When I started trying to promote my own artwork online I kept coming across other people's art that amazed or compelled me in one way or another. This blog has been a way for me to practice thinking and writing about art, as well as learning more about my peers and all the incredible art that is being made out there.

Search for an Artist on this blog (or cut and paste from the list at the bottom of this page)

Friday, September 26, 2014

William D. Lewis

"Bonfire 2"  gouache on paper  12" x 16"  2012
"Bonfire"  gouache on paper  12" x 16"  2012

"Smith's Ferry Fire Ring"  oil on canvas  68" x 66"  2012

"Campfire" porcelain  24" x 24" x 5"  2012
"Match"  oil on canvas  36" x 36"  2014

William D. Lewis has a thing for fire. Among other things of course. But fire is a particular obsession. It should come as no surprise since the artist is based in Idaho, a state not only familiar with campfires and fireplaces but one that has been ravaged by it's share of wildfires.

A year after the Beaver creek fire nearly destroyed the prominent arts communities of Sun Valley and Ketchum, his work is included in a show called "Forests, Foraging and Fire" at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (Aug. 23rd - Nov. 12th). In addition the artist is giving a 2 day workshop (Oct. 18-19) on depicting fire as both subject and symbol. Participant's will create their own charcoal with which they'll create studies of fire from photographs that they bring with them. On the second day they'll produce a painting from those studies. Fire as a subject is not as easy as you might think. For one thing it is difficult to capture even in photographs making reference material of limited use. Something is always lost because fire is in constant motion. It is ephemeral. And it is a light source, not reflected light. So you have to suggest as much as depict.

Fire as symbol however... well it's almost impossible for it not to work as a symbol. Mankind's inextricable relationship with fire goes back to our earliest ancestor's before anatomically modern human beings even emerged. It went with us across the planet and together we changed everything in our paths. Fire is deeply embedded in our imaginations.

But Mr. Lewis explores almost every subject he tackles with the same dual purpose of observation and meaning. He often depicts various objects, everyday items like the burnt match above which I included because of its relationship to the fire images, but also things like a knife, a hammer, a shovel, a paint brush, and so on. By isolating these objects and giving them both space and focus, they take on a loaded symbolic force. This is in part due to the nature of the human mind which desperately seeks to attach meaning to almost anything it encounters. We understand coincidence and randomness intellectually, but emotionally they don't even exist. Mr. Lewis' work takes advantage of this and draws the viewer into his work by forcing you to bring all the available associations you may have with his subject in order to interpret it for yourself.

You can see some work on an older post from January 2011. And there's much much more to look at on his website: wmlewispainting.com. He is represented through Ochi Gallery in  Ketchum, ID.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cogan, Uribe and Hoshine

Two artist that I've blogged about before, and among my favorites, are Kim Cogan based out of San Francisco and Nicolás Uribe from Bogota, Colombia.  To my surprise I just discovered that they are showing work together this month at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in L.A. along with another talented artist, new to me, Kenichi Hoshine. The show is called "Abstracted Realities". Here's a few pieces by each with very brief comments.

Kenichi Hoshine was born in Tokyo in 1977 but earned his BFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York, NY.  Although there's limited imagery of his work online it's clear from what is there that he delights in the push and pull between realism and abstraction. He frequently combines the two in ways that suggests the haunting and surreal quality of dreams without ever seeming remotely like a surrealist. It reminds me a little of the way Gerhard Richter moves back and forth between representation and abstraction, but somehow got stuck doing both at once. One might think Gerhard Richter could pull it off. But it doesn't matter because Kenichi Hoshine clearly can.

"Study of J"  oil on wood  18" x 18"

"Untitled 54"  16" x 16"

"Untitled"  Charcoal, Acrylic and wax on Wood  20" x 20"

Kim Cogan is quite versatile, from occasional figures, to skulls, waves and wharfs, but especially the urban landscape. He's a technically deft magician with paint. His images that haunt me the most are the lonely scenes of an San Francisco at night. I posted his work back in April 2013. Here's 2 of his pieces that will be in the show:
"Open Late"  12" x 12"

"Sunset"  60" x 40"
And here's 2 by Nicolas Uribe. He focuses on the figure, especially personal portraits of friends and family, but the personal becomes universal, his models mere studies for observing the human animal in all it's intimate idiosyncratic honesty. You can see one of my earlier reviews from July 2010.
Here's 2 of his that will be in the show:

"Wife (Breakfast)"

