22 April 2009

The Songbird that Aspired to be Shin Hanga.

The Myerlys' now have the official Panda record with this being their fourth commission.It was painted as a birthday gift for their friend Emily. The only direction that I was given here was the word "song". Not very specific.
They told me that Emily recently graduated from college with a music degree in voice.
Naturally, my original idea was to do something opera inspired. I thought of popular operas that I love, Puccini's Turandot, Verdi's Aida, Janacek's House of the Dead. But these are all so tragic (almost to the point of absurdity). "Here is a ridiculously dramatic painting of two lovers slowly suffocating in a tomb, Happy Birthday!". I felt this was not the proper direction.
I google imaged the word "song". I was most interested in the picture of a song bird which came up between a photo 90's shock rocker Marilyn Manson and a photo of a group of cheerleaders. The bird seemed to fit the best. I liked how bright yellow it was. It could be corny but with the right colors I figured I could work through it.
I started this painting in a completely different direction from where it ended. Originally, our bird was in a city, with an old apartment building and telephone poles in the background. But it looked akward and didn't seem to be about songs at all. I painted a piece of paper blue and covered the building with it and asked Theo, my five year old son, if it looked better with or without the background. He told me that when it is all blue it looks like the bird is singing. but when there are buildings, it looks like it is screaming. So I made it blue.
In the last couple of paintings I've introduced phalo blue to my pallet. Usually, I'm pretty minimal with colors. I use ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, some kind of pale yellow, and white and mix all the secondary colors from there. Why do I need to waste my money on green and browns when I can just mix them up? Well, early on in this project I added a burnt umber (for the Flemish Feast) and stopped mixing my own blacks and now have this goofy extra blue, which can be beautiful, but takes over a painting easily. Here it is mixed with ultra marine to tone it down.
With the taking away of the background, I realized the way to go was faux Japanese. I consulted one of my favorite art books which is about the Shin Hanga, the new Japanese print movement of the early 20th century that combined traditional printmaking techniques with a Western influence. I stole some my composition and the sky from it.

Originally, this post was going to be called Nichola Tesla is Singing in his Grave because in the first draft of this entry, I marveled at how antiquated telephone poles and electric wires seem and how that great electrical scientist would be in disbelief to find out that they are still in in 2009. But I painted over the poles and wires so it doesn't make much sense now...

Thank you, Myers and Emily.

15 April 2009

Axis: Bold as ... Something.

Leon Mott is back! If you've read previous posts, you will see that I've made paintings for both his girlfriend and for his mother. This is the third in the trilogy. It was made as a birthday gift for his dad. (Leon is quickly becoming one of the world's great patrons of lil' art).
He originally gave me some info about his dad, he is a psychologist at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in DC and a Sufi, and told me to go with it. Then he changed his mind to go with a more personal request.
The 1967 Jimi Hendrix album Axis: Bold As Love is a favorite of Leon's father. Leon recalls his dad giving him a copy when he was twelve years old. Leon referred to this masterpiece of psychedelic experimental rock as the soundtrack to his relationship with his father. It's a very unusual soundtrack. (The strangest part may be the dubbed in interview on the first track in which we hear Jimi abruptly leave in a UFO).
The other guidance he gave me was a link to the Martin Guitars website. Leon's father's first meaniingful guitar was a Martin D-18.
So, I decided to do a variation of the Axis: Bold As Love cover art. The cover has a faux Hindu painting of a vishnu-like Hendrix amongst a pantheon of gods. Instead of the many armed Jimi Hendrix on the cover, I made a a many necked Martin. I kept the color scheme the same because I didn't want to lose that late 60's rock poster feel.
I was careful when painting the guitar. Leon is a craftsman who makes and repairs guitars and knows their anatomy inside out. I'm sure mine is riddled with weirdness...but it looked alright to me.
One funny thing I realized, again, is that when I paint inanimate objects, they come out looking organic. I'm not very good with straight lines. When I make a building, it usually looks like it just sprouted from the ground. I've decided to go with it rather then fight it. It's more interesting.
Beth decided that she is going to paint her own version of this one. She has never painted anything before in her life. Her painting has all the same elements but they are arranged in the way she thinks I should have painted it. (Plus hands holding lit zippos). When she finishes it, I will post it here.

