12 May 2012

Some nice paintings at the Huntington.

Here are some pictures from artist that were successful at the San Marino Art league show.
I am adding this unsold pieces because I think they are very nice within their styles. I apologize for not knowing every author. If you know who they belong to, let me know. 

Not my cup of tea but very well executed. Do you know who painted it?I guess I should check the artists' list and see if a name rings a bell.

Chuck Kovacic. "Expression of Spring"

John Budicin. Very interesting use of a dominant green.

John Budicin.

Michael Obermeyer. "Huntington Fountain"

Michael Obermeyer.

06 May 2012

The Tao of Art.

I've been reading a bit lately on Wittgenstein, my favorite philosopher, and Taoism. Of all things.
How does this relate to painting....not sure. But it seems Western philosophy has a harder time
explaining art making than Eastern currents of thought. 

I was struck by some of the things in the Daodejing, the main text of Taoism. Especially in regards to emptiness and the goal of nothingness. I read it as "the space between things" or "leaving a lot of white  (in watercolors)." And working so hard at your art it becomes like breathing, second nature, doing "nothing."

Nothing to do with Taoism.

 There is this tale of the man who travels in a cart. He is deeply drunk so when his cart has a horrible accident, he is projected out .But his stupor is so deep and his unconsciousness so total that he doesn't break a bone due to the absolute flexibility of his relaxed body.  It seems the "way" of the sage would be to manifest such a flexible estate in everyday situations....and art making. Don't we create best when in a estate of unconsciousness, doing nothing?

Ah, but doing "nothing" is only possible through understanding our nature and the nature of things, without fighting them or striving. And the only way to achieve that involves such discipline as could only be mustered by few. Paradoxes abound in Taoism. What you do very well you require little effort to do, but doing it well is through intense work and a natural talent. 

Western art is full of effort, visible strain. Western philosophy involves a great deal of revision and criticism, a constant rewriting and reflection over the past. Its ideal is the progress through improvement  and revision of the previous states.  The facility of Titian, Velazquez or Rembrandt is the product of achieving excellence in very much the same way asian art does while at the same time aspiring to differ from the previous iterations and concepts of art.

05 May 2012

Show targeting. Venue matters.

 Art Matters is an art show and fundraiser organized by the San Marino Art League at the Huntington Gardens . Last night I attended it and showed my artwork. It was the first time I was juried in . I wasn't sure what to expect so I was a bit surprised when I found out it was quite the swanky affair. Very good artists and art and lots of collectors.

 Which brings me to the point of this post. It is hard sometimes to gauge what kind of art to present to different shows. Shows have "personalities"so to speak.

Naturally you always want to sell whatever you hang in a show and be proud of what you present no matter what the venue is.  However,  when I don't have all the facts, it is hard for me to decide on subject matter, size, even framing and price.  For example,  I was surprised to discover during Telluride Plein Air that most paintings sold at that event  were not of the mountains or birches but of the actual town.

Art Matters. Cocktails.
Art Matters. Dinner at the Huntington gardens.

Art Matters. Gallery.

So now that I actually entered Art Matters! I have much better idea of what kind of art to enter next time. Below two examples of pieces perfectly suited for this show -and many others- that Michael Obermeyer piece is splendid.  This was a classy affair for a discerning moneyed public slanted to the conservative. It was a  knowledgeable crowd that likes images of recognizable subject matter. The gallery  itself was visually challenging with the lattice and the hanging by volunteers.  So you are better off with bigger sizes and simplicity of design. Detail can be lost  or crowded out.  What I would not recommend  is "paint for a show" but when you have several options, it really helps to know your venue.

Ok, so even if you don't sell anything the first time,  it is invaluable to attend and have fun -after all, you were juried in- and pay attention to what flies off the walls. Crossing my fingers for tomorrows open-to-the-public showing.

Art Matters. Michael Obermeyer piece. Now. That's a "little gem".

Debra Holaday expertly showing her pieces.

02 May 2012

"Rembrandt, the painter at work". A review

Beautifully illustrated (and quite heavy)  book. Not a light read either. It is a rarity among art books in that it focuses primarily in the habits, techniques and studio inner workings of a famous artist instead of the usual historical or  symbolic context of the art.

  This book is exhaustively thorough in its research of studio practices, apprenticeships, preliminary works on tablet, supports, palette, binding materials and painterly technique of Dutch art in the Seventeenth Century in general and Rembrandt in particular without omitting possible influences and comparisons.

   The book seems mostly aimed at restoration experts even though the chemistry and scientific lingo is reduced to a minimum with some serious omissions like the chemical nature of Rembrandt's pigments for example which are mostly mentioned by their common name and period nomenclature but rarely reduced to their chemical origin.
  A working painter will surely find the chapters on binding, imprimatura and color palette very interesting as well as the evolution of Rembrandt's style from a tight style in stages to a "pittura macchiatta" influenced possibly by Titian or  a byproduct of the artists'  lengthy experience. I think the last 4 or 5 chapters should be required reading for anybody that is a Rembrandt admirer. I found that the information about  the size of a palette and how colors had to be mixed by assistants to tackle specific passages for the day  really enhanced my understanding of what amount of planning and expense was required back in the time. It also made me understand better the reduction to tone and brush mastery , the unity and volume of Rembrandt's technique as he became older and more parsimonious.

    The main "thesis" of the book in my opinion is debunking the merely  visual attempts made by many to elucidate the alchemy behind Rembrandt's mysterious technique.  Starting with painter  Josefz Israelis muddled interpretation of the master's beautiful palette and "houding" = (I understood this to mean a masterful unity in color and composition , what makes a painting come together form a distance).Israelis work just looks muddy, not particularly compelling in my opinion. The underlying quality of Rembrandt's art owes a lot more to a clear understanding of light distribution than Israelis was willing or able to aknowledge.

 Other students of Rembrandt's masterpieces include Reynolds (who attributed the lusciousness of Rembrandt's art to an abundant use of wax), a  Jacques Maroger who claimed to have come close to the mysterious binding medium ( a mix of mastic, wax,  lead, turpentine and other substances) and  Max Doerner's, whose  thesis regarding the use of glazing and resins seems to be misoriented. as proven by years of mismanaged restorations that failed to remove the color that should have been in the thin upper glazes.
"The Jewish Bride " 1667 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) is one of the most analyzed paintings in the book.

  Through the use chromatography the author finds nothing but linseed oil, walnut oil and traces of egg emulsion !  in the artwork. . Moreover, through analysis of unfinished works, etchings and X-rays, the author also deduces that much of Rembrandt's work was a lot more direct than initially thought with sketching done directly in oils and local color applied fairly early on. In many ways, Rembrandt and his contemporaries owe a lot to Van Eyck, an earlier master whose breathtaking technique (like emulating textural qualities of  materials through relief in the paint and light capturing volume) and splendor were probably the direct antecedent to many in the Netherlands.

   I did appreciate this fabulous book despite the difficult reading and I'm sure new discoveries will come forward in time. I just wish there was a more abbreviated and lighter version and that more attention had been paid to link older and current pigments.