Artist Talk at EAG

EAGpromo1I will be giving a presentation at the Elmhurst Artists Guild on October 19, at 7pm. I plan to discuss how I began working in my current imaginative realist style by combining traditional portrait and figurative painting with other interests like sculpting and woodworking. I’ll show some of my earlier pieces, illustration and airbrush work, and talk about how bringing all of these various pursuits together resulted in an entirely new body of work. I’ll follow up the presentation with a quick demo of my acrylic painting technique.

I’m also planning to have one of my latest pieces, “The Conqueror” on exhibit during this time as part of the fall EAG members show which will run from October 24-November 3.

More information about the Elmhurst Artists Guild can be found on their website:
http://www.elmhurstartistsguild.org

Looking forward to the evening should be a lot of fun!



The Conqueror

theconquerorweb
The Conqueror31.5x24” (37.38x31.5” framed) acrylic on panel, artist created wood frame with faux leather side trim panels.

Most of my work has a story to relate, although I don’t veer into the political realm all that often. But, like so many people, the current political climate has me spending a lot of time considering the current state of the world and so I suppose it was only a matter of time before that concern overflowed into my painting. And so this piece has emerged. It’s a commentary, in broad terms, about the “takers” of the world and the what is left in their wake. There are all kinds of symbols and allusions here for the viewer to ruminate over and I hope the painting spurs many conversations.

I custom built the frame for this piece as well. It has a kind of Empire style to it, appropriately enough, reinforced by the faux leather panels running along the frame’s vertical rails.

I plan to show “The Conqueror” at the next Elmhurst Artist Guild show at The Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst IL, and the painting will be available to view when I make a presentation to the guild on October 19. There will also be an opening reception for the show, details will be posted here and on my social media accounts.

theconquerorcropIG

conqueror side viewIG

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The Genesis Shrine

genesisshrine3Genesis Shrine27.5x32.5” Acrylic on panel, wood frame, polymer clay, brass, steel, composition gold leaf, votive glass candle holders.

This piece is one that’s been kicking around in the back of my mind for quite awhile now. The idea was to create a painting that would depict the creation myth of the lost civilization of Dankquart Collection fame. It’s this culture’s attempt at leaving a visual record that would communicate to its people their belief’s about how the world came to be.
genesisshrinesketch
I drew up the basic sketch for the painting first and after doing some initial sketchbook designs exploring various design options for the frame, I did a smaller, “finished” pencil.
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The pencil would serve as a guide although it was really more a suggestion of where I planned to go with content elements as opposed to a full rendering. Much of the detail work is executed in the final painting from ideas I have in mind that don’t get locked in at the drawing stage. The drawing does give me the proportional relationship of the main compositional elements. I also planned to use a large, curved, wooden piece of trim from a piece of discarded furniture, in this case an old baby crib. That’s it running along the top of the frame. So I began working backward, or maybe sideways, since it was a matter of building the frame while at the same time making sure to allow for the proper proportional opening for the painting to fit into.

