Blog posts tagged “painting”
I love process in art–seeing it, knowing how things are made, reverse engineering them, speculatively forward-engineering them, reflecting on my own process and learning from that reflection… so enjoy these progressions of 2 recent paintings.
1. “Vernal Fugue”, oil on panel, 18 x 24, 2019
2. “Civilization”, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches, 2019-2020
About 10 years ago I leveled up my artistic practice in all areas after discovering the classical atelier system of art education.
Before that time I had been piecing together my own slow, winding learning trajectory in the realism painting genre, unintentionally slowing my progression with an over-reliance on photographic reference. In contrast, the atelier system is based on working directly from life, whether it be a live model, a still life, or a landscape.
In short, observing directly with one’s own eyes forces the brain and the artist’s hand to convert the 3 dimensions of real life into the 2 dimensions of a flat canvas.
Over time our eyes-brain-hand feedback loop becomes seamless, and we learn how to reproduce exactly what we see. The real-time, real life mental calculations of angles, lines, curves, planes, perspective, light and shadow, and millions of color possibilities have a measurable result: if the drawing or painting looks indistinguishable from what we’re observing, then those myriad calculations are overwhelmingly correct. Of course, eventually, an artist needs to learn how, when, and where to diverge from absolute accuracy in order to create a work of art that transcends the mere replication of reality…but the learning process that we submit to in order to reach that point is surprisingly valuable in its own right.
Arguably the single most important artistic discipline or skill, simple life drawing is actually a fairly complex amalgam of skills, requiring at least a rudimentary working knowledge of geometry, physics, optics, and the ability to plan sequentially. True life drawing begins as little more than primitive map making–the plotting of coordinates in space–and ends ideally with an incredibly nuanced understanding of the physics of form, mass, and light.
This great article I stumbled across got me thinking about drawing; what it forces our brains to do, and how it benefits our brains. While intended for the non-artist reader, it makes great cross-disciplinary connections and serves as a nice reminder and motivator for anyone who is an actual practicing artist, of just how valuable drawing is to our art.
A long time ago on this blog I touched upon the brain’s instinctive practice of limiting the amount of visual information we tend to perceive. The point of writing about this was that it applies directly to the practice of painting from life, and really, to all methods and genres of painting. But in particular, representational realism, because obviously this genre is so closely tied to the science of seeing.
As opposed to passively looking, actively seeing something means thinking about it as we look, with intention, to analyze and deconstruct what is happening with light, shadow, value, color, form, dimension and so on. The more intimately we understand all those criteria as artists, the better equipped we’ll be to recreate on canvas what we’re seeing in real life (or our reference material), both in terms of accuracy and emotional expression–that unquantifiable sense of awe and magic that occurs when viewing the best or most powerful art.
The paintings that have both–an uncanny sense of believably as well as a profound sense of feeling–are in my opinion the very best, and are of course what I strive towards whenever I pick up a brush. I feel that in order to even begin to have a chance at achieving one or both of those goals, an artist needs to understand what the eye-brain feedback loop is doing, and why.
In short, our brain instinctively wants to find the shortest distance between two points. Without us telling it to, it sifts through all the billions of points of visual data our eyes take in, then selects the most important of that data to help us navigate the environment and make choices on how to act. I’ve found this phenomenon to be most apparent, and challenging, in the genre of landscape painting. When gazing out over a forest of trees, each with millions of leaves and hundreds of branches, all bathed in a haze of atmosphere, that view usually gets condensed into a clumpy horizontal band of olive-y green so that our brain can free up computing power for anything else that may be of more pressing concern. Overriding this instinct takes intention and a conscious choice in the moment. In doing so we can then bring our awareness slowly to each and every minuscule aspect of the scene in order to pick and choose what we will emphasize, subordinate, or omit entirely.
