Dec 28 2009

This is why I do it

Had to borrow this snippet from Mark Ryden – he sums it up beautifully.

Artist Statement – “Anima Mundi” – September 2001
I still remember the joy I got out of drawing, painting and building a world of my own when I was a child. I was free. I try to recapture that feeling I had making art as a child and to believe in magic, to play, to dream. Children see things and feel things that adults don’t.

As an adult, there are many barriers to being in this creative state of mind. I feel constantly challenged by these barriers. It is very difficut to let go of responsibilities and enter a creative fantasyland. It’s hard to stop looking at the clock and our bills. It’s hard not to drown in relationship problems and all the negative thoughts that deflate our motivation to create. If you can summon the strength to get past all these things and trust your heart, creativity can be miraculous. You can be transported to another existence.

There are two very different parts to the brain. There is the logical side and the creative side. To make art you have to stop thinking in a linear way. You have to bring to life the part of your brain that finds mystical wonder in life and nature. There is a part of your soul that can spend hours admiring the subtle colors and shapes in an old raccoon skull. You have to find the particular things that bring out your spirit. It may be to get up at the crack of dawn to explore the flea market in search of treasure. Perhaps light incense and listen to music that would embarrass you if anyone knew about, and wonder about alchemy, astrology and the secrets of the universe. It is the part of your spirit that still feels like a kid, and is awe-inspired and fascinated by the world.

My goal in art is to get past literal conscious thought and try to let my uninhibited subconscious mind make my art. I can feel it when this is working. I have heard many artists describe the same feeling. Some think it is the hand of God using them as an instrument of creation. Some describe it as the creative energizing force that permeates all nature creating through them. It is like being helped by some unknown mysterious force, Anima Mundi, the Spirit of the Universe.

You must trust your subconscious and the unknown sources it can tap into. There is so much for our minds to sort out. Millions of images and thoughts spinning around. If it were all there right the front of your conscious thinking your head would explode. My subconscious mysteriously sorts through this sea of thoughts and images and somehow synthesizes pieces from here and there and brings together paintings. They are the exclusive product of my unique mind. There is only one of each of us and our visions are the special product of our experiences and special unique thoughts.

I am drawn towards certain images and icons with a strong instinct. I feel I just have to paint certain things. I try not to question that. I can get just as much inspiration from a classical painting by Jacques-Louis David as a comic book cover by Daniel Clowes. I try to not judge one to be more legitimate than the other. The mystified gaze of a Keane girl can provide as much inspiration as the penetrating stare of a Rembrandt portrait.

I find it so much easier to be creatively free at night. Daytime is for sleeping. Nighttime is the best time for making art. The later at night it gets the further into another world you go. A few years ago while working very late one night, the distinct smell walnuts in the air broke my concentration. It was very quiet. A strange breeze gently blew through my studio. I suddenly became aware of something on my shoulder. Surprisingly, I was not startled to find a wee Abraham Lincoln sitting right there on my shoulder. We looked at each other for just a moment. Then he very softly whispered in my ear “paint meat.”

– Mark Ryden, 2001

Love the Abe Lincoln and “paint meat” parts.
Hopefully we are heading to a museum tomorrow. A perfect place to gather reference photos for painting ideas. If not, I should get some good shots on this trip. Just a few days to go before the start!

Dec 23 2009


Well, nothing got accomplished last night. Other than discovering a cool new group, Pomplamoose. I did come to realize some things also. The type of art I want to do is not really realism. I don’t know how you would classify it – maybe surrealism, but it’s slightly different. I think the proper term is pop surrealism. It’s sometimes grouped in with Lowbrow Art – kind of an offshoot of the Big Daddy Roth Rat Fink stuff of the 60′s.

This is the type of work I want to do. The artist’s name is Mark Ryden. I love his stuff. I guess it’s kind of dreamlike, in a slightly creepy sort of way. Kind of like those Golden Books you’d read as a child, but twisted.

I found a website with all sorts of artists in the style I like. It’s probably good that I didn’t start last night – I don’t think I will be satisfied with my art unless I’m doing what I really like. I’m a big fan of Tim Burton – that’s the sort of stuff I want to do. Back to the drawing board…

This is an idea I started laying out in Photoshop a month or so ago. I thought I would do a series of paintings based on song lyrics, or song titles.

The song, of course, is Teddy Bear Picnic. Maybe this should be my first painting.

Dec 22 2009

Start me up

Tonight’s the night we’ll make history…

Well, not really. But, I am going to attempt to get started tonight. I’ve got a nice window this evening to start on Week One’s painting. I decided to get a jump start for Week One, which I am calling January 3rd – January 9th, 2010. Reason being, I’ll be out of town for the holidays, and we won’t be arriving back until January 4th late…best to get my procrastinatin’ butt moving now.

Also, I made a few changes to the look of the blog. Dropped in a logo, and changed the header. It’s been years since I messed with anything “code” related (I used to do a little Basic and Pascal programming WAY back in the day), so it felt good to accomplish something.

The header background is a closeup of one of my favorite paintings of all time – The Great Wave off Kanagawa, by the Japanese artist Hokusai.

