Monday, 12 July 2010 at 10:14
After traveling to Pittsburgh this weekend for a wedding of my second cousin (I had to ask my Italian wife what was the relation title was - they seem to better schooled on such matters) the ghosts of the past once again appeared. My cousin Kenny looks and reminds me of my father who is no longer with us.He lives in the house my grandparents lived in. He was one of the last employes of the steel mills before they all shut down. His wonderful sister Arlene died quit a while ago. She was the mother of Justin, my second cousin who was married to Taylor. Bittersweet is a good word for the wedding for us.
Aside from those feelings, just being in Pittsburgh where both sides of my family are from stirred other emotions. Both grandfathers on either side worked in the steel mills of Pittsburgh - no, I do not come from a privileged background. One grandfather reporting to the Duquesne works, the other from the Homestead works. My mom and Dad were both from Duquesne, though they didn’t know each other in High School.
Once again pawing through photographers of the old timers I couldn’t help notice something. Non of the images showed any joy whatsoever on the faces of these immigrants and their children. Life must have been truly difficult. It was. Also at work was the pervasive attitude I seemed to get from my father’s Slovak side - that if you smiled and were too happy you were being foolish and laughing in God’s face...tempting his wrath upon you. Stay humble, stay stoic and you might fly under His radar and your life could be...OK. Any aspiration you may have could work out if you were “lucky”, but don’t expect too much. Don’t be a fool.
I still find it incredible today that both my parent moved away from Duquesne and created a new life for themselves and their children. Both valued education and received PhDs in their respective fields. They also made certain all 4 of their children graduated from college with a degree.
This painting is based on an old photo taken probably when my grandmother and kids returned from Czechoslovakia after the depression to return to my grandfather who stayed in Duquesne during that time. It locks them indelibly to time and the mills - life and the mills - death and the mills...which was one and the same.
Saturday, 03 July 2010 at 14:52
Often times I review photos and images I have collected over the years and memories and images are stirred.
From studying many artists and illustrators whose work I have admired over the years I learned they all had a way of collecting visual memories. Some sketched and saved sketches some took photos, some grabbed images, from the newspaper, magazines, libraries, doctors offices, other collections — anywhere an image appeared. I’m not ad advocate for this type of stealing but I’m not altogether righteous myself...God forgive me. We were taught about proper reference gathering in college and how to use and not copy a photo (more on that later).
I found in my collection a picture I took that seemed right to work from. I am just finishing an iconic image of a card game being played in the summer. (more on that later), so I was feelin the people/portrait vibe. Only, as usual, what I was draw to was not classic and perhaps a little disturbing... maybe because of the graphite wash approach - very moody. This is a study for a painting though so the mood will shift. What I was going for came from this book I’m reading called “Out of This Furnace”, a story of Slovak American immigrants, migrating to the steel mills right on the rivers in Pittsburgh - exactly were both sides of my family originated. The photo I used as reference is of my son. I see in him this square skulled big shouldered Eastern European Hunky, but the attitude he exudes is a cocky urban/suburban youth. I love the below eye level perspective. I love the strong simple lines. I purposely left the eyes in shadow to focus on the structure of the face bones and make it a bit darker foreboding or just mysterious. I’m not sure how far to take that in the final painting.
I am also thinking the painting being really large could work with the graphic nature of the simple strong composition (design). I’m also thinking of getting some un-stretched canvas and working on it like watercolor paper - just stretching it on a wall with tacks or nails.
Sunday, 17 January 2010 at 20:56
The basement sessions
Ever since I was a child I seem to have gravitated to basement to spread out and create art. Even now as a graphics designer and art director, I constructed my studio in the basement. When I worked for the agencies like Saatchi and Saatchi, Forward Branding, Y&R or any one of the places I have been employed (see linked-in profile) I would inevitably come back to the basement in the evening to allow my muse out on whatever project I was working on.
The work shown on this web site is like a box of tapes found at the home of a musician that has been discovered after years of working at his craft. Although there are many and varied pieces, I can still see the progression that has gotten me to arrive at where I am at today. I see a thread that connects it all.
As is posted in the “about” section of the site, the reason for its creation has to go to the one (my father as well but he isn’t with us physically today) who is responsible for any confidence I may have in my own work — my mother Patricia. She is a special person and has raised all of us to believe in ourselves and the work we are destined to do on this earth.
The image posted her is an oil portrait I painted of Mom. Although I will remain a graphic designer and art director, she is joining me to provide an outlet for my personal work. Together we are setting up for shows, entering competitions, and developing along with the designer in me, stuff to post and sell off of this web site. Take some time to check out the store. You will find an ongoing list of posters, prints, and design ephemera that is motivated by things that inspire and move me to create. Follow this blog to see the development of ongoing projects as well as release of new work.
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