Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Doing the Lord's work. Day 2.

Not too much to say about today's adventure....the hours fly by while I'm concentrating. I'm hoping all the scaffolding climbing will replace my workouts for the week. It's a long drive out to the church so by the time I get home it's late and there ain't no way I'm gonna workout then. 

I added a significant amount of detail and began working on the sky around the figure. I'm still not 100% happy with the look on his face. That will be a big part of my work tomorrow.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Doing the Lord's work. Day 1

I am fortunate this week to be working on a fun commercial project in beautiful Thonotosassa, FL. It's a bit of a trek to get there but I don't mind. I'm painting the Risen Christ for a newly built church. Apparently the building project has been quite arduous and now that they are in the final stages I'm happy to be putting the icing on the cake.

Two other artists were assigned for different sections of the church, specifically the dome ceilings. I think I lost the earlier bid because of my pricing but I am happy to be painting the part I am. I spent Sunday getting the image drawn up there. It's pretty high up. Today was the first day of painting.

Not too bad for one day's progress. Tomorrow I plan on working late so I'm sure I'll get a lot more done. At this point in this Jesus Christ mural I've put in the broad strokes and blocked in some of the major values. The finished design has beams of holy light radiating from the halo. Out of all the pictures we found for models I liked this one the best. We made a few changes to personalize it but in essence it's the same design. I'm excited to see tomorrow's progress. Wish me luck. ;-)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Pride and Joy?

Around this time last year I was putting the finishing touches on one of my most challenging pieces ever. What was so daunting about this particular painting? Nothing extraordinary, technically speaking. The Sisyphean stone I was shoving up the hill was my total non-interest in the subject matter. In short....I don't like Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

Nope. Not at all. I know he's a genius in the eyes and ears of many devoted fans. Generations of music lovers absolutely LOVE him. And I get it. He had a certain je ne sais quoi that continues to stoke the fires in the hearts of millions. But when I hear his songs it leaves me feeling flatter than Olive Oil's ass. 

Jimi Hendrix, however, is firmly ensconced in my inner pantheon of rock gods. His music makes my soul boil over. If you don't feel a jolt of lightning when listening to the opening riff of "Voodoo Chile" then you are simply dead inside. You might as well cash in those proverbial chips and get ready for a long dirt nap in Sunny Gardens. Game over, zombie. Jimi's music radiates the transcendent sexuality and raw power that made rock n' roll the revolutionary maelstrom that it was. He was a bridge between the elegant and primitive, raw and refined, ancient and modern. 

So why do I mention the groovetastic Jimi in the same breath as (in my mind) mediocre minstrel Stevie Ray? Because they belong together. Well, in my friends' house they do. You see in 2006 or so I sold this Jimi Hendrix piece to a fantastic couple in Ft. Meyers. They are the type of patrons that every artist delights in--enthusiastic, passionate, soulful and ardent supporters of the arts. It doesn't get any better than these folks. The wife simply flew over the moon when she saw the Jimi portrait and had to have it. I was giddy and glad to deliver Mr. Hendrix to his new home. 

The transaction was so energizing and positive that I immediately agreed to a companion piece they soon requested. Who else were these lovely people enamored of? Lil' ol' Stevie Ray. I admitted that I didn't really know much about the man but I promised to do a good job. And I keep my promises. 

Now this created quite the artistic conundrum for me. I had to loosen up and not take my portrait of Jimi so seriously while I was creating it. It was difficult to relax and let the process happen. I really wanted it to be great. That passion and desire is great for the spark and drive in the beginning but, like any relationship, too much can be smothering. There is an art to stepping back and taking yourself out of the picture. Getting the right perspective, both literally and figuratively, is crucial to painting of all types. Fortunately for me a tight deadline for a show and a few well-timed Coronas snapped me out of my analysis paralysis. 

For Stevie Ray I had to go in the other direction. I had to tighten my focus. Look for the gold. Listen for the magic notes. It was like trying to enjoy a food you genuinely don't like but not wanting to insult the host you try to enjoy it. I learned a lot about the man in the process and came to respect him. I even enjoyed looking at his photos. He had a unique look about him.

