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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Art Activists Don't have to be Dicks

[ak-tuh-viz-uh m] 

the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.

Recently the street artist known as Sabo spoke at the annual CPAC conference last year. I vaguely remembered something about him and some posters that he'd illegally put up a year or two back. Frankly, I'd missed this fellow on my "art radar".

Since he stands for almost everything that I stand against, its funny that I'd never become more acquainted with his work till now.

After some research I realized that most don't seem take him seriously and that his inflated ego seemed to deflate any message he puts out there. But probably to the surprise of most who know me, I don't condemn him. In fact he represents much of what I say about the artist also being the activist. I cannot in good conscious condemn someone for doing exactly what I do, even if I abhor the message he presents in his art.

I've honestly had to do some soul searching over this fellow though because in many ways he's taken what it means to be an art activist and twisted it into something so angry that it no longer resembles what we call art.

I recently wrote an article regarding veiling the activist message in abstract beauty. (click here for the original article). It is clear to me that in order to be an artist and an advocate that you can't just throw your message out their angrily and hope that anyone except other really angry people will grasp it.

Sabo says that leftists have hijacked the art world and that its his job to stand against this and proclaim a conservative voice back to the world in his art. I really have no problem with this. But Sabo, as artist to artist I say to you, your message is lost in your madness. I know you are working to stop liberal artists, but I suggest that you also learn from those liberal artists.

If your art turns the stomach of the viewer, whether its a liberal or a conservative message, then there is little chance that anyone will learn anything from it or change their minds by what you create. In the end the reason that liberal artists are successful is because the art they create is appealing. It speaks to the heart and the soul, rather than to the anger and hatred of the human race.

Yes liberal artists make the same mistake. In fact some of them I count as friends even if I don't condone the way they put their message out there. But I appeal to you Sabo to set the anger aside and let the true message within you flow. If you claim to be an artist then you have a trust and responsibility to the world to not just sling shit out at your opponents, but to truly think about how the world will respond to what you do. If all you want to do is appeal to the anger of the right, then I guess I wish you well on your journey. But you can be so much more.

Art Activists DON'T have to be dicks. We can still get our message out there and yes even create the shock value that our message presents if we think seriously about what we are creating. Hell, we are artists, we have the whole world at our fingertips to craft our messages. Nothing is beyond us if we put our creativity to the task.

Art can change the world and it can change the minds of the viewer. This has been proven over and over again throughout history. But it has also been proven that anger just creates more anger and madness more madness. It serves little purpose if we forget the art and only focus on the activism. Then we are just another voice on the wind instead of a guiding star in the heavens.

We are often the lone angel trying to steer the world. But if the light stays on us, there is little we cannot do.

I wish you all the best,

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What the Hell Do I Have to Share? Artists Encouraging Artists

[men-tawr, -ter]

1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am the grumpiest, hermit artist around. I prefer the solitude of my studio and total immersion in the creative process. So why in the hell would I constantly preach on the importance of helping and mentoring other artists?

Sometimes artists have blinders on. Because we work in a solitary environment we forget to take time to help others.

Many of us are over protective of our techniques. We don't want to share anything that might make us a buck or give us an edge over other artists.

We don't want to waste our time when we could be creating. Let others learn as they may.

And most important I think we feel that we have nothing to share with someone else. Why would anyone want to listen to what we say? Our confidence is shot.

I know I may be oversimplifying each artists situation, but can you honestly say that absolutely none of this applies to you?

Believe me when I say I see both sides of the situation. I'd be much happier pushing the rest of the world aside and just being left to create. But then what kind of a person would I be? I would merely be making money off my art without giving anything back. Perhaps this works for you. It does not work for me.

I have a partner who is a very talented artist and feels exactly the opposite to my own views. So I do see the other side of it and I understand where he and others are coming from. And more power to those who wish to stay hidden.

But for those of you who may wish to give something back of your talents and skills, here are some simple guidelines I use to do so. Keep in mind these guidelines apply mostly to relationships online and through social networks. There are three levels to mentoring:
  • Informal Social Mentoring
  • Formal Social Mentoring
  • In Studio Mentoring
I am only going to discuss "informal mentoring" this time. Formal mentoring is more in keeping with what a tutor does for a student, while "in studio" mentoring is another whole universe that involves direct one-on-one interaction in a studio. I'll take up the other two types in later blog posts.

