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.

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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This is a two part post, if you just want to read about my piece, head here.

I have spent a lot of time on this site saying nice things about Poets and Artists Magazine, and I am always happy to send work to the shows that they organize. What started out and one woman with a passion for the arts, has grown into an amazing community of artists, poets, curators, and gallerists. The shows always bring together an amazing range of artists. Relative newcomers (like me) hang alongside established artists, students hang alongside professors; and everyone’s work is given the respect it deserves, because it’s all damn good. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to meet, and share a drink or two, with a lot of great artists.

The best part about participating in these shows, is that they encourage experimentation (at least for me). This has led me to send them some of my best pieces, along with more than their fair share of flops. This time I wanted to send a piece I really felt good about, so obviously I started off on some half-baked idea with no real finishing point in site. If you have been following along, you may notice that I have not yet posted the final images of the triptych I have been working on. I think you can see where this is going. While I do feel good about that piece, I do not have any idea exactly how to finish it. Fortunately for me (and, I suppose for Sirona Fine Art), the same model had also signed on to help with one of the text message portraits, and the resulting piece is probably the best that has come from that series.

Check back later this week for a full post on that piece.

For now, here is a little more information about the show, and most importantly, images of some of the great work that will be included.

The show is called Chévere. It will hang at Sirona Fine Art in Florida, but there is also an issue of Poets and Artists Magazine, which will feature work from the show along with accompanying poems and essays. Check that out here: http://www.poetsandartists.com/store/pa77-chvere

Chévere is a group exhibition and publication showcasing works of art inspired by the Romance Languages of Latin America. Chévere’s intention is to break stereotypes. It will feature figurative, narrative, environmental, emotional, street, poetic, and history depicting works.

For anyone who happens to be headed to Miami for art fair week, the opening reception will be Saturday December 3rd from 6-9 pm At Sirona Fine Art in Hallendale.

As always, join the event page on Facebook, and don’t be shy about sharing it with anyone who might be interested.

Here is a full list of the artists (painters, poets, sculptors, photographers and essayists) involved in the exhibition, and the current issue of Poets Artists Magazine.

(I alphabetized them by first name because I have no idea how to sort by last name in Word, and seriously who can really be expected to do things right if they can’t make the computer do it for them)

Whew, that was a long one–start with Reuben Negron, or Tim Okamura, or maybe Sylvia Maier to get warmed up–then just keep clicking.

his is a two part post, if you just want to read about my piece, head here.. For those of you that are with me here in Boston, I have a local show in the works featuring these paintings, so keep your eyes open for that.

Chevere at Sirona Fine Art

This is a two part post, for information on the show that this piece is headed to, click here.

As I am finishing up the third piece in this series, I’m settling into a good rhythm. The paintings are starting to happen pretty easily, and (I think) they are looking really good. The latest piece is being send out to a great show, and I even have something scheduled that will allow me to hang a larger group of them together (more on that soon). There is really just one problem. I have not figured out a graceful way to explain exactly what it is I have been working on. And that really is a big problem.

People are always curious about artists, and what exactly it is that they do all day. So once you admit to being an artist, you tend to get a lot of questions. They generally start out tentatively, there are a lot of wingnuts out there claiming to be artists, after all. They will ask what your real job is, or maybe they will wonder who exactly would buy an art in this day and age. But once they have felt out the situation a bit, they will almost certainly ask; what kind of art do you make?

When I am faced with this question, I generally respond by glancing towards the ground, and mumbling something about portraits. If it is not already obvious to everyone reading this, that is the wrong answer.

I am not sure how aware the models are of this, but each one of these paintings really is a collaborative effort. The women that are helping with these paintings are setting off without any real direction from me. They have their own ideas about what this kind of sexy image looks like. They are not necessarily professional models, they are not people who are used to making a public display of their private moments; and they have to decide what their line is. Where does a bit of naughty fun, turn into a regret? Where does helping create this painting turn into an uncomfortable public display? I am not there to help make these decisions; and let’s be honest, if I was I would probably just push for more.

And really, this is what makes these painting work. Sure, they are just playing a role. Sure, they are only doing this because I wanted to make some paintings. But really, while the situation is obviously arranged for the sake of art, the decisions being made are real. Not only are the decisions real, but I am hanging their portrait right there, I’m asking them to own the decision.

As the father of a baby girl, I am involved a lot of new baby parenting small talk. Inevitably, this involves fielding a lot of questions about her future dating habits, and how I will scare off her future boyfriends (spoiler alert, I am not sure it is possible for me to be any less worried, and I doubt I will be scaring anyone). Now, I am not mentioning this because I find it particularly egregious. But it has given me a renewed awareness that I really am asking a lot from my models. I am only asking them to play a part in a painted story, but we live in a world where that can lead to some real world judgement and consequences.

When it comes to the power of any individual piece of art, I am not really a true believer. Art can affect people, it can be beautiful and powerful, but no piece of art is going to change the world. So I am not going to try to convince anyone that sitting down and writing this, or making these paintings is going to make the world a better (or worse) place. But I do believe that when you see something is wrong, you should stand up and speak. So really, if I am asking people to put themselves out there for my paintings, I damn well better be prepared to stand up and own my part in the whole process. I better be ready to tell the story, to defend the pieces. At the very least, I better be ready to explain the basics of the project.

So, as I am preparing to send the latest piece in this series off to Miami for an exhibition, I am preparing to discuss the painting in a more meaningful way. In order to do that, I have been trying to come up with an answer to one important question.

How would you feel, what would you do, if it was your daughter sending these sort of images, or participating in this kind of project?

And for a long time, I did not have a good answer for that. But I have realized that I don’t need an answer for that question. There is no question in my mind, that one day she will grow up and do things that (as her parent) I am going to be worried about. She is going to grow up, go on dates, get drunk, have sex, do all things that most grown up people do. So the question for me, is not how would I feel if she grows up to be the kind of girl that sends naughty text messages. The question should be; when she is going through the normal course of growing up and dating, if something goes wrong, do I really want her to feel ashamed? And for me, the answer to that question is obvious.

So I am preparing myself to face these questions head on, and to do my small part in pushing things in the right direction.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life (3)

See the latest painting from this series in December at Sirona Fine Art in Florida, more info in this post. For those of you that are with me here in Boston, I have a local show in the works featuring these paintings, so keep your eyes open for that.

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

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

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