Sunday, August 31, 2014

Are You Creative Too?

With rare exceptions those reading this blog are creative or are like me, they think they are. Not being able to sleep (ah the torture of the creative), I finally got up this morning and thought about this question. Am I creative? Really? The image that came to mind, and certainly not one that appeals to me, well until 3 am on a dark yet still warm Sunday morning, was Munch's painting The Scream. We've all been there and if you haven't, you are very, very lucky.

The past few days I have been trying to go back to my craft artistic roots and am finding that it is easier said than done. Over the years I have tried new and different techniques adding layers of complexity to my original simple yet very colorful, traditional designs. Now, this is not to say that my hand painted crafts being worked on now aren't traditional but they certainly have become more complex. After working on several projects all day and re-doing one of them a lot, I certainly felt like our screaming friend. I had never had this problem before and going to bed probably wondered why.

As a project it is very simple. Merely a diamond shaped birdhouse (do birds really like living in a shape like that?) in a wonderful yellow using Pennsylvania inspired designs.
Yellow Birdhouse
The problems started with the roof. I decided to decorate the center panel of a three panel roof. Sketching and then painting the design in I realized that I had pointed them both going to the front. Shouldn't one go one way, the other one the opposite? This is a creative decision that doesn't make a difference one way or another. To me however, it did. Waking up yesterday the first thing I did was paint out one of the designs and later make it go the other way.

Next came the front, back and side designs. The sides were easy, they were to match. The front and back however, I decided to make different, something I'd never done. Usually I am trying to disguise the birdhouse hole with something, usually a flower that is beginning to make me feel predictable. As a technique though, it does work. The back would be totally different with a flower pattern radiating from the central "X". After painting what was more a Rosemaling detail, I found that I didn't like that and tried several times to correct the pale blue I had chosen for the lines. I think its another coat of yellow after I sand down the errant lines and begin working them from dark to light.

Next came the flower colors. I had settled on DecoArts Country Red for flowers and hearts along with their Traditions Vermillion as a counterpoint. Stems and leaves were three shades of teal, going from strong to pastel tones that somehow seems to work well. I've discovered that by "antiquing" saturated colors, they tone down and suddenly all colors seem to work together.

In this case though, I had found a bottle of crackle paint and wanted to give it a try. So, if and when everything gets finally painted, all adjustments made, then goes on the crackle. I was told a very neat way to bring out the cracks was to use men's shoe polish, the waxy kind. Black or brown work best as some polish will remain in the cracks when you rub the top layer off enhancing the aged, crackled effect.

Don't be afraid to make course corrections in the midst of a project. Its your idea, your time and effort. Never settle for less than what you want! It is very easy today with acrylic paints and such to make course corrections and with any luck at all, you will be the only one to ever know. I will be sure to show you the finished birdhouse. It is almost a learning experience again and is teaching me what it is like to be "creative!"

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Noel With Peace & Joy

The blank and willing stocking!
As I have continued my cleaning and organizing, digging into my "collection" of goodies I found some wooden Christmas stockings that no doubt were meant to be used as Christmas Tree ornaments. Usually the kits that come with such things are too "cutsie" for me, guess its a guy thing, but I could see potential with them glued on a Christmas themed birdhouse. After all, the wooden trees looked pretty good and gave dimension to the birdhouse that painting alone never could.

I am also a craft catalog junkie reading every page! I found the recent ARTIST'S CLUB catalog cleaning and took a break to check that out. I sure hope they never give catalogs up. Comparing and reading about things in a catalog is SOOOO much better than reading it online. At least you know that page is in your hot little hands. Click wrong and it's gone forever on the Internet. I spotted a interesting use for my 4" wooden stockings that I found I couldn't resist.

While the argument rages about whether Zentangle's are an art form, it wasn't hard to realize that the patterns I saw in every gift shop in Norway with their structured patterns and designs could be considered a precursor of this fascinating trend. Of course anyone who has seen East Indian henna designs would say the same thing. Artists strive to create and often similar ideas and designs emerge in different places all over the world.

Noel, Peace and Joy Decorated front and back!
So I dug out a few more of the stockings, studied Zentangle books and keeping a tight palette of only black green, Nanthol Red and white I began. I painted each stocking with one of the base colors. Then I sketched out the patterns that I wanted and began. Even with tiny brushes and limited colors I found that I smeared paint and often had to walk away between colors or sides. 

Once dried, what I couldn't do with a paint brush I used a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Permanent marker in either red or black. That allowed even more detail. A word of caution here. The Sharpies are wonderful and give you a precision most of us never achieve with a brush. However, when varnishing be sure to start with at least one coat of acrylic varnish from a bottle. Spray varnish dissolves the ink and you will have a mess that will need to be repainted again. Trust me. I know!

