Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Acrylics and correction fluid on paper, approx. 24" x 48"
This was one of my first acrylics paintings that I created in the Spring of 1999. I named the piece after the year, in fact. The canvas actually belonged to an old painting that was in the basement of the student house where I was living, some light drawing of flowers. The canvas wasn't primed, which made for a big mess with the acrylic paints. I'm pretty sure I covered up the basement floor pretty well. Maybe. Ahem.
This was a very large painting and I enjoyed hanging it on the wall. Somebody bought it, but I honestly can't remember the details. Fortunately, I was able to send it to the photographer and save it for posterity.
Thursday, August 03, 2017
Take the Power Back (1999)
Acrylics on canvas, 16" x 20"
Mixed media on canvas
Take the Power Back is part of a series of acrylics paintings I created in 1999. I was living in a large house in Dinkytown at the University of Minnesota, one of those student houses where everyone has a room and shares the living room and kitchen. There was a very large basement that was well-lit and well supplied, and worked perfectly for me. I was free to make a very large mess on the concrete floor with my paints and canvas.
I've always enjoyed this piece, it's one of my favorites. There's a lot of action and movement, multiple layers like an endless series of explosions. It was always my conviction that abstract expression should flow and sway. It should never be static, but alive. "Action Painting" should apply to the art and not just the artist who creates it.
The B-Side is one of the earlier ones, most likely created in 2000, but possibly began sometime in 1999 (the red marker text). The whole idea arose from my idea that art could be created that was purely text-based, not unlike newspaper or website layouts. Scott McCould was also a source of inspiration for these ideas.
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Mike Tyson Eats Children (2000)
Acrylic paints on paper, 20" x 30"
This painting was created with only two colors of paint, mixed with some kitchen floor tile enamel that I found in a basement. That was a nice discovery, and it mixed with the paints very nicely. The extra thickness of acrylics allow for more swirling and mixing around, which was a lot of fun. This was created after I had begun the watercanvas series, so I adopted those techniques to these paints.
The title was another gag, taken from a line Mike Tyson threw out during the promotion of one of his later fights before finally retiring.
Finally, is it just me, or do you see a face in the upper half of this piece? That's probably just my brain making trouble for me, finding patterns in everything just for kicks. But, still. I have too many "haunted" paintings in my collection. Weird.
Monday, July 31, 2017
The Amazing Mumford (2000)
Crayons on paper, 8" x 10"
Sometime in the year 2000, I found a Sesame Street coloring book that featured all these amazing portraits. It was the perfect material for a series of crayon drawings. I did this previously with Curious George, and then followed with two or three dozen portraits from this book.
I can't remember if I used correction fluid on this piece. I might have, it does appear to be so. I was also experimenting here and there with melting crayons, which were kind of like dripping hot wax onto paper or canvas. Unfortunately, that technique never allowed for any variety aside from droplets, and so I moved on to other materials. As always, it's best to use whatever tools you have nearby. Jackson Pollack was a proponent of that theory, and it's always worked for me.
Conceptually, this and the other "coloring book" portraits are rooted in abstract expressionism, but also inspired by the way pre-school children play with crayons. Their freewheeling chaos is always much more interesting and fun that the older students, who quietly obey the rules and color within the lines. Sometimes that works. Oftentimes, it does not.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
If Sega was famous for anything in the 1990s, it was their advertising campaigns, which portrayed them as teenage rebels against the stodgy, old-fashioned children of the Nintendo era. It was enormously successful for the Sega Genesis, thanks to blockbuster hits like Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage and EA Sports. The Saturn era, however, proved to be far more turbulent and difficult, as the company lost their "cool" mojo to new rival Sony, whose Playstation became a global success.
Sega managed to regain their footing late in the Saturn era, circa 1997, with confident advertising campaigns that hailed back to the Genesis glory days. Nobody ever understood the logic behind the mid-90s "alternative" bent of those early Saturn commercials, which were far too arty and abstract to make any sense (it certainly never helped that the first wave of Saturn games were notoriously glitchy, and combined with the system's May 1995 launch, all but destroyed the console's reputation).
