Monday, December 9, 2013

The Last Painting - Natural Resources

Natural Resources, 34" x 49", oil on canvas, 2013.

Yes, this is a reference to Family of Saltimbanques by Picasso, 1905. The German author Rainer Maria Rilke described Picasso's painting as "the ultimate loneliness and isolation of Man in this incomprehensible world, practicing their profession from childhood to death as playthings of an unknown will..." The subjects in Picasso's painting, however, were circus performers representing the isolation of people. Natural Resources is a depiction of ordinary people from different parts of the world (not circus performers) representing an isolation derived from a different contemporary struggle. I almost titled it after Gaugin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Here is a detail:

Here is another detail:

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Solar Powered Car

The obstacles of solar power . . .

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Clowning Around

The art of the clown is more profound than we think; it is neither tragic nor comic. It is the comic mirror of tragedy and the tragic mirror of comedy.
- Andre Suares, Remarques, 1917-1918.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Path to Enlightenment

Nonsense is good only because common sense is so limited.
- George Santayana, "The Comic," 1896.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doodle of the Day - One Sexy Rhino

An inappropriate cartoon for "hump" day...

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Hello Kitty

Here is what your lovable kitty cat does at night...


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Actors Union

For all of you actors out there...

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Doodle of the Day - High in the Sky

In Los Angeles, there are medical marijuana dispensaries all over the place, marked with the common symbol of a green cross:

When I recently boarded an airplane, I was surprised to see the same green cross on an overhead compartment marking the "emergency medical kit":

So, naturally, I made the only logical conclusion:

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Cosmic Pull

Now that the destinies of Heaven and Earth 
have been fixed; 
Trench and canal have been given their proper course;
The banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates
have been established;
What else shall we do?
What else shall we create?
Oh Anunaki, you great gods of the sky, 
what else shall we do?
 - The Assyrian account of the creation of Man, 800 B.C.

Cosmic Pull II, 48" x 36", oil on canvas, 2013.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Act of God

Yesterday I was reviewing a file with old cartoons I created c.2005, and then back-to-back reggae songs happen to play on the radio, two tunes that I happened to listen to over and over around the time I created these exact cartoons. It really seemed like an Act of God.

The songs have nothing to do with the cartoons, but here's the Act of God from c.2005:

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Time Travel

Time Travel, 44" x 32", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013. 

An excerpt from History of Art, H.W. Janson,1964: "[T]he creative process consists of a long series of leaps of the imagination and the artist's attempts to give them form by shaping the material accordingly. The hand tries to carry out the commands of the imagination and hopefully puts down a brush stroke, but the result may not be quite what had been expected, partly because all matter resists the human will, partly because the image in the artist's mind is constantly shifting and changing, so that the commands of the imagination cannot be very precise. . .

"[A]rtistic creation is too subtle and intimate an experience to permit an exact step-by-step description; only the artist himself can observe it fully, but he is so absorbed by it that he has great difficulty explaining it to us. Still, our metaphor of birth comes closer to the truth than would a description of the process in terms of a transfer or projection of the image from the artist's mind, for the making of a work of art is both joyous and painful, replete with surprises, and in no sense mechanical."

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Back To School Sale

It seems there is a "Back To School Sale!" for everything out there...

This doodle was created on a postcard from

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Art, Craft, and Alchemy

"[T]he making of a work of art has little in common with what we ordinarily mean by 'making.' It is a strange and risky business in which the maker never quite knows what he is making until he has actually made it; or, to put it another way, it is a game of find-and-seek in which the seeker is not sure what he is looking for until he has found it. . .

"To the non-artist, it seems hard to believe that this uncertainty, this need-to-take-a-chance, should be the essence of the artist's work. For we all tend to think of 'making' in terms of the craftsman or manufacturer who knows exactly what he wants to produce from the very outset, picks the tools best fitted to his task and is sure of what he is doing at every step. Such 'making' is a two-phase affair: first the craftsman makes a plan, then he acts on it. And because he -- or his customer -- has made all the important decisions in advance, he has to worry only about means, rather than ends, while he carries out his plan. There is thus little risk, but also little adventure, in his handiwork, which as a consequence tends to become routine. It may even be replaced by the mechanical labor of a machine.

