Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mask from the past

So I had to put the "Happy Huntsman"  aside for a bit as I was starting to lose forward momentum.  For me, paintings are a lot like rebound relationships.  At first they are all fun and exciting, and it's all about fantasizing the various possibilities of life with them.  Then they start to reach a stage where you realize that they aren't quite as good as you thought they were going to be.  After this, you find yourself starting to avoid  them and really only come back out of boredom.  This is so much like the stages of my paintings.  Sometimes I will even "break up" with my painting at which point it goes in the trash, especially if that painting was really needy all the time. 

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to make a really unsellable still life.  The basic rule is; the more your friends like the piece, the less likely it is to sell.  Apple and silver platter, bam, gone the next day.  Gas mask and crates of wood; better be looking to peddle this off as a Christmas gift.  See chart below.

Anyway, doing still lifes are painfully boring unless you at least have some cool objects to look at.  I found an old WW2 gas mask, some wood, and a little hornets nest for this particular setup.  I know what a lot of you are thinking, "But Dave, what does it mean?"  I have no idea, but I know it looks freaking awesome.  If you really need an answer, it's about post-colonial existentialism seen through a male gaze set against interpersonal meta-cognition...and stuff.

 Just did the oil transfer in this pic if you look closely.
 Start of Ebauche
Ebauche done (more or less)

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The Incognito Project" Kickstarter

Today we have a guest post.  Read on to learn more about Terry Strickland's imaginative new "Incognito" series and her fundraising project to create a book to go with her show.  This post was written by Carly Strickland, daughter of the artist and the one designing the book.  Looks like mom got to do all the fun stuff and left her daughter to worry about margin width and kerning.  I think when I have kids I'll make sure that they have skills that will benefit my career, too.  Like paint mulling, or art photography.  I'll even settle for really good grilled cheese sandwich making skills.

Take it, Carly:

Carly Strickland as Professor Rattus

The Incognito Project is kind of a big deal in my family. In fact, our small company, Matter Deep Publishing, came about because the painting series always included publishing a book about the project. We realized we had a family full of writers and artists so why not make a publishing business.

Mom (Terry Strickland) got an idea a few of years ago to do a large scale show of portraits of people as their alter-egos. It was deeply collaborative between Mom and her models, going back and forth about who they wanted to be when they grew up (because none of us are really grown up) or their secret identities and alter egos.

When it came time for the photo shoot (20 something people in one day- whew!) the family stepped up to be the support she needed for the day! Dad handed out model paperwork and kept the schedule, my sister-in-law did costume make up, my brother did interviews about the alter egos, and I worked as Mom's assistant, moving lights, adjusting models, and serving as a second set of eyes for the photos.

So here we are a couple years later, the paintings are done, but the family is not! We have joined together to make The Incognito Project into a coffee table book. We've got the writers writing and the designer (me) designing. 

While the book started out as her project, we’ve all let it become our project. It's kind of taken over our lives.

Designing the book has been a pleasure. I’ve been living in a house with several of the pieces since they were painted, but getting to really look at them all day is marvelous. 

I’ve been working to complement the paintings’ compositions with my layouts. It’s been a surprisingly natural process that I attribute to the two of us having an incredibly similar sense of design. I am Mom’s mini-me.

It's got all kinds of stuff in it. Essays about the significance of certain identities, statements from the models, and giant glossy images of the paintings. It's laid out like a detective's file, revealing the way Mom has become a people detective. Through her art she has discovered others' true selves and laid them bare for us all to see.

We're running a Kickstarter to fund the printing of the book. If you donate 50 bucks you get a 9x12, hard cover. It included 120 pages of beautiful paintings, fantastic writing, and stunning details! The Kickstarter ends September 2, after that, the book will be $65. There's a bunch of other swag that you can get too in smaller pledge packages, or if you've got more there are a few packages that include original art, so check it out!

If you've never seen Kickstarter here's a quick run down:

You promise to donate a certain amount of money. If the campaign reaches the needed amount, then your donation goes through. If we don't reach our goal, then our hopes and dreams are shattered, you don't spend any money, and we don't get any money. It's completely safe, and your payments go through your existing Amazon account. Amazon has (rigorously) verified that we are who we say we are, and essentially what you are doing is not really donating, but pre-ordering a book! More about it here: Kickstarter's Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, August 24, 2012


Someone suggested I do a posting about my stance on art restorers.  This of course has been brought on by Cecilia Giménez's recent botched restoration attempt which has left a Spanish fresco, titled "Ecco Homo" in ruins. Cecilia, a hobbyist art restorer, took it upon herself to restore the fresco by use of oil paints atop the supposedly deteriorating work. Ironically, a few vocal defenders are coming to her aid, claiming that Gimenez's  destruction is art in its own right. 

Botched restoration or perfect monkey portrait?

I have heard a lot of controversy around art conservation, restoration, etc.  The thing people have to realize is that any field, be it the sciences, law, fine art, or otherwise, is going to have idiots.   Some fields tend to have more idiots (like the people who work at Dairy Queen) while others (like research scientists) have less.  Art restorers I feel are in the middle of the bell curve of idiocy.  Some are great, while others paint Chewbacca over Spanish masterpieces.  The bottom line is that certain works of art are going to be screwed regardless unless action is taken in restoring them.  Whether these attempts will save the work or not, well, depends on if it's done by an idiot. And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Here's a little something I painted a few months ago.  Above you can see that I've laid in a bit of an ebauche. 
Here you can see my first layer of thick, pure paint.  I'm using the delectable Lead White No. 2 by Natural Pigments.  It goes on like butter frosting and tastes like brain damage.  I cut it with some Velazquez medium, which is rendered down fat from Velazquez's remains.  This imparts a gloopy stringiness and causes the brushstrokes to pool and settle a bit.
Look at that ropey-ness.  I picked up a bit of white with my knife to mix a grey, and created a fondue cheese-like trail in the process.  Once again, forever as always, I used my combo of ultramarine blue and iron red oxide to work warm and cool magic in any area that pretends to be neutral grey.  The entire shell was more or less these two colours, plus yellow ochre pale, and a wee bit of alizarin here and there.  Alizarin is that loud guy that you don't want to come to the party, but somehow he hears about it and shows up anyways.  And it's really annoying because he doesn't fit in with your other much cooler friends.
Above, a second pass at the planks behind the shell.  You can see how I've started noodling some texture into the bottom of the two planks.  The top plank ended up being wiped.  When working on texture like this I like to work up to higher contrast layer by layer.  I won't put my darkest notes in until the final pass, and that's also a good time to re-accentuate the highest notes too.  This helps keep things from getting messy or unmanageable.
Final pass for bottom plank, with some extra delicious crunchy bits.
Lurvly paint chips!  So much fun.  Digging through other people's demolition garbage piles is totally worth it, tetanus shots aside.  Most of the paint chips were applied with a palette knife.  Now for some close-ups:
I love how that top right corner is an abstract painting all on its own.  Below is the preparatory drawing for the painting:
I've had this piece of paper with white droplets on it for years, waiting for the right drawing.  Oooh, and guess what?  I have a brand new piece of studio equipment.:
His name is Bishop.  He keeps exactly three square feet of floor warm and takes care of any extra pigs' ears that might be burdening my workspace.  He also comes with a whistling snot feature to keep me from zoning out when I paint.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Doppleganger

So here's that dwarf guy from that thing and a painting by somebody who is probably dead and might be Russian, or possibly Spanish.  I think we can say with certainty that he was European.  Or maybe North American.  Time to get back to Breaking Bad on my husband's laptop.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Huntsman

I know I have been slacking on the updates, buy hey, it's summer, and someone has to drink beer and fall asleep in the sun.  I have started to move along on my "Happy Huntsman" piece and am now working into the first painting stage, but before I get into details, I have to talk about the new dog I just adopted.  Now I know that everyone thinks their dog is the best, but it isn't, mine is.  In fact, if you have a small dog, that instantly puts you out of the running for having a cool dog, especially if it's one of those tiny white ones that has a permanently stained face and has the intelligence of an Idaho potato (sorry Tara).  My dog Bishop is going to be included in my next several paintings, so plan on seeing him some more in the upcoming months.

Below you can see the drawing completed for the "Happy Huntsman", along with the color studies.  I am trying something a bit different with this piece by focusing more on the larger dark shape/silhouette of the figure contrasting with a lighter colored background. Again, I cannot stress the importance of preparation when doing a painting.  Drawings, life studies, thumbnails, color studies, etc are all extremely useful.  You never want to paint yourself into a corner on the final piece (see how I did that, you see how that works on those two levels, ah nevermind.)

 Start of the underpainting, done in raw umber after the transfer was completed.
 The ebauche, using a mixture of vermillion, lead white, raw umber, ivory black, and yellow ochre pale.  The colors are extremely limited and muted at this point, as is the value range.
 The beginning of first painting along with a paper towel for some reason which I didn't bother to move before taking the picture.
And here is something awesome I drew just because I am awesome.  Sometimes it's simply fun to draw something completely different from what one normally does.  Drawing things like this makes me give it up to all you illustrators and concept artists.