After a bit of a break from the studio, I am back to work on some new sunbather paintings while I plan for the next big glitchy installation. Because the sunbathers are about to make a comeback, I thought it was only fitting to send one of the pieces from the first round of this series out to Arcadia Contemporary in Culver City to spend some time in the California sun.

So, if you are in the Los Angeles area, and want to check out one of these paintings in person (along with some other great realist painting), here is your chance. The piece I sent over is Christine #2. It has always been one of my favorites from the series, and shows off more painterly brushwork than a lot of my recent paintings. Seeing this piece really inspired me to start experimenting with bringing some texture back into the next round of glitch paintings.

The show was arranged by Didi Menendez of Poets and Artists, featuring work curated by John Seed.

Opening reception this Saturday December 2nd.

Details about the show, along with a sneak peek at some of the other work in the show, below.

Susannah Martin “Helium”

Poets And Artists Show

Arcadia Contemporary

Opening:
Saturday, Dec. 2nd 6-8 pm

Nadine Robbins “Keep Calm and Eat Oysters”

On view:
Dec. 2-13, 2017

9428 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Artists:

  • Jamie Adams
  • Erin Anderson
  • Bo Bartlett
  • Aleah Chapin
  • Carl Dobsky
  • Michelle Doll
  • Anne Harris
  • F Scott Hess
  • Jason John
  • David Jon Kassan 
  • Daniel Maidman
  • Susannah Martin
  • Dan McCleary
  • Kimberly Merrill
  • Ricky Mujica
  • Serena Potter
  • Lee Price
  • Nadine Robbins
  • Irvin Rodriguez
  • Bradford J. Salamon
  • Vic Selbach
  • Betty Shelton
  • Cynthia Sitton
  • Jon Swihart
  • Michael Van Zeyl
  • Nick Ward
  • Conor Walton
  • Peter Zokosky

Vic Selbach
“Mielikki”

Cynthia Sitton
“A Long Time Ago”

CDaniel Maidman “Leah Checking Her Cell Phone in the Studio”

Conor Walton
“The New Religion”


Finally, for those that love the sunbathers, here is your first look at the first in the next round of paintings. Still early in the process, but off to a good start!

The warmer weather is here, which means everyone is heading out to the beach. The pace of work is slowing down and the galleries are empty… which makes it the perfect time to ramp up productivity in the studio. I am going to attempt to start the season off with a good blog post that will give a little insight into the latest sunbather painting, and then talk about what is coming next.

Like most artists, I have a lot of opinions about what makes for good and interesting art. Painters may be some of the worst when it comes to this, focusing so intensly on their own processes that they start to lose site of the value of other approaches and philosophies. Personally, I try to rise above all these squabbles and would like to think I approach all art with an open mind, regardless of medium, style, or pedigree. Unfortunately, I know that I do not always succeed. As I have become more and more focused on realist painting, I have started to develop a distaste for some works that do not fit into my own narrow ideals. I have started to discount some art unfairly without giving it the attention necessary to make a real decision.

Now, I know what you are thinking. If you are anything like me, you are already expecting to scroll past this, roll your eyes and avoid another cliched argument against abstraction by some puffed up realist painter. That is not what I’m going to do here ? people making those kinds of arguments always sound like the fools who live near our southern borders and get bent out of shape when someone is speaking Spanish. Like any serious snob, my developing art biases are hyper local. As I worked on refining my own techniques for painting, building lots of texture and brushwork into my portraits, I started to lose my tolerance for a certain variety of highly blended and perfectly smooth paintings. Not the flattened simplified stuff, and not classical realism, but somewhere in the middle there seems to be a growing trend of paintings that just feel like mediocre snapshots, without all the pesky details. The kind of paintings that look really impressive and realistic in photos online, but really fall flat on their face when you approach them in person. (Can you sense my disgust?)

In any case, I have seen the error in my ways.

As I approach my own paintings, I have realized that my personal preference for technique does not make sense for all paintings. When I was making paintings that were more closely related to traditional portraiture, the buildup of textures and loose brushstrokes made sense and was directly tied to the intent of the work. With paintings like the sunbathers, it was not really related to the message, it was an unnecessary embellishment. So as I approached this latest sunbather, I made an effort to put my ideas on interesting painting technique aside, and focus on the actual intent of the painting. The resulting painting falls somewhere in the middle. Plenty of (potentially unnecessary) detail, but a smoother more idyllic finish. As always, I am interested to hear what people think of this.

maria_sun_2

Next I am going to start two new pieces. First a collaborative portrait project with an awesome artist, where I get to throw away everything I just learned and paint like I really enjoy painting. (I will talk more about this soon). Then, I am going to dive back into the new series of portraits derived partly from images sent to me via text messages, which is what I want to talk more about now.

