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. 

The New Studio

September 21, 2013, 11:13 pm
Though I'm not actually living in my new house, the studio is up and running.  I spent the whole day there Sunday, and a little bit last night, and the art making machine had all pistons firing.

I've come to love many creative spaces in my life, but I think this one might just take the cake.  

To prove that I don't just love it because it's mine and it's new, I'll now evaluate the space on a sliding 1 - 5 scale (with 1 being poor/inefficient and 5 being awesome/perfectly efficient) in each of the following categories:  Functionality, Organization, Spaciousness, Amenities, Environmental Conditions, and Beauty/Decor. Here goes...

Functionality: 5.  I have plenty of space to draw and paint.  A functional all purpose work table, computer access, music, supply storage, and comfortable seating.

Organization: 5. As my mother taught me, "a place for everything, and everything in it's place."  BOOM.

Spaciousness: 3.  I didn't quite plan it to be big enough.  Its functionality makes up for its lack of space though.

Amenities:  5.  I've been hording art supplies for years.  It's finally paid off.  It's like the Dick Blick outlet store in there...mostly because I go to the Dick Blick outlet store a lot.

Environmental Conditions: 4. Heating, cooling, and opening windows take you pretty far, but the smell of turpentine should probably make me buy a stand alone air purifier at some point. If only I didn't like it so much.

Beauty/Decor: 4.  It looks good.  Especially the flooring (heh hem.)  But my retro industrial vibe was missed by how much stuff has to be in there (/how much of that stuff is just my old stuff), and my budget for furnishing the space.  Now, I will be on the hunt (forever) for cool vintage metal cabinets and beautifully aged wooden pieces, but until then, it's hodgepodge eclectic vibe will do.

So, let's tally the score: 26/30...not bad.

All kidding aside though, the space is great, and I don't really want to be anywhere else in the world than there.  Let's hope that feeling maintains until the 100 paintings I'm working on for my show in January get done.  

Oh yes, that's a real number.  More on that later.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What Remains...

And I’m back.  So let’s jump right in.

Today, in my 4th hour photography class we finished watching the documentary, “What Remains,” about the life and work of photographer Sally Mann.  I’m proud to say that the kids were blown away.  I’m glad.  I was afraid they wouldn’t get her – but then again, what’s not to get?  Her work has a complexity to it, but their seemingly deep understanding of her motives and the outcome produced proved an old theory of mine, which is, if you give art more than 10 seconds, and just let it happen, you’ll get it.

Sally Mann is what I call an “everyday genius.”  I’ve blogged about her before, because I LOVE her.  She is impressive and unassuming all at the same time.  Though she entirely human - approachable and down to earth, she is also stunning profound.  What she swears is just a series of discoveries, seems at closer examination to be a clear, concise exploration of the way we live a life.  She carries an intense wisdom about her craft, packed alongside all the doubt that plagues everyone else.  Without pretense, she carefully dissects her thoughts and intentions.  It’s like watching a surgeon work.  There is a precision and a delicate touch.  Monumental things happen with the flick of her hand.  It’s both profound and familiar.  Watching her work is beautiful.

When I stand back and look at her work at large, I can see that she is one of those artists whose career has a forward momentum to it - a perpetual motion toward the future.  She moves on.  She proceeds to what’s next.  No matter what happens, she just works.

I have a great deal of respect for Mrs. Mann, and hope very much that someday our paths will cross.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


And how did I go from a daily blogger to someone who hasn't even thought about his blog in 4 months?  

Eh...who knows? I can bet it has a great deal to do with a busy schedule, time management, and my inability to handle either of those things.  But rest assured...I'm back now.  And there is much to discuss about art, creativity, and all that goes along with hanging out in the studio with me.  For example, here's a juicy little tidbit of information: I am getting a new studio!

Actually, it's a whole new house.  Construction started in early June and has come along very well (I think owed largely to a logistical genius project manager - my sister.)  The interior work is happening now, and it takes patience.  I mean, if I could get the tile guy (who is very slow) and the flooring guy (who is even slower) to hurry up, then maybe we'd make more significant progress.  Side note: turns out that I am, in fact, the tile and flooring guy.  And no, I'm definitely not fast.  I am a pretty quick study though, and this process of making things with materials that I hadn't used before now is exciting.  

As a matter of fact, when I first saw the house (I've been away in Maine for two months), I was so blown away excited that I just wanted to round up everyone I knew and tear through all of the final detail work Amish barn raising style.  "Jeremiah!  More grout! Hezekiah, could you and Abe move onto the kitchen cabinets?  Ask Ruth and Ester to get those pies off the window sill so we can finish putting up the trim boards."  You know the drill.  

