People are always emailing me, asking about giclee prints of my large pieces. I’m just going to go ahead and say for the record, they will never exist.

I feel for people who can’t afford the expense, or space required for a large scale painting, but I want everything I put out to be a special, one of a kind, touched by human hands, piece of art. That leaves a couple options for people who want more affordable piece; reach out and ask me to make a small painting, or wait for the occasional screen print or wood block print.

For those of you that are into screen prints, I am about to give some away.

I just sent the last glitch painting to the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago for an exhibition called, “Freak Out.” The show opens Friday the 15th (that is tomorrow), with what will certainly be a big, fun, opening party. Additionally, the opening coincides with their monthly Third Fridays at the building, where all the galleries in the building host opening receptions, and artists open their studios for visitors. In other words, there will be a lot to see.

So here is the deal. The series I am currently working on is all about selfies (not really news for anyone reading this, I know). In the spirit of this series, I am asking anyone who wants a print to go find my piece in the show (which is in the main gallery on the second floor), take a selfie in front of the painting. If you do that, post it up on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter (or whatever), and tag me in it so I can see it, I’ll send you a print. I am going to keep the image for the print under wraps for now, but since this game is all about selfies, it will be a screen printed interpretation of an image related to that part of this series.

1
Image shows my piece, hanging alongside Silvio Porzionato‘s. Silvio, by the way, also has a show up at Artspace 8.

Beyond this, the show will just be good. You can check out a little sneak peak in the Huffington Post.

Or, get more information, and download a digital copy of the show catalog at the Poets & Artists site.

One more time for anyone interested, here is what to do:

  • Go to the Zhou B Art Center.
    (you can go anytime during the next month while the show is up, but obviously opening night is recommended)
  • Find my painting in the second floor main gallery.
  • Take a selfie in front of the painting.
  • Post it up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, wherever.
  • Tag me so I can find it.
  • Email me the address where you want me to mail the print.

Freak Out opens this Friday (the 15th) and hangs through May 14th.

You have seen a lot about my piece for this show here, now it is time to shift gears and talk a little more about the show that inspired this new direction.

First off, let me give some credit where credit is due. The driving force behind this show, and a lot of others, is Didi Menendez of Poets & Artists magazine I know I mention her a lot on my site but, that is because she is doing a lot. She is a strong supporter of contemporary realist painting (and sculpture) and, while the work I make does not always fit neatly into that box, she always seems to find a place for me in her magazine, and the exhibitions she is involved in. Working in a style of art that could be described as unfashionable (or worse), it is often frustrating trying to find suitable places to show. I know I speak for a lot of artists when I say that her support, and the work she puts into these shows, is very appreciated. I am not sure how to really repay that, except to ask the people that enjoy my work, to support her in return. Buy an issue, visit a show, let her know that there are people out there that enjoy the fruits of her labor.

Check out the latest issue (that covers this show) here: http://www.magzter.com/US/GOSS183-Publishing-Group/PoetsArtists/Art/

You can find more information about the magazine, including where to buy hard copies at the Poets & Artists site.

Now, about the show.

Immortality & Vulnerability is a collaborative effort between co-curators Didi Menendez and Sergio Gomez (who runs the gallery at the Zhou B Art Center, along with his own space 33 Contemporary), and the artists involved. The way they tell it, Sergio came up with the concept, As luck would have it, this meshed with a new series that Didi had been discussing with artist Nadine Robbins.

See Nadine’s explanation of this piece here.

"Double Gulp" by Nadine Robbins “Double Gulp” by Nadine Robbins

The title Immortality and Vulnerability was given to all the invited artists about one year in advance. Artists and poets were selected from across the country to participate. Each artist and poet was asked to respond to this theme from their own point of view and with their own visual language and writing style. The ideas of Immortality and Vulnerability have been part of the human experience for millennia and have been subjects of exploration by numerous artists throughout time.

