Thoughts from my studio about artwork; new pieces as well as those things that have have remained hidden in my flat file...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Watching Paint Dry

This is a snapshot of a few larger paintings drying in my studio. I plan on having these completed by the open studio on Saturday December 8th. Fortunately my photographer will be shooting better images of the completed works the day before. Mark your calendar!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working and Thinking: Working or Thinking

This week I have been cranking on quite a few pieces getting ready for the open studio on December 8. Typically I work on multiple pieces at once. This could mean 3 to 4 paintings, or right now it means over 25. Like I said, I'm really cranking on some stuff. I'm glad to say my new studio is in full swing for the first time since we moved.

I don't expect to finish it all for the open studio, but I'm preparing for a scheduled solo show as well as working on proposals for a few more. Having too much artwork to finish before a deadline ensures that I always have work in progress, at various stages of "completeness".

This serves multiple purposes:
  1. I don't have to face the intimidating "blank canvas" when I enter the studio after a break of a few days, weeks, or sometimes months of not getting much done in the studio (thank god for inventory). My fellow artists will sympathize with all of the "other" work that goes into being an artist that seems to take up more time and energy than the actual art making.
  2. Even if I haven't gotten much done lately, seeing work in progress makes me feel I have accomplished something; even if I spend four hours just staring at pieces on the wall and scattered on the floor. I know I am not the only painter who does this, and I insist that painting is at least 90% looking, but it does feel better when the paintings actually have some physical changes. It is also easier to prove to your friends that you have been in the studio.
  3. It provides a sense of continuity in the work, which is constantly evolving, in major, or minute increments.
The third reason came to mind tonight as I was putting aside the seventh painting and reaching for the eighth. If you read a general artist statement about my work from my website, it will become evident that I am not trying to define the colors I am mixing as I am working, but just responding to what is there. But none the less, as I was mixing up a color that JT or anyone else might claim was pretty damn close to pink, I was pleasantly shocked about the transition of my work in the past six and a half years since I left graduate school.

The process/perception based approach to my work hasn't changed much, but my the appearance of the paintings, and even the way I talk about them has changed. This past spring as I was finishing work for my solo show "Here and There" at the Arlington Arts Center, my wife commented on how much the surface and color scheme of my work had changed since she met me. Although she thought the new paintings were powerful, she was a bit disturbed that since she had met me, My paintings had transitioned from ethereal atmospheric cool (temp) calming compositions , to dark higher contrast paintings, with sharp impasto layers that seemed beautiful yet "disturbing" (another viewer's word from the solo show, not mine). See the transition for yourself:
Presence Number Two
Oil and Graphite on Wood Panel
56"x48" - 1999

Obstructed Vantage
Oil and Acrylic on Birch panel
48"x37" - 2007

Her point being of course, was had I become unhappy and disturbed since we had been together? I could see her point, but to me that the transition had taken quite a bit of time, and was practically seamless because of my process and habit of always having work at various stages, I didn't think about it too much until someone stated how different the paintings were.
Repetitive mark-making, layer upon layer of transparent marks and details that slowly reveal themselves to the viewer were in both paintings. As the artist, I had no doubt seen the transition, but was pleased and entertained by it, and suddenly, I had to explain "why the paintings had become so dark". (She preferred the lighter, more atmospheric works).

To me the paintings had become more deliberate, more defined, and confident. Clarity and defined compositions as opposed to completely ambiguous space and form. Surely thats the way I felt about the work, not that it was driven by depression or a bleak outlook on life and our relationship. Quite the opposite, I had found these images to be beautiful in their darkness, as well as the contrast of light/dark, or thick impasto with atmospheric transparent mark. There was more tension between the physical and illusionary, the structure and chaos, and I was reveling in its beauty.

I still am. The new work includes some new approaches, but look for the same contrast, things change and thus stay the same. None the less, I'm still trying to figure out how I got this "pink" paint under my fingernails...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Artwork of the Week, November 26

Sitting Still 12
acrylic on un-stretched canvas
6x4" (archivally matted 14"x11")

This is the second piece I am posting from the beginning of the "Sitting Still" series. Like the last image, this little painting is on un-stretched canvas and is matted 14"x11" with archival materials.

This painting has an entrancing hallucinogenic quality that crept into the entire Sitting Still series. The transparent layers of marks seem to be slightly out of registration (if it were a print), causing a vibration that I use on a regular basis in my paintings now. However like the last piece on canvas that I offered up, the colors are much softer than in the current works in the series.

This vibration at the edges of the barely distinct forms draws the viewer into the painting, letting it teeter between recognizable image, or landscape and nonobjective image. Material and image resonate off of each other.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Progress in the Studio

I am so excited about the new work in the studio, its great to be working in a new space and taking a break from refurbishing on our condo. Be sure to make it to my open studio from 8pm-? on Saturday, December 8 in Reston to see the new work. There will be new large, medium, and I think some small paintings as well as new works on paper. My wife Rochelle took the camera with her on her trip to see her parents, so I'll get some studio shots posted when she gets back. I'm waiting to hear back from my photographer about an appointment right before the open studio to shoot all of it but the smallest pieces (which I will scan).

I wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow, I'd stay up all night painting and listening to the same Beck album (Sea Change). For the last three or four years its become one of my favorite "working in the studio" albums.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Artwork of the Week, November 18

In the Distance
Litho Crayon on Paper
6"x4" image, matted 14"x11"

I'm excited to put this image on The Flat File. In the Distance is one of several litho crayon drawings I created over the past few years. These drawings have been executed as warm-ups in the studio, while traveling or backpacking (litho crayon does not smear easily, much more portable than paint), and even while sitting around the pool or at the beach. I often find that they inform the compositions of my larger paintings.
I love the crisp texture created when the litho crayon catches the tooth of the paper under light pressure, its crispness and clarity are unmatched (the scanned digital image doesn't do it justice). The cropped composition of In the Distance suggests a vastness within the small picture plane. The black and white color scheme highlights the play of value and contrast. These little drawings are some of my favorite pieces I've made, but their small scale has kept them out of exhibitions in the past, only a handful of people have seen them at this point. Let me know if you want to see more.
In the Distance is archivally matted 14x11 and will fit a standard frame.

