New Painting: Invasive Exotic

My first painting to ever be completed during a pandemic! How nice. This is “Invasive Exotic” 12×12 inches, oil on linen.

Photo Mar 22, 2 17 41 PM

This will be part of the Flower Power show at Mize Gallery in St. Petersburg, FL. Sadly there will be no opening reception, but the gallery is open by appointment and like many galleries, I’m sure will do an online video.

Photo Mar 19, 2 48 36 PM

Trippy times we are in, aren’t we?

Nine Months of No Painting: New Painting Studies

Well it had been a very long time, but I finally did some paintings. Just little studies, but at least it is something. Can you believe I haven’t painted at all since May 2019?! Well, it is true. I’ve had too many things going on, and quite frankly I’m tired. Oh-so very tired.

I do have some group shows and a speaking engagement coming up and you can see a list here. Aside from that I am hoping an opportunity I applied to for an off-grid residency comes to fruition. There was a point where I thought I might die without WiFi, but now it sounds wonderful to be isolated for a few weeks. We shall see.

Protozoa Communion, 6×6″ oil on panel.

Near Ripe, 6×6″ oil on panel.

Dig It, 4×5″ oil on paper

My Top 10 Films About Artists: The Biopic

The biopic is a hard undertaking for any film production, but one of a painter? Well, that’s an even bigger obstacle. An art form such as film making an attempt to show the life of a creative mind and all the pieces that make up their life — not to mention other players — will never encapsulate the life fully. In any event, there are some very good and entertaining depictions. Here’s my ranking:

1. lust-for-life-movie-poster-1020337097

Though I’ve never been into Van Gogh (I’m a Gaugin fan myself) this has to be the better of all films about artists I’ve seen. It’s captivating and doesn’t try to be fussy and self-aware with surrealist sequences in an attempt to mimic the artwork itself. The studio spared no expense with this production, and we are fortunate enough they use his actual letters as a guide through the story. And, a good story it is. We know it is obvious the details and harshness of Van Gogh have been glossed over, it still does the job and goes more into conversations about painting itself; not the “oooh look how wacky and bohemian he is”. If anything his eccentricity is not shown as glamour — which I was glad about.

2. pollockmovie

No BS and avoids the other trappings of most stereotypical artist biopics. The painting sequences are well done and have obviously been well-researched, and Ed Harris does a great job of showing both the work ethic and the self-destruction that can happen to really any creative person who finds themselves in the limelight. Most films about artists try to show how unconventional they are as people, but this seems to be more about the creative process. Marcia Gay Harden at Lee Krasner is amazing, and the portrayal of Peggy Guggenheim is great for a bit of comic relief. I’m not a fan at all of Pollock’s work, but it didn’t matter, this was a good movie on its own. The only thing I couldn’t stand was the score.

3.

I don’t know why, but I really like this one. It is also good because it focuses on one part of Picasso’s life, not trying to cram his whole life in. Gilot finally gets a spine and leaves Picasso with the upper hand, and perhaps this is why I like it? The set designers are showing off their stuff, and flashbacks are not too in-your-face with the off beat set decor. Anthony Hopkins does a good job of playing the prick, for sure.

4. basquiatmovie

Wow, I remember when it came out it got a “meh” reaction by everyone I knew while at CalArts, and I wish I hadn’t listened to them. Who knew I’d like Julian Schnabel much more for his films than his paintings? (I now want to go look at his other efforts). I don’t really know much about Basquiat, but I felt like this was a good overview done with good pacing, great cast, and an awesome soundtrack. I felt like it summed up the difference between the downtown artists playing in warehouse spaces, and the Chelsea moneyed art scene of the 1980s dining at Mr. Chow. David Bowie as Andy Warhol was kind of silly — it’s like “hi I’m David Bowie but I’m Andy”, but hey, it’s David Bowie so what can you argue about, really?

5. renoir

Renoir which is a beautifully done French film set in his last days during WWI. Though Renoir is a huge presence and watching him decline is really heartbreaking, the film is really about the last model to pose for him, all while she and his son, Jean, fall in love. I wondered how they did the live painting shots so well, and it turns out a convicted art forger was hired to be the hand on-screen. Good call! I’ve never cared much for the work of Renoir but this film stands on its own whether you know anything about him or not. There’s also lots of pretty naked girls.

