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Faith

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Fashion Portrait…Cuni

Shawn Cuni is one of the coolest people you could ever know. I had the pleasure of being his roommate for a while and respect him as a person and a creative. Few people are as neat and organized, and few people have his potential.Check out his instagram @psjc and the website on flickr Shawn Cuni

All of that said his street fashion is what we are focusing on today. You might think 'hipster' upon meeting him- at least that is what comes to my mind- then you find out his love for PBR and Radiohead and you know that's probably a good assessment. During a night of chilling on the porch I snapped a few photos and brought them home to paint.

 

 

I started this painting by pasting pages from an old book onto hardboard with matte medium. Then I proceeded to sketch out the basic forms with a colored pencil. After that I go over the lines with waterproof india-ink. After that dries I pool in washes of watercolor and add highlights with white acrylic paint. Finally I add shadows and washes of other colors to bring out the form and it's complete!

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Vultures...

In High School I fell in love with the works of Edgar Allen Poe. I realize that's not particularly unique as many high schoolers identify with his sort of reality. Somewhere in me that same sort of intrigue exists. The vultures are testament to Poe's influence on me. To look at things that are dark and relay them to the world. And the hope that is within that is not to shock people, but to engage people and challenge culture.

I was writing a Poe-esque fiction to follow along my vulture theme and to co-habit a space with this image above. Like Poe I wanted to create a space that drew the audience out of the words and into the story. To feel the talons of the bird, and smell the stench dripping from the end of its face. Unlike Poe I have a tendency to be contrived and reaching. Poe had an ability to over embellish and yet simply tell his story.

Vultures are shadows in the sky. Searching for the dead. Coveting the diseased.

Vultures are death-eaters and life-bringers.

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Cathartidae...

Think about the the thoughts that are associated with the imagery and name of vultures.  

Are they majestic?

Are they noble?

Are they beautiful?

It is common to view vultures with contempt. They are symbols of death. How could they not be with their writhing, red, balding heads. The sunken eyes are the vision of their teetering between the living and dead. When there is a vulture over-head then death is near-by. What high praise can be given to a bird that seeks out death?

John Mayer expresses this view plainly in his characterization of vultures in the aptly titled track 'Vultures.'

All of these vultures hiding Right outside my door I hear them whisperin They're tryin to ride it out Cause they've never gone this long Without a kill before

 

I might just go ahead and posit another thought here. Perhaps the nature of vultures is not about death, but about life?

It is about more than the vital role that they play in the environment. Vultures represent a specific moment in the transitional times of life. Their lives transcend the simple but lead us to the sublime. In certain cultures the vulture is revered. It is called a death-eater, a cleanser, a purifier. Imagine the beauty of life. Imagine a life being lived and filled with the joy of existence. When that joy has turned then death enters. Note that this is not when the vulture enters. Death takes what it wants and leaves nothing but a token of what once had lived. In the midst of the tragedy of death comes the vulture to eat what death has left behind. In this death the vulture finds life. The vulture redeems the act of death to an act of life.

 

The vulture's life is all about redemption!

 

The vulture's life is about renewal!

 

Ponder that idea. Wrestle with a new understanding.

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The Age of the Vulture...

As I was peering out the window of the rickety old Taurus I inherited from my parents I saw a shadow circling in the air. With my poor vision it was hard to make out what exactly it was and came to the conclusion that it must be some sort of carrion eating scavenger. Its movement in the sky was nothing less than graceful. Wondering at the fowl creature's beauty several thoughts crossed my mind. Thoughts of ravaged carcasses, thoughts of rotting flesh being torn from the bone, thoughts of a rickety old bird with sunken red eyes and an 80 year old man's scalp huddled in shadow, reaping death's reward. What is it about vultures that invoke such thoughts as 'reaping death's reward?'  I think back to Disney's Snow White, toward the end of the movie and the portrayal of vultures. There is nothing endearing about these birds. They are framed in greed and lust for death. As the Queen falls to her death we are comforted by the justice of fowl loathsome animals descending to devour a fowl and loathsome being. And even from the first shot of the vultures' piercing eyes, crooked necks and stormy sky debut we are begged to have an unease about them.

