Sunday, March 6, 2011

Industrial Object #1

One of the little perks of being a painter is that, when gift-giving occasions arise and all else fails, you can paint something for a present. I try to gear my present paintings to the interests of the person getting them. For instance, my wife enjoys knitting and quilting, and she's also a big fan of graceful industrial design (the business with the minimal curves again). This means that she's very fond of her antique Singer sewing machine. Therefore, for Christmas, I decided to do a painting of the machine. Here's what I came up with:

Singer, 36"x12," oil on canvas, 2010

I'm not sure how it is with you, but I find that selling paintings of nudes falls somewhere between dragon-slayingly difficult and black-hole-escapingly impossible. This problem can lead to pants-shitsingly bad finances. So one of my little habits is to notice when I paint a non-nude and don't have a totally miserable time doing it. Because there are lots of subjects people do want on their wall, apart from landscapes (which are very difficult for me for reasons I'll be explaining in an upcoming post). When I stumble on something that isn't a naked woman that I actually enjoy making a representation of, I pay attention. If I feel like I can keep integrity while pursuing the subject - if I discover that the subject can be genuinely inspiring - then I'll keep at it. My aversion to hackery is stronger than my need to sell paintings.

In the case of this Christmas painting, I found that my life-long affection for heavy industrial parts translated into, perhaps unsurprisingly, pleasure in painting heavy industrial parts. So I decided to see where I could go with that. Here's my first effort devoted consciously to the subject:

Industrial Object #1, 36"x36," 2011

What's that substance in the background? That's silver leaf. Silver leaf is an ultra-thin, ultra-light form of flattened silver. Putting silver leaf on a canvas will make you tear your hair out, because if there's one thing silver leaf doesn't want to do, it's whatever it is you want it to do. Fortunately, I had advice from a really talented artist and overall nice guy, Brad Kunkle, who is incredibly good with metal leaf. Follow that link - you won't be disappointed.

I was pleased with the result of this first effort. I wanted it to be partway to abstraction, a question of shape and texture as much as it is one of object. I also wanted it to be cold, menacing, cruel even. I think it's that as well - it is large in person, and not very scrutable.

So I'm going to do some more of them, and see how that goes.

While I'm working on that, perhaps you'd like to go check out the April 2011 issue of Poets/Artists, a very cool online art magazine which has included work by a lot of artists I admire. I've been lobbying to get into it for a while, and the editor, Didi Menendez, decided to run an article on me in the new issue. This rad picture of me is on page 5:

your humble correspondent, posing like he was a badass or something

And the article is on pages 67-70. Industrial Object #1 is on page 70. Hard copies can be ordered here, if you need a hard copy for some reason.

Oh, and as long as I'm busy tooting my own horn, if you're in Kansas City, MO, you might want to drop by Hilliard Gallery. My painting You Will Not Be Forgiven is in a group show of figurative paintings there.

You Will Not Be Forgiven, 60"x36," oil on canvas, 2010

If you are running a dryer, and open it, a sock will very likely come flying out. As usual, I have lots of ideas chasing themselves around my head, and I hope I'll get a chance to present you some more socks soon.


  1. We just returned from the Piers shows and my dryer is full of tennis balls

  2. I enjoyed Armory. I recommend a low-velocity setting to avoid damage to the tumbler.

  3. Oh, you know what, I just figured out who you were - I really like that nude you submitted to The Beautiful Nude.

  4. Hey, Daniel-- I have an idea on how you can sell your spectacular nudes! Paint them on 6"X6" panels and sell them through your blog for $100! You're welcome. Anyway, congratulations on your writing successes, and I look forward to reading more on Artist Daily. Oh, one last thing-- I think these "industrial" paintings are superb.

  5. I like where you're going with this industrial/abstract. look forward to the next one.

  6. Kevin - that's a good idea, but unfortunately, my effort on paintings doesn't decrease as a linear function of a decrease in area. It's more like it decreases as a function of the square root of the decrease, so that, for instance, a 6x6 painting has only 2.78% of the area of a 36x36 painting, and yet takes 16.67% of the effort. Have I got that right, Synamore? Anyhow, I'm afraid I'd have to charge more than $100 for a 6x6 panel. That sucks, right?

