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Month: June 2010

these weekends

these weekends

After watching the fail whale eat our soccer team I headed south on Saturday.  Sam made a delicious gumbo for us to eat before going to a full moon hike at Franklin Canyon Ranch.  Full moon hikes have good and bad points.  The bad is that (at first) you’re chugging along with fifty people.  Another bad is that on trails (like this one) that are worn by the elements stumbling and tripping are constant dangers.  There are night hikes in Griffith Park on the more even surfaced trails – but for some reason they are all on weekdays (WHAT??!!). 

The good thing about moonlight hikes is the views of the city at night, and also the lack of getting all sweaty.  From the top of Franklin Canyon we could see fireworks near what must have been the beach.  Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so I had to make do with my cell phone…which didn’t actually make do at all.  The light below the city is on the Franklin Canyon Reservoir building which was below us.  That arrow shows the fireworks….

The next day we went on a harbor cruise hosted by Sam’s business law professor.   My business law professor’s idea of a fun time is letting us watch clips from The Insider in class.  The cruise had lots of good food (and drink) and lasted about two hours but never left the marina.

At one point we passed by a giant sailboat and a giant yacht.  Later when we were coming back in the same yacht was on its way out of the marina.  Have you ever seen a yacht with a helicopter on it?  Now you have…

What flag is that on the back?  It almost looks like the flag for Bermuda, with a union jack on red with some kind of crest… but the crest is different.  I tried to find it on google with no luck.  The enormous sailboat that was docked next to this yacht had the exact same flag on the back.

purple butterfly girl painting

purple butterfly girl painting

I don’t dabble in the “fantasy” genre much, but some time ago I drew this fairy creature with butterfly wings writhing around as if her hands were bound.

From this I decided to make a painting sometime in early 2010.  I asked Sam to pose as it was going to be difficult to “fake” the arch of the back and the placement of the other hand and clavicles, etc.  She did it on one condition – that “certain areas” NOT be from her.  So a few key details were changed, including the face.   Her modelling was mainly used for bone structure, perspective, etc.   Below is the raw umber first wash after doing a smaller sketch to combine the real elements with “fantasy” and transferring the drawing to canvas.

As usual I didn’t think about the background until the painting was underway (which I really have to stop doing).  I started off with bedsheets fading into a purplish blackness.

The bedsheets weren’t working – so I painted over them.  Frustrated with the background I decided to start painting the flesh and come back to the background later.

Which of course included the face.  Since I’d modified the face from the model’s a lot things started to get a little dicey.  I spent a few days going back and forth from my drawing (which didn’t look bad in my opinion) to the canvas to see where it all went wrong.  Eventually I would end up tracing the face again and nearly starting over completely.

Plus, remember, faces always look freaky without eyebrows!  Those go on last.

I worked more on the skin and started putting in some hair.  Clearly brown, which I’d originally intended, was not going to gel with a dark red/purple background.  Something had to be done…

So I changed the hair to some sort of electric blond color.  Not quite realistic – but hey, this is sort of a “fantasy” genre painting anyway, right?  Below is a larger look at the “studio” (before the May remodelling).

And below is the finished piece on my terrible old flimsy easel (I bought a new one after this piece was finished).

Below is my attempt to photograph and color correct the painting for the web.  There is a luminance about the skin and the hair and wings that can’t really come through in a digital photograph.  Also – because of the size (4 feet high), whenever I photograph this the top (or farther end from the camera) starts to get washed out and/or reflective because I used a lot of medium in the background color.

