Friday, May 22, 2015

And There Were Whales

 And There Were Whales 10x10 O/L plein air

It was a perfect day at my favorite painting spot.
Sharon Weaver and I finally got a chance to get out and paint together. 
We were both pleased to be back at Leo Carrillo on such a gorgeous day.
I found my "place" and began to settle in when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shape glide past.
What a thrill!  A couple of adults and a mother and youngster pair  -- They were so close to shore.
I sat and watched as several of these beautiful creatures made their way north.

A few weeks ago I decided to sign up for some time in David Gallup's Thursday design class.  I have been studying with David in his weekly class for most of 5+ years now.  Since I started with almost no knowledge about artists and art history, I consider that part of my journey's growth almost as valuable as the continued supportive practice and patient demonstration he provides.  Occasionally he'll offer special workshops which have enhanced and solidified weekly lessons for the students.  Design class is almost like that, but it's not really a workshop.  It is definitely a skill set I can improve upon and I've found my head exploding now for a few weeks.

Since I started the class after most of the others had started, for the first week or so I was doing only 2 value designs -- that's it.   I would try to develop a design and then I would watch and listen as David went over the effort and explained how to strengthen it.  Currently I'm doing 3 value designs.  These are just designs out of our heads -- not looking at "things" and it isn't as easy as it might seem!   I think it will be a real mind-exploder trying to fit the design to a landscape or floral or some other "thing" based something -- maybe even a good abstract!   I've seen David and other students do it, but I haven't tried it yet.

But there at Leo, I sat in joyful silence (well... I did let out little squeals of excitement now and then) watching the whales. 

Then, when they had all passed,  I settled in to paint there at Leo while still trying to keep some of those lessons about design in my head.
  • Think about a center of interest
  • Think about having different masses value of different sizes and shapes filling the canvas so that no quadrant is like any other
  • Think about varying lines -- fast lines and slow lines -- lines of varying thicknesses
  • Think about calligraphy of line and shape
  • Remember not to repeat shapes -- either the light or the middle or the dark shapes
  • The specifics of the shape define the narrative of the painting -- the specifics of the edges tell the story
  • What are the weights of the shapes and what is their "direction"?
  • Think about what makes a good abstract shape -- varying edges, etc
  • Think about subtly leading the eye -- not obviously   -- possibly more than one path to lead the eye
  • Where are the points of highest tension
  • Asymmetry is a good thing
It's pretty hard to train myself not to think about the "thing" that is in front of me.  A good artist will arrange a scene to make an appealing design -- not just try to paint the scene in front of her.   So here is what I ended up with.   I was pretty happy with my efforts:

Happy painting!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

All In All -- PACE Exceeded My Expectations -- #PACE15 Last Days

Alongside Highway One 9x12 O/L
The Last Days
It seems that the longer I am on this journey as an artist, the slower I go.  I've come to learn that we are all filled with moments of self doubt and frustration.  Lately, however, everyone is telling me that frustration is my friend.....    REALLY?

Well, in a way they are right.  Frustration is far better than stagnation.  And as slow as I seem to be going, at least I'm still going.  -- After all -- the turtle won the race, didn't he?

Today as I look over the various paintings of the last month -- those painted during the convention and since then, I say...  hey not bad!  Maybe not as good as I'd like to be but still good and growing.  What more could I ask?

