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The Imaginator

JULY 11, 2013

This year I was asked to do a poster and some spots for the Collaborative Summer Library Program, (the CSLP).  Many assignments I do are also a collaboration, ironically.  I work the the AD on an idea that is already there and craft it to what we hopefully both thing works well.
Other assignments are by their nature the kind of situation any artist dreams of...freedom.  On this poster I was given only a word; SPARK.
My immediate thought was a machine.  I do drawings of little machines all the time.  They perform some sort of task, and usually that is making clouds.  Pretty clouds.
I felt that the machine I wanted to paint for this poster should do what reading does for a young person.  It should both make their lives better and future brighter.
That's the idea, quite simple. 
I often think of my time as a child in my grandfather's basement.  He was from Ireland and could build or fix anything, though in his own special way.  The term "I Popa John'ed it" is understood as a clever but admittedly not correct fix.  In his basement was a huge vice.  I would take pieces of wood, nails, anything I could find and crush them.  Great fun.  My grandfather would walk down and then each week show me something.  How to solder a pipe, how to pre-drill a hole on a small piece of wood so a screw would not split it.  Almost all the things in this piece are things I remember.  Copper pipe, gears, not well cared for machines and grease.  I was lucky to have him.
The painting is a bit larger than I usually work, 16X20 and I had ample time to delve deeper into the painting; something most deadlines prevent for the past several years.  Glazing and scumbling are things I love to do but deadlines are such that I mostly have to hit my values and textures on first pass.  No time to alter it because of oil paint's drying times.
It was a joy to paint, and as I told the AD on the project, having it in my studio for the first part of 2013 made my life better. 
The image to me is about how to renew.  It is dirty, takes effort, energy and hope.
Rough sketch, one of the first I thought of.

I did this little study to scan in and prepare sketches and variations for the client.

One thing I wanted to do was to have a barely legible machine name. I didn't want it to be in the way, but I wanted it to look proud and sort of vintage. Imaginator seemed right.

I think I would have liked to have included the birds, but I'm fine with them not being in the final.

This was my favorite. I sheepishly offered this dark and omninous version. They went for it without the bird and with a few more wheels and gears. And the books.

Final approved sketch.
I made a decision that the painting was important to me as originally conceived, so when the sketch approval required some books flying; an idea I offered willingly,  I would paint the original without the books and paint them separately and photoshop them in.  This made the painting more personal.

Final artwork with books photoshopped in.