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Saturday, December 20, 2008
Well, despite the fact that I did get the prettiest gal in school I continue to complain about my luck. Then, I’ll be darn if something really nice happens to me! I win!
Just last month, in October, the Regional Artist Project of Northwest North Arts Councils picked me out as a recipient of one of their prestigious grant awards. My project was actually funded as a cooperative venture of Alleghany Arts Council, Ashe County Arts Council, Watauga County Arts Council, and Cultural Arts Council of Wilkes with support from a Regional Artist Project Grant of the North Carolina Arts Council, a state agency.
The grant enabled me to attend three different workshops on the use of water soluble oil paints, all presented by the nationally recognized expert in multiple media, Sean Dye of Burlington, Vermont. Sean is especially well noted for his water soluble oils! The three workshops were held just 200 miles from my studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. The workshops were without a doubt the best I have ever attended. I learned so much over that short weekend in November that I can’t wait every morning to start painting.
My art has taken on a new dimension and energy! It has been twenty years since I’ve dabbled in oil paint, and now water soluble oils have made it possible again. As a result of my workshop experience I learned that a finished painting created with water soluble oil paints looks, feels, and smells like an oil painting. And, the most exciting part of this discovery is the elimination of messy clean up, end of noxious fumes and a brilliance of color that is nearly impossible to get with watercolors. I will be able to create oil paintings without the potential health hazards that actual oil paints and chemical solvents produce.
I’ve already begun to experiment with this new media and I’m anxious to get a few ready to show.
All I can say is, thanks to the Regional Artist Project of Northwest North Arts Councils for this opportunity and thanks to Sean Dye for his excellent workshops. Check out Sean’s website here on my Blog.
P.S. If you haven’t tried Water Soluble Oil paints I recommend you at least try them. I think you will be pleased with the outcome.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I apologize for the digital photos; I opted to use my small Sony Cyber-Shot 2.0 digital camera and natural light to shot the painting in progress. It was overcast on a couple of days and sunny on the rest. The pictures are only so-so, but did what I wanted them to do -- capture the work in progress.
I hope you have enjoyed watching the painting develop. I especially want to thank the members of the Blue Ridge Art Clan for their patience and courtesy during my demo last month. You folks are wonderful.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I was also preparing three paintings for hanging at a business in Blowing Rock, NC later in the week. So, I didn’t get right back to my completion of the demonstration painting I had started last Friday (7/26/08). In fact it was not until Wednesday, July 30th that I picked up the painting where I had left off last Sunday (See my last Blog called, “July 28 – Second Day” for details.
As I mentioned in my last Blog, I had already made some changes in direction for this painting from my original study. As I worked on the Lilies in the left hand corner I decided to make them Daylilies. I had originally planned to use a light pink variety but opted for the bright orange ones we have in our yard in the spring. I cause me a lot of rework time to make the change but I love the color so much I’m glad I went in that direction. I was going for some color and a bit of excitement, too. I also worked on the foreground detail. By the end of this two hour session the painting was taking on the look I had envisioned.
Friday, August 15, 2008
As you can see in the demo, I was only able to get a few elements from my study onto paper. The painting took a few turns as I started painting. I had the study in front of me, but I decided to deviate from my plan as my brush begain splashing paint on the paper. I guess my "Muse" took over and headed me in a slightly different direction. I started with the sky and mountains and set aside an area for the clump of flowers. These elements were still in the left corner where they had appeared in the study, but the demo was full of wide open spaces as it took shape. Did I mention the new walking path?
At my studio on the 28th, I started laying out that first pine tree in the space I had left in the demo. From that point on I had a plan for how I wanted the painting to end up. After those two hours in the studio this new version of the painting was taking shape. I should mention here that what has taking place was not, in my opinion, a failure to plan or to follow a plan. It is the kind of thing that happens when a new idea develops from another idea. The basic subject is still present, but now I would bring it along in a slightly different way. Some painters may find this a bit too serendipity, but I believe it is a real opportunity to see how ideas evolve as you work. As I put the painting together I was also sketching directly on the watercolor paper and shaping the finished painting in my mind. Here is my effort from the 28th.
