31 January 2010

Pretend with me and ...

You will have to just pretend that I drew something beautiful and interesting and funny above as a preliminary sketch for the next blog painting. This new one is for my teenage niece, Julia, who wanted me to do a painting of her smiling in a blue shirt. I did a few sketches of this but they all turned out bad. Really bad. Too embarrassing to post.
(Take a moment and imagine those, too).

The sketches that I made of her looked like something that a junior high or high school kid would draw in their notebook, desperately grasping at drawing something recognizable rather than thinking of a whole. I was feverish and heavy handed, trying to make a sweet resemblance. Sometimes very sympathetic to whoever I'm painting for. In this case I think I transported myself back to high school.

It's many ways it's odd that I've started to post preliminary sketches, since I have been doing fewer and fewer of these recently. After about 40 paintings here, I've become more comfortable with just starting and working it out on the board. My skills have sharpened. The real reason for making these preliminary posts is to have a chance to talk about a painting before I've started it. While I'm still a little lost. ...and I always ask for comments or suggestions...

I started this painting this morning and am already nearly finished. It's now coming easy for me. (kind of).

I'll post the Julia painting later this week...

20 January 2010

Cleaning An Entire World's Worth of Carpet...

Allen owns and operates his own one man Service Master franchise. He wanted me to portray him cleaning the many, many miles of carpeting he has traveled over the years. He speculates that it is probably equal to the circumference of the Earth. Joan is a talented pianist. All she asked for was a musical reference. Together they are my in laws (Beth's parents) and this is there Christmas present.

I truly turned this one into an an exercise in miniature painting. So much subject matter in such a small space. I maybe should have tried to simplify it but instead I made it more complicated. Joan said I could just put in a few musical note to represent her here but instead I placed Joan on a satellite serenading all of the heavens. It seemed more interesting to me.

This was a difficult painting. The subject matter here is so unusual that I felt every element had to be ridiculously clear. The carpet cleaning wand has to really look like a cleaning wand to put across that he is sucking up dirt from the stratosphere of the Earth... as if it were a carpet. Your mind doesn't just automatically go there and fill in details.

But, the color on this painting presented the most problems for me. I wanted to keep a consistent, limited color scheme but with such tiny piece I found that objects began to blend in with one another. It turned into a matter of really pushing the values and making the images very symbolic and not natural. (If you haven't noticed, the scale of human to Earth size is also slightly off.) The the fact that the entire back is space suggested a very dark background that I eventually lightened up some. (Though this would have been a great candidate for black velvet...).
This was a hard one. But I don't ask for easy, that would make this project dull. And I'm pleased with the result.

Thank You, Allen and Joan!

In other news... The Hellenic Voice interviewed me about the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb yesterday and they will run an article about me and the blog either late January or early February. I'll give more information when I get it...
...in the meantime, I have a line up of paintings so I'd better get crackin'...

08 January 2010

A Preliminary Cleaning Sketch...

This Christmas, instead of shopping, I decided to give some of my family members paintings. I handed them a Panda Licking on a Light Bulb Gift Certificate. I wasn't sure how this would go over... but it seemed get a good reaction after explanation. To my surprise, everyone had an idea for their painting almost immediately.
This one is for my in laws, Allen and Joan Scandrette. Beth's parents.
Allen is a carpet cleaner and owns a Service Master franchise. ... but the entire franchise is them. He does all the cleaning himself and Joan takes care of the business end. Allen likes to tell people that over the past three decades he thinks he has cleaned enough carpet to go around the entire world once.
After thinking about it, I bet he's right. Working five days a week over thirty years. And walking backwards the whole way with that cleaning wand in front of him. (No wonder here's in better shape then I am).

Imagine an entire world covered in carpet and you have to walk the whole way with your back to where you're going. Over oceans, up mountains, down gorges... you get it. All carpeted. Everything you've just passed getting dirty again. You're walking backwards so you see it all happening. You yell, "be careful with that milk shake...take off your shoes...pick up that leaky pen... keep the cat in the bathroom!"....and so on and so on. A kind of blue collar Sisyphus myth... but lucrative.

..anyway, Allen described to me the image of he and his wand cleaning across the entire Earth as it hangs in the heavens. I think this is a great! Joan is a very talented pianist and wants to have music involved in this. Cleaning to her piano? I haven't figured that part out yet...
Above is a preliminary drawing. I don't know how close I will follow it. Feel free to leave a comment here with any idea you may have to help. I'll consider all comments and run them but the Scandrettes.
The finished painting will be posted next week.

By the way, the Gift Certificates are still available. $53. It's a great gift for anyone. Anyone!

07 January 2010

Panda Hugging on a Strawberry.

Happy Anniversary! Today marks one year with the Panda! Even thought he Panda sometimes gets difficult and crabby and often smells wrong, it has been a good year.

It seemed fitting to ask Beth to give me the one year request. She is the genius who insisted on the original Panda Licking on a Light Bulb painting. I talked about it in the first post Why is the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb? one year ago. But there is a part of the story that I didn't include there. She actually threw out another painting idea before Panda Licking on a Light Bulb which was Panda Hugging on a Giant Strawberry. I had forgotten about this (somehow) until she reminded me here. Now this too has been fulfilled (making dreams come true ?)... in the requested style of Calef Brown (... kind of).
One of the most interesting things about Calef Brown's work (beyond the flat stylized shapes, exaggerated proportions and improbable colors) is his unusual use of line. While the objects are almost never outlined, their interior features are often exclusively defined by simple lines. Strangely, those lines are often the same color as the background. This makes this confusing... in a good way. Brown's painting are seemingly simple but incredibly tricky... and funnier than hell.
I finished this painting late last night. I thought I was finished earlier in the day but then I took it out and looked at it, again. To my horror, I saw that I made his arms and legs waaaayyyy too loooooooong. It was a ring-tailed lemur hugging on a giant strawberry. Exaggeration is one thing but animal metamorphosis is another.
I kind of love this goofy painting. It's a great start to a new year.
Thank you everyone for reading and participating in this project over the last year. Tell your friends about the blog. They might like it. The more the merrier. ..and leave comments. ...always good to here from you.

...and Thank You, again, Beth. I love, love, love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

06 January 2010

A Study in Panda Strawberry.

Here is the preliminary sketch I made for Beth's request. Since the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb painting was her idea, I let her pick the subject for the official one year anniversary painting. She chose the subject of Panda Hugging on a Giant Strawberry. This won out over her other idea which was Deviled Egg Lassoing a Horse.(Someone might want to request that one because I have some great ideas(....really)). However, she asked for this to be painted in the style of artist and illustrator Calef Brown who she and Theo saw at the Walker Art Center last weekend. No problem.
I'm working on it right now and will post it tomorrow for the blogs official one year anniversary post. (everything here is official).
This coming year, I'm going to start posting preliminary sketches here and talking about the commissions before I actually start painting. I'm doing this to create an even greater openness about the process and give more insight into the finished products. This will also give readers a chance to comment on the direction I'm going in before I finish each painting. ...and I will consider all comments.
A nice byproduct of this is that I will be posting more often. Two times per commission. This added post will let me stretch out and be more off the cuff.
Anyway, It's been a great year! Be sure to check tomorrow for the finished Panda Hugging a Giant Strawberry painting.
..and while this one is almost finished, feel free to leave any comments in the final hours of my painting process... I will look...