Here is the finished piece. I don’t have a name for it yet. No time to write anything, but I’ll be back next week after my show to post my other new paintings. Opening is this Saturday, June 22 at BeepBeep Gallery in Atlanta.
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Progress is moving rapidly now, as the tedium of repetitive masking and peeling grey cubes has been replaced by freehand painting of the organic element of this piece. It’s nice to see a noticeable progression in a matter of hours as compared to weeks of hard work that yielded little forward momentum. I’ve always tried to follow the idea that I should first and foremost enjoy what I’m doing in regards to my process, yet many of my initial concepts tend to push my abilities to their limits. In the end, the worst that can happen is I lose days or weeks to a sub-standard piece of art. The best that can happen is I evolve and improve, and the final product is a piece that I’m proud of. This particular piece has come a long way for me, from an idea that seemed so simple to one of the most labor-intensive works of art I’ve ever attempted to complete, but I can see the end result within my reach. I could dig through my closet and pull out numerous unfinished pieces that began with a concept that excited me, but that ultimately became more trouble than they were worth. Every one of those pieces are failures that I’m unable to let go of. I could always sand them down and reuse the panels, bury all that work, never have to be reminded of how I gave up on something that was within my ability to finish. Someday I’ll do just that. But for now, I keep them buried, out of sight but lingering around the edges of my mind like spirits you only catch fleeting glimpses of. This piece will not be buried. I’m happy with it, even excited again. Only a few more finishing touches, and then I can step back, give it a good look, and move on to the next one.
The bricks are finished. I repeat, THE BRICKS ARE FINISHED. I skipped over about twenty more shots of masking since they were all looking the same. The most difficult stage of this piece is over, and it’ll be a long time before I deal with bricks again. After finishing with the masking of the bricks, I had to go back over each one and touch up the edges due to colors bleeding under the tape. I expected as much with such small areas being masked, but damn if this whole process didn’t run out of gas about two weeks ago. I’m glad I stuck with it, and feel a little re-energized to move forward with the final stage of this piece. I’m also getting to work on some other pieces again, thank God, and I’m no longer seeing the world in greyscale. My two-person show opens at BeepBeep Gallery in Atlanta in ten days, and I still have lots of work to do…
I can feel this one slipping away from me. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I feel that I’m a slave to my process, that the techniques I’ve chosen to create visual art have taken away the actual joy of painting. After countless hours of matching numbers to boxes and taping out grids, I’m growing weary of the final product. This painting is starting to feel like a kitchen sink piece, like I’ve thrown too much at it. I’m resolved to finish it, but this current stage of progression has been tedious at best. I’m trying to alternate between this and a simpler piece, but I know that I have to just keep pushing forward on this one in order to get it to a place where I can feel good about it again. I’m over half-way through the bricks and I’m figuring out how to mask them off more efficiently, but damn if I’m not seeing 8 shades of grey as soon as I turn my eyes towards anything else. The repetition and the colors are just dull. There’s no other way to put how it feels. I’m imagining clocking in, putting my head down and just hammering it out, getting it over with. I’m making this piece sound horrible, but I expect it will at least turn out “good”. If I’m lucky, and if I don’t snap it over my knee in the process.
Colorado River, Southwest View from Dead Horse Point State Park, Near Moab, Utah
So I took a small vacation last week, meeting my mom & sister in Denver and driving out to Moab, Utah. I wanted to show them how beautiful it is out there, to get their toes wet to the idea that I’ll probably end up living in Moab someday. All the photos and writing I’ve done about Utah doesn’t even come close to the experience of seeing this place with one’s own eyes. I wanted my family to better understand what draws me out there, why I can’t stop talking about Utah. After driving them all over the place, to Canyonlands, Arches, Natural Bridges, Valley of the Gods, Dead Horse Point, the Moki Dugway, Newspaper Rock, and Cisco the ghost town, I feel like they were both pretty blown away. How can you not be? How can anyone be anything but dumbstruck upon first peering out over the edge of the Needles Viewpoint? My mom kept saying “I had no idea any of this even existed”, and it made me remember my own feelings of awe as I drove through the Valley of the Gods under a full moon, or woke up to catch the sunrise over the pink and orange spires of Bryce Canyon. It felt awesome to be the one who introduced my mom to such a beautiful place, a place that I feel is my true home. I know she’ll never forget this trip. None of us will. Still, no matter how many times I visit Utah, there’s always this feeling that I’m being shown something new and wonderful, that I’m indeed seeing this world again, for the first time.
