Tag Archives: madisonart

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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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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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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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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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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