with one intention, rather than being a living changing thing, with, alas, a finite life span, and a cluster of historically changing perceptions and expectations on the part of viewers, which is far closer to the truth.

There was a lot of resistance to the restoration, some by very intelligent people. The idea that the overpainted and smoke darkened images were Michelangelo's original intent took hold because it was thought that, being a sculptor, he would have worked only in chiaroscuro and modeling, with value (light and dark contrast) and not with color. So the idea of Michelangelo as a sculptor in paint, and of Raphael as the one who used color and line grew with time.

In fact, if you read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling you'll see all kind of evidence that he intended to work in boun fresco (painting into the wet plaster) almost entirely, in which almost everything was built directly into the plaster with a vivid pastel-colored palette. Hence, the outer layers of paint would not be his. A lot of the retouching was done over the soot and dust layers by restorers who were not yet alive when the ceiling was painted, and they tended to match what they saw.

Now to create a ceiling that "holds" for the viewer at such a distance, he'd naturally think of using more brilliant color than he might have used on a wall that could be seen on close inspection. In reproduction, these restorations seemed too garish for people whose expectations were based on what the Sistine Chapel had looked like. In place, they work well.

You can see that this is a misconception that Michelangelo never used rich colors in his painting by looking at The Holy Family, a work in tempera (right). All the sculptural quality is there--look at St. Joseph's forehead, and St. Mary's biceps!--but the color is a significant design element.

 Doubtless the restored version will develop a patina with time; perhaps the way it will look in a hundred years will be how he "intended" it to look, who knows? I doubt the prerestoration state is the way he intended the work to look, however.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Art Talent -- Why Talent Is Not Relevant in Art

...we are basically asking, "Do we have talent?" ...It's the wrong question. In fact, I would say that if you are asking some master artist to confirm or deny your talent, you already are in a heap of trouble ...

read more:
 Art Talent -- Why Talent Is Not Relevant in Art:

The concept of talent wrongly makes it seem that art is for a select few only.
byJerry Fresia

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mixing it Up

Sometimes it is not good to get too complacent.

 I am generally making paintings by preparing a colored acrylic ground, making altered images digitally and through xerography, transferring the image into acrylic gel, removing the paper and then painting into the basic image.

 And that approach has certainly not been exhausted, and I am finding new ways to experiment with it.

For example, taking photos of already processed images and then processing them. Taking two pairs of left/right images and then creating a fourfold symmetry.  These were transferred over a light blue ground.

You can see the results below.  I enjoyed doing it, although it was I added some painterly touches, and the transfer process introduced some irregularities, as it was just too symmetrical.

Odd, right after I finished this painting, in a strange synchonicity, I just picked up an old copy of the Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher for a buch from a garage sale across the street.  Escher was someone who sometimes seemed to be almost too symmetrical....

Again, this one was a problem child.  I had laid in a ground color an placed an image that was somewhat dark in the center, except it turned out to be set in off center.

I did many layers of different desperate things, like covering the outside part with many different small touches of different colors, then glazing and then doing it again , then adding tooth with transparent gesso and scribbling in pencil, then more layers, then masking off with painter's tape and adding two orange stripes.  I set it aside for a couple of weeks.

Finally I added rough stripes in cadmium yellow and added more intense blue to the outside, and then added  some vigorous brushstrokes to attempt to tie it all together.  I found that I was not too dissatisfied with it.

Sometimes it is good to get yourself into a pickle like that.

I decided to switch around my process a bit.  Instead of toning my canvas, I started with drawing directly into the primed canvas in charcoal, and fixed it.

Then I did several different techniques.  I painted into them some.  I used one technique where I use pieces of used paper palettes to transfer acrylic skins to layer over the drawing.  I also used layers of xerox transfer, and also transferred newspaper,  Here's a couple of photos of what they look like, still in process:

I think of that quote towards, the end of Pleasantville:
"What's going to happen next?"
"I have no idea."

