Monday, December 27, 2010

SCIENCE! The textbook is getting into the more complicated of its arenas, and I'm getting a crash course in all that stuff I should remember about the building blocks of the living universe. Fortunately, there's a wealth of illustrations of these processes out there, so I had a good time rummaging through them and finding what works well, or horribly, about each.

The trick seems to be expressing the ideas clearly as possible without being misleading about their complexities, which simply can't all be delved into in this book, due to limitations of time and space.

So! This is what I ended up with for the structure of DNA.

Looking at it now, I'm thinking a background color may be in order....but that can wait, for the moment. I did have fun playing with backgrounds a bit while I finished putting the pea pods together.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The new painting I've been working on! A little bigger than the last, but still small, 15" x 20".

Silly to show a blank canvas, but I'm going to do it anyway! Because this is where it starts.

Next step was a flat terra-cotta-colored undercoat--not something I always do, but I think it will be useful here because there will be so many white-against-light-blue juxtapositions (an airplane and white bonnets, against lots of sky) in the image. Ideally, letting the orange show through a little will separate those elements without the drastic contrast of an artificial dark line.

Then I blocked out the major elements:

Since I am going to be painting sky and ground around these characters and objects, it might seem unnecessarily time-consuming to be drawing them out now. Wouldn't it make more sense to work fast and loose with the background, then paint the figures over it? Yes, in all ways, except for one: when I'm working in tight detail, I work in thin layers, so those areas with the most subtle detail--usually faces and hands--get messy fast if I don't minimize the texture of the layers that go underneath. Blocking out the areas where things like that will go keeps me from overworking them prematurely.

I'm excited to do the next bit, which will be loads and loads of basalt rocks underfoot. Not a texture I've ever done before. Frankly, I'm excited to be painting at all! Illustrations are well and good, but painting time is luxury time for now.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas! We made chicken and dumplings, drank a little Asti Spumante, gave the dogs baths, and all that other stuff that generally only happens once a year. In addition, I painted many, many horses.

Here's the fruit of my most recent labors: illustrations showing the predicted results of the crossing of two palominos:

(cute, no?)

...And the potential offspring of a chestnut and a cremello (both of which are the products of palomino parentage).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Illustrations. Here's some preliminary work for a model of Mendel's experiments with pea plants, which will illustrate the distribution of dominant and recessive traits in the species he studied.

Having painted these four, I've scanned them into photoshop, and can now manipulate them to look like a few different ones, adjusting the colors and flipping them. That won't fool anyone who's looking for it, but at a glance it will take away the cut-and-paste feeling that so often happens on charts like this.

Soon I'll add grid lines, arrows, and text; then three tiers of background color to more clearly identify the three different generations. Then fact-checking.

After it's complete, I'll follow up with a series of four illustrations showing the projected progeny for four horse pairs with a variety of coat colors. Nothing better than having an excuse to paint lots of baby horses! But for now, peas it is.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Illustration time. Check out the Pleistocene, newly completed!

It still needs a few more trees, and a pack of wolves, back on the knoll between the mammoth and bison. Then on to some science-y stuff like genetic probability and DNA and amino acids and the like.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Painting progress. This one's a wrap, which feels GREAT.

Aaaaand finished:

(You can see that the color is a little different on the shot of the final piece--that's because I documented it in my studio with cloudy ambient daylight--as opposed to propping it up on the back of my couch next to a lamp, at midnight!)

In case you are curious: the setting is a combination of spaces I experienced in Utah: some of the massive warehouses left empty on the airfield in Wendover, and one of Nancy Holts' Sun Tunnels. My friend Lauren Greenwald plays both characters.

Now...on to the next.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

They're here! They're here!

Show catalogs! Fifty-five of them, to be exact.

...And now, to distribute.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A new painting is well under way!

It's 10" x 13", rather small compared to most of the work I did for the last show, which is always kind of a nice change.

I've been planning pieces for a while, working on layouts and doing studies--totally necessary steps in the process, and ones that can't really be rushed--but finally putting paint to panel is satisfying in a way that plans aren't, and it feels excellent, excellent, to be physically working.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

From my pocket notebook:

These pages may not look like much yet, but they are full of promise. I'll have panels from my carpenter in hand on Monday, gessoing will be done in the days to follow, and barring the unexpected, I'll be working on new paintings by this time next weekend.
In my satisfied exhaustion I pulled out the camera late last night and snapped this in our darkened living room: documentation of the second spread, an imagined scene from some point in the Miocene.

