So I'm shirking my "Artists You Should Know" habit, but my brain is somewhat fried and I already know what to say about this piece, which I banged out on a whim. Next time.

In the meantime, have this.

I'm calling it With A Knife With A Bigger Knife, which comes from one of my favorite moments in The Venture Bros. It's oil, leaves, pen and bloody tissue on canvas. Yes, it's real blood, but it's not mine. And yes, I know using bodily fluids in art is very "art school," but at least it's not period blood, so that's a start.

I used acrylic gloss medium to glue and seal the tissue down to the canvas, which caused it to bunch up and shred a bit, but creates an interesting texture. Unlike my actual paintings, I didn't have a set plan for this one, and frankly I'm surprised that I'm pleased with the result, because usually when I don't plan ahead, it's a disaster.

I sketched out the portraits of me and Blood Donor in Micron pen, and doodled in some atmosphere and vegetal forms with oil, and applied some dyed leaves, again with gloss medium. 

Honestly? I have no idea about this one. 

I like it, I'm sure of that, but it seems to serve as kind of a place holder between larger, more serious pieces. It's a fairly straightforward double portrait of me and the boyfriend. We like knives. It was admittedly kind of a throwaway piece. It's very small, only about maybe 9X9 inches, and served as something of an experiment.

It's also thematically related to a larger piece I have planned, which will use the brown and blue color scheme, the double portrait, and a sense of the cycle of life and death (though this one is more death-oriented) and of being two small people in the world. 

The sad thing is, this is pretty much all I've been able to do now that I have a Grown Up Job which requires forty hours of each week plus commuting. The upside is that my commute is really nice, and part of that is the ability to sleep through parts of it; I take the train. The commute was actually, in part, what inspired the larger piece I mentioned above, as well as some writing. I've also taken a position as a contributor with an online publication, and recently got my first article published with them. So everything is pretty peachy on the "being an adult" front, but the drawback is that it leaves me less time for painting. Also, the access I had to a digital camera was again shot down by shitty technology, and so this, unfortunately, had to be taken with my iPod, hence the less-than-ideal image quality. I'm hoping to either get one or both of the cameras repaired and, if that fails, get a new camera. Although the prospect of blowing yet another paycheck isn't a welcome one.

And despite the knives, the blood was not acquired through any violence on my part. Today's lesson: don't try to shave when you're drunk.

experiments in fabric

This is the newest in the larger-scale oil paintings I've been procrastinating working diligently on. This one is the largest, at 4 by 3 feet, and represents a few experiments. 

For one thing, it's painted on silk. Normally I work on printed cotton--stuff that I can find for fairly cheap at the local sewing supply store. I bought this piece at Mood Fabrics in the city and loved the pattern. Unfortunately, it's not smooth but has a sort of crinkled texture, which means that the painting has vertical lines running through it. Lesson learned: Buy untextured fabric. 

Silk, at least this silk, is also way more delicate than cotton, and so stretching it was kind of a pain because I was constantly afraid of tearing it, resulting in kind of a loose canvas. The texture also caused a it of a problem here because it allowed the fabric to stretch, but not quite evenly. 

This painting also features a collage in fabric. I had a bunch of oddly-shaped scraps lying around and thought to put them to good use. I think it turned out okay for a first attempt, though I think if I were to do this again I'd try to integrate them a little more into the composition. 

So as far as the painting itself is concerned, it's sort of a sequel to Big Wind, which I already think is positive in terms of its meaning, but this one is even more so. Look, renewable energy! And plump birds! Life is obviously good here. I was inspired to do something with wind turbines after looking at/reading about/writing about them so much for work, I decided I really liked them. They're so white and streamlined and smooth, so seemingly at odds with natural forms, and yet they manage to fit into natural settings so well. NIMBY might beg to differ with me on this, but I like them.

I've also noticed I'm becoming more atmospheric lately when it comes to skies. This isn't a great example, though, as I didn't want to cover up the fabric too much.  

(...also I don't like this new layout very much, Blogger. Why the small font so unreasonably small? Why are there enormous spaces between paragraphs?)

photos of home

While rummaging around in an antique shop in Cold Spring, NY (which by the way has about 10,000 antique shops, but this was the only good one), I found a pile of old photographs going for 25 cents apiece. I bought 25 of them, and talked the woman down to $5 for the lot. Some of them are nice the way they are, and I think I'll just mount them on some nice paper, but some, like these, seemed to need some embellishment.

Here are three of the decorated ones. They are collaged mainly with tracing paper that has been colored with pencils, as well as cut paper, and I've used ink, lead pencil and pen as well. In order, they're called Garden, 1945, and Wonder. I did not label 1945; it came that way. Wonder is my favorite so far, as I feel it really captures what I think of when I think of 1950s America, full of youth and hope and earnestness, but with this undercurrent of fear and impending doom. Wonder is sort of a child's idea of war and widespread destruction as something far away, almost like a fairy tale, romanticized in movies and television and abated in the adult world by those romanticized accounts, and by the idea of being righteous and wholesome. While the kid is thinking about war, it's clear that that kid is still innocent to its realities, but the point is that the society prefers to think of war as a fantasy.

The photos are images of various families, like the people seen in the first and third photo here. I have a few of the woman in Garden, one of which had been hand colored. There are also a few that appear to be photos of someone's WWII combat tour, a mountain, random awkward snapshots of babies and girls and families, and a very faded and weird-feeling nineteenth century group portrait. I would guess that they range in time, excluding the one from the 1800s, from the 1920s through the early 1960s. The woman at the shop told me that most came from a particular estate, and that she knew some information about the woman whose estate it was. I like to think this woman is the woman seen in the first photo here, but there's no evidence for that.

