Gypsy Cab

I finally can post this painting. It was challenging in a lot of aspects... For me it was one of those images that tests my will to leave things as they are. It is soooo hard for me to not overwork something... I guess the urge to "finish" areas or arrive at detail has to do with the way I was taught, or even more so, it's the weight of traditional figurative painting. But I've come to understand, (in my particular process, I wouldn't want to generalize) that I absolutely love when things just work as they are. And I guess I use that word, "work", because I truly believe that every single element in a painting has a purpose. Every single inch of that image has to work in tandem to help communicate something more emphatically. The famous Duran quote always struck me as one of those things that is at the core of image-making - "En art tout ce qui n'est pas indispensable est nuisible" (In art, all that is not indispensable is unnecessary).


I truly feel that this painting is helping me get on the "right" track... at least MY right track. I've always loved the idea that bigger paintings should look like blown up sketches, and even though my work looks nothing like what I envision (that is our curse after all), that's the path I want to follow. I think that this painting in particular is full of little moments that are just what the painting itself needed. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound presumptuous... I'm not sure if it's my best painting (who the hell am i to say what, if any, is my best effort), and I'm clearly not stating that it's a flawless image... I'm just saying that it's one of those images that I'm grateful for because I needed it. I just had to paint it and solve it in this particular manner because it meant that I was making a conscious decision to follow something. That "something" is probably different for everyone but in my case, it meant not touching things that I loved, even though every ounce in my body begged me to keep painting on top.

I've also been working on a bunch of portraits, together with some other bigger paintings. Here´s a pic of a painting that is currently more resolved but I have this older shot at the moment.  I had done a previous Tim Burton one, and this one is Tim Burton revisited. Stripes = Tim Burton... that's how advanced my brain is... I started painting this after I bought (always buy, don't download or copy artist videos) the Michael Klein video. I wanted to see how much I could work in the same manner, without sacrificing my ways, and I think he paints beautifully, and I'm very glad he does because I can't for the life of me paint that way. Wonderful video, get it. I'm always eager to see how other people approach painting, but it clearle wasn't for me...

So after a while I said fuck it, and I couldn't stick to the drawing and I just had to move paint around and mess everything up.

Anyways, here's  part of the painting, bad shot, but it gives you guys an idea...

That's it for now... later!




That seems to be the one question we figurative painters get asked a lot... why do we paint in this manner? Why? It almost seems that the works we create can't be experienced if this question is not answered beforehand. As if the act of painting can't justify itself solely with the finished painting. I wonder if the opposite could be true - if you looked at a painting and absolutely loved it and later, after learning the reasoning behind it, you absolutely hated it. I can't believe this scenario is possible, and I also can't understand the first one where an instruction booklet is indispensable in order to enjoy a painting. It is in fact a moot point because the image has already been painted. I can imagine a conversation... well it never really feels like a conversation, it feels more like an interrogation. So, I can imagine the interrogation ending abruptly:

"Why did you chose to solve that problem through painting and not some other language?"

"Well... the paintings are done and are hanging in front of us at the moment, so lets not dwell upon it and lets judge the work accepting that the problem was attempted to be solved through painting."

Even if we don't want to accept it, we just try to find gentler ways if answering "because I want to." But the truth is that Art Schools and galleries and critics around the world will not accept such a simple answer. There has to be some sort of enchanting but intelligent reasoning behind such a daft act. Because we all know painting is something apparently ANYONE can do... it's so easy to comprehend, so quickly can one find its limitations, so rapidly can one bore one's self with painting, that it can never be a goal. Maybe a capricious whim, but never an objective in life.

"Oh, how cute, he made a painting."

"Don't worry honey, he'll grow out of it."

And I mention the word intelligent before, because it seems that as soon as a figure enters the realm of painting, it dumbs it down. Bouguereau's women might as well be blondes. I wonder if people have a checklist to establish how intelligent we are:

"Semblance of good drawing..."



"Thorough understanding of paint manipulation..."


"Harmonious sense of composition..."

"I'm sorry sir, 4 out of 4. You are legitimately stupid."

Truth is, we can't do much about it. I think it's ridiculous to try and convince someone that I am intelligent, or educated, nor am I willing to accept that my paintings should be judged on how much theory I can cram behind them. As long as there's people out there that will not give themselves a chance to experience a work of art in the way it was meant to be experienced (lets not forget, painting is a visual medium), we will be faced more and more with these sort of questions. What I have resorted to is blabbering the sort of answer the person wants to hear when they ask a stupid quetion. But in the end, just let them keep believing that dumb people are capable of making great paintings.


"Just Portraits"

A couple of days back something happened and even though it didn't strike me as odd, it certainly made me realize some things. I was advising a student of mine on her thesis, and for her final work she decided to present some portraits. They were wonderful representations of strangers (strange being the key word here) based on pixelated images from one of her chatroulette sessions. She decided to represent what 20 minutes looked like. It was a really clever way to translate time into imagery, and not only that but she did an installation on the wall with the portraits based upon their geographic location. So it was space and time filtered thru a webcam converted into color theory and form thru painting. I honestly thought, even though it wasn't something absolutely avant-garde, that the work was brilliantly executed.

