Dog on chair

I’ve been trying to do and post a digital drawing a day for a few days. Naturally, I forgot about the advisability of posting said pix to the blog. So here they come.


Palm pix

Resco Photo Viewer for Palm OS looks somewhat promising, if a bit limited in scope.

I want a mini Photoshop for the Palm, one that I can use to create and draw in as well as look at pics. The most crucial image-editing tool for me would be curves, apart from the imagemarking tools such as brush. The few sketchpad apps I have seen are like thin-featured imitations of MacPaint, very 1985.

Adobe includes Palm as a supported OS for Elements, but I haven’t yet figured out if it’s more than a simple album-sync.

While I enjoy the challenge of working in two-bit graphics (see below), it’s sort of like using a skateboard with steel wheels.

This was drawn on an old-at-the-time Mac SE, using the mouse and looking at Chloe who was atop the warm teevee.

Annabel Lee; The Banjo – grotesque fantasie; and so forth

The eagle eyed Manuel linkied me via email with ye olde Duke U. repository of American sheet music cover pages, covering the years between 1850 and 1920. Each decade is presented in its’ own browsable gallery, although it takes a few clicks to get to the good stuff.

But the good stuff, well, it’s good.

A typographical horror representing the much-maligned banjo. A nightmarish vision of The Boy with the Auburn Hair. The Bloomer’s Complaint, a Very Pathetic Song. The Captain With His Whiskers.

A page from the 1860-70 gallery with many fine woodtype-esque compositions.

I. W. Baird’s [highly colorful] Musical Album, fom the 1870’s gallery – the era of reconstruction. By no coincidence, this collection (both this decade and after) contains many ‘plantation’ tunes, in which dialect is used to express an imputed longing for the antebellum south on the part of persons of color.

I think it’s worth noting that Duke was at the time and remains a seat of Southern privilege.

Dance of the Night Hawks, who may have been on the prowl for Dusky Dinah, her chicken, or her banjo (still).

Honestly, there is simply too much to summarize. I was obligated to post it to MeFi, Manny: thanks a ton, this is really neat.

Ellen Forney TOC

For the past few days, I ran a transcript of a half-hour conversation I had with Ellen Forney about her half of a show at Secluded Alley Works. This is a table of contents to make it easier to read in the categoy-view archive.

Ellen Forney:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

It was fun chat, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I’ll update this page with a link to the Tablet story at some point as well.

Ellen Forney, part 5

M: Now, there are like two other layers to the visual presentation of images of women explicitly – um, intentionally, I suppose, is a better way to put it – as sexualized. One is the image or the object itself as an expression of sensuality, of desire, and of sexuality directly. Which is a little bit different than the education thing or even from the use of an illustrative object, you know what I’m saying? How does that relate to these things? Is that part of what you see as your goal set for these paintings?

[ Man , is that poorly put. What I meant was, “Ellen, are these intended as erotic stimulants?” and also at the same time, “Do these paintings carry any sexualized and stimulating expression of you, as the artist?”]

EF: I didn’t quite follow you.

M: Man, how can I put this. Like theoretically I can imagine a painting that doesn’t have any, like, visually clear illustrative subject matter and [yet] being obviously sexual in nature, because, maybe the color scheme or like the energy of the linework or…

EF: Georgia O’Keefe!

M: … For example. That’s a really good example. I mean, there’s still an illustrative quality there, but yes, exactly. Is that something that you were thinking of as you were working on these? Were you thinking to sort of move beyond the illustrative purpose, the didactic purpose, to inject your sensual view of these women into the canvases – uh – ‘Masonites’ I guess.

EF: Uhhhh. [ doubtfully ] You mean through color?

M: Well, we talked about the energy of this painting,”right from the tube,” for example… I’m just trying to draw you out. You can say “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”

EF: I’m not quite sure. I think that I don’t really have enough control over the medium to really direct that. I think that some of those effects have come through just because of the subject matter and how I interact with the models and who I am and how I work but I … I definitely still …I mean I didn’t mean to start putting it on the paintings. I didn’t like set out to that, for instance…

It’s just that as my confidence was building I was able to interact with the painting in that way. So I guess that’s the direction I was naturally going in, but I’m not setting out to that.

