Ten Stone Tea was a bit of an adventure for me. I had been feeling artistically weighed down with a seemingly endless parade of freelance jobs not to mention my full time, nine to five job. After I finally got a little bit of time for myself I decided that to keep myself fresh and to recharge my batteries I would do a painting just for me. This is the result. To tell you the God’s honest truth I wasn’t really sure of what to paint when I started and frankly most of the elements in this painting are stuff I put in on the fly. In the end however everything came together quite nicely and now I have a much stronger appreciation of my subconscious. I would also like to note I was so enamored with the method and the style of this painting I decided this would only be the very first in a long series of paintings that I will at some future date collect into a book and publish.
This is another of my latest, “Painting by the seat of my pants” (Or panting by the seat of my paints…) I’m not sure if it really fits the mood of the previous piece or if it’ll ultimately end up in the “book” but for right now I quite enjoy the feeling of this image. Admittedly the background is a little plain but as fellow artist Jim Goodliff pointed out, it kind of suits the piece. Furthermore I would like to point out that the pattern on the wall is the brainchild of my lovely wife Halima. I had originally planned on putting a row of Trilobite fossils embedded into the wall but after describing the piece to her she suggested using the wishbones instead. Just goes to show that first, one need not be an artist to be creative and second, I’m anything but infallible.
Digital- Painter 8 6 x 8 I’ve always enjoyed self portraits. Not necessarily doing them but looking at what other artists do. I think a self portrait is really an unabashed view of how an artist sees himself, or more to the point how they think the world percieves them. I was recently asked to do an interview for a webzine and as part of the bit I was asked to include a headshot or a self portrait. Because every single photograph ever taken of me makes me look A) retarded B) ugly or C) both, I opted for the self portrait. This is what came out. I guess I think the world sees me as some sort of floaty-head macabre, ghost-pirate that’s into carving numbers on their forehead. Maybe I need to rethink things
Oil on wood 20″ x 16″ I’ve always been fascinated by hummingbirds. Not only with the way they can zip around, stop on a dime and hover there perfectly motionless, (motionless besides their frantically beating wings of course.) but also with their supreme cockiness, their aggressive attitude towards, well, everything, and the fact that they’re about as crazy as a shit-house rat. They kind of remind me of this guy I used to work with. You could be talking about the most offensive, controversial subject known to man and he’d be perfectly fine, but then switch to some seemingly innocuous subject, like Twinkies or how I hate the water pressure in my shower and he’ll go off on you like you’ve suggested something carnal involving his mother and a bushel of pears. So I guess this is my tribute to one individual’s innocent attempt at reaching out to another, to exchange thoughts, ideas, or even just connect on a deeper level, only to have the whole thing blow up in some spectacular fashion. That and crazy people birds.
My recently finished painting “The Exiles” is now available as a limited edition print through publishing gurus A Paper Tiger. The prints measure 12.5 x 14 inches, are printed on archival paper with the latest in giclee technology and are all hand signed and numbered by me. The run is limited so head on over to www.apapertiger.com and pick yours up today!
Oil on board 7 x 7 I’ve always enjoyed the idea that the robots I paint are all part of a series. Not a series in terms of painting, (Okay, they are indeed that, but that’s not what I’m on about.) but a series of robots constructed on some long forgotten factory floor. As part of the realization of that mythos I use very similar designs and design elements over and over. For instance this particular robot is quite similar to the one I painted in “The Discovery”. Though they aren’t identical one can see very clearly that the design of the first informed the design of the second. It’s probably no secret that I’m a huge fan of Star Wars (more to the point I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy. The last/first three movies suck droid ass and should be buried in a shallow grave and forgotten about… Sorry George.) The other day whilst avoiding work I happened across an entire wikipedia-esque website dedicated to the various astromech droids of which the infamous R2-D2 is one. There are any number of R2-D2 clones throughout the six movies varying in color, head shape, personality, etc. and as a kid I knew that these knock offs had differing names, like the ill fated R5-D4 what I didn’t realize then and really didn’t realize up until I found that page was that there’s a whole history of not only the droids themselves but the company that produced them the various pros and cons of each astromech model, how much they cost, which came first, who owned them and on and on and on. It’s that little touch of reality, the reward for those that are willing to look a little deeper and to explore a little further that I find so amazing about pocket universes like Star Wars and it’s why I continually try to push my universes a little further and my stories a little deeper. Will there one day be website dedicated to my robots extolling their virtues and exploring their various sagas? One can only hope. In the mean time while we’re all waiting for that website to pop into existence, take comfort in the fact that out there somewhere there’s another robot clanking off the factory floor and taking its first steps into a swiftly expanding universe.
