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Sunday, April 29, 2012

What was on the easel now off the easel and on display in Texas galleries...available for purchase.

 A gentleman asked me recently, on my Facebook page, if I ever produce paintings I'm not happy with. This same question, voiced in different ways, is one I've heard many times. The implied idea is, "Your paintings are all so good, surely, you don't struggle like the rest of us when it comes to creating a good painting." That idea, voiced by other want-to-be artists, is far from reality. When teaching, students are amazed when I wipe something out. Up to that moment, they thought I painted with absolute confidence, sureness of concept, and accurate execution. In a way, it gives them a boost of confidence about their own work as they consider the truth..."Oh, he makes mistakes too."

Color study  -  4.5"x 4.5"  -  Oil on paper

Rural Winter  -  14"x 14"  -  Oil on canvas

Collectors approach the same idea from a slightly different perspective. Since they've never tried to paint, they often look upon the artist as super gifted...therefore it all comes so naturally and easy for us. That too is a false assumption.
I say all that to say this. These two paintings were so far from easy, it is hard to explain how I fretted over them during all my waking hours until they were birthed and I looked upon these children and could say, "I am pleased with you." Many times areas were scraped down and repainted. At times I wanted to just quit and give up (abort them, heaven forbid) but I had to keep telling myself, "You have to stick with it, figure this out, somehow resolve those areas you're not happy with." I'd say the paintings took three times longer than they should have. 

Only in Winter  -  18"x 18"  -  Oil on canvas

So, my answer to the gentleman mentioned above was, "I do not put paintings out in the marketplace that I am not happy with, but that does not mean they are all great paintings. I guess others will decide just how good these paintings are. I'm still recovering from the labor and birth.

What is it that hinders the smooth, progressive creation of a painting? Well, apart from emotional issues (how we're feeling on a particular day can play a small part), the major hindrances can always be traced back to the same old principles: clarity of concept, composition, drawing, values, color, technique...and insufficient preliminary work. Rural Winter was pretty much created from imagination, so I had to imagine how the scene would appear in winter. Imaginative works always seem to take longer to least for me. Another area of great struggle was creating a convincing relationship of trees to sky. This area was probably repainted five or six times. I had pretty good reference for Only in Winter, except for the background, tree in sunlight, and mother pulling her son on the sled. My mistake here was not doing any preliminary work, so all the successes and failures were created right there on the canvas...put down and rubbed out until it was correct.

If you're interested in purchasing either of these paintings, here's how:

Rural Winter, please contact Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art
Only in Winter, may be purchased through Southwest Gallery

You may remember these two paintings when they were first introduced in an earlier blog titled: What's on the Easel. You might want to read that for background.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is it art? Should that be the question?

In 1946, R.H. Ives Gammell published his book "Twilight of Painting". In the Preface, he stated that the purpose of the book was twofold. First, an attempt to present from an artist's point of view those factors that brought about the decline in the art of painting. Secondly, an attempt "to analyze those factors for the benefit of the genuinely talented young people who, sooner or later, will address themselves to the task of rediscovering for their own use the now all-but-lost craft of picture making. Gammell's words have proved to be prophetic.

The time has finally come, we are now seeing talented young people addressing themselves to the task of rediscovering the craft of picture making. Ateliers around the world are rediscovering the teaching methods that produced some of the greatest artists this world has seen. and students are soaking it up, taking top awards in many of the important shows.

Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)  -  Public Prayer in the Mosque of Amr, Cairo  -  29.5"x 35"

Many factors are involved in the creation of art and in the formation of public taste. Political, spiritual, economic, and technological changes have the greatest impact. Because of these, what is in vogue today will be out tomorrow.

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)  -  Number 5  -  48"x 96"  -  1948

When "Twilight of Painting" was published, the art world was steeped in abstract expressionism. That movement is rapidly waning, now being replaced by various types of realism. Quality workmanship in every aspect of a paintings creation is now becoming a prime consideration.

Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889)  -  The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise  -   48"x 37"

 Ives Gammell speaks very poignantly concerning workmanship in the excerpt below, from "Twilight of Painting", page 31-32.

Art lovers often forget that pictures were formerly painted to fulfill certain specified requirements, such as telling a story, recording the appearance of an individual, or enhancing the interior architecture of a building. Such things are only achieved effectively by the intelligent application of a vast amount of trained skill and acquired knowledge to the particular problem in hand. The pictures most successfully fulfilling these or similar requirements are the ones which were later rated as works of art.

