Changes are in the works
I promise, it will be well worth your time to learn what these important people have to say.
|The Sentinel - 10"x 8" - Oil|
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Changes are in the works
The blog and website are being converted over to WordPress.
I promise, it will be well worth your time to learn what these important people have to say.
Oh, by the way, you're going to love the new website.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
"She paints like a guy" - Part 2
This subject, concerning the acceptance of female artists within the American art scene, has apparently struck a cord with many of you. Last week's post has become the second most read post I've done during three years of weekly blogging.
I publicly want to thank these eight ladies for "sticking their necks out" by participating in this 2-part series. There was some disappointment expressed after last week's post that anonymous comments were included along with the others...those that had the "courage" to go public with their opinion. They felt it lessened the impact of their opinions and potentially made their careers appear less important.
You all need to know, that was my doing. The anonymous contributors did not want to go public, they just shared their opinions with me. I'm the one that valued those opinions and thought them important enough to share. Of course, the only way to do that was anonymously. Don't be disappointed in the women for not publicly coming forward. Everyone is at a different place in life's journey.
This week I am pleased to present the final segment of "She paints like a guy". As in the last post, these four ladies are highly respected and also have slightly different takes on the topic. Here are this week's participants:
Kim Casebeer is a Master Signature Member of the American Women Artists, and a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America and the Pastel Society of America. Her work has been featured in many of the prominent art magazines. As part of a fourth generation farm family, Casebeer has felt a connection to the landscape for a long time. She routinely travels across the western United States to paint on location and gather ideas. Kim Casebeer website
Barbara Jaenicke is a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America, a member of the International Association of Pastel Societies Master Circle, and a member of Oil Painters of America. She developed a passion for drawing and painting during her teenage years. She spent a decade in advertising as an art director, and later in marketing communications. In 2002, she turned her focus to fine art. Barbara Jaenicke website
Cindy Baron resides in Rhode Island. Her passion for art led her to watercolors and in 2000 she was awarded signature status in the American Watercolor Society. In 2012, she became a Signature Member of Oil Painters of America. She's among a small group of artists that have received acknowledgment from her peers in both mediums. She's represented from coast to coast by some of the finest galleries, and she's an enthusiastic plein air painter. Cindy Baron website
Kathryn Stats has traveled to and painted the coastal areas of California and Oregon as well as locations in Alaska, Russia, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. The Arizona Republic writes that she is "a Utah artist whose best landscapes are a complete pleasure. The paint in them is given over to the subject and you know that Stats doesn't feel the need for any gimmicks to get her point across. Direct, honest, and sensuous; these are the work of a genuine painter." Kathryn Stats website
...and here is the question:
Are there any significant differences in the way male and female artists are accepted within the American art scene? If so, what would you like to see changed?
Kim Casebeer When John asked me to participate in this discussion on his very popular blog, I was encouraged by the fact that an established male artist such as himself believes this is a discussion worth having. Before I get to it, I want to first make clear that I can't speak for every woman in the art world. I can only relay my personal experience and be completely honest, hoping that gives insight.
There are differences in the way female and male artists are accepted. One of the most noticeable differences is the recurring comment that a woman shouldn't paint like one; or the opposite comment I've heard while viewing a woman's work, "She paints like a man", which usually refers to work that has strong lights and darks - supposedly a positive thing.
Several years ago I had an upfront conversation with a male artist during the Western Visions show. My painting was more tonal and a bit softer than some I've done. This was apparently perceived as a negative, and he told me so. I think it's interesting that softer work is assumed to be a woman's and that it's often not as supported. I've seen great tonal pieces done by both men and women. I've also seen bold work done by both men and women. So if a woman uses bolder brush strokes, or higher contrast in her work, why is she painting like a man?
I think being treated equally should be the goal. I once overheard a male landscape painter cautioning a woman not to join a women's only art organization because it would pigeonhole her. I've never heard anyone comment negatively regarding many of the other art organizations that they might also be limiting. As a Master Signature Member of the American Women Artists, I primarily participate because it's great networking. It has opened many doors for me. To my knowledge, there are no female members of the Cowboy Artists of America, so is being a member of CAA limiting?
I'm going to send out this warning to women as well - expect equal treatment, not special treatment. (At this point Kim mentions a plein air event in which male artists only received awards). In the last month I judged a regional plein air event and the May BoldBrush online competition. Looking through hundreds, even thousands of entries for excellent composition, values, line, paint quality, etc. is hard enough. It's a tough job! I can't believe anyone would be able to spend energy deciding if the work is a man's or a woman's. If it's strong work then it's strong work. I can visualize which pieces I gave top awards to in the BoldBrush show, but for the life of me, I can't tell you if I gave more awards to men or women. If a female artist wants to be recognized as a strong painter, she has to do the work. I've personally always thought that if I work hard, I will eventually be rewarded, but have never expected special treatment.
