Finished my fairy tale piece...Have yet to give it a title

Finished and delivered the fairy tale piece a couple of weeks ago. Gus Lammers and I installed it (slid the thing onto a French cleat screwed into drywall) after taking photos at my place. Here are some images--the more saturated ones are truer in color. Thanks to my go-to repro maven Alayna Citrin for helping out post. 

Here it is closed.

Here it is closed.

And open. 

And open. 

Left top: Crone 

Left bottom: the Crone-Turned-Sexy-Witch who casts the spell on the withholding prince and turns him into a hairy beast. 

Middle Top: Beauty ministering to the Beast after problems with Mr. Bad Guy who comes after him. 

Middle Big: Beauty and the Beast(-Turned-Sexy-Prince). That's a fire-and-ice rose that they're hanging out in. 

Right top: Bad Guy getting his just deserts. 

Right bottom: Beast not knowing what the hell is happening to himself but not to worry-- soon to be a Sexy Prince again. 

These are hands...

I forgot to sign this sucker. 

Drawings for the Commission

The castle commission will be a painting of a fairy tale. The client's four-year-old daughter is very enamored of story of Beauty and the Beast-- specifically the Disney version. However, he's given me creative carte blanche-- very exciting--  and I've decided to follow the traditional version of the tale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villleneuve, and published in 1740 (no Gaston in this one), and update it in a visual language that is more contemporary, with modern haute couture fashion and imaginary landscapes with ruins and reliquaries (the kind that I normally paint), while incorporating dream-like illustrative elements. 

One of the main challenges right now isn't the initial drawings or esquisses for the castle, but the preparation of the wood itself. 

I oil-primed three times and sanded between layers. I made sure that I wrapped the finished wood well so as not to get any oil prime on it. That would be an expensive--and sad-- mistake.

I oil-primed three times and sanded between layers. I made sure that I wrapped the finished wood well so as not to get any oil prime on it. That would be an expensive--and sad-- mistake.

I can't afford to work with models long-term for this project right now-- and even if I had the money, my schedule is so whacked out: I doubt anyone would want to come by the studio at 5:30 in the mornings during the week when I do my work before getting dressed to go to my day job at the bank (hello to my boss, dear friend and Mama bear at my new job, Michele: here is your shout out!). So as a sane alternative, I asked my friends Amy and Pablo if I could take some reference photos. I don't usually work from photos unless I'm painting children who have a tough time sitting still. (See here for a long, and earnest, manifesto about my feelings about the use of photographic reference in painting).  

Did I mention Amy and Pablo live in an RV named Ellie parked in Bed-Stuy? This picture was taken inside their cozy place after I ate a big fat omelette cooked courtesy of my incomparable BFF. 

Did I mention Amy and Pablo live in an RV named Ellie parked in Bed-Stuy? This picture was taken inside their cozy place after I ate a big fat omelette cooked courtesy of my incomparable BFF. 

Here is the drawing that I did from the reference photo. You can see that I used it especially for proportions. Deciphering where Pablo's mouth, chin and nose began and ended was challenging because of his healthy beard; I didn't want facial hair on the Prince character, since the Beast was going to be mad hairy. 

As an alternative, I asked the client, 33, to take a picture of his profile and send it to me. I thought it might be fun to use his nose and mouth as a reference since he's a good-looking guy. He sent me the following picture: 

What a fucking joker. 

What a fucking joker. 

I have done loads of portraits of profiles over the years, so I will use those paintings as references. See below "McCallum" and "Ninotchka." 

"McCallum"

"McCallum"

"Ninotchka"

"Ninotchka"

Here's the drawing for the left door (open). It's the sorceress that turns the Prince into the mad hairy beast. She's going to look a little steam punk, a little BDSM. 

The next drawing/painting is going to go here: 

Also, shout out to Alayna Citrin who did the clean up of the photos a few weeks back. (She did NOT add these dumb arrows. That was all me.) 

Also, shout out to Alayna Citrin who did the clean up of the photos a few weeks back. (She did NOT add these dumb arrows. That was all me.) 

This where the mad hairy beast goes down and is about to die from heartbreak and the Beauty realizes she's in love with him.

This where the mad hairy beast goes down and is about to die from heartbreak and the Beauty realizes she's in love with him.

I'm kind of cheating with the background of this painting. I originally thought to do something very illustrative, very Mucha, and have all these cool birches going straight up and down, but now I'm thinking to do a variation of my "Ode to Caspar David Friedrich," which I painted a few years ago in my Sunset Park studio. 

