Thursday, January 27, 2005


Today was one of those days when things just fell into place in the studio. My focus was clear, unlike the past couple of studio days.

I'm well on my way towards finishing the six paintings I've been working on since late November. A couple of them needed more work than the others, but I'm studying the two earliest ones and am looking at making some changes. Nothing too drastic, but I see the need for improvement now that I've gotten the others to a place where they are almost there. One of the paintings in question will probably have a whole section painted out. The other one only needs minor adjustments.

I'm also looking ahead to continuing with some of the same themes, only changing the format from square to rectangular. They are going to have to be larger than the current ones (36"x 36" each), though, if my idea is going to have any chance of working. I just have to get myself into preparation mode again.

branching off

I was leafing through an old studio journal and came across something from a couple of years ago that was interesting. At the time of writing this particular entry, I was in the midst of begining the body of work that would be my focus for the past three years or so. This was when I had the space in the Goldtex Building, at 315 North 12th Street, just north of Vine Street. I was on the fifth floor on the north side of the building. From my windows I could see Anderson Hall, on Temple University's North Philly campus, where I studied art from '91-'94.

Besides some minor editing, this is the journal entry in full:


"Worked on some new pieces-new direction for a time. I was working on two small paintings for the upcoming Sketch Club show and just hit a wall with the 'bubble' images. I couldn't make them work no matter what I did. So I turned to the grid, or a variation of it. I needed something and the way I look at it, I've nothing to lose by trying something new. I'm pretty excited about the new paintings(I did four small ones and started a 4' x 4' piece based on one of the smaller works).

The geometric aspect of the new paintings doesn't feel as confinning as it used to . I thing that has to do with my emphasis on color and working with the hard edges instead of working against them. The combination of color and brushwork is used to keep the image 'moving'. I don't know if that makes sense, but there it is."


This piece of writing has stuck with me because it represents a moment in time when my visual focus shifted pretty radically. I went from mulitilayered compositions with a lot of organic imagery to paintings that were extremely geometric and more concerned with surface effects rather than pictorial depth of field.

The only carryover from one series to the other was my love of color-how various hues played off of one another and the interaction with the surface of the canvas or panel. This was one moment of many that have continued to inform my artistic practice of not allowing one way of working to dominate my expression. When it's time to try something new, I do all I can not to question it and just go for it.

That's what I find inspiring about art, the inquiry. Where I end up is not nearly as important or sometimes even interesting as how I got there. The sensation of attempting to bring something out of the void and making it physical is an all-encompossing one. I get swept up in surges of energy and emotion while painting and I can grab onto none of them. They well up and disperse before I can even identify what I'm feeling, and I never would be able identify what it is I'm feeling exactly when this happens; it happens and then it's gone again. That's why it's impossible to answer the ridiculous question, "So, what were you feeling when you painted this?" There is never any one thing and I'm hard pressed to even recall what was going on through my head and body at the time.

Art is a big question, or part of a conversation. The best art dosen't attempt to answer anything about life. It raises questions and makes people think, while at the same time, creating a space for the viewer to enter into a dialogue with the work(s) in question and experience thier own discoveries.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Painted some yesterday(Friday) and Thursday. The studio was cold but on Thursday I elected not to turn on the heat in favor of a couple of and extra sweat shirt and hoodie under my coveralls. Yesterday, I gave in and turned the heat on. I can go a while without heat in there, but I have my breaking point.

Anyway, I've been working on this one painting for a while and it's been difficult to get through but I made some good progress with it. I've gone down so many roads with it. I'm getting to know it better, layer by layer, line by line...

I became very aware of a deep, visceral feeling in the pit of my stomach as I painted. Not a bad feeling but one similar to a ball of energy which propelled my movements. It was an experience which has really drawn me into the work more than I expected on a concsious level. I'm getting 'into' these paintings in a way that I haven't in a long while. They are much more physical than other work I've done in the past couple of years.

Friday, January 21, 2005

black, pt. 2

I like black, but as a challenge to myself I've not used it in recent paintings. The challenge I set up was to make other colors as rich and close to black without using black itself in the painting. I may use a little of it to darken a color a bit, but I havne't used straight black on the work alone. It's mainly for me because most people can't tell the difference at first. Once it's pointed out, thier perception of the piece is altered. When an area that is thought of as black is revealed to actually be a deep shade of red, it can alter how that area or even the whole piece is seen.

I've had it in my head to do a few paintings using mainly black, gray, and white but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I have done a couple of paintings in the past, both still lifes, that are composed of only black and white paint. I still have them and they are among my favorite paintings. I'd like to approach the idea again with newer images and see how it goes.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


This afternoon, I attended a lecture given by Quentin Morris. It was held in the Morris Gallery of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where several of Morris's six-foot, circular canvases were hung as part of his solo exhibition.

Morris, an African-American Philadelphia native, has spent the last 40 years creating monochromatic paintings and works on paper using only black. His paintings are further distinguished by his use of six-foot, circular, rough-edged canvases. Morris uses a variety of oil and water-based media to create his works. The results are varied, depending on what kind of effect Morris is after at any given time. Some his canvases will appear to have a flat, matte finish, while one next to that will feature both matte and glossy areas. Some even look as if there are other colors present due to differences in surface textures and how certain paints or inks he uses dry.

None of that was new to me, but what was different was that the walls of the gallery where painted black, as well. Not only were the walls painted black, but Morris pointed out that each wall was a diffrent shade of black. It took me a while to make the distinctions, and I was only able to see a couple of differences. This treatment of the walls was good for the presentation of the paintings. The idea was to make the exhibition a more meditative experience for the viewer. It was his attempt to get people to "slow down" and really see the works; to counteract the fast-pace of art viewing many people seem to have. It really does work. I found myself looking at these paintings much longer than I would have had they been against a light background. With the paintings presented in this way, the gallery took on the air of a chapel or other meditative space.

I'll have to return to view the exhibition again before it closes. There werer a lot of chairs in the gallery for the talk and I wasn't in the headspace to try and ignore them. After the talk, I introduced myself and had a brief conversation with Morris. One of the things I asked him about was the reception he received from people, black and white, to his work over the years. I asked that question because it seems that African-American artists who have produced work that is outside the mythical realm of what art made by blacks "should" be-largely racial and identity-based themes revolving around religion, social issues, jazz, etc...- are seen with skeptical eyes. It's as if we are trying to put one over on everyone by daring to engage thoughtfully with the history of western art. He said that his work has received a wide range of reactions from really good to outrage. I wanted to go further into this with him, but he was scheduled to have lunch with some people from the Academy, so that conversation will have to wait for another time.


I found my way to my studio later in the afternoon. It was pretty cold in there, but I chose to put on a few more layers instead of turning on the heat. It worked, but if I'd stayed longer than I did, the heat would have been turned on. I just don't want to run the bill up if I don't have to.

I did some work on one painting I've been having a difficult time with lately and still haven't gotten to a place where I felt it was heading in a good direction. I'm just trying to see what will work. I have an idea of what I want, but, so far I haven't been able to articulate it in paint yet. These new paintings are much more spontaneous and process-oriented than what I've been working on for the past couple of years. The older work was more planned out, even as I strived to achieve some sort of randomness within the rigid structures of hard-edged patterns.

I really wasn't in the mood to push on with it after four hours, so I gave it up and came home. I was extremely tired from staying up way later than I should have last night messing around with the settings on this page. I can't keep up that schedule or I'll not get anything worthwhile out of my studio time. I can't let that happen too much. I've taken enough time off during the holidays and it's time to buckle down again and get some work done. There are way too many ideas floating around in my head and I need to make more time to act on some of them.