EXPLOITS: The Idea Book

Idea Book

Hundreds of potential paintings

My paintings come from visionary experiences. At the most random moments, I am suddenly shown a picture, an image of a painting I need to create. These visions usually come with titles, dimensions for the canvas, and maybe of bit of insight into their meaning.

Usually it takes a longer gestation period before their true significance becomes apparent. The visions are like dreams, in that what appears is full of  symbolic connotations which take some meditation to grasp.

I’ve been reading about eidetic memory, the mysterious ability to recall incredibly detailed information later on. Retaining the strange imagery that jumps out of my imagination seems to be my idiot savant version of this trait. Apart from painting ideas, my memory is terrible.

Since the end of 2009, I’ve been jotting down the ideas in a notebook and dating them. I do this instead of making sketches. It only takes a title and maybe a brief line of description to recall the fully articulated vision to my mind.

Sometimes the ideas hit me while at I’m at my job. Since my book lives in the studio, what I do is get the idea down on a post-it note and stick it into the journal when I get home.

CoverThe journal’s cover features writers and quotations, but it is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so it’s appropriate for paintings. My favorite quote is from George Bernard Shaw: “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?'”

The first entry is dated 12/24/09; it must have been a Christmas gift opened early.

Whenever I want to start a new painting, if I don’t have a specific one in mind already, I pull out this book and read through the listings. The associated imagery plays through my mind like a slide show. I look for one that really resonates with my intuition and get to work.

Later I might go back and note dates the painting was actually begun or completed, where it showed, if it sold. I’m not too consistent about this because the book is more about capturing the unfolding of new projects than record keeping paperwork.

For instance, here is a page from 2012:


Some of these have been made, some haven’t. This one I was excited about, and I had a deadline, because I started it almost right away:

“2/27 The Night of Wonders-1700’s telescope with sky full of wheels and devices begun 3/3/12 done 6/12”

This was the resulting painting:


Richard Bledsoe “The Night of Wonders” acrylic on canvas 36″ x 18″

This piece ended up as my contribution to a group show I curated at our gallery Deus Ex Machina in July 2012: “Alien Technology II,” a commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Roswell Incident.

I counted up the scribbled lines currently included in my idea book. There are almost 250 paintings visualized in there. The most recent entry was added today.

While I am a productive painter that keeps multiple in-progress pieces on hand,  I will never live long enough to create all the painting visions I’ve had. And the list of potential paintings keeps getting longer.

The best I can do is trust I will always recognize which painting is the next one that needs to be done.


“…The Stuckist doesn’t strive-which is to avoid who and where you are-the Stuckist engages with the moment.”

The Stuckists Manifesto




PAINTINGS: Nosecone Art


Art as invocation, with a cameo appearance of Kilroy enjoying the view

The current establishment art world cultivates insularity and isolation as a means to prop up the vapid, dysfunctional art they favor. From sterile white box galleries to haughty elitist attitudes, lots of effort is poured into erecting barriers to separate the experience of art from the despised masses and the realities of life.

But art does not exist to be plaything for decadent crypto-Marxist hipsters. It is a vital outpouring of the human soul, a visual method of spiritual communication. Art can take on surprising and spontaneous forms in the strangest places to remind us of who we really are.

A species of folk art arose when we started taking our wars into the skies. In World War I, for a time the fighting aircraft were painted with bright colors and bold designs that evoked heraldry, like pilots were knights jousting in the air. This was abandoned once it was realized camouflage-type coloration increased survival rates.


The Red Baron: Looks cool, but makes a very good target

But even after the overall military plane paint jobs were made to blend the sky, water or land,  the crews of planes created art on them, adding a little twist of character and personality in the midst of the industrial scale organization and danger of war.

These weren’t the polite expressions of a genteel upper crust. These images were the anonymous graffiti of common guys living on the edge. Pinup girls, cartoon characters, and catch phrases decorated aircraft that were made to engage the enemy, to kill or be killed. As bands of men were sent to face destruction or victory, they adorned their aircraft with images of jokes, icons of power and lovely ladies. That’s the spirit.

These were images that said we’re coming to kick your ass to protect the things we love. Such a meaningful expression of human endurance and defiance in the face of overwhelming adversity is completely lacking in the cloistered stylings of establishment art today. What our cultural institutions are serving up is completely inadequate for the troubled times we live in.

May we come to have an art with the urgency of a beautiful woman painted on a mighty flying machine, sent off on a mission of life or death.

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Visit my other posts to view the state of the arts.

Update 2: Some wiser men than me have let me know the correct term should be “nose art” or “fuselage art.”  I appreciate the update.



Flying tigers






ARTISTS: Fred Tieken and the AZ45


Fred Tieken “Bad Hair Day”

I first met artist Fred Tieken when my wife Michele Bledsoe and I were in an art show with him. It was February 2013, and “Changing Lanes” at Larry Ortega‘s Obliq Gallery was a memorable beginning to a new phase in all of our artistic careers.