Being an artist takes this one challenging step further. From there, we have to discern when, where, and how best to simplify the overwhelming amount of detail we see in order to create the illusion of what we were looking at for the viewer of our painting, which allows their own brains to fill in the omitted details on its own. And we have to do this all the while adhering to artistic principles that make good art, like color harmony, composition, value structure, symbolism, hierarchy of focus, among others. Err too far to the accurate detail side, and you can end up with a technically proficient but soulless, boring rendition. Err too far to the interpretive extreme and you can end up with a distorted, unintelligible or non-convincing pile of whimsy (in other words, abstract expressionism?). Hitting the sweet spot for our goals as representational realist painters is the ultimate challenge, daunting and addicting all at once.
If you want to learn more about the phenomenon of seeing from a more scientific angle, read this great article I found today. Some nice parallels can be drawn from it to what we are doing as artists.
I’ve slowly let this blog turn to seed and die out, as the attention of the whole world turns to social media.
I’ve noticed website traffic declining ever since the cultural takeover of Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and along with that, my own website use has dwindled. I’ve posted far fewer updates to this site, and even less than that to this blog, since basically no one reads blogs anymore?
This was always a labor of love and not profit or mass audience cultivation, but as all the eyeballs move to Instagram, it has taken over as the defacto blog of choice, since the platform lends itself to quick, easy, effective content sharing, especially for visual creators like me.
As the task of staying relevant and worthy of someone’s attention becomes increasingly difficult, and the pace of changing internet trends gets increasingly difficult to keep up with too (it would seem?), I’ve found it also more difficult to produce the long format art-related content I love. Explaining things, teaching things, revealing insights to the curious through writing has always been enjoyable to me. I have 2 sold out books now only available as ebooks (here!) because of that love.
And just because websites and blogs seem to be dying, doesn’t mean I’m creating any less; you can follow all of my work in all mediums on Instagram, of course. And I’ll always post new paintings on this website, in their respective gallery categories. As well as post major announcements to the front page.
For now, since I have no major projects or shows in the works with deadlines to observe, I am available for commissions.
A pair of teaser trailers documenting some behind the scenes production of my forthcoming limited edition handmade monograph documenting the first 3 years of the Blood Rituals painting series. This 114 page book is an art object in its own right, a collector’s item for any fans of art ‘zine culture and independent publishing, limited to only 100 signed and numbered copies. Additionally, the first 22 copies will include a small artist’s proof featuring one of the paintings in the book. All painstakingly produced by my longtime friend and artistic collaborator Jeff Ensminger at Southern Cross Press.
Easy online ordering will be available through artrealmtattoo.com.
Stay tuned here or on my Instagram profile for ordering info and pricing details!
Photoshoots for last year’s Blood Rituals series of still life paintings yielded several interesting macros which did not fit the aesthetic of classical still life that evolved out of my initial brainstorming sessions. I extracted four compositions from these photos, and after perfecting them in the digital darkroom, recreated them as hyperrealist oil paintings. This miniseries pursues a different avenue of exploration of the same subject matter, presenting another aspect of my artistic vision and skill set as a painter.
These claustrophobic and intimate closeups border on the abstract, as the complex color patterns of wrinkled plastic bags and condensation covered glass lose their original context of setting and scenery. Within this unfamiliar space, the jarring appearance of blood is a beautiful, rich and vibrant color that makes these compositions pop, while providing symbolic depth. The narrative of what’s happening and why is largely absent from these images–intentionally–as they strive for a disorienting sense of wonder by honoring the genre of true photorealism. Uncanny likeness to the “real” provides an illusion that in turn may open up new ways of perceiving the ordinary, mundane objects of the world around us.
Our physical reality contains infinite detail, but to help us move efficiently through the world, our brains eliminate much of what our eyes are capable of perceiving. When given an up close, sustained glimpse of the material complexity we inhabit, the result is often overwhelming, surreal, and disorienting, as our simplified view explodes with new detail. This is the point at which assumptions and certainties are compelled to crumble, opening the intellectual space for new truths to be realized and deeper understanding to form.
BLOOD RITUALS: REDUX
Something I’ve never been a fan of doing is revisiting older paintings after some time has passed. The process of reconstructing or even merely re-approaching the original mindstate, inspiration, and vision for the painting feels spiritually regurgitative in some unclean way. Like digging up a dead issue in a relationship with your partner. I’ve never been one to want to dwell in the past, favoring the pursuit of new goals and the exploration of new territory over the retread of old ground.
