Friday, December 30, 2016

On the Level

Autumn Evening on the Square 8x10 oil on panel
I'm currently painting my face off in order to have some new paintings for an upcoming solo show. It's coming up very quickly too so I have little time to waste, but sometimes it's important to slow down and breathe. In this case, it was important for me to take a break and look at it again.
Years ago I realised that my easel was not level and that I need to adjust for it. Most of the time I remember to take that into account but lately I've been lax. When I was about 95% done with this painting I took it off the easel and set it aside. When I did I noticed that the bottom of the buildings were slightly slanted upward. I did something similar at a plein air competition this year. I set up on a sidewalk across from my subject and just started painting. After an hour and a half in I moved around and noticed that the sidewalk wasn't level, I was standing at a slant, therefore my windows, doors and steps were all at an angle. I s'pose they could be given as prank gifts to my fellow sufferers of OCD. No matter how straight you get the frame, that painting would still be slanted!
Luckily I fixed the slight angle and remembered to get out my level before I got too far along on the painting I started after this one. Painting isn't as easy as it looks. Then again a lot of us wouldn't do it if it were.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Playing With My Food

Soup and a sandwich 6x8 oil on panel

I've got two solo shows and a handful of group shows coming up in 2017.  This should be exciting news but some of my friends are causing me to feel anxious about it. What are you going to paint? Why aren't you in the studio working? You have a lot to get done. Will you have enough paintings? Good lord, don't give me a complex! I know their questions all come from a good place, they are my friends after all. It's just that their excitement tends to turn to anxiety when I don't have any answers to their questions.
I spent the last two weeks pondering the questions and started to get worried that I wasn't as worried about it as I should be. I paint what I paint but maybe I should be painting something different for these shows. So I spent the last three days doing nothing but trying to decide what to paint.
Besides the shows and all the work that I'm looking forward to next year I'm currently working on another comic book project. So after three days of not being able to decide what to paint I turned my focus back to the script for the book. The process of illustrating a comic book could be compared to herding cats. Things can go in every different direction so you have to prepare for it and have back up plans. For me that means lots of thumbnail sketches and several variations for the same scene. A lot of illustrators will admit that they've experienced some sort of block. What do I draw? How do I handle this action sequence? The only answer that's been 100% useful is to JUST DRAW. Just start scribbling out whatever comes to mind and eventually something will come. The best part is, the time spent on those sketches and scribbles is not time wasted. Any time spent drawing will only strengthen your abilities.
So this morning I woke up with that same question, what am I going to paint? Then I remembered what every good comic book artist knows, just paint something, ANYTHING. My tomato soup and sandwich probably won't make it in to any shows but at least I'm not just sitting around getting rusty while I wait for an idea to fall out of the sky. Plus, who doesn't need practice painting ellipses?

*if you haven't yet perfected the ellipse give this blog a look and see if his tips don't help.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Leonardo da Vinci: "The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything"


The movie for this Monday. I don't know if it's the mood I'm in or if this truly is just hilarious. It's not so much about Leonardo as an artist but as a genius and all he contributed. He really was a thinker and I think what set him apart from just an ordinary "idea man" was that he was able to articulate better than most. He drew sketches and wrote down his thoughts which made his ideas more clear.
What I found hilarious was that hundreds of years later someone thought it would be a good idea, fun even, to try and build his ideas to see if they would really work.  Does anybody else think it would be hilarious to do the same thing now? Sad thing is now you could jokingly throw out an idea for a laugh but someone will come around and take it seriously, sell it and actually make money on it. Can you say Ab-Hancer

Monday, December 19, 2016

Balthus the Painter (1908-2001) documentary [vhs]

Your Monday movie this week is about Balthus Klossowski de Rola. His work is most well known as controversial. Just looking at his work you may get the impression that he was some sort of dirty old man or even a pedophile. In the first seven minutes of the movie he talks about this very topic. Whether you believe what he says is up to you. 
I'm still on the fence, I don't know whether I believe he was some sort of pervert or not but what he says about the critics and art historians is exactly how I feel. They always seem to be reaching and over analysing paintings.  So this raises a question, if the viewer is the one who looks at a painting and sees something inappropriate is it the fault of the painter or the viewer? Is it the viewer's own subconscious mind that's putting these inappropriate thoughts in their head?  OR is it the fault of the painter for putting it out there?  When you put something out there that skates near a controversial issue does that make you an antagonizer, are you simply trying to poke the tiger?  Then you have Balthus saying that it's the adult mind who's looking at his paintings incorrectly. This statement I believe. Adults always find ways to pervert things and children simply look at things with innocent eyes. (As it should be).  
So if a painting was meant to represent one thing but the audience grabs other meaning from it, who's right? This one's tough. It's much like a tweet or a facebook post. Once you put it out there in the public the public will form their opinion and no matter how much back peddling and explaining you do, their mind is already made up. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Drawing From Life's Lessons

Random sketches from one of my many sketchbooks. 
I'm still plugging away on this infamous book that I was supposed to have finished by the end of this year. Sadly I probably won't meet my deadline but I'm farther along than I was at the beginning of the year and I've amassed a great deal of information along the way.
This week I've been reading the book, Drawing from Life by Clint Brown and Cheryl McLean. I picked it up at the Half Price Bookstore. According to the sticker on it it was used as a textbook at Luther College, wherever that is. It struck me as odd, do schools usually have textbooks for art classes? Art classes other than Art History and Art Appreciation that is. From what I've heard from almost everybody who's ever gone to art school, a textbook could greatly enhance the education experience. I know my drawing professor was a huge waste of time and money but I had no choice, she was all there was. She didn't ever teach us anything except bits and pieces of the Japanese alphabet, which is better than nothing I guess.
The book is fairly well written with lots of drawing examples to help explain the text. It even went so far as to define sketch vs. drawing. "To sketch implies quickly conjuring or expressing in rough form the essentials of an idea or subject, without a great deal of refinement."  "Drawing is an evolutionary process that includes beginning, defining, and refining stages.  These stages and their sequence are rarely apparent in a highly finished work."
It goes on to explain how most artists keep their exploratory sketches for their eyes only.  "Historians have discovered that Michelangelo Buonarroti actually destroyed many of his rough sketches and working drawings, preferring the world not know how arduously he had labored in the development of some of his ideas."
I can certainly understand the magician not wanting to show everyone how he does his tricks but we all know the magician doesn't take the stage without practicing their act.
Edward Hopper sketches from Drawing from Life. 
For me, I'm extremely grateful that not everyone destroyed their sketches.  "Serious artists have used quick sketches and gesture or action drawings for a long time and for a variety of reasons. Sketches can hold a wealth of information and are often full of life."  "Changes are common, even for the old masters, and a sketch is often only a beginning, the start of an investigation, a visual not to be amplified and developed further,"

