Spring Semester 2019 – Last Post

Well this is a reflection of my discoveries this semester.


It is really challenging to try and learn a new craft at my age and everyone was very supportive along the way.  I had moments of enjoyment during my learning process and discovered how my work was seen by others but more importantly, because of the feedback, I learned how I see myself as an artist and how I judge my work.

I really put my self into it this semester… tons of experimentation,high production studies of large scale drawings really pursuing the craft. I think I improved over the four months (with my mentor’s direction and the crit feedback) but learning my limitations was just as important to me. Hiroshi said in my last crit (and I agree with it) that photo realism is a life long pursuit. I did not expect I would attain it in one semester. But I did think I would have enjoyed the process more since I love looking at other’s drawings and I used to love drawing so much in my youth. It used to be so relaxing and fun for me. I really love drawing as an art form and I really enjoyed the images and books I reviewed this semester on drawing. I may try incorporating some drawing into my digital imaging direction that I will go back to. I still want to explore colored inks and alcohol and watercolor but I will do that on my on time. Too much self-imposed pressure to explore new things in a grad program.

The Final Crit
The final crit went really well. Very cathartic for me. I felt a giant (admittedly self-imposed) burden lift off of me. I felt like I was given permission to pursue what interests me (moving away from drawing and back to digital compositing). And Ric was very direct about asking why do I need permission. I think deep down and long ago, I learned art is supposed to be difficult and hard like blood, sweat and tears are required to make anything of lasting beauty or value. So I have been making it difficult and hard on myself either with work volume expectations or quality expectations and all the time saying I am searching for what I enjoy. That is true but I was walking around a room with a blindfold on. The crits really lifted that blindfold allowing me to see my work through others eyes and it also let me see how unforgiving I view my own work (this semester in particular). It is really bizarre what kinds of baggage gets tethered to different ideas and perceptions of self through the years.
I think I can let that go now finally. Which means I can also let go of the over the top production mandates I give myself (quantity of work expected). Those two (self-imposed) hurdles passed, I am excited about the next time I sign up for these art making and critique classes next Spring. I am looking forward to an enjoyable last half of my MFA pursuit.
Thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and ideas. Really valuable to me.

3rd Critique in 3 days…

So, my 3rd critique is this week. I started from scratch after the second critique…as in I did not have anything in progress. I make art like I read. I usually have 2 or 3 books on my nightstand that I am reading as well as audio-books on my phone that I listen too. Art is like that for me also…typically multiple pieces going at different stages of completion. Not for this one though. I started from scratch at the end of last critique with more of a refined direction. First, by group encouragement, I wanted to complete another color abstract figurative piece because I am highly interested in the abstract versus realistic elements existing in the same piece.

Because of the short time span and my desire to make art at scale, I have completed a narrow section, 2’x8′ charcoal drawing of a nude man in a traditionally understood ‘superman’ pose with hands on hips. Again, my next attempt of integrating the characteristics of super heros from comics into art. This became a piece about contrasts. It is traditionally drawn with charcoal in a realistic fashion. The form is extremely muscular and tense except for the hands and facial expression which is relaxed. Again, thinking about ‘vulnerability in strength’ or ‘strength in vulnerability’…contrasts. I chose a very chiaroscuro lighting in a dark environment again thinking about contrasts again and letting the negative space define the object instead of relying on lines only (at the suggestion of my mentor Hiroshi). I wanted it to be very dark in mood and contemplation both for the subject of the piece and for the viewer.


Then the final 2’x6′ piece, drawn on cold press watercolor paper with heavy black charcoal, (I hope to have finished) walks away from the whole super hero exploration – remember that was just an engine to restart my passion for drawing originally…not a social comment on the unrealistic expectations or criticism on man as a symbol in society today. My final piece is heavy with content and meaning on many levels taking into account my leanings to the surreal. The piece is heavily choreographed to align with my personal narrative. In this very content driven piece I am working with opposites and contrasts. Male and female. Dark and light. Good and bad. Smooth and rough. Quiet and Loud. Even and odd. And my feelings about a childhood friend who committed suicide three years ago.


