Paintblog, Part Four

Previous installment (Part Three) is here. It has the links for Parts One and Two.

When I first did the red fringes on the canvas, my immediate thought was, Big mistake. However, I knew I could always go back and paint over this stuff, so I didn’t worry a great deal about it. It was more of a nag than a real worry. Funny how neither let you sleep very well, isn’t it? I was more pleased that the inner bone-like structure seemed to be working out so well, and the entire left side of the painting also appeared to be coming along nicely.

That must have been when I decided, some how, to continue with the red fringe. Despite the fact that I thought This is never going to work, I started to add more details to this area. I suppose it’s kind of like when you give yourself a haircut; it looks uneven on one side, so you work on the other, then that side seems uneven…you enter a kind of state where you think Eventually we have to reach a workable compromise. Or shave it all off.

But I didn’t reach such a state with the red fringes. I began adding to them, and each addition screamed Mistake. Making them stand out even more. Then, I tried tying them to the bone structure. My mind continued to scream Mistake, but a smaller voice piped up, Maybe not. Here’s the result.

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I still think they don’t work, but…I think they don’t work less than they used to, if that makes sense. Just to prove that they don’t work, here are some details.

As they first were:

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With some detail work under their belts (and mine):

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Finally, the addition of some tiny teeth. Freudians, set your watches:

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While this was going on, I also worked more with the bone rings. Not because they necessarily needed work, but because I had the distressing sense that the red work was going nowhere fast, and I wanted to have something accomplished when I cleaned
the brushes. Please understand, I don’t think I did anything to mar the progress of the bone rings–I think they look better all the time–so my working on them only seems like desperation. It wasn’t really. It was just ordinary working honestly.

Anyway, here are some details of the work. The differences here, between what is there now and what was there before, are much more sublte, but they are there.

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And finally:

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There was also a bit of work done on the upper left shoulder of the canvas. This photograph is a bit overexposed to highlight what was done:

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I remain satisfied with the progress the work is taking. Even the red is starting to work for me, and I find myself glad that I didn’t wipe it out. Of course, that could still happen. It’s always hard to predict these things. Especially for the guy with the brush.

Here is a photo of the work as it stands, here on the last day of November.

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The image is a bit light since it’s a handheld shot with a one second exposure. That also doubles as an excuse for blurriness.

This is fun, innit? See you next chapter, then.

Another Sunday at the Cineplex

Well, last week’s examination of the box office was fun, wasn’t it? I certainly thought so. This week, we’re going to do it a bit differently, as I’m going to outline my predictions first, then we’ll see what the IMDB has to say.

This week only two films opened (that I’m aware of), “Alexander” and “Christmas with the Kranks.” I’m thinking the relative failure of “Troy” earlier this year will spell the same for “Alexander,” since it’s a movie that relies on star power, and star power is pretty well dead these days. Also, it’s opening for Thanksgiving weekend, which is traditionally more useful for family-friendly fare.

I think “Christmas” will do pretty well, since Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis are both very good with comedy, and it seems to be a family-oriented film. Will it be number one? Well, hm….

For last week’s films, I’m predicting a big tumble down for “National Treasure.” It doesn’t take long for novelty to wear off these days, and I suspect its success last week was due to a ton of marketing. (Every time I went to the movies this summer, I saw a trailer for it.) I think “SpongeBob” and “The Incredibles” will continue to do pretty well, but I’m going to guess the latter better than the former. “The Polar Express” might get a boost, since it’s a holiday-themed movie, and as anyone who has spent any time recently in a public place can tell you, the holidays are upon us.

So, let’s sign on and see if I’m right–

Well, first of all, a bad call with “National Treasure” as it’s still number one. Its take at the box office was down only slightly, too. So, Nicolas Cage can live in fantasy land a while longer, I guess. Who wants to guess we’re going to see a ton of similarly-themed movies honked out in the next few months?

I was pretty well on the mark concerning “Christmas with the Kranks” (pretty good for a comedy) and “SpongeBob,” (dropped down almost half) and I was also right that “The Incredibles” would continue to do well (down just slightly from last week). And I predicted that “The Polar Express” would get a nice boost. It’s still a ways from being a hit, but it’s not dying.