But since embarking on a landscape painting journey over the past few years I’ve seen some of the masters of the genre doing just this–picking up old plein air studies to breath new life into them, perhaps making them more presentable as a truly finished piece to a buying audience–and had stared at some of my early plein air studies long enough to realize how I too could push the sense of drama or atmosphere in them.
Not to mention, more hours logged in the practice of landscape painting, more hours logged studying weather and outdoor light with more intention and discernment, has had the natural and inevitable effect of expanding my critique ability of what I’ve previously done as well as eased some of my fears about ruining those original results. This shift is the tangible, or at least quantitative, proof that learning is happening–awesome!
So in a brief fit of discontented boredom lately I pulled a few early landscapes off the wall and put my glazing knowledge learned from many hours of studio still life painting to use on some formerly alla-prima studies that looked a little flat.
Oil glazing truly does replicate the phenomenon of translucent–but not completely transparent–atmosphere that we live in and see through every time we gaze into the distance. Which makes it a perfect tool in the landscape painter’s skillset. For advanced stages of realism in any genre I find it to be absolutely indispensable, and enjoyed the practice of applying it to my new pursuit of landscape painting mastery.
I’ve had the good fortune of my recent exhibition of new paintings being featured in the latest issue of Britain’s most popular tattoo art magazine, on sale now. Many thanks to Skin Deep and Barbara Pavone for the interview opportunity.
Hanging in the other half of Sacred Gallery alongside my paintings this past November and December were recent works by friend and fellow tattooer/painter Jon Clue–a series called Ritual Magic.
Our interviews and artwork were combined into one great feature article that you can read and see in its entirety below. Click on each image to view it at full size.
P.S. See my last several blog posts for more press and content related to the Blood Rituals series…
P.P.S. Which is still in progress despite the exhibit in NYC being over! One new piece was added to the site here, with a few more expected to be completed in the coming months. Please contact me for pricing and purchase inquiries.
After completing the review of my recent gallery show that I mentioned in my last blog post, staff writer at tattoodo.com Ross Howerton sent me some more in depth questions to learn more about the origins of the series. This interview made it into another stellar review of the exhibit on tattoodo.com, which you can read at the following link:
“These insanely realistic still lifes at Sacred Tattoo tap into mankind’s deepest veins.”
For even more in-depth commentary that didn’t make it into the article, here is the complete interview:
RH: How does working in different mediums, like tattooing and painting, affect you artistically?
NB: Each medium feeds off of and informs the other, in a cycle of experimentation and learning that results in a more well-rounded skillset.
RH: What is your favorite medium to work in?
NB: For pure, unfiltered expression with deep symbolism I prefer painting, but for more illustrative or graphic work, and especially for the collaborative creative process between client and artist, tattoos are a perfect outlet for other aspects of my creativity.
RH: As far as painting goes, you seem to have a preference for working in realism; why is that?
NB: I love form—the way light illuminates the world we perceive—and I love seeing the illusion of a reality that’s so convincing it can transport your mind into the world of the painting.
There’s a subtler aspect of realism that I also enjoy, which occurs with the most convincing pictorial illusions: that brief moment of disorienting wonder, a tiny temporary crack in the veneer of mundane certainty when the viewer who thought they were looking at a photograph realizes that’s not at all what it is. I’ve heard that moment described as the point where “emotional certainties waver, and taste loses its bearings.” I like trying to access that vulnerable place with what I do, I think an artwork can be impactful there.
RH: How and why did you first become inspired to use your own blood as a reference point for your oil paintings in Blood Rituals MMXVI?
NB: For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the human body, the medical sciences, and all that’s hidden within us that makes us what we are. Blood in particular is such a powerful and universal symbol of life, and ironically, of death as well. I wrote in my artist statement for the exhibit at Sacred Gallery in New York City that blood “is the liquid life force that feeds our physical vessel, the container of our soul. Its hidden presence sustains us; the breach beyond its borders horrifies us. It plays an ever-present and meaningful role in the human lexicon, as a symbol of love and sacrifice, of familial bond and battle alike, its deep scarlet hue representative of passion and our most powerful, primal urges.”
