06 December 2011

Byzantine Jesus; Not the Grinning Blond Beau-Hunk.

This painting was made for Mark Scandrette. Mark's request to me was simple, one word, "Jesus". Not surprising since Mark is an author and speaker who focuses on spirituality and social justice.

Being Greek Orthodox, my approach to this was obvious. Byzantine. In the Eastern Orthodox Church there are very specific traditions in portraying holy images that developed in the Byzantine World and still practiced by iconographers today. I don't think there is another form of Christianity in which visual art as important as the Orthodox. (Well, Coptics... but... same thing really.) 

Catholics seem to like Renaissance realism with a large dose of drama. Christ's face filled with excruciating passion in theatrical lighting.

Many protestant groups seem to be more comfortable with a blond cartyoonish-friendly-grinning-beau-hunk-next-door version of Jesus. A kind of Santa Claus-like figure.

The Orthodox portray Christ as a meditative figure. The images are very stylized to suggest a realm that is not physical. In many ways this is very similar to how 20th century expressionist painters created emotional content in art.

I am not a trained iconographer but I do understand the basics of the visual language used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. So, I did my best. This painting humbly emulates the style. Flattened perspectives, articulated clothing, illuminated face. In one hand Christ holds the bible, with the other he is giving a blessing.

Anyway, Thank you Mark!

Working on a new painting for the Panda right now... and it involves another bear... but no light bulb...


28 November 2011

Eli is here...

Here is the completed painting of Linda Sue Anderson's dog, Eli, who recently passed away.

You would think that making this painting would be simple, but it wasn't. The image above represents my 3rd attempt at this painting. I was going to post the other two incomplete paintings, but to be quite honest... I'm too embarrassed. They were not good. At all.

Linda asked me to paint Eli at the back door, waiting for her to come home. I did a small ink drawing which I posted here months ago and it turned out well. It was charming and simple. Unfortunatley, when I moved forward to make the full painting something went wrong. I wanted to add too many details and it became grotesquely literal. I felt that I had to make a specific room and an obvious door. Since I'm working in such a small scale, the dog had to be tiny. It's miniture face gave no room to convey emotion. The original painting accidently became an alert dog standing in front of a door in someones kitchen. (For whatever reason I imaged the backdoor to be in the kitchen).  Eli looked like a guard dog, not an loving pet waiting for the arrival his owner.I also tried to use "kitchen colors" for the room which were just distracting and nausiating in this context.

A week ago, I came back to this deciding to use only the picture of Eli that Linda had sent me (though I made him look younger. That's always a compiment, even to dogs.). It was just his face. I painted it with an ambiguous background so there would be no distractions. I then added a very thin white coating of  acylic and matte medium over the top to make the image softer and to make it feel more like a memory. The blue wash on the left suggests the door or a passage to somewhere else.

I hope you like this Linda! Thank You!


18 August 2011

A Random Email to the Panda.

Here is my favorite email to come to the Panda so far. I have no explaination for this!

Dear Customer Service

Am Rev.David Pxxxx and i will like to place an order regarding Bulbs and Lamps from your company,so i will like you to quote me on the types and prices for the ones you have available in stock so that i can give you the quantities i will like to order.
And again,i will like to know the types of Credit Cards you accept as a form of payment.
Yours Faithfully

Rev.David Pxxxx

In other news... I've been on a bit of a hiatus working on other projects BUT am finally finishing Linda Sue's painting and just started the next one for Mark Scandrette... So, check back soon!

24 May 2011

Waiting at the door...

Rough preliminary ink drawing

Our friend Linda Sue Anderson has requested another painting. This one is in memory of her well loved dog, Eli, who suddenly became ill a few weeks ago and needed to be put to sleep. Linda asked for a painting of Eli waiting for her at the back door when she gets home.

Linda Sue, I feel your pain.A couple of years ago I had the heart breaking experience of having our family cat put to sleep.

Jimmy was a huge, black Maine Coon that we got from a no kill shelter for my son Theo who was 5years old at the time.
Originally from Ohio, Jimmy was found in the yard of a state supreme court judge (we did some research). After that, the big Maine Coon was moved from one shelter to another crossing several states over the two years of his short life. When we got him in Minnesota he had the name Jimmy but, according to his info, he previously went by "Jail Bird". The ID photo that came with his paper work showed this giant cat behind the bars of a tiny metal cage.
After getting him, my family made a big deal that Jimmy had finally found a permanent home. We all loved him, especially Theo.  He was friendly and liked to be pet and brushed. He liked water and would sometimes jump in the tub when someone was taking a bath.
However, after about 3 months, Jimmy suddenly stopped eating and drinking. We brought him to a vet who was, unfortunately, not very helpful. I force fed him 3 times a day, like they told me to, but after a week he just got skinnier and weaker. His heart beat was hard and fast. We had to have him put to sleep. I went in with him to provide comfort and cried my eyes out. My wife, Beth, stayed with Theo trying to occupy him. Even though we all knew what was going on, it was devastating when I came out with an empty cat carrier. I think we were all hoping for some kind of miracle.

