Muraling at Rock Prarie

Some lively muraling has burst into existence at Rock Prarie Behavioral Health, thanks to the Arts Council and Alisa McDonald for making a connection!

Creating the murals required a strategic approach – a loose but organized plan that allowed self-expression for a number of individuals and would achieve visual resolution.  Instead of creating coloring-book-style murals where colors would be filled in to pre-drawn forms, these murals were made by a series of processes.  If you look at pieces by Conceptual artists such as Sol leWitt or Yoko Ono, you can see examples of instructional paintings or instruction-based art.  The Rock Prarie murals are instruction- or process-based, but not just about process.  Each step helped inform the subsequent step.  There was plenty of room for chance and variation, using instructions that could be interpreted by each painter.

Rainbow palette: We went with the rainbow palette to keep things bright.  Coincidently this palette complements the Rock Prarie values logo – a little square of different-colored puzzle pieces.

Below, are some photographs of the painting stages and the finished murals:

 

 

ADOLESCENT UNIT MURALS:

The kids had 3 big murals, each 36×172″.  We went with one rainbow, one cool, and one warm.  Painting groups of 2-5 adolescents at a time rotated.  Each started off with patches of color.  Next, we drew off areas with tape – random shapes. On the rainbow and the cool mural, we added a wash to each new shape.  For these steps, we tried to keep like colors apart.  For the cool mural, we defined the edges for the new shapes and then added some finishing touches. The warm mural did not get any washes; instead we added all species of tiny little symbols to the bigger shapes.  On the rainbow mural, we did not define the new shapes, but added overlapping concentric circles of every color.  On top of that, we created sea creatures to make a rainbow ocean explosion.  And then glitter.  Look:

(rainbow mural) 36×172″

(cool mural) 36x172"

(cool mural) 36×172″

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(warm mural) 36×172″

The participants are currently deciding on what to title the murals.

Here is a look at the development of the rainbow mural:

starting

starting

continuing

continuing

add wash

add wash

add circles

add circles

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add sea creatures

fini!

fini!

 

ADULT MURALS:

The original idea for these 5 murals, each 36×56″, was something along the line of landscapes.  Each lands in one color from the rainbow spectrum, with BIV consolidated into one panel.  We painted these in larger groups (8-12), using a similar process-based painting strategy.  First we covered the plane in patches of pure color.  Next we filled in any gaps with white.  Next we linked shapes of the same color with curvilinear forms.  Each panel was divided into 3 bands by thick white lines that traced the seams of color patches.  After this, we added more: thick curvilinear lines to the bottom band; thin curvilinear lines to the middle band; and overlapping concentric circles to the top band.  We made some straight-line connections between white marks in the bottom band, and then feathered in a vignette for each of the 5 pieces. Finally, each piece received a solid wash, tinting the colors beneath.  You can see that although they are made using the same series of steps, they reveal differences which act as subtle signatures of the many hands that contributed to painting them.  In my mind, they are still landscapes.  Here are the finished paintings:

hallway view

hallway view

(red) 36x56"

(red) 36×56″

(orange) 36x56"

(orange) 36×56″

(yellow) 36x56"

(yellow) 36×56″

(green) 36x56"

(green) 36×56″

(BIV) 36x56"

(BIV) 36×56″

And the transformation that they went through – here is red:

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Larger projects involve teamwork. Participants from the adolescent unit, an adult unit, staff & I collaborated in creating some beautiful art on the walls.  The wonderful supervising folks made this possible.  Thanks again to everyone involved for facilitating this!  The murals turned out lovely!

Big Texas, Little Landscapes

These little 4×4″ canvases were primed in acrylic rainbow coats (ROYGBV) & black, grey, & white quite a while back.  Now they’ve finally taken on some shape, depicting some of the pretty places that can be found in the vast Texas landscape.

