28 October 2010

The Amish are Here with their Big Dogs and Scary Tiny Trains....

 Here is the final painting for Linda. It is a present for her husband Tim's brother Richard on his birthday. (That makes him a brother in-law). I finally got the story for this one.
Here is what Linda sent me:

So now I will tell you – the Amish man IS Tim’s brother Richard – who is not Amish but LOOKS so Amish that we often get odd looks from people when we are out in public and he’s getting out of the driver’s seat of a car, etc.  I can see them thinking “No buggy?” 
He loves dogs – all kinds, all sizes, but when I first knew him  he had bloodhounds and coon hounds – big dogs.  And he and Tim love to work on model railroads…neither of them have much time for the hobby anymore but Richard’s attic is completely devoted to an entire model town & railroad…I know they would both spend all day up there if they could.

The look of this piece was inspired by those weird, awkwardly abstracted early American Paintings. I'm talking about those odd, stiff, 18th century paintings that are lush and subtly disproportionate in a jarring way. For whatever reason, the people in these always look uncomfortable and something questionable is always brewing in the skies behind them. 
...or this 
and I love this one 
In many ways, the Amish early American history. They are very devoted to a specific time and place. I've never saw (and can't find any images of) Amish art, but I would imagine there work would look something like the paintings linked above. Actually, I don't know if the Amish are allowed to make fine art. They may be all quilts and baskets all the time. But quality quilts and baskets!
(Leave a comment if you know anything about this).  

Thank You, again Linda.... and Happy Early Birthday Richard!... every early...(I don't think it is until January...)

13 October 2010

Before it gets all Amish up in here...

These are a couple of preliminary drawings for my next Panda painting. Here are the elements I was given by our returning friend Linda :

An Amish man (with a long grey beard)
2 dogs of any kind (not toy dogs, dogs with heft)
A model railroad or at least an engine with a couple of cars.

I don't know the story... but I think I will wait 'til I finished to find out. If I was meant to know, Linda would have told me.

One thing I know is that I need to be careful here to make the man look distinctly Amish. The first time I started drawing him, he looked too Hasidic. The beard, the hat, the dark jacket. I erased the mustache before I put the ink down and "Bam!", obviously Amish! Also, after a little research, vests and plaid shirts help create the Amish style. This makes it less Warsaw 1860 and more Pennsylvania 1860.  And rural is key.
I'm not sure which of these drawings I like better. The 2nd certainly is looser, but I kind of into the odd formality and the man's rigid stance in the top drawing.
Just to be very clear here, these sketches are not finished pieces. I make them only to play with the composition before I dive into a final piece. They're a time saver. When I don't make them, I usually end up doing a ridiculous amount of repainting or adding weird elements just to keep a visual balance.(As opposed to the other weird elements I add.)

I'm not sure which way I'll go with this... but I am open to suggestions. That's what the comment box below is for. Or leave your remarks on the Panda Facebook Page.

30 September 2010

Paul and Marbles Dream...

Here is the final painting for Paul Garbis. As you can see, Paul and his buddy Marbles are drifting off to sleep. As reality fades, images of the friends favorite things slowly materialize...

Paul is biking across an open field with Marbles riding on the handlebars. It is a bright, sunny day with no wind at all. The boys are very pleased and surprised to stumble upon a brand new electric oven sitting in the middle of the field. This is perfect because they are both hungry for cake and Paul is a good baker.
Paul scavenges though the field and finds some wheat stalks, sugar cane and the pods from a baking soda plant. He harvests them and refines these ingredients in a make shift mill that Marbles had ingeniously patched together from an old tuna can, an ancient sparkly white stone, and a broken black comb. Some spit is added to lubricate the parts.
The refined dry ingredients are mixed together. A blue egg is dropped to them by a friendly sparrow flying over head and a lost woolly goat allows them to squeeze some milk. 
Upon opening the oven, Marbles finds a cake pan,  frosting and blue birthday candles.
Since there is nothing to plug the oven into, it is only logical that Paul and Marbles have to create electricity themselves. The friends each hold one prong of the oven's plug and run around in circles flapping their arms and dragging their feet to get static going. They can't stop until the oven reaches 400 degrees. It is exhausting.
Paul is so tired by the time the cake is done, he falls to the ground to rest. Marbles frosts the cake, lights the candles and sings "Happy Birthday". Then, Marbles cuts the cake and gives Paul the biggest piece. It is delicious! 
The friends stretch out on the ground and laugh and eat the cake as they watch the clouds slowly move across the sky...
 Ssssshhhhhh......... Let's not interrupt this dream.

09 September 2010

Preliminary Sketches Before Baking...

Paul and Marbles Dream.
Here are a couple of preliminary ink drawings for a painting commissioned by Nick and Sarah Garbis as a birthday present for their son Paul. The drawings are of Paul surrounded by some of his favorite things.

