Made In USA

Thursday, December 3, 2009

“TAXI” !

So you’ve heard of it, but has it ever really happened to you? Have you ever been seated on a plane next to that hottie that you saw crossing the street on your way to the airport? Maybe you gave up your taxi in NYC only to catch the Cash Cab? (Hope you got the Video Bonus Question right!) Serendipity, albeit not rare… is also not common. So when happenstance lands on you be sure you’re prepared to make the most of your opportunity as you may never get THIS chance again.

My serendipity moment came just recently when I stopped in to see my friend Tony. I had just come out of a 30- day run at Touchstone Gallery in DC where I unveiled the new painting series “Rust In Peace”. Despite a good volume of visitors, none of the pieces sold. There were plenty of attaboys and geetheirgreats but nothing that the bank would take in trade for payment on my mortgage. However, the butterfly effect was already in motion. A friend and DMS collector was unable to make the show, but saw the new pieces on the updated DMS website. He, wanting to purchase one for his wife’s birthday, requested a private viewing. I of course obliged. On my way to deliver the piece that he called dibs on is where the story gets back to Tony.

For as long as I can remember, Tony at the Art Warehouse has been doing all of my framing and hanging. I only stopped by to return a key to his beach house on my way to deliver the painting for sale. Long story – short: He boasted about my work to some clients that were in his shop and insisted that they see the pieces I had in tow. Impressed by the new series, Tony suggested I show them to a gallery owner friend of his. He went so far as to call his contact and rave about the work and how he needed to see these in person. In spite of my heading in the opposite direction and it being the height of rush hour, I rushed down to Bethesda for a rare one on one portfolio review with Boots Harris, owner of Discovery Galleries.

(Digression): Anticipating the end of the Touchstone show I contacted dozens of galleries around the country (including Discovery) in search of my next exhibition. Circumstances, the economy or what-have-you yielded me no official deals with any of these contacts.

Upon seeing the paintings firsthand Boots loved the work and we shook hands on a tentative deal right there. To date, he has taken delivery of four paintings from the Rust In Peace series and I plan on delivering the Mustang late next week. I stopped by yesterday and there seems to be a prospective buyer interested in one of the larger pieces. Cross your fingers with me that the deal goes down before the holiday. Now if I could only figure out which one if these hybrids is the Cash Cab.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Anatomy of a Painting

November 18, 2009

This time-lapse video has been out on YouTube for a couple of weeks now and I’m getting loads of inquiries about the process of both the painting and the video. Many of the techniques used to create the painting are lost in the low quality video. Like most paintings it is best viewed in person to get a better sense of the intricate textures. As of last Saturday it along with several others from the series is on display at the Discovery Gallery, Bethesda, MD. At last check none of them are posted to their website.

The painting process: On a wood panel cut to size with a handsaw that belonged to my grandfather, given to me by my father, I applied newspaper articles relevant to the US auto industry and GM in particular in a somewhat random arrangement.

Through extensive research I found a few good references of authentic vintage colors and original and restored front emblems from which to draw. After drafting the logo in place I applied several acrylic glazes to the areas outside of the logo space.

Using a spray bottle I “spit” Isopropyl alcohol over the wet acrylic glazes to give the car’s paint an aged, dirty look. Once the glazes were dry I rolled on a two part crackling glaze and left it to dry overnight. Into the cracks that appeared, I blended and rubbed in two oil glazes wiping off the excess allowing the glazes to fill the cracks.

At this point the newspapers were veiled by a semi-transparent bed of layers, with the exception of the area that was to receive the logo, which remained fully exposed. For the areas of the emblem that were enameled in the original production, I only glazed with a thin red and blue oil mixture. This allowed the text to remain visible. The chrome portions were applied using oil paints mixed with a heavy wax medium.

The rusted area at the bottom of the image was achieved by spraying a muriatic acid solution with copper salts over a metal flake paint. The resulting chemical reaction creates real rust. Once I got the look I wanted from the rust, I came back into areas where the rust met the crackled paint finish with artists oils to add drop shadows.

To this and every painting in this series I screen-printed a Made in USA stamp. (Usually on the side.) Each Rust in Peace painting comes with its own mock title authenticating the year, make and model of the subject as well as the medium, size and date of completion.

