Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Lots of Shows!

When shows come, they seem to come in bunches.

Right now, I've got two paintings in a curated exhibition at Tipton Gallery in Johnson City, TN.  The show is "EQUAL: Modern Family in Contemporary Art".  My two contributions are Pleasantville and The Dancers:

Both of these have been around for a bit.  Dancers was painted in 2003 and Pleasantville in 2007.  Both have been sitting on the rack in the studio for too long and needed to get out in public again.  The exhibition is pretty good and one work in particular knocked me out.  Laura Chenicek's tiny piece No Matter How Hard I Tried is easily described: it's a small broken eggshell that has been sewn back together with silk sutures.  As an artwork about the fragility of relationships, it is extremely powerful.  Click on the link and take a look.

I'm in another show that opens tomorrow at the Fine Arts Museum at Western Carolina University.  "Remote Sites of War" is a curated 3-man show featuring my drawings from Iraq and Afghanistan, photographs of Guantanamo Bay and military training by Christopher Sims, and photographs from Palestine by Todd Drake.  It's quite a strong show.  The museum director, David Brown, arranged all my drawings on one wall:

I really like the effect.  There is a definite rhythm to the layout and it kept pulling me along.  I went down there today to speak to a history class about my experiences in Afghanistan.  Rather than just talk about pictures or events, I tried to talk about the complications and contradictions behind simple images of people, with the message that they need to be aware of unseen complications in their own lives.

So I'll be back at Western tomorrow for the show's opening, then again on Monday to speak to two other classes.  I really enjoy these talks.  

And I learned that I'll be in another exhibit at the end of the month.  My painting Welcome to Sarajevo will be in the national juried show "Mayhem" at the Gallery Underground in Crystal City.  The show will run from Apr 28 to May 31, with an opening reception on Friday, May 2, from 5-8 pm.

So there you have it.  I've been busy as hell with a lot of other things, too, but they can wait for another post.  Meanwhile, if you're in western North Carolina, go see the "Remote Sites of War" exhibit at WCU.  And if you're in the DC area, go see "Mayhem" at the Gallery Underground in Crystal City!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mark Meadows Follow-Up

Back on March 2nd, I wrote a post titled "Mark Meadows and the Ukrainian Crisis".  I had received an email-to-the-peasantry from Meadows, my congressman, in which he lambasted President Obama for his handling of Russia and the Ukraine.  Like most of his fellow Republicans, Meadows called for more forceful and imaginative leadership.  I wrote a note back to him, asking him what, exactly, he would do.  Boots on ground?  Air strikes?  Something else?  Frankly, I never expected to get a reply.

Well, I was wrong.  He did reply today, 26 days later.  Or one of his minions did, anyway.  In an email, he laid out the forceful and imaginative leadership that he would provide.  His actions were:
- a House Resolution that "condemned the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity by military forces of the Russian Federation."
- Boycotting the G-8 summit in Sochi.
- Convene a G-7 summit somewhere else and expel Russia from the G-8.

Yes, that's pretty forceful and imaginative.  It also mirrors what Obama has done.  Well, Obama can't pass a House resolution, but he worked with the EU, NATO, and the G-7 partners to boot Russia out of the G-8 and convene an alternative summit.  He's also got the Secretary of State and State Department diplomats worldwide working on isolating Russia, imposing increasing levels of sanctions, and shifting Europe away from Russian sources of oil and gas.  In other words, he's doing far more than Meadows ever thought of doing.  So much for Meadows' diatribes.

The United States is not in a position to take hard military action.  It would be stupid.  Frankly, the Ukraine and Crimea do not rank very high on American strategic interests.  It makes little or no substantive difference to us whether Crimea is ruled by Russia or the Ukraine, and it is not worth one single American soldier's life to try to change it.  We can, and should, bring pressure to bear on Russia to quit behaving like a thug and more like a respectable member of the international community.

Over the long term, however, Putin's actions are only going to hurt Russia.  The Crimean economy is in the toilet and will require significant economic support from Russia.  International sanctions are having an immediate impact now.  Most of it is psychological: the Russian rich are seeing their country losing its economic standing.  The longer-term impact will come from the international community's negative views of the country.  Who wants to deal with a thug?  Those former Soviet-bloc countries who have established ties to the West see a rising Russian threat, so they're going to establish closer ties to the West as protection.  Meanwhile, the primary Russian exports are natural resources: oil and gas.  They're not making much money of their intellectual capacity.  That's a description of a third-world economy, not a world leader.  And Putin is to blame.

In the short term, Russia will beat its chest and roar at the world, but it can't really do too much.  In the long term, the Russian bear is pretty sick, and Dr. Putin isn't providing it the help it needs.

