Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Iconography mounted

I enjoy the organization and system of the old library card catalogs and similar outdated systems. Printed text has changed considerably with the advent of digital media and with that refinement a certain amount of apparent human connection with the writing. I am working with the idea of a system that, in a sense, removes that personal impact from the resulting creation while, because of the inherent flaws and unique characteristics of the typewriter, a trace of human contact is remains.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Working on a couple of ideas tonight on iconogrphy. Watercolor and india ink.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Know Blood for Oil

Repetitive Pump in Purple, 2006, Acrylic on Canvas, 12" X 36"

The text, though difficult to read, is about Randy Cunningham, a congressman convicted of accepting bribes for war related government contracts.

As time moves on and the fog dissipates, information floats to the surface. This information suggests the worst as reported by Bill Moyer.

During the first gulf war I considered myself lucky as I was on my way home from a west-pac when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I missed my girlfriend and thought I finally knew what it was to be an American. Believe me, no one knows what it means to be American until they've been away from it, they only suspect. I paid my respects to those who gave their lives for my country in Pearl Harbor as we manned the rails when we pulled into port. I lost countrymen and acquaintances over the Mariana Trench off the coast of Japan as their helo went down and no bodies were recovered. This time was served in the defense of my nation; it was an honor to serve.

Along with that honor comes a certain amount of trust. I trusted, as as most sailors and soldiers do, in the judgment of our civilian leaders to be deployed in our nations defense. Now I've come to understand that defense is not always clear as at times service in small military actions can defend my nation such as a call to certain commitments for the United Nations. Yet I trust that these too are for the protection of life and nothing less. This service is not for a way of life (and by that I do not mean fundamental values of my nations such as liberty and equality but in the sense of certain conveniences we've come to expect as Americans, like football on Sunday or disposable coffee cups on our way to work) but for life itself. My trust appears to have been betrayed as my service has been at least partly for the protection of American business interests. As if I was not defending my country or the freedom of my countrymen but the market for a few industry leaders. Now, I must point out this does not mean my service was not honorable or that the lives of American servicemen and women that were lost or altered in the service of our country was in any way less than honorable, I am saying that the trust we put in our civilian leadership has been betrayed.

No blood for oil! It has not been shed for oil but for country. Those that betrayed our trust must be held accountable. They know there has been blood for oil.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Artist's Community:Show Space

The second thing an artist's community needs is a place to show the artwork. This pretty much goes without saying that when the space is made available for making artwork eventually that artwork should be shared with the rest of the community. The most conventional way for this to happen is through two methods: The first is the time honored art galley and the second is an art fair. Either display or setting has its strengths and its weaknesses which I'll explore in the following paragraphs. I'll also propose an additional display opportunity that I've not seen that I think should be entertained by a community.

Art fairs or street fairs are great opportunities for artists to get out there and meet people interested in art. It is also an enjoyable way to spend a nice sunny day (I enjoy camping and barbecues and liken the art fair experience to a little of both). For artists this provides an opportunity to exert some control over what is shown and how it is displayed. On the other hand the context in which the artwork is shown is determined by the organizers of the event and the artists' booths often appear a little like a side show where the main event might be the local restaurants, corporate contributors' booths, or kettle corn. For the most part, however, art fairs do make the display of art by local artists an event and an opportunity for those without gallery representation a place to show their work to the public, therefor they are necessary and desirable.

For those with gallery representation I have little to say because this traditional meeting place for art and art collector is, strongly and rightfully, in a good position both financially and socially. My only suggestion to gallery owners is, perhaps, to provide and publicize greater openness to the public for a greater overall understanding of art by the public. I do understand the interest in the exclusivity between collector and private gallery. I've also enjoyed the availability of public galleries in the area. In most cases a small membership fee is attached but I find the benefits of this small fee understandable and seldom insurmountable (especially when compared to the fee for some art fairs- Wow!). Perhaps a little more civic planning would help funnel some tax dollars into or consolidate these galleries into art districts or areas that may, in fact, benefit both the galleries and the local stores, restaurants, and community. (Did I contradict myself? Very well, I contain multitudes!- but then, it is a matter of priorities)

I would like to interject the idea that public galleries could and should promote art collecting by celebrating the collectors themselves. By this I mean providing a mild competition open to collectors for recognition of their savvy discretion and taste. Perhaps a juried event based on theme- around local art collection, course- like a contemporary surrealist collection, seascapes, landscapes, political/social awareness, etc. This would be a chance for collectors to show their collection, receive accolades and reward for their support of local artists without having to invite an entire community into their home.