Boot Camp -- Thank you, Eric Rhoads!
During the last two days of the conference, we continued to learn and enjoy friends and other artists.  Dorene White, my friend and roommate, and I got up early again to go to Eric Rhoads' Boot Camp.   Again we were treated to good advice and reminders about improving our art careers.   Some quotes were:
  • Take 10 minutes before going to bed each night to focus on what needs to be solved
  • When you awake focus on the solutions and write it all down.... don't judge, -just write
  • Make goals and break them down weekly or daily -- don't let yourself off the hook
  • Gather a "mastermind" group to share ideas with -- be around people who will lift you up -- not tear you down
  • It takes time
  • Define your life -- brush time and marketing time
  • Build "brand" awareness
  • You are "gardening" -- get the weeds out
  • Repetition not only sells products it sells yourself
  • A goal without a plan is a wish
  • Brush time is critical
  • Your brain and your subconscious is the most important part of all of this -- DAYDREAM!
  • Intention, Focus, Relentlessness
And probably the most lasting reminder for us was to do as Willie Nelson suggested, "Once you replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts, your life will improve."   The Bob Newhart video called "Stop It" totally cemented that for us all.    If you watch it you will probably never forget it.... but will it change the way you think about yourself?

I love Len Chmiel's work and am often amazed at how he manages to use such wonderful abstract designs while creating beautiful "traditional realistic" landscapes.  His demonstration was unique, humorous, intelligent, totally "out of the box" and instructional.
He brought some of his work in to share and talked briefly about some of the pieces.   There were several I loved and but couldn't find images of them online.  Some I found in his book, (which is a total "must have") but.. there is nothing like seeing paintings in person to gather in their essence.   Here are a few among my favorite Chmiel images I grabbed from the web:


A few of Chmiel's influences were Gustav Klimpt and Richard Deibenkorn so you can see that just painting the things he sees in front of him is not his goal.

He loves to do "on-the-spotters" (don't you love that term?) but uses many things including these to do his studio work.  Chmiel talked about "thinking inside the box."  Meaning that the artist needs to learn about how things are -- geology, plants, etc.   He also said we need to use our imaginations -- ALWAYS ask "what if".  "Don't mindlessly whack away at the canvas when you don't know what you are doing."  Paint and paint and paint more.  He said that he keys all of his paintings to "mud".  He uses light as a design element.  Try not to copy.  He breaks the canvas into large masses.  You get to alter a landscape and make it what you want it to be.   "When you look out there and you can't identify the color -- it's grey."  He tries to make shadows into interesting shapes using negative and positive shapes.  He says he "wastes" a lot of paint.

There were so many great thoughts that he shared -- too many to list.  I thought his demo was hilarious.  I have NEVER seen anyone do a landscape demo quite that way.  Instead of using one of his "on-the-spotters" or a photo, he created a landscape with a "still life set-up."  He brought rocks and stacked them onto a lipped cookie sheet to make a cliff.  He brought a turquoise blue side of a cereal box for the sky and put it up in back of the rocks [the cliff] and then had some pieces of sage which he stood up in front of the "cliff" like a tree.  Then he poured water into the cookie sheet tray for the river.  TOTALLY unique!
I loved it! 

I didn't know as much about Quang Ho's work as I had about Chmiel's and Carlson's but I was very impressed by his presence, his presentation and the examples of his work which he shared.  Here are a few points he made:
  • There comes a point in your life as an artist where you stop seeing things as things and you begin to think about light and pattern.
  • There is no such thing as "mud"
  • You can't do a great work of art in just a couple of hours
  • You must see the connectedness
  • You can't make any intelligent decision without an understanding of the world around us
  • There is no "negative space" -- the figure is just a starting point -- at some point it becomes part of something else
  • "Every time I scrape a painting off it looks better
  • Learn how few edges are needed
  • Allow your painting to go away
  • Everything in a painting is either in the light or in the shadow
  • Pretend you are driving past the landscape [you are painting] at 130 miles per hour
  • The whole point of doing a larger painting from a smaller painting is so you can have fun with it
  • Don't mind getting "lost"
  • Don't worry about color - only about relative warm and cool
  • Painting is like driving -- sometimes you speed up, other times you slow down
  • One shape is not finished until you finish the other shapes around it
  • The sun that rakes across a field is going to dance as it touches the landscape and that becomes another beautiful piece of rhythm
  • He used all sorts of tools as he worked on the demo... from soft brushes to stiff brushes to palette knives to credit cards
  • The whole point is to try to learn something about paint ..... What you can get away with and how you can get into trouble
  • Think of the painting as a mindful exercise
  • Beautiful passages take time

In the afternoon we all drove to different places in Carmel to paint.  There just were no bad places to paint.  Beauty was everywhere!
On Friday there were no demos, presentations or things to buy in the convention center.   We all walked down to the wharf and painted.  I enjoyed chatting with new friends and seeing what other people were doing.  My friend Christopher Cook and I settled in to an area to the side of the harbor to paint and enjoyed the warm sun.