So, I used fully dressed (overdressed – warm), headless, human forms with no heads and no hands (no voice – no method of change agency), dressed in old, well used trench coats (thinking about the clandestine ideas of government/spies) but I placed an even number (8) of them in odd numbered groupings (3 and 5). Biblically, 8 represents new life, regeneration, resurrection since it is tethered to the idea that 8 people were invited on the ark for the new beginning after the flood. I put one in a wheelchair thinking that one is independent of all other numbers and yet is contained in all other numbers.  One is only divisible by itself. And this form is the only one raising its arm showing us there is not a hand. Then there are 7 left – thinking about the 7th day of creation which signified completion and rest which is why they are passively standing…at the ‘end’.


I used a hairless cat which connotes the idea of ‘nakedness – vulnerability through youth’ but naked cats are also wrinkly which makes me think of old age and wisdom…inherent contrasts. Also, I wanted to contrast the heavily dressed forms with the nakedness of the cat. Because it has no coat for hair or fur, it loses more body heat than coated cats so this makes it warm to the touch as well as heat-seeking…but leaving it isolated made it feel cold to me (physically and metaphorically). I also wanted the cat to be white to contrast with the darkly clad uniforms. I also put the cat on dark stones which would be uncomfortable/painful to rest on but it does (like stepping on a piece of gravel barefooted on your driveway).


The piece became to quiet so I drew two birds fighting in front of the cat but the cat is ignoring them (which are arch enemies and a food source). I used two because the number two symbolizes companionship, witness and division. I was also thinking the power of the pair…2 of every kind of animal entered the ark. The two, loud birds (I drew one with male characteristics and one with female characteristics) are arguing but one is being more mean and louder while the other is arguing more defensively and sad. (Trying to evoke expression in a bird’s face was hard for me…I see it but I am curious if others will). And they are barely hanging on to the log they are perched on.  The bird is generally thought to symbolize freedom since they can walk on the earth and swim in the sea as humans do but they also have the ability to soar into the sky. Birds are free to roam to earth and the sky. Many cultures believe that they symbolize eternal life; the link between heaven and earth (life and death) which tied into this narrative.


Everything is in a vast space that is both well lit but also dark/moody…trying for dim, overcast light and I wanted the environment to be seen as huge and open. On the windows, I wanted the look of bars in a prison. Also, I wanted the place to be run down and abandoned looking.

Here is where I was on Friday of last week. Cross your fingers for me.




Second Critique – Thoughts and Reflection

So with this past month, I continued to investigate many media and styles. Encouraged by the last critique and my mentor, Hiroshi, to continue exploring super heros as reinterpreted in an “artistic” context with scale.  I created a 3’x6′ digital painting (in 2’x3′ modules) and this was really fun to draw/paint on a computer and then I printed it on canvas and stretched them. I love the wide variety of paint stokes that are interesting to look at up close but I missed the 3D texture of paint on canvas. So I thought I would just add paint to it; which pulled off/damaged the inkjet ink. So I sprayed it with a fixative and tried again but that didn’t work either. I drew a 4’x8′ Ironman in the classic, heroic posture as an experiment in highly detailed rendering (the top half). Though it was fun at the start, it became very arduous and burdensome to complete the rendering. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if there was a strong meaning within the piece. I am still fascinated with highly rendered drawings at scale. One thing I definitely did not like was working with white charcoal because every time  I sprayed it with fixative, I would lose up to 50% of my value marks (and I experimented with everything from $30 a pint mist-fixative to hairspray). The consensus was it was evidence of drawing skills but it revealed nothing new in the context of art thus limiting its value as “art”. I was encouraged to combine the superhero scale with the mixed-media, abstract, figure piece  (possibly integrating more dynamic posturing for interest):

So I do like using white on dark as a means of drawing but not the fragility of trying to archive white charcoal. So that led me to a painting (1st in the series above) of Jean Baptiste Carpeaux’s Ugolino c’est enfants. I used white, liquid acrylic paint on photo backdrop paper. I loved that process in that my whites did not change and required no fixative. I started working black charcoal back into it and did not like it. As I stood back, when it was completely white on dark grey paper, I liked the balance of realism and abstraction the piece had. I could lose and find the five human shapes. Here is an in progress shot of what I mean. Like the boy in the lower right quadrant is almost invisible but once you see him, you can’t unsee him.


