I remember the day that Mt. Saint Helens erupted. The big one, on May 18th, 1980. I have a photo album of newspaper clippings and a small canister of volcanic ash. It was a big deal for me as a kid. I didn’t make a specific decision to paint volcanoes, but somehow it keeps happening. (why doesn’t spell check catch “volcanos”? I really want to spell it without the e.)
This digital drawing was the springboard for this recent series:
I grew up in the cold war, but never really worried too much about the Russians bombing us. I have friends that had “day after” type dreams fairly often. Me, not so much. I had a fair grasp of Mutually Assured Destruction. In recent decades, I’ve had a fair amount of dreams where volcanoes are erupting, including some flooding, landslides and Pompei-esque ash fallout. I don’t consider them nightmares though. Not so much scary, as intense. It’s a reality it the Pacific Northwest (and all of the Pacific Rim). Before we were here and long after…
Over the last few years, I’ve done some album art for bands that I know and love. The requests for imagery weren’t specific in every case; however, some sort of volcano was the final result for these three! The image of the Cascade Range going off is something that I’ve been thinking about for some time, and that was part of The Health Dose back cover (and cropped for the front, below right). Mt. Saint Helens worked her way into the Fulero//Lehe cover (below middle, “Cocoon”). For The New Up “Gold” (below left), it was maybe a crater, but could also be a volcano.
Once again, I’ll mention that each piece in my new series has at least one volcano in it. I’m not sure how long that will be necessary, but for now, I like it (and the reference to “views of Mt. Fuji”). There’s somewhat of a narrative that is evolving around it, but I’m not ready to get into that. 😉 So far, I’ve represented Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Bachelor. I think I’ll add a few more locals. Maybe Adams and Rainier.
So, Here’s my work progress:
Jan 10: Today, I shopped for vinyl masking film and some cool spray paint colors. I worked the ol day job. I went by the goodwill and did some treasure hunting (I’ve been learning to fly my new remote control gyrocopter. Score!!). I gessoed up some black on 20 panels and painted outlines and a background on a giant squid painting. (both the squid and the painting are giant…) It was a studio session night with the homies, painting and eating snacks.
Coming up: Owls…
In college, I was a printmaker. I carved woodblocks, etched copper plates, printed from linoleum and lithograph stones, and pulled silkscreen prints. In the last decade, I’ve mostly been a painter; although, printmaking still affects my technique. Much of the masking work that I do with tape or vinyl film is derived from a reduction printmaking process. (Glossary: “Reduction” – With a reduction print, each color is created from the same block. Each color is printed, the block is carved with more detail, inked again and then the new color is printed on top of the previous – usually on paper. The entire edition must be printed at once, because the block is permanently changed with each color. A truly “Limited Edition”.)
In addition to techniques, I’m drawn to the idea of editions, multiples, and variations (which are all concepts that are part of printmaking). Katsushika Hokusai is an artist that, for me, exemplifies the concept of exploring a theme. Having one thing that ties together a series, a springboard for experimentation, helps me narrow down the possibilities when deciding on imagery. The images above are from Hokusai’s “36 views of Mt. Fuji”. He also published “100 Views of Mt. Fuji”. I’ve repeated imagery in paintings because I like the context of using different colors, media, pattern on the same composition because it gives me a reference point for the subtleties, or even effectiveness, of each.
You’ll probably notice the influence of the Hokusai graphic print style, in my paintings. Also, once I realized that I had started several paintings with volcanoes in them – which reminded me of the Mt. Fuji series – I decided that I would include volcanoes in each pieces. I like the Mt. Fuji reference. I should probably write about volcanoes next…
Jan 6: I spent the day cleaning up the stencil design for my commission, then cutting the vinyl mask, and painted into the wee hours. I met with Johnny Luczycki, to discuss ideas about collaboration images and process/style.
Jan 7: I worked my day job. I shopped for Gesso (Glossary: “Gesso” is a painting primer that will prep nearly any surface for painting. It seals the surface and contains some grit that helps give “tooth” to the surface to help the paint adhere.) and tried to locate some soft block printing material in larger sheets. I didn’t find what I needed. Worked my night job.
Jan 8: Worked my day job. Bought some black gesso since I’ll be starting out with dark colors, this will make it easy to cover. I napped. I painted some panels with gesso. I’ll need a few coats, plus sanding between coats to get the surface smooth.
Jan 9: Tired. Slept late. I’m going to gesso the rest of the panels tonight. Make a shopping list for tomorrow. I need some things before the weekend!
Next…What’s up with the volcanoes? maybe actual art images from this series…
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to get inspired to start painting is to prepare the support. (Glossary: “Support” – I like this generic term for the substrate that will be painted on. It can be a stretched canvas, panel, paper, found item, etc.) Building and priming the supports is a great way to get into the studio or workshop and get hands on; it’s a great way to brainstorm and think about sizes and composition while completing necessary prep work.
Most recently, I’ve been working on wooden panels. It’s rigid and great for masking, stenciling, and cutting directly on the surface. I can really work the surface, sand, distress, scratch, etc. without stretching or ripping that might happen on a canvas. I like the simple presentation of a cradled plywood panel. (Glossary: “Cradled” – a simple frame creates depth to the sides and strength to the support. The panel is attached to the front of the frame so the painting surface extends edge-to-edge.)
Materials: I’ve been using Luan Mahogany plywood for a few years. It’s lighter, stronger and not much more expensive than masonite. It wont swell from moisture like masonite (pressed saw dust panels). The appearance of the mahogany surface can be really striking and stains nicely. I like to take advantage of the woodgrain. The first pieces in this newest series presented a few challenges because of al the sanding that I did, trying to get a super smooth surface. The top veneer of Luan is thin and porous and sanding made it reee-eally thin at times. I had issues with the veneer lifting/tearing off when I pulled the adhesive mask that I use for stenciling. This round, I’m trying new wood products. I chose a thicker pine plywood with only three layers that are fairly thick; also, I am using a very straight grained fir for the sides to prevent warping. The materials were more than twice as much, but still very affordable because I’m building them myself.
I had the plywood cut to size when I bought it. I cut down all of the sides on a miter cutter, prior to assembly. Using sizes that share one dimension, made production simple (36×24. 24×18, 18×12, 12×12). Also, very little waste. The entire sheet of plywood was used. Next, I routed, glued and pinned the corners like a picture frame. Once all of the frames were assembled, I glued the top of the frame and set the panel on top, lined it up and nailed it on (with an air powered brad gun). I’m priming the surface on these so I’ll be filling the nail holes. Glue and clamps would work if I didn’t want nail holes to show on a natural woodgrain surface.
Jan 3: I purchased lumber. I worked my day job. I read a book. (I’ve avoided the uber-distraction of internet TV so far, this month.)
Jan 4: I cut down frames for cradled sides. I drove to the Pearl District and picked paintings up from a show, ate chinese food, drove home and napped. I went back to the shop and assembled panels. I worked night job.
Jan 5. I’ve slept most of the day (remember, night job…) and played some drums. Now I have some design work to do for a commissioned painting that needs attention.
Coming up: illustration techniques, more materials, thematic ideas…probably more napping.