I’ve had my share of exposure to it through routine bloodletting procedures I must undergo for a condition of iron overloading in my blood called Hemochromatosis. Over the years I’ve compiled quite a nice collection of reference material from these sessions, which of course set the creative gears in motion over what to make with it, and eventually the idea of the Blood Rituals series was sparked. Luckily I had the help of my dear phlebotomist friend through this process, and her arm appears in the exhibit’s large centerpiece painting as the only bit of a human figure depicted in the entire series.
But one of my primary goals, or hopes, with this series is to use blood imagery and symbolism in a way that doesn’t evoke the shock value of gore or the campiness of the horror genre, and I’m not trying to comment on a specific medical condition or treatment. So I wanted to surround it with unlikely juxtapositions and temper its visual power with an understated classical sensibility.
My use of blood-related subject matter has several layers of symbolism, from personal struggle and loss to the brutality inherent in all human civilizations, ancient and modern. I hope these images cut through any immediate reactions of fright or repulsion to access the vulnerable state of emotional freshness or tenderness that lies at the core of all our psyches. The fact that it intersects with my personal life makes blood more powerful for me as subject matter, and I hope some of that translates to the viewer.
RH: What was it like doing such an intensive artistic study on your own blood?
NB: I had a lot of fun with it. Blood is just fun to paint, because it’s a living liquid that does so many things. Of course it’s visceral and shiny and incredibly vibrant in color, but it also separates, clots, coagulates, dries and cracks, forms bubbles, changes color. It presents so many great artistic possibilities, to say nothing of its powerful symbolic potential.
RH: Why did you choose to paint only still lifes for Blood Rituals MMXVI?
NB: Still life is my original genre, the one I learned foremost in art school and have the most comfort and familiarity with. I love the other classical genres too though, so I included a small nod to landscapes and figurative work in the series’ large centerpiece mentioned above, called Pull Me Through Time.
RH: Do you consider the paintings in Blood Rituals MMXVI as still lifes or self-portraits?
NB: Primarily they’re still lifes, as most of the symbolism is impersonal enough to have universal meaning, and many of the arrangements are mysterious enough to invite multiple narratives or interpretations.
However, they are all quite intimate to me, carrying personal narratives inspired by certain events and struggles in my life, featuring various objects I’ve collected over the years. And needless to say, the blood I used for reference is me, in a very literal and existential way.
One of the paintings is actually intended to be a much more direct reference to the self-portrait, and it’s titled as such. The viewer is invited to interpret the objects as parts of me and the arrangement as representative of my existence.
RH: How would you recommend that viewers try to interpret the profound oil paintings in Blood Rituals MMXVI?
NB: I love when people viewing my work engage with it deeply enough, and are informed enough generally about visual art, to formulate their own ideas about it. Hearing these is always fascinating to me; they’re like a mirror, reflecting back to me the effects of my visual communication, the aspects of it or elements within it that spoke something to someone. As an artist and a maker of visual communication, I can always learn valuable insights from these.
On the other hand, I created this series with a very specific artistic vision and a premeditated intention, and with that comes the desire for people to engage with the images from a certain mindset. There are layers of symbolism and art-historical references that some viewers probably wouldn’t know how to decode without some prompting, so I included the artist statement quoted above with the exhibition, for those curious to know where I’m coming from.
Aside from the statement, when a viewer sees the gallery show, I’d feel like the works achieved their aim if that viewer felt a quiet somber darkness, and the existential sadness of loss, which is something all the paintings depict in one form or another. The blood is lost from the body, the weathered shelves and rusted metal have lost their former shine, the skulls and various bones, the wilted flowers, the tattered books—all have lost. But all still remain.
I imagine viewers perhaps also piecing together a loose semblance of a story being told by the remnants of some mysterious recent event—the artifacts left behind in the form of a still life arrangement. But I don’t need them necessarily to feel what I feel, or anything in particular, I just hope that they feel something.
RH: Just to give us a sense of the symbolism behind your still lifes, what meaning do you intend a piece like “Banquet of Suffering” to convey?
