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At the request of several of my artistic colleagues, I've decided to post my working notes for the summer body painting series here as we proceed through the series. With that in mind, I'll update the page each time I add new notes to it. Please feel free to comment or place questions at the bottom of the page.
For those who have not either participated or seen photos of previous sessions, I'll give you a bit of background.
When a body painter works, their focus is traditionally only on the painting in front of them. Some painters create abstract body art, others create elaborate creatures, or designs upon the human form.
For me the process is a lot more complex. The painting of the body is only one step in a long process.
I can break down that process into four stages.
Preparations include a whole host of things. First is the idea or concept for the session. This is where I decide whether to make a single concept or idea for the session, or a concept connected to all the other sessions I'll do through the summer. Is the session a single idea? Or is it connected to the other sessions by an overarching concept?
As I am considering ideas, I am beginning a search for models that may fit that concept or other concepts on the drawing board. This involves putting the word out there through various social media that I am looking for models. Potential models goes through a pretty extensive vetting process. I am not looking for just a pretty face or body. I am looking for personality, I am looking for professionalism, I am looking for a particular intimate relationship with the model (See Tantric Portraiture).
Once the model comes for their initial interview, I make a determination of whether they are suited to what I am creating and they are given a concise explanation of the whole process and their involvement in it.
Once the model is chosen, the detail work for the original idea begins. What is involved in it? What supplies are needed? Are additional props needed? Do those props need to be built? What accessory pieces are needed? All this must be laid out ahead of time to ensure that as little as possible is missed later on.
Lastly, is making determinations on whether I need a support crew or not. An admin is almost always needed for simple things like moving lights and helping to keep the model calm and relaxed and hydrated. Consider that the model may be painted from head to toe and cannot do something simple like take a drink. The admin has to hold it up to their lips so they can use a straw. There may be other support crew also. I may ask other artists to observe. I may ask a second photographer to take technical photos of the process.
Before the body painting ever even begins, there may be hours or days worth of planning involved which includes all of the above and more.
2) The Painting
Finally we get to the actual body painting. This usually takes 2-3 hours depending on the complexity of the design. The model is asked to use the restroom first, as once the real work begins its difficult to break the momentum. Supplies are ready to go, lighting is in place. Lighting has two stages. We'll flood the studio with daybrite light to get the cleanest whitest light possible for the painting. We'll change this off later for atmospheric lighting for stage 3.
There will be music playing to keep everything upbeat and the ideas prepared in stage 1 will begin to take place as the body is painted.
Short breaks are timed into the process so that the model doesn't get tired. They are encouraged to stretch muscles carefully so that the paint doesn't come off, and to walk a little. The worst thing a model can do is to stand locked in one position for too long because the blood rushes to their head and they can pass out. This isn't a myth. I've had it happen before in front of a crowd.
All these things are going on while the artist (me) is trying to focus on the art. Like a good band conductor, the pace is set by the artist.
3) The Photography
Now we enter the photography shoot. The model is painted, the lighting has been changed, the paints have been moved out of the way and we are ready to pose the model and extensively photograph them. Props are brought out at this time to be used with the model. This part of the process is very much like creating a still life image. Objects are displayed around the model to accentuate the paint. The model is now posed in dozens of different ways while photos are taken in varying types of light and different directions until I am satisfied I've captured the best angles. A typical photography shoot usually involves 500-1,000 photos sometimes a lot more.
There may be stops and starts while I take time to look at the images and make sure I am getting what I want from them.
Once the shoot is complete, the models participation in the process is finished. The admin can hose them down and get them cleaned up while and the set can be torn down and materials put away.
If we are efficient, the whole process of the shoot should take about 90 minutes.
4) The Digital Studio
So here is where everything comes together. This is where the final art is actually created. Up to this point everything that's been done has been to get me into the digital studio with the images.
Now every image is gone over and every angle is considered. From a thousand photos I may only choose ten images that will be made into the final art.
Now I can't explain the digital process easily, but here are a couple articles that talk about the process a bit more specifically:
Merging Still Life with Digital Art
Its Not Just Digital Art
This is the most time consuming part of the process. I want the final art to be as perfect as I can, and when possible I want it to tell a story that revolves around the chosen concept.
