"Oxidation" 5ft x 3ft

This piece is the end result of my first ever planned and provided-for photo shoot, using a professional camera/lighting setup/backdrop (all graciously provided by Mike Shane).  Before this, I would glean photo reference from my camera-phone and cheaper point and shoots…

If “Steve” was a big step for me technically, this painting was a giant leap as far as control of the “raw material” going into a painting…  The model was a friend of my younger brother, and was about as nervous as I was in the beginning.  I bought the flowers last-minute for some color, erected the backdrop just in time for her to arrive.

I took the first picture without looking into the viewfinder, figuring that it would be like anything else – once you get the first word, line, cut (or in this case: photo) out of the way, the rest would be easy…

After a few minutes of awkward direction, we found our rhythm.  She would pose and hold her breath, I would crack a joke and she would literally *burst* into laughter (a combination of the unexpectedness of the joke and the held breath lent the laugh an explosive quality).  Following that, a moment of self-conscious pulling-herself-together, then a magical fraction of a second where her face would be relaxed (neither posing nor laughing), her posture was confident, solid and I got the sense that I was truly catching a glimpse of her (there between the seconds).   When I took the photo that became my basis for the painting, I knew it would work immediately.  It was the only picture that made me stop the shoot temporarily to show both Mike and the model!

The end result is what you see here, a 5 foot x 3 foot canvas, named after the alchemical process of Oxidation.

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Coagulation and Sublimation Draft I

Three weeks before the 10th Anniversary show for RWK in Philly, I had one piece complete (Oxidation), and I was leaving for a two week business trip to North Carolina.

It was 1:00am the night before I was scheduled to drive down from New York to Raleigh NC, when I called an old friend of mine on Staten Island to ask her if she would pose for some photo reference for me. It was drizzling slightly, cold and foggy when I picked her up, after picking up the professional camera that my cousin Sara was lending me for the trip. I had an old shop-light and a basement bedroom to do the photo shoot which we quickly chose after spending a few minutes outside getting a feel for the camera in the rain. I set up the light and began, initially quiet, but then loosening up a bit because the pictures weren’t coming out the way I wanted and I had the feeling it was because I was too anxious about getting something to paint before I left on my trip. I asked my model, who worked security for years in venues across NYC, to show me what she looks like when dealing with a “situation” at work. After initially laughing at the request, she put the coldest expression on her face and shifted her posture long enough for me to get the shot that became “Sublimation Draft I”.



It was closing in on 4:00 AM, and we were still in the basement with only the shop-light on. She was smoking a cigarette, blowing the smoke into the light like a magic trick, sitting on the floor and we just started talking. The conversation took a tour of all the personal issues we’d been dealing with, confronting and solving. It’s that type of effortless talking between old friends where you’re not even bothering to filter yourself anymore, the themes run together and the whole conversation is just a continuation of dialogue started somewhere else a very long time ago, continued internally and out loud, tracing itself all the way through to that exact second. I was still taking pictures at this point, not thinking and not directing, just taking pictures as we discussed what was really important. It was in that mindset then, that I took the photo that would be used as my basis for “Coagulation”.

When I was in North Carolina, I prepped and painted the first draft of Coagulation on the grass behind my hotel. I set up my covert operation in a grass alley behind my hotel, where the smokers congregated. I had a clip-on flashlight attached to a chain link fence, as the only source of light to paint from. The finished product came out pretty dark, intentionally, trying to capture that feeling where you’re only half-seeing the person you’re talking to, in a cold room, in a hurry.

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Robots Will Kill turns 10!

This year, RWK is celebrating our 10th anniversary! There are a lot of exciting new things coming up (*coughcough*redesign?*coughcough*), and we had a great show at the Vincent Michael Gallery in Philadelphia on 4/1/2011!

Now, I only really took one picture the whole night of the opening (below), but we had an amazing time!  This was the first show that all 7 members of RWK exhibited together, and 2 of them (ECB and Peeta) flew in from out of the country to attend!

The past 10 years have flown by, and I’m sure the next will too… But as long as I’m doing what I love, with good friends then I welcome it and look forward to our 20th year reppin’.

“Robots Will Kill” – Photo by Joe Russo

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…and so it begins

First blog post.  I’m going to start off with a painting done for charity, it’s official title is “…for the Kingdom if I can“, but we call it “Steve” around here…  Originally painted for an event benefiting  Project Hospitality, but since given to ZEROSTIGMATA AND AMFO BENEFIT COLLECTIVE.

It’s based on a photograph by my good friend Mike Shane, from a trip we took to New Orleans a few years back, and named after one of the greatest song lyrics I know (from “Heroin” by Velvet Underground).  The whole piece is incredibly personal to me for all sorts of reasons, the biggest perhaps being my departure from pure stencil work… “Steve” represents a step in a new direction wherein my “free painting” kicked in and made the image for me.



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