M: Maybe another place where I can talk about that is like in the … directness and confidence, and like, I dunno, your really striking line quality, which is such an important part of your ink work. Just in the way that you apply the ink and use it to form the objects illustratively there’s something in that I recognize, and go “Oh, that’s Ellen Forney.”

And there’s a kind of a – there’s a quality in the way that you apply the ink which is about you as an artist that expresses your sensuality and your sexuality – maybe if it’s something that doesn’t have sexual content, then maybe that’s not there all the time. But, I mean, it’s something that I associate with your work. I would tend to see that if it was a lawnmower, you know?

EF: Well – I wouldn’t accept the sexuality and sensuality but there’s definitely a sensuality to um, organic brushwork, there just is.

M: And so comparing these two – the brushwork of the smaller paintings that you did quickly for the show after you had done the paintings in a form that you had mastered…

EF: They were quicker than these [ large paintings ], anyway.

M: Uh. Of the two, which one do you think comes closer to accomplishing the overall goal of communicating something that’s sexual and sensual? These smaller illustrative pieces or the larger painting?

SAW_forney_Ariel_K-O.JPG EF: These – the paintings – have a lot more of the qualities, the imposing qualities, that we had talked about before. The size. The bright colors. How they stick out from the wall. How, maybe they’re not lifesize, but they’re large. This one [ K-O ], I think actually, because her pose is more compact, it might be about life size.

So these [ drawings ] are a lot more – they’re easier to – well, I guess the answer would be the paintings then.

M: The paintings.

EF: Because part of what I talk about is the power of the gaze, and um, in most pinups, the power is in the gazer, the viewer. The subject, the model, is very coy or, “oops! I’m sexy” or “oops! My skirt flew up!” You know, with rare exceptions. There’re some Bettie Page, maybe, um, pinups, that where she’s definitely the one in control; but I don’t mean it in a dominatrix kind of way.

M: Never mind the whip and the rope.

EF: Yeah! I mean, there’s that but that’s a different kind of power. I mean a more centered power I guess.

M: I think I know what you mean, I mean the reason we grew up knowing – or grew into our hipsterhood or whatever – knowing about the Page stuff is there’s a distinct quality that adheres to her as a model that’s different from other photographs that were done at the same time, whether the more commercially available ones or – actually, I don’t really know! I assume there’s other fetish photography from the time, I just haven’t ever seen any to really compare it!

But there’s sort of this sense in her photographs that people respond to.

EF: Sure, and think of like, the Betty Grable, you know or, the Marylin Monroe…

[Forney mimics the poses of well-known images of each woman as she speaks]

M: You’re doing the poses again! (chuckles)

EF: Yeah, well!

M: But that’s fine!

EF: So what I’m playing with is having the model not be that coy object, but actually taking the responsibility herself, being very self-possessed and gazing out at the viewer, and in that way being the one in charge. So it kind of fluctuates, you know, like I say in the artist’s statement, like, yeah, you’re looking at this object, and that way you’re the one in control, but…

You know somebody came in and looked at my studio, at the paintings I was working on, and he said that he liked this one of Ariel the best because the other ones scared him. Because the other ones he found intimidating.

M: There is a quality in them, like in this one, almost like that ‘oops!’ quality, except not really… And in these ones, they’re all, like, extremely direct. And this is interesting, actually.

All three of these women have a closed-mouth smile, and these two women, the smile is, you know, cockeyed.

EF: Well, I do a lot of crooked smiles. Crooked smiles and uh, one eyebrow up. It’s um…

M: There’s the eyebrow over there…

EF: It’s cocky. I guess that’s an aspect I’m going for – is kind of cocky.

M: Sure.

EF: Which – I mean… I guess I hadn’t applied that word to it before but that really what I’m going for.

M: [slightly ironic tone] Maybe there’s a gender-neutral word that we could use.

EF: Ha!

M: I mean it doesn’t come to mind immediately, but…

EF: No, I think that that’s an aspect that I’m pushing in here. Feminine sexuality and cockiness aren’t mutually exclusive.

M: There’s a quote if I ever heard one.

EF: [ laughs ]

M: [laughs] Lemme check th’ tape… Yeah, I got it. That’s great.

