Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Etching Collages

Over thirty years ago I was a printmaking assistant.  Aside from generally assisting and printing for other artists I also managed to print my own work, etchings.   Years later as my interest in collage grew I decided to use many of these etchings to create new collages.  For the most part I let the shapes, patterns, and textures of the existing etching remnant define the image with only minimal use of pen and ink or paint.   A decade or so later I revisited these pieces again but this time with a bit more intervention to help define the pieces even more.  For some reason I was partial to rectangles.   

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Many years ago, I spent a lot of time in tents. They were large structures made out of canvas. They would get hot, stuffy, and smelly in the summer and be freezing and wet in the winters. Frequently we would raise the canvas walls to ventilate and bring in some light by rolling up the side panels. It was an unremarkable exercise but I always thought the patterns and shapes and light and shadows made them quite beautiful to behold. These paintings were based on some ball point pen sketches I made of the drapes at the time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Long ago, in another life, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time sleeping outside. Sometimes I slept under the stars. Other times I got to sleep in a tent. Sometimes a big tent and at other times a small pup tent. Occasionally I would make sketches on scraps of paper that I would keep in my pockets. 
What was it about the tents that so attracted me? The infinite patterns created as the canvas folded in on itself? The play in the contrast of light and shadows? 
It wasn’t until much, much later that I began to think about what the tent represents: 
Shelter. Escape. Warmth. Refuge. Safety. Privacy. Intimacy. Transiency. Portability. Mobility. 
Here are some of those tents reinterpreted thirty something years later using a bit of acrylic paint and pen and ink. .

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Then and Now

I was on the phone with a very close friend the other day and I had mentioned a book that had just come out by Doug Deuchler called ‘Local Legends of Oak Park’.   It was a compendium of noteworthy of individuals who once lived or currently live in Oak Park, Illinois, like Frank Lloyd Wright, Ernest Hemingway, Percy Julian, and Alex Kotlowitz.  Somehow I also made the list. The book featured a photo of me standing in front of a mural that I had been working on at that time.   My friend noted that my posture was almost exactly the same as the posture I had assumed in a photo he remembered of me taken me in the army many, many years before.    As I had said, we were speaking on the phone and in the midst conversation I went upstairs to my computer and found the two photos.   Sure enough, they were quite similar.  Using my very limited skills in Photoshop I cut and pasted the images together which created some very interesting results. 
     But what was most unbelievable thing was the speed with which it all came about.   From the moment my friend first mentioned the similarity of the photos,  putting  the idea in my head, to me going up to the computer, manipulating the photos, and then sending them off from here in Chicago to San Francisco, it took less than 10 minutes.   Incredible!  I am such a state of awe.   I can’t imagine how long this process would have taken, if at all, in the old pre-digital days of yore.    It just goes to show that

Seeing in not believing. 


Saturday, October 5, 2013


Here is a collection of mini 'pen and inks' ranging in size from 2" x 3" to maybe 4" x 6". Most of them date from the mid-1980's although a few of them are a bit more recent. They were made on small scraps of paper when I was doing a lot of experimenting with 'pen and ink'. Many of them are exercises in spontaneity, and stream of consciousness, to see if I could do it. Anyway, I recently rediscovered them and am enjoying getting reaquainted with them again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Richard III, reinvented

Richard III, The second time around.  

Two years ago a friend invited me to submit work to be included in a Shakespeare exhibition.  Artists were to create work that referenced or celebrated the work of William Shakespeare .    I submitted a painting connected to ‘Hamlet’ and an installation referring to ‘Richared III.’    It was dry humor-ish piece that featured King Richard and the heads of his six dead rivals at his side.    The show originally managed to travel to three locations in Chicago and Wisconsin.   After the third show I had assumed that we had completed the run.  In my typical fashion I decided to dismantle and rework the pieces.   
   A few months ago the Shakespeare artists were again invited to participate in yet another  show, this time in Indiana.   I would include my Hamlet piece and, with my Richard III piece now out of commission,  I decided to submit an entirely different piece based on ‘Romeo and Juliet.’    A few days ago I got a call from the curator of the show who said she was pleased to see that I had submitted a new piece ….and that she was looking forward to seeing Richard’s return .  I said, “Yes, me too.”

   I had only one choice:  Rebuild .   I literally started from scratch.  The concept was the same but I made  some changes in how I portrayed the rivals.   By the time I finished the only original parts were  the mops and Richard’s portrait.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ammo Vests Revisited

  I work on a piece or two and when it’s done I photograph it.   And somehow, it is then that the flaws---become more evident.   This is typical of me.  Anyway after viewing these pieces on my previous entry  I decided that something was problematic with them prepositionally.   Something was missing.   It wasn’t enough that they had been painted with pouches  empty of  ammunition, grenades, bananas, and whatever else one would normally stuffs into them.  I decided that it was the neutral backgrounds that were really bothering  me.    There needed to be something else going on to create more tension and contrast.   I could have placed the vests on a table or hanging from hooks on a wall.  But that would have been too predictable, too literal.   So I decided to introduce a bit more irony by changing the context and placing each vest in the midst of an elegantly patterned background. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Web Vest Still- Life Landscapes

    Back in the old days when I used to wander around in the desert many of us would don (web)vests for a night out.  Back then our pouches bulged with all kinds of ‘stuff and our steps were light.   We were (literally) dressed to kill.   But the thrill faded quickly and the first thing we did when we finished the night was to unceremoniously drop our vests and collapse for a few winks.  But sometimes in the right light and mood I could look at my vest and its jumble of pouches and straps and see it not only for what  it was but as an object quite beautiful and unexpected:  A  still-life, a mini- landscape of hills and valleys.
     As I was glancing through an old sketchbook, I came across some little ball-point pen drawings that I had made of my vest all those years ago.  Strangely enough I apparently drew it with all the pouches empty making it look shrunken and flimsy.  It occurred to me that if I had actually worn the vest as I drawn it (with its empty pouches), it would have been like getting dressed up for a war and then forgetting to pack the bullets.

 How embarrassing.