Monday, December 19, 2011

Fight Of The Night

"Fight Of The Night" (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon. Acrylic on wood. 4 ft x 4 ft in size

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kitchen Countertop Clutter

graphite on paper (c) 2011 Howard Salmon
It was the middle of the night, and I got an impulse sketch all of the clutter on my kitchen counter. From left to right (more or less): books, paper towels, mail, box of chalk, some mugs, a thermos,  a large plastic cup, a bottle of soda water, a canister of sea salt, soy sauce, hand soap, a baggie, a microwave pot, bottle of honey... snapshot of the artist as a consumer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Whoa Baldy!

graphite pencil on paper  (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
At bald sweaty guy gets tough at some unnamed antagonist, while the lettering "Whoa!" takes on a life of its own... instant sketchbook comix...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Surreal Angst

(c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
The latest from my "Comic Book Expressionism" series. They just keep comin'! Stay tuned for more chunky ambiguous drama!

More Comic Book Sketches...

Inspired by the Superman story, hopetul parents send their child off to college...on Mars (c)2011 by Howard Salmon
I'm feeling a strong urge to make a hastily drawn superhero comic book... there's no time to waste!  I can't draw this stuff fast enough!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comic Book Expressionism

 (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
Thought I'd do a litte sketch tonight. Feeling rough and chunky, artistically speaking...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where's My Band? ( A World Rocked)

"Where's My Band?"; approx 30" x 30", Sharpie on synthetic paper. c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
Just drawing, intuitively and spontaneously, seeing where it takes me. I like to work this way, because it keeps the process of artmaking (and art thinking) very "live" and in the moment. Since I'm drawing directly with ink (without a pencil sketch), the stakes are much higher (that I could totally botch it). One thing I did do to tie everything together was that after I made the drawing, I went back into it, closing as many open shapes as I could.  This is just one of the things I like to do when I draw: I work towards converting my drawings into a series of interlocking puzzle piece. I often use this puzzle piece method to  help my drawings "gel"...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Man, Machine, Woman

"Man, Machine, Woman": acrylic, ink, Sharpie, graphite, and crayon. Size: approx 30" x 35" (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

End Of The Day

Acrylic, ink, Sharpie, & graphite on synthetic paper. (Approx. 30" x 30") (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
This painting is a still life of some random objects, clustered together: a pair of shoes, a bike helmet, and a wine glass.  Somehow, this piece evokes an apocalyptic feeling. It's that intense background... Is this the end of the day? Or is it the End Of The Day? Hard to tell...

In the background, some new "mask" icons: a "kilroy" character (who is supposed to look like someone clicking a computer mouse, or reading email on an iPhone). The other character is my "Alan Ginzberg 'Howl'" character. He's basically a shaggy looking dude howling ("ooo"), with an abstracted cityscape in the background. I've included a close up of my two new characters below:

ClickRoy and The Howler: my new cartoons!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cuppa Wawa (Mug of Water)

30" x 34", acrylic & Sharpie on synthetic paper. (c)2011 by Howard Salmon
I found myself getting in a rut with my "masks" concept; it was starting to feel like a shtick. So, to shake things up a bit, I decided to just start drawing from life. In this case, I sketched directly onto my drawing surface with a Sharpie. The subject matter: my hand holding a bottle of water (and one of my Andy Iventosch mugs, on the far right). Then I went in and added color with several layers of acrylic, and reinforced some of those lines with more Sharpie.  I worked in a very "automatic" way, not really thinking too much about the imagery I was laying down. My only concern was to draw from life,and have it all overlap and congeal together into a cluster.  The result: a bunch of frozen moments that together describe the act of pouring water into a mug.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Card Holder

"The Card Holder", 30"x 40", Acrylic & Sharpie on synthetic paper (c)2011 by Howard Salmon

Friday, October 7, 2011

Self Affliction

"Self Affliction"; 30" x 36"(approx.); ink, Sharpie, & acrylic on synthetic paper. (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
This is the season of Yom Kippur: the day of Atonement for Jews. This is where Jews ask each other (and God) for forgiveness, if they've offended anyone, or each other during the past year. It's a time of critical self-reflection, where you evaluate who you are as a person. Did you live your past year in an ethical manner?

