Friday, December 28, 2012

Judge Parker Commission

This is a commission I did over the summer for a fan of Judge Parker featuring the whole cast and crew of the strip. It was a lot of work but fun to do.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sunrise Beach

Finally getting back to some painting after taking a break from it since the end of October and my trip down to the Brandywine to do some Plein Air painting. This is a Christmas Gift for some friends who have a house down at the shore in Delaware. 24 x 36 in oil. I have been hankering to get back to painting and it was really  a lot of fun to do. I have been very inspired again recently by looking at the work of the Russian Social realist, Edgar Payne and Maynard Dixon--big juicy painters all. This painting went fast, about six hours in total...which surprised me as I thought I would work on I off and on for a few days....but it just flew out of my brush. I still have some more paintings to do for friends for gifts so I'll be painting away through the holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pafa MFA 1: week 16--The Final Warp

Whew! That about sums it up the last whirl wind week of classes for me as both teacher and Student. The semester ended in both my MFA 1 at PAFA and in my Illustration class I teach in the High School program at PAFA--- and it was the final review for the Storyboard Class at Uarts , the students hand to show their animatics for their Junior films which they will animate next semester. Add in an extra meeting to deal with struggling Uarts students, my final research paper and the comic strip and it was a crazy, crazy week. I would some days sleep in shifts, get up and work on a project then dash off to either teach or attend the last week of classes or try and sit in on the final reviews of my fellow MFA students at PAFA. The 24th issue of Draw! Magazine has also gone to press, so in a few short weeks it will be hitting the streets with a lot of great interviews and how-to's, but more on that in a separate post.

I had my final review on Friday at 3:15, I went the last day to have more time to work, but maybe next time I will go early. the final reviews are spread out over 3 days but I can see that maybe going later was a poor choice as people tire of seeing art after a few days.  I came in a lined my work up along the wall and then took a seat. You could show a max of six pieces and I brought 5 including these last two drawings, the first one is a memory drawing of my basement in my old house in Detroit, the second is based on some pictures I took at another one of those abandoned houses off of Route 1.

Dan Miller lead the review which was fielded  by Michael Gallagher,  Jan Baltzell, Neysa Grassi, Marc Blavat, Eileen Neff.

I got some compliments from Dan and Mike who is my critic along with Jan, but I don't think half of the critics got or liked what I did, and I expected that, and I expect that they try and knock you a bit on your first review of your first semester as well. My fellow MFA students as well as many undergrads buddies came to support me and that was cool. Afterwards I got a lot of kudos and made Dan laugh when i told him he made me cry.


 The crits lasted into the early evening when a lot of the students were up for heading out to the bars for some drinks---me, I headed home to sleep the sleep of the dead!

 Wenxing did a great job doing her presentation in Dr. Richards class, I am really impressed that she gave it in English--since its her second language we were all really proud and impressed!

I'm sure I will have some more thoughts on my first semester over the break after the dust settles and the holiday haze settles over the next few weeks. I was both happy and disappointed in my first MFA semester and my final review. I was disappointed in the tone of my review and that a lot of teachers were not there and specifically certain teachers I have worked with in the past. I honestly expected the "negative" comments,  so that wasn't a surprise, but I''ll wait till I get my final reviews in my mailbox before I render the final judgement. I base the value of a critique on one thing; if I can use anything from it to make my process better. Can I walk away with a new idea, or tool, a new way to attack something--if not-well you bundle it with all the other opinions you get that serve you no purpose and toss them over the wall of the studio.

I was pretty happy with my work, or the direction and progress I made, and that's the most important thing and I am hot to get back in and get back to painting after a few days of sleep to catch up. I ended up doing more drawing than painting and working on unplanned ideas like working from memory as opposed to working from life or photos. This is an area I will continue to explore but I want to work to bring some of teh drawing process back into my painting.

Michael Moore's class was fun, kinda' light in spots--but Mike is such a nice guy and my classmates were fun. I got to make some new friends from the class which is good since the MFA 1's don't mix as much as the undergrads do.  Christina did a bunch of fun caricatures of everyone for the last class, you can see my "breaking bad" at the bottom right.


