Little Creatures of Love

Rat Love & Chameleon Love • 2016 • 6" x 6"

Rat Love & Chameleon Love • 2016 • 6″ x 6″

I created a few new illustrations for the upcoming Psycho Donuts Evol | Love show & sale. It’s a love (or not) theme, and since I felt like drawing animals, I thought I’d focus on animals that can be a bit misunderstood but are lovely pets.

I’ve had a few rats as pets and they can be quite sweet. When I was drawing this I also thought of the Church Mice series from Graham Oakley, a children’s book series I always loved for its detailed crowd scenes of dozens of happy, confused, curious, afraid, and feuding mice in the middle of some conundrum (together with the sole cat willing to be around them).

I’ve never had a chameleon as a pet, but if I were to get a reptile again that would be my next choice. The color-changing is interesting, but the independently-moving eyes and the five-toes-fused-into-two are endlessly fascinating. They also don’t move very fast and seem to have a gentle disposition – something I can’t say for other attempts at reptile pets. Since they’re cold-blooded I gave this guy a little blue heart.

Rat Love detail (watercolor, ink, acrylic)

Rat Love detail (watercolor, ink, acrylic)

Chameleon Love detail (watercolor, ink, acrylic)

Chameleon Love detail (watercolor, ink, acrylic)

Me, My Purse, and I

Me, My Purse, and I

Me, My Purse, and I • 13.5″ x 13.5″ • 2016

Super Bowl 50 is upon us in the Bay Area, and one of the teams is staying at a hotel just down the street from the Works/San José gallery. I created this piece for their upcoming show titled SUPER Hunger Anti-Valentine BOWL Games Part 50. The call for entries encouraged “commenting on sport and the season” so I took more of an editorial approach to this one. 

I like to watch football with friends, especially when they’re involved in fantasy football due to the constant shifting of allegiances and opinions about particular games. While there’s plenty to criticize about the sport, the topic I kept coming back to is the recently updated bag regulations for NFL stadium events. It bothers me because it uses an inconsistently-applied logic about security, and in a spot of doublespeak, promotes its awkward guidelines as a “convenience”.

The story

Public events typically have guidelines about what can and cannot be brought in from the outside. In 2013 the NFL released an updated set of guidelines about how items can be brought in. These guidelines are a puzzling mix of size, visibility, and brand restrictions. A bag must be transparent unless it’s as small as one’s hand…and a transparent bag cannot show any logo expect club and NFL official logos.

These restrictions limit bags only. They do not limit carrying items in jackets, cargo shorts, or other pockets. Most people do not wear pocket-laden clothing in daily wear, and the trend in women’s clothing is to have shallow pockets (2-3” deep) or no pockets at all. In practice, these guidelines primarily impact women (purses) and parents (diaper bags).

It’s disheartening that female fans are singled out to change their behavior and appearance for the sake of seeing a live football game. It is insulting to imply that this is safer or more convenient for anyone. The only convenience here is the convenient side effect of selling more NFL-approved merchandise

Is your bag (or wallet? or phone?) smaller than your hand? If not, would be comfortable carrying your possessions in a clear plastic bag for everyone to see? Before attending a live football game you now should read up on how to stay safe on gameday given the new guidelines. Or these amusing ways to beat the bag ban. Funny how none of this is an issue for hockey, or soccer, or other organized sports.

Symbolism

The middle area shows the smaller-than-your-hand bag criteria in real size. There is a mirror inset here to reflect on how purses are a part of one’s identity. This size is far smaller than a standard purse – so to belong, you must conform to the right size.

The large dotted area is the 12″x12″ transparent bag maximum. Since anything you’ve got in there is free to be seen, I covered the area in eyes. There are 32 eyes, to be precise: a woman’s eye to represent each of the 32 NFL teams. They are (roughly) laid out in the cardinal directions to reflect the AFC/NFC team divisions, and each one reflects each team’s colors.

Purses are normal. These foolish guidelines treat them as uniquely threatening, and they reflect poorly on the NFL’s attitude towards its own fans.

Over the Shoulder

Over the Shoulder

Over the Shoulder • 30″ x 20″ • 2015

This one’s another commission from my friend Kevin. Merry Christmas Allie!

