Hibernation & Guilty Pleasures

It may be the shorter days but I feel the need to nest and go into art making hibernation.

This means having an insatiable need to rearrange my home and make another attempt at putting together a livable and workable studio space.

Strangely, it also means making playlists of down-tempo and OTR horror and reading comic books(specifically right now Fables Volume 14 and 15).

I need a constant rotation of Portishead, the Twin Peaks Sound track and so on…Spotify has been useful in finding new music in the same vein. Music has usually been a private thing for me. I was never immersed in it the way my friends were as teenagers. Then I discovered down tempo/trip hop/whatever it’s called. It felt right. It’s more like a sound track rather than individual songs.

On my playlist now…

Willow’s Song – The Wicker Man Soundtrack
Small Town Witch – Sneaker Pimps
Pretty When You Cry – Vast (can’t get into any of their other songs)
Galaxies – Laura Veirs
Flame – Crustation
Down By the Water – PJ Harvey
Overcome – Tricky
Stars – Hum
Capsized – Samiam
Ten Cents a Dance – Ruth Etting
Horse and I – Bat For Lashes
Celestica – Crystal Castles
Half Day Closing – Portishead
Audrey’s Dance – Angelo Badalementi

Still from Vast’s Pretty When You Cry

Then…that Vast video makes me think of a fantastic radio play version of The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter produced by the BBC…which then leads me to another witch themed radio play, The Hairy Hand of Dartmoor produced by the radio horror show Fear on Four. I always thought the girl who played Little Red Riding Hood in the first play sounded like the witch in the second play.

The Hairy Hand is an urban legend out of Dartmoor, England. The story goes that on a stretch of road motorists and bicyclists have had their steering ripped from them by disembodied demonic hairy hands and caused them to have accidents. You can read a bit about it on Wikipedia here.

I’m trying to get my work from this past semester photographed and started on new ones, including a piece for a group show next spring curated by the founder of Creepmachine.com The group show is called Marvelous Humans. You can read about it at the blog the curator created for it. The show will be about ‘human oddities’ of the past and present and how they made the most out of what life dealt them. I’ve chosen Millie La Marr the Mind Reader, a Victorian Era Albino woman that traveled with the circus performing mentalist tricks, pretending to be a psychic. You can see photos of her here.

I wish I could find more out about her as person rather than just a side show oddity. I chose her because of her ‘act’. As any reader here can probably tell from my work I am fascinated by spiritualism and so called psychic phenomena.

I was super stoked to see that the show Jason and I was in, Multiversal Miami, was profiled on Artattacksonline.com here.

Oil Painting Brushes – Too Many

A reader, and I’m sorry I never replied…I can’t seem to figure out the best way too on this blog, pointed me to a great website that compared and reviewed colored pencils. I really appreciated it! It helped a lot!

Since I’ve been working at an art supply store I’ve had more time than most to examine and stress out over brushes. I know you shouldn’t need many(yet they sell a million different types).

I keep reading in ads that synthetic brushes should be fine for oil painting but my experience shows me that it simply isn’t the truth. That said, it’s a good thing that I’m not vegan because it appears impossible to be one and also be an oil painter. Ivory Black is produced with charred animal bones, some reds have been or are made from crushed bugs. The best standard oil brushes are made from boar bristles(yes the wild pig) and then there are sables and squirrel.

I’ve tried sables. I realize some oil painters do beautiful work with them to blend but personally I don’t like how soft they are. That said, I want something softer than bristle(chungking is the standard…I guess? Why is it called chungking?)

I found some mongoose hair brushes at work and they seem to what I’m looking for when finishing a piece. Stiffer than sable and softer than bristle. I’ve been using the Vermeer brand(I honestly side eye brands that use the name of a long dead artist). The only thing I don’t like about it is, once again, it’s made from animals(I’m sorry mongoose!), but the handle is a bit potentially crappy. I’ve found that painted handles are messes waiting to happen. As soon as it get a big wet the paint will chip off and end up on your canvas, and then the ferrules will loosen.

If anyone reading can recommend a good site or brand, I would really appreciate it. Too many site are brand specific ad campaigns.

Also, I think the only weird brush I can’t live without is a winkle. It’s a short sable brush. The ferrule/end is hooked to help paint small weird angles.

The Pursuit of the Original

It’s a weird feeling to see that the work you like to produce fits into a movement or oeuvre or genre or whatever. It’s a weird feeling to have to question yourself why that it is.

It’s not that I want to create things that are not a response to the long history of art and human experience but I still wince at the idea that I could be seen as aping other artists or too easily influenced.

In fact I am embarrassed to admit that for a fleeting moment I felt very special and original with my ouija board based paintings. Truly, anytime you feel original it just means you are less informed than you think you are. Not being original though doesn’t mean that you are mimicking someone else, it just means your brain isn’t a magical portal to unmined imagery and ideas. You haven’t thought of the unthinkable.

After reading a post on Wurzeltod by the unfailingly honest Suzanne(and why I cherish her presence on the internets) about a current trend in contemporary art I realized my work could easily fit into the fault she finds in it.

I guess that’s okay but it left me confused. Why is this imagery so popular right now? I have some theories, and the only ones I can come up with are why I’m attracted to them. Perhaps we all got into our parents dusty attic boxes and found their seventies magazines and hippy mystical books balanced with others spreading fear of satanism and the new orders attempts at creating new witchy peons through saturday morning kids programing.

Maybe.

Though my parents never seemed afraid of me being corrupted or led away from a god they had chosen. In fact they raised me with no religion, more out of not having time for the effort than any lack of belief. Our house used to be owned by a Jewish family. There was a hebrew letter built into the backyard stone grill and a jewish good luck symbol screwed into the door frame of the front door. I remember feeling upset when I wasn’t allowed to remove it and take it with me when I moved out.

