Blackbird Singin’ In The Dead Of Night….

"Blackbirds" by Todd Powelson

“Blackbirds” by Todd Powelson

I finished this here flock of bird earlier last week. I’m very happy with how they all turned out, and am pleased as punch to have them done. I really like to draw these birds (in the face!) though, so maybe I’ll add even more to the flock over time.

These birds are based on some drawings I did a couple of years ago, and I’d always meant to go back and “ink” them in Adobe Illustrator.

It is hard to explain why I like this symbol or idea so much, or even where it comes from. As I write this, the thought just came to me that maybe it has its root in the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos. I’d never really thought about that before… but if that was the germ for the idea, I think it came to mean something else for me personally.

I think way too much on that age old question of “where do we come from, what are we, where are we going?“… Way too much. I don’t really have any answers to share, but I guess I explore it a lot in my art. You know, maybe this is a good way to explain… I’ve heard that some cultures and native tribal traditions believe that a human being has two souls. One soul comes from the stars, and one soul comes from the earth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birds because I just love birds. They are such beautiful animals. But as a symbol, maybe they represent that concept of the soul. Or the merger of those two souls. They are fly through the heavens in their earthly bodies… they are kind of a merger, at least symbolically, of those two souls. And maybe, at least here, that is why I wanted to put a bird on it ;) Put a bird on that human face.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but there ya go…

You can purchase this artwork from www.toddpowelson.com as a downloadable PDF file that you can print at home, as a tshirt, or as a poster.

… More On Cubism

"Forest" by Todd Powelson

“Forest” by Todd Powelson

A week or two ago a new friend and I exchanged a couple of emails. He had some questions about and insights on my work, and we discussed art in general and Cubism in particular. Even though I’ve changed the writing somewhat, I thought I’d post the essence of my reply here on ArtDuh. Because I wanted to keep it easily available to me, and because I wanted to share it with you too, gentle reader.

 

My interest in Cubism started long ago. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, even when I was learning to draw and paint in a realistic way, geometry was what helped me do that. For example, when I was learning how to draw a realistic portrait, I would study the angles of a face. The corner of the eye creates an angle relative to the tip of the nose, and the tip of the nose and the corner of the mouth create another angle. And they have a relationship to the bottom of the ear. As a whole, they all create a plane. The structure of the jaw can be represented by a line that illustrates its relationship to those other points and planes. Together, they all help describe an individual face.

 

As I’ve gotten older and learned to appreciate mathematics and geometry even more, my commitment to expressing it in my artwork has only grown (I’m no mathematician by any means, not even close. But I appreciate what others reveal). Even the ancient Greeks, with their hyper-realistic artwork, understood that geometry described the building blocks of the natural world. Geometry created, through the Platonic Solids, all matter in the physical universe. And these micro-shapes are repeated over and over in the macro world. Even today we might understand that the super-high velocities of sub-atomic particles, or the waves made by super-strings, create geometry that builds structure and physical form.

 

Anyway, I didn’t really go into all that in my email… a little side tangent there. You can read more on Cubism (among other things) below.

 

Picasso‘s Cubism is, of course, a product of the time he lived in and almost seems more of an intellectual exercise than an attempt to reproduce something beautiful. Especially early on. Early cubism also celebrates and reminds me of machines and gears more than I am interested in doing. That isn’t to say I don’t find his work beautiful, because I do, but his more monochromatic palette in the early days of Cubism isn’t quite the same for me as what it evolved into. Especially in the work of artists like Juan Gris. Even though he didn’t come up with the original concept, Gris was a true master and is probably my favorite Cubist painter.

 

Picasso’s Cubist artwork is meant to break the subject down into its most basic forms and then reassemble it. It is also shows the subject from multiple perspectives. You might be looking at the front, the sides and the back all at the same time. The Italian Futurists took this even further by adding time and motion into their two dimensional pieces. I just find it all so interesting, what these artists were doing on the canvas, and the concepts they were working with.

 

It reminds me of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Trying to show these different points of view in 2D space. It is interesting to me that relativity and Cubism were both introduced into culture at relatively the same time. A connection I’d never thought of before… I’ve read that Picasso and Braque first conceived of their shared cubist idea while watching their reflections in the windows of a train as it passed by. It’s funny that Einstein also developed his theory while riding a train.

