Monday, May 22, 2017

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Beg Your Pardon

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Peonies en Plein Air

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

The A to Z of Contemporary Art Part : 1

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Know Your Limits

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Power of Petite

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Julian Schnabel / MASTERCLASS Episode 9

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work

Raccoon River 3 1/4 x 10 1/4 pastel on paper
Last Friday I participated in a pop gallery with several other artists.  I know most of them but I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  One of them was telling me how she's taken up making tiles. It's a new project she thought she'd like to do and knew nothing about it beforehand. She was jumping off the high dive into the deep end for sure.  What impressed me was how knowledgeable she had become and she wholly attributed that knowledge to just jumping in and doing the work. Setting a goal and following through. After making her first 25 tiles she knows a few things now. This is exactly how we improve and become more successful.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Painters Painting (1973)

Your movie for today, Painters Painting.  It's a documentary made in the 1970s.  The quality in some parts is not so great, but it was the 70s, they didn't have an app for that yet.
You really need to keep an open mind while watching this one. These are real interviews with real artists about their work and at first it feels like it's all about Jackson Pollock, but it's not. I had to pause and walk away several times from this. The BS was just getting too deep.  About half way through I thought to myself, these are artists alright, con artists, but sadly they were conning themselves. When some of them spoke about their work I sensed a feeling of sadness, like they could tell they were having a bad case of word vomit but if they didn't say these things nobody would take them seriously. It's like they had to live up to the hype. They wanted to continue being Johnny Bravo and hopefully nobody would notice that the suit was starting to go threadbare.
There was an actual laugh out loud moment when de Kooning was being interviewed and was asked something like, what does it mean to be painterly. His response, after a very long pause and dumb look on his face, "You can see it was done with a brush".
Moving on to the artist that carried on about how important titles of paintings are. A title must lead you into the painting, blah blah. Then he goes on to describe how he came up with a title for a piece he couldn't come up with a title for. Open a book, it has to be a favourite, and there you go. He opened a book, didn't look and placed his finger on a page and wherever it landed that was the title. That's how you art!
Then there's this one, "it's a zip, not a stripe".  Sir, you painted stripes, those are stripes. It's even more funny when he goes on to explain that he painted all of these "zips" then had to go back and figure out why he did it.
There are some quality moments in this one, lots of food for thought is served up so give it a shot. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Do Artists Do All Day ?

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cats in Hats

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

In Search of Moebius (BBC 4 Documentary)

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Palette Party

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Paging Mr. Herman

Paging Mr. Herman 5x7" ink on Bristol
I don't know about you but when I think of someone being passionate about something my mind always goes to just how passionate Pee-Wee Herman was to find his bike. If we all put as much effort into what we love as Pee-Wee did to get his bike back...
A while back I saw a commercial for some sort of computer or tablet or whatever kind of technological gadget that was fresh on the market and the premises was that with this new fangeled technology you could do whatever it is you have mediocre feelings about doing. It showed two young people, probably fresh out of high school age and one said something like, the great thing about the time we live in now is that you don't have to have all of the knowledge to get started. You can start something and through information on the internet you can figure it out that way. Basically what it sounded like was something like this, we don't have to actually be good at anything. If we watch enough Youtube videos and read how-to blogs we can make things just as great as the person who spent half their life honing skills for. SERIOUSLY!!?
Honestly, how to videos and blogs are really great for those things we only sort of want to do so let's be happy that they exist.
"Talent has to work with knowledge to do anything well."-Andrew Loomis
Andrew Loomis is a wealth of knowledge and in his books he drives home this silly notion that hard work will take you pretty far.
A few years ago I was approached to work on  comic book.  It was an anthology of several artists/writers. I was stoked about it, until I had to do ALL of the work. I had to write it, draw it and INK it. At that point I had zero experience in inking and loathed it. I didn't understand it, nor had the desire to learn about it. Because of this the artwork suffered, horribly. The story was great and it even got me a gig to write another story, but nobody was knocking down my door to pencil/ink anything. In my defense I was always under the impression that one person penciled (drew), one person inked and one person lettered and none of these were the same person. It's just what I knew, so why would I ever think I'd need to learn how to ink and letter my own work? Well, if you're an independent creator you absolutely have to have knowledge or be able to pay someone else to do that for you.
Years went by and I never gave inking another thought until someone told me about Inktober. I thought it looked like fun and figured it was just something I could do in my spare time and gave it a shot. Thirty days of inking, at least I'd learn something in the process, right? It's absolutely right and it wasn't until just recently that I figured out what I had actually learned. I hated my first experience with inking because I failed and didn't put in any effort to make it better. I was thinking in a similar fashion to those dumb kids in that commercial.  If I watched enough Youtube videos on how to ink I'd surely be able to do it too. WRONG!  Only after putting in a greater amount of effort did I start to appreciate the process. I actually enjoy inking now. It's almost meditative and it's fun to see the pencil lines sort of come to life. I'm in no way prepared to dedicate the rest of my life to inking comic book pages but this whole experience taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. What's crazy is that it's a lesson that I already knew, I've already done, I just didn't see it that way. How many times have I crashed my dirt bike or fell off my skateboard, but got back up and did it again? How long did it take me to train the dog to not go to the bathroom in the house? Those things were worth the effort to keep working on so I put in the work. With that I'll leave you with some more words from Mr. Loomis.
"Does it mean enough to you to give up time from other things in order to learn? Search quietly and thoroughly for this basic motive, because if it is powerful enough, it will give your efforts the strength to withstand discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment, or even seeming failure".

