Monday, September 26, 2011
Mutt and Jeff
Spent a wonderful day with my friend Gary Klingemann this week. We've been talking about getting together for about a year in order to paint. During that time we discovered we have many things in common, including similar spiritual and political beliefs. But, we also have a similar English heritage...military Dad's meeting and marrying English women. I was born in England. Gary was born in Albuquerque, but at three months he was back in England because of his Dad's reassignment. He spent the next 14 years in England except for a short stint in Spain.
During those 14 years he became a very good soccer player, eventually playing at the semi-pro level in the United States. He earned two coaching licenses, one from England's Football Association and the other from the United States Soccer Federation. He met his wife, Shelly, while coaching a soccer camp in the states.
Just after returning from a 225 mile bike ride
(Well, OK...25 miles)
Another commonality we both share is a love for cycling. I raced for 12 years and was in the 1971 World Championships in Leicester, England.
Gary came to cycling out of necessity, during college, when he couldn't afford a car. The salesman who sold him the bike offered him a job as bike mechanic and salesman. With several competitive cyclists working at the shop, he got involved with racing for a brief time. He also toured in England by bike and went to the Tour de France. Now he enjoys participating in century rides.
This is the scene we painted...
a view across my side yard to the barn.
Klingemann beginning his small oil study.
After our 225 mile bike ride, we set up to paint. Gary is now in a position to set more time aside from his busy life to once again take up painting. He currently is a graphic designer and owns his own business, Klingemann Design. It is a brand-focused design and communication studio specializing in branding/identity, print and website development.
Plein air painting, or as they say, "in the open air" is a real challenge. I guess you would say we enjoyed it... after we expelled a few moans and groans because of disappointing performance.
I've been doing more plein air painting than usual these last two weeks as a tune up for for two painting trips in the near future. The process got me to thinking about just what I take out into the field when I paint. Besides a Soltek easel, I carry a soft, Samsonite bag...12"x 14"x 13".
Plein air study of yard and barn
This is what's in the bag: Painting supports (gessoed paper), hard board backing, assorted bristle brushes, oil paint, mineral spirits, palette cups, palette knives, masking tape, burnisher, expandable mahl stick, level, paper towels, rubber gloves, camera, compass, Garmin GPS unit, Phillips head screwdriver, pliers, 34" umbrella with adjustable extension, easel clamp, cord and metal clip (extra security to prevent umbrella from disappearing into the stratosphere)....and a lawn chair and 24" television...just kidding.
Plein air study of Taylor Lane
Plein air study of Monroe's Pond
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Kicking the Can Down the Road
Is this the sun setting on the US economy?
You may have seen this. It's a real eye opener and puts some really big numbers into perspective.
Our United States Congress sets a federal budget each year in the trillions of dollars. Few of us know just how much money that is.
This will bring some perspective to the brilliant use of our money by those we elected to represent us.
Federal Budget: $3,820,000,000,000
US Income: $2,170,000,000,000
New Debt Incurred: $1,650,000,000,000
Our National Debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent Budget Cut: $38,500,000,000
Putting that in more understandable terms, let's consider a family in financial crisis and see what they've decided to do to get the mess under control. By just removing eight zeros, we can put these numbers in more reasonable terms.
Family Expenditures: $38,200
Family Income: $21,700
New Debt: $16,500
Existing Credit Card Debt: $142,710
Budget Cut: $385
Reducing that even further, down to the level of an artist who sells a painting now and then, think of it this way.
Recent Art studio expenses (Canvas, stretcher bars, turp, frame,
and paint brushes): $382
Painting sales: $217
Art Studio Debt: $165
Existing Credit Card Debt: $1,427
Budget Cut ( 1 - Robert Simmons White Sable Long Handle Brush - Series 760 Bright - Size 1): $3.48...with tax $3.85
Makes sense to me.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Finding Your Artistic Voice
How to discover your uniqueness as an artist
Is this the most copied artist in America?
I began my professional art career as a freelance commercial illustrator in the early 70's. I shared office space with an already well established artist who had excellent credentials, was confident in what he was doing, and had a very tight, realistic style.
Being new to the field and not as well trained as he, I lacked confidence and individuality of style. Over time I began projecting photo reference and adopting a more photo realistic style. Upon entering the fine art field 10 years later, and seriously evaluating my abilities, I realized I had become dependent on the projector and really had little confidence in my drawing ability. In fact, now looking back, I understood very little about creating a quality painting.
As an illustrator I was told that in order to be successful one needed to develop a unique style. That may be true in the illustration field but as a fine artist that just seems so phony and artificial because the whole motivation for creating art is different. Yet, the reality is, galleries and collectors alike generally don't like surprises. Collectors expect something similar to what we have done before. Galleries want a product they can sell, and they expect consistency in quality and subject matter.
So how does one find their niche in the marketplace and uniqueness of creative expression?
Dan Gerhartz often speaks of honesty in painting...honesty in depiction of the subject and honesty to one's self. My friend Ed Pointer says, "I never gave it much thought. I just liked to paint and painted my own way." Frustration has kept Pointer searching. "I've never being satisfied with what I'm doing, or I could say, rarely being satisfied with my technique. I seem always to be searching for something that I haven't quite found. Glenn Miller spent a tremendous amount of time in searching for his particular musical sound, most of his musical life in fact--he did finally find it but the quest occupied much of his conscious life."
