Rich Potter's formative years were spent dreaming and drawing. Undiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder until his 40s, his travels have spanned 22 different countries. His appearances in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and on The Late Show with David Letterman weren't interesting enough, so one year, he completed a painting every day. Now he writes, performs comedy and produces a monthly clown cabaret in Washington DC. And other stuff, too.
View all posts by Rich Potter →
While doing taxes, (of course at the last minute) I always end up meandering over things I’ve done over the last year. This one was kind of cool. At the height of that idiotic media-invented “clown hysteria” last October, the good folks at Good Morning Washingtonreached out to the experts of Washington DC’s Clown Cabaret to get a more educated perspective. Check it out. I’m the blond. The one wearing pants. 🙂
Paintings 43-45 of 365: So, I got to a point with this project where I had an idea for a piece but there are things I didn’t know how to do in watercolors to make it happen, hence the Universe painting (#43) today, and in the last two posts, (here and here). Today’s post contains a few paintings with elements of either a technique, or playing with concepts of style and spirit of the upcoming God piece. I believe these experiments have their own charm though.
I always enjoy seeing the finished piece vs. the rough sketches, to see the artist’s mind taking every detail available to the lump of matter in their skull, crunching it down to the comparative few strokes of the final work. These are simultaneously rough sketches and finished works. I’ll explain that conundrum to anyone who can explain the Trinity to me without using tautology.
But art really is a tip-of-the-iceberg thing. Whenever you see artwork, literature, performing arts, etc., the final product represents many, many discarded ideas, blood, sweat, tears, etc. Even if it isn’t rough sketches, there’s still much iceberg beneath the water. A quote attributed to Pablo Picasso suggests, “It took me 30 years to learn how to do that in 30 seconds.”
Similarly, it takes 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil, and 2400 gallons of water (19,200 pounds) to produce one pound of beef. Yikes! Glad I eat plants– smaller footprint and they fart less.
In #44 here is God, in His eternal glory, farting around with some planets. All-powerful beings have got to have fun sometimes, when they’re not flooding or smiting people. The “upcoming painting” is a take on God that I found amusing, and will likely end up hanging in my office, though I may make another one to sell.
#45 is also thematically aimed at the upcoming painting. This reflects the sensibility of my book of illustrations, “Snapshots of God,” which I might sell online at some point. I currently only sell them at shows because I hate stuffing one envelope at a time. Give me 100 envelopes to stuff, and I’m your guy.
If you really want one, drop me a line and I’ll hook you up.
I don’t normally do requests… unless I’m asked.
I occasionally find myself struggling for something to draw/paint. I find no shame in the occasional block. My daily practice has trained my brain to just find something and do it without asking my “editing brain” if it’s a good idea. Or my “choosing brain.” I find it hard to make choices.
So on this day, I asked Facebook At Large to suggest a subject. “Lon Chaney.” The next suggestion, “A Watermelon.” And third, “A bullfrog.” All three are things I could get better at rendering, so I went on a crash course.
I am still trying to figure out this thing called watercolor, and will be for a while. I do enjoy some of the subtleties that are guided by the artist’s hand but some of is left to entropy. Guided entropy, I guess.
The second one, #41, is just a study, an admission that I am not very knowledgeable at that extremely important aspect of illustration: Perspective. The first step it to admit you havea problem :0).
And #42 is the second in a series. I wanted to create a painting that requires a little warm-up. Part of that is learning how to get certain effects. I’m not entirely happy with the results here, but it’s like going to the gym. You don’t always get results on the first visit. But I know I can.
And you can, too. What are you putting off improving because the first time you tried, you got discouraged from your lack of professional skill on your first try?
I’m behind on my blogging by nearly two months, so I’m strategizing a solution to catch up. I can put it off longer, decide not to continue, or just f**ing do it.
