Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Gem of the Convention

I ran across an open letter to artists from Joe Paquet this week.  He wrote it some time back. But hot on the heels of his address to the Plein Air Convention, with his address still fresh in my mind, I found his open letter quite compelling. His singular way of expressing himself which does not allow artistic folderol into the mix, seems comfortably blue collar to me. Joe does not take prisoners. He simply tells it like it is, and let the chips fall where they may.  His head-on delivery may not be as polished as some, but there is no mistaking his meaning. And he is passionate about his beliefs and his work. His eyes light up when he talks about his work. If you go to his blog page  http://www.joepaquet.com/index.php you can read his open letter online or download to read and review at a later time. I did both.

He has emerged as somebody I had not thought to take a class with, but has become somebody whose class I am most anxious to take. He makes you think, strip away the veneer and get down to brass tacks.

Ray Robert's Palette
Definitely an Original

With every impending birthday I feel no closer to feeling good about my work. I wonder does every artist feel this, or am I super sensitive to this issue? I do not want to pay money to a workshop teacher who will show me a few facile tricks and be oh so kind about my work.  What point is this? I think that the workshop with Mr. Paquet would be a good one. It would make me think. Hopefully give me direction in which to grow and learn. It’s a fine line a teacher/mentor walks. They cannot sink your boat  and still teach you anything, other than frustration and despair. But neither should they fawn over the work extolling its virtues. You will not advance. And its the workshops that make you think about your work in a different context that are the most valuable.
Compliments engender complacency and complacency is a vicious thing. It allows you to become satisfied with whatever level you are working.  It’s often easy to paint in a way that your public likes. it's safe. But you (meaning I)can’t stop there . That’s creative death. A new solution to a painting problem is always waiting to be discovered. And the new solution incorporated into your tool bag is what keeps your work fresh. Sometimes you need a teacher to point out what is lacking. Self critique is really good, but it has the inherent limit of being one person’s perspective, your own. And it is so much easier to critique your fellow painters than to judge your own. I think all reflective, thinking artists who give a damn about their work, appreciate an honest critique. It’s often not easy to hear, but it’s oh so necessary.
Painter along the coast of Monterey
I think the singular thing that I am taking of inestimable value from the convention is to be original, not derivative. I am taking to heart the importance of getting the work done, to find my singular, non-derivative voice.  Joe Paquet is an original. I thank him for his wisdom and I appreciate the sharing of this wisdom.

Now to incorporate it into my work.

Favorite quote of the day:
Clever does not equate art.                                                                                             (Daniela Andersen)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Monterey Plein Air Convention 2013

The Monterey Plein Air Convention did not disappoint. And I spent far too much money and would have spent more had I had it. But who could resist paints in colors I had never seen before, or DVDs by some of my long time heroes? Not to mention Rosemary brushes. I blew my money faster than a speeding bullet. And still wish I had picked up that magic brush conditioner. Boy could that save money in the long run.

The trip out to California was predictably long, but I had not counted on a wind storm unlike any I had ever been in before. Tucson area is always an adventure. I had hoped to paint along one particular stretch of I8, but you couldn’t even see across the highway. Painting was not prudent, so I slowly crept on by, saving my panels and paints for Monterey and the return trip.

Blowy day at Asilomar State Park
The convention was wonderful. The speakers were great. And Joe Pacquet was spot on with his admonishment to find your own voice and not be derivative; to put in the time and work the work in order to come into your own. My own heroes were up there painting and making it look so easy. Ken Auster paints like he has a comet attached to him. Don Demers is absolutely wonderful to watch, a real personal favorite for many years, and wonderfully eloquent. Ned Mueller, and Camille Prezwodek made a big hit,  Ned’s painting glowed from the beginning.  It blew me away.

On my first day out I had painted alongside Ned at Point Lobos on the cliffs, setting up not realizing that he was the painter that was already there, until I really looked over and recognized him. What fun! And it was blowy that day too.

Painters Along Asilomar's Cliffs
 The day we painted at Asilomar my Open M box took a gust and blew over. No damage to a mundane painting, but I damaged my painting box. I was hesitant to send it back to Open M, but Thomas Kitts said to contact them, that they would send out the parts and I could swap them out myself. I emailed them and the parts were on their way before I was headed home. What a class act those guys are!
Don Demers Doing His Demonstration
I have no paintings to show you as they are in transit back to me from California, and I want to do a few things to them before I show them. But I did do six pieces on that trip, one at a Paso Robles winery, and one four days later at Big Bend National Park in Texas. That last one is a story all its own.

The tribe assembled, we laughed and talked till we had to open windows to let words out. Everyone shared knowledge and passion for art with open hearts. Alexi Steele’s laugh was pure joy and it was felt by everyone there, pure contagion. Thank you Eric Rhoads and company!

See you next year???

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Tribe Is Gathering

Go To My Website

The Tribe is Gathering

Today I completed my reservations for the last hotel I should need on my way to and from the Plein Air Convention in Monterrey CA.  I leave for CA from New Mexico in three days.

Last year’s event was the singularly best thing I had done for many years. It was totally mind blowing - with so many outstanding presentations that winnowing them out would be impossible. But I have to say that the address given by Clyde Aspevig was worth the price of the whole convention. (Now don’t anybody tell Eric Rhoads!! He’ll raise the price next year!) And watching Ken Auster paint was a glimpse of divine intervention. Ned Meuller and Camille Prezwodek together, were like a finely tuned vaudeville act, but their art was sublime. It was like being a kid in a candy store with too many things to excite your appetite!

