Tag Archives: Illinois Watercolor Society

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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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.

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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.

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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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Moving Targets


We are well into 2012 already and I’ve had to shift gears and make some adjustments art wise.  The first batch of show applications went out and came back with nothing to report other than try again next year.  I just don’t think still life holds much value to jurors in comparison to other subjects.  I’m going to give ‘Made in China‘ one more shot at the IWS National, which I have to submit to today.  After that I think I’m going to shelf the idea of entering my still life work into national competitions.  In order to counterbalance this I have begun to focus more on commissions that I’ve needed to get started on.

Locally I seem to be getting more traction with my art.  I was invited to speak at another artists’ gallery and show some of my work there.  The city of Normal has a new large construction going up and they have invited local artists to submit work for the building.  I put in three pieces for my submission and hopefully something will come of that.

Speaking of submissions, my son Ed has some art talent and entered a local amateur art show through his high school art class and was juried in.  The show opens today with the awards ceremony at the McLean County Art Center.  I remember several years ago applying to this show myself.  I’m looking forward to going today and it makes me proud to see my son get into his first show.  Maybe he will continue with art and get many years of enjoyment from it.  I’ll have some photos of this for my next post.

Where the pigment meets the paper has been frustrating me lately.  I started this full sheet painting of another still life focused on an Edgar Alan Poe theme of books, glass a skull and a yes a raven.

I drew some inspiration from the 16th and 17th century Vanitas styled European paintings.  I’ve ran into some technical challenges and ended up scrubbing and lifting out a book that turned out pretty awful after the first attempt.  The problem I’ve had is the golden/yellow light hitting the black spine of the book.  There are several swiftly graded value transitions that I just over worked trying to get the look right.  The book lettering didn’t turn out well either so I ended up taping it off and sponge scrubbing the paint up.  The paper is slightly eroded but workable.  I decided to just simplify the book and make it entirely black without lettering.  Mentally I’ve checked out of this painting and I decided to pull it off the table and start other work.  I sat stagnant staring at it for hours and hours wondering if I should just start over, or not.  For now I’m done with it but I do plan on getting back to it at some point.  It is perhaps one of the more difficult paintings I’ve attempted.  The subject matter of this painting has a wide variety of surfaces, textures, patterns and shapes to deal with collectively and I may have bit off more than I could chew.

Time will tell, for now, it’s on to a surreal landscape commission.

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Learning from Artist Magazines


I subscribe to a lot of art magazines, probably too many, but I love them.  My favorites are Watercolor Artist, and AA Watercolor.   I rarely read them from cover to cover but I do spot read articles that interest me and I always look at all the artwork.  Someday one of my paintings will be in one of those magazines and maybe I’ll even get some press coverage to boot.

I wanted to share with all of you some observations I put together.  Take from it what you will; it is good information if you are wondering what kind of watercolor artwork is getting recognized nationally.  This is sourced from ‘Watercolor Artist: Feb 2011’ which covered the best paintings of 2010.  Basically it’s a compilation of the top watercolor art societies show winners from across the country.  There were twenty-two paintings listed, so I just started categorizing them by type and size.

The sizes of these paintings varies but the majority; nine, were 22” x 30”.   Seven were larger than this with the largest spanning 40” x 40”.  Six were smaller, again not by much with the smallest at 15” x 30”.  Portraits made up the majority of subjects with six.  Following this were abstracts at four, then images of daily life and landscapes tied with three each.  Trailing behind were two cityscapes and last but not least, a lone still life.  One of the paintings was an abstract portrait, so I counted this in both categories.

What I walked away with is this.  Paint what you want, but go big or go home.  Portraits seem to interest people more than anything because it brings in the human factor and story to a painting.  I honestly liked most of the work, in particular John Salminen’s cityscapes, and Daniel Vangeli’s self portrait.  That year I submitted work to the Missouri and Transparent exhibitions but was turned down.  I met Ken Call up at the Illinois Watercolor Society Members show last fall.  Ken took home top honors at the Louisiana Watercolor exhibition.  Seems to me I’m lurking in the right places and becoming familiar with good artists and show expectations.   I just need to find the right juror who likes what I have to offer.

This year I submitted art to the AWS, TWSA, MoWS, Splash 13 and the Artist Magazine.  I will be sending something to the jury of the NWS and there are a few others I’m eyeing.  From this list I’m showing in the TWSA (Transparent Watercolor Society of America) and hopefully if my luck holds out, I’ll make it into that Artists Magazine exhibition.  The rest turned my work down.  It is progress, albeit slow progress.  If the art festivals I’m in this year all tank , maybe I will redirect some of my energy into other avenues.  Time will tell.