By "Informal" I mean a very basic relationship with another artist, where you share occasional ideas and swap moral support. We form these kinds of relationships all the time with others. But typically the closer relationships are left for family members and close friends.

We often hit the "like" or "retweet" button to symbolize our admiration for another artists work, but how often do you stop for a moment and send that artist a message telling them how much you liked what they did?

Yes an argument can be made that there just isn't enough time in the day to do this with all the artists we might come across. But wouldn't it be cool if we each just did it once a day? How much more encouraging would that make someones day?

This is where mentoring begins, with encouragement. Its quite simple really.

Where it goes from there is strictly up to you. For me, its about taking a little longer to look at an artists work. Its remembering the steps I went through as a new artist and watching for the same mistakes and missteps that I made when starting out and gently discussing better ways to be a professional artist. Its about seriously critiquing a piece of art to honestly help the person, without being a total dick and saying "that sucks". Diplomacy and mentoring go hand in hand. Even the worst artists can someday be the best.

I think a lot of people are under the impression that when you say "support a fellow artist" that it means providing them with funds or buying their work. Wow that would be nice, then we wouldn't have to deal with anyone else except fellow artists. But we all know that is not reality. "Support" means being honest about an artists works, ideas and chances of success. But doing so with care to not destroy their dreams either.

So the Informal process of mentoring is not terribly hard. I guess that's why I encourage more artists to do so. Each of us deserves more than to be immortalized with a "like" button. We crave substance. We want to know why someone liked us.

So those are the basics and what I consider the most important of the three types of mentoring. I find that beginning an informal relationship with another artist, often leads to Formal Mentoring and in some rare occasions has brought the artist directly to the studio. But it has to begin somewhere. If we don't take the steps to establish that relationship, then what we know and what we have learned, dies with us. And that's a bloody shame. You owe your own skills more than that.

I say in closing that this article is not aimed at new artists starting out. I am speaking to seasoned artists who have learned the pros and cons of their business. It is you who have the ability to mold and shape the artists of the future.

Art should always outlive the Artist, but so should their life lessons and skills.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Taking the Long View - Artists Looking Beyond the Now


1. infinite time; duration without beginning or end.
2. the truths or realities of life and thought that are regarded as timeless or eternal.

This blog post is dedicated to Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, who epitomize what it means to take a Long View in everything they do. Your work will shine far after you are gone. 

Its interesting how the mind wanders when in the act of creation. You would think that an artist would be single minded to the task, always focused. But I find the opposite applies (at least for me).

When I am truly in "The Zone", I go into an autopilot mode. I've done all my thinking about what I am working on prior to beginning the nights work. I know what and how I need to accomplish the task and suddenly my mind is released to think about other things and wander the universe of my mind.

There were two CD's of stories of the mind that was done in the early 90's. Unfortunately the name of them escapes me after so many years. But one was of a man who would sit each day on cliff overlooking the ocean in Maine and his mind would leave his body and he would traverse the universe and go far away from his physical form. That's the nearest description I've ever heard to the almost out of body experience that truly immersing yourself in your art sometimes brings.

Sitting on my desk is a book called The Art of the Long View. I've read it many times and I consider it one of the essential parts of my studio, as important as my paints and supplies.

I think that especially in art, taking a long view of the world is crucial. What I mean by this is that sometimes we can become very myopic as artists, focusing on the brush stroke and the canvas but losing the perspective and meaning of being a creator.

I often say that "art should outlive the artist". I believe this because I believe in taking a "long view" of my work. When I create something, I want it to far outlast who I am. I want it to speak to someone 500 years from now and not just the moment I create it.

When I was first starting out as an artist, I took a very short view of each thing I created. I got frustrated easily when no one would hit the damned "like button" on facebook or say anything about what I'd made. Then I started taking the Long View and with it, I would like to think my work changed. It went from being simply a painting to being a creation. If you don't think there is a difference between these two things, then your not taking a Long View yet.

I'm not saying that an artist has to be an activist. That is a different thing. What I am saying is that if we don't take the time realize that what we do at this moment may and can impact someone years from now, then we are short sighted to the power our art contains. For example, I have a painting in my bathroom (yes my bathroom) of an Indian done in water colors. You can't see his face. He is facing away in the painting. Everytime I see him, I think of many things. I wonder what he's looking at. I wonder what the artist was thinking when she painted him. I think about my mother, who owned the painting before passing it on to me.

