Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Recent Paintings, May - October 2017

Three Zombies, September 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, three panels, each 6x18 inches, $165.

The first real painting done after the DC trip, and a suggestion of the new approach applied to figurative works. I want them kept spare as possible, lack identity, and have more attention given to how the paint is applied to the surfaces then suggesting a narrative.

What follows runs in rough chronological order from May through late October 2017. Please note that all prices are for gallery reference only: None of these works are currently for sale, and my hope is to keep them together as a body of work for an exhibit in the spring of 2018.

Dutch Interior, May 2017, 4x7 inches, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood.

Trees and Fungi, August 2017, acrylics on wood, 6x7 inches.

Rain and Mist, August 2017, acrylics on wood, 6x7 inches.

Forest With Rain, August 2017, acrylics on wood, 3x6 inches.

Buildings and Heat (1), August 2017, acrylics on wood, 4x5 inches.

Buildings and Heat (2), August 2017, 5x5 inches.

Street View (1), August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 4x6 inches.

Street View (2), August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 4x6 inches

Babylon in Steel, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on masonite, 12x12 inches.

14th and Florida (1), August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on masonite, 4x8 inches.

Overhead Gridwork, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on luan, 6x8 inches.

Museums and Cathedrals, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on masonite, 5x8 inches.

Chinatown Gate at G, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on masonite, 6x8 inches.

Chair With View, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on masonite, 12x12 inches.

Eclipse Day, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on plywood, 9x32 inches.

Heathaze, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on paper, 16x36 inches.
$295 (unframed), $425 (framed).

Night and Day at the 711, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 5x7 inches.

14th and Florida (Diptych), August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 9x14 inches.

14th and Florida (Tryptic), August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 16x14 inches.

Neon Night, August 2017, acrylics on wood, overall 11x24 inches.

Last Sunset, August 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on luan, 6x6 inches.

Girders and Fog, October 2017, acrylics on masonite, 8x6 inches.

Golf Course Trees, October 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 7x7 inches.

Water Hazard, October 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, overall 18x16 inches.

Sheba's Park (1), October 2017, acrylics on wood, 8 inches.

Sheba's Park (2), October 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 8 inches.

Primordial Accretion Mass, October 2017, acrylics on wood, overall 16x16 inches.

Horizons, October 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, approx. 8x10 inches.

Clark's Reservation (1), October 2015, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 2x6 inches.

Red Fish Ship, October 2015, acrylics and watercolor crayon on wood, 7 inches.

The Utica Swamp, October 2015, acrylics on wood, 6 inches.

BONUS PAINTING: Castle Squonkenstein (1), October 2017, acrylics and watercolor crayon on insulation board, 24x24 inches.

All prices are for gallery reference only -- None of these works are for sale at this time.

"What I Did With My Summer Vacation" by Steve Nyland

Early August getaway to a Fortress of Solitude in the Adirondack Mountains. It rained two of the three days we were there and I loved every minute.

I did find some time to do a little painting with mom and produced three very small, very simple works which suggested directions to pursue once I was able to clear my mind of concern for other people's artwork.

More traveling later in August, taking a picture inside the car with the flash on here and by jove if it isn't totally cool. I will also forever get to joke about how I missed a turn and ended up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Just the name is guaranteed a chuckle.

Enjoying basking in the sun over Washington DC with my crayons melting in the heat, which produced a marvelously unique texture when combined with half congealed 90 degree acrylic gel tar. 
Excuse for the visit was dog sitting, and I produced 23 small to medium paintings over the course of six days. This after not having "painted for real" since January.

The catalytic event: Encountering Thomas Hart Benton's mammoth "Achelous and Hercules" (1947) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which completely blew my mind. Not just for the complex nature and sublime beauty of the composition, but because he had used pretty much exactly the same palette I'd chosen with my melting crayons three days prior. 

Standing there in front of this monster convinced me I was onto something, a feeling I had not enjoyed since conceptualizing the "Fun In Space" exhibit almost a year prior. Knowing inside that this moment was going to lead to something bigger than my wildest dreams or my current capacities. New methods would need to be learned and latent skills honed to a professional sheen. I'm not there yet by a long shot but my confidence in myself as an artist has been restored and it started here. I know what I want to see, and that I am the only artist who can cultivate the vision which germinated during this encounter. 

