Becoming The Student #10, Ryan Davis

My friend Ryan Davis – metal-head, Jesus-freak, post-punk-boy, husband, and leader – is my next Becoming the Student subject. When he walked into my studio he was carrying the Iron Maiden-themed TROOPER beer, which bode well for the evening. I began the portrait with Ryan giving me a lengthy narrative on his musical back story, his influences and interests. It was an interesting and winding tale, as any story starting with Kenny Rogers and ending with Anthrax must be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARyan With a Twenty Year Old T-Shirt, 18 by 18 inches, acrylic on panel. 2014.

On Loving Heavy Metal

“Part of it is that I never want to feel too tame. Maybe it is about recapturing something, or feeling younger… but metal just makes me feel more ‘up’ – other music doesn’t do that. These days I sense that I’m getting back into metal more because I can’t really relate to what my friends are into. But all music is worship. I can see God in any music. In metal they’re telling you truths about the world – often about what’s wrong – and looking for some sort of hope and don’t know where to look. I feel as if most metal I listen to has a social message to it. Many of the bands I listen to are speaking out on injustice or the rape of the environment. Of course, there are party songs and pure anger songs, but that’s not all of it.”

Ryan is an incredibly vulnerable man to his friends. Our conversation during the two hours I worked on his portrait moved from things that were seemingly frivolous to intensely deep heart issues. I’m thankful that he was willing to go there in so many areas of his life. Most of these things just can’t be shared in a public format, but I feel that my painting was a kind of subjective record of the narrative journey we took. Ryan is a guy of integrity and strong emotion, and it was humbling to witness his openness.

On Living a Life Not Based on Affinity

“Now, as a Christian, I no longer have so many relationships based on affinity any more. I mean, if you look at who God has put into my life – the people who I’m the best friends with – on paper our friendship doesn’t make sense. People could easily think, ‘they’re not into the stuff you’re into, they don’t like the music you like; how can you like them?’ For me the answer is just that they’re awesome people and they love Jesus. That’s it.”

On the Time Modest Mouse Played in the Basement

“So, they played the KCOU festival one year. They were supposed to play outside, but it was raining. For some reason my house was thrown out there, so they came over and played in my basement. There weren’t 200 people in my house, but there were a lot. There were maybe 50 people down there at the time. I’ve seen that band twice and I love them, but back then the singer just wanted to do drugs and fool around… phone booths and whatnot. Yeah.”

On Our Healthy Future

“Maybe we’ll both get into CrossFit and we’ll lose a ton of weight, be totally ripped, and work out so much we puke.”

afterlightTROOPER beer!

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.”

~

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.

~

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.”

~

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!

Stabilizing a 19th Century Painting

I recently was presented with an opportunity to help stabilize an old painting for Schilb Antiquarian, a rare book/map/art seller here in Columbia, Missouri.

jesusphoto

The painting hanging inside the front hallway of my home.

The piece came to Schilb unstretched and rolled, showing a variety of problems including craquelure and some loss of paint adhesion. The provenance of the piece as described by Schilb is as follows:

Unknown artist. Estimated mid to late 19th century. This painting was located in Peru at Hacienda de San Isidro Chonta, a farm that was established in 1703. In the 1960’s, President Juan Velasco Alvarado seized farming properties from around the country and, subsequently, peasant farmers took what they could from the farm, including this work from the ‘paroquia’ or house of worship. The piece comes to Schilb via an estate sale.

Here’s my breakdown of the situation and my plan to stabilize the piece:

Project:

Crafting a stabilizing substrate and support for a mid to late 19th century South American painting of Christ with Crown of Thorns (Artist Unknown).

Overview:

Work is approximately 24 by 20 inches. Medium is oil on linen and an indirect glazing technique. The surface of the work presents with general craquelure. Some areas of paint film exhibit contact, rolling, and loss-of-adhesion damage, but these are limited. The work has obviously been rolled for a significant period of time. Verso state of linen appears to show standard degradation of fibers consistent with exposure to oil paint and solvents over time. The painting has been framed in the past, and the surface of the work – which is currently unframed – was once stretched over 20- by 16-inch bars. Nail holes are visible around the edge. No special marks appear to be visible on verso or recto; no maker’s marks or indicators of provenance are present. Since there are no important marks on the back of the painting, it seems reasonable to cover the back of the work for protection and longevity.