Once I had the frame face and painting panel size and shape worked out I did my usual painting panel prep, first sealing with GAC 100 and then gessoing. The painting’s design was transferred to the panel and I began a monotone underpainting to establish basic values.
underpainting
In between painting sessions I often work on the frame. That way the frame can be glued and set aside to let the glue cure as I go back to painting. Less time wasted. I routed the face frame so the painting would be able to “drop in” then routed the cove on the front side.
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The recycled crib also yielded the half round moldings running vertically on the frame sides. They were cut from the crib’s “jail bar” slats. Having extra depth on the frame sides gives it a more substantial, architectural look, so side pieces were added.
figurehead
As I continued to work on the painting I had to do some planning knowing that the areas of transparent fabric, the neck and veil for example, would have to be done in the correct order. It’s much easier to paint say the branches and tendrils of the neck area first, then glaze the green transparent neck material over the top. I also had to get the background set the way I wanted before the wings could be painted transparently. Not difficult, just requires some thought and planning so that things proceed in the right order. The area atop the figure’s head and her body were both painted very loosely with thin acrylic. Working this way I get little indications or suggestions that can then be developed into skulls, bones, etc. It’s always fun discovering all of the things that you never knew existed, right before your eyes.
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All the little design elements were added last, the tadpoles, arcs, geometrics, etc. Some of these were kept very subtle, others stand out.
hand
After working on the figure’s hands for a while I realized they were just not working. Out they went with a coat of “sky color”. A new hand pose was worked out, transferred down on the board and repainted. Compare the initial block in photo with the photo above to see the change. Much better. Although exaggerated due to the raking light in this photo you get an idea of the texture I create on the panel at the prep/gesso stage.
candlebracket
My original idea was to have some small sconce type candle holders mounted on the sides of the frame, but as the work developed it became obvious that that was not a good solution in this case. As I was kicking around alternative designs a dusty memory surfaced of the old church we attended when I was a kid. On either side of the altar were statues, one side Mary, the other Joseph. In front of each were tiered votive candle holders made of brass. That gave me an idea. A trip through my pile of discarded brass pieces, (from an old brass bed), yielded an end cap perfectly sized to hold a glass votive candle holder. I mounted that to a small bracket which fit on the frame’s side as if made for it. Nice when that happens. The candle brackets were finished off with hanging “skull in moonflower” polymer clay sculpts.
claypartsI created an eye ornament to mount at the bottom center of the frame and then painted all three pieces with a patinated bronze look.

When the painting was complete I added the composition gold leaf border. There are a few areas of cracking and I left some “leaf loss” to indicate age. These cracks carry over from painting to the gold border on the frame opening. frame2The frame’s finish was now applied. This is a multiple step process of sand, prime, sand, paint, glaze, sand back, etc using metallic and no metallic paints. Details and accents are added like the red circles and gold flourish surrounding the sculpted eye. When the color and details are complete the frame gets a coat of varnish. The blue tape in the above photo is masking off the area that will be covered in gold leaf. When the varnish is dry the masking is removed and gold leaf is applied. The painting is mounted in the frame, hanging brackets and wire are installed, and then the final assembly can take place. The candle brackets are mounted and eye sculpt attached. Done!litcandlesA shot of the shrine in dim studio light with the led candles lit. I like that.

I have a few more shrines sketched out, just rough scribbles at this point, but I plan to further explore these ideas further in the coming months.

Gaia for "Flower Child"

Gaia
Gaia 12.5x11.5” (16x15.75” framed). Acrylic on panel, artist created wood frame.

The Summer of Love, 1967. Hippies, psychedelia, great music, “happenings” and flower power. And the epicenter of this social movement in America was the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love the city of San Francisco is celebrating with a series of events including Modern Eden Gallery’s group exhibition, “Flower Child”. I’m a huge fan of the era’s music and art and thrilled to be participating in the show.

My contribution is, “Gaia”, an acrylic on panel painting with a custom created frame. The piece is a riff on one of my masked figures accompanied by my flaming skull and embryo characters, with a tinge of psychedelia for good measure. In fact the piece came from swirling thoughts of that era’s incredible album cover art, hence the squarish format. (How I would have loved to been able to work on one of those album cover commissions!) The lettering at the bottom is a tip of the hat to the incredible typographic treatments and hand drawn lettering that became so popular during the period. The embossed wood band running across the top of the frame was selected because it reminded me of one of those Painted Lady victorians in SF. A few floral style flourishes were added around the frame’s edges to tie the entire piece together.

“Flower Child” opens at Modern Eden August 12 and runs through September 2, with an opening reception on the 12th from 6-9pm.

New Painting- "Pledge"

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“Pledge” 20x16” acrylic on canvas mounted to panel.

After spending quite a bit of time drawing and working with some experimental layered drawing techniques, it was time to get back to painting. Although I’m not working with multiple physical layers in this piece as in some of those recent experiments I did use many many layers of veiled glazes. The subject is also inspired by the mask drawing series I’ve been working on lately and I hope to continue the series. I almost named this piece, “Princess” or “The Princess’ Promise” or something along those lines, since I see her as some type of royal promising something. I’m not quite sure what she’s promising but I assume it has something to do with loyalty or being faithful to the cause. Maybe the answer will become clearer as the series progresses.

