Life After The Cube

I left my previous job – and a 2 hour daily commute – at the end of March. The first part of April has been full of indie book promotion and an indie marketing campaign for my new Grumbacher sponsored acrylic painting class at Michael’s. I’m hoping to streamline the process of posting calendar updates to different online publications so it’s not such a time drain.

So far it’s been good experience. I don’t have a problem concentrating or finding things to do. Instead, my main challenge has been figuring out how to fit everything I want to do into a day. I’ve put a large black corkboard on the wall behind me to visually organize everything that I want to do. I just need to make myself stop and fill it in with my notes.

Having a painting class to manage has been just the push I needed to start regularly painting again. I’m recording the process in order to make examples of my work as well as lesson plans for future classes. You can check out my first painting over at The next step will be to make some vlogs, I just need to do some research on some good lighting solutions.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 18th, 2012 at 9:59 pm. Filled under: Art News,Creativity,Current Events,Painting,PhotographyNo Comments

Recent Portrait

I’m still picking at this portrait, so I don’t want to put up a full view of the picture just yet. I’m having a challenge with the outline of the head. This is probably coming from the fact that I don’t have an ideal set up for working in the apartment. This was painted with acrylic paint on Arches paper. It’s from a dream that I had. In the dream I was visiting the dentist for the first time in a long time. I initially spoke with the dentist and we decided what needed to be done. She then handed me a large, old glass bottle. It was made from thick brown glass with the brittle, yellowing label. She wanted me to drink from the bottle so she could begin to work on my teeth. That was when I decided that it would be best to leave.

Before leaving she wanted to check me with a special light. She turned off the overhead light and switched on a purple light which resembled a black light in a florescent tube. Shining the light next to face she made an “ah ha” sound. I wasn’t sure what she was looking at so I turned around to look at myself in the mirror behind me. My face was bathed in purple light and down the side of my neck I could see a lighted pattern which resembled a DNA test.

Published by Emily Duncan, on October 2nd, 2011 at 11:11 pm. Filled under: Dreams,Painting Tags: , , No Comments

Heart Project (1)

Recently I visited my storage shed and pulled out a few portfolios of work from college and the time before I lived in Japan. Among these is an example of the paintings I did on wood which incorporated carving. I had to abandon this kind of work when I went to Japan and shortly after I returned because I had no space to work in which would allow for woodcutting and gluing cradleboards. Not only that, transportation and shipping were also problematic.

When I found the work, “Up My Sleeve” from 2004, I was pretty excited.

I found this square of plywood at Lowes. It was so ugly, discolored and filled with cracks and worm holes. But once you cut below the surface, there was a yellow-ish layer. Very exciting! It is almost like a yellow cake with chocolate icing. I put it away in storage and have not touched it in almost six years!

I picked it up and carried it back to the apartment last weekend and placed it where I could see it every day. After thinking about it, I want to better incorporate the carved elements and the painting into a unified plane. At the time I made this I was very interested in wood block printmaking. More specifically, I was interested in the wooden matrix left over after the printing was done. I began a few projects exploring this idea, but I could never quite get the two to mesh.

Hopefully I will be able to re-work this piece. I plan to chronicle the process here. In this post you can see the state of this work as I type this entry. This is the first time I´ve done this, but I´m hoping to make this a kind of warm up for my upcoming painting vlogs. The videos should be coming along shortly as we have started assembling a station of sorts around the eMac in the kitchen.

Published by Emily Duncan, on May 9th, 2010 at 5:51 pm. Filled under: Crafts,Painting Tags: , , No Comments

Griffiths / Desiderio

Oil painting is a nasty business. I personally admire people who can do it. People who have the patience to deal with the stickiness, the solvents, the fact that their work doesn’t simply dry are of a far more patient ilk than I.

During one of my painting studio classes at UGA my professor, Margaret Morrison, was able to have a visiting lecturer, Vincent Desiderio, come to our class and speak about rendering figures in oil paintings. I liked what he had to say. If you have a look at his paintings, it´s quite obvious that he is devoted to creating oil paintings in a classical style.

Super simple summary of the process: first, the painter lays down a ground on the canvas. These days painters generally use gesso, a thick, chalky paint. Gesso works to prime the canvas and seal it, protecting it from the oil paint which, if given enough time, will eventually eat through the fabric. (To visualize it, think of the effect a greasy burger and fries have on a brown paper bag.) After this, a traditional painter will begin to build their painting by painting a thin layer of color. Usually a brown or an umber. Then the painter will build up color by painting in layers. Paint a layer of shadows, wait for it to dry. Paint some midtones, wait for it to dry, etc. This is why so many classic oil paintings (and the works of those inspired by the old masters) tend to have very dramatic lighting. They´re often building the lightforms emerging from the darkness.

