I buy a lot of my clothes from Uniqlo; I get a lot of email advertisements from Uniqlo. Back when I was commuting by train from Tacoma to Seattle I took up drawing on my iPad as a way to pass the time.
I began lifting images from these email ads and using them as a reference for drawing and painting practice. Free photo references by email!
I drew lots of these on the train, and I continued after I moved back to Portland. There's something about the subject matter that keeps me coming back. First there's the source photography itself.
Sometimes the models are outdoors doing something model-y - but never anywhere specific. More often the models are placed in a featureless but colorful void. Sometimes green, sometimes blue. The background coordinates with the clothes. This reminds me of bodegón - a term for still life paintings from Spain which feature objects, fruit, meat, drink, or crystal goblets, on a strange shelf or table top in a featureless dark room.
Retail fashion photography is a still life of people.
There is also a tension between the subject and the resulting drawing. What am I drawing here? Is it the person or the ad? When the german painter Gerhard Richter paints from a photograph he's really painting the photograph and not the the subject of the photograph.
I began drawing the the person in the ad, but eventually I was painting the ad.
I continued painting digitally. I'm on a computer or a device constantly with my work and I started to feel the itch to make some things again. As a gift for some friends, I printed some digital still life paintings on canvas and mounted them on wood panels. I liked the look of this. A photographic image on (or in) a canvas on a wood panel. It looks like an analog Instagram post.
I began printing my paintings on canvas, and laminating the prints to wood panels. My printer is not really intended for printing on canvas. Sometimes there are failures. Some of the failures are interesting, so I kept them. I like the "language" of the printer showing through some of these.
In the earliest of these I was playing with rougher, more gestural applications of paint on the surface. But I quickly moved to harder edges on geometric shapes or graphic elements. I liked the paint applied almost like a decal. The first of these (over the shoulder) shows the stages of getting a "finished" print out of my neglected printer, but as moved through the series I found I liked turning an unfinished in-process snapshot of the digital painting into a finished piece. One of the best things about digital painting is that the history of each painting can be preserved.
Some of the geometric or graphic elements in these paintings directly reference shapes from the ad like a call to action (shop now) or a logo. Some shapes reference their digital selves - the ochre jelly beans in "Hooded" directly ape the shapes of the digital palette I create while painting. In "Denim jacket" I experimented with reproducing the digital painting in real paint. The collar of that jacket...is it live or is it Memorex?
All of these works are 12" x 12" mixed media monotypes intended to be seen in groups of 2 or 3.
Over the shoulder
Boy with sweater
Back in February I shared some of this work with the owner of a little wine shop in St. Johns. Later he came to me and asked if wanted to hang art work in April. I hadn't been planning on any kind of show, but I said yes knowing that a deadline and a sense of obligation would motivate me to complete a body of work.
Of course things have happened since then and that little show is not happening now.
But at least, now, I have an inventory of work.