In general, attitudes toward females in our field have improved. I am fortunate to be of a generation where women working outside the home is the norm, and I believe that has spilled into the art world as well. There are more females making a living as artists, gallery owners, art writers, etc. than even ten years ago. Many women, such as myself, have made art their first career, which allows them to work at their art and have families. More women are participating in important museum shows. I believe this will continue to happen as more women will have long careers with which to pursue these prestigious shows.
Barbara Jaenicke At first I was hesitant to answer this question, since I really wasn't sure about my view on this topic. But here are just a few of my observations.
I work in oil and pastel. However, I spent the earlier part of my fine art career mainly as a pastel artist, and have more experience at the national level in this medium. Honestly, I haven't sensed any gender domination there. Although I haven't kept count, I think I know of just as many exceptional women pastelists as men who have achieved well deserved top honors and recognition in this medium. Much of this has to do with women who have worked tirelessly in the pastel community to bring more attention to this wonderful medium that is often (mistakenly) thought of as a lesser medium. Maggie Price, whom the pastel community just recently lost, was one such amazing woman.
Only recently have I started participating in national juried shows with my oils and receiving national representation in this medium. I suppose that if I quickly think of the most widely recognized oil painters today, it would likely be more male painters than female who come to mind. I don't believe this has anything to do with differences in ability between the majority of male and female painters out there today, since I certainly know of many exceptional women oil painters. As I mentioned, this hasn't been the case in my experience with pastel artists. But, I imagine it might have more to do with the promotion by galleries and art publications of male artists - mainly oil painters - since oil seems to be the more popular art purchased by collectors. This is a result of the stereotypical male dominated art world that has held on throughout the centuries, and the belief that artwork by male artists may command better sales. However, with social/online media these days, this hopefully may change, and artists - male and female - can be more in control of their own promotion.
So far in my art career I haven't felt this to be an issue for me personally and haven't felt like I've been treated any differently than male artists, at least so far. But maybe ask me again in five or ten years.
Cindy Baron This is a very important yet delicate issue to address. Even though the inequalities between male and female artists in the American art scene are improving, I feel differences still exit.
Several years ago I was invited to paint at a plein air event with a talented group of artists. It consisted of eight men and myself. During the course of the week long event, we were individually invited to speak with the hosting gallery owner. I was new to the group and honored to be included. During my conversation a question was asked of me about my seriousness to my craft. He wanted to see if I was worth investing his time in representing. He also went on to mention that a male artist has a family to feed and bills to pay, etc., which we all do. I'm not sure how I answered him. I know I was silent for a moment, then I assured him that this was not a hobby and that I work at my craft everyday. Since then I have participated in many plein air events and shows that were more balanced in gender. One thing I have observed is how different the approach is toward selling. There is no doubt that the male and female artist have their style for selling; one is bolder than the other and therefore seems more investment worthy. I think the female artist could learn more aggressive marketing from men.
Cindy mentioned that she recently participated in a show with seven other women and they spent 10 days painting together. They discussed many issues from marketing, galleries, frames, to supportive mates. Most male artists I know have a support system behind them. But as women, we have a natural tendency to support everyone around us, and most often we are unsupported or not taken seriously.
Most of my painting buddies are men. Let's face it, today a woman is more at risk of danger than a man. I have learned a lot while painting with my male friends. We give good constructive advice when needed and respect one another. I am going to go out on a limb and say that men do have the competitive edge in the art world. I believe most galleries still think the male artist is more marketable and aggressive.
Female artists have to be more assertive if they want to succeed in the art world and they need to know they have support. Would love to see more female shows like the one I participated in earlier. It brings tremendous awareness and respect for the talents and uniqueness that wormen have to offer in the arts. It's a changing art world and a great time for women to grab it.
To sum up, it is about making great art for both genders...being creative, bold and doing what you love. Women cannot be shy about marketing themselves and need to insist on respect. Art is a job, vocation, and a tough way to pay the bills for both sexes. Women have a lot to give. It's not about egos but about helping each other to greatness. To my female art friends, I am here because I have you. Thank you.
Kathryn Stats As a female artist, I owe much of my success to a great husband who provided a solid income while I was developing my art, He was always encouraging and never felt threatened when I was off on painting related travel. He is my biggest supporter. I also owe much to two gentlemen who never gave gender a thought while promoting my work.
I know of females who always defer to male artists over females of similar talent...and I'm not sure if they are even aware of it. I do not find it helpful for females to complain of the disparity between male and female numbers in galleries or shows. I find that the better, or at least more secure the artist, the less complaining they do. It falls to each of us to put our head down and be the best artist we can be.