One of the things that separates me from many other crafting artists is that I always finish all sides of a project. These stockings are painted front and back. I spent more time on any one of these than many of my best and favorite paintings. The sad reality though is that while they could be considered art you as an artist can't charge them as that. So I waiver between $15 to $20 each and that is probably too high for todays market place.

I still have to add a hook and raffia so they can be hung but once varnished they will make a treasured gift for years to come! After all, all they do for a month of so every year is hang around!

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Found Objects: Creating A Cohesive Whole

Creating a masterpiece - tabletop bird sanctuary
As I mentioned earlier I have been on a tear trying to gather and organize all the accessory items I have purchased over the years. I spent a weekend gathering everything stacked in my work-hidey hole, then getting plastic boxes to put similar items together in - FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME! What a revelation that was! I found that I bought the same things over and over again, friends gave me things I already had and after I was all done, or so I thought, I find another bag filled with the newest items!

The same thing occurred with my paints. I have nearly empty bottles of favorite colors and three of something else. I guess the sale was too good to pass up. However, I discovered this is a wonderful way to "inventory" my cache and I came up with an amazing idea.
Putting on base colors

I had purchased some small, non-functional birdhouses on a stick. Knowing me, probably for a buck a piece. Once I got them home though I wondered, "Now what?" That was several years ago. In cleaning I found wood trees I've used before, a round base and these little birdhouses. Something clicked and I thought why not put the birdhouses together and create a little bird sanctuary? I would go back to my creative roots and decorate them in Pennsylvania Dutch motif. However they would be in colors those Dutch never saw. Rather than a static vertical pose I also drilled holes in the base in several angles. Maybe I am wrong but it gives it a bit of interest and they can be pulled out and moved around.

After the base coats and into the forest!
For me, and probably any artist, colors are always a challenge. After writing about the color wheel, I discovered that that bare bone one I have let me down. Using yellow, orange, cobalt and baby blue, for the bases of the birdhouses, the roof colors suggested by the color wheel just didn't make any sense. I wanted color and contrasts.

I had the same problem with the trees. I had four different shapes or sizes and I didn't want them to be the same color. Trees never are. The largest, I would guess a fir, was painted the darkest green, then moving down the line using a bit lighter green as the sizes diminished. I used the two smallest as one tree though they are painted differently.

Needless to say, this has taken days. I would have to quit because even though there were many pieces they all dried at different times and I had to literally walk away. When things started to smear it was time to quit.

Did I really use all those colors?
The shock was, clearly shown here, is how many colors it takes! I have ranted that we use too many colors and teachers spend too much time telling us to use this shade next to that one and they are so close that even I, and I am very color sensitive, can't often tell the difference nor care.

After taking that photo I decided it was time to calm down here and use those same colors in other places just like a good painting. So greens were used on the birdhouses, the Dutch motifs picked up the colors of the base and other birdhouses so that by the time it was all done, it became a unified whole. It was bright and cheerful and cohesive.

All the decoration pieces

Let me repeat this, colors need to create a unified cohesive whole. I truly believe this is what separates a nice project from a great one. There has to be a cohesion of color throughout the entire project. You can't keep introducing new colors without at least a passing glance at the colors you have already used. I learned this from painting and realized that the same rule applies to our crafts as well.

This is very similar to the beginning of desktop publishing. Suddenly graphic artists had thousands of fonts to use and did in magazines, newsletters, posters - sort of like what was done for the circus. It WAS a circus in print! Then it was realized no one could or would read this stuff so they had to hire the old, retired hot Linotype typesetters to teach the "kids" good typesetting.

Finished: Birdhouse Village Decoration
Look round your craft room and see what you might have laying around. It is so easy to get inspired if you pick up a few things and see if they work together. If one item doesn't another one might! Its fun and yes extremely creative. Remember though, it is the colors that tie these things together.

As the cleaning and discovering continues, I will next be looking at all the birdhouses I have amassed over the years. Don't ask, you don't want to know. They are stashed all over the garage. And the time has come! Where did they all come from?

Last night I dragged out two designs I have never used before and am going to try the crackle coating and see how that works.

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

At What Point Greatness?

As I was busy working on my next project today I decided to watch one of my favorite movies. "Amadeus" is one of those tales told by one person who thinks he is great in sight of one who truly is.

Over the years I have enjoyed the movie, though the play has a very different immediacy. It is far more intimate much like creating something, paint brush in hand. Its glorious music caused me to ponder how such glory could come from what at best was a boor. Or was he? Today, for the first time while I was painting, listening to the movie's music mostly I did pause and began to wonder, what are the elements that determine greatness? There seems to be no easy answer. Sometimes you have to step away from where you are, what you are and listen "to the music."