I have a new painting done, three in the works and more news.  Lastly I’ve had some thoughts about expanding into a newer coalition gallery across town.  Stay tuned.

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First Salvos


Sitting back at my command post, ‘the studio’, I ponder over my mental battle plan for this year.  Spread out on my table in front of me is the arsenal I will use.   My first offensive opens with a 22” x 30” still life watercolor.  Flanking this rests an assortment of Kolinsky Kayak brushes (See Paul Jackson if you want a set), two Tom Lynch porcelain palettes well oiled and ready, each loaded with Winsor & Newton Artist Watercolors.  Nestled between the painting and the paint rests three large vessels of water.  The rest of the room is a mess: receipts everywhere, extra paints, folders, notepads, sketchbooks, pencils and just about everything else that has something or another to due with the business of making art.

Late last year, I began to formulate how 2011 would be a more successful year for me.  This meant I needed to produce qualitatively better paintings, which exhibited something more than a journeyman’s grasp of mechanics.  All my paintings are personal, but sometimes I think they are lifeless and don’t hold the attention of a viewer near as long as someone who paints more compelling subjects.  We’ll see how that goes this year.  My first painting, “Reflections in History” is hopefully a step in that direction.

Other elements of my battle plan are to schedule myself three times as many festivals, and participate in several national shows.  I didn’t get into the AWS National, but I am waiting on jury results for the Missouri Watercolor National, the Transparent Watercolor Societies’ National, and Splash 13.  Later next month I will be sending something down to the Louisiana Watercolor Societies National show and later this year my art will hit the jury’s of the IWS and the NWS.   That’s seven contents that I can think of.  I fully expect to get into three maybe four, which would be three or four more than I was accepted in last year.  2010 was a year of member shows for me.  I tried the MOWS and TWSA National’s last year and didn’t make the jury cuts.  I’ll keep painting, and keep entering… eventually something will give and my persistence will pay off!

In Progress image of my first painting of 2011

So far I’m on schedule.  I will have this new painting done in the next week tops, and I will move onto two other pieces and start my drawing commissions finally.  I wanted to get more into the process of this painting I’m working on now, but that will have to wait until my next post.  For now, you will have to settle for a photo.

Cheers

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Chasing Trains


This last weekend was very enjoyable, except the part where I had to wash the entire outside of the house on Sunday. Other than that major choir, I had a great time with my son Robert. We went up to Chicago and spent the evening together. Robert has never ridden on a train, so I decided to drive up to Joliet and take the Chicago Metra up to the city proper and walk to the IWS Members show reception from the train station.

We got a late start out of Bloomington but we still had a spare 30 minutes to get to the Joliet station… until there was a lane closure about ten miles south of our exit. That wiped out the cushion of time we had. After crawling at five miles per hour for what seemed an eternity, we finally broke free of the logjam and had a mere fifteen minutes to get on the train. Unfortunately we were still ten miles away from Joliet. The alternative was to hop back in the car and drive the rest of the way up: dealing with the downtown Chicago traffic and parking.

Lady Luck was with us, that day. I used my phone to GPS us about a block from the train station, which had our train sitting on the overpass as we drove by it. I took the first right after the station and it was a residential street with free parking and space, so I didn’t hesitate. Robert and I flew out of the car as soon as the wheels stopped. I made poor Robert sprint a

bout two and a half blocks. I was ahead of him some trying to get the conductors attention before he got on. Robert and I boarded and sat there out of breath for about twenty minutes as we cooled off from our mad dash.

The rest of the evening was very enjoyable. We pulled into Chicago with a good ten to fifteen minutes before the artists reception started. So we leisurely walked several blocks to the show and spent a few hours mingling about and looking at all the artwork. Several of the paintings I had picked out the week prior won, including on of my favorites by artist Ken Call. His painting won the best of show. I gave Rob the camera and he took quite a few good pictures, including Ken’s so I must include these here. ☺

 

IWS 2010 Members Best of Show Painting

Deep in thought?

IWS 2010 Members Show Winners

 

 

 

We finally moseyed out and headed to a German restaurant around the block and had a nice dinner at The Berghoff, another first for Robert that night. Finally we boarded the 8:40 train and rolled back to Joliet. It was a bit after ten when we got back to the car and around midnight when I pulled in to the house. It was very difficult to keep awake and I was struggling the closer we got to home.

