If you’re on the internet as much as I am, you see a lot of pseudo-profound but ultimately pointless “inspirational” quotes. When I do stumble upon something real, though, I have to share it.
Case in point:
“Authenticity comes from when you leave style behind in pursuit of your own intuition…”
Had a very nice walk home through the West End via the quieter side streets last night. Felt like I hit a level of inner peace that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.
Now as you may or may not know, the past year has been an incredibly tumultuous one for yours truly. Every couple months has been marked by another sea change – one dramatic shift in tone, content, mood, cast, dialogue, conflict, theme, plot, etc. after another. Bret Taylor circa August of 2011, for example, would be floored by the day-to-day (and especially night-to-night) life of the Bret Taylor from a mere month in the future.
And so it goes.
For a long time I got lost in all this, just struggling to keep my head above water. Maintaining any sense of perspective was an nice idea in the abstract sense, but an impossibility in practical terms. So I did what anyone would do: I tried to keep it on the path, and I adjusted my worldview as I went, based on the current day’s data.
And ultimately? I failed.
You heard me. Failed. And miserably, at that – I lost my path altogether. Let some very (very) important people down, couldn’t live up to heartfelt promises and blood oaths. I dropped the fucking ball altogether, if you must know. Paid an absurdly high price for that failure, too. And in the process lost more than I even knew I had to lose – more than I could ever handle losing again. But then, nobody said any of this was fair , right? I mean, fairness is great as a utopian ideal. But how many times have you actually seen it play out in front of you? Once? Twice?
So. This brings us to yesterday. The morning started out with disappointing news, albeit not the kind of news that could change a man’s life (a cancelled date, if you must know). Yet that news hit me hard, out of all sense of proportion and in a way that left me off-kilter for most of the day. Even my old standby, paint therapy, absolutely could not snap me out of it (of course I publicly blamed paint therapy).
This has never, to my recollection, happened before. A real measure of how far adrift I am right now, you might correctly surmise. I had honestly thought the method to be infallible.
In the end I dragged my much-bruised and abused ego into the kitchen and focused my flagging energies on sustenance instead. Whipped up a mindblowing batch of meaty, chipotle-dominated chili. And when the bulk of that work was done and I was waiting for the mixture to reduce, I turned my attention back to the painting in question.
And goddamn, but everything flowed . Hit exactly the right marks when mixing my glazes – tone, saturation, volume. The highly-reflective silver bits (my trusty Tri-Art Liquid Mirror) drybrushed over the glass bead gel took the phthalo blue and alizarin crimson glazes perfectly . Ditto the more subtle highlights I’d carefully worked in over the past few days.
Then I went out to visit friends. Had a couple drinks, talked some things over, watched some TV. Y’know, everyday stuff.
And made that fateful walk home. And the rest you know. I guess the lesson here is, the therapy won’t take when you’re not receptive to it. But it’ll work when you’re ready.
Deep, I know.
May 6, 2012.
(Not to be confused with the Bret Taylors of September 2011 or January 2012.)
Soundtrack – “Hold On”, by the Alabama Shakes.
So here’s a post that’s long overdue. Back on March 25 (day 810 of the 1,000 Days Project), I woke up to find myself inspired. Hell, maybe even driven. I looked around at all the stuff I’ve been working on, in an attempt to prioritize. And as a means of self-promotion I decided to post in-progress photos online to document the whole day.
Since I’m planning a series of six ballerina paintings, I figured I should start working out the poses I want to use – the final lineart will be drawn from a live model, but I wanted to do my homework this time. So here are the sketches:
With that out of the way, I decided to turn my attention to an Avengers painting commissioned by a friend of mine. Once the masking was done, it struck me just how fortunate I was to have such a perfect venue for painting on a sunny day:
Then I started applying the linework. Instead of the white I always used to use on my metalflake pieces, I went with silver (Tri-Art Liquid Mirror), bronze and copper. It’s only recently that I branched out from the white – the silver was also used on the “For a Dancer” painting, and the copper on the seahorse (AKA “Top Seekrit”) piece.
Pretty soon all that remained to do was signing the Avengers piece:
And finally, the glorious results:
I have to admit, I’m really happy with how this one turned out, especially the metallics in the lineart.
