Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I once heard it said that paintings that include something red are easier to sell. Hmmmm.... I guess this piece will test that theory.
It was also nice to work on something that reminds me of summer. It's been cold here for the last week or so!
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The muley doe feeding peacefully along the hillside is another one of those "can't miss" subjects. The well defined features and relatively light pigmentation of her face immediately draws the viewer's attention to the focal point... her eye. Her posture as she carefully nips a leaf from a prickly bush adds to the serenity of the scene.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Being situated well before sunrise, the forest had a chance to adjust to my clumsy human entrance. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, the ubiquitous squirrels had already started their frantic bustle. They (along with a good book) keep me company on these long sits. My experience in the woods has taught me the difference between the scurrying of squirrels and the footfalls of deer. And when the forest becomes unusually quiet… it’s time to pay attention as there is usually a good reason.
Something must have split up the resident flock of turkeys the night before. All morning they yelped and cackled from various locations finally reassembling in the cut corn field behind me.
This particular woodlot seems to be overrun with pileated woodpeckers. What a treat! Watching them go about the business of probing the trees for grubs is absolutely fascinating. As one would leave my sight, it seemed as thought another would simultaneously take its place… always with their rhythmic looping flight flashing large white wing-patches. The forest echoed with the immediately recognizable and raucous cackle.
On one occasion, I looked up from my book (a routine of reading a paragraph… then looking around to make sure I’m not missing anything… reading another paragraph…) to find a young red fox perched on a rock only 50 feet away. The handsome little devil slipped in silently (no miniscule task in these dry crunch leaves!) and was looking up in the tree at me with his head cocked to the side like my dog does when I ask him if he wants to go for a ride in the truck. When the fox decided it was time to leave and disappeared into the nearby ravine, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking looking at me so far up in a tree.
At the end of the day, the deer remained safely on the hoof… as they often do. So once again I hiked back to my truck in darkness… empty-handed, but with a rejuvenated spirit.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
This year during my forays into the field with my bow, I’ve been dragging along a small sketch pad and a pencil. It helps to pass the hours (sometimes days) on stand while waiting for deer to move. Wandering the woodlots of western Pennsylvania, there is never a shortage of interesting subjects to draw. As I’ve always said… time spent drawing is never time wasted.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Also, I must emphasize the need for the artist to not simply and blindly “duplicate” photographs. Once you understand how this works, it allows you to use your artistic discretion as to what will make the image “better.” In other words… what to move, tweak, remove, add, etc. Simply duplicating a photo is nothing more than an exercise in busy work!
The focus square on my reference photo is 2x2. That works out to 3.8x3.8 on my painting. I’ve made paper masks of the appropriates sizes and taped them down with drafting tape.
Since this pattern is fairly complex, I’ve drawn some guidelines with a white charcoal pencil.
I’ve quickly smacked in the darks, concentrating more on getting the values close without worrying too much about the exact hues. They can easily be tweaked later.
At this point, I’ve decided to break the focus squares down even more, dividing them into even quarters. Now I can concentrate on duplicating abstract shape without worrying about painting “rocks under water.”
I’m starting to refine the shapes and get the hues correct in this step.
A bit more refinement and tapping in the highlights in just the right spots. (note: In this situation, I’ve found that sunlit rocks below clear water are dominated by hues of yellow ochre and burnt sienna. There are also notes of cerulean blue that nicely balance out the other warm hues.)
Once all 4 of the smaller quarters are finished and the mask is removed, this is the result. Still, it looks pretty abstract. In the larger context of the entire painting… it appears nearly photographic!
Friday, October 9, 2009
To this point, I’ve washed the base colors on the primed board, roughed in the layout with a white charcoal pencil, and began the detail work over the base colors. This painting will be quite complicated and there are several challenges I’ve not tackled in the past, so it will be an adventure. My reference material is good, to that will be a big help.
