Monday, December 28, 2009

To Give Is To Receive

Another Christmas has come and gone- the older I get, the faster the holiday season seems to come and go. I personally created some of my gifts for loved ones again this year- the time and concentration spent on these little projects are a personal meditation on the recipient for me, our relationship, love, and shared memories play over and over in my mind during the long, late hours during the weeks I work on my gifts. A lot of folks whip out their credit card at North Face, Macy’s, or Ikea to give at this time of year, but I wanted to give a little something that doesn’t come with a gift receipt- a small part of myself. I am very grateful for my loving family- while I’m a nobody in the World of Art, they think I am (laughs) Pablo Picasso! Having them all together for a picture with their new paintings was the best gift a man could ever receive. I love you always- Charly, Mum, Myles, & El.

"Untitled" (four: pink, bronze, silver, and cobalt)2009
acrylic, mixed media on canvas
11 x 14"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Artist's Statement. Dec. 2009

"Secret Marriage" 2009
acrylic, chacoal, glue, magazine scraps on canvas
16 x 20"

Artist's Statement
For well over a decade my painting has been the real work of my life. My paintings are about color and design, materials and methods, exploration and experimentation. Many of these paintings are about the deep and unseen parts of the individual; they are about the hearts of men. A very personal language of sorts has begun to evolve inside this work- pictograph forms that return throughout, themes recur as well. If the simple vocabulary of my work can deepen the viewer's sensitivity to the subjects of my paintings, perhaps it will ultimately bridge the emotional gap of our detached society. Much can be learned from small beginnings, in which our most basic, initial understanding of one another can form our greatest appreciation for each other. I am most convinced of this when on occasion someone narrates the story of one of my paintings to me upon viewing- they are really telling me their own story. Soon we are exchanging ideas, learning about each other, and so it begins… what was my painting has now become a small part of us together.

CM Shaw, December 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rubbermaid Pliers

"Rubbermaid Pliers", 18 x 24", oil pastel/acrylic/ink pen on paper

Here's the "hand tool" drawing I had to complete for my portfolio review at an esteemed university I had been looking into. Sadly, this school isn’t going to be a good fit for my academic or career goals for a variety of reasons I won’t go into. More discouraging is the resigned fact that I may never get the opportunity to study under a much admired painter teaching there that could very probably helped propel my painting to a whole new level. Such is life. While I am disappointed, I did receive some kind and sincere counsel from my advisors, brushed up the resume/professional references, & made what I felt was a nicely organized portfolio. I also had a great time drawing this hand tool…

The nice gentleman that was utterly confused when viewing my ANCIENT college transcripts at the portfolio review perked up when he saw my drawing- this made me feel a little proud. I enjoyed the project and was pleased with the result. “Was Jim Dine a big influence on you?” he asked. While genuinely admiring Mr. Dine’s work, I had ironically/comically neglected to think of him while drawing the pliers. In reality, I had not thought of Jim Dine in awhile. His robes, and his Jerusalem plant captured my younger undergraduate imagination better than his hand tool work so many years ago for whatever reason...
More conceptual ideas came to mind regarding the required hand tool drawing for my portfolio review, but while learning to draw these pliers I began to really appreciate what spurred my consumerist impulse in the first place. I've always liked these little Rubbermaid pliers- the blue rubber handles w/the red "Rubbermaid" stamp at the end turned me on; while small and deceptively common, I found the visual impact of them charming. What can I say- NICE DESIGN! I'm weird like that- I have a Converse shoebox I can't throw away 'cause it's too well designed (the grommets punched in the box that echo the hallmark feature of the package’s goods are great)! I knew I was done with the pliers drawing when I started throwing red paint at it this past Wednesday night, which gave it a somewhat gruesome new dimension... aren't ya glad I'm not your dentist? My seven year old niece Charly might giggle at that- poor baby was still trying to shake off a stubborn baby tooth at Thanksgiving! So Cute! Love!

The hand tool in question...

My 2nd preparatory sketch for the finished hand tool drawing...

