Monday, June 19, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 4 (1972)

This week's show is the final episode of "Ways of Seeing" and it's a doozy. He's trying to compare publicity, advertising and oil paintings. He makes a good argument about how advertisements and oil paintings are very similar. It's a great slap in the face to wake you up about things that you may not have thought of, or haven't thought about in some time.
He makes the statement that society has changed. I'm not so convinced. I think the way we look at it has changed, perhaps our tolerance towards certain things has changed but things, sometimes sadly, still seem to operate much the same way.
There was something that struck a chord with me because it related to a recent conversation I had. He spoke about how publicity/advertising is telling you to buy something so that you'll be better. A recent post about how practice and hard work gets you places rather than the fanciest tools brought about a conversation. The person just wanting to start is frustrated that a master will not share what kinds of tools they use. The would be student is angry because it's not fair and how will they ever be as good if they can't use the same pen/paintbrush? The master is making a point that they put in the hard work to get there. Without their hand that pen/paintbrush would just sit there and do nothing. It's a great conversation because both sides have valid arguments. However it's sad that "publicity" has driven this wedge between the two.  Advertising and marketing would have you believe that by simply buying this specific thing will make you better.  On the other hand the person who has mastered that thing only wants to give credit to their hard work and dedication. Then there's the poor guy who just wants to know where to begin.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Plein Air Packing Part Two: Pastels

Here is part two of my plein air packing, this is what I pack when I go out with pastels.  There has been many discussions about the pros and cons of using pastel while on location. The very first con that most people list is that you have to take a ton of stuff. When I first started plein air painting I only took out pastel because that was my preferred medium. I wasn't in competitions and didn't need to consider framing and things like that. I took out EVERYTHING I had. So it can be done if you really want to, but it's totally unnecessary. Out of curiosity I weighed my gear to see just how much heavier the pastels are compared to the oil and watercolours.
(A few of the items are repeats from the previous post that you can read here. )
This setup weighs 13 pounds, which is pretty much the same as the oils so no more excuses that pastels are too heavy. 
  1. This is my pastel box, it holds a very large number of pastels. There are probably about 200 or more in this box right now. The number can vary depending on what I put in. A lot of pastels come in half sticks and with those you can put in more colours. 
  2. Handy dandy rucksack. This backpack has been with me for a very long time. It's a Jansport brand, something most people might buy their kids for school and has no signs of wear nor tear.
  3. Multi-media sketchbook
  4. Masking tape. Same cheap masking tape I use for watercolours. 
  5. Hand wipes-pastels go really fast for me so I often need to clean my hands in between and after I'm done. Pastels will end up all over your clothes and face but don't worry they're easy to clean up. 
  6. Sunblock-sunblock is important for all year around painting. 
  7. Multi-purpose clips for all manner of emergencies. 
  8. Pencil case- this is filled with a bunch of stuff that is listed in this previous post
  9. Bug spray
  10. Tissues
  11. Plastic bag.  When working in pastel I use a lot of those wipes and tape so I like to have a bag to collect my trash in. 
Inside the box of pastels I keep the rest of the supplies needed to work with. 
  1. Hardboard panel. This is an 11x14 piece of 1/8" masonite but any hard surface to tape your paper to will work. In a pinch I've even used a piece of cardboard when I forgot my board. 
  2. Pastel paper. I pack several different sizes of paper, usually 9x12, 8x10 and 5x7. 
  3. Glassine- Glassine is what I put on my finished painting to protect it until I get home or frame it. I hear a lot of people complain that it's too expensive, but I buy a roll, cut off small pieces and even reuse it. I bought a roll three years ago and have a ton left. 
  4. Pastels- Both sides of the box are filled with pastels of various brands. 
This is the whole thing set up and ready to use. You can see it takes up very little space and after weighing it, now I know it doesn't weigh that much either. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hugging the Learning Curves