Monday, March 27, 2017

Maggi Hambling on 'Brilliant Ideas'

The Monday movie this week is a short show about the artist Maggi Hambling. I held off on watching this one for awhile because I was afraid I wouldn't have anything nice to say about her work. After watching this I'm kind of in love with her. Her work may not be your cuppa but she has some really great things to say. One of my favourites was her comment on why she draws every day, "getting rid of your inner rubbish so that something else can take over."  I have friends who are writers and they've told me they do something similar every day. They just sit and write/type whatever comes to mind to get it out of their head so that they can start on what they want to work on. Some days I will sit and stare at a blank piece of paper and debate what to put on it. It's not that I'm afraid of messing up, it's that I have so many ideas swirling around and I try to nail one down.  Rather than trying to work out that one great idea in my head I should just go ahead and scribble them all out and get rid of the rubbish so the right idea can take over. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 2: "Storylines" 2005

Your show for this week, the second episode to "The Secret of Drawing" by Andrew Graham-Dixon.  I'm in love with this series and this episode is absolutely amazing at showcasing the power and effectiveness of a simple pencil and paper. At the very end Graham-Dixon makes a comment that I rather enjoyed. He mentions that satirical cartoons, comics and animation should "aim their art at the man in the street".  If you have a story to tell and you want everyone to be able to understand it then consider how you tell that story. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Moonshine: Artists After Dark

Your Monday movie for this week is a short six minute video.  This one came from my friend Deb again.  I watched it as soon as she sent it to me and I thought it was fun. I recognised some of the artists and their work and didn't realise they made a book. The book isn't very expensive and it's a great way to showcase the artists' talent. After watching it a second time it hit me, this is actually quite thought provoking when it comes to that debate of illustrator vs. fine artist.
Over the years I've learned something about this illustrator vs. fine artist debate, all of the real illustrators/artists are too busy working to debate it.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Going Goth

Pen and ink on drawing paper
A few weeks back my friends and I met up at the American Gothic House in Eldon, IA.  It's the house that Grant Wood used for his painting, American Gothic. We were there during the day but I thought it might be fun to make it look like a night scene. Mostly because whenever I hear, American Gothic, I always think of the horror movie with the same name. It came out in the late 80s and back then I thought it was scary, it even has Yvonne De Carlo in it. It's kinda funny to consider how many times Grant Wood's painting has been parodied.  There are websites simply documenting the parodies. The painting is said to be much like the Mona Lisa and The Scream as in very few people have actually seen the real painting but identify it by the many parodies. I s'pose it's a lot like music or movie remakes. If you grow up only knowing the remade version of a song or movie it's what you identify with first.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why We Can't Quit Alizarin Crimson