Art Walk June

Art Walk June

Last night, Sam and I walked the downtown Art Walk.  We got started about 90 minutes earlier than last time and were able to walk more briskly before the masses showed up.  Unfortunately that also meant that most of the food trucks (which we’d planned to check out) weren’t even “open” (in this sense literally opened up) yet.  We ended up eating at Lunchbox Cafe, which replaced what used to be a Persian restaurant in the same location.  The Persian food had been garnered had the same apathetic reaction from my taste buds.  Sam’s bulgogi bowl was better than my Salmon box – but neither was anything to write home about.  I should mention that this is another in what has become a tradition of her judgement of menu item picking being better than mine at a new restaurant.  She almost always ends up with a better dish.  In truth, even when she’s been to the restaurant before and recommends something I usually go my own way – and then end up with a jealous stomach eating some lame meal all the while watching her munching on what she told me to get.  Maybe I just have a tendency of shooting myself in the foot.  Wait for a few more paragraphs before you make your own judgement (I’m about to rip on another artist publicly – this doesn’t always end well…).

The Art Walk wasn’t as good as last month.  However, there were a few interesting changes.  Where the shittyness of the Stein gallery used to stand – there were now two or three little “boutique” mini-galleries that actually had interesting pieces.  Mostly by artists that were also appearing in other galleries around town already.  One piece (of which I didn’t capture on film) was laser etched into poplar.  It got my mind wandering and wondering if that isn’t just-the-thing for a certain Adobe Illustrator Fonts-as-Art guy that I know.

Another interesting addition was the Bang Gallery, which seemed to be wholly dedicated to 80s nostalgia pop-art.  Every spare wall had been attacked by graffiti artists with random monsters or mash-ups like PTM (Powdered Toast Man… boy… try to explain THAT one to someone who never saw Ren and Stimpy…) with cookie monster in a headlock.  It was clear that one graffiti artist had skills above his peers – actually using (shocking!) things like shadow and color mixing.  Here is a panda on a high wall by that artist:

 A lot of the hanging art was pop / current events based stuff like a “tron guy” portrait recreated in plastic beads.  Researching it later, it turns out the artist, Ariel Erestingcol is quite famous for this kind of work – at least locally (although when “locally” is Los Angeles, that’s good enough, right?).   I gotta say – I just don’t get it.  Maybe I’m not supposed to.  There were tons of similar “Warhol inspired” pieces at this gallery.  Does this genre still sell? Is that why these younger artists are doing it (again)?  There seems something less creative in sticking your finger in between an original piece (a photo from the internet of “tron guy”) and the the viewer (looking at the same photo, but recreated in beads) and calling it an original creative work of art (of yours).  You did “something” but it just seems distinctly lacking both imagination and skill (although I’m sure there is some element of “skill” to assembling the beads).   For example, one could make up any number of “modern art pieces” by taking existing ideas and funnelling them through a singular process.  How about pet portraits made out of dyed pet food?   How about blown up photographs made by taking pinhole photos of movie stills?  How about taking fallen leaves from trees in September and arranging them into a 10’x10′ portrait of a face on the floor of a gallery.  All these things would surprise no one to be found at an art gallery, but compare them to an Andrew Wyeth painting and suddenly you have to reevaluate whether art has only one level (i.e. it is or isn’t art), or many levels of quality.  

Although this is not Ariel’s artist statement – one can assume the description of other artist’s works in the genre goes something like: “I take memories from our collective childhood and process them through the means of childhood creation (beads, etc.) for a true understanding of the media and relating to the subjects on their original level.”  How is this a new thought?   Wouldn’t it be something new and different to take these childhood memories and translate them to an adult level?  Wouldn’t it be more enlightening to study those memories and associations under a NEW light?   In fact, this has already been done,by Dave Devries, and the result is all at once much more entertaining, interesting and valuable (as purchasable work, to me).   Yes, not all (in fact probably most) of Ariel’s work is NOT directly imported from 80s cultural memory.  I don’t want to single him out – he was just the best example from the gallery of a growing trend in the art world.   The point I basically want to emphasize is that, in my opinion, when the process becomes the only value of a piece – the piece has no value. 

But, again, I’m not expert in the field, I don’t even have an MFA, and my own work probably could not stand up to easy criticism. 

