the blur between

enjoy.

That thing.

So before I took the currently ongoing sabbatical from this blog, I eluded to the reason why. If you don’t remember, don’t care, or are simply new to the musings on this blog, let me refresh: I have a thing. A new thing I’m working on. This thing is time-consuming, but hopefully worth it. This thing was supposed to eventually make it’s way onto this blog… same as my paintings or other work –  just simple posts hopefully more often than not… alas, I made a decision early-on in the process of this new thing that I wouldn’t share much of it. The reason? Confidence.

See, this new thing is a children’s book. It’s from a story, a poem actually, that I wrote nearly a decade ago while I was doing open-mic nights at a local coffee joint (yea, i’m that guy). I’ve been toying with the poem ever since. A few months ago, I had a breakthrough that made me realize it was time to sit down and design the pages that I had been envisioning for all these years. “Breakthrough” is way too strong a word and frankly, feels a little pretentious; still, that’s what it was for me. I finally had my ending.

Now let’s back up to that confidence thing I mentioned. I’m half-way through with the book. I gave myself a November deadline and I’m right on schedule, maybe even a little ahead. About 3 illustrations in, I realized that this project meant more to me than simply getting another creative whim off my chest.

In the past, I’ve referred to the act of creation as a beautiful burden. A gift, but a burden nonetheless. That’s a personal perspective that comes from the fact that I constantly have these ideas, whether visual or musical or literary – these ideas MUST make their way from my mind to some sort of tangible thing for others to experience too. And i’m not even sure others’ want to experience these things, but I force it on them anyway. That’s not really the point – the point is, these things have to have a release or they literally make me sick with stress. It consumes me. The main reason I feel this to be a burden is because most of my creative pursuits are not big money-makers… don’t get me wrong, some do okay. My paintings, shirts and freelance work have afforded me a supplemental lifestyle that is a true blessing. But considering I have a family that relies on me for various things from money to the simple act of quality time, spending our time on these creative pursuits can feel very selfish.

This one is no different. However, this time I’m confident… or maybe it’s just blind optimism… that this book will find it’s way into a bigger world… a world outside of my small handful of clients and collectors. The reason for this optimism is partly ego – but also because I’m taking my time with a piece of work that is close to my heart.

This is my second children’s book. The first can be found here. That one, entitled Broken Dreams, I self-published about 5 years ago. And while I’m proud of it, I admit that I rushed the illustrations a bit by using A LOT of photoshop trickery; the story could be finessed a bit; and I chose it in the first place because I felt it had the most commercial appeal – that last bit sometimes made inspiration hard to come by. Commercial appeal or mass appeal does not make for good art… if the masses love it, fantastic, but designing with this intent can feel like compromise… and compromise has no place in my creative endeavors.

On the flip side, my new book is very much me… for better or for worse. From the subject matter to the style, its’ a book that I would want for myself if I saw it on a shelf somewhere… or the bargain bin. It’s a little dark. It’s a little romantic. It doesnt pander. It requires the reader to suspend some of that tightly-held reason in the name of creativity and entertainment. And it doesn’t end with a nice bow tied around it. I hate that. I like art that survives off the different perceptions and interpretations of others. My hope is that there are enough likeminded individuals to support my efforts. I’m confident there are. There’s that word again. And that’s why I’m hesitant to show off the fruits of my labor thus far. If this badboy does find it’s way to a shelf somewhere, I’d rather the artwork be shiny and new and not spoiled by my own need to show it off. Yet, trailers get the folks in the seats right? So here’s a couple images to (hopefully) whet your appetite. The cover is at the end of this post.

rbt2(train)
In about a month, I should be nearly finished… this is when I intend to pursue some council on getting this thing published. My query letter is written. I’ve done my research. One of the reasons I self-published before was that I simply don’t have the resources to knock on all the possible doors of opportunity. So this time, I hope to find some representation… someone supportive who believes in the work. Someone who sells these types of books for a living. Someone who is not me.