"No machine, on the other hand, can replace the artist, for with him conception and execution go hand in hand and are so completely interdependent that he cannot separate the one from the other. Whereas the craftsman only attempts what he knows to be possible, the artist is always driven to attempt the impossible -- or at least the improbable or unimaginable. . .

"The urge to penetrate unknown realms, to achieve something original, may be felt by every one of us now and then; to that extent, we can all fancy ourselves potential artists -- mute inglorious Miltons. What sets the real artist apart is not so much the desire to seek, but that mysterious ability to find which we call talent. . .

"All we can really say about talent is that it must not be confused with aptitude. Aptitude is what the craftsman needs; it means a better-than-average knack for doing something that any ordinary person can do. An aptitude is fairly constant and specific; it can be measured with some success by means of tests which permit us to predict future performance. Creative talent, on the other hand, seems utterly unpredictable; we can spot it only on the basis of past performance. . . 

"Originality, then, is what distinguishes art from craft. We may say, therefore, that it is the yardstick of artistic greatness or importance. Unfortunately, it is also very hard to define; the usual synonyms -- uniqueness, novelty, freshness -- do not help us very much, and the dictionaries tell us only that an original work must not be a copy, reproduction, imitation, or translation. What they fail to point out is that originality is always relative: there is no such thing as a completely original work of art. . . ." H.W. Janson, History of Art, 1964.

The above passage reminds me to strive to create something beyond what we know. The path is infinite, and we as artists must stay on course for as long as our minds remain cognizant. If we should find ourselves following a pre-discovered formula, then we have demoted our yardsticks to measuring simple distances rather than originality. But if we find ourselves in the unknown, we should know that we may be on to something.   

A craftsman laughs at the idea of turning lead into gold, as it is the practice of a foolhardy alchemist, but I think an artist should strive to be more like the latter than the former.   

Cosmic Pull I, 44" x 32", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Bring Your Own Bag

Many grocery stores in Los Angeles County are charging customers for grocery bags if they don't bring their own reusable bags. While this is an environmentally conscious trend to reduce plastics, here's its practical effect on guys like me...

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Close Encounters of Another Kind

The Large Hadron Collider is a high energy particle collider, a tunnel that loops around in a circle about 17 miles in circumference, where opposing atomic particles are set to collide to create enormous patches of energy. The project includes an international team of physicists and engineers, and it supposedly explores deeper the principles of matter, the Big Bang Theory, and origins of the universe. Time travel is thus implied but not stated.

Like computers, televisions, phones, or engines, when many machines are first invented, they are rather large and bulky, and over time certain modifications to the technology allow them to fit in our pockets. Should the Large Hadron Collider one day be mastered, then reduced from a 17 mile circumference to something like a 17 meter circumference, maybe it will become the lifeblood of the infamous saucer.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Birth Control for Men

This doodle doesn't reflect my personal views on the topic, but I was having a drink and overheard two women theorize about birth control...

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Pesticidal Perceptions

Yesterday in the grocery store near Beverly Hills, a woman frowned as she scrutinized the pyramid of apples...

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Gym Burger

Sometimes, if you're on the treadmill, it's better not to have the window view...

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Doodle of the Day - At The Car Dealership

I need to get a new car, and yesterday I went to check things out at the car dealership. I realized that, no matter how good things sounded, something about a dealer with no front teeth is shady...

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Doodle of the Day - One Sexy Monkey, and Friends

When I lived in Syracuse, New York, I drew cartoons for the Daily Orange, the university newspaper. My cartoon was called Inappropriate. Recently, I was going through old boxes of stuff, and I came upon some old newspaper clippings that I kept. I can see how my style and overall conceptual message has evolved over the years, but turn back the clock -- here are a few of my favorite animals, c.2005:

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doodle of the Day - The Contemporary Artist

It humors me the way the word "artist" is applied today. Maybe we should start applying the word "doctor" the same way...

