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/

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

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.

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

November has been a busy month over here. Art fair week in Miami makes the perfect excuse to escape the cold in Boston, so I’ve been scrambling to finish up a couple paintings for my upcoming show at Thomas Young Gallery before I pack up my family and head south to take in scene. Before I talk any more about the next show, I want to take a moment to tell you a little more about the piece I am sending down to Miami for Chévere at Sirona Fine Art.

Chevere at Sirona Fine Art

You have seen the images of the piece, and anyone interested has read a lot about the concept for this series, but this time there is a little more to share about the piece.

It is no secret that I think one of the most powerful aspects of any painting, whether it is a realist piece or a more abstract work, is the labor that goes into making it. The simple fact that someone thought an image was important enough to invest hours, sometimes even years, of work into its creation adds an aura of significance. Because of this, I have always tried to work in ways that forces me to work slowly, deliberately, and leaves the labor of painting visible in the final piece. Beyond that, I have always hand built panels to use for my paintings.

What this all means is that I want each piece I make to be a unique and hand made object from front to back. With that in mind, I have decided to start building panels that are as special as the paintings they contain.

The new panels start out with some really nice Baltic Birch plywood. This is the very best stuff I could find, commonly used for ultra high end cabinetry, it is a big step beyond regular hardware store plywood when it comes to quality. Instead of being made of a few thicker pieces of woof with a thin outer veneer of nice birch, this stuff is made with mane smaller layers of wood, with an evenly thick outer veneer of birch. What that means for the painting is, the surface will be as smooth, strong, and stable as possible. As a nice bonus, the evenly sized layers of wood that make up the final piece make for a really beautiful edge, so I leave that visible in the final panel. In this case, I did a kind of white wash finish that keeps things looking simple and clean, but lets you catch a peak at the work that went into the panel.

panel prep

The supports behind the panel are made of maple. Maple is a nice dense, hard, hard wood. So it should resist warping as much as possible. This is the same wood that is normally used for high quality canvas stretcher bars, and I make sure to pick the best pieces I can. Once these are cut to size, I join them together with box joints. This means stronger connections with no nails to corrode over time, and also leaves a nice pattern of edges at the corners.

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The first painting that utilized one of these improved panels is currently at Sirona Fine Art. Not only am I really proud of the finished painting, but I am also pleased that the back of the painting is just as polished as the front. When it comes to hand made objects, the details that can not be seen are just as important as the ones that can.

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So, if you are in Miami for art fair week, try to make your way up to Sirona to check out the show. I will be at the opening party on December 3rd, so come out and say hello. In the mean time, check out a preview of the show in American Art Collector Magazine, or Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, and explore the rest of the work from the show on Artnet.

For those that can not make it out to see the show in person, pick up the current issue of PoetsArtists Magazine and get the full experience there.

See you in Miami.

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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.

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