Thursday, December 15, 2011

Richard Bunkall Exhibition

Working with Richard Bunkall  was a life transforming experience. As a student at Art Center, and an assistant at the Mendenhall Gallery, I was already immersed in the mechanics of painting. Witnessing at first-hand, this master in his dying efforts as an artist... rocked me to the core.

Recently, I was interviewed by Southwest Art Magazine for an article about my work. I was asked also to reflect on my time working with Richard Bunkall, they are also doing an article on his upcoming exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

I was in my early 20's during the time (1997 to 1999). Richard was at the peak of his mastery. His facility with the brush was, in my opinion, unmatched. Those images are heavy, the subjects monumental.  To be in front of his paintings, I felt humbled, and you sympathize with his struggle to make them. ... they were sacred objects to me. As I'm sure they were to many viewers as well.

When I first met Richard in 1997, he was already very ill and needed a lot of help. He was no longer teaching, ALS had taken away his ability to drive, walk, or even breath on his own. It was amazing that he could physically even hold a paint brush... he actually couldn't, so he strapped one to his hand, because he could only still move a couple of fingers. His right arm was no longer strong enough to lift his hand, so he lifted it with the aid of his left. He could no longer stand, and worked seated in a motorized wheelchair/scooter. Since he couldn't reach the top of the huge canvases to paint, he would ask to have it turned upside down... yes, he actually painted upside down at times.

I was impressed with how much he fought with a painting. He would sometimes spend weeks on an area of a painting, it would look awesome. Then I would come to the studio one morning to see he'd painted over a large section of it! Building up a beautiful impasto, with lost and found ghost images. He said that his favorite paintings to look at showed some struggle.

I remember visiting Richard one day to take one of his paintings to get photographed. Duke Ellington was playing on the stereo. He asked me how my own painting was coming along in school. I showed him one of my freeway paintings, he gave me a few pointers. His words were labored, he had to wait for his respirator to fill his lungs with air. There he was on his death bed, and he was asking how I was doing! I left there that day amazed, and placed his large canvas in the back of my van. For some reason, whenever I would remove a painting from his studio to get photographed, framed, or to hang at the gallery... it would ALWAYS mysteriously rain. Then a Stevie Ray Vaughn song came on the radio as I drove... "The sky is crying, can't you see the tears rolling down the street."

**The picture below is of me, circa 1999, moving one of Bunkalls paintings in the back of my van for the gallery.

I was impressed with how Richard was determined to spend the last efforts of his life immersed in his work. He feverishly poured it all into the paintings. He spent his dying efforts still seeing his vision through, till the end. Finally, when we hung the final show at Mendenhall called "A Movable Feast", and his work was finished, he soon passed away on May 12, 1999. The show was still hanging, it wasn't even over yet. But he had reached his goal.

** The photo above was taken of me in Richard Bunkall's studio, along with Michael Murphy who I worked with at the Mendenhall Gallery.

My life was changed forever. I knew I had to be a painter, nothing else would do. I was given the gift of absolute certainty that I was on the right path. For all of us, each day is a step closer to our last. My wish is that I too will be content working through my struggles till the end, putting them onto canvas with that kind of eloquence.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Light and Shadow, Arroyo Freeway

This new painting is called "Light and Shadow, Arroyo Freeway", 12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas. I have always enjoyed painting the freeways, particularly the 110 on the way to Pasadena, where I went to Art Center College of Design. You can see other pieces I painted of the Arroyo Freeway by clicking here and another one here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Coronado Sunset

This is "Coronado Sunset" 12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas. I painted it as a color study for a larger commissioned painting I'm working on, depicting a car on the road... I don't think this view would work, however, the sunset would compete with the car. But I still like the painting. I made several trips back and forth across the Coronado Bridge at different times of day, shooting photos. The Hotel Del Coronado can be made out on the left. The high key color palette was an experiment, making for a light and airy feel (the color is hard to see with this photo).

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Adams Avenue Liquor

"Adams Avenue Liquor" 12 x 12 inches, oil on canvas.

I have always been impressed by the Ashcan painters, as well as other artists of their circle and influence. John Sloan, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, and of course Hopper. From a technical point of view, I especially enjoy the gritty color and vigorous brushwork. Depicting figures in a landscape is an exciting challenge to me, and I'm interested to look at how they pull it off. And they did some great night paintings, nocturnes have always fascinated me. They are a challenge to paint. And there's a mood that a night-time urban scene evokes for me... something nefarious. Psychologically, the shadow persona sometimes emerges after dark.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ford Falcon Futura, San Diego Freeway

This new painting is called "Ford Falcon Futura, San Diego Freeway", 16 x 24 inches, oil on canvas, framed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

J.C. Leyendecker

I'm selling my J.C. Leyendecker painting through the Heritage Illustration Art Auction in NYC this October... it is 24 x 16 inches, oil on canvas.

Leyendecker was one of the most successful commercial illustrators of his time, best known for his advertisements for the "Arrow Collar Man." He created 321 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, and he was the only artist to paint more Post covers than Norman Rockwell.

This painting is a preliminary study that Leyendecker painted for the March 23, 1940 Saturday Evening Post cover for Easter (below).

