100 Block mural in downtown San José

100 Block mural opening on March 1, 2019 • 300 South First St, San José

100 Block mural opening on March 1, 2019 • 300 South First St, San José

I recently painted a part of this epic mural project called 100 Block. Organized by The Exhibition District, this is a mural created by 100 different artists each painting a 3′ x 3′ square. Now that it’s complete, it’s being submitted for a Guinness World Record for “largest collaborative mural” (as in: most number of artists working together on a mural).

The call went out last May during which I made a small (12″ x 12″) painted concept. This is based on a photo I found in the Library of Congress of Mrs. Norris with homegrown cabbage (photographer: Russell Lee), a photo I’d found a little while ago while browsing the LoC archives. It reminds me a lot of the coastside and CA central coast, though finding out it was a photo of a victory garden was a neat little discovery too. Unfortunately the original mural location fell through, so I had no idea when (or if) this might happen.

It came back to life at the end of January once a new location was secured, and we started the elaborate process of alternating artist times so we could all do our parts. They provided everything including the scaffolding, tape, paint, and brushes thanks to many excellent sponsors. I was a little nervous about both the texture of the wall (very bumpy) and getting the right color mixes since they weren’t my paints. So: I ended up blocking out the main shapes very quickly, and each area probably went through 2-3 rounds to get the colors right. The lighting also shifted a lot during the day from dark clouds to bright sun, so I’m glad it came out as balanced as it did.

The timing ended up being extra complex due to the weather. More than half of the original artist days to paint were rained out, so we had a lot of reschedules. It was completed in time for the First Friday artwalk, though, and it looks great!

A few mentions in local news:
Artists Collaborate to Create Possible Guinness World Record Mural In Downtown San José (NBC Bay Area, Feb. 27, 2019)
Massive Mural Project Underway In Downtown San José (San José Mercury News, Feb. 20, 2019)

Victory! • 3' x 3'

Victory! • 3′ x 3′

Source image from LoC

Source image from LoC

Painted concept (12" x 12")

Painted concept (12″ x 12″)

Paper cups & donated paint

Paper cups & donated paint

Squeezing between scaffolds

Squeezing between scaffolds

Color blocking

Color blocking

Details (and cloudy)

Details (and cloudy)

 

Pale

Pale • 8" x 8"

Pale • 8″ x 8″

This was a quick piece done for an exhibit at Works/San José show, Unity In Diversity. This theme relates to a graphic design project by San Jose State BFA student Javier Yep in 2017 that included a “unity in diversity” flag. This particular call asked for self-portraits and biographical work.

While I’ve used myself in a model in some works, that’s not usually my first choice. I don’t find self-portraits an especially effective path for introspection for me; I am comfortable enough in my own head and processing the visual layer is extra noise. I’m white, and see enough people that look like me in art. And I’m a white woman, and white women in particular are overrepresented as art subjects. Yet they are also underrepresented as artists themselves – so I’ll do self-portraits mostly for the sake of participation in shows when that’s the focus.

I thought about a show of portraits and figured a little variety would help (doesn’t need to be a sea of heads), so I used a part of me I see all the time: my hand. I’ve painted a lot of hands this last year so it feels very familiar now. I picked my non-dominant hand for ease of sketching. I used a limited, saturated palette to emphasize the colloquial description of “white”, and also to emphasize my alarmingly aqua veins. That also led to some spiffy two-gel-light looking edge detail that gives it a nice ’80’s vibe too.

The squares behind it are a pixelly/patchwork representation of the range of tones of my “whiteness”, which on reflection, became a study of body weirdness. I think of pink because I burn easily and have a little rosacea. I think of brown because I get a touch of melasma from sun now. I think of a light blueish on my palm at the base of my thumb. I think of a disturbingly cream color when my toes go numb when it’s cold. It ends up being a survey of details to contrast with the reductiveness of the style of the hand. That, or it simply looks pleasant; really, it’s both.

A trio of chicken portraits

Chicken portrait trio • 8" x 10" each

Chicken portrait trio • 8″ x 10″ each

I enjoy painting portraits of pets, and my latest commission was especially fun: pet chickens! I had a good baseline about how chickens look and act from having an occasional pet chicken (or chickens) while growing up.

