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You can’t please Everyone

May 3, 2017 by admin

Bill Nelson was my counselor back in Junior High school that told me this, and I for the longest time couldn’t figure out why.

Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson

I remember I was back in my high school administration offices for some reason or another. (you know those things that go on your school records and will follow you forever, well I don’t think it’s true) anyway, he was telling me that I needed to please myself, not to worry about pleasing everyone else. Now this counselor was part of the establishment and should be telling me to “do as they say”  “follow the letter of the law” but instead he was reciting Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” song to me… “please yourself”.

Odd!

I did take this little quote to heart, for the rest of my youth I thought I was given “carte blanche” to do whatever I wanted. The end of the Beatles, the Vietnam War, Nixon, it was an interesting time and occasionally I pushed things to the limits, with me as my focal point. It took a lot of living before I finally figured out that this probably wasn’t what Bill meant.

Who are you trying to please?

I paint because I love it, to get out and create a piece of art is exhilarating to say the least. It pleases me to do it, and I am fortunate to be able to make money doing something that I love. But I’ve found lately, and maybe you do it too; that you are sometimes “playing to an audience,” so to speak. I’m not one of those artists that people are lining up to buy everything that comes off of my easel. Those people can paint whatever they want because it doesn’t matter, it’s as good as gold.

I envy the people who can paint without trying to earn money at the same time. They don’t need to spend half their time on trying to market themselves and their work. Paint what you want and move on to the next subject. It doesn’t matter if it sells or not.

Teaching our future

I’m finding out that there is a difference going out and painting and just having fun, versus going out and painting and trying to earn a living. Of course there shouldn’t be, but we are not living in that utopia where everything is perfect. Maybe it has something to do with the goals I have set for myself. Yes goals, don’t those just get in the way?

I bet a lot of things would be so much easier if you didn’t set goals…  everything except accomplishment!

I set short term goals, long term goals, goals that can be seen, and others that it will take a couple bends in the road before they come into view, but all that I do are on that path in some way or another. The routine things at home with housekeeping, family, lawn care, it’s all in a way helping me towards being the best that I can be. I believe it makes me a better person, and that in turn, well I have my fingers crossed, will show up in my art.

With so much life going on around me it is impossible for me to focus 100% on painting. I’ve already found out that 50% of my time to make it as a professional artist must be put into the “non-painting” aspects of art. IE marketing, inventory, billing, framing, teaching, etc. Now stick that into an equation that contains those other items such as the cooking, cleaning, relaxing, entertainment, family. And keep in mind you are not allowed to put more than 24 hours in 1 day. Keep trying but really it’s futile.

It could really drive one bananas!

S'Mores

S’Mores

I’ve got a way of doing things that kind of works for me, that’s doing what has to be done first, then getting to what you want to do. Let’s break it down a little more. Of that stuff that “MUST” be done, I throw that into different categories of difficulty, and do the hardest things first. This way things just get easier as you go along. Things seem to lighten up, and go quicker, and you begin to have a bit more fun as you work your way through those chores.

It helps me paint, and allows me some of that time to do that unencumbered. This is where I really enjoy being, working to create successful compositions, to study the land and how it’s effected by that ever changing light. This is what all my hard work away from the canvas was for. The chance to stand there just a little bit longer with brush in hand, observing, evaluating, recording.

I am really searching for ways to tie in my opening blog statement with the “…got to please yourself.”

hmmm…

To me it’s one of the most important things you can do. Sure it’s selfish, but in the end, it’s just you.

There is  something my wife Susie has said repeatedly before, and I take this to heart. “We deserve it.” “We’ve reached that age where it’s our turn to splurge on ourselves, to enjoy life, and make us number 1” (I’m paraphrasing, but she’ll back me up on this, I think)

Susie & Greg

Us

I love being happy, and what I do in life is geared towards that. Making my wife happy is a good key ingredient in this, and it works well. She is the best supporter of my art and all that I do. So I do try to please her… so that’s it’s.

I’ve figured out that it’s impossible to try to please everyone, you’re just setting yourself up for heartache and failure when you do this. There are those no matter what you do it’s not good enough for them. Don’t try to live up to other peoples standards, don’t try to win their approval, trying to do that, you will always be chasing, and never be content.

You be you and I’ll be me, for whatever that’s worth…

“…it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

Thanks Ricky!

…and you too!

R Gregory Summers AIS

 

Greg

 

 

 

What’s it all About

November 3, 2016 by admin

“Well it’s about this long, and about this wide, and about this country, about which we are singing about…” to paraphrase Firesign Theater

If you are looking to me for what it’s all about, whatever “it” might be, you are looking in the wrong place. I have no idea. I think you have to take this question on an individual basis, and then don’t hold them to it. What is it all about for me? I don’t know that either, and I’m NOT one out here searching the world for answers to life’s questions. I just happen to be enjoying life and all the riddles that come before me, and take them as they come.

Just back from “En Plein Air Texas” and packing my bags for the “Zion Invitational” and thought to expound on my little demo at Fort Concho last Saturday.

If you didn’t see my little post on Facebook, here’s basically the scene…

After all the painting for the competition and sales event had been done, the folks there at “En Plein Air Texas” asked for artists to speak in schools, and do demos and the likes. I had volunteered on Friday to speak to Lamar Elementary School to 100+ 5th grade students, and do a little “plein air” demo. On Saturday, Lon Brauer and myself were dressing up in period clothing from the 1800’s and painting around the old chuck wagon at the Fort.

