Becoming the Student #9: Michael Winters

Michael Winters is the Director of Sojourn Arts and Culture in Louisville, KY. I got to know him when I had a two-person show at the gallery he formerly directed, The 930.

Recently Michael stayed at our home while coming through Columbia. He was a blessing, and a gentle soul to be around. I was glad to sit down with him to discuss art, life, family, and The National.

IMG_0117Michael Winters, Digital drawing, Dimensions variable. 2014. Created with an Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on an iPad Air.

You can see a video of part of the process of building this digital painting here.

It was a powerful couple hours talking to Michael. There was a great deal of vulnerability and humanity on display in our talk, but perhaps that is best represented by our shared love of bands like the The National:

On The National:

“Over the last year I’ve listened through all their albums heavily again. And with the new one that recently came out, I feel that the instrumentation is just so precise. So spot on. And his (Matt Berninger) voice fits it, too. At first, a few years ago, I thought his voice was – without careful listening – a little hokey. But that changed. I take it seriously. It’s for real.”

Favorite Line on The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me“:

“Everything I love is on the table…”

On the Power of Music:

“There are no short cuts. It only works because it makes you pay attention.”

On Art:

“If artwork is not going to emphasize craft then I’m going to expect a lot of it conceptually. So often that seems lacking. I’m looking for serious content.”

On an Under-known Musical Artist He Loves:

“Somebody pointed me to an album by Austin Crane under the name of Valley Maker. All of the songs on it related to the book of Genesis, but it’s all done really well. There’s a lot of interpretation there and getting into the mind of the characters. His most recent album, Yes I Know I’ve Loved This World, is very personal, very kind of first-person; his songs, his stories. I think it’s extremely profound. It’s just good song writing.”

On my Digital Portrait of Him:

“It’s wonderful to be seen.”

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Thank you for visiting, Michael!

Becoming the Student #8: Joel T Dugan

Joel T Dugan is an amazing painter and educator who works as a professor at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. A few weeks ago my family had the honor of hosting him for a few days and the time we spent together in the studio were some of the best drawing hours I can remember. Our conversation ranged wide. We spoke of everything from “ignorant faithfulness” to the “chase” aspect of painting. Especially beneficial to me was sharing our experiences in teaching. It was an epic evening.

IMG_0023Portrait of Joel T Dugan, Digital drawing, Dimensions variable. 2014. Created with an Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on an iPad Air.

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On Reality and the Ignorantly Faithful

“In terms of reality… I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of individuality and that how we perceive worth can be so saturated with our own assertions we might experience certain things as so much more impactful than anyone else could.

What do we know? What do we expect? What do we allow to resonate? In my life, so many things have happened – circumstances have aligned themselves, so many nuances have taken place – that you almost wonder if there’s a Suspect at work, something that we might call fate.

But the very notion of fate is so saturated with the hoax-y, with… the ignorantly faithful, those who… allow themselves to… view things in terms of a Divine Plan or Divine Timing while not… taking responsibility for their own choices and motivations. That’s also about not being willing to accept any of the obvious cues that something might not be what we think it is. It’s often a cover up for really not wanting to engage with deep concerns. “

On Perception and Ignorance

“I wonder about perception. I wonder a lot about what truly is valuable. But then you just completely get lost in the kids and it’s always a great release to see that pure innocence and awe. I fear for my kids, that they’ll lose that wonder.”

We’re all subjected to selective ignorance. We utilize that state by default without even knowing it. We’re creatures of comfort in the sense that we love to feel like we’re right. It makes us feel like our efforts are fulfilling, that our existence is poignant.”

On Painting as Existential Chase

“I question myself about the impact of the things that I do, questioning what is the true exchange that takes place when creating art. Being able to share, or even just include, the viewer in the mystique of the work, of that chase… that very much is a kind of lustful relationship. And I just keep thinking to myself that if I could get closer to that same feeling of epiphany, of surprise and recollection that takes place when you struggle with doubts and failures – even after absolute trust and immense security – and you think to yourself ‘I’m a fool. Today is not the day’ so you turn away, put on your coat to leave…. But then you glance back. And you think, ‘That’s not too bad. You know what, with ten more minutes that could really be something.’ And after all the rest of that time it’s almost like you stole it. Almost like you took something that was just a failure and you ripped it from the hands of mediocrity and re-purposed it. If that moment could be shared with everyone you would never have doubt that it was worth it. But how the hell do you do that without just saturating it with your own judgment?”