I'll pull it out again and look at it critically in a couple of weeks. Once I've finished all the illustrations, I'll have a clearer head to assess which improvements are necessary, and which problems resolve themselves once I've separated myself from their creation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I don't know if I've mentioned this here before, but I have the world's most beautiful studio. No, I really do.

(This photo and the next courtesy of Tim Tracz)

And I got a chance to show it off a bit last night at our Open Studios event!

I love my space, and I like seeing other peoples' spaces, too, so Open Studios is pretty much my favorite campus event of the year.

Here's my friend Leslie Ayers and some of her work: friend Julia Blitch and some of her work (and her incomprehensibly adorable mutt Pikah):

...and my friend Luanne Redeye and some of her work:

(Is that painting just incredible, or what? The answer is yes. It is incredible. The shifty camera doesn't do it justice--hopefully anyone in the area will go see it in person when she has her thesis show this spring.)

So many beautiful, strange work spaces and so many cool, weird, nice artists. Can't wait for next year!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I went out to do a plein air gouache study late this evening near the tennis courts, and ended up working in the dark under a campus vapor light, finally coming home with numb hands, and this:

...which isn't finished, but when I enjoyed working on for lots of reasons, not least among them that I got to spend a lot of time in thoughts of my friend Karen Cleveland and her work. I can't do what she does--her forms are so evocative, moving, suggestive--her use of negative space so brilliant and sparing--her marks and subjects so distinctively personal and iconic--her palettes so gorgeous.

But I'm also inspired and inspirited by her faith in intuition, and that's something I can emulate, when I'm feeling brave enough! I like it when I can let grass and leaves look like this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From this Sunday's Arts Section of the Albuquerque Journal. Interviews are always funny...I definitely don't remember saying half that stuff. But I can't argue, since it was recorded.

Thanks to my students for letting me know it had been published!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perfection for the Ages
By Aurelio Sanchez
Of the Journal

          University of New Mexico fine-arts graduate student Cedra Wood said an "aura of mystery" fascinates her whenever she helps craft a reproduction of a vintage violin made by 16th- and 17th-century violin-making masters like Italians Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari.
        "I think the fascination lies in why we try to make exact replicas of these instruments, right down to the sound," she said.
        "It comes from trying to find out where Amati and Stradivari were coming from, and from striving for the greatness that was theirs and other violin makers during an era when music from a violin was the most beautiful."
    Wood and UNM professor Peter White recently were recognized for their work in reproducing a replica of a period violin by Amati, one of a group of violin makers from Cremona, Italy, whose instruments are the most prized in classical music.
        Wood and White are part of the New Mexico Musical Heritage Project at UNM, which teaches students the art of violin making and how to play folk music of New Mexico.
        The medal bestowed on the pair during the international competition in Italy is particularly prestigious, White said, because their work was recognized by a jury composed of the most famous violin makers and players of Europe.
        "What was most impressive was the perfection of her (Cedra) artwork, done originally (by Amati) on commission for King Charles IX of France and King Phillip II of Spain," White said.
        "All of the jurors were very impressed with her outstanding work," he said, adding that he attended the competition. Wood said she couldn't attend, but was excited when White sent a cryptic e-mail informing her of the medal.
        "I was tremendously excited," said Wood, who became part of the project when White recruited her after seeing one of her paintings that contained violins.
        "I figured if she could paint a violin in a painting, then she can do a wonderful job in painting a real violin," White said.
        A laborious, intricate and time-consuming process, the making of the medal-winning violin took more than a year, Wood said.
        "There's something really attractive about learning skills that are so specific, precise and lovely," she added.
        The process involves first cutting wood from a forest, delicately shaping and carving the instrument body with a variety of tools, gluing, sanding, preparing varnish and applying multiple coats of varnish, painting, attaching fingerboard, soundpost and bridge, and installing strings.
        "They seem like small treasures when they're finally done," Wood said of the violins. "It felt like I was connecting to another era, another world."
        White said the images on the backs of the violins made by Andrea Amati are either religious or courtly images to please the kings and queens and musicians in the courts of France and Spain.
        Reproduction violins and violas generally begin at $10,000 and go up, "especially if they are awarded a medal for workmanship or antique work."
        White describes "another world" in 17th-century New Mexico, when Franciscan friars arriving with the Spanish explorers brought Italian-made violins and instrument-making skills.
        "One of the things that Franciscans did to try to convert the indigenous peoples of what is now Mexico and New Mexico was to teach them to make and to play violins," White said.
        Evidence of that is reflected in the traditional re-enactments of the matachines, an ancient dance drama staged in the Southwest for centuries.
        "To this day, the matachines drama is performed, but today they're playing factory-made violins made in Germany, when they could be making and playing the same instruments that belonged to the early settlers, adventurers and priests of New Mexico," White said.
        White said he hopes that winning a medal at the international competition will raise awareness of the work done by the New Mexico Musical Heritage Project. "It's important for New Mexicans to know that long before anybody made or played violins in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, people were making and playing them in New Mexico."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is what as known as "getting back on that horse," I think. Or is it back in the saddle? Anyway, I guess the main point is that it's equine-related. Having neglected everything but my thesis for the last couple of months, I'm shifting focus back to fulfilling my illustration contract for Evolution of the Horse.

