There are some images you see as a child, that truly shape who you are. Whatever the reason for it, the minute you see the image it becomes seared into your psyche and is referenced in your decision making process for the rest of your life.
For me that image was a black refrigerator magnet with a grey/silver drawing on it. It was a poured item and the drawn lines on it were raised from the background. The image was of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The mouse held a pistol behind his back. Underneath it said, “That’s confidence.”
I have spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about this. Not to mention the amount of time I spent trying to draw it. In my mind the pistol, and even the notion of fighting back disappeared over time.
The idea of it representing confidence even became nonsense. Seriously, no gun that a creature the size of a mouse could hold and fire would ever be able to stop, let alone kill an inbound owl with hunger on its mind.
And as I got older and became aware of philosophies like stoicism and transcendentalism… I adopted ideas like “no fear, no regrets” and chose to live my life by them. Pirate concepts like “No quarter asked, and none given” became my rallying cry.
When I look back at the directions I took philosophically. It is all rooted in that image.
Well I replaced the mouse’s gun with a middle finger, and instead of staring at the owl, he is looking off to the side, to whatever it is that he wants to look at.
His death isn’t important. The way he is choosing to live is.
“Elige Bene Mori” is latin for choose a good death. I encourage you to embrace this notion and hold it close to your heart. The original painting in gouache on watercolor paper is not currently for sale, but you can purchase prints of it through my account at Fine Art America, HERE.
When one thinks of Buddhism, the thought is usually one of peaceful serenity, unless they are fans of kung fu theatre or are following some of the more violent uprisings in SE Asia currently.
What one does not usually think of is a concept of hell. Well, just like most other major religions, Buddhism has a concept of hell. Several actually, but the one todays art piece entertains a specific one. The Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
For those unfamiliar with Buddhist lore. A Hungry Ghost is basically someone who is a slave to their desires, aversions, and/or passions. More specifically it is described as both a form of reincarnation and a realm where one is constantly haunted by those sufferings until they free themselves of them by practice of the eightfold path.
The inspiration for this piece came from a Japanese interpretation of this, which was named Gaki Zoshi (Hungry Ghosts). It is a very old scroll and you can find images from it all over the internets.
I did the piece as an Inktober project in 2021, and being pen and ink it took the entire month.
This pen and ink piece is originally 18×24 on watercolor paper and prints are available through Fine Art America here.
Today I am going to share two separate gouache paintings I have recently done.
They are also Buddhist and Japanese history pieces.
The first features Toyotomi Hideyoshi; samurai, daimyo, Shogun and second great unifier of Japan. The image is from early in his rise to power.
It is said that he greatly desired to have tea at the famous tea house of Sen no Rikyu, who was also known to have one of the most beautiful morning glory gardens in all of Japan.
At first Rikyu had rebuffed him. But knowing the samurai was growing impatient, Rikyu decided to have him.
Before the day of their tea, Rikyu dug up all of his magnolia gardens and selected only one. Placing it in a simple bamboo vase in the tea room.
When Hideyoshi arrived, he was enraged that the gardens were gone. He stomped into the tea house, and was stopped cold.
The single morning glory was perfect, and upon seeing it Hideyoshi saw Rikyu’s mind clearly and went on to become one of the great Shoguns in Japans history.
It is titled “Rikyu’s Morning Glory”
The second image is of Sen no Rikyu. He is the great tea master modern tea ceremony is based upon. He served two Shoguns as tea master and was of such great stature that he could have audience with anyone in Japan when he was alive.
The image is of him committing Seppuku on Hideyoshi’s order.
The reason is lost to history, but every version of it I have seen guessed at has been the result of ego and petty jealousy.
One of the things I like to draw, is a focus on another. That other being world religions. The focus being Buddhist art, more specifically Zen Buddhist art. It is especially true when I can do pieces based on Japanese Zen Buddhist art. Doing it in a Ukiyo-E drawing style just makes a well iced cake.
The image I am sharing today is all of that.
It is also an entirely stolen concept.
I did do Josetsu the honor of not attempting to redo his painting the way he did it. Further more, I didn’t do it in the same style.
I merely stole his Koan.
For the uninitiated, a Koan is a form of riddle in Zen Buddhism that is supposed to stimulate the potential for enlightenment when meditated upon.
This one in particular is called “Catching catfish with a gourd”, and was Josetsu’s original suiboku (basically Sumi) Painting was done C. 1415 .
The painting depicts a man standing by a creek and attempting to cat a catfish with a gourd (as the title suggests).
I won’t post the original image, as I do not wish to be shamed by the comparison. However, here is my original painting.
In the 18×24 gouache painting the gourd represents our mind and the catfish represents enlightenment. The gourd being used for something it is clearly not suitable for. The clear implication being that our minds are not suitable for attaining enlightenment, and that it is not something that can be gained through thought.
It is certainly an idea worth tossing around in your head while trying not to think too much on anything in particular… at least until you figure out to just let go and breathe.
If you would like to own a print of this piece, it is available HERE. The original is not currently available for sale, but it will be once I complete the larger project it is part of. If you would like to be considered when it is, send me a message.
The painting I am putting up today is one of the first ten or so oils I painted.
The style is undeveloped, and I still had not (not that I ever excelled at it) learned to show depth with color and shadow.
