Archive for the Technique Category

Work, of the Type I Dislike

Posted in Art, Art Student Handbook, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Leisure, Literature, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique on 7 November, 2010 by endlessslug

The slug found himself a job.  It’s one of those jobs that kills all creativity and time, yet kind of pays the bills.  My new workmates like to remind me (constantly) that “it’s money, right?”

Wrong.

Yes, I get paid, but so what?  My interests are broader and I was getting along while also building two different companies.  I was producing, I was beginning a successful climb towards my own agenda of success and quality workmanship.  But now I must toil at a graveyard-shift shit-pile of a job and make way less than the average employee (as I’m considered a “temp”), and get absolutely no new work accomplished.  I know its difficult for a non-artist/writer to understand sometimes, but artists no matter what the type require time, above all, to complete projects.  In fact, we need time just to think and design a project.  We cannot simply sit down for 30 minutes at a time between meals or social events or work and be expected to pump out masterpieces – or anything at all.  The mundane world sees this as “correct” – that now artists and writers must make themselves a “decent” or “honorable” living because the general public believes very little in what we do for them.  And of course, there are artists and writers out there that have really made a terrible image for the rest of us working little and pissing out terrible work for a high profit return (cf Andy Warhol).  I would encourage the public to see artists as carpenters or other construction laborers, and no different, as much as popular artists, or the “artist you know” would like you to think otherwise.  Artists are craftsmen and women like any other, but our work is often situational and based on life experience, not a directly or obviously functional device like a house or car.  This is also not to take away from the artistic elements of the work that other craftsmen do.  I saw a forklift driver the other night whom I felt was a fine artist of truck loading, for example.  The difference between us is only that I (or any other artist) focus on the artistic/aesthetic and secondly on function; just a reverse of the practical consensus.  I wish we could be paid by the hour to create our structures, our homes, our food, our art, but this cannot be.  I don’t blame the public here, I blame artists in conjunction with a cultural mentality that we must all find some sense of uniqueness to consume and compete with.  A mixture of protestant ethic and capitalism, combined with contemporary reliance on spectacle and immediate gratification.  A competition for the shock, as it were, as a means to qualify for a self-defined (yet with immense lacking of experience) sense of personal hard work in the completion of a sub-standard pile of regurgitated sameness steamers.

You can make something new and important and be paid for it.  Relax.

New Summer Series

Posted in Art, Contemorary Art, Pop-culture, Social Science, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 21 May, 2010 by endlessslug

I decided to do something a little different and try pissing out mass volumes of pastel drawings and try selling them at reduced rates.  It’s a big experiment, so don’t worry all you hard-core followers of the slug, I’m not selling out.  I have a hypothesis I’d like to test.  It’s mostly a color hypothesis but in order to test it adequately, I need to sell a mass of work in a short time.  Reducing prices to affordable decoration range ideally will do the trick.

Here’s the first one of the new series.

I named this one, which I rarely do.  It’s name is “Breakfast Nook” and is a contemporary surrealist approach to a still life of an apple, a pear, and a banana.  Interested parties can buy prints over at imagekind or buy the original drawing over at zatista.  I hope to put a drawing up like this one about every other week, possibly every week this summer, and then firmly stop before I have to move out of my apartment around late July.  This means, mostly a June series.

-Slug

Busy Bees and “Art Students, Please!”

Posted in Art, Artists, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14 April, 2010 by endlessslug

Hi all, the Slug has been pretty busy as of late running some business-end things and working on some new projects so I haven’t been able to write as much as I had intended.  I have a few saved posts ready for rainy days but I don’t believe the time is quite right…

With that said, I’ll leave this post short but I will add a sort of teaser of things to come:

Top 10 Things Art Students Should ALWAYS Refrain (that mean’s “do not do this” kiddies) From Painting:

1 – Aliens.  No one cares man.

2 – Pot leaves.  It’s just advertising.

3 – Any other drug references.  If it’s a cry for help, go elsewhere.  If not, stop using and experience the world a bit and see if you still want to paint this.

4 – Crosses, thorn-crowns, crucifixions.  Do you work for your church?  Even great historical painters ALL hated painting this stuff.

5 – Black female jesus.  This isn’t profound, it’s stupid.  Why not paint actual religious females with your g/f’s image in them? Oh wait, there aren’t any. What?

6 – Girlfriends.  Note, I do not say boyfriends – why? cause who paints that?

7 – Erotic art.  Why? because for students, it’s just porn and nobody ever tells them otherwise.  Skills first people.

