Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Dancers (2009) oil on panel, 12x9in.

Tom Seaver

This is a great quote from The Franchise, and I think it says a few things about the life of an artist, too.

"A victory used to give me pleasure, and then a well-pitched inning, and now I get great satisfaction from just one or two pitches a game. I get in a situation where I have to apply everything I know, mentally and physically, on just one pitch. It all comes down to this pitch. I have to think what I should do and then make my body do it. That is a beautiful point to reach for an athlete. A light goes on in your head and you realize that everything you’ve done in your life has been for this moment. Things you’ve been building for years, things you never knew you were building, are right there to be used. Suddenly, you’re the most confident person in the world. You sense you can achieve perfection for just this moment."

"....right there to be used."  Love it. Sounds like he was reading Joseph Campbell.  I saw the quote on Patrick Flood's excellent blog about the Mets.  

There was something I learned from years of straightforward landscape and still life painting: that I didn't think about finishing a painting, I thought more about getting it to the point where I could see how to finish it, and going from there.

Anyway, almost time for a new season to start. It's a formidable mix of pros and cons this year in Flushing. Can't wait for real baseball to start.  Let's go Mets.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Conversation with Wine and Lamp

Oil on canvas, 36Hx54W, 2008-10.  
On the easel in the studio.



Woman with Gun (2003), pastel, 15x11in.

Something old

I don't write much anymore.  This is a little sketch I wrote about 12 years ago, when I was still working on a big writing project (never finished).

He realized one day that he'd lived in New York City long enough to notice the little changes in the backdrop.  Behind the moving crowd and its buzz of faces, he noticed that a famous restaurant had closed and emptied, that a thrift store had become a dry cleaner, a storefront that had once sold fresh vegetables now sold fast food.  In the overwhelming visual glut of the city, these changes occur all the time, and you have to work to notice the small changes in neighborhoods you don't frequent every day.  And it becomes exponentially more difficult to register the changes that are marked only by absences, that is, the changes in the people who make up the crowd.
            She used to come to the Impressionist galleries, the most crowded galleries in the whole museum, and she was so small and frail you worried she might be jostled to death in the throng.  Or even less, her skin seemed so raw that if someone just came too close to her, then that closeness would cause her pain even without a touch, just in the displacement of the air around her.  She wasn't old, but it was difficult to guess her age; not young either, but too young to be dying. 
            Her joints and extremities seemed swollen and nobbed.  Her lips, eyelids, and ears were rubbery and heavy.  Her hair was short and patchy and close to her head.  When she stood in the Impressionist galleries, she lingered in front of the paintings without reading the cards (tourists read the cards), and sometimes she closed her froggy eyes as if the painting could emanate sunlight, instead of just imitating it, and she were basking in the warmth.
            But she couldn't stand for long like that before she had to find a bench and rest, looking exhausted, but also, vaguely, happy. 
            As a guard in the museum it was his job to be invisible, except when someone needed directions to a restroom, or when someone moved too close to the art.  So he stood in the doorway and watched the people come and go, made up stories in his head about them when he was especially bored, overheard interesting scraps of conversation as they moved on to other galleries.  Like hearing setups all day with no punch lines.  So he would finish the conversations in his head, too, anything to keep his mind occupied with something other than his aching feet and how many minutes till his next break. 
            He recognized repeat visitors to the museum so he nodded and smiled to the sick woman when he saw her, and she smiled back, without showing her big teeth.  Other regulars: the dapper old gentleman who hit on young Asian tourist girls; the half-crazy woman who shuffled about the halls in her three pairs of camping socks and old sandals, sitting to write notes in her folder full of yellow paper and brown leaves; several young art students with sketchbooks and dirty hair; an aging socialite always done up with her best pearls.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

After Jack Kirby

Charcoal on paper, 22"Hx15"W. 

Oil on unstretched canvas.  @ 20"Hx12"W. 

On Jack Kirby

I recently came across Kirb Your Enthusiasm in my roamings on the internets, where a bunch of different writers are looking hard at single panels of artwork from the great Jack Kirby.  He was my favorite comic artist growing up, and I remember consciously imitating his style for lengths of time (the weird, longish muscles; the metallic squiggles, the thick fingers, the complex machines, the crackles of cosmic energy); at least I imitated it as best as I could understand it.  I remember instantly recognizing his work whenever I saw it, whether it was current work like Kamandi or Captain America, or reprinted work like the Fantastic Four, Thor, or old fantasy/horror pieces.  

Kirby’s work was wild and big and really exciting to me.  And although I was also nuts about the work of my favorite Spider-Man artist, John Romita, whose work was tighter and cleaner and more conventional and realistic in a lot of ways, Kirby was always King to me.  And I had healthy respect, but not love for Steve Ditko, mostly born out of the fact that he created Spider-Man.  I have more respect for his rubber-limbed figure work and monstrously grinning faces now than I did as a kid.  Those are my Big Three, then and now, and when I see comics today, I unconsciously fit the style I’m looking at as closely as I can to one of them.  

But Kirby, he’s someone I need to go back to, and look at some more.  I need to admit that he’s as big an influence on my own work as my biggest painting heroes, Matisse and deKooning (to name the first two painters who always come to mind).  

A few years ago, when I was looking at and drawing old comic book ads, I also had an uncontrollable urge to draw a couple images from Kirby – a striking little panel from a fantasy mag with two figures in the distance and the Italianate scroll of an old fashioned streetlight in the foreground, and a curvaceous figure from a Thor comic, the Enchantress.  I did them for myself, the first because I loved the composition, the second because I loved the lines.  

As a kid, I didn’t really fully understand the work he was doing in Kamandi or Captain America, but the pictures were enough.  I know I bought my first Kamandi just because of the cover, and not because of the post-apocalyptic, Planet of the Apes-like story.  And maybe because I liked the subtitle of “Last Boy on Earth.”  

So I’m going to spend some time looking at Kirby’s stuff again. I have a few stacks of old comics in my studio, and the next time I’m in Toledo, I’m going to see if I can find some old issues of Kamandi in the crate of my old comics in the hall closet.  And we’ll see what I bring back from all those crackling old universes. 

Shortstop (2007), oil on panel, 8x8in.