Soon it was time for me to leave, but I am happy to feel that I took a whole lot home with me.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Attitude Is Everything -- #PACE15 -- Day 3

Lovers' Point  9x12  O/L

Once again we were up and down in the convention hall by 6:15.  I was pretty surprised that it wasn't at all difficult for me.... I tend to like to sleep a bit longer, but since my pal, Dorene White, and I were staying there at the Portola Hotel where the convention was, it was easy to roll out, get dressed and start the day.

Boot Camp
Somehow I thought that boot camp would be sort of a "sell job".  Eric Rhoads is a masterful marketer and that's pretty much what I expected we would be hearing.  But really, I think we heard good practical information as well as some well targeted therapeutic advice about the relationship between our art and our attitude. 

Some thoughts to keep in mind:
Brian Blood did a "sand dune" demo
  • You have to help people to find you
  • Marketing is about repetition
  • You have to have your act together before advertising
  • Marketing is a life long learning effort
  • Freedom is the key to a life well-lived
  • You cannot get to where you're going if you don't know where you're going
  • Your thoughts are the ultimate roadblock to your ultimate success
  • The only thing holding me back is what I believe about myself
  • Manage your mind-set   ("Stop-It... Bob Newhardt video)
  • Narrow your goals and chase them relentlessly
  • Excellence is a habit
  • Imagine success and shed the negatives
  • Start picturing yourself in the role -- be specific
  • Get your garden ready
    Bill Davidson large painting demo
    from a smaller study
During the morning I saw some great demonstrations.  I loved watching and listening to Brian Blood as he created a lovely demo of a sand dune.    Later I watched Susan Blackwood and Howard Friedland who are married and who demoed paintings simultaneously.  Later Bill Davidson painted a large painting from a study.

Panel Discussion
My favorite part of the morning was the panel discussion led by Jean Stern.  He interviewed Len Chmiel, T. Allen Lawson and George Carlson about art, philosophy and life.   They talked about the artistic influences in their lives.  
  • Chmiel: "What we do is a reflection of who we are."
  • Lawson:  "Every mark that goes into a painting conveys a feeling."
  • Carlson:  "Turn work upside down to see how it works as an abstract.... Think monumentally on little thumbnail forms."
  • Carlson:  "Allow yourself time at the end of the painting"
  • MINDFULNESS...  intuition, smell, vision, hearing, feeling (touch)
  • Chmiel:  "It's exhausting -- everything around you turns into a composition."
  • Lawson:  "The closer you get to the finish line, the longer you spend just thinking about the painting."
  • Lawson:  "The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know."
  • Chmiel:  "A painting is finished when the chaos is organized as much as we can, it's over."
  • Lawson:  "Just because they're hanging on a wall or they're off to an exhibition doesn't mean they are finished."
  • Carlson:  "Listen to your own drummer.  Go back to yourself.  Believe in what you are doing.  Stay with your own personal vision."
  • Lawson:  "The Wright Brothers said, "no bird soars in the calm."  Find your own voice and be courageous.  Everything happens out on the edges."
  • Chmiel:  "If you give up when you hit a wall, nothing happens.  Persevere."
In the afternoon we went to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove to Paint.    It was a really lovely day.  No wind and just the right temperature.

It was fun painting and exchanging ideas with Dorene.  Plus we had the chance to talk to so many other artists we knew personally, from online "friendships" as well as those who we have long admired.  Everyone was friendly and welcoming and willing to share.  It was a nice time.

