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Campfire Shenanigans

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on May 26th, 2009 in Mask Paintings

Remember when you were a kid out camping with your buddies and/or your family how it never failed…someone would decide they needed to tell some ghost stories? They would begin each story in a soft whisper that made everyone lean in to hear. There was something about the flicker of the flames reflected on the storyteller’s face that lent a creedence to the far out and scary stories they would tell. A good storyteller would always build the story to a point where any sudden noise – even just a knot popping in the campfire would cause everyone to jump out of their skins. Of course, then sleep was totally out of the question…

These good times came to mind as I painted “Ghost Stories”. The mask used in this painting is of a very small Geisha mask that my brother, Duane, picked up for me while on shore leave in Japan back in the mid ’90’s. I had started several compositions with her over the past couple years but it wasn’t until I lit her strongly from below that anything ever gelled for me. Of course, I had to take liberties with her color scheme, but would you expect anything less? Also, for the first time in several months I used only a brush with which to paint. The palette knife never touched this one’s surface. I hope you enjoy…

Ghost Stories – 10″x8″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 5-24-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

For those interested, here is the original Geisha mask next to a 12″ ruler.


Recently my brother, David, emailed me some photos of masks he had seen at a flea market. One of them was a creepy ‘china doll’ mask with a blue gem teardrop. Once I cropped in tight on the photo the creepy factor was replaced by an innocent childlike look. Immediately I started to ponder what would make this ‘child’ so sad. Then I realized that poor child was coming up in a troublesome time and would be inheriting quite a mess. Next thing I knew I had the world aflame…To engage the viewer in this dialogue I decided to include eyes for the first time in one of my mask paintings. I’m really excited with how those eyes draw you into the composition. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Birthright – 24″x30″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 5-18-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

Brain Freeze

Have you ever been enjoying an Icee or Sno Cone on a hot summer day and drank/ate it a bit too fast? BANG! It hits you… Brain Freeze! For the next few moments you’re like “OW!”. And, then it passes, so you go back to drinking/eating your refreshing treat, until BANG! it hits again. Oh the joys of summer.

This mask came to me via email from my online art buddy Patricia Arroyo. We met thru artscuttlebutt.com a few months ago and she sent me several photos of masks she has on display around her house. This is the second of her masks to make it to canvas. Thank you Patty!

The base coat for this one was a vibrant green which I textured on with my palette knife and modeling paste. To get the stippling texture I patted the knife up and down across the canvas while it was still wet. I then applied my composition using the palette knife over the dried base coat which shows thru in several areas.

I must give my 15-year-old son, Eric, credit for helping me come up with the title. I asked him what he thought of when he looked at it and he said “The tongue reminds me of when Sis (Christina -age 10) has been eating candy”. That got me to thinking about what else besides candy can turn one’s tongue blue and came up with Sno Cones and Icee’s. Once I said, “what about ‘Brain Freeze’?” the whole family decided that this painting had its name.

Brain Freeze – 24″x30″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 5/9/09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

High on Life (Or is it Acrylic Fumes?)

When so much is going on around us that we’re not sure what to do, it’s up to us to find ourselves a ‘happy place’ where we can get away from it all. Painting has been that place for me. But, recently I had allowed stress and worry to enter into my painting time and suddenly it wasn’t fun anymore. My previous painting became a chore and I started worrying that I’d reached some sort of impass. I didn’t even want to start on the next one!!! So, after a couple days of feeling sorry for myself and putting off getting the paints out I CHOSE to paint anyway. I’m glad I did. I was able to break free of those doubts and fears. I was able to recapture the fun and wonder of creating something new.

For this one I chose a Venetian mask which had built-in ceramic ‘waves’ of fabric. I put this over a sky of my favorite time of day – when the sun is going down and God’s palette is at it’s most dynamic and vivid. This combination gave me a sense of a floating on a light breeze without a care in the world. As I was painting, the song “What You Want” by Audioslave came on. The chorus ‘Now I’m free from what you want’ spoke to me and the title of this piece was born.

“Now I’m Free”. It is my new mantra and my latest painting.

Now I’m Free – 24″x30″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 5-2-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

Copyright © Don Michael, Jr.