Gearing Up for the August Art Crawl

August 3rd, 2016

The August First Saturday Downtown Nashville Art Crawl is upon us! I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve spent the last couple of weekends working on the art I’m putting in the show.

I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

What I’ve done differently about this set of paintings is I’ve created everything all at once. I usually work on one piece at a time. But this time, I laid out nine canvases on a big big drop cloth, and got to work on all of them at once.

Because they are being developed simultaneously, they all have a lot of the same colors and similar compositions that somewhat carry into each other from one canvas to another.

Part of that is because when I started, I made lines ran from canvas to canvas, but as I built them up, they took on their own compositions.

While the canvases are all being developed at the same time, I am developing each canvas individually. The result is really a small body of work where the pieces are all connected not necessarily by their adjoining areas but in terms of color and mood. Each piece will have something about it that stands out from the others. One color is be more dominant on one than another, but there is a common constant visual theme throughout. I am really excited about this project!

I think I like this technique: it’s fast.

It’s a very fast way to work. I’ve developed nine paintings all at once. Normally that would take a very long time. And in the process of developing this cohesive set of works I’ve come across a couple of new techniques that work really well for me, spreading paint with nontraditional tools. Painting on the floor is interesting because I usually work with the canvas on an easel.

And yes, there’s a downside.

The only downside to working on several paintings at once like this is, if one canvas is too wet to work on, the others probably are, too. But that forces me to sit back and look at everything to figure out what is next.

Slowing down is good, too.

So much of the process of making art is just staring and looking.

Stay tuned for the final result for this new work! If you can’t make it to Erabellum in the Arcade this Saturday night, to see the work in person, watch this space for the final work with some more time lapse goodness. (Feel free to subscribe to my emails so you can know when I get it posted.)

My Painting was Drab and Dark, So I Did Something About It

June 15th, 2016

Back in January 2016, I participated in the First Saturday Art Crawl by hanging some work in Erabellum Gallery in the Arcade. When I saw all my work together on the wall, I was stunned at how dark everything was.

This was about the time I resolved to get more color and life into my work.

By the time the April 2016 Art Crawl rolled around, I had my chance to show some new pieces I had created that were colorful and broke away from the “dark horizons” I had been doing the past couple of years. I don’t know if I just get bored easily, but I do think it was time to experiment with color again.

I had to carve out some time to get in the studio and explore some new ideas to supplement last year’s work. I was pretty happy with the result. You can see how it looked on the wall here.

New work up at @erabellum in the arcade! Come say hey if you're at the #FirstSaturdayArtCrawl

A post shared by Brad Blackman (@bradblackman) on

Pressure, 2016. acrylic on canvas, 20×20 inches

Bend, 2016. acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 inches

Scattered, 2016. acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

I wound up donating two of these to the Music City Derby Day silent auction.

As of right now I’m planning on participating in the August Art Crawl. I’d love to participate in the July Art Crawl, but don’t have the time or the space to work on the pieces I have in mind to have new work ready in time, so I’m shooting for August. I have some ideas I can’t wait to try out. I’m thinking even larger next time, with a more cohesive set of works.

Meet Me at the January 2016 First Saturday Art Crawl!

December 29th, 2015

Mark your calendars for January 2, 2016 from 6 to 9 p.m.: I have a wall at the Erabellum Co-Op at the Arcade in Downtown Nashville.

I’m excited because it’s been about 7 or 8 years since I’ve shown anything in a gallery. I’m finally finding my voice, my style as a painter and it feels good to get it out there and show people.

If you’re going to be in Nashville for New Year’s, I hope you can make it. I’d love to see you at 61 Arcade just off 5th Avenue of the Arts. I’ll be showing some small abstracts and some of my older Nashville paintings.

See you there!

Lipstick and Explosions at the Art Crawl

September 16th, 2015

Unlike last month, Annie and I left home early to get to the First Saturday Art Crawl. We drove through a short but very intense shower but downtown was dry as could be.

The weather was hot, but that short burst of rain cooled things off just enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable or too humid.

The Peanut Shop was closed

Of course, our first order of business was to see if the Peanut Shop was open. It wasn’t, so Annie was disappointed.

From there we went to the upstairs of the Arcade to check out the galleries. It was nice to beat the crowds.

Let’s Join the Circus

The first gallery we visited was Blend, which is run by my friend Ben Vitualla. We loved the show that was there. It was this highly detailed, surreal, circus-themed art by Sarah Kaufman and her book The Circus that the paintings were in.

I was so proud of Annie for being able to read the book. We would have bought it right there but I didn’t have $25 on me. (I had just $20 and that was for snacks!) You can orderThe Circus from Amazon, too.

Sarah’s work was a lot of fun. Everything was so magical and it really brought you into this world the artist had created. The best art immerses you into an entire world.

