All content copyright 2011, 2012, and 2013 by Keith Russell.

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23 December 2013

All That End-of-the-Year Type Stuff...

With about a week (or so) left 'til 2014, my mind is constantly racing through a list of "all the projects I can actually complete before the end of the year." This close to year's end, it's not a long list, but there are a few things I'd still like to get done:

I've been glazing the small "spider legs" painting, and I should be able to complete the painting by the 31st. (See photo...)

I'm also working on the T-shirt design for the SnowFlake--the science fiction convention. (I'm going to work some more on it--and hopefully finish it--tonight!)

And, I have a painting in my studio right now, which is covered in old, yellowed varnish. I've been asked to remove the old varnish, and varnish it with a coat of fresh coat. The frame also needs some TLC. The clients aren't in any hurry, so it doesn't have to be done by New Year's Day--but it would be nice to get it a little closer to done, before a week from Tuesday.

Then, in January, I've promised to donate a small painting to The Kansas City Artists' Coalition's annual auction/fundraiser (due 20 January), and I may have a drawing student taking lessons from me starting next month.

And I'd really love to have a few more small spider paintings done in time for SnowFlake in February.

After that, I'm going to really work hard on my next "portfolio" of spider paintings, of which The Presentation of Spiders is only the beginning...

18 November 2013

Another (small) painting begins...

I've posted a couple "in progress" photos of this to my FaceBook group, but I wanted to write more about it, here.

This is a brand new "small spider" (5 x 7 inches) painting, and is based on a section of an even smaller (3.5 x 5 inches) pen-and-ink drawing I made last week.

I think it's going well, so far. The background is airbrushed acrylics; the legs are painted using brushes, in oils.

I did very little preliminary drawing on this, (using the smaller pen-and-ink as my reference) and beyond the basic "pose" of the legs, I'm pretty much making this up as I go. The lighting bothers me right now, so I will probably spend some time "tweaking" the shading on the legs, before proceeding further.

I may add colour to the legs, and I may add details to the background; I'm not sure at this point. I like the "skeletal" look of the legs, but they do look a bit more like an underpainting than I prefer. We'll see.

Anyway, here it is, as things stand right now.

Still quite a bit of work still to do...

19 October 2013

Another Week Ends...

It's been a very busy week. I have painted more this week (after a very disappointing three (!) hours--yes, total!) in the studio last week, I will have painted about twelve hours total, or more, by tomorrow night.

We saw Neko Case Tuesday night, and it was everything I expected, and more. For the most part, the sound was very good, though there were some parts I wish had been clearer. Her voice is just as good live as it is in the studio (not that I expected that to be different) and her band is incredible. I've rarely heard such good musicians simply serve the songs, with very little grandstanding or "noodling around" between tunes.

The new album is growing on me, too. I still don't think it's as good as "Middle Cyclone" or "Fox Confessor Brings the flood" but it's very good.

I ordered "Furnace Room Lullaby" today.

So much more music to know.

I'm hoping to paint for at least five hours tomorrow--though I'll be happy with three. And I should have most of the day Sunday, though I do need to need to spend some time in the garage, woodworking.

Have a great weekend!

08 October 2013


I've been working on "The Presentation of Spiders", still hoping to have it finished before 2014 starts.

15 September 2013

The "problems" of painting, today--and do we even care?

I read an article earlier this week that really resonated with me. Now, I don't agree with everything in the article (but, when has anyone ever agreed with everything someone else has written?) but I do believe that the author has a point regarding the dilemma of contemporary painting.

Here's the article:

The author is basically asking contemporary painters to both work within the "tradition" of painting, while creating new works that have relevance to today. (This is not nearly as easy as it sounds!) Many painters working today are simply rercapitating "older" ideas: from "Classical" and other "realist" periods, or from Cubism, the Abstract Expressionists, Pop, etc, rather than working to develop new ideas.

Of course, it's one thing to try to develop new ideas--and another to actually develop them!

The author knows this, and seems far more willing to forgive artists who strive for something new--and fail, than artists who don't even try, and instead "retreat" into established (and long since "over") art-historical periods.

Now, I know what you might be thinking at this point, and you're mor than justified in doing so: Keith, you're a fantasy artist who used to paint airbrushed science fiction pin-ups, and now you make weird spider paintings! What the hell do you know about avant-grade, cutting-edge art in 2013, anyway?!

In all honesty, perhaps I don't know very much at all. I certainly haven't created any ground-breaking art, so far.

Few artists, of any age, genre, or period in history, ever have, or ever will.

