STUDIO: A Full Day in the Studio

Crystal world

Richard Bledsoe “The Crystal World” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″

My first completed painting of 2016


2016 and suddenly we find ourselves inundated with projects. I always say there’s nothing like a deadline for inspiration. Well, Michele Bledsoe and I have lots of inspiration right now.

This past Saturday, having so many time sensitive requirements pending led to a wonderful event: pretty much a full day in our studio, painting together.

Michele and I were both accepted into Inglorious Arizona, an upcoming exhibit co-sponsored by Artlink (a downtown Phoenix arts organization) and the Arizona Republic newspaper. We’ll be part of an upcoming Art Detour 28 group exhibit commemorating some infamous Arizona history. I’ll share more details on the true story I was assigned to depict in a future blog post.

Pieces for this show are due by early February, so we are in a real time crunch to get them done. Michele especially takes a long time to craft her elaborate and detailed imagery, so she has already been in extreme painting mode for days now, ever since we were notified of our acceptance.

On Saturday, when Michele woke me up at 7am she had already been at her easel for hours. Before I joined her I had to take care of some typical tasks and errands: exercise, shower, an abbreviated internet news and Facebooking session, then a quick run to the grocery store for the week. But by about 10am I was done and at my own easel, where I more or less spent the next 12 hours.

There will meals long the way, and even a brief nap. But the majority of the time we were both blissfully painting away.

Did I say blissful? You might not think so if you heard the way we act when painting. There is cursing sometimes. And screams of horror.

As we are intuitive artists, working out our own imaginations, we are trying to create something never seen before. Sometimes the struggle to get it right leads to some raving. We are passionate people, very engaged with a complex task, and occasionally we need to vent. Loudly.

However, the appearance of being upset is misleading: we are having the time of our lives. Like the Stuckist Manifesto counsels, “Painting is the medium of self-discovery. It engages the person fully with a process of action, emotion, thought and vision, revealing all of these with intimate and unforgiving breadth and detail.”

Like usual in the studio,  we played music to keep our energy up. Yesterday’s play list included:

Woven Hand – Woven Hand

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Soundtrack

Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral

Electric Light Orchestra – The Essential ELO

Kaizers Orchestra – Maestro

Paul McCartney –Ram

Rimsky-Korsocov – Scheherazade

Inglorious Arizona is just one of the projects happening now. Another is a show I’m curating at the Firehouse, one of Phoenix’s leading alternative art spaces. The exhibit is Epilogue: Contemporary Literary Art.  It’s kind of a sequel to Booked, a previous literature inspired show I assembled at the Trunk Space.

I’ve been working on my own contribution for this show, and during yesterday’s painting frenzy I completed it: a work inspired by author J. G Ballard’s strange apocalyptic novel The Crystal World.

I’m looking forward to many more days like this in the upcoming months as we keep making art happen.

ART QUOTES: “All Toys are Icons to Begin With.”


Malcolm Morley “Approaching Valhalla”

“The toy is the child’s earliest initiation to art, or rather for him it is the first concrete example of art, and when mature age comes, the perfect examples will not give his mind the same feelings of warmth, nor the same enthusiasms, nor the same sense of conviction.”

-Charles Baudelaire, French Poet

In contemporary life, toys have been largely replaced by gadgets and product placements,  just as art had been replaced by commodities and brand name recognition.

The degradation of simple enriching joys into ugly trends is an unfortunate characteristic of this age, but it is not irreversible. The sense of wonder and play that both real toys and good art can create is accessible to authentic individuals who still value curiosity.

English artist Malcolm Morley understands the power and use of toys, and applies it in his art. Much of the content of his paintings are based off of toys he’s found, or created himself.

Morley states:

“All toys are icons to begin with…I don’t call them toys. I like to call them models. The thing about so-called ‘toys’ is that there is an unconsciousness in society that comes out in its toys. Toys represent an archetype of the human figure…it is the underbelly of society of which it is not aware. So it is unguarded. These things are more than toys. The other factor is their scale in relation to you. Your perception of yourself in relation to these figures is that you are giant, like a God with an omnipotent view.”

He traces this fascintation with toys to a formative event from his youth. As a boy in WWII London, Morley build a balsa wood model ship and set it on his windowsill, intending to paint it the next day. That night a German bomb blew the front of his house off; the boat was destroyed.

Morley’s  work has evolved throughout his career; in the 1960s he could be said to have invented Photorealism, though he never accepted that label. At first he painted ships-or rather, he painted from postcard pictures of ships.

Morley Ship

Malcolm Morley “SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam”

But through the years Morley incorporated toys into his artwork: using lead soldiers, kachina dolls and miniature cowboys as subjects for paintings.


Malcolm Morley “Arizonac”

He also constructs three dimensional models of ships, planes and buildings from watercolor paper and encaustic paint, which he then uses as still life arrangements for paintings.


A Morley Tableau


Malcolm Morley “Margate”

Malcolm Morley Crusade, 2000 oil on linen 38 3/16 x 46 1/8 in. (97 x 117.2 cm)  SW 00053

Malcolm Morley “Crusade”

In my own work, I want my art to have that sense of playful purpose Morley describes.

Recently I had an opportunity to work on the subject of toys quite literally. The Firehouse, one of Phoenix’s leading alternative art spaces, held a toy-themed show. My contribution captured the sense of implied storytelling I enjoy so much. Working using toys as models was also my way of doing a tribute to Malcolm Morley, an inventive and adventurous painter.

dragon fireman2

Richard Bledsoe “Dragon, Fireman” acrylic on canvas 8″ x 10″

Dynamic explorations such as Morley’s are a perfect illustration of a statement from the Stuckist Manifesto:

It is the Stuckist’s duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence through the making of paintings and displaying them in public, thereby enriching society by giving shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience.