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


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.