But as an artist, this has given me a slight challenge: if my artwork doesn't offend anybody, does that mean that I don't really count (as an artist)? How is art and culture going to advance, if some artist doesn't stick their neck out?  (little voice in my head: "define 'advance'!") Basically, I feel that any artist worth his salt should do the best to express his vision without self-censorship.  But, this carefree attitude may result in some offensive imagery.

Should I care?

Well, my intention isn't to's to be honest with myself. So here it is, Yom Kippur is just around the corner, and I'm wondering, should I be apologizing for any of my paintings? The answer! To do so would to be to commit self-censorship; The ethical paradoxes of being an artist wrestling with Jewish tradition.

About the imagery in the painting: the text in the word balloon says "If my artwork has NOT offended you this past year, please forgive me!". There are ten rabbis (a minyan), each blowing a shofar. The shofar is blown as an alarm, as if to say, "WAKE UP! Snap out of your daydreams and illusions!"

Out of each shofar comes a whiffle-ball of spirituality, which is supposed to be a "sephirot" in the kabbalistic diagram that represents the "Mind of God" (if you're interested in this subject, check out the Zohar, which is a masterpiece of erotic Jewish surrealistic writing) The nodes all link up, forming a conceptual structure of invisible intuited Reality--the Reality being the Mind of God, which I've suggested with that lattice-like structure all around the painting (which reminds me of a sukkah). (As an aside, this is an interesting philosophical issue: since concept precede creation, it's plausible to suggest that the Universe had to exist in the "mind of God" as an IDEA before it actually became a reality. Heavy.....)

The bowl of fire is an allusion to the "unholy fire" that the son's of Aaron brought into the Temple. The figure in the center represents the artist (me, and in a suit, no less!), wearing tefillin (which is Orthodox prayer paraphernalia), with a pallette and paintbrush in one hand. In the upper right of the picture are two of my "muse" characters, (and dressed respectfully in their Danskins).  Those three floating heads hovering over my left shoulder are from my "Scholar, Prophet, Bum" painting.  The entire background is painting with gold acrylic, to mimic the "illuminated paintings" of the Medieval era, where the backgrounds of religious paintings were inlaid with gold leaf.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bus Ridin' Folk

"Bus Ridin' Folk", 30" x 34"; ink, graphite, acrylic, & crayon on synthetic paper. (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon

This painting is about some of the people I see on the bus, as it drives through South Tucson. The title is written at the top of the picture in Olde English, to reference all of the tattoos I see on the bus. At the top, is a big angry-looking guy in a Carl's Junior outfit, who has a big tattoo on his neck, written in Olde English script.  In the second row is a raggedy-looking man who's holding a Big Gulp cup. In the third row are two characters: on the left is a student listening to her iPod. On the right side of that same row, is a well-groomed ex-convict.  On the bottom row is a morbidly obese woman sitting in a motorized wheel chair. On the lower right side of the picture is a gold-plated Sun Tran bus emerging from a tunnel, which has a decorative border around it that resembles a sun burst or a spiritual aura.

Monday, October 3, 2011


"Happy", 30" x 32", ink & acrylic on synthetic paper. (c)2011 by Howard Salmon
This painting is based on a birthday card that my wife gave me recently. The word "happy" was on the cover (as in "Happy Birthday") I thought, "is it possible to make a painting about happiness, without appearing childlike or ridiculous?" My aim here: to make a happy painting that actually feels happy.

