Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Phoenix Paintings...

One of the projects that we're working on is buying out a gem and mineral shop. Generally speaking, the bead business can be very feast or famine. The idea behind the buyout is that we want to diversify our offerings while still keeping them in line with our current inventory and established mission statement. The hope is that by doing this, we can attract more customers and when the bead business is slower, hopefully compensate. And maybe if we're lucky, we can gain crossover customers.

In an effort to keep our prices low and remain somewhat competitive, we run on slim margins and whatever money we do make is invested back into the business or is saved for when times are tough. We're celebrating eight years in business and this model has worked so far. With the exception of a few little luxury items every now and then, William and I live pretty humble lives. Usually when we do splurge it's in support of another small business or artist. That might not sound all that appealing to some (and indeed it can be nerve-wracking at times), but it is what's right for us right now and I couldn't imagine it any other way. It's a good life and one dedicated to beauty. But sometimes when big opportunities come up like this, it can certainly test our resolve and force us to think creatively. Because in the end, whenever there's been a roadblock or a setback or a challenge, when I've dug deeper and embraced my creativity, there's always been a solution.

To help offset the expense of the buyout, I've created a new series of work. This new series includes six new paintings made by me. Each of the paintings depicts a phoenix. I've had a fascination with them ever since I was a little boy. Whether it was in mythological stories or on the pages of comic books, I was drawn to this mythic creature. I think what appealed to me the most was that endings weren't really over. When most stories end, the phoenix's journey began anew. What was lost could be found again. What was broken could be mended and remade. And when everything and everyone else said to give up... there was still hope. There was still this rare and beautiful spark of hope that the impossible could be made manifest. From the blistering fire and the ashes of the past, it was possible to rise... to rise and to fly and to soar the skies.

The process to make these paintings is similar to the way that I make the crow paintings. To start, I  create layers of paint and salt on heavy watercolor paper. When everything is dry, I sand down the surface and remove all the crusty bits. This technique makes a really cool patterning that looks like starbursts. I can thank the cold Pennsylvania winters for this technique; one day while shoveling and salting the sidewalks, I noticed the residue and patterns left from the night before. I loved it! When I did more research, I found out that this is actually a technique commonly used with watercolors. On this star-speckled surface, I add more layers of acrylic paints, iridescent pigments, and metallic paints. And when they're done, I seal them. Each painting measures 5"X5" and is signed and dated by me.

If you're interested in getting one, they're available in the Allegory Gallery store here: https://agbeads.com/phoenix

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Crow Paintings: Series Three...

I started these paintings back in April while we were in the middle of the move. I worked on them in different batches. Each series contained thirteen paintings except for this one, which had six. I had plans to finish these much earlier, but life got in the way and we've been busily working away. I finished these on a recent trip to Asheville where I had a little bit of creative time with the family and Candie Cooper. We hung out for the weekend and went to the gem shows and had a really great time. So much so that we're planning to do a retreat together next year.

I originally created these crow paintings as sort of a fundraiser to help recoup the costs associated with the shop move. You'd be surprised how quickly your budget can get out of control. (Or maybe not depending on if you have experience with these sort of things.) We are still paying things off and doing what we can as time and money allows it. We recently installed built-in shelving and added bookshelves and card racks. Up next is a new sign. We bought the brackets for them already, which had to be specially made. It's basically two metal poles with mounts on them, but since it is for a retail small business, the price tag was quadruple what I thought something like that would cost. A friend said that it's kind of like a wedding cake. Cake itself isn't really all that expensive, but the moment you say it's for a wedding, the price goes up. Apparently the same thing goes for metal poles.

A lot of people asked about the different symbolisms behind the paintings. Of course, being the cryptic person that I am, I said that they had to live with them and let the paintings reveal their secrets on their own. But it's more complicated than that. When I work, I'm very much like a magpie. I collect bits of poems, snatches of images, interesting textures, and things that excite my curiosity and I grind them up and let them percolate in my subconscious. Everything sort of stews there and ferments and grows and changes. In my dreams, these ideas sort of manifest and sometimes they come out fully formed and sometimes they're gentle hints that have to be realized as they're being worked on.

