Monday, July 31, 2017

1/2 Ryan Gander - The Art of Everything: The Culture Show

Your show for this week is an episode of The Culture Show. The show began in 2004 on BBC Two and covered artists, writers, music, fashion, performing arts, etc. The show lasted until 2015 so there's a huge catalog of episodes with film directors, actors, painters, sculptors and so on. At random I chose the episode featuring artist Ryan Gander. I must remember to be more like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade and choose more wisely.
While his work is not my cuppa it may be yours so keep an open mind. One thing I have to comment on was his "portraits".  He explains to Miranda Sawyer, the presenter,  that he actually destroyed all of the portraits and what you're seeing are the palettes on which the paint was mixed to make the portraits.  He wants you to look at the palettes and imagine what the portraits would look like from that.  I immediately thought, hmmm wonder how it would go if you went to a restaurant, ordered a meal and the server brought you a plate full of crumbs and told you to imagine what the food would taste like.
I walked away from this asking myself, what does this guy actually do? What does he create? From what we see in the show, he comes up with ideas and everyone else does the work. How does that work? Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta and a whole other can of worms)  admitted to doing the same thing. He hired a team of graphic designers to do all of his work for him.  What is the deal with the people who actually make the work and allow the artist to take all of the credit? We need a documentary on that!  The Wrecking Crew is a wonderful movie about studio session musicians who are actually the geniuses behind most of the pop music from the 60s on up.  They're the ones who came up with the music but the guy who fit the suit got all of the credit in the public's eye. It feels like a similar situation with these artists who put their name on something but don't put in the work. Not sure what to think about it all.
This episode is split into two parts and the second half should start right after this one, if not here's the link to part two

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Halt, Put the Paintbrush Down

Salon 406 9x12" oil on panel
After another weekend of plein air painting I have come home with another fun story of my adventures. My friend Deb and I decided to do a nocturne Friday night. We parked a block away from a barbecue contest and a cover band from Omaha.  Deb set up on the sidewalk and painted a scene up the street and I set up in front of my car and painted a hair salon that was across the street.  Deb was done before I was so she started walking around looking at some of the other buildings while I kept working. When I was alone, facing across the street, a cop came up behind me and scared me. He thought I was trying to break into a car, which happened to be my own.  When he saw what I was doing he laughed and admitted that I scared him. I guess I know what I'll go as for Halloween this year.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How to fill a Sketchbook

Just a short video for this Monday.  How I stumbled onto this one I have no idea but it was fun. WARNING! She can be a bit crass, as you may be able to tell from the opening scene, so if you're overly sensitive and easily offended just skip this one. If you're not and you want some ideas on how to fill a sketchbook, take the time because she has some good ideas.
The reason why I'm sharing this one is because I just had a conversation with some friends about how people are so intimidated when it comes to painting, drawing, etc. There's some sort of fear of messing up a blank sheet of paper or canvas. What I can't wrap my head around is that as children we can't wait to be adults so we can make up our own rules. Kids are constantly told, don't do that, do this, that's wrong and on and on. Remember back to when you were a kid and you'll probably remember pouting and making all sorts of plans for how you were going to do it your way when you were older. Now that you're older are you doing it your way, or are you going back to the way someone told you how to do it?
Another reason why I shared this one is because this time of year is perfect for taking out a sketchbook and throwing down quick studies. Her idea of going to the library (I think she said libary) is great. Get some reference material and cool off in the air conditioning. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summer Reading List

Cloud Study 9x12" pastel on paper
Hopefully you've put a pretty good dent in your summer reading list by now. If not you still have time.  Between comic books and a box of old pulp fiction novels that was gifted to me by a friend, I've been going through Lorenzo Chavez's recommended books
When I first came across this list I thought, there's no way! I'll be spending all of my painting time reading and I can't give up my painting time.  Well, that's not the case, there's plenty of time to read, I just don't have plenty of time to watch TV and the fact that I'm not on Facebook seems to leave me plenty of free time. (try it, you might like it)  I had considered giving a review on the books but that would take up too much painting time.  Instead I'll give you some snippets of  what I found interesting or helpful, or perhaps both. 
From "Hawthorne on Painting", 
  •  Don't try to be an artist all at once, be very much of a student. 
  • Be always searching, never settle to do something you've done before.  
  • Always be looking for the unexpected in nature. You can never have formulas for anything. 
  • Don't learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how. 
  • You must keep an attitude of continuous study and so develop yourself. 
  • Discover beauty where others have not found it. 
and my favourite
  • One of the greatest things in the world is to train ourselves to see beauty in the commonplace. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1/4 Great Artists in Their Own Words - But Is it Art ? (1966-1993)