But, I think it's important for us all to know, and consider, what we are doing, what it means, and why.

It, upon encountering the subjects this article discusses, we say "fine, but it's art-speak nonsense, and/or not for me", then so be it.

I posted a link at Wet Canvas, in the Oil Painting forum, since that is the forum where most of the "serious" painters at WC hang out. The first couple comments were snarky, and a later poster commented that the article was "over my head".

The thread has now been removed (not even "closed", but actually removed; not only can you no longer add comments, you cannot even see that the comments--or the origianl post with a link to the article--thwt had been posted already!)

Again, whether we agree with these types of viewpoints about painting, or not, I think it's important for artists to be aware that this "level" of thinking about art is "out there", and to give it some thought, befor accepting or rejecting it.

Wet Canvas apparently disagrees, so the participants in the Oil Painting forum--most of whom will never seek out this sort of thing--now will in all likelihood--never run across it again.

Thwt isn't the end of the world by any means, but I nonetheless believe that it's a shame.

08 September 2013

Break Through...

I really don't think this can be said enough: keep working. If you are discouraged, keep working. If you feel unsure about your work, your skills, your subject matter, your "talent", your technique, your materials...whether your work will ever be lauded, accepted, understood, liked--or even whether it will ever be seen by anyone other than your close friends and family--

--keep working!

Your work won't make itself. If you have doubts, you cannot get better by staring at your easel, your desk, your computer, or your workbench.

Your work will only improve if you improve it!

Over the last week, Ive been working on "The Presentation of Spiders". Yes, I have kept hope alive for more than a year that I could finish this painting, and that it would be good, would not look "overworked", and that I would like it.

If you've been following this blog for a bit, you know that I started the piece as a Grisaille, intending to create a complete black-and-white rendering of the piece, and then glaze transparent colours over that, to complete the painting.

Those plans didn't exactly work out, and Ive often had serious reservations about the painting over the last year.

Over the weekend (starting Friday night) Ive nearly completed the second figure, and greatly improved the hands on the middle figure.

My "breakthrough" moment came when I realized that I had been conceptualizing myself as an "indirect" painter--and in trying to force myself to paint a certain way, I wasn't serving the painting...not at all!

Now, I am (primarily) a "studio painter". I am (primarily) a slow painter, and I am (primarily) an indirect painter.

But, the idea that I should paint only in transparent layers past a certain point, was really frustrating to me...was truly holding me back. People (yes, including artists!) love to simplify things, and we love to label. It's easy to describe ourselves using simple sound-bites ("direct" painter; en plein aire painter; paint from life, figurative, portrait, conceptual, etc. It's easier to use "accepted", "generally-understood" labels to try to explain our work to our audience, to other artists, to our friends...anyone who shows an interet in what we, as artists, do.

For years, I've thought of myself as an "indirect" painter--someone who paints in multiple layers of (primarily transparent) oil paint, instead of as a "direct painter", working in a single (generally opaque, generally working "wet-into-wet") layer, creating paintings (again, generally) in a single sitting.

But, unpacking these labels, their oversimplification is obvious.

I do work in layers, but Im just as likely to layer opaque paints over my earlier efforts, as I am to apply transparent colour. I'm just as likely to want my brushstrokes to show, as I am to blend them into nothingness using sable fan brushes.

The truth is, I'm all over the place--and it's a place where few, if any, single-concept labels apply. Sections of a painting might be painted in a single layer, while other sections in the same painting might be paints in dozens. Large areas might be painted "from life"--or from photos--while other sections are worked entirely from imagination.

So, the painting is proceeding in layers, but the layers aren't all-opaque or all-transparent--they are going to be whatever they need to be, to get this painting finished in a way that satisfies me, and gives me the look I want. And to hell with trying to stay within the confines of an arbitrary ("pure"--which should have been my first warning!) conception if how to paint.

The key is, I didn't "discover" my error by contemplation or study, but by working; working to solve a particular problem in this painting, working to compete an area on this piece, to move the piece along, to carry it forward, further towards completion.

So, whatever the problem, stopping working cannot possibly help.

Whatever you do, keep working!

04 September 2013

We have Neko Case tickets!

liora and I are going to see Neko Case, in Lawrence, Kansas, on 15 October!

The new album was released today. (I'm going to order a copy of the CD on Friday.)