You'll see repeating motifs like crowns and adornment. There are keys and hearts and bits of flora. Certain color combinations emerge on a regular basis and of course there's this twilight quality, where the sun has set, but it's not quite dark and the stars start to reveal themselves. I try to capture the undulating movement of nebulas and spiraling galaxies. This manifests itself in the dot patterning. There are so many different cultures and styles that implement this technique, but I am most moved by Aboriginal artwork where there is this almost obsessive dedication to repeating patterns and mark-making.

The crows themselves are messengers. They get a bad rap sometimes. There are those that believe that they are omens of death or bad luck, but I don't agree with that. It's like the old saying goes... don't shoot the messenger. Crows and ravens and other corvids, depending on the culture, have a wide and varied folklore. Some people believe that they are symbols of magic and mystery. I've found that they are extremely intelligent creatures and can recognize different people and use tools and can even be gift-givers. I love stories about people who befriend them and how the birds bring them presents to show their affection and gratitude.

To make the paintings, I start out by creating layers of paint and salt on heavy watercolor paper. Once everything is dry, I sand down the surface and remove all the crunchies. It creates a really neat patterning. To that, I add more layers of acrylic paintings, iridescent pigments, and metallic paints. And when they're done, I seal them. Each painting measures 5"X5" and is signed and dated by me.

All of them have found homes and are flying out all across the country to find their forever perches.

I've always loved crows and ravens, and actually collect a lot of artwork featuring them, but it seems like they've been appearing more for me this year. While I had intended to move on to something different after these were done, I don't know. I still have more ideas and I'm not tired of them yet. So who knows. I might paint more. I might not.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pride Bird...

It's June and that means it's Pride Month! There are a lot of ways to observe this celebration. For me, I am drawn to how I can help. I asked myself, "what can I do to benefit the LGBTQIA+ community? How can I promote tolerance, equality, and kindness?" The answer has always been my creativity. I decided to do a painting inspired by Pride and create prints. A portion of each sale will go towards The Trevor Project. They offer suicide prevention and promote life-affirming programs for LGBTQIA+ young people.

 I've been doing crow paintings lately and continued this motif. The crow is clutching an olive branch in its talons; the olive branch is a symbol of peace, friendship, and diplomacy. It also signifies victory. In its mouth, is a rainbow ribbon. The Pride flag was invented by Gilbert Baker in 1978. The colors of the Pride Rainbow represent, "red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and purple for spirit." On top of the crow's head is a little crown. Love conquers all.

The open edition digital prints are made in-house with archival inks on acid-free Moab Entrada Rag Natural paper with a lovely matte finish. Each print is signed and dated by me and measures 4"X6". Thank you for supporting us and allowing us to give back to the LGBTQIA+ community. If this resonates with you, we would appreciate it if you shared this post and help it reach as many people as possible. Thanks again and Happy Pride Month! CLICK HERE to get your print.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Inspired by Reading: May 2019 Reveal...

