Sunday, January 29, 2012

hanging up some art

Who's that balding fool in khakis with a pair of scissors? That guy would be me hanging up my artwork today at King Street Coffee. My wife had her wonderful work up there for the months of December and January and even made some sales, however today I had to take it down and replace it with my relatively crazier creations. Leesburg is kind of a conservative town with a very traditional art scene, though I had a very positive response when I first started making and selling my Splotch Monster art at an outdoor sale in town around Christmas a couple of years ago, to my pleasant surprise, and I got some real nice words and inquires from folks today while putting up work. For the most part, I've got nothing against the more traditional work that dominates most of the galleries around these parts, and even do work slightly along those lines myself. As long as it's sincere and original in some way, I can respect that. However, there's a whole world of art out there beyond realism and impressionist landscapes, be it conceptual, lowbrow, street art, whatever you want to call it, and I'm glad I can be a tiny part of that, not because it's supposedly cool or hip, but because that's what I like to do and see. Anyhow, the weather has still been unseasonably warm for late January, and I am not complaining. The First Friday art walk here in town is starting up again in February, after a hiatus in January, and even though there's the possibility of rain, at least it won't be cold, snowy or icy, which is typical of February weather in Northern Virginia. I'm really looking forward to it, but after spending most of the day taking down then hanging up art today, Kris and I are looking forward to simply doing absolutely nothing next Saturday and Sunday. Can I have an amen?!?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"the watcher" in the post

It was great to see my "The Watcher at Brandon Park" painting featured in today's Washington Post, on page three of the LocalLiving (Loudoun County) section. The piece is still up at The Franklin Park Center for Performing and Visual Arts, as part of the excellent "Secrets" exhibit, which runs until the end of the month. If you're in the area, please don't hesitate to check it out. Thank you Friends of Franklin Park and The Washington Post for the shout out!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

pantha du prince: "stick to my side", "bohemian forest", and "behind the stars"

Last night we finally got some frosty winter weather action here in Northern Virginia, leaving the wife and I pretty much stranded in our warm, humble abode. It was the first time since last October that some snow actually stuck to the ground, and we had a good dose of ice this time as well. Not that I like this kind of weather, because usually by now I'm pretty sick of it, but in this rare case it's been the warmest and mildest winter that I can remember. What does this have to do with this post? Well, about this time last year, with all the snow and frigid temps from late 2010 and early 2011, I had nearly played out one of my favorite CDs from 2010 to death, and the music was the perfect soundtrack for such a season. Now that it's cold and frosty outside again, I'm thinking about this album again, whose music returns to my memory banks. Enter "Black Noise" by electronic musician Hendrik Weber, known to listeners as Pantha Du Prince. Posted above is the official video for the track "Stick To My Side", which features the vocals of Panda Bear, from Animal Collective. The song took some time to grow on me, as did the mysterious "Behind the Stars", another one with some vocals, however both have become personal favorites. Another highlight is "Bohemian Forest", which I think embodies what this album is about more than any other track. There's an incredibly fascinating story behind this music, as well as the deceptively beautiful and serene artwork featured on the album's cover, which you can learn more about by listening here (if you don't already own it) as well as by checking out the short but excellent mini-documentary at the very bottom of this post.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I made a quick little promo postcard from the "Tea Party" piece for my little show at King Street Coffee in February, with the aid of Picnik. Speaking of, I heard that Picnik will be going away for good in April? Say it isn't so!! It was always so easy to do some simple tweaking once I uploaded images to Flickr. I wonder if they'll use another service like Picnik. If not, I'll have to go back to Photoshop or the software that came with my computer, which according to the Mac Store's Genius Bar dude, is now "vintage" by Apple standards, and is not even serviceable (it's only about six years old)! Anyhow, I'll be sending both digital and physical copies of these out soon!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

interview at russian moleskine site

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted via Flickr about an interview by Anastasya Bolshakova, who runs the Russian art site "My Moleskine". Today the interview was posted, and I let Anastasya choose any images of mine she thought went well with the words. She does an excellent and thorough job at the site, which I can appreciate, after interviewing artists about their work on a monthly basis for a couple of years myself. It's not an easy process, believe me. Below I decided to post the English translation for your reading pleasure. A big thanks goes out to Anastasya and My Moleskine for taking the time to do this! 

