Hearts for Hardware, Infinite Continues

I let my Hardware series sit for awhile, but the level of interest on my part was so high that the countdown to insert more coins and continue was ridiculously long. As much as this work had been pushed aside in my schedule, it was constantly on my mind and I was heartbroken not be able to get back to it sooner. But not only have I done so, but I finally upgraded its sub-site as well.

 "First Among Many" 11x14" oil over acrylic on canvas Original art available

"First Among Many"
11x14" oil over acrylic on canvas
Original art available

"First Among Many" represents the C-100, the first of Atari's home Pong systems, from 1976,  though it was still not the first: Sears stores had put out an Atari produce, Sears-branded/Telegames version of this first before Atari stuck its own branding on it and sold it elsewhere. And of course the very popular arcade game preceded it. And, even that was not the first, since Magnavox had developed the original Pong game and even sold it for home use in the one earlier step in hardware history (which I will probably paint, being the first of the first). But as Pong under the Atari brand goes (Magnavox's Odyssey was a multi-game console), this was the first. What would follow in the next few years were a range of Pong variant systems issued by Atari and everyone else--even Nintendo created a Pong machine to sell in Japan! In my own home, prior to the Atari 2600 we had a variant that if I recall correctly was a Radio Shack one.

 "Visionary" 9x12" oil over acrylic on canvas Original art available

"Visionary"
9x12" oil over acrylic on canvas
Original art available

"Visionary" portrays Mattel's forgotten 1979 Microvision handheld, the first handheld game with games you could swap out via cartridge. These "cartridges" were in fact half the entire unit, seemingly, comprising most of the front of the chassis. They played primitive games on a black-and-white lcd of ridiculously low resolution, and not many of them. Though popular upon initial release, this one never took off. Given how expensive it was and how few fun games there were, this ended up being a beta test for what would come a few years later still. It's acknowledged that this was the inspiration for Nintendo's popular Game & Watch series of handhelds, which itself pioneered many things that would carry over to today. I played a Microvision back in the day once, somewhere as a kid. Maybe an in-store display.

 "The Last Days of Old School" 5x7" oil on watercolor board Original art sold

"The Last Days of Old School"
5x7" oil on watercolor board
Original art sold

"The Last Days of Old School" features the Game Boy Advance Micro, the first of the GBA line I've painted. This series goes by whim, not chronologically. Sometimes it goes by private commission, as this one was (collectors, realizing that some more popular hardware paintings tend to sell quickly, have commissioned art before I have chosen to paint them myself). Released right about as the Nintendo DS also released, this was to be the last time a system dedicated to 2D, sprite-based graphics would hit the market. Oh sure people tried to get the GBA to do polygons, but it was counter to the design of the unit. From here on out, it was to be a polygon-based world even if 2D games continued to appear.

Higher res scans of these and the rest of the series can be seen on the (new!) Hearts for Hardware website. Original art and prints are available through their store.

Petaluma Evening

Petaluma is a small city in Northern California. As you cross the Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco, and pass through Marin County, Petaluma is the gateway to Sonoma County on Highway 101 there. You'll know it because while Marin County is pretty nice, you suddenly enter this area of nearly endless rolling hills and oaks.

 Petaluma Evening 24x30" oil on panel Original art available

Petaluma Evening
24x30" oil on panel
Original art available

 Sometimes, as in this painting, there is essentially no pre-drawing, I just paint as I go.

Sometimes, as in this painting, there is essentially no pre-drawing, I just paint as I go.

I mentioned last time that I was going to branch out from vineyard related paintings for a bit, and part of that is from wanting to explore this area more. I just said that Petaluma is endless rolling hills, but this painting only indicates two such, and focuses on trees; well, actually it focuses on light.

On the same trip where I took reference for this painting, I also took reference for the right side of "Turning Point." I saw enough gorgeous stuff in one afternoon walking around to inspire a dozen paintings. Now it's just a matter of finding them time to paint them!

Outside of my illustration work and Hearts for Hardware, a lot of my other work doesn't really utilize pre-drawing these days anymore. That's quite a change from my earlier days. I just go straight to paint. Sometimes that means "drawing" with the paint, other times it just means massing in the forms and defining as I go, as with my still life paintings.

 The smooth transition of evening sky was much simpler to just paint as a mass of sky and then paint trees over it, rather than try to maintain the color gradations in all the little holes in and around the branches and edges of the tree shapes.

The smooth transition of evening sky was much simpler to just paint as a mass of sky and then paint trees over it, rather than try to maintain the color gradations in all the little holes in and around the branches and edges of the tree shapes.

