Saturday, June 30, 2012

fingerprints among the mountains and streams

Today was a perfect day to stay indoors and work on some art, with the 100 degree temps and unbearable humidity. Thankfully, last night's storm didn't take our power, though we nearly lost it a couple of times. I feel like we're the lucky few, but I don't want to speak too soon since the NOVA region is supposed to experience part two tonight. Enough on the weather already though, 'cause no matter what, I had plans on finally tackling this piece, based on Fan Kuan's "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams", my favorite work of art, period.  This very ancient scroll has inspired me to try out a smaller drawing done with a calligraphy pen several years ago, as well as do another version with a black Sharpee on a skateboard deck. This however was an altogether new approach, as I was supposed to turn a 6 x 2.5 foot piece of kraft paper into a piece of art for an upcoming group exhibit. I'm a firm believer in going with an initial idea and not second-guessing it, and as soon as I saw the paper, I thought of "Travelers..." immediately, and how I might interpret it once again. I never get tired of looking at Fan Kuan's original from about ten centuries ago, and upon studying it today, during the making of my version, I'm once more in awe and completely humbled.  I originally was going to use a print I own but could not find it, so I settled for some images from the internet. Unfortunately, I discovered that the majority of the images featuring this piece online, are all missing roughly five inches of the drawing, at the bottom of the scroll! I was glad I discovered this, or what I find as some crucial visual information would be missing from my own version.

Since the work I based this off of has always had some personal significance to me, I decided to use my own thumb and finger prints, and I thought it would be kind of interesting to document the work in progress. The ink was a permanent type my wife recommended called Stazon, which you can find at your local arts and crafts store usually, somewhere near the scrap-booking section. It became apparent to me pretty quickly into the making of this piece that I'd in no way, shape or form achieve the infinite intricacies and fine details of the original with this fingerprinting technique, which was in many ways a good thing, freeing me up to take a more unique, almost impressionistic approach to the drawing. 

Working on the floor of my studio room, I used a six-foot-long table as a base, legs folded under, which worked out nicely for this piece. I decided to begin from the bottom and work my way up, also working back and forth on both the left and right sides, towards the middle, while working my way up. On many occasions I'd go back, after stepping away for a few minutes, and fill in or extend and improve some parts. My aim was to work as intuitive as possible and not over-think things or worry too much about accuracy.  Still, I had to be very careful with placing things, or I could have thrown the entire piece completely off, and that would not have been good in the least bit.

I've been wanting to work on this piece for a long time now - for at least a month, and anticipated how long it would take, what approach to take and how it would turn out. I woke up about 7:30 this morning and took my time getting some breakfast for me and the wife and running some simple errands. By about 10:30AM, I got into the studio, got some music cued up and went at it. With roughly an hour's worth of break time in between, I finished the piece, to my pleasant surprise by 5:40PM.  So, six hours wasn't too bad, and while I worked carefully, I also worked quickly. I even managed to get the actual "travelers" in there too, which was pretty difficult, using only fingerprints. Again, looking at it, it's not an exact, completely accurate replica of Fan Kuan's piece, but I'm very pleased with the end results. Actually, for a pretty amazing, precise replica of "Travelers...", check out artist Chen Chun-Hao's stunning version, constructed from 750,000 nails! 

So, it was really nice to get to work on this, as well as complete the piece in one sitting. My back is in pain as are my fingers, but it doesn't compare to the satisfaction of finishing and actually liking the work, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on display at the exhibit, seeing it from far away and being able to walk towards and away from it. I also look forward to getting some much better photos of it as well. The piece will be on view soon at a local group show, which I'll blog about in the very near future, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"messages from outsiderdom" at the joan hisaoka healing arts gallery, washington, dc

Above: Robert Benson's "Flashies" works

Yesterday I decided to visit a new art gallery/center in Washington DC, based on a post at artist J.J. Cromer's blog. He has some work at the gallery and the overall show and space looked to be a real treat. So, I used some of my free time to check it out, despite the terrible heat.  The show is called "Messages from Outsiderdom" and the space is called the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, Located on U Street and a fairly short walk from the metro station. 

Above: front window featuring "Looking for Balance" sculpture by Lee T. Wheeler

The gallery itself seemed small yet very spacious and open, inviting even. The exhibit was beautifully set up, showcasing works from a dozen established artists who would fall under the visionary/outsider category of art, from the intricate, complex drawings of J.J. Cromer to the neon-painted bark and wood sculptures of T.S. Young.  There was a good variety of media and styles to be found and the show reminded me a lot of being at a miniature version of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.  

Above: all five of J.J. Cromer's works at the exhibit

 Above: "The Caribbean Walrus" by J.J. Cromer (detail)

 Above: main gallery space

The staff who were working there were all very kind and more than happy to talk and show me around the facility, which, in addition to the gallery space, has a beautiful space for art workshops, artist talks, yoga classes and more for cancer patients, veterans and local residents. I was blown away, honestly, and it made me wish there was a space like this here in Leesburg. 

