Our NetFlix cue has reached the Sergio Leone clump that we stacked up a few months ago. We watched “For A Few Dollars More” last night and I was struck by how intriguing each character looked before they even uttered a word. The director sought a strong visual impact with the introduction of each figure even going overboard with a hunchback on Klaus Kinsky.
Which brings me to selecting faces to paint. I should probably have a “duh” category over to the right because this is so obvious. The more intriguing the source, the more likely the work will be of interest. I have mostly been trying to draw, to capture the essence of a pose and some snapshot of a personality from the source, and in the process I bring my own experience with people, the way I feel their presence, to the characters that I’m trying to draw. Why not help myself by choosing more animated sources, accentuate or even exaggerate the features? Why not give the few people that look at my paintings a break? Why should they have to look at these mundane characters? I prepared myself to be more discriminating in selecting source material instead of just trying to paint every mugshot on the Crimestoppers page. But I’m looking at the most recent version from the Democrat & Chronicle and every one of these photos has potential. Duh.
If you are a painter there is no downtime. This is the way it is. My painting class is in recess for the holidays but we will soon be back in the basement of the Memorial Art Gallery on Tuesday nights. And in the meantime, we paint or think about painting. Thinking about it heightens the moment when you are are standing in front of a blank canvas. “This time it will be different”, for why would you want to repeat yourself? This isn’t rock and roll.
I just posted some photos of paintings by people in my painting class. LorraineBohonos and Alice de Mauriac are two of my favorite painters and it is a joy to watch them paint. I think you will like their paintings.
This is one of my favorite paintings in the world. My flash shot does not do it justice. It is impossible to see the pencil drawing of me smiling behind the brown drum set. And the mic and floating keys above Peggi’s black keyboard are indiscernible here. But the expression reads. My niece did this when she was five. My sister would drop her off at our house when she had her hair done in the city. I babysat while I worked from home. At the time I was painting with house paint on the backs of billboard paper the I got from Dave Mahoney’s father. My niece wanted to do a painting so I suited her up in my paint clothes and rolled the sleeves way up and then the phone rang. She started painting with the brushes I had out and switched to mixing sticks when the brushes were dirty. I was on the phone for about twenty minutes and this painting was done when I got off. It’s about 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall and it’s hanging in our house today.
As oldest of seven I had a lot of babysitting experience in my own family and then when my sister started getting overbooked as a teenager I picked up her jobs and soon developed my own clients in the neighborhood. It was fifty cents an hour back then but there were all sorts of fringe benefits. I would go through the cupboards and refrigerator before the parents were out of the driveway. Hardest part was getting the little ones into bed before their parents came back. There were many times when I was unable to do this but I don’t remember ever losing any jobs over it.
When my sister was going through a long drawn out divorce I would ride my bike to her house in Webster and babysit for her three kids, my nieces, while she worked her job at a local restaurant. Divorce hits the kids the hardest and I witnessed the carnage. I would arrive and find ten kids smoking in one of the bedrooms or a group of kids on the roof of house. The scene was pretty much out of control but I did my best. There were fights, suspensions and a suicide attempt during this time but lots of fond memories. And then a nightmare when one of the kids developed an infection that went to her heart. She died while waiting for a heart transplant in Pittsburgh.
Peggi is on row 72 of a baby blanket that she is crocheting for the new son of one of these kids. And today I heard that the one who did this painting was sentenced to sixty days in an alcohol rehab facility for picking up two DWIs.
I’ve been painting heads lately but I imagine that this principle would apply to any subject. The source for the head is a start and after the first marks on the canvas I am finding that the painting should be leading the way instead of me. Listening to and reading the painting’s needs is a better way to proceed than doing what I had in mind. If I’m painting the lips on a head, the form of those lips should be talking to the whole. I should be painting the whole at all times and only the whole knows what it needs. I can’t just look at the lips as I paint them.
I am not able to do this but I owe the recognition of this principle to my painting teacher, Fritz Lipp. I apologize if I have misrepresented his direction.I read this quote from Elvin Jones on playing with John Coltrane. “I was more listening to him than trying to accompany as a drummer. I was just fascinated by this guy and the way he played. He had so many ideas. It seemed like he was sitting on a mountain of ideas, and they would just flake off every three or four seconds.” So he played like one of the greatest drummers by listening.