On the plus side, I have been sticking to my guns, doing my #ALittleArtEveryDay #365Project, every day since July 19, 2016, but I have had roadblocks to getting the blogging done about it. So I’m endeavoring to double and triple up on the images per blog post, to see if I can tie a block of them together with a unifying concept. This group is from August 26-26, which was just a week before bringing my “God: The One Man Show” to the New York Clown Theatre Festival, so my mind was running wild in that vein.
Since my original idea with this 365 project was to “do a little art every day, to see what develops,” I do from time to time try to illustrate something I feel I’m not very experienced at. I’ve shied away from drawing things, or learned to “fudge” things to make them look recognizable, since photorealism is so bothersome. Nobody can tell you that you drew a stick figure goat wrong.
In any case, one of the prominent items on God’s “to do” list in the show is to create goats (and gravel). I have never sat down and said, “I’m going to learn animal anatomy.” Convergence of ideas, so here. Here’s a goat. Like the God in my show, I have created … GOAT! (scroll down for more bloggishness)
38 Ding Dong
I have always kind of wondered about the relationship of God and Lucifer. I mean, they once were friends. They had a spat. God never forgave him. I’m sure that’d be kind of tough for both of them, evidenced by the 6,000 year silent feud, only broken once by a wager over poor Job.
If I were Lucifer, I’d probably occasionally do something passive-aggressive as is illustrated below. It was fun making the Pearly Gates.
Going along with the “God” theme, though “Satan” or “the devil” never appear in the show.
39. The Universe (1)
What says, “God” more than amorphous, undulating nebulae, billions of light years away? Really, I was just playing with watercolors. I find them to be aggravating and a hell of a lot of fun. I did intend to paint the Universe on a 5″x9″ piece of watercolor paper, but personally, I’m not entirely pleased with this first attempt. Many people have offered positive feedback. It’s somewhat frustrating as an artist to find people resonating with things I really don’t like. Not that I hate this one; I just don’t love it like some people seem to. I have learned to just smile and say, “I’m glad you find enjoyment from my art.” It’s a tough lesson to learn.
More calibrating my brain for my New York run as God. I do feel that playing with the visual concepts does help me better embody the character.
(I’ll get back to posting about my visual art soon. Been a busy month.)
An NBC reporter, referred by a friend in the business called asked me one question: Is this current strange wave of clown hysteria directly hurting your bottom line?”
I responded that for me, the answer is “no, as I don’t advertise myself as a clown, but I am one. This problem, however has a much bigger scope than my income this month vs. last month, but rather a growing trend in this country, which has been hurting the image of our art form, in the USA, for decades.”
I would have also mentioned there are different types of clowns. Not like the “Auguste, Whiteface and Character,” which any reporter on clowns should know of before calling me. By “different types of clowns,” I mean very different types of performers who call themselves clowns. Just as one can Paint by Numbers or illustrate the Creation of the Universe on a chapel ceiling, Clown is a complex profession for such a simple, Germanic word.
I might have touched on the sadness I feel for our society as a whole; a piece of childhood is lost as children have less access to this memory touchstone to symbolize their youthful wonder and joy. This is a sense of play we grow out of as we mature and spend our whole lives wishing we could recapture. Clowns, really good clowns, can bring that to you.
I would have mentioned how in the 30 years I’ve practiced, studied, wrote and produced three very different theatrical clown shows*, I have changed styles a few times and my definition of “clown” has changed, adjusted and expanded far beyond my Dunning-Kruger inspired first-year definition. I would have mentioned there have been clowns on Broadway, in movies, on TV, and you loved them, and YOU NEVER KNEW THEY WERE CLOWNS!!!”
So yeah; that is what I wanted to say. But before I could get started on information that I think would add necessary nuance to an obviously sensationalized story, he said, “So, you’re sure you haven’t lost any business… [person who referred me to you] said they’d lost a lot of business.”
I said, “No, not currently but I –”
“Thank you, goodbye.”
I have to learn to be more a politician and get in my talking points before I answer their question.
* (OK, I co-wrote and co-produced two of the three with my very talented partners. But I like to think my input was *ahem* useful.)