Mozart was never really popular in his own time. He had his success to be sure. He was known to be gifted but it came at a price...his pride. He never suffered fools and musically was way ahead of his time. The melodies and music he created had never been heard before and it took a real musician to realize what he was doing. We have to remember after his death in the 1700's he was pretty much forgotten. It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century the New York Philharmonic resurrected both him and his music. In Mozart's lifetime composers, much like the painters in various salons, composers like Salieri, were the approved court masters and their music and demands nor their patrons were not to be denied. The tension here, if there ever was, is between Salieri who dedicated his life to music and God with average music abilities and Mozart, the profane, who was God's musical mouthpiece.

I suddenly realized that same thing happens all the time in the world of art. Greatness is often smothered by mediocrity. What makes an artist go on? Why did Van Gogh continue to paint hundreds of paintings he would never sell? Gauguin leave Europe, what was the motivating force behind Michelangelo? So many others too worked so hard for a vision yet often didn't receive the greatness they deserved in life.

Tabletop Birdhouse Decoration
I believe the creative force in us is the key. As I worked on a new type of item for me, a small tabletop decoration incorporating small birdhouses, I couldn't help but look around our den and see many of the creations I've done and are for sale on my Etsy store. Here they sit. Some are more popular than others in "favorites" but nevertheless created by me lovingly and well, still here. True, some are definitely more adventureous than others but all are unique and different reflecting my continuing search for a kind of crafting perfection.

Will that object ever exit? I doubt it but as artists we all never stop trying and many working until their dying day. I believe that to stop creating is death and so we create in an attempt to put death far away from us giving ourselves the time to achieve what only God can achieve, perfection.

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come-On-A My Birdhouse: A Tale of a Creation

I don't know about you but I create in fits and starts. I know, I know. You are "Supposed" to do something every day but sometimes its just not there. So I surf the Internet seeing what's on there instead. Usually Pinterest or Etsy...check out the competition but more often to get ideas. My latest birdhouse, COME-ON-A MY BIRDHOUSE is an interesting tale for all us creative types.

I started a painting just before going to the Expressionism Exhibit at LACMA and realized when I got home that still life of cherries in a colander was headed in my normal close to realistic style. I didn't want that but I wasn't sure where to go with it. I still don't. There was a blank birdhouse sitting on my workbench but I was not inspired. So, I did what needed to be done for awhile now. I started cleaning and organizing. Art books and magazines came first. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had several of the same books! Different covers but the same info. That was an easy decision. Then books with styles I would never use made the giveaway heap as well.

The next was harder. I had purchased then stashed wooden accessory pieces all over the place. I also had paints stashed everywhere. It was time to make sense out of this so off to JoAnn's for some storage boxes to put my items in. What a chore.  Corralling all them was an all day project. I mean ALL day.

The next day was started finding and then putting all those wooden pieces I either bought or was given into more boxes. Then yesterday I finally picked up a blue bag that I kept ignoring and found the stash I purchased in San Diego in May. Oh my. What WAS I going to do with all this stuff?

My wife had made some beautiful placemats, napkins and such for the dining room. She used a decorative fabric that was red, black and white. It was striking. Later that day I saw a photograph of old apartment in Europe covered with faded patterns and something clicked. I went over to that blank birdhouse on my workbench and gridded it off and started, black, gray and white.

I certainly knew where all the wooden pieces were now. The hardest part was deciding what to use. It was a process.

Then I got my newest copy of CLOTH-PAPER-SCISSORS and they had articles about gluing paper to canvas and other objects using Modge Podge. That sounded like fun. So after watching a few videos on YouTube on how to do that (thank God I did too!!!) I was ready. Newspaper was added, and other geometric parts were hand drawn. The accessories though were a process. Each side became unique yet had to fit into the overall pattern I had developed.
Printed Paper Horoscope added to side
What most people don't realize is the amount of time it takes. I think I spend up to two-three times on a birdhouse that I ever do on a painting and yet you can't charge for that time or labor. Painting the background colors took at least four hours with stops in-between. Then the underlying designs have to be added and again you have to wait as that paint has to dry or gets smeared. Trust me, I am the master of smears! I hate the waiting!

Next comes the painting of pieces that will be added. Hours have passed, in this case over three days, more time than I have ever spent on a painting! Then the gluing on begins.

Not to brag too much, I am proud of this birdhouse. It is like nothing I've done before, but few are, and it has something interesting happening on every side. The colors tie it together but you have to admit it remains colorful but not shocking. Its a fun take on a birdhouse and one that used in the right location adds fun and whimsy. Life is serious enough. Let's have some fun.