Lon & I circa 1860

Lon decked me out in some pretty sweet early 1800’s, circa 1810, while he wore the more styling 1860’s gear.

Lon set up to paint the fiddler that was part of a trio on the porch, I was painting more of the entire scene. After nigh on an hour or so, well into the 2pm-4pm gig, I turned to see this little girl watching me paint with big curious eyes. There was who might have been her grandparents with her. I asked her if she would like to try to paint, and she looked at her grandmother who nodded yes, and the rest was pure magic!

She took the brush and carefully dipped it into the paints and placed it precisely on the canvas and burst into a smile of delight. She spent the next half hour mixing and putting paint to canvas, with thought and concentration, and the delight that we don’t normally see in you and I.

img_3264The “little girls” name was Avery, and she was 17 years old. Avery has down syndrome, and with that maybe she doesn’t let some of what I get caught up in to fill my head. I don’t know enough about it to say, but when she mixed the color green from my limited pallet and placed it on the painting, the look and way she said “green” was to die for.

She painted bright beautiful color with perfect precision, and I just watched and learned, and let the joy fill my heart.

I’ve had others paint on my paintings before, young and old alike and usually it’s only a stroke or two, which is kind of what I had intended when I asked this young lady, but when seeing the delight in her eyes as she painted, I was not going to be the one to stop her, no matter what she did to the painting. If it were someone who was scribbling, and acting a bit out of sorts, I would have put an end to it immediately (politely of course), but Avery was different.

I have no idea if letting her paint will turn her into the newest “Picasso” , or if she will ever pick up a brush again. That’s not really important, but for that one little piece of time it was everything, not just for her, but for me seeing what can be done with just a little offer of encouragement.img_3262-3

I don’t wear shirts that have a list of things on the back discouraging interaction. I don’t put headphones on to keep folks from stopping and asking questions. I’m out here painting the best I can and trying to learn from what I see. But sometimes that learning experience isn’t before me or what I put onto the canvas, sometimes it’s what behind me, and the painting is merely secondary prop.

I don’t profess to be any better than anyone else, I tell you I was a “hellion” growing up, just ask my sisters. Okay, don’t ask… I’d rather you not know. But I’ve learned a lot through the years, and hope I’ve passed this on to my children, and my students. When I do workshops, my goal is not to create a pretty picture for all, or for them to do the same, (okay, maybe just a little 😉 it is to teach the tools, and values of plein air, and get them to enjoy the experience no matter what befalls them, so that they will get out and do it again and again.

And yes, it does include being kind to others. I’ve had that drilled into me as a youth, was it scouts, 4H, or the FFA? Maybe it was just Mom & Dad saying to be nice to your little sister.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s been exactly 4 years to the day since my mentor and friend Rick Howell passed away unexpectedly. He believed in me unlike no one else, and he also spoke of “giving back” to others. He was an amazing artist and a superb human, what more can you ask for?

So, “what’s it all about”?

I still have no idea, it just depends on the situation. But lower your expectations, and drop the egos and get out and paint. It does makes a world of difference.

It’s not easy, but the results are incredible!

Thanks,

Greg

img_3266

“Meow” means “Woof” in cat.

June 30, 2016 by admin

Let me digress.

Sure I’m an artist, and I paint a lot around the land, see a lot, and hear quite a bit too. Doesn’t take being an artist to see and observe. This world is a fascinating place, and I’m happy to be here, but sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head.

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

Just back from a painting competition in Richmond Virginia, the “Plein Air Richmond 2016”. A wonderful event, in an amazing part of this country, beautiful, & historic, with great people all around… and cats.

Actually, not just cats, there were dogs, squirrels, birds, marmots, you name it, the regular crowd of critters scurrying about the city, picking up where humans leave off… or leave behind rather. Anyway, as I was painting in the Italian Gardens of the Maymont Mansion up came this cute little cat, friendly as can be wanting a little attention. I talked to it some, asked him how he was and all that. I was nice to it, but I was there to paint so I didn’t sit down and try to share life stories with it.

The cat did not look homeless, it was well groomed, healthy, very outgoing, but without the collar that us humans tend to put on these things to ensure folks know that it’s “claimed” by another. Well I set up my easel in the shade and began painting. As time went by, more artists began to join me in the gardens, finding beautiful subjects to paint and setting up to get to work. Our little cat friend was quite elated about this, more attention! A few well placed meows, a rubbing against a leg or two, and an onslaught of distressed artists fell upon this little animal like Liberace in a sequin factory.

“The poor kitty”, “It must be starving”.  “We’ve got to help it”. (just a few of the things that I was overhearing as I painted the rose bush by the stairs.

Well, I don’t doubt it was hungry, I know I was. But it did not look like it was lacking in anything except a collar. Well this was the cat’s lucky day, or maybe unlucky depending on how you look at it. The event just happened to be sponsored by the Richmond SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) A wonderful organization, and something I’m totally happy to help out, donate to, promote. I am very much against being cruel to animals, but then our perception of “cruelty” might differ a bit. I think sticking a dog in a sweater vest is a bit on the “inhumane” side, right Bobby Knight?