The above image is the super fun chart I had to make in order to keep track of every shade of grey used in the painting so far. This only covers the colors on the angled bricks (I originally mistyped “pricks” here) around the window interiors. The point of this is so that when I paint the surface brick colors, they’ll correspond to their darker shades, the sides of the bricks cast in shadow. I’ve numbered the shades 1-8, from darkest to lightest. So a window brick numbered 6 will correspond to a surface brick numbered 7, since the colors of the shaded window interiors must be a shade darker than the surface colors,. It’s all very “paint-by-numbers”, but in a way that would drive any child hopelessly insane and maybe even cross-eyed as a bonus.
I’m masking off each and every brick in order to get the lines as sharp and straight as possible. This requires repeated taping and peeling, since the bricks are so small and I can only mask off so many at once. After the bricks are masked, I look at my handy-dandy super fun number chart and paint the matching number in the tiny square. It gets confusing since all the other squares are covered up with blue tape, and I have to remember which section I’m painting (middle row? bottom row?). Needless to say I’ve screwed up quite a few times, but thank God for that number chart!
Imagine the fun and excitement. Just imagine it.
The only part of this process that could be loosely called “enjoyable” is the peeling of the tape to expose the results. Some of the bricks have come out perfect, while others look like absolute shit and will require touch-ups. Since there’s plenty (PLENTY) of taping to come, I’m not bothering with corrections just yet, as there will be more bleeding and tearing. I just need to bite the bullet and ignore my obsessive-compulsive proclivities that scream at me to fix every little inconsistency. I’ve got to wait until all the bricks have been painted, and then I’ll go back with a detail brush and straighten the lines, fill in the tears, sand the edges that stand out too much, search for hairs, pencil marks, scratches, and so on and so on. Then, once I’ve completed obsessing (for days) over the big boo-boos and the little inconsistencies that NO ONE would even notice, then I can begin working on the final layer of the painting, which will be all free-hand. I estimate I have about 4 more days of taping and painting bricks. I expect to have a nice new patch of grey in my beard by the end of the month. Should be nice. I’m going for the “distinguished lumberjack” look these days.
Upon returning home to Brooklyn a few day ago, I immediately jumped back on my new piece in order to get some more process pictures up. I was hoping I could post the entire process of this painting from start to finish in about a month, but my last Atlanta trip (opening the bar) really disrupted my plans. I’ll repost all the process photos again once this piece is finished, but for now I’ll continue with the posts as the work progresses. Continuing with the piece, I completed the detail cracks in the ground at the bottom of the painting, and I finished the top color gradation of the sky (luckily my mixed colors hadn’t dried out in their jars after sitting untouched for almost 2 months). I was planning on having a layer of clouds that receded to the horizon, but then I realized that most of the background details would be obscured by what I have planned for the building, so I nixed that idea and saved myself about 10 hours worth of work.
Without giving too much away, the windows play a large part in the final image, so I had to get them all laid out before starting with the multicolored grey-scale brick pattern. Since correcting paint runs or tears is much easier with the color black, I masked off the windows and filled them in first. That way, when I get to painting the lighter greys of the bricks, any paint bleeding will only be noticeable on the black windows, and that’s an easy fix. Painting dark over light works much better than the opposite. You might not be able to tell from the badly focused image below (sorry), but the windows didn’t come out as well as I had expected them to (lots of bleeding and soft lines), so I’ll have to correct the edges with the grey bricks. Hopefully the paint is opaque enough to cover things up without too many layers. I’m expecting the whole brick-painting stage to be quite the pain in my ass.
