Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Untitled Nude 2

Oil painting 6x8 inches.  From our Wednesday model sessions.  

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Untitled Nude

An original oil painting six inches by eight inches from our Wednesday model sessions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

Artist David Rourke says something on his blog I've been thinking about for a long time. It's the elephant in the room very few artists, gallery owners, workshop participants, magazine editors want to talk about. His blog entry is here:   I'd added a comment of my own to it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paintings for Sale on eBay ....Coming Soon

Now that I've got this blog up and running for a few months, it's time to start offering paintings. So at the end of the month I'm going to be listing paintings for sale on eBay.  These will be small 6x8's and bidding will begin at 99 cents.  A new painting will be listed every Sunday and Wednesday - and obviously auctions will end then also. There will be examples of the paintings posted here, along with a link directly to the auction. 

I'm pretty excited about this, and see it as a win-win situation. Even if a painting sells for a buck fifty, the way I look at it at least some money is coming in. Plus I have the added benefit of doing the work, and hopefully it will kick me up a level or two. 

I've done some research and discovered a few a things I didn't know. On the advice of an article in Art Calendar Magazine bids will start at $.99. Yes, that's 99 cents. I know quite a few artists begin bidding on their work at $100, or they have a reserve that has to be met. I won't. Does that mean some paintings will sell for less than a dollar? Probably. Will it hurt. Ya, there will be an 'ouch' moment, but hopefully there won't be too many of those moments.

Last month I started laying up an inventory of 6x8 paintings to start off, and I've been busy trying to get the inventory up to a couple of dozen. The 6x8 format is challenging, but loads of fun. For years I resisted going small, even when the gallery asked for small pieces. Now I've done a 180. (Maybe my skill level has improved enough that I can handle it.) I figure that right now two paintings a week is doable. Any more and I'm not sure I could keep the quality high, in other words paint my best. Perhaps as I get better at it I'll offer more per week.

Subjects will be figures and portraits. That's my interest right now, but there may be the occasional landscape if I get out plein aire. The paintings will be from the model at our weekly Wednesday sessions, or from reference photos of the model, or more likely a mix of the two. I'll  start a painting or two at the Wednesday sessions then work on them through the week.

Bottom Line: Original 6x8 oil paintings offered on Sunday and Wednesday nights (8-9ish). Bidding to start at .99 cents with no reserve. First auction listing is December 27th. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Portrait Session Last Weekend

Last weekend Bruce and I painted his sister-in-law at his cabin in Pennsylvania. I took my daughter, Jillian and she was happy because she was able to go horseback riding. It was a great time: good company, good food and good conversation. The painting - for me - was a bit depressing though. Poor Roya sat for about 2 1/2 hours and I must have wiped out four or five efforts. This is my final try - not even a sketch really... In the meantime Bruce started two different paintings and both were good. Damn him.

Today I opened a Facebook account. My first 'friend' is one of my teachers, Dustin Boutwell. I'm kind of lost re facebook. I guess I just don't get it - yet. We'll see. I was excited though to see Dustin's work - especially some new work. I know he's been busy with a new baby (heck the guy has four kids all under five!) so it was great to see this portrait he'd just finished. It's pretty awesome.

"Willa" by Dustin Boutwell

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tom Buechner's Friday Night Class: November

November only had two sessions for me, since I was alternating with Bruce. The model was sick for the first two weeks, so the class worked from a black and white photo of Tom. I'd brought my Open Box to paint with, but forgot the tripod attachment. Tom graciously lent me his half-Jullian. 

A word about these old Jullian's. I've seen a few of them and I can understand why older painters swear by them. The hardware is very solid, they feel heavier and more substantial than the newer ones, and they last. The Jullian's I've bought (full and half) began coming apart within months. Buechner's and Tom Gardner's are over 30 years old. If you ever come across one of the older Jullian's at a yard sale or on Ebay, snap it up. Old paint can be scraped or sanded off.

Once again I painted next to Tom (painting himself). He told me to put the photo on the wall about seven or eight feet away. Doing this forced me to concentrate on the big shapes, drawing and values. I couldn't get into detail because I couldn't see any detail. Used raw umber and Tit white.

The next session the model was present, but still feeling the effects of bronchitis. I'd brought a 6x8 because I knew I'd only be working one session, and I didn't want to waste a larger size. I set up before Tom had posed the model, and I didn't pick the best side to work from.

Tom posed him in an old US Army greatcoat, shirtless. The model had a great head of hair, tightly curled, and very high sharp cheekbones. Tom wanted to light him from below - in effect theatrical lighting - in order to show the class how normal value assumptions changed. The right side of the model's face had some wonderful darks. Unfortunately, my side was rather flat. Made the best of it though and really enjoyed working on a smaller surface.

Lessons learned: go for big shapes and values first, work with the pose you get, try to lay a stroke down then step back (I'm horrible at this - smudging and blending way too much), working smaller can be fun, and Everett Raymond Kinstler was a student of James Montgomery Flagg. Didn't know that.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Andrew Wyeth Painting

In late August I was in Hammondsport,NY and ducked inside an antique shop to get out of the rain. Killing time I walked around and noticed this painting  hanging near the entrance. It was in a god-awful frame of cheap pine, the glass was all dusty, and my first thought was,"Andrew Weth print-badly framed.". After a turn around the shop I came back to the print. I'm always interested in anything Andrew Wyeth.

To my surprise the 'print' looked like an actual watercolor. I couldn't find a signature. The price was $50. I asked the lady working the desk if she had any information about the painting. She said the shop was a co-op and it wasn't one of her pieces - but I could take it outside in the better light if I wanted to examine it. I declined. The rain had stopped and the Hammondsport Square was filled for the Palette Auction. I walked out.