Have followed up by watching every Italian made "Hercules" type movie at my disposal to better understand the mythos of the character, and eventually conceptualized a worthy narrative response suggested by a passage of music from 1971 by Genesis -- I've begun work on it but am keeping my yap shut until I'm sure it will rule. The artworks which follow are preparatory gestures involving putting new concerns about surfaces & textures in line with the picture-making. I want the paint to have more of a voice as well. My focus at current is to stop forcing my ideas onto the surfaces and allow the images to evolve, like thousands of meteorites glomming together into an accretion mass upon which life might evolve if given the right care.

Yet more of my melted crayon colors. My verdict on the installation?
"One grant well spent."

Utilizing the DC skyline as a study on vertical forms during an incredible afternoon of drawing on the roof. Construction cranes and visualizing the Heathaze blanketing the city became recurring themes in certain efforts.

I also got to meet with Washington DC based Curator & Critic Joan Dare, who took me on a tour of the Smithsonian's new Native American museum just across the street from our nation's Capitol. Above is artist Jenna North's video documentation of the interview and excursion.

Symbiotic thinking.

From the return voyage.

Evaluating the initial results back in mom's dining room in Syracuse.

Click Here for a closer look at them & what came after.

Friday, June 2, 2017

What Are The Space Jockey & Derelict From ALIEN (1979) Non-Canon Answers

They call it the “Space Jockey” because like a horse jockey it wasn’t the “pilot” of the Derelict, it was the individual riding it. The ship itself was alive, and sentient to the degree that a horse is sentient. You did not pilot “her” like an airplane, you guided her like one would a horse with cues or gestures. You spur her on when you want her to go fast and pull back on the reigns when you want her to slow down. But you aren’t flying her, you’re riding her, and the engines are a natural propulsion system like the legs of a horse, only their method of producing motion works in the vacuum of space. The creature/ship evolved that way, and pretty much flies herself following the gestures of its Jockey.

The particular creature/ship that the crew of the Nostromo encounter had been used as a weapons platform by whatever species the Jockey was part of to fight whatever war they were apparently losing. Their home world was a biomechanical world, the life forms which populated it part living organism and part machine. Their tools of war were also biomechanical in nature and they utilized the creature/ships in the same way men utilized horses to further their wars. At some point during their shared evolution the Jockey and its ship would be fused together, one the extension of the other. 

Two living creatures physically fused together: The Jockey and its Ship.

Its function was to drop the alien egg spores into the atmospheres of target planets in whatever ageless war they were waging. The spores would use the local fauna to spawn a legion of hybrid creatures mutated by combing the host DNA with that of the spore creatures (FaceHugger) which would then attack the dominant species, eventually either absorbing or exterminating all other forms of life on the target planet. In theory one spore could be enough to wipe out an entire civilization. They were a doomsday weapon just as capable as annihilating the aggressor as their target.

For reasons unknown to us there was a problem with the cargo on the creature/ship found by the Nostromo crew. Or more accurately, the bomb bay holding the spores and usually quarantined from what would be considered the flight deck was breeched. A spore organism somehow got loose and the Jockey was infected. Realizing its imminent doom, the Jockey set course to purposefully crash the creature/ship into an out of the way solar body in a run-down part of the galaxy that nobody goes to anymore in a valiant but failed bid to contain its highly lethal payload.

The semi-sentient living ship landed itself after the Jockey had perished.

My narrative on what happens actually has the Jockey expiring before the planetfall. It’s intent was to destroy the creature/ship it was riding by flying it into the sun of the planetoid’s solar system, but after expiring the creature/ship landed itself more or less gently on the Planetoid visited by the Nostromo crew centuries later. And devoid of anyone to direct it back into orbit eventually either starved to death or passed away peacefully of old age after its internal systems had run down, becoming the Derelict found in ALIEN.

My reconstructed mission of the Nostromo away party on the surface of LV-421

Think of it as a single seater bomber craft which was alive and its rider having been surgically grafted to direct contact with its navigational controls. By the time the Nostromo crew discovered the remains they were long fossilized, but its cargo of weaponized biological replicating machines below dormant and ready to explode like a rusted old phosgene shell found in a farmer’s field outside of Verdun. All it took was one idiot with a climbing rig and another one dumb enough to be eager to lower themself into the Derelict’s hold and poke about. No wonder the Company chose the Nostromo to re-route.

Kane and Dallas, ALIEN's "Dumb" and "Dumber".

Please be advised that I’m just a painter from Syracuse and NONE of this is derived from ALIEN COVENANT or PROMETHEUS, neither which I have seen. I do not wish my memories of ALIEN sullied by the franchise-oriented retconning they rely upon to suggest another sequel. Greedo didn’t shoot first and I’m not interested in having ALIEN’s legacy messed with either, at least not in my mind’s eye, and you can’t unsee things.