We have a book club at Allegory Gallery and it’s a lot of fun. It’s called, “Inspired by Reading”. In a lot of ways, it’s like most book clubs; we read a book and then get together once a month to talk about it... but our book club has a twist! After participants finish the book, they are asked to make something inspired by what they read (or in my case, listened to on Audible)! It could be food or jewelry or anything really. One time a person made beer and another time, someone else embellished a pair of shoes!
"The Radium Girls" by Kate Moore.
For May, we read, “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore. Almost everyone agreed that the book was fascinating and well-written, albeit disturbing. It was made all the more disturbing knowing that the book was based on real people! I don't tend to read a lot of non-fiction for pleasure, so I was pleasantly surprised by the way that the author was entertaining without being flippant and did a wonderful job fleshing out the characters. She did a wonderful job making them seem like the real people that they were.
Shine Bright Earrings by Andrew Thornton.
I had a lot of ideas of what to make, but not a lot of time. So I decided to make a pair of earrings and focus on the verdant green from the cover and the idea of the luminous, glowing quality of the radium.
Shine Bright Earrings under a UV black light.
I had these vintage German glass cabochons in a lovely, glowy shade of green and I decided to bezel set them. In the book, the author mentions that several of the characters are of German descent and I thought that using the German glass was fitting. Before I set the cabochons though, I painted the interior of the bezel that I made out of sterling silver with glow-in-the-dark paint.
Shine Bright Earrings in the dark after being "charged up".
I then smashed an antique Czech glass “Vaseline” bead and used liquid polymer clay as a binder to glue the glass crumbs in the bottoms of the bezels. The cabochons were set on top of that. Some vaseline glass is made with uranium salts. This gives a unique, vibrant yellow to the glass and under a black light, they glow! (Don’t worry! They’re not dangerously radioactive.)
On the backs, I stamped, “shine bright”. Since the book has a darker theme, I wanted to stamp something that was relevant, but a tad bit more on the positive affirmation side. I thought about doing "Lip... Dip... Paint." but then I thought that if I ever wanted to sell these, that maybe that was a wee bit too specific. The set cabochons were then dangled from sterling silver lever back earwires.

To see all the other delightful creations inspired by "The Radium Girls" (and all our other book selections), CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook page for the book club. CLICK HERE to see all of this year's selections. Up next for June is "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Crow Painting: A Bird Builds A Nest...

"A Bird Builds a Nest" by Andrew Thornton, 2019
We’ve been in the new space for about a month now. While we were moving and building things, we realized that our funds would run out. So I started a series of crow paintings to help pad our budget. (We still have a list of unfinished projects that still need attention.) I finished the first and second series, and it seemed like there were a lot of people interested in helping us out. It was lovely to see the pieces all get snapped up. But we know that not everyone had access to the paintings. So I had this idea to make a special painting specifically with the intention of making prints of it. This way more people could enjoy.

So in between all of my regular work, I set about making this painting. It was mostly painted in the wee hours of the morning, soaking up starlight through my open window. This is probably the biggest painting that I’ve worked on in years and it took considerably longer to paint than all the other paintings combined.

When we originally opened the store, a quote stuck in my head, “Petit a petit, l'oiseau fait son nid.” This translates to, “Little by little, the bird builds its nest.” And that’s just what we have done. Over the years, bead by bead, we’ve built up our business and our lives. With hope, faith, and head full of dreams, we’ve poured ourselves into making the shop a reality. (The ribbons tied to the tree are wishes.)

I knew that for the painting for the prints, I wanted to paint a nest. Plus, there was this really cool story in current events about ravens being hatched in the Tower of London for the first time in a long time. I was charmed by the story and it planted a seed in my brain.

The nest is embellished with tiny forget-me-nots. And I suppose that’s my desire not to be forgotten. I try to tell myself that I’m okay with being swallowed up by the currents of time and be forgotten by history, but there’s this secret wish that what we do matters and that it will live on, in some small way. That we won’t be forgotten when both William and I are gone. The flowers are in seed, promising that even when one flower dies and disappears, there is a hope that the legacy will live on.

Upon looking at this piece, you might read a rainbow and you wouldn’t be wrong. I remember as a child laying on my back and looking up at the sunset and seeing a rainbow there on the horizon. The fiery reds melted into blazing oranges and golds and faded into blues and deep purples. A rainbow is really just white light, but through refraction, the hidden spectrum is revealed and it is made up of such beautiful, saturated colors. To see the colors, you must look through a crystal or a glass of water or droplets of water in the air. Seen through a prism, all of the colors are revealed.

