We, The Bones That Are Here, Await Yours

I got back from Portugal over a week ago. It was ten days of looking and walking and looking and walking. I paid for the trip with most of the money I made from art this year, and saw tons of things that will probably make their way back into art I do this year, making the whole endeavor somewhat self sustaining. It was hard to pick pictures to post here because we took HUNDREDS but here are some of my favorites.

One of my favorite things we did was a little day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. It's only a couple dollars on a train and the town has castles and huge gardens and public parks. We saw the Castle of the Moors ruins there and Pena Palace:
The best part of the day in Sintra was Quinta da Regaleira a huge house with expansive gardens built by an opera set designer, full of hidden alchemical symbols and experiences.

There are pitch black grottoes and catacombs underground the whole garden which you can wander through to come out of various wells with long twisted stairs leading up to the light:
We wandered around here for hours and it was great. The house itself is even aligned according to alchemical and astrological principles.

Portugal also has a lot of ossuaries. A LOT. We saw 5 but there are many more.

The first picture is of the Capela dos Ossos in Evora, probably the biggest one we saw, with painted ceilings covered in symbols and two mummies mysteriously hanging on a wall. The second is in Faro and was eerily situated mere feet from a daycare center where children screamed and ran around the completely silent outdoor chapel. Some are indoors, in churches or crypts and some are little outdoor chapels in tiny rural villages we had to hike several miles to.
In each of them we were alone or virtually alone and in one we actually found a skull cap just laying on the ground. While I'm talking about ossuaries I should mention this excellent book I got for Mike that contains pictures, information and insight into the culture of ossuaries:
There was also a lot of impressive religious art. I'm always really torn by my admiration for this stuff since it's funded by and an outward sign of the immense wealth of the Catholic church. It was made in a time when the most ambitious art was made for religious purposes so it's some of the most over the top, gilded, time consuming, intricate and monumental stuff you'll see in Europe and I can't help but be drawn to it. Also it's incredibly creepy.
From the Templar knight monastery in Tomar where made a bunch of stupid Tombs of the Blind Dead jokes to each other while we ran around unattended.
Stained glass in a church in....Evora? Maybe Lisbon.
Witchy window in the Acobaca Monastery.
We also saw tons of reliquaries but were denied access to the insanely creepy reliquary alters at São Roque because they were practicing for some sort of Christmas event but I managed to get a picture from pretty far away:
Who is creepier than Catholics? No one! Not even me.

I also spent a lot of time creeping around the cemetery in Evora. There were a lot of really interesting monuments with symbols I hadn't seen before in the US and a lot of family tombs with glass doors so you could see several generations of coffins.
Finally, I saw what is now the probably the oldest man made thing I've ever seen (older than newgrange), the Neolithic standing stone grouping of the Almendres Cromlech:
The best guess is that this functioned as a huge community solar calender with the sun rising over the center stone at the equinox. It's situated in the middle of a cork orchard and we got to see it on a misty atmospheric morning. There's also a huge dolmen not far away in a pretty tragic state of disrepair which was still fun to see. The cap stone had been BLOWN OFF WITH DYNAMITE during the excavation so you could actually stand above and look directly in.

I don't have pictures from it but we also caught an exhibition called Aljube a Voz das Vitimas: The Voice of the Victims. Staged at Lisbon's old jail the exhibition was about victims of Salazar's military dictatorship under the New State and the role of the PVDE (later the PIDE) in the surveillance, torture, imprisonment and murder of Portuguese activists and citizens. They did a great job of highlighting both the victims and their experiences and consistently naming and displaying photographs of the perpetrators to make a public record of who was responsible. They also list companies who collaborated with the secret police and spied on and reported their employees and unsurprisingly there were several american car manufacturers on the list. Anyway, really good exhibit we basically stumbled across.

I haven't been super productive this month because of the trip and the holidays but I have a few things to post around the new year hopefully if I'm not too lazy.


Domingos Zine

Posting from a hostel in Portugal since I forgot to post this before I left. I sent something along to Sundays zine and just got a couple copies in the mail (wet, envelope torn open, thanks USPS). I didn't have time to make something new and figured my goofy old S.T. fan art (with some details changed and touched up) was fitting for a skate/art zine. I sort of wish I had time to make something a little more intense because I'm nestled in among some really cool artists here.

