I'm not the Immortal Artist. You are

Immortal Artist is dedicated to exploring all aspects of experimental art and creating new and innovative techniques which other artists can use to strengthen their own work.


The blogs creator, experimental artist Grey Cross pursues and discusses art across a wide spectrum of artistic mediums. They include painting, sculpting, body art, digital art, and photography. With an emphasis on teaching artists to utilize today's social networks to further their own art and reputations.


This blog uses the Living Blog concept, an idea created by Grey Cross

Grey Cross Studios/Immortal Artist Operations

New Orleans

Email: greyacross@aol.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tales of the City Planner

education
[ej-oo-key-shuh n]

The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge,developing the powers of reasoning and judgment.


It will never cease to amaze me how much I learn when I am creating art. No, I don't mean artistic skills. Those come naturally with every single piece I create. What I am talking about is peripheral knowledge. Very much like a writer that has to do research on a given subject before writing his/her novel, I find myself more and more having to do the same.

For example, on "Living on the Edge of Time" sculpture, I spent a good amount of time researching ancient ruined city from the dawn of time. I learned how ancients built their temples, how they related to the landmasses around them and how their environment helped craft the cities in which they lived. I also spent some time researching earthquake faults and how land reacts during after a major earthquake.

In the piece I just finished "The Winter Fortress" I spent a great deal of time looking at rock formations, understanding geology and how rocks and mountains are formed. I also spent a large amount of time researching European castles and fortresses.

When I look around at my work, I realize that with only a few exceptions, I go through this process with each piece of art I create. Its so fundamental to what I do that its become an unconscious part of the creative process. Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for anal perfection. My pieces do not reflect every single aspect of a particular subject. But those subjects form a foundation that allows me to better envision the work in my mind.

As I try very hard to understand the process of how I create and how others create, I found this enlightening because I'd never really considered that aspect of the process before.

It struck home during a conversation about my most recent piece. This piece is best described as a massive inner city sculpture, complete with streets, skyscrapers, etc. Except the piece has a political twist that will become more and more evident as it develops. But the simple fact is, I've had to really educate myself on the intricacies of city planning and engineering in order to get the basics correct. For example, in one corner is a parking lot. It wasn't enough to want to put some white lines on it signifying spots. I wanted to make sure that the traffic flow and yellow arrows were correct and that (in my mind at least) the cars weren't bumping into each other. OK, perhaps this is a bit anal, but its also a lot of fun!


I recently wrote on my Twitter "Small flaws are often hidden within the greater composition. Don't sweat the small things. Detail is good but anal is time consuming".

Its very true, sometimes getting to caught up in the small aspects can stop us in our tracks. But learning about something is not a flaw. With this piece I have so far reacquainted myself with a whole host of trivia that I had taken for granted. Street lines! Who really thinks about street lines??? We learn about the basics of what dotted lines and solid lines mean when we learn to drive, but it becomes an rote skill within us that we never even think about again. But I wanted to make sure I understood the fundamentals again so that I didn't end up creating streets where an engineer would come along 10 years from now look at the finished sculpture and say "oh lord! This is so unrealistic! These cars would all crash into each other!" Now my streets all make sense and that engineer of the future won't scoff at me.

I guess the moral of this story is "Attention to detail is fine. Becoming so anal that it stops you in your tracks is NOT fine." Attention to detail can create the illusion of reality that is so important in some aspects of art. If your painting a jungle scene, don't plop a Canadian Spruce down in the middle of it unless, your doing so with a reason. A purple Banana in a fruit bowl painting may be important to the message or abstraction your trying to impart to the viewer. Sometimes thinking through a creation is important. Even Jackson Pollock had a method to where the splatters were placed.

Happy splattering!
~Grey~

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cathartic Artistry

ca·thar·tic
kəˈTHärdik/
adjective
1.
providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis.


Art can be very cathartic for the artist. Tonight I stand before an 8 foot high canvas, lit brightly but with darkness pooled beyond the lights. The music is gentle and soothing to the spirit while I work slowly one brush stroke at a time. I hurt tonight. My body is reminding me that I am still not in the best of health and I find it hard to grasp the brush at times or keep my arms locked in position as I work. It leaves my emotions feeling a bit rough and scarred as I try to find balance while buffeted by emotions but I find relief in the smell of the paint, the carefully laid out lines of color before me, the free range of my imagination as I envision the steps to complete this creation.

For some moments I consider just setting aside the brush for the night and heading for bed, but I continue. I'm stubborn. I ride the waves of the act of creation, refusing to fall. There is relief in this defiance and I continue deep into the night.