One piece I did like in the gallery was a basketball painting by Justin Bua.

Here we see Justin taking a popular subject (note the player is even wearing Laker colors) and interpreting it through his unique lens.  The piece is artistically well produced, both in skill and arrangement.  This arrangement was made by Justin – not a source photograph (as far as I know).  That means Justin had to use his artistic spirit in making the decisions.  He had to decide how to use color, spacing and perspective to make his point., which is a dramatic but simple example of my perceived difference between what makes a piece “pop art” or “real art.”   Note the medium here is not an integral part of the message – the piece isn’t made from torn up chunks of jerseys, painted on flattened basketball skin or anything distracting and ridiculous like that with which a lesser artist would attempt to add value to a piece with.

There are always attention craving crazy characters at the Art Walk.  This one was no different.  We saw a man (or woman?) in costume on stilts and another in a generic beer bottle costume.  I didn’t think of it at the time, but the beer bottle actually reminds me of an anthropomorphized Bob Dob character – or the work of a similar low-brow artist.

Later we strolled by the parking lot “art fair” and discovered that there was now a price for admission.  The sign on the Regent across the street saying the space was available for lease after their attempt at charging admission was apparently oblivious to these “smart businesspeople.”  Although there are sometimes some interesting things inside the little fair, we didn’t think for more than 2 seconds about strolling on by when faced with an entrance fee.

Down the street a little bit more was an apartment building that had discovered its location in proximity to the Art Walk and invited its tenants to display work in the lobby.  Unfortunately not a lot of actual artists seem to be living in these “artist lofts.”  I snapped a photo – you be the judge:

The atmosphere was loud and festive though – with strange looking characters hanging out.  One resident apparently is bad at rapping and decided to use this opportunity to show us just how bad (sorry, no video!).

Once again there were live bands and DJs setting up shop all over the place.

We finished off the walk with the Temple of Visions and Hive.  Temple of Visions was a bit disappointing in that almost none of the art had changed from the previous month.  The Hive had some very interesting pieces.  Some of these artists were the very same that impressed the art world (and me) at Copro last weekend.  Joseph Larkin was one of those artists – whose attention to detail and ability to render surfaces is very impressive.

The other standout was Crystal Chan’s piece called I Will Take You Beyond the Familiar.  We agreed that although her friend (boyfriend?) Jehan’s work is good in its own way – Crystal’s pieces seem to have more depth and capture mood better.  Stylistically, although their works are similar, Crystal seems to be out in front as well with more finessed brushwork.

Lastly – here is Sam pointing out my piece – which is easily lost in the sea of work on that wall.  Especially since mine is a pencil drawing.  Just being in the same room as the two artists/pieces above is an honor though as I know I’m nowhere near their skill level. 

Portrait #1

Portrait #1

Some time around March, Sam let me know that she’d like me to paint her portrait for her birthday (in May).  The first step was to pick the right photo.  After a few photoshoots and hundreds of shots we chose this photo to work from:

The painting was to be done on cradled masonite, which I’d never painted on before.  I started with a basic wash of where everything should go and then set out to create the “background.”

Something is not quite right about the face in this wash – but I’ll work on that later.  First I tried several times to figure out what the background would be.  I first thought some kind of flowery amorphous fuzzy thing, in pink to match the dress she would be wearing.

Okay, maybe not.  Although it looks “okay” up in the top left it just doesn’t seem to bring anything to the piece.

I tried going orange.  Don’t ask why – because I don’t know.

Frustrated with the background I decided to work on the actual body first and worry about the background later.

Looking at the piece though – something doesn’t seem right about the face.  I took tracing paper to the photo and laid it over the painting to make corrections:

Still not an exact likeness – but better than before.  I like hands, so I did a lot of work on the hand before eventually getting back to the background.  I decided to put her on a park bench so we could see a more lively background.  I thought this would work since she was resting her arm on the back of the chair.

