I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.
Good designs sell – mine sell out!

http://www.artbyhensley.com/index.html

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Golden"


I can finally show you what I've been working on since my painting has arrived at its new home.  It was a wrench to give it away when it's been so long since I've actually painted anything this ambitious, if ever, but the painting wouldn't exist if I hadn't intended to give it away in the first place.  Giving is golden sometimes.

I wanted to paint a brick wall using a yucky pink and cover the bricks with May flies.  "Fish flies" make my friend smile, and I just wanted to cheer him up during a difficult time.  After a couple hundred fish flies, I decided the whole thing was too buggy, even for a guy, and changed direction.  I bricked over bugs and added other things to make him happy.

I didn't have a plan or design from the beginning, which meant I had to think up more things to paint and find a way to make the design work.  That ended up being a whole lot of head scratching and memory searching and online research.

In between all the mind work of figuring out what to paint and how, I had a practical problem because I painted this on primed, unstretched canvas.  Since the original plan was a big bug joke, I wasn't fussed about technicalities or archival qualities.  I intended to roll it up and stick it in the mail.  The better the painting got, the more I worried about delivery, especially since it could sit in the hot sun in a hot state once delivered.

A framer told me it had to be put on stretcher bars.  I didn't have any extra canvas on the bottom, and only 5/16" on the left side, but I got it on the stretcher bars -- which made this 2' x 4' painting big and bulky and expensive to send.  I've been telling myself "never again!" but I liked painting on the unstretched canvas.  I'm almost absolutely sure that I will do it again, and soon.

I actually took some WIP shots along the way for once.  First, I painted mortar colors with the ultimate light source in mind.  I did this with a house brush and a lot of raw sienna.  Then I cut out a template for bricks out of corrugated cardboard.  I slopped and dabbed pukey pink in the template, then without the template slopped and dabbed other brick colors until the bricks looked like bricks.

Tips -- don't make bricks too nice or they don't look real enough.  The mortar is curved, so the bottom part is lighter than the top (which is shaded by the brick).  I did all the initial painting of the bricks with a house brush.

Then I painted a bunch of bugs.  Then I bricked over bugs.  Actual May flies aren't this white, but I took creative liberties.  The fish skeleton is an idea I borrowed from something I saw in a restaurant, the portrait is the Titian I saw in the Detroit art museum, Joan of Arc is from a church... in other words, most of the parts are things that already existed before I decided to copy them.  I just put them together in my own way to create a different meaning, and each part is kind of its own painting.  I figured I must be doing pretty well in realism because I kept trying to pick up papers that were painted on the canvas to get them out of my way.

I loved making this.  I want to make something else now.  I did an in-between thing of another fish skeleton, but I want to do something more.  Maybe something for my own wall :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Repeat"


I got out my high school year book because my classmates decided to have a reunion tomorrow.  I decided to go since a friend I haven't seen since then is in town and I got out the book to study and remember people.  I bet whoever planned this outing remembers everyone without studying, but I'll be the first to say that I wasn't all that invested in high school. 

Apparently my school had a lot of activities: theater, sports, Glee Club... whole chunks of my yearbook are devoted to these things.  I thought we had football so we could kiss boys from other schools under the bleachers, but I guess there were people with "team spirit" who cared that "we" won the regionals.

I brazenly cut out whenever possible.  It was boring to keep coming up with ways out of class so I took a teacher's pad of passes and filled them out to explain my presence in halls during class.  That even got tedious so I started writing myself out of classes for the entire school year, then I decided to give myself permission to be on the grounds too (to take photos) which made it easier to leave school property.  Whole absences weren't a problem because I had my parents' signatures down pat.  Mom didn't like being bothered with absence notes anyway.

Imagine my surprise when the assistant principal blocked my way out when a school assembly was called.  I mean really, who would willingly go to an assembly?  But I was marched to the gym where I chatted with my pals in the far off seats where kids without "Glee" hung out.  People said my name was called, but I laughed until more people insisted I had to join the activity in the middle of the gym.  I didn't even know what the topic was, and sure didn't want to embarrass myself by being in the middle of it.

National Honor Society.  You Have Got To Be Kidding Me.  A photo was taken of me ready to bolt.  That moment still makes one of my friends bust out laughing.  Okay, I admit I didn't want to be in school, but I did the bare requirements to get A's.  So totally uncool, but all those A's let me get away with all my bogus hall passes.  I swear karma caught up to me for all this when I became a substitute teacher.

I was further surprised when my classmates voted me "Most Artistic".  Since I cut out of class so much, I didn't even know my classmates were aware of my existence.  For those of you who remember Greg, he definitely didn't see that paint roller coming :)

I painted that on the wall
All this seems a million years ago and mostly reminds me I'd like my younger body back and fewer wrinkles.  Alas.  Oh well, I assume some of my classmates have gotten fatter or balder or something.  I'll choose to remember them as they were uh, um, some time ago before they started having class reunions every 5 years instead of 10.