I like Disney's portrayal of vultures in the Jungle Book much better. Perhaps they are not quite endearing characters but they have an attractive appeal that is lost on such- dare I say- noble birds. And I will not go as far as to say that they will help you tie a burning branch to the tail of a lion, but they certainly represent something more honest about the ideal of a vulture.

As I drove on down the highway I wondered if there really was something dead nearby. I wondered how it might have died. I wondered if it was something that had to happen. I wondered where my exit was.

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Girl, Snake

The Found Wood 'man, animal' series has led up to this current related series. This painting is not on found wood, and it is not simply about the imagery.

Girl, Snake is the work of concept about identity. It is about how we see ourselves as human beings, and finding our identity in the whole of our reality.

The subsequent pieces will follow the same theme in that they will contain the familiar 'man, animal,' be conceptually driven, and will be painted on canvas.

Enjoy.

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Rob Bell...the Heretic

Love Wins. That's what they say, and that's what they hate.I haven't actually read the book, yet. Though, I had attended Mars Hill for nearly a year when I lived in the great state of Michigan.

I hated Mars, and I loved Mars. I was challenged, and I grew. I was offended, and I found truth.

This is my response to the 'controversy' surrounding Rob Bell, especially with the advent of his new book "Love Wins."

Playing on the great iconography of older traditions of christianity, I have begun a new iconography. Hopefully this will be read as a play on the tradition, and a play on the controversy.' Rob Bell as saint, and his objectors as saints.

I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that Rob Bell hasn't performed any miracles, that he has his short-comings, and that he even makes mistakes. But dang it, what makes him worthy of being hated so much?

Anyway... the fire represents condemnation, not of God, but of man. The Gold Leaf represents holiness- not of righteousness, but of the Love of God. The halos are the sanctification of man through the nature of the Love of the Creator. The blue skies are the 'gateway' to heaven. It is narrow, but as God's love is infinite, the gateway to heaven is certainly large enough to accept the whole of humanity. The earth, as seen in the imagery, is of a size that fits through the gates of heaven. The Love of God is big enough for the world, the world just has to accept it.

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Robot Soul...Finished

Here, it is finally finished. Well, in fact, it was finished a while back (I still need to apply the finishing varnish).Painting with oils is turning out to be a joy, though the pains of oils are evident. There is just so much that goes with it!! Turp, mediums, poison! Anyway, it has its advantages, such as ease of blending and color mixing. The final product turned out to be a fantastic vision come to life.

For information on prints visit my facebook page The grisaille can be found here.

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Robot Soul...

What is a soul? Who has a soul? What in a life is a reflection of the soul? Another question, could a robot have a soul?

If Artificial Intelligence brings about self-aware robots, then do those robots have souls? If a robot can begin to contemplate her own life and the life of those around her, then what does that mean for man?

Above is the grisaille of a 'self-aware-praying-robot.' The acrylic 16"x20" painting is on hard-wood.

It will be finished with glazes of oil colors.

I began with a base coat acrylic mixture of red, blue, and yellow, then filled in the values with ivory black.

Below are the references...

 

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Gungor...

Below is school art, and in some fashion that makes me cringe at its qualification as 'good art.' While this is school art, it is art that is inspired and joyful. The assignment was to create a Rolling Stones Review Page illustration. Any artist was up for grabs. Almost immediately I envisioned a painting of the band Gungor. I had been turned on to their new album Beautiful Things by my roommate Andrew. The music carries with it the breath of New Life in the midst of Death and Confusion. Gut wrenching honesty and Passionate lyrics along with fresh, Beautiful music are the art of Beautiful Things.

Michael Gungor is the lead singer and artist of the band Gungor, formerly known as the Michael Gungor band.

The original concepts were of Michael and his wife Lisa. Unfortunately the compositions were too complicated for the time. In the end the simplicity created a beautiful image.

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Kadamaian Stream Toad

This is a rendering of the 'Near Threatened' Kadamaian Stream Toad.The resource was taken from ARKive.

This is another project from school. The parameters were as follows: On illustration board Use Watercolor Use Colored Pencil Blend the colored pencil over the watercolor with some sort of solvent. Render with perfect precision without success (this part I made up for effect)

I like how it turned out mostly. For the duration of the project I was freaking out about how bad it was, which it still is, but there was no need to fret as I did. I overreact very well. The toad himself is absolutely dashing- a specimen of pure delight. The leaves on the other hand are almost as if someone took a crayon to the board.

