Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My In-Between Weekends Sketches

Gouache painting done in my sketchbook

The hardest thing about starting a painting is knowing I only have a short amount of time to paint. It’s very difficult to break away from the work and go on with the rest of my day. I wish this was something I could do seven days a week.

On the week days, if I manage to get up early in the morning, (about 3 A.M.) I’ll have 3 hours in which to work before I head out for my 9 to 5. In the evening I can steal a couple of hours, but in either case it’s hard to do an oil painting or watercolor knowing I have to leave or stop soon. So during the week I try to fill that time with in between stuff. Little gouache sketches, pen and ink, pencil drawings, etc. Sometimes they may be things I want to paint latter but mostly random stuff most of which gets tossed out.

Gouache painting done in my sketchbook
This self portrait in oil I did on the weekend
The main goal of these in-between sketches is to keep me prepared for the weekend where I can devote more time to painting. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Comedy Of Art College

From a college sketchbook

I read an article recently that pointed out how useless art colleges are in turning out artist who can make a living from their art. The article was not talking about graphic designers, or animators but about the fine art that hangs in galleries.

This did not come as a surprise to me having experienced first hand the misery of art college. It was however a shock back then because I had come from an art high school, Art and Design, and had the opportunity to have been taught by some excellent teachers. The highlight of those years was the early morning painting group that I attended with Irwin Greenberg and Max Ginsburg . We gathered together every morning before the start of the school day and painted from the model for about 2 hours. Greeny and Max would work along side the students and after some time had gone by would make their rounds to offer instruction to each student.

At that time, (I don't know if they do the same now) The High School of Art and Design allowed you to pick your major (Illustration, cartooning, photography, fashion, etc.) and with  Greeny's help I was even able to manage getting into his class. The memory of that time continues to inspire me today.

Then I went to college.
From a college sketchbook

First I majored in illustration, which wasn't too bad and If I stuck with that, who knows I might have graduated. But I switched my major to fine art and entered the "Twilight Zone." let me share some highlights......

In one class while the model was posing the instructor played classical music (nice) and said that he wanted us to draw more from the music than the model in front of us (okay)  and then he turned out the lights. It was pitch black in the room. The model was posing, I couldn't see the model, I couldn't see my paper, I couldn't see my hand. If I could see the instructor I would've thrown my charcoal at him .

Another time I was asked to make a very careful drawing from the model. Which I did. When we were done the instructor asked us to rip the drawing into pieces then arrange the pieces randomly to form a new image. I failed her class.

Then there was the model who was also a performance artist and decided to combine the two as he posed for the class. Somewhere during the performance he found his way underneath the model stand, carrying it upon his back as he crawled on his hands and knees like a turtle across the room.

Oil sketch done while in college
If I could think of one thing I was most bothered by it would be the time I brought an art book to class on the work of John Singer Sargent. The instructor asked If I liked Sargents work and I told her that I very much did. She smiled and continued with the class. The next session she came with copies of articles about Sargent. She gave them to me and asked me to read them. They were all negative articles. At another session she gave me another article comparing  Alex Katz to Sargent???  Their work couldn't be father apart. What bothered me was that she wasn't trying to build on what inspired me or on my tastes but trying to change my mind and direction altogether. But then I guess that is a big problem with how art is taught in college, you should be able to pick instructors who you would want to learn from and usually if there is a good instructor space is limited and you get whatever else is left to fulfill your credit requirement.

 At one time French academies  (I know that's a bad word for some) were where you got instruction in everything but painting. To learn to paint you would have to be accepted in to a painters studio (atelier).  It would be nice if art colleges would work with artists ateliers so that students could get the instruction they prefer. There should be some program with art schools and local art galleries as well. A show once a year in a local gallery promoting new talent in their senior year would be a good way to introduce the artist to the art world.

In my humble opinion of course. 

Bellow is a video that was attached to the article I read.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Painting Isn't Always Fun

 "Don't call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. 'Artist' is a title of great weight." (Irwin Greenberg)

 I read an article recently about being a professional artist. The author said that if you, as an artist don’t enjoy the process of painting then you are doomed as an artist. I don’t know if I agree with that. 

