SS:048 WIP I've been framed!

Wow what a week of works in progress! Welcome to the second Wednesdays In Progress post! In today's post I'll share a large scale frame for a new painting, a detailed sketchbook drawing, and a batch of new gouache paintings!


Part of the reason this post is barely making it as a Wednesday post is because I spent the majority of the day building a large frame for one of my latest paintings. The painting "Are We Still Having A Picnic?" was started in March when Covid first set us into a state of lockdown.

A few nights ago I struggled to fall asleep and chose to draw over the image of the painting in my phone. This digital design was the first and only mockup I came up with as a frame. Although I think I had been daydreaming about a frame leading into this moment so some of the work was likely done before I started drawing. I think artists are always working in a way. Our thoughts continually dance around what were currently working and sometimes past works and always future works. This makes it hard to know when exactly an idea was formed. Nonetheless, I sketched this up and eventually went to sleep. Fast forward a week and I began measuring out each piece that it would take to realize the frame. I love working this way. It feels as though I'm building my own puzzle. Each piece has to carefully fit together in a pleasing way but also needs to be structurally secure. When this piece is finished I think it will weigh almost 10 pounds! I wanted the frame to reference parts of the painting and started by thinking about what was pictured along the edge of the painting. Because this is a unique frame design I knew the line between the painting and the frame had to be considered. How will meaning change or develop between the two? How will the colors, texture, and images of the frame define the painting and vice versa?

I settled on the idea of building the house that is seen in the painting. I love the simple overhanging roof and the single light illuminated against the earthy "dirty" colors on the bottom wall. The little brown fence became the second symbol that I wanted to pull into the frame. This is one of the last elements I have to fabricate from wood. I'm thinking the repetition of the fence should be manipulated and played with. Right now the plan is alter the width of the fence from left to right. The final element I've thought through so far is the body of my self portrait. A material that I'm going to be adding to the frame is an epoxy clay. Its self hardening and paintable so it will be the perfect material to add volume and a doughy shape to the illusion of my body become physical. The concept sketch includes a visual note to drip the body over and between the posts of the fence. We'll see how that develops as I work with actual materials.

I'm excited to finish the build and move onto painting and surfacing the wood. This direction of sculpting around my paintings is one that I know I will be continuing in the future. The relationship between illusion and reality or two dimensions and three is crucial to the way I'm thinking in my studio. Follow along on Instagram if you want to catch the stories of the frame being made! (@acuna.art)

NEIGHBOR is a character I've been developing for a few months now. I've already written about the meaning and inspiration for the character so I won't repeat those ideas here, but I will share the ideas for this sketchbook drawing I recently finished. The drawing is in my large red Moleskine sketchbook, the second at this size. I love the large drawing surface with their cream colored smooth paper. In my first large sketchbook by Moleskine I made a handful of very developed drawings with graphite at a similar level of detail. It's difficult for me to consistently make sketchbook drawings that are this finished because they can take up to a week to complete. A week in this context is like 4-5 hr/day for 4 days in a week. Although in total I would guess I spent around 30 hours on this drawing. From developing the different forms to layering into the dark shadows the speed of my drawing process is very slow and tedious.



I began the drawing by making a round mushroom like shape. I kept circling over the same area over and over. Eventually I committed to the flowing motion that wrapped an area which looked like a face. I roughed out a mouth line and this creature/spirt was realized enough to begin building out the rest of this section of the page. After this first figure was done I started to think about where the horizon line and depth should be placed on the page. The upper left corner of the page was the first to be sketched out. Much like the drawings in my last sketchbook, this image was made in an additive and intuitive way. There was no preliminary sketch or reference image. The entire drawing was made through a process of invention. I should note that I was watching the series Stranger Things for the second time while making this drawing. For the record this is one of my favorite shows of all time. I appreciate the shows range in genre and character development. The neighbor was inspired in part by the monsters in the series. However, I'm hoping the neighbor will be less horrific and instead more neutral. I want the form of this figure to begin to feel normalized and instead to have the emphasis placed on the accessories and spaces which adorn and surround the neighbor.


Check out this slider gallery to see a handful of progress photos!

Sometimes titles turn into these stories or poems. I don't know what will happen to the page of notes but sketchbooks are a beautiful way to capture both visions and thoughts before they fleet away.

In the coming weeks I'm planning to release a reproduction of this drawing in my shop. I will be ordering archival prints that are 11" x 14" with a white border so it's ready to frame for collectors. The edition for these will be very limited of 10 at the most so if you think you want one keep an eye on my shop and social media posts for when they become available!


I mentioned in the last Sunday Sweeps post that my art was part of a group exhibition in Leslie, MI. I took the photographs and video that I shared in the post while I was gallery sitting last weekend. After I finished photographing the space I made two tiny gouache paintings. They're 2" x 3"!


While making the Keep It Up Neighbor prints I cut down 22" x 30" sheets of Strathmore Riverpoint to make the edition of 15 prints. From trimming the sheets I was left with a few strips of 2" paper which were then cut into 3" lengths. In many ways I treat my materials like some hunters would an animal. I try not to let anything go to waste! I spent certain periods of my art education with peers who would toss large pieces of paper and canvas. I used to dig around in recycling bins for surfaces to paint on. Initially I did this because it was free, but it also feels good to find ways of upcycling material into my art when I can.

Gouache is one of my favorite mediums to work with because its a great middle ground between drawing and oil painting. In many ways I can achieve similar layers of light and form that I can in oils. I prefer to cross hatch and cross contour lines across the shape of each form until it appears to have weight to it. The sketchbook drawing was one of the first times I wanted to explore the world of the neighbor. I wanted to use these gouache paintings as a chance to play with color, form, composition, and mood. The first one took influence from my Snake Noises painting. You may notice certain tendencies I have with the compositions of my work: singular figures in front of distant horizon lines with littered symbols between each. I chose to play with the background by giving it a backyard suburban feeling. The sign was the last thing to go in. I recalled a line from the movie "Lords of Dogtown" where a character remarks to other surfers not from the area "Locals Only!" What a weird sentiment and call right. Two words that have enough power to keep others away but are written at times with such casualness. I think a lot about borders and rules that govern populations of people. Part of the reason I chose to call the character neighbor was to give the figure a relatable and mysterious quality.


I really enjoy making these little paintings. Its manageable to paint one a night. The balance between scale and definition is interesting to explore with each one. It seems from one to the next I'm finding new ways to describe information at such a small scale. Its also healthy for me to work with more economic ways of describing form. After the sketchbook drawing and other detailed paintings I've drifted away from painting with fewer details/images.


Like the majority of the work I've made since graduating, I'll be listing these in my online store. I'm going to try setting up a new weekly routine of posting new works on Fridays at 11. This will give collectors a chance to think about what's been shared on social media throughout the week with a chance to plan on purchasing at a specific time.


Alright that's it for today! Thanks for reading, I hope you are happy and healthy :)


This was me after I carried all of my woodworking supplies back into our basement lol


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