It's been great working on this scale and with an open-ended timeframe and theme, and I hope to be doing more in the future. I hate to see these pieces leave the studio—I get used to the company—but there's always something new to take its place.
Scheideweg | acrylic & oil on wood panel | 96" x 48"
And speaking of the future, I also have a new piece in the upcoming FUTUROLOGY show at Copro in Santa Monica, opening this Saturday night. If you're in the area, come out and see it—some great folks are exhibiting, including Cathie Bleck.
FUTUROLOGY | Opening Saturday March 23 - 8:00 – 11:30 p.m. | March 23 – April 13
Artists Include: Luke Chueh, Nathan Spoor, Mu Pan, Ana Bagayan, Tin, Alexandra Manukyan, Annie Owens, Nouar, Chrystal Chan, Timothy Smith, Genevive Zacconi, Erik Alos, Adam Miller, Xue Wang, Jason Hite, Matthew Grabelsky, Chloe Trujillo, Leslie Ditto, David Richardson, Khrys Sapp, Tracey Roberts, Robert S. Connett, Chet Zar, Mat Hurtado, Larkin, Vincent Cacciotti, Steven Daily
Copro Gallery | Bergamot Station | 2525 Michigan Ave, Unit T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404
"Gilded" | Acrylic & oil on wood panel | 96" x 40"
A few months ago, I was commissioned by the W Hotel Austin to create a large scale painting for the lobby of their 36 story downtown Residences, the condominium component of their property. The developers had recently seen my work at a gallery opening and approached me about creating a special piece for their entry space.
The W is one of the hot spots of Austin, having not just the premiere hotel and residence location downtown but also serving as the new studio/concert hall for Austin City Limits, the world famous venue that's provided 38 years of great music on PBS. I live only blocks away and have seen countless shows there since its opening two years ago, and the outdoor concerts in their patio area as well as the Willie Nelson statue draw visitors in to the already vibrant 2nd Street District.
Whales have appeared in several of my personal works over the years—I have reoccurring "characters" or symbols in these pieces—and after visiting the space and getting a feel for the environment the painting would occupy, I decided a whale was the perfect creature to live there. I also wanted to have an interplay with the other piece of art that would share that space, a sculpture by Shawn Smith titled "Branchlers". With these two elements as a starting point, I created a narrative that I then transformed into a small study before moving to the large scale painting.
I've never found it easy to part with a painting, particularly one so much energy is invested in, but in this case I can drop in and visit the whale whenever I'm downtown.
"Abacus" | acrylic & oil on wood panel | 60" x 36"
The whale went up a few months back and has led to several more large scale commissions. The piece above, "Abacus", is one of those, and it's been fun both to work in this larger scale—I've discovered that I do every bit as much detail when the piece is large!—and to work with this conceptual process, which typically involves viewing a space and then thinking about what might suit the environment. It's open-ended as far as content, but presents a new set of challenges as far as scale and place. I've got another large piece (48" x 96") underway right now, so I'm happy to say there'll be more to come.
I recently got a call from Justin Page at Playboy to create a portrait for a fiction piece titled The Vampire Horses of the Great Cummerbund Steeplechase by Ron Carlson, a gothic story centered around a small town in England and the mysterious "exsanguination" of various officials connected to its annual horserace. For those of you who don't know—and I was one of you until I read this story—to "exsanguinate" is to drain something of all its blood. You learn something new every day.
As you've probably gathered, this isn't your average English countryside tale, and this wasn't the average portrait assignment, either; Justin was looking for a image not of a person but of a horse—and not just any horse, but a vampire horse. A perfect project!
Horses have an intimidating quality to them, particularly in the eyes, and a nervous and unpredictable energy that lent itself to this piece. I quickly did a sketch for Justin and indicated color—something I don't normally do, but felt was important in conveying how it could add to the sense of foreboding. By limiting the color palatte to red and a sort of bone color of burnt umber, my goal was to give a menacing, otherworldly feel to this piece. I also liked the idea of this portrait emerging from darkness, something I pushed a bit farther in the finished piece.
Justin suggested that they photograph an antique frame and insert my piece in to it—a combination of media that nicely compliments my use of texture and aging to emphasize the history of an image. The final piece, above, has just the right level of creepiness to fit in above the mantel of Barnabus Collins' home. And just in time for Halloween.
The spread; love the drips Justin added to the type.
Ther's an old adage that all it takes to make the phone ring (or the email chime) is planning a vacation. And so it was this last July when Janice and I were about to depart for a long trip overseas. With three days to go until we boarded a plane, and one large project in the completion stage (more on that one in the months to come!), I got a call from Claude Skelton of Skelton Design to do a portrait of Shakespeare for St John's College Summer 2012 edition, which oddly enough comes out in early September. St John's magazine has a rich history of profiling the great figures of the arts and sciences, so I couldn't say no, even with a 72 hour window that included wrapping up another painting and packing a suitcase!
I was stepping into some big shoes with this one as well: the legendary David Johnson had done the previous 12 years of St John's covers, and while they were looking for a new, full-color look, the bar had been set by a master of portraiture. Claude and St John's wanted to respect the clean and open feel of the past template while introducing some narrative elements that also allowed for a personalized approach, something that connected the subject with the university. It sounded like a fun project and a chance to test my sprint speed—something every freelancer gets an adreneline rush from. I quickly put together some sketches that placed the portrait within the newly refined cover design, and with a few quick additions of detail, I was off to the finish line. A day later I delivered the art and caught the plane, and last Friday I received my copies of the magazine. Thanks to Claude and St John's!
Who knew Shakespeare went to St John's? He's got the class ring to prove it.