This painting has no political statement within it. But I think it is a simple fact that this painting has outlasted its creator who passed many years ago (yes I researched her just to find out more). It still speaks to those who view it, long after its creator has passed.

I ask you then. Does your art speak to the future? Do you take a Long View of your work?

Live in the moment to be sure. That is crucial as it freezes time around us. But live in the future also. Take the Long View and consider what your work says to those who come after you. Whether you are an artist, a writer, a musician or any other creative talent. Is your work fleeting? Or does it move on through time and make you eternal even if your body is not?


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Of Inspiration and Frustration - The Artists Fight With Highs and Lows

I am often asked where I get my inspiration from. I think for most artists its a hard question to answer. I know for me, I see inspiration in everything. Sometimes this includes some pretty surprising places. But it all adds up to ideas, and cosmic beauty that the artist see’s and then tries to mold into something he can show others.I understand that it is a question asked in order for the viewer to understand my work better and I try to answer it gracefully and honestly.

The question I never get asked though is what destroys my inspiration and stops it from flowing. No one wants to hear about what frustrates an artist, what removes his/her ability to create. But truly it is more common that we face frustrations daily that cause us to mentally and spiritually black out for a time. I think its important to know not only what inspires an artist but what takes away from that inspiration, because there lies between the two, that amazing place where artist can cross the barriers of time and space and touch the universe for a moment in their work.

I can say truly that I use my art as my drug of preference. Depression and mania has always been a part of my makeup. My mother was a nut of the highest degree, my father not too far off that mark either. I loved and cared about them both though and tried to learn something about avoiding the pitfalls that I saw them suffer from.

I've made a study for many years of watching others who suffer from depression and other clinically psychological problems and I've seen for sure that creativity helps overcome many ailments of the mind. If I just force myself into my creative mode (no matter how hard it might be to do so), within an hour or so I can usually work myself back to a level balance and rediscover that inspiration needed to create good art. For years I've been able to keep myself fine tuned this way.

So again, I say its important to know an artists story of both inspiration and loss in order to really grasp their work in a deeper way. I’m not suggesting that you go around asking every artist you meet “why they are frustrated and lacking inspiration”. That will get you answers you probably would rather not know! But if you want to understand the deeper meaning behind a truly great artist, take the time to learn their history and you may find some pretty amazing stories behind their creations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Elements of Touch - An Artists Senses

Touch has always been the most important of senses for me. For as long as I can remember, the ability to reach out and touch a thing, was what made it real for me.

When I was young, my mother constantly scolded me in the stores for having to run my hands across every single thing I came in contact with. In a grocery store the feel of a bag of beans, or the cool sensation of fresh meat through a plastic wrapper was total amazement to me.

Later as I grew (and learned what I should and SHOULDN'T touch), I realized that this was an essential element of who I was.

I can’t wear watches, I rarely where bracelets of any kind, and gloves are the ultimate atrocity. Anything that impedes my hands from both touching and creating is anathema to me.

As an adult, my first foray into my creativity was to write books. I loved the flow of words and I loved the emotional reactions from readers. But without realizing it at the time, there was little to the sensation of touch involved in the art of writing. It satisfied the creative part of me, but still there was something missing (as well as the fact that writing barely put food on the table most of the time).

Later I began the serious pursuit of becoming a professional photographer. Again the creativity was satisfied, and I found, that part of my need to touch was more satisfied than in writing. I could touch some of the things that I photographed and to me that made them deeper and richer. In turn, my work as a photographer often focused on the dimensionality of a subject, the grain, the texture, the interplay of light and color and shadow. For me, they were all the things that were essential items to focus on. And I admit that when I viewed other photographers work, there was and is always part of me that thinks “geeze, they missed the most dynamic part of that subject”.

But as happy as photography made me, there was still something missing.

Then there came a day when I got tired of being told that photographers were simply photoshoppers and not truly artists and that photography had died with the dark room as a true art form, I finally lost my temper. Now it was personal. Now it wasn't just about satisfying the creative passion within me, but it was about proving I was a real artist, and like all other things in life, I went rather overboard with it.