This was my favorite piece to make and look at. I want to experiment more with this technique and medium (but not on paper…canvas maybe). There were a lot of positive comments encouraging me to go in this direction. I was drawing from reference images I took 25 years ago at MOMA which was of the original marble carving. But over Spring Break my family and I went to Paris and I went to the Musée d’Orsay where a bronze copy of this statue was presented. Must have taken 1,000 pics of it…detail and wide shots from every possible angle. This piece has meaning to me that I will investigate and explain on my last critique.

If interested:  Ugolino and Sons at Musée d’Orsay

I also painted a 6 panel piece of the same subject in red and blue on yellow (on canvas) from a lower POV. My intent was to reverse the normal process of sketching it out in charcoal and then painting over it (trying every experiment I could think of). I wanted to paint it first and then overlay it with white and black charcoal. I started this process and loathed the process and result. I actually broke up these six canvases and threw them away after the critique never wanting to see them again. Though I did like the ability to achieve scale with multiple modular pieces. It was questioned whether that was a good decision since the decision was made from a practical one versus a contextual one relating to the piece. I still need to figure that out since modularity will help me afford to experiment with the scale I want (in regard to workspace and transportation and storage costs).

To sum up what I walked away with, I was highly encouraged to consider integrating “collage” into my art making process. Based on the drawings that I deemed unsuccessful and ripped up out of frustration (though there was something learned from both – like the white, painted boundary line to frame the piece). Close up of two of them:


I think the collage comment, if distilled, was about tapping into my emotion (frustration) as passion because it adds a more interesting component to the images. This is grad school where ‘meaning’ is king and I have been given a wide latitude to explore multiple media and styles as I relearn how to draw while also figuring out “how” I want to continue my mark making. I was given the support and comments that “drawing experiments” are valid but I gleened it is time to start integrating/contemplating a message or meaning in my art. Also, I was encouraged to consider the background and a negative and positive shape and an overall influence on the piece itself (as is presentation considerations). Another great thing I learned was I do not have to throw everything on the wall. I explained I felt a ton of pressure to produce a quantity of art (from the first semester ideology of just produce quantity and the quality will come) but I feel released from that now. I was advised just to bring in my favorite pieces to critique…as a small series with consistent media and approach or one large intensive piece. For my third critique (which is 14 days away from my 2nd one – yikes) I will just show the color experiment revisit (below) and one or two charcoal revisits. Then on my last, individual critique I plan on completing a 15 panel (2’x2′) piece that integrates digital photography and traditional painting centered around the Ugolino study I did. I will have almost a month for that one and I am really excited about it.

I worked all weekend on a new abstract, figurative color piece where I create the drawing with colored permanent markers and then I drip alcohol on it to create chaos. I put on way to much alcohol. But I still have the scraping and sanding to do to rework it.
Preview image 1 before alcohol and image 2 after alcohol.

So…I am working while asking myself why.

Funny meme about the side effects of art school:
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SP2019 First Critique Summary


  1. refusal to accept any standard short of perfection

So my critique went really well last week. I heard a lot of good ideas from my instructor and classmates for future directions of exploration. There was a strong analysis of the strengths and opportunities for improvement for the subject matter and media I worked with. I received endorsement and validation to pursue painting/drawing super heros as fine art pieces (if I wanted). Not sure why I need permission to do that at my age. It is truly amazing the barriers we place between ourselves and our dreams. And to that end, it was mentioned by several that I am too hard on myself, my art, and my artistic abilities/limitations.

