He's not here
He has risen
Saturday, March 30, 2013
He's not here
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Deconstructing the Landscape Workshop
I just returned from teaching a three-day oil painting workshop in Carthage, MO. The "Deconstructing the Landscape" workshop was successful because each of the participants were enthusiastic and willing to move out of their comfort zones.
Class members were encouraged to bring a landscape painting that they were struggling with and felt could be improved.
Daily lectures and demonstrations dealt with selecting a concept for the painting, choosing the appropriate proportioned canvas...and organizing the subject matter elements on the canvas so that the concept was clearly communicated. We also addressed the importance of drawing, primarily focusing our attention on accurate representation of objects in perspective. We established and proved that the value structure of a painting determines and sets the mood...and finally, lessons in color helped each participant simplify (while also expanding) their knowledge and use of color.
Each lecture was backed up with examples or a demonstration. Class members then applied lessons learned in the creation of a totally new work, or a revision of their original.
Some comments from workshop participants:
"The workshop was exceptional. It was rich in content and it seems the information will be life changing in my art journey. It's sparked a new excitement in me."
"You share your knowledge generously and with kindness. That puts your students at ease."
"This was the best workshop...life changing on how to approach my next painting. Honest and constructive critiques. Very easy to understand - excellent teacher."
"Thanks, John, I appreciate how well prepared and well thought out your presentation was. Stressing the basics was not only a good workshop, but taking a painting, which I found to be a failure, and making an improvement, taught me a great deal. Thanks."
Special recognition and thanks go to Cherry Babcock, of Cherry's Custom Framing and Art Gallery, for organizing the workshop...and to Precious Moments for hosting it. Thank you.
...and thank you to The Carthage Press for their front page report of the event.
If you would like to see what these workshops participants are talking about, here's your chance.
3-5 May - "Deconstructing the Landscape"
The Art School at Sandy Springs, Atlanta, GA
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Ron Adair Interview
I do not believe in coincidence, accidents or luck, however, I do believe in divine providence. Meeting Ron Adair is one such example.
I met Ron possibly as early as 1973, neither of us can remember for sure. I had moved to Dallas a year earlier and was beginning a freelance commercial illustration career when my Dad saw one of Ron's promotional pieces that had just been printed by a local print shop. He picked one up for me.
New to the city and wanting to meet some people, I gave Ron a call. Now the story gets interesting. A long-time friend and mentor from Kansas, knowing that I was moving to Dallas, recommended that I attend a particular Bible Church. Well, after eventually meeting Ron, it wasn't long before realizing we were both Christians and Ron was attending the very Bible Church I was encouraged to seek out...and, Ron lived in an apartment just down the street and around the corner. Oh, and one more thing...the Bible Church...well that's where I met a gentleman who gave me the incentive and help to leave illustration and devote myself totally to fine art.
Additionally, Ron and I became fast friends and by the mid-seventies we shared an office together. Eventually, Ron's identical twin brother, Don, also an illustrator, joined us after moving from Atlanta. Don died in 2010. (Please read my tribute to him which I link to at the end of this interview).
Ron now lives in Colorado Springs and continues his work as a commercial artist. Because of the changing dynamics of the illustration business, Ron has taught himself to adapt, becoming very proficient in many disciplines. This is his story.
What would be your definition of art? I am not one of those guys who think that any visual expression should be classified as art. When I was in school, during the Vietnam war, many of my fellow students painted or sculpted things that they considered to be 'art'. I saw it as nothing more than manifestations of their own world view that too often reflected a vacuous, dark understanding of reality. Just venting or expressing things meant to shock or challenge societal norms doesn't inherently qualify as art. While I certainly don't think one has to be a Christian to create art, being one certainly provides a lens through which one looks at a world where God is present and providentially working to accomplish His purposes. So, I guess for me, I tried to draw or paint in ways that reflected, if ever so slightly, the reality of God. Anything done well that avoids a preoccupation with man's depravity could be classified as artistic expression.