Ending but Never Ending
You would think the process stops there. What else is there? You've painted, you've photographed and you've labored to turn that into great art. But it doesn't stop there.
Periodically I return to the portfolio and go back through the photographs. My eye picks out new details and looks at each photo with a fresh perspective. A model who might have done a photo shoot with me ten years ago, may find themselves in a new piece of art. As my own artistic skills improve, those skills will reveal new potential in the photos taken. It truly is an unending process where I can always find new inspiration.
So there you have the basics for how I do a body painting.
We are now at the beginning of the process. I am currently in the second week of planning for the summer series. So here we go!
Planning Notes 07-09-19
I've hit the ground running even at this early stage. In the past two weeks I've had 8 interviews with potential models. I've also had an additional 3 no shows. This is a constant problem and one that I take very serious. If you waste my time, you do not get a second chance to interview.
Out of the present group of interviews I've chosen and confirmed two models for the series.
Jarrett and Matthew will be the first models to be painted. At this early stage its important to know whether the models chosen can be adapted to the style that I work with. These are a couple of images based on their test shots. These are done to see if anything particular stands out and gives me the opportunity to understand the shapes and contours of their bodies better.
I can't stress how important these test images are to the overall process. There are always things that will come up while in this stage. For example in the case of Jarrett, I'd not taken into consideration how the paint might react to his dreadlocks. In the case of Matthew, decisions must be made whether to paint over the tattoo work or incorporate it into the theme.
It took a lot of consideration to narrow down to the theme for the series. It wasn't from lack of ideas, but too many ideas. The theme has to encompass the whole series of work though. So for a theme to be sound and viable, it must have the flexibility to create multiples pieces of art under on theme.
So the final theme for this series will be:
"The Abstraction of Humanity"
The theme will focus on turning the various bodies into works of abstract art. Its a simple theme, but there are some very specific concepts within it that I would like to explore. More on this later as the individual concepts for each piece are brought together.
Since all of these will take place in the outside art space, I've already begun preparation of the area. I've restrung the overhead lights. Organized the outlet points so that I can light any part of the area that I need to light. I've placed blinders up in two areas of the fencing where it was possible to see through into the area. Now there is complete privacy to the space.
There are a number of crucial items I need. Large flat piece of styrofoam have to be present in order to create the set for several of concepts. I also need canvas drop cloths.
Its pretty obvious that I am going to need at least a couple of interns to help me. I'll be putting up ads for volunteer staff this week to assist. Usually other artists get the most from the process.
As of today, there is now a weather alert for a possible tropical storm. This may delay and push back the first body painting scheduled for July 21st. We'll have to monitor the weather for each shoot as we always have unexpected problems in the summer months.
So this is where the planning stands as of today. I'll add more notes and working photos as we go along.
As it sometimes happens, the weather has placed everything on hold through at least the 15th. With the imminent threat of massive flooding throughout the city, I've been forced to put everything on hold a few days. We'll see what the beginning of the week brings. More later.
Well we recovered from the storm and can now move on with the project. I've moved the first painting back one week to July 28th. I've asked David Storm to participate as an associate artist for this first painting.
In the next few days I will begin construction of what I am calling a 3 dimensional canvas. I will use actual canvas for this. It will be 8 feet high, 8 feet long at the back and 4 feet long on the sides. The ground will also have a canvas base. Essentially the model will be within a 3D canvas.
As I said before, the theme for this series is abstraction. With that in mind the model will look somewhat like an abstract painting, but he will be immersed within the canvas and the abstraction will take place around him and below him also. I will be using a white fabric also that will be around the model and painted on also. The final result I hope will be total immersion of the body into the painting.
Well I've had to make a hard decision on the first body painting. I've decided to build the set in the indoor studio instead of outside. The weather has rained pretty much strait for the past 10 days without any let up. The forecast shows the same pattern through the next ten days also. So rather than risk the weather, I'll scale the 3D canvas back by a few feet and build it inside. Its not really a big problem and I may still do part of the photography for the model outside if the weather holds. But this way everything is dry during the actual painting.
In other news a local company will be sending in a film crew doing a documentary on creativity. They will be in the studio for 2-3 days and (if we can arrange it) will film the first body painting session. This is another reason for reconsidering doing the session outside.
I will begin to build the 3D canvas tomorrow so its ready for Sunday.
