I realize I'm a little behind the eight ball with this post and just about everyone already has their new calendars up for the new year, but Andrews McMeel has come out with a calendar of my word paintings. So this is the first time in 30 years that I won't be sending out my own calendar. I hate to break the string, but it made no sense this year. They are being sold on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
For the past several decades, I have spent the week between Christmas and New Years, a time usually fallow for assigments, busy getting my calendars out the door, rubber stamping, writing personal notes, stuffing envelopes and applying stamps. Not this year. Instead I have been up to my ears in Renaissance art history. I accepted an adjunct teaching position at Champlain College in Burlington and will be teaching art history two mornings a week. I've always had a passion for art history, so this is a logical step for me. I've had about three weeks to prepare for the first class. I am simultaniously terrified and excited. Art history from the Renaissance to Present through the eyes of a humorous illustrator! Outta be fun.
May - Andrews McMeel was nice enough to continue my tradition of highlighting the 4th of May.
Symbolism in Jan Van Eyck's Double Portrait of Giovanni Arnfolini and his Wife anyone?
In the late 70's, my 3 best friends (who happened to be my band) and I took a hint from The Beatles and The Beach Boys and plunked down our $75 to learn Transcendental Meditation. At that time it was very difficult to lay off beer and doobs for a two week period so we could go into our first session with the required clear heads. But we made the sacrifice and learned how to meditate.
In the ensuing years I meditated on and off depending on the need and the time constraints of family and career. Over the past several years, however, the kids are clearing out, and in an effort to keep the creative fires burning brightly I have worked meditation into my daily routine. I get to my studio early and do computer foolishness for about an hour while having my morning coffee. That done, I turn everything off and sit quietly for 20-25 minutes. I then have my oj and draw for an hour in my sketchbooks. I have found that meditation has made my daily drawing more focused and measured. By clearing my mind, often the good stuff comes in. Sometimes it doesn't, but that's ok. I have been drawing in my sketchbooks long enough to understand that there are cycles. Sometimes it's happening and sometimes it's not. The important thing is to keep doing it because you never know when lightning will strike in the form of a killer idea. I don't mean to prosletize here. I have no illusions of world peace or the ability to levitate. I just know that it works for me.
Lately while meditating ( when I was supposed to be purging my thoughts) I have found myself thinking about how to graphically represent what meditation feels likeand what it looks like behind closed eyes. I started making small thumbnails in my sketchbooks exploring these ideas. Then I started painting watercolors of those thoughts. All, of course, with an eye on the extremely lucrative counter culture market!
Raptus - This title is ripped from one of my favorite Marsden Hartley paintings which hangs in the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH.
Good For What Ails You - Of course there are some that will argue that the accordion is the quickest way to Nirvana.
The Wolf Kahn Studio building, one of three painting studio buildings at the center. This used to be the town gymnasium. The center court logo is still evident in the center hallway.
As I mentioned in my last post, several weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be asked back to the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT for Vermont Week, that brings together over 60 Vermont visual artists and writers for a week of intensive work. Each participant is given a modest bedroom with a shared bath and a spacious studio. Large and airy with pristine white walls, alot of light and very high ceilings, the studios are a pleasure to work in. Meals are eaten communally and the food is terrific featuring a fresh, localvore salad bar and artisanal bread. I will be working this week off at the gym for months to come..
I attended this week last year and didn't quite know what to expect going in. I finished about a dozen small watercolors and several small easel sized acrylics. Afterwards, I was kicking myself for not pushing myself out of my comfort zone and more importantly not taking advantage of the big space. So this year I brought along a large roll of canvas that I had bought several years ago (luckily primed, or I would have spent the first day house painting with gesso), a limited palette of liquid acrylics and some big ass brushes. This time I was going to paint BIG. Rather than having a hair dryer going all the time to dry washes on the big paintings, I always had a watercolor going and bounced back and forth between the two.
Just prior to my departure, I did some drawings in my sketchbook that I was very excited about. My plan was to do some paintings along these lines. Naturally, my plan morphed as I went along. I tried a number of different directions and generally was pleased with the results. Upon arriving back at my home studio, I rearranged things so that I could continue working on a larger scale. Trying to keep the mojo working.
So what's this got to do with illustration? I've always believed that personal work fuels the commercial work. I'm constantly learning things through my personal work that finds it's way into my illustration work. And as an illustrator who spends alot of time solo in the studio, the comraderie of this week went along way toward recharging my batteries. This was a wonderfully talented group of artists and writers, alot of whom I can now call friends.
The Mill Building contains the kitchen and dining room as well as the offices upstairs and the lounge downstairs. Also downstairs is an extensive art library that is for the use of residents.
White dude in a white room.
Here are several sketchbook pages that loosely informed some of the paintings I did at the Center.
Big Chief - Acrylic on Canvas - 66" × 48"
Pomp and Circumstance - Acrylic on Canvas - 64" × 34"
Etiquette - Acrylic on Canvas - 32" × 42"
Lazing Grace - Acrylic on Canvas - 30" × 42"
Cloud Treaty - Watercolor and and Mixed Media - 12.75" × 8.75"
Opposing Philosophies - Watercolor and Mixed Media - 12.75" × 8.75"
Catch - Watercolor and Mixed Media - 13" × 8.75"
Big Step - Watercolor and Mixed Media - 12.75" × 8.75"
Decision - Watercolor and Mixed Media - 12.75" × 8.75 "
Looking a little rough at week's end. I'd like to thank Zoe Barracano, Dona Mara and Scott J. Morgan for letting me use some of their photos.