Preparing an Art Show is a Process

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. I know, I know, one should blog all the time. I agree with the principle, but I am working on an art show, “Boadicea in Albion,” and there is only so much room for creativity.

"Boadicea" by Andy Coughlan (2014)

“Boadicea” by Andy Coughlan (2014)

I try to do many things: I write — both plays and journalism, I act, I direct, I publish a monthly arts magazine, and I paint. I admire people who can do all these creative things at once, but I tend to be a person who compartmentalizes. When I am writing, I am writing. And right now I am painting, so that is it — especially with only three weeks until the show opens.

 There is a process to putting on a show. First there is the initial pitch (in this case I was lucky. This show is the prize for winning the Beaumont Art League’s Membership Show in 2013).

 Once the show is confirmed, I like to come up with a theme. I am somewhat of an idiot when it comes to shows. I like to do all new stuff if possible. Sure, I have a bunch of paintings that have never been seen at BAL before, but I always have a new idea and a show is a good way to develop it out.

 My last show, at The Art Studio in 2012, featured abstracts that were predominantly black and white (if you saw them you will know they actually had a lot of color, but at first glance they looked monochrome). There was a heavy Franz Kline influence in the work. How obvious it was I don’t know, but the spirit was there. I always consider my work as black and white drawings anyway.

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But like Kline I felt it was time to develop it out and play with color (preferably without dying young like he did). That meant every piece had to be colorful. Color is something I have always used to support the drawings. Now I wanted the colors to be equal with the line work. It requires a lot of thought.

As an aside, the great English comic Tony Hancock was in a movie where he played a second-rate artist. When asked what type of painter he was, he replied, “I am a Shapist — all my colors are in shapes.” A brilliant sentiment, but I digress.

Fortunately, I really enjoy underpainting — having layers of paint cover others — but allowing the underneath colors to bleed through. I also liked playing with texture. I always struggle with over working a piece, so I tried to allow the action of painting to show.

The pieces still begin as they have for the past few years, with life drawings from the figure. Then I get to deconstruct the figure — or figures — and break the lines, twisting them and overlapping from different drawings. The resulting abstracts, I hope, still retain a quality of warmth and spirit, and celebration of the female form.

I think visitors to the show, which opens Sept. 13, will see a cohesive show, but I make no apologies for any slight variations. I tried to let the pieces develop at their own pace. Like all artists, my influences seep in to the work. A bit of Miro, Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning, always Kline, and very much always Renaissance masters and Rubens (much harder to spot, but always a driving force).

For this show, I have two galleries to play with. In the Brown Gallery, all of the pieces represent the strong female spirit. All of the pieces are named for English or historical women. I hope the pieces will not only attract the viewer on their own merit, but also open a dialogue and interest in the women they represent. The way they are hung, and in which grouping, is an important part of the show.

The Scurlock Gallery is a totally different idea. It is certainly the biggest thing I have done. Certainly the boldest, and possibly the most ambitious thing I have attempted.

But that is for the next blog.

Review: ‘Guardians’ combines action with wry wit in comic romp

The much-hyped “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie hit theaters Aug. 1 (or July 31 if one counts the advanced screenings). Based on an obscure 1969 Marvel comic, the movie features a clichéd band of misfits, like a lot of recent comic-inspired movies — who come together to save the eponymous galaxy.

The Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax, left, Gamora, Star-Lord, Groot and Rocket.

The Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax, left, Gamora, Star-Lord, Groot and Rocket.

If the cliché remark sounds like a criticism, it isn’t. This ragtag group each finds a way to twist the stock characters so that they seem fresh. And when they fall back on stereotype, the cast seems well aware of it and play it to the hilt. What separates “Guardians” from the standard comic fare is the self-knowing wit. This is a movie that works hard for its audience, but all with a wink that says, “We know what we are, but isn’t this fun.”

And it is great fun. Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill (or “Star-Lord” as he prefers to be known — shame no one else knows). Quill is a great turn on the Han Solo cliché. Pratt is a lovable, smart-aleck rogue who realizes the expedience of the group working together. The rest of the crew are equally as fun. The stereotypical “cute” furry sidekick, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), turns out to be a bad tempered raccoon, who is friends with Groot (a CGI Vin Diesel), with a walking tree. Drax (excellently played by Dave Bautista) is the angry Hulk figure. He is driven by grief at the loss of his family, and delightfully unaware of the subtleties of language. Finally, Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, a beautiful green assassin with a twist.

Quill was abducted from Earth as a young teen. This gives rise to some great set pieces involving miscommunication, as he throws metaphors and idioms around that no one else quite understands. The audience understands him, though, and that makes the gags all the richer, while emphasizing Quill’s outsider status.

Director and co-writer James Gunn does a great job of keeping the pace going. The special effects are big and loud. The CGI is excellent and the story — well, it’s a comic book, for crying out loud. What do you want, “Hamlet”? But it has a great villain in Lee Pace’s Ronan, ably assisted by Nebula (Karen Gillan from “Doctor Who,” here shorn of her trademark red locks). John C. Riley and Glenn Close make appearances, as well as comic turns from Benecio Del Toro and Michael Rooker, Merle from “The Walking Dead.”

But the strength of the movie is the interplay between the “Guardians.” Pratt leads this merry band through one caper after another, and if there is an ensemble having more fun, I have yet to see it. The first Star Trek movie was a sci-fi film and it sucked. The franchise kicked into gear, with “The Wrath of Khan,” when the writers realized that we just want to see Kirk and Spock and Bones et al, bickering and facing danger together. “Guardians” avoids that trap.

For all its wiz-bang effects, this is a simple movie about a group of misfits who come to find that together they are more than they are alone. That’s another cliché, but it works.

 “Guardians of the Galaxy” is rated PG-13.