Just about everyone in sight was finding things for the kitty cat to eat, one went to their car and brought back a can of cat food, another shared some delicious looking sandwich that I would have given one of my paint brushes for, and then up comes someone with an animal carrier. A little cardboard box with a handle and holes on the side to breath. I mean some people are prepared for everything.

Obviously a former Scout, or Brownie I bet.

"Rupert" AKA "Cat"

“Rupert” AKA “Cat”

Well off they carted the well fed kitty to the shelter at the RSPCA, where of course they named it, photographed it and posted all over the social media, maybe to be the next surprise for your little girl’s 7th birthday party?

“But I asked for a horse!”

I watched from my vantage point in the shade underneath an old American Elm tree, just wondering, just thinking about what we’ve come to in this land. The past couple nights, well actually since I took up painting outdoors, I’ve come across people on the street corners with signs and a cup. Under bridges, sleeping on benches, and for the most part, people turn their back on them, or shrug them off, while others shout out, “get a job.”

Now why didn’t they think of that?

I was painting with a half dozen artists under the bridges at the train station the other evening. A very active area with people from all walks of life, and a “homeless” woman came up asking for help. I reached into my pocket and gave her a dollar, making sure I kept enough for the toll getting back to my hosts’ house. The artist next to me said “they’re just going to keep coming back if you do that”.

I knew that, and you probably did too.

I’m big on helping those who help themselves, I love the lyrics of a song by Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers,

“Give a man free food and he’ll figure out a way
To steal more than he can eat ’cause he doesn’t have to pay”

I have no idea how that’s related, but any time I can plug Bob it’s a good thing. The point is, I don’t normally give out food or money, but depending on the situation I’ve no problem with it.

But animals?

Just in the United States alone last year we spent over $56 billion dollars on pets. BILLION! Holy Toledo Batman! Then in comparison we spent a “Historic” $4.5 billion on helping the homeless.

It’s just strange, okay I’ll go so far as to say, it’s a bit sad. It’s estimated that this year it will be $60 billion Americans spend on their furry little friends, something they can stroke to lower their blood pressure.

Am I an animal hater, no way! I love animals, I love pets, I grew up with dogs and cats, rabbits and peacocks. I’m a friend to all. I even have myself a little policy that I won’t step on a bug that would squish out beyond the edges of my shoe. (sorry bug lovers)

It was just something that I observed while painting out there among ya’ll. You see a bit of everything out there, traveling the country, painting in all sorts of different environments, parks, big cities, small towns, you see what the world is really like, outside the sheltered walls of your humble abode.  It’s like you’re a “fly on the wall” out here sometimes. The things people say and do, one could write a book. Actually 1,000’s HAVE written books, and it’s like crazy daddio!

Life is stranger than fiction, they say.

I’ll shush up now, go back to painting, and maybe I’ll write something about art next time around, but then what do I know?

In the meantime, “Meow” mean “Woof” in Cat…   quote by the late George Carlin.

 1937 – 2008

1937 – 2008

 

 

A Fly Over World

April 28, 2016 by admin

I was very fortunate this year to have made my first journey South of the Equator and visited New Zealand and Australia, and as I flew I continually wondered just how much I was missing out on.

Crazy to think that I would travel any other way to the land down under, other than flying given a limited time, but that did not stop me from thinking about all the world below, with their beautiful lands and people, and all I was missing.

Since my trip to the Southern Hemisphere, I have driven to South Florida for the Lighthouse Arts Festival, numerous trips to the plain states, and then just returned from the Plein Air Convention in Tucson, traveling of course not in a straight line because that would be too practical, I stopped in Texas and New Mexico along the way turning a 2,600 mile trip into a 3,708 mile adventure.

Flying never entered my mind.

The area between the Appalachian’s and the Rocky Mountains is known to many as “Fly over Country”. Then to even more it’s the the land between the megalopolis’s on the East coast, and their counter parts on the West. It’s the area that gets in the way of an easy commute from LA to NY.

There was a time I was bothered when I heard someone speak of this great area in such a manner, but then I used to get riled up when I saw the toilet paper on the roll backwards.

No more!

Call it what you want, it’s got to be some of the most beautiful country with a world of people to go with it. Sure there are those wide open places where you swear you can see the other side of the continent, and those folks who would just rather not have a crazy artist looking twice at their backyard. But that’s what is so darn great about this world. I am not a fan of “sameness” BORING! It’s variety that feeds this soul. Why in the world would one want the same thing all the time, I have no idea. Sure you may have the most beautiful view ever, but get out and see what else is there to help reinforce that utopia that you call home.

Maybe it’s the artist in me, but I’m not always looking “out” for the beauty, sometimes it’s looking down and around you. Traveling through the wide open lands across West Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, sure sometimes flat as a pancake, but it was those things that are right there under your nose that were so fascinating. I would see something, look for a turnaround spot, drive back and photograph when I didn’t have time to paint. The light hitting a draw, the curve of the wheat, an always curious cow.

Maybe it’s a good thing “flyoverstates” is just what it is. A mysterious place where people live outside the major cities, people working, people living, people creating. Let us bring this land to you in painting or in song.

