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Monday, May 26, 2008

Sharing Our Talents

Hi Fellow Artists,

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

The Joy and Misery of Competition

There is nothing more exciting than to hear a judge call out your name as a winner in a juried exhibition. Not all artists thrive on that kind of adrenaline, but yours truly does. First of all I believe showing your work to the public gets your name out there. If you show your work enough, art lovers start to recognize you as an artist with the right stuff – someone whose work is worthy to hang in a gallery. It also gives you something positive to mention in your resume. Sure there is some risk in getting out there but why keep your talent to yourself? A pile of paintings under your bed just doesn’t cut it! These precious children you have created may give you a smidgen of pleasure knowing that you made them with your own two hands. However, hearing the praises of gallery crawlers, whether they be experts or an admiring Joe Dokes who stepped in out of the rain, is by far more exhilarating.

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.


Final Painting

At last I have finished the Forsythia Painting. I suppose that is an OK name for the painting. I can’t think of anything more cleaver than that at the moment. 8 - ) All-in-all I think it turned out pretty good. Of course, I invite friends, readers and critics alike to send me your own critic, suggestions and/or praise, etc., etc. Whatever comes to mind?

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

Back to the Board

We all survived the winds this week. Well I should mention that some folks who live off the Mountain met some tornado kinds of wind and a few trees were uprooted. We were lucky here at the old homestead. However, living in a cottage nestled among the trees is a mite scary when the wind is howling!

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

A Whale of a Tale About A Gale

Yesterday was unofficially the first day for planting here in the mountains – Mother’s Day. If you have lived here awhile you learn that it is tantamount to suicide to try and plant anything before that date. We tend to get at least one maybe two killer frosts before spring officially settles in after Mother’s Day. Just one of those Appalachian unwritten rules that you pick up after getting bit once or twice! To prove a point, it was 80° last Friday and suddenly last night gale force winds swept down the mountains ripping through the trees, dropping the temperature to the wee 40’s and drenching the ground! The winds are around 7 to 30 mph this morning. They were often loud enough to wake the dead all night! There was no frost this morning but any new plantings would have been pounded to the ground had we been tempted to plant them before yesterday.

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

That's Blog News!

What a week! I haven't been able to paint, make entries in my Blog, and spend time with my friends on Scuttlebutt. Instead I have been wrestling with this stupid laptop! OK, so maybe I'm the one who is "Stupid," but I don't think it was anything the "User" did, just a bizerk computer!%@! (I'm probably not supposed to say that in a Blog! Excuzzze Me!)

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!


The Ugly Stage!

Like it or not it seems that every painting has to go through a stage that is known as, “The Uglies”. After spending days fusing and fixing a painting you step back and realize you don’t like it. Now I do occasionally paint something that is intended to be ugly. I try not to do it too often. However, when a painting you are hoping will be your best work yet turns into a “monster”-- it really hurts!

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.



Painting Update

After getting a little side tracked, I got back to painting. Of course, with spring on its way there were lots of outdoor projects I also had to share with my day of painting. Hey, a couple of hours of painting was a real treat!

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

Another Painting Moment

t is a beautiful day in the mountains. At 71° it is one of our exquisite samples of spring. Could real spring be far behind?

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

Forsythia Day 2

I really don’t know what to call this post (I like post better than blog). I thought it would be interesting to paint in front of an audience, albeit through Scuttlebutt. I did a little teaching years ago but not about watercolor.

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.