And yes, it appears that “Alexander” has tanked. Isn’t there another such movie in the works, with Leonardo DiCaprio? Gee, I wonder what will happen when it opens.

PaintBlog, Part Three

Well, it’s been nearly a week since I painted what you’re about to see in the following photographs. That might not seem like a long time, but for someone who can’t remember what he had for breakfast the day before, someone who’s words you might even now be reading, it’ll be a bit of a stretch to remember what was done during and between each of these pictures. Let’s hope we don’t meet that person, shall we!

Since our last episode (visit here for Part One, and here for Part Two), we’ve mostly been doing some detail work. No major changes in structure or color scheme, but, hey, enough of my yakkin’, let’s start!

The first thing that struck me was the lower right-hand corner. There seemed to be a potential for some excellent bridging between the bone-like material and the “ground”. So I spent most of the time trying to bring out this bridging through light and shadow. The projections from the bone were also highlighted here, to make them look more like ribs or something rather than like fingerpainting.

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Incidentally, this is the first time I used a palatte; since the canvas was now completely covered, there was no way to apply the paint directly to it. That usually only works for broad swaths, anyway, and not detail work. Here, as you’ll recall, we were doing detail work.

Speaking of detail, here’s a close-up of the lower-right corner, after a tiny bit more work was done.

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I think it has managed to take on a nice organic look to it. Heck, it almost looked planned.

The next step dealt with the red. The red had started to bother me, and I wasn’t certain what to do with it. I divided the red swath with more burnt sienna to make two ribbons, and then added some little ticks to fringe the bit at the upper-left-center. I think the division works, not sure at all about the ticks. I had an idea about lights, tiny lights and starfish arms in this same area, as projections from somewhere helping with the creation of this structure, whatever it ends up being. But that was just an idea, it was time to let the red rest for a while in the back of my mind.
Red, worked with a bit:

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By the way, red takes forever to dry. Raw umber dries within a few hours, white a bit ofter that (depending on how thick it is), burnt sienna dries pretty well, but cadmium red just sits there wet, apparently waiting for me to do something first. It’s like a staring contest. It makes it easy to blend for a long time, but it also makes it sticky and difficult.

Having done what I could (for now) with the red, the next bit to be worked with was the inner bone-ring, on the right toward the center. The first few finger marks lent themselves to duplication, as a kind of fluting or coral-like structure. I’ve been rereading Lovecraft lately, and you start getting these ideas. Here is the overall look:

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And here’s a close-up:

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This could be a nice image on its own. Don’t remind me. Maybe some time in the future it will appear again, and star in its own painting, instead of doing support work in this one. It all depends on who wants to cooperate with my hands.

To sum up so far. As mentioned (I think), this is detail work, which is bringing out what is already there in the painting, a kind of hidden potential. It’s as much the canvas’ creation as mine. I’m just helping it out into the open, as much or as little as it should be.

So far, I’m pleased with what’s happening. I like the detail-work on the left, the details bridge the grey-white boney material, and the reddish-brown surroundings, very well I think. It looks as if the ground is weaving the bone-shell. The fluting brings a nice sense of organic menace to the interior, as if the area is dead and yet aware.

Well, that’s our show for today. Thanks for watching, and tune in next time when I discuss how this image is starting to look gynecological, and what can be done about this. Goodnight! God bless!

PS: I’ve learned a valuable lesson today. Don’t write these things while watching show-biz documentaries. It makes things creep into the words, and you know, that’s how all that Lovecraft stuff starts.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Well, content has been a bit light as of late, yes? At work, we’re swapping out nearly 300 computers, which means putting in a new one, taking out the old one, bringing the old one back to be re-imaged, and putting the old one in a new area, reinstalling printers, specialized software, and so on. As you can imagine, the time this takes is considerable. This doesn’t even count the time taken to unsnake cables from people’s fancy “computer desks.”

