trashback 2: bitches

I was planning on uploading these images only after the series was complete, but it's looking less and less likely that that will ever happen, so here they are.

These 6X12 inch paintings were originally intended to be a trashy, pinup take on the four horsemen of the apocalypse (I was thinking of calling the series The Four Bitches of the Apocalypse), but I never finished War; she's currently languishing under the couch in my basement/studio next to a bag of staples. Here, however, are Famine, Pestilence and Death, revamped and looking hot.

I was heavily influenced by Tara McPherson and the lowbrow artists at the time, and so we have a lot of bright, bubblegum colors and retro, cartoony themes going on, as well as a heavy helping of the macabre.

In addition, we have some of my recurring themes. Pestilence is an Exterminator, breathing out noxious fumes, exterminating people instead of bugs. This image has actually become a larger piece that looks very similar, only with ladybugs, and is currently in progress. Death is a Skullhead, which is only appropriate, and I've updated her apparatus by replacing the traditional scythe with a .44 Magnum--the Dirty Harry gun. It was my first time painting a gun and it was actually pretty fun. She also kind of looks like me. Famine is really the only all-original character here, and she's sort of a perky college girl gone bad. I used the concept of bulimia and eating disorders to represent famine, a sort of modern look at the way famine manifests in societies like ours.

These paintings also have the unique feature of having the sides of the canvas painted--the part of the fabric that folds around the stretcher bars--though you can't see it here. Some artists do this all the time, but I typically don't. On the practical side, it makes handling and storing the wet paintings very difficult, and I also feel it's a waste of time. Some argue that it eliminates the need for a frame, covering unsightly raw edges, but I don't see the point. Besides, I feel that the sum of the painting should be what is happening on the main surface, and that painting the side creates a distraction at best, and reduces the painting to merely a decorative object at the worst.

But these are merely decorative objects to me, and I think that's what inspired the painted sides. Obviously paintings are decorative objects, and I'm not trying to elevate them far beyond what they are. But to me the side-painting practice seems kind of dumb and cheap-looking. Of course, these paintings are meant to be dumb and cheap-looking, so there you go.

In case you're wondering, War is a cheerleader. If I ever get around to finishing her, I'll post her.

storm country part 1

Finally an oil painting!

This is Big Wind, which is actually the title of a song by Myshkin's Ruby Warblers (but that is not, sadly, up on YouTube), but it seemed apt for this painting. It's oil and collage (dyed leaf skeletons) on fabric and is the first of a subseries within the Home series. This subseries, "Storm Country", is based on the Little Apocalypse monotype series, specifically on one print bearing the same name.

The idea is the decay of Americana, and the future of what was once the promised land. The three paintings star two exterminators, who I've been calling Sarah and Miranda without knowing which is which, who live in a blighted landscape of severe weather and the fossils of the homesteaders who went before them. Here's one of them taking daily meteorological measurements, gauging the day's weather. The thermometer/barometer set-up, the pinwheels, the sunflower and birdhouse are taken directly from the print. The whirligig, next to the pinwheels, is modeled on one I saw on Antiques Roadshow one time.

Appropriately, it is raining violently and occasionally hailing as I write this.

actually, i'm still alive.

Welly, welly well, it's been a while. That's okay though, because that means I have a job and can't sit around on my computer all day.

It also means I've been shamefully remiss about painting, though things are under way and I'm hoping to complete them before the sun becomes a red giant and swallows the earth. (Although at that point, who cares?) I haven't even really been doing any watercolors, having been feeling rather uninspired lately. Here, however, are some pieces I put on my deviantART account but not here.

Up first is a group shot of me and most of my alter-egos. One more came out of the woodwork after this picture was completed, but you'll get to meet her soon. From left to right is an exterminator, a skullhead (a sugar skullhead, to be precise), me, a skullhoodie, and a surgeon.

Next is Beast Boy and his new necklace, because even Beast Boys need to feel pretty sometimes. I really enjoy painting teeth like that.

Both were done with the usual mix of watercolors, watercolor pencils, gouache, ink and colored pencil.


I very much like ovals. They're instantly decorative and pretty, and there's something charmingly old-fashioned about them. They make me think of cameos and lockets and old photographs. I think it's a lovely format. Oval stretchers and canvases, however, can be quite expensive and hard to stretch.

So instead of buying oval canvases, which cost $25 each, I decided to experiment and bought a package of six wooden embroidery hoops of the same size (6 by 12 in. diameter) for about $13 in total from Create For Less, which is a pretty cool crafting site. Many hoops are plastic these days, but they still make wood ones. Embroidery hoops are simple to use, and for painting I recommend tightening the screw with pliers to keep the fabric as taut as possible. Even with this extra tightening, though, expect the fabric to buckle slightly, especially after priming. There isn't really a way around it.