 

But Cubism doesn’t really celebrate the natural world. At least, not in the traditional way. I love Cubism and geometry, but I use the ideas in a slightly different way, usually expressing my love for nature. I use it to try and portray our place in a larger system. I don’t know how successful I am, but that is what I am trying to do.

 

When I look at the side of a mountain, I see all of the geometric shapes I can use. Minerals, mud and dirt create these small shapes which come together to create a larger rock wall and very abstract pattern. I look up into the trees and foliage and see the way the geometry of the branches breaks up the blue sky above. I see the way the trees and mountain weave themselves together to make a larger whole. The animals and people move through, with the geometry of their bodies, become an important part of that system. That is often what I am trying to portray. The way individual pieces come together to make a larger whole.

 

Even if it is just the way the individual pieces of our animal bodies come together. Those pieces make a larger whole, our bodies. Maybe then I might even add extra eyes or wings, for example, because those might help describe personality and spirit.

 

And then, in my work, I sometimes put mythology into the piece, because to me, those gods are usually representing and describing different aspects of Nature. A sort of personified Nature. And I use that personified Nature because it help me understand that the whole system, the individual parts and the larger system, is alive. Alive with mind and spirit moving through it. In my heart, I’m an animist. I think everything and everyplace has a soul and personality. Even the rocks, rivers, trees and towns have a sort of mind or personality that is moving and evolving into something else. Retaining their individual form while adding to the whole.

 

For me, this is very beautiful, and geometry gives a structure to build from and work through.

 

Even More Birds (In The Face!)

Bird

I started drawing these strange birds with sort-a human faces embedded into the feathers two or three years ago and have always meant to do more with the idea. Rework the drawings somehow and make them into a of flock or murder.

I’ve finally gotten back  to that, and this here bird is the first bird of that flock. I did this in Adobe Illustrator, and wanted to give the bird a woodblock kind of look. I still have more birds to do, and I probably won’t keep posting the individual birds, but I will post again one the flock is complete and flying together.

In the meant time, I hope you enjoy :)

The Fourth World

"The Fourth World" by Todd Powelson

“The Fourth World” by Todd Powelson

I don’t meditate nearly as much as I should, unless you count walking… and I guess I do. There are techniques that I do practice while I walk. Still, if I am able to find a quiet moment I’ll usually choose to draw.. which, I suppose, could also be used as another type of meditation. But neither are quite the same as closing your eyes and sitting, clearing your mind, becoming aware of your body, and following your breath.

I don’t really like to talk about the experiences I have while meditating. Just because it is hard for me to describe, and also because they are personal and probably hard for some people to relate to. I am only writing about it now because it relates to the digital painting diptych that I just finished (above).

Like a lot of people, when I meditate I tend to see things. People, animals, or I find myself in different environments, landscapes or rooms. Of course, this all happens behind my eyes, but they are very significant and real. I could probably write more about it, but I firmly believe that there is more than just the mundane and material world. Meditation is a way to glimpse into, experience, and learn from those other places.

A few months ago I had one of those very significant experiences while meditating. Or maybe it was more of a trance. I sat in a dark room with my eyes closed, followed my breath, and listening to a very soft and rhythmic drum beat. Soon I found myself in a night-time and rural landscape, traveling down a very primitive path. On that path, just up the way, there was a gigantic bear crouching down. Not in a threatening way, but it was crouching. The bear kind of began to shimmer and a tiger became super-imposed over the bear until the bear became a tiger. Then the same thing happened again, and and the tiger shimmered and became a bear. I watched it change from bear to tiger and back for a little while, but soon my attention was drawn up into the starry sky. I realized the whole sky was a great goddess looking down at me (hello Nut), her arms stretched from horizon to horizon. I saw something moving quickly through her sky down towards me. I realized it was a gigantic dragon. Soon its enormous body filled all of my vision, and it just sat there looking at me looking at it. It got closer and closer until all I could see was its gigantic face. Looking at me. It would turn its head from side to side, but held my gaze the whole time. This was an amazing experience for me. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t sacred, it didn’t make me happy, nor did it intimidate me in any way. It just was. And it was just looking at me looking at it. We just sat looking at each other for a very long time. And somehow, that was very important.

