Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Painting Up Hill

 I just completed this painting entitled, Up Hill last night in the studio.  It's 12 x 16 on on a cradled panel from Dick Blick that has a kind of textured surface that was fun to paint on. Below tou can see my first blick-in that I let sit for a day while I I mostly used flast on this a finished this week's worth of Judge parker strips.


I mostly used flats on this to block it in then a red sable and a Kafka No 2 pin striping brush for the rest. I love the Kafka brushes in general and use them a lot because they are great for pulling a line and hold their shape as well as a lot of paint. I love painting this time of day where you get the cool and warms colors mixing into each other. This is coming up the hill to the terminal at 69th street and based on a pic I snapped driving home one day from school a year or so ago.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

More Urban Landscapes

I have been hopping back and forth between doing the Judge and painting this week. It was a good week, maybe the best post school with the new set-up and home. I finished these two paintings this week and have two more on the easel that I hope to finish by early next week.
I always have a camera with me thanks to my iPhone so I always find opportunities for paintings like the abandoned Water ice shop, which is a former Dairy Queen I saw on one of my midnight strolls. I have taken up to walking in the evenings to destress and stretch the legs after being in the studio all day.

I have taken to painting on panel of late and was just down at the Dick Blick in Center City and restocked on panels for the big push I have planed this summer painting wise. I still hope to get back to Plein air painting this coming week.

 I-95 11 x 14 Oil on panel

One of the things I do when driving around is snap pics with my iPhone and this painting based on a very dark and pretty blurry pic I took driving into Philly on I-95, but it had a great composition for a painting when I reviewed it.  There wasn't much detail and it was really dark as the camera was aimed towards the sun but often these snapshots will give me an idea or basis for a painting. So the color on this is made up since the picture had so little as well as detail. I have to say  one of the colors I have come to love is thalo green. It can really add something of a surprise color punch to a painting. Its such a strong color though it can overpower a painting too, like thalo blue. Just a touch can spark up a green though in a surprising way. Its a great way to add a vibrancy without adding white to chalk down the color. To me the biggest hurdle in a landscape is handling the color green--and the human eye can see more shade of green than any other color.

So often I see a great view to paint and its from some vantage point like the middle of the expressway or road where I could never set up to work. My solution then is to just shoot away with my iphone or even video the spot as i pass it and try screen grabs or freeze frames later.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Judge Parker Process

Here is a some more  of my comic strip process on the 8-15 JP Sunday that will be coming your way in a month featuring Sam and his long time secretary Gloria, who I get to draw about once a year-year and a half in our time but maybe a few weeks in Parker time.

Above are the pencils and below are the inks. I won't reveal the details of the story but it will change things for sure in the Parkerverse.

One of the things that has changed production wise is I've switched back to using mostly the Hunt 102 for inking instead of the Faber/castle Pitt pens. I love the Pitts much better than the Micron Pigmas, their points are better, but nothing beats the snap of traditional pen nibs. Looking over my collection of original classic strips by Raymond, Prentice and  Williamson recently I just fell in love again with that great master pen-and-ink craftsmanship! JP is probably one of the last places you can really properly apply that set of skills and have it fit handsomely.

At the same time I am still painting away between working on the strip, my painting easel just to my left. My goal is a big fresh body of work by the fall.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Post School Momentum



                                                    Morning on Market Street 9 x 12 Oil


It's been two months since my graduation from the MFA at PAFA and on one hand its seems longer than that and on the other, just a blink of an eye. It seemed longer since I had that much of a break from painting while I was moving home and all that entails, plus a lot of things around the house needed to be dealt with like yard work, which being bluntly honest, I don't like to do. My parents have a green thumb, but not me.

All the month of June was mostly consumed with things that needed to get done and had to get done, which are two very different lists but crossed over into each other making days busy with chores that took me away from the easel. I really only care about the easel. Its all about painting for me at this stage.

It does feel great to not be in school at all, to not be pouring anything into any other cup but mine. I thought I would miss it, but right now I don't, I enjoy being home and rearranging life post academia.

In the past few years I have had many of my friends go through this same transition, from school to the post school life, whatever that might be. In my case the biggest factor for me compared to most is that I still had my "day job" as it were.  I still worked full time on comics and animation while most of my friends didn't have a "before time" in that way and a consistent demand on their creative energies.

I've seen it happen with friends and some of my students that  some hit slumps out of school, some students hit the slump and never recover. Unfortunately that is well over 90% of all art  students it seems. The biggest factor I see is that the momentum of school is what moved them along. Friends, expectations of parents, assignments, teachers, homework, the fantasy of being an artist, the whole ball of energy that school is, and while they were being moved along some never actually had a paddle in the water themselves. School moved them, they did not move themselves. This is maybe the biggest issue coupled with the high price of living, the reality that it takes a lot of $cake$ to even have basic normal living these days. The demand to feed the rent monster and the school loan monster also just take many out of the game.