This print ad for Sonic Jam is an example of one of the better attempts. The layouts are professional and clean, communicating its message clearly, but without the dopey teenage humor that plagued the latter 16-bit era. The Genesis teenagers are now Saturn college students, and Sega finally managed to understand that. I suspect Sega's new CEO Bernie Stolar was responsible for this change, hiring new advertising agencies to refocus their aim. Stolar has been portrayed as a cartoon super-villain by the Sega diehards all these years, the scapegoat for Saturn's failures. By 1997, the Saturn was all but finished in the United States, and there was damned near nothing Stolar and his people could do about it. Radiant Silvergun and X-Men vs Street Fighter wouldn't have changed squat.
Anyway, this is a good ad, like all the latter Saturn print ads. Once again, Sega of America was being dealt a poor hand with the lack of any proper Sonic the Hedgehog title, but there wasn't anything they could do about it. Sonic Jam was as good as things were going to get -- a suicidal move in the post-Super Mario 64 landscape.
Sonic Jam is an excellent greatest-hits package, although the conspicuous lack of Sonic CD was, and remains, a glaring omission. I still cannot understand why Sega left out one of their finest classics. I also cannot understand why the 3D "Sonic World" -- a fully 3D polygon stage featuring Sonic in his native environment, jumping on platforms, wading through rivers, and grabbing elusive gold rings -- was never expanded into a full-size videogame. Sonic Team had limited resources, of course, which were already stretched thin with NiGHTS: Into Dreams and Burning Rangers (and the bonus stages in the otherwise forgettable Sonic 3D World, which they are credited for creating). Frankly, they should have moved Burning Rangers to the Dreamcast and given us Sonic on the Saturn. This 3D world is terrific, and if it were only expanded just a little, if only a few enemies were placed here and there, if only we were given a side dish instead of a full meal...if only, if only.
Sonic Jam is left as the great "what if" of its era. Sega clearly understood that they seriously dropped the ball by leaving their mascot off the system, leaving Sonic in the hands of the American STI crew, who famously bungled through the Sonic Xtreme project (it had some promising ideas, but don't kid yourself, it would have been a terrible videogame if released). But that's Sega for ya. It's a miracle they were ever successful in the first place.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
You Can Be Loved (2001)
Watercolors, spray paint and olive oil on canvas, 18" x 24"
At long last, we come to the conclusion of my watercanvas series, which were created during 2000-2001. I did create at least five or six more paintings, but they were never photographed for posterity before being sold. If you're a collector or future historian, then you'll have to search around Minneapolis for those missing paintings. Even I can't really remember all of them, so good luck.
This piece was one of three that used olive oil, and one of two that used gold spray paint as a base. The spray paint turned out to be a mistake, even though it worked wonders on the colors. Over time, the watercolor paints would chip away from the canvas, falling away until only a fragment of the original piece remained. This would occur fairly quickly, usually within a few weeks. You can see this in the official photograph above.
Looking more closely, it appears that the first layer of watercolor paints remained largely undamaged, so perhaps this was an issue when adding multiple layers. Perhaps I should experiment more with spray paint and watercolors on canvas. There may be a workable solution, or it may all be a loss. But such things happen when you experiment with radical new ideas. Not everything is going to work.
In any case, this was a great painting. The colors and composition of the black (serving the traditional role of the Kinko's correction fluid) are especially striking and portray a strong sense of motion and space.
The title comes from the Bob Marley song, another song reference. I probably should have spent more time practicing guitar and playing in local bands. Oh, well. The "watercolors on canvas" series has ended, for now, at least. I still think it's a great idea that other artists should embrace. We just haven't had the proper exposure yet. Give it time. Putting everything online might help spread the word. Right? Bueller? Stay tuned.
Friday, July 28, 2017
Yoshi Lays An Egg (2000)
Watercolors and correction fluid on canvas, 16" x 20"
Mixed media on canvas
Yoshi Lays An Egg is the third watercanvas painting I created, after Mario and Luigi Are Jerks (#1) and The Great American Sellout (#2). By this point, I was using watercolor tubes from the art supply stores near the University of Minnesota. The colors are very rich and saturated and flow nicely, although I was still learning the process of making watercolors paints and water on primed canvas, which is very different than the standard paper.
