Lola Wants To Kiss

I do prefer working on smaller pieces but I feel it important for all artists to leave their comfort zone as it fosters evolution. Pre pandemic I had bought several large hand cut pieces of paper in different styles (cold pressed/hot pressed/cotton etc) with no immediate idea what I would do with them.

This was my first time with this paper which is 22×30 hot pressed and not cotton. It handled very differently but I am pleased with the results. The photo taken was with my phone as to give the viewer the gist of it, the skin in person (or had i a better camera) practically radiates a heat of blood flowing just below the surface.

 

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Magic Hat #2

In the past I have written extensively about how the ready availability of cameras via our phones have made people forget how to look at paintings. People want the same realism in painting that they can achieve with their phones.

This has had a ping-ponged effect  to the mentality of a lot of painters. They seem afraid or embarrassed to have a painting or drawing look “merely” like that. It is pursuit of the hyper realism that makes many works by artists who have chops look freeze dried or still born.

The best authors have always been the best readers (diverse and ever exploring & expanding their taste). Painters have their own version of this, which is looking at art. The internet & amazon make it so that even with sheltering in place, one can have a wealth of images at hand to peruse. And there is no longer any restrictions in regards to what one likes or pulls inspiration from. Read any biography on previous eras and the new had to reject the old or  face harsh criticisms from peers & critics. Now it is possible to catch a spark from both Rothko & Frans Hals and no one would care. It’s a freedom that’s invaluable.

With no chance of doing my yearly European museum crawl this year, i have delved back into my sizeable collection of art books. Even had i only looked at the images, it served as an empowering reminder:

“It is ok for a painting to look like a painting.”

I recently had done a collage where i sought to intentionally make something beautiful for everyone to look at. I have just finished a series of collages and decided to do the same thing with a painting. I was helped in this by utilizing a long time model, her comfort making it natural, the organics adding to the beauty. I just used my cell phone to take the photo, it gives you the gist of the work but in person (or with a better camera) there is more going on).

9×12 Watercolor & Paper “Beauty; Magic Hat #2”

 

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Blue on Blue

I wanted to make something beautiful but which also gave the viewer no hint as to its size. I will always eschew the standard poses and traditional idea of beauty. It is boring and all blurs together. For me, the real will always be beautiful. A true emotion, bodies and flesh as encountered in everyday life.

This piece is 5×8 Watercolor & Paper “Blue on Blue”

 

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Nocturne

Everyone’s phone now gives them the ability to take great photos & movies. This is a blessing and a curse. It is nice to capture something, especially when on the road that one wants to show friends. The downside to this is, go to any big city in Europe and you see tourists so busy hunting the perfect instagram shot that they are not actually there in the moment. Ambient sights, sounds and smells are  not absorbed into memory. The old adage that “travel broadens the mind” is a sort of shorthand for being open to experiences and impressions so that they add to you and become part of you. I’ve seen some lovely shots of Paris on friend’s social media sites but when asked about their travels, they can not convey anything aside from the day of their trip they were at the local.

This is not recent news though. Another less apparent negative effect is that, with the ability to snap a photo of anyone, hundreds of photos of a night out with new friends, people under a certain age have forgotten or never learned how to look at a painting.

The relationship between painter and model/subject is not supposed to be one of exacting reportage. Ideally, it is as if the painter is describing the model but using their own words. Words in this case being the painter’s style. Because of the ability to document in photos, a person, people want an exacting reproduction all done in hyper realism. (like their phone photos)

When Matisse painted a woman reclining on a couch, you knew her foot was her foot but you would never dream of doing an  anatomical study from it. Largely, people do not want to see a painting which looks like a painting, where brush strokes are evident as is the artist’s hand. With my recent foray into social media, i have met some wonderful painters who are held back by trying to make their work look too real, too exacting and so stillborn. “Painterly” aesthetics is currently not as appealing to the masses as overly processed and perfected type thing which could be a glossy Haute couture ad.