"Father (After Lunch)"
The opening is this Saturday so if you happen to be in LA may I suggest that this is not just something to do but a chance to see three artists who are doing some amazing work and helping to define why painting continues to be a powerful and significant medium of personal and artistic expression.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Katherine Ace

BRIAR ROSE BIRTHDAY  oil on canvas

FISHERMAN'S WIFE  Oil and charcoal on canvas

FITCHER'S FEATHERED BIRD (with eggs)  Oil/alkyd with paper and small objects on canvas

FROG KING  Oil/alkyd with paper and small objects on canvas

TALES FROM THE GROUND UP  Oil/alkyd with paper on canvas

There is a narrative aspect to Katherine Ace's paintings that does not stem solely from the fact that many of them are based on the tales of the brothers Grimm. It's rather that they function in very much the same manner as the stories.  By juxtaposing unexpected and often improbable elements they create associative possibilities that encourage interpretation and meaning. Although some of the paintings have clearly illustrative aspects, picking specific visual imagery from the source material, illustrations usually interpret a text more literally. But underneath the literal imagery of folktales lies a bottomless well of meaning. As the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim pointed out in his book "The Uses of Enchantment", the message of a fairytale may change many times even for a single listener or reader depending on age and experience. Each story is so loaded with images and ideas that one must construct a relationship between it and one's personal experience in order to develop an interpretation. Interpretations will vary as widely as the audience. Ace's paintings work much the same way, attempting to trigger a kind of narrative instinct. A painting cannot tell a story on its own, being only a static image frozen in time. But stories bloom in the minds of human beings like wildflowers in spring. We dream them. We select moments in our past and ignore others in order to create stories about who we are. Stories define us. At their root, and at the root of all language, and possibly human consciousness itself, lies metaphor. Science is mankind's best tool for creating and discovering knowledge about the world around us. But far older, metaphor, in the guise of language, art and stories is how we create and discover knowledge about ourselves. These are the kind of paintings one could live with for a very long time, allowing their meaning and interpretation to slowly evolve and grow.

There are a lot more to look at on her website. Although there is no easy browsing through the images they're worth the extra little effort.

In other news: I'd like to apologize for the huge delay. Unfortunately I will be gone most of August so don't expect new posts then either. After that, we'll see. I want to continue the blog but may change it in some ways. Maybe add some interviews? Maybe more thematic posts featuring multiple artists. I'm not really sure. But thanks to everyone who's enjoyed following along.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A few new posts soon!

I will post some new work very soon. Unfortunately I will then be unavailable for most of August. But this blog is not being abandoned. I am thinking about different kinds of posts to do. Maybe some interviews. Perhaps thematic posts with different artists. We'll see. But in the short term I will post a few new people. Promise.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Due to schedule changes and now computer problems the blog has gotten hung up. I will post more artwork soon. I promise.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gwen Davidson

"Reflection"  48" x 60"  acrylic and charcoal on paper on canvas  2014
"Wallowa Mountains"  48" x 36"  acrylic and charcoal on paper on canvas  2014

"Fields near Galway Bay"  36" x 48"  acrylic and charcoal on paper on canvas  2012
"Beach Fire"  24" x 36"  acrylic and charcoal on paper on canvas  2013
"Neahkahnie Haze"  48" x 60"  acrylic and charcoal on paper on canvas  2014

Here's another artist whose work will be on display this month in my home town of Portland, Oregon (see also Jackie K. Johnson featured in my previous post). Both artists explore the gray areas between landscape and abstraction, but while Ms. Johnson sets out on what seems to me an almost narrative endeavor, Ms. Davidson's art is more descriptive and meditative. She works initially with a combination of acrylic paint and charcoal on paper. The paper, in rectangular strips of varying proportions, are then applied to canvas. The method gives the work a rigid geometric framework but the organic nature of her subject not only survives but somehow thrives within it. Perhaps the human mind is so powerfully predisposed toward order and pattern that their imposition relaxes the eye to the point where we can more comfortably see. Or perhaps in this age of digital pixellation we are simply more accustomed to viewing re-ordered and restructured interpretations of the world than we are to looking at the real thing. Either way it is clear that Ms. Davidson is a keen observer of both. Even her most abstract pieces unfailingly capture a genuine sense of place and atmosphere.