 On Teaching

“One of the hardest things about teaching is asking people to be both more accepting of judgment and more confrontational with opinion. I just love seeing the light bulb turn on in their heads. You lay the cheese in front of them and they think they found it themselves; that’s when learning how to learn takes place.”

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If you ever get a chance to spend time with Joel, do it. He’s a man of faith, family, and joy. My daughters really fell in love with him and he gave them such positive attention and care. Our youngest, CaiQun, asked, “Can Mr Joel could be a part of our family forever??”

IMG_0521Mr Joel and CaiQun working with the Sensu Brush in ArtRage on Joel’s iPad.

  IMG_0560Joel breaking down one of Eric Norby’s paintings.

~

On the Drawing I Made of Him:

“I’m glad you love my head.”

I was blessed to get to hang out with Joel for a few days – everyone is better for a few hours with the guy. Thank you, sir!

Working with the Adonit Jot Touch 4 and Sketchbook Pro

I recently began working with the Adonit Jot Touch 4 stylus. It’s a really phenomenal tool. As an artist who has been learning, working, and teaching in analog painting and drawing for almost 25 years, I have a really high standard for the feel of the art making tools I use. The Jot Touch 4 has been great to work with.

photo 3Interior of a Church, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 45 minutes.

Pros:

* The Jot Touch really does have analog level pressure sensitivity. It’s not really like drawing with a pencil or moving a brush, but it’s close enough to allow for the intuitive knowledge I have of those traditional approaches to apply.

* Excellent feel – the Jot Touch has the weight and surface quality of a fine ball pen. Holding and moving it feels natural and I soon forgot that I was using it. The mark of a good tool is that it feels both necessary and melds seamlessly with the nature of the task. The Jot Touch does this for me.

* Effectiveness. Particularly when paired with a nice application – I use Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro on an iPad Air and a Kindle Fire – I find the Jot Touch 4 to be exactly as advertised. I have always been frustrated with different stylus options I’ve tried in the past but this thing does basically everything I need.

Cons:

* Price. The Jot Touch 4 is not something most people can just buy on a whim. It was recommended to me by a friend in the iPad app development field; I expected that it was a quality item. In exploring the device I could see how superior it was to basically every other stylus out there (except the Sensu brush, which I’ll talk about in a later post). The Touch 4 is expensive, but it’s worth it for graphic designers and artists. It just feels so much more natural than Wacom tablets or lesser stylus options.

* The palm rejection isn’t sufficient. I tend not to use it since I almost never simply rest my palm on a surface while I’m drawing. I view drawing as an action that originates in the body, especially in the shoulder. Even when sketching in a seated position I tend to keep my hand off the surface. It’s not writing essays, it’s making a drawing. That said, I think that a broader, more robust palm rejection area could be useful. I have tried it out a few times and just don’t feel that it’s effective at this point.

photo 1My Daughter Painting, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 20 minutes.

In the month since I started using the Jot Touch 4 I’ve made dozens of drawings, but a few really highlight how I use the device. Below are three movies that show a process of building a drawing. These are the prototypes for more developed demos that I will create for an online Beginning Drawing course at The University of Missouri next fall. The first two – portraits of friends – show the development of pieces made for my Becoming the Student series. Watch out for the posts about these two portraits coming up soon!

Digital painting of my friend Kevin Stark. Two hours.

Digital painting of my friend Michael Winters. One Hour 45 minutes.

Still Life Demo. One Hour 30 minutes.

All in all I’m really pleased with the Jot Touch 4 as it works within Sketchbook Pro. I have used the Sketchbook series of drawing apps for about a year and a half and have enjoyed them. The Pro is the best yet, and for the $5 price it’s completely worth it. Even without a stylus Sketchbook Pro is glorious.

Below: Red French Press, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 3 minutes.

photo 2

Becoming the Student #7: Tom Seagraves

Tom Seagraves is a man used to procedures and business plans. He’s a man who has worked in both management strategies and the soft logic of human relationships. A few years ago he took his decades of experience and began building a MAC Tools franchise here in Columbia, MO. He is now among the most productive toolmen in the company, ranking at the top in Missouri and in the top 120 nationally. His success is gaining recognition; recently Tom had an editor for Professional Distributor (a trade magazine) ride out with him on his rounds. He’ll be featured in an upcoming edition of the publication.