But, as I don't have an Amish community at my disposal, I've been trying my best to do what I can to contribute in the evenings and on weekends. (See... my brother-in-law's company is building the house, but I wanted to do some stuff while they're doing other things to cut costs, etc.)  So, I've become a second-shifter and I like it. I do.  At first I couldn't find patience.  I just wanted to see it done.  I just wanted to hurry up and get to where I wanted to be.  It was like perpetual Christmas Eve.

Even though they're not Amish, my friends have been present and helpful.  Last weekend, while helping install hardwood, my friend Matt, noticing my spazziness -  told me it might be a good idea to slow down and enjoy this.  "This might be the only time you ever do this.  Take the time to enjoy it," he said. That conversation made it clear to me that I need to chill, let it happen, and enjoy the ride during this unique, once in a lifetime project.  And we thought Matt was only wise after 8 beers.

More on the studio later.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I'll Be Back...

So maybe I took a month off of blogging.  It happens.  I've been directing my spring play, and that opens this week, so as Arnold says, "I'll be back."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Draw 'til It Hurts

I drew all weekend, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  And I hate to be a little diaper baby about the whole affair, but now my hand hurts.  I must have had a death grip on that pencil/colored pencil/paintbrush, because it has led to muscle fatigue of the abductor pollicis brevis.  Yeah.  I looked that up.  I'm pretty tough though, so I'll probably be okay.  If not, don't worry, i'll talk about it.

The quality of the work shifted yesterday.  It became very natural, and turned out really well.  I'd show you guys the work, but I'm going to send it out to some literary agents now to see if I can get someone to help me get that crazy book idea of mine published, and I'd rather not publish the work myself just yet.

As a side issue though, I've learned of a possible paintbrush restoration method that may bring crusty brushes back to life.  I'm testing it, and then I'll let you know how it went, but the method is as follows.

  1. Soak the hard brushes in white vinegar for an hour (or since yesterday, in my case.)
  2. Bring the brushes, and vinegar up to a simmer in a sauce pan.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Cool, and wash with soap and water.
I'm doing the heating part tonight.  I'll let you know how that goes.  I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Excuses, Excuses: How E. Bell Gets His Blog On

Seriously?  That's the title I chose?  Ugh.  What is wrong with me.  I think I just like referring to myself in the third person. blog posts have been intermittent at best lately, so I will now wow you with excuses, dazzle you with reasons, and explain why I think my life is harder than yours!  No.  Just kidding.  I'm not going to do any of those things.  I'm busy.  Whatever.  Who cares?  So are most other people who are worth talking to.  

(Side note:  If you're not busy, you're probably boring.  Just saying.)

But on those days that I forget to blog, or don't want to, or can't, I miss it.  I like to blog.  I like that it puts my mind in order.  I like that it keeps art in the forefront of what's going on in my life.  I like that it forces me to keep a dialogue going. 

Did this post have a point?  I don't know.  I can never remember.  Blogs are good.  

E. Bell out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drawings from Sketchbooks: 2 Girls, a Bird, and a Poodle

Things That I Don't Know About This Drawing:

  • Why those girls are so sassy.
  • Why that bird is so bothered/saddened by them.
  • What that poodle is doing.
  • When I drew it.
  • What it means.
  • Why I love that poodle so much.
  • If the big girl is a drag queen or not.
  • If the poodle has to pee/poop or both.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Books That I Love (And You Should Too...)

The Brothers K, by David James Duncan

Family.  Baseball.  Love.  Loss.  Life.  This one has it all including a perfect story and captivating prose. I love this book because I love character development, and after reading this book I felt like I new the Chance family better than some people who I've known for years.  This is a richly layered family epic that comes of age along side of America - through the turbulent second half of the 20th Century.  This is one of the ones that I grieved when it was over.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

This mostly true tale of the authors early life bears its title somewhat ironically.  He uses it tongue in cheek, but it couldn't be more true.  This is the story of a 19-year-old almost man who loses his parents within 5 weeks of one another and inherits his 9-year old brother.  We join them on the journey to figuring out how to make a life together.  We cringe at the horrible mistakes.  We laugh at the pure joy.  It'll break your heart, but it'll help you patch it up too.

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

I think this might have been the first chapter book I ever read.  It was second or third grade.  I like Roald Dahl.  I like the justice that his work possesses.  There is almost always a put upon downtrodden character who is being held down by some outside force.  I love that the characters, in this case Charlie, are true of heart, and that leads them to a life changing reward.  That was where the first movie failed (and actually why Roald Dahl pulled out, and didn't let them make The Great Glass Elevator) - they made Charlie drink the fizzy lifting drink.  He never would have done that.  He's too good.  If only life were really that simple.  Maybe it is.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

You remember that time in your life, when you were old enough to make your own choices, but still too young to make the right ones.  Yeah.  Those were the days.  This story, in perfectly foot-noted Michael Chabon style, follows two young dreamers and they change the world around them.  For the better.  For the worse.  It also possesses a heavy dose of comic book history which, as a non-comic book guy, I was leery of, but it was a great education on how the 1930s in New York redefined American pop culture.