Well, I’ll certainly – I’ll use that. That sorta sums up in a lot of ways, sorta, some of the stuff that we were sorta groping toward in the conversation.

I think I need to look at the art on the other side too, and look at it and think about it. Obviously I don’t have Kris here to talk about it with but um…

EF: Unfortunately. Well, she has an artist’s statement over here, and…

[The rest of the conversation is about deadlines and the like.]

Ellen Forney, part 4

This is part four of five posts that make up the transcript of my conversation with Ellen Forney about her paintings seen at Secluded Alley Works though much of November, 2003. I’m breaking it up to make it easier to read.

M: It’s interesting that you indicated Mary just now when you were saying that you were really tentative. And of course the very strong use of shaping, linear forms doesn’t really come across as tentative. In terms of talking about your avoiding using paint in a modeled, kinda painterly kinda way, I understand what you mean. But it’s still – well, this has a lot of force behind it. I have to go back and look at that piece in Dirty Stories now, too, to think about that.

Now, maybe we already talked about it here. But talk to me about these images what their relationship is to erotica and sexuality in general. I mean, sexuality, and sort of a frank, kind of a welcoming view of sexuality is a really important part of the work of yours that I’ve seen over the past ten years.

How do these relate to that? I mean, these aren’t education pieces, they’re not like – I mean, they’re not porn, you know?

SAW_forney_perspective_a.JPG EF: Well, they’re kind of education pieces in a way. I mean they’re so many different things that come into play. You know, sometimes I think back to when I just graduated from college, and I was hanging around with a bunch of friends of mine, and one of them said, “man, if we could just take all of the energy that we put into criticizing ourselves and our bodies and put it into like a creative use… Like what we could make!”

I think, as an American woman, I have had the same experience as a lot of other American women, and maybe women all over the world, whatever, of having a really hard time with body image. And so part of what I’m doing here is showing that there are a lot of different kinds of beauty. So it’s really important to me – a lot of people have read the title as um, Sexy Paintings of Big Women , and think that I’m like, doing fat chicks.And I’m not. I mean, that’s part of the umbrella that I’m working on. But I’m about all different body types. So that’s one aspect of it.

So in that way, I feel that role models are really important. They were really important to me. I remember feeing like my own body was too, was too big, too chunky.

And I remember watching a friend of mine, who is Italian, who by American standards would be fat, and she was going out for the evening in a very tight outfit that she looked fabulous in! And I remember just realizing that she knew that she was sexy, she acted and moved as if she was sexy, that’s where so much of sexy comes from, is that confidence, is that knowledge, is that self-possession.

And so that was a big lesson to me. That I didn’t have to come from it didn’t come from outside, it came from believing – and how do you get the belief in yourself? And one of those ways is to have good role models! And so that’s why I was saying, well, in a way they’re kind of educational. Like I want somebody who’s built like Tamara, Like Ariel, like K—-. Who – they don’t have models’ bodies. But, yeah, they’re really sexy and they’re really right out there, to look at and say, you know, “Wow!”

Maybe – “She’s sexy – maybe I’m sexy!”

(end part four)

Ellen Forney, part 3

This is part three of five posts that make up the transcript of my conversation with Ellen Forney about her paintings seen at Secluded Alley Works though much of November, 2003. I’m breaking it up to make it easier to read.

M: Now, just now as you were talking about the process of setting up the poses, you first demonstrated one pose that you decided you didn’t wanna use for one of the paintings and now you echoed her – Ariel ‘s pose. Now, talking with cartoonists about their process, a lot of times, cartoonists work by themselves, and so there’s almost a puppetry aspect to cartooning where a lot of times cartoonists will sort of take on the pose that they are drawing to sort of think about the anatomy. Was that something that you did as you were working on these paintings?

EF: Take on the pose?

M: Well, you just echoed the pose here –

SAW_forney_perspective_b.JPG EF: Yeah. Well, actually, one of the things that’s been important for me in this series is to really work from these model’s bodies., because I use my own self as a model a lot. A lot! All the time, because I am my own most accessible model. I use my own face for facial expressions – I have a hard time drawing out of my head so I wind up using myself a lot. So that limits my repertoire. It limits my knowledge of how the body is put together.

