Is this surrealism? Thoughts behind “Somewhere in Belgium”

Night and day in the same setting gives this tribute painting to Rene Magritte a surrealistic feel.

Night and day in the same setting gives this tribute painting to Rene Magritte a surrealistic feel.

At first glance, my most recent painting doesn’t appear to be surrealistic at all. Yet anyone who is at all familiar with the works of the Belgian surrealist, Rene Magritte would immediately recognize traces of his work.

The statue in the painting is a depiction of the character that shows up in many of Magritte’s paintings. The bowler hat theme appears more than 50 times in his work between 1926 and 1966, making it one of the motifs for which the Belgian Surrealist is best known. These abundant bowler-hatted gents were used as stand-ins for generic, bourgeois men, the sort who wouldn’t stand out.

“The bowler hat poses no surprise,” Magritte said in 1966. “It is a headdress that is not original. The man with the bowler is just a middle-class man in his anonymity. And I wear it. I am not eager to singularize myself.”

I have explored many of Magritte’s concepts and ideas in my own, peculiar style. I recently ran across a framer who worked in the art gallery where I had my first show and he said he walked into 1900 Park two years ago and immediately recognized my work. “Your style is unlike any other painter I’ve seen,” he told me.

Whether that’s true is highly debatable. I continue to try and paint the impossible – or at least the highly improbable. And traces of Magritte will continue to show up in my paintings.

When I heard that I was going to be featured in the Ladue News and that the featured painting would be “Memories of June” – another Magritte-based image, perhaps my subconscious propelled me to create this tribute painting to my favorite artist.

Maybe there is a touch of surrealism in depicting a man in a bowler hat, sitting on a bench, staring at a statue of a man in a bowler hat. The base of the statue features Magritte’s birth and death dates and the inscription is in Dutch and reads, “HERE STANDS THE MAN”.

Lions and owls showed up in many of Magritte’s paintings. So they got their own statues. Perhaps the one quality that puts this particular painting in the Surrealist column is the presence of Night and Day in the same setting.

Everything below the sky is painted in bright, daytime colors. Yet the sky, with its quarter moon above, is distinctly night time. That combination of Night and Day was another concept Magritte explored in several paintings.

So in answer to the question found in the headline, yes, this really is surrealism.

It was great fun to create, though quite tedious as it’s one of the more detailed paintings I’ve done. This particular painting may never find a home other than my own.

That’s okay. It was my tribute to Magritte. It is fitting that I should remain the owner.

Tom’s art can be viewed and purchased at two different websites: www.bloodlinesart.com and http://tom-blood.pixels.com – on the latter website, you can purchase prints as well as a variety of items like tote bags, pillow throws, iPhone covers and much more. Please visit!

One year – ten surrealistic paintings

Link

My first painting done in 2017.

Head In The Cloud – My first painting done in 2017.

With 2017 coming to a close, I decided to look back on all of the surrealistic paintings I’ve done this past year. Initially, I thought I was on my 12th painting, hoping to finish it before the year ends. Actually, I’m only on my 10th and I’m about 70% done as of December 11th. My how time flies.

Still, 2017 has shown promise in terms of my overall skill development. I am continuing to improve as a painter and though I still follow the surrealist path of Rene Magritte, I’m also developing my own, unique style.

Was there a common theme? No. I like to paint ideas and they come in a variety of imagery.

Was there a common theme? No. I like to paint ideas and they come in a variety of imagery.

I love the idea of surrealism. I love painting things that seem like they are, but could never be. I love painting the impossible. To me, it’s fun to have an idea, develop it, do my best to paint it and then have people wonder, “What was he thinking?”

The photograph doesn't do this painting justice. The bridgework is very detailed. It was a strange idea that literally came to me in the middle of the night with almost this exact image in mind.

The photograph doesn’t do this painting justice. The bridgework is very detailed. It was a strange idea that literally came to me in the middle of the night with almost this exact image in mind.

I’m not afraid to borrow. I have used other paintings as inspiration. I often use source material to get my own drawings as close to reality as my skill level permits. When I created “Bridge to Nowhere” I found a schematic of a footbridge. I don’t pretend to draw these items from memory. But I do draw them all freehand and then begin the process of turning it into a painting.

In the concept stage, I envisioned a conductor in charge of the elements similar to Fantasia.

In the concept stage, I envisioned a conductor in charge of the elements similar to Fantasia.

Some of my ideas are borrowed adaptations. Others, I have no idea where they come from. With “Lightness of Being” I was exploring Magritte’s concept of a giant floating rock. For some reason, I thought of a little girl holding a hot air balloon – only instead, it would be a floating rock. I loved that image and that’s what I drew on the canvas. At first, she was going to be standing in a field of flowers but once I had drawn the balloon/rock, I decided to shift the scene to a rocky beach. It’s probably one of my favorite images I’ve done so far!

A girld stands gazing out at the ocean, holding a giant, floating boulder that some people think is an asteroid.

A girl stands gazing out at the ocean, holding a giant, floating boulder that some people think is an asteroid.

What to paint next is always the mystery upon completion of whatever I’m working on at the time. Similar to reading a book, I never conceptualize a new painting until I’m done with the one that’s right in front of me. While searching for inspiration for my next subject, I ran across two items that I combined into one – a spiral staircase and a view of clouds shot from above, rather than below. And thus was born, “View from Above”.

A man stands atop a spiral staircase that has given him a view from above the clouds.

A man stands atop a spiral staircase that has given him a view from above the clouds.

I’ve been very happy with both the concepts and the execution of my last three paintings.

Yet most of my work seems to go unnoticed – especially when it comes to sales. If I relied on the income generated from my paintings, I would truly be a starving artist. I remember after my second gallery show back in 1991, I created a painting called “Nobody Noticed”. It featured two people walking off either side of the painting, oblivious to a roped off gallery that featured a framed painting of the night floating against a cloudy blue sky.

That painting has received more views on my pixels website than any other painting I’ve done. Perhaps that frustration that since I’ve resumed painting about 3-1/2 years ago, creating more than 30 new canvasses resulting in a grand total of two sold paintings led me to my most recent effort which is still a work in progress.

My most recent painting is about 70% done. The other art work needs to be added along with the two frames and then lots of shadowing still awaits.

Modern Art – still in progress. The other art work needs to be added along with two picture frames, a baseboard and then lots of shadowing.

Overall, 2017 has been a year of interesting concepts combined with better painting techniques. I had my first solo show in more than twenty years in 2017 at 1900 Park. I exhibited at Soulard Art Gallery twice and received an Honorable mention for “Head in the Clouds”. I also was part of MySLART’s monthly 33 show in the summer and I’ll have my three most recent completed works on display December 29th at the Old Orchard Gallery. Add in a few greeting cards via Greeting Card Universe and there’s certainly been a lot of activity.

I am determined to keep on keeping on and look forward to what’s next knowing that someday, the sales will come.

So onward we go. I’ve got a painting to finish.

(BTW, if you want to take a better look at any of these paintings, please visit any of the websites listed below.)

In addition to providing advertising and marketing communications services by day via BloodLines Creative, Tom is dedicated to becoming a better surrealist painter, trying to paint the impossible. He invites you to visit his work at his Pixels website, or via his BloodLines Art website. His work can also be viewed on Pinterest, Saatchi Art and on the mobile app, Art Loupe.

The endless pursuit of ‘What’s Next?’

As a business, BloodLines Creative is continually in new business mode. Even with my existing client base, I’m always seeking new ways to help build their business, knowing full well that if I can help them expand their market share or drive more customers to their website or Facebook page or directly to their store it will ultimately generate more business for BloodLines.

So I’m always on the lookout for new ways to deliver messaging, new techniques for grabbing attention, new avenues for targeting potential customers, new ways to reach people in unexpected ways. One must remain forever curious.

With BloodLines Art, I face a similar challenge. I do paintings very similar to the way I read books – once I start one, I don’t even consider what’s next until I put my name on the painting. When I do finish, I begin searching for ideas.

Rene Magritte said that the most difficult part for any artist is deciding what to paint.

I agree with that dilemma.

So with my work by day and my art by night, I continually face the challenge of, “What’s next?”

Work has been strong this year. One project seems to lead to another and when one client goes dormant or isn’t currently in need of marketing support, it seems another one comes along. I have been very fortunate.

I have also been quite pleased with my painting progression this year. My techniques are improving and I feel as if I’m getting better at what I do and finding my own unique style.

Every business faces that “What’s next?” quandary.

The key is to never stop learning. Never stop exploring. And always be open to possibilities as well as opportunities.

If you do that, the opportunities will find you.

MySLArt.org’s Best In Show Showcase

This past March, I put a few of my recent paintings on display at an event called the MySLArt.org 33 Show. Each month, artists from throughout the metropolitan St. Louis area can submit 3 works of art into the show. If you’re chosen, you become one of 30 artists featured in a monthly showing at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves.

I chose two of my recent works and one of my older favorites and was pleasantly surprised when I was informed that I made the cut. (Whether or not everyone makes the cut, I have no idea.) I was even more pleasantly surprised when I discovered that someone at MySLArt chose one of my three entries as the key visual used to promote the show.

I invited a number of friends and family to the opening and a good time was had by all. At the end of the evening, yet another surprise came my way – not only did I sell one of the entered pieces, I also received the dual honor of my work being judged as the People’s Choice award and I also won the Juror’s Choice award – making me one of only two artists to receive that honor.