Let me just admit something here: I don’t like the first text message painting. I got a lot of great feedback, and as an experiment I think it was a huge success, but as a painting, I just don’t like the results. There are just too many things I want to change, too many things I would do differently, and most importantly, just too many things going on.

private_message_nick_ward

I like works of art that feel honest. A lot of artists make work that doesn’t feel that way to me. They make work with clever ideas and interesting jokes. They make work that takes on important subjects. But somehow, the work lacks a feeling of honesty and emotional attachment, which I think is very important. There is no question that this series of text message paintings has the potential to go either way, and I want to make sure that it end up on the right side of that divide. The real problem with my first attempt at this concept is that it was a little too much clever idea and not quite enough honest emotion. I hope to change that with the next attempt. I want to simplify the imagery and focus more on the contrasting images. I want to make the next one better and, I need some help. The first attempts used hired models which is fine, but I always prefer to work with people who are more connected to the final paintings and who have less experience being in front of the camera.

So I am looking for people who want to participate in the next round of these paintings.

I think most people that are still reading probably know the concept behind the paintings, but just in case here it is. The idea is to paint to contrasting portraits of the same person. First a more explicit image just like one that would be sent to a romantic partner (bonus points if you can recycle one that actually has been) will be painted from the photo. Second, a more formal traditional portrait will be created. If you want to long version check out this post.

If you think you have any interest in helping, get in touch and I will fill you in on the rest. The naughty parts can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home. I don’t need to or want to be there (and the photos don’t actually have to be that naughty), but I would need to be able to get to you to do the traditional portrait.

Is everyone disappointed now that I got through that entire post without using the word sext?

I have been thinking a lot lately about where I am going to take my paintings next. Should I smooth out my colors, blend my strokes and make things more realistic? Should I just cut lose, bring even more abstraction into the pieces, really push the texture to the next level. I have been flip flopping in my mind, trying to picture where these changes might take my art but in the end, when brush hits canvas, the paintings were coming out largely the same.

Then I painted this piece:

private_message_nick_ward

(read more about how this piece came together here)

I have to say, I have gotten a lot of great feedback on this piece, and overall I am feeling really good about the results… but I am still not sure that this is where I am going next. So I am going to try out a few more options.

First off,
I am going to bring back the sunbather paintings, except I am going to push the realism further. I am going to smooth things out, blend my colors a little more and really just try to use a lot more restraint on my crazy colors and textures. I already have a couple new people signed up to model for these paintings so, I am pretty excited to get started.

Christine Sunbathing #1 oil painting by Nick Ward

Next,
I am going to take things in completely the other direction. I have signed on to do a show that is Disco themed, which seems like the perfect excuse to really go crazy with some colors and cut lose with more abstracted elements. Maybe some people that have been following me for a while (a long while) will remember some of the dance club scenes I painted years ago. The plan is to bring back the feel of these pieces, except bringing a few more years of painting skill into the realistic areas and experimenting more with glitched images to bring some rhythm and color into the piece.

Danceclub study 1

Finally,
I am going to try to bring everything I learn in those two pieces together again into a few more paintings like the one I introduced at the beginning. I still want to play more with the idea of digital life versus real life and, like I said, I think the text message piece was pretty successful. It just needs a bit more development to really shine.

Two more quick notes before I go.

I am always looking for people interested in helping with these pieces so, if you have any interest in modeling for any of the ideas listed above, please get in touch.

If you are not quite sick of me talking about myself yet, I did a little interview with Poets & Artists magazine that you should check out here: https://iartistas.squarespace.com/…

Recently, I was visiting my friends over at Sloane Merrill Gallery and they decided to give their summer intern the task of putting together a short artist interview with me. For those of you that know me personally, it is obvious that this is a fool’s errand. Giving me the stage in a room full of lovely young women and turning the spotlight on me is no way to get any work done. What started as a few simple inquiries about my art turned into hours of dodging questions, intern teasing, and rambling stories (mostly stories about cows that day). While the afternoon was enjoyable, I didn’t expect many lucid or relevant thoughts to be caught for the interview.

She did, however, manage to sift out one important thought that I want to elaborate on today. When listing to music, I am often overcome with waves of emotion. These moments are very unpredictable and run the spectrum from overwhelming rushes of nostalgia, or feelings of amazing calmness, all the way to what I described as a full body tingle. That rush of excitement that sweeps from head to toe, vibrating your whole body with excitement.

