Working on art, 3/6/9

Okay, a few quick shots, because twitpic isn’t working.  I may add to this after the initial posting. Depends on how busy I am between now and when I leave for tonight’s Art Walk.

I’ve been staring at this deep, deep, dark violet (8×10″) canvas I painted for a couple of months.  Then, last night, I knew what to paint and here it is:

Then I started on a few others – a red 5×7″, a brown 4×4″, and another 4×4″ which I started by painting the face of solid black (I’ve since painted the edges forest green), and then there’s the 8×10″ off-green thing I’ve been looking at as long as that purple one.

And then I went to bed.  Today I put another coat of red on the red one and then painted this on the green 8×10″:

I like painting the foreground as background, and painting the background over it.  It’s like a study in negative space, and I like the effect.

Update 1:

This is what I did with the brown 4×4″ painting:

I tried to show part of the edge, here – these 4×4″ canvases have a 1.25″ depth, so I enjoy doing interesting things that play beyond the front face.  here I just did simple extended purple corners, showing how the implied diamond just keeps on keepin’ on.

working out an idea

I’m working on an idea.  I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ve worked through a couple of iterations, since.  The idea has evolved significantly, as I’ve worked, and thought, considering the meaning and the purpose of such a project.  And the meaning of my life, and of my work, in general.  I like the direction it’s taking.  Don’t know how capable I’ll be of either selling it, or of marketing it -each of which holds unique challenges- but I’m going to keep working on it anyway.

I’ve been vaguely considering designing a custom deck of cards, akin to tarot cards, for many years.  I’ve never really wanted to simply design a tarot deck, as so many others have done before me, simply putting my own artwork on the traditional 72 cards.  This has something to do with my understanding about about divination works, and what part cards tend to play in it (not to mention the other roles such cards tend to end up playing on the side).  I’ve wanted to not just create artwork for an existing system of divination, but to create a new system from scratch.  A wholly original deck.

Of course, I’m aware that Leviticus 19:26 makes it clear that God would prefer if I didn’t practice divination at all.  The context that Isaiah 2:6 gives divination is as a “superstition from the East.”  I’d effectively given up the practice a few years ago, after a brief, intense period of giving in to the temptation, but it’s been on my mind again, lately.  Not in the context of wanting to do readings or divine knowledge/wisdom/future, but in wanting to design the cards, and to publish a book explaining them.  So I started designing.  I want through a couple of interesting ideas, did dozens of sketches, and decided to go a different direction.

I’ve been working on steering my creativity in a direction toward more Christian writing.  Not entirely effectively, yet, but I’ve been trying to at the very least avoid going further in the direction of the sex, violence, and apparent lack of morality that the Untrue Tales From Beyond Fiction was pointing me in (though that changes character in the final books).  I have a partially completed book that literally explores the concept of the unforgivable sin mentioned by Jesus – with violence, sex, action, and all sorts of other apparent sins (and exploration of the meaning of ‘sin’) along the way.  I would like to write several explorations of the complex, interesting, and challenging things I have found in scripture and in my own Christian walk.  But first, I think I’ll start with something unconventional:

I’m designing a deck of Christian cards, and writing a book to explain them.  As I conceive it now, I expect the book to have three pain parts: One part, the expected breakdown, card by card, of how to read the cards for divination – what this one means, what it means ‘reversed’, how to lay the cards out and to interpret them.  One part, a theological and biblical exploration of divination, ‘Eastern superstition’, and related new age beliefs as a temptation for modern Christians, especially as for new Christians who prior to being born again practiced such things.  One part, an alternative breakdown, card by card, that uses the deck of cards as a sort of flash cards for learning about Jesus, Christianity, and the early church.

Part of the idea (which will certainly be included in the book) is that most things of this world are neither inherently good or evil, but it is our individual choices, day by day and moment by moment, that we do right or wrong.  That we imbue the things of this world with the good or the evil that we do with them.  A deck of cards -the ones I am designing, or any deck of tarot cards- is not evil.  It is not a tool of the devil, in and of itself.  It can be used to do evil, but the cards themselves are not evil.  If I do a good job designing them, if I write a clear and well-organized book, both of which I believe can only happen through him who gives me strength, then my cards will be able to do good by those who choose to use them for good, and to likewise allow those who choose to do so to use them for divination.  A tool.  A choice.