After the auction my friends wanted to browse so we ended up back inside the antique shop. I pointed  the painting out to them and said it was done in the 'style' of Wyeth, but it was unsigned. They encouraged me to buy the painting, saying even if it wasn't an actual Wyeth, it's still a nice watercolor. I hesitated. The style certainly looked like him: drybrush for the shrubs, fingernail dragged through darks, outstanding draftmanship...but the composition was bad. What was that white shape in front of the boat? A log? A bank of snow? And there was no signature. I know from my reading that Betsy had Andrew sign EVERYTHING, and his watercolors were usually signed "A.Wyeth" in pencil. Maybe there was a signature on the back of the painting? Stranger things had happened...heck they found a copy of The Declaration of Independence behind an old photo. You never know....

So I bought it. When I got home I took it apart to examine it closer. The paper was old. It had been taped off for a border. It was an original watercolor. There was nothing on the back, and no signature on the front. Hmmm...the size bugged me too. I knew Andy liked to paint on full-sized sheets, even when painting plein-aire. There are pictures of him walking around with 22x30s tucked under his arm. This painting is 15x19, an odd size.

So the painting sat for two months. My Mom noticed it on a visit and asked if I'd painted it. (Thanks Mom!) I half-thought about contacting The Brandywine Museum to see what they had to say. Life goes on though and I never got around to photographing it. Then a couple of weeks ago I was photographing some paintings and pulled it out. I took some digitals, wrote a quick email and sent it off to the Brandywine Museum, pretty much addressed: "To whom it may concern, or (whoever is interested). This is what  I wrote:

"Hello, I was wondering who I would contact to find out if this is an original Andrew Wyeth? I bought the painting in a Hammondsport, NY antique shop. It is an unsigned original watercolor on older wc paper 15x19. The painting is smaller with a border approx. 11x15.5. Any help would be appreciated. Thank You, Jeff Perrault"

Then I went for a run.
Of course while running I played out various scenarios: the kids getting their college education paid for by an old, forgotten Wyeth, no answer at all and i live with the mystery. My favorite scenario was somebody at the museum asking to see the painting in person, and me getting my picture taken with Betsy. When I got back from my run - no emails. Oh well.

Then at about dinner time I noticed an email from Mary Landa, and I must admit my pulse rate went up. Mary Landa is Betsy's personal assistant, and the one most knowledgeable about Andrew's paintings, (besides Betsy of course). She was there when Andrew revealed the Helga paintings to Betsy. She's the one putting the Catalogue Raisonne together. Apparently my email had been read, the attachments looked at, and it had been bumped up to the top. It was a definite "Holy Shit" moment. Here's the email:

"Forward: Mary, What do you think? Lora
Lora B. Englehart

Public Relations Coordinator"

and then: "Dear Mr. Perrault,This is a lovely little watercolor, but there is nothing to indicate it is by Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth’s records were quite complete and just about everything out there that was sold had a signature.

Thank you for sending this – I wish I could help track down the artist.  Mary Landa"
Darn! Double Darn! But hey, it is a "lovely,little watercolor" very skillfully done. It was way underpriced. I'll give it a decent frame and a home. (Still would have liked to have my pic taken with Betsy, though.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Discovering Dirk Dzimirsky

"Trinity by Dirk Dzimirsky, Charcoal on Canvas

Normally I'm not a fan of photorealism. I guess I don't see the point of making a painting/drawing look like a photograph - from a photograph. I'm sure there was something shocking and fun about it way back when, in the 60's when Chuck Close and Estes were pioneering the effect, but in my opinion it quickly degenerated into cliche and technique. These portraits, while technically photorealist, I think go beyond photorealism.

The artist is Dirk Dzimirsky and he's featured on the cover of the Fall issue of Drawing. An interesting quote from the article: "When looking at magazine photographs its obvious that beauty-mania removes every sign of a human face...I want to oppose this with my portrait drawings and show people as they are. I believe art has to be true - then it really is beautiful. for me, Things such as glamorously styled magazine beauties or pinups are not only boring but also have something disgusting about them."

Nelson Shanks said something similar when talking about judging entries for the portrait/figure category in the recent Artist's Magazine competition: ""Remember it's no longer 1880 or before! In other words avoid too much romanticism and make your work reflective of your time. Reacting , perhaps, to a number of portraits of beautiful women , Shanks admonishes, "'Pretty is dangerous ground." If your subject is inherently pleasing to the eye, it's important to look beyond that - toward what appearances may hide..."

Dirk Dzimirsky in his work goes beyond appearances AND technique. Go check his work out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

WIP Preliminary Drawing

I'm reading "The Black Swan" by Taleb. Halfway through it. Here's a paragraph guaranteed to keep me in bed in the morning: "Many people labor in life under the impression that they are doing something right, yet they may not show solid results for a long time. They need a capacity for continuously adjourned gratification to survive a steady diet of peer cruelty without becoming demoralized. They look like idiots to their cousins, they look like idiots to their peers, they need courage to continue. No confirmation comes to them, no validation, no fawning students, no Nobel, no Shnobel. "How was your year?" brings them a small but containable spasm of pain deep inside, since almost all of their years will seem wasted to someone looking at their life from the outside. Then bang, the lumpy event comes that brings the grand vindication. Or it may never come."
Last year my dog made more in guide fees than I did in sold paintings. Lately I've been dwelling too much on that fact.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tom Buechner's Friday Night Class: 2nd and 3rd Sessions

Second Session

The Different Levels of Expertise are categorized as follows:
  • Novice - has minimal exposure to the field.
  • Apprentice - has completed a period of study beyond introductory level and is usually working in a domain under supervision.
  • Journeyman - can perform routine work unsupervised.
  • Expert - is highly regarded by peers; whose judgements are uncommonly accurate and reliable; whose performance shows both skill and economy of effort; and who can deal with unusual or tough cases.
  • Master - Can teach others; a member of an elite group of experts whose judgements set regulations, standards or ideals.
I guess in this table I'd fall somewhere between Apprentice and Journeyman. It's a long road with a lot of work involved. That's why I find this Friday Night Portrait Group so valuable. Tom Buechner is a Master, and it will be interesting to line up all nine portraits in June and see where I've gone and how I got there.

