Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 71

I've had a lot of things going on today, so it was difficult to make time for a drawing until later in the night. Once I sat down to work, a pretty serious case of artist's block set in - and I was frozen. Ultimately, I referred to a "reserve list" of ideas that I've accumulated in my sketchbook in order to get the process going.

The idea I chose was a very good one - an idea that I've been looking forward to making a reality for some time. And then, something strange happened.

This particular concept requires the portrayal of me with a somber, almost sad face. I tried three different versions of the theme, and it just didn't work. A little while later while I was taking a break from attempting to draw, Shana told me that I sure seemed overly happy tonight . . . and then it hit me. I couldn't make the drawing I wanted to because my mood was TOO good!

Often times, I look at art making in the same regard as acting. Sometimes the artist has to get into character in order to make a particular artwork. And while it generally works for me, tonight was not the case. I simply needed to make an artwork that showed me with a smile!

#71 December 30, 2010,  Pen and colored pencil on brown paper bag

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 70

Today's self-portrait is one of the silliest ones that I've done for this project. I've always been a fan of the completely off-the-wall song Fish Heads, which I've loved since I was in middle school. At some point earlier today, I had the idea to use a photo of myself and couple of my oldest buddies, Eric and Pat...and to go with the Fish Heads theme. This is one of those cases where I will simply say: don't ask, because I sure as hell don't know!

Fish heads, fish heads
Roly-poly fish heads.
Fish heads, fish heads,
Eat them up, yum!

#70 December 29, 2010,  Collage

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 69

The good and the bad:

I originally started this self-portrait with a clear idea in mind. But, as is often the case, the idea changed and became something else. Honestly, I love it when this happens because I think it's fantastic when art is allowed to grow on its own and the idea is allowed to become one of the infinite possibilities that it can become.

On the other hand, the original idea was very similar to yesterday's drawing. Call it a "sequel," if you will. As the changes started happening, the drawing became what seems to have become my "style": underdrawing in pencil, drawing in pen, bold heavy outline. While I like the idea of creating a "personal style," I most definitely do not want to become a one-trick pony, a-la Bob Ross.

Perhaps it's time to experiment a little more...

#69 December 28, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Daughtry, Daughtry

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 68

I haven't made a habit of giving titles to these self-portraits. Sure, most of them should just be called "Self-Portrait Number Whatever." On the other hand, some of them have had a pretty clear theme. That is the case with tonight's drawing.

Perhaps a good title for this one would be "The Spoken Word Filter." I think that every person alive has wished for a device of sorts that would allow them to make changes to what they said in certain situations. Maybe they wished to be more gentle and caring toward people close to them. Or perhaps they would choose their words - or the way they were spoken - just a little more carefully so there wasn't a misunderstanding or hurt feelings. And sometimes a person thinks of the exact thing they wish they had said long after the moment has passed.

I think that whenever this project is over with, I'll work on inventing a spoken word filter. I personally think there's a pretty good market for something like that...

#68 December 27, 2010,  Charcoal
Sounds: The Avett Brothers, Live, Volume 3

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 67

This drawing has some elements of truth, and some not.

I finished making the drawing a little after 10:00pm and this writing was started immediately afterward. I intentionally portrayed myself with a smile and closed eyes, so it looks as though I might be enjoying some nice thoughts. In reality, I am exhausted from lack of sleep last night and then subsequently working on the house all day today. In other words, I may look happy while daydreaming of nice things, but in reality I am longing for nothing more than a soft bed and those same closed eyes in slumber!!

#67 December 26, 2010,  Pencil
Sounds:  O.A.R., Any Time Now

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 66

It's been literally years since I've used this color of conte, called sanguine. And that's pretty strange, really, because I always enjoyed working with that rusty color, especially on plain white paper. I've always been pleased with the range of values that can be achieved from very light to very dark with this medium.

It's also interesting to look at my recent self-portraits. While I've said before that I consider myself to be a very happy person, it seems that images of myself are made with a frown, or scowl, or a general irritated expression. I'm pleased to report that the past three days' drawings have portrayed me with some form of smile! Perhaps I've been even happier than usual...

#66 December 25, 2010,  Conte
Sounds:  Johnny Cash, The Legend of Johnny Cash

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 65

You may be all about "Merry Christmas" or you might be a "Happy Holidays" kind of person. You might think that the holiday is about the recognition of a particular birth, or simply about the spirit of giving and gathering with friends and family. Either way, I personally believe that wishing good tidings on our fellow man is a pretty great thing. To quote the eternal words of the great John Lennon:

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?
Another year over and a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young.

