Last Fall I was contacted via Flickr by my friend Akis in Greece who wanted to see if I was interested in having some of my Splotch Monster work shown there as part of a big exhibit in January 2011 at the Coo Basement in Thessaloniki. After some more details and some e-mail exchange, I snail-mailed him about twenty pieces, ten of which are in color, and ten from the black and white series, all to be featured as part of the Absurd Expedition, a show very much in the spirit of DADA, perhaps my personal favorite art movement of any century. Seeing some of the work from the other artists involved in the show really knocks my socks off to be a part of this event. If only I can get out there to see it now. Anyway, above and below are some of the first (amazing) flyers and posters for the exhibit. I'll have some more Splotch Monster work in an accompanying, limited run book as well, to be released later this month. I'll get more details posted soon, so stay tuned!
Monday, December 19, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
"The Watcher at Brandon Park"
36" x 36", acrylic on canvas
Last night I think I finally finished the painting you see here, loosely based on a photo I took last winter at Brandon Park, right down the street from me in Leesburg, Virginia. I remember driving home one gray, cold January afternoon, after dropping Kris off at work and seeing this enormous bird circling around the old local bowling alley right next to the park. Captivated by it and wanting to take a closer look, I made a u-turn back to the bowling alley parking lot, where the bird must've flown a few feet over my windshield, quickly and fearlessly. I couldn't believe I had nothing to take a picture of it with me, so I drove back home, grabbed a camera and returned, only to find the giant turkey vulture had found a nice place to perch among the trees and their endless, twisting and turning branches. In the nearby surrounding trees there were a bunch of smaller, black vultures, so I think something nearby was either dead or dying, though I saw and smelled nothing. Despite the company of the black vultures, this giant turkey vulture stood quietly and still on a broken stump, separated from the rest, like a ruler of his very own small kingdom. The photo directly above is a closer view of the bird in a cropped, horizontal format.
The painting itself, which measures three square feet was worked on in equal measures at home and in my grad painting course, which unfortunately ends for me next Tuesday evening. I have some crazy classes at work during the day Tuesdays, leaving me nearly exhausted by three, but I always looked forward to that grad class, getting recharged, fired up and painting and being around fellow art teachers who were also artists, serious about their work, feeding off everyone's energy and feedback. Now I feel like I need to discipline myself to keep at it and continue to build a good body of work, which, depending on how you look at it, is inconsistent and somewhat unfocused (if you don't count the Splotch Monsters). During the course of this class, I rediscovered a love for painting nature, and I feel like I'm developing a real voice. Like this painting itself, it's all a real slow, gradual process, and when you think you've gotten to a certain point, you later realize there's much more to go. I loved painting large and if I had more space, would go even larger, but for now, this might be as big as I can afford to go, in terms of both space and money. I'm looking forward to seeing this piece in an upcoming local art exhibit real soon, which I'll be sure to cover here at the blog. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Last weekend Kris and I managed to get the Christmas tree, lights and ornaments up in our apartment, and it looks beautiful this year, mostly thanks to my wife's sense of design and decor. A real nice added touch to the tree this year included three glass ornaments created by Leesburg, VA glass artist Dario DeHoyos. I was so glad to see Dario drop by Kris' art show at King Street Coffee once again, as with her photo show last year. He brought some of his wonderful striped ornaments that evening to sell to the public for a real good, affordable price. All three photos pictured above include one ornament we purchased from him last year, as well as two from last Friday night. I think we'll have to make buying a piece or two from Dario every year a tradition now. It was good getting caught up with him last week, and we briefly talked about some ideas for some local art fairs and shows, which sound promising. In the meantime, look Dario up if you're in or around Northern Virginia, and interested in some real nice, original glass ornaments for your tree or home.
Monday, December 5, 2011
With a solo show this month at Leesburg's King Street Coffee, it's only fitting that I interview my wife Kris, who has only recently returned to painting again, after a somewhat lengthy hiatus. As with her photography, Kris is drawn to the simple, common everyday things, and has a genuine knack for capturing their essence in her work. It's been a while since I actually interviewed an artist, but this occasion is as special to me as it is for Kris, so some extra effort was put into this week's artist of the week feature. Enjoy!
1. Q: About how old were you when you first began to seriously get into painting?
A: Probably the earliest I can remember actually trying was around age 13 or 14. I always remember asking as a kid for paints and brushes instead of toys as a gift, but in my teenage years I wanted to start working with more advanced materials. I even took some classes, but for the most part I taught myself to work with different layers and watercolor washes.
2. Q: Recently you got back into watercolors after a long time of not painting and doing jewelry and more craft-based work. What got you back into it again?