During 1999 and early 2000, I was using both 16" x 20" and 18" x 24" for acrylic paintings. After this piece, I pretty much used the larger size exclusively for the watercanvas series.
The title refers to the Nintendo videogame character, who lays eggs and then uses them to attack enemies in Yoshi's Island. It's just a gag, played for laughs.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
I Think I'm Starting to Understand Why People Go to the Bathroom in Groups (2000)
Watercolors and correction fluid on canvas, 18" x 24"
Mixed Media on Canvas
The title to this painting is a punchline from the MTV animated series Daria, which I absolutely loved. Daria's dry wit and endless riffing reminded me of a Gen-X Groucho Marx. You probably had to be one of the smart, brainy kids who were surrounded by vapid jocks, frats and preppies, that's your go-to program.
The style of this Watercanvas painting is more subdued than usual, relying on lighter color tones and smoother textures. There isn't six things happening at once, and the colors are somewhat subdued. It looks very well, if I must say. It's all very cosmic, as I was always a dedicated student of astronomy and spent much of my time listening to Pearl Jam's Binaural album and admiring the cover and art design.
The B-Side to this painting was one of the later ones, and this is really around the time when the zine graffiti style began to take over. There are a number of different techniques, and there's a strong effort to keep the composition varied and complex. Its design probably owes as much to newspaper and website design as anything, and once again we see my attempts to join together Pop Art with Modern Abstraction.
The model portraits were taken from catalogs that were lying around the college house I was living in at the time. I think. I can't fully remember, but I might have saved some photos and poses that I liked and held on to them for reference. All of this hails back to a short series of Model Portraits that I assembled during a two-week cold spell in early 1999, taken mostly from Victoria's Secret catalogs (among other sources). It was one of those things that impressed me at the time...but, oy froynlavin, it embarrasses me today.
In any case, this is one of the better ones, and possibly the best B-Side of the Watercanvas series.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
What You Think of As Beauty is Merely Good Looking (2001)
Watercolors, gold spray paint and olive oil on canvas, 18" x 24"
This piece is one of several that featured the use of olive oil (yes, the same kind you use on your food) mixed with the paints. Combined with the gold spray paint foundation (which greatly enhanced the richness of the colors but caused a host of long-term problems), this would result in the paint flaking away, eventually wearing away most of the painting.
The Spider-Man painting didn't use gold spray paint, and so was spared this problem. But I have seen it happen with You Can Be Loved and this piece (to a lesser extent). It's all part of the learning process. Fortunately, I was able to take photos of these paintings while they were still in the prime of their youth.
I sold this painting years ago, back around 2001-2003, and so have no idea as to its current (2017) condition. Hopefully the buyer didn't merely become frustrated that throw everything away. Hopefully most of the original paints remained intact. Who knows, maybe self-destructing art becomes the next big thing? Passage of Time, Everything Is Ephemeral, yadda yadda blah blah blah. You can sell the public on anything with the right sales pitch.
In any case, I really liked this piece, especially the rich colors and the way the oil interacts with the watercolors.
Friday, July 21, 2017
War Without End, Amen Parts I-II (2003)
This addition to the 2003 Digital Artwork series was created as a series of interlocking tiles, much like you would see in videogame graphics. In fact, I used Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 to test out these pieces. If I have the opportunity to show these works in a gallery setting, I'll have to use at least one as a giant tiled wallpaper.
The two variations are very close. The reason why I kept several variations is simple: I didn't want to throw anything away. But each version had to look a little different, have a slightly different twist. Perhaps this owes to my Pop Art inspiration (think of Warhol's portraits). Of the two, the first is more crisp and detailed, while the second shows a smoothness and a glow that reminds me of CRT televisions. And they both look very organic and trippy and colorful.
