Painting is a Love Song

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It’s four in the morning and I am drawing. The studio is a little cold and I’m too lazy to go fetch a sweater. I reflect about the this past year and all the wonderful things I’ve been able to be a part of. My children are growing and my life partner continues to be a bold and beautiful light. How grateful am I? I think to myself. For a moment I look away from my paper to stare at a scratch off lottery ticket that some
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” Sometimes it feels like waking out of bed and bumping my head as I hit the floor. Other times it’s running as fast as I can through a field with arms outstretched yelling as loud as I can. Painting is a love song. I’m giving my love away and I am watching it come back. It’s feeling so far from home that you could cry and there’s no more hope inside. It’s holding onto what matters most and not caring about a piece of paper with lottery numbers on it. It’s ok to throw it because it has no value…but what about before? What about when it was first handed to me. The magic is in not knowing. That is the wind behind us all. As I get propelled forward from one moment to the next you can count on me to keep singing those love songs. OK time to fetch that sweater.

 

Show and Tell

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It’s the end of October and I find myself preparing for an upcoming showcase. The organization hosting the event found my work through social media and expressed their interest  on more than one occasion. I turned the opportunity down once, then a second time before I finally said yes. At this showcase I will exhibiting  work in a very unfamiliar setting. It will take place in a music hall designed for dance and musical performances. At this event there will be am myriad of creative people all working in tandem to put on a spectacular experience. My history of showing work has yet to involve me being a direct seller of my work. At this showcase that is exactly what I will be doing. I will have a “merch” like setup. I will be in a unique position to meet people who visit my booth and introduce my work to them.preview-4.jpg Cultivating the ability to listen to what people think, feel ,and say about my work is something that I have been crating over the past few months. I am always fascinated to hear what people have to say about what it is that I am doing. Is it familiar? Is it exciting? Is it new? Does it have value? Are they willing to pay the price of fine art as determined by me, the creator of the work? Sales are always nice but for now they are few and far between. The real reward comes when I get to meet people who are brave enough to say hello. The people who are interested in art and are willing to share their perspectives. If there is an anecdotal angle from which I can bring the person closer to the art then I will certainly engage them from that place. A certain driving emotion or inspiration that led to the creation of a piece is a way of laying it all bare for anyone who has the potential to become a collector. If they have the perfect space and the budget to go forward then why not give them an opportunity make it theirs. People like nice things. A piece of art is a nice thing. When I’m in the studio, I have the advantage of being in a solitary environment which lends itself to the construction of an inner dialogue between me and the work. Being out in the open changes that dynamic completely. What I find myself doing more and more through these opportunities to show work is being able to create the exposure necessary to enable these conversations to take place. I may encounter someonetop-banner.jpgI’ve never met before who’s interested in my work and decide to turn that initial encounter into a relationship. Each exchange contributes to the building of the next. I just recently met a community organizer who encountered my work at group show and is now interested in bringing me on  as a consultant for his non-profit.Before i said yes, i said yes. The project will not require a lot of time or effort on my part nor will there be any monitory benefits . I will benefit from the experience of having said yes. I welcome the opportunity to share and promote my work through these encounters. I welcome the opportunity to share my story so that it may become a part of someone’s else’s. So stop by and say hello. I promise I’ll bite and make it worth your while. For more information regarding the RAW showcase please visit http://www.rawartists.org/domingocarrasco

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

 

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One of things I’ve been enjoying about this ride is hearing all of the positive words that come from friends and family. Whether it be in person,  at an opening, through a text message, or a comment on Facebook, I can’t deny that “feel good” vibe that’s been creeping in. For me, my family is what matters the most in this world. I like to think that my efforts as an artist are a reflection of what those two boys and beautiful girl mean to  me. In these past few weeks I’ve turn on the television and have seen more and more instances of divide and destruction happening all around. Has the world become a more dangerous place or has technology changed the way we are all perceiving these present times? Lets’ not forget that at some point we were all children. Little creatures who were inherently pure, kind, and creative. At some point along the way the rest of the world began to exist. But compassion remains a strong virtue inside  us all does it not? My parents raised my sisters and I on the belief that hard work and a good heart would take you far. I continue to believe this.  For now, I hold my children a little tighter while they are still children and teach them as my parents taught me. To touch others with your heart and keep the exchange of ideas with others in your ritual. I woke up one day and decided that I was an artist. This is the vehicle through I express my experiences. The current state of the world won’t revert that fact but it might render its implications. Do right by my family and continue to  do what I love. So long as I am able, that is what I intend to keep on doing.

