Tag Archives: art

Painting with my Dad, Maurice Jarre and dreams of Grand Prix


I’ve never been a big concert goer, but music has been a big part of my life, especially when I paint.  As a child when I was stuck home on a sick day or something I often would head over to my dad’s record collection, and listen to his music, instead of watching TV.  This is where my love of soundtracks started.  Albums like the Molly Maguires, Zulu, and Maurice Jarre’s Grand Prix were always some of my favorites.

Grand Prix

Some of the LP’s had a few pages and photos of the films they were scored for.  It was just enough to spark the imagination, yet a far cry from how spoiled society is nowadays with just about everything online.  I think it was a simpler more elegant time then, or I’d like to believe that at least.

I think I’ve tracked more hours listening to soundtracks than perhaps any other style of music.  It’s all instrumental and it sort of carries me away to places, times and things I would day dream about.  When I paint, the first thing that usually happens is getting some music playing after I prep everything to get started: beverage, fresh water, wet brushes and juicing up the palette.  More often than not, Grand Prix gets played, and I drift away at times, imagining I’m one of the famous Formula 1 drivers of the 60’s, when racing was pure and UN-commercialized.

Actually I’m listening to Grand Prix right now.  🙂

gp4

Therein lies an immortal tie to my father; his music, embedded in me.  He didn’t go out of his way to bestow his taste in music on me, most of the time he would put his old school headphones on and spend hours changing records and listening.  His music was always there, and even though there was no Thriller or Pink Floyd album in his collection, there was an abundance of soundtrack LP’s and hundreds of 45’s from his era of music growing up.  I wonder if he knows how much I listened to his records?  He worked a lot of nights in the insurance business then so I didn’t see him as much when I was little.

When I look back at photos from then I really appreciate what family memories I still have of those moments captured in old images.  Moreover I see myself in my dad, raising kids and doing the best you can with the cards you have been dealt.  So now when Grand Prix plays, I get a mix of those youthful dreams of racing, and fond memories of my dad’s records, our times together and the gift of youth that has washed away from both of us as the years have gone by.

He doesn’t know any of this of course as I have only seen him once in the last decade and we have only spoken a few times in recent years.

So I will leave you with this, next time you see a new watercolor of mine, know that I was painting with my dad and our music.

Dad & Me

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Resistance


If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
Sun Tzu

The-War-of-Art_straight_1024x1024

A few weeks back one of my best friends; Daniel Ionson: http://www.facebook.com/daniel.ionson shared with me an audio book titled: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  My friend is a good writer trying to chisel his way into the novel market.  Danny and I have similar tastes and he has a great eye for books.  Anyways, he told me this Pressfield book hits it on the head, so I said sure send it my way.  [Steven, if you ever read this, I promised myself to buy a real copy of your book.]

Anyways after a few weeks of procrastination, I uploaded it to iTunes and started it just the other day while painting Ionson’s novel cover.  It only took about 30 seconds to realize this book was for me.  The forward by Robert McKee left me wondering where the hell was Pressfield the day I needed his words the most: when I decided to enlist instead of exploring art school with any real conviction.

As I listened the prose carried into my soul like one of Caesars speeches to his legionnaires.  Chapter one hit me like a laser guided bullet.  The words were as right as rain.  I wasn’t just listening and painting, I was soaking Pressfield in like a dry sponge does water.  I will admit I’m only about 25 minutes into the audio book but I feel like I’m better informed and educated to fight the battles ahead that will assure me art success.  If you follow my blog and are too wondering what it is I’m exactly talking about with this Pressfield book, simply open another browser window, and paste this link in:

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=steven+pressfield+the+war+of+art

You will thank me later.  🙂

So what I have decided after taking in just a piece of Pressfied’s The War of Art, is to find an artist retreat somewhere, off the grid with NO internet, NO cell, NO TV!  Nothing but my paints and paper.  I’m going to find out what I’m capable of as a full time painter.  Call it an extreme artist makeover.  I’m hoping to find a scenic quiet place with a great view away from the world.  That is my self motivational kickoff to turning a new leaf.

