explorations in limited palettes and fan mail

 Well, hello!

This is what working all the time and taking a class and trying to have a social life does to you. That, and the lack of sustained attention that unfortunately comes with the Internet. 

Here are some new(ish) things! The first three explore a limited color palette, using ink and a bit of watercolor. At the top we have a forest spirit of sorts, and evolution of Beastie. Lately I've been liking headdresses, and his has typically been the bones of small animals. He's also been clearly affected by the aesthetics of Sword & Sworcery, with his trigon. This was done using India ink, red watercolor and some black gel pen for the details. 

Below is a painting using much of the same materials, although I think there's some Payne's gray in there in addition to the red. The circles are vaguely Mucha-esque, and were created using a compass. The figures are a take on the medieval figures with their big black robes. 

Next is something I thought of while listening to Grimes' "Visiting Statue" off the (perhaps aptly named) album Visions. I actually had a whole music video mapped out, but as I lack the funding and the willing victims participants to make music videos, I had to make due with a still image. The challenge of this one was to lend a thick, opaque, sculptural look using water media, as well as working on a gray ground. I started by coating a piece of (white) paper with a mixture of white gouache and Payne's gray watercolor, and layering more of that mixture until I got a good ground. Then I painted in the figures and the landscape, and finished with a mixture of white gouache and yellow watercolor for the constellations and circle shapes. I also emailed a copy to Grimes' fan mail, just for fun. 

Finally, we have a painting with a more traditional palette. This came from the idea of the Manitou, an Algonquin concept of an innate spirit present in all things, including people, animals, plants, rocks and even machines. Specifically, it's a reference to Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron off the coast of Ontario, which means "spirit island." The image is just something that sort of popped into my head, of a big sleepy creature-island supporting lots of nature and people. It looks a bit sad, but it's really just sleepy. I'm really happy with this one, and I'd like to find a nice frame for it. 


Finally some oil paintings! Being separated from my oils is rough, I tells you. 

These two are painted on 4inX4in wood panels, which were coated in gloss medium so the grain of the wood is still visible. 

These are my Winterkins, created initially back when the weather was colder, and they're sort of like the embodiments of winter. I was inspired by the recent fashion trend that involves a lot of cultish, quasi-spiritual and occult elements, and the results have been sleeker, starker fashion choices for my figures. As well as a lot of triangles. It's a combination of ancient and medieval symbolism and designs, 1970s-style fantasy illustration, and the more naturalistic elements from my older work. The result is a lot of natural, complex details combined with larger areas of flat, geometric space, and is something I find really aesthetically pleasing. 

They're also portraits. The figures are the same as those in The Universe, and are basically me, in black, and Beastie, in white, along with the things I've come to associate with each of us: trees and crows for me, bones and rabbits for him. 

As for the process, painting on wood is fun. It's nice and smooth. The only downside is that because it's so smooth, it's easy to wipe the paint back off during the painting process if it gets built up too thickly. So these were made using a lot of thin layers and glazes. The other things about very smooth surfaces is that dust and debris show up really easily, so you have to be diligent about keeping them clean. 

I'd like to do another pair for summer (the Summerkins), but I still have to work out their details. They will remain with the same color schemes, though some of the elements may change. 

neon medieval nausea

Holy crap look at these

These are different, right?

Technically, they aren't done. They were created to serve as backgrounds for figures, and are painted in acrylics (although the black is actually India ink), because as much as I dislike acrylics for most things, they are really awesome for a few things, like fluorescent colors and flat areas of color. They also dry quickly and are water-based, which means that oil paints can be applied on top. So these are going to be populated with some medieval-style figures doing mysterious things. As those medievals are wont to do. 

These were inspired by the spiritual landscapes found in manuscripts like the Ebbo Gospels, which are 1,200 years old and incredible, as well as by landscapes in video games like Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery and VVVVVV. They are, I guess, kind of an evolution of Angelus, which was the initial endeavor into this concept. 

Also I've been really into geometry lately. 