Seems like so many things we see and do have a video or some sort of interactive part to it these days. I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's fun to watch other people paint. Everybody loves happy little trees!  This is my first attempt at trying to record myself inking this quick sketch.  I used my Google Glass and some Sony software to speed up a 10 minute video to about a 30 second video. It was interesting, for me, to use the Google Glass. I could see just how fast I was going. It felt like I had been working on this for an hour but glancing at the display I was only 6 minutes in. There are parts where you can't really see what my hand is doing and I think that has to do with the Glass being too big for me. You wear them like glasses so they move with the movement of your head, not your eyes. Sometimes I'm actually not moving my head just my eyes and the Glass doesn't follow where my eyes and hands go. They're a pretty cool piece of technology but they obviously have their limitations. 
(for those having trouble watching the video on here, click the link to my Instagram here and you can view the 1 minute version). 
If you thought learning how to paint was hard, try learning to paint and record a video of yourself at the same time. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Abstract: The Art of Design | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Your Monday movie this week is a series put out by Netflix called, Abstract:  The Art of Design. I stumbled upon it while looking for background noise while working on a project. At first that's what it was, then the person asking questions quickly caught my attention.  They were asking some of the stupidest questions and I thought this was a joke, possibly a spoof or something.  No, it's actually a series that showcases designers/artists of various genres. Shoe designers, stage designers, etc. The first episode focuses on Christoph Niemann and it's wonderful. When he began explaining his work I started rolling my eyes. Making stuff with Legos, it deserved an eye roll but keeping an open mind I could appreciate what he was doing. His work is fun and inspiring.
If you don't have Netflix search Youtube for the first episode.It may be morally corrupt and if we all end up in Hell for watching pirated videos on Youtube I'll bring the beer, you can bring snacks. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Plein Air Packing Part 1

Here is part one of my plein air packing tips. This is a far cry from where I began. I used to drag as much stuff with me as I could. Now I work to condense as much as I can. It seems like every time I go out I try to remove something or find something smaller so I can be more compact.  The ultimate goal for anyone wanting to plein air paint is to pack light enough and get gear that won't be too cumbersome. If setting up your easel takes 45 minutes and is no fun then you'll come up with excuses to not paint. You don't need the fanciest, most expensive gear, just something that will work for you.
This first part is the gear I take when I plan on painting watercolour/casein.  When I want to paint in watercolour I just grab this bag and go.