Although I didn't know it at the time, it would be another three days before I picked up the painting again.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
My demonstration covered all aspects of watercolor, including paper, paint, brushes and techniques for using all of these. I prepared for the demo by first creating a mono-colored study of what I planned to paint. I do studies to layout where objects will go in the painting, determine the value of lights and darks, and generally warm up for the actual painting. I keep these monochromic studies in a binder. This is study I showed at the demonstration:
Demos normally last only about one to one and a half hours. My host Barbara Sturgill later told me that most guest artists don't finish their painting in that allotted time frame. I was no exception. I guess in retrospect I may have babbled on a bit. :-) I do go on when talking about watercolor and painting in general. I really do enjoy all aspects of it. Easy to lose track of time when you're discussing something you love.
I barely got any paint on my paper by the end of my talk. Just enough to make one wonder if I was actually going to demo anything or not! I'll show you the demo piece in my next blog.
At any rate I guess it went all right. Nobody threw rotten tomatoes at me! I did promise to complete the painting so that those interested could see where I was heading when the whistle blew for lunch!
Friday, July 11, 2008
The sun has tried to pop out since I finally dragged myself into a full standing position, but the clouds immediately rush in and dump more rain. It’s definitely a Mountain Monsoon!
Our guests were fun and interesting – my wife’s sister and her husband. She, Lynn, like Barbara and I is a watercolorist and her husband, John, is an amateur photographer. Needless to say our conversations about art were interesting and informative. They both also have a keen sense of humor and tend to roll with life’s punches. They live large compared to Barb and I. Of course, it requires them to both work at very demanding day jobs. I remember what that was like. Ouch! They have a 6-year old blond Lab named Sydney who helps take the edge off life.
I should get dressed and dodge the raindrops to my studio. I’m working on a nautical painting and it really needs to get past the “uglies” or I’ll never finish it. Several weeks ago I got this BUG to try doing a painting of a Marina scene. I took some photos while in New Bern, NC and finally selected the one I wanted to work on. I loved the way the sailboat masts slice up into the sky. This batch of boats had lots of colorful wraps, too. A cover for the mainsail and a cover around the headstay, or is it the forestay? Of course, not owning a boat makes this project all the harder. I wonder sometimes why I put myself in these predicaments! Knowing a subject, whether you’re writing about it or painting it, is so much easier than trying something you only have a vague idea about!
Of course I’ve been on small sailboats before but never captained one. All I know is that they have rigging, sails, and a rudder. How all this works together is still a mystery to me. My good friend Tom tried his best to show me the ropes (no pun intended), but I was more enamored with the water and sky to pay much attention to all the stuff about bringing her up in the wind or tacking. I always said that someday I’d really like to learn how to sail, but I haven’t got around to it, yet. Living way up here in the mountains doesn’t help much. I’d like to think that all Tom’s time and effort weren’t in vain, but I’m afraid he would have to start all over again from the beginning if I were ever really going to master boating.
I know this painting would go a lot smoother if I had listened more intently to Tom back on the Bay in Duluth, Minnesota.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
The Best in Show was an acrylic abstract of various patch quilt patterns called “Pieced together” by Suzan Schuhmacher from Raleigh, NC. The Juror, Wilford W. Scott, head of Adult Programs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., did a good job considering the variety and volume of entries.
My wife and I both brought our painting kits and spent a week dabbling with watercolor and sightseeing in lovely New Bern. The oppressive heat was the only real negative to the whole trip. It averaged 97 degrees all week! Now that we are back home in the mountains, we don’t seem too worse for wear!
Monday, May 26, 2008
A recent Blog by FearlessArtist, Weird Attitudes at the Art Fair, made me realize how often we forget that one of the biggest reasons God gave us this talent to create art, whether good or bad, comes with an obligation to teach others what we know. It is easy to sit back and enjoy this gift we have, but part of our enjoyment is not only sharing our ideas, techniques and finished products with the world through exhibitions and displays, but also by mentoring others to also take their place in the galleries and museums of the world. Those of you who throw clay, paint pictures, photograph nature, write novels, and sing or dance know that you have something special that doesn’t just belong to you; it is intended to be shared with the world.
