Archive for September, 2009

The book update


I’ve mentioned this little project before, the book project 10 years in the making. It focuses on the series of posters I created for the opera. The book shows the final art, of course, but focuses on how the idea for each was arrived at with sketches, color studies and notes. Anyway, it’s just about to go to press and I got the final cover today. I gotta say, it’s damn sexy. If you are going to do a book, get a good designer. This was designed by Jeff Matz at Lure Design, a nationally recognized design firm here in Orlando.


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more barns


I don’t guess I posted this one yet. It’s another barn painting from Leatherwood in North Carolina. I liked the way this turned out. I was looking for a way to use the fence to break up the composition and this is what i came up with. It’s 20×20, was a two tripper because I started late in the day. I do find it really interesting that even though I’m working out of a primary palette I pretty much mix the same colors over and over. For the record, I repainted the sky in the studio… didn’t like the color the first time around. Come to think of it, I reworked the mountains, the fence and the ground, plus a few trees. Didn’t have any reference, just worked off of what I had already established.

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So easy a caveman can do it


During the last workshop I mentioned the cave paintings of Chauvet Pont D’arc and how impressive they are. There is a lot to the story of how they got done if you think about it. First of all they were done between 34,000 and 3o,ooo years ago. They predate other cave paintings nearby by 10’s of thousands of years. Let’s just get that out there. Second, they are not your average caveman drawings. There’s an adept line, a natural form and a thoughtful artistic representation of the regional animals at the time; lions, rhinos and bears. Oh my. Third, they are in a cave. Not just in the front of the cave but all the way back in there. So you can imagine this individual or individuals having to run out, find a lion or a rhino, give it a good hard look and then haul ass back to the back end of a dark cave to put up what was seen and noted. Think about that. It’s hard enough to get something right when you are looking right at it. Look at these examples, they are darn accurate. It’s not like they could google a rhino and sketch it off the laptop.

The really interesting thing to me is who taught these guys? Did they have life drawing back then? They didn’t even have language so how would the master artist transfer the knowledge down to the pupil?  It’s really amazing to see these drawings and realize just how difficult it was to get these images up in a dark cave. No model, no heat, iffy light source, no language, no art store and life reference that would just as soon eat you as pose for you.  I’ll post a link so you can visit the caves and see them for yourself.

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Just came back from two workshops back to back and man, I’m pooped. I had two 3 day workshops one here in Orlando and one in North Carolina the day after the first one finished. Having two back to back is hard, it’s both draining and uplifting at the same time. I mentioned to some of the students that I have learned so very  much while teaching. Firstly, when you have to translate what you know inherently so that others without as much experience can grasp what you are doing, it helps the translator. A lot. Before I started teaching I was just an artist, a painter moving paint around to come up with an image, now I know why I do what I do and how I do it. I’ve learned many lessons over the years but after these two workshops, here’s my latest and best lesson to date. Celebrate the little victories.

Painting is a slow walk down a very long road. If you are looking for immediate gratification, this is not the place for you, unless you don’t care so much about whether what you do is good or bad. Most of the people I work with, even the beginners, know that they have a long way to go. They struggle and I struggle with them because it’s hard. To borrow from the great JFK, we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. And there are many failures along the way. It can be kind of depressing. One thing that helps me is to focus on the little victories. I had more than one student in the last two classes who, in one way or another, expressed their frustration with where they were and I told them the same thing, we all start somewhere. One student made huge progress, just in being able to see the differences in value and color in a short 3 days. That’s a victory. One started mixing color more accurately, many struggled but all were excited.

There is a commercial, a father watches his son of 4 or 5 years play soccer and the son whifs a bunch of shots. At the end the father and son get together and the Dad anticipating a consoling role asks “Are you okay?”, the son replies, “Did you see me? I was awesome!” That’s the spirit. That’s what I see and that’s the lesson.

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teaching and its rewards


People who know me, who have taken any of my classes or workshops, know that I enjoy teaching. I was thinking about why I do it, why prepare a new package for every class, and make sure that each class gets something new?  I remembered the people who influenced me as an artist and a teacher.When I was maybe 11, my father worked for the space program and  took me to meet a friend of his who was an illustrator for NASA. At that time he was working on a painting of an astronaut standing on the surface of the moon with the Lunar lander in the background. 2 years before it actually happened. As a kid just starting out in art, that was like crack for me. I knew right then what I wanted to be when I grew up, not an astronaut (i got to meet a lot of them) but the guy who did paintings of astronauts. And then there was my high school english lit teacher, Mr. Voss. Who, looking back, was the greatest teacher I ever had in my 17 years of schooling. He was fun, enthusiastic, energetic, I learned and remembered so much of what he taught. When I was 16 I meet a landscape painter in California, a nice guy with a great, loose painting style. Talked to him for only a few minutes but what he did stuck with me.