We see a concert or two every year. So far, in the five years we've been together, we'be seen Lifehouse (her favourite) two or three times, Tori Amos (awesome), The Tony Levin Band/Adrian Belew Power Trio (in Detroit, again, awesome!), Suzanne Vega and Duncan Sheik, and I saw Slipknot (with Coheed and Cambria) and The Smithereens with her son, Jeff.

I've seen lots of concerts over the years, and I'm pickier these days (with ticket prices often reaching into the middle three-digits) and I'd much rather see a performer I haven't seen before, than see the same band year after year.

Anyway, looking forward to 15 October!

26 August 2013

If This be Perfectionism, Let's Make the Most of It!

I've been working on the drawing of the background of the newest "spider" painting (currently my avatar on my FaceBook profile). I had hand-drawn the windowsill (taken from a photo I took years ago) and I felt that, although they were "okay", they weren't good enough.

So, I took the painting out to the driveway this morning, and using a thread tied to a screw eye in a block of wood (clamped securely in a heavy vise), I redrew all the perspective lines, "correctly" (meaning, they now all intersect at the same point.

I'm still hoping to finish the windowsill drawing, and start work on the painting part of this painting, later this week.

As sod this moment, I have no idea what the view through the windows should be...

17 August 2013

Another Solo Show!!

I've been asked to be the Artist Guest of Honour at a local science fiction convention in February. I'm not only the main artist in the show; I AM the art show.

I'm actually looking forward to this show, for several reasons. First, it's cool to have a show scheduled, to have a goal--a deadline. I have several new paintings in progress, and I am going to finish them before the end of the year.

Plus, in addition to showing off the new work (and seeing how the new pieces are received), it's a chance to show off some of the (few) older pieces I still own--as well as trying to sell some prints.

But, primarily, I'm hoping to take the work from this convention show as the "core" of my next gallery show. It'll be easier to focus on finishing a small number of pieces to finish out a gallery show, if the main pieces for that show are already completed--which they will be.

Anyway, I think it's going to be cool.

Now, to work!

01 August 2013

The Remainder of the Year...

It's so very easy to focus on what hasn't gotten done.

So easy, and so pointless.

My tube of Gamblin's Torrit Gray arrived yesterday, and it brought back to mind that I had (re) started work on "The Presentation of Spiders" in June of last year, hoping to have the Grisaille ready in time to submit it for last year's Torrit Gray Contest, deadline October.

And, my mind immediately started listing all of the projects I'd hoped to do this year, but haven't accomplished, yet.

Stop that. Stop it this instant!

Part of the reason I moved away from journaling in The Artist's Way's (TAW) recommended style was that I was tired (exhausted, actually) of surrounding myself with negativity. By writing down all of the negative thoughts every morning, TAW hopes you can get all the negative thoughts out of one's head, so you can focus on positive stuff the rest of the day.

I, however, learn best through writing. If I want to remember something, I only need to write it down.

I found that all the negative thoughts I was supposed to be "exorcising" through my daily "morning journal pages", stayed with me even more, since having written them, I remembered them all the better!

So, instead of focusing on all the unfinished projects of 2013, I'm instead going to focus on moving forward with those projects, and more, over the rest of this year, and into 2014.

No, "The Presentation if Spiders" isn't finished. But, it is well along--and (even more fantastic) its looking pretty good! I have been drawing much more regularly, and I have a couple new paintings in progress that I think are going to be really excellent. I have one of the bookshelves Ive wanted to build in my studio (literally) for years, done--and I've started on the next two! My woodworking skills are improving, my studio is better organized, and I feel like I have more (and better) ideas now, than I have since graduation in 2008.

We were in Detroit last weekend, and that is our last (scheduled) trip for the year. I am going to make the most of the last five months of this year, to create.

And, I'm not going to set many (any?) goals.

I am feeling the need to follow some of these ideas, wherever they take me--and if I end up putting some of the current projects aside for a while, whether I end up with a certain number of completely new paintings, or the same number of completed "older" pieces, really makes no difference; the end result is the same (with the exception that the new pieces move me forward in a way that slavishly completing older projects, may not).

Thanks for reading!

21 July 2013

Circling Back Around...

I was asked today to be Artist Guest of Honour at a local science fiction convention next February. It's a bit ironic that (or, at least, coincidental); I've been thinking lately about creating some new "sci-fi"-ish art (I even drew a UFO in my sketchbook last week' and found an old robot character I want to re-work into a new painting) and I'll be using the airbrush for lsrge sections of my next few paintings.

I've also picked up another freelance client, very possibly a more steady source of income than most of my previous clients have been. And, theyre hiring me to make some paintings, as well as woodworking!