Q: When did you start using a Moleskine? What Moleskine is most convenient to draw in?

A: I began using Moleskine sketchbooks about four years ago, when I began drawing again on a regular basis. My favorite are the watercolor Moleskines, any size, because they're durable and you can use all kinds of media in them, without causing any damage.

Q: Now, you - the recognized, well-known artist. Has this changed something in you?

A: First off, thanks! I'm glad you think so, and though I'm not by any means famous, it makes me very happy when people appreciate my art work. I think anytime someone reacts in a positive way to my work, it shows they believe in me, and as a result, I want to improve and get my stuff out there some more.

Q: Who do you teach and what does teaching mean to you?

A: I teach art to kids from age five-to -twelve for ten months of the year, then for a couple of weeks in the summer, to teenagers. Teaching means a lot to me, because I want to teach young people to have the ability to think creatively and think for themselves. There are so many forces out there that are trying to do just the opposite, so in a sense, I feel like it's somewhat of a mission I'm on. Also, if I make a kid happy and help them find something inside that makes them proud of themselves, then I'm doing something right.

Q: Do you participate in any art exhibitions?

A:  I've been making more of an effort to get my art in shows these past couple of years, both locally and on an international level. Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn't, and while it can be tough at first to get rid of your work, there's nothing quite like the feeling of having someone purchase your art. The places and spaces my art is being shown in lately is pretty diverse and interesting.

Q: Do you have experience illustrating children's books and would you like to try?

A: I don't, but I certainly would like to. I've been knocking some ideas around in my head lately for some books, but have yet to make a real, concerted effort in formulating a concise idea and contacting some publishers. Speaking of, I just got some extremely good news from a publisher in London, who will be using some of my artwork in a hugely popular book series, which I'm psyched out of my mind about. For now though, I'm keeping it mostly top secret, and only a few people know about it. I will say the book is due to drop Halloween, 2012. ;)

Q: Describe your life in a few sentences.

A: I listen to a lot of music and think of life being similar to that of a constant, underlying rhythm, with layers of beats and different polyrhythms coming and going. While there is a constant, there are also changes taking place in time. The goal is to keep it rich and somewhat interesting. 

Q: Who or what influenced you in your vision as an artist?

A: I think my first visit to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, while on a field trip in high school, completely blew open the doors for me, as far as what my perception of what art was at the time. Seeing all of this amazing, modern and postmodern work in person at the time, merged with the music I began listening to as well back then, opened up a whole new, far more interesting world for me. 

Q: What do you think of that Time Magazine named «Abstract protester» man of the year? 

A: You know, I didn't get a chance to read that article yet and the work on the cover looked a lot like that of Shepard Fairey's. As far as the protester, I think it's perfect. I think there is a definite shift going on right now in the world, and the people are finally beginning to wake from their zombie-like slumbers and fight back. There are still those who are content to be controlled, manipulated and fooled, mostly out of fear and as a result of brainwashing, but it's changing. Their oppressors and the wrongdoers of the world are losing their grip and are going down, one by one. Theocrats, dictators and ruthlessly greedy, narcissistic twits won't go down without a fight however, and it's very unfortunate that violence sometimes has to pave the road to independence. There will be turbulent times and I can only hope to live long enough to see the day when people respect each other on a mass level and finally begin to live each day connecting with their higher selves, rather than indulging in the very opposite. If such were the case, we wouldn't have greed and hatred and the need for protesters. I refuse to believe that this is being too idealistic.

Q: Are you attracted to the field of art that is video art?

A: Absolutely! I'm a child of the eighties, when MTV played music videos of all kinds. So, I actively keep a close eye out for good videos to go along with some of my favorite music, and it's incredible what folks are doing. I've got a friend who also works at some galleries in Pittsburgh, where they do all types of awesome, big conceptual sound and video art shows, featuring work from around the world. So I'm always seeing what's new in the world of video art. While I really don't make that kind of stuff myself, yet at least, I really love most of it.