And Sarah’s paintings do just that.

40AU

We loved the delicate floral ceramic sculptures by Carolyn Baginski and Audry Deal-McEver in the 40 AU gallery. They had collaborated to put together a show where their ceramic work complemented each other. I enjoyed getting to meet the artists and talk to them about how they made their work. Taken together, it all looked like part of the same body of work.

Marleen De Waele-De Bock

Next, we visited Marleen De Waele-De Bock again and got a chance to meet her this time. However, Annie was getting hungry at this point so she was getting antsy.

But that didn’t stop her from taking selfies with the art. Annie’s favorite piece was the painted coffee table, which she excitedly took a picture of with my phone.

A Snack at Frothy Monkey

Our next stop was Frothy Monkey. We ran into my friend Adam and his 4-year-old little girl on the sidewalk. So the girls said hello and then we went on to get a snack.

Annie and I split a Cowboy Cookie. She got hot chocolate with cinnamon and I got a cappuccino. I showed her how delicious it is when you dip your cookie in your hot beverage.

Explosions at Tinney Contemporary

After Frothy Monkey we went to Tinney Contemporary and looked at some huge paintings by James Perrin. They looked like they were of some abstract otherworldly explosions. Or migraines.

I was struck by how many people were walking around the gallery looking at their phones. Look at the art, people! Talk to your friends who are actually with you.

Big Lips and Abstracts. Abstract Lipstick?

Next up, we visited The Rymer Gallery. It was all excellent work, as usual. My Instagram Friend Alex Hall had some new abstract pieces up, which are a change from the usual polished, realistic/surrealistic works he has done.

We had a brief conversation about the marketability of abstract work over detailed realistic work. I think it is because in abstract painting, people can inject a part of themselves in it. It’s more universal by default. The more realistic and specific something is, the less universal.

The giant lips by Elizabeth Winnel were pretty cool, too.

The Arts Company

Finally, we closed the night by visiting The Arts Company.

Of course, Annie found the pop-up books and had a blast going through those.

I loved the paintings by Edie Maney and the giant sculpture by Edward Belbusti. I don’t know how they got that in the door.

It was a good night. I had a blast meeting some artists I’ve only known online. It was worth it to get there early and beat the crowds and brave the weather that turned out to be not so bad after all.

Review: First Saturday Art Crawl, August 2015

September 10th, 2015

Last month, my daughter and I went to the August First Saturday Art Crawl in Downtown Nashville. This marks 9 years of the First Saturday Art Crawl! I think I have been going for seven years now. Maybe eight.

I decided not to go in July because the first Saturday was the 4th of July. They did move it to Friday the 3rd but I figured it would be too hot and too crowded anyway. So we postponed it for a month.

I considered going to the Franklin First Friday Art Scene, but I don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision about going. (Where do I park? Where do I start? Etc.)

First Stop: The Peanut Shop

So, the first thing my daughter wanted to do was go to The Peanut Shop in The Arcade. As usual, that was her first priority before going to any galleries. I was thankful they were open for the art crawl because this is always the highlight of the evening for her. The Peanut Shop has an erratic track record when it comes to being open for the art crawl, so this can make or break her whole art crawl experience.

She got Mike & Ike candy, we got my wife orange slices to take home, and I had a soft serve ice cream cone. It was delicious. Not quite as sugary as Chick-fil-A’s soft serve, so it was perfect.

After our treat, we went to the second level of The Arcade to visit the galleries. There were two galleries that made an impression on me in the Arcade this month.

40AU

The first was 40AU — named after the estimated distance the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned 180° to take the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of the Earth. My friend Megan runs the gallery.

Since I had a fast-footed first-grader with me I didn’t get a real close look at anything but at a glance it looked like little sketches of places the artist slept for a number of months.

Apparently at some point in the series the artist broke up with her boyfriend. There was one where the caption was something like “The last night he slept in our bed. The next day he moved down to the basement.” And then another had a caption like “95 days before we broke up.”

There were something like 50 hotel keycards attached to the wall adjacent to the sketches of places she stayed. One interesting thing was she stayed at the same hotel chain twice in two different states, and her room was identical in both places. Which isn’t surprising. I wasn’t there long enough to put together the whole story.

Marleen De Wale-De Bock

The other gallery that was impressive in the Arcade was Bel Art, showing Marleen De Wale-De Bock‘s work. I had just into my friend Joe Smith and he said to check out Marleen’s work, and it turned out to be as nice as he said it was. It was mostly large, beautiful, abstract landscapes. She clearly has a good command of color.

The Rymer Gallery

The Rymer Gallery was nice as always and in the loft were some really nice abstract paintings that I loved by Femi Ojo. I had seen them before, but the last time I saw them they didn’t make a strong impression on me.