Some museums during shelter in place have been offering free virtual tours. In a recent New Yorker column, Peter Schjeldahl, one of the finest living authors on art, suggested that viewing art online was not great. He drew the ire of many. There is though a huge difference between seeing an image of a work and actually being there. The digital image, even when shot in high definition still has factors which effect its appearance and impact such as the aspects of the device one is looking on. And the reality of looking at photos of paintings online, more often than not there will not be a sense of communion since chances are one has the television on or other distractions, the myth of multi-tasking. If one goes to a museum, instagram moment hunting aside, ostensibly you are there to experience art and nothing else. There is just an indescribable aspect to being in a building, in the same room as a work with it in front of you and others around you. There is not a “feeling” seeing it flattened out on a device’s screen. It gives the gist of a piece at best, it is akin to hearing a recorded voice not the voice speaking in the same space as you.

I get great pleasure in portraying human flesh in my works. How i do it is not a matter of degree of chops but intentional. It’s painterly and expressionistic. To do close up parts, it almost borders at times on abstraction. I have done pieces, close ups, where there is not the guide-indication of an eye or finger to tell of a body. It is even more abstract yet there is something fleshy about it. I feel very fortunate to be able to work the magic the makes a white square seem as if it has volume & mass, heat of blood flowing just below the skin.

Nocturne Watercolor & Paper 5×8 inches

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Tan Lines

9×12 watercolor & paper

During having to stay home she took sun baths on her balcony. From there she could see into my studio window, watching me work. Hers was one of many faces who while away the time taking in the mellow rays of the sun, which after an hour or so almost managed to trick the body into thinking everything is all right,  watching me work. when I finished a piece I would turn it towards window so she could see what I had been working on. shyly at first, she started informally modeling.

To me, the real is always beautiful. It facilitates emotions which in turn allow the viewer to return to a work over and over without becoming bored.

The size of my works is intentional. Their size helps bolster the feeling of happening upon a scene from an open ended story. Shelter in place has shown a lot of us that our living space is smaller than we realized. The wall sized pieces so often emphasized make a collector live under the piece and not with it. The larger size and familiarity also eventually creates the effect of a work just becoming first visual static, then merely a wall. My smaller pieces engage the viewer as one is making the choice to look at it rather than having it loom over them.

I also keep in mind the burgeoning collector who is just starting to collect. Large pieces, especially for an apartment dweller can dictate the style of the collection while also limiting the amount which can be displayed. I want my works to be able to be included in a collection as it and the collector’s tastes grow.

Ultimately bigger is not better, there is just more of it.

 

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Schnabel Flag & A Portrait

I decided to  switch to mostly using cloth napkins. While sheltering in place it makes it a little nicer when finding oneself at the same table meal after meal. When the second wave of people being sick hits and those without empathy become even more animalistic than they had shamefully been during the initial outbreak,  (paper napkins) it will be one less thing I have to worry about being hoarded and unenviable to me. I ordered a few extra packs online so i am not perpetually washing them.

One pack i got looked like the pattern of the type of pajamas Julian Schnabel wears out in public. By coincidence the night before they arrived I had a dream that he had come over. I had made tagliatelle with my Palermo sauce.  After eating we sat at the table not bothering about clearing it, talking. I doodled on a napkin. When it was time to go home, without asking permission, he took my napkin doodle .

I took one of these Schnabel napkins and tacked it to my studio wall like a flag. A flag under which I serve, a flag of a conquered nation. A totem that there are others out there who also live to serve the process.

 

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I just completed this portrait. I used multi-media paper. The most important aspect for all my work is that emotion comes through. The true is always beautiful and i do not think in my ever growing body of work there is one face that is not.

“This Moment” 9×12 Watercolor & Paper

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Hero

This is the face of a nurse showing the effects of wearing a mask 65 hours worth of shifts in six days. She is one of many heroes putting it on the line for strangers asking for nothing, no glory or even mention, in return.

 

There will be no parades, nor most likely can we ever adequately thank all who acted without hesitation to try to make a difference. In my more jaded moments, I imagine once this is over, people like her finally wearily able to take a moment to sit down as throngs of people rush past them, not even slowing down as to get to the store to buy armloads or microwave pizza pockets or to the beach to take side standing poses to post on Instagram. That’s probably at least for North America, close to the truth. The hope however is that going forward  we find a better way from how we were as a society, “returning to normal” not necessarily a good thing.

