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Blue Things

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.

Anyway…

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.

Good night.

Same Deep Water as You
Same Deep Water as You
Deeper
Deeper
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Infernal Teardown and Commissions Available Again

Infernal Device at Night
The Infernal Device at night time

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).

You can find all of those offers here: https://mykeamend.com/new/products-page/?ptag=commission

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The End of the Series

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.

The Rescue -Steampunk Airship painting featuring Abney Park's HMS Ophelia

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).

Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series (crop)
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: crop 2
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view. This, the last of these images is finally available as a giclee on fine art paper, a giclee on canvas, and a metallic print at our Etsy store: http://ettadiem.etsy.com

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.

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Hello!

I am talking to you… through the internet!

I forgot to mention the rewards such as limited etchings on brass, paintings, and the like – but, if you’d like to know more, we’ve got a writeup about the project here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/infernaldevice/the-infernal-device-an-enormous-mechanical-and-pai

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The Artist’s life: Myths and Misconceptions

This post is for those who are aspiring artists, those who are living the artists’ life/fighting the good fight, those want to know what the typical artist’s life is really like, those who erroneously assume we are on some pedestal above the working class, and especially those who see us as something lesser than the hard-working masses.

I really enjoy what I do, and I enjoy every person I interact with online, and every person I meet at shows and conventions along the way, when we are able to make conventions anyway.

Often times, I find myself being labeled or referred to as a “successful artist” – and I suppose that, if artists were paid in web hits, kind comments, web features, magazine features, book features, television news spots, peer/colleague recognition, and used bandwidth, that just may be… And, really, there could be nothing better, save for that ever-distracting rumbling from within…

– Some people mistakenly think that being an artist means not having to work – joyfully stroking away at a canvas with a very long brush so we can still recline in a golden hammock, while dining on peeled grapes and supervising our apprentices to urinate more passionately upon a silk-screened soup-can.

– Others assume that being an artist means not wanting to work, as if we spent all of our days on play and recreational drugs, and only picked up a brush to avoid “real work”, or maybe just to have something to offer for money… like that guy on the corner offering to sell you a handful of dumpster findings from his pockets, because he knows you’d rather just give him 50 cents.

For an actual artist, one who lives for art, and lives as an artist, *neither* assumption could ever be farther from the truth:

Now, I am talking actual artists here: Not those jet-setters who would gladly have fame rather than create something worthwhile – Not those coke-headed scenesters to whom “art” is rubbing elbows with the wealthy over champagne while conversing about the deep and existential meanings behind sloppy paint on a half-assed doodle ready-made to satisfy the “chic” galleries’ demand that an artist produce 12 pieces a month to be considered – Not the “I’m gonna splatter this paint on a canvas” guy you see making a living off 5 minutes work per $50 painting (or sometimes $4,000,000 painting).

… No, I am talking about those who couldn’t live without being able to create things worth being proud of, and would gladly die of starvation or lack of sleep if it meant finishing that one last work… which in its conception and crafting is nothing short of amazing, but completed, will never, ever be good enough, but always one step closer… while never anything worth patting oneself on the back over.

Even a step backward is a step forward, every failure is a triumph. We learn through experience, improving our art through noting the good and the bad – and for all the works you’ll ever see, are at least three that get crumpled, scrapped, abandoned, burned, or shot and buried ceremoniously.

Artists included – Any of us who struggle to work for ourselves, are the most tyrannical of bosses – We typically spend 16 to 36 hours at a time on our work between 4 to 10 hour naps, grabbing a shower or a bite to eat when there isn’t an important deadline to meet, or paint threatening to dry on the pallet. (I’ve managed over 150 hours of straight-painting in my worst/best days – bathroom breaks and Mountain-Dew refills excluded).

On the very best days, those hours are spent on art alone, though those days rarely come – so the days get longer and longer, bedtime gets that much further away, just so some actual art can be managed before “day’s end”..some 48 hours later.

If we are doing well online, much time goes into ordering tubes and packaging, ordering prints, wrestling with cardboard and glue to make painting-shaped boxes, rolling prints, printing labels, signing things, making certificates, running to and from the post office… it keeps us from our work, but it is happy work. Sending my art to hang in the home or office of another person keeps us going, emotionally and financially.

The rest of our time is spent writing blog entries, redesigning our sites, managing our “social” network pages, creating sales, adding new products to the web, looking for affordable advertising, logging clicks and cost, submitting to boards and sites and magazines, answering our email, waiting for others to answer theirs, looking for new markets or merch like skins and tattoo flash and tee shirts and such, and doing work for others to make ends meet: Web design, ad design, various other things “artistic” which are not “art” and often soul-sucking – especially that every hour spent here, could have been another hour of painting.

Things being what they have been these years, we spend more and more time on the latter, less and less time on the former, and all those extra hours of tearing our hair out and staring into this screen, mean bedtime is that much further away if we are to get any actual painting or drawing done… because an artist who does not create, is not an artist, but a “seller” if they are so lucky as to be making sales in that time.