So, things are looking...better.

I spent today drawing a new figure/character, one of twelve or so I hope to discipline myself to draw between now and the end of the year. As with the figures I was drawing years ago, and then painting in airbrush, this figure was drawn using references (and a plastic ecorche model) not from live models.

(This figure "replaces" the one I posted in a blog entry from early April--which, for various reasons, didn't "speak" to me. This new pose is "stronger" somehow, bolder, and those are qualities I want in this painting...)
I remember A couple of figure drawings I made in college (2006) which one student criticized during critique, saying that I couldn't use "Classical figure drawings" to convey "conceptual" themes.

Well, that's actually a large part of what I want to do next; have the figures start to interact with the spiders.

I've been planning this for a long time...

07 July 2013

An insight, long overdue...

This began as my reply to a post in the "Creativity" forum at Wet Canvas, but I felt it needed to be expanded, and posted here.

The composer Wendy Carlos once observed that she had originally intended to be a "pure" composer; creating her music in the recording studio, electronically, without the need for an orchestra to perform (and, invariably interpret; translate; alter) her music. She said she wanted her work to avoid the "problems" associated with "traditional" classical music performance--the conductor's interpretation, combined with the physical limits of orchestras, concert halls, and the equipment used to record an orchestra performing "live".

What she found, however, is that she became the performer; how she "input" the work onto the digital recorder absolutely affected the result heard upon playback

The "problem" is that a large part of creating anything involves "work". For me (at least) the most "creative" part of what I do as an artist, happens when I am "sketching"; letting my mind work out whatever ideas it fancies, on paper, usually with nothing but pencil and eraser--with no restrictions, editing, censoring, etc. taking place.

But, once several sketches are done, I have to decide which of those ideas is "worthy" of developing further. This "further developemtn" (which I call "drawing") is still creative, just not as creative.

Then, once I've chosen a sketch, and worked it into a (relatively finished "drawing";) the real work of painting begins--developing, expanding, detailing, polishing, and "finishing" the work.

Often, this part feels like a very UNcreative process, and I am sure that I sometimes overlook, ignore, and eventually forget, other creative ideas, while I'm struggling to finish the "in-progress" vision.

Although I origisnlly wanted to be an illustrator, and have now become a "fine" artist (whatever the hell that means!) I was trained as an art director--which means I developed the ability to conceive a number of "solutions" to various visual problems--that were "supposed" to then be turned over to photographers, sculptors, and illustrators to "finish"--allowing me to go on "thinking up" ever more ideas; completely unburdened by the task of "developing" and/or "finishing" them.

As a "fine artist", though, I've had to become not only a visual "composer", but a visual "performer" as well, and thus I have had success as a photographer, an illustrator, a painter, and as a sculptor.

But, the "composer" part of me is often frustrated, while the "performer" part of me is "working", and I know other artists struggle with this, as well...disliking the idea that (for an audience, especially) art is a product more than a concept or process (which is what it is, primarily, for the artist).

Leonardo famously struggled with this, too, often having a very hard time finishing work once he felt he had learned all that the work could teach him. (He even chose to flee from cities where clients were pressuring him to complete commissions, rather than finish work with which he had become "bored".)

Now, I imagine that some artists (especially "conceptual" artists or those whose work is primarily "process-oriented) may not have as much of a problem with this, as "the rest of us" (though, since I my work is not primarily concerned with process, nor is it based primarily in concept, I could be wrong).

Still, the discipline to see a work through, to put in "the work" necessary to "finish" (and here I mean to include the concept "polish", not just "complete") a work, isn't easy for most artists, in my experience.

The temptation to continually think up new stuff is always there, and the discipline to stick with a project until it is "done" often seems stifling, alien, and not very much fun at all.

But, if the "end result" is worth the effort, there's no other way to get to an "end result", except by just doing "the work".

And, for me at least, is IS "work"...


I spent a few hours yesterday in the studio, "tightening up" the spider drawing on the panel. I know quite a few artists out there are trying to "loosen up" in their work (and I like loose work, just as I enjoy "tighter work" too--any art that's done well, really) but I find my stuff suffered if I don't give it enough careful attention.

So, I went over the (faint) transferred charcoal drawing with a .3mm pencil, and Ive just finished going over those lines (maybe the fourth time Ive drawn this spider) with a thin sable brush dipped in airbrush acrylic paint.

Prussian blue acrylic airbrush paint!