I probably won’t post again until I finish the book or have news on it’s life outside of my hard drive. And if this simply becomes another flight of fancy for me, you guys can enjoy the ride as I’ll most certainly self-publish again if need be. Until then…

rbt_cover

Art. History.

immortal

3 days until the show. – jbn

BJ in the Bare

So… 2 weeks before the show. Invitations have been sent. Eblast goes out in a few days. But as i said in the previous post, getting ready as far in advance as I have (not entirely by choice, mind you) gave me too much time to think; too much time to consider ways to make the show better – this is a bad thing considering i could/would never get to the end of this process. One of these considerations was to make a Louisiana themed piece. I rarely make the effort to show anywhere else nowadays, and although i happily acknowledge that i sell my paintings and prints all over the world, I more or less, never take the time to come out of my cave here in Monroe. So I thought, I should represent the South in some way, the other LA specifically. So after about 9 seconds of brainstorming, i had an idea. An idea partially sparked by the fact that Shepard Fairey painted a portrait of the president a few years back. I mean, that’s big. Fairey, if you don’t know, is the OBEY Propaganda guy. He’s a street artist that made it big – to simplify. Soooooo, I thought i would go down a similar path and paint a portrait of our beloved Governor, Bobby Jindal. Bobby J! BJ! The Beeej. I’ll stop. Here’s a photo:

GovernorJindal_blog

There he is. I really hope he runs for president one day. I know zero about him as a person or politician but it would sure raise the price of the piece you’re about to see. Besides, he couldn’t possibly do any worse than the rest of them. That was my endorsement.

Now, what to do? First, i wanted to incorporate Louisiana elements into the mix. The stereotypical things – alligators, crawfish, fleurs de lis, all that. But how? Well, that part was easy. As i’m sure you all know, I keep it gangsta… Just let that sink in. So with my own personal tastes in full swing, I decided to tat-up Mr. Jindal real good. Only problem: I just had the image above to go by – not much skin there – wait, did i say that was a problem? Luckily, me and the Gov have a similar lanky build. Exhibit A:

jindal_la_composite_blog

I know everyone is excited where this is going. Yep, that’s my torso in my kitchen, and there’s my dog’s bowl. I removed my belt and slid the chinos down nice and low. Because that’s how I do.

So now we have a nice blank, palette for Louisiana themed tats. Oh, and you’ll notice i’ve reincorporated the L.A. hand sign for my own selfish agenda. IE, genius.

So from there, I took the photo into illustrator to place the tattoos and draw what would later become the officially licensed Bobby Jindal stencil. A stencil i would cut by hand, on the floor of the kitchen seen above. And it goes a little something like this:

JINDALI know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “J, I can totally see that hanging in the white house one day.” Or maybe, “J, perhaps you should run for presidency on the merit of your own artistic genius.” To which I say, “You’re too kind, but there’s no political affiliation on the ballot slip marked ‘BALLER.”

So the finished piece would be on wood. After finding the perfect shade of Jindal, i stained the wood. And i knew from the get-go, I wanted the background to look like a wall that had been tagged and re-tagged over and over. So after I hit it a few times, I employed the steady hands of the wife and boy… bask:

bj_blogSo that’s that.

Republicans everywhere, rejoice!

The show is just a little over 2 weeks away. Still a little work left to go. Some surprises here and there. Maybe a new street piece… who’s to say?

Thanks for reading – jbn.

P.O.S.

The problem with getting prepared for my solo show so far in advance – december 5th here in monroe, plug, plug – is that it leaves me with too much time… idle hands and all that. My brain doesn’t turn off it’s creative impulses. I have several ideas at the moment that may in fact make it into the show – a show i was planning on hanging this weekend… might have to put that off a week… i digress.

