Through Concentrated Breath

making images from memory

Category Archives for: Memory


07 June 2017 by Rey Armenteros

Looking at old paintings and old drawings is a bitter-sweet pastime. On the one side, you’re reminiscing. In reliving the past, you enter the warm world of nostalgia. But on the other, those old works that once appeared so successful are successful no longer – or at least, not for the same reasons. This is actually the good news. Far worse is when the painting has something that was better than you remember it, making you feel good for a second (the sweet component to this subjective reality) but simultaneously making you question why you no longer paint in such a dynamic and charming way (the bitter).

There are “mistakes” I would gladly make today, if they could only look as good as the ones you are now beholding from some years back, old mishaps that seem to hit just the one right note today.

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26 May 2017 by Rey Armenteros

It is only natural to look back at old art and find it subpar, but what happens when you conclude that it was better than you remember it? What happens when you look back at old artwork and find it in your honest assessments that you had deviated from something that was actually better?

When it happens to me, I wonder if I still have it in me on some one or two levels, if I can no longer draw that hand the way I thought I could, if my eye for color is softening. I wonder if I took the wrong turn back seven years ago, and it is now coming to haunt me. I hate feeling regret, but moments like these, it is unavoidable.

This sound like a warning, but I do feel old art should always be revisited, because it contains reminders of paths you had intended but left behind. When I look at these old images from Shinchon, Korea, I find a freshness and boldness that I have put up on the shelf as my art developed with the years. Reminders of freshness are beneficial later, when that is a trait you don’t even recognize you’re missing.

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15 May 2017 by Rey Armenteros

It was one of those garage moments wherein I was cracking open old boxes and dodging the welling dust to get at old memories. No matter how you cut it, looking at old artwork is asking for trouble. The excitement that comes with the curiosity, for me, usually mingles with confusion.

Here is one take on that confusion. It is rare when you look at the old drawings that you find exactly what you remembered. You are either going to wonder why you thought that drawing that was so good was good at all, or you’re going to look at certain mediocre pieces that actually had promise if not a certain something that “those old good ones” lacked.

This is good, you tell yourself, because this is the clarity of distance (the distance of time) making you see what should have been obvious. This is the same perspective you exercise when you put aside a painting for a couple of weeks and get enough distance to see it from a more objective position. You tell yourself this, and you uphold this fickle assessment as something inestimable.


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Another Living Room Moment

26 April 2016 by Rey Armenteros

Why show this? I don’t know. It was nothing more than me trying paraline perspective in a room in my dad’s home. I added my dad in the corner, but he’s not coming under the paraline rules, almost like an objective bystander. He’s an outsider, floating above the room, delineated by thick lines that no longer hold him together. Paraline, as a diagrammatic handling of reality, succumbs here to the standard rules of perspective, here and there, wherever I forgot the rigid rules. Theoretically, a paraline drawing can run forever, if you have enough drawing surface, like the diagrams in assembly instructions and eye trickery. I’d like to try this again and make it work this time.

SKINS 2_0008

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Pure Memory

08 January 2016 by Rey Armenteros

SKINS 2_0002

This is from pure memory, but what does that mean? To me, it could be something as simple as I got this out of my head. But since this is the way I always work, I know there are facets to it most of us take for granted. For example: This is a general memory from my dad’s living room, and there was no doubt a lamp where you see it, but if that lamp looked exactly like that one you see in the picture is highly doubtful. I had to make it up in most places because I simply do not recall. His face, on the other hand, is from whatever I could bring back from direct memory, which is also spotty. There are also points where this picture has taken embellishments because there comes a point to most paintings and drawings where you try to make it clearer or closer to the goal you set out for it.

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Image on Skin

21 August 2015 by Rey Armenteros

Here’s a recent image I made on an acrylic skin using acrylics. It came from memory, but it might be more accurate to say I made it up. It started with the vague memory of my father taking my brother and I to a claustrophobic apartment where an old couple lived. The layout of the spaces was strange and uncomfortable. I remember the TV set in the middle of the room touching everything with it’s light. The memory is tinged with an all-pervading feeling that I don’t have a word for. And it was a moment that had been absent of conscious recovery for a long time until I started thinking about it once again when working on my father’s commemorative paintings last year. The memory is what I started with. However, this clouded thing is what turned up.