The title once again refers to the 2003 Iraq War and conflicting/ironic religious imagery, which critique the morality of America's "Christian" Republican Party waging war on innocents for no useful reason whatsoever.
For my March 31, 2003 notes on my old art website, I used this page to include a number of relevant quotes that referenced the Iraq War. I feel these are still relevant today, especially given America's infamously short attention span an inability to ever face unpleasant events. Ours is not a nation that likes to seriously question its cherished myths. Human nature is ever thus.
Here are the quotes from DanielThomas.org in its entirety:
"The first casualty of war is truth."
- Senator Hiram Johnson (CA), one of six Senators to vote against American entry into World War I, 1917
"We are in the Mideast for three letters, oil, O-I-L."
- Bob Dole, speaking about the first Gulf War
"The vast majority of the country's population has been on a semi-starvation diet for years."
- World Health Organization reporting on Iraq
"They were wrong during Vietnam, and they're wrong today."
- Former US Representative Bob Dornan, who also called Senator John Kerry "a Judas Catholic."
"Americans and indeed our foreign allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway will be considered enemies of the state by me."
- Bill O'Reilly
"There are four countries that will never support us. Never. Cuba, Libya, and Germany. I forget the fourth."
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
"We should not march into Baghdad. . . . To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero . . . assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerrilla war. It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability."
- President George H. W. Bush, in his 1998 memoirs
"This is scripted."
- President George W. Bush
"The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense."
- Jonah Goldberg, National Review
"A tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace."
- Internal NBC memo describing MSNBC host Phil Donahue, whose top-rated show was later cancelled
"A Kuwaiti woman rode through the streets of Kuwait City on Wednesday during celebrations marking the 12th anniversary of Liberation Day."
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 27. Women have little or no rights under the dictatorship of Kuwait.
"Using both an iron fist and a velvet glove, the Pentagon expects to neutralize Iraq's army, kill or capture Saddam - and leave the country's civilians and most cities and towns untouched."
- USA Today, February 21
"...the sponsors of these protests were not peace protesters at all. They are all talking about racism, environmental wacko-ism, feminism or other liberal causes. Very little about these protests was about the war in Iraq. If they were for peace, they would give every dollar they raise to the U.S. defense department because it's the U.S. defense department that keeps the peace and liberates the oppressed in the world and gives them the opportunity to have freedom, which is what we want for Iraq. It's beyond me how anybody can look at these protesters and call them anything other than what they are: anti-American, anti-capitalist, pro Marxists and communists."
- Rush Limbaugh
"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors."
- Ann Coulter, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference
"The Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires."
- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at John Carroll University
"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!
"Who won your right to show up here today? Protesters or soldiers?
"How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them.
"Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street"
- Fox News ticker, broadcast on the news ticker surrounding their Sixth Avenue headquarters, responding to New York protesters on March 27
"Where's the Ohio National Guard when you really need it? Seriously? Hey, if a campus crank can wish for personal calamity to befall U.S. forces in Iraq, why not fantasize about a volley of Kent State-style militia musketry rattled off in his general direction?"
- New York Post, March 30
"Protesting this war while our troops are being killed is equal to treason. You should all be shot."
- Pro-war sign at a Baton Rouge protest rally, March 31, alongside American flags
"Despite [their right to protest], I think these son-of-a-buggers deserve a bullet in the head."
- Baton Rouge talk radio host Richard Condon
"There's nothing like a war or rumors of war to resuscitate the anti-war movement in the U.S.
"Every leftist hatred came under attack: capitalism, colonialism, oppression, racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, consumerism, individualism, and on and on. Meaningless slogans dominated the festivities: 'No Blood for Oil,' 'Drop Bush, Not Bombs,' 'Stop War, End Racism.'
"'Instead of spending $400 billion every year for weapons of mass destruction and to promote militarism,' the leftists maintain, 'our money must spent to provide free education, healthcare and childcare, jobs and job training, expanded support for the elderly and other things that human beings need.'"
- Barrett Kalellis, Newsmax.com, January 21. Keep in mind that he's criticizing the protesters.
