Jack and I have been on a serious push the last couple of weeks to get the Carnival Mural for Washington D.C. finished–due to hang on March 2. Here are some updates of progress.
—a color study for one figure in the Hallowell Mural. acrylic on panel, 24 x 18—
In the ongoing Hallowell Mural research, Sam Webber, our grand historian, introduced me to the story of James Matthews—a man from South Carolina, born into slavery in 1808, who eventually escaped, making his way north to finally find refuge in Hallowell.
In 1838, in the Advocate for Freedom – a Hallowell-based abolitionist publication, Matthews told of his days of enslavement, in an account entitled Recollections of Slavery by a Runaway Slave, a story that spread nationally and became important to the abolitionist movement. You can read more here:
Hallowell has been a haven or sanctuary for many over the years and I felt the chapter of James Matthew’s life was important to include in the story of our town.
This is an early color study as I develop the idea of how he will be woven into the tapestry of the mural, how best to represent him, his physical type, pose and setting. Here I envision him first making his way to Hallowell through the northern forest.
Matthews had a troubled life, even after his escape from slavery. However, when he died in June of 1888, people of Hallowell raised funds so he could be buried in the main cemetery. You can see his grave there today.
You can support the mural project here:
Work continues on, what, for now, we are calling the Celebrity Mural, because if includes the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Ellen Degeneris, Marilyn Monroe..a cast of over 30 people of note.
This is acrylic on canvas, about 8 x 34 feet. Oh did I mention, Lincoln, Maya Angelou, Samuel L Jackson, Princess Diana…the list goes on.
This is a collaborative mural project with artist John Gable.
Currently working on studies and design for another mural. This will be a large almost 1000 square foot mural for downtown Hallowell, telling the story of this enchanting town where we live.
Here are a just a handful of the hundreds of drawings I have been doing in developing this mural. More to come. And watch for the IndieGogo campaign that will help fund the mural.
New 2 Mural Project with John Gable.
Currently Jack Gable and I are collaborating on a 2 mural project for a venue out of Maine. Here are some detail images of the work-in-progress.
Jack and I are splitting the work, literally trading brushes back and forth as needed. After years of working solo, working side by side with another talented artist is just too much fun.
I will post more images as this mural develops and as we really dig into the second mural.
a logo design based on a concept sketch by Sam Webber
A Poster for the first Pride Weekend Celebrations in Hallowell, Maine.
Fireman Saves Superman
This is a poster design for the Jesse Tozier Fundraiser to help Jesse when he donates a kidney to Scott Baker.
My wife Jen Greta Cart has started an online greeting card shop with her very popular paintings at JenGretaCart.com. Her work is beautiful, a combination of real and fantasy, magic and quietly normal all adding up to a lovely charm.
She has been painting for many years and has quite a following of patrons. And now her cards can be found in many brick and mortar card shops around Maine as well.
The history mural has begun!
I am designing and painting a new history mural for my home town of Hallowell, Maine. This is going to be 38 x 30 feet on an exterior wall at the north entrance to town. Chris Vallee has donated the north wall of his real estate building on 89 Water St.
The mural will tell the history of Hallowell, from the founding in the mid 1700’s onward. Our town built ships, cut timber, carved granite from our hills for great buildings and monuments of the young nation and had a thriving mill industry, making everything from sandpaper to shoes—all this I will paint into our mural. Important early settlers, native tribes of pre-western history, key townspeople, stone carvers—all will find a place in the mural.
The wall will be a multifaccetted scene of the many years interwoven into one design.
Focus on the Arts
Hallowell is building a future in the Arts, so I will push the paint into the vision for our future as a mid Maine arts center.
We will starting a crowd funding campaign to help fund the mural. This will pay materials and supplies—and pay me for the many months of work involved. I will be researching the key points of history, working with Sam Webber and other local historians. I have begun the early stage of design and will be posting images as the project develops.
Drop me a note if you have things to include—or if you would like to contribute to the project. Here are some of my other recent murals: Kennebec at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, Maine; City of Ships in Bath, Maine; and Entertainers, Beyond the Sea, a mural for a private residence in Hallowell,
Feet, feet and more feet. Drawing this lower extremity is fun. Feet can be very expressive. We are used to hand gestures in paintings but feet can be story tellers too.
I am working on a new dance painting where both, feet and hands, are very important. When you are eager to start a new painting it is so tempting to just jump in as the idea rushes you—like a vacation romance. While this can yield some clever brushwork—well, and some true disasters as well—more often it is better to rehearse the parts, to dig in and find better and better ways to paint that initial flush of an idea.
I always figure if I have a good painting idea it is worth putting the work into the prep and refinement. Most good ideas reward you for the efforts.
We always envision artists working in a frenzy of inspiration—and I guess we do, sometimes—but to achieve that spontaneous, seemingly effortless beauty of brushwork on the canvas it is necessary to rehearse, study, find the right lines, colors and forms—before you just start scrubbing around on the canvas.
(feet studies, 8×8 inches)
Street Art Show, 7.5 x 13 inches, pencil on watercolor paper
This morning I was digging through my flat files to find an older watercolor I did (Autumn Cemetery)—couldn’t remember if I had sold it or still had it tucked away somewhere. Anyway, while digging I stumbled over this drawing I had done at a street art show years ago.
Some evenings it is good just to sit and sketch or doodle. I like to just noodle around with a pencil and without trying to plan a new painting. If we get too locked tight, always producing, producing, producing, it is easy to forget to relax and just play.
Drawing is just plain fun so drawing without a plan is a good way to relax. It loosens the hand and mind. Sometimes I find things I want to pursue further, but mostly this is just a way to relax.