More to come.

ALIEN (1979) Deleted/Unused Planetoid, Derelict, and Space Jockey Footage, June 2017 Update

Original Upload Notes:

Newly created composite of pretty much all the extant Planetoid, Derelict and Space Jockey footage from ALIEN I have at my disposal. Most of the footage seen here was taken from commonly available documentaries about how the film was made combined with sound elements sampled from the Theatrical Print. 

This update for June 2017 features *much* better HD picture quality, adds the “Cutscene” found on the 2003 SE DVD showing the away party entering the Derelict, introduces a few other shots I’d missed the first time through sampling from my source copies, re-works the audio with a somewhat richer “mix” (the synthesizer theme is from “Giger’s Alien”), and blends in a number of production still scans from my collection of ALIEN related media forms. 

Most of the clips are not “cut shots” but test footage, alternate angles, behind the scenes footage, and sequences which were never finished in post-production for the theatrical release. 99% of the footage showing the "finished movie" was also sourced from those documentaries cited: I avoided using the movie itself as much as possible, so this is not to be thought of as a reconstruction of the film.

 Be advised I took a bit of artistic liberty in looping/reversing/flipping a couple of favored sequences, including sound cues treated with effects filters -- Apologies to purists especially for getting Lambert "lost" there at the beginning ... Needed a way to explain why one person was wandering around alone & gave her the Last Word to make up for it.  Also please note that this compilation is **FAR** from definitive as I do not have access to the legendary workprint at this time. There is much more footage to find, and if you have any of it please drop me a line!

Finding the prior edit somewhat hollow I tried to complete a little story arc with this version by including the unused sequence of Ash helping bring in Kane’s stretcher, and the final shot of them blowing off Ripley while happily contaminating the ship & endangering all of human civilization. … And you know, it’s a good thing Dallas was OK with carrying that cumbersome looking climbing rig all the way there like a dumbass or the movie would have been over pretty quick. No wonder the Company picked his ship to re-route.


1) Giger’s Alien (1979, 20th Century Fox Japan VHS)
2) The Alien Legacy (1999, 20th Century Fox Alien Quadrilogy Collection)
3) The Beast Within: The Making of Alien (2003, 20th Century Fox SE DVD)
3) Bonus Content “Cutscene” from the 2003 SE DVD
4) About twenty seconds taken from the Theatrical Print found on the 2003 SE DVD, specifically Kane climbing up the Jockey platform wall & Ripley being blown off during the closing airlock scene.
5) Audio sampled from the Theatrical Print from that same source.
6) Scanned production stills from my collection of Alien-related media forms including some of the marvelous Alien trading card series by Topps.

(I believe there are other clips on certain Out of Print and/or overseas pressed sources which I’d love to track down. If anyone has more Planetoid scenes please give me a shout, we’ll trade up or something.)

This upload is part of a larger conceptual project exploring the influence ALIEN had upon my evolution as a visual artist. The footage will next be added to the relebat sequences from the Theatrical Print along with many other stills I have as an alternative method of “restoring” the Planetoid sequence without accessing a bootleg workprint (though my obsession with the film may see that happen yet) or using CGI generated video game footage. A projection of the “restored” video will then be used in a related art exhibit which may reproduce the Planetoid & Derelict on a smaller scale for viewers to experience for themselves. If we get the grant  :D  

NO INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. For artistic, historic, and demonstration purposes only. Please do not download this or any of my YouTube videos to distribute commercially, either via retail or private vending. They are shared here courtesy of Google for everyone to enjoy. Thank you!

If you like ALIEN and have not done so already *please* obtain your own legally purchased copy using the link to Amazon below or from your favorite movie outlet. It has not aged a day & remains a unique milestone in the development of our culture which shall likely never quite be equaled in our shared lifetimes. And if we keep buying it they may release more deleted or unused footage on subsequent pressings.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Planetoid Project: In Homage to ALIEN (Part One)

“My Little Alien Movie” by Steve Nyland. No blood or gore or scary monsters, and actually if you ask me the fun is over once they get back to the ship. There’s a Making Of video on the Planet stuff below & the story of how the did the scenes is pretty far out. I'm inspired enough after forty years to dare and contemplate making my own small version of it at my studio space in downtown Utica NY, and below is a short video outlining what I have in mind.