In the past, i’ve done work for bands or artists that i like, non-commissioned stuff, just in the hopes that the work could lead to real work. This is actually successful more often than you would think. Maybe because of mutual respect. Maybe because the bands i like are usually independent with small budgets and therefore love doing business with other independents (myself) that don’t charge an arm and a leg. Maybe it’s just serendipity. So, i’ll design a piece, send it to them and wait… like a vulture… and more often than not, i’ll get an email and we’ll end up collaborating somehow. And if not, i still got to exercise the creative demon that was chewing on me and now the artist in question knows they have a fan and that can’t be bad thing, right?  So I’ve been wanting to do something for rap collective, Doomtree, or more specifically P.O.S., for some time now. I’ve been a fan of his for years and frequently listen to his music when i paint. Recently he’s released a couple new joints so i thought the time was right to do something.

So, one night when i didn’t have any freelance to work on (a rare and glorious thing), i spent a couple of hours and put this together:

POS_poster_JBN_lowres

I think it came out pretty good. The words in the foreground say, ” Bolt cutter, box cutter, brick,” a verse from one of his songs that always gets stuck in my head. I wasn’t worried so much about it being legible – those with any interest will know.

Most of this was done in illustrator. Finished it out in photoshop because i thought i would put some photo-style flourishes in it but i really didn’t . There’s some photography in the background and some rastered images but nothing i couldn’t have just placed in illustrator. This entire paragraph is only for the graphic nerds. Here’s a detail:

POS_poster_JBN_detail

That photo of the girl in the background looks way more explicit than it actually is. So Mom, if you’re reading, she’s actually licking her own knee – still, it’s provocative and that’s the point. There’s a photo of some riot cops in there too but it’s cropped out.

So that’s that. Maybe the P.O.S. camp will give me a shout. If not, it was a fun piece to do and gave me something new to post.  I have one final painting (probably) thats included in my show that i’ve yet to post, so i’ll be doing that soon … then hopefully I’ll get started on that other project i eluded to some weeks ago. I think i gotta get this show done and out of my system before i can move on to something big. Stay tuned. And thanks for reading. – jbn

UPDATE – I typed all of the above last week but never posted it because when i write these posts, it’s like a stream of consciousness sorta thing and i like to go back and edit – which i never got around to doing – so it sat in limbo… but in the meantime i got an email from P.O.S., the man himself. He was complimentary and thanked me for the design. So that was very cool.

Confronting Ghosts

So. I got the idea to do a couple of smaller pieces for the upcoming show. Pieces that i can price at or below $100. I live in a relatively small town in the south, not exactly a creative hub, where the size of a painting is directly related to the price – whether it should be or not is up for debate. So I had 2 very clear ideas for what i wanted to do. One design was of a woman in her under garments, smoking; had a very film noir vibe to it. The other was of a couple kissing on a motorcycle. Neither concept would find it’s way to completion. Not for a lack of trying.

The smoking woman looked okay, i just didn’t like it. So while the paint was still mostly wet, i added a little paint thinner, a little wood stain, a little pearl-x silver powder, and some dabs of paint (dark reds and yellows mostly). The idea was to create a background for a foreground i had yet to come up with; somewhat hoping the background would inspire said foreground… it did. The end result looked like the texture of one of those antique, silver photos. Now the goal was to find or create an image that worked with that vibe.

It should be noted that i keep a vast catalog of imagery that i find interesting and/or inspiring. Photos, illustrations, architecture, vehicles, fashion, animals… and for some reason, a lot of hipster women and riot photos. I collect these images as i randomly come across them online. I’m rarely looking for an image, they usually find me. Many have found their way into my paintings in one way or another, usually in an undetectable way. I’ll turn photos into stencils or elaborate on an idea or mood and so on.

So once i had my background, i had a good idea what image i wanted to use and how.

