Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Tug Between Crafting and Creating Fine Art

"Along The Path" by Alan Krug
Every artist dreams of being a fine artist. By fine I mean being a Rembrandt, David, Titian, Renoir, Monet or Picasso. The world of crafting, usually dismissed as "tole" or craft painting ranks in the category of those who wished they could but can't. Considering the number of teachers and students out there and the conventions they travel to each and every year I would say as a profession, craft painting is alive and well. It just can't get any respect. In fact, a painting is easier to do. I know!

Which brings me to my dilemma, I simply like to do both. Really.

When I started painting seriously back in my 50's, my entry was painting birdhouses. Simple as that. I got a few paints, some brushes and not really knowing what I was doing was intrigued by a friends book on Pennsylvania Dutch art. I photocopied the book and have those pages still. The complicated world was reduced to a simple series of shapes and now and then people. Colors were few but bold. It appealed to my graphic design sense.

Then I was given some more books (now they are spilling out of the shelves) that showed that you could move on from simple strokes to strokes with more colors, colors could float and so on.

It was attending my first Las Vegas Painting Convention in 2009 that I realized the magnitude of  craft painters. Usually the only man, these women had buckets of brushes and gadgets I had never seen, ever. They were in a sense, the crafting groupies and hung on every word. If I didn't have the "right" brush, 10 women did and lent it to me. It was he first time since I was in elementary school I realized you had better paint within the lines!

The painting classes  that I took changed my fine art forever. I had been following in much the same manner my oil painting teacher. We were given terrible photo prints and led step by step through the painting process. She would use colors we didn't see in the photo. After gripping about that one of the students who had seen my craft painting finally said, "Fine art is just the same thing. Use the colors you feel not just the ones you see. You have no problems on your birdhouses."I have struggled with that advice ever since.

Standing in the back of the room and looking at all the paintings, paintings we were all doing of the same subject, I was amazed at how different they were. The teacher would then go around and "correct" our mistakes so that everyone had just about the same thing. While it took me a few years later to understand what I had done at the outset, changed the painting the class was doing creating what to my mind was a better painting, it took years to liberate me. I had made a breakthrough. My style of painting had changed. I would never paint the same way as my teacher ever again.

Summer Garden Birdhouse
I realized, after I tried to open a new Etsy store, AlanKrugFineArt, two very frustrating days of hell, that I had indeed had changed my style and my art. Slowly I was beginning to develop a style that I could call my own. No, its not quite there but looking at those paintings as I labored to enter them all over again, I could see for the first time what was happening. Etsy by NOT letting you transfer items from one store to another had forced me to look at my work and since I was entering items that expired in one store, I could see where I had been and when entering my latest, where I was going.

The same thing was happening in my crafts. I finally found an affordable outdoor suitable birdhouse from a guy making them from recycled wood on Etsy. The weekend was hot and I was still fighting my various illnesses so Sunday, blank birdhouse in hand, I created a new one that could go outside. Using old Kellinghusen designs from Northern Germany and Jutland I created a bright cheerful home for our feathered friends.

I am glad I am separating my stores. Each one has taught me many lessons but buyers find it hard to understand how one person could do the same thing.  I know that when I see such a store it is easy to get lost and you just move on. I am gratified to see that people are finding me and following me.

There is one thing though that has not and I hope never changes, my love of color.  If I hear any comment over and over again, its a kind of surprise about my use of color.  In a world of black clothing and white cars, don't we deserve some color in our lives?

Please visit KrugsStudio.etsy.com for wonderful birdhouses and craft items and AlanKrugFineArt.etsy.com for my original, one of a kind (no print or giclee's) paintings.

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