Running Out of Time

I wanted to do a post-a-day this month to highlight the 30×30 show, but life intervened. Now the show is ending. The last day is Friday, August 1st. If you haven’t seen it yet…well, you know.

Here are a few more images I wanted to share.

The Modern Madonna

The Modern Madonna

The Modern Madonna is hopefully self explanatory. She is taken from the Book of Kells, folio 7v. The baby Jesus has been moved from her lap to an official AAP approved car seat, while Mary texts on her smart-phone and gets a refill in her ubiquitous cup with green logo. My intent here is not to be snarky, but to make an observation. If the Madonna and Child happened today, this is probably what it would look like. This is a well established artistic device. Look at many of the famous biblical paintings and you will see ancient Judeans, Greeks, or Romans dressed in medieval European clothing.

Adam & Eve

Adam & Eve

Adam and Eve. OK. Maybe I am being a bit snarky here. In this design of my own making, Adam’s hair is being pulled by the serpent, while Eve looks on with resignation. I’m no expert, but I don’t think Eve had too high of an opinion of her man.

Dude? Duuude.

Dude? Duuude.

The Dudes shows a couple of guys derived from illuminated initials in the Book of Kells. They are just for fun, but deserve some closer attention. Their beards contain the words of the title and their clothing is based on Jeff Bridges costumes in ‘The Big Lebowski”. It was my wife’s idea, for which I am, as always, eternally grateful.

These, and all the other pieces in this show will be on my new web-site, coming very soon, as will be select prints available for purchase.

Stay tuned!

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Andy, John, and the Doctor

I got to thinking about iconic images. What are they? What do they mean? What makes them iconic? If we look up the definition we find that iconic is  a: “widely recognized and well-established” and b: “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence” (Merriam-Webster Online). According to my 1951 Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, iconic means: “Relating to or resembling an icon or an image of any kind…” There is no inference of quality in the older definition.

Do a Google image search of “iconic art” and you will find a fascinating collection of work, much of it derivative. Andy Warhol is well represented, but there may be more interpretations than actual Warhols. The Girl With the Pearl Earring seems to have surpassed the Mona Lisa, and yet you have to scroll more than half way down the initial set of images before you find the Vermeer painting by itself, rather than as a comparison to someone else’s take on it. This is just the internet at work. A closer look at the sources of the top hits shows effective search engine optimization, not necessarily great art. We have accepted this kind of search from an algorithm where in the past it would have been conducted by art directors or curators.

It's Much Bigger On The Inside

It’s Much Bigger On The Inside

St. John

St. John

Ode to Andy

Ode to Andy

So what do I post today? Why three derivative works, of course. But if I was going to look at iconic imagery from the present to the distant (and not so distant) past, then I had to use these images.

The blue police box will be recognizable to many as the T.A.R.D.I.S. from the long running Dr. Who TV series. The series itself has achieved iconic status, at least in my mind, and I don’t consider myself a real fan. If I had not done the T.A.R.D.I.S., my geeky family would have disowned me.

St. John is indeed a portrait of St. John the Evangelist. The basis of the art is St. John’s portrait in the Book of Kells, an illuminated Irish manuscript from the 9th century. Follow this link to the Trinity College web site and scroll down to folio 291v. You can zoom in on the portrait and compare it to mine. And what’s with the high contrast and bright colors in my version? It’s from the 1967 portrait of John Lennon by Richard Avedon. Two iconic images in one.

Nothing says ‘iconic image’ to me more than Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans. This work helped to define the pop-art movement which is, as I see it, the foundation of pop-culture today. And it doesn’t seem too far a stretch to compare it to the results of my Google image search. If Andy Warhol were still alive, might he not pose a Barbie doll to look like a Vermeer painting?

What are we doing? We take ordinary, everyday objects and change them in ways that make us look at them (and ourselves) differently. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do?

Have You Seen This Man?

The last two of my i-knot series a couple sharing i-pod and a hipster. The couple I saw walking down the street one day, holding hands and sharing their ear buds. I think it was all the more sweet because they were kind of grunge-y and hard-core looking, sharing  this moment in public. It doesn’t matter if they were listening to acid or emo, it was still cute.

i-knot: Terminally Hip

i-knot: Terminally Hip

i-knot: Version 2.0

i-knot: Version 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hipster is the man in question. I had originally drawn him more generically with a much more structured knot. In the redraw I realized he was leaning against a wall with one foot propped up and I saw him as ‘the hipster’.

In a recent Seattle Times article someone wrote of hip young men with “ironic mustaches”. What does that mean? Is that like John Waters?  I don’t know. I drew my hipster with no mustache at all, just the beard, his curly hair tousled over his forehead, and heavy horn-rimmed glasses. He’s wearing a sweater with the sleeves pulled up, tight purple jeans, and green Chuck Taylors.

So I ask again, have you seen this man? I know I have, or a variation thereof. And I want to make clear that I’m not dissing hipsters, but lampooning a stereotype. Maybe I’ll do the Aging-Ponytailed-Beerbellied-Hippie-Artist next. Er…that would be me.

It all comes back to creating images that are easily, if not instantly, recognizable in a pop-culture context. Giving the viewer a frame of reference, a chunk of solid ground to stand on while looking at this art. Why? Because the technique I use is not a common one and I want my viewers to have something they can relate to. There were many people at the gallery opening who were totally unfamiliar with Celtic art, but they knew a flying monkey when they saw one.

i-conography?