While drawing him for my Becoming the Student project, I took the opportunity to learn about his perspective on work and community.

IMG_8495Tom Seagraves, Graphite on Stonehenge, 21 by 22 inches. 2014.

On Building His Small Business:

“It’s satisfying to know that I built it from scratch. There was no one before me who handed it off. My customers are my customers. I didn’t acquire them from someone else. That’s been very satisfying.”

On Small Business and the Relationships it Creates:

“Operating a small business is hard. It is very hard. It feels like you get penalized – the better you do, the more taxes are tacked on. That’s the part that’s hard. But relationships make it all worth it. The relationships are the part that I love about it. I’m on a route, so I see the same guys every week. I’ve got those guys I love to see and we’ve got such great relationships. That’s really the fun part of what I get to do. And to have that trust develop; to have those guys to trust me. You know, if I suggest something to them: ‘Hey, this is a new thing, it costs this much, but you really need to have it and here’s why.’ All those guys just say, ‘If that’s what you think, I better have it.’ That trust and connection is huge to me.”

On Competition and Making a Difference:

“Competition is good for everybody. It’s good for the customers and it keeps us on our toes as business owners. I think the big lesson is that you can always learn something and you can always grow. But the other thing is that I’ve had opportunities to be used – I think by God – in other peoples’ lives. In the position I’m in – the relationships I have with a lot of people in this town – I think there have been days I’ve been able to be an encouragement. You get those days where you look at the clock and think, ‘I’ve got to hurry, I’m running late.’ But then there are those days where for some reason I’m ahead of schedule and I don’t know why. It seems like every time, that day, there’s someone who needs me. And then I’m able to have a conversation with someone about something they’re dealing with on a really deep level. It’s not every day, but those times happen. When I’m done with that I’m able say, wow, the Lord really worked that out. I’m so thankful to be used in those situations. Just with one word or in five minutes… that could be important for a guy. It’s easy to look at yourself and think you’re not making a difference in anyone’s life; you’re just making a living, just paying your bills. You get tied up in the mundane and then something happens. God cares about what happens, cares about the people I see.”

Tom and I also talked about the nature of art and portraiture. During our discussion I was able to break down a little bit of what the Becoming the Student project is about:

“It’s more than about making a nice picture for Grandma’s fridge. I mean, for the rest of our lives, when we see this drawing we’re going to think about this time. The drawing gets funded – it’s an investment. It’s an investment in relationship. It’s an investment in friendship and brotherhood. It’s an investment in intellectual history and proximity. It’s an investment in all of those things and, of course, that’s what it’s for. Drawings and paintings – artworks in general – have never merely been for accoutrement. They were always a way to mark time. They were a way to say, ‘We were here; we did this.’ So in that sense, this piece will not mean much to anyone else. But when we look at it, it’ll matter more. It’ll be different. Just in general I think it’s a very basic human urge to say, ‘This has happened and I know it. I have seen this thing, or I have read this passage or I’ve heard this song. It happened.’ I mean, the background of so many great songs is remembering. When you hear the song… you remember. It’s very similar for the makers and subjects of artworks. Learning from the people who sit for me will catalyze meaning in the artworks that result. I want to spend some time parked on that idea.”

I guess that’s a nice segue into the fact that some of the first Becoming the Student works will be on display at PS Gallery here in Columbia, MO! If you’d like to see the works in person, be sure to stop in (click the image below for more info)!

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.39.13 AM

 

Becoming the Student, #5: Captain America

Daniel Glosson (brother to Billy) is another young, passionate guy that I know. I always enjoy sitting down with him. Recently married, working multiple jobs, serving in the community, and trying to work out his faith and beliefs in the world, Daniel is an energetic force of nature. IMG_8425

Glosson (Captain America), Colored Pencil and Gouache on Stonehenge, 15 by 12 inches, 2014.

On Art

“I think art is incredible. But I don’t value the idea over what’s right there in front of us. I definitely miss stuff all of the time and I hate that, but when someone shows it to me I’m blown away. If an artist is trying to make a statement but isn’t doing anything about it that makes me angry. I guess I’m practical to a fault. When I see a problem I’m driven to do something about it, not simply represent it or use it as inspiration.”

