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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…

2 Responses to “Mumbo-Jumbo”

  1. Isn’t Marc an amazing artist? Of course, he will be at Door County next year when you are one of the featured artists there. Love reading your blogs.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  2. Greg,
    I’ve been getting online mentoring with Phil Starke, and I think probably one of the most challenging things I’ve been learning has been the fact that I don’t have to paint what’s there. I can eliminate stuff, change the scene around, add a mountain if it helps the composition. Tough for someone who started out majoring in medical illustration! I have to keep in mind the High Sierra paintings of Edgar Payne that I saw at the Gilcrease last winter. He added lakes to most of the paintings of those mountains and they were perfect! I think as artists we start out working to copy/draw/paint as best we can what we see. But it would almost seem that the next step is to improve what we see.

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