Thursday, November 29, 2007

Layered Meanings

Although this group of paintings is based on places and experiences in Memphis, I only completed eight of them while I was still there. Unfortunately the rest of the canvases I ordered did not arrive in Memphis until the day before I left. The rest of the works were created back home in Metairie (New Orleans area).

During the interim, I sketched thumbnails on Post-It notes. As I worked on this group of paintings, my process slowly evolved. Along the way my method did change gradually. I didn’t finish the series until August 9, 2006. The works are ordered according to when they were finished, not in the order of a places visited and/or experiences occurred.

Event though I had my main ideas worked out, I sometimes found myself including places and experiences from New Orleans as well. Just because I start in one direction doesn’t mean I’m only devoted to that one direction. Sometimes the meanings become layered.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Before Hurricane Rita came along, I had contemplated returning home. On the Monday before the storm was supposed to reach Louisiana, a woman at Triple A informed me that roads into New Orleans were already closed. Since I had to stay put, I planned a day trip into Nashville to catch some art exhibits. Wednesday of that week, I drove three-and-a-half hours into Nashville. Besides taking in some museums I traveled to Cheekwood Art & Gardens.

acrylic on canvas, 5" x 5"

There are several gardens at Cheekwood. I strolled from one to the next following a map of the grounds. I particularly liked the Japanese garden. It was there that I passed through a green bamboo shelter that is the inspiration for this painting, “ho.” This was the painting that helped me decide what I wanted to do with the rest of the dot paintings in this group.

Between the first two paintings and this one, I had concentrated on the colors and patterns I used rather than attaching a specific place or event to a painting. So this is where I found the general groove for these works. Sure there have been other shifts and experiments since this painting, but I found my footing with this painting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


The day after Katrina hit, the news reports were initially hopeful as I watched CNN in my Memphis hotel room. The New Orleans residents who were interviewed seemed relieved that the storm was not as bad as it could have been. The question then was when would officials say it was safe to start back home.

In the early afternoon I was in the lobby waiting for my turn on one of the computer terminals. I wanted to check my e-mail. Then I heard folks talking about flooding and that it might be 6 months before anyone would be able to go back home.

acrylic on canvas, 5" x 5"

Back in my room I watched in horror the overhead shots of the city flooded. The only building I recognized was the Southern Yacht Club with its burning kitchen. I kept looking for a shot near my house so I’d know what happened to it. But all I saw were areas of the city that were unfamiliar to me – at least from overhead.

One of the images shown over and over again was a levee break with water continuing to flow into the city. That is what is depicted in this painting. After Hurricane Rita water again flooded the city.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


In the past I have posted images of my smaller dot paintings. Now I want to highlight some of them and discuss their inspirations. There’s more to say about them than some others.

“ao” is the first piece from my Memphis paintings. Very simply the line of yellow dots follows the path of Hurricane Katrina. So what’s the significance?

acrylic on canvas, 5" x 5"

Well, the night the remnants of Hurricane Katrina hit Memphis the power went out at my hotel shortly after midnight. Power was not restored until 4 p.m. the next day. It was getting quite warm in the hotel. When I drove through town power lines and trees were down. The wrath of the storm certainly was felt up that way. What better way to represent Hurricane Katrina (tropical storm by this point) than to paint the path the storm took that day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"o" Series Memphis Slide Show

On August 27th, 2005 I evacuated to Memphis. I didn’t take any art supplies with me. On two previous evacuations - for Ivan in ’04 and Danny in ’05 - I was gone only a few days. At least for my Memphis evacuation I packed a weeks-worth-of-clothes. Anyway, after the storm, not knowing when I’d return, I went on an art-supply-buying-spree. By this time I was living at an Extended Stay America.

Initially I worked on eight canvases with only images in my head of my previous dot paintings. I finished them and then ordered more canvases. It wasn’t until I worked on the eighth one that I had a sense of where I was going with these pieces. Just before I left Memphis my canvas order arrived at the art store. On October 7th I returned home. Between September 2, 2005 and August 9, 2006, I completed this group of dot art paintings based on experiences and places in Memphis. I used Post-it Notes to decide on my images. Here is the “o” series Memphis in a slide show.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thumbnails for Next Batch

Although I have not finished the current batch of paintings, I have twenty-one thumbnails for the next group. Here they are. I’m still trying to decide on five more sketches to flesh out my ideas. After that I have nine more batch lists already generated. The ideas come faster than I can paint now. Sales have started to pick up a little. Hopefully next week will bring more sales.

These sketches are only the beginning. I often alter or change the paintings completely as I proceed. Sometimes the experience on one piece affects what happens with the next one. What color I mixed last will sometimes determine which canvas I paint next. No need to waste paint if can help it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Workshop Demo Art

You may have wondered what I worked on while my workshop students painted their dot artwork. Well, here is the painting that I created while demonstrating my dot art techniques. No, it’s not quite finished. In fact I’m working in reverse process. Usually I add dots after establishing a background color. For the demonstration I wanted to duplicate the way I had the artists working – at least try to do so. Many of them did do a background first in my second workshop.

