Greg's Blog

trying to find out what's up?

 

 

Official website
Follow me on LinkedIn follow me on facebook tweet me
get in touch

What does it take

March 4, 2014 by admin

What does it take to become the best?

S'Mores

S’Mores

What does it take to change your life?

What does it take to drag yourself up?

There are as many different types of people in this world as there are… well, people! And for the majority of them it takes quite a bit to move them onto a path different than the one they are on. No, maybe you’re not one of them, but maybe you are. I was, or I am that type of person. It’s like I’m just cruising along on the road of life, listening to some good tunes, going just 7 miles over the speed limit, and I’ll keep going for hours until something comes along and causes me to stop. Running out of gas, restroom stop, a cop who thinks that 7 miles over is still “speeding”.

Once you stop, do you continue on that same road, in the same manner? Or do you slow down, change directions, take a bus? All of the important turning points in my life were not initialized by myself on a whim saying, “oh I think it’s time to begin a family”, or  “I think it’s time to quit drinking”, how about “I think it’s time to paint outdoors?” Nope, not me, because I am not that type of personality.

Sometimes it can be a subtle thing that will shift my directions, while there are those OTHER times it takes a ball bat to get me to change course!

I would never have began painting outdoors had it not been for a tennis injury that  required surgery. While undergoing physical therapy to get back into shape, it was suggested that I might take a continuing ed course through the Kansas City Art

Plein air with Anne & Mary

Plein air with Anne & Mary

Institute. They were offering something on plein air painting. I had never heard of this, but I loved to paint, and loved the outdoors… what a concept! The instructor was Anne Garney, and she showed me that it is possible to paint outdoors… successfully.

This changed the entire direction of my art and gave it the spark that it needed.

Lately, change has been good. I have made it a must to make positive moves at every crossroad, and for a while mentoring under Rick with his belief in me he set me on a path that I thought at the time was impossible, but I am beginning to see that maybe he wasn’t wrong about me. And I move on. When you are there without a real compass wondering which road is the right one it’s somewhat of a crap-shoot. But it’s the risk I’m willing to take to make my goals and improve my art and my life. I’m quicker now at recognizing if it was not the right road, and have no problem making a U-turn to take a better path, no regrets, no kicking myself for steering off course. It’s the old “live and learn” adage.

This guy is very fortunate to have a wonderful wife who helps in keeping this compass pointing forward. That has not always been the case, and I don’t blame them but myself for not recognizing this in time and doing something positive about it.

Susie & I

Susie & I

In those days I sought escape as opposed to facing things head on.  Susie is always here in my corner, there when I need her, and helping me to follow my dreams, at times putting her own by the wayside to help this artist proceed. I count myself very fortunate to have such a person in my life. Susie is not versed in art as Rick was, but she doesn’t need to be, she believes in me, and makes me stronger.

Don’t have your own “Susie” to show the way? It’s easy, just like The good witch Glenda and Dorothy, it’s there with you all the time, those symbolic Ruby Red slippers! A little inward thought and meditation can go a long ways in helping with ones well being and knowing “what next?”

Well, it has been a couple years now that I have been painting outdoors, rain or shine. It’s not a week that goes by that I’m out there with canvas and easel looking for the light. It’s what I love, it’s what I thrive! But wait, I notice now that it’s been since January that I was last outdoors painting. I’ve not been idle, no way, but I have not been painting “en plein air”.

What has happened, I thought I was on a roll? The dreaded… SHINGLES!

Here we go again, is this a turn in the road that has pushed me back in the studio? The entire month of February the only painting I have done has been in the studio. Many new pieces, and then I have pulled out some of those plein air block-ins and finished them up. It has been very rewarding, but it’s not been plein air. I have been convalescing from my illness, and should not go out. So I didn’t, but they are about gone, the pain has subsided, and the rash is barely there. I think it’s time to get back in the swing of things.

Every successful person has suffered failures of some sorts (this is hearsay, I don’t actually know all the successful people), I have scars galore, but they will heal. What you can’t get over is that feeling that you get when you don’t try. That is a persistent pain that doesn’t diminish quite so easily. I’m terrible at speeches and trying to rally the troops together towards a common goal. I never have a serious word to say, and make a joke every single thing that comes before me. Kind of hard to do in a blog, but I love those who lead by example, and I try to do this all the time. For me it’s more of a “do as I do” instead of the “do as I say, not what I do” mentality.

That’s the quirky artist in me. (artist rule #28: be quirky)

What life changing event will next befall me? I have no idea, but what ever it is, it will not detract me from my goal. My intentions are to use it as a spring-board, and let it assist me getting there. There could be something that stops me from going forward, I’m not a soothsayer, but I do own a Ouija Board, (I think my sister swore by it!)

Nevertheless I am on the path I want to be on, are you?

What does it take to keep you on the path to your chosen future? It really doesn’t matter what spurs you on, the important thing is that you are always moving in a forward motion towards that goal. Get bumped off the path? It’s just right there a step away, you know how to get back on.

Hey! Don’t forget to enjoy the ride, because once you get there…

San Luis Valley day 3 038

A Touch of Dixie

February 5, 2014 by admin

I promise I won’t make it a habit here, talking art I mean. Last week was about my “limited pallet” and this week, well yes. I’m going to talk art… sort of, but what else do I know?

