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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Experiencing an Artist Residency

Well, I just returned from a five-day Artist in Residence Program in Clarksville, TX. I was honored to be the first invited artist to set this newly established program in motion. The plan is to invite established and emerging artists to the area, provide a creative environment for them to work, and enrich the community through exposure to working artists.

Palette of colors used throughout the week: Titanium white, ultramarine blue, cadmium red, yellow ochre, lemon yellow, green (UB/LY), viridian (ultimately didn't really need it), ivory black 

A typical residency will last from one to two weeks and will eventually include writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Right now, the Artist in Residence Program is only open to Texas artists. Guidelines for future applicants are being established. There are plans to eventually acquire at least one work from each resident artist for the establishment of a permanent collection in the Old Jail Museum.

Deborah Paris and Steve Whalen

This great program is the brainchild of Steve Whalen and his artist wife, Deborah Paris. Something like this doesn't just happen though. It requires a lot of backing and support. That support is provided by the Red River County Historical Society, headed by current president, Val Varley. Founded in 1961, the purpose of the Society is to preserve the history of the County. Since its founding, many historical landmarks and photos have been preserved. I benefited from one of those preservation projects, as I had the pleasure of staying in the very impressive and expansive, Queen Anne style Lennox House. Resident artists will now begin playing an important part in contributing to the work of the Historical Society.

The historic Red River County Courthouse

The small town of Clarksville is located in far NE Texas, about 20 miles south of the Red River. I found the people friendly and possessing the endearing quality of being "down-to-earth"...real people, the kind my wife and I like being around. With a population of less than 4000, all news is big news. It must be true since my arrival made the front page of The Clarksville Times.

Small felt tip drawing depicting  a section of the Lennox House

Actually, Clarksville, and its newspaper, have a pretty significant place in Texas history. The town derives its name from James and Isabella Clark who settled in the area in 1833. Many early day Texas pioneers passed through, including Sam Houston and Davy Crockett. Shawnee, Delaware and Kickapoo Indians also lived in the area. 
Clarksville is part of Red River County, a county older than the State of Texas. The Red River District was huge, encompassing all or part of 39 present day Texas Counties. It was in 1842 that Charles DeMorse moved to Clarksville, purchased a home (it still stands), and became founder, editor, and publisher of The Northern Standard...the second oldest newspaper in Texas...and for almost 50 years, one of the most influential.
While in Clarksville, I pretty much had every day, all day, to paint, draw, explore, and photograph. Those that invited me were very concerned that I had plenty of time to create without interruption. Most evenings, events were scheduled including a reception dinner, cookout, and an art show in which I talked about the work produced and how I did it. One morning, I was invited as guest speaker at the local Rotary Club meeting...a lively/fun group indeed.

Some of those in attendance at the very enjoyable reception dinner

Interior scenes of the lovely Lennox House

Home base was the Lennox House. Jim Clark VI, local banker, historian, and descendant of the town's founders made sure my wife and I were comfortable and had what we needed.

On site before the motif

Monochromatic block-in. First beginnings of color lay-in

The Lennox House  -  9.5"x 13.25"  -  Oil on paper

I'm not a particularly fast painter. A better painter than I would have completed many more works in the same amount of time. The paintings of the Lennox House and storefronts required a lot of time...a lot of drawing. When it comes to such subjects, I'm a stickler for accuracy. I'm not interested in it looking "something like the Lennox House", I want it to specifically be the Lennox House. That painting took three sessions: 1) Drawing, monochromatic block-in. 2) Color lay-in. 3) Foreground, refinements, accents.

Red River Antiques 2 - 6.5"x 13.25" - Oil on paper

I began painting in the town square on Sunday. It was really quiet except for a few folks coming by now-and-then. The Red River Antiques store captured my attention with all its interesting details. I was just beginning to set up when a couple of guys, who turned out to be workmen, came out of the building. One loaded up his car and left, the other went to his pickup, pulled it around, and parked it directly in front of me, totally blocking my view. "Sir," I called out, "Could you please move your truck? I want to do a painting of the building." Well, it seems, the only two words Gerald heard were 'painting' and 'building'. "Oh, I don't know, does the owner know that?" he asked. "I need to check with her." While he was calling her on his cell phone, I said, "I'll be happy to speak with her." When she answered the call, Gerald said, "There's a guy out here who wants to paint your store, is it OK?" Kathy's response was, "Well, it would sure be nice if we could get together on the colors first." Finally, when I did speak with Kathy, we both had a good laugh when she realized what I actually wanted to do...and also, she had heard of me after reading the paper. Later I came to learn that the city is involved in a beautification program. While working with the individual store owners, paint schemes are decided upon and the city provides the paint.  
I thought It was a good idea to tackle this painting on a Sunday because it was so quiet on the square. Better to nail down the lower parts of the painting first, I thought, because, come Monday morning this place was going to be hopping. Wrong. It was quieter on Monday than on Sunday. In fact the stores are only open during the latter part of the week.