~Grey~


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Subtle Art of Bondage - Artists Using Glue Like Paint

Bondage [bon-dij ]

The state of being bound by or subjected to some external power or control


GLUE IS POWER! 

Because of the nature of my art, I've come to very well versed in various bonding techniques. In fact, my glue work on a particular piece is almost as important and refined as are my painting techniques.

Now I know that it is highly unlikely that anyone reading this will need the information for the same exact reasons I use it, but I am hoping you are at least able to use some bits and pieces for your own work.

While there are many more types of bonding agents than what I have listed here, these are a few of my favorites and why I work with them.


Super Glue


Now despite what others will tell you, Super Glue does NOT work for many things. Its great for small items that just need a dab to keep it in place, but for larger projects its probably the worst of options, plus it gets everywhere regardless of how you try to keep it contained. But saying that, it does serve its purposes. I have found that its good for placing an object that will be bonded with something stronger later. It is still great for jewelry projects and things of that nature. Out of all the super glues on the market, Loctite has given us the best results and has a bottle that tends to be easier to grip, which if you are doing something intricate is very important. I will often use it with another glue that takes longer to dry. Its fast drying time makes it good for holding an item while other glues dry.

Weldbond


Weldbond is by far my glue of choice. It is strong, dries completely clear and works well for filling cracks. Because I work a lot with clay, I find this glue works great for cracking that inevitably comes with air dry clay. I used to get frustrated with the cracking, but now I just let nature take its course and then fill the crack after. I use a paintbrush to do this, smoothing the glue across the surface so that its barely noticeable after it dries. I also use it as a pre-coat, painting it completely over the clay to seal it in place. Because it has a flex seal it will expand a bit with drying. I've also used it to create texture and raised surface areas. Usually I will use it this way along with a hair dryer used after I apply the glue to create a seal so the glue wont ooze. Then it can dry naturally the rest of the way in the form I wanted it to be in. Because I use the large 21 ounce bottle, its sometimes not good for fine work because the nozel is larger than smaller bottles are. In this case I will sometimes move some of it into a smaller bottle that has been saved from older painting projects (rinsed thoroughly of course) and then apply it from there. I've also used it to create glue tints, by placing the glue in a new container and then adding paint to it. This wont last forever though, so don't make a large quantity unless you are using it all. Whats nice about this is that I can create texture in exactly the same color as what I may have just painted.

It is not good for fast projects that need precision or for things that are large like wide cracks because it tends to melt into the crack. If its a deep crack then it may need to be applied multiple times until it fills it totally.

Gorilla Glue


They key to remember with gorilla glue is that its a foamer. When applied it looks similar to a wood glue. But once it begins to dry (about 7 minutes) it expands. The more you apply the larger it becomes. This can be messy and cause a lot of problems if you are expecting it act like regular glue. But, for filling larger areas that need to be totally bonded its invaluable because it expands to fill the whole area and it becomes incredibly hard! One of the other benefits is that if you spill any, or get it on your hands, as long as you clean it up in the first few minutes its easy to remove. Past that though, its there to stay. Besides filling cracks well, it is awesome for creating texture. I've used it for so many textures that I cant list them all, but if you are looking for a unique way to give your art three dimensionality and don't to spend for pricey modeling pastes, this is a possible alternative as long as you are not looking to be real subtle with it. I use it quite often along with a sponge. I put it down on my canvas where I want it and then use a damp sponge to move it around by dabbing at it until I have it where I want it.

Loctite Construction Adhesive


Loctite is some serious glue. Its cement hard and the best use for things that need a huge amount of strength. I've used it for support struts behind heavy frames or very heavy pieces that need maximum strength. Like gorilla glue, its easy to clean up in the first few minutes after applying but it takes longer to dry also. You will want to give this 24 hours at a minimum to bond completely. I use an old dowel to spread it with and then clean the dowel off after use so it can be used again later. Its thick though, so you want to make sure you have something that can spread it properly. There will be no dripping or oozing with it. Where you place it is where it will remain. It is not subtle and cannot be used for precision projects, but it is absolutely the best I've found for permanently bonding two objects together.

EP6000



EP6000 is an industrial strength adhesive. Its equal in bonding strength to Loctite, but it tends to be messier to use. Its advantage over loctite is that it dries clear. This is good for projects where appearance counts. But it can be very stringy when applying and this can cause some problems. I've not found a good way to work with it, but it does have its place from time to time.

