18 April 2013

Monterey Plein Air Convention. Finale.

Point Lobos Study #3

We had a routine down by day three. The smartest thing we were doing, obviously,  was going to the  pub and yapping till 1 am just to have to wake up at 6 for ... bootcamp! So I was pretty groggy for "How to approach a gallery": Patricia Terwilliger from  Jones & Terwilliger and Elaine Adams from American Legacy in Pasadena made the case for a proper approach to galleries. Hint: no emails, no CD's...more artist, peer-to-peer  recommendations) .

Point Lobos study #4
 Another embarrassment of riches followed in subsequent demos.  With Ken Auster making a 50x50 painting in 45 minutes, which was certainly a bit gimmicky if you ask me but people loved it and he is a phenomenal painter anyway.
 There were other demos that made an impact on me. I'll just mention briefly Bryan Mark Taylor. This painter is not only very good but is a model of what one might call a career standard. Often a whiff of bohemian and inner turmoil  emanates from the word "artists" even when most professional artists are just that, professional. B.M.Taylor's career has been not only meteoric but he gives a bad name to "focus". He was both a vendor (designed the STRADA easel) and an excellent demonstrator.  When his time was up, he simply moved to the hall and continued until satisfied. His brush stroke is sensitive and parsimonious and he has a great eye for wide scope scenes.

Mark Bryan Taylor poses with his piece.

Mark Bryan Taylor demo. With the STRADA easel.

Brian Blood is an excellent painter as well. He did  a beautiful job working on a piece to demonstrate how a painting can "sing" even in a foggy overcast day. Looking at his website one can perceive he is attracted by  the mood of scenes and tries to enhance it with unusual lighting conditions.

Brian Blood.
One of the longest demos belonged to Jeremy Lipking and Michelle Dunaway.  May be Jeremy's demos was the one that impacted me the most. Skip Whitcomb said in his presentation that he didn't understand people that bragged about making 8 or more paintings a day. "It's not a race. How many of those paintings are good?" Well, here is an artist that takes his time and long as the demo was, it was very refreshing. Jeremy didn't speak much, Michelle seemed to carry the Richard Schmid
philosophy talk points. A philosophy which has won over so many artists. Daniel Keys was in the audience too! The audio in the second demonstration hall was pretty awful but seeing Jeremy paint was a thrill.
It was said several times that the artist career is forever because the image in the painter's head is always behind the painter's skill.  Jeremy Lipking certainly has skill for miles and is one of those painters whose images inspire to wade whatever gaps in draftsmanship, brush work and color use one might have. Now, that doesn't mean everybody should paint like him, far from it. But watching his careful measuring, observing the delicate use of the brush and how his artwork reflects the visual truths of loose areas and lost edges against crisp and rich focal points...well, it is humbling.

Mian Situ, when presented with his accomplishment award also referred to the fact that "anyone can throw painting on a canvas and make it look good."  A finished artwork, which is what Mian and Jeremy usually accomplish, requires a lot more though and subtlety.  Again, this is not to say that everyone should paint like them, that would be stupid. But the ability to dominate a large canvas at the level of nuance of effectiveness of these masters sets a sort of "gold standard", at least for those who aspire to dominate the classic atelier tradition . This is not opposite to a loose plein-air style. As a matter of fact,  looking closely to a Mina Situ painting or a Lipking painting, one might be forgiven for thinking you are  looking into a miniature landscape with just as much variety and freshness.  I know it's not just a question of scale but it's still a point to consider.

Lipking's portrait of Vanessa.
It bears repeating.

Lipking and Dunaway.

The last day, Saturday, buses departed for Asilomar. I decided to do my own thing and go paint lupine meadows. I think I enjoyed the solitude and trying to calm the chatter in my head, the doubts about my career, the unemployment situation, all the good advice pending over me.  On Sunday, I painted a bit more, this time in Point Lobos. I was about to leave when I met up with Ray Roberts who encouraged me paint one more. "Armando (my partner) will understand if you are late" he said. Ok. You don't refuse such an invitation. So I did paint. And he painted right in front of me too after I found I view I liked. He has done in no time but I took my time. And then I left for my 6 hour drive home.

Before I forget: Value Viewer.

Cows near Gorda.

San Simeon rookery.

16 April 2013

Monterey Plein Air Convention 2103. Part 2.

I am not used to all this green! "Corral del Cielo" 12"x9"
The second day of the convention was also filled with marketing  boot camp and demos. I must highlight a few. Scott Christensen is one of my favorite landscape artists. As a young man  he played football but a neck injury  left him wanting so he took up painting. And how! I suppose he applied all his sports stamina to his artwork because he is one hell of a landscape artist. His palette was unique and I couldn't get the reasons behind it. I think he uses Vasari colors and a series of greys. I have to do more research on that.He talked about establishing an idea before starting work.
Oh wait, someone already did. Underpaintings. Awesome!