I’ve seen many a blog talking of their travels, or what they did that day. Usually an interesting read, but of course I try to buck the trend and do something entirely different. Well not today… I’m talking on my recent trip through the South.

Next week I am attending my opening reception for my “A Touch of Dixie” exhibit. It features 24 plein air paintings from my trip and then an added treat, (or was it just filler for that extra wall?) I have 3 paintings from each year I’ve been painting “en plein air”. (in open air.) 3 from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. It’s an interesting progression if you want my opinion.

But the real gems are from below the Mason Dixon line.

Last fall I had my “In Aille’s Glade” painting juried into the American Impressionist Society National show in Charleston South Carolina. Having a bit of time available, and places to stay and people to see along the way, I decided driving would be the ultimate way to travel. It also would give me a wonderful chance to stop and paint when and wherever I chose.

I loaded up my gear and 42 canvases of various sizes,

locked and loaded

locked and loaded

programmed my trusty GPS, kissed my lovely wife Susie goodbye & headed out. I had 3 Ipods loaded with every sort of playlist one could want for a road trip, trail mix by my side, my phone set on “hands free” mode, and my camera somewhere within reach, where was it now?

My itinerary was taking me from my starting point in Kansas City, through St Louis, then heading South into Tennessee via Chattanooga, then East into Murfreesboro for a few days. You see I had plans to stay at my Sister-In-Laws place here, do “handy man” things around the place and earn enough money to pay for expenses on my travels. Judy’s list was long, but I had planned for it bringing tools with me. Mornings and evenings were spent traveling the countryside painting, and the afternoons were for installing a glass tile backsplash, setting up a Martin house, building an arbor, fixing a bed, and then solving the puzzle of the mysterious smoke alarm. All fun stuff, and it helped me earn a few brownie points here and there. (always important, no matter the situation)

The wonderful rolling hills, and wooded valleys with picturesque farms and ranches all around, historic Civil War battlefields, it is a nice place to hang out and paint, but we must be moving on, there is a show in Charleston we must attend, and don’t forget… Kenn Backhaus has saved you a spot in his workshop. Don’t doddle!

Well, I doddled, if that’s what you want to call it. I drove South through Alabama, and then turned back North because there was a Facebook friend I just had to meet. Maybe you know her, maybe not. But if not, you need to, she is one of the queens of watercolor, with some wonderfully rich atmospheric creations that makes me wonder just what really goes through her head… and I was going to find out.

Sandy Brown and her delightful husband Ron were a hoot.

Sandy & Ron Brown

Sandy & Ron Brown

Their colonial mansion began in the early 1800’s as a 2 room cabin.  Had to say goodbye way too soon, but there was many miles still to go before I reached the coast.

So I finished the zig part of my zagging across Tennessee, headed back North so that I could go back South to Carolina… of course.

In Charleston I had made arrangements to stay with a very old friend and former Sister-In-Law from an earlier marriage. (a funny/strange thing about all the places I stayed, each place was in some way related to a present, or one of my former wives)

Edie Hollowell lives in Charleston and was gracious enough to give me carte-blanche to her home with a private entrance and bath for a week. Somehow she put up with my coming and going at odd hours as she carted her teenage boys back and forth, and back and forth, and ba… okay, I’ll stop.

From here I had great access to the plantations up the Cooper River, the Point on Old Charleston, or Mt Pleasant, and Sullivan’s Island where the shrimp boats tie up to the pylons… thank you Jimmy Buffet

I have done my fair share of traveling in my lifetime, and for me Charleston SC has got to be one of most wonderful cities in the country, maybe the world. (I’ll let you know later)

Kenn Backhaus

Kenn Backhaus

First thing is the people, they are Southerners, and they have that Southern charm. I am quite confident that if you on the slim chance got mugged, the perpetrators would still be kind enough to call you sir or mam, and make sure you still had cab fare to get to the police station to file a report.

The first 3 days I took part in a workshop of Kenn’s sponsored by the American Impressionist Society. There I met some great artists from across the country, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina,  Texas (is Texas still part of the continental USofA?)

The 2013 AIS 14th Annual National Juried Exhibition was held at the “M” Gallery in Old Charleston. Never had I seen a better grouping of the art that I so love. The feel and passion put into each and every painting was evident. My eye is keen on impressionistic art. There is just something about the understated that peeks my imagination. If you did not make the show in Charleston, the 15th annual show will be a bit more centrally located. Show up in Denver come the 1st part of October and take in some of the bestest in the Westest… North, South and East too!

I left Charleston and headed South to many claim to be equal to, if not better than Charleston, and that is Savannah Georgia. I wish I had more time here to form a better opinion, but time was short. I had to be in Atlanta by the end of the week, so I had time for maybe one painting. I drove through the city, up and down streets, but things didn’t seem right. I headed East along

Fort Jackson, GA

Fort Jackson, GA

the Savannah River and came to old Fort Jackson. If you know anything about me, it’s I love Civil War anything… and luckily for me, though the Federal government was on strike or out of money and all National everything was closed, this was a State run operation and in I went, canvas in hand. Here I set up along the ramparts and painted toward the Atlantic as a talented guide gave a demonstration of one of the parrot guns just below me. Quite an experience to say the least.