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Doodle of the Day - New Facebook Feature

According to sources, Facebook is set to announce its newest feature: 

The Finger button.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Battle Force of Nature

When I was a kid I loved playing with GiJoes and toy soldiers. I loved playing sports -- anything with head to head competition. I still play ice hockey.

I wonder why, for generations, children have been given toys representing violence, or taught sports symbolic of war. Perhaps it's simply a representation of the primitive struggle to survive.

But I recently listened to a talk by Dr. Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution and professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, about the current condition of the oceans. The level of destruction is frightening, especially the effects from overfishing, sewage, and acidification from pollution in the atmosphere.

One quick example: overfishing and pollution has resulted in the rise of slime. As a result of nutrient pollution from sewage and agriculture, the population of phytoplankton has increased, and continues to increase, because of overfishing of shellfish that once ate phytoplankton. The phytoplankton eventually die of old age and sink to the sea floor where they decay, forming a slime and suffocating all other life such as coral, by using up the oxygen. This has created gigantic "dead zones" around the world now dominated by microbes and jellyfish.

We can sit on cliffs in Malibu, stare at the vast ocean horizon and pacify ourselves by thinking the oceans will always be big enough to sustain us, but this is the equivalent of sweeping our dirt under the rug. If we keep sailing into the sunset, we do not plummet off a flat plane -- the world is round, and humanity has globalized it. And the oceans are not merely a source of food -- they directly affect us on land, by the amount of oxygen in the air or by rising over cities like New Orleans or Miami. 

Continuous economic "growth" is unsustainable, yet I wonder what it will take to make major changes. It raises the question: Are humans inherently destructive?

Battle Force, 32" x 44", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Sword of Damocles

The Sword of Damocles, 48" x 37.5", oil on canvas, 2013.

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Monday, June 3, 2013


The Fall, 24" x 18", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013.

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Doodle of the Day - Confidential Work Product

Have you ever heard a lawyer claim that information is confidential attorney work product? Many of them act like everything they do is like gold or top-secret keys to unlocking a case. Even their lame scraps of paper with scribbles and doodles, lol. Here's a doodle for you...

Thank you for reading about the paintings, sculptures, drawings, works in progress, reviews, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark Novak. To see older blog posts and other doodles, click HERE :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Solitary Figure, 28" x 30", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013.

Friday, May 24, 2013

So What The Hell Is "Fair Use" Anyways?...Patrick Cariou v. Richard Prince...The Saga Continues...

The decision is out: 25 of the 30 artworks by Richard Prince make fair use of Patrick Cariou's photographs. The remaining 5 works were remanded to the District Court to apply the proper legal standard and make a determination whether they also make fair use of Cariou's photos. Such is last month's ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

To recap the debate: internationally renown contemporary artist, Richard Prince, appropriated Cariou's photographs of Rastafarian people (without Cariou's permission) in transforming the photographs into artworks of a different feeling. The District Court (lower court) found Prince (and Gagosian Gallery) liable for infringement of Cariou's copyright interests.  The following image, for example, shows a photograph on the left by Cariou; on the right, Prince's appropriation of it, a work which sold for about a million dollars:

To put it into perspective, imagine that you took a photo of your friend, the man on the left. Then, without your permission (and without any compensation of course), someone used that photo and transformed it into what is depicted on the right, changed the size, and sold it for a million dollars. Copyright infringement or fair use?

Of significance is that the above example is one of the five artworks in which the Circuit Court did not make a determination because I suppose it was too much of a close call. All of the artworks at issue can be seen here: And the Circuit Court's opinion can be found here:

Here are a couple examples of Prince's pieces found to be fair use (the appropriated photographs of women are not Cariou's, and I'm not sure whose they are -- if they're yours maybe you should join this lawsuit):

Whose rights should prevail? I foresee that the Circuit Court's holding is not final, and the case will now (in due time) be heard by the United States Supreme Court.