A very merry Christmas,
And a happy New Year;
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear.

And so this is Christmas, for weak and for strong;
The rich and the poor ones, the road is so long.
So happy Christmas, for black and for white;
For yellow and red ones, let's stop all the fight.

A very merry Christmas,
And a happy New Year;
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear...

Merry Christmas . . . Happy Holidays

#65 December 24, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Carrie Rodriguez, She Ain't Me

Incidentally, this is self-portrait #65 . . . only 300 more to go!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 64

I had an incredibly interesting conversation today.

Psychologically speaking, when a person loves something so passionately, they tend to hold on to it tightly. The analogy was that of a person holding a delicate bird, and they love that little bird SO much that they squeeze it tighter and tighter and tighter until . . . the bird is injured or worse, it dies.

I think loving a person is the same way. A person simply can't hold on so tight, and squeeze, and pressure, and force . . . love comes naturally and has to breathe to be able to grow and remain strong. Sometimes it grows and blossoms...and sometimes it dies.

Interestingly enough, I think this might be the first time I have ever drawn a WHITE bird. It's probably pretty obvious that the color of the bird, along with the look on my face, tell a story of a person who has a powerful love for someone...

#64 December 23, 2010,  Pen
Sounds:  Allison Moorer, Show (CD & DVD)

Day 63

I keep finding more and more things that this project means to me.

I got to thinking today that I'm very focused on numbers, namely the number of people who look at this blog on a daily basis. Sure there are the loyal "fans" that don't miss a day, and I'm very grateful for their support and interest in what I do. On the other hand, there are some viewers who just check in every now and then...and that's okay as well. But on the days when the numbers of viewers are very low - well, that's what I've been thinking about.

There are times when I do a self-portrait that I really love (like yesterday) and there are times when I absolutely hate what I've made (like two days ago). And there are also times when I find the day's artwork merely acceptable - such as today. But the point is that my initial idea for this project was not about how many people I could get to look at it or for whatever the ultimate result might be (although I DO have some cool ideas!). No, my original intention was simply to look for a way to break a pretty extreme artist's block and to find motivation for making art on a daily basis. So far, so good!

I wouldn't say that there's a hidden meaning in this portrait, although I can think of several possible interpretations. As always, I will leave it up to every individual viewer to decide what it means to each of them. But when it comes down to it, I'm going to focus less on "numbers" and more on the process, because that's what has been damned fun for the past 63 days!

#63 December 22, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Dropkick Murphys, Blackout

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 62

As I watched a concert on TV tonight, I was reminded of something that I've always found a little funny: the way that musicians (namely rock stars) will tend to wear sunglasses onstage. It doesn't even matter how dark the concert venue may be, they have their shades on in an attempt to help them look cooler!!

I've mentioned before in this blog that I am a huge music fan. In fact, I often like to say that the greatest injustice in my life is my substandard musical ability! This portrait is an homage to lost musical dreams, and the expression on my face hints at that of a lead guitarist playing a blistering solo!

Interestingly enough, my sketchbook is reflected near the bottom of the sunglasses, perhaps as a tribute to the dream that did come true...

#62 December 21, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Utopia, Utopia

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 61

Today was a difficult day to draw. I spent the better part of the day fighting with a confusing electrical wiring diagram, to no avail. So as evening became night, the last thing I really wanted to do was draw. Ironically, this is actually the third drawing I did in the sitting. While I can't say that I'm terribly pleased with the result, it IS better than the other two!

I will say, however, that it was fun to work with the silver pencil on black paper. Even though I don't feel that I achieved the overall effect I was shooting for, the process was interesting.

#61 December 20, 2010,  Prismacolor colored pencils on black paper
Sounds:  Frank Zappa, Sheik Yerbouti

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 60

I hope it goes without saying that today's image is borrowed very heavily from the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album. The cover art is such an iconic image in popular culture that it's instantly recognizable. I have a copy of it hanging in my house, and as I stared at it this evening, this idea came to me.

Obviously I altered the pose to position myself looking toward the viewer, as opposed to the profile view of George, Paul, Ringo, and John as they crossed the street. In some respects, however, I added my own bit of hidden imagery, just as the band was originally accused of doing. Call it an artistic message in a bottle; maybe you'll get it, and maybe you won't!