I’m sure you’ve all had a pet that died. It’s just part of the growing up experience that seems to be prevalent throughout society. This image was created with that very concept in mind. Or that’s what I had intended… You see, here is another fine example of why I try to let the viewer have the reigns when it comes to interpreting the message of the piece. Though I had originally intended to make the piece about the sudden shock and depression of finding a pet, (Mr. Bubbles) dead on the eve of his very first birthday, I’ve had a number of people give me alternate interpretations. Some think the birthday is for the robot, some think that the robot hasn’t figured out that his pet is dead and is carrying on with his party regardless, and one enterprising viewer decided that the whole thing was a commentary on Man’s overt abuse of nature. In the end I guess they’re all right and each interpretation is as valid to the person making it as mine is to me. Like I’ve said before, I’m not trying to change the world here, just make a connection and if you get anything at all from this piece, then I’m doing my job.
The Discovery… There’s actually a funny little story behind this piece… I’ve had a very similar doodle of that robot on a post-it note sitting on my desk at home for almost a year. It was one of those off the cuff ideas that wasn’t wholly formed but interested me enough to keep it around. Right before starting this painting I was casting about for ideas, rediscovered the doodle and thought, “Hey this would be a fun piece to do”… That’s when things started downhill. Originally I wanted the robot to be a Cyclops. It was a vague attempt at trying to keep the humanity of the beast a little more subtle as I thought that would make him seem less “intelligent” and thus would make gag funnier, but after doing the drawing I realized that he looked so much like the character, Plankton, from Nickelodeon’s “Sponge Bob Square Pants” animated extraveganza, that I had to modify the face. No real concern yet, just one of those irritating problems that arise when doing art. Then I started on the color study… I couldn’t ever seem to hit the right combination of colors. I wanted a little bit of a two tone scheme to the robot but didn’t want to make it too vibrant or plasticy looking. I must have spent hours making new layers and pushing the values and shifting the colors trying to really sell the thing, yet everything I did made the him look crappier and crappier. The number, normally an easy element to place, moved all over the piece, from the side of his head, to the front of his head, to a building in the background until finally landing on the poster. Even the composition and position of the robot kept changing. (Even now one of his hands is still significantly larger than the other. An artifact of me not paying attention as I move and resize bits and pieces of the prelimenary drawing.) Once I finally got the color study nailed down I started on the final painting but somehow completely forgot how to mix paint. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the right colors into the image. It was either too magenta, too turquoise tooyellowtoogreentooblue… all bad. I had almost finished the entire painting when I realized that if I didn’t do something drastic this piece was going to kill me and be the literal and figurative end of my entire art career, so I sat down, took a deep breath and repainted the entire robot, the fence, some of the clouds and a few of the buildings in the back. The results were exactly what was needed. The entire piece came together in one evenings work. Much more pleased with myself and the painting I was almost done. The only thing left to do was fill the blank spot on the side of his head where the number was originally going to go. I didn’t want to put another number in there as these robots have a silly ruleset I came up with when I started the series and as a result can only have the one number per image. I thought of any number (no pun intended.) of things to put there and finally decided a kanji character would sell the piece, so I went online and searched for hours for something that would work. I wanted it simple and I wanted it meaningful to the piece, a multilayered touch to finish out the experience and a subtle treasure for those willing to hunt. But no matter how many websites I went to I couldn’t find the perfect character. The next day at work I sought out the help of a co-worker who’d spent a fair bit of his life living in Japan and knew quite a bit of kanji. I explained to him my predicament so he sat down and started riffing off characters, still nothing fit until finally… “Here’s one, this character means tree, and when I draw a box around it, do you know what that is?” “No.” “Tree in a box… It means ‘problem’.” Perfect.
