Quick Sunday Sketch of the Studio

In the past few months, I have spoken to more than a few friends who either are not on social media or recently gave it up, and who therefore come and visit my blog for updates! Thank you, awesome friends! I will make an effort to keep this more populated and updated:) 

Below is a Sunday afternoon sketch of my place, as it just seemed right to play it fast and loose on a rainy Sabbath in Brooklyn. My mannequin is named Dorothea after one of my favorite heroines, from George Eliot's "Middlemarch." Despite her benign name and frame, which was molded in a warehouse in New Jersey, the poor and earnest Dorothea tends to freak out visitors. A painting in the background is of a geisha in a kimono as well. Poetry on the fridge, lots of tchotchkes on the shelves and classical philosophy books too, from an earlier time when ancient Greek comprised the entirety of my life. 

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One of the poems on the fridge: 

"Waking Up" by Jorge Luis Borges 

Translated, from the Spanish, by Alastair Reid.

Daylight leaks in, and sluggishly I surface
from my own dreams into the common dream
and things assume again their proper places
and their accustomed shapes. Into this present
the Past intrudes, in all its dizzying range–
the centuries-old habits of migration
in birds and men, the armies in their legions
all fallen to the sword, and Rome and Carthage.

The trappings of my day also come back:
my voice, my face, my nervousness, my luck.
If only Death, that other waking-up,
would grant me a time free of all memory
of my own name and all that I have been!
If only morning meant oblivion!

The Studio Podcast with Danny Grant

A good friend of mine from art school, Danny Grant, hosts a fun and informative podcast where he talks to artists about their painting practice and philosophy. I had a wonderful conversation with him a couple of weeks ago during which we caught up about the evolution of my painting, what it is like to have and not have an arts community, the book I'm revising, how to be fearless and find your own voice in your practice, and the secular humanistic philosophy and pedagogy I have been thinking about and developing for years-- it was a fantastic time. Give it a listen if you have a chance: on iTunes or at www.dannygrantfineart.com/podcast

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Frankenstein: Konfidential

Hi everyone! I cleaned up my website a bit and added a drop-down for a big project I'm involved in this year called Frankenstein: Konfidential, and I thought I would mention it in the blog, too. You can find more information about it on our website (launching in July) and on Facebook at the Frankenstein: Konfidential Facebook Page. Just a little bit about it here: a great writer friend of mine, Tommy Zurhellen, approached me last year to collaborate with him on the re-telling of Frankenstein, which is in its bicentennial this year. My part of it is to use his manuscript, Mary Shelley's original and also the myth of the golem as inspiration and respond with a visual evocation-- i.e., giant paintings. It's been awesome. We have two shows coming up in the fall. 

 Here's me toning one of my canvases. Don't judge the Dansko clogs. 

Here's me toning one of my canvases. Don't judge the Dansko clogs. 

Portrait of Victoria: HAT!

 Thanks to my friend Victoria with the beautifully pensive profile. 

Thanks to my friend Victoria with the beautifully pensive profile. 

My girlfriend Victoria came by yesterday and sat for me for a few hours. I'm doing a little painting - deadline at the end of the month, so it's been *real* today. This is the compositional drawing I did from life, and then the hat I put on a mannequin to finish up the details today. The painting is going to be vertically long: 45 inches x 26 inches. I don't have the body in yet-- next Saturday! 

I received a full fellowship for this summer at the Penland School of Crafts

I just found out that I was awarded the Falls Family Scholarship to attend a two-week monoprint workshop at Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina this summer! I am very excited, as I have been looking forward to diversifying my practice and learning new media. I first started learning more about printing when I was at Vermont Studio Center this summer, and I just want to DO IT now! 

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Last night I took an encaustics class at Trestle Gallery in Industry City. I came with a project in mind for Frankenstein Konfidential. That didn't go well-- preconceptions and all. I should have just played. 

A little memory from a long time ago now...

This was the first painting I made after I left Water Street 10 years ago. I had been a student for three years there, and had worked and loved hard so many moments. I remember my last day of school: the economy was in the midst of collapse-- it was 2008-- and I was walking through Times Square towards Hell's Kitchen, towards home. Across the tall buildings, the stock tickers ran red and maniacally, telling the tale of the plummeting markets, and the talking heads played on the big screens and the humans blinked morose and thoughtful. 