While I am not a strict anatomist—I am perfectly happy to distort the human form if it fits my painting idea—I do, however, love the study of the human form. Changing the human form to fit my paintings is important. Nevertheless, it is very useful to go back and draw some muscles and bones. I like the review; I like the peaceful study of the body; and it is helpful in my paintings, even those paintings where I freely twist and shape.
I study on my own. There weren’t really anatomy classes in either of the art colleges I attended, back in the day.
This is just a quick sketch refresher of the front and back muscle groups—just to keep them in mind properly. These are small sketches, roughly 7 x 8 inches.
If you are looking for some interesting podcast interviews with artists from around the world you should check out John Dalton’s podcasts called Gently Does It. Kudos to John Dalton for all he does.
His focus in on talented figurative painters. There are now over 100 interviews mostly with artists and some curators, the likes of Nick Alm, Vincent Desiderio, Zoey Frank, a discussion with Dr Elaine Melodi Schmidt, the curator of the Venus Visions | Vision of Venus exhibit at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, April 2018. (I have a piece accepted in this show, btw)
It is interesting to compare techniques, paint mediums, every artist’s individual “art think” and just hear their great stories and senses of humor.
Anyway the podcast is a great listen.
Art needs a strange alchemy of several factors. Imagination, skill, content, vision and perhaps, as some today are saying, empathy. None of these elements by itself is enough to become Art in CAPS.
Imagination won’t suffice alone. Without skill riding shotgun, even the most imaginative idea runs the risk of poor execution, and perhaps wasting that good idea. A loud imagination with no skill is often a naive tantrum.
Skill is not enough either. Mastering paint skills, while important, by itself can merely seem like looking for approbation or proving one’s self by some sort of school day gold stars standards.
Content, while important, both small and grand content—quiet stories and dramatic stories—is not enough and may smell weakly sincere or rankly of propaganda.
Vision can sometimes pull a piece up to lofty heights simply because of the unique quality of the life-view the artist instilled in the piece—in spite of weak skills and plodding imagination or execution—but this is rare, not to be counted on and vision often is a wondrous soap bubble that will not last.
Empathy for your subject and, yes, empathy for your viewers is interesting as an element of art. By empathy, do I mean all art should be kind or gentle, non-confrontational? No, but it does mean that instead of kicking in your viewers teeth, we as artists should try to give the viewer a hand to enter our work. Make them not the enemy initially, but give them a key or door into the subject. Confrontational movies often do this in rough story lines by giving us a neutral normal character we can hang onto. That character brings us into the rough story, and she may be shocked by the scene the way we are. That is giving us an empathetic entrance into the scene. But again, by itself this may mean kindness, consideration and may make us a polite society but does not guarantee Art.
So we need a combination of at least few of these these things. If a piece has all five elements then it might, just might, be a masterpiece to last a few years or more.
One more thing that is important and I am not sure it is as much a part of execution of a piece as a product of the resulting art—the art needs to be relevant to our today, our NOW. It can be big art or small but it needs to talk to live people today, engage them with the visual language we have today. If not, it is merely nostalgia for another time.
That visual language is in constant flux. Today the paint world’s visual language seems to be heading back to appreciation of skills of rendering real things. I think this is fabulous. Painting a real looking figure is a wonderful skill. (From the artist’s perspective, developing these skills is intoxicating. It is just plain fun to be able to scrub some paint around and find you have a real looking arm or leg.)
However, and this is a big however, the most relevant art today is not ignoring the masterful work created during the 20th century. To negate the discoveries in art of the big and little masters of the 20th century “modern” movement is to blind yourself as an artist. Maybe you didn’t like the work of the modern art century. But from an artist’s perspective there were very inventive doors opened that can and indeed, should be influencing us as we paint in this new century.
Yes, Pollock, Rothko and Toby should be getting into our heads and finding their way out our brushes…even if we want to paint a naturalistic figurative scene. We should not ignore the lessons of Hoffman, Kandinsky, Stella, Hockney, Freud, Warhol…the list goes on…
Picasso and Braque opened a door to what came to be called cubism—a new way of looking at an object and painting it, not by creating illusionistic space but by making a brand new honestly 2 dimensional object on the 2 dimensional flat canvas that quoted the original thing, if you will. I don’t think that space beyond that cubist door has been fully explored. The great modern master, Nicolas Uribe, is one who has worked with the idea to create some fabulous things…though in a sense I feel his direction is more an experiment of merging time frames rather that merging understood concepts of a form. But hey, not a critique, it is cool to see new things. And Nicolas’ hands are pure, unadulterated wondrous magic.
I’m sure I missed stuff but enough for now…off to paint, seeya
the painting detail above is from my oil, I Fear What You Fear.
Just added my new carpet to my studio–to my wall. I have a nine foot square wall built in my studio that I use for painting, as a permanent easel. I use it for large mural projects, well, small paintings too, and just pinning up reference drawings and the like.. My studio has slanted ceilings and windows on the end walls, not much in the way of regular bare walls, so this ‘easel’ wall is partition built in.
I’ve used the wall for a couple years now, just the plywood, but just added the carpet as a great improvement. I was listening to one of John Dalton‘s great artist podcasts, this one with Cesar Santos, and he mentioned he had a wall easel as well and he had carpeted his wall to give a bit of cushion to the canvas. Great idea. I should have thought of this myself, but, hey, here is a shout out thanks to Cesar for the great tip.
Tested it out yesterday and that really does make the brushes feel so much nicer.
March 10 – Update: The carpet on the wall is fabulous. Gives a nice cushion for the brushes and makes scraping the canvas so much better. Highly recommend a carpeted wall for painting large pieces.
graphite and conte on toned paper