Blue Nails

Traditional ideas of beauty bore me. They blur together into a generic oh-la-la which is not remembered five minutes after it is no longer present. For me, the true, the real, will always be beautiful.

The real serves to facilitate emotion which will not appear prop-like nor freeze dried. When i first started delving into the world of social media I was at great pains to explain that with my pieces which showed real bodies as we all have or encounter, I was not mocking nor satirizing. I do not feel this need any longer and I suspect that what each viewers reaction to these bodies is, says something about them.

Times are still tough for us all. Art & culture serve to offer a way of reminding us of what we all have in common. It also is a place mark for what waits once we do not need to devote the lion’s share of our time to the bad. I do not look forward to returning to “normal” or “how it was” as those times were not great for everyone. I look forward to the time when we can give attention towards helping each other be the best versions of ourselves. In the meantime, I offer up my beauty for all.

Blue Nails 9×12 Watercolor & Paper

Toronto

During the pandemic I have made constructive use of my time about 90% of the time. Of course now and then I need a break from working & thinking. I’ve tried watching some of the genre shows people talk about. The shows which take place post-apocalyptic, the writing at best is “I wonder what is going to happen next?” Missing from all of these type shows is a largely untouched upon important component.

Of course in middle of a zombie outbreak first consideration is escape, safety. Shelter, food and ability to defend oneself are the primary concerns understandably. Some of these shows have been on for years and they do not really show the toll which would be taken on humanity collectively with the loss of culture. Making things (of beauty) just for the sake of doing so or if one does not have those skills, then viewing them. Life without culture as non-stop collecting or searching for the basic essentials would see a profound rewiring of mankind’s way of acting and thinking. After “X” amount of time, would it even be worth sticking around?

This mental fast food made me reflect on our current situation. I do not think it the duty of artists to put specific messages, rhetoric or agenda in their works. I do however think that, especially in in trying times, it is every artists’ duty to do their thing, create something beautiful.

It serves as a reminder of the better part of humanity awaiting us all when the trouble is over. It unites us all in reminding us there are things which are not unpleasant that link us all all together. One can not avoid bad times, we are all trapped by history. As artists we can put beauty out there, a page saver for when our thoughts and actions can once again look past merely surviving.

Offered up beauty. As usual all the images are from photos I personally took. No digital magic was used, just scissors and adhesive applied with brush.

“Toronto” 11×14

Underworld

Pop Culture seems almost a misnomer. It’s offerings are discussed,debated and anticipated. Almost inseparable at this point from American culture is the concept of a spoiler alert. Binged watched shows masking so-so writing with the compulsion to see what happens next. To know ahead of time of a characters death or other plot developments is to take away a major component of a work’s strength.

This is a more recent phenomenon as with many books of the western cannon or the ones which have served as a template for countless other stories such as Romeo & Juliet, we know what will happen, has happened but still get enjoyment from the journey.

I find myself often returning to Homer. Of course the trajectory of the characters’ narratives are well known to me now at this point but it still manages to offer up delight, like revisiting a well known city held dear.

There is one scene in the second part (The Odyssey) where the (anti) hero Odysseus/Ulysses is going to talk to the shades of some of his fallen comrades. To do so he must follow a complicated ritual which involves spilling out of oil, incantations and spelling things out on the earth with a stick.

During my last rereading of the epic it occurred to me that most of us now can not even remember or know anyone in our lives phone numbers as our phones do all that kind of thing for us. (this includes myself too). Yet Ulysses was given the instructions and doesn’t even write it down, he remembers it and executes it perfectly.

I got to thinking, an idle stream of thoughts where i started transposing Homer and Ovid to our times and vice versa. In some versions of Orpheus’s tale he is merely allowed to wait at the gates of the underworld for Eurydice’s shade to follow. In other translations he does equivalent of in the front door out a close by side one.

If there is ever time travel then there is already time travel. The afterlife too would be a sort of loop, so I imagined it as a vast city not necessarily of the epic poet’s visual vernacular. A dense city which is one part crumbling metropolis from Blade Runner and also the dense urban pile ups from parts of Mumbai and Hong King.

Orpheus must make his way through all this chalking up the weird architecture as merely one more otherworldly phenomenon beyond his ken. The shades are all crying out for help, lamenting all that they have lost or are cut off from, bitterly laughing or trying to cajole him into watching.

My Orpheus isn’t seen though. Maybe he is coming out, alone. Maybe he already left. He could be one of the active silhouettes in the window, finally reunited with Eurydice after having met his savaged fate. She had been everything to him. His extreme joy at their prospect of their initial reuniting and then inconsolable grief at their second separation at Hades’ exit was a powerful cosmic force. Now, reunited, they are just two more silhouettes in a vast city of shades. We are all the main characters in the movie of our lives but longing remains a force to reckon with.

It has looked like mars around me so i have not been able to paint. I am fortunate that I can still draw and collage regardless of light conditions and burning eyes and sinus. This collage is 11×14. As usual there is no digital magic worked. I used scissors & adhesive applied with brush to images which I personally photographed.

She Knows

All the mediums which I work in are of equal importance to me. I get as much pay off putting pencil nubbin to scrap paper as an accomplished portrait. One of my biggest joys of which I never tire is portraying flesh via paint.

I never think in terms of “beauty” in the traditional sense of the word. Western idealized beauty very quickly becomes boring (same old-same old). I would rather an emotion which is real because truth is always beautiful. It is for this reason I largely prefer to work with people in my life as there is a trust there and they feel free to let their emotions be real in front of me.

