"Using Middle America as her muse, Kowch draws the history of a particular place -- invariably rural -- to the surface as it collides with a new reality in layers of metaphor and moodiness. The faces of her women may remind you of characters in a Tim Burton film."
--Steve Parks, Newsday

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! May you all experience joy and happiness in 2008!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Artiste Reinvents Himself Again

It's been a while since I've spent a typical Friday night out at the movies, and when it comes to movies with Johnny Depp in the lead, well, I'm usually one of the ones in line for the midnight release. This is because I know I'm always going to be surprised to see what Depp is going to do next. Sweeney Todd was something else. Putting all the gore and cringing aside, I think the movie was masterfully done. The creative results that arise from the Depp/Burton duo are always bound to be something, and it is proved once again with this film. The scenes, costumes, and cinematography were super, and I especially loved the film's monochromatic color key. And Johnny Depp a singer? Don't know much about singing but it sounded good to me.

I never cease to be amazed by the cool roles Depp chooses, and the level of creativity he brings to each of them. He's a true artist, and I applaud his originality and the fact that when watching him, you're seeing someone who truly loves what they're doing. Such people are inspirational to me as an artist. Check out the movie if you're not too squeamish. For the artistic sake of it, it's really worth it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"No Trespassing"
30" x 24" Acrylic on canvas

This is another painting I recently completed, which deals with the issue of urban sprawl. What prompted me to do it was an article I read on how several rural communities are beginning to band together to fight for land preservation laws. The figure in this work serves as a symbol for those who are in the midst of this battle to keep land free from development. To symbolize this effectively, I settled on the notion of a scarecrow, who, like this being, stands its ground for the sake of protecting the natural treasures around it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Walk Among the Stars. . . The "Cinematic Couture" Exhibition at the Somerset Collection

This past September/October was time spent on an exciting project sponsored by the Somerset Collection, that put on public exhibit over 40 Hollywood costumes worn by such actors as Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, and many more. The costumes were on loan from Cosprop, the London-based company that is one of the leading costumiers for the film industry, specializing in period clothing. The exhibit was gorgeous, and it was an honor to work alongside my friends and peers, sketching these fantastic costumes onsite as the public toured the show over the course of a few weeks. The costumes were works of art in themselves, and it was amazing to actually see them in real life, up close and personal.

With the closing of the show this past October, we were asked to come up with a final piece of work involving the costumes. I ended up choosing the costume worn by Lara Flynn Boyle in the movie, Land of the Blind. I never saw the movie, nor have ever really watched her much as an actress, but this costume was to die for. My goal with this painting was to strictly focus on evoking the elegance of the gown, contrasting its soft, flowing quality with the hard, solid structural elements. I explored fusing some flat, graphic qualities with it as well. Just something to further evoke an ethereal, magical mood. You can visit Cosprop's website at http://www.cosprop.com/ to learn more about them and what they do. You'll be amazed!

(Also see some pics from the exhibition below!)

The painting is 30" x 24," acrylic on canvas

Detail no.2

The costumes. . . .

The long, trailing robe was worn by Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland.
The dress, worn by Emma Thompson in Sense & Sensibility, and the swashbuckler get-up worn by Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Emmy Rossum's gorgeous pink gown from Phantom of the Opera.

Minnie Driver's role as Carlotta, in The Phantom of the Opera.

Amanda, Cara, and I at the opening held for the drawings done from the exhibition.

Nicole Kidman's dress from Portrait of a Lady, and Gwyneth Paltrow's dress from Emma. Also Johnny Depp's tux from Finding Neverland. . . .Ok, so I swooned a little upon seeing his :)

Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller's outfits from Casanova.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Losing Eden"
24" x 20" Acrylic on canvas

This recent piece was actually completed some weeks ago. I finally got around to shooting it digitally, so here it is. This painting is another in my series about ecology/environmental issues, and serves as a metaphor for what humans leave behind in pursuit of expansion. It symbolizes the repressed reality of what is, and the desire to just leave behind what's already destroyed and simply move on. Global warming is moving at an astonishingly scary rate, and yet I hear those who think having record high temperatures is "nice." Many still don't realize that we are beginning to lose the paradise that surrounds us each and every day - our eden - our earth. All hope rests in our hands, and it's up to us to make that hope a reality.