How did you obtain your first full-time job as an illustrator and what was it? While still in school, I went to Dallas, during Spring break, to explore the art market and got an interview with a large publishing company. They loved my work and offered me a job on the spot, so when I got my diploma, I simply went to Dallas and got to work.
What caused you to pursue a freelance career over continuing to work for someone? I felt that my skill set and potential earning ability was greater than what the company, for which I worked, was willing to pay me. I began to get calls from out of state companies asking me to do work, and I didn't want to turn them down, which I had agreed to do while employed by my employer.
Why did you choose illustration over fine art? I guess part of it was pragmatism. I wanted to do a job and know going in what I would be paid for it, and when. Additionally, and more fundamentally, I just admired the great classic illustrators of the 30's through the 60's. Personally, I would place the best illustration of that era next to any fine art painting...and do so with a clear conscience.
How would you define the difference between fine art and illustration? In terms of quality, those lines or disciplines overlap sometimes. Certainly, fine art generally understood, is not as subject to the rigors of doing art for publication. This demands fidelity to the art director or designer, to deadlines or to price. These things can at times prevent the artist from spending adequate time in the execution of the art piece. But, as I have read from some books that contain letters of the great Renaissance painters...Those men were subject to all kinds of pressures beyond the mere execution of their work. They were accountable to their benefactors and thus more 'commercially' driven than many would think.
What does it take to be a successful illustrator these days? Talent, tenacity, and relevance. The market place is a moving target, especially when technology (digital media) is used artistically. Illustration, compared to what it was like in the 70' and 80's, has dramatically downsized as a viable solution for many companies. Good illustration is usually labor intensive, and thus expensive, which makes it an increasingly diminished option for those who need a compelling visual for their magazine, book or website. One thing for sure, successful illustrators have to be able to do one thing as well or better than the competition. They have to stick out as being top shelf in at least one area. It's also important to be able to meet deadlines on budget, and have the ability to create a process that is enjoyable for the guy paying the invoice. So, professionalism is essential, and consistently exceeding the expectation of the client. Additionally, the business side of things is crucial which includes a strong work ethic, savvy marketing, book keeping and all that stuff that creative types hate.
Your work is very realistic, why have you chosen to work in this way? Well, some times I wish I could paint more like a fellow named Pototschnik, but I suppose that I equate a general fidelity to reality (what God has created) with that which reflects His essence. Our culture has pretty well tanked in terms of any grounding or recognition of God's transcendence in and over His creation, so anything I can do to get my licks in, to mimic real beauty, is a good thing. Certainly, a tight rendering style is not necessary to accomplish that, but it's just kind of how I ended up doing art. Maybe one of these days I will go partially blind and end up doing my best work.
What do you like most about being a commercial artist...the least? I like getting in and out of a project pretty quickly if possible. I like the variety of things that often come when one freelances, and seeing the art published or utilized in ways that contribute to the ongoing success of a company or organization - all of that is gratifying. On the down side...dealing with people who don't pay their bills on time, or expect a 'Lexus for the price of a little red wagon'...that is irritating.
When a client calls with an non-computer generated illustration assignment...please lead us through the process. Well, the artist must know what essentially the project will entail. He needs to know subject matter, how it will be used, and what the general expectations of the client are. He must know what the budget and deadlines are, and always commit to those things, with no exceptions except maybe your death...or your spouses! I think having great communication from the client is critical; not getting that is a recipe for disaster. So after I determine that I am actually qualified to do the assignment, and I have turned some things down that would take me outside my artistic jurisdiction, I will agree to do conceptual drawings. If need be, I'll then produce a set of more refined drawings, and after approval, move forward to do the finished piece. If you and the client are happy with the preliminary steps, then doing the final is really enjoyable. You can concentrate on executing a great piece and not worry about the content or philosophical approach to take. Solve as many issues up front and you will be happy most of the time. Also, be professional enough to lightly 'push back' if the client has a silly idea that he wants done. Don't be afraid to bring as much professionalism to the process and product as possible, but also, don't push too hard or you will either lose the account, or never hear from him again. A hand full of times, I have deferred to the guy with the gold when his idea was really bad. I simply did the assignment, took the money, didn't sign the art work, and certainly didn't add it to my portfolio. Thankfully, that hasn't happened but a few times.