I originally only planned five of these oval paintings, though I do have an extra hoop kicking around, so I may do another in the future. These are made with scraps of fabric from other paintings and projects (like that dress I said I'd make like two years ago). Being small, they were rather painstaking, but they are easily portable and very lightweight--they can be hung on a tack.

I find the embroidery hoops to go well with the concepts I've been working with in the Home body of work--domesticity, tradition, and safety, as well as a nod to children's book illustrations. I also got to give each figure a carefully planned-out set of clothing and accessories.

From the top:
Father's Daughter was the first one I thought of, and is admittedly a bit hipster-ish. But I like it anyway. The deer refers to my dad again, but I think I'm beginning to separate deer into Dad deer and Me deer.

Next is Rabbit Eater, the only male in the bunch. So called because he's going to eat that rabbit. This is the same subject known in other works as "Beast Boy."

Of A Feather is a double self-portrait, and while it would be nice and simple to say that each figure represents a side of myself, that is not the case. Two aspects, maybe, but even then, that's not quite accurate. I think it's really just a nice tea party of narcissism.

Everything Must Someday Die features a cute little skullhead. I kind of picture her in the "goldengrove" of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring & Fall" , except that instead of weeping for the passing of time and the concept of death, she's joyfully part of it.

Finally comes The Smell of Decay, with an exterminator, looking grim and destructive. As exterminators do.

I plan to hang these as a set--they look better together than alone. More big paintings coming soon!

surgeons and exterminators

I think I may have mentioned exterminators in some earlier post, but I don't remember if I got very much into them. So I decided it was time. The idea for exterminators was born one day in my friend's apartment, reading a book he had on graffiti in New York City. I was kind of in an artistic rut at the time--this was well over a year ago--and I came across a picture of an artist spraypainting a wall and wearing a ventilator. I don't remember what she was painting but I remember the mask, and started drawing women and girls with ventilators. (The best inspiration comes from the most random things.) They became known as the exterminators and they're weird and complex and creepy. They also tend to be weirdly sexual, wearing ventilators and not much else. In truth, I don't really know what they're about, just that they are linked to beauty and disease, and seem to thrive in post-apocalyptic settings, where I guess a ventilator might be a good idea, depending on the cataclysm, although sometimes they breathe out noxious fumes. The figures that I've come to call surgeons are relatively new, and seem to have evolved from the exterminators. I don't like them. Or I should say, I don't like her, because as of now there is only one surgeon, the one you see here. She's pretty horrible--I mean, I like how she came out (although her scalpel could have more of a highlight), but I don't like what she represents in me. I have this idea that under her mask she's got a Glasgow grin happening, maybe crudely stitched back together. But that might be cheesy, I don't know. I left any sutures off of her this time because while I think she symbolizes self-destruction, I don't know if she is self-destructive herself, or just encourages others to be. The surgeon is probably the most uncomfortable of the figures I've come up with, and the one I sound the most DID talking about.

The exterminator here is actually left over from the ladybug phase (they haven't returned this winter), and she's a little exterminator, so not a sexy one. I actually think this picture is quite pleasant, especially compared to the surgeon. Both are watercolor, ink and gouache on paper, and both are about 6 X 6 inches. I don't have a lot with exterminators, but I like them, and I'd like to have more of them.

So, yeah, this was kind of a crazy post. Sorry. But it seems I tend to create little characters for the various facets of my personality because that's how I can understand them. Making them physically visual helps to confront them, in a way, and allows me a way of communicating with others. Who knows? Maybe I'll find some more in there sometime.

some small things

Here are some little things. I've been concentrating on large things and I think it's time the little stuff got some love. The three images you see here are three pages from a tiny little art book I've been working on. It's quite small, only about two-and-a-half inches tall. It will, when complete, be eight pages of illustrations like these. I don't generally like to mix text and images, and therefore, no, I don't write comics. People ask me that a lot, since I do the art thing as well as the writing thing, but I've just never gotten into comics and graphic novels. I like to read them, but the truth is, I'm too impatient to make one.

They are made with watercolor, ink (acrylic ink and India ink) and gouache (white, for the highlights) on paper.

Anyway, the pages of the book are kind of like a guide to the symbols that appear in my work. They don't have a direct meaning, but are mutable and dependent on the work in which they exist. These images are the symbols in their purest forms, and illustrate ideas such as power, family, growth, spirituality, sexuality, and emotion. Which, when you think about it, are the things that everybody thinks about and works with, in art and in everything else.