Today begins the reset of the inside studio. In order to accommodate the reset I've had to strip the studio down of all non-essential materials. Today will mainly focus on hanging the 3D canvas and resetting the lights. The film crew will be here in the afternoon to observe and document the changes. I'll post updated photos here as the day goes along.
Photo #1 is how the studio looks at the moment. Everything to the right has to be removed.
Photo #2 shows the upper frame built to support the 3D canvas. The dimensions are 6" across the back and 4.5" on both sides, with the front open. The canvas will be attached to the frame, falling straight down and anchored at the bottom to form a semi-taunt canvas structure that can be lit from above.
Photo #3 & #4 shows the beginning of the canvas assembly.
Photo #5 shows the canvas with all three sides
Photo #6 shows the lighting bank aimed towards the canvas
Photo #7 & #8 show the final finished 3D Canvas enclosure with a test object in it to give it scale and showing the floor canvas in place.
The final space is 8 feet wide by 4..5 feet deep to form a complete 3 dimensional space where the model will be painted and photographed.
Now the next several days will about assembling everything I need for the Sunday night session. This will include special lights, paints, props and misc accessories.
Now that the setting has been built, I've switched my mind over to the theme and the overall art of the upcoming session.
Now this takes a little explanation. With a complicated piece of art, I use something called REM Planning. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It is a phase of sleep where the sleeper has very vivid dreams. During this time I begin examining my art in a subconscious mode. I've found this endlessly helpful to really gaining insight into my art.
I begin the process by allowing my mind to go into what I call a "flyby" just before i go to sleep. I envision the piece of art and I move around it, looking at it from every angle in my head. There are usually a lot of missing details because the art is still just an idea. But by doing so I am allowing my subconscious to take over once I fall fully to sleep. In the sleep mode I am retaining some amount of control over the subject matter of my dreams. It may be all muddled and confusing, as dreams often are, but at its core, there is a part of me that is composing the art while sleeping.
There are five stages that occur when we sleep. REM sleep is only one of them. Our bodies go through the five phases in 90-110 minutes before repeating the phases again. The crucial part of REM Planning is training the body to wake up after the first 5 phases have passed. I've found from experience that once the body goes through the phases again, any insight gained in the first cycle is often lost as our minds will then focus on other things and dream more randomly.
So I've trained my body to wake up several times throughout the night every few hours. The waking moment is the hardest part of the process. It is easy to fill the mind upon waking with a lot of other things. If I am to gain any insight, I must upon waking focus back on the piece of art. I must begin my "flyby" again. But this time the flyby often reveals details I did not see the first time. The subconscious has done its job. Its brought the details into sharper focus and gives me direction as to how I am supposed to proceed with the art. After a few minutes of examination, I will grab my tablet and take some notes on what the process revealed.
Sometimes I will fall back to sleep and the process will continue. But most of the time I fall back into a deeper sleep the second time and remember very little about the rest of the night.
So with that explanation in mind, I spent last night focusing on the upcoming session. I had a basic theme, but that theme leaves a lot of room for interpretation. So I prepared my "flyby" and drifted off to sleep. I remember very little of the specifics of my dreams. But on waking after several hours the first thing that came to my mind was that the dreams had been like an old time movie, clicking by frame after frame. But in each frame something totally different was occurring with the piece of art.
In one frame I was throwing paint at the model almost angrily. In another I was doing fine details across his chest. Yet in another I was finger painting on his back. None of it made sense at first. In every frame there was something totally different occurring. In every frame there were totally different colors and different tools being used.
I puzzled on this for a bit, half asleep half awake. What was my subconscious trying to say to me? And then I had an inspiration. What would the movie look like if I was not viewing it frame by frame? What if I sped it up in my minds eye? And then I got it. Right then the total concept opened up before me.
No consider that when we create something, we are in a process where it is not art until its finished. We do not take the time to consider that every stage in between is also the art. From the moment we place one line on the canvas, to the moment when the canvas is filled, is still art in all its different phases.
What my mind was trying to tell me was that I should not consider this as I would a flat canvas. I was working in 3 dimensions after all, not only on the human model, but on the canvas around the model.
This would be art from the moment I began to the moment I ended and I had to make sure I was capturing it in the photography and not waiting until the end to photograph a finished piece of art. This would never be finished. This would evolve. This must be an "evolving abstraction".