I’ve always loved how the scribes of the old insular manuscripts would contort humans and animals into almost unrecognizable shapes, all to fit into a particular space, a la the artwork in my previous post. I also wanted to keep playing with the ‘i-knot’ theme. This formed a clear link (at least in my mind) to the i-pod ads beginning around 2005. Bright, changing colors with a figure in almost silhouette, and the i-pod and earbuds in white, all moving to music. These three pieces were directly inspired by those ads.

i-knot: Air Guitar

i-knot: Air Guitar

i-knot: Hop

i-knot: Hop

i-knot: Bellydance

i-knot: Bellydance

 

But here’s the funny thing: I don’t remember actually seeing the ads. I know I must have at some point as they are so ingrained in my memory. Around the time these ads came out, our TV died and we never replaced it. My son remembers seeing the ads on billboards and they have perhaps reached the status of an iconic image. Do a Google search for ‘i-pod advertisement’ and you will see other artists versions ranging from Darth Vader to Homer Simpson. Such is the power of popular culture.

Was there an equivalent in 800 AD? I’ll look into that question in a later post. In the meantime, dance like no one is watching.

I’m having a hard time getting the scan for i-knot: bellydance to look good on the blog. It should be a lot more magenta. It also sold opening night. Last time I checked, the other two were still available.

How It All Started

Sometime in mid-May I was doodling in my sketchbook, trying to come up with some ideas for the  30×30 challenge and I drew this girl drawing on her tablet and listening to her i-pod. It got me to thinking about “i-culture”, the seeming need to be plugged in to technology, constantly in contact with the internet. It’s a very different paradigm than the one I grew up with. There are aspects of it I embrace. There are parts I think are detrimental to society. But my way of working is not entirely relevant to the modern world. I must adapt to the new technologies and the modes of thought that go along with them.

i-knot: Student Edition

i-knot: Student Edition

 

The key word for me here is ‘adapt’. To adapt is not necessarily to conform. I will continue to paint with watercolor on paper, even grind my own pigments, but I will also continue to expand my working knowledge of Photoshop as a valuable artist’s tool and social media that can help bring my work to a broader audience. I am a dinosaur that chooses to grow fur. But I digress.

I called this series ‘i-knot’ for what I hope are obvious reasons. I don’t mind poking fun at institutions or fads (or nearly anything else) but I also want to see the good wherever I can. Even in what I’m poking fun at. So my character, while all tangled up in her technology, still has a smile on her lips and is creating art on her tablet.

It’s not my way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

30×30 Challenge Completed!

I did it. Barely. Installation for this show was supposed to be Wednesday, but I had to push that back one day. I needed to make scans of the artwork and my beloved old AGFA flatbed decided it didn’t want to scan color any more. A friend came to the rescue, and the rest of Wednesday was spent mounting the pieces. But at least the art was done!

The opening was fabulous, well attended, well appreciated. There is just one problem.

There’s still art left!

 

And Your Little Dog Too!

And Your Little Dog Too!

 

This piece was pointed at a lot, usually accompanied with a smile. But it’s still there, (at least as of this afternoon) hanging quietly on the wall with no little red dot next to it’s name. So I decided I’m going to post one image a day (or so) for the rest of this month. I think at least one other artist was planning on doing so as well. You should be able to see all the posts on Avanti’s 30×30 facebook page. If you see something you like, call the gallery.

See you tomorrow.

A Challenge and a Question

The raven is getting put on hold for a bit, as I now have a more pressing deadline. Thirty pieces of art in thirty days and I am one of thirty artists taking on this crazy challenge at Avanti Gallery. And it is a challenge. Just creating one piece of art can be problematic. Multiply that by thirty.

At least these are small pieces, 4″ x 4″, in whatever medium we prefer, which for me is watercolor. But the concept? Phew. There’s the challenge. If you have seen my recent posts, you’ll know that I have been on a bit of theme lately. So I thought, why not stick to it? What could be better than filling out part of my portfolio with thirty lovely little pieces of Celtic art.

30x30roughs1

I decided (and not for the first time) to seek my inspiration from the Book of Kells. (If you are unfamiliar with this manuscript, follow the link. Many hundreds of years ago, someone declared it was “not the work of men, but of angels”.) But somehow I got to thinking about the images, their meaning to the artists who painted them, and to the monks who viewed them. What do we have today that could possibly compare? In this age of Google image searches and internet memes, does the art we look at hold any meaning? I hope it does. This pondering led me to images that will be familiar to many, but rendered in a unique way. Yes, that is a rubber duckie you see in the picture below, as well as a British Police Box used as a prop in a certain long running TV show, all done in Celtic knot work. And there are images that may be unfamiliar to you in their original form, but altered, they show something of the common world around us.

30x30roughs2

So the question is, does seeing these images in a new way change their meaning for you? Good art should open itself up to the viewer; allow itself to be given meaning by the viewer. I have no idea if my thirty bits of Celtic inspired nonsense achieve this. But at the very least, I had to ask the question.

The artwork isn’t done yet. What you see above are the pencil layouts and one inked in piece. They are in the process of being painted and I hope to show some of them here before the show comes down. Then, back to the raven. Oh yes, and here’s the Facebook invite to the opening night party.