I believe any bias for or against gender lies within ourselves as individuals. Some are proud of their biases and will stick to them no matter what; others find the information a valuable tool with which one might change their own perceptions or biases.
Male versus female in the American art scene today...gender predisposition...while it exists, I wouldn't hang any biological argument on why men do better than women in the arts. As in other professions: i.e., chefs, hairdressers, writers, actors, as well as visual artists, it appears to be improving somewhat. In years past there were almost no female leads carrying entire movies. That seems to be changing as the generations mature.
I believe we are all part of any biases or prejudice in these areas. For example, while in the delivery room while my grandson was being delivered by a fairly young, small of stature female obstetrician, I experienced a brief panicky flash of a thought that said that this baby couldn't be born until the man with the big ego showed up. These stereotypical thoughts said nothing about male or female doctors, but they certainly reflected a wealth of information about my ingrained biases. I was pleased to receive that information about myself, shameful as it was.
Thanks, ladies for your contribution to this discussion.
In closing, allow me to add my two-cents worth:
1) It's a shame really, that any person desiring to develop their God given talent honorably and in an honest manner would be hindered to do so because of jealousy, fear, or any kind of prejudice. Art, to me, is not a competitive venture. We are not trying to outdo one another in order to take something away from them, or gain an advantage over them. If each of us are uniquely created, it also follows that our creative expression will be unique as well. Our attitude should be one of developing our gift to its full unique potential, thereby honoring the Giver of the gift...and adding beauty to this world. If we look to God as our provider, it seems to me He will take care of all of us, and give us what we need when we need it. We would do well, in all areas of life, to make judgments based on one's fruit and not on preconceived ideas.
2) If one is married, I believe a huge part of one's success in the art world, regardless of gender, is dependent upon the family dynamic. It's important to have a totally supportive mate. Male artists have the advantage here because generally women, by their very nature, tend to be caretakers of the home, mothers, nurturers, and supportive of their husbands. It's important that each household figure out what works best for them. It would be ideal if each party was encouraged and enabled to develop their creative gifts to full potential, but that doesn't always happen.
3) Surely we can acknowledge that men and women are different, therefore I'm not particularly opposed to gender based groups. The dynamics of any group changes the moment the opposite gender is involved; we see this in school, sports, social settings, etc. What I am opposed to are reactionary groups...those that are established with an attitude of "getting even" or "we'll show them". Let's be honest here, I don't see any male only groups being formed to counter any female only groups.
4) Regardless of gender, it would be good to know upfront any biases that the other party holds that creates conflict within us and would therefore hinder our business relationship. View that knowledge as a positive more than a negative. There are plenty of great people out there that will give the respect we desire. In all my years as a professional artist, I have not heard any of my male friends subordinate another's work because of their gender.
5) No gallery owner should be blamed for seeking the best, most reliable, marketable artists possible...regardless of gender. It should be expected that they would want to know if their artists are fully committed and can be relied upon to provide them with quality work on a timely basis.
6) There is absolutely no place for gender discrimination in judging the quality of one's art. Judges will have differing opinions, but if any honor is bestowed based on the name on the painting, or the gender of the artist, then that person has no business judging. If it's about gender, or about who you know, it's no longer about the art.
7) Any effort to equalize the number of male/female artists in any given show becomes an entitlement and will end up lowering the overall quality of the show. It must always be about the quality of the work, and only the quality of the work. Period.
8) From my experience, women play a major role, if not a predominate one, in most art purchases. If men are outselling women, is that gender bias? More than likely, it's a non-issue.
9) Price of any given painting is based on supply and demand, and perceived value, not gender.
10) As I look out upon the current landscape, "women are everywhere". They are the leaders in many local art organizations; many of them run art galleries. Most of the participants in painting workshops are women, they're taking top awards in prominent art shows...and they're able to do a significant amount of advertising. They make a significant contribution to the current art scene. Checking the male/female ad ratio in four popular art magazines this month, I discovered women averaged 35% more ads then men. If they happen to live in a household where the husband is providing a sufficient income, they have the advantage of reinvesting almost every dime back into their business. That to me seems to be a pretty significant advantage. It may also account for the disproportionate amount of advertising.
11) We all experience offensive comments; I like what a pastor said, "Don't whine, but shine"...and that goes for all of us, regardless of gender.
Now let's get out there and do the best paintings we can. We can all make important contributions to beauty.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
Sunday, July 14, 2013
"She paints like a guy" - Part 1
A woman approached me recently after admiring one of my paintings, and said, "You paint like a woman". After a long pause, while I recovered from the shock, I asked..."Which one?"