Here is the list I was sent to work from:
 Most important......in order: Marbles, book(s), cake (Paul bakes solo now), bike, Paul, piano.

Quality time with an enormous stuffed panda bear.

And here is "Marbles":  

As you can see, I got everything in but the piano which, in my defense, was ranked least important. Five out of six is not bad.

In my mind, the top sketch of Paul and Marbles collectively dreaming of a cake is the stronger of the two. It has a soft, ethereal feel. Plus, the cake and candles suggest a birthday. (But maybe I'll replace the oven with a piano. ...and use bright colors.)

I'll post the painting as soon as it's completed, probably early next week.
... and I promise, I'll resist the urge to have Marbles "licking on a light bulb" ...even if Beth pushes it!

03 September 2010

Cornell University... and no one loses a limb!

This is a gift for Avery from her mother, Jaime Johnson, who is very proud of her daughter's achievements and entrance into Cornell University this fall.

Here is part of what Jaime wrote me:
 My oldest daughter recently graduated from high school.  This was a child born in considerable adversity.  I was young, single, and completely uneasy about raising a baby.  Her birth really sent me into a tailspin and I considered adoption, but then ultimately stepped to the plate and embraced what was before me.
I set aside many dreams and goals and maybe, in a sense, placed them on her.  Money was tight and life could get lonely, but she excelled beyond my wildest dreams!  Who knew I would have an AP Scholar, a National Merit finalist, et al.?

Jaime also told me that her daughter loves the Big Red Cornell thing (the school's bear mascot)! I placed a bear on the lawn in front of Myron Taylor Hall at Cornell's Law School. This could be a fear inducing scene but it didn't go that way. The bear is not tearing anything limb from limb or attacking any other Ivy League school students. He wonders at peace.
A blood-lust painting may be more popular... but I thought this was more to the point. Could be intimidating and scary, but it doesn't have to be. Just like college. Right?

In the sky, I added an landing airplane to commemorate Avery's arrival to this beautiful school.
I love watching airplanes. Every time I see a plane, I can't help but get a little dreamy in the head. I think about where it is going and who is on it. (I live on a flight path, so, you can imagine how time consuming this is). This is the first time I've had a chance I've had to use a plane in a Panda painting without it seeming gratuitous. (Or is it?).

Anyway, thank you Jaime for the opportunity to paint for you and Congrats to Avery!!!

13 August 2010

...owls emerge from no where...

Sometimes when I'm feeling a little stuck on a painting, I'll start making another on the side, something that doesn't matter just to loosen up. I started this one right before I completed the paintings for Emma Berg. Owls were one of the themes that I tried to fit into her paintings but it never worked. They push their way in and take over a space.

I put this painting away not knowing what I was going to do with it. I thought I might paint over it. Yesterday, I decided to finish it before starting my next tiny painting.
 So here it is! It was commissioned by no one!
...But I put it up because I like it.

Beth told me I should paint Emma's face on the center owl. I considered it ... but thought that it sounded funnier that it would look. It would either come off too cute or too disturbing. Children's book or genetic engineering gone wrong!?

I initially had a dark blue sky as the background but thought the owls were getting lost in the dark. I then painted it flat yellow, liked the graphic quality, but thought it all looked to knit-pickily finished. So, I sanded off the top layer and outlined the owls with a Chinese brush and black ink. It's more alive now.

So what am I going to do with this painting? ...I'll  give it to Emma. It's really a companion to what she commissioned. We'll call it a late birthday present.

I'm working on two new paintings starting today... going to light a fire under myself to get them done quickly!
...but I never skimp.
I have a short line of paintings waiting but would love add more to the line up. So, email me with you commission at: panda@johnmegas.com
Love to hear from you!

29 July 2010

Kate, Emma and Jahna, part 2

Here is painting number two of these three lovely ladies commissioned by Emma and given to Kate and Jahna as birthday presents. It's similar to the last, but this time it's night and it appears that the moth infestation has chased away the birds.

Let me tell you what I know about Jahna and Kate.  Jahna Peloquin is a freelance fashion writer and stylist. Kate Iverson is the editor for L'etoile magazine and arts editor for Secrets of the City. I've never met either of them, but look forward to it.

I started these two paintings with different background colors, the first one yellow and this one dark blue. On this painting I put the lights in on top of the dark. This is a technique usually reserved for iconographers and trippy black velvet artists. I did some sanding, used some black ink. When I was done, I wiped a cloth covered with phalo blue over the image to darken it and a give it a liquidy quality. (...and, yes, I made up the word liquidy but you know what I mean, right? ...Merriam-Webster can sue me if they need to.)