Elmers Precision Embellishment Glue


The best thing about this product is shape of the container. Its super easy to work in tight spaces with and it applies cleanly and dries clear. Its strong, which makes it good for small things that need a dab of strength to hold it in place. I find superglue bottles to be a bit difficult to work with at times because they sometimes give out more than you want. Controlling the outflow with this glue is very easy. Keep in mind this is not like normal Elmers glue even though it looks like it. Its much stronger but does take some time to dry also.

Elmers Glue Stick




I know this seems rather childish to have on this list, but I include it because in my opinion any good art studio that wants to be serious about its glues needs to have something as simple as a glue stick around for simple adhesion. Its a necessity and I can't tell you the times where I've looked around at my glues thinking "damn" if I just had a glue stick I could solve this problem without any hassles!  I like the Elmers brand because it glides on purple and dries clear. This way I know I have complete coverage. But with that said, never use it for permanent gluing. Its best when you simply need a tacky surface to hold something in place temporarily.

Acrylic Latex Caulk



This is probably the oddest item on the list because most people don't think about caulking when they think about glue. I use caulking for a wide variety of things. Primarily ts great for creating texture and sealing areas that need something permanent but that has some give to it. Since it basically rubberizes when dry, it allows for flexibility in your project. But be warned it can be very very messy. Finding tools to use to spread it in a way that is to your liking is a challenge in itself. Surprisingly I use plastic tableware for it. I keep a plastic knife, spoon and fork nearby to rake it and smooth it properly. I also use my clay tools and palette knifes also, but every thing has to be cleaned off properly using a dry cloth or paper towel before it dries. On the positive side, once it does dry, it peals off relatively easily from most surfaces.

The problem with caulk is that it comes in a dizzying array of types and in a basic hardware store there can be 40 different kinds. I suggest grabbing up a few different kinds and experimenting with what works best for you. Its relatively cheap, about $5-$10 a tube and lasts quite awhile. I tend towards acrylic based, clear caulk. so I can paint over it after. Keep in mind that some paints will bead up on it. I usually underpaint with a basic black first then overpaint with the colors I want to use. Spray paint works well on it also if your working on a project where you can spray paint and not worry about overspraying.

Mod Podge



I can't even tell you the importance of Mod Podge. It gets a bad rap amongst many professional artists who think that its use is strictly for "crafters". I can tell you they are flat wrong. This is an amazing product. It has the widest variety of uses of anything I've ever come across.

I use it for filling cracks and seams. Undercoating a project to act as a protective layer. Overcoating finished work to give it a high gloss shine. I've used it with paint mixed into it to create a tint. I use it to overcoat projects using sand and rock to keep everything in place on the project. I use it to overcoat clay before the clay dries to minimize cracking. I use it to diluted as a wash. I use it to keep paint on frames from getting chipped.

The company that makes it in recent years has also come out with a whole variety of variations. Pictured above is a high gloss version that comes out looking like glass and a dishwasher safe version for projects that may get wet. For even more protection they also have an outdoor version that protects and seals against the elements.

Now for the one drawback it has, its freaking expensive. A small 8 ounce bottle can run $6-$10 and a gallon in the store runs for about $45 dollars. I can be bought online though for substantially less. Thankfully a little goes a long way. Of course when your working on a canvas that is 8 feet wide like I do, nothing takes a small amount of anything!

I hope this info is helpful, I know its very basic. But when I first started working with glues I knew absolutely nothing and ruined more than a few projects thinking I'd gotten the right glue and finding out that it was absolutely the worst to use.

Happy Bonding,

~Grey~

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Complexities of the Winter Fortress

Complexity [kuh m-plek-si-tee]

The state or quality of being complex; intricacy

Now why would he want to make a list of all the things that went wrong with his art? Well first Its a memory issue. If I put down in words all the complications of a particular piece of art, then it will help me remember the facts later and maybe save myself some headaches. Second, there may just be some small tidbit of information that helps another artist or spurs on a new idea or concept that someone can use. So with that in mind, her are all the problems that have occurred with the Winter Fortress sculpture.

The Winter Fortress has been the most in depth project I've ever  created. This is a hanging sculpture built in the shape of an octagon. It represents a massive mountain fortress buried in ice and snow.



The biggest complication was the frame itself. Laying it out with the proper dimensions was difficult enough, but once all was in place, and the canvas itself was added, there was a tightening of the whole structure which warped the frame so it was no longer perfect on all eight sides. Now my partner kept telling me that he couldn't see a great deal of difference, but as the project developed I felt it was growing worse and needed to be dealt with. Serious thought went into how to fix it because I'd be damned if I was going to scrap the whole thing because of it.

