Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Life and Times of Loose Ends

Loose Ends attacking Attorneyman, 2 x 3  inches,  pen and ink, digital color, 1992
Loose Ends for New York Law Journal, 5 x 4 inches, pen and ink, digital color, 1994

Loose Ends,  40 x 36 inches, acrylic paint on linen, 2013

of figments of my imagination that keep re-appearing  in my work. You can see an example of one such figment and his evolution in the above three works.  This character, Looose Ends, was created for and first appeared in Attorneyman, a weekly comic strip I illustrated and wrote for Skadden News and Notes in the early 1990's.  He was a supervillain who created loose ends everywhere he went.

Subsequently, the New York Law Journal gave me an assignment to illustrate an article regarding a  problem law firms were having at the time–Alcohol in the Workplace. The art director gave me my politically correct marching orders, which were that I was not to have any liquor bottles, alcoholic beverage glasses or slumped bodies in my drawing. I thought to myself,  "Why don't you just tie my hands behind my back?" However, I accepted the challenge and got to work.

Loose Ends was my man for the job. He passed all of NYLJ's requirements for the drawing. A lawyer trying to write a brief under the influence would certainly create many loose ends; the waving streamers visually suggest the whirling of a mind inebriated.  To drive the point home, I drew a wilting, curled pencil.

Loose Ends went on to be an advertisement for Quo Vadis, a NYC paper company. The caption was, "If only I'd used a Quo Vadis planner, I wouldn't have so many Loose Ends!"  This ad was noticed by the French blog J ai Rendezvous Avec Ma Vie, which featured  Loose Ends and more of my art in a post.  I don't know exactly what they wrote because I don't read French, but Loose Ends looks the same in French as he does in English.

Today, Loose Ends is all grown up. He is larger and more colorful as a painting, and currently making the rounds at NYC galleries. He still has the streamers but today two birds are tangled in them and flying off with them. Eccentrically dressed, he sports a dragon fly as his tie. His ancient eyes have fallen out of his head into a nest he carries around on his lap for just such emergencies. Indeed, today he shines with the densely layered patina of a highly traveled, well worn old drawing who has had a good life.

I  still care for him, in a nostalgic sort of way, but  Loose Ends is a thing of the past. I don't have any currently, and I hope you don't either.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ear Count

Nightwings, acrylic on linen, 40 x 36 inches

Sketchbook, precursor to Nightwings, 4 x 3 inches

Vincent van Gogh wound up with only one ear.

Even Picasso had bad days when he produced works that were below his usual standard.  It didn't seem to bother him though,  so he ended his career with both ears intact.  If someone offered you a "bad" Picasso, would you turn it down because it wasn't a "good" one? It's still a "Picasso." He knew that.

The fact is that I came close  to being a one-eared artist myself during many fitful painting sessions   but stopped just short, so I still have two.  Mercifully, my artist's snits manifested themselves by my cutting up the "substandard" drawings or paintings that I was working on, rather than amputating  my ear. However, throwing out one's artwork is almost as bad as dispensing with one's ear.

Don't do either-especially throw out your work, even if you are dissatisfied with it. It is important to see the progression of your work, both technically and  hermeneutically. Not only will you learn from your mistakes, but you will be able to develop a stronger point of view. Also, there is a chance that you will be famous one day, and then everybody will want your "bad" paintings.

Another reason is that you can draw on your "sketchy" beginnings and use your seminal ideas to develop richer, more complex work.  For example, the drawing and painting above were produced years apart. The drawing is a sketch from my journal, made 19 years ago. When viewing it last year, it sparked the idea for a painting in my current series of paintings, Wings. The painting (done 19 years after its precursor ) draws heavily on the sketch, including model, background and mood. I added more color, layering, a dog and a bat. 

The most interesting aspect of the young man's pose is the expressive configuration and placement of his hands, which is why I wanted to sketch him in the first place.  I thought it was visually beautiful. Conceptually, though, his hands look dangerous because I think he might  have been giving a gang hand signal.

 I hope it wasn't the signal for, "Let's cut off the artist's ear."