That darn anchorite keeps following me around, this time not so much in the desert but in a lush, abundant landscape inspired by the German Romantic painter Jakob Phillip Hackert (1737-1807).
It wasn’t really my intention to once again return to Anthony and his desert travails, at least not yet (currently more immersed in fairylands, bogles, goblins and pixiefolk). But in my studio, kicking about and frankly in the way, was a practice landscape from a few years back. I’ve long admired German Romanticism, particularly the dramatic treatment of nature, most especially trees. In the hands of a master like Hackert, trees are major players, singular beings rich in personality. I had hoped to better understand how these landscapes/tree-scapes were constructed so I set about copying one of my favorites, Hackert’s Italian Landscape, 1778.
It was a gratifying experience, in no way was I able to match Hackert’s luminous original, but I did learn valuable lessons in light, perspective and composition.
But then I had a painting that I wasn’t very interested in, wasn’t original, wouldn’t/couldn’t show, not particularly “good” and yet frankly too sentimentally attached to to just chuck.
So I decided to make it my own by reworking it in my own way. I’ve seen artists self consciously take thrift store paintings (rather annoyingly, seems a bit stunt-ish), works they mockingly called kitsch, and adapt them to their generally ironic purposes. This sort of practice is close to being a kitsch cliche in its own right but it started the wheels turning .
I’m not an ironic artist, nor did I think my painting kitsch, although granted a rather poor copy, but I was excited to reimagine Hackert’s poetic composition, eager to populate his pretty world with my imps and daemons. In many ways old master Jakob acted (unwittingly) as my collaborator. This latest painting the happy result.
I hope he would have been pleased.
As my composition is visually dense in the Boschian/Bruegelian sense, details follow:
This is the Master’s take, as you can see it is quite lovely, my copy so paltry in comparison. The wisest path was re-spinning my inferior version in my own voice.
In the end I am pleased, I made room in storage, profited from past labors and have a new painting I like quite a bit.
In 1769 the Royal Academy first set about creating a space for showcasing new works of art, two hundred fifty two consecutive years of discovering, exhibiting and promoting contemporary art to the public. The Summer Exhibition is the longest open call opportunity for artists of all rank to present their vision to the Academy and to the world.
That is quite an impressive feat.
Through the centuries this progressive mission became associated with an institution that might have seemed stodgy and which one rebelled against. I’m guessing all that has changed , I really do not know but for a boy growing up in New Jersey the tales of Varnishing Day, the glamour of opening day, the imagined pithy comments from Oscar Wilde, all created a siren’s call impossible to resist.
I’ve dreamt of submitting for years (decades) but hadn’t the nerve. I still lack the nerve but this year I submitted anyway. It wasn’t an overnight decision. At my solo show last year I met a British couple enthusiastic about my work, amidst their welcomed flattery they pulled out their phones and showed me glimpses of the Summer Exhibition 2018 fantastically curated by Grayson Perry, encouraging me to submit my work for they felt it would be right at home. It was exhilarating this thought, feeling so out of place in Los Angeles, adrift in where to next turn, it seemed a dream; this Royal Academy was FAR from stodgy, far from my conceived notions of what “academic” art was. This was a magical place of wild color, classical architecture, and wall after overcrowded wall of diverse and distinct art just begging for attention. I was floored. This was an oasis, far removed from the frequently tedious , muted, reserved, overly-curated, predictable gallery exhibitions found here in surprisingly conservative , tight-laced and conventional Los Angeles.
When we visited London for the first time last summer the RA Summer Exhibition 2019 was a must-see. I had already toyed with the notion of submitting after having seen glimpses of the Perry show but heading into solemnly magnificent Burlington House, situated in glamorous Piccadilly, in the very heart of London, then finding inside these impressive walls an abundance of art, art of all sorts, a staggering diversity of material, style and approach, all this sealed the deal.I was immediately convinced that I must at least try.
The long anticipated open call was announced this week on Monday. I was prepared and at the gate: all work freshly documented; a revised, suitably Anglophilic artist statement self-consciously composed; measurements and prices converted to metric and pounds. I was ALMOST confident. Nervously I typed in all the necessary information, exhibition submissions are always harrowing for me, but because this was so personally important it was especially so. But I soldiered on, all in order, all checked, double and triple checked, and then just when I attempted to pay the entry fee (entry fee is due before you can submit) I hit a wall, an unmovable glowing , unyielding wall on my laptop screen.
