Friday, December 23, 2011

I've got one word for your son, plastic

Happy Holidays all!I am working on many shows and have a very full year ahead of me, including a show in London in April, Its at Rook and Raven Gallery in Soho.  I have two paintings in Process for the Affordable art fair in January. They are both of figures under plastic sheets. I think all the symbolism is pretty clear: commodity, packaging, layers of ego, we are suffocating under the weight of our consumer culture,etc. Mostly I am interested in the challenge and beauty of painting figures under transparent material. There is blurring and sharpness, surface and reflection, cast shadows, interesting shapes. Its in the grand tradition of drapied figures that goes back to the Greeks but using a modern material. Here are a couple in process.

 Sorry I have not been posting! I will keep it up and add new work once a week or more, promise. Be kind to all you meet on your journey, its all we really have.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Add a little black to all your colors

I am having a little bit of a meltdown. Some combination of the seasonal changes, impending holiday stress, and the huge acres of canvas I have committed to paint for upcoming shows has given me pretty awful anxiety attacks. I am working right through them but it feels pretty grim here in my studio. I don't understand why they happen or how to get over this, but I am still working and that is enough for now.

 I had an amazing photo shoot a month or so ago and am starting to use the photos in this painting.

 I then make a black and white scale mock-up to see how it will look full-size, and to use for tracing the image onto canvas.

Then I transfer the drawing.

I am adding a little black to all my colors, to grey them a bit, to unify them, and because I am so fucking depressed these days.

Lots of looseness at this stage, just sploshing paint and blocking in shapes.

Now I am starting to paint the figures and its really fucking hard as always. It gets better when the figures have more going on in them, but for now I get pretty frustrated easily. I guess a lot of that is my current 
state of enervation. It will pass soon. I just want to be quiet and peaceful and not bother anyone and paint. Is that too much to fucking ask for?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whistler's mother and the girl with the pearl earring.

I decided to increase the complexity around the central figure, so I added some more traditional painting references (see title of blog). I also changed the painting Pollack is standing on to a wall. He is painting over a void, almost pulling the red paint out of the depths. The girl was initially painted very sharp and crisp but was distracting from Pollock, so I attacked the wet paint and motion blurred her head. The lettering is some crazy graffiti font. I have to finish this this week! Details, glazing, rendering.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I have been doing commissions lately. I will show a bit of the process in this blog.

1. Initial contact. Gallery contacted me and informed me that a client would be interested in me developing a painting from a specific photo. Chilean riot police covered with paint from protesters.
 2. I develop a possible composition in Photoshop and send to the client.

3. The Idea was that Jackson Pollack is splashing paint and that the riot police are protecting aspects of traditional painting: Still-life, landscape, etc.

4. Idea is OK'd!

5. Drawing transferred and painting begun.
6. Closeup!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sexy Beast and the Pomegranate

Music for this session: Beatles, bass solos, Jaco Pastorius

Hey there. Been painting some commissions and I don't want to show them until the waiting patron receives the piece. But here are a couple details.

Yes it is Ghandi. Ever see Ben Kinsley in "Sexy Beast" I mean is that a character as far removed from Ghandi as the current political discourse is from rationality, or what? Kudos to Mr Kingsley for the most delicious cussing ever in a film.

This is not actually a commission.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pushing space deeper into the picture plane.

 Music for this session: Peter Gabriel

This weekend I organized a 5 hour photo shoot. My friend Shaun Roberts and several others helped and I got some pretty amazing reference. The photos look like crazy steampunk Carravagio paintings.
Here is Toni shooting Alex.
Using glazes to unify the underlying colors. Using glazes to push back the space. Using glazes to make gradations of light. I have gotten this painting about 60% done and it took three weeks. At that pace I will not get enough done to make all my deadlines! #@$%!

I also used the extra paint to cover up some old figure studies. I like the half-glazed and dripping effect.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

upside, downside

Music for this painting session: Dangermouse and Sparklehorse, Radiohead, Yes, Buckethead.

Most Sundays I start painting around 7 PM. This is after working out from 11:30 AM till 5:30. First a brutally intense yoga class ( Then a worse kick-boxing/wrestling sparring class. I am usually barely able to move or think. However, the vast amounts of endorphins circulating in my blood has positive effects. I makes me feel like I've been smoking very good Indica.
This painting is coming slowly. But it is coming. That is good.

Here is a step by step drawing of a plaster torso, I did to show my class how to proceed in their drawing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Glazing transparent veils of color

Music for this session: Blood music and the whisper of hemoglobin along the inside of my veins. The slow pace of breath. Snatches of memory and sexual fantasy. 

Here I have gone over the B&W figure with a transparent mix of burnt sienna and ultramarine. Its crazy how different it looks than if I had painted the same color in the original underpainting. The old masters called it velatura. Veils of transparent color. See Madeline Von Foesters website for a complete explanation:
      I worked on the machines behind him as well. I have  painted the other figures head for the past three days, scrapped it all off each time, finally realized I needed to move to another area. Sometimes its best to let go of a problem and come back to it. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

fullness of time

Music for this session: Pink Floyd The Wall, Teaching Company Lecture on Hitler's Empire.

