Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dead Fly - Why?

     One day I went up to Greg’s office to get an envelope. There was a dead fly lying on a manila folder on top of the file cabinet. The light was hitting the fly in such a way that it cast extraordinary shadows of the fly, its wings, and its legs. I took three pictures of it from different angles using my cell phone. They’re not the best pictures but I figured at some later date I would include the dead fly in my vermin series. I’d actually rather work from bad photos when creating art from a picture of something. I don’t like to get bogged down in details but prefer to go with the flow – design and color.
     The Vermin series was a series of paintings I started one day when Greg was in the garden trying to chase out a groundhog.  
     Our dog, Mwayla, was barking at it. The groundhog was really pissed off at the two of them and made a mean face.

I took a picture, then went in the house and painted it in oil on canvas. It was a really quick painting – wet on wet. I had had this idea to do a bunch of paintings of vermin really quickly and sell them on line for maybe twenty bucks or so. I figured if I painted fast enough I might be able to do one a day and make some spare cash. As it was the painting turned out pretty nice so I didn’t want to sell it for any twenty bucks although several people said they give me that much for it. My vet offered thirty.

     We had a couple of possum pestering our garden and set a live trap to catch them. Caught a couple. Each time I took a picture and went in and painted it thinking I'd sell it for twenty bucks but each time they came out pretty nice, so I decided not to sell them just then – at least not for any twenty bucks.

     On it went.  Rabbits. Snakes. Squirrels. I started taking pictures of anything that showed up that was considered a vermin. And then there was the Dead Fly. So I painted a picture of the dead fly. Little oil painting on canvas 5”x7”.  Stuck it up with the rest of the paintings.

Dead Fly 1

     Oh! The reason I decided to paint the vermin, other than just as a money maker, is because many times when an artist stands in front of a blank canvas or piece of paper they just don’t know what to paint. At least that problem was solved. I’d just focus on vermin for the time being. I used to paint portraits. Still do, sometimes.  But there aren’t a whole lot of people who feel like sitting for one any more. And anyways, I needed to branch out.
     Then one day my son was home with a friend of his and he saw the painting of the dead fly. Mind you, when he’s home he sleeps in his old room which I was going to turn into a studio but actually prefer to paint in a corner of the kitchen. But all the vermin paintings hang on the walls of his room. He saw the dead fly and said he really liked that one. So I thought – OK, you’re getting that one for Christmas this year. So then when my daughter saw that he got a dead fly for Christmas she said, "Oh Man ! I want a dead fly!"      
     So I figured I better do another one. So I did.

Dead Fly 2 "Flynn"

oil on canvas 5"x 7" (sold for an undisclosed sum and in a private collection)

     But this one came right on the heels of Michael Flynn getting bounced out of Trump’s Whitehouse and I named it "Flynn" – dropping like flies was the joke and the hope. Ran in up the flagpole on Facebook. WTH.
     So a friend who is a writer from upstate New York messages me and says, "Hey if you’re into dead flies, Sal wants me to clean out some light fixtures today. I’ll send you anything I get." So I write back and say "No! We don’t need any extra flies, dead or alive, here in Pennsylvania. Write me a story instead." So he did. 
     Two days later I get this crazy whacked out story in my e-mail about a crazy whacked out woman who paints dead flies. That's it. Dead flies day in day out. She paints one hundred of them. Till one day she has a big art show in Manhattan and someone – a guy from Saudi Arabia -- comes in and buys the whole show. He buys ninety-nice works of art depicting a dead fly. He can’t buy number one because that one is missing because her son owns that one. But anyways, he smacks down $750,000.00 for the entire collection.
     So when my husband got home from his gig that night, we were sitting at the kitchen table and I was telling him about this whacked out story that our friend Dennis wrote and I say, "Yeah. Can you just see that? Sign on the street pointing to a gallery opening of a show called Dead Fly. Like who’d ever go see that?" And he says, “I would.” "Seriously?" "Yes, I would." Then we got thinking – maybe I should do just what the woman in the story did and see where it goes. One hundred works of art of a dead fly.
     So now I’m well past the half way point. The flies are buzzing around my studio and I'll carry on till I have one hundred done at which point I’ll hit up a gallery in Manhattan and see if they want to do a show.
     Here’s the kicker. I re-read the story a few days ago and see that actually I had it all wrong. The woman in my friend's story only does thirty dead flies. And she nickel-dimes her paintings on FB for a quick buck. And there was no guy from Saudi Arabia. And there was no $750,000.00 pay off.
     I like my story better. So that’s where this is headed.