But to my surprise I found something I’d never found in any other thing I’d pursued. It was love at first swoosh of the brush. I realized one day that I could be the happiest person in the world left alone in my studio with my supplies. Till then, while I was happy creating, I’d never felt quite this fire and passion that I was finding as an artist. I literally felt like a blind man that could suddenly see. And much to my delight, at the same time in this beginning journey, I found my life partner Billy and found a kindred soul! I was no longer alone in the pursuit of my art, but found another whom I could bother endlessly with tales of what I learned in the studio tonight stories and who actually understood when I walked past a trash can and my eyes got wide thinking about how a used board, or a bit of sparkly paper could be used to create something new.

Yet even then, it still hadn't dawned on me what was satisfying me about being an artist. It was a slow revelation as my work developed that everything I was doing had a commonality of touch. Subconsciously I was doing exactly what I’d always done. I wasn't just painting a picture to hang on a wall and be admired. What I was doing was creating something to be TOUCHED. It needed to be something that the viewer could walk up to and feel the texture of.

Before I even stumbled on this new reality, I had already been doing it in each and every piece I created. If the piece was too one dimensional, it frustrated the hell out of me. In the case of one canvas, it hung unloved in my living room for two months before I pulled it back into the studio and added dimension to it.
But it wasn't really dimension I was seeking; it was an element of touch. It was an element that made you want to reach out and get feel the energy flowing through it and the ridges and whorls. Before I even really understood the basics of painting, I was already exploring mediums to create texture. I've used grout, and silicon, and a variety of texture products. In one case I even used sheets of Kleenex (not the kind with the aloe, just plain old Kleenex).

So in the end my art (with very few exceptions) is meant to be felt up. I want people to reach out and add their energy to the energy already flowing through the elements of the piece.

The next time you’re in a store, don’t hesitate to feel those dried beans, or touch a rime of frost on the ice-cream case. No matter where you are (if your allowed), reach out and touch and see what new dimensions it opens for you. You may be surprised. 

Paint Splatters - Grasping Jackson Pollock

[ab-strak-shuh n] 

A work of art, especially a nonrepresentational one, stressing formal relationships.

Many view Jackson Pollock as one of the genius artists of the 20th century. Others view him as a that dude that splattered paint around and called it art. I once heard a father at an art museum say to his young son. “You made better art when you spilled those finger paints”.

Sadly for a long time I counted myself amongst those who just didn’t get it, even though I am an artist myself. Yet, even as I didn’t grasp Pollock, at the same time I found myself having a fascination with splatters of paint. An inadvertent droplet of acrylic on the ground opened a whole new vista to my imagination. The way it was shaped, the curve of its tail where the gravity laid it out. Why would I enjoy this? What was I getting for it? And then suddenly I grasped something crucial about Pollock and this form of art.

Simply put. It’s not in the splatter of paint that the art is found. It is so much more complex than that. It is about chaos, and it is about uniformity. For me, I often start a piece with total chaos. The random splatters spilling across the canvas are merely a starting point for developing something much more complex. How does one line of paint interact with another? How does it form a whole? Layer upon layer it caresses the canvas until suddenly, almost like magic, there is art. It is the artists’ imagination and perspective which create art from the madness which is life. In a sense we do this every day by ordering our lives into meaningful sense that others might not have the ability to grasp. But we understand it and it works for our pattern of life.

So the next time you see a Jackson Pollock, or the work of any artist who “splatters paint”, take a moment to look at a greater perspective of the piece. Look at the way the light plays on it. Look at how the colors play together and merge. See if something else speaks to you. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stealth Art - Creating Beautiful Art With a Message

Some artists consider themselves to be activists also. They create art that is often angry and full of loathing. It hurts the eyes and the heart in its harshness and in that harshness it gets its message past our biases and occasionally makes an impact on someones life. I have undying respect for these artists.

There is no doubt that I am both artists and activist. I believe that some art is created to each us something in a way that words cannot always do. But since I began as an artist, I started creating art in a distinctly different way from most activists.

I call this "stealth art". I've seen the term before, but I've not seen it applied in quite the same way I use it. Basically Stealth Art is the ability to create a piece of art which is beautiful and engaging, but which holds a deeper message often masked by that beauty.