Oil on wood 16 x 20 I use symbols in my painting a lot. I enjoy playing off people’s pre-established notions of the world and as such I can vaguely direct their emotional state with my imagery, so, when they’re looking at one of my paintings they’re not just looking, they’re experiencing. Of course this assumes a lot. First, a viewer will feel the same way about a given symbol. I try to get around this by using really broad concepts that all people seem to have a generally similar reaction to. Life, death, love and hate are good examples. Second, that a person will be able to readily associate all the disparate symbols of an image into a logical whole. This is a little more difficult and I try not to play too heavy a hand in this process. As I’ve stated before, I’d much rather a person bring their own ideas to an image rather than feel they are being dictated to. However, that aside, an artist needs to at least send the viewer down a general direction before leaving them to their own devices. Titles, I feel, play a significant role towards getting this done, they act as a kind of key to the image. They are the final piece that helps the viewer pull the image together and adds that final little touch, like a single note struck on a tuning fork that sets the tone for the chords to follow. To wit, I spend a great deal of time coming up with titles for my pieces. Too much information and the mystery is lost, too little and the title might as well not even be there to begin with. Sometimes the process goes smoothly and sometimes, as was the case here it’s quite taxing. I must have gone through at least ten to fifteen different titles, trying them on, letting them sit for fifteen minutes to a day, and then ultimately discarding them as not quite right. In a moment of pure panic I even, I’m embarrassed to say, thought about naming it “free bird”. Ultimately “A Vexing Quiet” stuck. It’s not the best title I’ve ever penned but it seems to fit the image on multiple levels. It also seemed to fit an image that struggled so greatly and almost in vain to find its voice. Symbolically that is.
I believe one of the main tenets of art is that at its core it is, pure and simple, communication. It is a connection between an artist and a viewer encapsulated, and shot across space and time to fulfill it’s role. I also believe that to truly create the strongest connection possible the artist must abandon the concept of dictating an idea while inversely the viewer must bring to the painting their own interpretation thus breaking from the traditional role of “passive observer” and stepping boldly into the shoes of “active participant”. As an artist, and a strong believer in the words penned above I revel in interpretations of my paintings and am continually amazed at the creativity of my audience. Telephone poles become crosses, numbers take on hidden meaning, robots become angels and fish are the reincarnation of gods… All true, all valid, yet would those interpreters feel any different should I tell them that the pole was to fill a space, 12 was just an arbitrary number, and frankly, I just happen to really like painting fish?
Oil on wood panel 10 x 14 Every time I take a stroll through some posh metropolitan area, replete with their trendy little boutiques and art galleries, (It’s a hobby of mine, get over it.) I’m continually amazed by the sheer amount art with fruit as the main subject, and even more amazed at how a majority of that art is about pears. Sculptures, paintings, drawings, fountains, prints, of every imaginable size, color and style all gaudily displayed with a majesty quite unfitting for… fruit. I mean seriously, I love a good piece of fruit as much as the next guy and yes, I’ll admit that even I, once in a great while, have made the exclaimation, “Damn, that was a good pear apple tangerine guava etc.” but I’ve never really found it to be so amazing that I needed to imortalize it in paint. So here it is, my answer to fruit portrayed in art. The king is dead people! Throw it in the bin, chuck it to the side of the road, put it into a smoothie or a nice pie or bread but for god’s sake quit painting the stuff! Of course I’m completely discounting the fact that to fully illustrate my ire towards fruit portrayed in art I had to portray fruit in art… Ah the irony.
This ludicrous chap is yet another image for my seemingly endless “100 Robots” project. Though I’m pretty happy with the way this image turned out he hasn’t gotten as great a public response as “Mr. Bubbles’s Birthday”. Perhaps the inherent emotions in the death of pet outweighs that of the tired, “brain in a blender” schtik. Perhaps it’s that people are less willing to connect with the idea that our simple pleasures may be our undoing. Or maybe they just didn’t like this piece as much as the previous one. What’re ya going to do? I guess what they say is true, you just can’t be “on” all the time. To that, I’ve only got this to say. Though I admit I have my moments as long as I’m louder then the guy next to me most of the time, I’ll be happy. Also there’s an old step by step still active on the old site which will show you, in exacting detail, the silly way in which I work.