The purpose of copyright law is "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts . . . ." U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 8. And as the Circuit Court noted, "[C]opyright is not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public...[The] fair use doctrine mediates between the property rights copyright law establishes in creative works, which must be protected up to a point, and the ability of authors, artists, and the rest of us to express them -- or ourselves by reference to the works of others, which must be protected up to a point." (A more incontrovertible example of fair use is me posting images of Prince's work on this blog.)

The concern I have with the Circuit Court's ruling, however, is that the judges themselves concluded what was fair use versus what could be copyright infringement. The Circuit Court heard the case on a review of a summary judgment motion. In the law, a judge may grant summary judgment when there are no disputes of material fact but only disputes regarding issues of law. If there are triable issues of fact (such as a dispute whether a traffic light was red or green), then it is up to a jury to decide.  

In this case, the judges are aware of this, but they state: "Although fair use is a mixed question of law and fact, this court has on numerous occasions resolved fair use determinations at the summary judgment stage where . . . there are no genuine issues of material fact. This case lends itself to that approach.” 

What the Court fails to explain is how "this case lends itself to that approach." While I don't necessarily disagree with the Court's conclusions, the way I see it, this entire case is a dispute of fact. This fair use inquiry rests entirely on aesthetic perceptions, artistic opinion and expertise, conceptual value of the works at issue, and artistic and scientific evaluations of how the copyrighted works were transformed, while relying on testimony of witnesses and experts -- all issues of fact for a jury to decide! Isn't that why there is such a thing as juries? 

One outstanding part of the Circuit Court's opinion, however, is its rejection of the District Court's order that the defendants (Prince, Lawrence Gagosian, and Gagosian Gallery) deliver Prince's artworks to Cariou for their destruction. Even Cariou agreed that destruction of Prince's work would be against the public interest. Good! The very nature of this dispute has made all of the artworks museum-quality stuff.

(Notably, it appears several museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and LACMA, filed amicus briefs offering information as nonparties to the case because of their serious interest in the outcome.)

What remains unfortunate, especially for us artists interested in knowing how far our copyright extends, or how much we may appropriate from others, is that the line remains a giant haze: competent courts, such as the federal district court and circuit court in New York, can completely disagree.

Thank you for reading about the paintings, sculptures, drawings, works in progress, reviews, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark Novak. To see older blog posts and other doodles, click HERE :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Chain of History and Contemporary Competitors

We build upon or improve what has been completed in the past in trying to create something cutting edge and new. This painting is a continuation of my exploration of oil on acrylic sheeting. Similar to my hybrid paintings, it is a tension between painting as an illusion of something and the object of paint as a viscous medium. Aided by the sensitivity of the acrylic sheet, the tension builds through layers and texture:

Without consciously thinking about my influences during the process of painting, I see now that this piece calls upon some artists of the past. Waterfall No. 2, 24" x 18", oil on acrylic sheet, 2013.

In reviewing the chain of history to build something new, it also makes sense to review what others are doing today -- the contemporary "competitors", to say it in a democratic way. A contemporary artist who I find to be creating striking work is Romanian-born Adrian Ghenie. Ghenie is a relatively young artist (b.1977) who has exhibited at Pace Gallery in New York and Mihai Nicodim Gallery in Los Angeles. I appreciate not only the way he incorporates abstraction with figurative, but also his reference to historical and current events.

For example, the following is a portait by Ghenie which reminds me of a painting by artist, Francis Bacon, who in turn referenced a painting by Diego Velazquez. The chain of history exemplified...

Adrian Ghenie, 2009:

Francis Bacon, 1953:

Diego Velazquez, 1650:

Thank you for reading about the paintings, sculptures, drawings, works in progress, reviews, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark Novak. To see older blog posts and other doodles, click HERE :)