Monday, December 12, 2016

COOL SCHOOL

Your movie for this Monday. I'm not going to leave too much of my own commentary, I'm going to wait and see what you all think. The one thing I will say is that it made me think about a lot of things. Keep an open mind and enjoy. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

More Gift Giving Ideas

With only a couple of weeks to get your shopping done you might feel desperate and get your artist friend/family member a really crappy gift. Again, we all know it's the thought that counts, but make sure you actually put some thought into it. 
This mug is both clever and useful, something most artists would want. Every painter I know has, at one time or another, dipped their paintbrush into their coffee or tea. This mug has no guarantees of actually preventing that from happening but it's still fun and useful. You can find them on etsy and Amazon and again, if you're creative you can make one. 
All Prima II Everything I Know About Painting and More
You have to be careful when you buy books for people. They can take it the wrong way. One year my oven broke and someone gave me a cookbook with recipes for cookies. I thought they were trying to be funny but they were just a big a-hole because even after I gave my, ha ha very funny speech, they turned around and got offended because I didn't appreciate their gift that I actually couldn't use. I don't talk to that person anymore. If anyone should get offended after being gifted this book then you shouldn't talk to them anymore either. OK, maybe not but it's a wonderful book that any painter would be lucky to have in their library. It's quite a bit more than the coffee mug but admit it, your painter friends are worth it. 

Some people think socks are a horrible gift and those people would be very wrong. If you give someone socks and they get upset just have them send them to me.  These are fun socks and very affordable. There are a few choices and they all depict a famous painting. These are available on Amazon.  Check around you can find other brands with other paintings too. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Andy Warhol - The Complete Picture

I waited awhile to share this one because it's so long. I figure the weather is more suitable to sit inside and watch a three hour movie about Andy Warhol. 
Warhol's work is pretty controversial and he opened the door for a lot of the artists on the scene today.  If it makes you angry that he took an everyday object, like a box of brillo pads, and turned it into a work of art I think that was the point. 
What I enjoy most about Warhol is that he was a worker. He was always doing something, always working and trying things. 
A lot of his more famous works will make people question whether or not he was a "real artist" or just someone who copied stuff and made it look like art, but I doubt anyone could disagree that he was a visionary. Sometimes I wonder though, would his work be as popular if he was just a regular guy?  It's rare that I look at a Warhol and don't envision the white hair and soft spoken man alongside it. If I knew nothing about Warhol would I look at his work the same way?  If you knew nothing about Warhol and saw his screen print of a can of soup would you consider it a piece or art or just an advertisement for your next meal? 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pastels and Preliminaries

Irises 8x10 pastel on paper
It's been far too long since I've done anything in pastel. Lately it's been oil. watercolour and lots of charcoal and conté crayon. It was like spending time with an old friend. My dusty, messy old friend.
Lately I've been on this, try something different kick. I blame it all on my friend John. He made a comment earlier in the year, referring to something as being "in my wheel house".  He wasn't being mean he was simply stating that the subject matter was what I normally gravitate towards. After he said it I immediately thought, crap, I must be getting stale, or too predictable. After that I started choosing subject matter that was not in my "wheel house".  I'm glad he said it because I've been having quite the adventure trying out new things. Don't get the wrong idea, I totally go back to that same subject matter that I feel safe with but now I'm just adding a few new things in here and there to try them out.
Another thing I've been trying out is doing several preliminary sketches before committing to a composition. Before I would usually just do a value study to work from. It serves the purpose for both the correct values and composition. This new system of doing sketches usually doesn't take that long and they're a great warm up.  I gave myself permission to do these extra sketches after one day when I couldn't decide which shirt to wear.  If I can drag out 10 shirts, try on each one, maybe more than once, before making a decision, I can certainly put forth that time and effort into trying out compositions. Honestly I could have told you how much time I waste trying to beat the bad guy in video games but I thought the shirt thing would be more relatable.
In this picture you can see the three different charcoal sketches I did for the pastel up above. The choice was tough but much like the shirts, sometimes you just have to put one on, walk out the door and be confident with your final choice.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Gift Giving Guide


Welcome to the season of, what the hell do I buy that person? This is probably why people are so cranky and stressed out this time of year, they have too much anxiety about whether or not they're buying the right gift. Most of the time any gift is the right gift, as long as you put some thought into it.  Seriously, one year I got a bird feeder for Christmas. I was in college and had no use for a bird feeder, nor the extra cash flow to buy bird seed to keep it filled. It was a crappy gift and I can say that because I know the person put zero thought into it, they just grabbed something off the shelf and wrapped it up.
Hopefully I can pass along some good gift giving advice for those of you who don't know what to buy your artist friend/family member this year. You may already know that a gift card to Blick, Jerry's Artarma, Cheap Joe's or any other outlet that sells art supplies will do just fine. I don't know anyone who would complain about such a gift, however it's sometimes nice to actually open a gift. Especially since most artists will use the gift card for stuff they need, not what they want. Which is great too, but if you're trying to support them in that way just buy some of their work.
Up first is the Lomography Konstruktor Do-It-Yourself 35 mm SLR camera. The one pictured above is mine, I just put it together on Monday and it really works. It took two hours and dare I say it was fun?  It was fun, but photography is my hobby so I really got a kick out of it. It takes film so maybe you'd want to buy a couple of rolls to go with it. Any photo enthusiast should enojy it and even if they don't use it all of the time they can still feel accomplished in that they built their own camera. At under $40 it's an economical gift too.

Next up is the Winsor&Newton Cotman Brush Pen Set. Even if you're shopping for an oil painter or a sculptor, this is still a good and valuable gift. They're so handy for traveling and doing sketches. There are several sets out there that are similar to this one but this is the first I've seen that comes with a brush pen. The brush pen is extremely handy for traveling and sketching while out and about.  The brush pen holds the water so there's no worry of spilling. I've used them on planes and trains and they work wonderfully. Before I even knew how to actually paint with watercolours I bought a travel set similar to this so I could add colour to some of my sketches.The nice thing about this set is that the pans pop out and can be replaced with different paint.  It does come with a decent selection of paints to begin with but some people have their preferences. At around $30 it's a great gift to give anybody really. Even your friends who are crafty and like to dabble in different things. Heck, buy one for yourself and give it a try. 
Sketchbooks. Everyone can use a sketchbook.  Artists, writers, and anyone who needs a place to put down ideas. If you're up for the challenge you could even make your own and show that you truly put some effort into your gift. If you're running low on time you can buy one. The nice thing about sketchbooks is an endless variety and even better there are some that you can buy that will give part of the proceeds to charity. Humanity del Sol gives back 15-80% on their products. We Are Bound Together is another place to buy sketchbooks that donate proceeds to charity. If you do some searching you can probably find more. Both of these places have reasonably priced sketchbooks in a variety of sizes and styles. 
When all else fails, you can never go wrong with this one. OK, maybe that's just if you're shopping for me.
I'll post more ideas later. It's only December first, I'll save some ideas for those of you who enjoy the adrenaline rush of last minute shopping. 


