Making art with spills and splatters

All My Nights Turn Inside Out

Each year one of my many annual goals is to paint at least four new paintings (see right side panel for the last two years’ results). Last year my paintings took on a dramatically different direction thanks to my four-year-old son. From what his pediatrician says, his drawings are a bit advanced for his age but by no means does this mean he is a child prodigy.

Still, his drawings of people capture my imaginations. Through his eyes I see that paintings of people don’t need all the details of Rembrandt or Jan Vermeer van Delft to communicate. There’s also innocence with mixing paint directly on the canvas that he really enjoys. Since he lacks complete understanding of Joseph Alber’s interaction of colors, he doesn’t realize that all colors fade to gray if you’re not careful. And yet, gray can be a lovely background.

Retreat to the Stronghold

Happy accidents occurred and enhanced the experience of painting–a child’s approach to painting; having fun. It’s why I pursued the arts in high school and later at the university. Yet, there is a discipline to making art.

The first step to making art is designating time to produce it and committing to the task. Many of my former classmates from the university “played” and are currently busy with life and other matters of consequence. In the small book Art & Fear David Bayles and Ted Orland discuss this topic and offer a lucid observation–many art students pursue art making merely to achieve a degree and hang a senior art exhibit. In a recent essay, David Hollander states the same observation (regarding poets and writers): “The goal is not to get a degree.” The goal of art making is to share your individual vision and that takes a life of discipline.

Curly Dreams of Yesterday

Last summer I read about some recently uncovered Pollack paintings (“Is This a Real Jackson Pollock?” May 29, 2005, Sunday by Randy Kennedy). I got goose pimples with excitement. Could it be true? Are there really undiscovered Pollock paintings? I was giddy as I read the article in The New York Times.

I wanted to spill paint everywhere. My son thought it was quite an exciting idea too. However, once the paint hit the canvas he had the urge to mix the paint into a gray soup. I compromised and let him work the backgrounds as I handled the main subject; copper creatures of imagination.

Some fathers, I am sure, have other ways of engaging their children in activity like trips to the park, hikes in the mountains or visits to apple festivals. I do all those things as well, but somehow making art with my four-year-old expressionist seems for more fulfilling.

I’m Putting on My Socks

During Colonial America, it is purported that children began practicing the trade of their father around the age of five. Meaning that if the father were a merchant then the son would accompany his father to the shop and be useful for one day he would be in charge of the family business. The son would even wear similar wardrobe of his father (i.e. a blacksmith’s son dressed like his father and a farmer’s son dressed like his father).

So, if you see a father and son with black bandanas wrapped around their skulls, wearing paint splattered jeans, and spilling paint on canvases to loudly played ska tunes–that would be us making art and making memories.

I don’t know if I’ll continue the spill and splatter approach to painting. If I do it will have to be refined quite a bit. My goal is still to produce a minimum of four paintings by the end of the year.

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The World’s Fastest Readings

Just got back from the world’s “second fastest reading” (according to Peter Turchi) at Malaprop’s. Twelve MFA faculty members from Warren Wilson College read from their published work. Each member was given roughly three and half minutes to read.

Last year I attended the first Warren Wilson MFA faculty reading [read here and here.]. This year they scaled it back a bit; from 18 to 12 readers.

WLOS had a camera crew filming portions of the event. I guess Asheville residents may see it on channel 13 tonight (I don’t own a television so I’ll check AshVegas’ blog to see if it was even aired).

Overall it was a good event. I must confess the first reader, whom I cannot recall, didn’t attract my attention and my adult ADD kicked in and I started writing stream of consciously in my notebook. Adria Bernardi read an excerpt from her novel which brought me back to the event and Justin Grotz delivered a fine reading of fiction as well as Peter Turchi.

Somehow the poets didn’t quite do it for me tonight. Maybe I’m overly critical of poets. Maybe the poets didn’t want to be there tonight. However, the second to the last reader, Steve Orlen, read a single poem that worked; and worked well.

After the event, I chatted with a gentleman who hosts Malaprop’s Blind Date with Poetry. He also happens to be one of the members of Eye For An Iris Press. With all the celebrated and award winning poets and writers gathered at Malaprop’s, I spent the most time conversing with this gentleman.

There’s something that has been preventing me from completing my application for the MFA program at Warren Wilson College. I thought it was simply intimidation, but I think it goes deeper than that. I can’t put my finger on it right now, but I intend to explore it later.

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Warren Wilson MFA faculty Public Readings

The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College Public Schedule
Readings will begin at 8:15 pm in the Fellowship Hall behind the Chapel unless indicated otherwise.

READINGS – 8:15 pm
by MFA faculty and graduating students

Friday, January 6
Marianne Boruch, Peter Turchi, Mary Leader

Saturday, January 7
No readings on campus, but come to “The World’s Fastest Readings” by MFA faculty at Malaprop’s, 55 Haywood Street. Reception at 5:30 pm; readings start at 6:00 pm.

Sunday, January 8
Rick Barot, Wilton Barnhardt, Karen Brennan, Antonya Nelson, Eleanor Wilner

Monday, January 9
Brooks Haxton, C.J. Hribal, Martha Rhodes, Kevin Mcllvoy, Ellen Bryant Voigt

Tuesday, January 10
First night of graduating student readings: Scott Gould, Sandra Nadazdin, Tatjana Soli,
Rosalynde Vas Dias

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Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3

The first installment is done. I’m a little bit nervous about sending it to the editor.

A couple months ago I began exploring the idea of literary comics; more specifically creative non-fiction comics.

I began sketching a 14-panel demo story and showed the drawings to some other cartoonists at a monthly meeting. The narrative non-fiction comic strip was modestly received and they encouraged me on some drawing techniques.

Casually inspired by Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Jessica Abel’s Radio: An Illustrated Guide and Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry, I began work on a narrative non-fiction comic strip storyline in five parts. Each strip, four panels, needed to be enough of a story to encourage a reader to come back next week. This would make it ideal for a weekly publication. The long term goal is weekly syndication (hah, stop laughing–everyone has dreams). The short term goal is a self-contained 5-page story.

Bitter Black Coffee, Issue 6, Summer 2005

The editor and publisher of a zine, Bitter Black Coffee, requested I put together this 5-page comic for an upcoming issue. In fact, the 14-panel demo story featured our intial meeting. So, this is a bit of a test run to see if I can complete something I started. We’ve been discussing this for over two months.

My personal goal (not the editor’s) was to have all 20-panels drawn, lettered and inked by Thanksgiving. However, personal crisis, illness and a full time day job prevented me from meeting that deadline. So, I adapted and gave myself three more weeks. The week before Christmas all 20-panels (plus a few bonus ones) were completed and scanned and ready to send. Only one hitch (actually two)–I didn’t have a name for the strip. Then I upgraded my laptop to Tiger and somehow lost the files I needed to email the editor. The naming of the comic strip still didn’t come to me. The muse must be on vacation or holiday or something. Maybe she has the stomach flu like I had last week.

During the Christmas holiday I found myself flipping through a copy of Alec: How To Be An Artist and I thought of a working title. I told myself it was too simple and too silly, but I went with it. I haven’t thought of anything else ingenious so the strip will be submitted with a working title. Maybe that’s the whole Malcolm Gladwell thing about snap judgments and split-second decisions.

Last night I got the files ready to email. Tomorrow I submit the self-contained 5-page story to the editor and publisher of Bitter Black Coffee.

Previous posts on creative non-fiction comics: [1] [2]