The High School Illustration class was a lot of fun to teach. Both of my fellow student teachers Ashley and Joel were a lot of help and I think mixed well with the students. It was really great to see students like Abby really grow week to week and finish a long term project. Students like that are the reason I love to teach, it makes you feel that the torch is being past or being lit in the eyes of another artist.

  After Abby did that great watercolor she worked on this great composition in pencil to practice values.

 Abby works on her drawing above and Mr. Joel mugs for the camera!

                          Ashley helping a student figure out an approach to one of his ideas.

 We had the annual Holiday lunch hosted ny the Women's Board at PAFA and they had a great spread of food this year. Everybody piled into the auditorium to gobble up some goodies--which i did abefore i had to rush off to have my final critiques at Uarts.

 Everybody lines up to load their work on the computer so we can watch the animatics--and of course we had a huge hassle with the tech that day--quick-time just deciding to suddenly not work properly---the ghost in the machine! I brought some donuts in to help easy the pain.

It was a mixed bag as it always seems to be--some really good work and some students just flame out--which is sad. Time management is a huge, huge issue for students and the one thing that chops many an student from a strong young tree into a pile of sticks by the end. I look forward to seeing the final films in the spring show to see how they all managed to come through their junior year.

For myself now its a few days to clean up, well clean up a lot and get the final holiday shopping done. This has certainly been a busy year, some very good things and some really sad and terrible things which I am sure I will reflect more on a process over the coming weeks. But for now the studio door is shut.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

PAFA MFA 1: Week 15 Crits and Guest Lecturing

The first semester in my MFA 1 year has almost wound down to the end and we are into the final crit weeks with the hustle and bustle and "go for throttle up" at the "House that Eakins Built." Not enough sleep, a lot of coffee and the usual rush-rush drill is on and everybody seems a mix of worry and anticipation for the holiday break. On top of that and having my research presentation to give in my Writing Seminar, my regular teaching gigs at PAFA and Uarts-- I was a guest lecturer in the Comics Writing class my good buddy Jamar Nicholas teaches over at Drexel University. 

I gave a talk to the class and then did a live demo of laying out pages from two of the students scripts in class so they could watch live the creative process of an artist taking their script and turning it into an actual comic page. I think this was a unqiue opportunity to watch and openly discuss the most important stage in the comic process--the turning of something like a script-which is still very open to interpretation and turning it into something concrete like a comic page. This also gave the students feed back on what an artists needs or wants from a writer, the things that must to be in the script and how often something in a script has to be re-interpreted to work as a comic because of the needs of the medium. It was a lot of fun and the stories were good and different, one being about a bunch of monsters as roomates and the other about a family dealing with a storm approaching, so one more comedic and one more realistic. I discused ideas about staging for humor vs staging for drama, how much dialougue is needed. Do you need to say everything you show and how you can condense information to save space. The couple of hours flew by quick! They had a video rig set up so I could draw and talk and the students could watch the drawings happen---like magic!

In my drawing seminar I missed the previous week due to getting the latest issue of Draw! out of the house and into layout and catching up on Judge Parker, but I got the info on what the homework assignment was. The assignment was to make an alphabet of marks and then use them to make a drawing. You can see my alphabet above and my drawing below. Now to be honest for me this was really easy. I have done this type of thing for a long time now as an artist, working with different pens, brushes etc., in comics, animation and fine art to give a different feel and variety in a drawing. So this wasn't an assignment that pushed me in any new direction. In a way this drawing gave me the feeling of doing the type of illustration you'd see in an old Reader's Digest magazine. Often the artists would work with all kinds of papers, pencils, inks to make a drawing that had a great variety and vitality of line and color. It was fun to do and maybe a bit redundant for me, but I always try and do a good piece of work no matter what--why rob myself of an opportunity to do a good drawing, challenge myself there if nothing else, and to have some fun. Again--that FUN word, something tossed out of ART school too often.