Ultimately what delivered me to the end of the race was my love for my clients. I wanted them to have the best possible work that I could make. I pictured them ecstatically embracing this new painting. I relished the idea of them proudly displaying their duo of rock gods in their home. That was all it took. 

In the end it came out pretty well in my opinion. My friend literally cried when she saw it. That was an amazing reward. Even more rewarding was the lesson I learned. How to see art as an act of giving instead of an act of ego. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Wizard of Blog!

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu. Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

Have you ever marveled at all the projects you've started but haven't completed? I certainly have. Learning Spanish, workout regimes, plans to travel, etc. I have an exquisite hand-made guitar that I've owned since 2006. I've never learned to play it. I have 3 different "teach yourself to play guitar" DVDs. I even have a cornucopia of instructional manuals to start with the basic chords. What I don't have is a surplus of time. So, for now I'll nickname my guitar "Dusty" and move on. Soon, Dusty, soon....

 "Soon". That seems to be the mantra for most of our aspirations in life. I think some would disparage this notion but I, for one, celebrate it. I like that our minds and wills sort of branch off like wild blooms on a rose bush. Not every flower gets the right amount of sun (attention) and so growth can be slow. Some plans never blossom and I don't think that's such a terrible thing. I admire people who maintain a single-minded focus throughout life. But I also feel they lack a certain childlike freshness that keeps the heart and mind darting around like a hummingbird.

I often hear people contemplate projects but never begin because they don't think their endeavors will ever bear fruit. This is completely understandable. Why waste time spinning one's wheels? A blog is a perfect modern example of this phenomenon. I resisted starting a blog, read about blogging once I realized it was necessary for business, started this blog with enthusiasm and then, like most bloggers, completely fell off the track. I just simply couldn't get excited to write about my business. It's like being a mechanic slogging his way through a tough, greasy day and then coming home to write about it. I realize many people find the arts world very interesting but I just couldn't seem to get the ball rolling.

 I labored over a million decisions: Should I write only about my business or include my real passions? Should I keep it professional or personal? Should I write like I speak (aka filthy Irish cussing) or keep it bland and accessible to everyone? You get the idea. It's really daunting to consider all these options. I think that's what keeps most people from beginning. Where to begin!?

 Fortunately, I read "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" many times when I was a teenager so I know that sometimes you must reboot your brain and start with fresh eyes. Brimming with new resolve I've decided to add a little sunshine to my blog project and formulate a real plan to turn blogging into a daily practice. I was inspired by listening to my beloved Adam Carolla, a self-described illiterate, explain how he has been able to write two bestselling books in spite of his busy schedule. His solution? Chip away, day by day. "Don't plan for marathon writing sessions" he advises. "Just keep sneaking in a few hours whenever you can and eventually you will be surprised how much you've gotten done." (paraphrasing here).

 The sticky widget though has been to build momentum. For that to happen I had to reassess my goal and figure out a real way to do it. Here's my plan in 3 simple steps:

 1. Start small: The goal is to get the habit of writing and contributing to the blogosphere regularly instead of sporadically. Like a new exercise routine the key to maintaining it is to start with reasonable expectations and allow the groove to happen. Just show up. A paragraph and a picture a day. I can do that. I suspect the rest will grow from there.

  2. Commit: Woody Allen once famously said "80% of success is showing up". Easy enough. I can keep myself accountable by recording each time I comply with my plan...a gold star on the calendar oughta do it. They magic key here is to commit to something do-able. So, a paragraph and a picture a day it is. It will probably be a bit of a mess at first. So be it. Better to get in the game and look like an idiot than preen on the sidelines.

 3. Prepare: Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance! This is the secret to success in almost everything. Instead of showing up slightly caffeinated and hoping for the best I will prepare an ever-growing list of things to write about. This step was crucial for me to get the fire stoked. It was easier than I thought it would be. Once I started making a list I realized I have plenty to ramble on about--even about my business.

So, the game is afoot. Step one is complete....take a step. Now for step two.....