In the Studio #65

I had another good week in the studio this last week finishing two pieces and getting a long way towards finishing a third. I finished “Sea of Japan #3” and my Mercury painting titled “Like Flighty-Footed Mercury Harold Aides”, named for my friend Harold Siegfried. It’s always amazing to me how productive I get when in the studio after a week working at my day job. I’ve found it stressful but in a good way. I’m forced to think deliberatively, providing clues on how I can bring this attitude to other areas of my life. I’ve mentioned on any number occasions how fiercely I wish I could change my situation and to that end, I’ve been vigorously applying to more accommodating jobs, but now I’m finding that I have golden-handcuffs with my benefits and vacation that I’ve accrued. This country has so much locked potential trapped in people working at dead-end jobs but who can’t move out of fear of the alternative or other life circumstances. It makes me so sad sometimes, I constantly see people as trapped and bound souls, in many respects I believe most people, especially poor people of color, are slaves or at least indentured servants if that’s too strong.

This last week began in the studio with trying to bring “Sea of Japan No. 3″ to some level of completion. The piece began very well. I usually interpret my source photos, in this case, a photograph from acclaimed artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, in a painterly direction by highlighting subtle color variations that I see. I then try to block out these variations aggressively and maybe somewhat sloppy in what I call a “color story” rendition of the painting, which finish off later. I found that with this piece I layered the finishing colors in patches which were increasingly difficult to blend especially since the colors I used were so light in color. The way I blend with the pallet knife is very direct and I often mix two colors together and apply the paint directly to the canvas. I do this with the knowledge that the streaks of unblended paint that naturally occur will remain visible. Sometimes this works out well and other times it feels distracting and unrefined. This piece was a battle for me in getting the subtle color variation changes to blend and “sit down”. I did my best to hide some of these issues with a little iridescent silver thrown onto the piece in the end after I really noticed them in the Instagram pic I posted of the piece. There are times when I wish we could update Instagram photos.

Here is a photo of the before and after of Sea of Japan 3 with the second image containing a closer tint to the original. I’m really looking forward to finishing this series this week. Its been a pain to work on.


Finishing up my Mercury painting by contrast was a dream. These planet-paintings have become so, I would say easy but formulaic perhaps, that I paint them very quickly. This painting was a challenge for me from the start though because I used a NASA spectrograph image that shows the mineral deposits on the planet as my source. Many of the photos we have of space objects, particularly galaxies and nebulas, use false colors to build the image. The photographers who work on these images in a sense are already creating abstractions of the real thing. In taking one of these abstract photos as my source I attempted to push this envelope further by making an otherworldly Mercury that felt alien menacing and brutally hot. I must confess that one real reason other than falling in love with that NASA photo that I went in this direction is because Mercury looks so much like the moon, with its many similar craters and surface features, that I felt I needed to dramatically differentiate the two paintings I’ve done of these planets with a Mercury that was bold. The results were mostly a success, though I think I didn’t quite hit the radiantly-luminous quality of my source photo. But as my friend Darrell challenged me a couple weeks ago when he said “are you painting a photo or a painting”, I went with a painting and pushed the differences that paint necessitates in a natural-for-me painterly-directions.

Here are photos of the NASA original and my Mercury painting side by side.

My pace in the studio is very exhausting and I can sometimes see it in the work. I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m in striking distance to some great and important artist epiphany that requires that I keep up this intensity. I’m guessing that its a phase that I’m going through and that I’ll maybe relax in the late spring or summer. But I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t confess that my studio output and the constant hunt for opportunities creates a lot of anxiety. Is this just what artists have to get used to when they’re trying to break through to the next level?

I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music lately, in fact I’m back on my Liszt thing. I’ve mentioned Liszt’s “Hungaria” before, this time I’ve been listening to “Tasso: lamento e trionfo, S96/R413”, and “Les Preludes, S97/R414”. Here are the YouTube videos of these works

My next week in the studio I think will be dominated by finishing up “Sea of Japan 4” and finally assembling those Gnostic Confessions pieces. Also, I plan on getting the lumber for my Uranus painting which incidentally I have an awesome source photo of. I’m hoping I can take-on these next 6 pieces I have planned in a bit more relaxed a manner than the last. Okay until next I post do be well.

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