In the Studio #82

I’ve been working like a dog in the studio over the last month and managed to get 5 of the 6 works I’ve been doing since December completed. It’s been an exhausting haul. I feel though like I’ve learned a lot about my process on this journey, namely that deadlines and late-night painting sessions work for me.

Here’s the completed series Ollie Jean’s Hymn to Lost Black Boys.

My experience working lately has also taught me that I’m attracted to distraction especially when I have lots of work to do. This is no surprise for many artists. Figuring out how to juggle many balls in the air at once is part of the game. I worry though that the process makes me ornery in general and makes the ideas I express in my works a bit belabored.

I noticed these grumpy mood shifts most explicitly with my cedar shingles pieces. Because of their emotional content and my insistence on executing the pieces in a particular fashion, I felt often times constipated creatively. I poured every trick I knew in those pieces, all for a very unknown final purpose (I don’t yet have a destination for the works, I just felt they needed to be created because of the moment politically were in). I do a lot of takes and puts in my abstraction where I painstakingly paint an area only to paint over 75 percent of it and reveal only a ghost of the element in the work, (I’ve discussed this techniques many times in the past). With this series the slave poster became that element that over and over again was covered. In the second work in the trio, “All Hoodies Go to Heaven/Taste the Rainbow”, I puckishly reinterpreted what I covered, my being to-clever-by-half that I often do in works like this.

Making these cedar shingle pieces felt important to me not only because of their content but because of their fabrication. Artists have a need to feel innovative. I mostly excel at making a particular type of abstract or landscape/botanical painting, and even though I love what I do, there’s not always a lot of invention behind my process. Nevertheless, I do find comfort in the familiar and I am relieved that I’m finally getting into my commission works with some gusto. My hospital commission piece to Penn State Hampden Medical Center, is going especially well, though it’s the one that keeps me up at night because it’s the furthest from completion.

The hospital commission for me has the most interesting stylistic flourishes of the three landscapes. It features a crazy mid-field cornrow straight out of a Thomas Hart Benton painting which I’m in love with. The other commission pieces, winter and summer scenes of Limeport, Pa, acted almost as studies for the larger piece, which was a surprise to be sure. I discovered some new ways to twist and scrape my pallet knife while working on these smaller paintings. I also felt more confident in just allowing a smudge of paint to sit undisturbed on the canvas with these works. I can remember when I got the commission for these small landscapes. I thought they were a blessing and a curse because they created a huge time crunch with everything else on my plate and for most of the winter and I felt overwhelmed by it all. Now I feel this small set of works were sent by the gods who were looking out for me creatively and giving me appetizers before my steak.

Here’s where I am on these three works so far. First we “Off Road Perusing, then Dinner at the Inn (Summer) and (Winter)” both completed , followed by “Field Trip” which is at the 75 % level with maybe a months more work left to do.

I’m fascinated by the new Montero (Call Me By Your Name) video by Lil Nas X, though I confess as to not being necessarily into the sound of the video. As an artist I celebrate any other artists’ self- actualization and his seems to be just about complete. I believe the hour is late to celebrate any heroic or subversive quality in his full embrace of his sexuality in the world of hip-hop. Seems like we should have had artists like this in the mainstream 30 years ago. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that this guy seems to be able to express his full complexity seemingly free of any career ending backlash. I guess that’s an accomplishment. I’ve been listening to Lil Nas X and also other rappers/R and B artists like Young Dolph and Karl Benjamin. Here’s three YouTube videos of these performers doing what they do.

I’ve been trying to get a bit more organized in my studio, creating a formal desk area where I can do some long term planning finally, and overall trying to fill my schedule with tons of activity. I kind of have a spitball attitude to life lately, thinking that if I go hard in all directions something will land and stick. Its probably not the most efficient way to live a life but if nothing else working hard like this in all directions, and almost at overload levels, keeps me honest about what I’m supposed to be about as an artist. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks as I adjust to planning in a more deliberative manner that I can make social media attention a more formal and less casual part of my process, so more blogging in the future I hope. I do enjoy blogging when I can get to it, often I just get overwhelmed with all that’s on my plate. In any case I just began a new series of Puppet Pal Friend drawings, and will be returning to my large hospital commission next week to finally slay that monster. I have a few musings I’d like to share too so until then stay safe and do be well.

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