 August Horst Memorial Park at sunset

RED: August Horst Memorial Park at sunset

ORANGE: Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend

ORANGE: Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend

YELLOW: Natural Bridge Caverns

YELLOW: Natural Bridge Caverns

GREEN: Westcave grotto

GREEN: Westcave grotto

BLUE: Galveston shoreline

BLUE: Galveston shoreline

PURPLE/INDIGO: Horlock backyard tree at sunset

PURPLE/INDIGO: Horlock backyard tree at sunset

WHITE: Guadalupe Mountains, Texas summit

WHITE: Guadalupe Mountains, Texas summit

GREY: Lake Livingston

GREY: Lake Livingston

BLACK: A country road in Navasota

BLACK: A country road in Navasota, after some heavy rains

 

 

Texas watercolors

A short post: some small texas-inspired watercolors:

"On the Brazos" Watercolor, 11x14"

“On the Brazos” Watercolor, 11×14″

"Longing," Watercolor, 11x14"

“Longing,” Watercolor, 11×14″

"Clucket," Watercolor, 6x9"

“Clucket,” Watercolor, 6×9″

"Pony Ride," Watercolor, 11x14"

“Pony Ride,” Watercolor, 11×14″

"Catalina Cowgirls," Watercolor, 24x42"

“Catalina Cowgirls,” Watercolor, 24×42″

"Chase," Watercolor, 42x24"

“Chase,” Watercolor, 42×24″

"Longerhorns," Watercolor, 18x24"

“Longerhorns,” Watercolor, 18×24″

Hanging Methods

A number of artists working on paper run into the dilemma of presentation.  How do you display a large drawing or painting?

If you’re drawn to working on paper, you’re probably somewhat attracted to the inherent qualities of that medium.  There’s a simplicity to scrolls, sheets, large lightweight expanses of paper that can be easily collapsed under the wrong circumstances.  Sometimes putting large paperworks under glass in a frame cheats them in a way, transforming them into aquariums that glare and reflect very unlike a raw drawing would.  So how do you safely display something that errs towards delicate?

On a visit to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, I wandered accidentally into the Glassell School of Art and into an array of non-traditional hanging methods:

example 1: glass head pin

example 1: glass head pin

example 2: smaller pin

example 2: smaller pin

example 3: linen hinging tabs

example 3: linen hinging tabs

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example 4: metal hooks for the drawing to rest on

example 5: GIANT MAGNETSSSSS that look like fridge magnets

example 5: GIANT MAGNETSSSSS that look like fridge magnets

The listed hanging methods for large, non-sturdy works are not the only means.  If you have seen Leon Golub’s large canvas paintings, you’ll note that he uses eyelets, as used in signs/banners or boat sails. A lot of shows will require pieces to be matted, framed, and wired for hanging – this is often standard and ensures better protection for the artwork as well as installation ease.  The aesthetic of ‘non-traditional’ hanging for works on paper allows the viewer to experience exposed art but may risk the safety of it.  In the end the presentation is a balance between what is suitable for the piece and the space it is displayed in.

Although the security guard kept following me closely for the longest time, he finally asked why i wasn’t taking pictures of the artwork, so i was able to explain myself (guard: *laughter*).  If i can make people laugh, then that’s ok with me.

art camp: Summa…

Do you remember the story of Humpty Dumpty?

Summer Art Camp kids got to witness it in real life!

Let’s hope the dove picks a smarter nesting spot than in one of George Toblowsky’s sculptures the next time around if there is one.

On the first day of camp, after looking at examples of instructional & performance art, the kids designed their own instructions for outside games.

On the first day of camp, after looking at examples of instructional & performance art, the kids designed their own instructions for outside games.

 

During another one of our recess breaks, the kids noticed some beautiful yellow flowers blooming all over the lawn. One girl went about picking a handful of them, then arranged them around the base of another sculpture before running off to play hide&seek. It reminded me of some ephemeral arrangements by Andrew Goldsworthy that we looked at in class.

An ephemeral arrangement at the base of one of Toblowsky's sculptures.

An ephemeral arrangement at the base of one of Toblowsky’s sculptures.

Another day, before we began a different sort of project, we looked at some ephemeral pieces of art using sand – mandalas. A mandala is a kind of cosmic diagram – a Hindu or Buddhist symbol of the universe. It is also a meditational device, demonstrating the impermanence of material life. After hours or weeks of creation, detailed sand mandalas created by monks are typically destroyed soon following their completion. The San Antonio Museum of Art is one of only four museums in the United States housing a sand mandala and the only one with a Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala.

A Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

A Tibetan Medicine Buddha mandala at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

We also looked at preserved sand art, particularly pieces by Andrew Clemens, before creating ‘sand people.’ Some of these ‘sand people’ ended up gliding along the floors on leashes as pets. Others sprouted 3rd eyes and took on careers as ninjas.

