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Showing posts from 2015

So what, the dam work changed!

Most artist go their entire art life creating the same type of work. Some never pushing the boundaries beyond what they are comfort with or never bring their work to the edge and letting it fall over to create something new ... something different. Just like everyone else I have seen work like this and said .. "what if?.. they " but is this any of my business?!  Not really.
My work began to change years before I allowed it to, for example, I did a cover piece for a local magazine in Austin and the art was so different from the current Noman Rockwell stuff I had been doing for years it surprise even me. This change was always lurking in my work, so one summer I just let go. I let go of what was working and let crazy, imperfect, weird, unrecognizable, terrible, amateurish art happen. I created work that held no loyalty to clients, schools, friends, other artists and galleries. It was liberating in so many ways but what i didn't anticipate was the total loss of my art busin…

silk screening...

What does painting want, anyway?

"It's painting like this-you are in front of your canvas, your hand holds the painting, ready, raised. The canvas waits, waits, empty and white, but all the time it knows what it wants. So, what does it want, anyway? My hands comes near, my eyes begin to transform the waiting canvas; and when with my hands holding the paint and my eyes seeing the forms I touch the canvas, it trembles, it comes to life. The struggle begins, to harmonize canvas, eye, hand forms. Finally new apparitions stalk the earth."

(Karel Appel quoted in H. N. Abrams (eds.) Karel Appel. Painter, New York 1962; Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art', p.98.)

'One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basical…

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See more of my work on my website:

And so it begins.

collages ...

Gesso, gesso gesso.

I'm not superstitious when it comes to my artwork, but there are a series of things that I do to get going in my studio practice when I have been absent from doing work for a while. I first start by gessoing stuff!  Everything from small panels to paper, canvas' and frames anything that needs or needed my attention the last couple of months. The act of painting layer after layer helps me to delete the noise that sometime inhabit my thoughts. Once I'm done with the gesso I start my research looking for new faces/people for my collages, once thats done I start with a series of small panel or paper collages before moving on my oversized paintings. This enables me to create a structure or plan on how to tackle ideas I have been grappling with because, sometimes the biggest question mark in my practice is "what's next?" or have I "exhausted" this concept?
I think it's important that artist don't get too bogged down in over-thinking things becaus…

Drip drop ... drip.

So, it has been a minute since I updated my blog! Just set up my new studio in my new dwelling and isn't it ironic that it gets the biggest space. I'm gonna break it in this way... start on something small then blow things up! Here's a small sampling of what I'm doing, pick up these grocery signs in Chicago last month.
Also, I gave a art talk in San Antonio two weeks ago on my work and practice.

Wait until you see what I do with these signs as it relates to consumption, hierarchy and consumerism

Find a way to do your art. #Livingtheartistlife!

I can't say this enough, but as artists we must always find ways to keep our artistic practice going!  (#Livingtheartistlife!) I have a lists of excuses why I can't work in my current environment; It's too small, the lighting is bad, no real space to do work blah, blah blah!
Last week, with a little cajoling I was able to talk a local print shop in to letting me use their shop after hours for a small fee to print some large text silkscreen pieces. Well, I busted my ass to get my screens out of storage cleaned, coated, burn and film shot only to have the print shop be closed all week and NO one returning my calls... Ugh!
You know, I have been thinking about this new work for about five months now, so it was past time for me to get going. I had to get something done this week, because its perfect in my mind, but as you know, "Perfect work" doesn't always transfer to paper or canvas.

Frustrated, I said what the hell I'm gonna make this small place work even …

Great Advice!

Nina Simone: Notions of being a Black artists in turbulent times.

As an artist whose artistic practice draws on the notions of acceptance and inclusion when it comes to race, beauty and gender I feel so inspired by Nina Simone's thoughts and actions during the fight for civil and equal rights! Here's a quote from the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone that is so prevalent today.

