Tuesday, July 6, 2010


"In July 2010, in America's birthplace of Philadelphia, 30 emerging young artist of diverse skill sets have enlisted their services in riding the waves of discovery in effort to provide new additions of pictures to provide visual dialogs of mankind's fascination with the sea."
--Matt Cavanaugh

Opening reception
Friday July 9th 2010 7:00 PM - 10:PM
Chapterhouse Cafe and Art Gallery
620 South 9th Street (between south and Bainbridge)
Phialdelphia, PA
Anthony Pedro of The Autumn Society of Philadelphia was kind enough to ask if i would be a part of the nautical themed show he was curating. Being quite a huge fan of Anthony's paintings, as well as my own affinity of the sea with its rich history and inspiring mystery, this has thusly been one of the most exciting group shows i have had the honor of being a part of. if you can sail on by the show this friday July 9th, or to Chapterhouse anytime at all this month, i can assure you a fantastic time marveling at the walls with these other talented individuals.
i was really trying to blog once a day for as long as i could, but our wonderful 4th of July celebration put a pause in my posts. i certainly have had enough work to keep it up for a while. however in celebration of the group show and in honor of Anthony's hard work, i'm going to make this it for the week. i thought i would also bore everyone to tears with some slight process description, as well as some trademark self deprecation throughout

when i heard "Nautical Theme", i just about lit up. i could do a nautical themed painting a day. i just about already have. a prized possession is a giant gorgeous oil painting of a massive old ship in pursuit that was given to my parents as a wedding gift. it hangs and encompasses the wall of the living room as a centerpiece. but what was i going to do here?

since i was a child i have always had a love and fascination for all mythology and folk lore, but as a young lad no book checked out from the library enthralled me like the big book of Greek Mythology. suddenly i knew i had to pay tribute to the mighty Poseidon, earthshaking lord of the sea and storms. Alexander the Great once sent 4 horse drawn chariots into the sea as tribute to Neptune and payment for safe passage of his armies across the sea. i would honor him by painting his terrifying visage with....watercolor

i tell lots of folks, especially anytime someone humbles me, or a finished painting, with a compliment, that "you should've seen the hundred awful drawings preceding that." you can take this as literal word when it comes to portraits or likenesses. below is some proof.

i wasn't sure how i wanted to portray the mighty god of old. mine is a love for the sea, but the old stories are full of horrors, sacrifice, and curious atrocities more in the name of explaining phenomenons, aiding anomalies, or encouraging forced piety, more than say, an Aesop's fable teaches a moral of some sort. for starters, i wanted to avoid common trappings that would visually precede me but pay some small nods as well (tritons, etc). so the start would be elder, powerful, and underwater. some awful fast explorations below:

i liked the idea of the tentacles enveloping and enwrapping him through the Grecian underwater beard (perhaps mimicking tentacles as well, though the hair would become more underwater flowing trident). more than anything, this would prove a fun visual challenge for me to intertwine elements. i mean, honestly, not to play it safe or phone anything in, but tentacles? check. beard and hair? check. old scarred face? check. pencils and watercolor? check. this was going to be right up my alley

so all i had to decide was 2 compositions i saw in my head. also, i wanted to challenge myself with some typography. Greek lettering is as bold as the columns of the Parthenon, and at the risk of no one knowing what the heck it said, i decided to attempt including it

i liked the symmetry for some reason, although it loses it's "massive" quality, but i felt i could make the tentacles a little more interesting and frankly intentional, instead of a mass of slithering tangles. the impossible symmetry there implied the kind of control over the sea and its inhabitants only the mighty Poseidon could possess

working it all out is always a blast for me; i can truly get lost in an exploratory daze. i also like to joke that i think i somehow manage to erase far more than i draw

on to the lettering. i loved the old Greek letterforms, but i began wondering about the secondary challenge of both spellings. like everything else in life, when ever i am face with a choice, i simply ask myself, "can i do it all?"

answer: kind of

finally, the finished pencil drawing! i have to tell you, this is the part of the process i am most proud of. if you have made it this far, and i thank you, if i could make one more request, it's that you feel free to click on the image below for a larger view. after this you can feel free to surf on elsewhere

(please click for larger view!)

i wasn't 100% sure where i wanted to take the painting itself. i suppose you can call this the laziest color study for a nautical piece ever:

i wish i took more scans of the painting in progress. i can tell you that over the course of days, tiny increments at a time, i softly rendered hair, coil, tentacle, wrinkle, scale, shadow and light, over and over again

then i slathered it in pigment, each time hoping to further Submerge it all below the watery medum
honestly, i just wasn't happy at all with it. i was no longer sure what i wanted, only that i didn't like it. i decided i wanted to add even more submerged depth to it all, and frankly, we all get that the water is blue or green, but could i give the tentacles more meaning? could i reference the sacrifice he demands? so i flipped the panting upside down and let the kraken bleed its ink upwards to the surface
of course i lost days of detail but at least i felt a bit more fearless. still, after framing, packing, and shipping the piece to Anthony for the hanging, i wanted to see if there wasn't something more i could do in the computer:
apparently, not a whole lot.

i priced the final painting at $56.27, a price no doubt i'll catch some flack for, because Poseidon fathered, on record at least, 56 children with 27 women, some of whom were not happy about that, though some of legend's greatest heroes and heroines were a result.

thanks for bearing with any or all of this; it's greatly appreciated. i hope you'll try to see the show if you can, or at least click on some of the above links, to see the incredible work 30 other artists created for this show

fair winds and a following sea,


J.Gray said...

Amazing. Just...amazing. The upwards red bleed is such a subtle touch and man, the colors, the lettering, all of it. Pitch perfect, bud. Seriously.
Oh, and I guess the drawings okay too, if you're into that sort of thing.

Patrick McQuade said...

PETE! That is KICK ASS!!!! Great meeting you at Nuts n Bolts. May our paths cross again down the road! All the best - keep in touch!

KungFoola said...

Dude, as always, I'm blown away! Keep up the great work. Lovin the Winston as well :)

EML said...

I remember seeing this post on the AS blog a while ago. But goddamn, this looks fun. A very bitchin' piece.