Enough for now, I must come back to this city and explore another time, now it’s on to Albany Georgia.

Why Albany?

Well I have a daughter in the Marine Corp who’s stationed there. And she (Jennifer) was setting me up on base to stay and visit in the Southern climes of Georgia, where gators and Cyprus and Spanish moss mesh together for us “snowbirds”. I must watch my step. Here I was out and about looking for a place to paint and saw this road called “Grave Springs Road”.  It didn’t matter what was there along this road, but I was going to paint something, anything on this road. It’s one of those things about me, if something catches my eye, such as this road sign, I’m there! I found my first cotton field, it just so happened to be pouring down raining, but I was there, it was there, and it may not happen again.

I visited with my daughter Jen for a few more days, painted Cyprus trees along the Flint River, then headed North to Atlanta. 

My trip to Atlanta was two-fold, okay, maybe more like three or four-fold. I was picking up my wife Susie to join me for the last leg of my trip… and celebrate our 5th year anniversary, I was going to visit my oldest daughter Devin, her husband Randy, and then my granddaughter “Dorian Rose Champagne”. Dorian will be turning 1 year old this February, and this gal is one of the cutest babies I had ever seen.

Oh, post a pic? Okay

Dorian Rose Champagne

Dorian Rose Champagne

My time in Atlanta was more family and touristy type fun things. I set my GPS to take us to the “city center” then parked our car and wandered for hours. Another wonderful city, is there just no end to them? Dorian, Devin & Randy were great hosts, I did paint at the Allatoona Battlefield while I was here, a place where the South tried to cut off the Unions supply lines to Sherman’s army. An amazing engineering feet of carving a railroad cut out of solid granite was the site of the battle. This is much today as it was 150 years ago.

Susie and I left Atlanta to head back to Murfreesburo because I am sure I had more work to do, plus I had left my Tennessee Atlanta-Tennessee 210paintings there. Judy met us along the way because she wanted to take us into the South Cumberland State Park to some areas she thought I might enjoy painting. As everywhere along my journey I found beautiful vistas to paint. We hiked the trails, me carrying my 35 lbs of gear on my back, and them cheering me on saying “oh, it’s just around the corner”. Yeah, right!

I was happy to come back to this area because of all the places that I saw a few weeks ago that I had “bookmarked” and filed away to come and paint again.

I left Kansas City with 42 blank canvases and returned with 13 still looking for an image to be bestowed to them. I tried to fill them all, but there are times when it is better not to paint, and to go with what the situation requires. Whether it be dinning with artists and friends in one town, visiting with family and loved ones in another. Making the best whatever life rolls before me and keeping my expectations very low.

I do what I can, when I can, and when I can’t I do what I must. Sometimes what I want is in there somewhere. That is my reward for waiting.

Thanks for taking the time to follow me on this little “travel-log” to the South.

24 of my paintings will be on display through the end of February, a chronological journey from here to there and back again. I hope you can join me. For more info on this show click HERE, or inquire within.

Greg

Shem Creek artists

Gene, Za, me @ Shem Creek

 

Give me 4 for the Road

January 30, 2014 by admin

I really don’t talk about my art much here, or how or why I create it. Not sure why, I just don’t know enough about it to be out trying to act like an authority on something.

I try not to give advice, I find it better to speak of experience, and folks can take what they want from that.

So let’s talk art for a little bit, and specifically colors. I love them! Since my very first little paint set I just loved squeezing out the paints onto a pallet and mixing those things together. I have no idea how many paints that cheap little paint set had in it, but I know it had to have at least twice as many colors as I use now. I thought then that the more paints you had the better you would be, or at least the potential to be better increased.

Many people feel the same way, and some for good reason. They probably know what to do with that magic color they just found at the local hobby store. Me, not so fortunate. I bring home the most awesome tube of color that I could find, and like I was talking about the other day, you could tell in my next painting exactly which store I went to to buy that “perfect” color.

Growing up I painted some, but what I did the most was drawing. Pen, pencil. It’s what was around. I did not have a lot of

RGS circa 1977

RGS circa 1977

disposable income, so drawing on anything I could find was the way I honed my skills. A paint by number kit for Christmas at some point was fun, and loved the results, but it was only a temporary detour from my love for the line.

It was my drawing skills and eye for detail that landed me a job at Hallmark in the 70’s, training to become the Master Engraver that I am today. I loved it, and it paid well. Taking 2D art and creating something 3 dimensional, giving it form, and depth, creating that illusion of reality with edges and shape.

Though it was the draftsman skills that paid the bills, I found painting a wonderful release from reality, a place where one could go for a time to escape the chaos of the world around. Taking a large white canvas and throwing color on it, step back and feel what develops. Finding shapes, colors, textures all mixing to bring my imagination alive.

At first I stayed away from painting what I saw, but rather painted what I wanted to see in a world of crazy fantasy inspired by the times. I don’t know if the times changed or it was me, but the imagination took a sabbatical and I began creating from reality. (which at times can be just as odd)

In this mixed up world of art where breaking the rules is the norm, and following them is like the worst thing in the world one could do, there was this rule that I always stuck to since the beginning of time…

“Do NOT to use paint straight from the tube!” Okay, Okay already.

