In order to make successful paintings, you have to make a lot of unsuccessful paintings. Each one you make is a building block to the next. There is no such thing as a waste of time if you make a bad piece. You’re simply learning how to make it better next time. In this post I’d like to show a few of my more successful older pieces, and go into some of the details surrounding where they come from. I’ve been told by quite a few people and artists that I trust at this point that I need to “settle down” and to stop jumping from style to style with each piece if I want to get picked up by a gallery already. While I would like that very much, I also really enjoy varying my style. I get comments however that my portfolio looks like it’s work from several different artists. Not everyone says this, and I have gotten feedback from a few people who say they can see the same hand in all, but it’s a less often made observation. I understand the need to remain recognizable, but after a month or more of creating an indirect painting, layering layer after layer of glazes, I need to paint thick and chunky with a palette knife and slop the paint onto the surface and take joy in the sheer act of painting! I love what I can achieve with the slow approach, but the active aspect of painting thick and the expression you can get with the paint strokes is SO GOOD.
I made the Queen of Bones in my painting II class. I fully admit it was a little too intense for people watching me make it. It’s the result of a bad relationship with a poet, a line from one of his poems about our bad relationship (“Heart of Sticks, Heart of Stones, No One Owns the Queen of Bones”) and a trip to the MET in NYC where I saw a collection of African Funerary Masks on display. While it shows off my lack of planning and technical skill at the time, it still holds up to me, a decade later, as a strong piece. It’s about death and change, and it’s incredibly personal. It’s glazed with damar varnish around the borders, which means it would be difficult to clean up if I had ever wanted to do so. The writing at the top and bottom is vine charcoal – under the damar. Look, it’s a mess. I’m proud of it, but I didn’t understand the materials yet. We learn best from mistakes though. If we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t trying new things. A quick word on Damar Resin – while it’s a very traditional ingredient, I personally believe it is no longer needed in painting. Since it’s a true resin, it will yellow with time. I’d need actual turpentine to remove it from the piece, and that stuff is awful.
This is the last painting I made in school. I created a collage from images I cut up from Art in America magazines and I liked it enough to create a painting off of it. Each element is a different painting, I added in the background, mirrored the figure and tied the two figures together by extending the feathers into a bridge connecting the two figures. I became very intrigued by metaphysics for a while, before realizing what a giant waste of time it had become. It’s important to question both reality and our place in it, but only up to a certain point, when it becomes more important to stop sitting around pondering questions that might not have answers and go do something with yourself. I am a firm believer in positive existentialism – it is up to each individual to create their own meaning. I find comfort in the knowledge that I am a speck of dust in the universe and that I am empowered to create my place in it, for whatever that is worth. I am a somewhat indecisive individual at times as well, so I am fascinated by duality and the choices we make when creating ourselves. The theme of “versus” pops up in the paintings a lot. Gemini, the twins, represent two halves of the same whole. They are two sides to the same entity. I’ve been asked about the little figure of the man in the yellow shirt. Does it ruin anything to admit I left him there because I think it’s humorous? He’s quite out of place, but so is everything else, so it felt fitting to leave him when all I had really wanted was the splash of yellow to make up the shirt.