Also, I should mention, the composition is a bust, which no one-not even my professor- had mentioned to me before hand. Jay loves to critique, but the most I get out of him is, 'Yeah, sounds good, just work on it and it should be fine.' That's what he says, then my grade comes around, and that's a story in and of itself. There is also a component of my openness to critique. This goes back to a revelation I had in grade school.

I had very few friends before my junior and senior years, and I always wondered what it was about me that was so different. Without too much consideration I could name many several things that set me apart from my peers. Still, my wonder lingered, until it hit me. After I realized that there were people who were willing to be my friends, and that they truly did accept me as a person, my stand-off-ishness was queerly apparent.

Teasing was never a part of my daily experience, but neither was friendship, and that confused me to no end. Finally it had come to me, the reason wasn't my difference, it was my seeming arrogance. I didn't talk to people, so they didn't know how to talk to me- part of that is an awful social awkwardness that has slowly been dying.

So here is to the Kadamaian Stream Toad- the metaphor to my 'near threatened' social awkwardness. Hopefully, the soon extinct social awkwardness, but perhaps it would be best to have a resurrection of the Toad, and to see the beauty in what it is.

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Sin and Sanctification

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Did the sketch at church today then finished it while porch sittin in this outrageously beautiful Georgia weather.
Its about the nature of 'sin' and sanctification. Unfortunately the face too closely resembles that of the iconic and irritating image of Jesus.

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A Visual Commentary...

I sat down in church today, not in a seat but, on the floor. There was an obtuse corner that begged for my attention. The light shining from the tall window was directly on my lap, in a fashion that yearned for creation. Ruth and I have been creating a booklet throughout this quarter, and I hadn't constructed a page all week. Last week I did my page while running slides for the service, and it seemed fitting for me to create again this day.

I sat on the floor in the wide corner and set my things all around me. The worship music began, and my worship painting followed. My worship this morning was more of a confession, a pouring out of my heart to God.

Below is my attempt at concept...tell me what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have the visual and the editorial. Yes! I do believe that I am a fan of this work after all. John Hendrix, SooJin Buzelli, and Chris Buzelli were special guests at the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design, and they all did their part in inspiring me.

Chris said that 'Concept is King,' which is a phrase that is now covering my sketch-book. They sunk in because I am somewhat of a literal thinker. I draw what I see and hear. Little for me is conceptual.

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A Dreadful Thing...

My chronicle of the night I lost a brother.In descriptive essay form...

 

A Dreadful Thing

I was at work, starving for water- the saliva in my mouth was like mush. It could have been that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. The only thing that satisfied was a fervent surrender to the needs of my thirst. I pursed my lips to the straw and sucked and gulped and nearly drown myself.

Work was work in spite of my thirst, and this night I cared little about the amount of time I spent spraying the remnants of dinner off every plate, or the fighting of stubborn crumbs from bowls and saucers. This was just another night.

It ended and I looked at my phone. It is a rare night for me to check calls or texts during work (unless I feel particularly daring), and there I saw two missed calls and a new voicemail.

It was my roommate Andrew’s number and I snickered to myself, with a twinge of annoyance, ‘Oh Andrew, what does he want now?’

So I dialed my voicemail, in the slothful pattern of the night, utilizing a systematic listening-to and deleting-of previous voicemails that had yet to be attended. After several minutes of reviewing the fascinating, and even entertaining recordings, I came upon the newest one, presumably from Andrew. The moment was confusing when the voice I heard belonged to Melanie, Andrew’s fiancé, which quickly shifted to disturbing when her voice was trembling in fear.

“Matt,” she quivered, “I need you to come quickly, Andrew fainted and we are headed to the hospital.” That was more than 2 hours earlier.

After speaking with Mel by phone I wandered to the emergency room that sat right behind my and Andrew’s apartment. The night still dragged on, more in agony now than the earlier lethargy of work.

There were several people in front of me who were speaking with the attendant at the desk. One lady sat plump in her wheel chair with a bag of ice over her eye. She stated that she was there for a migraine. Within me welled a spurt of laughter, ‘A migraine!’ Of course that thought stayed in my head. Another man, in my cynical view, was taking advantage of the services of the emergency room. He purported to have ‘fallen’ in the parking lot and hurt his leg- his street-worn clothes grew the bias in my mind.

