Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hand Painted Dining Table

This is the surface of my mom's kitchen table. It is a pine wood table my parents bought at least ten years ago.

Then I had an Idea
When my parents left town to visit my sister in Virginia last summer I got the idea to paint it. The only painted table I had ever seen that I really liked was in Costa Rica inside a local coffee farmer's house. His wife had been painting a brightly colored floral design on the coffee table and looking at it made me excited.

Scattered Flowers: How I did it
So, I went out to the backyard and cut some wildflowers from the garden. I held each one in my left hand, looking at it as I painted it onto the table. When I had all the flowers scattered around the surface of the table I decided I wanted to fill the entire space with color.

I stayed up all night two nights in a row trying to finish this table. I slept during the day. I can be really productive at night sometimes. I turned up the music, mostly latin merengue, salsa and dance beats and drank wine. Megan, party of one. It was sweet. I would paint on a line of color and then change colors and fit another shape into the previous one. I overlapped intentionally in some areas and outlined the flowers in complimentary colors. It was largely a color study in that it took a while for me to figure out exactly where I wanted to place each color. I did not mix any of the colors on my palette. I took colors straight from the tube and mixed them on the table as I painted.

The Finishing: Polyurethane is caulk
When my parents came home they loved it and it is now my mom's cherished piece of furniture, which is kind of too bad for me because that means I will have to paint my own kitchen table.

When I was finished, I called around town and asked what would be the best way to protect it. Polyurethane. Apparently, polyurethane comes in different forms, among them are a paintable liquid form and caulk. Ok, one thing you should know about me is that I get really into the making of a project, the drawing of the drawing or the painting of the painting. But when it comes to framing, hanging, spraying or painting on protective coating...not my favorite. I'm like that with baking too. I like mixing the ingredients of a chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies together, but rolling the dough into balls or flouring the cake pan...screw that!

I chose the caulk form of polyurethane at Home Depot. I ran in there, grabbed the first thing that said polyurethane and peaced. I couldn't find a caulk gun in the garage so I popped off the bottom of the tube and squeezed/spooned it out. When I had finished there were globs of dried polyurethane in places and it was kind of sticky when you touched it. Needless to say, no one was home when I did that either. Someone would have stopped me. Anyway, after a few laughs at my expense and some comments on my stubborn attitude about having someone help me, my dad sanded it down a bit and I came back and painted on the real stuff, which comes in a pint size paint bucket. Below is the finished product...and me (not actually drinking tea).

Original Fantasy Art

I did this piece from ideas in my head in 2007. I was sick of drawing from observation and photos so I decided to let loose, basically. It's done in ink and I titled it "Star Goddess."

I am very interested in artwork that has a strong graphic or design element. I experimented with using lighter and darker values in order to give the piece depth. When I initially sketched it onto the paper, which is about 3.5'x2.5', I began with the female figure. I wanted her to be powerful and nameless, which is why she has no facial features.

She makes me think of a dancer or a fairy bounding through some mystical place as she creates it. The flowing lines at the bottom are growing toward her as she sparks life through her fingertips. Everything she touches is alive and thriving and beautiful.

Doing this drawing was like releasing a big sigh of relief and it still makes me feel that way when I look at it.

Desert Oil Painting

My freshman year of college I took an Archaeology class, which took me on a field trip through New Mexico and Arizona during the last week. I snapped a picture of the landscape just before the sun set at one of the places we stayed.

During the process of this painting I discovered what kind of color palette I tend to use when I paint. During one of the stages of the painting I stepped back and the whole thing was blue and bright green, almost limey! Seriously. I got carried away with the tube of "cobalt blue." After I went back into it with some red, which makes for the purple shadows, and added more red to the rocks, I think it turned out. I gave it to my parents for Christmas. Oh yes, so nice.

Painting of Clouds

This 3.5'x4' oil painting on paper was one of my first paintings. I had just finished a painting class and liked it so much that I decided to take another. The second time around I focused almost entirely on learning how to paint clouds.

Clouds are so impressive because for one, they make looking at the sky a pass-time, but also they are more deep and colorful than you would first think. Once you spend some time studying the clouds, (just go outside and take a look!) you notice how unpredictable they are as moving shapes. At least when you paint a tree you know it's not going anywhere. Clouds are the most abstract, realistic form I have ever tried to reproduce on paper or canvas.

Beach Scene Mural

This is the only painting I did during my fall 2008 semester in Costa Rica. It remains on the back garden wall of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) building in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is 9ft wide and 6ft tall. It was my first mural.

Spanish: I Thought I knew It
I began painting it in the midst of writing my final research paper for the semester. And dude, I just want to point out how physically traumatizing culture shock can be, at least for me. When I first arrived in San Jose, I thought I knew enough Spanish from taking advanced classes in high school and my freshman year of college etc. Not!

I failed the first class I ever took at Colorado College. It was an extreme advanced Spanish class and everyone in it spoke fluently. Anyways...I persevered and now I too can speak la idioma de mis ancestros! My mom is hispanic and her parent's first language is Spanish (from a New Mexican, Spain originating community-like conquistadores style), however they didn't really speak the language around their 7 children so that their kids wouldn't be made fun of by all the white kids in the neighborhood. As a result, my mom and all her siblings only speak English.

