Saturday, September 29, 2012

PAFA MFA1: Week 5

 Lets cut into some painting! Thats how I feel five weeks into the semester--which really means for me it's a third over --already! I still have to meet with my visiting critic Martha Armstrong, which will happen this week and I'm very interested to hear what she has to say about my work and the dialogue that will develop out of it and maybe what effect it will have on my work. I met with Jan Baltzell another one of my critics for the first time this week as well, and we had a good first, "get to know each other" talk.  I feel the first month of school has been so crowded with other events I haven't been able to sink my teeth into painting as much as I hoped. I'm still working but I feel like I'm not fully up to speed. I did stay until about 4am last night working away at a painting---I stopped when I felt I couldn't make any more good decisions.

I suppose its good to be frustrated in a way as that means growth, or at least that's what I am telling myself. I started this painting above from a drawing from a few photos I snapped a while ago, its a really haunting house over in the Oak Lane section of the city---and as soon as I saw it I felt I really wanted to paint it. You can see in the last post the drawing I did first--next I drew the paining onto the canvas looking at my drawing and started painting away, then went back and looked at the original pictures. I am working in a way like Edward Hopper, where he painted from sketches that he did on site, often making extensive notes on color, etc., then also often making many composition changes  in the final work from the actual real place. So I am working in this fashion now and hope this will end up making my paintings stronger.

I am getting back into doing more drawing as well, something I do all of the time for the comic strip, but I've mostly painted in school for a few years. having the drawing class got the juices rolling again on the drawing and I want to do some large scale drawings as well.

 This drawing was for Michael Moore's class. Mike paid me a great compliment by telling me he liked my drawing because it was a drawing he could teach from. I was not feeling it that much myself--but--thanks!It was a bit of a fight on this drawing as the assignment was to draw round into flat, which is a pretty wide open idea and I had to think about how to try and in many ways make a drawing that sort of fought itself in places. Trying to stretch my way of thinking at times makes me feel like in doing an assignment I feel like I am playing or cheating. When I am doing something on my own I might fail, but I don't feel this way. I do enjoy some of the talking in the class as I am a process junkie when it comes to art.
Here are some candid snaps from class as some of my classmates looking at my work. Michael leads the class in the discussion(Below). Eeverybody is usually breyy good about feedback and sharing which makes the crits go better. Nothing worse that a class full of "Silent Susans" when it comes to critiques or class discussions of students work. If the teacher isn't a dynamo then its like pulling teeth---Boring and painful!

Then in class this week Michael had us do two drawings using touch. I was late to class due to oversleeping because of my late night deadlines with the strip, so I cranked out these two drawings. the first was a drawing of the inside of my mouth using my tongue and the second was of my head. I did them as blind contour drawings, moving the pen as I moved my hand or tongue at the same time. For some I think the experiment might have been a new thing, but I actually always think of what I draw in a very sculptural way, feeling the form and mass in my head as I draw.
There are a lot of more traditional drawers this year it seems, less scribblers and drippers. Some work from life and some from imagination but I feel good about the mix we have in class and in the MFA 1 class as a whole.

I have also been enjoying the awesome fall weather here in Philly. Its my favorite time of year and i can't wait to get back out to do some landscape painting!
There was a lot more going on at school as well like James Gurney coming and giving a talk and a demo. I only popped my head in as I taught my Storyboard Class at Uarts the same day, which is where I saw Gurney last year give the same talk. I recommended to Al Gury after seeing Gurney's talk at Uarts that they should ask him to come to PAFA since they are doing a new Illustration concentration at the school. Gurney is a super-nice guy, good artist/illustrator and very good speaker--I know that both the talk and demo went over great with the students.

So the ball keeps on spinning and I keep on running, often late into the night. The feeling at school is certainly different without my old crew hanging around or to share the studio space with, but life is change and you either roll with it or fight it. I think I feel more of an individual, or solo artist than I did before in the gang studio and maybe that's a good thing for my "artist head" as I am seeking new growth.
I was also asked to be one of the students to have lunch with and speak to the scholarship donors this weeks at the Donors Lunch. Along with school President Brigham, Dan Miller, head of the MFA Program and a few students I had a very nice lunch and got to meet and talk to many of the donors who give money to the school which helps students like me who really need the money to be able to attend the school. I gave a brief talk about myself and my work and thanked them for giving the money to the school so students like me can get all the help we need to make the financial ends meet. I was given both a Merit scholarship and Academy Scholarship which really made it possible for me to do the MFA. It was great to talk to donors who were working artists like me who graduated from the school and decided to give what they could back to the school and students. its something I hope I can also do when I graduate in 2 years and make my way as a painter in the churning art waters.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

