Friday, December 11, 2009

Bad Kitty Painting step by step

Here's my step by step on painting this week, this is a 2 part painting that I call Bad Kitty, Good Kitty. The idea was to use a salmon pink background color with Hello Kitty images floating on top, but with some push and pull illusion, which is difficult to see in these small pictures here. The first step was the surface, I'm painting onto a hard surface which has been gessoed, it sits onto a 2" frame, no canvas although I do sometimes stretch a canvas over this surface and use heated rabbit skin glue to shrink the linen canvas onto the board, then gesso on top of that before beginning to paint. Once the painting surface is prepped I begin to paint the background all over the surface, layer upon layer using pallette knives and brushes.

The color of pink is a tricky one to use and not the most sellable color that I work with, but I have a fondness for it. When I was first starting out after graduating SMFA, I attempted to find a gallery in NYC that would show my odd colorful "Cave Paintings". Each week I would send out a dozen packets of slides, resume, cover letter and stamped return address envelope. Half the time there would be no response and my slides were lost and not returned sometimes a letter would arrive thanking me and telling me they would be happy to keep my slides on file. BUT, the HOLY GRAIL day happened when one of the galleries sent a very nice letter saying that if I were in NYC sometime to stop by the gallery, well a small opening but an opening nonetheless. As I was accustomed to driving to NYC for a few days at a time staying with friends or family, I immediately called to say I'd be there at the Gallery the next day. Well, the director wasn't in and she was very busy. Knowing that most galleries in the East Village those days were pretty much a one person operation I told the person on the phone to let the director know I'd be there at 11AM to meet her when she arrived. Simply put, I made an appointment for myself with the gallery director herself. At one point the East Village Gallery Association printed a magazine that included photo headshots of all the gallery owners, after this they were all fair game and easy to spot. There I was that very next day at 10AM parked right out front of the gallery, with my car full of paintings, it was late October. As the Gallery owner unlocked the store, I approached her with a few of my paintings under my arm and introduced myself, (yes, I know, shades of stalking here, but very harmless), no she didn't have time for me she had a very important meeting lined up, (with her cup of coffee). After a couple of minutes she acquiesced and asked me to unwrap the paintings and line them up on the floor against a wall. As I did this and she began to look, and then began to laugh, yes, actually laugh. Instead of this being devastating she asked me to show her some more, which were merrily waiting in the trunk of my car conveniently right out front. Then she explained her laughter that she'd never seen a pink cave painting before and thought this was brilliant. After a bit of discussion she decided to add me to a group exhibit that she was doing for November a few short weeks away. Yes, a pink painting got me my first exhibit in NYC, and to EH, a sincere thank you for the laughter.

I use acrylics of all sorts, sometimes even gouache, different companies make their paints very different, some use more pigment, and some less so, some are cheap and some very expensive.
Eventually the surface begins to emerge to a place that I want it to be, I've spray painted a stencil of some construction netting onto the top and then too painted over this to soften it. Once it's to my liking I make the drawings of the figures to paint on top of the near complete surface. The drawings are done on a sheet of translucent vellum, which allows me to see where they will sit on the surface without covering some of my favorite passages in the paint. I've also arranged the figures in a pattern similar to a rock art wall arrangement, which may have repeating animals or humanoid figures. With an exacto knife I cut the figures out and tape the entire sheet onto the surface adjusting as needed, and trace the figures in pencil onto the surface. Another tool that I use is an old fashioned needle wheel that can be traced over the drawings on vellum and leaves tiny hole impressions onto the surface of the painting, Old Masters would use this technique and tamp a powder into the holes leaving a clear defined "cartoon" drawing to then paint. When I use this technique if you looked closely at the surface you would see tiny lines of holes in the surface.

The white I'm using is Flasche a very chalky dense acrylic that is like using cake icing. This in combination with Pelikan Gouache Concentrated which is more like a soft lipstick to paint with, and a very old tube of liquitek acrylic that is the consistency of cream gone bad, very bad, but very textural. After painting in the reds and pinks of the bodies I've got a big decision to make, which is do I actually paint in the eyes, nose, and yes mouths. I can always take them out if I decide they don't quite work, but to me they do work, and what I was after in the first place this group of floating figures push and pull against the surface and create that dimensional look I was after. The figures are given an outline using a soft black pencil, keeping that cartoon look going. References to paint being like foods and other things remind me of being at dinner parties with other SMFA faculty, people would just randomly start painting with the pot of mustard onto a napkin. DeKooning would mix his paints to a mayonnaise consistency to get it to flow off his brush just so. And the "secret" formula that Rothko used still has people wondering exactly what it was. It's easier to actually paint when the medium doesn't fight you as you try to get it just right onto the surface, so rather than gel mediums and binders mixed into it, I look for paints that work for me rather than against me. Once I painted in the facial features, I did add a bit more color around the floating cats to create a bit more movement for the viewers eye. None of these are behind or in front of one another and they are all the same size but they do give an illusion of depth.

Painting, actually painting can be so rewarding that I really don't understand the hotshot artists who have other people do the actual painting.

This last image here is the completed painting titled "Bad Kitty", it is 24" x 24" It's companion piece is titled "Good Kitty", being the same size and coloring, with different placement of the figures. These paintings are priced at $1,200. each. As you scroll down on this blog you will find my Kitty & Friends works on paper which are $125. each.

Time for one more story. When we first moved here to Taos, the idea was to continue making art and to not start over again by painting southwest landscapes and "indians" but to stick to what we've always done in the styles we've developed. There came an opportunity to be in a benefit exhibition at Gallery A for the Taos Art Institute. I decided to make a "Hello Kitty" in the style of the great NM retablo artists of the 1800's, I made a beautiful Guadalupe Kitty painting, with punched tinwork on top as a crown, along with 10 small standing Guadalupe Kitties with tin rays attached to the backs and provided a shelf I'd built to display them on. When I dropped this grouping off for the exhibit the gallery director said something like: who the H*%# did this! I eeked my way out of there and quick, but when the show opened I'd sold a bunch of the free standing Guad Kitties, hooray. In the gallery director's defense, she didn't know me and didn't know I was standing there, years later she and her husband have purchased a nice assortment of my paintings and works on paper and for all their support I am very thankful. The retablo went unsold, until very recently when a bunch of people came into the shop talking away, and as you can hear everything people are saying in my store, I spoke up took them to my flatfile and brought out the Kitty Retablo. When I told them the price it was done, the one lady who had been talking about this painting to the others was beaming with happiness that she hadn't missed out on purchasing this painting after all.
Gallery A is gone from the Taos Art Gallery scene, and Jus de Pomme is gone from the East Village, the NYC art scene had moved over to SoHo, and now sits very nicely in Chelsea, meanwhile I have my own Gallery Two Graces here in Taos, NM.
Very nice indeed, so these 2 experiences come together with 2 new HK paintings.

1 comment:

  1. Hey I think I remember stalking you like that tooo!!! LOL!
    and I adore your HK pieces! I think I blogged about that retablo piece when I first started blogging!
    nice to see your process!
    ciao, ciao!