Monday, July 25, 2011

William Wendt Sketchbook

I just got this William Wendt sketchbook full of drawings, color notes, and even poems. I got one of the Wendt drawings earlier and posted it here. The owner of my gallery in La Jolla (K. Nathan Gallery) picked it up at the Moran auction. He has framed up a few of the drawings, then sold me the remainder of the sketchbook. It's an awesome little piece of history. The interior is dated 1909 and is signed by William Wendt in ink. I even matched up a few of the drawings in there with paintings that Wendt executed. I thought it would be a real treat to share, and maybe sell some of the drawings myself. Email me if you're interested... I'm going to continue to post more sketches here over time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

BoldBrush Painting Competition... "Buick Convertible"

So far I'm ranked #7 in the May 2011 BoldBrush Painting Competition with my entry, "Buick Convertible, San Diego Freeway" oil on canvas, 16 x 41 inches. If you haven't already, please kindly visit the link above and hit its Facebook "like" button, I would appreciate it :-)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Another magazine article... Southwest Art Magazine May issue

Southwest Art Magazine picked me for "Best of the West" in the new May issue (page 28). My painting "Dog Walker, Banker's Hill" is pictured.

It's on newsstands now, along with my feature in American Art Collector's May issue as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

American Art Collector feature article

I just got the May issue of American Art Collector, where I am featured on pages 126 and 126. 
 The article features three of my paintings, "The Fall", "Buick Convertible, San Diego Freeway", and "Graffiti Bridge".
It is promoting my upcoming exhibition at K. Nathan Gallery in La Jolla, the show opens on May 14th, 2011.

The Gallery Says... "Tony has joined an elite group of American artists painting impressions of our urban environment. Southern California is an especially fertile ground for harvesting psychological reflections of city life."
- Keith N. Kelman, Owner, K. Nathan Gallery

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fall

"The Fall" oil on canvas, 36 x 54 inches. I started this large piece nearly two years ago, and I posted preliminary drawings here. Meanwhile, I've finished several other paintings, while I picked away at this one as a long-term project. When I initially came up with my idea for "The Fall", I wanted to include two figures in a landscape, and I had been looking at a lot of Rennaissance painting.

I actually enjoyed painting all the leaves both on the bush and the ground. The underlying theme of the piece is in part about leaving civilization and going off into nature... somewhat of a departure for me, because I'm mostly known for my urban landscapes. But painting the figure has an organic quality to it, and studying nature has been rewarding to me.

The snake on the ground is supposed to be somewhat hidden from the viewer, as it is un-noticed by the couple in the painting as well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Over San Diego" or "Winter's Glow, San Diego"

This new piece is either called "Winter Glow, San Diego" or "Over San Diego"... 16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas. Which title do you prefer?

The location is just south of downtown San Diego, overlooking the Coronado Bridge in the background. The two models I used, Brandi and Justin, also appear in another painting I just finished. The pattern of leaves behind the figures was enjoyable to paint, and a challenge. I like the mood of the piece, the day was overcast, and the soft lighting worked well.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Suong Yangchareon

I was up in Pasadena on Wednesday and had lunch with an old friend of mine, Suong Yangchareon. He gave me this invite (pictured above) for his exhibition at Paul Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco. The reception is next Tuesday, March 8th, from 5 to 7pm. Paul Thiebaud Gallery is located at 645 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 9413. They have a number of fantastic painters in their stable of artists, including Wayne Thiebaud, David Fertig, Celia Reisman, and Eileen David, just to name a few.

I first got to know Suong about 14 years ago when I was working as an assistant at the Mendenhall Gallery in Pasadena, where Suong exhibited his work (and later, I did too). We got to be good friends, and Suong became an early influence upon me (as well as Richard Bunkall) in painting the urban landscape. We would gallivant around Los Angeles shooting photos of old diners, city streets, and panoramic views of LA wherever they could be found. As a wedding gift, Suong gave Holly and I this painting (below) called "San Pedro" 18 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas...

"San Pedro" by Suong Yangchareon. 18 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Liquor Store Nocturne, Escondido

"Liquor Store Nocturne, Escondido" 12 x 12 inches, oil on canvas.

I finally have my exhibition date scheduled for May 14th, 2011 at K Nathan Gallery in La Jolla. There will be nearly 30 paintings, the biggest and best show of my career to date. Currently I'm working on an exhibition catalog, and other materials for promotion. I'm exhausted, excited, and eager to see it all come together.

This new piece is called "Liquor Store Nocturne" 12 x 12 inches, oil on canvas. I'm painting a few Liquor Store pieces, I love the old signage, and the feel of a night setting. And more than a few of my figures lately have been on the phone... symbolic of trying to reach out and make a connection, or perhaps escape lonliness or anxiety.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

New York Nocturne, Union Square

This new painting is called "New York Nocturne, Union Square", oil on canvas, 13 x 18 inches. The model is my wife's little sister, Bretony, who came along with us to New York (along with my painting pal, Bill Wray).

This piece started out quite differently, I dismissed my photo reference and painted it from my imagination, and cropped the composition. I removed the umbrella that she was carrying at an earlier stage in the work, and replaced it with the cell phone that's Bretony's constant companion. I like how it turned out, it kinda has a George Tooker feel to it.

Shortly after our New York trip, Bretony moved there... she still hasn't put down her cell phone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Buick Convertible, San Diego Freeway

"Buick Convertible, San Diego Freeway", oil on canvas, 16 x 41 inches.

I just finished this piece, along with several others, so I'll be posting each of them here soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dog Walker, Banker's Hill

I have several new paintings that I have just finished, and I thought I'd share one of them... this is "Dog Walker, Banker's Hill", oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches.

In anticipation of my solo exhibition at K. Nathan Gallery in La Jolla, I took my works in progress down to the gallery and we set a show date for May 14th, 2011. I'll have twenty paintings in the show, most of which are brand new and have never been exhibited anywhere else. I'll be posting new pictures of the artwork in weeks to come.