Recently, being some several months ago or less, as “recently” tends to go for me, Hendrick’s Gin contacted me to participate in their “Curate a Box” contest give away.
Though I have been rather up to my neck in getting out the rewards for the Infernal Device Kickstarter (which when done I plan to celebrate by logging all the ins and outs of the experience into a seriously detailed tutorial), I really hate to pass up good opportunities for promotion, especially when it involves interesting new challenges.
So, in between bonding prints to wooden constructs, waiting for layers of decoupage glue to dry, refining screens for printing, and wrestling with packages, I’ve been hopping into the basement workshop and doing some work on this wooden box they sent me – the box and contents to be given away by Hendricks Gin when done, through their fascinating newsletter and blog at Unusual Times.
My plan, as with all things I do, is to make an heirloom quality and long-lasting piece, so I felt I should do a bit of added reinforcement to the original box with some fine bits of oak, birch, mahogany, maple, and/or cherry, which are the sorts of wood I prefer to make my constructs of and paint my paintings onto.
The very first step, of course, was to remove the box from the package. There was a wonderful promotional book from Hendrick’s Gin in there as well, but Insects and Angels Author and Editor Bethalynne Bajema so-loved the little book and all the artwork within, that well… she was still thumbing through the book, and I might have lost a finger if I tried to reclaim it. Anyway.. the box, above.
Another shot of the box, it’s insides just the perfect size for a number of unique 8.5×11 printings of some of my select artworks.
I plan to fill this box with:
1) At least 6 hand-signed fine art prints on a special paper and of a special size to make them one of a kind.
2) A Magickal Bag of Holding
3) A polar bear
4) A bunch of Arctic Salmon for the polar bear
5) Bethalynne says that Magickal Bags of Holding are not available anywhere around here, and are quite likely mythical.
6) An original painting, as the inside top of the box, which fits snugly but can be removed and framed.
7) Tacos! Everyone loves tacos!
8) Apparently the above is also a violation of postal code.
9) Some sort of sea monster… though a rather tiny one, made of clay and hand-painted.
10) I don’t know yet… it seems like a lot so far, so I’ll have to see what else the box can hold…. maybe some stickers and patches.
The first thing I did was to cut some pieces of oak – two for the insides of the box (one to reinforce the bottom, one to be painted and inserted into the box later), one to make for a hard and sturdy plate for top of the box.
Work Space: YeGads!! …
Above 4 photos: Ground Zero… I have been working from one thing into another for way too long. The workshop is piled in bits of brass and unsorted wood… and I am pretty sure there are some clamps and other important tools under there somewhere. I should clean up beforehand to make all of this go easier…
… ohhh… maybe after one more cut.
A thin coat of poly completes the night’s work. Tomorrow I’ll sand this down with fine paper, varnish it again, wait another day, sand it down with steel wool, varnish again, wait another day, sand with steel wool again, wax, buff, wax, buff, wax, and buff… until the box is looking very nice.
During that time, I’ll also be working on the painting to go int this box, 3 other painting commissions, shipping, and kickstarter rewards… the good thing about all these projects, is that they each have steps that involve waiting for things to dry or to set… the trick is managing that time so there is always something to do on the next while waiting on the other.
I started this, thinking I was going to take an 8×10 pencil sketch and make a neat water-colory looking piece of it, or maybe just smooth it out and make some edits.
I began by making it 16×20 at 400 DPI, and then took to smoothing out all of my pencil grainy-ness. I chose this size, because I like my works to be high resolution, and my prints to be perfect – I also always consider that I might finish a piece, and then wish I had made it available much bigger.
The downside to working digital for me, is that can I zoom in to where I can see the individual pixels when it comes to detail… I begin just doing this for one part, then realize that the entirety of the work now needs to be in this ultra-high resolution – and set off on a journey of exploring a miles-square map of pixels for.. as long as it takes… in this case, over 300 hours I really did not have to spare. I think I spent nearly two weeks planning on being done “tomorrow”.
It was certainly a way to indulge though – as an artist these days, I don’t always get the chance to put so much work into one piece – though I do put a tremendous amount of work into every one comparatively.