Geek Love by Kathleen Duncan

This sad, dark, twisted little love story has nothing to do with nerdy kids who fall in love.  The "geek" referred to in this title is a carnival performer who bites the heads off of live chickens. and this is the story of a freak show promoter and the geek he falls in love with, and the family that follows.  Bizarre and horrific, yet completely lovely and endearing, this story explores the length that familes will go to - to protect each other, to help each other, and to get what they want.

SummerlandSummerland by Michael Chabon

There are only a handful of things on Earth that will reduce me to tears.  The final scene of It's A Wonderful Life is one, and the last three pages of this book are another.  This is one of those underdog overcomes the obsticale stories, and I love it completely.  Ethan Feld is not a good baseball player, but he is drawn into an adventure in which he must overcome his own limitations, not for himself, but for everyone else.  It gets me every single time.

Salem's Lot by Steven King

Suspense is fun, and in this early work by the maestro of horror we get plenty of supsense.  You know how I hate to get all hipster, but our buddy Stephen King was writing vampires long before vampires were cool.  And in this case, they're actually blood thirsty and animalistic, representing so much about lust and desire.  There's not a single heart-sick emo teenager to be found.  What can be found are real chills.  And a sneaking suspicion that some of the people you know might actually be creatures of the night.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

This one is raw and honest, and like most of John Irving's books, pretty zany.  The friendship of John and Owen is something of an example to all of us.  At first it seems off balance and even charitable, but we learn that little Owen with his "wrecked" voice and small stature is more equipped to handle the world than John in a lot of ways.  At it's core, this novel is a testament to the power of faith, and all of the complicated intricacies that accompany a life.  

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

So much could (and has) been said about this book.  This masterpiece.  This amazing bit of 20th century.  I will say that this book is a deal-breaker.  If you can't love this story of right and wrong, then I can't love you.  Sorry.  I just can't.  Ms. Lee's writing is astonishing in its simplicity, and this story possesses a truth that doesn't change or fade with the passing of time.  But that's not what gets me.  The way she captures the soul of small town America is what seals the deal for me.  I think I live on the same street as Scout.  And I like that.

Honorable Mentions: I'd be remiss not to mention the following books, which held my attention and stuck with me long after I was done reading them.

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Things I Shouldn't Love As Much As I Do

Since I addressed some of the things that I am forgetting to invest in yesterday, today I thought it might be fun to reveal some of the things that I've invested in that are most probably a total waste of time.  Don't worry.  I'll be sure to include plenty of thinly veiled justification so that I can go right ahead and keep loving these time wasting useless endeavors.

Things I Shouldn't Love As Much As I Do:

  1. Zombies:  I know.  It's all the rage right now.  The un-dead have become a part of the pop culture zeitgeist.  And I'm one of them.  I love zombies.  The pseudo-hipster in me would want it pointed out that I loved zombies way before it entered the mainstream.  I have lots of nerdy, creative friends and they have brainwashed me thoroughly.  I mean...I put Night of the Living Dead ON STAGE.  Seriously.  What is wrong with me?  
  2. Star Wars: I know George's $4 Billion universe is flawed.  I know his directing has the subtlety of a bull-dozer with the subtitle "BULLDOZING."  I know.  But I love the galaxy far away.  I think I'd put a lightsaber at the top of my "fictitious things I wish I had."  A Harry Potter-Style wand would be up there too.  (See Below.)  
  3. Women Who Are Mean (To Me): I can't help it.  I'm a glutton for punishment, and  I like it when girls make me work for their affections.  I like being held at arms length.  I like being tortured.  I'm a moron like that.
  4. Harry Potter:  I'm a grown-ass man and I love Harry Potter (Books not Movies!)  It's all because I like a story that I can live inside of for a while.  I like the ability to transport to that place.  I also love the UK, so that doesn't help either.  
  5. My Jeep: It's only a vehicle.  I know that.  NO I DON'T!  As I typed that I cringed at the deceit.  My Jeep is open-air freedom.  It's travel.  It's adventure.  It's love.
  6. Christmas Trees:  It's actually not normal.  I like Christmas a normal amount, but Christmas Trees...I love.  A lot.  I love the lights.  The colors.  When I was a baby, I would stare at colored lights for long periods of time.  When I was small, 2 or 3-years old, I toddled away from my mother in a department store.  She found me, carrying on a conversation with a talking Christmas Tree.  I call the weekend after Thanksgiving "Tree Weekend."  
I'm not okay.  Please send help.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Things I Should Maybe Care About...That I Don't

It has recently come to my attention that there are things that a lot of people care about that I don't.  It's not that hired to get me fired up, but these things leave me without a strong opinion one way or the other.  I just...don't care.

Below is a list, which is not comprehensive by any means, but it covers some of these topics.  How does this information fit this blog you ask?  How does it "come from my studio?"  Oh.  You didn't?  You forgot that this blog is about art and art making?  