Even though I don´t like using oil paint, I enjoy the work of skilled oil painters. Every time I see a traditionally rendered oil painting, it reminds me of Desderio’s comments about the importance of light. He referred to the the point where a curved shape shifts from light to dark as “the turning.” Capturing The Turning makes all the difference.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was introduced to the work ofMitch Griffiths.

According to the press release for his upcoming show, The Promised Land:Griffiths uses a traditional, almost forgotten style of painting, inspired by the light and composition of Old Master paintings, but he uses this style to depict the issues concerning 21st-century British society. His main subject is the transient and throwaway nature of contemporary culture, which is held in stark contrast to the permanence and indelibility of oil paint on canvas.

Griffiths says: “Once you paint a MacDonald’s burger box in oil paint, it becomes important and immortal. It’s a permanent mark of the disposable.”

This exhibition references 21st-century Britain and, taking the Union Jack as the recurring theme, it explores the inflammatory nature of what the flag represents alongside what Griffiths perceives to the overriding concerns of today’s society: consumerism and self-obsession followed by the need for redemption.

Griffiths cleverly employs the painstaking method of traditional oil painting to chronical the downfall of an empire. He builds these beautiful narritives about the middle class using a medium which was once exclusively reserved for capturing the idealized likenesses of royalty.

Desiderio, on the other hand, uses the uses traditional oil painting to elevate his subjects and the moment in which they exist. His investment of time and materials express the depth of emotion within the picture plane.

Seeing the works of both painters makes me want to get better at painting and rendering the human form while telling a story.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 25th, 2010 at 11:59 am. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , , , No Comments


This weekend I was doing some reading and came across the British grafiti duo, Bestever. I was mesmerized by the level of photorealism these guys have achieved by simply using spray paint. I have read that one can push the medium by doing things like using specially designed tips which change the flow of the paint coming out of the can. Still, it´s a treat to see such beautiful works rendered in spray paint.

According to this interview, the works tend to center around the theme of the fragility of the human body:

[I]t´s an anatomical and surgical way of looking at human figures. It´s mainly about death and disease. [P]ainting the things that you don´t see in a human but we know they are there; different angles, bones, blood and cells; even working out calculations that occur by just keeping a body alive. [This reminds us of] how fragile the human body is and how weak we all are as forms.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 19th, 2010 at 6:22 pm. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , No Comments

Eric Robert Parnes

Yesterday I stumbled across a series of paintings by Eric Robert Parnes. I read a little of his blog.

According to his CV:

The multi-media work of Eric Robert Parnes incorporates both his background as an American Iranian male and the history of images from the millennium forward. His two and three dimensional works all align themselves with an intentional revision of the ways in which grapheme have driven war, religion, and fashion through time. By appropriating and re-contextualizing these symbols and signs, Parnes has inverted their meaning; and by doing so become a provocateur of the highest order. Parnes resides in the Lower East Side in New York City.

Parnes´ work can next be seen at Seattle´s Center on Contemporary Arts as part of the group exhibition: I RAN Home (In America). In my online stumbles, I came across his series of works centered on the theme of shopping. In terms of the imagery, I understand what he´s trying to do. It´s clever. I appreciate it, but I´d like to review it simply in terms of imagery and execution.

I´m reminded of when I first started using photoshop. I loved he images that could be produced by applying certain effects. I was enamored of the feedback loop a painter could create: artist takes photo → manipulates photo → paints reproduction of manipulated photo. It´s quite sexy. One keeps the altered imagery, but they can also add the physical texture of something which has been made by a human hands. I find myself less interested in such works these days, though. I hope this trend of painting things which are obviously copies of snapshots will come to an end soon.

That being said, I like these studies. I like the use of text. As a person who cannot read the languge, my brain doesn´t automatically jump to assign it a meaning. It becomes another piece of the picture.

The internationally known logos are unavoidable. But I enjoy how he captures their blocky, blownout glare.

My most favorite element of the paintings, however, is the women. Without the normal ports of emotional entry: faces and hands, they become almost dehumanized. They too become design elements within the painting. Small dark machines interacting with garish signage and buildings. It´s quite exciting.

If you have the chance, definately stop by to take a look at I RAN Home (In America) at Seatte´s CoCa: Artists´ Reception, Thursday, June 10, 6-9pm / On View Weekdays 10am – 5pm, June 10 – July 5, 2010.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 16th, 2010 at 12:27 pm. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , No Comments