It was hard to get a good image of this painting because it is very dark. When I adjusted the colors on this digital image it always pulled out too much yellow when the blue was right. So too much yellow it is... and the softness gets lost here.

My intention with both paintings was to make them expressive rather than photographic. I thought it would be disappointing if I took the out and didn't make them literally representational of the subjects. Tricky stuff to make tiny... but all painting is tricky.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be writing a regular monthly review about artists exhibiting in the Minneapolis area for www.mplsart.com . The first will be up in mid-August. It will be similar to my writing here but about other artists. It's going to be fun!

...and check back here next week. I have another painting up my sleeve...

26 July 2010

Emma, Kate and Jahna... part 1

This is the first of two paintings commissioned by Emma Berg who is a fashion designer, curator, and founder of the best visual arts calender in the Minneapolis area mplsart.com. (I will begin writing monthly reviews for mplsart starting in August... but more about that later).

I've known Emma for many years but not very well. We often will end up at the same openings and we usually just wave to one another. She is always so fashionable...  it's a little intimidating. I do try to look good and current but it doesn't always work for me. My look ends up being more like a Eastern European who still thinks Leif Garrett is cool. But that can be hot! Right?

Emma asked for two portraits of her and her close friends Kate and Jahna as birthday presents for them. When I asked Emma about her friends, her first response was that they all like to be in control. I wasn't sure what to make of this. (Another arm wrestling painting?) I asked if she wanted an actual portrait or if she had something less literal in mind. It was up to me...

It's tricky to paint people small. Details have to be sparse and accurate. If you are one millimeter off on an eyebrow or mouth, a face goes from cutely smiling to crazed with rabies. It's also tricky to paint people you've never met. You can look at as many photographs of a person as you want and never really understand what they look like. Photographs play tricks and two pictures of the same person can look very different. Ask anyone who does online dating.

My first concern was to make a reasonable resemblance of the three ladies, and I instinctively worked the rest out from there. I decided not to go too refined with the figures, but leave them slightly rough. I didn't want to over paint and make it feel stagnant and inactive.

I also decided to add the flying animal motifs to give the paintings another poetic layer.
(In retrospect, I think this was subconsciously under the influence of my friend Scott West's newest paintings which all have people with animals. (He recently did a fantastic painting of my son Theo with an owl). So, consider this a form of flattery, Scott.)

This post is a cliff hanger. I'll put up the second painting, which is darker and softer, later this week with more chitchat. And we'll talk about Jahna and Kate.

... feel free to leave comments and go to the Panda Facebook page for more updates...

08 July 2010

Goodbye Moldy Pallet... Hello New Paintings!

It's time to start fresh for a couple of tiny new paintings. I've taken about a month away from the Panda to work on some larger paintings in my Signals series, but now I am beginning two new commissions which will be variations on the same subject matter.They will be a two portraits of three friends. I'm excited to be starting this today!

As I've written before, I use a Sta Wet pallet to extend the time my paint stays usable.With it's strange spongy technology, the pallet makes my paint stay wet (or Sta Wet) for what appears to be an eternity. But there are drawbacks. The pallet surface feels suspiciously like damp Twinkies and the paint becomes furry after about 2 weeks. Then you have to either feed it or throw it away. This one I was was using while it was moldy... and it still worked fine... but it's gross.

For the last year and a half I've been studying which color molds first and certainly burnt umber always wins! This is followed by alizarin crimson and then ultramarine blue. Mars black hold strong to the end.

So here is my new pallet all set up and ready to go:
You can see the tiny boards prepared to the side of it. The size ratio between pallet and painting is ridiculous! But that's how I roll...

I'll post my progress very soon.

04 June 2010

Shakespeare and Vonnegut Finally Arm Wrestle.

Greg Bauhof asked for a painting of Kurt Vonnegut and William Shakespeare arm wrestling with Albert Einstein as the referee. Here is the final painting.
Strangely enough, when I was researching the three figures here, I found some historical accuracy to this scene.