The last push will be a big one, as it involves three spreads containing scenes from the early Eocene, the Miocene, and the Pleistocene. I've been glomming the hundreds of illustrations that Zdenek Burian created for Life Before Man, and I'm not deluding myself that I compete in his sphere--but I'm making peace with what I can do given my limited time frame and limited knowledge.

So here's my first epoch. Still wants a bit of work to harmonize everything in the landscape, maybe some more subtleties in coats/skins of the larger animals--especially some higher contrast on that big guy by the water, the Coryphodon. My biggest concern is that the proportion of the animals to one another reads roughly accurately. Sort of tough, as they're densely compressed into a single landscape.

Looking forward to getting the tape off, seeing it clean and finished.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I've been thinking a lot lately about how to articulate my thought process as I assemble a painting.

My paintings begin when I step into a space, or see a person, know that they are going to be important--at least to me--and snap a picture of them. I store these images, often over years, before I eventually collect other people, objects, and spaces, that somehow go with the earlier image--that complicate and complete it. In some ways it feels like I'm bringing the inevitable together, following clues on my way to solving an enigma. In other ways, it's spontaneous and hundreds of the images I keep will never find mates or be used for anything.

I patch the images together in photoshop, making a digital "rough draft" to reference once I start painting. I'll address issues like harmonizing colors and unifying light sources (here a problem is evident in the reflected light on the concrete floor) when I get to them in the painting process.

Having gotten to this point, I'll let them stew for a week or so, looking at them daily, making sure there isn't a need for other elements that might add something important, give them additional layers of interest and meaning. This one on the bottom, especially, I might try and expand--give a long horizontal format and add additional figures closer to the foreground. Sometimes it's hard to know when enough is enough, and when enough is just being lazy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A collaborative drawing is a good thing, sometimes, for fresh perspective.

My nieces Rachel and Bethany were instrumental in this piece, a rendering of the hitherto unknown Wild North American Snorty Duck/Pig.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One of the fun things about having to defend art you've made, is having to articulate why you made certain decisions while making it. You have to think about those decisions more deeply than when you made them in the first place. Maybe you start to become aware of things you were doing subconsciously.

While cataloging artist influences in preparation for my MFA public talk at the end of the month, I'm finding it interesting to see how I've borrowed from other artists' compositions without ever having realized I was doing so. Here's one example: my piece, Hull, followed by Raphael's School of Athens...

...and a Hull detail, alongside an image from The Picture Bible (illustrated by Andre LeBlanc).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

So, the thesis show hanging and opening came and went. Last-minute prep happened: Katy helped me paint the walls...

I painted in the show's signage....

Fred, Lauren and I hung the work and adjusted lights...

Fred baked about 300 cookies....

(This batch was green tea / cardamom)

And then it was time to enjoy the music, and hug everyone I know! Attendance was great and it was really touching to see everyone.

Thanks to everyone who came, and to everyone who wanted to come but couldn't. Your support means a lot, and made this a joy!