From pencil sketch, to over 2 gigs of file size, hundreds of layers of painted elements, plus all the modification layers for overlay, lightening, darkening, color, multiplication, saturation, etcetera…
About a day or two in, I decided it would be a great idea to actually log the process for this one… and I saved a lot of progress pics. Below, you can actually see the details of the finished piece. One thing with all of my paintings and other images: Web resolution will never let you see how packed with detail every inch is, or all of the interesting scenes, items, and mini-artworks semi-hidden throughout the painting.
Below that, I’ve added my progress pics – for people who are interested by such things.
A rather rough sketch… these were quickies done for $25 a pop for bus fare a year or so back. The paper type really did not allow for erasing, so they were one-shot deals. I liked the concept and base layout enough, I thought I would do some digital work on it to make it print-ready.
A lot of steps went by before I realized it was going to be a much bigger project than I planned. It was the point where I was fleshing out this airship where I decided some screen caps would be good. I had started on the girl, switched to the airship, cut my pencil work out to its own layer, and placed other airships where I wanted them, as placeholders for the sake of layout.
I blacked out the girl for this stage, I didn’t want its pencily quality drawing my focus from the background I was working on.
head/face. This part took all of my night – so not much else has changed.
boots and leggy things… I put a lot of base work into this, then decided I would need to enlarge the feet, and widen and lengthen the lower legs. I write notes to myself whenever there is something important I want to hit first thing the next day… you’ll see these notes in other screen caps below.
The very beginnings of the holster and belt… I would later go in further, and further, sharpening up these details, then making details within these details… and sharpening those up. Oh, you can also see the base/beginning brushings of her stripey-pants.
Painted in acrylic on tempered hardboard backed with birch, 12 by 24 inches – added to the airships and tentacles series because I might as well – since the book is not yet compiled and won’t be in time for Holiday selling.
I’ve been having a rather not so spectacular month – with lots of things I need to catch up on, and sickness, fatigue, and finances getting in the way at every turn it seems. Christmas season is always terrible on artists, especially us for some reason – and we hoped to be on top of it this year by finally offering calendars and greeting cards… all we ended up doing was using a lot of valuable time laying these things out – and though I closed down most of my store to get people to shop over there, I think all I have done is to cut ourselves further out of holiday sales.
When there is nothing else I can do, I paint – and this one is the product of a few multi-day – never leaving my table except for restroom breaks – sessions.
The original, since it is already made, can ship immediately, but the giclees cannot ship before the 20th… making them scary last minute gifts, especially with all the last minute and overdue shipping I need to catch up on.
If this painting sells, I will be super happy, and able to catch up on many things, I’ll even be able to visit family for the Holidays – which would be super-awesome.
If it doesn’t sell by then, well, I’ll mark the thing back up to $2400 or more, and just count on it to sell when it sells.
I started this piece as a pencil sketch for The Borgia Popes, an Ohio band, from the Cincinnati post-punk scene in the 90’s, for use in their album cover.
I wanted it to have a very Beksinski feel to it, dark, brooding, and mysterious. Zdislaw Beksinski was a great influence on my art, and one of my favorite artists to this day – I could say the same for many of the post punk bands from the mid 80s to late 90’s, and it seemed like this combination would be a perfect mesh.
At first, I was going to do the pencil sketch only as the cover, do some adjustments to lighting in photoshop, maybe a bit of blending – but I felt this piece was demanding more, and so I took to digitally rebrushing and coloring the entire thing.
Anyway, here are some pics of the piece from beginning to end – I wish I had saved more pics from the middle of the process, but it pretty much went from sketch to almost done in the course of a day… and then teetered on the brink of being *really* done, for days and days after.
Prints and posters of these are available at RedBubble [here], I am also selling 10 Limited edition full sized and hand-embellished prints on acid-free fine art paper [here].
Like all of my giclees, they will be available for a limited time, and, if any are left – they’ll be available again a year or so down the road when I decide to re-offer them.
It includes *new* things, like an Airships and Tentacles Calendar, tee shirts, hoodies, onesies, iPhone cases – and it includes the old and current: My artwork in printed form… though with a much smaller price tag than before… even better… there is a Black Friday sale going on, and they’ve reduced a *lot* of things 25% or more :)
I’ve done this because for a while now, I’ve had a lot of great and wonderful friends, buyers, supporters, and dare I say it “fans” tell me that they love my work, and wish to buy a print when they can *afford to*, wishing I offered posters to fit the sort of budget that, well, 99% of us have to live within these days.