1957 Ford  -  8.25"x 9.68"  -  Oil on paper

Steward House  -  6"x 13.25"  -  Oil on paper

This has been my first experience with an Artist in Residence Program and it was very enjoyable. The Historical Society and all those involved with the program were very encouraging, made the stay very enjoyable, and allowed me to roam around and paint as I wished. The paintings are plein air studies and still require various amounts of work in order for me to consider them complete.
Cheers to Deborah Paris, Steve Whalen, Jim Clark, Anne Evetts, Val Varley and many others who went out of there way to make my wife and I feel welcome. 
If you're a Texas artist and find this Artist in Residence Program appealing, I would recommend you apply to participate.

I am pleased to announce my participation in the upcoming 2012 Oil Painters of America Western Regional Exhibition. If interested in purchasing this special painting, "Cherished Memories", I invite you to contact Gallery 1261. The painting beautifully captures the feeling of those special times when all was right, autumn was in the air, and our best friends came over to play.

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(My next blog will be posted on 21 October)
Thank you for visiting...and for your patience


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Southwest Gallery at 45 years

Congratulations to Southwest Gallery as they celebrate 45 years of providing fine art for the North Texas area...a pretty amazing accomplishment.  Located in Dallas, the gallery hosted a two-day spectacular event on 8-9 September with many artists in attendance and many new works on display. The event also featured several painting demonstrations, wonderful hors d'oeuvres and beverages, all enjoyed to the cool jazz of internationally known saxophonist, Benny Golbin.

Saturday evening, Bob Malenfant (gallery owner) and staff shared a very special evening and dinner with those artists in attendance. Many words of appreciation were expressed by artists and gallery.

Southwest Gallery staff

Bob Malenfant addresses gallery dinner guests


Grindelwald Terminal - 40"x 20" - Oil   (This is my latest painting and it's now available through Southwest Gallery

Newest artist added to gallery family, C. James Frazier

Artist and author, Bob Rohm, before one of his paintings

Artist, Rusty Jones, shows everyone how he does it

With two fabulous artists...John Cook and Xiang Zhang

Saxophonist, Benny Golbin, performs for the dinner guests

Artist, Ann Hardy, talks about her painting

Artist, Bob Hogan, working on a new piece  -  The 12th Man - E. King Gill

Bob Malenfant with his parents, Norman and Rose, during evening dinner. There was a party at this table

You can see why I'm smiling. Look who I'm standing next to...staffer, Dana Lane

Artist, Gene Brown

Don Sahli creates his second demo of the weekend

Congratulations to you Bob and your wonderful, thoroughly knowledgeable and supportive team. May you enjoy many more wonderful years serving Texas, and beyond, with fine art.

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(Next blog will be posted on 30 September)
Thanks for visiting...and for your patience


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Marc Hanson Interview

"Painting from life, plein air if outside, is critical and necessary to me for what I want out of myself and out of my Art".

This Marc Hanson guy is a pretty interesting fellow. Not only is he a really good artist but he expresses his creativity in other areas as well. He's an instrument rated pilot, so what's he doing? Well, he's building an airplane. It's a two-seat, all aluminum, tricycle landing gear baby, capable of 200 knots (roughly 230mph). The plane's not totally built yet, but the tail section and wing spars are. During the process he has learned to rivet and to be very meticulous with measurements and finish.
Besides the airplane, he's also building a boat...a 12' flat bottom rowing skiff...and it's all done except for sanding and painting. Add to that his landscape painting and I think he's pretty much got it all, sea, and air.

Right or Left? - 24"x 30" - Oil (2011 Oil Painters of America National- Bronze Medal)

When you talk about Marc Hanson though, you're really talking about a man who is absolutely dedicated to the craft of painting. He is most at home outdoors in the open air, brush in hand, capturing on canvas his excitement about the natural world. He feels most confident expressing himself in this way, visually, through painting and drawing as opposed to writing and speaking. That's probably not uncommon for us visual artists, but believe me, Hanson is no slouch when it comes to writing. As you will see in this interview, his answers are seriously considered and clearly stated.
Marc's primarily a plein air painter and he's out there rain or shine every season of the year. He works mostly in oil, but also in pastel...and sometimes even in qouache. Because of the hundreds of paintings he's done on-site, there is an absolute authentic reality associated with his work whether the paintings were conceived in the studio or outside.
I had the pleasure of meeting him at a plein air event we both participated in last year in Kansas. Organized by Kim Casebeer, a group of us spent several days painting in the Flint Hills and Steve Doherty, editor of Plein Air magazine, reported on the event in the Feb/Mar 2012 issue.
It was a challenge selecting images for this blog. It's like being forced to choose just one M&M candy from a large bag of many colorful, delectable possibilities. They all taste the same, but oh, so many choices...which one to choose? I wanted to take them all, but...