Travis2CCweb-1024x852.jpg

Ok. It's President's Day and I don't have to go to my day job, so now it's time to kick it big time in the studio. Hope you guys enjoyed this blog post. I think there will be subsequent ones quickly following (though "the best laid plans of mice and men"....)

Fabrication finally complete

I recently got a job at an investment bank in Midtown. I really like it, but the whole process has been pretty intense. Consequently, it's been a challenge figuring out how to get to my own work, which is my main priority and which has also ramped up in the past couple of weeks. Obviously, posting here has fallen off precipitously. All's been quiet with one of my projects for the past few months as the fabrication of has gone out of my hands and into more capable ones-- Augustus Lammers' of East Brunswick. 

The commission is to create a kind of book with paintings of a fairy tale for my client's four-year-old daughter. The original commission was two portraits of the client's son and daughter, which is sort of more my speed, so this was a very different kind of project for me. I decided I wanted to design a triptych based on wooden altarpieces of the past-- a much simpler, and of course, infinitely humbler version of the Ghent altarpiece. (Embarrassing to even refer to Jan van Eyck's work in the same sentence as mine.)  

Ghent Altarpiece (open view)

Ghent Altarpiece (open view)

The magnificent Ghent Altarpiece (closed view)

The magnificent Ghent Altarpiece (closed view)

These are my initial mockups, with scale. Scroll left to right. 

The first iteration of the commission was HUGE, but the client decided he wanted it a lot smaller, which is actually a bit more difficult, because little jigsaw piece where I'll paint will be smaller: this means tinier brushes :). This is not always easier. 

Here's a picture Gus sent me from his workshop before varnishing, etc. 

Here's a picture Gus sent me from his workshop before varnishing, etc. 

Gus is obviously a master craftsman. Here's the finished fabrication, with varnish and stains, before I start going at it myself. 

Closed.

Closed.

Open.

Open.

I think this is the best picture in terms of lighting and true color, but I shot after the delivery from Gus when the tallest tower was removed so it wouldn't be damaged in transit.

I think this is the best picture in terms of lighting and true color, but I shot after the delivery from Gus when the tallest tower was removed so it wouldn't be damaged in transit.

This post took me a ridiculously long time to write, mostly because Squarespace had big-time issues and bumped me about a dozen times. I hope the two of you out there in the world who read it enjoyed it. I am very excited to get started on the painting. 

Roscoe, New York

Saturday night in Roscoe, New York, was cold. Very cold.

My friends Kristin Künc and Josh Young have an incredible several acres Upstate in the Catskills near Roscoe, and last weekend was peak foliage-- perfect time to bust out the oils and the M-box. My friend, the painter Chris Eastland (aka "Jesus"), and I were lucky enough to spend Saturday and Sunday with Kristin plein air painting on and around the property. Though the fire in the wood-burning stove going out at three o'clock in the morning in the small cabin we were sleeping in made for a "brisk" sleep, the weekend was absolutely perfect, and the daylight hours no less. 

The cabin...when there was a fire in the wood stove! 

The cabin...when there was a fire in the wood stove! 

The resourceful Josh, who owns Serett Metalworks where the inimitable Gowanus Ballroom is housed, has planted all kinds of trees and bushes on the land, which has a creek and a little pond, too. Here's a painting of an apple tree that I did. It was the first painting I made when I got out there-- the throwaway painting, the "burnt pancake," so to speak. 

I decided I was going to paint it however the hell I wanted. So that explains the uncharacteristically fat brushstrokes. 

I decided I was going to paint it however the hell I wanted. So that explains the uncharacteristically fat brushstrokes. 

Kristin, Josh and Rowan, their 18-month son, who loves riding on the many tractors they've got on their property. 

Kristin, Josh and Rowan, their 18-month son, who loves riding on the many tractors they've got on their property. 

I guess Rowan's not the only one who likes tractors. Jesus, you're drinking and driving. 

I guess Rowan's not the only one who likes tractors. Jesus, you're drinking and driving. 

On Saturday night, Josh, Shane, and Wyatt made a gigantic bonfire. I've been steering clear of beer for a while, but, hey, nothing like one (or three) after a day of plein air painting. 

Rowan clearly agrees. 

Rowan clearly agrees. 

Kristin and me, in my Anna Karenina hat. (That is not my hair). 

Kristin and me, in my Anna Karenina hat. (That is not my hair). 

The colors were much more vivid in reality than this painting implies, but I was kind of refusing to use cadmiums over the weekend. The detritus on the panel is ashes from the bonfire. 

The colors were much more vivid in reality than this painting implies, but I was kind of refusing to use cadmiums over the weekend. The detritus on the panel is ashes from the bonfire. 