What I did know how to do was conceptually explore my mental state and where I was at a particular time in such a way that just a glance at the image reminds me of where I had arrived.
This painting is emblematic of part of my personality and personal philosophy that makes most people uncomfortable. It is a traditional oil on a 16×20 stretched canvas.
At an early age I figured out (by rough experience) that the people or things you idolize and/worship are not only seldom worthy of even your adoration, let alone being placed on a pedestal; no, most of them are not even worthy of being in your life.
And once you recognize that they are not, they should be removed. In this case by pushing them far away on a space bridge and then into a giant hell furnace while the moon smiles on.
So make the moon happy, analyze your idols and get rid of the ones that don’t fit. Be careful though, it is addictive and at a certain point purging gets lonely.
Pro-tip for that- there are 9 billion people on the planet, they can’t all suck, and you don’t have to idolize them.
The painting I am posting today was done towards then end of my experiments with oil. It is a piece that is based in my personal exploration with philosophy. It is a nod to mathematical beauty, and to important art that my work does not measure up to. It hangs in my living room, and probably always will.
The image is named Vitrunacci Vortex.
Vitrunacci being a made up compound word from the roots Vitruvian and Fibonacci.
Vitruvian is a reference to Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”. His famous study of human proportion and symmetry. This was used to represent the “everyman” and was intentionally drawn as the four major races to emphasize that.
And Fibonacci is the mathematician and the numerical sequence (which the first recorded discovery of was actually in India) that is named after him. The series is created by starting with 1, and adding the two most recent numbers together to get the next. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. That sequence is the basis for the golden ratio, or in the case of this painting the golden spiral.
The last core element is this painting is the blending and ebb and tide of the four seasons represented by red, white, blue, and yellow spirals. They symbolize life’s repeated patterns of growth, work, harvest, and death/birth/bardo (spring, summer, fall, and winter respectively). This is overlaid with the black spiral that represents one mans path through time.
So basically this painting is (one of many abstracts that) represents my view of the order of the universe, and is in a visual shorthand that is probably only useful to remind me when I am struggling to stay on my particular path.
Vitrunacci Vortex is a 4 foot by 4 foot oil on stretched canvas. I would consider selling it, but it would take a dear offer.
The next piece I am going to talk about is the one that caused me to rethink selling my artwork.
For years I have had people telling me I should sell some prints, and I have had multiple requests to buy paintings. Since the images I create are primarily about me processing mental hardship or exorcising images from my brain, the idea never really resonated with me.
I want to draw just to draw. Besides, like most creatives I am self critical and don’t think my work is “worthy” of sale. Which is nonsense for all of us. The worst piece of art has more value than any symbol of financial wealth. Self expression may be the only thing humans do that is worthwhile.
Anyway, a while back I decided it was good enough to make some t-shirt designs….if nothing else so I could have tee shirts with stuff I wanted on them. So I made my tee public store Madman Designs.
That experience was enough to get me over the basic hump…and playing with it for a while convinced me I could do this without turning it into a job. Which is still true, so far.
Then I was talking to one of my working artist friends about a large project I want to do, and talking about the ‘how to’ of taking it on. He gave me a lot of good advice during that conversation, and part of that advice was that with my drawing style, gouache may be a good medium for me. This was especially true since gouache has unique finish that is well suited to that project.
I had never even heard of gouache, but valuing his judgement I looked into it and became interested in trying it.
So I decided to do a painting in the style of the larger project with gouache.
That painting is…
Imperturbable is my attempt to mimic the style of Ukiyo-E wood block prints.
This one in particular is of a Buddhist monk, holding the jewel of enlightenment in meditation and being unfazed by the storms of life, represented by a red dragon swirling around him. Important symbolism in this image is the fact that the dragon is looking past him, as for all the chaos he creates, the dragon has no ill intent towards the monk, the two simply exist in the same space.
All thoughts worthy of spending time thinking about, in my opinion.
I intend to do many more pieces in this style, and I hope that all of them capture my vision as well as this one did.
The original of this is an 18×24 gouache painting on 300 g watercolor paper, and is for sale for $350 plus shipping for whatever method we settle on.
If you would like a print of “Imperturbable”, it is available HERE.
It is very fitting that this was the first print I have ever sold as this work is personally representative of a new beginning for me in more than ‘just’ art.
The drawing I am posting about today is a true pen and ink, done as a full on black and white.
This is a style that I struggle with, but have always wanted to improve at (more than I was willing to work at it or I would have haha).
It also harkens back to my love of comic strips and especially the drawings of R Crumb whom I was trying really hard to channel while drawing this.
This drawing also dives head first into my exploration of old religions (a constant theme in my art), paganism, and everyone’s favorite, Pan.
It doesn’t matter if you call him Pan, Cernunnos, the Green Man, the Horned God, or Lord of the Wilds; he was of great importance to European culture before the Rise of Rome and then Christianity which of course destroyed and rooted out that culture like it has every other one it has encountered.
At any rate historical geopolitics and religious wars aside, Pan makes an interesting subject, especially when drawing in a woodland bacchanalia with a bunch of naked nymphs dancing around him.
The original of this piece belongs to a dear friend of mine and is not for sale.
You can get a high quality print of this work HERE