Film Project Vol.1 - Bailee

"Aaron Nagel Vol.1, Bailee" A Jamie Heinrich Short. Featuring Bailee Mykell. Cinematography by Jamie Heinrich & Max Ritter.

I have the distinct honor of being featured, (along with fantastic model and recent muse, Bailee)  in a short film series by filmmaker Jamie Heinrich. In progress for months, Jamie documented our reference photo shoot for a new painting, and interviewed Bailee and me about the process. I think it's a really interesting perspective on what goes into the planning stages of a painting, how model and artist interact, and what the process looks like in comparison to the final product. it's a side of things people don't often see, I couldn't be happier with how it came out. can't wait to do more! (also, make sure you watch in HD and fullscreen if you can.)

A huge thank you to Jamie for being so supportive, and of course, to Bailee for being a fantastic model and inspiration.


I took a quick trip down to LA last weekend. I go down every so often to visit buds, but timed this trip so I could catch Sean Cheethams show opening, as well as get in a few photoshoots. a very productive trip; little sleep and much coffee. Sean Cheetham's show at Katherine Cone Gallery was great, quite a bit of work from an artist that I haven't seen much new stuff from the last few years. I particularly liked the smaller work, which is rare for me as I tend to prefer giant oil paintings. my favorites must have been less than 18" or 20" square, and were painted on these little panels with rough unfinished edges. I particularly like how Cheetham's able to get the panel surface to show through so much on certain areas. It creates a really nice contrast between the looser and more finished areas of each piece.

I also had a chance to head over to Orange County and do a photoshoot in my friend Trevor's house. The interior of Trevor's house is all black; walls, furniture, everything. it's fucking great, couldn't have made up a better place to shoot. Also worked with a new model who was fantastic.  I'm still going through the pictures but they're definitely looking like the jump off point for a new series, so I'll likely head down and do even more shooting there within the next few months. I'll post more from the shoot as well as some goofy pictures we all took together soon.


Last friday, I got on a plane and flew from SF to Ft. Lauderdale. The occasion was two-fold: get tattooed in Tampa, and see Jenny Saville's exhibition in West Palm Beach. When I was out this way in December for Art Basel, my friend (and excellent tattooer) Phil Holt mentioned he had just found out that Jenny Saville had around 20 pieces in an obscure museum in West Palm Beach. We're both big fans of her work and hadn't heard a peep about this show, even though it had been up since November. We didn't have time to make it then, but decided we needed to see it before it came down in March. The Norton museum didn't allow photos (super lame), but we managed to sneak as many we could. Like most art, and especially with work of this scale, these things need to be seen in person. if you happen to be in South Florida within the next few months or can make the trip, I highly recommend it.  some really fantastic work.

human added for scale.

these pieces (among many others) were there as well, although I didn't get good shots. here are some from the internets.


On the second day in Miami we hit Art Basel proper, then Pulse and Scope (again) the following day. Here's what that looked like:


First time I'd seen any of Will Cotton's work in person -- very nice stuff.

Definitely one of my favorite representational painters, Tony Curanaj brings the insane detail once again.

I discovered Erik Thor Sandberg on my last visit to Miami. His dark fairytale paintings are incredible...tons of stuff going on in each piece. and dark, without being...well, dark. this one bowed out from the wall (weird), so click for some detail.



as promised: lots of pictures and rambles from Miami. This was my third year in attendance, and it was a great trip -- 4 art fairs, 14 Lara Bars, and very little sleep. more pictures, less words, below.

My new piece "Beacon" at Corey Helford Gallery's booth at Scope. I still don't have a proper pic of this one, so I'll postpone a lengthy explanation, but it's 40" x 58" and took me the better part of two months. Good picture coming soon.

really nice black on black piece from Retna. as a fan of type and fonts, I love that he's made a career of writing gibberish in a great looking made-up language.

an old piece from my friend Masami Teraoka. I love his work from this series.

I discovered Yigal Ozeri two years ago during my first visit to Miami and was happy to see 4 more pieces this year. he makes the most photo-realistic oil paintings i've ever seen...even close up, it's hard to see any painterly texture. these (above) are detail shots from two I particularly liked. oil on paper - gnarly. [I stumbled upon an interesting interview with him here for those so inclined.]

didn't get the artist or name on this one, but I like it. (it's an oil painting, none of that print stuff posted here).