I like the effort above. It was taken after my second session when I was ostensibly trying to work with a very limited palette getting darks and lights down while simultaneously going for a likeness.  Before each break I took a photograph and the model's expression changed subtly in each photo. She is barely a teen and at first she had a "deer-in-the-headlights' expression with wide eyes and a cautious tilt to her head. As she became more comfortable with people staring at her, the expression became more confident, at times cocky, without her even being aware of the change. I liked the initial expression as it showed an openess and vulnerability.

Most of my time spent on this portrait was attempting to capture this expression and get a likeness. Others in the class had different goals and Tom is the first one to admit a likeness is not the sole goal of the sessions. The critique was held at the beginning of my third session (their fifth).

It was my first critique with this group and I wanted to be on time, but I also had to instuct my kids in how to carve pumpkins. They wanted to start them that night and I wouldn't be there. Still I thought I'd made it to the door of the studio on time. My heart sank when I saw everyone already seated with their paintings in front.  uh-oh. Everybody said Tom was punctual; I knew that going in. So I apologized to him and the group, explaining I thought the start time was 7:30. Tom looked at his watch and said, "It's 7;32 Jeff." Darn.

My portrait was up last, obviously, and we all have to say something positive about our own effort. Well that was hard, so I mumbled something about liking the fleshtones. When your painting is suddenly thrust into an objective space in front of you, it's difficult not to see the flaws. There were many. In striving to get the expression I'd gone for way too much detail, particulary in the eyes, and the eyes were too dark. The temp of the shadows was off. Edges were too hard. Etc, etc. Note to self: I've noticed that when you're working on a painting and the reading glasses come out you get waaaaay too close to the painting and forget to step back.

After the critique the model takes the stand for a final bow and we're allowed one last shot. That's the effort below. I'm not going back to this from photos because, like I said I want to line them all up in June. I'm not happy with the result (I liked the one above better), but it is what it is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Few Sketches

A couple of weeks ago I had the idea of copying paintings as exercises.  I brought up on my mac screen or printed out drawings and paintings from artists I admire like Mark Demsteader and Henry Yan.  After copying a few of them I went to my own reference files, and using photos from our model sessions, I took what I learned from copying and tried to apply it.  I like the way it turned out and think it has helped even in live model sessions. The above sketches are from: (l to R) todays model session, a session in March and one from the summer. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Artist vs. Painter: Which?

There's a story floating around my artist group. The facts aren't as relevant as the content. Not sure if it happened at a workshop or during a class or in art school. 

A student approached the Master and asked how to be an artist. The Master thought for a moment,  then replied that it was the wrong question. First the student had to decide if they wanted to be an artist or a painter. The student asked, "What's the difference?"

A Painter develops her craft to an exceptional level then paints pictures that sell to collectors for high prices and makes a lot of money. The student said, " Hey that's what I want! But what's an artist?"

An Artist develops her craft to an exceptional level then explores her creativity using that craft, perhaps pushing the boundaries of the Art of Painting and enriching the whole of humanity.

The student said, "That sounds good too! What's the catch?"

The Artist is poor because she paints what interests her and what facilitates her growth. The Painter makes money because she caters to a collector base painting whatever the collectors want/however they want.

I can find lots of examples to corroborate this worldview, from DaVinci to Van Gogh, Sargent to Cezanne. Stepping outside the world of painting we can find examples in music with the concept of "selling out", or in performing arts with poor theatre people vs. very wealthy action movie stars.  But I'm not sure the worldview is accurate, though it's tempting to believe the evidence. If one digs a little deeper the clear distinctions become blurred.

Take Van Gogh for example: This was a guy who painted what he wanted, the way he wanted, with little commercial success in his lifetime. Shortly after his death his painting was found to have value and now it has exceptional value - both monetarily and culturally. But history tells us Van Gogh was beginning to be appreciated in his lifetime, with some early critical notice from Paris - then he offed himself. If Vincent had stuck around longer he might have enjoyed some commercial success (gasp), as Monet did. 

There's another example: for half his life Claude Monet was poor, miserably poor, rent dodging poor, sponging off wealthy friends poor, burning canvas for heat poor.  Then later he was rich. So wealthy in fact he could buy views from local landowners in order to paint them, rich enough to divert a river to create his own personal water gardens. Rich enough to hobnob with celebrity politicians. 

After an opening last week a bunch of artists and spouses went out to dinner. We were talking about web sites, and one husband said while designing his wife's website he considered adding a couch at the bottom. A couch whose color a browser could change - just to see if the paintings on the site matched.

My own worldview on this Painter vs. Artist isn't so either/or. It is a question I've given serious thought to, and come to a few conclusions. I think it's a question every "artist/painter" has to face at some point.  It's a question that once answered gets every artist up in the morning to do the work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tom Buechner's Friday Night Class: First Session

Contour Drawing

Last Friday Thomas Buechner's portrait class started. It runs from October to June. My friend Bruce was kind enough to share his 'slot' with me. (There's a waiting list.) We alternate Fridays. The model for this month is a young teen, the daughter of one of Buechner's more famous models - Sonjia.

I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to this. Mondays I study with Dustin Boutwell and my plate is pretty full for the rest of the week. Tuesday is catch-up (framing, painting.)Wednesday is our nude model session, Thursdays I generally go to Ithaca for another model sesssion. Saturday's Open Studio at 171 Cedar Arts will be starting up. (Saturday is also a bird hunting day.) My Sundays in the fall (and spring) are full of soccer and coaching soccer. So the idea of painting Friday nights didn't have me too excited. But -after attending the first session with Tom Buechner I was excited.

