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Archive for May, 2009

*nod to stephen hawking.

In furtherance of the voice of the artist discussion, I’m posting a painting by Richard Deibenkorn which is a landscape (part of the ocean park series) pushed just about as far as you can go before it completely dissolves into abstraction. Maybe some of you might not like this piece, some may have a negative response to it as a landscape but it’s a landscape, at least it refers vaguely to the lanscape. I’m a big fan of Mr. Deibenkorn and on a separate page (art history) I’ve posted 7 landscape paintings by various master artists that show the range of interpretation from straight forward realism to abstraction, 2 of the paintings are his.

The voice of the artist comes from three things: ability, vision, and, for lack of a better word, style. Ability comes from the 10,000 hours it takes to master a thing. Vision is the desire to have something to say that is unique  (concept and content) and style is the combination of painting methodology, palette, shape, edge and level of interpretation. Vision and style evolve from the 10,000 hours it takes to figure out who and what we are. Where we all fall in this spectrum is, of course, up to us. When you look at the early works of most master artists you can see clear influence from others, it’s not until the time gets put in that the individual artists voice emerges. The thing I always find interesting is how an artist on one end of the spectrum can not accept and artist on the other, each is only a series of steps from the other.  Check out the page called art history and see what you think.8diebenkorn_ocean_park

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A friend of mine at the studio came in with an artnews mag and held up a full page ad with a painting of a chicken and said “I’ll bet you can’t tell me who this artist is!” and I said without blinking an eye, Grant Wood. I had never seen the piece before, it was completely unlike anything else he had done (American Gothic) in almost every way and yet I knew without thinking who it was. The artists voice is the thumbprint of the individuals approach to picture making. If I were to make a list of some of the things that distinguish one artist from another, or the voice of an artist, shape making would be right up there. How many paintings of rocks, water, trees and mountains can there be out there? and yet there are a handful of artists whom you can identify at a distance or in the blink of an eye even if you have never seen the work before. Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia Okeefe, Maynard Dixon, Thomas Burchfield, William Wendt etc. They could all paint the exact same scene and resolve it so that each is distinctive from the other.

When I was in Carmel, Don Son Sondag and I (fellow artist from Mcrae studios) stumbled on this painting on the back wall of a gallery, I think it was william karges gallery. It’s big. 6×7 feet or so and it sure got my attention. I mean it’s just rocks and water and we’d been looking at other artists marine paintings for hours so what’s the big dealeeo? For one the shapes, both positive and negative are really workin in this piece. The rocks are not so much realistic as they are interpreted and are divided into light side and shadow side with color modulation in each. Part of good shape making is  being consistent with the nature of the shape but not repeat exactly the mass or size or make a twin anywhere in the composition, variety within a framework of continuity. Think if it like writing, writing has rhythm and flow. If you repeat a word or a phrase in a paragraph or drop in some ∏Δ∑ΨΦ’ξ in a paragraph, it really stands out in a paragraph. It  takes some doing to find the repeated and foreign shapes and whittle them down . Take a look at any great painter and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

paul lauritz

paul lauritz

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These things can get a little too self aggrandizing sometimes, something I really don’t normally do but I guess in some ways I’m proud when I go out to California and come back with a win. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to post other artists work, especially deceased ones. So here’s a start. Mr. Dean Cornwell, whom I’ve mentioned, was an illustrator extroardinaire and student of Howard Pyle or Harvey Dunn, I’m not sure which. He was a brilliant composer of a scene and since most of his work was editrial in nature, the objects in his scenes were people doing things. He was a first rate story teller who always looked for a new vantage point and a unique point of view. Case in point is this little gem sent to me by a guy who’s been collecting D.C. print samples.

And when we are talking about composition, what are we really talking about? Division of space and how the eye flows through the picture. Eye flow comes sometimes in patterns, some simple, some complex. This one is along the lines of the “s” or river composition (See Edgar Paynes Compostions in outdoor painting) . The other half of this is creating a variety of dominant and subordinate elements, a hierarchy, throughout so your eye knows where to start and where to finish. Pretty clear to me where I’m starting and where I’m ending up. And he did this with just two colors (plus white) some kind of veridian and, I don’t know, tar maybe. Dominant element: dead girl, up the dress to their two faces (focal point) and up through the guy to the boys looking helpless over the dead guy in the background and back to the dress because you can’t resist it. Damn good stuff.deancornwell

