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.