Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Inside the Painter's Studio Part II

Upon further review I noticed that I didn’t explain things that I was thinking about or any of my goals in my previous post about this work.  I took this photograph for this work shortly after finishing graduate school at Arizona State University.  Upon the completion of the two works “the Hunger Artist” and “The Past has its Place” I had a vision for how I would arrange my compositions and the manner in which the space would interact with the figure.  This was the first painting I made after receiving my MFA in painting, so I wanted to make a statement about my work and my experience, as well as a comment about the artistic process in general. 

I asked several of my friends and two of the teachers I studied closely with to join me in my studio to be a part of a painting. It took only a few moments to get the photographs that I needed to mix together to create my painting. As you can see in the images below part of my process is to map out the composition, using a grid system to help me determine the best aspect ratio for the painting.

I use the photograph as a drawing reference mainly.  After I establish my drawing I approach the painting as an abstract picture plane, thinking about the interplay of colors and values as I organize the rhythm of the marks.   

Approaching the surface in this manner means thinking more about artists like Cecily Brown than Gustave Courbet, which is to say, I am trying reference Courbet, not copy him.  So if I think of the way Philip Guston’s early paintings were a connected patchwork of abstract marks, then I can see the painting as it needs to be seen, an interaction of colors and marks.  The difference is that each mark I make has to work representationally, formally and conceptually.  When I look at Cecily Brown’s paintings, they look remarkably similar to the organization of Seurat and Jaquin Sarolla y Bastida, hers are simply less fussy about representation.  To illustrate my point I’m including some paintings that may help explain the way that I visualize the surface.

Philip Guston

Cecily Brown

Georges Seurat

Jaquin Sorolla y Bastida

The background contains many of the paintings that I made while in graduate school at ASU (nearly my whole MFA thesis show is exhibited behind the figures) as a way of staking my claim and throwing my hat into the proverbial art ring.  I am also making a comment on the artistic process, the solitude of the painter, and how that can mean shutting oneself away from friends and loved ones. It’s about how there are conversations and interactions that the artist will miss in the pursuit of the creative act.  It’s about being a part of a community of artists, but having to be apart from that community to actively engage with the conversations held in that community.  It’s also about making a mountain of work to finally understand what you kind of work you want to make.

Below are some images of the Gustave Courbet's The Artist's Studio: A Real Allegory of Seven Years in My Artistic and Moral Life, the painting to which I was paying homage.

Below is the painting that Gustave Courbet was paying homage to, Las Meninas by Diego Valezquez.  It was painted about 200 years prior.

Below are detail images of my painting as well as images of some of the paintings in the background, as well as a study for the finished work. 

From Left to Right the artists featured in this painting are:

Joshua White                     
Kathleen Scott                    
Nicholas Dowgwillo           
Kelsey Wiskirchen             
Ryan Peter Miller                
Sarah Rowland                   
Benjamin Rogers               
Jerry Schutte                      
Malena Barnhart               
Chad Gunderson               
Caroline Battle                  
Anne Schutte                    
Lauren Kinney                   
Ben Willis                           
Mohammad Javaheri       
Patrick Vincent                  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Perfect Romance of High Morality

This image was inspired by Jean Francois Millet, Grant Wood, and most notably Jan Van Eyck.  I wanted to do a painting about romance and marriage and love.  Which is interesting because I met my fiancee while I was working on the painting.  This painting was a difficult journey, that took three times as long as it probably should have for a number of reasons.  The first reason is that I needed to restart because my first attempt was awful so after wrestling with it for awhile I ripped the canvas off of the stretcher and started over. 

The second attempt began with a better drawing and a better understanding of what I wanted the piece to be about and how the composition was to work.

As you can see below the final painting varies pretty substantially from the source image photograph.  So I got to do a great deal of invention which is always fun but often risky.  When inventing elements i do so mainly in reaction to what I feel are deficiencies in composition, color flow and conceptual underpinnings.  If I feel that I am not adequately communicating I will try to make myself more clear, without stating plainly what my intentions are.

This painting has references to love and sexuality and how they are intertwined in marriage.  In an era where many people are ambivalent towards matrimony, I see marriage as a wonderful expression of love and commitment that two people make to each other forever.  
With this painting I thought about expressing companionship visually, using complimentary colors to express the complimentary nature of marriage and partnership.  The green couch on the female side represent fertility while the red couch on the male side represents sexual passion.  I realize these metaphors are rooted in traditional gender roles, but that's the kind of upbringing I had, and I think that there is a lot of beauty to them.

In between the couple is some blankets and pillows that is the marriage bed that bridges the gap between male and female, representing sexual congress obviously, but  sex itself is a metaphor for two people acting and moving as one.

There is more to this painting, but I will stop before I explain away every last stitch of mystery.


This is the first painting that I have made with an acrylic value painting as the first layer over which I glaze oil pigments.  This was inspired by teaching introduction to painting at Northern Kentucky University and giving a glazing demonstration to my class.  Though I had done this before, It was right around the time I was tearing the original painting off of the stretcher, so I thought I would try it.  The result is very satisfactory, though the glazed aspects will improve on my next paintings.  I do believe though that this is a very good working method, because I can get everything worked out i terms of value before I really commit to certain aesthetic choices.

Anyway this is the resultant painting, and that was a little insight into the process of making it.  I hope you enjoy it.  

Or at least I thought it was the finished piece.  But after several months I grew unsatisfied with it, my wife encouraged me to work on it, to bring it up to my satisfaction.  so I did.  Then SHE photographed it (she went to the Art Academy of Cincinnati for photography)  so you can see a big difference not only in the over all quality of the painting, but the photograph as well.

I am much more satisfied with it now.  I'm glad that after several months of working on it that I decided to spend an extra week and fix my issues with it.