I think I may have posted about this piece from Kent Williams a few months back, but I was happy to see it included in the Corey Helford booth. Having his work hanging within a few feet of mine was an honor, I'm a fan.

a very nice one from Melissa Forman, also shown w/ Corey Helford Gallery. look at that hand!

HUGE portrait from Gottfried Helnwein. This one is definitely painted on top of a print, which I have a real hard time with...but it's pretty rad none the less.

much more very soon.


I saw this painting (above) by Alberto Pasini at the Chicago Art Institute and was reminded how much I admire his work. I'm not usually as attracted to landscapes and cityscapes, but I love his pallet and sense of color. upon closer inspection, those that i've seen in person seem to be executed with the perfect combination of detail and looseness. I'm going to continue to do research on Pasini, and have been loving the work. just thought I'd share, enjoy.


I took a short trip last week to visit family in Chicago. Athough i've been many times, I couldn't pass up the chance for another visit to the Chicago Art Institute. I had a few free hours and made the walk a few miles down Michigan ave in 28 degree weather to say hello.  Entirely worth the chill. It isn't a huge museum, and is probably more associated with its Impressionist exhibits, but they have a great collection of European paintings...which is of course, where I tend to spend my time. (They added a modern art wing since my last visit, which I walked briskly through until I got frustrated...I'll spare you the complaints.) Although I love traipsing around the European Painting wing, i'm really only concerned with visiting two paintings: Ingrés's "Amédée-David, the Comte de Pastoret", and Rembrandt's "Old Man with a Gold Chain".  (I'm sure i've written about these in the past, but as I can obviously revisit, anybody that's been reading this for that long...get's to revisit with me.)

Ingrés's portrait is one of my favorite paintings...period. I love this thing. I had never heard of Ingrés when I first ran into it years ago at the same museum, and it still strikes me as it did then. It's a fairly standard portrait, nothing close to the opulence and grandeur of his portrait of Napoleon (here, which I also love), but its the simplicity I think that draws me in. it's subtle and grand at the same time...and the detail is unreal. [a note: there doesn't seem to be any white paint in the highlights on the sword handle, only stronger yellows -- which is totally something I would do; screwing things up by adding an inappropriate cool color and overdoing the contrast at the same time. noted... thanks Jean]. I generally find it hard to get into portraits who's subjects I don't find particularly attractive, but the lacking aesthetics of mr. sideburns is doubly made up for in the composition, colors, and costume. I spent 20 minutes staring at it again, and walked out entirely inspired. I see some fancy poses and silly costumes in my painting future.

Rembrandt's portrait of an "old man", dressed in who-knows-what, is just a great representation of why Rembrandt, is Rembrandt. This painting was done in 1631! It fucking glows. all eloquence goes out the window when I write/think about Rembrandt...I just don't get it. unlike with Ingrés, I pay a lot less attention to what Rembrandt actually paints (as it's predominantly old guys), and find myself lost in how he paints...or painted. (may as well be inconsistent with my past/present tense here too). the highlight on this dudes metal bib thing is perfect. and the background -- there's nothing going on there, but I still don't get how it looks so good...and I certainly can't execute it in my wildest dreams. it's that fact, and the frenzy his work puts me in, that make me love his paintings so much.

here are some others from the Museum that I really like, some of which I've seen numerous times, some that were brand new to me and my horrible memory. (click for more below)

I'm trying to learn a thing or two from Bouguereau. Specifically, his use of cool colors in flesh tones. I'm working on it.

I had never seen this Sargent, in print or in person, and it was tucked away in a corner as part of the Folk Art collection. really nice study.

I had never seen this one either, and I don't think I've even ever run across Lefebvre, but I really like this piece.  I had to pull an internet photo (above) because they had this painting stacked on top of another...which made it super hard to see. but the figure is done so well. going to have to do some more research on this guy.

look at those feet!! generally my least favorite part about a figure painting (and the figure in general),  but these are amazing! (click to get a larger version).


but I don't have pictures yet. soon! I finally finished the large painting for Corey Helford Gallery that will be heading to Art Basel Miami later this month. It's 40" x 68" and I've spent countless hours this last week figuring out how to transport the thing to the framers in SF, and then onto LA for shipping to Miami. I love painting big, but logistically, it's kind of impractical. Nothing beats the way huge pieces look in a gallery though, something i'm even further convinced of after seeing Gottfried Helnweins's show in San Francisco last week [images below]. holy shit those were some big pieces...and fantastic. These pieces were listed as "oil and acrylic", although I have heard that he sometimes paints directly onto photos printed onto canvas. I couldn't tell in person, which should count for something -- although I have to admit it would be totally disappointing to hear that that's how these in particular were created. Looking at his body of work (and there is a ton of it), it's clear he's an amazing painter and could totally pull off this kind of painting without a direct printout onto the canvas...and surely he has. I can't help it being a factor when I look at his work though...I feel like it shouldn't be. anybody have thoughts on this?