This last idea is to suggest collaboration between artists' communities and local retail outlets such as furniture stores. Although I believe the best way to see art is in the home with the time to look and think about it, galleries and museums run a close second. This does not mean that other settings would not provide an opportunity to see and appreciate art. I'm sure we've all heard the "that'll match the sofa" story that many artists find offensive but the fact is there are some artists that do not mind such a thing and, in fact, create accordingly. For just such artists an association between the artists' community and local retailers would help these artists find a place to show their work to the public. With a little education, salespeople may also help inform those in the community that may know little about art understand it and appreciate in more. This may even benefit the artists disinterested in matching sofas reach a new audience; and, like I mentioned before, it may help a person picture the work in its best setting, the home.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Digital Art

I enjoy working with a variety of media. I think most of the work in this blog does a pretty good job of showing that. That interest is more obvious in my paintings as they are almost all constructed using a variety of media. I've come to find that one advantage of an art education major is the variety of classes that are aplicable to the course of study. I could take everything from drawing and painting classes to basket weaving and jewelry design and it would all help me acquire units for graduation. This interest in multiple media compliments my appropriation of different sources for information and meaning.

In a discussion with one of my students about her artwork she mentioned the fact that she liked working with a digital drawing tablet. I've seen them in Fry's and often wondered how they worked for making artwork. I figured in order to continually improve my ability as a teacher I must be prepared to discuss work in a greater variety of media so I bought one.

The one I bought was relatively inexpensive but effective. It works well with Photoshop but I couldn't get the pressure settings to work in GIMP though they are supposed to. To make an exceptionally long story short it is a lot of fun to use. I am able to scan things in on a whim, reproduce images endlessly, and apply the human contact present in conventional media through the drawing tablet (that contact is at least as close to the final image as possible given the media- not quite like smudging with your finger tip, but you get the point).

These are a couple of samples of the work- just sketches from a couple of evenings in the studio.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Artist's Community: Work space

When building an artists' community the first thing artists need is space to create. Most call this a "studio" though I don't think an artist needs to go that far in order to get work off the easel. This "space" must have access to the requirements of the media (the materials an artist uses to make his or her art) as a minimum, and a means of reasonable security: An artist must be able to lock up and walk away without fear of damage to the work or loss. This space need not be an elaborate thing as one might think having watched enough television to assume the workspace must meet some visual definition of a "studio" or "must inspire" the artist. Artists can take their inspiration from a number of sources; scenic views, the city, people, stories, almost anything! (Besides, I'd be a little suspicious of the merit of an artist's work that found its only inspiration from the working environment.) Ask anyone who is sick of their cubicle at work- work still gets done, though I will admit, it is probably not as enjoyable as completing the work in an office with a view. Studio needed? No, just work space. If we do not call this space a "studio" other opportunities open.

The reason for pointing out exactly what kind of space an artist needs is that many communities overreach when they consider providing space for artists placing unnecessary burden on both the community and the artist. Communities often approach this by offering a large building constructed or redesigned specifically with artists in mind. Small, blank workspaces grouped together with other small blank workspaces with an office space mentality. As I've mentioned, artists need work space not a studio, there's a difference! Another common mistake is to think about artist spaces as apartments- make them small, sterile, and ... oh ya, charge rent. Then they can say, "see, we are providing space for artists," and pass financial burden on to the shoulders of the artist and increase the artist's risk or need for commercial success. Not to mention the risk shared by the community if the space go unused without the rent to pay back the taxpayers. Because artists need low risk workspace much less is required and desired by the artist.

Look, as I've already written, a small space (about 13' X 20' floor space) - enough for a couple of easels, a flat file, and a cabinet for supplies is enough space for an artist to get started. How many streets are lined with nice restaurants below an empty second level with 85% of the shades drawn over the windows with the rest revealing "bookshelves" (this is the name that is given to refuse containers used for self deception) full of things no longer needed? How much room is "used" way in the back of the shop for items of little or no value? This space is wasted space, this wasted space is artist's space that could be made available through the help of the community to the artist.

I propose civic organizers simply coordinate unused space in businesses already active and successful in the community! Coordinate the space as a donation from the business, offer some tax breaks or advertising perks, and an artist has workspace risk free- or at least the risk is shared by the community. I mean really, imagine how many store fronts have "storage space" filled with boxes and unused office furniture that would much rather get a tax break (not to mention a free rotating art collection) for letting an artist use the "storage space" as work space? Any community incentive for the business would surely help reduce the risk inherent in establishing an artist at a very small price. The price might simply amount to collecting an inventory of available space and presenting it as available to artists: "Artists wanted- free studio space, visit the chamber of commerce website," - space made available, coordinated through the city, artist community started! No new construction, no financial risk, no contributions needed, just a community working together as a community for the sake of a community (and, of course, art).

