Friday, March 25, 2011

"Shimmer" 30x20 acrylic

These larger paintings really seem to take a lot of wind out of my sail... especially when I work on one straight through to completion. I think it's time to work on a few smaller projects and recharge my batteries a bit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Good Day Out of the Studio

Sitting here this evening with a glass of whiskey, the sting of today’s frosty air is still very noticeable in my fingers. As time passes (far too quickly anymore) and many things in my life begin to come full circle, I find myself gravitating back to my early days of fly fishing. I’m also thankful I didn’t give all that fly fishing gear away years ago.

I’ve been fishing for steelhead trout for almost as long as I can remember. I’ve caught literally thousands of them and I still smile every time one puts a bend in my rod. They’re big and powerful and live in fast water, so they can be a bit of a challenge to land. But after 25 years, it’s easy to forget the wide-eyed panic that sets in the first time you lift your rod to set the hook and a 25” trout bolts upstream like a greyhound at the dog track. Don’t get your fingers in the way of that whirring reel handle or you’ll end up with bloody knuckles!

I realized that experience once again taking a friend who’d never before stalked these over-sized rainbow trout. We damn near froze, but we encountered dozens of the big fish… hooked some… lost some… and landed a few. It was awesome!

Now it seem I'll have to drag out my old fly tying materials and see just how bad my eyes really are. Like I don't have enough to do...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Progress Update

Since I've been posting small sections of this painting as they came together, I thought today I'd share the entire board. It will likely take the rest of the week to fill in the remaining "gray" areas, then another day of refining shapes, edges, and tones. Oh, and at some point there will be birds added to the scene. Maybe I'll do that today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Little Marketing Reality Check

I recently happened upon another artist’s blog (a very successful artist who has shown in galleries and museums all over the world) and one of her posts got me thinking. Actually, it was more the reaction of one of her readers and then her reaction to them that puzzled me. Of course, I’d never heard of her, but that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t get out much.

The post itself was about being approached by another artist at one of her exhibits and the resulting dialogue concerning her marketing. I was intrigued. I can always use a pointer or two when it comes to promotion and marketing. Boiling the extensive post down to its main theme, she became frustrated with the other artist and his unwillingness to do the real work necessary to push his public exposure to the next level. When their banter turned to web presence and blogging, she chided “You should blog everyday or at least every other day!”

I though to myself Wow… she really does work hard. How does she find the time to be such a prolific blogger and still create her art?

She surmised he was looking for the easy answer to his marketing puzzle and the only easy answer to give is that marketing is tough. It’s long complex journey with very few shortcuts.

I couldn’t agree more.

She became very offended that her quizzical colleague somehow had developed the notion that her success was based on some marketing formula and had nothing to do with the fact that she creates great art (similar to how my blood boils when someone suggests my art is “talent” driven and has nothing to do with hard work!).

How rude!

She ended the conversation by telling the man to “Fuck off!” (which I may think at times, but would never say) The fact she actually said that to someone in public at an exhibit made me a little squeamish, but then I thought the guy probably got what he deserved. Besides, the photos she had of herself posted all over her blog (none of her art… hmmm) were quite attractive and a little tough looking, so she probably gets away with saying things some others (men) don’t. And judging by the attitude of her blog, she probably says stuff like this a lot! Still, I found myself in her corner silently cheering her on.

Sexist, right? I’m sure she would accuse me of the same thing, but it gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view).

As I skimmed the comments following her post, most were supportive in a “been there, done that” sort of way, but down the page a bit I found a comment by another (obviously sexist) fellow questioning her self-proclaimed “great art” and stating that her success was based more on her attractive physical appearance and the calculated controversial nature of both her art and personality than the actual quality of her work!

REALLY?! Did he just say that?

I instantly bristled at this statement, but backed off a bit as I thought about it. I found it odd that she had several photos of herself on her blog, but none of her art. That was true enough. I began to wonder why? She certainly was trying very hard to be edgy and controversial.

Maybe a little too hard?

Her response to this critical comment was more juvenile than I expected as she really ripped the guy a new one calling him petty and jealous.

