Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Girl

I've still been working on the small, dark, portraits through November.  Seems like a good thing to do when night falls mid-afternoon.  A sample from one in the works. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Savannah: Moss and Global Art

Spent two full days in Savannah this week, checking out the arts scene and admiring the local flora. There's copious amounts of Spanish moss hanging off of pretty much everything about town, even more then I remember from my childhood visits to Louisiana.  The old town is filled with small parks and old trees that are absolutely gorgeous.  I spite of the cool weather and walkability of the streets, I did spend a large amount of time indoors trolling for art.  I hit two of the Telfair museums on the first day, the contemporary Jepson Center for two current exhibits and the Telfair Academy which houses a modest permanent collection. On the second day I made it to SCAD's new museum, an impressive new complex with equally impressive hand dryers. Liza Lou on view with Kehinde Wiley, and Bill Viola, featuring a video that I actually like quite a lot but can't seem to get away from. (I first viewed "The Crossing" in Warsaw, Poland.) Not to disparage any of the artists, but it seems you can travel to any major city across the planet and see the same things over and over.  It's great in some ways to give every towns a chance to host all the big names, but the names of the contemporary art elite also become brands as inescapable as Coca Cola, The Gap, or Mc Donald's.   It leaves me to wonder if museum curators aspiring to global relevance are left with less choice on what to stock than the manager of a Disney Store outlet. Yet, it was the first time I witnessed a Wiley in person, so it was an opportunity to intersect with another New York artist outside a Chelsea venue--effect achieved.   But this too, is hypocrisy, as blogging big names only serves to establish my cred as an educated art viewer.  Time might be better spent giving props to the Jepson Center for a nice show of a local artist, Besty Cain, or reporting that the Telfair Academy had a curious amount of snow paintings like the one by George Bellows.  Digressions aside, it was a great little trip and Savannah is a city I'd love to visit again anytime.
The last picture is from the flight home, which was amazingly clear.  Perhaps why I was having such a removed perspective about Manhattan.....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Colors

Some shots taken from the kayak on the journey from Buker to Jimmy Pond in Lichfield, Maine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Project Photofly

This could be considered the second part my recent post "digital distractions."  While playing around with Sculptris is fun, I was lamenting that I couldn't simply scan sculptures that I make by hand, IRL  I'm aware that three dimensional scanning technology. exists, but the cost is still prohibitive to something that I'd have to label as a whim at this point.  I've Googled, and it seems that some people are working on some hacks for Kinect to to make a more affordable scanner, but I'd suspect the resolution will be pretty crude.  While I cheer for power to the people, I surely am not going to waste precious studio time learning to program to help the open source revolution.  So, suffice to say I've been thinking on this lately and imagine my surprise when my October issue of Wired arrived and I hit page 68.  

On page 68, they reviewed Autodesk's Project Photofly.  The gist is a free program that allows you to use your point and shoot camera to make a 3D scan. No doubt every geek who reads the issue will be driven to scan their own head, their friend's heads, and all the knickknacks within reach, but I think this program could be of great use to artists with a few more enhancements.   (Autodesk, if you want to hire me on as a consultant, gimme a call.)    A caveat to the casually interested:  the process is very labor intensive, and involves making well over 40 photographs, and an upload to a supercomputer to do the real work.  That said, I was rather impressed by the results.

The truly amazing part remains, sadly, trapped in my computer.   Trust me, my sculpture is scanned into virtual space.  I can play with it, relight it, zoom, and rotate it in any angle.  As a novelty feature, the program allows users to plot a film of their own Matrix-like rotations and upload the video to YouTube.  While you could wave a video recorder around an object for the same experience produced by this video, remember the part currently trapped in my computer.   If I had the necessary digital skills in other software to clean this baby up, I could print out a version for you, and then things would start to get really interesting.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Digital Distractions: Sculptris

Sometime in February I picked up an old block of clay and started playing around. The result were a couple of sketches that were a fun distraction from my core paintings, but unrealized as to their application to my recent nocturnal explorations. As I responded in a comment, I perhaps came to making figures as naturally in clay as a child as to sketching.   In grad school, a colleague remarked that "I painted like a sculptor."   While I may have suspected at the time he was simply trying to sound profound, I have since agreed with his proclamation.

Often, when I am painting a form in two dimensional space, I imagine it as if I am forming it three dimensionally.   A curving line in space gets compressed by the flattening demands of the illusion, as the 2D eclipse follows the same flow as in the mind as a 3D circle it could represent.   It's not an easy concept to grasp if you don't draw, so I hope that my non-artist readers will forgive my musings.  Suffice to say, when I heard about this computer modeling program which mimics some of the hand manipulations of clay forms, I was intrigued.