I put that in quotes because whoever designed these “computer desks” had no idea what a computer was or how it was laid out. Let’s put a keyboard drawer here, and well have a tiny hole in the back for five cables, and make those cables go through behind the back before they come out again. How hard can it be?

Anyway, that’s the main reason for recent lightness here. (I like pretending I have readers.) It will probably continue to be thus for the next few days, through early December at least. It has helped solidify an idea I’ve been toying with at my main site. There, I do about four full movie reviews a month with a couple of brief ones. I’ve decided, though, that November and December are going to be “Hibernation” months. I’m still writing them, it’s just that I have no backlog at all, and September and October were spent (in that realm at least) frantically polishing up things in order to post them. This way, I can use what little time I have to work up several roughts, then I’ll have some emergency stuff should I run should through the rest of the year. We’ll see how well that pans out.

Oh, and I haven’t stopped the Paint Blog. I have the photos uploaded, just got to write the corresponding copy. I haven’t done any work since the last photo was taken, so you haven’t missed anything.

Lileks, in his Thanksgiving Bleat, takes Rolling Stone to task for its selection of “The Greatest Rock Songs Ever” or something Rolling Stone-like. I stopped reading Rolling Stone decades ago, myself, and it’s one of those things that I never really look back on at all. Oh, Rolling Stone, I wonder what they’re doing these days? I should glance through a copy.

Anyway, Lileks should realize that Top Ten lists always tell you more about the lister than the genre they’re supposedly educating you about. Me, I would have put “That’s All Right, Mama” as a great Rock song, even though it has no drums and the bassist is playing an upright. I’m not sure what makes a song “Rock” and what not.

Actually, I’m sure Lileks knows all this, he’s a very smart and perceptive guy. If you bought his books (and you should buy them) you’d know that.

I also see on his site that Dan Rather has resigned. Well. I couldn’t help thinking that if Walter Cronkite, or David Brinkley, had been caught in such machinations, they would have resigned that day, not waited to see how the game played out. Cronkite might have despised Republicans, but I can’t imagine him stooping this way. Huh. Well, as Lou Reed once sang, Those were different times. Poets studied rules of verse, and the ladies all rolled their eyes.

Sweet Jane.

Remember video cassettes? I bet you have a few, right? Well, I still buy the odd one, mostly because the title is something obscure that failed and is, thus, unlikely to make it to DVD and also (and this is important) because they’re usually only a dollar or so. That’s what I have here—a videocassette called “Lobster Man From Mars” starring Tony Curtis (not AS the Lobster Man, BTW). I picked it up at the grocery store, thinking, What the Hell it’s only a dollar.

I’m sure if I added up all those What The Hell Dollars, I’d find out where all my debt came from. I haven’t seen the film yet (haven’t really been fired with enthusiasm, as I know it’s a film-making spoof, and besides, it could never live up to the title) so it’s still sealed in it’s plastic wrap. I happened to turn it over, though, and noticed on the other spine there’s a picture of the Lobster Man himself (which, incidently, doesn’t dispell any forbodings of suckiness). On the other spine, the left spine, there’s a smiling picture of Tony Curtis. Left spine, Tony Curtis, right spine, Lobster Man.

I usually line my DVDs and Cassettes with the front cover facing toward the right, so that the left spine is visible. On DVDs the left spine contains the title, while the right is where the case opens. But video cassettes have two spines. And this makes me wonder.

Remember how when stars get really, really popular, they want their name above the title on a movie poster? Better exposure, and a sense of This movie wouldn’t have been made if they didn’t have me are probably the prime reasons. Well, if that star starts descending the popularity ladder, I wonder if there are corresponding things in the direct-to-video market?

“I want my picture on the left spine, so that people see my face when the movie is on the shelf. I want that, or I don’t do the picture.”

Well, it could be possible. Lots of things are possible, after all.

Happy holidays everyone, and see you after Thanksgiving’s right spine.

Weekend Of The Dead

Besides poking around the IMDB, I spent my weekend recovering from an illness, finishing the first draft of a movie review, starting another review, and doing more work on the painting, or perhaps I should say, The Painting. I’m encouraged by the progress made on that work, and I think at the very least it won’t turn out to be a Fearful Lesson in Hubris About Daring the Gods of Creativity. It might actually be pretty good.

