Thursday, September 15, 2016

Those Born to the Storm Grow Weary of the Calm

I have begun the process of creating a new large scale painting, that was made possible in part by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.  I will be writing more about it as the process continues, but for now, I wanted to introduce the concept.  I was always struck by Francisco Goya's Disasters of War series.  This notion of revisiting the Disasters of War is not a novel one, Jake a Dinos Chapman did a large series directly related to the Disasters of War (sculptures below).  


My idea has been developing for about eight years, but I really began to hone it down into a solidified concept in 2014.  Since then, I have been moving, and unemployed, and a new father, and moving again, so my progress has been stalled to say the very least.  However, I am on the precipice, looking into the near future.  About to begin.  It's very exciting.  

To briefly explain, my concept stems from the notion of children (particularly young boys) that represent the sensibilities of those who wield great political and military power. Young boys have a habit of turning everything into a gun, or pretending to commit mass murder while emulating a cartoon character or hero of theirs.  Not to mention how they casually practice torture using their action figures.  We all remember how the vicious neighbor Sid tortured his toys like Combat Carl in Toy Story.  

This insight was partially awakened by the birth of my son and my realization of the nature of man.  But I had wanted to create painting from an epic battle scene with action figures since I was in graduate school.  I even went as far as to buy a giant box full of off brand GI Joes in the hopes that I would get around to it while I was there.  I never did.  The issue was that it didn't mean anything to me at that point.  I had no purpose to make such a painting, other than creating a battle scene, but it seemed like a far cry from my work.  It wasn't until my son was born that I really thought about how little boys play, or at least how I played when I was a little boy.  And how Sid from Toy Story wasn't especially sadistic, he just had a great imagination for toy torture.  When I thought about Sid I thought about Goya's Disasters of War and essentially knew immediately how I would handle it.  

The process has been kind of slow going.  Again, partially due to many major life changes, but also because of the practicalities of making such a piece.  I have to make it much larger than I normally work.  The vast majority of my paintings are 35" x 42", which wouldn't be large enough to communicate the toys in the proper pose.  I also had other artworks that I had already had planned to do, and some that just kind of came out of nowhere.  But the main reason it has taken awhile to really begin is that I don't want to rush the process.  My wife took the photograph that I am working from over a year ago.  Since then, I have edited into the photo the scenes from Disasters that I will be referencing.  Once I put those in place I recreated the scenes using action figures and other toys and then edited that into the picture in place of the original print.  I am taking time to make the composition works how I'd like it to.  I'm going into this project with the understanding that it will take a year to create.  It is the most ambitious painting I have made up to this point in my career.  

At this point I have made the canvas stretcher, stretched the canvas, and applied three coats of gesso.  I only have three more coats to apply and i'll be ready to begin.  The canvas is about 5 feet by 6 feet and BARELY fits down the stairs to go into my studio.  I plan on keeping this blog updated periodically with my progress, so here's the first shot.  Just waiting to be drawn on.

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