I wasn't sure if Tom remembered me from past plein air sessions, but he did. The classes are held at his home on a hill high above Corning, NY. I arrived a few minutes early, which was fortuitous. Tom was able to introduce me to his studio assistants Eric and Maria and generally orient me as to rules and procedures. In order to get the full benefit of the sessions he suggested I paint his way, just like in a workshop, then after a while I could decide if I liked it.

His studio is amazing, and amazingly organized. There are hardwood floors, a wall of northlight windows, shelves of books on various painters (all arranged alphabetically of course) a model dais and mirrors and reflectors and painting materials...go to his website and you'll have a neat view of the space. Tom moved his giant Hughes easel out of the way to accomodate the class, and he painted from his ancient Jullian. Most of the students brought Jullians, though I did see a Soltek. Everyone present had been painting with Tom for years. There's no conversation except on model breaks and he plays opera over a state-of-the-art sound system. Oh, and turn your cell phone off, please.

My position was beside and slightly ahead of Tom. We were all squeezed in pretty tight and it wasn't a full class. Photos with no flash are allowed, so after every break I grabbed a few. I couldn't help but notice on the wall behind me a large blue ribbon. It was an "Award of Merit" from an OPA show.  I asked him what he'd submitted and he said he didn't know, that Eric and Maria go through his paintings and pick one out. He's received it in the mail recently. Jeez.

The way Tom explained his method of portrait painting to me was this: the first class draw a contour of the model on your surface. Then fix it at home. then stain it with a wash of yellow ochre and Ultramarine for a weak green. The next session is for painting the extremes of light and dark using Tit white or Naples yellow and a dark. After that he said we'd get into full color and half-tones.

The Contour is supposed to be a "road map" with no modeling whatsover. I hadn't spent three hours drawing one contour in years. Through the first break and most of the second I worked to place the head and shoulders in my rectangle. After I was happy with the position I started the contour in earnest. Generally if doing this on my own I'd make marks to place the bridge of the nose, zyphoid notch, jawline etc. Tom didn't want that and made me erase it. He also said my lines were waaaaay too heavy (at one point asking if I were doing stained glass). I struggled to reduce them. At the end of the three hour session I had a reasonable likeness. Sonjia, the model's mother, was appreciative of it. One thing the exercise did teach me is how easy it was to lose a likeness; one second it was there and the next subtle correction it was gone....

Tom has some great stories to tell and a lifetime of information to impart. He seems to have either taken a workshop with everybody famous or he sat next to them at a dinner party. He doesn't drop these names boasting, but in conversation while making a point about painting. During this session I learned he sat next to Richard Schmid at a dinner years ago, and had a very long conversation with him about painting. He's also told some funny stories about workshops with Kevin Macpherson, and contrasted styles of artists with Nelson Shanks. Stories like these bring the art world to life. I'm left wondering if he has any Hopper or Wyeth stories to tell. I don't know, hell, maybe he has one about Homer or Eakins.

As I said in an earlier blog entry Tom has a retrospective currently at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. There is a piece about him in the October issue of American Art Collector Magazine. His October show opens this Thursday at  West End Gallery in Corning, NY. Last week I was previewing the show and got a jolt as I noticed something. Tom must have been pulling out some very old photo references because he has a beautiful portrait of a girl about 12 or 13 years old. The same girl modeled for us recently. Now she's a 22 or 23 year old woman. Upstairs from Tom's show at West End I'll have a nude painting of her sitting on a diving board. Pretty cool.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

American Art Collector: A Review

"There's gold in them thar hills."  Unknown

In October of 2005 a magazine unique to the art world was launched. Published by the same outfit that does International Artist it's aim was to bring collectors and galleries and artists together. The magazine is image rich (appropriate given its purpose), intelligently laid out, generous in its size and a pleasure to browse.

The title of this entry is  misleading; while I'll be blogging about the magazine, this isn't a Review per se. A few weeks ago I began 're-viewing' my copies of American Art Collector  starting at the beginning, Issue #1. There are 48 issues so far, and I'm at #28. Besides being great inspiration and motivation, the magazine is important to me as an artist because it educates me on the Domain of Painting.

Every art has its own domain and part of the education process is learning that domain. The art of science has its domain, business has a domain, soccer and sports have a domain, just about every activity known to man has a domain - including 'Fly Catching with Chopsticks'.  It supposedly takes ten years to (ahem) master the domain. This includes mastery of craft. And there are circles within circles in each domain. It's been said the average age of the Nobel Prize winners in physics has continuously increased because the Domain of Physics is getting so huge it takes more time to master.

Painting has its own domain encompassing pretty much all of Art History, Art Theory and Craft Mastery. I believe a painter should be a student of painting and its history. A painter should be able to recognize a Turner or a Caravaggio. They should know where oil painting originated (Northern Europe) and why Durer went to Italy. A painter should have a grasp on the natural sucession of artists from way, way before Giotto right through to Pollock, Porter, Wyeth and beyond. American Art Collector Magazine is the beyond.

AACM has contemporary realist painters and sculptors - contemporary meaning of our time right now. I think it tries to showcase the best painters and sculptors working today in the realist tradition. There are no conceptual artists, fiber artists, abstract artists, video artists, or any artists of that ilk. In some of the first few issues I noticed a photographer here and there, but that has apparently been discontinued.  After the first year a special section on sculpture was added.