I’ve used that photo transfer method a couple of times now. Still learning. In fact, that reminds me, take note readers: wood stain has so many uses that have zero to do with wood. Anyway, the image i had in mind was a haunting photo of soldiers wearing gas masks, standing with their horses. Not sure who gets credit for the photo or where i found it, but it goes a little something like this:

men_gasmasks

Dope, right? I do have a thing for masks. My psychiatrist says it’s because i’m always hiding behind what others expect of me… just kidding, i don’t see a psychiatrist… anymore… she won’t return my calls. Mental illness is nothing to laugh about. So here’s what i did with the photo. Bask:

ghosts

Once i applied the image and all was well, i was stuck. It looked cool but, like the smoking woman that preceded it, it didn’t have that thing… that X-element that makes it mine. So as i often do, i took it into the computer and started playing. The glowing eyes were a must. Done. But what else? I had it! A My Little Pony stencil right over the top. I’m not kidding. I designed it and everything. Thought it would work with my innocence vs. angst thing i’m so fond of. And it might have worked if only i could’ve found a placement that didn’t seem to interfere more than assist. In the end, the grid was a simple solution that gave it some perspective plus a Tron-vibe that every vintage photo needs. Most importantly, now i felt like it reflected my tastes. This whole art thing is an experiment in narcissism.

The canvas is 12 inches, square. I titled it “GHOSTS.” Here’s a detail:

ghosts_detail

So that’s one. The other i won’t be showing just yet. Nothing to show really. Basically same back story. Nearly completed the painting, wasn’t feeling it, started over and a great background was born from the process. Phoenix metaphor yo. Only the background in question has yet to reveal what sort of foreground it needs. This background/foreground thing is probably a very limited perspective… i’ll work on it. In the meantime, i thought i would show you fine people the front of my mailer advertising the upcoming show. This will also be the look for other marketing materials, as well as the new look for my gutterpark site (already updated). I’m calling the show “confrontations” which is what i consider each of my pieces to be. If not for the viewer, certainly for me as i create them. Originally i was calling the show “Black Guilt” but that got tricky for reasons i won’t go into – then i considered “Kid Gloves. Brass Knuckles” (which is from a Doomtree song) but i think i’ll save that one for the inevitable coffee table book that Taschen will publish after my untimely death.

confrontations

Until next time. Thanks for reading. – jbn

The Story

I rarely post work that’s not my own on this site, but this is too brilliant not to share. I’m not sure when this was done, could be old news to some,  but i had to share it. There aren’t enough clever vandals in the world. Banksy comes to mind of course. But this piece is as much interactive art as social experiment, and for that… hats off.  I believe credit goes to an artist going by Mobstr… allegedly.

once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street1once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street2 once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street3

once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street4

once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street5

 

once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street6

 

once-upon-a-time-in-jerome-street7

 

Just lovely.

i have a new piece i’ll share next week as well as the title and look i’ve created for my upcoming show. Stay tuned true-believers.

 

The Storm (The Plexi Piece)

I enjoy change. I really do. In just about every facet of my life, i enjoy the new. I won’t go into examples. But this perspective helps me pursue different creative challenges. “Challenges” is too strong. I don’t exactly break out of my comfort zone. I’m fully aware of my skillset and more importantly what tools are not in said set. You’ll never hear me bragging about my new sculpture for instance. The last one i made was in school and it’s horrible. My mother has it i think. She’s probably ashamed to display it. Or maybe she thinks of it as an abstract ash tray. Point is, i work better in 2 dimensions and am happy to stay there, um, in that dimension.  I have completely lost my point. Anyway, my new piece is nothing new as far as execution goes, but the creative process was very different. It was my first time working on something transparent, red plexi glass to be specific. But i didn’t want to treat the surface as just another surface. I wanted the translucency of the material and the color to have meaning within the concept. Being that the color is red, and my tendency towards bleak imagery, chances were very likely (in the concepting stage) that the red would be used as blood. I fought against that at first. And in all fairness, the image i came up with doesn’t use the red in some obvious way depicting violence or something, it’s subtle… i think… but the fact is, it’s red, it’s liquid – the brain puts the pieces together pretty quickly.

Oh, before i show this thing – taking a photo of a piece that looks best when there’s a light source from the other side, yet not really having a light source other than the ceiling lights… well… the photos left a lot to be desired… alas, feast:

redballoon

I left the background in the photo (i usually crop the work flush) so you could better make out the transparent nature of the piece. I’m going to give it another coat of the grey before i call it “done” so no light shines through that area as it does a bit now.