An abandoned house down the road: The House of the Gloming. 

An abandoned house down the road: The House of the Gloming. 

Wyatt painted on Sunday with us at The Gloming!

Wyatt painted on Sunday with us at The Gloming!

Jesus and Kristin outside the House of the Gloming. 

Jesus and Kristin outside the House of the Gloming. 

No plein air trip into the Catskills would be complete without a stop at the Goshen Diner. I had a chicken parm wrap with French fries. I ate them all-- with the nonorganic ketchup. You might say I like it dangerous when it comes to my potatoes. 

Misdirection

In the past week, there was a mass shooting in Oregon, which drew the focus of the national media and the ire of President Obama who used it as another opportunity to push the gun control debate, as well as two shootings in Baltimore, which unsurprisingly have drawn less attention. 

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-mass-shooting-20151007-story.html

Apparently, it's National Mental Health Awareness Week, but there's not been much consciousness raising in my opinion, and we're hearing very little about mental illness in general, except in relation to this mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, which left 10 people dead, including the gunman, and nine people injured. One bright spot this week was when the host of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver, delivered this incisive segment on his show: 


Instead of focusing on gun control, talking mental illness, when the mentally ill are more likely to be victims-- not perpetrators-- of gun violence, is simply misdirection. 

This girl read "Fast Girl" really fast

Suzy Favor Hamilton's memoir "Fast Girl" just came out a week ago and I got my hands on it at the Brooklyn Public Library and flew through it. (Incidentally, I'm doing the library a lot these days because I'm currently sans money, and also-- did you know?-- libraries are awesome.) 

Favor Hamilton is a three-time Olympic middle-distance runner, and a bipolar. I have a theory about runners' personalities. In the season I ran track in high school, I was a short-distance runner. In my experience, sprinters are a different breed from the long-distance runners-- cut from a different cloth. We sprinters, running the 100-meter, 200-meter, are extroverts--impatient and maybe even intellectually lazy because things come, you got it, faster for us. When I was in high school, the long-distance runners, I noticed, were more introverted, less joining, and the cross-country kids in college were among the most intellectual of us all, going on to get Ph.D.'s and filling the ranks of top tier academia. It makes sense that the long-distance runners have the more cerebral ethos given the technique and strategy they have to deploy to win the long game. No doubt we sprinters have technique, strategy and work ethic, too, but let's be real; mostly it's just (a) push off the starting block as hard as you can, and (b) run as fast as you can for less than 10 seconds. Middle-distance runners, I suppose, have to bridge those two extremes.

Favor Hamilton's memoir traces the arc of her life from her first successes as a young runner to her astounding athletic achievements in college, to her disappointing showings at the Olympics, and finally to her explosively self-destructive mania when she became "Kelly," Las Vegas' Number 2 escort. She was ultimately outed and subsequently diagnosed with bipolar. The memoir, written in conjunction with Sarah Tomlinson, is an easy read and the story moves very quickly-- no boring stuff and thank God, no groan-inducing terrible writing. The book is very tightly structured, and it's clear she wrote partly as a way to educate her readers about mental illness (Her brother also suffered from bipolar and committed suicide when she was younger.)-- and she does this without being insufferable! A true achievement! I enjoyed most her times in college when she was kicking major ass as an athlete as well as of course the more prurient details of the double life she led as a Las Vegas escort. After all, I like to read about people (a) succeeding and (b) having sex, just as much as the next person. Favor Hamilton's memoir deserves to be a success. 


Working hard or hardly working, mate?

I am working hard, but I am hardly painting, because I'm in the throes of finishing my book, Head Study: A Life In Two Extremes.

For the first time in a while though, I'm also doing a lot of reading, which isn't always possible when you're in a medically-induced brain-fog. In a brain-fog, medically-induced or not, you get stupid. Very stupid. 

I'm reading a lot of bipolar memoirs. You'd think that this would be gun-to-the-head depressing, but it's only claw-your-eyes-out annoying. Juuuuuust kidding. There are a lot of meh memoirs out there, and there are a lot of overtly titillating ones, too (I say "overtly" because it's so obvious some editor went to the author and was like, you gotta sex this shit up.). 

One memoir that is on all the "Best" lists is Andy Behrman's Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, and it is freaking fantastic. Reading it reminds me of the time in high school when I was skiing in Aspen and coming down a hill too fast and couldn't stop and freaked out and closed my eyes and then slammed into a tree-- with my head. I had to be strapped down on a gurney, and skied down the mountain. I suffered a concussion worthy of a Texas football player and got about 14 stitches on the left side of my head behind my ear, which was hanging on by a thread (of skin). Things had been going so fast and careening out of control, and life could only stop once the earth had tasted blood.