I included Pointer in this group of great artists because he, along with them, has a very distinctive way of expressing himself. He doesn't realize it but it's obvious to everyone else.
Pointer highlights one of the important points of finding your artistic voice...experimentation...trying a lot of different things...to me that includes everything from design to media.
Here are some other valuable points:
* Don't make uniqueness the object of your affection.
* First, learn to "speak". Develop your painting vocabulary: composition, drawing, values, edges, color, etc., etc. What good is uniqueness if when you have something to say you have not the skill nor ability to communicate it convincingly?
* Be a serious student. Take your work seriously. A hobby artist attitude will not get the job done. Continually increase your understanding and apply what you've learned.
* Improve your taste through the study of the great masters.
* Paint what you understand, love, and are passionate about. Do not get into the rut of painting a certain subject because it sells.
* Learn and apply the valuable stuff you have learned from others, but don't mimic. Remember, it's all about you gaining knowledge and understanding of how to create a great painting. It's about seeing through your eyes, not the eyes of another. The artists represented here interpret through their eyes, intellect and emotions and their individuality is crystal clear. Everyone after them can only copy their "voice", and that to me is artificial.
* Give yourself time. No one matures overnight.
* Subject matter alone cannot be the distinguishing feature of finding one's "voice". Almost all of the artists shown here paint a variety of subjects and yet their work is still easily recognized. Why? I believe it goes to the emotional content, design, drawing, color choices, and paint application. All are very personal, and when developed, can lead to a very personal style.
Other opinions on this subject voiced by others, which I don't necessarily agree with are:
* Don't judge your choices.
* Decide what type of artist you wish to be and develop your style accordingly.
* Detach yourself from your visual library...all of the art you have seen and experienced in the past.
Finally, painting is like learning to write. After learning the alphabet, being introduced to writing tools and how to use and hold them, one learns how to form each letter...and eventually how to write one's name in cursive. Over time, having written one's name hundreds, thousands of times, your signature is uniquely yours. There's not one other like it in the world. How did it all begin...taking that pencil in hand and awkwardly forming those first letters.
If you have further insight into this subject or would like to share with others how you discovered your artistic voice, please feel free to contribute.
Here are links to the websites of each of the artists featured in this article:
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Is OPA Judging Rigged?
An Inside Look at the Oil Painters of America Selection Process
If you want to be juried into an art show, or win an award in a show, it's important that you have "connections". Knowing the judge or jurors doesn't hurt, maybe even being involved in the host organization will further your changes of winning something, anything...Right?
Accusations of award winners being preselected or friends being shown favoritism are occasionally leveled against art organizations by disappointed applicants. Oil Painters of America is not immune from such criticism. The question is, is there justification for such accusations?
Dan Beck - A Warm Breeze
2011 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
Recently, within the last three weeks, I was bestowed the honor of seeing how an OPA Selection Committee works...from the inside out. I was one of five judges chosen to select the paintings that will be in the OPA Western Regional Exhibition this October at the Lee Youngman Galleries in Calistoga, CA.
Now that all the selections have been made, I am able to tell you how it works.
Mary Qian - Model on Break
2010 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
First off, you need to know, I still do not know who the other four jurors were...and will probably never know. I asked out of curiosity, after the judging was completed, but received no response. Another thing, only two people knew the identity of the five jurors, the OPA President and the Jury Chairman.
David Riedel - Wooden Bowl
2009 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
We had four days to rate the 924 entries, grading them on a scale from one to seven. The entries were viewed using the internet and we had no way of knowing how other jurors voted. After all the grades for each painting were compiled we were given an additional three days to reevaluate the top 190 entries scoring them in the same way...one to seven. Those receiving the highest cumulative scores were selected for the show.
I did not enter the competition this year, but if I had, I was instructed to vote for my painting in order to avoid any possible computer processing issues. However, it was the average score of the other jurors that would have been substituted for my vote. So, even in that, the temptation to show favoritism toward one's own work was eliminated.
Howard Friedland - Morning in Giverny
2008 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
Paintings were evaluated based on design and execution. The best works had one dominant value, a dominant color harmony, a clear center of interest, balance, accurate drawing, convincing value relationships, consistent and believable color temperature relationships, appropriate variety of hard and soft edges, and varied and interesting paint application.
Get all those elements right and you ended up with a seven...in the top 1-3 percent of entries.
Johanna Harmon - Vintage Dreams
2007 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
I have judged many art shows and only once did I sense a little urging to vote a certain way...and that was for an Elementary School art competition.
Oh, you may be wondering if the artist's signature on a painting has an influence. Well, to be very honest, I make it a matter of personal integrity to avoid looking at the signature. If the focal point of the painting is located in the area of the signature, there's no need to be concerned about awards.
I'm sure if an advantage can be gained in any art competition, there will be those who will try to get that advantage. But, as for the Oil Painters of America Exhibitions, I was most impressed to see just how unbiased the jury process actually is. This should be an encouragement to many of you. Hey, it all comes down to the quality of the work, not to who you are or whom you know.
Robert Coombs - Almost Sundown
2006 Gold Medal Winner / Associate Signature Division
Below are website links to those featured in this article:
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