    Thanks for the suggestion though! And the congratulations - I hope that blog works out well. I actually thought of some cool stuff to write for it. And I'm glad you like the industrial paintings!

    And thank you too Jade - I can't wait to paint the next one!

  7. That was a most enjoyable blog post, Dani. Very funny. I mean, not pants shitsingly funny, but very funny nonetheless.

    You are right. Not disappointed in clicking on the Brad Kunkle link. Really amazing. I love the Gold Dress and Love and Sleep. I bet it's something to see that gold and silver in person.

    I look forward to your upcoming post on landscapes and the difficulty therein.

  8. Well, your math is right, but I can't answer to the theory behind it. I find that when I'm painting a wall, which is about as artistic as I get, it's pretty stupid to do a 6" panel and then have to wash up after. But if I did, I imagine it would be about 1/36 the effort as a 36" panel. Maybe we need another variable representing how much one gives a crap.

  9. Ed - If I can make you laugh, then I feel like I've done a good job. Because you are Pagliacci. And I'm glad you enjoyed Mr. Kunkle's work. Apart from his excellent paintings, he is such a nice guy. It's very satisfying when you like somebody's work and they turn out to be a decent person too. I should be able to get to the landscape one in a week or two - I need to finish a painting first to use to illustrate one of my points.

    Synamore - thank you for the math check. I think you'll find, if you do a rigorous theory check, that I am not only right, but infallible. I do like your give-a-crap variable proposal though. Which Greek letter should it get? I vote for zeta or upsilon, because they are both bullshit letters that the Greeks should be ashamed of.

  10. Figurative: Suspect your NYC locus is one of the best places to market same.

    Landscape: If one wants to sell art here in North Pole/Fairbanks it's gotta have a birch tree or a moose in it. As I paint purely for pleasure, not for profit nor posterity, ain't no problem for me however.

    Looking forward to your problems with doing landscape essay. At a life drawing session at North Pole Grange last night I did two sketches of the model as 'scapes, one, the model as a mountain, other, the model as an arid plain (somewhat bumpy for a plain but none the less arid), -which got me thinking tone and textures can be much the same twix figurative and landscapes, only the hues are changed to protect the innocent.

  11. Jim -

    You would suspect, and yet most of my sales are to outside of the NYC region. This may be a good spot for it, but that also suggests the other spots are *really* bad.

    Other question: are you the same Jim, in Alaska, as Jim in Alaska?

    Anyhow, I'm glad you aren't constrained to paint something with a birch tree or a moose in it. I'm sure there is much to be said about birch trees and moose, but if you're not feeling it...

    Very neat idea about merging landscape and figure! It's an issue I'm going to touch on in the landscape piece, although from a somewhat different angle. I checked out the drawing, and you're right, it looks arid - arid, and the figure is so submerged in it that a casual viewer wouldn't notice the actual shapes. Nice work.

  12. Yeah, good idea on the industrial stuff. You don't want to get pigeonholed as "the nude guy". People will start thinking you're a streaker or something.

  13. Same Jim, Daniel. I'm playing with a different browser and this one doesn't remember my Jim in Alaska sign in. & thanks for checking out arid. & & still, still, looking forward to your 'everything you wanted to know about landscapes but were afraid to ask' essay!

  14. Chris, I don't see any conflict between painting industrial objects and running naked through, say, an oil refinery. You can get a real adrenaline rush when you have 30 burly union guys chasing after you, waving wrenches and torches and yelling, "Charlatan!" Fewer than 30, you wind up with the same number of cracked ribs in the end, but less fun getting there.

    Jim - well there you go! Nice to see you - and the essay won't really tell you everything you need to know about landscapes. It'll just tell you everything I *don't* know about landscapes, which isn't really all that helpful, but which I hope will at least be interesting.

  15. My husband is an avid fan of industrial items and he asked the people from Indianapolis Industrial Painting if he could insert some industrial items in our building.