Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 102

It all started in 1863 when Edouard Manet blasted the critics of his "Les dejeuner sur l'herbe" when he instructed them to look beyond what the painting looked like, and to focus on HOW he made it.

It continued through the mid-1900s when Abstract Expressionists and their contemporaries gave generic titles to their artworks in an attempt to force viewers to come up with their own interpretations rather than to rely solely on what the artist SAYS the piece is about.

And so it goes with today's self-portrait. I'll be honest and admit that the actual drawing took around a mere ten minutes to complete. But in this case, the IDEA is the most important thing. This drawing is meant to tell a story, to illicit an emotion or feeling from the viewer.

I won't tell you exactly what it means, but I think it's pretty clear that everyone has been in this situation at some time or another...

#102 January 30, 2011,  Pen
Sounds: Rick Springfield, Living in Oz

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 101

I began today's self-portrait with an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. I've felt tired for the better part of the day, and I wasn't terribly motivated to make any kind of art this evening. As I sat in front of the mirror, I rested my chin on my hand and contemplated what tonight's drawing would look like - and then I realized that I was already looking right at it.

As the drawing rapidly took form, I was reminded of this sculpture by Marcel Duchamp:

Marcel Duchamp, "Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive"
Bronze, onyx, black Belgian marble
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

I've always been drawn to this artwork, in part because I once made a bronze sculpture that (accidentally) bore a slight resemblance to it.  More importantly, I have always been interested in people and their personalities; Duchamp's sculpture is actually made from a cast of himself, so it is an exact lifesize reproduction of what the man looked like. Since I will obviously never get the opportunity to meet him in person, this sculpure is the next best thing.

It was purely a coincidence that my drawing resembled the Duchamp sculpture.  But I really like coincidences.  And as rapidly as my drawing was finished, it was almost as if I had an extra hand guiding mine tonight...

#101 January 29, 2011,  Ink
Sounds: Gin Blossoms, Congratulations I'm Sorry

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 100

I decided to go back to the basics just a little for this drawing. Near the beginning of this project, I predicted that I would use Ebony pencil for the majority of the self-portraits. Little did I know that I would fall in love with using a pen and would spend a great deal of time with that medium.

The fact is, I still have a very strong interest in using the Ebony pencil. It always feels good to make a rich black mark, followed by a soft light tone - all with the same drawing tool! Incidentally, I always love revisiting the scribble technique as well...

By the way, it sure feels good to reach triple digits - Happy 100 Days!

#100 January 28, 2011,  Ebony pencil
Sounds: Emmylou Harris, At the Ryman

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 99

This self-portrait started off with a lot of laughs.

I've been accused many times over the years of making myself laugh more than I do other people. Perhaps that's because I understand my humor better than anyone else! At any rate, I had the basic idea for this image running through my mind all day today, but when it came time to sit down and actually make the drawing, I was a little stumped as to what expression I would be making.

So I started making faces. Some were serious, some were solemn, some were plain, and some very just plain funny - I even caught myself laughing almost uncontrollably a couple of times! Oddly enough, I settled on this expression as I lowered my head slightly and let out a huge yawn; it all fell into place at that moment.

As always, there are many possible interpretations to what this image is about. I really like the idea of what it means to me, so much so that I will probably re-visit this theme in the future...

#99 January 27, 2011  Ink
Sounds: John Cowan, John Cowan

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 98

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me about a dream that he'd had. In this dream, I apparently rode up on a customized motorcyle that was painted like a lobster. Obviously it was a bizarre dream! At any rate, once I heard his story, the idea for this self-portrait came to me almost immediately.

As I made this drawing, I had a few thoughts. First of all, it never ceases to amaze me how ideas for artworks can come about. I've gotten ideas from what seems like a million sources - and no, this is not the first time I've been inspired by someone else's dream. While it would've perhaps been more telling if it had been my own dream about a lobster motorcycle, it would be interesting to know where the concept for that imagery came from.

The Surrealists borrowed heavily from the human mind, basing much of their art on unconscious thought. They also found inspiration from dreams. One of my primary influences, Salvador Dali, even used a lobster in some of his bizarre sculptural work, including the lobster telephone and the lobster hat!

As I've said before, I think that a self-portrait can be many things. It's clear that this is not an example of realism for many reasons, but the quirky nature of the subject matter is a very accurate reflection of my personality. And the use of the lobster was a bit of a nod to one of my art heroes - albeit, unintentionally...

