In the Margins Exhibition.

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    The In the Margins Exhibition was created with the intent to give a voice to the marginalized groups in the local region. The exhibition featured artwork from talented artists with varied backgrounds, who brought their own unique take on the premise of the exhibit. The curators had a vision of tackling the unique questions surrounding life within the margins as artists; and the artists, which included myself posed answers to those questions through our submitted works, ranging from painting, to sculpture, photography, poetry and dance.

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Life within the margins as an artist is oftentimes arduous. We are subjected to rigid confines of social conformity, and sometimes face political backlash because of our willingness to express our individuality- especially in times where it is challenged by social norms. The impact of these margins can be seen in our individual communities and globally, and if not addressed with our platform of expression, our future as artists and creative individuals could be tremendously affected.

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Above, I stand with Kasey Jones, one of the curators of the exhibition. There was strong encouragement for people of color, women, LGBTQ, immigrants and people with disabilities to apply, in order to set the stage for diversity in thought and creative assertion. The gallery was a wonderful venue for the exhibit- very spacious and promoted a fluid movement of people, and accommodated the performers perfectly.

Exhibitions like these are very important, especially in communities with diverse populations. They speak their own language of acceptance of all people, and promote creative expression of all those who feel pressured to live life within margins that seek to confine us in so many ways.

Sketching: The shorthand communication of Artists.

Several years ago in high school, as I sat in English literature class listening to my instructor talk about writers, and how they made it an art form to jot down bits of information quickly using shorthand writing, I was instinctively sketching the entire classroom. After the class ended, I analyzed the sketch and discovered all the actions that really took place in that moment in time, and how in the blink of an eye scatterbrained boys who simply wanted to get on to the next class forgot them. My sketchbook told a story.

In later years, I came to understand the importance of sketching. Similarly to how writers use shorthand writing to document quickly, artists use sketching to the same effect. Not only is it a form of documentation, but to the artist it is an intimate language that communicates more than just what is rendered- it also communicates who the artist is, and what better words to hear from an artist than “go ahead, take a look,” as he/she willingly allows you to enter their mind through their sketches.

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Aspasia (sketch) by Eugene Delacroix.

 Artists like Eugene Delacroix filled numerous sketchbooks with drawings and journal entries, and even said: ” Perhaps the sketch of a work is so pleasing because everyone can finish it as he chooses,” and how right he is! For when one peers into that window of the artist’s mind through the sketchbook, one gets to somehow be apart of that creation, without actually being apart of it. Delacroix further said: ” The artist does not spoil the picture by finishing it, for in abandoning the vagueness of the sketch he shows more of his personality by revealing the range but also the limitations of his talent.” This leads me to say, it is important to develop your sketching ability.

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Study of War: 1833-37 by Eugene Delacroix.

INCREASE YOUR ABILITY

Try not to worry about the subjects you draw at first. Just draw, focusing on expression and capturing the essence of the subject quickly. Do so through practice, and even the willingness to make it your own art form. Make sketching fun. Treat it like a pastime, rather than a chore or task. Just like how writers use shorthand, which is oftentimes very personal, use sketching as your personal shorthand to record visions, or translate your opinions, as many artists have throughout history.

TYPES OF SKETCHBOOKS

There are so many different types of sketchbooks out there on the market these days, you only need to browse through the aisle of say a Hobby Lobby to see the ever growing types, sizes and styles to choose from. But consider these three factors when purchasing a sketchbook:

  • Shape: Portrait (vertical with horizontal binding), landscape (horizontal with vertical binding) and square. There are a great many variety in these, and the sizes will vary as well.
  • Binding: Stitched (hardbound or softbound), spiral bound, or tape-bound. Artists who keep illustrated sketchbooks oftentimes prefer the hardbound sketchbooks, primarily for comfort, but these can be tricky, for writing/ drawing close to the binding can pose a problem because it isn’t flat. Spiral and tape-bound are far more common. These are more flexible, and oftentimes are perforated as well, so the artist can remove pages easily if needs be.
  • Paper: Paper type and quality can never be underestimated or overstated, for it can dramatically affect what the artist creates. A great many selection of sketchbooks containing acid free, recycled or speciality papers are on the market today. If you sketch in soft mediums, and smudging is a pet peeve, I recommend sketchbooks that have glassine interleaves between the sheet. Most sketchbooks are intended for mixed media, but if you work in water media, use sketchbooks with heavier papers, such as watercolor paper that can handle the saturation. If you desire heavy, high-quality drawing paper with tooth, try sketchbooks with hot pressed watercolor paper.

