Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Sochi Olympics: In Retrospect

NBC, the weakest of the four major networks, just finished their 17 day coverage of one of the few events that attempts to keep peace on earth, even if for a few days. This is our heritage from the ancient Greeks, possibly one of the most contentious peoples in history. But even they put aside their differences and wars for a few days of sport and celebration. However, the Ukraine must not have gotten the memo and they were a hop, skip and jump away from the action!

The modern Olympics began again at the end of the 19th Century, an event many felt was needed for man to connect again after a violent and contentious century.  Little did they know that the 19th Century was just a prelude to the 20th. Again the nations of the earth agreed to meet with their best athletes every four years echoing the ancient Greeks. However, the big difference, in an attempt to connect all the peoples of the earth, the venue rotated from place to place.

What we saw was both a meeting of the best athletes those countries attending had to offer and one of the biggest media hypes imaginable. Like everything else in our lives today it is hard to separate the event from the spin.

Right off the bat, everyone was more concerned about what was wrong with Bob Costas. His pink eye episode garnered more reports and speculation than other news for a day or two. While the opening ceremony was covered in prime time, starting at 7 p.m., it quickly degenerated into 8 p.m., more and more hype and bios and finally around 9 p.m. they started to show events that had already happened 12 hours before. Finally, around 10 pm I went to bed missing the majority of events. I heard it went on another two hours.

This happened day after day...17 days in fact. The fact I was recovering from surgery gave me the opportunity to watch events during the day because I soon discovered that not much of those events were shown in prime time. NBC proudly announced that if you wanted to see things, you could start to watch at 3 a.m. I don't know about you but even I wasn't going to get up that early to watch the Olympics. I was counting on NBC to show the best events during the evening when the majority of viewers would be home. But no, there was the spoiler alerts during the World News at 6:30 p.m. and then nothing was started on Prime Time until 8 p.m., IF then. There was no guarantee this would happen because they had to do their bios and hype American athletes that frequently didn't live up to their spin. I'm not blaming the athletes. There were just others, people we never heard of, who were better. That didn't stop NBC. So, if you wanted to see figure skating, one of the most popular events, you had to wait until 10 or 11 at night...this for an event that had been done 12 hours before (here in California).

A few days into the Olympics the newspapers started reporting that NBC viewership was down. It didn't take long for anyone to say or think is it any wonder? Their coverage was so poor. They spent so much time on everything BUT events. I mean, I could see more on my iPad than I could on TV. The other big indicator was that no one talked about it. I did get out to see friends, eat, etc. The one missing factor? No one talked about the Olympics nor was much shown on sport bar TVs.

It's a shame. There were exciting events, surprising victories, and amazing stories. What we got were tallies of medals, bios that ranked right up there with soap opera and finally piss poor coverage. Its not that NBC didn't spend a fortune both in securing the games from the Olympic Committee and mounting an impressive video coverage with a dedicated staff, it was how all that money and coverage was used. In final judgment, not very well.

Russia may not be my favorite nation and probably when all is said and done is a second tier nation, but for Costas to badger the IOC president in prime time Saturday night about whether nations America doesn't agree with should be given the Olympics, is hubris greater than any ancient Roman.
Is Putin any worse than Hitler? As far as I know there are no death camps or gas chambers. Was the debacle in Greece any worse than what everyone fears will happen in Brazil?

The Olympic spirit was gone this year. It was a chase for medals, the attendant endorsements, in some cases tacky ads seen ad nauseam, bios that were needed before or better yet AFTER the games with evenings filled with what most had missed during the day. Brainless Hollywood gossip could have been jettisoned for 17 days so coverage started at 7 p.m. if not earlier. If the populace was so starved for Hollywood gossip there was CBS or TMZ. That crowd wasn't going to watch the Olympics anyway.  It's too bad NBC couldn't themselves rise above chatter and present a world class sporting event.  It can be done. Any country in Europe could have shown them the way.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Finished - Painting From the Heart

After I wrote my blog yesterday, I continued working and finishing my painting, RED SKY CACTUS. This painting, a work more of feeling than reality, was the first time I primarily used a palette knife and painted what I felt about the subject rather than what I saw. In many ways, this is very, VERY liberating!