Any location suggestions with vacancy maybe late next spring or early summer?

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A Day In The Life


    “I read the news today, boy
    About a lucky man who made the grade” 

John Lennon

There is a false sense of security one can wrap themselves in when accolades start coming your way.  This year has been very good to me in the awards department.  I pulled in $1650.00 in prize money in three out of four juried shows I attended.

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Make no mistake, winning awards is great, they are confidence builders and nice annotations to the art resume.  They don’t equate to sales; 2012 was far better for me.  I think of what new paintings I had showing compared to last year: only four small 5″ x 7″ marble paintings and one 5″ x 7″ fruit.  The latter was only on display for my last show in Lincoln Illinois.  Ultimately I feel my booth presentation improvements have helped considerably.  It’s a bit easier to spruce up a tent than it is to churn out 20 new paintings.  Consistency  and uniformity in frames, mat quality and cutting as well as professional signage are all important elements to having a good both presentation.  Yes the art is what matters most.  I feel as if I am riding on the coat tails of my older paintings.  Why?  Let me explain.

Working a full time day job sometimes makes painting after hours seem like a second job.  Often I get home and simply don’t feel like painting.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to paint, I just don’t feel motivated to start after working all day.  Ever feel like that?  Yes I know, the picture isn’t going to paint itself, you’re right.  I want to paint but I simply don’t start.  I’m sure there is some pill for that.

Don’t let me fool you, I don’t dig ditches, throw trash or haul bricks all day.  I don’t even walk uphill to work.  Quite the opposite actually.  Rather I sit on my ass in a shared office, doing a tech job that isn’t very fulfilling.  It’s a paycheck; a good one, but one that I do because I must.  I am one of those guys who works to live, not vice versa.  I wish I liked my job, but I don’t.

Ultimately my art must be able to completely replace my 9-5 income, before I quit my daily grind.  I guess that’s my dream, to wake up being my own boss, and yes, get paid for it.  Sounds ambitious right?  Perhaps, but who wants to work a long day and not get paid?  Wouldn’t you rather do something you love to do and make good money at it? Isn’t that the dream, getting paid doing what you love.

Staying motivated is the key.  Having discipline to work regardless of motivation is the answer.  Regardless of talent hard work is the difference between success and failure.  There are no less than 20-30 paintings in my head that are worth painting.  How long is it going to take?  I don’t know, but none of them will get finished unless I get my butt in front of my stretched paper and start.  I have to make the grade, by my standards.  I’m lucky to have accomplished what I have since taking up the brush back in 2006.  Right now I feel like my output is sitting at a D.  So I’ll leave you with a bullet point list of helpful thoughts.

  • Paint at least two hours a night, five days a week
  • Sketch Daily
  • Blog twice a week
  • Start using a art calendar
  • Read more art related material
  • Have short term, mid term and long term goals written out
  • Take a workshop from another artist
  • Open my Amazon store front
  • Sync my FB/Blog and website with updates
  • Get my website redesigned using a WordPress theme
  • Daily Painter
  • Seek out quality galleries

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0″ – 4″ x 6″ in 5.97 Hours


1957 MG RoadsterNot bad for a quick little painting is it?  Some might argue that 5.97 hours is a bit slow for the 4″ x 6″ class but who’s racing?

I decided my first car painting would be donated to the Post Card Art Show sponsored by the Friends of the Arts at Illinois State University, my Alma mater.  This will be my 3rd year participating in the show.  My previous paintings have raised a good deal of money for the program.

Want to see the finished original before it gets snapped up by someone else? Then you best head down to the CVA Galleries on the 27th of April for the opening.  You will get a shot at owning it or many other fine originals while raising money for the school of art.  Your ticket to the show guarantees you will walk away with one original painting.  Oh did I mention there is a plethora of hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music and yes a boat load of postcard art.

The first Lotus car painting is drawn out now and I’ll be starting that this week.

