Final Exhibition!

Last night was the culminating show of the 2017 Creative Pinellas emerging artists, and Creative Pinellas's first event at their new location, at what used to be the Gulf Coast Museum of art. It was a beautiful evening, the art was impeccably hung, and the performances were impactful! I was and am so honored to have been included in such an incredible show.

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One of the challenges I find myself facing at shows is trying to balance my time with people attending the event. Between people I have invited and people attending the show who just want to talk about the work, I sometimes struggle with figuring out the right amount of time to spend on each interaction. It's an interesting dilemma, and one I'm not necessarily upset to have to contend with. But it is certainly a beautiful experience to be surrounded not only by people you love, but also people you don't know who but with whom you can connect over artwork.

In terms of the work, I thought my paintings and drawings came together very nicely, complementing each other in a way I only hoped they would be able to. It's hard sometimes when a body of work has only existed within the confines of the studio, to fully visualize how it will flow when it is finally completed and installed in its show space. And so, every time a body of work makes that transition, the artist can't help but feel slightly trepidatious that the final product may not be as cohesive as it was intended to be. I think it's a good feeling to have, keeping an artist honest, wanting to make every effort to develop works fully and thoughtfully, so as not to disappoint their audience, but most importantly, themselves.

The space was beautiful, the show was powerful, and the love was overwhelming. I want to thank Pinellas Creative for the incredible opportunity, Elizabeth Brincklow for her tireless dedication to us artists, and my mentor Ya La'Ford for her continuous support, advice, and inspiration. This was such an amazing experience!!

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Drop-off day

Friday was drop-off day. And when I say drop-off I mean the day the artists get to unload their hard work into the exhibition space, saying their final goodbyes until the reunion at the opening of the show.

It's a strange day. Simultaneously exciting and terrifying. On one hand, it marks the culmination of months and months of work, but on the other, it means there is no more room for editing or reworking. Everything you drop at the space and leave behind is now in its final form, in theory now acknowledged as "complete." 

Everyone's experience with this is different, but for me, there is almost always a very acute sense of the empty-nest syndrome, in which I find myself missing the works I just dropped off. Maybe this is because I usually hang works that are in purgatory(finished but not yet showing/sold) around my apartment, like my place is a foster home for paintings waiting to find their forever home.

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For this particular show, though, I had to go the extra mile. I couldn't just pile my paintings into the back of my car and just drive over to the Creative Pinellas space. No. That would be WAY too easy. Instead, I decided I needed to make a 6-foot tall painting, which meant I had to bring in the heavy artillery. By heavy artillery I mean, of course, I had to rent a Uhaul. As I have shown more and more as an artist, I've established a solid rapport with the people of Uhaul. I understand their systems, and can usually breeze in and out with little to no stress. Not this time. 

This time(at 7AM) people were standing in a ridiculously long yet cramped line, sweaty, angry, and complaining about the wait, while simultaneously contributing to it. Meanwhile I have a six foot tall painting of myself in my underwear covered in plastic wrap and ready to be loaded up into what looks like a Uhaul prison van. THAT is how you start your day off.

Anyway, I got the Uhaul and made it down to the show space. It was a bustle of activity. People were organizing other artists' work, touching up wall paint, and removing old installations from previous shows. I wish I could tell you I just walked in, dropped the work off, and left, but I didn't. I stood there, arranging and rearranging my work on the wall, making sure it flowed and read in a very specific way. Even now, in retrospect, I feel like I may have made a mistake. Nahhhh.

I finished up, made peace with the decisions I had just made, drove the Uhaul back, picked up my car, and immediately went to the first place I could find that sold beer. Well-deserved.

 

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Almighty Race

I think it's important for artists to always be asking themselves questions. First, it keeps us searching, but it also allows us to discover new potential in our own work, and avenues down which we can travel. As I worked on my series about fatherlessness, I realized that, while I had a very specific idea of what the work was about, my own RACE started to redefine my work for me, from just being about the reality of fatherlessness into work about being black AND fatherless, and the cultural implications of that.

I don't like feeling helpless, and this is a clear example of being powerless in the face of something that seems to be greater than myself, and almost seems to have more agency with my art than even I do.

Why does race function like this? Why is it an inescapable part of our conversation, and an undeniable aspect of an artist's work?

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As I move forward, my investigation has widened. What does it mean to be the other, someone whose very identity(artistic or otherwise) rests on their skin color? And how can I critique this? In a new body of work I am producing, I invoke very specific racial indicators as a way to implicate my viewer and make them aware of the power of the imagery and what it represents. But, how can I be critiquing the institution, and its commodification of race, if I am utilizing the very ideas, imagery, and content, that the allow those conversations to continue?

