Recently there was a discussion online asking if an artist should know how to draw. The flood of comments ran the spectrum from a definitely yes to an emphatic no. They argue art is a concept not a method. It started me thinking of the long road that art has traveled from cave paintings to computer generated designs. How diverse it all is. At first, I defended the more traditional art and thought, "Yes an artist should know how to draw," but I started to think about some of the less traditional artists who have influenced me and realized drawing was not that important in their work.
A Bigger Splash by David Hockney
British born artist David Hockney's work emphasizes concept over traditional drawing skills. I remember first seeing his work while living in New York City. His linear swimming pool paintings seemed to epitomized the Southern California lifestyle. I loved the simplicity and vibrant colors of the pool series which Hockney painted while living in Los Angeles using acrylic paint. The stylized water patterns, the idea of private swimming pools (not the norm in the Northeast) and the modern buildings in the background all added to the exotic nature of the paintings. I thought they were wonderful.
David Hockney also worked with photography, constructing photocollage. Using massive numbers of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork of photos to make a composite image. The photographs were taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times with the resulting image being slightly off. My favorite of this series is a landscape, Pearblossom Highway #2.
Pearblossom Highway #2 by David Hockney
These works show how concept can trump technical skill. I realize that there isn't just one simple answer when approaching art. What makes my paintings work for me, may not be what another artist finds successful for them. Regardless of how an artist approaches their work, they deserve my consideration, respect and to keep an open mind.
Along the Kern River
Along the Kern River was painted on my recent road trip to Kernville, CA.
As crazy as it may seem most of the applications for 2012 plein air competitions are due before the end of the year. Consequently I have been organizing my entries and working on my schedule. I am always amazed at how time-consuming it is to complete all the different applications. Every event has its own list of criteria and different checklists. Some I can enter online while others I have to snail mail a DVD with images; some ask for cover letters, another wants a 500 work bio. And of course, every one has a different requirement for the size of the images.
I realize that there is not one definitive way to do this but it sure would make it a lot easier if everyone got together and decided on a standard for this stuff. The only way I can keep it all organized is to create a folder for each event with the size adjusted images, applications and event schedule all together. Some of the plein air organizers are now using websites that are designed specifically for art competitions. I do like this solution but I fear the added cost of this service is passed on to the artist through higher submission fees.
I can never hope to predict which plein air competition I will be juried into for next year so I've decided to increase the number of applications. Along with all the paper work, I will also be incurring a ton of new application fees. I hate to do this at the end of the year but like I said at the start, deadlines are soon. Deciding which competition to enter is also tricky since predicting which ones will be profitable is another factor. You must be wondering why I go through all this? That's easy. Because I love painting plein air.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.Comment on or Share this Article →
Light on the Lake (SOLD)
Fall is my favorite time of year. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I welcomed the change of colors in the trees, the crisp air and the rows of puffy clouds marching across the sky. I was not pleased to have to go back to school but even so, Fall captured my soul. Here in California, Autumn arrives later. While other areas have already had some snow, only now are the leaves changing color and falling to the ground here in LA.
My family didn't often have a big Thanksgiving dinner since my mother was a waitress and always worked that day, but don't feel sorry since there were always leftovers brought home after her shift. We enjoyed the turkey, stuffing and gravy for several days after the fact and I have good memories of those times. Hunting season opened and my father would go hunting for wild turkey and deer. My mom dreaded that he was such a good hunter since that meant she would have to pluck the turkey he shot or cook venison steaks from the deer he would bring home on the hood of his car. As the baby of the family with 3 brothers and 1 sister, I always got to be one of the two who competed for the wish but it always seemed they were the ones who walked away with the bigger half of the wishbone.
This has been an amazing year with increased sales, acceptance in the Oil Painters of America National Show, an award at the Carmel plein air competition, two articles in American Art Collector Magazine and having my work accepted into a gallery in Carmel. I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope that you have much to be grateful for too and that you will be spending the day celebrating with those you love. Happy Thanksgiving.Comment on or Share this Article →
Reflections of the Past (Sold)
::: Renoir :::
I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.
My first impression of a painting by Renoir is his mastery of color but in his own words, emotion is his singular goal. The majority of painters are emotional about their work but how successful are they about transferring that emotion to the canvas and in turn to the viewer? Sometimes I become so involved in the technique, the method, the colors that I forget what I am trying to capture; a feeling.
I have a show coming up with the figure as the theme. For me, working in the studio is a very different process than painting plein air. In the studio everything is planned, I have an idea of what I want to do before I ever touch a brush. This is in stark contrast to painting plein air where chance, luck and the ability to take advantage of any situation are crucial. I am in the concept stage now so I am concentrating on the emotions that I want to invoke. Without the paint and canvas to distract me, I can focus all my energy into creating a feeling. Achieving success with these paintings starts with this conceptual process. If I see the finished work in my mind, I have confidence I can achieve it on canvas.
I will keep you posted as things develop. LOVE THE PAINT.Comment on or Share this Article →
Earlier this week I read that Tommy Hilfiger (fashion designer) spent $1.4 million on Damien Hirst’s “Disintegration -- The Crown of Life.” If you are not familiar with Hirst you should look him up. He exploits the current need for excess with his art. He made a human skull covered in diamonds. That guy.
