Friday, December 30, 2011

Sculpture mock up and a metal piece with encaustic

I mocked up a sculpture using four prints on transparencies:

I think I like it. But I can't tell yet. I find the black frame distracting. I also want to put some more space between the four prints. With the extra space each layer could possibly stand out on its own depending on the angle you are viewing it from.

I also painted encaustic on a 28.5" x 19" metal print I made:

It may look a little tomato soupy for my, er, taste. But I think I like the subtle drippy quality the encaustic has. Unfortunately the metal buckled from the MDF board its mounted to as I was applying heat to it. I'll learn from this mistake and next time I won't lay the whole piece on my heating element!

Speaking of learning from mistakes, I'd like to touch on my personal life. This has been quite a year for my family and I. We're in a good place now. Much of the good has grown out of bad things we've experienced the past year and a half. I think of the saying "A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others." According to this saying, unfortunately, I'd fall under the "smart" category. I'll take it over dumb any day though. I'm looking forward to experiencing what 2012 brings.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pouring it on

I've been experimenting with varnishes:

I keep coming back to this idea that I don't want my hand to be visible. So I've decided to pour a mixture of Galkyd and cold wax medium to this print. Rather than brushing it on, I'm letting gravity do the work. I like the rough, scaly, naturalistic surface that has appeared.

I'm trying this technique on another piece I'm working on. It will take a few days to dry. Here's what it looks like now. I've used tape to keep the varnish from flowing over the edges:

I've ordered two big 44"x22"x4" panels. These are the pieces I'm considering mounting to them:

 I'll most likely first mount a dark piece, like the one second from the left. A few people have told me that this piece reminds them of galaxies and stars. I'm happy with the association. It's not what I'm going for, but I like the idea that one can see inner and outer space in one of my pieces. 

I like the direction of the red-on-red one. But it's not where I want it to be yet. This piece grew out of a desire to make my work more subtle. I'd like the first impression of this piece to be that it's a red canvas. And then as one looks at it have have the subtle variations of color become more apparent. I'd love the viewer to be able to get lost in it. And my feeling is that subtlety will help make this happen. It will force the viewer to take time with the piece, and hopefully in taking this time one can get lost in it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hoboken water tower

I just finished these two pieces:

They are both part of my water tower series. When I started this series I wasn't sure what I was doing; it felt like such a departure from most of my other work. But as I was modeling this tower I got a clearer understanding of how the two bodies of work relate. These towers are vessels. Like the body, everything you see is functional. There may be a little industrial design happening here, but I can barely see it. It's purely functional. This is how I believe the body is composed, for the most part. In its functionality the beauty comes through.

These will be printed 22" x 17", an edition of 5, plus one artist's proof.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reworked piece

I reapplied encaustic to this piece this morning:

Finding the balance between control and looseness is a challenge. Especially when it comes to painting on the encaustic. I want the shape and flow of the brush strokes to reference the printed image. But I want it to feel loose. Or felt, not seen. This is similar to how my favorite jazz bassists approach music making: they are felt, not heard.

It's Christmas Eve. A couple of thousand years ago a baby was born who was going to grow up to teach a beautiful, radical and, for the times, subversive philosophy. I wish all of you who are reading this a beautiful, love-filled holiday. May 2012 strengthen and reaffirm a sense of peace, understanding, direction, wonder, and hope in your life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two new works come out of sculpture idea

I've started work on a new triptych:

This reminds me of whirling dervishes. The figures look like they are twisting in space. And the middle piece has a rorschach test feel to it. I need to stare at these for a while. I have a feeling this new work is primarily about spirituality. Something is there with a metaphor about seeing multiple perspectives at once. The triptych is another work that has grown out of a sculpture idea I've been playing with. Here's a digital mock-up of the sculpture:

Here's another piece I started working on this morning:

This is yet another work that has come out of the sculpture idea.  I'm really not liking what the sculpture is looking like yet. But it is has led to the pieces above that I am excited about. This is one of the wonderful things about making art. Crappy ideas and directions usually evolve into clearer, better work.