Working in relatively small squares allows me to concentrate on each small detail without being distracted by the entirety of the painting. Hopefully, I’ve worked out all the compositional elements and how they relate to each other in my preliminary sketches. Of course, paintings sometimes take on a life of their own and don’t go according to plan. Those are the times when I feel my artistic metal is really being tested. Stay tuned…
Monday, September 28, 2009
Recently, I displayed my work at a small local nature art show. The woodland setting of the facility is perfect for this type of event. I’d done this show for several years (since it the very first one) and the attendance was usually moderate, if not at least enthusiastic. Typically I do a fair amount of business… at least enough to cover my framing costs. Then it happened… the bottom fell out of our world economy… collectors began to panic… and casual buyers dissolved into the woodwork. Everyone was cutting back… including artists and show promoters. Advertising dollars certainly don’t go as far as the once did. Postage and printing prices are still on the rise, so newsletters and fliers are often difficult to justify. The combination of all these factors have some small shows in a downward spiral from which they may not recover.
In the midst of all this turmoil, some artists (myself included) may have a weekend show go by without a single sale. When that happens, it’s hard not to question everything about a career in this chosen profession. We all have a need for validation and there’s no better way to quench it than the sale of a painting. There is also no more crushing a blow than an entire weekend show without a decent lead.
There are elements in this equation beyond our control (weather, economic climate, simultaneous events, lazy show promoters, etc.), so it makes no sense to worry about them. On the other hand, there are things very much within our control that often go ignored. EVERY ONE OF THEM need to be analyzed and addressed:
Subject matter – When we hear artists use the term “inspiration,” most often this is closely related to subject matter. As a painter, I love to paint subjects that move me. My art is a reflection of my personality… as it should be. Unfortunately, sometimes these subjects don’t overlap with what’s actually desirable in the marketplace. So there has to be some middle ground… or balance. It’s impossible to work for long without inspiration, yet there are bills to pay and food to put on the table (Otis the Wonder Dog would be very upset with me if I had to cut back on his beloved Beneful!). So we end up “prostituting” our talent at times just to promote a little cash flow… a necessary evil for all but the most successful artists.
Quality of art – This is a huge complicated can of worms and I could probably write an entire book on the subject. Briefly… with art being such a subjective market, actual “quality” is almost impossible to define. In the end, the artist can only put forth his/her best effort. And if that’s not good enough, it’s time to do the necessary work to get better. Attending workshops and getting better reference material are always a good place to start. Becoming a better artist may not show immediate financial results, but in the long run, it will energize your efforts and be evident in your finished product (at least that’s what I have to believe to push myself forward).
Gimmicks – Personally, I hate gimmicks. That being said… gimmicks sell. It’s a fact. If you’re comfortable “hiding treasures” in your paintings like a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle, fine. You’ll probably make a million dollars while I wallow in relative obscurity, but don’t expect me to acknowledge it as “fine art.” I just can’t do it. On the other hand, I’m always contemplating ways to set my work apart from the masses. There are literally hundreds of skilled painters out there and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to make your work stand out on artistic merit alone… especially with the majority of the buying public doesn’t give a hoot about artistic merit!
Pricing – In a stable market, it’s acceptable and even necessary to bump pricing structure up 5% or so annually. The problem with that is when the market tumbles and collector dollars become scarce, it’s very hard to go backward. Collectors having purchased your work in the past expect the value to increase. Reducing prices shows an inability of your work to hold/increase its value making it a less than desirable investment. Once that word gets out, it’s very hard to recover. So in a sense… you’re stuck.
Attitude – This is the biggest mistake I see artists make. You never have to ask how sales are at an art show. You only need to assess the demeanor of the artist… and a surly artist will almost NEVER sell a painting. In reality, the whole “tortured artist” thing is tiresome and will serve no other purpose than to drive people away from your work. The only thing the we can do is keep smiling and talking to people. Treat everyone that comes through the door as though they have the potential to be your most prolific collector. It’s not easy, but if people like you, they want to see you do well and are far more willing to part with hard-earned dollars.