I finished my painting and the varnish is drying.  Maybe it will be in its new home next week and I'll be able to show you what I've been working on.  I think I'll start something new.

Forgot to explain the "repeat" in this, but reunions make me feel like "Groundhog's Day".  Same people, same friendships, over and over.  I wrote something a lot less irreverent about reunions giving us the opportunity to get in touch with ourselves, but looking through the yearbook sent me in a different direction.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Fragile" Painting Tips


Illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a word this week so I'll keep writing about the painting I'm working on, and very happily too despite feeling like a mason.  I keep repainting bricks when things don't work out.  This painting might've been easier if I'd a clear plan in the first place, but I'm enjoying the discovery.

Once in a while I notice how I paint, and wonder if other people know stuff I learned from long-gone old guys.  For instance, to paint fine, straight, parallel lines, thin the paint so it's fluid, then hold a ruler so 1 side rests on the painting and hold the other side up at a 45° angle.  Run the ferule of a brush (metal part holding the bristles) along the ruler.  Presto!  Straight line.  I won't kid you, this technique takes practice, but it's handy.

I'm lazy about changing my paint water, but I think that's good.  Mucked up paint water tints the other colors in a painting, which makes the end result more harmonious.

I wash my palette with hot water.  For acrylics, let the paint dry first then pull off rubbery lumps of yesterday's paint before hitting it with hot water.  Remaining paint floats off a ceramic or glass palette.  None of this is good in the drain, especially turpentine and oils.

Take care of your brushes.  Never leave them face down in solvent or water.  Make sure they're clean and use soap if necessary, and repoint brushes before letting them dry.  Some of my brushes are more than 30 years old and I grieve when I have to give one up because each brush knows me and how I want to paint.  I'm a fan of Winsor-Newton red sable brushes.  I'll paint with anything, but those are best (and more expensive).

Don't aim for perfection in everything.  I've found out the hard way that people really hate that.  Now I start out loose, then find things within the painting to perfect.

Sometimes using a wet brush is a good thing, but sometimes so is a dry brush.  I like dry brush to make things feel softer.  Mix up the techniques and the results can be better.

Don't do what I do unless you're a glutton for punishment.  I'm painting a 2' x 4' canvas with mostly #2 and #5 brushes.  I did the undercoat of the whole thing with a house brush, and I use that 1/2" brush once in a while, but even non-artists can tell you it takes a long time to cover 8 sq ft of canvas with the pointed tip of an 1/8" brush.

Glutton for punishment -- and loving it.  Painting is a meditation I've missed more than I realized.  I used to happily spend my days painting surrounded by other creative people.  We got into our own flows and spent our days alone together.  It was wonderful.  When computers took over, no time to peacefully meditate my days away.

Now I'm fundraising for a living and my days are filled with people and numbers and problems to solve.  Painting what I feel like painting in my spare time, intending to give it away, makes my heart happy and helps me figure out all sorts of things about myself even though the painting is for someone else.

In case you didn't read last week's post, I've been dropping hints about it to the eventual recipient so no overviews until the painting is finished and delivered, but this week's clues are above.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Fragile"


I've lived through hard moments that left me feeling fragile, and I feel the world is unfair and doesn't make sense.  Those lessons come back to me when I see another person struggling with their problems.  Just yesterday I said "Talent doesn't necessarily win" and the young lady I was speaking with fervently agreed, glad someone else recognized her struggles.  Helping her with tips I've painfully learned along the way makes the universe more rational for both of us.

"Fragile" is just a step in the tempering process.  Anyone who feels, tries, fails, fears has felt fragile at some point, but if we push through and find a way to succeed at the other end we're better than we were before we faced those challenges.  The people who faced struggles before us often want to help those following in their footsteps.

My original intent with this blog was to talk about art and share things I've learned.  I didn't realize I'd end up talking about so many other things or that I'd feel so disconnected from my creative process that it felt a lot like being stuck in a bad marriage.  I've had bad experiences both with art and marriage and I didn't want to put in any more hard work into either.

Sometimes people talk about the creative muse, but creative people seldom admit when their muse deserts them.  Of course that creative spark is who we are and somewhere within ourselves, but sometimes I just don't feel like doing it.  It's painful, like wanting to be kissed or held but feeling so afraid of hurt because I've been hurt before that it's just easier to push that person, or the art, away.