Detail no.2

Monday, November 12, 2007

Digital Montage

This is a digital montage I did in Photoshop using one of my recent paintings, "Blackbirds Are Gathering" (which you can view below in a previous post). To expand on my nature theme, I wanted to create something that fused texure with organic shapes, so I settled on some wood grain surfaces which I masked over the image, and then finished it off by digitally rendering the branches and leaves. I also searched far and wide for a poem about nature that would help illustrate the idea, and ended up settling on Oscar Wilde's "We Are Made One With What We Touch and See."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Native American Heritage Month

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it's no wonder that November has been chosen as the month to celebrate American Indians. I don't have native blood in me, but I never cease to be fascinated by their culture. Just this past summer, I was up in Oscoda, MI, when a local told me and a few others I was with, about the annual Gagaguwon Powwow that was taking place that day. Naturally, we went to check it out, and all I can say is that it was truly an amazing experience. It was so interesting to witness the culture firsthand, and listening to their speeches was a humbling experience.

As a supporter of various causes that surround Native American life today, it's heart-wrenching to see the things those living on the reservations experience in their day-to-day lives. Most of them don't have access to the opportunities many others take for granted, like getting an education. Thanks to various non-profit organizations, such things are slowly becoming more possible, but there is still a long way to go. My respect for the endurance and strong spirit that runs through these people is deep. So, this month I hope all people can take a moment and pay tribute to the first Americans.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We Love You, Kiwi

This week has been, by far, one of the hardest weeks for me. Our little Kiwi - a.k.a "Chi-Chi," to those of us who knew him - passed away this Tuesday after battling a tumor for the past few months. He was the sweetest, smartest, most affectionate little thing I'll ever know, and will forever be one of the most special things that has ever happened to me.

Kiwi came to us a little over five years ago, in August of '02. That month, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly a week short of her 64th birthday. She always loved Punky, my cockatiel, who was the only pet at the time. On her birthday, I was outside when I looked up at the roof and saw Kiwi sitting with his little face peering down at me. I lifted my hand up to him, said "Up, boy" and he just hopped on without a care! Luckily I had a small, unused cage lying around, and got him comfortable enough to go in. He had been my little sunshine ever since. We never knew how old Kiwi really was, but by the way he knew how to do things, talk, and the way he'd always watch over my other two birds like a little daddy, always brought me to the conclusion that he was already a mature, wise little guy when I found him.

Kiwi, my little man, you were a tough fighter to the very end. Playing, chatting, and cussing (he knew every word in the book!) everyday. You were our little comedian and everyone's friend. You were my best friend. How you would yell (and swear) at me if I was ever down in the dumps, lifting me up and making me laugh. How you listened, nodded your little head, and answered me everytime we talked. I couldn't pamper you enough, because you deserved every bit of it. I know you loved your time with us, because during all the hours you spent having free reign of the house, you never looked for a way to leave (and you always posed smiling for the camera!). You have always been my little angel, and now you really are. There will never be another like you. You'll always be mine, little muffin. Grandma gave you to me, and now she'll keep you safe. Fly and be free with her, and come visit me again soon. We all miss you, and will love you forever!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Blackbirds Are Gathering"
24" x 36" Acrylic on canvas

This latest piece is a further exploration of my interest in symbolism, and how to fuse various forms of subject matter to create a cohesive image that ultimately tells a story. My initial idea behind this one expands upon the issue of change - whether it's positive or negative. That is up to the viewer. Some can gain a feeling of freedom, or a feeling of fear, or even sadness. For me, it signals the changes that are taking place in our environment, which, as a result, ultimately brings about change in our lives. For some reason, I have always had a particular love for rural American countrysides since I was a kid. Seeing so many farms going up for sale only to be purchased and turned into parking lots is devastating to me. I used the autumn landscape as a metaphor for nature, and how, as large and powerful as it is, it's beginning to experience a decline. The hill stands tall and wide, but it's no longer green and abundant. I used autumn as a way to form a connection with that concept, since it is that time of year when growth in nature starts coming to an end.

I suppose the human figure can represent whatever the viewer wants it to be. It could stand for those of us who try to hold on to what we have despite what reality we face, or it could represent a certain degree of obliviousness to reality. It could even represent those who remain hopeful despite everyone else giving up and moving on. Whatever you want it to be. One of my major goals is to leave my images open-ended, in order to allow others to form their own interpretations and come to their own conclusions. The title is a literal English translation of an American Indian word for October, that I came across (possibly from the Crow language?? Wish I knew for sure, but I don't. . . Baaxiile liwátxaauk was the phrase). At any rate, I don't think that any other name could be more suitable.
Final value study.