Yeah.  Me too.

Things I Should Maybe Care About...That I Don't

  1. Wearing Pants: In rather relaxed, weekend mode.  I don't care if I put on pants.  I don't mean at all. I'm not some sicky sick sick-o, who walks around with it all hanging out.  I mean I don't care if I put "real" pants on.  I'm happy staying in cut-off sweats all the time.  Fashion be damned.
  2. Advanced Degrees: Ph.D.; M.B.A.; M.F.A....Pfffft.  I know I should get one, or more.  I know of the prestige and accomplishment that comes from higher learning.  I know the glory of suede elbow patches.  But I still don't care if I get on or not.  I have to, if I want to grow my career, but I still don't care.  Weird isn't it.
  3. Torture: Enhanced Interrogation, water-boarding, etc.  Yeah.  It's bad.  I know it's bad.  But I don't care if America uses it on people.  If you are a human rights loving liberal (like me), then you probably gasped.  I know.  It's bad that I don't care.  I want to care.  I want to think it's bad even.  But I don't.  Expecting people who deal with violent terrorists to refrain from torture, is like expecting people farmers to smell better.  It's a tough game.  And it's messy.  But it goes with the territory.  Besides, most people only hate it because George Bush was involved.
  4. Most of the Things I See on Facebook: I want to care about the people in my life.  I want to want to see the weird things they do to their babies.  Or just how cute their dogs were being when they cuddled into the laundry.  I want to care.  I want to actively share in their lives, and share in that process.  But not really.
  5. Gun Control:  I know.  I know.  Hot button issue.  I should rephrase this.  It's not that I don't care about guns, gun ownership, etc.  It's that I don't care what the average person thinks about it.  There aren't right answers to this.  People are making their position something that defines them.  They are gun people or they aren't.  Well that's crazy.  Everyone is going to need to find their way to the middle on this one - otherwise politicians are still going to pander to the opinion of the majority of their constituents and try to pass laws that mask the issue.  Until people come together, we won't be keeping anyone safer.
  6. Folding Laundry:  I love getting the laundry done, but I hate folding it.  So it sits in baskets.  It just sits there.  Baskets get shifted.  Baskets get shuffled.  I even bought more baskets.  
  7. Your Relationship With Your God: Spirituality has always been a pretty private thing to me, and though I know that a good Christian believes in fellowship, I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean painting yourself with sunshine to look better than your neighbors.  
  8. Celebrity Behavior: Nope.  Don't care at all.  Fuck you Kimye.  I care about you as much as you care about me.  Which is not at all.  So let's call this one even and walk away while we still have our dignity.
  9. Movies (and now TVs) Being in 3-D:  Am I the only one who just finds 3-D movies confusing?  Why do we want stuff to come at us again?  
Yeah.  I don't care.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Step Closer

Each time I make art, I feel one step closer to...something.  

Now, let me say that I don't want to pollute your blog reading time with grand philosophical ideas, and I also don't want to come across as one of those chemically altered hippie artist types, but this feeling is hard to express - so please forgive my vague dreaminess.  There just isn't an exact vocabulary to accompany this line of thought.

"What?," you ask.  "Are you stoned/drunk/sleep deprived/from New Zealand?"  

No.  Sorry.  I am not any of those things.  I can only clarify my point by saying that when I spend my time making art, it feels significant.  Maybe not in the grand scheme of things.  I mean I make pictures.  I don't do cancer research.  I don't practice medicine.  So, how can the cupcake I drew be significant?  I don't know.  But when I spend my time doing this, I am overcome with the notion that I am doing exactly what I'm meant to be doing.  And that feels good.

Of course, there's always the option that I'm just tricking myself into believing that it's the right thing just to justify the fact that I've managed to hold onto my love of coloring for about 25 years longer than most people.  Who can tell?

I guess we'll just call it significant.  Hooray!  I win.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Creativity Hangover

I drew all weekend.  I colored and sketched.  I blended and shaded.  I finessed watercolor.  I commanded line.  I bent value and defined space.  

I was on fire.  And now I'm tired.

I think sometimes the mental acuity it takes to really draw things can lead to a kind of brain melt.  I can't imagine what surgeons go through.  You hear things about surgeries taking 12 hours or something, and it makes me wonder if, at the end of that process, the surgeon just slips into a coma.

The brain melting work at hand was the second sample illustration for my book.  Once complete, I'll be able to send it off to literary agents, and hopefully someone will sign me, get me an amazing book deal, make me piles of money, and I'll live happily ever after.

Until then.  Coffee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Signs of the Times

1993 Apple Advertisement
I recently inherited a batch of old Rolling Stone magazines from the early/mid 90s.  And they're hysterical.  The clothes, the pop culture, the cutting edge technology (see right)...everything.  I giggled all the way through them.  Which makes me wonder, why is expired pop culture so funny?

