The Thinker

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The Thinker; mixed media on canvas, 24 x 24 x 1.5 inches. Another in my series on icons and archetypes. The horizontal line is string, which has been primed/painted right into the surface of the canvas.

The Thinker is as much seeing as reckoning; imagination is a distant sun beyond mere worlds of understanding and ideas. How to express electricity? Yes, there are problems to solve but there are not necessarily solutions. We have time and experience and some number that sets down what might possibly be conceived. Or rather what is the limit. Perceptions, rules, plans, beliefs: draw your arrows across the sky. Watch how they fall, see where they land. People say it must be terrible, the storm of so much knowledge, but the Thinker would tell you that there is no understanding at all, only portraits rendered imperfectly, as if at a distance, or even another room, and the going price is just endless questions.

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the awful daring

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the awful daring / original wax monoprint on photo paper / 8 x 12.5 inches 


 

this wax monoprint is a single impression only (image printed wet to an unstable wax surface, then pressed to the photo paper for a permanent image)

200 g/m2, 53 lb • 9 mil

the writing is from TS Eliot’s The Wasteland

“The awful daring of a moment’s surrender which an age of prudence can never retract. By this, and only this, we have existed.”

meant for a frame, I’d say

packaged for gift giving in a clear cellophane sleeve

shipped with care (with book board)

a combination of distressed comic/pop art with poetry

monoprints are an affordable means of original art, I think

please check out my store for other affordable artworks

 and have a good day!

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cigar-tin stories number eighty six / / after the whale

I make a painting called after the whale. It is very blue. Blue is a difficult colour to work with; like the sea or the sky, it tends to crowd out everything else. It is both overarching and subsuming at the same time. As for man-made things, blue contains a certain industriousness: things big or naval. But it also has a dreamscape quality, as in things imagined, out of reach, or middle-distance, there but not there. And obviously: rain, melancholy, absence. There is certainly no whale there, anymore.


What is there are the remains of two other paintings: one that serves as background, the other one torn into thin strips and then crowded and rearranged and worked through with blue.


Art is often expressed within the categories of argument or something decorative. Yet for me, an artwork is a memory, and either that memory has power or it doesn’t. These two paintings did what they could, for awhile, but ultimately failed to insinuate themselves, failed to convince. And here they get a new life. Becoming secret ingredients, for what that’s worth.


My favourite quotation about blue is about the ocean, and it comes from Werner Herzog: “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” This quote speaks to the fact that Werner is (a) obviously German and (b) obviously a maniac.


I make an ornamental art box, decorated with collage from vintage advertisements for toy soldiers. Appropriately, the box is metal––like a mini foot locker, in burnished steel. The collaged sides have a gloss varnish, smooth to the touch. You can see a little video about it here.


I love those vintage comic-book ads. The illustrations are absolutely over the top––always the battlefield is a crammed pandemic of frantic violence, its soldiers with the animating mindset of enraged professional wrestlers, all bulging eyes and vein-popping war cries.


Of course there are no bodies, no wreckage. Everybody still has their head,** and everybody gets a medal.


From my office window I can see my coworkers come and go. People make up their hours, carry in their excuses. The trick, I think, is never saying anything, and always acting normal.


We have a meeting about our office space. Everyone crowds around a floor plan, pointing at things. We are getting many more managers, and they all want the offices with windows (they also want to be all in a row, so they can “talk to each other”), which means the rest of us will be moving into the basement.


I already have a basement office at home. C started it for me. It has a folding table and an exposed ceiling. Think: wires. One of my nieces wanders into it looking for the Wi-fi password. “Whoa, this office is sketchy,” she says. I try to clean it up, put up a string of fairy lights over the cork board.


I read a book about Internet shaming. I read an article about a con man (which reminds me of a podcast about a con man). I read an essay about low-wage work. All of these things are about disposable people.


What does it mean to be a citizen? What is the animating idea for a social democracy? Who called this meeting anyway, and what’s all this about the common good and a just society? Do you have any meaningful say in the forces that govern your life?


Mostly I just try to move forward, which is not the same as progress. Some days are not for seeing. Some days are like a scar across the back of your hand, and everything is about not thinking, not remembering, not providing context. The news is exhausting. This is what what it must be like to live in Russia, I guess. The light at the end of the hall is neon in dark pink and it reads, LEAVE THIS ALONE. People fantasize about time travel or invisibility but selective forgetting is really much the same thing.


Please have a good week. Every day there’s more light in the morning.

djb

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

** Back in 2007 I wrote a little essay about headless soldiers. It ended up in a magazine called Filling Station. I’m pasting it below. Some of the tech references already seem dated!

Roman Soldiers

These days, when a graphic designer is desperate or uninterested or simply has no budget, this is what ‘research’ comes down to: typing words into Google’s image-search engine. On this occasion––for a poster announcing some stupefying guest lecture on the fall of the Roman Republic––I tried the words “Roman Soldiers” (please Google, do not filter my results). The Google entity responded with its usual brutal dragnet (the information highwayman, hijacking whatever, whoever, making one for something shiny), and many Roman soliders duly appeared, but the only thumbnail which immediately jumped out as a prize came by way of Wikipedia (another mechanized golem, throwing around handfuls of received information like so much sand) and an ad for toy soldiers that I recognized immediately because it seemed to run on the back cover of every comic book I ever touched as a kid.