NB: Speaking of stories, I wrote a short parable about that particular piece, as an accompaniment to a future publishing of the series in book form:
“In a world much like ours, there was a race of conquerors who spread death far and wide to finance their empire. They drained all the land of its lifeblood to hoard it for themselves and hunted those who dared oppose, a once vibrant population now reduced to a grizzled band of vagabonds and scavengers.
One autumn eve, as frost turned the last of the green to black and night descended, this race of false heirophants and infant gods and gluttons gathered for a feast to celebrate their conquest. Drunk with power, intoxicated by greed, they gorged themselves deep into the night. Grown soft in their decadence, gloating in their spoils, they grew accustomed to the dark–indeed, foolishly thought their revelry would never end.
But eventually the morning did come, as it always does.
In the cool dawn, scavengers found the remnants of depraved merriment: a candle still burning, blood still fresh in silver bowls, chunks of bread and flesh as if frozen in mid-bite. They ate from the scraps and sipped cautiously, weary and watching for their vanished oppressors. As the rising sun revealed the murky depths of the banquet hall, they saw the bloated corpses, and realized with sudden relief that they were safe: the conquerors had gorged themselves to death.”
RH: Do you have a favorite painting from Blood Rituals MMXVI and why?
NB: I don’t have a favorite. I think some are more successful on an artistic level than others, in terms of vision and execution, but this is just a technical self-critique.
Each piece carries its own particular meaning for me, and the process of developing each into its final form contains a series of memories, problem solving, and minor struggles, so they are all important and meaningful to me in unique ways.
RH: What draws you to painting landscapes?
NB: I’ve always been a nature lover, plain and simple, with an explorer’s urge instilled in me by my father, to adventure in the lesser-traveled and wild places of this planet. I’ve been determined lately to combine this with my artistic passion, so painting landscapes is a natural fusion of two important parts of myself. I especially enjoy the raw directness of plein air painting, which is an old term meaning on location, out in the elements. It’s a great counterpart to my controlled finesse process of studio painting.
RH: As a painter and tattooist, who and what are some of your greatest influences?
NB: Classical realism painters from antiquity and modern times, photorealism and its various offshoots beginning in the 60’s and 70’s, and too many other genres, periods, muses, artists, and amazing tattooers to name. I’m lucky to call some of them friends and colleagues.
RH: Do you have any other art projects currently in progress and, if so, what?
NB: For now, I’m just continuing to paint a few more related still life ideas that couldn’t make the gallery show deadline, as well as attempting some more complex and larger scale landscapes.
Additionally, I ended up culling a few pieces from the Blood Rituals series in order to keep the desired aesthetic and narrative intact, as a few of them veered into pure photorealism and lost touch with classical still life. In the future those outcasts will form their own offshoot series, since I love photorealism just as much as I love classical realism, and they turned out just as good as the ones that made it into the series.
“Beautiful paintings of blood and bones at a gorgeous gallery in NYC.”
There’s a fantastic review of the recent gallery exhibit BLOOD RITUALS MMXVI that was just posted today on www.tattoodo.com. Many thanks to Ross at Tattoodo! Read it here:
The entire series can now be viewed here on this site, just click on the link in the lefthand site navigation column.
Here’s another video featuring work from my forthcoming series of new paintings “Blood Rituals,” debuting at Sacred Gallery in NYC November 12th.
Shown in this video are the paintings “Quantum Of Sustenance” (oil on linen, 12 x 16 inches), “Banquet Of Suffering” (oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches), and “Pull Me Through Time” (oil on linen, 26 x 40 inches), along with various progress shots of my layering and glazing processes.
Here’s the second promotional video for my upcoming exhibition Blood Rituals at Sacred Gallery in NYC on November 12th, for the painting “To The Nadir.”
With my exhibition of new work approaching in a few weeks, I’m creating some promo materials for the series, including some teaser videos for various paintings. Enjoy this short piece featuring my painting “Quantum Of Sustenance”:
I’ve been so busy painting in the studio for an upcoming exhibition of all new still lifes (announcements soon!) that I forgot to post about my spring and summer landscape painting fun.