I don’t want to give too much away, because the show looks great and I want you to check out the magazine to see it all, but here are a couple more teasers:

Cesar Conde's piece for Immortality & Vulnerability Cesar Conde‘s piece for Immortality & Vulnerability
VictoriaSelbach Victoria Selbach's piece for Immortality & Vulnerability

Immortality & Vulnerability will be in Chicago at the Zhou B Art Center.

Opening reception April 17th at 7:00 pm

On view from April 17th through May 9th

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/…

Once again, I am about to do a longer post here to set up a new piece and talk a little about it and the show it is headed to. If you are just interested in seeing a picture or finding out where to see some of my art in the real world, feel free to skip to the end. For the few people out there that like my art AND have made it too the year 2015 with your attention span in tact, I am going to talk about the process I took to create the piece.

Creating art is always full of struggles, wrong turns, accidents and mistakes. Some artists are fairly open about the methods that brought them to the final piece, a lot more would rather keep most of the route hidden, but most would agree that the process used to create a piece of art is just as important and revealing as the finished product.

In my last post (The Rules) I started to talk a little about this and made an offhand comment about using studio assistants. I said that, if I manage to reach the level where having studio assistants work on my pieces makes sense, one of “the rules” to creating my work would be never using them. The reason for this is simple: as a painter, if you lined up two pieces of work by a painter I am familiar with, one created partially by studio assistants and one created entirely by the artist, I would be willing to bet that I could tell the difference. Maybe a studio assistant cares about keeping their job, where the artist is only focused on working through ideas, and helps make the final piece higher quality, but the fact remains that there will be differences.

A lot of artists take a similar stance about the use of photographic references.

The thinking goes something like this: the camera has already translated a three dimensional object into a two dimensional image. The camera has already taken away a lot of information that could be used to create a more dynamic piece of art. And also, isn’t that kind of cheating, do you even know how to draw? Are you just tracing that shit?

I think that the people who feel this way would give you a similar story to the one I just told about studio assistants. Line up two paintings by an artist, one done from life, one from a photo reference and they can spot the difference. I have to admit that as a figure painter, as a realist painter, I have often found myself leaning that way as well. However, the kind of paintings I am making do not lend themselves towards working from life. Compromises must be made, so I have my own set of rules for using photo references. I am about to tell you all about how I broke those rules, so let me first lay them out for you:

  • Be familiar with the subject. I paint humans, so, you know, talk to them, look them in the eyes, drink a beer with them, ask them if they feel things, etc.
  • Only use photos that you have actually taken.
  • Take photos from many slightly different angles, with many different focal points, to collect as much information as possible.

Pretty basic stuff. I think a lot of artists (who are not trying to create hyper-realistic copies of photos of banal daily life) (or whatever hyper realists are into these days) would probably have a similar list.

Recently, I have began work on a piece for what has become an annual event, a show of (mostly) figurative paintings that Poets and Artists Magazine curates at the Zou B Art Center in Chicago. This year, the theme/title of the show is “Immortality and Vulnerability”, which immediately set me off in a direction that begged for a new approach.

Because I spend an estimated 99.9% of my time in the studio surfing the internet and reading trashy news sites, it should not be surprising that when I received the information for this show, I was reading an article about (yet another) celebrity’s private photos being stolen and shared publicly. In a time when nearly every person you know is walking around all day with the ability to cheaply and easily take photos and videos of anything they like, it is not hard to see why this is happening more and more. And obviously, not just to celebrities. With photos so easy to take and share, I don’t think it is a huge leap to link the idea of “immortality and vulnerability” to the fact that so many people’s private images will be outliving them on the internet.

For a while, I resisted using this idea. It seemed almost too easy and silly to be worthwhile, but I realized that the opportunity this idea gives me to break my own rules and explore new processes mattered more than the idea itself.

So I set out to break all of my rules for using reference photos.