After grabbing a bowl of clam chowder from the hotel bar, we went to see part of the critique session.   I found it interesting both nights to hear what artists such as Quang Ho, CW Mundy, Lori Putnam and Carolyn Anderson had to say about those artworks which had been randomly selected to receive critiques.  We all learned, I think.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

#PACE15 -- Day Two At The Plein Air Convention

Rough Seas 8x8 O/L

Marketing Boot Camp
Tuesday morning started early.  We were bright-eyed and bushy tailed-- dressed and ready to go at 6:15.   Eric Rhoads and Lori McNee began their "Boot Camp" with a special session on using social media for marketing.
They talked about blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Search tools, Pinterest, Linked In and things like Vine and Meercat which I had never heard of before.
Here are a few highlights:
  • A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there
  • Your persona as an artist needs to be carefully crafted
  • "I am always doing things I can't do.  That's how I get to do them."  - Pablo Picasso
  • Tie your blog to something topical
  • In a blog -- compelling titles, 400-800 words, images, foster a discussion, link to other resources, use a call to action
  • Blogs and social media posts should be about WE -- not about ME
  • No polarizing content
  • Reach outside your niche
  • Use pictures with text over them
  • Take selfies with famous people .... "halo marketing"
  • Clean up your profiles on Twitter and other social media
  • Linked In is a great place to find collectors
  • Don't be self promotional
  • Interact and make comments on other blogs
  • Video is the most important medium today
  • Tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted
  • It takes 3-5 years to build a business
After that I went to several different demonstrations and "talks" by people such as Roger Dale Brown, Jason Sacron, Lori Putnam and JoAnna Arnett -- You couldn't possibly go to everything that was interesting.  Additionally there were vendors of all sorts in the main hall and it was fun to walk around and see all the possibilities.   There was so much good information shared, but it would be too much for this blog post, so I'll just skip to the presentation after lunch.

Lawson wasn't someone whose work I was as familiar with as Carlson's or Chmiel's, but I was totally impressed by his presentation and I am now a fan.    He said that plein air painting is a "good place to start".  Here are a few tidbits from his presentation:
  • Carry a sketchbook at all times
  • When you're a painter the world becomes your office
  • His studio paintings are done from notes and videos and sketches (drawings) done in the field.  Many times he just sits and absorbs
  • Paintings "come to me" --- and usually at the most inopportune times
  • The longer you look at an object the more abstract it becomes and yet the more real
  • If you draw well it gives you the courage and freedom to paint well
  • There is a big difference between a painting and art ---- What's the difference between the dress rehearsal and opening night?  (the audience)
  • Refinement of thought -- what am I painting...  eliminate - rearrange -- refine -- design with value, interesting shapes
  • Make artistic decisions --- you are not painting things -- you must orchestrate a painting -- hierarchy of thought required -- varied shapes, placements, temperatures, angles, lines, patterns and textures
  • With each of these thoughts, Lawson shared examples of historical artwork to illustrate and explain the thought
The audience was totally drawn in....  Such inspiration...   What a great day!
We all drove to Asilomar for our outside painting time....  We were met with gale-force winter winds.  It made the painting time pretty difficult while the seas were wild and gorgeous. 

I lasted long enough to paint a small 8x8 but there were hardy souls that produced wonderful larger pieces.  

I was just pleased with myself for being out there with everyone and for painting despite it all.  

The hot bowl of clam chowder and happy laughter was a great way to end the day.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Serendipity, Scintillation and Inspiration

Dinosaur Caves At Shell Beach     8x8  O/L

CONVENTION TIME -- THE DRIVELast Saturday morning I set off one a drive up the California coast.  I generally don't travel and paint alone, but when I decided to go to the Plein Air Convention in Monterey, I couldn't get any of my regular painting friends to go.  I wanted to go because my painting idols, George Carlson and Len Chmiel were going to be keynote speakers at the convention and I just couldn't imagine missing the opportunity to hear and see them in person.