Perseverance in the face of anxiety. I felt like ants were crawling under my skin for a couple days. There are too many demands on one's time, others breeze through life, one feels jealousy at their easy passage. They look as happy as people on TV.  Ha. The truth is we are all involved in a great struggle. I am just a local example of the universal.
  Feel pretty stupid moaning about having to paint! Talked to an old friend who has been sleeping on couches and holding several part-time jobs. He is getting his feet under him and we talked about how much he is anticipating his own place, a place with a key. I am an idiot for not appreciating every aspect of my unbelievable luck!
  Got quite a bit done despite having malaise, ennui, funk, blues, anxiety, etc. I got James Jean's "Rebus" book in the mail and am as always happy to be a human every time I see his work. Stunning. Drank coffee and gazed in respect and admiration for an hour before starting to paint my own stuff.

Gotta keep gettin up. Paint more. Paint better. Get on up. Get on uppa.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Yes! It gets weird about now. The painting is started, but nothing is really going yet. I become afraid and forget that I know how to paint, everything looks difficult. I go through this stage every time I paint and it sucks. I want each painting to be amazing and beautiful. I am terrified it will suck. I talk to my friends on the phone as I paint, they help me get through. The paint piles up, soon it starts to look like something and I wonder what I was freaking out about.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Details, large empty spaces

Details, large empty spaces
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 10:45:44 PM
Music for this Session:  Peter Gabriel, Gorillaz.

   Getting into smaller parts. Repainted the figure some. Abstracted more.


Now a vast, white emptiness lies before me. No its not Antarctica, its a 48x72 inch canvas. This is twice as big as anything I've painted and it's a little intimidating.

I have 4 or 5 collages already done at this proportion, I think I'll start the drawing tomorrow. I will pop back in a couple days.

Open Studios, closed doors

Open Studios, closed doors
Saturday, September 17, 2011 12:22:24 AM
Music for this session: I Heart Huckabee's sound track, Brian Eno's "Before and After Science" Battles "Mirrored"

 Open studios this weekend so my floor was packed with beautiful, interesting people who are interested in art. I kept my door closed. Painted figure till I got frustrated and took out frustration and energy by abstracting the bottom of figure. I cannot, cannot! Paint carefully for too long till that primate pokes his head out of my midbrain and says: scribble! I'll paint my way back into the figure tomorrow night.

Gears and Fears

Gears and Fears
Thursday, September 15, 2011 12:22:25 AM
Music for this nights session: Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy, Morrisey, Nick Cave's Murder Ballads, Bach Cello Suites by Mitslav Ratropovich
Christ! Its already tough, teaching till 6pm and then getting my ass to the studio. I am trying to stay till at least 12:30 Am or so. The problem is that I cannot sleep right after painting. My brain is still firing neurons like crazy and I lie in bed in a daze from 2Am till 3 or 4.
Fuckit. I am so lucky to be working and showing and selling. I vow to shut up.
    Tonight I worked on the gears and got pretty frustrated, abstracted out some of the gears, wiped most of the paint off, etc. I often paint realistically until some primal urge to fling shit overcomes me, then the paint starts becoming paint. Paint is oily and viscous and it yearns to be itself and drip and smear and cover and not be forced into tight little shapes.

Composition and color balance decent. I might change lots of this once I get the figure layed in.

12:20 AM. Time to drive home, feed the cat, hopefully fall asleep. Peace, dream your dreams, live your dream, dream your life.

Adjusting the Composition

Adjusting the Composition
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:18:26 AM
Music for this painting session: Mozart's Requiem, Sharon Jones and the Daptones Pandora station.

I decided to paint out the front of the plastic sheet as it was matching the angle of the smoke and creating too much diagonal thrust. There was also great smoke shapes under there I now get to paint.

Now I get to paint the shiny gears and the glass boxes of submerged body parts. Then comes the best part for me, painting the figure. I love drapery, and transparent drapery is particularly challenging and beautiful.
Palette used for the smoke: ivory black, burnt umber, titanium white, cobalt blue. Fire: Cad red, cad yellow, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson.

Later, its now 12:20, time to drive home.

365 days of painting

365 days of painting
Saturday, September 10, 2011 11:29:24 PM
Music for this session: Syd Barret Pandora station.
OK. I have two shows in the next 12 months. It will take me about 5-6 months to paint enough new work for each show.  This is the first piece in process. I am using images that are related to ideas of progress in history and philosophy.  The photo collage is how I usually begin. I either work in Photoshop or make a physical collage.

Then I project and trace the image without too much detail. I add details and work directly from the photos with pencil to finish the drawing.
I always work from back to front, leaving each under layer wet so I can work the top layers into the paint as I progress. 

I should probably switch to acrylic paint for health reasons! I, alas, cannot. I am addicted to the feel of oils and the richness of the colors. Always take precautions kids! I wear gloves, a smock, wash my hands constantly, have a fan blowing fresh air on me , and try to minimize my use of petroleum distillate thinner. Don’t lick your paint brush.
 I'll post tomorrow night my progress and thoughts on this piece.