PAFA MFA1: Week 4

This week was a week of experimentation for me in the studio. In my drawing seminar I had an assignment where I had to do a drawing based on phrases I pulled out of a box. "A line has two sides", "change nothing and continue on with immaculate consistency", "cut a vital connection". So I produced this multi-media piece that started out as collage. I tried starting with collage as it falls more under "drawing" to me, then I drew shapes with paint, oil and pastel. People seem to really like it and it was fun to do---but I also felt a bit like I was just kidding around and having fun. I was a good exercise but I also feel the need to keep at what I want to do in the studio.
This piece is for next week actually. Its for a drawing assignment where the criteria is "round into flat", and on this one I don't know...its much harder for me to to abstract pieces or semi- abstract. I might do something completely different in a day or so.... I never feel sure about them like my more traditional pieces---but you must risk complete failure to grow. I have another painting on the easel so I will have more work to share soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

PAFA MFA1: Week 3

My father told me recently that as you get older time seems to go faster, and I'm thinking that maybe that is true because it seems the first 3 weeks of my MFA1 semester went by so fast and I feel behind the 8 ball. I have lots to juggle but I finally got some drawing done and look forward to this weekend to actually get some painting going.
I did two sketches--well really three sketches or drawings for my class with Michael Moore, but I got mad and tore one up--well actually I punched it--then tore it up--and it deserved it! I wanted to do some drawing to explore some ideas before going into the painting stage. I read some on Hopper this summer and specifically how he did drawings to plan out his paintings, doing sketches in color and in pencil or charcoal and then he'd make color notes. I didn't make color notes but I did alter the placement of things and tangents etc, to make better designs of the drawings--so the paintings will be stronger. That's also crucial when working from photos, to not be a slave or a victim to the cameras un-censoring eye. I brought the drawings into class along with a bag full of 6 items that Michael had us make an impromptu still life with.
You can see mine here with Mike in the back on the right. We walked around and looked at each others set-ups and discussed which ones we liked. It's interesting to see what a sculptor is into verses drawers or painters. Then we discussed our drawings we brought in and the use of the material and consideration of the entire paper or composition. I was interviewed for something to do with the Women's Board and had pictures taken in my studio I am struggling to keep up with the readings for my writing seminar, but its good to know it seems everybody else is too. Having 3 jobs at times means when i do read late, my brain just doesn't record well-the film of exhaustion isn't a good thing to try and read through. I have my first paper due tomorrow as a response to our first reading and the next set of Judge Parker dailies due as well--so no sleep tonight!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Secret Origins

 In 1983 I went to the Chicago Comicon looking to break in to the biz and I took along two sets of comic samples, one a Batman story and the other a story featuring charters I came up with myself and done in a cartoony style, or "big foot" style as they used to call it in the old days. I came up with this story featuring dog space policeman called Trax Rover based on my own dog, Sabastion and the time. I loved the classic animated cartoons and I hoped to actually also work in animation, even calling out to sudios for information from my home in Ann Arbor Michigan. The business wasn't to healthy then and I was discouraged by a few of the old-timers on the phone, one even telling me, "This is a shit business kid, you don't want to waste your time in it." A decade later I would be working full time at Warner Bros on Batman and Superman. A big lesson, never let anyone crush your dreams. The Batman samples I trucked around the con were met with the typical "You're almost there, but you need to work on this and that" response. The Trax Rover work though ended up landing me my first pro work helping Judith Hunt draw the robots for Robotech Defenders book she was doing at DC. That then lead me to drawing The Transformers at Marvel and my career has never paused a day since then.

The story of Trax was pretty simple and basically kind of ripped from Forbidden Planet, with Trax crash landing to find the stranded father and daughter, my twist was to make the robot in love with her and instead of the Id or the professor making the big threat like the movie, I made these crazy Tasmanian Devils the villains, or monsters.

Looking back I think these pages were far superior in every way than the Batman pages mainly because I was just being myself and with the Batman pages I was trying to cross-pollinate too many sources trying to make some kind of 'approved house style". The strength though of my drawing of environments and robots, mechanical things is what landed me an opportunity on something I never was looking for or that I wasn't thinking about.

This is something I stress to my students, it is essential to try having the best set of skills and cross-train, so when you leave school you are flexible, because you never know where or what your first opportunity will be that can launch your career. I didn't care about the Robotech stuff, wasn't a fan of the Transformers, but I wanted to become a full-time cartoonist working for Marvel or DC and wasn't about to let an opportunity slide. Looking back at these sample that are shockingly almost 30 years old I am pretty happy with a lot of it and have though about going back and actually finishing up the story.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


The second week of my Fall MFA1 sped by and I didn't see how fast it was going till it was too late. It was the first full week where I had both my drawing seminar with Michael Moore and my second Writing Seminar with Dr. Richards. I had two reading assignments due for my second writing seminar class and they were chunky to get through. The first by Thomas Crow on "Modernism and the Mass Culture" was the hardest to get through and enjoy, the second reading by Christopher Crouch, The Cultural Background to the Machine Age" was much easier to read and enjoy. And by enjoy I mean use as springboards for a papers and maybe my work. It was good to talk to some of my fellow students to see I was not the only one who chewed a bit on the readings. I have always enjoyed Dr. Richard's lectures and had him for Art History 1 and 2 as well as a class on the 19th century and got a lot out of all of the classes. There is quite a bit of reading due this week, so I will have to keep at it every day to stay caught up.