I later found out from another friend that T. Allen Lawson and Quang Ho would also be presenting.  Wow... It was not to be missed!  I signed up.

I left Los Angeles and soon passed through Santa Barbara and then drove on toward Shell Beach.  I have stopped there before to have lunch, but this time I stopped to paint.
The result was the painting:

I stopped at San Simeon for the night and the next day I drove up Highway 1 at I painted:
Alongside Highway 1

On Monday I painted with my friend, Christopher Cook, all day in Point Lobos State Park.  I'll share those images in later posts.

Chris and I finished painting, cleaned up and came back in time to begin the Plein Air
Convention Opening Ceremonies at the beautiful Portola Hotel convention center.   Eric Rhoads is a consummate host and we all immediately felt welcome.  He greeted us all with enthusiasm and gave us an overview.  We were so excited to get started.

I was looking forward to the first keynote address by George Carlson.  I took notes and thought you might enjoy a few highlights. 

One of the surprises to me was learning that besides being an award-winning sculptor AND an award-winning oil painter, he also created a huge body of pastels which he shared with us.  These were magnificent pieces.  I'll share a few I found on the web.   If you don't know his work... oil, sculpture or pastel... you are in for a treat!

  • Do something that shows what you care about
  • It takes patience and persistence to become a better artist
  • You must explore... you should always seek
  • Plein air work is "fact finding"
  • He uses triads of color
  • Always look for the silhouette
  • When painting you are thinking with your eyes
  • He is interested in patterns
  • Always be aware of temperature change as well as value change
  • He immerses himself and becomes totally conversant with his subject -- living with various Native American tribes -- learning geology --  taking up sculpture to better understand form -- gardening and growing your own food -- fishing and catching your food
  • You must thoroughly understand your subject before you can create art around it
  • He told stories about his early life and his art journey using it to share advice to all of us
  • Some great books on his "read over and over" bookshelf are:
    • The Gift by Lewis Hyde
    • 101 Things To Learn In Art School by Kip White
    • Zen and The Art of Archery by Eugene Herrige
Serendipity, Scintillation and Inspiration

After listening and looking at this feast for the eyes, the heart and the mind, the crowd of over 600 stood and gave George Carlson a standing ovation.

All in all it was a perfect day -- a terrific way to start off the Plein Air Convention in Monterey.

As inspired and excited as we all were, we knew that it was time to head for bed.  -- We had to be up and ready to go by 6:15 am for the first day of the Art Marketing Sessions.  We looked forward to hearing Erich Rhoads and Lori McNee teach us the best ways to use social media to better market our work.

Sweet dreams.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Great Experience -- Hmmm... But What Did I Learn?

Crescendo    O/L   12x16

I was a teacher and a principal for almost 40 years.  I know that people learn in all different ways. 

Ever since my artist review experience at the end of February I haven't posted on my blog.  I HAVE painted, but I just haven't felt like posting.  I guess I am continuing to process the experience and haven't really been ready to write about it or even about what I'm painting and doing.  

I've always known that I seem to learn a bit differently than most people.  I go to workshops -- take notes, practice and totally enjoy the experience, but the workshops rarely change the way I paint -- at least immediately.  -- So why, you ask, do I attend workshops? 

I think that as a kinesthetic learner (one who learns by doing), I want a great experience -- to have a good time -- to see new things -- to try new things.  Later as I assimilate the ideas, then they may become my own eventually......  that's why I attend workshops.

Before we go on, I should let anyone new to the blog know that my last post, which was in February was just before I was given a most wonderful opportunity by the California Art Club.  I am an associate member of the CAC and aspire one day to be an artist member of this great group, but this time I didn't make it -- close, but not close enough.  As I anticipated the experience, I wrote my feelings.  You can read that post HERE.

So What Did I Learn?

