Vulcan’s Forge in Paris

Drawings of Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan by Velázquez
On loan at the Grand Palais, Paris
June 2015

Andrew Bird in LA

Gezelligheid: Dutch abstract noun (adjective form gezellig) which, depending on context, can be translated as convivial, cosy, fun, quaint, or nice atmosphere, but can also connote belonging, time spent with loved ones, the fact of seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness. The word is considered to be an example of untranslatability, and is one of the hardest words to translate to English. Some consider the word to encompass the heart of Dutch culture.

Definition via Wikipedia


I’ve been talking lately with my friend Jessica Lah about ‘Artistic Fitness’ a term we use to describe the very traditional practicing of the an art practice. And how we both feel we’re not doing enough of it, yet we’re both very much around art. She teaches at a children’s art program and i’ve just finished term one of my MA. I frequently, if not always, have a sketchbook with me yet i don’t fill them with regularity. Too often i turn only to my iPhone camera telling myself i’ll do proper studies later. Which doesn’t happen. I just try and work larger directly from the photos, which admittedly are valuable research, but the results are not the same. The resulting work lacks a richness and it preserves an exclusionary zone in my work—something i’m trying to minimize.

Which, in a bit of a roundabout way, leads me to Andrew Bird’s Gezelligheid show in LA at the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian. Totally entranced by the shadows of the horn speakers flowing across the the Cathedral’s warm red-lit walls, i took some video and a few photos. Still, i knew that the results would really be just a ghost of my reaction to Bird’s eerie folkie yet classical music filling that cavernous space. I wanted to draw but the light was so low and only my near-invisible-in-that-light orange pen felt right. Luckily, i got the self-restraining part of my brain to get the hell out of the way and went with it.

Not quite automatic drawing, but almost.

I don’t think these capture a gezelligheid feeling, but i think only those fortunate enough to be up close the the show’s literally close-knit trio enjoyed that a sensation. For those of us father back the feeling was different, not cozy nor distant, but much more intangible. Not ghosty, but rather expansive and mysterious and dare-i-write-spiritutal? I dunno. But any-which-way here they be. Soldier on. Soldier on.

(endnote: if i manage to get my hands on the set list for that evening i’ll add the rest of the song titles since each drawing is a single song.)


Just get on with it

In process…pouring

My friends out there know i am working on this big-assed (it’s a technical term—look it up) painting. It’s the largest piece i’ve ever tackled, and only the second in oil in a long while. While it’s been a joy in many ways, but the sheer size of the piece and the practicalities of working in oil have been…shall i say interesting? I’ve worked on it in fits and starts, and i have to admit that the possibly of screwing up has been a real hindrance. The dry media that i’ve principally been working with the past few years is much more forgiving to mistakes and can be reworked or completely redrawn quickly. I know paint can be painted over, the drying time is frustrating and in many sections i’m trying to preserve the natural color of the linen beneath.

I’ve worked most of the 14 and half foot canvas, but i’ve been dutifully avoiding fully developing certain aspects of the scene knowing that they require my best drawing abilities. All in the center of the canvas, but mentally shoved in the corner. I had set a goal of completing the piece (a stage 1, kind of complete at least) by the end of summer. (The season’s end not the school year’s beginning!) Well, with September well underway it’s long past time stop avoiding and to attack.

To-do list in hand, after much fussing, (obsessively scraping old paint of my pallet, oh Schama’s Power of Art: Rothko on youtube!, i’m hungry, music or audiobook or music or audiobook or music or audiobook…) i finally just jumped in and knocked purple shirt’s head out. I was uncertain how if felt about the result, but snapped a pic after and called it a night. The next morning i returned to my studio and while i knew the section would require further work, i exclaimed “It doesn’t suck!”.

It’s moments like that keep me working.

And once again, the moral of the story is to just step up and face your fears and just get working.

Goddamnit. There goes that excuse.