way down

So I've finally, finally been able to complete a new painting! This is Way Down in the Valley, a kind of spiritual successor to The Valley, which I completed a few years ago. It has the same elements, double portrait with skullheads, but this one is, um, better. 

These figures started off looking like this. Why would I create extremely detailed faces just to cover them with skull paint, you ask? Because I am quite out of my mind, obviously. But from a practical standpoint, it looks better. After all, if you apply face paint, you're applying it to a preexisting surface, full of color and texture, which will inform what the end result looks like. So that's what I did here. I created the faces, and then applied the makeup on top. Which I essentially explained in the last post. 

There's also glitter. I haven't used glitter in a while, which is a shame because glitter is singularly fantastic. 

The idea behind this painting is the same as the idea behind The Valley; it's about true love, and how loving someone truly means accepting the darker aspects of their person, going down into the valley with them and accepting the fullness of their personality and psyche, not just picking out the parts you're comfortable with.

pinky


Okay, more fangirlism. I'm sorry.

No, I'm not.

Okay, so here's (probably) the last and most intricate piece I'll be displaying that has to do with Jeff the Killer. After viewing thousands of images of him and his supposed likeness on sites like deviantART, I found myself becoming irritated with many of the images because they seemed totally unrealistic, and I think I'm a hardcore realist at heart. So I decided, as I usually do when something pisses me off artistically, to take matters into my own hands.

This is the result. I first started off thinking about what would happen, after some time, to someone's face after they'd given themselves a Chelsea grin, and figured there would be a lot of scar tissue involved, as well as a considerable amount of regrowth. With a portion of the cheeks open past the natural boundaries of the mouth, someone like Jeff would also probably have something of a drooling problem. Ew. The eyes, of course, which are often portrayed as ringed in soot (the eyelids were, according to the Pasta, burned off with a lighter, though I still think that would cause irreparable damage to the eyeball itself), though after time they would only be surrounded by more scar tissue. I've seriously never thought about facial mutilation quite this much before.

The face itself is modeled after my own. One of the reasons why I like this character so much is because one of the core themes of his story is the concept of beauty, of finding one's own definition of beauty against societal odds, and relentlessly pursuing that idea. Thanks to my own body modifications, I've experienced the OH MY GOD WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOURSELF quite a number of times. It's hard to explain to someone who has a very fixed idea of what is and is not beautiful you idea of beauty, that beauty is subjective, not objective, and that one idea of beauty is no more or less valid than another. I also know how it is to feel as though the physicality you have is a liability, and how it feels to want to confront peoples' shitty and exploitative concepts of (female) beauty in an aggressive manner. There was one time, a long time ago now, when I had a passing fantasy about cutting my face open like that. I really did--I even wrote about it when I used to keep a journal. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. Nothing ever came of it because I have better self-control than that, but it's still part of my history.

If you don't know, a very distilled version of the Jeff story is that Jeff mutilated his own face and subsequently thought of himself as beautiful. This concept of challenging the commonly-held ideas of beauty, of forcing people to look at something they've been trained to see as ugly as something beautiful is interesting to me, because I do believe that the truly beautiful things are the things that make you think and feel deeply--and often, the truly beautiful things are going to make you uncomfortable, make you afraid, and make you hurt. You don't escape from real beauty unscathed. As I've said before, when it comes to creating art, I find it much more fulfilling for everyone to create something that is uncomfortable but stirring than pleasant but superficial. Beauty and terror and ugliness and transcendence, to me, are all wrapped up in another as facets of the human experience.

I also should tell you that I am way over-analytical and make a big philosophical deal out of things like Creepypastas.

And because of all that, Jeff looks something like me, with big lips, freckles, unkempt black hair, and dark circles under the eyes. I gave him light eyes, though, as it fit better with the original image. He's also got a tattoo for some reason, I couldn't tell you why, but I think it stemmed from needing something dark at the base of the image to balance out the hair.

From a technical standpoint, this is the first time I've used gloss medium (clear) on wood, which allowed me to work with the natural forms of the wood, which was nice. Besides, wood knots, like the one seen here, have a way of insinuating itself through many layers of paint, and so I figured I would work with it rather than fight it. I chose a pink scheme because it seemed natural, plus I really like what pink glazes do for skin tones. Because of the pink and the sort of low-brow inspiration for this piece, it's being categorized in the Trash body.


Today I bought another one of these wooden ovals so that Jeff can have a companion.

