Tag Archives: pixel painting

A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century

I finished 4 more collages in the series A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century in which I collage select paintings from the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research into images of fancy homes. I wrote about it here.

AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (Brighter Future) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (The Death of Lee) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (The Hindenburg) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research AAPRS Ideal Model Home for Living in the 21st Century (Wavy Davy) By Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle: The Trinity Test, 1945, Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940, The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937 and The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, November 24th, 1963

Last night I shot photographs of The Trinity Test, 1945, Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940 and The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937. The first one in this series, A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle, was The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, November 24th, 1963. Each one is 24″x32″ and Acrylic on Canvas. This is what I wrote about them in a previous post.

They all deal with the advancements of technology in the last century and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence as seen through the photograph as media. The themes that are addressed in these paintings fall right in line with the progression of Modernism and its inevitable catastrophic failure.

Here they all are individually and the last two images show them all together as they would be scene on a wall either in a grid or lined up.

The Trinity Test, 1945 By Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940 By Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937 By Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchPixel Paintings All Together 2

Pixel Paintings All Together

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

Today I finished Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. I didn’t keep track of when I started but I think it took about a month to finish, which is pretty fast. When all was said and done I painted 2832 half inch squares. It should have been 2880 but the panel that I made wasn’t quite wide enough so I compensated by elongating the width of some of the columns and shortening the amount of pixels from 60 to 59 across the width of the painting. Luckily I caught this glitch about a third of the way through and shortened the original reference photo by one pixel before reeking havoc on the composition. In the end I made a few changes to the painting that were different from the photo so that it would look a little better in its final form. First of all I darkened the highlights on the faces of the figure on the right and the policeman on the left; the camera flash caused distracting bright white areas. I did the same thing to the figure second from the left which pushed him a little farther into the background. I took out a black square from under the left side of the ax, which was caused by the jacket of the man behind it, in order to give the ax blade more definition. I did the same thing on the right ax blade but this time I put in some black squares to give it definition. To do this properly, I photoshopped the original photo that I used, reduced the resolution, allowing the computer to reconfigure the pixels, and then made the necessary changes on the canvas. The last thing I did was to take out a white area at the bottom right of the policeman’s jacket and also blacked in part of his jacket on the top right to make it smooth.

I’m planning on doing another pixel painting sometime soon; something that deals with the atomic bomb. I already have 2 canvas/panels ready to go but the sizes are a little off I think so they may not be usable for this. I’m supposed to be participating in a show in The Hague sometime next year that deals with the theme Ghost Modernism, and thought that the pixel paintings would be really appropriate. They all deal with the advancements of technology in the last century and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence as seen through the photograph as media. The themes that are addressed in these paintings fall right in line with the progression of Modernism and its inevitable catastrophic failure.

Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940 By Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

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October 20, 2012 · 1:43 pm

Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

Here’s a photo I took in the studio of the painting Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. It’s maybe a third of the way done.

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And again, here’s the original photo that it’s based on.

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The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937

Here is another pixel painting that I finished in July of this year. This image is actually one of the first images that I had used when I started the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. The name came from a series of crudely made xerox promotional posters that I did in school all with a slogan, an image and a fake organization. The poster for the Hindenburg said “The Disaster Factor” at the top and on the bottom said Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I don’t remember what the other posters said. I think there were 10 in all. Here’s an image of it:

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I wanted them to be akin to DYI punk posters. Early AAPR promotional material all mimicked this style until I decided to give the operation a slicker and more professional look. At some point I’ll probably post a more concise history of the AAPR and the work that went along with it. Here’s a photo that I took of the Hindenburg painting. It’s called The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937. Below it is a photograph of it in the studio from a slight distance. To the right is the painting The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, 1963.

The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937 Brian Higbee and Asociated Artists for Propaganda Research

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All Memories are Traces of Tears and What Is, From the Light Above, In the Flat Field, Unknown Pleasures and What Should Never Be

Here is another pixel painting that I did in 2010 called All Memories are Traces of Tears (Le Muerta ll: for MZ) that I exhibited at the beginning of 2011 at St. Cecilia’s. The canvas is 24″x84″ and was made using 2.5″ squares this time. The piece is based on Holbein’s well known elongated skull from The Ambassadors which shows a distorted skull at the base of the painting which must be viewed at an angle in order to be fully recognizable. I exhibited the painting on a pedestal that I built, laying it flat on top with the front facing the entrance so that the skull could be fully viewed upon entrance into the space. The pedestal was made 4′ high so that the viewer only needed to crouch down a little bit and turn there head at a slight angle in order to grasp the illusion. All of my pixel paintings are a bit rough in their finish upon close inspection. The reason for this is two fold: The first is that I usually have a lot of pixels to paint and the second is that in order for the illusion to work the viewer must be at a distance so it doesn’t make a difference in the end. I also like the difference between the experience of the painting as it appears rough and slightly unfinished up close and smooth and perfect from a distance. All Memories are Traces of Tears is the only pixel painting that I painted twice in order to smooth out its finish and cover the canvas completely with paint. I knew that people would be viewing the painting up close and I wanted the painting to look “more” finished. I also painted the sides of this piece black because the white sides were distracting when I displayed the piece flat and to make it feel more like an object. Putting it on a pedestal flat almost made it feel like a table at a mortuary and reminded me of Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christpainting.