I have, admittedly, warmed up to acrylics a bit. They might be fun to use as backgrounds for oil works, and they're nice to use like watercolors in washy, watery ways, too. The fluorescent paints (the pink and orange, in this case) are fun, too, but may cause retinal damage. The third one from the top was literally painful to complete. 

This is the order they go in. They seem to have a loose sort of narrative to them, though nothing too specific. The narrative element will become more apparent with the addition of the figures. It starts with a vision, moves onto a meeting, undergoes a journey, and finds a solution--that's the basic idea, anyway. I prefer to leave these things open ended. 

Currently, these have figures sketched out on them, but here they are in their pristine state. Don't look too long at that pink one, though. 

of wolves and foxes

I had some trouble classifying this painting (and I do so love to classify), because its attributes fall into both the Home and the Medieval categories of my painting. It's on fabric, and features the painting style that I usually use for the Home pictures, but the clothing and composition, as well as the inspiration, are more in keeping with the Medieval style.

The title, Ai Vis Lo Lop, is Old Provencal and translates to "I saw the wolf." It's also the title of a song, which was the inspiration for this piece. Here are the wolf and the fox, meeting under the tree. There's also a rabbit mentioned in the song, but I think they ate it. Fun fact: the term "seeing the wolf" was also a slang term for losing one's virginity. So take that as you will.

I had a lot of fun painting this one, and I'm very happy with how the faces came out in particular, and I tried to keep them as close to the sketch as possible. I really like using pink in faces. That's me on the left as a little black fox, and Beastie on the right as a gray wolf. This was also the first time since I was about six that I've drawn anybody with animal ears, and I was a bit apprehensive about it, especially after seeing all the furry/anthro/neko-neko-kawaii bullshit the Internet has to offer. I like them, though, and I was thinking of it in terms more of medieval-style pageantry than literal anthropomorphism.

dolls are fun

So I was looking through dA the other day and I noticed that people were doing really interesting things with Mattel's "Monster High" line of dolls. If you don't know, Monster High is this god-awful franchise involving teenage-girl versions of classic horror movie monsters. They all dress like hobags and the animated series actually causes brain damage. Seriously. It makes My Little Pony look like Shakespeare.

SO I convinced Boyfriend to come with me on a quest to WalMart to find one of these hideous little dolls. The Monster High section had been completely demolished by the time we got there, though. There were literally 2 dolls left. I have to admit it was fun buying a doll. I haven't bought a doll since I was like 10 so it brought back some nice memories of pulling limbs off my Barbies.

Then came the process of sanding and repainting the doll. First, I cut all of the hair off. I saved it in an envelope marked CREEPY DOLL HAIR because I plan on using it for another doll. Then I sanded the eyes and lips off, and sanded the body as well so it would take paint better. Sanded-down plastic smells like shit, in case you're wondering.

After that came the recoloring. I used chalk pastels for the base coats, scraping the pastels with a scissor to get a fine dust, and then applying it with a paintbrush, which was something I learned from various tutorials on YouTube. The detailing was done with watercolor. In between steps I sprayed it with acrylic sealant (outside, you don't want that shit in your house). The body was harder to paint than the face, being made of hard, smooth plastic, but I managed to get a nice emaciation thing going--not hard, considering the bizarre proportions of these dolls. I also carved in some wounds on the chest and back, and painted them red and gross.

The clothing is made from an old T-shirt. The arms, head and legs are wrapped in strips of it, and a sort of kirtle over it. The clothing is sewn on, and I don't plan on removing it, although it does cover the wounds. The gold cross is glued on, and was actually the strap of the purse that came with the doll. The triangle in the middle was also a doll accessory, in this case a bangle. Weirdly enough, the outfit was inspired by one of the costumes in Lady Gaga's "Judas" video. Hers, of course, is a bit more plush.