The standard response I’ve heard many times when pointing out obvious flaws others are too timid/kind/PC/stupid to address. Why was she so defensive? Had someone really pointed out the emperor wore no clothes?

Slowly I began relating a bit more with the targets of her pointed words. Now I REALLY NEEDED TO SEE HER WORK!

I clicked the link to her website and what I found was astonishing. The “work” was a collection of mass produced poorly executed pornographic line drawings (“chicken scratching” would be more descriptive). Edgy and controversial indeed! Her art seemed every bit as juvenile as her response to critics, but it was just the kind of trash the galleries in NYC and LA pee all over themselves for.

I instantly understood why she had so much time to write in her blog everyday. If she had more than a couple of minutes tied up in these monstrous hunks of crap, I’d be shocked.

I guess what upset me most was her absolute denial that her physical appearance and carefully cultivated public image had anything to do with her success… since her art is such an unattractive and cliché joke! So does she really believe her own line of BS? Or has she manipulated the art buying public into a frenzy of uninformed garbage collecting… laughing herself to sleep at night? And all the way to the bank!

I guess the moral to the story is this: If you have a specific attribute that sets you (or your work) apart from the crowd, embrace it. Use it to your full advantage and don’t ever feel like you need to apologize for it… unless of course your work is a fraud/con to begin with. In that case… never vary from your lie!

Oh… and don’t ask me for the name of the above mentioned artist. She’s already received too much undeserved attention J

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rhythms of Water

If you follow my work, you know I love to paint water. Lakes, rivers, streams, even puddles present a tremendous challenge for me. Even a small amount of water in a scene can make or break a composition. I welcome the task since it seems to add so much life to my art. Each little ripple and wave has its own character and it took me a lot of trial and error before I began to understand the play of light. One side of the wave may reflect the sky. The other may allow you to see below the water’s surface. In between there are a myriad of transitions showing the hues of the surrounding landscape. The entire scene is often punctuated by brilliant dashes of pure sunlight that dance upon the surface like twinkling Christmas lights. So… is it hard work painting “realistic” water? Very much so. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.

Included with this post are two sections of the lower portion of my latest undertaking. Judging by these small samples, if the painting doesn’t work out as a whole, I’ll be able to cut it into several smaller paintings!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Something Bigger

Last week I jumped head first into another large painting. I like the direction this piece is moving, though with these big ones, there always seems to be some turmoil and a substantial amount tweaking near the end. Moving this, eliminating that, even changing the visual temperature of large areas… no matter how much planning I do, there are always things I feel need to be improved once I start laying on the paint. And more often than not, I need to take a break at some point in the process and work on something else. It helps get my mind right if I don’t look at a big piece for a few days (or weeks). If something was bothering me (which is usually the reason I needed the break), it almost always becomes clear once I’ve spent some time working on another project.

Above is an image of the upper 1/3 of this 30x20 composition. I’ll periodically post progress photos of this one since it’ll likely take weeks to complete. This much water is going to be a huge challenge.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's all about the Drawing!

I’m often asked by young artists how they can be better painters. By contrast, it’s funny how few times I’m asked about the importance of better drawing skills. I guess I find it funny because the two are so inextricably connected. Good drawing is based on a fundamental understanding of the spatial relationship of one shape to the next. In other words, the ability to see what’s in front of us and accurately convey that information in two dimensions to canvas or paper. So better painting is (at least in one respect) a result of better drawing. Whether you’re drawing with a pencil or charcoal stick, a tiny number one sable brush or a 2” flat, its all about the drawing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thank You Cards

Spending most of the last two weeks on the road, I had little time to draw and none to paint. Now that I'm getting settled back in the studio, I decided to do some pencil drawings before charging into another painting. These quick little drawings serve a couple of functions. First, they keep my eye sharp and observant to the relationships of shapes in my art. Second, they make wonderful "Thank you" cards for clients making recent purchases. I've always been humbled by people willing to buy my paintings and taking the time to say thank you again is just a small gesture expressing my gratitude.