In the years since that pop-up gallery experience, I’ve see Fred’s work continue to pop up all over the place here in Phoenix. In this he demonstrates the dynamic of a passionate artist: he is prolific, and he’s an exhibitionist-in the artistic context of the word. Art is a form of communication. It’s meant to be shared. Until a piece is experienced by viewers it remains unfinished in a way; the circuit is incomplete, the energy can’t flow. A responsible artist not only creates art, but does the necessary work to get their vision out into the world. Fred has expanded beyond the Valley of the Sun, also exhibiting in Miami, New York, and California.

Fred’s distinctive paintings, mixed media and installation pieces are exuberant, while at the same time built on solid compositional foundations. They also display a sense of humor, which is all too rare in the super serious visual arts. The joy and playfulness that went into their creation comes across without undermining the poise and craftsmanship of the work.


Fred Tieken “Prickly Pair”


Fred and Gail Tieken

Fred and his wife Gail Tieken have also been great supporters of the artistic community as well. Recently they invited 44 other Arizona artists to take part in a November show in their new Paradise Valley venue, the Tieken Gallery.

The Tieken Gallery


In between getting ready for this landmark event and preparing for an upcoming Los Angles solo show, Fred took some time to answer a few questions about art and life.

It seems your creativity led you explore many different forms of art in your career. What is your background, and when did you start making your current body of work?
Fred Tieken: I never had any art classes in high school but I did take drafting. I started right after graduation as a draftsman at an engineering company and worked there until I got fired for missing too much work. I had a popular rock band and we played on the road a lot so it was hard to do both. Getting fired from that job was the best thing that ever happened to me! I heard about an advertising agency that was looking for a commercial artist (that’s what graphic designers were called in those days) and applied for the job. I really hit it off with the agency owner and he taught me everything he know about graphic design. He was also a fan of my band so he didn’t care that I didn’t always show up for work so long as I got the projects done on time. So I worked as a commercial artist for the next 35 years, eventually starting my own firm along with Gail. We sold that business a few years back.

In 2010 I found out that my kidneys were failing and I would soon have to go on dialysis. The thought of that terrified me. Then Gail asked to be tested as a donor and we were a perfect match. During the time building up to the operation in which Gail gave me one of her kidneys I went out and bought some canvas and started painting to relieve the anxiety. My first painting was a kind of fantasy about the actual operation. A good friend brought the painting to my hospital room and the surgeons really got a kick out of it. I’ve been painting and making art ever since and can’t imagine not doing this.


Fred Tieken “Pass the Mayo”

How do you create your paintings-are they improvised, or planned out in advance?
FT: Both. Sometimes I do some sketching first, either by hand or on my iPad. Other times I have a really good idea of what I want to do and I just start laying it down. I think I have a good year’s worth of ideas in my head at any given time.

When is a painting complete?
FT: I usually quit when it feels right but sometimes I’ll come back the next day with fresh eyes and add or change something. It helps just to have the painting around so that I can walk by it and take a look every now and then when I’m not thinking too intensely about it. Occasionally I’ll just start all over after a few days.

How did you get inspired to create the AZ45 show?
FT: Gail and I wanted to do something special for the grand opening of our gallery. We kicked some ideas around and decided a group show of Arizona artists made the most sense. It’s our way of acknowledging all the talent in this area and the vibrant art community here in the valley. We invited 46 artists to participate, thinking that about half of those would be interested. Within two days we had 44 artists confirming participation! So, with myself included, that makes 45. Somewhere along the way the AZ45 identification just came to mind. I saw it as a logo in my head and started using it. I think the other artists like it too. It’s a visual that can be used going forward. It reinforces for  posterity that at this one point in time we all came together to celebrate art!


What does art do for people?
FT: I like the quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I’m not sure who first said that but I can’t say it any better.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an artist?
FT: I always try to channel my inner child. Children are all natural artists. Then we grow up and have people telling us that we can’t do certain things.


Fred Tieken “Bla Bla Bla”

STUDIO: Seeing and Judging


Turning assumptions upside down

Since I work as an intuitive artist, trying to give form to what inner visions reveal to me, it can be tricky understanding when the painting is doing what I want it to do. I don’t have another image I’m trying to copy. How can I tell when the elements I am assembling are working?

Spending a long time revising an image leads to a kind of tunnel vision about it. It becomes so familiar I can lose the sense of it as a whole.

I defeat this tendency with a technique I adopted from the masterful book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. The exercises in this book did more to teach me about how to actually draw back in the day than years of public school art classes.

One of the first exercises is to recreate a line drawing, but upside down. This overcomes the tendency to draw what we think we know instead of what we are actually looking at.

I have found this same technique allows me to analyze weak areas of my paintings in progress. It becomes a matter of just looking at relationships, shapes and colors. I flip the painting around consistently as I work on it, painting it from top, bottom and side perspectives, and looking at it that way as well.

So much of painting is just looking at what you’ve done, so you can understand what you still need to do. Eventually you see that there is nothing left unresolved, and the painting is done.

I also look at works in progress in a mirror, and next to completed paintings, for the same reason. It helps me to see what is missing.

Painting is judgement made visible.