Seriously: A chance to offer prints the full size of the original work, and even bigger, for less than what my standard prints would cost at half size, appealed *greatly* to me, and I had to go with it. I hope you too will appreciate this move.
I will still continue to offer the more high-end limited edition giclees, and art originals in my own store, and at conventions, but the new setup allows you to order, have 24/7 customer service, and have your product shipped by people who are not so tied up in road trips to visit family, conventions, shows, and just trying to make ends meet… I.E. better customer service than an artist type with out of state family to see can offer during holiday season.
I’ve also wanted to be able to offer more shirt designs, and in more sizes hand just what I have on hand or can afford to run up, and to be able to offer those designs on a variety of shirt colors, and shirt types, even Hoodies, onesies, kids, shirts and the like… without sacrificing quality and offering the crummy sort of iron on or inkjet printed shirts that are the standard for “print on demand”.
Well, the technology finally caught up… or at least so much so that a graphic design whiz like myself can make fully transparent designs, to be printed in the quality inks you’d expect from screen printing, directly onto the garment. You can order shirt designs on shirts or hoodies or onesies, on the color of your choice, and even choose whether the design is printed on the front or the back.
I’ve also designed a full “Airships and Tentacles” Calendar, with all of my steampunk airship paintings; There are IPhone cases too, and stickers.
To see more you can view the slideshow below (slower), or go directly Here (faster): My RedBubble Store.
Yeah, I know, people have gotten pretty used to me making with the fantastical steampunk stuff – but there are a lot of times when the things in my head aren’t exactly in the genres I’m known for, often times these things aren’t exactly things people would want hanging on their walls, or even like.
That, is perfectly okay.
I took a 6-month break from showing anything new here – not that I stopped creating, but I was building big things, painting big murals upon them, working large scale in everything from the art itself to the undertaking as a whole… I managed 7 new paintings – each 3 foot by 7 foot, and can’t show them right now as I have no budget for imaging them.
I’d like to say I am working on something even bigger than that, but I am working smaller for a bit – less over the top, less fantastical, less with the huge.
… Some of this, is because the project, and all that time, really tapped me out emotionally, physically, and otherwise – I may have shot my life completely down the tube, I don’t know – I’ve lost my faith in humanity save for a small handful of people I met and worked with during the process, and have lost all hold on any illusion that there is any hope for a real arts scene or art happenings in the town I am currently living in and my thoughts in general on art as a living: expletive filled and feeling rather final.
Until I find a job, hopefully something good and hands-on, blood and sweat and not having to deal with people variety… landscaping, construction, etc…
I guess I still have to do whatever I can do, manage whatever I can manage, every day, regardless – so I do what I can do, which is painting, on what I have available to paint on.
I’m finding bits of board and unused canvas around the house big enough to do paintings on, and painting away for no one and no reason in particular.
I think some might call this “freedom”.
If you liked the sorts of things I spent the last few years painting – well, there were ways to express that – Just downloading images, wasn’t it.
But, for those who missed all the oddness and ugliness… well, it seems that I am back in that regard, and will paint new things, whenever I feel like it, whenever I have stuff to paint on.
I’m not done being an artist – I was born that way, I’ll die that way – I am just feeling rather done with *this*.
I am going to go back to breaking my back for a living, because I’d enjoy that a lot more than watching the internet for a non-living. I am going to wrap all my works up as I make them, store them up, list a few here now and then, and show them if and when a chance to show them someplace good comes up.
My latest two pieces are painted on 8×10 inch scraps of birch. They are filled with tiny details. They are the product of free-painting, with no particular image, story, or anything in mind short of the current element leading into the next and tying in with the previous. I suppose this is leading a lot more toward the style of my older, more surreal works, and I am exploring that for a while… contemplating how I will break that formula on the next, reflecting on missed chances in the previous…. building toward something, though I have no idea what, nor do I care.
I’d say more, but I still feel that people who like to talk a lot about their work, should be spending that time working.