Here's the story:
The year is 1969 and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is spending his summer heading a writer's workshop at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. He is riding the success of his recently released Slaughter House Five and things are going great. He had become a much sought after celebrity.
One morning, Vonnegut gets a call from the then young director Robert Altman inquiring about the possibility of turning his novel The Sirens of Titan into a film. Vonnegut is skeptical but agrees to meet him. Vonnegut inexplicably suggests that they meet Monday, July 4th at the Baroque Music Festival held in the commons of  the University.  
It is important to note that Kurt Vonnegut was a very tall man and to remember that in those days, the people of Iowa were eight inches shorter than the national average. All of the doorways in the faculty housing where Vonnegut was staying were very low, causing frequent bangings. He had visited the emergency room three times in his first month due to head injuries.  
On the day of his meeting with Altman, Vonnegut chose to wear roller skates in an attempt to intimidate the director with his physical agility. However, this made him a dangerous 4" taller than usual. Being very cognisant of this fact, Vonnegut carefully ducked under every ridiculously low entry way. But how careful can one be the first time on roller skates when fireworks are going off in the distance?
Similarly, Altman tried to impress the author. However, being notoriously bad with history, Robert Altman decided to dress as William Shakespeare to pay tribute to the Baroque era that he assumed Vonnegut loved. Young Altman was a dead ringer. It was confusing and ridiculous to see Altman as Shakespeare prancing across campus humming Bach Cantatas. Robert Altman was only 5'1" so he didn't need to duck.
(I forgot to mention that Albert Einstein was co-teaching the writer's workshop. Einstein notoriously liked to stick his nose in everyone elses business where it didn't belong.)
The main roads on the University campus were blocked off for the festival and all traffic was rerouted to the roller stating path. All traffic!

I'm not going to bore you with the obvious conclusion to this scenario. I think we all know where this is going...

28 May 2010

...still arm wresting....

I decided to take some pictures while working on this tiny painting.
If you missed my last post, this is a painting request from Greg Bauhof who asked for Kurt Vonnegut and William Shakespeare arm wrestling with Einstein as the referee. And here is where I am so far. As you can see in the second picture, I'm getting close. Everything is in place, I just need to refine it.  I'll darken the background and pull some more light out in the foreground. Mixing in a little gloss medium will help here.

As for the figures, Einstein needs to be fleshed out more, Shakespeare is still looking a little drunk and incomplete, but I think Vonnegut is a good resemblance. I tried to give him that "already defeated and waiting for doomsday" look that he is famous for. However, his wrestling arm is at a weird angle and maybe too short... but I kind of like the awkwardness. I might choose not to fix it. It's not ridiculous and adds a tension... maybe?
It you look closely, you will see that the colors in the second image are warmer than the first. This is because I did a light wash of yellow over the surface of the painting to warm it up. Then I went back in and painted over it.
I'll work over the weekend and post the completed Arm Wrestling painting Monday.

24 May 2010

Preparing for William Shakespeare and Kurt Vonnegut to Arm Wrestle...

Here is a preliminary ink sketch for a painting request from Greg Bauhof. Greg asked for a painting of William Shakespeare and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr arm wrestling... with Einstein as the referee. I'm probably one of the few people on Earth who would respond to this with a simple "sure". After doing this project for more than a year now, I feel like I've been around the unusual request block more than a few times.

I'm approaching this painting as a novelty piece, like dogs playing cards or Teddy Roosevelt Goat Charging up San Juan Hill ... or a Panda Licking on a Light Bulb. I have no problem making novelty pieces (obviously). There's nothing wrong with getting pleasure from something absurd. But as a challenge, I still try to put some kind of beauty into them, add an extra layer.

As you can see, I haven't figured out the background yet. Greg suggested blackness with light coming from a single hanging light source. I may go that way. It would certainly add a baroque sense of drama. That kind of theatrical lighting worked for Caravaggio on more than one occasion. (Not to mention numerous panthers on velvet.)

I also feel like I need to come up with a narrative for this... and I don't buy the arm wrestling in the after life thing. Too easy. There must be a historical context that would make sense here. I'll have to put my "revisionist historian" cap on and investigate.

... and I'll post the painting with the story in the next few days...

23 April 2010

Orin's Dream...

Here is the finished painting of Orin Scandrett's dream. Orin sent me the description of the powerful dream he had on the evening of his first of chemotherapy treatment.

This was a very special painting for me to make. I love the subject matter. It was also a very tricky painting to make because it's all about capturing someone else's experience. (Not to mention it has six animals in it that I have never painted before). Fortunately, I feel Orin and I have a similar attitude and approach toward life and this dream really resonated with me. I let his dream absorb into the pores of my skin and run around in the marrow of my bones for a while. This wasn't hard but when it came to making the painting I had to shake my hands really hard to force it out of my fingers. ...and I'm happy with the result.

The flat gold background here was Beth's idea. It was a last minute thing. I used a gold block printing ink that was left over a project years ago. (And it smelled toxic!) The painting was almost complete when I added this. I rolled it out with a brayer on the wood to make it completely flat and then wiped off with a wet rag the areas that had the animals and repainted the edges. I think this flat gold makes the painting. It acknowledges the spiritual. Like the gold leaf in Byzantine work. (With the Lion, it seems kind of Ethiopian).