Of course, I took pictures of the stages, but didn’t bring them in to post them. That, after all, is why they make tomorrows.

See you then.

Sunday at the Cineplex

Good morning, how was your weekend? Good, good, good, good. Glad to hear that.

In spite of the title above, I didn’t actually spend any time at the Cineplex, but some of you did, and I’m always curious to see how that sort of thing pans out over the weekend. So, as usual on Sunday afternoon, I checked the IMDB’s charts to see how the weekend movie openings went.

I don’t know why it fascinates me, but it does. Perhaps, since I rarely go to the movies, it gives me a chance to guage the national culture, or something.

I was surprised by how well the SpongeBob movie did. I had kind of figured SpongeBob-Mania had peaked a year or so ago, and we’d have another PowerPuff Girls-type washout with this film. But I was wrong, and SpongeBob did well. Perhaps the guys at Nickelodeon, instead of making good cartoons like Cartoon Network, put their energy and talent into marketing, so that they’re able to keep control of the ebb and flo of a property’s popularity. Cartoon Network, as I recall, pumped massive amounts of publicity into the PowerPuff movie well before it opened (a couple of years, as I recall), and everyone was bored with it when it finally arrived. PowerPuff-Mania had fled. (Another factor was surely the sheer frantic nature of the film. While I liked the PPG Movie, I saw it on video. I can’t imagine being confronted with this level of energy in the theatre. I wonder if they issued warnings to epileptic people.)

In contrast, the SpongeBob movie was very quietly put into production and only in recent months did Nickelodeon start pushing it. A lesson for you cartoon producers out there, I think.

Of course, the nature of SpongeBob is very different from a lot of cartoons; a big screen version that is like the cartoon should be satisfactory. Nothing in Bikini Bottom ever changes, and the variations on the forumla are few and far between. (I should note in all fairness that I’ve seen maybe a dozen of the cartoons, so perhaps my judgement is not as considered as that of others.) SpongeBob is an idiot, Patrick is a moron, Squidward is a jerk, Mr. Krabs is a tightwad. Each episode is like fast food: enjoyable sometimes but not surprising.

By contrast, the PowerPuff Girls had a simple formula as well, but the variety of villains made the difference. Mojo Jojo was always entertaining, while Him was compellingly odd. If SpongeBob was fast food, the PowerPuffs were a happy meal: still as predictable, but with a possibly cool surprise in it. And the stories were frequently quite imaginative (I’m thinking of one in which Mojo travels back in time to discourage Professor Utonium’s interest in science, and achieves the opposite).

But hey, SpongeBob did well at the box office, congratulations to SpongeBob and his fans. Alas, it means (the horror, the horror) we can expect to see big-screen outings of such abominations as Rocket Power and The Fairly Odd Parents.

The big winner this weekend though, was National Treasure. I’m sure Nicolas Cage is breathing a big sigh of relief: I’m still a movie star.

When was the last time he had a big hit? Gone in 60 Seconds? Maybe. Face/Off or Con Air? More than likely.

What he, and the rest of Hollywood don’t seem to realize is that the age of the movie star is over.

Can you name a star that can open a picture really big these days? I would have bet Tom Hanks, but his last three films tanked. No, I think we’ve entered the age where the appeal of most movies consists of special effects and action sequences–that seems to be what brings in the audience, not any particular faces or personalities. One sees it time and time again–a big budget action movie opens with, say, Will Smith and people start making Will Smith Action movies, and he says he wants to do a movie to show his acting chops, and…no one goes to see it. He does another action/sci-fi film, and he’s a “star” again.

Just like Nicolas Cage is a star once again. And he’ll do some low-key character study, and everyone will wonder why no one goes to see it. Has Nic Cage lost it? the headlines will read, until the next action film, when they’ll read Nic Cage, still box-office magic.

I think a great deal of this can be blamed on the fact that Hollywood is simply recycling movie cliche after movie cliche these days, and it no longer matters who’s there on the screen embodying these cliches. It doesn’t matter, because the look and the sound and the rhythm are all that anyone–audience, critic and producer alike–ever really respond to.

