Friday, December 5, 2014

PrattMWP Alumni Exhibtion

So I've been really pretty awful at maintaining my blog. My last post was on the One Hundred Paintings Project somewhere around painting 50, I think. I'm now into the 80s on that front. I took a break to pursue other work. I'll probably post some long sweeping post at some point to get it all up-to-date, but I digress...

In the last month I became pretty busy painting and drawing (as well as battling this season's latest viruses among, other things). I got accepted to show my work at the PrattMWP SOA gallery but as I sold a lot of my recent work a few months ago, I didn't have much to fill a 30+ foot wall with, so I decided to work a little bigger and try out some different mediums. By the by, I might remark, that experimenting a month before a show is not something I recommend. The first oil painting came like a breeze, the rest however, were painstaking and discouraging. The important thing I learned though is, while I generally like that I am prolific, trying to squeeze multiple projects into a month time-frame doesn't allow me time to reflect or step away from what I'm working on. I feel like a part of me enjoys the thrill of the stress. I'm told I'm very cool under pressure, but I think it's just that I've been panicking my whole life and no one can tell the difference anymore. Ha.

I was also required to give a short lecture, which is not exactly my forté, and can I just say that years of schooling did not prepare me for this moment? Luckily it was pretty laid back. The last time I remember giving a lecture was 2nd grade. I wrote an essay in favor of mandating uniforms in schoolsI know, weird, right? I also won a poetry contest once when I was young, I had to read aforementioned poem in front of an entire assembly of students and parents. I've also participated in an array of acting, musical performances, and teaching sessions... but I'm a backwards and broken person. A walking contradiction with no where to go. C'est la vie.

Anyway, I thought I would delve into the meaning behind the pieces, especially for my friends and family who are abroad or live far away, since they couldn't be there to see the lecture. There were three other artists involved, all with great work, pertaining to nature, organic forms, and/or environmentalism. My pieces specifically revolved around environmental issues.

The first painting I did was called Circles. I admire the cyclical motion of nature and how things occur on a biological clock. The aim of this painting was, as a viewer you were not supposed to be able to tell whether the owl was putting leaves on the tree or removing them. I wanted to show the consistency of nature and symbiotic relationship between nature and it's inhabitants. How one gives to another (for better or worse). It's a constant ebb and flow. In terms of environmentalism, it begs the question of whether or not we are changing or creating a new cycle by taking more than we are giving, which has been evident through the change in how our seasons and climate operate. I wanted to illuminate the consequences of choosing to dominate and control nature. I tend to use a sort of melding of symbolism, allegory and surrealism in my work. Red leaves have been a prominent object in this season's body of art. I've been using them to represent threat and danger, as well as transformation and change (due to the red leaves which are in abundance during autumn—a season which tends to represent change).


Oil on Canvas

The second painting is called The Fates. The Fates appear throughout many different cultures and mythologies. I first heard of them in Greek mythology. They were said to have more power than the Gods and as such they were the authority on how a mortal and possibly immortals, lived and how long they lived. There were three, one to spin the yarn of life, one to measure the length of life, and one to cut the yarn. So, in this painting The Fates are depicted as three gold jays. In the bird world, jays are known for their cunning and fearlessness. (Trust me, I've seen many a jay bully all other birds away from the bird feeder.) The painting is primarily gold to portray their immortality, and invincibility. They are drowning, or at the very least, bathing in this pool of oil, which is meant to say that even those who govern all can't escape the dependency on oil, or can't be relinquished from it's hold on the world. The people who have the power are in a sort of tunnel vision, so-to-speak. It is so much a part of, and connected to everything we use to survive, and this seemingly vital substance affects all living things. The bird generally symbolizes freedom and flight, here they are incapacitated and imprisoned. This also makes a real-world connection to birds and other wildlife, which have suffered at the hands of oil spills. I again, used the pop of red to indicate threat and danger.