Anyway, I've got a rough preliminary drawing above. I'm going to do my best to make this a nice tribute to a loved pet.

03 May 2011

Red Dragon And The Phoenix Fly Off To Meet Victory Or Destruction!

Here is the finished painting for Oliver! The heroic Red Dragon and his Phoenix side-kick are on their way to right some kind of wrong or,tear up some village or... maybe a little of both.

This painting was fun to make but coming up with a composition that worked was tricky. The problem with using the same format for all paintings (as I always do here) is that it limits possibilities. In this case having two figures, one long and winding and the other with it's wings spread, is not a good match for a long thin surface. But, Panda Licking on a Light Bulb is all about this kind of challenge. I placed the Phoenix further in the distance and made the dragon the focal point and it works.

But the question is, where are these creatures flying off to? Let's turn this into a choose your own adventure.

a) They are rushing to save a beautiful Chinese Princess from horrid maniacal creatures.
b) They are rushing off to capture a beautiful Chinese Princess for horrid maniacal reasons.
c) Taco Bell

You Decide.

Thank you Laura and Oliver!

15 April 2011

A Rough Red Dragon and Sketchy Phoenix

"Chinese" Dragon Sketch
Laura Dyer asked me to make painting for her son Oliver. After much consultation, Oliver decided he wanted a "Red Chinese dragon with gold pointy scales with a long tail and a phoenix flying above the dragon." Laura added that "Asian influences in style are welcome."

To start, I did a few very quick drawings with sumi ink on paper to get a feel for this. The dragon is fun to make. I have a strong sense of what it should be. The long, winding, snake-like Chinese dragons are physically ambiguous and expressive. I particularly love the forlorn eyes that usually have. I looked at several Chinese Dragon ink drawings and pieced together a few my own.

Phoenix Spitting Fire
The Phoenix is less obvious to me. I know it needs to be a bird rising from the ashes of a burned kingdom with flames shooting from it. BUT I think the drawings I made are a little too sparrow-like. For the painting I'll have to go more bad-ass. I think a Phoenix is supposed to be more like an eagle (not like a bird you throw pieces of scone to at a sidewalk cafe. Right?) However, the Chinese Phoenix looks more like a chicken.
Most importantly, I haven't yet figured out a composition for this painting. I've just worked on the two figures separately. Even though Oliver, like many young boys, may not be very concerned about composition, he'll know if it's off. It's a gut thing, just makes you feel weird when it's not right.

Rough Dragon, not very defined or graceful, but the lines ar.e working.

I'll dive in and make the painting this coming week. 
Laura and Oliver, feel free to send me any comments you have. Don't worry, I cannot be offended. I've heard it all.

Check back... I'll post the final painting very soon!

03 February 2011

Hula Dancer Performing for Dogs!

Here is the final painting for Heidi. "A painting of a traditional hula dancer dancing for a group of dogs". I think I got all the elements here. And I think it turned out lovely.

As you can see I've made some changes. I changed the dancer's pose to create a better sense of motion. I also fixed her proportions.
Initially, her arms were too long and shoulders to low and her coconut bikini landed in an awkward place. I find that people will be fairly forgiving with unusual proportions on figures... as long as it doesn't involve boobs. If you mess those up, everyone becomes Sigmund Freud. 

So, What's the story behind this painting? I don't know.
A dancer in training practicing at an upscale Hawaiian dog park? Could be.
A Hula Dancer who added throwing raw steaks into the audience as a way to promote her show? Less likely, but why not?
I guess it's up to you!

Thank you, Heidi! Dropping it in the mail today!

01 February 2011

Starting the Hula

So, I started the painting last night and it's coming along fast!

I feel like this one is painting itself. It's turning out to be half tourist painting, half dogs-playing-cards novelty.
Appropriate, as far as I'm concerned. I do think the tall thin format is working here. It actually adds a little pretty to the goofy.
The colors here all suggest themselves, it's a tried and true scheme. 
But I do think I need to reference some dog photos. They are still a little awkward.

I'll be done and posting the final by the end of the week...

31 January 2011

Before the Dogs Hula...

This is a preliminary sketch of a painting for Heidi, who won a Panda Gift Certificate at the Bridge for Youth fundraiser last fall. The Bridge is a youth shelter in South Minneapolis and Panda Licking on a Light Bulb has contributed to their silent auction for the past couple of years. (Here is a link to last year's winner...)

Heidi's request was just a single sentence. "I'd like a painting of a traditional hula dancer dancing for a group of dogs."
I can do that. But I'm not sure exactly why she wants this painting. I assume it is meant to be just plain funny and I'm going that way with it... but could it be a social commentary? Right? And why did I automatically assume she wanted a female hula dancer. There are certainly Big Hunky Polynesian Dude Hula Dancers as well.

Interesting thoughts... but I think this is on the right track. If I'm off, please tell me, Heidi!

27 January 2011

The Deviled Egg Has Successfully Lassoed the Horse!