I guess my point here is to do what you want in your own time. Be open to what is going on around you and don't be afraid to make connections. Every crafter I know is like me. Stuff stashed everywhere. Its time to start digging it out and using it. I'm sure glad I did.

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sometimes You Have To Go Backward, To Go Forward

When the Christmas items in my Etsy store started to expire last December with the rest done by about February of this year, I decided to just left them expire and rest for awhile. One of the few (and there are not many) nice gestures on Etsy is that the page you created remains the same and can be re-activated at any time unless the item is sold. Now if they would only let those same pages transfer to another store within Etsy universe.

Anyway, counting off the weeks, I have begun to renew those Christmas items and, pardon the bragging, but have become charmed by what I created and haven't sold. I always kept a few for sale to keep the category "alive" but the majority were resting so to speak.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. While it has become grossly hyped with Black Friday stampedes, sales that start now well before Thanksgiving, with the sleigh chasing the witch on her broomstick, it still has a charm and does seem to bring out the best in many people. There is a charm about suspending the every day with decorations and best wishes for the holidays.

Several years ago, I happened on a Michaels the day after Christmas and there was a treasure trove of items drastically marked down. Those days seem long gone, and while I had bags and bags of blank treasures, I don't think I spent even $100.

One set of items were several wooden Christmas trees (shown on left) and similarly sized snowmen. They rattled around the garage for a year or so when I hit upon creating a scene that would grace the tree shape. I created a village down the face of the tree and then had to go on a hunt to match the 35 holes pre-drilled in each shape.

The snowman, I believe there is one left, had a snowmen skiing and rolling down similar hillsides but ending in an ice skating pond at the base. The two I did were given as gifts and while I had one more, I had done the original layout on it, I never came back to finish it.

There were three Christmas trees and while they used roughly the same layout and design, each one is quite different because they were sketched by hand, and each one painted by hand. Colors used on one were changed. It is true, it is very hard to replicate from piece to piece. However, each retained its charm and I was surprised they didn't sell. They make a great holiday, even winter decoration, and the lights are soft and cheerful during the dark winter months.

I have been trying a wide variety of styles, both craft and painting the past few month but find I still long for my beginnings and have been considering a return to the wonder and roots of my artistic beginnings, Pennsylvania Dutch motifs and similarly simple yet humble designs. It was a surprise to see chests, boxes and such in the museums of Virginia, Williamsburg and Washington, D.C. I realized how much I loved them and what they also meant to me.

I have been working on a birdhouse and a painting getting the artwork ready for my gallery show next month. However, the more I prepare the birdhouse the more I feel that I don't need new motifs or items, there are still plenty of wonderful ideas left from my German heritage. I urge you to look into your own past as well. There are so many great ideas out there.

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paint A Self Portrait. Its An Adventure Like No Other!

When I started my painting adventure some time during 2006, something that I thought would keep me busy during retirement a few years away, I had in mind a kind of image of what my paintings should look like. I loved the Impressionists but my "god" was Vincent Van Gogh. They were my inspiration. Foolish, foolish man.

Self Portrait
I found a teacher who painted in an Impressionistic style, what I later learned was considered California Impressionism. I loved it. Then a friend told me about the Las Vegas Painting Convention and so I went to that too. I was already pretty involved with craft painting, primarily birdhouses and there were all kinds of teachers teaching craft painting but alas, NO birdhouses. Usually I was the only man in the class. Since I am NOT a Vegas fan I had classes morning, noon and night. Literally. However, I did take an oil landscape class and for the first time painted a decent tree. The next year craft and painting classes were evenly split and by the next year most of the classes were painting. The die was cast.

Painting with a plein air group made me realize what things really looked like. If you have never painted outdoors, what are you waiting for? What we see and what a camera sees (reference photos) are two very different things. My painting changed becoming more and more realistic. In fact, the more I tried a looser style, the more realistic they became!!! It wasn't in the plan, it just happened. My teacher and I soon parted ways. I then went from one style to another. Flowers, landscapes, more flowers, a few interesting and not so interesting landscapes all so realistic people thought they were photographs. That was NOT the goal. I would look at them and just shake my head. Finally I just went with the flow.

Anyone who has studied great artists knows that not one of them stayed in one single style during their careers. Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso even Vermeer worked and refined their styles so that it evolved during their lifetimes.

In my own way I seemed stuck in a rut. I did paint a white fence covered with flowers, a lovely Chinese river scene and managed a popular view of succulent flowers along a garden path. But nothing new, startling. I really wasn't sure where to go next.

A friend sent me a distorted photo of himself and challenged me to paint that. He said I was on the cusp, that I was near a breakthrough. Paint what you feel, not reality. So I did. It was fun. Just SOOOO much fun. The bigger surprise were the comments by those who saw it. They loved it.

