In the Studio #76

I had a fairly productive time in the studio this last week. I managed to make good progress on a new Gnostic Confessions work. I finished my final planet painting, this one of the Earth. Additionally, I made the panels for a new work on race I’ve been thinking of for a while that I’m calling “Malik’s B-Boy Blues”. This all made me feel like I was at least wrapping up the summer strong even though there were several projects I didn’t get around to. I try to keep pressure high on myself with my studio output. At times this can seem really ridiculous when balancing this workload with my full time job, but it helps to keep me creatively honest.

The biggest accomplishment this last week by far was finishing my series, “Friends Are My Solar System”. This series was inspired by a challenge made by my friend Tyrone Webb. I spoke of Tyrone’s challenge in the past. We both quibble with what the challenge actually entailed. I think he had intended me to create sci-fi scenes that were truly alien, drawing upon my African-American identity to create these depictions. For Tyrone I think, African-Americans have a unique perspective on sci-fi ideation since our identity is such a fiction, really as all race in this country is. I’d tend to agree with Tyrone on this point. My perspective though needed to start with something familiar before it could move to the fanciful, and so I started with the Moon. The Moon then led to the Sun, and so on.

Early on in the process the series received perhaps its biggest compositional assist when my other good friend, my studio-mate Darrell George, asked me whether I was making paintings or photos. He noticed that I hewed too closely to the photographic source material and suggested that at a certain point in my process I put the pictures aside and let the painting guide the process. I really appreciate his suggestions because it helped me create works that felt more organic, corky, not exactly spherical all the time, and truly vivid and textured . The final result after making 11 of these 4 x 4 foot behemoths – the largest complete body of work I’ve ever made – are pieces that capture some of that out-of-this-world spirit I was originally challenged to create, with a bit of my own agenda imbedded in. Here are all 11 works in the series.

My latest Gnostic Confessions work moved unexpectedly quickly this week. I have 6 pieces going on at once right now in the studio and so it’s anyone’s guess what I might be inspired to work on when I get to my space. Gnostic Confessions is a series inspired compositionally by Eastern Orthodox iconography and oriental rug patterns. This fourth work is influenced specifically by dark, or black rug designs and darkly painted Eastern Orthodox icon paintings such as the following Transfiguration of Christ painting.

Here’s the black rug that inspired the background design for Gnostic Confessions 4

I like darkly painted icon works because they looks as if the Christ or saints depicted are emerging from the ether like ghosts. When they’re also richly colored they also have the tendency to glow and radiate as if they had their own light. I try to achieve this same look with the gel mediums that I use. Also most figures to date in this series have been wrapped in cloaks of color shields, giving the pieces an extra glow. Here’s that Transfiguration of Christ painting from the 12th century.

Transfiguration of Christ

At this stage in this current work I’m building the background on top of which the figures – in this case St. Bartholomew and a host of Warhammer characters – will rest. I’d say that within the next two weeks or so the piece should be done. The collage layers of these works always requires a lot of thinking and arranging to get the composition just right. Once the piece is done that will conclude the first chapter of the series with the next chapter focusing on weather-demons who taunt my little St. Bartholomew avatar. So excited to see that stage develop. Here’s where Gnostic Confessions 4 was as of last week.

Gnostic Confessions 4 background.

Finally I’ve been working on a new piece examining race which I’m provisionally call “Malik’s B-Boy Blues”. I think I want to delve into a blog on this piece once it’s further along. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to put forward my idea without it coming across as too didactic.

These last few weeks rounding out the summer have been very successful for me with several art sales. They’ve been tremendously encouraging and I’m planning to work hard to continue the momentum in the season to come. My goal is to double my sales next year and to do so again the year after so I can live truly off my work in 2 to 3 years. That goal feels within which gives me a sense of agency I hadn’t felt in some time.

One of my friends on Facebook sent one of those “your life is defined by the music that was at the top of the charts on your 14th birthday” memes so I answered it. Turns out it’s not so inaccurate. Mine were Boys 2 Men’s “I’ll make love to you”. Proving my life is truly defined by my heart. And the other is REM’s “What’s the Frequency Kenneth”. A song really about how we’re constantly tapping into the zeitgeist to stay young and fresh, a little obsession of mine throughout the years too. Here are the Youtube videos of those songs.

This next week I hope to get that Adela’s Bouquet piece to some point of completeness. It’s funny how some very simple pieces can linger even though they are pretty simple paintings to execute. I know when I go back to the studio next week the Gnostic Confessions will mostly be on my mind and maybe the Malik piece so hopefully i can find some time later in the week to work on those flowers. Okay Until next time, stay safe and do be well.

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