....and that's a very good feeling to cherish.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists

Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading ArtistsMasters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists by Lark Books

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fabulously illustrated book shows the extraordinary breadth of what can constitute book arts and infinitely stretches the possibilities of what constitutes a book for anyone less familiar with the genre.

I highly recommend this book to bibliophiles, art lovers and artists, and those who have seen some example of "the book arts" to get a survey of what the field entails, whether it be sculptures involving miniature books, altered books, zigzag books, books with sculpted hollows, alternate bindings, hand press, computer process, mixed media.

I acquired this book attending a reception for Jody Alexander for an altered book/mixed media/installation which simulated the world of one of her characters, Ruby B. So this book takes on additional significance, in that her section of the book is signed by her, and I have a hand made bookmark in it made from a sewn page of a German book.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

History of Art by Anthony F. Janson

History of ArtHistory of Art by Anthony F. Janson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Copiously illustrated, this provides a useful schema from which to learn about different periods of art, and a lot of information you can use for reference.

The edition that I read was pre-political correctness so that means a history of dead white guy artists.  It would be better titled a History of Western Art, although it ends with an apologetic and half hearted nod to Asian art. (for a critical view, see The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art)

Needless to say, whenever you cover such a large territory, you are bound to be forced to leave somebody out, and get slammed for your choices, so I won't belabor the point.  Despite this, you can learn a great deal about the history of art, and the author is not entirely neutral in tone, which I consider a plus, as you can then assess the author's opinions yourself.

Despite Goodreads, which seems to be hallucinating, this book is not 150 pages, but 767 pages long.

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Some New Paintings

These two have a more open feel.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Age of Discovery

recently somebody asked me to describe my techniques... good question, so I wrote up these notes:

In my practice process is not an end to itself, but rather a launching point for a voyage of discovery. I favor processes that confront me with accidents and effects to prevent me from complacency.

I currently favor acrylic, as it is a highly flexible medium that permits experimentation, and dries quickly.

I use the movement of forms and colors through a scanning pass where I move the image during the scan to produce an electronic gesture, and transfer the gestures and colors to paper, and using acrylic transfer technique, placing the paper face down into the painting and removing when dry, leaving the pigment embedded in the acrylic substrate. The sources of the images can be digital photographs, other of my paintings, fabrics, or other materials, but I always modify them in the scanning phase.

The removal process often can produce a worried or ragged image that has more resonance that the original, and the transferred image always has an element of surprise, like unwrapping a present. I layer these electronic gestures with painted ones.
I also transfer drawn lines in charcoal and pastel into the painting using paper with acrylic medium in much the same way. I can use very soft charcoal or high pigment load crumbly pastels as they will be embedded in the acrylic.

I also embed unusual materials and found objects in my paintings, petals, twigs, buttons, garter belts and so forth. I may cover portions with a clear gesso, and rework in pencil on the roughened surface, or I may cover a layer of twigs with white paint and layer it with a distorted scan of a digital photograph of some natural texture.
Much of my choice is driven by my intuition of the emerging character of the individual work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: The Man Who Made Vermeers

The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van MeegerenThe Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It appears that Han van Meergeren was in a sense his own greatest forgery.

In this work, the author deconstructs the legend, and reveals a character on the borderline of sociopathy, albeit socially charming, but far more of a collaborator, Nazi sympathizer and hardened crook than the art world Robin Hood legend represents.

Rather than a loss, this results in a story I found far more fascinating, and far more coherent. What is somewhat puzzling to the contemporary reader is the mystery of how the images that finally lead to van Meergeren's arrest could ever have been mistaken for those of Vermeer.

The author has done a very good analysis of how the expectations of an era or an art historian can determine what forgeries are invisible to it, or cater to its whims. And of course, as soon as one forgery is admitted as genuine, the oddities of its style start to be attributed to its purported maker.

(None of the above is really a spoiler, there is a wealth of detail that I have left out.)

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Review: Lee Krasner

Lee KrasnerLee Krasner by Robert Hobbs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really 3 and a half stars, but you read art books often for the illustrations, and these are copious. The writing is somewhat cobbled together, and attempting to shoehorn Krasner into critical categories.