They were someone's memories at one time, but their original meaning has been lost, I suppose. All that's left of what they used to be is the image itself, without further context; all we can understand about them is what we see, and of course what we bring to them, because we are lacking any other information. All you can do is look at them and react emotionally, since that's all you have. And that's what I did here, essentially. I attempted to capture visually the feeling that each photo gave me. Garden is a family blooming out of the snow (see the dog at the far right, just next to the woman's shoulder), 1945 is a summer after a conflict, and Wonder is a child's brightly-colored imaginings about the world at large.

I was also pleased at the preexisting hoodie these pictures gave me.

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.

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.

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.

'tis the season for skullheads

In keeping with the season, I've decided to share some images of both the bounty and the desolation of autumn. Or something. Top: The Harvest, 40X42 in. Bottom, 10X10 in, untitled as of now. I've always liked the fall--I find it refreshing after the summer, like a new beginning, clearing away the old brush and the humidity of the past year. To say that these were made in the fall, though, would not be entirely accurate--the untitled one was made over the summer. I have four other 10X10 canvases that have, over the years, experienced many incarnations. The latest have been these, in the "medieval" style (note humpy black body-masses), with lots of stand oil. I work on these rather casually, usually when I'm done with a larger project and need something to do with excess paint (which is really expensive and so throwing it out is an option I try to avoid). The one you see here is the only one I consider to be complete.

The Harvest is the latest member of the Home family, done on patterned fabric with collage elements. I think it's most similar to The Homestead stylistically, and I've used the same photographs. Like The Homestead, the idea is an ending, or a transition from one phase to another, but the past remains present (in both senses of the word) in the physical features of the place. The mood, obviously, is slightly different; lately I've preferred larger groups of figures to just one. I've been interested in the idea of a cultish little group, something like these skullhoodies, a united force.

Plus they have cake.

more watercolors...

I feel not-quite-great about uploading all these older, smaller works. I want to show off some more awesome large oils, but I've been rather remiss about, um, actually doing the awesome large oil paintings. For one thing, it's been really damp here--the remnants of a tropical storm moving up the coast--and nothing, NOTHING, is drying. There's only so much underpainting one can do. Plus, the basement is dank and unappealing in weather like this.

So here are some watercolors I did a while back. They are all portraits of the same person, taken from memory. Top to bottom: Shiva Reclining, Sugarbear and Spiderverse. All are watercolor, ink and gouache, and the top one has collage elements, taken from magazines. The top and bottom pieces are kind of companions--both are mounted (hastily) on black cardboard and are the same size. Sugarbear is my favorite for mushy reasons; our dear subject walked into our bedroom one afternoon and greeted me in such a manner. The others were more experimental in terms of concept and material, and I'm pleased enough with how they came out.

These were kind of done in a spur-of-the-moment fashion, so I'm afraid there is very little concept or backstory to explain in these, other than that they are visual celebrations of someone very special to me. I tend to be less careful, in a way, when it comes to water media, basically because I can afford it. Oil paints and products are, let's face it, really freaking expensive.

I was thinking of collecting all the small works I've done over the years into some kind of book or something, since right now they're all floating around my room in and subject to violent death and demise and that would really be a shame.

More oils soon. Really.


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 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!

hoodies & home

Long ago, like, sometime in July, I introduced the the hoodie as a staple of my painting symbolism. Here are some more of them. These, like The Protector, The Discovery of a False Moon, and the other paintings on patterned cloth, these three are part of a body of work I call the Home project, which I discussed in the same posting in which I discussed The Protector as being a study of origins, so to speak, exploring the symbols developed in childhood and how they inform life as an adult. The images concentrate on memory as a space, with the objects within that space taking on a symbolic existence, standing in for people, concepts and emotions. HINT: The hoodies are all me. I wear hoods a lot.

From the top:

The Homestead, oil and collage on patterned cotton. Featured here is a homey bird, a plump, goose-like fowl that symbolizes being at home and being content there. We also have more floating trees, which are less involved with symbolism and more a reflection of how I remember treed areas--I can visually recollect the canopies, but often the trunks get forgotten. Basically this is what it looks like in my head when I remember areas with trees. I'm not weird you're weird. Anyway, incorporated into the image are scans of nineteenth-century photographs. (The originals are mounted on a thick cardboard, and I didn't like the idea of using the originals anyway) The photographs came in an album as a gift, and I am completely unrelated to any of the sitters. The painting is about the concept of home, what makes a home and what happens to a home when it is left and its inhabitants forgotten.

The Reunion, oil and collage on patterned cotton. I still don't know how I feel about the name. Besides just being a hoodie, this one is a skullheaded hoodie, or a skullhoodie. I amuse myself. The general reaction, when I showed this, was "Oh, how cute, a little fawn--WHY DOES SHE HAVE A SKULL FACE THAT'S FRIGHTENING." Collage elements are silver leaves, bought on a whim from an art supply store. This is something of a companion piece to the painting below, and deals with the idea of reconnecting with the past version(s) of oneself as a result of introspection, or as a link to personal understanding.

The Bone Gatherer, oil on patterned cloth. Hoodies and deer again. This is kind of the precursor to The Reunion, about delving into, and at times confronting, one's past as a way to figure things out for the future. It's the same hoodie, too, although in The Reunion she seems to have lost her boots. I'm quite pleased with the way the birch trees came out--they have many a layer of white and purple-black glaze.

So basically, the Home project is something of an attempt to communicate to the outside world what it looks like in my head; these are, in a way, still shots of how I remember and imagine (and some combination thereof) things. I'm surprised, in a way, but also quite pleased, with the fact that I am finally able to create these images. There are more Home pieces in the works, though I've been shamefully remiss about my painting. This whole having-a-job thing really cuts into my painting time...