You wait right there, we’ll be right back with it…

It is slowly deteriorating with time and then the careless. I don’t know if it could really handle the “progress of mankind.” Less and less considerate for those who came before, and then who might be coming after.

Ah, but we reap what we sow do we not? That is a whole new ballgame.

For now let’s enjoy what we can. Enjoy who we are. Stop looking out there for that perfect scene because it’s right there around you just waiting to be noticed. Give me an open road, the windows down and a song in the air.

A “Fly over Land”? Maybe, but that’s cool!

Oh Mama, No Drama

October 1, 2015 by admin

You know what one of the things I like most about painting in plein air events around the country?

You, and people like you.

I love meeting other artists and people. (not always interchangeable) Visiting with them, painting, just hanging with other like minded people. I think it helps me grow in my art. I try to listen to what works for others, exchange ideas and stories. There is a lot of comradery going on at these things and I find it a blast.

I took part in a week long plein air event recently where I did just the opposite.

I’ve seen others do it, check in at the beginning and then not see them again till it was time to take home their awards and left over art. It was like they were never there, or were they? Why take part in an event with other artists if you are not going to hang out and socialize with the rest? Well, besides the awards, prize money, and glory?

Sure I know everyone is not sociable, and pretty much artists on the majority are recluses, hiding in their studios doing what they do best.

Kind of naive on my part to think that everyone should be out interacting and sharing their secrets with each other. Like art, there are all kinds, and that’s what it takes to make up this great world we live in.

I headed into this event just as happy as a lark, (bird, not cigarette) looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I signed up to take part in every single event I could, paint-outs, concerts, luncheons, it’s just what I do.

Then in pops a little “DRAMA“!

It made me rethink…

Road Trip NY Day 7 053crop

Eric & Walter at Paint Camp

 

Eric Rhodes is the Publisher of Plein Air, and Fine Arts Connoisseur Magazines, and also puts on an annual event in the Adirondacks called the “Publisher’s Invitational”. Affectionately known as “Paint Camp“. This takes place in a beautiful setting in upstate New York with no workshops, no demos, no competitions. It’s just 100 artists from across the nation getting together to paint and hang with others. It’s what I think Woodstock in 1969 was originally created for, but this for artists.

…and there is only one (1) rule: “NO DRAMA”! (save the drama for your paintings!)

What a great rule it is in my opinion. We come there to paint and visit with others, we don’t really need distractions from this. Don’t want it, don’t create it, don’t encourage it. They’ve even created a little song for this, and you can listen and see a bit about “paint camp” here, Click Here

What I did when this happened was reevaluate my “situation” and I said to myself, “self”, “let’s just hang out here at the ranch and paint”. I’ve never just gone to an event and “just painted”, but if I did this I would avoid any sort of “drama”. Would I get lonely, would I be able to paint as well as before? Who knows, but I really was not in any sort of mood for another confrontation from other “unlike” minded artists, so I hid out on the old Pilgrim Ranch in the heart of Chase County.

Well I must say it was quite different. I missed the interaction with others, actually an artist friend Mike Flora was staying at the ranch for another day or two, and then Louanne Hein, another friend came back to the ranch to paint one afternoon, but other than that I stayed pretty focused on looking for things to paint right where I was, knowing there were dozens of artists just minutes away painting beautiful scenery and munching on catered meals.

It was dawn to dusk painting for me, which is just the way I like it. Up before the sun with my easel hoping to catch some “dramatic” light,  paint through out the day, and ending as the sun runs it’s circuit across the big Kansas sky.

If you have a routine that you do when you travel, or even at the studio. Set up things the same way, put your paints in a certain order, wear your lucky hat. Anyway, what happens when that routine is disturbed? Can you still produce your best?

Moving On

Moving On

I’ve won “Best of” from the studio, and then out plein air with folks bending my ear, and now in the solitude of the land.

You cannot always avoid drama in your life, but if you find you can go around a puddle without getting wet, why not? There are times you don’t see that puddle ahead, but you can still be prepared, mentally and physically.

Then what about the good drama versus the bad drama. Surely you don’t want your life so stress free that you grow into a sedentary bump on a log. You need that balance as within everything else. Balanced diet, balanced exercise, balance in your paintings. Recognizing and acting to things as they come along and acting accordingly.

Can you do it? Can I do it? Why not?

Well it’s back to business as usual for me, as if I really know what that is.

It’s good to know that if I need to hold up and paint I can do it, and I will if and when it is the best solution for the situation, but it’s important I feel to be able to interact with others in order to be successful in this crazy world. There are a few artists who can hide from all and send their paintings out via secret courier to the galleries and don’t have to deal with the human or inhuman public…

Hold on to your hat

…but I’m a quirky plein air artist who likes people like you.

You make the world a much more interesting place to live in.

“Paint on!”

 

 

 

 

Measure Once, or is it Twice…

August 27, 2015 by admin

I just came home from a two week painting trip to the Rockies with not a single sale, not a single award, and my van filled with wet paintings. Was it productive?

Does that sound bitter? Okay, let me try again.

Hi honey, I’m home. How was your trip? Well it was wonderful, I painted in some wonderful places with some outstanding artists, and have over 25 paintings of the journey, how was your time?

There are times that I lose sight of my goal, and what I love to do the best.

Why is that?