I had in my bag a check that was something just over $13,000-- it would have been more than $20,000 had it been sent a week before, from Canada: I had just found out that I had won the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant. (A few years later, I would win it again.) Unlike the talking heads of the blinking screens, I was not morose, though perhaps I was thoughtful, contemplative. That day at the computer in my studio, I put out a call for models on Craigslist. Within 10 minutes I was inundated by emails, and I started booking. I could not believe that, for $20 an hour, men and women would come to me, show their bodies to me generously and allow me to capture their spirit with mine. And so, at the beginning of the American recession, I experienced the beginning of my own American dream; in the midst of an external reckoning, I awoke to an internal quietude and power that still marks one of the most valuable moments of my life. 

I was ambitious, and went straight to the galleries right away. This painting, “Hopper’s Closer Look”, inspired by his masterpiece “Automat,” sold before the show opened in Soho at Eleanor Ettinger and it now lives in Mumbai. I’m posting this today because an artist I met for the first time on Monday remembered seeing it at the show that many years ago, and it reminds me that everyday I should be grateful that I can continue to paint and work, which is to do what I can to reach my essential self. That is what, in my worldview, keeps me in fellowship with the rest of humanity. It is my effort to bridge the internal world-- so rich, dark, spirited-- with the external-- so rich, dark, and spirited. 

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Starting a big new piece here.

But getting charcoal on myself. 

This is for the Frankenstein Konfidential project! I need to be done with SEVEN paintings by the end of July. 

Available Work for March Open Studio: Pls see below for thumbnails :)

I spent most of December at a residency at the Vermont Studio Center and am in the midst of preparing for two fall shows (dates TBD).

Please drop by my OPEN STUDIO WEEKEND next month if you'd like to see what I have been up to! 

Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4
Noon-6 PM
59 Scholes Street #207 | Brooklyn

Here is a thumbnail gallery of a few works that will be available during my open studio weekend. Pls contact me at hyeseungs(at)gmail(dot)com for pricing. Thank you!

Quick alla prima from early this morning... POTS!

Afternoon Update: Sold! Thanks, Social Media! 

 

I had some trouble getting to sleep and staying that way last night. I finally decided the hell with it and got up at 4 am this morning, and had my first of three breakfasts (cold pizza). I decided to give up on my painting of Lilo-- there was some major distortion in the transfer when I projected the drawing, and I have been fighting with it for days. I will retransfer next week, using a copy instead of projecting. I was disappointed in the hours lost and the frustration, so I decided to get some instant gratification and do a quick alla prima (after my second breakfast of overnight oats).

The morning light is weak into the kitchen, which is far away from the wall of windows in my apartment. The shadows cast by the pots above the stove are beautiful in that early time-- very quiet, very somber. I worked on that this morning for a few hours, though it was very challenging given there wasn't too much light on my canvas at the start. 

 

 "Hanging Pots," 15 x 12 inches.

"Hanging Pots," 15 x 12 inches.

The Beginning of a Collaboration

Writer Tommy Zurhellen is re-imagining Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in Nazi-era Germany. His work is entitled Frankenstein: Konfidential. Tommy and I will be collaborating on a project together this year where I make a series of paintings inspired by his book. The beginning of the first painting is below. 

 Cemetery Scene,  In Progress

Cemetery Scene, In Progress

This painting is about 7-feet x 11.5-feet in size and is still in progress, but it is just about there; I'm keeping it relatively open. There is a light-installation component to it as well. 

I also started another painting of one of Tommy's characters, a young woman named Lilo, who is a Nazi Resistance fighter and a student of Professor Viktor Frankenstein. Here's the beginning of that, too: 

Lilo Drawing
 Lilo, ebauche

Lilo, ebauche

I started both of these at these at the Vermont Studio Center, where I had a residency this past December. It was a beautiful time. 

Molly Portrait - COMPLETE

This is a portrait of Molly  - her mother commissioned me to paint her high school graduation portrait last year. In their family, when the children graduate from high school, they choose a painter who they want to have do their portrait, and I was very honored to have been picked by Molly. I kept her head, especially her eyes, the focus of the painting, and the rest of her unresolved, to reflect her incipience as she is away from her family for the first time. 

I put together a little 50-second video on youTube with muzak- if you're interested in watching. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUvGFHTAinA

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. 

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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"....)