8 – Famous people.  We’ve seen it. Stop.

9 – Animal portraits.  Seriously get the fuck out of the house.

10 – Your friend’s band promo.  [facial expression of ‘geh?’]

We’ll add an addendum list…

Top 10 Ways in which Art Students Should Stop Working (e.g., the technique guide):

1 – Never bring anime into an art studio.  We’ll kill you.

2 – Stop using ‘graphitti’.  To artists this translates to: “ignorant fuck who thinks themselves better than 40000 years of art history.” Cave paintings are better than gra-shitty art any day.

3 – Cray-pas.  What, are you 7?

4 – Painting with ‘non-traditional’ tools such as leaves, stems, twigs…  it’s all about the process right? No.  It really isn’t.  How unnatural is a sable brush?

5 – Stop sticking things to canvases.  It really looks like shit.

6 – Stop sewing into canvas.  Make a quilt, don’t paint.

7 – Don’t use hemp canvas.  Hemp is useless for anything, don’t believe the hype, listen to your painter ancestors who have tried it numerous times with no useful results.

8 – Don’t let your canvas peek through your paint for that ‘painted’ look.  It’s a painting, ass.

9 – Quit “expressing” all over the place.  I certainly don’t want to clean that up.

10 – Quit using perishables.  Potatoes strung up over a piano?  Dude, “Fuck” and “Off”.

-Endless Slug

Quit Painting Other People’s Art

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Literature, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 March, 2010 by endlessslug

Here’s an issue I see frequently in the world of art today from the lowly student, to the returning retiree, to the professional: Re-creating a work of art into the artist’s medium resulting in a lifeless copy of something once beautiful and meaningful.

Do you know what I’m referring to? Have you seen/created works like this?

I’ll contain this discussion to my fellow painters:

O BITTER MUSE!

The most common form of copy-painting folks often come across is people who paint from photographs.  Yes, yes, I know, many painters and especially illustrators use photographs frequently as reference in the construction of an image.  A reference.  Say it with me now, “R E F E R E N C E”. A painter knows how to draw the image already, the photo helps in the small details when a painter feels they need to recall more specific information.  Far too often, we see students and especially pseudo-professionals create a work entirely from a photograph.  A trained eye quickly picks up that photos have been used.  Why should we not do this? The work ends up lifeless – only a copy.  Some artists can make some aspect of these works interesting: Watercolorists can sometimes create interesting effects in color application and transparencies, drawers can create different effects in line weights and contrasts, and the painter can shift a whole mood in addition to the previous two effects.  But these changes are often pedantic and cannot detract from the image as a photo.  We can always tell the photo-painting because of the inclusion of excessive details revealed by looking at a pictoral reference, which are different from the movement details we find with live or imagined objects.  The photo is a static instance of an event and completely unsuitable for a painting.  Photo-paintings also lean towards the development of bad habits: restrictive drawing space, restrictive palette, attempts at color which result in drab local color arrangements, and lack of experience in drawing live models/scenes.  As painters, we must, at all cost, SEE (with our personal eyes) what a subject looks like – how it moves – how light plays off edges and curves, how lines appear and disappear, how color plays in the shadows, and so on.  A photo cannot reproduce this; neither does video.

A couple of simple rules:

Stop and change your idea immediately if you plan on painting any of the following:

1) Family photos

2) “Found” photos

3) Pet Photos

4) Cellphone Pix

5) Website caps

6) Cropped areas of a photo in an attempt to do something “different”

7) Paintings of famous photographs or paintings of work you did in your photo class that you got that A- on.

8 ) Anything your friends say you should paint.

Because:

A) These are all terrible ideas and have been done by every wannabe post-mod contemporary shit student artist for the last 10+ years.

B) It will result in a terrible painting that no one wants to see.

C) They are boring.

D) They are artistic Plagiarism!

Artistic Plagiarism

Sometime in the last 30 years, some idiot decided it was “OK” to “express yourself” in any way you feel as long as you are being yourself. You, you, you, you, me, me, me, me, blah.  Once upon a time, a favorite old art professor told me, “paint from a photo and you’re committing plagiarism.”  The shitbag art students in the class with me argued with this guy for weeks about that statement.  Partly, he said it so these kids would say something and begin to argue to make them academic artists, but he was also correct.  The photo itself is already a record of an event and it’s own aesthetic creation.  It might be more historical document than art, and the ‘artist’ might decide to elevate the work to some sort of western notion of fine art, but the work is already done – why paint that?  Just frame it and put it on the wall.  When you paint it, you’ve just copied someone else’s work – maybe even your own.  To him, and to me, it’s no different than taking words from a published document and using them as if you said them yourself.  And like the trained literature/composition instructor, the trained artist can tell right away when the work is a photo-painting, thus knowing it was plagiarized.  I believe a little part of that intuition exists in all viewers of the work which somewhat universally makes the work uninteresting – except to the Sunday-painter whose mind was just blown: “Wow! I can paint my dog too! and I have the perfect picture of him in a little pink sweater I knitted”.  Thanks photo-painter for shitting up the art world one person more.

