Saturday, February 23, 2013

Subversive Icons

It occurred to me recently what the most controversial art I have ever created has been. It has been my icons! Never, when I began painting them, would I have thought that these works would be so controversial.

In the shows I have had with them and my secular work, and comments I have received from people who have looked at my work online, the icons have always provoked the strongest reaction. Not from icon "purists," mind you, who don't approve of my technique, but from non-religious and atheists! The reaction has never been negative... just a strange sort of... "I am really drawn to these icons for some reason," sort of thing. Invariably the person cannot explain why he is drawn to them when he should be repulsed at them. Even those with no interest in religion find them to be fascinating and intriguing. Does this point to some inherent grace and power in the language of the icon? Who knows.

(NB: I should add that my icons also get many positive reviews as well from spiritually-minded people who are seeking God's will in their lives. To me it is simply fascinating that these simple works that have been around for centuries and centuries can still generate such powerful feelings in people!)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Preliminary Drawings

The traditional academic way of making a painting entails doing many rounds of preliminary studies and sketches. Even those who were schooled in the contemporary manner like myself, where traditional methods and disciplines were downplayed, were still encouraged to do preliminary studies in preparation for final paintings.

But I have never liked working that way. After graduation from art school I would do a number of preliminary studies for a painting, but found that I aways liked the rough, loose studies over the finished painting. So at one point I decided that it was best to just sketch the drawing on the canvas... just do the studies there, as it were, and let what happened happen in the painting. I've never gone back to the old way. While I appreciate the discipline and craftsmanship that the traditional method involves, for me painting is very visceral and emotional process, and what I find is that the traditional way of working dilutes that process and guts the painting of energy.

This process even finds its way into my iconography. The traditional way that people paint icons these days is to draw the composition on a piece of paper and then transfer it to a panel, whereas I draw it directly on the panel from scratch. Even though icons are copied, working in this way gives my icons - for me - a greater sense of dynamism and vitality than working through different stages of transfers, etc.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ruin Porn Paintings: The City is Man

Today I came across a term that to me is a good description of the cityscapes I have been painting for years: ruin porn. The term itself refers to pictures of dilapidated cities, most famously Detroit. There is something hauntingly beautiful, and yet sad about the pictures. Here is a link to a sample site:

A search for "ruin porn" will reveal many other sites of urban photography like this.

These images are as much a portrait of man as they are his cities. They speak all at once to his glory, and his decadence; his eternity, and his finitude. There is something very spiritual about them.

This is why I have always enjoyed painting cityscapes. For me a broken down building in a poor end of town is a spiritual metaphor for the human condition, and a testimony to the often failed and vacuous pursuits of man. One of my older cityscapes "Tony's on Eastern Avenue" is pictured above. More may be viewed on my site. (

And yet as I drive through Baltimore looking for scenes to paint the sight of a dirty street corner also reveals to some extent, the eternal hope that is held before us in God. Because after all, sometimes these corners are transformed, redeemed, and restored. The same is true of man himself. Broken and falling apart, he may be healed and transfigured through the power of God in Christ.

My "ruin porn paintings" try to capture and portray this element of despair and hope, and are portraits of fallen man who nonetheless has the hope of resurrection.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Continuing Anglican Churchman

I have decided to go back to running two blogs with one being devoted to specifically theological issues and questions addressed from an Anglican perspective. Here is a link to it:

I will still address theological questions on this blog as well from time to time, so if you are interested do check out both.