It’s times like these when I (once again) realize just how important my collectors, fans, and supporters are. No matter what happens, I know this is my life calling and I’ll survive. Thank you all.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Western Visions Art Show and Sale occupied much of the gallery space. I was happy to see works from many of my friends hanging on the walls. Is it possible I may soon join them? We’ll see.
It’s hard to imagine anything standing up to the grandeur of Grand Teton National Park, but the Museum is an absolute “must see” for anyone visiting the area. I know I’ll be back.
Monday, September 21, 2009
It seemed as though each bend in the road revealed yet another treasure… mountain bluebirds… hundreds of bison… and so many antelope, I hate to venture a guess! One afternoon while exploring the Gros Ventre area of Grand Teton, I was treated to the site of a cow moose far across the river. By the time the encounter was over, she was less than 15 yards from me browsing on willows. Yes… that’s a little too close for something that big!
A morning photographing bugling bull elk in Grand Teton Park put the perfect end to a spectacular week.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Thank you to all my friends (both new and old) for helping expand my artistic knowledge. It seems my thirst for this type of thing has no limit as I look to hone my abilities and try new things.
Perhaps a few long moments on the side of a tall mountain are necessary to put it all in perspective. Life seems very good right now and bursting with possibilities.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Aspens make great subjects for paintings. I always find the markings and contrast irresistible. I completed this small piece this morning and it was really a lot of fun. "Three Aspens" is 8 3/8 x 5 1/8.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sharing the progress was a lot of fun… and a little stressful. I’ll have to give it another shot again soon.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Second, some detail in the face of the loon needs to me added… especially to the eye. This can get tricky. Overdo it and the painting will take on a cartoon-like feel. Not enough and the head reads as simply a black blob. While I’m at it, I’m not happy with the shape of the loon’s head… specifically the forehead or crest area. That should be an easy fix.
Lastly, to this point I’ve used no black from the tube in this painting. All of the “black” areas are simply a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt umber with a touch of dioxazine purple. I may add some bits of ivory black to really make some areas pop.
I’ve uploaded this image in a larger format than usual to make these problem areas easier to see.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Speaking of “balance,” at this stage, the painting is starting to have a very “busy” feel to it. I will need to draw the viewer’s attention away from the movement of the water and focus it on the loon. I had anticipated this distracting predicament and have a specific plan (part of my engineering background) to mitigate the problem. Stay tuned…
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I made a calculated decision to use a limited palette of cool colors and selected one lonely dove to paint. I dragged a bit of the background colors over some of the limbs to push them back into the scene.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
These will make great reference material for future paintings!
Monday, July 27, 2009
This little fellow was perched on the fire pit behind the studio one morning. Once Otis the Wonder Dog alerted me to his presence, I grabbed the camera and got several good shots. "Juvenile Starling" is 7x5.
I've always liked wild iris. Someone once asked me why I painted so many wildflowers... well... they don't run or fly away like most of my subjects! "Iris" is 6x4.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I don’t like the restrictions of stamp art. I don’t like the unyielding direction judges always take… leaning toward over-painted cartoon-like detail and unrealistic color instead of solid composition and accuracy. Heaven forbid any artist that might set forth on a painting outside the established norms of “typical” stamp art. Often some judges are barely qualified to jury a coloring book contest… let alone something to be considered fine art! It’s enough to make me pull my hair out (if I had any).
The winners of these contests are usually much more in line with illustrations than art… and no… they are not the same thing.
So I struggle… trying to keep some balance between solid artistic integrity (whatever that means) and the tedious detail and saturated color that always seems to pop the judges’ cork. Hopefully it will be near completion by the end of the week. I will post the image when I feel comfortable with my effort.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
I really like this one.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
It's likely I will enter this piece in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Working Together for Wildlife competition. Each year one painting of a specified subject is chosen to be printed and distributed by the Game Commission. Of course, one never knows what may strike the fancy of those judging art. Whatever the outcome... I'm pleased with the image.