Studio Update: Open Studio

Between renovations on our condo I've managed to get some new work brewing in the studio that I am excited to share when I finish. MARK YOUR CALENDARS - I will be having an open studio/housewarming on Saturday December 8th from 8pm until ....
I can't wait to finish the new large (48"x37") and medium (20"x17") pieces, so look forward to seeing those, as well as many new pieces on paper. There will be new and recent work to interest everyone, and hopefully I will have installed new lighting in our place to highlight the work (I'm becoming more of an electrician all the time).
Here is a detail of a work in progress, I'll show more images of this one as it progresses!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Workshop with J.J. McCracken

Yesterday I attended a workshop with performance/clay artist J.J. McCracken. She has some intelligent performances/process oriented work which produces a product/artifact which is not only aesthetically pleasing but supports her concept flawlessly. Unfortunately she does not seem to have a website, but you can see a couple of images of the performance/production and the art object/artifact from her exhibition Stasis at the Meat Market Gallery (January 2007).
It was invigorating, not a bad day at work, but more importantly I've been getting things back in order in the studio. I'll let you in on what's been going on in there later this week. Don't forget about the Weekly Artwork!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Weekly Artwork from the Flat File

Sitting Still 11
acrylic on un-stretched canvas
6x4" (archivally matted 14"x11")

The first artwork I am posting is one of the few pieces I've made in the last ten years that is not on wood or paper. This piece was created in 2005. Its development came out of a desire to alter my process and materials that had begun to bog me down, and to re-develop the body and format of my artwork.

The atmospheric image is still divided by the regular rhythm of horizontal lines, but the mark making was becoming more direct than in the densely packed, barely discernible
marks of the paintings I had been making for a few years. I still wanted to create subtle, meditative artworks that required the viewer to look and look hard, but I was attempting to loosen up and use my materials differently. Ultimately I ended up developing these pieces into the "Sitting Still" series I am still working on, some of which you can see here.

Sitting Still 11 has been sold on ebay. Thank you Gina King!

Welcome to The Flat File

This blog came into being after a conversation with artist friend Frank Warren (PostSecret). Frank came over for a studio visit recently and brought his family, hoping to get them engaged in a dialogue about some specific pieces in my studio that he was interested in adding to his collection. Frank and I met in 2004 at the Anne C. Fisher Gallery in Georgetown. We were installing our artwork for an Artomatic invitational exhibition called "10 Most Wanted". The discussion about our work that ensued gave Frank a new understanding of not only my work, but about how a viewer can construct an individual dialogue and perhaps "narrative" with non-objective or abstract artwork. Frank reminded me of this at this recent studio visit, saying that this discussion with me was so important to his relationship to the work, and it was a shame that more people didn't get to experience it.

I love studio visits, whether it’s me going to another artist's studio, or people coming to mine. I believe they are the most genuine and natural way to develop this dialogue with the artist, the artwork, and the viewer. As an artist, it feels wonderful to see your artwork well-lit in a pristine gallery, with nothing else to be distracted by but the work in the space, but personally I find the experience of the opening reception to sometimes be awkward. Opening reception conversations often begin and end with superficial questions or statements like "So what media do you use?", "How long did it take to make that painting?" or even "I like it" Most viewers want to talk to me about the work, but don't know how to get it started. If I approach them after lurching around the gallery for an hour I always feel like a used car salesman. This is not the reason I started making art.

Studio visits are so much more comfortable for me and the viewer/collector. Perhaps it’s the one on one interaction, or because I just start showing them work around the house/studio or pulling things from my flat file. Perhaps it’s my paint spattered clothes and my usual lack of shoes, I don't know, but it’s always genuine and invigorating. I wish it could happen all of the time.

I recently moved my studio to Reston, VA from Arlington, and in the move I took stock of the artwork I had. I was amazed to find lots of great little works on paper and canvas that very few people had ever seen. Artist buddy/blogger JT Kirkland (Thinking About Art) was visiting my studio at the same time as Frank and although JT had been to my studio on numerous occasions, he was surprised to have never seen many of these pieces (and no JT, I still didn't show them all to you). Many of the smaller works never make it into the solo shows, or even group shows, because the curators and gallerists are looking for the larger pieces with more impact, so the more intimate, smaller ticket items stay squirreled away in the flat file.

Showcasing some of these smaller works and making them available to the public for the first time is another reason for creating The Flat File. Most of these works have never been shown in galleries for the reasons stated above, but are beautiful intimate artworks. I will be posting one of these pieces weekly and offering it on ebay at a nominal price, since these bodies of work have no sales history in galleries. Most pieces will be archivally matted, but unframed to keep the prices down. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on these pieces, I want to get the dialogue going with you, whether you are an established collector, or someone who has been looking for the opportunity to get their collection started.

I hope that The Flat File becomes an ongoing studio visit for you and I. Small works from my flat file will be posted once a week (on the weekends I think for now), and I will also periodically be posting my thoughts about the current projects in my studio and showing images of the larger paintings. I hope you will join me in a discussion about those pieces, and please feel free to schedule a physical studio visit by emailing me when you are inspired to do so. I will also keep you posted on my upcoming projects, exhibitions and news here, and on my website where you can also see some additional artwork. Thank you for joining me on The Flat File, and I look forward to your comments.