Every month I eagerly await, then slowly savor each issue that arrives in my mailbox.  Galleries take out huge full page and half page adds on upcoming shows.  Various featured artists are interviewed and their work displayed. This mag is not a 'how-to' like American Artist.  This is a glorious display, the best foot forward, a gallery walk and studio tour.  This is a  slice of some of the best  painting in America today.

A Warning: don't expect any deep analysis on the art or artists. I do like the fact that I can check out prices artists are charging for their work, sometimes even comparing prices from previous years.  This info is for the collector to determine appreciation (never depreciation), but it's valuable info for artists too.

Recently the magazine has changed in a subtle way. I've been trying to nail down exactly what changed, but have so far been unsuccessful. Perhaps its a new editor who has shifted emphasis subtly.  I do know there used to be photos of the artist's studios, and that seems to have been dropped. (As an artist I love to see other studios.) Perhaps the quality of the art showcased has dropped. Reviewing issues, as I approach October 2009 I find my self less wowed by the work. Flipping pages I'm thinking "cliche, cliche, derivative, oooo bad" more and more with only the occasional "HOLY SMOKES".

Some Observations :

Joseph Todorovitch preceded Jeremy Lipking in the magazine.

Jeremy Lipking's first painting in AACM was a landscape.

Danny Mccaw has almost disappeared from the magazine after dominating early issues.

I find something distasteful in Chinese painters using Tibetans as subject matter.

John O'Hern is a contributing writer (editor?) to AACM. He was the director of our local Arnot Art Museum until recently. While there he put together an annual show called "Representing Representation". Unfortunately he has since left the area. Fortunately he still writes for American Art Collector.

Tom Buechner has a retrospective at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia and he's showcased in the October 2009 issue. I'm painting with TB and hope to blog a little about it.

Robert Liberace is rarely mentioned. Wonder why?

In the US the most important galleries for representational painting are located in NYC, Atlanta, Charleston, New England Coastal, Scottsdale AZ, Laguna Beach and LA. OK never mind, that's pretty much a duh? observation.

I'm continuosly flummoxed by the fact that people actually buy still lifes of grapes and fruit and wine bottles and cheese and vegetables and meat....????

Artist Don Huber grows on you. I like him. He's taken out a full-page ad in the mag from, I think, Day One.

Conclusion: If you're an artist painting in a representational manner  - subscribe to this magazine.  If you love representational painting - subscribe.  American Art Collector is NOT like International Artist or American Artist, etc. There is no talk of how to paint, it's simply a glorious celebration of the paintings themselves.  Oh, and by the way, it's monthly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Full Monty

After about 45 mins. I think the proportions are a little off.  It's funny how difficult it is for the group to pose a male model. 

Progress of a Painting - Almost Done

 11x14 Oil

Almost Finished

These are pretty close to finished I think. A few small things to clean/clear up, but most of the work is complete.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Film "Local Color": My Review

Last night I sat down and watched "Local Color", a film creating a bit of buzz amongst artists because...well, it's about artists.  Trusty Netflix shipped it out the same day it released to DVD (Sept. 9th). I enjoy watching films in the evening, and probably watch three or four a week. My Netflix list is pretty long and in a continual state of flux. I bumped "Local Color" to the top. I wanted to see it and had no real expectations.  So from 10 to 1130 I grabbed a bag of Tostitos and plopped on the couch.

Brief Plot Summary: Aspiring young artist with passion for painting discovers he lives near admired Russian Master. Said Russian Master doesn't paint anymore for unknown reasons (probably because he's an alcoholic?). Russian Master is very bitter about state of art world re. Abstract and Conceptual Art. (The film is set in the early 70's.)  Young artist (18) eschews art school after cajoling Master to teach him how to paint. Pair go off together to Master's second house somewhere in Pennsylvania countryside to supposedly paint. Russian Master pulls a Miyagi on young artist getting him to paint and paper house, while at the same time dropping gems of wisdom.  Young artist thinks he's being used and rebels. Anger. Tears, kissy-kissy make-up. Glory of painting. 

Ok that's the basic plot; been done hundreds of times, usually in martial arts flicks. Old mentor and young pupil. Striving for perfection. yada, yada, yada.... 

The rating is "R" due to language, and only language. A lot of f-bombs. 

The Writer/Director is George Gallo and the script is supposedly based on his real-life experiences. I wasn't aware of Mr. Gallo before the picture. Apparently he's a well-known landscape artist painting in an impressionist style. Good stuff. Mr. Gallo's own paintings are used throughout the movie as examples of the Master's work. 

A large part of the movie refights the tired, old battle between representational art on one side and abstract/conceptual art on the other.  You know I think that war was won, or at least an armistice was signed. Both sides take the occasional potshot across the DMZ, but it's not a hot war, at least not in my world. Perhaps some are still fighting, but the passions the movie attempts to evoke just made me yawn. 

It was nice to see a Jullian easel so prominently displayed during the movie, and any movie that mentions John Carlson gets a star. The dialogue about painting was interesting. I especially like the part where the Young Artist basically asks the Master to teach him his secrets of painting, and the Master says, "Work. Just work." Of course the pupil is incredulous.

Acting: Ray Liotta was hilarious as the young artist's father. Charles Durning has a small role, played to perfection. Ron Perlman of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Hellboy" fame is a collector/gallery owner with a lisp (if you know what I mean).  This was a hard character to figure out. Perlman's character is the intellectual foil to the Russian Master and he's soon made a fool for his views.  Ok..., but Perlman plays the character as gay. But the guy has a wife/girlfriend? In the real world I know couples like this, but the relationship in the movie initially confused me, then got me to wondering. I'm terrible at multi-tasking, so as I was wondering I stepped out of the movie. That's not something a writer/director normally wants from a viewer. 

Armin Mueller-Stahl plays Seroff, the Russian Master. Good performance- not earth shaking. Solid.