When I finish it, I will post a photo. In the meantime check out other pieces I started during demonstrations on my demo art blog. These are the ones I finished. My process is not fast. I do not finish a whole piece during a demonstration.

acrylic on canvas, 3.875" x 5.875"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dot Art Hands On Workshop Part Deux

Thursday night was déjà vu at Mt. Olivet Episcopal Church.
You see I was asked to repeat my dot art workshop since Tropical Storm Humberto scared a bunch of folks off back in September. So again I conducted a hands on dot art workshop with my fellow artists of ARTinA (Art in Algiers). I talked about the artists that influenced my dot art and then showed some examples of my completed works. Then I demonstrated
how to use wood dowels with cotton to paint different
patterns. After that, all of us painted on small canvases that were provided for the workshop. Four folks who missed the last one made it this time.

Look What They Painted!

So I let them loose with the materials and this is what my fellow artists created. I encouraged them to do their own thing. They may not revisit this way of painting, but they did enjoy the workshop.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Watercolor Paintings on Watercolor Canvas

These are my first watercolor paintings done on watercolor canvas. The gesso is created especially for watercolor. It is very easy to pull up paint from this type of canvas. The downside is that if the wrong area gets wet, the painting is vulnerable. To protect the painting spray-fix is used.

“Afire” and “Abloom” were created in the spring of 2004. The rest I made in the summer of 2005. “Afire” and “Aflow” are my two favorites of the six. Anyway, I exhibited all six paintings in a show at the Baton Rouge Archives building. The show was called “Abstrectly speaking.

Although not completely made of dots, I still enjoyed painting these pieces


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"


watercolor on canvas, 12" x 12"

Monday, November 05, 2007


Honestly I had no real plans to continue making more dot art as of the summer of 2005. In August, just before Hurricane Katrina, I exhibited art in two small group shows. One was in the Louisiana State Archives Building in Baton Rouge. The other one was shown at a gallery know as Three Ring Circus Productions off of St. Charles Avenue downtown. The group consisted of artists who teach. By the summer I was more focused on experimenting with media and techniques I had seen demonstrated.

During the spring of that year I was invited to hang my work at a woman’s shoe store. During 2005, I only had two sales of my artwork and they were both construction wood pieces. One was green with brass tacks and gold chain for hanging. The other one included hooks screwed into several sides of a woodblock.

Now I can press “play.”

Bubble In

It was the last school day of the 2004 - 2005 Year. Actually, it wasn’t even a whole day. The last morning of the school year is set aside for recognizing teacher years of service, retirements and accomplishments. Homeroom teachers stuff envelopes with report cards. Lastly is checkout. That means having all the different departments sign off that keys were turned in, paperwork turned in, etc.

While waiting for all activities to conclude I sketched this. It is also in keeping with the testing bubble sheet theme - see previous post. I drew the circles. Then some I filled in and some I erased. One of my fellow teachers glanced over and expressed disappointment that I wasn’t doing something pretty. I’m just glad I had my sketchbook handy for drawing.

graphite on paper, 5.5" x 8.5"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

120 Colors

This color pencil piece, “120 Colors” requires a lot more explanation than most of my works. I’ve divided this post up into parts to help keep my thoughts together:

colored pencil on paper, 21" x 26.5"

Seven years ago an instructor at a workshop suggested to me that I combine some of processes into one piece. Some folks have given me grief about working in all these styles. Unfortunately for me I go through reactionary phases. I swing from one direction to another one. My fellow artists have told me in recent years they recognize what a I do no matter what I do. Yesterday was a deadline for delivering artwork for a weekend art show. Well, I didn’t want to do dots this time. The new paintings appear on my blog art at random.

So what exactly did I combine in this piece? Well, since I’m posting this artwork here, you know there are dots in it. In this instance the use of dots was inspired by the answer bubble sheets used in LEAP testing (the tests Louisiana students have to pass to graduate). It happened that I started this piece in the March of 2005 during “testing week” at a high school where I was teaching art. When this particular week rolls around homeroom teachers administer the tests. I was a substitute for an absent homeroom teacher. Well, I am no fan of this duty – even if it is primarily reading a script.

To begin this piece I created a grid. Then I drew outlines for my dots – like the bubbled in dots I mentioned. The last elements were some squiggly expressionist lines drawn through the grid. But that was only the set-up of parts.

A Whole Set of Color Pencils
Again and again I have listened to artists talk about their limited palette of colors used creating artwork. Well, at that time I was using my fourth 120- color pencil set. Too often there are colors that hardly or ever get used. Anyway, I was bound and determined to use each and every color for once. I was kind of inspired by a “kitsch” art show I saw in Boston at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park.

Random Color Choice
In my last two posts I spoke about my interest in working randomly. Well, unlike my other works that include dots, I chose my combination of colors blindly. Specifically I picked out six pencils at a time without looking. Then I filled in each square, containing dots, on my grid. When finished I placed the six in another container before choosing six more. As I completed a round of choosing every color, then I’d start the rotation back to the original container. It took a long time to render the whole piece.

The Reaction
Needless to say both artists and non-artists have been fascinated by this work. Recently someone told me I should do a close-up study of this piece. At this time I have no specific plans for continuing this tangent of my artwork. Here are some close-up shots.