Sunday, February 26, 2012

Palm Springs

Last week found myself down in Palm Springs, not where I usually go on my desert trips. But keeping to my own rules, I always seek out “smaller” art museums when I am on the road. This was my second visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum. I was impressed on the first visit in 2009. The museum has a solid collection of California art. And I find myself, somewhat unexpectedly, drawn to “cowboy” art. Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculpture makes even more sense as one wanders back to a wall of horse-in-the-desert paintings (see above). I particularly like Frank Tenney Johnson’s Life on the Trail. I’ve never painted a horse and am finding myself inspired. The museum has made some changes since my last visit, with the help of major benefactors like Donna and Cargill MacMilllan, Jr. they are amassing a contemporary collection of what might be called “big city” museum pieces. Some of the changes though are a bit disappointing, yet inevitable. The museum is gradually losing it’s orange and brown, circular grid pattern carpeting that screamed 1970’s. You have to still take the stairs to the lower level if you want to feel like you’re on the set of the Merv Griffin Show.

Two years ago I saw a Robert Mapplethorpe show and an impressive Wayne Thiebaud retrospective. I have to confess, I was not keen to see the current big show titled Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982. I always have to keep an open mind on my museum visits because the show is fantastic. I kept wandering around looking at every room more than once. One theme and nearly 50 photographers including everyone from Her Ritts to Bob Mizer, Rondal Partridge to Diane Arbus. The show is up through May 27 and well worth seeing. Hopefully, it will get a well-deserved tour afterwards.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Frequent Flyer

I am a great fan of the old paper, luggage tags that used to be placed on baggage when you checked-in at the airport. They always featured the three-letter airport code for your destination and they often included an airline logo. The color palettes and fonts for these tags immediately take you back to the days when air travel was an adventure rather than a chore. I have a handful of these tags among my collage fodder, but not enough to make a big piece of art. With that in mind, I made 64 tags and created my own luggage tag collage. The original is 24”x24”.

If you like this image, you can get a print of it, or even wrap your laptop or iPhone. Check out my shop at Society6.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Do-It-Yourself Art Book

Like many artists, I have a growing art library with hundreds of books. For most of us, it takes time. Art books are costly. Many of the books have been purchased used or on sale. Countless times, as I have exited through the gift shop, browsed the books at the museum and have had to exercise restraint. Not purchasing everything I want or even anything.

10 years ago I was on a whirlwind visit to London cramming in as many museum visits as possible — Everything from the old Tate, to the new Tate, to the National Portrait Gallery, etc. I bought a few books and saw so many more I wanted. And then there were the artists I discovered like John Wonnacott. I would have bought a book had one existed with his work. I had to satisfy myself with a few postcards from the museum shop. I bought quite a few postcards during that trip in lieu of art books.

The stack of postcards was growing when I returned home. I decided to buy a simple binder/photo album and began adding the postcards as I collected them. 10 years later my personal art reference book is nearly full and it will be time to start a second one. If I counted all the cards purchased for the book I might be a little shocked by the investment, but I don’t regret it.

Creating your own art book in this way is a way to save money and also add works to a book when a published book may not exist. It is also so much more. It is somewhat of a journal of art you have seen and appreciated. As you look back on it, you may even ask yourself, “Why did I select that one?” It is a record of your taste and how it may change over time. The only difficulty is when the gift shop has a paltry collection of postcards. And for the record, I would not recommend collecting coffee mugs instead of postcards.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Post-Vintage Postcard Booklets

A few years ago I bought a pile of vintage postcard booklets. As I was deciding what to do with them, I had the idea to start making my own postcard booklets. I did not intend to make booklets that would be printed and reproduced, but instead to make individual, hand-made postcard booklets. Perhaps as we run short of vintage materials we should all start making our own.

For this project I began with a few different prototypes. I experimented with various papers and other materials. I chose subject matter familiar to the old postcard booklets and started on a series of small paintings of mostly landscapes based on my frequent road trips around the Western U.S. After a couple of months I had created over 100 4”x6” paintings for this series. The final step was to sort the pieces and assemble them into eight hand-made postcard booklets. Further examples of the work can be seen at and some prints based on the work are also available.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Send Someone a Postcard

Brick Block, 6”x6”, mixed media on board

In some ways things are more personalized now that we can email our travel photos or post them on a photo or social networking site. It also is an immediate experience. Friends, family and the most tenuous of acquaintances can let us know where we are on vacation. And in some ways, it’s not very special at all, and certainly less of a personal experience for the recipient. And what is really the lasting power of these electronic images. They are out there in the intersphere forever and yet they disappear just as easily. 70 years from no one will find your digital photo in some box. The real pieces of mail are just more special. Send a postcard, in the future some artist will repurpose it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In the Mail

In the Mail, mixed media on canvas, 36”x24”

Two months ago I put out a call for postcards to make the first piece for 2012. I had a fantastic response and the first piece of the year is now complete.

Nearly 100 people sent me postcards and many of you sent more than one and, in a few cases, a large horde. At some point I incorporated postcards from all the individuals who sent them. Quite a few artists sent me printed postcards with their work, and those were included as well. Then there was the handful of amazing, handmade postcards I received from a few artists. How could I cut these up? I didn’t want to cut them, but I wanted to use them. For those cards I made color copies and added them to the piece. And I keep finding more postcards in my post office box. Keep sending them! The cards will turn up in various pieces during the coming months. A big Thank You to everyone who helped make this piece possible!

A detail image is below.