Superiorly designed Converse packaging I cannot bring myself to part with- Excellence, I Say! Wore the shoes twice...


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fox and Hare

"Fox and Hare" 2009
acrylic, chacoal, glue, magazine scraps on canvas
30 x 40"


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Secret Marriage

"Secret Marriage" 2009
acrylic, chacoal, glue, magazine scraps on canvas
16 x 20"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Our Stories

I was very excited to have Alexis Santi, Editor of Our Stories Literary Journal, ask if I would be interested in having my artwork on the covers of their “Best of Our Stories” editions a few weeks ago. I was interested, and not only for the fame and prestige of the assignment- I liked what Mr. Santi’s journal stood for. Our Stories gives personalized feedback for every submission they receive, including general impressions, strengths and weaknesses of your writing, and suggestions on how to fix your story. Are you a budding or closet writer wondering if you have what it takes? Well this could be just what you are looking for- they also offer emerging writer contests and one-on-one mentorships- much more constructive than sending your submissions off to oblivion without ever knowing why it wasn’t acknowledged.

Mr. Santi purchased a couple paintings from me at my Etsy store recently, “Leave” and “Stay”, the latter of which he used an image of for one of the covers. One of two untitled images of mine from 2007 was used for the second volume of Best of Our Stories; the pair evoke prehistoric cave painting, hunters lay in death or perhaps afterlife, next to their spears. Our prehistory, ancient memory, the struggle of humanity … Our Stories… perhaps this is the thread that spoke to Mr. Santi.
Thank you Mr. Santi for my very first book cover!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Prisoner" sketch, 1995

I was fascinated by my little “Prisoner” sketch tucked in a sketchbook from 1995- it’s exceedingly substandard in it’s execution, but the idea was great! The bisection of the incarcerated figure in place of a prison bar pattern across the foreground carried a lot of psychological heft- everyone has felt divided from time to time. Many years later I did an alternative version featuring a much more developed reworking of the idea- while bizarre, the drawing is technically superior to my initially hasty scrawl in marker over a decade prior, but I completely forgot the admirable simplicity of the original design, loading the re-imagined concept with very outwardly heavy emotion. The new drawing was honest, though the tears and blood were guilty of a blaring awkwardness that I’m certain polarized the work- “can’t you just paint some Pretty Pictures, Colin?” I’m a big fan of pretty art, and work hard at making some for the sheer joy of play, still the human condition catches my imagination from time to time, and I know that turns some folks off. While viewers are often escaping from the fray of their inner nature, I am instead closely inspecting it to free myself, sometimes painfully overexposing myself. I am often embarrassed when I look back on my catalogue, “Wow, did I really do that… for all to see?” -like the naked baby photo, I cringe slightly. I’m not sorry though -I make art for myself.

Early on in my development as an artist, confrontation of my identity was both eagerly tackled and fearlessly pursued like a challenge to fisticuffs- purposely provocative, a dare both to the viewer and myself. I would like to paint the prettiest daffodils that ever graced your living room and very well might, but occasionally fail to resist picking a fight instead. Too much skill/no concept in art makes me yawn; too much concept/not enough skill leaves me suspicious. I read once that Picasso argued art should be both inclusive to the enlightened and dangerous: “Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.” I like that, though Picasso was ultimately able to reach both the individual and most populist spark among mankind. And I want to break down the exclusivity of Art World in my work, hopefully while confounding and surprising us, too.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shorty and Doc

"Shorty and Doc"
photocopy and acrylic on cut cardboard, 8 x 10"

... not the first time I used a photocopy in one of my mixed media collages, it IS the first time I used a photocopy in combination with my cut cardboard technique, so that was fun.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


“Shroud No.2”, Oct. 2009
acrylic and cut corrugated cardboard, 16 x 20”

Shroud”, Oct. 2009
acrylic and cut corrugated cardboard, 16 x 20”

My boss looked at me quizzically as I inspected the shredded cardboard packing material from a box of new inventory, “What… what is it?” she asked. “I think I want to paint on this.” I replied. It stretched out when I pulled at either side of the section I’d plucked from the box, and I was playing with it! I’m certain she thought I was nuts as I tugged at the material, examining it’s qualities, imagining it’s possibilities.

The shredded cardboard lay in a pile on my work table for some time, as I continued to scrutinize it- then in a hurry one night I started cutting and arranging it atop a piece of cardboard being carved simultaneously, the patterns carved so that the shredded cardboard to be hot glued above revealing some of what was below. That layered, partially covered nature in my assemblage gave me the title “Shroud”, the word by definition: a cloth or sheet in which a corpse is wrapped for burial. I have seen some death this year, certainly- the older I get, the more I see it seems. Just today my pal Rudy called from New Mexico with news that his brother Bob had passed, my grandmother passed last winter, and my pal Kevin died three years ago, yesterday, as well. People die and we miss them because humans are fragile, divine, and special.

While the finished pieces are black and somewhat menacing, I hadn’t thought of this much while I played with my newfound material, I played like a child who just discovered something unusual and fun! I know they will be largely unappreciated and likely unsaleable, but for me they are a real breakthrough: completely non-objective art focused on materials and texture, a purity I have struggled to achieve since I saw the Action/Abstraction Show at the St. Louis Art Museum a year ago has been achieved in my mind. I have an acquaintance or two-dozen that feel like abstract art is baloney, but it’s much more complicated to create, explain, argue, appreciate, and evaluate than most people have the intellect or imagination to entertain. There is a lot that of abstract work that is poorly done, and there is a great deal that is sublime and transcendent: sorting Fine Art from the Emperor’s New Clothes is a confounding, and sometimes convoluted business. Some have the Magic Touch, and others just don’t, although as my brother says, “There is no accounting for taste".

The shredded inspiration in question...

Snikety Snik, Sucka! I’ll CUT YA!

A handmade bamboo tool I fashioned back in ceramics class at the University works GREAT for detailing my cut cardboard paintings... those tools are the most valuable, crafted for a particular task. This "little friend" came in handy later on in my art making!

Laying out “Shroud No.2” prior to hot gluing...

Painting “Shroud”, stapled down to my workboard:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Poetry Scores Invitational 2009- "600 Glittering and Genteel Towns"

"600 Glittering and Genteel Towns" 2009
8 x 16" each, mixed media on canvas

I will be participating in the 2009 Poetry Scores Art Invitational on Friday, Nov. 13 at The Luminary Arts Center, 4900 Reber Place at South Kingshighway- right across from Tower Grove Park. Poetry Scores is a local arts organization that translates poetry into other media, their main medium is the poetry score- a long poem set to music as one scores a film. At the CD release party for the finished score, an art auction will take place, contributing artists having made work that both responds to the poem and is titled after a verbatim quote from the poem. This year’s Invitational is devoted to the poem “The Sydney Highrise Variations” by the Australian poet Les Murray.

I was honored to be asked to be invited by Chris King, editorial director of the award-winning St. Louis American, Confluence City blogger, and hard-working Poetry Scores board member. While I am no poet, I regularly lift bits of song lyrics/titles as inspiration for my work, so I am notably qualified. After studying Les Murray’s poem closely for a couple months in preparation for my finished artwork, I settled on my vision for the line "600 Glittering and Genteel Towns", Murray's lament for Sydney's ambition to rival urban America's own seemingly neverending upward vigor in pursuit of modernity- an aspiration that ignored the regional individuality already present in the townships and burbs inland.