Three works in process

I've been varnishing this:

I first applied encaustic to it. But I was not at all happy with the effect. The encaustic trapped the image, killing it. So I melted most of the encaustic off, and then applied a layer of galkyd mixed with cold wax medium. It feels a bit too shiny to me now. I'll see if I want to dull down the varnish after a couple more coats. I'm not clear on what this piece is about. I'm responding to its lines. My eye moves around a lot over the panel, which I feel is a good thing. Technically it's four views of a woman's torso superimposed on top of one another.

This next work is the inverse of the above piece:

With this one I'm using encaustic. It feels too soft. I want the lines to pop more. From working on this piece I've learned that the prints need to have more contrast.

This last piece, which is part of my mother series, has about ten layers of varnish on it:

From my perspective this one is the strongest of the three. I have been working with this pose for the past year. It's always been horizontal, though. This is the first time I've tried it vertically.

I read something a couple of days ago that Frank Lloyd Wright wrote that I've been contemplating as I've been working on these pieces: "The truth is more important than the facts." What I take from this is that the message, the intent, of the artwork is more important than the detail in it. Don't get me wrong; details are extremely important. But there needs to be an overarching idea behind the work. By fussing over details without direction I'll get lost. The top two pieces don't have a firm direction in my mind yet. This is fine; this direction tends to develop organically over time. But because of this these two pieces lack the visceral punch I want them to have. To put it in Frank Lloyd Wright's terms, they don't speak to the truth yet. Then again maybe they do. There's a slight possibility I just don't see it or understand it yet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New encaustic piece

This morning I mounted a print I've been working on. I then covered it in encaustic.

I covered the sides of the panel with the print for the first time:

This piece grew out of a sculpture idea I've been sketching out. My first impression of the sides is that I don't like them. I'll live with it for a while before I make a judgement.

I'm happy with the concept behind the encaustic application. But I think I may have messed up when I actually painted the encaustic on. It feels fussy and too controlled. You can see my hand in it too readily. But I like the way the encaustic follows the lines of the print. It may be just a question keeping loose as I paint. Also, I'll use a smaller brush next time I work this size. This may give the strokes a more random feel. I want the encaustic to have a random order without looking like my hand was involved. Like the natural turns and bends of a river as gravity brings it to the ocean.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Transparent sculpture process

I was staring at the mock-up I put together of the sculpture yesterday. I was bothered. It was looking like a box that aspirin would come in. It looked dead and inanimate. I then looked at these pieces I have on my window:

It occurred to me that I could make the sides transparent. So I've mocked up a new version:

This is closer to what I want. I like that from every angle you can see all the faces. I do not think the green is translating well on the piece though. I think a rich red background would work better. And I still think the proportions are wrong for what I want; it feels like packaging to me.

I found myself staring at the individual renders:

I realized I could superimpose the individual renders and get that transparent feel on a flat piece so you saw every angle at once. I put this together:

This one reminds me of cubism. In fact, it is cubist; there are four views of a torso being viewed simultaneously. I'm rendering a higher resolution version of this. I'll then print it on paper or metal and then mount it to a panel. I'll probably apply a thin coat of transparent encaustic to it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sculpture mock-up

I made a digital mock-up of a idea for a sculpture I have. Here are four views of it:

The proportions are 2x2x1. I'm next going to try a version that has proportions of 2x1x1. It may work better horizontally too. Here are four of the images that would be mounted on the rectangular cube:

These four work nicely together on their own. But I'm not crazy about them when they are dimensionalized. I'll try black and white versions for the sculpture. The black and white work I do has more of a platonic, removed feel, whereas the color adds a dimension of emotion to the work. I think the sculpture isn't necessarily about a emotion. Not in my mind at least. Eventually it may go in a more emotional direction. Donald Judd's work is playing in the back of my mind as I work on these:

Large panel edges

I started applying encaustic to the edges of the big piece:

I don't know if I like the way the edges look; my hand might be too apparent in the way the encaustic is painted on. Again, I want this piece to feel like it was unearthed. I want the edges to be like layers of sediment.

