Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Self Portrait Painting for the Recharge

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I always return to painting self portraits.

There is certainly the practical reason. It is hard to find someone willing to sit in front of me for 6 hours at 10pm on Sunday night, but I always seem to be willing.

That’s not the complete story though.

I’ve never been much of an intellectual artist. When I make art as an intellectual exercise, or to express an intellectual concept, it falls flat. In my mind, intellectual art is better served by the craft of illustration, using line to exactingly express an idea, fact, or concept.

Art works for me when it comes from emotion. If you tie me down and force to tell you what art is, and I will tell you art is turning emotions into images.

I have a hard time expressing emotions. I don’t talk about how I feel, or write how I feel, it doesn’t work. I’ve been told I have walls to guard my emotions (in one of those delightful now-that-we-are-broken-up-i’ll-tell-you-what-i-really-think-of-you conversations).

Self Portrait II oil painting by Sean Neprud

Self Portrait II, Oil on canvas, 12x12

Painting how I feel works, however. Imagery can represent how I feel in ways I don’t know how to communicate otherwise. This is, I think, why I make art. If you want to understand me, understanding my art will get you well over half way there. The art that best translates my emotions into an image is usually my best art.

Self portraits connect me back to the basic reason that I make art. When I stare myself down for hours at a time, I can’t avoid how I feel. This becomes the fuel for my self-portrait paintings. The paintings themselves don’t always hold the charge of emotion, but the process does.

I whipped out this painting you see here on the left because I felt stuck. (Being stuck seems to be going around.) I wasn’t sure what I should be doing with my art, or where I want to take it. I had no idea what images to make.

I’ve had some ideas, but nothing that really gets to the heart of what I mean to do. One of my recent “good ideas” involved roly polies. The other involved my truck. Not exactly high impact. I had decent reasons for these ideas though. Kinda.

As I worked on this painting, I was able to wrap my head around my art, and what I should be doing with it. I rediscovered what is important to me, and I have an idea which direction to move in, even if I don’t know how exactly it will show up in my art.

I know I can revisit self portraits when I need a kick in the right direction, or to figure out what is going on inside. It works.

I’m a Printmaker, Not an Artist

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Artists get show horned together, as if we are all the same.

It doesn’t matter what subject or what medium, society thinks we are pretty much all the same thing.

Painter, sculpture, illustrator, printer, photographer, all the same.

Luckily I don’t remember specifically who I am going to pick on next, it was someone in Blogistan, or on the Twitter Show. This person was pimping out their “art training”, and from what I could see, all artists got the same training.

We’re not the same though. The skillz required to create a great painting are quite different from the skills required to make a great sculpture. Illustration, yet other skillz. Printmaking? Forgeddaboudit.

There are some basic skills that each of these different types of artists must have, but after those skills are worked out, the skills become wildly different.

I got to thinking that an artists medium is sorta like being a specific type of engineer. Nobody would offer the same training to both a Mechanical Engineer and a Structural Engineer.

A little digress, In the Spice Mines (my term of affection for my DayJob), I am an Engineer. A Mechanical Engineer in fact. I work with Electrical Engineers, Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers, and Architects (sigh) on a regular basis.

We all had the same foundation training in math and science, but the details of what we know are very different. I know enough about each of these to get by (480 volt 3 phase! #5 @ 12″ on center!), but the specialization between fields of engineering is rather different.

Electrical Engineers are concerned with voltages, power, and signal; Mechanical engineers concern themselves with pressure loss and heat gain; Structural Engineers think about shear stress and moments; architects concern themselves with getting their latte right.

Nobody would offer the same training to each of these types of engineers.

Why, as artists, are we offered the same training, wrapped as “artist training”?

I think it is because we think of ourselves as artists first, and our medium second. Contrast this with engineers, who think of them self as an Electrical or Mechanical Engineer first, and an engineer in general second.

I’d like to see artists identify with their medium first, and as an artist second.

“Artist” has too much stigma. Too much baggage.

“Artist” doesn’t capture the very different skills required to produce very different art.

I am a printmaker. I am a painter. Sometimes, an illustrator. I am not a sculpture, or a photographer.

