Tuesday, December 31, 2013

things happening in the studio...

What in the works? What's happening in the studio? Stuff. Several things going on in this first photo below. The picture on the left has been through several incarnations, and I still have no idea where its going. You can see a close up of part of it below. Sort of demonic looking angel creature with rays of light emanating from its head. Demonic angel. Haha. I guess that's an oxymoron. If you believe in demons, then you already know they are angels. In the middle, a collaboration I am doing with Elli Gotzi. Not quite done, and not sure I like where I am going with it. But, skunk. Of course, on the right, a crazy fly with weird things happening in the background. Faahhhh. Upper right, bird/bat thing I started about 12 years ago. Its watercolor and ink on Claybord. 

fly and things
part of painting/drawing deal from left side of above photo
On this table (photo below), a new watercolor ink thing in the same style and color as my recently finished "Convergence" piece. Above and partially covered by that piece is a spray paint/acrylic paint beginning. Hopefully, something will come out of it! 
take a walk on the weird side
elephant man? just started
More or less finished this largish fish painting. Its 2 X 4 feet, acrylic paint, spray paint, and housepaint on primed masonite. Why? Because, I love dem fishes man. They are so weird. Right? Manic fish painting. 

Fish, 2 X 4 feet, acrylic on wood

Another photo of the same image. Notice the colored pencil portrait on the wall
that I did of Joseph (did this about 5 years ago)
Joseph has stuff going on as well. Because, that's what we do man. Yeah. he likes the collage action. Also, drawing weird stuff. Combine the two, and play some crazy music, and you start to enter the mind of Joseph the strange singing running boy who paints weird things and writes stories about the unknown and obscure.

painting/collage that Joseph is working on

The piece below (by Joseph) is a pretty interesting image. The colored pastel picture is matted with a hand painted matte. I say hand painted, but its not just paint. Raised areas were created with Elmer's glue. Gives this matte a unique effect. 
One of Joseph's pastel pictures with a handpainted matte
First step to something new, primed some wood. About ready for a second coat. These are Joseph's, but its not an uncommon scene for me either.

primed birch plywood, have to wait to see what he comes up with

New art by Joe

Finished up a couple of new things. The first one I decided to call "Convergence." This piece is 24 X 24 inches and was done on really thick professional grade, cold press illustration board (i.e. with some texture) using watercolor, Rapidograph pen, and pencil. I really love this illustration board. With its nice thickness, I can apply multiple washes of watercolor. In this case, as I often do, I use the watercolor for multiple reasons. First of all, I really like to draw, and I don't always want to draw on a white surface. So, why not paint the surface first? And, if I am going to go to the trouble to paint the surface, why not paint it in random patterns that I can later use to pull ideas from? So, yeah, a couple or so washes of earth tone colors and some random blotting with crumpled paper towel here and there, and its time to start drawing. I probably don't use the paint right, I am not a painter really. I throw some water here and there, slap some wet paint into it, mingle colors freely, blot things when I feel I should, then let it dry and repeat. In a case like this, I sometimes start the procedure with some vague shapes, mostly in an attempt to break up the space a bit. The blotting of wet paint is very important, because it is in this step that micro textures are created that can be explored later. I usually don't use pencil for preliminary drawings, but in this case, I did actually slightly outline a couple of things that immediately popped out to me. Started adding some ink with my Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pen. This step takes a long time because I use a fairly fine nib. As I am working on something like this, I periodically place it on a vertical surface where I can view it from afar. This really helps.  Sit back and look at something, see what needs to be done, see if some strangeness jumps out that was not seen up close, and stuff like that. Of course, because this sort of drawing/painting takes so long to do (as in weeks or more), how I feel and what I am thinking when drawing it changes drastically. I tend to draw these things in a similar manner to how I plan my landscaping in my yard. I start with individual elements scattered here and there, then I look for ways to connect them. Tricky sometimes. Does not always work out. As I am drawing, of course, sometimes the background color does not entirely work to fill out the images I am creating, so I often go back and add some more color. Its a back and forth deal. Eventually, I get to a point when I feel that I am done. In this case, I decided to leave some areas ambiguous, slightly unfinished. One point I was trying to make with this piece was the idea of different things that usually occupy the same space at different times, suddenly occupying the same space at the same time. Or least in part. Partial temporal shift. It kinds of freaks me a out a bit when driving as I realize that just a second earlier another car was exactly where I was. Trippy man. Ok, yeah, and the idea of multiple parallel universes has always sounded pretty weird. What if, in our very own space, but in another parallel world, various organisms where floating about, moving freely. Do you ever get the sense that some presence has brushed by you? Anyway, here is the result. 