As I was ending my meditation, I asked the Dragon its name, and it told me. I will never tell anybody else, because it seemed like that was just meant for me. Its name was a gift, and I have though about it and the Dragon it belongs to a whole lot ever since.

I’m not really clear on why, but after that experience I also knew that the Fourth World belongs to the Dragon.

Interested in purchasing this artwork? Click here to visit my website’s shopping cart.

The Third World

"The Third World" by Todd Powelson

“The Third World” by Todd Powelson

“The Third World” is another new diptych that I just finished, a pair of digital paintings to be added to the series I’ve been working on called “Songs from the Earth“.

This piece started off completely different, with a number of sketches, and a few false starts. Initially, I imagined a crowd of people going about their business through a city-scape. But as the work progressed, that just didn’t feel quite right to me. It didn’t ring true somehow.

Instead, I decided to zoom in on these two individuals above. They are not really paying attention to what might be going on in the larger world around them, their bodies hunched over and focused on the task at hand. They might be building with the blocks or nurturing plants at their feet, which is good, but still only focused on themselves and their work.

“The Third World” is the human world.

These two digital paintings can also be purchased as high-quality canvas prints through my personal website at www.toddpowelson.com

The Second World

"The Second World" by Todd Powelson

“The Second World” by Todd Powelson

I’ve never considered myself to be a wildlife artist, even though I love being out in Nature. Not that there isn’t really a lot of good wildlife artwork out there, but making it was just never my thing. But there are plenty of really great artists out here in the west, and one of my favorite museums to visit is the Buffalo Bill Art Museum up in Cody Wyoming. And it is very very western.

I guess I’ve always been more interested in abstraction and geometry. And yet, I really enjoyed making the pictures above. This diptych. The elk, the wolves, the mountains, sky and snow. Man, they were fun to draw!

I’ve never really seen wolves out in the wild. They are incredible animals, but I have never seen one. I have encountered many elk though, and they are magnificent. I’ve come across them while hiking on Montana trails. I’ve also watched herd of elk running and buggeling through western meadows many times. Such an amazing sight.

One time, my car broke down in the middle of somewhere Wyoming late at night. Although I was miles from any mark of civilization and it’d take a while, I decided to walk back to a gas station I’d passed a bit earlier, and after walking for an hour or more I came to this crossroads. There were some bushes next to me right by the side of the road and I heard something moving around in them. Suddenly these huge antlers rose up and out of those bushes, and then the rest of the elk. Right next to me, in the dark night, under the Wyoming stars and sky.. I could have reached out and grabbed that elk’s nose! But I didn’t. We just kind of looked at each other for a second (which seemed like forever), and then I crossed the road (as calmly as I could), while it stood there watching me go. It was pretty amazing to stand so close to such a powerful animal.

Anyway, I love animals! And the Second World is the animal world.

Check it out, I have added a shopping cart to my personal website, www.toddpowelson.com. If you’re interested, you can buy a high quality canvas print of these two digital paintings there:

www.toddpowelson.com | elk-canvas-print

www.toddpowelson.com | wolves-canvas-print

The First World

"The First World" - by Todd Powelson

“The First World” – by Todd Powelson

I thought I’d post this new digital painting diptych today (shown above), even though it isn’t quite seasonal, and instead of green leaves and flowers I saw snow on my walk today up into the canyon by my house. I actually finished the images a month or two ago in September, but am just now sharing.

One of my very favorite things to do is to walk through the green (or gold, or white, depending on the time of year) underneath the trees. Walking up into the hills is probably one the things that helps keep me (relatively) sane. Its important to spend time out in nature. And, I love trees. I love to look up into and through their branches. I love the patterns and geometry those branches make as they reach for the sky. I love to see the patterns their roots make as they dig into the dirt. I love it all.

I’ve written a bit here recently about the Green Man and dryads, and I love them too. I’ve included their spirits into this here artwork as well.

These pieces are part of a series I have been working of for a little while called Songs from the Earth. I’ll write more about the series sometime soon, but in the mean time, you can see the progress I have made with it through the link below:

www.toddpowelson.com/songs-from-the-earth.html