I'm still working with the repetition of very simple repeated cartoon-like shapes (based on the idea of "masks"); in this case, the palm trees, the butterflies, and the glasses of red drink at the base of each tree. Everything else (the clouds, the trees...) are also all made from very simple repeated shapes and movements of the hand. The layers of color are what I really spent most of my time on here. Multiple layers of different colored washes created this feeling of atmosphere, which I really like. The letters at the top ("Happy") are painted in shimmering gold acrylic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Canine Soul Mate

"Canine Soul Mate", 30" x 39", ink, acrylic, & graphite on synthetic paper. (c)2011 by Howard Salmon
This painting is about the strong bond that people have with their dogs. The dog pictured in the painting above is MY dog; he lay at my feet as I was tacking the drawing surface to the wall, in preparation for this painting.  This piece reminds of a combination of Marc Chagall and Walt Disney: those diffuse areas of primary color, as well as the way the dog appears to float...and also, the  zany line up of cartoon characters that reminds me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

I'd initially chosen a rainbow as a device to organize this picture, so I could have a rainbow land in a bowl of dog food. (The working title initally was "At the end of hte your dog"). The dog's body position mimics the rainbow arc of the dog shape.  I painted the dog in Antique Gold paint, as did I the dog bones in each of the four corners, just to emphasize how precious dogs are to people: might as well get 'em gold plated!

At the bottom of the picture is Charles Darwin, talking to one of his finches, and contemplating inter-species friendships between humans and animals. The top half of the picture shows double portrait of a dog and his owner (the bald bearded man), arranged in a heart formation. At the center is a fat laughing Buddha character, to reinforce the happy spiritual quality I was going for. Two of my Muses are hanging out in the right side of the picture.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Drum Circle

"Drum Circle", 30" x 41", acrylic, ink, graphite on synthetic paper, (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Virtual City, Bright Lights

"Virtual City, Bright Lights", acrylic, ink, & chalk on synthetic paper, 30" x 42" , (c) 2011 Howard Salmon
This painting is a virtual night life, filled with mystery and adventure. The yellow dotted border is made of "emoticons". It makes me want to read the painting as a computer monitor.

I'm starting to combine some of the imagery I've included in other paintings into my more recent paintings. I like to see how these various characters will interact with each other.  On the left is my bearded balding man cluster character (Scholar? Prophet? Bum?) On the right is one of my "muse" characters.

Hey babe, take a walk on the virtual wild side! And the avatars go "doo da doo da doo..."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heal Thyself

30" x 46"; india ink, Sharpie, graphite, acrylic, crayon, on synthetic paper; (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
This painting is about my secret natural cures for healing: coffee, beer, hot sauce, and art.   In moderation, they can really enhance life (at least the first three; with art, it's okay to overdose on the stuff: its good for you...)! If you're feeling sick, try these home remedies before scheduling that doctor's appointment!

The image shows a face (repeated six times, on the left side of the picture) represented by these three items: a coffee cup, a can of beer, and a bottle of hot sauce.  I've worked a caduceus symbol (which I associate with the medical profession) into the image of the face: but the two wings wrapped around the staff ended up looking like tufts of hair on a bald guy's head, and the two serpents facing each other look like attenae. Bozo the clown from Mars? Nope...that's the face of Mr. Salmon's natural healing remedies.

On the right side of the picture you'll see a doctor's clipboard with a prescription: coffee, beer, hot sauce, and art.  In the bottom right corner, you'll see my recently created "Muse" "mask, who I've been flirting with lately...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Art Muses (Flying Around Two Rolls of Blank Canvas)