A cactus to begin with is already abstract. If you have ever actually studied one, it is amazing how they grow and the shapes they take. Oftentimes they make no sense and you wonder, how did it grow like that? Maybe its this simple fact that makes them so intriguing. You start off with an abstract object and then just go from there.

I continued building up the greens from the black green base adding lighter and lighter greens, some yellow green, some blue green to give depth and form to the main branch and its many pods. Some were flowering but already the majority had bloomed and the flowers had dropped off. The dots of brownish red were home to the growing needles. A slash of cream added with the palette knife formed their lethal needles but rather than creating too many, I added just enough to signify it was definitely was not something you would want to touch.

As a counterpoint to the diagonal green of the cactus, the red sky was darker in the upper left and grew lighter by the lower right. Alizarin Red, then Napthol Red, then Vermillion and finally orange were palette blended to counterpoint the green and pick up the flower colors. By carrying the painting to the sides I've created a painting that can or doesn't need to have a frame. It is a compact 12" x 12" x 1/2" painting but seems larger due to the bold colors and contrast between the warm and cool colors. It is, I hope, part of a new series of cactus paintings with a more colorful and less structured design. A series of the heart rather than of the mind.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Painting From The Heart

I had a fascinating discussion with a dear friend today. He has been following my artistic adventures since we met and has both encouraged me and yet has made some pointed comments that at times I resist but on reflection realize that what he observed was correct.

Painting, as writing or composing, is an intimate conversation with yourself. You are trying in whatever way you can to convey to a wider audience what you "feel" inside. There is no other way to describe it. Painters may not be articulate but are highly visual and using images try to convey feelings that, in many cases, they are unable to articulate in any other way. The world to them is an explosion of images that they filter and give back to us.

He is encouraging me to paint more from what I feel, what I see in my heart rather than being dependent on images that I see. His comment that I painted in a very organized manner was very different from what I am really like.  My answer was that maybe I was trying in my painting to organize myself whereas I seemed unable to do that with my life. I was stunned at this comment and realized that the best paintings I had done were the ones where I left myself go, just had fun and wasn't trying to prove anything. Anotherwards, use my heart to create something that I may have seen but depend on the feeling of what it felt like, NOT a faithful rendition of what it was. When I argued that most of the world's greatest images are created from real life...landscapes, still lives or portraits I realized that those that move us the most transcend the scene and expose an intimacy that moves us.

RED SKY CACTUS, by Alan Krug
As I recover from surgery I have been playing with some ideas that I have painted in my mind. My ability to focus is still short but painting in your mind is very easy!

I love cactuses and find their forms truly amazing. As a kid growing up in Oregon, the sudden shift of my family to New Mexico had a profound effect on me. When I moved to California it was the desert that drew me more than the coast. Greens are nice but the desert offers such a variety of colors they can almost be overwhelming at times!

Trying to break away from the kind of realism I did in my earlier series of four cactuses, I wanted one that was spontaneous, that left no doubt what it was but was vibrant, captured the heart of my own search to express myself in my art. I have painted this painting a hundred times in my mind but find that its not so easy putting on canvas what I can see so clearly in minds eye.

As you can see in the image above, I roughly sketched the image of the cactus going across the square 12" x 12" canvas at a diagonal. I wanted sky at the top and the bottom. I used Alizarin Red at the top, then Naphtol Red in the middle areas and Vermillion at the bottom right...deeper to lighter.

Because there are a few flowers I left that part pretty well undefined. Because I wanted to build up the green of the cactus, I started with a black green that was brushed on as were the reds used in the background. I wanted a dense base because I planned on building up the additional color with palette knifes. I was doing everything I could to stay away from realism. I wanted to portray the vibrant emotion I felt not encumbered by a photo.

Pretty wild green, no? What a contrast to the red sky but I am not done yet. However, this layer was done using a palette knife. I added an Yellow Green over the dark green. Its not done but is beginning to capture what I feel.

I also used the palatte knife to add depth to the red sky. Note how the upper left is darker using Alizarin put directly on the palette knife. The bottom right has orange completing the dark to light background I wanted.

Already the cactus is taking shape. Buds puncture the big flat cactus branch as it stretches across the canvas. As more layers are added it will be even more discernible. The problem will be, when to stop? How much detail do I need? That has been played out many times in minds eye but the jury is still out. One of the great things about acrylics is that you can wait a few minutes and paint over mistakes, mis-directions.