There is no better way to get to Chicago than a train ride. It takes away all the hassle of traffic and allows you to relax. I just wish there was a better alternative to Amtrak; their prices are not very good, nor is the quality or efficiency of the ride itself. I forgot how much I enjoy the city, and I really would like to spend more time up there, mainly to take pictures for more painting references and to enjoy the plethora of great restaurants and cultural attractions Bloomington seems devoid of. I’d like to close this off with a promise to start talking more about some of the art techniques and processes I have as I work through my paintings.

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Laying the Foundations


It’s lunch now, and I’m sitting here in the studio on a brisk Monday formulating this post in my head.  I just got an email from the Illinois Watercolor Societies’ Tony Armendariz, informing me that my painting ‘Reading Time’ was juried a merchandise award at the 2010 Members Show in Chicago this last Friday.  That is a pretty wonderful thing, but it made me think of how many 1000’s of other artists are competing for attention and recognition just in Illinois alone, let alone the rest of the country.   How can I rise up to be noticed?  I don’t think I have reached far beyond my family and friends as far as my trade name goes in the art world.

Is it luck that some artists become up and coming on the national scene, is it ambition, or perhaps it is pure talent, or could it be knowing the right people at the right time?  I think from where I am standing, looking up from the first rung on the ladder of art success, is that success itself is easy to talk about, difficult to visualize and exceedingly tough to make a reality.  Art has never been a necessity for people, it’s a luxury and in tough economic times, even my art budget suffers.

I believe the ingredients to art success, ought to start with some technical ability first, followed by creativity, discipline, business smarts and last but not least, exposure.  I’m sure there are plenty of ‘closet’ artists out there who are brilliant, yet their work is remains unknown and unappreciated by others because of a lack of exposure.  The art world seems fickle; some artists are embraced by the critics, the masses and even fewer reach fame, all for a variety of reason.  Other artists are overlooked, perhaps undeserving so the question remains why?  I don’t have the answers, so I can only speculate.  There is a wealth of information out there if your willing to look for it, which I have made every attempt to do.  I do think timing as well as knowing the right people along with a bit of luck along the way helps a great deal.

After the twenty year art drought ended for me back four years ago, the notion that I was not good enough began to erode away, but it took four years, a few awards and a lot of compliments from strangers to really break free of that mindset.  Today, on this cool Monday, I no longer think that my work is substandard to my peers, or that I should give up my dreams.  Rather I am beginning to think more positively and pursue opportunities that are sitting there waiting for me.  The AWS and NWS organizations come to mind, as does the plethora of artist magazines who sponsor calls to artists every year.  The watercolor societies I’m already a member of have great shows, which I have been privileged to be part of, at the national and membership levels.  Then there is the festival circuit, which has been a nice revenue generator for me.  Toss in a web site, maybe a good blog, even a studio and the willingness to travel to shows in larger cities and I think I have all the necessary ingredients to continue to grow and take a few more steps up the ladder.  No one is going to promote me other than me, and the notion that some rich patron will sweep me off my feet and carry me to the New York art scene is ridiculous.

Yet, there is still doubt…  When I dropped off my painting to the IWS show Friday, I had the chance to walk the show and view all of the 42 paintings there, and by god many of them were damn good.  I immediately picked out my favorites and knew that ‘winning’ something would be a challenge for anyone in the show.  Yet I felt I was in good company, and had a competitive chance at being noticed.  So when that email from Tony arrived in my inbox, it put a smile on my face.

So now what?  Well I need to paint more as I have already preached about here in the past.  Some paintings come easy, along with the ideas to create them; other times, everything becomes a struggle and it feels as if the work will never get done.  Therein lies the discipline to work through the lulls and keep focused on goals and improving with each piece I paint.  I still remember my New Years resolution to paint one painting a month and read a book a month.  I have failed both, but marginally with the paintings and significantly with the reading.  If by December I can finish another five to six pieces, I will have been successful.  Presently I’m still working on ‘The Collector’, (see below):

In Progress photo of my latest watercolor painting

I’ve considered renaming this to “Lord of the Books’ but it sounds a bit cliché.  What do you think about the names?  Do they matter really?   Post a reply here with your choice of name or if you have another in mind by all means say so.  Wow… that was two posts in two days, what the hell is wrong with me.  >;-]  Maybe I should take a blog break until December!  Just kidding, I’ll be back around here soon.  Cheers.

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