Lorem Ipsum… (Part 1: Genesis of an idea)

NOTE: This is the first part in a series of posts documenting the progress of an Art installation I am working on with the working title “Lorem Ipsum…”. Look for other posts about it under the heading Fine Art/Installation Art/Lorem Ipsum in the navigation header above.

"man" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 by J. Thomson, all rights reserved Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet… is a standardized passage of dummy text used since the 16th century by printers and graphic designers in place of actual text, when creating a layout or typeface for example.

As a fine artist and graphic designer, I often use text in my artwork. I like the additional layers of meaning pieces of text can contribute to a painting or collage, but the whole content of the piece never relies on the text alone. Although the line between graphic design and art is sometimes blurred, for me it is a question of what takes precedence in a piece: the text/typography, or the art/graphics. It is the marriage of both that creates the visual content of the pieces I create.
"blame" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson All rights reservedLast week, I was brainstorming for some ideas for a new series of artwork I wanted to create. Continue reading

Text in Art (or, What an unwelcome horse taught me about art)

Horse painting © 1997 J. Thomson, all rights reserved

Ever since my early painting classes as an undergraduate in art school, I have been interested in incorporating text in my work. Using text in contemporary artwork is nothing new, and some artists use text exclusively. I’ve been inspired by the works of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and the Dada collages of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, to name a few artists who used text in some of their artworks. I am intrigued by the possibility of adding additional layers of meaning to a piece through the use of text. Such uses have the potential to support the main idea of a piece, or contradict it; either usage is valid. The use of text in visual artwork can also serve to make the piece more accessible to the general public.  I think of it as a way of giving the viewer another handle to hold onto when grappling with the piece.

One of my early painting professors, Erin Palmer, offered a critique of a text painting I made as an undergraduate by asking whether the painting could be successful if the text wasn’t readable (ie, if it were in another language, or if it were illegible text). Continue reading

Thinking big. Adding zeroes.

"blame" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson All rights reservedOn the (f)utility of labels in my studio practice

My studio practice differs from that of most artists I know in that I don’t simply go into my studio every day (or even every week) and just paint. And when people I’ve just met ask me what I do, the exchange typically goes like this: “I’m an artist.” “Oh really? What kind of pictures do you paint?” “Well, I do paint sometimes, but not exclusively, and when I do, it’s not usually pictures of anything, because I approach a painting as a three-dimensional object, not an illusion of space…” By this point, the person’s eyes are usually glazing over and darting around the room looking for an excuse to get away. Sometimes to save us both the embarrassment, I’ll simply say that I make abstract paintings (which isn’t really true). The typical response is “oh, that’s nice.” Or maybe, “My aunt was an abstract painter. She killed herself though.” Continue reading

Cape Cod Light paintings at Nichols-Berg Gallery through Jan 2012

Cape Cod Light #9 © 2008 J. Thomson All rights reserved

Cape Cod Light #9 by J. Thomson
6″ x 8″ Oil on Canvas

Continue reading

Four little beauties

Cape Cod Light 4x4 © 2009 J. Thomson From the Cape Cod Light series, © 2009 J. Thomson, all rights reserved. Oil on canvas, 4″ x 4″. Continue reading

Glass Bread Slices!

Glass bread slice © J. Thomson

I was a graduate student in the Glass department at Tyler School of Art, 1998-2000. During my first year there, I became interested in the theme of domesticity… and what’s more domestic than bread? Initially I made a sculpture out of wax and clay of an over-sized slice of bread. I lovingly poked each hole in the bread to make a realistic texture. Then I made a mold of it using a plaster-like refractory material in which I poured molten glass from the hot shop. While this worked really well, it was too time consuming and I could only get a single glass piece from each mold (since the glass sticks to the mold material, and has to be broken apart to get the glass out.) And I needed to produce more pieces (per my professors).