Now I knew why I had not settled on a single design for the model. It was because there was no single design. The art would come from the whole process as it evolved and became different things.
I woke long enough to place a few notes on my tablet and fell into deep sleep. I had my answer.
The interesting thing about this sort of brainstorming of an idea is that you realize afterwards that you were already aware of it at subliminal level. I'd already been putting together materials in preparation for exactly this process.
So here we are about 50 hours before the session and I have a much clearer picture of how I need to proceed with both this model and models for other sessions coming up. I would even hazard to say that there may be some overlapping. Where the art from one session is merged with the art from another. Its hard to say right now, but I'll keep my eyes open to the process of an evolving abstraction and see where it takes me.
So I am now 24 hours out from the first body painting. At this point everything has been prepared. There will be some last minute procedures that need to be taken care of but nothing complicated.
I met with an associate artist who will be assisting and documenting the session. He is ready to go. The film people will be here at 7pm to set up. Space will be tight with 5 people in it, but I think we will manage fine.
I can't stress how different this is from a regular body painting. If you hadn't realized it by now, its as much a photography session as it is body painting. And above all it is a Conceptual Art project. We are exploring a completely different concept here with evolving abstraction. I am going to have to keep myself alert to when and how the model is photographed throughout.
Keep in mind the definition of Conceptual art:
art in which the idea presented by the artist is considered more important than the finished product, if there is one.
There is a finished product here, but it is the concept of evolving abstraction which is most important. This fits in nicely with the evolutionary art concepts for the graffiti and street art project started last year. Click the link to read about it because there is definitely a tie in with both art forms. I am not ready to make the jump that these projects are exactly the same concept, but they are pretty close.
Complicated art exhilarates me. The harder it is to create, the more interesting it is. I want the challenge of creating something that's right on the edge of my abilities. Today's work is exactly at that point. But you have to approach art like this knowing that it will not meet your expectations completely. If you go into it too confidently you will fail. Yet you cannot go into it expecting failure either. calm confidence and an expectation to learn something new is the best that you can hope for. The rest will be a total surprise.
So here we are on the flip side of the first body painting. The total session lasted just short of 4 hours. It was a little tight maneuvering around with so many people in the studio at the same time, but I think it worked out fine.
There were three distinct segments to the painting. The first is what I would call the drip phase. Paint was liberally applied to both the model and the canvas to create a drip effect. This allowed me to get my bearings on what worked best without investing too much time or energy into just the one phase.
After the drip phase came the glyph phase, where glyphs were added to both canvas and across the body of the model using symbols reminiscent of the Aztec culture. The glyphs were applied right over the drip paint, in some cases merging with it paint that had not yet dried.
The last was a true abstraction phase where paint was applied in strips down the body of the model and then merged with each other.I think this was probably the best of the three segments because by this time there was a lot of paint on the model.
I ended the night with about 800 photos and have already begun the slow process of going through them. My goal with many is to absorb the model into the backdrop so that it looks like he is merged with it rather than standing in front of it.
Here is an example of one of the first finished images. I will begin posting the images on another page linked here as they become available.
Tomorrow will also begin work on staging and setup for the next body session which is tentatively scheduled for two weeks from now. I will write more in the coming days and post behind the scenes photos as they become available.
Now that I've gotten a little more rest and have the opportunity to assess what worked and what didn't work at Sunday nights session.
I have to say that there is so much to consider that it may take me a week or so to really delve into it all. This is truly the part of conceptual art that I love the most. The envisioning process before the art and after the art brings a lot of enlightenment.
I think the thing that surpassed my expectations was the canvas cube around the body model. My original intent was to replace the canvas with each session. But I've come to see that the evolution of the canvas is just as important as the body model. The canvas will stay in place and I will be continuing to evolve it until the next session. My motto for this series is now "Its all about the wall". The wall allows for changes in the models designs. And as each session occurs there are certain commonalities in the wall that give continuity to the whole process.
In the past few days since the Sunday session, I've been cautiously making changes to the wall. I've been adding more graffiti and I've been experimenting with overlays in the digital studio to make it seem even more real. Here is an example of what I mean.
This is the same exact backdrop used in the first session. But its already evolving and becoming something new.
I'll be adding notes about this as I consider it more fully.