  1. Corrugated plastic- 11x14 sized piece of corrugated plastic that I use for my board.  It's super lightweight yet tough enough to travel and withstand wind. 
  2. Masking tape. Plain old $0.98/roll masking tape. 
  3. Mini-Lammert Paint Box- this is the smaller version of the Lammert Paint Box. It, along with everything in this photo fits inside the messenger bag.
  4. Bug Soother-any bug spray is better than no bug spray but this brand is really nice. It's all natural and has a pleasant scent and most of all works. 
  5. Tissues-an all year 'round necessity. 
  6. Pencil Case-contains tons of stuff that will be listed in an upcoming photo.
  7. Bottled water-no brand in particular and I reuse the bottle. This is for painting but if I get too thirsty and forget something for drinking I can drink this. 
  8. Mesh Reinforced Vinyl Zip Bag-This is an 11x14 size that holds watercolour paper of various sizes. This brand and size was found at Hobby Lobby but I can't seem to find a working link on their site. 
  9. Chapstick-Painting outdoors, especially near the water and in windy conditions you need this BUT be careful with what kind of lip balm you choose. If it smells too sweet you attract gnats and other annoying bugs. If it's too sticky those same bugs will get stuck on your lips. Stick with a soft scent. This one in the picture is the Chapstick brand key lime scent. The citrus scent hasn't attracted too many bugs. (yet)
  10. Sunblock- Like the bug spray any brand is better than no brand but I highly recommend this Banana Boat stick. Very VERY light scent, not greasy and the stick practically takes up no space in the bag. 
  11. Clips- These are heavy duty clips that come in handy for many things. If the easel is acting up they can hold parts down. If I run out of tape they can hold down my paper. 
  12. Messenger bag/Backpack- Again any brand will work but this L.L. Bean messenger/backpack is pretty great. It's about 20 years old and hardly shows any wear and tear. Everything fits in it with tons of room left over. 
  13. Sketchbook-any brand and any size sketchbook will work. These are handy for thumbnail sketches and notans so it may be a good idea to find a sketchbook that has a good multi-media paper. 
This is what is packed inside the Lammert Paint Box pictured above. 
  1. Chamois cloth-this one came from the dollar store and is basically one of those crazy Shamwow chamois cloths. These work great for watercolour painting. They're reusuable and I don't have to worry about forgetting paper towels. 
  2. The Lammert Paint Box-they come in two different sizes. This smaller one is perfect for my watercolour setup. 
  3. Spray Bottle- This came from the travel section at Shopko. Shopko is the Midwest's general merchandise store. I only mention it because I've never seen this kind at Target/Wal-Mart etc. The nozzle is adjustable and it locks closed. 
  4. Palette- This Holbein palette fits perfectly inside the paint box.  There are other brands that will fit just fine too.
  5. Faber Castell collapsable water cup.  This collapsable cup is perfect. It's lightweight and cleans up easy. The one pictured here is a couple of years old so it's pretty durable as well. 
  6. Brushes- Rosemary & Co. squirrel hair brushes in sizes 16, 10, 8,6 and 4. To be honest I usually only use the 8 and 4 and the Connoisseur Happy Dot Detail so you don't need to pack a ton of brushes. 
  7. Ruler-I keep a ruler in my pencil case but this one takes up hardly any room so it just kind of hangs out in the paint box. 
This is the pencil case. The pencil case isn't static, the stuff in it always stays the same, but it moves from bag to bag. I can grab it out of my watercolour bag and put it in my oil painting bag and my sketching bag. 
  1. Moo Eraser-This eraser is amazing for erasing charcoal and pastel. 
  2. Kneaded eraser-Love these things. They can double as a stress reliever. 
  3. Pencil/ink eraser-this type of eraser is handy when watercolour painting. The ink side can do some lifting. It stays in the pencil case for when I'm just going out to sketch. 
  4. Pencil sharpener-This pencil sharpener is like the town floosey, everyone has used it. Honestly, they're the one thing most people forget to pack so leaving one in the case has saved many of my friends.
  5. Mini pencil sharpener-this is for my lead holder.  It sharpens the graphite to a perfect point. In a pinch I can use the regular pencil sharpener but I do my best to always have one of these in the case. 
  6. The pencil case-any kind will work, this one came from the dollar store and is about four years old. It's finally starting to show some wear and tear but I'll use it until it completely falls apart. I forgot to label the rubber bands on the outside. They're there for use not because it's holding it together. 
  7. Ruler- After being tired of wishing I had a ruler with me I finally got a small one that fits in the case so I can take it with me whether I need it or not. I use it quite often. 
  8. Cardboard ruler-I wrote about this cardboard ruler in a previous post you can read here. It's not necessary but comes in handy for making the rectangles for sketches. 
  9. Pentel Pilot Petite Pen-refillable ink pens come in three sizes. I use this one and the next one pictured the most. 
  10. Pentel Pilot Petite Pen-refillable and when the you put the cap on the end it's a relatively normal sized pen. 
  11. Pilot Pocket Brush Pen-my favourite brush pen. Only draw back is it's not refillable. 
  12. Wide tipped black Sharpie-extremely handy for Notans and recently a friend borrowed it to cover a nick on a black frame during a plein air competition. Super handy. 
  13. Prismacolor Drawing Lead Holder- these come in several brands but this is my favourite. It's the best balanced.  Only drawback is the metal clip can sometimes be a pain when when working outdoors, you get a nasty glare from the sun. 
  14. White coloured pencil-rarely use this but comes in handy every once in awhile. 
  15. Princeton Neptune watercolour brush size 4-comes in really handy when going out sketching
  16. Robert Simmons white sable watercolour brush size 6-also comes in handy when sketching. 
  17. Graphite-the tube is from the Staedtler brand but I refill it with Prismacolour graphite because I've found that the Prismacolor brand has way less grit than any other brand. I keep 2B and 6B in it. A 2B is great for drawing with and 6B is wonderful for doing value sketches. 
  18. Waterbrush- I have these in every size available. I keep this one in the pencil case because it holds more water than other brands and is easier to refill. 
  19. White gouache- this is all purpose.  Works for watercolour sketches and value studies.  You can also use it as white-out if needed. 
This may look like a huge list of stuff, and maybe some of it can be omitted but again ALL of it fits inside the bag and actually weighs less than my plein air pastel box alone. Four other things that I've not shown here but always have, usually in my car, my tripod for the paint box, a hat, antibacterial wipes and my phone or a camera. I will compile another list for my oil painting setup and one for my pastel setup. They're pretty much the same with a few variations. I hope this helps. It's not, by any means, what everyone should take with them, but hopefully it gives you some ideas on what to pack for yourself. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Questions From a Girly Mag