So, this last week we wrapped up the Infernal Device show at the Gerald R Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tear-down went pretty smoothly, considering that we had to break down nearly two tons of complicated mechanical machinery in less than two days. From standing atop our 17-foot tall wind and solar power sculpture and rotating mural to disassemble Todd’s wind collector, to getting the solar panels and reserve batteries loaded up, to breaking down the 7-foot tall, 7-foot in diameter, 7-sided rotating mural, to breaking down the massive surrounding structure – and all of its pistons and gears and chains, to scooping up nearly 3 cubic yards of decorative stone – all went fairly well – much thanks to help such as Glen Swanson, and Steampig artists/team members: Alicia Vanheulen and Thomas Birks.
There was a *lot* to talk and blog about during this huge 6 month project, and I missed out on that from being too busy each and every day of it – but if you would like a recap, progress pics, and more pictures of the device itself, you can find them all at http://facebook.com/infernaldevice
The project, is not over. We are re-grouping. We’ve all spent a lot of the last six months, and a lot of expense on making this project happen, and now comes the time when we recover, rest up, catch up on all those other things that have been screaming to be done these last few months… things like blog updates, new art, and standing obligations.
I’ve spent 6 months without posting new artwork, without making sales, without shipping most of the few sales I had made, and needing to catch up on the last rewards shipments from our kickstarter – and I’ve found myself in a spot where I *need* to sell things, but cannot afford to sell things if I have to pay to have them made or shipped to me. My at-home stock is all but depleted, and I have nothing on hand but a lot of paint and wood to paint on.
I have seven new paintings from the device itself, each 3 foot by 7 foot monsters making one continuous repeating 21-foot by 7-foot mural… but not the money to have them imaged.. as well as doubts as to whether I can sell 3 foot by 7 foot prints at the price I would need to sell them at.
So, I’ve put a few commissions for sale – to get me back into the swing on doing artwork, to get some new artwork on this site, and I figure since they are such favorites: I might as well add some new pieces to the “Airships and Tentacles” art collection since I have yet to get it published.
If you are interested in getting an artwork commissioned, and incredibly cheaply – there are several options available – a 24×24 inch painting (already added), an 18×12 inch painting (already added), and more engravings (I’ll have that offer up soon if it is not up already).
Think of a visual representation of a statements or concept, as a series or a single image.
Consider a style or media that would be striking, and imagine it taken to a level beyond your ability.
Research said media if it is new, and think on the concept or image for a while – but not so long that something new takes its place – because the longer this thought process, the more ambitious it should become.
Once the thought of even trying begins to fill you with an equal level of dread and excitement, begin.. even if it is after your bed time.
Don’t stop until it is looking as good you had hoped, because this is the *true* starting point. Now work to take it even further, as far as the piece demands, beyond whatever level of ability you thought you were limited by.
Walk away regularly with the image in your head, process it, think of the parts you like, the things you don’t, and things you would like to add.
Remove and go over anything you have doubts about without mercy.
Add in only what won’t crowd the piece
When you reach the point where any change will only make it “different”, but not “better”, you are done.
“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things by breakfast”, is a good phrase to remember.
Most *Everyone* draws at some point in their life. Those who are intrigued by failure, inspired by the seemingly impossible, continue beyond the point of jagged teeth and crayoned stick fingers.
An artist should never seek to do what they already know they *can* do – and perhaps such is the evil in commissions, which are most often specified according to past works, and limited by scope. Not that all commissions are bad – an artist must accept only those that allow the artist a fair share of creative freedom, as well as room, opportunity, or even obligation to try something new.
An artist who finds himself or herself with extra money, tends to spend it exploring a new mode of art, a new mode of printing, or trying to break into some bigger and more time-involved media or project. It isn’t that we are without wisdom, we know what is wise, and choose to ignore it out of a strong and passionate love for art. Buy canvas, sell paintings, buy scanner, sell reproductions, buy printer, sell giclees, buy lithography press, sell lithographs, buy bigger canvas and better paints, sell paintings, fret over a choice between crowns or a big chunk of marble, sell sculpture, buy clove oil … some ramen noodles …and a better chisel.
When I first started the “Airships and Tentacles” series, in wow… 2006… I don’t even think that “Air Kraken” was a word yet, though I could very well be wrong. I can’t remember specifically, but given Final Fantasy’s tendency to make *some* version of every base creature for each and every environment, it would be insane if they never had some sort of airborne cephalopod in all those years.