 "I chose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself in... that to me is my duty! And at this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desperate and everyday is a matter of survival... How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times?"                                                                                                                   Nina Simone

Creating a Consistent Studio Practice

Life can be very distracting, but if you want to succeed as an artist, you have to have a consistent artistic practice.  Having consistency in your studio practice is very important. I always find it funny when artist tell me that they haven't work in a while. I get it, It's a struggle to create time for your artwork while having to work, manage a family and your social life. I'm only writing about this because I haven't done any work in about a month in a half. This hurts me and the more time that flies bye makes it even harder for me to get back to work.  Last week, I went right back to work full throttle! Working on my new text pieces and preparing to do some large scale screen printing projects. I feel stronger as an artist when I work out my problems by creating huge amounts of art. Even though, I wasn't painting during my "hiatus" I was doing research, writing, grappling with language and thinking about whats next for the work. Having a creative pr…

Junk yard

Uh- huh ... metal surface, let's see what this brings.

Be a creative superpower!

I can't wait to go to the junk yard today, it's the best place to find great things for your studio practice with little cost to your budget. I love doing mixed media collages and you can find tons of things there for changing, challenging and aging surfaces. Recently, I found some weird metal tools for applying different textures. What I'm realizing is that there are so many ways to do art, no longer are limited to one tradition, one set of tools, one identity or one discipline. The relationships that you form in your practice can be versatile and multi-dimensional which is key to having a long and rewarding artistic career. It use to be unthinkable for an artist to have alternative ways of creating works. If you did film, then you had to do only film.That's so last century!  Lucky for us you can do anything you want in your practice as long as it's working and making the work better. Working like this gives your work time to blossom, because allows the work to m…

Art Mags!

I love art magazines! Whether it's ARTNEWS, Art in America, ARTFORUM or Modern Painters I can't have too many. They are a great source of inspiration, knowledge, creativity, and a tremendous resource tool. When I'm in the studio and I've hit a wall I normally take a minute and thumb through a couple of books. It gets my mind off of my work and helps me to gather my thoughts. Also, they help me to focus on my own personal goals. But have anyone else noticed that the prices have shot up? Dam! I don't really like reading them on line, but I think that maybe the way of the future.
It's not as exciting as getting a clean copy in the mail, but times are a changing. Here a new one I spotted today... It's so cool.

Out my studio and out of my head!

Today, I finally had to draw a line in the sand when it comes to my work and what others may think of it. Will this person like this or that!!! Should I add more of this or less of that ... go big or small ... WTF! Kerry James Marshall told me and my friend Zoe once (after we snuck into the SFMOMA to see him before his show open) that if we did work only to please curators, galleries and dealers we had lost our souls. He was right. I think artists should do the work that feeds their soul and get the message THEY want out to the world whether everyone gets it or not!  I don't think an artist will ever move forward if they spend any part of their studio time doubting themselves or trying to do work that will please certain people or a certain audience. Because chances are the work will start to look convoluted and diluted,which is the last thing any artist wants. And if this happens no one wins especially the people you want to reach. Finding ones artistic voice is not an easy task…

Art & Social Trauma and the role of Black artists

What does it mean to be a Black artist in the age of social consciousness? The protests, the unrest and the BlackLivesMatter movement is sweeping the nation causing a shift in the national consciousness and shining a light on the disparity of privilege and mass incarceration. Thousands of people are marching in the streets demanding that America, a country built on the premise of civil liberty speak out valiantly that justice and accountability must be afforded to all its citizens equally.
 As an artist and a human being I'm drawn to the visceral affect of the faces I have seen on TV and in protests marches. I am mortified when I see some of the news media demonize and cast protesters as sub-human and not people who are angry, desperate and unable to breathe under the oppression of a system setup for them to live in the margins of society. While we are familiar with this narrative it's important that the images that are thrust in front of us are not just media driven. Is it th…

Who's art is it anyway?

Recently, I had a long discussion with another artist about artist assistants. She believed that if assistants were doing most of the labor then the final work was a "collaborative" piece. What became obvious after a twenty-five minute (let's agree to disagree) discussion is that this is a major topic within the art world. Apprenticeships or artist assistants has been going on since the 14th century with little fan fare or disapproval. However, today most people are complaining that artists like Damien Hirst, Khinde Wiley and others are having studio assistants preform all the hard labor when it comes to producing their works. How do you generate mass amounts of work without help when you have garnered the attention of the art world, which can be short-lived and fickle? Is this fair?
The notion of assistants will never really be resolved because some artists are going to champion the idea and others are going to view it as cheating. I think it is not fair to criticize a…