Even though I may only end up working with one reference image, it helps to see a few different ones to get a sense of their personalities. That also give me more options to find which ones will look best as portraits. Additional references always help too. I ended up shifted them around a little bit – adjusting their heads and necks – to get a consistent size and approach for all three. I mocked up a few different approaches for colors and name labels, and what you see here is the winner.

I use my traditional color layering technique here: starting with the warms tones and then layering in the real colors. Since each chicken had distinctly different colors, I put each on a vignette-style background tinted with a color similar to them. The highlights are often the most satisfying parts to paint, and I enjoyed the eyes and combs especially.

Side note: working with oval canvases is surprisingly tricky for alignment. Canvas has its own tooth and angles, and I got led astray by it a few times while sketching these out. It’s oddly challenging to set an oval upright, especially when there’s a pattern pulling in another direction. They look lovely, though – worth it!

Initial pencil sketches

Initial pencil sketches

Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Layers of color

Layers of color

Ginny

Ginny

Hermione

Hermione

Luna

Luna

Shimmer

Shimmer • 12" x 12"

Shimmer • 12″ x 12″

Continuing the tradition of creating new works to donate to the annual Works/San José benefit auction (see 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014) – here’s one that echoes some of the artful cropping of the Statement paintings but with a new subject matter. The translucency of the tail and the shine on the scales caught my eye most, and I decided to make those the focus of this painting. Check out the auction details here – silent auction completes on Saturday December 8th!

I started this one off at a Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery, and painted a portion of it during Street MRKT (an outdoor evening event) which lead to some interesting color choices due to the yellow street lights. The background on my reference photo was very busy so I tried out a bokeh-style blurring. This may be my go-to technique now: small dots to soften edges, big dots to obscure details.

Sketch first

Sketch first

Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Outgrowth I

Outgrowth I • 12" x 24"

Outgrowth I • 12″ x 24″

I haven’t done many abstract works so this is a bit of an exploration for me. This is a painting I started a while ago – 2004 – and put on pause while I debated what to do with it. I got inspired to pick it up again and figure out what else it needed. It had the structure I wanted with the teal background and branching green shape. It was just a tad…sparse.

I decided it needed to propagate in two ways:

  • in a generative way, like an algorithm riffing on a repeating pattern
  • in a natural way, like the blooming of spores or moss

That guided the color and details choices I made to fill this in. I’d like to try more in this style so in the spirit of that I’ve given this a number. May it be the first in a series!

Earlier in the process: the "pause"

Earlier in the process: the “pause”

“10th Annual 50|50 Show” at Sanchez Art Center

For 50 days through June and July, I painted a series of gesture paintings. I enlisted 24 models (plus me, for one of these) for variety…and also to involve friends, family, and co-workers along the way,

Here are all fifty gestures. They’re each 6″ x 6″, and will be available at Sanchez Art Center on a first-come first-serve basis during the show. Go check it out!

Clap

Clap

Love

Love

Cupped

Cupped

Shaka

Shaka

Air Quotes

Air Quotes

So-So

So-So

Horns

Horns

Two-Finger Point

Two-Finger Point

Thumbs Up

Thumbs Up

Dog Puppet

Dog Puppet

Ballet

Ballet

Interleaved Thumbs Up

Interleaved Thumbs Up

Fingers Crossed

Fingers Crossed

Swoop

Swoop

Family

Family

Headpinch

Headpinch

Hidden

Hidden

Secret

Secret

Little Bit

Little Bit

Lizardhead

Lizardhead

Dance

Dance

Folded

Folded

Two Finger Guns

Two Finger Guns

Peace

Peace

Flight

Flight

Live Long & Prosper

Live Long & Prosper

Knuckles

Knuckles

Bird Puppet

Bird Puppet

Crawler

Crawler

Doghead

Doghead

Itsy Bitsy

Itsy Bitsy

Claws

Claws

Interleaved

Interleaved

Two Thumbs Up

Two Thumbs Up

Pledge

Pledge

Interleaved Point

Interleaved Point

Mockingjay

Mockingjay

Rock

Rock

Paper

Paper

Scissors

Scissors

Walking Fingers

Walking Fingers

You

You

Excellent

Excellent

Fistbump

Fistbump

Fistpunch

Fistpunch

Stop

Stop

Thumb Trick

Thumb Trick

Rabbit

Rabbit

More

More

Heart

Heart

Never Gonna Give You Up

Never Gonna Give You Up triptych • 8" x 8" each (x3)

Never Gonna Give You Up triptych • 8″ x 8″ each (x3)

Here’s a triptych of paintings I created based on the theme of the 2018 Works/San José member show: Infinite Memes. When I saw the theme I immediately thought of rickrolling and wanted to create something based on that.

