Monday, February 23, 2009

Before and After photo Reference

After I posted the last painting, there seemed to be some confusion as to whether I'd become an abstract expressionist, so I thought I'd post both the photo reference and the painting side by side so you can see what I'm up to.

I generalized some of the information, but i think the foreground rock in particular is pretty observant of the source material. These are meant to be portraits of specific rock formations from photos I've taken myself--I'm not sure how successful I've been, but that's the general aim.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two New Paintings

These are the first two of what I hope will be a series of rock and water themed watercolors.

I'm on the fence about this second one. I used guache for the sky, and went nuts trying to make this perfect, flat application. I'm not sure if the painting benefits by it. It's kind of dead.

These were painted with Chinese brush, ink, watercolor, guache and just a little acrylic. This is my first really serious attempt to do landscape painting. The landscape painters I'm probably most inspired by are Emile Nolde, Turner, and Hokusai. I was going to do this series in oil, but I wasn't getting the immediacy I wanted. It was too easy to overwork the painting, to paint over mistakes. Watercolor records everything. There's no faking it or fudging it, which is why I ended up painting the first painting about 3 times. I'm pretty happy with it now though. It has an unusually muscular look for watercolor which I hope to maintain throughout the series.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Shepard Fairey controversy: Aesthetics and the Law

My pal cartoonist Mark Martin (check out his Crazy Boss) recently sent me a link to this article:

to be found here.

I'm actually not a big fan of Shepard Fairey but did like the iconic quality of this image and am intrigued by the impact its had. I do remember wondering about this--where the original photo came from. I do think it's fair use.

The photo from which Fairey's image was taken was a widely circulated news photo. Fairey wasn't keeping this fact a secret.

The Rosie image that I based my image on is in public domain--anything without a copyright notice up to 1973 is in the public domain, and according to the admittedly not always reliable Wikipedia, Rosie falls under that category. But I think I should be able to make this kind of image even if it were copyrighted. Even though it's not a parody, I think it should fall under the same rules of protection. It's not an altered image, but a new work based on an existing image--it was turned into something else that's original and unique. There's no objective measure for what this means. It's totally aesthetic and based on criteria that can't be quantified. Where do you draw the line? That's the problem. It's hard to attach a logical rational legal definition to an aesthetic concept.

Obscenity laws present similar issues. The whole, what's art, what's prurient thing. A question that's totally rediculous to begin with--if the prurient appeal of a work is anathema, what's art and what aint just can't be determined by rational means. There's just no objective measure. Making art is a non-rational (not to be confused with irrational) activity, often done for rational reasons, but producing it and interpreting it is intuitive. Love, faith and aesthetics--rationality just doesn't apply.

Now if you appropriate an image and change it in a subtle way or appropriate an image outright for commercial gain, in my opinion, that shouldn't be allowed. If you duplicate a distinctive design and use it in a commercial context I don't think that should be allowed. I don't have any definitive criteria for this--it just seems morally wrong to me.

But then, on the other hand, I love that stuff like this exists:


And I think the world would be a poorer place if it didn't, and if the Indian versions of Superman and Batman didn't exist the world would be a poorer place, likewise some of the stuff on youtube that's derived from other sources, and an even poorer place if Indian knock-offs of AIDS drugs didn't exist--all stuff that could easily be said to fall under the laws of intellectual property.

Hustler magazine is art I don't care for as well, but I believe in its right to exist. I think child pornography shouldn't exist because I object to it morally and have no interest in it aesthetically, but not because it doesn't have aesthetic value. Aesthetics isn't a moral issue. What I mean by "value" is important to define here as well, because I mean value in the sense of a value ascribed to something--in the case of mathematics, in a rational sense: positive 5 has a positive value-- in the case of art, in an aesthetic sense which is completely non-rational and impossible to define logically. These values are not qualitative in a moral sense, but qualitative in a descriptive sense. This is not to say that it is "good" art, but that it is an aesthetic object,( even if just barely) rather than a purely utilitarian one. But then some people would argue that a hammer is an aesthetic object. So is art always something made, or can something become art just by the act of recognizing an aesthetic quality in the thing?

But that's a whole different issue.

Pence Show

The Pence bicycle show is up now, and will be up till the 15th. There will be a reception the evening of the 13th. The bicycle show is meant to celebrate the Amgen Tour of California as it makes its way through Davis. This is apparently a big deal, and Lance Armstrong will be in the race. I didn't know anything about Mr Armstrong until recently. What I've been able to gather is that he's won the Tour de France 6 times, and aside from having a really annoying website which is probably not his fault, he's a remarkable guy. He came back from a serious bout with cancer to win the Tour deFrance again, but I'm not sure which time that was.

The Pence will be selling my posters and prints. I have two pieces in the show.

I'm currently working on a new strip in collaboration with Tin Salmunic. I'm plotting, writing the dialogue and lettering, and he's doing everything else. At the age of 25, (he might be a little older by now, I'm not sure) he's done work for the likes of ESPN and Playboy and many others and teaches illustration in Virginia. he draws constantly as you will see if you check out his blog just about every other day. We're all of about 2 pages in, but Tin seems fired up about the strip and I'm optimistic about where we're headed with it.

Here's a sample page:

I set out the basic plot, plot a scene, Tin draws it, and then I put in the dialogue. It's a science fiction/humor sort of deal, nothing like what I've typically been involved in with comics. The feel is something between Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Phillip K. Dick, and possibly a Coen brothers movie. I'm making up a lot of it as I go along, which is both exciting and frightening.

Where's the art?

The art is still in progress. Because of recent responsibilities I've slowed down a little on my comics, but the new story will be up soon. I've also just started what I hope will be a new body of work, a series of landscape paintings with a rock and water theme. I'm working in acrylic and oil, so the style's a little different than what I've been doing before--it's probably closest to what I've done in watercolor, but more painterly, possibly less line oriented. I'll put some of that up soon as well.