We went to the RoCo Members Show last night. Each member gets to submit one piece and it always manages to be a good show and a fun event. Anne Havens submitted a beautiful artist’s book and read it. We found a quote there attributed to E.D. (Emily Dickinson) that read, “Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it”. Wow.
On the way over to RoCo we stopped at Book Smart Studio where two RIT students were showing their thesis work. I really loved Jessica Marquez’s “A Naturual History”. She took profile shots of her extended family and fine tuned them in Photoshop so the detail of the features remained in the silouetted images. She coated the balnk pages of old books with something that allowed her to print her photos on these pages. They look like something she found in an attic. They require close examination and are exquisite!
After the galleries we stopped by Bill and Geri’s to see their renovation project. We bought Molson Ice 40 ouncer for $3 at the Twelve Corners Quickstop and watched a Heart reunion in high def on VH1.
Someday I will get off this dime and paint something other that local crime faces. We had our last painting class until after the damn holidays. I finished the one below and I took another one over to the annual members show at Rochester Contemporary. That opening is Friday. The paint was still wet and I didn’t have a chance to photograph that one.
Margaret Explosion plays tonight at the Little Theatre Cafe. I haven’t touched my drums since our last gig.
I rode my bike to Target this afternoon and bought a pair of shoes to wear while painting. I try to paint a little bit everyday and yet it never gets easier. I might as well have some comfortable shoes. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” is one of my painting teacher’s favorite lines. It probably isn’t really one of his favorites. It’s just that he has occasion to use it often. I started another face from the Crimestoppers page tonight and thought I was off to a great start but every move I made after that compounded the problems. I have to remind myself to stop and look at the painting. And when I stop to look, I have to step back quite a ways. I have to be open to the possibility that the painting could go in a different direction or maybe be done before I planned. I have to listen to the painting. I need to continually address the problems as I see them. Fix them before doing anything else.
We watched a terrible murder mystery the other night called “Tenebre.” Tony Franciosa is a pulp fiction writer and one of his lines is, “If you cut out the boring bits and keep the rest, you’ve got a best seller.” “If you get rid of the bad in a painting, all you will have left is good.” That’s another one of Fritz Lipp’s sayings. I’ve taken his painting class for about ten years now and I still haven’t learned these simple rules.At a certain point, you have to serve the painting.
I picture someone having too much draft beer from the “tap” and a cartoon image of a “mallet” pounding on his head. That’s the name of Casey’s new place on Gregory Street where the original McGregor’s was. They needed some artwork for the place so Casey and his partner, Joe, stopped by to see what I had. They picked out some the “Crime Faces” from a few years back and the “Road Masks” that I had hanging in the basement. Casey used to own the Bug Jar and I took some mugshots there. He owns Mex Restaurant and I painted a mural over there. Casey is a patron. I recommend their house brew, “McBanes Bitter.” It’s made by Rohrbachs. The Beer Advocate reviewed the place and said, ” the faces on the walls are very creepy!”
The Horse Lovers were performing across the street at House of Hamas in Rochester. They did a beautiful version of “Moonglow.” That’s Ken Frank from Margaret Explosion on bass. Phil Marshall plays guitar and directs the band. Jim McAvaney plays drums and all three played with Colorblind James Experience.
The girl who ran the cash register at Red and White on Park Avenue asked me if I was going to the David Bowie show that night at the War Memorial. I remember feeling guilty that I wasn’t planning on it. It was the first stop on his “Station To Station” tour. The next morning’s paper had a front page story about the felony pot bust that snagged Bowie, Iggy Pop and Rochester’s Chi Wah in a hotel room with the weed. Iggy didn’t play here or anything. I started a job that year as a graphic artist in the Crime Analysis Unit of the Rochester Police Department. My job entailed pulling mug shots for flyers in an effort to match perpetrators who lived in specified areas of the city with the crimes that were occurring in those areas. Bowie’s photo had recently been snatched but the record was still there.
ZiggyStarBust is auctioning that photo now on eBay (Current bid US $2,225.00). He says his sick brother found the photo in the trash at an estate sale of a retired Rochester Police Officer and every penny will go to his brother. He sent the photo to the Smoking Gun first to get a buzz going. Click the photo for a blow up.
My job with the cops lasted one year and and they all lost interest in the project so I was left reading the New Yorker and hanging around. I got so anxious waiting for the day to end during this period that my doctor prescribed valium. I did develop a fascination for mugshots and have painted quite a few over the years.