This is a photo of what I have been working on lately. Now that I have figured out how to make simple and somewhat complex molds of my clay sculptures, I can’t seem to stop the tide of ideas I have. There was a point, not too long ago, in my life when I feared I was running out of ideas for paintings. Everything I created seemed either not very inventive or a rehash of some previous work. Now granted, I am not doing anything groundbreaking with sculpture, but I can see so many possibilities that I have yet to try and learn from that perhaps aren’t as evident in painting to me. And who knows, maybe this will open some options and avenues to explore in painting as well. Either way, it is exciting and simply fun. And who doesn’t like fun things, huh?
This painting, called “Shadows with Conflict” was, is,and always will be, a complete asshole. I put more work, thought and energy into this painting than any other in recent memory. And after all that hard work, I still feel like I missed the mark. I really have no idea what I am looking at and have even less of an idea what to do to fix it. If it needs to be fixed. Right now the painting is hanging at a gallery in Milwaukee. During the opening, another gallery owner and I talking about my paintings. She explained that she thought this was my strongest piece and central to my other work. Despite the urge to grab her by the shoulders, shake her violently and scream “Who sent you?!”, I thanked her and said her feedback was interesting. I felt like walking over to one of my other paintings in gallery and whispering to it, “You won’t believe what that woman said.” Then the two of us would laugh and cast dirty looks at “Shadows”. We would make it feel like an outsider, something unwanted. But if I am truthful with myself, I can’t wait to get this painting back, even if it is just to stare at it with confusion.
This is one of the two new teddy bear faces I recently finished. I love making these stuffed animals. The only thing which can be difficult is actually sewing them. Because I don’t have a sewing machine, each one is done by hand. There have been times, while sewing these in front of the TV, that my feelings about sweat shops and child labor came into question. When I started fantasizing about just how little I would have to pay a Malaysian 8 year old to crank these out all day, I realized maybe I should look into buying a machine.
It’s also pretty fun when I have to buy the material for the bears. Every fabric store has the same old lady cutting material for customers. When ever I bring a panel of fur for her to cut, she usually performs a quick double take. I can’t blame her really. Why in the hell would a grown man in raggedy paint splattered clothes want to make a teddy bear? I’ve asked the same question myself. Why indeed. The last woman who cut me 2 yards of very soft fur broke down and asked me ” whatcha makin?” As tempted as I was to say” a furry lady suit”, I simply said ” a teddy bear for my daughter.” She, of course, was tickled by this. She told me what a great dad I was and that it was quite unusual for a man to know how to sew. I pretended I had no idea what she was talking about. “All the men in my family sew constantly” I told her. She changed the topic after that.
This is a panting that has been hanging in my living room for so long that I don’t even notice it anymore. Just the other day, as I was walking past it, I thought to myself, “oh, there is a dead baby on my wall. How long has that been there?” The painting is based off a photo I bought at a flea market. I am pretty sure the child is dead in the photo, but I’m not sure. I think it’s the ambiguity of the photograph that inspired me to paint it. But now I like the painting purely for aesthetic reasons. Maybe I could market the idea and design dead baby throw pillows, place-mats and dishtowels to be sold at your local big box store.
I finally finished and installed the mural for Antioch high school and I have to say, I am pretty happy with the end result. I feel like I can breathe a little sigh of relief now and admit that there were aspects of this job that really had me worried. And like most projects that instill that special breed of panic and restlessness, it’s execution went fairly smooth and trouble free. Easy peazy lemon squeezy. I think anxiety is just my way of saying, ” I care about you , painting. I really do.”
During the few days it took me to install this mural, I did notice something peculiar. Most people who walked by and took notice of the mural had one of two reactions. Either they loved it, and said so, or hated it, and said so. That is to say, they didn’t come right out and say “I hate it”. Instead they would ask me questions like, ” why is this here” or try and explain why they never understood art. It just seemed like the reactions were extreme one way or the other and it surprised me. I certainly didn’t create a controversial mural and my intentions leaned more to the decorative side. But I guess it is a testament to how powerful art can be. Or at least confusing.
I realize that it has been quite some time since my last post, but I have been swamped with work. Not to mention my only shower in the house sprung a leak and fixing it has opened that famous “can of worms” that any do- it- yourselfer is intimately familiar with.
I have included a picture of the finished “bulldog”. While painting it, I kept hoping that these sculptures were made sturdy enough for little kids to sit on. The odds of it being displayed in a public place all summer without one kid wanting to jump on it seem slim. Christ, the temptation was there even for me. I am glad to have it done though and I hope it is well received.
I also included a picture of a painting that has been hanging untouched for the past month. I was just about to finish it before my shower conspired to steal all my free time. Whenever I went into my garage to get a tool or supplies for work, I took a second to look it over. The more I have looked at it, the more it seems finished already. I want to return to it, but I also don’t want to add to it without a plan or an idea of where I want to go. Maybe I’ll just hide it for a few months and forget about it. That seems to help sometimes.It would be great if I could do that with other portions of life as well.
The town of Batavia has joined in on the fad of painting fiberglass animals and placing them throughout the city. It seems like a strange concept when I stop and think about it, but as an artist, I wish every city would do it. More work for me. I submitted my design a couple months ago and I don’t think anyone really liked it since it was the last to be picked. But, lo and behold, a man with a fiberglass bulldog in his back seat pulled up my driveway, handed me a check and the dog and here we are. I am only about halfway done with it, but I am going to work like crazy to finish it this weekend. Do you know why? Do you see that large canvas hanging in the background? That is the first of two paintings I am doing for a high school. Coming in at 6′ x 12′ , it is the largest canvas I have ever painted. The second largest was 8′ x 4′ and I vividly recall thinking, when I wasn’t even halfway done, “what in the hell have I gotten myself into?” As I have been painting this bulldog, I can feel the eyes of that canvas peering down on me. I hear it mutter profanities to me and when I jerk my head around to look at it, I see nothing but it’s blank face. I can already tell this painting is a real asshole.