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.