Mis-directions. What is a mid-direction? Interesting term that. I wonder if that is what makes a painting go from being good to great is a MIS-DIRECTION? Is being fearless in making a mistake really not a mistake at all but moving forward, breaking through self imposed limitations.

There is an amazing scene in the movie "Pollack" that seems to show how he stumbled on his drip paintings. In the midst of an abstract painting, paintings we rarely associate with him today, he splattered paint on a drop cloth. Seeing the randomness of the paint he had an epiphany and added a few more. The rest is history. The point though, was that he was willing to take a chance, mis-direct himself and in doing so finally reached the greatness he so desired!

I am not done with this painting yet. However, I wanted to share the journey of this painting and maybe the direction my painting will take in the future as well. To not move forward, to not stretch beyond what we have already done is a form of artistic death. So, the journey continues.

Thank you for reading! Please visit KrugsStudio.etsy.com for paintings and craft art.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Now About Those Drones

If there is anything that will cause a heated discussion, all you have to do is say the word "drone" and step back and let the games begin. Really!

Can't you see it now? The CHP firing missiles at those jerks trying to flee them? The car chase would be a thing of the past as it would be over before the newscaster helicopters could even get there! Talk about a fun spoiler.

Want that Amazon order pronto? Well, when you hear the buzz of the drone, check your front door. It may be here sooner than you think.  Or, how about that pizza. Who wants to leave the game and drive over to order and get it. Or have to wait forever for them to make it and the pizza man to deliver. Drones will be at your beck and call and they don't need exact change or tips.

The FAA is struggling to write rules that cover these things because they could clog our already congested airline air space. If everyone and his brother could have them AND use them, what's a government agency to do? There is one thing that can be assured though, if they get involved the rules will fill thousands of pages and most likely be unenforceable. Heck, they can't even enforce just about any law in the land there are so many!

I do have some thoughts though and while they may be selfish you can rest assured a good many of those seeking permits are also self minded.

I wish they would use drones to find out why traffic is congested. You know find the two or three drivers at the head of the pack going 55 mph in the fast lane and won't move over. Take their photo, the license number and send them an email ticket. Get a few and you get points on your record. Or how about the jerk weaving in and out of traffic that will most likely cause an accident but not be in one. There is never a cop around. But a drone?

Let's say you're painting plein air and you've run out of a needed color, you know like Sap Green. A quick text to Dick Blick and soon the paint is sent to you by drone. Or maybe a Margarita at the beach or anyone of wildly popular items that you forgot, suddenly need or are in an expansive mood to want.

Who knows, I can see ACLU declaring that everyone at birth has the right to get a drone...that would be like getting your very own robot at birth and having it work instead of you. Theorists as far back as the 1990's noted that in the west and maybe in the world in general there are more people than jobs. I can remember in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the 1980's there was still an elevator man. Can you imagine? I hadn't seen that since the 1950's in the states. In the late 1990's Japanese grocery stores had you bag your own groceries, something I am sure the unions in this country would fight tooth and nail. Only Fresh and Easy makes you ring up your purchases and bag your loot. However, it never quite works right so there are still humans there to help us mere mortals purchase and bag. So, where IS the savings?

If your child is not college bound and hopefully not prison bound, and is good with his or her hands, there will soon be a whole new field open them. Maintaining drones. Just like car mechanics, if they haven't a clue about computers don't let them near my car. Other than some form of engine, a car today is a computer on wheels and hybrids not all that different from your laptop or iPad. In fact there is a very funny Chevy commercial that demonstrates that Apple Computer's Siri is its voice command center. The lesson here of course, is don't get your messages with your wife is in the car. The greater message though is that if you use one type of electronic device, your car is one more in the crowd.

To drone or not to drone, that IS the question. I bet everyone has some thoughts about this.

Visit KrugsStudio.etsy.com. Sadly I can't send purchases to you by drone but I ship directly to you in 3 days or less!

I'd Rather Do It Myself Yet Still Follow The Rules!

Bisque figurine ready to paint

Have you ever gone cruising at the local craft store or let your fingers do the walking in those art catalogs that seem to grow like fleas on your tabletop? You see this cute item or that one and looking at the blank surface (not unlike the bisque figurine shown here) looked at the kit or instructions and thought, "I can do better than that!" So you buy it.

