Archive for the ‘on painting’ Category

I wish I could post every Tuesday like clockwork but when a thought pops in to my head, I gotta put it down. This is an extension of the last post, the scrape, toss, save or sell part, but I have to back way up first. About 25 years ago I was on a ski trip in Utah, not Deer Valley but the other one. On a Saturday I wandered downtown to give my legs a break and avoid the weekend crowds. There was an exhibition of paintings in a local gallery so I thought, hey, I’m a painter, I’ll just have a look see. Walking in the door I was presented with a series of small studies with much larger versions done from the little ones hanging alongside. Blew me away. Scott Christensen. Gotta paint with that guy. Maybe a year later I found myself in a workshop with Mr. C and one of the greatest things he did was show an early painting of his that was… not so good. He had the humility to show us one of his first baddies, letting us all know that if he could come this far, that anyone can come that far. Not really that simple as it turns out but it was a really pivotal moment for me. Thank you for that Scott.

Somewhere along the line came the discussion about saving or tossing. Some we save to remind us of where we’ve come from, some we save for the information, some we sell, some we toss and I’ve tossed many. But to carry on the tradition of showing the crappy ones left over, I dug out a few. These were all done during the S.C. workshop maybe 20 years back. The really, really bad ones have already been pitched but I did find these. The top one has always held a warm place in my heart because while everyone was painting trees, I went after the port-o-let, which I thought was funny. It had a kind if butte like quality to it anyway. The rest have a high register on the cringeometer but at least I and you can see that I’ve made a little progress since then. This one looks like a forest of leggos. Clunky and awkward and butt ugly, but the point back then wasn’t the finish it was the doing. Still is. You have to learn how and where to put the notes before you can play the song in your head.

Now for a related story. I will admit it’s kind of a boy story with potty humor, but it relates to this workshop and the above painting. Scott held his workshops in his first house way back when, his studio was where we would meet and could watch him quietly put together a large painting from a study in a mere 4 or 5 hours. Very inspirational. The room was pin-drop quiet and filled with about 20 chairs, each chair filled with a person, Scott up there mixing colors, not saying much. You could hear the next persons nose whistle. By mid-morning I found that I had a searing pain running through my mid-region, apparently the cream chipped buffalo jerky and unwashed tomatillo salsa had created a reaction not unlike when you put baking soda in a coke bottle and screw the lid back on. Scott was mixing away and I was feeling like I was 9 months preggers with a small dragon so I started wondering where the nearest restroom was. There were only two choices, the one at the back of the room not 5 feet from the last row or the one in his bedroom. I was clearly not about to trash the bathroom of a guy whose work I admire and besides his pretty wife was there and how could explain to her my dilemma? I’d rather burst a portion of my intestine. Or I could just march unapologetically back to the echo chamber and just lettergo, coming back into the room to either dead silence or great applause with my hands held high. That’s right, uh huh, who’s the man. Or I could sit there in agony until 4 o’clock and wait for the long buss ride back to the car and the even longer car ride back to the hotel. And which did I do? I spent the day in agony doing the equivalent of keeping a pack of wild dobermans at bay behind an unlatched door, attempting to time the peristaltic convulsions with a clap or a loud cough, occasionally a short song or an emphatic statement of “HEY NOW”.

I guess the lesson there is to not always mistake a lookers on exclamations as just straight out enthusiasm for the work, you just don’t know what’s really behind it.


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Just about to head back from the Carmel Art Festival and it’s been quite the long week. Got here with my friend and fellow painter Don Sondag a week ago. We decided to come out early because there was a rice break in the airfare and to have an extra couple of days to paint out here. From Saturday till the event began on Thursday we did 3 paintings a day, I scraped a few to conserve the canvas. I figured by the time the event started we would be all warmed up but instead I was already whipped having battled 30 mile an hour winds and the wrong choice in canvas for 5 days.
When the event began I had already gone through the spin cycle a bunch and was somewhere between utter despair and getting a job at House of Pancakes. Now don’t get me wrong the scenery here is unbeleivably inspirin, I just felt unworthy of it. Head games. Got skunked in sales and awards. The upside was I got to paint with all my favorite people; John Burton, Don Sondag, Randy Sexton and Jesse Powell. I got a lot of good memories, a few good studies, a few uglies and a case of the bad attitudes oh and a racked up credit card bill but it was all worthwhile. That coastline is spectacular.