For my painting I only ever use natural sunlight. I noticed at the start of this work that where the sun is when is starting to change. It appears the summer has snuck away.

“She Knows” 9×12 Watercolor & Paint

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For Trummy

I have just finished my most labor intensive collage. Interestingly, it was far from the largest that I have ever done. I set aside my often used aesthetic of creating the feel of an open ended narrative for something that is just beautiful. I worked no digital magic on the piece, utilizing old school method of scissors and adhesive applied with a brush to photos which I personally took.

I was very pleased with the results of this piece and feel with every new work I learn something. My new camera was used for the photo which definitely helps to convey more of the intricacies of my works.

“For Trummy” (if we ever see each other again, I will look different, you will look the same) 11×14

 

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Rochelle

A painting of a woman (or anything) is not a woman but rather a thing unto itself, offering up an emotional pay off not limited to the specific real life moment of the subject. The subject is merely the starting point. Art allows for a great myriad of feelings to come forth, more  than a photo. Onion like in layers, of emotional cadence, there  is also the injection of the artist’s voice to the subject. This allows a viewer to return to a piece multiple times, finding new things and creating a different narratives in their head.

Emotion should not strive to encompasses any type of perfection, the same with beauty. I always aim for a truth in my work, honesty inherently being beautiful. Emotion, even the seemingly “negative” ones appeal to me to portray for this same reason.

This is my third tan paper piece. I was very pleased with it. It is my voice, the same effect as a musician switching instruments to play a different type of song.

“Rochelle” 9×12 Watercolor & Tan Paper

Rochelle

 

A Million Ways to Die

For all my work regardless of medium, emotion is my main goal. One way to ensure this happens is fostering a constant evolution.

I received many great responses to my last collage and it is a personal favorite. For my next one, I knew that I wanted to do something as dense but also different.

I limited my color palette which I have done before but this time i went with darker, more somber colors. There is a return to a more outright sense of narrative in this piece too. The last piece was a beautiful scene but not story. To my core I will always be a city boy and now I have created another one to visit in my daydreams.

As with all my collages, there is no digital magic worked. I utilize the old school method of scissors & adhesive applied w/brush to photos which I personally took. (new camera for photo)

“A Million Ways To Die” 11×14  (the lines visible beneath pieces don’t mean anything , they were resting on piece scrap paper w/discarded sketch)

 

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Ils s’appellent zabbahdoo 2

I greatly admire the work of Jenny Saville. I was given one of those huge, beautiful coffee table books on her work. She works in a very different manner than I (this book was not of her recent work, so I am only speaking of this moment of time, no idea if she has changed). For some of her portraits, she would take photos from medical books of grimacing mouths and use those for subject’s mouth as opposed to just painting the subject’s mouth as it was. A lot of portraits in the book were pieces where the subject looked as they are in real life but a lot of the attributes were Frankensteined on from other source material.

I have no desire to work in this manner, i do not know that I even could. But, it did inspire me to do another of my close up portraits. One of the genre of portraits I do is a compositionally tight shot so that it is not necessarily immediately apparent what the viewer is looking at. One of my great joys is in portraying flesh in my works. With these type of portraits, it forces one to really nail the effect as the viewer does not have the usual visual clues which serve as a short hand in revealing what they are looking at (i.e an identifiable limb such as a hand or foot et al).

My original conception for this piece was to had a bit of canvas on either side of the body which would have been a different color and served as a clue. I decided to tighten the shot into more of a zoom.

I am very pleased with results. Long story short, this photo was not taken w/my new camera but rather my phone. You very much get a sense of the flesh and the blood below the surface, in person there is even more going on.

“Ils s’appellent Zabbahdoo 2” 9×12 Watercolor & paper

 

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First Her Tears were Purple, Then Blue

I finally had to bite the bullet and get a real camera to photograph my work. This coincides with a greater complexity in my collages. Gone now will be the caveat accompanying images of my work;

“I just used my phone to take the photo, it gives one the gist of the work but not all the dynamics.”

Being a complete luddite, it’s going to take a little bit to become proficient with my camera. The timing of getting it worked out perfectly though as I just completed my most complex work. Ideal thing with which to try out new camera.

As is always the case, the components of the piece are from photos which I personally took. I work no digital magic on the piece, utilizing old school method of scissors & adhesive applied with brush.

I try to alternate between doing my painting and collage. The idea for this one came to me during dinner (the original sketch on back of grocery list pad). I decided to change up my rhythm and do another collage before a painting. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what added vibrancy will be added to my collage as I will be using a far superior camera to photograph my source material.

“First Her Tears Were Purple, Then Blue” 11×17

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You Know It’s True

I have greatly enjoyed upping my game with collage, refining my process. As is true with all my work, I do not want to be reduced down to  the “..” guy. (i.e landscapes/nudes et al). With collage, when you find something that works, it is very tempting & easy to slip in what would be for a musician, pet-licks.

I would like to think all my works have an open ended narrative feel to them. For this piece, I wanted to try to maintain that feeling but with less easily identifiable components making up the piece.  The color palette would once again be restricted but darker than what I have been using. As usual, I work no digital magic, only my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with brush to images which I personally took. The black atop I hand painted on, this being the first time I have tried painting combined with collage.

“You Know It’s True” 11×17

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