River Silence - 18"x 36" - Oil

What would be your definition of art?  That's a big question, one that much deeper thinkers than me have pondered and explored. take is that Art is the expression humans use that incorporates a skill other than communicative speech, to show others what they feel about the world around them. Music, Dance, Visual Art, Poetry, Prose...these are all ways that we humans use to talk about the world around us, in an intelligent way, based on our emotional reaction to our world, that is unique to our species. Other creatures build amazing structures, have incredibly beautiful song and sound, and they communicate with their own kind. But we are the only species that can 'create' beauty, ART, as an expression of our emotional existence.

How do you define your role as an artist?  My role as an artist is to be honest with myself, so that I make Art that is solely mine. I have no illusions that what I do does or will matter to anyone other than me in the end. Not to slight those who collect it, and compliment me on it, that's an honor that I never discount. When Art is your life, however, you live it, breath it, are up and down with it. If I stay true to myself and honestly evaluate what and how I'm creating it, then all of the other factors will fall into the place that they belong, whatever that may be.

Vineyard Near Ceres - 11"x 14" - Oil

Abandoned #2 - 8"x 10" - Pastel

How does one find their individuality as an artist?  Paint, paint, paint! That sounds simple, but it's the key. Once one has the skills in hand to be able to self evaluate, with occasional help from your peers, diving deep into your own creative space and working hard is the best way to see who you are as an Artist. Style, or individuality, will come out of you, it can't be held back, if you're really working hard at your art.

Sunday Morning Frost - 16"x 20" - Oil (John Marion Pardy Landscape Award of Excellence - 2010 OPA National)

Your paintings are uniquely yours because of the many paintings you have done. I suppose your personality is reflected in your work?  I'm all over my work. My background as having always been interested in bugs, birds, things that bite and slither, large furry things, and where they live, has made me pretty sensitive to Nature and her color and mood. I'm fine being with myself, with being in a quiet place and state, and my work reflects that I think. I'm pretty happy about life. I don't paint dark and tragic, unless I'm painting a severe thunder cloud...and that's fun to me.

Plein air painting is pretty important to you, just how important is it? Painting from life, plein air if outside, is critical and necessary to me for what I want out of myself and out of my Art. Life is where the truth lies, the truth in color, in spacial relationships, in texture, in shape and all other visual aspects of the subject. Photographs are a hollow substitute, one that I am always hesitant to use, but do. Painting from life is a joy, painting from photographs is pure drudgery in my opinion.

What is the major thing you look for when selecting a subject?  I look for something that makes my 'painting eye' light up and begin seeing the possibility for a painting in it. I'm not looking for a thing, I'm looking for a combination of the elements that make a painting, first the light followed by how that is affecting the color, edges and design. What is the impact on me and what is it that caused me to be interested in painting the subject in the first place.

Osealia - 24"x 20" - Oil

3/10/12 'ATV Trail' - 6"x 8" - Oil

Low Tide Silence - 12"x 16" - Oil

Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result?  No...Every part of painting, starting with what I feel is most critical...the important to the Art. The Result is the product of all parts of the process, the Concept, and the implementation of ones techniques and skills. The quality of the Result is tied to the level of skill and maturity of the artist, meaning that they are both as important in the end.

You speak of the importance of having a concept in mind before painting. Do you let the subject determine that concept or do you create the concept and use the subject only as the starting point?  The subject is raw material for a concept. Concept is #1numero uno to me. A concept has to at least be thought of before any other element or design principle can have a purpose in a painting. If you don't know what you are going to do, what your concept for the painting is, how do you use those elements? I've painted paintings to music, emptied my head, had no concept whatsoever other than to listen to the music and apply paint according to how I felt about it...almost concept free painting. I see many students, who until I harp on it, have no concept when they begin...and they usually flounder until they decide 'why' they're painting the painting. That does not mean that a concept locks you into anything, it only means that you have a reason to proceed.

