The Sheen Center Artist Residency

This summer, from July 15 thru Sept. 30, I will be one of the artists in residence at the Sheen Center in New York City. The work from my residency will be for a show in January (opening Jan. 18) called Growing Home. The show will be a series of plein air paintings and sculptural reflections on the paintings, all of which pose the question of what God’s creation has to say about the city of man.
As of now, I’ve been in the residency for a week. It’s really neat to live here – the Sheen Center is in Soho. My days consist of plein air painting (and peddling) in the morning and sculpture (cast mediums) in the afternoon at a shared workspace called the Con Artist Collective. At first, it was all overwhelming – being here, getting to make my own art all day long, having all of Manhattan and its social and cultural opportunities at my fingertips, having only 2-1/2 months to put together a solo show, and more. A couple of highlights from last week were selling a painting of St. Mark’s place to a woman whose father grew up on that street and getting hired (while painting and peddling) to paint a menu board at Burger and Lobster in Times Square.
By now, I’m a bit more settled in and in the grove. The model for my first cast sculpture is nearly ready for mold making, I’ve got some plein air paintings done as well as having made some sales.
Since the theme of my show involves plants, I planted a little sunflower in a pot the day I started. This is Sunflower, my mascot.

And, here are a few of the paintings from my first week. Check out my instagram feed for more.
 St. Mark’s Place, 9″x12″ Watercolor
 Rooftop Garden Near Cooper Sq., 9″x12″ Watercolo
The Bean Coffee Shop with Sidewalk Tree on 2nd Ave, 9″x12″ Watercolor
Having had a week to work on this project, I have come crashing into two barriers. The first is that the them of nature in the city is a theme that has been done. At the same time, it is a rich topic and one that touches many people. It is also very broad. So, I think the question for me involves digging into what is particular to the artistic vision granted to me. For instance, I was pondering this as I was looking for a spot to paint this morning. What stuck me was the shape formed by the orange-tinted rain clouds against distant buildings. That is a very particular observation. And, it’s beautiful and worth observing. I may be the only person who stops at the moment to see it, and that is a sight worth communicating. Here is the painting from this morning. Incidentally, it was raining hard. I did the whole thing under an umbrella.
Looking up 3rd Ave by Cooper Sq., 9″x12″ Watercolor
 The second barrier I’ve run into is that the sculpture I am working on right now – a sculpture inspired by my paintings – is impossible for me to finish at a decent level of quality within the time alotted. Mold making and casting is an entirely different process than watercolor painting. For one thing, it’s quite expensive. But, once the mold is made, I can cast multiple sculpture. This means that the model needs to be something really worth the money and time necessary to made a mold. My goal is to complete at least 5 sculptures during the residency. This means I need to finish a sculpture every two weeks. My current model is not currently up to par. Eek. I chose to make a composition involving a stylized human figure. The problem with the figure – even a stylized, simplified figure – is that inaccurate proportions and anatomy can be very distracting. The distortion can become the focus of the piece rather than the whatever the focus is intended to be. As far as I can see, there are two solutions to this problem: either simplify the figure to the level at which it is possible to be accurate at whatever my current skill level is or abstract the figure to a degree that it is obvious to the viewer that no naturalism is intended. Simplifying the figure can make it boring, however, and abstracting it can render it absurd. So, I’m stuck. 
Well, I plan on blogging every week or two, so hopefully I’ll have some pictures of said sculpture that illustrate how I solved this problem. Until then, it’s a surprise.

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