Get hooked on it. Develop a habit of sketching. Use the process to channel your creative side, warm you up and get you loose, even if no one ever sees them.

On The Easel Today.

On the easel today July 5, 2017 features my newest painting titled “Complete Surrender”. This piece culminates a series of work that I have been brainstorming for some time. The title of the series is: “Beauty, Strength & Grace”, and features two other works, which you have possibly seen a time of two before: “Blissful Reminiscence” and “Finally Free”. All three paintings embody the essence of the title of the series; yet stand alone in their individual meanings.

Adrian Blake painting

In this painting, my subject is adorned in a warm, radiant light, which envelops her in a rather intimate fashion and crowns her with a halo. Her posture and subtle expression is that of complete surrender, as her stark beauty is glorified. I challenged myself with this piece, as I do with all my paintings. This challenge was creating transparency and softness in texture in the fabric that adorns her. Those two aspects of painting are two of the most difficult for any artist, but in trying numerous approaches I am at the brink of accomplishing what I intend to.  There is more work to be done however, in spite of the current successes throughout the piece. My paint is still wet, and my brushes are eagerly waiting to be summoned.

Introspection Art Exhibition.

Yet another exhibition is under my belt for 2017, and this one was particularly full of fresh experiences. The Introspection Art Exhibition held in wonderful Cleveland Ohio at The Shinn House Gallery featured works from three artists, myself, Robert Peppers and Kevin Daniel. Each artist had a very strong body of work, and each of us brought unique experiences to the exhibition as artists with varied styles and mediums of expression.

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My medium of expression, as you know, is painting. The display consisted of most of my newest works from earlier this year, and works from 2016. Kevin Daniel had a very interesting body of work with his photography, through his experimentation with compositional elements, particularly atmospheric lighting. Robert Peppers, who curated the exhibit and being the most experienced of all in the exhibit, displayed a number of sculptures, which boasted intricacies in design and mastery in technique. The gallery space accommodated us well, with three rooms dedicated to each artist.

Adrian Blake and Robert Peppers

Being in Cleveland for the first time was a wonderful experience (considering that no one at the exhibition knew I wanted the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA championship). A tour of the city was on my agenda, and of course a visit the Cleveland Museum of Art. That was a must. The opportunity to showcase my work to a different audience, along with collaborating with one of the most well known Black artists in Peppers, and talented young artist in Daniel, is something of tremendous value. The turnout and feedback at the opening of the exhibition was pleasing, and the conversations about each work- not only about my own, but also of my fellow exhibitors awarded me broader artistic knowledge as I navigate my way to my successes as an artist.

Introspection Art Exhibitors

On The Easel Today.

This edition of On The Easel today March 27, 2017 features my second installment in the Boots and Bricks series. This painting is a little different from the first in the series. How different you wonder? Well in this piece, the bricks are those of Athens Ohio, and the shoes are different. In my description of the first painting in the series, I highlighted that it was created for the town of Nelsonville, and represented what the town is historically known for: its bricks and Rocky Boots, which headquarters there. In this new painting the bricks of Athens Ohio are immortalized by my hand, and the representation of the culture and people are in the style of shoes I placed in the composition.

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Similarly to the rugged work boots which represent the hardworking and blue-collar workers who built the town of Nelsonville, the youth and modernity of the culture in Athens is represented by the shoes in painting. The Converse brand of shoes is a common sight around Athens, and in my interpretation of what best symbolizes the predominant age demographic in the town; it was fitting to use this idea. In all my paintings I aim to have you be apart of the piece, not just be an observer, and this piece is no different.

The seemingly magnified view of the elements in the painting is done to visually engage you in the artwork, bringing you close to what I actually see every time I look at the bricks while walking down Court Street on a rainy day. In painting this, I told myself that I wanted my viewer to not look at the bricks the same again. I want you to see the history, see the work put in to lay those bricks, and how similar those bricks are to the people in the town. A brick by itself is just another brick, and no two bricks are the same.Yet when put together, they create something special, and make a place that more historic based on what they created.

