This has been the most successful piece I’ve created, if one uses repeat sales as a criterion (I do), and I think I know some of the reasons why. For one thing, the original inspiration for the way I drew the figures came from a Picasso retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art. For another, this was my third version of the piece, the first being in black and white, the second being a small color study. In the course of redoing it, lots of small decisions were made on what to include and what to leave out, colors and color value.
Although it may be hard to see here, the background is composed entirely of renderings of old record labels from the 78 era. I think they are beautiful examples of graphic art, and, of course , being circular they are in the perfect shape. These were rendered in sepia ink, sepia and mauve watercolor so as not to intefere with the figures in the foreground, which are outlined in bold black, and colored more brightly. The figures have some texture, which also helps pop them out.
Playing a musical instrument involves some strain and strength, Most people who don’t play seem to not realize this, so I made it a point to show some of that, particularly with the sax, trumpet, and clarinet players, blowing hard and sweating.
Quite a few people over the years have told me that they can “hear the music” when viewing this piece, which I think is a fine compliment.
For a long time, I didn’t get abstract art, and maybe still don’t. Everyone seems to have an opinion on it, and many feel they could do that; just slop a bunch of paint on a canvas and see what happens. Maybe there’s a bit of truth to that, who knows?
I began doing abstracts 15 years ago, and have found them to be a most refreshing change of pace from illustration and all representational art which, after all, must be specific in intent. The intellect is in charge for almost the entire process. In abstract art, however, the percentage of intellect verses the intuitive , instinctual, and emotional is vastly reduced, although it’s still a factor in the many decisions involved.
My process for abstracts is to begin with a pencil held loosely in my hand, and letting it trail lightly around the paper gradually forming the hints of shapes and direction. Most of my abstracts are done in Payne’s Gray with touches of other colors in them. Payne’s Gray seems to me to have a pallette similar to great black and white photography, and is very rich with a range that is very wide, from black to nearly white. I feel myself “fall in” to these paintings, a world of blue/grays stimulating my imagination. A lot of my painting, and the color value in abstracts is done consciously trying to forego the mind, which is barking of course, “over there! Put that dark area there! It will bracket and answer the one that’s already in that spot!” I can’t ignore those thoughts, but I can rapidly see how it feels to me if I were to listen. So, there’s a rapid back and forth contest going on between the mind and the body, and I often actually find myself standing and gently rocking from side to side while I’m going through this process. it’s a lot of fun.
No matter how abstract the art, though, when most people view it, they de-abstract it and see something representational, which I find amusing. There must be some human trait that needs to organize and make things manageable to the mind. Pure abstract is hard for us to absorb.
There are lots of people out there who are far more creative than I, especially if one defines “creativity” as “coming up with ideas, solutions, new thoughts that are exciting”. I may not really fit into any of those categories, but there are times when I feel like it does fit, and so it was with Parallel Advisors and the recent art I did for their end-of-year card. One might think that a wealth management firm would put out a pretty conservative piece, and all my initial sketches reflected that belief, but that’s not the direction the art eventually took. What we ended up with was a piece that was semi-abstract, loose, colorful, and still had their logo prominently displayed. It was a lot of fun for me to create, they are pleased, and it was one of those rare times when the commercial and the abstract came together. I will reproduce the art as soon as this site allows it, so for the moment, trust me.
From 1996 to 2014, I was fortunate enough to create some 55 cards for the Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry store in San Francisco. Many of these cards involved two illustrations, and were of a humorous nature, yet still came around to being ads for the store, sometime pretty circuitously.
The people at Lang generously gave these cards a place on their website, and most of the cards were represented. There will be a new website launch in the near future, and I was asked to go through as many as I had and re-scan them , or better still, scan off of the original art.
We had a lot of fun creating these cards. Here is but one of the front piece illustrations, done for Halloween some years ago. I’m still going through my archives and am struck again by their inventiveness and varying styles.
“https://www.toperfect.com this is as good as I know how to post a link. They sell art in an interesting way, although up to now I can’t say that I’m one of the beneficiaries….still……..it’s worth looking into.
Working on a fine, funny, strange comic strip under the title of “Someday Funnies, Time Passages”….the springboard for it was a letter from 1896 that I happened to find, and the rest developed from there……will attempt to post the image, but if I cannot, will do so on Facebook.
Not having “Plan B”, I remain a watercolor, ink cartoon artist, stubbornly not adapting to the world of video, I-Phones, and technology in general. I don’t recommend this path on practical grounds, but if one has to do it, then be true to your soul, and enjoy the ride.
A really great commission came to me a few days ago, and, for the time being, I feel inspired by the fact that it is a) well budgeted, b) right up my alley, and c) for someone I’m most fond of as a gift for a special occasion.
The amount of work time involved will be great, as there is a lot of detail involved in drawing approximately 100 already existing characters from books. My challenge will be to have them all coalesce , interact with each other, have the art be coherent, fun, and colorful (but not TOO colorful – just enough to lead the eye of the viewer).
In short, it’s one of those moments when all seems perfect, and I bless the fact that I stayed an artist all these years. I know when the recipient gets this piece, there will be unmitigated joy……I doubt I’ll be at the presentation, but would very much like to be.
Also, yesterday I was interviewed by Janet Gallin , who does a show called “Love Letters Live”, about my singing, how it differs from drawing and painting for me, and how the two come from similar places. It was fun. At some point, I’ll have a link to share with the interview on it.
This one will be slight digression from my usual writings about my art. Today’s newspaper had an obituary on Johnny Winter, the great slide-playing guitarist, blues man, and Texas albino. Can you imagine what it must have been like to grow up a cross-eyed (no less!) albino in a rural part of Texas?
I got to see him perform twice, both times at Albany State University in New York, the first time being so memorable that 45 years later, it’s still vivid. I watched the entire concert from a platform that held a spotlight, high above the stage (the “theater” was a converted gymnasium), and Johnny was dressed from his neck down to his feet in a flowing black robe that contrasted sharply with his skin and long white hair. He slinked around on the stage all night, playing his beautifully fluid slide guitar, and looking like some avenging angel. The fact that I had ingested a small amount of a hallucinogen didn’t hurt, either. He was great!
Not long after that, I purchased his “Second Winter” album, at least in part based on the fabulous cover photography. It’s still the only “double album” I know of that had only 3 sides of lp, with one remaining blank!
A few years ago, I happened to hear an interview with him, and was struck by how soft-spoken and modest he seemed. He stuck to his roots, played the blues and rock n’ roll ’til the end.
R.I.P., Johnny Winter!
Your illustrations have that unique quality that makes the viewer want to look and look and look…a Very Good thing for little ones. Slow down and give in to the mystery..this they will do with The Littlest Raindrop.. .they will fall into your illustrations….and will want to come back to them over and over…Guaranteed.
Beautifully done, Rich.
I forgot, this was why I did the blog on my children’s book art in the first place!
My art is such a natural for children’s books, that I sometimes forget to focus on that. Right now, I’m doing clean up and touch up work on Roberta Murphy Nowlin’s, “the Littlest Rain Drop”, which is a lovely story and parable. There are lots of different personalities pictured on those raindrops, none of whom quite know what’s going on throughout the story.
I’ve also illustrated, “Vinny , the Repo Elf” for Muriel Anderson Ballard, and did storyboards and a finished piece for Alisa Clancy’s , “Jack, the Bear” , which deserved to see the light of day.