Tag Archives: Madison 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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Saving the Best for Last


In two days I will likely attend my last art festival for the season, unless my wait listed status for the 4th Street Art Fair in Bloomington Indiana changes, which I doubt, as it’s the 4th year in a row I’ve been wait listed.

Actually Lincoln may be my last festival in the Midwest.  This festival has been good to me over the three years I have attended.  I’ve enjoyed decent sales, a great booth location and most surprising two wonderful awards I was given by the jury.  The first; a Best of Show, and the second a First Place in Fine Art.  Last but not least was Marty Ahrends who organized the show the first two years I attended and was a wonderful host.

Looking back at my July blog post, I was in much the same place as I am now, a few days out from the next art festival hoping for good weather and crowds.  Sugar Creek ended up being great.  The crowds were wonderful as was the weather.  Topping it off was a First Place Award in Fine Art.

2013 Award Winners

2013 Sugar Creek Award Winners

So after five years of banging away at watercolor paintings I think I’ve established myself locally with a solid body of work, a handful of notable awards and some great opportunities to teach others my craft.  Now there is a strong possibility I will be packing my bags and moving to Oregon.  Getting roots down somewhere else won’t be as difficult, but I will be leaving behind some friends and a community of artist and patrons whom I’ve enjoyed working with and painting for.

Tonight the tent gets packed and we drive to Lincoln to setup.  The weather forecast looks good, my booth spot is the same as last years and I’ve knocked my prices down a bit on my originals.  I have not moved one in a long time so we will see if I’ve adjusted correctly.   If you’re reading this, it may be your last chance to walk away with an original

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Treading Water and Watercolors


Well I’m overdue again for some news but better late than never right?  🙂

Ed

High School Graduation

Let’s see, since my last post here, our basement flooded and our upstairs bathtub drain decided to leak into our kitchen all on the same day!  The basement sump stopped working during a torrent of rain and it only took one hour to flood our entire basement with about one inch of water.  That ordeal set me back about 30-45 days in cleaning up and getting the basement back in order.  Such a pain in the butt.  The icing on the cake was the fact that after my first art show back in April I brought all my paintings to the house and put them in the basement… Yes, the basement.

Fortunately I had them wrapped in plastic wrap with bubble corners on all of them so nothing got wet.  Anyways, after a lot of wall painting, new carpet and a new sump everything is back in order.  Then we tackled the upstairs leak and decided to gut the bath and remodel.  Add another 30-45 days of tear out and work and contractors and we have our new bath upstairs.

The next big deal was the decision to move out of my downtown studio and setup the garage so that I can paint from home.  With the kids being older going back to a home studio makes more sense.  Before I could consider that, we had to get a shed built to make room for an art studio in the garage.  Thanks to Jenny; who deftly handled that all by herself, it got done in between two weeks of almost daily rain.  It saves some money and gives me enough privacy to work yet be close to my kids.    Speaking of which, my oldest son Ed is leaving us for college in about 40 days and it bums me out a bit that he is going to be gone.  😦

I’ll adjust but it will take some getting used too.  Ed graduated last May and now my boy has become a fine young man, who must figure out his own life and destiny, without me hovering over.  We will always be there for him, but we are both entering a new stage in life.  Thinking about an empty nest has been on my mind a lot lately, even though I have two younger children still at home.  It’s weird how quiet the house has been on days when they are all out socializing and visiting friends or swimming.  They are all pretty active and I already miss them.

Anyways, lots of new painting projects going on.  I have a big car piece I’ve just finished drawing out, two new little paintings to bring to the Sugar Creek Art Festival this coming weekend.  Booth N27 if you care to stop in to look.  Three commissions I am starting on: Gayle’s glass piece, Dr. Dave’s piece and Daniel’s book cover.  I also plan on going back to a glass piece I started before the floods, and yes that shelved Raven painting to see if I can salvage it.  If only the garage would clean and organize itself so I can feel like I’m working in a functional studio.

See you after Sugar Creek!

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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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