At long last the lady at the desk asked me, and the gentleman next to me, why we had made the trek to the emergency room? I informed the small and soft-spoken woman that I was there to see my friend, Andrew Millette.

A different lady, younger yet similar in height and similar in tone of voice, showed me to a room just around the corner. Her words expounded on the mounting confusion, “Right over here is for the friends and family.” The door was opened enough for me to peer in the quaint room before entering. Inside I found a slouched and distraught Melanie. She was sitting on a couch to the right, and a large, strange man was holding her hand. Why is there a room for friends and family? Where was Andrew? Who is this guy? These were the thoughts that clouded my mind in the few precious seconds before Melanie informed me, through the whimpering and crying, that Andrew had passed on.

Immediately, as an instinct to the moment, I placed myself beside Mel and threw my arms around her. She kept sobbing that she was sorry. If I had had any semblance of sympathy I would have made known that I was sorry, that she hadn’t need to apologize. As it was, though, I was speechless. My words were stolen from my tongue. My throat knew nothing of speech, only silence, and that was the tune I played the entire night.

The man across from Melanie was the hospital chaplain. I am unaware how long he had been comforting Melanie. Barbara, Andrew’s aunt appeared in the room after a while, she had already begun the general’s task of arranging and organizing the details of the night as Mel and Andrew’s parents’ were flying in from out of state. After some time had passed Leah, Andrew’s cousin and Barbara’s daughter, arrived. She, like me, was unaware of what had happened until she arrived. There was no holding the reins on her sorrow.

Several hospital employees had filtered in and out through the night- one had blue scrubs on, another wore a nice picot and slacks. The man with the picot serenely introduced us to a tray of assorted drinks, mostly water. It is a funny thing that I was no longer in need of water. My mouth wasn’t mush anymore. Once they informed us that we had a short stint of time in which to view Andrew’s body, if we so desired. None of us went to see him. I wanted to.

I did cry some, mostly when Mel had been wailing. My heart was grieving in unison with Melanie. Her pain was bare and naked. It was honest and raw, and I couldn’t be witness to it without being affected as well. The next couple days were less riveting. I did not stop and cry with the force of a hurricane, or get lost in memories. I simply lived life as normal, even sitting in the lonely apartment felt normal, mostly.

I did not know the pain of loss before that night, and I am still attempting to understand it now, only days after my dear brother’s death. Death is a dreadful thing postponed.  It is final, but it keeps me waiting for the moment when I realize my heart has been rend from my chest and filled with the hollows of lost time. It has already flooded my mind and pounded my heart, but is waiting for my eyes to collapse like levies that are ill prepared for the torrents of the storm.

Maybe if I had gone to see his cold body I wouldn’t have this postponed pain. I wonder if it would have stopped my imagination from creating illusions of him. Then again, maybe it is better this way.

I’m reminded of the time when my van was stolen. Andrew didn’t speak he simply moved toward me and hugged me. At the time the hug wasn’t warm and welcome, it was cold and awkward and I did not understand, but now I know. He was looking beyond life and death, into eternity, and saw that I needed a hug.

 

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Andrew Millette...

  Click here, or on this picture to view Andrew's obituary and guestbook where you can share experiences and condolences.

 

Andrew Millette was my roommate, my friend, and my brother. When I moved to Atlanta in January of 2010 he took me in. I was living in a house in home park with four other guys, but Andrew gave me a place with heating and an adequate bathroom.

We spent most of the first few months plunking on the ground with our ice-cream filled bowls, and marathoning MASH.

We talked about church, and community, and girls, and failures, and love, and wisdom, and relativism, and soccer, and politics, and we prayed.

He is still my example of how to live in the world, to love people, to give humbly and graciously, and to love life.

Death is a dreadful thing postponed.  It is final, but it keeps me waiting for the moment when I realize my heart has been rend from my chest and filled with the hollows of lost time. It has already flooded my mind and pounded my heart, but is waiting for my eyes to succumb to the torrents of the storm.

A dear brother is gone, and missed. I love you Andrew.