Ironically I was reading a bit about the German Expressionists and had just signed up to take the class I took last Saturday at LACMA. My appreciation for them was definitely enhanced and while I had started my own self portrait, I was frozen and not sure what to do. After the lecture, I came home and began to work on my portrait and finished it the next day.

Is it me? Is that how I see myself? They say you are the only one who doesn't see the real you. God knows just about every artist for centuries has painted themselves. After visiting the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam last year, there was no lack of Rembrandts giving it a go! In fact, between the Getty and LACMA here in the Los Angeles area, we have a few as well.

How does one go about this kind of painting? Taking a blank canvas I sketched, with a pencil, the raw outlines of my head. Following (freely I might add) the photo I was given, I sketched in the various background spaces. It was all very rough. I painted the background first using the blue shirt as the counterpoint for the background colors.

Then came the face. I used colors of what I felt reflected my and blue, red and excited with yellow the contemplative. The eyes, the nose, and all the other parts of my face came slowly. Is it me? I think it is. I kept adding subtle things. Shading the nose, adding eyebrows, shading even reflecting the missing tooth. It is me, or at least the me that day, paint brush in hand, paint tubes spread around and being deeply contemplative.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please visit my stores: and You will find a wonderful selection of crafts and fine art.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

After The Impressionists - Expressionism In Germany & France

One of the wonderful things about living in the Los Angeles Metro area (aside from horrible traffic) are the wonderful opportunities for art, music, theater and film. LACMA (Los Angeles County Musuem of Art) was opening a show from "Van Gogh to Kandinsky" just before our trip and then a few days later and invitation to a private lecture and tour of the exhibit before the museum opened. I signed up even though it was a few months in advance.

My lecture was today and I really had great expectations and was not disappointed. Because some of my latest paintings were leaning toward the brilliant coloring of expressionism and painting what I felt, not what saw, I became fascinated by the "expressionists." There is no doubt, or at least to me, that Van Gogh was heading in that direction. His "Wheat Field With Crows" was so different a million critics have tried to understand what he was trying to say.

Van Gogh, "Wheat Field With Reaper"
This exhibit covers the years at the tail end of the Impressionists who by now were becoming accepted so from around 1888 to 1914, just before the start of WWI. Our guide carefully took us through the lay of the land and it was very different than I imagined. Germany did not become a modern state until 1871. While they hated things French, they ended up aping the French Salon and in fact never really had an impressionist era.  Too busy causing wars I guess. Very few German artists dabbled with Impressionism. That was seen as French and decadent. However, with great effort they include at the start of the exhibit the very first painting that was purchased by a German, "Wheat Field With Reaper" in 1901 and shown in 1902. The Germans had never seen his work before and it was a lighting strike on the German art scene. To say they were stunned is an understatement.

Cezanne "Still Life With Apples and Pears"
While Impressionism didn't necessarily violate the rules, they used fuzzier brushstrokes and recorded what was around them. The Germans and Russians who came to Germany to paint (like Kandinsky) were thunderstruck by Van Gogh's brushstrokes and use of color. There was no antecedent anywhere in the history of art! No one had ever seen such paintings before and nearly every artist embraced him. The difference this time around though was that they were going to break ALL the rules and paint what they felt NOT what they saw.

Cezanne, considered by many the greatest of the Expressionists clearly wanted you to consider each element of the painting as a separate item and perspective. Tables are a bit off (will that fruit roll off?), countryside is oftentimes angled the wrong way yet manages to capture how he felt about the scene. He led the way but the Germans picked up the torch as the French became more and more abstract.

For the Germans, it was how they felt about the subject as Van Dogen's amazing "Opera Singer," a painting I loved and discovered was used as the cover of the book of this retrospective. She was a female impersonator but the colors and her pose are arresting. You have to stop and look. No impressionist would ever dare to use these colors and her pose.

This exhibition was 10 years in the making. The Van Gogh painting took 5 years to get. It was important to the exhibition that the painting that literally changed the direction of German art be the very first painting we saw. It set the tone!

There is another Van Gogh, used in promotion that luckily is small as it resides in a frame that NO air of any kind can enter. I saw it last year in Amsterdam and had no idea it was that fragile. Despite the small size it is wonderful. Spare strokes of color in the sky, trees and the field. It shows that Van Gogh can still confound us!

While the French pretty much stuck with their Impressionism and more and more variations of pointillism, the wild colors and brush strokes of the Germans was ignored. The French were heading toward abstract art more and more. It was this movement, in both countries that was shaping and molding what was to be, what we today call "abstract" art. But in 1914 it was not named and few had dared take that step. It would have to wait until after the war.