6. bigeye

Big Eyes was interesting in that I had always known about Margaret Keane, but never the bizarre court case that happened when her husband took credit for everything she did. This was probably the most tame and commercial Tim Burton film you will ever see. Only in a few moments do we have hallucinatory big eyes becoming animated in and otherwise straight-forward film, and thankfully it doesn’t become a habit. Christoph Waltz is great as a smarmy Walter Keane even if he does take over the whole production. Amy Adams is really good at what she does, but the sugary sweet, naive, I got sand kicked in my face again characterization gets really tiresome and is one-dimensional. I felt like I wanted to know more about Walter not her. A brief appearance by Terrance Stamp as the NYT art critic sums up how I think a lot of skilled artists felt. But hey, the masses have bad taste even when they think they have good taste. I got a little giddy that the Joan Crawford painting made a cameo in the film!

7. fridamovie

While her diaries pretty much describe a life of sex, paint, sex, paint, the movie hardly goes into her injuries or the dark side she held because of the bus accident and multiple miscarriages. We see the initial bus accident addressed, but that’s all. The animation and paintings coming to life are more for decoration and seem to serve the filmmakers themselves as a “look what I can do!” chance, than anything that is supposed to be expressed or tell a story. Stop-motion, collage, and all manner of animation is used, which I found interrupted everything. Still, it does the job of running down the main points of her life without getting tedious. Eccentricity = glamour is high up there, but I guess that’s to be expected. A bit jumbled and mashed together — but very entertaining.

8. girl-with-a-pearl-earring-2003_xvx_61896

I love Vermeer. I’ve done presentations on him, seen many paintings in person, and I grew up with little reproductions of his work around the family home. Again, we have a film that focuses on one small blip in his life, but really, the story isn’t so much about him as it is about his sitter (and assistant). I loved the cinematography, the candlelit darkness of the evening domestic scenes vs. the bright open space of his studio in the day. There’s some talk of technique and process, as well as the lifestyle of an artist who was considered to be doing quite well. The thing that killed it for me was Scarlett. Her bovine expressions, and acting.  Actually I almost forgot to include this movie on the list because all I could really recall was her making derp-derpy-dumb face throughout. I mean, it’s on the poster, that’s pretty much the expression she makes in the whole film. Colin Firth is okay, a bit uncomfortable maybe, but nothing to write home about.

9.

I was hoping this would be an overview of his full life, but again we have a film that only focuses on his later years until his death. This one is a slow burn and if you don’t care about art or Turner, you’d probably not make it through the first 15 minutes — especially with the thick accents. It is paced in a way I’m not fond of because I did almost give up on it, but the sets, costumes, and cinematography help matters. No animation or other theatrical vignettes, thank God! And, the painting scenes have been well research as to his brute force with brushes. We get the point that the guy had major issues with women and was an all out jerk to everyone in his family or had any contact with him really, but I wish we had seen his earlier years because I have a hard time believing just being a talented painter made him famous, beyond his father being his manager. If you went by this film alone, you’d wonder how on earth he managed to make a career for himself if he was such a complete miserable asshole — which is played very well by Timothy Spall, btw. For whatever reason he still attracts women, but you get no sense of why aside from his brief pleasantries. My favorite part of the movie is when he goes into a slow maniacal laughter at viewing the inclusion of Pre-Raphaelites in the Royal Academy exhibition. If you know your art history, you’ll know why it is accurate and funny. I’ll admit I started laughing, too.

10.

I rolled my eyes through the whole thing. What killed me was the opening sequence at some salon/cafe where Picasso, women with black shawls, and a harlequin is dancing around while they all are being overly “artsy” drinking, drawing, and reciting bad poetry etc. The part that really made me mad (besides having one rather legendary Impressionist character say he didn’t paint women because they were too fat in his day — whatever), was when all the artists are working on their pieces for the Salon Competition of 1920. It is a montage with background music that sounds like something Enya would release. All of the artists are screaming, crying, covered in paint, jabby with their brushes and chain smoking. Oh-so tortured you know. As if they made these paintings in one day! The costumes and set design are the only thing going for this film.

For the most part, I’ve met two kinds of artists in life with concern to dress and outward projection: the kind who dress wacky and act out these faux bohemian lifestyles because they want it to be 1920s Paris or Andy Warhol’s factory all over again, and the kind who dress like up-tight minimalists who are serious academics and drink so-so Chardonnay. I don’t know where the graffiti artists fall into this. Obviously not everyone fits into these two camps; both are the extreme ends of the spectrum but I’ve seen my share in the flesh.