The spider web has two different meanings. Well, actually maybe three. The first calls back to my childhood. I was quite rambunctious and not always very pleasant. I remember seeing a spiderweb and for no reason at all, I took a stick and broke it up. It wasn’t harming anything. I just wanted to tear something up. I wanted to rip apart someone else’s home. When I returned the next day, to my surprise, the spider had rebuilt. It was bigger and better than before, using the wisps of its former web to make it stronger than before. And I knew then that what I had done was wrong, but despite my wrongdoing, the spider carried on. Life can be hard and we can stumble on obstacles setbacks, but that’s when we’re called to turn our breakdowns into breakthroughs. The other meaning is that despite it being seemingly fragile, made of fine, shimmering strands, it is surprisingly strong. Some say that it’s stronger than Kevlar. I guess that means that appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes what is dismissed at first is actual a deep well of strength and fortitude. The third meaning references an Ancient Greek myth about Archane, a mortal weaver who was so talented that she inspired jealousy amongst the gods and because of vanity and hubris was transformed into a spider. In my teen years, I was fascinated with myths and legends. They described the existential “why” of the Universe. I think that I was drawn to this myth, because it was a reminder that hard work and talent aren’t enough - we must strive also to be humble and have a good heart. We must be happy in our own endeavors, crafting our own happy endings, instead of getting caught up in competition or rivalry.

In hindsight, I probably should have done this painting differently! Lol! The underneath layer (which you can’t even really see) is made up of a collage mosaic of the leftover paper from my Magic Hour show. The thick watercolor paper is painted and layered with salt and sanded down. The uneven surface, while I find delightful in person, is somewhat problematic to photograph. Plus, I added so many layers of paint that the original colors are completely buried. Oh well! The other thing is that I used a lot of metallic and iridescent paints and pigments. Again, this is delightful in person and probably my favorite part, but for prints, the special effects die and can read flat. There are also some dark on dark areas that are so subtle in difference, that when photographed all the distinction sort of disappears. I started to wonder if I should make prints after all. Lol!

We did, in the end, decided to make prints!

We used our relatively new large-format, archival printer to create the limited edition prints. We printed the images of the painting on a thick, lustrous, metallic paper. I like that that helps represent some of the elements lost in translation. Prints are available in the Allegory Gallery online store and by CLICKING HERE. There's not many left, so if you desire to acquire one, don't delay.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Crow Paintings: Series Two...

We’re still saving up for improvements to the new space. While we were moving the store, we blew through the budget quickly as there were several unexpected challenges that popped up. In an effort to recoup some of the money we lost while being closed (longer than we anticipated) and to fundraise to complete unfinished projects, I started making these crow paintings.

I originally planned three series of paintings - thirteen each in the first two and six in the last. All of the first series and second series found homes. Here are the paintings from the second series. To make these paintings, I start out creating layers of paint and salt on heavy watercolor paper. The surface is sanded and then more layers are added in acrylic paints, iridescent pigments, and metallic paints. Once completed, I seal them with a spray fixative. Each painting measures 5”X5” and is signed and dated by me.

The third series should be ready soon. The best place to check on availability is on my Facebook timeline or the shop's. CLICK HERE to go to my personal Facebook page and HERE for the shop's page. They've been selling out rather quickly. I've been contacted about holds and I prefer not to do that, as it causes a lot of extra work on our end and the paper trail is scattered about, which complicates shipping and record keeping.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Crow Paintings: Series One...

It's been awhile since I last posted. I thought that I would share a look at some of what I’ve been working on. We recently moved the shop down the street to a bigger location. While we were moving, it became quickly apparent that we would blow through our moving budget. This was partly due to the fact that between illness, material delays, and bad weather, our opening date was postponed and we had to remain closed threes times longer than we originally planned. I knew that we’d have to make it up somehow and started working on a new series of paintings to help generate some funds. Even though I was deep down bone tired each day, I spent a little time each night working on the paintings. I even fell asleep at one point while I was painting and the brush dried to my shirt! 

Here are the first 13 crow paintings in this series. While the move is technically over, there’s still a lot to be done and we still need to recoup the money lost while we were closed. Each painting is 5”X5” and is on thick, cold-pressed watercolor paper. To achieve the backgrounds, I created layers of paint, salt, and acrylic medium that were sanded down. On top of the backgrounds, I added layers of acrylic paint and pigments. I embellished with metallic and iridescent paints. Each painting is spray sealed. 

All of the paintings found homes and I'm working on the next installment of this series.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Flowers of Spring...

