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What’s it all About

November 3, 2016 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

Lon & I circa 1860

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter.

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

So, “what’s it all about”?

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

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

Thanks,

Greg

img_3266

“Meow” means “Woof” in cat.

June 30, 2016 by admin

Let me digress.

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

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously a former Scout, or Brownie I bet.

"Rupert" AKA "Cat"

“Rupert” AKA “Cat”

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

“But I asked for a horse!”

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

Now why didn’t they think of that?

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

I knew that, and you probably did too.

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

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

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

But animals?

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

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

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

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

Life is stranger than fiction, they say.

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

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

 1937 – 2008

1937 – 2008

 

 

A Fly Over World

April 28, 2016 by admin

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

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

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

Flying never entered my mind.

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

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

No more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measure Once, or is it Twice…

August 27, 2015 by admin

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

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

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

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

Why is that?

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

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

Rick on the Los Pinos

Rick on the Los Pinos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which way are you going?

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

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

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

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

How do you measure success?

break glass in case of emergency

break glass in case of emergency

 

 

The New Golf

July 21, 2015 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s amazing

The New Golf

The New Golf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a fun little thing to consider.

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

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

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

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

What does your T-Shirt say?

March 18, 2015 by admin

Or better yet, what do you say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We do have that image to uphold.

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Old Same Thing

October 15, 2014 by admin

You know, the “Old Same Thing”!

Do you have a limit for doing the same old thing, don’t you get tired of it? How long can you keep repeating the same old routine before it becomes just that?

I’ve done it before, and still do at times. I could eat PB&J’s for lunch on a daily basis forever. I love them! Or maybe it’s going to work

everyday going to the corner taking a left, then a right at the stop sign, go to the light, take a right enter the freeway and off to the office. Over, and over, and over again. How many days a week? The only time you vary it is when you hear of an accident along the route during the 8:09 traffic report. Hey-hey, there’s variety!

When it comes to me and the world of art, do things get repetitive for me? Maybe, yes, how about you? I see some people paint the same scene over and over, same size, same time of day, same conditions. They do it as learning experiences, and I know I could benefit greatly from doing something like this, but I don’t see it happening.

I am a co-founder and director of the Brush Creek Art Walk: plein air competition, and each year we ask artists to paint along a creek that cuts through the upscale urban shopping district of the Country Club Plaza, and meanders past my favorite place in Kansas City, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Don’t stop here, there is more painting to be done farther East as you  cut BCAW day 1 065through the older  neighborhoods where you could say, okay I will say, “urban blight?” Yet you’re not done yet, there’s maybe another mile and a half of sprawling park like areas with rolling hills, woods, and a lake. There really is a lot to see down this way, the entire way! I think it’s pretty darn diverse, with interesting subjects that could last a lifetime.

But that’s just me.

What I hear and what I see a lot is people talking of how repetitive things are, they come back year after year painting the same old thing, and I can really feel for them. I don’t enjoy people being unhappy with a situation. I try to be accommodating, but there is a reason that the city approached Anne Garney and me about finding a way to get people down to along the creek. The city over the past 10-15 years has spent millions, upon millions of dollars improving the area, solving the flooding problem of the local businesses and residences, and at the same time beautifying the entire area…

…but nobody knows.

It has a not so endearing nickname, “Flush Creek!” Not a real pretty picture that title paints. It’s not so bad if the rains come, but on long dry spells no water moves, and flotsam gathers here and there, and there.

The thing about a good artist, they can paint what they want, not what is there. Sit me down in the same spot 10 times in a row and I doubt I paint the same scene more than once.  Would I paint the debris, and urban blight? Sure if the light hit it right!

I notice that many people paint the exact same thing, without even thinking about it. We are attracted to the obvious, and many tend to paint this. You see a big red truck in front of you; most will paint the big red truck. Mix it up by painting the way the big red trucks shadow stretches off across the ground, or the cool patterns that the tail lights make when you zoom in really close.

It’s not really what you see, it’s how you see it, and then maybe more importantly, how you put it to canvas. I do love seeing how a few

Adam & Andrea

Adam & Andrea

dozen artists paint the exact same object; it is amazing and quite the learning experience to me the viewer.  But artists and buyers alike do get bored with this over time.

There is so much to see in this little area, one could spend a lifetime doing just that. Look at the great Wilbur Niewald, he has been going to Loose Park and painting there for decades. You have the constantly changing light and seasons, this is what makes this world as wonderful and interesting as it is, and affects everything we see outdoors.

A good artist should be able to make or create interest when there is none. Don’t just look for what is already beautiful, find what could be beautiful and make it so. You are the creator, take control.

What is one of the best ways of learning something? REPETITION! Are you so good that this doesn’t apply? Let me shake your hand, as I scrape that last painting and start all over.

It’s a mind set, look for something new, a new approach, don’t get trapped into doing the same old thing the same old way, improve, enhance, and embrace the opportunity…

…over and over again!

And time for the show

And time for the show

 

What’s it going to take?

September 8, 2014 by admin

Do you have something that is so near and dear to you that no matter what the circumstances you are not going to get rid of it?

I do, but it is definitely NOT my minivan. So why keep fixing it?

IMAG0382What I sometimes refer to as my “Paint-Mobile” is a 2003 Ford Windstar Minivan. The perfect vehicle for any soccer Mom across the country, and I find it the perfect vehicle to travel the country loaded with paint gear and living supplies.

I’ve been kind of negligent on my posting my blogs as of late, and I’m going to blame it in part to my Paint Mobile. As those who have been following me  probably know I’ve been on the road lately. And what’s more dangerous than texting and driving? Yes! you guessed it, typing out your weekly blog while driving. Being the safety conscious guy I am, I “curbed” my desire to “blog & drive”.

I’ve been painting in the Ozark mountains these past few weeks, working on a project with 3 other artists for Big Cedar Lodge, painting plein air pieces on some of their properties. This day I’m speaking in particular of, I was painting in Dogwood Canyon, had just finished up a painting of the Long Pine Bridge and was getting ready to head back home for a time.

Long Pine Fishing

Long Pine Fishing

If you don’t know the Ozark Mountains well, there are some wonderful windy roads through hills and valleys. Perfect for cruising on your motorcycle… but I was in the minivan. I pulled out of the canyon and less than a mile away I was rounding a narrow curve heading uphill when all of a sudden my trusty steed decided not to go forward any longer.

There was no curb to speak of, but I did manage to roll my vehicle backwards so that at least the right side tires were off the road. This was not good. The engine was working fine, because it had to… I had just replaced it two years ago, what could this be? I put it in “Drive”… nothing! “Reverse”… nothing still! I was getting a sick feeling that it might be the transmission. NOOO! Oh well,  I mean I have only 185,000 miles on the car…

…so far.

My phone was getting sporadic cell service in the  canyon areas, and I had my fingers crossed as I dialed my “Emergency Roadside Assistance” number. Hooray, I somehow managed to have my car fizzle out in an area where the phone worked.

It took about 2 hours waiting on the side of the road being the obstacle in the road that cars from both directions had to slow down for, but the tow truck finally arrived, and took me to nice service place in a town that I totally forgot where it was when I tried to get back to it, but that’s another story. Jeannie, Rhonda, EVERYONE at Big Cedar Lodge was a big help in getting me and my van going again.

I’m stopping there because I think I’ve gone a bit “off topic”. But you get the idea, my van crapped out… AGAIN!

Paint Mobile

Paint Mobile

My engine died 2 years ago on my, replaced my front end last year, and just now my transmission.

Susie had a pretty good question for me…

“What’s it going to take to make you replace this old thing?” I told her, “when the radio goes out!”

But that’s not true. There is the same CD that’s been stuck in there for over a year and I can’t get it out. My tape player won’t play tapes, but I put this converter in it, and plug my Ipod into it so I have my tunes. I need my tunes for driving.

I have no special bonds with my “paint mobile”. I don’t have a name for it like my sisters. They seem to name all of their vehicles, me I name my children, and title my paintings, and try not to get them confused.

It’s probably just convenient to keep the same car. I don’t have payments on it any longer, though repairs are really adding up. I was hoping to get ahead of the game, maybe going 5 years or so without the cumbersome burden of car payments. So I’ve got to start the timer over with this newest investment in my paint-mobile.

What’s it going to take? Realistically? Probably when I my sales of 5 digit paintings become a bit more prevalent. I believe I might be better situated to replace my “green machine”… and those old tennis shoes that are worn in just right, and my red t-shirt I always use to…

Road Trip

Road Trip

4995.6 miles

July 23, 2014 by admin

Does it seem like a lot to you? Before I left I could not really wrap my fuzzy little brain around what I was about to do.

Maybe you are the type of artist that travels extensively across the country in search of your holy grail. There are a good number of you out there, but the majority of artists travel less than 25 yards to their studio. Count the steps next time you go, is it upstairs, or in the basement? Maybe your studio is not in your home, rather you are one of a minority that needs to hop in their car and travel a few miles or across town to where your studio lies.

Even still a smaller number of artists call the great outdoors their studio, though for tax purposes my accountant will not do the square footage on this. I am pleased to be one of these outdoor landscape painters. Taking my art from the inside out, putting a life into it and into myself that the studio just wasn’t doing. Many of you have found this same thing, and have taken up the call of the “plein air” artist. Buen Trabajo!

I just returned from a painting trip that involved my traveling to the Adirondacks of upstate New York for Eric Rhodes “Publisher’s Invitational”. Immediately following this I took part in the “Plein Air Richmond” in Richmond Virginia which I was juried into, and the last 2 weeks was spent as Excursion Guide and Participating Artist at the “Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational” in Colorado. (somewhere in the middle of that I hung a solo show of my Southern Colorado paintings in Evergreen.

It is not something I do regularly, though I am finding out that there are many who do on a day in, day out basis. I am envious of those artists, and at the same time I feel for them.

It is not easy for one thing, the best light for painting is early and late, and every minute in between is filled with trying to capture this illusive thing. Little sleep, always on your feet in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides on for that moment. Coating every exposed piece of skin first with sunscreen, and then with insect repellent. Doing this day in, and day out in strange beds, strange dinners, it takes it’s toll.

But I loved every minute of it!

I could or should just be content to paint here in my own back yard. It shouldn’t matter where you are, whether in the plains of the Midwest like me, the coastal lands on either end, or the mountains somewhere in between. There are a lifetime of things to paint right where we lay. It’s not necessary to go in search of that beauty elsewhere, in fact the chances of you selling where you are increases if you use paintings of where you are. It’s much harder to sell the Philadelphia skyline in Denver than one might think.

So why do it?

Well like everything else, I’m either going to blame it on my sisters, or my parents. This time Mom & Dad, maybe Dad in particular. See R. E. Summers was a cowboy from the word go. Born in the Flint Hills of Kansas, he worked the Konza Prairie back when it was called the “A Ranch”, and he continued to play cowhand in Gunnison Colorado till he had too many kids that he had to get serious about life and raising a family. What does a cowboy do when he needs money? I have no idea, but Dad hit the road as a truck driver.

I was not a fan of my Dad being on the road so much, and as I travel to different art events across the country I was reminded of this. Was he following his dream as I am? I hope so.

What are we trying to accomplish in all this, is it to be a better artist? That is not a dream, but one of my goals, to become the best artist that I can be. Will it be the best out there? I doubt it, there is always one better, one faster, one stronger. Maybe 100, or 1,000’s better, faster, cooler, it doesn’t matter. My Mom was always chiding me about this, why I’m helping and teaching others to do something that might one day push me out to pasture. I never got her to understand the “helping others is a good way to help yourself”. Mom being from never having wealth was always hoping that I would have, and was concerned with my prosperity.

” Artists should not be paid for their art.  Getting paid corrupts the creative process.” Who in the world said this? Whoever it was probably did not have a family to support or paints to buy. We could and should get into a whole new line of discussion on this one, but focus for a second.

I travel across the country taking part in exhibits and competitions because I believe it is the fastest way to where I want to be. Paul Dorrell who wrote a fine book “Living the Artists Life” mentioned in it that you don’t have to be able to make it in New York City before you make it in your home town. (those of you whose home town is New York have a little quandary going there). Maybe Paul is right, I’m sure he is, but I think to do so you must have a gimic in your art, or be a really quirky artist, or just be darned good at what you do, and since I fall short in most of these areas… I need help, plus I’m trying to make it as an impressionistic landscape artist like everyone else, so we’ve got to work harder and we’ve got to work everywhere else before we are even noticed in “Home town USA”

That’s my take on it, so far.

I began writing a “travel log” on my trip when I left for New York, and did well untill I ran into a snag with the lack of internet connection in Richmond. Not that they didn’t have it, they didn’t know the password so I could log in… so I didn’t and I focused on painting instead.

The Publishers Invitational in New York was just what the doctor ordered. It was relaxing, everyone was friendly and outgoing. Sharing thoughts, ideas, and insights with no giant egos to deal with. Professional and amatuer status was thrown away, it was all “artists making art”

Then it was on to Plein Air Richmond in Virginia for a week. Not as relaxing at all, dawn to dusk painting with a bustling city in the early days of summer. It was crazy, congested, fun and frenzied. Painting in a week long competition with the final show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then without a moments rest I had gone from sea level in the East to almost 10,000 feet to the Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational. Here I had been invited to be an excursion leader for the artists and a participating artist in the Grand Exhibit.

I want to bring this to a close soon. It was long days for the entire month, if I wasn’t hiking the mountains with my gear, it was dodging traffic with the same stuff on my back, searching for the car that you know you parked… hmmm, I know I parked it near here. Darn, lost again! Then when I wasn’t on my feet hiking or painting then I was driving to the next location. There were many days where that’s all it was from morning to night, driving… with my windows down and my tunes carrying in the wind.

Let me equate the artistic journey to something like… like…

Baseball!

It’s something that one has to work at very hard, though it’s a job that many look at as “Just for Fun”. Maybe it is fun, but to be successful at it, you have to go to the next level, and that’s getting out of the recreational league and hitting the pros.

Are you going to be satisfied playing for the local club, or do you think you are ready for Triple A ball? Get out there and go for it, then once your successful at this, then jump in with the big dogs in the Majors. Did you get embarrassed at the plate and sent back to Boise with your gear falling out behind you, or did you take a swing and get on base?

For me and my goals I’ve got to play the majors. There are  not too many things that feel as satisfying as taking a full swing and hearing that CRACK as bat meets ball and you see it fly. It doesn’t have to be out of the park, a line drive down the 3rd base line is still rewarding. It’s knowing that you can hit the fast ball and the curve when they come your way.

Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play today

Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

 

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