The Fates
Oil on Canvas

A lot of these sort of whimsical characters I come up with, interact with nature or the landscape in order to transform it or create a narrative. In the case of this painting, which is titled Frankenstein Was the Doctor, the character is sitting atop a tree that has been regenerated after being cut down. My thought process with this one was that when we take from the environment we rarely replenish the amount that we take which leads to an overall reduction of resources and inevitable destruction of habitat. With each regeneration the tree gets smaller and smaller. The character sitting on the tree is attempting to revive the trees by harnessing the power of electricity, which is an allusion to Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyAnd I ought to remark that Frankenstein was the name of the doctor and not the monster, as everyone thinks. Furthermore, the bolt of lightning symbolizes both illumination and innovation as well as destruction.

Frankenstein Was the Doctor
Oil on Canvas

This next painting is a reprise of a watercolor I created as part of the One Hundred Paintings Project (36, The Edge). Originally I designed this character to be part of a triptych where he symbolized change, prolificacy, and rebirth. The content of the painting changed slightly when I brought this painting to oil. The black ghostly figures featured here were white in the original painting, where a black-cloaked deer overlooked an edge in a contemplative fashion. The series concluded with the deer transforming to white surrounded by butterflies, In this painting I changed the white ghosts to black to be reminiscent of the BP oil spill. I kept the look of the ghostly figure to represent that the oil was poisonous and dangerous. In this context the black-cloaked deer is overlooking disaster and death.

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
Oil on Canvas

The ghostly wolves in this next painting are indicative of the effects of deforestation and over-hunting. The full moon represents the cycle of nature, again, due to the idea of a circle but also because of it’s phases. The full moon is the apex of the cycle, in the context of the painting it’s meant to represent the tipping point of our influence on the environment, where we haven’t quite reached the point of no return. This idea is supplemented by the division of dense forest and a desolate wasteland as a result of deforestation. The full moon also eludes to the relationship shared between it and wolves throughout popular culture. The title of the painting refers to of course, the endangerment of the Timber, or Grey Wolf, but also to the cliché exclamation “Timber!” that was often used to denote a large tree which had been cut down was falling in your general direction.

Timber! Wolf
Oil on Canvas

I will lump the last 4 pictures together because they all relate. About a week before the show I decided to do some charcoal/pastel drawings. A medium, by the way, I never draw in. I did three small vignettes, and one larger drawing. Named Allegory I, Allegory II, Allegory III, and Allegory IV, respectively.  These are more somber and less colorful than my other work. I used primarily black charcoal on toned paper with just a pop of bright color, to emphasize drama. The drawings are pretty straight-forward. They depict animals who have suffered at the hands of deforestation, pollution and destruction of habitat. I again, used repeated themes of red, sharp leaves, fog/smoke, cut down or broken trees as symbols. I chose a white rabbit in the last picture to represent purity, vulnerability and innocence. The scene is set in winter to feel isolating, cold and empty. The rabbit is trapped by these threatening red leaves and thick branches and surrounded by a hazy, blackness.

Allegory I
Oil on Canvas

Allegory II
Oil on Canvas

Allegory III
Oil on Canvas

Allegory IV
Oil on Canvas

That's a lot to digest, and as always, I'm happy to hear that people interpret my work differently. This recent body of work was dark, but not meant to be depressing and without hope. I guess I like highlighting the idea that we are at a crossroads, or a threshold and therefore it's meant to inspire and encourage, if not everyone else, then at least myself. Things will change whether or not we do something. Things are constantly evolving and changing with or without our input. Change is in all aspects of life. Nothing rests forever. I suppose I'm at a pivotal time in my life, like most mid-twenty-somethings. It's comforting to be able to step outside yourself and see transformations happening in the bigger picture, though, even if the changes themselves are uncomfortable. It makes me feel connected. Discovering a connection is imperative to inspiring positive change and empathy, I think. 

Oh, and here's an obligatory gallery shot.

Monday, July 1, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XVII

Greetings to my dear blog meanderers on this glorious rainy afternoon. I'm not being facetious. I actually love rain, though it is starting to interfere with my quest to end seasonal related depression. If I don't get some vitamin D up in my pores, I'm going to lose my cool (not like there's much of that to lose though). I sort of missed the boat on that blog post last week, so I thought I'd post four paintings today to express my shame and regret.