After a few weeks or months, you dig it out from some dusty corner and looking at it wonder, what on earth was I thinking of? I can go to Target and get something like this for a lot less time and effort. We all have forgotten the original impulse - to create something that was unique to us. An original, one of a kind decoration that we would be proud to call our own.

There in lies the rub. If you have never painted one of these, the hours it will take you will be amazing. I think I can paint one of my own unique birdhouses in less time. In fact I know I can and have.

A decorated Bisque Figurine
However, there is something satisfying and rewarding in taking a blank figurine and coming up with your own colors, details, ways that make it uniquely your own. No one else may ever realize it but YOU will know. You took a blank canvas and made it yours!

Just like any project, I took the figurine on the right and pulled out colors that I wanted to use. Somehow bright colors on a snowman just didn't seem right! His clothing at least should be cool so I picked three blues to represent yet coordinate his apparel and then used warmer accents to offset the icy snowman and his cool colored clothing.

Just like a painting, warm colors offset cool and vice versa. It would have been easy to continue with pale and icy blue tones but it would have made this a bone chilling figurine that for those in the midwest and east this year have seen enough of. Instead brown squirrels frolic on our snowy friend and give a bit of warmth to what is otherwise an icy figure.

Colors, if used wisely, will always remember this rule. A strong painting cleverly uses warm tones to offset cool tones. They create a kind of tension that while we don't realize attract our attention and cause us to pay close attention to what we are seeing. The Impressionists learned and used this to their advantage. Maybe it is their effortless use of this technique that makes us love this style and era more than 100 years later.

Look closely at paintings with a Southwestern theme. Mountains may be tawny tan or russet tones but the shadows are cool blues and purples. They are just like that in real life. This contrast is arresting! Look on Pinterest at craft painting, you will notice that for every red there is a green, for every yellow a cool blue. It is this dynamic contrast that attracts our attention.

While no one has looked at my latest figurine offerings on Etsy, they did teach me a few lessons I had instinctively been doing all along but will pay more attention to in the future. Its a good lesson to learn and use with every project that we create. Every art project has a lesson, we just have to find it, learn it and use it in the future. Nothing goes to waste!

Visit KrugsStudio.etsy.com for a variety of crafts and fine art paintings and photography.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More About Mixing Colors

While this many not be a very popular subject, from the lack of readers of earlier posts, most well known artists are very familiar with these discussions. In fact, here is a perfect example of what a good art teacher can do for you.

I took my first color theory class with Bill Bayer, an artist and teacher from Missouri at my second Las Vegas Painting Convention. I was so impressed that he got me to paint a tree in a landscape that I had to see what theory he was talking about. Regardless of what kind of art you do...fine art, crafts, and the medium ranging from pastels, watercolor, acrylics to oils, the technique may be different in getting the medium to a surface but the color theories remain pretty much the same.

The exercise here is creating cool and warm colors with complimentary mixes. I don't think there was one person in that room who wasn't surprised at what happens. As I pointed out earlier, when you use colors in a painting, mixing them to create a new color creates no problems. You are in essence using the same colors but in a different way. There is no need to introduce yet another color or splatter the new color everywhere because you used the original colors, the parent colors already.

One of the theories of every painting is the balance of cool and warm color. If your shadows are cool, the bright portions should be warm and vice versa. When you combine those two tones, the third color is a mix and will fit right in. Many artists use this new tone as a bridge between warm and cool colors. It makes for an easy transition and doesn't suddenly make you realize there was a transition. It should never call attention to itself. You will also notice that you create blacks; some are cool and others warm. These blacks are preferable to black from a tube. Tube blacks are dead, they have no life. Mixing colors to create black gives so much more depth because it is noticeably warm or cool, blueish or greenish, yellowish or reddish. They are nearly black but with great body, depth.

Of course, this is the color theory from maybe as far back as the Romans, rediscovered during the Renaissance and used until the Impressionists showed the world how to use light by looking at what was there in front of them. Until this time, most paintings tended to be darker, have less light in them. However, if you observe nature, you will see that these are the rules of color in nature, there is at times tremendous contrast of light and dark. Nothing, blacks or white are just black or white. They tend to have some kind of a tint...usually warm or cool. 