Every city, town and community has a place for the arts. We also have a special role to play within these arts communities. How we support organizations that promote the arts says a lot about who we are as artists. Of course most of us are looking for places to show off our talent because we hope that multitudes of art lovers will not only appreciate what we do but also buy an admission ticket to our performance, buy a piece of art or two, or buy our book. It is all part of the art work experience. Many of us are hoping to get some reward for our talents; if for no other reason than perhaps to pay off the cost of our education, all those materials and supplies, marketing expenses, and even telephone bills. Sharing is also as big a part of our art as selling ourselves and our products.
I would bet that each and every one of us knows of at least one community arts organization that is looking for talented artists to help teach a class, share ideas on their Board, donate art for an auction, stuff envelopes, paint props for a recital, sing and dance in a production, design posters, submit articles to their monthly newsletter, participate in book signings, and hang paintings for an exhibition. The list goes on and on. Many of the roles you might play may have a distant relationship to your special talent. Yet, each of these volunteer tasks directly supports the arts where you live and work.
If you run into an artist who is reluctant to share his/her talent, refuses to allow you to photograph their work, won’t take the time to explain how they work, declines to show you an unusual dance step, or isn’t interested in giving you a few pointers on how to begin writing a book – aren’t you surprised and hurt? Ask yourself if this is the kind of artist you want to be? How are you perceived by your community? After all, this is where you hope to find buyers for your work. Are you an artist who gives back or just takes?
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Some art groups deliberately book fewer competitions for its members to perhaps take the pressure of competing off their creative shoulders. I wonder though if the society leadership may be doing their members a disservice. Let’s face it; we all compete for our place in this world we live in. We all have this need to know how we stack up against the other guys and gals, how good our work really is, and not just our own opinion of our skills and ability. For me it only seems natural to want to know what others think of my work – good or bad. Criticism is also a big part of growing as an artist. We all rarely get enough beneficial criticism. Although negative comments can be a bit painful, flowery praise from those close to us may be soothing but have little benefit in the long run. We learn from other artists and friends who give honest critiques about our work. Part of being out there is learning what we can do to improve our craft – that never hurts anyone!
Having said that, when you enter a juried competition you are hoping with all your heart that you’ll get a hefty dose of recognition, some cheering applause, a few supportive accolades, a stroke or two of praise and perhaps a ribbon or maybe even a check! There is a huge let down when you don’t win. Not winning can be hard to swallow. If you get enough rejections you may even do something stupid like quitting! It happens. I always feel a pang of rejection when my hopes are dashed – that is a natural reaction, too. What we do with the let down is what counts in the end. Turning a disappointment into a positive lesson that makes you a better artist is what matters.
Although the possibility of losing is always present, the risk of getting shown in a juried show is more than worth it.
Just an aside, I did plan to add trees to the top of the mountain in the foreground. However, I thought about the terrible destruction our Fraser Fir trees have suffered from those nasty little aphid buggers of late. The most damaging natural enemy of these Christmas trees is the balsam woolly adelgid (formerly called an aphid) which is an imported, wingless insect. Much of the tops of our mountains are bare these days.
The final pieces of the painting were the hills in the middle of the painting across from the lake. I did a little more filling in the negative space around the blooms [to set them off] and filled in some water, earth and over-painted some of the leaves of the Forsythia so that they popped out a little more.
Hope you enjoyed progressing through the stages of the painting with me.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Now we in for a rainer or two! I guess a 30% chance of rain looks a lot like 100% when it is actually coming down. Not a bad job that Weather Forecaster gig. It is mostly guesswork, which amounts to peeking out your window every now and then. 8-)
Any way I got some work done on my painting after the winds died down.
I touched up the yellow forsythia blooms and continued sculpting out the rocks and hills along the right side of the painting. I also spent a lot of time working with shadows along the shore on both sides of the creek. I enjoy adding these details. It is kind of my trademark, so to speak. It is beginning to take shape now.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I was planning to hit the studio early this morning but that would mean slipping off my jim-jams and bundling up against the wind and rain to battle the gale trying to reach my studio door. So, I settled for an extra cup of coffee instead.