"Farewell Tour"

Well you don't know how long I've been waiting to type "Painting L". Just kidding, I've realized this roman numeral thing has gotten way out of hand, but I have to see it through. I'm a see-through-er -- to my everlasting regret. Most people probably don't even know that "50" in roman numerals is "L. Would you take a look at that. My blog is both stupid and informatory... the more you know. Anyway, I couldn't be more excited to say I'm finally (more than) half way through "The One Hundred Paintings Project" ( insert confetti ). I just had to paint a sad spectacled bear, because they are my favorite of all the bears, and it's been a long time coming. If someone wanted to get me one for my birthday next year, well wouldn't you know... I'd just love it right to death.


This has turned out to be one of my favorite paintings I've done so far. I didn't think to much of it as I was starting out, but it pulled together nicely, I think.


This one on the other hand, did not. I had a much different vision for this painting (the vision being... not bad). The under-drawing was good, but I messed up somewhere in the painting process. I find that happens every once in a while, whether it's because I'm rushed or just generally "not feeling it" I create a painting I want to trash. I couldn't do that though, because it's all part of the process after all.

"The Spark"

And then I got back in the game with this painting. I'm mostly pleased with the way it turned out, and I painted it pretty quick. Maybe the fastest painting I've done so far. This idea was kind of sparked by my experience as a young art student. I used to come into high school really early in the morning before classes started, to work on this watercolor painting of a deer skull that was set up in the back of the art room. It was so quiet I would just sort of feel alone with myself, this skull and the inspiration.

That about does it for now. I'm going to try and paint four paintings per week if I can swing it. It won't be easy but I'd like to have these paintings done by the end of summer -- God willing and the creek don't rise.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XVI

Hello, hello. Just a quick-lunch-break-update today (has a nice ring doesn't it?) I feel like I've been running for home plate on this fifty painting milestone for some time now. Every time I paint three more paintings I'm still not quite there yet. If this was a silly, slapstick comedy... every time the camera would pan back to me I'd be further and further away from my target (or in my lost baseball metaphor--home plate). Like that endless running scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail: Seen HERE. I don't know why, but I just had to throw that in. 

"The Clearing"

I don't have too much to say about this week's paintings. Or I should say, I have too much to say about this week's paintings. So I'm just not going to, because I don't really feel like it. I'm feeling very nonchalant today. That's really what people mean when they say "I don't know" anyway isn't it? 

Highly Revered Art Critic & Collector: "Alex, what does this painting mean?"
Me: "mmmidunnoo"

"Casual Pollination"

A large part of this week's paintings were trying to come up with some creatures that were my own design, and not just strictly bears, or dogs, or something. I've been having some fun with it. I like this weird little bee-dude. Again, some of the information was lost in the painting because of the large white areas. I should probably invest in a good camera one of these days.

"Tall Tales"

This was actually a last minute painting. I really wanted to get a third done by today, so I threw this one together. I like the idea, it probably could have been executed better. For some reason I've always liked compositions that show people's lower halves. There's sometimes quite a story from the waist down... that sounds bad, but you know what I mean. I once had a friend who said she used to judge people by the shoes they wore, solely (haha, I'm so funny). At the time I was like "Well that's kind of shallow"... but actually shoes-- or lack thereof--can say a lot about a person.

Anyway, I'm out. Toodeloo.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XV

Salutations! I'm moving ahead with three new paintings this week. I've been trying to get back into the habit of creating a minimum of three paintings a week but the free time is scarce. Though I will say this, I think I'm getting faster at painting. Painstaking details like wood grain used to take me a lot longer than they do now. Sometimes I'm even finishing two paintings in a day and they are executed more precisely and with better craft than they were in the beginning of the project. I'm almost at the half-way point now and the project is proving successful in all the ways I hoped it would. I think my skills and concepts are strengthening. You can really see the evolution of that throughout the series, which is why I think it will make such an interesting piece when it's displayed together in the same room--and it's gonna need to be a big room. Here's some paintings--as with all my paintings, light areas of color do not scan well. All three of this week's paintings involved a significant amount of white space. You'll just have to take my word that they look at least a little better in real life.