The work that sold to Hilfiger looks like a stained glass window from a Gothic cathedral but on closer inspection is really thousands of butterflies applied to the canvas. The use of butterflies to make pretty things isn't new. I remember years ago while on vacation, walking into a shop where butterflies were mounted behind glass, their wing colors forming intricate shapes. The pieces where lovely as are many of Hirst's work. Hirst is a master at taking natural objects and pushing our perception over the top with the use of exaggerated opulence. Judging by his success, the in your face, attention-getting pieces seem to appeal to the current brand of movers and shakers in the art world.
So can a traditional artist, like you or I, hope to find an audience? Or should we grab some notoriety by pushing our art? Gold leaf trees; pavé diamond skies anyone? Today, representational artists are facing challenges from all sides. Even artists who are established are seeing drastic drops in sales, evaporating venues and stiff competition. As artists, we all struggle with the decisions we make and are seduced by the idea of financial success. Should Hirst influence our work? Can we incorporate some of his edge into our work? Should we be on the edge or continue on a traditional course? Is achieving financial success the number one consideration? Just thinking.
Sierra Stream is one of five paintings showing at the Valley Artist Guild:
Encino Terrace Center Exhibition
November 7, 2011 – February 3, 2012
Reception: Friday, December 9, 4pm–6:30pm
Change is never easy. We all get stuck in habits which become our "go to" response in a situation. It is true in our personal life and in our professional ones too. As an artist living in Southern California, I often paint landscapes which have similar characteristics; a distant mountain range with trees in the foreground; the cliffs above a rocky coast or a lakes reflection. Over the last few years, I have develop an automatic solution for dealing with these recurring themes. They have become habit. It is always interesting to see how other artists deal with the same situations using their own slightly different solutions. Small changes can effect the outcome of a painting in a big way.
We artists live a solitary life. Painting in the studio or on location means we are alone in our thoughts and struggle but recently I was reminded of how important it is to make the effort to get out there with other artists. In the last few weeks, with my trip to the Kern River (see my last blog Kern River Revisited) and a critique discussion sponsored by the California Art Club, I learned some very valuable lessons which have the potential to improve my work. If I had stayed in my studio, I may have eventually figured these things out but who knows how long it would have taken for a catalyst to instigate change? Or I may have become even more entrenched in my routine and never tackled these problems.
The fresh eyes of another artist can often catch flaws in your work which you don't see. Get out of your studio and paint with another artist. Watch them, ask questions, listen to their opinions. Listening to a critique by a respected artist can have the potential to catapult your work to the next level. Of course, being open to hearing the criticism is essential and you must be willing to change. The next important step is trying out those suggestions, taking the risk to step out of your "go to" response. Every painting can't be a home run so don't be afraid of failure. Some works are only an exercise toward achieving a goal. Don't worry if your experiment doesn't work. Just try it. After all it's only a morning of time, some paint and a canvas. The funny thing though, when I try something new, the result is often a break-through painting. All you have to lose are some bad habits.Comment on or Share this Article →
Kern River Rapids First Try
Kern River Rapids
I know I just posted this painting but I was so involved with painting the water I forgot about everything else. Looking at the painting yesterday, I realized that I had neglected a few details so here is the revised painting with the following changes.
- I added yellow highlights to the tree in the right foreground. When I painted this on location the tree seemed so much brighter but after it dried the tree needed a punch.
- The rust row of trees in the back was too even so I added the smaller ones and also some lighter color to distinguish the tree shapes.
- I refined the skyholes on the left tree and added some lighter green for highlights. Although this tree was in the shade of the mountain it still needed some color.
- I lightened the side of the mountain toward the sun. It was silhouetted against the light sky but needed to be softened against the other mountain.
- I added more white foam around the rocks to give them definition.
With a few minor adjustments, I think the result is much improved. What do you think?Comment on or Share this Article →
Kern River Rapids
I recently took a painting trip to the Kern River with three other artist, Marina Fortunati, Laura Wambsgans and Diane Gold. We only stayed two nights but packed a lot of painting into the three-day trip. I think the trip exceeded all our expectations with perfect weather, wonderful accommodations, zero drama and lots of inspiration. We are already planning our next excursion.
My previous paintings of the Kern show reflections in smooth, tranquil waters so I decided to test my skills with a view of whitewater and painted "Kern River Rapids." The challenge was to portray the water with a frothy dimension while still maintaining a sense of the rivers forward movement. I wanted you to hear the rapids when you looked at the painting.
Although the whitewater is predominantly (surprise) white, I realized that the dark colors between the rapids where what made them stand out so I started with a dark olive-green for the river floor. There where also sections of the river which reflected the blue of the sky so those were added. For the rapids, I did not use straight white. Instead I added a little yellow and orange to a large pile of white with my palette knife. The knife is what I used to streak in the accents on the horizon and to apply the thick paint which makes up the rapids. I was careful not to cover all the dark underneath but let it show through. I also made sure that there was structure in the waves of the water. I needed to add volume but make sure that the water always was flowing toward the back horizon line. The S bend in the river helped with the illusion of motion and added the needed structure to the composition.
Water remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration and I will continue to explore its infinite possibilities in my work.Comment on or Share this Article →