Subscribe to newsletter

Here is a painting I finished in the spring that I had to hold off posting because I had entered it in a contest. The downside of this is that I forget many of my original thoughts on this painting, as I went travelling afterwards. Sometimes artists lose sight of the potential other reasons their art was rejected in a contest or grant application, not so much that it's "bad"; likewise, no artist should abandon their style and voice and paint a completely different way just to appeal to a jury. That is mostly what I want to say about that, as the painting didn't pass to the round of finalist. The good thing is: it gave me a deadline to finish it by and it's ready for whatever comes next.

Wall Context Photo of "Heavy Shoulders in Sunset"
Heavy Shoulders in Sunset30"x40", oil on 1" canvas. Oil painting of a woman stretching her cybernetic arms. The strain from the metal weights is seen in the tightness of the shoulder muscles. The sunlight is intense against the cool shadows of the bedroom. It is also an unconventional presentation of the female body, in this case with broad shoulders and chiseled muscle. A series of contrasts runs through the entire image: the intensity of light, metal vs. flesh, and muted colours vs. vibrant colours. ~2017 Detail & Context Photos:

In a previous post, I began writing about the need to refocus the direction of my art. What art am I going to keep making and what have I moved on from? For example, people often compliment the very old paintings I did from when I was 17 and tell me to make more art like that; however, that part of life is over, whoever I was then is over, and so if I want to make art with the same kind of tone, subject, or feel, I need to find a new way to do it. (On that note, I am going to putting more artwork on "clearance" in my store because I need to make room literally and metaphorically for new work.) 

It's pretty human to become obsessed with something, whether it's Game of Thrones, or DIY lasers, or an ex-, or your job. So, I think this themes of robotics, cyborgs, medicine, disability and repair are a new obsession for me, and I have no reason not to entertain it if it keeps my attention. Frequently, I abandon subject matter within one or two paintings because I don't feel a neurotic level of attachment to it, so we'll see. At least, I feel like I'm not painting this subject because of shock value or because it's a trending issue and like my art is a tool for pushing my probably ignorant opinion.

Detail Photo of "Heavy Shoulders in Sunset"

The other problem I am constantly fighting with is to what extent should there be hyper-realism or detail, or faults for the sake of expression? Where's the middle ground between a stale photo-realistic painting and one that stops looking believably real and tangible because it's gone off the edge into abstraction? I feel like I really struck the perfect balance in this painting, although I'd like more room for texture. 

There's plenty "wrong" with this painting, as some people have pointed out in the anatomy. Yet, if I painted this to be perfectly correct, it would lose certain points of expression, like the feeling of statuesque strength, the convenient symmetry, the pose itself. If you can strike the magic spot between intentional faults and the feeling of belief, then it's worth the sacrifice of realistic accuracy. 

Detail Photo of "Heavy Shoulders in Sunset"

This was by far the most difficult spot in the painting. It was repainted maybe half a dozen times. This painting was mostly painted from my head, and I had to find the one only image on Google of a yoga teacher holding her shoulders in a similar position to correct mistakes. Shoulder blades slide everywhere, and the way the muscles and folds of skin sit changes with the slightest movement. I'm still not sure if it's right, but it's the best result I got without over-painting the area. Some of the other challenges were finding the right quantity of detail for the arms, and the right colour of the light on the wall vs. her skin.

I hope this painting touches the goals I had, which were expressing "the feelings of attraction, pain, and a sobering calm" (previous blog post). I'm also really enjoyed painting a very muscular, androgynous body. There's nothing in particular that gives a definitely clue that this is a female body (aside from my decision that it is, because I'm personifying it); it could just as well be anyone with a leaner physique and long hair. Some more food for thought.

Another interesting thing that happened when I showed this painting to people is that people of polar opposite tastes in art all liked it. That almost never happens. Furthermore, I like this painting. Usually if everyone likes one of my paintings, it ends up being one I secretly hate (a seemingly common problem for artists, I gather). I was pretty nervous about what people would think of this image.

Thanks to the people who took the time to critique the painting as I worked on it. You can always look at my Instagram for work-in-progress pictures as I work on something, though I had to delete these in particular for the contest. Prints of this painting are in my store.

Subscribe to newsletter

A few weeks ago, I signed myself up for the "One Week 100 People" Drawing Challenge, which I learned about from Marc Holmes, a local Urban Sketcher (though, admittedly, I am virtually never around for the official meet-ups and do all my urban sketching alone). The challenge was what it sounds like: over the course of one week, sketch 100 people. At first, I was arrogant. "Yeah, that's easy," I thought. Quickly, I realized it wasn't so easy. I was thinking back to when I was a teenager, when I had more energy and zero responsibilities past doing my homework after 3 pm and consequently enough of both to draw for hours every night. Like I said in a previous post, I used to fill thick sketchbooks. There's reason why not everyone is an artist, and why some artist fail to produce work, and that's because you got to prioritize it in your time in life for it to happen once you're an adult.