Someone asked, what are the essentials when you go out painting? Am I the right person to answer this question? Today I left the house without my easel. Luckily I was only about a mile away from home when it occurred to me.  I always have a sketchbook with me so it wouldn't have been a total loss today but still. I'm now working on a post that will cover my essentials that I always take with me, or try to, when I go out on location.  It might be fun to see what everyone else packs. Either share your own post of essentials or message me with some things you must have when plein air painting. You can e-mail me or leave them in the comments section below. On top of that I'll pose this other question. Back in the day I was reading one of those girlie magazines, not a GIRLY mag just a girlie magazine. They posed the question, if you were on a deserted island and could only bring one beauty item which would you choose; lip balm, sunscreen, or mascara.  After compiling your list of essential plein air paintings items which ONE item would be your must have? Aside from easel, paint, brushes, the basics, what's one thing you absolutely need?

Monday, June 5, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 3 (1972)

The show for this week is episode three of Ways of Seeing.  John Berger's hair just gets better and better.  This one took a minute to get into, meaning I wasn't quite sure where it was going. However, like the previous two episodes it got me thinking right away. 
"If you buy a painitng you buy also the look of the thing it represents".  Not exactly sure what that means but it got me thinking about a conversation I had with my friend and fellow painter, Deb. We were discussing an artist and I said I didn't like the colour palette they worked with. She said she didn't mind the colours but the application is what she didn't like. So would we not buy their paintings because we didn't like the representation? For me that's exactly what that means. I love strawberry milkshakes but if someone painted one in a way that didn't make me want another strawberry milkshake in my life there's no way I would buy it. If Picasso painted that strawberry milkshake you know someone would pay millions just because it was a Picasso. No thanks. That's when paintings turn into investments and not something to be enjoyed. 
Then when he started speaking about the people who could afford to buy paintings and commission portraits. This got me thinking about this "white privilege" crap we hear so much about today. Why can't we have more diversity in films? Why can't we have more women in political office? Why can't people shut up? Anywho, so rich people could afford paintings so that must've influenced some artists to paint things that they would purchase. Some artists do that. Some artists look for the trends and paint what is selling. Does that make them artists or businessmen? Furthermore, if anyone could afford to buy a good painting what would they want to have hanging on their wall?  If someone living in poverty had the chance to own a good painting what would they want? Since some people are so convinced that rich people are the only ones who have influence it makes me curious as to what they would want or even commission. It would probably really surprise everyone.  Just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean you have good taste and just because you have no money doesn't mean you don't have any taste.  And just because you think you have good taste or your grandma tells you that you do, doesn't mean you do. Just because you can pay an artists to paint your portrait doesn't make you any better looking or more important than the next person. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Let's Not be L7