We've now posted links to some of the finished work and the process photos.
The Abstraction of Humanity Series (Session #1)
The Abstraction of Humanity (Process Photos)
Here is a look at a short video of what is now nicknamed "The Evolution Wall". It has already evolved substantially since the first body painting session and will continue to do so throughout the whole series.
The problem with conceptual art projects is that the larger they are and the longer they last, the more complex the process can become. Remember the technical definition of conceptual art:
art in which the idea presented by the artist is considered more important than the finished product, if there is one.
Note the words "finished product". I think this is in part because of the complexity of the process. Terms change, ideas evolve, art shifts. The original goals of a conceptual art project may change many times and eventually warrant that the end result becomes null and void.
What we learn from conceptual art if far more important than what we end up creating.
I am not saying that this project will yield no finished art. On the contrary I suspect it will yield a host of art in many forms, thus fulfilling the requirements of the Assimilation Art process at the same time.
But for now, in the early stages of this project, there is still a lot of baggage to unpack and try to understand and further explore.
I mentioned in a previous update that I'd given the idea of the 3D canvas a name "The Evolution Wall". But now that I explore it further I realize the term is not correct. Rather than a wall, this is a cube. So I will rename the idea to "The Evolution Cube".
I've explored evolutionary walls before. I have several of them in the outdoor art space and have discussed them in length in other posts. But this is not a wall. A wall is a single entity that is like a flat canvas. But this structure is a 3 dimensional cube made of canvas.
Until today the cube only had three walls though, with the fourth and fifth missing. This was out of necessity. There was a need for lighting above the cube and an open wall for ease of movement. In the future I would probably build a cube that was twice this size, allowing for more flexibility. But that's for the future.
Now the cube has four walls. I've added the fourth side by adding yet another piece of canvas. Still the ceiling out of necessity must remain open for lights. But my mind is already considering eventually removing all the canvas and changing it over to a heavy clear plastic. I'll talk about this later. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. But regardless of the materials, it is still the same cube under constant evolution. For now the canvas suits the next several sessions.
So shifting away from the cube concept I've scheduled two more sessions with two models. One for the 11th of August and the second for the 15th of August. These will further explore the models place within the abstraction. I've already begun outlining each session and how I want to approach it.
Keep in mind, from this point on, every session becomes a bit more complex and explores the Abstract of Humanity in a slightly different way. While the first session was a success, it was also a test run. Now refinement can and must occur.
And speaking of Session #1, there are now nine finished pieces of art posted online. There is a lot more to come.
I've been thinking a lot about Assimilation. I've mentioned before that I follow an art concept called Assimilation Art. Assimilation's primary rules are that no piece of art is ever finished and that one piece of art can spawn lots of other pieces of art. In the case of this project, its doing exactly that.
From a concept that originally started out as "body painting", it has now spawned in several different directions. In the very first session, there was an additional photographer who was using his own unique vision to take photos of the session. At the same time were the videographers who were videoing the session. Here we have spawned two new sets of art from the same body painting. But no art that is exactly the same. Take these two photos. The first is by photographer XXX Zombie Boy XXX, the second by me. The poses are similar but the works of art are fundamentally different.
I could have a dozen photographers and no two images would come out the same. The same applies to the videographer who was using totally different equipment.
The point of this is that the spawning process began as one thing and now transforms into other forms.
But that's just the start of the process. Don't forget the "Evolution Cube". That is fundamentally different from the body painting, but each is coexisting. When these sessions are completed, the Evolution Cube will transform once again. The plans are to take the canvas down and cut it apart into smaller pieces of framed art. Thus we have yet another evolution of the cube and we have spawned new art yet again which is not the same as any other art.
The idea of constantly spawning unique art in different mediums from the original art is part of the excitement of Assimilation and it fits perfectly within the framework of this project. When all is said and done at the end of this project, there may be hundreds or even thousands (when you count in photography) of unique art forms that can stand alone or be grouped together.
This is Assimilation. Everything is in flux. Nothing remains the same. And the only rules are the ones we self impose upon our work.
Shifting gears, I'm ready for the second session. But here is the difference from the first session. I am going to hang translucent plastic in front of the canvas and on the floor. The plastic will allow another layer of art to be created over the first, but not block the first. Why? Because I think it will make for something totally unique.
