‘Busy’ is such a dumb non-descriptive term. It hits the perfect note of bland non-response as a general ‘good’ or ‘fine’ that you pawn off on anybody you’d never like to have an actual conversation with. One thing I try to drill into my students is that when they are looking at their drawing or painting, to look at it critically, as neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ is a helpful reaction to have. So I’m always nervous when my initial reaction to writing a monthly studio update is ‘busy’. So here’s what’s actually happening:
The War & History of Painting
Obviously, we’re all in the middle of watching all the atrocities happening in Ukraine right now. Over the years, Russian warlords have slaughtered and continuously poisoned political opponents. The world stood by as they annexed Crimea and even supported the Olympics and World Cup to be held in Putin’s playpen. So as a visual artist, I feel I have an obligation to make some work based on the recent invasion. Lots of my work lampoons politicians, cops, religious figures and other rich, entitled assholes who use their power and influence to their own ends. So now I’ve been filling up page after page in my sketchbook. Dead Russian generals, innocent Ukrainian corpses, and the needless destruction keep s[pilling out from my pencils.
I’ve had a couple people question why I want to paint corpses. I always joke that my couch is the only one those paintings will ever hang over, and I’m most likely correct. That’s not what’s important. I feel my body of work should reflect the life and times that I’ve lived. No matter how erroneously, I see my work in the same vein as Goya, Grosz, Levine, and a piece of the entirety of the history of painting. Whatever sells is way less interesting, so let the home decorators have access to all the galleries. Enjoy the cake as the world burns around you.
Work has progressed and is reaching a climax on my landscapes from Spain and Portugal. With a pretty concrete date for my first show in almost two and a half years, I really have to have some new finished work. I blitzed through a lot of work in February, and have left a lot of March open to adjusting colors, and reworking little bits of drawing. The new work has been encouraging, and I’m excited to have these landscapes off my plate. I also think it’s important to always have some new work for every show. So, despite a painting rack filled up with 40+ finished paintings, I have enough pride to show new work.
The open studio tour is a pretty relaxed environment to see art. My experiences on the East Austin Studio Tour were always positive, and I’m hoping for a good turn-out in April.
A New Series
Of course, with so many canvases coming and going, fresh starts are always the best. I spent more than a week in my woodshop preparing a bunch of new canvases. I took a couple of 40″x50″ canvases and transferred some boat sketches. They’re spiritual sequels to the ‘This American Century‘ series. Produced in lock step with some visits to the Prado, these paintings are a bit more mythical. They possess a more atmospheric quality, and I can’t stop thinking about the grandiose historical paintings in the Prado. It’ll be exciting to continue the progress on them and see where they end up.
Wrapping up March
It’s been a good, productive year in studio so far. With so many threads and avenues being explored, things feel pretty good. I’m not worried about painting corpses. I enjoy painting grandiose shipwrecks. I like to explore paint surfaces via landscapes. The history of painting is a marvelous thing. I’m excited about what the future holds.
This month, an oldie from another dumb war from another time in my lifetime: