Greg's Blog

trying to find out what's up?

 

 

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

What’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 ūüėČ 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

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

 

 

Giving it all Away

July 1, 2015 by admin

I was recently asked “what did it take to get to that next level?”

What? Rethink, reconsider, and recalculate that one! I’m here flailing around like a ship in a whirlpool. What “next level” are we talking about?

Looking from within, it looks as though I’m just spinning my wheels in the same old spot. Kind of like being around your children all the time, they never change. But when relatives come from afar for that rare, but sometimes “too often” visit, all you hear is “oh my how little junior has grown,” or “what happened to that little girl I used to bounce on my knee?” When you look at things on a daily basis, it is only the drama that gets noticed.

I believe it must have hatched as I bantered thoughts and ideas around with artist Jeffery Sparks as we talked of creating a group for artists here in the Midwest similar to the Hudson River school of artists, or the Southwest artists. he pointed out that we had to be good to help set an example. He believed we could be among the best in the region as we led this organization that is now called the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society. (MVIS for short)

Sure I agreed, but did I believe it? No, not really.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think I had the talent, I knew I had some, but being the best sounded insurmountable. I mean there are literally thousands upon thousands of artists just in this area. How in the world? No way!

So I put that pipe dream on the back burner, and just focused on painting, and me.

The next time anything like this came up was with my friend and mentor, Rick Howell. If you didn’t know Rick, he was a one of a kind guy, always giving, always caring, helping people, the land and all that inhabited it. He sat me down in his little artists‚Äô retreat and gave me the “low down.” “It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “If you think you have worked hard at anything in yourlife before, you are mistaken.”

Rick told me about making a serious commitment, and passing that boundary of fear that keeps one from taking that step into the unknown. He talked of the proverbial “miles of canvas” that I had to put behind me before I even came close to those goals we wrote down.

What I heard in “Casa Estella” was not new stuff. But hearing it from this unbelievable artist who actually thought that I had the potential to be great was different! It’s one thing to hear words of praise and encouragement from friends and family. But Rick Howell was a professional with an amazing talent, and he began to help me to believe in myself.

Keyword “BELIEVE”

Belief is important. If you don’t believe in yourself, how in the world are you going to convince someone else ? But belief was not all, talent helps, now what in the world are you going to do with it?

Even with Rick behind me, I was still skeptical of all involved, and what it would take to take that next step. Could I do it? Could I commit so much of my time to these goals that we worked out around the kitchen table in a high plains desert? Commit so much time and energy, and money! I was working full time still as a master engraver. Itt was going to cost me quite a bit in salary to reroute into the world of fine arts.

But try to believe.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The time commitment, the energy, looking, seeing, feeling. Eeverything had to change. I did not realize this, but as I went along, this is what I found had to happen for me to even minutely close the gap between me and the upper echelon.

Did it begin slowly? I don’t know, but for me I had to change quite a bit. I had much to learn to take my art from the amateurish to the professional. I knew nothing of color, values, composition. Sure I studied in college, but that was what, 30 years ago, and we just began brushing on things when my career as a fine artist took a turn to the commercial side and family. So I’ve shelved the tales by Stephen King and replaced them with Carlson and Payne.

When I am alone my thinking turns to my art. I am now always questioning what I see, and how I might recreate it on canvas. I see things as I’m driving just around the block or to the next show and try to figure out how to mix that color up with my 4 color palette.

I squint all the time in the middle of a conversation seeing how things look in just a few values. If you see me kind of drift off, it’s probably not a flashback from the late 60’s. More likely I see something that caught my eye and I’m thinking how it might fit best in a horizontal or vertical format.

Is it a case of living, sleeping, eating art? Yes it really is, and I still feel like I’m not doing enough. At night I lay in bed working on inventory, and invoicing, and applications, and social networking. During the day it’s the same thing, but throw in the things that life puts before you, plus if possible a little painting.

I work on a balancing act because, yes, there are other things in my life that I love besides paintingmy wife Susie, and my wonderful family. I have friends and a home, and I still sculpt as an engraver on occasion, though that is becoming rarer by the minute. I do what I must first, then I do what I can after that.

It is a commitment, and it takes a good supporting cast around you. I know I could not have gotten this far alone. At one time I thought so, but for me admitting that I needed help was freeing. I’m not the great and powerful Oz that I once believed.¬† (I think my parents kept trying to tell me this, but would I listen to them?) Well, this is something you must build and nurture constantly, starting in the home, the community, and then beyond.

All this just so I can paint. That’s really what I want to do, and maybe one day that will come. I now believe in myself, and I have seen a little glimpse of the potential within me. I am slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to paint the things that I love to get lost in when I visit galleries.

What does it take to become the best?

I have no idea and will probably never know. What I do know is that it’s not just having the talent.Talent is nothing if you don’t do anything with it.

I’ve heard forever “you’ve got to want something bad enough”. (sports clich√©)) I always thought that it doesn’t make a difference if everyone wants the same thing, that doesn’t help. What in the world does it mean “they wanted it more than me?” No way!

What I’ve found is that what you do because you want something bad enough makes all the difference in the world. Maybe that’s what they really mean?

‚ÄúIf you can dream it, you can make it a reality. The possibility lies in your ability, enthusiasm and hard work to realize it.‚Ä̬† Lailah Gifty Akita

I’ve changed the way I live, the way I think, the way I see. Everything and anything I can think of that might make me a better artist. I see it helping, and I’m enjoying the journey. You’ve got to do that because if and when the end ever arrives…

rg at heaven hill farm

photo by Turner Vinson

…that’s it.

The END

 

Going Green

May 6, 2015 by admin

I do not write advice or tips very often on painting, and probably for good reason.

I’m just a beginner!

Though not the sole reason, that is a good one. The other is I don’t really like advice, probably something I picked up along the way, but growing up I always knew that I knew more than my parents or any of the establishment, so what could they tell me? It was not till later years I found that maybe I should have been paying attention instead of playing around.

Now you tell me!

But I’ve been asked a number of times in the recent months to write something about the “greens” of my paintings, so here I am. This way I think, or I hope, that at least those people will read this and be satiated by my banter.

My mother’s favorite color was green, so I have to like it. I’ve always said my favorite color was blue, but I’m not sure anymore. If there was only one color I could keep for the rest of my life and it had to be one that’s actually on the color wheel I might pick maybe a blue that was leaning a bit towards green, though a blue that has a tinge of violet in it is pretty nice too.

But GREEN? I don’t even have it on my pallet!

Krugg Park 007Many of you know already that I use a limited pallet of 4 colors and white. 2 warm colors, and 2 cools. Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarine Crimson & Ultramarine Blue.

First it was Phil Starke in the spring of 2011 that threw out most of my paints and left me with 7 to use, then in the fall of that same year when I began mentoring under Rick Howell, he whittled that pallet down to what I am using now. No greens, no earth tones, just the 2 reds, a yellow and a blue.

Now get out and paint!

I live in an area where most times of the year when you go outside to paint you are going to see green. Green grass, green trees, green water. It’s pretty much the dominant color.

So why no green on the pallet? Seems like it would sure make things so much easier and quicker just to go ahead and throw a Viridian, or a Sap green on the pallet.¬† Maybe it would, but right now I seem to be doing okay without, and just in case, I actually have a tube of Viridian in my backpack and have for years. It’s for that time I might need some color I can’t get, or that extra punch that I’m not capturing with my typical 4 paints, but so far I’ve not pulled it out. I mean I love all those wonderful tubes of green that they have made up for every scene you could think of, but I’m still liking the greens I get from my primary colors.

It’s not just mixing the greens the way you like, but you really need to see them first. Phil taught me how Shoc & Awe demo startto look and separate the greens, and push them one way or another. Different times of the year the same trees are a different green, along with different times of the day. Cool greens, warm greens they are what the forests are made up of, but just because you know it’s green, you don’t have to paint it that way.

It’s like everything else you see, and everything else you paint, comparing one tree to the next, one color to the next. Is the tree bluer, or does the tree have more yellow in it?

I love painting outdoors and if you go out in the spring and summer around my neck of the woods there is going to be a lot of green, and you want to keep it interesting, so push those greens one way or another seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

If you’ve read any of Carlson’s landscape painting books you know you have to learn the tree, and where it’s from and what holds it up. It’s not just leaves on branches, but knowing and understanding how they grow, and what makes them twist, and the unbelievable amount of weight that each limb holds up. Just seeing your subject is not enough, it’s the understanding that grounds it into believability. It’s like trees with larger leaves are going to reflect more light, trees with smaller leaves will generally be darker, the earlier the season the warmer the foliage. There is a lot involved, and I do find it helps to understand, but I don’t quite go into the politics of trees as Mr. Carlson sometimes does ūüėČ

One could spend an entire life just painting trees, and I’ve seen master artists doing just that, and still¬† they study and learn. I don’t know if I have painted a tree that I am completely happy with. I don’t know if I ever will, though I will continue to try.

When I mix up colors to paint, I don’t make giant piles of color, I mix a bit up and then start pushing one direction or the other. Lighter/darker, warmer/cooler. These are the things I continue to say to myself throughout my painting.

I have no formula for my greens, each time I approach a subject, there is no preconceived notion. I start afresh. I let the light dictate what I do, and what I mix up.

Each time is a learning experience, and know there is something wrong if it’s not. I can paint something a thousand times and still feel the beginner. There are not more shades of one color than another, it’s just that the human eye can pick out more shades of green because of where it is on the light spectrum.

I know, boring so I won’t go there.

Just get out and paint, really look at what you are seeing, and see how the light and surrounding objects affect that subject… and then push it one way or another to best suit your needs.

Sometimes it works, and then other times…¬† scrape it!

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire

What does it take

March 4, 2014 by admin

What does it take to become the best?

S'Mores

S’Mores

What does it take to change your life?

What does it take to drag yourself up?

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

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

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

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

Plein air with Anne & Mary

Plein air with Anne & Mary

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

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

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

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

Susie & I

Susie & I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Valley day 3 038

Give me 4 for the Road

January 30, 2014 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

RGS circa 1977

RGS circa 1977

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

till 2011

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

My pallet

My pallet

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

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

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

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

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

Rick on the Conejos

Rick on the Conejos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Rick

LaSauses Turnaround

LaSauses Turnaround

 

Do You See What I See?

December 31, 2013 by admin

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

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

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

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

Dorian & I

Dorian & I

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

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

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

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

188861_1877181046860_1991848_n

“KC Scout”

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

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

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

By that time I am long gone!

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

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

I will always be a student of the arts.

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

 

I don’t paint for “Fun”

December 17, 2013 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this true? Maybe so.

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

smile

smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

cambridge 106 007-001

 

 

…and on that day

November 3, 2013 by admin

It was a year ago the world lost an amazing artist, much much too early. Rick Howell was a friend and my mentor in art. It is his words and spirit that drives me on in my quest.

Rick was more than a master artist, he was a world class human being. His passion to help others and mankind was like no other I have known, and it was not just people San Luis Valley Day 2 009Rick was concerned about. I don’t believe there was a stray animal along the border of Colorado/New Mexico that didn’t know where to go if they needed a meal, and it did not stop there. Rick spent much time with causes to help our planet, the reefs, the rivers, the land. These he gave time and money quite freely to help clean up, and preserve for the rest of us. He put in time regularly helping out at the local high school. Not because he had a lot of free time on his hands, time was something he didn’t have, he did it because he cared, and he made time.

Do I sound like I’m pounding a drum? Heck yes I am! But why?

I hate to see things go to waste, it is something my parents instilled in me, and I hope in some way I passed it along to my children. (this I hope I passed on, my hairline, sorry boys) Whether it’s the land and it’s resources, or people and their abilities. All of us have skills, I have had the talent for art, you may have a talent for music, or numbers. Whatever it is we have, don’t let it sit and atrophy, hone those skills and pass them on to another.

Rick died at a young age, I had just turned 55 when I was up there and we joked about both being “double nickels” and that we had to get hustling because we had a long ways to go and a short time to get there. He had an interesting sense of humor, kind of a quirky guy with a grin. This was my 3rd trip back to work with him this year, I would get up early and paint, then meet him at 9am where the two of us would go out and work together. He worked tirelessly, as soon as lunch was over he would get back to working with some of his other artists, or his foundation, his book, this while I would head off in another direction. Casita Estella had the proverbial “revolving door” when it came to artists coming in and out and working with Rick. He took each one of us on personally, and worried when things did not go right, or when the ever failing internet would go down, and he could not communicate with his students.

Rick gave his all to so many doing so much, and when he passed there was a very large piece taken out of my life. Why I was to return in just another week or two, this really couldn’t be true. What do we do? All of us that benefited from Rick Howell being on this earth now had to take what he gave us, and continue on, because Rick was now gone.

Physically gone, yes. Yet his art will be around for centuries, and if those he helped continue in his teachings and beliefs Rick will never really go away.

I was told many a time by Rick that I need to give back to the people. To help others become better, and to pass on what has been given me. I work hard at doing just this, San Luis Valley day 4 023helping, teaching, sharing, it is all giving back in some way that I can. Each of us can in some way, helping a child, a student, a person in need. It doesn’t need to be big time consuming things, there are hundreds of ways we can all give back if we just care enough.

There is not a day goes by that I do not think in some way or another of Rick and his teachings. I no longer mourn his loss, there is no sense in this. I celebrate his life and listen to what he taught me.

Many times while out painting he would wander the land looking for arrowheads. Rick was very fast at painting and would be done with his block in before I even got set up. Anyway Rick brought me an old horseshoe he found out while searching for treasures. Him being the superstitious man that he was, thought I could use this for luck. I have found it to be an important part of my plein air equipment. I have since carved into it with some of his words.

There are times when we all doubt our abilities, and what exactly our purpose is. This man believed in me and encouraged me like no other. The best way I can pay tribute to Rick is by continuing to learn, and improve, and help others to do the same. I will always be saddened that we lost this person much too early.¬†It’s a mysterious world we live in, a roller coaster ride of triumphs and heartaches.¬†What helps me is an occasional remembrance of the serenity prayer: 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.

 

Mumbo-Jumbo

June 28, 2013 by admin

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

Marc Hanson demo

Marc Hanson demo

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

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

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

painting Harbor Springs fog

painting Harbor Springs fog

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

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

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

back to top