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Dad Making Muscles

31 July 2015 by Rey Armenteros

Here’s a recent drawing done in acrylic, with before and after shots. It’s a memory of my dad clowning around. When I draw from memory like this, it’s like attempting to take a snapshot of something that was never captured before. I don’t use reference of any kind. I’m just trying to tap into something that still resides in memory.

I like the earlier phase, and sometimes it’s difficult to determine if pushing it would ruin the freshness it seems to have. In this case, I’m not sure which I like better. Though there’s something fresh about the earlier phase, I almost always note that my earlier phases do not bring out the forms to the degree I usually desire.

Dad (early)Dad Making Muscles

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Jury Duty Sketches

08 May 2015 by Rey Armenteros

The last time I was in Miami, I found some sketches in my mom’s garage, and they triggered the story behind a court case that happened over twenty years ago.

For two weeks, I was part of a jury on a heroine trafficking case. The police caught the defendants in a reverse-sting operation in New York City outside a Nathan’s. It was tried in Miami because the deal started there, if I remember correctly.

We weren’t supposed to talk about the case to anybody, including our fellow jurors. Fascinated by the tale being unraveled before us, I wanted to express it somehow and could only do it by taking my memories out of the courtroom and drawing them in my sketchpad during my lunch hour, and I suppose I wanted to use it (and notes I may have taken) for some future work that never came into being.

Our case ended in mistrial.

Scan 184 Scan 187 Scan 190

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A Page Leftover from a Story Idea

23 September 2014 by Rey Armenteros

When you look at old artwork, you find that a novice’s ambitions (perhaps best left alone) coincide with the pleasant sensation of revisiting the novice’s stepping stones. You might recall when and where you did a certain drawing, raising strings of other memories that were somehow connected to this image. Sometimes the technique tells you something of what you were trying to do.

After exploring that clunky technique I had discovered by overloading my pen, I turned around and pursued the fine lines of a crowquill. This was the “style” that would stay with me for the next few years; though I had rejected the obligatory crosshatching of pen and ink just months before, here I was again brought in under its weave, and now with added facility.

Stuck on the thought of someday making it in comics, I was nurturing the idea that comics can be of all types and anything was possible. These notions were coming to me when all that could be reasonably expected from that era were superheroes done up in 64-color murk. Still, I insisted that someone could do something different, like rendering an entire comic in crowquill to be published in nothing but black and white. That was something I had never seen before, and I felt that there might be a place for something so groundbreaking. Looking back at this inchoate artwork, these revolutionary ideas with which I was filling my head may have had little to back them up. Naturally, I was blind to my own work. And even though I was aware of the limitations of the market, I wasn’t going to give up on these new ideas, these new inroads into comics that would be presented one day, even if not by me.

The story behind the page below is now gone to memory; it is not even a completed page. But I do remember some of the decisions made for this page, such as why I chose the angles and considerations around the bricks. On second thought, though I associate this page with a crowquill, a closer look at the marks tell me that it was likely done with a technical pen.Old Page

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Copying Your Own Style from Memory

11 September 2014 by Rey Armenteros

What is style and how do you aproach it? I wrestled with this question many years as an artist, without ever reaching an answer, though I went through countless permutations of what I gathered were different styles. As my memory holds it, the first time I consciously sought a stylized approach, I had been working in pen and ink for two years. I was in high school, taking fine art and commercial art classes, and I was getting tired of the crosshatching that we students expected with a pen. In manipulating the pen in different ways, I discovered a way of filling the pen with excess ink, and this gave a wet line that beeded on the paper surface. It was best when the ink was somewhat old in the bottle and in the process of coagulating. Instead of the scratchy feel, these lines glided and felt slippery, almost greasy. And the shading I pursued was a globby scribble, something you’d see in a woodcut though far more contrived and rough. Previous attempts at following a style were nothing more than aping a favorite artist, but this felt like I arrived at it on my own. After pursuing it for no more than several months, I went on to other styles, but this one influenced my idea of authorship over the look of a drawing – what I interpreted as your own personal style.

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about those old images, and I tried to emulate the style with a brush and some paint. In a similar way, I saturated the brush with paint that had the consistency of thick ink and developed the shiny lines I remembered from back in the day. There I was trying to form the memory of an image I had come up with all those years ago. Afterward, I compared the results with one of these old drawings from high school. You can compare the new painting with the original drawing below.

High School Pen & Ink Drawing

High School Pen & Ink Drawing

Recent Painting Copying that Old Style

Recent Painting Copying that Old Style

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