So I decided to add to the frame in three sections by extending out additional 2 foot boards at a sharper angle to compensate. As shown here the board was canted out and then the empty space between the board and original frame was filled with dry foam that was epoxied into the space. The board itself was screwed into the original frame at both ends to keep it tight and adhered to the whole structure.



The board was then reclayed to match the original structure above, thus hiding the change.


The result was a more exact octagon shape. This complex problem took weeks to solve though but taught me a lot about structure. Since it was my first octagon frame I knew there would be complications that can now be compensated in future frames.

Another problem was the weight of the completed piece. I've worked on heavy projects before, but if I wanted to do this to my specifications, the weight of amount of clay it would have taken would have been well over 150 pounds. Coincidentally I purchased a small Dremel tool and wanted to experiment with it. I found that by using dry foam and carving it into the intricate shapes of standing stones with the Dremel, I could reduce the weight in a significant way. The foam was light, easy to work with and so much better to work with than regular styrofoam was. You can see here an uncarved piece of foam next to finished carved and painted pieces.


The risk of dry foam is that it chips easily. So you have to work patiently with it. Once its epoxied to the canvas it is then coated with a sealant to maintain its integrity. A finished rock is actually covered several times. First in the initial sealing, then a base coat of black paint. Then the final colors are painted on and then another coat of gloss sealant goes over that. The final stones are solid but still very light.

With the weight compensated for I could then use clay to create the finer details. Now mind you, this piece is still heavy, weighing around 40 pounds. There is actually about 70 pounds of clay still on it, but once that dries, its less than half its original weight. But 40 is a lot better than 150. I'll keep working on ways to compensate for weight on future pieces. The original frame had support struts added behind it to distribute the weight properly and also to not put undue stress on the canvas itself. The canvas is actually four seperate pieces divided into quarters so that no portion of the canvas would effect any other. The canvas was not only stapled to the frame but epoxied also to keep it tight.

Yet another problem was the depth of the piece. I had planned for the various protrusions to not extend out any further than 12 inches. That included the depth of the frame itself. With only a few minor exceptions I was able to stay to this 12 inch rule. But in a 2 dimensional painting, these are never issues that are confronted. In a sculpture, its also not usually an issue as a sculpture can be as high and wide as the artists conceives. But on a sculpture that is meant to hang on a wall, its a serious consideration to make sure it doesn't stick out too far and become and obstacle to the room its in.

Fragility is also another consideration. I make my pieces to be touched. I want the viewer to reach out and feel the sculpture. But with this piece, there are definitely aspects of it that are more fragile. Some of the smaller standing stones are solid to the canvas, but can be bumped or ripped off with a heavy enough blow to them. In fact I've ripped the tops off two of the standing stones myself while working on it. So I've compensated for this by making sure that not only is ache aspect of the sculpture adhered tightly to the canvas, but additional clay supports around the bases were added and some pieces were locked to others with a variety of glues to make sure that very little on it is freestanding.

Various stress tests are done throughout the creation of the sculpture to make sure that the canvas is holding steady and that every single part does not eventually begin to sag. This can be a serious problem if all of a sudden the whole structure begins to droop. I've done enough of these at this point though that I can usually tell ahead of time whether there is a risk of sagging and compensate during the building. Will the piece still be in tact after 100 years? Only time will tell.

The last problem was the center tower. This was created by taking a circular shaped piece of foam and circling it with pressed clay that was then embossed with a brick pattern. This tower sits at the very center of the support struts so its in the best possible place. Unfortunately when all was said and done though, even after drying, the tower was still very heavy. I knew that once the piece was turned vertical, that this tower would never hold up and would at some point begin to sag. Two techniques were used to fix the problem. First, the canvas itself was epoxied at the center to the support struts. Second the whole tower was surrounded at the lower levels not with clay, which could potentially break, but with grout which once dry would be as solid as rock and support the tower itself. Here is where I wish I'd studied math better when I was young, because I am sure there is some formula I could have used to figure out the ratio of the tower height to the support base length, but I used my eye and past experience and created a very solid base. I dont think that tower will EVER go anyplace now.


You can see how I ran the grout up the tower in places to help with the support. After painting, the final tower was just what I wanted.


The last complication was the frame itself. I felt that the frame seemed out of place somehow just painted black. I wanted it to blend the frame to be part of the composition in a way that I hadn't ever done before. On a squared frame just a single neutral color seems fine, but on an octagon, I felt it needed something more complex.

