Through Concentrated Breath

making images from memory

Category Archives for: ReyA’

Thank you, Jack Kirby!

20 August 2017 by Rey Armenteros

When you listen to the classical music station, they might suddenly announce over three hundred years of Bach, celebrating the great composer’s birthday, and some people might wonder what’s the angle? I mean, I know it is an appreciation of the man, but why celebrate the birthday of a dead person? I suppose I’m looking for conceptual glue to these types of fragments, and I don’t recognize enough in them to suit me.

With Jack Kirby’s hundredth birthday coming up, now I am beginning to understand. When you think of one hundred years, you can internalize that number, not just because it is a milestone but it is not impossible that a human life can attain such a duration. So there is a physiological connection with the number, an intimate understanding, and then you think that Jack – had all the cards fallen into the right place – could have lived that long. He could still be alive today.

For me, celebrating Jack’s hundred years makes sense. Online, you can find many fans making the point, filing a parade of endless images by the King of Comics, and these are spearheading an incredible interest in the great comic book creator, setting off more fireworks than the publishing houses that owe him a great deal.

In my art, I never (consciously) reference the work of other artists. Here, we have an exception. It comes from my recent reading of the New Gods. I was taken aback by the superb twists in Jack Kirby’s story, particularly the one above, where the main hero, Orion, is revealed to have a natural sinister countenance that he has to hide with the help of his mother box. This is one of the most shocking moments, delivered in a strange circumstance that gives the reader a chill. Below is my attempt at a similar situation (far from finished, and far from good).

Thank you, Jack, for still lighting the fire for artists everywhere.

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What to do After Life’s Big Changes

08 August 2017 by Rey Armenteros

We moved. And now I’m looking at unfinished paintings that I had started before the move to try to see how I could finish already. This entails uncovering what I was trying to do with these particular paintings in the first place.

A great deal of time and meaningful events have divided the last time I contemplated this work and now. I’m trying to remember what I’m trying to say with them.

We bought a house. We went through the tremendous energy of gutting our old home, and we moved much of this displaced stuff to the new home. Then, we organized all of our possessions (including these unfinished drawings and paintings that I couldn’t find at first), and we were also making changes to the new house. We had to take care of peripherals with our child’s school and utilities and the rest of all that. We had a long list of other things in order to have life continue once again. We bought a second car. And after all this, we tried to look for the life we had left behind, look for the past things we had misplaced.

And now is when I’m starting to think about my art again, over two months after having lost touch with it. What you see here is some of what I have. Where do I start?

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The People that Keep Coming Back

25 July 2017 by Rey Armenteros

It has occurred to me that for years, my work was about the constant search for people and places and that every stranger I approached with my ink washes and acrylic pile ups were actually people I had met before in other drawings I had done.

Stacking thousands of hand-made images and looking for answers, I populated the world I always wanted to work with, and at the time, I hardly even knew it. Maybe I was looking at this as practice or exploration for the “real” images when they would one day come. There it was already coming together, and I was looking for more and more. The same face would return under the wild strokes of fortune, or I would bask in the colors of a horizon so regular, I had the odd feeling I had been there before.

At my various social media places, I have been posting and posting these monstrosities and finding between them patterns I might have missed during that time I was making them. There were relationships between the drawings that were pushing toward an oblique narrative.

Nowadays, I feel I’m still searching, but instead of searching for new faces, I am spending my time looking for the ones I already know and hoping to realize their stories soon.

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The Eternal Brush

11 July 2017 by Rey Armenteros

I have never had a brush betray me, but then that would depend on how you would define such a thing. Brushes get ruined, but I hardly ever retire them. And this goes to show that they not only work their magic when shaping the finest and most voluptuous lines. When brushes are splayed, I can twist striations more easily, and when their bristles curl out, I can stamp patterns with the lightest of touches. A ruined brush, when you conclude it can no longer give you control, has entered its second life.