They filmed the Planetoid & Derelict scenes at Shepparton Studios in England which was then the largest soundstage in Europe, and literally made a desert planet surface inside of it at enormous expense, with sculpted attributes that echoed some of the forms later seen inside of the alien ship. Legend has it that the original “work print” assembly of the film invest almost an hour of time just on the planet surface, of which maybe twenty in all ended up in the final Theatrical Print. Then reduced even further in the Director’s Cut for pacing concerns & to make room for some of the more spectacular footage which fans had wanted to see. The Alien’s carnage is iconic, what took place on the planet, less so.

My lasting single image of the film will always be of the three space suited human explorers approaching the entry way to HR Giger’s very alien looking ship. That instant contrast between the familiar Apollo Program appearance of the humans juxtaposed against the giant gaping space vagina forms threw me for a loop as a twelve year old. And yes, I had a pretty good idea what the door shapes were based on. Sexual metaphors of a young guy about to enter puberty aside, what the image suggested to me was humans encountering or entering a truly “alien” environment where their normal human controls (radio contact, integrity of their space helmets, the fraying of Lambert’s nerves) would be neutered.

And so it stuck with me when images of the grown mature Alien creature biting people’s heads off became less impressive. The full grown Alien is to me an exercise in design right down to the selection of the artist for his signature creations specifically to give the film its “alien mystique”. It is ALL a massive celebration of art and design, including HR Giger’s Space Jockey creation which is the centerpiece of the whole Planetoid segment. People ask what is the Space Jockey? and I tell them it was a sculpture, the alien craft a gallery, and if they’d sensibly gone back to the ship after seeing it the movie would have been over.

The greatest sculpture ever made, and the only way to see it; 
In a space suit.

Instead they had to go poke down below decks through Kane’s bottomless pit. Good thing Dallas was willing to carry that climbing rig all the way there like a dumbass or the movie would have ended there as well. And what the heck, couldn’t they have rigged a shoulder strap for it? Poor SOB. Just by being willing to carry it Dallas strikes me as being woefully unfit for genuine command, and piloting a space tugboat likely the extent of his ability to do anything right. No wonder the Company chose the Nostromo as the ship to re-route.

Though ultimately the reason to have Kane go down the hole was budgetary: There wasn’t the money or time to have Giger design and build the entire flight deck of the Derelict, just enough to frame his Space Jockey shot. The Egg Silo into which Kane descends is the same set re-redressed with one hell of a badass matte painting blended over the sides of the shot. Kane’s willful idiocy aside, for me the main disappointment of the film has always been that we didn’t get to see Dallas and Lambert fish him out of his doom, presumably fashion their stretcher out of the climbing rig, and drag him back across the planet again without the benefit of lunch.

And by the way, propz to the guy(s) behind the “Everything Wrong With ALIEN in 11 Minutes or Less” for pointing out the glaring plot hole encountered when they do make it back to the airlock. The film sets up Ripley on the bridge as having some sort of master control on the airlock door but Ash pops it open with one push of a button after letting her play Captain for a while. Seems as though his ability to override her control on the bridge might be a liability in two departments: It gives a second person the option of breaking quarantine against protocol, and if she did have the only control what would they do in an emergency if there wasn’t anyone on the bridge to thumb the switch she allegedly had sole control over?

What good is great art if we aren't allowed to make fun of it.

So, the whole return airlock sequence is a contrivance and as such I completely bypassed her role in the matter. Dallas says “Let is in” and Ash obliges. After which my interest in the film takes second seat to those who prioritize the monster: I’m still back on the Planetoid ogling the Space Jockey. For the record I have not seen either PROMETHEUS or ALIEN COVENANT and a fellow devotee who has warned me off doing so lest I want my sense of awe & mystery about the subject sold down the river in a way that’s no better than having Greedo shoot first. No, I will stick with my creaky old 1979 ideas and pursue them as I have in regards to the other franchise films: They don’t matter. ALIEN is a standalone tale for my money, with James Cameron’s ALIENS having some usefulness in giving Ripley’s story more focus. Other than that I’m not interested and gave up on the series before ALIEN3 was even over first time watching it. Enough already.

Speaking of WTF, WTF??

More to follow. Much, much more, and if anyone has any thoughts feel welcome to email me

Monday, March 6, 2017

ALIEN (1979) The Best Movie Ever Made

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database as

It is impossible for me to write an objective review of ALIEN simply because I believe it is not just the best motion picture film ever made, but is a pinnacle of artistic expression that owes its debt to pretty much everything that came before it. The story was a cultural funnel into which it all flowed. The only thing it can be correctly compared to might be the original 1977 release of STAR WARS even though its objectives could not have been more different. It is the most thorough and convincing portrayal of the future ever committed to celluloid. Certainly more convincing than 2001: A SPACE ODDITY, which is too sterile and gleaming. The future will not look like a dentist's office.