Here in America, (this I know from hands on experience) we are raised to be competitive, to be better than the others. With contests and grades, and gold stars passed out for excelling at any given activity. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but as that gawd awful saying I keep hearing now-a-days goes… “it is what it is!”

Is it like this in other countries? You tell me, I’ve done the islands, and while there all I cared about was swimming, eating, and hiking. But from what I see on the news, and read in the paper it’s not just us “Yanks” who are caught up in this.

Rick on the Los Pinos

Rick on the Los Pinos

When I sat down with Rick Howell what seems like many many years ago, though it wasn’t all that long, we set out short term and long term goals. Winning contests, and beating everyone else was not on either one of the lists.

My ultimate goal was to paint. Was it to travel the world and paint? No, just paint. Presently I travel so much because I feel it’s necessary at this moment in time to help my career as an artist, which will eventually allow me to “just paint”. And then this involves taking part in contests, and exhibits. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little competition, and I like coming out on top. It’s a great feeling to know that at least this juror really likes what you did, and of course doing this helps immensely in allowing one to maybe one day “just paint”.

But how does it fit in in your “grand scheme” of life? I know there will always be someone better, and I really don’t mind if everyone is better as long as I can continue to paint and to grow as an artist. It’s like trying to get to the front of the all the cars on the highway by speeding past everyone. There will always be cars in front of you. Learn to accept that. It’s a long road out there with no real end, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

Sometimes I lose sight as I travel the country taking part in exhibits and paint-outs, though I believe it is interesting to see how you “stack up” to the others. I almost said compare, but I think the best thing for you to compare to is your last painting. How does it rate when you put it next to that? Did you improve, if not why? What is it about this painting that makes it different, or the same? This is how one should measure themselves.

Becoming a Master Engraving Artist I studied under 30 different Master Engravers, each for a month. You listen, you watch, you study. Find what works best for you and then leave what does not.

This is the same approach I am taking to my painting. Learn from those whose art I love, but being careful about comparing my work to theirs. Sure I would love to be as good as Aspevig, or Sargent, but I still want to be me. So I paint some more and then do it again.Finding Nemo

What I use to measure success should not be the ribbons or checks I receive, but how far my work has improved in such a short period of time. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but try taking the best 4 or 5 paintings from each year and put them in a chronological order and then measure.

Which way are you going?

Are you liking the way your paintings are coming out, do they say what you want them to say? I know better than to line my best paintings up against some of my favorite artists work. For me it would only depress me and make me wonder what I am doing here.

So I don’t or try not to, and this way I am a much happier person.

I paint because the way it makes me feel when I do. I get lost in it at times and sometimes overcome with a great feeling of contentment. I study them because I want to improve upon myself and my work, and I challenge myself inwardly.

I do no 30 paintings in 30 days challenges, or 24 in 24 hours. I just paint when I can, and try to reach toward my goals that I have set before me. They are not ridiculous goals though when setting them out so long ago some did seem somewhat insurmountable. Yet I have achieved many, and am steadily progressing towards them all.

How do you measure success?

break glass in case of emergency

break glass in case of emergency

 

 

The New Golf

July 21, 2015 by admin

I heard this at paint camp this year… the Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks, and then heard it again while painting last week with George Van Hook. We tossed it around, and considered some of its possibilities…

“Plein air painting is the new golf”.Dogwood Canyon 012a

Okay, I think I heard it during one of Eric’s morning announcements. It’s kind of like the “morning sing” at day camp many moons ago, but it got some people talking. I think I actually missed him saying it outright, it was like I caught it out of the side of my ear, and asked another, “did I just hear what I think I heard?”

If you don’t know Eric Rhodes, he is the publisher of Plein Air Magazine, and Fine Arts Conniseuer, along with Streamline Publications, he puts on the “Publisher’s Invitational” each year, and the “Plein Air Convention”. He’s an all around fun guy, very instrumental in bringing plein air art to the forefront, and is looking towards creating a major art musuem in “the City” for this genre of art.

What do you think? Do you think it is, or could be? Maybe you don’t even like golf, maybe you don’t like plein air? Either way let’s look into this.

First things first, golf is a sport, painting outdoors is an art. I’ve heard arguments either way in this, but let’s just say it is for this little blog.

Now I play a little golf, I’m terrible at it, but I still enjoy it. Will I quit because I’m so bad at it? No way, I do hope to get better, and I think it is a lot of fun, and a blast to do with a few others… like painting plein air.

I’m a little better at the plein air thing, but like golf I didn’t start out that way. Working hard at improving your “game” will make you a better “player”, and if you have some natural skill lying away inside you, it’s possible that you might be able to hone it to a professional status… like painting plein air.

But only a small fraction of golfers make it to the pro circuit, why do they do it? I have no idea, ask them actually, I know why I do it, I love the outdoors, it’s challenging, a bit of a work out, and get to spend some time with friends.

So why not consider plein air painting the new “golf”? What does that really mean?

Here I’m only second guessing, but my take on it, and then what I would love to see is more artists out and about painting on location. Getting together for weekend outings for paintouts with friends and inviting others from around the area.

This IS happening more and more every day. In some parts of the country I actually don’t have to explain what “plein air” painting is, they tell me, and mention artists, and festivals they are aware of. I found this strangely comforting, it’s not like that everywhere, but then some places still have telephone booths.