Painting wood is hard.  I still haven’t figured out how to do it without looking “cartoony.”  Next came some trees.

I decided to make them cherry trees to bring in the pink accents again from what would eventually be her dress.

But how do you convincingly make millions of little flowers in the distance?  Not easy – and I didn’t really accomplish it, but this is the extent of my skills at the present time.

And so from here I worked on the dress, the skin more and finally the hair – to end up here:

It looks a little very “cartoonish” – but at least in a consistent way.  The teeth are really white, aren’t they?  I kept trying to take them down a bit – but then I’d always put more white on, because how could I give this to her with anything but sparkly white teeth?

Copro Show

Copro Show

On Saturday night I went to the opening of the June Hive show (that I’m in).  The art this month was better than last I was happy to see.  However, I’ll post all about that after visiting the show again on the art walk this week.  After the Hive I picked up Sam and we went to the Copro to see the “Surreal Collective” show.  This was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.  The level of craftsmanship on many of the paintings was mind blowing.  One particular painting (listed for $19,000) by David Bowers featured details so fine that using the real material (cloth, string, beads, etc.) would have probably looked less “real.”  I have no idea how to make lines that fine with oil paint.  Unfortunately jpegs don’t do any of these paintings justice – as all the fine details and opacity of color are lost – but I’ll post them anyway:

The detail on the feathers and beads and fabric on this were still amazing even when pressing your eye close enough to lose focus.

There was something dreamy and fantastic about the mood in this piece:

There is going to be a fight at some point between Darius Zawadzki and Peter Gric over who is the true heir to Bekzinski’s throne.  Darius threw quite an opening punch with this piece – CLEARLY reminiscent of Zladislaw:

But Peter also had this detailed piece at the show:

The father and son duo of Chet and James Zar were also in attendance.

There were a lot more pieces in the show, and the always amazing permanent (?) collection behind the front desk at the Copro.  I urge you to go see this show if you are in the Los Angeles area.

Speaking of which – I gather now is the best time to be a young (or old, I suppose) artist in Los Angeles.  The Atlantic just ranked Los Angeles as the number one city in north america.  I believe it.  This weekend there were too many art shows to actually attend.  And all looked good.  I didn’t even get to see the shows in Culver City, or the JAW Cooper opening at Luz De La Jesus… hopefully next weekend….

It looks like there is going to be a war between Santa Monica, Culver City and downtown for who has the best young artists (exhibiting).  I’m going to bet that Culver City will win.  Although downtown is becoming more hip, you have to be rich to live in one of those million dollar lofts.  Santa Monica suffers a similar problem –  Copro routinely has the best art from the freshest artists, although receiving recognition – these artists probably can’t afford a home in Santa Monica.  Culver City on the other hand is just a few miles east, and has a booming younger demographic of educated young professionals – a crowd ripe for  interest in the art of their peers.  Santa Monica proper is still filled with somewhat stodgy aging success stories (the former president of such and such film studio or manager of that actor or band you’ve heard of – or the actor or musician them self).  The rent is cheaper in West Los Angeles.

Ah – but what about Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park?

Sorry, none of the good artists I’ve met so far fit the hipster description.  As “hipster” quickly becomes a dirty word, the twenty and thirty somethings in LA are migrating away from the packed-in dirt and neighbors working at pizza hut (while their band struggles to get a deal) of Silverlake and moving further west, closer to the ocean, and probably closer to their jobs as well.  LA insiders know that Wilshire boulevard west of the 405 (and north of the 10) is quickly becoming a new business center – there are rumored to be as many as 30 embassies in a mile stretch.  Major companies like Google are setting up shop there.  Hollywood types are doing their business down closer to the ocean as well, current Spielberg in-waiting, J.J. Abrams has his office a few blocks from Cloverfield Boulevard (why did you think that movie was named that?).

So all this is going on.  I’m an artist.  Where am I?

Canoga Park.