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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.



A Fine Mess

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on April 24th, 2009 in Mask Paintings, Palette Knife Paintings

So, what’s the state of our environment? What’s the state of our economy? Can we trust our leadership? If I’m not politically correct does that make me evil? Well, to put it mildly, it’s a fine mess we’re in. These were the thoughts I was having as I designed this composition. The dead tree, the stormy clouds, the angst-laden expression of the mask and the color palette were chosen to illustrate these thoughts which became amplified as I tried unsuccessfully to put my vision to the canvas. So, the title I chose is indicative of all of the above – but especially the painting. Maybe I’m just too close to it right now, but I finally just felt it was time to call it done and move on.

And, on that positive note, I give you “A Fine Mess”. Once again I used only the palette knife. The intricate carvings in the mask gave me fits at times, but I chose to stick with the palette knife all the way to completion.

A Fine Mess – 24″x36″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 4-24-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



Out for a Stroll

The weather’s changing. The trees are blooming. The birds are chirping. The itch is upon me. It’s time to take a little “Spring Break”, get out of the studio, head outside and enjoy this season of new beginnings.

Always enjoying a challenge, I decided to push my limits with detail work using the palette knife. Choosing to paint a tree with several small limbs and leaves was at first a little intimidating, but I pushed through and now feel pretty good with the results. I like how with a palette knife even the most subtle detail retains an organic, painterly feel to it. Then, the further back you are from the piece the more clear it becomes.

Spring Break - 20"x24" - Acrylic on Canvas - Completed 4-6-09

Spring Break – 20″x24″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 4-6-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

“An optimist is the human personification of spring.” – Susan J. Bissonette



A Milestone

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on March 27th, 2009 in Mask Paintings

For those of you keeping score at home, this is the 100th painting in my mask series. I knew I was getting close and took a “head” count a couple of weeks ago. I already had designs for my next few paintings at the time and knew which order they were going to be attempted – so this particular  mask was not necessarily chosen for this honor – he just happened to be the next in line at the right time.

When I mentioned to my friends CJ and Carla that I was working on my 100th painting they suggested I name it One Hundred. Not wanting to be quite that obvious, I started dwelling on derivatives of 100 for a couple days until the word “Centurion” came to mind. I went to the dictionary and knew right away I had the name. In the Roman Legion, a Centurion was the leader of a Century – or 100 men (it was later revised to 80 men).

The face of the mask in “Centurion” is from a Hawaiian Tiki bottle opener given to me by my friend Ian. I am including a photo of it in this post along with the painting. As is my prerogative, I took a few artistic liberties. I experimented with a different combination of paint colors and am very happy with the results. My palette for this one was Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Green Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Payne’s Grey and Titanium White. As you can see there is no blue in this palette, which is a first for me – ever. (For you purists out there, I know Payne’s Grey has Ultramarine Blue in its formula – but you know what I mean.) Check it out and let me know what you think…

Centurion – 20″x16″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 3-25-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



Stimulus Package

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on March 23rd, 2009 in Mask Paintings

While a few assholes are laughing all the way to and from the bank the rest of us are hanging on for dear life hoping to ride out the current economic storm.

Once again I textured the heck out of the underpainting on this latest work with my natural sponge and a light modeling paste. I then used several flat bristle and sable brushes to bring out the composition. The texture made painting the details in the hands and mask quite a challenge, but I needed such to get thru the angst I was feeling as I created this one.

I’m keeping this post short and letting the image speak for itself. I hope my pissedoffedness shows thru loud and clear.

Stimulus Package – 20″x24″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 3-19-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



Springtime in the City

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on March 15th, 2009 in Mask Paintings, Palette Knife Paintings

People experiencing a big city for the first time have every one of their senses stimulated in new ways. The lights, the tall buildings, the cacophany of sound, the smells and the seemingly limitless things to do all create a sense of awe. I try to keep that feeling when I go to The Strip here in Las Vegas, as well as when I travel to other cities. I still look up – I don’t care if local snobs then associate me as a tourist. There’s too much to see and experience to let their preconceived notions affect my enjoying the sights and sounds. I love a bustling, living, breathing city. You might even say I’m “Enamored” of the city.

In my most recent painting I wanted to express that sense of the first moment of experiencing a city. The highly reflective surface of this Venetian mask was a perfect fit with the suggestion of lights in the background. Choosing a low angle point of view for the mask gave me the opportunity to make it appear to be looking up. It’s a fun challenge to create the illusion of these eyeless masks “looking” in a direction. As I painted the background I made sure to angle the strokes and colors to create a feeling of motion and energy.

