Thursday, May 9, 2013

Polynoidae Radiolarian

 My painting Polynoidae Radiolarian came from a mix of scientific influences, beginning with the work of 19th century scientific illustrator Ernst Haeckel.  In short, Haeckel is known for his many highly-detailed renderings of sea creatures and microorganisms.  One such microscopic body is the radiolarian, which are protozoa that leave behind very intricate skeletons.  The incredible design of the radiolaria were amazing and inspirational to me, especially because there are so many forms both symmetric and asymmetric.  Inspired by the wonder of microorganisms, I began looking for more small wonders and came across pictures of the scale worm.   More visible to the unaided eye than radiolaria, the head of a feeding scale worm is one of the most fearsome things I have ever seen.  My imagination and love of sci-fi afire, the design for this painting flowed naturally from these two starting points.

My first attempt to render a radiolarian in my sketchbook.

Drawing the scale worm and figuring out the combination of the two creatures.

The graphite on canvas and outlining in paint.

Rendering with paint and working toward color harmony.

The finished painting.  
Polynoidae Radiolarian and other recent works can be seen at my website.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Our Schizophrenic Present

The haps:
I recently updated my website with the paintings I have been working on this year.  At the beginning of 2013, I dedicated myself to making one 24"x 20" painting a month to build my portfolio.  At the beginning of May, I have completed five and am close to finishing the sixth.  Next friday, May 10, I'm traveling to New York for a week to visit my friend and fellow artist, AJ Sapala.  When I return I will be starting work for my summer job at Rocky Mountain Day Camp and moving in with my girlfriend.  Moving needs to be done by the end of the month because camp is starting and some friends from Illinois are visiting the weekend that turns May into June.  So May is going to be pretty hectic and probably not very accommodating to painting.  
For my next paintings, I've decided to switch sizes.  I'm getting a little tired of this format and want to work bigger.  The break for travel and moving offers a nice transition period.  My girlfriend's dad, a skilled carpenter, has constructed two 3' x 4' canvas stretchers for me. Those paintings will be my project for the summer, perhaps working on them at the same time.  I also acquired two small oval plaques to work on as well.  So a lot is on the way and I'm very excited about it.  

I have teased in recent posts that I will be offering some process and explanation about  the paintings I've been working on recently.  The painting currently fronting my website is called Our Schizophrenic Present.  Since it was one of the more interesting and exciting paintings for me to complete, I'll start my explanations with it.  
My starting point in creating my idea was the horse.  The horse is a prevalent subject throughout art and painting history, and I wanted to contribute to that dialogue.  I started with referencing my book on Frederic Remington, the American master at rendering horses.  My original vision was to paint several horses emerging radially from the canvas, so I was sketching some of the more interesting poses from Remington's drawings and paintings.  Those are what I shared in my last post.  I also knew that I wanted to feature a rose in this painting, contributing to the spiraling nature of the composition.  The horse and the rose are both sort of romantic American images, and I wanted those preconceptions to contribute to the affect of the painting. 
As I was sketching, I was having trouble fitting several horse bodies in with the rose in a way that made sense visually.  I was starting to reconsider my idea a little bit.  As well as Remington, I was looking up pictures of the horse skeleton in some animal anatomy books.  I was getting a bit frustrated, but was no less determined to find how these elements could piece together.  The spiral of the rose seemed to lend itself better to the fragmentation of bones than the fleshed out horses.  The textures of bone and petal even seemed to have similar qualities.  A moment of clarity found me, and I arrived at my answer:

The alignment of the eye and the center of the rose made some very interesting overlaps in structures of the skull and the rose petals.  Using a reference photo for each, I created a mock-up in photoshop, carefully stretching the rose petals so that they aligned with the features of the skull. 

The color choice was very important for this painting.  I wanted the artwork to feel very warm and enlightening.  Before this painting I had read The Mission of Art by Alex Grey, and was considering what spiritual and personal value was present in my artwork.  The use of yellow in the works of Grey and James Jean always brought me to a contemplative state, the saturation of the color awakening the mind and making me more attuned to the deeper meanings in the imagery.  Yellow and gold has been used all over the world in altarpieces for many religions, recalling the earth's need for the sun, and subconsciously cueing us to the presence of the holy and serene.  
The painting was also influenced and partly inspired by the song Lateralus by Tool.  The lyrics discuss the idea of a spiral, living life in a way that is open to change and expanding consciousness.  Red and yellow are also referred to as colors reaching out and helping to see infinite possibilites.  The musical and lyrical structure of the song are also partly aligned with the Fibonacci sequence, a complexity in the song writing that was really ambitious and amazing to me.  The inconspicuous details  of work by Tool, Grey, Bosch, and Dali have been inspiring me this year to make more complex and challenging artwork.  

On the process:  I used a projector for the first time on this painting.  It was an exciting tool to get to work with.  The projector was especially helpful in this painting because it allowed me to isolate the layers of the photoshop image while I traced, giving me a better view of each element.  To elaborate:  the rose image was on one layer in photoshop and the skull was on a separate layer.  I first projected the layer with the skull and traced it, then projected the layer with the rose and traced it separately.  Overall, it helped make all the intersecting lines of the two images a lot less overwhelming to work from, and helped me see both images clearly so I could proceed to invent their interactions.  It's also really cool to see the image projected on the canvas.  In the future, I'd like to explore the idea of using this process for installation artwork.