On Working at Schilb Antiquarian

“I’m so fortunate. I love the job. It’s awesome. I want to attain the same love for the store and the books that Scott has. I’m trying to learn all I can. I love the chance to just browse through these books, read them. It’s amazing, and now that I’m looking at all these old books and trying to wrap my mind around it, I can really see this expanse of human thought over the centuries. They way they thought, they way they progressed in terms of understanding and rationalization. We just have all this stuff, these records of peoples’ thinking and processing. The questions of what do we value most are all there, and you can see how people have approached it, be it fantasy or escapism or cold, hard truth in the scientific or mathematical works. We even have an exorcism text from 1683, Flagellum Daemonum – literally “beat the devil”! – and it looks like it’s got blood on the cover. Wild.”

On Eucatastrophe

“I think death is extremely beautiful. I love tragedies.”

On his Captain America shirt

“I’m not really a patriot.”

On Michael Bay and Thomas Kinkade

“Fortunately there are two things you and I both loathe – and I think it’s hilarious – that’s Michael Bay and Thomas Kinkade. I think that’s the greatest thing ever. I don’t know if it’s great to bond over hatred but I remember talking to someone about hating Michael Bay movies and they said ‘you need to meet Matt Ballou!’ I’m so happy about that, just knowing there’s another. Those Transformer movies make me throw up in my mouth.”

On Looking Like Billy Corgan

“I don’t see it.”

Becoming the Student, #4: Billy Glosson

In continuing the Becoming the Student project, I’m aiming to use different methods and mediums in building the portraits. In this piece, I focused on something tied directly to Billy’s identity and his presence in the world: his tattoos. I wanted to depict the color, the saturation, and the overtness of these artworks that have been put on his body. They’re really important to him as a way to tell a story and represent his deeply held beliefs.

IMG_8353Portrait of Billy (Fruit of the Vine), Pastel on Stonehenge, 19 by 22 inches, 2014.

Billy on his portrait:

“That’s really cool. I was wondering why you were staring at my midsection the whole time…”

Billy on maintaining awe:

“There’s not a method. I think our hearts are prone to becoming numb. Derek Webb has a song with a line that says ‘we love lovers less wild’ and I think that’s the truth. For me it’s about constantly coming back to the place where I’m asking God to reveal Himself. I want to create good longing in my heart. Difficult moments and hardships and conflict and frustrating things in my life point me back to grace. Another practical way is having people around me who can speak into my life; that’s been huge.”

Billy is on a quest to complete an entire sleeve of tattoos. To help him out, I suggested the classic image from The Cloud of Unknowing. I definitely think it’s skin-worthy:1979654_10103885160284509_1941637934_n

Becoming the Student, #3: Bobby Schembre

Bobby Schembre is a pastor, musician, questioner, lover of fine bourbons, and grill-master. In many ways we are different, but in many ways we are very similar… from the deepest hopes we harbor to the sorts of challenging questions we explore. Last week Bobby agreed to be a part of my “Becoming the Student” project. I greatly looked forward to our conversation. We moved through some intense existential territory over the course of our 2+ hour session. Some topics we touched on were: Pink Floyd and spiritual awakenings, how to understand the taste of bourbon and scotch, the nature of musical liturgy in contemporary Christianity, the glory and grace of our wives, and our experience of scientific awe.

Here is the resulting portrait:

IMG_8350Portrait of a Man (Bobby Schembre, 2/24/2014). Pastel on Stonehenge Paper, 22 x 24 inches, 2014. (Click for enlargement)

Bobby on musical liturgy and storytelling:

“I love the fact that we talk about how God is holy and untouchable and yet He’s here and gracious. It doesn’t make any sense really. Or that He’s indescribable and infinite and then we turn around and spend the rest of the service describing Him.”

“Part of the reality for me is that I can’t believe the bible or have a real experience of Christianity without being OK with deep tension. Everywhere, everything has a balance to it. Everything has a paradox involved in it. Nothing is just something you could put in a box and tie it up neatly and say, ‘I’ve got this.’ When we explore something about God there’s something else that makes us think, ‘well, what about this?’ And so one of the things I’m always thinking about in creating a musical liturgy is how can we expand the way we think about God, uphold the paradox, and marvel at the paradox of God.”