Somehow this time around Ojo’s paintings were more impressive. Maybe because I’ve been doing somewhat similar work lately. I loved the intensity of almost edible glossiness of the varnish on the yellow paint on one canvas. The holes in the canvas were fascinating. It seems to be a tension between creation and destruction.

The downstairs at Rymer was really impressive. It was wildlife/nature photography by Barrett Hedges. Annie loved it because it had animals. Of course.

Tinney Contemporary

Then in Tinney Contemporary, there was a body of work by José Betancourt that centered around Cuba. Everything was in blue shades. I didn’t really get a chance to look at it since it was getting late and Annie was getting antsy.

(Aside: We got to the art crawl late because I didn’t want to pay $20 to park for just 2 hours so I searched for a long time to find a free place to park. Eventually I parked someplace off close to where I used to work, where I just got laid off from due to massive restructuring and downsizing at my former day job as a graphic designer.Parking downtown is tough if you want to do it cheap or free. I had forgotten how hard it was. For nearly 4 years I was spoiled, parking for free in a downtown garage!)

The Arts Company

After Tinney and Rymer, Annie said, “Let’s go to the place with the pop-up books!” I told her it was getting late so we needed to hurry, but we went we went to The Arts Companyanyway.

The Arts Company sells these fancy pop-up books. You could say they are pop-up books for grown-ups, but kids love them, too. They’re very elaborate. Annie loves them. She always wants to go to The Arts Company just to look at the pop-up books.

Avant Garage

The Arts Company was having their annual Avant Garage sale. Their building has a garage in the back, which they partially open up to the public when they have their openings for the art crawl.

The Avant Garage Sale is exactly what it sounds like: a garage sale with old stuff that’s been discounted. The Arts Company opens up the garage in the back of their building. They often open part of it for the art crawl but once a year they open up a larger space and have stuff you might find at a garage sale: old stuff they had discounted, knicknacks, furniture, sheet music, and so on.

The pop-up books Annie loves were marked down to $10 each. I told her, “Pick one out, and you can take one home.” She was so excited. I told her she would have to keep it in a safe place where the dog or her brothers won’t find it and tear it up.

She picked out 600 Black Spots by David A. Carter. Here’s a YouTube video that shows what it’s like:

LaVon Williams: Rhythm in Relief (The Arts Company)

I didn’t get to look at LaVon Williams‘ work much, but it was impressive. Large relief wood carvings made by an equally large man. (He’s a former basketball player for the University of Kentucky. He also played professionally after that.) I’d say his work is a sort of African-American take on folk art with a strong Jazz influence.

9 Years of First Saturday Art Crawls

Congrats to the Art Crawl to making it to 9 years. I can’t wait to see what happens next year for the 10th.

Wedgewood/Houston?

I really want to make it to the Art Crawl on Wedgewood/Houston but that’s a logistical challenge especially with a small child in tow. I don’t want to spend all my time looking for parking.

I know there was a trolly running for the art crawl, but I don’t know if that was going to Wedgewood/Houston. Maybe the two art crawls are better connected now and can help each other out.

For More Information:

This article from The Nashville Scene is actually a bit more comprehensive. Check it out.

Header Image source via Tinney Contemporary: Art Crawl Celebrates Its 9th Birthday!

Review: Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl, June 2013

June 7th, 2013

Last Saturday, I took my four-and-a-half-year-old, Annie, to the First Saturday Art Crawl in downtown Nashville. Every first Saturday of the month, a bunch of art galleries and co-ops open up for the evening so art lovers can wander from one gallery to another. It started in the famous Arcade between Fourth and Fifth avenue, but has expanded to the rest of Fifth Avenue.

Since this is Nashville, the weather is usually too hot or too cold to take a toddler (I guess she’s a kid now!) to a bunch of art galleries that open up on the street.

But this time, the weather was perfect. We almost didn’t go, since there had been severe thunderstorms an hour or so before we left, but it cleared out just in time for us to head downtown.

The first thing we saw as we turned onto 5th Avenue from Church Street was a wedding party being photographed in the middle of the street. They had rented out Puckett’s Grocery for their dinner.

Fifth Avenue of the Arts

Fifth Avenue of the Arts has been renovated to be more pedestrian-friendly, with new lighting over the street. Between light posts, icicle-style lights (only much nicer than the Christmas lights you can buy at Walgreen’s) hang from a wire over the street with a large lamp suspended over the center of the street. We missed the lighting ceremony where Mayor Karl Dean threw the switch to turn on the lights.

With 5th Avenue blocked off to traffic, the yellow art crawl buses weren’t running anywhere that I could see. I only saw one as we were making our way to 5th, and never saw where to get on.