What illustrations have brought you the most satisfaction? I think some of the stamp work, sports art and book covers have been my most enjoyable projects. I just enjoy drawing or painting people, and when I have adequate time and resources to do a good job, then I am usually very satisfied
Who has been your favorite client and why? May favorite client is one who understands what illustrators go through to produce good stuff. They respect you, your talent and ability to get the job done right. Additionally, they pay you what the job is worth, and they simply treat you as a professional. I have been blessed with a number of those type clients over the years, but they, like illustration itself, are dinosaurs.
What do you see for the future of illustration? Boy, that is a good question. I think there will always be illustration, but it does definitely seem to be dwindling. The market place is hugely Darwian, and illustrators are going to find it difficult to do high quality work for the time and money budgeted for visuals these days. So, I think it is going to be very challenging for most people who desire to be simply illustrators.
You do many things well, what do you consider your greatest strength? I suppose capturing human emotion, People are the crown of God's creation, and as such, we bear the image of God, so doing art of people, and capturing their human essence is really satisfying. While drawing or painting foliage and rocks are within my skills generally, I would go quite insane if I never got to do a person along with the trees and rocks.
How has the field of illustration changed during your career? Digital illustration has come on strong, and I must say, I do love it. I love conventional media, but there are times when I prefer, or the budget 'prefers' to approach a project with digital media (Painter 12 or Photoshop).
How have you marketed your freelance career? I have produced fliers, or collateral material through conventional printing, but more and more I create theme focused pdf files that I simply attach to emails. Additionally, my web presence is there for people to access via desktop or mobile devices. The best things of course are referrals, which naturally take place when you do a good job for someone. It's always better for someone else to sing your praises. Twenty years ago, I used art reps with limited success.
What recommendations do you have for those desiring to pursue a career in illustration? Refine your essential area of expertise, sell it above all else, and work hard to produce the very best art you are capable of. Adapt to the market place as you must, but don't set bad pricing precedents because you will never be able to raise your rates once you give your art away...and avoid speculative work.
Thanks, Ron, for a very interesting interview. The field of commercial illustration has changed significantly over the years, especially with the introduction of the computer. You have adapted and prospered. Congratulations.
3-5 May - Atlanta, GA - Contact: email@example.com
The theme of this workshop is "Deconstructing the Landscape". Bring a landscape painting you're struggling with. We will discover the problems and I will help you resolve them...one on one.
See you there.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Artist
Sunday, March 10, 2013
What's on the easel?
One of the most touching moments I experienced while in Italy a few years ago was in the town of Sorrento while visiting the Santa Maria Della Pieta Nursery and Primary School. Our group had been invited to the school, and while there a class of primary school students presented a short program in which we were welcomed to their town and introduced to the town's history.
Later, while being served cookies and coffee, the young children entertained us with a selection of songs in both Italian and English, concluding with the very beautiful "Torna a Surriento", better known to us as "Come Back to Sorrento".
We were deeply touched and for a moment did not know how to thank them until, sort of spontaneously, we all began to sing "God Bless America". It was a very special moment.
"Come Back to Sorrento" is a song that has been with me since childhood. It was not unusual to hear it played in our home. Dean Martin popularized it in 1951 and Elvis Presley, with a change of lyrics, turned the melody into the most popular song he ever recorded...and into one of the best selling singles of all time, "Surrender", 1961. And, in 1963, I chose it for my high school trumpet solo. There are many memories attached to that song.
It was also in Sorrento that I tried Limoncello...an intense recipe of lemon peels, vodka, water, and sugar. I did not enjoy it.
Sorrento has a long, long history. Its Roman name was Surrentum and its oldest ruins date back to 600 BC. Located in Southern Italy, it overlooks the Bay of Naples, and Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius are nearby.