Yes, It is foolish of anyone to believe they invented anything… logs and stones rolled down hills long before the wheel, and there is sure to be a comic book from the 60s or illustration from the 1800s with flying cephalopods *somewhere* – and a hundred movies and books in-between. I am only saying I hadn’t yet seen them in paintings, especially luminist and/or American arts-movement-styled paintings, and I thought it would be fun to add hints of in the first painting – and loved that touch enough to continue it through the series.
My airships, started with a commission for Robert of Abney Park, based on the existing designs by Eliza Gauger, which may or may not have been based somewhat on an equal interest in things such as Final Fantasy. The fun of imagination, came more in execution and styling, and moreso in the landscapes themselves. Over time, as the result of much research on bag sizes, gas content, altitude, temperature, etc… balloon sizes grew, ship sizes and engines shrank – I also started to lean more towards the stylings of DaVinci for wings and other parts – and mixed a bit of the aesthetic stylings from my favorites like Derek Riggs, Michael Whelan, Brom, Bethalynne Bajema, Gustave Dore, Pieter Breughel (E&Y), Zdzislaw Beksinski, and others wherever characters, creatures, scenery, or technology allowed.
Anyway, I wanted to do a series of what is essentially landscape art, explored by this fascinating mode of travel – as a means of adding a human element for the viewer to view through, without focusing on figures so much as to make it “character art”.
I sought to combine Lovecraftian elements and mythos with Vernian machines and aptly romanticized visions of exploration; in this, I also wanted to hide every bit of my usual dark and spooky art in such a way that it goes mostly to completely unnoticed.
The latter is most likely why this series was the first series I ever did that people *both* liked, *and* would hang on their walls (Criteria: Does not scare children, much; Does not creep in-laws and future in-laws out; Does not give the potential future girlfriend reason for pause; Does not get a cubicle-dweller fired).
I *thought* I was going to explore this into many, many other types of media – and planned to have a sculpture in wood and a sculpture in metal in the series of nothing else. But, I’ve done more paintings in this series than I intended to, and many, many engravings. The very last painting ships out tomorrow… technically that is not true, because there will be *some* of that in the Infernal device – but I am counting that as my sculpture piece to complete the series.
I’ve got one hell of a collection together in this – plenty enough for the book I committed myself to making works for. I’ll be releasing it in a time when dirigibles and flying Cephalopods have over these years become an odd sort of ‘norm’ (a subcultural standard that to most, comes out of *nowhere* for no apparent reason). The journey has been in interesting one, and I feel that alone merits the book’s release if nothing else… pending until all this Infernal Device stuff is under control.
Thank you everyone who supported the making of this series by buying prints, sharing links and such – and of course thank you everyone who continues to do so.
I really have no idea what I am going to do from here, because I have *many* ideas and will have to choose one, or combine a few – but whatever I am thinking, I am sure going to look forward to it the moment I allow myself to look forward to other things.
Right now I am looking forward to getting the first build of the Infernal Device done, and looking to make it better than anything I could ever possibly do.
In celebration of the closing of the series (okay… I really need money to get my butt to Maker Faire Detroit), I am making large giclees of the very first image from this series available online. They are 30 inches by 24 (printed area is slightly less), and they are printed on fine art rag paper. I will also sign and date these. These are not limited editions – the reason is that the metallics and canvas prints I sold as limited editions, must always remain more special than any version I put out afterward. These are prints I make available in small quantities at conventions, with no set number to be made – but they beautiful, high quality, and they are the biggest prints of this image you can get without buying one of the 4 remaining giclees on canvas.
If you would like one, these few prints are available HERE – and are only $100 until they are gone.
The HP 4670, rocks. 600 DPI, in seconds. Perfectly flat, no distance from the painting, means I can finally get good imaging of my paintings without the $300+ a pop imaging fee, which means savings to you.
I decided to take this one step further, because limited editions and all, though they appeal to some people – most just want a good wall hanging at a good price. And the added cost of having these shipped to me, so I can stretch them, sign them in paint, re-varnish them, print up certificates on hahnemuhle paper, stick holograms on them, etc… well… this is a bit of an experiment.
Not to say they *aren’t* somewhat limited, I mean, my life is finite… unless you both believe in quantum immortality and also believe that you and I will never part coils – in which case I guess you have forever.
But, whether you and I live forever, or otherwise – I anticipate I’ll probably sell about 20 to 50 of these, before I stop selling them, and you can be one of 20 to 50 owners – without all that cost and delay involved in limited editions.