In order for this idea to really work for me, I would have to take a private moment from a stranger, and make it public in a way that has the potential to outlive them. Now, I don’t feel right about stealing peoples photographs, so I did the next best thing. I went online and asked people to email, or text, me photos of themselves. I asked strangers to send me the kind of images that they would normally only send to their lovers. Because of the internet, this is surprisingly easy and non awkward, and I got a lot of responses.

I picked two women with interesting faces and asked them to send me some images. First, a couple where their identity was hidden (camera obscuring their face, or cropped in a way that it was hard to tell who they were), that were the kind of images that they might send to their husband (or boyfriend or a random person on the internet, whatever) to tantalize them.

I took the images and did everything I could think of to corrupt the digital files, while still keeping the image identifiable. I wanted to mimic the sort of distortions and degradations that happen when digital files are shared over and over. I saved the jpegs over and over at low quality. I shrunk the image smaller, then blew it back up big again. I opened up the file deleted some bits of the code. I took a photo of the photo on my screen.

The process created all sorts of different glitches in the images from which I selected my favorites and made a composite that looked as glitchy as possible, while still being an obviously sexual image. I used this version of the image as reference for a painting. In the end, I used a single image that I did not take, of someone I have never met, as reference for the painting.

The idea was for the final piece would be a diptych, with this image paired with a more traditional portrait that revealed the subjects identity, and hopefully allowed the viewer to connect the sexual image with something that felt more like a real person. As I started working on the portrait, I ran into a problem. The problem was the same problem that led me towards my original rules for using photo references. The problem was I did not know this person, I did not have a feel for her expressions, I didn’t know anything about her and therefore, I was making a lot of guesses as I worked on the portrait. The kinds of guesses and assumptions that you have to make when working from photographs that you did not take of an unfamiliar subject. The kind of assumptions that lead to the kind of paintings that make people say things like:

“Line up two paintings by an artist, one done from life, one from a photo reference and I can spot the difference.”

In order for the piece to work, the portrait had to be as relatable and human as the second panel was digitized and anonymous. I did the only thing I could think of to make this happen. I called up the models and asked them to come in to the studio and sit for the portrait.

The painting is not complete but, it is coming along nicely. I still need to refine a lot, come up with some elements to tie the two panels together, and obviously finish painting the blank parts, but here is the piece as it stands:

immortality-vulnerability-1
immortality-vulnerability-2

If you want to see more images of the development of this piece, and continue following along as I finish it, follow me on Instagram.

Every time I leave town, there suddenly seems to be so much fun that I am going to miss. Does anyone else get that feeling? In this case, I am packing my bags to head to Chicago for Fixation, and I suddenly realize that there are, at least, three openings in Boston that I had planned on attending. We have 99.99 at The Distillery, Kenji Nakayama has a solo show at Fourth Wall, and Thomas Young Gallery will have the first opening in their new space.

A space that used to be my living room.

A little back story. For those of you that don’t understand the nature of The Distillery Building, it is a large, mixed use building full of artists. The residents are fairly free to build their spaces to suit their needs so, it is not all that uncommon for something like this to happen. This space in particular, stretches over four floors of the building, it has nice high ceilings and is surrounded on either side by thick brick walls. It was a great space but it wasn’t quite working for me anymore. My wife thought she might want a normal apartment with a bathroom that was less than 4 flights of stairs from the bed, the dog decided it might want some grass to run on, and I started to think that it might be a good idea to have a little more separation between the work space and the living area. So we packed up and passed the space on to our friend Greg, who runs the Thomas Young Gallery. Since then we have been waiting to see his transformation of the top floor from living area to gallery.

Finally, opening day is here and we are going to miss it, but you shouldn’t. I tried to convince him that the first show should feature my paintings but, Greg though that the already fuzzy line between party in my living room and opening reception his gallery would be further blurred if the art on the walls didn’t even change so, he decided to pull together a show from his normal roster of great artists.

Here is the official info on the show:

Inaugural Address

Thomas Young Gallery presents the inaugural exhibition of their new location, 516 E. Second St. #405 inside The Distillery in South Boston.

