Thursday, January 31, 2008

Getting that Monkey back on my back

The ArtWhino Show opening went well, as did the Dr Dremo's DC Conspiracy. All in all it was a good reminder of why I put myself through the agony of being a painter (as opposed to the agony of being a Set Designer)

One of the lessons learned between these two events was that...people love monkeys. I know that this is hardly a "revelation", but it is certainly an affirmation of some of the practices that I have been questioning. You see, I had a bit of a crisis recently, because of some notion in my head that I needed to reconnect with making art with people in it. This is something I have struggled with because I have all sorts of hangups about narrative, and specificity, and "illustration vs Art", and timelessness, etc...which has got me scared shitless about making any sort of art that has people in it. But I was going to start to overcome all that with a new set of work, and the primed piece of cut wood from the previous post was going to be its opening shot. But just as I was about to set sail on this new body of work, I was confronted with a far more basic problem. I didn't have any models.

You see, I have found that my work has a "cartoonishness" when I don't have a reference to paint from. This is rightly so, because cartoons are a distillation of experience into a shorthand that can be easily grasped by the viewer. So naturally, if I am filling in the blanks, the work looks stripped down, because I am not recording what I am seeing, I am translating what I remember. The more direct the reference I have, the greater the detail, the more realistic the result. So this is a crisis for someone who (with the above mentioned hangups) has to create pictures of people, if you don't have people to look at. But its not just people, its poses... Well, you say, why don't you just go to the interwebs and lookup pictures of people to use for reference? I have tried that, with mixed results. What happens is that I get approximations, and then I collage them together in photoshop. This somehow has a deadening effect on the finished product. I cant really explain it, but somehow the collage of images renders the painting obsolete. Why go through the process of transcribing this collage, when you have done all the work already? (this is also not to mention that painting from photographs can look just like that, painting from can see when it has been done in the same way you can tell when someone has traced something and when they drew it by "eyeballing"...)

So, long story short, I dun thunk myself rite outta bizness... But not before I made a sketch for the piece I was going to make. So, I share it with you in order to let you know that I am not abandoning the project altogether, just cooling my heels in order to regroup...

Worst Case Scenario sketch
11"x14"Color Pencil on Black Paper

So after all that, what did I resolve? Yep, people love monkeys. For some reason, if I don't give a shit about the outcome, I am perfectly capable of making paintings that I enjoy, and other people connect with...This is really on of the biggest tensions in my life. When I try to think my way through a painting, I get bogged down; but when I don't think about it (and say to myself "fuck it") good work just piles up. I think that is partly why I have been making these monkeys. They represent a primitive, messy, chaotic side of me that just wants to have a silly laugh at things and run around without pants on. I don't know if they will ever be in the Louvre, but they somehow feel right...

So, I saw this picture of a guy in an old movie usher outfit in a fashion spread...and something just went off in my head about him looking like a monkey. So I knocked out this color study in 20 minutes,

Color Study for "monkey usher" painting
8"X10" Acrylic on watercolor paper

Which lead to this full sized painting, which was painted over the course of two days.

"Monkey Usher" (working title)
16"X20" Acrylic on Board

So, needless to say, I think I will make a few more of these monkey stay tuned.

The other developments of the past weeks has been that Yuri's Night is 85% certain to happen at ArtWhino this year. I just need one more piece of reassurance, and then I will be promoting this puppy full bore!

Additionally, I have accepted the task of designing the set for the Musical Comedy "Zombie Prom". Its being done outside of Baltimore somewhere, but regardless, I'm going to give it the 'ole college try!

And lastly, I am sorry to say that I do not have any pictures this year from "pushing debutantes" at the "Hinkley" hotel in Washington...but I did do it with a 101.7 degree temperature, which is a first for me.

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