Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the Road With Vincent

One of the defining artists of my life has been Vincent Van Gogh. As I mentioned earlier, I was first exposed to his world as a 5th grader and in many ways his influence has never left.

Vincent Van Gogh self portrait
I am reading his letters that have been re-translated showing the art that he is explaining. Their poignancy is often startling and at the same time heartbreaking. He tried so hard to "be" an artist. I think in many ways he has captured, put to words, what many artists feel from time to time. I find it hard to read more than a few pages at a time.

As I leave for the Las Vegas Painting Convention today, I go with no expectation and every expectation. One goes hoping to learn a technique that will make them better; some aha moment that will affect their art forever. Of course that rarely happens but the hope is always there.

Teaching and being a student is in many ways extremely hard. You have to be patient enough to explain your style to others. (Ever noticed when many people are trying to paint the same thing you wonder if they actually SEE the same thing?) I think the teacher finds out that there are many ways of achieving the same end...only they didn't think about that during the moment of creation.

Being a student is equally hard because you are fighting your natural instinct to do something your own way and you have be open enough to see and understand what the teacher is teaching.

Vincent recounts one of his teachers saying, "Mauve tells me that I will spoil at least some ten drawings before I learn how to wield a brush well. But beyond that point is a better future, so I carry on working with as much sang-froid as I can gather together and will not let myself be put off, even by my mistakes". He continues,"It goes without saying that one can't master the technique in a day." You know, that is about right. It took about 14 tries before on the final night of the first 14 week session, I actually did paint a painting that I am proud of still!

I know I do and I would imagine many of us become impatient but as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book THE OUTLIERS, it takes 10,000 hours to master something, anything. Start counting those hours!

This will be an interesting and challenging week.

I invite you to visit KrugsStudio on You will find an eclectic mix of craft items and a few oil paintings as well.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The 2012 Creative Painting Convention

If it's the end of February it must be time for the Las Vegas Creative Painting Convention! This year it's being held again at the Tropicana Casino moving from the run down and end of the world Riviera where I took my first classes in 2009. I don't gamble. In fact I don't even spend one dime at a slot. I book myself morning noon and night since I'm alone there and I am there to learn. I took 11 classes the first year then cut back to 10 but found myself back to back with two 8- hour classes last year. Yup. 4-11 pm then 8-5 the next day. Word of advice. Don't do it. This year it's 9 classes with time to rest AND sleep! After two trips with a crafting emphasis, I decided to focus more on painting in oils with only a few craft type projects. The craft classes are to learn new techniques and refine what I am already doing. You never stop learning. In fact in doing one of my flower series with the black background in acrylics instead of oil, I'm finding that what I do on a birdhouse is applicable to fine art painting. There really is crossover. The oil classes will be fascinating I think. Bill Bayer will expand on color theory, a topic he started last year that taught me how mixing three colors creates almost an entire spectrum of useful colors. His other class is a landscape in the style of Constable. Somehow we get through it in 8 hours and end up with a truly lovely painting and skills we can apply to our own painting. Those in the art guild world will know about many of the other teachers...Dorothy Dent, Robert Warren, Hefner Hertling, teachers who are published and have made the circuit for years. I go to learn technique. What amazes me from the weekly class I take and overhearing conversations at this show and craft fairs is how the majority of crafters never venture beyond being taught. Few ever create their own design or scene. It's nice to do now and then but you have to ask, "Is that me?" They never take the technique they've learned and create their own craft or painting. It's like coloring back in first grade over and over again. The first class starts this Sunday. I will post as I go.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"The Artist"

My wife and I finally got to the theater to see the movie "The Artist." All we really knew was that it was a silent, black and white movie and not much more. We had already seen "Hugo" with even less knowledge about its story line so at least we WERE prepared for a homage to silent movies.

While "Hugo" was beautiful with just enough enigma to fascinate, I think "The Artist" really captured a time and place we had all forgotten and the ability to tell a story with much less than we might think. I believe that moving pictures really is the correct term.

Seeing a movie in black and white makes you concentrate on the framing much more. Each scene, indeed each shot tells a story, moving though it is, that a static painting or photo tries to capture. In so many ways, those old movies were also works of the cinematographyers art.

What even struck me more though, was that you really did understand the plot, what was happening. The placards helped of course but it was amazing that a silent, black and white film could convey so much. Isn't that what every artist hopes for? Isn't the painting that we create an attempt to tell a story? How many times have you stood before a painting, silent and unmoving as it is, and understood exactly what the artist was trying to say?

I remember going to MOCA in Los Angeles with my four-year-old daughter to a show of art and artists from 1955-1965. One of the paintings was titled "Blue Room." My daughter was arrested by the abstract piece and after studying it for quite a long time announced, "Daddy there isn't a drop of blue paint in that painting." Other viewers discreetly chuckled as I attempted to explain that blue wasn't always a color. She seemed satisfied and we moved on.