 The dynamic duo of Camile Przewodek and Ned Mueller was very entertaining. Camile is a colorist, and Ned is  a self-proclaimed tonalist. Camile's earnest style contrasted wonderfully with Ned's devil-may-care sense of humor.

Camile's art is intriguing. She is a student of Hensche who in turn studied with Monet so there is a color lineage right there. I've wondered about her philosophy for a while since she is such a popular reference. and gives many workshops around the country. She is a popular teacher with many followers.  She claims admiration for Sorolla, Frank Benson and Isaak Levitan among others.

Her favorite quote from Sargent: "Don't be a landscape painter, or a still-life or a portrait painter. Learn to paint  and paint anything."  ( I know this quote thing gets tired but  quotes are really like easy mantras to keep in mind while painting.) Ok, with that out of the way ...the main point I got from Camile is that she likes to start with bold high-chroma colors, well beyond what one might perceive and then proceed downwards taming the initial explosion into more subtle variations. Easier to start high and then descend. Another distinct characteristic is how wide her palette is with 20 colors plus as opposed to more limited choices in the rest of the speakers.

Camile is not against finishing a painting outdoors. Many artists declared their outdoor studies a total necessity but nothing more than color notes. Among them, Ray Roberts, Jill Carver,  Scott Christensen and Skip Whitcomb. Camile doesn't find it troublesome to return to the same spot twice to "finish" a piece. In that, she is following Monet as well.

Ned Mueller is another proponent of black and white studies to settle the  composition and reduce anxiety. Big shapes first. And never ever think literally but visually. His self-deprecating humor made him fun to hear but his briefly executed demo was great on top of that.

Point Lobos Turmoil. 8"x10'
"Blue Jay and Lupine Meadow" 9"x12" SOLD
And this brings us to yet another amazing demo, the pair of Jill Carver and Ray Roberts. I am a devoted Ray Roberts groupie so I was all ears even though I took a four day workshop last summer with Mr. Roberts in Malibu.  You can read all about it in my previous post. Roberts is on a quest to find interesting shapes and dark patterns whose abstract qualities attract attention.  He has an extensive illustration background in which he was forced to work in extra clear black and white graphics that wouldn't be drowned in print format. This, he says, was excellent training ground. 

His influences are multiple, Assaro, McCaw, Craig Nelson, Clyde Aspevig, Sullivan and co-conspirator Skip Whitcomb.

Ray Roberts starts with the dark shapes first to obtain the interesting high  contrast pattern from the start. He commented on how he doesn't paint the color he sees but the relationships. For example, when painting white water, distinguish between the whites that represent foam(in dark and light) , glistening or just turbulence. All these entities should have distinct colors to differentiate even though in reality they might be much closer in hue and value than what we could paint. 

My notes on the Jill Carver, ray Roberts pairing.

Scott Christensen

Skip Whitcomb

C.W. Mundy. He painted the whole thing upside down until the very end.

Alexey Steele drawing Scott Christensen

James Gurney (Dinotopia) also making a portrait of Scott.

Ned Mueller showing his demo.

Ray Roberts displaying some of his work.

Ray Roberts demo

Ned Mueller

Monterey Plein Air Convention 2013. Part 1

On the way to Monterey I stopped to sketch at San Miguel Mission.

After much debating with myself whether I should shell out  1K to attend the Plein Air Convention in Monterey I decided it was just what I needed after filing for unemployment. After all, this might be the proverbial push to become a full fledged painter... I told myself. As scary as it is to take that leap of faith, it is what I dream about every single day and how much longer can I postpone the fact that to become an artist one must leave security behind.  Thomas Kitts offered sharing a room which would bring the cost down a bit so why not.

Overwhelmed by nature's drama. My first study at Cypress Cove.
The Conference was organized in the following manner:  Daily lectures/demonstrations by different speakers and artists occupy most of the day.  Sometimes these demonstrations are simultaneous. I chose  to attend  those demos I was most interested in which meant I spent most of the day at the conference hall because the roster was very impressive. A  hall of sponsors/brands  offers their quality products at a discount during the thee days. Besides the demos and lectures there are also some paint-outs with the speakers . A great opportunity to see them in action for the benefit of everyone seeking advice or just learning.

 Glenn Dean, John Burton and Thomas Kitts in Point Lobos. All at once!.

When I arrived I immediately proceeded to spend most Wednesday painting in Point Lobos, a place I'm ashamed to say I had never seen. Incredible doesn't even cut it. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence that I went into frantic painting mode.  But it was more of a coping mechanism than real art making I suppose because nothing came out right.  I met Glenn Dean and John Burton in the beach painting a timed 20 minute sketch. I missed the first lecture by Joe Paquet (I regret that)  but caught the James Gurney one on composition (based on eye-movement mapping and bias) . At 7pm there was a reception for the attendees and the excitement build up was palpable.

"Crown ad Anchor English Pub" to calm the excitement with Scotch,friends and the trusty sketch book.