Culture Shock-no kidding
But yeah, culture shock is exponentially worse when you really don't know the language. I couldn't taste food for the first 2 weeks and my hair started falling out in huge globs in the shower. When I looked at myself in the mirror I felt like I was looking at someone else. I would touch my face and make faces in the mirror just to check. My voice wasn't my own because it sounded different as I was constantly trying to speak a language of which I only had basic skills (supposedly intermediate).
By the time I painted this mural I had been living in Costa Rica for over 3 months and I was feeling very comfortable with my Spanish language abilities. My host family became so much like my real family that I was starting to get into minor fights with my younger host brothers and my host mom began to irritate me in ways you can really only be irritated by your own mother. She was a beautiful woman, though and I can still taste her bologna, mustard and honey with lettuce and tomato breakfast sandwiches when I burp. yeah.

Then I got the Urge
Anyway, this urge to paint resurfaced after I had become much more comfortable with everything. I used reference photos that I had taken at a beach called Cahuita on the Caribbean side. It remains in the top 3 of my favorite places I've ever been. It's about a 5 hour bus ride from San Jose.

I started with the palm trees in front. They took the longest since I had the wrong color of yellow to mix with the blue in order to make green. As a result, they looked like poop trees instead of palm trees. I ended up redoing them like 3 times. After I got past that the rest went pretty smoothly.

The thing about acrylic paint is that if you want to have any sort of tonality or gradation, uh, value transition...whatever, you have to work quickly so that the paint doesn't dry and it will mix together on the wall. So I set up my paints, picked the right brush and painted the sand, then the water and then the sky. Each was painted all at once with no breaks as fast as I could. Intense. I finished the mural the day before I left the country.

Original Snowboard Design

This is a life size design for a snowboard. The bottom of the board is shown on top in the picture. I glued paper onto foam core for my final project for a graphic design class.

This is razor blade cutting at its finest. The confetti design is a drawn image that I edited with color and after printing, cut out so that it would flow like in that part of Aladdin where the Genie rubs his fingers together to make a pyramid of gold triangles. "You aint never had a friend like me. How bout a little more baklava" yaaa....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Acrylic painting of flowers

"I'd Rather Paint," should be the title of this painting.

I put it up on the wall for a critique for a drawing class. We had 2 days to do a 4'x3' drawing. If you've never done any type of art before you can probably still imagine that painting takes a lot more time than drawing. Idiot! I guess I forgot that I still liked having a social life. But I was excited to be in a class where I could create whatever type of imagery I wanted. So I did an acrylic painting of flowers.

Flowers: My Costa Rica kick
My interest in flowers began sometime over the last year. When I did this painting (September 2009), I was definitely still on my Costa Rica kick. I lived there during the fall semester in 2008...ahh the fabulous life of a CC student. Seriously, it was one of the most artistically inspiring, eye-opening, perspective changing, cultural experiences I have ever had. I miss it. Mostly just the people I met and lived with, but I also fell in love with the way the Ticos (what Costa Ricans call themselves) live.

Their outlook on life as a culture is so different from our North American view. Innately, these people know what beauty is and they value it in one another in a way that is very different than any idealistic image you see everyday. What they really value is their families, friends and their beautiful green country. Obviously, as Americans we value the same things but the order on our priority list and the incentive driving those values seems questionable to me at times.

Candy Earrings
Anyway...PAINTING! The point is that flowers are all over the place in Costa Rica (minus the city, San Jose), spilling onto the street and all but exploding from people's ears. For real, the earrings I encountered (and one does "encouter" earrings) are the kind that are big enough to walk off your ears or look like big pieces of plastic candy. But the thing is...what is the thing? People are attracted to beautiful things.

What is Beauty?
What is beauty? Open to interpretation...but I think everyone can agree that nature is generally beautiful. What is the most beautiful aspect of nature? The crown of natural design? I believe it's the flower.

Flowers are pretty and interesting to look at no matter what. They don't ask to be told they are beautiful, they just are. Their purpose is beauty. As human beings no matter what your idea of flowers might be, the fact is that when you're pooping in the woods and you need something to wipe with you aren't going to pick the petals off a flower to do the job. Something within us makes us want to preserve beauty.

The Reality of this Painting
It began with the need to fulfill an assignment. I was walking home after class and couldn't help but stop to pick a few flowers along the way...that sounds like I'm making it up..."oh, and I just stopped to smell the flowers, lalala!" but flowers are definitely still blooming in Colorado in September and lots of people have them in their front yards. Nice. I took them home, put them in a cup of water and covered my 4'x3' piece of paper with white acrylic paint aka "Gesso."

That night I sat down on the floor in the living room and painted on one of the flowers I had picked earlier, then I did two more. There was still a ton of space to fill by 1am and I had no plan.

After class the next day, which was all figure drawing (naked people drawing) I came home and stared at the empty space behind the flowers I had painted the night before. ugggg! And I guess since I like drawing and painting pictures that show depth (space) I took my drawing board out the back door of my apartment and painted in the alley between the building and the fence. After that there were some problems with the colors and the purple flower can just go to hell. I repainted that thing like six times. It started out yellow and also a sunflower and now it looks like something out of Fern Gully. Whatever.

I really enjoyed piecing together different subjects that I had painted "from life" (meaning not using a photo reference). This painting became a reality that isn't real. There are definitely no flowers in the alley behind that building, just rocks and weeds and a couple cigarette butts. And no one really goes back there. My roommates like this painting because it reminded them of where they live. So I guess what I did was take something I like, flowers, and placed them in an overlooked setting...I think they brightened it up a bit. That's the beauty of beauty baby! hahahaha...