Best of all the whole back side is this beautiful painting by Tamara:

I just have to say this is a really good idea for a zine! Newsprint is cheap and easy, it folds down so no assembly. Free art! If you're trying to find a copy I'm pretty sure you need to be in NY in a coffee or skate shop, but those are all really great places to be anyway so get on it. It should also be available to look at online.

Like I mentioned, I´m in Portugal. It´s great. Two days in and I´ve already seen so many castles and mummies and Roman relics and a church destroyed by an earthquake (the best kind). I´m pretty sick but I´m uh...walking it off. Next few days- more castles, ossuaries, standing stones and Roman ruins.

The computer here has the spell check set to Portuguese and I´m a pretty uselss speller without it so I´ll shut up before I type anything really stupid.


Standing On The Frozen Floor

Mike Brennan and I printed the pre-order insert posters for the Des Ark record and everything went so smoothly thanks to the folks at Reclaim who burned perfect screens for us. We only had a few hours in the space after work so having the screens burned ahead of time meant we could just get right to work printing.
We also printed the limited glow in the dark ones (top). They're black and teal glow ink on tan paper (with a couple on the orange and blue as well). Glow in the dark is a gimmick I never grow tired of, and we included the skull in the glowing screen so with the lights out you get a floating skull and the smoke. It was really fun working on a project with another person since pretty much all the art I do is so solitary, and I haven't printed in a long time so that was fun (even though my back is killing me now).

I also saw the printed lp covers for the first time and they came out great.
I was worried that the smoke effect wouldn't work, but it came out exactly the way I wanted it to. When you tilt the record into the light it becomes more or less visible and opaque which is neat.
It was great being included in this whole process because sometimes you hand artwork off to someone and it comes back to you printed terribly, with weird colors, or disrespectfully cropped and chopped up but we all had input into the final presentation of this which is great. I redid the smoke lettering when I found out this would be the cover and we laid it out to be wider and stretch across the fold.

I also popped that tiger painting in a frame last night.
The funny thing is that this used to be a bright red frame with an astonishingly well matted picture of Santa in it. It's come a long way since I bought it for a couple bucks at a flea market. I also wanted to grab a photo of the back of it since pretty much no one except people who own paintings I've done get to see those:
Totally unnecessary but I like the backs to look fancy.

I might be a little slow posting for the rest of the year because I'll be out of the country for a week but I'll probably have some sketches and my end of the year mix soon!


Shiny Diamonds, Like The Eyes Of A Cat

I finally finished something! I feel like this was a little more drawn out than it needed to be, probably because of an irregular work schedule (at my day job). Anyway, my friend Hannah, who is probably the most tireless advocate for animal rights (among other things) that I know, works at Carolina Tiger Rescue and is organizing an art show to benefit the organization. What they do is awesome. Their mission statement:


Carolina Tiger Rescue is working toward the day when:

  • wildcats are not owned by individuals as pets
  • wildcats are not used for entertainment purposes
  • no trade exists for wildcats or their parts
  • all wildcats prosper in sustainable, native habitats


To achieve our mission, Carolina Tiger Rescue:

  • rescues wildcats
  • provides lifelong sanctuary for wildcats
  • educates the public about the plight of wildcats in captivity and in the wild
  • conducts non-invasive research to further understand and aid wildcats
  • advocates for action to maintain wildcats in sustainable native habitats, or when that is not a viable option, for the respectful, humane treatment of them in captivity.
How can you not get behind that? Why not make a donation? I set out to make a new painting themed to the event (though it wasn't a requirement) and made this:
I read a little blurb about tigers regarded as part of the Chthonic world because of their ability to see in the dark (in some related reading I saw some of the same associations made with bats and the night because of their night vision) so I decided to do a painting about that. The underworld for the Greeks and Romans was associated with wealth since below the ground is where both mineral wealth was mined and natural wealth (crops!) sprang from. So chthonic deities were associated with wealth and bounty not just death (though the underworld was full of spooky shades). Dis Pater was an early Roman god whose name translated to "wealthy father".
(the one on the right looks like the Crimson Ghost!)
Anywayyyyyyy this was really fun and somewhat challenging to paint especially since it's fairly small and I wanted to tiger to have a lot of hair detailI also realized it's pretty hard to paint crystals without them turning into an accidental Lisa Frank color explosion, but I think I managed to reign it in.