This has been perhaps the longest that I've gone without blogging. It's funny, because it's also a time that I feel that I'm more connected than ever. I feel like in the past, before we had the store, I could blog and then sort of check out and live life. Nowadays, it feels as though my life is more integrated than ever with technology and I'm constantly checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I think a lot of that is due to how convenient it is to hold a phone and do all that, as opposed to sitting down and spending time. It feels like time is always slipping away.

In the months that I've not updated this blog, there have been a lot of developments! We're in the process of moving the store, which is the biggest thing on my mind. We've been in our current location for over five years and we've lived a lot of life there. It's bittersweet to move. We love our current location, but we've long since outgrown it and we're bursting at the seams. It'll be nice to have some space and room to grow.

I think that's been on my mind a lot lately. The idea of growing things and how the seeds I've planted have faired. Some of the seeds are duds. Nothing happened. They were cast out into the world but never took root. Other ideas have flourished and thrived.

Since I last posted, I traveled across country road trip style to attend the Tucson gem shows. I also spent a few weeks with my family down in Asheville. Then I came back and have been working away. We've been planning events and booking teachers. We were in the New York Times. So much has happened. It all seems like such a blur.

But much of my focus right now has been spent on planning for the new space and how we're going to accomplish everything that we want. It's not going to be easy and is going to take a lot of energy and fortitude, but I have a really good feeling about the future. The decision to move feels right. I really can't explain it, but I feel like there's a lot of potential and good energy in the air.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Discussion of Color...

Earlier today, I posted about the NEW Pantone Color of the Year!  CLICK HERE to see the blog post.  It sparked some interesting discussions in some of the forums I belong to.  It's clear that color is really a personal thing and can create some very strong opinions!  Everyone wants their favorites to win!

I also feel that color, particularly color sensibilities, can be such a mutable thing.  Depending on where you are, who you are, or what you're going through... what colors you're drawn to can change and be influenced.  What might be appealing one moment, might not be the next... and vice versa.

I know that whenever something is dubbed the "XYZ of the Year" or something like that, it often times evokes strong negative responses.  "Who are they to judge?!?!?!"  Well... if you're not familiar with Pantone, it's a company that has spent decades codifying, naming, studying, and categorizing colors.  They work with industry professionals from all sorts of different disciplines, from the fashion industry to car paint companies.  They also work closely with graphic designers, illustrators, and the media... so chances are, whether you're familiar with Pantone or not, you've seen evidence of their work.

When they find the Color of the Year, they have industry professionals comb the catwalks of Fashion Week events around the world and do sort of a cross-section of what was the most prevalent.  They use this as the basis to generate their report.  They are exhaustive in examining colors and are very thoughtful in their decisions.  It's quite the production!  I appreciate how sensitive they are to current events and the zeitgeist of the moment to make their final choices.  It's quite the impressive feat to suss out the color that defines a moment in time!

This certainly doesn't mean that you have to "like" every Color of the Year!  But I find it fascinating to look behind the scenes.  It's sort of like a magic decoder ring and if you know what to look for, it's kind of fun to see how much Pantone plays a part in our daily lives.

And when I find a color challenging, I think of it just like that!  A challenge!  I use it as a way to push myself out of my comfort zone and expand my understanding of the color.  Some of the colors might not be my favorites, but working with them has taught me to appreciate them more.  It's funny when I dissect why I have certain aversions or attractions to specific colors.  My personal experiences have helped inform my reactions and I always find it helpful to understand why something is the way it is.

In one of the groups, there was some debate about what colors have been chosen previously, so I put together a quick chart from 2000 to present.  It is a lovely rainbow of colors that reflect our ever-changing times.

To learn more about Pantone and the previous Colors of the Year and what goes into the selection process, CLICK HERE.

Pantone Color of the Year 2019...

And the 2019 winner is....

Living Coral!  

Earlier this year, we launched a kit that featured this shade as the main color.  It's surprising how this color is both energetic, but also calming.  Many of the participants of the kit had mixed feelings, saying that it was a tricky color to work with.  But all of the projects were amazing!  It's a color that pushes us out of our comfort zone, but also has a fond nostalgia, harkening to bygone eras.