Well, you never know, it could happen! We all realize that there are some great women artists out there; personally, I'd like to be able to paint like some of them.
The idea for this blog came as a result of an interview I recently had with Debra Joy Groesser, newly elected president of the American Impressionist Society. You may read that interview HERE.
I had asked her if she noticed any significant differences in the way male and female artists are accepted within the American art scene. From her response, I realized there might be other women artists out there who would like to weigh in on the matter.
I realize the subject is controversial and differing opinions have the potential of creating animosity between groups...and boy, do we have enough of that already! Hopefully this little blog will not do that. I think it's valuable to voice opinions in order for all parties to understand one another...and make adjustments where appropriate.
In this 2-part series, you'll be hearing from eight important women artists. Four women turned down my request...well, sort of. One had nothing to offer on the subject, another was prevented by circumstances, and the other two did not want to go public. Their comments are well worth sharing however...which I will do...you just won't know whom they came from.
Here are this week's four contributors:
Debra Joy Groesser is a Signature Member and President of the American Impressionist Society, and Signature Member of Plein Air Artists Colorado and American Plains Artists. She is best known for her impressionistic landscape paintings, particularly her plein air work. She is represented by SouthWind Art Gallery, Topeka, KS; Mountainsong Galleries, Carmel, CA; Abend Gallery, Denver, CO; and Art in Miniature, Tubac, AZ. debrajoygroesser
Elizabeth Robbins began painting in her early 20's but soon children became her priority and her love of painting was an occasional hobby. As the children grew, so did her desire to expand on her art. She now devotes full time to art and is the winner of numerous awards including "Best Still Life" at the National Oil and Acrylic Painter's Exhibit, and the "Tuffy Berg Award" at the 2008 CM Russel auction. elizabethrobbins
Dawn Whitelaw is on the faculty of the Portrait Society of America and Peninsula School of Art, and for over 25 years has taught basic principles of oil painting as an adjunct instructor at David Lipscomb University. She's been a featured instructor for the National Plein Air Conventions in Nevada and California. In 2001 she was awarded "Best of Show" at the National Conference of the Portrait Society of America...and last year she was appointed Vice-Chairman of the organization. dawnwhitelaw
...and here's the question:
Are there any significant differences in the way male and female artists are accepted within the American art scene? If so, what would you like to see changed?
Debra Joy Groesser As much as I wish there weren't differences, I definitely believe there are. It doesn't seem to be much different than many other occupations. If you look throughout art history, you rarely find women artists mentioned. In most of the major invitational exhibitions, the vast majority of the artists are men. I think that's a big reason you see several organizations now that are devoted to women and their art. I've heard several comments recently about there being a "masculine" or "feminine" feeling to paintings, and that the women who are getting the most recognition have a "masculine" feeling to their work. I find that an interesting observation. A couple of years ago, I was at a show admiring the work of one of my female painter friends when a couple of male artists came up and said that they loved her work because "she paints like a guy!"
As far as what I would like to see changed, I'd like to see more recognition for female artists, and more inclusion in art exhibitions and events. It's important to remember though, that ANY artist, male or female, must work hard and do very high quality work in order to earn recognition. Regardless of gender, good marketing, persistence, perseverance, confidence, being unafraid to seize opportunities when they arise, and "thinking outside the box" are also all necessary. Women need not be apologetic or afraid to be bold about getting their work out there. I'm happy to see some small groups of female artists banding together, creating special exhibitions, and finding good galleries to host them...taking control and creating their own opportunities. I think educating people about some of the little known female artists from the past is very important, for there have been some truly outstanding ones.
Elizabeth Robbins This is a very difficult question. As a female, I only write about what I have experienced. I would be interested to read the male perspective on this issue. I can honestly say that for the most part I feel that being a female has helped me in the art world. Perhaps it's the subject matter that I paint, but I have such an emotional connection with my flowers that I think the collector feels that. I feel as women, we are more spiritual by nature and that we are more "emotional" and "sensitive". This is not to say that men can't be emotional or sensitive. There are many who are, but most people in the non-creative world would consider being so sensitive as a handicap...whereas, I consider it a blessing.
On the flip side, I have had the unfortunate experience of having dealt with some gallery owners who were men that really didn't care about promoting women artists. If you look at the ratio of women artists vs men artists in the big shows such as The Autrey, Prix de West, etc. you will find that the majority of artists are men. Whether this is due to the fact that there are more professional men artists than women, I don't know. I do know, however, that there are many professional female artist that don't seem to get the recognition they deserve. Perhaps I was a bit naive when I first started selling in galleries because I felt that the artwork should speak for itself, but I have found out that at times it's not so much about the artwork as it is about who you know that gets you ahead. This of course can work for either male or female. I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful people who have helped me along the way.