I took this rule and etched it deep into my psyche and still to this day I get this feeling that if  I put straight paint on my canvas someone is going to come up to me and put “cheater” on my forehead. And the number of paints on my pallet was limited only to how many I could find. That and  the size of my pallet…

till 2011

In 2011 I met a man that would change my pallet, my art, and my life. A quiet man, who spoke with his art and his actions. He took that crazy art store of colors, literally shipped it to a needy artist in Africa, all save 4 simple colors. 2 cool colors, and 2 warm colors, and said “go little grasshopper!” And I went.

My pallet

My pallet

“Why?” Is it easier with 4 colors, what are the advantages, and how about the drawbacks?

At the time I thought Rick was crazy telling me that I was going to be painting with only Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue. Sure I had heard the stories about “you can make every color using just the 3 primary colors”, but I thought that was like an Urban Legend or something… not reality.  But I was about to find out. That or have the most gawd awful paintings the world has ever seen. (and there are some bad ones… not mentioning names)

I began my seemingly impossible task of creating art with my new pallet.

It was/is a challenge, but I must say after a while you begin not to miss the fact that you have no tubes of green paint on your pallet. I had to go so far as not even to put one in my back pack so I wouldn’t be tempted at first. I love some of those greens that they have out there, and when painting in the area I’ve grown up in, the summers cannot be recreated without every single shade of green being used!

What I began to see immediately in my art was something that I didn’t pay attention to before, (being self taught in this world

Rick on the Conejos

Rick on the Conejos

of color), and that was a harmony in my work. When they first spoke of seeing this in my paintings I had to step back and compare. And the more I became familiar with these colors, learning how to mix properly, making some of those colors that we find in our world, the more I began enjoying them, and the challenge of creating the art that I do with my limited pallet. It is very rewarding, and freeing at the same time for me. I don’t have to look to hard to see if I have all my paints before I leave on an outing. I just count them on one hand. Simple, even for me!

I use the same pallet for winter as I do for summer spring and fall (or is it autumn?) In each color I use a little bit all 3 of my primary colors. Whether the red I use is alizarin, or cad red depends on the temp I am trying to achieve at the time. But I always put a red, blue and yellow in all of my mixes. It’s that harmony I am still trying to achieve in my work, along with knocking down the tone a bit.

So is this another one of those “rules” that I have to live by, do or die type thing? No way! I really have no qualms about using a yellow ochre or a viridian sometime. I know they are very useful colors, and I’m sure my art would benefit by throwing in an extra tube of something or two, and I’m sure I will. Rick told me when he went to paint overseas he added another blue to his pallet. I wish I could remember which one, but if and when I travel across the water I’ll know.

In the meantime my goal is to become well versed at what I do. I have a long ways to go, and a short time to get there. No idea how short.

I love my 4 color pallet, it’s simple, easy to pack up, and I can still make a total mess of things with these 4 as I did with 44.

This would have been Rick’s “Golden Year” Born in ’57 and 57 years old.

Thanks Rick

LaSauses Turnaround

LaSauses Turnaround

 

Do You See What I See?

December 31, 2013 by admin

A star, a star, dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.

The holidays are about over for this season, just New Years and then Ground Hogs Day is coming up, but then we’ve got a bit of a break. I had hoped to take this holiday time to get a bit of a rest from a long hard year, and spend some time with family and friends.

Did it work out the way I had planned? Did it work out that way for you?

I did spend more time with family, but the slowing down part never really happened. I enjoy painting so I try to get out and do it as regularly as possible, and at the same time

Dorian & I

Dorian & I

I have been readying myself for the upcoming year. Can’t enter it without a running start can we? No way!

But as I traveled with family, sat around visiting, playing games and enjoying company I consciously found myself looking at things as I always do. Trying to decide how this could look better. What I could do if I were going to paint it to make it a more pleasant scene. It did not matter what it was I was looking at, and it didn’t really make much of a difference what was going on. Automatically my brain begins to compare and evaluate.

No I don’t “zone out”, well not to my knowledge at least. I just quietly look at things, try to figure out what their local color is, how I could mix it up with my pallet of 4 colors. How it might fit better on a page, landscape or portrait format. There are a bazillion things that run through your mind in an instant, some of them are actually pertinent to the situation, but then many… my favorite ones, are the ones that assess it’s composition and reproduction possibilities.

I have no idea if this is what all artists do, and whether it is a learned behavior, or more genetic. I do know that as long as I can remember I have been doing this in some manner or form.

188861_1877181046860_1991848_n

“KC Scout”

Grade school had me taking scribbles from other kids and I would take them and transform them into interesting objective or abstract designs. Not a page a school notebook or textbook went without being adorned in some form or another. (much to the dismay of my parents who had to pay for damages) Walls, desks, table tops, stairwells, nothing was too sacred for me and my mini masterpieces!

Is this natural for the artist, or the creative mind? Is it natural for everyone? I can only speak for myself, and it was natural for me. But if I were to listen to some of my keepers, I believe “are you crazy?”, and “what were you thinking?” was quite often mentioned, so maybe it wasn’t something everyone did.