The production, distribution, and sale of the book is easy for me, right now.  I’ve got 10 books in print already, and adding one only takes a couple of weeks, once it’s written.  The production, distribution, and sale of the cards -especially as part of a bundled item with the book- looks challenging.  There are several options for getting the cards printed.  I could pay for a huge offset run, warehouse them somehow…  There are a couple of companies that will do short-run decks of cards (hundreds instead of thousands or tens of thousands of decks).  I found one place that will do “print on demand” of custom cards, but not like POD book printers do -they aren’t doing wholesaling, retailing, distribution, and won’t do one-offs-  but they’ll print as few as 10 decks at a time, and they’ll print (but not assemble) deck boxes, too.  And I found a place that sells microperforated playing card paper, so I can print a test deck or two on my own printer.  So I’ll probably go with that last one at first, get the cards how I want them.  Then go to the POD printer and get a small order (they have a price break at 50 decks) & have a matching print run at Lightning Source (who also has a price break at 50 copies of a book).  Then try to get them carried by Christian and new age stores, I guess.  

I’m considering some options like:  Putting the book out with a high cover price & one page being a coupon you mail in for a free deck of cards.  Doing all the distribution myself, so I can bundle them manually, and don’t have to worry about people who buy the book through other channels & don’t get the cards.  Writing the book in such a way that it stands alone, without the cards, but tells you how you can order the cards, and using the same distribution setup I have for my other books.  And… uhh… do you have any other ideas?  I’ll be thinking about it for a while.

The current plan is to do the research (ie: read the bible, concordances, and other bible resources) so I can write 2-4 pages (minimum) for each of the cards (at least 1 page for each of the two parts that break down each card), and to paint an individual painting for each card’s art.  I’m hoping to do each painting 8×10″ or less, so I can do a high resolution scan with equipment I already own, do additional work in Photoshop as necessary, but then to have an original painting for sale that corresponds to every card.  To make packaging & distribution easier (and because it fell together in the designing of the deck), I’m doing a 52-card deck, currently as follows:

  • 5 ‘Major’ cards: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Death, & Devil
  • 14 Apostles cards: 1 per apostle, including both Judas & Matthias and Paul
  • 11 Miracles cards, each featuring one of Jesus’ miracles
  • 11 Ministry cards, each featuring one group of people to whom Jesus ministered
  • 11 Message cards, each featuring one basic, foundational, repeated part of Jesus’ message

I think the hard cards will be the Apostle cards.  I need to do the research, but I’m pretty sure there are a few of the apostles there isn’t two pages’ worth of information about in the bible.  Hopefully I’m mistaken.  Either way, I’ll have to figure out how to represent each of them visually – I plan to research how they’ve each been traditionally and historically depicted in the last two millennia.  Still, they effectively represent 14 paintings of “a man,” which, if you’ve seen my art, you know hasn’t exactly been something I’ve been perfecting.  So probably 14 abstracted expressions of what each man represented or something they did or … inspired by whatever was used to depict them historically.  Your suggestions are, again, welcome.

I have a list, a flexible, mutable list, of what I expect the 52 cards to be.  I’m thinking of creating 52 blog posts -perhaps in a separate instance of WP, or perhaps merely in their own category- one for each card, where I can write out my explorations of the concepts.  I’ll have to think about that, too.  What do you think would work best?  Are you interested?  What would hold your interest?  What would annoy you about blogging it?  

Up late again.  Didn’t do any audio work today (now I’m not actually “ahead” of the podcast, anymore – a lot of recording done, but no finished episodes ready to go from here on out), but absolutely have to do some tomorrow.  Who wants to try to get me up in the morning?  Say, around 8?  sigh.

process of painting ‘1, 2, 3, 4, ‘

This one should be the most fun, though perhaps the least inspired, originally. On account of I shot a video of part of it. (Scroll down to see it.)

I started sketching in a cheap sketch-book I had on-hand, while waiting for the paint on ‘darkness looming‘ to dry, and started trying to see what might turn into another new painting. After several pages of messy nothing, I came up with a sketch for a something I liked. Sadly, for you, I didn’t take a picture if it, and I’m not going to, now. Maybe later. Anyway, it seemed interesting enough, and I annotated a few lines and spaces with ideas for colors, and after finishing the inking on ‘darkness looming‘, I started to work on the first layer of ‘1, 2, 3, 4, ‘. This layer was intended to be seen only in the vertical split between the left 2/3 and right 1/3 of the painting, and in the square in the lower right corner, but I wanted to do it right (and add a layer of texture) so I painted the entire canvas.


