Greg's Blog

Sometimes I'll throw a little useful info out here for you, other times it's just a bit of mumbo jumbo

 

 

  • Newly elected member of the Salmagundi Art Club, New York, New York
  • Artists of the New Century at the Bennington Center for the Arts
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Into the Drainage Ditch

November 19, 2013 by admin

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

Drainage Ditch

Drainage Ditch

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

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

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

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

in the ditch

in the ditch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I try.

Of Course there's a Flag

Of Course there’s a Flag

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

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

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

 

 

Deja Vu

October 31, 2013 by admin

There is something I totally missed out on in all my years as a “studio” artist. Well there are a lot of things, but let’s focus on the relevant for a bit.

It’s not something I noticed till recently, though I’ve now been painting as a plein air artist for 2 years and 3 months now. It’s that feeling of being whisked away DSC_0142somewhere as you paint. Many artists speak of getting into “the zone” when they paint, but I’m not talking about that, nor am I speaking of some of those trips I took at my canvas in my college, AKA Timothy Leary daze.

What I’m talking about is what happens to you when you bring down one of those unfinished block-ins from a long past excursion. You know the paintings I’m talking about,  one of those that had you enthralled while you were there painting it, and looking forward to get back to finish up… but time and travels got in the way.

It’s what happens after you get that canvas on your easel and the paints out in front of you, pull the reference photo up on your monitor. Does it matter what playlist you bring up on your Ipod, or what kind of beverage you just set there on the coaster? No, I don’t think so. For me I wasn’t trying to do anything to spur it on, it just kind of happened.

You can have all the modern conveniences available to mankind at your fingertips, music blaring out the Bose 901 speakers, A/C turned to a perfect 78 degrees, but once you have everything set up and ready to go, it’s only moments before you are magically transported back to that place and time where that inspiration was first realized.

On the Los Pinos river

On the Los Pinos river

Maybe it’s not so dramatic, but when you get back into painting a piece that was started plein air, there are things stored in your memory that come out while painting. Was it the big fly that wouldn’t leave you alone, or the people you were out there painting with that day?

I had recently pulled out a block in from last year in Colorado, a wonderful start to a painting that I had been meaning to get back to since the day I returned. After getting it up and painting on it a while, I could feel the vast landscape around me, a overwhelming feeling of being again part of that land, by myself in this beautiful yet barren land. Those shadows in your photo that no matter how much you zoom in on your monitor in a studio piece, the plein air painting fills in with remembered details that if you had not been there, you would never know.

It’s “Deja Vu” at it’s finest!

A studio artist who has not painted outdoors will never have this same overwhelming feeling of being there. A plein air artist when out on the land observes and records, observes and records. Taking what they want, recording it either on canvas or in that strange storage cell called the brain, and then leaving the rest. A photographer observes and records, but not in the same sense. Do they study the shadows, watch as the light creeps across the scene before them for hours on end?

Pull out one of those forgotten canvases and see if it happens for you, no need to put bug spray on, and sunscreen, though the olfactory senses can play an important role.

smile

smile

Does this work for you? Do you remember the feel of the day when you work on an old painting started in the field? Does the entire time come flying back up in your memory?

Don’t have any unfinished paintings, then grab a favorite and make it BIG, either way I’ll see you back on the rivers edge. Enjoy

No it’s not Politics

April 6, 2013 by admin

Jeez, I hope it’s not.

Support the arts

Support the arts

That’s something I really try to stay away from, okay 1 of the things I really try to stay away from. It’s really so much easier to focus on values and composition when you are not worrying about “taxation without representation”. Or something along those lines, so I keep any sort of issues other than art out of my world… almost.

This past week I was asked by an artist friend to help support the arts by coming to a paint out on Tuesday April 2nd. Have you ever just kind of scanned over a paragraph, and catch “key” words and only record them? This is what I did here, I saw “support the arts”, “paint”, and then the date, and said “heck yeah!” A chance to paint, and I’m always using the term “support the arts” when getting people to come to a painting event.

What I signed up for was a little more than a painting event, it was to help support a “bond” issue, and the location was outside a polling booth.

The last time I did something like this, it was when the Mondale/Ferraro presidential race was going full swing, and they had the Democratic Party National Convention here in town. Yes, it’s been that long.

Art means Business

Art means Business

I did kind of go against my “rules” that I set up for myself, but hearing more on the issue that I was backing by being there painting, I

felt I could still walk away with my pride, and self set values still in tact. The issue was  to vote for a “no tax increase” bond, that would help pay for a cultural arts facility. That’s okay isn’t it? I should still be able to sleep well at night shouldn’t I?

Supporting the Arts

Supporting the Arts

Well, it went well, I painted there for a couple hours, outside the 25 yard “no picketing” zone. Didn’t harass any of the voters, I just stood there in the parking lot brush in hand painting for the arts. Really helping to support the arts this time, not just saying it. And come next morning, after a great night of sleep, I woke up and saw in the newspaper that the bond issue in that distant city had passed, the art facility will be built. Whoo-hoo! Little high five there… but only for the arts.

Now get back out and paint!

Payne in Oklahoma

March 12, 2013 by admin

It had been brought to my attention that the exhibit of one of my favorite American plein air artists exhibit was about to leave the Midwest  and probably not return. The Edgar Payne “A Scenic Journey” had been on display at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa Oklahoma, and was set to leave on March 24th.

Sacred Rain Arrow

Sacred Rain Arrow

What happens when you put things off? When I put things off, they usually don’t get done, which is why I try to do things as soon as possible.

Fellow artist and MVIS member Kimbell McCurry suggested we put together a little field trip for any interested members and head down across the border to see the show. Booking as a group got us some perks, save on travel expenses and lodging, plus its more fun when you travel with friends… even artists as strange as that might sound.

The weather cold and rainy, which is perfect for a day in the gallery. If you don’t know Edgar Payne, or his work, he was a California landscape painter in the early part of the 20th century.  He wrote what I consider a must read for any outdoor artist, “Composition of Outdoor Painting”

Tulsa 011His work is simply put, beautiful! (my words) He is most known for his paintings of the Sierra’s and the Four Corners area, but traveled the world painting plein air. This exhibit include some of it all. If you can, get to see it before it leaves the Midwest. Or get out to California to some of the permanent collections.

Photographs were not allowed in the museum, so of course we observed that rule… now outdoors we do what most traveling plein air artists do, we painted on the grounds of the Gilcrease. They have quite the view of the valley from it’s location. You would definitely enjoy the trip no matter where you came from.

Heading out

February 9, 2013 by admin

Okay, I’m heading out to paint. Looking for someone to help carry the equipment, and keep up with my bizarre sense of humor. What no takers? Shazam!

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