Monday, April 9, 2012

Lost Treasure: From Sketch to Finish Part I

When given large spans of time, my creative process is a loop of sketches on paper (doodles), sketches with materials (just making things with no particular end-goal in mind), and then the making of 'actual' pieces (being works I acknowledge on some level I want 'to finish').  I periodically revisit either the doodles and/or the 'sketches with materials' so they can inform the process of making a finished piece.

When I am under the gun to produce finished works for a show, I shift from that 'creative loop' into a list-making (and box checking-off) spazz.  In the next few weeks, I am going to have to shift into spazz mode to finish pieces for Merican-Tastic!.

Here are a few glimpses into pieces that grew out doodles/drawings/sketches.

This first piece is Carnival which I started in August of 2006, but didn't finish the frame until late Spring of 2007.

The frame and the painting really play off of each other in a way that energizes both.  The piece 'borrows' heavily from other cultures (cultural appropriation/assimilation is one of the themes in Carnival).  Here are a couple of sketches for the piece (please note that these were originally just graphite on notebook paper and so I have had to adjust the contrast to make them legible.  My sketchbooks aren't normally that frightening).

I like the energy/tension created by the diagonal 'Trojan Horse' figure falling into (lunging at?) the 'Earth Goddess Figure'.  In the final piece I chose to make it more mechanical/level/evenly spaced.  The multiple feet motif for the 'Trojan Horse' is repeated in my physical Trojan Horse sculpture that was part of Artifice, Artifact, and Allegory.

You can also see that I had an enlargement view of the pediment sculpture along the lower right of both sketches which was eliminated for the final piece.  In fact, I left the pediment (the pointy roof area above the columns of a Greek temple) just a black triangle and just changed the purple 'Underworld' area into a series of repeated figures (dancing/or being lynched).

A few detail shots:

Here's a quick peek at a sketch for part of the frame.

The 'One for a Nickle, Two for a Dime' disc in the center ended up in 'Domain' and all that remained in this frame was the '5 cents' in the corners.

Mr. Falcon Finds a Stranger in The Alps was created as a gut reaction to our national rampant stupidity over celebrity, consumption, and short attention spans.

I made multiple sketches trying to get the wording and spacing on the frame to my liking.  While carving the letters, I actually hit a weak patch of wood with my carving bit that sent large sections of several letters flying in different directions.  Fortunately for me, my studio is spotless so the pieces were easy to retrieve.......

Incidentally, anytime you see a large patch of dark black scribbling on one of my sketches, it was a place where I wrote down a phone number or some other nugget I don't want public, so I busted out the paint brush in Photoshop and 'redacted' that information.  Who Knows? I may like that look and start adding it to my final pieces.

Ahhh, Pop Song: Mystic Guru.  I actually haven't posted this image on either my ArtFeed account ( or SteveBanksArt ( yet because I sense it might still be begging for another layer of imagery/paint.

The frame is a done deal (and no small feat to carve all of those letters), but there is an 80% chance the painted part of the piece will get reworked once Merican-Tastic! is installed.  Here are a couple of preliminary sketches:

The 'Guru' had a body and multiple arms in the sketches which never made it into the final piece.  The target was moved, and somehow a banana split appeared.

I also haven't published Critical Mass Sans Polar Nuclei for the same reason as Pop Song: Mystic Guru isn't out there yet.  I have medium level of displeasure with how the bottom 20% of the piece turned out.  I was aiming for subdued, I think I got dead instead....

Here is an early version of Critical Mass Sans Polar Nuclei.  That is a diagram of the four chambered goodness of a Sky Bar.  If you have never had a Sky Bar, you are missing a slice of Americana, and you should maybe slam your fingers in a drawer as some kind of penance.  Don't look at me like that, I don't make the rules... 

You can also see on this next sketch where I was playing around with the carved-block wording that would ultimately be part of Nursery Rhyme.

I guess I am on a roll because this piece is also languishing in my vaults.  This is Transaction from PLAY! back in 2010.  It isn't going to get a new layer of imagery as much as just a tweaking of the colors.  I decided to use the same color palette for The Tower of Janus as I did for Transaction.  It worked for Janus, it fizzled here.

I usually paint the frame and the piece in close proximity and roughly around the same time.  For whatever reason, I just didn't do that for Transaction.  I finally brought the piece and frame together about a week before Play! opened and was mortified at how the painting and the frame visually neutered each other.  When I put them together for the first time, it was less than a day before our taping of ArtTalks with Bruce Carter (local artist, poet, philosopher, and interviewer)  I was still fairly despondent about the utter mess of Transaction when we showed up to tape the interview.  I hadn't 'whiffed' on a piece that thoroughly since Undergraduate School.

After the interview, I hurriedly went back to the studio and tweaked a few areas of the painting and the entire frame that day (oil paint takes days to dry so if it wasn't done that day, it would still be wet when the show opened).  I have left it in that emergency repaint state for two years now.

Here is a sketch from the top layer of imagery, and then one from the middle layer.

I was hoping to use a vintage image of 'Billy Boneless' from Long John Silver's back from the late 1970s early 1980s.  I couldn't find one online.  I got skunked on the internet!  How often does that happen?  So, My second place choice was the pirate from the 'Art-School-Draw-a-Pirate-brochure'.

I also included the Lego-guy Pirate face to ease my separation anxiety from the Billy-Boneless of yore.

The top sketch has yet to be used in anything, but you can see the letters at the bottom turned up in the frame.  The 'fortunes' on the sides of the frame came from a McDonald's Happy Meal featuring a Pirates of the Caribbean toy skull that told fortunes much like one of those 'Magic 8 Balls' do.

So there you have it.  Three lost gems and a classic.

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