I've heard from many women that galleries don't take them seriously because of family obligations. Some galleries feel that if you are a wife and mother that you won't give 100% of your time to your art, whereas men don't have that stereotype to deal with. I have not had that experience, perhaps because I am a widow and the only income I have is from my art. I feel women are better at multitasking than men and are able to handle the demands of family and career.
I have never had anyone tell me that they wouldn't buy a piece of art from a woman but I have been told that there are some that won't buy art from someone because of their religion. This is mind boggling to me.
What I would like to see changed...let the artwork speak for itself. Male/female, christian/non-christian...it shouldn't matter. Let the artwork speak.
If you think of all the great civilizations, what have they left us? ART! We remember them for their music, their literature, their sculpture, their art. One-hundred years from now, I do believe that women will play a very big roll in how the future remembers us.
Lori Putnam During a recent conversation with an artist friend in England, we discussed similarities and differences between the way artists of different sexes are viewed in our respective countries. Prior the that conversation, my perspective on the subject was quite narrow-minded. It seems true that in the U.S., female painters are largely stereotyped as being far less serious about their work and careers than their male counterparts. We are often identified in our local papers by our floppy hats and sensible shoes, leisurely painting the day away, while our husbands are out working to support our painting hobby. Furthermore, fewer females sell paintings in the higher price range that many men enjoy; more men are labeled as "masters" in large organizations, and until recently, the percentage of award-winning painters appeared to be predominately male. This seem odd, given that there are many more female artists in this business than there are men. Therefore, statistics would suggest that the odds should be in our favor. This all leads me to believe that surely we Americans are much further "behind the times", than our European friends. As it turns out, I was mistaken.
Putnam goes on to explain the difference between the American Salmagundi Club and the English Wapping Group. Salmagundi's early history was predominately male but during the last several decades has welcomed females into its prestigious organization, even promoting Claudia Seymour to serve as its most recent president. At the same time, England's esteemed Wapping Group remains exclusively male. After comparing the two countries, Putnam feels somewhat encouraged about our "modern" world here at home.
Having said all this, Putnam is still amazed to see the look on someone's face when she reports that this is what she does for a living...that it's not a hobby.
Putnam continues...Over the past year and a half, I have spoken at length about all of this to some of the men whom I consider to be among the most influential in our art world. I am not sure, just yet, that they clearly appreciate the situation, or have any idea how they can help, but I do feel I have made them more aware. Awareness that talented, successful women artists exist seems to be the first step to acceptance, respect, and equality. Unfortunately, for now, awareness involves labeling us in that way...as "women" artists. I long for the day when the word "women" can be totally dropped from the description and is in no way part of identifying what we do. Along those lines, if I am totally honest, I have to add that I am not a fan of any type of art group that separates itself with labels - specifically those which describe race, gender, etc.
Dawn Whitelaw Historically, in America, it is obvious that men and women artists have been treated differently. I have seen this condition improve greatly over the past few years. I expect the trend of accepting women artists on equal footing to continue. I know it has gotten better during the course of my career. I see great changes in the number of women who are invited to exhibit in museums. Contemporary women artists are now widely collected and often featured in magazines. They are invited to lecture, and to judge exhibitions. Women are included in major exhibitions, often receiving top prizes. Some inequality certainly still lingers, but I am grateful for the remarkable improvement in opportunities for women artists today.
These are the ways I would like to see women artists change in response to these more favorable conditions.
1) Outstanding painters, like Carolyn Anderson, Jill Carver and others are accelerating the respect women artists receive today. The equality will happen even more quickly as more "top-notch" women painters emerge. We all should raise our personal standards of excellence. Decades ago, when Bettina Steinke was asked about the plight of women in art, she shrugged and said "women should just paint better".
2) Gender exclusive organizations seem to send a message of weakness rather than strength. Groups and shows exclusively for women don't seem to be appropriate any more. If we women want a level playing field, then that's the field where we should be willing to play. It's time to take off the training wheels.
3) I think women should acknowledge that some of the roadblocks for female artists with families also apply to male artists with families. Many men and women have to wait until they retire from the job that provides income and benefits for their family, in order to pursue a full time career in art. Those of us who got a late start in our careers bring an intensity, focus, passion and maturity to the table. The experience of family is a great positive, not a negative. During the years when I had to paint in short, stolen patches of time, I learned to be a very efficient painter.
4) We women should be honest in facing what is really holding us back. Is it the lack of appreciation in our culture for women artists, or is it some internal factor such as a failure to fully commit? Could it be guilt for taking time out for ourselves, or even laziness, that is our stumbling block? Do we suffer from timidity or lack of confidence? We won't be fully able to take advantage of opportunities that do come our way until we deal with some of these internal issues.