Upon Viewing His Reflection, Raul Gonzales III, 2014, Mixed Media on Paper

Upon Viewing His Reflection, Raul Gonzales III, 2014, Mixed Media

The exhibition features commissioned portraits of the gallery’s namesake Dr. Thomas Young (1731-1777) an early physician and advocate of social, political and religious freedom in colonial America. A strong supporter of the American Revolution, Dr. Young was an active member of the Continental Congress and accomplice to the Boston Tea Party.

Featuring work by:

Briar Bonifacio, Ria Brodell, Brian Butler, Scott Chasse, Nick Colen, Caitlin Duennebier, Jillian Evelyn, Pat Falco, Raul Gonzalez III, Patt Kelley

If you are in Boston this week, check out all the great stuff that is happening and, be sure to text me some pictures so I don’t feel too left out. If you are in Chicago, come on out to the Zhou B Art Center and see me at Fixation this Friday.

I have a habit of over reaching in my life as an artist. Attempting paintings that are just a little bit beyond what I can possibly pull off, getting involved in projects with tight deadlines and, showing up to ask for the impossible has become common place at this point. While I have grown used to hearing the word no, most of the time these gambles find a way to miraculously pay off.

Preparing for this show was not one of those times.

A while back Didi Menendez did a nice profile of my work in her magazine, Poets & Artists. Not only did this profile lead to one of my first big sales, it has also lead to my work being included in a few of her other projects, including what has become and annual show at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. These shows (along with her magazine) do an amazing job of combining promising newer artists alongside bigger established names and, I am trying to work with her on a portrait show here in Boston. In other words, when she calls, I want to send her something good.

Unfortunately, something good just did not want to happen without a fight. I scaled back my original plan, then scrapped the backup plan, only to end up finishing a piece that I had nearly abandoned. In the end, all the frustration was worth it. I am happy with the finished piece and the show will, without a doubt, be great.

I think everyone has seen enough of my new piece for this show so, scroll down for the official information and a few of the early arrivals for the show from some other cool artists.

Fixation

On view from April 18th – May 11th, 2014

Opening reception Friday April 18th from 7-10pm

At the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago
1029 W 35th St, Chicago, IL 60609

Fixation is an exhibition and a publication of art and poetry focused on the physical or psychological preoccupation or obsession over an object or subject. Also as a focus of something that will capture our attention.

Fixation takes place in a gallery setting, print and digital formats. The exhibition is curated by Sergio Gomez of Chicago’s Zhou B Art Center and Didi Menendez of PoetsArtists Magazine.

Contributing Artists

  • Cesar Santos
  • Denis Peterson
  • Tim Okamura
  • Terri Thomas
  • Eloy Morales
  • Daena Title
  • Nadine Robbins
  • Daniel Ochoa
  • Ivonne Bess
  • Ryan Shultz
  • Michelle Buchanan
  • Jennifer Koe
  • Brianna Angelakis
  • Tracey Stuckey
  • Rory Coyne
  • Lauren Levato
  • Matthew Ivan Cherry
  • Brian Busch
  • Nick Ward
  • Jaime Valero Perandones
  • Karen Kaapcke
  • Patrick Earl Hammie
  • Miranda Graham
  • Harry Sudman
  • Marcos Raya
  • Ernesto Marenco

Contributing Poets

  • Richard Blanco
  • Denise Duhamel
  • Nin Andrews
  • Reb Livingston
  • Ana Menendez
  • Ken Taylor
  • Emma Trelles
  • Grace Cavalieri
  • John Korn
  • Terry Lucas
  • Sarah Blake
  • Kathleen Kirk
  • Tara Betts
  • Sam Rasnake
  • David Krump
  • Geof Huth

BONUS!

For those of you that think I stink, but like Margaux. This video featuring a poem by Nin Andrews will be playing at the gallery. See if you can spot her.

Nin Andrews: A Glossary of Deirdres from Didi Menendez on Vimeo.

