The small town of Saratoga, California is surrounded by vineyards which stripe the rolling hills. The patchwork of green rows are interrupted by oak trees, farmhouses and stables. While wandering around the stables at Garrod Farm, I came across this view looking out toward San Jose. Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyard is a family farm which includes a puzzle of dirt roads that wind passed dozens of riding stables and continues up to a pond and this view. The tasting room is in an old green farm-house with antique cars and gas pumps from another era.
The unique character of this place had me wandering around and taking lots of photos long after I finished my painting. View from the High Road was painted during the 2012 Los Gatos Plein Air.Comment on or Share this Article →
Are museums obsolete? Are wealthy collectors making it impossible for museums to compete? Can museums keep their integrity in the current climate of wealthy donors? These are a few questions that are raised by the recent controversy at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. If you haven't been following the daily developments here is a brief summary.
For good or bad, Eli Broad, is the single greatest force in the LA contemporary art scene. He bailed out the troubled museum, MoCA in 2008 with a $30-million grant. Broad was instrumental in having Jeffrey Deitch, the showy New York dealer, named director in 2010. In the last 30 days, Paul Schimmel, MoCA' s chief curator of 22 years, has been fired and every artist on the board has resigned over artistic disagreements with Deitch's “celebrity-driven program.” It is a stunning break between the people who control the money for art and the people who make the art. The survival of MoCA is still very much up in the air but is survival the only goal or is the quality of art also part of the equation. Philippe de Montebello, the great director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains, "The one mantra that every museum director should have: First comes the work of art. Everything else devolves from it."
In an interview at Art Basel 2012, Deitch offered amazing insights into the inherent problems facing him as a museum director. Deitch explained that raising funds for MoCA was impossible. He found people in LA wouldn't even take his calls. He only raised $15,000 for a show he brought to LA, only to see it sell for half a million dollars at a gallery in Chicago at a later date. But Deitch's strongest criticism was saved for the new class of wealthy private institutions that now compete with museums for acquisitions. These mega-collectors pose a greater threat to museums than the top galleries, he said. When many artists sell directly to multimillionaires who have private foundations, why show or sell to a museum where space is limited and the art can only be shown every four to five years?
Then there are the solutions that Broad talked about in a recent LATimes interview. The ideas for solving those troubles are essentially from a businessman's point of view and have nothing to do with the quality of art. He said MoCA needed to grow its "audience" and that can be accomplished by making MoCA more "populist." In other words, don't worry about the art just get more customers and please the crowd.
With big-business at the helm, there are also self-serving motives for including artists in a show. Again quoting Deitch. “If you want a heavyweight historical show that doesn’t include popular artists it’s hard to get corporate and collector support. They will if there’s an artist they want to get in with.” It doesn't take much of a stretch to see donors having the say in which artists are included in a show and which are not.
Luckily, many museums still produce high quality shows that are about the art. The public upheavals at MoCA have exposed some troubling trends but I have the feeling the drama isn't over yet. Ultimately, every art institution has to figure out how to balance the interests of making money with the interests of art. I hope the end decision will be in the interest of great art but more likely both will have their influence. What do you think? Does the current climate of donor influence affect the quality of art at museum shows? Should museums be privatized?Comment on or Share this Article →
Some experiences forever change your perception of art. The Edgar Payne show at the Pasadena Museum of California Art is an example of one of these rare occasions when I am transformed. Awed by this incredible exhibition of paintings, I have come away even more convinced that composition is the single most important factor in every work of art. Each painting is a lesson in design; examples of a master painter orchestrating color, value and subject to produce images that are not only beautiful but constructed so perfectly that it is impossible to imagine them any other way. These principles can be seen even in photos of Payne's work, but what you can't see in a flat reproduction are the long deliberate brush strokes, the thick paint and the layers of colors.
Seeing how Payne first put a layer of darker blue under a lighter pink to form the highlights of the mountains gave me a glimpse into how he thought and the steps he used to achieve luminous lush colors. On close examination, I could see where he added a sunlit mountain ridge over a dark shape to design a better composition. I could image him adding this highlighted area to break up the large dark shape because the composition demanded it, not because it was there in nature.
I intend to go back to this exhibition many times during its time here in Los Angeles. I recommend that you make every effort to see this once in a lifetime exhibition. Who knows if it will ever come together again.Comment on or Share this Article →
Fog Over the Lake 11x14
Finding natural looking lakes in California isn't easy. It usually requires a long drive and a pretty strenuous hike. With all my painting gear that isn't easy. One exception is the Lexington Reservoir that I painted during the 2012 Los Gatos Plein Air event. Easily accessible from the road it offers spectacular views enhanced by its tree lined banks. The ocean fog sometimes works its way inland just far enough to add mystery to the surrounding mountains. Fog Over the Lake is a morning when that fog was present. In an hour it was only a memory, burned off by the sun.