It's only been a couple of years since I started taking watercolour class so I'm not going to pretend like I know everything there is to know about it, but I do know that everyone refers to Alizarin Crimson as the "fugitive" colour. I had no idea what that meant and before taking watercolour class I never even used the colour. Since I have been using it I know that it's a wonderful mixing colour and makes painting sunsets easier than without it. It's also an overpowering colour. As my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mayle, would say, a little dab'll do ya. It only takes a little, which makes it even more puzzling. The fugitive reputation comes from the fact that it fades, probably faster than any other pigment out there. So it really is more of a bully pigment, or the pop star of pigments. All show and no staying power. Yea, it's the pop star of pigments.
The other day my friend Deb sent me a link to an article about this very topic.  It shows a before and after and just how much it can fade. I recently switched to the M.Graham Alizarin Crimson permanent, which is not the same thing as Alizarin Crimson, but sure looks the same. I switched because they were all out of Alizarin Crimson at the store.  It costs a bit more than AC, but if it's not going to fade and works just as well I'll keep working with it.
I was just at a demo the other day and the artist said he uses Ultramarine Violet on his palette, but you could get the same results with Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson. Well, if Ultramarine Violet doesn't fade as much as Alizarin Crimson then maybe that's an option to put on your palette for your purples.  I do a majority of my work on location and therefore need to pack as little as possible, so I'm not wanting to add new paint to my own palette.
What I'm curious about now is what happens when you mix Alizarin Crimson with another colour, like blue to get your violets. This painting above, I used the permanent Alizarin Crimson with Burnt Sienna to get that brown colour of the building. For this particular painting it might be interesting to watch it fade over time, much like the paint on the actual building will, but for those looking for a more permanent solution, what is it? A lot of blogs and articles simply tell you to keep it off your palette, but then what do you replace it with? It's such a great mixing colour that now I'm not sure I can give it up. This is a tricky one. In a way you could compare it to eating healthy vs. the strict diet of cheeseburgers and nachos I tend to stick to. (I WISH!) My Grams always tells me, eat dessert first you could die tomorrow and how sad that you didn't save room for that piece of pie. Yea, so eat what you like and paint with the pigments that make you happy. EXCEPT most artists have to consider what is going to happen to their work after they eat their last piece of pie. The work will outlive the artist so there's that to keep in mind. Is it important for us to consider that or do we try to adopt a different attitude about the permanence of our work and what that Alizarin Crimson will do 100 years from now?

Monday, March 6, 2017

"The Secret of Drawing" Episode 1: "The Line of Enquiry" 2005

If you need some motivation to get off your bum and draw then you need to watch this. "The Secret of Drawing" is a BBC television series hosted by Andrew Graham-Dixon.  A while back I tried my best to shout from the rooftops to inform everyone how important "basic" drawing is. Thankfully I found this show because Graham-Dixon does a much better job of proving this point.
It begins with a surgeon explaining the importance of drawing, unfortunately it's not for the squeamish people as it does show surgical procedure and the doctor even demonstrates how he uses the patient's own blood to sketch after operating on them. If you can't handle that just cover your eyes for a few moments because the rest is well worth it. They show, in great detail, the drawings da Vinci did and how they helped with modern medicine. The doctor had this to say about drawing, "If you're not afraid of drawing it's a wonderful tool". Indeed.
The show covers a lot of other artists and their drawings/sketches but one that's a delight to see is Constable's sketchbooks. Graham-Dixon even travels to some of the places where these artists created their works which is pure eye candy for the viewer.
He described Turner's sketches as a means to an end. This is something, I think, more people should remember and practice.  Spending most of my time plein air painting I see so many who try it and give up because they think they need to walk away with a masterpiece. Also there are artists who refer to the end piece as a sketch. Well, if all of your final pieces look just like your sketches then what's the difference? One hundred percent I believe a sketch is simply a means to an end.
One of the comments he made about Turner that I found interesting was that he sketched EVERYTHING. Looking at his work it seems as though he actually did do that. So was Turner being like people today, the ones who walk around, with their cellphones held out in front of their faces, documenting everything? In a way it could feel like that but, for me, sketching definitely puts you more in the moment. You're actually observing your surroundings and soaking it all up.
The last bit I'll leave you with so you can actually watch the show, then come back and comment, is something George Shaw said, "If you don't find the world beautiful, that's your fault".  Even if you don't take the time to watch the show take a couple of moment to think about that. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Straightforward and Clear as Mud