In my work, I obviously have a healthy (or not) obsession with the past.  But that all exists in a memories of moments/The Way We Were/ documentarian sort of way - I hope.  It's when we look at pop culture at large that it becomes so very entertaining.  And even though we know perfectly well, we ask "What were we thinking?"  The answer of which is of course - the same as it would be today.  We're thinking that we're awesome, and forward thinking, and interesting.  And we might not be right.  

Trends, in general, are destined to be a train wreck.  They're like those ideas that you get when you've had too much to drink that seem awesome at the time.  "I'm going to climb on top of that building!"  It won't be until later you remember that you are neither a) Spiderman, b) fully in control of your fine or gross motor skills, or c) properly stretched out or limbered up.  Trends are the same way.  Hasty.  Immediate.  But still a little awesome.  I can't wait until the future looks back on the 00s and asks, "Why the fuck did they all have stupid sayings on their t-shirts?"  Or, "Why does every d-bag in the world have aviators on?"  Actually, let me make a disclaimer: I hope aviators last forever, because they're the only sunglasses that look good on my big giant face.  

Anyway...I can't help but think about the nature of trends, and all of the things that we do that will NEVER, EVER stand the test of time.  Bubble tea?  Please.  No one wants to chew a drink.  Hipster glasses?  Nope.  Even Buddy Holly gave up on that one eventually.  $5, 1000 coffee beverages?  Not unless fat diabetics become the new chic.

But I guess, when we come down to it, no trend is unthinkable so our wildest ideas of what could happen are, in fact, possible.  Nothing is unthinkable, which is reassuring in a way.  We, as a culture, could come up with some crazy creative things - and we will.  And we'll hold them tight until the next great idea comes along, and we'll keep going.  

Because at the end of the day, these things don't last forever because they become the identifiers of an individual era, the signs of the time.  At the heart of it all, it really is a fun custom.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around Gangnam Style.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Drawings from Sketchbooks

Is that a rapper hanging out with flying french toast?  Yep.  Sure is.  And why is there a rapper hanging out with french toast?  That I'm not so sure about.

I'm guessing he just really likes french toast.  I know I do.  It has a curly mustache and a beret.  What's not to like.  I have a tendency to draw flying/floating food with faces.  That would probably set off some sort of red flag/warning buzzer to someone who knows lots about the inner workings of the human psyche, but I can't be bothered by that.

The rapper is vaguely reminiscent of the time in my life when I had a fake hip-hop person known as Big Champagne, but that's a whole other story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy V.D.

Valentine's Day Sucks, 2007
Valentine's Day.  A day of romance and love.  A chance for your sweetheart to make you feel special and loved.


I made the illustration to the left back in 2007 when I was trying to establish a relationship with a potential book partner.  She was writing a book about sad children and I was going to illustrate it.  Last I heard she still hadn't finished it.  My point though is when thinking about sadness and disappointment, I thought about how rough affection can be on the people who aren't getting any.  In a kid's world, that can be pretty devastating.

Now, I'm not necessarily a proponent on the whole "everybody gets a trophy" culture, but there might be some merit to the practice of making sure children give a valentine to everyone if they're giving them out.  

I do want to admit though that giving the unhappy girl not cute hair and big glasses was trite.  Although it does make the point.

So Happy Valentine's Day readers!  I hope someone grabs you, holds you tight, and won't let go.  And I hope it's not a stranger in an alley.

Distractions & Me: A Love Story

Male House SparrowSo, I'm pretty easily distracted.  So much so that I haven't blogged in almost a week.  Inexcusable!

It does make me think though. I have been ruled by distractions for the better part of my life.  In a normal day, I bet I get pulled away from what I've intended to do a hundred different times.  I used to fight it.  These days I say - embrace it.  I mean, I can't do anything about it.  My world is an active and...

Are sparrows mating right now?  Outside of my window there is a flocking flock of sparrows going crazy and some of them seem to be "attached."

Anyway.  My world is an active and chaotic place.  It has a lot going on in it.  Sometimes that means I forget to do things for long periods of time.  Like drop off the water bill, or shower, or blog.  I mean this week alone I've taught my classes, has some rehearsals for a competitive drama piece that my students are working on, ran the soundboard for a local production, walked my dog about 40 times, done the dishes, went to Chipotle, worked out, watched like 6 episodes of Walking Dead, and still managed to work on the next two illustrations for "Sometimes...I Like to Make Things."  I've even managed to find time to not make any great Valentine's Day plans.  That's impressive for someone who couldn't write a blog without googling the mating habits of the common house sparrow.  I'm just sayin'.

Ultimately I find it a much better solution to go with the flow.  Life is a crazy roller coaster, and I am already buckled in.  So I'll write myself little notes on scraps of paper about all the things I've been pulled away from and trust that I won't wash those scraps of paper, will accidentally see them again, and will get back to what I'm supposed to be doing in three to five months.