     As of September 7, 2018, I have done 64 dead fly works of art. I will now start posting each dead fly in the order of its creation with a little blurb about why I did it. Please follow this blog and if you know of any gallery owners in Manhattan who would like to have a show of the completed works, feel free to share. I'm game. Thanks!

Dead Fly 20 - Neon Fly

Dead Fly 20
"Neon Fly"
colored pencil on card stock 5"x 7"

          For this one I took the Dead Fly photo and ran it through editing on my iPhone to see what it would look like as a negative.  I had some black card stock I had bought to practice cutting silhouettes - not of dead flies, but of people. I figure if I can learn to cut silhouettes easily it could be a good way to make spare cash. I've done many portraits in the past, so might have a knack for this. Anyways, back to the fly...  I am fascinated with the way light looks in photographs and wanted to see if I could create the same glowing effect with colored pencil on black paper. I had to lick the pencil points many times to get enough lead or whatever to lay down on the paper. I think it succeeded. Someone on FB referred to this as Neon Fly and others followed suit. 

Dead Fly 19 Another study

Dead Fly 19
charcoal on paper 9" x 12"

     Another study in black and white using a wee bit of white pencil for highlight. It is what it is. At least with this dead fly project when I feel like drawing something or painting something I don't spend an hour starting at a blank sheet of paper trying to decide what to draw. It'll be a dead fly. Picasso spent some time drawing dead goat heads.

Dead Fly 18 - Study for something else

Dead Fly 18
Charcoal on paper  9" x 12"

     This is a study of the dead fly as well as a study for drawing and painting light and shadow as well as folds in fabric. It's a little messy but I had no illusions that this would be a great work of art, just a study for my own purposes. The painting that came of this is upcoming.

Dead Fly 17 - Snowy Night

Dead Fly 17
"Snowy Night"
acrylic on canvas 8" x 10"

     I did this one in March and it must have been snowing and I must have seen all the flakes as dead flies, or at least one of them. It's fun to just slap pain in a canvas and see what happens - kind of hit the trance zone. It's best one not be interrupted when working like this, but more of that later.

Dead Fly 16 Doodles

Dead Fly 16
pencil on paper approximately 8"x 8"

     Most likely a study for another work. Here's a couple of quick sketches of the Dead Fly, one kind of knocked out as a quickie and the other I took a little more time. It's on rough drawing paper which didn't lend itself well to detail. It is what it is.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dead Fly 15 - Passive Aggressive

Dead Fly 15
acrylic on canvas 8"x10"

     This was another quickie. Just kind of sloshed the paint on the canvas. It ended up moving away from the colors I had planned when I tried to put a glaze (thin paint and water) over top and the colors kind of ran together. No problem. Paint sometimes has a mind of its own. Now take a look at this:

Dead Fly 15 (upside down)

     Whereas the original Dead Fly 15 looks dead and passive, which is how a dead fly usually looks, the same dead fly turned upside down looks malicious and aggressive. When this one is framed I'll put hangers on both sides so it can be flipped according to mood.

Dead Fly 14 - But what is it worth?

Dead Fly 14
"But what is it worth?"
oil on canvas 5"x7"

     This one took a lot of work and in my own mind I did not succeed in pulling it off. I was thinking about the fate of Mother Earth when I did this and wanted the dead fly to look as if it was made of solid gold. Is a dead fly made of solid gold worth more than Mother Earth? Although I tried and tried to use the old masters' techniques of mimicking gold with paint, the fly still doesn't glow like I wanted it to. I may try this again at some point -- not the same idea, but trying to paint a dead fly that looks like it's made of solid gold. The more dead flies I paint, the easier it is to paint. #persevere 

Dead Fly 13 - I felt like finger painting

Dead Fly 13
acrylic on canvas 8"x10"

     Felt like knocking off a quick one  the day I did this. Didn't even bother taking out my brushes. It's a finger painting. 

