Meet Caitlin Ryer O’Neill, born this afternoon at 5:48. She’s 8 pounds, 10 ounces, and full of love. She’s our second niece! The first niece, Charlotte, is sound asleep upstairs. Aunts are always good for a rules-free sleepover. Welcome to the world, Caitlin. Let’s all try to not fuck things up for her.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the artist-as-observer. If we as artists had to boil down our purpose to one role, it’s that of an observer. We observe a lot of things: cultural trends, regional beliefs, popular aspirations, etc. To observe means to take one step out of bounds and look at things. To be an artist is to be a mirror, of sorts, to some aspect or element of those things. In a way I’m re-visiting some theories I studied in graduate school in Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. It’s nice when school texts come back into your life in comforting, constructive ways. Here’s three things that have been on my mind regarding making art and thinking about art:
1. My friend Dan Kois wrote a wonderful profile of Lynda Barry in this week’s New York Times Magazine. Barry has made a career out of being the artist’s artist, and has made a micro-career out of teaching writers to be true and good writers. Teaching is hard, but the article deftly illustrates how she does it so well. I have a lot of friends that have taken her workshops, and they have all become devoted parishioners of the Church of Barry.
2. I just watched George Harrison: Living in the Material World on HBO. It’s a mesmerizing documentary. I love The Beatles, but kind of forgot the sort of spiritual journey that Harrison created for himself. He didn’t strive to be perfect; he strove to be aware. The role of the observer came easy to him, even though he was such a public figure. It came easy to him because he knew it was an essential position for him to inhabit. His work was pure and true to himself.
3. Church. We all need a place of meditation and concentration. The first couple years after undergrad, I attempted to have my studio in my house to disastrous effect. I wasn’t disciplined enough, and there was always something to distract me. The laundry wasn’t going to wash itself. The cats needed to someone to throw them a toy. A Law & Order marathon was just about to start. I used anything as an excuse to escape. The white of the canvas is an oppressive force, and I was too green to stand up to it. After years of renting a studio space outside of my house, I moved it back into our home upon moving to Boston, and I haven’t looked back. I don’t know what I would do without it being so close. This creative passenger we harbor needs to have an immediate workspace; otherwise, it will atrophy. It’s our space to make things and to think about things. It is the place where we can be vulnerable and sincere. It’s where we get shit done.
Hello everyone. I am sorry for taking an unannounced vacation from the blog, but I’m getting back on the good foot today. I should have written this last week, but alas, here it is today. BECAUSE! My friend and yours, Karen Kilgariff, has released her EP of her comedy song stylings “Behind You.” It’s lovely, it’s amazing, and it’s only three dollars. You can purchase and download the album on bandcamp here, and you can read a great write-up about Karen on The Huffington Post here. I am really proud of her for making this record. Those of us who have a gift can sometimes be paralyzed by our abilities, so it’s inspiring when a super-talented friend just gets up and makes something as good as this. She did it, by golly, and I am honored to have made the cover art.
Our vacation was magical, and as you might expect, we saw a tremendous amount of art. Seriously, I saw nearly every artwork that has graced all of my art history books from childhood to today. London and Paris have a lot of history, but they were also quite clever about stealing the best paintings and sculptures known to humanity. Huzzah to them, I guess. This (mainly pictorial) post is all about Paris; I’ll write a London wrap-up very soon.
This is the view from The Pompidou Center, which is a weird and wonderful place. Built ostensibly as a salute to French ingenuity, the most memorable feature of this building was a sound installation piece that echoed throughout the Habitrail-like escalator enclosures of Sacred Chants of the Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir. I highly recommend clicking on the link and listening to it. Mesmerizing, as well as an enjoyable walk down a Pompidou hallway.
This is The Luxembourg Gardens. I’ve included this photo because I took it with my iPhone. Can you believe phones? (Note: I took all these photos with my phone, but this one is particularly postcard-esque.)
The top of the tower was magical, but the best part of the day was lounging in the park afterwards. I drew the tower while Misia alternately napped and took photos of cute Parisian kids playing soccer. Oh, and we had hot dogs and beer.
We passed this little gem, and I couldn’t believe no one was around. here is essentially a holding pen for art that is usually stored in the basement. These sculptures were moved in anticipation of flooding (or renovations, I can’t remember) and they looked magnificent. So spooky, so pretty.