Part I: April
At the beginning of April I was in Arizona, where as soon as I get out of Phoenix, I’m reminded why it’s one of my favorite nature states: so much variety of vast and mentally cleansing wild terrain! On this trip I had the good fortune of being able to paint the low desert in the south and then venture north of Flagstaff to paint the completely different high desert plains.
Part II: May
In late April I headed to the motherland of classical art for some work and pleasure. First stop was Venice, where I was too busy to paint, but caught some great iPhone snaps (not hard to do basically anywhere in Italy) with my now-antiquated 5s .
As the calendar turned to May, I traveled with friends to the lush hills of Tuscany, where I had the opportunity to experience the best views the entire region has to offer–from the mountains further inland (overlooking Leonardo’s birthplace Vinci) to the stunning Mediterranean coast–and produced these two plein air studies.
In between travels I managed to squeeze in a plein air session while home in Austin, on the occasion of a few artist friends being in town. We made the short drive out to one of the city’s little natural treasures, McKinney Falls State Park, which boasts some active waterfalls and a variety of interesting rock formations with a kind of outer space vibe.
Part III: June
In June I ventured to the altitudes of Lake Tahoe for the first time, and got roasted by the deceptively strong summer sun while painting the beautiful vistas of Heavenly Mountain and Emerald Bay.
On the eve of my departure I caught an ultra-quick sunset session as the haze from California wildfires filtered out some magical orange and pink rays. Since I only had time to block in a quick impression of the scene, I revisited the piece after I returned home in order to smooth everything out and push the atmosphere.
Part IV: July
In July I visited Ireland for the second time, but first as a plein air painter, and was excited about the opportunities for new environs. The Emerald Isle did not disappoint as I found my way into the mountains south of Dublin for a quick session, then to the picturesque Howth coastline just north of the city, which had me most nostalgic for my boyhood summers on Cape Cod here in the States.
I just shipped out my painting “Dying In America” to Gallery 1261 in Denver, for the 11th annual International Guild of Realism juried exhibition, mentioned in my last blog post. My painting is for sale and available through the gallery for the duration of the exhibit, so please contact them with inquiries.
I had a chance to check out the online preview of the entire show and WOW, it’s full of nothing but mesmerizing realism in representational art. It is a stunning representation of classical painting and drawing technique, that as you will see here, is still very much alive and well today. I am honored and humbled to be included.
I won’t be able to attend the opening reception or see the show in person but if you’re in that area of the country, do yourself a favor and have a look. Digital and printed reproductions of this genre of art, and especially the oil painting medium in particular, do absolutely zero justice to the live experience of the paint’s luminosity and depth.
This has turned into quite a busy summer for me, as I have various recent paintings scattered across the globe in several current group exhibitions. Even though it’s been a whirlwind of packing, shipping, emailing, posting, and filekeeping (custom-made art inventory Excel spreadsheet FTW!), I’m honored to have my work included in these shows. Check out the list below and see if any are near you!
I have one recent still life included in the juried biennial of the Peto Museum in New Jersey (see recent blog post for more info).
I’m showing 4 recent paintings in Austin, Texas gallery Art For The People‘s “Off The Wall, Off The Flesh” exhibit.
I have 4 recent still lifes in Rome, Italy at the MACRO museum’s “Tattoo Forever” exhibit, featuring the fine artworks of noteworthy tattooers from around the world.
I have a recent painting from my Apostasy series exhibiting in “Flesh to Canvas” hosted by Last Rites Gallery at the Empire State Tattoo Expo, a yearly group show featuring non-tattoo fine artworks by many of the top tattooers in the world.
After it returns from AFTP’s current exhibit, my recent still life is slated for inclusion in the 11th Annual International Juried Exhibition of the International Guild Of Realism, which will happen at Gallery 1261 in Denver Colorado in late August.
One major artistic discipline for which I have the least formal study is anatomy. I find the human figure and its underlying structures infinitely challenging in all of the complex shapes, sizes and movements they’re capable of. I’ve logged many hours of figure drawing practice from live models as well as a few painting sessions but never have had the opportunity for long term, in-depth study, starting from the inside out. Which is why I jump at the chance for any opportunity to briefly work on this artistic area, and recently was given a rare and unique invitation to observe and paint a cadaver dissection at a local training facility for medical school and EMS students.
