I suppose most paradoxes are by nature counterintuitive but the two words together make me sound smart. The paradox I’m referring to is what sells versus what doesn’t, specifically why it is that the paintings that are my personal favorite that I’ve done over the years usually, though not always, stay in my studio. Economic crisis aside, even in the salad days, my favs usually stuck around, while pieces I thought were good but not having that extra special thing would move on out the door. Paintings of boats and water are usually good sellers. That’s not why I paint them, of course, I love marines, love the water and love painting boats because they are hard to paint well.
Usually in a painting event I go right for the boats because it’s my area of specialty but there’s one (seen above) that I regard as my best marine to date. It went to one of my galleries in Vero (meghan candler, a great gallery for me) and then to a show in Oklahoma and both times came back. When I look at this painting I am satisfied that I did my best, nice compostion, good color and atmosphere, good drawing and some of my best brush work. This isn’t the only case, usually if I paint anything mechanical like bridges or city scenes they don’t do as well as my marines, but I keep painting them because that’s what I enjoy painting. I find these kinds of scenes lend themselves to more adventurous compositions, allowing me to break up a canvas in new and different ways.
My point to this little jag is that if there was ever a time to follow your heart and find your voice, this is it, if you want to stand out as an artist and separate yourself from the pack, paint what you love.
Archive for March, 2009
Teaching is hard work, but fortunately for me I enjoy it. I like people, enjoy making them laugh and get a big kick out of watching someone transform their work in a short amount of time. It’s taken me about 14 years as an instructor (9 years at a community college and 5 teaching workshops) to figure out how to tell people in a very short amount of time what it is they need to work on and how to address the problems they have in painting. I just came from teaching 2 workshops in a row; an oil workshop and a oil and pastel workshop and the response was really positive. Not one to toot my horn usually, I will say I’m a good instructor because that’s what I hear from my students. In fact, I’m going to post a few of the comments from a thank you card given to me after this last class. A great class due in part to their enthusiasm and already having skills to work with.
The trick is figuring out what to teach in each class. Usually the fundamentals are in order every time: drawing, value, color, shape, form and edge. But sometimes classes should be more specific. So I’m going to shoot for 5 to 6 fundamentals based classes each year and 2 or 3 specialty classes and I’m going to do a better job promoting them, though they are posted on my website, little info is given and many don’t see them anyway. I’ll have a full workshop spread including materials lists and recommendations for various products to use and full descriptions of the the upcoming classes with prices. Some of the specialty classes will be: Finding and furthering your voice as an artist, Working larger scale in the studio, Brush language, The power of shape and the ever popular Color theory in action class. I had to cancel the nude painting class because no one wanted to take their clothes off outside.
Here are some of the comments from this last class in Clearwater:
“You are not only a master at your work, you are a master instructor.”
“This was wonderful- a lot to take in but you present beautifully.”
“Thank you for sharing so much knowledge and experience. I gained a great amount of information.”
“Can’t ever imagine some “outside force” slowing you down! (I had a cold while teaching the workshop) You’re a great inspiration and a great teacher.”
“It would be easier to take in all that information if you weren’t so damn handsome.”
Okay, nobody said that last one, but the rest were real and of course a blatant act of self-promotion on my part.
I’m back from Maui. It was a good event all things considered, fair sales, good responses and I hope to go back next year, maybe sooner for another workshop. I guess I painted well enough, didn’t think so at the time but had gotten enough good feedback to help reframe my thinking on it. Included above are two of about 9 paintings from the trip, the one on the left was a 16×20 and it won the artist choice award and the one on the right was a 10×12 from the quickdraw. The lavender gardens just sorta worked out light-wise, it took me several hours to find this place up in the mountains, they are not big on signage there but it was worth the effort. Being in the mountains the foreground was under constant cover but the valley below was always in light so I was able to work, or I should say overwork the painting for about 5 hours before it was quittin’ time. Sometimes too much time on a painting is, well, too much. In poker terms I went all in and lost any sense of direction in the painting, but put it away for two days and gave it another pass. I took out a lot of stuff and simplified it greatly, especially in the foreground… everything got repainted. The main thing I restated was the subtle light on all the foreground shrubs in shadow as well as looked for ways to vary mass.. anyway I guess it worked out.
