I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out after finishing up the last pieces for the show at Thomas Young Gallery. A strange combination of relief that the show is painted and hung, and anxiety about what to do next. Sometimes, a break is in order. So, I have been spending less time in the studio the last couple weeks, trying to catch up with the real world, but allowing thoughts of the next series to evolve.

Before I dive deeper into the next project, let me take a moment to thank everyone who braved the weather to turn up for the opening of Private Message. We decided to keep the gallery open, in hopes that the weather would not be too bad, but clearly that was not the case. The turnout was solid, considering the city was being slammed by a blizzard, so thanks to everyone who made it out. For everyone else, we are going to have a second reception on Thursday March 16th. I will post more details soon, for now you can join (and share) the event on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/events/1744711695842816/


I have already mentioned that the next series is going to use more glitched files as source material, but this time instead of photos, it will be video. I love the way that I can parallel the changing mood in the image, with the degraded quality of the video file, allowing the tone of the painting to darken as the image deteriorates. As a bonus, since this series is not focused on women, I will finally be able to get some guys involved again.

It always takes a few attempts to get these ideas really working, and this is no exception. The first painting, while it ended up looking pretty good, left me with more questions than answers.

Do I really need to include a nice clean hero shot before I let the image break apart? How closely should I recreate the actual source imagery? How far do I need to push things, is simpler better or should I get really detailed?

I have managed to sort out most of these questions (for now), but I am left with one big decision to make. I am left questioning the format of the series, which is generally a secondary concern, but seems oddly important in this case.

I like making multi-paneled paintings for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, I just think it is interesting to have multiple scenes, or multiple viewpoints on a scene. It is nice to have the ability to treat the individual painting like the panel in a comic book, pushing the story further along than a single image can. Beyond that, there is something about repeated forms – weather they imply transcendent rhythm, or insane rambling – that is just interesting to play with.

But they are not without their problems. There is really no way to describe the feeling of walking in to an opening, and finding your triptych hanging in three different rooms of the gallery. And inevitably, even if the piece gets hung together, someone will fall in love with one panel, and have no interest in the rest of the set.

With all that in mind, I have come up with two possible formats for this series of paintings. Two formats, that I think will eliminate the drawbacks of multiple panel paintings, while pushing the benefits even further. I just have to decide which way to go.

The first possibility is to stick with the triptych format, but make it more of a traditional altarpiece style construction. The upside to this is that it would probably look amazing. The downside is that I would probably be stuck with a massive piece that was expensive to create, and difficult to sell.

The second possibility is to create a series of paintings that can be hung together in a sort of film strip style arrangement. Each piece would be a stand along painting, but the series of paintings would be able to hang together to reveal a larger story. The upside to this approach is that they could be mixed and matched into different arrangements, and I might actually be able to sell some of them.

If you have any insight here, I am open to your thoughts, so comment here or send me a message. Also, get in touch if you are interested in modeling for one of these paintings. The concept is more flexible than the last project, which opens things up for a lot of different people, and interpretations on the idea of declining quality and languishing situations. If you make it out to Thomas Young Gallery on the 16th, take a look at my first attempt at this idea and let me know what you think.

I spent yesterday morning over at Thomas Young Gallery shuffling my paintings around the room, trying to find some rhythm to the colors and shapes of the pieces. Working with the guys at the gallery, to get things ready for Thursdays opening reception. Should we start with the pieces with the deepest colors, and allow the pieces to lighten up as you enter the room. Maybe alternate between heavier feeling paintings and airier ones?

In the end, we stumbled into a layout where nothing jumped out as wrong, and accepted it.

After a year of working on these paintings—staring at them individually, focusing on the details on a micro level—I was starting to lose my enthusiasm for the project. When you work on large paintings for an extended period, you inevitably reach a point of diminishing returns. The point where, the painting is finished, and everyone can see it except you. In the case of this show, I reached that point with these paintings a few weeks ago, but I was having trouble stopping myself from making corrections. I think this is true for all artists. If you stare at a painting long enough, you will always find a correction to make.

