In the Studio #69

The first week of my at-home residency went pretty well. I managed to finish the second piece of my Gnostic Confessions pieces and start my yearly installment of Puppet Pal Friends. There is an issue of having to wait for art supplies to arrive in the mail – made all the more complicated because I live in a high theft neighborhood and can’t trust that packages won’t get stolen, and also because of slow delivery times due to Covid-19. I’ve had to adjust my plans for this week to compensate, which means bringing the third installment of Gnostic Confessions up in my personal schedule at least to start.

When last I blogged I mentioned wanting to expand on how these works are put together formally. They are inspired by Turkish rug patterns and orthodox religious iconography. Initially, I meant the works to feel like small reliquaries or devotional shrines like a Gohonzon. As I began fleshing out my idea for the first piece in the set I let the idea of a reliquary influence the piece particularly the arabesque borders which became an obsession. As I moved into the central image I decided I needed to throw down the gauntlet and try every trick I could to build out a dynamic space. This all-or-nothing approach was ratcheted up a notch with the second piece where the arabesque border patterns turned floral rather than graphical. The level of detail in the second painting’s central image also became jammed packed with symbolic imagery from Warhammer, historical images of a flayed St Bartholomew, and my typical collage elements – like the branded hand and flaming pursed lips.

Here are some images of what I used or referenced when putting together Gnostic Confessions 1 and 2

Here once again is Gnostic Confessions 1 and 2. Once again, I’m starting the third piece in the series this week until my supplies arrive to start other projects.

When I put these kinds of very dense abstract pieces together I think of a making sandwich, except its a sandwich made by the soup-nazi  (Seinfeld fans will get that reference). By this I mean its constructed my way, with rules of what comes next. It can be very stressful.  I adhere to strict material application rules, breaking my own rules,  from time to time. This process can be just as nerve-wracking as my rulemaking process because I enter into uncharted territory. It’s for this reason I find it useful to do a project on-the-side that has nothing to do really with anything other than loosening my hand and allowing me to set up a rules-based scheme that I force myself to break. “Puppet Pal Friends” is that series for me and I do one set of eight drawings in this series yearly. This year’s installment is called “Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast To Hard Dreams” which seemed to be a fitting title for the times.

These drawings are inspired by another annual tradition of mine – an annual trip to Longwood Gardens, made last Septemeber. The “one element before another” system that is usually so rigid in most of my work usually gets thrown out the window when I do these drawings because as I get into the pieces, the formal balance-needs of the drawing soon take over. I usually spend most of my time fighting to keep the work compositionally sound and not looking too much like a dog’s breakfast – which trust me is a difficult task. It is made all that more difficult because each drawing is based on a sketch that acts as a guide which I have to fight to ignore in the end so I can create something that feels fresh and independent.

Here are the photos from my trip to Longwoods Gardens from last September 2019 that I’ve been using as inspiration for Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast To Hard Dreams.


And here are images of the first three works in this new Puppet Pal Friends series

Anthony Smith Jr. Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast To Hard Dreams No. 1, 18 x 24 inches, mixed media, 2020Anthony Smith Jr. Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast To Hard Dreams No. 2, 18 x 24 inches, mixed media, 2020Anthony Smith Jr. Puppet Pal Friends Hold Fast To Hard Dreams No. 3, 18 x 24 inches, mixed media, 2020

My studio listening has been all over the place lately. I can’t really settle on a genre it seems. I go from jazz to rock to classical to hip-hop in one sitting. It’s a little schizophrenic -listening at times. Here’s a taste of that jumbled thinking, yesterday I was all into this R and B group “The Internet”, and now today I’m listening to CSNY. Here’s a selection from these sessions in YouTube videos. Here’s The Internet’s “For The World” and CSNY’s “Carry On”.


It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in the studio. I have to meter out my time pretty carefully and come to some conclusion about all I want to accomplish with my remaining 3 weeks of freedom from work. After this drawing series and working on Gnostic Confessions three, I think I will formally move onto my Neptune work and maybe do those Maxatawny Stitzer pieces I keep avoiding. I also have some middle-aged man musings I’d like to get off my chest. Until I next write everyone stay safe and be well.

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