One really fine artist, who prefers to remain anonymous, feels that many women are viewed as mere hobbyists and not serious painters who will work hard, day after day, in order to create work of consistent quality and in reliable quantities to support a gallery and their deadlines.
She knows a number of women who view painting as a hobby...and yet they want to "be in a gallery". She believes one's attitude contributes to the way female artists may be viewed...plus, some work can look feminine and sweet and may not be well received. My friend comes from a management background in business, for many years the only woman to hold that position in the company.
"Ultimately, it still comes down to good work, growing in strength, providing consistent inventory to galleries, and taking the risk of applying for shows; not worrying about being turned down...just keep trying...just like the Nike slogan, 'Just do it'".
Her choice and recommendation in dealing with any perceived or real bias is to work hard, continually challenge oneself to raise the bar; maintain a professional, courteous and business-like relationship with galleries, vendors, industry publications, and event coordinators...and take a show turn-down as a challenge to do better...and just keep going.
Thanks to you ladies for your participation in this discussion and your honest comments. Next week we will hear from: Kim Casebeer, Barbara Jaenicke, Cindy Baron, and Kathryn Stats...and of course, since it's my blog, I'll add my 2-cents worth.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Roger Dale Brown Interview
One would need to have lived in a cave, isolated from humanity, to have not heard of Roger Dale Brown. In a recent article in Nashville Arts Magazine, Brown is recognized as the 'go to' guy of the South when it comes to teaching plein air painting.
I've heard of the thoroughness and excellence of his teaching for some time, for he has been a favorite instructor for several years now with the Dot Courson hosted painting workshops.
A resident of Franklin, TN., Brown credits historical master artists, John Carlson and Edgar Payne as strongly influencing his belief that plein air painting is an essential element in being a great landscape painter. He is able to capture the emotion of a scene by drawing on his knowledge of painting and dedication to fine art.
He really didn't pursue art as a career until 12 years out of high school, but he has certainly made up for his late start through study and lots of hard work...much of that outdoors...en plein air.
His spiritual journey in itself is a pretty interesting story and will be covered in a later blog. For now, I know you will appreciate hearing from Roger Dale Brown on the subject of art.
I have heard you are an excellent teacher. What is the importance of teaching in your career? I feel so blessed to be able to have a career that I truly enjoy. I also enjoy passing the information on to other people. There is a sense of accomplishment for me to see the progression of a student. I love sharing and as I progress there is more and new information to pass along. To be able to share and talk and discuss scenarios with aspiring artists and get them excited about the process of art is invaluable.
What makes a good teacher? Being able to break down a topic into its simplest form and build it back up in an understandable explanatory way, both visually and academically.
I try to explain things from a student's perspective at each student's individual level. I put myself in their shoes, and remember when I was at their stage. That makes it easier not to talk over their head, and to explain situations at each unique stage.
I love to figure out the best way to teach a student. Understanding strengths and weaknesses of individuals and understanding personalities help. I love to figure out the best way to impart a sense of accomplishment to each student.
In a workshop scenario you have to rely on impact...meaning, there are many different ability levels of students. In a time constrained workshop you do not have the luxury of teaching drawing, design, color theory, etc. It is futile to try to teach this in a 3-day workshop setting. I have good success with verbal teaching, coupled with visually showing the students what I am talking about, and then giving them the opportunity to implement it themselves. My goal is that they will take that information and seek knowledge outside the workshop. Helping the student to see certain important facets of the academic process, such as different types of light, simple shapes and the values of those shapes, seeing atmospheric perspective, simple drawing of shapes are all important elements that can be shown in a class with significant success. It gives them a base to learn from inside the class and out. It gives them a success which in turn creates passion, and passion goes a long way in the learning process.
Understanding individual needs so I can work within the capabilities of each person is helpful for the advanced student since they need instruction at a higher level.
When I lecture, talk through a slide show or give a demonstration, I don't hold back information for the sake of the beginning student. The beginner or intermediate student will not understand a lot of the theory or logic presented, but they will grasp what they need at the time and it will introduce them to terms and knowledge they can refer back to when ready. This way, all levels are getting proper attention.
Do you feel you received sufficient training to be an artist? I don't know the answer because I'm still training. I think the answer is "no". I never had formal training and have worked extremely hard gathering as much knowledge as I can. I hate the phrase "self-taught". I don't think anyone truly is. I have taken workshops and have had very good mentors and I am close to some excellent artists that help me. I am in a perpetual state of study and learning. I think it is a never ending process in one form or another. I will always strive to achieve more...then one day, I will die.
What part has plein air painting played in your development as an artist? It played and still plays a huge part. Knowledge proceeds execution. Being able to see the nuances of nature proceeds painting them. Sight has to be developed. You teach yourself to do this by going to the source and replicating natures subtleties.