Trevor Morgan plays the young artist. Now that's bad acting. Wow...stinky bad. I hope he came cheap, because his performance wasn't worth much. Anything really. Matter-of-fact he should have paid them.

Pet Peeves: A good chunk of the movie was set in Pennsylvania. It didn't look like any part of PA I know. The light was all wrong, the vegetation and foliage were tropical, and nowhere in the film are there distant blue hills. It's flat, flat, flat. I don't think there's a corner of PA that doesn't have some blue hills in the background. Turns out the movie was filmed in Louisiana. 

Note: If you're going to try to pull off changing seasons in Louisiana some red silk leaves from Michael's, styrofoam snow and a high school stage set won't work. Money issue? Then change the script.

Are there painters who can paint in a brash & slash manner and not get any paint on their nice, white t-shirt? I guess it's possible. Made me think he was a putz though.  

No subtitles. This pisses me off. Why release a dvd without subtitles in 2009? Yes, I've hearing loss - too many guns shot without hearing protection. But even my kids like subtitles, even if it's just to go back and check missed dialogue.  

Bottom Line: Overall the movie sucked. When I crank up the PS3 I expect/hope to be taken on a ride for about an hour and a half. Usually I can get lost in the movie within the first few minutes. "Local Color" kept ejecting me. Then I had to get up, brush the dust off and try to get back in. It was annoying. I did watch the movie to the end. I did enjoy parts of it. It's nice to see a movie about artists with artist lingo, but I would have preferred to watch a presentation by Mr. Gallo on his paintings. The paintings were the real stars. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Limited Palettes

For a long, long time now I've been scoffing at the idea of a limited palette.  I would read about authors extolling the virtues of the limited palette, then further on they'd all cite a few 'other colors' they use for 'convenience', thus losing all credibility. It's not a limited palette in my opinion if you pull out the old cad green light, red gold lake and sheveningen blue whenever you feel like it. I've also seen artists claim they use a limited palette, but when I counted up their colors we're talking 12 - 14. Not exactly limited.

Maybe limited is a state of mind? Perhaps.

But...(big but), I'm reconsidering a limited palette for various reasons. Let me take a stab at this. How about: tit white, black, transp oxide red, yellow ochre, cad red, ultramarine blue? That's six colors, about halving my normal palette. The two problems I'm having with this palette are yellow ochre and black.

I've tried a few different yellow ochres. Williamsburg offers quite a variety, though pricey for a color that can look like diahrrea.  For a while I banished yellow ochre from the sacred surface of my palette. It crept back. On my palette now is Gamblin's version. I dislike them all.  Wednesday I mentioned this to Jackie and Bruce so they pulled out a raw sienna and gold ochre. I liked the raw sienna, and ordered a small tube. We'll see. 

Black. Does any other color elicit more opinion than black?  Painter's get passionate about their whites, but nothing polarizes more than a discussion of black. I did a quick search to find the differences between the various blacks. 

Mars Black: a lean black with a slightly cool undertone.
Lamp black: middle-of-the road. Cool undertone.
Ivory Black: very rich and fat. This black is supposed to have a warm undertone - but I don't see it. I've tried Daler-Rowney and Gamblin - both were the coolest of the three. Someone, somewhere on my search said they think some Phthalo is being added. I believe it.

Then there are the mixed blacks: chromatic (Gamblin) and transp. oxide red + ultramarine blue. Chromatic black is a bit fat and transparent. But it stains really, really bad. Probably the phthalo green in the mix.  TOR + ultr. blue is beautiful and transparent, but add some white and it loses its lustre. Plus transp. oxide red is so powerful that it's a real balancing act to take it up or down (warm/cool).

A whole lot of artists say you don't need a black. I think this goes back to the Impressionists, and that tired old story about Sargent asking Monet for some black. My retort to that is the Impressionists weren't tonal painters. One can argue they were even leaving the fold of representational painting.

Back to my blacks - I'm trying Mars and will experiment with lamp when it arrives. (wow this discussion would be mindnumbingly boring to anyone who wasn't a painter.)

Why am considering a limited palette after all these years? Various reasons. Right now I'm trying to acquire a deeper and broader knowledge of value. Color - and matching local color and hues - tends to get in the way. Also I've been studying various photographers and their use of both color and tone. Photography and photographers really have a lot to offer painters in  different, yet compatible ways of seeing.  Georgia O'Keefe subtracted all color from her art very early when she was learning her craft. When she felt she had a handle on tones she gradually reintroduced color into her work, starting with blue. I don't feel the need to banish all color and work exclusively in value, just a need/desire to explore a limited palette further.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Few Stories

Story Number One  Yesterday was the palette auction in Hammondsport. Three friends of mine had painted palettes and we were all anxious to see how it would go. This is the third year of the event. In the spring artists are asked to paint or sculpt anything they want on a giant palette (guessing 3x4 feet?). Then a local business displays the palettes for the summer. At the end of the summer they're auctioned off in the town square. Half the selling price goes to the artist; the other half goes to support and promote local art. 

My friend Jackie had done a beautiful portrait of Dr. Frank (local celebrity who 'discovered' wine-growing/selling in the Finger Lakes region.)  Jackie spent a lot of time on her palette - a lot. Bruce and I saw the process. She stretched and glued Claessens over the surface, painted a grisaille and finished off with a beautiful rendering. It was on display at Dr. Konstantin Frank's vineyard all summer. 

Bruce had an outstanding lake scene. Dustin Boutwell had a top-notch still-life of grapes, wineglass and opener. Knowing how much time was put into the paintings I expected them to easily break $1000 and that wouldn't have been enough. There were a few other notables, especially Ron Dixon's. 

To make a long story short - none of them broke $1000. Jackie's went for about 2/3 of that and it would have gone lower except Bruce bid on it and won. I've never seen Bruce angry before. Really . Yesterday, like Mrs. PotatoHead, he had his angry eyes out. 