So, I really try not to. That’s one of the reasons I hold on to the photographs. I want to go back to that model, not to myself.

M: Looking back at the project as far as it’s gotten, are you going to keep working in painting as a primary medium? Is it a good direction for you? Was this a successful experiment for you?

EF: Primary medium? I mean, I’m going to keep on with this series. Actually, I already have a few lined up. Some sketches done that’s ready to be transferred – and I have a few more models lined up for the next show. I intend to keep going on this series until I get tired of it.

M: You gonna keep the same format? They’re all roughly the same size and shape, right?

EF: Yeah, yeah. Well, I’ve really been happy with this size, this structure. With each one I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I’ve changed a lot. Like this is the last one that I did and look at the modeling, and look at the hair – I mean, I’ve actually done it in a really graphic way over there but …

M: I was noticing the hair, actually – the comparison between these two versions of it. I’m pointing at Tamara with Pink Glitter [the drawing] and Tamara the painting. And Tamara the painting has al the predominant colors that are used within the painting itself – the blue of her outfit, and the red and the pink and stuff as well as the browns and blondes of her hair. But in the ink drawing, it’s very graphic with light shining down on the top of the hair and black under the flip of it. But, yeah I noticed that happening.

And then, you used modeling here in – I have to say the name so I know what the hell I’m talking about later – K-O – she’s wearing a black ‘Slayer’ tee shirt that looks like it’s faded from a lot of wear.

EF: Exactly. And that was what made me do that shading! Again, it was like, “ Fuck ! Now I have to learn how to paint!” It was like, you know, I did this whole, this whole shirt flat but it was supposed to be – supposed to look like it was – it had been a black shirt and had been washed so many times that it was really thin.

And so it had to drape in a certain way, it had to be thin, and so it’s like, “Goddammit, you know, I have to model.” It’s something that I that I – I’m really accustomed to showing volume through line.

M: Right. You’re still doing this here [in the painting], but I see that you have – it looks to me like – like you did maybe an underpainting? And then you did, let’s see… I guess you did the flesh and then you did the final line on top of that. That’s what it looks like. Is that correct?

EF: Well, from, um, from my third painting – for my third, fourth and fifth painting – I do underpainting, I’ve done underpainting. For this one [ Ariel ] I did the entire canvas pink. You can see little bits of pink paint peeking out, you know, pink in different places.

M: Is any of that pink that you initially sort of brought into the painting as a part of the final tone? It doesn’t really look like it to me.

EF: Enhh – I dunno. Probably the same pink as the lips and the nipples maybe? You can see this one spot that I forgot to fill in.

M: Oh I see, right here [a spot in the inner surface of the open-toed sandal’s sole, between toes].

EF: This one, I filled in [ Tamara ]– it was purple, and you can still see some of the purple peeking through…

And on K—-‘s [ K-O ] I painted it all blue. K-O. It was all blue, and you can see a little bit of blue peeking through in different places. So, the whole thing was blue. Rather than painting it red and then bringing the blue in, it was all blue and then I just worked the paint, the brightness in, rather than the other way around.

And I put the paint in thicker than I have anywhere else. It’s practically right out of the tube [indicating a bright red negative space on K-O].

M: [chuckles] There’s something kind of, um, sexual about that actually.

EF: Absolutely! It’s very sensual! And again, it’s really powerful! It’s – it’s bold! And I’m feeling a lot more confident in my painting, and I think that it shows. But I was really tentative to start. I mean, I have a long way to go, of course, I’ve just started.

But the kind of a learning curve in the beginning is really exhilarating.

(end part three)

Ellen Forney, part 2

This is part two of five posts that make up the transcript of my conversation with Ellen Forney about her paintings seen at Secluded Alley Works though much of November, 2003. I’m breaking it up to make it easier to read.

SAW_forney_Mary.JPG MW: Now, this painting of Mary – the woman on the couch – is familiar to me. Has that been used locally previously?

EF: Well, it was on the postcard.

M: Okay [dubiously]. That may have where I’ve seen it.

EF: It was the first one that I did – Let’s see – I did it in 2002, and it’s shown in the Girly Fun show? And a show at Vital 5.

M: Maybe that’s where I’ve seen it, actually. But it wasn’t used like for publication or illustration or anything? No?