Once that was finished I was still pretty psyched, so I decided to press on:
I really enjoy these large-format paintings. As I’ve mentioned more than once, the plan is to do a series of these pinup-girl paintings, if I can ever get the planets back in the same alignment again. Here’s where I left off that night, after close to nine hours of painting:
And that was day 810. A whole slew of amazing people offered comments and helped me promote this mini-event, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them all:
Nicole Cruickshank, Andrea Waters, Cosca Restaurant, Ned Tobin, Geoff Gauthier, Trevor Ricketts, Ceci Graber, Wes Thompson, Natalie Jean, Bahaneh Grewal, Ron Cooper, Isabell Kinga Markus, Amanda West, Matty Sadorf, John Lee, Bob Cluness, Heather Prost, George Smeltzer, Candice Roach, Keith Perkins, Kelle Belle, Meghan Low, Lola Frost, Vincent Ng, Irving Lau, Todd Hancock and 99.3 CFOX, Opal, Annie Friesen, Melissa Hartfiel, Lorraine Murphy, Jessi Sensabaugh, Yvonne Milroy, Julie Frisina, Jim Dickson, Tina Power, Cathryn Smith, Margaux Wosk, Erika Wallace, Matt Algren, Kimberley Mulla, Jaime Purgavie, Melissa Jones, Wendy Pemberton, and Tess McCann.
(Plus Tequila Mockingbird, Nikki B, the ruggler, Baw-nee and sparklehorss.)
Thank you, one and all. You’re the reason I do this.
There is much news on the dinosaur front, my friends. Many more of them to draw – I went to the exhibit at Science World yesterday with friends, and I got tons of reference photos and ideas.
They had full-size, moving, interactive mockups of the dinosaurs, plus several fossil skeletons:
Sometimes a painting almost seems to come out of nowhere and touch all kinds of people. Other times, the process can be a lengthy, involved one. In this particular case, it’s a bit of both.
One night last summer I was chatting with a new friend and she happened to mention that she wanted a painting in hot pink . Further to that, she told me that she used to dance, and that she wanted art along that theme – feet and legs in pointe shoes. Time went by and we became much closer. But this idea stayed in my head. In November I drew a rough sketch of her legs and feet in the pointe shoes she’d had since she was a teenager. That original sketch has since been framed and now hangs on her living room wall:
By this point I could see the finished painting in my head pretty clearly. I started creating another of my metalflake paintings with the intention of giving it to her as a Christmas present. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the metalflake pieces take a lot longer to dry in mid-winter, because the shorter days and crappy weather mean a vastly-reduced amount of UV radiation (which speeds the drying process along).
In the end I bought her a Leonard Cohen book for Christmas, and the hot pink painting proceeded oh-so-slowly. A couple days ago I was inspecting the painting and noted that the thick, thick clearcoat was finally dry.
The end of this journey was finally in sight.
On Friday night I found myself at loose ends. I wanted to go do something social with friends, but any and all attempts to make that happen simply failed. So I mixed myself a strong Sailor Jerry’s & Coke, and started masking the painting. The whole process came together pretty quickly, and with the encouragement of my Muse, the painting was soon finished:
So there you have it – the painting was a labour of love, and it’s actually done.
Interestingly enough, I posted updates live on Twitter and then Facebook as the night progressed, and the response was stunning . So much support, so much praise, so many questions, so many people sharing the final image with friends and followers. So, I’d like to thank the people who made this so much easier: Meghan Low, Donna Jaggard, Kelly St-Laurent, Natalie Smith, Mandy Fisher, Nick Voikos, Mark Kretzschmar, Chris Hobrecker, Bruce Ng, Adé Win, Brandy Trudeau, Heather Prost, Liam Rines, Elaine Shiel, Leanne Corrigan, Tony Dunphy, Fiona Flowers, Nicole Crosby, Sean Parrack, Elizabeth Whalen, Jaime Purgavie, Melissa Hartfiel, Ceci Graber, Dale Deruiter, Vince Ng, Melissa Berg, John Lee, Dilara Litonjua, Cathy Browne, Risto Paalanen, Emily Brandt, Jackie McCaughan, Nick Routley, Amanda West, Christine Warner, Kathleen Ralph, Gary Hayden, Donna Jay-Crowe, Tina Power, Tom Van Hoose, Jackie Teel, Geoff Seymour, Winnie Huang, James Dickson, Marion Vincent, Sarah Merris, Katherine Bowes Pieters, Jewel Staite, Paulette Brown, John Bell …
… and Tess McCann, without whom this would never have even been conceivable.
Probably the final post of the year, so I thought I’d talk a little about 2012. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been doing sketches for a show called “Closing Time” – a series of pinup girls against the backdrop of bars and other drinking establishments (two subjects near and dear to my own heart).