"You can support the troops but not the President."
- Sen. Trent Lott, speaking about the 1998 attacks in Kosovo and Iraq
"The spirit of Jefferson Davis lives in the 1984 Republican platform."
- Sen. Lott, again, speaking to the 1984 convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
"The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction, and our children will be the beneficiaries."
- Sen. Lott, yet again, in remarks to a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens in 1992. The CCC is the modern-day version of the White Citizens Councils of the 1960s.
This Smells Like Denny's (2000)
Watercolors and correction fluid on paper, 18" x 24"
This is a very colorful Watercanvas painting. I like how the mass of colors don't quite fit together, and yet still share a boldness and vitality. Multiple layers of watercolor paints add to the variety of textures on the canvas. The correction fluid was used for slight accents. The weird thing is that mass on the top-right that kinda looks like a face. Is it just me, or does that look like Richard Nixon's ghost haunting the painting? I had a lot of those in my paintings during this period, when I was sharing a room in an old house. Was the basement really haunted or was that just my imagination?
Here are my notes from 2003 on this piece, where I raised the same questions, funny enough:
"The title was a great line that Kristen Gilbertson, my girlfrend at the time, penned on a road trip. Now everybody start saying it in daily conversation until it becomes an offical part of American Slang. Or maybe we should let the British have it. You poor kids got stuck with all the lousy slang words. Wanna snog? Ewww! Yuck! Get some tissue paper, already! That's not going to get you on first base in this Hemisphere.
"Should I say something about the painting? The usual "looks great, lot of hard work" routine? If you spent five minutes at this website, you'll know the drill. Instead, how about this: Have you noticed there seem to be a lot of Watercanvas paintings with faces in them? I'm serious.
"Look up; doesn't it look like Nixon's ghost is haunting my painting? Or how about the face in Pigeons and Paperclips that looks like Frank Zappa? Or the ghostly images in Great American or Yoshi Lays an Egg or You're a Nice Girl or Mike Tyson Eats Children or the b-side to Rebecca Smith? You could even go all the way back to Black Light Yellow. I honestly never intended to put any of those there; maybe this is just an instance of seeing shapes in the clouds, but this is just wierd. And I think there are a couple more I forgot to mention...cue The Twilight Zone theme song...
"I'm only half-joking here; I've been convinced that at least a couple houses I've lived in were haunted. Then again, I have a pretty active imagination, as you can see already. Na na na na, na na na na..."
Monday, July 17, 2017
The Earl of Usher is Spider-Man (2001)
Watercolors on canvas
Hooray, my first post on my new iMac. I finally switched computers after the HP Pavillion desktop PC started failing. This was the third HP hard drive to fall apart in less than two years, so I decided to just chuck the whole system and buy a computer that actually, ya know...works.
Anyway, back to this Watercanvas painting. It was one of only three paintings in this series to use olive oil, which was part of my endless experimenting. Unfortunately, I should have known that the oil would not mix well with watercolors, and would, in time, erode and eat away at them. This did have the interesting effect of creating these very detailed and layered patterns, almost like burn marks. The end result is more of a visual tone poem than the Abstract Expressionist style I relied upon at the time.
The title actually comes from an extremely obscure indie computer game made for the Atari 800 sometime in the early 1980s. It was called "The House of Usher" and was a low-grade Donkey Kong ripoff, which was a common thing at the time (Mr. Robot, Jumpman and Miner 2049'er all followed the same or similar formula). Unfortunately, this video game was extremely buggy and never played properly. It was either never completed or suffered file corruption in the process of being pirated onto blank floppy disks (ahem).