The artist's community is started but not finished. More on that in future posts...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Portraits, one of the artist Saelee Oh

'Thought I'd post a couple of sketches completed the 17th of February. That evening I felt like drawing but had little specific inspiration so, on a whim, I thought I'd work a bit on a couple of portraits. Both are fine examples of why a person should check their proportions before working through the drawings! Oh well, lesson learned (and likely doomed to be repeated as some point in time). The first is a generic soldier as the war in Iraq is seldom far from consciousness and the second is a portrait of Saelee Oh taken straight out of an edition of Juxtapoz magazine. No particular reason for choosing that picture for a study other than the overall color of the photograph.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The artist's community

I've been mulling over some ideas about artist communities and how I think they should be established. As I work to get my own studio off the ground while earning a regular salary as a high school teacher I wonder how difficult it must be for those fresh out of college. Where would one start? "Flip burgers" or work an empty job just to pay the student loans seems to be the common path though I would propose that the frustration faced by the average artist must be exacerbated when also faced with a dead end job where time spent does little for the future. A far greater guarantee seems to be some sort of parental support or other means of income such as that enjoyed by Cezanne or Frankenthaler. This kind of security appears to allow a certain amount of freedom as both Cezanne and Frankethaler were able to pursue new ways of making art without initial commercial success. I can't help but wonder if Frankenthaler might not have painting happy little trees in an impressionist manner if she depended on the sales of her work for the food on her table. If that were the case she may have stayed "safe" rather than risk being sorry for her large color stain paintings. (I don't think she was "sorry," probably just the opposite, I am just trying draw attention to the risks an artist faces when exploring individual expression.) Now if security is not available from some preexisting source as in these last two cases it must be made up by the first, that is unless the community is willing to accept some of this risk faced by artists.

Why would a community even want to accept some of this risk? I mean, does the accept any risk for its other members? Sure it does! Tax breaks are often advertised to businesses to relocate to a community. Local newspapers promote new business as if they were real news items all the time. These are just a couple of examples of the risk as it is accepted by the community for the sake of its members. Of course it is the community in general that benefits from the acceptance of some of these "risky" endeavors: Jobs are created, the tax base is expanded so additional services and civic works can be completed, and of course citizens hear about a lot of tasty new restaurants that open up.

"What about art?" you might ask. Why would a community accept the risk inherent in any new art form? Why should we care if an artist sinks or swims? The answer to that lies in humanity itself- that is the big answer- in that as human beings we derive a large part of our lifes quality from the things we see around us. Proof for this can be found in the cars we drive, the shoes we wear, and the shape of the cell phone we keep on our being at all times. "Sure." you might say, "but those are things we need and as we all know "art is useless." (I'm not saying that, Andy Warhol did- besides that would contradict myself- ooh, sorry, almost another quote, I'll try to stop myself) "Form always follows function" you might say but I say, "function fills a need that's true, but form sells- form is what we want!" So, in short, by having artists around we get what we want and that promotes a greater quality of life. (Was that too much of a jump to the simplistic? Probably.) Therefor, most artists need communities and communities want artists.

Now it is important for me to admit ignorance on the details of many communities though I am familiar with a few and I have, at least a bit of information on a number of civic programs to promote the arts in communities in my area of the United States. Artists need three things for initial establishment assuming, of course, their work is of reasonable merit (this is not required, however). I think I'll focus on these three things in my next few posts: I want to look at each one in some depth to explain what I think is needed and what a community can do to promote a healthy environment for the arts to develop.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wounded Knee

I am currently finishing up a couple of paintings on memory and how much circumstance plays a role in the recording of "facts." I am using the raven metaphorically to suggest the difference between two paintings on a visit my sister and I made to Wounded Knee in 2004.

In the painting I use text to recall the events as they unfolded that evening and how they have played a role in my appreciation for that place and the resistance of those that live on the reservation there. Many people might say that Wounded Knee has two histories, one in 1890 when the band of Lakota following Sitting Bull's brother, Big Foot, were massacred by soldiers under the command of Colonel James W. Forsyth. Another happened when members of the American Indian Movement held off federal forces for 71 days in 1973 . I say the history of that place is a continuous one that runs uninterrupted through the present day; an embarrassing one of religion, culture, government, and money. My experience there is one of a drive through desperate poverty in the middle of the American heartland overlooked and unnoticed by many.

Of particular notice for me was the graffiti on the gate to the small chapel on the hill where someone expressed their loss and remembrance of those held dear to them. A subtle but poignant note from a person searching for a voice that will carry in the winds of South Dakota.

The place stood in sharp contrast for me to the Little Bighorn memorial in Montana, which I visited earlier that summer on my way to the studio in North Dakota. Although the "the Custer Battlefield" shared the raw history and timelessness of the prairie the headstones, sidewalks, gift shops, and visitors were quite different from that faded blue-green sign that insufficiently tells the tale of Wounded Knee.