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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!