So using my Dremel again to create rifts in the wood of the frame and then adding gorilla glue in strips and letting it foam and dry, I create a more three dimensional frame that I then painted the same colors as the rock. And this was the final result



The Winter Fortress is finally nearing completion. With 262 hours worth of work so far, I hope in the next 5-10 to be done with it and write its base descriptions and photograph it to be added to my portfolio.

I will never know why I choose such complicated things to create but I think of it like a rubiks cube. Its a puzzle to be solved, the more complicated the riddle, the more enjoyable the solution. I am sure there are many more complications in my future, but I'm having fun!

With Complexity,
Grey

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dancing With the Spirits

spir-it

The principle of conscious life; the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul.



New Orleans is well known for its mysticism, voodoo and arcane nature. It is one the reasons I mesh so well with this place. It sparks my creativity in a way that few other places ever have.

Halloween is not only a time of celebration here, but a time of reverence to the dead, the spirits and the deities. We had the opportunity tonight to attend the Day of the Dead celebration at one of our local voodoo temples.

Mind you this is not some huge event with thousands of people. It is an intimate sharing with a small gathering of folk from every walk of life. I was struck by the variety of people in attendance. I noted in particular one beautiful white haired lady who looked to be around 70 years of age. In any other setting she would stand out as a matriarchal type, well respected, very learned. Here she blended with the various energies and at times seemed both childlike and ancient in her wisdom. Across the room was a tall ebony skinned woman with turban, sparkling jewelry and an air about her that made her seem like she'd stepped into the room from another time and dimension. Her regal demeanor was more goddess like than human. Behind me stood a young boy, perhaps 13 years of age, watching diligently over a stroller with a sleeping baby within it, while their mother danced as part of the ceremony. In front of us stood woman, with a crystal studded skull mask that twinkled brightly in the candlelight of the temple. The atmosphere was sometimes solemn, sometimes lighthearted, mixed with heavy scent of incense and the rhythmic beat of drums and chanters. It was truly a magical moment.

I was very familiar with this place. Many years before I had photographed within it for a series I was working on called "We Are Not Nameless Faces". This was a series of shoots showing gay men in a variety of circumstances, examining issues of spirit and consciousness. Each was a nude shoot because I felt our nudity represented the release of many of societies norms. This particular shoot was called Issues of the Spirit and focused not on religion but spirituality. This was my first opportunity to meet Sallie Ann Glassman, the enigmatic and amazing artist who was the senior high priestess (forgive if I got the title wrong Sallie) of the temple. It would not be the last time we met. She graciously granted me permission to photograph in the sacred space as long as I was respectful of it and Michael, my model of choice was also studying at the time to become a priest for the temple. So the shoot had many layers of spiritual meaning.

So re-entering it now was much like a homecoming for me and I could feel my creativity sparking from the moment I started down the tree lined alleyway that led to the temple. To my joy, Michael, who I'd not seen in several years was in attendance and dancing in the ceremony. While I was not able to give him greeting, it felt nice to know there were kindred spirits nearby that I knew.

I brought my camera with me, as I so often do still. But this was a time where it did not feel right to photograph and it remained in my bag. But much like a symbol of who I was, it felt right that it was by my side. I've included the photos from that particular shoot at the end of this, for those interested. But please keep in mind they are nude shots, so if that offends, please pass them by.

Not surprisingly I suppose, I felt my energy drain after even a short time there. Billy says that the ceremony is supposed to reinvigorate, but I was pushing out a lot spiritual energy into the room and swimming on the various currents of emotion around me. Also (and again not really a surprise), it dawned on me that it was perhaps the longest period of time I'd spent standing since recovering from being so ill earlier in the year. I sometimes forget that my body takes time to catch up with my enthusiasm.

But regardless of feeling drained, my creativity was at a peak and I let it recharge my ability to create and came away with ideas for new works that I must sit down and take notes on before they fade from my mind. I may even create a piece and give it to Sallie Ann in thanks for all she has given me down through the years.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful night. My partner at my side, who is much more versed in voodoo than I will ever be. I could tell that he was getting as many ideas as I was and that it was a good experience for us both. We are blessed to be in a place where we can take in as much as we try to give back out to the universe.

Halloween is not about demons and satanic ritual as some would want us to believe. Its a time for understanding our own spirits and extending them for a time to open our eyes to new possibilities. For artists, this is perhaps one of the most important things we can possibly do. Without opening our spiritual eyes, we are forever blind.

I hope your Halloween was equally blessed.

Grey


WE ARE NOT NAMELESS FACE - ISSUES OF THE SPIRIT