So, in the weeks following graduation that turn into months and eventually years many never learned to paddle the currents on the river of ART themselves and just get stuck,  stagnant or even sink, some to the demands of life and debt. Some students also loose their way a bit, some loose their voice or realize they were really speaking with the voice of another, likely a teacher. Strong and dynamic teachers are great, but they can also dominate weaker artists in a way that shuts up their own instincts. Also like a prisoner looked away from the illusion of freedom, the real and brutal reality at times of real freedom can whack many students off course. Some recover, get their shit in order, get a map and go, and some again, pull up to the edge and get out. Some keep racing along and never stop, they break the tape and keep going past school into the freedom and wilderness of the post art school life.

                                               Abandoned Brandywine 9 x 12 Oil on panel

That's the type of artist I am or want to be, just keep the oar in the water and going, don't break or stop. I have a set of goals that I have been working on and going over even when I am doing things like cutting shrubbery and giant limbs that have fallen from recent storms, going through old paintings and supplies and tossing junk.

I think every artist should have sort term and long terms goals and checkpoints and be willing to adjust short term goals to reach long term ones. I have been studying the art market since the early 90's and tracking the work and careers of todays top figuative and landscape paintres from Lipking to WU to artist like Kanevsky and more, and building a national list of galleries I will be shopping my work to.

Its a big exhaustive job to try and research a gallery, look at the artists they rep, and get info on the owners, gallery managers and see if they are worth the effort to approach.  I have built a decent list and have my top five galleries I would like to be in and work my way up to. At the same time I look at it as a marriage of a sort, do our values match, are we attracted to each other, is there a real honesty there. I also want to move my work beyond the sometimes insular and stagnant Philly market where sales are tough. I figure I need to be in at least 3 mid-level galleries beyond Philly to start an see where that goes. There are a lot of factors you can't control, and some call it luck, but I think fortune favors the prepared so you have to position yourself to catch and luck that is passing by or created by a chain of events YOU start. It start though by having the work in quality and to be honest in quantity as well. I can't change my station with low output of work.
                                                      Paseo de los suenos 11.5 x 13.5 oil
In the past few weeks I have also started painting again and playing around some and enjoying myself. I want to continue the plein air and landscapes, urban and country and get back to the figure too. I hope to be booking models in the next two weeks. So the new short term goal is to really try and paint every day, even for two hours during deadlines and keep something always on the easel and always moving. I feel like I am in a new stage of experimentation and growth and the most important thing is to keep the palette working.
                                                 A block-in on my easel for a new cityscape

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Repaint Rework New Work

                                                               Two Figures 18 x 24

Since moving everything home from my PAFA studio I have been going through a lot of old paintings from my student days there in cleaning and sorting and reconfiguring my home studio. Some of the paintings I have sold recently in a studio fire sale via my Facebook page ( one going to a fan in Italy) and others are being recycled for surfaces to be painted on again after a fresh coat of primer. I love painting on the surface of an old painting, its so rich and sometimes textural in unexpected ways.

There are so many paintings  though that I can't keep them all and I have even just tossed some---you can't keep everything and you end up it seems as a painter keeping too much stuff anyway. Some of them are also just terrible, and failures--but its good in a way to see the paint mileage add up when looking at all of this old work, some of which I remember painting and being pretty frustrated with at the time. I can see though that being a prolific painter can also create serious storage issues in just a few short years as these paintings can start stacking up if they are not sold or going out to galleries.

There are other paintings though, a handful that I decided to revisit and rework as an experiment and see what might happen in going back into and over them, playing around stylistically using the old painting as a sketch a in a way to build off of. The compositions were good like the one above and it gave me a good ground to start on.

In playing around with paint and revisiting these sometime four year old paintings I took some big liberties style or approach wise based on what I had done the first time. I think having an old work to play with kind of gave me a freedom that I have in a sketchbook as I were, the risk is small, if I messed up-oh well, it was a "gonner anyway".

I also had some ideas or thoughts to try and work looser and push paint around having seen the Zorn show in NYC and Alex Kanevsky's last show got me hungry to push paint around in a more vigorous fashion. I have also been looking at the work of Daniel Pitten and Balcomb Green who both paint in a more abstract and textural fashion with a sometimes collage-like and dreamy feel to their work.

I also wanted to just get back to the easel and haven't had the chance yet to get out and plein air paint yet and these studio paintings can be worked on at any time after my commercial deadlines are over for the day.

