Friday, July 30, 2010

holed up.

for two years after i left baton rouge my home base was again my parents' house. they were willing to put up with a son that was treading water, not sure what his next move was going to be. i made half hearted attempts at settling in new orleans and austin. sleeping on neal's couch, tracey's floor.

while at my parent's home i pulled a squeegee during the day. at lunch and on breaks i would play hacky sack with a couple guys in the industrial park. after work i would take walks in the woods around the county. the brandywine area is really quite beautiful. would go out maybe on a friday night with my old next door neighbor and imbibe.

by and large, most of my time was spent alone.

depressed? you bet.

in the evening i would sit at my big drawing table in my room and make pictures.

i ended up filling 3 old lesson plan books that my father had around the house. exploring different ways to mix and match materials and images. some are more minimal than others, responding to the grid of school periods that lay beneath. some became layered thickly as i tried to rework failed compositions or color schemes. a few of these have served as inspiration for larger works. filling these pages got me through some dark times.

as a group i call them "suburban lessons".

at the end of that second year i met a girl.

and things started to get a whole lot better.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

annie mae.

there are some works of art that just ring out to you. pieces that stay fresh no matter how many times you see them.

one of those works, for me, is a quilt by annie mae young. one of the many amazing quilters from gee's bend, alabama.

when we got to maine, i noticed my mother in-law had a thick color catalogue of the women of gee's bend and the work they have done there with fabric and thread. i was more than thrilled to dig into that sucker.

this quilt uses old work clothes to create the blue rectangles and corduroy for the warm rectangles in the center.

what about it gets to me?

the contrast between warm and cool?
the contrast between old, worn material and the new?
the irregularity of the rectangles that give it a sense of movement and life?
the simplicity of the composition?
the abstract nature of it that still reveals to me the poetry of looking out a window towards the sun setting in the sky?

its got so much going on. i love it.

as i was looking though the book i came across this photograph from the mid nineties of annie mae and one of her great grand daughters in front of her quilts. my favorite is open on top. i find it surreal how all her work is there. in a pile.

thank you nancy for having this book at your place, so i could revisit this work.

thank you annie mae for taking what you had around and making such wonderful things of beauty with them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


one goal i set for our vacation was to do three small drawings. nothing major, just wanted to get a little flow going.

one down.

source material-
morning kayak ride on highland lake where i saw the most water lilies i've ever seen.
after dinner ice cream where logan inhaled his own cone and then had helpings from everyone else.
stars and stripes pinwheels in front of dennis and nancy's house looking out on the lake.
loon pinwheel in close proximity to the other ones.
greens and yellows are on a number of pieces on the walls of the house.

felt good. most of it was during the kids' naptime and the rest was done after they went to bed, while my father in-law was watching fox news.

Monday, July 26, 2010

a lot of morrissey.

what does a white young man, with really no drama in his life, from a perfectly acceptable, loving, hard working middle class background do when he gets to college. get angsty.

and listen to a lot of morrissey.

that said, while my family life in the southern suburbs of philadelphia was all sorts of normal, one of the traits that stuck with me the most was that of being a worrier and overthinker. this, in turn, lead me to close myself off from people and stress about the littlest of incidents.

and i could always turn to the smiths, depeche mode, and the cure anytime i needed someone to relate to. and get a little dancing groove too, of course.

to be honest, this angstiness started in high school, as did the listening of musical numbers by the before mentioned artists. but things escalated in college, i was free to explore these feelings in all sorts of shades of  grays and blacks.

at some point at the beginning of my junior year, i would turn away from any kind of recognizable figurative references in my work. i was looking at works by many of the abstract expressionist painters. the one i gravitated to the most was franz kline. loved the boldness of the brushstrokes, the forcefullness that is apparent in his work, and the speed of some of those marks.

i think that any young artist goes through periods of mimicking the masters. i think its important. i did it a lot with these abstract painters from  grandparents' generation. the subjects of my prints and drawings from this time were small, isolated shapes that looked as if they were often sinking down into or floating in the ambiguosly developed space that they occupied.

in some pieces there was a dramatic contrast between figure and ground and in others there developed a play with subtle differences of value and color. this subtlety would be revisited again in the dark landscapes i made at the end of my time in baton rouge four, almost 5 years later.

the works became more of a study on the power and mystery that light can create.

our son, logan, was born on march 2, 2006. it was then that i was finally able to lift most of these feelings of worry that had occupied me for so long. other things to think about from that day forward. what a blessing that little guy , and the arrival of his sister aurora a couple years later, have been.

and they have supplied plenty of stuff for mr to make art about. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

four years

carrie and i moved out to san diego in the fall of 99. not long after that, we rented a small studio space downtown. we ended up using it far too little and paid rent on it way too long. the space was above a hooters restaurant. carrie "loved" walking by that place right before she was going to be creatively productive.

i started two pieces in that space. both were taken from small drawings i had done in lesson plan books during the previous couple years. each was approximately 30x40".

then they sat. or hung. or were rolled up. off and on in various places for the next four years. every once in a while i would chip away. it wasn't until the summer of 2005 that i completed the two of them. teaching an advanced drawing summer class at a local community college.

wish i had actually taken pics of these 2 before framing them. doh.

in fact, i started and completed a 3rd drawing at the same time i was finishing up those two. i haven't made anything as large as these pieces since, not counting the murals i've done.

since then my work has gotten down to a portable handheld size. if its too big to use a text book as a support, i won't be making it. that said, the work that i have done since these 3 leans heavily on the visual formatting of these guys. the combination of pattern, everyday objects, and expressive atmosphere is something i really enjoy playing with. the mixing and matching of different layers of information offers me a rich, varied world to explore and create with.

