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“Masks beneath masks until suddenly the bare bloodless skull.” 
 Salman RushdieThe Satanic Verses

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This was a small piece that was began yesterday. I had finished a new painting that very much pleased me but left me feeling that it was not a jumping off point to immediately begin another piece in that same vein. In short, it left me feeling a bit blocked.

So, this piece, a 12″ square canvas, was started as a palate cleanser, something where I could just makes marks and shapes and color to fill some space, hoping that it somehow sparked something. This was basically how the Archaeology series began back in 2008. At the time, I was stumped and felt that I was at the end of my creative surge. I began working from a method taught by my 5th grade art teacher where we would simply take large blank sheets of paper and, using pen and ink, fill them in anyway we could. It’s something that I often turn to when I am feeling uninspired and it often bears interesting results.

Here, it started with a face, quickly slashed in with loose strokes, just trying to make a form with as little fuss or detail as possible. Then came another and another and so on. Each inspired the next. They went down in my normal red oxide at first then I went back at each face with quick, rough strokes of other colors, letting the tones and shapes play off one another. It was meant to be coarse in its execution, done fast and without much conscious thought, giving it a bit more expressionistic feel.

What they are, I don’t know. I wasn’t trying to represent anyone I knew or had seen. Just the general faces that have often popped out in my drawing over the years. But many of them have been with me for many years now. Some of them appeared when I was a small child and would try to find them in wallpaper patterns or in the edges of curtains. Everything could be made into a face, so it seemed.

And some I see as being from images culled from medieval texts, even down to the way the lips are modeled. Not done purposely, but they appear that way to me.

But most I recognize here  have been with me since my childhood, some that are friendly and some that deeply bother me, leaving me with an uneasy feeling as though I recognize them from past unpleasant personal experience.

Maybe from this life or some other earlier incarnation, if there are such things. Maybe it’s just a matter of facial and image recognition present in us all that pulls from sort of collective consciousness, that makes us respond to certain shapes and forms. Like I said, I don’t know.

Or maybe it’s just a psychological biopsy of the facets of a personality. Again, I don’t know.

But as a palate cleanser, it has served its purpose. It has amped me up a bit and I could see this small piece growing into larger painting, say 4 or 5 foot square. I could see that having a great impact on the wall, even if it’s only the wall here in the studio. But I don’t know if it will go anywhere beyond this.

Don’t even know if I will completely finish this particular or if I should even try to put eyes in the dark holes where they should be in these faces. I like the feeling that the dark pits give the piece. It gives the faces the appearance of being masks.

And maybe that is what our faces really are- masks.

As always, I don’t know if that’s true. But I do now that if this piece transforms into a larger series I will call it the Masks.

We shall see.

 

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Not much to say today, feeling a little rundown. Looking for a spark in some way, something to get the engines running at higher rpm’s, but can’t find anything in the music I’ve been listening to this morning that does the job. So I’ll resign myself to just holding on until that livelier spirit comes again.

The song that seems to jibe best with that feeling is the old Creedence song, Long As I Can See the Light. Here’s a nice version from the late Ted Hawkins, a name most likely unknown to most of us. He was one of those incredibly gifted artists who was always just short of meeting Lady Luck. Oh, he saw her a few times but it was just in passing as she gave him a flirting glance.

Here in the States, he was primarily a street performer who was “found” a number of times by record producers who could never quite put it all together for him. He gained much more recognition headlining shows in Europe, moving at one point to the UK. He was deported back to USA and reverted to being simply a street busker. He finally achieved a bit of a breakthrough when Geffen Records signed him and produced what might have been his breakthrough record, The Next Hundred Years. I say might have been because Hawkins died from a stroke at the age of 58 in 1995, only months after the release of the album.

Lady Luck is a fickle flirt, indeed.

But here’s his powerful version of the CCR classic. Enjoy.

The painting above is a new piece, Prodigal, that is included in the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery that opens this coming Friday, February 8.

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“The sun –the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”

― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

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I guess it’s wishful thinking to be discussing a painting based on light and warmth on a day when we are just beginning to feel the brunt of the bitter cold that has swept down from the polar regions. It’s below 0° right now and it won’t get much above that for the next few days around here. Brrr! So the hope contained in a rising sun and the light and heat from it becomes something to really think about.

The painting above is a new one, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Reaching For The Light. The jumble of upward rising buildings has a new addition to go with the regular roofs and spires–chimneys. This new element gives the effect of an appendage reaching upward from each building to get to the sunlight.

