The Stillest Night Series: The Birth of My Stream-of-Consciousness Process

Crystal City, 2012 was the first Artomatic to roll into the DC area in three years, and I was so excited for its return, I wanted to do something a little different and perhaps a little ambitious.

My work had been veering into new directions, focusing less on the prominance of figures/characters and more on environment, geometry and architecture, and I'd hoped to come up with an idea that might make a nice transition into the less figure-centric ideas that I've had brewing (as you now see in my "Large Works" and "Small Works" galleries).

I started this new approach with several sketches of surreal environments...

And I thought doing something like these on a larger scale might be a good option for Artomatic. By the time site-selection came around, I still wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to create, but I was inspired by the generous sizes of the spaces this time around, so I decided that whatever I was going to do, I was going to do it on my largest canvases (one 5x4 ft and two 3x4 ft).

I sat down and sketched some more...

But I wasn't feeling terribly excited about the things I'd come up with. So I took to an exercise that I employ often when I feel stuck or bored with my music projects-- stream-of-consciousness creating. I just sat and doodled, trying not to censor anything that wanted to come out onto the page.

And this is what I got:

...and then this:

I was really excited about this last drawing! It all came flowing out onto the paper in a matter of about two minutes, and the pencil almost couldn't keep up with my thoughts.

At this point, I thought, "this is it!" and I started to draw up some layout ideas, to plot the scene on my canvases.

I plotted out a 2-pt perspective grid, to make sure everything would line up with the paintings spaced roughly 10" apart.

Then I roughly sketched in the placement of the larger elements...

I only had a vague idea of how the people and puppies might appear, so I sat down with my sketchbook to try to think of some options and to work out a couple of value studies.

Now it was time to tackle those canvases!

And paint and paint and paint...

Painting the rug was VERRRRY time-consuming, but I was hypnotized by the "Orbital" station on Pandora, so it was pretty easy to power through! :)

Next, I realized that I needed to darken and add more depth to the skyline and hills outside, so I gave myself rather comical hand cramps (I wasn't used to this involuntary contorting, and it made me giggle despite the pain) meticulously bending masking tape all along the edge of the jagged walls.

Then I realized that I was somewhat intimidated by the idea of painting the balloon faces, because I'd never done anything like it previously... so I prepped a smaller canvas and gave it a practice whirl:

Not a total disaster! At this point I worked on picking out the colors that would be used for the faces. I wanted each balloon to be done completely in just one, pure pigment.

A close-up of the selected colors ( a screw and some cat hair!):

I wrapped up all the paintings on Mother's Day (the last day of installation)... with about six hours to spare. *whew!*