What qualifies as a plein air painting? I think if you go outside with the intent to paint, study, or complete a painting...it's a plein air piece. If you have to work on it inside to correct a few things or make it a better painting...it's still a plein air painting. I do not believe in percentages, as in 80% plein air. That is politics that has no place in the art world. No professional artist raises an eyebrow or questions whether you tweak a painting inside. That is petty and unworthy of their time. The only thing that matters in the long run is if it's good or not. Personally I don't believe in genre labels. You're either a good painter or not, whether it's portrait, figure, landscape, or still life. I believe in being an artist for all it's worth...
What is your view of the current plein air movement? I think it's good. It draws attention to representational art. I believe anytime you paint from life it is a positive step and a great teaching tool. It helps teach us to see as an artist needs to. It has introduced new collectors and buyers to the art market. Its created a new vibrancy in the art community. All in all, it leans more to the positive than negative...but...
I do think there are drawbacks. I think its been bad for the perception of what good art is to both aspiring artists and collectors. There are some great artists that do an exceptional job painting on location, and there certainly needs to be room for every level of painter, without question. I think the issue is what is being advocated as good work. There is a lot of mediocre work being passed off as professional quality. In turn this hampers the artist because they are being told on all levels that their work is great. So they stay drunk and stagnant with praise, hampered in the learning process.
With that said, I'm being hypocritical because plein air is the way I started and I wasn't very good. Years ago, when I first started painting and was so excited and passionate, I threw myself into the "art world mix". In retrospect, and in my opinion, too early. Luckily, I had good mentors and started to mature in my understanding of art, coming to see the "error of my ways". I took a step back and did what I needed to do to further myself as an artist. I started to study and became a student of art...and I will continue to be a student for the rest of my life.
Is it necessary for you to continually discover new locations to paint in order to stay inspired? I always have places that are special to me...those places never get old and I feel closer to God in these spots. These are comfortable places I submerge myself into, exploring the layers of culture, history, and beauty. I feel that eventually my paintings will translate the depth of those areas. I do like the exploration and discovery of new places. The enigma of a new location has a pull on my spirit that no other element in art can produce. The sheer excitement of the exploration and discovery of a new area can produce mountains of new material to produce artworks. For my temperament, it is important to discover new locations.
What do you hope to communicate through your work? I try to create art that intellectually engages the viewer with a positive narrative. I want to evoke an emotion and give the viewer enough information to set the tone, but not spell out everything. I want the viewers imagination to work, and let them come up with their own conclusions while directing them to certain areas...interactive art.
Do you have basic rules of composition that you adhere to? I can see merit in many different theories. There are many ways to approach a painting and they are all the correct way. Artist's throughout time have come up with their own way of putting into words why and how they create. It is their description of what they see, feel, and do...put into words. One artist might have a different way of describing than another, but they are all trying to get to an end result, which is to make a good painting. I do adhere to some basic rules of composition, but I am not critical of other views if they produce good results.
What is your major consideration when composing a painting? I look at the whole of a scene that intrigues me, then I lock in on something. I find something to grasp...a focal point. It can be something as simple as the light hitting a tree or colors that complement each other. I then can mentally work what's around the focal point into a design of darks, lights and color as I see fit. I always bring the landscape to its abstract and work with simple shapes and their value. I break the scene into a dominate color and its complement, or even simpler, into thinking of it as a warm or cool dominate. I visually compare values. For instance, I may compare the lightest part of the tree foliage to the sky, or the darkest accent under a rock to the surrounding ground or water. The "art of comparison" is important in capturing the essence of your scene. I understand that my sharpest edge will be in and around the focal point, but the rest of the scene's edges are very important and have to be considered also. Sharper edges tend to be in the foreground while getting softer as the landscape recedes or form turns.
How thorough is your initial drawing? I don't necessarily draw the scene out. I carve the scene in with shapes of value, after laying in washes for my initial color composition. The proportions of the different shapes in a scene need to be accurate in order to make the scene believable. I think drawing and value are neck and neck as far as importance in the painting process.
Describe your typical block-in technique. I typically do not draw the scene. I start with washes; sometimes with earth tones; sometimes monochrome; sometimes with complements. Although there are situations, with some particular scenes, that I will draw and use no undertones. I do whatever I feel is the best to capture the essence of that moment. The one constant is that I always bring the scene down to its simplest shapes or abstract shapes. This is the starting point for the block-in. For example, if I am painting a lake or a group of trees, they each become one large pattern with a general value. This is my platform to start creating from. As the painting progresses, I paint within these abstract shapes keeping the values close, so that the original shape always retains its identity.
