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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

 

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

Finding Shortcuts

June 13, 2013 by admin

I love shortcuts, if I can find a way to somewhere that is quicker than the regular route, I usually take it. In this world  of convenience shortcut to successstores and the microwave, time is everything. I think mankind has been trying to find shortcuts to thing since the beginning of time. Now this I am assuming, I’ve only been around for about 55 of those years.

Maybe it’s my coming into the AARP age that has made me look a little bit harder at these decisions to do the fastest route. I mean on this road of life, there is no turning back, but maybe I can extend the ride just a little bit longer, or make it a bit more worthwhile.

I had read a blog by an artist I admire about their purchasing a “candy store” of colors, with the thinking these are the ultimate colors for their newest painting. What this did to their work was create a dissonance to it that was nothing like what was originally intended. I found this same thing true in my art without even knowing it. If someone would have told me that my painting lacked a harmony of color, I know I would have thought “harmony?” It’s not trying to sing something.

Well it was not till I eliminated this modern convenience of color did my art become a little more soothing on the eye. No more shortcuts on my pallet, I put 4 colors on my pallet and figure it out from there. I know that for me, less is better, though it may not be true for others. I am finding that it has really helped me.

I knew nothing of “color theory” when I first took my paints beyond the studio door just barely 3 years ago. Cools, warms, chroma, hue, tertiary, analogous… it was really someone speaking a whole new language to me. I really just put paint on the pallet, and painted, with no real thought. Sometimes I came up with a “pretty” painting, but always something lacking. Not what I so admired in other artists work. Now everytime I go out I approach everything a bit differently. Not rushing in, but still being quick, because this is “plein air” you know, and that rain cloud is coming your way. I now enjoy trying to evoke a mood or capture an atmosphere of some sorts through my limited pallet. Sometimes it works, more often not, you would think I would learn from some of these mistakes, but it takes longer for some of the “unteachable”.

Sure it’s frustrating at times, struggling to get the right color, but when you finally get what you are looking for, what a sense of accomplishment! Did you mix up enough of it? It’s been many a time that I didn’t and found myself in need of more

limited pallet

limited pallet

and wondering how in the world I got it in the 1st place. There are some who say, “if you did it once, you can do it again”…”yeah, right”,  in theory!

It’s all a process, and I’m sitting here learning it everyday. I believe my work has benefited from taking away those shortcuts, plus it’s much easier to make sure you have all your colors packed when you only have to count to 4… I can handle that.

When speaking with someone in a favorite gallery last week, he mentioned how my paintings have improved and grown more sophisticated over the short time he had known me. I believe it is due to my working very very hard to improve, the hard work of my mentor to bring me to a higher level, and the taking away of those shortcuts to painting. I know that there are other ways to get from point A to point B, and I know I will take them at times. But it’s like learning anything, learn to do it the right way, before you take the shorter route.

It works for me, but then I’m “old school”

Is it Jealousy?

June 5, 2013 by admin

People deal with jealousy all the time, it’s a rare bird who isn’t affected in some manner by this affliction. A lot of times we cite what we do in life as a bit strange. I’ve used animals as an example at times, “animals don’t do it, why do we.” But here, even animals are taken to jealousy at times.

jealousy

jealousy

I had a wife who was so jealous, (wife #2) I could be walking along, then notice a dog or squirrel scampering by, and all of a sudden “GREG!!”, she would let me “have it!” Imagine the tirade she would go into if I happened to notice a pretty woman.

Is this a reactive jealousy, or a more of a suspicious jealousy?

I get affected by a reactive jealousy, but not so much to such an extreme. For instance, if I’m sitting at my desk working on something, and see out the window where someone is outside playing frisbee, or riding a bike, I get a bit jealous of those people. I don’t want to be stuck indoors when someone else is outside enjoying themselves. Do you call that jealousy?

Now with this modern media being so prevalent all the time, and in so many different fashions, there is a bazillion ways it can get you… or me at least.  When I see another artist posting a photo of themselves outdoors painting, I get this urge that I have to be there painting with them, and then someone else posts, I want to be there too! It’s not just artists, and painting, but friends or “acquaintances” posting cool places, I get this feeling that “I’m missing out on life, though here I am happy as a lark, and busy as a bee. (too many idioms?) Does it happen when you are content with where you are and what you are doing? Actually at those times I’m not seeing or noticing others, and their happenings, so maybe it’s just when you are doing something you would rather “not”?

Or is this really jealousy?

I see beautiful art in a museum, or someone posting a recent painting of theirs online, does this make me “jealous”, envious, no I don’t think so?  What it does do is it  inspires and motivates me to do something. If getting out and painting isn’t an option because there are things that need to be done 1st, I prioritize and work my way slowly but surely to the easel. Now if I saw those same paintings and had thoughts such “oh they just think they are so good”, or “I could do that if I had studied under the masters too.” These are negative thoughts that can turn something positive and inspiring into counterproductive and hateful.

For me keeping a positive attitude when we come to any situation really helps. For me there is no good reason for going with the glass half empty attitude versus glass half full. I know for myself that the “half empty” philosophy on life is not for me. It would lead me on the road to ruin lickidy-spit! That’s not the road I’m traveling.

Antioch Road

“Antioch Road” 16×20 original oil on canvas.

 

 

Being the Best

April 1, 2013 by admin

I don’t know about you, but many times I will look at something I’ve painted and be really happy with it, then I could come back a day or two later, maybe even a week or two and wonder to myself, “what was I thinking”, or “who am I trying to kid”. Really there is no rhyme or reason that I can think of behind it. There are times when it’s just the opposite. I could be struggling, and saying to myself, “why do I even bother”, and have to get back away, from my work. Do something else entirely, cook a meal, or play some tennis. (physical activity is always a good way to get into a different zone). Then I come back and really love the piece and know the only thing I can do to make it better is to sign it.

IMAG2966-1How about when you take your art and put it up against others in juried shows? How does it look then? Are you still as proud of it as you were when you pulled it off the easel? How about would you give yours an award after comparing it to all the others in the show?

When I entered the 25th annual “Wings over the Platte” show at the Stuhr museum in Grand Island, NE this is exactly what happened. I had driven 300+ miles to deliver the paintings, and carrying my paintings in, and going into the receiving area of the museum with all the entered pieces lined up along the walls, I was going “wow”, no way! There was some very cool work that were being presented to the jurors here. Well, I felt lucky to have been at least juried into the show, and I left happy to be a part of this well established exhibit of art depicting the Platte River.

So when I received the mailing that one of my pieces had just been awarded “Best of Show”, a calmly forwarded the mail to my wife Susie and asked her “what she thought”. Nothing more than that, no joyous reaction, or high fiving, I was sending it to Susie to see what her reaction was, so I could figure out if I had read the thing properly or had dreamed it all.

I mean, I liked my piece, but did it deserve “Best of Show”? At this point in time, “YES” it did. On another day, and the stars aligned a bit art in parkvilledifferently, maybe 1st, 2nd, or not at all. Art is very subjective, and that’s one of the great things about it. As I had mentioned in a previous blog, it all depends on the juror.

I have juried art shows, and in picking the winners, I in my mind pick what I deem the best art there in the show. There are times when a 2nd could be switched with a 3rd, because you are always comparing apples to oranges out there. They may all be in the same category, but normally they are not all of the exact same subject matter with the same rules to follow.

Is it like any other thing in this world? On any given day, anyone could be number 1, in art, in sports, in life? The important thing is that you get out there, do your best and enjoy what you do. To win art shows, and to beat everyone else is not why I paint. I love the experience of creation, and then to share it with others. It’s a great feeling, and it’s what keeps me going, and going, and…

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