“Pledge” is available through Arch Enemy Arts gallery, please contact the gallery for purchase information.

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This is my starting point, a quickly drawn sketch that I wandered away from a little as I painted and became aware of what was working and what could be improved. And a couple of detail shots below.

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Experimenting with Layered Drawing and "The Sleepers in the Earth"

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“The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” 12x12x1.5 Graphite, gouache, colored pencil and acrylic on paper mounted to a cradled panel.

I’ve been doing several pieces lately that explore the idea of layered drawings. These have all been experiments in using different materials and techniques with the aim of creating a piece that has multiple “applications” of drawing and I’m sure there will be more to come. “The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” is one of my latest pieces in this experimental series. Actually I’m tossing a few ideas and themes into the mix, such as my attempt at combining beetles with portraiture, and the use of brighter color. I think that last one might be coming from too many hours spent listening to the tie dye soaked music of the psychedelic era with its complimentary trippy artwork, maybe the former too, but I digress.

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This is my finished graphite drawing, done on paper that had previously been toned and mounted to a cradled support. It had a deep sienna color, perfect for an idea I never got around to but which wouldn’t work for me now, so I recoated it with a mix of acrylic glazes before the drawing began. I’ve worked out a pretty good way of applying the acrylic so that the surface doesn’t get too slick, always a danger if you are repeatedly painting glaze after glaze. I used a piece of tracing paper overlaid on the artwork to draw a quick beetle sketch atop the subject so I had a good idea of how the two would interact.

sleepersinprog2
And now the layering action begins. This shot is after a pass or two of acrylic glaze and then a few applications of torn pieces of the same sheet of tracing paper I used to sketch the beetle placement layout on. I used some additional strips of that same paper with beetle drawing on them to build more of the layering effect I was after. The sides of the portrait drawing are fading off into the background, what I was shooting for. The tricky part is deciding how far to bury the drawing. Too many layers and it’s lost forever.

sleepersinprog3
More and more layers of acrylic glaze and then it was time to draw the beetle in place. The beetle drawing has all the same detail as the portrait drawing did. The portrait drawing is becoming obscured but as the second drawing is executed over the first the dark streak down the central part of the face, nose and mouth, is suggesting a figure and I accentuate the shape by playing dark off of light value. The lower third of the drawing, or maybe painting at this point, has all kinds of interesting shapes emerging. I decided I want to give them some delineation and refine the shapes to suggest figures and or animals, the “sleepers” of the title.

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Now I begin to amp up the color with more intensity. I decided the portrait would work better with an overall cool color and wanted to simplify the shadows of the face and keep the values in a narrow range. This is where the psychedelic vibe come on. I’m also working with graphic shapes and strokes, looser versions of the elements that make up the initial drawing. This picture shot with a raking light gives a good indication of the texture I create that allow dry media like graphite and colored pencil to work well.

sleepersdetail1
The figure is simplified and some of the initial portrait drawing’s passages are highlighted with color. The cad red light really pops off the painting especially against the pthalo blue and green in the background. A majority of the initial drawing becomes obliterated with all of the subsequent layers of paint and pencil but original pencil lines show through here and there most notably in the cheeks an around the eyes. Easier to see in the actual piece than in a photo.

sleepersdetail2
I had a great time tweaking the sleeping figures, picking up shapes of bones and skulls. And if you look closely you’ll see I’ve indicated vertebrae depending from under the chin of the subject as well. The title of this piece is inspired by a line from Emily Bronte’s novel, “Wuthering Heights” by way of the Genesis album, “Wind and Wuthering”. From Wikipedia:

"Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers..." and "...In That Quiet Earth" are two linked instrumental tracks. The titles refer to the last paragraph of the novel which inspired the album's title - "Wuthering Heights", by Emily Brontë:

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

“The Sleepers in the Earth- Red Beetle” Sold.
I’ve posted more of my experiments in layered drawing techniques on my Instagram gallery. You can see them here (along with other examples of my work), and please consider following me if you’re so inclined, thanks!