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I’m reminded of the time when my van was stolen. Andrew didn’t speak he simply moved toward me and hugged me. At the time the hug wasn’t warm and welcome, it was cold and awkward and I didn't understand, but now I know. He was looking beyond life and death, into eternity, and saw that I needed a hug.

Also, he ate really really loudly, and I never told him how much that made me want to put a stake through my skull, and I'm glad I didn't.

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I'm not just Me- I'm You

I am an Individual.I am Matt. I am Matthew [Adam] Miller.

I dress a peculiar way-

My personality is my own (full of awkward anticipation)-

and my hair is me.

But I resign my individuality. I am a collaborator. I am a part of a community. I have a purpose, but it is not simply my own.

To dream my own dreams is to live in my own lonely world. To dream with people is to participate in the restoration of the world- corporeally and incorporeally.

I am not just me...I am you.

 

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The Golf Course...

The Golf Course behind the apartments here at Colonial Homes have been a constant and consistent place of awe. The way the sky plays with the tops of the trees, the subtle color in the faithful leaves, and the amazing textures in the earth form an Eden of visual pleasure. Not lying, every time I drive by there I fall in love again.

It's a love that is predicated on the beauty of the view, but a love that I cherish as it continues to resurrect itself.

So Saturday- 6 days after the 'snow storm'- I went out to soak in the beauty, and to capture, in as much as is possible, the glory of the view.

It was a chilly afternoon, but the sun was perfect, and the trees were begging for me to join them and bask in warmth of the light.

As I was 'snapping' away, this vantage point of the golf course was new and intimate. I had always given the trees in the center all of my attention. They were, to me, the epitome of the beauty in this place, and then I saw these trees, in this space, singing a song I hadn't yet heard.

If I had left before capturing the immaculate texture of the earth, I would have walked away empty. Immaculate in the sense that in all of the darks and lights, and lines and shapes, and the crazy randomness, everything worked together in a perfect collaboration of beauty.

As I walked back to the house I laughed. On the one side of the street there was ice everywhere, as if the snow storm had come in the night before, and on the other side was green grass and warm reflected light. I laughed.

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Watercolor Booklet...

So I have this idea. I want to illustrate worship (obviously it is not an original idea, but hey...). I want to see how people worship this power in the universe we call God. I want to experience a different face of humility-

A different face of beauty-

A different side of God.

So I am doing just that. I am going to be attending services at church's all around Atlanta and illustrating in watercolor (at least watercolor for now) the way the people worship.

And, just for the occasion[s] I made, and bound, this watercolor booklet.

My friend Ruth and I have been in a booklet making frenzy lately, and it just so happens to have coincided with my new found interest.

The laces tie it shut!

The front cover flips all the way around-i.e. stays out of my way

Thank you for helping me figure this out Ruth.

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Homeless not Hopeless (thankful)

I saw man after work one day. He was standing in the median on Buford Highway. I am one to see what's on the surface of things, to notice the homeless and have my heart broken. I have a friend who looks at things beyond the conventional, let's say easy, initial thoughts.

There are so many people who are hopeless in the world. There is a lack of hope. Can I say this another way, perhaps we can look at it in this light, there is a lack of hope in the air. I said the same thing three times, 'hope'fully my point is coming across.

I see the homeless, and I think hopeless.

 

I stopped my car that night, it was raining. I had some left-over pizza from work that I was bringing home, but the man's sign asked for food.

I gave him my bag of pizza, and what happened is he took my hand, looked me in the eyes, and simply said, 'thank you.' I was filled with hope, this man was full of hope.

 

Let's approach this again. I see the homeless, and I think hopeless. I see my classmates, and I see hope for the future (i.e. a job, a family, etc.)

But I fail to take their hands, look them in the eyes, and get to know them.

I hope for hope in the hearts of everyone I meet. I hope that hope can well up in me, and overflow to those around me. I hope, for the hope of glory found in the freedom of Grace in the ghost who walks on water.

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Take Every Thought Captive...

This is a lot of fun. Also, it sucks a lot. Thoughts creep into my mind all the time, and I hate some of those thoughts. I heard it said that if people new what was in 'your' head then no one would want to be your friend. Unfortunately I believe that to be true, at least in some small sense.

Perhaps I believe it to be true because it is true for me. Taking the thoughts is sometimes just not enough, sometimes they need to be beaten to death.

 

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