Knowing about the rich artistic tradition of anatomical study from cadavers, which began in earnest during the Renaissance in Europe, I was thrilled to uphold and carry forward this practice as a contemporary artist. In recent times the tradition has mostly faded, and I relish the privilege I was given for a day to revive it and link my artistic practice to that of the old masters and forefathers of modern Western art, like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian, among others.
Which isn’t to say that I regard myself to be in their rarified company in any way whatsoever, especially artistically. My accomplishments and artwork are quite meager in comparison with their mastery and all they left us with. What I mean is that, they started and passed on a beautiful tradition of deep artistic study melded with science–a tradition that I, in some small way, have been able to carry on, by practicing in a similar manner.
This day of training, although completely fascinating and enthralling, was not easy. We were set up in an examination room kept around the temperature of a refrigerator, due to, of course, the presence of a draped cadaver in the center of the room. Needless to say, these temperatures are difficult to be in for long periods of time without a lot of physical activity to keep one’s blood flowing and core temperature at a comfortable level. So after a while, painting with cold stiff fingers and shivering chest became the biggest challenge…and amusingly, allowed me to relate in a strange way to the severed and dissected arm of the cadaver perched on a crumpled medical drape in front of me, cold and stiff in its own way.
After observing the technician peel back the layers of skin and fascia on the forearm, all the while listening intently to his explanations of the detailed anatomy and its functioning, my friend James and I then watched in amazement as the arm was severed at the shoulder joint (quite easily) from its cadaver, and placed before us for further study. I gloved up and made a pleasing arrangement with it, and then got to work for a short hour and a half oil sketching session. Here’s the final result of an amazing day of learning and painting:
I’m very honored and excited to have been among the artists whose work was selected for the John F. Peto Studio Museum’s 2016 Biennial. This marks my second time being included in the show, which is a juried exhibition with cash awards at stake.
The piece selected this time around was my recent still life “To The Nadir,” which is first in a series of new work tentatively titled “Blood Rituals.”
I’ll be debuting this new body of work (which I feel is some of my best yet!) later this year. More details to follow on that exhibition, and hopefully some writing about the themes and symbolism of the series, so stay tuned!
For now, if you’re in the New Jersey area and into classical still life painting, don’t miss what will surely be an amazing show full of mesmerizing technical mastery.
At the beginning of this month I travelled back to my homeland of Connecticut, hoping for late winter weather mild enough to endure some outdoor painting of the classic New England scenery I grew up with and now become nostalgic for after these last 7 years in the ecology of central Texas. I wasn’t disappointed, as Mother Nature provided a few days of sunshine with the slightest hint of spring.
My first opportunity was a very brief session in the late afternoon golden hour at Killam’s Point in Branford, where it was
not just barely (baarrrely) warm enough to endure a stretch of time standing still with finger joints stiffening by the hour and legendary March breezes dropping the wind chill as the sun sank into the water of western Long Island Sound. The lapping of the waves into stony sand and the smell of seaweed washed ashore were both adequately satiating to my coastal longings despite the useless frozen digits and deep chill creeping into my core that didn’t fully thaw until much later that night. While far from my finest work, I appreciate the challenges overcome in order to paint something even this rough.
The following day was mercifully a bit warmer, especially being away from the coast, in the forest interior of Meriden’s Hubbard Park where I happened upon a softly babbling stream early enough into a failed quest to reach the summit of the small mountain that the park envelops. Up on that mountain, at the edge of a cliff, stands tiny Castle Craig, which overlooks the park and the rest of New Haven County to the south (and which I have never been to, despite growing up practically in its shadow in nearby Cheshire), and I hoped to reach it easily in order to paint the scenic vista of my homeland. But the limited daylight hours and weight of my painting gear upon my surgically repaired lower lumbar were enough to keep me resigned to the forest below, where I was thankful to find a secluded and easily accessible place to paint a forest interior that I’m quite pleased with. Juxtaposing the smoothly blended flowing water with the rougher chunks of loose alla-prima paint technique has become one of my favorite effects to attempt in my young plein air painting practice.