Its interesting to see what my fellow classmates do with the same assignment. In a way I question if we should have any assignments at all or just bring in our work, or all do the same drawing assignment that happens over a long period of time to discuss the difference in the process. In an undergrade class you have homework, like drawing a  self portrait, etc., and they are often to show the skills learned and hopefully honed week-bye-week. But in an MFA program how does this apply? I know some students want some skill based learning and others just want concept based or idea based classes.  You sooooo often hear" skill without some serious content is masturbation", that is even more an opinion in an MFA program, art schools in general-- the endless discussion between differing "schools of philosophy" on what a drawing is. What merrits content, my content says your content is shit. My content can kick your content's ass. The modernists vs the traditionalist. The Mark makers. Marks as a mechanism or process to transport the viewer into the work. I am not a mark maker in that way and for me a bunch of marks don't excite me at all, so a lot of what the modernists call drawings I just don't engage with.

Below you can see the work my fellw classmates did with the same assignment and Michael Moore talking about our work in the crit. The class always has good discussions no matter what and who knows where some of the ideas may take root in the coming months.

In my Writing Seminar it was our second week of presentations on our research subjects. The presentations were pretty varied and I know some were a bit nervous about giving them. Thinking back now I was unhappy with mine I think because I was pretty tired. I did my presentation of the Russian Social realists and Norman Rockwell- how they painted similar subjects and themes -- Captilaism vs Communism, the fact that artists are always in service of the client or the patron and what they will allow you to show or paint. Several of my classmates came up and gave me some props after my presentation which was nice and Dr. Richards gave me some good feedback and banged me on some historical point that I will fix in my final paper. I felt I was not up to my A game, but that's the way it goes, head down and press on.

During or break we went down the the cits or final reviews that were happening on the 8th floor. We went to watch Gary, one of the students in the writing seminar have his review. You can see Scott Noel, Astrid Bowlby, Jan Batzell, Bruce Samuelson  and Dan MIller reviewing Gary's pieces.

In the back of the room there was a hotbed of activity around the snack table. You need carbs and caffeine to survive a crit!
After Gary's review we went up to the 9th floor to watch Eric's review outside of his studio. Eric really had a whole set-up-environment going with his sculptures and light show. It was a pretty fun review and people did seeme to like his work  and I think he got some good feedback.

Abbey, who is one of the studentsin the High School Program poses with her awesome watercolor painting she did in the Illustration class. Her sister Carla took the same class last year and is now a first year student at PAFA. For me as a teacher this is what its all about, to see an student really work hard week-to-week and end up with a great piece as a result. If you search back on the blog you can see what Abbey did last year the the growth she's had as a artist in the year.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

PAFA MFA1: Bye Week and week 14

 The Bye Week of the Thanksgiving Holiday and it's gravy induced happiness, the fog of the carb overload, has gone along with  the turkey carcass to make a soup for the soul in my second to last week in my first semester in the MFA program.

This has been a complicated semester for me at times, frustrating and I honestly welcome the end of days and a time to reset and work "off grid' for the winter break. I have mixed feelings about the first semester in the program. I am happy with the progress of my ideas and thinking, and feel I have opened up some great avenues to my work, fresh avenues that come directly from my work in the undergrad. I've fallen back in love with drawing and have been doing more of that than painting, but want to take these ways of working in my drawings back into--or combine them with painting. I am digging deeper into themes of the loss, the shift between two states, the collapse of memory, the collapse of mans dominion over nature, the collapse of the urban and the suburban. The home or the house as a symbol, and this all came out of my love for painting urban themes as well as painting in plein air. Just now I feel these things are all like fresh ingredients tossed into the soup. Will the soup be any good? Or will I have to dump it  and go back and start fresh. How can my technical process change or grow to reflect these ideas, does it need to, and if so how can the mediums chosen execute or hinder?  The biggest frustration for me has been time, I haven't had even 2 days in a row to work, so I hop from  student to teacher to cartoonist and professional. Sometimes all in one day--so the break will give me more time to just work on my studio work, and maybe even get back out to nature and plein air paint.