So I ended up making a wooden mold—essentially a plank of wood (soaked in water so it didn’t catch fire) with a bread-slice-shaped hole in the middle. For each slice I made, I lined the inside of the cavity with some material for texture, in this case lead shot and sand, and ladled molten glass into the mold. Using this method, I could crank out dozens of them in a single session in the hot studio.

I have to admit that I was looking for ways to make my glass uglier at the time… (I used the term “crunchy”). While all the undergrads, and some of the grad students were concerned with making pretty shiny happy glass, I was an Art student (with a capital A), not a student of crafts. Now I wish I had pushed it further. My hot hop partner A. J. Bocchino was making some beautiful “ugly” pieces, but I couldn’t afford all the copper and metals he was using.

These glass pieces came to light recently because an old friend of mine asked me if I still had any for sale. So I dug out the boxes from the back of my studio, photographed them, and now they’re available for sale again for the first time in more than ten years. $25 each includes shipping anywhere in the USA via USPS Priority Mail. Use the links below to order.

Wheat (sand)     Multigrain (shot)     Combo (sand+shot)

There are two kinds available: “wheat” bread (with a combination of sand and a little lead shot on the surface), and “multigrain” with lots of lead shot. They are just a little bigger than life size (about 6.5″ x 5″ x .5″ thick). The sand and/or shot is not glued to the glass in any way, so expect pieces of it to come off… I’ve seen them displayed on a wall, vertically on a shelf, or laid out horizontally on a table. Just be sure that the sand/lead shot won’t scratch the table surface you put them on.

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New Prints and New Framing Options

Untitled #4 by J. Thomson
Untitled #4 (2011) Digital print of a digitally altered oil on wood panel painting by J. Thomson. Continue reading

My painting won a TBA!

Colorful Painted iPhone 4 Cover (TBA Winner) at The Bindery One of the products I designed as a project for the book I’m writing about Zazzle, and featured in yesterday’s post, won a Today’s Best Award from Zazzle.

The product they chose to receive the award is an iPhone 4 case, decorated with one of my original oil paintings. The same design is also available on many other products in my shops on Zazzle (The Bindery, The Shoe Cobbler, and The Art of Lavaguy.) Check them out!

This is my 13th Today’s Best Award, since I began designing for Zazzle in July 2009. My last win came on August 19, 2011.

Each day, thousands and thousands of new designs appear on Zazzle, the world’s largest Print-On-Demand retailer. And each day, Zazzle hand-picks a few of that day’s best designs (usually around 30, but it varies from day to day) and features them on a page called Today’s Best.

Sneak Preview: Writing a book about Zazzle


Zazzle iPad cover by J. Thomson © 2011 All rights reserved.

This Painted iPad cover is just one of hundreds of products I designed from my original oil painting, available in my Zazzle shops.

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks in the house o’ Lava, as I’ve been writing my little fingers to the bone… Yes! It’s true! I finally started writing (as in typing & layout/graphic design) the book I’ve been thinking about for two years… I’ve made terrific headway (about 135 pages so far) and found an editor to help me along the wily route of publishing. More on that later (much, much later).

What’s it about? In short, it’s a book about Zazzling. That is, using Zazzle to design and print your own…anything. (Well, actually you do the designing, and Zazzle does the printing.) I wished I’d had a book like this when I first started designing for Zazzle more than two years ago. I kept searching the library and book stores for something similar, and nobody has one. Even Amazon doesn’t have any books on the subject. So I did the only thing I could think of: I wrote it myself. It aims to be a very complete, how-to book on how to use Zazzle. It has everything from the very basics, to projects for advanced users. I’m estimating the total page count will be several hundred pages. It is lavishly illustrated throughout. Continue reading

Kirby Vacuum: A personal mythology

Kirby vacuum drawing, © 2000 by J. Thomson. All rights reserved.

Yesterday I embarked on a new series of artwork that I’ve actually been thinking about for many years now (more than 10), based on a “personal mythology” I’ve developed. Using imagery from my past, I am creating multi-layered installations and sculpture/paintings (I love blurring the lines between the two) out of shapes cut from canvas and sewn together. Continue reading