medium /// painting

“my indiana muse”

That’s Helen. She is the inspiration behind a huge, most likely lifelong, painting series, and a beautiful film by American painter Robert Townsend {or Bobby, or Rob}. The film is titled, “My Indiana Muse”... perfect, as Helen basically screams MUSE. I loved every second of this hour and half long episode… Rob’s paintings {yes, paintings} are insane. He is a self-taught, funny, modest, artistic genius as far as I can tell. Also, he loves donuts, so clearly we’re going to be friends.

First up, his watercolors from a few years ago. WATER. COLORS. I mean, I don’t even know:

What the?! Ok, that’s insane. And on that note, the first painting in the “Helen” series, back when Robert had named her “Kay”:

This was the piece he had titled “Kay and Patty”, before he found the slide with Helen wearing a name tag!

And, here are Helen and Roy on one of their many road trips, in matching outfits no less:

Hooray for pink pants! Looking good, Roy. ps. these are actually Rob’s paintings, NOT the original photographs. Crazy, right?

Now, for some people, painting the images would be enough. Rob is not one of those people. The film begins with him heading out onto the road to track down some of Helen’s fabulous mid-century destinations:

Note the orange/mud layer he uses for underpainting his large-scale oil paintings … it certainly does lend a warmth to Helen and her crew. Speaking of warmth… HAWAII! This is the painting Rob was working on throughout “My Indiana Muse”:

Note Roy’s Hawaiian shirt above. That took Robert six days to paint. SIX. DAYS.

I really do think Helen and Rob are kindred spirits, even though they never met. They certainly both love road trips:

How cool is that! He went where Helen went … ♥   I wish they could’ve gone on a trip together. I have a feeling they would have stopped here to buy a postcard and a slice of “World Famous Cheesecake”:

I double-checked with Robert, and this is actually an oil painting, not a watercolor – thank goodness because that would’ve broken my brain.

And finally, a peek at the trailer {and one of the posters} for this lovely ode to a mystery woman … who is now more like family:

Beautiful. If you can see this film at one of the many film festivals it’s part of, please do… it’s just so lovely. Gigantic thanks to Rob for taking so much time to answer all of my questions; thanks to Saatchi Art for supporting the episode; and thank YOU for listening. There will be more Art For Your Ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. “My Indiana Muse”
  2. Film Festival Schedule: Up next Beverly Hills, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Florida, New York…
  3. Film Makers: Ric & Jen Serena
  4. Original Score by Paul Bessenbacher & Matt Bowen
  5. Rob’s show in April at Altamira Fine Art, Scottsdale AZ


sarah winkler

“Mountain Formations”  … sigh. This is just one of the many gorgeous series by UK-born, US-based artist Sarah Winkler. She does beautiful collage work – which I thought this was – but no, these are paintings. Most of Sarah’s paintings are acrylic paint on panel, but the final piece above, titled “Fjord Echo”, is acrylic on panel with iron oxide, gold flake mica and marble dust. Mable dust?!?! Oh, and it’s 60″x60″. Love, love, love!

camille javal

I often say that “Oh, I’d love to jump into that painting and walk around”… so yeah, this. These interior murals are the work of Australian artist Camille Javal. Granted, she also does work contained on canvas, but there is something pretty special about these “all over” abstracts. Dreamy.

vincent xeus

Oh, so dreamy. These ice creamy-colored oil paintings are the work of China-born, California-based artist Vincent Xeus. All of them have a old meets new feeling… perhaps this is why:

[via Artsy] “Vincent Xeus’s atmospheric portraits are driven by a reverence for Italian and Dutch Old Master paintings as well as a desire to challenge classical constraints. “I loved their traditions and I had an equally strong desire to break away from it,” he has said of 16th- and 17th-century artists. “This conflict gave me struggle, and the struggle kept painting alive for me.” After immigrating to the United States from China to pursue a career in architecture, Xeus shifted his focus to oil painting. In portraits of historical figures, cultural idols, and personal friends, Xeus combines traditional techniques such as impasto and chiaroscuro with bold strokes and idiosyncratic details that disrupt otherwise classical compositions.”

Beautiful. Happy Friday.

max seckel

Now this is my kind of mess! Neon tape, bright orange construction cones, and the greenest plants I’ve ever seen. These paintings {acrylic, gouache, latex, and spray paint on canvas} are the work of Swiss born, New Orleans based artist Max Seckel. Here’s where these crazy worlds come from:

“My work aims to explore my own reactions to and perception of the world surrounding me. Informed by memories, dreams, conversations, and just plain looking around and being I assemble a world constructed of absurdities and references. Objects are clustered together and arranged with little respect to context, intending to create a sense of wonder and confusion as the viewer works to make sense of the situation presented.”

Wonder and confusion, indeed. Love.

david wightman

Acrylic and collaged wallpaper on canvas. I thought I should say that right up front since my first question was, “what is that!?”. This the unconventional landscape work of UK based artist David Wightman… now, if I could find a lemon yellow waterfall to jump off, my summer vacation would already be in the calendar!

ps. Some of David’s work is available via Rise Art.

“use it or lose it”

So, today’s episode is kind of insane. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve seen the recently revealed official portrait of Michelle Obama. I honestly can’t believe she made time to talk to me, but yes, Baltimore based painter Amy Sherald is my guest today. We definitely talked about the piece of American history she just finished painting {no pressure}, but I also wanted to know everything that led up to this exciting moment in her life. Amy and I are talking about her original plan to become a doctor, the years she worked as a bouncer at a bar, and how she found the path to her own very unique style. Listen right up there under “LIGHT IS EASY TO LOVE”, or you can subscribe on iTunes.

