Instead of waiting until the last minute this go-round, I thought I’d write my end-of-the-year post early. In 2013 I traveled a fair bit, for work and otherwise, and I’ve encountered many artists along the way. Some were familiar, some weren’t, but all of them delighted, taught, surprised, or entranced me. I met them on the street, in stores, at work, online, in books, and in further places yet. They all affected my own work in one way or another, and it was a year of pleasurable production and influence.
I’ve already written about meeting Charles Vess, the echoes of which are still bouncing around in my head, and I’m glad to say that these other meetings have had similar resonances. I spent more time looking at work by artist newfangled and old, from Hans Memling to Francis Bacon. Bacon’s shadow falls over many of the other work I encountered over the last year, including that of the Italian painter Roberto Ferri, who has the skill of the devil and a lineage stretching back to Caravaggio by way of Bacon.
In May I was in Seattle, visiting family en route to Alaska, and I stopped to shop at Daniel Smith, my favorite art supply store. While shopping, I got the kind of knowledgeable, sensitive, useful advice that I always do. In this case, it was delivered by Julia Carpenter, a painter who really knows what she’s talking about, and was able to answer every single question I had, as well as providing useful guidance about applying materials from the store to my own work. Julia helped me find what I needed, as well as giving detailed advice about brushes, and useful advice about drawing materials, as well as introducing me to Arches oil paper. (In case you’re wondering: no, I’m not being paid for this endorsement. I just had a really, really good experience and wanted to share it.)
Julia’s focused heavily on portraiture in the past, but her work encompasses a range of subjects. She’s talked at length previously about her work, what drives her, and the things you want to know about any artist. Here’s one example of her work, Odi et Amo, and you can find more at her website. I mentioned Bacon earlier, and I think you can maybe see some of him in her work.
In June & July I found myself in Chicago, where the American Library Association’s annual conference was this year, and I got an eyeful of art while there. I went to the MCA, where I saw the Daniel Clowes exhibit, and to the LUMA. The biggie was the Art Institute of Chicago, where I spent an afternoon and O.D.-d on the great art of all the ages. I left humbled and amazed. While in Chicago I also took a quick spin through the Gold Coast Art Fair. I was intrigued by David Abed‘s work, particularly the way he renders skin so finely, so luminously, and yet with a texture that makes you want to reach out and touch. Philip Saxby‘s paintings, by contrast, didn’t seduce me: they grabbed me while I was walking past! He’s a glutton for color, and I could stare all day long at his work, which brings a muscular, grotesque style to portraiture and the sub/urban environment.
Earlier in the year I got to see Tommy Van Auken‘s latest show at Eric Schindler, and it was packed to the gills with people and new work. He returned to favorite themes, from portraiture to dark or abandoned landscapes. He also stretched into new areas, both figuratively and literally, with his circus work. My favorite part of the show was his array of small portraits in the first room. The size of the portraits, combined with the placement, gave me a strong sense of that which I’ve gotten before from his work: that you can see all of Richmond there if you wait long enough.
Here are a few of his newer works, and if you’d like to see more, keep your eyes peeled. He’s planning on holding an open studio at some point in the next few months, and he’ll have a show in 2014 that you’re going to want to hit if you’re in Richmond or can make it. He specializes in seeing the things that no one else does, and if you get a chance to look at his work in person, you’ll know what I mean.