So now, MySLArt (MySLArt.org) is having their first ever Best in Show Showcase, featuring 5 works of art by each one of the 12 monthly winners of 2015. Opening night is on Friday, January 8th at The Chapel, which is across the street from Forest Park off of Skinker Blvd. (http://chapelvenue.weebly.com – 6238 Alexander Dr.) It’s all part of a fundraiser for MySLArt.org – so even though admission is free and open to the public, they do ask for a small donation at the door. There will be food and drink and live music by The Riverside Wanderers.

I had a tough time deciding what I should enter.

Since I resumed painting in July of 2014, I’m now on my 13th canvas – so I could have gone with all recent works – but I decided instead to be slightly thematic with these paintings that now span a period of more than 25 years as all five entries feature a little man in either a black suit or a long black coat, wearing a black bowler hat. There will be two recent paintings and three from my painting days in the late ’80s into the ’90s.

The man is basically my tribute to my all-time favorite artist, Rene Magritte who also created a number of paintings featuring a man in a bowler hat, almost always with his back turned as if he also were looking into the painting. Looking at photos of Magritte, I can see that his version was somewhat of a self-portrait. I don’t quite see my versions that way but I do love putting this little guy into extremely odd circumstances. Magritte was a surrealist, fascinated with painting what seemingly existed but could never quite be. I’m not quite sure what I am other than a hack who enjoys putting paint on a canvas.

I’m also donating a painting for a live auction that they’ll have at some point during the evening. It will be interesting to see if it sells and yes, it, too, is another homage to Magritte.

Some might say that I am ripping him off, using some of the same thoughts and concepts in my paintings as he had in his works. To that I say, “yes”. Still, Magritte passed away in 1967. If he were around today to see some of my work, he might laugh at its amateurish quality – he was a master. I’m still in kindergarten. But I also think Rene would encourage me to keep painting to see where it leads me.

I invite you to visit The Chapel next Friday night – not just to see what I’ve done but to also enjoy the works of 11 other extremely talented artists. If you can’t make it on the 8th, the show will be up through February 6th.

I also invite you to explore more of my work on my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/bloodlines/paintings/) There you’ll find a wide range of paintings and a wide range of styles, too.

I love to paint.

Sorry, but recently, it’s been getting in the way of my writing endeavors.

I hereby resolve to do more of both in 2016.

Hope you can make it to the show!

What to paint next

I’m in the midst of a new painting right now and hope to finish it in the next week or two and upon finishing, it always takes me back to the question of, “What to paint next?”

I am thrilled to even be confronted by this quandary.

I have always loved art, loved to draw and loved to paint. In my teenage years, I actually contemplated going the route of an artist but knew how difficult it would be to actually make a living creating art. I was good, but certainly not great. So I focused my creative talents more on writing, pursuing a career in advertising, which, to me, was all about the power of ideas and represented a perfect blend of words and pictures, coming together to help sell more product or services.

I’m still creating advertising and marketing communications, still learning and I believe my best work is still in front of me.

So that’s good from the writer’s perspective.

Yet I still love to paint, even though I went on a serious hiatus back in 1996 when we converted what had been my painting room into a downstairs bedroom. I had been utilizing a combination of airbrush and acrylic paint and had grown accustomed to painting on rather large canvases. The fact that I no longer had any room to work on those large canvases or the proper ventilation needed for doing airbrush work in effect, shut me down and I had vowed that I would paint again either once we moved or once the kids moved out of our current house and I could reclaim a new painting spot.

Tom Jr. gave me a whack on the side of the head two Father’s Days ago when he presented me with two small canvases and some acrylic jars of paint and issued me the challenge to resume painting again on a smaller scale.

Turns out, it was the best Father’s Day gift I have ever received.

It took me a while to get going.

I couldn’t decide what to paint. That’s always the problem.

What to paint next.

I decided I would paint a ladder leaning up against a house. Why, I have no idea. When I sketched it out on the little bitty 8″ x 10″ canvas, it seemed totally pointless.

So I removed the house and just had the ladder angled against nothing out in a field of grass with some very crude looking clouds in the sky. That created a sense of mystery, a sense of, “why?”

It wasn’t a very good painting. http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/A-step-up-217×300.jpg

But it served as a re-introduction to canvas and paint. And it got me going again.

These days, the largest painting I have done is 30″ x 24″. The airbrush is gone and it’s all either brush work or a palette knife.

I continue to explore some of the fundamental ideas of Rene Magritte who, to me, is the most phenomenal painter I have ever been exposed to simply because of his ability to challenge conventional thinking. He painted what seemed to be real, though it could never be real. His talent was immense. No one has ever done clouds the way Magritte can do clouds.