There are any number of concepts that could have been chosen for my current painting of Sorrento...and any of them would have been just fine. So, why this? Well, the answer won't elevate my status any, but the truth is, I wanted to do a vertical painting since almost everything I do is horizontal...and, I've had a 30"x 50" frame laying around the studio for several years.
Once size and direction were decided upon, the critical work of composition began. Sorrento is built on cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples. A low horizon line would emphasize its height. The photo above presents the feeling of majestic height I wanted to capture. With the scene selected, composition decided, some liberties were taken with the drawing in order to adapt the scene to the 50"x 30" proportion.
The photos below demonstrate the steps taken to get me to where the painting is as of today.
So, what makes for a successful painting? What needs to take place in the planning stage? First, a clear idea/concept. What is it you want to communicate? After that, attention should be given to creating a balanced composition, accurate drawing, interesting distribution of lights and darks, and which colors will best communicate the concept. Put all these things together and we have a pretty good shot.
A very common sense but important bit of advice...make sure the size of the final painting is exactly proportional to your preliminary work. In my case, the size of the available frame was the determining factor for this painting, but in most cases it will be the proportions of the canvas, or one's preliminary sketches that determine the final.. I give this exhortation because over and over again I have observed students doing just the opposite...preliminary work one proportion, canvas selection another.
The block-in shown above is on canvas which has been taped to hardboard. Note the clear definition of horizon line (HL)...very important... if there is any hope of accurate drawing.
If the study has errors in drawing, those errors will be accentuated when enlarged. Great care must be taken every step of the way. Inaccurate perspective will create a sense of instability in architectural subjects...and a discomfort in the viewer.
It may seem like a lot of detail for a block-in...and it is. However, I thought it necessary in this case, because without it, all the perspective work done in the study would have to be totally repeated in the larger version. It is much easier to work out perspective issues on a small scale rather than a larger one.
This is very typical of how I select a suitable palette for each painting. I have stacks of cards similar to these in which two colors are mixed together with white. I simply flip through the cards until I come upon a set of colors appropriate for the work at hand. The cards selected will tell me what colors to place on the palette. In this case: white, ultramarine blue, cadmium red, transparent red oxide, and cadmium yellow medium.
22-24 March - Carthage, MO - Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
3-5 May - Atlanta, GA - Contact: email@example.com and HERE
The theme of both workshops is "Deconstructing the Landscape". Bring a landscape painting you're struggling with. We will discover the problems and I will help you resolve them...one on one.
See you there.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Artist
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Dianne Massey Dunbar Revisited
After I posted one of Dunbar's paintings of a glass jar on my Facebook page, an admirer of the painting wrote wanting to know where he could purchase a "tube of that glass" used by Dianne to complete her painting. Well, that would be nice, but I told him that Dianne doesn't share that information with anyone.
To my mind, no one paints glass better than Dianne Massey Dunbar. Her depiction of things transparent is very carefully observed and yet painted with such intuitive confidence, dexterity, boldness, clarity, and excitement that one just marvels at her ability.
I first interviewed Dunbar in August 2012, and at that time only revealed half of the interview. Now, with a few additional questions, here is the remainder of that amazing interview.
What would be your definition of art? To me, art in its broadest sense includes music, dancing, acting, photography, painting, writing, and the like. It is a personal expression of oneself that generally involves creativity and honesty and an audience. It almost always requires a degree of skill. It is also, invariably, the end result of a process.
Narrowing the definition to drawing and painting, to me art is the creation of an image personal to the artist that is intended as a visual dialogue with an audience. When I stop and contemplate art, it is easy to think of eloquent paintings that have been carefully designed and executed. However, I have seen many rough drawings by children that have deeply touched me. So, I guess I would say that if a painting or drawing reasonably incorporates the principles of drawing and design and craftsmanship, and further inspires in me as a viewer a sense of awe or excitement, interest, beauty, or involvement...and if it is intended to be art, I would call it art.
