Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Most Unusual Commission


Much to my surprise and delight, I was recently asked to do my first piece of tattoo flash art.

My good friend and fellow artist Richard Russell, who is already significantly illustrated, approached me to design a tattoo for him. He wants a drawing of the Hindu deity Hanuman. He will be holding up a symbol for the heart chakra because according to Richard, Hanuman is the deity of devotion.

OK, not sure I get any of that stuff, but I'm down with drawing pictures of a holy monkey-boy.

Maybe Richard asked me to take this on because I have a long history of anthropomorphizing chimpanzees in my own work (see below for two images from the series "The Impossible Highway Volume I: Duty Before Roses").

Title - Nobody Sends me Flowers: the Song of Colonel Beauchamp

Title - Heroes of the Air

Monday, April 26, 2010

New York, Noo Yawk Part I: Tim Burton Exhibition

Photo courtesy of the MOMA website

This weekend I had the good fortune to see the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The galleries were packed with people trying to squeeze in a visit on the last weekend of the show.

A little background blurb from the MOMA website:

This exhibition explores the full range of his creative work, tracing the current of his visual imagination from early childhood drawings through his mature work in film. It brings together over seven hundred examples of rarely or never-before-seen drawings, paintings, photographs, moving image works, concept art, storyboards, puppets, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera from such films as Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, Mars Attacks!, Ed Wood, and Beetlejuice, and from unrealized and little-known personal projects that reveal his talent as an artist, illustrator, photographer, and writer working in the spirit of Pop Surrealism.

The size of the crowd impressed on me the degree to which people love seeing inside the creative process. I assume that most people at the MOMA that weekend were familiar with Burton's movies, and were there to discover what was behind his dark and quirky humor. I had the most fun looking at the developmental work for movies I had seen, tracing backward the evolution of characters and environments through dozens of sketches. I took away a picture of Burton's creative process that was delightful as any of the individual pieces I'd seen.

Unfortunately, the show closed today (April 26), but you can still order the catalog through the MOMA website.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Question Number One

The thing I'm most frequently asked has nothing to do with the deeper meaning of my artwork. Rather, people want to know how I transfer images and text from photocopies and printouts into my books. There's not much of a wizard behind that curtain; it's the easiest process in the world.

All you'll need is a photocopy or a laser print (ink jet prints don't work too well), a burnisher, and a colorless blender, which is basically a magic marker that has no pigment. Remember that any images you transfer will be reversed in the process.

Here are the steps:
  1. Place the printout face down on the surface of your artwork.
  2. Color the back of the printout with the colorless blender, covering the entire area you wish to transfer.
  3. Rub the back of the printout with your burnisher while the printout is still wet. Be careful not to move the printout during this process.
  4. When finished burnishing, carefully remove the printout.
It's as easy as that.

Colorless blender by Chartpak (my favorite brand)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Arting Crusaders

I'm the victim of some wicked camera tilt during
a sketchbook workshop at Moeller High School in Cincinnati.

All photos: Greg Stanforth

In March I spent a day working with art students at my Alma Mater, Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was the second time in three years I'd been asked by Art Department Chairman Greg Stanforth to hold a seminar on sketchbooks and the creative process.

The art program at Moeller was outstanding when I was there in the early to mid 1980s and it has grown since then. Graduating classes regularly garner between $1 million and $2 million each year in scholarship offers, which is an impressive feat for any school; even more so for one with fewer than 1,000 students.

The Moeller art program is where I first learned to keep sketchbooks, a requirement in all of the painting and drawing classes. Something must have clicked because I've kept it up with reasonable regularity since 1982. Now sketchbooks comprise the bulk of my artistic output.

The seminar began with a presentation of the 5-step creative process model in Dr. Mihalyi Csikszentmihal
yi's Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. The students were familiar with a similar model and easily grasped how sketchbooks relate to the stages in the creative process.

The rest of the day we discussed the role sketchbooks play in creative work, viewed sketchbook samples, and took part in hands-on exercises. Through the work of Leonardo DaVinci, John Copeland, James Jean, and the 1,000 Journals Project, we explored the role of sketchbooks as a repository for inspiration and images, as well as a laboratory in which artists experiment with techniques and develop ideas. We saw how artists Danny Gregory, Dan Eldon, and James Kochalka took three different approaches to the sketchbook as a visual journal. Finally, we discussed traditional beliefs about sketchbooks and the possibility that they could be finished pieces.

Throughout the day, I shared how my own work relative to each of these categories. When we came to the sketchbook as a finished piece, I showed Forgetting to Call You Back, a book I recently completed for the Art House Cooperative's traveling exhibition "The Sketchbook Project, Volume IV."

A few sets of interactive activities broke up the lectures, including some brainstorming, an exercise based on the Surrealist game "The Exquisite Corpse," and a brief critique of the students' sketchbook work.

It was gratifying to see young artists who already know so much about this powerful creative tool. I can only hope their experience was as inspiring as mine.


It saddens me that people continue to question whether or not we need the arts, regardless of the evidence presented to them. My fellow Georgians seem to be deaf to reason and are poised to ensure our state remains a cultural backwater:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There Goes My Blog Cherry

As I struggle to begin my first ever blog entry, I feel like a 12-year-old girl earnestly writing her aspirations on the opening page of a new diary. I see her intently recorded dreams and fears, her bubble-like handwriting, full of hope and good intentions, announcing the beginning of something hugely important. The lockable cover is adorned with a cloying puppy motif, and every “i” dotted with a little heart.

Still, I can’t help myself. I need to kick off this blog with some explanation of why I'm doing it.

So here goes:

Dear Diary,

I’m super excited to be writing to you today. You know I’ve been an artist for a really long time, but now I’ve got some ideas I want to write about instead of making pictures of them. Like where I get my ideas from, and some other artists I like. I might also even write down what I think about when I’m making stuff (LOL!!)

My favorite kind of art to make is sketchbooks. They are my total BFF! I really love them and I’ve been making them on the reg for a very long time. I also do some other art, but mostly I make sketchbooks.

Some people think sketchbooks are just something you use to write down ideas while you’re doing some other real art, like paintings or sculptures. I think they’re wrong. You can use sketchbooks for all kinds of things and sometimes they are just as good as any big painting or sculpture.

BTW, sometimes people even want me to come and talk to them about the books I make and why I do it!! I really like to do that because usually the people are really nice and I usually learn something from them. They ask me all kinds of questions. I’ll write to you later about the kind of things they ask me.

I think that if I write about how I come up with my ideas and what I think about when I’m making my sketchbooks, then other people will want to make them, too. That would be great. I hope other people will have as much fun with it as I do.

Well, I have to go but I’ll write again soon!!