I’ll be attending the Skip Watts Memorial Exhibition & reception on April 20th in Springfield.  This was a watercolor show open to Illinois artists only.  Paul Jackson AWS, was the juror of selection and awards.  Paul has had considerable influence on my work and I look forward to seeing him at the reception.

I will also be traveling up to the IWS 29th National opening in Dixon on May 11th at the Next Picture Show Gallery. One of my favorite pieces: ‘The Collector‘ was finally juried into a major show,  by Ratindra Das AWS.
The CollectorEven better than going to an art show in Dixon is driving there with Jenny, and having some dinner with our friends Tony Armendariz and his wife Virginia.  Tony tirelessly keeps the Illinois Watercolor Society going and is a great painter and wonderful promoter of the art and the IWS.

OK now back to some 80’s Spotify and finishing this 57 MG Roadster.  See you later!

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Painting ‘Lotus’ Style


My foray into owning an impractical car has been an expensive yet surprisingly fun experience.  My racing green Lotus Elise is a glorified street legal go-cart.  It’s so much fun to drive!

My CarWith a Lotus, the journey has become more important than the destination.  Jenny, my co-pilot and navigator in life and on the road, always finds the best curvy two lanes to drive on.  Our date nights are often precluded by great drives with the top down, feeling the rush of the wind and the roar of the engine, as we hug the deserted country roads.  Long gone are trips on the semi clustered interstates, littered with tolls and asshole drivers.

I take pride in owing this little exotic, it’s surely no Ferrari or Porsche but it’s my piece of fiberglass, aluminum and plastic, that won’t be traded sold or neglected.  I’ve never owned a car like it and I probably won’t again, so it gets pampered.  He’s my garage king.  :-]

Yes my car is a guy, named after the emerald ring Barahir in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to open my car door.   Well my little Lotus has opened a few doors for me.  I’ve met a plethora of good people whom I’d never have crossed paths with in life.  Guys like Moto44, SwingLo, Gunpilot and !Me from the Lotus Talk forum.  Then there are the fine young chaps and ladies from the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club, and the guys who keep these cars running and looking great like T.J. from the FVMC, Chuck over at C.A.R.S. and even the ‘Junkman‘, who knows more about detailing a car than I do about watercolor painting, which reminds me.

It just so happens that my home town Bloomington IL,  is hosting the Champagne British Car Festival (May 31-June 2) and an art show themed around British cars!  Come June, while I’m showing off my paintings inside the historic David Davis Mansion, my Lotus will be parked out on the lawn, soaking up some sun and giving others the opportunity to see these rare vehicles.

I really have come to appreciate the Lotus Talk community.  The wealth of knowledge there about Lotus cars is unsurpassed.  Everyone shares and seems willing to exchange ideas, answer questions and talk about their car experiences.  So after mingling around for about a year usually asking way more noob questions than I could ever answer, I reached out and asked if anyone was willing to submit their car photos for me to use as reference for painting some new original art.  I was overwhelmed with hundreds of photos, more than I could ever paint in a lifetime.  All of the guys were excited about the prospect of a professional artist painting their ride. The best thing is, for the first time on that forum, I’m an expert at something.

I hope I don’t let them down…

The photos I have been given to use are gorgeous, and the pieces I chose play right into my strengths as a painter.  Here is a sneak peak…

Lotus Badge

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Artist Review I: John Howe


John at work in his Switzerland studio

John at work in his studio

I’ve never met John Howe in person, though I feel I know him, well as much as one can from emails and an internet forum.  Since I’ve been a kid John’s art has given my imaginations of Tolkien’s mythical world color, texture and light.  I remember the first Tolkien Calendar I bought back in 1988, which I still have, along with no less than a dozen others.

I would just sit and think about the worlds John depicted.  It was easy to drift off inside his pictures as I imagined what it would have been like to have seen Smaug fly over Laketown:  earth shaking roars as a conflagration of fire danced off the illuminated waters beneath him.  His translucent wings casting an amber shadow in the fading light.  Even more I imagined how anyone could make such a picture look so real, I was in awe.

