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.

coming soon

 So I've been working on a few new things--mainly, two new things. And here's a sneak peak of one of them! 

Both pieces are oil on canvas, and for both I'm taking a very traditional figure-painting route, lots (and lots and lots) of glazing and attention to minute detail. I am really, really happy with how the eyes turned out. I spent a lot of time staring creepily into the eyes of friends and relatives to see how they look, where the highlights are, and how to create the sense of depth and texture in them. These are Neo Megilp glazes, but the painting will have some stand oil in it as well.

These photos are already somewhat outdated, as I've been working on these steadily for quite some time. I've lately been liking the sort of Renaissance-style approach to painting, with lots of underpainting and glazing, and a multi-step approach to creating the human form. Since skin is translucent, I feel it's the appropriate way to really capture the luminosity and depth of human flesh and faces--like the way light comes through the skin of noses and ears, and how the skin gets thin enough to see the blood vessels around eyes. I've always been impressed by paintings where, when you look at them, you know what the surfaces feel like, even though it's just mineral paste smeared on a piece of cloth. The Waterseller of Seville by Diego Velázquez is one that always struck me. Looking at it, you know exactly what those pitchers of water feel like; the one on the left is smooth, heavily glazed and somewhat hefty, while the one on the right is rougher, and cold from the water inside. You can feel the condensation on your hands. It's just amazing. 

Anyway, to get back to this painting, that's what I want to achieve, but with people. Oh, and I should mention that these faces are going to be covered by some skullhead makeup. Not entirely, I'm not masochistic enough to do all this work to completely mask it, but yes, they're going to have skullheads. So why am I doing all this work? Because it'll look better. Look, when you put makeup on, you have a face underneath. The colors and textures of that face inform what the makeup is going to look like, so it stands to reason that this would also be true in a painting. Don't look at me like that. I'm just being insane thorough. The skullhead bits are going to be a bit different from my older versions, though, lighter and more delicate and still leaving plenty of the skin on show. 

I can't wait for this to be done! Not out of impatience but out of excitement!

tales from the sketchpad, part 3

The sketchpad returns!

Today in the world of sketchpad, we'll be looking at my three most recent drawings. This is what I've been doing instead of working on my Sketchbook Project, which is supposed to be postmarked tomorrow in order to be part of the tour. Trouble is, I hate the sketchbook and everything in it because the paper is horrid quality and makes everything suck. I just can't send it in. I just can't. It looks like crap.

So I've been drawing instead on some actual paper and I came up with these little beasties. I used an 01 Sakura Micron pen, and the paper is 80 lb. Strathmore, and I'm really happy with how they came out.

Top one is Lost Girls, who are skullheads, and began as a possible painting sketch about girls who disappear. Next is Sea Beast, which is essentially a self-portrait. At least, that's what my hair looks like after a day at the beach. Finally we have Land Beast, who is like Boyfriend if Boyfriend was the Rake.

He's so cute.

Overall, I'd say I'm pleased with how my pen use is evolving, as opposed to the last times I've used this sketchpad. It's become more painterly, in a way, and less dependent on clean linear forms, less controlled. I'm liking the depth I've been able to create with these, as well as the variations in tone.

I already have some more of these planned!

more art trades

Let me tell you about my camera. It's a good camera, and can do a lot of cool things, including taking large, hi-res pictures that are freaking awesome. My mom bought me the camera, and I'm eternally grateful.

But my camera is also a total bitch, and its screen likes to freak out for periods of time, allowing me to see nothing but a flat gray* space with a lighter gray vertical bar running through it. While this is happening, however, the camera still captures images. I just can't see them.

This was happening when I took this picture of this image, which I sent to the ever-fabulous Lolita Agogo, who was kind enough to send me some of her business cards. Now that she's received it, I can post it to teh Interwebz without ruining any surprises.

So here's a charming skullhead!

*To me, "gray" and "grey" are two different colors. Gray-with-an-a is a cooler gray, with blue or purple undertones, like the grays seen in this image. Grey-with-an-e, on the other hand, is a warmer color, with yellow or brown undertones. Why? I couldn't tell you.

art trades!

I sent these three mini-works off to Washington state for the lovely Amanda B., who was kind enough to send me some of her beautiful work months and months and months ago. I finally got around to reciprocating, and sent her these.

They're little, watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil, the usual combination, and I like them. You can even see my little signature at the bottom.

There's another art trade out there for SOMEONE, but I'm not posting it because I don't want to ruin anyone's surprise.

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.

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.

tales from the sketchpad, part 1

My mom gave me a sketchpad a while ago. I don't typically use sketchpads, or anything spiral bound. I'm very particular about my sketchbooks, but I started carrying it around anyway, in addition to my regular sketchbook. I decided it would be a good place to draw the stuff that I don't like to draw in my regular sketchbook, namely pen drawings. My regular sketchbook is generally used to try out new painting ideas, and I don't like to use pen in it. So the sketchpad became the place for pen.

Here are some samples of the pen stuff I've been doing. I'm not entirely satisfied with them, as pens have never been my preferred medium. I think they're a little cartoonish, and that's not a style I particularly like (even less so after everyone in high school insisted that cartoons were what I "should" create). Most of these images are drawn fairly quickly, and represent pretty uncomplicated ideas.

At the top is a form of skullhead. She's a grown-up skullhead, and kind of south-of-the-border-themed. There's not much to say about her.

Then comes a self-portrait. Yes, that's me. I consider all of my work to be self-portraits, in that they express interior feelings or processes of mine, which, to me, is a self-portrait of the most intimate kind. So it's weird to do an "actual" one, of a physical representation. And anyway, I don't feel that my physicality is terribly interesting. But I like this picture.

Then comes Spider Mouse. I had a dream about Spider Mouse one night and it was just the cutest little thing, crawling up the wall and being all fuzzy. I tend to dream about really fucked-up animals a lot, but they (the animals) are usually really friendly and cute. Recently, I dreamt about a small furry horse who lost two legs to a bear attack and lived in this family's front yard and ate cereal.

I really want a Spider Mouse.

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.

skullhead matryoshkas: a reason to squee

These make me squee a little every time I see them. Which is quite frequent, as they currently live on the dining room table, waiting for a protective coat of polyurethane.

I purchased a set of plain wood matryoshka dolls through Amazon. They were, on the whole, more expensive than I thought and so my collection of these will have to grow slowly. These here cost about $16 plus the shipping. I primed them with white latex paint and painted them with acrylics. The black paint, however, is Rustoleum, and the white is latex house paint. They were somewhat difficult to work with, being round, and the little one, which stands less than an inch high, was particularly irritating. But in all I can't complain. I especially like the way their little skeleton hands came out.

And yes, the one second from the left, in the purple kerchief, has a Hidan face. I kind of couldn't resist.

So here they are in all their squee-inducing glory, and I'd like to do some more of these in the future.

If you're looking for some pre-painted matryoshkas, Matryoshka Madness on Amazon has quite a collection.


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!

'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.

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.