I have to say that the lack of inflated egos, the willingness and wanting to share by the faculty of this event is the key to what made this such a success. Some of these people I have known by their DVDs, some by having taken their workshops and some simply by articles and books that provide a glimpse into their creative genius. Never did I think I might be able to ask them the questions that still plague my creative mind. Matt Smith’s jitters before his presentation was really a totally human reaction of a quiet person, to having to present in front of hundreds of fellow painters and some of his heroes. And he did such a magnificent job.

My past experience with this convention tells me that Eric has got some surprises waiting for us. But the meat of the thing, the true core of it all will be the sharing of our passion, the new connections, the flash of insight and the memories we will keep and bring back to enrich our own world in paint.

I am taking my paints and intend to paint along the way, should time permit. The Paso Robles area is one that has always elicited visceral reactions for me. I find the land totally female in its composition and lovely rolling qualities. It truly is a land kissed by the mists of the Pacific. Maybe I can fulfill a fantasy and paint there for a bit of one day.
As I made the reservations for my return road trip, it occurred to me that by the time I would stay at these hotels on my way back to New Mexico, this year’s rendezvous would be over with. What will I have learned? You really need to be two people at a thing like this, one to watch and take notes, and one to paint along with your heroes.

I am packing my car, restocking my vitamins and checking to see that I don’t forget something essential. As long as it is not a painting thing, I am OK. I am looking forward to sharing a room with my Denver friend Lucy. We plan to have to open the windows to let the words out.
Watch for updates later next week. The ‘Tribe’, by Richard Robinson’s definition, is gathering.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I’d Like To Only Have To Paint All Day!!!

There is a fallacious idea out there that all artists do is ‘paint all day’. How I wish.
Among artists I know, there is universal dismay about the amazing amount of preparatory work that goes into producing any work that is even close to finished.  It is unbelievable the effort goes into a piece  that one feels confident in putting out there for general comments and hopefully a sale. 
That said, it is a miracle to me that anything gets produced at all.

Consider what takes place in a studio setting:
Concept For Possible Painting???
1.      The concept phase

This occurs in the bathroom, before you get your eyes fully open, as you daydream at the kitchen sink, driving home from the store (I almost passed our road yesterday) or anywhere that your personal safety is not threatened by a healthy dose of thinking and gazing about. It could also be the flash you get while reading about another artist, their work or looking at an instructional video about another’s work.
2.      The elemental development stage.

You make thumbnails, notans ( 3 to 4 value sketches), then you try out color combinations, styles that might work, peruse old photos, looking for that one you took eleven years ago when the kids were small and cute. You set up your painting space, taking out those materials you have decided to use in this act of creation.
3.      The in-the-stream development stage

You consider the size of the piece, what support you are going to use, which medium you going to use, how you plan to begin this newest masterpiece.
4.      The actual production of the piece

This is what non-artists think we only have to do to be successful as an artist, and what they envision us doing all day.
5.      The all important critique phase

This is where you look at and assimilate what you have done into your consciousness, assessing the validity of the work. Does it succeed as you intended it to? If not, you are back to phase 4.

If after all this, the work is acceptable (notice I did not say wildly successful) you may decide to frame it. The type of work determines the type of framing and you must accommodate all the considerations that the work demands. If you have framed it, it may still need to be reframed if it is to be accepted in certain shows. All shows have their own framing requirements and accompanying costs.  If you try to get into juried shows, there is the whole process that each one entails and the requirements are all unique to the show’s specific needs. The submissions alone almost require a college degree to get right.  And some require a technical translator. 

Then there is the industry that packing and shipping art has spawned. So the wise artist picks the shows that will give him/her exposure, but even that requires a few years of trying different venues out. If you enter more than a few shows there is the paper pushing that simple tracking requires. Yeah, office work.

And some of us blog about the process and the production. We try to explain what is involved in the production of what may have caught their eye. An entry may take an hour or it may take three to get it down right.

All of this occurs in the studio model of production.

Then there is the plein air painter. All the above applies, but add to it;
·        driving 53 miles to get to the place that had running water last week, but no, not this week
·        hunting for that perfect view, but some body is fishing where you want to set up  
·        tripping over your feet while laden down with all your gear 
·        doing the ant dance cause you set up without noticing that ant hill right there   
·        dodging flying B52s that buzz about your head
·        getting a sunburn because it was cloudy when you left and you forgot to check if your sunscreen was in this painting kit
·        having a curious farmer come by wanting to know what you are doing beside his pasture, and you aren’t going to open the gate are you?
My Cousin Paul and Me Painting in Colorado

So yeah, I guess all we do is paint all day. My dentist wanted to know yesterday why I am grinding my teeth. It could be the problems inherent in that last painting, the eternal struggle to get what I intend down on that support, and the feeling that I am getting predictable.  I should send him the link to this blog entry.

Why do we do it? I cannot think of another career where people are so put upon display. We paint because we cannot stop. It is as essential to us artists as breathing air or drinking water, eating food or sleeping. The fact that we continue to get up and attack it again, trying new solutions and learning from our disillusions is to me, the human condition in microcosm. It’s a compulsion, pure and simple.

So what do I say when someone says “it’s so nice you are so talented” as thought the piece paints itself, or when someone asks “how long did it take you to paint that”? I think I’ll hand them this blog address. And the bill for my student loans……nah, they probably have their own.

Favorite quote of the day:
The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run downhill.                                                                                                                                                                   (W. Somerset Maugham)