This will let me avoid having to use frisket when I paint the background; as the outlines of the spider will remain visible, since the airbrushed background won't be nearly as dark as the paint straight from the bottle.

The spider will then be painted in oils.

I also added another couple of costs of gesso to a 48 x 48 inch panel, and I'm going to start drawing the (yes, what else?) spiders for that painting, this week. Then, once another coat or two of gesso has been applied to that panel, I can transfer those spiders (yes, there will be more than one) and airbrush the background for that painting, as well.

Then, I'm working on a drawing of a n o t h e r spider, which will end up on a second 24 x 48 inch panel. (And, I have another panel that size, which needs gesso.)

Things are really starting to take shape, here!

06 July 2013

Much (Too Much) Thinking...

I transferred the most recent "spider drawing" to the 24 x 48 inch panel, and then began thinking about the background.

There are several options.

The easiest to draw and paint would be to airbrush a simple, slightly out-of-focus "interiour" scene, like the upper "corner" of a bedroom or living room or kitchen--the place whe the walls meet the ceiling--where spiders like to love.

You'd see part of a doorframe, maybe the top of a window, and some light and shadow.

Simple, direct. Easy.

But is that "good enough"?

Unsure, I began sketching further, and came up with [the start of] a VERY complex, elaborate background--along the lines of the science fiction backgrounds I created for my paintings from ten, twenty years ago. It's far enough removed from everyday "reality" that it could appear huge--something I like, because the spider could then be seen as being very large, too--or, small and hanging in its web in front of a very broad, expansive background.

Cool (at least cool-looking, to be sure) but not exactly what I want.

Pretty--but, ultimately, rather empty. Now, I like eye-candy as much as the next artist, but while I want my work to be visually pleasing, I want it to mean something, too.

And, I want the spiders to be seen as "observers"; I see them as watching humanity--but not understanding us, any more than we understand them. Perhaps, they're not actually observers, but simply inhabit--uncomprehending, unconcerned--as human beings, "superimposed" on "our" world.


Maybe a simpler background is all that is necessary, to convey something along those lines.

Since I intend to use the airbrush--a lot--on this piece, anyway, this background would be relatively easy to airbrush, and look good.

I think I just talked myself into it!

Progress photos coming soon...

02 July 2013

Dead Bees...

Fifty thousand bumblebees were found dead in a Target parking lot in Oregon on 21 June.

Fifty thousand bumblebees. Dead. In a single parking-lot.

Hard to imagine.

A pesticide used to "control" aphids is to blame. Bees basically pollinate most of the food human beings eat--directly or indirectly. No bees, no crops--and were not the only ones who eat these crops. No crops? No cows, pigs, chickens, either!

I've tried to avoid politics in this blog, but this seems too important not to say something.

We are basically killing ourselves, here. In trying to "control" (Why the euphemism? The word, as used here, means "kill") aphids, insects who--granted, do damage crops--we're also killing bees. Removing bees from the environment will result in far fewer crops than leaving the aphids "uncontrolled".

Are the people who develop, and deploy, these pesticides really so stupid, shortsighted, (and greedy) that they think pesticides known to kill bees ought to be used at all? I mean, even if virtually all our crops were threatened by aphids, killing off bees in the process of trying to get the aphids under "control" would still be w bad idea--since there wouldn't be a great deal of crops next season, without bees around to pollinate the new crops.

Sure, you might make money, for a while, selling lethal pesticides, but how are you going to enjoy it if you find yourself starving to death, along with vast portions of the life on this planet?

How can any amount of money be worth that risk?

Besides, if you want to "kill" aphids, I can think of an animal that is pretty well-versed in killing insects.

After all, they've had sixty-five million years of practice!

25 June 2013

Back to Basics: Follow-up

OK. When I started working on the transfer last night, even the "B" pencil wasn't "enough" (wasn't thick enough, or soft enough) to transfer well.

So, I went over the drawing again with charcoal pencil (I used about eight of them, since they're only sharp enough to make about a ten inch line before getting dull, and I didn't ant to spend all evening sharpening and re-sharpening pencils).

The panel was primed with two coats of Liquitex acrylic gesso (sanded between coats) followed by three coats of Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso" (also sanded between coats). This is the smoothest, nicest surface for drawing and painting that I've found (or been able to create, myself).

That worked well, and the drawing is now transferred to the panel, and I'm going over the drawing--yet again--and making it sharper, and adding more detail.

24 June 2013

Process: Back to Basics (transferring an outline drawing onto the panel)

I spent part of the day Friday working on the spider drawing--finishing the parts mentioned in my previous entry.

