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Archive for October, 2009

In my last post I mentioned that i did a little time in jail, which is true, and my friend Sharon asked about the story. I was hoping someone would because it’s kind of a good story.  Summer of 1977, July 3rd, after returning home to Cocoa Beach from my first year in school, my girlfriend to be and I were out at a little beach bar called The Thirsty Turtle shooting pool. I was winning because I hadn’t learned yet to let the girls win one once in a while. Might have been around 10 pm and in the middle of  Sweet Home Alabama on the juke box when I made a killer jump shot. I looked up to make sure Heather had seen my billiard brilliance  but she missed it because she wasn’t there. For that matter, most of the rest of the bar had left the building as well. Being a tad curious, I walked out with cue stick in hand (it was my lucky cue stick after all)) to see what was going on.  I was so focused on my game, I missed the fact that there was a riot in progress in the parking lot, started apparently with one thrown beer bottle to the windshield of a police car. The police called for reinforcements, the drunk squad called all their stupid buddies and before I knew anything had happened there was a full on melee out side.

Scanning the lot for my girl, I see her yelling terrible things at the police as they were dragging people off in a most emphatic way. Two seconds later one of the men in blue was draggin her by her hair, I’m guessing for some violation of the clean language act of 1973. Now, I’m not a violent guy,  I fall more into the buddhist/coward category when it comes to confrontation. In fact, I’m about as good at confrontation of any sort as I am with the cello. My idea of a fight involves me saying nothing then leaving. However, seeing Heather clearly being rough handled by a guy twice her size got my hackles up so I went up to the policeman grabbed her by the hand not holding her hair and said to the officer, something along the lines of “you probably should let her go.” The fact that I was holding a cue stick like a caveman with a club might have altered the context of my statement somewhat and within seconds I was jumped on by several cops, cuffed and tossed in the back of the car with the other stupid people. Off to the unhappy place.

One situation at the time saved my ass from spending more than two hours in the slammer, my father was the mayor of our little town. The chief caught wind of this, gave me a lecture and sent me on my way with the charge of inciting a riot. Inciting a riot. That was a riot in and of itself. Couple weeks later I went before the judge with my girlfriend and got the lecture from Judge Judy but I  got off without offically being identified as a menace to society. Heather, understanding that I had defended her honor, was starry eyed for me and we became boyfriend and girlfriend in a big way. A relationship that lasted for the better part of a week.  I was wondering if my mugshot is out there somewhere still, that would be cool.

ps. my dad was really really really pissed and I got a write up in the local paper on the front page of the local section. I still think I did the right thing.

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the order of things

I was thinking about this because of my next workshop on perfecting your voice. Some of the greatest realist painters, in my opinion, were not renderers, they were inventors. They mastered the elements/fundamentals first and then made them their bitch. I learned that in prison. Just kidding. I was never in prison though i was in jail once for about 2 hours in college, it’s a great story. But I digress. The elements are drawing, value, color, edge, composition, paint handling, etc. You need to learn the rules before you can break them. In most workshops, I encourage the students to paint what they see, not what they think they know. In this one (it’s more advanced) I’m going the other way. Encouraging them to take what they want from what they see and rephrase it however they see fit, within the guidelines of good picture making. I take issue with the instructors who tell students to paint what they feel first without understanding what they are doing. Though there’s nothing wrong with painting what you feel, you need a little structure with your emotions. That’s why God made Adam for Eve.

Here’s a list of inventors that I admire, both deceased and alive and in no particular order: Sergei Osipov, Edwin Dickenson, Gary Kelley (illustrator), Maynard Dixon, Tim Bell, John Burton, Monet, Henri de la Toulouse Lautrec, there’s a lot more but I’m blanking right now.

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trucks and tractors

silverado motherlode

I was heading up to find a canyon with a couple of painters during the Laguna invitational, the forecast was rain and, as predicted it was overcast and spitting all day. The canyons are tough to paint in flat light and one of the artists wanted to find some trucks, so we headed to Silverado. It sounded like a great little town with saloons and horses and dancing girls, but, no, it had more of a “highest meth lab per capita” kind of feel to it or maybe a little town you’d find on X-Files. Not sure I would have painted there on my own. Since I had my cadre of tough-as-nails painting buddies, I wasn’t scared. On the right hand side of this “town” was this place, sort of a U-store it, except everything was stored on the outside. On the left side there was not much.