Anyway, I will be renting an SUV from the Oakland Airport Thursday morning (it won't fit in my car), picking up the new painting from the framers in SF, then driving it straight down to Corey Helford Gallery in LA. I plan on hitting some art shows in LA, and I'll do my best to get into some interesting activities so I have something good to write about. Until then, here are some more shots from a varnishing session in September...I love how these look all shiny and saturated for a few hours.


Here is the final portrait I did a few weeks back for Gavin Castleton's new album, "Won Over Frequency". It was a nice change of pace and I'm really happy to have been able to contribute, he's a fantastic musician. I'm sure at some point we will make posters and possibly limited edition prints to go along with the album release and tour, so I'll be sure to post that info for anybody interested.

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This week I'm taking a little time off from my usual stuff and working on some artwork for Gavin Castleton's next album. Gavin is a fantastic musician and is making some of the best and most honest music around today, and it's criminal that he's still relatively under the radar.

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I'm at 35,000 ft. -- on my way back to SFO from Boston. it's Virgin America, so i'm writing this and watching Die Hard, aglow in purple light and surrounded by what looks like a giant flying ipod. It's now been over a week since I painted anything, and I can't wait to get back to it.

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Fantastic artist, Jeremy Lipking, posted this on his Facebook profile today. It's a sort of video essay that aired on the BBC by philosopher Roger Scruton. It was immediately re-posted by a slew of excellent figurative It peaked my interest. The first 2 segments, which i'll embed here, really struck a chord with me (but if you have some time, check 'em all out).

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you are unique! and not alone..

I pulled this from Lola's blog. I'm not sure where she found it, but it's pretty great: 12 Step Recovery Program for Artists

1. Admit that you are powerless over your ARTmaking, and it is the only thing that makes your life manageable.

Many artists describe the feelings they get from making art as an almost spiritual or sexual experience, feeling a complete and total sense of happiness and being at one with the world. Much like the feeling an athlete gets from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. But, instead of it being a fleeting moment, it is a lasting sense satisfaction and contentment. It is what keeps them the sane, wonderful people we love.

2. Believe that ART is a Power, greater than yourself, and can restore you to sanity.

Making art is the way artists create order out of chaos. It is a personal order, that allows them to navigate their way through life. The most positive addiction. When you find yourself cranky or irritable, is it really just because you haven’t allowed yourself quiet time to work?

3. Made a decision to turn yourself and your life over to ART.

The term “frustrated artist” didn’t come out of nowhere. Societal pressures, parental pressures, and sometimes our own need to succeed or fear of failure, keeps a lot of artists from ever realizing their dream. You can’t escape from it forever…eventually, the need to create will overpower whatever rational reasons you have developed to keep yourself from finding the time to make art. The sooner you accept it, the better.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of your ART skills.

There is nothing wrong with being a self taught artist. But, in the same way your vocabulary skills can improve communication skills, so can developing your technique as an artist. The beauty of creativity is it’s never ending quality. Making sure that you are constantly looking, learning and improving your skills as an artist (and that includes keeping up to date with technology) will ensure you are working up to your potential

5. Admit to yourself and one other human being, the importance of ART in your life.

Artists are not capable of “controlling” their work hours. When you are “in the zone” your friends and family accuse you of being preoccupied and/or distant. But, it’s like a switch you can’t turn off. It creeps up on you when you least expect it, and never, ever when you summons it. You need to communicate this to the people in your life that are important to you so they can understand the importance of ART in your life and not take it personally when you are not “present.”

6. Were entirely ready to allow ART to be an important part of your life, but not your entire life.

You may not always have the luxury to work on your art when you want to. Responsibilities of real life get in the way for most artists. But, you can learn to come up with tricks to ease back into a work schedule, when it is absolutely necessary. For example, working on 3-4 things simultaneously. When you get stuck on one, you can easily move into another. Other artists have described the technique of only leaving the studio for the day only when you know exactly what you next move on a particular painting will be when you comes back…something easy, that has already been planned and you won’t have to think about.

