I used to paint and draw robots, but that’s a tale for another time.
Lately I’ve been making pieces that involve superheroes and villains. This is an attempt to explain what that’s all about. Hopefully it doesn’t make my art worse in the eye of the beholder. That tends to be the result of most so-called artist statements. Ooh, that’s an idea for another blog post: Why I Hate Artist Statements. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Heroes. Villains. I make them. Here’s why. Sort of.
Here’s how it started, anyway. I’ve got a dog. He’s kind of a pain in the ass, but that’s yet another blog post. Almost daily I walk my mutt past a local halfway house. And every single day for about a year I saw this guy sitting outside smoking and holding a diet Pepsi. Slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, he barely appeared to be alive and never moved so much as a muscle. The cigarette would dangle limply from his hand. I never saw him actually take a sip of his diet Pepsi. Every day it was the same.I couldn’t get him out of my head. I wondered what his story was.I wondered if life had defeated him or if that was just how I interpreted things. I just didn’t have enough info to go on. So I made up my own story. Actually it wasn’t really a story. Just a notion. A kernel. A seed. A nugget.
This nugget churned around my head for quite a while. It floated in the nebula that is my mind. And it mixed with some junk that had been taking up space for quite a while. See, I grew up watching a deluge of Saturday morning cartoons, reading obscene amounts of comic books, and reading every single science fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on. Escapism at its finest, most mediocre, and downright horrible. I didn’t care. I devoured it all. Then I stopped. Sold all of my comic books. Started reading ‘real’ books and watching ‘important’ films. Grew up. Ish. But the damage had been done. All of these characters, images, figures set up house in my skull and to date I haven’t managed to evict them. I’ve given up trying. Well, the nugget melded with this mess of comic book sci fi fantasy that is my imagination and out churned the Spaceman. He’s a sad sort of individual. Lonely. Isolated. And usually dressed in tighty whities.
I first sketched the Spaceman one day while at a coffee shop with my friend Lisa. She was being actually productive. I was bored and attempting to entertain myself. So I sketched a fat guy wearing a space mask. In his underwear. And I liked it. More than anything I’d drawn in a while.
Around the same time I was offered a solo show at Cha Cha, a fantastic local hair salon. I had about 6 weeks to prepare for the show. I painted 10 paintings of robots. I hated all of them. So, with about 2 weeks to go, I started over. I started doing more sketches of the underwear-wearing spaceman. And, surprisingly quickly, a show came together. The pieces, at least to me, had a newness to them. A freshness that I hadn’t managed to capture in my art for a while. I think there’s a sort of duality to the character. A combination of melancholy and the obsurd. Optimism and despair. The future and the end of it all. One of these works, Spaceman Could Walk, I based loosely on a photograph of my friend Matt. I hadn’t based any art on any sort of reference material in a long, long while. It sort of led to the next bit of development.
I felt Spaceman needed a supporting ‘cast of characters’. So I drew a superhero team. A sad, sorry superhero team. All male. All chubby. Most in their underwear. A mish-mashed, twisted combination of He-man figures, Hannah Barbara, and Superfriends.
It was a start, but I still thought that something was missing. Eventually I realized what was missing. Super villains. Female super villains. Because, you know, girls are evil. That, and I like the play on duality that goes with having male heroes and female villains. The only problem is, I’m horrible at drawing females from memory. I can’t do it. Every time I try the figures end up looking like David Bowie in drag. I needed reference material. I needed models. I started recruiting my friends to pose for me. As super villains. In ridiculous poses. In their underwear.
It’s an awkward thing asking someone to pose in any way, shape, or form. Turns out it’s even more awkward when they’re friends of yours and they’re posing in their skivvies. But a funny thing happened. Turns out I had friends that were willing to do it. Some even volunteered without being asked. And the art stopped being entirely about me. Now it’s yet another mishmash. A combination of the strange goings-on in my head and the physical characteristics and personality traits of the model. Which seems somehow fitting. It adds another level of duality to it all. Me versus the model. Or me and the model. Or me and my various friends.
To date all of the models have been female, but I think the next step is recruiting some male friends to be heroes. We’ll see how that goes. Something tells me it will take awkward to a whole new level. My hope is, though, that something interesting will come of it.
As far as what the art itself ‘means’, well, yeah. Here’s the thing. I don’t know. At least I don’t go in with a specific plan or an idea of “I’m going to make a piece about so and so”. I wing it. I try and make art that looks good. Or bad. Or interesting at least. The rest, to some extent, just sort of happens. I’ve got a few themes I do keep touching on: regret, acceptance, loneliness, love, optimism, pessimism. But I like to mix those with a healthy dose of I’m-drawing-this-to-amuse-myself-and-hopefully-others. Maybe one day I’ll figure out exactly why I’m making the stuff I make. Until then I’ll just keep doing it and hopefully figuring it out as I go along.
So, yeah. I draw my friends. In their underwear. Let me know if you want to be a villain. Or hero. If not, I understand. Hopefully you’ll at least keep reading my unfocused ramblings and looking at the stuff I make.
EDIT - Oh yeah, anyone that poses gets a piece of art in exchange. Just an FYI.