How do I clearly explain how I constructed these ellipses? 
Still sifting through a sea of information in order to get this "book" finished. If you're new to the blog I'll take a moment to explain. A couple of years ago I set out to put together a book, for myself not to publish, of information on drawing and painting. The idea came from endless disappointing searches for information on specific topics. For example, if you're looking for a simple explanation on two-point perspective you end up reading a book full of technical jargon and it may never clearly explain what you need to do to accurately recreate two-point perspective in a drawing. A lot of information seems to start and stop. It's as if every person who wrote about anything art related assumed we all have previous knowledge of everything they're trying to write about. Another example, I'm currently working through a book that used the term "jugular notch".  That artist assumes everyone has a laymen's knowledge of anatomy. The term students in an Anatomy course would learn is suprasternal notch. Either way, if you have no prior knowledge of this particular anatomy you're just not going to follow which in turn makes the information sort of useless.
What I've also found useless is nearly every explanation on how to draw an ellipse. I have yet to find a straightforward explanation. Keep in mind I didn't ask for an EASY explanation, just a straightforward one. Some things aren't easy but surely there's a way to get from point A to B without taking so many detours. This explanation is about as straightforward and really good, but you still need the information on how to draw a square in perspective. The information on that can easily be inserted so I'll give Mike Sibley a gold star for his good explanation, and dare I say easy? It was easy to follow so yea, gold stars across the board.
The reason why I'm looking to make the best, most straightforward, explanations of concepts is because the book is going to take on more of a recipe box form. So if I want to make something I need all of the information on one recipe card. Have you ever known anyone wanting to make a casserole and had to get each step and ingredient off of a different recipe card? Forget that, just go to Wendy's and get a cheeseburger.
Are there any books out there that give straightforward answers on basic concepts? Why do most authors insert the assumption that the reader has prior knowledge of certain concepts? Should books come with requirements like some workshops do? Some workshops/college courses require you to have previous experience before you can sign up maybe the books should come with a label that says something like; must have prior knowledge of bourgeoisie concepts and terminology before proceeding.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Rothko Conspiracy - Suicide & Scams In The Art World (1983)

Your Monday movie for this week. Don't worry if you don't like Rothko because this movie is about much more than him. When I found the movie I thought to myself, "conspiracy", they had to spice up his personal life to make his work more exciting? Don't get me wrong, as far as an abstract painter goes, I enjoy his more than most, but still...  To be honest I really knew nothing of his life and it made me start thinking. Is it important to know personal information in order to enjoy a person's work? I mean, I don't know squat about my doctor's personal life and it has no effect on how he does his job. Think back to elementary school, we knew nothing about our teachers. Heck, seeing one outside of school was the equivalent of seeing a unicorn.  Not knowing anything about them outside of school didn't have any bearing on how they did their job.  However when it comes to artists it seems to have some sort of an impact. Van Gogh and Picasso are two painters who seem to stand out when you think of personal life intermingling with their professional life. Everyone, now, feels sorry for Van Gogh because he was so troubled. Picasso's many affairs and over the top ego made him more of a celebrity than an artist at one point. Would Picasso have been less of a great artist if he didn't have all of the drama surrounding his private life that ended up in public?  Would we still find Van Gogh's work great if his story weren't so tragic? How do you feel about Rothko's work after learning a little about him and the art world after watching this film?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bad is Bad but it Could be Good