The quickdraw was a small piece for me, but that really allowed me to stay loose and get a lot done in the short amount of time alotted. In a quickdraw, it’s not a good idea to take huge risks (maybe little ones are okay) because it goes up no matter what, plus I like boats and am comfortable with water. When I walked up to this marina the composition was right there, the little boats on the left led right up to the main event. I sketched it in a few times ahead of time, much to the ire of some of the other painters, but right before the starting bell, I wiped all of it out and started fresh.
I learned so much from this trip, the biggest thing came from a discussion with Kevin Macpearson after gawking at his highly sensitive color explorations, I said something along the lines of “man, I wish I could do that.” and he said something along the lines of “you’re doing fine” and so I decided to quit wishing I was someone else and began being the best me I can be.
Oh and by the way, finally got to surf on HI. two days in a row… what took me so long?
I’ve been thinking on this one a while and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions: 1) We all have an innate color palette and 2) Forcing your palette to change just to fit into a group or movement or even a specific artists way is not always a good thing. I’m not saying don’t continue to learn new things, I just think using someone elses system just because you think it’s better than yours may take you from your individual path. It’s great to take workshops and learn new systems and methods but make them your own, don’t copy some colorist or tonalist movement just because you believe it’s the only way. Most of the great painters had/have their own way of doing things. One general plein air tenet is no black on your palette, but Sargent used it and used it beautifully. Scott Powers uses it. Or only use a limited palette, while I use a limited palette and it’s a great way to really learn color, it’s not the only way.
I’ve put up a painting from a paint out last week and when I looked at my work compared to others, as I have in other events, I see that I paint towards the warm spectrum. I see a lot of red in everything. Is that bad or is it good? I’ve finally come to terms with my pallette and am just trying to make it better in baby steps. One key is to have balance with your color system. A mix of lights and darks, a variety of cools to offset the warms, neutrals to balance the saturation and so on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no one way to do anything. If you really want to work on things, work on drawing first, value, color and then new compositional motifs and shape making skills. Try new things but follow your still, quiet voice that makes you who you are. Amen.
One year during my annual Carmel Art Festival event I was looking for a spot in one of my usual haunts, an old marina at the end of the peninsula on Moss Landing. The place is always chock full of boats, mostly old tugs, sailboats and shrimpers being worked on in various stages. I come here every year as my fall back, I may not always get rocks right but I feel pretty confident in painting boats. So I get there at 6:30, gray overcast skies and a light marine layer wafting through the sail masts. It’s too early for the marina to be open but you can slip between the fence and get to the water easy enough. With coffee in hand I’m standing there trying to figure out which boat to paint and this guy appears from nowhere… kind of a combination boat hand and serial killer. He walks up to me and gives me this look like “Not only have I not showered this year but I’m going to dice you up and use you for chum.”
I was a tad unnerved, nobody around, it could have been the end for me, but no, he kept walking. Just sort of scowled and scuffled on down the dock to the boat that was evidently his apartment. Since he didn’t kill me on the spot I figured I was good for a couple more hours and set up on the sea wall to paint. 2 hours and change later the tide had dropped and here comes Charles Manson again, though he takes the stairs off the dock to the now showing sand since the tide had dropped. He walks out about 15 feet and digs a hole out with his heel and then whistles. From his boat I see movement, something orange pops it’s head out. It was a cat. Not your run of the mill cat but a wide beat up puma looking thing that most dogs would avoid. The cat runs down the dock to the sand and finds the newly dug hole and pees in it.
It was a very tender moment between a serial killer deckhand and his puma. Just goes to show you can’t always tell about people.
By the way, if there’s something you want me to write about, ask. Post a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I only write about stuff when I think of it but if you have questions about how to do something, let me know.
Did I mention I’m working on a book? More later….