Some bystanders were overheard saying they thought the prices for the palettes this year were much more reasonable than last. Not a chance. Setting aside the time put into the paintings, they should have gone for more money based on just the quality.  Perhaps its the economy, perhaps it was the rain yesterday... still it's a shame....

Story Number Two   A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with my brother. We don't get together much. He's a simple man and I mean that in the best sense. He likes his meat and potatoes, a good book, and a beer with friends. He cuts trees for a living and is good at it. He knows his stuff. He can also tell a great story. When he's 'on' he'll have you spitting out your nose.

This summer my brother did some work at the home of Bronson Pinchot.  Mr. Pinchot, also a funny guy, has a home on the NY/PA border. That's pretty much "God's Country" and needless to say there's been a bit of a culture clash. As my brother quotes Mr. Pinchot, "They hate me. They really do and I don't care."  

I can't do my brother's story justice. You had to be there.  My brother was cutting trees for him and deep in thought walked around a corner. He came face-to-face with this celebrity, surprising them both. Mr. Pinchot recovered first and said, "A paddy face! I just came from Ireland and I saw lots of paddy faces!"

My mother and I locked eyes and I said to him, "You know he insulted you?" She seconded it. My brother didn't care. He shrugged it off thinking it was pretty funny. I guess we do have 'paddy faces' and there's no getting around it. We've too many Finegans, Killeens and Kellys in our genes.

Story Number Three  A retired friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous) was filling in at a local general store in Pine Creek, PA. this summer. A gaggle of college girls came in asking directions to a remote waterfall. Since it was the end of his shift he volunteered to lead them there. This place was really remote and directions would probably have been useless for anyone not familiar with the area. 

After a forty-five minute hike they arrived at said waterfall. The young women expressed some disappointment, expecting it to be a fairy-tale pool with a thundering cataract.  My friend told them there was another waterfall above the first that was really beautiful, but it was another 15 - 20 minute hike uphill. They wanted to see it.

This second waterfall was magical. Water fell in a thin, cold stream from 40 feet into a deep, green pool laced with ferns. The young women stripped down to bikinis right there in front of him and plunged in.

 I thought the story ended there.  With a twinkle in his eye my friend said he waved good-bye as they shouted their thanks. He looked at me and said, "Jeff, I knew what was going to happen the moment I was out of sight. I knew." So he snuck back around and hid behind a tree.

Sure enough when the coast was clear the bikinis came off. He said it was one of the most wondrous sights his tired, old eyes had ever witnessed.  I can only imagine. With envy. 

Some readers will be offended by this story. Some readers will think my friend should have been turned into a stag right then and there, to be ripped apart by his own dogs. But before you go all Actaeon on us let me say this: I have some female friends who if the situation had been reversed, if these had been buff college guys, they would have felt no shame whatsoever in creeping back around to hide behind that tree.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Led by a Nose

Earlier in the summer I took the kids and our dog to North Country Outfitters in Nelson, PA. Jim Oman and I put a couple birds out for the dog. This was to give her some fun and exercise working them. She worked the first bird no problem. I flushed it for her, and it took off for the opposite hill.

Then the second bird was pointed and I duly flushed it, but instead of taking off it fluttered up, then down, and ran. No big deal, and we weren't hunting, so I told the dog to work the bird. It had run about 75 yards, but she didn't know where it had gone. The dog circled twice, then backtracked, lost the scent, and circled. While watching her I half-listened to Oman explaining to the kids what the dog was doing. He told them a dog, especially a hunting dog, 'sees' with it's nose. He said she wasn't using her eyes at all, but instead was busy decoding the information her nose was flooding into her brain. This dog was literally being led by her nose.

While driving today this scene popped into my head for some reason (probably because bird season isn't far away). I can't even imagine the reality of a dog with a sensitive nose, but I see the behavior. Smells fascinate them. Odors are their reality. What would a fine work of art be for a dog? It would certainly be very smelly.

We humans don't have that refined sense of smell. We're visually oriented. Artists even more so. I guess we're like the bird dogs of vision. I've seen this in action during critique sessions. A group of artists sitting around and a painting is put in front of them. Immediately they're all on point. It goes beyond the pleasure of vision; it's almost involuntary.

As an artist I devour images. It doesn't matter if they're photographs or drawings, paintings or etchings, they grab my attention. Most for just a fraction of a second, the better ones for longer, and the best hold my attention for a long, long time.

Does anybody else enjoy browsing in a bookstore just to look at the book covers? Usually I use Amazon to buy books, but Amazon in one sense can't beat walking around a Barnes & Noble or Borders. That sense is vision. The sheer wealth of images surrounding me on every book cover... if I give myself over to the pleasures of looking I don't even care about the book's content. Lately I've been trying to slow down when a cover catches my attention, attempting to analyze exactly what caught me, but it's hard when right-brain is asking for more, more, more - to do the left-brain thing.

Back to that bird. The dog worked the puzzle out in her head and locked up on point. My God an English Setter on point is beautiful. This time the bird held and I had to kick it into the air. The dog watched it fly out of sight, then turned and looked at me. I could see the realization in her eyes that that was it for the day, the realization and the disappointment. Not unlike the look in my friend Bruce's eyes when he realizes there are no more paintings for critique that day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sketch from Wednesday's Model Session

About 45 minutes. The model liked it. For more finished paintings please visit West End Gallery or

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Sorg Easel: A Review

Nine years ago tomorrow my Jullian easel arrived. I know the date because my daughter arrived the same day. I'd like to say I'm still using that easel, that I love my Jullian and wouldn't trade it for anything. Unfortunately none of that is true. (For the record I DO love my Jillian and wouldn't trade her.)