Tattoo Parlor Door 5x3" watercolour study on paper
The other day while out painting with fellow plein air painters someone brought up the subject of how your paintings are effected when you're having a bad day or in a bad mood.  We all agreed that most artists insert their moods/emotions into their work and you can tell if someone's had a bad day. I thought it odd that nobody discussed whether or not you could tell if someone was having a good day. What do you think, does a good mood/day translate to a good painting? Is a painting always bad if you're having an off day?
Bad days happen to the best of us but for some of us that doesn't mean we can just take the day off.  The other day I read a really great tweet, I know how hard that is to believe, from a comic book artist. I wish I could remember who so I could give credit. Anywho, they suggested that on a really good day, when you're feeling sharp that's when you draw faces and extra difficult poses. On mediocre days draw the backgrounds and when you're just not feeling up to snuff, draw in the panels. You could even save stuff like erasing pencil lines for bad days. Same goes for any other kind of painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. If you're having an off day maybe that's the day to gesso panels or stretch canvas. Just keep working and I'll keep you posted if there are ever any more intelligent tweets out there.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Plein Air Painting Poncho

First I must apologise for not having a Monday movie ready.  Fortunately for me the weather has been incredible so I've been out painting for the last five days and had zero time to watch a movie for this week. When mother nature gives you the gift of good days you better go out and appreciate her.
The weather had some rain in the forecast today but my hardcore plein air painter friends weren't intimidated by a small threat of rain. We met up and painted at Indian Lake. When we first got there we were sure it was going to rain on us and we laughed at each other for all bringing watercolour. We all paint either watercolour or oil but we all took a gamble and chose watercolour. Once we set up the skies seemed to clear so we got to work. I quartered off a sheet of paper in order to get four small studies in.  I got one study done and it started to sprinkle on me. I walked over to where my friends were painting and, of course, there was no rain where they were standing so I went back to my spot and did another.  We broke for lunch and the rain let loose while we were inside enjoying cheeseburgers and roast beef sandwiches.  My friends and I are either crazy or truly hardcore because as we watched it rain we discussed where we could set up to continue painting after lunch. Lucky for us the rain let up and we made it back to the lake to continue our adventures. We chose different spots and got to work. Shortly after getting back to work the rain rolled around again. I've only been plein air painting for a few years so I'm still fairly new to all the quirks that come along with it, however, being a fairly "outdoorsy" type I know how to be prepared.  Two years ago I bought some cheap rain ponchos at the dollar store for, wait for it, a dollar. I've had one in my bag ever since and always joked about when I was going to ever get to use it. It's almost like a talisman, as long as I keep it in my bag with me I'll never need to use it. I ended up using it today, but not in the traditional sense.
When the rain began I only unfolded it a little way and draped it over the top two studies I did in the morning. I clipped the plastic over the top and folded it up to act like an awning to keep the rain off the painting I was currently working on. It worked perfectly.
When the rain started coming down harder I simply pulled the plastic down over the entire sheet of paper.
When the rain let up for good I was able to finish all four.  Since I didn't unfold the poncho all of the way I was able to fold it back up easily and put it back in my bag to use again. I also have to mention the new paint box I'm using. It's the Mini-Lammert Paint Box and it's perfect. It fits inside a messenger bag or a backpack and makes hiking with my gear so much easier. I've used it for both oil and watercolour and it works well for both. In my short time as a plein air painter I've learned that being able to pack up quickly in inclement weather is always a plus so I'm very grateful to have this smaller box that makes things quicker and easier. There's even room to carry a cheap rain poncho inside.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Norman Rockwell: Paintings, Biography, Artwork, Book, History, Interesti...

The movie for this Monday isn't really a movie but a really bad interview.  It's an interview with the woman who wrote a book about Norman Rockwell.  When I stumbled upon this video it reminded me of the post James Gurney put on his blog here Rockwell Biography Criticized by Family
I remember reading it and saying, yea, who to believe? Well, at this day and age it's almost impossible to know who to believe. On one hand you could just say the author was writing the "juicy" stuff in order to sell a book. On the other hand you can say, of course his family is going to stick up for him, they don't want him seen in a bad light. When you put both hands together you probably still won't get the whole truth.
Over the years I've come to understand that even if you are at a place to witness something happen no two people will see the same thing so who's correct? Life is like looking at a Jackson Pollock painting, it doesn't make sense and no two people will see the same thing when looking at it.
To insert a conclusion may I ask, who really cares anyways? I mean, Rockwell's work speaks for itself. We know him for his illustrations and that should be that. His personal life should stay personal and we should just enjoy what he made for the public. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pulling Back the Curtain