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It seemed, according to the stat page, that the story time post was fairly popular, so I’ll put more of those up…. so many wonderful things have happened while I was out painting. I think they are interesting events but there’s a guy I know, he’s nice enough, a Civil War reenacter …. or is it reenactor… anyway, he thinks the CVW is most intensely fascinating. I, however, could care less. Yes, it was a profoundly important war which, for the most part, has ended but somehow no matter what we talk about he steers the conversation quickly to the Battle of Perspicacityville and within seconds my brain snaps shut. Shields up. Uh-oh, warp 5 tachyon boredom missiles, incoming, all power to forward shields. I may say something about tapioca and he deftly segues into the eating habits of the 7th battalion under Commander Cody, the point is, I’m wary about posting what happened in my day unless it is of some kind of relevant interest and that, of course, is subjective. But I’ll post more stuff like that… to me it’s more interesting than a painting, if it doesn’t interest, no harm done. I never really know where to put commas, and colons: they should have a colon checker function. Just sayin.

Anyhooo. This is a bit like a painting of another painting, but it’s a sculpture. It’s a piece called Man carving his own destiny by Albin Polasek. I guess there are no copyright violations here.  I should be pretty well versed in intellectual property infractions having been an illustrator but when we start crossing over from copying paintings and photos into a marble sculpture in a garden, it gets a tad hazy for me. I saw it as a chance to do some figurative work. I even used the sight-size method as best I understand it. I blocked in the drawing and stood back at a distance such that the painting and the sculpture were the exact same size and right next to one another according to my point of view. I took a brush, laid it horizontal and went from checkpoint to checkpoint, head, chest waist, etc. to make sure that I was seeing things correctly. I suppose I’m pointing this out because the guy had a formidable schlong and I don’t want to have that come back to me. I measured and double checked and it was, well, mule-like in dimension. I was going to fuzz out the area, a kind of creative manscape editing but I thought it was sort of funny, what with the mallet and all. So I left this blue man contemplating his good fortune and his destiny.

Oh and I did use a bit of an old illustration/painting trick here. Where the light bouncing off the statue meets the dark of the background, I used a warm transition color to give the feel of photons obscuring the dark background. Also rimmed the other light areas with streaks of red and orange…. gives it some glow. painter of lite.

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Winter Park

I guess I should just go ahead and post a little each day about the most recent paint out. It was a good week of work, I did probably 7 paintings. 2 fairly large ones at 20×20 (like the painting above) and the rest were 12×16 ‘s and 9×12’s. There was a really good turn out at the event Saturday night, in fact it was sold out, maybe 300 people were there.  It seems as if this event has really turned into a thing. The food was great and the wine was free and the weather was about as perfect as you could ask for. The remaining works are still up at the Polasek Museum in Winter Park for the next two weeks, in case anyone is in the area. It’s worth a look. This painting was done in the Antiques on the Avenue shop on Park Ave, it’s a crazy place. The owner is sort of like a hoarder with really good taste, there is literally no place to stand in this store, just narrow goat paths through top notch you-name-it antiques, you  have to keep your arms down at your side as you walk through and if you are wearing a big coat, forget it, you will break something. I have a thing for making busy work and this little shop of hoarders is the place to do it. The owner is super nice and is always happy to have me paint there.

As I said, I have a thing for making chaos make sense, taking mounds of stuff and getting a kind of flow through all the various nicknacks. I didn’t think this one would sell at the event and it didn’t but these do eventually sell and they are a challenge. I’m always at my best when I’m challenged, whether it’s standing in 40 mile an hour winds or freezing rain or tackling the entire contents of a store, it focuses my energy more. Don Sondag and I talked about making it more like a sport (which reminds me of a story I gotta tell you) where you have to run for 10 miles, or in my case, 10 blocks, and do a quick painting and then run for another 10 blocks or whatever and so on.  I’ll put up more as the week goes by but next up is story time.