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779)  -  The Remains of a Lunch  -  1763

 The working methods traceable in the pictures themselves, the surviving records, and the traditions of the studios, all indicate that the men who painted these pictures were chiefly concerned with turning out good jobs. If any of them were consciously trying to produce "art," they held this as a secondary objective. The main concern was the job. If the job were sufficiently well done, in every respect, it would be, sooner or later, classed as art. But the painters knew that unless it was a good job it had no chance of being "art" at all and not much chance of being paid for.

Lord Frederick Leighton (1830-1896)  -  Lachrymae  -  64"x 24.75"  -  1895

 Painters learned to consider pictures in terms of good and bad jobs before even raising the question of their being good or bad art. And there is ample justification for this attitude. Fashions in taste and aesthetics change continually, and with their flux pictures go in and out of fashion. But it is noteworthy that pictures which fulfill their purpose supremely well - in other words, the good jobs - have a way of coming back into favor again and again. The bad jobs disappear at the first shift of fashion and do not return.

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)  -  Donkey Ride  -  96"x 42.2"  -  1878

That is why workmanship, in the fullest and broadest sense of the term, remains the persisting factor common to all the pictures which have been highly prized as works of art over long periods of time, regardless of when or where they were painted. Workmanship of a high order is the viaticum lacking which a picture will not get very far in its journey through the shifting fashions and fads which accompany the passing years. Of course, a picture may have such workmanship and still fall short of being a work of art. But, unless it displays purely pictorial qualities - and all these qualities come under the head of workmanship - having genuine intrinsic merit apart from their supposed intellectual or emotional content, a painting is invariably discarded as worthless before three or four generations have gone their way.

Robert Hale Ives Gammell (1893-1981)  -  The Seamstress

The ability to recognize and evaluate such pictorial qualities and to judge them impersonally is acquired with the ability to paint pictures and, apparently, in no other way. By belittling this sort of trained judgment and subsequently eliminating it from their deliberations altogether, the amateurs and art experts of our time have started the art of painting on an uncharted sea where it has drifted without pilot or rudder. The result is to be seen on the walls of our museums and picture galleries. It is labeled Modern Art.

More from Ives Gammell in future articles. Read the 11 Dec 2011 blog for more about Mr. Gammell.

Photo acknowledgments
Google Images

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Plein Air Southwest Salon 2012

Opening night, Plein Air Southwest Salon 2012  -  Southwest Gallery

The Outdoor Painters Society has just presented awards for it's 6th Annual Plein Air Southwest Juried Invitational Show. Hosted by Southwest Gallery in Dallas, the show opened 7 April. This year marks significant changes in direction for the show. Artists were no longer required to attend scheduled mandatory paintouts, and permissible subject matter was expanded to include all parts of this great country. The changes have turned the show into a national event, enabling many more artists to participate, resulting in a very competitive show.

The goal of the Outdoor Painters Society is to promote an appreciation for the process of painting "en plein air", a french term meaning "in open air". Most works are completed on location in a single painting session and therefore are generally smaller and more reasonably priced.

Southwest Gallery is one of the best known and highly respected galleries in the United States with 45 years experience representing many of the nation's top artists. The gallery houses over 16000 square feet of exhibit space and represents artists producing Traditional, Contemporary, Western and Impressionists works.
Participants in the show were carefully chosen by a jury panel. California artist, John Budicin was the awarding judge.

Below are the award winners. Hopefully, I didn't miss anyone. Most of the pictures of the winning paintings were taken during the show, so conditions were not ideal. In some cases I had to make a few Photoshop adjustments...including cloning, squaring up the images, improving clarity, removing shadows and ribbons that overhung the images in places. Since it's pretty difficult to remember color, I hope each of the artists represented here feel that their piece is fairly represented.

