Friday, June 8, 2012

Old Friends, An Art Hero, and the Importance of Pickle Buckets!

Wow!  A while back I posted a blurb about a piece that Terry Rathje and I made for EX-CH-AN-GE -back in 2008 (at Quad City Arts Gallery).  The original painting was something I inherited from my friend Naomi Kamla.  Recently, Naomi contacted me to let me know that what I had labeled as a 'Crap-ass merchant-dude painting' was in fact, THE Sir Thomas More (Wikipedia link here:  So, it is with great pleasure that I amend my previous statement.  Henceforth, I shall describe the initial painting as a 'Crap-ass Philosopher-Dude Painting'.  Thanks Naomi!!

Another friend that recently surfaced was a old piece Soul's Arc: The Voyage Home.  I had kind of lost track of what became of the piece which I made back in late 2000/early 2001.  A bad quality close-up below:

I was working on Delivery Especial when I realized that the base canvas was Soul's Arc underneath another piece called Without (check out the post 'Carving Part II: ).  Here is the current state of Delivery Especial.

Now onto one of my art heroes from graduate school -Antoni Tapies! (1923-2012).  Here is a link to Fundacio Antoni Tapies:  Prepare to set your brain to 'stun'....

Anyway, I fell in love with the textures he put on canvas.  I found out that he used pigment, marble powder, and bone glue to get his texture(s).  I was living in North Florida at the time and was too poor to afford to run my air conditioning, so I was pretty sure that I was NOT going to be able to use something as fancy-schmancy as marble powder or bone glue.  So I began to experiment with using QuikCrete (inexpensive cement) and instead of making the concrete with water, I merely used latex house paint to provide moisture.  The binder in the paint adhered the cement to the canvas nicely.

Here are some early-stage in-progress shots of a piece called Me & You so you can see the cement/paint mixture on a piece.

The effective working time for the paint/cement mixture is roughly 10 minutes.

Once it dries, I prime the surface at least two times with more latex paint/gesso (I prefer three times).  This extra priming helps to seal/smooth out the cement so it doesn't sop up tons of my comparatively more expensive oil paint.

Here are a few examples of some piece that have some elements of cement texture:

The Guardians from 1999 -one of my earliest painted constructions.

Skinner Box from 1999/2000 -one of my earliest mazes/painted constructions.  Below is a portion of the second stage of color on BroKin

In closing, two helpful household hints for the studio: Pickle Buckets and cardboard!  The use of space is always an issue in my studio (along with my artist friends).  Although nothing can replace a nice clean and sturdy workbench, I have found that using 5-gallon pickle buckets provides me with an acceptably stable work surface that is highly flexible AND can store all kinds of supplies and some tools.

I usually use 4 stacks of two pickle buckets to support whatever canvas I am working on.

If I am working on a ladder, I can stack the buckets higher and still have a surface to hold tools and supplies.

Another thing that I learned AFTER I was out of school was the importance of using a piece of cardboard while I 'paint'.  I paint on my pieces while they are horizontal (supported by my handy pickle buckets!).  I keep a piece of cardboard under my forearm for three reasons.  The first is that it increases the surface area that the weight of my arm places on the canvas (which will stretch out of shape/'dent' with too much pressure). Second, it keeps my arm out of the wet paint (I know if my hand is on the cardboard, I'm not smearing any fresh paint).  Finally, the comparatively smooth surface of the cardboard allows me to slide my arm/hand to lay down nice fluid lines without getting snagged on some texture.

A couple shots of the cardboard for the two of you who couldn't visualize what a slab of cardboard under my arm might look like!

Until next time, Keep your hands at 'Ten' and 'Two'......

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