When I was hitting the zenith of my illustration carreer I rememberd these people and what they did for me (whether they knew it or not) and decided to start teaching and giving back some of what I learned over the years. I taught several different classes at Valencia Community College, one per semester. Not for the money, financially it wasn’t worth my time. But what I got from it was so much more. I had to think about how to communicate what I inherently knew in an interesting and engaging way. I’m pretty sure I got more out of it than my students.

There are a lot of rewards that come from it, that make it worthwhile. I like people, I’m highly social personality type. I love to make people laugh, like having fun but mostly I like helping someone along a little. I still have students from 5 and 10 years ago that I stay in touch with, who want to show me what they’ve been up to. 2 years ago I went to visit a college buddy who had kids a little later in life, he has two beautiful children and the girl, Gianna was sorta interested in art. So when I went down there I took my easel and my paints and Gianna and I sat down and did some painting together. I’ve seen them only a few times since. Just visiting. No art. and this week in the mail I get the above drawing with a very sweet note from Gianna. Now I’m not claiming responsiblity for her budding drawing skills, but I do hope that maybe in some way I gave her a bit of a motivation to give it a shot as the others did for me when I was her age. Now that’s what I call a reward.

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Art history and how to avoid it. Why learn the lessons of the past? I mean, what’s done is done.

Fundamentals of art and why you don’t need them. We don’t need more rules, we need less. We’re artists.

Artspeak 101, 102, 103, 104, 105   Speak directly and plainly? Kiss of death. Learn to write indecipherably obtuse self-absorbed artist statements.

Hyperbole and you. Need to sound like you’ve accomplished something? Class will focus on the use of flowery words and puffery aggrandising.

Income? Who needs it!  Satisfaction is knowing that you are doing what you love and eating rice and beans.

Creative write-off techniques. Set aside morals and ethics and learn to write off everything you have ever spent money on because you are an artist.

Zen and the art of not knowing where your next check is coming from.  Why worry, be happy.

One name or three. Paintings by Lawrence or painted by Lawrence Southerby Macwallis III    Unless you are Prince or Puff Daddy your name is your brand and you are stuck with it for life. Choose wisely. You can sound like royalty or like a flower arranger.

Forming Artist Unions. An oxymoron? Kitty cat round-up, know what i’m sayin?

Cheesy Promo Videos 101 You don’t have to be talented to have a cheesy promo video made. Prerequisites: Hyperbole and Artspeak 101.

Painting the figure in a floppy white hat  101-103 Also includes rural women in flower field, dappled light effects and advanced chimney smoke techniques. Prerequisite class: Smarmy painting 101, see spring schedule.

Creative plagairism How to completely rip-off another artist and own it without a twinge of guilt or remorse.

Internal Calendar If you don’t have a set schedule, don’t have a weekend, how do you know what day it is? Guess! How to learn to guess what day and time it is without ever consulting a calendar or watch. 70% accuracy assured.

Creative comebacks for artists. Example Q: $500…….. is that your best price?   A: Well, actually, no. $7000 is my best price and I like the way you do business.

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lemons > lemonade

before the chores

This is one of those paintings that started off heading south and just went all the way down to Mexico for a vacation. Out of the frame were horses in a large pen that I started to sketch, just doing little horsey studies, unfortunately this canvas was a loaner from someone else and was extremely slick, painting was a little like tap dancing on ice. Not too graceful. All my energies went toward trying get the brush and paint to go where I wanted it to. The horses in the upper quadrant didn’t go so well so I turned around and added a small sketch of one of the barns. The barn being easier than livestock to paint started to actually look like a thing and after beating the horses to death (sorry) I decided to wipe them off and see what i could do with the randomly placed barn. I let the one thing I knew I had tell me where the rest of the things should go. I figured out after while that if i really loaded the brush and used a light hand I could get the paint to release so I kept piling on paint till I got there. It’s a lesson in self-trust; I knew that either two things would happen,  I would make it work or I wouldn’t and if it didn’t work, so what? It would be a  scraper, a small lesson and a pretoned canvas for the next painting.

It’s also a lesson in if you don’t know what to do, go with what you do know. Can’t figure out the whole problem? Deal with the stuff you do know and that will lead you to your next set of decisions. Trusting that you can figure it out, even if it’s in steps is way better than thinking it’s just too big to handle or beyond your abilities.It can keep you from giving up too soon. Additionally this is a lesson in painting greens. All of the trees in my view would be the exact same green if I were standing next to each of them but as they go back atmosphere changes the way they appear making them cooler and less contrasty.

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