"Level Up" Solo Exhibition

Let's get to business before I ramble: this show ended October 3.

Now to the fun, bloggy part.

Hanging along with 30-some odd drawings and paintings are two special pieces from my closet. It was great timing moving back to CA this past June since it gave me access to art from when I was young, some of which I've saved. As the title of the show was, "Level Up," it meant that some of this art had to be included, as it went with the overall theme, including how I continually mine the same sources of my youthful inspiration, whether I mean to or not.


When I was a wee lad, I lost my mind over Star Wars. This was long before the intertrons, so I had to chase down Star Wars things in real life, and this included a vinyl LP audio version. We listened to that over and over and over, but it was years after the first time I saw it in the theater at almost 4 years of age until I saw it again on VHS. In-between those years there were comics and toys to keep us occupied. And two more great films.

In those days my older brother and I would make our own comics made from folded 8.5x11" sheets, stapled. We would hastily scribble these things out and then sell them to one another once a week or so for a dime or whatever. One of my series was a retelling of the Star Wars story. I don't think I got through the entire story before this phase of our lives ended, which was probably most of a year or so, which is a looong time when you're like 7 or so.

I decided to frame up this page as it features a Stormtrooper. At my exhibit, it hung matted and framed beneath the most recent work in the show, TK-60918. The oldest and the newest, side-by-side.

Pretty much any pop-cultural thing I was involved with that had art in it was an opportunity for me to draw, either inspired by or by simply copying the awesome art already present. In this way I taught myself how to draw, since I could measure my results by an objective standard--the thing I was copying. My brother and I both continued drawing, supporting and competing with one another (in a friendly way) through high school, after which my brother chose other paths and I continued with the art.

From around 11-12 years of age I was crazy into Transformers, after which I got crazy for the NES and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I believe I've posted one of my Transformers drawings here before, but I included another in my show. What's interesting is the prior one at the link was earlier, so it's also a bit clumsier of a drawing. But, apparently I got into graphic design as those drawings went on. I was also into calligraphy so had these calligraphy pens I used to help me create that killer diagonal banner.

As these pieces were not available for sale, they will come home with me as the show ends. They've lived in boxes for years and years, but these two I'll leave framed and will hang somewhere in our new place. It's kinda nice to look back sometimes; while I vividly remember making some of my comics I don't particularly remember drawing that page, but the Transformers piece I do recall drawing some parts of it. I've often said each drawing and painting is like a time capsule for me. Every piece I do has wrapped up in it some part of my life, some hours recorded and whatever else was going on in my life as the context for those hours.

Console Obscura Podcast

On the eve of my solo exhibition in Seattle, I was connected with the guys at the Console Obscura Podcast, and recorded a segment with them which covers some of my early days, work with Magic: the Gathering, and my Hearts for Hardware series. It also included a full-throated defense of Mega Man vs. the often preferred Mega Man 2. Heresy.

Head on over to Console Obscura and check it out. The guys were super cool, and came out to the opening as well.

Some of you have wondered about prints from the Hearts for Hardware series. I did a few small Artist Proof runs in anticipation of larger releases and made them available at the show. I'd suggest you sign up for the mailing list for info on how to get in on these AP editions and their upcoming regular editions!

Snack Time Podcast

The good guys at the Snack Time Podcast, which covers the Magic: the Gathering universe in story and art primarily, had me as a guest to nibble on Ritz crackers and discuss my art. Over a bit over an hour we managed to hit on almost every phase of my career, from early to late Magic, with a discussion about my time running Daydream Graphics, and finally to my most recent work, including the genesis of my Hearts for Hardware series of paintings.

Hear me struggle to remember details about paintings 15-20 years old!

Go have a listen!

Lady Leanna Lynx

You don't work as an oil painter very long before someone asks you to paint their pet. I've gotten used to politely declining, simply because these pieces often end up rather...uninspired. While I suppose for enough fee I'd paint a lot of things--I am an illustrator by trade, after all--it's a little unfair to a pet owner who loves their pet dearly, to paint it quarter-heartedly. There's also the fact that most folk think that sort of painting can be had for like $100.

So when I was approached with yet another request to paint a dog, it was because there was the hint of something far more interesting that I continued the conversation. Here, there was the interest in having a dog painted in an old master style, probably in costume. As we chatted about it, we both agreed that this would only really work with a few things in mind: first, the painting would have to be done completely in earnest, nothing in the piece was to read as wink-wink / nod-nod. Secondly, it would be done in accordance with various period portraits of people. What sealed the deal was the fact that I would have access to the dog to shoot my own reference, and that my fee was acceptable. We were off to the races. So to speak.

Digital study

Digital study

To start things off, I did have the owner email me a few photos. I took a low-res camera shot and enlarged it. Then, using references from a number of renaissance-era paintings, sketched out a rough costume digitally. Many portraits of the era also included usually-clumsy hand-lettering, stating the name of the person and the year it was painted (with one of a few abbreviations of, "Anno Domini").

It is an odd feature of many old portraits that they are painted with forboding dark clouds as a backdrop. Likely they are just a dark value contrast so that a fair-skinned European sitter stood out, while not just being a flat background. It always seemed a bit incongruous to have some lovely Gainsborough lady, hair meticulously coiffed, out in what would surely be the start of a windy downpour.

I ran this quick sketch over, just to see if we were really thinking along the same lines. We definitely were. Next up, came the sitting, as the patron here was local.

Pencil study, 6x8"

Pencil study, 6x8"

Leanna Lynx (yes, two names) is a Basenji: a nice, hypo-allergenic, quiet and clean breed, with a tail curled a lot like Shiba Inu. Additionally, she had a short career as a show dog in her younger years. We spent some time posing her for photographs. Though she's out of practice on the show floor, she was still pretty compliant and stood up on her forelegs, ears pointed up and showing off the breed's characteristic forehead wrinkles.

Back home, I went about refining the costume and drawing it over the pose already present. A lady in her formal portrait, back in the day, would be decked out in her best and most expensive clothes and jewelry.

To add to the feel of this historical recreation, I decided to paint on birch panel. Painting on wood was fairly common back in that era, before the popularizing of canvas or linen as subtrates. It gives old master paintings a distinctive surface quality, which I hoped to capture to some extent. The panel came cradled and primed. I transferred my drawing to it and began by knocking in the base colors in acrylic. From there, my usual methods carried me forward in oil. The owner, who commissioned the painting as an anniversary gift, was made incredibly happy upon seeing the finished painting, and also related the overjoyed reactions of the recipient upon its opening.

"Lady Leanna Lynx" 12x16" Oils and acrylic on birch panel   Sold

"Lady Leanna Lynx" 12x16" Oils and acrylic on birch panel

It was really very enjoyable to work on--utterly ridiculous, totally serious. It allowed me to indulge my love of art history and costume, as well. The patron got a nice original painting that will keep Leanna Lynx around for many, many years past her time on earth. That's a win plus another win. It was also, of course, one of the reasons those old portraits were painted. With no way to ever know what people in the past looked like, the portrait (painted or sculpted) was the only way your visage could survive into the future.

Though commissioning an original painting to own is often thought of with regards to my bread-and-butter of imaginative realism (for good reason), this piece certainly shows that the realm of things an artist might paint for you are broader than you think. If you'd like to read a little about the process of doing so, you can do that here