Day 36/365. FML. Not a commentary; just busy relaunching a show in Brooklyn NY a couple of weeks from now and don’t have the time and brainspace to do a pretty pretty picture. So back to my ink-first quickie-simple style which fills so many sketchbooks.
In doing so, I find the pleasure of the simplicity of communicating an idea with as few lines as possible. I find that penciling first makes the playground the paper, but with ink first, most of the work takes place in my head, as erasing is not an option.
On the one hand, I can make a bolder statement with a more complex idea by drawing it out first, then laying the indelible ink (and colors) on afterwards; on the other hand, the more simple image that was thought out first has the more iconic feel.
I guess it’s similar to music: you can painstakingly write out your notes and create some amazing stuff, or you can internalize your scales, open yourself up to improvisation, and play Jazz. it makes sense in words, but I’m not sure a viewer will immediately look at this image and think, “Jazz.” (Interestingly, R. Crumb, known for not using pencil, is also a great Jazz aficionado.)
Or maybe it’s more like juggling fire torches: you practice with them unlit. You can do much more crazy things when they’re not lit, to experiment and find your parameters. That way, when you light them, you can do less crazy things, but operating in a lower threshold of difficulty to please an audience while not causing a disaster. Ink first can be one stroke away from disaster.
Because I didn’t like the original background, I drew a new one onto a different sheet and spliced the two images together digitally, and decided to color by computer. It’s actually more fun to color by hand, I am finding. The allure of the “undo” makes you sloppy. I got aggravated after a while. I’m clearly out of practice with coloring in photoshop. Photons behave very differently from waterborne pigments on textile.
Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I really like the feel of Nature. I’ll do digital art, but a stylus on glass is missing that drag of the pencil, or brush across the texture of the paper, canvas, or board. One thing that bothers me about acrylic paints is it’s really just air-dried plastic. Of course, that means your art won’t biodegrade, and maybe that’s a good thing.
I really miss the organic feel of the watercolors. Funny; I’ve done so much computer-colored work in the past because it’s “more versatile,” but it’s amazing how old school brush and pigment just … is easier, and it feels more real. It would probably help if I pulled out my Wacom tablet, but still, ugh — it just feels unnatural. (Get off my laaaawn!)
Again with the boring mechanical lines that I hate because I don’t feel competent at them. No way to get good but to do it. Over and freaking over. Sigh.
It’s funny how as I depict many things, I have the “forest for the trees” effect; “it doesn’t look right … it doesn’t look right… this will never work… and then, standing back … hey; it worked! I guess it often feels that way in the middle of creating something, or doing life changes: You feel like it’s all wrong and you’re making no progress, then look back, and, “hey; it worked!”
There’s still a few things that bother me about this one, but it’s just a rough sketch. I made a number of mistakes, but I figure that makes it look more organic — more real. The final work will also likely be flawed, but hopefully less glaring flaws (to me).
The commission I plan to evolve over the next week. Still learning some watercolor techniques and am producing a show for God, in New York, this September, so I may get behind schedule. I also still have to figure out the size the end product will be.
I really wanted to do another thing, but at the point of the evening where I was about to set pen to paper, I realized just how tired I was. I really need to start this stuff earlier in the day. Of course, in the quiet of the night is really my favorite time to create. The stillness of the world around me is crucial to finding those crevices of the imagination where the ideas lurk.
Reverting to a much more minimalistic style, I was able to convey my exact state of mind yet still appease the seductive pillow-goddess.
Day 31. Truck.
I’ve never felt competent at drawing machinery, preferring organic, natural characters to the cold, repetitive lines of machine-made objects. I thought I’d step out of my comfort zone a bit. Still, I had to put a person in there somewhere, otherwise the art tells no story.
I chose brush and ink because color can distract from a whole lot of structural errors. I wanted to be able to focus on the bones so I can see the half dozen or so problems with this, but I think at least my style shows through, despite there being (almost) no creatures involved.