The final sketch for the painting.

Preliminary ideas

Work Currently Showing in Chicago. . .

"The Five Senses: Art and the Written Word" Exhibition

Here are some pics from the opening of the show, "The Five Senses: Art and the Written Word," an international juried exhibition sponsored by the Northbrook Public Library, which is located in the Chicago-metro area. My piece, "The Guests" was selected for the exhibition, giving me the opportunity to visit Chicago. The show opened on Friday, September 29, and paved the way for what I consider one of my most memorable trips. After getting a nice hefty speeding ticket, to getting stuck in Chicago's rush hour on an empty gas tank, to pulling off and nearly getting lost in a rough area of the city, we made it to Northbrook with only 20 minutes to spare before the opening. I thought we'd never make it in time (and we almost didn't!), but thanks to some good humor and hilarious mishaps along the way, we did. The show contained a wide variety of subject matter and approaches to the theme of the "five senses," and made for a great and interesting show. The show runs through October 29, so if you happen to be in the area stop by and check it out. You can visit the online version of the show at their official website HERE.
My brother, Roman, and I at the show.

Me next to my painting.

Jen, one of my good friends who joined Roman and me on this trip, and who frequently poses as the subject for many of my paintings.

The wonderful city of Chicago . . .

We spent the next day in Chicago, strolling up and down Michigan Avenue, and taking in some of the cool art installations in Millenium Park, like The Cloudgate, more informally known as "The Bean," as well as the famous Crown Fountain.
The Bean

I would have to say that The Cloudgate is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It's made of stainless steel plates forged seamlessly together, which creates the mirror-like surface that it has. Awesome.
I think it's high time that I sit down and get caught up on posting here. Lots to show and share as new pieces are being created. I'm also backtracking a bit, and uploading some of the preliminary steps I take to complete a work. So, below, you'll find some process work that was done for my past pieces. Keep checking back throughout the week to see some new things!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

20" x 30" Acrylic on board

I did this portrait of my great-aunt in the quest to focus on evoking a mood, and telling a story through portraiture, as well as just for the sheer pleasure of going back to my photorealism roots. Portraiture has always been one of my first loves, and I always jump at the chance to do it when the opportunity arises. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Guests" - Allegory of the Five Senses SOLD
40" x 30" Acrylic on canvas

Completed this past June, this painting is an addition to my current series of works that symbolically fuse various ideas and subject matter, and is one of my many pieces that serve as a representation of my interest in symbolism. With this particular painting, my aim was to take different subject matter and juxtapose it all in a way that ultimately created a metaphor for the five senses. The task of picking and choosing various elements to put in a painting, and then the challenge of taking those elements and using them in a way that creates a cohesive and believable situation, is an imperative part of my message-making process.

This painting is a further exploration of my goal to create images that speak of various issues without being too overt, because I believe that art has to allow room for viewer interpretation. Many of the visual stories I create are left open-ended, because I wish to encourage interaction from the viewer. Thus, while my works are created with an initial idea behind them, I make sure I execute them in such a way that leaves room for viewers to form their own stories and conclusions. The Guests, I feel, is a good example of the things I consider when working on a piece – though it is, in essence, my own interpretation of the five senses, to another it may be a story about something else, despite the fact that the main idea will always be present.

The final color study for "The Guests."

The final value study.

The finalized version of my initial sketch.

"Beyond the Invisible" - Enigma Triptych
24" x 68" Acrylic on masonite

Detail (single piece, 24" x 18")

Detail no.2 (single piece, 24" x 32")

Detail no.3 (single piece, 24" x 18")

Well, I'm finally sitting down to update this blog, which I've been neglecting for quite a while. Above you will find some new work that I've recently completed, along with some preliminary studies that helped finalize the process. Hope you enjoy, and, as usual, I welcome any feedback that you may have. Thanks!

Friday, February 9, 2007

"Within" - 36" x 24" - Acrylic on canvas

This is a painting I just completed as part of a body of work. From time to time I may post images of these new, longer-term works, as well as works-in-progress. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail. I always welcome comments and feedback :)
I am happy to announce that this piece ended up being accepted into the 2007 Art Kudos International Art Competition and Exhibition. Selections were made from nearly 1500 works of art submitted by 499 artists representing 33 countries. A total of 110 works of art were chosen for the exhibition. You can click here to view it online.

Detail no.2

Detail no.3