What was the point of this blog?  I'm not even sure anymore.  It was sort of an explanation for how I'm easily distracted and haven't blogged all week.  Mostly I think it was just an important notice to make sure you watch out for mating sparrows. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Killing Your Babies?

While I was in college, I had a painting professor who gave us a simple, but sound bit of advice - "You've got to kill you babies."

What kind of advice is that?

What he was referring to was a derivative of the William Faulkner quote, "In writing, you must kill your darlings."

Seriously...W. T. F?

What both my professor and Mr. Faulkner were attempting to explain is a fundamental truth in creativity.  If you, as the artist/writer/creator are too precious with your work, it will inhibit your ability to grow past it.  If you have decided that something you've made is precious and lovely and wonderful, you are tying yourself to the conditions under which that product was created either stylistically, circumstantially, in terms of subject/content.

In other words, you limit yourself.  

If your immediate response to this notion is that you like what you make and you don't need to grow past it, then I'm not talking to you, for you are now, and will continue to be limited until you accept that growth is critical to art.

If, as an artist, you tie yourself to the conditions under which the "darling" was created because you want to repeat the success, you won't see ways that you can move forward.  To grow artistically, you have to understand that each creative endeavor is a stepping stone to the next.  To get to that next step, you sort of have to "kill" your last.  Sell it.  Give it away.  Paint over it.  Get rid of it.  You can't pollute your life with ghosts of your former self - and let us not kid ourselves into thinking that each thing we make is not, by proxy, and extension of ourselves, because it is.


So what I'm saying is - to take a step forward, you can't keep looking back.  For those of you who know what I paint and that understand the irony of me saying that.  Congratulations.  Practicing what we preach is a topic we'll address another time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sometimes...I Like to Make Things

I don't see any reason to keep a secret, so I'm going to share the text for my picture book with all (both) of my loyal readers.  What's the harm, right?  I figure if anyone poaches it, it would be complimentary in a way, and I'll sue their asses off.  Woot.

Be forewarned, it doesn't really stand very well without illustrations, but you'll get an idea of what I'm working on.  So.  Here goes:

Selling Yourself

So what's going on in the studio with E. Bell today? Well, I'm trying to sell myself. I've been advised that to proceed with this book concept, I need an agent. Part of finding an agent is to send letters to agencies telling them why I'm cool. As someone who sometimes doesn't feel cool at all, this can be a challenge.

Another thing that I have to do it pitch the book. Here's what I have for that:
Sometimes…I Like To Make Things is the first in a series of picture/activity books targeted at children from age 4 to 8, and is at its core an art book for children.

The following 100-word manuscript encourages children to look at art-making from the inside. Focusing on the many ways in which children can choose to express their own creativity, this book represents the creative process as well as educates the reader about art materials and techniques. Each illustration will demonstrate fun and approachable ways to make art - representing a variety of children winding their way through the creative process, and inviting the reader to express his or her own thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

In addition to the narrative prose and illustration pages, the book would also contain an appendix filled with activity plans, instructions, and information on materials and techniques used, and artists referenced in the book’s illustrations.

Come on...admit it. You'd read that book. Right?

Monday, February 4, 2013


Sometimes...I Like to Make Things, 2013
Mixed Media on Illustration Board, ©E. Bell
I didn't blog again this weekend, did I?  Bummer.  I hate it when I do that.

When we last met, I was discussing my new book concept.  To the right you'll see a sample illustration.  I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that it's a drawing of drawings, etc., but I'm going to learn to live with it.  I'm reacting negatively to the work within a work vibe as it is a bit stiff, but I recognize that it does serve a purpose, so it has grown on me.  As the first illustration of the book, this is an intro.  A prelude.  An overture - the purpose of which is to give the viewer/reader a taste of what is to come. 

This illustration represents a wide variety of art making techniques that are to be further explored later in the book.  Pencil shading, watercolor, colored pencil, collage, pastels, painting, crafts, clay, and photography (plus several other techniques not shown here) will  be addressed in a series of illustrations that guide children through ideas for how and why art can be made.

Over the next few months, I'll post some of the text, with the corresponding illustrations.  More on that later.

Friday, February 1, 2013


I wrote a book.  Don't get too excited.  It's a 100-word children's picture book.  I didn't write Moby Dick or anything.  I have no plans of making my mark on the literary fabric of this our modern times.  No.  That's not the intention here, but I am quite interested in children's books, which I have mentioned before, but there's something I don't often discuss... I have actually written a number of children's books already. 
A number? Really Eric? Tell us more.
Okay, I will.  There are maybe four or six of them.  There's one about maintaining individuality within a friendship, a Halloween one about conquering fears, the one about the boy in the blue cape, one about flying.  It goes on and on.  Most have sketches that accompany them.  I was excited about each one as I was hatching the idea, but it always seemed to fade.  I'm not a writer.  Not really.  So each concept I tried to develop felt forced.  I lacked the confidence to believe the story was good enough to proceed.  So I didn't.  They got shelved.

