Saturday, February 27, 2010
Charles Hawthorne use to teach his students, "It is a higher art; to take something ugly and create something beautiful out of it!"
This is what an artist must contemplate when making the decision; whether to creat art for art sake, or art for commerce sake.
Cliche' central says: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and, "Art is subjective".
This painting was one of the two of my paintings that didn't sell in the fund raiser for the Santa Cruz Island Foundation back in 1995. At the reception the only murmur about it was that, "it was not a pretty site"...(duh?)
From this comment I gathered for the fund raiser, including those who knew the Vail-Vickers Ranch, and all it's positives/negatives, viewed this image as something they weren't proud of. 'Why would I paint the gasoline depot?', they wondered.
Here's my motive; I saw it for something beautiful!. The color variations, textures, shapes, etc. were unpredictable. It was merely about me- noticing the subtleties and contrasts in life, and trying to document them the best I could at the time. I sought out the raw poetry of the place, more than literal content of 20th century Island life.
I recall that I was sheltered from the wind, but also quite hot in the sun. Ah, the minor challenges of plein-air painting: Git'er done!
Old Fuel Depot, Santa Rosa Island
8"x16" W/C 1995
Painting subject to prior sale
Thursday, February 25, 2010
It was a dark night on Santa Rosa Island and the wind was howling, but I was there to work. I came to paint. I'd only produced a couple of nocturnes in my life, and those were in oils, I was going to experiment with painting one in watercolors.
The question was, how to get the washes to dry?
So I borrowed a blow dryer, and an extension cord and set out to paint in the horse corral. I plugged the blow dryer into the nearby branding shed and went to work painting the barn, which had a single light up above, illuminating the surrounding area. What a spooky night.
Throughout the painting the wind howled, and rattled the chains holding the corral gates closed. There was a shirt on a hanger next inside the open ended branding shed to my right, and every time the wind would gust, the shirt would bellow up and catch my attention. I tried my best to maintain my composure during the painting. staring at the open door of the barn; half expecting someone or something to come walking out in my direction.
And then just when I convinced myself to keep moving through startledom, Five feet away, right in front of me, an Island fox jumped out from the side of the branding shed as if to attack me; that is until it saw that I wasn't prey. It jumped up in the air, just as startled as I was, then skedaddled.
I was after the light/dark contrast; the "chiaroscuro", as the Italians call it. The luminescent glow from the single light source was the prime objective. It was the Highlight, the primary focal point. My process was, just like any water color, to work light to dark. In this case I continued to work darker and darker, layering washes deeper and deeper until achieving the correct relationships. I used the blow dryer only to expedite the process so the washes would dry more quickly, which turned out to be a good thing cause I wanted to get the hell out of there as quickly as I could.
I feel I moved through something that night, like I'd been through an initiation of sorts. If I could paint in this condition, I could paint in almost any location or condition however daunting or challenging. A spark ignited my desire to paint another painting and pursue the illusion of light.
A Ghostly Night at the Ranch
9x11 Watercolor 1995
Collection of Santa Rosa Island Foundation
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This last storm produced another sad end to a beautifully designed sail boat. Fools Anchorage claimed another one.
My boys and I were in need of getting out of the house after the last rain, so we took a drive to the SB Maritime Museum. On our way we saw this boat aground on East Beach, so, we stopped and took a look, up close.
There is something primal about ships or boats that have run aground. Something Awesome and tragically surreal. We are given an opportunity to see what is rarely seen by the human eye; the vulnerable underbelly of the boat. Beached!
Talk about truly getting to the configuration of things; of life! Even more, it was a great bonding adventure for the boys and me.
The artist has the roving eye which seeks out a motif. The inspiration, which calls to him and ignites the spark of creative action, is the divine spirit yearning for expression.
In 1994 I was asked by the Santa Cruz Island Foundation to participate in a benefit show to raise money for their cause. So I, along with fellow artists, John Iwerks and Tom Henderson, was flown from Camarillo Airport out to Santa Rosa Island in order to paint pictures of the ranch, for three days.
This photo shows me in the midst of painting a little watercolor of the 18th Century Vail and Vickers Ranch House, and all I will say about that is yes, there are ghosts out there, and things that go boo!!
SRI is a wind swept Island; if one could hunker down low enough to the ground, then that would make the painting process a little easier. The winds average 35 mph, and seemed to be blowing constantly. It is psychologically draining, and physically exhausting to be in wind.
On this day, I remember arriving to the ranch house ahead of the Vail family, (they flew in after us). I put my food for my trip, in the large indoor refrigerator. You see, I was a practicing vegetarian at the time and here I was on a cattle ranch. I was mulling about the dining area when the Vails walked in to the kitchen to unpack the food for their stay, when I heard one cowboy say, "TOFU? WHO THE HELL BROUGHT TOFU??" Ah...that would be me... (I was still cruzin' on the left side of the isle with my spiritual arrogance and crystal induced logic).
Ah...but there's nothing like the feeling of being far from home, and slightly unacceptable. But alas, I let things slide and went to work on my art.
The painting went well; I created eight or so watercolors; (in fact, on this trip I created my very first nocturne watercolor. Out of the eight paintings I produced, I sold six at the benefit exhibition. (Not a bad way to make a living!)
SRI is one SPOOKY place, esp. at night; it's a lot spookier than some cowboy a chidin' me 'bout ma TOFU!
Monday, February 22, 2010
Well, when painting at night, alone, in a remote area, near Oxnard California, its best to at least look intimidating!
In 2005 I was preparing for my first solo Museum exhibition at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, when I would drive my van out to this location to complete my painting, "Power Plant Nocturne". It was one of the largest paintings I'd painted on location up to that time.