1, 2, 3, 4, - process step 1 1, 2, 3, 4, - process step 2

1, 2, 3, 4, - process step 3 Then I waited half a day for that to dry. And then, before I started working on the painting again, I set up a video camera to capture the rest of the process. I put a line of 1/2″ tape vertically on the canvas, and cut out a square of tape for the square – it’s like a sort of stencil; where I put the tape, the purple remains when I paint over the rest. Then I painted on the red circle, the blue background, the off-color right-side… You’ll watch the video and see it, right? I don’t need to describe it all in detail? Well, I painted on the colors, and as I’ve learned to do from countless past tape-involved projects before, I pulled up the tape while the paint was still wet. So, to explain the next part of the video: tape isn’t perfect. So some of the paint leaks under. What you can see me doing is cleaning up the worst of it, trying to maintain the purple background as intact as possible without hurting the (still wet) pink and blue foreground. The image you see at right is the painting when this process was complete; the main elements of color are present, but I hadn’t yet put on any borderlines, and certainly hadn’t painted the most-foreground element (the black, horizontal lines), so this image is sort-of an in-between-takes image. It was taken in between where the camera angle changes in the video. The camera angle changed, by the way, because I waited until the next day for it to dry, and I had to put away the camera before Mandy came home, or it would have blocked the walkway.

After the new color layer had dried, it was time to deal with the remaining (slight) leakage (mostly of white) at the edges of where the tape had been. I had taken a day to think about it, and had decided to use pearlescent purple and blue paint pens to both clarify the division by increasing the contrast from one color to another, and to cover up an otherwise unsightly evidence of my process which (in my opinion) did not improve the end result. The video of my tracing the outlines of the previously-taped sections is not particularly interesting, but I decided to just leave it all in. Then, semi-satisfied with the result of the colors, and after the paint from the paint pens had had a chance to dry, it was time for the three rough, black lines that overlap the piece. I put them vaguely on (for scale, placement, and some semblance of erraticism) first in Sharpie, then with a paintbrush and black paint. I knew exactly what I wanted, and it was no problem to execute this final step. There were only minor touch-ups of the black lines after the video camera was turned off, and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, ‘ was ready for hanging.

So that’s how I made this painting.  The title was selected while it was still a sketch, and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, ‘ is now available for purchase at

1, 2, 3, 4, - finished

painting ‘darkness looming’

darkness looming - process step 1 Okay, this one will be quick.  It was the last of the paintings based on blurry photos of doodles I made at work last year.  Painted this one Thursday, 5/15/2008.  I’d been thinking about it for a while.  Thinking pretty seriously all week this week, about how I wanted to go from a blurry simple line drawing to a painting.  I considered just doing ink on paper or some other more common media… But I decided that for the background on this one I wanted to have a slight gradation from blackBlackBlack at the top to pure, unpainted white for at least the bottom half of the canvas.  I considered painting the white canvas white, even doing some more complex, swirly, flowing, sort of out-of-the-head-and-up and into black abstract thing.  But I decided to just take some water, wet half the canvas, take some black paint, black the very top and with water only, work small amounts of the black pigment down the canvas in long, nearly-horizontal strokes.  Then, I took the photograph on the right, to  show off all the excitement of watching paint dry.  Literally.

darkness looming - process step 2 darkness looming - process step 3

While I waited, I sketched and doodled, and otherwise tried to come up with another idea for a painting.  It turned out to be ‘1, 2, 3, 4, ‘ …  Anyway, after that excitement ((don’t tip the canvas, don’t move it, the blackness might move “wrong”)), when the black was dried, I used several sharpies to draw the figure.  I won’t bother pretending that it went exactly as I’d hoped.  Well, the proportions came out right.  The feet are good, the angles on the legs, through the knees, up to the shoulders, the angles were good.  The hands (well, ends of the arms) were just how I wanted them.  But then… well, the head’s shape wasn’t 100% right.  And trying to fix it … well, it didn’t … I’m not 100% happy with it.  I’m not 90% happy with it.  My original thought for the figure was that he was looking down, the line across the head being the eye-line, the dark note along the bottom edge being a hint of mouth.  Then, due to errors, the dark at the bottom became increasingly a shadow, a thick line, and… well, when Mandy saw the finished work hanging on the wall when she came home, she said the figure looked happy – the line is a smile in her eyes.  Which I’m now having trouble not seeing.