Here is my final painting for Deviled Egg Lassoing a Horse. This one was tricky in deciding how realistic I should go here. I'm making a painting so it should be a full painting not just a cartoon. BUT, for a painting it is a slightly unusual subject matter. You have to really be  illustrative and clear as to what is happening. No one is going to just say, "Oh, yeah, deviled egg and horse".
I must admit, I like Beth's quick line drawing better than my final product. In many ways it makes more sense for something this goofy to exist in that form. However, I was obligated to make a painting here. So why not take the subject seriously. It is set it in a typical romanticized Western background. I wanted the painting to seem earnest.
I did put a goofy smile on the horse's mouth to add the "they are pals just goofing around" narrative that Beth had requested.

But here's an alternate, more action filled narrative...

The Deviled Egg was hired on to capture the runaway horses of a wealthy Texas Oil Baron.  The Oil Baron took a big chance on hiring a Deviled Egg to do this important job, but he liked the cut of the egg's jib. In this scenario, we would see the Egg really sweating to prove his worth. He would realize he was representing his entire race. Can he do it???

... but instead they are just having a fine time in the sun. Nothing wrong with that!
So it is what it must be. Deviled Egg. Horse. Lasso.

My next painting request is a hula dancer... dancing with dogs. I'll post the drawing within the week...

07 January 2011

Beth's Deviled Egg Drawing

Beth wasn't too excited about my preliminary sketch for her painting request, Deviled Egg Lassoing a Horse, so, she took matters into her own hands and did her own drawing. That's my Beth!
Beth' s Drawing
I have to admit that it is much better than mine. However, the horse does look a little like a fox with a mane.

It turns out she wanted the horse and the egg to be friends. I initially thought the Deviled Egg Cowboy was earnestly trying to wrangle a wild runaway horse. ...but this makes more sense....(?)

I honestly do love the way Beth draws.  I sometimes ask her to do drawings for my other blog, The Id Detangler, and they are always great.
About a year and a half ago, Beth had some ideas about a painting I was making for repeat Panda participant Leon Mott. She thought I should add hands holding lighters in the air (like a monster ballad was playing) in the foreground. For some reason I disagreed. Beth thought she should make her own version of the painting. I gave her a piece of wood, just like I use, and handed over my paints. Beth drew it quickly and confidently and then painted for about 20 minutes and stopped. The break hasn't ended yet. I think she realized painting is harder than it looks. (But she told me painting is boring. I do kind of agree...) 

Anyway, I will be taking Beth's drawing strongly into consideration while I make this painting... We'll see what happens!

06 January 2011

Devilled Egg Lassos a Horse!!!

As is tradition here, I asked Beth to make a request for the Panda Licking on a Light Bulb's two year birthday. Last year she gave me Panda Hugging on a Strawberry, but it was a difficult decision for her. She had a hard time chosing between that and Deviled Egg Lassoing a Horse. So this year the chose was obvious. The Deviled Egg wins!!!

A life-like rendering of Deviled Egg Lassoing Horse
You may ask yourself, "What is the story behind this?". The answer is simple, no story. It is what it is. Just love it for what it is, Deviled Egg Lassoing Horse, and don't ask many questions!
Above is a preliminary drawing. I think with this one, the simpler the better. ...but it should be an action shot to show off the Deviled Egg's wrangling skills.

Stay tuned for the finished painting...

04 January 2011

The Panda Comes Out of Hibernation!

Original Panda Painting
If you haven't noticed, this blog has been sleeping for the past two months.  Why??? I decided I needed a break to work on some other projects and rethink what I'm doing here. Believe it or not, this is a very time consuming project... (and it's certainly not making me wealthy). But I love doing it! So, I've decided to turn the crank on the Paint-on-Demand machine again and see what comes down the conveyor belt to me.

You may ask, "WTF has John been doing with his time away???" My response would be,  "Don't use that kind of language with me, I've got some other projects!" I've been making some new large paintings for my Signals series. Been writing the monthly exhibition reviews for mplsart.com  (the best visual arts calendar in Minneapolis, where I live). I've also (inexplicably) started a second blog where I interpret the dreams of readers. Really. It's called the Id Detangler.
(I just checked it's stats, and it seems that the Id Detangler has become very popular in Germany this month. I don't have a clue why.)
Detail from Signals painting I'm currently working on
I will be slowly changing the look of Panda Licking on a Light Bulb and updating some features over the next few weeks. It is going to get some special love and attention from me... 

Under-used Panda logo designed by Nick Kouzes
Later this week, I will be to post my two year anniversary painting. This will, again, be painted from a request by my lovely wife, Beth. Last year she chose Panda Hugging on a Strawberry. And of course, the first year her request was Panda Licking on a Light Bulb! (Hence the name of the blog). After that, I have a couple of other requests which have been patiently waiting. ... and I will tackle some tiny paintings which I have promised as gifts...
Panda Hugging on a Strawberry
But, as I said, I'll be putting in more time here over the next few weeks, so this would be a good time to send me the request you've had buried in the back of your head. Dig it out and send it. Paintings are still only $70 each (a fraction of what I usually sell my work for). And I'll paint anything. Anything! I haven't turned down a request yet!