New! Shop Page and Drawing Sale

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Friday March 3 marks the opening of a new “Shop” page on my website. While most of the work presented on my site is for sale, the Shop page is designed mainly for prints, smaller pieces, experimental work, or items that stand outside of a series. March 3 is also the first Friday of the month, when I typically kick off my “Featured” sale, one item, at a reduced price, for one week. Well, this Friday I’m combining the opening of my Shop, with a Featured Drawing Sale, offering a number of my drawings at substantially reduced prices for two weeks. Sales items have a tendency to sell quickly and I may add or replace sold items with other work, so please check back often to see what’s posted.

In addition to the Featured Drawing Sale I’ve posted a new series of three dimensional faux fresco works in the Shop. These pieces are an extension of the fresco fragments in my Dankquart Collection series. Composed of a wood and polymer clay sculpted eye and beetle, each piece has been finished with numerous layers of various acrylic products to give them a look of ancient artifacts. Mounted to a textured aged panel and framed in black, they are ready to hang and enjoy.

I’ve also included some of my smaller paintings and a couple of sketches too, all priced at a level welcoming to both first time buyers and those looking to expand their collections.

Finally, to those of you who have supported my artistic efforts by buying my work, thank you. Your purchases allow me to continue making art and keep the ship sailing and I genuinely appreciate it. Now it back to the studio!

Angel Reliquary

Photo of warrior angel reliquary
“Reliquary of a Warrior Angel” approximately 18.5x26x6” (wings extended). Mixed media.

I thought it might be nice to do a post about some of the steps involved in creating my newest reliquary piece. I have to say it took much more time than I anticipated to go from drawing to final art not counting the year or so the concept rattled around in my brain. Months ago I even asked a friend of mine who is an accomplished woodworker if he could build the casework for me, before I began work on another project and set the idea aside. But a couple of months ago I revisited the concept and began sketching, considering things like what type of figure I would portray and how the doors would open into wings. That’s when I decided to call my own number and get to work.

Photo of sketch
This is my original sketchbook drawing. I had settled on painting an angel, in this case an angel as warrior. The angel would have some mystical elements that picked up and expanded the ones featured in my Dankquart Collection series and of course the doors would open up and be painted as wings. Making the subject angel a warrior meant I could work in a box of vintage arrow tips that I had stored away waiting for the right project and I’ve indicated them in the drawing. I also included a skull flower ornament at the top of the piece which has become an icon in the imagined culture that these piece originate from, (the same iconic sculpt as the pendants that were available as this month’s Featured piece).

Photo of John Walker's artworkOnce I had the drawing, and a firm idea of how the entire piece would work, I created a paper mockup.

Photo of John Walker's artwork
Originally I planned to have the doors open out, and then open out again, as they are mocked up here. That created an interesting situation with hinges that I didn’t care for when I got into the actual production, and so would later change to the swing up version used on the final.

Photo of John Walker's artwork
The doors would need to be solid to cover the interior artwork but the outside wing pieces could be shaped as indicated in my model. They also needed to fit in such a way that they did not come in contact with the painting inside once the doors were closed.

template
I then went from the mock up paper stage to a full size drawing, and from that made some templates. These would be used to cut the pieces out and make sure that they all worked together properly. You can see I’ve switched to the swing up wings at this point.

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The surround/box design with the first set of doors in place, and trim yet to be added.