Is there anything more vulgar than this? I mean, seriously. This painting is more infamous than good. It’s behind bulletproof glass. You can’t get closer than 12 feet from it. And what on earth are people going to do with all those photos of this painting? And the kicker of this room (roughly the size of a high school gymnasium) is that some of the best paintings in the world line the walls. No one is paying any attention to them! Which is good for someone like me, but I mean really. You’re at The Louvre! Get your 15 euros worth! Look around! To wit: look at the paintings in the background. Do you see what’s happening?
That’s Titian on the left and Tintoretto on the right. Two of my biggest influences, hanging next to each other. And they hated each other! It’d be like if in 400 years, the Red Sox and the Yankees were hung next to each other on a wall somewhere. But there they are. Fucking amazing.
At The Musée d’Orsay, they had a Manet retrospective. Manet changed my life, so despite the crowds, I needed to spend a lot of time in this gallery. Afterwards, I couldn’t even look at anything else. I have a maximum memory capacity when it comes to museums, and once I’ve had my fill, I can’t spoil it with other stuff. I will argue, until the day I die, that Manet’s work will always look just as current and just as exciting as anything made right now. His stuff is magical.
And that’s my wrap up of Paris! I’m not going to bore you with our fun vacation-ey photos. But I do add this one, because it’s from the famed Café de Flore in the St. Germain district. If you want an eight Euro cappuccino in the same cafe that Sartre, Picasso, Camus, and Gertrude Stein held court, this is your place. But for real, what price to sit on the most beautiful corner in Paris, thinking your thoughts, existing in the world, would be too much to pay?
How you like them apples?! I got the job! I’ll be teaching two courses, a painting and a drawing course, starting this fall at Fisher College in Boston. I had my interview yesterday, I got the call today around noon, and by four p.m., the contract was signed. I’m really excited to get back into the classroom. I’m not going to say I had given up hope on landing another teaching gig, but with this economy, it’s been slim pickins out there. I consider myself lucky.
I’m going to celebrate this career victory by buying four new brushes, seeing the new Joan Rivers documentary, and trying my hand at some homemade pesto.
Teaching! Knowledge! Part time employment!
Well, she’s all finished. I made the final edits today, signed my name, and packed up my things. I’m happy with how the paintings on this trip worked out. I didn’t have to rush things or cut any corners. I just kept my head down and kept working.
Tomorrow I’m off to DC to meet up with Misia and Meg. I forgot to pack anything but painting clothes. Oh well.
Thanks to all of you who watched the progress of these murals! Go Bucks!
I’m closing in on the home stretch of this mural. I had a lot of fun painting today. Since I spent yesterday placing the size of the image in grey paint, today was just an easy breezy, fun timey painting day. To have fun with the drawing of the image like this is why I like to do murals. And I really like it in this greyscale. It feels like I’m making an eight foot tall comic book.
The muscles in my fingers are sore. And my arms and back too. I stretch throughout the day, but I think I hold my body really rigid while I’m working, the way you do sometimes when you’re concentrating hard. But it’s a good sore. An honest sore. The soreness of farmers and field workers. And I’m part of that honest work, me with the naked bicyclist painting.
So today I started with the lady on the bike, affectionately named Wanda Chrome. The first thing I did was to clamp the boards onto two ladders. I began to sketch out the image with a pencil, but the lines were so hard to see on the red paint. Instead, I used tape to establish the angles and proportions of Wanda, and then I sketched the lines in paint. Sign painter’s paint is really unforgiving, so I had to be pretty sure of my lines. I used my Jedi mind force and forged ahead.
The second picture shows how I left things today. I’ll be doing this painting in greyscale, a fancy way of saying black and white. I don’t normally do something like this, but I thought it will only help me tomorrow when I continue. Plus, the grey paint acts as a first layer for the Wanda portion of the mural.
So in the next two days, I have to finish Wanda and add three words of text to the mural. And then it will be completo! I just hope all goes as planned, because screwing up sucks.
Today was all about the lettering, which takes a long time. I spent last night doing all the math to scale the letters to the size of the sign. I never thought I’d have to use algebraic principles past the tenth grade, but here I am, finding proportions as an aspect of my chosen career.
The first picture shows my prep for the letters. I rarely do this sort of thing, but this was a font I haven’t really ever painted. I needed to map out the proper width of each letter respective to the width of the wood. I used a draftsman tape as a guide. Then I drew out the letters, painted two coats of white lettering paint and then piped it in black.
Fun fact: I painted the letters upside down. Coming from the fine art spectrum of painting, it’s easier for me to see letters as shapes, rather than as letters. It helps me to look at them objectively, as symbols in relation to other symbols.
Tomorrow: naked chicks on bikes.