"Convergence", by Joe A. MacGown

closeup of guy in middle at a prefinished stage
Because this was not a planned piece of art, there are some rather incongruous elements present, which might annoy some people. But on the other hand, without the unplanned randomness of this, some of the interesting characters present would never have come about. Several things that I really like are the little egg-shaped dude in the bottom right corner, the main guy in the middle with the split torso, and the crescent shaped guy on the left with the face on his torso. The face of the ovoid shaped head in the lower left tends to come up quite often in my art. Or, at least something quite similar. Not sure what that means. It tends to fill a space I see. Maybe its the boogie man? 

The second piece I called "Henry's Fantastic Undersea World." This piece was done with acrylic paint and oil pastel on heavy weight BFK Rives printing paper. Overall image size is 20 X 30 inches. This was something that I started years ago, but tucked away because I was not sure where to go with it. I originally painted the entire surface with various colors of acrylic paint. I may have even used some spray paint. Probably. But, dang, I ended up getting the thing really dark. So, I put it away. One day, I was looking through some old slightly finished projects when I came across this thing. For some reason, I had an epiphany. "Its dark, but paint also comes in light colors." Go figure. So, using the patterns in the background as well as completely ignoring them, I painted some things. Then, I grabbed some oil pastels and added some more details, highlights etc. I like the way it turned out. Definitely one of those piece that look better in real life. Ha, real life? Well, it looks better for the viewer to see it in person. Some nice textures and colors. I have included an earlier version below it, which is lighter in color. Maybe I ended up getting the final one too dark? Well, maybe its not final after all. I can always go back and lighten up some areas again. Art is cool, and malleable. Cool. Ever changing, like people .

"Henry's Fantastic Undersea World" by Joe A. MacGown
Early version, lighter. Maybe I liked this version better? 
Check out the texture...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Upcoming show at the LumineArt Gallery in Dallas, TX in March 2014

I will have works included in an upcoming show entitled “LUSO-AMERICAN Surrealism of the 21st Century” at the LumineArt Gallery in Dallas, Texas. The exhibition is scheduled for 22 March through 26 April 2014.

Going Green, by Joe A. MacGown

This unique exhibition will feature works of Portuguese artists  Victor Lages, Paula Rosa, Francisco Urbano, and Santiago Ribeiro, and American artists France GarridoJoe MacGown, K.D. Matheson, Shahla Rosa, Steve Smith, and Olga Spiegel. 

Dream Matter Art by Steve Smith
I especially would like to thank Shahla Rosa for inviting me to participate in this show along with these other fabulous artists! And, of course, thanks to Matt Anzak, the Curator and Gallery owner, for allowing us to have this show. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Paul Buckley, abstract artist, sculptor, and art collector extradinaire

The other day, I wrote about a visit to Laurie Burton's studio, which was sweet, as was she. But, Laurie is only one of many local super cool and very talented art folks in our Golden Triangle region.  This place is littered with talent. I have a theory that if you knocked on any random door, you would likely find a person who has some sort of artistic, musical, or literary talent. Amazing.

After we left Laurie's, I dropped Joseph off somewhere and headed home. I ending taking a different route home due to where I dropped him off. I realized that this route would take me right past the home of Paul Buckley. So, what the heck, I called him and asked if I could stop by and check out his studio and art. No notice or anything, other than about 3 minutes. Paul answered the phone and was like, "man, come on over..." Three minutes later, I was parked in front of Paul's awesome cabin like home. The place is set in the woods and has a porch completely surrounding it!

Paul is a scientist by day, but the rest of the time, he is an artist. He paints, he sculpts, he creates amazing assemblages from found objects, and creates various other types of art. Paul also loves art and collects a bunch of it. His house is its own unique art gallery. In fact, we don't have a local gallery that would come close to what he has in his home! Great artist and great supporter of the arts.