Q: What things do you need to live in harmony with yourself?

A: Love first and foremost. Hearing good music. And last but not least, making art that is true to me. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

passengers: "always forever now", "united colors" and "beach sequence"

Not so long ago I posted about a couple of recently completed paintings, one of which was titled "Always Forever Now". While that painting was a very personal piece, the title was very much influenced by a song from the U2/Brian Eno "Passengers" project, notably a song with that very same title (see/hear above). Not only did the title seem fitting to me, but so did the song itself, which I could imagine as the perfect audio backdrop to the painting. A little while ago I posted about Passengers and the song "Miss Sarajevo", the album's single and perhaps finest track, shortly after Luciano Pavorotti, who sang on that song, died. In short, the album was released during an extremely fertile creative period for U2, who were immersed in electronic and more experimental musics at the time. Ambient music godfather and longtime U2 producer Eno played a more prominent role for this album of "night music", as Bono described it. For me, Passengers had always been a favorite of mine from U2, a band I deeply respect for too many reasons to write about, however most fans and critics weren't ready. Seventeen years have passed since the album was released, and it sounds better than ever and is even more relevant today. Included in this post are a few of my favorites from the album. Absolutely essential deep listening for any serious U2 fan or electronic music head. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"secrets" exhibit at the franklin park center for the arts, purcellville, va, 1/2012

Earlier today I attended the opening reception for the "Secrets" art exhibit at the Franklin Park Center for the Arts in Purcellville, Virginia. These mid-winter shows at the center are probably my favorite, for the variety and quality of work, as well as the added interactive element. This time around, attendees were encouraged to go around and match artists' work with the secrets we submitted, pertaining to the pieces we entered. Each form submitted made participants eligible for free tickets to performances of their choice this Spring. Normally, I see people look at a piece for no more than a minute, at both galleries and museums, and this little contest caused viewers to really look closely and observe the work. One of my favorite pieces was from one of my grad class colleagues (pictured above), Colleen O'Malley Basinger, titled "The Village". This huge piece was originally an older painting she worked on years ago, which she completely reworked and transformed into something totally new and fresh. It was great seeing the process in action each week in class and I'm so glad she decided to go ahead and enter her painting, which is part of an entire series she based on her hometown.

It was really good to see my "The Watcher at Brandon Park" painting up on that wall. I reworked it for at least another hour, adding some crucial final touches after posting about recently. 

"Moving Mountains" (above) by Penny Hauffe was another highlight, painted vividly in oils. If you look closely, you'll see it's much more than meets the eye originally.

As always, there was a great variety of excellent work at Franklin Park.

I really liked this tiny piece called "No Wires for Me!" (see above) by Jill Perla, which was both a sculpture and painting. Very cool, charming little piece!

I was also so glad to see three works (above) from my friend and art teacher colleague Brian Kirk at the show. Brian was also in the grad class with me when he made these three, which are part of his Cleopatra series. I affectionately referred to Brian as the mad scientist when I'd see him, back there in his little nook of the room, completely immersed in his amazing creations.  These works are merely a fraction of the art he's completed in recent months. When I look at them, I'm reminded of some of the best stencil-based street art being made these days, but with a naturalist twist. Naturalist graffiti perhaps?

There was some fantastic sculpture work as well at the show. I forgot to make note of who made the big three-dimensional piece in the photos, but I know he was one of Brian Kirk's students many years ago. I love big, bold sculptures like this one, which remind me somewhat of Henry Moore.

The drinks and snacks were sampled as well.

Mr. Bob Friedenberg had another wonderful piece in the show (above), and this time I was glad to get to talk to him again some.  Good news is he's working on a possible book collaboration with his wife, whose writing he'll illustrate. I'm really looking forward to this project in the meantime!

Love the brilliant Sylvia Plath piece (see above) by Meg Keadle! 

