Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Portrait of Ben Derosa

"Portrait of Ben Derosa" by Andrew Daniel
24" x 18" oil on canvas

Ben's father saw that I paint portraits a while back and asked me if I wanted a photo of him to paint. I looked forward to seeing what he brought me, because Ben always shows his moods on his face openly. It was so fun to explore his animated expression, complete with his toothy smile.

Ben is a man who is always in the moment, exhibiting an unfettered joyousness that is infectious!

Susan Neddham recently loaned me three videos of portrait painters, Sherie McGraw, David Laffel, and Jeremy Lipking. Watching these folks paint and talk about their craft opened up some new possibilities that I was eager to try out. Ben's photo, had been carefully wrapped in plastic in my paint box waiting for such an opportunistic moment  to speak up.

I feel the need to apologize for the photo quality, my old iphone has been my only camera for a while. It may be hard to make out what I was doing here.

I took away a couple big lessons form watching Laffel paint. One being you can literally apply the paint as wrecklessly as your whim takes you, scrubbing it, slathering it, and smearing it together. These kind of marks embue the painting with a certain visceral physicality, that makes the piece look more like a painting them a rendering. 

The second thing I wanted to try from Laffel is heightening the level of textural contrast between my foreground (lit) objects and my (unlit) background. Thick texture reflects light, and has a more tangible presence. So you can almost sculpt a shallow bas relief with the paint in order to convey space.

McGraw's video, helped me to see expressive potential in the shape of the head.

Lipking's video invited my to slow down and enjoy the process of rendering each area without feeling rushed to fill the canvas.

Needless to say, I have enough ideas floating around, that I will need to do more then just the one portrait. To explore them. I've reinstated Eureka Figurative Art Group to meet at Michelle Murphy-Fergusen's studio each Thursday afternoon. Contact me if you want to join us. 

If you are interested in having a portrait painted, ask me about my special (in the mood to paint portraits) rate!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Trinidad Beach Rocks

"Trinidad Beach Rocks" by Andrew Daniel 
9" x 12" Oil on canvas
Inquire with artist

So after all of my hemmin and hawin, I'm finally back into painting with a proper amount of enthusiasm.

It was the funniest thing but my frustration, anxiety, and lack of motivation broke like a fever. One hour it was there like a house guest who has overstayed his welcome and the next it was gone; gassed up and drove away! 

I decided to rework the landscape I had started last week and it turned out to be a lot of fun!

This is the one that was telling me to take another 1.5 months off!

Also I've finished another piece that had been hanging around for months of reworks and I've nearly completed a portrait that I just started yesterday.

I mean I actually want to paint! It's not something I "have to do" to make sure I'm a productive citizen of the art world, it's just kind of a fun way to pass the time!

I spoke with Steve Porter last week and he told me taking breaks is actually really helpful for him, he comes back with fresh energy and new ideas. I have to say it helped me too. Finishing paintings is not such a struggle now, it's the best part!

Part of what helped me was calling up my friend John Crater to see if he wanted some company in his studio. I realized that I like painting with people, but I've got a ton of paintings that need finishing, and the rain has not conduced inspiration for outdoor painting.

Hooking up with friends to work on studio paintings turns out to be just as fun as meeting them outdoors!

Typically, I run out to paint with my friends, only to come home with more unfinished pieces to add to my pile. By meeting up to rework some of these paintings, I get to have the double satisfaction of catching up with a friend and finishing work!

Reworking pieces seems to be a process that is a bit slower and more contemplative. Taking lots of breaks is important in order to see the piece with fresh eyes. This is perfect for getting distracted occasionally debating politics and talking art.

Some of you may want an update on the cotton candy circus...

I've made two more batches, they taste good, less burnt, still not getting identifiable flavors, but if you are someone who doesn't need to know what your are eating, this shouldn't be a problem!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fat Andy's Candy Circus

This is a mock up for a label I am considering for my new busy-ness.

Last week, I wrote about my choice to stop painting for a month and a half, due to frustrations which were spawned from my perfectionistic approach to the medium.

On Sunday, I broke my painting fast to go out painting at Trinidad Beach with "The Sunday Painters" on the only sunny day of the season. 

I had hoped to have a new piece finished and ready to show to you for my Tuesday blog deadline. But unfortunately, after viewing the result of my ambivalent return to painting, I'm again thinking I'll need another month and a half off. Apparently I saw my shadow.

I also mentioned last week that I had run off to join the circus in response to my frustrated artistic aspirations.