Monday Morning - 16"x 20" - Oil (Best of Show and Artist's Choice Award - Door County Plein Air Festival 2012)

How do you decide on a dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it?  I let the color harmony of the scene determine that for me. I will squint, turn my head nearly upside down or sideways to try to get a sense of what the color of the light is in the scene. Then I am very careful to pay close attention to my color mixtures so that they are in that harmony as I put them up. I test each color on the painting each time, several times, before I commit to it. Another reason for painting from life, the color harmony or 'key' is already there. The problem is how not to destroy that if it's what you want in the painting.

Moonstruck Dinghy - 20"x 24" - Oil

What is your major consideration when composing a painting?  I look for a way to set the stage so that I can talk about what it is I have to say. It's about that simple to say, though complicated to implement.

How thorough is your initial drawing?  That depends on the complexity of the situation. But I'm more of a 'large shape' kind of painter now. I get the big proportions going, simple shapes as possible, and then refine down to the details from there. So, a complex drawing would be counterproductive. That's the way I paint  today. I came out of the 'tracing paper overlay' world as a younger artist/illustrator...and am happy to let that go.

Chisago County Dusk - 18"x 24" - Oil

Campfires and Moonlight - 16"x 20" - Oil

What colors are most often found on your palette?  Titanium white, Naples yellow (light version), Cadmium lemon yellow, Cadmium yellow deep, Yellow ochre (lighter version), Cadmium red light, an Earth red (Venetian, Terra Rosa, English red light, etc), Alizarin crimson, Transparent oxide red, Viridian, Cobalt blue, Ultramarine blue deep, and often now a blue like Manganese blue...and sometimes Chromatic black.

Block-in techniques

Describe your typical block-in technique.  One way is that I get a cheap 1-1/2" or 2" bristle varnishing brush (hardware store variety $1.79) and start knocking in big blocks of color pretty fast. Usually using a colored block-in that gives me an idea of what the large masses of color will look like in the composition. Then I lightly wipe out most of that and begin to restate the drawing or just begin applying areas of color.

Do you paint in layers?  In the studio, yes I do. And on multi-session plein air landscapes I also do.

What are the key points one needs to know when creating a true sense of atmosphere?  I might just answer that by saying that if you just pay attention to the relative color and value relationships, you'll be fine. However, having just taught a class, I know that's my experience talking. Studying recessive situations from life, understanding recessive color theory, then going out and trying to make your color recede and reflect the atmosphere that you're painting is a way to improve that in your work. Every situation is different outside. Unless an artist wants to paint a generic reflection of the landscape, studying and painting from life is the only good way to create the atmosphere that you're seeing.

How much of your work is intellectual vs. emotional...and how would you define the difference?  I would say that it takes the intellectual to produce the emotional. The process is intellectual, although as time goes on, some of painting is almost intuitive...things like mixing and applying paint (that comes up as I've just come off of teaching a workshop. It's not automatic to students, still in the low end of the learning curve, how to physically make a painting...things like how to mix and apply paint is a big deal to them). The quality of the end result has to be full of the emotional or it will be but a rendering of a 'thing'. When the masters reach that place where the two mesh...the intellectual and emotional are working in harmony...they produce poetry...Art.

Winter Solstice Nocturne - 20"x 24" - Oil

What part does photography play in your work?  It plays a big part when I'm in the studio, along with field studies. Especially if I'm needing to paint Cape Cod when I'm in my Minnesota studio. One reason I just relocated to Colorado is to be able to be outside painting more often and not stuck in the studio so much. I always try to only paint an area that I have first painted from life, or at least where I've done some work from life to be able to know how the light in that area looks. If I need to pull out the photos on the computer, I use the photo as a starting point and let the painting emerge and grow into it's own thing, away from the photo usually. At that point, I barely look at the computer.

What are the major problems encountered when translating a field study to a large studio painting?  I would say that if you expect to recreate the field study, you're bucking up against a big wave. I realized that the field study is there as a starting point into a different voyage, to give you some notes that you can use to create a brand new image with it's own inherent qualities that were not in the field study. Trying to replicate the 4" swish of an emotional brushstroke at a scale that is 3 or 4 times larger in all nearly impossible. The field study is a 'note', maybe a pretty finished one able to stand on it's own, but as far as a larger studio painting goes, it's just a reminder for me.

