I love the work I am making now. Recycled, Upcycled, Green. It’s what I have always done living with my poverty pocketbook, but now its chi chi and has a name and better yet, a market. I seem to have caught up with the world again, or did it catch up with me? The paintings I am doing now have a set of rules to them. Okay, I made them up, but they are part of the parameters that keep me on track.
I can use new paint. Oil, acrylic, poster paint, spray paint, whatever. It is important to use the right paint. I want anyone who owns my work to be able to enjoy it for years to come so materials and archival quality are important to me. I use materials that are either recycled or in some cases, can be recycled. If I need a small chunk of wood to finish something and I’ve torn up the garage, the studio and the wood pile with no luck, I will actually give myself permission to buy the chunk I need. I try really hard to con my friends out of their scrap plywood and masonite and even paneling. I have quite a stash now. My wonderful neighbor Kelli is always making stuff and I’m always taking away her scraps. It’s win win that way.
Another rule is to try to use old frames. It is cheaper to buy terrible paintings and save the frame that to buy a new frame. I am now adept at putting funky old frames back together. It’s amazing what a coat of flat black paint will do. I have quite a stash of frames too. I look for cheap wooden trays at thrift stores too, the big ones no one wants are great canvases. I now own a router, a jig saw, two dremels, and I’m angling for a little bandsaw. I have jars of bolts and nails and tins and Stuff. I have access to a drill press and a hubs who can weld and build almost anything if I can draw a picture of it. I’m lucky that way. A lot of my work should have both our names on it.
I have been loving working on the bad dog and bad cat paintings this past year. To me they are not bad per se, they just exemplify all the crazy, often hilarious things our pets do that make us nuts. Eat newspapers, chew shoes, steal toys, swipe chickens off counter tops, hog laps and pillows, and chew through rocking chair legs. Okay that wasn’t funny at the time. But still, I have to admire the persistence of a 12 pound dachshund who could gnaw through a chair leg, and it is funny now.
People who know me know I have been painting Yellow Dog for years, he’s the sort of gentle Every Dog who stands in for humans in my paintings. He’s kind of a mellow guy and sort of a dog Gandhi, not a rocker leg chewing bone in his body.
How did I start painting dogs? A painter named Mark Fuller who was part of the early 80s art scene in Olympia painted these amazing snarly dogs and I painted a lot of red chairs back then. He liked my chairs and I liked his dog so we swapped images. That was the genesis of Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog led to Black Dog, the yang and yin of dogness. Black Dog had an attitude and he didn’t give a crap what anyone thought. He ran away to the circus and rode the horses. He chased cars and cats and ate newspapters. He wouldn’t let the kids in the pool and he hogged all the toys. The only thing that slows him down is Mean Cats. Yes, my world is populated with cats too.
This new pieces has its own story. It’s 3D because I wanted it to be an homage to my own beloved Bad Attiude Dog Nell Bell. Nell died about 3 weeks ago at the age of 11 and a half. She was a feisty rat terrier and my buddy. I miss her a lot. “All Mine” has a pretend dog bed in it with real things. One of Nell’s immense stash of tennis balls, her crummy yellow dog toy and a stick from our willow tree. The willow is said to be a feminine tree, Salix, the tree of joy and dreaming and its perfect to signify dog joy and happiness.
There is a rolled up newspaper which is real and carefully fastened with a rubber band to preserve it. It is from the 1920s and is part of a circular about art and history, an inside joke to be sure.
On the wall behind Black Dog there is a picture. The photograph was taken by Jacques Lartigue of Albert Camus’ dog. They were at the beach in France and the dog looks just like Nell! I loved making this piece and solving all the issues that come with the craziness of working in 3D. I love the whimsy of the painted wooden scene, the cut out dog with a real collaged bandanna and the real contents of the dog bed.
This makes me happy, making art makes me happy. I’m basically pretty happy…