Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Studio Upgrades

Having a bit more time this summer to commit to the studio, I have taken on a few very needed and necessary projects.  I just didn't feel like I could give up any hours to diy ideas which can stretch into much more complex things with me sometimes.  Luckily, these two were really easy and I am really happy to have put in the time.

The first is shelves for viewing paintings.  I needed a clean space to look at both finished and unfinished paintings.  I also needed it to be eye level because looking down at a painting on the floor is very different than when it is at this height.

It was weirdly easy -- using leftover moulding from frames that had a lip, I painted the wall and shelves white.  Then I used brackets to secure them in place .

The second project was creating storage racks for my paintings.  They had been leaning against each other in a pile which gave me such an uneasy feeling every time I looked at it.  I had researched buying one of these at one point and it was oddly expensive (as art supplies have to be for some reason).  

But then recently I came across a genius idea of someone else's here.

I made it one step cheaper actually than his method by deleting the pegboard step.  I had this shelving unit from Ikea that already had holes in the shelves.  So I bought another for $35 and using dowels that I cut to length, I divided up the space.  So far both projects are proving totally worth the minimal effort and investment.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Shows to Hit (and Miss)

D. Read Lockhart, PAFA Annual Student Exhibition
 I had a lovely day of show hopping in Philly last week.  Unfortunately it started off a little rough.  

We began at PAFA's Annual Student Exhibition which I make a point of seeing each year, but not usually at the crazy opening.  It is such a crowded show, seeing it when no one else is around is the only way I can even mildly process it.  I have to say my overwhelming feeling was: it was exceptionally weak this year.  My take away from the MFA floor is the painting above.  It is the only thing that I loved.  But no one 'wall' held my interest or felt like a complete thought/investigation.  Maybe if there was less work everywhere or students had curated themselves better I would have seen more to latch on to.  But as it stood, it felt like a lot of posturing towards contemporary looking things but no underlying motivations.  I felt this last year too.

The undergraduate show was a little stronger, a few interesting walls but still in need of development.  I was impressed with the amount of commitment of hours from some students especially after having worked with undergraduates all year.

left: Maguire, right: Lovitz 
Next we jumped over to Space1026 where Adam Lovitz and Patrick Maguire have put together a really cohesive two-person show. (full disclosure: Adam is a friend and was one of the gallery goers I was with.  But, I only hang out with painters whose work is awesome;)  So this review is truthful)

Patrick Maguire

Adam Lovitz

far wall: Maguire, close: Lovitz

This wall was built by the pair and has installation sculpture built in.  You'll have to go to see it!

Patrick Maguire

Of course it is much easier for two people to make a space feel cohesive.  The sheer number of students at the ASE creates a cacophony of voices.  But, Lovitz and Maguire are working with a similar aesthetic as many in the ASE were attempting and curated in a way that made it feel meaningful.  The work looks the way it does as a result of a sustained investigation into surface, paint, color.  Not through jumping from one 'look' to the next.  

Everything was essential and that made viewers want to examine and try to garner content.  The work feels both microcosmic and larger than life, as if looking at earth from the moon.  The scale is not human, however it feels rooted in being a person but simultaneously, otherworldly.

Jun Kaneko

Pat Steir
The day ended at Locks and a look at the two new shows: Jun Kaneko and Pat Steir.  I really loved Kaneko's ceramic work, especially the slabs that were mounted to the wall and painted on (as seen above).  They were between sculpture, ceramic and painting in medium and felt both gesturing to serious modernist thought but also playful in a fresh, right now kind of way.

The Steir show had some interesting moments of color relationships in paint.  I thought the best pieces were the more limited/less primary relationships.  Worth a look.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Best of: Beginning Drawing

Here is a quick run down of how my beginning drawing for a mix of majors and non-majors panned out.  I'm always wondering how other people organize their classes so I guess that is why I am now sharing mine.  Unfortunately I wasn't so fantastic at getting a lot of photos so I only have one or two examples of each in class drawing, usually I made up a homework to go alongside.

We started the first day doing blind contours.  The first was of the room (picture 1), the second was of your hand or shoe (picture 2), the third was of how it felt when your tongue went around your teeth in your mouth.  This last one I lifted from an old professor of mine.  Students were looking around like I might have kidnapped the real drawing teacher and taken the class rogue at this point.  Pure terror.  But nice drawings.

Then we moved to extended line drawing of organic shapes, placing emphasis on line weight and finding composition.

Then so they didn't get too line obsessed, (which happened anyway), we worked with the idea of negative space in creating composition.

From there we continued with organic objects and did cross contour studies.  I think this helps in understanding how to apply the charcoal when later moving on to value.  To think about the direction of the edges and planes.  But it was confusing for a bit for them.

Then we jumped into value with subtractive charcoal drawings of well lit drapery.  The drawings turned out pretty well but it was a big leap.  I think because the patterns of light and dark are so abstract at first, students are really anxious that it won't 'look right'.  But it helps push them outside of that thinking into trusting their eyes and locating shape.

From there we went on to geometric shapes and did a bunch of structural, proportion work with bottles and teapots and things.  Then they did an extended drawing which had both a glass and metal object so to observe the way lights and darks disperse in these materials.

For the midterm, they made drawings using conte crayon on mid tone paper, building both the lights and darks.  I made up these really ugly machine like still lifes that I called 'grandpa's attic' for these.  I think we were all sick of bottles and plants at this point.

After spring break, we launched into two weeks of perspective.  First they just made up imaginary boxes in one and two-point perspective.  Then they made up an interior space in one-point and a street corner in two-point to get the abstract idea of it.  Then we did a perceptual one-point of the hallway (no picture of this) and went out and drew the engineering building on campus in two-point.  Surprisingly a lot of students like doing this, I personally am happy when it is over.

From there we moved on to figure.  They started by doing pencil self portraits but I don't have any to post this semester.  Then we spent two weeks with a model, doing gesture drawings with different parameters (15 lines only, straight lines only, zooming into the entire page, fitting the whole pose and touching the top and bottom etc.)  Then we did two two-day poses and students chose the medium.  I forced them to try ink during gesture and some really loved it and continued with it (and some did not).

Then for the last week of classes we went outside and made landscape drawings, medium of their choice, quick or extended.  It was a nice change from the structure of the classroom setting and also the parameters sometimes felt in learning 'representational' drawing.

And for their final, they had to work completely outside of the class on a drawing that had a figure in a space, from life.  Some were quite classic, some were more inventive.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Spring Studio

Spring in the studio. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Best of: Beginning Painting

This semester I taught a painting class for non-majors.  In general, it was a good time and group.  I loved to watch the work change with each painting and also their attitudes.  Everyone starts out wanting to make a masterpiece.  They quickly get frustrated to the point of wanting to drop the class.  And then they settle in, listen and believe me when I say that painting is hard and they need to take risks and make shitty paintings and all of the sudden some really interesting things come about.

Here are a couple of my favorites in chronological order of the semester:

We started with grayscale painting and palette knife.  No details allowed.  They wanted to die at this point.

Then we moved to complementary color with palette knife.  This was helpful in forcing them to learn how to make chromatic grays.  But they still hated me at this point.

Then I had them make collages of paintings that another painter had made.  The top one was originally a Ken Kewley, the bottom, Yael Scalia.  By isolating the task of color mixing they were able to loosen up and work on this without getting too caught up in the placement of things.  

Then they painted the painting.  I debated doing this, I don't always love the idea of a 'master copy' but it gave them great confidence and as a picture they had looked at so closely, they were able to really understand the structure and shapes that built the painting.

Then we did a lot of still life work.  At this point, the idea of composition, paint quality and color are starting to be understood, while maintaining an individuality:

Then back to value for portraits.  Some students loved this, some really hated it.

Then color portraits:

Then we discussed interior spaces:

Luckily enough the weather was beautiful and we spent the last week on the back porch doing landscapes:

And finally they brought in a painting that was multiple sessions, any subject but from life, for their final:

This is the work of at least 12 different students, unfortunately I missed about 4 students work for photographing.  But I think (and hope) they got a basic understanding of how to build a painting, from paint application to color mixing to composition to scale, shape, value, light, space, that they can take with them in making future paintings.  But also a comprehension of their own interests in making a painting, the process of it and how they, specifically, look at the 3-D world and translate it onto a flat surface.