I was eleven or twelve when I read the Hobbit and a junior in high school when I started reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time.  Tolkien’s books were unlike anything I had read before.  I have to thank my cousin Kevin for letting me borrow his green sleeved copy of the Hobbit, which is where all this started at.  THANKS KEVIN!  Since then, Tolkien’s writings and Howe’s art have become an integral part of my being.

A man who needs no introduction in the world of illustration; and now film, John Howe ranks as one most praiseworthy fantasy illustrators alive today.  John was born and raised in Canada and presently lives in Switzerland where he works out of his home studio.  John is a modest and most generous man who is giving of his knowledge.  We have had some very pleasant emails back and forth over the years about art.  He selflessly mentors aspiring artists through books he has published, guest speaker appearances, in email and his correspondences on the inter-webs from his website: john-howe.com.  Go visit his page, it’s full of wonderful images and good people, many whom are regulars on the art forum John hosts.

Five Reasons I admire John Howe and his art:

  1. John’s fantasy is very grounded in realism and he is one best sketch/drawers I’ve seen.
  2. His work captures fictional moments in time like no other.
  3. He possesses a mastery of light, transparency, detail, color and composition.
  4. John’s ability to work in other mediums such as ink and pencil elevate his watercolor paintings to higher levels of elegance and craftsmanship.
  5. John is a constant teacher, a kind and generous artist whose contributions to the craft have helped move fantasy art into the mainstream and inspired many to follow in his footsteps.

Meeting John for a day of art and good company is on my bucket list.

Thanks John for doing what you do.

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Marble Madness!


meI remember playing marbles back in the 70’s when I was a kid living in Michigan.  We played for “Keepsies” on occasion and I lost a few Cats Eye’s and Steely’s.  I ended up trading back for those most of the time, but it always cost me more junky marbles.

It was a different time then I guess.

My two sons didn’t  play marbles growing up, and I don’t think to many kids play these days?

Anyways between serious big wheel races, melting my army men down to slag with matches and Lysol, and just running around outside all summer I lost all my marbles.

So… I’ve been looking for some new ones for a while now.  I struck gold when I bumped into Phillip Nolley an artisan glass blower at the Columbus Art Festival a year back.  We had a nice conversations that day and I bought a few pieces from him.  I also asked if he would do me up some nice large marbles.  Boy did he come through!  I guess I should let him know his marbles are flat and in watercolor now.

Check these babies out!

Marbles

Marbles don’t paint nearly as fast as some of the other smaller

paintings I have done, so these four new 5″ x 7″ paintings took me a long time.  I got better as I went and the last one is my favorite.  There will be a large epic marble painting in my future.  :]

Marbles4 Marbles2

Marbles3 Marbles1

I have not figured out names, I’ll probably go with Marbles I-IV, yes I know very original.

OK shameless plug here:

These new originals will showcase at the Spring Bloom Arts Festival coming up Saturday March 30th at the Bloomington Interstate Center.  They will be framed and double matted @ $225.00 each.  If your tax refund is burning an art hole in your pocket, you can be the proud owner of all four original paintings for $800.00.  My last batch of 5″ x 7″ fruit paintings sold in about 45 days, so don’t sit on the fence and miss out.

Talk to you Thursday.

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Acquired Inspiration


Canyon RoadIn my recent travels to Santa Fe New Mexico and Siesta Key Florida, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into Canyon Road and fill my nearly empty cup of inspiration until it was overflowing.  In Santa Fe, I managed to walk through twenty five or so art galleries before I had to catch the train back to Albuquerque.  Watercolor art had a modest presence.  Even less represented were the ‘hyper-realism’ still life paintings I have accustomed myself to painting.  But I already knew this, and my speculations over a year ago about moving towards figurative work were spot on.  Gallery prices were through the roof too, some upwards of 60k  Were any of these selling? Who buys $60,000.00 paintings these days?  The middle class art budget has all but dried up since 9/11.