I guess what I am trying to say is that creating art is about creating a vision of how we see the world. It can be static but I think in many ways, like "The Artist" we are also trying to tell a story.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

iPad ArtStudio Part 2

After a quasi successful attempt to use my iPad for drawing I returned to Elysian Park in Los Angeles again. Everyone seeing the palm tree was intrigued but felt you could never do much with a digital tablet. I felt and feel I have hardly begun.

 Scouting the vista looking across Dodger Stadium into LA I noticed trees below and one in particular. Scampering down the hill to check it out I was stunned to see this side of the tree covered in graffiti. It was an intriguing shape nonetheless so iPad in one hand and stylus in the other I stood and sketched away.

I concentrated on outlines then scampered back up the hill for some shade. It's LA. We always have sun right? And the one bad features about an iPad, iPhone, etc., is that the screens are not easy to work on in the sunlight!

I had figured out that if I made all layers transparent I could create a gradient on the bottom layer and draw on the next few layers. The second layer had the outline of tree, grass, path and the filled in tree sans graffiti.

My Plein Air partners wanted me to stop after the picture was more or less created as shown here. "Its perfect just as it is! Why add the graffiti?" So for now I have. But I have a good photo of that graffiti and I think layer three may include that. ArtStudio allows exporting of images and the turning on and off of layers.

I will give it a try and see what happens. However, it cannot be denied, this is an amazing tool for artists and will only get better over time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From the Actions of Babes

In teaching a small class of kindergartner's how to use Word and iPhoto, an experience that is akin to herding cats I might add, after teaching them how to duplicate a photo (or 20 as they did), they taught me some pretty cool tricks within iPhoto, the basic photo editing program basic to most Apple computers. What amazed me was how quickly they found this out and how in reading about the program I never did. Driving home I considered kids and media. After about 45 minutes they are done so I've learned to provide activities to finish the hour. I was amazed that coloring and plain old drawing was a favorite activity. I got a box of 64 crayons and let them have at it. What got my attention today was the request for a specific color. Doesn't that sound familiar? Here 5 year olds are already color sensitive. What makes some keep that sensitivity while others loose it? Working on a trio of Birdhouses tonight I too came up against that color issue. I guess for some of us it nevers goes away! So, it behooves us to never be too old to learn, to not try something new and not be afraid to select just the right color.

Monday, February 6, 2012

iPad 2 Art

For Christmas my lust for an iPad 2 came to fruition. I knew it couldn't do all the things a regular computer could do, but I knew that it could do many of the things I wanted including becoming a wonderful showcase for your art! In fact, more than a year ago, one artist had one at a gallery showing and with a few clicks could show ALL of her work to anyone who was interested. It was a revelation especially as I had been doing the same thing on my iPhone. The iPad though was hands down better. It had a bright, clear and larger screen to show her body of work. I wanted one.

While taking care of a friend who had been in a nasty biking accident, I played with his iPad and learned about a drawing program on it that cost about five bucks. I played with it and got a fairly decent image. However, it was not "art" and I dismissed it.

When I then saw the same artist at last year's LA County Fair, she was still lugging her iPad around. In chatting, she showed me what she had created on her iPad and I was stunned. I could barely tell the difference between her painted art and what she had created on her iPad. It was that good and that close. I was hooked.

Last Friday I decided that rather than lugging my French easel and my old lady shopping cart filled with stuff around Elysian Park, I would take my shiny new iPad 2 with a pen and see just what I could draw. If you have never done this, its not easy. I found however, that it freed you in ways I would not have imagined.
After losing the first attempt (yes I saved it, even named it but it must be saved in the never-land in the sky because I can't find it anywhere) I came home and tried it again from memory. This was my view of Los Angeles from Elysian Fields that overlooks Los Angeles.

As you can see, I have much to learn but at the same time, it gave me the opportunity to be freer and more impressionistic than I have ever been able, brush in hand.

This was done with ArtStudio that has less than minimal instructions. I also have ArtRage that has some help information and will play well with my computer version as well. It appears that you can just about create digital work that mimics every type of media known to man. I can't wait to try!

I will continue to post about my digital adventures and would enjoy hearing from anyone else who is trying to do the same thing!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hello? Is anyone there?

Art, as well as life, is at times difficult. Filled with highs, and just as often, lows.

I think that it takes a great deal of courage to just not paint, but to allow others in whatever venue, to see your art. Of course, the minute you do that, you open yourself to the critic in everyone, assuming that they actually see what you have done. As the "Raw L.A." exhibit showed, art is assumed to take many forms. And in checking out the art of the recently deceased Mike Kelley, you again have to question that even as a pioneer he is said to be, what demons lurked in his soul? Because, there surely were demons.

Even in sunny California, winter time is the blue time. The euphoria of Christmas has faded to the reality of January. I guess that many buyers are not in the mood to buy but merely to look. It is also a time that the seller artist often pauses and wonders about his own skills and abilities. Days of few views and fewer sales, definitely takes its toll. You wonder, am I good enough? Does what I create have a market? Does anyone care?

I wonder, am I alone in feeling this way?