Monday, April 24, 2017

What Do Artists Do All Day ?


The Monday "movie" for this week is from another BBC series.  This one is called, What Do Artists Do All Day?  There are about 20 artists in the series with a half hour show dedicated to each one. I haven't watched all of them yet, but I've watched a good portion of them and so far they're all entertaining, informative and fairly interesting. Clearly it's not just one singular day where a camera crew followed around one artist. It's a composite of what they generally do on an average day.
I chose to start the series with Jack Vettriano because that's the video I stumbled on first, then learned it was a whole series.  I've seen his work before, it's very popular on social media. Lots of people post and repost his work all over the place and never seem to give proper credit because I didn't know it was his work until I watched this show. Turns out he doesn't get proper credit in real life either. There are several artists out there who are highly successful with sales yet get no recognition from the establishment. Some of them probably for good reason but there's something about Vettriano's work that I think he should be at least given a little wink and a nudge. His work may not be everyone's cuppa but it seems he should be given respect for the effort he puts into his paintings. He puts a lot of thought in and there's a story behind each one.  That's a lot more effort than some artists do.
If I posted this correctly the second half of the show should automatically begin and the rest of the series will follow.  Some of the shows have sound issues so if it seems like there's no sound just wait it out and it will come. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cats in Hats

Ladies in Hats at the Museum watercolour sketch on white sulphite drawing paper.
Some of my painter friends and I took a road trip to the  St. Louis Art Museum to see the Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade show.  The show is better than I had expected and it was a treat to see the ladies turn up in their fancy hats to help celebrate the show.
Along with the paintings they had hats on display. I'm not sure if the curator is a Twin Peaks fan but this dead owl hat definitely gave me a, the owls are not what they seem, feel. It was a little sad to read just how many birds were killed in order to be stuck on the top of a hat. Here's a link to an article about it if you're interested. 


The hats were fun but keeping an open mind I had to hit up the contemporary wing. Honestly I went to that section just to see the Frank Stella and Wayne Thiebaud, but this Donald Judd sculpture ended up being a lot of fun. (After walking by it three times and rolling my eyes at it.)  I don't think my friend John had as much fun with it but he was a good sport and let me take his picture anyway.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 4: "Drawing by Design" 2005


The movie for this week is the fourth episode of  "The Secret of Drawing".  This one, to me, isn't as good as the previous episodes.  I don't know if it was the wonky camera angles, the interviews or just the subject matter. It seems there's a clear divide between the person who draws with a need for the drawing to actually work as opposed to one who can leave their drawing on a page and let it live there.
However it's a great way to demonstrate the practical uses of drawing.  It was also neat to see how so much of creating can be a collaborative effort. Which got me wondering about the performers at the Cirque du Soleil show. They showed a lot of behind the making of the stage but how much input did they get from the performers? They're fantastic performers but certainly have their limitations, so that would have to go into consideration when building these elaborate sets. Also, that inflatable suit is ace. Won't get you a date to the prom but still. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time

PB&J  8x8" oil on primed panel
Someone said, the simple things in life aren't so simple. That's absolutely true when it comes to painting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One of the simplest things to make and, if you use the correct peanut butter, can be quite delicious. So when I wanted to test out some new brushes and a new panel I finally decided to try painting that simple sandwich.
First off, I tried Rosemary & Co.'s Ultimate brush and instantly fell in love. I prefer to use natural brushes and have been using their Chunking brushes for a couple of years now and thought I'd try the Ultimate. I don't know much about the ins and outs of brush making but as far as brush using, these are fantastic. So far they keep their shape and are responsive to both a delicate touch and a heavy hand. I haven't used them a ton so I can't say anything about how they hold up yet. They're supposed to hold up better than most natural bristles so we'll see how that goes.
Second, I got some Masonite and decided to prime some of the panels with a tinted gesso.  I had some Blick gesso and Liquitex raw sienna acrylic paint and after mixing them together ended up with some sort of a Calamine lotion colour. It was an experiment so I just went with it.  It worked really well for this PB&J because the background in my composition was white.  I think if the primer had been darker it would have been harder to cover up with white paint and if it were white it would be a little confusing with the drawing stage. Either way, I'm happy with the results and can't wait to try them on location to see if the tinted primer works well for that too.
Speaking of painting en plein air...  If you've ever thought you might want to try it but want to be more prepared for some of the challenges that may come your way, try to paint a PB&J sandwich!  I made the sandwich and thought how easy it was going to be to paint it. Then I had to give one of the dogs a bath. So I got half way in to the painting, took a 30 minute break and came back. The sandwich didn't get up and move on me but it did change. The bread was soaking up the jelly and the peanut butter had slid down.  To anyone else it would look exactly the same but to someone painting it, it looked completely different. In this instance it's ok because it's just an experiment, but as a lesson in plein air painting it's a good one for learning the surprises of how your composition can change on you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