First, a few of the costumes we were talking about. Let’s start off with the unicorn equestrian that I obviously had to bring up:

The queen is fantastic! And, I think that last one is a costume. I hope.

Next, just people being people… in a stunning, engaging, brightly colored, Amy Sherald kind of way:

Seriously, she is so good. That final piece above is the ten-year-old we mentioned, Amy’s youngest subject so far.

Oooh, and this is “Miss.Everything”… and she really is:

This is the painting that made Amy the first woman to be awarded the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize. That close-up! Her skin is gorgeous. It’s so soft-looking, I can hardly believe it’s paint.

Speaking of soft skin {according to Amy’s sister}, here is the official portrait of FLOTUS, Michelle Obama:

Sigh. Ok, I already loved this painting so much, but hearing the behind-the-scenes story directly from Amy made me love it even more. The reference to quilts {Gee’s Bend}, Michelle’s elegant pose, and again, that lovely grey-scale skin… beautiful. All of that work – the selection process, choosing wardrobe, taking photographs, going back for more photographs, and then, oh yes, painting a portrait to be hung in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian as part of American history – definitely worth some celebrating:

And, clearly, I’m not the only one who’s in awe of Amy’s work. A two-year-old named Parker is mesmerized as well. She thinks this is a painting of a queen. Rightly so.

Finally, I can’t finish the post without this:

Awwww! I’d warm up his food too. Thanks so much to Amy for taking time out of her insanely busy life to talk to me {enjoy those margaritas, Amy!}; thanks to Saatchi Art and Create Magazine for supporting the episode; and thank you for listening. There will be more art for your ear next weekend.

Other links:

  1. Amy on Instagram
  2. Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis {Amy’s show in May}
  3. Hauser & Wirth, New York {2019 show}
  4. The soon to be historic photo of Parker & the Portrait, snapped by Ben Hines


julia hall

Doesn’t this immediately transport you to your favorite gallery… well, a gallery for those of us with a penchant for people watching, that is! This is just one series in the lovely portfolio of UK based artist Julia Hall. Ahhh yes, there’s nothing quite like sitting on a quiet gallery bench watching people from all walks of life wander by … add a little eavesdropping and I’m totally in. Here’s to women artists painting women looking at paintings… Happy International Women’s Day!

ps. I also want to mention Julia’s latest, and very powerful, series titled “If Not Now When”. Julia has been painting snippets from “the media conveyor belt, and the slow, rigorous layering of oil paint solidifies the moment, giving longevity to an otherwise fleeting event.” I was going to write a whole post featuring everything in this series, but to be totally honest, I’m having a really hard time with the constant stream of news, fake or otherwise, that we are constantly bombarded with. I find it absolutely overwhelming … I’d much rather be people-watching in a beautiful gallery. That said, I love this piece… in an “Oh no, please make it stop” kind of way. Also, it shows off Julia’s insane painting skills. Keep an eye on this very powerful ongoing series via Julia’s Instagram feed.

lorna simpson

Gasp! Just when I thought I couldn’t love the work of American artist Lorna Simpson anymore than I already do… “Unanswerable”. This is just a tiny peek at her latest work, all of which is currently hanging at Hauser & Wirth in London. I have loved Lorna’s collages for years, but these large scale, deep blue, smokey mixed media paintings are new, AND AMAZING. Here is a little bit of the show description from the Hauser & Wirth site that starts to explain the colors, ice, smoke etc…

“… In the last few years Simpson has taken up the medium painting for the first time in two decades, creating works using hazy washes of ink and acrylic over gesso. In works, such as ‘Ice 4’ (2018), Simpson layers the appropriated imagery and Associated Press photographs of ice, glaciers and smoke with nebulous washes of saturated ink which partially obscure the source material. The smoke plumes signal upheaval and discord in nature and society in reference, perhaps, to images of riots following police brutality past and present that Simpson has more explicitly illustrated in other related works. Barely discernable strips of newsprint typography allude to wider issues in society. Here, as elsewhere, the artist is sparing with colour; her disciplined palette consists of inky blacks, greys, and a startling acid blue that has only recently appeared in her oeuvre, contributing to its atmosphere of bristling movement. Deftly navigating the territory between figuration and abstraction, these paintings cut through the calculated glamour of magazine imagery with the brute force of the natural world. As the artist explains, ‘Conceptually, this is in tandem with what I’m experiencing emotionally but also what I feel is going on politically: the idea of being relentlessly consumed.’”

The show will be up until April 28th, 2018. GO.

norman gilbert

These paintings {oil on board} are the most recent work of Scottish artist Norman Gilbert. Now, when I say ‘most recent’, I mean sometime between now and 2000. The work shown on his website actually begins in 1950, as Norman is now 91… and still creating his beautiful work. His color choices, his style {that almost looks like printmaking}, and the fact that his teachers at the Glasgow School of Art considered him to be “unteachable” because he wouldn’t do what they told him to do … yes, these are all of the factors that go into making me a fan of Norman!  Watch this video clip from the BBC, and I’m quite sure you’ll be right there with me:

Norman is represented by Tatha Gallery in Scotland.