In the Studio #81

The studio has been humming along at a pretty steady pace over the past month though I haven’t felt much urge till late to talk about it. I feel this overwhelming desire to work on this one body of work, these cedar shingle works that my friend Tyrone calls “crackers” that I finally settled on calling “Ollie Jeans Hymn to Lost Black Boys”. The works, which I feel are very timely given the state of the nation, has caused me to slow way down on all these other bodies of work that are part of commissions. Sometimes commissions can feel like assignment work. Oddly enough, when I’ve felt this in the past and finally settled on marveling at the fact that I have a commissions at all I adjust my attitude and grow to love the works. Hopefully this attitude of respect will come over me soon since I am on some pretty tight schedules now.

An unfortunate consequence of my process is that it’s difficult to devote myself to more than one project at a time. The other night when I went into the studio I had to turn away from the this cedar shingles “cracker” series because it was just too insistent. My buddy Al Johnson turns works over completely in his studio when working on a piece he has to concentrate on to keep the voices down as it were. I have to say it’s an enviable position to be in to have too many pieces speaking to you, and you as an artist feeling torn on what to work on. In the late fall I remember feeling just to opposite, like I had run out of some steam in my process. I think what’s attracts me now about the “cracker” pieces I’m doing now verse the landscapes – besides how timely they feel – is that they are so intricately constructed. I have this particular way that certain elements in my abstract hermetic universe are constructed. I rarely cut corners with this process even if no one would know I did. More of my secret process I suppose. It’s an addictive method of painting verse the landscape pieces, which have their own challenges. The landscapes in turn feel more like finding artistry in a traditional pallet knife approach to rendering, fun but more technical then anything.

The pandemic has created I think a kind of urgency in many artists I know. We’re not content to simply do the pretty works of the past or make half-gestures at career advancement. I have a number of good friends who speak with passion about charting new courses in engagement with the public outside of galleries or other interlocutors. I welcome these changes but I fear most spoils of this new paradigm shift will go to the already affluent with the means to buy social media acumen. There’s just no way to avoid technology in art today, even if all your doing is a simple sketch.

Within my own practice I’m tickled by how completely my cell phone has taken the place of my sketchbooks which I still maintain and love. Just about every idea I have these days comes from something I observe photograph and chronicle for later use on some photo album on my phone. My sketchbook has in turn has become the place where I “officially” register an idea, or where I list paintings or projects to do in the future. With the three main projects I’m working on now my phone, studio Wi-Fi, and Canon printer are every bit as important to my process as paints or china markers. In this way I feel like I’m like a cyborg or something. The process is very meta to me because I spend lots of time discussing notions of authenticity with my peers meanwhile we’re all using the most advanced means possible not only to connect with our audiences but to make our works more incisive. In my practice this easy access to technological means to produce works has slowed my process down. I find that I ponder more and quibble with small details because I feel like I have to get it right, especially since I’m surrounded, both on social media and in my studio building, with some amazing talent. I sometimes miss that innocence of discovery that happened when I was younger and didn’t know many artists or wasn’t so curious about what was out there. My references were all my own. Now there’s a chorus of voices available to me at the click of a button, all waiting to chime in on my every paint brush stroke.

Though it’s expensive to me both practically and I suppose emotionally too, this more contemplative mode that this constant diet of social media and tech has put me in lately does make me feel like I’m making stronger work. I’m enjoying the process too. I’m finding that my time in my studio is in a way more efficient and I feel connected to a zeitgeist that helps with the social isolation that can hit artists. Here’s where all three projects are right now in my studio.

I’ve been all over the place with my easy listening lately. I’ve spent about a month working on this particular post so my tastes have gone through several phases so I’ll offer up three selections that I’ve consumed since the beginning of the year. One of my favorite artists Sango came out with a release last year that I somehow missed called Da Rocinha 4. On that release I think my favorite jam is “Maranhao” near the end of the release.

For most of the middle of this last month I’ve been in a hip-hop phase and have been listening to the dirtiest rap music, which I can only really listen to in my car or in my studio when its late. I usually have to ignore the lyrics in a lot of these songs and focus on the beats, but I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to liking some of the subversive messaging in a lot of the rap I like. In any case, one song I’ve been listen to on repeat on my Pandora is by Lil Yachty and is called “Hit Bout It”.

Just recently my mood has shifted once again and now I’m obsessed with David Bowie. This is mostly because of my housemate Michelle Neifert’s influence. We’ve been listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on repeat for the last few weeks at home. But in the studio I think I like his record and single “Diamond Dogs” better.

Here are YouTube video’s of all three song

I’m in the crunch time for a few projects that I have to finish, so the next few weeks will be pretty intense for me. I feel a little like an undergrad because I’m burning the candle at both ends to get everything done. My commissions are moving along well but still too slowly and my race piece is getting super baroque which I like but its still too insistent so I’m hoping that I can finally finally put it to bed soon and really focus on these commission landscapes for March and April. I will try to blog more but must focus on work first. Rest assured I’m documenting everything I’m doing so I will be blogging about it all in due course. Until next time, stay healthy and do be well!

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