#98 January 26, 2011,  Ink and watercolor
Sounds: Marvelous 3, Hey! Album

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 97

I had some fun today!

It was nice to finally do a self-portrait in oils, because that's really my primary medium under normal circumstances. But for various reasons (namely some little hands belonging to curious little people in my house), I made the choice to avoid using oil paint until I could work in the studio when my painting class resumed during the spring semester.

Time and time again, I have discovered the benefits of making art in the presence of my students. At the very least, it provides them with a real demonstration of one possible technique for making paintings. Furthermore, I think there's a lot to be said about the credibility of an art instructor that is actually making art! Granted, most college-level teachers are either required or strongly advised to make their own art, but there are always horror stories of teachers who can instruct, but cannot make their own work.

The panel is actually the remnants of an old sign. I think the effects are pretty great, and ultimately I might add more of a background to this painting. It was also challenging to paint over the slick paint of the lettering, as opposed to the rougher surface of the chipping white paint.

I should also point out the obvious: yes, I painted myself bald and beardless. In order to speed up the painting process, I used my artistic license to paint only the essentials!

#97 January 25, 2011,  Oil on wood panel

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 96

Don't expect me to give you an interpretation; my viewers should know better than that by now. I'll explain this drawing with this alone: there are many possible interpretations to what this one is about. Just for myself, I have many personal "meanings" or interpretations that give reason to this self-portrait.

Search for it...and you might be correct.

#96 January 24, 2011,  Pen

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 95

I looked through some old sketchbooks today and was pleased to find several great ideas for paintings and drawings. My sketchbooks are a little strange, because they usually contain more writing than actual drawings. Interestingly enough, I write down the titles or the basic "storyline" for an artwork, but the image itself remains locked in my mind.

When the time comes to actually make the artwork, I generally take photographs for reference material - such as poses of human figures, composition of various elements, or just anything that will make the artwork more accurate. From these photos, I create a full-size sketch that is transferred to the canvas, panel, or paper. Then the physical part of the art-making begins.

In some cases, such as with tonight's drawing, I place actual props in front of me for that same visual reference. For example, I worked from a photo of myself to create the basic image, but placed my boots in this position in order to draw them correctly.

So what is this drawing all about? That's a good question, and I think my viewers know what my elusive answer will be!

#95 January 23, 2011,  Ebony pencil
Sounds: Butch Walker, Left of Self-Centered

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 94

There are a couple purposes for tonight's self-portrait.

To begin, I've stated before that this project is - at times - basically a sketchbook containing ideas for full-scale paintings somewhere down the road. I like the idea that this drawing portrays, and I think it might make for a nice full-size artwork somewhere down the line.

Secondly, this image reinforces a concept that I've pointed out more than once. I did a similar drawing several years ago; in fact, it was basically the same image...with a few very important differences. While I would have never admitted it at the time, the original version was also a self-portrait. The bird was an ominous-looking black color, the person was blindfolded and had actually dropped the heart, which was floating in the air as it was left behind. The entire image was made in a dark charcoal. I'll be honest: that original drawing was made during a pretty dismal period that I don't care to revisit for any length of time. This drawing, on the other hand, was made at the end of a pretty spectacular day.

I think the differences are pretty clear...

#94 January 22, 2011,  Pen
Sounds: Todd Rundgren, Todd Rundgren: Liars

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 93

I'm not sure that I want to use the cliched phrase that says the eyes are the windows to the soul.

However, I am fairly certain that I think that the eyes are person's most important feature. When it comes to deciphering a particular emotion, the eyes are a great indicator. For the most part, when we have a face to face conversation with someone, generally we look at the other person's eyes. And sometimes the eyes are tied to identity; we've all see the images of a bar placed over a person's eyes in an attempt to protect their anonymity.

I've always been drawn to eyes. I love to look at them, I love to draw them. Sometimes I've been told that my eyes are my best feature. I even have a tattoo on my shoulder depicting the Ancient Egyptian symbol of the Eye of Horus. Regardless, tonight's self-portrait is actually a portion of my image, but I think that it goes a long way toward capturing the real me.

So go ahead and call this the window to my soul if you like - I guess I don't really mind after all...

