Monthly Archives: June 2011

Art that is Personal


Conveying something personal in my art has been one of the most challenging parts of painting.  I’ve learned, albeit slowly,  that mechanics and craft aren’t everything.  Connecting your creations to the viewer is another skill altogether.  I think the artists at the top of heap are masters of both mechanic and the transcendent.  Art has as many meanings to people as there are opinions in this world, however there are some things that I think are universal.

People want a narrative, a story or something they can relate to.   That is why music, movies and books are constants in entertainment.  Before there were words, or instruments there were pictures.  The pictures that have a narrative to them as well as fine craftsmanship and uniqueness become timeless.  Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David or his work in The Sistine Chapel are fine examples of a narrative that transcends the artist and becomes something greater.

I’m going to tangent here, but I hope in the end all this will tie together.  I’ve been writing down ideas I get for future paintings.  Right now the list is up to fifteen, and will probably grow.  I’ve found this helps a great deal when I am sitting down debating what to start next.  There is a trend developing in the list and that contains the human element.  If you go back to my previous blog post about Learning from Artist Magazines, I mentioned that the largest chunk of award wining paintings were portraits.  My list has six ideas that incorporate the figure or portrait in some fashion.  The last entry on the list was about this lucid dream I had the other day:

It was a bright summer day and I was lounging in a park near a small stream.  The grass was a lush green and the sun was bright that afternoon.  There were trees and birds and bugs flying about their business.  I think I was with someone but I don’t recall because I never saw them, but I was as I am now.

Ahead maybe a half a blocks distance, just down stream, was a young couple walking with their small boy.   He must have been five or six tops.  The trio glowed in the summer sun and were happy.  As they drew near I recognized them to be my parents but they were young and vibrant and smiling.  It felt so real and I just watched them walking.  The little boy broke out ahead of them towards me, a bit wobbly in his step.  He wore what I thought was a little boy scouts outfit, with the bandana around the neck and a tan shirt but there were no patches or anything.  Khaki shorts and brown sandals hugged his chubby legs and feet and he had the most curious look.  He stepped right up to my feet, and smiled.

I lay there looking at myself as a child.  It was surreal.  I glanced back up to my mom, who could not have been a day older than thirty.  She gave me a short motherly stare; as if she was reading my mind, and smiled, knowing somehow, without a word spoken between us, that little Johnny would remain innocent of the situation.  I smiled and cast my gaze back upon the boy in front of me.  He said to me, “My name is John.. as he smiled revealing a missing front tooth.  I replied, “That’s my name too”.  We talked for a few minutes, and there was a desire for me to tell him some words of wisdom about us, but in the end I could not bring myself to spoil it.  Moments later the trio: my Mom, Dad and me said goodbye and walked away just as they had come.  The scene passed…  I woke up.  I remembered this with such clarity.  It was one of the most unique dreams I’ve ever had, and I really wish I could go back to it.

This will be my first self-portrait attempt in watercolor.  This scene… It’s perfect in every way and I can’t begin to describe the feeling I had inside the dream, and just thinking about it brings a range of emotions and thoughts about my life or what could have been had dreams become reality.

I’m not a portrait painter yet.  I’m a still life painter for the most part.  Just as I desired to do complex still life work when I first started, I quickly realized that I had to learn to walk with watercolor before I could run.  Some subjects were beyond my ability.  I very much want to jump feet first into this self portrait, but I need some time to hone the art of portraits to a level that my still life work presently resides.  Anything less and I will be disappointed.

Ultimately, I want to incorporate more into my still life work and begin to paint people.  I see surrealism around the corner, and by the time I work through my list of fifteen, I think my art will begin to speak to a wider audience.  Maybe one of my paintings, will transcend my time here and speak to future generations in a way my earlier work was unable to do.  Time will tell.

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Picking up the Pieces


The Columbus Art Festival http://columbusartsfestival.org/ came and went.  The best part of the trip was the fact that I spent some great quality time with my son Ed.  He was a great help during the show, and it makes me proud to be his dad.  I received many great compliments about him, so I think Jen and I did something right in raising him.  I forgot to take some photos of him and I together.  Next time I’ll remember to do that!

           

I walked the show a few times and was overwhelmed with quality art everywhere.  There were some amazing glass sculptures, awesome photography, wood crafters, mixed media illustrators and of course traditional painters.  Best of all, Leah Alters was a gracious host and show director.  She was helpful, personal and went out of her way to make sure my needs were met while attending.

During my days exhibiting at the festival, I was particularly impressed with some stand out artists.  I’m not going to plug them too much but I’m going to list them here so that you can also enjoy their work.  First and foremost in the list was my booth neighbor, Daphne Covington  http://www.daphnecovington.com   She does wonderful abstract oil paintings and was a hoot to hang out with all weekend.  I hope we can be booth neighbors again someday.  If it wasn’t for her and Ed, I would have lost a lot of art or worse when the deluge hit Saturday night.  Before I get to the other artists, I want to talk about tent weights.

Good tent weights are like good insurance, you will wish you had them when it’s too late.  Last year I reluctantly spent the money on a set of Happy Feet weights:  http://happifeet.com/  They’re not cheap, but they look great and are by far; hands down, the best tent weights money can buy.  Made by artist Cindy Gordon, for artists, they kept my tent on the ground against some very severe wind gusts somewhere around 50-60 mph.

Also if you are thinking about exhibiting, be sure you’re insured as well.  There were some artists who lost everything at the Columbus show.  Have a backup plan if your willing to risk your heart and souls work on the randomness of weather.

Ok back to the artists I wanted to mention.

            Robert Flowers –  http://www.robertflowersart.com

            Geoffrey Harris – http://geoffreyaaronharris.com

            James Petran – http://www.artsiowacity.org/artist/jpetran/jpetran.htm

            Phillip Nolley – http://phillipnolley.com/

All of them do fantastic work, and I enjoyed talking art shop with each of them.  I plan on beginning my personal collection with work from each of these artists.  I did buy a few small glass pieces from Nolley that I will be incorporating into a few new paintings.  Hopefully him and I can continue to work together to bring his 3D glass into my 2D watercolors.  I hope to get some transparent marbles from him soon.  :-]

Columbus also showed me what superior booth presentations look like.  I saw some very amazing looking setups and you can tell what people have been doing this for a while.  Good festival tents look uniform, neat, and are very inviting to look at.  I’ve picked up a few ideas to continue to improve my setup.  I think every show will be better as far as presentation goes.  Sales continue to be the low points in the shows I attend.  The bad economy isn’t helping anything either.  I have four shows left, maybe a fifth if I get into the Bloomington Indiana festival and that will end the season for me.  I feel like I’m pulling a boat anchor up hill sometimes.

It’s hard to keep doing things when the effort has no payoff.  The next four shows need to put me in the black or I’m going to re-examine and re-prioritize for 2012.  The festival venue may just get shelved.  There is still hope though.  I’ve been contacted by The Galiara in San Francisco http://www.galiara.com/   They are interested in showing my art there, so I’m pretty excited about that.  I have plans to send them a good body of work in the early autumn and keep it there or a rotating stock if they will allow.

More on this later.

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