The idea for the doll was a religious fanatic who practiced mortification of the flesh as a way to achieve spiritual growth. This one likes self-flagellation and fasting. I already have another on planned, and just picked up a doll from Amazon. It's going to get a face full of hot glue. I am excited.

sketching is usually not very interesting

Normally I sketch in preparation for a larger project--they're like maps to the image in my head and they don't make a lot of sense on their own, and I typically include lots of little notes that amuse only me with arrows pointing to things and such. But here's one that I liked on its own. It's after the medieval fashion, and features intrigue, as usual.

I also made a video sketch, which came out looking like Kurt Cobain. It was unintentional, and I didn't realize it until it was done, thinking instead that I was drawing a sad Viking. I would have uploaded the video here, but Blogger and/or my Internet connection wasn't having it. I actually like the video itself more than I like the drawing, which is kind of meh.

Kurt Cobain would have made an excellent sad Viking.

In other news, I went to a farm the other day and farms are very good for artistic inspiration. Lots of homey things, and fields and fat birds. I have some sketches drawn up for possible future paintings. Hurray!

alchemy, part 1

This is Angelus, the center piece of what will become a triptych, complete with hinges and wooden cover. The two outside panels will be based on some of the stages of the alchemical process. He's 14 X 14 inches, oil on canvas.

This image was what happened while I was reading a book about Byzantine art while listening to the amazing soundtrack to the equally amazing game VVVVVV, resulting in an ancient-religion-meets-retro-space-age thing. Those are astronomical glyphs in the halo (which did not turn out as perfectly round as I had hoped). It's also based on the original cover of Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy, which I never actually read but always kind of thought about reading when I was in middle school. But I think mine turned out better.

More on this piece as it progresses!

the story format, or, why no, i don't make graphic novels but thanks for the suggestion.

I mentioned in an earlier post graphic novels/comics and I are not friends. We just aren't. Despite this fact, many people have told me that, since I like to make art and I like to write, that I should make graphic novels. My answer: No. This answer is usually followed by whining by the other person about how I should, and how they're so cool and lucrative, and how I should try because they would TOTALLY read it. My answer: No.

For one thing, I can never successfully write and draw/paint at the same time. I've been on an art-making kick for over a year, which means I haven't done any passable writing in all that time. (I should note that by "writing" I am referring to fiction. My writing form is novel-length fiction. Blogging and nonfiction writing I can always do, and I'm not counting it in this discussion.) To me, they are both forms of storytelling, but through different media, and it's hard for me to combine the two in a successful way.

I've also said before that I don't like using text with images. Illustration is one thing, but I don't like text actually in the image. Sometimes it works, but, like paint drips, it usually ends up looking rather stupid and forced when used in a serious way. Things like editorial cartoons are something else entirely. The top image is the only piece I've ever done where the text doesn't offend me. It's part of a larger body of images, none as successful as this one. It's watercolor and pen on paper, 9 X 12 inches.

However, I also really like art books and bookmaking. I only have one semi-completed book to date, which is bound but not filled in with pictures all the way. I've been painting pages for another small book, in the "medieval" style, inspired by medieval gospel books. It kind of tells a story but since it has no words it's very open to interpretation when it comes to what exactly happens in that story (spoiler: there are sexytimes). This interpretive narrative is the one that comes most naturally to me when working within the format of storytelling. The pages seen here are the first (center) and fourth (bottom) pages of the eight-page book, the only ones that are totally complete. They are about 4.5 X 6 inches, and are ink, watercolor and gouache on paper. And it's a dude. I'm also planning a fancy, possibly gilt cover it. Of course, mine will be bookboard and gold leaf (if I feel like buying it) and not gems and ivory.

I do, however, like reading graphic novels (the good ones, anyway), and I can recommend the following: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich (which was part of the now-defunct and totally awesome Minx imprint of DC), and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. These are all people who can do comics and do them extremely well. I am not one of them.

'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.

continuing to be medieval...

Here we continue the medieval theme. These paintings are all 9in X 11in panels of wood (pine), and currently reside stacked on top of my desk. Because I'm not sure if I like them. The idea, in keeping with the medieval theme I'd been working on (and may be returning to?) in early 2009. Much smaller than the paintings posted previously, and on different material, they are inspired by personal devotional objects like the Duccio Madonna, which would have been used in the home for prayer.