#60 December 19, 2010,  Pen

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 59

This idea is a continuation of a theme from a painting of mine called The Weight of It All.    I really like occasionally revisiting older artworks because it gives me a chance to look at the idea again and possibly create an even better image than before,  This is not something new; artists have done this many times before.  One of the greatest examples is Edvard Munch's artwork called The Scream, which he reworked many times.  (And was also used again and again by other artists as it was asimilated into pop culture...)

It goes without saying that an artist's mood will dictate the type of imagery that they will create.  It's interesting that I find myself with similar feelings while creating this image as I had when I first worked with this theme...

#59 December 18, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Seth Avett, The Mourning, the Silver, the Bell

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 58

As I've said before, I really love using colored pencils, although I rarely seem to use them much anymore. And using them on colored paper is even better.

Although our styles are slightly different, I have noticed a bit of a parallel in my work with that of my friend Nora Othic, as well as one of her influences Wayne Thiebaud.  Nora enjoys adding an unexpected color - perhaps a bright pink or orange - that would not occur under normal circumstances.  As I neared completion of this drawing, I realized that something was missing.  Sure, the portrait looked fine and I was happy with it for the most part, but it just didn't "pop." 

That all changed when I added the bright green outline!  When doing this sort of thing, however, it's important to add a bit of the color elsewhere to create a sense of unity.  Upon closer inspection, viewers will find touches of that same green in the hair and in shades of the skin tone.

And for those with a discerning eye: yes, I got a haircut...

#58 December 17, 2010,  Colored pencil (Prismacolor) on paper

Day 57

The art of Rene Magritte is probably the single biggest influence on me as a painter. Not only do I borrow heavily from his style, but I also hold dear one of his personal philosophies about art-making: like Magritte, I generally refuse to give an interpretation of my art.

I once had a person sign the guestbook at one of my exhibitions; she mentioned which painting she particularly liked, and wrote what it meant to her. Frankly, I had to laugh because what she thought the painting represented literally could not have been farther from what the image actually meant to me! But then I got to thinking that this person had brought her own experiences, ideas, and beliefs to the artwork and these things had all led her to her own interpretation. For that reason, even though she didn't get my meaning, she was still not wrong with what it meant to her.

This is why I usually won't tell what an artwork is about; I like for the viewer to find their own meaning for each individual piece, rather than simply relying on me to TELL them what it is supposed to mean. And this drawing is no different...

#57 December 16, 2010,  Charcoal on brown paper bag
Sounds: Elvis Presley, Elv1s 30 #1 Hits

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 56

I took a different approach to drawing today. While looking through a contemporary art history textbook, I noticed some ink drawings that were very loose and gestural.  I took this inspiration and altered the concept, doing these drawings with only the dropper in the top of the ink bottle.

I can't say that this style of drawing is particularly revolutionary, because I'm sure that hundreds of artists have drawn in this same manner, probably the most well-known being Ralph Steadman. The reason I describe it as a "different approach" is mainly as an indicator of my own technique, because it's yet another way that I'm attempting to abandon my comfort zone. As I've stated before, I've always been a bit of a traditionalist and today's style is far from that.

It should go without saying that I had a lot of fun making today's self-portrait. For this reason, I actually made MANY drawings today! I chose my favorites and put them all on you could say that I'm giving a three-for-one deal today!  But all joking aside, there's a lot to be said about how realism is completely unnecessary in today's art world, and that an artist should be true to themself - not what they think is expected of them.  That particular idea applies to anyone, for that matter.

For the following drawing, I expanded on a theme that I first visited with the pencil drawing on Day 31.  I like the idea of picturing multiple images of the same person or thing within the same artwork.  This time I tried to illustrate various moods that I might experience over a period of time.
#56 December 15, 2010,  Ink

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 55

Believe it or not, there's not a really deep story to this portrait. It all came to me pretty quickly while I was opening a bottle of wine this evening.

I did happen to incorporate an element to this drawing that I've really come to enjoy using: the heavy outline. The difference this time is that those bold lines are drawn in pencil instead of ink, which I usually use for that particular effect.

At some point I'm sure I'll discuss in detail why I think that the invention of photography was the single biggest event in the visual arts. For now, however, I'll simply make reference to the fact that this development proved once and for all that there is no such thing as outline in real life. So of course some artists - being artists, after all - decided that it was time to use even bolder outlines than ever!! (Some rules are made to be broken!)