Does this make me an artist? I guess, but after the above, that is just a trifle.

New Work Table = Productivity and Quality of Life Increase

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new!

I replaced the dinky folding table I was using as a printmaking work station with a new, improved, modular station of might:

3-part printmaking and painting work area

This work area gives me plenty of room to work, and a lot of storage for my materials. Check out the in progress painting! It's a portrait of a small child.

My new station is made up of three tall work surfaces (ie. kitchen carts) that sit side by side. The tricky thing about finding good furniture was height. Desks are made for sitting at, not standing at, and shelves tend to not be deep enough to give a good work area. Kitchen is made to be used standing up, and addressed both these problems.

This work surface is actually 3 separate carts that can be individually be easily moved. When I was shopping, I thought I was making a concession by buying 3 of these and setting them next to each other, rather than buy one large work table, but I was wrong to think that.

The modular nature of this work area is a benefit. I can move one of them around as needed to use as a stand to paint on (or do anything else, I guess). I am not confined to working along a particular wall.

Instant Upgrade

The effect on my workspace was immediate, and two-fold: I have a nicer work area, and this is a far better tool than my previous work surface (a small folding table).

work station in apartment

The new work station fits well into my small apartment.

I do all of my work in my small studio apartment, so I have to live with my work area. This looks nicer, and already is keeping me more organized, both of which make my living space more enjoyable.

The real advantage of this work area is it will be easier to work at. It is taller than my previous work table, so I won’t be bending over for hours at a time when I am printing. I can move the painting section around my apartment as needed, I have been freed up to work where I would like.

As soon as I got this station set up, I knew I made the right decision to upgrade. This work area feels more professional, and I will be able to make more professional work here.

Invest in Yourself

The quality of our work areas effects our performance, I am a firm believer of this. When I have a messy desk, it is harder for me to get to work at my computer. Any impedance to our ability to work will make it harder to get stuff done.

It is always worth the time and expense to upgrade a work area. My upgrade has already made me more productive (and I haven’t even used it yet), since I was able to move all of my painting supplies off of my desk (my other work area) and onto a cart.

If you have been thinking about upgrading to a better work area, or getting better work furniture, do it. You will be happy you did.

New Year’s Painting Goal Has Visible Results

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

What are you doing in 2010?

2010 is the year for doing stuff. If you are not doing or making something, you are wasting your time.

My plans for 2010 are rather ambitious. To follow through on them, I am going to have to do ridiculous amounts of work.

I’m Ok with that.

One of these plans is to do 50 paintings this year. One a week.

How to get ‘er done

Self Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 12x12.  First painting of 2010.

Self Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 12x12. First painting of 2010.

The structure I have set up for myself is pretty simple. I paint on Monday night and Tuesday night, starting around 7pm. I work till 10 or 11 pm. The painting is finished when I go to sleep Tuesday night, even if it isn’t complete.

The results of my first week’s work are sitting up here on my left. (I paint myself a lot because I am always a willing model)

This painting is not complete, but it is finished. This is as much as I got done on Monday and Tuesday night. I may work on it again a little bit this weekend when I have some free time, but then again, maybe not.

I imagine that this painting requires about 6 more hours of work to complete — it is about half done right now. The major shapes and areas are defined, but everything needs more work to flesh it out and make it complete.

Why half finish a painting?

When I was getting my art degree, I made a decision to pursue printmaking as my emphasis rather than painting. This had more to do with the school than my interests.

UC Santa Cruz had a marvelous printmaking facilites and equipment, and a marvelous lithography instructor. I had the oppurtunity to get a deep understanding of printmaking.

I also knew that if I studied painting, all that I would get was a lot of time to paint. This had to do with the school and the instructors. There was very little actual instruction beyond the introductory courses. Most of the advanced courses that I would have been in were little more than a lot of time to spend painting.

I put off painting, because I realized that I could get a lot of time to paint on my own, and learn nearly as much on my own as I would have in school.

I set this “painting a week” plan to get that year of painting that I put off in school. This is mostly about regaining my painting chops than producing finished work.

I’ll make paintings that you can buy for thousands of dollars next year.