 

On the Easel Today.

This edition of On the Easel Today Tuesday March 7, 2017 features my newest painting titled ‘When The Rain Comes’. As many of my other pieces, this painting contains a particular mix of symbology that encompasses my interpretation of a number of feelings and situations in my life; and on a broader scale, topics, ideologies and feelings that many people face in their own lives every day.

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Upon analysis of the work, the imagery is in your face, bold and detailed in its presentation. My palette was deliberate, and specific to the overall mood I intended to capture. I tackled the topic of ideology and its emotional effect through my depiction of the figure in the piece. I’m confident that in your initial analysis, you will think of this figure as a black Jesus, but let us take that interpretation a step further from the norm of the popular Western religious ideology. This piece explores the system of ideas and ideals that cause us to all have such a first impression, and aims to broaden your thoughts beyond what you have come to so easily interpret at face value.

Particular elements in this piece serve to engage you in the significance of the ideas I propose. This work is not only about being black, and facing insurmountable challenges as a result of our affliction, but also about being human and apart of a system that causes one to sometimes feel crucified based on ones personal ideals, feelings and simply the day to day challenges, that sometimes outweigh the good that happened in your life a short time ago. The point of view in which the work is done is very intimate, and symbolical as well. Looking from a birds eye view down on the subject gives the you an observative perspective, similar to looking through a magnifying glass down at an anthill with the curiosity and fascination of a child.

Throughout the painting there are raindrops, and this is the basis of the title. Metaphorically the raindrops represents the aforementioned challenges of ideals and feelings that seem to fall like rain on us when life is, needless to say, tough. Those challenges are what oftentimes put me ‘in the shoes’ of Jesus, in the story of the crucifixion. The detail in the piece is done to involve you emotionally in the work, bringing a greater understanding to your period of seeming crucifixion and personifying it. So many people are soaking wet from feeling that rain of challenge and despair, while knowing that some go through this life seemingly impervious to those challenges that countless people face every day, and are subsequently incapable of empathetically relating to the feelings of others facing those challenges.

This painting is geared at allowing people to understand perspective, and as Bob Marley famously said in one of his songs “some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” So in your observation of this painting, keep in mind perspective, challenge yourself to let empathy guide your perspectives, and never forget to feel the rain, not just get wet by it.

 

The Essence of Woman Exhibition.

“Throughout time, women have been a favorite subject of artists of all mediums. There is both mystery and awe to be found in their femininity, fertility and the curvature of their bodies”. The Essence of Woman Exhibition was held on Friday May 20, 2016 at the Garrett Museum of Art, in Garrett Indiana. The juried exhibition featured a collection of works from a broad range of artists locally, nationally and internationally and boasted different works of art, from paintings and photography to sculpture.

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The gallery itself was a wonderful venue, with large exhibition floors both upstairs and downstairs, that accommodated all the pieces that were accepted for the exhibition. This was a great opportunity for me to be apart of an exhibition in a town where art is valued and appreciated, and gain exposure as an upcoming artist. Seen above are two of my three entries in the exhibition: ‘Blissful Reminiscence’ and ‘Finally Free’.

The exhibition kicked off with a silent auction May 19th, honoring Dekalb County Domestic Task Force- raising awareness to domestic violence victims. I donated one of my paintings for this cause, which ended up being purchased by a collector who happened to stop by the gallery that day on a business trip.

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The following day the exhibition officially opened with an artist reception, featuring a local jazz band, which set the tone for the evening. Hearing all the artists and patrons mingling and engaging in art talk was the highlight for me, as I not only got to meet some very interesting people, but I also engaged in discussion about my work and my creative process.

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Gallery director Jim Gabbard (seen above) along with his team did a wonderful job at curating, and ensuring that each artist felt at home there at the gallery. The painting in the background titled ‘The Star Maiden’ was done by yours truly, specifically for the exhibition, and received the honorable mention award at the show. The exhibition went very well, and at the end of the reception I was surprised to know that one of my entries was selected to represent the show in the Journal Gazette (here), a local paper there in Indiana, and the hard copy was presented to my by Mr. Gabbard.

