Pencil Work

In my new studio I find myself increasingly drawn to pencil work. I hurt my hand with the rather manic sewing for Fairyland, so that is on hold until it heals. I am painting however, pain free , and when committed to the task, quite happy at it . But the pencil is what is calling me presently and most immediately and most pain free. These two drawings are my latest .

The Wanderer’s Tale

2019

Sanguine and colored pencil, white charcoal on toned paper

18 by 24 inches

Harvest Moon

2019

Sanguine and colored pencil, white charcoal on toned paper

18 by 24 inches

It is I think the immediacy of drawing , that and the ability to really noodle down with detailed fine line work that so appeals to me. Line is everything to me, and I think it is this instinctive preference that separates me from painters in general – for even with a brush in hand I feel as if I am drawing .

Tomorrow I head back to the easel, I have been working on preparatory drawings the last few days and now feel ready to put brush to canvas. But for now , calling it a night .

Some of those working drawings:

Fanciful Fonts for Fairyland

As I countdown to my Fairyland opening February 23rd I have been working on marketing projects . Postcard being my anachronistic focus . While social media invitations and digital marketing will be made by my publicist, I have a deep fondness for paper ephemera.

In designing the postcards I found I needed a font for the word Fairyland. The fonts that seemed vaguely suitable were of that whimsical nostalgic mid- century sort – the sort of things that make me cringe . The Black Forest , Olde World, “Gothick” fonts seemed silly and a bit too Renaissance Fair(e).

At a loss I then recalled my hero , the Victorian illustrator Richard Doyle who in 1870 had published his own Fairyland. I knew he had designed the cover himself, I have always admired that, his insistence upon visual continuity, in fact his Fairyland is in some ways an inspiration for my own . So with his example in mind , I decided to design one myself.

While Doyle’s is adorable and sweet and my own gnarled and encrusted, I feel kinship between the two.

(The bat being perfect .)

In researching fairies and fairyland themes , I turned to late 19th century sources which seemed obsessed with the theme . As this charming cover attests , even dour science could be sprinkled with fairy dust .

My own fairies aren’t as innocent perhaps but I think just as cute.

( note the tedious font )

In addition to Doyle’s wonderful art , work that I’ve enjoyed since boyhood, another childish delight has been the illustrations of the D’Aulaires. Frequently whimsical but never silly their book art has long been a favorites day an inspiration . Their Trolls had particularly enchanting title font , it is a wonderful book , full of creepy , funny , stupid , hilarious trolls ( and comely humans ).

The inspiration has been broad and wide , from medieval illumination, to Victorian book art; I’ve had much to admire . In the end I’m satisfied with my own lettering , I may either have it translated into vinyl lettering or if time allows paint it directly upon the gallery walls myself .

With that , welcome to Fairyland.

GDPR

Official dull, boring, seemingly obligatory, keep-the-evil-gods-at-bay announcement:

 

As you probably already know, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect  25 May 2018. The new regulations are such that your personal data can only be used with your consent. Here at Boondocks Babylon, the safety and privacy of your information is paramount. If you enjoy receiving my updates and announcements, no further actions are necessary.

 

Should you wish to stop receiving notifications , please email me at neobaroque@mac.com (or I would think , just unfollow me). This is all far above my head, I am a painter, this stuff, all a bit daunting .

 I do however appreciate your continued interest, it flabbergasts me that anyone finds it interesting. So thank you.

Sincerely,

Leonard Greco

Memorial Day 2018

Los Angeles

Cloistertime

I’ve been spending much of this year sequestered in my studio , focusing upon work at hand and engaging with the actual world far less . My desire to work has compromised my ability to attend openings, pay studio visits , basic human time . I have ambivalent regret about that , but the time spent at the cloister of my making is so fleeting , my life so short that I feel compelled.

Although I spend less and less actual time with friends , many talented and exciting artists, company I treasure I do stay engaged, at least superficially. Social media keeps me in the proverbial loop , for that I am grateful .

Work in progress : The Herakles Tapestry

And through social media I am offered moments of reflection . I recently saw a post from an artist I admire very much and a dear friend , this post was hash tagged with “#f@ckoverthinking” ( without my censor ; it increasingly seems the “f” word is the go-to descriptor for almost anything : “f-ing brilliant “, “f-ing amazing “, etc. ).

This admonition to not overthink one’s process and by extension work , inspired thinking about my own process and the work itself . The taste for seemingly spontaneous, emotive work , where the process is an existential eruption feeds a narrative very much in fashion . Hollywood for decades has promoted the mythology of a feverish genius , blind with passion , communicating madly with their unrelenting muse ( the new film concerning Picasso has a cover image that depicts this archetype very well – handsome , paint , bespecked , exhausted ).