In this game, all that happens is that you see the player-character at the base of a series of platforms and ladders, just like Donkey Kong. You hear some opening musical chords, and when the music stops, the player just crashes through the floor and dies. It was kind of funny to me. When all your player's lives are lost, the game ends, and you are taken to a "game over" screen featuring a rainbow color pattern and a mysterious message. The message read as follows:
"The Earl of Usher is Spider-Man"
I still have no idea what that means. It was just bizarre and funny, and always stayed in my memory all these years. And so it became the name of one of my paintings.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
The Great Skatepark of Life (2000)
Watercolors and correction fluid on canvas, 18" x 24"
Here's another very colorful addition to the Watercanvas series. I enjoyed working with the warm color tones (red-orange-yellow) because they mixed and flowed so easily. Add in a few blue-green accents and you have a nice little painting. The Kinko's correction fluid is used for short strokes and rounded dabs. I was always mindful to not just repeat the same lines and patterns with each piece.
The B-Side for this piece, as we've seen from several examples, is a collage work that resembles graffiti art and high school yearbooks. I started scribbling these on the back sides of paintings sometime around 1999 and 2000, and by 2001 I had included "B-Sides" to nearly all of my works on paper and canvas.
Eventually, this style - zine graffiti, perhaps? - became the basis for my Desk Calendar series 2007-today. Which reminds me, I still have to finish the last sketches for June 2017. And it's almost halfway through July, ack!
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Pigeons and Paperclips (2000)
Watercolors and correction fluid on canvas, 18" x 24"
Here are my extensive notes on this painting (both sides), written and revised in 2005:
"Pigeons and Paperclips is a brilliant example of perfect balance. The b-side is just as cool as the front, maybe even better. I don't remember where the title came from, but it has a good rhythm; it refers somewhat to Bert (as in Ernie & Bert) and his love for...well, y'know. They even make a cameo, both here and on The Great Skatepark of Life.
"The front side (The a-side? Worked for Soundgarden.) came together with a lot of special effects from dish soap bubbles to garlic salt to liquid paper. This is actually the Liquid Paper brand, which interacts with watercolors much differently than the Kinko's brand I usually use. This particular brand of correction fluid doesn't mix with water; they clump together in the same way paint would. For this reason, I have almost always avoided the Liquid Paper brand, turning to the Kinko's brand.
"Most of these visual effects are the standard effects for watercolor paintings; the difference this time is that watercolors are being applied on canvas, not paper. Canvas holds water, and absorbs it very slowly. This means two things: one, you can use a lot of water, much more than is possible for paper; two, the slower drying process allows for more stylized patterns and mixing.
"For inspiration, I spent over a year studying oil spills on the street, from parked cars (thanks a lot for the pollution, you jerks), watching the way oil swirls in water. The first time I painted watercolors on a canvas, I discovered that one could recreate these very effects. I also discovered that this was a new idea, never even considered by established artists and academia. This is undiscovered territory.
"So my hope is that you are inspired by these paintings, and feel compelled to create your own. I don't think formal education or great skills are required; to quote one of the many great lines from Porco Rosso: 'Can you tell me the first requirement for a good pilot? Experience?' 'No, inspiration.'"
Monday, July 10, 2017
Cookie Monster (2000)
crayons on paper, 8.5" x 11"
Cookie Monster comes from a Sesame Street coloring book I found at a bookstore, and follows a similar series of abstract crayon sketches with Curious George. This idea was born from a desire to bring together Abstract Expressionism with Pop Art. Pollack meets Warhol, that sort of thing.
There was an artist named Glen Ligon who created a compelling art series with children's coloring books. He created a series of templates featuring famous civil rights leaders, and brought together a group of children to have them color and create. The results were very fascinating, ranging from naturalistic to pure emotional expressionism. Naturally, most of this was due to the age of each child, as we are all taught to draw "within the lines." Five-year-olds rarely do this; they just scribble from the heart, and their masterpieces are usually more fun to watch. I think I wanted to capture this spirit with my coloring book series. That was certainly my goal with this piece.
If memory serves, I created this one Friday or Saturday evening while waiting tables at the Dinkytown Pizza Hut (which has long since been closed down and replaced with student housing). It was a slow night, and we were often prone to goofing off, usually playing videogames on the televisions.
I really like Cookie Monster. I like the colors and abstract scribbles. I made sure to put a spotlight (the yellow sun) behind the subject, and not clutter up the frame too much. It's important to leave some open space to let the artwork breathe.