Thumbnail sketch made in proportion for a 9x12 finished piece.
Yes, let's not be L7 but if you're too cheap to buy a View Catcher go ahead.  A lot of plein air painters can be seen making the infamous rectangle to the face that used to be made fun of exclusively in TV shows and movies when a crazy director could tell you had the look and you needed to be in their next film. What they're ultimately doing is framing their shot or if you're a landscape painter framing the scene.  This handy little gadget called the View Catcher does the same thing but with a few benefits.
It's basically a 2x2" square with a sliding piece in the centre so you can adjust the size to fit standard sized panels/frames. It also has that tiny hole that can help you isolate colours.  The benefit to using one of these over just using your lumpy fingers is that it's a little more accurate plus you can use it for thumbnail sketches.
In a conversation with fellow artist, Diane Tough, she was telling me how it was frustrating to see some people make sketches that were completely out of proportion to what their final painting was going to be. For example, say they were going to paint on an 8x10 canvas.  They could certainly do an 8x10" sketch but what's the point of that? No, a quick thumbnail sketch to get composition and values is sufficient, but what a lot of them do is just make any old sized rectangle in their sketchbook and get to work. Then when they go to start the painting they can't figure out why they can't work out the composition correctly. If their thumbnail had been in correct proportion it would make things a lot more simple, and HOORAY, this handy little gadget will help you do just that. The View Catcher adjusts to standard sizes, 8x10, 8x12, 9x12, 11x14, 12x16 and any size square.  I do a lot of 5x7 paintings so I did the math and marked spots on the view catcher for that. If you're too lazy to do the math yourself it's approximately somewhere in between the 8x12 and 9x12 mark (but it's closer to the 9x12).
So all you have to do is slide the View Catcher into whatever position you want and trace around the inside. I took a picture just in case. You know, some people like to tell you what to do but they can never actually show you what they mean, so here you go.
It's truly ideal for making thumbnail sketches and, as per the point of this post, will help keep you in proportion. If you're too cheap to buy one and not afraid of doing math you can easily cut up some pieces of cardboard or matboard that would be the correct proprtion and trace around those.  I keep the cardboard backing from a package of framing D-rings in my pencil case for a back up in case I forget my View Catcher.  Why the cardboard package from framing D-rings? Because most brands are really nice and have a ruler printed on them, they're 2" wide and easy to trace around.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 2 (1972)

This week is episode two of "Ways of Seeing".  Sorry if you were looking for this post yesterday. Next week I'll go back to posting the movies/shows on Monday.  
I wasn't sure if I was going to post any more of this show but John Preston told me he watched this and found it fairly interesting so I thought I may as well.  Wow, there's a lot to chew on in just 28 minutes of content. My mind is still swirling and I'm having a hard time nailing down what to start with. The nude vs naked topic might be a good place. In college one of my art history professors brought up this topic.  It was a lot more funny when she spoke about it though because she was an older, very petite, southern belle. When she said the word naked we all giggled. I think the woman towards the end said it best, naked is a costume you can't get out of. Some people have those nightmares about being naked in public spaces. Like giving a speech and you suddenly realise you forgot to put on your trousers that day. In those instances it's probably a fear of being judged for something you're not presenting. Sometimes you hear a woman say something like, I feel so naked without my lipstick. It's because when they wear a certain lipstick they're presenting themselves in the way they want to be seen, but without it we see them the way they really are. Nine times out of 10 they look fine either way, but if the lipstick gives them the confidence they need it can mean the difference between conquering the mountain or not getting out of bed. 
Going to the beginning of this episode it was said that with the paintings, "we can see how women were seen"  Can we? I'm not so sure. It seems to me we can see how some women were seen by some people and interpreted by certain painters. This combined with the comments towards the end of the show abut not being able to relate to the women in the paintings is something we still struggle with. I've always questioned whether or not people REALLY looked like how they're depicted in a Renaissance painting. Did they all have that pale, dead looking skin, almond shaped eyes and long pointy noses? Evolution, right? They could have really looked like that and we've all just evolved to look the way we do now. Hearing the woman comment on how the women in the paintings are not realistic and it's why she can't relate gave me a sigh of relief. The paintings were like the first photo manipulation software. The painter could make the women look a certain way even if that's not how they really looked. Photoshop isn't such a new concept. 
Again, there is a lot to chew on with this episode. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Competition One is Done