Alongside the main work, I create little pen-and-ink asides that serve as a counterpoint, perhaps something like my artistic conscience, whispering into my ear making me feel guilty as I toil away, spending hours rendering a tiny Klu Klux Klan hood. This cartoon self-portrait embraces a concept that excites me(and I find highly relevant to the conversation of otherness), the contrast of a highly rendered painting next to a quicker, looser, drawing, both echoing similar(or at least related) thoughts.  Is it hypocritical? Is it necessary? Am I falling right into the hands of the proverbial "they?"

I don't know if there is an answer, at least not yet, but I do know the question keeps me thinking, and subsequently, working.

Threads and themes

Sometimes as we work, and an oeuvre develops, new pieces become informed by old work. In fact, one can argue that a viewer with previous knowledge of an artist's body of work enters an exhibition with an upper-hand on the layman, able to fully appreciate the content. I fully subscribe to this notion. But I think there is something truly incredible about an artist being able to discover new things about their own work, and consequently THEMSELVES, by comparing new work to old, and finding threads.

This happened to me recently. I created a piece responding to a period of time in my life (A particularly calamitous one, actually) and when I stepped back to look at the finished work I was surprised. One- it was a sculpture, which is a medium I am uncomfortable with, and yet can't help but experiment with. But second- there was something there. Something familiar. Upon deeper review and trying to look at the piece objectively, I realized that within this work were aesthetic and conceptual elements I utilize in my regular series of paintings I create. Why is this? How does this happen? Is it a specific way of thinking, or is an individual's artistic journey just us sort of stumbling toward a destination, armed with nothing but technical skill and a backpack full of memory and personality traits that we impart onto everything we touch? 

I didn't document the sculpture well, but it reminded me very directly of one of the paintings I will be including in this emerging artist grant show-

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"The Voyager"

2017

Oil on canvas

 

I have found in myself and my work a fascination with artificially composed and regulated realities, whether they are composed in- or externally. In the piece above I added these themes consciously, but in other works, the ideas crept in organically, which I think is even more interesting. Obviously, when I render these things with purpose, it is a critique, but how can I label it if the inclusion is something I only notice post-production? This is a question I honestly can not answer right now, and im glad that I can't. Because what is art without self-discovery? What is art without a question at its foundation?

 

 

The Studio

I envy the artists who keep an obnoxiously clean studio. Nothing on the floor, papers in color- coded folders, paint tubes neatly hidden away. Maybe envy isn't the right word. Maybe I just wonder what it's like to be like them. Because I certainly don't keep a clean studio. In fact, the best word to use to describe my studio would be chaotic. But I like to think of it as a beautiful, well-loved mess. Anywhere you turn, you're sure to find a paper or two on the floor, a dark, indistinguishable stain, and definitely at least one drawing of a butt or a penis. Maybe it's just the way I think. Maybe it's the space I need to be able to create to my full potential. I don't know, but I know that I love it.

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This is a pretty accurate shot of what my paints used to look like. Very little organization whatsoever, just in a random heap for me to frantically rummage through when I need to find cerulean blue. But recently I developed a new method! By attaching each tube to its own clip, I can then hang the clips from nails or tacks in the wall! And, even though I hate to admit it, it definitely save me time as I work, especially since the clip method made the tubes easier to color-code. You can See what I mean in the following picture.

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So, as you can see on the left, I now have a super-efficient paint organization system. But that's about as far as my organization goes. I think of my mind as a well of inspiration, and since I have so many new ideas forming and circulating at all times, my best bet is to immediately sketch the best ones down as soon as they come. And as soon as I do that, I tack the drawing up wherever I still have room. Sometimes I pull a drawing off the wall and incorporate it into a piece immediately, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes months, and sometimes it just...dies. Never to be seen again. I also keep certain failed works of final art (e.g. the terrible sculpture I made of my face, topped with an awful disco afro wig) to serve as a warning to myself or possibly some retroactive inspiration. Besides the art, there are a good amount of random accessories, ranging from porcelain prince statues to fake mustaches and tiny John Wick action figures.

I guess the best way to think of my studio is just like a concrete version of my mind. Any and all relevant thoughts can be found within its walls, and you're certainly going to find a lot of fart jokes.