the fifth dimension makeover episode




It was apparently a time for re-doing things. Sometimes spending some time apart from a piece of work allows you to see more clearly the problem areas, and then you can go back in and make the necessary adjustments. First up was Caligula Rape Face and his non PC title. Which is still the same, mind you. The original image, which I've uploaded here, was completed some time last summer (I think), and I was only partially pleased with it. But after spending so much time together, I couldn't think critically about it. So recently I gave him some major reconstructive surgery and I'm liking how he turned out. I fixed the face to better resemble the person it's based on, added detail to the face and hand, made the hair fluffier and added a yellow color, and made the body stand out more by adding white and blue glazes to the preexisting pink ones. I also fancied up his cross necklace a bit, and changed the bird skull into a rabbit skull. And of course I added MOAR glitter and some cute little pink heart sequins to the bottom. And yes, I'm still using Martha. I'm really happy with the face now, and the original looks totally crappy by comparison. This is also the first oil painting I've (re)completed in a while, which is a nice feeling. The next image isn't so much a re-do as a different version of a sketch. The original Sepsis, Sugarplums and Blood is a simple pencil sketch from my sketchbook (there's my curly little handwriting at the bottom), and was drawn after a weird night with some friends. I later developed it into a water media piece, using watercolor, ink, watercolor pencil and gouache on Arches paper. I didn't originally intend for them to have neon hair like that, but I like how it turned out. Also, I once did have purple hair like that. What I like about the two of these when seen side by side is the facial expressions, which are all different, but equally likeable. Each picture communicates a distinct mood, with the pencil sketch being somewhat sadder and more nihilistic (which was kind of how I was feeling after said night with friends), and the water media one is happier. I also thought the fly on the orange-haired one was a nice addition. That was Beast Boy's idea.

trashback 3: politically incorrect


So here's another Trash item that was supposed to have a mate that I never got around to finishing. It's full of Martha Stewart glitter and religious imagery and general debauchery. If I don't upload it now it'll never get uploaded, so here you go.

This is Caligula Rape Face. At least, that's been its working title for a while now. It's not terribly politically correct of me, is it? I'll often come up with shitty names for paintings while I'm working on them, usually out of sheer annoyance, and they either will or won't stick after the painting process is complete. This one stuck, perhaps unfortunately. I don't know what to tell you.

Anyway, this is a stand-oil painting made with like an entire tube of alizarin crimson and Martha Stewart glitter in Tourmaline (which is a mineral and actually comes in a variety of colors, but Martha is referencing the dark pink kind, I guess). Collaged into the top corners are Jesus, left, from the Godescalc Lectionary, and Shiva.

You'll notice that the figure, which was derived from a photograph, is wearing pearls. This painting taught me something: painting pearls is annoying. The bird skull, however, was a lot of fun. On the whole, the painting, part of the underrepresented Trash body, is about holy debauchery and general sacrilege.

I don't know how much I like this painting really, and there's an off chance that I may return to work on it, making improvements here and there, refining it a bit, but I felt for honesty's sake that its current form should be shown. Maybe one day I'll even get around to finishing its partner painting. Stranger things could happen.

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.

ladybug death cult


So, wow, I can't believe I forgot about this one. I sort of took for granted that it was posted here.

This was completed in the winter of 2009-2010. It shows the secretive Ladybug Death Cult, a religious society that worships the ladybug as a symbol of death and transcendence. They are rumored to practice human sacrifice...

36 X 48 inches, oil, collage and glitter (Martha Stewart, of course) on canvas. It was actually inspired by the fact that during the winter in which it was painted, scores of ladybugs came into our house, looking for warmth, and promptly starved to death, leaving their spotted little corpses everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Finding a ladybug used to be exciting, and I still like them, but that experience destroyed some of the magic.

Anyway, this painting hangs in my room, near The Pardoner, and looking very nice against my pink walls. Enjoy.

trashback




If you look to the right hand side of this blog, you'll see a quip about cupcakes in the "About Me" section. It's true. I do find cupcakes, and all gooey baked goods, for that matter, to be somewhat sinister. I don't know why. Something about all that prettiness and sweetness...you just know it has to have a dark side.

I made these paintings a few years ago, when I was tired of using the darker, more jewel-like tones of the medieval-style paintings and wanted to do something a little brighter. I was also interested in the idea, especially after working with ideas informed by sacred art, of the line between high and low culture.

So I went out and bought some glitter.

Because glitter, many believe, has no place in good, grown-up art. It's for kids. But I say not so. First of all, I don't use just any old glitter. I use Martha Stewart brand glitter, which is seriously the highest-quality glitter I have ever seen, and comes in a wide variety of colors not generally associated with glitter (olive green and brown, for instance). I also bought Martha Stewart brand cupcake wrappers, some of which were collaged onto this painting and some of which were used to make actual cupcakes. Martha has a section dedicated to her wares in craft stores like A.C. Moore and Michael's, and a good time can be spent there pondering over how anyone could come up with this stuff. Say what you will about Martha, she knows how to make fancy, useless, amazing crap like a pro.

These paintings are the first in which glitter is used. For these, I mixed the glitter with neo megilp, which I had been using for the rest of the glazes, to create a glitter paint. The glitter use, compared to what I've been doing lately, is modest, and even hard to see in these pictures (it's mainly on the wall behind the figures, accenting the designs there). I've also found that I prefer using it with stand oil--because stand oil makes everything better. They are also the beginning of what I've been informally calling the "Trash" line, which uses a lot of pink and glitter and really bad taste as a way to explore the ideas of what taste is, what is acceptable as far as art is concerned, and what kinds of implications arise by using childish (and typically feminine) colors and symbols and calling it art.

The Cupcake Diptych is unfortunately quite delicate. Besides the collaged cupcake papers, there's a brittle batch of gesso underneath which requires they be kept in a safe place (like, not my closet). I'm not, looking back on them, quite satisfied with them as far as the modeling goes, but I can appreciate them, at least. More Trash coming soon!