I've been painting.  The original idea was to gift a visual joke, but in the process I decided to make a real painting.  It's big for me, 2' x 4', acrylic on unstretched, gessoed canvas.  I've been giving the intended recipient clues about what I've been up to, so I can't show you the whole thing yet because that would spoil the surprise.  Besides, it isn't done so I really can't show you, but I'll let you in on clues I've been dropping along the way.

It's the first time in a long time that I've felt love in painting.  I feel there is magic in my fingertips, I'm a conduit of zen flow, and "I'm the best!" euphoria.  That's phase 1 of a relationship when the other person is everything you ever wanted.  Phase 2 kicked in when I saw it wasn't working and I had to either scrub the canvas or start over or put away the art supplies.  In this case, I scrubbed the canvas and repainted.  Even that feels good.  I'm not willing to settle for less than what my heart wants to express and what's within my ability to do.

Too often art on blogs is seen in a flash of a post or two.  This painting is taking time, and it's time that makes everything in life better.  The sky is bluer, inspirations surround me.  I've really missed it.  It's like sleeping in an empty bed for so long that you've forgotten how necessary it is to cuddle, but then someone touches you and you long to be touched.

The young lady I talked with yesterday is a musician.  I saw the love in her face when she talked of her music.  Her longing woke a sleeping part of me and I saw myself more clearly than I have in a long time, and realize how fragile I've felt in this part of my life.  Painting the last couple of weeks has been leading me to understanding that moment of realization, which is all part of why I need and love to paint.

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Beard"


Do you remember the days when all men were clean-shaven?  It was kind of big thing for my dad to grow a mustache in the 70s.  It was really red, and I thought it was unnecessary, or sometimes I thought that it was like having cup but no saucer from a set of china.  I wasn’t too fussed about it since it was his face, but I was started wishing men would just stick with the standard bare face that I was used to.

It was a loopy time for men from my perspective.  I mean really – leisure suits?  Dad had one in powder blue polyester.  I liked the way the suit made his eyes blue and at least he didn’t get his hair done in a permanent.  That had to be clearly the stupidest style I’ve ever seen.  I’m all for curls when they happen in a regular way, but perfect rows of chemically-induced curls isn’t manly, I don’t care what they said about it at the time.

I was observing men going wild with a suspicious and mistrustful eye.  Dad bought a red motorcycle.  I was happy when he and Mom went away for weekend camping with other misbehaving adults, but as a child of the 60s I wasn’t all that far from white gloves at church.  It was all well and good for college kids to smoke pot and go to Grateful Dead concerts and protest wars, but I was in the first generation of kids to watch so many parents divorce and I didn’t approve – it was the destabilization of the world as I knew it.

While my parents stayed married, divorce was going on all around me.  My friends’ worlds crumbled, and nobody knew we were supposed to say stuff like “it’s not your fault”.  I said stupid stuff like “isn’t it better that your mom moved out because now there’s less yelling?”  I don’t suppose I racked up any points for appropriate sympathy.

I think it’s pretty safe to blame facial hair for all of it.  After all, look at those hippies and all the chaos they created.  It was only a matter of time before parents started copying the very people they criticized for sloppiness.  Women had the pill and didn’t have to have endless babies.  They could get out and party.  If their husbands didn’t want to play, then they could go out without them.  Women could work too, and with their own money, did they even need a husband?

Then again, the husbands were thinking that a lot of their wives weren’t any fun to go home to.  They needed male bonding at the bars, and if there were willing females there, so much the better.

I’m currently older than my dad ever was in this lifetime.  Sometimes that surprises me because how can we ever get older than a parent?  My perspective of Dad is child to adult, not adult to adult, or even older adult to younger adult.  If years create wisdom, I’m wiser now than he ever got to be, but I don't know if I feel all that wise.

AND, I'm not smart enough to figure out why comments are disappearing with Blogger lately.  Does anybody know how to fix this?  You can write me here if you've got answers.  Thanks!

I posted this art a couple years ago but it's just so obvious for "beard" I felt like I had to post it again.  For the record, I don't have a strong feeling pro or against beards.  Whatever suits the man best, but that in between stage is painful to my tender cheek :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Summer"


I went to Michigan last weekend.  I had multiple reasons for going, and on that list was the Detroit Institute of Art.  I've been hearing about how politicians want to sell the art to bail the city out of its financial distress, and I needed to see that art before they get a chance to do it.  The museum is wonderful and I recommend it to anyone who can make it there. 

It's a medium-sized museum that's pretty easy to get around in.  The art is organized in a rational way, except I wandered around a lot to find one of the paintings that I especially wanted to see.  And then... I had a moment.  I started mentally hyperventilating over a painting I practically saw by accident as I was stomping around trying to find that other painting.  This is a terribly crappy photo of the Titian painting that gave me palpitations.  It doesn't even show the red stroke of paint that flopped over itself in such an expressive, Impressionist-inspiring way.