What fascinated me in this German art movement was that the two centers were Dresden, the Saxon capital and Munich, the Bavarian capital. Our lecturer pointed out that the Saxon's loved the use of color while in Munich colors were more subdued. I had to laugh. My ancestry is Saxon (my father was born there in 1922) and I love color as anyone who has visited my stores on Etsy or followed my blog. I am "not" shy about the use of color.

I can remember being so startled and surprised when we went back to Dresden to see the rebuilt Frauenkirche and the inside was a riot of color? Really? Maybe these Germans aren't so stuffy after all. After seeing what they did before the great war I know for sure they are not.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend you visit this exhibit. It is amazing and opens our eyes to developments we were not aware of. It turns out that LACMA has the largest collection of German painting in the world, maybe even more than Germany. After visiting the exhibit go upstairs. They have a fantastic collection of even more expressionists!

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Is Modern Art On It's Death Bed?

If you don't, you SHOULD get American Arts Quarterly. Its a free, at most 60-70 page review of art, various shows, trends, history and more. Let me urge you to check out their web site and order your own copy: It is one of those publications that often challenges what you believe or think you believe. Like everything in life, "what is truth?" This issue talks about the return of realism in art and maybe faith as well.

Several articles were arresting but today I want to discuss the one talking about "modernism" in art. For Americans, unless they traveled to Europe in the late 1800's, changes in what was considered art became radical. The Armory Show in 1913 New York, introduced Americans to radical changes in art by then already in its 4th decade in Europe. Color, the looseness of stroke, subject matter shifted from the salon to artists we all revere today: Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh all artists that changed the way we viewed art but even more the world around us. Some felt it was if the blinders came off and the real world was exposed.

Author Donald Kuspit contrasts two modern artists and the differences are stunning. While Roberto Ferri's (image on cover) art harkens back to the great Baroque and Renaissance painters with gorgeous detail and lighting often with Christian or classical myth settings, the art of Martin Creed, as a modernist goes for just about anything (a woman defecates on a floor). Kuspit wonders if we have finally had a good run and its over. Its been about 100 years, that is a long time for a movement to take place.

When my kids were young and I was trying to civilize them, we happened into a show at the MOCA in Los Angeles. I don't remember the artist but it was the most shocking and embarrassing thing I have ever witnessed and had to do it in front of my children. In one room the artist decorated the entire room with bags of her urine. Hanging, sitting on a coffee table there must have been 50 bags of various sizes on view. My daughter couldn't read but my son could and an interesting discussion ensued. Then in another room there was a TV where she danced, back to the camera in various stages of undress for 45 minutes. Even my daughter could understand this and asked why? Why indeed.
Martin Creed and paper towels

"Pure abstraction may be the most aristocratic modern art, populist representation my be the most democratic modern art, but Creed (and others) provocative exhibitionism is modern art at its most narcissistically nihilistic. Without a hierarchy of values, there is only nihilism," notes Kuspit. You have to believe in something and as the wag says, I believe I'll have another drink.

"Ferri's art is a recalling of the past with values we know. It has been pointed out that as faith declined in the west abstract art replaced it. If there wasn't a God then what was there? If we have nothing to believe in we are possibly ready to look again at deeply human issues and existential concerns. Ferri shows that they remain the legitimate concerns of art, however much modern art has made them seem "illegitimate."

When I started painting I too wanted to be an "impressionistic" painter in oils and my first teacher was a student of California Impression well into her 80's. I loved the looseness and contrast of colors. However, unbidden, my art became more and more realistic. People would look at them and ask if they were photographs. I was able to retain looseness in some paintings but others were startling in their realism. Which leads me to the question, is there something in the "air" that artists pick up on unconsciously? Impressionism saw a group of artists get together and change art. Various schools of art drew like minded artists together. Why? And why at that time?

No matter what we read or see and especially what we do, art is illusive. It affects us all differently and pendulums swing in the art world just like everywhere else.

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fighting Your Way Out Of The Doldrums

Reading some art magazine or another awhile back at Barnes & Noble, I saw a magazine called CLOTH, PAPER,  SCISSORS. It first I thought it was one of those scrapbooking publications but in picking it up I found all kinds of ideas to stimulate me! I rarely used scissors unless I was cutting the top of some reluctant paint or glue bottle, the only cloth I used might be the canvas, cotton or polyester for my paintings and have never used paper on my birdhouses though this magazine gave me ideas how that could be done. I ordered it and forgot about it.

Thumbing through my first issue of the magazine and for once actually reading the articles I was struck by one written by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. She talked about her evolution from artsy crafter to using her art as a provider and how it changed her art and her life. She took a job for the money, her own sensitivities be damned. She created art for popular or commercial appeal...choices of what she thought other people liked instead of what she liked. Reading it, I realized we have all been there.