132 PC. ROMAN SOLDIERS SET
ONLY $2.25
2 COMPLETE ROMAN ARMIES:
Fight again the battles of the old Roman Civil War — Roman against Roman! Or mount your own attack against a town or city. Every piece of molded plastic — each on its own base. Two complete armies, one in blue, one in yellow! Your satisfaction guaranteed or full refund.
Here is what you get:
4 Generals — Mounted
24 Cavalrymen — with Spears & Armour
4 Cavalrymen with banners
16 Spearmen with Shields
16 Archers with bows
16 Slingers
4 Chariots with drivers
4 Working Catapults
16 pieces of ammuntion (harmless) for catapult
24 Foot soldiers with broadswords and shields
4 Buglers
RUSH COUPON TODAY

The full-page ad was done in primaries plus black, with an electric emphasis on red type over blocks of yellow. Dominating everything is the illustration, showing the moment of impact between two Roman armies as they smash into each other.

For my little-kid brain, that ad was like crack. The illustration is frenetically alive with energy, the entire scene seething with brutality and viciousness: soldiers storm ladders with shields held high against the murderous rocks hurled down at them, siege towers strain forward, charioteers careen madly right into the thick of battle, archers strain at their bows even as arrows poison the sky, foot soldiers slash and stab away. The soldier closest to the foreground, in particular, sets the tone for the promised experience––his sword raised in defiance, his howling face nearly insane with rage. This was something more than two war machines merely wound up and pointed at each other; this was some demented, free-for-all bloodlust of the highest order.

But I never did send away for those soldiers. And I can’t tell you why. Then, as now, I really had no budget for that kind of extravagance (also, I probably understood that my mom, the person who’d have to do all the heavy lifting in any mail-order scheme, would have advised me, in her disappointed way, that the product was most likely ‘crap’). Back then, my thoughts and ambitions often got lost between the spaces of my own imagination. Besides, how realistic was this illustration anyway? My dad had a whole bookcase full of war books (he’d sign up for some historical series and then never pay the bill; as a result, all of our wars ended abruptly in mid-conflict). The pictures found in those volumes were real enough. The Roman soldiers from my ad were too perfect––the lines of their hard anatomy too implacably clean, the hues of their armour too fiercely burned in. Where were the dead? Where were the wounded? Even better, where were the hacked-off arms, or the headless torso’s stumbling around the battlefield, spouting fountains of blood?

I soon got my answer. It was Christmas. I was maybe six or seven years old. My older brother was two grades ahead. Improbably, we got each other’s names in the Sunday School draw. And what did he buy me? A bag of 100 toy soldiers, plastic Americans from World War Two. I was surprised. Part of that surprise was down to the fact that I didn’t have anything to give him. Again, I have no idea why. But I did feel bad about it.

I felt worse when my brother stole back my bag of soldiers and bit all their heads off. Every rifleman, grenade thrower, bazooka team… headless. He also removed a few arms and legs, just for good measure. Also, after being so abused in the process, most of my soldiers no longer stood up very well. You kind of had to lean them against things. And while my twisted, prostrate, headless soldiers were not so much fun to play with, they did look very real.

you and your friends (are monsters)

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you and your friends are monsters; a book art object, mixed media, 5.5 x 8.5 x .35 inches

This was once a notebook, in the long ago. But I had these ink drawings of zombies, and some wayward desire to rip them into strips, and somehow combine them, and what better place to do that than over the covers of book? I like the resulting art object quite a lot, and think it will look grand on a shelf in my studio until it sells.

The best quotation about monsters comes from Kelly Link…

A monster. You and your friends, all of you. Pretty monsters. It’s a stage all girls go through. If you’re lucky you get through it without doing any permanent damage to yourself or anyone else.

Exiting towards the weekend now. Have a good one, everyone.

sky, sometimes falling

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sky, sometimes falling; mixed media on paper

I made this painting last weekend, on a vintage map (which you can still see aspects of, in the background, most clearly at left). This morning I digitized it to see how it would translate onto various objects, such as an art print

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a carry-all pouch

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a notebook

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a phone case

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and others. There are times when art almost works better as merchandise. This particular painting was created very wet, and the effect, while still filled with detail, is very rough and ready, but the merchandising process transforms that, flattening and cleaning, applying a kind of gloss. And reproductions are completely valid, in their way.

Onward and upward. Happy Wednesday.

The Empress Awakens

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The Empress Awakens; an original mixed media painting on canvas, 24 x 36 x 1 1/2 inches

canvas, card strips, collage, crayon, pencil, acrylic ink, acrylic paints, wash, varnish

a large, vibrant painting that sets the tone of a room

an painting that speaks in texture and colour, with allusions to the archetype of The Empress of the tarot

I have three quotations for this one:

A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.
― John Steinbeck

See all of this world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
–– Buddha

I called the world of phenomena an illusion, I called my eyes and my tongue and accident, valueless phenomena. No, that is all over; I have awakened, I have really awakened and have just been born today.
― Hermann Hesse

shipped with care –– with masonite board

everything from my store comes with an extra art surprise

ESCAPE THE DREAMING PLANET –– live your life with original art

besides, Spring is almost upon us!

boxing is easy, love is much harder

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boxing is easy, love is much harder; a book art object, front and back covers, 6 x 9 x 1 inches.

I have three quotes for this one

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
~ Lao Tzu

Boxing is smoky halls and kidneys battered until they bleed.
~ Roger Kahn

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Snowing today, which means I have a push-shovel workout waiting for me at home.