I just put the finishing touches on this commission, and soon it will be off to a collector’s home.
Painting at the peak of summer has always been a challenge. The warmest days make me actually lethargic and groggy. I’m fortunate to have air conditioning in my studio. An addition that came a few years ago. And during this summer, with the extended endless days of hot sun, I cannot fathom working without cooled air at the touch of a button.
I shared an image of this painting in the final stages on the easel, and here it is complete — shown with some of the cameras I’ve collected so you can get a better idea of the scale of the painting.
This is a companion painting to the clocks that I recently painted. The objects are all functional, they serve a purpose and all fit in the hand. They are painted slightly larger than life-size.
The canvases are twice as wide as they are high — they make you look left to right and I deliberately composed them to form an arch — the images below demonstrate what I’m trying to get across.
The myriad of repetitive circles — the lenses and flashes of the cameras, the faces of the clocks also move your eye along and across the surface of the painting. The details hopefully pull you in. These objects all serve the same purpose, but they have subtle differences that make each one unique.
My goal was to take this very simple compositional style — an object shown straight forward on a white shelf — and transform it into a rather complex scene of minute detail.
Both of these paintings have already been claimed by collectors — I hope they make them happy for decades to come.
This past week I spent some time with some do-overs.
These two paintings are from a few years ago and although they don’t look too unusual for my work, they did before I repainted the backgrounds.
Before these pictures were taken, the backgrounds were what I call explosion blue. They were a vibrant, unnatural, unfamiliar, chemical blue.
They were complete and even hung in a gallery for some time, but I was happy to get them back to correct them. I was pleased with the balance and geometry of the compositions, but the blue was so peculiar to my eyes that I had a hard time looking at the paintings.
I removed the varnish and added some layers of a much more subtle and neutral tone — a white/grey with only the most subtle, barely perceptible hint of blue. Immediately it felt as though my own personality returned to the paintings.
I did the vibrant blue backgrounds on the suggestion from a friend who was giving some opinion on changes they thought would add some “pop” to my work. In a moment of weakness and confusion, I took their advice. It was as though my own signature was removed from my work.
The opportunity for the do-over has been very therapeutic.
Imagine if life were like a painting. Imagine if you could literally get a moment or an event back, remove the varnish and make your corrections.
This will sound sentimental, but who cares. I like the thought of how exciting these cameras would have been to a kid who received it as a gift. Back when photography took time, it would have seemed magic. I like the thought that these lenses were the eyes on so many events.
And then there is the fact I can present these objects in such an orderly way. The four cameras are all 3/4 turned, facing to the right. These black cubes, such simple shapes, with the circular flash from the unique Spartus camera. The stack of ten cameras makes a small architectural structure, each with a different facade. The box cameras with their shining brass art deco designs, the different materials used. Composing the cameras this way adds a structure and order.
The materials, their designs, the history and story, their utility as image making tools, cameras are deserving of a portrait.
Here are a couple of close-up shots of me working on the details. The final stages of a painting are always the most satisfying. The camera I’m painting was found at Everything Old – one of my favourite places on planet earth.
These are the final two paintings of a dozen new ones for my May 21 – June 25 exhibition at the George Billis Gallery LA.
Kodak, Bencini, Leica, Yashica. USA, Italy, Germany, Japan.
Learning about these cameras is like a 20th century world history lesson. The makers of these cameras have all been affected by world events, the economy and changing technology. Even though they are obsolete, they still have avid collectors and enthusiasts.
With the Kodaks painting above, I composed an arch with the lenses and flashes, giving the painting an architectural feel.
We have had PHD (Push Here, Dummy) cameras in our pockets for a hundred years, but it’s the ones that look like they were pieced together by watchmakers that are fun to paint.
I like that they were all used to make art, to document holidays, travel, weddings and so many other happy events. What’s strange is that the photos from the cameras are all missing, lost or hidden. It really makes me wonder what will happen to the billions of photos we upload from the cameras on our phones now.
These elegant and finely detailed antique Kodak cameras are works of art on their own. They have a patina about them. Cameras are now and always have been ubiquitous – but some were made to stand out. These cameras have lost their function, but now exist as sculpture and ideals of craftsmanship.