Monday, November 28, 2016

British Masters - We Are Making a New World (Episode One)

As I began to watch this one I thought, this is awfully depressing to be watching on such a gloomy day but I ended up getting a lot out of it. This deals mostly with how war affected the British artists and how it shaped their views and their work and how it in turn helped shape the world around them.
The first thing I thought was, this really makes me feel like I'm not doing enough with my own work. My paintings don't really depict any of the hardships that people are going through today. Should artists be more mindful to include current social situations into their work? Personally I think some artists just have a better voice for those sorts of things. Photographers and videographers definitely have an upper hand on this topic these days.
Second thing that struck me was the artist Nevinson. I actually liked his work that they showed but his story was funny, it reminded me of some people I know, lying about their reality in order to get a wee bit of attention. For Nevinson it worked, but man, doesn't it get to be tiresome to lie all of the time?
Last thing I thought was interesting about the work they showed, it wasn't realistic. It was mostly work about the war, depicted in a way to evoke emotion, not something that was meant to be historically accurate. I think it's impossible to be historically accurate about war. Each side has their version of the story and then the people who witness it and aren't involved, they all have their own way of looking at it.
The title of the show, We Are Making a New World, is true in so many ways. The war created a new world and the artists were also creating a new world of their own.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Manymini Show


If you're in the St. Louis area, or need an excuse to be in the area, the Manymini show continues and this Friday they will have an opportunity to view the show, buy some work, drink champagne and enter to win some amazing work. Unfortunately I won't be there as I'll be freezing my toes off at the last plein air competition for 2016 (last for me anyway).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Plein, Plain or Plane

Toy Plane 3"x 5" watercolour on paper
If you grew up learning the English language consider yourself lucky because it's a hard language to learn. For example, this plain little plane was on a plane en plein air. That last part was French but you get it.
The last two weeks I haven't had much time to travel for plein air painting. I've been sticking around my neck of the woods for one reason or another. And with the weather turning colder and the daylight hours getting shorter it means I only get a good couple of hours outdoors. This also means I'm spending more time indoors in the studio.(I really hope this isn't a long winter).
Here are some things I've noticed about painting outdoors vs. indoors.  Outdoors is much more fun. The phone doesn't ring, the doorbell doesn't ring. Nothing rings! The possibilities of subject matter are nearly infinite while outdoors and I probably can't say enough good things about painting outside on location so I'll skip to the indoor observations. Yea, it's warmer inside and I never have to worry about when I'll get my next cup of hot coffee but inside has a huge drawback. I have too much time to think. When you're outside painting you have to scan your surroundings and commit to a location and get to work before the light changes or it starts raining, etc. When you're inside you can pick a subject matter whether it's a photo reference or a still life and then change your mind just like that. It's too easy to choose something to paint and then say, hmmm....I'd rather paint this other thing instead. It takes much more self-discipline to get work done indoors. For me anyways. I'm sure some people think going out to paint takes much more discipline but for me it's the opposite.  I've also noticed that I'm much more methodical while I paint indoors. I measure stuff, and check for more accuracy way more than necessary. I'm starting to wonder if it's my subconscious finding ways for me to procrastinate.  Painting outdoors feels like a much more free-spirited experience or maybe the word organic better describes it. You're there for the moment and you're trying to capture the light and the feeling of that moment of that particular day. While painting indoors you have all day, weeks, or months to fuss over minute details that don't make a difference in the grand scheme of things. One huge plus to working indoors, for me, is that all this fussing and measuring has really got my mind more focused on constructing good compositions which can only benefit me while I'm outdoors painting.
If anyone has some good pointers on how to transition from painting outside to inside I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Monday, November 21, 2016

M.C. Escher Documentary (by CINEMEDIA-NPS-RNTV) [1999]

As far as documentaries go, I think this one was very well done. With a clear synopsis of Escher's life and interviews with him, it really gives a great insight on Escher's life as an artist. What stood out the most to me was the interview towards the beginning. He explained that one of his teachers had asked him if he wouldn't rather be a graphic artist instead of an architect. I've discussed this with friends before, how ill prepared kids are when they're sent off to college or into the working world.  There are so many possibilities out there that young people have no idea about. For example, I had no idea they paid people to taste test ice cream. HELLO! Sign me up! I would do that job for free. Back in the day I got a job watching movies. No lie, I got paid to either count the people that walked in the door and match it up with the box office sales and other times I checked the cleanliness of the theatre or I had to go in and watch the advertisements played before the film. I stumbled onto that job and if I hadn't I would have had no idea that people actually got paid to do that. Now people give out that information willingly, for free, on social media. The whole point is, it's important to know there are many avenues you can take with your education or life in general.  It's nice if you can have a teacher or mentor push you in the right direction. Look where it got Escher. He still seemed to be kind of what we refer to now as "emo" but he had some happiness with the choice he made with not becoming an architect. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sketchy Attitudes Towards Sketchbooks