There was one artist that sticks with me still.  I was very fortunate to see a few  Steve Hanks originals hanging in the Rio Grande Gallery.  Simply amazing!  Yet I feel that it’s in me to render people as well as I can glass, perhaps in time, as well as he does.

Santa Fe was great to visit and I definitely would recommend this cozy little town to anyone interested in art.  I will be returning someday so I can take my time and spend several days in this western art mecca.  By the time I hopped the train back to Albuquerque I had reached art overload an still hadn’t seen even a quarter of what was there.

My BoysThanksgiving in Florida helped me refresh from a long summer of shows and a nearly absence of painting in the early autumn.  Just sitting in the sand, soaking up the sun on Siesta Key with nothing to do was great.  I got to just listen to the waves crash ashore in the warm sun.  It really helped wipe the slate clean and renew my affinity for nature, family and just being.  Sometimes the simple things in life like waves on the shore, amber and crimson sunsets or listening to trees creak in a gentle wind can remind us of our humanity and affinity with mother nature, all we need to do is stop a minute to listen.

For now there are some paintings I have to get done that were supposed to be done months ago.  Five small marble paintings, a glass piece, one swim painting, a surrealism building picture and then I’ll be diving into figurative work.  Anyone interested in modeling for me?

New Glass New Glass (zoomed)

See you next year!

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A (cold) day of firsts…


My friend John Stoeckley ( http://www.stoeckley.com ) invited me to attend a Plein Air event in his hometown of Louisiana Missouri late last month.  My initial thoughts were, “I suck at Plein Air, I’ve never done it.  My watercolors are about control and planning… how could I get that kind of painting out side when the light changes by the minute?

I could not pull this kind of loose painting off on the fly.  So I told John “Yes, sure I’m interested.

So I packed my art stuff up, trying to stay as portable as possible and drove to Louisiana.  It was very cold for outdoor painting that morning. The temperature was somewhere in the mid 40’s and very windy.  It didn’t warm up anywhere close to where my hands and fingertips were not tingling until around 2:00 PM or so.  I was really stressed about producing something that would not look like some amateur slop poured onto a piece of watercolor paper.

Mississippi River, looking south from Louisiana

The plan was to stay away from water, as it has been a subject that has brought me some frustration in past paintings.  So I drove around good old downtown Louisiana for about 30 minutes,  looking for the right spot.  All this while I was worrying about starting too late and not finishing my painting on time.  I ended up on a hill overlooking the Mississippi river, which was exactly where I went first, but skipped since it was overlooking the river (water).  As I drove around the little town, I kept trying to find something that topped that location, and nothing came to me as I scanned around.

So I went back to the hill again, to have a second look.  The sun was blazing over the water, almost a white out light, it was beautiful and nothing matched the view.  So I unpacked and started painting the scene in the photo above.

At no point was I happy with my progress.  I almost called it quits a few times.  Several people came up to watch and complimented my work.  It was hard not to make up excuses to the friendly strangers, so I just smiled and thanked them.  By the end I was cold, tired and had just about enough of this plein air stuff.  I put about six hours into this picture and just could not see what anyone would like about it.  If you know me well enough, you know that I’m my own worst critic and perhaps one of the better pessimists around.  >:-]

Boy was I wrong…  At the end of the days painting there was to be an art show for all the participants.  Thankfully John has his frame shop just down the street so we framed my painting and I took it to the art show.  The painting sold for $200.00 and I also received a peoples choice ribbon.  What a great ending to a tough day painting outdoors for the first time in my life.

9″ x 12″ Watercolor or Arches 140LB.

I learned a lot that day, and I know I will be doing more plein air painting, albeit when it’s warmer out!  Painting this way really forces you to paint loose and fast and it has provided me with some counter balance to the tight representational work I normally do in my studio.  Next time I paint outdoors, I’ll be better prepared and have a better, more positive expectation for this type of work.

Doing this makes one really appreciate the masters in the craft.