Do you let the subject determine the concept of the work or do you create the concept and use the subject only as the starting point? I use the scene as a platform to develop an idea from. It evokes a mood and sets the tone, but we are all creative and to be too literal with every aspect of the scene deprives the viewer of your unique vision.
Manipulating the scene to create a better composition has been done for centuries. Strengthening certain aspects of a scene, while playing down others, is the beauty and genius of Sargent or Schmid's work. Creating the essence of the scene by being free to create is critical for a successful painting.
Whistler once said, "An artist is known for what he omits".
How do you decide on a dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it? Part of my initial analysis of a scene is to simplify it into a dominant color and a subordinate color; the subordinate is always the compliment of the dominant. Nature gives it to us, we just have to look for it. Defining these two principal colors helps me maintain the mood and harmony I want in the painting...this is not to say there are not other colors in the painting, but these take precedence.
There are instances, such as early morning and late afternoon, when there is a hue cast over the scene as a whole. It is like a filter of a particular color held in front of your eyes (rose colored glasses come to mind). In this case, I sometimes use an analogous color system to better capture the moment. I define the hue I'm seeing and then use adjacent colors on the color wheel to paint the scene. Toward the last quarter of the painting, I will introduce the complements (opposites on the color wheel), or I might glaze the painting at the end, to reinforce the cast of light and color in the scene.
What are the key points one needs to know when creating a true sense of atmosphere? The power of observation, and the science of art. Knowledge precedes execution. If you know that values, color, and edges change according to atmospheric conditions, you are better able to see it when you're in nature. If you can see it, you will eventually find a way to paint it. You can only paint what you're able to see.
What are the main problems encountered when translating a field study to a large studio work? I don't view the field study as a miniature studio painting. My field study is one piece of information to be used in the studio. Although I have brought some field studies to completion, most of the time it is not my intent. My intent is to be satisfied with the field study and try to get the best painting and most information I can. I don't want the pressure of thinking I have to take a field study to completion. I prefer the freedom of exploration. The result of solid foundational application coupled with exploration allows for more unpredictable elements in the field studies that I might be able to use or draw from in the studio.
I approach a studio piece with more purpose than an outdoor piece. My objective is to create a studio piece that evokes the mood of the scene, not a replication of it. If I tried to paint the studio piece exactly like the field study, I would fail. Usually it will not translate into a bigger format. It's a guide, just like a photo, a drawing, or narrative of the scene. In the studio I have a completely different mentality, a completely different arsenal of tools and techniques, a completely different time frame. I have the tranquility of my own space and the time to work through problems and produce the desired affect of the scene.
Think of it in terms of a writer who wrote a 50-page narrative of a story and wanted to make a novel. The story is there in the 50 pages but the novel has to have more information. The writer has to put more into the story, build each character, expand each aspect and create more sub-stories within the main body of the novel to make it complete and interesting.
What part does photography play in your work? I like to use photographs to jog my memory, to put me mentally back in an area, as a reminder. I think gathering information is key to having a more successful painting. Knowing and understanding your subject helps the photo reference work. When I am on location I try to explore the area, not just the object. I walk around and study the scene up close, how the light falls on it, around it and behind it. I study the culture of the area. I really absorb the moment. Sketches, drawings, descriptive words all help in creating a studio piece. By gathering all of the information possible, I am able to fill in gaps that the photograph leaves out.
What colors are most often found on your palette? Although I shift colors in and out of my palette, I do have colors that can always be found on it. I use a split primary palette with a few friends...Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Light, Quinacridone Rose, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Indigo Blue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber...
I do not use a green because when I do, it becomes the dominant color in all the greens in the painting. I mix the green for the specific area I'm focused on. This insures a variety of greens...key to a successful painting in spring and summer.
How does one find their individuality as an artist? I think your individuality finds you. I often hear a student ask, how do I develop a style or how did you get your style? My answer is, "don't worry about it, just paint". Painting is a process and you should not get caught up in developing a style. You will restrict your ability to explore if you try to force or copy a style. It will lead to formulating your work, which you don't want to do. Your unique voice will develop naturally. Your spirit and individual personality will show through in your work if you just paint. That is obvious if you have ever been with a group of artists painting the same scene. None of the paintings look the same.
If you could begin all over again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in developing your career? Start more with the academics. Drawing is an essential part of the growing process of an artist. At the very least it teaches us hand eye coordination. It takes what is in your head to the canvas or paper. It also teaches us the power of observation...the power to see. Getting a late start in life, I have always felt an urgency to develop my skills...and I honestly enjoyed the challenge...but in retrospect I feel I could have worked harder on academics.
Thanks Roger for a very interesting and informative interview. Your honesty and time are sincerely appreciated.
An Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master