Anyway, I'm copying the description of Orin's dream here in case you missed it in the earlier post:

I dreamed I was out in the middle of an open prairie (not like MN prairie but more like Africa…maybe the word would be Savanna.)
Standing in a circle around me were large animals…twice as big as life. In front of me on my right was a Lion, standing next to the lion was a rhinoceros with a white horn, next in the circle was a large bird (ostrich family…Emu?)… on my left next to the Lion was a brown bear, next in the circle a gorilla, next in the circle some kind of baboon like animal. I was surrounded by a complete circle of other animals but I can’t visually recall each of them right now.
In front of me behind the Lion was a beautiful bronze colored sunset arching across the horizon. The sun was not visible. It had already set. The animals were high-lighted and shadowed in browns and bronzes against the rays shining over the horizon.
Standing in the midst of this circle I felt about two feet tall.
Then, the Lion stepped forward and bowed his head. I reached out and touched his head. I will never forget the feeling of that moment. Then the Lion stepped back into the circle, turned around, and walked slowly off into the sunset. Next the rhinoceros stepped forward and bowed his head. I touched him. He stepped back into the circle, turned around and walked off into the sunset. This took place with each animal around the circle ending with the huge brown bear.
When they all had left, I spoke: “Wow all of God’s creatures care for me and are here to help me.” Then, a warm wonderful feeling flowed from my head down to my feet.
I woke.

Thank you for this experience, Orin. ... and Happy 80th Birthday!!! I wouldn't be surprised if you lived for 80 more.

I recommend reading Orin's book Lost Souls and Mad Saints about his years working people with severe mental illnesses and reconciling that with spirituality. It's an intense read. Available here:
Lost Souls and Mad Saints

19 April 2010

Trip Through Gooseberry.

Jael Lang commissioned me to make a painting for her husband John for their anniversary which they celebrated yesterday. (...so it's now safe to post this today). I was happy to oblige. I’ve been friends with John Lang for over 20 years. We grew up together in North Minneapolis (....and for some reason both moved out of that area). I was even the best man at their wedding.

Jael asked for a painting about makng the journey through life with someone you love. She told me a story about a camping trip they took to Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North shore of Lake Superior, shortly before they were married.
They were hiking and decided to wander off of the main path on to what turned out to be an over grown deer trail. This lead to Gooseberry River. They jumped from rock to rock to the middle of the river.There they sat. It was beautiful and peaceful...  and fun.

In this painting I decided to catch them in the action of making their way out to the rock. Here they are helping one another. I wanted to acknowledge how maintaining a good relationship is active rather than passive.
I’ve been married for almost nine years and sometimes it is work. I have to be very conscious of what I do. (Like most people, I can easily turn into a jackass). Anyway, work is good... keeps you happy and healthy...

I have never been to Gooseberry Falls State Park before so I took Jael's suggestion and referenced pictures online. Of course it's beautiful. Much of the Gooseberry River has rocky banks and the water appears to move rapidly and mist and spray.
I intentionally made the water bluer than it appears in the photographs I referenced. In these pictures it's greenish brown. It is probably from silt on the bottom and from reflecting the color of the thick wooded areas around it. But I made the water blue with little yellow sun reflections. This seemed more appropriate to the content.
No one wants a painting about their relationship to be poop brown. Right?

In other news...

I am still working on Orin’s painting  but will finish it this week and will post it on Friday. Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions on the Panda Facebook Page. Upon consulting with him, Orin decided to go with seeing the animals from his point of view rather than seeing the human figure. This makes more since to me too.

Anyway, Thank You John and Jael for your friendship and for asking me to paint for you.

07 April 2010

Preparing for a Dream....

This is a quick ink and watercolor sketch made as a study for a painting commissioned by Orin Scandrett. Orin has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and has been receiving a series of Chemo treatments. He says that his prognosis is good with an 80% chance of remission and 50% chance of a cureOn the night of his first treatment, Orin had a "wonderful and powerful" dream. He asked me to paint it for him.

Here is Orin's dream in his own words:

"I dreamed I was out in the middle of an open prairie (not like MN prairie but more like Africa…maybe the word would be Savanna.)

Standing in a circle around me were large animals…twice as big as life. In front of me on my right was a Lion, standing next to the lion was a rhinoceros with a white horn, next in the circle was a large bird (ostrich family…Emu?)… on my left next to the Lion was a brown bear, next in the circle a gorilla, next in the circle some kind of baboon like animal. I was surrounded by a complete circle of other animals but I can’t visually recall each of them right now.

In front of me behind the Lion was a beautiful bronze colored sunset arching across the horizon. The sun was not visible. It had already set. The animals were high-lighted and shadowed in browns and bronzes against the rays shining over the horizon.

Standing in the midst of this circle I felt about two feet tall.

Then, the Lion stepped forward and bowed his head. I reached out and touched his head. I will never forget the feeling of that moment. Then the Lion stepped back into the circle, turned around, and walked slowly off into the sunset. Next the rhinoceros stepped forward and bowed his head. I touched him. He stepped back into the circle, turned around and walked off into the sunset. This took place with each animal around the circle ending with the huge brown bear.