The process of painting isn’t always fun. It’s a challenge to push yourself beyond what you know or what you’re used to. The results are often deflating. You start out with such high hopes and sometimes the final result is less than what you were aiming, but it can still be an advancement because you set out to do more than what you’ve previously done even if it’s just hoping to raise your skill level. In the midst of striving to be better you’re going to encounter frustration. It’s going to be difficult, but the fruit of that struggle is that you do in fact grow and so does your confidence. Like exercise you push yourself every inch of the way and though it’s possible to enjoy what you’re doing as you’re doing it, the big payoff is the results.

"Aim high, beyond your capacity." (Irwin Greenberg)

In that same article I read, and I wholeheartedly disagreed with, the authors opinion that in order to be a professional artist you have to concentrate and specialize in one medium. So many artist come to mind, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Sargent, Degas, Daumier, etc. All worked in more than one medium. Why wouldn’t you want to? It’s nice to be able to choose the best medium to create your image.  It seems to me the comment was more about marketing yourself than being creative or being a professional artist.

In my opinion I would rather strive to be better and be open to new possibilities. Stay curious and don’t settle. And that sounds like fun at the very least, rewarding too.

"Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success." (Irwin Greenberg)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Working On Arches Oil Paper

A short time back I purchased a pad of Arches Oil Paper. I had not had a chance to use it up until now. It was a lot of fun to work with.

There are a lot of advantages to using this paper. There is no need to prepare the paper; it comes ready to paint on. I just taped a sheet on to a board and placed the board on my French easel and started painting. The paper absorbs the paint, which is just fine for me because I don’t like working on a slick surface. I can work with thin paint or thick. It is a good quality archival paper. It comes in pads, sheets and rolls. It’s less expensive than canvas and easier to store.

So far I’ve had one try with this paper and I can’t wait to use it again. Now since I’ve gotten back into painting with oils using this paper would help both in cost and storage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Very, Very Brief History of the Pencil

It's almost hard to believe that the common graphite pencil was once very uncommon. In the 1500's a large graphite deposit was found in England. Up until then metal, sometimes lead, stylus' were used to write with. At the time  artists had a number of drawing medium's to work with from charcoal, different color chalks, silverpoint and ink, but not graphite.

That large deposit of Graphite was horded by the English Crown because graphite was used to line the molds that make cannonballs. Although the deposit of graphite was guarded  some was smuggled out and used by the people in that region. Latter, methods were devised for mixing the graphite with clay to harden it. It was then encased in wood and the modern pencil was born.

The pencil took sometime to catch on as an artist medium . It is in the 18th and 19th centuries that you begin to see it more widely used. Now, pencil drawings are so common and there is a wider variety of  pencils to be had.  There are pencils with a variation of hard or soft graphite, color pencils, wash pencils, watercolor pencils, mechanical pencils and pencils that emulate ink.

The pencil is probably the first medium used by every budding artist and the one we always return to.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Preliminary Studies for an Oil Painting

When my kids were born I had put aside painting in oils for many years. I didn't want to take the chance of having the paints and thinners around them. They've been older for sometime now and I've rarely returned to the medium even though I love painting in oils. Well that's ended. Even though I still have only a small space to work in I've taken out the oils again.

A drawing I posted earlier was a study for the current painting I am working on now. Over the weekend I also completed two color studies done in oils.

The studies help me to resolve problems in drawing and color ahead of time giving the final painting a better chance of success. At the very least I can anticipate the parts of the painting that are going to be a challenge for me. In this painting the figures left hand has proved the most difficult to draw and I would probably need to make another study of just that hand to understand it's shape better.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Importance of Drawing

 I started the drawing at left with the intentions of creating an oil painting based on the drawing. The drawing was done from a combination of photographs taken around the area which I work. 

After working for sometime with digital images I was happy to work with a pencil. Drawing is probably the most important thing to learn in making art.....

 "Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that." 
(Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres)

  So what Ingres is saying is that the integrity and honesty of your image hangs on how well it is drawn.

Its a great thing that something so important is so easily accessible.  All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil, (an eraser would help too), and the smarts to know how to interpret and organize what you see on to that paper. The latter comes with practice and study.....

  "Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill."

 "Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worthwhile, and it will do you a world of good."
 (Cennino d'Andrea Cennini)

 Draw, Antonio, draw – draw and don't waste time! (Michelangelo)

Left and right are pencil drawings from a 5" X 8" sketchbook I  always carry with me.