Dec 21 2009

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary

When I was younger, I didn’t really like Picasso. I was attracted to extremely realistic painters. Now I am fascinated with his work. The quotes I have used in the blog (The every child one and the we don’t grow older, we grow riper one) are from Picasso. So is the headline of this post. His quotes are as good as his paintings…here are a few:

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

And this one, which leads me to my next topic…
Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.

Thomas Kincade.

To each his own, but to say I’m not a big fan is an understatement.
Kincade on Picasso, “He had talent but didn’t use it in a significant way,” and “I don’t believe, in time, that he will be regarded as the titan that he is now,” says Kinkade. “He is a man of great talent who, to me, used it to create three Picassos before breakfast because he could get $10,000 each for them.”

Strange, coming from a man who issued this decree to his minions: “There’s over 40 walls in the average American home, and Tom says our job is to figure out how to populate every single wall in every single home and every single business throughout the world with his paintings.”

I do have to admire the man’s marketing skills. Not really a big fan of the paintings, but I can understand how some like the old-timey feel they convey. I actually considered doing a series a few years ago based off of his work. I was going to mimic his style, but paint “less than desirable” locales, like a trailer park, bums on a corner, etc. Maybe I can work that into my works next year.

Dec 19 2009

When I get off of this mountain…

Up on Cripple Creek

I think this is going to be the inspiration for my first painting. I took it from the Narrow Gauge Railroad in Cripple Creek, Colorado – a town chock full of casinos and great views. I’m not sure what style I’m going to work in. Normally I tend to work pretty realistically, but I might try something impressionistic, or try to work in some more color.

This summer in Boulder I met a fantastic artist, Phil Lewis. I just love his work. I might try something along these lines…very colorful. Well, not quite like this, but I like this style. Very different from what I would usually do, but very cool.

Dec 18 2009

I believe the children are our future…


Ok, I hate that song. Here’s a drawing I just finished yesterday for an old friend. Finished size is 11″x14″. It’s for a Christmas present – it’s all of the grandkids. Not a great photo of it, but I was happy with the way it turned out.

Dec 15 2009

Now what?

Ok…I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. 52 paintings in 52 weeks. Can it be done? Yes, it is physically possible. I’ll be using acrylics, so the drying time isn’t a factor. But the time time is a factor. Will I be able to knock out a painting a week? I’m trying to accomplish a few things with this goal. A) Get back into trying to be an artist…B) Make up for lost time.

Which brings me to – distractions. I have too many, and not all are bad. A family, for one. The Interwebs for another. Television yet another. My VW Bus…another. You get the drift. I can carve out time though…I have to. I need to do this (or at least attempt it) to see if it’s what I really want. I’ve overcome one of the biggest objections I’ve used for the past few years – lack of a studio space to paint. Since we moved to Colorado in June, we now have a basement again. I’ve got a nice little space set up, surrounded by junk and patrolled by the two dwellers of the deep – Floyd and Nikita. They are cats, and like to leave me hacked-up hairballs on top of aforementioned junk, on the floor, the steps…

Now to a very real dilemma – what to paint? With this tight timeline I will be undoubtedly painting a lot of things just to knock out a painting. Which might be good, since I won’t spend more time obsessing over what to paint, what series should I do, would this sell, etc. I’ve used Photoshop in the past for setting up compositions of paintings, and probably will this time around. It’s a lot faster, and you can see what works and what doesn’t right away.

So in the next few weeks in between travelling all over for the holidays and finishing shopping, I’ll be brainstorming for painting ideas. When I get a concept worked up in Photoshop, I’ll be printing it out, and using my trusty old Art Projector to sketch out a quick sketch onto canvas. At least that’s the plan…we’ll see how it goes.

Dec 14 2009

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Peaches come from a can,
they were put there by a man
In a factory downtown…

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – or the Presidents of the United States of America. But I digress…

Do I dare eat a peach? Taken from the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot.
Basically it’s a poem about “the road not taken.” And that’s what this blog is about – the road not taken (as an artist). I turned 40 this year, and realized (like many I’m sure) that my life is not where I expected it to be…at least as an artist. I remember telling my Grandma when I was little (she was a talented painter and stained glass artist) “Why don’t you do your art?” And now, I understand…it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that life gets in the way. I always thought…There will be time, there will be time (again from the poem) – but something about turning 40 makes you realize there ain’t really that much time.

And so, the blog. I’ve had this website for a few years, and haven’t done anything with it. So, I came up with the idea to create a blog about the struggle to become an artist again. Sure, I guess I technically was a graphic artist for several years, and now manage them, but it’s not the same as putting brush to canvas. Being the King Kamehameha of Procrastination, I need a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to get me motivated. A challenge, with deadlines. I watched Julie & Julia the other night. The movie inspired by the real life blog of a woman who dared to cook her way through the Julia Child cookbook. Not a great movie, but a good motivator. I need a deadline.

So…I’m going to jump back into the creative pool. I am going to paint 52 paintings next year – one a week. I am going to be Eating Peaches.