I went back to the palette knife on this piece. There is no brushwork and I backed off on the texture that I’ve been experimenting with of late. I just wanted to mix-and-smear for this one, and that’s exactly what I did. And a fun thing it was…

Enamored – 30″x24″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 3-14-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



Textured Into a Corner

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on March 9th, 2009 in Mask Paintings

Well, I think I’ve finally found my threshold when it comes to texture. For my most recent painting I went nuts with the light molding paste in creating my undercoat. The texture had so much variation with so many peaks that it was almost impossible to paint a representational image on it. But, being ever so tenacious (at least when it comes to painting), I stuck it out and am pretty pleased with what came of it. You can get a sense of the texture in the scan, but you have to see it in person to realize what I was working with/against…

This mask has a beautiful, yet sad countenance about it. I wanted to include her in my Greek gods and goddesses series so I went looking for the saddest Greek heroine I could find and rediscovered Antigone(pronounced an-‘ti-ga-nē). She was unlucky enough to have been a major character in the tragic and twisted story of Oedipus. Check it out, you’ll be scratching your head wondering what the heck these Greek storytellers were all about… Anyway, please welcome “Antigone” into the series. I hope you enjoy…

Antigone – 10″x8″ – Acrylic on canvas – Completed 3-8-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



Riding Out the Storm

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on March 2nd, 2009 in Mask Paintings

In search of new ideas, I recently did an online image search for Greek masks. I happened upon the Flickr.com account of Mary Harrsch who has posted several wonderful photographs of masks and sculptures from museums she’s visited over the years. One that specifically caught my eye is of a Greek or Roman bronze handle attachment in the form of a mask portraying the god Dionysus. I contacted Mary and she gave me permission to use this image for reference as long as I gave her credit. I consider it an honor to do so. Thank you, Mary.

I had a lot of fun putting this mask to canvas. I started with a bright orange underpainting mixed with a light molding paste. I really textured this undercoat with a natural sponge giving the canvas a stucco-like feel and look. I then started laying in the shadow pattern with a palette knife, but found the texture was too much for the knife to handle. So I went to a stiff bristled brush almost immediately. I really enjoy how the texture made me rethink how I applied my paint. It’s fun when experiments push your limits and still work…

As fun as it was to paint, this ended up being one of the most difficult of my paintings to title so far. The expression of the mask is so stoic and strong that I wanted the title to reflect this. The colors are so rustic that I wanted this reflected, as well. I wrote down words like Incorruptible, Strength, Tempest, Change, Resolute, Long-suffering and Odyssey. As I went over these thoughts with my wife, she mentioned that the mask made her think of a fatherly figure or a king – someone who’ll take care of any situation. So, it was back to the studio with my Thesaurus, two dictionaries and two books of quotations. After several hours I came upon the quote by Persius that goes, “He conquers who endures”. I had found my title… (I also would like to mention I’m reading “John Adams” by David McCullough which helped to inspire the thoughts of incorruptibility and strength of character.) Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

He Conquers Who Endures – 24″x20″ – Completed 2-28-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.



“A Thing of Beauty is…”

Posted by Don Michael, Jr. on February 23rd, 2009 in Mask Paintings, Palette Knife Paintings

“…A Joy Forever” – John Keats.

Although I had totally different ideas about how I wanted to title this piece, my wife felt that it should revolve around the idea of “lovely”. Being a man of peace, and totally into self-preservation, I immediately changed my titling strategy. Since I enjoy working in abstracts when it comes to titling my work, I went looking for the perfect quote from which I could pull some delicious nugget that would fit within the parameters of the aforementioned ‘suggestion’. I think I found it.

This painting is of a Venetian mask. I had never attempted copper before and thought it would be fun. The red-orange of the copper needed to be complemented to really make it “pop”, so I used a blue-green sky behind her eyes. I primarily used a palette knife with finishing touches applied via brush. Wanting to experiment further with texture, I mixed a  light molding paste into my bright green underpainting. I applied the underpainting with extreme and random strokes of my palette knife which made a mountainous mess. I loved it! On the next one I plan on doing the same thing, except this time I’m going to stiple in the texture with my natural sponge. I can hardly wait to get started…

A Joy Forever– 16″x20″ – Acrylic on Canvas – Completed 2-22-09

©2009, Don Michael, Jr.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. -John Keats



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