Best of Show
Southwest Art Magazine Award
Ned Mueller  -  Coffee Break  -  9"x 12"

Awards of Merit
Jack Richeson Award
Linda Dellandre  -  Fields of Color  -  12"x 16"

Wind River Arts Award
Rusty Jones  -  Bradshaw's Point  -  12"x 9"

Art Ready Frames Award
Becky Joy  -  Over the Edge  -  11"x 14"

Jerry's Artarama Award
Peggy Kingsbury  -  Fishing Camp Road  -  9"x 12"

Plein Air Magazine Award
Michael Obermeyer  -  The Distant San Gabriels  -  8"x 16"

Progressive Services Award
Richard Prather  -  Marina Moonrise  -  11"x 14"

Awards of Excellence
Fredricksburg Art School Award
Nancy Boren  -  House of the Little Old Lady  -  9"x 12"

Utrecht Award
Ted Clemens  -  Behind Ballard  -  9"x 12"

Vasari Artists Oil Colors Award
Diane Frossard  -  End of Another Day  -  8"x 10"

Fine Art Studio Online Award
Carolyn Hesse-Low  -  Waterways  -  9"x 12"

Sourcetek Award
Randy Saffle  -  A Day of Rest  -  12"x 16"

Honorable Mention
David Bates  -  Hillside Shadows  -  8"x 10"

John Cook  -  Nowlin Farm  -  8"x 16"

Fran Ellisor  -  Fisherman's Wharf  -  9"x 12"

Kaye Franklin -  Streamflow  -  9"x 12"

Ann Hardy  -  Argyle Iris Farm  -  16"x 12"

Peggy Immel  -  Blue Spruce and Red Berries  -  12"x 16"

Christy Kidwell  -  Fall at Turtle Creek  -  8"x 10"

Ann Larsen  -  Dolores River  -  8"x 10"

There was a quick draw held at White Rock Lake in Dallas. Each of the artists participating had just two hours to complete a painting en plein air. These works were later displayed at the gallery and voted on by the artists in attendance. I chose my favorite piece from the large group of paintings and then I asked my wife to select her favorite. There were two paintings that tied for first place, Richard Prather's, White Rock Trail...and...Kaye Franklin's, Snap Dragons. Marcia and I had a good laugh over this one when we discovered later that she had selected Kaye's piece and I had selected Prather's. I guess we have pretty good taste.

Kaye Franklin  -  Snap Dragons  -  12"x 9"

Richard Prather  -  White Rock Trail  -  10"x 16"

Finally, congratulations to Randy Saffle, he won the People's Choice Award with his painting (Shown above)

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Just how good is good enough?

Well, I guess it depends on what we're talking about. If it's school, then I guess anything over 70% is good enough. However, I'm not sure I'd be happy with a doctor that gets his diagnosis right only 70% of the time. How about those astronauts and the space shuttle? Is good enough sufficient for them?

At least in school we know what's good enough, but when it comes to eternal matters...uh, um...not so sure.
Most people seem to believe in heaven and think that a lot of us will probably end up there. Fewer folks believe in hell. When asked how someone gets to heaven, the typical response is, "You have to be a good person."...and almost everyone thinks they're a pretty good least good enough to make it through the Pearly Gates.

You know, I have just never read anywhere in the Bible, and I've read it several times, that God has said 70% is good enough for attaining eternal bliss. Yet, a lot of folks would suggest that if the good works outweigh the bad, then they're as good as in. Well, in that case 51% should be good enough...or maybe even 50.00001 percent. Many believe God is a God of love, and probably merciful. Surely, He'd be understanding and let us in if we did good stuff 49.99999% of the time...wouldn't He?
Well, we just don't know for sure. It's kind of like some of those bicycle races I used to participate in which they had surprise sprints throughout the race for additional prizes or points. One didn't know for sure when they would be announced, so you had to be on your toes all the time or you'd miss out on the reward...and none of us are 'on our toes' all of the time...and to make matters worse, we don't know when our time is up.
Now, one would think, if indeed God is good and loving and has offered us eternal life with Him in heaven, surely He would tell us how He grades. Is it a straight percentage or does He grade on the curve? Just how good can He really be if He doesn't tell us what's good enough?
Ah, here's some good news, He did. Now are you ready for the bad news? He grades on a straight percentage, and we need to get 100%, not 99.99999% etc. etc. Nope, 100 percent. "That's impossible," we say...and we'd be correct, it's impossible.