It is not just in the arts. My mind works in a manner that is constantly trying to improve something, maybe. Things just can’t be left alone would be a better adjective. Always trying to find ways to change things, hopefully to make them better, but not always the case. I love to fix things, create, destroy, alter, change… Things were not made to be left alone. Is it a “guy” thing? I know for a fact that the majority of men when presented with a problem will try to fix it, while that same case being presented to a group of women, they will talk about it… then who knows?

By that time I am long gone!

I love the challenge of taking any scene and creating the best 581361_4536368924895_1243090803_ncomposition possible out of it. I’m getting better at it, and I believe it’s benefited greatly from the constant appraising of the view before me, and then of course a bit of education. Finally getting a bit of “formal” training in the arts, and what it entails. Reading books by some of the Masters of the genre, Payne, Hawthorne, Carlson. At long last paying attention to those who know better and listening.

If only I had listened to my elders earlier, ha! Not me, I’m the type that must learn by trial and error, and error, and… right now I am trying to see less than what is there. My mentor did not go a session without telling me to “simplify!” Less is better, no paintings were ruined by having too little. I was notorious for including everything I saw into the painting. A typical beginners mistake I’m afraid.

I will always be a student of the arts.

Do you see what I see? I doubt it, we all see differently, and that is good. Our brains interpret things differently, the eyes see, the brain translates, and we create, and create, and create.

 

I don’t paint for “Fun”

December 17, 2013 by admin

Recently I did a little challenge on Facebook involving artists from around the world. It was not for money or any sort of prize, no fame or glory, no accolades from the high end galleries on 5th Avenue. It was artists on every level taking part in something just for fun. The response was good, and some wonderful paintings were created and sent in. Almost all of those I spoke or messaged with thought it a great idea, and something along these lines should be done again.

And then there were a few of the others… not the artists who were traveling had a million other things that had to be done and were putting them off because more important things kept coming up. No, I’m talking about that other % of people that see things that are fun as a waste of time.

Are you an artist? If so, at what point in your professional career does the fun leave your work?

Why is it you paint, or better yet, let’s step back a few years. Quite a few for some of us.

Why did you ever decide to pick up a paint brush, or pen and ink and begin to create? Is it something you did on your own, or more something that you had to do along with the rest of the kids?

To some a blank piece of paper made a better paper airplane than it did a place to make a picture, but for me I found drawing a lot of fun. Something that was easilyRGS Circa 1977small picked up, always got good responses from other people, except from the teacher when I was supposed to be paying attention, and it gave me something to do whenever I was grounded and had to stay in my room. This was maybe one of my first ways to escape the here and now was through my art, and enter the world of my imagination.

Not everyone likes art, that’s a given. But what about those of us who do like art, and are good at it and making our career at it. Do we like it? Do we enjoy the act of creation? I do, but then I’m the kind of guy who likes just about everything, (except stewed tomatoes, yech!) And if I don’t like something, I still make the best of whatever it is. I have heard many say that the simpler minded people enjoy life much more than most because they don’t have the worries and questions that the more educated have.

Is this true? Maybe so.

I see a number of people totally miserable in their lives because they are not content. They are not content with what they have, and question incessantly. Learning is a wonderful thing, but for me I find if something gets in the way of my being happy, go around it, and if that’s not possible, make the best of it.

smile

smile

I’ve always been a “happy go lucky” type of personality, but real peace did not come to me till I fell face first into “AA”. Here I learned this helpful little prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr… “Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference”.

For me, this has been a lifesaver and helps me enjoy life as I can. My wife Susie tells me on occasion that “at our age, we have earned the right to enjoy life to it’s fullest!” I’m kind of paraphrasing, but maybe you get the drift.

While mentoring under Rick Howell he made it clear that on occasion you don’t have to look at a subject and evaluate it along the same lines as your gallery would. Deciding whether it would translate well as a large corporate work, or it fits in your gallery. Every once in a while you just need to paint something for fun, because you want to, the way you want to.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

I feel very fortunate to have spent my entire adult life in the field of art, doing something I enjoy. Whether you are or not it does not keep you from trying to make each and every moment on earth enjoyable for yourself or for others.  My 10 years as Cubmaster gave to me a credo that I live by and you may well know it too… “KISMIF” say it with me, “Keep It Simple, Make it Fun”

Maybe I will never be a “serious” artist, and if it’s a serious artist I must be, then you can have it. Because though I do take art seriously, I will do so with a smile   🙂

cambridge 106 007-001

 

 

Heavy Metal Thunder

December 3, 2013 by admin

Not the normal sound one hears as they paint the countryside.

I would like to think I am a very cautious man. For instance, in the world of power tools I always use every precaution and if a safety device is not functioning I will just not use it.

I always wear a seat belt, don’t even think about it, it’s just what should be done. This might just be smart, heck with cautious… I don’t keep my passwords and pin numbers in the same place as my account numbers. What about you?

So what about painting? Me, I’m an artist who paints primarily outdoors on site.  I would like to think that I am careful on my outings. This is something that maybe the studio artist need not worry about so much, though I know there are many inherent dangers to painting within the confines of those 4 walls. But when coming back from a trip to South Central Nebraska I told of the location of one of the paintings and was quickly informed that I had to be crazy, and that had he seen me painting there that he would have taken that opportunity to “run my ass over”.