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This was a great experience for me, and many of the other artists who participated in the silent auction venture and the exhibition. I’m looking forward to future exhibitions at the Garrett Museum of Art, and working alongside their team as I grow as an artist and continue on this splendid journey fulfilling my dreams.

On the easel today.

On the easel today July 24,2016 features my newest painting, Muhammad Ali. The world seemed to hold a solemn moment of silence upon knowing of the death of this great human being on June 3, 2016. I sure did have a moment of silence. In this piece the aim was to capture the likeness of Ali in his youth, expressing his kingly character. The representation of Ali in this light signifies his dominance and even his own personal outlook about himself. His bravado and bravery mirrors a confident and unapologetic persona, that captivated the world and stood as a beacon for individuality  and personal belief.

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Ali, famously known for his brash comments in press conferences, and confidence in the ring is represented as how I see him; a cultural icon. There is a special relationship that works of art share with a person’s culture, and I see men such as Muhammad Ali as kings in my cultural beliefs-hence his representation.

In this piece you will see an aspect of my style that is evident throughout most of my portraits and representational work; the faint glow on and around the figure. In my paintings depicting figures, I use this to represent the personal aura of the figure or portrait that I am depicting. It speaks to the contained spirit that gives off its own unique light, as we do through our personality. I did run into some difficulty with this piece, seeing that I was using a black canvas, (I’ve come to prefer these) however, they worked themselves out eventually.

I don’t intend to create “art of the times” I aim to create art that shows an understanding of the integral relationship that is shared between art and my ethnic group; not just ethnic group though, but my perception of males and females of my race.

Despite the maxim: Everyday something new, which seems to define the creation of art in the modern era, because of the accessibility to more information from around the globe, I want my paintings to stay true to the idea of my art being about the relationship between its aesthetics and my cultural beliefs, rather than an emotional response to the happenings of the world.

On the easel today…

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Today 4/29/16 On The Easel features my newest painting. Inspired by my love of figurative art and the female form, this piece explores the anatomy of the voluptuous, athletic female figure. I intended to create a mystical dreamlike effect that enveloped the form and add a unique sense of emphasis on the figure in the composition. I intend to incorporate the use of delicacy in the background as I create the mystical surroundings, but at the same time use the power of strong skin colors that highlight the muscle structure and form of the figure. Creating subtle details in the background i want to allow the colors’ layers to create depth in the piece, which will pull the viewer into the piece beyond the figure.

Upon completion, this piece along with two other figurative paintings I created will be apart of an exhibition at the Garrett Museum of Art in Garrett Indiana.

Slowly but surely.

 

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How often do you quote your parents in what they have said to you over the years, once, twice, more than that? I don’t quote my parents very often, but there are always certain things that both my mother and father have said to me over the years that have stuck with me throughout my lifetime. The title of this blog post is one such quote: “Slowly but surely”. This is something that I remember my mother always saying to me growing up, and she said it with conviction and hope. It is a quote that has stuck with me throughout the years because it has given me hope, and taught me to be patient. Things will come my way, but they won’t always come as quick as I would like, but surely, they will be mine one day.

With this in mind, I wake up every day with hope, despite my trials, doubt and setbacks. In my very young art career where doubt faces me every day, with the prospect of failed attempts at reaching audiences, the constant fight between traditional art and modern ways of expressionism and cybercrime, where your artwork can be easily stolen and manipulated, I still persevere saying: slowly but surely. With my many attempts at becoming a revered visual communicator I have made some wonderful connections and have subsequently been published a number of times. One such publication is through the Athens Messenger’s Artist Studio section. View here. This publication explored the type of art I create, the inspiration behind most of my art and my experience as an local artist in Athens, Oh. The publication landed me a number of commissions throughout Athens where I created some wonderful artwork for a few personal collectors.

Being a traditional artist is a struggle in this digital age and in the age of modern means of creating art, like graphic design, which reigns king. My goal however is to be a traditional artist who brings back to the forefront the joy of traditional painting, like the old masters of classical art did. As I grow as a visual communicator I will continue to remember the words of my mother: “slowly but surely”, and one day surely all my goals will materialize how I’ve always imagined them.