In the Eights

I do not view one of my mediums as of greater importance than any other. Regardless of what I have done during the day, painting, collage et al at night I sketch. In rough estimation, I probably carry out my night time sketching 360 days a year with arriving in and returning from Europe being the only established days I don’t.

This nighttime sketching is in the parlance of musicians, termed “wood shedding”. It is the equivalent of when a musician practices scales. I am always surprised to hear some of my peers do not do this as even Coltrane continued to constantly practice.

With every collage I do, I learn something new and refine my process. Often I find that when I discover an easier way to do something, there is the feeling that it was so obvious, how had I not thought of it before?

A few nights ago the idea hit me, to wood shed with my collage too. I mulled over initial “rules” knowing that they would most likely be expanded upon as I go.

It’s very important to me that I use my own images from photos which I personally took in my collages. There is always a component of jazz like improvisation in my collages and I worried that using them to wood shed would take away some of that spontaneity and power.

As I had no intentions of showing the results of wood sheds to anyone, i would not be concerned with using images I did not photograph. The other factor of this is that with all the images I use, I do not want to have them appearing over and over again in my work (at least not without a long break in-between). Using other images will keep mine fresh for me. The other rule which immediately came to me is that they should all be small. Usually my collages are time consuming and it would not make sense to have practice work take days on end. Also working small was nice challenge. I do not have uniform size but none of these go much bigger than 3×5.

The few people who I showed these to were very enthusiastic. I must admit that I liked them too. After the first two I established an aesthetic which is beautiful but also slightly off putting. Despite the pleasure i get from even just practicing, I do not see myself putting these up to view too often, so enjoy the initial foray into establishing a new arrow in my quiver.

Orange Cardi

The sky has finally stopped looking like a martian dawn. I was able to finish the painting which had been on hold for what felt like forever. It was an odd sensation having a painting quarter of the way worked on and having put it aside due to circumstances beyond my control.

I feel fortunate that I had other mediums I could do while I waited (collage & my daily drawing). Finally was able to suss out how to use my new slr camera. I think the photos really show you depth and detail better than i had previously capture with my phone.

“Orange Cardi” 9×12 Watercolor & Multi Media Paper

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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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

 

Time of Legend

I have a pretty good rhythm going in what medium I use. Painting, collage..And regardless of what I am working or just finishing, drawing every night. Within each medium I mix things up to keep it fresh. Different types & sizes of paper.

More often than not I prefer not to give concrete explanations of my work. I would rather each viewer forms their own opinions as to what it’s about/means.

“Time of Legend” is not meant to be mocking nor satire. Originally I had imagined the skin to show more signs of sunburn but thought the splotches of angry red would serve as visual prompts for a program which I did not intend.

“Time of Legend” is about someone completely comfortable in their skin. I am sure that there are moments when the model has dark nights of the soul. Unhappy with his lot in life, angry and sad that he will never get the (beautiful) girl or some other type angst. But for this moment, he was satisfied and living the life.

I imagine at the end of the day, he goes home sleepy from the sun, his phone rings. One of his friends desiring the Joie de vivre which he brings with him to gatherings:

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“I just got back from the park, I had the best sausage sandwich, got some sun.”

“You’re a legend man..”

 

“Time of Legend” 9×12 watercolor & paper

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Face Dances: Assorted Tangos

I work within several mediums now. All are taken seriously, with none being considered second class citizens within my oeuvre. My favorite thing is to conjure up flesh in paint. Next on the list would be drawing faces. I never caricature the subject, doing a sort of raw reportage. This means I put in all the little imperfections of which I posses my share.  I do prefer portraying an extreme emotion. Unlike a potentially phony smile or the staid visage which a lot of us offer up to the world when aware of being watched, it is real. The real for me will always be beautiful. Regardless of what else I have done during the day every single night I draw too. One benefit of all the time I put into the pencil is that I have become fairly quick in executing portraits. This is a sample of evenings over past week or so.

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Two Tales: Vertical intoxication/Elation

I can fully appreciate nature. It offers a different kind of inspiration than that of the man made kind. However, I can only go so long without concrete under my feet and the smears of neon streaking the air like forgotten halos.

When based out of Europe some of my friends teased me about this but for them, coming to visit me was their vacation, so it’s understandable that they wanted to see things as would not be encountered elsewhere. A few hours train ride and you can get your fill of mountains, Forrest or ocean. I enjoy it for a day or two, all of it being bearable as I have my pencil in my pocket along with its accompanying little sketch pad.

Right by one of my Parisian watering holes they put up a plaque a few years ago for Poulenc, who had lived in the building. When all his peers were going to Italy, the warmer climes of the South of France & Brazil, he largely preferred to stay in Paris with the concrete under his feet and the availability of a place to stop for a drink every few feet. Now further inoculated against the good natured teasing I swim through the currents of streets and alleys which I could probably now do blindfolded.

“Ok, have fun in Giverny, I am around just working, drop me a line when you guys get back.”