#93 January 21, 2011,  Charcoal on brown paper bag
Sounds: The Duhks, The Duhks

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 92

I have a rule that I make my students stick to during group critiques: they are not allowed to say anything bad about their own artworks. After all, if the artist says negative things their own artworks, then how can they expect their viewers to say anything positive?

With that said, I'm not sure how much I really like tonight's self-portrait. I will admit that I had no idea what I was going to do when I sat down to draw. And I will also admit that while I like certain characteristics of this drawing, there are some parts that I can't decide what to think about them!

Although I didn't set out to prove a point with this drawing, I think it does a nice job of demonstrating a concept that I've mentioned before: not everything that an artist makes is a great success. I've recently been riding a bit of a high because I've been incredibly pleased with the past five or six drawings in a row. I think that some people have the impression that each artwork should always be better than the one before it - and that just isn't always the case.

I think I'll leave it up to the viewers to decide whether this drawing is any good or not. Who knows, maybe I'll have a better opinion the next time I look at it. As for now, I'll just be thinking about what the next one will look like...

#91 January 20, 2011,  Ink and colored pencil

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 91

There is no denying that this drawing has some heavily borrowed elements.

For starters, the scribbled technique and strictly frontal viewpoint are reminiscent of drawings by Alberto Giacometti. This was a conscious choice that I made; I had the idea for what this self-portrait would look like for most of the day and it was always planned to be a bit of a tribute to his work. It's not fair to say that I'm a big fan of Giacometti's work, although I do enjoy it in most respects.

The second influence in this drawing happened quite by accident. This drawing began with a loose oval shape that became the head. The more the pencil moved, the more things were added (such as the elongated neck and the iris-less dark eyes), it became clear to me that my drawing was a visual marriage of the work of Giacometti and that of one of my favorite painters, Amedeo Modigliani.

All sorts of artists - from visual artists, musicians, writers, and so on - have their own favorites or those who shape their work. For my money, I really enjoy what happens when those influences creep in organically, without any preconceived notions or planning such as I did when I borrowed from Giacometti. Modigliani's style found its way into my drawing simply because I love his work, and I am moved by his style and subject matter.

#91 January 19, 2011,  Ebony pencil
Sounds: Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 90

While working on this portrait, I thought of yet another purpose for "the self-portrait project." While I think this portrait stands on its own as a drawing, it occurred to me that it would make a pretty great full-size painting as well. So it seems that this project is now serving as an in-depth sketchbook for future works!

I got the idea for this drawing during a recent visit with a friend. She was asking several questions about my art-making process, and ultimately described the exchange with the common phrase that she was "picking my brain." Then all of a sudden, she threw out the idea of the seemingly everpresent blackbirds literally picking at my brain - I liked the idea so much that I immediately wrote it down and promised that I'd use it!

So, here it is...

#90 January 18, 2011,  Ink
Sounds: Jeff Black, Honey and Salt

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 89

I am beyond pleased with today's portrait. And I loved yesterday's colored pencil drawing. Same goes for the day before. Honestly, I feel like I'm a bit of an artistic zone, and I'm totally digging it.

There are different things that art IS or can be. One of the most important to me is that it meets the individual needs of the artist. One of these is literally a physical need to create, to make something new. The best comparison to really describe the feeling is that it's a lot like how I expect a smoker to feel when they have an intense craving for a cigarette. The ironic thing is that earlier in the evening I was incredibly excited to make today's self-portrait, but I was blocked because I didn't know what it would look like. Once the idea came to me, however, I was all set and jumped in feet first.

I should point out that how I'm handling "the self-portrait project" is a little different than I think most artists work. Generally speaking, an artist will have a given style exhibited in their art and while some will occasionally deviate or experiment, it seems that most artists' work is recognizable for how it looks. With this project, I'm making a conscious choice to expand my style so every self-portrait doesn't look exactly the same. When I reach the conclusion on Day 365, one of the goals is for my to have dabbled in enough different styles or materials that I will know what my art should look like.

That is, until I decide to change my style once again...

#89 January 17, 2011,  Conte and Ebony pencil
Sounds: Kiss, Dynasty

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 88

I love it when art happens like this.

The idea for this self-portrait came to me when looking at a loose sketch that I made a couple years ago. It wasn't a self-portrait by any means; it was really just a drawing of some kind of eagle-like bird that had antlers and a cat's tail. And for some reason it was also wearing a pendant that looked a lot like a penny. I'll be honest: I have no idea when I did this drawing or why; it was simply something that I found in an old sketchbook and I really liked it a lot.