Friday, July 23, 2010

that was then.

and this is now...

done while i was doing those childlike drawings in baton rouge.


Walking around jenkintown looking at the side wall of a brick faced drug store. golden afternoon light. early fall.

for an assignment for the landscape class i was taking with richard cramer at tyler. first time i was sketching cropped images of the suburban landscape.

the first turn towards my environment, somewhat immediate, for a source. something that i have revisited time and time again. sometimes this documentation of my place, my space is very tight in scope and at other times wide and varied. it has become a defining thread in groups of my work.

the next time i revisited this theme was at 740 france street in baton rouge. the place with the checkered floor and drawing board in living room, the oversize dining table, and the low riders parked in the foyer.

done as monotypes. a series of prints capturing stillness in our space. gaps. the overlooked, and sometimes, the obvious.

done as monotypes in the print studio, based on drawings from the house... i think. i can not find the sketchbook that would have these preliminary works in it. i don't believe they were from memory. hazy. just plain hazy. this non-recollection is disappointing.

done as monos. why? i've always liked the flatness of lithography, monotypes, and silkscreen. the indirectness of the artist's hand. one step removed from the actual creative act. monos because they are as unique as you get in printmaking and the most immediate in terms of process.

i think i saw my first george clinton show while working on these. playing southern culture on the skids a good bit.

the drawing board.

i continued documenting my places in san diego. a few monos. many others became relief prints.

from our 2nd apartment, in the same small complex. 

i love where we live now, but i definitely had a crush on our kansas st. place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

sidewalk chalk, anyone?

i guess i did a couple large chalk drawings on walls in baton rouge, but it wasn't until my 2nd year at summer camp that i really got into doing the large scale, temporary drawings in public spaces.

i was really "drawn" to the transient quality of these things. with a quick shower they could be gone. which, in turn, would provide an opportunity to make a new one.

the circular format and repetitive nature of the designs came from radiating t-shirts i had done the previous summer, which had been influenced by the portal/pattern crayon drawings from grad school, which had, themselves, been influenced by byzantine mosaics that i had seen in ravenna, italy, while studying abroad my junior year at tyler. a totally linear progression of form and idea, right?

they were done in the middle of the night, with few, if any, people around. when the camp woke up the next day, they were greeted with a new treat.

i see these as a celebration of life, movement, and the elements. they were coming from the desire to leave a positive mark in a place. in the world. one silly chalk drawing at a time.

on the cd player up in PASS- air's moon safari and massive attack's mezzanine.

i think this is the one that was clicking on all cylinders

in front of my in-laws place. right before their daughter and i 
left for the west coast. they were not home when i did this.
would have been cooler if they were.

right outside our apartment building in san diego.
our street illegal bus is parked across the street.

tiger stadium and newports.

at this point in baton rouge, thanks to my friend tracey, i had secured a painting studio on campus.

that's right. in the football stadium. we entered on this side.

the studios were in what once used to be dorm rooms of the football team WAY back in the day. never saw a football game there, but for a while, i was in that stadium almost every day.

with this new space i started to make some large paintings that were based on the figures i was making in the black and white composition book. somebody had gotten a hold of some billboard advertisement paper. i ended up with a fair bit of it to play with. my kind of price still to this day- free.

i used the back of these big sheets of paper. on the front were pieces of a giant newport cigarette ad. the people all cheery and good looking as i made these grimy paintings of weird, all too skinny people on the back. i would lay out a couple sheets on the floor and tape them together so that the size was about 8x12'.

there was an odd assortment of tapes being played in my boombox there- jeff buckley's grace, lyle lovett and his large band, and the barenaked ladies. that brian wilson song is still great.

I would revisit some of these skinny dudes a few years later while teaching at Buck's Rock, but they would be in a much happier place.


At some point in my first year in baton rouge i decided i would start over visually. i would draw like a child. breaking rules of good composition and space in art. i was such a "rebel".

the work that i had been doing for a while was abstract and dark. no color. isolated, floating rickety looking shapes built of black lines on gray backgrounds of varying degrees of dark and light.

the only constant would be the use of line. my love of line- drawn, painted, etched, or incised has been the only thing to really stick around as the images i create have changed in style and subject throughout the years.

i bought one of those old school composition books and began to fill it. about 40 drawings in all. not as much as i wanted originally- i was gonna fill that thing, but then i moved on again, to bigger things.
some of the more bizarre and flat out disturbing images i have created are in this book of child-like drawings.

it was with this book that i bought my first box of crayons as an adult.