2016 Portland Building Installation

Benz and Chang won a juried commission to install a piece of public art in the Portland Building starting mid-September 2016. The photos above are different views of a model of what I plan to build for it, except the content will be a little different. The finished piece will be room-sized and be installed in a room.

Every year the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) puts out a call for artists to submit proposals for the installation space in the Portland Building. This is the city building at 1120 5th Avenue in downtown Port­land – the one with the enormous statue on it. The installation space is to the side in their main lobby. Here is a link to the page that RACC maintains to document the Portland Building installations.

Artists are chosen by a jury. RACC says that about 100 artists submit proposals every year. Six professional artists and three student artists are chosen each year. I submitted a proposal in late 2015 for the 2016-2017 season, and was fortunate to be chosen. My installation will be up from September 19 to October 14. The date that I can start installing is September 12. My current plan is to start the work in early August, build most of my installation in my garage, and install it during that week.

I thought that it would be interesting to post my entire proposal here as a sample for other artists to see what it looks like. First off, here is the 2016-2017 Artist RFP from RACC (This one is specific to 2016-2017 only. If you’re thinking of applying, get a current one from RACC).

Here is the text of my proposal, as it was submitted:

The Bridge, 1910


To dream of a bridge may signify making a connection, crossing a transition, or overcoming an obstacle. When I was contemplating the project, I came across this photo from the City of Portland Archives, and was struck by the poses and faces of the men. I wanted to bring these figures and bridge building into a more dream-like, archetypal representation. Here are the agents of change and here is their means of transport over this obstacle.

Hawthorne Bridge Crew in 1910 – framed area will be used for silhouette Source: City of Portland Archives


The bridge will be constructed of four frames, each being 8′ tall by 6′ 5″ wide, which are assembled in a line like a bridge (see the attached photos for a model of the piece). Photography backdrop paper will be stretched across each frame. This paper will be cut with silhouettes as shown in the sketches (but with more detail). The back of the installation space will be painted with raindrops. On the left side of the bridge, I will leave a few inches of space. Viewers will be able to enter the space to the right of the bridge.

The paper and other materials will be cut ahead of time in my studio and transported to the installation space to be assembled.

Here is my sketch of the installation:

Artists are asked to include up to six images of past work. I opted to include two images of a “proof of concept” model that I built.

1. Proof of concept paper model, view 1 – Cardboard and glue – 2015 – This is a photo of a paper model I did as a test to see how this sort of format would work.

2. Proof of concept paper model, view 2. – Cardboard and glue – 2015

3. Finding Beauty in Cancer, the Alchemist, 1912 – Walnut ink on watercolor paper – 10 x 14.5 inches – 2015 – My current body of work is very archetypal and dream-like. These two “Finding Beauty” paintings were a collaboration with local photographer Kimberli Ransom.

4. Finding Beauty in Cancer, New Diagnosis, 1912 – Walnut ink on watercolor paper – 10 x 14.5 inches – 2015

5. Mr. Marguerite Lives Like a Ghost, 1923 – Walnut ink on watercolor paper – 10 x 13 inches – 2015

6. The Photographer, 1933 – Walnut ink on watercolor paper – 14 x 11 inches – 2015

Here, in PDFs linked to the text, are my “simple budget or list of expenses“, “image_list“, and “resume or bio.” I did my best to keep everything on one page and simple.

That’s it! I’ll be sending out invites when it happens.

Painting in Progress – Show Mlle Sabrina

final show-mlle-raw0008-mlle-m

I have a superstitious thing about showing work in progress, so it’s a little deceptive to call this “Painting in Progress” but there it is. With this painting, I’ve got a bunch of source photos to show as well.

Show Mlle Sabrina is a reproduction quack spiritualist photograph of the sort that John Beattie, Frederick Hudson, and Georgiana Houghton (among others) made.













Decision Making

I have made four online versions of the Magic 8-Ball. I made them mobile-friendly, so I could put links to them on my phone and get answers anywhere I find myself.

My online Magic 8-Ball. This is the traditional Magic 8-Ball with 20 answers. It features a built in 3 second wait to make up your own mind. If you want to ask again, simply click the answer.

The Magic 8-Ball Plus. This Magic 8-Ball is like the above, and adds three optional “Consult Oblique Strategies” answers. When Oblique Strategies comes up, clicking the answer will take you to an online Oblique Strategy tool (that is not of my making).

The Fifty-Fifty Magic 8-Ball. This is an 8-Ball with 28 answers. There are the 20 traditional answers, the three Oblique Strategy prompts, and an additional five negative answers. As I outline below, the traditional Magic 8-Ball answers are weighted towards the positive. This Magic 8-Ball does away with that.

The Either-Neither Magic 8-Ball. This is of my own creation and is handy when you are trying to decide between 2 options. It has 9 answers. Three of these are “Choice A.” Three of them are “Choice B.” The remaining three are “Either,” “Neither,” or “Consult Oblique Strategies.”

Let me explain.