 

One of things I asked the kids at Summer Camp to do was draw from memory his or her favorite animal living in Texas, thinking naturally-occurring-in-Texas animal. One student asked if a zoo animal counted, since that animal would be a Texan by resident status. It’s living here, isn’t it a Texas animal? In my mind, since it is not naturally occurring and the sustainability of its existence in Texas outside of a zoo is questionable, no, but then since it is living in Texas and species migrate and evolve and change and sometimes get help in relocating, yes. So these minorities of pocket cluster importees are in my mind rare or unnatural but residents nonetheless. Here are some ‘non-native’ Texans up close and personal:
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Note the similarities between the following two images. The first is a detail shot from “Gluttony” (2005), one of Jamie Wyeth’s “Seven Deadly Sins” paintings – the ensemble depicts seagulls caught sinning: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. The second depicts a gluttonous emu poised at my passenger car window. Do you see? :

Detail of Jamie Wyeth's "Gluttony" (2005)

Detail of Jamie Wyeth’s “Gluttony” (2005)

Emu with gluttonous intentions

Emu with gluttonous intentions

While these characters don’t measure up to expectations of Texas species, they were indeed friendly, tejas-style.

Texas is not exempt from clichéd representations designed to meet expectations based either in nostalgia or outsider accquaintance. Texas = cowboys, Indians, BBQ, deserts, mustangs, longhorn, cacti, armadillo…. = stereotypical associations. You know what they say about stereotypes: they are, in art, “relief printing plates cast in molds made from a composed type or an original plate;” so, they *echo* truths. The late artist Mel Casas tackles sterotypes in “The Southwestern Cliches” (1982-89). These huge paintings function as windows into landscapes that hold a viewer at bay. Titles obtrusively painted on the bottom center of the pieces, they are approachable – bright, iconic, familiar – and bespeaking a sense of humor. A strange experience though is that some of these bright, easily-accessible pieces cause an eerie aftertaste of being aware of not being aware as to what more exists beyond the icon. Others, like “Sarape Landscape” or “Guacamole,” with little tortilla chips looking like sharks swimming about green waters, are just funny. The last piece in the exhibit was the “Ojo de Dios” or ‘God’s Eye.’

"Ojo de Dios" by Mel Casas

“Ojo de Dios” by Mel Casas

We made these in summer camp. Thought to have originated from the ancient Pueblo peoples, ojo de dios were originally created as protective amulets. They have since evolved into contemporary forms, using more string colors, different sizes, more arms, & new meanings.

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Although there were many other projects and story notes and fun moments, from history to heuristics, to sum it up:

It was a wonderful summer art camp week spent with some creative, imaginative, and thoughtful kids.

Upcoming

Summer Camp at the Arts Council in College Station is right around the weekend corner. I am looking forward to leading classes and sharing projects with the students. It should be a creatively educational fun time! Modeling the structure of the camp after HMAS Exploring Art classes, we will take a survey approach to different media, while learning art history and art specific to the Texas region here. We will start off with drawing!

 

The mural at the Filling Station is waiting for additions. Following Mitch’s suggestion, I took a gander (not literally) over to Austin to look at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery on Baylor Street. This impressive fortress is quite unlike any public art structure. Enabled by the HOPE Campaign, it facilitates an ongoing metamorphosis of multiple scalable levels of graffiti & mural art.   There is some really nice stuff happening in this evolving concrete sketchpad. There were several groups at work creating new images when I stopped by. From the top of this gallery you can see the state capitol building peeping up above the trees. Inspiring. Below is a detail shot of my favorite section:

detail on HOPE outdoor gallery

detail on HOPE outdoor gallery

 

M ART ket on the Green is scheduled to happen on Father’s Day, June 21st. Horlock artists three will be there at the Millican Reserve, along with other local artists and vendors! I intend to find local honey, since the bees formerly in our roof demonstrated that it can be super delicious. Let us hope that the weather is welcoming.

 

Regarding my art at the moment, there are several things ongoing and balancing. Currently I am working on some book covers and children’s book illustrations. There are also a few projects I have in mind for the time here… working on the logistics. The previous week was the Grimes County Fair, featuring animal judging, horseback, & rodeo events. It was a chance to see some formidable livestock in action. I took the opportunity to take a lot of pictures and make some sketches. The horse cutting and bull riding, new to me, was impressive. The risk factor is evident. I’m taking in the horsemanship and skill set involved in handling animals that could punch a hole in your gut with a hoofstrike should they get in a foul mood. I’m imagining cowboys herding steer across the plains when suddenly one cuts loose or charges and necessitates some quick thinking and roping. Although the bull here is probably not having the best of times, when does a person get the chance to watch the powerful acrobatics they are capable of? Here are some bull sketchbook sketches, below:

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Don’t forget the Navasota Sounds of Summer concert series!