I really enjoyed the character I came up with for the thirty-sixth painting. This sort of faceless, cloaked deer, who is pensive and mysterious. I wanted to re-visit him again (and will surely re-visit him more in the future). In this painting he is being transformed from dark to light by these butterflies (who are a symbol of metamorphosis and change). In fact, this painting, and the last one from this week have similar concepts. I've been thinking a lot about change lately.

"The Guests Have Arrived"

I hadn't done a funny painting in a while--well funny to me anyway. I really get a laugh out of the rabid raccoon eating birthday cake (and it's really come in handy for birthday cards) and wanted to make something in the same vain. This whale is about to get a good birthday present. Mmm... sea-sailor... my favorite. 

"Collectors Calling"

I had a dream recently about a rabbit and a dog. That has nothing to do with this painting but it made me realize for someone who likes dogs as much as I do, I don't put them in my paintings very often. I think this is only the second dog in the series. I wasn't exactly sure where I was going with this painting. I knew I wanted to have these menacing birds looking through the windows, and all these locks on the door. I guess sometimes people think they are keeping themselves safe but the quality of life is a lot less if you're not willing to walk outside of your comfort zone. The black vines were a last minute addition. The point was that you can't keep bad things out forever, and that problems need to faced or they will find you. In the back of my mind this painting also reminded me of how I feel every month when student loan payments roll around, heh. I was originally tossing around the title "Debt Collectors" but it was really more than that-- more universal, in the end.

I've already got some ideas cooking for next week's paintings. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XIV

The life de-weeding took a few months I guess. I can't believe February was my last update, yikes. It seems like it took forever for winter to end, and it's still ending... and it's still ending... and it's still... but somehow it's June and I don't know how that happened. I just swam in a lake last weekend, but I don't feel ready to put away my galoshes just yet. I feel like winter was a bad boyfriend that I kept trying to break up with and winter was all like "But baby please, just give me one more chance". And I was all like... "nah". Every now and then I still get schmaltzy late night texts saying "I miss how I used to laugh when I watched you dig your car out of a quickly ever-descending snowbank, in 5° weather". Good riddance--that's what I say. Now, summer has arrived just in time for me to start complaining about how hot it is and how it makes me want to scratch my own skin off. Cheers.

Needless to say, winter depressed the crap out of me and somewhere during that time I was in and out of the doctors a lot for a variety of reasons and I got no artwork done aside from my 8-5 job. So it seems like my blog has gained a few inches of dust, but I've been creatively active in other ways, such as music, fine art painting, puppeteering, and the like. I've been feeling lately, like I really want to build something with my hands, like a bookcase or something but lumber is expensive so it's back to the "One Hundred Paintings Project". Segue, segue... etc, ect. 

"Air Raid Shelter"

I can't exactly remember where I got this idea because I drew the thumbnail back in the fall and the painting sometime back in March, but I suspect it was because I was listening to a song by Andrew Bird called "Near Death Experience". There were a few lines that really resonated with me, but these ones especially hit close to home:

"You used to be like toffee,
Between the kitten's teeth
You used to build arid (air raid) shelters
Out of sticks and leaves
And spend the whole day underneath

You used to be like copper
Pliable but strong,
You used to smile and nod,
Say "You're right" be polite
When you know that everybody's wrong"

Now I'm pretty sure what he really says "air raid shelters" because "arid shelters" doesn't make any sense to me (why would a fort of sicks be dry and hot?). Not to mention the title of the song is "Near Death Experience" Alas, the internet says it's "arid shelters", either way, "air raid" is the way I heard it, and it struck a cord because I used to build forts out of sticks and leaves all the time when I was kid. Feeling like it was some sort of impenetrable fort where nothing could get at me. I feel like those two verses really embody what it was like for me to be a child, to have all this knowledge and then not be able to articulate it, or worse, knowing that no one would take me seriously. So I wanted to illustrate this kind of lonely, but peaceful picture. I purposely chose not to have a subject in this one. I used a lot of pastels to really get the feeling of childhood. 