I often worry that people do not experience this sort of purely emotional response from purely visual, static forms of art like painting and sculpture. Looking at great paintings is always intellectually stimulating and is quite and enjoyable experience but, those intense feelings that music so often brings out in me are missing. People tell me that paintings have the ability to stir these emotions but I just don’t get it. It should go without saying; this is a troubling realization for someone who spends so much time and energy creating paintings.

After talking about this concern with the women at the gallery, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I am always chasing this idea when I make paintings. I am always trying to create images that I think will trigger these feelings. Images of moments that we have all experienced in some form, images that should trigger nostalgic feelings, or memories of pleasure, or maybe memories of pain. I am fine tuning the colors, adding contrasting visual elements, bits of text, nothing seems to work.

Then it hit me. I have been experiencing these moments the entire time, not with finished paintings but, during the creation of them. So many people describe creating art as therapeutic, relaxing them or bringing them increased feelings of sanity. This is not at all what I experience in the studio. Making art is hard. Not hard physically but, mentally draining. It is a stress filled rollercoaster ride, like a whirlwind romance, filled with dramatic mood swings and chaos, waves of pure pleasure followed but crushing frustration.

Realizing this made me feel a little more relaxed about wasting my life creating paintings. Like so many things in life, it is more about the journey than the destination and, it seems that people can find and appreciate these struggles and emotions in the finished pieces of art. This realization also helps explain why my best paintings feature models that I know and love, even if the imagery of the piece does not necessarily reflect their personality or my relationship with them.

With that in mind, I want to show you my latest piece. It features my, soon to be wife, sunbathing. Like most of my sunbather paintings, I have corrupted an old masters representation of the lamentation of Christ but, that is not important for this blog post. What is important in this context is that I did the initial studies and photographs for this painting, a few years ago when we first met. Back before we were (almost) newlyweds, she was just a pretty stranger walking through The Distillery building, and I was just a broke artist who needed someone willing to model for free. As we started dating the creation of this piece got pushed aside as I was inspired to (somewhat obsessively) work on a large scale portrait of her instead. Now that our relationship is changing once again, I thought it was a good time to bring this piece back, to finish the painting that initially brought us together.

Sunbather #4

Now, that story has little to do with the message and imagery of the completed painting. I came up with the concept for the painting before we even met and in its world, she is just a helpful volunteer. However, in the studio, where paintings are frequently abandoned incomplete, and the (fairly simple and easy) act of rendering is turned into a dramatic battle within my own mind, having that deeper connection and interest in the model is often the difference between success and failure.

The title of the piece is simply, “Sunbather #4”. It is done in oil on custom birch wood panel and I will be dropping it off at Sloane Merrill Gallery (on Charles Street in Beacon Hill) this afternoon. By popular demand, I have conceded to make a series of smaller pieces that are a bit more affordable and, most importantly, fit into apartments or houses with normal sized walls. If you like this piece, let me know and go by the gallery and have a look. While I really love working large, I know that large pieces are just not practical for many people. So, if the pieces sell and feedback is good, I will try to keep focused on making more small pieces.

I just completed a new piece for a show at Sloane Merrill Gallery. The show opens next Friday, April 12th and there will be an opening reception at the gallery from 6:30-9:00pm. Check out the new piece and then see the official announcement below for more details on the show.

Suburban Dream?

Please join Sloane Merrill Gallery in collaboration with the Boston Figurative Art Center on Friday, April 12th from 6:30-9pm for the opening of Back to Back!

The collaborative exhibition highlights the figure as an important subject in our modern world — one that is both beautiful and a struggle to capture. The theme of the show marries the often sacred and sensual use of the human back to represent form with the more abstract concept of what it means to be “back to back”. The participating figurative artists explored this theme in oils and their visual experiences will be shared at the exhibition opening.

Back to Back at Sloane Merrill

Two of my favorites from the show: Tom Grady, ‘Spine’ and Damon Lehrer’s keekaroo high chair reviews, ‘Green Chair Nude’

Back to Back has two distinct components — one half is an invitational and the other is juried. Invitational artists include: Damon Lehrer, Jon Nix, Leo Mancini-Hresko, Nick Ward, Rick Berry, Tony Apesos, Gene Dorgan, Paul Goodnight, Brett Gamache, Jim Burke, Freda Nemirovsky, Britt Snyder, Ann Hirsch, Tom Grady, Janet Monafo, Paul Rahilly, & Kelly Carmody.

Jurors are Damon Lehrer of BFAC, Liz Devlin of FLUX. Boston, Jon Nix, Fr. Iain MacLellan of Saint Anselm College, and Ali Ringenburg of Sloane Merrill Gallery.

More information at: http://sloanemerrillgallery.com/exhibitions/2013/1/29/back-to-back

Join the event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/146883525483652/