One of sculptor Stephanie Roan's incredible animal pieces was in the show once again. I don't think I've seen or talked to her since a year ago at the January 2011 F.P. exhibit, so it was nice getting caught up, and it's always interesting and enlightening to hear what she has to say. I wish I took a better shot of her "Alewife" fish sculpture, but I guess you'll have to go see it in person for yourself, which I highly recommend. 

"Nautilus, Queen of the Deep" by Pam Forbes caught my eye immediately with it's bright, gorgeous color scheme. It's another one that has to be seen to be believed. 

The piece above was perhaps the most striking and impressive of the show, in my opinion. I need to go back and find out who the artist is and it's title, which is fine, because I want to get another close look at it. 

Once again, the folks at Franklin Park and the artists involved did a very fine job with this show. The "Secrets" exhibit is my fourth and favorite out of all the shows I've participated in. "Secrets" will continue to run up through the end of January 2012, so don't hesitate to make a trip out to the center, which is a real treasure in Western Loudoun County.

Friday, January 6, 2012

terror train: "tonight", "beatbox beat" & "creepy crawly"

Recently I featured some tracks from one of my favorite electronic music-making duos, Freescha. Though the group has been taking a while to get that new full-length out, the solo project Terror Train might satisfy fans for the time being. According to the Attacknine site, "Terror Train is Nick Huntington, 1/2 of the electronic duo Freescha. Inspired by his love for disco balls, sci-fi and horror films, "Terror Train" is 10 tracks of galactic horror boogie, ambient disco, and teenage tears." I bought the CD based on listening to some samples online and instantly liking what I heard. There is definitely that foggy, wobbly, filtered sound that Freescha have perfected, but with a more immediate, dance-floor-friendly approach. At first I was kind of disappointed to find the disc ran just barely over a half-an-hour long, but with repeated listens (and this has been on repeat a whole lot this past week), the short, ten-track running time works incredibly well. There are some great guest vocals on some of the songs which serve as a fine compliment to the music, however it's some of the more sublime (sorry to use that word so much), instrumental tracks like "Tears" and "Creepy Crawly" that have grown on me the most. Surprisingly, this has become one of my favorite releases from 2011, and I can't stop listening to it! In the meantime, there are only 250 copies of this CD made, making it somewhat of a collectors item. I love how Attacknine puts some real care and effort into the total package, with regards to their releases, and hope they continue down this road. Enjoy the tunes and grab yourself up a copy of this release while they last!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

always forever now, the messenger

"The Messenger"
18" x 22"
acrylic and pen on canvas

"Always Forever Now"
18" x 22"
acrylic and pen on canvas

Featured above are a couple more paintings that I worked on in the recent grad-level painting class I took last Fall. They're a couple of the first I started with, and only last night completed. Since I was advised to start with something familiar, subject-wise, I based both of these on some smaller, watercolor and pen-based works I made in late 2010, and they'll be part of an ongoing series I've been working on concerning spirituality. While there were some things about the original watercolor versions that were very appealing and unique to watercolors, both of these turned out to be overall better pieces, and after a year of making art on a semi-regular basis, they should indeed be improvements on the originals. At the time I was making these, I thought they were pretty large, but after working even bigger, I wished these could have been made at least twice as large, though for now they'll do. You can see the transition from these paintings, which include bare trees, to the more realistic, literal subject matter in my more recent works. I feel I'm at a bit of a crossroads right now, and while I want to focus on and continue the more literal, nature-based paintings, I don't want to discard this style either. What I might do is simply put this series on the back-burner for now and continue in the direction I've been going more recently. One thing I've learned in that class is not to work so linear anymore, but instead, go back and forth between several pieces and put them away for a little while, later picking them up to look at them again. That and get advice from others whose word and opinion I trust. It's amazing what I didn't see before, as far as various possibilities and approaches to my painting, and I'm thankful to my colleagues and especially my wife, who weren't afraid to kindly offer suggestions I might have otherwise overlooked. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

secrets coming soon

Above is the official flyer for an upcoming art exhibit at the Franklin Park Arts Center Gallery in Purcellville, Virginia. The show is called "Secrets" and will host a variety of local Northern Virginia artists and their work. I'm happy to have a painting in the show, so if you're in the area, please drop on by to check out everyone's work. The show runs from Friday, January 6th through January 30th, 2012, and the opening reception is this coming Sunday at the gallery from 3-5PM, where they'll also be serving some wine and other goodies. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

december splotch monsters/happy new year

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." - R.E.M.