I was going to include the Caravaggio film on here but I’ve been told it is awful and not to waste my time. The Ghosts of Goya I did like, but he is just an anchor character in what is really a Natalie Portman vehicle.

In any event, I hope you look of some of these films and enjoy!

My Art Making Weapons of Choice for 2020

I’m sure there’s more I can’t think of, but these are some of my favorite products for working in oil paint. 

Gloves in a bottle. I have a tendency to blend oil paint with my fingers at times. Now that I’ve had cancer I better cut that crap out! Well, this stuff makes it so I still can. I tried wearing gloves that I stole from my surgeon’s office — and wow — I don’t know how so many people work with them on. The sweaty nastiness of it all? No thanks!

bottlegloves

I’ve used Old Holland since high school and could always tell the difference between it, and others. It is expensive, so I only use it for certain colors and odd mixes. I’ve been told it is cheap crap marketed to Americans as being fancy, but I find the mix of pigment and oil to be a good balance. Winsor & Newton is always dependable  — not to oily or too solid. My other favorite jam is Williamsburg who I am mildly addicted to. And last but not least, the newer Gambin radiants. 

 

Williamsburg_tube

Princeton! I beat the crap out of these brushes and normally deal with fraying and splitting when it comes to fine detailed work. These are holding up better than I expected! I found out a lot of other painters I admire use them, too. They are inexpensive enough that you don’t feel bad about beating them to death and throwing them away. I also enjoy Robert Simmons brushes.

Hog bristle filberts. They are good for large areas — especially large works — because hog holds the paint better. I’m not too particular about the brand. For real, most artists are shocked by how few brushes I actually use. I look at their studios vs. mine and they have multiple jars full in every shape and form and size — while I have maybe 20, and most are never used.

Ampersand gessobord. No complaints here. Then again I work pretty small. Might not be good for really big stuff though, depending on how deep it is.

Centrurion Linen canvas. As far as anything else goes for larger commissions, I have been using a lot of linen mounted on gatorfoam from New Traditions (thanks to Stanka Kordic for hipping me to them).

Linen is something I only started working on in 2012 and I rarely go back to canvas as a result. I know quite a few people who work at The Cleveland Museum of Art rolled their eyes when I told them I was going for the linen mounted on gatorfoam, but it seems like it can’t be any less archival than other nonsense I’ve seen. I guess I won’t be around 150 years from now to know how they held up! For the times when I can’t afford the New Traditions gatorfoam because I’m doing a show and need it in bulk, I turn to Centurion.

For works on paper, artist Christian van Minnen hipped me to the Arches oil paper. I love it, I’ve only done smaller work with it but am curious to see where it would take me on a larger scale.

ArchesOilPaperSheets

Since I no longer have a studio and work from home with two spazzy cats, my glass palettes were not going to work anymore. Thankfully I found the Grey Matter paper palette! I like that is has a grey tone for when I mix colors against it, and I don’t have to deal with the task of cleaning it over and over and over. I can even fold it and tuck it away in my paint case for when my cats decide to go snooping. Thanks cats!

K10532

I love my blue shop towels. Less lint and crap than regular paper towels, and more absorbent. One sheet just to clean off brushes can go on for several sessions. It is the Quilted Northern toilet paper of towels!

803379

If you don’t have a Silicoil jar to clean your brushes, I don’t know what you are using. They made us buy these back in high school! In fact, I think mine is from when I was 16.

Gamvar Varnish. Accept no substitute! Gamblin were nice enough to send me a sample and I was hooked, especially for work done on canvas or linen. It is so wonderful.

MGBV118

Baby table top easel. People kind of laugh when they see it, you probably expect a monster one when you walk into an artist’s studio (I have one but have used it maybe twice) and not this wee thing. My baby easel can fit things up to 18×24″ just fine.

Lukas Oil Mediums. They are so fancy, and they’ve been a really great line from what I have tried so far. 

A great website AMIEN with all sorts of information about varnishing, materials, and all the jazz they probably should teach you in art school in your first year — and don’t. Check it out!

What products are you using that you like? I always want to know.

New Painting: Equinox

This painting was completed during my Akron Soul Train residency, so technically not that new, but made in 2019 and it hasn’t been widely circulated. “Equinox” 30×30 inches, oil on canvas.

A lot of bits and pieces in this painting were created in 3D modeling software (which I am still getting the hang of) and was then used for reference as a print out. It is kind of nice to be able to control a light source the way you can in modeling programs. After the painting was done I destroyed the print and the image file. It felt more ephemeral that way.