So, in conclusion:

I> Don’t paint from photos or any other copy-reference; draw from life

II> If you do paint from photos, DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR PAINTING that the photo does not or can not.  If you constantly strive to improve upon the photo and instead work more from life, one day magic will happen… you will no longer need it.

*** ADDENDUM ***

That was quick – I got bombarded with private and semi-public arguments within minutes of this post.  On one hand, it’s good to see people are reading me, on the other, I wish people would argue less, listen, and learn.

I should clarify, however: Artists of all forms know that human minds are repositories of experiences and knowledge manipulated by intuition and abstract forethought resulting in limitless creativity, thanks to Noam Chomsky and linguistic anthropologists everywhere, boo to modern philosophers and psychologists.  My argument about ‘not’ painting other people’s work is a plea for artists to construct their own work – which they can certainly do.  We all learn some painting from copying masters and other artists, this is normal behavior, but copy-learning must be tempered with real painting as well and eventually, the student moves away from the copies to become their own master.

My argument is for those artists in galleries downtown, right now, who dare put a photo-painting on a wall.  The “why” about this problem might be fleeting for most non-artists though.  The major problem with photo-paintings is that they are terrible paintings, lacking energy, lacking style, lacking composition, idea, complexity – name it, and these paintings do not have it.  The best one can achieve is small variations of technique – but who cares? The average viewer doesn’t give a shit, they want to see a nice painting, not a dentist’s office visit.  It reminds me about times when I’d go see movies with film student friends.  The movies might have totally sucked, but the film student goes on and on about the direction, lighting, and so on, amidst a flood of angry or confused movie-goers.  This is crap, and a hallmark of the postmodern world we live in where things are now created for exclusive groups, instead of larger audiences.  The longevity and usefulness of personal art is temporary, fleeting, and ultimately meaningless.  We don’t expect every painting, film, or pop-song to be amazing for centuries – of course not – but why don’t we have long-lasting works anymore?  This is the question I raise and attempt to locate data for.  We also do paint for ourselves.  I have a number of personal drawings and paintings that will never be shown.  Not because I’m ashamed, but because that the art is not for a public – there’s no need to show it.  I have a responsibility as a fine artist to show only work which I believe a public would like to see and needs.

Here is a painting exercise for folks – I’ll use my own work.  <gasp> no he didn’ – Sure, I did use photo reference in my earlier days; I too tried painting from photos.  I learned the lesson first-hand that photo paintings lack something which model-based paintings have.  I have since learned how to use a photo for a painting, not as the painting.

Which of the following paintings was created from a photo?  Which of the following paintings was painted with photo-reference?  Then criticize and analyze. I don’t have enough portraits scanned in for a good data set, apologies, so I’m selecting three portraits and two landscapes.

-The Endless Slug

Some New, Some Old

Posted in Art, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 February, 2010 by endlessslug

Just a small update

I’ve been working on getting my first illustrated book published and riding the wave of excitement from my recognition at Zatista.com last month, so I decided to wait a bit before posting again.

I was able to wrangle someone’s digital camera to take some shots of some new and old work and started posting it on my websites.  First up, is this old oil painting from college:

This painting was actually one of my very first oil paintings.  I’ve always enjoyed it, as have many visitors to my places of residence.  This is one of the only pieces of my own work which I ever display publically.

Secondly, a new work which I posted on the slug blog a little while ago, but here is a better image of it:

I haven’t drawn these geometric pastel works in almost ten years!  So I decided to try my hand again.  Lo and behold, I can still produce these babies like a factory.  If anyone out there likes these drawings, I’ll be happy to make an original one for you.  I should note that I was not that happy with this particular pink and green one; colors = eww.  But it still feels like a place in space and that’s really the goal.  Even if that place happens to be some sort of retro 80’s neon fantasy.