ink & acrylic on acrylic sheet, 30" x 41", (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
This is a painting about artistic inspiration. As you can see, the picture is divided into two diagonals. The lower diagonal shows two rolls of raw canvas, leaning against each other.  The upper diagonal shows six art muses, who look modern and stylish, compared to Raphael's cherubs. They've each got a severe Manga-styled hair cut. Their facial features include three eyes, two of which are lined up vertically (a Picasso-esque touch), and lips drawn in the style of golden aged comic book molls.  Their skin is painted a metallic gold: a reference to the art and people of Mesoamerica (which I regard the Arizona Southwest as a part of).   The muses actually look like bats with bosoms (or "angry birds"), but I'm cool with that: it has a certain "noir" quality that I like. The little line of a river in the background is supposed to reference the river in the background of the Mona Lisa (apparently, one of Leonardo da Vinci's artistic innovations was the addition of naturalistic background behind a portrait ;the river in the "Mona Lisa" was a new thing for portrait painters). At the lower left is a tube of paint, with the cap off, and with paint already squeezed out by some anonymous artist.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scholar, Prophet, Bum

30" x 38", ink & acrylic on acrylic paper  (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
The latest in my "masks" series: The Sage. Or is it?  The image of a bald guy with a beard: is he a sage? Is he a scholar? Is he Socrates? Is he a bum? The image of a bald guy with a beard could be any of I mushed triads of these identical looking characters together, as if they were a goofy-looking Venn diagram, or perhaps it's Manny, Moe, and Jack n old age...who knows? Symbols of knowledge and divine inspiration are strewn throughout the landscape here, with a few computer trash icons sprinkled about just to keep things tidy.  This piece also doubles as a Ouija board (just kidding)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Study Group (cultural masks)

"Study Group" 30" x 49", ink & graphite on acrylic sheet
Another in my series of cultural masks: cartoony "types" repeated over and over again, as a tradition. This one is about a cluster of different types of learners. A group of cartoony students, huddled together as a cluster, and repeated over and over again. Imagery in the backgroud has a structured look: everything's chopped into units and modules, timed, measured, and served up, like a bunch of nuggets.  Still working with the idea of creating a few simple pictures on the fly, and repeating them over and over again...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Traditional Masks

"Traditional Mask" (acrylic & ink on acrylic sheet) 36" x 48 (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
I'm shifting direction. I've become interested in masks, but more specifically, in the concept of anonymous artists creating timeless forms and images within a tradition.

After watching a video on African masks, and looking though various books on art, I can see that  most of the great art work around the world, the stuff your see in art and art history books, has been done by ANONYMOUS artists working within a tradition of passing on art and images to society and to successive generations. The tradition is to make exact copies of cultural images and icons; the individual subordinates his own ego and identity to the group or the tribe. Each artist distinguishes himself with the skill that he brings to the project. This is what I've done here: I created an image, and repeated it over and over again, redrawing it in the exact same way. The repetition is what creates the tradition.

Of course, you can see that there is a lot of variation within these "masks": that's where stylistic evolution happens. The top center was the first "mask" I'd created; the bottom right image is the last one I created in this painting.  As you can see, there's a lot of morphing and change that happens even when working within the strictures of a predefined precise image.

Unfortunately, I can't be a purist here, because I can't resist the urge to sign my work! But I'll be working with this "mask" idea for a while...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thugs on the Bus

"Thugs on the Bus", gold acrylic on raw unstretched canvas, 36" x 46"
Here's my morning painting, about a slice of life in Tucson, AZ, riding the bus. Remember those SunTran commercials where people would get on the bus, meet the love of their life, and exit together, holding hands and laughing? Yeah, right! My scruffy little rag of a painting reminds me of Daumier's 1862  painting, "Third Class Carriage"

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rock N Roll!

"Rock N Roll"  (c) 2011 by Howard Salmon
I felt like drawing something inspired by I made this piece about rock n' roll! (size: 30" x 48")

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Oldschool Androgynous Punk

Felt like drawing some random character...ended up with a picture of someone who looked like an old androgynous punk. The rumpled stained paper helps with the effect. Reminds of some of the characters who used to frequent Tumbleweeds (in Tucson), back in the day (in 1980).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Woman with Part on Side

"Woman with part on side" (Acrylic on canvas, May, 2011)
This is a painting I made of a student in a class I teach on Basic Design. Several people in the class wanted to learn how to paint a portrait, so I had them paint portraits of each other. This painting was my step-by-step demonstration.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