 One of the main events for me was the marketing boot camp that took place at 6:30 am every morning. During this times, lectures on branding and marketing for artists were given by different experts.  Among them, Eric Rhoads, Leslie Saeta, Ed Terpening and Elaine Adams. The main point I gleaned from them all is that artists tend to see the business side (selling) as crass and dirty but one doesn't need to perceive it that way or become someone else to do it. It takes a lot of work for sure and the lectures were a bit short on specifics but pointed in some directions that I might pursue. Not all of them. Magazine advertising, for example.  Consistent magazine advertising might be great  but I've heard both sides of the arguments for and against. Learning about  the elements of a good website and newsletter was interesting.  I would highlight Ed Terpening's clean presentation on how to maximize your online presence. Here  is his generously published  slide presentation.   

Peter Adams, President of the California Art Club. Talking about his commission to paint the  Stations of the Cross in the L.A. Cathedral.

 Among the lectures that were not strictly demos, Jean Stern from the Irvine Museum on Franz Bischoff , Peter Adams from the California Art Club on his Jerusalem trip and commission ,  John Stobart and Mian Situ on their careers.... All very interesting from a documentary  or aspirational  point of view.
My notes on Skip Whitcomb lecture.

So there is something to be said about seeing so many artists demonstrating and speaking. A "cloud" of information to be sure but one that brought some points home. It's impossible for me in this blog to  try to elaborate on everything so I will talk about what the highlights were for me personally.

Thursday, after our ungodly hour marketing bootcamp, we had the pleasure of attending a demo by Skip Whitcomb who is an amazing painter all around. My favorite quote of his, I paraphrase: "Everybody says you have to leave your first bad 7.000, 10,000 even, paintings behind. But in order to do that and become good you need to understand why they were bad. Otherwise it's like setting the toaster on one number forever and putting one slice of bread after another expecting they won't burn."

He emphasized the necessity to do a quick sketch first, to calm down and gather thoughts, not jumping into painting straight away.  "There is NO TIME  to work in a bad idea" when you are a professional painter and "baby needs some shoes". That makes prep work even more essential. You know when a painting has gone south because you start "futzing" with the little things. Noodling is a big red flag. Keep the big shapes clear, the main idea. Skip doesn't sell his studies, he uses them for reference.

I did really enjoy Skip's approach and professional attitude. His dismissal of those who brag about painting eight pieces a day "it's not a race, paint for yourself." His advice on looking at books and "filling up your well" before setting out as a way of finding a standard of excellence. Copying from the masters not as a repetitive task but as a way of discovering solutions.

Another impressive demo was that of Peggy Kroll-Roberts, painting from the model (Ali, daughter of Ray and Peggy). She talked about her use of the mirror as a means to look at paintings as if someone else had done them and thus allowing the space to find errors. She talked about the importance of decision making. Sounds trite but deciding on what color or shape is something I struggle with and Peggy's work can be regarded as a constant exercise on decision. Likeness in a portrait is about the big stuff, not the small details. So again, big shapes, clear ideas and excellent draftmanship. She recommended Loomis book on drawing. As it usually happens, now I see Peggy's work differently and appreciate the boldness of it.

Other demos I attended that day were offered by Michael Godfrey who brought a semi-finished piece and talked about composition, painting on foggy days and creating mystery. Alexey Steele did a drawing demo and Rosemary showed how she makes her famous brushes .

Of course most of the fun conversation happens in the lobbies, where does Rosemary get her mongoose hair, what is it about BYU Art school that produces such accomplished painters; did they really rent a mule to go to the Sierras; is Wordpress the most economical way to set a website or build it yourself from scratch.; etc, etc.. And making new friends. I did make a few new ones like Dave Tanner and meet up with some old ones like Michelle de Braganca.

No lack of subject matter in Monterey.

08 April 2013

"Ou Shared Light" The Exhibition.

What makes an exhibition great is rarely the artwork no matter how fabulous it is. What makes an exhibition great is the people that show up, the ones that want to show up but can't, the ones that wish they could, forgot, don't want to, etc.... because an art show is about dialogue. Not the academic kind or strictly a dialogue about art but the mixing and matching of people sharing impressions, eating cheese and bumping into each other.

Guess what, the title of the show was meant to mean exactly that.

Thank you to the auspices and trust of Laura Segil, a long held dream of mine, may be the only dream that really mattered to me, has come to pass.  From the dialogue point of view, the show was  a TOTAL unmitigated success. I also sold nine paintings which is awesome in itself and great validation considering the economy. And it is even better now that I got laid off from my job of the last ten years (yep, the day before the show, terrifying and weird at the same time).

I want to thank EVERYONE that even took a look at the artwork and specially those who made the trek to Monrovia the same day Glenn Dean was having his opening in the other side of town. I am deeply honored.

I chose 40 paintings that more or less reflect my intention of showcasing the beauty of everyday, with its highlights and its focus on human interaction (and some chickens too). A few landscapes but mostly people in context, working, walking and milling around. People commented on the variety of subject matter. Possibly that comes from the many starts and stops that working on this show involved while keeping a full time job. It is up till May 4th, some paintings are already gone, you can still make it ;)