Dead Fly 12 - A simple pencil study

Dead Fly 12
pencil on paper 8"x10"

     This is a simple study and is a rather small picture. I gave this one to a friend who happens to like my artwork. He has several other paintings - some of his dogs, and one of the woods where he used to hunt deer.

Dead Fly 11 - A large pastel

Dead Fly 11
pastel on paper 14"x 18"

     Once again, I tried working with pastels and think this one is slightly more successful than Dead Fly 9. I may revisit pastels at some future date, but like I said, drawings are costly to mat and frame, so I don't know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dead Fly 10 - We're not all geniuses all the time

Dead Fly #10
charcoal on colored paper 9"x12"

     Not crazy about this one either, but so it goes. I dug out one of my old pastel paper pads and tried to do a quick, left brain doodle of a dead fly. It's okay, but could be better. It will go on the Wall of Failures as well. On the other hand, you never know how something is going to look all nicely matted and framed. On the other hand, it costs more money to frame a drawing than a painting and money is a bit short these days.

Dead Fly 9 - Broke out the old pastels

Dead Fly #9
pastel on paper 8"x 10"

     Okay, this one will go on the Wall of Failures when I have my big show. It didn't work out but I didn't destroy it. At one time in my life I was quite the pastel artist. Sold some for big bucks and won some awards at local art shows. I have a beautiful set of pastels that was gifted me years ago when I worked as a temp in Cambridge, MA. My job was to match up about a thousand* keys to locks in the building. It was a graphic art company that had moved its location. All the employees were told to just dump their keys in a box when they left. Doors, drawers, cabinets - you name it. One of the perks was that I could take anything they left behind by way of art products as long as I cleared it with them first. I found the Grumbacher 256 studio assortment of pastels. They GAVE it to me! It took me about twenty years to learn how to use them. 
   I hadn't done a pastel painting in many years and wondered if I still could, so I used Dead Fly as the subject. It's not great. Once again, I don't like the paper and think I worked too small. Oh, well. Still have a bunch of Dead Fly paintings to go so the pastel paintings may get better after a while.
     *I was able to match up all but about fifty keys and had a callous on my right index finger from trying them in the locks day after day, key after key.

Dead Fly 8 - Experimenting with a rough tooth

Dead Fly 8
charcoal on paper 8"x10"

     Another charcoal sketch to familiarize my self with the subject. This one is drawn on fairly toothy charcoal paper which I decided I don't like. Some people may, but I don't. It might work better for a larger drawing but dead flies are pretty small. 

Dead Fly 7 -An attempt to be more sophisticated

Dead Fly 7
charcoal study on paper 8"x10"

     I decided that some of my dead flies look too naive and that I needed to study the subject better so as to be able to execute them better. Here is a simple charcoal sketch.

Dead Fly 6 - NASA discovers seven earth-like planets

Dead Fly 6
acrylic on canvas board 5"x 7"

     I painted this particular Dead Fly on February 22, 2017. This was the day it was announced that NASA had discovered seven Earth-like planets just forty light years away. I wondered if they had flies on them. A friend of mine commented that the head of the fly looks like a space helmet and that the light reflected on it looks like the light that reflected on the helmets of the first astronauts that went to the moon. I wasn't thinking about that when I painted it.
     I hope that the fact that some of these Dead Fly paintings are painted on cheap canvas-board that I bought at Michael's (arts and crafts store) doesn't cheapen the overall project or the art. Back when I was in art school one of my professors said that we should be able to destroy any art that doesn't quite work - in other words, is not good art. I chose not to pressure myself into turning out a masterpiece each time I had an idea, so chose at times to just knock one off on a cheap substrate. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dead Fly 5 - Splat!

Dead Fly 5
oil on canvas 5" x 7"

     This one was done with oil paint and a pallet knife. It didn't take very long at all. I'd never tried working with just a pallet knife before.

Dead Fly 4 - An ethereal fly

Dead Fly 4
oil on canvas 5" x 7"

Here we have the dead fly in a slightly ethereal setting.

Dead Fly 3 - Let's make another one just like the other one

Dead Fly 3
oil on canvas 5"x 7"

     I thought I'd see if I could knock off another one as quickly and effectively as the first one.
 This is it.