The idea is for each and every session to become more complex and add more and more factors and variations. While always keeping in mind the original theme of the Abstraction of Humanity. The more abstract, the more complex.
So this is the day of the second session. There is some prep that needs to be done before tonight. This session is a bit more complex than the last one, using a layered plastic which the model will use with the Evolution Cube. I've decided not to hang the plastic this time, but only use it on the floor so the model sort of rises up out of the paint covered plastic.
I'm also considering doing a live video feed on Twitter of this session. If I can't figure out the tech by tonight, I'll definitely plan to do it for one of the upcoming sessions.
I've also returned back to the spawning concept and asked one of my colleagues who lives in Great Britain to consider taking one image from session #1 and painting his interpretation of it. This means that even though the session technically doesn't end. We can continue this process over and over again keep the original session alive in different forms. With that in mind, Zombie has completed his interpretation of session #1 and we've posted his photography art from it.
You can tell that the way his artist brain interprets the session is completely different from mine. It really goes to show that no two artists see things in the same way. His work is beautiful, dark and dynamic and an amazing contrast to my own.
I'll post some set up photos for session #2 later.
I got a little behind in posting updates. Session #2 was completed a few days back. It was a totally different experience from Session #1. Its interesting how the personalities of the models emerge in such dramatically different ways. It goes back to the concept of Tantric Art. Being in sync with the model creates some stunningly different art.
What I am finding most fascinating though is the way that several different theories of art which I've developed over the years, are merging into this project. I've talked about Assimilation Art, and Evolutionary Art as totally separate concepts, but each are finding their place here.
The goal at the moment is to finish the art from session #1 so I can move on to the art from session #2. I will also be making another major change to the evolution cube so that when the next session occurs the art around the model will have morphed yet again. More on this later.
So tonight I am going to do an experiment within an experiment. Because this whole project is a conceptual experiment, it may seem strange to do an experiment inside of it. But I often find that I get the best results when I completely remove all obstacles and preconceived notions for how I want to approach my art. I've asked a model to come in, but I've allowed myself very little time to think about what I want to achieve. I want to clear my mind completely and just see where it leads me. The model has no expectations either. In fact unlike other shoots I've not even done a pre-interview with this person. So where it leads, I cannot say.
In the meantime, I've posted a link to Session #2 and the few pieces I've finished for this set. You can find it at:
The Abstraction of Humanity Art Series (Session #2)
Well unfortunately the spontaneous session on the 17th did not yield anything worth saving. It was an alright session and it wasn't from lack of planning that caused it to be a flop. I'll not go into the details but lets just say that there is something crucial to the interview and orientation process prior to any session.
Tonight is the next session which I will label Session #3, since the last one will not have any art. Tonight's session is excellent because I know the model and I've worked with him in past sessions. So I expect it will be a good evening. We shall see.
So here we are on the flip side of Session #3. Pretty dynamic series utilizing a green man color scheme. This was a whole different session than the previous two. The dynamics were different and the experimentation with props and 3 tone color scheme for the body painting brought a lot of differences to the process. The Evolution cube had changed in several ways. The inclusion of a piece of street art called Neon Jesus was added as a center piece to the back panel. I also added garland strands of leaves to the session which will now hang on the cube walls as ivy. Here is a look at the first piece of finished art from the session.
I wont get to work on the base images until sometime next week. I want to finish up the art from session #2 first. But I am already working on the dynamics for session #4 which has not even been scheduled yet.
A few people have brought up the fact that no two images are even remotely the same from the finished work. This I think is the hardest part of this whole process. You take a thousand photos of something then there is going to be some similarities in the images chosen. Being able to think through the art and make it into something totally different is one of the things that makes it a very slow process. But it is also a fact that the cube is changing constantly also. There are always new things emerging.
You'll note in the photo above that the neon jesus sits in the center and that I've now added the leaf garland to the panel. You'll also note that the ceiling now has more dimension. This is because I've added more translucent plastic to it. There are now three pieces of plastic up there creating the depth.
It is my goal whenever possible to take props that are used in a shoot and make them an actual permanent part of the cube after the shoot is complete. Its a fascinating process.
These working notes are so far removed from the actual process of what is going on in my brain that its sometimes like trying to describe colors to a blind man, but in reverse. I am the blind man trying to describe a world that someone with site can't really conceive of. That's no brag. But we all see things in different ways.
