Monday, February 27, 2017

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


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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bad is Bad but it Could be Good

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Plein Air Painting Poncho

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

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


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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pulling Back the Curtain

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Joan Miró 1893-1983

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

No Problem With Problem Solving

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