I was inspired by several birdseye views plucked from the internet of the sprawl North and East of the city, including the Parramatta River valley leading to Harbour Bridge. Views of these valleys and riverways were the groundwork for my initial drawings on the canvases, leading to the shaped, finished mixed media pieces. Yes, that IS glitter shimmering over my paintings- "600 Glittering and Genteel Towns", get it? Sorry I couldn't resist; I might end up the Andy Warhol of this little invitational, but at least I didn't piss on them or use diamond dust, so...
The bidding will start at $50.00 per canvas, and if you find another painting you like by another participant in this incredible roster of St. Louis artists you like better, by all means grab it- you might not get another chance to get work by these folks for such a low price point.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It is my usual discipline to leave this journal focused on my adventures in art-making, but a busy year of uninterrupted work left me feeling really burnt out. I had been painting day and night, sessions on several canvases tucked between my job for over the last month in pursuit to keep the flame alight, when I finally needed to step away for a spell. I needed to do anything else. I was reminded of a challenge I had turned down for far too long- fixing up that clunker of a snare drum I’d avoided for many years, neglected in a forgotten corner of my apartment.

My pal Dan sold me this drum along with a matching Slingerland 14” floor tom, a small 60’s Ludwig drumkit with mismatched toms & bass drum, an assortment of old hardware, and some beautiful Zildjian cymbals. I had cleaned up/replaced the heads on the floor tom & Ludwig kit in the past year or so, which I use for my acoustic band, The Good Medicine Revival Show, but had long been intimidated by the disrepair of this snare that gathered dust & paperwork near the computer at home. The snare strainer system was so cranky that I sincerely believed it to be broken, but upon closer inspection a couple weeks ago coupled with some internet research on the subject it merely needed some tender loving care. When finally realizing what I had on my hands, the thought came: “the time has come to polish off this diamond in the ruff”.

A few clues as to where this drum surfaced in my study on the subject, including the seemingly dysfunctional strainer/throw-off mechanics. The strainer is a 3-point Radio King, various designs of which having been manufactured all the way back to 1928. The strainer assembly dismantled revealed further evidence this is circa ’60-‘61 Slingerland: according to Dr. C.J. Wenk, the upper arm of the throw-off is no longer screwed on/removable, but permanently riveted. When I purchased the drum 7 or 8 yrs ago, shoestrings had been used to attach an old set of Pearl snare wires to the strainer, so I knew that wasn’t stock, but I had no idea then about the unique snare wires system designed for the hardware. Most of the snare drums I had dealt with had utilized cord to hold the snare wire set to the strainer save some of the marching snares I used in school and my Ludwig Coliseum snare, which used a Classic P87 (pain-in-the-ass). Unique to this design is the use of metal tabs riveted to the snare wires, which clamp right into butt end and to the throw off side. I had Drum Headquarters in Maplewood attached the new Puresound snare wires, after my cleaning and reassembly of the drum and it’s strainer hardware. I couldn’t see how this could system work effectively when I first discovered it, but it does work quite well.

My other clues concerning the times of this drum were:
*a solid maple shell with solid maple reinforcing rings, prevalent from 1955-1964.

*Used from April ’61 until Sept. ’62, a black Niles, Illinois black badge with raised gold script without a serial number was another clue to the vintage of this drum, serial numbers not having been employed on Slingerland drums until October 1962.

*a darker shade of Black Diamond Pearl finish/wrap with “more of a black on black character”, according to the fruits of Dr. C. J. Wenk’s research featured on, where I found a great deal of info on Slingerland history.

With the appropriate snare wires, Danny’s Slingerland has unusually sensitive snare tensioning- simply incredible... it’s whisper is heavy with breath using brushes, and a throaty thump with snappy high-end dynamic commands attention when using a stick. As a musician of many years, I believe instruments have a soul of sorts- they want to be played and cared for. Music is the most abstract form of art, the most developed voices of which having been employed by us humans- our tools used in wielding this art are the machines of the Gods, crafted by mankind. A week of work on the drum had uncovered an unrealized and divine little possession- I played the refurbished drum at an impromptu jam session this past Friday and I couldn’t be happier!

Tearing it down:

...the cranky strainer in question, disassembled:

...and the buttend plate assembly:

...the internal muffler was in great working order:

...okay, all cleaned up and reassembled:

...back from Drum Headquarters with the appropriate snare wires attached:

Mission Accomplished!

Thank you, Mike for the WD-40 and the silicone grease! Thank you Drum Headquarters for installing the snare wires for me!