A: I always loved doing crafty things, but none of it felt as basic or fulfilling as watercolors. I even went through a bit of an acrylic phase, as you know, about five years ago, but it didn't quite feel as right as working with watercolors. Coming back to watercolors felt like a sort of homecoming, and I look forward to pushing and exploring the medium much more.
3. Q: You tend to focus more on basic, everyday things in your work. What draws you to these things?
A: I've always enjoyed taking a deeper, closer look at everyday objects like certain plants, and fruits and vegetables, and the way light would illuminate certain surfaces - things most people might not normally pay much attention to. Part of it was a need to learn to draw from observation, but I also just like everyday things and the way nature shapes and colors objects. I'm reminded of how recently, while at work I was photographing an apple I brought for lunch from different angles, and my boss just looked at me like I was nuts, but I could have looked at it all day long! I just am fascinated at how light can shape an object.
4. Q: When it comes to making art and taking on a variety of creative endeavors, you seem to be somewhat of a natural. Do you think some people just "have it" while others might struggle more? What's your take on this thing we like to call talent?
A: I think that everybody has the ability, but for me it comes down to observation. My problem is trying to make things look too much like something, which is what some people think of as art, but is something I'm trying to move away from more and learn to be Ok with some mess and imperfection, which is a lot more interesting to me. I think when people get too wrapped up with trying to make something look realistic, they get intimidated and even turned off from making art, when in fact that's really not what making art is about in the first place. I think the interest lies in the little artifacts that are created when you get a little bit of a mess going, so it's good to distance yourself from the end product and just get to work.
5.Q: I noticed that you have a couple of styles going on right now with your watercolors, one of which is more of a layered, realistic look and the other a more simplified, almost abstract approach. Where do you think you might be going currently, with regards to you own personal style?
A: Well, I like a little bit of both. I don't want completely abstract work 'cause I'm not too sure if I, personally can identify with it, but I'm also trying to distance myself from that teacher I had in high school who demanded realism when painting a still life. I had such a positive response to the looser, simpler works that I think I gained a certain level of permission to go more with that route when I paint, which is something I've been enjoying a lot lately.
6. Q: So like most people, you're pressed for time, work a day job and sometimes just want to come home and veg out on the couch with a book or the computer. What do you say to folks who are also busy, or have kids or work a lot but have a strong urge to create? What might you tell them?
A: No matter what, you'll never have enough time, you'll never have enough energy, you'll never have enough money, but you simply have to begin somewhere. It might not turn into a routine, but you simply have to take out some time for yourself and give yourself that personal permission to create, even if it's a little bit at a time each day. I used to think I had to complete a piece right away, but that's really not the way to go for most people (especially when working with watercolors) and it will become discouraging when you can't finish something. Throw in a load of laundry and do a sketch. Put the kids to bed and set aside fifteen minutes. Make yourself a little space that's accessible and know that you'll most likely never have that perfect, ideal situation. So, yeah, kind of like that Nike saying we all see and hear, just do it.
7. Q: I know that you're kind of particular when it comes to using certain materials when painting. What are some of the mediums that get you excited these days?
A: Well, if you're working with watercolor, it will always make your life a lot easier if you use a nice thick paper. It will make all the difference in the world. Spend a little extra on some good brushes. I used the cheaper Winsor & Newton brushes for years, which were great, but recently I've been buying some better quality brushes, which makes quite a difference I think. I like watercolor from a tube more than from pans, though I use both. I've really been into the Cotman line of watercolors from Winsor & Newton, which is relatively affordable when compared to a lot of stuff out there. I've also been having some fun with watercolor pencils and watercolor masking fluid, which might be my favorite thing in the whole wide world. But yeah, just invest in some good quality materials if possible.
8. Q: So who or what do you find helpful or inspiring lately.
A: Lately Kate Spade photos (from their catalogues), looking at other people's work (which can sometimes be a double-edged sword and intimidating), but mostly nature, more than anything. Working during the Fall has been especially inspiring, with the variations of color in the leaves and the trees. If you just stop and look at a leaf and its veining, color variations, and whether or not it's a matte leaf or a waxy leaf, that makes all the difference in the world when painting. Apples as well, such as the gala apples and the variety of color. Going to museums and websites can be helpful as well, but more than anything, just getting to work and the act of doing and creating is most motivating for me.
9. Q: You've been on a roll in a very short period of time these past few months. Do you see yourself continuing at that pace or taking a break to catch your breath? What's in store for you and your art?
A: Unlike my last show, I actually still feel like painting, though I wouldn't mind a breather. I want to explore some more fashion-based work, which I did a little bit and enjoyed so much and had a real positive response to. I'm by no means some fashionista, but I like accessories and colors and patterns and the way certain things go together to create a pleasing aesthetic. So yes, I will continue to make that time for myself and continue to paint and enjoy creating things and see where it all leads me.