I like that feeling that it gives.

I thought the descriptive snip above from Dickens’ Oliver Twist fit this painting. I often have images based on Dickens’ vivid descriptions of cityscapes from Victorian England in mind when I am working on these type of paintings that are cramped and crowded with buildings. His words created an imagery that stuck firmly in my mind from when I first read them so many years ago.

It was a place of darkness, soot, and shadows. The idea of the sun cutting through the grayness with its cleansing light and warmth is one of hope, one of moving to a better situation beyond the squalor and despair of the moment.

That’s how I am seeing this painting with the Red Tree serving as the symbolic central figure acting out this idea of grasping for the light.

So, on this coldly bitter day, I have to find hope in the same sun that we have come to fear as the ever increasing effects of global climate change become apparent.

Stay warm, folks.

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Been working on a few new small pieces for the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery, which opens February 8. As I’ve noted here before, the annual Little Gems show has special meaning for me. It was the first show in which I ever participated and served as a springboard to a career as an artist that I never anticipated. Without that first show, I have no idea what I might otherwise be doing at this time. Pretty sure it wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I usually try out some new things for this show or at least try to show some small oddities, pieces with themes or looks that may not find their way into my regular visual vocabulary. Such is the piece at the top, a 6″ by 6″ painting on panel that is called Midnight Rider, based on and using the lyrics from the classic Allman Brothers song from 1970. Little piece of trivia: This was the A side of a single with another classic, Whipping Post, as the B side.

I really enjoy working on these sort of pieces. It’s a different mindset from my normal painting and it has the effect of cleansing the palate. Or maybe it’s palette in this case. These pieces have been fun and freeing. How they fit into my regular body of work, I can’t say. Guess it doesn’t really matter because even though I will show these pieces, they are actually done mainly for myself.

For this Sunday morning music, the song is–surprise,surprise!- Midnight Rider. I am showing two versions. The first is from the late Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings. It was produced for a Lincoln Mercury ad but that doesn’t take away from the strength of the performance. The second is from a performance from the also now-deceased Gregg Allman on the Cher variety TV show in 1975. It features a vintage dance performance from Cher, the kind of thing that was a regularly seen on the variety shows of that time. You don’t see much of this kind of stuff anymore– maybe for good reason. But it’s fun, in a weird kind of way.

Take a look and enjoy your Sunday.

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The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust

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This painting is titled To the Fields of Fortune. It’s one of those pieces that I to which I personally respond strongly. Maybe it’s the mood I feel from it or simply a chemical reaction to the juxtaposition of colors, forms and contrasts. Who really knows what truly causes a visceral reaction to art or music?

But the meaning that I attach to this painting has some influence on my reaction. I call these type of paintings my Acres of Diamonds pieces alluding to a story that I have replayed here a few times over the years. It is basically a tale of a farmer who sells his land and heads out, seeking to find his fortune in diamonds. He travels all over for years in his fuitle search, failing at each attempt until he ultimately takes his own life. Meanwhile, his original homestead turned out to be the location of the biggest diamond mine in Africa, where this story takes place.

What he sought was right beneath him all the time, if only he had taken the time to see what he had at hand.

And isn’t that too often the case with many of us? We believe that the grass is always greener elsewhere, making us think we need to seek far and wide when what we really need is with us, sometimes within us, all the time. As the author Marcel Proust states above, the real voyage of discovery comes in having new eyes to see what is already all around us.

There are diamonds waiting for us to simply bend down and pick them up, if only our eyes will see.

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This piece, along with a few other newer paintings, will be headed to the West End Gallery within the next few days.

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“Living right in the heart of Tokyo itself is quite like living in the mountains – in the midst of so many people, one hardly sees anyone.”

― Yūko Tsushima, Of Dogs and Walls

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This is a new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that was inspired in part by the older painting I showed here last week, Raise Your Eyes.  Unlike my normal Red Roof structures which have a closed off feel without doors or windows, these cityscapes are all doors and windows.

All eyes, ears, and mouths.

But as the late, esteemed Japanese writer Yuko Tsushima described in the words above, even with the presence of so many buildings filled with so many people, there is often a sense of anonymity. Perhaps it is the scale of the buildings which sometimes seem like looming mountains that overshadow anything beneath them. Or maybe it is the sheer number of people, so many that the faces and shapes blend into an amorphous blur in passing.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that gives this sense of anonymity but I find the paradox in it fascinating. Maybe that’s one reason why I enjoy painting these pieces so much. The main reason I believe is in the focus required in putting these together. Starting at the bottom of the canvas with no predetermined endpoint in mind, the picture rises slowly with each new structure leading to the next, all the while trying to ascertain how each new move changes the weight and feel of the whole.