Of course, these guys are a little different.

Truth be told, I got the idea from an episode of The X Files. One of the good ones, before they replaced Mulder and Scully with those other two. Anyway, instead of celebrating the perfection that is/was so often depicted in religious work, I was instead interested in the celebration of imperfection, as well as getting into some of the more mystical aspects of the Christian religion.

Before I explain any of that, though, I feel like I should explain why I like early Christian art. I like it, first of all, because I am not a Christian. I come to it as an outsider and so I don't have the dogmatic implications that can make people who were raised in the Christian tradition uncomfortable with the images, or reliant on their context in a personally spiritual manner. I don't have any of that, so for me they are simply beautiful things, and examples of one form of spirituality on a spectrum of spiritualities. Also, I like the earlier examples because they're less about the creepy institution (sorry, sorry, but that's how I feel) and more about the spirituality itself. They also speak to traditions that have been largely lost or disregarded by now, and often speak to modern Christianity's pagan origins.

These little paintings are called, collectively, the Nephilim (Nephil is singular). Nephilim are, in the Old Testament, these freaky sort of half-angel, half-human creatures that were not altogether good or bad, and somewhat frightening-looking. They are also referred to as "giants," and as a race who disappeared or were destroyed. There are a few interpretations, but I liked the idea of a being with uncertain origins and morals, who, in the rigid good/evil system of the Bible, remain somewhat ambiguous (DISCLAIMER: That's a broad statement, I know. I know next to nothing about the Bible--Hebrew or Christian--and am therefore not at all qualified to make that statement an academic one. It's more how I feel about it.)

Anyway, enough rambling. I don't even really like these paintings. I mainly put them here to record their existence. I should have sanded down the wood more, to prevent the glaze from pooling and not be generally ridgy and distracting. I also had people tell me they reminded me of Tim Burton's creations, which is dismaying because I really don't like Tim Burton. Oh well.

getting medieval

In keeping with this retrospective, I'd like to now examine another period of my work. The paintings here are from fall 2008 to January of 2009, but I will still occasionally use this style or integrate it with other influences--I really like the solid black bodies and the saturated jewel tones. There's still evidence of the way I worked earlier, with the pale, creepy faces and the unnatural coloring, only these were done after I discovered the joy of glazing. I can't work in any other fashion now. The bottom image has a light linseed oil glaze on the faces (it's pinkish over the blue-gray underpainting, and I was going to do more, but I liked how it looked and I stopped), and the other two have a stand oil glaze. Because stand oil is the best stuff ever (and also responsible for the shine that somewhat interferes with the photographs).

They are inspired by medieval pieces, mainly from illuminated manuscripts and the like. It probably also helped that I was taking a medieval art course and a medieval literature course at the time. The top image is Jesus from the Godescalc Gospel Lectionary (Frankish, ca. 781-783 C.E. Godescalc was the guy who made it. Note the lack of beard on Jesus--that didn't become the tradition until about the mid 1000s. The Lectionary was written in gold ink on purple parchment and is generally REALLY REALLY PIMP. This has been your art history lesson).

Top to bottom (not counting the Godescalc image): The Pardoner, The Silver Tree, and The Council. The Council was inspired by the way people who live with one another come to form a way of communicating particular to them, and the gold background is likely an influence of Byzantine art. The Pardoner, of course, comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (if your haven't yet, read it. Read it now.) The pardoner is my favorite character because of how creepy he is, the way his guilt manifests itself in his mania, and the way he is convinced that he is beyond redemption and talks of his evilness in a way that is both proud and despairing. Good stuff. And those are pig bones around his neck. If you want to know why, read the book.

Currently, The Silver Tree and The Council hang in my mom's living room, and The Pardoner hangs in my bedroom. It's one of my favorite paintings and I'm quite pleased with the way I got the eyes to follow viewers around, and even though he's creepy I've developed an affection for him. My boyfriend, however, has not: "You hung it UP? Now I can't escape it!"