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Category: Art

Painting: River Through Mountains

Painting: River Through Mountains
River Through Mountains. 8 x 8 inches, acrylic on wood.

I decided to relieve myself of the impulse to make another tonal, semi-representative work by forcing myself to work with a non-representative palette. I painted this over three sessions and I feel pretty good about it. The one thing i really learned while painting this is how much the music i’m listening to influences my approach to making marks.

I struggled quite a bit at first to get into a flow with this painting. Zion was also painting in the studio next to me and I let him pick the music. It was a great mix, but around halfway through the session some kind of more improvisational jazz type of music started playing and the groove and the energy of the music started influencing my painting. Zion noticed it too and commented on it. I’m going to start to experiment with different music as i continue this painting practice. There is really something here to use.

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Future paintings

I spent some time last night priming new surfaces to paint on. I’ve got two 8″ square and two 12″ square panels. More importantly, I’ve got a nice 24×36″ panel that I’m really excited to work with. I need to see what I can learn from making increasing the scale. Plus, i’ve got some other ideas bubbling that would require working at that scale or larger, so it’s time to test the waters.

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Honey Boy (Self exploration day, part 2)

After a really wonderful afternoon of relaxation, meditation, journaling, and art viewing, I found myself looking for some passive entertainment. I was sitting at the Art Institute thinking about how much I had enjoyed people watching and so, rather than go see some jazz as I had planned, I walked over to the Siskel Theatre on State Street and saw Honey Boy.

HOLY SHIT.

I don’t know if i’ve ever been moved so much by a film. For me, it was about as emotionally intense as it gets. I came into the film so completely open (thanks to the meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation of the day), and found myself in tears throughout the film. Hours later I was still crying.

The film is essentially an thinly fictionalized autobiographical movie written by Shia LaBeouf that focuses on his strained relationship with his father from the perspective of his time in rehab, looking back at formative and traumatic experiences around age twelve. LaBeouf plays HIS OWN FATHER which ads a whole nother layer to the experience of watching it.

What makes this film better than all the other depressing but beautiful art/life films out there? This movie is profoundly empathetic, and that makes all the difference. The raw emotion and the difficult situations portrayed with such authenticity generate empathy and hope in me, not despair. As a man, a son, and a father of sons, and a surviver of my own anger, this movie absolutely wrecked me and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Shia, Alma, and team: Thank you for making this movie.

Everybody else? Watch Honey Boy!

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Another experiment

I found another small old painting in my studio and couldn’t help but start going over it. I learned quite a bit while making this.

(1) If i’m going over old paintings, i need to leave more of the old in tact

(2) i need to stop using prussian blue hue. i will probably repaint this sky because i find the blue unsettling.

(3) I have a lot more to learn

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Not so precious

In my second sitting with this painting I brought in the sky and sea, and I have to say that it was thoroughly enjoyable and I like the outcome. In particular, I love this section of the shoreline. I’m making a conscious effort to evoke the essence of the scene without getting too precious.

sea detail. this part is my favorite so far
2. sky and sea
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New Beginning

Started a new painting last night. I had intended to do the same scene again but after making that little waterfall painting the other night, I changed my mind. Gotta move on. I’ll be painting more loosely and following my intuition.

1. undersketch and some greens
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Painting: Wisconsin Waterfall

Wisconsin Waterfall. 5 x 6.25 inches. Acrylic, urethane, Ink, pencil, and paper on wood.

Last night I found a couple of old paintings from 2002, and I had the overwhelming urge to paint over one of them. I busted out some sandpaper and roughed up the surface, then looked for an inspirational subject to work from that would lend itself to this collaboration with my former self. I am very pleased with the result and really looking forward to doing another of these (with the other old painting) tonight.

In my hand, for scale reference.
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Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood. 2020

I finished this painting and I’m feeling pretty good about it. The goal was to paint 2 foot square acrylic version of the very small gouache painting I made last year (below), using only the painting as a reference rather than the original photo reference. I’ve hung it up in the house to spend some more time with it. It’s got a great presence.

Next up I’ll be trying this scene again, same size, but directly from the photo (with some new restraints). My thinking on that here.

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 7 x 7 centimeters, gouache on paper. 2019
Studio mess.
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What am I trying to achieve?

As I was reflecting on the work I’m doing right now and my painting plans for this year, I became very certain that my primary goal is this: I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

The most important thing about framing the goal this way is that it prioritizes exploration, experimentation, and learning over outcomes. In other words, this is not strictly about making landscape paintings that Ben likes, or somebody else likes or wants in their home or whatever—this is about making paintings in service of discovering how Ben makes landscape paintings.

I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

In light of this realization, I’ve decided to spend one or two more sittings with the current painting and call it “done” because i’ve learned about everything I am going to learn from that painting. My next plan was to do a different scene with the same process, but I’ve changed my mind. My next painting will be the same scene, but with different constraints:

  • shorter painting sessions
  • limited overall time
  • limited brush sizes (not too small)
  • paint direct from photo source (as opposed to painting source)

Know what? I’m excited.

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