Are you saying then that you believe art is really in the eye of the beholder? In my opinion, everyone is entitled to his or her own definition of art. For me personally, I agree and disagree with the statement "art is in the eye of the beholder". That phrase seems to infer our personal likes and dislikes. I do believe that our tastes influence what we enjoy in the way of art, if we are attracted to a particular painting, whether we like thick or thin paint, still life or landscapes, realism or abstract. It is our emotional response to a painting.
All that said, people generally know when they are in the presence of real art. For me art is a form of communication. But to be considered art it also needs to reasonably incorporate the tools we artists use every day: composition, drawing, shape, line, value, color, texture, and edges. Even rough drawings by children almost invariably have wonderful expressive lines, textures, shapes, and color. So, I would say that for me to call something "art" it needs to include these elements of draftsmanship regardless of my emotional reaction to the artwork.
Can there be art if it doesn't communicate with an audience, in other words, if it can't be understood? In order to answer this, I need to define "understood". One might not recognize the objects in a drawing or painting, or fully understand what the artist was trying to accomplish or communicate, but that does not mean it's not art. For example, a person that is not versed in biblical stories might not understand religious art. However, I think most people would agree that there are numerous examples of wonderful religious art. Another example is prehistoric art. I may not understand the symbols, recognize the figures or the animals, but I can still appreciate the lines and design. And, many people do not enjoy abstract art but once again that does not discredit it. Understanding a painting has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter, and everything to do with the visual elements and execution of the painting. So, even if I do not understand the subject matter, I can still appreciate the shapes, the drawing, the lines, the texture, the design, and in that way it still communicates with me.
To be art it must be able to be understood from a purely rational point of view and be organized to create a visual statement. If a drawing or painting is so disorganized that I am unable to understand the visual elements, then I do not think it meets any definition of art. All art, including abstract art, must have drawing, shapes, and values. One can study the painting to see if it is balanced, and if the values and composition are working. Lacking any visual organization so that there are no shapes, values or drawing, well, it would be difficult to call it art.
Do you consider the process of painting more important than the result? I think they are rather inseparable. If the result is a finished painting, you can't have the result without a process of some sort. And, at some point in time the process of painting ends in a finished piece. I will say that for me, the process greatly influences the result, which includes all my preparation before I begin a painting. I will also admit that for me the most important part of the actual painting is the beginning, because it will set the tone for the remainder of the painting.
No, what I mean is...Do you consider the act of painting itself...one's personal joy in applying paint, experimenting and creating...more important than the physical result? I wish I could answer yes to that question because it would be so freeing to let go of the end product and simply enjoy the process of painting. Also, if creating art was merely the act of painting with no regard for the outcome there would not be the inherent fear of failure or the discomfort when we are outside our comfort zone. However, being a professional artist is a career, a business, and so one must consider the end result as well. I think that there needs to be a balance between the creative process and respect for the end result. If it is all about the act of painting, experimenting and being creative, which incidentally can be quite frustrating on occasion, then we are on a journey that does not go anywhere. If it's all about the end result, I think over time we become bored, don't take risks, become too comfortable and our art grows stale and predictable. So, I think the process and the end result are inseparable, and I can only hope that as I paint I am aware of and can appreciate the joy and frustration of creating.
Where does creativity come from and how can it be nurtured? I believe that creativity is a gift from God. I also believe we all have some degree of creativity and that creativity is not reserved for artists, musicians, actors, writers and the like. Everyone from plumbers to lawyers, teachers to advertisers and to builders, all encounter problems that require creativity to resolve. Mulling it over, it seems to me that creativity is often the result of problem solving, curiosity, need, a willingness to explore and a desire to be creative. Creativity also requires imagination and an open mind. To nurture creativity, we need to emphasize and value exploration, give others enough tools and knowledge to be able to explore different options, and offer problems that require imagination and problem solving.