Monday, September 21, 2009

More progress...

More progress on "Fox and Hare"... a lot of brushwork over the last two rainy days on this one and "Secret Marriage":

Friday, September 18, 2009

Playing Wth Crayons...

This is another drawing from my private sketchbooks, circa 1995, a simple hilly landscape in crayon, rendered almost entirely abstract due to its exaggerated simplicity. I was drawing with Crayolas daily during this period due to my preschool teaching post while attending the university for Art Education. I never did finish my teaching degree, running off to the city to be a Famous Artist instead, but that’s another story. I’d argue I learned more about drawing from my daily drawing time with my preschoolers than I did in the many hours spent in figure drawing class in the years prior. Watching my little students draw/drawing with them really unlocked my playful nature- children are the ultimate experimentalists, unconcerned with the formalities of undergraduate art disciplines. Children draw as an activity; the artifact left behind is merely that. Many afternoons spent in the parks around town on our weekly outings likely influenced my landscape here, perhaps an example of blending crayons to create spatial effects with color … or maybe I was only playing with my crayons like the other kids.

Another crayon drawing from the same sketchbook, very surreal... pretty far out, I must say...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Works in Progress

Above: beginnings of a 30 x 40" canvas

The reason you haven’t seen much new work here on my blog lately is due to the fact that I’ve been working on five new paintings simultaneously, with more to come as soon as I get these under control. Additionally, between my day job, band rehearsals/performances, and social obligations, squeezing in time to craft these multi-layered mixed media pieces can be tricky. This very process-oriented method takes time- building up collage materials, gesso, glue, washes of paint, and more acrylic to create the finished product. While there is some general planning involved in working this way, I like to allow them time to develop- making a few at a time allows time for layers to dry, for future direction to formulate on one while I work on the others. I’m not really in a hurry...

So here’s a little tour of my progress:
Here, 2 smaller canvases on the easel next to a larger one on the table- after collaged canvas & gesso applied. Beyond the easel, "July" and "August" hang on the wall in a more finished state...

Below: "Fox and Hare" taking shape on the table next to the smaller, less finished "Secret Marriage"

Below: "Secret Marriage" dries on the easel after more collage work.

..."Fox and Hare" dries on the easel after more collage work...

Below: detail of "Fox and Hare".

Below: "Summer Grass" gets a base coat of green after collage work/glue drawing.

..."Summer Grass" much further along after more collage and painting

Below: "Summer Grass" in different lighting to better illustrate it's layered surface texture.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let Me Drown

“Let Me Drown” is another dark little sketch I found in the same book I drew “Hole in My Life” back in 1995 (see previous blog entry). In fact I found several little marker drawings like this, all very moody! *laughs* … “deep thinker, that young man”. Like “Hole in My Life”, it contains some seemingly veiled imagery that I cannot recall the reason for drawing. I suspect they mean nothing actually, as I am prone to working from sets of words I like together or bits of poetry or song that catch my ear- then simply making up imagery to go with the title I’ve chosen. In this case, the result was a very surreal enigma my memory cannot unlock.

"Let Me Drown", 1995
marker on paper, from the artist's private sketchbook

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just a sketch...

Sketchbooks are fascinating things- a glimpse into roughed-out ideas, some which bore fruit in the form of finished art, some that amounted to nothing more than scrawl, momentary muse. I began keeping a sketchbook back in 1991 when I attended art school at East Central College, and keep one going to this day. There are months when I hardly touch it, and other periods it overflows with a sudden unexplained streak of inspiration. I have several from over the years, some of which contain very personal diaristic notation detailing a young artist awkwardly “testing his powers”. Now and again over the years when someone would peruse one of these books, they would comment on how interesting they are- some freely telling me they liked them more than my finished art. There has been a small resurgence of interest in my old sketches, so I will share one or two here with you on occasion in no particular order, some with a note on the drawing’s significance, some without. I hope you will enjoy and that it might provide some sort of insight into the creative process.

"Hole in My Life", 1995
marker on paper, from the artist's private sketchbook