EF: Well, actually, that’s not true. I’ve done several different versions of this. I did an ink drawing that showed up in um… do you know Dirty Stories ?

M: Yeah, absolutely! That’s where it was familiar to me from. I reviewed it. That’s a great – it’s a really interesting anthology.

EF: It’s called Mary – it’s a four page story.

M: Yes, that’s where I knew it from. Great! Oh! I’ve got context now, that’s excellent! The other thing – I think I remember thinking this when I saw it in the book – you know, not – I didn’t really go anywhere with it – is that as a painting, this is Manet’s Olympia , right? I mean, it’s similar, it’s not the same thing; but she’s got her legs crossed, you’re presenting her, you know, frontally, you know, gazing out at the viewer, which is a major part of theme you’ve talked about in what you’re doing…

The flatness of color – one of the things you talked about on that particular one is one of the things we learn about in art school with regard to that particular painting, right? Is that something that was consciously in your mind when you were thinking about this painting?

EF: No. I mean, it’s a classic pose. So, I suppose, but I didn’t go to art school and I’ve never taken art history, so I don’t even know the painting that you’re talking about.

M: I bet you do, actually. I’ll follow up with you about it.

EF: I mean I don’t know what it is offhand.

M: Well, uh – what is it, someone once said “talking about painting is like dancing about architecture,” right?

EF: Right.

M: But uh it’s a painting that Manet showed in the 1880’s in Paris. And uh, he’s associated with this particular kind of French painting that at the time was shocking for it’s flat use of cooler – to us, it’s very modeled and everything, but in the painting is a picture of a very beautiful woman, not a young person, but you know, thirty or so, and she’s wearing mules, and she’s buck naked, and she’s hot.

[It was 1860’s, actually.]

And she’s looking kind of like this, regally, and in control of the situation and everything, out at the viewer. And uh behind her there is a black woman who’s holding a plate of fruit – I believe it’s oranges but I could be wrong – and the subtext to it… Oh! and he titles it Olympia , you know, the Olympian ideal, the remote, unapproachable, kind of erotic untouchable. Except that the woman he painted is this incredibly famous prostitute! Like, the most expensive woman of the trade of the time and day. So there was this huge scandal and it made him into a famous painter. And since then that particular painting and the pose and stuff has sort of like echoed through both American and French culture.

So I thought that it might have been a direct reference to it.

[I was quite wrong about the oranges, and may have been thinking of another painting – I was also certainly thinking about the oranges that do appear in Ariel ]

EF: Well, I suppose that that may be that this is one of it’s – if that’s the root, then this is one of the branches.

M: But it’s not something that you specifically – that’s fine. And it’s not, you know, that important where it comes from.

EF: Well, no, I mean, I would hardly claim to be doing – I mean I’m doing pinups, I’m spinning something that – you know I have a book of pinups, and I look through that for inspiration on how artists use color… I mean, I’m not creating something entirely completely new, I know that.

M: Well, what’s ‘new’ exactly, I mean…

EF: But no I wasn’t looking directly at that.

M: Now, but, all the women in the images are real individuals.

EF: Yes.

M: You began each of them with at least a series of sessions where you were sketching them from life.

EF: Right.

M: Did you use photo reference when you were doing that?

EF: Um, when we were choosing the poses, just as a way to like – well, I’ll step back a second for choosing the pose, which I’ve gone into a little bit in my artist’s statement.

One of the things that I wanted to do is that I wanted the model to feel sexy. What I was trying to have come across – I mean, I chose people who were pretty confident in their sexuality, and I wanted that to show. I didn’t want to impose my own idea of what was sexy on them – I wanted them to choose and then I would meet them in the middle. Not that I would think that any thing they did that they thought was sexy wouldn’t be – you know I’m trying to think of some –

One of my models, you know, chose this real kind of standoffish pose? And I said, “No, that’s not what I’m going for, let’s try something else.” So it’s not that they completely choose, I definitely direct them. But it’s them deciding how it is, where they want to go.