I confess my studio time has never been a cardio workout . In fact , contrary to my friends admonition to “f” overthinking, I think a great deal . I think, I write , I connect the dots . And while my work isn’t aesthetically feverish , it is dense with layers , perhaps too many , I don’t know for I am too close to the process . But it is the work I find interesting , the work I want to look at and the work I want to bring into the world .

I’ve never been interested in work that doesn’t call me back for another visit . That makes too direct a point . The works I most admire puzzle me , tease me with elusive symbols , require my attention . Directness is not my nature , not in life , or conversation, or even in my writing ; I am furtive , and in my studio work I would rather slip in a sly informed allegory than confront an issue directly . A flourish of meaning easily overlooked.

But I do think my approach is at odds with contemporary expectations of what art is or should be ( my calling my work “art” is an indulgence I allow myself when speaking of it , generally I refer to it as “stuff I make ” ). Street art has in a great way set this expectation : deft, ecstatic , exuberant, and most importantly, accessible. Marx would have been pleased.

My own work tends to be more obscure, more measured , the process at times almost plodding , but a joyous plodding , because the dedication to minute brushstrokes, to innumerable pencil markings or whip stitches is not unlike a prayer .

I had a wise teacher , a Russian iconographer , who insisted that every brush stroke when painting (an icon) is a prayer of gratitude. This deliberate , exacting mindfulness, the antipode to “overthinking” , is what I seek in my cloister .

Which is where I will spend my day . Have a great one .

(I am inspired by medieval illumination, , the measured , concise focus upon marginalia . This ornamental border , my take on Marginalia, is on a much larger scale , but when finished will, I hope, convey the same spirit . I’m looking to go larger and also to employ fiber art.)

Alien Nation

We spent part of the day yesterday at a local privately own art museum, the Marciano Art Foundation. Housed in a handsome former Masonic Temple . This mid century structure , while lacking the patrician dignity of east coast temples ( such as the mind blowing Philadelphia pile ), nonetheless was very impressive in its day and currently, in its reincarnation, still is .

Happily the Marciano Foundation is conscientious in tending to the dignity of the facade .

The interior , much gutted , houses a permanent immersive work as shown in the video above in what was a spectacular auditorium and rotating collections of well known and lesser known contemporary artists in the striking gallery floors above . A noble mission . All free of charge. Quite admirable , all in the spirit of Carnegie .

Yet with this abundance, I was overcome with a sense of isolation, one that I frequently feel whenever in the presence of what is deemed important art . Be it the Museum of Contemporary Art , Hauser&Wirth or the well regarded Hammer – all must-sees when visiting Los Angeles , I feel a sense of desolation . What I experience on a deep visceral level is an abiding sense of alienation.

I see enthusiastic crowds gathering about , snapping images ( not all selfies thankfully) and having earnest and sincere conversation about work that leaves me so listless that I cannot muster the strength to open the camera on my phone .

What on earth am I missing ?

So much of what is seen as exciting and needing to be discussed at great length has me skeedaddling out of the handsome , well appointed galleries at a rapid pace . So much of the work, of cantilevered plates of glass, of copious amounts of asphaltum, of precise geometric composition, works demanding the focus of a mathematical equations , these works leave me wondering , if such works were my introduction to art , would I have ever picked up a pencil ?

Luckily , as a boy , my first art crush , was found in the teeniest reproduction of Greek vase paintings – from there I grabbed a pencil .

From much of the work I see at respectable temples to art , I fail to grasp the spirit of the maker , of the object . I read the theory , witness the sincere discussion concerning the work , I ponder , question , reflect , yet comprehension is as elusive as proving the existence of an almighty .

It isn’t at all fair to pick on the Marciano Art Foundation, and that isn’t my intention . In fact , I am sure at some point I will return for some exhibition of interest .

But the greater issue for me is of existential disconnect. I have many contemporary artists whose work I know and love ( a few I have even met ) but they all offer a piece of their heart . Perhaps that sacrifice is what I desire , and wish to offer myself . The presence of heart wasn’t apparent to me yesterday.

 

In the end , I did enjoy my visit to the Marciano , the staff was so pleasant, plentiful and eager to chat, the interiors handsome and spare and the Masonic history thoughtfully preserved . In fact the Masonic costumes were of particular interest .

The exterior of the former temple still retains its beautiful mosaic murals by the fantastic Millard Sheets and the striking monumental architectural sculptures narrate Masonic lore as plainly as a medieval stained window .

In closing, my intention isn’t to bemoan the contemporary world, that would be futile and ineffective, my intention is to recognize my disconnect, the why of it , and to find a place in it . An attachment to a romantic past is fruitless , but thoughtful conversation across time , that is what I seek . My alienation frequently stems from not grasping my present society,this alien nation .