Thank You, again, Leon! I hope you have a large family.

Oh, and today is my birthday...and my favorite present so far is the flu.

07 April 2009

St. Augustine and a Jackass.

This is a mysterious commission that comes from a woman in Minneapolis. She commissioned it as a gift for Fr. George David Byers, a Catholic Priest in Lourdes, France. She asked for the gift to be anonymous, and I respect that. I enjoy a certain element of mystery.
The only direction I was given with this request was the link to the popular blog that Fr. George keeps. It's called "bloggingLOURDES". She also told me that he refers to himself as a "jackass". This concerned me. I imagined that he may be some kind of "wacky" priest, with theological subtleties of an 80's prop comic. Father Gallagher. But thankfully that is not the the case.
The donkey-thing comes from a quote from the popular 4th century pillar of the Western Church, St. Augustine,"You are a jackass, but you carry Christ". This is good with me. When it comes down to it, we are all really jackasses, right? Certainly, I'll admit to being as assy as they come. (Ask the people who have to live with me.)
On his blog, Fr. George is very open and well spoken. Do I agree with everything he says? No. I'm not Catholic. I do think he is a good writer and respect that he's not afraid to speak his mind. And I am honored to make him a painting.
This painting came very hard to me. It took forever. It is painted over my completed first attempt. This first work was awkward on many levels. I tried to put a bunch of "Catholic-looking" stuff in it to make it interesting. Doves shooting lasers from their beaks and the like. The colors were dark and the proportions off. It looked like a baroque nightmare. Now, I kind of regret not keeping it for novelty and laughs. My donkey came out far better in this one anyway.
Thank you, mysterious-patron-lady and I hope you like it, Fr. George.

This blogger has also been send a couple of gift recently from readers. The Myerly Family kindly send me a small tripod last week. (They must have gotten tired of seeing my slightly out of focus pictures). And about a month ago, Rowan Keenan sent me this cute cat picture that she drew for me. If I ever need help with this project ...
Thank You, everyone.
see bloggingLourdes:

Silly? What is it.

This is a third Myerly request. This painting was made for their dear friend, Maria Smith, as a birthday gift. I was given only one word to guide me, "silly".
What do you do with that?
I decided to research the origin of the word. I was happy to find this awesome etymology site: http://www.etymonline.com/.
It seems that the word "silly" has gone through some significant and odd changes over the past thousand years or so. Previous to the 13th century, the word held the meaning "blessed" or "pious". It later evolved into "harmless" (c. 1280), "feeble-minded" (16th century), and "stunned, as by a blow" (late 1800's). Now it just means "silly".
"Silly Putty" was copyrighted in 1949.
I decided to go down the "feeble-minded" path (as usual). The term "feeble-minded" made me think of those crazy old Phrenology charts. Phrenology, for those who don't know their 19th century pseudo-sciences, was a study in which a person's entire head was measured to determine many different traits, such as their intellegence and the strenghth of their character. The thought (as far as I understand it) was to show which parts of the brain were the most developed by how big the corresponding part of the head is. (Did they realize that we have skulls?) The charts labeled parts of the brain with words like, "benevolence", "hope", "self-esteem", and "immorality". This all seems funny in retrospect until you find out that this was taken quite seriously and used to study the differences between races and ethnic groups. Nazi stuff.
In searching for information, I was surprised to come across a website for an organization that still believes in the benefits of the study of phrenology. Strangely, it seems to take a self-help angle. Now, this is "silly". I would link it here but it creeps me out a little. And you never know what people will believe...
Anyway, in my painting, all of the attributes boil down to just being "squirrely". Nothing wrong with that.

Here is a link to Maria Smith's very personal blog: http://www.mariamou68.com/