“It’s going to be hot, you sure you won’t come, we can catch a later train.”

“No thank you, I am just working.”

One can not become a connoisseur of a thing without a component of snobbishness. It is an earned right though and so long as it’s not utilized against anyone else, is permissible. I like all kinds of cities and feel the better ones all have something visually to offer by way of inspiration.   The older ones, aside from their obvious architectural attractions, have their winding streets and the sense of happy ghosts. The newer ones, a vertical frenzy, which  when done right is a poem, when wrong (as is the growing case with San Francisco) a generic sprawling mess of metallic stalagmites.

I tried some new things with both these collages. Both are 12×17. As is always the case, I used no digital magic. My trusty scissors & adhesive applied by brush to photos which I took. Two urban valentines of a favorite city.

 

“Our Story” & “What Do You Need Two Lighters For?”

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Boo-Boo’s Birthday & Other Tales

Currently I am working on a large 22×30 painting. Before & after, i refresh myself by working on my sculptures and collages.  I received so many compliments on my triptych that I decided to continue my challenge/explorations by doing a diptych. I was curious what it would be like to work even smaller, so the two sections of it are 5×9. (smallest so far for me!)

As i continue to refine my technique I have found that I do not go about creating my collages in the same way right across the board. I have a few techniques which I switch back and forth from depending upon the size & images of collage.

Regardless of the size or images I prefer a density of composition & the feeling of an open ended narrative. This allows the viewer to return time and again to the work and find new things, new threads of thought.

My process is old school. I use my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush. There is never any digital magic and I utilize images from photos which I personally took.

“Pinks, Blues & golds. Silhouette sprinkles, the lights all turn to cake. Good or bad everyone is committed to their midnight.” B-Day W.Wolfson

 

“Boo-Boo’s Birthday” 12.5×9 (1st diptych) & “What Do You Need Another Lighter For?” 12×17

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Paper

I had unintentionally lucked out. Where I lived in Paris had five art supplies stores all within a five to ten minute walk. Each was good for specific things.

One aspect of all which was nice was that each was for working artists, this was reflected in the pricing, quality and selection. All the places were “historic” except the one closest to me. This one was still good though, it just meant the Soutine had never bought his pencils nor charcoal there.

All the staff at each place are artists themselves but they are almost shy about it. There is none of the (sometimes) overbearing networking as occurs in North America. I became Pals with Quintin. He finally showed me some of his work. intricate ink on paper works. I did not just offer up the small talk compliments but discussed technique with him which cemented our friendship.

After that, for years, every time I went into his shop I would get the sale price plus employ discount on my basket full of stuff.

A few years ago I went in early in the morning on my way to an afternoon of sketching and heavy lunching. We chatted and at first he seemed distracted but after a few minutes of talk it became clear it was more a type of embarrassment.

He was going to follow a girl he liked, really liked, to Ibiza where he would also work on his graphic novel. It was unclear if they would take him back on the staff when he eventually returned to Paris. I should load up as much as possible now as to take advantage of the deep discount.

It was the end of an era. Most likely a mistake on his part but that and/or an over earnestness is right of passage for youth as they find their way. I put things in my basket, he handed me blocks of watercolor paper. Seeing me doing math in my head, assured me not to worry about it.

Standing at the counter i knew to let the woman behind me go first, feigning to have forgotten something.

We were alone now, we shook hands. He turned around and grabbed a bunch of stuff off the backboard which he put in my swollen bags. Shaking hands, we exchanged information.

Back in my studio looking at all the stuff he gave me, I was pretty sure they would not be having him back. I had blocks of 7×10 French cotton paper which became one of my mainstays. I had so much of it that it lasted me several years.

I am constantly, from piece to piece switching what paper I use as it keeps things fresh. I do not know how it works for others but in my head i envision a piece before executing it and this vision includes its size too. This has kept my piles of paper dwindling but at a leisurely pace.

Despite plans already solidified, shelter in place finds me on the wrong side of the ocean, Paris right now for me as for most, just a magical daydream. I am very fortunate to be able to continue to work though. My stateside studio has taborets full of supplies.

Since I am going to be around, as i mulled over a new piece I carefully emptied them as to dust inside them. Something which was more busy work to contemplate by than actually needed. To my surprise I found that I had finally reached the end of my Quentin paper! It is all right I have plenty of other paper but this was, for me, the best cotton paper.

I decided to get a new paper to try, a 9×12 non-cotton paper. Right off the bat I enjoyed using the paper. It handles different from my French cotton paper but still enjoyable. Using the new paper, despite all going on, I get that familiar pleasure of serving the process & my craft. I hope Quintin is on some Spanish beach with his hippy chic drinking wine and looking out at the sea, I hope that I find myself walking around my arrondissement sooner than later.

 

“Blue Pillow” 9×12 Watercolor & Paper (new paper)

“Hand Selfie” 8×5 watercolor & Paper

 

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