Project Outline:

My plan is to use a PH Neutral Polyvinyl Acetate adhesive to attach the painting to a quality linen substrate. Once joined and dry, the two components will be laid over a wooden panel (which will also be treated with PVA sizing to make it resistant to atmospheric conditions) and sealed down. In this process the painting will gain stability and presentation quality. The surface of the painting will no longer be moving, so the existing surface damage will be contained and slowed. The verso of the work, which currently presents raw linen to the air, will be sealed in a PH Neutral environment and this will serve to slow the oil-based damage to the linen fibers.

1624761_10103985749028859_1520426922_n

In my workshop, after the piece was attached to the linen substrate and about to be stretched over the panel.

It was an interesting experience to work with this painting. I figure that no person other than the artist has touched the surface of this work more than I have. In photographing it, examining it, planning the stabilization, and then executing the process I found myself thinking about the history of the piece and where it’s been. A minor work, obviously vernacular, and without much to distinguish it other than its subject, the painting is still the work of a real artist who lived and worked and tried to be something. I’ve thought about that artist; what hopes motivated him or her? Perhaps they created dozens of these Christ paintings, maybe it was a single job to make ends meet. In 150 years will someone come upon one of my own works – a piece of little note or distinction – and find the time and desire to make sure it lasts a little longer? I hope so.

Here’s a high resolution shot of the piece in it’s state before the mounting. Click to see it large.

schilbJesus

Thanks to Scott Schilb for giving me the opportunity to meet this painting!

Becoming the Student #6: 2nd Corporal, 3rd Missouri Infantry, CSA

Jeremy Grove is a man who loves family and history. Through some interactions with friends a few years ago he ended up witnessing a Civil War reenactment event. In conversation with the participants he found that he wanted to participate as well. Soon thereafter he joined a Confederate reenactment unit. I asked him if he was a secret Rebel, but he had ancestors who fought on both sides in the war. Jeremy had a great, great, great grandfather who marched for the Confederate States of America with General Shelby’s Iron Brigade, while another was among the first Union soldiers to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

IMG_84942nd Corporal, 3rd Missouri Infantry, CSA (Jeremy Grove), Acrylic on paper, 27 by 22 inches. 2014.

Jeremy on Reenacting for the Confederate Army:

“A good thing to come from my participation in reenactments is that we highlight a time when slavery was an issue. The reality is that human trafficking is still an issue; slavery is still an issue. And if, through my portraying a Confederate soldier, I can have conversations and engage with people – and ultimately raise awareness of the reality that human trafficking is perhaps worse now than it has ever been in history – then I feel that it’s a good way to use history to learn from our past and make a change.”

On the History of War:

“Sobering and horrifying. All wars are wars about resources, nothing more.”

As we dialogued through the evening, our topics ranged from specific events during the Civil War to the idea of state sovereignty, from public history to personal history. Jeremy’s discursive narratives on the battles and movements of governments and armies as they impacted Missouri was amazing. Later on we moved into eastern European folklore, film appreciation, the Large Hadron Collider, faith trajectories, China, Japan, and hardcore table-top gaming. We rounded things out sharing our experiences of the adventure of marriage and the glory of parenting.

Each moment of our talk was charged with intensity and meaning; there were so many quotable, memorable moments. Jeremy’s energy, passion, and desire to live with awareness and thoughtfulness is inspirational. He’s a good man. Thanks for sharing so many grand histories, ideas, and laughs with me, sir!

New Collaboration For 2014

Joel T. Dugan is Assistant Professor at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, and we have begun a series of collaborative paintings. It was great to meet and hit it off with Joel during my recent exhibition at FHSU, and I’m excited at the prospect of working with him. I’ve decided that, much like my new series of portraits (Becoming the Student), I’m going to keep a record here to show how our work progresses.