On a slightly related note, I love when I suddenly find out that there's a term for something I think is interesting. I stumbled across this the other night in a wikihole:
"Interpretatio graeca is a Latin term for the common tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris and Ptah as "Zeus", "Dionysus" and "Hephaestus" , respectively."

There is also "Interpretatio Romana" which refers to the Romans doing the same thing. Neat!

Tomorrow I'll be printing the insert posters for that Des Ark record, so maybe I'll have some photo updates soon.


In What Distant Deeps Or Skies

Started work on a new painting this week. Just got to the inking stage last night but here are the pencils. I'm pretty pleased with how this is coming out but I maaaaaay have made a lot of work for myself because the background is almost as involved as the foreground and will probably take a long time to finish.

Also in the planning stages of a big group show to benefit Bat Conservation International. I've never organized a show before but I'm pretty excited about it. It's a cause I care about a lot and we've been able to ask a lot of artists whose work I love and the response has been really positive so I'm anticipating some really great pieces. There will doubtless be more updates in the coming months (the show isn't until April).

Side note; I was talking to a woman at The Autumn Spell opening who when I told her that I painted my work asked incredulously "with paint?" and then said she assumed I meant it was digitally "painted". I've seen a lot of artists who work digitally refer to pieces as "paintings" presumably because they're using Illustrator or Photoshop brushes and it irks me for some reason. My thought is if you didn't use actual paint to make it, if you haven't ruined all of your pants and t-shirts and shoes and if you don't somehow have paint in your hair and under your nails, if you've never held an actual brush you're not making a painting. Call it a digital painting if you must.

Final note; Buy Some Damn Art is featuring original paintings by my buddy Alan right now and you should buy some of his damn art.


Señora De Las Sombras

So I finally finished the Narcocorrido poster on almost two weeks ago and I've just been too lazy to finish this blog entry for some reason. Might have been a little Halloween distracted as well...
The painting is pretty large so I didn't get a chance to scan it and all I have for now are these kind of crappy photos. At least you can make out the design though:
Yeah...not a good photo. Anyway, Ryan Prows who is the director of this short film, contacted me months and months ago about doing this poster and after a lot of back and forth we got a good solid idea about what the poster should include. Here's a synopsis of the film from Ryan's site:

The narcocorrido, a drug ballad in the Mexican folk-music tradition, mythicizes seedy border tales of the modern west: drug lords, human trafficking, arrests, betrayals, shootouts and murder. Naija Dillion is a Yuma county Sheriff’s deputy, an outsider and minority in her own community. Gravely ill, and disillusioned in the wake of the new Arizona racial profiling law, Naija robs a drug cartel shipment of contraband in a last-ditch scramble for personal survival.
With blood and fire loosed in the territory, Naija finds herself caught up in a narcocorrido made real. Can she recognize her shared desperation with the traffickers, men with families in danger if they don’t succeed in their delivery? Or will she suppress her humanity to achieve her own wellbeing?

Ryan wanted to integrate some Santa Muerte imagery since the cult is popular in the world of drug trafficking (though it's not at all exclusive to that and is very popular). It's an interesting intersection of what some believe to be pre christian death cult ideas and Catholic Saint worship. I like how it's a cult born from a need, where people on the margins of society saw something lacking in Catholicism and created a figure that served their spiritual needs. The Catholic church in Mexico does not acknowledge the saint or the practice and considers it a form of "devil-worship" but that doesn't have any affect on the popularity of the cult and many people consider themselves devout Catholics but still worship Santa Muerte along with the other saints.
The painting is based off of the statues of the figures which are usually dressed in satin and lace dresses and decorated with beads and jewelry and little figures on the necklace are milagros. I thought the saint and milagro imagery were appropriate for a film with two characters whose lives are desperate and in need of intervention.

