Sunday, May 31, 2015

The good, the bad, and the successful

When you tell someone you are a painter or an artist, the first question he or she asks is, "Have you sold anything?" Why do you suppose this is the case?

I think people, myself included, are accustomed to labels. Labels are comforting, defining, organizational. I'm not sure how we acquired this tendency.

Well, I have sold paintings, so does that mean that my paintings are "good"? Does it really? I'm not sure it does. Does it matter and to whom does it matter?

As a continuing student, one who spends time in real classrooms with other real students, I meet painters, beginner through advanced, at all levels of artistic development. In that setting, learning new or old techniques, I often find it impossible to create anything I like--boohoo. And at the same time, a new fresh beginning painter will create something fine and beautiful. So how does this inform our belief in what is good art? Am I now a creator of bad paintings? Okay, yes. And is this fine example on the part of a new painter good? Well, yes. But this does toss us on our ear doesn't it? It barks at our beliefs. What about labels? What about, hello, I sold paintings in the past?

In the end what I think is this . . . What is good? . . . making paintings. What is bad . . . labels.

Nowadays, when viewing art, when considering my own art, and when discussing an artist's work, I try to think and speak in terms of success and a painter's own feelings about their art, rather than labeling them good or bad. Who am I to judge? Who are you to judge? Truthfully, I work with the realization that I will likely throw away thirty percent of my painting efforts because they just don't work for me or I judge them unsuccessful.

Here's my latest, and it's one that might not make the cut, or maybe I'll work on it some more. In the final analysis it's about what I think and what I like.

Intersection #7  12"x12" Oil and wax on Masonite

What I see is what you get!

If I learned anything important in 2014 about painting it is this . . .

  1. VALUE 1st, last, and always is the most important consideration. It has proven to be very helpful to me.
  2. Learn the basics--the rules of color, perspective, VALUE, and so on. And then use them when you need them.

    My philosophy is this . . . photorealism in painting is a beautiful thing. It demonstrates in the creator a tremendous talent, vision, patience, and determination to portray truth as it is perceived. I can't paint that way. If I could I wouldn't.

    Clint Eastwood, artist/actor/filmmaker, says it like this. "I make movies I want to see, and I figure if I like them other people will like them too." Well, I paint pictures I want to see--pictures that are more about a personal vision of the world--my vision of the world as I have come to see it, and hidden, or perhaps not so hidden in them is all I've been, done, felt, and seen. Also, what I decide to paint is a big part of that equation. And in summary, in 2014 I learned to throw out the rules and be myself. How liberating is that?!

    By example, here is a side-by-side photo and painting I did in October 2014. 
Photo of my smokehouse (center) and back of house (right)

Smokehouse #1 16"x20" Pastel on Pastelboard

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Land Art

There is a new art documentary out there, "Troublemakers" of Land Art". Artists of the 60s and 70s making anti-authoritarian statements on a grand scale. Watch the trailer for a preview of what you can expect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vistas and Vanitas

While you're out and about in Staunton, don't forget to get over to Ox Eye Winery and upstairs Gallery to see Virginia and Jennifer Deane's exhibition, continuing through June 30, 2015.

A fantastic collection! Vistas and Vanitas, don't miss it!

Also, coming up this weekend, Saturday/Sunday May 23/24 is Art in the Park. Our own excellent Open Session model Jen Kidd will be singing/performing at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Don't miss her performance.

Art in the Park at Gypsy Hill has grown into a two-day festival of quality fine art and fine craft every Memorial Day weekend (May 23 and May 24 in 2015). The exceptionally beautiful municipal park provides a tree-lined, intimate setting for participating artists and artisans as well as for area residents and tourists attending the event. There is no admission charge. Visitors linger as they admire the artwork, chat with the artists, listen to live music coming from the bandstand every hour, and enjoy the food provided by a variety of vendors.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Landscape Studies with Pastel (Day Two)

I did more work on my copy of Degas. Here is a side-by-side comparison. Oh dear, I didn't finish the chair. 

Degas' Le Bain 1886 Pastel
Copy of Degas' Le Bain

A rainy morning dictated our painting schedule. We started off with a still life. 

I learned from Linda that a heavy handed pastel painter like me can mitigate this problem/tendency by using a hatch-mark style of applying pastel, and so I tried it. My efforts along this path produced this work-in-progress still life. 

Still Life (work-in-progress) 5.17.15

I learned or rather was reminded that palette colors applied in multiple spots in a painting makes for a more harmonious outcome—spread it around!

And, as always, we were reminded that GETTING THE VALUE RIGHT is the most important first step, perhaps every step, in a painting. 

As a group we agreed on what would be the best procedure . . .

BEFORE beginning a painting, set aside a likely palette into GROUPS: darks, mid-tones, and lights, putting your colors in their appropriate value group, and remembering that ONLY a color within the same VALUE group can be used on any spot of color—dark-for-dark, light-for-light, etc.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Landscape Studies with Pastel (Day One)

I'm taking a weekend workshop with artist/instructor Linda Carey. Check out this Painting Perceptions link to see some of her work and on the side bar a Recent Comment by much admired BSSS artist/instructor Ron Boehmer on artistic process.

Day One: Linda asked us to duplicate a Degas pastel of our own choosing using a limited palette on toned Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper. I'll post my effort alongside the original when I finish it--a truly humbling experience. There's nothing you can attempt artistically that is more illuminating than copying a Degas. I've heard more than once that the best way to learn pastels is to copy Degas, and the best way to learn color theory.

Linda introduced us to one book in particular I want to add to my shelf, Degas: The Nudes by Richard Thompson available at Amazon--lots of beautiful images.

Two new things I learned about Degas on Saturday:

  • He liked to draw the figure on tracing paper and use it in multiple drawings/paintings.
  • He sometimes started a representational figure painting and later turned it into an abstracted landscape or totally non-referential abstraction. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cold Wax Medium

Recently I attended Astrid Tuttle's opening at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center in Waynesboro, VA. She has been working with Dorland Cold Wax Medium and oils the last couple of years. Her exhibition is a testament to the vibrant effect wax medium can have on oils.

Because I can't pass up an opportunity to try a new medium and do more work in oils, I had to give it a go. Using a familiar image I recently painted in pastels, eliminating the angst of starting a new image, I'm recreating it and focusing only on the new medium's behavior.  I have to say I'm really excited about my first exposure to cold wax. The wax seems to "dry up" the oils, making them less viscous--a big negative for me and why I prefer soft pastels. Using a 1:3 ratio wax to oils, no other medium, drying time is nearly cut in half.

Variation on Intersection #5  12" x  12"  oil and wax
As an aside, I enjoy looking at shadows in paintings when the source of the shadows is outside of frame. The enjoyment is in the imagining of the thing unseen. Here is the original image referenced above. 

Intersection #5 small mixed media w/ soft pastel SOLD

Thursday, May 14, 2015

White Space

What is it? 

As it applies here specifically white space is that sweet spot of non art in a painting--the undrawn, unmarked part of a painting that can be remarkably beautiful, even poetic, in its context.

In contrast, for a painter there is perhaps another definition. Consider that white space might be the waiting room for beauty, the negative awaiting an artist's positive, the conscience of a procrastinating artist, but in the least it is a painter's extraordinary creative opportunity because anything is possible.

This is an account of my extraordinary opportunities.

Yesterday was installation day at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, VA where I submitted two pastels (below). It is a great pleasure to provide artistic distraction to those who really appreciate it. The installation will remain until early July. There are a dozen artists represented in the exhibition. We are all members of Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton, VA

Intersection #1 10.5 x 10.5 pastel

Intersection #2 10.5 x 10.5 pastel