“I’ve been pondering my job as a ‘worship leader’ – which is just something we’ve made up – you know, what is this? I think part of the answer is that I’m a storyteller. I’m helping people think the story and sing the story of the gospel. It’s practicing a pattern.”

Bobby, with his manly beard and barrel chest reminds me of a few other bearded big men of history…

spurgeon_chair1Famed Christian pastor and author, C.H. Spurgeon

portrait-of-sculptor-james-vibertSculptor James Vibert by Ferdinand Hodler

Repin-portrait-of-the-composer-modest-mussorgsky-1881Russian Composer Mussorgsky by Ilya Repin

Also, there’s this great Portrait of a Man from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Click to check it out.

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Thanks for being a part of this portrait series, Bobby!

The Fine Arts Building Has Never Seemed So Mysterious

My current crop of Beginning Drawing students at Mizzou are doing some great work. Below are just a few of their Interior Space drawings – these works are their first attempts at realizing accurate perspective and accumulation of value. I think this group of (mostly) non Art Majors is doing nicely.

IMG_0381Cailin Carter

IMG_0386Jane Grossman

IMG_0387Libby McKown

IMG_0389Tayler Newcomer

IMG_0392Jordan Giljum

IMG_0390Mandy Lupardus

IMG_0388Blessing Ikoro

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It’s shaping up to be a great semester!

Chris Ware, Ox-Bow, and a Drawing

Back in 2001 I was awarded a Fellowship Residency at Ox-Bow in Michigan (you can read more about that transformative time here). This was a time before browsing the internet by phone from basically anywhere was even possible; hell, I didn’t even have cell coverage there. There was only one internet connection accessible at Ox-Bow and that was via dial-up.

In the Inn (before renovations that happened back in 2004 or 05), there was a small desk tucked into a corner where people would use the phone to call home or connect their brick-like laptop to the web for a few minutes. I had quite a few late night phone chats there with my then-girlfriend/now-wife after which I’d use the phone jack to log into my email for a sending/receiving session.

One evening I walked into the Inn to see Chris Ware sitting at the desk, talking on the phone, and making a small drawing on a scrap of paper. Mr Ware, a famed-though-awkward comic book artist who had created the fantastic Acme Novelty Library series and the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (Among many works. You should look at them – they’re quite profound and beautifully made) was at Ox-Bow to give a talk. And there he was: silent, hunched, and seemingly distracted from his phone call. His pen moved gently, pensively. His paper skittered over the pitted wooden desktop.

We – those who had to use that desk and that phone because no other forms of communication with the outside world we available to us – had been used to sketching absentmindedly while sitting there. I had drawn many a cartoon self portrait during that summer. Often our drawings would join together, becoming layered time capsules consisting of blue and black ink. Mr Ware’s sketch was added to the desk drawer to be subsumed into the mass of other drawings.

Some time later – a day, a week – I found myself rooting through the drawer for a paper upon which to put my jottings, and there was Chris Ware’s drawing. On a 4 by 3 inch scrap of Ox-Bow map (verso) a weary figure, perhaps bemused but certainly full of existential angst (a stylized self-portrait of the artist?), sat before an anachronistic rotary phone. The expression of the man, the drawing’s line work, and the overall feeling of the piece are all quintessential Ware.

And so, here it is for your enjoyment:

ChrisWareDrawing2001Both sides of a piece of paper with a drawing by Chris Ware on it. Ink on paper, approximately 4 by 3 inches, 6/21/2001.

Multiples of 18 Celebration

In just four more days – February 18 – we’ll be celebrating the year anniversary of becoming a family of four! It’s hard to believe that on this day a year ago we were walking the streets of Beijing and taking in the sights and sounds of China! The time has really flown and so much has happened! So many people helped us get to that adoption day and then continued to support us over the last year. It’s truly been a year of serious joy and strange challenges.

To mark this event with some art I decided to have a Studio Sale – and everything is going to be priced in multiples of 18 (February 18, multiples of 18… see what I did there?)

Anyway, stop over to the Etsy Shop to see what’s new over there. All the work will go back up to “normal” prices next month, so get some glorious imagery while you can!

Below are a few of the pieces you could be hanging in your place for next to nothing – click them to see their Etsy listing.

IMG_8181Lewis County, NY. Pastel on paper, 16.5 by 22 inches. 2013.

CAL-workshopUntitled Pastel Workshop Demo. Pastel on paper, 30 by 22 inches. 2013.