Lee Krasner, for the general reader who does not know this, was the wife of Jackson Pollock, as well as being an excellent abstract expressionist painter in her own right. That being said, will totally ignore that aspect, other than to note that examination of her work seems to indicate that influence went in both directions, Pollock's Easter and the Totem, a less typical work of his, seems to bear similarities to some of Krasner's earlier work. (I didn't really get that from the text, my own impression.)

Krasner had several interesting styles, and they are well illustrated and discussed: the "little image" paintings, which involved many many units, that are writing like and of modest scale, large bold abstract expressionist paintings, large paintings with extremely bold color combinations that fuse minimalism with abstract expressionism (some of these are among my favorites), and her collage/paintings.

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Paintcation: Fit The Sixth


I am on the sixth day of what Julie Torres calls a "paintcation"  Tomorrow, I will take it easy, more or less.  Monday back to work,

Previously:  >> Fit the First  >>Fit the Second   >>Fit the Third   >>Fit the Fourth   >>Fit the Fifth

I completed two paintings today, one 18"w X 24"h, that was very complex, because it had xerox transfer on top of acrylic skin transfer, and the number of lines and rhythms got very involved.

I think I finally figured out how to make it work.

The second, a larger one, 30"h X 24"w, I toned it over all with an Indian yellow hue glaze, then worked it in a pretty painterly way with cadmium red, titanium white and ultramarine blue.  Have to say that I like the M.       
Graham acrylic tube colors a lot.  (I used their Indian Yellow Hue, Ultramarine Blue, and Cadmium Red).

I asked Art Graham, when he was in Santa Cruz, if they'd consider making fluid colors.  The handling is great 
as a tube color, but my way of working, I usually add a few drops of airbrush medium to it.

By the way the colors are kickass, I can't get them as intense here, but this should give you some idea.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Paintcation, Fit the Fifth

I am on the fifthday of what Julie Torres calls a "paintcation".

Previously:              >> Fit the First       >>Fit the Second      >>Fit the Third      >>Fit the Fourth

Well, I was feeling a little burned out on painting, so I got stared a little late.  I decided to do a couple of large 36" X 36" drawings.  It's nice working on this scale, as it transitions between working with the wrist, working with the forearm and working with the whole arm. 

Working large in wide pieces of charcoal is great too in that you can work very directly and not overthink things, as you can make and change marks very quickly.

I am now downing a much deserved Corona and relaxing my sore muscles,

The drawings.  They made me think of chapters of Ulysses/The Odyssey:

Don't know quite what to call this.  Looks like I am going into a phase of electric color:

 I wasn't able to do the colors justice in the photo; this is the closest I could get. It's 24"W X18"H.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paintcation, Fit the Fourth

I am on the fourth day of what Julie Torres calls a "paintcation".

Previously:              >> Fit the First       >>Fit the Second      >>Fit the Third

So I finished up three of my paintings today, one 30"hX24"w, and two little 9"X12".

I was dissatisfied with the angles of the diagonals in the 30"X24" so here you can see me taping out and painting a slightly adjusted edge on two of them.

I then proceeded to make a few minor adjustments and complete a 45 degree diagonal in the upper left before I signed it:

This one has no transfer whatsoever, but I spent a good while adjusting the different shades of green and the rhythmic lines, with my new Fibonacci brush with the extremely long bristles.

This one has a few bits of colored newspaper transfer from some ads, the color seems to float a little.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paintcation, Fit the Third


Previously:              >> Fit the First       >>Fit the Second

Where we last left off:  here the paintings cleaned of the paper, and an isolation coat of acrylic medium applied:

I reviewed all the pieces, rotating each one in my outdoor "studio", a bower in the garden. I sat and put up each piece and sipped my coffee.
I worked on three pieces.  These are not finished yet, these are just state photos of the way they currently look.