First off, a happy new year to everyone! I hope day one is off to a decent start. Kris and I had a nice, quiet New Year's eve, after three solid days of major cleaning, reorganizing and donating, recycling and throwing out what we no longer need in our home. I don't think we achieved minimalist status yet, nor was that our intent. However, the feeling of giving away and getting rid of old stuff, or things we no longer needed turned out to be a very good experience for the both of us. Someone else can make good use of that old, but good camera, those clothes we don't wear anymore, or those books we no longer read. I admit, there are some things I'm just not ready to part with and probably never will, willingly at least, especially my good, hard-bound art books, and the CDs, whose music and art I treasure. The most difficult thing, with regards to space, is finding a place to store completed artwork. With the Splotch Monsters, like the ones here, they're relatively small so it's not a problem. Some are even "digital", more or less spontaneous creative exercises in recycling and reusing former paint splotches and doing something new with them through Picnik. As for other art, I'll be painting a lot larger than I used to, and want to focus on building a cohesive, more serious body of work this year. That's where the storage problem might occur, but I'm sure we'll figure out something. The nice thing is, we can now actually find things, after much decluttering, rearranging and labeling. We didn't even finish until about ten last night, our goal being to get done before ringing in the new year. Needless to say, we slept very well after the ball dropped. 

So, what's your thoughts, hopes, goals, etc for the new year? We all tend to start out pretty optimistic but end up getting discouraged and give up early on, probably due to setting our sights too high. I really intend on focusing on the now more - each week, day, hour and most importantly, minute of our time. I told Kris last night about how I want to do this - focus on the here and now, and shared an example of just how often I don't do this, which included taking out the trash last night, and while on the way back to our door, rushing and thinking only about getting back inside to get to the next thing we had to do. It was a beautiful, clear and unseasonably warm evening and halfway through that two-minute walk, I had to stop myself in my tracks, hit the brakes and slow down to actually enjoy it. It seems so simple but I think for most of us, it's not. Sadly, it might even be discouraged by some, in our go-getter, busy busy busy society. Imagine that, someone discouraging you to enjoy your life! Think about how absurd and wrong that is and consider ignoring those people, those voices. I tell my students to "hit the brakes" all the time, as many of them seem to rush right through a lesson, trying to get it "done", only to end up not fully enjoying the process of creating and being left with a half-baked final product. What's the point in that, yet that's how a lot of us tend to live. Well I think I need to start practicing what I preach.  

So, there is talk of 2012 being a very significant year, and depending on how you look at it, this can be a year of new beginnings on a mass level, or a very, very bad year. I truly believe that it's all in how one frames this in their mind, because how we think results in how things occur, even on the most minute level. I believe in the former and not the latter. There will be turbulence and destruction, and sometimes things have to be destroyed for anything new and better to flourish. With myself, I want to continue  nourishing a creative life and practice kindness with my wife, friends, family, folks I don't know, nonhuman beings and mostly with myself. There will always be those who actively try to mock, and in some way undermine these things, perhaps as an act of justifying their own lack of faith in such behavior. Ideally, I'd like to avoid these kinds of people as much as possible, but not entirely, and it won't be entirely possible to avoid. That's just a part of life and living. Without these challenges, we can never grow and we won't be spurred to action in doing the things we need to do to reach a certain level and balance in life. Mostly, I want to continue to have fun, enjoy being alive and not think too much about things. The simple act of creating, and for me, especially creating these goofy little monsters on a daily basis is just that, and I always have fun making one. With that in mind, enjoy my favorite Splotch Monsters from the final month of 2011(!), and enjoy your first day of 2012 as well!