My most popular blog has been "Fun With Color." However, how can you have any fun if you don't learn how to create your own colors? I urge you to give it a try. The rules are pretty much the same. Acrylics and oils mix pretty much mix the same way. Acrylic users may want to add a medium to slow down the drying time but lay out the colors shown here, warm colors: Indian Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red light, Alizarine Crimson and Cadmium Yellow Light and mix them in a wheel like I've shown with cool colors like: Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Gree, Purple.

For those who really are adventurous, mix your own favorite warm and cool colors and keep them around for reference. You will be surprised with the colors you create and rather than reaching for one of over 200 bottles of color, you will discover with 10 - 12 colors you can make just about any color you have ever or will ever see! Happy mixing!!!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Importance of Creating Your Own Color Wheel

One of the things that I have talked a great deal about in my blog is the use of color. My biggest complaint, and to be more than fair, my crutch as well, has been the demand for a multitude of colors, many barely a shade off of each other from acrylic paint manufacturers, rather than mixing your own colors from a few basic colors. The old masters and any good painter today uses a basic palette of about 12 or so colors, with white and maybe black included. With those few colors they are able to create just about any color in the million or so colors our eyes can distinguish.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that if you create a new color from two colors you have already used, the color will fit in perfectly. You almost don't need to use that new color here and there because the parent colors have already been used.

To prove my point, I am showing you a color wheel I created in a class where we used a basic palette and used two mixing colors, Pthalo Blue and Indian Yellow with other basic colors so show what you can create. There are other combinations that I will talk about another time that show a basic color and a dab of another one down say 8 steps that takes the pure color of a ultramarine blue with additional dabs of white or maybe Indian Yellow down those steps creating colors you would never have guessed. As we created them we were all stunned. Yet, it takes practice and that is something that many of us are not willing to do.

Possibly a short term short cut is to create colors as you work a painting. Adding one color to another to create what you think you want may lead you down a wonderful path of discovery, one that you may not have planned but because you did it yourself, you will not soon forget. As you can see above, it doesn't take long for a color to change and yet, EVERY SINGLE COLOR in that wheel fits perfectly and you can easily create a painting with those colors and never have to worry about getting the right color ever again! I can hear the complaints about "what if we can't get that same color again?" Does it matter? Does it have to be exact? You know what colors were used and I have found that at times you create and even better color that is then brushed across already painted areas giving additional depth and texture to the painting.

The same goes when using black and white. The very top step guide takes a basic black and adds a dab of medium more in each box going to the right. It goes from solid black to a pale grey. White is added to basic black in the next row and see what happens there as well. Blue? Well, if not truly blue, definitely a blue grey.

Until you give this a try, using a medium with any color successively as I did with the black or white successively as I did with the second row, you may never know what will happen.

I urge you all to give it a try. It works pretty much the same with oils or acrylics. Let the fun begin!

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monuments Men: Dying To Save the Hertiage of All Mankind

  • Art in the Merrium Webster dictionary is defined as:
  • : something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings
  • : works created by artists : paintingssculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings
  • : the methods and skills used for paintingsculptingdrawing, etc.

  • Those of us who are artists or who love and deeply appreciate art know that art is in the very being of each and every human since what is defined as man have walked this earth on two legs. Each and every culture, and I mean EVERY culture has left behind evidence of their artistic talent. Those who see the Lascaux Caves in France still get almost teary at their experience! Artists living over 18,000 years ago still have the power to move us today in the 21st Century.
The real Monument's Men with art they rescued.
    I had read years ago about the theft of European art by Hitler and the Nazi's but had never looked hard at it. My experiences in art on visits to Europe showed that there was indeed plenty of art. It was oftentimes not particularly well cared for either. Then after seeing the movie "Sophie's Choice" on TV with my daughter on my lap (I read the book but experienced nothing like seeing it) I turned it off and never touched another book or went to see another movie about the Nazi's after the scene when arriving at the camps she had to decide which of her children to save. I cried. Who could make that choice?

  • From the moment we saw the Previews at the movie house, I knew I had to see the movie. For my first outing doing something "not" doctor related, my wife and I went to see George Clooney's "Monuments Men." Looking at the reviews before we left, it looked not very impressive. Rotten Tomatoes give it a paltry 33%. It looked like it would be a bust or would it? It turned out, art 101 would indeed help for those not experienced with art. 