Down in my basement:
  • Jullian full box easel

  • Jullian half-box easel

  • table top easel

  • Open Box "M" 11x14

  • Easy "L" easel

  • Stanrite steel field easel

  • Gloucester Easel

  • two home made pochades

  • Guerilla Box

  • 6x8 Guerrilla Thumb box

  • Guerilla Cigar Box

  • One Utrecht Portable Sketch Easel

  • Open Box "M" Palm Box

  • Julian Thumb Box

  • Plus a variety of different tripods, including a surveyor's tripod.
Do I own an art supply store? No. Does my wife think I'm totally nuts? Yes.

For many years I was on a quest for the perfect easel; one that worked hard in the studio, was very portable and could stand up to all kinds of abuse in the field. AND it had to have a reasonable footprint. After nine long years I've given up.

Three weeks ago I bought a studio easel: the David Sorg studio easel. I ordered it from his website and paid $790. That price is one reason I wasn't jumping up and down in excitement. It's a chunk of change, and I wanted to decrease odds it would end up in the basement. So before committing myself I called David Sorg to get some questions answered. I called him in the morning EST, and after dialing noticed the address was in Colorado. Oops. He answered the phone on the third ring.

Questions I wanted answered:
  • what quality wood is used? Italian beech imported to China.

  • will it fit in a room with 7.5' ceilings? Yes, but I won't get full use of the easel for larger paintings

  • how long before delivery? Depends on Jerry's Artorama. They handle the shipping.

  • footprint dimensions? 31 in. x 31 in
Mr. Sorg says under an agreement he has with Jerry's Artorama they handle shipping and inventory. The easel can be ordered from the Sorg website or Jerry's. If ordered from the Sorg website he includes some wax sticks to lubricate the grooves, a beefed-up top bracket knob, and detailed assembly instructions. I asked Mr. Sorg about competing easels. He says the "cadillac" of easels has always been considered the Hughes Easels, but he thinks his is a very close second. Apparently Mr. Sorg has taken all the best ideas from various studio easels and engineered them into his own. He also advised me to cut off the top of the center bracket when assembling the easel because of my low ceiling. We had a long pleasant conversation during which all my questions, and some questions I didn't know I had, were answered. It was apparent to me Mr. Sorg is very proud of his easel and stands behind it.

I was a little leery of having anything to do with Jerry's Artorama due to many past bad experiences. They were only handling delivery of inventory though, so I decided to go ahead. I ordered the easel from Mr. Sorg.

To my great surprise the easel arrived in five days. It probably would have been sooner, but the five days included a weekend. Also to my surprise it arrived on a semi-truck. The rig couldn't get near my driveway. Luckily I've a pick-up and I met the driver on a street corner near the house. The shipping container weighed 160 pounds. I unpacked it in the bed of my truck and carted the parts inside.

Assembly took half an hour, but only because I had Mr. Sorg's assembly instructions. If I'd used the instructions shipped with the easel from China it would have taken...days. The easel fit the space perfectly and I was getting paint on it within an hour.

Before I get into it's features a word about how I paint: standing up on New Traditions Boards, the largest so far 20x24. I'm six foot and I hold a rectangular palette in my left hand with a few brushes. I use OMS as a thinner and have Gamblin's neo-megalip in a cup on the palette. Even though I hold some brushes, I like to have a selection near at hand along with a large container for my OMS.

The easel shelf is at about mid thigh-height. There are two stainless steel containers on either side: one for brushes and one for OMS. The shelf is sturdy and handy for placing knives or a coffee cup. Above the shelf is another grooved shelf for brushes. I keep two stainless steel rulers there. Two grooved "wings" extend from the side of the larger shelf, another place for brushes or miscellaneous tools. A paper towel holder is under the shelf. Very handy. The entire easel is on beefy metal casters; the front two of which lock. They are also adjustable for leveling. The hardware is all-over solid. The wood is solid and nice quality.

The real beauty of this easel is its bracketing system. Top and bottom brackets are surfaced in a heavy grit sandpaper. The bottom bracket runs the width of the easel. The top is about ten inches. I can place a panel in the brackets and have the surface flush, ramrod straight with no jiggle, wiggle or after adjustments. There is no annoying shadow cast by the top bracket. I can paint over the entire surface of my picture at any time. What luxury!

If I had higher ceilings I know I'd be raving about the pulley system for adjusting the painting. With two fingers you can raise or lower your painting surface, without taking it out of either bracket. The pulley system still comes in handy with my low ceiling, but when lowering it I also lower the brush holders and OMS container. They can end up around my shins, so I'm stooping over to rinse/select brushes or grab some paper towels. A word on the paper towel holder: not the greatest. It works fine, but it's plastic and I have to struggle every time to place the roll. Then I use it without thinking. Very minor gripe.

The bottom bracket has two adjustment knobs. If I'm not careful my painting won't be level. For this I have a line level I use, keeping it handy on one of the "wings". A line level can be bought at Lowe's for, I'm guessing, fifty-cents. Definitely worth it. I place it on the bottom bracket, level, and tighten knobs. A few seconds.

So there you have it. Am I going to get all gushy about this easel? No. My highest praise is this: the easel allows me to do my job. It's solid, my surface doesn't move, there are no pesky shadows and I can work without worry. Once the painting surface is placed I can PAINT, in comfort, without interruptions from my easel. High praise indeed. Definitely worth the price.

Now if I can only get my kids to obey our House Rule: "No Talking to Daddy When He's Working Unless There is Bleeding or Something is Broken." Ya, like that'll ever happen.

About Me

My photo
Elmira, New York, United States
In many ways I think like a photographer. The image itself is becoming more and more important to me; the actual application of paint less and less. Blasphemy in some painterly circles. I choose to paint figures and portraits because I consider them the most difficult subject.