As a side note, my landlord notified me that my rent is going up $500 next month, so I’m moving out of my apartment of 3 years. I was pretty bummed at first, but I’ve managed to find a new place that’s about 3 times larger than this one, which means a larger art studio, which means LARGER PAINTINGS. With these new pieces, I’ve already increased the size of my panels, but this new space will allow me to really start working in a much larger scale. I feel like my last 12 years in New York have all lead up to this. I’m finally going to be living in a space that doesn’t restrict my work in any way, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Besides the approaching move, all I need to do in the next 40 days is to focus on these new pieces and get them all finished before my show on June 22nd. I can’t wait until all this traveling back and forth is over and I can settle into my new home with my sweet little dog and the girl that I love. Then, once all is right in that world, I can turn back to my work and I can direct all of my energy into my painting and writing. I hope that life in this new positive environment allows me to truly discover all I’m capable of.
Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Mountain, CA
I’m waiting for the moment when I wake up and find my mind firmly set in the realm of my immediate vicinity. I’ll look out my window and see the Williamsburg Bridge glimmering with the reflections of rush-hour traffic. I’ll walk up to my roof and scan the horizon from south to north. The new World Trade Center’s single tower looms both modest and defiant, a simple design built in the shadow of the fallen, a great big “FUCK YOU” to our enemies. I’ll pan over Battery Park City, across the lower east side, up to the Chrysler Building, dwarfed by the Empire State Building that lingers in the background like an older brother. I’ll look behind me, at the rows of projects and semi-projects, windows barred to protect hasidic children from the outside world. In every direction, progress and industry, the fruits of our labors, our homes and factories, towers and chimneys. And then the next thing I do is to close my eyes, and I imagine myself someplace else. I’m looking out over spans of ponderosa pines, beyond the emerald blue waters of Lake Tahoe, out into a rolling landscape of hilltops and mountains. I don’t see the tiny cars and the frantic people and the resorts and the log cabins that self-consciously poke their heads out from beneath the green canopy they live under. I see the trees, I see the water, I see the birds spiraling up into the sun-drenched sky and then falling back down to earth like stalled planes. They drop as if they’re being pulled from below, as if gravity has decided to remove the gift of flight from all living things. And just as the ground opens its gaping maw to swallow the swallows, they are given back their aviatory abilities, once again streaking across the bleached-out sky. I wake up every morning with my thoughts somewhere else, beneath the 1000 year old branches of a murmuring sequoia, my toes being lapped at by a cold pacific tide, The sun slowly changing black to pink at the edge of a desert world. I wake up watching the birds fall to earth and soar to the heavens, watching their death and rebirth. And then I open my eyes, and I see Brooklyn out my window, and there’s a mourning dove on the sill, its head tucked below a wing that begins to glow orange with the light from the rising sun.
Christmas Vacation 2012, Bee’s Nest 1, Niland, CA
While exploring an abandoned industrial space on the outskirts of Niland, CA, Cassie & I stumbled upon this giant honey bee’s nest. You could hear them buzzing in the next room, a frenzied hum that was unmistakeable, like the sound of a snake’s rattle. Thinking back on how close I came to the nest, I should have been stung, and deservedly so. Reading about California bees, I realized that this could have been an Africanized bee colony, in which case I’m especially lucky to have not been stung. I’m like one of those idiots who gets too close to a bison, inching ahead with tiny steps, leaning my camera as far forward as I can without falling over myself, just begging for a good goring. Here are some pleasant facts about Africanized honey bees:
-They sting in large groups.
-They can sense both people and electronic equipment 50-100 feet from their nest.
-They consider both people and electronic equipment a threat.
-They will chase a human or electronic threat over 1/4 mile.
-They become defensive when nesting.