The first six pieces have begun, three started by Joel and three started by me. These are the first states of the works. We’ll alternate working over what each other has developed and, hopefully, come to a mutual conclusion about the work.

collab01

collab02

collab03

collab04

collab05

collab06

In other news, I’ve had two pieces of writing made available on the neotericART website recently:

Below the Blue Line: The Recent Work of Allison Jaqueline Reinhart

Trying to Get a Sense of Scale – Tim Lowly’s Precious Labor

~

Visiting The Milwaukee Art Museum with Marcus

milwaukeesail3

My good friend and former student Marcus met up for a day at the Milwaukee Art Museum today. While there, we took in the wonderful and hilarious Thomas Sully exhibition that was on view. We visited old favorites, like the two Richard Diebenkorn works they own. We also enjoyed a couple new friends, like the Audubon piece below:

marcus7

While taking in the Thomas Sully: Painted Performance exhibition, I decided to do a number of quick sketches. I spent between 30 seconds and two minutes on these pieces. If you click on my drawing, you’ll see what the original piece looked like.

They really reminded me of the fantastic Kyle Staver’s work. Staver, who just recently had a show at Tibor de Nagy in NYC, often uses classic themes and large, dynamic compositions in her work. She also manifests a unique sense of the shaping of forms, particularly in how she develops the figures in her paintings. Sully, though very different from Staver and far removed from her in time, also had a feeling for the strange shapes that flesh may take on. What he lost in correct anatomy (foreshortening, proportion) was gained in drama and formal structure. The strange figures he painted often loom from the surfaces in terms of their abstract shapes rather than their representational effect. In some way Sully feels like a progenitor of Staver.

Anyway, here are the sketches – click to see the originals. Enjoy!

image-a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s Self Portrait, 1807.

image-6a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of Mary Ann Paton, 1836.

image-1a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of Major Thomas Biddle, 1832.

image-5-a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of Mary Siddons Whelen, 1812.

image-9a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of Rosalie Kemble Sully as The Student, 1848.

image-4a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of John Terford David, 1813.

image-8a

Sketch of Thomas Sully’s portrait of Mrs George Lingen, 1842.

~

All in all it was a pretty nice day. Here’s one more shot of Marcus for the road…

marcus2

Classic Studio Shot – Camden, NY

casspainting2

As a freshman and sophomore art student I often made my paintings on the wall of my bedroom in Camden, NY. In this classic studio shot, my niece Cassilyn and I were painting away on an abstracted scene of Wolcott Hill Road.

It’s a great memory. Now that Cassi is a freshman in college herself, I figured it was time to share the joy. Love you, Cass! Here’s hoping your education and college adventures are as valuable and productive as mine were! :)

In Three Moving Parts at The Evanston Art Center

I have an exhibition that opens Sunday, September 29th at The Evanston Art Center. The show, titled In Three Moving Parts, is a three-person exhibition featuring nine of my own pieces alongside the works of Norbert Marszalek and Timothy P. Vermeulen.

2013-09-27 23.38.07

I traveled to Evanston this week to help install the show. It was a very fast trip – I was only in town for about 12 hours – but it is always a joy to travel those streets. My wife and I spent quite a few years in Chicago and Evanston, and those cities are close to our hearts. If you’re from the Chicagoland area, please consider coming up for the show. The opening is Sunday, September 29th from 1 – 4. Below are a few gray scale shots of the show during our installation. To see it in all its glorious surface density and color, make your way there!

Click the images for a larger view.

2013-09-27 23.49.20

2013-09-27 23.50.29

2013-09-27 23.42.36

2013-09-27 23.41.05

2013-09-27 23.39.43

I’ll be leading a workshop at the close of the show, on either November 9 or November 10. Stay tuned for information about that!

Also, I’d love to know what you think of the show – if you go, please leave comment here.

Light Study

2013-08-11 06.01.30-1

Above are two studies of light effects I made last week while traveling to visit family. Left is from sunlight glare through a window onto a wall/ceiling in the Fine Arts Building. Right is from a tableau of multiple light beams through an empty PBR case. Click the image for a large version.

I almost always carry a special art-making case of paper, gouache, collage material, and colored pencils with me on vacations to visit family. Got some good stuff this time.

More later.