Sunday, October 18, 2015


A few years ago, at a time when life had started to take on a bit more routine nature than I had been comfortable I wished for change. I had, up to that point in my life had a relatively good relationship with change, and I was sure that I needed some change to come into my life to keep things fresh.

Since then I have changed jobs, re-evaluated my artistic intentions, walked away from personal relationships that had become unhealthy, and built a new house. Change can be good, and change can be scary, but most of all change is exhausting. Things that could be done with eyes closed become an exercise in concentration and planning. What was once automatic becomes laborious and quite manual.

C.S. Lewis said, "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present, and you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

I think I have to agree

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Work #1

Oh it's so nice to see you again. What have you been up to? Me? Oh, I had a show last winter, and started a new illustration project/book collaboration with an old friend, and started a new series of paintings. I kept working on my house. I traveled some. I kept teaching. Directed a couple of plays. Designed a couple of others. You know - the ushe.

The show went well...fine...whatever. The gallery director was difficult, but so it goes. The main objective was to create a body of work that tied up a lot of loose ends and allowed me to choose a direction to move forward with. And I think I got that taken care of.

One idea that I've been working through for a while, and that I plan to continue, has to do with portraits of toy faces. Dolls, action figures, figurines, etc. - they have a personality. I suppose it's all a little Toy Story-esque, but the time spent with a toy gives it meaning. It changes from an inanimate object into something vital. Eventually that ends though, and all that's left is history. Mementos, keepsakes, treasures - they have that tether to our past. 

Skeletor, 2013
Oil on Board
6" x 6"
This painting is of a childhood toy of mine. Skeletor was the vilian from Mattel's Masters of the Universe line. He spent his days plotting and scheming to destroy He-Man and take over the Powers of Grayskull. Not bad work if you can get it. In my hands he was an evil sorcerer conjuring Silly Putty vines to subdue his enemies, he was a potions master using discarded bottle caps and my mom's thimbles as his wares. 

But now he's not anything. He's a lump of plastic that I saved in a trunk. His usefulness is lost, and now that toy exists only as a reminder of a time when my imagination was new and there were still worlds to conquer.

Not bad work if you can get it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Progress Reports

Today at school, it was the day to give out progress reports.  Progress reports (which were called D/F slips in my day) really are sort of a funny thing.  They're like a teaser trailer for a report card.  The whole idea of keeping parents in the loop regarding grades is great...essential even, but this one is silly. Everything...EVERYTHING is online now.  But we're creatures of habits and we like rituals.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Keeping the Dream Alive...Even if it is REALLY Stupid.

There are a lot of talented artists working today.  A lot.  

And what are we all working toward? We're all going to be the next big thing. Right?  Go-go Gagosian and Mary Boone are going to save us from our mundane lives with a star-making one man show followed by a very exclusive reservation at Mr. Chow. Right?  Just like the 80s?  And Andy'll be there?  No.  Dang.

I think notoriety is certainly a goal for a lot of us. We want to get our names out there so that we can get our work seen, and the work to be known and appreciated...and PURCHASED.  Because, whether we want it to be, or not - money is a factor too.  The art market was worth $64 Billion in 2012.  That's 64,000 piles of a million dollars. Fuck. Everyone wants in on that.

But everyone can't have these things.  It's not possible.

Which, I guess it okay.  I mean, I'm sure some people are happy being creative in a way that makes being an artist little more than a hobby.  It's an enjoyable way to pass the time, and I'm happy for those people because they're probably perfectly content. Myself...not so much.  I still want to go to Mr. Chow with Larry.  I suppose this is sort of like me still wanting to be a let's move on.

I still want it, but I'm not sure I DESERVE it. Like so many of my creative brethren, I am plagued with childish insecurities, and lately, I've had some pretty neurotic questions on my mind:  Isn't it possible that most of us are just pretending?  Have we deluded ourselves into thinking the work we're doing is important just because we like doing it, or worse, because we like being seen as an artist? What is most of us are frauds?

I know.  It's nuts.  We're supposed to do our work diligently, and through it all trust that only the persistent practice of our art will lead us to ideas good enough to lead to fame, fortune, and Mr. Chow.  And if we do all that we will DESERVE it.  Right?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm not really sure where this blog is even going.  Please forgive the cynicism, but this all go started when I got really angry at the local art scene where I live - in central Illinois. I go to some openings, and the "important" exhibitions, but I rarely like the work I see.  I feel like this paragraph could get me blacklisted from...the Peoria art scene?  No.  From being a painter?  No.  That's not possible.  Cool, then let's proceed. The work I see is fine.  It's well executed and care was put into it, and it's fine.  But how awful is the word "fine."  The work is not wonderful.  It doesn't rock my world. It doesn't set my soul on fire. When I look at the work it doesn't bypass my conscious mind and go straight down my spine like lightning.  It doesn't feel like great work does.

Usually.  Keep in mind there are exceptions to the rule, and I'll address some of those soon, but for now I'm still explaining in perhaps the least cohesive way possible the following equation:

(Self Doubt x Annoyance at the Local Mundane) + Expired Delusions of Grandeur/Actual Understanding of Art Career = Crazy-Assed Painter.

I think.  I never was good at math.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Drawings from Sketchbooks: Moon Boat Guy

Doesn't this guy know that you're not supposed to stand up in a boat?

Apparently not.  

I sincerely hope that no one goes all Freudian on me about this one.  Apparently, back in what I'm guessing was about 2001, I was feeling a little isolated. It does make me wonder why though.  I don't remember that part of my life being particularly lonely.  I suppose now would be the appropriate time to remind myself that every piece that an artist creates doesn't have to be a window into his inner workings.  It doesn't have to open the door to some part of his psyche that was up to that moment hidden from the world.  Sometimes, it's just a drawing of a guy in a boat.

Most of the time though, I guess it's probably both.  Richter has said again and again that we can't remove ourselves from our work, and that's true.  We can't.  But we don't have to embrace the overly emotional side of it either.  The people who work like that are shitheads.  Those who focus on how, as artists, they're so "in touch" with their inner profundity make the rest of us look like idiots.  Don't get me wrong. Honest emotion is a wonderful thing to find in a work of art, but there is such a thing as overreaching.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Pearce Gallery Show

For Immediate Release: 

New Paintings by Eric Bell 
@ The Pearce Gallery in Dunlap, IL

Monday, January 6 - February 8, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, January 17, 2014

More info to follow.

100 Paintings

Oddly enough, when counting how many paintings I had started for my upcoming show, I had exactly 100.  Okay, that's not exactly true...there were 88, but I missed some.  Then there were 96, then I saw a pile of 4 that I had started, but wasn't considering for the show, but I added them in anyway, because the nice big round number was so inviting.

So...100 paintings there will be.