I worked from an Instagram photo of her two cats before a windowsill. The layout was the first challenge. Since the original photo was square, I mocked up a few options in landscapes and portrait orientations. This landscape option gave it a little more room to breathe, and is closer to what an observer would see. I made some small adjustments to the composition to remove a few ambiguous objects (between the cats, and on the far right), add a little more separation between the cats for a better silhouette, and scooted the vase over a bit.

The second challenge was getting an accurate sketch of the perspective. Between the windowsills and the blinds, I spent a little extra time on the sketch to be sure I got it right. This painting is a bit larger than I usually work so I used my massive T-square (3 feet long) to make the sketch. It’s so big I often only use it for mat cutting…or retrieving things that have rolled away under furniture. Nice to use it for its intended purpose!

Since the lighting is so bright, I used a few additional reference photos of the cats to get the colors right. They have a light tan undercoat with grayish stripes. The stippling texture I’ll often use in details worked out well here for their coloration. One of the most interesting parts to paint was the tabletop due to the window and vase reflections. I also enjoyed painting the cats, and in particular getting the ear positions right. They’re definitely listening here.

Original photo

Original photo

Initial sketch

Initial sketch

Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Adding blues

Adding blues

Green wash

Green wash

Adding reds

Adding reds

Blinds details

Blinds details

Cat lighting detail

Cat lighting detail

Blue cast

Blue cast

At the Paris Exhibition, 1900

At the Paris Exhibition, 1900

At the Paris Exhibition, 1900 • 14.25″ x 17.25″

This is based on a photo from an exhibition at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. It was assembled by W.E.B. DuBois “with the goal of demonstrating the progress and commemorating the lives of African Americans at the turn of the century.” I found this while browsing the collection at the Library of Congress. Her expression and outfit really stood out to me. Unfortunately there’s no name attached to it, so I don’t know who she is. I named this so it could either be interpreted as her being in the exhibition, or attending the exhibition. Maybe she did both!

I have some lovely mid-toned paper made with coffee, which is an excellent base for two-toned charcoal drawings. I start with the light colors first so they’ll stay crisp and are less likely to get muddied by black charcoal smears. It’s easy to add black charcoal; it’s nearly impossible to add white charcoal after the fact.

In progress

In progress

Waiting & Watching

Waiting & Watching

Waiting & Watching • 11″ x 9″

This chunky wooden frame reminded me of the aesthetic of Bruegel’s earthy illustrations or Goya’s creatures. I felt a gargoyle would suit it, so I found this fellow for a start. I wanted to give it more of a body so after I drew the head I opted to draw its paws, clawed, to echo the fangs.

Once I started filling in more of the body, I thought it really needed something else to balance the picture. A bird! I found a reference photo with just the right expression: mostly clueless, but slightly wary. It was also a nice light touch against the darkness of the gargoyle.

I’ll leave it up to you as to which one is waiting and which one is watching.

Trilogy of Munchies

Breakfast Time!

Breakfast Time! • 8″ x 8″

Tea Time!

Tea Time! • 8″ x 8″

Snack Time!

Snack Time! • 8″ x 8″

I came across these frames and they reminded me of old-time kitchen appliances – well-worn, chipping a little, but perfectly functional. I decided they could use some tasty food to go along with them. These are ink & oil pastel illustrations. Enjoy!

Bathers I & II

Bathers I

Bathers I • 9.75” x 11.75”

Bathers II

Bathers II • 9.75” x 11.75”

I found a few frames with an art deco feel and decided to make a few illustrations to fit. The process on these was pretty simple: colored pencil outlines on watercolor paper, and the rest filled in with watercolors.

These reminded me of something you might find in a beach cottage, so I just went for the first thing that came to mind: turn-of-the-century bathers. I worked from the memory of Halloween costumes so the suits may not be entirely authentic. Cute though!

 

Edith O’Gorman and the Language of Flowers

Edith O' Gorman • 2015

Edith O’ Gorman • 10.5″ x 12.5″

I’ve been browsing the Library of Congress archives for interesting things to draw. This 19th century photo by Matthew Brady stood out to me because it was a woman (not too many in the set) with an interesting expression and an even more interesting description: “Edith O’Gorman. Escaped nun from Canada?”

She has a bit of infamy around her story. After serving in a nunnery in Canada, she published a book in 1913 called “The Trials and Persecutions of Miss Edith O’Gorman” detailing stories of terrible treatment. It looks like she spent the rest of her life traveling as a lecturer (adding to an anti-Catholic sentiment stirred up by the press at the time) and avoiding death threats. She appears to have changed her name a couple of times and embellished her Irish heritage a bit along the way. In my cursory research there’s quite the mix of true accounts vs sensationalism, but she clearly riled up people and made herself a prominent figure.

Rather than celebrate or demonize her, I opted to use a period-appropriate technique of representing what I imagine motivated her. The language of flowers was popular in the late 19th century/Victorian era as a discreet way to express feelings. I took a loose interpretation of this with the following:

  • Easter lilies, to represent the influence of her time at the convent
  • Chestnuts, with the meaning “do me justice”
  • Aloe vera, to represent grieving

I’ll definitely do more portraits in this style as I find interesting people in that era.

Taking a Statement

Taking a Statement • 2015, 12"x12"

Taking a Statement • 12″ x 12″ (two options for orientation shown)

I got a commission recently from an unexpected source. A few months ago I started posting close-up details of my paintings & drawings on Instagram and Tumblr. I figured it would be an interesting opportunity to show off the details you’d see if you could see it in person. One such post was a detail of Statement VII (the doctor): specifically, a close-up view of his hands jotting down notes. This caught the eye of our friends Kevin and Allison as they both work in writing/journalism and they inquired about a commission. I offered to change up details if they liked (different colors? new photo shoot in the same pose with one of them?) but they opted for a painting from the original photo.

The detail I posted on Instagram is about 3″x3″, and the new painting I created is 12″x12″. When I checked the original photo, I realized I’d skewed it a bit more warm/orange on the original painting. I liked some of the purple tones so I shifted a little bit back towards that for this version of it. I also pulled the crop back slightly to show cuff details for both hands.

While I was working on it, my friend Jeremy saw it and pointed out that it had a distinctly different feel to it when viewed from different angles. I often adjust the angle on reference photos for new paintings, but it never occurred to me to try that for this one. I rotated it a bunch of ways and decided that there were two that I felt looked best, so when I completed it I added hardware to allow it to hang two different ways: the original orientation, or turned 45 degrees for a diamond shape. I’m not sure which I prefer: I figure that can be a choice made based on where it’s going and what they’re in the mood to see.

Enjoy your painting, Kevin & Allie!

Detail from Statement VII

Detail from Statement VII

Starting sketch

Starting sketch

Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Blue washes

Blue washes

Pinks & purples

Pinks & purples

Lightening

Lightening

Adding more white

Adding more white

Warming it up

Warming it up

Edna and Barbara Have Coffee

Edna and Barbara Have Coffee • 12"x12" • 2015

Edna and Barbara Have Coffee • 12″x12″ • 2015

This was a leisurely-to-finish painting based on an old photo that I later realized didn’t quite have enough detail in it. I originally started this back in February with the hope of completing it for submission into an art show. The show was canceled so I shelved this for a while in favor of other projects. I’d only gotten as far as the burnt umber layer, and it’s been lurking incomplete around my art table for a while. I decided it was high time to finish this one.

I initially started running into the lack of detail while working on the (too pale) skintones. I considered keeping it pretty blocky as I liked how the clothing looked, but it just didn’t look right against the rest of it. So, when in doubt: more dots. While mixing grays from scratch I ended up with some nice purple tones so I shifted the color scheme towards that. I used a bit of crimson to offset a few muddy tones, and right at the end, toned down some of the detail around Edna (on the left) to add a little more perspective.

Initial Sketch

Initial Sketch

Yellow Ochre

Yellow Ochre

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Umber

Burnt Umber

Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine Blue

Pale Tones

Pale Tones

Purples

Purples

Tablecloth Details

Tablecloth Details

Warming It Up

Warming It Up

Final Details

Final Details