I studied Titian in college.  Yawn.  I knew he's listed amongst the greats, but you just don't get that feeling when you're subjected to endless slides of stuff to memorize in college.  I felt a similar rush of understanding the first time I saw Van Gogh paintings in person.  (Which they also have in Detroit.)  I also saw a room entirely painted by Diego Rivera whom I had also underestimated in those endless slides of stuff I'm supposed to care about.  I didn't get all jelly-legged in the Rivera room, but I do appreciate him more now.  I've been reading about Rodin lately, and Detroit has a lot of his sculptures, including The Thinker...

And so on.  I could rhapsodize about art a lot more, but I had people to see and places to go since I made the grand journey to another state.  I was given the desolation tour after going to the museum.  "Look, nice houses!"  One block over, "Look!  Destruction!"  Back to nice houses, then over a block to see all the empty lots where houses used to be.  My tour guide was funny and I had a hard time thinking that the revegetation of Detroit is all bad.  They're even talking about bringing in goats as lawnmowers for all those empty lots.  Who doesn't love goats?

Michigan people are very nice, and I got some pleasure out of the fact that my new car got a little attention.  One guy asked me to pop the hood so he could look at the engine.  I'm told this isn't that unusual in Detroit, but it was new for me.  I bragged about my hybrid's gas mileage.  My car tells me my mpg every time I turn it off.  I've been averaging about 38-55, but so far my all time high is 104.9 miles per gallon :)

So with that kind of gas mileage, why not drive across the state and see Lake Michigan?  Which looks just like Lake Erie except the sun sets wrong.  I managed to cope by making sand animals.  Okay, this isn't quite illustration, and I've been meaning to apply myself more for Illustration Friday, but I did make art of a sort.  I also started a painting this week.  If it works out I'll post it here so you can see how Michigan can inspire creativity.

Last summer was a blur for me.  I worked non-stop and I'm determined not to waste another summer like that.  Summer is time for trips and fun!

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Mask"


We all wear masks so thoroughly, we think our masks are who we actually are.  It takes an internal honesty to really look beneath the masks, and let's face it, most of us aren't that brave.

Last week I wrote about taking care of my little brothers.  I love my brothers, and all the good things I said were true, but I was young.  I resented the inflexibility of my responsibilities, but my caretaker role became so much of what I presented to the world I couldn't separate what I wanted from who I was.  I got positive feedback from older people for being "good", and I presented myself that way until it became part of me.

Some people cover tender feelings with anger, I covered my anger with nice.  Nobody wanted to see my anger because it's ugly.  So I spent time being "good", then indulged in "bad" because there had to be an outlet for all of my less socially acceptable feelings.

Perhaps my situation was unusual because of my age, but many parents have written about similar feelings about their own children, but we don't like to talk about that stuff.  Parents brag about their kids' accomplishments and show photos of the smiling little darlings.  We have a societal image of what parents should be, and most parents wear the masks they've been assigned and/or assumed.

And that's just one of the masks people wear.  We present ourselves in the most positive ways because we want others to like us, respect us, or have some other positive response.  The "me" under all those masks hide from ourselves and anesthetize ourselves with chocolate, reality tv, road rage, affairs, and other coping techniques.  We stuff feelings for a happy world, but that means that the less pretty feelings never get expressed or dealt with until people go to a psychologist to help untangle it or shoot themselves.

"To thine own self be true" is difficult and rewarding, but it takes some bravery to look in the mirror without the masks.  I don't want to imply that I've mastered it either.  I just think it's something to work at.  I just let the words in the picture above come out in a random way, thinking about other people's masks, then had to look at these things again and see how many of them are in my own self image -- which isn't really the mask that I want to sell to myself.

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” ― AndrĂ© Berthiaume

“Don’t you, when strangers and friends come to call, straighten the cushions, kick the books under the bed and put away the letter you were writing? How many of us want any of us to see us as we really are? Isn’t the mirror hostile enough?” ― Jeanette Winterson

“Like icebergs, people normally expose only a small part of themselves, and generally just the part they wish to show.” ― Nikki Sex, Fate

“And I wasn’t playing a role – I was trying to be myself.  But the harder I was striving, the more I was realizing that I had probably lost that ‘myself’ somewhere between two perfectly performed roles...” ― Simona Panova, Nightmarish Sacrifice

“It comes down to this: If you want to be seen, heard and understood in the most genuine way possible, be open to the possibility of vulnerability. Allow yourself to be open. I know it’s a scary place, a place very few people dare to venture, but just try it. Try moving the masks away and really looking at a person the next time they engaged in conversation with you.” ― Leigh Hershkovich