That said, I am happy with how the work is feeling. There's a delicacy to it. The piece reminds me a little of the lascaux cave paintings:

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my work is even beginning to approach the jaw dropping beauty of the cave paintings. The feeling of my piece reminds me of them.

As I was painting the edges I started thinking about an idea I've had about these panel pieces. I want these to feel sculptural. So I thought I could do renderings of the model from the side and print this image and then mount it to the sides of the panel. This will make the work more like a sculpture in the round: something that can be viewed by multiple angles.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Large panel with encaustic progress

I've been applying encaustic onto the large panel. It's about two thirds covered:

I'm trying yet a new technique with the encaustic. I'm applying it around the contours of the printed image. I would like it to feel like rippling water solidified (otherwise known as ice; but I don't want it to have the crystalline quality of ice). Here's a detail:

The other day I was walking on Bond Street. A whirlwind that had picked up leaves appeared on the street. I had a realization that I couldn't have seen the whirlwind if not for the leaves. Yet the leaves are not the whirlwind itself. The leaves are physical objects that are making the form of the whirlwind visible. This is similar to what I believe our flesh-and-blood bodies are: signs of an inner energy.

The interplay between the encaustic and printed image is a similar thing in my mind. It's not exactly a right-fitting metaphor, but there are seeds there that I want to nurture. I'm looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Medical illustration

Last night we had about 25 medical illustrators over for a little get-together. It looks like we'll be meeting once every two to three months. I'm looking forward to getting more plugged in to the community. There aren't many fields in which one can be dealing with both art and science at the same time. Medical illustration is one of these fields.

We've been seduced by the digital medium. It is easy in digital 3D to make things glow, be reflective and shiny. We use every color imaginable in our work. I would like to see more restraint in what we do. Here's an anatomical illustration of da Vinci's:

This was drawn in the early 16th century. Look at how much information da Vinci is getting across with one color. He uses different strengths of shading to emphasize elements. Today we would most likely use different color to emphasize an area. The result would be something that looks like a fruit salad. Ingres said, "Drawing is the probity of art." Most drawing utilizes many shades of one color. My printing teacher, Jay Seldin, once told me, "Color photography is about the clothes; black and white photography is about the soul." I believe that we who work in digital 3D can take a lesson from this.

Reorganized studio

Yesterday we spent the day frantically cleaning and reorganizing the studio in preparation for a small get-together for medical illustrators we hosted. Here are some shots of what the studio looks like now. Here's my area:

Here's where the team works:

We now have a conference/library area:

And here's our chill area:

Next we'll frame some of the studio's information graphics and illustrations and hang them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reorganizing the studio

I came into the studio this morning and was greeted by this:

Our business consultant, John Harvey, once told me that he believes that change happens in one of two ways: desperation or inspiration. In desperation we are reorganizing the studio.

We've been at this address for about a year and a half. And nothing much has changed in the layout since the day we moved in. We are fortunate that we're so busy that we don't have time to look at organizing the studio. But enough is enough.

I do not want to enter 2012 with the physical studio space still disorganized. In 2011 we did a lot of work organizing and codifying how we work. Erica guided us as my role shifted to a creative director. She has taken a firmer hold of the reigns. We are functioning as a group better than we ever have. There's a cognitive dissonance between how we work and how the studio looks.

After I get a couple of jobs done this morning I'll be working on this, well, disaster. Did I mention that we are having about 25 medical illustrators over this evening for a little party?

So the above photos are the before shots. I'll post the after shots either this evening or tomorrow morning. I hope that there will be a discernible difference.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Large panel progress

Last night I made the print for the large panel:

I then mounted it:

Then I trimmed it. Here's what it looks like so far:

Knowing when to stop is tricky. You'll notice I have smaller panels with encaustic next to the big guy. I'm comparing them, seeing if the encaustic really adds to it in a meaningful way. The encaustic changes the nature of the work. It  obscures some of the detail of the print. Is this detail important to me? The detail will still be there; it just wont be as apparent. Intellectually, I like the idea of hiding some of the print. I want this thing to be mysterious. Can something be mysterious and be in your face at the same time? I'll live with it for a bit before I make a decision.