As I pulled these paintings out to make final preparations for the show, all I could see was hundreds of tiny mistakes that I wanted to correct. All that needed to be done was a final cleaning and varnish, but I was getting stressed out by a bunch of details that nobody else was ever going to notice.

As I pulled them out of the car and arranged them around the gallery, I was still worried about corrections that needed to be made. Once they were all out of the studio, arranged in the gallery, something changed. I looked around the room and saw the pieces as whole paintings, saw the paintings as a complete show.

I know this post is a bit cheesy, but it truly was a moment of clarity for me. An instant flip from stressing about insignificant details, to excitement for the show.

I will resist the temptation to ruin this moment of clarity by worrying about whether people will understand the intent of the paintings, I have written enough about that for anyone interested. Instead, I will just invite you to come out and see the show.

Opening this Thursday:

Private Message

Thomas Young Gallery

Opening Reception February 9th from 6-10pm

Located at 516 E 2nd Street in Boston
Join the event on Facebook and invite your friends if you think they would be interested: https://www.facebook.com/events/985047681628690/

It’s no secret that I am excited about my solo show, opening February 9th, at Thomas Young Gallery.

I have been spending too much time in the studio working on these paintings over the last year, trying to put together the best show that I can. So honestly, I am looking forward to seeing them all hanging together outside the studio, and getting some real feedback on the project. Beyond that, I’ve got a relatively new baby at home, and I just haven’t been getting out as much as I used too.

With all that in mind, I want to get as many people out to the opening as I possibly can. So, I decided to give away a print to help promote the show.

Before a go any further, a little about the print.

It isn’t a giclee print, or a reproduction of one of the paintings. I don’t do those; I only want to put out hand pulled prints. So, what I came up with is a screen print that echoes the series of paintings in the show. It is a 4 color CMYK print that uses one of the source images from the show. Its glitchy, its imperfect, it has a lo-fi look that I am really into, but it doesn’t look anything like the paintings. I made an edition of 50 and each is signed and numbered. Each one is a real, handmade piece or art.

So, how do you get one.

As promised, they are not for sale. If you want one, all you have to do is help me spread the word about the show.

Like I said, I just want to put on the best show possible, and I want to get as many people to see it as I can. I am going to give one of these prints to anyone that helps me promote the show. If you want one, post a link to the show or the FB event to your Facebook wall. Post one of the paintings to your Instagram. Tweet my blog post about the opening. Wherever you are sharing stuff, put up a little something about the show, tag me or email me so I can see it, and I will send you a print.

Here is the post, with information about the show, to share: http://nickwardonline.com/private-message-at-thomas-young-gallery/

For those of you that aren’t into glitchy screen prints, don’t let that stop you from sharing the show anyway. Also on the off chance more than 50 people take me up on this, I will come up with a second print to send out, but after the second edition of 50, I will have to cap it cause I can’t spend my whole life making free prints. I doubt this will be an issue, but if you want one, share early just in case!

I have been working on this series for quite a while now, and I’m pretty excited that Thomas Young Gallery has given me a chance to hang them all together as a solo show. For those that don’t know about these paintings, I included a short statement about the work below, for everyone else, here is the information on the opening reception.

Private Message

Thomas Young Gallery

Artist Reception Thursday March 16th from 6-9pm

Located at 516 E 2nd Street in Boston
Join the event on Facebook and invite your friends to help spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1744711695842816/

This series focuses on the disconnect between our digital, and real world lives. Since more and more of our time is spent interacting online, and our photographs are no longer constrained to a single copy, our images are increasingly subject to misuse by anonymous strangers. This is especially true for young women, who often find their most private digital moments taking on a life of their own.

To create these paintings, I asked volunteers to photograph themselves, to create a sexy image that felt like it was only intended for a significant other to see. Once I receive the image, I crop it so that their face is hidden; so their identity is lost, and the sexual nature of the photograph takes center stage. Next the image file source code is corrupted. For me, the resulting image glitch signifies the end of the useful life of this image. The point where an image that has been shared would no longer be forwarded along again. This version of the image is used as reference for the first panel of the painting.