I did get a little done on the painting yesterday. I’m continuing to add background, building up the painting using the negative spaces around the Forsythia and the boulders littered about the landscape. Here is an updated photo:
I decided to add part of a lake just beyond the foreground scene. I’m not sure it will stay, but I like the idea of open water beyond the shore with the creek flowing through the painting. I’ve begun painting the large boulders to the right of the painting. Stacking them up so to speak. My technique for painting rocks is pretty simple. I lay down some earthy colors, browns, grays, and dirty blues. Then I bleed brighter colors into the wet glaze. Rocks are full of textures and colors in nature. I’m always finding more to them than first meets the eye. Seriously, take a long look at a large rock sometime. They are fascinating. Nothing lays around in the out-of-doors for long without developing some real character – especially rocks!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
It was one of those computer weeks when everything falls apart. Surely, you must have had a few days like that. ;-) Anyway, sorry for wasting this space with a bunch of gripes but I really needed to blow off some steam.
I have to admit I did get a lot of help during my crash. It cost me but I upgraded Microsoft Word, Norton Antivirus, and caught up on my quota of booze. My headache is gone and the laptop is sailing along. If I only knew to where it was sailing?!!
I'm painting tomorrow no matter what!
Have faith. I’ve learned trough experience not to give up too soon. What started as a respectable idea, one that you gave up buckets of sweat and tears, as well as your most worthy attention should be “good”. But the reality is not everything goes from sketch to masterpiece the first time around. Not to fret!
The motto of a painter should be, “if at first you don’t succeed -- keep on at it until you do”! I can’t tell you how many paintings I’ve wanted to toss in the waste can that ended up in an exhibition or on a buyer’s wall. Not because they bought something mediocre, but because I kept working and reworking until the piece became better.
Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I may not like what I see but you may like what you see. We may both not like what we see or we may both like what we see. It may be good, it may be OK or it may be terrific. It might be at that “Ugly” place! After three days it should be somewhere. Right? Speaking of which, here is a look at my most recent painting:
I’ve touched up some of the leaves on the Forsythia, added some rocks, and started to work on the creek’s shoreline. I’m feeling my way at this point. Discovering what colors work and what colors don’t. It may seem like a strange way to work at a watercolor, but my oil painting technique often works even in this “unforgiving” medium.
Another piece of advise I learned from my Painting professor years ago was that when a painting enters an ugly stage – walk away. Not forever, but for a little while. Yesterday, Barbara and I drove 4 ½ hours to Goldsboro, North Carolina to enter two of my paintings in a National Juried Competition with the Arts Council of Wayne County. After dropping off the paintings, we had a wonderful dinner at Outback, a great night’s sleep at the Comfort Inn & Suites and then we enjoyed a leisure drive back today. I didn’t think about my painting all that time. Now I’m ready to go to work.
After filling out more foliage I decided to have a meandering river pass through the scene and also laid out a mountain range along skyline:
I start the water with a blue about the same shade as my sky. A clear sky is reflected in any water that is open to the sky. This is a starting point. Later I will add some green to show the actually water color.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
The painting in question is coming along faster as I get into it:
Using a flat ½ inch brush I created various leaves along the same stem as I had previously done with yellow blossoms. The technique is simple to learn and works for many types of leaves. However, this technique works especially well on narrow pointed leaves like these linear lanceolate leaves. Place the edge of the brush at an angle where it attaches to the stem and draw the brush up and out from the stem.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Anyhow, here is “Forsythia” a few hours later:
I had placed some light pencil lines in the lower right corner that arched up and across the paper toward the sky. This was my initial guideline to create a sweeping movement of Forsythia branches and blossoms in the foreground. My first pass at the plant is just that—placement, direction, size and color. I have several photos of a real plant but decided to rely on memory for this painting.
BTW – Light colors like yellow need to go on first so that they remain intense. Using a transparent yellow over another color would change the yellow and diminish its intensity. Of course, this means working darker background color into the negative space around the yellow as I move on to later stages.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Actually March was cold, rainy and mostly miserable except for some rare glimpses of spring-like days. But, good old April had way too many surprises to even come close to the title “spring.” In my last post (“ Moving On") I mentioned a wet rainer was coming. Well, it did! Then it was followed by high wind warnings (some parts of Charlotte actually suffered direct hits by tornados). Ouch! Up in the mountains we had rain and wind. The very next episode was a freeze warning, and as promised it was under 30° this morning.
After the freeze alert the day turned out sunny and a lot warmer – 60’s. We are all hoping that we have seen the last of winter weather.
I did get to the studio (15 paces from out cottage door) and started a new painting. I decided just to bypass the dummy stage and dive right in to the work. I’ve actually had the idea in my head since last month, but refused to think of details until yesterday. For me, that is sloppy work, but I think it will go well. Here a look at my initial start for “Forsythia.”