Sir Francis Bacon wrote, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."

This strangeness is something I'm interested in. Look at this painting by Ingres:

This is one strange painting. I find it absolutely beautiful. Look at the proportion of her hips to her ribs. Look at the length of her back. If I squint at the painting it starts to look like a Henry Moore sculpture.

I want this strangeness in my work. But I feel in my gut that it has to happen naturally and be a by-product. What I mean is that my intention isn't to make a strange piece. My intention is to make a beautiful piece. But I hope to have a "element of strangeness in the proportion."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Black line time

I'm working on the following piece:

This is the first time I've mounted one of my black line time pieces on panel. I first mounted the print on the naked wooden board. The whiteness of the print didn't jibe well with the wood so I decided to paint the sides white. When I stood back to look at what I had done I was initially disappointed.  But the piece is growing on me more each day. I haven't named it yet. It's 6" x 12".

Meanwhile, I'm prepping the beast. I've begun to gesso the sides:

I'm agonizing. I'm wondering if I should have left the wood naked and just put a coat of translucent encaustic medium over it. Let the wood do the work. It's too late now: I already gessoed it. Now I have to decide what kind of encaustic I use on the sides. Either a translucent encaustic or a white opaque encaustic. All of my work, from my information graphics to my fine art, in some way deals with transparency. I love the way light is distorted as it passes through glass, water, varnish etc. So maybe I'll use a translucent encaustic after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I just had a panel made for me:

The dimensions are 44" x 22" x 4".  This will be the largest I've worked with encaustics and panel. I'm a little nervous. When I picked up the panel, the guy at the store, SOHO Art Materials, said, "It's a beast, isn't it?" It is.

I'm planning on mounting a print of this piece to it:

I knew the panel would be deep when I made the order. But seeing it in person, I am surprised by how deep it feels. I want this piece to look like it was excavated. Like it's a block of earth. The printed image represents energy and emotion. And the encaustic represents physical reality, like flesh, blood, and earth. I want these two elements to work seamlessly together. So I will be applying a white encaustic to the sides of the piece. Hopefully this will integrate the depth of the panel with the encaustic-covered image that is mounted to it. I want the encaustics and the print to be having a conversation in front of the viewer.

I'm fascinated by the physicality of emotion. And I want this piece to allude to this. I'm reading a wonderful book by Joseph LeDoux, The Emotional Brain. In it he discusses how the experience of emotion is influenced, and at times created by, our physical bodies (as opposed to cognition and the conscious mind). He writes that there have been studies that show that amputees experience emotion slightly less strongly than people with all of their limbs. What I get from this is that we, meaning our consciousness, are our bodies. There isn't a clear division between our consciousness or soul and our bodies. The two need each other in order to function.

I am going to get to work and see what happens. The intention of a piece and the actual piece once it's finished don't always align. I do a lot of thinking and writing regarding what it is I want to communicate. But once I get to work I find myself being more influenced by beauty and what feels right. I'll be posting the progress.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two new shots

I took these shots last night:

Two figures

Here's my first attempt at two figures in a picture. This piece is in the works; I'll be adding many more coats of varnish to it:

This is also the first time I'm going darker and lighter with the figure compared to the background.

The pose is based on a classical Greek sculpture, the Crouching Venus in the Louvre:

By adding a second figure, there's potential for more emotional depth. These are both women. I'd like to try adding a man next. I've stayed away from creating men in my fine art. In fact, I've only done one. I made this two years ago:

66" x 44," digital print

Just so we are clear, the guy above is not based on me. But I've been feeling an urge to make a self portrait. I'm a little scared to to be honest with you. I'm afraid of what it will look like. Talk about letting people in to your internal world.