When someone observes this process, such as the model or another artist, they see whats in front of them. They are evaluating the project based on the evidence in front of them. But for me, I am observing the past, the present and the future at the same time. I am taking into consideration past mistakes made, directions I wish to go with the whole process into the future and lastly what is right in front of me and what I am creating at the moment.
Its so damned hard to explain sometimes. But I think that this is common in a "conceptual art project". The artist is conceiving of something that may be very difficult to explain, or in many cases even comprehend.
I think the hardest thing for me to explain is that the moment the project started, its never stopped. Its always evolving in my mind and in the materials I am using.
Consider this for context. We are now a little over 6 weeks into this process. While it may be August 25th while I am typing this, my mind is actually somewhere around October 1st. As I am planning for the next session, I'm already way beyond it. I am looking back at something that hasn't even occurred. That can really fuck you up.
Lets shift back to the cube for a moment. There is something I am missing about the cube. I am not talking about the art within it. The simple concept of "evolution" within it, is easy enough to grasp. Coming up with different ideas for it is also relatively easy. But there is something else...
In conceptual art, there are always surprises. Ideas let to be uncovered and explored. Each idea can stand by itself, such "a body painting". That is a single concept that is pretty straight forward. The idea of the "evolving cube" is another single concept. Now merge the two concepts together and suddenly it becomes a little more murky. Now add the concept of "assimilation art" into it, suddenly the murk is more like ink, and you as the artist needs to swim through that ink searching for clarity of what the individual concepts as a merged entity really are.
This is where I am with the cube right now. My artistic mind can see that there is something missing still. But it still can't see through the ink to what it is that is missing.
I mentioned earlier in these notes the brainstorming process I use nicknamed REM Planning. I tried to use this earlier in the week to try and get a glimpse of what this hidden thing is. The results were odd.
There was only one clear thing that came from the brainstorming and that was "time travel".
Huh? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Nonetheless that was the only clear idea that I cam away with. How does it relate to the cube? I've no freaking clue. It may have nothing to do with it and is merely an errant thought that came in from a dream. It doesn't matter. If it has meaning, then I have to frame the thought back into an artistic context.
As described above, in a way, I am time traveling using conceptual art as the catalyst. It is not what I see before me, but what I see something can become in the future that guides this project. So how does that fit into the cube other than in the way it should? There is obviously a missing piece of data here that I have yet to stumble upon.
But lets clarify that it is not the art of the cube that is in question. Its the "direction" of the cube that is. When I figure that out, then the piece will slide into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
The Cube Evolves
A few days ago we got an unexpected gift of medium sized styrofoam sheets. This immediately set my mind to considering adding brick work to the Evolution Cube. I'd always thought that I would eventually add brick work in one form or another to the cube because it was a natural evolution of something that is supposed to be walls in an alley.
So I set about figuring out the logistics and aesthetics of this evolution. The aesthetics ame naturally. I'd cover portions of the cube to cover over small areas while allowing other areas to stay as canvas. Logistics were more complex. How to attach the styrofoam to the canvas while the glue was allowed to dry. My final solution for the first piece was this:
I'd use four skewers at each corner of the styrofoam and pushed all the way through the canvas behind it. This would secure it to the canvas long enough to let the glue dry and then the skewers could be removed.
I had to use an anchor in the center both front and back of the canvas to make sure the center of the styrofoam stayed snug to the canvas until it dried.
Once it dried, the skewers were pulled out and I could begin designing the bricks right on the canvas.
Step 1 was to draw a 1" x 1" grid work across the whole surface of the styrofoam.
Once the grid work was drawn, I made the decision that the actual bricks would be 4" x 2" in size. Using a heat pen I now melted the brick lines across the whole surface.
Now, using a can of cheap black spray paint, I sprayed all the line work. This was not done for the paint, but for the melt. Spray paint naturally melts styrofoam. So by going over the lines I could deepen them and make them look more natural and less uniform. Unless you want the brick work to look brand new, you want some shifting and aging to make it look real.
I could now apply a base coat of charcoal gray to the bricks and I could now remove some of the bricks to give it an even more aged look.
