Saturday, June 27, 2009

Very First Post

I blame Dustin Boutwell for this. He's the artist I've been studying with for the past 13 months. I always take time off during the summer from his class because the summer can be hectic with two kids. There's swimming lessons, tennis lessons, soccer camps, etc. Six weeks ago I asked Dustin for a "report card", not so much looking at what I've accompished, but how do I get where I want to go. He came over to the house last week and we talked and looked and talked about painting. During that time we touched on the business side and he suggested a blog. So here i am - blogging. But I'll never twitter.

Since this is The Beginning I guess a quick update on my background is in order:
After graduating from Penn State in English, I looked around and decided to join the Coast Guard. That way I could earn money to pay off student loans and learn how to drive a boat. Ahh youth - I thought it was important to learn that. Seven years later I was coxswain of a 41, could fight a fire on the ocean, navigate, read a chart, run a search pattern and get my crew home safe. I also learned how to chip paint, tie knots, tell a short lobster from a legal lobster and fish for stripers. Then the fun went out of it - it was time to move on.

A quick relocation inland. At this point I married a wonderfully awesome woman I'd been dating for ten years. We'd known each other since high school and started dating in college. The two of us weren't just lovers but best friends. Marriage. Now I needed a new career. At first I tried Deputy Sheriff but moved over to Deputy Coroner. This was to be my career. We bought a house, planted a perennial garden and lived the DINK life-style. (DoubleIncomeNoKids)

At this point I should probably mention something about Art. Ever since I can remember I've drawn or painted. I visited galleries, read books, kept a sketchbook, did the portrait thing as gifts for family and friends. In the Coast Guard it passed the time, plus there were some great subjects. While in the Coroner's Office it helped balance the negative of dealing with death every day. I can remember buying my first real watercolor set: enameled steel Winsor & Newton half pans. When a friend of mine found out what I'd paid for it he thought I was nuts. Then I mentioned what he paid to trick out his Harley.

So after five years of marriage it was time for kids. No... more like Time For Kids. Connor was born at 1030. I remember the neonatologist turning to me and saying, "Welcome to Fatherhood. From now on you'll be known as Connor's Dad." How true. Big changes. Then my wife lost her position and we knew we'd have to move. More changes.

We ended up leaving the perennial garden, our first house and my career behind. More children were planned so it was decided, after mucho discussion, that I would be a house-dad. Neither of us wanted somebody else (day-care, babysitters, nanny) to raise our kids and we had no extended family to lean on. It was a new chapter in our lives.

Flash ahead one year: Here we are in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. My son is a toddler and we have a newborn daughter. I'm dying here. Stuck in the house, no local friends, diapers to change, bottles to warm, TeleTubbies on the needed a lot of estrogen and I had very little.

My wife came to the rescue. She was happy in her new position working on her career, meeting people and making friends. She saw me stuck at home slowly going insane and had a brilliant idea. We were walking around a neighboring artsy town at Christmas time. As was our habit we popped into a local gallery. She was quiet inside the gallery, and when we came out she turned to me and said, "You know you could do that." Ah-Ha One of those life-changing moments. Did I mention she's my best friend?

To make a long story short, I worked on some watercolors, approached a local gallery, and was accepted. The paintings sold. Actually this story in itself is kind of interesting and informative. I'll save it for another entry.

Three years ago I switched from watercolor to oil and seriously ramped up my seriousness. The kids were older, Connor was 9 and Jillian 6. They were both in school, doing well, and I needed to start making some money from my art. I joined a portrait group, began attending live-model sessions, and studying with Dustin. In the fall I also start studying with Tom Buechner. Right now I consider myself a student. Actually I'll probably be a student for life and that's a good thing. In this blog I hope to explore and chronicle this journey of being an artist. I'll talk about and post my paintings, some stuff I've learned and the people in my life. We're all helping each other to move to the next level. I'm going to try to keep the bullshit down. I'm going to try to keep it focused on art, though don't hold me too close to that. One vow I will keep is NO POLITICS. It just pisses me off and brings out the worst.

So my hope is that you will be slightly entertained and informed. Enough about you. I hope I'm entertained and informed by this too. Hey, it's my blog!


  1. Hi Jeff,
    Working here at the gallery and saw the link to your blog from the email - very interesting to read your background - and entertaining!

  2. Ten years?! You dated for 10 years! I thought my 9 was bad. Ha! I am smiling. I know someone who did the same thing you are doing and I understand all those diaper changes but how enviable. What loving parent would not want to stay with the kids? Lucky are those who can.

  3. And now married for 17 years. Yes I am lucky. (I keep telling myself that.)

  4. Jeff,
    What prompted the switch from watercolors to oils? I was watercolor/acrylics but I found I love oils (very orgiving) and still love to draw/silverpoint.


  5. Hi Cindy, Watercolor and I had a wonderful relationship, but in the end it didn't last. We decided to part amicably and still remain friends. I doubt that 'old black magic' will ever be rekindled. We saw each other's faults and in the end just couldn't work through them.

    Framing - no matter what I tried I still made about $25 on a sold 22x30 watercolor. Framing is waaaaay too expensive.

    Color Shift - the longer I painted the more the color shift as the paint dried bugged me. It's the same with acrylics, just opposite (light to dark as opposed to dark to light).

    Watercolor culture - seemed to be going in the direction of a photorealism. The top watercolorists, the prize winners in AWS and the mags, all seemed to be doing detailed drawings then filling the drawing in with wc. This wasn't a direction I wanted to

    Patience - the older I get the less I have. wc needs the patience to lay a wash and wait, paint and wait. And u cant really wait somewhere else, like in front of the tv, because some effects have a very narrow window of seconds, and u have to get it right while the paint is drying.

    No respect - and finally wc just doesn't get any respect.

    This is what I balanced against all the positives of oil. Before completely giving up I tried gouache, but it was just prolonging the inevitable. Oil is great. Much more depth. I almost wish I had found it years ago - before wc.

    A friend of mine does silverpoint. It's a very cool technique. Very subtle with great beauty. I especially like your silverpoint of the figure. It isn't for me though. Im too slash & dash. I like pastel pencils and hard square crayons for contrasty tonal effects.

  6. Check out David Drummond. He's a watercolorist in New Mexico. HE's got a PHd in physics -studied light or optics for a national lab out west. They wanted him to do managementment he told them his thoughts on that and I guess he retired.

    He's a full time WC artist and his paintings are gorgeous. I watched him do a demo when I lived in NM and I think you'd love his painting techniques.

    He worked very dark and wet in wet.I'd think OMG it's gonna look black when it dries but it's beautiful. He shines at water and painting reflections. I own a very tiny watercolor of his and it was not cheap.

    I think he's been featured in American Artist-again check him out.


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.