February 12, 2019 – First Critique in Two Days

My first critique is this week. Hiroshi Hayakawa, CCAD Professor in Photography, teaches Intro to Photo, Photo I, Photo II, Material Studies, SOSA Studio Art & Entrepreneurship and mentors graduate students. Hayakawa earned a BA in French Literature at Keio University in Tokyo, BFAs in Photography and Fine Arts at CCAD, and an MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Hayakawa works in photography, drawing, painting, sculpture and paper craft, and has agreed to be my mentor this semester.

He is uber talented in the quality, diversity of media and volume of art he has produced. Check him out here: http://www.hiroshi-hayakawa.com/

He met with me and gave me a one hour compressed lecture on various artists who are exploring charcoal and graphite on a large scale. These are a few new artists from around the world, that I learned about and have been researching based on Hiroshi’s recommendations:

Nancy Guzik  Nancy_Guzik

Wendy Artin Wendy_Artin

Damian Goidich Damian_Goidich.png

Ira Korman


Julian Farrar Julian_Farrar

Noah Buchanan

Kent Bellows Kent_Bellows

Charlie Isoe Charlie_Isoe

Casey Baugh Casey_Baugh

Shay Bredimus Shay_Bredimus

Sophie Jodoin Sophie_Jodoin

He also suggested a book, Pastel Painting ATELIER, by Ellen Eagle which I have purchased and begun reading (it is a great book):

Ellen_Eagle book

So, I walked away from my meeting with Hiroshi with a broader idea for media exploration this semester as I figure out my style and refine my craft. We talked about my original desire to explore/relearn the technical craft of drawing with charcoal and graphite and he suggested exploring more forms of mark making while/during the charcoal/graphite exploration. The artists he showed me worked with charcoal and tattoo ink, pastels, gouache/watercolor wash, conte’ on mylar. So to that end I have been experimenting with permanent marker with alcohol wash and sandpaper, traditional charcoal male figure studies, to a digital painting of a superhero scene. You see, as I am on this path to rediscover my love of art making, I have gone back to revisit some of the things I loved to draw when I was young…where my love of drawing started. I loved to draw dinosaurs, super heros and outerspace scenes. To that end I completed a digital painting with mixed media of Spiderman versus Venom. Here are some of the process pics along the way (the final digital painting was output on  20″x48″canvas and acrylic paint and charcoal were applied after). It was a lot of fun.:


Here is one of my more realistic portraits drawn with white charcoal on 22″x32″ black charcoal paper. The first shot is in process but that is my work area, I tape my paper up and use an ipad for visual reference when drawing. The yellow canvas is a part of a 6 panel (18″x 24″ each) painting I am working on which I intend on covering with white and black charcoal. This will show up in the 2nd and/or 3rd critique.:

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 11.19.53 AM.pngCharcoal-Portrait

Here is a drawing of a dancer on blue that I balled up after completing it (inspired by the last critique where one of our classmates did not treat her work as “precious” – loved that) to get the wrinkles. The final piece now has white paint dry brushed across the high parts (it is largeish 53″ tall by 6feet ish wide and looks worse than when I started ( I lost the truth of the line but found some interesting patterns/textures that I want to explore more):


During my first critique you will see a wide variety of subjects, media treatments and styles. I am trying to figure out “what” I like to draw and “how” I want to draw it. Lastly, here is a 4’x6′ traditional figure study:


I hope to install on Wednesday afternoon. Thank you.


Spring 2019 – Different Media Pursuit

This is the semester that I will force myself to learn how to use charcoal and graphite to make large scale drawings. I have always been attracted to this medium because it is simply burned wood. And yet it is the medium the cavemen made drawings with over 32,000 years ago to today’s artists who make photo-realistic, hyper-real drawings. Its diversity and range of expression is intoxicating to me. Drawing is a perishable skill so I admire those artists who have mastered it. My project proposal is below.

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