Jar of Olives 7x5 watercolour & gouache on illustration board. 45 minute study*
Last Thursday night there was a gallery opening for some of my more current work. At the opening they asked if I'd give a talk and answer questions and so I said sure, why not. One of the questions was, how long did it take you to paint that one?  Referring to a painting that they described as "fresh" (as if the others were stale) I quickly replied, a couple of hours. In all honesty it did only take me a couple of hours HOWEVER, I noticed the reaction of some of the people and quickly had to clarify. The final painting didn't take long, it's not that big but it went quickly because I went in prepared.
I've been wanting to write about this particular topic for quite some time now and haven't figured out a good way to do it. Hopefully this is it.  See, some artists like to remain behind the curtain and keep their magic wizard tricks to themselves. I could have easily just said a couple of hours and left it at that, but I make no bones about anything. I made it clear that I spent way more time setting up the composition, lighting it correctly and most of all sketching it out several times before I even began. I probably spent a good six to eight hours working on it before I even picked up a paint brush. All of that preliminary work and sketching allowed me to whip out the painting in two hours or less. Hopefully with time and added experience it won't take me quite as long to do preliminary work, but since I can be fairly indecisive about some things I think that's just how it's going to go.
*45 minutes of preliminary sketches 
Now why I originally wanted to write about this was because last summer a young man reached out to me to help him with some of his illustration work. He wants to be a comic book artist and obviously I want to help anyone who's crazy enough to give that a try. So he spent two days in my studio telling me about his experience at school and what his frustrations were and what his goals are. I made him draw stuff too, but to get to the root of his problem he needed to explain some things. What he said, and it came as no surprise to me, was that he felt that his teachers expected him to pull things out of thin air. He should be able to sit down at a drafting table and just draw figures. Maybe, MAYBE after drawing the same figure/character several dozen times could you just sit down and draw them in any pose imaginable and insert them into any scenario needed. Until then, you need reference material, you need practice and you need patience. It doesn't happen over night. Not for anyone.  You need to put in the time and effort.  Sometimes that's eight hours of preliminary sketching to complete a 9x12 oil painting and sometimes it's 45 minutes of warm up sketches to get a particular pose correct. Other times it's years of going to school to master a technique.
It's not just limited to illustration and painting, musicians can hide behind that curtain too at times. It's the ones who aren't afraid to open the curtain every once in awhile that, I think, are truly great at what they do.  I have a friend who's a phenomenal guitar player and everyone wants to take guitar lessons from him. Some of them probably think just by sitting in a room with him while he plays will automatically make them a good guitar player. I remember one time he told a little kid how much he practiced and how long he's been doing it. Sadly the look on the kid's face was that of shock and horror. Clearly the kid didn't want to devote any such amount of time and effort into playing an instrument. Some people might think that kid was just lazy and that if he would've practiced as much as the teacher told him to he'd be a great guitar player now, but in a way that "pulling back the curtain" and being honest with him probably saved him from a lot of anxiety and stress. Going back to the comic book artists, some make it look so easy that some people get it in their minds that they can do it too but when their efforts go unnoticed it's heartbreaking at times.
In no way am I trying to say that every artist out there needs to share every intimate detail of how they do what they do.  No working artist has time to do that, they're too busy working. What I'm hoping for is that the next time someone asks how long did that take, you don't just say five minutes and leave it at that. It may have taken five minutes today but that's only after you've been doing what you do for 25 years.
With that I'll leave you with this link to Paolo Rivera's blog, The Self-Abosrbing Man. He has got to be one of my all time favourite comic book artists and everyone should give his work a look. What's even better about him, he shares his "Wacky Reference Wednesdays" posts. Click on that link and it will take you to one.  In another post he shows how he makes maquettes to help him with lighting situations. He shows some of his preliminary work and that's one of the reasons why his work is so great. That and he may just be a magical wizard.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Joan Miró 1893-1983

The movie for this Monday is about Joan Miró. This movie was made and narrated by a painter named Eva Bosch. Bosch presents the life and work of Miró very well. She goes into the history which seemed to greatly influence Miró's work. Not a huge fan of his work but after watching this I gained an appreciation for it. At the end she describes him as the best painter of poetry, which is probably the best description of his work I've ever heard.