Working on this painting has been a struggle. In fact, working on pieces with this particular model, has been a struggle. I don’t want to cast the blame on her, though, this struggle is mine, she just stumbled into it. To be fair, she may be the most experienced, easiest to work with model I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. She showed up when she said she would, she was beautiful, charming, and had an incredible ability to position herself in just the right way for each image. By all measures, she nailed it. Unfortunately, this sort of thing just doesn’t help me make good paintings.

Now, let me elaborate on that. This sort of thing would help immensely if I had the opportunity to have her in the studio for an extended time, so that I could work from life. The reality is that I just don’t have the budget to do that yet. The reality of being an artist, working in a style that is not exactly in fashion, is that I have to stretch a dollar. The reality is, I have to work primarily from photographs. Nobody wants to hang around my studio for weeks on end, staying as still as possible, without a really good reason (if anyone wants to volunteer, I would certainly prefer to work from life). This is not a complaint though, I accept this reality and, to be honest, for someone who is often accused of being a photo realist painter (an accusation which I would adamantly deny), I just don’t spend too much time worrying about what things actually look like.

Here I am, struggling away in the studio, hardly caring what things actually look like, barely even looking at a bunch of shitty photographs (did I mention that I am a shitty photographer?) to make sure that all the body parts fall roughly in the right place, trying to create representational art. Not exactly the best case scenario but, sometimes it works. The times that it works, are the times that I am painting people who I know. People that I know well enough to paint a convincing likeness within these less than ideal parameters.

Back to my struggle. In this case, like the other paintings I have attempted with this model, I am breaking that pattern. I am staring hard at the reference images, trying to figure out if my painting actually looks anything like her. I am trying so hard to figure out if I am on the right track but, in the end, I just don’t know all that well what she really looks like. I am spending a lot of time worrying about this, when it really shouldn’t matter. After all, what I am trying to paint is not what someone actually looks like, but the feeling of looking at someone (or something like that), and since I don’t really know what looking at Jessica feels like, I struggle.

In any case, while I am not sure that this painting looks anything like her, I think I am finally happy with the result.

“But, How did I get to.. Now?”

48″x48″ oil on canvas

But, How Did I Get To Now..

Those of you that hate the text paintings will be happy to see that I restrained myself here.

For anyone in the Chicago area, this piece is headed out that way in April, more details on that show will be posted soon. I will be out for the opening so, if you show up and claim to actually read these posts, I will buy you a beer.*

*if I have any money.

The opening for From Motion to Stillness was last Friday and, since I can not turn down a good opportunity for a road trip, I headed to Chicago for the occasion. I had a great time taking in the local art scene (which is a lot bigger and more interesting than Chicago locals have lead me to believe) and meeting some of the other artists who participated in the show. The event was packed and I have probably never been in the same room with this many talented figurative painters at once before, a successful opening. Didi Menendez did a great job organizing the show, maybe one day she can be convinced to put one on in Boston.

A reading during the From Motion to Stillness opening, photo by Jennifer Koe.

A reading during the From Motion to Stillness opening, photo by Jennifer Koe.

For those of you who are not in Chicago, I will post photos from the opening soon. For now you can check out some photos of the show, taken by Howard Tullman (scroll down to see the images):
tullman.blogspot.com/2013/02/from-motion-to-stillness-show-opens-in.html

While you are there, check out the rest of Tullman’s wonderful collection, including some of my older pieces, paintings by my brother in law, other artists in featured in From Motion to Stillness, and a lot more of my favorite figurative artists.

You can also see the paintings in more detail and study up on the artists who participated in this months Poets and Artists Magazine available here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/510305 or, get it on your Ipad from Itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/poetsartists/id599430729?mt=11.

The show will be up at the Zhou B Art Center until March 10th so, check it out if you have a chance.

People often ask me to participate in group shows with the stipulation that the piece should be small. I can understand that, they want to fit a lot of art into a limited space, it makes sense. Unfortunately, I have found that trying to reproduce the paintings I have been doing in a small scale just doesn’t work. Read the rest of this entry »