You said in our first interview that you love to play with paint...to smear it, scrape it, splatter and flick it...using all manner of tools. Were you a pretty creative child? Probably yes. I was rarely interested in playing with dolls or dress up although I loved stuffed animals. What I really liked to do was make things. So I played with Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys. I had a small tool set with a hammer and saw, and I would use wood and nails to build things. One Christmas I was given a wood burning set so that I could decorate the things I made. I liked crayons. I started drawing at the age of six, and started art lessons and oil painting at age seven. I also use to write...primarily poetry.
How does your work reflect your personality? First off, I think I am somewhat sentimental, so much of my work is derived from my life experiences. It is my impression that no matter who we are or what we do, most of life is lived in the ordinary, not in the extraordinary. I think there is something special, maybe even sacred, about the ordinary stuff of life. I want to somehow honor those things we use or images we see in our daily lives that often go unnoticed. I appreciate the ketchup bottle I pulled out of the refrigerator nearly every day when my sons were young. I can find beautiful colors in simple jars. There are surprising greens in a stack of French fries. The world is full of wonderful shapes and color everywhere, even where least expected. I hope that people can see the world a little differently as a result of my painting.
How does one find their individuality as an artist? I would say finding individuality is a process. Where you begin will likely be very different from where your journey of art ultimately leads you. I also believe that individuality is a result of passion, excitement, exploration, risk taking, failing, succeeding, practicing, and honesty. Paint the subject matter that excites or interests you. Play with paint. Splash it, brush it, knife it, smear it, and make puddles. Try different surfaces because I am learning that they too make a difference. Be creative because after all, we are artists. Some paintings won't succeed but will boost you to the next painting. Eventually you will have enough paintings behind you, that instead of you finding your individuality, I imagine your individuality will find you.
You use a very extensive palette of colors. How do you manage to maintain control of the color harmony in your paintings? The frank answer is I have no idea. Drawing and design do not come naturally to me but color seems to be rather intuitive. So, when I am mixing paint, I just keep mixing until I get a value and color that seem to work for the situation. I wish I could elaborate on this answer but in all honesty I really don't know how I control color harmony.
What advice do you have for a young artist/painter? Making art is a journey and not a sprint. There are no real road maps beyond practicing and attempting to master the basic skills involved. It requires a great deal of passion, commitment, dedication, practice, and courage. Along the way there are wonderful highs and times of utter frustration. Being an artist is not at all what one envisions being an artist should look like. I believe it is about 85% work, 10% fun, and 5% inspiration. Also, I am not at all sure that we choose being artists. I rather think art chooses us. I cannot imagine not painting.
Primarily, I would suggest that you practice drawing. Drawing is absolutely essential to whatever type of art you eventually choose to do. Painting is nothing more or less than the completion of shapes. You need shapes to put value and color on. Those shapes need to be drawn, whether you do abstract art or representational art. I cannot stress the value of drawing enough. Also, if you are having problems with a painting, check your values. I have found that color can be rather forgiving, and that a problem with a painting is more often a value issue. Experiment, play, scrape, and learn what paint does (and doesn't) do.
Find a mentor; an artist that is better than you, whose opinion you trust and who is willing to critique your work and offer suggestions along the way. Avoid asking others what they think of a painting or project, for opinions are as varied as the weather...and often not helpful. So, get a mentor/teacher to help with this process. Learn from your failures. Take those to your mentor as well.
Don't be too quick to approach galleries. Everyone wants to be represented by a gallery and many young artists make it their goal to be invited into galleries. Instead, your goal should be to focus on your art and make it as outstanding as possible.
Lastly, keep some of your early work. I have a painting up in my studio from several years ago. When you get discouraged, and you will at times, look at that painting and spend a minute being proud of your progress.
Finally, be aware and prepared for the fact that painting is expensive and for most of us it takes time and practice to get to the point of earning any money.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view work and bio, please click HERE
22-24 March 2013 - Carthage, MO (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
3-5 May 2013 - Atlanta, GA (Contact: email@example.com)
The theme of both workshops is "Deconstructing the Landscape". Bring a painting you're struggling with, we will discover the problems and I will help you resolve them...one on one.
See you there.