Maybe he had it in for just me, and not all artists… I hope.

I had gone to this location suggested to me by a friend the day before. It was the Little Blue River near Pauline Nebraska. The sun was quickly getting lower with the light from the late autumn sun, and it being a week day, the traffic seemed to be pretty steady, but I parked along the highway and walked both sides of the bridge, and across looking for the best vantage point to paint. There was barbed wire fences at each end keeping me from getting down along the river, and the area between the road and the fence left a scene that I was not really that thrilled about.

Nebraska 089I left this location and drove South 5-10 miles when I saw the way the light was hitting an old barn in a cornfield  freshly turned so I pulled over, setup along the edge of the field maybe a good 20-25 feet off the highway and painted away.

The following day after chores, I was still drawn towards that location at the Little Blue River. I gathered up my gear and headed back to see if there was someway I could paint that little windy river.

I drove East bound on 74 past the bridge going over the river and turned around so as to park my car at the foot of the bridge just out of the West bound traffic lane. Keep in mind that Nebraska highway 74 is nothing like an interstate. Speed limit I believe was 60-65 mph through this little stretch, which is much better than the 75 mph on Interstate 80 just North of here. Traffic was much lighter than the day before, you could go 4-5 minutes without a vehicle coming by. I walked out to the center of the bridge and saw the same scene I saw yesterday that had really set the bug in me to paint this little area. I was looking North as this river wound it’s way down and around the countryside.

I decided this is where I would set up!

There was a good 6 maybe 8 feet from the edge of the road to the side of the bridge, and I thought this a safe enough amount of space to set up my easel and back up as I tend to do as I paint. I went back to my car and slightly angled it’s tail towards the road as we see the highway patrol do to give themselves a little more room as they write us a IMAG3972-1speeding citation. Turned on my emergency flashers and then carried my pack and canvas out to the center of the bridge.

I’m sure you’ve noticed this while walking along a road. First you hear it, gradually getting louder and louder, then you feel it as it comes by at 6o miles an hour, there is this amazing gust of wind, and then conversely a vacuum behind it that fills the void that it just left. It’s the heavy metal thunder that rolls across the highways and bi-ways keeping us in our daily goods. The last of the American cowboys, and they are the trucks and the truck drivers of world. Well I learned pretty quickly what things I needed to hold onto when a large semi came cruising by. This being in the great plains there is a pretty steady wind most of the time anyway, and you prepare for it. I have carabiners that I clip weights to my easel to help hold it in place, and bungie cord to hold me pallet down. But things did need to be secured each time a truck came by.

It really wasn’t too bad with mostly trucks hauling grain passing  on occassion. I would wave hello as the ones I was facing would go by before I had to grab things, local farmers and ranchers would wave and slow to see what I was doing, but none seemed to be out to get the crazy artist, or no one laid on their horn to let me know that I just wasn’t wanted in them parts.

I looked for some sort of bright orange safety cones before I left, and I know it’s a good idea if I do go buy something like this to keep in my car. Maybe some of those collapsing caution triangles they sell for setting up when changing tires. I was wearing a bright red hoodie as I often do, and it can be seen from a good distance. This is not the place I want to be wearing camouflage!

When I go out to paint and I see a scene that I really want to paint, I’ll do what it takes to paint that scene safely. I want to live to paint my masterpiece, and I know it’s IMAG3971going to be hard enough as it is, let alone having to do it from a hospital bed. If I thought I would be a hinderance to oncoming traffic, I would not have setup there. I have no problem painting from photographs, though I would much rather set up and paint on site, finish if I can, or at least get a good block in before taking something into the studio.

I have the utmost respect for other people, for farmers, for truckers, for everyone. I will not infringe upon them to create my art. If there is a fence, I don’t cross it, if it’s private property, I get permission. And if it’s blocking a 20,000 lb semi that is traveling 60+ mph down the highway, I am NOT going to make them be the one to decide whether or not they want to get out of the way!

Artists in general have a reputation of being a little quirky and odd, I don’t need to add “obstructions” to the list of adjectives they use to describe us. So stay safe, always be wareful of your surrounding because after all is said and done, we want to live to paint another day.Blue Hill Thanksgiving 041

 

Deja Vu

October 31, 2013 by admin

There is something I totally missed out on in all my years as a “studio” artist. Well there are a lot of things, but let’s focus on the relevant for a bit.

It’s not something I noticed till recently, though I’ve now been painting as a plein air artist for 2 years and 3 months now. It’s that feeling of being whisked away DSC_0142somewhere as you paint. Many artists speak of getting into “the zone” when they paint, but I’m not talking about that, nor am I speaking of some of those trips I took at my canvas in my college, AKA Timothy Leary daze.

What I’m talking about is what happens to you when you bring down one of those unfinished block-ins from a long past excursion. You know the paintings I’m talking about,  one of those that had you enthralled while you were there painting it, and looking forward to get back to finish up… but time and travels got in the way.

It’s what happens after you get that canvas on your easel and the paints out in front of you, pull the reference photo up on your monitor. Does it matter what playlist you bring up on your Ipod, or what kind of beverage you just set there on the coaster? No, I don’t think so. For me I wasn’t trying to do anything to spur it on, it just kind of happened.