"Recurring Dreams"

The title of this one is self-explaining. I get a lot of recurring themes in my nightmares and dreams. Even the scary ones are starting to bore me.


This one was actually inspired by the title before the painting existed. I do that sometimes, I like to work around a phrase or word, instead of the painting or song coming first. Whenever I hear the word "scrawlings" This is exactly what I imagine. Beetles that have tipped over a well of ink and scratched their musings onto paper. Words evoke funny images sometimes. You can only imagine what I see when someone says "chicken scratch". Here's a hint... it's got little to do with chickens scratching.

That about does it for now. I've got other paintings in progress. Many ideas mulling up there. I'll try not to take 4 months to put them on paper.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XIII

Trying to think of clever witticisms for this week's paintings, but I got nothing. The printer is running a couple hundred catalogs and the smell of toner is giving me a pounding headache. Plus, it's Monday, which means absolutely nothing, seeing as things like time and days of the week are all made at the hands of men and they don't really exist (oh boy, whatever does that mean-- too much for a Monday morning?), but people use that as an excuse for things. SO... when in Rome or in this case--the elaborate fabrication we call "reality"-- do as the dreamers do. If you really want my opinion, I'd much rather endure a Monday than a thursday. Plus we have the "Monday Morning Meetings," which aren't as whimsical as the catchy alliteration might have you believe, but it does break up the day considerably. In conclusion that is why I'm not the least bit funny or heartfelt this morning (or so I lie), etc, etc, Here's a painting.

"Cold Shoulders"

Unfortunately the first two paintings you see here would not scan well. I always forget when I have large areas of "light colors" or white they tend to get blown out. I've done my best to color correct it and bring some of the information back but I will probably have to resort to using a good camera to reproduce it when the time comes.

Sometimes the weight of the world can make you a sad, cold bear... Or bearer.

"Stomping Ground for the Young Believers"

Again, a fairly ambiguous sort of painting to everyone but me and the truly analytical. One of those call it as you see it types. But I will leave you with this, "stomping ground" is a double entendre-- with both meanings being the subtle ones. Wink.

"The Box of You Is Bottomless"

This painting was actually based on a poem I wrote last year. A close friend and I started a weekly poetry club, since we both had a fondness for the written word and wanted to become better acquainted with creative writing. The amount of poems I walked away with that I didn't actually hate could be counted on a finger. You're looking at my visual interpretation of it. I'd like to post the poem with it, but I don't have it memorized and it's at home somewhere stuffed in some desk drawer. I like to think of my desk as an airplane or hotel. Overbooked and then they tell you once you get there that they can't fit you in. My ideas being the sad nobodies that have to wait for the next plane but are probably forgotten about. I have a lot of nobody thoughts in the dark precipice of my desk drawers (and mind, really) waiting to be rediscovered. By then I'll have grown a year older, a year wiser and think they are too naive, no doubt, and stuff them back in the drawer from whence they came and the end begets the beginning. I myself could go for being stuffed in a desk drawer right about now, nevertheless... I have no internet at home, ergo, I could not post this post from the comfort of my digs.

The poem was about losing a person (applicable to whatever form that may be) and being surrounded by their things, their life of possessions (or lack thereof in some instances) that made them who they were, and how those things can sometimes take on a life of their own and become that person. It's the reason collectors collect things and the reason sad girls burn boxes of their ex's mementos. It can be painful to hold onto and therapeutic to let it go--therapeutic to hold onto, and painful to let it go. In summation, I believe the last line of the poem is "The box of you is bottomless." Hence, hence and stuff.

Huzzah, yet another mile stone. I shake my own hand in congratulations. Now having completed 40 paintings and realizing I am almost  half way through the project. Whatever will I do when this project is over? Probably start the "Two Hundred Painting Project." Stay tuned--gonna be a doozy.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Hundred Paintings Part XII

Dusting off the 'ol blog here. It's been a couple months now since I've given an update. A lot has happened in the past few months--good, bad, and good-bad. But it wouldn't be life it weren't inconsistent and you certainly can't fully come to appreciate the moments of true joy and repose until you've been dragged through Hell and back at least a smoldering handful of times. I've actually been in Utica, which is very far from Hell, so far in fact that I may hereafter call it the right place for me right now. After sort of floundering for the past year or so and not knowing what to do or where to go (or truthfully, where to run away to), I very serendipitously ended up in Utica again, and overall it's been a very inspiring and encouraging time of my life. It's brought new light to a city I used to find inescapable. I feel contented to be around what I consider a heartening slew of hard working, creative types.