Once I was (very nearly) satisfied with it, I traced it (it was already on two pieces of tracing paper, having first been traced from a smaller, rougher original drawing; then another small piece of tracing paper was used to refine that tracing--yes, thiscan be complicated) onto a large (18x25 inch) sheet of tracing paper.

Next, the drawing is flipped over, and traced (yet again) in soft pencil, so that it can be transferred to the panel (which will be one the finished painting).

For this, I'm going to use a .3mm mechanical pencil; the smallest pencil available, with a soft "B" lead. (As thin as these leads are, they are very fragile. Leads softer than "B" aren't available for the .3mm pencils.). The softer lead will "rub" easily onto the surface of the panel, giving me a good, clean transfer of my drawing. I will probably have to retrace it, but a harder lead might not leave enough graphite for me to see the drawing clearly enough to be able to retrace it accurately...

Once the entire "back side" of the drawing has been traced in graphite, it will be taped in position on the panel, and a burnished will be used to "press" or "rub" the drawing (the graphite on the back, held next to the panel by the tape) onto the panel.

There are other means for transferring drawings onto canvas, panel (or whatever surface will be used for the final work). Graphite paper can be placed between the drawing and the final surface, and the drawing retraced; a projector can be used, and the proejced image traced; or a grid can be placed over the drawing, and redrawn using a corresponding grid on the final surface. (And, for the truly ambitious and steady-handed, a Pantograph could be used--if you can find one!)

Anyway, this is the easiest way to transfer a drawing if its already the size you want; tracing doesn't enlarge or reduce the image. (If you need the drawing to be a different size on the final surface than the size of your original drawing, you'll need to use a projector, the "grid" method, use a copy-machine that enlarges or reduces, resize the image on a computer and project it (or trace from a printed hard copy), use a Pantograph, , or redraw the image to a different size, freehand.

For most of you, I'm sure this is all very basic. I'm also sure that there are some artists out there who have never heard of a burnisher--or a Pantograph!

So, this is how I do it, and the tools I use.

I'm planning an elaborate background for this, so stay tuned for that...

05 June 2013

Building a better spider...

I spent last night and tonight working on this drawing. I had a perfectly acceptable side-view drawing of a spider (you saw it; the drawing on the right, in my post from 14 May) but I wanted something a bit more...dramatic. So, I made this--without reference photos or models. (The original drawing was made without references, as well.)

This isn't quite done (it still needs spinnerets, a head, eyes, palps, and fangs) but I think it's clear enough what I was after, here. And, I'm not sure yet how this guy (gal?) is going to relate to the web--and I'm definitely feeling a web in this one; many of the ideas I've been exploring, vis a vis webs, are going to be greatly expanded upon, here!

Also, I'm thinking BIG--as in, 24 x 36 inches B I G.

(And, this one is going to be A I R B R U S H E D! I'll definitly be using oil paints, too, but I'm going to do the majority of the painting in this using airbrushed acrylics, first.)

Plus, I'll have another small painting ("Rain!") to post, here, very soon!

Stay tuned...

19 May 2013

Paradigm Shift...

For a long while, I've been very jealous of certain artists who, in addition to creating amazing work, also manage to have an equally strong conceptual basis underpinning their work. Matthew Barney (creation through overcoming physical resistance); Gottfried Helnwein (the consequences of physical violence, especially--intentionally or unintentionally--against children); Patricia Piccinini (the self as refracted through a genetically-modified "Other"); Ron English (a critique of Mass culture through the subversion of commercial imagery)...

And, for many years, I've been frustrated in my own efforts to understand the possible meaning(s) in my own work--or, perhaps, to impose such meanings.

Conceptualism in visual art is usually a double-edged sword; I certainly don't want my work to merely "illustrate" an idea, nor do I want the work to become too "arid", dry, and stale--the "problem" with so much "conceptual" art, IMO, being that the ideas behind the work are far superiour to the work itself. (And, yes, I'll name names: Sol Lewitt, On Kawara, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Joseph Kosuth...)

But, a cleaner understanding of a set of "possible" meanings can have the effect of unifying a body of work, as well as providing ways by which the work can be...complicated, and yet remain thematically unified.


I'm reading a book at the moment, "Tiny Surrealism: Salvador Dali and the Aesthetics of the Small". Having been singularly impressed by the small paintings at the Dali Retrospective in Philadelphia in 2005, I expected the book to discuss Dali's small works, perhaps explaining their importance in Dali's oeuvre.