When it comes to "realism," there is really no place for outlines. But I never said that this was meant to be "realism"...

#55 December 14, 2010,  Pencil
Sounds: Jeff Black, B-Sides and Confessions, Vol. 1

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 54

This theme goes back a ways for me.

I have long been interested in the idea of doors, drawers, windows that are built into the human body. I think a lot of this comes from my love of Salvador Dali, who also created many images with that theme. On the other hand, I can say with all honesty that I created many artworks with this type of imagery before I had been exposed to Dali's work displaying the same forms - so I can say that using these elements in my art is not completely borrowed!

My interest in blackbirds (crows, ravens, and otherwise) has already been well-established in this project. The idea of flight is captivating to me, and I have often said that it's the "super power" I would choose if given the opportunity. I'm sure that I'll expand on this idea and reveal more of my "secrets" as the project continues...

#54 December 13, 2010,  Pencil
Sounds: The Police, Synchronicity

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 53

I think it's funny the way the mind works.

While I was on hold on the phone earlier, I happened to glance across the room at the bookshelf. Among many other books, it held my collection of everything Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote, including my favorite book of all time, Bluebeard. Without even looking, I remembered the cover pictured a very colorful cowboy boot. And THAT . . . led me to this idea. Stream of consciousness at its finest!

And I would be lying if I didn't say that the style of this drawing didn't owe a great debt to the classic Lenny Bruce animated clip "Thank You Mask Man"...

#53 December 12, 2010,  Ballpoint pen
Sounds: Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 52

Never let it be said that I'm a completely sour or moody person! I have my moments where I can show a smile in my self-portraits...

Here's a little truth: For a long time, it's been insinuated that my "picture smiles" look very fake. And I'll admit that it's pretty difficult to create a smile long enough to snap a photograph, let alone holding it long enough to actually draw it. But I can't deny that I also tire of doing self-portraits where I appear to be grouchy as can be!

This one was a lot of fun, and I'm very pleased with the result...

#52 December 11, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: Buck Owens, Collection Vol. 1

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 51

I really love times like this.

Obviously, yesterday's post - the portrait itself, along with the accompanying text - was quite emotional. There are many things that art can be, and one is that it can most definitely serve as a barometer of the artist's thoughts, feelings, emotional state, and so on. I think there's no doubt that today's image is considerably different. To put it simply: today was a much better day.

It's a bit of a strange situation, to be sharing my feelings and emotions with anyone who chooses to take a look at this project. I can't say that I'm an extremely private person, but it is unquestionably a vulnerable feeling to lay so much out in full view.

When it comes to art-making, I've always been more inclined toward realism. But my personal tastes of what I enjoy looking at are all over the place. In most cases, when a person steps out of their comfort zone, they generally sense a bit of difficulty as they attempt something they are less accustomed to doing. Even though some of the artworks in this project are less successful (frankly, some are terrible!), I cannot express how valuable this experience has already been to me as an artist.

#51 December 10, 2010,  Watercolor and pen
Sounds: Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything? (Disc 2)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 50

Sometimes the facial expression is made through "acting" . . . and sometimes it is not...

I'm doing things a little different today. As always, the self-portrait that is posted today was actually completed yesterday. Usually, I also write the blog entry at the same time - but on this occasion, I only wrote the above statement. And I had nothing more...until now.

Over the past several months, I've come to realize a lot of things about myself - things I want, things I don't, things that matter, and things that don't. Like anyone else, I get extremely frustrated when things happen beyond my control that negatively affect me or my family. Of course, everyone knows that "bad things" will sometimes happen; but I also really want to believe that when faced with the choice, that people will ultimately do the right thing. I know that perhaps this sounds too trusting of human nature, but for now I'm going to continue to hope for the best.

On a somewhat related note, it never ceases to amaze me how certain artists throughout history have been able to exist on such extreme emotionalism - it's no wonder that some of them have been labeled as crazy!

#50 December 9, 2010,  Charcoal and conte
Sounds:  The Cure, Disentegration

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 49

This drawing obviously borrows very heavily (ie. it steals) from THIS very famous work by M.C. Escher. My original idea was to portray my hand holding a spoon, which in turn reflected my image. Then one of my students told me about a project she did back in high school, in which she held a Christmas ornament with her image reflected within. Considering that the holiday season is upon us, I figured that this idea would make for a very timely self-portrait...

