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Need a Push

February 5, 2015 by admin

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, but it’s not because I’m not thinking about it. When I began writing that first blog I knew there was no way I could do this daily, even trying to commit to weekly was pushing my limits.New Orleans Day 5 123

This is more about pushing yourself out of that little comfortable place you’ve found, going past what you know you can do and try to improve.

As many know I paint landscapes, big giant chunks of earth that just sits there holding still waiting for you to paint it.  I’m not perfect at it, but I’m practicing. Well I had an opportunity come along that took my comfortable little niche of landscape painting and pushed it to the other extreme… to paint the battles at the 2015 Bicentennial of the War of 1812, more specifically the Battle of New Orleans which ended up being the deciding battle in the war and we have enjoyed peace with Great Britain ever since.

New Orleans Day 7 081My sister and brother-in-law (Kathy & Ron) has a place on Burgundy in the French Quarter and had sent me contact info to some of the organizers of this event. After months of back and forth as these things sometimes go, I was working with the Louisiana Living History Society who were the instigators in much of the reenactments happening to celebrate 200 years.

I was going to be allowed on the battlefield amidst almost 1,500 reenactors as they recreated the infamous battles.

I don’t think I ever really thought it out, but while packing my gear and ensuring I had clothing that would pass as “period” attire, it came to me what I was about to do.

What in the world was I thinking?

I do pride myself in being somewhat adept at painting quickly. I usually spend no longer than 2 hours on a piece out on location, with the initial block-in done in the first 30 minutes. The clouds move across the sky, the water cascades across the rocks, and the sun is forever changing the light all around us, and I’ve grown used to this occurring while I paint.

…but troops running in formation across a battle field, guns blazing, cannons roaring. What was I getting into? I had no idea, and I was a bit frightened to tell the truth.

Excited, yet scared of the unknown that was about to come down.New Orleans Day 5 112

There was not a lot of preparation for me ahead of time. I had to be in position 30 minutes before the start of the battle, and once in place I had no real idea where on the battle field the fighting was going to take place. I’m not sure how large of an area was that was cleared out for the reenactment, but there had to have been at least 10 acres in front of me and the action could be anywhere, so little was done to prep the canvases ahead of time save toning them, and then putting in a horizon line.

Conveniently there was a PA system that had a master of ceremonies announcing and narrating some of the battles, but the speakers were facing the audience, and once the gunfire began I heard nothing again till the battles had concluded. So with this I was made aware that things were about to begin.

My knees were shaking now!

But once I began looking, composing and throwing down a little paint, things began to recede around me. I was focused in what I needed to do. I still was not sure how, but it is really just notes of color next to each other and how they compare to those around it. It doesn’t matter the subject, or how long they are there. Put it down as you see it, or as you feel it.

“Luke, use the Force”

Do I think of it as notes of color when I’m out there? No, I don’t think so, in fact these battles took place and were totally over in from 39 minutes to 50 minutes. There was no real time to think, only to act or maybe “react” would be a better word. And while this was going on, I would occasionally grab my camera and take photos for reference material for other paintings done from these studies.

New Orleans Day 5 087Different battles had different things going on of course, the night battle there were the Choctaw Indians scurrying through the woods around me, another battle had friendly fire going over my head as troops were falling all around. I was told I should have earplugs on because of all the explosions and gunfire, but it all fell away as one enters that “zone” to create.

I deemed it a success, I created a total of 12 paintings on the trip, 1 of each of the 4 battles, and then other supporting studies from around the campsite and original Chalmette Battlefield.

I am a far cry from an expert in the field of plein air painting, but there are some things that one grows comfortable at. I guess it’s essential in order for us to grow as an artist to push oneself. I don’t feel the need for me to become an expert at portraits, or painting still life’s. I think one can grow without the necessity to learn every medium there is.

There is so much work to be done here learning oil painting the land, it would take several lifetimes to even come close.

I would be be remiss if I did not mention the article that Bob Bahr from Outdoor Painter Magazine wrote on my little adventure. It’s a short little article that won’t take much time at all, and has a few nice photos, plus Bob is a much better writer than me.

Check it out here: CLICK

I’d better get going, I’m wasting precious time, and so are you 😉

Dec 28, 1814 Battle of New Orleans - SOLD

Dec 23, 1814 Battle of New Orleans

 

thanks

Greg

 

Into the Drainage Ditch

November 19, 2013 by admin

Step outside your front door, how many times a day do you do this? A little, a lot? Why do you go out there? To check the mail, get the paper, go to your car and leave for work. There are other times you go out front to spend a bit of time there, maybe picking up things, raking the leaves, or visit with a neighbor on a nice day.