But, the book does much more. It places Dali's interest in small things (ants, grasshoppers, breadcrumbs, atoms) within the larger context of his published writings, poems, and personal correspondence. It outlines a conceptual framework that unites much of the imagery in his small paintings as well as his large masterpieces. Further, it shows how the emphasis on small things, combined with Dali's technique (often vilified as merely "illustrative", or ignored completely) was an affront, as well as a response to (and a critique of) both Modernism and Surrealism.

Oddly, I may have found the beginning of a conceptual basis for my next few paintings, ideas Ive had in my head for some time, but which have felt "thin", undeveloped...until now.

14 May 2013

More Drawing!

A couple of new "spider drawings". I have written lately about wanting to draw more, and more frequently--and (I'm pleased to report) I have been! I've been struggling--lately and always!--with the temptation to clean the studio, build more panels, read something, update my computer, catch up on emails, organize my bills, make more lists--basically, anything to waste time that could (should) should be spent actually getting artwork made...moved forward...finished.

My free time keeps getting filled, so I really don't have much time to waste. (Just tonight, a friend who has helped me move on several occasions needs my help moving this Saturday. I had hoped to spend the day in the studio (we are going out with friends Saturday evening), but I can't really say no about helping this particular friend move.

So, I have a choice--and a few free hours tonight. I can spend tonight cleaning the studio, building panels in the garage, playing games on the iPad--or creating in the studio.

So, I'm headed to the studio, to make art.

Right now.

I need to work on some new figure drawings; tonight is as good a night for that, as any.

I'll post them when they're far enough along to be interesting.

"Tres Ragni Rossi"

I finished this little painting last night. (The title means, "Three Red Spiders"; somehow, it sounded better in Italian!)

This is the first painting I've completed in 2013, and I do feel like such a slacker, writing that here. I have been working on "The Presentation of Spiders", and I hope to have an updated photo of it, soon. I've also been drawing lately, and I'm nearly ready to start painting another spider!

And, I have a new sculpture started, too.

I do feel like I'm more focused, lately, than I have been in a long time. I'm trying to concentrate on making art, more than building new panels (no sense spending time making panels, when I have paintings that aren't finished!), or cleaning my studio. (No one will compliment me on how tidy the studio is--but I will suffer if there isn't enough work for a show, soon.)

So, here's the first new painting of the year. More new stuff coming soon. Thanks for your patience, and your interest!

07 May 2013


A thread was started at Wet Canvas today which addressed my work, specifically. I had posted an in-progress photo of the "three red spiders" painting, in a monthly "post what's on your easel" thread. A member apologized to the other artists who had posted their images on the same page as my painting, that she might have missed seeing some of their paintings, since she had to scroll down the page really fast, to avoid seeing "the scary spiders."

Then, today, this same person started a thread asking the Wet Canvas Moderators if they could create a "spider icon" so viewers would know, from seeing the spider icon, if there were spider images in a given thread, without having to accidentally stumble across them.

I have to admit, I feel a certain sadistic thrill when people are frightened by my paintings. I created an installation at the Kansas City Art Institute, titled "The Walk", where I hung a new spider sculpture on the ceiling of a long hallway, every day for a week.

I remember one afternoon, watching students walking down the hall between classes. Occasionally, someone would look up, see the spiders making their way across the ceiling, and flinch.

That was fun!

(I remember another classmate of mine who seriously didn't seem to believe that some people really are scared of spiders--and I related the true story of the naked man who was admitted to the emergency room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his foot; he was taking a bath, and had seen a spider crawling on his foot. Somehow, the idea of using a nearby gun to shoot the spider, struck him as reasonable.)

Anyway, it's interesting when people are discussing my work without reference to me, just the subject matter.

At least, they're talking!

07 April 2013

The final artwork of 2012:

I started this drawing, of my step-children, quite a while ago. I had hoped to finish it a long time ago, but art shows, vacations, moving, etc., kept interrupting my efforts.

Nonetheless, I kept working at it, and finished it late in December. I framed it last month, and now it hangs in our home.

Glad it's done (and I'm pretty happy about how it turned out...

Somewhere Between A Sketch and A Drawing

I drew this today, over a couple hours this morning, from several photographic (and anatomical/3-D) references. It's barely a sketch, but it is the correct pose, and it has "personality".

So, although its barely "there", what is there, is very useful...very specific.

It needs a lot of work.

I have two figures in mind for a painting I'd like to make, and this will (most likely) be one of them.

When she's finished.