I’m Invincible

People often ask me “how do you do it?” referring to the fact that I am a father of two boys and still manage to make time to make art. Honestly I have absolutely no idea how I do it. Quite frankly my wife and I are both full time working professionals who do it all without even blinking. Soccer, T-ball, the zoo, homework, pack lunches, give baths, laundry, cook dinners, clean the house, change diapers and so on. Somehow we manage to make time for one another because we must. We remind ourselves that this all had a beginning. So we make the effort to go back to that place. But don’t get me wrong it’s not always blue skies and apple pies- it’s hard work.  When I was a kid things felt much slower paced.

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Duke Napping at 8 months 

There was usually a parent who stayed home with the children while the other parent went out an earned the wages for the family. There was a clear divide. A division of labor so to speak. These days everyone is out there trying to make a living. I don’t think I know anyone who is a parent who’s significant other stays home to run the family. In the case of my art practice, I just need to make art, period. It validates me. It’s not about creating a legacy or even the pursuit of fame but rather enjoying the journey. A journey in which I’m leaving a trail of ideas and moments through imagery. Being a parent has opened my eyes in a whole new way. It’s given me renewed purpose. It’s really hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. I’ve been blessed with a second and third life though them. For the past five and a half years I ‘ve been walking around with a cape. To my boys, I am superman. That makes me invincible. My oldest, who is five, spends a lot of time with me in my studio and on art outings. He helps me prime canvas, set up merch tables, and even passes me nails when I frame paintings.. At his own pace he absorbs the surroundings that this lifestyle provides and creates his art on his own terms. When the kids are in bed and my better half has settled in, I stretch out get to work. I show up and do the thing that propels me forward. I don’t wait around to be inspired or swoon over artists who I’d like to emulate- I simply get to work. It’s not a job but a journey. On this journey, my family will always be along for the ride and for that I am forever grateful.

Notes on a Vandal

I walk out of the house holding a large slab of cardboard, a paste brush, some folded drawings and a bucket of wheat paste. Hitting the streets of New York City as a vandal was never a strong suit of mine but here goes. It’s about 2 a.m. in mid July and it’s humid out. I’m cruising around in a rickety  2002 Jeep Cherokee looking for wall spaces to accommodate my images .  I pull up to a construction site with plywood walls. These construction sites are usually neglected and  bombarded with graffiti. I find one and  drive by slowly scanning it for a spot that will work well.   IMG_1431I park the car and leave it running. I then proceed to lay down the  slab and unfold the drawing. As I prep the drawing with wheat paste I’m looking out for cops. At this time of night there are plenty of cars  whizzing by but not too many people nevertheless it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.  At this point I’m not doing anything illegal. I’m merely crouched down on the sidewalk behind a running vehicle applying a glue like substance to a large sheet of paper.  No harm no foul. I lay down the brush and grab the drawing by the ends. My heart begins to beat a little faster now because  I understand that this is the part where I am vulnerable. I stick the wet drawing to the plywood and smooth it out with my hands. The drawing is as big as me so I’m jumping up to crinkle out those thick bumps at the top. I quickly reload the brush and wet the outside of the drawing in large arc like strokes .IMG_1005 IMG_4662This entire process takes about two minutes but for some reason the whole ordeal feels like an eternity. After I quickly pack the trunk I pull away from the scene. I take a quick glance at the image and smirk. Another small victory for an artist with a story to tell.  This new venture is not about fame or exposure. It’s just about sharing. One night while laying in bed I made a conscious decision to  become an art vandal from time to time. But not an art vandal in the traditional sense. The images stand alone. There are no words inviting the viewers to interact with it. There is no branding going on either. There is simply a piece of art where no art existed before. When it comes to using the city as a canvas, this is my value add. Not a really a noble cause per se, but rather a kid from Queens simply giving himself free license to spill his mind onto the streets of New York.

Relevant Persuits

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study and painting in progress

When I begin a painting I draw inspiration from the birthplace of where my ideas become real-my sketch books or  my collection of small ink drawings.  Not only do I search for images and merge them with color palettes that I find fascinating, but I find a way to make the product of my pursuit relevant.  Regardless of  how many times it changes, my process is one that I am proud to own. I keep the visual emphasis  of each work within the bounds of simplicity so that there is room for interpretation outside  the realm of my own analysis. Aside from composing specific color relationships, my paintings often depict  figures, faces, and birds. The inclusion of these elements reoccur because of the specific meaning they have for me. For instance to me birds  have always embodied the spirit of freedom and limitless potentiality-something that I strive to achieve  in my practice and my personal life.