That's what Andy Behrman's mania feels like. 

I'm populating the crap out of this blog

This is happening, people. I'm posting. And I'm posting some more. 

It's been more than a month now, but the first week of August, some of us went out to Pennsylvania, to Patty Watwood's place, and did some painting. Here's some of what happity-happed:

It was a real good group of people that Patty assembled. We all had a great time, there were lots of inside jokes by the end of the four days, and shit, if the phrase "Secrets of the Masters" comes up one more time, I swear....

  Michael Gormley, Kristin Künc, Courtney Jordan, Little Miss Piggy-Pre-Cleanse, Patty Watwood, Chris Eastland (aka Jesus, aka He-Who-Washes-His-Brushes-Too-Frequently). 

 

Michael Gormley, Kristin Künc, Courtney Jordan, Little Miss Piggy-Pre-Cleanse, Patty Watwood, Chris Eastland (aka Jesus, aka He-Who-Washes-His-Brushes-Too-Frequently). 

Dinner party at President Street

My best friend Amy and I used to live in Park Slope, on President Street. We've become really good friends with the two ladies who've taken over our old apartment, so it feels like the place has stayed "in the family." The four of us try to meet up periodically and have dinner over at The Hearth on President to catch up. 

The menu this time was tacos, and they were amazing, but I was on a big time cleanse so I held back for the most part (womp, womp). Nicole, Leni and Amy have been incredibly supportive since my divorce and my move back to Brooklyn after LA and Houston-- and there's been nothing but total awesomeness re: this cleanse I'm on, which is actually pretty simple: no drinking (because I was drinking heavily ALL the time, whenever I was alone and bored, too) and no eating anything but protein and vegetables. Turns out you feel better when you're not drinking like a fish and eating like a pig. 

I took about an hour to do a quick sketch of the three of them at the dinner table while they were drinking the fun juice and eating the tacos: 

Incidentally, I was getting a lot of flack about my weight for a while from my dad. (He's not a bad dude- it's just a cultural thing. Ahhh, Korea.) Over the past year, I gained about...wait for it...20 pounds! CRAZY! I'm 5'2", so anything more than two pounds is quite noticeable on my small frame. I think I was loving drinking like a fish and eating like a pig, but also I am on a VERY high dosage of Abilify, an anti-psychotic notorious for causing weight-gain. It's also notorious for being awesome for bipolar people, so you just go with the flow sometimes. Anyway, the cleanse helped. Here's a picture of me from that night at The Hearth, where I'm striking distance of striking distance of my normal weight: 

You gotta read this email exchange I had with my brother and my dad which ensued after I sent them the picture:  

I guess I have cheekbones again and I look skiny. 

Rebranding of this blog

I'm rebranding this blog. When I did blog before, from my old website, I usually only put up articles about realist painting, events I was participating in, and stuff I was doing in the studio. I migrated all those old posts here in case you're interested, but now I want to talk more broadly AND more specifically. I want to talk about the creative life as I live it: both as a writer and a painter, and as a person who used to use her professional work to medicate and manage bipolar illness. (Hint: Not a great idea.) 

 

I guess that means putting up pictures of Rumi quotes I've written in my diary. Not cheesy at all. 

What I think about when I think about Photography

THIS IS AN OLD ESSAY I WROTE AND POSTED ON MY OLD WEBSITE. IT'S FREAKING LONG IS ALL I CAN SAY. 

Anyone can be a photographer these days thanks to their 8-MP cellphone cameras and Instagram, and the digital images we are bombarded with today are so numerous that many of us never even get around to printing out our jpegs and making the electronic files physical.  Nevertheless, people are still awed by the painted portrait.  

I work in the visual language of realism.  My portraits are “realistic” insofar as they resemble the people who are sitting for them.  If I paint Nancy, I would hope that most people who knew Nancy would be able to point to the portrait and say, “that’s a portrait of Nancy,” which would mean I captured some universal truths about Nancy that others see in her as well.  But I would hope that they would also realize the addition of some other truths as well, truths they might not known before about Nancy but that I observed and distilled. 

Sometimes well-wishers tell me that my paintings look “just like photos,” and sometimes I’m even given the shorthand of “photorealist,” whatever that means.  I am not sure that true photorealists would actually stand to be grouped with the likes of me, and while the comparison of my paintings to photographs is meant as a compliment, I take gentle issue with it.   