I’m one of the “Newbie’s” to painting outdoors, but from listening to others around the country it has taken an upward swing in popularity. From an occasional plein air festival or competition in our city to almost a half-dozen, with plein air groups popping up everywhere meeting and painting quite regularly.

It’s amazing

The New Golf

The New Golf

There are still many who feel that these plein air studies are just that… studies for larger more detailed studio pieces. I can see that, and there are many I use for exactly that purpose, but more and more I am loving the fresh, live feel that I can only capture outdoors on location and leave them alone when I bring them home.

What would happen if everyone went out and painted after work or on weekends? Do you think it would water down the market and make what you do at your easel outdoors not so special? Or are you one who thinks that if everyone was out there painting they would understand better what it takes to make a good plein air painting? I know it’s not easy to make a successful plein air painting, believe me I’ve gone through a lot just to get a little. So maybe everyone being familiar with “live on location”, painting would be good for the field?

No not everyone will take to it, but maybe it would create a greater appreciation, and in turn open up more galleries to this new plein air phenomenon?

Personally, I would like to see more artists out painting. It’s so hard to visit artists and check out their artwork when they are closed up in the studio. (maybe that’s intentional, you think?)

But is it the “New Golf?” (and which side of the quotation marks should the question mark be on?)

I think it could be, or even should be. It’s for the young and the old alike. You can take all day at it, or you can just go out for a “quickie”. It can be done alone, or with friends. In towns, on the countryside, and in any sort of weather. You can travel the world taking part in plein air festivals, competitions and just good old paint outs. There are a few major invitational’s around the country that bring out the “creme de la creme” of the art world, you can meet, see the artists create, and a chance to purchase right there.

Now that I think about it, it’s better than golf!

It’s a fun little thing to consider.

This is ART, and there is some amazingly beautiful pieces being created across the world amidst the bugs, and wind, and between the curious onlookers and those who pretend they don’t see you. The good will rise to the top, and the rest will be testimony that we were out there trying.

It’s not easy, but is anything worth doing?

That’s my take on it, wish I had been paying better attention during Eric’s announcements, and then never actually got to ask him about it when we painted. What I would do is I’d ask him, I know he’d be happy to tell you. Give him a shout, Eric Rhodes, Plein Air Magazine.

In the meantime, get out and paint, and then do it again.extreme-golf

Giving it all Away

July 1, 2015 by admin

I was recently asked “what did it take to get to that next level?”

What? Rethink, reconsider, and recalculate that one! I’m here flailing around like a ship in a whirlpool. What “next level” are we talking about?

Looking from within, it looks as though I’m just spinning my wheels in the same old spot. Kind of like being around your children all the time, they never change. But when relatives come from afar for that rare, but sometimes “too often” visit, all you hear is “oh my how little junior has grown,” or “what happened to that little girl I used to bounce on my knee?” When you look at things on a daily basis, it is only the drama that gets noticed.

I believe it must have hatched as I bantered thoughts and ideas around with artist Jeffery Sparks as we talked of creating a group for artists here in the Midwest similar to the Hudson River school of artists, or the Southwest artists. he pointed out that we had to be good to help set an example. He believed we could be among the best in the region as we led this organization that is now called the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society. (MVIS for short)

Sure I agreed, but did I believe it? No, not really.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think I had the talent, I knew I had some, but being the best sounded insurmountable. I mean there are literally thousands upon thousands of artists just in this area. How in the world? No way!

So I put that pipe dream on the back burner, and just focused on painting, and me.

The next time anything like this came up was with my friend and mentor, Rick Howell. If you didn’t know Rick, he was a one of a kind guy, always giving, always caring, helping people, the land and all that inhabited it. He sat me down in his little artists’ retreat and gave me the “low down.” “It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “If you think you have worked hard at anything in yourlife before, you are mistaken.”

Rick told me about making a serious commitment, and passing that boundary of fear that keeps one from taking that step into the unknown. He talked of the proverbial “miles of canvas” that I had to put behind me before I even came close to those goals we wrote down.

What I heard in “Casa Estella” was not new stuff. But hearing it from this unbelievable artist who actually thought that I had the potential to be great was different! It’s one thing to hear words of praise and encouragement from friends and family. But Rick Howell was a professional with an amazing talent, and he began to help me to believe in myself.

Keyword “BELIEVE”

Belief is important. If you don’t believe in yourself, how in the world are you going to convince someone else ? But belief was not all, talent helps, now what in the world are you going to do with it?

Even with Rick behind me, I was still skeptical of all involved, and what it would take to take that next step. Could I do it? Could I commit so much of my time to these goals that we worked out around the kitchen table in a high plains desert? Commit so much time and energy, and money! I was working full time still as a master engraver. Itt was going to cost me quite a bit in salary to reroute into the world of fine arts.

But try to believe.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The time commitment, the energy, looking, seeing, feeling. Eeverything had to change. I did not realize this, but as I went along, this is what I found had to happen for me to even minutely close the gap between me and the upper echelon.

Did it begin slowly? I don’t know, but for me I had to change quite a bit. I had much to learn to take my art from the amateurish to the professional. I knew nothing of color, values, composition. Sure I studied in college, but that was what, 30 years ago, and we just began brushing on things when my career as a fine artist took a turn to the commercial side and family. So I’ve shelved the tales by Stephen King and replaced them with Carlson and Payne.