Once I have started working on this panel, the model is asked to visit the studio to sit for a more traditional portrait, exposing her face so that she can reclaim ownership of the image of her body.

Post edited to reflect the new reception date.

I was planning on keeping this under wraps a little bit longer, but honestly, I’m pretty excited about this.

In my relatively short life as an artist, I have managed to be involved in some great shows. I’ve had the chance to hang my paintings alongside the work of artists who I really respect and admire. I’ve even gotten the opportunity to hang shows that consisted solely of my paintings. I’ve even made a few dollars along the way, and I feel really fortunate to have taken it this far, but lately I have been thinking about the next step. So when I sat down to start a new series of paintings, I did it with that in mind.

I sat down, not only with the intention of finding an interesting subject to explore, but with the ambition to push things as far as possible. To refine and develop the next series of paintings until I came up with a fully realized show. So I have been locked up in the studio for the last year, with more than a little help from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation, working on the Private Message paintings.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life (3)

It has been a while since I have had any paintings hanging locally, because lets be honest, there are not a lot of places in this city that will really let me run with my weird ideas. We have some wonderful galleries that focus on traditional painting, and we have a great network of galleries that support the more abstract and intellectually challenging stuff. My own interests tend to fall somewhere in the middle, and the harder I have tried to create paintings that bridges the gap, the more I have felt like and outsider in both of these art worlds. So when Greg at Thomas Young Gallery offered to hang the show, I jumped at the chance.

This coming February, the Private Message paintings will hang at Thomas Young Gallery in South Boston.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life

More information soon, along with a couple glitchy screen prints that won’t be for sale, but will be for free.

CuW6HtCWYAASzjH.jpg

While I have been fortunate enough to hang my paintings in a lot of great shows, until recently, I have not had the opportunity to hang a show that represents one focused concept. I have hung groups of my paintings together, but I have not started off with the seed of an idea, and finished with a fully realized exhibition.

Now that I have the chance to bring together a show of the Private Message paintings, I am trying to really make the most of the occasion. I want to make it the most interesting show that I can, so I am trying to scrutinize the project as much as I can. Honestly, it really goes without saying that I think the project is compelling, but that is only one side of the story. Since these are fairly collaborative works, whenever I know a model well enough or think she might be interested, I have offered a space here to share her perspective.


As this point, I am going to shut up and turn over the stage to Liz.

I don’t consider myself to be an impulsive person, but if you look at my track record, my history implies it anyway. I’m in no way a planner, and I tend not to weigh consequences too heavily if they’re not particularly interesting to me. That said, I have a pretty good handle on trusting myself and my decisions, so it’s not surprising that I’ve on multiple occasions, offered up my semi-naked services to my college friend, Nick Ward. My own vanity is probably another factor: what woman would not enjoy being the subject of one’s art? If baring it all was part of the deal, so be it. Immodesty posed something of a challenge to me I was certain I could bear. So I did.

To give a little context, I teeter on the line between believing strip clubs are empowering for woman and demoralizing to women. Realistically, they’re not all one or the other. There are certain shades of what these extremes mean, and of course, not all women are the same. When it comes to our sexuality, there is no one to define it for us but ourselves. An inherently terrifying and liberating task all at the same time. Again, shades of gray. 

My own decision to photograph myself naked (and also to be photographed naked) resides in both my comfort with my body and my motivation to push myself toward exposure that encourages an opportunity for growth. While I am confident in my appearance, I have insecurities that keep me from vulnerability just as much as the next guy or gal. To an extent, striking balance between what I am comfortable doing and what scares me just enough, feels ideal. So I am thankful for the challenge and excuse to participate fully in what I consider to be a mutually beneficial opportunity for growth.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life

When I decided to start writing these short reviews of shows, I intended to primarily write negative reviews. In general, I am a pretty positive guy; but I can’t remember the last time I read a review of any local show that could be classified as anything worse than middling, and I think that is a problem. In practice, this has proven to be a little more difficult than I expected. The thing is, when I see a piece that is poorly executed, I don’t get upset. If I think a piece lacks depth, I just move on. Even art that strikes me as just plain bad doesn’t make me feel like speaking out, it usually doesn’t really make me feel anything. I still think the Boston art world needs more bad reviews (feel free to come out and shit on my next show, really), but I am just not sure I can find the motivation to be the one that writes them.