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Here’s one more from the event, a 16 x 20 done out at Moss Landing. Moss Landing is a real mans marina. No pretty, shiny boats out there, but big ugly beat up smelly things that go out working everyday or are decaying and waiting for something up on land. It’s a huge place that I go to at the beginning of every Carmel event because boats are my safety net, I like doing them and can place them in most galleries should they not sell in CA. The very specific California coast stuff is a tough sell here on the east coast, plus I just got word that I’ve been accepted as a signature member into the American Society of Marine Artists which is pretty cool and I can use any marine paintings I do up there at their annual members show.I went to my usual spot in Moss Landing to see what they had, and found nothing there of note so skooched over to the next boat place and found this scene. It’s a lot to take in at one go but to keep the the composition in check I used this little view finder that Greg LaRock gave me with a grid in it. I used the grid as I looked through it to place the key elements. Sometimes it really helps, sometimes hinders, the creative impulse. I was drawn to the jagged, geometric foreground against the soft muted tones of the middle and distance. Plus I sometimes ask myself, what would Emile Gruppe do in this situation and he would opt for the more complicated scenes.I suppose I could ask myself what Jesus would do but he was a carpenter and would probably be working on the boats.

I did have some luck with the light, the marine layer stuck around all morning and the wind stayed down. I did have two large tugs pull up to the foreground dock to fuel up but I just worked around them. On a sad note there was a sweet little seal pup asleep on the beach next to me who, on closer inspection wasn’t sleeping. Very sad… almost couldn’t paint after seeing t

Moss Landing grays

Moss Landing grays

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California gold

the california cypress

the california cypress

Back from the Carmel Art festival trip and it was good. Better than I expected anyway. Don Sondag (from the Mcrae studio) and I got there on monday and painted from sunrise to sunset everyday to ramp up to the coast and it’s vast differences from the Florida landscape. The event started Wednesday eve with 55 or so artists checking their canvases starting at 5. Since Don and I had already been all over and found a few new places I knew that I wanted to start with what I thought would be the best painting, a 16×20 of the cypress trees on 17 mile drive (seen above). Got that blocked in between 6 and 8 pm and got up bright an early to go down the coast past Garrapata and painted a scene looking south (i’ll post some of these later) and personally I thought I did a pretty good job both paintings and was feeling pretty good. Next painting was a stinker so my runners high was quelled back to normal levels of insecurity. Back to the spot where I had started the above painting to finish it off in the fog.. the good news was that I had the basic shapes and color notes in and almost could have finished it at the hotel, so it worked out. With some daylight left, ended the day with what I think is a darn good start. My mental roller coaster ended on an up note.  Next day I did two more and really felt pretty darn good about what I had accomplished in two days. This painting in particular was one I have looked for over and over in the last 7 years and finally found on 17 mile drive, a place I have avoided for years.

I’ll post more on the trip and paintings in the next edition but this painting won Best oil or acrylic, an odd category to me because they already had 1st,2nd and 3rd plus a few other awards like best local and artists and peoples choice. But the judges were two highly respected artists John Burton and Jesse Powell so I’ll take it. This piece ended up going to live auction and was heavily bid on by two or three people. My first time going to live auction actually. Kind of exciting. Didn’t sell anything else during the weekend but did okay. Maybe even a gallery in the works.. who knows.

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CArmel

I’m heading out for the Carmel event on monday. Got a lot to do before I go. Had to order frames and get them shipped. I usualy just order a big bunch of frames and then ship them to where I’m going but this saves a trip. I use one place out in california called King of Frame and they are close enough by. They also had a sale going on certain frame types so it worked out all around. It’s always a bit of a gamble trying to figure out how many boards and frames to take. I should learn from Kevin Macpherson, he took one size frame and one size canvas to Maui. Sure simplifies the whole thing. I’m going with 2 16×20 frames and 4 12×16’s which is a good bit to get done in 2 days.

and speaking of Maui, they’ve posted the pics from the Maui Plein Air event at  http://mauipleinairpainting.com/ click on photo gallery. It’s a great way to see everyones paintings from the trip. I don’t look too happy but I was I just hate having my picture taken.

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Final pass on the demo. You might notice there’s a bit of a color shift between pic #4 and pic #5… that’s because I shot #4 in the shade and shot all the others in direct sunlight. Sometimes one works better than the other so I always shoot it both ways. I may continue the demo saga series in a month or so with the Return of the Revenge of the Son of Demo II, the sequel..  how about Finding Demo?

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