Over Christmas break however, I started thinking that I wanted to address creative process.  Not specifically, like "this is the moment when a glorious idea comes into fruition."  Kids don't need that.  Kids have that.  It's adults who need that.  Kids already understand that their thoughts are valid.  They're willing to bravely bring their ideas to life.  Maybe they just haven't been beaten down by life yet.  Who knows, but there is a courage to the way children develop ideas.  No, what I wanted was someone to help them see, when self-guiding their activities, that there are lots of options to choose from when being creative.  So I came up with a little prose.  It talks about process and intention, and I'm pretty excited about it.

Tomorrow, a sample illustration.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Hour and Counting

Hey there cyberspace.  In the matter of one hour, I will be adding a new member to the global population of websites taking up space on the internet.

Officially up and running as of February 1, 2013.

Did I Make That?

Yay! Ice Cream, 2005
Acrylic & Collage on Canvas
24" x 24"
I totally forgot I made this painting, and I don't even have a reason.

I barely remember making it.  I think mostly I was being silly.  It's just a happy little dude who loves ice cream.  Nothing more complex than that. 

But I don't know why I forgot all about it.  

Lately I've been getting a lot of stuff ready for my new website that launches on Friday.  I've been reviewing images, looking through inventories of old work, and just sort of reminiscing in a rather clerical way.  During that process, I have been blown away by the number of pieces that I totally forgot that I ever made. I feel sort of callous to admit that.  Shouldn't my creations have kept a slightly more special place in my heart than all that?  I guess not. 

I think a lot of it has to do with the notion that creativity is a forward momentum.  I don't keep much of my work around.  Sell it.  Get it out of my studio and out into the world.  So once it's gone and out there, it's sort of over for me.  My major concern has to be the next one, not the last one.

I must admith though, it really has been cool to consider the sheer volume of work that I've created.  In the past 15 years, I've made close to 500 paintings and drawings.  

Not to shabby for a guy who sometimes forgets he's an artist for long periods of time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Weird Little Monsters: Creature Fear

I used to paint like this all the time.  Toward the end of college, and after, I worked loosely.  I let the paint be paint, and didn't force it into rigid representation.  I let it slip and smear and drip.  It was nice, and recently I have been missing painting like that.  The freedom and the looseness.  The opportunity to experiment with color relationships.  

Lately I've been finishing up some small squares and I was considering painting them in a "superflat" manner - like Murakami('s staff.)  Crisp.  Even.  Perfected.  The more I worked though, I decided that they lent themselves nicely to the free and loose paint application style that I have been missing.  I've tentatively called the series Creature Fear, which is named after a Bon Iver song.  (I listen to a lot of Bon Iver.)  Anyway, they happen in a way similar to my sketchbook drawings.  No preparation.  I just see what comes out.  Free association.  I'm not sure what brings about strange little creatures like this, but I associate them with invasion.  They're germs that creep into our bodies.  They're fears that sneak into our thoughts; monsters that show up in dreams; lies that find their way into the light.  

They don't seem like they should be taken seriously.  They seem silly, but like many hidden things that sneak up on you when you least expect it, their impact is usually more serious that we had originally thought.  These are the first two.  I have 10 more, so expect to see them soon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

More Drawings from Sketchbooks: The Mean Teacher

Did you ever have that teacher who seemed to be having the worst day of her life every single day of her life?  Yeah.  I think we all have.

Don't get me wrong, any of us in a classroom have had moments where we're not very pleasant to deal with, but I'm talking about the person who makes this her way of life.  The Mean Teacher is the archetype.  She's the ruler smacking, ear pulling, zeros for nameless papers sadist.

I'm curious what makes this person.  What contributing factors led to the rigidity?  What made someone who lives on free American soil want to be a fascist so badly?  Early toilet training?  A parent as sadistic as she?  

Though it might be easy to dismiss this person as a stereotype, I think any of us who went to elementary school know there is some truth to this drawing.  I should draw a sequel, where her overbearing mother comes back and makes amends and they all live happily after.  Or...where her students team up and overthrow her like the false despot that she is!

Either way.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Inspiration: Coffee

Oil Painting by Michael Naples
I didn't like coffee when I was younger.  Not even in college.  Not even with the rise of Starbucks.  I always appreciated the smell, the culture that surrounded it, and the ice cream that bears its flavor, but I was never a coffee drinker.  I think overall it was an aversion to hot beverages.  You know that scaldy mouth, burnt tongue thing that happens.  I hate that!  Hate it.  So I think that was a big factor.