 

10 Artists that Influence My Work

This post is about the ten artists whose works inspire and inform my work. They say that Picasso is the father of us all, that being said I’d like to begin with my personal favorite Milton Avery. Avery’s  profound sense of color and purist approach to painting make him stand out as a giant in painting. His work is incredibly sincere and moving. I once arranged to have a private viewing of one of his large canvases  at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The experience was quite thrilling for me.

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Milton Avery “Seaside”

Next on my list is Alice Neel. Neel has personalized the portrait for me. Her depictions of the people in her life are so gripping. All the people she painted come alive right before your eyes.

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Alice Neel “Ginny in Striped Shirt”

She was able to tell their story perfectly without words. Number three is Philup Guston. His drawings and paintings take place in an alternate reality where things are both familiar and foreign. His paintings are like unsettling dreams free of censorship and etiquette. So bold and full of courage. Axel Kargel is a Swedish painter who’s works transform the natural world into simple shapes and forms. I often refer to his work when deciding on colors and composition because of how delicately he laid out his pictures.

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Axel Kargel “Boats at Beach”

William H. Johnson had a fascinating career as a painter with a very sad ending. His worked evolved over time and the reason I enjoy his work is because it is devoid of pretention . He captured people and places as they were by using color as a tool to convey the energy of the moment. He broke down barriers and refused to let the color of his skin get in the way of leaving his mark on the world. Moving on to Jean Souverbie. Jean Souverbie is this obscure French painter from the early nineteen century who figured out a way to combine a figurative classic style with cubism. He was doing this at a time when experimenting in this manner was very uncommon. I love how full his figures are and how he laid down his paint. Mary Fedden‘s still life’s are simply remarkable. I discovered her work only a few years ago and was moved when I sifted through her catalog of works. Her paintings are more like moments. Little snapshots of inanimate things that are able to live in a very special way.

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Louisa Mathhiasottir “Self-Potrait in Landscape”

With Mary Fedden less is so much more. Onto Marsden Hartley . Hartley is legend who lived precautious but painted courageously. His expressive approach to painting his subjects gave his viewers an opportunity to experience painting in a whole new way. He treated his portraits, landscapes, and abstract works all in the same vain. There is a line that runs through all his works. Louisa Mathhiasottir was an Icelandic-American painter and that’s cool enough for me.

Her paintings are so colorful and so simple looking on the surface. A closer look reveals just how skilled of a painter she was. Her brushstrokes are almost singular in nature but fill up each form and make them real. Her landscapes of horses grazing are spectacular. Last but not least, David Park.

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David Park “Kids on Bikes

Park came out of the figurative school in the Bay Area of California. I aspire to paint people the way that he did. He taught at Berkley for a while in the 50’s and totally immersed himself into painting people instead of following the trends of the abstract expressionist movement in New York City.

He stayed true to his practice and over time received recognition for his innovations in figurative painting. If you have never heard of any of these painters, I implore you to check out their work in person if you can. By the way, I have ten more of these lists. If I left you out, you know who are.

 

Safe Spaces

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When sharing best practices it’s important for me to emphasize the role my sketchbooks play in the overall scheme of things. For starters, I don’t call it art journaling. There’s something about the term art journaling that feels a little “scrapbooky” to me. Call it what you will, for me it feels more like idea scaffolding . My books are a collection of experiences specific to me as a person and as an artist. Like a diary, it is personal yet anyone can take a walk through their pages without feeling like they’re prying or intruding into a private world made for my eyes only.Scan 153After all, sharing ideas yields to more sharing of ideas. Since high school the sketchbook has always been a safe place for me to play. Many paintings are born in these books and many drawings go there to die as well. I try not to take myself too seriously when I’m making marks in the these safe spaces- which is why they feel safe at all. DSC_0288As a visual thinker and learner, the books provide the setting for me to explore my perspectives as they unfold. Once I’ve committed to a project outside of the book however, I go into a different mode. A place where things can begin to feel a little uncomfortable and for an artist this is paramount. Without risk there is no growth. Another reason I keep books is because they tend to  function like a time capsule. I can flip open one of my books and be taken back to that time  and place.  I find that my books and I are engaged in an ongoing  dialogue where only I am contributing to the conversation.  Now that I think about it, I guess it’s a conversation  with myself. I am the author. The more I contribute, the more the book evolves.Scan 115

A book is never complete however, simply abandoned for a little while. So whether it be through clippings, sketches, articles, receipts, line work, tags, found objects, or photos, everything that is inserted is done so by my hand. Watching people flip though my books  is  delightful as well. It creates an opportunity for someone else to be taken to a  place that is both familiar and foreign. The conservation that ensues  after and the experience of said discussion is something that I find to be invaluable.