Outside of my home was a big scary Catholic world. Those were the kids who told me spooky stories about the smurfs and taught me to play bloody mary games in the bathroom. Those were the kids who grew alarmed when I pulled out a ouija board. I adopted their superstitions for play. I found books in my elementary school library about poltergeists. In middle school every girl had a ghost that haunted them. I think some of them believed in it. I didn’t want their faith but I loved their superstitions. Being fun scared made me feel full of adventure. I was truly scared of many real things. It was better to be pretend scared of things I was sure didn’t exist.

My family didn’t really have neo-pagan books in the attic, but they did have Dianetics and guides on how to hypnotize all on a shelf in the basement. My father also collected books about local ghost lore and treasure hunting in abandoned towns. He sat up with me and watched Histories Mysteries narrated by Leonard Nimoy. I snuck back even later and watched Unsolved Mysteries by myself in the dark.

I’m not sure why other artists paint the things they do, but I do know mine are more about my lack of belief in the supernatural and my wish that I could find control and comfort in ritual and superstition.

Mourning on the Internet

The past weeks have been difficult. My former art history professor, Yates Evans, at the TCC Visual Arts Center, ended his life earlier this month. I don’t claim to have been especially close to the man, but he was my friend and I feel his loss. I can’t imagine the devastation his family and life long friends must be feeling. I haven’t had much time to process this. Someone’s death, especially someone not related to you, doesn’t make the world stop around you. There is school and work. You can’t take a break. I actually am home because I only had school today and I needed a day to just pause and recover from regular stress and delayed grief.

I miss him. We had future plans to be in a group show together. He was a huge influence on me and always supportive. He was one of those teachers who was always wound up and really enjoyed what he was teaching. He didn’t teach directly from the textbook and invited his students to challenge it and him.

His death was a shock but not a complete surprise. He wasn’t quick to share his problems but he was a passionate man clearly in emotional pain. I wish he hadn’t made the choice that he had, and I’d be lying if I pretended not be feeling anger over his choice. He was always supportive and complementary to his students to the point that he didn’t seem to have enough left over good feelings just for himself.

A Facebook page, In Memory of Yates Evans, popped up not long after his death. I found myself scrolling through my friends list and stopped on a picture of a man cuddling with a fluffy kitten. He looked familiar but my recognition was slow. When I realized it was was Yates I felt like I had been socked in the jaw and literally yelled out loud. Facebook was the one place I never expected to see a picture of him. At school he was notoriously camera shy and regularly railed against the evils of internet social networking. For those reasons I at first felt almost anxious that now here he was, on the internet, in pictures, after his death, but then I thought about it more and tried to find some humor in it.

I commented on the wall and it actually felt kinda good. I realized it wasn’t up to him anymore how his family, friends and students remembered him. I thought it was very generous of others who knew him better to share their memories.

Yet, mourning on the internet is a bit loaded. I kept going back to the page to reread what I wrote, wondering if it was okay, too gushy or indulgent. Because, there it is, on the internet. Of course I could delete it, but couldn’t that be conspicuous? It’s all a bit different than wondering how you were perceived in a short conversation a week ago that can’t be rehashed perfectly and naturally fades with time.

Then add to that the action of ‘liking’ the page that memorializes the death of someone you miss dearly. It’s a small thing and doesn’t matter much but it did feel a bit gross and inappropriate.

I had a chance to sit in his current class while they were given the news by his mentor and boss, the Visual Arts Center director and a grief counselor. I didn’t anticipate it being a very useful experience, but when compared to writing on a memorial internet wall space…it really was a powerful and sad experience. There I was talking to people rather than just myself. It was okay to cry. I’m not someone who is comfortable expressing extreme emotion in front of others but crying in public, with others who also felt sad, was very freeing.

This feeling isn’t over yet and perhaps I’m dissecting it to push it away a bit further. I’m simply glad I had the chance to have such a wonderful teacher, to know such an interesting and kind guy.

He will always be a part of my future accomplishment and paintings. I can’t escape it. I’m glad for it. I wish he had been able to stay with us longer.

I hope in the future that more of his artwork makes it onto the internet so I can share it with you.

Artist As Predator

The actress Marian Marsh as Trilby

If I was good at writing I’d spend a lot of space here talking about how movies and drama have treated the artist as a madman(rather than woman) similarly to the mad scientist of many a horror film and book. The below examples don’t necessarily match that concept, but they are creepy stories featuring artists and art.

Trilby, pictured above and played by Marian Marsh, is a story by George Du Maurier and published in the early 20th century. Trilby, the protagonist, is a young English girl living in Paris and earning a living as a figure model. She is hypnotized by the evil Svengali, a brilliant but villainess musician…

I believe you can watch the movie version of Trilby on Netflix under the title Svengali. Better yet, read it for free through Google books. You can download a pdf of it. I’m honestly only halfway through it and have been reading it on my nook.

Trilby by George Du Maurier (broken link, will re-link)

Bluebeard, a story about a man who … ya know, kills his wives, was made into a movie. The villain’s role was changed into that of an artist. He paints portraits of women then murders them. Freaky puppets are also involved. Watch the 1944 version of Bluebeard on Hulu.

I also collect radio horror plays. The two linked below are on topic! The First is a story about two French art students who roam the countryside in search of inspiration. The second play is about a ceramicist searching for a perfect ingredient in order to achieve an unusual glaze to his work. You can download the plays or listen to them online.

Fear on Four’s By the River Fountainebleau (broken link, will re-upload)

Nightfall’s Glaze of Perfect Beauty (broken link, will re-upload)

There are many other examples of creepy stories where either the art or artist is menacing, like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray or just about any movie that involves ventriloquists and dummies.