I admit, I've very briefly experimented with programs such as Painter (about one evening's worth), and found the initial learning curve of the Wacom tablet as in input to be off-putting. Similarly, while I've watched other veteran painters like David Hockney as they experiment with the ipad as a painting tool, I haven't been personally interested in making crude marks with my fingertips.  In the digital age, if technology grows more accessible by the day and I'm holding out until someone makes an actual artist-level touch interface in a reasonable price-range.  The free download of the Sculptris beta met my last criteria, and I was impressed by the rather natural interface.   While I may have lost five hours of painting time, I did manage to make a mushy version of a clay sleeper above by sheer trial and error from imagination.   The intense symmetry is a result of using a mirror option with each step that builds form in half the time.  While I have yet to play with the program any further, or add hair to the guy, it's a neat tool that I would recommend to anyone looking for alternatives to the tablet interface.    Now, I will just have to wait until someone makes a Kinect hack so that I can just do this in real space with my hands.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lewiston Studio

Although the studio has been set-up and operational for about a month, I haven't posted any pictures.  Allow me to make amends with a glimpse of the interior in its fresh "decor by Dexter" state.  Note the abundance of natural light.  Somehow, I'm not missing the old cave just yet. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

From the Archive: Drawing 2

Another favorite that I posted to the archive last week during my somewhat massive portfolio website overhaul and update.   The drawings are still a bit dark, so I will be adjusting them and re-posting them as I get a chance.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Postcards to Siena

I recently sent three little collages to Siena, Italy in response to an open exhibition call by the Siena Art Institute.   They're made up of scraps of interesting paper and spills that I had been keeping for years, embellished with bits of odd sketches that I had also been saving.   While the show called for any work that's the size of  postcard, I couldn't help but think of the idea a bit literally by adding some text to the images.
Last check, the Institute had over 1000 submissions from around the world that will go on display and end up filed somewhere in their permanent collection.   There's a sweet irony to the thought that I rescued these little drawings from obscurity to only to have them lost and reburied in a new pile of work on the other side of the planet. Although artists often strive for solo attention,  this project better resembles the demographics of art-making in a global context.  Who knows---by today's deadline, these three might be tucked in amongst 10,000!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From the Archive....

As I was sorting through piles of drawings after the move, I kept coming across sketches I had liked once upon a time but had forgotten.  Out of sight, of mind.  More unforgivable to the contemporary artist, I had forgotten to document them.  In an effort to rectify the situation, I will be updating the portfolio website soon, and expanding the archives section to make it more comprehensive and easier to navigate. Yet, there may be a bigger problem---how many of you know there is an archive section?  I became aware of this issue when I was giving an artists talk earlier this Spring. Some of the audience was surprised at all the "new" [old] work I was showing, that they didn't see on my website.   Although my original intent in making the archive was to highlight the newest work in the painting section, it's a shame if all that not-so-old stuff falls victim to being too out of sight under that archives tab in the navigation bar.  So, while I am at work on new projects in the studio, I may post up the occasional oldie-but-a-goodie to get it out there.   

Friday, August 12, 2011


Yes, sunflowers. I'm still in the process of sorting and unpacking my new space in Lewiston, but my life of late has not been all work and drudgery.  When summer days get too hot for comfort, it's best to take the day off and find some water.  My new location, though bit further from the coast, places me within a short driving distance of dozens of lakes.  I've made the most of this opportunity by securing a used kayak from a local craigslist seller and getting some paddling in.   So far, I've had some lovely afternoons on Sabbatus Pond and briefly explored Buker and Sandy Ponds.  On my most recent outing, I drove a tad father to Androscoggin Lake.  While on a road near Leeds, Maine, I was awestruck by this amazing field of sunflowers and had to pull off the road to enjoy it and take some pictures. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

413@536: End of an Era

It's been a long while.  Not only since the last blog, but since I first took up residence in the Artist's Studio Building at 536 Congress Street in Portland, Maine.  Monday I finally bade farewell to my mates old and new, to set up shop a little further down the road in Lewiston. I've inhabited the grand, windowless, cavern of studio 413 for eight years, after spending a year prior at the top of the fourth floor in the smaller, adjacent 412.  I've seen many great artists come and go, and I now find myself in the ranks of the the many proud alumni who went before.   I have a lot of guest through this space through countless First Friday events, and events sponsored by the PMA.  Of course, I've made a lot of art here in dark, happy seclusion, and had many inspiring conversations with my peers in the hall.  It has been, and continues to be, a great community and I send my love to all the fantastic artists who remain.  I'll see you and my stops down to Portland!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Affordable Prints

Still traveling and have too much time on my hands away from the studio.  While I am unable to adequately update my portfolio site,  I am still able to tend my aging Saatchi Online account.  Recently, Saatchi posted an offer to members allowing us to upload better quality images that they will print and mail through their own website.   While there is no substitute for seeing real analog art in person, I' have had my paintings available online for quite a while in the spirit that something is far better than nothing.   Along these lines, I think it is great that I can now offer third declension facsimiles for very little effort on my part.   As these prints are not a signed and numbered edition, they may have dubious value beyond decorative purposes.  Accordingly, I opted for the lowest pricing charge, starting at $20, to make my images affordable to anyone who wants their own humble copies on fine art paper. I hope this works out and I'll be honored to be displayed in a few more homes and offices. 

For those of you that do order, please send me a line and let me know how the quality is.  While Saatchi should be handling customer satisfaction, I will cease to participate in the program if I hear they they are doing a bad job.  Also, I have focused on presenting new work with the above exception.   If you have any favorites or requests from the archive, let me know and I'll make it available for printing .   

