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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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.

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“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   🙂

cambridge 106 007-001

 

 

Heavy Metal Thunder

December 3, 2013 by admin

Not the normal sound one hears as they paint the countryside.

I would like to think I am a very cautious man. For instance, in the world of power tools I always use every precaution and if a safety device is not functioning I will just not use it.

I always wear a seat belt, don’t even think about it, it’s just what should be done. This might just be smart, heck with cautious… I don’t keep my passwords and pin numbers in the same place as my account numbers. What about you?

So what about painting? Me, I’m an artist who paints primarily outdoors on site.  I would like to think that I am careful on my outings. This is something that maybe the studio artist need not worry about so much, though I know there are many inherent dangers to painting within the confines of those 4 walls. But when coming back from a trip to South Central Nebraska I told of the location of one of the paintings and was quickly informed that I had to be crazy, and that had he seen me painting there that he would have taken that opportunity to “run my ass over”.

Maybe he had it in for just me, and not all artists… I hope.

I had gone to this location suggested to me by a friend the day before. It was the Little Blue River near Pauline Nebraska. The sun was quickly getting lower with the light from the late autumn sun, and it being a week day, the traffic seemed to be pretty steady, but I parked along the highway and walked both sides of the bridge, and across looking for the best vantage point to paint. There was barbed wire fences at each end keeping me from getting down along the river, and the area between the road and the fence left a scene that I was not really that thrilled about.

Nebraska 089I left this location and drove South 5-10 miles when I saw the way the light was hitting an old barn in a cornfield  freshly turned so I pulled over, setup along the edge of the field maybe a good 20-25 feet off the highway and painted away.

The following day after chores, I was still drawn towards that location at the Little Blue River. I gathered up my gear and headed back to see if there was someway I could paint that little windy river.

I drove East bound on 74 past the bridge going over the river and turned around so as to park my car at the foot of the bridge just out of the West bound traffic lane. Keep in mind that Nebraska highway 74 is nothing like an interstate. Speed limit I believe was 60-65 mph through this little stretch, which is much better than the 75 mph on Interstate 80 just North of here. Traffic was much lighter than the day before, you could go 4-5 minutes without a vehicle coming by. I walked out to the center of the bridge and saw the same scene I saw yesterday that had really set the bug in me to paint this little area. I was looking North as this river wound it’s way down and around the countryside.

I decided this is where I would set up!

There was a good 6 maybe 8 feet from the edge of the road to the side of the bridge, and I thought this a safe enough amount of space to set up my easel and back up as I tend to do as I paint. I went back to my car and slightly angled it’s tail towards the road as we see the highway patrol do to give themselves a little more room as they write us a IMAG3972-1speeding citation. Turned on my emergency flashers and then carried my pack and canvas out to the center of the bridge.

I’m sure you’ve noticed this while walking along a road. First you hear it, gradually getting louder and louder, then you feel it as it comes by at 6o miles an hour, there is this amazing gust of wind, and then conversely a vacuum behind it that fills the void that it just left. It’s the heavy metal thunder that rolls across the highways and bi-ways keeping us in our daily goods. The last of the American cowboys, and they are the trucks and the truck drivers of world. Well I learned pretty quickly what things I needed to hold onto when a large semi came cruising by. This being in the great plains there is a pretty steady wind most of the time anyway, and you prepare for it. I have carabiners that I clip weights to my easel to help hold it in place, and bungie cord to hold me pallet down. But things did need to be secured each time a truck came by.

It really wasn’t too bad with mostly trucks hauling grain passing  on occassion. I would wave hello as the ones I was facing would go by before I had to grab things, local farmers and ranchers would wave and slow to see what I was doing, but none seemed to be out to get the crazy artist, or no one laid on their horn to let me know that I just wasn’t wanted in them parts.

I looked for some sort of bright orange safety cones before I left, and I know it’s a good idea if I do go buy something like this to keep in my car. Maybe some of those collapsing caution triangles they sell for setting up when changing tires. I was wearing a bright red hoodie as I often do, and it can be seen from a good distance. This is not the place I want to be wearing camouflage!

When I go out to paint and I see a scene that I really want to paint, I’ll do what it takes to paint that scene safely. I want to live to paint my masterpiece, and I know it’s IMAG3971going to be hard enough as it is, let alone having to do it from a hospital bed. If I thought I would be a hinderance to oncoming traffic, I would not have setup there. I have no problem painting from photographs, though I would much rather set up and paint on site, finish if I can, or at least get a good block in before taking something into the studio.

I have the utmost respect for other people, for farmers, for truckers, for everyone. I will not infringe upon them to create my art. If there is a fence, I don’t cross it, if it’s private property, I get permission. And if it’s blocking a 20,000 lb semi that is traveling 60+ mph down the highway, I am NOT going to make them be the one to decide whether or not they want to get out of the way!

Artists in general have a reputation of being a little quirky and odd, I don’t need to add “obstructions” to the list of adjectives they use to describe us. So stay safe, always be wareful of your surrounding because after all is said and done, we want to live to paint another day.Blue Hill Thanksgiving 041

 

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

Let’s try Art

July 24, 2013 by admin

It’s strange I don’t always blog about art here, so I thought I would give it a try, just for a change of pallets.Shall we keep it general, or go specific?

Warm up on Crystal Creek

Warm up on Crystal Creek

Let’s go with my latest projects, this is taking “so-so” plein air studies and making large paintings from them. 1st off, let me say I am not a pro at this, I saw a blog by Kathleen Dunphy’s about doing just this, and thought to give it a try. It makes so much sense though, I mean there had to have been something there in the first place that caught your eye, then you bring home a less than adequate study? What is up with that? I find that it makes so much sense to take one of those “rejects” and creating a larger working painting, even more so than a plein air study that came out great. Well, maybe… we’ll get back to that.

I’ve always loved painting large paintings. In college my average size was about 36″ x 48″. Okay, it’ s not big for a lot of artists, but for  those who paint outdoors that’s kind cumbersome. So coming quickly back to the present before I get too lost in memories, the average size painting I now do plein air is approx. 18×24. My mentor thought this the perfect size for painting studies, and I was totally okay with that. Lately I have begun to paint smaller outdoors, mainly to help generate a little money to buy more paint. Seems that the smaller pieces

Me at Crystal Creek

Me at Crystal Creek

have been moving a lot better in these times than the larger paintings. In this instance, I had an 11×14 plein air painting from a paintout with the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society at a place called “Crystal Creek”. A beautiful autumn day along a slow running stream in the woods. I had given a 3 hour workshop earlier that day along the Blue River, and quickly found my way here afterwards to join in while I still could. Many had left already, but I saw that they had still left the beautiful scenes behind them. Great! What I came away with was an okay study, I loved the colors, and the composition, but I thought it left a lot to be desired, and I tossed it onto the shelf. There it sat for months and months. I kept going out painting more, bringing good pieces that needed just a little tweaking into the studio and finishing them up. I would find older studies I really loved and finished some of them up, but an ever-increasing pile of paintings kept nagging at me.

Then I saw Kathleen’s blog and thought what a great idea.

I grabbed one of the 1st ones I came to, set it up next to an easel with a 30×40″ canvas on it, found an old reference photo, and “went to town”! To help keep things loose, after my initial block in, I would set my timer to about 30 minutes (as per Rick) and paint in spurts. Not spending too much time at any one setting so as to “overwork” the painting. I spent a lot of time looking through a mirror at it, getting away and studying it. There were things that I embellished that I swept over in the smaller piece. In enlarging the painting I did not approach it much differently than I do my plein air paintings. I did mix up larger amounts of paint, and used a #12 brush more than my favorite #8, but I did finish it up with the smaller #8. I quickly sketched in a few key lines of the painting, then began blocking in the values, keeping the cools in the cools, and keeping it warm guess where… you got it, where the warms are supposed to be.

I was very tempted to begin going into detail, there is so much you can do with a 30×40″ canvas, so so much!

But I resisted, and I believe I came away with one of my better paintings. What an exciting thing this was to me, it gives so much hope to all those canvases that had some good things about them, just didn’t quite “do it!” Plus now I have a large painting for the corporate buyer, and then a moderately priced piece for the average collector… either way, I hope that’s you.

Now whether an artist, or art lover, go grab some sort of canvas and smile.

Fall Enchantment

Fall Enchantment

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…

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!

Winter Grays

March 27, 2013 by admin

I was in a juried show late in 2012, where I was fortunate enough to take an award for a painting I was not holding much hope for. Into the Los Pinos ValleyDuring the reception, the juror, a Dr. William Eickhorst was good enough to talk to all the artists, and to explain why he picked what paintings he did. It is not always required at juried exhibitions for the juror to do this, but always appreciated. What Dr. Eickhorst had to say about some of the art he chose and didn’t choose was to say the least informative, definitely entertaining, and at times brutally honest.

I love this sort of candidness from a juror, he pulled no punches when letting the artists know what he thought was good, or should not even been ever painted EVER! Now if he’s picking on your painting, this can be quite a blow to not only your ego, but wondering whether you should be even considering a career in art. It takes a very thick skin to be an artist, and to put what you worked so hard on out before the people and their sometimes rude insensitive remarks. But Dr. Eickhorst knows what he is talking about, and has quite a resume to back up what he says.

I try not to let it bother me too much, I’ve seen a juror reject a piece of art, and then that artist enters it in a different show, and it wins “Best of”.  Try to figure that one out! (actually, that’s easy, different juror’s like different things)

At this show, on this night, Dr Eickhorst was discussing with the artists afterwards, and was talking about some of these “gray” paintings. “What Monet was doing when creating the Impressionistic movement was light and colorful! Not dark and gray! He actually pointed to one of my pieces when refering to the grays. Some of the other artists when their piece that they had toiled long and hard over actually got into verbal battles with the guy trying to rationalize their creations. When he pointed out my painting as one of those art in parkville“grays”, I said nothing. Was it from biting my tongue in anger, or dumbfounded by the pure audacity of this guy? Really, I’m no different than the rest of you, I have feelings, though I have had to become a little more resilient from all the rejection through the years, but this time it wasn’t that. I was smiling inside, because I had finally did it. I had finally stepped away from the brilliant colors of my previous pallet. For over the past year my mentor had been working with me with creating “beautiful grays”, and it was hard. My colors were always too bright, too rich. Not that that is a a bad thing, I love color, but I was looking for more subtle color. Rick’s paintings mastered this, and he had been working with me to achieve this on a different level.

Rick had died shortly before this, and will be truly missed, though I still turn to him for help and direction. And on this occassion when Dr William “Bill” Eickhorst was talking of the impressionistic colors of the masters, and not these grays, I again turned back to Rick, and this time he was smiling. He had did it!

I have a long way to go in this pursuit, but I will get there.

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