I hope that my paintings, which I see as interpretations of moments or events, diverge a great deal from what a photograph of the same historical moment – or even a painting made from such a photograph—might convey.  As a realist painter, my overarching goal isn’t to record and to record accurately.  If that were the case, I’d think my work is irrelevant, and I would happily cede ground to photography, which is a beautiful and informative medium, which has, just as any other medium, its advantages and disadvantages.  As a human, I bring my own personality, experiences, and technical skill to a subject: by accident or will, I make certain decisions that are different from those a camera would make about the same subject, especially if that subject is a living, breathing and changing person.  I will trust my faulty eye over the mechanical precision of the camera’s, for even technically there is an argument to be made that lenses suffer from distortion and do not rise to the sensitivity levels of human scotopic vision.  A camera is made to record whatever is in front of it, and most of the time, rather quickly: an infinitesimal point in time is captured and magnified.  But a portrait captures more than a moment, more than 1/2000th of a second, say, and is a historical record of the interaction of two people, which, when successful elicits a truth about the subject as distilled through and shaped by an artist’s worldview, and not a machine’s.  To that end, perhaps I was wrong to say that the goal of my work is not to record accurately: perhaps it’s better to say that the goal is to record accurately according to my own lights, and not to another person’s and certainly not to a machine’s. 

Interview with a Curator: Sihame Bouhout

  Art Consultant, Art Authenticator, Curator

 

Art Consultant, Art Authenticator, Curator

Something I've been trying to do more of on my blog is to have interviews with interesting people working in the art industry. My colleague, Sihame Bouhout, is an art authenticator and curator. She's authenticated hundreds of art objects from all over the world, and works with art galleries, museums and auction houses in London, Paris, New York and Geneva. She's curated shows in Paris and New York and has an incredible track record assisting young artists in their first exhibitions. The breadth of her experiences-- and her unique background as an authenticator AND curator-- has helped her develop an extensive knowledge about art and its complicated relationship to the marketplace. Her expertise encompasses both contemporary art and antiquities, which makes her a go-to art consultant for numerous important clients. She lives in New York City.

 ● How did you become an art authenticator and curator?

The company I am working for was looking for someone who had a strong knowledge in art history, business development and science. This person does not exist, so they made the candidates pass some tests. I was the most successful. I then followed an intensive training and started to work. It is a very unique job, so there is no degree for it; I am the only one doing it in the US.

My parents were friends with a lot of art dealers and artists in France and that offered me the opportunity to be exposed to art from a very young age. And as a family, we always go to museums and enjoy looking at art together. When I was growing up, I had the chance to do some internships in art galleries. All of those experiences helped me to develop a strong knowledge in art history. I then naturally transitioned from those internships to curating exhibitions.

● The two professions seem related but also appear to demand very different skill sets. What is the most important overarching skill to be a great curator and great authenticator? 

The two complete each other in my opinion. When I am the authenticator, I have to use very technical and rational skills, but then I am able to express my creativity as a curator. I do not feel any competition to be a great curator, but I will say you need to know the market but then then free yourself from it. You just want to know in what kind of environment you evolve and then offer something different.

● As a curator, what do you feel is the most difficult aspect of the job? What is the most exciting show you’ve ever worked on?

When I am a curator, I am telling a story that is not written, that will be free of interpretation.  So the most challenging part is to be simple, not in a non-intelligent way. I guess the right word I am looking for is “accessible”. I like when people leave the show and have a lot of questions and yet understand my story, even in their own way.

I think the most exciting shows are to come-- I gained experiences those past years and I now I'm asking myself more interesting questions.

 ● As an art authenticator, what is the greatest or most important art object you’ve handled?

It is an interesting question because it is a very recurrent one: the relation with art and its value or importance. I don’t have a relation like that when I authenticate because I have to manipulate, touch the objects a lot.  I don’t want to be impressed because it will be stressful which can lead to mistakes. So when I analyze an object, I disconnect and stay in the moment looking for clues.

But I can tell you that one of my favorite objects was a piece shaped like a monkey that was supposed to be Pre-Columbian, and it end up being fake. But I loved it; it was one of the best fakes I’ve seen.

Some new things I'm working on

I've been enamored with cemeteries, ruins and reliquaries lately. Here is an homage to the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich:

I wanted to evoke the mood of his painting "The Abbey in the Oakwood", but with a different kind of language, using a lot more watercolor-y transparency and impasto. While most of this is painted in oils, I made use of a lot of ink washes, and the linen, primed with a transparent gesso, is apparent in many places.

Here is a painting that I have almost completed called Baltimore Castle.

As for the reliquaries, here is a painting I'm doing of my roommate as a patina-ed bronze statue.