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Study for Head of George Dyer, 1967
I recall reading an article a couple of years back during the time of the big traveling Francis Bacon retrospective.  In it, a bunch of art stars were invited to comment on how Francis Bacon influenced their work.  I was really quite dismayed at one contemporary figurative artist, who paints distorted figures in variety of intense colors, who saw no connection between at all between Bacon's work and her own.   She never really looked at Francis Bacon.  While is certainty within the realm of possibility that a contemporary artist can be ignorant of such a big twentieth century figure, I don't think that anyone working with the figure today hasn't been touched by his influence, either subconsciously, or through second or even third generation sources.  Influence travels freely across the history of figuration, and Bacon quoted freely by many contemporary artists. Yet the issue at hand is why do I like Bacon's paintings?

Many of Bacon's paintings are horrific.   They have this tremendous, dark, looming presence.   While some may not go for his imagery, every painter should seriously consider and respect artwork that can evoke something from the viewer.  While I may not aim for overt horror in my own work, I do strive to create a sense of presence, and this phenomena is difficult to describe without sounding a little kooky.  For some, figures seem alive, but even non-image abstractions can facilitate a sensation of their being through color or scale.   The painting becomes a physical encounter with the viewer that cannot be simply translated as an image; you have to be there. In the capacity of experience, Bacon continues to act as justification for making singular, private, work in digital age.    

Official Site of the State of Francis Bacon

Bacon Wikipedia Article

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Studio, Twice Open

Friday night my studio building had a very well-attended open studio event as part of the monthly art walk. The crowd might be explained by the sunny weather that draws Mainers back out in the Spring.  We also only have a couple of events like this a year, so some town aficionados know if I door is open that they'd better stop by this rare event.   Maybe the sweet sound of live accordion music pulled them up the stairs.  I posted some photos of the evening over on the Facebook page.  In any case, I am usually exhausted after but I was on the move bright and early to play host to another event sponsored by the Portland Museum of Art today.

The symposium, "Art On-Site: Studio Practice in 21st-Century Art," began at 10. Joe Fig, author of the book Inside the Painter's Studio, opened the day with an entertaining talk about his work and his decade of interviewing some of the most established figures in contemporary painting practice. After lunch, I had a nice flow of attendees from 1-5pm who stopped by as part of a tour of four artist studio sites in downtown Portland.   I had some great conversations and it always great to meet more people seeking to learn a bit more about art. Thanks to everyone who stopped by both days asking so many thoughtful questions.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Raven, Coyote

Spent the morning at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine.   This was only my second trip there, though it was a bit sleepier than I remembered. The sun was so bright it was difficult to see some of the birds from behind their cages.  Not the best for taking references photos but an enjoyable walk all the same. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Squirrel, Redder

This is the latest image of this one as it is nearing the home stretch.   The squirrel is quite a bit more saturated and leaves and branches added for a little depth and context.   Notice the difference

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

UNE Pics

Here's a few images from last week's opening at the University of New England's Art Gallery.   The show was packed, inside and out, with both art and artists.    It's up until July 20 in case you've missed it.   Thanks to curator Nancy Davidson for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful exhibition. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shirt Change

Changed the color on the body/shirt on this one once again, with the latest version shown on the right. I feel like I'm about ready to call this one quits but, then again, you never know.   A link to the previous version is here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I attribute my current and abundant love of violet to one painting, "Virgin Mary with Baby and the Saints Margaret, Girolamo and Petronio." I had the privilege of seeing it as part on an undergraduate research trip to Italy quite a while back.  There were several things that struck me about it, and that have stayed with me through the years.  First, it is rarely reproduced and I stumbled across it for the first time in person.  The figures are elegant and beautifully modeled, but Saint Margaret is most exquisitely rendered in the foreground right. My mind was blown by the amount of violet in her cheek, which I recall being in delicate contoured in slightly raised ribbons of paint.  I had never seen so much violet used in flesh before.  A little unnatural, but oh so brilliant!  Another curiosity of the painting was that the circular halos of some of the figures (I can't recall exactly which or how many) were incised deeply into the panel itself, and then painted over.  This, in addition to the violet, remains invisible on the reproduction on the museum's website, which I liberally color-adjusted here to jive more with my memories.

Parmigianino, most commonly known for his very conspicuous "Madonna of the Long Neck" was one of the of the Mannerist era following the Renaissance.  For generations of art history, this period was viewed as a fall from the naturalism of the high Renaissance of Raphael and Leonardo to a more artificial mode of painting where artists looked to other art and artists as reference.   Followed by the Protestant Reformation, and the austere realist paintings produced by Baroque artists in reaction, the Mannerist era was viewed by many as a bit of a puzzle, a decadent blip in the march of four centuries of realism before Modernism.

More on Parmigianino:
Bologna National Museum
Web Gallery of Art

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yawn (Clay 2)

Here's another imagined clay sketch, of someone yawning.   I was told in some feedback about the previous scuplture that these little busts seem to be quite large on the photos so I included a pencil this time for scale.