 

Processed Art

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A figure emerges  out of the charcoal and acrylic

So there’s this pocket sized composition notebook in my studio that I keep close at hand  when I’m getting ready to begin a  painting. On the front cover  of this notebook there are the words “DO THIS” written in thick black permanent marker. The letters are now faded but the message is a clear reminder to myself that I must   get  to work.  On each page of this book are different steps to take each in order to achieve a particular outcome. For example, on page 16 the steps are as follows:  1) on primed canvas sketch in composition with charcoal 2) mix gesso and sand together in bowl-add a drop of color 3)block inside the composition but not the charcoal lines 4)wipe away charcoal lines 5) block in once more 6) develop. This approach is a reflection of my personality in some ways.  I need order or else I fall apart. Ideas enter my thought stream and they must be documented almost immediately  other wise they float away to a place  where they are beyond my creative grasp. I do not  consider myself to be an intuitive painter which is precisely why this strategy works for me.  Staring at a blank canvas and seeing where the painting takes me would be a complete waste of my time. I am  both a left and right brain thinker when it comes to my creative practice. I set up a canvas and proceed to follow a plan, a design ,a  formula if you will . Different formulas yield different results with regards to how I execute a piece. I am in control. This what I tell myself but  the reality is, the process is controlling me. In other aspects of my practice I need to free flow the creation of imagery. My images are often representational and are often dictated by my strong feelings about color so it is important to me that I find a means to  generate relevant  imagery regardless of  what steps will get me there.   The paintings  are not only a byproduct of my thinking but simply an extension of who I am.   I do not create so that others may directly  benefit but rather so that I may benefit from the experience of creating. In my view, the artist exists before the art is created. It is a state of mind which eventually  manifest itself with   into a product or experience. This product or experience is rendered useless when the thinking it produces ceases to exist.  For now my processes continue to drive my practice forward. I think I’ll keep this notebook around for a bit but if for some reason it goes missing I’m sure everything will turn out fine.

Inspiration is for Amateurs

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My cousin Ceasar and I on my parents porch  1984

One thing people often want to know when they meet an artist is how they became an artist in the first place. There’s Picasso line of everyone being an artist when they are young and the challenge of remaining one into adulthood. This notion is one that I agree with. As a child our awareness is heightened and our perception of the world is pure. This ability elevates us in a way and sets us apart from other species on this planet. The power to be creative has touched  every milestone mankind has every achieved. As a child I didn’t grow up surrounded by painters, poets, or musicians.I sourced from inspiration from other things.Much of my free time was spent outdoors discovering the wonders that nature had to offer within an urban setting. This was enough to keep my interests peeked. Amidst the broken glass there was beauty to be had between the cracks in the sidewalk and walls of the city. Growing up in the eighties in New York City one could always count on seeing murals created by graffiti artists who sole purpose was to “get up”. Fame put simply in one word is…exposure. The more exposure you or your name had, the more famous you became. This still rings true but somehow for me it feels different. I’m older perhaps New York is less grittier  too , nevertheless graffiti culture is still a force. Between the ages of six and ten my older cousin, who I aspired to be like because of his style sense and good nature, let me tag along with him on his little mini-missions around the neighborhood. On the weekends when my folks would let me let me sleep over, I was permitted to be his little shadow and everything he did made me feel cooler. He’d put me onto to the latest rap artist and and break down the liner notes from inside the  cassette jackets.   I’d sit beside him at his mother’s dining room table and watch him draw cool things like sneaker logos and graffiti letters. I’d go home and mimic his “wild style” and create colorful hip-hop characters to accompany the splashy look of the images. I eventually promoted myself from amateur artist to artist. By the time I arrived in junior high school not only did I recognize my emerging skill set but so did my peers. My parents and siblings were supportive as well. I remember coming home one day after school to a classic black and white art table, you know the one with the lamp that bends and clamps onto the table. My parents thought it would help me build confidence-and boy were they  right. That moment validated my efforts thus far. In the following years, my dad’s harsh criticism made me more resilient and allowed me to accept criticism as a positive component that comes along with  developing one’s creativity.  Today when I sit down to draw or set up my palette to paint, I still feel that surge of energy run over me and can’t help but to think that my superpowers are a means for which to communicate my inner workings.  I remained an artist in adulthood and continue to look out into the world as a wide eyed child-full of wonderment and curiosity .