So Meadows and his friends in the House will squawk like hawks.  They really don't have much, if anything, to add to the debate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Life Drawing, Short Poses

I go to several different life drawing sessions around Asheville.  There's one, on Monday evenings, that is unique in that it consists entirely of short poses.  By "short", I mean one to two minutes, with maybe three 5-minute poses at the end.  If you've ever done life drawing, you know that's not much time.  You have to work fast and get it right the first time.  If you don't, well, just wait a minute and start a whole new one, because there's no going back.

Here are a few drawings from Monday's session.  We had one of my favorite models, Amy, who is a beautiful young lady and really good at twisting herself into great poses.  This was a very fun session.

I've put these four drawings up on my Etsy store - have a look!.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Etsy Shop

Ever feel like you're one of those performers who get dozens of plates spinning on poles?  And you're running from pole to pole, trying to keep all those plates spinning without crashing to the ground?  Yeah.  That's me.  Between my consulting work, trying to make progress on the "Survivors" paintings, taking care of house and car maintenance, going to life drawing sessions, working on my taxes, yadda yadda yadda, there seems to be a net negative amount of time in the day.

I know: waaah.  I'm whining.  Deal with it.

One of the things I've been working on is setting up an Etsy shop.  It finally opened last night.  Here's the link to it:

There's not much there yet.  Heck, I just got it set up, give me a break!  I'll eventually have original paintings, drawings, etchings, pastels, watercolors, photographs, as well as lower-priced prints and cards on the site.  It'll take some time to get it up to full speed.  But it went live about 11 pm last night and already has a number of people who've "favorited" it.

They advertise that setting up an Etsy shop is easy.  Well, kinda sorta.  Stepping thru the setup process is easy.  Stepping thru the process while doing a professional job the first time around is not.  I looked at a lot of Etsy stores to figure out things like presentation, shipping, policies, price levels, what to say, what not to say, what to have photos of, photo preparation, what tags to use, you name it.  Then I had to learn how to get what I learned into my store.  Then I had to learn how to change it when the first try was unsatisfactory.

But I got there.  I think.  It looks pretty good, although a bit sparse for now.  I'll continue to prepare more new items and post them.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I'm always, always, open for constructive comments.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Mark Meadows and the Ukrainian Crisis

My congressman, Mark Meadows, is a Tea Party leader.  He sends out "weekly" reports every once in a while, especially during election season.  Most of these emails boast about Mark's supposed great deeds of the week and attack Democrats for not agreeing with him.   The latest is no different.  Mark is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and attacked the administration over Ukraine.  He stated, "Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to demonstrate a lack of leadership in refusing to address aggressors around the world. In my role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue to monitor this situation alongside my colleagues and encourage our nation to stand against Vladimir Putin's dangerous power grab and clear disregard for international laws."

I just sent him a note about that.  Here's what I said:

"I just read your weekly update in which you criticized the administration for its handling of the Ukraine crisis.  Can you tell me what, specifically, you would do?  Your words were a vague statement about "standing against Vladimir Putin's dangerous power grab and clear disregard of international laws".  How is this any different than the Administration?  Would you intervene militarily?  Would you launch air strikes against a nation with first-rate anti-aircraft defenses?  Would you put boots on the ground in a hostile country?  What, specifically, would you do?

With the election season coming up, the answers to these questions are extremely important.

W. E. Rohde"

I'll let you know what he says, if one of his staffers ever bothers to answer.  I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Update on the New Painting

The composition is now blocked-in.  Now to let it sit for a week or so to dry enough to support layers of glazes, scumbling, and painting over the top of it.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Painting Underway

For the last couple of months, I've been re-learning and re-inventing how to put paint on canvas.  The way I was painting last fall wasn't expressive enough nor (frankly) good enough for my new series about survivors.  It was too timid, careful, and overworked.  So I put the series on hold while I figured out a new approach.  And now I think I have one that's appropriate for at least the first piece.

This new painting is about a friend of ours who was a Marine in Vietnam.  He was in some brutal battles and carries the physical and mental scars to this day.  When he told me that he's still fighting some of those battles nearly every night, I knew that was going to be the focus of this painting.

Getting from the concept to the composition was a long process.  I went through piles of drawings, trying out different ideas and combinations of ideas.  Then there were several color studies to wrestle with lighting, values, and color combinations.  All the while, I was working on a new (for me) way to put paint on canvas.  Eventually, I came up with a composition that best expressed the basic idea:

Color Study for "Pete"
Oil on paper

Last week, I built, gessoed, and toned the canvas.  Today was the day I finally - FINALLY - started putting it all together.  Here it is on the easel, with the color study and drawings next to it.  

And here's a detail showing how it sits on the easel right now:

Detail of "Pete" in progress
Oil on canvas

I'm really happy with the way it has started.  Once I got warmed up, getting this part roughed in was a lot of fun.  Now to keep the momentum going, stay loose, and not overwork it.