Malibu Lagoon 11x14 Oil on Panel
Another amazing place water feature closer to home is the Malibu Lagoon. I just found out that they have started its renovation. This is one of my favorite spots to paint and a jewel of undeveloped coast along the miles of PCH that is Malibu. The dredging of stagnant areas and removal of telephone poles and other debris sounds like a good idea but the closure of this estuary will place more stress on the wildlife that depend on its waters for their survival. My painting Malibu Lagoon is a small representation of the beauty that is contained in this preserve. How long it will take for renovation and how well they are prepared to preserve the natural beauty of this treasure remains to be seen. At least I have this painting.Comment on or Share this Article →
When you are participating in a plein air event one of the first things you are told is to stick with what works. Don't try anything new, paint what you know and stick to what people recognize. Sometimes I follow these unwritten rules, but every once in a while I just try something to test myself.
California Oaks is the result of a rebellious day when I decided to take a chance. I have painted the rolling hills of California several times in the past, but not to my satisfaction. I don't have trouble with the oak trees, it is the open fields that always seem so blank and odd in color. Are they yellow, peach, brown, purple? The contrast of the dark oaks on the light hills amplifies any flaw in the composition so every aspect of the painting must be designed.
I found a spot which had all the right elements; wonderful rolling hills, well spaced trees and interesting patterns of color. With all this going for it, I still wound up doing four different sketches. First, I tried including more of the scene, with the sky going all the way across the top third of the canvas. Too boring. Next, I tried the triangle of sky on the right top. Too much open field. Then I tried no sky. Way too much open field. Last, I tried the triangle sky on the left but I still wasn't completely satisfied. Time was ticking away so I decided to work out the rest of the composition on the canvas. This is usually a sure road to failure but I kept at it and after wiping down the canvas twice I finally worked out the finished layout. I love the final piece, California Oaks. The colors, texture and composition all come together to make this painting work.
Do I recommend trying an experiment when at a plein air event? NO. I only tried it because I already had completed several good paintings and this once it worked out well for me.Comment on or Share this Article →
Red Light is available at PR Gallery and Gems
I am always searching for places to show my work. My reasoning goes like this. The more places I show my work, the more people will see my work and that will lead to more people buying my work. This single line of reasoning is the most important part of my marketing strategy. Thus, I am always expanding my exposure through my online network, galleries, art clubs and juried shows. This year has been especially fruitful with many of these connections maturing into tangible results.
Listing my online venues, I realize I have at least 20 different sites that have information about me and my work. With my personal website, Facebook, LinkedIn, different clubs I belong to, FineArtAmerica, Squidoo and a host of other websites, my online presence is pretty impressive, especially considering that I haven't dedicated that much time to it. This online network has not only resulted in sales but also gotten me bookings for art demonstrations, teaching classes and an invitation to be the featured artist at an upcoming event.
In addition to my virtual marketing, I am always looking for ways to expand in the real world too. An opportunity can crop up when you least expect it. Earlier this year, friends I only recently met showed my work to Phillip Francisco at PR Gallery and Gems in the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. Thanks to this twice removed connection, I now have a solo show that will be at the gallery from July 15 through the end of August.
So if you are not actively pursuing opportunities, there is always someone else who will grab them. Who knows maybe that someone else is me.
757 Market Street, Four Seasons Hotel Lobby
San Francisco, CA 94103
Surf's Up 11x14 Painted at the Carmel Art Festival 2012
Surprise is something that I am always dealing with when I do a plein air competition. I can never predict when or where I will be confronted with an unusual situation but I am always ready for the unexpected. These unplanned situations will often be the start of a memorable painting experience.
In May while at the Carmel Art Festival, I was scouting for a painting spot when I peeked over the walls surrounding a construction site. The owner was kind enough to allow me access to a private flight of stairs along the sea which descended into a private cove. This is where I painted Surf's Up. I never plan to find hidden treasure but when it happens I will always take advantage of the opportunity.
Afternoon at the Coast 11x14 Painted for 2012 Los Gatos Plein Air
A month later while at the 2012 Los Gatos Plein Air event, I was lucky enough to turn into a farm where the dirt road led to the view for Afternoon at the Coast. Amazing as this view is, it is a mere fraction of the splendor that I saw that day as I was given the grand tour of the property. I walked through fields of wild flowers, saw 180 degree ocean views and found a hidden estuary. Amazing.
Finding these hidden treasures is never a planned experience and often can cause complications that disrupt the painting schedule of a plein air event. So why do I do it? Because after the event is over and I am home, the unplanned moments are the ones that I remember and cherish. I realize that the recognized proven spots are more likely to sell but for me the call of adventure is too strong. I gotta turn down that dirt road and see what is over the rise.Comment on or Share this Article →