Every stroke is a solution to one problem and the beginning of the next.

For me, the result is kind of like looking inside my head. It resembles a jumble, sometimes sloppy and tangled. But somehow, through the mess, it is always trying to create a sense of wholeness, of rightness.

Trying to find order in chaos.

Sometimes, I find it. Sometimes, I don’t.

I am still not sure this painting is finished. I am calling it for time being Around the Clock but for a time had considered calling it Witnesses or Hit and Run. I saw it with a body on the pavement of the intersection at the bottom right of the piece. and maybe a silhouette or two in the windows that look out on it. But I am not sure that I want to add that narrative thread, not sure that I want to change what I am looking at now in that manner.

So, I will dwell on it for a bit before I do anything. Or don’t.

We shall see…

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I have a new painting in a show that opens this Friday, November 16, at the the West End Gallery. The name of the show is “Masterpieces: A Collection of Kick*** Artwork” and it focuses on the process of the artist behind each piece. There are photos, studies and writings that document how each piece came to be.

From the work I have seen from the show thus far, it lives up to its name.

My contribution to the show is  48″ high by 24″ wide painting on canvas that I am calling And the Glimmer Comes... It is shown here on the right.

I decided for this show to do the painting for this show using studies and drawings, something I almost never use.

Normally, I start with a surface that is prepared with multiple layers of gesso and, more often than not recently, a top layer of black paint. Then I just begin with a block of color, usually the red oxide that I use for composing my underpainting and usually in the lower half of the composition.

Then I let the painting grow organically, the first block of color guiding me to the second and the second to the third and so on. After the piece is fully composed this way, I build out the colors from darker to lighter tones.

In the very simplest terms, that is my normal process.

Rough Sketch- GC Myers

But for this piece I decided to go with two studies. The first would be a rough sketch that would set out the basic composition of the painting. When I say rough, I mean rough, as you can see. I take only a minute or so to create it as I am only looking for a basic silhouette, a blocked out map to follow with little detail or nuance. It is not meant to be anything on its own, just a bit of shorthand to guide me in the next step.

The next step is the creation of a study, a smaller (24″ by 12″) version of the final larger painting. I followed the sketch with my underpainting and it was pretty much in line. But I have a small problem in making studies which are usually more loosely painted than the final version. My problem is that once I begin painting I treat that piece as a final version. I have spent many years treating every piece I paint as nothing less than a complete painting unto itself, something that is not less or subservient to any other painting in my body of work.

Lightbreak–24″ x 12″ – GC Myers

Once I started working on this “study” I couldn’t help but continue smoothing off the piece, making it whole. It was not a study at all as it quickly evolved into an autonomous painting with its own voice, its own life.  I am showing it as such with the title Lightbreak.

My next step was to transfer this image to the larger canvas. My first move was to block in the house much as it was in the sketch and the smaller version, although I did add an addition and another small roof to it. At this point I  could see new potentials in the open space of the larger canvas as well in the unique texture it possessed. It just begged for and explicitly pointed me to something different from the other pieces.

I immediately changed the composition to add a couple of rolling knolls leading a body of water that would extend to a horizon between two tongues of land that would jut in from either side. It began to speak in its own voice at once and was telling me how to proceed with the sky.

The larger surface created more open space so I opted for an additional underlying layer of clouds that would have a darker tone to contrast with those in the forefront. Doing so created an interestingly shaped negative space comprised of the blue-green color of the sky in its middle, That form became a structural element in this piece.

Building out the colors brought changes as well. The piece of land in the forefront were richer in color and more vibrant, mainly because I felt that the larger space it occupied required a bolder and more pronounced treatment. It acts as a strong foundation in this painting.

The final touches come in creating the glimmer at the horizon. That simple step made the whole of the painting gather together, creating a wonderful geometry between the various elements of the painting. It felt to me like the high note of climax in a dramatic aria.

That is a very condensed version of how the final painting came to be. Whether it lives up to the title of the show is not for me to say. The most I can say is that I feel this painting fits well among what I consider my better work. So maybe in that aspect it lives up to the show’s title.

Come out to the West End Gallery and see for yourself.

 

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