This one, 18"X24", in addition to acrylic underpainting, had arcylic skin transferred onto it.  I do this by saving slick paper pallets with dried paint on them, I then cut out parts and apply acrylic gel and press them onto the canvas. Unlike xerox transfer, the paper just peels off when it is dry.  Over that I did xerox transfers. I then proceeded to tie everything together with acrylic paint. Or tried to.  Still needs some work.

I also worked on two larger pieces, 24" X30". This one I had roughed in the golden-orange areas with painters tape, and did the transfers in the remaining areas. The color is very vivid.

This one was done in somewhat the same way.  However, I used enlarged images, so I was able to get some very large wavy shapes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Paintcation, Fit the Second

Previously:      >> Fit the First

Today, I took these paintings, laid them on the deck, and misted them with a garden sprayer.

The story thus far.

Paintings dried in the sun....


...removing some of the paper...


I scrubbed using various soft scrub brushes, tooth brushes and my fingers until I could get the paint off.
Here you can see the setup.

I also did a little work in the sink, too.

Here I used acrylic transfer over a highly rough surface of paint, and earlier transfers of acrylic skin. In this case I scraped with a painting knife to get a highly worried surface.

With as much paper cleaned off as possible, the color will remain rather dull.  

Ready to paint.

I'll take this stage and start to add paint back in again.

I applied a coat of gloss medium and varnish to bring back the color, protect the thin xerox transfer surface by embedding it in an acrylic matrix.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Paintcation, Fit the First

Since there is now a staycation, where one does not leave home, why not a paintcation, a staycation where you take time off from your day job and just paint?  My youngest is off to Hawaii with her mom, so I have nothing to distract me.

I varnished off two paintings I had been working on this weekend, and I got several paintings started today.

 Here you see some paintings I started on Sunday.  All acrylic on canvas, pretty straightforward.
Next, I went down to FedEx/Kinkos with some small paintings and ran of some distorted scans. (By moving them as they were scanned.)

I then started placing pieces onto the canvases using painters tape.

In some cases I pieced a block of several different pieces using painters tape.

 Here you see everything pretty much set up the way I want it,

I then took them outside and marked the positions of the pieces and blocks with chalk or pencil, applied gloss gel or tar gel and positioned them.
Now you see the transfers drying in the sun.

Tomorrow I will remove the paper by moistening it and gently scrubbing it away, and then I will start painting on them again.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Show at Swirl Extended

I am extending my show another month. There are TEN new paintings (24 in all). Feel free to come by again, as there a lots of new pieces.

Please note this is not an invitation to a reception, just an invitation to come by some time in the month of August.
August 1 - August 31

For those of you in or near Santa Cruz the address is:
Swirl 1315 Pacific Avenue Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Here's some photos of some new work in the show:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some New Paintings: Edge of Chaos

When Joao de Brito looked at my work he said that he saw controlled chaos.

My latest series of paintings seems to be moving towards that chaos, and the challenge is trying to keep the ship afloat where the order is more implied than nailed down.  (My metaphors are drifting into chaos too, but that is another question.) I am a little confused by all of this, but I try to let the paintings lead, rather than worrying if they "lack my style", whatever that means.  I am letting the xerox transfer drive the direction of the painting.  When I remove the paper, it's like unwrapping a present, and I am led on another voyage of discovery (or maybe wild goose chase.)

By the way, I don't like to leave my paintings untitled., but some are so new I don't know what to make of them.

Fire Sermon II (it's very hard to see the flame like detail in this photo)
So here's some finished paintings, and some works in progress.

I was a Flower of the Mountain (originally intended as a third in the Fire Sermon series, it has its own ideas)


Broken Blossoms
It was almost impossible to photograph the painting above.  It contains twigs, petals and leaves and flecks of gold leaf.  There is xerox acrylic transfer over this texture!
Golden Girl
This was originally planned as two separate wholly 20" X 24" paintings, both dominated by gold and white.  I soon saw that they became a two panel painting, 48" high.  The way that the transfer works over and under the gold paint is very interesting.



Untitled but something to do with nature, I think.
This painting above originally was a failed horizontal landscape.  I repurposed the very complex texture in the green forms.

Some process photos: