Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 21: Using the Sharpie drawings in a painting

On my last visit to the studio, I mixed some umber and ultramarine airbrush colours, took a fine point, long-handled brush, and started to paint shapes and images derived from the Sharpie drawings ...

... to the painting that I glazed in yellow on Day 19:

I still don't think it's finished. After all, there are still a few square inches of space left unfilled, damn it!

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 20: Using acrylic glazing medium

Back in the studio for a couple of days after a busy week, I went ahead and coloured that picture brownish-yellow, using a mixture of acrylic glazing medium and a couple of drops each of yellow and naples yellow:

The thing about working with a white background all the time is that there's nowhere to hide. If your lines stray just a little, they stick out like a sore thumb. Glazing a colour over everything gives one a bit more margin of error.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

On my debut in Chicago's River North district

Well, it was only for one night, but at last I got to exhibit in Chicago's swanky River North gallery area. I contributed a piece to a charity auction which was held at the Gruen Galleries. Hundreds of people attended to place bids on dozens of pieces of art displayed on the walls. Most were available through silent auction: each piece had a notepad with a pencil hanging next to it, on which you could write your bid. Six pieces, including mine, were selected by a panel for a live auction, which was conducted by a guest auctioneer from Christie's.

Below is an album of photos I took during the evening.

Heartland Alliance charity auction at Gruen Galleries, Chicago, Feb 25, 2011

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Postcard from Lincoln Park


The baroque statues in the doorway of the Francis J. Dewes House, a late nineteenth century Chicago Landmark Building.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

On 'Working Tables' by Gabriel Orozco



Meditation/web-talk number 58 discusses a collection of fragments by contemporary artist Gabriel Orozco.

In addition to this video, you can see all 57 previous videos on the Videos page of this blog.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 19: Learning from my mistakes

Well, sometimes you go through a two-day process, and it works, and you get some nice piccies to upload to your blog, and you feel like a very fine fellow.

But sometimes you do something that doesn't quite come off. I decided to post photos of that anyway, as the reasons why I decided not to follow this up, at least for the moment, are also part of my process (or 'prah-sesss' as they say here in Chicago.)

Over the weekend, I took one of the xeroxes of last week's Sharpie drawings, and coated it with a layer of Clear Tar Gel:

That glistening you see is the layer of gel (which stinks, by the way: if you use this stuff, make sure you have adequate ventilation or you can close it up in its own room).

I let it dry overnight, then I immersed the coated xerox for about 30 seconds in a tray of warm water:

That loosened the paper fibres (or fibers, as they say in Chicago), enabling me to do the next stage:

... which was, to flip the thing over so that the dried acrylic skin was facing down and the soaked xerox paper was facing up. Next, I began rubbing with my fingertips, and then with a rag, until the paper fibres started to loosen from the skin.

The main thing is to rub hard enough so that the paper comes loose, but not so hard that you rub away the transferred lines.

Well, I did that for about 15 minutes, until most of the fibres were rubbed away, and I was left with a piece of transparent acrylic with a drawing embedded in its surface.

And, after looking at it for a while, I thought to myself: Well, unless I'm going to colour this transfer before I glue it to the canvas, which I probably won't do, what does this process give me that I couldn't achieve just by drawing the damn image onto the canvas?

It took me two days to realise that I wasn't going to use this process. But I don't consider that it was wasted time. Sometimes you can work on something for months, before putting it aside because it doesn't work for some reason. You can only come to that point, thought, by going through the experiment in the first place.

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On the Art of Human Rights, 2011

This week, on the evening of Friday February 25th, there will be an auction of art at the Gruen Galleries, Chicago, to benefit the Heartland Alliance's work. I contributed an older piece of work to the event -- mixed media prints on an assemblage of cigar boxes, derived from my trip to Cuba lo these many moons ago:

So if you are in town, and you want to pay $125 to attend (ahem), then I'll see you there on Friday night!

Here is a link to the work by participating artists.

Below are the full details of the event.



Heartland Alliance and the Junior Board will host The Art of Human Rights, our annual silent and live art auction, this Friday, February 25!
Join us for this after-work party which offers a great opportunity to buy artwork from emerging and established artists as well as Heartland Alliance program participants. Purchase your tickets before midnight tomorrow to save $25 off the door price!
Proceeds from The Art of Human Rights support Heartland Alliance's work in housing, health care, legal protections, and economic security to empower people with the tools to build better lives and brighter futures.

Friday, February 25, 2011

at Gruen Galleries

6:30 - 9:30 p.m.

With a Special Gallery Hour* beginning at 5:30 p.m.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On Sharpie drawing number 5: Bits and Pieces


It's still an automatic drawing, with the perimeter of the lines of one form suggesting a new shape which, during the drawing of it, turns into another object.

Here's a tiny detail of Sharpie drawing number 1 enlarged 800% on the xerox machine:

With this xerox, I can make a lithographic-style print by moistening the paper with a mixture of gum arabic and water, then rolling it with a mixture of etching ink and Setswell compound.

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On Callum Innes and watercolour

Another superb short video from The Tate Channel: an interview with Scottish artist Callum Innes about his use of watercolour, to coincide with the Tate's survey of watercolour art from the last 200 years:



If for no other reason, watch this for the enviably large studio Mr. Innes has at his disposal.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

A luminary's progress

One of the luminaries after a recent repositioning.


On Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois

'The Guardian' newspaper has an article on its arts page about a show of collaborative works between Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois. Only yesterday, I posted my latest web-talk about the late Ms. Bourgeois, so this is an interesting coincidence.

My opinion of Tracey Emin has always been extremely low, and my opinion of Bourgeois extremely high. My reaction to Emin's work was already formed when my etching teacher in London, who worked on some prints with Emin, told me some very unflattering anecdotes about Emin which cast aspersions on, shall we say, her intellectual capacity. I made the mistake of recounting this story in full on someone's Facebook page recently, which earned me a perhaps deserved rebuke for being impolite.

But Jonathan Jones, who wrote 'The Guardian' article, has exactly the opposite opinion. He responds positively to Emin, and Bourgeois leaves him cold. And I have to say, if Bourgeois thought Emin worthy of being in the same room as her, maybe I should go back and look at la Emin's work and see if I can get beyond my belief that it's as if someone decided that, instead of going to drama school, learning the lines of 'Hamlet', and giving a considered portrayal of the character, they had decided instead just to walk onstage without any prior rehearsal or even acting experience, and just stood there screaming at the top of their voice:

'I HAD A TERRIBLE CHILDHOOD!!'

But then again, maybe I'm wrong.

You decide. Here's a couple of the collaborative pieces by the two artists:





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Sunday, February 20, 2011

At the house

At our house 140 miles from chicago, a watercolour of mine from 1998.

On the work of Louise Bourgeois (video)



The 57th in this series concentrates on the career of Louise Bourgeois, with illustrations of about ten of her works, rather than just one. The length of her career and its ups and downs can be a source of hope for relatively late starters like me.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 18: Printmaking, inspired by teaching

On Thursday, I led the students in the Journal and Sketchbook class in an hour of automatic drawing. There was lots of scribbling and furious gestural movements. All 16 of the students produced really free, chaotic drawings.

In preparation for going to the studio, I was in Kinko's taking photocopies of lots of found images from the internet, which I am using in the Lucerne Project. I also photocopied the Sharpie drawings that I did in the last few days, so I can turn them into acrylic skins. Then at the back of my sketchbook, I found a few squiggles of crayon that I'd drawn in order to illustrate the process of automatic drawing to the students. I decided it would be fun to enlarge some of these marks up to 400%, then turn the page a little and repeat, just to see what came out.

So I used the paper-litho transfer process to transfer the images to Kitakawa paper, a beautiful Japanese handmade printmaking paper that has an ochre-beige colour. The results were, as our American cousins say, 'quite awesome':


When the ink is dry, I might bind them using a pamphlet stitch, to make a small artist's book.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

On Sharpie drawing No. 4: The Unconscious Unleashed!


Sorry about the dual genitalia there.

Look! Look in the background! See all the pretty stars!

Derivation: when we were children, my brother and I sometimes drew invented creatures, the more outrageous the better.

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On book artist Robin Price at the Center for Book and Paper Arts

For our Journal and Sketchbook class yesterday, Patty and I took the students to the Center for Book and Paper Arts, a stellar organisation that is part of Columbia College Chicago, to see an exhibition of artist's books made by someone called Robin Price:

These pictures were taken using my cheapo cell phone, but hopefully they give you some idea of how beautiful these objects were. That one above was a modified accordion book with all kinds of prints and letterpress text, housed in a collapsible box imprinted with more images.

The following one was a wooden clamshell box about two feet high, wrapped in canvas, made to look like an old-fashioned travelling trunk:

There were lots of other works there, including collaborations with artists, writers, and designers. As someone who does a modest bit of artist bookery myself, I was humbled by the level of crafstmanship on display. It made me realise that at least half of what goes into the work of an artist's book is the design and construction of the cover, binders, and so on. In fact it could be said that thinking about these things, and how they combine with the text and image, is inseparable from thinking about how to construct any hand-made book.

The exhibition runs until April, and I would highly recommend visiting if you live in or are going to pass through Chicago.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Sharpie drawing number 2

It's strange to see what comes out when you start drawing just before you go to sleep:


I hasten to add that this is not a self-portrait.

Though I did have someone specific in mind.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On drawing with Sharpie marker


On the days when I can't get to the studio, I'm going to try and do some things that I can take back to the studio and work with later in the week.

I did this drawing with a fine-point Sharpie marker pen. I'm going to photocopy it, spread clear tar gel over the xerox, let it dry, then immerse the whole thing in water. I can then scrape off the paper fibres, and the black drawn lines will magically be left on the transparent acrylic skin. I will then glue this to the surface of a canvas.

It sounds like magic, but it really works. I'll post photos of the process soon.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 17: Drawing complete

If I spend four hours patiently drawing shapes with airbrush colour, why would I cover the whole canvas with water, take a big brush, and partially erase the drawing?

Your guess is as good as mine, guvnor. Actually, maybe my guess is better: the lines were too dominating, so I  pushed them back a little in order to keep the various elements in balance.

This photo is a truer representation of the tone of the picture than the photos I posted yesterday. However, I quite like the yellow-gold tone of those photos, and I am considering adding that to the painting. That will haev to wait until next Friday, which is the next time I'll be able to get to the studio.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 16: How did that happen?

So as I was working on this picture on which I painted all the texture and the dot patterns:

... I felt emboldened, for some reason, to start drawing all over it, using a fine point brush and airbrush paints:

I have an idea about where this all came from, though I don't know why it came forth today and not earlier. I've done a lot of automatic drawing in the last few years, some of it random, some of it clearly related to the personal narrative work. Mostly I felt able to combine figurative and non-figurative elements in prints, and artist's books, rather than in paintings.

Over Christmas, I read part of Xenophon's 'Anabasis', regarded as one of the greatest texts of the ancient Greek world. Without going into too much detail about the story, the main thing that stayed with me was the idea of the word 'Anabasis' which can be translated as 'journey to the interior'. Most of what I am trying to do in the studio ultimately is just that: a voyage to the interior of the self; an Anabasis.

And when you start on that voyage, you run into all sorts of unexpected things:
Closey-uppy picture of above painting
I'm thinking of adopting 'Anabasis' as the name for my next solo show.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 15 in the studio: starting again after 3 weeks

I finally got back to the studio today after a three week break due to flu, a conference in Washington, DC, and teaching at Columbia College.

The first thing I did was to catch up on printing some pages of the 100 page accordion book I'm working on for the Lucerne Project:

Then I worked on a panel that I did on day 13:

What I'm doing is pouring a little bit of fluid acrylic over several layers of dried shapes, then dragging the pigment across the surface using a sawn-off window-cleaning squeegee.

This causes the ridges of previously dried stuff to be extruded (good word, what what?) through the thinner pigment:

When that's dry, I'll add something else to it.

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