In short, the recap since August is this: I drove down Florida--my longest car trip where I have driven to date, moved to Rome (not Italy sadly), started a new job as a graphic designer, fulfilled some duties as a maid of honor for one of my best friend's forthcoming wedding, holidays, freelance, car trouble, business trips, endured a horrendous bout of the flu, played shows, took up yoga, made some friends--tried to be a less reclusive person in general, and moved to my own apartment in Utica with my cat. This is all a small fraction of the iceberg that you can actually see, the rest of it is below the icy surface gouging holes in the Titanic of my life. As such, I accidentally forgot about stuff I care about and in truth maybe the only "things" that really matter right now. Like painting, and the way grass smells, writing chord progressions that make me want to "do the dance"-- (as my good friend Lucas would say). Winter has been a cold-hearted, fickle, cussing nightmare this year. I need some good old fashioned sunshine to put things right inside my heart and mind again.

With that said, as concisely as possible, it's not so much that I forgot about the "One Hundred Paintings Project" as I've become imbibed by a dark cloud of jarring and yet illuminating life truths. In reality, the problem was (and always has been) that I remember too much. And have felt nothing but guilt and shame for the past couple months having put off this project. I feel like I neglected a sad puppy. And I just don't like to see a sad puppy-- nor do I like to be one.

So here is to starting anew. I have begun painting again and my goal is to finish the project by the end of Spring. Overreaching? Maybe. I've done crazier things though.

I think the summation of my life from August to present will suffice for explanation and dissection of this week's paintings. I'm going to keep the interpretation up to everyone else, no need to go into too much detail.


This first painting I've also submitted for Illustration Friday's topic this week, which is "wings".

"The Edge"

I like this one I think.

"Let Sleeping Beasts Lie"

Sometimes people really shouldn't poke a sleeping animal that can tear your face off. I'm just saying. Maybe some questions are best left unanswered. There are worse things than curiosity left unsatisfied. 

I'm starting to find my use of roman numerals obnoxious. I originally thought it was a good idea because in the process I could teach myself how to read and write roman numerals, but now I feel like it's pretentious. 

Oh yeah, and it's my birthday; I was painting on my lunch break yesterday in the Cafeteria here at work (I take my lunches at 2 pm lately to avoid gawking while I paint) and a woman whom I've never met comes up and asks me:

"Are you painting that for your birthday?" Thought: Yes... I'm painting a picture to give myself on my birthday. 

Which I thought was humorous at the time, because people ask the most absurd questions when they are confronted with art. Like, 

"Did you paint that whole thing?!" Thought: No, in fact I found it and decided to complete it with the watercolor paints, china nests and paintbrushes I just happen to bring to work today.

I can't even handle my own sass sometimes. I don't know where I learned to be such a smart aleck but luckily I've developed a sass filter and I try not to be condescending in any way. There is so much I myself know nothing about. In fact, I'd encourage even the most stupid questions. At least it means people have a pulse and care about anything. The fact that a complete stranger knew it was about to be my birthday was thoughtful enough. I know what people actually mean when they say these things is "Wow that's really nice!" -- and we all need a little bit more of that in the world.

Herein lies the truth. As I sit here today, I've come to regret even thinking it was a dumb question at all, on the contrary...quite perceptive. In many ways I do feel like completing these paintings was a gift to myself. They are really so much more than paintings to me right now. This project represents something, metaphorically that I've been trying to do for a long time. To not have given up on it means a great deal to me, and reminds me that I'm not a person to simply give up on things I've invested in. In hindsight it might have been the most insightful question I've received all week, so thanks lady from work. And Happy Birthday to me. Whew.