Donuts and Red Onions

 Red Onion 8x6" oil on canvas

Red Onion
8x6" oil on canvas

I hadn't painting any still life paintings in 2018 through now. This was disappointing, but it has been a plenty busy year and it is really difficult to divide up my time among my different genres. But, as soon as I found an opportunity, I jumped in.

One thing I love about still life painting (and this applies to my Hearts for Hardware series, as well), is the way that beholding an object in paint causes you to look at it formally, detached from your usual context of seeing the thing. A donut appeals the eye only insofar as it excites the appetite. A red onion appeals to the eye for the way it signals that it is in good shape, fit for cutting up and cooking or adding to a meal. But the objects themselves aren't usually behold for their own visual properties: their colors, textures, contours and so on. It takes removing the item from its original context, and placing it in another.

Painting is great for this because even apart from photography, paintings are meant to be beheld. The strokes and texture of paint overlay and cue to the mind that this is something that is supposed to be looked at for itself.

And since these particular visuals of a donut and a red onion cannot be consumed or chopped up for stew or whatever, you can behold them without temptation.

 Chocolate Cruller 6x8" oil on canvas

Chocolate Cruller
6x8" oil on canvas

Old Art in the Vault

Having created art professionally since 1994, I've made a lot of art. Over the years, a good amount of it has found its way into the homes of collectors. And, over time, older work may no longer reflect where my work is at currently in terms of technique, style or subject matter, so it eventually falls off my portfolio.

Some years ago, I began to realize that this back-catalog of artwork existed by default, as a subset of original art that I still owned but which had become mostly hidden away. A "vault" of older work was basically being created just through the course of living and producing, and every artist has one like that, an informal collection of old work.

 Mine.

Mine.

A second realization came a few years ago when I looked at what was still available of my Magic: the Gathering original art, being the most notable of the artwork I've created. In all my years working on the game, I only had one piece that was held back as not for sale, to keep, and that because my wife also got her claws on it. That would be Counsel of the Soratami. And that was just because two collectors on the verge of purchasing it early on didn't do it. For which I thank them, now. Within that body of work, there are maybe 3 other paintings that I wish I had not sold: Dance of the Dead, Soul Warden, and Balance. But it's hard for an artist who makes his living exclusively through the sale of art, to not sell art. When the market for Magic art began to change to where I could no longer gauge the worth of the historical pieces, I pulled the rest that I still had for sale and "vaulted" them, including all preliminary drawings. 

The last thing that affected me was visiting for the first time the home of an older artist I admire, whose career has been much longer than mine and more successful than mine. I was dumbfounded to see the selection of originals still in that artist's possession--pieces that were popular from when they were created, that surely would have sold instantly then or any time since, and some of which were almost as old as I. Yet somehow, this artist had been prescient enough to know that they were important works, and never sold them. Having had a more successful career, it may have been easier to hold those pieces off the market for income's sake. I don't know, but I suddenly felt very foolish about some of the pieces I let fly too easily. This artist's history was there, and they had a great collection of works to either pass down as inheritance or to parcel off through retirement. That sealed the deal and turned my concept of a "vault" into something more concrete.

 This painting was on the market for about 10 months before being put away.

This painting was on the market for about 10 months before being put away.

I like systems, so I kinda formulated one for myself, and here's a little of how I think about things:

For new art, I might choose to vault something immediately, but mostly I'll make things available. From the time they go on the market, I might give them a year, maybe a bit longer or less, before I decide to pull them from being available and vault them instead. For Magic art, I'm defaulting to a shorter time frame, for other works, a bit longer. But the idea is the same: make them available for sale for a bit, then put them away.

Once in, they're likely to stay in for quite a long time. I'm thinking at least a decade. As I approach 25 years as a professional, some of that art has been vaulted almost that entire time. But the idea is after some many years, to reconsider a few pieces and make them available for a limited time again, and then put them away again if they do not find a home.

 So suspense.

So suspense.

The lock is harder on Magic or other notable pieces. But I've also let some older pieces go from less-known projects recently simply because I was contacted by a collector looking for a particular piece, I had it, it had been put away a long time and the price was met. But I don't think one can ever go wrong just throwing ludicrous money at an artist.

So there you go. Generally, if a piece disappears from the market and it didn't sell, you can probably count on it going away for a good many years. There is always new work, of course. And over the next few years, you'll probably start to see me release some select pieces here and there. The vault has lots of random stuff, including pieces never or rarely seen even at the time, preliminary work that I never showed, and the like. Some of it's interesting, some of it mostly of historical worth for games like Magic.