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Not sure where to start, I’ve been painting a lot. Trying to get a bunch of new work to one of my galleries. They always want new work, even if they haven’t sold the old work. Oh well, we do what we can. I’ve also just completed a week long paint-out here in Winter Park Fl and am gearing up for the Carmel Art Fest in a week. One of my galleries is reformatting and has returned a bunch of work, so now I can’t move in my space. I’m overstocked. I’ll get to the Winter Park paint-out in a post or two. Here’s a painting I finished a while back, it’s a 30×30, I posted a pic of the sketch in in my little dissertation about drawing and perspective a few posts back. I’m experimenting more with tone, color and surface in this series of boat paintings for my gallery in Vero. She’s had pretty good luck with these and I like doing them so what the hell. For some reason, every time I start a new series of paintings I have to do something new. I guess I just want to keep learning and trying new things. My work shifts in little ways here and there but, I think still has a nice consistency about it. At least I hope so. An inconsistent body of work leads to confusion from the point of view of the buyer.

Here’s a companion piece to it, the notion for a set of paintings came from my gallery, apparently buyers sometimes like to buy things in sets… who knew. About the closest I ever got to that was a couple who secretly bought paintings from me to give to the other for their anniversary. This painting was an exercise in value, color and brushwork. I wanted to keep it really tight in value, no darks. let the subtlety of the color do the work. Also there’s some work with split compliments, where you put a color notes split compliment either under the color or next to it, if they are same or similar values, it makes for color vibration. And that my friends is what it’s all about. good vibrations.

Next up is this painting, a 30×40 companion to one she already has. I was also thinking that sometimes I work too hard on these and the bigger and broader these big ones are the better. So, this was an exercise in editing. Big strokes of color. You know what they say, a little exercise never hurt anyone.

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The Don

If anyone reads my blog, this is the one post I hope they read, well, that and the snappy comeback reference planner and maybe the spin cycle one.  I share a studio with 20 artists and all are inspiring in different ways, but this guy, Don Sondag, is a lesson for all painters in diligence and practice. He’s just a damn good painter. His work is fresh, honest and dead on in drawing & color and un-mannered , as in he doesn’t use any fancy brush tricks or glazes or whatever to make a painting, it is without influence. He spent a few years of learnin at the student artists league in New York with Jacob Collins and Sam Adoquie, I think he knew Raymond Kinstler at some point but most all that he has achieved for himself has been through sheer effort.

I’m going to post a lot of images of his space and his work, most are pics from my iphone and are a tad fuzzy, but you will get the idea. Unless you live in the Orlando area, you will probably never hear of this guy. He doesn’t have a website, doesn’t really advertise his work, maybe is in one or two local galleries but has a good name in the area as a landscape painter and a portraitist. I’ve bugged him for years about getting a website but that’s not his thing. And in a way, I get it. He doesn’t waste a moment of time with emails and website updates and how to work photoshop or blogging, he just paints. And he’s a much better painter for it. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000 hours it takes to master a thing in the Outliers. Don has at least double or triple that…. and it shows in the work.  His compositions are seemingly effortless and his broad brush approach is without a lot of cumbersome detail, his paintings are a lesson in what to leave out and how to paint in big shapes of value and color. Whatever the subject matter, the paintings become about shape and value and color. He’s got paintings of small planes on a tarmac that make me envious.

The simple lesson here is, if you want to be good or a master at something, get some training,  learn to draw and put in your 10 or 20 thousand hours and don’t copy someone else. The great Donnini is an inspiration to all of us here at McRae Art Studios.

All of these are painted from life by the way, including the 30×40 on the easel. I have no idea how to format these images into any kind of layout so bear with me. And share this with your friends. Don should be known.

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Workshop in Maryland

Just finished a 4 day workshop in Easton, Maryland and while I await my ride to the airport, I thought I’d say a few things about it. It was a good workshop, great people, beautiful locations and a few familiar faces roaming around. Whenever I go in to teach I never know what levels of ability I will encounter but one thing I can count on is that most students have one stumbling block in common. Drawing. People want to learn how to paint before they have learned the fundamentals of drawing, which I am only to happy to teach but if you really want to learn better painting skills or loosen up with the brush, spend some time with mr pencil or ms charcoal. It will get you where you want to go much more quickly. Spend a half hour a day for a month or two sketching, fill up a couple of sketchbooks before getting on the canvas. If you are hankering to paint, spend time mixing colors matching paint chips from your local paint store. You will take in the lessons in a worksop much more readily.
My demo from yesterday.

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