The following are phone pictures of the painting in process.  My goal was to work intuitively with the interactions between the images, attempting to avoid making one more powerful or pronounced.  I wanted the final to be an exercise for the brain to view, shifting focus between the two images but having trouble taking it in as a whole.

The name Our Schizophrenic Present came from artist Lanny DeVuono when she was on the Untitled Art Show podcast.  They were discussing the duality of our lives in the physical world and the virtual world, how our personae between the two can become different versions of ourselves.  She used the phrase "our schizophrenic present" to describe the situation most of us find ourselves in with our physical interactions and those in social media.  
I was working on this painting while listening to the podcast and that line seemed to perfectly describe what was going on in front of me, though in a different context.  The skull and the rose portray the struggle of mortality and the duality of the living.  At face value, the painting has a dead thing and a living thing intimately intertwined, much like the cycle of nature.  The horse was a vivid and beautiful creature when it was alive, but is now decaying bone.  At the same time, the flower is also dying.  The incredible beauty of its bloom is fleeting and soon it will wither in the same way.  So it is with our own lives:  even in the times we feel the most alive and beautiful, we are in a sense dying as well.  Memento mori.

Our Schizophrenic Present and other recent works can be seen on my website.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


These are a few horse sketches I did from Remington paintings when I was figuring out the composition for Our Schizophrenic Present. I was trying to find the most expressive horse faces from the book I have on him. My painting was originally intended to be several horses coming out of the rose spiral, but I was having difficulty fitting them into the format. When I started playing with the idea of just the horse head/skull, it synced visually. I'll share more on the process for that painting soon, but for now the purple horses:

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Hark, Dear Reader!
It has been a full year since my last update, but a very busy and productive year.  So here's what has happened:  After Spring semester of 2012 was over, so was my time illustrating for the Advocate.  That was a great experience for me and I made a lot of friends that I really miss working with and being around 3 times a week.  A lot of good work came out of that time, too.  It definitely improved my visual storytelling skills and developed my working methods.  After school was out, I got a job as a counselor at Rocky Mountain Day Camp, hanging out and playing games with kids Monday—Friday.  I was also coordinating arts and crafts, so it gave me a chance to have a dry run at teaching art to elementary-aged kids.  It was also loads of fun.  I will be returning there this summer.
In August I started my elementary student teaching at Whittier Elementary, and after 8 weeks moved on to Casey Middle School to do the rest of it.  It was a great experience and I am happy to say I'm now a licensed K-12 Art Educator for the state of Colorado.  Since finishing my teaching program in December I have been substitute teaching around Boulder.  The job hunt for next fall will really start soon as positions start posting in May.
At the beginning of 2013, I committed to making one painting a month to build my portfolio.  I am ahead of schedule at this point and am working on my sixth painting this year.  They have all been 24" x 20" so far, and four of them are displayed on  May is going to be a busy month for me with a trip to New York planned, camp starting, moving, and visitors at the end of the month.  There will be more on that later as it develops.
My goal moving forward is to use this space to share my process of art making with you.  I want to include more writing and probably a lot of photos taken with my iPhone.  I'm going to keep on top of this blog more as I try to branch out and show my work to a public audience.  I would encourage you to follow me on instagram if you're into that sort of thing.  It acts as kind of a mini-blog of sketches and quirky things in my life I find amusing.  It may amuse you too.
I will probably also be sharing some of what I did in that undocumented time as well.  I just got back my artists books from my instructor at Metro—who used some of them in a display at school—so I'll probably post pictures of works like that sporadically.  Again, iPhones are incredibly useful that way.
Furthermore:  The big goal is that I get an art teaching position this fall, so I'd also like to use this blog to share what my students do.  Artwork by kids is often really inspiring and even sometimes mind-blowing.
A panoply of aspirations!  I'll start in the days to come with some process shots and insight to the paintings I've been working on lately.  I'm really excited about them and eager to share what I've explored through them.
At last:  Leaving you with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  From his essay, Experience:

In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterward discovered that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March March March

It's been a busy month and there is lots to share!  So, here are recent illustrations for the Advocate accompanied by their process sketches:

Cover for our issue that published on Leap Day 2012

I've been venturing into coloring with watercolors as opposed to Photoshop, and so far I'm pretty happy with the results.  I'm also inking just about everything these days with a #3 brush and Higgins ink.  Pens still help me out a little, but I'm trying to go the path Will Eisner.  Exceptions to the ink and watercolor approach are the Leap Day cover, which I did all digitally, and the Obama piece, which I inked with the Pentel brush pen and then colored in Photoshop (because the Pentel ink bleeds when re-wetted, not the case with the marvelous Higgins waterproof).  I'm also trying to color more and more sketchbook work with watercolor to build up the skills.  

In addition to illustrating, I also wrote for the April Fool's issue of the Advocate, a couple of pieces that are pretty amusing:


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Advocate Illos Hoohah!

The latest works for the paper and some warm up sketches.  Creepy sketches. 

And here are the links to the articles:

Divas Dish It Out


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