Click on the Endless Slug links to the right to head over to my galleries to buy either the originals or some prints – or shirts and mugs! Yup, buy some stuff from the slug!  I have to pay my rent…

-Slug

Glimpses of the New Year

Posted in Art, Artists, Criticism, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22 December, 2009 by endlessslug

I decided to post a couple of very low res pictures of some of the new work I’ve been doing over the past few months.  None of these works are finished, but they’re far enough along that the content should be identifiable.  I tend to work on new drawings and paintings over months to years at a time, so there is no expected time of completion.  Sometimes I don’t even feel like working on a project any further either, so what you see here might be all that will happen.  I hope to continue on these, however.

New Organic Geometrics (2009)

First, this is a return to my organic-geometrics.  I still can make a pretty nice pile o’ floating blocks.  It’s been about six years or so since I really did one of these and it’s nice to see I still have it. Now, if only people cared enough for these to buy them, I’d make a mint.  As one of my old art teachers once said (and I paraphrase), “the shapes, textures, compositions, colors, and techniques are all fantastic, but there is no energy.  If anything, these blocks are an attack on energy.”  He was very correct.  I hope to one day figure out the energy aspect of the work and make these floating shapes exciting and meaningful to the viewer.  At the moment, I think of them more lately as if Rothko made forms.  These are for contemplation, not for shock.  Are they about anything? No – as Francis Bacon once said, painting shouldn’t be “about” anything.  Not that I entirely agree with that, but I think I know what he meant… (there’s a painting joke there somewhere).

You may notice the faded color around the edges – this is only because the final layers of color have not yet been added.  The final step in this process is more color and a bit more water.  I’m waiting to do it though, I don’t quite know why.  Oh, incidentally, this is a soft pastel drawing on arches watercolor paper.  I add some white charcoal for a blending mechanism and spray with water.  Delightful.

Portraint (Unfinished)

Portraint (underpainting)

Second, is a new portrait.  This is intended as an underpainting of the final portrait, thus the blues and reds, but I’ve stopped painting on it at the moment.  I may re-start it.  This is oil paint on hardboard but I was experimenting with oil mediums and the surface is a bit uneven.  This does not show up in the photo, but if you were to touch the surface, you would feel it.  I let it dry a bit so I could work adequately back on top of it, but I waited too long and it pretty much dried completely.  So, this one is pretty much done as is.  If anything, I might hit it with some other material like soft pastel, but that rarely works.  This portrait was also painted from a photo of a model which I hate doing, but once you’ve painted real models, you can usually work from the photos later.  You must always remember, however, that you’re painting a painting, not painting a photo.  The photo should only help remind you of small details your mind may have missed.

"Come, Join the Dance" (2009)

Lastly is this monster of a painting.  I won’t even bother explaining this, but it should be obvious that it is very much incomplete at the moment.  I just wanted to give a small example of where I’m heading with work now.  I started working on this back in October, and have taken a small hiatus from it.  I used walnut and poppy oils on it and some of it is actually still wet after about 1.2 months of a break from it.  I ran out of steam working on it and hope to be renewed in the coming year to finish this thing.  It’s a large separation from what I usually do (see above), and it came out (so far) rather successfully, I think.  Comments from viewers are always appreciated, whether pro or con.

And that’s a few new things for a new year to come.

Bejart Vs. Tori Amos: War of Postmodernisms

Posted in Contemorary Art, Criticism, Dance, Modernists, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Did you like what I did there?  I’m using a postmodern style of titling to set up a discourse on postmodernism in the contemporary arts.  I even used the word “discourse” in the previous sentence – very postmodern.  In fact, this manner of writing, whereby I talk directly to you, the reader, is exactly one of the many problems with the postmodern movement: a lack of consistency and structure, and a shift in attachment to works from a universal general detachment to a directly personal, seemingly identity-building attachment between artist and reader with the work forming only a momentary adhesive.  Some readers, you perhaps, will find the way I am writing right now to be invasive, irritating, and downright insulting.  Other readers, you perhaps (which you?), will find the way I am writing right now to be caring, direct, connecting, and unpretentious – a place where you too can speak with me, not against or under me.  Writers, painters, choreographers, dancers, actors, sculptors, and so on, work in this direct style now for a number of reasons, one of which we’ll highlight here:  Fear in a consumerist production society.