  • One of the truly unanswered questions of the movie was, was it worth it to die for any or all of these men to save these works of art? Despite their being the collective memory and culturural icons of all the peoples of the earth, was it worth dying for? They said yes and several did give their lives to do just that.  I wonder if the same decision would be made today.
  • Needless to say, we both thought it was very good and while a bit choppy and unclear did a good job of revealing to the world the massiveness of Hitler's looting. To see warehouses filled to the brim with loot says it far better than reading the words in a book. To see the Nazi's burning items, masterpieces that are now lost forever in their blind obedience to their F├╝rher is mind-blowing.

  • Over 5 million works of art were looted from museums, churches and private collections in the conquered countries. They ordered the destruction of over 40% of all of Poland's treasures. He didn't want to just rid the world of Poles but of their achievements as well. If you have ever stood in front of the Mona Lisa, seen the David first hand in Florence is to be moved by a vision and clarity never forgotten. These are the achievements of man. It is story telling brought to life. To remove them from the common collective is to make our lives that much less rich, the reduce what we have achieved as meaningless. Hitler wanted it ALL destroyed if he was killed or died. His minions were prepared to do just that full well knowing that the Third Reich would collapse. 

  • What I didn't know and provided a  bit of excitement was that the Russians, coming from the east, were also "collecting" these treasures and using them as reparations for what the Germans had done. While we might understand the logic, they had no more right to these treasures than Hitler did. The Soviets had already "liberated" the collections of their own citizens and stuffed the Hermitage with one of greatest collections of art in the world. So we have to ask, was Stalin any better than Hitler?

  • Michaelangeleo's Madonna And Child stolen from Belggium
  • One of the men died trying to stop the looting of Michaelangelo's iconic "Madonna and Child" as the Nazi's started fleeing back to the Fatherland. The men, to avenge their comrades death frantically try to find where it was hidden.

When they finally understand the the Nazi's didn't hide art in towns but in nearby mines, they made discovery after discovery. In the last they reached before the Russians came, at least in the film, the last item was the statue. They hurriedly liberate it and make their escape. The photo here shows exactly how it was found and then liberated.

If you love art and want to see just how 
close we came to losing much of it, you should see this film. Its not a blockbuster, not much in the way of blowing things up, but it shows a more human side of people who cared and how they made our government and military care as well. One of their discoveries was the gold bullion of Nazi Germany, not unlike our Fort Knox. Watching the photos and self congratulations one of the arts men observes, "They may not care much for art but they sure do know their gold." Funny, but that art made that gold pale in both monetary value and the collective wisdom it held. It was literally the history of man and his achievements!

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Recording Every Brush Stroke

It is said that every painter leaves a signature with every brushstroke. In fact, this is as good as a signature. But, like handwriting, this is also where fakes are created as well. The more "signature" your brushstroke leaves, the greater the chance it could be mimicked.

Do you record what you paint? I have often wondered if the great master's did. We know that Van Gogh left copious records of what he did but they are more descriptions, sketches not colors per se.

Keeping A Notebook As You Work
Whether it is a craft item or painting I bet you do if you are a teacher that submits articles to such craft magazines as PAINTWORKS, teaches classes and or has packets for sale. It is an imperative. You need to record what you have done to teach others. However, it is not always perfect. I was surprised when my teacher admitted that one of her classes last year had a few missing steps and she was going to correct them for her packets.

I would bet that the vast majority of us don't record a thing. I have always been somewhat disturbed that students in classes I have taken are shook if the exact color a teacher uses is not available. I mean, really, does a face about an inch square "really" need 15 different colors? Even more surprising are the looks when tired of waiting for that "color" I mix it myself. It is like they have never heard of such a thing. No wonder there is such a revival in paint by number kits. While I have only seen images in catalogs it appears they have come a long way since I was a kid in the 50's. Yet, is this really art or merely copying?

When I work on my crafts (though since my surgery I am now recording what I do) at home, I usually leave the paints I use out on the table. The number may grow but I make sure, just like in my paintings, that every color is used more than once. Spreading, even a splash of a color on all sides of say a birdhouse, just like a painting, it ties it to every other color you used. There are times when you don't do that but the effect should be amazing even to provoke comment! Otherwise it is considered bad form. I liken it to the early days of desktop publishing. Because there were so many type faces available newsletters, newspapers and magazines used hundreds of fonts. It looked awful. Publishers had to hire the retired hot type men to teach these digital people how to create a pleasing AND easy to read product. Yes, it WAS that bad. While I question the necessity for sooooooo many variations of the same color, your eye can tell when you are using the wrong one!

