Thursday, April 28

Inspirational Words: Work!

(via Wikipedia)
When I need them most - inspirational words from Ira Glass (via ackackack):
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take awhile. It's normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through.
Also, since these are words from a decidedly word-based artist (a writer!), then Semi-Related: The Atlantic's interesting re-occurring column called What I Read

Tuesday, April 26

Shaun Tan: An Alternate Path

We only have to wash & wax our missile on the first Sunday of every month
from Tales From Outer Suburbia) (via
Shaun Tan is exactly the kind of Illustrator my teachers would have me look at. Tan's images are technically rich, imaginative and steeped in narrative traditions captured from film, books, painting and just about everything. I don't know much about Tan, but a recent NYT Magazine article revealed the kind of artist I might be if I had stuck with Illustration.

Illustration by James Edwards (via
I dropped my Illustration degree during my fourth year. Since I've always believe some of the best painters are Illustrators. I naively distanced myself from "commercial art" and painting brought me somewhere else. With years perspective, I'm not making those sorts of declarations anymore.

But what I admire about Shaun Tan are his sensibilities - all while pursuing a lifestyle incorporating the same craft as me, but pursuing it from a commercial angle. As Carlo Rotella in the article notes, painting is a private endeavor for Tan, more of "pure science, more about the act of painting" and Illustration pays the bills.

And making art in any form has still brought Tan to the same place as I am as a painter - that is, simply aware and hungry for things:
You discover how confounding the world is when you try to draw it. You look at a car and you try to see it's car-ness, and you're like an immigrant to your own world. You don't have to travel to encounter weirdness. You wake up to it.
As the article notes, Shaun Tan has recently won an Oscar for co-directing an animated short based on his own children's book, The Lost Thing, and he has one problem I do not yet relate to: offers to make films and propel his career elsewhere:
I'm not dying to make a feature film which people around here can be surprised to hear. It's about money and therefore audience, and that's somewhat counterproductive for me. I kind of like not having to feel that the work's going to be successful. Money does buy you time, it's true, but I have time now.
It's his implied pace of working which I truly relate to. Simply using time to develop. I remember one teacher of mine, James Edwards, taking on a daunting serial textbook Illustration job. Something about the way he described it seemed nostalgic for freedom to make independently. But he was still painting and it still made him into a great artist - that is, he had learned how to look.

I'm not sure if I would ever had been successful with Illustration, but I see with or without it I still made it to the same point.

Wednesday, April 13

Dubble-u. En. Wye. Cee.: Radio as Background

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (via NYC Observer)
Having the radio on while painting is like reading a book by laying your head on it. Or, rather, what I'm trying to say is that sometimes you listen but most of the time it just fills the air with soothing, consistent rhetoric and voices. You can't ever quite be completely listening while painting. Or vice versa.

But what does happen is that something sticks and rises to the surface of your memory later in the day. In that process of creating something, that sound sticks in your brain like a leaf falling into wet cement - or paint. And it's in that respect that I compare it to reading a book by osmosis.

Here are two things gleaned from public radio today. The first, was actually something read about WNYC's RadioLab which reinforces how I think about constructing a painting.
"Normally a reporter goes out and learns something and writes it down and speaks from knowledge" Krulwich added. Jokes and glitches puncture the illusion of the all-knowing authority, who no longer commands much respect these days anyway. It's more honest to "let the audience hear and know that you are manufacturing a version of events"
The second, is a poem read by Caroline Kennedy and Ira Flatow on Talk of the Nation. The poem is by Constantine P Cavafy, and was chosen by Kennedy for her new book, She Walks Through Beauty. I'll never read the book - but the poem (overheard in a strange moment of defeat and while eating a sandwich at the studio) speaks more to the entire pursuit of a craft:

Tuesday, April 12

Photos: Through a Fence

Untitled (Through a Fence) Stephan P. Ferreira
Stopped near a noisy machine shop to shoot some photos through their fence. The fence forced me to look close and got me thinking about shapes of light. I thought less about taking photographs and more about looking. The muffled and repetitive clanking nearby was sort of meditative.

Untitled (Through a Fence) Stephan P. Ferreira
Many more at the Flickr page.

Friday, April 8

Self-Actualization in the Studio

Untitled (Finished State) 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira
Recently I have stopped holding myself to results and starting admitting what doesn't work. I have tried to be patient and allow habitual accidents or tendencies to exist - or disappear. I am also trying to document the working pieces of my paintings - because they usually become swallowed up by something else. Those pieces end up existing for mostly my benefit and just adding to some sort of understanding later applied elsewhere.

So much of painting is more than results, it is the creating of a map of multiple understandings. I've realized I want the inaccuracies and mis-understandings to all exist in the result. I just haven't figured out how yet.

Monday, April 4

Sarah Awad MFA Thesis Exhibit

Habitation 3 2010 Sarah Awad (via Sarah Awad)
Catch this MFA Thesis exhibit if you live in the LA area:

April 14 - 22, 2011
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 14 from 5p - 8p
New Wight Gallery, UCLA

Artists Include, Sarah Awad, Alexis Hudgins and Greta Waller.

I have been interested in Sarah Awad's paintings since finding them on Visual Inventory last year. I've lived them subsequently through bad reproductions tacked up, frozen on my studio wall. My interest in them has changed and since her work has grown.

Figures and architecture pieces appear in Sarah's work, but the paintings become mostly about the shape relationships within those things. Her paintings are full of the qualities I hold back on: heavy strokes, electric color, decisive abstract color fields and messes. As the few versions of Habitation show, these are playful and investigative. She's being a student and that's something I often forget to be. Sarah's work shows me that there is still a lot of risk I can take with my own.

(This post was originally published on 2/7/11 and since been revised.)