You can see more of her work at Froelick Gallery where her current show which opens tonight, will run through the end of May. You can see still more at Meyer Gallery in Park City, Utah.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jackie K. Johnson

"Lures at Mill’s Edge"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”
photo by
Aaron Johanson

"Paragraphs Stand in Dance"   2014   oil on canvas   48” x 60”photo by Aaron Johanson

"Stories Off the Hip #2"   2012   oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"

"Thinking of Shad"   2010  oil on canvas   48.75" x 60.5"

"Stories Off the Hip #1"   2012  oil on canvas   40.75" x 32.75"
"Hand Work"  1993  clay   12" x 7.5" x 8.5"
Jackie K. Johnson has a new show of work up in May at Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, Oregon, which means I get to actually go see it. I'm not sure if I've ever seen abstract art that suggested a narrative potential to me so strongly. On the face of it, this doesn't make all that much sense. How can abstract art be narrative?

Clearly the abstraction is not complete. There are representational references, not least of which is the three dimensional modeling of the shapes, suggesting that they are not simply shapes, but things, and things have names. The human mind giddily imposes meaning on everything it absorbs. In some of the paintings I see trees and leaves, hills and waterways, and bits of architecture as if they were aerial landscapes or maps.

The reference to landscape is at times unmistakable. But they don't strike me as just any kind of map or scene, mere depictions of a place, but maps as interpretive illustration, depicting journeys or histories. Some even use the imagery of lures and bobbers to accompany the occasional fish like forms that hover cloud-like overhead, lending the pieces even more specificity to their potential interpretation. And yet they remain inscrutably, mysteriously abstract.

Some of her work is organized quite differently, suggesting a kind of arranged presentation, a still life perhaps, but still grounded in a story, like Marsden Hartley's famous "Portrait of a German Officer". The fact that they are titled "Stories off the Hip" gives me hope that my narrative reaction to the work is not so far off base. Some of her older sculptural work is more obviously representational but somehow less narrative and more purely visual. But there is a definite visual consistency between them and the paintings.

I may be way off base about the whole narrative issue but it hardly matters. At any rate, artistic intent isn't everything. Skill and a practiced hand can lead artists to accomplish things beyond their ideas, and preconception can be a restraint on creative potential. At the very least these are a hell of a lot of fun to look at. I'm looking forward to doing so in person very soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kris Manzanares

"Girl at Rest / Speed"  oil on panel  48" x 32"  2014

"Fight"  oil on panel  14" x 14"  2014

"Eggplant"  oil on panel  14" x 18"  2014

"Leaving Austin"  oil on panel  23" x 14"  2013

"The Mustard Eaters"  oil on birch panel  32" x 49"

This is a post that's long overdue. Turns out I started to write one in 2012 but got sidetracked and apparently forgot that it never went up. I knew Kris in Arizona more than 15 years ago when she was a sculptor. Having children made that work more difficult but she found time and space to paint instead, a difficult transformation that she made look all too easy. It also transformed the very nature of her art, much of which involves metaphorical narratives based on the lives of her children. But her work is as much about atmosphere and technique as well. She combines very controlled drawing and realism with expressionistic brushwork, the backgrounds often dissolving into pure abstraction. There's something about them that really captures the bright heat of summer days in the southwest. But whether she's painting figurative psychological narrative, a simple landscape or a still life, they are all clearly echoes of her personal life, the small moments and seemingly insignificant objects that together constitute a life.
You can see much more of her work at krismanzanares.com
and if you happen to be in the Phoenix area go see her work in person at Paul Scott Gallery in Scottsdale.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gayle Bard

"Bainbridge Island Cloud"

"Skagit Flats"

"Franklin County"  2013 oil on canvas 42.5 x 54"

"Bateman's East Sussex"

"It's a Boy"
Gayle Bard's paintings explore volume and light, most recently in the form of vast cloud forms looming over the land. The land is often, but certainly not always, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. She currently lives and works on Bainbridge Island across Puget sound from Seattle, but she is originally from the midwest, and one senses that her youth accustomed her eye to open spaces. Her landscapes are less about the land itself that they are about abstract three dimensional space configured in two dimensional representation. And yet a real sense of place matters as well. The colors of the northwest, a subtle but radiant array of blues, greens and grays, suffuse her work. The sky in her paintings is not simply occupied by the occasional cloud but is a true atmosphere, volumes of air and moisture fading into each other and through which we all move and breathe, more like fish in the sea than figures moving about through empty space. The air is as real and present as the land below. And when it comes to light, she seems to relish not the scintillating prismatic wonder of it portrayed so famously by the impressionists, but the way it fades, and how colors ebb into gray when the sun is only indirectly present.