Well, just one beautiful pinup girl, to be honest.
Anyhow, I procured a 36×36-inch canvas from the good people at Opus Art Supplies today, brought it home, scratched my chin, and thought about what I could do with such a canvas:
Of course the answer was obvious: I could plunge into the Closing Times series. Now, I’ve been giving these a lot of thought lately – figuring out how I might render them, whether or not I should incorporate some texture, etc. etc. (I must admit, the subject of these hypothetical paintings has been strolling through my subconscious on a regular basis, too.)
Anyhow, after some deliberation I figured out the approach I want to take with this series, and shockingly, it’s a much simpler, more minimalist route than the one I take with the Metalflake paintings.
So, you’ve seen various iterations of this already, but a number of tweaks have been made to this design since:
(And keep in mind, of course, that this is just a mockup, not the actual painting.)
All that being said, I will be applying the first blue washes to this piece tomorrow, and we’ll see where things go from there. And if you want to see where I go with this one, Loyal Reader…
… well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
I’ve said this elsewhere, but I think I oughta elaborate on it here a bit: The first rule of creativity is, feed your head .
You need to stuff your brain full of inspiration – read more books, go to more movies, listen to more music, talk to more people, travel to more places, drink more booze. Then let all the input rattle around in your subconscious. You might just be surprised at the result.
Case in point: I haven’t been creatively blocked in years . I’ve got notebooks and sketchpads full of untapped ideas that could keep me going for a long time to come. Surely I can’t be unique in this regard.
Let’s talk about Bob Peak today, shall we?
Bob was a legendary illustrator – another one of those whose names you might not know, but whose work you have definitely seen. He got his start in magazines and advertising, back in the days when you could still make a living as an illustrator in those fields. His work from that era is amazing – incredibly dynamic, bold, adventurous, full of movement and all sorts of visual excitement. His work appeared in (and on) Time, Newsweek, Cosmo, TV Guide, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Boys’ Life, Esquire, Look, the Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s , etc. etc.
It’s his move posters that you’ll recognize, though. Apocalypse Now, the Star Trek movies, In Like Flint, The Spy Who Loved Me, Superman, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl… he revolutionized the whole artform. He jumped into acrylic paints when they were a relatively new medium, and inspired generations of illustrators and painters.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Okay, you’re back? How was that? I could trawl through those images all day, personally. That art, regardless of topic or client, is just something to see, and it’s really inspiring me to get my Bob Peak on.
I thought, just for the hell of it, that I’d do an overview of my creative process for the blog. Hopefully this won’t come across as too egotistical; I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s methodology. I won’t get too nuts-and-bolts about the whole thing, though, ’cause I think that might make your eyes glaze over. Without further ado, then, this is for all you process junkies:
First off, I’ve got a bar in my livingroom (built it myself, yes I did), that quickly got pressed into service as a drawing table/studio. It’s a big, flat, extremely solid surface, and it’s got lots and lots of booze in it.
(Also, the light is really good during daylight hours.)
The digital part of my work gets done on the computer from which I’m currently typing – 24″ iMac, 4 gigs of RAM, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo – plus an Epson Stylus Photo R320 printer and an ancient Epson Perfection 1250 scanner. I keep thinking the scanner’s on its last legs, but I’ve been thinking that for at least three years now, and it still takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I’ve gotten several thousand scans out of it to date – not bad for a $175 scanner with a $25 mail-in rebate.
The ideas, though – those just pop into my head unsolicited, for the most part. It’s almost rude.
But seriously, I learned a long time ago to let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. As long as I feed my subconscious well – stuffing it full of sensory output, basically – the creative part of the process is probably the easiest. Years ago I was given a blank hardcover book, and I stuck all my loose thumbnails and PostIts into it. (There are hundreds of still-unused ideas in the book by now.) Looking through the book is usually enough to jumpstart the process. Not an entirely efficient method in terms of time and money, but from the perspective of pure creativity, it works like a charm. And it only recently occurred to me to do the same for my graphic design work, but it’s already starting to pay off.
The gist of all this is, you’re trying to train your brain to do a lot of the work while you’re not even conscious of it. If you keep pointing your subconscious in the right direction, eventually it’ll go there without being told. Example? In 2008 I made a point to paint every day, even if only for a few minutes. The payoff was that painting was always on my mind, so a lot more creative ideas were generated. (I’m doing it again this year, hopefully.)
So in a nutshell, then – set yourself up a dedicated workspace if you can, keep a sketchpad or notebook with you at all times, and above all else, feed your head.