* Kris will have a new website with prints of her work for sale in the near future, which I'll feature here when the time comes.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Last Friday night my wife Kris had herself a little artist reception at Leesburg, Virginia's King Street Coffee. It was so good to see all of her beautiful work up and hanging on the walls, mixing and mingling so well with the festive sights and sounds of the holiday season. It was a big night for Kris, who has not done much painting at all since I first met her in person, about five years ago in her home country of Trinidad, where she was preparing for a big solo show at a local gallery there. In between then and now, she's made lots of gorgeous jewelry, learned to knit and crochet, worked on a variety of photography and craft endeavors, but never really concentrated much on her passion for painting, until very recently. It's been a very busy, even stressful ride during this time, dealing with the grueling process of immigration, working various jobs and studying as a student in the Integrative Nutrition program (she also just earned her certificate to be a health coach!), so the need to paint again was certainly there. While artists do strive for some recognition and financial gain for their hard work (and YES, it is indeed WORK), as Kris can tell you, it's all about the Primary Food, or that inner fulfillment achieved from taking part in the act of creating. It's a slow but steady process sometimes, and sometimes even frustrating. I know that my wife will do good things with her work and continue on this wonderful path she's just starting to travel upon. I want to thank Kimberly Nevin and K.S.C. for always supporting the work of local artists, Kris' friends and colleagues who showed up, my artist/teacher friends who dropped by (you guys are next!), Gary Rudinsky and friends for the great tunes, and my amazing wife for continuing to bring her lovely work into the world. Kris' art will continue to grace the walls of King Street Coffee until the end of December, so if you're in and around Leesburg, VA, stop in, grab a cup and see the art for yourself, in person!
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Blech 2, the second installment of classic Warp records, and Warp-related music old and new went down at Pittsburgh's Wood Street Galleries last Saturday night. My friend Chris (Slinky) and I were happy to play out some of our favorite tunes that evening, ranging from the more down-tempo and ambient style, to the dance-friendly tracks, as well as the more abstract stuff. A special thanks goes out to Chris for organizing the event, to Jonathan for all of his help, to Mary and Shaun for the choice beverages, to the folks who attended and especially to those who danced, and anyone else I might have missed. I also want to thank my legs and feet for not giving out on me while dancing like a happy madman to some of Chris' set. It was a real fun time and we hope to host another one in the near future!
Below is a classic from Black Dog Productions "Bytes" album, under the Balil alias, entitled "3/4 Heart", still sounding fresh as ever nearly two decades later. Until next time.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I'm still on a roll with the India ink when making these Splotch Monsters, and went even looser when painting it onto the tan craft paper. I really tried to go for some type of ancient look with them I guess. Now I'm moving on from the tree theme and the craft paper, back to white watercolor paper. This time I'm going to do more medleys, or combos, just to achieve some sort of dynamic of interaction between some of the beasties in a composition. This should keep things pretty interesting this month.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Much like painting or drawing from life, taking photos can teach us to be present and "in the moment" more often. It's the tiny, seemingly mundane everyday occurrences, interspersed between the more grandiose that make living worth while, if we take the time out to slow down and pay attention. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from Ferris Bueller, when he says "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around, you might miss it." This is something I need to make a concerted effort to focus on this upcoming holiday season. In the meantime, while I've been pretty occupied with wrapping up a few big projects, I managed to look around some myself and captured some of those tiny moments from the past couple of weeks, to share with you, with the help of my I-phone and Instagram.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
It was good for once to have the weekend to ourselves, as Kris and I stayed home Saturday and Sunday, rather than travel to this place or that place as we've done during the past few weekends. It had been a very "tree-centric" weekend too, as Kris worked on a gorgeous Autumn tree watercolor painting for an upcoming show, and I tackled a large painting with trees for a class, as well as some pages for a comic book project, which included many drawings of trees. Much inspiration had been taken as well from our everyday, outdoor surroundings, as many of the trees are beginning to shed the last of their leaves. You can see this inspiration in a new series of Splotch Monsters I've also been working on. While the colorful leaves are always a highlight in Autumn, which seemed to have reached their peak color last weekend, I also enjoy the naked trees, with their bare branches which seem to suggest their true colors, minus all the color. I'm a fool for Fall, and always will be. I can't imagine how a person couldn't be, honestly. So, I had to at least take a break from the painting and drawing on Sunday to get outside for a walk. I always tend to forget how incredibly refreshing these walks outdoors can be, especially after being cooped up indoors a while. Of course, I made sure to take some photos to share with you here, however, it's not quite the same as being outdoors and seeing the trees in real-time. So get off your computers, get outside, move around, look around and take a deep breath. You won't regret it.