So what changed?  I entered a ridiculously busy phase of my life, and also opened a coffee shop at school for the kids to raise money for trips.  I had an endless supply of coffee at my disposal, and I also needed a little pick me up a bit more often than usually - so necessity indeed became the mother of invention.

So, now when I need a little focus I resort to legal addictive stimulants?  That makes it sound so scandalous.  But I guess the answer is, "heck yeah."

And who knew is works so well?  I've seen the joke mugs about how much people need it.  But I didn't know they MEANT it.  But man oh man, does it work.  Once I really figured out how motivating coffee can be, I found myself wondering if this is something that everyone knows about, and I'm jut late to the party?  Does the whole world run on coffee and I just didn't clue in?  

Well, either way I'm happy to have finally figured out the motivating power of the bean.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Artist Statement

As a component of my new website that launches next week, I've reworked by artist statement.  For those of you not familiar with this practice and artist statement is a short piece of text roughly outlining an artist's intentions.  It lets you into his/her head and allows a little insight into the work.  Mine latest revision is as follows: 

We have reasons for making art. Though many of mine involve liking bright colors, shiny things, and pretty clouds and flowers, most are about documentation. Before cameras took over, painting was the way that the human experience was recorded. Now with the rise of the digital age, when one can make instant pictures, documentation of life is covered all too well. But isn't there more? Can’t art still offer a uniquely personal view? Experiences color life, and my mental pictures are not black and white snapshots or digital photos of vacations. They are fragments - broken pieces of the world. The combination of which are powerful pictures of life and the things that have filled it.
So how do I fit into this? Don’t know. Might not even care, but I know I need to document the things I've lived. This world is remarkable, filled with beauty and horror, and I must take note; of experiences, of ideas, and of things that I can't let go of. I am the visual DJ.  I take the parts, I remix them, and I lay down a new track – beautifully the same, and surprisingly different, from the original.
For those of you who have no idea why I put a picture of Cheetos next to my artist statement, my only response is, "Why not." 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I drew the sketch for how I wanted my website laid out my Junior year of college.  That's be about 1997.  And now, 16 years later, I've almost got the job done.  

Nope. I never procrastinate.

So...after many moons, and much anticipation, I'm pleased to announce that will be up and running on Friday, February 1st.  

Oooh.  I should have a launch a party.

Redemption with Everyday Beauty

I've been on my soap box again lately haven't I?  Sometimes the art philosophy side of my personality gets the best of me.  It whips everything into a fury.  I spent most of college like that, and I have to admit - it's exhausting.  

Since yesterday's post was so critical of a huge portion of society, in an attempt at redemption, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on the beauty of life today.

I save images all the time.  Things from the internet.  Magazine images.  Old photos.  Anything that I think looks cool.  I keep a file both in physical form and on my computer called "everyday beauty."

Here are a few examples.  I credited the photographer if I knew.  Otherwise, please know that these are re-posted images, and I do not hold the copyright.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reasons for Painting 3: My Distinctly Unique Point of View

My thoughts are mine, and mine alone.  Painting presents me with an opportunity to share those.  Today, my thoughts drift to the nature of our world, and the way we either are, or are not using it.  

It occurs to me that perhaps we, as a people, don't take this life very seriously.  I mean not that we're too silly or we have too much fun.  I fully condone those choices, but perhaps we don't value it enough.  Maybe we don't respect our time here.  We live in falsehoods.  The existence that we create through Facebook photo tags, status updates, Twitter trendings, and Snapchats is manufactured.  It is not real - which can mean, at times we're living a false life.  Of course, we could be using those things to connect with real people, in real and meaningful ways.  But are we?

We fill life with meaningless rituals - with "supposed to" and "have to."  It is as if we're all trying to prove - to ourselves, to others, to nobody in particular - that what we're doing matters and that we are not just going through the motions.  But we are.  We craft and document how busy we are.  Our friends reply, "way to go" and "keep up the good work."  They enable our pretend lives.  We make ourselves look brave and put-upon that we're handling all that life has given us, and I fear - we're making ourselves look like total jackasses.  Case in point - let's take the Facebook post that I just stole from Google images.

My initial, unvarnished reaction is: You are all complete idiots.  My rational brain usually tells my gut reaction to shut up, and then I apologize to the cosmos for lambasting these poor, hopefully well-meaning strangers.  But I don't mean it.  I do think they're idiots.  But I don't want to.

I want my paintings to show pieces of real.  Pieces of things that have been important.  I want them to be the polar opposite of what I've been describing.  I want them to remind people to see what a rare and special gift we've all been given.  I want them to recognize that the amount of time they spend bitching on Facebook could be channeled into something meaningful.  I want them to know that even though a real life that doesn't involve pretending you're alive is a lot more challenging, it is completely worth it.  I want people to live a life filled with value.  I want it to make them happy.  I want them to stop and ask the simple human question, "what do I need most and how can I make that happen?"  

I just pray that the answer isn't, "get back to my nail polish board on Pinterest."