Cool sculpture on Paul's porch done by another artist
some of Paul's acquisitions
Paul's place is almost overwhelming. Its so full of art, you don't know where to begin. Simply amazing.  Colorful 2D images, cool sculptures with lots of nice vertical elements, things hanging from the ceiling, stained glass, bits of random pieces of "junk" that are now part of the show and/or destined to become a part of some piece of artwork, and colorful photographs laying about. When I arrived, he had some trippy music playing in the background. Man, this place! Freakin awesome. An artist's and art lover's paradise.

A view of the main living area, with artwork everywhere.
If you don't know Paul, you should find a way to meet him. This guy, I don't know, sixty something years old, is like a hyper mountain goat or something. Moving all the time, thinking, creating, wishing he had a thousand more years to create. I tried to take a picture of this trippy mugg, but was able to only get a somewhat blurry image, because he is always in movement! 

Paul on his deck
Looking at Paul's works reveals his passion for art. He pours his soul into his work. If you really look at his work, you can see his ups and downs in life. And this guy is a manic artist for sure. Although he sells his fair share of paintings, he has stacks of new ones ready to go. 

Paul's studio, with his works on the walls
Paul's abstract paintings are full of passion, intensity, and energy! Color! Movement! It is easy to picture this skinny, bearded joker in his element slamming down paint, expressing his innermost emotions while listening to wonderful music. Beautiful! His 3D pieces are equally fascinating. Many of these are assemblages are made of found or junk material. Sometimes, the components of his pieces have significant personal meaning to him. I won't elaborate to what those meanings may be, but they are ever present. Here is a nice example of one of these pieces. 

One of Paul's sculptures
As of late, Paul has been working on collaborative projects with some other local artists including the likes of Patrick Tranum and Libby Pollard. He showed me a mosaic piece that he and Libby had done together, and a large 3D sculpture collab that he and Patrick had completed. Hopefully, I can do an collaboration of some type with him one day. 

Paul uses any method possible to get his artistic thoughts down. I noticed several really cool pieces that were combinations of painting and collage. Very effective pieces. Here is one below.  

One of Paul's collages
Man, what an awesome Saturday afternoon of art in Starkville! Yeah, I guess I could have driven to New Orleans or Memphis and visited some crazy art gallery, but it sure was nice to find this kind of talent and passion right here in Starkville! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Laurie Burton - Hidden talent in Starkville, Mississippi

My son and I had an opportunity to visit with local artist Laurie Burton in her studio this afternoon. Similar to me, she also has a completely different day job, but in her free time, she is driven to create art. 

Laurie and Joseph
Laurie is one of those hidden gems in a community like Starkville. She is like the party that only the cool kids know about. You know the deal, people are all like, "there's nothing to do, this place is boring..." But for people in the "know" there is always something cool going on. Its much the same way for visual artists. Sure, some of us get out, put our art in shows, especially locally. But, by and large, we are only known to a few people. I wish there was a way to expose these wonderful local artists to larger audiences. Well, I guess there are ways. Anyway, here I am, living in Starkville off and on since I was about 11 years old, and I don't even know very much about the local art scene myself. I mean, yeah, I know some of the artists and have seen the works of a few in particular, but for the most part, I know very little about the fantastic art being created right here. 

A view of Laurie's studio
So yeah, I would like to make a conscious effort to learn more about what my fellow artists are up to. Of course, only if they don't mind;) A great way to see what these artistic jokers are up to is to visit them in their studios, homes, or wherever they create their works. To see them in their element. To understand how they create. To hopefully view the pieces of art that they don't typically exhibit publicly, those pieces that reflect the artists' true spirit. Or, at least, those pieces that are unique and perhaps transcend local stereotypes. Sure, I love traditional art such as landscape paintings, portraits, ceramic pottery, and the like. Especially when the artist is at the top of their craft. But, I am more intrigued by those unusually creative folks who find new ways of expressing themselves and constantly challenge the way they do things. 