So this time I set out to see a show that I was fairly certain I would like, to accept defeat once again, and just keep talking about the shows that I am excited about. For anyone that needs a recap, the kind of work that I am generally excited about is the kind that makes me think, and is also beautifully crafted. The kind that has something interesting to say, but does not lose sight of the fact that the act of creating (or performing) a piece is an equal partner to what is being said.

Cobi Moules makes that kind of work.

So despite the fact that a lot of the local galleries are hanging summer shows made up of last season’s left overs, and some are not even bothering to open at all, I was excited to make my way through the August heat to Carroll and Sons so I could check out Cobi’s work.

Cobi Moules Summet Shoot VI

Cobi is a transgender guy, and this show is all about his struggles to fit in, and find his way through some confusing childhood desires. The paintings are very carefully rendered copies of New Kids on the Block posters, magazine clipping, and trading cards, with the artist inserting himself into the role of Danny Wood (perfect, because really, nobody really liked Danny all that much anyways). The paintings are all small scale pieces that invite you to really bury your nose in them and examine every detail. When you do this, what is revealed is really amazing. The paintings are very simple. No painterly embellishments, or subtle layering here; because really, it wouldn’t make any sense. The paintings are true to the spirit of the references, feeling very much like a 1990’s Teen Beat print quality level detail, except for the portraits of Cobi. I have no idea if this is intentional, or just a byproduct of his familiarity with his own face, but he stands out in the paintings. In each piece, Cobi is just slightly sharper, and more detailed than the New Kids that surround him, making him the star of the show here. It really gives a wonderful feeling of fitting in, while standing out.

Cobi Moules Drug Free School Zone

The subject matter being explored is obviously significant, but the imagery is so playful and engaging that the pieces are easily approachable. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was smiling so hard in an art gallery. While his experience may seem to be far from what the average person may have gone through, these paintings find a brilliant way of revealing that we all have a lot more in common than what is seen at first glance.

Cobi Moules NKOTB Trading Card

I have no idea why Carroll and Sons sent it to summer show purgatory, but this show is definitely worth visiting before it comes down at the end of the week.

Cobi Moules

New Kid: Back to the Beginning

at Carroll and Sons

August 3 – 20, 2016

I have a bad habit of exploring ideas out loud. As I am thinking my way through problems, I will ask questions, spit out ideas, request feedback on half baked theories and generally allow most any thought that passes through my head to escape as sound. In the world of bad habits (even in my own world of bad habit), this one is fairly benign but, it does have a way of confusing, annoying and generally making me look foolish to anyone with the poor fortune of being within earshot at one of these moments.

I feel like I have allowed this habit to infect my writing lately as I have been publicly working my way through the pixelated private message paintings. In other words, it has been helpful to send my ideas out into the world, to receive the confused glances that come with bad ones, along with the excitement and support that come back from the good ones but, I expect that everyone is just about ready for me to shut up about it all ready.

With that in mind, I am sending my latest study for this series to a show at the Dorchester Art Project.

Private Message Study #2

I am sending my piece to this show and I am telling you not to worry, you are not going to this show to see my latest exploration into this idea, you are going to DAP to see the other artists. You are going here to marvel at latest group of amazingly talented artists coattails that I have somehow managed to ride.

Here are a few teaser pieces from the show, keep reading below for official press release and dates.