When it was time to judge her work, her judges immediately, one could say with ill will, questioned the fact that she chose portraiture out of all the possibilities at her disposal. I was somewhat baffled by this attitude, because one could start to blindfully criticize anyone's work by stating that it could've been solved in a different manner. I find it a strange practice to think, when looking at a painting, that it would've been best solved if it was a video or a sculpture. I am one of those people who trusts that the artist's decision to chose a particular language and subject matter over another is an educated choice. I trust that choice, and it is within those parameters that I am willing to experience the work of art. If that experience moves me or not is something entirely different.

I find that this happens a lot with portraiture in painting. Granted, there's a myriad of mediocre portrait painters that don't help the cause, but I guess the same could be said for any other manner or subject matter. There are tons of mediocre films and film-makers, video installations, sculptures, photographs... god there's a lot of bad photos out there... and yet I would be an oaf if I beleived that wonderful things could not be executed thru traditional photography today.

Portrait painting still carries the baggage of being wrongfully interpreted as an elitist-oriented, empty and superficial manner of describing and interpreting a human being. A generation after Freud and Bacon (both of whom have inspired and shaped thousands of figurative painters) people have become somewhat lost as to what to expect when looking for contemporary portrait painting. I fear they want novelty, but amusing and unfamiliar elements are not indispensable in creating great works of art. Humanity loves easily recognizable, iconic traits. They feel comfort when associating El Greco with elongated bodies, Caravaggio with chiaro-oscuro, Van Gogh with thick choppy brush strokes, Botero with an obese universe... I think that when people judge figurative work, they want to be taken into a new world, a world where they are presented (spoon-fed) with that new and identifiable characteristic, where there's no direct reference to Rembrandt or Sorolla or Freud or Bacon. Everything is new and delicious. It's as if we were constantly pressing a "refresh" button in the hopes of being finally surprised with a new flavor that will quench, even if momentarily, our visual demands. A Michael Bay gum.

Well, to hell with novelty for the sake of novelty. And don't mistake this as a cry for stagnation. It's just that art solely depends on fascinating and reflecting human beings. When an interesting artist decides that he or she wants to paint a portrait, then it will be unique. And not because uniqueness was his or her goal, but because the "story" that was told, the way it was told, could have only been declaimed by that specific person.

And after the rant, (you can tell my discontent with the judging of my student's work) I just wanted to show some portrait work that I find inspiring. Are they proposing something new? I don't care to answer that. They just animate me, and that's good enough for me.

Courtesy of (in order) RVK, Brendan Kelly, Sangram Majumdar, Sean Cheetham, Kent Williams, Anne Gale (bow down), and Adrian Ghenie (get his book, awesome).


Medusa Medley

I can finally post this one... There were quite a few challenges that made the image difficult to resolve. Doesn't mean it's the best of paintings, but there's something to be said about sticking to an image and solving it until you can say it's done. I wanted it to be an unbalanced comp, top and bottom right heavy... there was a bit of a risk, since the top part has the portraits, the swirling hair and the striped pattern. But I thought the "empty space" where the carpet lies gave me the chance to make some diagonals that set the distorted perspective. Anyways, not the easiset of paintings, but I'm certainly glad I stuck to it.

You know, there are times when a painting just paints itself and the end result is aboslutely wonderful, and you are shocked at how simple painting can be. And then there are other times, which are more recurring than one would hope for, where the act of painting becomes chaotic and unforgiving. I honestly think these are the paintings that truly make you feel like you're a painter.


Some stuff

I'm currently working on a bunch of stuff at once, but here are a couple of studies of larger paintings that I've been working on. Deep down I wish the studies could be a little more interesting looking, but I'm not really worried about making them look cool, rather than treat them as something that can shine some light into some doubts I have in terms of composition or shapes.

The little head (8x10) is actually something that I didn´t plan on doing, and I painted it in a manner in which I don't normally paint, but it was good fun. She has such a great face, that it just made me want to do something allaprima... probably 3 hours... just wanted to get close to the vibe I get from her gaze...

Oh and yes... who needs an easel when you can just prop your painting on top of a cd player...


Greyed out Grays

Greys, or Grays if you prefer the more Wildish alternative, are absolutely fascinating to me. It still seems that when people refer to color, they make allusion to saturated color or the purity of a pigment; consequently when looking at greys they unconsciously view them as the absence of such clarity. Greyness could be hurridly assumed as a flawed endeavor. It appears to be perceived as a failed attempt of the artist at trying to achieve a certain color while his mind, as well as his palette became muddled in the process.

And while contemporary technology has enabled the creation of sometimes grossly saturated synthetic colors that dazzle the eyes and minds of viewers alike, the truth is our world is greyer. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the streets we walk on, the trash we collect, all make up a world which is a little muter.

It would be almost impossible for an artist to not be attracted by the subtle coloring of greys. Bluish greys, purplish greys, reddish greys, they are a most a welcome sedative. Still, there’s a misconception in people’s minds where a grey tone is achieved by a simple mixture of black and white. A deeper investigation would lead a person to inquire as to which black was used. Was it a warm, rich and velvety black or a cool and more opaque black? The delicate hues that can be achieved through a conscious effort in mixing greys are as varied and as exciting as any pure, bright color.

So here are a few of the artists that bask in impurity, making masterful musings of mud.

Long live the lurking but luring lull of lethargic limelight!

(ok.. .enough with the alliterations and let’s give credit to Justin Mortimer, Victor Man, Ruprecht von Kaufmann, Sangram Majumdar, Adrian Ghenie, Sophie Jodoin and Michael Kareken).