However, there were elements of the drawing that I incorporated into this one, the main thing being the scarf that's being towed by bumblebees. In fact, the moment I rediscovered that old sketch, I got the idea for this drawing. The idea was so strong that I knew exactly what today's self-portrait would look like. And with very few exceptions, the vision in my head perfectly matches the end result.

It seems to me like it's been awhile since I've done a self-portrait that is a little "trippy." I think it goes without saying that this drawing was a lot of fun to make...

#88 January 16, 2011,  Colored pencil on colored paper
Sounds: John Mellencamp, Whenever We Wanted

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 87

There's something about a love story that's very nice . . . very endearing. It's even moreso the case when you're one of the two main characters in the story...

#87 January 15, 2011,  Pen
Sounds: Young Dubliners, With All Due Respect, The Irish Sessions

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 86

I'm often asked why, if I describe myself as a fairly happy person, do I portray myself with a frown in most of my self-portraits. The answer is actually very simple.

Photography became a workable process in the mid-1800s. During those early years, however, the exposure process was quite extended, usually taking approximately 45 minutes. To put this into perspective, today we're used to the exposure period lasting only as long as the "click" of the camera.

When being photographed, the sitter would have to remain absolutely still, lest the final image would be very blurry. Quite frankly, it is much easier to sit with a frown on your face as opposed to holding and forcing a smile for that long!

The same thing goes with creating drawn or painted self-portraits. It's very difficult to hold a smile for an hour or so without it looking very fake. And this is why most of my portraits do not show me smiling.

Oh, and sometimes I'm just in a really bad mood...

#86 January 14, 2011,  Pen
Sounds:  Simon and Garfunkel, Simon & Garfunkel - Greatest Hits

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 85

One thing that surprises me when I look back on the previous self-portraits in this project is the lack of blatant music imagery. Sure, there are many instances of metaphors or symbolism that hint at a musical genesis for what I have drawn or painted. And of course, I have always shared what music I was listening to while making each artwork.

Music has always been one of the primary influences on my art and art-making. More importanly, music is an ever-present part of my life - at times it has helped me rise above certain bad times, and it has caused me to wallow in pain, negativity, and self-pity in other times. It reminds me both of good and bad times, and of good and bad people. It provides me with ideas for my art, and it gives me inspiration for art-making.

#85 January 13, 2011,  Pen
Sounds: The Beatles, The White Album (Remastered)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 84

I've been wanting to do a self-portrait in this style for a while now. Scribble techniques have always been interesting to me just because of the spontaneity and looseness of the finished drawing. When it comes to working this way, I personally think that nothing is better than a mechanical pencil.

#84 January 12, 2011,  Pencil
Sounds:  Motley Crue, Red, White, & Crue

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 83

This self-portrait is the product of an artist who has slept approximately two hours over the past 24. I sure miss the good old days when pulling an all-nighter was no problem. I also wish my lack of sleep had something to do with working into the early morning hours on my art...

(*Note: I'm not terribly pleased with the scan on this one. I think I need to give it another shot. I will say, however, that I really dig the sleepy glassy eyes!)

#83 January 11, 2011,  Charcoal on brown paper bag

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 82

So . . .

Tonight I was really in the mood to do another acrylic painting on black paper. And I did one. just wasn't me.

That's not to say that it isn't a good painting, because it is. And I have also not changed my stance that a self-portrait MUST look like the artist - because I still do not believe that it has to.

But even when my self-portraits don't actually resemble me, I generally like them because they still contain particular aspects of me. Tonight's acrylic painting had nothing to do with me - visually or metaphorically. So, I started again.

I really like to mix a variety of materials. While this one isn't a bizarre combination by any means, I really enjoy how the mediums all work together. And while the drawing also doesn't bear a striking resemblance to me, I think that it does represent me in many ways.

#82 January 10, 2011,  Sharpie and charcoal on brown paper bag
Sounds: Butch Walker & the Let's-Go-Out-Tonights,  The Rise & Fall of Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 81

I had such a great time working with acylic on the black paper with yesterday's self-portrait that I felt compelled to use it again!

When I showed this to Shana, she was immediately taken aback and described it as looking very "Picasso-y". It was a surprise to her that I would work in a style that even remotely resembled his simply because she knows how much I dislike his art.