When I am alone my thinking turns to my art. I am now always questioning what I see, and how I might recreate it on canvas. I see things as I’m driving just around the block or to the next show and try to figure out how to mix that color up with my 4 color palette.

I squint all the time in the middle of a conversation seeing how things look in just a few values. If you see me kind of drift off, it’s probably not a flashback from the late 60’s. More likely I see something that caught my eye and I’m thinking how it might fit best in a horizontal or vertical format.

Is it a case of living, sleeping, eating art? Yes it really is, and I still feel like I’m not doing enough. At night I lay in bed working on inventory, and invoicing, and applications, and social networking. During the day it’s the same thing, but throw in the things that life puts before you, plus if possible a little painting.

I work on a balancing act because, yes, there are other things in my life that I love besides paintingmy wife Susie, and my wonderful family. I have friends and a home, and I still sculpt as an engraver on occasion, though that is becoming rarer by the minute. I do what I must first, then I do what I can after that.

It is a commitment, and it takes a good supporting cast around you. I know I could not have gotten this far alone. At one time I thought so, but for me admitting that I needed help was freeing. I’m not the great and powerful Oz that I once believed.  (I think my parents kept trying to tell me this, but would I listen to them?) Well, this is something you must build and nurture constantly, starting in the home, the community, and then beyond.

All this just so I can paint. That’s really what I want to do, and maybe one day that will come. I now believe in myself, and I have seen a little glimpse of the potential within me. I am slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to paint the things that I love to get lost in when I visit galleries.

What does it take to become the best?

I have no idea and will probably never know. What I do know is that it’s not just having the talent.Talent is nothing if you don’t do anything with it.

I’ve heard forever “you’ve got to want something bad enough”. (sports cliché)) I always thought that it doesn’t make a difference if everyone wants the same thing, that doesn’t help. What in the world does it mean “they wanted it more than me?” No way!

What I’ve found is that what you do because you want something bad enough makes all the difference in the world. Maybe that’s what they really mean?

“If you can dream it, you can make it a reality. The possibility lies in your ability, enthusiasm and hard work to realize it.”  Lailah Gifty Akita

I’ve changed the way I live, the way I think, the way I see. Everything and anything I can think of that might make me a better artist. I see it helping, and I’m enjoying the journey. You’ve got to do that because if and when the end ever arrives…

rg at heaven hill farm

photo by Turner Vinson

…that’s it.

The END

 

Going Green

May 6, 2015 by admin

I do not write advice or tips very often on painting, and probably for good reason.

I’m just a beginner!

Though not the sole reason, that is a good one. The other is I don’t really like advice, probably something I picked up along the way, but growing up I always knew that I knew more than my parents or any of the establishment, so what could they tell me? It was not till later years I found that maybe I should have been paying attention instead of playing around.

Now you tell me!

But I’ve been asked a number of times in the recent months to write something about the “greens” of my paintings, so here I am. This way I think, or I hope, that at least those people will read this and be satiated by my banter.

My mother’s favorite color was green, so I have to like it. I’ve always said my favorite color was blue, but I’m not sure anymore. If there was only one color I could keep for the rest of my life and it had to be one that’s actually on the color wheel I might pick maybe a blue that was leaning a bit towards green, though a blue that has a tinge of violet in it is pretty nice too.

But GREEN? I don’t even have it on my pallet!

Krugg Park 007Many of you know already that I use a limited pallet of 4 colors and white. 2 warm colors, and 2 cools. Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarine Crimson & Ultramarine Blue.

First it was Phil Starke in the spring of 2011 that threw out most of my paints and left me with 7 to use, then in the fall of that same year when I began mentoring under Rick Howell, he whittled that pallet down to what I am using now. No greens, no earth tones, just the 2 reds, a yellow and a blue.

Now get out and paint!

I live in an area where most times of the year when you go outside to paint you are going to see green. Green grass, green trees, green water. It’s pretty much the dominant color.

So why no green on the pallet? Seems like it would sure make things so much easier and quicker just to go ahead and throw a Viridian, or a Sap green on the pallet.  Maybe it would, but right now I seem to be doing okay without, and just in case, I actually have a tube of Viridian in my backpack and have for years. It’s for that time I might need some color I can’t get, or that extra punch that I’m not capturing with my typical 4 paints, but so far I’ve not pulled it out. I mean I love all those wonderful tubes of green that they have made up for every scene you could think of, but I’m still liking the greens I get from my primary colors.

It’s not just mixing the greens the way you like, but you really need to see them first. Phil taught me how Shoc & Awe demo startto look and separate the greens, and push them one way or another. Different times of the year the same trees are a different green, along with different times of the day. Cool greens, warm greens they are what the forests are made up of, but just because you know it’s green, you don’t have to paint it that way.

It’s like everything else you see, and everything else you paint, comparing one tree to the next, one color to the next. Is the tree bluer, or does the tree have more yellow in it?