And when things suddenly go well… due to some freak internet occurrence, some kind soul with a lot of traffic posting our images, or numerous kind souls posting the same to their friends, Tumbling, Stumbling, Tweeting, whathaveyou, or just the purchase of an original work: When we have shipments out of the way, if we have money left over, what we don’t re-invest in replenishing our art supplies – we use to allow ourselves time for our very best days: A worry free day or week of making more art, maybe sleeping and eating more regularly… maybe even putting ourselves on the list for a convention.

… and for those days of pure art, still working most of the day, we feel like kings; It boggles my mind to see these people who get huge funding and fame for their art, and could actually bear to spend their days just riding out that fame, when they could be using all that money and attention to make bigger and better art… and not just things that will sell or grab headlines simply because a famous person made them.

Truth be told, if art were not so incredibly important to us, we artists could live far, far better begging on the street, or even working a minimum-wage job. We are in a class below “poor”, and often looked at as much less – though we don’t get government money to sit on our butts, no medical coverage, no paid rent, no food stamps, no $5,000 EIC for making babies we can’t afford … Instead, we *choose* not to be a burden on society, we *choose* to overwork ourselves to death, and do so for much much less, and a lot of nothing in between.

We live on caffeine, adrenaline, will power, and most importantly the hope that all of our hard work will someday mesh with the American dream: That determination and sacrifice will pay off in the end.. knowing that having spent years of your life on this pursuit, that giving up now, or tomorrow, would render all that suffering and struggle pointless.

And this is not for lack of skills or knowledge; The both of us are very adept in crazy things like PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Actionscript/Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design, and other things that *could* be making us a decent living; We put all that time invested learning into our web sites, magazines, pre-press on our own artworks. We know how to work power tools, we know how to shape and work with lumber, we know how to work with more materials and how to do more things than most people could imagine, because every thing we don’t yet know, reflects something we may one day want to use for art… and we learn it all on our own time, without grants, without scholarships, with no reward greater than simply knowing … and being able to do whatever we cannot pay others to do.

We are thrilled to be able to justify $8 on drive-thru food we don’t have to cook, being able to spend that time instead on art is like Christmas for us… the same goes for trading blown-out boots for the next 2 years’ “new pair” or getting a pair of glasses that are less scratched-up in order to struggle less with the painting. We drive a car the mechanics gave 6 months to live, and have done so for 3 years waiting to have $350 that does not need to go to bills or art. We pay for our medical expenses out of pocket – and just hope for the best on anything we cannot pay for: Abscesses, unknown pains, troublesome coughs, broken bones if they are not compound fractures.

… Really, If I haven’t just cooked up the last breast of chicken and the last egg in order to make sure the cats are fed, or if I am not stressing over catching us up to “$nothing”, it is a pretty good day… yes, I live on the brink of homelessness – and I work very very hard to live on that brink.

For all of our work, despite the amount of homes that have our art hanging in them (including those where the art was paid for), or how many people know us online, or how many places you can find us, or the appearance of our web sites, these hard-working artists are really lucky to make $1 an hour for their 100+ hours a week.

… And I hope I die never knowing what it is to give up on my dreams. If that is sooner, or later – then I hope the the latter as I am not yet where I want to be with my art. Though I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with what I do, I know that choosing comfort or even life over art is death for me.

Any artist who can survive another day, having lived a day as an artist, is a lucky artist

… and I suppose, *yes*, that does make me “successful”.

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– If you are another artist and maybe looking for some clues on how to survive “the Great Art Depression”, it is pretty simple: The secret to survival is to not give up and die. Those businesses who made it through the 1930’s Depression, came out on top, and remained there for the rest of the century.

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– If you are not an artist, and I have provided some level of understanding, or if you simply agree – Please take the time to add to the success of the creatives you appreciate seeing work from. Buy a CD, buy a book, or an e-book, watch a program and wait through the commercials… And though some of the art you enjoy may be a bit dark or crazy for your walls, do something more than just setting a desktop image. Maybe this means giving them $1 – not as a handout – but in appreciation for the millions of hours of thankless work and study  they invested into just getting to the point where you can enjoy an image – or maybe this means telling a few others about their work.. stumble, tumble, blog, do *something*… become a part of the creative process, a part of history, by tipping the scales in favor of what you like to see, hear, or read.

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Indonesian Rijstaafel (Feast!)

Our last gathering (an artist’s and performers fundraiser for CirqueACirca & The 121st Retronauticon) was a great time for all, and we are doing it again. Come out and meet the crew, have some amazing curry and a spot of tea (vegetarian options available), and meet and mix with many other artists and arts supporters. Details below:

1537 Fulton St. E. Grand Rapids – Saturday, September 11th, 2010 – 7PM to 11PM

*Indonesian RijsTaffel (Rice Table)
*Meet the Crewe (Strong & Able)
*Post Fashion Night Out! (Stytche And Bytche!)
*See the Model (Hear our Pitch)
*Steampunk Chocolate Fountain (you’ll never leave)
*Get a “Love” Tattoo (Roll up you sleeve)
*Join the Circus (Sign the list)
*Buy the T-Shirt (Don’t be missed…)

See the Event Page at
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=152122114811763
(R.S.V.P. if you can, but you don’t have to)

12 noon (early-comers) – Make a SteamPunk Dress at our Stytche & Bytche
6pm – Volunteer meeting and sign up
7pm – Rijstaffel feast

$5 suggested donation (don’t let that stop you from coming though – )