I will say without reservation that I was not thinking about Picasso when I made this painting. I will also say that I personally don't think that it looks any more like his style than that of a multitude of other artists. But once again, personal interpretation matters. She saw certain characteristics of Picasso's art in my self-portrait, where I might have looked at those same traits and likened them to the art of Edvard Munch, or Max Beckmann, or perhaps Egon Schiele. (For the record, we're both correct...)

The gold paint is another story: I was most certainly paying tribute to one of my art heroes, Gustav Klimt...

#81 January 9, 2011,  Acrylic on paper

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 80

In this case, I recently saw a distinctive bush alongside the highway; from a distance, the buds at the end of the branches resembled birds. The more I thought about it, the visual in my mind transformed to what eventually became today's portrait.

Sometimes it's challenging to viewers when a self-portrait doesn't really include the likeness of the artist. I personally think that some of the best portraits (images of the artist or of others) focus not on what the person looks like, but rather what they are like. In other words, certain aspects of a person's personality are often the most important thing.

#80 January 8, 2011,  Acrylic on paper
Sounds:  Son Volt,  Trace

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 79

I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan of Salvador Dali. He created many images of people who had some sort of compartment built into their body, from drawers to doors to passageways. At this point, I can't say if I borrowed the idea from him, or if I arrived at it myself and simply noticed the similarity later on. I do know, however, that this has been an interest of mine and a definite characteristic of my art for years.

It is probably worthy of mentioning that this self-portrait was completed while I was nearly 79% asleep last night! My goal is to do the next portrait earlier in the day to avoid the same predicament today...

#79 January 7, 2011,  Pencil

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 78

It is pretty amazing how, even if I had wanted to make a "dark" image tonight, I couldn't have done it. I love being in a mood where I feel inspired to make faces and create whimsical drawings! And I also love it when I get new ideas while working on art; when it feeds on itself and everything comes naturally, that's when you know you're doing something you are meant to do...

#78 January 6, 2011,  Pen
Sounds:  Lyle Lovett,  Road to Ensenada

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 77

There's not much of a story to tell today. Obviously this self-portrait is not dark like those from the past couple days - and I just felt like twisting my expression somehow. I do have to admit that while I instantly regretted shaving the beard a few days ago, it IS much easier to draw my face without all the whiskers!

#77 January 5, 2011,  Pen
Sounds:  Jeff Buckley,  Grace

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 76

I chose to work in watercolor again tonight for a couple reasons.

The first reason is actually a little self-serving. To be honest, I am very proud of yesterday's portrait. I enjoyed the material, I enjoyed making the artwork, and I enjoyed the final outcome. I figured that since I had a good time making that one, then I should have another good time with this one. (For the record, I was right.)

While I don't want to call today's painting a "sequel," my second motivation for revisiting watercolor was to make a point. Just like anything else, when an artist creates, the appearance of the product will be affected by many things - including the artist's mood or mindset. I know that I laid myself out there emotionally with what I wrote about yesterday's painting, and that vulnerability was a difficult thing for me to share.

More and more, it seems that this the original idea behind "the self-portrait project" is changing into something different. It is true that I'm still extremely excited to make art on a daily basis, and the "due dates" are a great motivation. And yes, I am still interested in pushing myself with materials that I'm either unfamiliar with or making myself better with ones that I already know and love.

But it seems that this entire project is also becoming something of a journal, where my thoughts and feelings are "written" in a visual format. I continue to look forward to where this whole thing leads...

#76 January 4, 2011,  Watercolor
Sounds:  Old Crow Medicine Show, Old Crow Medicine Show

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 75

My art has previously been described as emotional and expressive. When it comes to what now totals 75 self-portraits in this project, I think this one is the most expressive and displays the most emotionalism of them all.

As I've said before, I generally consider myself to be a very happy person. But, there are times that everyone feels - shall we say - just a little grouchy. Don't get me wrong; I have very few regrets about the choices I have made and the place where my life has taken me. I say without reservation that I have a good life. Sometimes it just seems that the weight of several different things seems to be crushing down all at once. It'll get better - it always does. I know this for a fact.

One of my artistic heroes is Edvard Munch, an artist who made emotional art at its finest. Another expressionistic artist whose work that I adore is Marilyn Manson (yes, the rock singer). I like to think that I channeled both of these artists just a little when making this self-portrait...

#75 January 3, 2011,  Watercolor