So, that was that.  This is a simple piece, based on a simple sketch.  Titled ‘darkness looming’, it is now available for purchase at

darkness looming - finished

process of painting ‘low moan, wide hat’

I’ve been busy painting, the last couple of weeks.  Three paintings done, another started.  My goal is to finish at least 5 paintings in May.  My art marketing book tells me that if I’m not able to produce new works at that volume or higher, it would be better not to try making a living from art.  I understand that that’s an arbitrary number, my milage my vary, and that I’m also running a publishing company.  I also understand that that’s the minimum prescribed, and that similar figures have been given through other resources I follow online.  So, if I can at least aim for getting a bunch of new paintings done all the time, plus getting new writing done, new audiobooks recorded, and time spent marketing, I figure I have a shot at this.  Plan way, way too much to do and, in failing, still get more than a reasonable amount of work done.

Anyway, last week I started work on another of my paintings based on a sketch / doodle I did in the margin of a page of notes at work last year.  At the time that I doodled it, I outlined what was supposed to be part of the drawing in red – you can see that there were some overlapping notes leftover, in the picture below on the left.  If you look closely at the picture on the right, you can just make out the pencil-line I sketched freehand onto the canvas to get things started for this piece.  It didn’t match the original sketch, but considering I was freehand drawing from a blurry photo of a doodle, and that the whole thing is in a pretty loose style, I wasn’t too worried about it.  The pencil sketch captured the important details of the figure.

low moan, wide hat - process step 1 low moan, wide hat - process step 2

Instead of doing what I’d been doing on the last few pieces, and building up layers, from foreground to background, I decided to just paint everything at once on this piece, and stitch the colors together with a thick border, akin to what I’d done to outline the figure in audacity of hope.  So, I knew the character’s skin would be a pale blue-green color, and wanted his hat & coat to be a darker, but cool color, somewhere between deep blue-black and a dark violet, or perhaps a dark grey with a hint of color.  But I wasn’t sure what color the background should be, so … I just picked the color that contrasted with dark blues and purples the most, and voila – an orange background!  Before the orange even started to dry (which is how I usually operate – paint one color, wait for it to dry, paint the next color, and so on…) I went ahead and got out some purple and blue and white to mix in for the band and top of the hat, and got to work on the hat and coat.  It was much more purple than I’d intended.  I kept mixing more blue in, especially into the coat, but in the end, it was all much too purple to match my intentions.  Since the orange had actually ended up much more saturated than I’d wanted, the contrast between the rich orange and the rich purple ended up being well matched.

low moan, wide hat - process step 3 low moan, wide hat - process step 4

low moan, wide hat - process step 5 Then, while those colors were still drying, I moved forward again.  I mixed up a pale blue-green for the skin, more blue in the skin and more green in the beard, but a very subtle gradation between hues was what I was going for.  In contrast with the blue-purple coat surrounding it, the green in the beard almost disappears.  I actually spent about as much time just on getting the beard to look the way I wanted as I had on the entire hat.  I knew I’d been planning on adding a thick outline to the major features of the character before I was done, but I also didn’t want to have to outline the beard – I wanted it to look furry/hairy on its own.  So I made sure that I not only was creating variations in color, but that I was creating a fully-overlapping color, beard-over-coat, with hairs and mess along the full edge of the beard, from lip to eyeball.  The other colors all had a bit of space between them, and were fairly rough, but for the beard I made sure that the edge I was painting would be an edge I was happy with.  More green added to the blue-green for the eyes, then black added to that for the centers, and then for the mouth.  For the centers, I also didn’t want to have them outlined, so I made sure the black was touching the green.  Then, finally, I decided to let it dry before doing the outlines.

low moan, wide hat - process step 6 The next morning, I went out to run some errands, among which was to pick up a gold paint pen.  I actually ended up going to six different places to find three items.  Only one of which was the gold paint pen that I used to outline the figure’s hat and coat.  I’d already had a pearlescent blue pen on hand to use to outline the figure’s eyes and mouth, and that was the easy part.  I fought with myself for a long while, trying to get happy with the shape of the hat, the thicknesses of the lines, how much purple was left, how much gold I wanted to use in total…  And the pen I’d bought was terrible.  Just terrible.  It was a real pain just trying to use it without screwing anything up, but after the morning I’d had running all over I wasn’t about to go out and start looking for another one, so I struggled through.

Then I spent a couple of hours debating with myself (and with a few people on Twitter) over whether or not I ought to add in the feather-in-his-cap that had appeared in the original sketch (but which, I think, would have made the figure look much more pimp-like, and much less jazz-y), and what, exactly to call the thing.  In the end, I decided no feather, and a title both evocative and descriptive in turns.

Thus, I give you: ‘low moan, wide hat’, available for purchase from

low moan, wide hat - finished