I notice you work in both oil and pastel, why do you do that, and what are the significant differences?  I started pastels many years ago because I had a show coming up and needed more work, faster. I took to it immediately. They have the sensitivity for me that is attractive for rendering natures' textures. I like the broken color that is achievable with pastel, and it's taught me a bunch about color and using color in the oil paintings that I wouldn't have thought to mix on my own. Otherwise I paint with pastels in the same basic way that I paint with oils...dark to light, thin to thick. I break the pastels into brushstroke sizes and use it as sweeping strokes. I don't draw linear strokes with it. I think it's always good to switch mediums from time to time. I also use gouache for field studies pretty often. That's my third favorite medium.

What advice would you have for a young artist/painter?  I like what Henri the effect...paraphrasing...'Discourage and dissuade any child who wants to become a painter and if they still want to, then they may have the fortitude to withstand it all, and succeed'. Wish I had the quote at hand on that one, but that's basically the idea. I'd tell them that they need to seek out good advice and training, learn to draw first and foremost. I'd also tell them to try every medium, technique and style that they can. Learn about all of the materials and techniques that they can. Too many painters I run into today start with a workshop, learn about one kind of brush, one palette, one kind of canvas board. Materials are like musical instruments or dance shoes...every artist finds the ones that work best for them. If all they use is the 'one' that their first instructor told them to use, they may be missing out on the ones that take them to a higher level of creating art. Young artists are in a great place right now. There are academies, ateliers, workshops and schools all over the country from which to pick either a designed curriculum program, or in an a la carte way.

What advice would you have for a first-time collector?  I would have to say that is really dependent on the level of the spending the collector can do. If it's a few hundred dollars, local galleries and art shows would be a way to begin to follow the artists and art that appeals to them.  Also, educate themselves by looking at magazines like American Art Collector, American Art Review, Southwest Art, etc. I'm sure that gallery owners would be the best ones to answer this question, so I'll leave it at that.

If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, which would they be? Sorolla, Levitan and Monet.

Hex River Valley - 30"x 40" - Oil

Who has had the most influence on your career, and why?  My Dad. He was a part-time artist and always my biggest supporter and encourager to become an artist or anything for that matter. He shared all of his knowledge with me about art materials, from crowquill pens and India ink, to woodcuts, oil pastels and oil paints. He even did scrimshaw later on in his life. I would not be doing this today if it were not for the hours of his life he gave me.

How important are art competitions and how do you decide which piece to enter?  I like to enter some, OPA is my main competition. I use it as a yearly barometer for my progress. Nothing like seeing your work amidst the work of your peers, year in and year out, to see how you're doing. It's an awakener.

Thanks Marc for a great interview and your willingness to share your thoughts with my readers. 

Here are important links to see more of Hanson's work:

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Off the easel, out the door

Originality is not novelty, but progress based on sincerity. Insincerity in art is like a firework display; it creates an effect for a moment only.

These three paintings have been hanging around the studio for some time. When you're in a creative slump like I've been since March, there's all kinds of indecision and uncertainty one must deal with. The way I've dealt with it is to not deal with it. I just put paintings aside and start  new ones. Now I have at least eight paintings in process in my studio. Having partially completed paintings laying around just adds to the building frustration, so I forced myself to press forward and actually try to complete something. These are the three paintings that I decided to "finish". Even then, they sat around for several weeks as I worked and reworked areas, all the while asking the question, "Can I make them better?"...all that did was create more indecision and uncertainty. So, finally I just said, "Out the door you go".

Preliminary color study - 4.5"x  6"  - Oil on paper

Brush drawing on toned canvas

First application of color (Palette: Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow)

Hillside Barn  -  12"x 16"  -  Oil on canvas

Plein-air study, on location in Camden, Maine  -  4.5"x 6"  -  Oil on paper

Sketch and canvas were proportionally gridded. Drawing with brush begins.

Values are thinly washed in. Red line indicates horizon. Everything below this line ascends, everything above descends. (Palette: Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Lemon Yellow, Ivory Black)

Camden Harbor  - 12"x 16"  -  Oil on canvas

Preliminary color study  -  4.5"x 6"  -  Oil on paper  

Road to Tularosa  -  12"x 16"  -  Oil on canvas
(Palette: Rectangular Quadratic - Blue Violet, Red, Yellow Orange, Green...mixed from primaries of  Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow)  -  Canvas was toned with Yellow Orange

"The painter is an artist. That is to say he has something he wants to communicate concerning the subject of the picture he has painted. He communicates this by means of his art, using the medium art, that is by means of drawing, composition and color. He has to tell the spectator what he felt about the subject, what qualities in the subject interested him, the nature and depth of these feelings and so on. And he has to be able to tell these things so clearly that the spectator will be able to understand, or at least to feel an echo of the painter's emotions". 
(From a very old, The Artist, magazine. Author unknown)          

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Next week will feature a great interview with Marc Hanson