Steven Carvalho "Sunday Morning"
_E_Petitti - The Liu-Casco Theory About the Loss of the Golden Pear (version4) - Drawing
Retrofit Painting by Thomas Willis

BETWEEN YOU AND ME: RESIDENT GROUP SHOW

Exhibition: August 14­ – September 18

Artist talks: September 12

Closing Reception: September 18

Dorchester Art Project

1486 Dorchester Ave Boston

The Dorchester Art Project is pleased to present its inaugural exhibition, B?etween You and Me: Resident Group Show. C?urated from work produced by DAP resident artists, B?etween You and Me locates the tenuous threads that bind together artists working within communal space.

In the front gallery, photographs consider how individuals relate to their worlds and constructed tableaus explore otherworldly scenes. Paintings of faces fall apart into pixelated squares, mimicking the failure of cellular communication between people, while in other works, intertwined figures emerge from abstraction. In the back gallery, a site­specific installation of sculptures that reference painting recreates the artist’s studio within the gallery space. Collages made from phone books and other paper detritus sourced directly from the Dorchester environment are as much about absence of information and individuals as their presence. Across the paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings, there is a commonality of artists engaged in critical discourse and thinking as the artists interpret their environments and interact with the surrounding communities.

Operating in the space formerly occupied by the Howard Art Project, the Dorchester Art Project is dedicated to fostering a collaborative environment for critical discourse and creative engagement for emerging artists. Located in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, DAP provides studio and communal space to artists, while programming our gallery space with regular exhibitions of critically engaged, emerging local artists, as well as artist talks and lectures. DAP aims to engage a wide audience, and bridge the gap between urban residents and the critical art establishment.

Join and share the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/494095904089321/

Like a lot of artists, I have spent many hours thinking about (worrying about) how to make a living with my talents. I am far from an expert here but, I think that it is generally accepted that best paths are either, get a job that is somewhat related to art, or find a gallery to sell your work. Since my drive to make art is a whole hell of a lot stronger than my drive to stand around talking about it, teaching was out and, those thoughts drifted towards the ideal gallery situation for my art.

For a long time, I always came to the same conclusion. I can do just about everything that any gallery that would take me is offering.

Now, before we go any further with this, let me give a little background on that decision and, for those of you who think that I am foolhardy, stick around until the end. In my relatively short time attempting to be a professional artist, I have done pretty well on my own. For the last few years, most of my income has come from art. I am pretty far from being able to quit my day job but, to the point where I can spend a majority of my time in the studio. Even better, I have managed to get some good press and put my art in front of a lot of peoples eyes. This isn’t written here to brag, just to outline some things that I have been able to do for myself, no gallery required. This isn’t written here to brag, just to let you know what I was thinking when I started asking, for 50% of the money, what am I going to gain?

And there is the problem. When you are relatively unknown, like I am, galleries obviously don’t want to take too much of a risk on you. Most of my talks with galleries have reflected this. They want to try out a few small pieces, which is completely understandable but, at the same time, my ability to sell small pieces has already outpaced my drive to make them. I was not looking for a gallery to dip their toe into the shallow end to see how it felt, I was looking for someone to help me make the leap into consistently selling larger, more elaborate pieces. So, my decision has always been to build the foundation myself. In other words, I wanted to continue keeping all the money until someone noticed how awesome I was and was willing to let me skip past the whole development phase. It should go without saying but, when you have minimal bills and a landlord who gives you a little leeway on the late rent, you can afford take some risks and see what works…

Recently though, I have begun to see the error in my ways. At this point in my life, I have a wife, a house, even a little orange dog. I think it is safe to say I am an grown up and, being a grown up with other living things relying on me means I can not always spend as much time in the studio as I used too. Doing all the work myself was great when I was focused only on being an artist but, it was also a hell of a lot of work and took up most of my time and energy. Like a caveman, or a used car salesman, if you don’t kill, you don’t eat. Sometimes cuddling up on the couch with my wife and little orange dog is just more appealing than hustling out in the studio.

Which brings me to the point when I realize what everyone else already knows.