The concept of the piece was secondary to showing off the nature of the plexiglass, or maybe the nature of the plexi dictated the concept. I don’t know. But I knew that using the red as blood was a bit lazy, creatively speaking – that’s where the balloon comes in. Plus, it plays with that innocent vs. angst thing that i’ve made my own. I initially thought the skull and crossbones was a bit of an overkill, and i still do, ironically that’s what pushed me to do it… subtlety has it’s place… you can find it in the girls expression, in the simple ripples, in her posture… but there needed to be something with teeth, the stranger who bumps you hard as he walks past you without so much as an apologetic glance.

redballoon_close

The lights of the gallery shining through.

It’s a big piece, 4 feet tall by something.

Here’s a another shot really showing how the light effects the design.

redballoon2

Well kids, that may be it for the show. I have 13 pieces in all. I actually have 3 more that i may complete before December (they’re just in my head for now) but as far as filling the necessary space for a solid solo show, i have enough. Next step is to design a bit of self-promotion. Definitely going to make a mailer, maybe an e-blast, maybe a short promo-video. I’ll post that stuff as i do it. Depending on their approval, i’ll post some logos i’ve done recently – but other than that, there may be a bit of a posting reprieve. I’m hopefully about to start on a new project that i don’t want to go into detail about just yet, but once it’s further along, I’ll share. Hope you enjoyed reading about my process, seeing the pieces and the steps towards this show. If you’re in the area or even if you’re not – put it on your calendar now – first thursday in December, the 5th – Upstairs Gallery – Monroe, La. – Reception that evening.

Thanks for reading. – jbn

DREGS

Been a bit of a gap since my last post. I’ve had a lot of freelance lately; logos and such. Once those are approved, i’ll post them so this blog will be more than just my flights of fancy, but actual commissioned work. Commissioned means money and money is the one thing that keeps me from my studio – good for paying bills, bad for my soul. A worthy tradeoff maybe. There are mouths to feed. Alas, i do have a new painting to show. And hopefully by next week, I’ll have another – that one, if successful, may be the last painting in this show i’ve been preparing for. We’ll see… in the meantime, this one is called DREGS.

dregs

You may remember this piece from a couple months back.

detainment

It shares the same concept and process. To simplify: a world of rich color (a metaphor for something i’m sure) interrupted by the mundane options or choices of reality. Hmm, i’m seeing a parallel now between this and my opening paragraph. Moving on…

The success of DREGS  – maybe “success” is the wrong word – the completion of DREGS is a bit of a surprise. I mean, that it was completed so easily. I’ve worked with the process of doing a figurative piece on top of an abstract before but normally, the abstract part is a bit hard to contain or control… happy-educated-accidents at best – but with this one, i was going to literally cut into the abstract part with the figurative part and i was certain that wasn’t going to go smoothly. Alas, it kinda did.

I used this goop designed to work as a cracking agent when combined with another goop. Only i didn’t use the second goop. Nor did i want cracks. I just used it as a liquid to flood all my colors on top of. This was sort of a spontaneous thing as i looked around my studio for things to add to the color palette. It dried slowly with a plasticine quality. Hopefully it won’t discolor over time as resins sometimes do. Actually, resin is what i would normally use for an idea like this but now i think that not using resin is why it worked. Once i lifted the stencil where the figure would eventually be, i was sure all the paint was going to flood in – it didn’t – had i used resin, being considerably heavier, it probably would have.

dregs_close

I work within the theme of innocence vs. angst – i always have – it wasn’t an intentional thing initially, it’s still not, but i see it in my pieces all the time. This piece has that in more of an abstract way – the innocence being the display of color on the right. It’s like when the wizard of oz changes from black and white – only with this piece, dorothy is still monotone even though her world is not. Like she’s aware its’ just a dream and her awareness won’t let her fully appreciate or cooperate within it. Sorry, got all philosophical there. Here’s a close shot of all that color followed by a side shot.

dregs_color dregs_side

Next week i’ll be sharing a piece that i’m doing on plexi glass – a first for me – it may be a fantastic disaster… stay tuned. Thanks for reading.