Various pages from my sketchbooks over the last three years. 
A little while back a friend of mine had their sketchbook laying open and I asked them if I could look at it. They seemed a little apprehensive and I was instantly sorry I asked.  When I sensed their hesitation, a wave of emotions came over me brought on by my own memories of having someone look at my sketchbooks. Allowing someone to look at your sketchbook is, in a way, like baring your soul. A sketchbook is a funny thing.
Some people keep diaries and journals that contain their inner most thoughts.  Journals and sketchbooks can both be considered our "huckleberry friends".  Some people never get one of those special friends, the kind who would never judge or blab what you talk about in confidence, so thank goodness for the one place you can do whatever you want and say whatever you want, the blank pages of a notebook/sketchbook.
Unfortunately I remember a time when having a sketchbook was considered a very bad thing. There was an attitude towards them, they're only for amateurs. A real artist doesn't need a sketchbook to practice in... That's a load of bologna, and I know that now, but sort of bought into it at one point and quit working in them because I wanted to be taken seriously, damn it!  
Where did this convoluted attitude towards sketchbooks come from? Why do some people feel that sketchbooks are beneath them? It's mind boggling what some people will think makes you a professional vs an amateur. It'd be nice if those people would never remove their little black wool beret so we can easily pick them out of a crowd. A sketchbook is a very valuable tool. Wouldn't you want to use the best tools you have available to you?
Working in a sketchbook can probably be compared to being an athlete or a gourmet chef. A gourmet chef would never try out a brand new recipe on a restaurant full of people. They would first try it out on a small group and see how they respond to it. The professional athlete must practice and workout in order to make it to the big game. We don't see them practice but we see the results of their hard work on the field. During this practice they work out possible situations and how to handle them. They consider variables, like what the other players may or may not do.  The sketchbook can be handy for planning your game strategy or mapping out your battle plans.
There are far more people out there who appreciate what a sketchbook can do.  Here's a link to some photos of artists' sketchbooks. Inside the Sketchbooks of Famous Artists and here's a link to a site where you can download a PDF (I HATE PDF's, but you might find this helpful) that gives some inspiration about why you should start using a sketchbook. https://www.accessart.org.uk/why-keep-a-sketchbook-printable-pdf/
Here's another from an artist, can't figure out their name but here's the link https://paintingfinelines.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-importance-of-keeping-a-sketchbook/
I especially liked this, "A sketchbook is a discipline. Much like a writer keeps a diary or a notebook of ideas, the sketchbook is about keeping the flow of ideas consistent. Not restricting or constricting it with unnecessary organisation and order. The sketchbook in its full context should be a narrative not a novel; it should highlight the total freedom of thoughts rather than make an end claim. In fact part of the beauty of it is that it does not make claims to any final piece of work, it is rather always work in progress."
Here's another,five reasons why you should keep a sketchbook from the Urbansketchers blog.
There are a gillion other sites/blogs out there praising the sketchbook, but at some point you need to stop reading about them and just start sketching in them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Salvador's Savoir-faire

Window Shade 7x5 plein air oil study on canvas panel. 

Salvador Dalí said, "Have no fear of perfection-you'll never reach it".  
When you read it, or even say it out loud it's just so simple, there is nothing to fear. However, we've all been told to not be afraid of the boogeyman because he doesn't exist, yet we still hear those bumps in the night and the strange things that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If that's not the boogeyman, what is it? 
Even though Dalí makes a very valid point I have to ask, if we're not trying to achieve perfection what is our goal? Perhaps it's the word perfection that we just need not be afraid of because it seems like everyone's definition of perfect is different. When I read Dalí's quote that's what I take from it. This "perfection" we seek may not be perfect for everyone so there is no way to reach it. 
Going back to the question, what is the goal? If we're not looking to paint something perfect what should we be aiming for? This one's on you. Me, I personally decided that my goal, what I'm aiming for when I begin a painting is to be happy with the end result. It may not be perfect, may not be what I had envisioned, but am I happy with the end result?  If I'm unhappy I must make sure I achieved my second goal, did I learn something from this venture? If I'm not happy and I learned nothing, then I failed. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Claude Monet - Filmed Painting Outdoors (1915)


Oscar-Claude Monet was born on this day in 1840.  It's said that he was the most consistent, of the Impressionists, to plein air paint. So for this Monday I chose this short film showing Monet painting in his garden.
This poses the question; if you could go back in time and ask Monet anything about plein air painting what would you ask? If you could take back one piece of equipment, paints, tools etc. to show him what you use to plein air paint what would you show him? For sure Monet would be impressed with all of the easels and portable equipment we have today, but it's nice to see a short video like this that demonstrates that we don't really need all of the fancy pochade boxes and stuff like that, you just need to want to get out and paint. Although I'll take every unnecessary pochade box out there because they sure make life so much easier. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Love Is the Devil Trailer

The movie for this Monday, Love is the Devil.  It's about the artist Francis Bacon. His work may not be everyone's cuppa tea but I rather like it. Yesterday John sent me a photo of Bacon's studio after I was complaining about how messy mine was. Seeing what Bacon's studio looked like made my skin crawl. There are other documentaries about Bacon that would better describe him but this movie has Daniel Craig in it. A little 007 can't be bad, right? 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wonderful World of Workshops

30 minute Charcoal sketch on Art Spectrum primed paper. 
This really bad sketch was done at a (sort of) workshop I participated in a couple of weeks ago. The very talented Cecile Houel (pronounced like the word Well) gave a demo at the Iowa Pastel Society meeting and those in attendance tried to follow her techniques. So I tossed out everything I usually do and tried my best to follow her instructions. Her way of approaching portraits is very different from the way I do it but one of the points of taking a workshop is to learn new things. DUH!  But unfortunately it's not such a duh moment for a lot of people.
Between college courses and workshops I think I've met every kind of student there could possibly be.  I've probably been a few of them too, but everyone's entitled to their young and stupid years, right? On a frequent basis we hear about how bad teachers are.  Those of us who went to an art school can usually commiserate as we reminisce about the lazy professors who "never really taught us anything." But what about the students? Are we really the best students we can be?
Recently I had a conversation with a woman who teaches Zentangle. She was telling me about a group of women who signed up for her class and how after only a half hour into it she just quit teaching them. She said they were argumentative with her, complained about it the whole time, and kept asking why they were even doing it. Well, hopefully the next workshop they signed up for was one on etiquette, but they brought up good points. Unfortunately they were all points they should have asked themselves before they signed up for the workshop.
Sometimes it is fun to try new things but do a little research before you just jump into it. There's an excellent article written by L. Diane Johnson in PleinAir, a supplement to PleinAir Magazine. Her website is being revamped and her articles will be available soon, but until then here's a summary of what she said.