You can have all the modern conveniences available to mankind at your fingertips, music blaring out the Bose 901 speakers, A/C turned to a perfect 78 degrees, but once you have everything set up and ready to go, it’s only moments before you are magically transported back to that place and time where that inspiration was first realized.

On the Los Pinos river

On the Los Pinos river

Maybe it’s not so dramatic, but when you get back into painting a piece that was started plein air, there are things stored in your memory that come out while painting. Was it the big fly that wouldn’t leave you alone, or the people you were out there painting with that day?

I had recently pulled out a block in from last year in Colorado, a wonderful start to a painting that I had been meaning to get back to since the day I returned. After getting it up and painting on it a while, I could feel the vast landscape around me, a overwhelming feeling of being again part of that land, by myself in this beautiful yet barren land. Those shadows in your photo that no matter how much you zoom in on your monitor in a studio piece, the plein air painting fills in with remembered details that if you had not been there, you would never know.

It’s “Deja Vu” at it’s finest!

A studio artist who has not painted outdoors will never have this same overwhelming feeling of being there. A plein air artist when out on the land observes and records, observes and records. Taking what they want, recording it either on canvas or in that strange storage cell called the brain, and then leaving the rest. A photographer observes and records, but not in the same sense. Do they study the shadows, watch as the light creeps across the scene before them for hours on end?

Pull out one of those forgotten canvases and see if it happens for you, no need to put bug spray on, and sunscreen, though the olfactory senses can play an important role.

smile

smile

Does this work for you? Do you remember the feel of the day when you work on an old painting started in the field? Does the entire time come flying back up in your memory?

Don’t have any unfinished paintings, then grab a favorite and make it BIG, either way I’ll see you back on the rivers edge. Enjoy

Too many Fires

October 19, 2013 by admin

You into  “Buzz Words?”  What is it that everyone in the world is trying to be a master of anymore?multitasking

Multitasking!

In these days and times if you are not proficient at doing many things at once it seems like you are being left behind, or at least I feel that way.

In this rat race of world we live in, who is it that comes through in the end? The multitasker, or the… hmmm, what is the word for someone who does not “multi-task”? They are all kind of crass, so nevermind that.

It may seem like you are accomplishing so much more with your ability to burn the candle at both ends, but probably in actuality, you are doing a disservice to whom ever you are working with, or for. And I am as guilty as sin at this. How in the world can you give 100 % of yourself when doing 3, 4, even 5 things at once? I can’t, though I kid myself that I can, but I am writing down notes here and there from different plans, events, activities, checking emails and flagging, tagging, and logging things in their different folders. There is just no way in the world I can do as well at something when even before I’m completed with it, that I’m already thinking about the next project, or where I’m supposed to be at 8:15.

Trying to organize things into groups is helpful, there are many ways to do this, whether separating and working on things that are related in geography, or subject matter, or medium. But still we are watering down the quality of work that we, or I provide. Is 85% of something good enough?

Well you might just be shortchanging someone here, like yourself! I’ve seen some of the art I’ve created when my attention is not fully there, vs when I’m giving it my all. There IS a difference!

Maybe it’s the adult form of “attention deficit disorder”? Could it be that all the children we pumped full of ritalin would be the ultimate multi-taskers? Maybe.

show 002I find that there is just so much to get done that I have to be going 110 mph just to keep up, and if I slow down to catch a breath, I then have to double time it just to get back to where I was. I’ve found the world does not stop or slow down when I take a break.

It could be that I spent over 2 decades spinning my wheels in a self made trough of booze, and now that I’ve sobered up I feel the need to “overachieve” to make up for this.

Could be.

Whatever the reason, I find myself with 3-4 easels with different paintings being worked on simultaneously. Working on blogs, and webpages, spreadsheets, and schedules all at the same time. How about driving, eating, photographing, taking notes, and talking on the phone? Have you tried that? When I’m painting in competitions or events, I paint, I run around and photograph, and socialize, then go back to painting, munch on an apple. I mean it’s fun, but at what expense?

I love keeping busy, that’s really who I am. To get up and work hard all day. I like to have that feeling of accomplishment before I sit back and relax at the end of the day.

I want to be good at what I do, and I work very hard at it, and will continue to do so, but I believe cutting out the self imagined need to multi-task just to keep up with the Jones’s is important. I’ve found when I compare myself, my deeds, or my art to others is a recipe for heartache and disaster. It is myself that I must stack my work up against. What have I learned since my last piece? What will I do differently? Also I have quit jumping back and forth in mediums and am focusing on becoming proficient in landscape oil painting. That’s what I love, that’s what I need to focus on. I really don’t see a need to be good at everything, I am starting much too late in life for this. Just 1 thing, be good at that, and enjoy the process.

I can still keep busy, and get much accomplished, but save the multi-tasking for the quad-core 24 bazillion megabyte processing units.

I’m sure the world will keep on.McQueeny Lock 043-1

Escape from the Crazy

July 12, 2013 by admin

205677_1006191152657_3388_nWhen life gets all crazy all around you, what do you do to escape?