Now for the good news. That's what the Gospel is, by the way, Good News. It is really Good News when we realize that we all miserably fail the test, but God Himself through His Son, Jesus, stepped in and took the test for us...and guess what? He got 100%...and it's all legal. We can accept the grade as our own and not be accused of cheating.
How in the world is that possible? It's called substitutionary atonement.
Without going into the whole background of the fall of man, most people will agree that they're not perfect, we've sinned. God in fact says, "There is none righteous, not even one"...."There is none who does good, there is not even one." That pretty much declares as a lie the contemporary belief that "man is basically good."
We're all in quite a helpless predicament . It's impossible for us to be good enough, so God in His sinless perfection, love and mercy sent His only begotten Son in the form of a man to be our representative, our substitute, and take upon Himself all our sin and also the sin of the world...past, present, and future. In His sinless perfection, Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice. Through His horrific, obedient death, God's justice was satisfied. Jesus was buried and if everything had ended there, we'd still be in a most miserable state.

The really, really good news is...the Father showed approval of His Son's sacrifice by raising Him bodily from the grave after three days. It is the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb that is the Father's ultimate stamp of approval. No other religion can make such a claim and back it up with evidence.

So, what do we do with all this? Here, I'll let the Scriptures tell you.

The person whose ears are open to My words (who listens to My message) and believes and trusts in and clings to and relies on Him Who sent Me has, (possesses now) eternal life. And he does not come into judgment (does not incur sentence of judgment, will not come under condemnation), but he has already passed over out of death into life. (John 5:24)

This time of year, in the Spring, we celebrate the risen Savior, the One of Whom it is said,

 "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed"

....and because He is risen, we too are promised new resurrected bodies suited for eternal life with our Savior, Christ Jesus... if we receive and trust in Him.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

How good is good enough? Hopefully this helps. Blessings to each of you.

(All art courtesy of Rembrandt van Rijn and Michelangelo)

Here are a couple of good books that deal with this much better than I.
The Bible (Start with the New Testament)
Since Nobody's Perfect, How Good is Good Enough, Andy Stanley, Multnomah Books

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

What's on the easel?

Well, here it is Spring....and what's on the easel...two snow scenes. Snow scenes are difficult enough to paint well, but especially so when just outside my studio window everything is in full bloom. These paintings are being produced for the 2013 Outreach Health Services calendar for which I have been creating images for the past eleven years. They may also end up in the upcoming Spring Festival, held this May at the Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio.
Both paintings are in process, but I thought you might find the uncompleted stage interesting.

18"x 18"  -  Oil on canvas

I haven't decided on a title for either of these paintings as yet. Any suggestions?
For the painting above, the middle ground tree is next on the list to be fully developed while the foreground and background will receive further refinements. Indian Red has been added to the palette. It's a bluish red, opaque, and absolutely permanent. It's not as intense as the alizarin crimson I generally use and therefore seems more appropriate for landscape painting, being more earthy and natural in appearance.

White, Ultramarine Blue, Indian Red, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light, Chromatic Black

The major color and value mixtures found in the snow...from lightest light to  darkest dark

I am asked by students, from time to time, "How do you paint trees? How do you paint skies? How do you paint water? How do you paint snow?" To sum up, the question is really, "How do you paint...things?" The young, untrained artist has a tendency to paint what they "know"...skies are blue, trees are green, snow and clouds are white. Therefore, you might be surprised by the colors shown above that indicate snow, yet in the painting context, they indeed become snow.

The difficulty for any painter is moving beyond the idea of painting "things", and beginning to think in terms of creating accurate drawing, value and color. Drawing (perspective, proportion, and shape) is important because it gives the sense of scale and space to your subject on a two dimensional surface. Correct value is important because through the convincing use of light to dark shapes, and soft to hard edges, the artist can create a convincing atmosphere and mood. Finally, if the hue, intensity, and temperature of the color is accurate...wa-la...the trees, skies, water, and snow will all look perfectly convincing.
Ignore these important points and the work will always remain amateurish. 

The photo below is actually the reference for the second painting. Pretty ridiculous, I know. How can anyone expect to create a winter scene from a summer photograph? Well, hopefully I can. It all goes back to what was said above.

Color study  -  4.5"x 4.5"

Raw Umber brush drawing and block-in

14"x 14"  -  Oil on canvas

This painting has a long way to go. The sky is close to completion, but I'm now reconsidering the prominence and placement of the sun. It's probably too high in the sky for the time of day and value (darkness) of the sky. Background was painted first and allowed to dry. This allows flexibility in placement of trees and creating the appropriate edges. If I don't like what I've done, I can wipe it out without ruining the sky.

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