Her career has spanned over 40 years and covered far more territory than what I've described here, including a wide array of subject matter and approaches including installations. I'm sad to say I've only just discovered her and I wish I had been able to see a recent retrospective of her work at the  at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. If you feel the same and happen to be in the area, you're in luck. She currently has work on display at Linda Hodges Gallery in Seattle.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mark Shetabi

Afterimage (Brontosaurus)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Fog Machine
oil on linen
18" x 24"

Tanker (Night)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Tanker (adrift)
oil on linen
60" x 84"

Tanker In Dry Dock
oil on canvas
60" x 76"
 Mark Shetabi is a painter and sculptor who teaches art at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. His large, nearly monochromatic paintings cover a wide range of subject matter with a particular focus on architecture, engineering and industrial design. There is a low contrast soft focus treatment that lends the images a nostalgic quality reminiscent of old photographs. But keep in mind that many of these paintings are 7 feet wide echoing the monumentality of their themes and subjects. Some more recent paintings reverse this scale depicting such humble things as pipe fittings on canvases only inches across. But it's these epic pieces that initially grabbed and continue to hold my attention. There is a feeling of dreamlike unreality to them, as if such things are barely conceivable, much less possible. That they exist in the real world seems almost absurd.

 You can see more of his work at Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York City.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Eric Aho

French Forest, 2012
Oil on linen, 52 x 48 inches

March Eight Hemlocks, 2013
Oil on linen, 36 x 30 inches

Nocturne (Apex), 2011
Oil on linen, 36 x 30 inches

Ptarmigan, 2013
Oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches

Small Lynx, 2013
Oil on linen, 36 x 30 inches

Eric Aho's work has moved more deeply into pure abstraction over the years and yet it remains deeply embedded in the landscapes that the artist so clearly loves. The line between abstraction and representation is more like a vast gray zone between two peculiar and, for my money, less interesting extremes. Magritte made it clear representational art is still essentially abstract. A painting of a pipe is not a pipe. It is a painting, an amalgam of shape, line and color. Aho makes it clear that an unrecognizable arrangement of colors, shapes and marks can still be a powerful expression of things that exist in the real world. His paintings seem to blend the old romantic landscape traditions that attempted to evoke the awe and wonder one can experience in the face of the vastness or subtleties of the natural world, with the expressive modes of de Kooning and other abstract artists. The degree to which he bridges this seemingly enormous gulf is the key to his success. JMW Turner occasionally accomplished something similar over 150 years ago before pure abstraction was even considered a viable possibility. But since then this kind of synthesis has not been particularly well explored. Which is unfortunate, since it strikes deeply into the essential truths that painting is capable of and humbles a simple narrative artist like myself.

You can see some wonderful work on the artist's website (ericaho.com). Much of it is older but it's well worthwhile to see the gradual shift in his work from representation to abstraction. For more recent work check out DC Moore gallery.

I posted his work once before way back in November2009

Monday, March 17, 2014

Steve McDonald

"Turbine #2" from the series "out of the void"
70" x 70" Archival print on Linen with hand-applied Acrylic color

"Out of the Void #5" 36" x36"  ink and water-based paints on linen

"Hillside Retreat"

"India" 60" x 45" Chalk, watercolors and pencil on paper

"The Ice-Cream Man "   24" x 24" Digital drawing with hand-applied color on paper.

Steve McDonald is an artist based in Bali that shows his art in Toronto and London. His intricate line drawings of aerial landscapes, cityscapes and cryptic machinery are executed on various scales and in multiple media, from pens, markers and paints to digital, and various combinations thereof. He also creates
numerous abstract kaleidoscopic prints in a similar vein, as well as digital paint portraiture. But it's these elaborate line drawn scenes that enthrall me the most. The mechanistic formality of the subject matter is countered with loose flowing line work that lends both machine and city a breathing organic quality. This is as it should be. Such creations may be initially designed with mathematical precision in their details but the final products are, in the act of actually building them, and even more so in using them, warped, frayed, bent, broken and patched. In the end they more closely resemble the constructs of ants or corals and other more primitive lifeforms than they do the perfectly mechanistic blueprinted plans that human beings initially envisioned. Mr. McDonald's work is wide ranging and his ideas and themes are not limited to what I've shown here.

You can see a good deal more at his website: www.steviemcd.com
But I would highly recommend browsing through his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/artbysteve) for even More material.

"View from the Tower" in progress
Pencil, charcoal and acrylic on board  72" x 72" .