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Here the casework construction is nearly complete and I’m testing the fit of the artwork to make sure the wings visually run in one continuous sweep from the central painting across the two open doors. I wasn’t happy with the original design of the angel artwork and changed it as I went farther along with the rendering as you can see below. The wings took a trip back to the bandsaw to add some more indications of feathers.

paintingprog2
The wings/doors were placed alongside the central artwork as I painted to keep the continuity. I planned to carry the landscape background across the panels which would help make all three, or five depending how you look at it, panels read as one piece of art. However my initial idea of having the land rise up so that a portion showed behind the figure was not working so was painted out. You can just see the area planned for gold leaf application encircling the head.

arrowtips2
With the artwork complete I turned my attention to painting the casework. This is the old box of arrow paint replacements that I had tucked away. Still like new in the box, they needed to be given a nice patina. I love that green color, must be some copper under that shiny silver.

angelinprog41
Another trial fit of artwork and casework. Those holes at the top will contain the reliquary items, small pieces of bone, etc. created with polymer clay and encased in resin filled brass containers. I’ve also drilled holes for all of the arrow tips along the top and the two brass trim pieces at the bottom corners. Once they are added I do some final painting, add the gold scroll accents, the dragonfly and then give the entire piece a coat of satin varnish.
paintingdetail
While the casework varnish dries I return to the painting to apply some antique varnish, a multi step process that produces the small cracks seen in the detail shot below. Then it’s on to sculpt the skullflower icon for the top and the reliquary items for the brass container inserts. The skull flower is composed of two different types of polymer clay around a central wire spine. When completed I fit it to the casework and drill into it from inside the frame. This way I can run a thin post that will anchor the ornament to the frame during final assembly. The reliquary parts are painted and after drying overnight, placed in the brass holders which are then filled with resin and left in an old cigar box to cure.

wingsdown
When the painting is finalized I flip over the pieces and paint the doors. You can see how the wings hang inside the outer doors. All of the parts and frame have had sufficient time to dry before I do one last test fit of artwork and doors and then it’s on to the final assembly.

doorsclosed
The moon and sun symbols are gold and silver composition leaf.

I shot a quick in studio video which gives a much better idea of how the whole piece works and posted to my Instagram account. (And please consider following me if you are so inclined.) Watch the video HERE.

angelrelvideolink

Bound

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“Bound” Approx. 8.5 x 5” dome size. Approx. 7 x 4 x 2” sculpture size. Apoxie and polymer clays, acrylic, resin, wire, metal rod, glass dome, wood base.

My newest sculpt comes from another little sketchbook entry, an idea that came to me one night while exploring more ideas of sculpting my embryonic figures inside of pieces of vegetables or fruit. I thought about the concept of two figures intertwined inside a core and their connection to each other. The final piece can be interpreted in different ways, I think, and I prefer to let each individual make their own decisions about meaning, so no more from me about that. But as always I love to hear interpretations from viewers so please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments.
boundsketch
This is a crop of my little sketchbook drawing. About as far as I take these types of things. I like to get the idea down with just enough detail to record the concept and any important wrinkles then let the rest develop when I go to finish.
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The pair of figures wrapped with barbed wire. I created the barbed wire, kind of a tricky thing to make especially at the proper scale, and took several tries to get right.
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Lots of detail in both the sculpt and the paint. The figures were sculpted separately and affixed in place. The barbed wire was added last.
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Back of the piece showing the heart shape and the way the skin begins to peel away. You can also see the purple shoots which have erupted through the top.
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Top of the sculpt with the peeling skin, shoots and wire.

Video of the finished work and an in progress video will be available on my Instagram account.
https://www.instagram.com/walkerbrushworks/
And please consider following me on Instagram if you would like to see more of my in progress photos and videos along with up to date posts of current work.

“Bound” is available for purchase studio direct. For more information and pricing please email me using the Contact page.

The Keeper

thekeeperframed1One of my goals for the new year is to create more small pieces, this is the first. Acrylic on panel mounted in a reclaimed vintage frame with polymer clay bird skull and feathers collected from my walks through a local park.
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This is the sketch I worked from. I typically tape these to my board as I work and they often wind up doubling as a pallet to tip my brushes on.

thekeeperfull
Acrylic on panel 7x5”.

birdframe
Creating the frame ornament. Polymer clay bird skull painted with multiple layers of acrylic glazes surrounded by bird feathers collected on walks in a local park.


“The Keeper” is available studio direct for $395.00 plus shipping and sales tax if applicable. Contact me for purchase information.