So we start out with that and we take a series of photos, like, let’s say, with Ariel. We tried, like, just moving her a little different, here and here and let’s give that a little more negative space just for composition…

I use pictures to figure out what the pose is, then I do the whole sketch from life. And maybe I’ll hold onto the pictures just for later, when I’m actually painting it, and it’s like, ah, what was that detail? Or how does her hair shine? You know, things that don’t necessarily come through in the sketch… But I really don’t like working from photographs. I much prefer working from life, and that’s been one of the things that’s been really, really great about this series is having the chance to work from life, from other people’s bodies, not just mine in the mirror.

(end part two)

Ellen Forney, part 1

Here’s part one of my conversation with Ellen Forney about her current show at Secluded Alley Works. The show runs through the end of November, and is shared with another artist that I did not get a chance to talk to, Kristine Evans aka Kinoko. This conversation formed the basis of an article in Tablet 81, not posted at the time that I prepped this for the blog.

SAW_forney_ellen_Ariel_b.JPG M: We’re with Ellen Forney at Secluded Alley works about the pictures she has hung up. The name of the show is Titties and Boo-Boos . I’ll let Ellen tell us which – uh –

EF: I’m Titties. I’m the titty half. My series is called Big Paintings of Sexy Women .

M: And they are.

EF: And they are. And so they’re done on masonite, three feet by four feet – hence ‘big’ – and doing this – making this kind of structure is new to me. Like I said, this is really carpentry for me. But that they stand out from the wall – that they’re so big, they stand out from the wall, they’re really sturdy, it all comes together in this message that I’m trying to send, that they’re sexy, but in a very positive, assertive, confident kind of way.

M: Which reflects themes that have been going on in your work for the while time I’ve been aware of it anyway.

EF: Yes, exactly. It definitely is.

M: How is working with paint for a gallery presentation different than working with ink for reproduction?

EF: Working for – it’s been really different for me to work not for reproduction, for one. Even these pieces the glitter ones where there’s ink that I’m much more familiar with – the process is much more intense because I’m used to being able to touch up the linework with white-out – I use white acrylic. And I didn’t want to do that for these. Cause then it’s an illustration, then it’s for reproduction.

M: Ellen’s talking about the small pen-and-ink drawings [brush actually] on the wall with glitter applied to them right now.

EF: So even that was a little different.

So how is it working with color?

The difference is huge. For me it was really like learning another language. You know, I know how to speak a language, and so I know the basics of language, but there were so many differences, the scale was so different. Even when I color – for my comics I color in photoshop and I use really flat colors, so it’s sort of like a silkscreen – that’s my rule of thumb in my comics actually, if it’s an effect than can exist in a silkscreen, I’ll use it and if it can’t that’s an effect I will not use. Which is actually how I originally though I was gonna start out this series.

Like, Mary – this one on the wall – is the first one that I did and all of the line work or most of the line work is really sharp and the colors are really flat and it came out really flat – like it came out really lifeless to me.

M: This is the one with the woman on the white couch with a black background, she has black and white streaked hair.

EF: And after hating it – she used to be on pillows, and it was all really flat colored, I took gesso, and just gessoed up the whole background and I just realized that that’s what I needed to do, is mush it up. I went over a lot of the linework and I just loosened it up. I thought I was gonna have to work a lot more loosely than I was accustomed to working – really small and really tight – and I was really upset.

I mean I really thought it was going to be a series of large paintings as if they were silkscreens but large. And it seems the most important lessons in my career trajectory have been through difficulty, like working through something I see as a problem. Like, ‘Fuck! Now I have to learn to use paint!’

M: ‘Dammit!’

EF: Like, this is the second one that I did. I started playing with

M: This one’s called Janet . It’s the woman in platform shoes wearing an orange jumpsuit.

EF: Orange jumpsuit with a safety-yellow background.

M: And a giant wrench.

EF:A giant wrench. So I was playing with underpainting on this. That’s where you paint a color underneath. I guess there was blue – that’s this blue – and then I painted orange on top of it.

M: It’s kind of a steel blue with a darker navy outline around the form between the orange and the yellow background.

EF: And then I thought that I was gonna do the whole background flat, like this, like that background is really flat on Mary. And it just seemed like it needed to be pushed back to the corners, and so I did.

M: And then you’ve got that going on in all the other ones – this glow to the center of it.

EF: That was the first halo that I did. And then I really liked it, so I kept up with that for these.

(end part one)