Monday, April 28, 2008
It is a real rainer this morning. It is dark, wet, and gloomy. I usually like the rain but I could have used some more peppy weather for a Monday. I have plenty of windows and lots of natural light in my studio, but only if the sun actually comes out. Duh! Otherwise, I’ll need to turn on the floodlights to see what I’m painting. I really need to start a piece this morning or I will waste the week with a lot of meaningless drivel. If I can pull myself together and go to work, I know I will chase the gloom away. I would just rather paint with natural light. Oh well, take’em as you find’em!
I hope the sun is shinning on your day wherever you are contemplating an art project. If not, be happy for the day and what it will bring.
Friday, April 25, 2008
It has only been three years since I took the plunge (no pun intended) into watermedia. Not that I'm a "newbie painter," I just never really "got it" before! I've been an "Oil Man" since my grandmother bought me one of those cool wooden boxes with tiny (probably 1 or 2 cm) of 4 or 6 colors inside. It had one brush and a 5 x 10 canvas covered piece of cardboard. Oh yes, little miniture bottles of linseed oil and turpentine. I was a bit scared of this new thing called painting but intrigued enough to be excited by the prospect. I felt I had arrived. My little drawing were going to lead me into the world of Rembrandt (whoever that was) and I would begin a new stage in my artistic talent with creation of little stick figures with a brush and paint!
Up until this momentus time in my young life (5 or 6) my pallete had been crayons and my canvas odd pieces of paper that I managed to find around the house. But, granny saw a buddy painter in the rough but simple doodles of my masterpeices. she thought it was time for this young artist to get on the painting band wagon! I was so impressed and in awe of this magnifient gift, it took me 3 months to get up the nerve to open the box the second time.
I remember it was a rainy day outside. It was my kind of "creativity day." I was up early hunting for colored pencils and paper when it struck me that my little pine box was waiting for me to paint something. Of course, I was more inclined to draw one of my stick-figure battle scenes complete with lots of blood and burning half tracks. But the beautiful little box beckened to me. Surely one would never use paints to create a masterpiece for Granny.
I hadn't completely ignored this painting thing for the whole 3 months, I had been thinking about what would be an appropriate subject to waste those tiny tubes of paint on. A scene popped in my head of a water fall, blue lagoon and lots of trees all around. So I glanced at the directions, opened the green tube and gave it a squeeze. With a glob of green paint all over my hands I opened the turpentine bottle with a pair of pliers and tried to get wash the paint off! My next squeeze hit the canvas, so that is where my first tree would go -- by default! With brush in hand I dipped it into the paint and slowly "drew" a tree. The paint resisted leaving the brush and making a tree on the canvas. In fact any attempt I made to direct the brush and glob of paint met with resistance. My hand begain to shake as my nerves shattered to pieces. It suddenly dawned on me that I was never going to learn how to paint with this sticky, gooey mess called oil paint, nor could I draw anything using a bristle brush -- impossible. I threw the wet canvas in the box along with the wet brush, shut the lid and tossed the whole mess on my book shelf. I picked up my colored pencils and finished my rainy afternoon creating the coolest Civil War battle scene I 'd ever done using blue dots for the Yanks and gray dots for the Rebs with lots of bullets flying and plenty of blood. It was 1948 and I was happy again. It would be over 30 years before oil paint and I came together again.
So the point of my last blog’s story is this: It is good to encourage young protégées to try new mediums in their work, but remember that they will develop better skills if they are given a little more instruction and encouragement as they progress through the stages of learning any new medium or technique. My Granny, God bless her, certainly meant well. However, by adding a few days of supervised painting instruction along with that gift of the little wooden box of paints might have made a big difference in my having a positive experience verses a negative one.
If you have a child or grandchild who has, at a young age, shown a natural talent for drawing or painting, by all means encourage them to create art. However, try to give them the best leg up with a few neighborhood art classes. Even if you are an artist yourself, Exposing the youngster to an experienced art teacher along with other children with similar interests will be the best possible gift you could give them. Many communities today offer art classes for youngsters. You can find weekend classes offered at the YMCA, YWCA, churches, art stores, and through private art instructors in their homes. Think about it.