I often talk about the theory of abstraction versus purpose. The same rule of thumb applies here. Engage them with abstraction, beauty, eloquence, but shock them by the revelation that behind the beauty lies more sinister"purpose". And sometimes that purpose can be ripe with multiple meanings.

In my studio is the completed "Mark of the Beast" sculpture (seen below)

During this past Mardi Gras season, there have been a lot of casual visitors to the studio who just see the place from the road and want to come closer. The 8 foot canvas on one side the room always catches their attention. The reactions are much the same. First there is awe by its shear size. They see the abstraction first. The colors and layout remind some of a circuit board found in a computer. Then they look closer and they realize "woah, there is a whole city in front of them". They sometimes take a step backwards. You can tell by their body language that something just clicked into place for them. They want to touch it. They follow the streets with their eyes and look at the wide variety of buildings and structures. And they shake their heads in amazement. The abstraction has them in its grasp, but for most, that's where it ends. They move on to the next sculpture, asking polite questions about how things were made and whether I show my work in a gallery. But most totally miss that their is another message staring them in the face. They miss the giant cross in the center, black and menacing. They miss the buildings at the core which are dark with the exception of a few tiny twinkles of light coming from a few windows.

At first I would let it pass. It was easier to avoid and let them just think it was a cool abstract piece of art. But others, you can tell will stop for a moment in confusion. Its subtle and its fleeting, but something else caught their attention. Its those folk I pay attention to the most. I casually mention the cross and they turn back and gaze it further. I try to explain to them that the cross represents extremism. When they seem receptive to that message, I go on to explain the whole story of what the piece represents and the concept came about. For those of you not familiar with it, I wont detail it now, but if you'd like to know the full story, check out the piece and its narrative here sometime (THE MARK OF THE BEAST)

Its then, and only then that the giant cross and the name of the piece merge together and snap into perspective for them. Most walk away, decidedly concerned. A slight frown on their face. Others shake their heads and thank me and ask if they can see more of my work online. A few even asked me to send them links regarding the historic data behind the theme.

The point is, they were caught by the abstraction and for most that was all it will ever be. But for a few, the purpose slammed home and made an impact on them. Stealth Art.

Mark of the Beast is subtle. Its easy to miss the message without some kind of information to explain what the artist intended. They make up their own stories and that is fine. Art is about making stories. But for those few, I hope it changes them in some subtle way.

Another piece that often gets attention is called "A Hell of Their Own Making". This is a monster piece, stretching 6 feet across and 6 feet high. It is 36 feet in surface area and I've had it described back to me as if the person viewing it could walk straight into hell through it.

The wax work flames and distant volcanoes catch the eye and hold it. The ghoulish faces surrounding it are like a haunted house.  The figure in the center seems inexplicable. Most think its just some Gothic horror painting. They smile politely while at the same time feeling vaguely disturbed deep down inside. Their is a message here. Its more direct than Mark of the Beast. It climbs out and taps you on the shoulder but most just ignore it. But this one is harder to ignore. There are things within it that make a person just have to ask about. Why is there a man in one corner without a head? Why are their skeletons on crosses? What is this?

Then I explain, simply and gently so they do not run off in horror, that the faces staring out number 12 and represent the twelve apostles who were with Jesus at the last supper. For some, this is enough to clue them into the bleeding reclining form in the center. The stiffened corpse who they suddenly realize come complete with a penis stiffened also in death. They blood is coming from hands and feet and drips slowly down the sculpture. I often leave the narrative at that point, especially if the viewer seems particularly disturbed. A few ask quietly "But whats it mean?" And I remind them of the title of the peace and how we all have the ability to create a hell of our own making, even twelve men and a wise prophet. They usually walk away at that point. I'd love to know what they are thinking and whether they ever thought about it again, or more pointedly decided to stay far away from the heretical artist who would subvert what so many believe. Again...Stealth Art.

I could give many more examples. but I think these two serve to make my point for me.

Sometimes beauty can serve a greater purpose and message. Angry art that is immediately shocking can turn a person away far before they ever learn anything from it. I prefer to lure them in with a bit of honey before I spike their art experience with Tabasco sauce.

You can view "A Hell of Their Own Making" and many others at the following link. I'd love your opinions on this, so feel free to tell me I'm full of crap. We'll get on famously!