Positive Psychology: Finding your creative art zone! (Flow)

(Flow) positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is the characterized by complete absorption in what one does. [Wikipedia]

One of the most difficult things is finding the zone ... your creative art zone! It's a place where almost everything you do in your practice is working and the ideas are flowing. You are unstoppable, each medium you try is working and the adrenaline for creating mass amounts art is at its highest peak. You can't sleep for the fear that it may leave and we as artists can bare witness to the notion that it eventually leaves you. It usually has nothing to do with drugs,liquor or any other substances, though I've heard from others that it can ignite the flow.
As for me, when it happens I love it! I don't anything special, because I work all …

What's the value of your art?

I think every artists feels this way, at some point in their career,  what's the value of my work and how do I price it?  If these questions aren't not bad enough this one is even harder, pricing someone else's artwork. So, please stop asking me because I don't know what to tell you about pricing... well I do, but who wants to be the one that burst another person's bubble. Some artists invite curators over and asked them, others just wing it. This leads to overpricing or under pricing the work. I have witness artists selling things one week for one price and the next for another. This is a bad practice! Personally, I tried to be fair with my prices, I've always wanted to get my work out to as many people as possible hence my low prices. It helped me be able to maintain a great client list for a long time and when it was time to raise the prices (actually my dealer did) I was okay with it.  I put in the time both with my status as a practicing artist and my exh…

Can you speak "ArtSpeak"?

If you don't know how to talk "artspeak" then you are not alone. It's like learning a foreign language, first you learn a few simple phases, then complete sentences and your off adding your voice to the chatter!  I'm not fluent, i know just enough to get my point across. One must ask, Is it important for artist to know how to speak "artspeak"? I have always championed the notion that artists need to be able to write and talk about their work, because it's apart of the learning process to becoming a good artist. Do we have to walk around trying to sound pompous or over-educated? At what point does the "actual" art matters? Just in case you want to sound smarter there's help in Robert Atkins' book, "ArtSpeak" and ARTNEWS recently posted this great article on 146 buzz words to help you speak, artspeak properly.

What's the BIG deal! The idea of painting smaller.

So many times i've been told, " why did you make it so big?" Most of the time i say to myself ... " that's none of your concern," but i typically give a generic answer. I am a artist who paints both large scale painting and small works, because I find that sometimes a small whisper carries just as much punch as a loud scream. My work deals with controversial issues like race and beauty so i have to be careful in my practice not to come across as angry or resentful. Large scale painting tend to me to be historic and powerful and makes us all mortal in front of them. I love that!
Last night I had the chance to meet artist Jack Whitten at a lecture here in Austin. It was amazing to here him speak on potency of doing large scale works long side smaller ones. He champion this notion that if the message was clear and succinct size didn't matter. I agree with that statement! Look, if i were paint a 2in by 2in painting of a lynching which is very disturbing but…

ART vs Politics ... Is political art turning you off?

Is political art turning you off? I guess to most artists who haven't really been under the shoe of oppression might think that making political is boring, limiting and overused. I was asked in my thesis defense, "Haven't the art world had enough of Black beauty?" I am paraphrasing but you get the meaning of the question. What does one say to a question like that? When we look at beauty magazine covers on news stands few if any have a Black face on the cover.In the current issue of InStyle magazine featuring Kerry Washington  the editors thought "lightening her skin" was acceptable. Her beauty wasn't in question, her skin tone was. I think art and politics go hand and hand, it's the "politics of respectability." Below is segment of my views on gaining respectability through the use of grotesque imagery.

The Grotesque in Art History
Theorists and historians have explored the social and cultural contexts
of the grotesque in art history through…

The Art World ... No excuses

So, like most of you I want to do well in the Art World! Mostly, for myself but partly because of the people who think its impossible to do so. I get it, it's not easy, but if this is the one thing that give you a sense of purpose you have to go for it! Yesterday, I meet a older artist who gave me so many excuses to why he hadn't found any real success that I wanted to throw up once he explain the reason for his lack of success. First, there was his fantasies about how the Art World works, then there was this notion that if he just made work the business end will take care of itself. Then there was the idea that,"My work is too powerful for the masses" then in the same breath... "No one will show me, (pause) if i could just have a solo show show ..." or this one "My work is about the Black experience." Really, because no ones ever done work on the Black experience before! Ok, ok, ok, now here's the kicker,"I really don't paint that of…