#49 December 8, 2010,  Pen
Sounds: John Lennon, Collection

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 48

I've been a fan of drawing hands for some time now. While I would never say that I have mastered the subject, I know that my skills have improved exponentially over the years. For this self-portrait, I brought in "my assistant" to add a second hand for an additional challenge and to help tell a story.

As I've said before, I think that a self-portrait goes far beyond simply a physical rendering of the artist's face. The artist has so many options to portray not only what they look like, but also what they ARE like. I also tend to believe that a self-portrait can and should be a glimpse of things that the artist holds dear. And this portrait certainly does that for me.

#48 December 7, 2010,  Pencil
Sounds: Tesla,  Time's Makin' Changes - The Best of Tesla

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 47

I've been thinking a lot lately about some of the old cartoons that I watched as a kid. One thing that I always thought was funny was the way a giant skinny lump would immediately form on someone's (or something's) head after getting whacked with a hammer, an anvil, or any number of other heavy objects! And so, I thought it would be fun to make something with that theme.

While I love the final product of animated images, I really am drawn to the process of how they're made as well. (Punk kind of intended...) I really enjoy seeing the more spontaneous, lighter sketchy lines that are covered by thicker darker lines in the preliminary drawings. I tried to emulate that effect with this portrait by using very little eraser.

#47 December 6, 2010,  Pencil
Sounds: Butch Walker, Letters

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 46

Pure and simple: the idea for this self-portrait came when I was recently discussing Salvador Dali with my students. There are several photos of him in a similar pose (albeit with a different position of his mouth), and always accentuating his eyes. Since Dali is an "art hero" of mine, I figured this was a good way to pay tribute to him...

#46 December 5, 2010, Pen
Sounds: New Grass Revival, When The Storm Is Over/Fly Through The Country

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 45

Oddly enough, the idea for today's self-portrait is not new to me. A couple days ago I was looking through an older magazine and tucked in the pages I found a sketch that I had made several months ago. The original plan was to use it for a painting, but I liked the idea so much that I used it here and now. Incidentally, it should also be clear that I am no longer following the self-imposed ban of using a pen!

This drawing walks the line between Surrealism and Expressionism, with strong characteristics from both styles. I get a lot of comments about the facial expressions in my self-portraits - that I look very mad or unhappy. As I stated yesterday, while I occasionally do feel that way in real life just as everyone does, I like to think that I'm a relatively happy person. I make lots of jokes and tend to take very few things seriously. But perhaps the expressions are more telling than I realized, at least in a subconscious way. I guess it's something to think about...

#45 December 4, 2010, Pen
Sounds: Chris Cornell, Carry on

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 44

I started this drawing not only as part of the self-portrait project, but also as an example for my students, who are currently using charcoal and conte on colored paper. Interestingly enough, they were so consumed with their own projects that they just looked at mine in passing!

I think I should point out that the expression on my face in these artworks is not always necessarily an indicator of the mood I was in while I was creating it. Granted, there have been times when I've been in a pretty grouchy mood and it's come through in the portrait for that day. But most of the time (like in this one) I am simply making a face that I will draw. Call it acting, if you will. So let me be clear: my wrinkled up nose in this portrait is not telling of a bad mood or a symbol of frustration; it's simply a face that I made while creating this drawing.

While it's not a content or happy face, I think it looks a lot like me. was a lot of fun to draw, even if my students didn't really pay much attention!

#44 December 3, 2010,  Charcoal and conte on colored paper
Sounds: Young Dubliners, Saints And Sinners

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 43

A couple days ago, I had a good time reworking an idea from a painting of mine - so much that I decided to do it with another one!

A few years ago, I did a painting called "An Unwinnable Situation," in which a person is precariously balanced on a tightrope with a seemingly endless drop below. The end of the rope was on fire and the walker was being attacked by blackbirds. Obviously the idea was altered slightly in this image - which is much more whimsical - but the idea behind it is the same.

I think that in a lot of cases people really want someone else to fail at whatever endeavor they are working towards, and sometimes all of the negative aspects make a person feel like they can't "win" at all. Perhaps it's a job, or a relationship, or a project that's maybe a little outside the norm. Who knows, it could be that this perceived expectation of failure is nothing more than a person's fear of trying something new or different for themself. What I do know is that is sure is fun proving people like this wrong...

#43 December 2, 2010, Spray paint collage
Sounds: Son Volt, Retrospective: 1995-2000