Here is a good example of the results of hatching and stippling from deformed brushes:

Today, I used a fan brush. But then I went to a thin liner that gave me finer lines than a pen. And then I finalized the thick contours with something called a dagger brush, a new concoction for the age that is part round and part flat, giving both broad and sharp swings of color.

In my work, I use brushes almost exclusively; there are very few moments when I need anything else, such as a spatula for buttering on color or an eye dropper for extruding semi-fluid paint. A brush can do almost as much as a pen or graphite stick, and it can also do so very much more.

Basking in the wet black strokes that pool on the surface of my image, I find myself falling in love all over again with this ancient tool. And this is silly; I learned a long time ago that if you focus on the tool, your work will suffer for it. A red sable brush with a tapered point and a solid and graceful handle is a work of art in itself, which for me was always difficult to employ effectively since it would divert my attention away from the work at hand to marvel at the slender utensil at my fingertips. Rather than sables or expensive hog’s hair brushes, my brushes today are just plastic things with nylon hairs, but as cheap as they are, they still hold a line as well as the best of them, and they keep the spirit of every brush since the first shattered twig was made to move red earth.

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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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When Style Fails to Make an Appearance

30 April 2017 by Rey Armenteros

When making art, we seldom think about the things that drive us to make the work in the first place. It is something I have noted over the years. Some artists are trying to get their ideas out, putting together things that they would like to see come to life, like large projects that take whatever it takes to make it happen. Others are devoted to a process, the repetition of certain rituals, the likelihood of saying the same things over and over, and I am thinking of painters that paint the same things with little variation. And others are driven by experimentation and what results you could get when you put these several things together in this new or peculiar way.

Related to experimentation is the dynamic of performing a feat, which brings in a win or lose dynamic. If the results don’t work the way you had hypothesized, it may have proved to be a waste of time. This means your performance has a chance of not obtaining satisfactory results, and maybe this is the one drive that encapsulates them all because anything could happen.

I don’t know; these are just words, and without going into extensive detail they might fail in capturing the subtle shifts in the way we go about work.

When I was making my paintings for Memories from a Radio, you could say that I was using every drive I could, and the results were a miscellany of different outcomes and styles. One drawback to being so eclectic with your art approach is that the viewer might not recognize a style. Since their may be few patterns in your work, it will appear to lack cohesion.

When things got sporadic in Memories from a Radio, the only connection I had to avoid a disjointed body of work was the Tarot card iconography of frames and symbols, and I could never be sure to what degree this was able to tie everything together.

In a sense, I was pursuing a feat whose results were variegated because it depends on the perspective of each viewer. Even with the Tarot motif, I still had viewers approach me at shows asking why it was I would diverge so dramatically between paintings.

And as much as this sounds like a cop out, I never had a clear answer for such questions.

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A Break, Adrenaline, and then a Break

31 March 2017 by Rey Armenteros

IMG_8855 copy 2

The adrenaline of ideas creates a harmonious bell arc.

You hadn’t painted in about three weeks and all the ideas that you had jotted down for future use are either lost or not as brilliant as you had suspected. You decide that the best momentum is that brought about by work, regardless if you have a lack of ideas. You decide to paint the first thing that came to mind. Okay, that was a mistake, admittedly.

You go on to the next thing that occurs to you. This is better. But what do you want to do with all this? You keep going. You start slow and end slow. But it is in the middle, when the ideas are coming at you too fast to get all down that you are at the very peak of speed and connection.

Life then interrupts, as it is wont to do, or you start that steady decline into the same ideas rolling over each other, and you take another break.

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15 March 2017 by Rey Armenteros

Scan 111. copyb

I bought hundreds of these tiny watercolor papers, and this helped me propel myself forward, going from image to image wth great speed. This acceleration does something to the subject matter, making it flip through multiple possibilities without ever bogging yourself down with deliberation. This helped the content and its placement on the page. It was automatic. There were almost no decisions as ink and water shifted to make these images.

Scan 112copya Scan 112copyb Scan 113copya Scan 113copyb

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