I re-watched the video and couldn’t decide which look I wanted to show, so I picked three. I figured that had the highest likelihood of someone recognizing what they are in case they mostly remember one (for me it’s the black mock turtleneck and tan trenchcoat). These also gave the feel of the little back-and-forth dance he’s doing during the video.

I’ve done a number of paintings from less-than-ideal and low-res photos, and I like the challenge of extracting something painterly and interesting from them. These were screenshots from YouTube. While I wanted to preserve the look of each setting, I chose a limited color palette to unify them. I liked how the dark slate gray looked on it’s own so I left it flat, in contrast to the detail on the rest of the painting.

Never Gonna Give You Up I • 8" x 8"

Never Gonna Give You Up I • 8″ x 8″

Never Gonna Give You Up II • 8" x 8"

Never Gonna Give You Up II • 8″ x 8″

Never Gonna Give You Up III • 8" x 8"

Never Gonna Give You Up III • 8″ x 8″

Self-Portrait with Untapped

Self Portrait with Untapped • 8" x 8"

Self Portrait with Untapped • 8″ x 8″

I created this sketch for a self-portrait show at the Art NXT Level / 33 Contemporary Gallery space in Chicago. This opportunity popped up in the middle of my 50|50 efforts and I was feeling a bit overloaded with painting – hence the ink.

This is the first time I’ve drawn on mat board, which is usually used for framing. As a drawing surface it’s much “thirstier” than I expected. It absorbs ink pretty quickly and can get saturated easily so it starts degrading the paper itself. The texture also catches the ink in ways that can be unexpected. Tricky!

I started this during Caltrain commutes to the city to force myself to keep it loose and not get too precious about the lines. The art in the bottom is a pointillism rendering of one of my paintings, Untapped (which itself references the Mona Lisa).

50|50 Sneak Peek

Since May I’ve dived headlong into a few projects: showing at ZeroONE (an art fair/street market), prepping for (and now waiting on) the 100 Block mural project, and ramping up for the 10th Annual 50|50 show at Sanchez Art Center. Here’s a few work-in-progress pics of my theme, gestures. 50|50 is a little different as a show because it’s a benefit and is cash-and-carry – which means all works are available for purchase and can be taken home immediately.

There will only be one chance to see them all together: the opening night of August 31st, 2018. The first two hours are a preview fundraiser benefit for Sanchez Art Center (tickets for sale on Eventbrite – they often sell out!) and then it’s open to the public for the rest of the evening. I’ve been posting them in batches of 5 on the various social networks, and will post the full set in early August or so.

Stack of 50 boards

Stack of 50 boards

The first 10 paintings

The first 10 paintings

Boondocks Triptych

Boondocks Triptych • 23" x 13"

Boondocks Triptych • 23″ x 13″

While thinking about new art to make for a comic-themed show (“Ripped from the Strips” at Psycho Donuts), I remembered The Boondocks. It ran from 1996-2006, originally on Hitlist.com and The Source before it got picked up by national newspapers in ’99 when I discovered it. It was political enough that some papers would relegate it, Doonesbury-style, to the Opinion page. I enjoyed the comic and most of its animated incarnation. However, the cartoon shifted in tone from the comic quite a bit…enough that creator Aaron McGruder eventually cut ties with it. The opening theme song by Asheru still gets stuck in my head though.

I figured if the comic were going today, Huey and Riley would be Black Panther fans so they’re doing the Wakanda salute here…or trying to. After I inked it I realized I reversed it on Riley, which is incorrect. It kinda makes sense that Huey would get it right and Riley’s being a punk about it, though. Maybe he just wasn’t paying close attention to the form and would get pissed off if you pointed it out. Or it might actually be a partially-completed “up yours” gesture. Either intent works! I couldn’t bring myself to draw Granddad as anything but grumpy; he’s not pleased to be here.