Leatrice Eiseman, the Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, said, "Color is an equalizing lens through which we experience our natural and digital realities and this is particularly true for Living Coral.  With consumers craving human international's and social connection, the humanizing and heartening qualities displayed by the convivial PANTONE Living Coral hit a responsive chord."

You can read the full Color of the Year report by CLICKING HERE.  I really love how thoughtful they are when they consider their selections.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

San Francisco Sugar Skulls...

San Francisco Sugar Skulls by Andrew Thornton
I started these pieces on my way to San Francisco. It was Dia de los Muertos and I kept drawing sugar skulls and making little color field studies on the plane. My fingertips were brightly colored, almost as if I had dipped my fingers in a rainbow and they came out stained. The day that we arrived, we wandered around. We were explorers without a destination. I kept seeing sugar skulls and rainbows wherever we went. They were in the grates, hung in the trees, and brightly painted on side street murals. As evening set in, we were both travel weary, high on friendship, and slightly tipsy on margaritas. We decided to make our way to the altars set up at Garfield Park. As we got closer, it became more surreal and dream-like. Crowds of people dressed up in costumes with painted faces surrounded us. They were holding candles and photographs, and the smell of incense and marigolds got stronger. We were swept up with the strangers, the mourners and the onlookers alike.
Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 1". Mixed media, 2018.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 2". Mixed media, 2018.
Each day I was there, I tried to go on a little walk. Sometimes I went with my sister. Sometimes I went with my friend, Jess. But more often than not, I was on my own. I went when they were at yoga or running errands. I marveled at the flowers and the murals and the urban heartbeat. Lovers holding hands, people of every color and creed. Everything seemed like a celebration. At first. But the more I walked, the more I could sense a deep sadness. Stacks of rocks, a circle of names, memorials tucked beneath trees. Fly with angels. In loving memory. R.I.P.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 3". Mixed media, 2018.
This city had a memory.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 4". Mixed media, 2018.
And the memories were of bright, shiny, vibrant people, struck down by an epidemic. We had come to this city when the veil between worlds was thin and the echoes of the spirits of the rainbow could be heard. They could be felt.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 5". Mixed media, 2018.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 6". Mixed media, 2018.
I started these pieces on my way to San Francisco. I didn't know what they'd be, but as I worked on them a little each day, they started to take shape and find form. The mixed media collages are made up of layers of cut paper, paint, pigments, ink, and colored pencil. Many of the first several layers cannot be seen at all or only faintly so, as they were whited out or painted over. I wanted to give these pieces history and like most histories, not everything is revealed, but still remains and is ever present. The pieces are embellished with touches of iridescent and metallic pigments and paints, and even a little glitter.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 7". Mixed media, 2018.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 8". Mixed media, 2018.
Once I finished the collages, I knew I wanted to give them a sense of veneration and completion. So I set about framing them, but I couldn't find any commercially available frames that conveyed that same sense of history in the collages. So, I made the frames. The frames are made by layering dozens of coats of paint that are then sanded and buffed. It takes hours to achieve this finish, but I think it's worth it and fits with the spirit of the collages.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 9". Mixed media, 2018.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 10". Mixed media, 2018.
Each piece measures 5"X5", framed. I am selling them for $75 each plus shipping with a portion of the proceeds to go to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1st. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has a mission, "to end the HIV epidemic in the city where it began, and eventually everywhere. Established in 1982, our mission is the radical reduction of new infections in San Francisco because we refuse to accept HIV as inevitable. Through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care, we are confronting HIV in communities most vulnerable to the disease."  If you're interested in claiming one or more of the pieces, email me and if it is still available, we'll arrange payment options.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 11". Mixed media, 2018.

Andrew Thornton, "San Francisco Sugar Skull 12". Mixed media, 2018.
When I was floundering earlier this week, I turned to finishing up these pieces. Not only did it bring me comfort, but it also allowed me to pay tribute and capture the essence of my recent San Francisco experience. ❤️๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