The new work on 5th Avenue includes little platforms where performers of all stripes can do their thing for pedestrian audiences. It’s really nice, and lots of fun. Blue Coast Burrito was giving out delicious samples of chips and pineapple salsa!

There was a giant two-story styrofoam head right in the middle of the street right in front of Blue Coast Burrito. The sculpture was made of giant styrofoam blocks, jagged at the bottom and refined at the top so you can see all the facial features. It looked like some character from Greek mythology. Triton, perhaps? I don’t know who the artist was.

The Arts Company

This was our first stop. Annie didn’t recognize the place, but in her defense it has been six months to a year since we last went. She didn’t seem all that impressed with the art. I’m not sure what she was expecting, though. I didn’t get much chance to really look at it since Annie asked almost immediately: “Can we go to another gallery?” I tried to get her to look at the large pieces in the Five From Memphis exhibit, but I don’t guess it was very interesting to a four-year-old.

However, we noticed lots of people going to the back. I thought they might be going upstairs, but nope, they were going to the garage in back of the gallery.

That’s where we discovered the Nashville Public Library puppeteers demonstrating their marionette puppets! Annie had a blast interacting with the puppets.

Remember the platforms I mentioned earlier? Apparently the plan was for the puppeteers to perform with their puppets there and in the street. Unfortunately the inclement weather drove them inside. I don’t guess lots of rain and wind are too good for marionettes.

Annie loved the puppets. She asked typical four-year-old questions, and claimed she can do the same things, too. So when Annie saw a backdrop artist working in chalk/pastel on a large board, creating a scene of the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland,” she asked if she could help. Of course, she wrote her name in pink, her favorite color.

We made our way to several other galleries, including the Rymer Gallery and the Tinney Contemporary Gallery across from the Arcade.

The Rymer Gallery

At the Rymer Gallery, Annie was fascinated with Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures of a guitar and a bunny. I think it’s because these things are so accessible to her, and the idea of using crayons (“crowns,” as she pronounces it) to make something like that was such a neat idea. It probably didn’t hurt that it was pink.

In the loft part of the Rymer were some interesting dimensional sculpture-paintings by Will Penny. They hang flat on the wall, but have angled planes that protrude a few inches into the room. These planes appear to be spray-painted in two tones, with varying concentrations of color. It’s not unlike two-color printing where different ink percentages create new colors.

There were some nice abstract pieces by Carly Witmer that I liked. The canvases were unusually shaped, with transparent lines that dripped off the edges.

These two sets were so cool and very different from anything I’ve seen, but they seem relatively easy to recreate. It’s unique and novel, but it lacks that thing that could make it really hard for someone else to do. That’s really my only criticism. What’s the thing that could push it into something really new?

I think that’s where Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures really shine: the concept is simple: three-dimensional sculptures made of Crayolas. Anybody could do it, but no one could pull it off quite like he does, with the same attention to detail.

Tinney Contemporary

The first thing we saw as we came to Tinney was a floor-to-cieling installation of cut paper. Black and white crescent-shaped pieces of cut paper comprised a tornado that went from the ceiling to the floor, threatening some small houses. I explained that several tornadoes, big storms, had last night been in the area where her “Auntie” Kelly lives, and these storms can knock over and tear up houses.

Then of course, Annie spit all this information back out to some ladies who were looking at the art right after us. Silly girl, haven’t I told you to not talk to strangers!

The Arcade

As we entered the Arcade, we were blasted by a very loud band. Annie hated the noise. It made her really unhappy. I tolerated it.

But of course, we went to The Peanut Shop, which for Annie is THE HIGHLIGHT of the Art Crawl. She got some jelly beans, I got an ice cream cone, and we got some orange slices to take home to Mama.

The galleries in the upstairs of the Arcade had moved around a bit as they tend to do when old tenants leave and current ones take up their spots. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything really remarkable upstairs, and my friends at Blend Studio weren’t showing anything this time.

The Tennessee Art League / Chestnut Group

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was finding that the Tennessee Art League had moved to Fifth Avenue. It makes sense, given that it is now closer to the Art Crawl and the rest of the “Arts District,” but after months of thinking it had closed altogether I was glad to see they had simply moved. This was special to me since my grandfather was a member for years.

The space is somewhat claustrophobic with odd bottlenecks, but the location is an old downtown building which was never intended to be an art gallery. It’s in one of the spaces between The Arts Company and the Rymer Gallery.

There at the new TAL gallery, The Chestnut Group had a showing of lots of plein aire pieces of Nashville scenes, and reminded me of the Nashville365 series I did a while back, as well as some of the pieces my friend Pete Sullivan paints.

Summing Up

Annie and I had a great time. The weather was perfect. I keep hoping to see some really unique, breakthrough art show up in Nashville, but I’ve never seen anything that really pushes the idea of what art can be.

Annie is already talking about going again next month.