Because I paint in a studio that is not my own, I started to record what colors I used in a painting when I realized I wasn't always using the same color the next time. I would forget from one week to the next. Then I began to record under the assumption that I would get to teach these paintings and wanted to make sure every student used the same colors and would achieve a painting similar to my own. My health has gotten in the way of that so I most likely will never get that chance.

You may wonder, do I ever look at those notes again? Yes, I do. When I start another painting that has a somewhat similar color palette, I check out what I did before and use those colors as a starting point. I am not a prisoner to them but if you achieved a pleasing effect once, why not use it again? Do I mix? YES! Sometimes I spend too much time looking for the perfect color when there are tubes I've used already on the table. Mixing them to form another color kills two birds with one stone. First, since you already used the colors, you are only making a variation of them. They already fit the palette. And two, a quick dab of this and that takes seconds rather than minutes looking for that darn paint.

On your next project give it a try. Make as detailed or general as you want. Then see on the project after that if you aren't more aware of what you've done. It sure works for me.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is This Art?

One of the things, in fact the first thing I heard, when I joined the Pomona Valley Art Association, was that no matter what we thought or felt, we should never ever put down the art of another artist. Sensitive to this subject myself I realized that I couldn't agree more. However, we ARE human and sometimes the non artist side of me gets in the way. In a gallery setting, no. What you say there can come back to haunt you!

I have had long and intense arguments with artists, many of whom I find pedantic, crass and unrelenting in their criticisms of others but unable to take it themselves. My argument, with rare exceptions, is not that their or anyone else's art is good or bad, but what determines art? Is it fine art, or as a friend of mine says, bathroom art? There is no denying the creator had a vision but the rub comes on how skillfully it was rendered. And there in lies the rub.

Jane Perkins rendition of Vermeer
I spotted this in my Pinterest feed and intrigued had to follow it to the artist. Jane Perkins from the UK has created quite a few artworks of this type. They are unique versions of famous artworks or famous photographs. Using a collection of "found" items (I can't imagine anyone having all this stuff laying around but I'm a man) she creates with buttons, shells, beads, pieces of jewelry, pottery, anything that creates an image that comes pretty close to the original.

I have chosen her rendition of Vermeer's timeless "Girl With A Pearl Earring" surely one of the loveliest portraits ever rendered and her version of one of Van Gogh's equally timeless "Sunflowers."

"Girl With The Pearl Earring" by Vermeer
What makes them recognizable is that another artist has come down this path before. Without the original, would the copy be something unique in it own right? Is it unique at all? This question and many more sure to follow has to give any artist making such a creation pause. Would we be as intrigued by the rough kind of beauty these found objects give IF there had never been something famous to create from? Like the thousands of photographs that were all the rage a few years back creating in their almost unlimited numbers a variety scenes...famous art, peoples faces, scenic wonders. I thought at the time, "Who has time for all this? Why not just pick up a pencil or pen, paint brush and go to work?

"Sunflowers," by Jane Perkins
To accept Andy Warhol's rendition of everyday graphic's as art when rendered larger than life, graphics such as a Brillo Pad box or Campbell's Soup cans, is to agree that in the modern context anything goes. Yet, is that so? When is the line crossed between art, I mean great art and pandering to be great art? How long will these movements last?

It is true that there are usually several movements butting against each other at the same time. When the Armory Show hit the United States in the early 1900's, exposing the mainly Impressionist, Expressionist and early Cubist movements in Europe, most American artists were involved in something else. Sure Whistler, Hassam and others had seen the "light" in Europe but it had yet to make much of an impact here. Yet, that show changed American art almost immediately. Artists and collectors were either "for" or "against" what they had seen or heard about. In any event, it changed American art forever and unleashed the permission to create just about anything.

Artists here and abroad chose another path and whether we agree or disagree, they are a form of art. By recreating a form of collage they created something not really so different from artists that came before. The debate that will rage in many circles, like the Laguna Pageant of the Masters who uses humans to recreate great works of art, is it art? I sure hope they used good glue because with so many pieces, time is not always a kind preserver of things; pieces will fall and be lost.

What do you think?

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