In Search of Moebius (BBC 4 Documentary)


Your movie for this week, In Search of Moebius.  If you're not into comic books that's ok, you can still get something from this and perhaps even become a little more interested in comic books. You could be interested in a lot worse things.
The message I love most from this is that you don't have to lock yourself into a style. So many people will try to pin you down and insist you stick to one thing. You have to do it this way all the time. To me that's ridiculous. I can understand it from a commercial aspect. If you're well known for a particular style some people buying and selling your work want it to look like what you're known for. If you're not simply looking for fortune and glory then why limit yourself?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Palette Party

A lot of artists will admit to having an art supply addiction. Looking at most artists' studios it would probably appear as though they need some sort of intervention. Looks can be deceiving though. After much thought I realised I don't really have an art supply addiction, but more of a buyer's regret pile. You know how you can test drive a car? Some salesmen will even let you take it home for a couple of days so you get the idea of how great it would be to have it in your garage. Point is, you get to check out all of the features and see if the vehicle suits you. Not so much with art supplies.  Yes, I have at least a half dozen travel (plein air) easels, but if I had been able to test drive one or two of them first I wouldn't have to keep shuffling them around my work space. So if you're in the same boat there's your defense. 
Sadly it's not a solid defense. Even though I have travel palettes that work really well I still try to find, or build better ones.  Perhaps there are just too many variables with travel and outdoor painting that there will never be a perfect solution.  This first watercolour travel palette was inspired by one that John Preston bought on Etsy. It's made from a FlipNotes and empty makeup tins.  The tins adhere to the case with magnetic tape and I used white enamel paint to make a mixing place.  
This next one I made falls into one of those "variables" of travel. The airport security would have to have a pretty good sense of humour about this. The box is fun, but maybe not a great idea. If you want to test your luck get one for yourself over at BlueQ. This box is deep enough I used regular plastic half and full pans then painted the white enamel paint inside the lid for a mixing spot. 

Since I was stinking up the studio with the white enamel paint I went ahead and fixed my old faithful. This is my original Schmincke watercolour palette that's been through the ringer a few times. It was rusty, stained and you can see where it's been dented. One coat of paint and it's like brand new. See, it's not always necessary to make a new one, but just maintain what you've got. 
If you want to experiment and make your own travel palette your possibilities are pretty much endless. This person made one from a cheap eye shadow set.  This site has a lot of variations as well. It seems as though you can make a travel palette out of just about anything.  Just remember, unless you want a giant stash of travel palettes laying around, to consider your design and what you're using it for. They might be cute and fun but if they don't suit what you're using it for it will just be cute and collecting dust. 
If you're not too busy building your own travel palette check out this nice write up on artist Heidi Annalise. She does tiny plein air oil paintings using an Altoid tin for a palette. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 3: "All In The Mind" 2005


For this week's viewing pleasure, episode three of "The Secret of Drawing: All in the Mind".  This one took a minute for me to get into. The first 20 minutes are a bit "artsy fartsy" for me. That term is great for when you need to describe someone or something that likes to talk about art but knows nothing about it. They throw around a lot of vocabulary to make it sound like they know what they're talking about but it's all just mostly BS.  However, if you can keep an open mind and get beyond all of that it really gets interesting.  In fact, if you're not up for watching the whole show I urge you to skip to the 20 minute mark (or close to it) and watch.  The experiment about how we look at things was eye opening, no pun intended.
The back and forth about how children draw, cave paintings and how trained artists work really raised a lot of questions for me. Just when I thought I had an answer another question would come up.
This quote, about drawing, was particularly interesting to me. "Valued as the medium that reflected man's highest faculty, his sacred, God given ability to reason. It was a visual translation of our rational minds. The ordering of consciousness".  This, is this the road block in so many  people's minds that keep them from trying to draw, or paint?  If you can't draw a tree or a person's face and have it come out looking realistic does this somehow create a fear of being perceived as irrational? I could go on and on about this one.
The one thing I found funny were the cave paintings. One man eluded to the idea that some of the cave paintings may have been done by a person who was what we refer to today as autistic. We have no way of knowing, it's just a theory.  My theory on this is that back in the days of hunting and gathering there surely had to be at least person who wasn't good at their job. What if that one hunter was so bad at their job that when everyone else went to hunt they hid in a cave and painted their prey instead? Can you think of an easier way to capture a deer? Surely there's a Disney movie out there about this, if not...