At one point she stated, "I live and die by likes, comment and retweets. Sometimes, my very favorite projects get ignored. Do I abandon them?" She then goes on to note, "What a very bad space to inhabit. When you're making choices based on other people's opinions, you're operating from fear. Make your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears."

The entire article is worth reading for anyone that is creative: artists, writers, musicians, because it gets to the heart of being creative. What caught the attention of others was our own unique and personal style. If, as I have done in the past, I sell something and then try to replicate that because that's what the audience wants, we will often find that audience was an audience of one. Something in that creation moved them to buy. No one else will ever be interested in it.

However, that is not to say a series is bad. I have my "Crazy Quilt" series that has been popular. I found four resin skulls that became my "Last Chance Series" that was popular. I have done the same thing with my fine art painting. I now have two different series of four paintings using cactus plants as my theme. I like these "series" as it gives me the opportunity to mine a subject and each one takes me to a different place, a different skill level.

I too have hit a doldrums. No sales in about two months and not that many views and fewer "hearts." I have determined to continue and do what I like and hope that at some point I will find an audience that likes what I do as well. Here are some point to she makes that I would like to pass on:

Make art a daily habit.
Make an effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Let go of crutches. It isn't easy but its important.
Embrace what scares you.
Pursue Bad ideas. Remember, you learn more from failure than success!
Make an effort to reserve time in your schedule for personal artistic development.
Substitue the word "learn" for the word '"fail."
Try very hard to celebrate successes.

Hopefully, sales will return soon. I have not stopped creating as a matter of fact. After reading this article I returned to my work area and completed two new birdhouses, as different from each other as day and night. Since I have a gallery showing next month I plan on starting a new series of paintings for that as well.

Keep the faith!

Please visit my craft store at and my fine art store at Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Don't Forget To Varnish Your Paintings!

If you've ever wondered how paintings in the galleries look so vibrant, it was because every painting is varnished. Usually with a glossy varnish that will dull down a bit when dried. It may sound simple and even silly to mention this but it IS an important part of painting. Every painting. I'm sure this process is one that has driven curators crazy for centuries. It helps seal in the color and brings out the shine of the original paint. Depending on the type, paint will begin to lose its luster the day it was painted if it was an acrylic or some of the faster drying oils. Varnishes from the past have dried and cracked over time and then have to be removed and re-varnished to protect that paint on the canvas. Think of it as a kind of Saran Wrap for paint and canvas. It is not a simple task and painters plus all conservators have been looking for centuries to find the magic varnish.

Varnished left, unvarnished right - what a difference!
Yesterday I noticed that one of my paintings hadn't been varnished so before taking it to the gallery I put on a layer of gloss varnish. Before my very eyes the colors deepened, got richer, more vibrant and I realized what a difference varnishes really and truly make. Later on I discovered an oil painting also had not been varnished and since the six months waiting period was up a year ago decided to use it for this column.

As you can see on the left, the entire tone of the painting has changed. Colors are either brighter or deeper but all richer and far more vibrant. This is the painting I saw when I painted it, not the dull and lifeless one of yesterday.

Streakless varnishing done in minutes
You might wonder what my brush of choice is and after trying a variety of bristle and Teklon brushes spotted one of those cheapie foam brushes that you use once and throw away. I have desolved bristles using the wrong cleaner, had to throw away brushes that had gotten so hard nothing would restore them and wasted much water trying to save a brush when from 10¢ to 15¢ you can use a foam brush once and throw it away! No water, no getting so hard it can never be used again.

If you have never used this brush give it a try. You can buy them singly or by the bag (the best deal in town) at Home Depot, Lowe's, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, Blick's and any other place that sells craft or paint supplies. I would imagine even Target and WalMart even since they have paint departments! They cover quickly, leave no brush streaks, making it very easy to spread on your canvas. Because it soaks some of the varnish you can press down a bit and get more held by the brush.

If you have never varnished, now is the time to start. Be SURE to get fine art painting varnish, one that is suitable for your paint. This is something that you will have to get at a fine art or craft store. Lowe's and Home Depot do NOT carry suitable varnishes. Blicks, Aaron Bros., Michaels and other artists speciality shops will carry what you need. If you don't know what you need ask! Nothing will ruin a painting faster than using the wrong varnish, one that might resolve your painting.

Grumbacher makes the best known "original picture varnish" brand and one or two versions can be used on oil or acrylic paintings. Purists like to use the varnish made for their paint type. It is up to you. If nothing else the varnish will protect your paintings from the environment...dust, smoke, humidity. If you have never done it, its not too late to start. However, be sure to clean the painting if necessary, before you varnish. The last thing you want is to seal in those years of dust and smoke particles into the paint! You AND your paintings will thank you for it!