Laurie is this sort of artist. On the surface you may think she is a normal person;) However, after entering her studio and gallery space, you will quickly come to the realization that Laurie is a pretty weird chic doing some cool trippy stuff. 

Laurie in her "gallery" space
Laurie seems to not have any boundaries and uses a wide variety of materials and methods such as roots of trees to create table bases, paper mache as an amazing sculpture tool, hand painting silk cards, creating mosaics on numerous surfaces, and various traditional painting methods. For me, with my penchant for drawing and painting semi weird things, I was particularly impressed with her bizarre sculptures created with paper mache and ceramic tile adhesive. 

I know people have been creating art with paper mache for a long time, and I have done so myself. So what's the big deal? The big deal is her sculptures are awesome! When you look at her sculptures, you would not know they were paper mache if she did not tell you. You might think they were made of ceramic, or possibly metal. 

That is cool in itself, but the subjects of her art are the coolest part. Parts of torsos and heads with various rusty bits of metal places in them, done in such a way as to possibly shock the viewer. At the very least, the viewer is left wondering what the heck was this super nice lady thinking when she did these pieces! 

Yeah, I suppose if I lived in Los Angeles or New York City, Laurie's art would not surprise me as me. But here in Starkville, in this bastion of super conservatives, its refreshing. Many of Laurie's other pieces were equally interesting, albeit quite different. Joseph really liked the small hand made poetry books that she created with the fabric covered covers and poems written by her with illustrations done by her. We also greatly appreciated the large wood and copper piece and random paintings of still life scenes and assorted other paintings. 

copper and wood piece in background with still life in foreground
beautiful Asian inspired paintings on wood panels
Still life of guitar and glass ware
Great visit, and very inspirational! Thanks a bunch Laurie Burton for allowing us to visit your studio and view your wonderful art. And thanks very much for sharing some of your methods with us! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Horror Vaccui, and why do we do art the way we do????

I was reading an interesting blog recently about why leaving empty space was a good thing in art, especially in graphic design, and that filling all available space was basically a bad thing. Also, the blog author felt that you only have 3 seconds to hold your consumer's or customer's attention. This may or may not be true in graphic design, but for sure, it can be untrue in the fine arts.

I should start out with a definition of "horror vacui," a term associated with art historian Maria Praz. Horror vacui is basically the filling of the entire surface of a space or a piece of artwork with detail.  A good example of this was the crazy filling of every available surface with pattern in Victorian interior design. Outsider art and graffiti art is rife with this sort of thing. Its not new, by any means, just look at ancient religious illuminated manuscripts, Arabic art, some ancient Greek styles, and many other forms of art throughout the ages. So, yes, the fear of empty spaces. Essentially, that is what we are talking about here. Not a new thing, in fact, very primitive, and yet, still persisting. Hmm? Reminds me of something else? Oh yeah, religion! Until yesterday, I did not know about horror vacui. Thanks to Patrick Cross for enlightening me. Certainly many of my pieces would fit this category. Incidentally, this type of art is sometimes associated with mentally ill folks! Just saying.

Back to the question of white space usage. I definitely agree that a minimalist approach is probably advantageous for many types of graphic design, although maybe not for all products. I could see where filling a space with garish color and chaotic content might appeal to certain consumers, especially those who relate to that type of art. Think skateboarders, heavy metal rockers, folks with lots of tattoos, people who are into graffiti, or just people who are overload their senses on a regular basis. Even so, there still needs to be a way in a design to accentuate the primary focus amidst the chaotic "noise." But, that seems doable.

I find it interesting that art critics, such as Mario Praz, seemed to think that the super filled interior design of the Victorian age was suffocating. Yet, the people of that time period seemed to really like this lavish, overcrowded, design style. It seems to me that he was out of touch with what those people liked? If they liked it, then it was good. At least for them. Yep.

From a purely artistic point of view, the leaving of large amounts of white space is purely a matter of opinion. I have done illustrations, primarily scientific, which certainly have plenty of white space.

Romalia microptera, the Lubber grasshopper

However, in my spare time I do ridiculously detailed images of scenes that I feel are mostly emanating from my subconscious mind. I don't create these for the purpose of sales per say, although I do sell them. Rather, the experience of drawing them is a necessary part of my life. Having studied in the field of entomology now for over 25 years, I find my drawings and paintings that are often filled to the extreme are comparable to the chaotic assemblages  of life beneath our very feet, where there is no empty space. For me, looking at the microscopic world is as natural as drawing strange somewhat surreal scenes.

I guess what I am saying is that, art has many purposes, one of which is relating to consumers, viewers, buyers, and customers;  recording history, providing an outlet for outrage against life, and other social reasons; and maybe more importantly, for the artist to express himself in whatever way works best. For some, this might entail writing a three line poem, which is placed in the lower left corner of a large piece of off white paper, but for others it might mean spray painting every square inch of a wall with neon colored paint. For some, if not many, artists, their ability to create art in their own way is their way of dealing with life's stress.

I do know that the three second rule does not have any meaning at all when it comes to non graphic design type art. I have seen this first hand at opening receptions of some of my exhibitions. I have observed people studying some of my pieces for up to an hour or more.

What is interesting to me is that the people who object most to filling spaces completely are typically those who have the most training in the field of art (i.e. graphic designers, art critics, college professors, etc.) "Untrained" regular folks don't seem to have this preconceived idea of what is good or bad. They either like something, or they don't. If we only listened to art critics, we would not have impressionism, surrealism, and a bunch of other isms. So, yes, listen to what you are supposed to do with your art, but also ignore it. Don't put something in the center of the page. Why not? Don't fill the space? Fill it. Don't set your work on fire. Maybe thats ok too (sometimes).

I have received positive feedback from viewers about the crowded pieces that I tend to do. A good example of this was when I had a show on our MSU campus a couple of years ago. I had many interesting comments from attendees of the show. I asked many of these viewers what they thought, and if they had some favorites. Not surprising to me, the majority of viewers told me that their favorites were the biggest and the most detailed pieces I had present, such as "Manic Depression" and "Nine Panes of Thought."

Manic Depression
Nine Panes of Thought
I also had a few pieces of which I did not completely fill the space. I had only one person out of over 200 people, tell me that some of these were his favorites.

Likusian Turtle


Who was this atypical person?? Well, turns out it was Brent Funderburk, a super amazing and internationally known watercolorist and MSU art professor [http://www.brentfunderburk.com/]. This guy has been teaching art for a long time and I guarantee, he knows way more about it than most people. More than me for sure. And yet, what he liked was probably the least favorite for everyone else. Very interesting in many ways. What does this mean? Well, honestly, nothing really, because when I do a drawing or painting, I am not thinking about who might or might not like it, I am thinking only about expressing myself artistically, about the process of creating art, about letting ideas flow from my head to the paper, and other things of this nature. If, by mistake, or because of the fact that I have been creating "art" for over 40 years, I occasionally create a harmoniously balanced piece, then that is cool. It is not my primary goal by any means, however.

Still, this nagging question? Why would Brent, the all knowing guru of art (seriously) like the stuff that the others liked the least? Is this due to the fact that he has studied art for so long that his choices of what is good is better than regular people? Or, is he slightly out touch with what regular folks find interesting? He seems to know his clientele very well, as he is very successful. Perhaps that is part of it, each individual artist knowing what people like about their art?  Maybe it is much more simple. Maybe some people like different things? Go figure. I guess it is pretty much all opinion. There is probably no such thing as bad art. Well, that is likely an over simplification. But, you know what I mean. I like lots of different art for sure.  Not all art, but most art. Some of the stuff I like the most is similar to my own. No surprise there. But some stuff I love is completely different. Go figure. I also like a multitude of different musical styles ranging from heavy metal grunge to blue grass to industrial techno to classical. This may indicate that I am a healthy human with diverse tastes in both art and music. Or, maybe, it means I am half crazy, can't make up my mind about anything, and should regulate my sugar intake.

Now, this does not mean that I, or others, should not listen to the masterful critiques by other artists or people. In fact, the opposite is true. We as artists and humans need to be challenged. Others may offer an alternative method that might better show what we  are trying to express? Something we can use but never thought about. Who knows? Why not? At the very least, they may offer a different viewpoint, which might be worth exploring. So, thanks to all of you with different viewpoints. Brent Funderburk and others! Never stop striving to find new way and interesting ways to create. Never stop observing, listening, exploring.....