ERROR, error, error, unable to process. I tried again and again, rechecking triple checking every entry information, David checked, my publicist checked, we resubmitted, shut down, rebooted, cleared cookies and caches (whatever the heck they are), different browsers, computers, laptops, I-phones all to know avail. I contacted the RA support, they responded but the suggestions made proved unfruitful. I despaired, over-reacted, overwrought and self-pitying I was convinced I of course wasn’t worthy to even submit to the RA. I was such a loser they wouldn’t even take my money. In my pathetic state, eager to have them like me I became a Friend of the Academy…something I wanted to do anyway, but felt , hey, they’ll see I’m not some obnoxious self absorbed American. All absurd of course, it was some glitch, my rational brain knew this but I possessed such desire to just submit that I became quite abject in my disappointment and despair. It was resolved of course, my subsequent, pitiful emails were returned , a helpful assistant recognized the problem immediately and the Error message miraculously disappeared. With the error corrected (my fault of course) all was well, the submission window hadn’t suddenly closed in twenty four hours as I had ridiculously obsessed over, fees were paid, all was processed, entered, and the submit button nervously pressed.
The glitch? I had spelled out “California” instead of the required CA…damn California.
If I was irrationally anxious about the submission, I was irrationally proud of myself for actually having completed the task. The work that follows is what I, in the end , decided upon submitting. Perhaps not the wisest choices or most prudent, for they are large and unwieldy , and if the heavens allow and I am ,on the slimmest chance, shortlisted, the work will need to be seen up close and personal. This will be enormously expensive, but let me tend to that when and if it must be tended to. For now I will bask in the glow of an overly inflated sense of accomplishment.
I will receive first round results mid March …wish me luck.
I will close with a happy memento from our visit last summer , my Herakles and that Farnese imposter.
In anticipation of 2020 and various upcoming submissions I decided it was time to have some newer work better documented- the I-phone is a wondrous tool but it has its limitations in my hands. The following images are the result of a recent photo shoot.
I had this piece, one I like quite a bit, professionally photographed during my Fairyland solo show , but the in-situ placement offers visual distractions that a time-pressed curator most likely hasn’t the time for.
The following was shot twice, but honestly I cannot tell the difference, Version I:
I recently self published my Fairyland ABC/Alphabetic Primer of Fairyland through Blurb, at first I was intimidated by the process, but in fact it was pretty straight forward, almost fun once my desktop was properly organized.
The link above allows for a preview of the book and direct purchase and shipping- just in time for the holidays! A perfect stocking stuffer ( that sounds a bit unchaste).
What started out as an extension of my daily drawing practice, my focusing upon the alphabet as inspiration ,quickly suggested itself to book format.This paperback edition is nearly true to size to that actual notebook (the private notations and wonky compositions attest to that day-to-day reality).
The following images are some of my personal favorites:
I last posted what I had then thought to be a finished drawing, one I was pleased with in many ways but still had a persistent nagging sense of dissatisfaction concerning its resolution. But given other studio obligations I decided to put is aside and move forward.
However, a dear friend and accomplished artist in her own right would have none of that. In a private message she let me know in no uncertain terms what specifically was lacking, the email contained a red-inked copy of the offending drawing .
I confess I was taken aback by this unsolicited critique, but given my respect for her, for her academic training and for her own admirable work, I put aside my embarrassment and instead picked up the pencil once again. I now believe the drawing to be complete…unless I receive another private message (smiley face).
I recently finished a drawing celebrating Samhain which has just passed . Inspired especially by Victorian fairy paintings ( particularly those luminous works of Richard Dadd), I wanted to evoke that liminal moment , with lanterns and bonfires lit when we find the boundary between this reality and that of the Otherworld a bit more easily trespassed . If one wants to cross over into Fairyland, Samhain ( and Beltain) is your opportunity ; easy passage can be found also for the spirited Dead who may wish to cross over into our realm for quick hello with the Quick.
I love this Celtic recognition of two realms , side by side , each with inhabitants leading an existence separate yet interconnected to one another . A natural acknowledgment of what seems to be so apparent – I have only to refer to my own fertile dreamscape to believe that two realms run side by side . But which is the “real ” one ?
Colored pencil with chalk highlights on toned paper
18 by 24 inches
One of the many traditions I find so enchanting about this Celtic celebration, is the historic practice of carving humble turnips into lanterns – far more charming I think than the more photogenic pumpkin .
I also wanted to capture the spirits of the Dead , utilizing one iconic image over and over – that of the winged skull found on countless headstones .
I particularly like the idea of the Dead finding escape through ruptures in the earth , cave entrances etc – here I employed the turnip , that modest root vegetable that pleases me so greatly .
And of course, the ubiquitous bat .
Mumming and costume play, another tradition that I take delight in and hope I captured just a bit .
I had hoped to have finished this drawing on Samhain proper , October 31st through November 1st- certainly a broad window . But it just wasn’t to be . Though diligent , I’m not a particularly speedy artist .
Perhaps next Beltain I will revisit the realm of the fairy and the pixie and actually meet the deadline . Until then …