The future will be ugly, loud and busy. It will be a retrofitted mess of the past, present and futuristic forms. Like a city which adapts to changing times by modernizing certain parts while still facilitating its old function with its crumbling old infrastructure. If you're curious to see what the future of commercial space travel may look like watch this film. Humans will come and go, we may be tooling about on space craft, we may be crossing vast distances of space, and yes: It stands to reason we will encounter life forms startlingly different than ourselves. Unless we are very lucky it is almost inevitable that like other creatures on this planet they will react to us with fear, hostility or aggression for primal reasons related to territoriality or survival. It is doubtful we will have much in common.

You would have gone back for Jones too. Anyone would have, and that's 
exactly why he is in the movie. Good keeety.

We won't meet these alien life forms by looking for them. We will come across them as we go about our human ways, pressing deeper into the universe while going about our mundane business on the surfaces of worlds never meant to accommodate warm blooded protein and sugar consuming bipedal air breathers. I doubt the aliens we do find will look like HR Giger's creations, but at least in Giger we finally had an artist's vision for a life form that is suitable for the vastness of space. It is infinitely adaptable, roughly taking the form of whatever creature it gestates inside of and born ready-made to thrive in whatever the host's native environment may be. It's a weapon — natural or engineered, doesn't matter — a DNA replicating machine which mimics its host creature so it may corrupt and devour it more efficiently. 

Yeah that's right. Get a real close look at that, dumbass. If it wasn't for this genius
the movie would be over and Jones the Cat could go curl up for ten months.

Here it takes the bastardized form of a man and effortlessly eliminates five human adults inside of 48 hours. It would have infected whatever biosphere it was introduced into, skillfully devouring, replicating, spawning and breeding until a critical mass is reached and all other forms of life in that biosphere would be eliminated in a survival of the fittest test with one inevitable outcome. The only way that its threat would be believable and frightening is if the fictional universe the story takes place in is 100% convincing. ALIEN's is, boasting the most effective production design in the history of cinema, bested only by NASA's Apollo moon landing program. 

We believe in the universe it is set, the people who inhabit it, and the hardware they use to perform the tasks required by their mode of existence. If we were not thoroughly convinced the entire premise would fall like a house of cards. Ridley Scott, Dan O'cannon, Ron Shussett, Ron Cobb, Christopher Foss, H.R. Giger, John Mollo, Roger Dickens, Les Dilley, Brian Johnson, Jerry Goldsmith, Terry Rawlins, and the cast chosen to enact the story all collaborated seamlessly to produce a completely convincing facade telling a tightly plotted story about humans stumbling across an alien life form. Through duplicity and against protocol, the organism is allowed to infect the human biosphere within the Nostromo, and they inevitably discover that the only way to contain the outbreak to their ship is to destroy it. It is a perfect metaphor for the necessary evils of modern life.

The one scene from the movie that actually freaked me out. Good spewage, Hoss.

The film was successful and its dominance of the horror/action movie market spawned an outbreak of similarly themed films, some of which came close to replicating ALIEN's impact on our culture, but none really being able to introduce anything very useful to the premise. Queens laying eggs dumbs the creature down to familiar Terrestrial life patterns. I would prefer to think that the universe holds many surprises about how life thrives that aren't anything like the patterns we are comfortable with. The bug hunt in the first sequel is well done, but whatever success its offspring may have enjoyed all relate back to the singular vision and urgency behind the artistic quest that this film set out to resolve.

My ALIEN collection, dating back to 1979. I was 12 years old when the film came out
and did not even get to see it until an edited ABC broadcast in 1983. By then I already 
knew it by heart from these books. Big one in the middle tells the story in Fotonovel
form with stills of the movie. Would listen to the soundtrack casette & read along.
Missing is the 14 inch Kenner Alien action figure which mom gave away when I  went
off to college  ;[ 

It does so in ways that go beyond the impact of individual scenes. Every film of its kind made since has been influenced by ALIEN in one way or another, and that influence will continue for as long as humans make films. Nobody will ever be able to "undo" its contributions, negate them from our society's palette. You can mix in Predators or A list casts with super-real computer effects, but it will always come back to this film and the startling possibilities it suggested. If it hadn't been done so well we wouldn't still be talking about it, proof that they really did get it right We have only just begun to explore what forms the possibilities suggested by ALIEN may take, and someone someday will get it just as right in their own era's equivalent. 

I hope I'm around to see that happen, maybe even have a hand in making it. Who knows.