Friday, February 3, 2017

No Problem With Problem Solving

The other day a friend sent me a quote with some wise words in regards to painting. I absolutely love it when my friends do this. I love it when someone else starts a conversation about things that are interesting or mutually beneficial. Keep the gossip, rumours, political/religious, and over-all negative talk to a dull roar.  Better yet, put that crap on silent. The art world can be cruel and harsh and often times lonely. Critics can be mean, family members won't understand what you're doing and the self-doubt can be crippling. With all of this stacked up against us, why do we keep doing what we do?
Last night someone asked this question and I laughed, I do it to keep myself out of trouble. I don't want to be sent to the funny farm.  Another responded, he has no idea why and another response, to stay out of the bars.
Honestly, I think the whole world would benefit from picking up a paintbrush, or even just a pencil and start creating. Not because it's peaceful and oh so zen and hippie-like. It's because your problem solving skills and observation skills will grow exponentially. Who doesn't benefit from having excellent observation and problem solving skills?

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Power of Art - Mark Rothko

Never been much of a fan of they type of art that Rothko made but for some reason I enjoy his work.  Sure it's simple and makes people angry but perhaps that was the point? What I do like about his work are his colour choices and how they do invoke emotions in the viewer.  Whether it's anger at the artist "getting away" with painting a square, or whether it's the calming blues or warm oranges that may help you reminisce. This hour long show really displays how art can be quite powerful.  It can inspire in several different ways and that's why it's so important. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rotten Eggs

Trying to finish up a few last paintings for my upcoming show.  When I was asked if I'd do a show I said of course and figured I'd just hand over some stuff I already had done. Then it occurred to me that doing that would be kinda lazy so I set out to do a slew of new paintings. Now I'm questioning which idea was worse. I also toyed with the idea of doing some sort of theme and that didn't work out either. The weather didn't cooperate with me to go out and create 20 new landscapes either so I was left to work from photographs or attempt the dreaded still life.
I don't hate painting a still life, I hate setting them up. What do you put in them so it doesn't look like you raided a junk store and decided to paint it all? Designing a still life, there should be a college course on that. It's a lot like food. Sure you could grab everything out of the refrigerator and cook it in some sort of casserole and you'd find somebody to eat it, but it doesn't mean it's good.
What I've discovered, over this last month, is that creating and painting a still life is much like plein air painting. It has to be something that catches your eye, keeps you interested and inspires you to paint it. Most of all the lighting has to be "special". I probably spent more time setting stuff up and messing with the light than actually painting. A lot of the stuff I tried didn't work out and even though, at the time, it felt like a waste of time I realised I was learning.  Learning why some things didn't work and why other things did.
Nearing the end I've come to the conclusion that lighting is everything, whether it be light or lack of. Just like the movie, Poltergeist, if the light isn't good don't go into it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Edouard Manet Documentary - feat. Waldemar Januszczak

Edouard Manet was born on this day in 1832.  His works are very well known but unfortunately his name is not. How many times have you told someone you liked Manet and someone responds with, "Oh, I like Monet too."?  If it weren't for Manet we may not have known who Monet was.  
He's probably my favourite painter. I go back and forth between him and Hopper but you could also argue that without Manet we'd have no Hopper either. Either way, here is a documentary about some of his work. Of course they touch on all of the "scandalous" undertones to his work, which gets ridiculous but some people aren't interested unless there's a fair amount of drama surrounding something. Even if you turned the volume down on this it would be a good one to watch. They do lots of close ups of the paintings and show smaller details that you may have missed before. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