 

I am looking forward to the next 3 months here.

Again, thankful to have this opportunity to explore & create. Mahalo!

Finder Seeker

Already the residency is a little over midpoint.

A belated “Thank You!!!” to all who came out for the Open House – it was a great turn out.

 

If you didn’t get the chance to make it to Open House, come by to see the works before a July rotation. Two of my avian pieces are traveling to Oahu to join other avian pieces for a 2-person show at Hawai’i Pacific University that has been a year in the works. I will also have a piece in the Mango Show Honolulu part of the Mango Jam Honolulu festival, later this summer. If you are in Old Forge, NY later this summer, stop by the View to see group show For the Birds – my piece “Feathered Quilt” will be in it. In other news, I found out that I was selected to be on the Fort Worth Public Art Pre-Qualified List of National Established Public Artists – good things!  Other pieces up at Horlock currently will be on display at the Village Café starting in July for show featuring all 3 of us Horlock artists.

 

What you saw, or didn’t see, if you were there or not for Open House, in my gallery were Texas-inspired works. What I have been doing is keeping an eye open for things – creatures especially. Good luck has provided a number of witnessings: I did not expect to see so much wildlife within a 20-mile radius of Horlock. So I have been keeping an eye open and snapping lots of photos. A few of these photographs (>20%) turn out to be resourceful and these become source material for drawings. Of the things witnessed, I was able to achieve best proximity with the recently deceased. At least, some of the things that were recently deceased were incredibly ‘exotic’ because they were new and thus fascinating and I ended up drawing them in order to understand them better, figuratively. These individuals included an armadillo, a frog, and a coyote – “Spineless,” “XOXOs, Frogger, “ and “Howl,” respectively. The focus is not a morbid fascination but more of an empathetic remorse. “I relate to you, smooshed frog, because as a pedestrian, I, too, share the road.” I do not speak such passing thoughts out loud to the smooshed critters. In the past, however, I have drawn from taxidermied specimens simply because it is a good way to study the details of a form. It is probably not the best way to learn a form, though; in order to learn a form it is better to see how something works and in the case of animals that means observing how things move: mechanics; ALIVE. The other resource to work from when attempting to draw a visually/structurally accurate representation of a thing is a photograph.

 

Being able to work from one’s own photographs is actually quite a luxury and a crutch. With a cellular device equipped with an 8MP camera a person can scamper up to a disoriented coral snake on the highway as close as he or she dares, take a photo, and then do something with that. So while being grateful to have these pictorial records on hand to refer to to correct my memory-failing mistakes with, I do wonder how the digital 2-D image might be otherwise impacting my work. The eyes for instance definitely prefer drawing from a ‘live’ 3-dimensional source. The owl or the coral snake or whatever it is, sadly, won’t hold still or wait for me to run back and grab my sketchbook if I don’t have it on me.   For the two large pieces, “Victoria Tree” and “Peckerwoods,” I worked from photographs in books from the Navasota Public Library. The pieces are “neighborhoods” showcasing bird species (alive) typically or exclusively found in Texas. They lean towards the narrative but don’t have a specific narrative in mind. That is left for the viewer to construct.

 

The hunter-gatherer mentality is an ample part of my artistic process. Often I will find myself searching quite earnestly without any definite sense of what I am looking for. Instead of curbing this drive indefinitely I allow it to breathe periodically.   It ends up driving me into unpredictable happenings, finding things. It can be helpful. As a non-native in Texas, for example, I feel it would be irresponsible if not impossible to create work about a place I do not know well, out of my own head, just like that; but if I could develop at least a subjective understanding of a place that is unfamiliar to me, then it would be ok. Then the work could be a response to certain aspects, by no means an editorial. It is said that every painter paints him/herself, and I would agree with that for the most part. Visual reflections are unavoidably subjective. These rules and restrictions are all self-engineered and self-applicable, but they apply. A sense of place is established through observation, research, and literally connecting with land.

 

You cannot have a response if you have not anything to respond to. So my drawing, as a response, feeds on experience.