When they all had left, I spoke: “Wow all of God’s creatures care for me and are here to help me.” Then, a warm wonderful feeling flowed from my head down to my feet."

I feel honored to be trusted with such an important dream.
The little watercolor painting above was made to generate ideas for composition and color. I'm going to run this by Orin and hopefully he will be able to give me some feedback about changes that can be made for the finished product.

Here is what I think I need to do:

  1. Bring the horizon line lower.
  2. Put the animals in the correct order according to his dream.
  3. Work through the colors to get a consist scheme of browns and golds.
  4. Look at reference pictures of the animals to make them more accurate.
  5. ...and look at picture of African prairies.
I also question of whether or not the human figure should be in this painting. Since it was Orin's dream, he probably didn't actually see himself in it. Should this painting be what Orin saw with his eyes rather than from the prospective of someone looking on?

With all of this said, I'm going to consult Orin. The finished product may end up very different from what I have here, and I am completely fine with that.

05 April 2010

Magic Garden... without the Prozac...

This one is a commission from Leon and Steph for their friends Sean and Laura on their wedding. Steph told me that Sean is a guitarist and an "audio geek" and Laura is a horticulturalist who loves gardening. Maybe a "plant-guitar hybrid" she first suggested.
Later Leon had a full plan for me. They wanted a magic garden of music.

My first thought was over-the-top psychedelic color drenched Prozac happy garden. ...but after talking more with Leon, I realized a less drug induced scene would suit the couple better.

Leon specifically asked for music notes. This is tough. It's hard to mix something even kind of realistic with graphic elements. This usually feels awkward... or like advertising. So, I tried to sneak the notes in as if they were physical entities in this garden. I thought of them as being like birds.

Originally, I also put a I put some G-Clef bugs on the red flowers in front. I painted them yellow and black like bees. I thought this was a cute. I showed this to Beth and she couldn't figure out what they were. They were so tiny. I covered them up and decided, once again, that some things just sound like a good idea...

In Other News:
Here is a link to the Haiku Bandit Society blog where someone wrote a haiku inspired by my fiddlehead fern painting. (You have to scroll down to the March 31 entry to read it.) This marks two haikus this year that have been written inspired by my work here. How many people can boast that? ....really... ... ?

Many thanks to Leon and Steph and many years to Laura and Sean!

22 March 2010

Spring is here...kind of...

It's although it is barely above freezing where I live, the snow is almost completely gone. It feels like spring.
This painting is made for Alison in Massachusetts who was kind enough to buy a Panda gift certificate that I donated to a silent auction at my son's school. It's a long travel for a silent auction.
Alison asked for a painting that would remind here that winter will eventually be over. Then she added, "I've also been drawn to fiddlehead ferns lately. Random, I know!".
Not random at all. The fiddlehead is a great symbol for spring. It's new growth, new life. (and you can eat it).
I painted most of the fiddlehead with a Chinese brush. One with long, skinny, wiry bristles. (I'm sure it has a name but... I don't know it). This is one of the brushes I bought in San Francisco at an art supply store in China Town. It was in 2001 and I was on my honeymoon happy and throwing my money around. I didn't use them for a couple of years but now this brush is a favorite. It doesn't seem to wear out. (your not supposed to use the same brush for a decade).
I set up this painting with sumi ink (new) and that is most of the black here. I has a beautiful rich tone. ...however it will rub off of gessoed wood with a wet rag. I'll do a layer of gloss medium on top to stop that from happening... and to make it nice and shiny. I like my work to be relatively indestructible.I'm of the "wood will rot before the pigment goes away" mentality.
Sometimes, I still get into arguments with myself about how much I should define in an object when painting. You would think that after making so many paintings (over 40 on this blog alone) I would have it down to a science... but I'm obviously not a scientist. Every new painting as a challenge. I question how I treat each one. This probably facilitates constant artistic growth.... but from a business standpoint I'm a nightmare.
Anyway... Thank you, Allison! I'll mail the painting once it's dry and water resistant.

In Other News: I've been rebuilding my personal website. Recently I've added many images (more than doubled) and divided them into galleries by subject matter. I've also added some brief texts talking about each gallery. I think this will make the site more enjoyable to look at. I'll keep adding things as I make them.
Soon there will also be a store where you can purchase some of the work on that site with ease. So check it out at :

...and here is a link to some fiddlehead fern recipes... including cream of fiddlehead soup. If you try any of them, leave a comment...

16 February 2010

Beloved...and some cup cakes...