Pixar does well with its very original concepts, but no one seems to be blazing a trail to follow them. I wonder if anyone in Hollywood knows how? If you stop using your imagination, and simply mix elements that have worked before into a stew, I think your imagination atrophies.

And so the cycle will continue. Poor, poor movie stars.

PaintBlog Delay

I wasn’t able to do any painting last evening (the 19th) though the posting of Part Two read that way (it’s all just my way of keeping you off balance, like all outside information, comma, man). And tonight, I’m working on a “new” movie review for my main site. Since I’m still on call, updates this weekend will be a) lame, b) outdated or, more than likely c) both.

Thanks to everyone who has written. You’re not forgotten.

PaintBlog, Part Two

Day two of painting, (Day One is here if you’re interested) and we have several steps to display. As I mentioned, one of the things that struck me upon gazing at the previous day’s work was, it needs red. Whether this idea came from me or the canvas I don’t know, but red it was, duly applied where it “felt” best.

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Again, the photograph is enhanced a bit, as the original was too dark for much detail.

Now, having applied the red, next up was burnt sienna (brown for you layfolks). This had to surround and contain the red, and provide some place for the original raw umber and white to anchor.

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As you can see, the red is not completely contained (it escapes at the top of the canvas) but that may change. The red was (originally) intended to provide a form of organic heat, like blood or tissue, and I didn’t want it to take up too much of the interest in the canvas. It’s supposed to be an accent, and nothing more. Then, finally for the evening:

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(This picture captures the colors of the work most accurately, by the way.) The canvas is now completely covered in paint. As far as I am concerned, a canvas can never be “complete” unless it is painted over completely. I know others feel differently, and have compelling reasons for leaving areas untouched. Not me. I can’t find those reasons when I work.

I feel that a canvas with “bare spots” doesn’t contain a painting. It has objects arranged on it, but those objects don’t exist in their own realm. When all the canvas is covered, a world is created and one looks as through a window upon that world. Canvases with unpainted parts, to me, reflect too much of us and not enough of themselves.

Okay, I realize I’ve harped a bit too much on the bare/covered canvas thing above. I’m sure the Freudians have all kinds of theories. I’d just like to add that a) if you’re reading this, you may be interested in how I go about things, and why I go about things, and b) I’m not saying that canvases with bare parts aren’t art, or aren’t complete, or any of that. It’s all just a matter of opinion. You fans of canvases with bare parts can relax.

As for this canvas, I’m not sure what to do with it tomorrow. I may let it dry a bit, and germinate some thoughts before I go on. I think that the spiky things that surround the center should be dealt with, using some detailing. But I don’t know for certain yet. Covering the canvas completely brings us to the end of Stage One.

Stage Two, shortly.

PaintBlog, Part One

As mentioned in an entry below, one of the ways in which I will use this blog is to document the creation of a painting from its beginning to its conclusion. The first stage, smear of paint on canvas, is below.

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The visual idea which struck me was to paint something resembling an octopus’ eye. As you can see, that concept didn’t survive the collision of ambition, paint, canvas and the artwork (which struggles against me from the opposite side of the canvas). What we have here, in a very preliminary stage, looks like a cave or tunnel. This is, however, the painting equivalent of typing “Chapter One: It was a dark and stormy night” then leaning back and considering the words while rubbing one’s jaw. This may be part of the final image or it may be completely covered by something else. We’ll all find out together.

The canvas size is around 20″ by 30″, and the pigments here are raw umber and titanium white. I prefer raw umber to black, as black doesn’t tend to mix well with colors surrounding it–it stands strikingly apart, looking like a hole punched in the canvas. At least, so it is in my experience, but I tend to use earth-tones and that may account for my preferences.

The photograph was taken with a Nikon D70, and enhanced a bit with Paint Shop Pro 8.

After dwelling on this canvas for a while, I decided the next step would be adding red and burnt sienna (brown). That would be day two, and we’ll see how that goes then.