Category: Art

Objects in Red Light

There is no form. There are no lines, no shapes, no objects; only color. Everything is comprised of paint brush size pixels of color, of individual unblended chips of paint spread across the canvas. The painter is merely an algorithm that sees a square of color in the subject, and transmits it to the canvas, but in doing so, discovers something uniquely beautiful.

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This was the mission assigned by Professor Sheesley.  We were then presented with a still life of white objects bathed in red light.  Following in the footsteps of the impressionists, we were charged with exploring the rich diversity of color present in a seemingly monochromatic field of view. The objects were not just red, but an assortment of oranges, reds, pinks, creams, peaches, yellows, burgundies, and violets. The shadows are not merely grey and black, but an inverse of the red light source, with a variety of greens in different tones and shades.

This approach to painting was initiated by the impressionists, and more specifically by the pointillists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, over a hundred years before the first color printer evoked a near identical process. Even the majority of digital image storage still utilizes a series of pixel patterns, or bitmaps, rendering pictures as a series of small dots of color.

The true beauty of the process is revealed when a chaotic seemingly meaningless mix of color swatches placed randomly all over the canvas begin to coalesce together into a stunning rendition of the subject material. The painter’s opinion is removed from the equation, and the image forms itself from the scientific application of color across the canvas. The result is a desire not to contrive a personal masterpiece, but to recreate the moments of splendor in the world as many times as possible.  This serial approach is best displayed in one of my favorite collections, Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral Series, a collection of 31 canvases of the Gothic Rouen Cathedral in different lighting and weather conditions.

My small and sloppy attempt is nothing more than a cheap imitation of the masterful work Monet and his fellow impressionists created.  That being said, the project continues to be immensely beneficial for my understanding of light and color, having sharpened my eye for the beautiful visual nuance present all around me.

Iron Man

As a child, I had never really been exposed to comic books, having been born after their initial hayday, I grew up in the 90s when television and video games cemented themselves as the central sources of my childhood entertainment. I lived a life oblivious to the expansive, imaginative, and magnificent worlds that Stan Lee and others at Marvel had painstakingly brought to life on paper, until 2008 when those worlds broke through onto the big screen. In theaters, I witnessed the character of Tony Stark brought to life by Robert Downey Jr., and I discovered my favorite superhero.

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Iron Man

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When I began writing this entry a few weeks ago, Stan Lee was still alive. This post was just another chapter in the small but growing catalog of my artistic and literary work.  Then, November 12th, days before my scheduled date to post this to my website, Stan, a pillar of not only comic books, but of modern storytelling, passed away. This sent me back to the drawing board, as this piece became more than just an individual chapter in my own narrative, but instead my tribute to an artist and a man who has greatly inspired me.  When Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Leiber), began work in the comics industry, the occupation was so looked down upon by society, that all his writing was done under the pseudonym Stan Lee (later adopted as his legal name). His vision, passion, and creativity showed the world the good work that could be done through art and story, as his creations became cultural cornerstones that transcended the comic book industry.

It was more than just the action-packed badass nature of the film that drew me in, though: it was something deeper.  Now don’t get me wrong, I was fascinated by the action packed sequences; I was inspired by a hero who used intelligence and science to construct fantastic weapons and technology; I was enamored by the grit of a person with their back against the wall triumphing against the odds and thwarting the bad guys.  However, what truly captivated me, and caused me to stick to Iron Man while other narratives with similar elements fell by the wayside, was the poignant redemption arc.

To begin the film, Tony Stark was not a hero.  He was selfish arrogant narcissist. He was a womanizer, a war profiteer, and an all-american prick displaying some of the worst aspects of humanity.  Time and time again he displayed complete disdain for the well-being of anyone not named Tony Stark, as he led a life that not only disregarded the well-being of others in favor of himself, but actively took part in destroying that well-being to advance his own security, his own significance, and his own satisfaction.  Despite these numerous character flaws, he is given opportunity to change. By experiencing a taste of the pain, suffering, and injustice he has caused in the lives of millions of people, and being brought face to face with the humanity of those victimized by his actions, he finds redemption.

This message resonated with my 15 year old self.  While I’ve since learned that this drastic transformation cannot be done simply through the individual grit or the personal intelligence displayed by Tony Stark, the tale of selfish schmuck undeservedly turned spectacular hero has nevertheless continued to captivate me as it takes on new meaning. In high school, this motivated me to depict Stan Lee’s creation with my own hand, full of large messy brush strokes and abstracted forms.  Today, Stan Lee’s vision inspires me to make more than just cheap imitations, but to make my own original creations, and to carry on Stan’s catchphrase: “Excelsior!” – Ever upward! 

Docked on the Muskingum

Water has always been a central theme in my life (beyond the fact that it is about 60% of my body).  I was born just off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where I spent the majority of my months as a toddler. Even before my birth, photos depicted my parents residing in a cloth tent on the sandy beaches.

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Docked on the Muskingum

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Before I stepped foot in a classroom, I lived in a beach shack on Tybee Island, Georgia, where I spent my childhood hours amidst the sand and the surf, venturing into the coastal Atlantic waters free of worries and life jackets.  Instinct and wonder were my instructors long before a YMCA swim class.

From these beach adventures at the age of 4, until the age of 19, I did not stray from my marine biologist career path. If I could not spend my life perpetually swimming alongside orcas, dolphins, and the numerous other sea creatures that occupy the oceans’ depths, then I would study them.

Even when, at the age of 9, fate would transport me to the landlocked Midwest, I still found myself in a river town intensely connected to the water.  Marietta sits nestled where the Muskingum joins the Ohio on its long journey to join the mighty Mississippi, eventually flowing back into the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps poetically circling back to the city of my birth.

Even now, my move deeper into the Midwest, and away from a career in marine biology, still places me just off the Great Lake of Michigan.  Its thus fitting that one of my earlier pieces depicts that vital connection to water.  Based on a photograph I took of one of the many vessels docked on the Muskingum, this piece is still one of my best ventures into representational work.

Featuring my loose attachment to form and precision, inspired by the impressionists, and incorporating my undefined almost whimsical facture that has remained an important aspect of both my abstract and concrete works, this painting serves as a substantial step in my development as an artist.

It was displayed in the aptly named Riverside Art Gallery shortly after its completion during my senior year of high school, and remains in my personal collection