  1. Evaluate your skill level.  "Be honest with yourself on this one."  She goes on to explain how to tell if you're a beginner student, intermediate or professional.  I'd like to add something to this. Evaluate your skill level not only in your artistic abilities but social skills. Ask yourself, am I physically capable of sitting and listening to someone for two hours then trying it myself? Can I sit still and be quiet? Can I ask meaningful questions? Can I take constructive criticism? Will I be OK with it if my finished piece isn't a "masterpiece" when the class is over? It's a sad day when sitting still and being a good listener can be listed as a skill, but, trust me, this is what it's come to. 
  2. Evaluate Your Goals. "What do I want to do? Why do I want to take an art class? Do I want to become a professional artist? Do I want to dabble in art as a hobby? Do I want to just make gifts for friends and family?"  I think this is something more people need to do. Signing up for a workshop you're spending your money and time to learn something, make sure it's the right something and for the right reasons. A couple of years ago I went to a fund raiser dinner and they served some of the most amazing bread I'd ever eaten. The woman who made it told me she holds workshops and teaches how to make it. I actually told her what my goal was, I wanted to learn how to make that specific bread. A couple weeks after that I was in her home learning how to make it and I still make it, there's some sitting on my counter as I type this. My goal was specific and therefore the workshop was successful and well worth my time and money.  
  3. What Kind of Art to Create. "Do you want to be a painter? If so, using which medium and in what style?"  THIS! This kills me. How many times have I gone to a pastel workshop and someone shows up with oil pastels? Or an oil painting workshop and someone shows up with acrylic. Don't sign up for a workshop and try to change the "rules" on the teacher. If the teacher is giving an oil painting workshop don't bring watercolour and expect them to bow to you. Also, if you want to paint realistic portraits don't sign up for a workshop with an abstract expressionist. Would you expect to learn how to ballroom dance from someone who square dances? 
  4. How to Begin. "Identify places offering classes and workshops:  Find out what resources you have in your immediate area. Are there colleges or universities where you could take classes? Read registration and art class descriptions carefully: Does it describe exactly what you want to learn? How much will you have to spend for the course and for materials? How large will the class be?"  One time I took a workshop where we had to pay a deposit to hold our spot in the class, which is perfectly fine most of the time. This particular time two of the students paid the deposit and only stayed for the demonstration. What's wrong with that? Well, for one it's incredibly rude and selfish. The class was limited to a certain number of students, there were probably two students who didn't get in the class who would have loved to participate. Then the teacher didn't get their full pay. If you only want to sit in on the demo contact the teacher and arrange something. Most teachers wouldn't find it a problem to have you pay a minimal fee to sit in on the demo to see if it's something you might like to do, similar to auditing a college course. "Talk to the instructor: if you don't do anything else, do this. I spent years and many dollars taking classes that were not what they said they would be, and were taught by those who could not teach or were not skilled themselves in the subjects they were offering."  She goes on to say that you should be honest with the instructor, tell them your skill level and your goals. This not only helps to prepare them on what they need to bring to the table but it will also help give them ideas on what to demonstrate. I still take watercolour classes with John Preston and every once in awhile he asks the class what we want to tackle. I always say clouds because I suck at clouds. My goal is to not suck at painting clouds. If I sat in the back of the room and never said what my goal was I'd never be closer to not sucking at clouds.  
  5. Expectations. "To maximize your time and make the most of your investment in the class or workshop, you should work as much as you can between classes.  Bring all the work you have done during the week back to the next class for the teacher to review.  Believe it or not, the work you do outside, between classes, may be what will benefit you the most! And if the instructor gives you outside projects, do them, and more if you can."  You've got to put in the work people! If you do five sit-ups before you go to bed tonight you better not expect to wake up tomorrow morning with washboard abs. You do those sit-ups consistently and over time you see results. Same with painting, or whatever it is you're trying to learn. 
  6. Conclusion. "Finding the right art class for you takes some time, but can be extremely rewarding! Find the best artist-teacher you can to save time, money and unnecessary frustration. With the right instruction, you'll soar to new heights and discover what can be done with your innate talent."  Finding the right teacher can be difficult but it's a two-way street. Are you a good student? Do you show up on time with an open mind to learn? Do you have a positive attitude about trying new techniques? 
We can't put all of  the blame on the teacher. God forbid we have to take responsibility of our own growth. (insert eye roll here) We need to be honest with ourselves. Are we getting what we need from the class? Are we putting in our best effort? The teacher/student relationship is like any other relationship, it needs good communication, a level of respect and most of all it requires work.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Barefoot Artist Official Trailer (2014) - Lily Yeh Documentary HD

"Life breaks all of us."  
If you feel like going on an emotional roller coaster this is the film for you, it will give you all the feels. 
It's currently streaming on Netflix and you can rent it on Youtube and other outlets. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Have Some Sage With That Hamm

Autumn Day 5x7 oil on wood panel plein air study
More wise words, this time from Jack Hamm. 
"Long before a child learns to write, he makes marks which in his uninhibited imagination represent a person.  No one has convinced him that he has no artistic ability, nor has he convinced himself, so he continues his unaffected effort to draw.  Because he persists, oftentimes to the undoing of household furniture, walls--and parents his drawings begin to show a decided measure of improvement. Then one day interest wanes, due to acquired restraints, and only a few after that regularly take up the drawing pencil.  The others borrow the oft-repeated phrase, "Oh, I can't draw a straight line!" The plain truth is that, since we are not machines, no one can."

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Mystery of Picasso


The first time I watched this movie was in an Art History class.  We had spent a long time learning about Picasso and I wasn't that impressed with his work, it's not my cuppa but that's just me. They made such a big deal about Guernica, I understood the symbolism of it all but didn't get the big deal. What made him so fabulous? Then we had to watch this and I remember thinking, I want to dance around and paint too. Now I dance around while cooking in the kitchen. I rarely dance around while painting, but maybe I'll give it a shot.
The one thing I hope some will get from watching this is that you can see how confident he is. He's not timid when it comes to painting. I've seen far too many timid painters who are holding themselves back because they're afraid to make the wrong brushstroke. Honestly, the only wrong brushstroke is the one you don't make.
You can watch the whole thing on Vimeo here, or look around and you might be able to find it somewhere else. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Current and Upcoming Shows

At Starr's Cave 5x12"  pastel on paper. Currently at the Blanden Art Museum
Here is a list of current and upcoming shows that I have/will have work in and places where some of my work is currently for sale. I was compiling the list for myself in an effort to stay organised but thought I might as well share in case you're in the area and want to check out the shows/galleries. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Mysteries of Hieronymus Bosch


Never been one to get overly excited about Hieronymus Bosch but this was a fun documentary. I love good conspiracy theories and I'm always amused how various decades bring about hate for religious cults and Satan worshipers. I don't remember much of the 70s but I do remember every "bad" person was either a Hells Angel or practiced witchcraft or something to do with the occult. In 200 years people will probably look at his work and think far less preposterous things, like maybe he had a bad case of food poisoning when he painted certain things. A high fever can make anyone hallucinate you know. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

F for Fake 1973

The movie this week, F for Fake, is the last movie Orson Welles made. It's the story of a real life forger named Elmyr de Hory. de Hory was said to have sold over a thousand forgeries all over the world. 
There's also a book written by Mark Forgy, "The Forger's Apprentice:  Life with the World's Most Notorious Artist".  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Vincent Price's Priceless Words

Value study charcoal on newsprint 
We all know Vincent Price was an amazing actor but you may not know he was very involved in the art world. He actually held a degree in art history and was a collector. He also sold paintings for Sears & Roebuck. WHAT!? Evidently Sears sold prints of famous paintings and Price's job was to choose which paintings were to be used. They also sold paintings by lesser known artists at the time, something about making sure art is made more public. You can read more about it here