The class with Michael Moore was good, it was a show-and-tell where we brought in our work and talked about it and ourselves a bit. I brought in two life drawings and some Judge parker strips in progress to show the variety of drawing I do in a week or even daily if i have to work on the strip and school work. Mike was very kind and had some nice comments on my drawing and comics and I hunk the class also found what I do very interesting. In this class though I think we'll be doing outside drawings and bringing them into class to discuss.

As I write this post it's Friday night and I am back in my studio after doing the First Friday circuit through the Old City galleries with my buddy David Golas. As always its a lot to see and there were several openings going on and you can't see them all so I'll be visiting some other galleries in the next few weeks to catch shows by fellow students and teachers from school. It's also a mixed bag on First Fridays, some good, lots of "ehhh" and even some "what the fahhh?" I think the fact is Philly is a hard art town, or hard for painters and its also a fairly conservative town too, which has both pluses and minuses. The minuses I think are sales which are slow in this shitty economy and that makes gallery owners less willing to take chances and gamble, so I think that means more sort of 'safe art". Nice stuff, but no real pop! But I suppose as a plus it does give you an idea of what the market is here and what sells. I've been going many years now and it seems pretty much the same thing, mostly landscape, still lifes and a few figures. It seems figures are the least represented as well as portraits. Plenty of Academy Alumni's work cover the walls of most galleries in Old City as well with students hanging right along with some of their teachers which I think is great. My main goal though for the next week is to get some art going--starting tonight. Between my commercial work, the holiday, working out my schedule and my teaching starting at Uarts I haven't been able to get any painting going, but I will remedy that this weekend so by next week's post I should have some art to show.

Sunday, September 02, 2012


As many of you regular readers and followers of my blog might have noticed I took a bit of a break from posting in the last month as the stage of life was reset here at Casa Manley. Oh, I've still been working on the Judge Parker strip and doing some freelance jobs and even went to my first con in a few years last weekend.
My new studio on the 9th floor, it's almost ready to sling paint in...

But the biggest shift was starting my first week in the MFA program at PAFA where I have been a student since 2007 and just graduated from with my certificate in painting this last May. Things were pretty dicey with the whole financial end in the past few weeks and I really wasn't sure the money was going to work out until the last week or so, and from what I've gathered I wasn't the only student who was/is facing financial issues. I had even planned to go into school and haul my stuff out of my studio which I rented over the summer right up till about 2 weeks ago. Since I transitioned from the undergrad to the grad and had been accepted I was allowed to rent a studio over the summer, but just moved my books and stuff down, locked the door and didn't set foot in it until last week. I think even though I hadn't planned on it I decided to take a break from PAFA and painted at home all summer. Lots has been going on mentally and personally these last few short summer months and I think I had just burned myself so brightly at both ends toward the end of my graduate year, I need to stop the spinning plates…or a few anyway. One of my galleries I was in, Parke Schaeffer changed hands and I'm no longer there, but I am still in Rodger LaPelle in Philly, so I will be working to get out of Philly and into more galleries outside of this area. It had been my plan all along to enter into the Master Program at PAFA from the Certificate program from the very beginning, which allowed me to have a studio my 3rd and 4th years, a big boon for me as a painter. This also meant I was not going to be getting a BFA, but going directly to the Masters--which I could do at PAFA and one of the best deals I think about the school. My thinking was always why take the BFA, loose painting time to liberal Arts classes when I could go into the Masters program directly if they accepted me.

So I did my orientation last week and met some old friends and made some new ones, ( many newbies having found out about the school and followed my journey via my blog) saw some old teachers and met some new faculty or faculty that I knew by sight but not personally as there are some teachers that are only MFA faculty and some that are both grad and undergrad like Dan Miller, Renne Foulks, both of whom I know well and had in my undergrad. I made it through the wall of stuff I had packed into my new studio, including lots of stuff friends also left when we had to all vacate our old studios. I will say I really miss my old studio on the 4th floor, and the new one has no window, is smaller and doesn't thrill me, but I'll make do and hope next year I'll get a great studio with a window again. The main thing I am excited about is painting again and pushing forward and in some familiar ways and new ways as well---which is what the master program is all about. I only have two classes, a writing class and a drawing class so I should have plenty of painting time, I decided to forgo auditing any classes and just give myself as much studio time as possible. The MFA is only 2 years and I know it will go by FAST!

Some of the MFA faculty which is headed by Dan Miller, an amazing artist and person who's been involved with the school since the early 40's.