More important, in the words of Rene, “The art of painting is an art of thinking, and its existence emphasizes the importance to life of the human body’s eyes; the sense of sight is actually the only one concerned in painting. The goal of the art of painting is to perfect sight through a pure visual perception of the exterior world by means of sight alone.”

So determining what to paint next is never an easy decision.

I approach painting similar to how I read books. I never start in on a new one until I’m finished with what is there before me.

Time to get back to my current work in progress.

If you would like to see a full range of some of my paintings, I invite you to explore https://www.pinterest.com/bloodlines/paintings/

 

My recent appearance at the MySLArt.org 33 March production

This past Friday night marked my official return to the art world as I was one of 30 artists who had three select works on display at the MySLArt.org 33 March production at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves.

A good time was had by all.

Having my work on display is always kind of a weird feeling – particularly when you see people walk up and stare and then start commenting on what they’re seeing. The two distinguished gentleman in this photo are two long-time friends and though they may appear to be contemplating the deeper meanings of “The Floating In-Between”, it was nothing more than a staged photo.

That wasn’t the case for many people, though. I had quite a few people come up and ask me where I got my ideas for these paintings. The answer? It’s hard to say. Rene Magritte is by far my favorite artist. I have four different books about him, most of which I bought to see his magnificent works. But I also read quite a bit about him as well. Rene enjoyed painting things that couldn’t be, yet seemed as if they were. I like that concept. He was a major leader in the Surrealist movement – though most people, when they hear the term surrealism, think of Salvador Dali and his dripping clocks and barren landscapes.

Magritte was more playful with his works. If you’ve never seen them here’s a link that provides a quick overview along with a few of his paintings: http://www.wikiart.org/en/rene-magritte

On a scale of 1-10, with Magritte being a 10, I would barely merit a 2. But I’m okay with that.

I love to paint and that’s really all that matters. The fact that I’m able to share some of the things I’ve done is fun – and I’m glad I jumped at the opportunity.

My work seemed like it had just as much right to be there as many of the other things on display. It was a fascinating, eclectic mix of paintings, photography and I think there was one sculpture on display.

There were some bright and colorful works. A few disturbing ones as well. And overall, a wide range of work and people who showed up for the event that made me glad that I got to be a part of it.

MySLArt.org puts these shows on every month. This one will be on display through March 30 so if you’re in the Webster area, drop by and give it a look.

One thing I know – the show has inspired me to keep going.

I’m currently working on a canvas which has been very frustrating. But I’m determined to turn it around. And when that one is done, it will be on to another one.

Art happens.

And it’s fun to be back in the game.

If you’d like to see more of my work, I’m slowly adding some of the paintings I’ve done to my Pinterest page which you can visit here: https://www.pinterest.com/bloodlines/paintings/

Is this art?

I call it, “Nuts and Bolts” and I ask the simple question, “Is this art?”

After our recent vacation to London and visit to the Tate Museum which specializes in modern art, I would have to say, “yes, it is most definitely art.”

Whether it’s good art is a whole different question.

The first painting I ever sold at the first gallery show I ever had was called, “Sealed for your protection”.

It wasn’t a large painting (and neither is this one). I had a small canvas sitting around and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I had been doing large acrylic and airbrush paintings and whenever I would open a new air brush color, I’d have to remove the seal at the top of the bottle (similar to an aspirin bottle). Each seal read, “Sealed for your protection”.

I grabbed the small canvas, filled my palette with every color I had and attacked the canvas with a palette knife, smothering the canvas in color. Then, before the globs of paint could dry, I stuck all those ‘seals’ into the paint and they literally became sealed into the painting.

After visiting the Tate, I was struck by the absurdity of some modern art.

There was one entirely white canvas that had been attached on top of another canvas and the artist had slit the top canvas open, to reveal a black canvas below. Brilliant!

There was another painting of squares within squares and the color composition and texture achieved were … brilliant!

Then there was the large, black canvas. It was large and it was black. Brilliant!

So that got me back into my experimental mode again. The painting I did right before this one is called, “The Paintings Within”.

It is a totally based off several different paintings by my painting hero, Rene Magritte. I am an absolute hack compared to Magritte but I love how he creates mystery with his paintings and makes you wonder why it was painted in the first place.

I spent hours and hours on this and could spend more hours still trying to fine tune it. But eventually, you have to say “Stop!” when you are painting as you begin to reach a point of diminishing returns.

I spent three nights painting the nuts and bolts and now know that I could have done it even quicker had I bought the kind of spray paint you use on outdoor furniture.

But tonight, I touched up the nuts and bolts and attacked the canvas with cobalt blue and then randomly stuck the nuts and bolts into their final resting place.

It was fun.

But is this art?