It’s funny to think that I flew 3500 miles to paint trucks and old shacks but you paint the thing that rings the bell and this was it for me. The main reason I’m posting it is to talk about tackling the difficult task of getting all that perspective right. The best way to do it is to simplify all the elements down to key lines, a sort of wire frame if you will. To draw the truck I started off with a series of boxes drawn in perspective and then slowly added and rounded all the details. Same with the buildings and tractor. If you just try to follow the shapes, draw the exterior, you’ll never get it right.  You can do it hard or you can do it easy. Up to you.

By the way, it’s a common problem for me to overfill a canvas. I get so caught up in drawing the stuff that I sometimes make it all toooo big  and the thing just feels like 10 lbs of stuff in a 5 lb bag. This time I washed in a value that simply stated the positive shape of the group so that I made sure I left room for the negative shapes (sky and ground) and started my drawing within those parameters.

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last dance

One more from last week, I’ll keep putting up some new ones but I’ll save the rest for the website update. Got a bunch. This was a favorite of mine and I put it in the Laguna show. A favorite because it’s something I haven’t painted before, at least successfully. On the first day of the invitational my opening painting was a dismal failure, worst P.O.S. ever, so I spent the next several hours spinning and not sure what to do. I drove around looking for something to paint, though in Laguna, you don’t really have too look hard. One of the local artists said that he was tired of painting the same stuff over and over, I said, “come paint in Florida and you’ll have a renewed awe for where you live”. Not that there’s anything wrong with Florida, it just doesn’t have the immense amount of variety that this place offers. Anyway, I found a little trail head that I hadn’t seen before and as the light was dropping, grabbed my bag and went for a hike. After a mile or less I came to this canyon area and started in. I went until 6 thinking that’s when the park closed, packed up and hoofed it to the car. When I came over the hill, the park ranger was there, arms folded and he said, “park closes at 5”. He had already left a note on my car to lock the gate on the way out. That was cool.

The workshop next week. It’s about finding your voice, looking for the cues in your work that identify you as an individual and learning a few new ones. I think most of the people coming probably check this blog from time to time so here’s a heads up on what we will be doing. My idea is to take a 16×20 and divide it up into four, painting the same scene 4 times in a day but utilizing two of the major elements of style in each. Dividing the canvas because it keeps the section from becoming a painting and hopefully keeps the artists from trying to make it a painting and not a study. Painting the same scene because finding inspiration is good but knowing how to paint it when you find it is better. Drawing, value, color, edge, composition, brush language, shape and form, all are tools of the voice of an artist. I will say here that mastering them is essential to good painting but learning how to use them, well, you’ll just have to take the workshop for that.

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Laguna

back bay

I miss it already. What magnificent countryside. Packed with houses and yet they’ve managed to save a goodly portion of land from the developers, just the way it was when the california impressionists were going at it. The week was a tough one, the rain started on the second day and it was wet and overcast for all but a day and a half. It’s a tough one when the light goes in and out the way it does there, foggy one minute and sunny the next and back again. It messes with your head but in talking with the others at the show, I wasn’t the only one getting played by the weather. The show was high caliber work for the most part, some of my heroes were there; George Strickland, Calvin Liang, Randall Sexton, John Budicin along with some new faces. I definitely went through the spin cycle…. again. 3 days in a row i finished only one painting. the mind is a terrible thing sometimes…. it just wants to undermine the whole thing, but we power through and do the best we can. It is always good to know that the people I respect have the same struggles and joys that I do. My friend Roger Dale Brown and Ken Deward were there and were in awe of the country.