The show for this week, "Great Artists in Their Own Words".  The BBC is a treasure trove of shows about art and artists. PBS has some but they don't seem to be presented as well. This show clearly gives the appearance that they're not sold on the artists and their art but at the same time it gives them the platform to explain themselves. I certainly felt the same as the woman who said Carl Andre was having a laugh with his pile of bricks but when he was given the opportunity to speak about his work I actually believed him. He really believes in his work and sometimes that's just as important as having technical skills. It's broken up into 15 minute sections and you can easily find the other three segments.
This first 15 minute segment touches on the happenings. I remember one of my art history professors talking about them a lot. She was really good at her job and I could never figure out if she liked them or thought they were incredibly ridiculous. I remember not fully understanding what they were supposed to be about, nor how they were funded. Were they done by people without jobs, or were they on their lunch break? How do you live a life of leisure where you can just throw yourself on top of a car, call it art and pay your electric bill? Today we have things called "flash mobs" that at least make some sort of sense and can be enjoyed by most. 
This type of "happening" looks like fun and would almost motivate me to go shopping. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Jefferson Street at Night

Jefferson Street at Night 5x7" watercolour sketch on handmade cotton paper

It's much too nice outside to be inside watching movies or even working so I'll give you a movie tomorrow.  Today is this quick sketch I did of an evening scene in my hometown. This is Jefferson street and it has changed a lot over the years. I remember going shopping for school clothes on this street, being drug by the arm to go listen to Walter Mondale give a speech here, playing in the fountain (that's no longer there), being in parades, watching wiener dog races, watching bicycle races and endless amounts of other activities. It's funny how the shops on the street have changed over the years, even the street itself, but the memories still hold fast. This scene is typical, for this end of the street, at night. The other end of Jefferson would be filled with cars and no trees. I chose this block because of the trees and how they were lit up underneath by the street lamps. I thought it would be tough to do but if you stick to a traditional way of working in watercolour it was actually pretty easy. I drew in my basic shapes then painted in the sky and did a wash of yellow over the rest of the paper. Once it was dry I went in with the local colours and added a few details. The hardest part was judging that value of the lit portion of the buildings. When first looking at them they look extremely bright but squinting down it's only the windows that allow the light through that were bright and the rest was in a more muted middle value. Going back in and trying to correct that, after I thought I was done, was quite tricky.  Next time I'll try to be more mindful of that.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hunting and Gathering

Heron Bend 3x4" watercolour sketch
Once had someone tell me that one of my paintings looks REALLY bad in the picture I posted online but it didn't look that bad in person. That person can go kick rocks. Not because my feelings were hurt, because they weren't, but because if you're going to dish out criticism like that you better have a solution to the problem. Fine, thank you for telling me that my paintings look less crappy in person than they do on your computer screen.  Hopefully some day they'll have a camera setting that's specifically to make your paintings look less crappy on a computer. Until then, you'll just have to imagine that, in real life, they don't look as bad as they do in cyberspace. 
Bridge at Ely Ford 3x2.5" watercolour sketch

