Monday, July 31, 2017

Gooey Paste and the Kindness of Strangers

It’s Monday morning. I had intended to write this blog post on Saturday evening as a way to wrap up the week. However, sales at Union Square were going pretty well, so I stayed late. 
I had always heard of the artists selling at Union Square. In fact, my first New York street peddling experience was across the street from Union Square on a chilly February day. I froze. Everyone ignored me. It was like baptism by ice. So, on Saturday, I decided to do it again. I went out early in the morning in search of the artists. A couple of artist vendors showed up, so I set up my easel near them.

All day, people walked by with their bags of vegetables from the nearby farmers market. There were tourists and loiterers too and even a drumming group and a crazy guy (maybe a performance artist or comedian?) running around in a Union Jack bathing suit, riding a tricyle, and shouting at people. Cars and trucks roared by - I was standing right at the curb. Lots of people stopped to talk and a few people purchased paintings. One man even bought me a some small weights for my easel after seeing it blow over while I was talking to a customer. (He was actually that customer.) 
Here are the two paintings from my Union Square day:

 Union Square View from the South, 5"x7" Watercolor

Median Trees, 9"x12" Watercolor

One of the other highlights from the week was painting at the Elizabeth Street Gardens. This is an enclosed, semi-private garden in Soho. It is run by volunteers and open to the public in the afternoons. It is crammed with the most interesting architectural artifacts, flowers and trees. People lounge around reading books or eating lunch. 
Here is my Elizabeth Street Gardens painting as well as a painting of another enclosed garden nearby.
Golden Swan Garden, Greenwich Village, 5"x7" Watercolor

Elizabeth St. Gardens from the East, 9"x12" Watercolor

I also cast my first sculpture. It was messy. Very messy. Instead of my usual blanket mold, I did a 2-part mold, and instead of using concrete, I used Aqua Resin. So, of course, I didn’t know  what I was doing and made a big mess. Imagine trying to make a plaster cast on the inside of a non-stick frying pan that is being held upside down. BUT, a finished 3-D piece did come out of the process. It has blemishes and deformations, but it is a finished piece. I call it Climbing Tree.

Climbing Tree, 18" Aquaresin

For those of you who read my post last week, I was having problems deciding whether to go with abstraction or simplification in sculpting the human figure. I went with simplification. After experimenting with abstraction (and embellishment), I realized that the important thing in this piece is the overall gesture. It’s a figure climbing a tree with a certain gesture/movement. That is the image I want to make. It does not need a lot of detail. So I simplified it considerably and went on with the mold making.
Experimenting with Naturalism 

Experimenting with Abstraction/Embellishment 

Settling on Simplification

And, lastly, Sunflower, my Sheen Center Residency mascot is growing apace. Two of his brethren have been sacrificed for the good of the tribe.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Sheen Center Artist Residency

This summer, from July 15 thru Sept. 30, I will be one of the artists in residence at the Sheen Center in New York City. The work from my residency will be for a show in January (opening Jan. 18) called Growing Home. The show will be a series of plein air paintings and sculptural reflections on the paintings, all of which pose the question of what God's creation has to say about the city of man.
As of now, I've been in the residency for a week. It's really neat to live here - the Sheen Center is in Soho. My days consist of plein air painting (and peddling) in the morning and sculpture (cast mediums) in the afternoon at a shared workspace called the Con Artist Collective. At first, it was all overwhelming - being here, getting to make my own art all day long, having all of Manhattan and its social and cultural opportunities at my fingertips, having only 2-1/2 months to put together a solo show, and more. A couple of highlights from last week were selling a painting of St. Mark's place to a woman whose father grew up on that street and getting hired (while painting and peddling) to paint a menu board at Burger and Lobster in Times Square.
By now, I'm a bit more settled in and in the grove. The model for my first cast sculpture is nearly ready for mold making, I've got some plein air paintings done as well as having made some sales.
Since the theme of my show involves plants, I planted a little sunflower in a pot the day I started. This is Sunflower, my mascot.

And, here are a few of the paintings from my first week. Check out my instagram feed for more.
 St. Mark's Place, 9"x12" Watercolor

 Rooftop Garden Near Cooper Sq., 9"x12" Watercolo

The Bean Coffee Shop with Sidewalk Tree on 2nd Ave, 9"x12" Watercolor

Having had a week to work on this project, I have come crashing into two barriers. The first is that the them of nature in the city is a theme that has been done. At the same time, it is a rich topic and one that touches many people. It is also very broad. So, I think the question for me involves digging into what is particular to the artistic vision granted to me. For instance, I was pondering this as I was looking for a spot to paint this morning. What stuck me was the shape formed by the orange-tinted rain clouds against distant buildings. That is a very particular observation. And, it's beautiful and worth observing. I may be the only person who stops at the moment to see it, and that is a sight worth communicating. Here is the painting from this morning. Incidentally, it was raining hard. I did the whole thing under an umbrella.
Looking up 3rd Ave by Cooper Sq., 9"x12" Watercolor

 The second barrier I've run into is that the sculpture I am working on right now - a sculpture inspired by my paintings - is impossible for me to finish at a decent level of quality within the time alotted. Mold making and casting is an entirely different process than watercolor painting. For one thing, it's quite expensive. But, once the mold is made, I can cast multiple sculpture. This means that the model needs to be something really worth the money and time necessary to made a mold. My goal is to complete at least 5 sculptures during the residency. This means I need to finish a sculpture every two weeks. My current model is not currently up to par. Eek. I chose to make a composition involving a stylized human figure. The problem with the figure - even a stylized, simplified figure - is that inaccurate proportions and anatomy can be very distracting. The distortion can become the focus of the piece rather than the whatever the focus is intended to be. As far as I can see, there are two solutions to this problem: either simplify the figure to the level at which it is possible to be accurate at whatever my current skill level is or abstract the figure to a degree that it is obvious to the viewer that no naturalism is intended. Simplifying the figure can make it boring, however, and abstracting it can render it absurd. So, I'm stuck. 
Well, I plan on blogging every week or two, so hopefully I'll have some pictures of said sculpture that illustrate how I solved this problem. Until then, it's a surprise.