When Vincent was asked, what makes a good painting he replied with, "A good painting is one that pleases you".  Sounds like a ridiculously easy answer and one that can be argued a million times over. What pleases one person can greatly displease someone else, so how does that work? It must work very similarly to food. I hate tuna salad sandwiches, there's no such thing, to me, as a good tuna salad sandwich.  That doesn't mean someone else can't claim to have eaten the best tuna salad sandwich. If you like tuna salad sandwiches by all means eat them, if not don't. If you like abstract paintings then paint them. If you only like realism then paint that way. The only rules here are that you keep an open mind and mind your own business. If you are only into realism then paint that and don't worry about what the abstract guy is doing, it has nothing to do with what you're doing. Keep an open mind because everything is an opportunity to learn something. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Inktober 2016

It's that time of year again, Inktober has officially taken over the social media sites.  Here's more info on Inktober. I really like these challenges and reading about everyone's goals for the month and beyond. Some are inking stories, doing one page each day and at the end of October they should have a whole 31 page story. Pretty cool, huh? This year I decided to go with a theme I knew I'd finish, Bond villains. Here are the first five; Franz Sanchez, Kamal Khan, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. No and Colonel Rosa Klebb. If you'd like to see more just search for the hashtags #inktober #inktober2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

I Never Tell Anybody Anything The Life and Art of Edward Burra


"This is a film about the most intriguing 20th century artist you may never have heard of".
That's the truth. I've never heard of Edward Burra but after watching this I think I know him very well. Edward Burra may very well be my spirit animal. In all seriousness, it's an interesting look at his life and his work.
His subject matter and style don't really speak to me but I get it. And for those of you who are in the same watercolour class as me, they mention that Burra painted in watercolour but he painted like an oil painter. I still have no idea what that means but I'm glad I'm not the only one being described that way.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Practice Panel

Tourist Pose 8x8 oil on wood panel
 This year the member's show at the FAA is a 10x10 format on a birch wood panel. They come unprimed and I was curious how the paint would behave if I left it unprimed so I bought an 8x8 and tested it out first.  I'm slightly surprised by the results.  I've painted on unprimed Masonite before and didn't mind it, but it has a slightly slick surface. The birch wood is smooth but is a trifle more difficult to paint on, well, the way I paint it is.  It felt like I was scrubbing in some parts and I kept hearing my friend John Preston's words going through my head, "it's called painting not brushing".  It did take quite a bit more brushing to get the paint on the panel and off the brush but it's doable. The one thing I noticed and actually thought might be helpful for plein air painting  is that the paint seemed to soak in fairly fast and I was able to go back over with paint and not pull paint from the previous layer. This could come in handy during a quick paint competition after more practice on this unprimed surface, of course.
Since this one was purely practice I decided to go with a weird palette. I picked up tubes of paint out of the "never gets used" pile. It's a box of paint I keep around for those "I'll try that someday" sort of thing and it never gets used. I had several tubes of the Jack Richeson Shiva paint that I won in a plein air competition. I remember trying it once before and thought it was too oily.  Lucky me, the too oily worked perfect on the unprimed panel. The colours I used were, titanium white, ultramarine blue, prussian blue, phthalo green, sap green, dioxazine purple, yellow ochre, indian red, burnt sienna and burnt umber. Out of all of those the white, ultramarine blue and burnt umber are the only ones I use on a regular basis so it was fun to see what I could do with the rest.
I think this was a good practice run, the only thing I'm worried about is what my brushes will look like after I wash them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mary's Wise Words

Pencil Sketch of a blue heron with the guidelines left in. 
I mentioned that I've been reading lots and lots of books about drawing and painting, I've also been reading lots and lots of blogs as well. Most of the books are old and the language is as well, but the lessons are still worth learning. As for the blogs, they're certainly more modern and most of them are written by artists who are still working and teaching today so they have a pretty good insight as to what's going on here and now. The thing I've noticed is that the language may be a little different but the lessons are still the same. Funny how that works.
The other day I read Mary Byrom's blog and I thought it was worth sharing here.
"This past week I discovered that what I did everyday had a name…the process I go through day after day and week after week is called mastery.  Wow, was that a surprise. I knew what I set out to do wasn’t easy but I didn’t know that I had so many kindred spirits out there on the same path doing the same process. Its great to encounter this.  The four things I do in my painting process are 1. Practice  2. Persistence  3.Patience  4. Perseverance.  5. Repeat #  s 1- 4 over and over."
You can read her whole post here and I recommend you do, it's well written and gives links to other artists.  What she says about going to art school is relatable to almost everyone who's done it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

BBC History of Art in Three Colours 3of3 - WHITE


I've always had a slight obsession with colour and I think so has everyone else. You may not stop to think about it but most of the things we see and do revolve around colours. Green means go, red means stop. Yellow means the banana is ripe, brown means it's too ripe. Blue skies generally mean it's going to be a nice day and grey means not so good. When we describe material objects it's usually by size, shape and colour. If colour meant nothing to us then our houses and cars would be the same colour. We'd all wear the same coloured clothing and so on and so forth. Some people even study the effects that certain colours have on people. Does seeing the colour red make you angry?
I found this show called History of Art in Three Colours, the first two are gold and blue but I couldn't find a video that would play so we have the third episode, white. It goes even further into the notion that colour is associated with strong feelings. White is meant to be virginal, pure, blah blah. It's true though, we associate colours with specific things and feelings.
It starts off kinda funny, going on about a marble sculpture of Apollo and how because it was all done in white that it made it intellectual and stimulating. Sure we can say all that mumbo jumbo now but perhaps it's white simply because that's what was available at the time. It reminded me of this house in a town just north of me. It was purple and it stood out like a sore thumb. As a child I always wondered why someone would want a purple house, unless your name was Ken and Barbie. The story goes that the house was originally painted purple during the war. The family couldn't afford paint so they mixed up all the half empty paint cans they could find and used that to paint the house. When the colours were all mixed it turned out purple so ever since the homeowners continued the tradition of keeping the house purple. The house always got so much attention all based on its colour.
Colour can give you a sense of comfort as well. Don't believe me? Next time you travel and stay in a hotel check the sheets. I'm pretty sure you'd feel more comfortable seeing clean white sheets rather than dingy grey ones.
Admittedly I didn't find the show all that great, but it sure did get my brain going on all of these thoughts and ideas. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Great Artists - Romantics & Realists - Courbet


