Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Looking to Van Gogh...

I've been reading some of Van Gogh's letters to his brother-- I recommend them for any artist or art lover. It's one of the best art reads out there, with many great insights into Van Gogh and the world he lived in. Today I decided to start reading from the beginning with his first letter in the collection (by Irving Stone) and I'll try to read straight through to the end in order. In the first letter he mentions the above painting by Millet and then goes on to give this advice:

"Try to walk as much as you can, and keep your love for nature, for that is the true way to learn to understand art more and more. Painters understand nature and love her and teach us to see her. If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere."

Vincent Van Gogh
London, June 1873

Friday, November 16, 2007

"The Jungle" 2006. Oil on canvas, 48x72 inches

This is the first *big* painting I did in Los Angeles. Both in size, and in seriousness. I was in film school when I started it, and was pretty unhappy with where I was geographically and mentally. I'm not a big fan of film school or the film world in general these days... but this painting was begun when I was coming to terms with that fact. I consider this painting sort of the starting point to everything I am doing now. Though it was actually "finished" (more accurately abandoned) quite a bit later. I probably spent 3 years off and on working on this painting. The concept emerged out of a series of photographs I did called the "Imposed Geometry Series" which loosely about humankind vs. nature, chaos vs. order. It explores how people impose order and shapes on nature, and try to contain it. Another theme that runs through the photos is femininity and vulnerability. This was inspired my Francesca Woodman photography who is probably one of my biggest visual artist influences, and my biggest photography influence. I liked the idea of woman in traditional dressy feminine outfits out in nature where they are seemingly out of place and out of their element. Below are some of the photos I took that inspired The Jungle....

In the photo above I was aiming to get a feel of a jungle, and I wrapped myself in plastic I took off a dress hanger. Somehow it reminded me of how dolls are packaged in plastic. I play with various materials in my photographs, plastic is one of my favorites. I like the connotations has, and how unnatural it is. And it doesn't hurt that light really interacts in interesting ways with it. Also note the oil derrick on the hill in the upper right corner, this park in Culver City where I took many of these pictures in was full of them. I tried to avoid them in most of my photographs back then, but they are now featured prominently in recent paintings.... Just to show how the seeds of ideas are planted.

In this one I wanted to have that fairy tale feel of a woman stumbling through a forest wearing heels. I liked that the pattern of the leaves is almost echoed in the design of the shoes.

I started the painting of "The Jungle" soon after these photos, and the concept was pretty much the same thing. I know at the time I was questioning why I was painting something that I already did pretty decently in photography. But it was what I was thinking about at the time, so I went with it. It was later I realized that in painting I had much more control of the content much like visual effects artists can escape the physical limitations of locations, actors, reality. All the reference of plants and the background was taken from photos of plants around LA and a bunch from the jungle garden at the Huntington in Pasadena. The model was my friend Julie who is a phenomenal actress. I met her when I cast her in a short film I did that was inspired by a scene from Franny and Zooey. At the time she had this long wild mane of red hair which I decided I had to paint. I really got into the jungle scene of this painting, and the idea of a woman lost in it. I had the impulse to put a tiger and some other creatures in it, but in the end I decided to leave it more simple than over the top. I don't know if I feel like this painting is finished, but I worry that if I worked on it longer I would kill it. I sometimes feel like I quickly kill my paintings if I work on them too long and get too precise. I also stop working on paintings more because I get distracted by new ideas and concepts that often make my older ones seem sort of obsolete.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stretching Canvas Week! ...or the "I need a much bigger apartment" blog

I am stretching 8 canvases this week, and hopefully will get well into oil priming them by Thanksgiving. I do them in batches, because it's hard to switch from stretching to painting in the same day. Mostly for space reasons. Depending on what I am doing, I usually have to reorganize my apartment to accommodate everything. The picture above is my living room. I don't paint in this room. It's usually used as a living room/office/library/dining room. But because it has more "open space" I use it for stretching canvas as well. My apartment has 2 other rooms. The kitchen, and the bedroom/laundry room/studio. It's pretty tight. I can turn around but that's about it. I do need to spend a weekend purging a bunch of stuff to make more space, but I've been meaning to do that since January and it's likely it will be a while before it happens. Once I get this latest round of canvases stretched, the tiny space will really start hitting me. 80% of my walls are already covered by existing art. And so once I start working on these canvases I'm going to run out of wall space real quick (I like to keep my paintings out in the open on walls while I work on them-- I think half of painting is just looking at the paintings as they progress....) So I am going to have to solve my space problem, and soon. Over the next months I will either A) need to sell paintings, B) need to lend paintings, C) need to get a raise so I can rent a storage space for paintings. I'm really really pulling for option A, but that's not going so well-- at least not for the big ones. (I guess technically I've sold 8 or 9 paintings this year, but they were super tiny.) But for now I'm just going to keep on stretching and painting. I'm aiming to do a couple more paintings by the end of the year, so I can go out with a bang. Then more at the start of the year... to start the year with a bang. Hopefully I'll have more shows coming up, that I'm working on. I am going to do a 1 day show on December 13 with some small works, so I'll be working on those for the next week or so while I get my big big canvases primed and ready for action.