How My Paintings Continue to Evolve

My solo exhibition “Soft Sugars” is now available via Artsy and BoxHeart Gallery in Pittsburgh. The show is up until August 23rd.

I made a little video talking about my painting process and how the whole thing keeps evolving.

As you will be able to tell, I kind of gave up trying to paint with surgical gloves, and I only used them now for varnishing. Also, my cats are pretty darn cute.

“Soft Sugars” Solo Exhibition

Dollop, 18×18″ oil on linen

While I have a few shows on their way to be de-installed, my newest solo show “Soft Sugars” is on at BoxHeart Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA.

My last show with BoxHeart was about a decade ago and it was of my punk rocker portraits. I’m happy they let me go with my new-ish direction.

This series brings together my interests in botany, microbiology, space, disease, and the evolution of cells. I subconsciously explore the relationships between anatomy, biology, and emerging sciences while creating from my own imagination. They, at times, mirror personal metaphysical occurrences, and, at times, contain a slight nod to art history, such as hints of a baroque landscape or decadent still lives through distorted lenses. They are more virtual reality than actuality.

I delve into the practice and alchemy of oil paint dictating the direction, shaping
aesthetic outcomes, and transforming emotional impressions as I go. Insects, flowers, human organs all come from the same process at the core, but within these works I am visualizing their fictional evolution at any given stage comes from instinct. I create my own fragile beings within these little worlds; alien forms mesh with what might be seen under a microscope or through a telescope. They are an artificial nature or a nature that is simply unknown to us, scientized and made more delectable.

In the meantime, I’m so happy to have these features and reviews of the various shows that I’ve done so far in 2019:

Grenadine, 18×18″ oil on linen
Snowball, 18×18″ oil on linen

Rome and Florence: Cats, Coffee, and Art

Last month I finally took a trip to the place everyone said that as an artist I needed to visit: Italy! And it’s true, the first thing I noticed as the plane landed were the trees. The trees I have been seeing in paintings all my life, but never actually seen for myself; trees that populated the backgrounds of famous paintings or portraits from my art books — here they were!

I had been trying to organize a trip to Tangier and for the second was thwarted by scheduling conflicts and logistical issues. Frankly I was tired, and wanted to go somewhere easy to get to. I love Norwegian Airlines, so at the last minute I went and looked at some direct flight destinations from Boston, and Rome was a brand new one. In fact, my flight was only the second run they had ever completed.

Too be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in Rome because I was more interested Florence. I’m happy to say I spent more time in Rome — because wow, I would have felt like an idiot had I not! Honestly, finding out about the Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary located where Caesar was murdered made me think perhaps Rome would be fun after all!

So my husband and I did both cities and although we liked them both in different ways, I think Rome was more up my alley (and less crowded). It also helped I have an artist friend who has been living in Rome for seven years and it was great to get out to other neighborhoods and go places with someone who knows the lay of the land and tidbits of history everywhere we walked. These amazing sites having been just hanging around for thousands of years of course does not impress the inhabitants very much. The “oh yeah that pyramid at the metro stop is from before the time of Christ” blasé attitude was so funny to me.

Since the trip I have been having a lot of images of giant statuary in my dreams.
I preferred the Borgehese Museum over the Uffizi, and was so overwhelmed I think I need at least two more trips there despite how small in size it is.

A strange thing that happened was in wandering the Forum I came upon the first basilica of Saints Comas and Damian. The depictions of them performing surgery was part of what kick-started my interest in medical humanities, so that was a trip!

By the way I highly recommend traveling in April because all of the orange and lemon trees were bearing fruit as well as all the wisteria that was in bloom.

Florence cityscape

We did get to experience and 80s dance night at a goth/biker/punk bar on the outskirts Florence to pair with the touristy things. I think as usual I overdid it with the museums, and I we only did a portion of my list. Aside from that, there was a lot of shopping in department stores, lots of coffee, and more coffee, and more, and more. Oh and pizza!

I also did something for the first time in about nine years: I walked around in heels without a cane! On uneven ancient streets! And I didn’t fall or die.

It was a great trip and a good getaway as a sort of 18th wedding anniversary celebration. All of this despite the fact I am absolutely terrible at attempting to speak or pronounce anything in Italian (Slavic languages are more my strong suit). More photos below. I took so many, and trust me, this is the edited down batch! And below that a list of places I went or stayed at…

Rome:

Florence: