I made the artwork for this poster which is available from Conscious Alliance and Sound Tribe Sector Nine this weekend (March 21/22) in Atlanta, GA. The 18″ x 24″ poster is silkscreened and the colors look great! I’m so happy to work with Conscious Alliance again. I think they do really really great work and I’m always happy to support them when I can.
Who/What are Conscious Alliance?
Conscious Allaince is a “non-profit organization committed to hunger relief and youth empowerment.” They bring in money and food donations through posters that they sell through their “Art that Feeds” program at music events. It’s a great model for a really powerful non-profit that helps to provide food to those who are in need.
It makes me really happy to be able to give of myself and give my work to causes like this that do such good work in helping others. It doesn’t stop there, though. The printer as well donates HIS time and energy and materials. The band lets them use their name for free (making it a commemorative event kind of thing) and allows them to sell the poster inside the venue – ALL FOR FREE! All donated through the various individuals involved because we all love what CA does!
Here’s a bit of what they did last year:
• Increase the value of services delivered directly in the field by 25% to a total of $603,800.
• Hosted 84 food drives nationwide
• Provided over 130,000 meals to those in need through food drives and partnerships with natural food companies
• Developed a series of artist workshops for at-risk youth designed to inspire creativity and teamwork
More here: http://www.consciousalliance.org/2013/03/a-letter-from-the-executive-director/
If you aren’t aware of the hunger problem that plagues this nation, this website is a good place to become more informed: http://feedingamerica.org/
More about Conscious Alliance can be found here:
One of the things we’ll be looking at and working with in the drawing workshop I’m teaching is composition. The Rule of Thirds is, I think, the best way to consider a composition. Using this little painting for an example – take a look at where the lines intersect the painting. It almost falls perfectly into it’s respective sections. The right edge of the left third intersects the cloud opening and also the center of one archway. The left edge of the right third cuts through the column – balancing out the openings on the left. In the smaller thirds even, the small person falls in the middle third of the bottom right corner thirds. The lowest line of clouds, too, starts at the top of the bottom third of the painting and slowly drifts upwards. Between these and other details, the painting ends up falling into a nice order and feeling like a really balanced composition and ends up being more engaging and pleasing to the eye.
I didn’t measure any of this out when I painted it. I just sort of place things where they feel comfortable and natural. I think the more one practices this kind of thing the more it is a naturally occurring phenomenon on our work.
I recently did an interview with Nomos Journal - an online journal “that publishes a revolving array of material engaging the intersection between contemporary expressions of religion and popular culture.”. We talked about art, history, painting, mysticism, amongst other things… it was great. Give it a read! (*thanks, seth!)
“Would you say this in-between characterization – this dance – sort of parallels the studio-live dynamic as well?”
“Sure. The live setting helps to stretch me as well, and I certainly love to leave my hermit cave, so to speak, and go out into the world and play. So it’s good to get out, to paint live and let my brushes and paint flow in a much looser manner because then I’m so happy to be able to give myself the time and space that the much more careful paintings require. There’s a story (and I think it is in many cultures, but for this I’ll paraphrase Buddhism) where a new monk wanted to meditate, and he worked really hard at it and held himself very, very still. He fasted and prayed all the time, non-stop. The monk had been a musician, and he went to his teacher and asked why it was so hard. His teacher asked him about his stringed instrument: if the strings were too tight or too loose, you couldn’t get the right note and it could not be played. So it is the same with the practice: too loose or too tight is no good. We must find the right path between the two. As an artist, too much studio time and you lose the looseness, but too many parties and live painting, and you lose the focus. It’s the dance between the two where there is joy.”
A 5-Session Drawing Workshop Meeting Every 3 Weeks
Come for 1 class or all 5
I have spent many many hours with pen and paper. Long before the painting, before colors are considered, there is a drawing. I love the drawing process – creating sweeping forms with a few lines, the delicate cross-hatching of the pen, the deep blacks of the ink and the bright whites of the paper. The process of drawing has significantly impacted my creative process and I think it does every artist a world of good to spend some time working with the basic drawing tools like charcoal, pencil, and pen and ink.
In this series of workshops, we will work with a charcoal, pencil, and pen and ink as we work to better understand light and shadow, the interplay of objects, and proportion and dimension. We will also allow ourselves the creative space to find points of departure within our drawings – where we can let our imaginations run free.
More specifically, we’ll discuss and practice such things as using line work to infer volume and texture, making measurements with the eye and not the ruler, and shifting perspectives.
This class is open to artists of all skill levels.
SIGN UP NOW
The Still Life
For the subject of our creation, we will work from a still life designed by Michael. The Still Life, a surreal menagerie of forms, is designed to stimulate imaginations while staying true to the real world considerations such as the placement of objects on a plane and within a space, working with perspectives, and concepts of form, volume, and light. At the same time, we will allow ourselves space for points of departure: places where our imagination can take hold and run with an idea or inspiration.
Class Sessions – Times & Dates
Through the course of 5 separate workshops, we will work on various aspects of the creative process through the exploration of various drawing techniques. We’ll work with charcoal, pencil, and pen and ink.
We will meet every three weeks on the following Sundays from 12pm – 4pm at the Hive Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. We will focus on the medium that is noted. but we will be working from the same still life each time. Trust us, you won’t get bored with the still life. It is not a bowl of fruit.
- March 17 – Charcoal
- April 7 – Pencil
- April 28 – Pencil
- April 19 – Pen and Ink
- June 9 – Pen and Ink
Tea will be provided.
In our five classes together, will focus on a variety of drawing materials including charcoals, pencil, and pen and ink. We will work with understanding the shapes and working with concepts of light, spatial proportion, and composition.
You will be required to have the following:
- Pencil Drawing Materials
- Pen and Ink
- Drawing paper
- Large block of newsprint paper – 18” x 24” - Newsprint Pad
- Drawing pad – Strathmore Drawing paper is perfectly fine – Drawing Pad
- 18” x 24” Large drawing board – Board
Classes are $60 each or $250 for all five classes. You may sign up for one class at a time or purchase the full five class series. Attendance is limited. Pre-registration is encouraged. You may pay with cash or credit card at the beginning of class but please send an email to email@example.com if you plan on attending.
Register for all five classes – $250 -
Register for individual classes ($60 each) -
Thank you for your interest. We look forward to your attendance!
Refunds less 25% deposit will be given up to 30 days before workshop begins.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had two shows going on this past weekend, including the Caravaggio show would be ending in a few days. My friend Radhika had called me several days before – did we want to go? Since we’d be in LA for this GATE event where I had artwork (along with Amanda Sage and Mikal Aubry) we figured we’d spend the night on Saturday and go to the museum the next day. Besides, with Amanda Sage and Chris in town we could get Bloody Marys downtown at Cole’s in the morning – the best Bloody Marys in LA save for the ones we make ourselves.
Sunday started out with us waking at the downtown HIlton, sharing a room with Amanda and Chris and probably not getting enough sleep. I went out and brought back Americanos for all and when we were all showered and dressed, we headed out the door to Cole’s. Downtown has been enlivened in the past few years – nicer eateries, boutiques, etc moving in; old theaters being cleaned up. It’s looking right respectable! I remember coming here years and years ago on my first visit to LA. There as no heart that I could find, so to speak. Anyways, downtown LA has been slowly revealing itself to be a marvel of Romantic Art Deco architecture mixed with Mexicano style, hipster cafes, and great bars…. And a slew of other flavors and sirens and car horns and homeless and business people and everything. It’s a city, you know and a delicious one at that. While the best part of downtown may be a small hub, it’s a rich and beautiful little hub.
Cole’s, as always, was fabulous. I know that this is entitled ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ but I really must wax eloquently about Cole’s for a moment. Cole’s is known as the oldest bar in LA – operating since 1908. It’s not terribly old by some standards but still. The bar, below street level, dark wood, stained glass, etc. feels old, authentic, lovely and the sometimes rather complicated drinks are made from scratch by bartenders in little black 1920′s style vests. The Bloody Marys are only served on Sundays and I’d tried countless times to bring Violet there only to be stymied by the wrong time of the day.
So there we were eating French Dips (Cole’s claims to be the originator – tho the jury is still out on that) and drinking these fabulous spicy Bloody Marys in the corner table by the bar – a great way to start a Sunday and a great way to soften… well… something about the woo-woo fest the night before. Anyways… Later we moved outside to finish off our Irish coffees (because what to follow Bloody Marys, french dips, spicy pickles, sweet potato fries than Irish whiskey and coffee and cream?). Chris and I went back inside to pay the bill, had a Knob Creek on the rocks (big ass ice cubes as they should be), sat for a moment appreciating the scene.
His friend Castro drove us all to LACMA in his little Cube car. It was a beautiful day and, with the breeze up, the sun playing off the white lines and walls of the museum, the green leaves and grass we felt splendid. We sat in the Stark Bar in curving red cushioned chairs from 1975 waiting for other friends to show up while we drank espressos from tiny cups. Eventually, Radhika Heresy, Christopher Ulrich, and a couple others arrived. (for the record, I really think Christopher is one of the finest classica styled artists alive today) We talked laughed exclaimed – Art and life and creation and everything! It’s so beautiful! It’s so open and wide and available! O muse!
But the day was passing and it was art we were after (or I was in any case). We went to the Kubrick exhibit first. If you don’t know or have lived in a cave, Stanley Kubrick is known as one of the greatest film makers of the modern era. His films are masterpieces of cinema – Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and 2001 – and the exhibit spanned his entire career from a photographer to director to producer. In some respects it felt more like a film buff movie retrospective. There were props and posters and story boards and pages of screenplays. Clips of movies played on loops. There were the funky chairs from 2001, a space helmet with the final scene, a spaceship model used in the filming. The strange and erotic white milk women from Clockwork Orange on white pedestals looked bold and sexy. There were outfits worn in period pieces.
I think that if I were more of a film type person (not just someone who likes to watch them) I would have been more impressed. I love the movies I have seen of his. 2001 is a psychedelic masterpiece. However, I felt like we were seeing all the bits and pieces that went into creating the work of art without being able to see the work of art itself. It’d be like if there was a Dali show and it was made up of pieces from his studio, a few sketches, photos, his paintbrushes, etc. It shows a life but not the art piece itself.
After a little while of that, we went to the Caravaggio exhibit – Caravaggio and His Legacy. That was something else entirely. Caravaggio, an Italian master, is known for his darkly Baroque paintings from the late 1500s into the early 1600s as he arrived on the coattails of the Renaissance. I will readily admit that I know little of him and I didn’t take notes so you are going to get the general impression – distinct pieces, histories, etc – these I could not tell you. But what I can tell you is that his work is remarkable. His compositions are never crowded but nor are they overly spacious – they are balanced just right. The great black spaces coupled with the extreme paleness of the lead white that he used creates a glowingly stark beauty. The looks on the faces, the curve of a brow or the shape of a torso all balanced just so – just enough to give the feeling that needed to be evoked.
Incidentally, Caravaggio died of lead poisoning and lead white is no longer on the market…
I love looking at the works of old masters. Their colors and moods, their lines and shadows and their people. You know, at that time there were only a small handful of subjects from which people chose the themes of their paintings. There were biblical studies, still lifes, and depictions of the present day – a fisherman’s wife, a street scene, a girl with a basket. He chose his subjects well and conveyed emotions with soft buttery brushstrokes and deep richness.
After the first two (I think) rooms of Caravaggio there followed several rooms of his ‘followers’ – his legacy as it were. You could tell where some of them strayed. Where Caravaggio had pitch perfect layout, the works of others were sometimes crowded and, tho still painted skillfully, poorly composed or lacking the greater subtlety of Caravaggio. Where Caravaggio never failed at the emotions he meant to embody, others sometimes languished. That’s not to say that the work of some of the others in the exhibit was bad. In fact, some of it was quite remarkable – the subtlety in the colors on the hand of a soldier, the hairs of a beard, the use of light, or the glowing flame of a candle, etc. I think what is notable of most derivative works is that, while there is skill for sure, the ideas and theory behind the creation can get muddled. The artist who follows, who paints in the wake of the master, who merely seeks to use the ideas and motifs, sometimes ends up floundering, looking for his/her own voice. The master, the originator, had a personal experience of the thing and created his layout, chose his palette, understood his subject – and, in this, it was an authentic experience of the thing as it was an expression of the artist himself. So the artwork that he created stands the test of time because of it’s authentic and unique voice.
We all – Amanda, Violet, and I – left the exhibit inspired and enlivened. To us, Kubrick exhibit seemed like a cluttered disarray of film detritus (incomparable to the visions that made it to the screen) but the Caravaggio exhibit was alive, glowing, and engaging.
I felt like I always do after an inspiring jaunt through art: back to painting!
I’m rounding the corner, walking home from the organic market that we shop at, and it’s a chilly evening. The sun is well past gone. I have a small bag of groceries in my arm – chocolate, coffee, some vegetables, some coconut milk creamer – and a man pushing a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles and aluminum cans passes me. He looks to be smiling but then again maybe he’s grimacing and I wonder: what stroke of life gave this man a cold evening to push a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles, maybe just trying to find enough to make a few dollars and buy something to eat – and me, walking to my warm home. Sometimes, driving through downtown LA, I end up on one of the blocks of homeless people living in tents, pushing shopping carts that contain everything they own, living in the gutter. I wonder at how it is that I am in my car, listening to music, on my way to a meeting, or a dinner with friends, or just getting on the highway and heading home and they are there, stuck in some all together different way of life. I wonder at how the uber-wealthy end up so high up on that pedestal they place themselves upon, sometimes unable to truly value the little things.
I wonder at this… this world with all of it’s countless threads of lives going on: where some are bombed, others are swaddled, some are cared for, and some are left to be trodden upon, some walk tall, some walk small, some don’t walk at all… I wonder how it is that man is legless and I walk along or that child was born without sight, and I can see. How that person appears to be ahead of me, and that person is behind. The vast multitudes and all the myriad walks of life. I wonder at it and I wonder at how I ended up here: making art, doing what I love, living unafraid, neither angry nor resentful, but loving it. I’m in a wonderful marriage to a wonderful woman, with a home that is warm and, right now, smells like fresh baked bread, with a cat on my lap and soft music playing and soft lighting. I wonder at it all and the only thing I am left with – the only answer that comes back to me, echoing from my heart and what feels like the heart of all things – is gratitude: at this gift, this life.
Gratitude is like the late afternoon sunshine, touching everything, turning it gold.
Ideas about art and business and creativity for young artists and old ones too but it’s the young ones who ask…
- Only give someone art they’ve bought when it has been paid in full
- Contracts are good. Get everything in writing when making a deal.
- For any commissioned work, always get at least half up front.
- It’s ok to do things for free but don’t give yourself away all the time. Your time is valuable.
- ‘Exposure’ us good but so is eating and paying the bills.
- Don’t be afraid to say no when it comes to selling a painting for less than you want for it.
- Trust yourself and know when to walk away.
- Selling art feels like you are being supported but just because you haven’t sold anything lately doesn’t mean you aren’t any good.
- Even the most successful artists suffer from self-doubt. Just do your best.
- Your friends are usually terrible critics.
- Your partner is usually your best critic.
- You are good enough but you can always get better.
- Beware of tropes.
- Your best work will always be done when you’re sober.
- Straight lines are best made with a ruler.
- A string, a tack or piece of tape, and a pencil will give you a perfect circle.
- If you see something in your painting that you want to change – change it. Otherwise, it will nag at you every time you look at the painting.
- Sit and draw people in real life. Don’t just draw the pretty ones.
- If you wear headphones when you paint, invest in a good pair.
- Natural spectrum light bulbs will give you the best light.
- Make sure you have plenty of sunlight. Caves are depressing to work in.
- A great painting takes time. Don’t be afraid of taking the time.
- Love what you do and what you make.
- Practice makes perfect.
Observations, Experiences, and The Great Convergence in Egypt
Dec. 13 – 25, 2012
“We must be some kind of important,” I chuckled quietly to Violet as the six tour buses of revelers traveled quietly down the twisting desert road away from the Giza plateau and the Great Pyramids and a party so unbelievably perfect that the bus is actually quiet and now here we were led by Egyptian police on motorcycles with lights flashing whisked down down down through the sand and back into the city and decrepit neighborhoods and little fires on the sides of the road, old man looking up and taking note and not a traffic light to be stopped at, straight on through back to the safe bubble of the hotel, six busloads of tired mind blown ecstatic alive and wild people.
Wow, was all that many of us could say.
As I sit now in Alexandria in this spacious high-ceilinged café along the Mediterranean, drinking a creamy cappuccino (possibly the best coffee I’ve had in Egypt, save for those from the night before with Jimmy and Violet) and watching the minibuses and old German cars and newer Japanese cars pass by on the busy Corniche road that runs along the sea, it seems far far away. It seemed so very far away too with each moment that led up to it. Just before Thanksgiving we were invited, along with our good friend Jimmy (founder/curator of the Temple of Visions gallery in LA) to attend – to live paint and display artwork. Once tickets were in hand, the gears were set in motion. We were going to Egypt! It was surreal and real. New passports were ordered and expedited (the old ones were expired). I got really sick and hoped I’d get better. It all worked out. I healed thanks to Chinese Medicine and the passports arrived several days early. Packed and sorted and there we were, meeting Jimmy at LAX and getting on a plane bound for Cairo after a layover in Frankfurt where we ceremoniously ate sausages and sauerkraut and drank a beer.
Landing in Cairo in the night time, we exited the terminal into the thrall of taxi drivers all vying for our attention but my eyes locked with the suit jacketed attendant of a transportation desk in the main lobby. Young and clean shaven he spoke fairly and sported a shiny belt buckle that looked like a berretta. He arranged for a van to take us to the Giza train station where we’d booked an overnight train to Luxor. The cab driver, like most cab drivers, was happy for some listening ears and, in broken English, wanted nothing more than to tell us about Egypt, how expensive the apartments near the airport were (in the Heliopolis neighborhood – a million dollars a piece, in USD), how we shouldn’t trust anyone in Luxor (Not entirely true. You can trust most people most of the time just not all people all of the time so proceed with caution.), and how Egypt is very good, very safe.
Once we circled around Cairo and into the rush hour thrall of Giza not much different than downtown LA. Street vendors and everyone walking driving riding honking. It was just a bit dirtier and a few more halogen bulbs and no bacon wrapped hot dog vendors. Cars passed within inches of each other and at first you think it’s amazing that no one hits anyone else but then you see how every car is scratched and dented and a bit worse for the wear.
“Ah,” said our driver, “Egypt is great but traffic. Traffic is a problem!” A comment heard uttered by many a taxi driver after him.
In the coldly lit office of the young station master in the Giza train station I tried to explain how I’d purchased tickets for the night before because didn’t realize that the time change from the US to Egypt would make us lose a day and would it be possible to use those for today. We went back and forth with the cab driver translating. I was never sure who was pulling my leg. Violet and Jimmy waited in the cab. Finally I bought new tickets. There was no way around it. I’d have to eat the $127. It’s things like that which make people in some countries think that people from other countries are made of money. We’re not. We’re just on different value scales.
The train showed up and our cabbie through much fast talking got us onto a car, into two sleeper cabins, and the cab driver is telling me that he needs me to give him all this money so that he can go pay for our tickets but I wasn’t born yesterday and it’s best to take care of transactions yourself, in any part of the world, so we gave a a handful of US dollars to the car attendant or whatever he was, the cab driver was off the train. The doors closed. The train started moving. Our two cabins had a door between allowing them to open to each other and there we three were, bound now on the night train for Luxor.
We’ve been in Egypt for four days and its been incredible. We arrived into Cairo airport several days ago. An opinionated cab driver navigated us around the outskirts of Cairo and into the noisy evening traffic of giza to the train station where we boarded an overnight train to luxor. The trains aren’t fancy but the bed was nice after the many hours of sitting on the plane.
For whatever reason the train arrived three hours late even though it left on time. From the train station we were picked up by our hotel and brought to the lovely nefertiti hotel. Its a smaller place located across from the temple of luxor and the avenue of the sphinx. It’s run by younger well educated men with a penchant for laughter. I appreciate the shared opinions and ideas as we sit in the al-sahaby restaurant whose tables line the tiles alleyway and smoke shisha (flavored tobacco) from hookahs and drink strong Egyptian coffee and talk and laugh. O the revolution! It could do so much! And they – the more educated populace – certainly don’t want to be ruled by fundamentalists…. Its obvious that is the road towards becoming like Iran.
With the call to prayer waking us at five in the morning – the garbled often off-key praise to Allah ringing from minarets across the skyline at dawn we’ve had daily breakfast on the rooftop of coffee and eggs and dates and breads and tea at low tables looking onto the morning street scenes below. Donkeys and carts and children and men in robes and old leathery faces and men in suits and nice cars and women robed and covered in various ways.
We went to see all the beauty we could find. We wandered through the ancient ruins of the temple of luxor and the towering pillars, carved with petals and cartouches. The four of us went with a guide to he Valley of the Kings, the tombs of the nobles, the colossi of memnon, the temple of hapshepsut, and the breathtaking majesty of medinet habu. Throughout the trip we saw enormous structures, crafted by the hands of thousands and dedicated to gods, pharoahs, and great events. The delicate patterns, the fine reliefs, writing can carving in the form of hieroglyphics over every surface – columns and walls and statues. And all of hem three thousand or four thousand years old. There is paint in the tombs that is 3500 years old. Yet, the lines are clean, the colors still bright and bold. Now the great columns and statues of limestone and alabaster just stand out there in the desert, riding out the rise and fall of civilizations…
I have found all of the people I have met to be peaceful, kind, holding a great sense od humor. You see – it feels incredibly safe here. Sure you know how easy It is to leave something and have it disappear or get swindled out of your Egyptian pounds by an unscrupulous sales person or horse and buggy driver – some going kid feeling at you hat he Will take you to the camel market for two pounds (the camel market is 100km away!) but that is the case everywhere – that there is someone wanting to swindled you. As a whole – people are genuinely friendly, helpful, kind. Children laugh and call ‘hello’ and old men nod quietly.
After the revolution started 1.4 million tourists fled the country. Now you see and feel the desperation in the sales men trying to entice you into their shops to buy a scarf, a bust of nefertiti, any number of baubles and trinkets. The good deal is for you, today, just come now and see this thing…. And its excessive sometimes – the sales pitch.- because business is tough these days. Streets that we are told are usually bustling lay empty and the beaded curtains sway gently with no one to push them aside.
The people we see and meet are proud of their country and their heritage. Temple guards in their long robes have taken us into inner rooms of temples – unseen by the public – to see chambers that display some of the most beautiful reliefs and painting and hieroglyphics that we’ve seen and there is pride in their eyes. Cab drivers speak of their country men with a sense of pride. You see, while there are differences for sure in ways of dress, traditions, food and drink – these are all surface things. At their core – in their hearts – people are all the same. Where it’s the little old man in the donkey pulled cart bringing his vegetables to town to weigh or the little boys and girls playing in the field or the guards at the gates to the temple… All and everyone wants to be happy. They just want basic happiness and basic freedoms.
Go visit Egypt of you can. It’s safe. It’s friendly. Its inspiring. It’s beautiful.