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John's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Salon International 2012

I am pleased to announce that I have once again had a painting juried into one of the most prestigious competitive art shows in the country. 

Hosted by the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art in San Antonio, TX, Salon International 2012  was founded in 2001. It is designed to be a support system for traditional representational artists. Its goal is to challenge artists to strive for a higher level of artistic excellence and is totally dedicated to the recognition, encouragement and support of contemporary , currently active, artists of traditional representational art worldwide.

There were 1112 entries from 44 states and 18 countries. This year Greenhouse Gallery has selected 434 to be represented. The awarding judge will be Edward Minoff. 

Show dates: 13 April - 4 May 2012

A New Day Dawning - 12"x 16" - Oil

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

John McCartin Interview

"I see my role as an artist, to convey to the viewer what I see and perhaps what I feel, and in so doing, stir the heart and lift the soul of the viewer."

These are the words of Australian artist, John McCartin. I had the great privilege of seeing his work for the first time, earlier this month, while attending the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art 30th Anniversary Celebration, held in San Antonio, TX.

John McCartin - Self Portrait - 30.75"x 24.75" - Oil

In speaking with Mark Smith, co-owner of the gallery, some weeks before the show, he expressed great excitement about this new artist that had just been added to the gallery line-up. Apparently, Mark had discovered John's work in an International Artist magazine in which John had just won the grand prize in the magazine's "Art Challenge #64...Favorite Subjects" competition.

Dairy D'Light - 26.75"x 39.37" - Oil  (International Artist magazine grand prize winner)
The Rocky Cove - 21.75"x 43.5" - Oil

McCartin displayed artistic talent as a young boy but it wasn't until 2002 that he was able to begin a full-time painting career. Although he has no formal training, he developed his craft through constant practice and study of famous artists including: Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner, Arthur Streeton, James Fetherolf, Richard Schmid, and others.
Today he is recognized as one of Australia's finest artists exhibiting extraordinary drawing skill and versatility with a wide range of media.

My Artist Friend, Wytt Morro - 49.25"x 43" - Oil

It isn't often that my wife likes an artist's complete body of exhibited works. Hey, she doesn't even like all my paintings, but of all the works McCartin had on display at the Greenhouse Gallery, she liked everyone of them.
I was interested in learning more about John and his work in order to share what I learned with you. I contacted him. That was followed by a whole lot of questions in which I hoped he would thoughtfully answer at least a few of them. Well, he not only answered all questions but did so almost immediately...further confirming my belief of his absolute professionalism.
One thing that sort of bugs me is when I hear artists say, that when it comes to painting, the process is more important than the result. McCartin says, "I pay a great deal of attention to perfecting my craft, but the result is always paramount in my mind. Both are very important but I tend to lean toward the end result."

Pippa - 19.69"x 15" - Charcoal

While accomplished in so many genre, I wondered what is the major thing he looks for when selecting a subject. "The subject needs to impact me on the emotional level. I try to keep my mind open to many possibilities rather than choosing a subject just because it's there."

Lady with the Parasol - 24.75"x 20.87" - Oil

Spring is in the Air - 27.25"x 40.87" - Oil

On seeing Spring is in the Air, the truthfulness of this piece in capturing atmosphere...well, it's just dead on. Asking him about how he does it, he said, "Tone and color subordination are the key points to remember. When I'm painting a landscape, I'm really painting light through atmosphere. Things like mist, air quality, sun, dust, and the prevailing light temperature all influence that sense of atmosphere...and I must be exact in translating my observation to canvas or that sense of atmosphere is lost."

Spring Morning, Crompton's Farm - 17.31"x 35.43" - Oil

John creates a charcoal drawing in preparation for each painting. These highly refined drawings, works of art in themselves, help to highlight any compositional shortcomings. When beginning the painting however, the only drawing he does on the canvas is a rough outline showing where things are, indicating their correct position.