Anyway, be it that there is still snow falling on April 1st (what a joke, very funny Nature), it was wet, snowy, and bitterly cold outdoors. I really wanted to draw only real-life people in action, but as you'll see below, some are from videos and photos. Drawing from video is actually a neat experience. You can pause video and get an action you'll otherwise never witness in real life, which expands the possibility of poses.

What I took away from this challenge is that drawing is just like any other habit. A couple years ago, I was part of a French book club in aim to learn French faster (FYI, it worked), so I was reading for 15 minutes to an hour a day to try keep up with the progress everyone was making. This really feels no different. It becomes easier, it becomes more natural, and it becomes something you rather be doing than browsing the web or whatever other way you procrastinate. If only I had infinite subjects and ideas to draw.

Also, I found the more I drew, the more I started sketching images I was happy with. I really love the way line and colour come together with form in some of the last sketches of the yoga instructor and hip-hop dancers; meanwhile, I'm not impressed with my stiff doodles from TV shows. You can read more about each set of drawings in the captions for them. Some of these may turn into full size paintings...who knows!

If you're interested in seeing more work by other artists who joined the challenge, look for #OneWeek100People2017 on social media.

DAY 1 Results"I found my friend Julie doing the same challenge. When she left, a stranger showed up and started telling me about her problems at the pharmacy. Then I froze, so I went home, ate homemade ramen, and drew some peeps from my Facebook friends list and a random YouTube video. The more detailed people are the ones who had to wait for the bus."
DAY 1 Results"I found my friend Julie doing the same challenge. When she left, a stranger showed up and started telling me about her problems at the pharmacy. Then I froze, so I went home, ate homemade ramen, and drew some peeps from my Facebook friends list and a random YouTube video. The more detailed people are the ones who had to wait for the bus."


Subscribe to newsletter

I'm excited to say I am working on two new oil paintings. It's been... about 6 whole years since I've done a large-scale oil painting. It's because we have our new studio space in our apartment, which is better equip for ventilating the fumes, the scale, and capturing splatter. I don't have any pictures of our old "studio" online, but it was essentially a tiny corner next to our bed. So. Much. Improvement. In all aspects of my life... everything is just much better.

The past year or more, my focus was to create some more commercial work. Commercial in the sense of being more sell-able, more appealing to a general public... as images about sexuality, nudes, or overtones of suicide don't frequently end-up as wall art. So I have some flowers, some plants, some urban landscapes, and I will keep doing these as I found a way to make them enjoyable for me (I was really adverse to doing work like this because there was just no way I could connect with it), but now...I would like to also work my way back to subjects and themes I care about while still being able to make neat greeting cards.

After a long chat with my dear art & film friend Jessica, I came to many conclusions: I'm bored with what I draw & paint to the point that I see and feel nothing when I sit at a blank paper or canvas; I'm tired of censoring my work subconsciously because I know who is looking at it; and the way I present my work is not working for me.

So as a way to regain my sense of direction, I am starting this oil painting (currently in the state of sketches below) because it stirred within me the feelings of attraction, pain, and a sobering calm. It may be because of my surgery that I find the subjects of extreme body modification we'll be capable of in the future interesting....or it might be just because of the video games I play; either are a perfectly acceptable reason to explore these images. 

As I consider the second and third issue further, here is the current stage of the second painting. I am deciding on the lighting and the palette. The lighting and palette should evoke the same emotions I experience thinking about this scene. One the focus points is how heavy the arms feel and the strained shoulders; like waking up and not feeling rested.

Interesting enough, the oil painting above of autumn trees and birds is more of my genre. It's not really a dark painting, yet it has that duality of being somewhere in between with the background texture. The background was actually created by my partner, Justin; it's a painting he started, painted over several times, got mad at, and abandoned. I saw potential in it, so I asked him if I could use it. So I guess, you can say it's an accidental collaboration.

Finally, here's another artwork I have not got around to posting that fits in well and I've been kicking myself to post. It's an observational watercolour of sunflowers I grew on my balcony. I didn't want to paint them at their prime only, instead at different stages: new flowers opening, blooming flowers, closing, and withering. The colours are gentle and light, yet the tone of the picture changes as it progresses down. I guess what I like creating is work that's all-encompassing. (Links to prints and such below.)

September Sunflowers12"x18" watercolour on 140lb Fabriano paper. Sunflowers from a balcony garden, flowering late in September. ~2016