There are a lot that goes into being an artist. Obviously, you have to create art. But that is really only a small part. If you want to have any chance at supporting yourself, you also have to do all sorts of things that really come down to getting your art in front of an audience. You have to get your work included in shows. You have to write about art. You have go out into the world and meet people who care about art. You have to do a lot of things that are not creating art. If you are someone who has already made the foolish decision to make art as a career I don’t have to tell you this but, when you suddenly find yourself with less time available to devote towards all these aspects of being an artist, there is one thing that is not going to be cut from that list. That is the actual creation of art. For better or worse, everything else is optional.

And this is what I was missing about what galleries were offering me. They were offering my art a place to continue to grow when I was busy living my life. I know this is pretty obvious and seems simple but, it is hugely important. I was looking for someone who could help take my career to the next level, which would have been great but, equally important is someone who could maintain all that I had worked for when my focus had to be elsewhere.

When I started writing this post, I expected the end to feel a lot more dramatic but really, it was a simple lesson that I feel foolish for overlooking for so long. In any case, I am back in the studio, back to hustling and attempting to regain the momentum that I lost this year while I was off being house broken.

Expect a lot more art related rants and stream of conciseness blog posts in the near future (along with some announcements about upcoming shows). For now, be sure to head over to Sloane Merrill Gallery where I have some new small and affordable pieces in their 10×10 show that opens this Saturday.

nick-ward-10x10-sloane-merrill-gallery

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I have been acting a bit out of character lately, working on small paintings. In the past, I really struggled to translate the process and feeling of the large paintings into a smaller, more affordable package. I have a very particular way of working, and I just can’t seem to convince myself to paint any other way.

When a lot of painters work, they are editing out a lot of visual information. They are taking the complex real world and simplifying it, deciding what is important, and including only what is necessary to create a nice clean image. This is a great way to work. I don’t do it.

When I work, I generally take the biggest canvas, and the smallest brush I can find. I like to pack in as much information as possible. Instead of taking a complex area and simplifying it, I am taking simple things and breaking out every possible color that might possibly exist there. This is a bad way to work. It takes a long time and it just doesn’t work at anything less than large scale. I do it anyways.

The thing is, I really think it makes interesting paintings.

I want anyone who buys one of my paintings, whether they spend thousands of dollars on a large piece, or tens of dollars on a tiny one, to come home with a piece that I think is good and interesting. If someone buys one of my paintings, I want it to have the things that make a painting mine, no matter what size it may be. Because of this, I have not sent out many small paintings lately.

Recently, my friends at Sloane Merrill Gallery asked me to create a few small paintings for their December show. So, I headed into the pathetic small spare bedroom that is my current temporary studio, determined to come up with some paintings that I would be happy showing.

I think I finally found the right balance. Instead of trying to scale down my techniques, I just painted with the same intensity and scale of strokes that I would use on a large piece. In the case of these smaller pieces, there is just less of it. So, for the first time, if you like the large pieces, you should see a lot of what you like in the small ones.

I am interested to see how people respond to these pieces so, please head on over to Sloane Merrill Gallery for their 10×10 show next week (or any time in December), have a look at the pieces and let me know what you think. They will be hung along side a lot of other great pieces, including a few by my old studio-mate (from the infamous studio 11), Tony Bevilacqua. Official show details along with information about the opening reception below.

10by10_sloane_merrill

Twenty painters given the same dimensions

10×10 Inches

Opening Saturday, December 6th from 3-8pm! Artists include Carlo Russo, Jeremy Durling, Adam Vinson, Leo Mancini-Hresko, Matthew Saba, Jeremy Miranda, Tony Bevilacqua, Kyle Bartlett, Kelly Carmody, Nicholas Mancini, Margaret Langford Sweet, Brett Gamache, Andrew Fish, Michelle Arnold Paine, Nick Ward, Michael Compton, Aurélie Galois, Frank Strazzulla, and Jonathon Nix.

At Sloane Merrill Gallery, 75 Charles Street Boston, MA


Help spread the word, share the event page on Facebook.