St. Cecilia’s used to be a nunnery but had fallen into disrepair over the years. I was lucky enough to get my own room and decided to install my paintings so that they would be lit with minimal light, giving the room a quiet and still feeling. I thought that painting on the pedestal was very effect as you entered the room, and had an almost “religious” feeling to it. The title All Memories are Traces of Tears was taken from the beginning of Won Kar Wai’s 2046. La Muerta ll is Death in Spanish and there was an original Le Muerta so this one became the second one. MZ is my friend Mirelle whose mother had recently died and wanted to dedicate the piece to her. I titled the installation, which consisted of 6 paintings, What is and What Should Never Be which is actually a title of a Led Zeppelin song. Here is the work as it appears on the wall and again in its final placement on a pedestal.

In 2009 and 2010 I did 2 pieces that I also included in this exhibition. One is called Unknown Pleasures and the other one is called In the Flat Fields and both are named after albums (Joy Division and Bauhaus). I wanted to see how abstract I could make my paintings using pixels while still making them recognizable. These paintings are 12″x12″ and are made with 144 one inch squares. For these I painted directly on the panels in order to experiment with a smoother finish. The illusion doesn’t quite work at this level of abstraction. I had planned on making more, some with color, but decided that I had achieved what I wanted to know and didn’t need to make any more. Ultimately I needed imagery to make my abstractions from but in the end, thought that the idea was a little hokey. Here they are.

All Memories Are Traces of Tears by Brian HigbeeAll Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be (Installation View) by Brian Higbee All Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be by Brian HigbeeIn the Flat Fields by Brian HigbeeUnknown Pleasures by Brian Higbee

I also included 3 paintings of lights in the exhibition. The main one, which can be see in the photo below, is called From the Light Above from 2009 and is 30″x48″. It is an oil painting and I used a simple traditional painting technique in order to achieve a more traditional effect. This involves using a diluted down light coat of Ultramarine Blue under the areas that are going to be black. The theory is that the human eye will “read” the blue that is under the black, creating a rich and slightly tinted hue. I leave the area that is going to be white (the light) the color of the white primer and paint this area with a titanium white acrylic in order to further make the whiteness “pop” in it’s finished state. I mix my own blacks using Sienna Brown and Ultramarine Blue but it’s important to make sure that I’ve mixed enough because if I don’t it will be impossible to mix the same exact color again and the difference will be seen;I would pretty much have to start over. After the black paint is applied I use an old balled up T-shirt to start tamping the paint in order to eliminate the brush strokes. It’s important not to let the T-shirt get wrinkles in it or it’ll start leaving patterns all over the surface. It’s important to keep restretching the t-shirt. It takes a little while to build up the right tack but once the T-shirt is nicely saturated I start at one end of the canvas and use a light rocking motion in order to cover the entire black surface. It’s also important to do this in the right light so that the effects can be properly seen and mistakes can be eliminated before the surface is dry. Because I paint so thinly my paintings tend to dry within a week or two which is a comfort since wet paintings are a pain to keep clean while they’re still drying. This painting is also stretched over a panel that I made, creating a good resistance for the technique that I described above. When the painting is finished and completely dry, I varnish it with a Matte Golden UVS varnish which will protect it from both light and dirt. Here is what I wrote about it:

From the Light Above represents one of mankind’s greatest inventions, light, and delivers it in one of its cheapest and most efficient form, fluorescent.

Here’s the painting.

From the Light Above by Brian Higbee

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Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940

I’m working on a new pixel painting called Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940. I started it about 2 weeks ago. It’s 24″x30″ and should be finished in about a month or so depending on how diligent I am. The painting will be made using half inch squares which will make it 60 pixels wide by 48 pixels high equalling 2880 squares altogether. It’s part of a series of pixelated black and white paintings that I’ve been working on based on old photos that deal with violence and destruction. The first one I made was back in 2005 for the show “Epicenter City” and shows the first transportable atomic bomb in a suitcase called Davy Crockett. It’s 6′ tall and 8′ wide and is made on 2 canvases. It was made using 6912 one inch squares.

Davy Crockett from Epicenter City by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I make all of my own panels that I then stretch canvas over. This way I can lean on the canvases while I’m working on them. I start by reducing the image down to the specific amount of pixels that I want and griding it out accordingly. I paint these using Golden Acrylics since it will dry faster and I can work without having to worry about smearing anything that I’ve just painted. I have a set of Golden Neutral Gray paints that I use that are numbered from N8 (lightest) to N2 (darkest) excluding Titanium White and Mars Black. I also mix inbetween shades which include 8.75, 8.5, 7.75, 7.5, 6.5, 5.5, 4.5, 3.5 and 2.5. I made a shade chart in case I need help. I start in one corner and start writing numbers in the squares according to what shade of gray they will get. I move the canvas around, filling in sections at a time until I’m finished. Here’s one that I finished earlier this year called The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

I like the idea of pixelating old photographs. At first I wasn’t sure about the significance of it as it relates to my practice or even if it was that interesting of an idea; I’m certainly not the first one to do it. But I like to think of my work as parts for a larger idea that I may or may not understand at the time of their conception which means that the process must be slightly intuitive. On a basic level I enjoy the space that the pixelating creates by establishing a language that is related to both abstraction and “reality based” work. It occupies both spaces at the same time and yet is perceived as one or the other depending on the viewer’s point of view. It’s a visual trick whereas the information is limited by the reduction of resolution and yet our brains, at enough of a distance, will fill in the rest of the information for us in order to complete the picture.

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