Monday, May 22, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 1 (1972)


Your Monday movie this week is episode one in a short series put out by the BBC back in the early 1970s.  I can gladly say that was before my time yet sadly cannot say I didn't escape that horrible fashion era. This first episode wasn't exactly what I had expected but I found it interesting nonetheless.  It focuses on how advances in photography have changed the way we view art.  I need to make a note to see if they've done an updated version of this show because wow, has that technology changed since 1972. One thing that I really considered, after watching, was how a painting can look different out of context. If an altar piece is seen somewhere other than a church does it have the same sort of impact?  Towards the end Berger shows a group of school children a Caravaggio and asked them what they thought of the painting. This was worth watching alone.
The show still left me wondering about how we look at things. For example, when someone urges you to watch a movie in the theatre, in IMAX even, they tell you this because it obviously made them feel a certain way, watching it on a big screen with surround sound that could shake their shoelaces.  It doesn't look and feel the same as watching it on a 32" screen at home. Some paintings, such as altar pieces, were surely meant to be seen in person in the church rather than on a page of a book.  Is it the job of the modern day artist to make work that can be seen on every platform? Should it be a goal? Lots of things to consider here.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Beg Your Pardon

I went painting in the rose garden. Yea, I hope that song is stuck in your head now too. Today I ventured out with one goal in mind, and it was to paint a landscape. I had just done a flower in my yard and I wanted to get out some place where I could do a real landscape, not just an up close and personal one. So upon arriving to my destination the first thing I decide to paint was a flower. What is wrong with me? In all fairness it was a particular shade of pink that I'm not overly confident painting so I decided to challenge myself. I'm not crazy about the end results but it's closer than I thought I would get. I think I must have some sort of a brain block when it comes to certain colours. The rule goes, warm light equals cool shadows. You may not like rules but that one's a good one to follow. So the problem I think I'm having is, if you're painting a warm colour how do you make the shadows cool? It's like having brain freeze without any of the benefits of eating ice cream. 
I eventually moved away from the rose garden and painted something more along the lines of what I originally intended.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Peonies en Plein Air

Peonies 9x12 oil on panel
Have you ever started a painting and then asked yourself, what the hell was I thinking? Don't lie.  Yesterday I was admiring my peonies and today I talked myself into going in the backyard to paint them. At first I was in love with the idea. What better place to plein air paint than in your backyard? Seriously, it was great, I had every tube of paint and paint brush at my disposal. Usually when I go out to paint I try to only take the bare essentials, so I was excited at the thought of being able to go in and grabbing whatever I needed. Turns out I used the same stuff I always use when I plein air paint. At least I had the opportunity though.  
Here's the what the hell was I thinking part.  Painting outdoors is a challenge all on its own so try not to pick a subject that's going to make you want to pull your hair out. To be fair it wasn't the peonies fault, it was the wind that kept blowing them around. A big blossom on a long skinny stem doesn't sit still very long. It's probably like painting a portrait of a two year old and expecting them to sit still for a couple of hours. This was a great lesson in finding the basic shapes and painting fast. You can't be too fussy, you have to observe and be confident in your choices. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The A to Z of Contemporary Art Part : 1


Again, it is much too nice outside to be stuck inside watching movies so this week it's just a short, 30 minute, show. Perhaps watch this on your lunch break but beware, it's funny. We don't want you choking on Cheez-its.
With all of the frustrations that come with "contemporary art" this pokes fun on both sides of the fence. All cheekiness aside it's also informative. Make sure to take notes on the topic of "Artspeak". Out of all of the things in the world of art I think that's the thing that irritates me the most. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Know Your Limits

Road to the Beach 3x10" pastel on paper
A few weeks ago I gave a workshop to about 50 high school students who were interested in learning about pastel.  When the school teacher offered to bring sets of pastels I had a pretty good hunch that she was going to bring sets of Alphacolor soft pastels.  To a lot of pastelists this would seem like a huge setback. How can students learn about the medium with these cheap sets? Well, we all have to start somewhere and I fondly remember them being my first set.
What really amazed me was what they achieved with such few pastels. If you use pastel you're probably in the boat with most who think you can never have too many pastels. Trust me, I could pilot that boat, but I'm starting to question just how many we really need. I decided to challenge myself and use just a handful of colours to do this small landscape.  It wasn't an "Alphacolor challenge" because I did choose several greens, but I did limit myself. 
Only 19 colours which is less than the set of 24 that most of the students were using.  I'm not sure what more I could achieve with more colours.  This little exercise was fun and is really getting me to rethink some things. Is this the first step to overcoming my art supply addiction? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Power of Petite

Look up the definition of the word petite and you may get a laugh, but when it comes to plein air painting I'll take my pint sized paintings over a mural any day. Recently I've been taking an 8x10 sheet of watercolour paper and dividing it up in to four sections. Most days I make it a goal to do all four, but some days it just doesn't work out that way.  It seems to work well for me because I can get several small studies in and if one turns out decent I can go home feeling like I accomplished something. Today fellow plein air painter and friend, Carroll Michalek, invited us to her beautiful home to paint.  I took the opportunity to practice my green on green on green landscapes. Spring/summer in the Midwest can be tough as a good portion of the scenery is green. It's great to look at but hard to paint. 
Mark Twain said something like, if you don't like the weather in the Midwest stick around. The same could be said for the greens. The top study was done around 1PM and this second one was done about 3PM.  As the sun sets the light changes and it all looks different. Just by sticking around I was able to practice my warm greens and cool greens.
 If you're on Instagram you might want to follow @plein_air_forum  They have Tuesday Tips from really great plein air painters. Marc Dalessio suggests you get used to reading weather reports, not just for the temperature and precipitation but for the clouds and wind as they also greatly effect the light. "Colours will be warmer or cooler depending on where the wind is coming from".   

Monday, May 8, 2017

Julian Schnabel / MASTERCLASS Episode 9


It's much too nice outside to be inside watching movies so I chose this one for this week. Just a short, 25 minute, show featuring Julian Schnabel.  His work may not strike your fancy but it's interesting to watch him talk to the young students. It's a nice reminder to just consider all of the possibilities and to take a step back and look at things differently.