I really played around with the paint handling, trying in a way to not make smoothly painted transitions, roll the brush, etc. In this case I liked painting on the one below ( Life 11-14) on panel the most and the one at the top ( Two Figures) the second. The bottom one (Grandma Scarf )was from a Sunday Life session at PAFA with Scott Noel and I started thinking of how the Russian Social realist so boldly applied their strokes of paint. Their work as a whole remains a big inspiration for me in the meaty way they approached painting.

                                                               Life 11-14 16 x 16 Oil
                                                        Grandma Scarf 16 x 20 Oil

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Sam and Abbey: Judge Parker Process

This is a process shot of me working on the Judge Parker strips for the of week 7-2. We've been back at Spencer farm for a day or two now which equals a months worth of strips so far. One thing fans sometimes fail to grasp is how strip time is much longer than real time, and that also depends on the amount of characters and complexity of the story.

We have but three panels to play with every day and I think long time readers are used to this, even though JP has always moved at a slower pace compared to the action strips like Johnny Hazard. I also think modern readers are used to TV and movies, especially current post 90's movies where storytelling is very hyper compared to the strips.

One of the things I like the most about the strip is working with the traditional tools, pen nibs and the brush. I do use Pitt Pens as well, but nothing beats the snap of a good pen nib!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Return to the Wizard of Philly





After a seven year hiatus from comic cons I returned to the Philadelphia Convention Center and the 2014 Wizard World Philly Con. I noticed it was a smaller con and there was no big banner like the last time I attended.

A lot has happened to me and to comics in that seven years since I last walked the halls of a major comic con. I went back to art school and graduated from PAFA with my undergrad and then Masters in painting. I grew a lot as an artist and in many ways in a different direction than comics, and that changed many things in my process and thinking as an artist and put my creative energies in two different domains. Comics really went Hollywood in seven years. I mean really went Hollywood. Its what keeps the whole thing afloat. I couldn't imagine seven years ago Disney owning Marvel and Star Wars.
 
After about 2010 I have only dabbled in comic books, A Superman here, Aquaman there, some Magnus, laying out stuff for other artists, etc., but especially after a big disappointment with Martians Go Home I shifted from animation and comics to comic strips and working on Judge Parker which professionally is the best gig I have ever had. In this time away from the mainstream of comics I have monitored it and watched as the Hollywood aspect of comics has taken over as the main driving and creative force for the mainstream companies.

When I was last at Wizard I saw guys still carting around boxes and want lists, plenty of people, though mostly older, still collecting comic books. Last weekend I saw people just walking with prints, not comics, and it seemed everybody was selling prints, there must have been thousands of them there.

I also saw more women and way more cosplay, and whole families in cosplay. Boyfriend girlfriend cosplay. I know at the anime cosplay conventions this was pretty normal for a while, but there was a ton of it especially on Saturday.


I did a few sketches and sold a little art and did a few panels which were OK, but low attendance I think due to the fact that I didn't see many young artists with portfolios looking for critiques or breaks. I think that is mainly due to the fact that no major publisher does this show. There were no Storm Troopers or Star Wars troups like before, somebody told me it was because they were not getting breaks to get in and it was too expensive.

There was a big lack of the dreaded babymen at the show as well, maybe they orbit the big NYC cons now as the Wizard show is really a general entertainment show. Hell, Whoopi was there! I think the cost of getting in, and people spending big dollars for autographs and the fact that it seems more about whats on TV and the movies than in the comics has changed the game, at least for this con. People are fans of Wolverine, or Spidey but not necessarily of the comic books of these characters. In a way I think its what the companies really want, mass popularity based on the new media platforms, and print really isn't a big part of that now, its marginalized, I really felt that at this show.

My long time buddy, former Marvel editor Danny Fingeroth got me in and on the panels. I had a good time, maybe in an ironic way more than before when I was more involved daily in drawing comic books as a profession back in 2007. Now I have hot irons in other fires and don't seek artistic fulfillment from comics now, I still love doing it but my painting fulfills me in a way comics can't.

 I also think that readership is an older persons thing it seems, so many stories in the media about this now and people trying to find a way to get kids to read, and its seems that comics would be a natural...but I think the cellphone and tablet are too deep in the youth culture now. Kids mostly don't read, or like too it seems and I never saw a single kid with a comic the whole time over the four days. All in all I can see how the rise of geek culture to the mainstream makes everything geek more acceptable but in a way also a lot of it the same and kinda' boring.

That always happens when things tend to reach a mass audience level.

But it seems it is constant con world now with multiple cons happening every week and then I suppose we will either have the constant con or maybe an implosion of some sort lead by the failure of movies, and the fact that once saturation is reached, people will want something different?