If you’re interested in art and the creative process, you’re probably familiar with the Oblique Strategies, which were created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. This is a deck of cards created by Eno to aid in the creative decision-making process. I was always fascinated by this set of cards, and have tried using them myself, but there is one problem: the cards require that you think. Sometimes I don’t want to think. Thinking got me where I am: Stuck.

On occasion, I would use a coin flip to make decisions. It works great for yes or no questions. Another good thing about flipping a coin is the ritual. One pulls out the coin, props it carefully on the thumb and finger, flips the coin, catches it, turns it over, and finally, reads the result. By the time you’ve done all that, your mind is probably made up on the subject and you can choose to disregard the answer if you feel strongly enough about it. If the coin agrees with your thinking then it’s all the better.

The problem with a coin flip is that there is no gradation. You get a yes or no answer. I finally settled on the Magic 8-Ball, which is more commonly thought of as a novelty toy than a decision making aid. Here is the Wikipedia page for the Magic 8-Ball. There are twenty possible answers supplied by a standard Magic 8-Ball:

It is certain
It is decidedly so
Without a doubt
Yes definitely
You may rely on it
As I see it, yes
Most likely
Outlook good
Signs point to yes
Reply hazy try again
Ask again later
Better not tell you now
Cannot predict now
Concentrate and ask again
Don’t count on it
My reply is no
My sources say no
Outlook not so good
Very doubtful

If you spend a little time thinking about the nature of these answers, you’ll see that the “yes” answers outweigh the “no” answers. In fact, out of the twenty answers, a full half of them are positive. Five of them are indefinite. The remaining five are “No” answers. I like the way that this is weighted in many situations, and in the majority of my consultations with the 8 Ball, I choose the traditional route.

Painting in Process – Cleopatra’s Needle

The number one question about my paintings is still: “How do you do them?” So I decided to put together a couple of “in progress” kind of posts.

The answer is with little brushes and walnut ink. Walnut ink is a traditional ink made by boiling the entire nut and husk that falls out of the tree. At the end something is added to the ink to keep it from growing mold. In the case of the ink that I use, alcohol is added. I do not make my own ink. I use ink made by the folks at Monograph Bookwerks.





That stuff on the borders of the painting is frisket. The frisket I use is the traditional white-tinted latex type, and I use it to mask places where I don’t want ink to go. While an artist can “lift” walnut ink, much like they might with watercolors, the ink still stains the paper. So once some ink has been applied, that area will forever be a little brown.

The paintings develop much like any other painting. The composition is outlined lightly in pencil and a first coat of paint goes on. The pencil marks are erased as soon as possible, because they get harder to erase as more ink goes over them. I try to get the entire painting filled in and it usually looks a little cartoony. Then I mostly start darkening. And darkening. And darkening. And darkening. I do the standard tricks that artists learn to do for photorealistic painting and basic tightening up. Then I put the painting away.

A couple of weeks later, I pull out the painting again and decide how to push it further. I always dislike my paintings at least once during the process, and often more than once. If the choice is possibly ruining a painting trying to push it further, or disliking it, I push it. Very often, pushing a painting involves degrading parts of the image, adding blur and distortion, and/or darkening things to make them murky.



Because I’m making fake photographs, there is some processing that happens at the end. The ink, once it has a lot of layers on it, gets shiny. To get an even finish on the paintings, I spray them with an archival matte clear coat. Each painting is date stamped on the back, embossed with a signature (what is called in photography, a “blind stamp“), given what I call a “music signature.” This adds needed scribbling to the back of each painting.

Paintings Showing at Seven Virtues Coffee



My paintings are up at Seven Virtues Coffee November through December 2014. They’re just down the street from Providence hospital on NE Glisan, at the corner of 60th. Here is information on them:

Seven Virtues Coffeehouse
5936 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97213
Show it on a map

HOURS – 7 days a week
Monday thru Friday: 7 AM – 5 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 8 AM – 5 PM

This is the first time that I’ve shown in a cafe, and it’s been a great experience. As you can see from the photos, they use wires for hanging the art. If you’ve ever hung art on wires, you’ll know that the pictures end up tilting forward because of the way they balance when there’s no wall right behind them. I added an extra wire to the top of the Theda Bara painting so that it would hang straight, but the rest I left as-is. Since we needed to hang them kind of high, the tilt isn’t very noticeable when you’re standing in front of them.

Seven Virtues used to be our neighborhood cafe at our last house, but we still frequent it because they have awesome coffee and a great staff. So go on down to the cafe, have some delicious coffee, and check out my paintings!

Other News

I keep telling people that, with my creative life, I’m doing the “crawl, walk, run” thing, and right now I’m still in the phase where I’m learning to crawl. I’ve been painting a long time, but I’ve never tried to sell prints on Etsy. It seems like everything I’m doing is a learning experience, and I’m having to be OK with some things being less than perfect.

I’m getting prints together for selling at Seven Virtues and will also be filling out my Etsy store some. Of course, I’m also working on more paintings. My very exciting May 2015 gallery show is coming soon, and I’ll be announcing the details of that soon.