Spring Blossoms 8x10 oil on panel (took 3rd place in the competition)

The first plein air competition, for me, took place this past weekend and it was SO MUCH FUN!  I was painting all weekend with some of my good friends and some that I usually only get to see at these competitions. I also met a lot of new people and the weather couldn't have turned out any better.  It was supposed to rain all weekend but we never got a drop. 
Saturday night some of the painters got together and were treated to margaritas and snacks. While we were relaxing (shooting the breeze if you will) we got on the subject of listening to music while painting. John Preston told us he prefers to not listen to music while out painting because he wants to take it all in. That's probably part of the reason why he captures the atmosphere/mood so well in his paintings.  I absolutely enjoy being outside, being present, listening to the sounds, but I had to confess that unless I cut off one of my senses I'd never get any painting done. I told them how earlier that day I had to put my headphones on or I  would have still been at Indian Lake chasing a snake. 
While in the middle of painting this small, 7x5, pastel I was distracted by everything around me. The kids at the beach, the butterflies swarming, and the snake swimming along in front of me. 
After following the snake for about 15 minutes I realised that I was supposed to be there painting.  Yea, it's pretty sad how easily distracted I am while outdoors, so I've found that by listening to music it takes something out of the equation and I can focus a little more on the task at hand. It doesn't keep me completely calm and focused, but it helps.  The day before the headphones helped block out the noise from a squeaky swing set.  There have been a couple of drawbacks to listening to music while painting. The most notable was when I was listeining to Goblin's soundtrack to the movie Suspiria and some creepy looking guy came up from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. Maybe some day I won't be so A.D.D. and I'll be able to soak it all in without getting so easily distracted but until then I'll be "one of those" plein air painters who wears headphones while they paint. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

5 Things Top Realist Painters Do Really Well

Sometimes lessons are hard to learn For whatever reason things just don't click the first time. Sometimes the teacher just doesn't say it in a way that makes sense. Sometimes it's the attitude of the student or the teacher that's fighting against the lesson. Whatever the cause may be I urge any realist painter to watch this video and if it doesn't click the first time watch it again later. 
Steve Mitchell is mainly a watercolour painter but these lessons , he calls them suggestions and tips, work in any medium. One of the great things about this is he gives examples of what he's talking about and presents it well. I was recently telling someone how I don't understand why so many artists and teachers urge others to read Harold Speed's books. I read one and sure some of the information was helpful but the book was so disorganised, jumping around from topic to topic, and on top of that he had a wrank attitude and inserted his opinion at every opportunity. Sure, it's his book so he can put whatever he wants in it, but guess what, we don't have to read it. Point is, sometimes it just takes the right person to say something in order for us to learn.  Steve Mitchell gives his five tips in a way that I'd like to hear all 5,000, or however many he has.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Upcoming Shows and Events

This weekend kicks off the plein air competitions for me this year and I'm excited to get back to it.
Here's a list of upcoming stuff.

  • Paint Van Buren this weekend (May 26-28) beginning in Keosauqua, IA. I can't find a website or any info but I know there's still time to participate if you want to join, or just come out and watch us paint. 
  • Plein Air Group Show at Art Domestique The opening for this show will be June 1, 2017 6:30-8PM. I can't find any info for this so you'll just have to trust me on this one. The Farmer's Market will be on the square and some of the artists in the show will be out there painting before the opening. I heard there will be music as well and a possible Patrick Hazell siting. 
  • River Bluffs Paint Out is a three day event in Canton, MO, Quincy, IL and Hannibal,MO. 
There are about a gillion other events coming up and I'll update on those soon.

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.