This project presented me with a real challenge since Ryan really wanted the two main characters to be on the poster. It's been years since I did any real portrait work and when I did it was always in much more forgiving mediums like oil paints and charcoals. Oddly I hated the drawing of Naija but thought it came out better when painted and had the opposite experience with the portrait of the male character, Hector, that I thought looked much better in the drawing stage:
It doesn't help that both actors look attractive and happy in all their publicity photos but totally hard in the movie, so I didn't have a lot of reference to work with. I would say I did a serviceable job and that the style they're done in fits pretty well with the hand painted style of the rest.

I don't know, there's a lot of symbolism here and I'm feeling more than a little lazy about spelling it all out so hopefully it comes through and the poster works!

Halloween was good but I've been sick so I laid low on the actual day and like last year carved a few samhnag (three turnips and two acorn squash), drank hot cider in my cold backyard and watched them glow for a while.
I also whipped together a pretty good Psychomania costume for a couple parties:
There was a Halloween opening for the Autumn Spell show I'm in and there will be another this Friday for First Friday. Check it out!!


Salt The Dead, You Close The Veil

Just a relatively quick post, I have another one set to post tomorrow as well. I finished this flyer on Monday:
This will be the release show for the Des Ark record I did the insert poster for months and months ago. Aimée from Des Ark liked the poster so she opted to make it the cover instead and they're currently at the printer so they'll be available for this show. We're planning on screen printing some limited run posters in addition to the poster inserts that will still be included in the pre-order. Really cool!
I decided to do something inspired by all the reading I've been doing about oracles which is why she's holding the scrying bowl with the divination pendulum necklace:
We are, after all, coming up on Samhain, the ideal time for divination!

My friend Kev asked me to make the flyer and since the show is also a joint Scorpio birthday show I included the scorpion and the constellation traced out in the sky for him:
This flyer was also my first attempt at painting in grey scale. This is something I've been wanting to try out for a while since I've been toying with the idea of working on an art zine and I wanted to have some work that could be cheaply reproduced with a photocopier for the insides. I miss color, but I also really like black and white images and it was fun to be making one again.

In other news I got invited last minute to be in this Autumn/Halloween themed show that Paul Romano is curating:
Tons of cool artists and my favorite theme. Unfortunately there was no way I could make a new piece but I decided to show the forest demon painting I made since it has yet to be shown and fits the theme pretty well. I even went to the trouble of framing it with a mat (and a 6 dollar flea market frame):
We're coming up on my absolute favorite time of the year and I'm hoping to be able to spend the rest of this week working on costumes and carving and creeping around. I actually managed to get up to NH last week to go to the Haunted Overload attraction which was really really incredible to look at. We went on a thursday when there are no actors and you can just wander in the woods in the dark and look at all the incredible stuff they built. We also stopped by the Witch's Dungeon for a return visit. The Witch's Dungeon is an awesome heartfelt display of life size classic movie monster sculptures in a "museum" that has been in the artists backyard since he was 15 (in the 60's) and includes voice recordings made just for him by Vincent Price. I recommend it!

I'll conclude with possibly my favorite picture ever, me and my grandmother on Hallowe'en in 1985 or so:
Expect a post about the full poster for Narcocorrido tomorrow!


Holy Death

Making really good progress on this poster even with a busy week and weekend. I had taken some progress photos to explain my rendering process but lost them on a buggy memory card. Not sure it would be terribly interesting to anyone else anyway. I'm basically figuring out everything as I go and I've kind of started to hit my stride in the past year, working with the paint I like and teaching myself techniques which makes big projects like this go a lot faster and smoother than they would have a year ago. blah blah blah.

Not much else to report. I'm actually reading two books at the moment, Ancient Oracles: Making the Gods Speak and Mystery Cults of the Ancient World. Both are fairly readable to someone who isn't super familiar with Classical studies but they both make a lot of references that are better understood if you are at least a little familiar.

The truth about Mystery Cults is that they are very very very appropriately named, and the academic conclusion is more or less that there is none. The book even outlines a cult in which the actual participants didn't know what god they were worshiping. So despite being halfway through the book I have to assume that it wont be revealing any mysteries, but what little definitive information there is is pretty fascinating. I bought another book called Finding Persephone which I haven't started yet, which focuses on the role of women in ancient religion and cults, something I read a really good essay about years and years ago that I've been wanting to follow up on with more reading.