 Above: three of Matt Sesow's paintings at the exhibit

Above and below: "Spirit Animal Jig Jags, 6-Packs & Sand Paintings by Brian Dowdall, "Valve Man" sculpture by Charlie Lucas

Above: works by Lawrence Amos, Jessie Montes and Jane Pettit

 Above and below: Darien Reece sculptures

Above and below: works by T.S. Young 

Needless to say, my visit to the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery/Smith Center for Healing and the Arts was well worth the trip and the heat. The current exhibit, "Messages From Outsiderdom" will continue on through August 18, 2012, and this Monday, June 25th there will be discussion on Visionary Art at the gallery from 6:30 - 7:30PM (free). 

Above: permanent collaborative installation at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts space

*On a side note, there's a similar show I couldn't make at the Off-Rhode Studio gallery (at Art Enables in DC) called "Trust the Eye" featuring more of J.J. Cromer's works, going on only until June 29, 2012.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

great blue of sterling

Some of my wife's girlfriends were in town, visiting from Trinidad all week, and like most women, they did their fair amount of shopping. A couple of days ago I drove them around to here and there, including the local mall. For me personally, a visit to the mall is, for the most part a pretty boring, soul-sucking experience, as it can be for a lot of guys. The perfect remedy to this was a visit to a local pond where Kris spotted a beautiful great blue heron. We decided to visit the pond while we ate some fro-yo from a nearby business park. What was interesting was the pond was man-made and teeming with wildlife, from ducks, to geese, to turtles and of course the big heron. The icing on the cake however was the two very blue juvenile herons flying around, zipping back and forth above the pond and through an artificial water-spout, like two little fighter jets. We all got our Steve Irwin on, trying to get good shots of the large, elusive bird, and after the I-phone cameras weren't cutting it anymore, I ran back to the car to get Kris' friend's little camera, which had a much better zoom and resolution. 

I've taken a keen interest in the blue heron lately and find I've been seeing it more and more often, in many cases it flying slowly, directly above me, whether I'm walking or driving. Recently one flew right over me and made the loudest noise from its mouth, sounding just as prehistoric as it looked, with its six-foot wide wingspan. Kris always says half-jokingly that the blue heron is my spirit, or power animal, a concept or belief with origins in ancient shamanism. One very interesting blog post I discovered from some time ago discusses the blue heron as spirit animal, who shares a great deal of my own personal characteristics, for better or worse. While the blue heron can be seen as a graceful, peaceful bird, it can also be a relentless hunter, spearing and killing young ducklings, rodents, fish and other small animals - pretty much anything that can fit into its mouth and down its throat, though some have been known to have gotten carried away and chocked to death on prey too large to swallow. That's the way of the natural world though, and the heron has no supermarket to shop from, and like all wild animals, must find a way to survive.  I look forward to returning to this place with a good camera and getting some better shots soon, hopefully.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

i'm in a star wars movie!

Well, sort of. A few years back I was contacted via Flickr about having some of my posted Star Wars drawings from when I was a boy featured in both a book and a movie about Star Wars fandom. I'm still not sure what's going on with the book, but I finally got around to seeing the movie on Netflix this evening - a fantastic, very funny, very serious documentary called The People vs George Lucas.  Made for (and by) fans who grew up with the original trilogy, and not intended for young kids, the movie addresses the pros and cons of the visionary film-maker's legacy. After having to fill out a bunch of relatively simple legal paperwork, I wasn't even sure if anything of mine would even make the final cut, but it sure did. About three minutes into the film at least five of my drawings were briefly shown in a cleverly composed pile of artwork by folks who grew up with the Star Wars films from the late seventies and early eighties (the only ones that count in my opinion, ha ha!). One of the drawings in the movie, my favorite, was my brother Dave's epic Star Wars spaceship battle done on a big, lined piece of computer paper my dad had brought home from work - the same type of paper I did my very first drawing on(a big blue crayon scribble at the age of three), which I still have, thanks to my mom's ability to save and cherish our art.  Seeing this really took me back to a time when all I thought about was Star Wars, and I think now of just how much it has inspired me in so many positive (and some negative, at least financially) ways.  Seeing these also reminds me of many of my current students who I have in art class, who draw Star Wars stuff now. In fact, it's so popular now, I ended up starting an after-school Star Wars Artists' club last spring, also as a personal tribute to the recently departed Ralph McQuarrie, the King of Star Wars art. In the meantime, do not hesitate to watch this movie, especially if you grew up with these films. Even if you didn't, it's a very good documentary, and that's not because I'm being biased, seriously! On a final note, I posted the original drawings that appeared in the film (in order) below, and I have to say, it was also pretty cool seeing my name, ever so tiny appear under the "Participants" portion of the movie's end credits.