Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Persistense-Keeping dogs around

Ken Backhaus,a member of the Plein Air Painter of America. once told me to keep my bad paintings around, I will learn more. The painting top left is one that sat around in my studio over a year. There was a third boat in the middle, making it cluttered and the sky was the same tone as the boats-hence they got lost. In other words, the painting had a lot of problems. Successful art may mean working out a bad design. I am not sure why it took so long but it turns out to be one of my favorite paintings. After I eliminated the middle boat and lightened up the sky-bam, it worked. Everything fell into place. The advice for this column is that if you did a painting that isn't quite right, keep it around for a while, maybe you can work out the kinks.

Of course, you can ask friends or a teacher how to improve it but sleep on it, ask yourself what it needs;play around with some paint telling yourself no big deal, if it doesn't work, you can wipe it off and start all over again. That is the luxury of oil paints compared to watercolor which is a do or die thing. The second part of the lesson is persistence; if something isn't quite right, hang in there, maybe you can salvage it as I did. If you don't succeed at first, try try again. I knew the statement I wanted to make but I wasn't doing it then I started to ask myself, "what can I so away with?" What do I love the most? I knew I liked the lower right boat very much. The upper left one had the figure, so I wanted that. Thus, the middle one was gone.Then came the light in the sky, everything began to pop and that was what I was looking for. I can analyze why this painting works but I want to address the intangible-feeling, that a painting may have something you can't put a finger on. One of my dead mentors was Sergei Bongart. I heard one of his students tell me the story when he was shown a very technically correct painting and compared it to a not very good one and he liked the later better. My friend asked why, he said cause the second one has feeling. This is why the Russian impressionists are my favorite--there is passion and feeling in their work. Is strive for this and I invite you to do the same-your work will improve and connect with other people more.

Perhaps that isn't something you thought of before. Lot of people who like my work say it speaks to them, has bright colors. Hopefully it has feeling in it too. Anyway, ask yourself what you feel upon looking upon a painting. If you are reading this blog, you like my work for some reason. I try to put mood or feeling in my work, making it alive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Design-Uneven Intervals

Greg Albert has written a book on design that deserves mention. His main idea that everyone can remember is no interval should be the same. With this dictum, you can make your paintings stronger. In the Santa Barbara ranch house on the left, you will find a line showing the uneven distribution of lines with the mountain, orange tree (focal point) and dark foreground oak tree. Note the placement is uneven in all respects, including mass size. According to Greg, a painting needs a focal point and a focal area, the former should be the brightest colors and sharpest edges. The Ranch House meets this criteria and the dark oak? Well, that is known as a foil, a device designed to add perspective. It may have been there or I made it up, I can't remember now but it adds an interesting element to the painting.

The coastal rock painting is another example of good placement of masses and line design. The strong dark sharp on the right is one line, distinctly angled differently than the mass on the left, in light. Notice the simplicity in design, this painting is large, 20x24, but effective. Other thoughts in good design--what is the statement? In coastal rocks it is sunlight. In Ranch House, it is mountains. Although the viewer may have different views, at least this was what I had in mind at the time of the painting. Sometimes the statement will be colors, or grandeur or peace and mood. Of course, it can be anything but let your painting state one idea.

Lastly, why do you paint? To create, to fill in time, because you're still in childlike state wanting to play? Is it a calling from higher up? I have toyed with this question since reading Richard Schmid's blog years ago. I know several days without painting and I go slightly insane , blubbering to myself like an idiot. Seriously though, it might be useful to identify your motivation. One time, I went without painting for weeks and I dreamed of eating cad yellow and cobalt blue--after all, they are delicious colors aren't they? Well carry on, if you got something from this, comment. I would like to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Building a Taboret

After several days of tough manual, skilled labor, my taboret is completed. I did mine in Maple, a hard wood that will last and not ding or sag easily. One of my mentors, Brian Blood, who was gracious enough to send me his plans, had this in oak and I loved it. Picture this, all the room for oil paints, big pallet (18x30 or 40 if you want). Shelving underneath for extras, nice open draws for tubes and brushes. This is the quintessential accessory for your studio. It took about 80 bucks in wood and screws and , of course, a home styled carpenter (me) so if you're good with your hands and have some power tools, make it yourself. Otherwise, I have the plans above or can email them to you so your friend or hubby could do it.

Be mindful that Taborets cost from 400 to 3000 so this is an expensive equipment but if your painting big, like I am, something like this is a necessity. Another teacher, Terri Miura has a smaller version ( his is shorter than me, I am six foot) that is about one third mine so you can modify it to suit. I like the large brush washer to the right and have added ( not in pic) a lower shelf and paper towel holder.

Welcome to new (friends) fans and hope you learn from this blog. I will discuss motivation later, but I am in a funny funk. I did really well in my last show, ( Indian Wells, ca) so I don't want to paint from fear that I can't do that good again. Usually, I am in a funk because I did so poorly, whats the use (hopelessness). Anyway now I have such high expectations of myself, I am nervous about not doing really good art. Go figure, I am like a yo-yo inside-a typical melodramatic nut. It was really nice to get away from art and build this table for myself--A complete distraction.

If you're like me, you an art addict, at it every day, new ideas, creating, fun. But I have also been pushing myself to improve the last few months, studying from other artists, etc and my bar is really high now ( and so is the pressure). I will return to painting today but what frustrates me is I want to bat 1000 percent. It just doesn't work that way ( meaning I want all my paintings to be a success). Charles Movalli, a painter back east once alluded to the outcome of successful art being one in twenty. So okay, I am not perfect and no artist is ( even Monet had paint overs). I must accept that and move on and be ready to wipe off failures. I don't have clue what this does to building taborets but it is a nice side topic to discuss. Perhaps you have issues like this. Please comment, I would like to get a dialogue going so we can discuss these issues and all learn and grow to become better artists. The beauty of cyberspace is that we are a artist community--around the world-- and can help each other.