3 recent pantings (AZ Biennial entries)

Here's the work I submitted for the Arizona Biennial 2011, taking place at the Tucson Museum of Art.  My work didn't make the cut this year, so I'll share it with you before the actual Biennial. Brief commentary appears under each painting (all images and concepts (c) Howard Salmon)
"Hello, World" (2011), Acrylic on canvas
"Hello, World" is a painting that is about Facebook.  The characters in this painting are based on some photos of a party that I found on Facebook. The image shows a couple showing the world that they're having a lot of fun, but as you can see from the dark background, they're actually quite alone. Something fascinates me about Facebook: people broadcasting their lives (Hey, I'm no different; blogging does the same thing) I added the big orange hand in the foreground holding the camera; the "flash" is what illuminates the painting. The title refers the the first exercise you learn when you're studying computer programming: how to create the phrase "Hello, World".

"Meta-Comix" (2011) Acrylic & collaged drawings on canvas
"Meta-Comix" is a combination of three separate works: a psychedelic self portrait drawn with assorted felt markers on paper; a comic book drawing on cardboard made of ink, graphite, felt marker, and crayon; and in the background, an acrylic painting of some imagined rocky landscape, as viewed from the interior of a red chunk cave. I also pasted on a word balloon that contain a design made of a word balloon motif. This picture is all four separate sources of comics (from my own portfolio) coming together to create a work about art and comix: Comics within comics within comics. Why am I doing this? I thought it looked cool! But you can have fun relating the parts of this painting to each other. It holds together, it's interesting, I like it.

"A Cowboy and his horse mosey through Modern Art History" (2011) Acrylic & Permanent Marker on canvas
"A Cowboy and His Horse Mosey through Modern Art History" is another older work that I went back into and changed completely. Originally, this picture was a magic marker drawing on canvas, and then colored in with acrylic paint. I original image was a cartoon cowboy standing next to his horse, drawn in a very loose and cartoony way. I then went back into it, combining and joining lines in the picture into bigger shapes,  breaking the old image apart. I went back into painting, using the existing painting as a ground, with little regard the the imagery that was already there, but still allowing some of the old history of the work to peek through.  It's flat, it's surreal, it's non-objective (in places), it's "pop" (in it's cartoony quality), and it's also cowboy art! I really think that this piece is great.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dark Bumpy Masses (graphite on paper)

"Dark Mass" (2011)
"Bumpy Mass" (2011)
Here are some of my drawings from the past few days, part of a series of "dark masses". Drawn with a dark mass of graphite (graphite stick) on paper.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Radar Love

 This is the kind of work is a lot of fun to do: free-form cartoon drawing. This one is done with ink on gessoed canvas

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Hangin' Out"

No deep meaning here. This painting is about the simple things in life: hanging out with people and creatures whose company you enjoy.  This painting is is made of acrylic paint (on canvas), and collaged cartoons and doodles.   The first layer is the abstract rhythmic design layer. It's supposed to look like a comic strip, or old newspaper funnies in the background. In the foreground, I've cut out some black and white cartoons I'd created on a separate piece of paper, and collaged the on on top of this painting. I then went back into it and added some color (acrylic paint, felt marker, and crayon). I've made a series of this type of work, which I'll be posting soon...

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Healing Powers" cardboard wall sculpture

"Healing Powers" (2011); this piece is made with acrylic, tempera paint, and ink on cardboard. Various imagery, representing inner peace and harmony, love, physical strength, vision and wisdom...all fanned out like a series of cards or coasters. Currently on display at the Raices Taller Gallery, in Tucson, AZ

Thursday, January 13, 2011

doodlecomix #2: Overlapping Word Balloons

Here's a video from my new series of free online art lessons that explores doodles and comix! This installment briefly explores the "word balloon"...and has a little fun with it. (This vids are also posted on my site called