Tori Amos performed a live Facebook concert Friday afternoon.  It was amazing.  I am only going to discuss the postmodernisms within her work though, not the concert itself.  I was alerted to the finite differences between Tori’s older music, newer music, and newest music by a colleague of mine who is a much bigger fan of Tori’s ensemble than I.  But I agree – Tori’s music has always been exactly what postmodernism is supposed to be: a break from tradition (such as modernism), with a firm base of tradition (structure), with an attempt to create new things for a mass audience but at a personal level for individual audience members (postmodernism).  Postmodernism, then, is not simply a movement, but a dialogue still continuing from what the modernists were doing.  The postmodernist ought to struggle to discover new ways of doing old things in a way which is meaningful and not simply done to do it, or not in an anti-meaning sort of way (cf Beatniks).  In a contemporary, globalizing, mass-media, consumerist sort of world, we strive to find things which have lasting meaning to us, but we ought to find those things which could have meaning to others as well.  My grandmother’s freezer has been working fantastically since the 1940s.  It’s not really an antique, but people today would classify it as old or antique anyway.  Instead of taking the freezer one day, most of my family will probably just want to throw it out and get a new one or sell it.  This is unfortunate as the freezer is huge and works like a charm.  There’s no need to replace the thing and lots of people in my family have memories attached to it.  In fact, I would claim that if any family had a freezer like this (a huge trunk-type freezer you could fit a small cow in whole), you would also have memories and meaning instantly created.  This need to replace with the new is a salient cultural feature of suburban Americans, but where does this behavior lead?  An inability to ascribe meaning to things due to the fleeting feelings attached to purchased consumer goods.  Essentially, if the thing does not strike a personal chord with me, there’s no point in the thing’s existence.  We’ve reversed meaning!  We are our own Emperors and Empresses needing our decrees to be followed by the rest; self-made monarchies of absolutism.  It’s no wonder personal prosperity theologies are so dangerously dominant here…

I’ve been watching OVAT lately again.  This past week and all next week they’re doing a “Battle of the Nutcrackers” fan-choice contest.  The whole idea that contests allow fans to vote is ridiculous anyway.  Fans vote on what they’re given, and what they’re given dictates what the fans will enjoy, so having a fan-choice is simply a reaffirmation for the creators of the pop-culture non-sense.  Always remember, they care nothing for you, only your money.  Anyway, the week started off well with the Bolshoi Ballet classical production of the Nutcracker.  Critically speaking, there were some small faults that I blame on postmodern dancers, but all in all it was fantastic.  Last night was the Bejart Nutcracker.  I was excited for another rendition of the ballet, so I sat patiently and waited.  I was instantly punched in the nuts.  Apparently, Bejart used the Nutcracker (or selected aspects of it) to tell his own life story consisting of an estranged pseudo-sexual relationship with his mother, his own sex and gender identity problems, and his genius-ness of dance choreography.  Directly, this is utter bullshit.  This is what we tend to find as postmodernism today: entirely self-interested diarrhea of word and art, self-aggrandizing – making our personal monarchy public.  Bejart himself even appears in the ballet on a giant black and white monitor over the stage, narrating his life as the dancers dance parts of the Nutcracker.  Bejart has taken a classical work – which works quite well still, see the Bolshoi – and turned it into a tool and medium to talk about himself in a grandiose way.  What an asshole!  My criticism: Had this nutjob simply used some of his contemporary symbolism to add a modern depth or alteration to the ballet, it could be tolerated, possibly enjoyed.  Less is more!  Who was the audience for this? I can only guess 1,500 community college students believing that this is somehow fine art.  Did we forget what that “fine” part of fine art is for?  Refinement!  After a few millennia of dance, you would think this wouldn’t be a problem, but there it is.  When did we, as a world-wide culture, begin to care one bit about one person’s struggle of life?  That statement might make me sound heartless, but as an artist, I can say nothing else.  Mr. Bejart, art isn’t about you, no one cares.  You need to produce art that is about my experience, his experience, her experience – something which folks can relate to.  Having dance-sex with your mother, supported by two drag-queen Faustian angel-fairies on a public stage is art only as a criticism attacking other post-modern art which tries to do the same thing but less well.  If the point of Bejart’s work is to criticize postmodernism, then it is brilliant although needs to be more clear that this is the intent.  Thus, I believe the guy is serious and therefore fails.  I was ashamed for the dancers while watching this mess.  I can’t blame the dancers, they need jobs, but I’d like to know how many went home later and cried.

Due to my crap training in writing, I can’t help but to write also in a rant-style postmodern method.  Although I do know it when I see it.  Luckily, this blog was never designed as a completely professional publication so I can break my structure a bit and rant.  At least I know when I can and can not.  Tori, do a Nutcracker.