During the artist review, eleven of us who had "come close" to "making it" were made to feel very special.  We had the opportunity to hear the thoughts of three exceptional artists and a wise collector about our artwork and the elements in that work that either made the work sing or left opportunities for improvement.  The reviewers may each have had a different take on a particular artwork but as a whole their goal was to help us see our own work as if it were being evaluated for inclusion in the California Art Club Gold Medal exhibit.

In talking with some of the others, there was agreement that this was a very special and rare opportunity which left most of us feeling like we'd won some sort of prize (rather than having been "rejected").  I am very grateful for the experience.

Some take-aways:
  • Make sure to submit your three strongest pieces, but also make sure that they are not your only strong pieces in case the jurors look at your website (which they WILL do if your work is in the top 75 - 80%)
  • Submit what you do best -- if you are a figure painter, don't submit landscapes, etc.
  • The three submitted pieces should relate in some way -- they should be "consistent"-- (mine were all "seascapes" which they felt made them a strong combination.)
  • Photograph your work professionally
  • USUALLY studio work is the best thing to submit rather than plein air studies
  • Show that you can work large ... not always small work ... remember that the jurors are treating this like you are submitting entries into the Gold Medal show
  • Don't paint a photograph -- Use your plein air studies and photos as REFERENCES not material to copy.  Photos lie.
  • Paint what you care about -- it will show in your work
  • Don't submit unless you have a professional body of work, but if you do have one and aren't accepted, keep trying and keep getting better until you reach your goal.  Most people have to submit several times before they are accepted for artist membership. Persevere.
  • Clean out your website so that you do not have EVERYTHING you ever painted on it.  It should only have the most professional work which represents what you are currently doing.   All aspects of the website including your resume and bio should be updated and professional.
All in all, there is nothing earth-shattering or totally unexpected in this list, but it was a valuable and enjoyable day and I will certainly continue working on developing my skills so that one day I'll be successful in this "gold medal" goal along the path of my artistic journey.

One of my submissions was "Crescendo" which you can see in the image above.
It was the submission of mine that the reviewers thought was the strongest.
The other two were "Beach Play" and "Swirling Seas".

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fake It 'Til You Make It .... And Become It

Sanctuary 14x18 O/C

A wonderful opportunity has come my way.  It happened because I was rejected.

However, because I "came close" to making it, (only about 8 out of 200 did make it) I was offered an opportunity to have my submissions (and that of several other "almost rans") reviewed and critiqued by three outstanding artists.    This really IS a FABULOUS opportunity!  I'm excited.

Not long ago I wrote a blog post (Seeing As A Collector) about something like this which I read about on the Red Dot Blog and the book "Starving To Successful" written by Jason Horejs.  I believe that every juror will see work differently, but that there are major characteristics that most viewers and jurors look for in all work.  If I can better understand how others see what I am trying to convey, I may be better able to infuse it in my own work.   After deciding to do this I've had two "reviews" trying to focus my direction.  Each was helpful, and I'm sure the session tomorrow will be as well.

Of course, my mentor, David Gallup, critiques the work I bring in to class all of the time and it is always helpful.  I want to be my best "me" so I want to broaden the influences I have. 

I'm excited... but I was also a bit intimidated.  After all, I got this opportunity because my work was rejected.  Will I be so closed off that I won't be able to absorb what I can learn?  (Will I cry.. ??).  Hopefully not.

My girlfriend, Diane Nelson Gold, told me to watch a TED talk called "Power Pose" to get me ready for tomorrow.   WOW!!   The speaker, Amy Cuddy, really gave a powerful talk about the power of body language in shaping your own outlook / outcome / feelings about yourself.    Soooo ---

I WILL be "powerful".   I will "fake it until I become it"  ----  Watch me!   
BTW... the painting at the top of this page is a recent one.   As of this moment it  (You never really finish - do you?).   I called it "Sanctuary".  -- Maybe I should have called it Powerful. 

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