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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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…

Finding Shortcuts

June 13, 2013 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

limited pallet

limited pallet

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

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

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

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

Don’t do the crime…

May 12, 2013 by admin

…if you can’t do the time.

I’ve heard this old saying many times through the years, but never in the world of art. Well, maybe “art thievery”, but not in the general creation process. But I think it could be appropriate here, stay with me on this for a minute and let’s see if it makes sense.

As a fine artist, I do what I love, and that’s paint. When things are going well, it’s as easy as pie, but when the colors don’t quite work, or

smile

smile

you have this giant bee that keeps dive bombing you, it’s a struggle. But though it’s a struggle, it’s still  beats the grind of office work, for me at least. But success for the average professional artist doesn’t stop when you sign that painting. That is not even half of it.

What makes a successful artist is what comes afterwards, the framing, the labeling  the categorizing, the marketing, the shipping. One cannot believe the amount of time that is spent actually painting compared to everything else that goes with it. I think it would be helpful if one spent a lifetime as a wife/mother. They for one has many of the skills that it takes that an artist needs, or at least knows that it is a job that encompasses everything from infancy to empty nest, or creation to the delivery of art. Like a Mom, you must be multi dimensional. Just being good at art is only going to get you pretty pics for your own walls. Blue collar work, white collar work, everything. Everything unless you can afford or have the connections to have someone else do everything else for you. As of yet, you can see I am even still have to write my own blog!

I was told to make it in this field I would have to spend 50% of the time creating, and 50% of the time marketing and the likes. I actually believe it is more like 40-60, at least for this person, and I still don’t think I’m doing enough. One must sell your work at a price that is fair, and returns a profit. In order to sell, you must have decent art, to have decent art, you must be skilled, to be skilled you must study, and practice. Then when you finally begin getting some quality art together, then it’s out the door putting it out there so others can see it. They don’t see it, how in the world are they going to know they must have this on their walls?  Shows, festivals, exhibitions, galleries, websites, auctions. The avenues you must travel are numerous, and sometimes rocky, sometimes dead ends._DSC5838

Currently I am smack dab in the middle of all of this. I knew when I began this journey into the world of fine art that it was not going to be all peaches and cream. I am doing my best to rise to each occasion  and tackle things head on. It does me no good to shirk responsibility or pass the buck elsewhere. I believe it only lessens what I am trying to achieve, which is to be the master artist that I set out to be. To be good is one thing, to be great is whole new ballgame, but I know that the path I have laid out before me is in the proper direction. And with patience, persistence, and perspiration I will be successful.

I knew it was not going to be easy, but I don’t mind. The journey to any good goal is well worth the ride.

So I was kind of reaching when I said “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”. But if you know you are not willing to do what it takes to be successful and reach your goals, do something else, maybe it’s not really what you want. Is it?

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!

Being the Best

April 1, 2013 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow Angels

March 2, 2013 by admin

I can’t believe I don’t know when the last time I’ve gotten out and jumped down in the snow and did a snow angel. I do know that it has been a LONG time. I’m too practical now-a-days. Ha! I’ve never been accused of that before. Well I still haven’t done it, but I have been out taking advantage of this wonderful snowy weather, getting a little bit of painting experience in another “extreme”.

rg in snowstormLast Thursday you might say we had a blizzard. I would say that, those of our friends who live a little bit farther to the North might not, but where we are at, it was a blizzard. Snow was coming down at about 2 inches an hour,  heavy winds, cold and when all was said and one, we finished up with 13 inches.

What I did instead of jumping into the snow and making our snow angels, is I grabbed my gear, put some extra layers on and headed out to paint. I was out right in the middle I of the heaviest snowfall, better to be out painting in it, than driving in it, and boy if I didn’t learn a lot. The wonderful thing that this weather does for m, is it helps me paint much faster, and I need that. I can get caught up in something, and easily overwork it. Painting in adverse conditions puts natures own timer on you, and helps to loosen things up.

No problem with the paint getting too cold, but I found I needed to hold my pallet upside down to keep the snow from covering everything up. I had pre-treated my canvas with a turpenoid wash to allow the paint to stick through the snow and wet.  I did have a problem with the paint mixing with the snow and getting a “sandy” texture to it. I thought this odd, but because the paints were below freezing, the snow stayed as a solid when it hit the paint, and mixed together like a grit. It looked like I was trying to do a rough grained fresco or something. I tried an umbrella, but the wind was swirling around so much, I took it off because it didn’t help. I painted on, and when finished and after it was brought indoors and warmed up to room temp, I just “shook” off the water, with no harm done.

I enjoyed the experience, and think the painting was well worth the effort. Today, it was much easier. I went out at sunrise to paint a “snowscape” and had no problems with the weather. It was just 23 degrees, and the snow coupled with Tuesdays snowfall came up past my knees.

Sauer in the Snow

I like painting snow scenes. The fact that snow breaks the normal rules of painting outdoors is a lot of fun. Gives you a different set of things to think about as you set out your paints. Is painting outdoors in the driving snow, or sub-freezing temps a practical thing to do when you can just snap a photograph and pull it up on your computer screen next to your easel and paint away, turn up the music, and get another cup of wine. One may not think it practical, but neither are snow angels.

Intro to Greg

February 8, 2013 by admin

I paint the land we live in. Primarily on location, but on occasion I’ll do the studio piece from photos. I enjoy writing and will update this as I can, but my main focus is the painting. Keep coming back to see my latest work, and  the occasional blog. Maybe there will be times you like what you see or read. Let me know, everyone loves feedback.

My intent when I begin a painting is not to duplicate what I see, it is to capture why I’m there. I want to create what the camera cannot, sometimes I succeed, more often not. Either way, I love the process of painting outdoors. Come join me sometime.

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