I love painting outdoors and if you go out in the spring and summer around my neck of the woods there is going to be a lot of green, and you want to keep it interesting, so push those greens one way or another seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

If you’ve read any of Carlson’s landscape painting books you know you have to learn the tree, and where it’s from and what holds it up. It’s not just leaves on branches, but knowing and understanding how they grow, and what makes them twist, and the unbelievable amount of weight that each limb holds up. Just seeing your subject is not enough, it’s the understanding that grounds it into believability. It’s like trees with larger leaves are going to reflect more light, trees with smaller leaves will generally be darker, the earlier the season the warmer the foliage. There is a lot involved, and I do find it helps to understand, but I don’t quite go into the politics of trees as Mr. Carlson sometimes does 😉

One could spend an entire life just painting trees, and I’ve seen master artists doing just that, and still  they study and learn. I don’t know if I have painted a tree that I am completely happy with. I don’t know if I ever will, though I will continue to try.

When I mix up colors to paint, I don’t make giant piles of color, I mix a bit up and then start pushing one direction or the other. Lighter/darker, warmer/cooler. These are the things I continue to say to myself throughout my painting.

I have no formula for my greens, each time I approach a subject, there is no preconceived notion. I start afresh. I let the light dictate what I do, and what I mix up.

Each time is a learning experience, and know there is something wrong if it’s not. I can paint something a thousand times and still feel the beginner. There are not more shades of one color than another, it’s just that the human eye can pick out more shades of green because of where it is on the light spectrum.

I know, boring so I won’t go there.

Just get out and paint, really look at what you are seeing, and see how the light and surrounding objects affect that subject… and then push it one way or another to best suit your needs.

Sometimes it works, and then other times…  scrape it!

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire

What does your T-Shirt say?

March 18, 2015 by admin

Or better yet, what do you say?

Augusta Day 3 143What do you say to those people who come up to you while you are painting outdoors in a park, or a city sidewalk and they stop to ask you a question?

Do you pretend like those headphones you have on, is actually playing music and you can’t hear anything? Maybe you pretend like you don’t speak the language?

I’ve seen some artists painting outdoors that have shirts on that have a long list written on the back to help guide and direct the viewer. Some of the sayings are, “yes, my aunt paints too”, or “yes, I have seen that guy on TV”. Whatever the saying it’s all pretty much geared in one general direction. “Don’t Bother Me”, or better yet, “Don’t bother me with your stupid questions”.

This is something that a studio artist doesn’t really have to worry about except on those “open studio” Fridays. You are in your studio, no one there to ask questions about what and why you are doing. Not only do plein air artists have to deal with weather, insects, the changing light, but all the time they have that “other” element coming into play… the people.

How you deal with this other plein air element reflects on the entire genre, whether you want it  to or not.

In my artists statement, well one of them at least, it states something like… “it is the love of the art, the land and the people that has moved this indoor painter outside…” You see, I am a people person, I love people. People of all sorts with all their little eccentricities RG in Tennesseeand the likes. It’s one of those things that helps make this life of mine interesting, (along with this the beautiful world we live in, It’s really much nicer than the indoors. Maybe not always as comfortable, okay rarely in my area, but still.)

No one asked if we wanted to be the ambassadors for all artists in the world, but getting out there amongst the public, we are kind of setting ourselves up for this, and as you know, one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch… or so their perception. Like it or not you are the rep that carries the entire plein air nation in your hands. Don’t blow it for the rest of us.

No, I’m not saying you need to be a goof ball and let them paint on your painting, giving them your brush and taking a picture of them with your canvas, or sit down and have a 20 minute chat about the arts and how it effects healthcare. Just a little common courtesy with a friendly nod and thank you. Most times this would suffice, and if that doesn’t work maybe a “would love to talk more, but I’ve got to catch the light before it goes away”, or hand them your card and let them know you are “on the clock” but can visit later.

An artist is in a strange and awkward occupation. It is a rare soul that actually realizes that you are actually working. Most think that studio and plein air artists are playing or just having fun. We are hit up for more fundraising donations than any occupation I know of. Isn’t it also a wonder that people think they can come up to you in the middle of work and just start chatting. Try doing that to a Tennessee 086-001policeman while they are hard at work. (I know, this I have tried and they really don’t think it’s funny) Almost any other occupation interaction during office hours is just not done.

But it’s not their fault, it’s our occupation, it’s like the athlete who gets booed or heckled, or musicians who sometimes have to play behind chicken wire for safety’s sake, it goes with the territory. It’s like most people with a talent, that talent is undervalued and taken for granted. This my dear friend is in fact a subject in itself for another day, but just keep this in mind… we are different! So put on your goofy beret, and polish up your “Sriracha” sandles, we have a reputation to uphold, but don’t cast us as arrogant snobs who are too good to talk to the common man’

If you paint outdoors, and I hope you do, at least once. When you are out there,  keep the public in mind, and do unto others as you RG at Augustawould have them do unto you.  I don’t throw out a welcome mat for them, that would be just another thing to carry, but I don’t try to cut myself off from the crowd. Sure it sometimes gets in the way of painting, but then so does insects, the sun, and rain. Putting up an umbrella or spraying insect repellent will not ruin things for other artists.

What about me? Well  sometimes I don’t have time to visit with passerby’s, but I’m never rude, sometimes quirky, okay always quirky and I make the best of it.

We do have that image to uphold.

What would my T-shirt say? How about “Fruit of the Loom”?

 

Note: originally published by R. Gregory Summers Oct 25, 2013

 

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