In the Studio #57

You know they say folks never want to see how the sausage is made. While much of the minutia that goes into how many products are made can seem tedious and boring I actually love to see creative people showing how they make there work. I often find myself mesmerized watching YouTube or Instagram videos of craftsmen making furniture or chefs making a delicious-looking meal. It is one of the reasons I do blogs like this one, showing how my paintings are put together. I often show works a little further along than this current piece I’m working on (the fifth painting in my planet series), but I thought it was important to show how the sandwich of the surface was put together.

As a means of background let me say I paint almost exclusively on panels that I build. This is stupidly impractical from a storage perspective I know, but I find the bounce of the brush (or in the case of these paintings the pallet knife), feels better on a hard surface. I try as best I can to use simple materials. I work at a Home Depot so I usually build my panels from 1/8th-inch plywood and with 1 x 2 pieces of wood I find in my store. I’m no carpenter or woodworker as my buddy Harold Seigfried can attest, (I’ve been known to occasionally build panels that aren’t quite square), but once I assemble these boards I usually – and with great ceremony – wrap the edges and corners with masking tape. I’m not sure why I go through so much effort here but every piece I make has that distinctive tape edge.

After doing this superficial edging I gesso the surface using Kilz which I prefer over traditional gesso. Kilz is a thick and luscious paint usually used for priming. I often use it for my whites in paintings because of its warm yellowish tinge once dried (I feel like the off-color white it leaves is more natural). Once the Kilz is laid down I paper the surface, in the case of these planet pieces with simple xerox paper. Traditionally, I use Thai Kozo paper but when I started these planets in the spring I was particularly poor and couldn’t afford the 3 or 4 dollars per sheet to coat the panels. Each planet usually takes 4 or 5 sheets to cover with the largest size Kozo paper sold at my local Blick. Though I love what Kozo paper does, how it seemingly breaths over time, I could not justify the price given that no one would see the paper or know it was there unless I told them. Xerox paper is decidedly low-brow and probably not all that archival, but boy does it crinkle and curl nicely. For an artist that enjoys a bumpy surface, it’s incredibly satisfying – even if it means I often have to glue down the paper over and over again to get it to lay down correctly. After trimming the edge of the papered panel I then coat it again with Kilz. At this point, the panel is at Step 1 in my rigid painting process. The piece is then ready to be coated with torn pieces of disposable pallet paper used to mix paint from previous works. I think I’ve shown what happens next in other blogs.

Prepping a new piece is always a contemplative process for me. What will this painting look like? What challenges lay in wait? This work will be named after my ex Tim so I’m thinking now about how  Mars seems like him. Titles usually come to me before the work itself and I’m leaning towards calling this one “Stalking Prey Along Perditions Road Goes Twin Warriors Mars and Tim”, the wordiest title yet in the series but I think it fits the mood I want to set.

Here are my early prep process shots for this new Mars piece:


I’ve been in a Franz Liszt mood for a couple weeks now which is odd because I don’t often listen to as much classical music as I had in my previous life. I think I mentioned before how I love “Hungaria” and “the Preludes”. Now I’m falling in love with his violin and piano works. Here are a couple that are playing in my studio today as I write this blog post.

Die Drei Zigeuner, For Piano & Violin S.383 (Lw D8) and Duo (Sonata) Sur Des Themes Polanais, For Violin & Piano I. Here are the YouTube videos.



I’m one of the featured artists at the Banana Factory during October so it’s my goal to have this Mars painting finished by then, which would represent an incredibly fast turn around for me. Hopefully I can make it work. I’d like to blog again on how that journey goes later this month, until then do be well.


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