I made this painting last December but have been waiting to post it. Linda, who is a regular reader of this blog, commissioned it as a gift for her friend A's birthday. ...But the birthday wasn't til today ...so I've been sitting on it as not to ruin surprise. It's been living on the corner of my painting table and I have been making small changes here and there over the past 2 month's while working on other things.

Linda gave me some information about A and told me to take it from there. She sounds like a fun and busy person. The thing Linda stressed most here was to involve swing dancing with a round skirt in motion. Linda also gave me the word "beloved" to express her feeling toward her friend. When I pushed her for more... she added cupcakes.

The cupcakes on the shoes was Beth's idea. She pulled that out of nowhere and made a crude drawing of it. I wish I could find that drawing. (I used the acupuncture needle brush for the tiny cupcakes).

I like this painting and am impressed because I don't think it looks like I painted it. The mother of one of Theo's friends came to our house a couple of months ago and saw my painting set up. She asked "Do you paint?", and then saw this painting in the corner and said, "oh, your wife paints". She thought this must have been painted by a woman. What a compliment! "I pulled it off", I thought. I made a decent painting of a skirt and shoes.

Before posting this, I emailed Linda and asked her if there was anything she wanted me to write (or not write) here as I do before posting some one's painting. She is the first person to actually give me something. I usually get "whatever you want". Than I go on about phrenology or Teddy Roosevelt.

Here is what she said:
I think I would say that I didn't know how you would capture such a will-o-the-wisp person in a painting...but you did...the joyousness of it is the key.

Thank You Linda!
...and Happy Birthday A!!!

15 February 2010

...still struggling...

I've painted and repainted my niece's portrait many times now. I can't get it. In a small painting slump... so I'm going to move on and do one more painting and then go back. I think I just need to find a new way to approach this... But I'll get it.
I've been more industrious working on some larger landscape paintings. Landscape is something new for me and I'm very excited about it. These pieces all involve power lines and antennae and the clutter that makes our lifestyles possible. All of this working on principles that feel like harnessed magic. These paintings are ambiguously narrative in nature.
I'll post them on my website (www.johnmegas.com) when I update and revamp it. Soon...

31 January 2010

Pretend with me and ...

You will have to just pretend that I drew something beautiful and interesting and funny above as a preliminary sketch for the next blog painting. This new one is for my teenage niece, Julia, who wanted me to do a painting of her smiling in a blue shirt. I did a few sketches of this but they all turned out bad. Really bad. Too embarrassing to post.
(Take a moment and imagine those, too).

The sketches that I made of her looked like something that a junior high or high school kid would draw in their notebook, desperately grasping at drawing something recognizable rather than thinking of a whole. I was feverish and heavy handed, trying to make a sweet resemblance. Sometimes very sympathetic to whoever I'm painting for. In this case I think I transported myself back to high school.

It's many ways it's odd that I've started to post preliminary sketches, since I have been doing fewer and fewer of these recently. After about 40 paintings here, I've become more comfortable with just starting and working it out on the board. My skills have sharpened. The real reason for making these preliminary posts is to have a chance to talk about a painting before I've started it. While I'm still a little lost. ...and I always ask for comments or suggestions...

I started this painting this morning and am already nearly finished. It's now coming easy for me. (kind of).

I'll post the Julia painting later this week...

20 January 2010

Cleaning An Entire World's Worth of Carpet...

Allen owns and operates his own one man Service Master franchise. He wanted me to portray him cleaning the many, many miles of carpeting he has traveled over the years. He speculates that it is probably equal to the circumference of the Earth. Joan is a talented pianist. All she asked for was a musical reference. Together they are my in laws (Beth's parents) and this is there Christmas present.

I truly turned this one into an an exercise in miniature painting. So much subject matter in such a small space. I maybe should have tried to simplify it but instead I made it more complicated. Joan said I could just put in a few musical note to represent her here but instead I placed Joan on a satellite serenading all of the heavens. It seemed more interesting to me.

This was a difficult painting. The subject matter here is so unusual that I felt every element had to be ridiculously clear. The carpet cleaning wand has to really look like a cleaning wand to put across that he is sucking up dirt from the stratosphere of the Earth... as if it were a carpet. Your mind doesn't just automatically go there and fill in details.

But, the color on this painting presented the most problems for me. I wanted to keep a consistent, limited color scheme but with such tiny piece I found that objects began to blend in with one another. It turned into a matter of really pushing the values and making the images very symbolic and not natural. (If you haven't noticed, the scale of human to Earth size is also slightly off.) The the fact that the entire back is space suggested a very dark background that I eventually lightened up some. (Though this would have been a great candidate for black velvet...).
This was a hard one. But I don't ask for easy, that would make this project dull. And I'm pleased with the result.

Thank You, Allen and Joan!