For several years I have periodically wandered off into obsessive entrepreneurial flights of fantasy. My thought has always been, if I could bring the same level of creativity to a business that I bring to my art, It would be a business like none other. Often this leads me to get lost in my head designing roadside attractions, ice cream truck art cars, theme bars, believe me the list goes on and on. One of my favorite things to fantasize about is becoming a offbeat, quirky burl artist.

My dear wife puts up with all of this to a point, until she feels compelled to shut me down due to a deep sensation of overwhelm with my flights of fancy.

This last month I really drank the 
Kool Aid. Usually after a couple of weeks of obsessive internet research I burn myself out and realize it's a lot more fun to dream up a business then it is to run it. The costs of investing in the venture nearly always scare me off, as well as the time that would be required. Unfortunately this time I bought the equipment and supplies before my misgivings caught up with me.

My fantasy this time is that I could take a simple cotton candy business and revamp it as a walking art piece that tantalizes the taste buds. 

Hence Fat Andy's Candy Circus was born. My research has inspired many odd purchases, which have been showing up in various small packages from around the world, including many fun and unusual organic flavors like coconut/ginger and fig/pepper, a tailor made pink tuxedo from China, and two matching pink wigs.

Now I'm grappling with the reality that had always scared me off of running my own business. It's a lot of work! Cotton candy is actually very hard to make, and learning how to make the custom organic flavors is a nightmare. 

The pink tuxedo showed up in the wrong shade, more a hot pink then a candy pink.

Finally, the dancing cat toy I had purchased in order to repurpose into a moving circus character arrived broken...

My sabbatical is making me miss the simple life of painting. 

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Collaborative portrait of Nathan McFadden

"Collaborative portrait of Nathan McFadden" by Salvador Dalí, Andrew Daniel and Nathan McFadden

Oil on canvas 16" x 20"

For the last month I have been on sabbatical from painting. I had been really pushing myself to learn and grow for a year, trying to paint larger, trying to make images more detailed, textural, immediate, colorful, poetic... Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? 

So this past year has been an intensive learning process, full of growth, but ultimately even more full of despair. The demands that I had for each painting were so high, and each time I thought a painting was going to be done with only one more session, I would find I had learned something new about what was possible, and it was going to take a few more sessions to resolve the new layer of issues. 

This would have been well, good and normal except that I was having this same set of issues loom over several pieces simultaneously. Nothing ever good enough to be finished. Stacks of 85% done paintings.

I was feeling ready to walk away from it, when I got a call from an old high school friend Nathan McFadden. Nathan has a sense of humor that is bizarre, eclectic, and at times perverse. So, of course we get along great. And when he asked me to do a portrait comission, using an odd selfie that had been run through a computer algorithm that interprets the photo as if it were painted in the style of whatever painting you up load, I thought what could go wrong?

His source photo looked good already, I just needed to copy it... Besides it will give me a chance to loosen up! My detail oriented perfectionism was driving me crazy anyway.

Well, if there is anything I have learned over the years, I had definitely learned that portraits and "looseness" do not often work together. When I looked at the  computer generated Salvador Dalí painting, I saw the way it had warped his face, making one eye lower then the other, along with Nathan's "Do it however you want!" attitude. I thought, this should be no problem to pull off.

But then came the helpful comments from the family as they walk by. Oh, his eyes need to be closer, his forehead is too short, his nose needs to be longer, and then my favorite was Nathan's when I showed him a process photo. "You need to make me fatter!" Well once you have had to put your painting through several major plastic surgeries and reverse lyposuction, the idea of having it look loose and unscripted falls away. All that you are left with is caking on the paint as if you wielded a spatula full of frosting.  

On top of this, I started seeing the painting as a challenge, man vs. machine. A trained professional painter aught to be able to out paint a computer that just glanced at a photo of a painting. Not to mention, I couldn't stomach copying the computers odd descisions, that no person brought up with a reverence for the tradition of painting would make.

My loose painting, kind of turned into a mortal fight to prove that my idealistic career choices made when I was a teenager, had not been in vain.

So, here was the really wierd thing that happened, even tho I was painting in a completely different style, one where I alternately built up the painting and then destroyed my work, only to build it up again. The process was no quicker then my highly detailed work. My eye for nuances of paintings at this point is so developed that I've kinda ruined the chances of being satisfied with my work, wether loose or tight, abstract or from life. 

Well, there was nothing left to do but run off and join the circus... A story which I will have to save for next week.