The oracle book has been pretty great so far and I'm currently sketching a flier for a show that will make use of some of the things I've been reading about. The book does a really good job of touching on the psychological appeal of prognostication, especially in a culture (Greek) that believed so firmly in irreversible fate. So far I've only read about Greece but the book does touch on oracles in Asia and various shamanistic practices and will eventually discuss Rome as well. I've been thinking over some ideas for a new series of paintings and one of the ideas was to do a series on divination so I'm taking a lot of mental notes as I read.


Sequenti Die Aurora Apparente, Altis Vocibus Baphometh Invocaverunt

It's been too long, and I've admittedly not been working as hard or as quickly as a should be. But I'm about to really buckle down to try to finish a big (literally large) project so that I can have a good chunk of October to myself for Halloween things (turnip and pumpkin carving, costume and mask making, visiting creepy attractions).

So the thing I'm working on right now is actually a movie poster for someone's AFI student thesis film. It's a short film called Narcocorrido and the director came to me interested in using Santa Muerte imagery for the poster and since that's something I'm interested in I said yes. The process of designing and drawing this has been longer than my usual personal process since it involves a lot of back and forth and I'm still working on the final drawing which is large and involved but here's a little chunk of it:
I'm hoping to have this inked and to start painting it by this weekend since there's a lot of detail and the piece is so big. I'll probably have more insight on this later but it's always strange for me to work with Catholic imagery, having been raised Catholic and probably having the most ingrained understanding of this particular kind of symbolism and yet having no actual personal connection to it (as well as a great deal of disdain for the Catholic church). I kind of want to work with it more since I don't think it's any less strange or interesting than any other belief system (and in many cases the symbolism and practice is adapted from earlier pagan tradition) and leaving it out only serves to support the idea that Western Christianity is somehow a religious standard against which everything else is deemed "exotic", strange or superstitious. I also admittedly love Medieval art which is pretty much ALL religious because it's grim and gory in a disarmingly ornate and colorful way.

I also finished the thing I was working on for my trade with david cook. Probably the things I get the most feedback from are the series of upside down crosses I did last summer (I don't flatter myself, I know it's the shape) and he was interested in them so I broke out the unused crosses I still had around and made another. While the other ones were more a play on inverted icons and malevolent spirits this one was just me inventing a summoned demon because I was reading the Grimorium Verum at the time.
I reused some things that worked well in the previous pieces (the horns and clouds) since it's such a difficult shape to work with. Like I mentioned before I like weird and colorful demons in medieval art so I stuck with that, and added the little flame of enlightenment from the Sabbatic Goat.

I finished that book Raising Hell: a Concise History of the Black Arts- and Those Who Dared To Practice Them which referenced the Grimorium Verum a lot. I remembered I had a copy I hadn't read yet and plowed through it. Necromancy and the summoning of demons is strange because the whole thing is so utterly Christian and relies on a belief in god to control "dark forces" despite how "satanic" it's generally believed to be probably because it was outlawed by the church. Most of the motivations are pretty hilariously earthly. A lot of them deal with finding money, controlling women (f.u. wizard), telling the future, traveling swiftly etc. Related to the Grimorium Verum, I bought this book Grimoires: A History of Magic Books a while ago and haven't read very far into it yet but the actual history of these books is pretty fascinating and full of intrigue, hoaxes and weirdness.

Back to trading, if you haven't seen David's work you should. It's intricate colorful, weird (mildly pornographic), and entirely hand done:
I also recently went to NY to meet up with Tamara and we did a trade and I got to walk away with this:
which I've had my eye on for a while now. Tamara is a super talented (printer, painter and tattoo artist) and extremely motivated lady and it was awesome getting to sit around drinking coffee and talking about art and hard work with her! Check out her stuff!

Anyway, if you live in Philly and you see me wandering the streets in the next few weeks yukking it up and chugging coffee smack me in the head and remind me to get back to work already. 32 Days 'til Halloween!