CLASS WARFARE

So i found the following image online and really liked it. The mask, the running, the reality, all so urgent, dangerous and visceral. Plus, rebellion is a great thing to capture in art i think.

rioterLet me digress for a second. I found this science-project-style, wooden, display board in a dumpster at a school about a year ago, maybe longer. It was fairly large, three panels, complete with hinges. I dug it out of the dumpster and it’s been sitting in my studio ever since. For my upcoming show, i couldn’t justify spending any more money on canvases – for all intensive purposes, art has yet to pay so i cut corners where i can… so i decided to take off the hinges and try to use the pieces of board as canvases once an idea struck. Took a long time for an idea to strike that worked within the shape of the boards. And in that time, one of the boards got damaged, i used another one to test colors on, but luckily the third survived and now we have this…

filigree_riotIt’s pretty long, maybe 5 feet… 4 at least. I should measure these things before i do these posts.

I went through a spell where i was using a filigree pattern all the time. It reminds me of fancy wallpaper that you would find in a luxurious hotel or something, so I liked the imbalance of using it within my crude and sometimes ghetto-influenced paintings. Juxtaposition, that’s the word. Anyway, filigree in full force in the background. Originally i was going to put them in the “smoke” too, using a different color combination but I got to a point where that felt like a design decision and not an artistic one. People that live in both worlds as i do probably struggle with the difference. The blur between.

filigree_riot_detailAnother design change that happened sort of on the fly was the color i used for the rioter. I had always intended to use the unpainted wood as his “fill” but i was going to do the detail work in black. However, once i finished the background, it seemed like black would be too much. I didn’t want to draw the eye to the figure any more than his position on the canvas and his difference in color already would. I didn’t want the background to be just a background.

filigree_riot_detail2That shot is a bit blurry, sorry. But you can see the wood grain and some small nails that go up the middle. It’s not a thick piece of wood. The whole thing is fairly light actually. The edges are rough. I’ve already gotten a couple splinters handling it. Maybe i’ll knock the price down for any potential buyer to help pay for bandaids.

Only a couple more paintings to go before i jump on another project that’s very dear to me. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading. – jbn

ADDICT

I’ve attempted a series once or twice with little luck. The most i can seem to milk out of a single idea or theme is about 3 paintings… hardly a series. Nowadays, I choose to use the term “body of work.” It’s looser. It doesn’t imply a theme so much as it hints at a common thread. This thread could simply be the artist in question. For my upcoming show, the thread is more about technique and a certain approach and color palette. I bring this up because my latest piece was deliberately designed to accompany another painting. You can find that one here. And as complimentary pieces go, i’m really digging the set. I would probably do more if i could think of more. Time will tell. For now, I’m happy with the bookends that are Liar and Addict. Here’s how Addict started…

addict_detail

Of course, it started with an idea… but it’s easier to document the execution process than the incubation process (no pun intended). The top image shows the girl stencil already done in a pale blue over acid green – the bottom shows the caterpillar washed in yellow (which should have been done first but it worked out) and some of “addict.” I didn’t have the “Liar” painting handy as i was doing this one so some of the similarities were done by memory… The background could use a little more distress.

So as the Liar piece was an ode to Pinnochio – this one is Alice In Wonderland. The connection may not be completely obvious… although enough that i don’t feel the need to explain. Think mushrooms, pipes and talking, many-legged critters. And of course, our protagonist.  Here it is, finished:

addict

I may go back and thicken the black lines a bit. She may need a little more detail in the hair too. There’s a faint hint of white along the back of the bug, my attempt to create the curvature and slickness of caterpillar skin; not sure you can see it in these photos. Here’s a close shot:

addict_detail2

Thanks for reading. Next week, no bugs.