"Collage is the twentieth century's greatest innovation." - Robert Motherwell

Thank you Mr. Motherwell!  Collage may be the twentieth century's greatest innovation, but in the twentieth first century it sometimes gets a bad rep. I can't tell you how many times someone has come up to me and said, " collage is so easy" or " it just cutting out paper, you can do hundreds in an afternoon!" Really, because I've tried and they look like crap! No matter how much or many you do It takes lots of work to make anything look effortless, just look at any of Matisse's works. Even as a painter he did numerous amount of collages called "gouaches decoupes". He was great, look at all that paper at his feet!  When Matisse became sick with cancer later in his career, he found away to still do what he could no longer do with a brush. It was away of reaching for something new! Checkout last weeks episode of Sunday Morning, and be inspired! 
Artists are trying to figure out …

Studio visits... Love them?

So, I had a studio visit yesterday and was feeling pumped afterwards! Scott Sherer director of the UTSA Art Gallery and I talked about the work, my practice and how best to create new pathways to push the work into multiple directions without getting lost in old troupes. We talked for hours as a second year Grad student looked on.
I felt pretty goods afterwards, but this isn't always the case. As we all know, some studio visits can have a polarizing effect on ones "fragile" psyche. I mean just getting ready for a visit can cause anxiety for me.  I know what's happening in my work but..but do they see it? If not, do i really care? or should i care?
In an Huffington post article last week, a young artist asked, "Do i really need other people looking at my work?"
 The author posits, "No artist can rely exclusively on themselves to critique their artwork; bringing in an ou…

The role of the Negro artist. (1926) by Langston Hughes.

"Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who canescape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their "white" culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country, with their innumerable overtones and undertones surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. But let us look again at the mountain. The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce…

What good are drawing books and should I keep them, forever?

Suddenly, I find myself besieged by old drawing books, did I ever throw any of them away? I guess not. Today I went around my apartment and counted how many drawing books do I have and was surprised that I had thirty five! Yes, thirty five, now don't get me wrong there's a broad range of books here. Some I haven't look at in years, just waiting for a glance when that inspirational well has dipped to its lowest point and I needed an artistic a hand up.  Drawing books have held my dreams, fears and my voice for a very long time and by the looks of them my heart.   I have drawing books ranging from around 1993 to 2015. Some from my time in France, San Francisco, Syracuse, lots from the time I lived at my parents home (whew) those are at the bottom, and my gallery and so on. Then there are those who just fueled my love of pen and ink, watercolor and line, they're my refuge ... my armor. Why have continually ignored them? they hold a rich history, my history as an artist, …

What inspires you? ARTFORUM, ARTnews or Modern Painter?

Lately, I have been asking myself, which of these art journals should I invest my money in a monthly  script? I find that when I read ARTFORUM I am excited to see that artists all over the world are invested in their practice in ways i have yet to realize in mine. Damn, do I need to see that when I am working on my stuff?! When I look at Modern Painters and I'm proud.. it's just a matter of time before others (I mean collectors, museum directors, galleries, and curators) will see my work and see that I am in dialogue with what peers are doing.  It's all about the language, bro and I am singing in my practice. Honestly, these periodicals inspire me it different ways so, maybe I should empty out my penny jar and get all three because we have to invest in our practice.

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My Progress report!

My progress report concerning my effort to create new works "post" grad school. What's the next step or steps? I have always champion the notion, that if things were getting a little confusing in your studio practice and you can't figure a way forward always go small. I mean really small and do a lot of them, maybe 25 or 30 little drawing or paintings. For me this creates energy, a spark that fuels my creative juices. I have a couple of shows coming up and i need a kick!
So, I went out and purchased a new drawing book (sigh) like I need another one and started doing these small collages of this little girl. I think there are 25 pages in the book... I'll use the month of January to fill it up. Here are my first 4, later I will figure out what I need these to say, but for now I am just working blindly,  not questioning or controlling the narrative.
Art is hard.

James Baldwin

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

New Year, big dreams!

Time to get going! look for me in Chicago and NYC this year