 I enjoyed my critic Martha Armstrong very much and feel I did get some good feedback from her, but I will not have her next semester so I am frustrated with that because I won't have a continuation of the discussions we started this term. They like to mix up your critics in the program which I suppose has a plus of getting a lot of thoughts on your work, but the downside is that a good conversation gets cut short. I will try and sign up for Martha again if she has any open slots in the spring. I also don't think that "more thoughts" are always better thoughts either. The wrong critic or someone who doesn't get your work, or like the type of work you are into will not always end in feedback you can find useful. I wish we had more painters as critics and more figurative painters as well.  A lot of the critics work in the program I just don't feel a great kinship or response too. I suppose it's my continuing issue with much of modernism, I just don't find a lot to love, and craft wise too much of its is non-retinal and that is an excuse for crap. There, I said it!

Luckily I will continue on with Michael Gallagher as a critic, and I've had Mike as a critic and  a friend  for a few years now and we have a great repor and the history of many great conversations. Since the core of the program at PAFA in both the undergrad and the MFA is based on having the critics and their feedback on your work, having at least one long term critic for me is essential. Having a critic who has watched you grow and change over a long time is also for me an essential thing, to be challenged is also a great thing, the back and forth in a long conversation is essential dialogue for solid artistic growth and the development of your work. New ideas, new stratagies are the "Mother's Milk" as old Prof. Gimley world say-- but to not get anything you can use is a waste of time and a lot of money and is surely spilt milk.

 In my Drawing Seminar we brought in our drawings we were working on in the studio or where ever we are working, and then Michael Moore had us do drawings of each others drawings. Mmm, ok. I did a bunch of sketches of others peoples drawing and they did some of mine, I suppose to walk a mile in another artists shoes. But I am not quite sure the why of it ended up as anything useful. I have worked in many other "styles' and worn many other shoes as a cartoonist, especially in animation. The ability to work that way is actually essential in animation. So I can draw something as a riff, like the first piece above on this post, but for me it feels like "busy work". Maybe for my fellow classmates they got more out of it than I did. It was interesting to see some of their takes on my drawing, but for me I think the exercise would have been more interesting to see everybody do something based on the same drawing--run through their personal process---or not. I mean in an MFA program does that type of exercise bring forth real movement or growth, would you have to do it longer term? I always try and be open and give it a go in school, even when I don't dig the whole assignment or idea. I can always reject anything in the end, jettison it with the zillions of other things I have or keep it in my pocket to use later. I think the hard thing is you become more selective in what you keep and its harder to find those things worth keeping as you advance.

 We lined up the drawings we did of each others work below along the floor. It was like a Christmas of drawing--or like a line or drawings done as an offering or as worship!
 Everybody draws and sketches each others work after Ashley showed us a few scenes from Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

In my Writing and Research Seminar we are turning in our big research papers and starting to give our presentations to the class. Next Friday is my turn at bat, and my research project is on the Russian Social Realists and Norman Rockwell.

Last night was the big opening at the Rosenfeld Gallery for the Plein Air at Camphill benefit show. I hopped down to Old City to see the work of the other artists and friends and press the flesh a bit as they say. Lots of great work for a great place for special needs kids. You can see more on their website and the show is up till Sunday at Rosenfeld.

There are just two weeks left in the PAFA After School Program that offer college level classes to high school kids from all over the city for FREE! This is the programs biggest year yet with record numbers of kids coming in every day and taking part in classes in Life Drawing, Painting, Illustration and Still life. Once again I am teaching the Illustration class and have two fellow MFA students helping me. Above you can see Ashley helping one of the students draw a portrait using herself as a model. The painting above is one that is just about finished by one of the students who worked every week on the piece, working it up from a series of comps or thumbnails to the final illustration in watercolor. We have even had students come from this program into the undergrad at PAFA this year. It a charge to see artists who are young really grow in these classes and its a great opportunity for any students from any school to come in and have this rare and great chance to work in such a great art school like PAFA. Hats of to Al Gury and the donors for making this happen and giving a lot of kids maybe their only real experience to work in such an environment.