Unfortunately it's not just cyberspace we have to worry about our paintings looking differently. I don't know how many times I've heard this from a plein air painter, looks good now wonder how it will look when I get it inside. The lighting will sometimes change how paintings appear.  I found this article from artists, Mitchell Albala. It's got good information so if you have time give it a read, if not  scroll down half way and see how he has his easel oriented to demonstrate how light can change the way your painting looks. He's actually demonstrating how to keep your palette and canvas in the same light so that you won't be surprised when you mix paint and apply to your canvas, but it also shows how the painting looks different in sunlight and shade. When I first started plein air painting I didn't realise how much the light on my work effected the way I saw it. I could plainly see how it effected the landscape, but didn't really consider it might be changing the way my paint looks. Now I'm more mindful of this and make attempts to adjust my easel and choose optimal locations. In this sweltering heat we're having that's easy to do, pick a shady spot and stay there! On other days it's not so obvious. I have written in my notes that someone said, plein air painting is really just information gathering. If you think of it that way and you go out and keep in mind that you're out to learn something you won't go home disappointed.  The more you go out the more information you gather and the easier it will get.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Andrew Tischler's Studio Setup - How to create an amazing art space (on a budget)

This Monday's movie is a short video from artist Andrew Tischler. It's not a feature length movie but they don't always have to be.  I was describing this video to some people last weekend and thought why not just share it for today. There's a part in this video where he explains that you need to have your studio set up so that you actually want to work in it. I laughed because I figured if your studio was such a mess it would motivate you to go outside and paint. In all honesty I have to agree with him. You should put some effort into your work space, make it so your materials are easily accessible. Just like painting outside, you need your supplies to be user friendly so that you actually use them. If you were hoping for a two hour movie this week he has several other short videos you can watch to fill up your time. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Up a Creek

Dry Creek Bed 31/2x5" watercolour sketch on Kraft paper
Up a creek but no paddle was needed. The summer temperatures and lack of rain have contributed to the drying up of this creek bed. On one hand it's sad, on the other I was ecstatic because I was able to get to places and see new things that I haven't been able to  before. Well, without getting my feet wet. These trees had fallen across the creek from the cliff side down to the lower lying land and they really caught the light nicely. I'm guessing after these trees fell it created a hole in the canopy that now allows the light to shine down on this spot. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Plein Air Don't Care

Lily Pads at Heron Bend 3x5" watercolour
My group of plein air painting friends and I have been asked to have another group show. It will be in February 2018 but we're already in the planning stages. We had to come up with a title for our show and I jokingly threw out the name Plein Air Don't Care.  I sometimes use it as a hashtag on Instagram when I post my plein air adventures. Sometimes it's the attitude I feel you must take in order to keep doing what we do. For example, it was 104F today but I don't care, I still went out to paint. Evidently fishermen and most other people don't take on a similar attitude. I ventured out twice today and went to three different locations.  The first two I was all alone, except for the frogs, which was fine with me. 

Path at North Heron Bend 5x4" watercolour
Each sketch took me only 20 minutes. It's amazing what you can get done when there's nothing around to distract you. Oh, and sweltering heat to keep you motivated. 

Lily Pads at Riverview Park 3x5" watercolour
This last one was done at 9PM.  There was still a hint of sun as it was setting but unfortunately it wasn't enough to light my palette. I took Petey (one of  my dogs) down to the river for a walk.  I figured I'd paint after we got done and he was more than agreeable to that arrangement, however I forgot to bring my book lights and the car lights were attracting too many bugs so I did this one in the dark. Considering how it turned out I'm going to proudly display this as a good argument for using a limited palette. I couldn't see what I was mixing but I know what paint I have and where it is on the palette so I was painting with no light but not completely in the dark as they say. 
Also, it's world watercolour month so get out there and celebrate! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day

My day almost always begins with some sort of warm up sketches, affectionately referred to as daily doodles. Today I decided to go patriotic. I was going to do the usual Superman sketch but remembered the other all American super hero, The Greatest American Hero. I remember watching the show as a kid and got a kick out of how horrible he was at flying, but never gave up trying.
This was done with a limited watercolour palette and kuretake ink. It was fun for a quick little doodle.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Jasper Johns

Your movie for this Monday, Jasper Johns. I chose this simply because whenever I hear the name I immediately think, American flag.  I always found it interesting that he made paintings of the flag.  When I was a kid it was taught that the flag was pretty much sacred. You weren't supposed to have things like we do now, beach towels and flip flops with the flag on them and the flag was never to touch the ground. You were never supposed to fly a flag that was worn out and torn and our flags weren't made in China.  Here we are 241 years later and anything goes. Happy Independence Day USA.