Friday, December 13, 2013

Golden Triangle Artists Exchange

Sometimes, living in Mississippi, I tend to feel isolated artistically. Although there are plenty of artists in the area, there does not seem to be a good way to collaborate artistically with one another and share ideas. Obviously, I could seek out individuals and invite them to my studio to share ideas and create art. But, wouldn't it be nice if we had a network of artists interested in pushing the artistic envelope who regularly met together for this purpose? Think about historical movements, such as the "Impressionism Movement" when great painters, especially in France, met and painted together, discussed life, created amazing art, and changed the art world. Later, the surrealists completely upended the very definition of art. These movements, and others, did not come about from the fruits of a single person, but rather, from groups of uniquely talented individuals who worked together, pushed one another, and challenged each other's beliefs and ideas. With the advent of the internet, it has become possible to exchange ideas with artists from around the world and to create collaborative works of art. These connections have manifested themselves in the production of various international exhibitions and in printed material such as books and magazines. And, yes, this is wonderful, but it still leaves out the important element of physically sharing one's techniques. Talking and working with other artists in person is a great way to motivate and challenge ourselves as artists.

Work in progress: mostly acrylic paint on wood-the round thing upper
 right is the inside of a broken wine bottle
So, basically, I am interested in finding other local artists who might be willing to share ideas. This would entail visiting each other's studios or homes at times. My studio is cramped, full of stuff, as I am sure most people can relate to. Of course, some of us don't even have studios, but may work in a kitchen or living room. This is unimportant. In fact, it might be interesting to actually see how other artists work.

Part of a new watercolor/pen work on super thick 
illustration board

If you are interested, let me know and let people know what you would like to do and how you can share your art and artistic methods. If you have friends that might be interested, invite them. It is unlikely that everyone in a group can meet together all of the time, but even if two or three artists come together once in a while, it could be a beautiful thing.  We have a few artists who are already interested such as Ben Grace, a very imaginative college student at MSU, Chad Anderson (MSU art professor), Patrick Tranum (awesome sculpture dude), Lorrin Webb (amazing art chic), and some others.

Mosaic, 2 X 4 feet, bits of fossil shell from Black Belt
Prairie and cedar strips

We all get used to doing things our own way. That's wonderful. But, its also nice to learn new things. We may even have something to offer to others. Something thats is routine for one artist might be novel to another, might unlock a door to an incredible place.

colored ink and pen on birch wood

Saturday, October 5, 2013

crazy fish painting activities and other art stuff

Started a crazy manic fish painting late Friday afternoon and early evening. The weather was fantastic, so I painted outside and also in my smallish barn/storage/workshop type building. 

in the barn area
Fun. 2 X 4 feet on primed masonite. Used some spray paint, house paint, and some acrylic paint. Kind of slapped the paint on there and it started looking like a fish creature deal. Had some Ids music playing from inside the studio. I love the Ids! One of my favorite bands. I guess they must be fairly obscure, because no one seems to know about them. 

Got a couple picts of the progress of the fish deal. Will update as it comes along. 

After some supper, got back in the studio to work on some stuff. One thing was my weird acrylic and oil pastel deal. Here are some photos of it. 

closeup of face

After a while, I moved to the other table and put in a little time on a bigger picture. This one is on a 42 inch by 40 feet long roll of awesome art paper. May never finish, or at the very least, it will be like 20 years from now. Have not made much progress, but like some happenings so far. 

start of really big drawing
While I was working on that, Audrey, who was also doing some random artwork, decided she want to paint on my shoulder. So, yeah. She took a photo of her work on my shoulder. Interesting concept, art being done on artist doing artwork. 

Audrey Sheridan did some painting on my back. Here is the result.
another view of Audrey's art on my while I was doing art

Not sure why, but I seem to love painting and drawing fish and other fishlike things. Some people might think its some sexual bullshit, but honestly, I just think fish and fishlike creatures look cool as hell. Jellyfish too. Nothing wrong with freakin jellyfishes! Fascinating creatures.

Also worked on this thing for a bit. Kooky creature guy. Part of bigger picture.