Drainage Ditch

Drainage Ditch

What do you see out there, or how do you see? Do you look at it with the same discerning eye that you use when you go looking for something to inspire you to paint? Are some of you saying “why would I need to go outside to get inspiration to paint?”  Ah, the poor studio artist who has not been hit by the plein air bug. (maybe it was the bugs that are keeping them inside, I can see that)

Me? My inspiration is provided by the great outdoors! It could be anything on any given day, but rarely do I look where I live for material to paint… I do my best to get quickly out of my neighborhood to find something! I live in the typical middle class neighborhood in a typical midwestern suburb. I’ve driven through suburbs around the country and they are all pretty much the same. Some are more quaint, others somewhat mundane, there are the sterile well-groomed neighborhoods that do not normally make the best subject material for gallery walls, and then the more rustic, more charming.

I do try to look for interesting possibilities in and around my stomping ground, though I never have actually set up my easel and begun painting, at least not till recently. An artist friend was doing a little challenge in his home town in Arkansas of painting 24 plein air paintings in 24 hours. (John P. Lasater IV) and some of the promoters, or maybe it was John who suggested other artists go out and paint a painting in an hour and send it in. Originally I wanted to do this there in Siloam Springs painting John painting, but time and circumstances did not allow this, so I took part in a paint out here locally and did a few paintings. One painting I did in an hour was at a lake and I did a time-lapse photography of the painting, ending up with a 30 second clip of my 1 hour painting.

On the 2nd day of John’s event I had little time to go looking, but I did want to do another, because I was not that thrilled with the painting from the day before. I had an idea, and it was close by my house, but could I do it? I mean, I had no problem painting in an hour, it’s the fact that this painting was going to be here in my own

in the ditch

in the ditch

neighborhood. My friends and neighbors, most who had no idea what I did for a living, were going to be able to see me out there painting.  It was to say the least an odd feeling. It’s much different from painting in a city street, or a park, or a painting competition. This is right there where you are going to have to go back and visit these people again, look them in the eye as you talk of the weather.

I have no idea why it feels odd painting there in your own front yard, it shouldn’t, it’s your own place, no one can make you leave. Maybe it’s that “don’t crap where you sleep” or “don’t date from your workplace” type thing? I know that’s kind of stretching it, but if you think about it…

I’m dragging this far too long, there are things to do, both you and I.

What I did, I drug my easel and my little intervelometer with camera equipment and headed to ditch that had caught my eye. Yes a ditch! A cement thing between the backyards that usually has a trickle of water running in it, plus an occasional ball that has been hit over a fence and never retrieved. It was the perfect little tunnel composition, and I know I was going to be quick because I intentionally set up just an hour before my favorite football team came on the air.

I was down just below street level with my easel set up in the slight stream of mossy green water. A perfect autumn day with the leaves just turning, and gathering along the edges out of the wind.

The painting went well, I managed to shoot a little time-lapse of the painting in progress, and got back to the house with only 5 minutes of the game missed. Football games are the perfect time for setting up the laptop and working on videos, organizing, marketing. I used this valuable time to put together my photos into a little  film clip, added an intro, some music and uploaded it to the world wide web. (view video of “Into the Drainage Ditch)

Not the YouTube sensation like dancing babies, or elephants painting portraits, but I was pleased with it. Plus I had finally broke that invisible force field that allowed me to paint in my own neighborhood. It’s still the same little area that it was before, kind of plain, but now I will adjust my eye a little bit to see things a bit differently, there is a beauty in everything, can we see it, and if we can, then capture it successfully.

Bob Bahr of PleinAir Magazine’s “Outdoor Painter” online magazine saw a bit on this and suggested I put something together on Facebook inviting others to show their neighborhoods. I posted a little “challange” for artists “Looking Out my Front Door”, with 1 rule, and that was to be within 50 feet of the front door.

Response has been very positive, most all thought a fun idea, there was only 1 outright “NO”, and quite a few, “no time” and I understand. I did not have time to do this myself, but sometimes I just have to carve out some time, just for fun! For me, life is way too short to take seriously. It’s got to be fun, and if it’s not, then make it fun!

I try.

Of Course there's a Flag

Of Course there’s a Flag

This has gone on way too long, but you get the idea.

It’s been proven that you can make art out of anything, and out of nothing. The world of art is pushing the extremes, trying to break new ground and break out of that proverbial box forever. That’s fine, but there are some things that are a little more timeless than others, and that is the beauty that the real artist creates in his work. Taking the mundane, the commonplace, the normal and seeing it through their own eyes and presenting it in compelling composition, a thing of beauty, a work of art. One does not need to push any boundaries all the time. There are those who will not even take a second glance at a piece of art that is not to one extreme or another, that is fine, for me.

In my world the leaf blowers blast just a little too much, traffic is light because we live on a dead end.  A wonderful place to raise a family, and visit with neighbors. But for painting I will still travel outside my “Cherokee Farms” subdivision, though now I know I can in a pinch create here.

 

 

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