Study for Winter Morning Kangarilla - 14.18"x 18.12" - Charcoal

Winter Morning Kangarilla - 32.25"x 43.31" - Oil

Around his palette in this order you will find these colors: cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, titanium white, viridian, ultramarine blue, indigo, transparent red oxide, alizarin crimson, and cadmium red.
When blocking in a painting, he does a transparent monochrome lay-in mapping out the main shapes. This is followed by a full color block-in once that underpainting is dry. 
I wondered if plein air painting was a significant part of his work. "Plein air is very important though I paint the majority of my work in the studio. When I wasn't painting full time I was forced to rely on photos a lot of the time because of family and work commitments. I did plein air work when I could over a number of years. I still go outdoors, though not as often as I would like. Fortunately, I can draw on that experience when working from photos. I find working from life is good for picking subtle variations in color temperature whereas a camera cannot. I nearly always work from life when doing still life because of that very reason. Also larger, more detailed works are impractical to execute outdoors so I will rarely paint on a board or canvas larger than 12"x16"."

Symphony - 11.75"x 23.67" - Oil

John also uses plein air painting as a way for him to get revitalized. As with all artists we can become discouraged and feel that the well is dry. In those times McCartin will take a short break, do plein air painting or a charcoal drawing on the side of the road. "Changing  from landscape to still life or even changing mediums is a great help, also browsing the work of great artists (past and present) can be very stimulating. These positive things have enriched my work in ways I wouldn't have known had I not experienced those "flat" spots."

The Holiday - 35.80"x 17.32" - Oil

One last thing, John...What advice would you have for a young artist/painter...and for a first time collector?
For the artist, "Never give up if you are the kind of artist who must paint or die. Don't let others tell you what to paint and never become a formula painter. Observation and truthfulness to your own vision is the key. Discouragement is crouching at the door always, so doubt your doubts and persevere. You will reap rewards if you don't lose heart and give up. I'm speaking from 30 years of hard experience."
For the collector, "Good art will always increase in value. Look to invest in the kind of work that has stood the test of time."

I hope you've enjoyed meeting John McCartin. I trust his work stirs your heart and lifts your soul as it does mine.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

30th Anniversary Show

The 30th Anniversary Show currently on view at the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art in San Antonio, TX is spectacular. The show runs through 24 February and it would be well worth your time, if you're in San Antonio, to go check it out.
John Pototschnik, Kathy Anderson, Ron Rencher, Kathryn Stats, Noe Perez

Several artists were in attendance for the opening night reception and on Saturday the 4th, I was honored to be part of a five-person round table panel discussion. The questions presented to us from a nice size audience were both insightful and expansive. Do we dream in color? What motivates us to paint? What's your most interesting plein air painting experience? How do you determine subject matter? How much of painting is right and left brain oriented, and is the switch a conscious thing? What do you listen to while painting? What artists or period of art has been most influential to you? If you could spend a day with any artist, who would it be? If you had one final painting to do before you died, what would it be?
That last question stumped most of us but after some consideration, I reasoned my last painting would be by far the largest painting I had ever done, so large in fact it would take 15 to 20 years to finish it.
Regarding the question of spending a day with any artist of our choice, Noe mentioned Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, while Ron Rencher would like to spend the day with John Singer Sargent. I was a little more cautious as I thought it most important to first know whether the desired artist was a jerk or not, for It would not be pleasant to spend a whole day with such a I chose Richard Schmid, from all accounts a generous, kind person. That choice proved to be very interesting and a big surprise, as unknown to me, sitting in the audience was Dr. Bettina Schmid, a military psychologist, and one of Richard's daughters.

I'd like to introduce you to the other artists on the panel:

Kathy Anderson
Spring Still Life  -  16"x 20"  -  Oil
Kathy lives in Connecticut and is a 10-year member of the Putney Painters under the tutelage of Richard Schmid. Like him, she paints primarily from life. "My passion for painting is rooted in my garden. I strive to translate my excitement about the experience of growth, light, and translucent colors from the earth to my canvas. Nature has always spoken to me whether it is the rushing of a waterfall or the burst of new green in Spring. I am awed by the beauty around me and I love to share my vision through my paintings."

Noe Perez
Spring Landscape  -  24"x 36"  -  Oil
Noe resides in Corpus Christi, TX. His favorite artists include William Merritt Chase, Joaquin Sorolla, Julian Onderdonk, and Porfirio Salinas. "I like to study the original works that inspire me whenever I have the opportunity. Most of my work is done in the studio from photographs and plein air studies. I believe that plein air painting is an essential exercise for any landscape painter. I try to paint outdoors whenever I have the chance."