Making a painting

Making a painting is a long, terrifying, exhausting, beautiful process. Every brush stroke matters, and every decision you make impacts the final product. But that's the beauty of it. A painting isn't just a work of art, its a tangible representation of a period of decisions made in the artist's life. In representational painting this is a subject rarely discussed, as we(representational painters) are not typically concerned with viewers being able to see the labor, a mindset much more common in more abstract work. That being the case, and since so rarely does one get to see a painting progress step by step, I thought for this post I would document some of the process as I created one of my self-portrait personas from this body of work. 

Step One(ish)

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This is the underpainting. At this point I have put down a base layer of a ground color(in my case burnt sienna), and painted a first layer of my background blue. There was a step before this where the entire canvas was brown, but I forgot to take a picture of it. You can also faintly make out my pencil lines, I physically draw on my canvas before I start painting. Some painters frown on this BUT painting is such a personal process that I firmly believe you have to figure out a practice that makes you feel most comfortable.

Step Two

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I call this my "High/low" stage. I start to render, using browns, my darkest areas. I also begin to texture areas of the painting like hair, that need multiple layers to achieve a denser feel. Once the lowlights are done, I start blasting in early highlights with a solid white, to create a more dimensional map of the piece. Since oil painting is done in layers, each one shows through the next depending on how opaque or transparent your subsequent layers are, adding a nice vibrancy to the finished product.

Step Three

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In this phase I start rendering skin. It looks strange at first, because in contrast with the underpainting it appears lifeless. But like we touched on earlier, painting is a process, and you have to trust the process. At this point I've also laid down a second layer of the background, and the intense drop shadow, creating a nice illusion of depth, and crossing the figure into the three dimensional plane. The magical abilities of paint are always fun to utilize, and I like to use them to add layers of meaning to a work. Ive also painted in the tattoos on my legs. I use the technique of glazing my skin tones OVER completed tattoos, to give them a more faded and natural look.

Step Four

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Getting close to completion now. I lay in more of the hair, touch up the face to add more color and vibrancy, and start tending to smaller details, as well as painting in skin tones around the tattoos on the arm and legs. For this painting I made a conscious decision to leave the shirt relatively flat and dimensionless, to create a nice push-pull between levels of finish within the piece. The last step will be patterning the boxers and doing final small details.

Completion

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The finished product. Standing a striking six feet tall. So, as you can see, each step has its own very specific purpose that it serves to lead up to the final painting. They all build together to form the work, kind of like an artistic voltron. 

 

Check back in soon!!!

Inspiration

This is my father.


I met him when I was 18 years old.

Until that point, this photo was the only image I had of his face. Of course, I idolized him. He was the cool mysterious man in suspenders, casually leaning against the wall, shirt untucked just enough to show his general irreverence, but not enough to look sloppy. He was, for some reason, the man I wanted to grow up to be.

That didn't last long.

I am now 26, and as an adult, I have been able to see my relationship with this person for what it really is, and the complexities of those feelings I decided to translate into art. 

In this body of work, I am investigating fatherlessness, otherness, and stereotypes, and how they impact the idea of self. The subject matter of fatherlessness, of course, speaks to the larger issue of fatherlessness in the Black community. However as the work has developed, I have begun to question whether the work is actually about being black and fatherless, or just about being fatherless, and my race only further classifies it(without me explicitly doing so). For me this raises the important issue of stereotypes, both positive and negative, and how we reject them or adhere to them. I also begin to wonder about what is and isn't “racial” art. Is all my art “racial” regardless of whether or not I am discussing race within the work? And what does it mean for me as an artist if my reality and viewpoint is immediately categorized as the “other” by default?

So, as I explore this through painting, these ideas will be addressed, investigated, and exploited in a series that will be half art-making, and half self-analysis.

More soon.

 

Jacob Troyli

Jake Troyli is an oil painter from St. Petersburg, Florida. A multi-ethnic man, Jake’s work is an examination of the condition and idea of Otherness. Utilizing a graphic style, a meticulous attention to detail, and subtle levity to inform thoughtful subject matter, Jake provides through his work an ongoing investigation of what it means to be the Other, and what happens when the role is shifted.

The series Jake will be debuting for Creative Pinellas is a self-portrait series, focusing on fatherlessness, and the artist’s relationship with his own father. The examination of portraiture as an expressive tool, translation of emotion into personae, and what it means to be a stereotype are all relevant concepts for these particular works.

Jake is a prolific contributor to the local art scene, showing work throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough county, and has recently begun exhibiting in Orlando. He received his BFA from Lincoln Memorial University in 2013, and is currently pursuing his MFA in studio art from the University of South Florida.