I've had some of these ideas in my head for a while, and I've really needed to get them out of my head, and onto paper--and ultimately, onto panel.

First things, first, though.

And, drawing is first.

11 March 2013

Drawing vs. "Not Drawing"

I don't draw nearly enough (let's get that tiny bit of painful honesty that out of the way right now!), though I am trying to discipline myself to draw more often. I used to draw regularly, when i was attending frequent lectures. Now I find that I would rather paint, than draw--and although it is important to work on the paintings, regular drawing keeps the ideas flowing, helps to "develop" (improve) the ideas, and develops the "chops" (skills...does anyone still say "chops", anymore?)

Keeping a couple of sketchbooks handy, helps. (I probably have--literally--hundreds of sketchbooks. While its easy to just grab one off the pile every time I deide to draw, it's better to work my way through a book or two, since that allows me to build on earlier ideas--and keep track of the good ones.)

Several of my recent paintings, including the three 15x45 inch panel spider paintings, and the small square spider paintings, were created without any preliminary drawing whatsoever (with the exception of "Arachnaverte", which was copied--in paint--from a small original pencil sketch on paper).

And, the results I get from working this way are satisfying--but, only to a point. Lately, I'm finding that if I want to convey more complex ideas (or, more realistic ones), I need to do some pretty involved preliminary drawings.

One thing I've noticed about spiders is that their bodies are opaque, while their legs are quite translucent. This is something I have not tried to capture in my paintings of spiders, so far--but I realize would really like to.

Drawing in paint is fine, and it IS drawing. And, it would probably "do", at least for quite a while, if I wanted only that. But, it does not allow the kinds of revision, rework, erasing, etc. that provides for a through examination of subject (including pose, light and shade, texture, etc.)

So, I'm working on being more disciplined about drawing; drawing more often, keeping track of my current sketchbookin order to "build" up in previous sketches, and really explore my subject matter, to be able to produce the types of paintings I really want to make.

06 March 2013

When art shows find YOU!

I had no plans to exhibit my work until I was finished with eight to twelve new pieces, it when opportunity knocks, it's best to answer the door.

A co-worker of mine was asked to exhibit some of his paintings at a hip local coffee shop, and he was also asked if he knew any other artists who ought also like to exhibit.

He asked me if I had anything to hang, and of course I do' so I said, "Yes".

I'm taking three paintings to work today, to give to him, to put up in the show.

I don't even know where this place is, but I'll post more information--here and on FaceBook--when I find out.

05 March 2013

Speeding Up!

Last week, I reconnected with a photographer I've worked with for years (longer than I will admit here!), and this morning, I turned over Caroline and Jack, to be scanned.

So, there may be new prints in the near future!

I also want to start work on the next "Invented Faces", to complete the originally-planned series of thirteen.

I'm still working hard on The Presentation of Spiders, along with a couple other paintings, as well as a small wood carving.

I've also upgraded my computer with a terrabyte of new hard drive space, and I am going to be blogging more regularly. I also have a few ideas to help make this space more interesting, and more interactive!

So far, 2013 has already been a very productive year, so far--and I have no plans for that to change or slow down.

Here's a taste of what's coming; the progress (it's in colour now!) on The Presentation of Spiders over the past couple of weeks...!

20 January 2013


Five years ago, I had just graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute. I was married,and my wife and I were living in my parents' home, taking care of my father as he neared his ninetieth decade.

Five years later, and I'm divorced for the second time. My father passed away a year ago (today). I have moved twice (same city; different houses) and have now been living with my girlfriend for four (wonderful) years. I have fewer debts, have gotten rid of a great deal of "stuff", and have made some extra money woodworking (something I began doing in college) and doing more restoration work (something Ive be involved in for a long time). I've made new friends, kept most of the old ones, and seem to have found a reasonable "balance" between my social life and my life as an artist.

I've also made some valuable local contacts; with artists, gallery owners, and even some collectors.

As an artist I'm feeling more confident in my work every day. Over the last five years I've (slowly) realized that it is much less important for me to [try] to figure out (especially in advance!) what my work "means"--or should mean, and far more important for me to just make stuff!

I've set a goal of creating 24 new artworks this year, starting with the completion of "The Presentation of Spiders" (which has come quite a long way since the last time I posted pictures of it; new photos--as always--coming soon.)

Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me; my first divorce was finalized on a Friday the Thirteenth, and my second marriage lasted exactly thirteen years to the day.

So, I have big plans for this year, and the timing seems to be right for me to make them come true.

Thank you for your interest.