Kathryn Stats
Looking Down the River  -  18"x 24"  -  Oil
Probably Greenhouse Gallery's most popular artist, the work of Kathryn Stats is inspired by her home state of Utah. Passionate about painting, she has a love for color and an unerring sense of light. "I think a good painting is like a good musical composition. It has harmony and rhythm, contrast and theme, sometimes even soloists. Those elements rarely just occur in a natural landscape. I find that I emphasize with detail and color, omit some things, mute others, even rearrange elements to create a composition that conveys my visual experience, my joy, to the viewer. It is this challenge that keeps me painting."

Ron Rencher
Lily Pond  -  12"x 16"  -  Oil
A resident of Canyon Lake, TX, Ron is a graduate of Southern Utah State College, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1975. He is committed to working from life, either in the studio with still life setups or outside on location. "A career in painting demands that you devote yourself at least 100% to the endeavor. You can't be half-hearted or have the distractions of other occupations."

To view the entire 30th Anniversary Show, click HERE.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Executing the Concept

In some ways, I believe, determining a concept for a painting is more difficult than actually executing it. Knowing what you want to say and how you're going to say it is critical to one's success as a speaker. Creating a great painting has many similarities. 
David Leffel says, "Every great painting can be defined as a picture with one essential idea. It is what the painting is about"... that's what is important to him. His ideas of concept seem somewhat loftier than mine. In reality, maybe we're saying the same thing, just coming at it differently. 
In the book, Oil Painting Secrets of a Master by Linda Cateura, Leffel goes on to say, "The student paints things, the mature artist paints ideas about things." He uses this example. Say an artist wants to paint a portrait that conveys the depth of character of his subject, the concept then becomes the color, intensity and direction of the light, while the subject is of secondary importance.
Reference photo for Spring

In my painting, Spring, everything for me began with the subject. It was chosen because I like the subject of farms and rural life, but also in this case, I liked the objects themselves and the linear quality of the composition. That part of the painting was set...the questions then became, what specifically do I want to highlight about the subject, and what is the mood I wish to create? Once those questions were answered, the concept was established...and as Leffel says, that concept "is the structure and framework on which your assembled subject matter is suspended."
Once the subject of the painting is selected, I use a variety of means to aid in the selection of the mood for a painting: the subject as initially observed, imagination, recorded memories of various moods of nature, plein air studies, landscape photography, other artist's work, or color schemes discovered while experimenting with the color wheel.
George Inness - In the Roman Campagna

In the case of Spring, George Inness's painting, In the Roman Campagna, was the inspiration.
Once the concept has been determined and all the research material has been assembled, it is important that all succeeding decisions, made throughout the painting process, support the original idea.
Canvas selected. Drawing and value block-in, done with raw umber, begins

Raw umber value block-in complete

Color application begins matching established values

First layer of color basically complete

Further refinements

Spring  -  12"x 24"  -  Oil on canvas

Your answers to the following key questions will be helpful in executing your established concept.
1 - Has the correct size and proportion canvas been selected that most effectively communicates the idea? (Many times I have seen students create preliminary drawings for paintings and then go on to select a canvas of a totally different proportion. Later they wonder why the painting didn't work out).
2 - Is the subject well composed upon the canvas? Is there a clear focal point? Has attention been given to creating interesting positive and negative space? Is there unity with variety? Does the organization and placement of the subject effectively portray your idea?
3 - Does the drawing indicate proper proportional relationships of the subject matter elements? Is the aerial and linear perspective accurate?
4 - Does the value structure of your painting successfully convey a mood consistent with your concept? Have you created a variety of value shapes and edges? Do these direct the viewer's eye through the painting as you desire? (The mood of a painting is established through an informed use of value. For example, the value relationships of a foggy day will differ considerably from those of a sunny one).
5 - Do the color choices harmonize with your concept? (Color enhances the mood, it does not create it. There are many schemes that can result in color harmony. Care must be taken in selecting a palette that suits your concept. In my work, I have discovered that more often than not...less is more. The fewer colors on the palette, better the chance for a harmonious painting).
6 - Does the technique/paint application support or detract from the overall idea. (Good painting is about clearly communicating what you want to say; it's not about the frills and side show of a showy technique).
7 - Finally, is the painting framed in such a way as to be compatible and supportive of the concept.  

To view the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art 30th Anniversary Show, please click HERE

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