In other news... The Hellenic Voice interviewed me about the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb yesterday and they will run an article about me and the blog either late January or early February. I'll give more information when I get it...
...in the meantime, I have a line up of paintings so I'd better get crackin'...

08 January 2010

A Preliminary Cleaning Sketch...

This Christmas, instead of shopping, I decided to give some of my family members paintings. I handed them a Panda Licking on a Light Bulb Gift Certificate. I wasn't sure how this would go over... but it seemed get a good reaction after explanation. To my surprise, everyone had an idea for their painting almost immediately.
This one is for my in laws, Allen and Joan Scandrette. Beth's parents.
Allen is a carpet cleaner and owns a Service Master franchise. ... but the entire franchise is them. He does all the cleaning himself and Joan takes care of the business end. Allen likes to tell people that over the past three decades he thinks he has cleaned enough carpet to go around the entire world once.
After thinking about it, I bet he's right. Working five days a week over thirty years. And walking backwards the whole way with that cleaning wand in front of him. (No wonder here's in better shape then I am).

Imagine an entire world covered in carpet and you have to walk the whole way with your back to where you're going. Over oceans, up mountains, down gorges... you get it. All carpeted. Everything you've just passed getting dirty again. You're walking backwards so you see it all happening. You yell, "be careful with that milk shake...take off your shoes...pick up that leaky pen... keep the cat in the bathroom!"....and so on and so on. A kind of blue collar Sisyphus myth... but lucrative.

..anyway, Allen described to me the image of he and his wand cleaning across the entire Earth as it hangs in the heavens. I think this is a great! Joan is a very talented pianist and wants to have music involved in this. Cleaning to her piano? I haven't figured that part out yet...
Above is a preliminary drawing. I don't know how close I will follow it. Feel free to leave a comment here with any idea you may have to help. I'll consider all comments and run them but the Scandrettes.
The finished painting will be posted next week.

By the way, the Gift Certificates are still available. $53. It's a great gift for anyone. Anyone!

07 January 2010

Panda Hugging on a Strawberry.

Happy Anniversary! Today marks one year with the Panda! Even thought he Panda sometimes gets difficult and crabby and often smells wrong, it has been a good year.

It seemed fitting to ask Beth to give me the one year request. She is the genius who insisted on the original Panda Licking on a Light Bulb painting. I talked about it in the first post Why is the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb? one year ago. But there is a part of the story that I didn't include there. She actually threw out another painting idea before Panda Licking on a Light Bulb which was Panda Hugging on a Giant Strawberry. I had forgotten about this (somehow) until she reminded me here. Now this too has been fulfilled (making dreams come true ?)... in the requested style of Calef Brown (... kind of).
One of the most interesting things about Calef Brown's work (beyond the flat stylized shapes, exaggerated proportions and improbable colors) is his unusual use of line. While the objects are almost never outlined, their interior features are often exclusively defined by simple lines. Strangely, those lines are often the same color as the background. This makes this confusing... in a good way. Brown's painting are seemingly simple but incredibly tricky... and funnier than hell.
I finished this painting late last night. I thought I was finished earlier in the day but then I took it out and looked at it, again. To my horror, I saw that I made his arms and legs waaaayyyy too loooooooong. It was a ring-tailed lemur hugging on a giant strawberry. Exaggeration is one thing but animal metamorphosis is another.
I kind of love this goofy painting. It's a great start to a new year.
Thank you everyone for reading and participating in this project over the last year. Tell your friends about the blog. They might like it. The more the merrier. ..and leave comments. ...always good to here from you.

...and Thank You, again, Beth. I love, love, love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

06 January 2010

A Study in Panda Strawberry.

Here is the preliminary sketch I made for Beth's request. Since the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb painting was her idea, I let her pick the subject for the official one year anniversary painting. She chose the subject of Panda Hugging on a Giant Strawberry. This won out over her other idea which was Deviled Egg Lassoing a Horse.(Someone might want to request that one because I have some great ideas(....really)). However, she asked for this to be painted in the style of artist and illustrator Calef Brown who she and Theo saw at the Walker Art Center last weekend. No problem.
I'm working on it right now and will post it tomorrow for the blogs official one year anniversary post. (everything here is official).
This coming year, I'm going to start posting preliminary sketches here and talking about the commissions before I actually start painting. I'm doing this to create an even greater openness about the process and give more insight into the finished products. This will also give readers a chance to comment on the direction I'm going in before I finish each painting. ...and I will consider all comments.
A nice byproduct of this is that I will be posting more often. Two times per commission. This added post will let me stretch out and be more off the cuff.
Anyway, It's been a great year! Be sure to check tomorrow for the finished Panda Hugging a Giant Strawberry painting.
..and while this one is almost finished, feel free to leave any comments in the final hours of my painting process... I will look...