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. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Turquoise Truck in Taos

5x7 watercolour sketch. You think your drawing skills are great until you have to draw tires on a vehicle. 
In the last post I explained how I wasn't overly impressed with Taos.  Did I expect too much? Perhaps. Did I go on a bad day? Maybe.  Either way it wasn't as inspirational as I was led to believe. You can catch up on that last post here if you missed it. If you're up to speed you'll know that I promised to talk about the artists's work that I did enjoy.  I already discussed J Mehaffey. So here is the list of the rest of them.
Heather Ross Fine Art Photography.  Her current work on display is under the category "Altered Books".  It's a bit trendy, I've seen several artists doing similar work but I like her work for a couple of reasons; her choices of old and new and she seems to have a bit of a sense of humor.
Charles Collins. You really have to see his sculptures up close to appreciate them. I tried to take a couple of pictures to show what I mean.  From far away it looks like a person's face, up close you can see it's three people.  Pretty clever and I thought they were fun.

Michael Vargas. So maybe I didn't REALLY like his work but I love the story. Finally quit his job to pursue his dream, what's not to like? I went to Taos to be inspired and what's more inspirational than this man's story? 
Ed Sandoval. Included this one because I believe that's his truck I sketched. That's his gallery behind it and the red umbrella is sort of his studio. He wheels his easel out there and paints under the umbrella. Seemed to be quite the character. 
If you want to read more about my trip check out the blow by blow over here

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Taken Aback by Taos

Clouds and mountain in New Mexico, 5x7 watercolour sketch
Recently I went on a wild west adventure that eventually led me to Taos, New Mexico.  Whenever I mentioned Taos people were gasping with enthusiasm, telling me it would be so marvelous and inspiring. I was amped up to be inspired and in awe of the environment. Everyone implanted the idea that New Mexico would be a magical place to go paint. Even the license plates of New Mexico boast that it's the "land of enchantment".  I s'pose I've never been one to be enchanted, it all sounds too Disney princessy for me. Still I was fully expecting spectacular views and breathtaking sunsets, but most of all inspired to paint.  I was expecting that I was going to want to paint everything I saw.  If you could only experience a smidgen of my disappointment. There were no sweeping vistas and the sunsets back home put these to shame. What did I miss? There must be something there for people to find this place so fantastic.  I didn't find the landscape inspiring but somebody must have been inspired for it to be saturated with artists so I searched the galleries to find out what and possibly where the artists were pulling their inspiration.
Hmmmmm.....seems that the majority were also uninspired by the vistas and more inspired by each other. Gallery after gallery the work all started looking the same.  Almost like one artist got the ball rolling with their individual style and everyone else followed suit. This was truly disappointing but I kept an open mind and kept searching.  I finally walked into the doors of the Taos Artist Collective and met artist J Mehaffey. She was very friendly and explained to me that the gallery is also a studio space where several artists work and sell from.  Walking around I found my favourite of the group and it just happened to be J Mehaffey's work. I don't know if I was drawn to it because it was something different from all of the other galleries, but I was impressed. Out of all of the work I had seen, up to that point, hers was the most honest.  She wasn't trying to sell the "Taos experience", or painting something simply because it sells. Some artists paint things simply because they think it will sell or they see that someone else is successful in selling a certain subject matter. That kind of work never impresses me, but that's just me. You can check out J Mehaffey's work on her site here
Over the next few days I'll be posting about the other artists that I found in the galleries in Taos. If you can't wait for me to share you can go here and check out some of the other artists in the area. If you'd like a blow by blow of my entire trip you can read about it starting here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Georgia O’Keeffe 2009

The movie for this Monday, Georgia O'Keefe, mostly because I just went to New Mexico and thought it would be an appropriate segue for upcoming posts. I'm not a fan of O'Keefe, I don't think there's one single painting she's done that I like but that's what's great about her. I don't have to like her work. Somebody out there did/does and I think that's what makes the world go 'round. Someone who does like her work can fill me in on why they do and enlighten me.  As long as you have an open mind you can appreciate it. It's a lot like tapioca pudding. I won't eat it but I'm glad it's available for my crazy friends who choose to eat it.