This documentary is just under an hour and fairly informative on the artist.  I chose this one because it goes along with my recent post that shared Harold Speed's words about keeping your work honest. It's quite hilarious that Courbet is known as the father of realism yet he pretended to be something he was not.
I also found it amusing how they pulled back the curtain to reveal that this "self-taught" artist actually had a fairly impressive education.
Something that really struck me though was the commentary on his lack of knowledge of perspective. A few posts back I wrote about how I'm compiling notes and things I've collected over the years into a book. In that post I asked where to begin. Where should you start a book, or better yet where do you start your education? If you want to become a painter where's the most important place to start? So many books I've been reading claim that perspective is an essential, some say most important aspect, part of the puzzle. In this documentary it's noted that this is where Courbet lacked knowledge. So in his self-guided art education he may have danced around this topic.  After it's pointed out it's pretty obvious that he did have a lack of knowledge, or chose to not remember it? Either way, it helped reiterate the fact that perspective is extremely important. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Honest Words of Wisdom

Watercolour study of the Skunk River
"Unflinching honesty must be observed in all your studies." -Harold Speed
More words of wisdom, this time from Harold Speed. This one can be interpreted in many different ways.  I think Speed was referring to putting in the time on your work and staying honest to yourself meaning don't go for a gimmick or a trend.  How tiring it must be to work under some guise or continue to chase the latest trend. 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas

Envy is not in my nature but there are two artists who I'd give my left eye if I could paint like them; Edouard Manet and Edward Hopper.  Maybe I should change my name to Edward? This is a great, hour long, documentary on Hopper, it even has interviews with him.
Here is a website with more information about Hopper. http://www.edwardhopper.net/ And some wise words from Hopper,  "No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Nuggets of Wisdom

Zorn palette in watercolour 
For the last year and a half I've been working on a book. Nothing that I intend to publish but something that I set out to do for myself. It's just a book of information that I've gathered over the years and colour charts. Lots and lots of colour charts!
Recently I hit a fork in the road while compiling my information. So far it's a lot of notes on random pieces of paper that need to be put together in a way that makes sense. Where to start? If you were writing a book about the most important things to know about painting where would you begin? Do you start with colour theory, drawing basics, composition? It's all important, but where to start?
In my quest to put my book together in a way that makes sense I took up reading other books. While reading these books I've come across a lot of great little phrases and nuggets of wisdom that I think are useful and thought I'd not be selfish and share. It only seems fitting to start off with this one from Andrew Loomis.
"If there is any way that one man in the craft can really help another, it's by increasing his knowledge of the craft itself, not in the particular qualities of the man's own work.  The knowledge of our craft must be pooled, as it is in the sciences and other professions, each of us absorbing and in turn contributing."

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fall Clean Up

It's that time again when I've become overwhelmed with clutter. Throwing out a lot of stuff but it didn't seem quite right to throw away these three since they won awards. If anyone wants any of these claim them because garbage day is Friday. 



Monday, September 5, 2016

BBC Sickert vs Sargent


The movie this week is an hour long show that BBC 4 put out back in 2007.  The art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, profiles the artists John Singer Sargent and Walter Sickert. The title can be a bit misleading as a lot of people thought it was a battle between the two artists. The show actually doesn't put the two up against each other to compare the work side by side, but more or less the lifestyle and how it helped influence their work. Never does Januszczak try to say one artist is better than the other, he's simply comparing and contrasting.
The reason why I enjoyed it so much was that he touched on two things that very much interest me. With Sargent he greatly discusses the dress that Madame X wore and how it was so scandalous. To me that always intrigued me about that painting. How did he ever get away with painting a woman showing that much skin at that time? The other thing is the Patricia Cornwall book about Jack the Ripper and how she claims that Sickert was the Ripper. I remember when that book came out, I got into a seriously heated conversation with someone who believed everything Cornwall wrote about Sickert.  All of the "research" she did to come to that conclusion. Obviously I said it was a bunch of malarkey and it is, but the people in this documentary agree, the evidence is lacking.
It's a nice one hour long show that takes you around London to see where the artists worked and some really great shots of the art work.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Great Artists - The English Masters - Turner


The movie for this Monday is a documentary on Joseph Mallord William Turner. This documentary is a little different from others I've seen. They discuss the paintings more than they do his life. So many documentaries like to dig up personal stuff that doesn't really add much. It's just like a splashy headline for a boring story. This sticks to the paintings and they do this really cool thing where they show close ups on the work. They even discuss the one rare occasion where Turner allowed someone to watch him work. It's only about an hour long and if you're one of those artists who keeps telling yourself that they're going to sketch more and do more value studies you need to watch this.  Hearing how many sketches Turner did on his trips will put you to shame and hopefully inspire you to work more. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Perils of Plein Air Painting 3.0

Yesterday I painted with my friends at the Marceline Paint Out in Marceline, MO. Marceline is mostly famous for Walt Disney and trains. lots and lots of trains go through there. 
It was a good day, very hot and sunny which was a lot different from what I had planned for. The weather man called for thunderstorms but what he meant was there will be so much humidity that you'll feel like you were standing in a thunderstorm. The other day I was out having lunch and the waitress came by and commented on the weather. She said she had told her husband that this summer is just as bad as winter, you can't go outside and do anything. Normal people wouldn't go outside to do something.  Although the heat and humidity can be quite miserable it shouldn't keep a good plein air painter from going out and painting, you just need to be sensible about it. Don't go out during the hottest hours of the day, but if you have to make sure you find some shade and use your common sense. 
Here's one of the perils of plein air painting I haven't yet covered, people. To an inexperienced plein air painter the onlooker can be one of the biggest problems. You're outside minding your own business trying to paint and here comes some yahoo looking over your shoulder telling you how their Auntie paints too. On top of all of those other things you're stressing out about you've got this person telling you their family history and the long line of master artists that are in it. I don't know how else to say it but the one sure way to solve this problem is, get over it. Be polite but keep working. If you feel like people are watching you from a distance and it's stressing you out, get over it. They're probably not even talking about you anyways. If it helps you can think of it as any other outdoor job. For example, if you look outside and see that the yard needs mowed go get the lawn mower and get to work and if you're goal oriented and don't live on 200 acres of land you get the job done. You don't care what you look like or who sees you do it. You don't care if your hoochie mama neighbour across the street is trying to get the attention of all the young teenage boys in the neighbourhood. (Seriously, let those boy's parents worry about that.) Normally people don't stop and try to talk to you while you're mowing the lawn but if they do be polite and get back to work. 
If you're out in the middle of nowhere you get very few people stopping and interrupting you. Larger parks, fishing spots and most conservation areas are great places to start because they're not that busy and the people who go there tend to mind their own business. Crowded downtown areas, festivals and other sorts of social gatherings should wait until you've built up your tolerance or perfected the art of ignoring. 
After this weekend I'm considering dedicating a page of this blog to, "Crap I Hear While Painting".  The second picture here is of the Uptown Theatre. The artists all had to paint on Main Street starting at 4PM so I set up in front of the theatre. I had lots of really nice comments as I worked and very friendly people asking permission to see what I was working on. See, not all interactions are annoying!  What got me was the conversations people around me were having. A large group of young girls decided to set up camp next to me and, oh my god, they like, talked like about all sorts of like stuff that like should not like be discussed like in public. Like. Then an older couple stopped by to talk to this group of girls and they were discussing how they liked to go boozing it up back in the day and when they couldn't find a babysitter they'd wrap the kids up in blankets, throw them in the back of the truck and drive around town to go out drinking. Have I ever mentioned that plein air painting is an adventure? 
There are two more weekends of fun and adventure coming up and hopefully they'll be filled with lots more crap I hear while painting.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The Horse's Mouth (1958)