William Dobson Documentary - feat. Waldemar Januszczak

This is a nice, hour long, show on William Dobson.  Dobson was most well known for his portrait paintings and back in the 1600s was said to be "the most excellent painter that England has yet bred".
Is it bad that I had no idea who he was until I watched this? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Does Not Play Well With Others

When life hands you lemons just make lemonade and don't bother trying to paint them.  Good lord is there anything harder to paint than a lemon peel? The reflective surface of the lemon peel picks up a myriad of colours, ones you didn't even know were nearby.  After trying several different setups I went with something I thought would be completely safe, white on white on white background. Sadly, that lemon peel still picked up colours from I don't know where. Outer space probably. It's not exactly a problem for it to reflect nearby colours, it's a problem when you try to put it in the painting and it smooshes around with the yellow.  That yellow does not play well with others.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ribbon Cutting

Ribbon, scissors, ball 8x10 oil on gesso board
Considering how much I dislike wrapping gifts I'm perplexed as to why I have this large roll of ribbon. Seriously, why torture people by wrapping a gift then putting this stuff around it making it nearly impossible to open? One of my grandmothers would even put that clear tape around the box. That's absolute evil in the eyes of an eight year.  Almost like getting a soda at the drive thru and not getting a straw to go with it. So considering I don't even use the ribbon, and can't seem to give it away, I decided to make it somewhat useful and paint it. Surprisingly it was fun to paint.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Power of Art Bernini complete episode

Gian (everybody's named John!) Lorenzo Bernini has been making the rounds on the internet as of late. Several people are sharing a photo of his statue The Rape of Proserpina and stating that he created it when he was only 16.  It's either someone's way of praising his greatness or trying to make you feel like a complete failure at whatever it is you're doing. To those who are attempting the latter, you can go straight to Hades. What they don't tell you is that Bernini began working around the age of 8 and had the Pope's blessing. If you met the Pope at age 8 and he declared that you would one day be a great sculptor then you'd probably do all you could to be a great sculptor. Wouldn't it be great if we all had someone to encourage us like that? On the other hand, he had a lot to prove. 
This is only an hour long but gives all of the sordid details of his life. Attempting to murder his own brother and ordering someone to slash up the face of your ex best girl... Makes me wonder if there was a 16th century version of Jerry Springer.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't Worry 'Bout the Wobble

Spoon and Rubber Cement ink on paper
Lately I've been hard at work on a difficult painting .  There are a lot of elements in it that I keep telling myself not to mess up on while I paint it. It's like when your friend says, don't look now, and you always look. DUH, just don't say it. So as I was torturing myself to get this line straight, make sure this lines up with that and don't smudge that thing over there I hit a wall and had to walk away. As I stepped away from the painting I opened up my pile of notes I have for that infamous book I'm still working on. I found a note written that says," don't worry if your lines aren't straight,  A slight vibration in a line shows that there's life to it".  I don't know where this nugget of wisdom came from but it came to me at the right time.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Greatest Art Movie Ever "Art of the Steal" (2009)

I watched this one a few years ago on, I think it was PBS, and it made me angry. I know being angry isn't the way you want to start off a new year, but it's a good type of angry. It's the lighting a fire in your belly type of angry. The type of angry that makes you want to shake your fist in the air and scream, this isn't right!
This is a documentary about the 25 billion dollar collection that Dr. Albert C. Barnes acquired and left for students to learn from and enjoy. It's about how it was very specific that the collection remain where it was and kept there for its original intended purpose, but how it eventually got swindled away by a corrupt board of directors and so on. The documentary does do a good job of presenting the pros and cons to both sides, which in turn leaves it up to the viewer to decided whether or not what happened was wrong. I'm still on the fence about this one. At first I 100% felt like Dr. Barnes's wishes should be upheld. He left specific instructions for what should happen to the artwork. So should his instructions be followed or should the work be more easily accessible to the general public according to the wishes of some board of directors? Who knows what's best?  It's hard to decide.
All I know is, if I make specific wishes before I die and someone goes against them, you better believe I will come back and haunt their ass.