I thank and salute these people regardless of how collectively they are treated after the fact.

 

This is watercolor on 9×12 paper. I used a brand new paper which I liked and will continue to use.

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Green Clogs

The nature of fame has changed. Like a lot of things, it’s properties are no longer agreed upon facts. Where once it was tied in more with the possessor’s talents and the work put into achieving the abilities, now it is often more align with coveting the “fame”.

The reality star/internet influence is largely the ultimate ambition of an entire generation. A main element of this phenomenon is the “look at me/look at what I have” aspect. It allows for feeling good about oneself without having to really work (i.e practice to become the best guitarist et al). This new fame is done by of looking down on those without while also being watched.

Social media (Instagram etc etc) is full of postings of people showing others their fab lives even if it’s largely artificial. People taking photos of their tropical vacation, Parisian jaunts. (mostly) They are not trying to show you the poetry of the sights but rather what they have that you don’t, where they are but you are not.We should all try to be the best version of ourselves but this is perversion of that concept, people putting forth an idealized, artificial version.

There is a company now where you can rent a private jet by the hour, it doesn’t go anywhere, it is for photo ops, so you can post photos of yourself chin on hand gazing out plane window or leaning back in plush leather seat champagne in hand smiling at the start of your adventure to nowhere.

The zeitgeist? Immediately pre pandemic a celebrity gave her boyfriend half a million dollars in cash, putting it up on social media. Putting aside whether the money was earned, in what way is any purpose served aside  from “look what I have”? (although Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say it, and the proper translation is brioche not cake) if ever there was a “Let them eat cake” moment that was it. Art should inspire. Even bad art can inspire as the viewer feels that they can make a better painting, write a better song etc. There is no discernible culture involved in any of this. For now we all live in self imposed exile and the “celebrity” peacock(ing) to some extent continues, albeit from living rooms and bedrooms.

My studio windows face a new building with the same color scheme as mine. People go out onto their little Juliet balconies to drink coffee and smoke. They are too far away to talk to but we have now all become part of each others daily lives via our mutual observation. I can chat while painting but I am also simultaneously absorbed into the process so I do not mind being a show for neighbors.

It will be interesting once we are all through this, to see whose values change.

Of course I have no idea of their web presence and its content but I have yet to see anyone leaning back against the railings of their balcony glass champagne in hand looking up, duckbill faced to raised phone, snapping a selfie.

One of them, i have noticed seems to have learned my easel working hours. We have a tacit understanding, I do not mind her watching and I do not ogle her when, on sunny days she walks around in the nude. We sealed our social contract with a series of casual waves.

I have started working big. I will not switch the usual scope of my pieces but I like the occasional challenge to keep things fresh. I slip a larger piece into my oeuvre now and then. I am still learning my preferred paper, trying a new one with each large piece.   I do have my method down and size too. The large pieces are all 22×30.

Regardless of size and subject of my piece, I seek to convey beauty from the real.

 

“Green Clogs” 22×30 Watercolor & Paper

 

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M Shelter in Place

The building across the way from my *studio, I had used images of it in my last large collage. I knew to Wait for no one to be around as to not have my phone being pointed in that direction misconstrued.

When it is my painting hours I am now sometimes watched by others  from their Juliet balconies. At first it was just something for them to do while getting some air, cup or coffee or smoke in hand. After first week of this i know there developed some curiosity about what I was working on.

Now, when I finish a piece I turn it towards the window so that they may from their concrete and steel nests, see it.

I am currently working on a large 22×30 painting. I must go slower as its new paper to me and the weather has been wet. So far I am pleased with the results.

During tough times I think it important anyone capable of creating beauty to do so. Not as a means of distraction but rather a reminder of what we eventually will return to once the crisis is over (beauty/culture). It is the reaffirmation that as long as the night seems, there will eventually be a dawn.

Beauty & culture also serve as a reminder during a crisis of who we are, not merely people trying to survive but a small part of a greater whole.

*I have live/work studio and am not breaking quarantine

This piece is 9×12 Watercolor & Multi Media Paper.

 

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