Until next time…

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Busy as a Bee


Well it has been many weeks since I’ve checked in here, so I’m going to cover some ground and get caught up.  Life have been hectic!  Work has been busy and frustrating over the last month or two.  Things at home seem just as busy and in between all of that I manage to squeeze in some art time.  :-\

The Raven painting got shelved… I got so irritated with the center black book that I had to stop before I killed the entire thing.  It’s been sitting facing the wall in timeout at my studio for about as long as I’ve been neglectful of my blog here.  People ask me about it, and I’ve finally got back into the mood to continue work on it.  My time will be split between The Raven and some commission work I’ve started.  I need to dig in and really get some painting done.

Image

Speaking of art, I was recently invited to speak about my work at the Eaton’s Studio & Gallery http://www.eatonstudiogallery.com/  Herb and his wife Pam have been most generous in giving me the floor during one of their Wednesday Gather at the Gallery meetings.  I enjoyed talking about my art and how things have evolved over the last four to five years for me.  In addition to this opportunity I was able to whip up a few small paintings for the Friends of the Arts 5th Annual fundraiser for the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University: http://finearts.illinoisstate.edu/support/postcardart.shtml  I donated two small postcard sized watercolors:  ‘Sunglasses‘ and an untitled painting. Both are 4″ x 6″ postcard watercolors.

ImageImageI’ve come to enjoy working smaller, but it is very difficult to develop the details I savor in my larger work.  I have to truncate a lot of the subtle variations in light and color while trying to achieve the effects I love to show.  I was unable to attend the opening so I don’t know who went home with my work, I hope these little paintings find a good frame and a cozy wall or corner to reside in.  I also finished another smaller painting which is the fifth of my fruit series.  I named it “Intermingling”.  I’m pretty satisfied with these smaller pieces but its time to move on to other subjects.  I’ll probably work in more smaller paintings while I hammer away at large works I have to do.

ImageThe first quarter of 2012 has brought me a few festival and exhibition rejections.  This has been the third year I have applied to the Peoria Art Guilds Fine Art Fair. That is $105.00 in application fee’s out the window.  I won’t be applying again, enough is enough.  I don’t know what they are looking for, I wish I did.  I have friends who get into this show year after year.  I have been around long enough to know my craftsmanship and technique is just as strong, my booth shots just as clean and professional looking.   My work should speak for itself…  I didn’t make the Missouri National nor the AWS.  I missed the Transparent Watercolor Societies deadline, so I’ll still keep trying next year.  I think it’s time to send in some portrait type of work instead of the still life subjects I’ve been shopping around the watercolor society shows.  Just ahead is the IWS’s small waters exhibition, the NWS and Watercolor West’s  juried exhibitions.

“Yes John you can apply to all of these shows, you just need to produce some new work!”

Next weekend is the opening of the Illinois Watercolor Societies 28th National Watercolor Exhibition.  My painting “Made in China” was juried in.  I took a little road trip up to The Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon IL last Sunday to drop it off.  I got a sneak peak of the other paintings and I must say I am pretty impressed.  I have a few favorites I think are going to pull in some awards.  I’ll be in good company for sure.

The SpringBloom Art Festival came and went.  It was in a new venue this year.  It is a small local indoor show I like to attend because it gets me back into the festival mindset.  I re-learn how to put up my erector set of a tent up while I get insights on improving and tweaking my presentation for later shows in the year.  I am thankful for the help my wife Jenny gives me every show.

Image

Without her and some muscle from Ed and the other kids, setting up and tearing down would be an ordeal.  My festival agenda is spotty at the moment.  I am on a few wait lists and may get moved onto another.  I hope things pan out so I can attend my hometown outdoor festival and perhaps the 4th Street Festival in Bloomington Indiana.  I was close to the wait list in Columbus this year but I’m getting short on time and unless they call soon, I won’t make it there in June.  Time will tell.

By next post, I hope to have finished a new large commission and have resolved the challenges with The Raven.  More to come!

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