I spent much of my life trying to find things to remove many of the pressures that the world puts on you, I mean there are a lot of pressures that face us on a daily basis. Fortunately I have not had to deal with any cataclysmic events close to me, but that didn’t stop me from making my exit stage left into another realm. Whether it was drugs in the 60’s & 70’s, alcohol for then next few decades, I sought outside help to take me away. More often than not all it really managed to do was alter my geographical location, the world was still there.

I would like to think that as I have grown older, I have gotten wiser, which might be, but I’ve seen many an older folk who still have not learned from their past experiences. I think for me it’s more just the whole approach to life and all it’s eccentricities that have changed, and I don’t seek escape from that. Though I do love to be taken away by a good story, or lost in a piece of art. It’s not a removal from this world I am seeking anymore, as chaotic as it is at times, it is more for relaxation of the mind, body and spirit. I find I keep a good balance in these 3 aspects of my life, and I’m “Good to Go!” How I do it boggles me, I’m not into yoga, nor an exercise fanatic, I just stay active, and do the best I can all around, and try to help others do the same… oh, and paint.

I forgot about that!

I mean I love being rushed away to far off worlds in a good novel, or the exertion of a challenging tennis match on a hot day, but there is nothing anymore as exhilarating as the process of creation. Taking a blank canvas, my 5 tubes of paint and “going to town”… anywhere, everywhere! It’s a wonderful escape whether you have talent or not, there is a good reason that schools, counselors, psychiatrists use a blank piece of paper and some crayons. It can be a very therapeutic experience for some… of course it can drive you a bit mad too when you have some expectations of how it should be looking, and you cannot quite get it, but never mind that part at the moment. Just get out, get in and do it. Indoors, outdoors, there is a rewarding experience waiting to be had at the end of your brush. It doesn’t really matter what it is you paint, representational, abstract, non-objective, it all has the same effect on one.

For me, this is what I love to do, and do, and do. It is a blast, and then every now and then you create a real beauty, and then you get out and do it again, because it’s not the end result for me, though I do love to look at wonderful fall enchantmentart. It is the act of creating, the challenge of applying paint to canvas in some fashion that works. Occasionally one enters the coveted “zone” when painting, and all the world is lost around them, you are one with your canvas. This I wish I entered that zone more than I do, but I don’t. Painting in short spurts with my timer set in the studio, or painting outdoors in crowded areas it’s kind of difficult to “zone out” for me, but I don’t mind. I can still get lost in the act of painting while talking to an onlooker.

To escape, I paint, to find myself, I paint. For fun, I paint, and again, for work… guess what? I do the same. It may not be what brought this little bit wild, little bit crazy, lot of bit self-destructive person out of a tailspin, but it sure has kept me flying up in the clouds.

Come on up and try it.

Mumbo-Jumbo

June 28, 2013 by admin

Recently attending the Oil Painters of America Salon show in Petoskey, MI, Signature artist and juror Marc Hanson was giving a demo on painting a “nocturnal” painting. If you haven’t seen Marc’s work, do check it out, beautiful stuff I’m telling you. Marc studied under none other than Master Artist Richard Schmid.

Marc Hanson demo

Marc Hanson demo

The demo was about painting after the sun goes down, with existing lights, and colors and all that this entails. But something really stuck with me from this demo of Marc’s. He said “if you see mumbo-jumbo, paint mumbo-jumbo!” Sounds simple enough, but it really set on me. This was not the only thing in the workshop that I remembered, in fact after the demo I immediately went out on site and painted a nice looking landscape using some of what I had learned. This I believe will be something ongoing for many years, but back to the “mumbo-jumbo” if I may.

As a Master Engraving Artist, I spent decades interpreting what was not there, trying to make sense of it all. Beginning at Hallmark, and then continuing into the field. When a customer sent artwork they wanted sculpted 3 dimensionally, I took that and hand carved it into metal, and when areas were vague, I created something. Whether it was a hibiscus plant, or the feathers on an eagle medallion. I would take this customers “mumbo-jumbo” art and make something that made sense out of it. This was what was expected, and what the customers wanted.

But now at age 55 I finally hear what I’ve been needing to hear to free me from this self-imposed purgatory of mine. “If you see mumbo-jumbo, paint mumbo-jumbo”. Why try to make sense out of something that doesn’t make sense. It makes sense! If you see

painting Harbor Springs fog

painting Harbor Springs fog

something and can readily identify it, and what is going on, go with it. But how often do you look at something and say to yourself, “hmmm, is it a grouping of flowers in the shadows, or it kind of looks like I can see a face.” Just make it a dark shape with a bit of variety, and texture, and call it good. Let those people looking at it try to figure it out. Is it really important what it is in the first place? I doubt it, if it were you would probably know what it was.

Working with Rick Howell, he kept going over with me that if it’s not important in the painting, don’t make it so. I have been notorious throughout my life as giving the same weight to something on the edge of the canvas, as the focal point. This does not always work, and rarely did it work for me. I am finally understanding what it was about those great paintings that I love so much, they controlled what you saw, and expertly moved you where they wanted you to go. Glancing over unimportant parts of a composition, and lead you into the center of attention. If one does not recognize what it is you like about other art, it is so much more difficult to create things with the same feel.

I will go forth with all this in mind as I travel this long and arduous path I have chosen… and relish every minute of it. But is it “mumbo-jumbo”, or “mumble-jumble?” I wonder…

back to top