Thank you for reading. Please visit KrugsStudio for a wonderful selection of craft items, birdhouses and photography and AlanKrugFineArt where my original oil and acrylic paintings are offered for sale.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Don't Get Sick IF You Join The Pomona Valley Art Association

I had an interesting experience today, and ultimately one of the most embarrassing. But first a little history.

In September of 2013 at the Millard Sheets Gallery during the Los Angeles County Fair I stopped to chat with one of the demonstrating artists. As we talked she encouraged me to visit the art group she was representing. A week later I did just that and realized I had been to the space when a friend of ours was managing it years before.

Gallery SoHo is a strange place to have a gallery ... in the basement of the old newspaper building in the "art" district of Pomona, CA. Back then it was pretty active and the second Saturday of each month had a pretty nifty ART WALK. Now, just about all the galleries are gone, one of the old basement galleries is a bar with questionable clientele and the only bathroom is on the third floor which requires an elevator trip to reach.

Membership is inexpensive and your 8' x 5' space was $15 a month and one 5 hour shift manning the gallery. There was no commission on anything you sold. However, I realized after working a few shifts you didn't have to worry about sales as no one ever came down.

Soon after joining I got my diagnosis of cancer and was very open with the president and the gallery manager about recovery and such. I would not be able to drive during the recovery period so I would miss a few months of my required co-op hours. My colitis and stenosis didn't let go so the recovery period was quite slow. I worked a few days before my surgery at the end of January and with help was able to make the change outs of new art for old after. Before my trip at the end of June I worked and said that while July was not possible I would make up my lost time in August and the fall.

One of the reasons I joined the group was they had a lock on the sales at the Fine Arts gallery and controlled the demonstrating artists. I was open about this and mentioned it often. Everyone was very quiet about this and I never received email about procedures, sign-ups and such.

When I went in this past Saturday to change my paintings I was met by total silence. The two people who had been after me to work during the recovery period ignored me completely. I found the new gallery layout and was grudgingly told where it was. I moved my paintings, hung them and sitting at the table where money was changing hands discovered it was for the monthly contest. Another person took the tri-monthly space amount. Very grudgingly I was given change that I needed to pay for the monthly contest.

Next I asked for the sign-up book and again the cold shoulder. I found August and was told when I held a pen to put it in pencil (good thing too). Looking at the signups I noted and openly said, "Well half of them are in pen." I was told "Well, they are not supposed to be." I noted it would be a good thing to put that information on the calendar. She then told me that I had better tell the president I signed up too. So I did. I was not prepared for the attitude or venom of that talk. "You owe us at least two more shifts. That is what you are required to do," he said. I replied that yes, I knew that and once the school year started I would make up my time.

The breaking point for me was when I again asked, from the same two people when the information for the County Fair would come out. They looked at me and each other and said it was already filled. What? Yes, you were sent an email in March or April and when you didn't respond we thought you didn't want to participate. I looked the one person in the eye and said, "You know I was interested. I have asked you personally (confirmed by someone else that was there at the time - and given a "we will send it out soon answer) many times about this. I never received that email. Who is the coordinator?" "Me," she replied.  The woman, the other coordinator, who sent the information out died. So you are responsible for the show? "Yes." I looked at them both and left.

However, as I reached the front door, the days events, the cold shoulder, the attitude, their harassing calls and emails and being purposely left out of the one event I wanted to be involved with even after my promise to get caught up, I walked back down the stairs and told them, "Since you two are the people I wanted to talk to, and we are alone, I resent how you have treated me since I got ill." The president, practically spitting told me they had made allowances for me but this was a co-op and one of the responsibilities was paying my money and working once a month. I agreed. I said that I didn't ask for my illnesses and when I joined several had not shown up yet. Still on a rant, he continued saying, "If you can't do your obligations then you shouldn't be in the gallery." I looked at him and her and replied, "You're right. I want my money back." I pulled the paintings from the wall, collected several others I had as alternatives and left. As I was packing up my truck the woman who manages the monthly contest came over with another painting, the one I was going to enter.

We chatted a few minutes and I told her, I felt there was a definite clique going on and that I sure hoped none of them got sick. This reminded me of putting the old Eskimo on an iceberg and letting them drift off. The one thing that kept me sane and gave me hope during my recovery was my art. But at 68 I was too old for this kind of treatment and behavior. I don't need it in my life. She agreed.

To be honest, I don't know what is going on here. I do know that I don't need to be any part of it. This was my first attempt to be in an art association and gallery and would have to say, after today, my last. I was just about as skilled as most of the members, in fact many of them complimented my art. Its back to square one as far as representation goes. I do have my Etsy stores but they have been slow lately too. Need to do some research and see what my next adventure will be. I DO know for sure where it won't be!

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