The upside was that I got to find a lot of new areas, new to me anyways. Back bay, the canyons, estuaries, a funky little town called Silverado and I hiked back into the back country to paint a canyon. On the downside, sales were slack. First time I’ve been skunked in a show (well, I sold my quickdraw)… and it’s a long way to go to get skunked. Next time, if I’m invited back I’m bringing one size frame and canvas. 12×16 and one larger one for show. But I now have a few more paintings for the galleries and a few more lessons under my belt from the other artists. Jill Carver won Artists choice and Bryan Mark Taylor won emerging artist. I was not expecting to win a thing and I knew the sales would be down but I did come away with some new info and more motivation to be a better painter. I had a great discussion with John Burton, whose work I love, about reworking the paintings after the fact. He doesn’t and I do. Niether is better. But the above painting is a great example of a reworked painting. I did this 12×16 in dying light and really couldn’t resolve all the subtleties in one go but I did get enough information that I could use what I had done and rework shapes and gradations and push values without destroying the initial freshness. and for the recoerd everything got touched, the sky, the clouds, the water all of it got recovered… edges softened, shapes reworked, transitions made more subtle, foreground darkened AND brightened.

ps I really, really love these plein air people. truly the most friendly, fun and least competitive people I know. My tribe is a good tribe.

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Gettin’ tonal

dawn run

Just finished 3 new paintings for a gallery in vero. Gotta keep up with the galleries with new stuff whether they are selling or not. Old paintings just go stale and you have to move them around. All three paintings are boats on the water, the gallery owner likes them and has sold a few. This time I approached it a little differently, normally I start with a lightly toned canvas but I had one canvas to fit the frame size, a 24×30 and I didn’t feel like going out and buying a new one. The existing canvas had a very dark tone to it because I had over painted an older painting with what I had on hand, black with some red. I figured, well, what the heck, I’ll try something different.I threw down my darks which all but dissappeared in the tone and then went for the lights to establish the upper end of my value scale. Somehow the whole thing just stayed dark but there’s enough light in it to pull it off. The original is very subtle, except for the sun. My reference did not have sails going up and though I’m not one for artifice in these kinds of settings, it needed the break in the horizon. So I added some, but to make it more honest, I put in some guys handling the sails. Had to do a little research on this to make sure it was only a two sail boat. It was. I love the great google.

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Framin’

artsondougHeading out to Laguna to do the 11th annual plein air invitational. I finally got smart about this thing. Usually I order frames, they get shipped to me and then I ship them to wherever I’m going. Excess shipping! Not  necessary. SO this time I’m ordering frames from http://www.kingofframe.com who happen to be near Laguna and I’ll be picking them up next week. I’m packing all my canvases in a separate box and checking them so that I don’t spend additional money shipping those, okay, $15 for the extra bag fee. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the framing thing here so now that I’m thinking about it… framing is a pain in the ass. One gallery wants gold, no black, one wants black, no gold, the lovely warm silver frames that I bought a ton of? not welcome anywhere. Can’t give a painting away in them. One gallery wants only the bestest top-notch frames and while I do agree a great frame can sure enhance a good painting this is still a business, I can’t just blow whatever profits I can muster on frames. Conversely a P.O.S. frame can ruin a good painting. So I need to come up with a middle of the road alternative, looks good but doesn’t cost a mortgage payment.

The best solution I’ve seen was this year at the Maui invitational, Kevin Macpherson had one style frame in one size, which is very smart. He only painted 11×14’s and they, of course, were all brilliant and all in one frame style. Nice consistent presentation. And it takes all the guess work out of what canvas size to use for the days work. So maybe I wasn’t that smart, I ordered 1 20×20, 2 16×20’s and 3 12×16’s. What happens if my 20×20 doesn’t work out or any of the 16×20’s? Oy. Such a gamble.  You know, I spent more on frames last year and the year before that than anything else. If I ever come to a perfect solution, I’ll let you know.

P.S. Forgot to mention frame sources. I use Omega fram and moulding a lot, specifically the plein air style frames. Love F55 but it’s heavy and expensive, especially to ship the large ones. Glaser frame in colorado makes great custom frames that are reasonably priced considering they are custom… takes four weeks. http://www.kingofframe.com is great too a good variety and fast. some  framers might be able to get some of the frame styles but these guys make em seemless. and the closed corner frames ) plein air style are the way to go. I also use cindy anderson at studio framing (winter park, fl) for a lot of stuff especially the art boxes she makes (paintings above are done on them) no frame, are 3″ deep and great to paint on.

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