7. Humbly promise never to ask anyone “What do you think of my work?”

Admit it. If you’re an artist, there is ALWAYS one question on your mind that you are dying to ask people…”what do you think of my work?” There is no doubt, that as an artist, getting feedback is important. If you’ve read my article Art is a Verb, not a Noun, you already know that I don’t believe any object an artist makes can be called ART until it is out in the real world and has real eyeballs looking at it. A painting that is stored in your garage or under your bed isn’t art until it has the experience of being seen. It is only logical then, to assume that once the work is out there, you want to know how people are reacting to it. But, artists need to be extremely careful how and when they submit to that urge of asking people about their work. Before you even contemplate asking the question, let’s take a moment to think about 3 things: Why are you asking this question? Of whom are you asking this question? How will the answer change your relationship to this person and/or your work?

8. Made a list of all persons affected by your ARTmaking, and be willing to make amends to them.

There is no doubt that artists are wired differently than the rest of us. At times, living with an artist can be difficult. Learning to identify the strategies that will help you move seamlessly in and out of your “normal” life will benefit not only you, but all those around you. Send my article “If you are addicted…” to everyone you love.

9. Made direct amends to such people, whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

It is true, that to some artists, their work is the most important thing in their life…more important than parents, spouse or even kids. It’s not a crime, or something you should feel guilty about. It is a part of who you are as a person…would you ever feel guilty about having blue eyes? But, remember, the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. If you find this is true for you (and not ALL artists do) you must come to grips with that reality yourself, but never admit it to your significant others.

10. Continue to take personal inventory and realize you and your ART are not the only important things in the world.

Artists sometimes need to be forced to step outside their reality. Make sure you are able to separate the art making part of your life and the responsibilities of real life. As much as you may hate it, admit that you need a job, relationships, money, housing and the discipline to manage your art career so you can accomplish those things.

11. Sought through private time in your studio to improve your work, and devote the time necessary to just “look.”

The impulse that fuels creativity is nourished by stillness, time alone. That’s why so many artists find their most productive hours are in the wee hours, when everyone else is asleep. The lack of distractions, is a must for artists to be productive. Resting, thinking, meditating, looking…this is when the creative juices are most actively percolating. And, this is one of the most difficult aspects for non artists to understand.

12. Having accomplished all of the above, tried to carry this message to other artists and those who love them


I have a folder I keep on my computer called "inspirado", where I keep images of anything that may inspire me...from good graphic design to my favorite paintings. If i'm not particularly feeling a piece i'm working on or I just need some motivation, I'll take a look through hundreds of images i've saved and it almost always gets me back on track. I figured that in light of any new work of my own to post (i'm still working away), I'd add some of these here.

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I'm flying somewhere over the middle of the country on my second flight of the day, on my way back to Oakland. my flight from Tampa to Kansas City left at 8am, which meant getting to the airport much earlier for the usual security theater. Phil was nice enough to drive me to the airport shortly after 6am, even though we were both up watching MMA fights and talking art until 2am. we both keep track of art we run into on the internet, so we did some trading. One guy Phil pointed me to that I'm really impressed by is Istvan Sandorfi, a Hungarian painter who apparently just passed away in 2007. There's not too much I can find about him but his work is pretty crazy. his combination of photo realism, and painting textures is unreal.

dos_anne yeux_safi fontaine_des_innocentes

anyway, I slept through the first flight and planned to start my coffee regimen during my short layover in Kansas City. unfortunately though, the Kansas City airport sucks big time, and most likely was designed long before there was such a thing as airport security and the TSA. In order to get from the gate I landed at to the gate I was to take off from, I actually had to leave the "secure area" and go through security all over again. something like every 5 gates or so are in their own little area, so to get anywhere else in the airport you have to jump through the usual hoops as if you left the airport entirely. on top of that, pretty much every shop in the airport is outside of the secure areas, so one cannot buy anything to drink because you can't take it through to the gates...Starbucks included. this makes for an under caffeinated and increasingly grumpy Nagel. I plan on walking straight to the Peets in the Oakland airport before I even get my bag, because Oakland's airport is not stupid like Kansas City's. this post may require a new  blog category called "pathetic complaining".