I tried to simplify the explanation while imparting insight to each step without a boring, drawn-out soliloquy. I hope this provides a better understanding of what is going on in the video and how the processes combine to make the finished painting.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Excerpts from the WSJ article: "Dreamliner Production Gets Closer Monitoring" 10-8-09

[Regarding Boeings decision to outsource component production of the new 787 Dreamliner and the subsequent complications]

At the time, Boeing took the unprecedented step of outsourcing most of the Dreamliner's manufacturing. [Korea, Japan, Italy, France, U.K., Canada, Sweden] Boeing had previously designed and built its planes in-house, bearing the whole expense. But... when air traffic plunged after Sept. 11, top Boeing executives balked at investing more than $10 billion to develop a new plane.

Instead, suppliers would independently bankroll their part of the project, sharing costs and risk. Investors liked the idea. Boeings stock price jumped from $31 per share in August 2003 to a high above $107 in July 2007.

(Here’s the good part) But when factory workers here (US) started assembling the first Dreamliner, the systems flaws became clear as quality suffered and major components weren’t completed. ...Boeing which had earlier culled its own engineers to cut costs, was stretched too thin to monitor and fix blunders.

"The initial plan outran our ability to execute it," Said Boeing CEO. [Oops!]


Why bring this up on an art blog? It again exhibits the fundamental flaw in a shortsighted approach to business that puts investors and corporate profits above all other considerations. The long-term cost of such short-term gains, not only negates the windfall, it has broader reaching human and economic repercussions. Furthermore, it is another example of corporate mismanagement that shows the motive for decisions is not product quality and safety but the lean production process intent on minimizing expenses to increasing profit at all costs.

The costs however abound. From a business standpoint, there are the delays in product delivery, lost orders, financial overruns, the un-forecasted expense of re-engineering and modifying the errant components. Then you’ve got the issue of quality and compromised safety that could effect future orders, loss claims and the potential human cost of unsafe and inferior products.

This business model is also an example of the flawed notion that outsourcing for cheaper labor is good for the bottom line. However this example illustrates how these economic decisions can have a negative effect in the long run. The broader effect on the economy is evident as displaced American workers are left to take money from the government (In case you’ve forgotten: gov’t = me and you.) stripping them of the ability to feed back into that very economy. It’s a one-way money trail that starts from the bottom up before finally touching down on foreign soil. In the case of Boeing at least, the foreign soil is friendly.

So, to bring this back to what this has to do art. My latest work showcases what happens when while searching for a bargain, we fail to see the cost of that savings. Oldsmobile, Pontiac and most recently Saturn all have been discontinued putting thousands of Americans out of work and out of home. The tremendous strain on the economy is far reaching. The burden placed on our government is one that we can feel ourselves right now and one that will linger into our children’s lifetimes. If you don’t yet see this as a serious problem worthy of attention and action… then you are part of the problem.

These paintings are a way for me to put these ideas out “there” in a forum of contemplation and discussion. By presenting this subject through the use of nostalgic imagery it allows for a dialogue to take place that hopefully will open a few eyes to the problem and more importantly a solution.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Painting Under the Influence

Finding time to paint between breakfast, work, dinner, baby, dishes and life duties has proven daunting. I’ve taken to working after dark by the light of a mix of cool and warm colored incandescent candles in my makeshift underground studio. After kissing my baby and my wife goodnight I descend to the shallow, quiet, modestly ventilated sanctuary of my studio. I pop the cork of another bottle of red to help me escape the weight of the day that looms on my shoulders. Process takes up a significant portion of the early stages of each session, which allows me to arrive at the “right” state of mind. The spirit creeping through my veins un-inhibits my otherwise tightly controlled psyche, loosening my reservations and freeing my hands to do what they need to do. By the time I reach this point I’ve already toiled over the architecture of my approach and have no need for further unremitting deliberation. Over and over in my head I’ve already executed each painting dozens of times before actually approaching the canvas with a brush. By the time I commit brush to palette the idea is sound and the composition is set. I’ve found that painting sessions become focused and productive under the influence of some mashed grapes. Now, don’t go and get all AA on me … I’ve found the freedom to execute my ideas in the past without help from the vine. This time however, the help is much appreciated and much enjoyed.