Ninety percent of my work, more or less, is done on a computer. But there are those bits that still have to be done by hand, compared and checked in the real world. Two of the projects I’ve been working on have led me away from the computer this week. Here’s a little peek into some of what I do.
We have a very nice print exhibition coming up in March. Through an amusing (to me as a designer) sequence we established the color palette would include Pantone’s color of the year: ultraviolet. I tend to avoid trends, but in this case we needed a color that would complement the aged paper color of the prints and work well with the wall color, which matched Warm Grey 5 rather nicely. Ultimately it will be a bit more of a split compliment, and I needed to confirm that there would be enough contrast for some of the graphics, particularly cut vinyl text. It’s a tricky color, the warm gray wall. Since it will be difficult to come any way close to matching the purple as printed on panels and cut vinyl, I’m hoping there will be enough contrast with white text. The details that one has to sweat out.
On the other hand, these little bits of cut out paper are a nightmare of my creation. Each year the Museum Ball presents a tricky situation. Creating an invitation that can set the tone for one of the prime charity fundraisers of the year, even though it’s often sold out before the invitations land in mailboxes. It can be difficult to put one’s best effort into something that can really feel like a formality if other fundraising efforts are successful. Last year was very formal, but this year the ball chairs wanted to go in a modern / contemporary direction. It’s been fun. And I decided on a reveal using a die cut. And have now made more mockups than I would have liked. Not rotating the design correctly for alignment, or just straight up needing to confirm that everything did in fact line up one last time before sending to the printer.
I like to think I have good spatial relation skills. But this just broke my brain a couple of times. I’m going to blame the fact that it was one of a half-dozen things I’m juggling, so I was a little fried by the time I was working out the die and alignment. Brain fry and all though, the files are off to the printer and their prepress has not called anything out as being improperly aligned. Knock on wood and other such tokens of luck, I’ll see a hard proof next week and perhaps my brain ache will have been worth it for a smooth print and production workflow.
It’s always nice to have a reason to get out to Sloss. Getting to do it in the middle of the day working on a work project, even better. Keep an eye out for some good stuff at the Museum soon.
It was damn cold. For Birmingham, Alabama. This is the condensation on the inside of my windows. Frozen solid.
Though it’s been annoying me for about a decade, I didn’t wake up planning to change the door knob. But the damn thing’s done now. And good riddance to it.
Found type, from within the faceplate of my old doorknob. I’ve not made use of the portrait mode with the iPhone X, but I am very fond of the 2x optical zoom. Makes for some lovely macro-esque shots.
Post migraine. Again. Hey brain, can I go back to that once a year schedule instead of monthly? Thanks.
Instagram post of the latest plywood painting I finished. It’s 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on plywood. I snapped the original image as I walked past the entrance to a parking garage in Chicago.
I’m fascinated by the entrances to parking decks and garages for a couple of reasons. One, I find them to be architecturally fascinating spaces. The lines and geometry are often great from a compositional standpoint. Creating black and white art that strips these spaces down to core composition is a means of highlighting what I perceive to be the inherent beauty of these spaces that are often considered a functional blight on city centers.
Secondarily, I find these places to be interesting liminal spaces. They are intended to be navigated in a car, but humans have to move through them, though they are in many ways hostile. It’s this necessary but indeterminate space. I think this is similar to my fascination with airports. These are not the destination, merely some third space one has to navigate to get to where you intend to go. As such, they tend to be overlooked, perhaps why I’ve begun paying attention to them.
Below is the process from original photograph to finished painting.
The images as cropped and adjusted for Instagram. My working method with all of the pieces I’ve made from this series have started as photos I’ve posted to Instagram. It serves as the starting point, test bed, etc. for images that I want to work with.
This has become a predominantly digital process. Quick photo with my iPhone, processing via Instagram, then sketching out the composition in Procreate on my iPad Pro.
Process video of my work in Procreate. This highlights the decisions points and compositional decisions I made while resolving the sketch. The biggest choices were the elimination of the gate arm, and deciding to paint in the ceiling. Though the composition is heavily guided by the typically harsh shadows of these environments, I’m clearly not working to slavishly recreate every aspect of the image. Much of this process is about reduction.
The prepared board. I’ve bought standard 1/2 inch thick, precut, 24 x 24 inch plywood boards. They are then prepped with a coat or two of black gesso, and then a coat of white acrylic. I use a dark undercoat because I want the white in the image to have a sense of depth.
The analog portion of the process really begins. After resolving the composition in Procreate, I print it out, roughly 4 inches square, then use an art projector to transfer it to the board. The board has been completely covered in masking tape.
Back acrylic applied. Unlike my previous work on canvas where I used a brush to fill in the white areas as a contrast to stenciled black acrylic, I’ve been using foam brushes for both the white and black layers with these pieces for a more uniform appearance.
The last touch, adding in the red. This has been a new direction for me, highlighting small pops of color in these pieces. The working title of the series has been “Warning Signs,” as all of these spaces are adorned with markings of some type warning the pedestrian, or driver, of what they are or are not allowed to do. Or in the case of this space, guiding the driver through these curved ramps. All the same, they act as a warning indicator. Bringing these bright spots back into the composition is a way to highlight the quasi hostile but still functional nature of these spaces.
I saw a Baldessari retrospective at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco almost a decade ago. I fell in love with his work. The mirror in the bathroom of Mom’s Basement presented a perfectly placed orange circle. I couldn’t help myself, I had to make a small homage. It cracked me up. A lot.
I was on I-20 just outside of Douglasville driving home from the holidays with my parents. I’m in the center lane of three, and ahead of me in the right lane is a truck, looks like the kind of flatbed truck with a small hoist used to carry sheetrock. Maybe 100 feet or so ahead of me, maybe less. Truck went boom, loud enough to hear the boom, and shit went everywhere. A blowout. Something went under the rear axle and got kicked up and tumbled into my lane. Looked like a lock box that mounts on the frame of large trucks. Box and shimmering bits spinning through the air, deformed, I could make out the stamped pattern, saw what looked like yellow insulation punctuating the torn pieces. I swerved, it tumbled to my right. I’m not sure how much of the avoidance was swerving, or it’s height in the air. In the moment my thought was, oh shit, that’s enough to fuck up my car pretty seriously, shit oh shit, if it hits the windshield even worse. The more terrifying thought is that it would have activated the airbags if I’d hit it. And then my car would have been left to its own devices to shed 70 miles an hour of speed with no input from me. I took the next exit to stop at a gas station and let my hands stop shaking. I tried with little success to clean ribbons of gunk that had been spun all over the windshield. Hydraulic fluid, or some kind of grease.
Back on the road and by the time I hit the state line the adrenaline finally crashed, so I took a moment to sit on a picnic table, reflect a bit more, and drink some vending machine coffee to pick me up, calm me down, for the remainder of the drive.
Born to run, or did my parents just think fat-baby-in-a-track-star-shirt was funny?