Something a little different for this week's movie. It's not about any artist in particular but a bit of a comedy about a fictional artist played by Obi-Wan Kenobi, er Alec Guinness. You can watch the movie, for free with commercials, on Hulu here

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pedaling and Painting

3x9" pastel on primed paper
As if plein air painting didn't have enough obstacles I'm still trying to figure out how best to pack my bicycle with all of my gear. The idea behind biking and painting is that it will allow me to go more places. I'm always up for a good hike but sometimes a long walk on a hot day can zap all of the energy you need for painting. There are also nice places that you can't get to by vehicle, so biking seems like the ideal thing to do. 
The trick to all of this is to minimize everything. Scale back all of the equipment you take and organise, organise, organise. This is my setup I used. My super fun Dahon bicycle, my pastel box (the paper and board are inside the box), extra box of Terry Ludwig turquoise set, tripod, backpack which has my oil paints, canvases, sketch book, watercolour sketch box, bug spray, sunscreen, tripod for oil box, mini fan, water, masking tape, camera, phone, and some other miscellaneous items such as acetaminophen and Altoids, you know, for when your bad breath gives you a headache. It sounds like a lot but it's really not, it's all scaled back with the exception of the extra pastels. I could have left those out but I had room so I took them. The bungee cords held the pastel boxes and easel securely to the bike rack and the backpack didn't weigh that much to wear.  The results were great. I was able to cover more ground, get different views and didn't feel completely exhausted by the end of the day. I've tried to do this a few times before and each time it was somewhat of a failure. I think this time it worked simply because I scaled back and only packed the necessary items. If you like to bike and like to paint I'd highly recommend giving it a try. Maybe take your bike and a sketchbook first and see how you like it. 
3x9" pastel on primed paper

Monday, August 15, 2016

Raphael - The Prince of Painters pt. I of II

This is part one of a two part documentary on Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael.  Much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who were named after the great Renaissance artists Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael, Raphael seems to get the least amount of attention. Which is odd because out of all of them he's probably the best one. Except when we're talking Ninja Turtles, Donatello is the best, there's no arguing that point with me!  A lot of people have seen his work and most likely don't realise it's his. The subject matter is similar to his colleagues, but that's to be expected. When the Pope tells you what to paint you paint it, at least back then you did. However when you see one of his paintings up close and in person you can definitely see a difference. Last year I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and got to see one and it blew me away. All the way across the room it glowed and people seemed to be hypnotized by it. When I returned from my trip and told people about it they immediately said, who!?  Are you kidding me?  They're asking me who Raphael is when they probably know every sordid detail of some stupid reality TV "star's" life. Unbelievable to me. You can still see Madonna of the Pinks at the MIA as it's still on loan to them. If you've never been to MIA I highly recommend it, membership is free and the works they have there are incredible. Make sure you set aside a whole day though, it's huge, there's a lot to look at and you might get lost. (Yes, if you're wondering I did get lost).
What prompted me to search for a movie about Raphael is a conversation I had this weekend with a friend. She asked, what's the big deal about the Mona Lisa? I had to agree with her, what's the big deal? She doesn't understand the hype and that's when I mentioned that I think Raphael's work is better. Again I was greeted with, who? Yea, someone in the group didn't know who I was talking about. So if you have no idea who he is you need to watch this documentary. If you do know who he is you still need to watch it.
Here's another link to a short video and information on one of his most famous paintings School of Athens.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Hans Olson Challenge

Black Dress 12x12 oil study on stretched canvas. 
Last night I went to my friend Hans Eric Olson's show at the Art Domestique gallery. His work is incredible. You could tell he was an inspiration to fellow artists as well. So many people were asking if he gave workshops and you could over hear others saying to each other, I wish I could paint like that. Is that the ultimate compliment a painter could get?  Most of his work on display are landscapes and of various sizes. Someone asked him how long it took to paint the smaller ones and he surprised us all by saying that he tries to knock out the small ones in about an hour. His small paintings were all 8x10, my idea of small is usually 4x6 and it still takes me over an hour to do that size!  He said he cranks the tunes and gets to work.  On my drive home I thought about this. I would challenge myself to paint faster. I've done this before when I was trying to prepare for quick paints for upcoming plein air events. Most of those give you two hours to complete a painting. If I could knock out an 8x10 in an hour just think what I could do with two hours!
So today I decided to try to crank one out in the shortest amount of time possible.  From start to finish this one took me just a little over two hours. I cranked up the tunes, turned off the phone and concentrated on painting. At the end I asked myself what I could have done to work faster. I considered using more tube paint so I wouldn't spend time mixing, but it's not really a race. What I learned by doing this is that it's not an exercise in who can paint the fastest, it's an exercise to build up your confidence. Timid painters take too long. Timid people take too long at everything to be honest.
This painting could definitely use some more work but I got my lesson from it so in that sense it was successful. Another lesson to be learned here, don't try to race through a black on black and white on white scenario, it's enough to make you want to punch yourself in the face.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Degenerate Art - 1993, The Nazis vs. Expressionism


This is a documentary film about Entartete Kunst, a.k.a the work that the Nazis labeled degenerate art. It's really fascinating what they considered degenerate. Who exactly labeled it that way and what became of the artists and their work? It's nothing new to have critics who dislike certain works, whether it be music, paintings, movies, plays, etc., but to destroy the works that are labeled degenerate is a different level of criticism.
Doing one of those pro/con lists on this topic would make for a pretty interesting conversation. The pros and cons of having all art destroyed if it's labeled degenerate. The cons would probably far outweigh the pros.