Finally I could choose colors for the bricks. In this case I used a dark red, a dark grey and a tan color scheme. I also added the brick pattern directly on to parts of the canvas. This removed the uniformity that a single piece of styrofoam would create. The final brick work looks like this.
You'll note in the above photo that I've also added several other pieces to the canvas. Now I will add several more, giving it a mottled appearance where some bricks are missing. It really changes and evolves the whole look of the cube. After I am done with the back wall of the cube, I'll do the same for the sides giving it a mottled look. Eventually these bricks won't remain pristine but will be painted over with graffiti as the cube evolves yet again.
I've now completed the first phase of brick walls for the cube. Here is a reminder of what we started out with 6 weeks ago.
This was the cube the night of the first body painting session. This is the cube today.
The next phase of brick work will be for the side panels and then more graffiti added. Here are some mood shots.
Taking evolution to the next level!
It suddenly dawned on me that what I needed to do with the evolution cube was take it to a totally new level. As I'd already been adding the brickwork, I made the decision to paint over most of the graffiti that was still showing. I liked the concept of the slow change in the art through each project session, but I decided I needed to change things up more radically for the next couple of sessions.
Since the brickwork was there and I had added more hanging vine work, I decided to work off a new theme I am calling "Courtyard of the Damned". Subtly horrific while at the same time beautiful also. Here is a view with about 25% changed over.
There is a lot more to do yet, but you can begin to see where I am going with the theme. Its got potential. Better yet it can evolve a lot between sessions.
You can't see it in this photo, but I also replaced the plastic ceiling with canvas so I could completely paint the ceiling without the paint pealing off.
So I am making some progress. I do not have a new session scheduled yet because I am having a problem finding qualified models. The last couple interviews have been pretty abysmal. But there is always tomorrow!
I am now about half way through the rest of the cube. More faces, more skulls, more bricks. The next step will be working with each face and skull to bring out unique details in each. I will also begin work on bricking parts of the ceiling (not shown).
Okay good progress in the past 24 hours. Got all 11 faces/skulls mounted on the walls and began the design work to make each one unique. Hoping by tomorrow to be able to start the ceiling work.
There is also a surprise addition that I've been waiting to show. Its not perfect yet, but I am using a super phosphorescent paint on the whole area so that it can be photographed in total darkness also.
We are now 80% through with this evolution. The most challenging part of this process has been attaching everything to the canvas. Its a heck of a lot easier to glue things when the surface is laying flat. Doing everything in vertical is much harder.
You can see some of the assembled props for the upcoming body painting session on Thursday. I've been slowly accumulating things to use.
You can really begin to see the surreal nature of the space when the lights are shut off and the phosphorescents begin to glow. There are still gaps in the coverage, but its come a long way from the photo shown above.
I've been considering the issue of the missing aspect that I've felt wasn't in place within the Evolution Cube. This is not about the art. This is about the conceptual art itself.
After a recent conversation with a colleague about Burning Man, I think I saw the missing aspect. It has to do with "ephemerality" . Burning Man is a lot about the ephemeral aspect of art. There are so many parts of the festival that are only in existence during the festival. The "Man" is a perfect example of this. An amazing sculpture that stands out in the desert with the icon of the Burning Man on top of it. But its gone before the festival ends.
Like Burning Man, Evolution Art is all about the ephemeral aspects of each piece of art. What looked one way yesterday, will not look the same tomorrow.
Up to this time I've described Evolution Art only in terms of its movement from past to future. But I've not really considered its ephemeral aspects as much. The fact that at every point its not what it was before.
Consider if we looked at the evolution of man only in terms of where we were going, without taking time to stop and look at where we had been. Man, is ephemeral, even if we don't want to admit it.
How this applies yet, I am not completely sure. But when considering the ephemeral nature, there becomes more of an urgency to make sure its seen at every change. More on this later...
I've had a few requests for a closer look of the faces in the Evolution Cube.These haunting faces are a mix of both skulls and fleshed out faces. They are made from styrofoam so they can be altered to bring out different features. You will note that for this evolution of the space, some of the faces are still pretty vague. This is done on purpose to leave room to altar them further as the space changes again after the next session. Here are some of them.
SPECIAL NOTE: I've terminated the day to day updates on the project. They are now located as individual entries listed under the Abstraction of Humanity index to the left of this page. Thanks for following up to this point!