Even though this area had lots of graffiti on the near by Electrical Power sub station, fortunately I was never visited by bandits with their bandelaros. The police came by once, and I asked them to come by more frequently. They informed me of a murder that had taken place in this area, of a couple of people who thought they'd found a secluded spot; (unfortunately for them it wasn't as secluded as they'd thought). This served to add to the edge to the night.
In studying this picture it is interesting to note my set up: my studio easel, my French Field Easel holding my palette, and my bucket for my paints and brushes, and of course, my Russian Infantryman's hat with my maglight attached. Also note my umbrella attached to my van. It blocked the ambient sodium vapor light flooding onto the canvas.
A year earlier I was attending the Pt. Magu Air Show with my kids, where two Navy men, flying for the crowds, were forced to bail out of their F-4 Phantom right after it's engines had flared out. Fortunately the two men parachuted out of the plane safely, (the jet crashed and created a huge fireball) Unfortunately the two men landed right into the middle of the fire. This happened right where the trees are; on the horizon to the left of where I am standing (near the two High Tension Power Poles).
Painting Urban Nocturnes is sometimes like painting crime scenes. I am a silent witness to the night and all it's offerings and my paintings are merely reports back from the front of darkness.
One never knows what the night will reveal.
Every now and then I will come up with a composition which warrants painting more than once under different light. This is not original in concept; Monet was a master at this.
Square formats also are not the easiest to contend with.
I remember this being a Summer Moonrise, a few years ago. The sunset behind me cast a warm glow over the earth; its last rays visible on the lighthouse at the Coral Casino. Everything else was still and cooling down from the warm, balmy day and I was ready to call it a day.
The moon rose in the East, and I started sketching away. I was almost by myself as the tide was high so nobody was combing the beach.
Lots of silent moments with this one.
Moon Rise, Butterfly Beach
Painting subject to prior sale
Basically, I kept the same composition as the painting from yesterday's Blog entry. However, the season's had changed, and the light too had cooled. The tide was high and the sun had set, and the color periwinkle had permeated the sky.
This was a cool moon, and I was excited about the colors reflecting in the surf. I wonder what happened to the light beacon at the coral casino...oops!
(I guess that is part of what my artistic license is for). Besides, I wanted it to be all about the Moon, and little else.
Winter Moon Rise, Butterfly Beach
12x10 oil/board 2008
Paintings subject to prior sale
Atlantis was a commissioned painting.
Back in the early 1990's I was trying to find my way as an artist, using my illustration skill I'd learned in college. I produced a series of Marine Mammal Illustrations for some exhibitions to benefit the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center in Santa Barbara.
Being I'd traveled to the palace of Knossos on Crete, and I was at the time, part of the Left wing wacko crowd of Metaphysical Moronic Convergencers, I was into "Dolphin Energy", Crystals, and burning sage.
I was commissioned to paint this painting for a man in Santa Barbara, whom I now no longer have contact. Unless it is by divine order I may never see this painting again.
This Atlantis themed painting was first sketched out, then air bushed, then painted in Acrylics, then finished off with color pencils.
I recall I spent approximately 120 hours on the painting before it was signed and photographed.
I thought I could make a career in painting this fantasy genre, but that was a fantasy in itself. I learned I would need to move to Maui and establish myself there, in order to legitimize my emergence into that fraternity of glitzy whale lubbers. But each painting took too long to produce; and it was tough to sell for what it was worth in my mind.
But "Atlantis" gives a glimpse of my mind; where I can go and explore from time to time.
26"x32" Mixed Media
Sunday, February 21, 2010
It's important to get out there and see the art world, or live it.
Friday night, my patron and amigo Robert Eringer,
and I, went out on the town and celebrated two art openings; the art opening of Actress Jane Seymour and the Glenna Hartmann Memorial Art Exhibition.
Jane's Art show, at Gallery Maiani, in Montecito, was a place to see and be seen; it was almost like a Hollywood Premier with red carpet entry, limosenes, fine wine [tasting?], gormet nibbles, and wall to wall celebrants, there for the "Seymour" Show.
As it is with most heavily attended art openings, it would be difficult to enjoy the art on display, and one may leave wanting to, "see more". I saw a few red dots which is always a good thing, regardless of the artist. Art is selling. Art is celebrated.
Seymour was the dash of red this night. I wish her well in her art career.
The Glenna Hartman Exhibition was packed with a nice array of landscape painting from the OAK Group, and selected artwork from Blue Chip Southern California Landscape painters. The exhibition was curated by Jean Stearn. I was fortunate to have two moonlight paintings in the show.
We arrived too late, for the crowds had ascended and few celebrants remained, mulling about with their wine glasses in hand. It looked like maybe the rain put a damper on things, (or maybe it was the $50.00 tickets to buy entry to the show). But where ever the crowds went they took their red dots with them when they left. In retrospect, hopefully there will be more sales and viewers over the weekend.
The show was well hung, and aside from the bright orange/terracotta walls that distracted from the quality of the art presentation, it was of high caliber.
I left the show emotionally moved by the one wall of Glenna Hartmann paintings. It was the first time I'd seen a grouping of her work since she passed. In my opinion this one wall made the show.
...and the show must go on.
Van Stein, Jane Seymour, Robert Eringer
I traveled down to the Gene Autry Museum yesterday with my fellow Artists/Art Students Filberto Lomeli, Doreen White, Cyndi Burt, Kate Smith, and Donna Moser. We went to see the Masters of the American West Art Exhibition. This exhibition had at least two to three hundred paintings by contemporary master artists, or as I call them, "Blue Chippers".
As per usual the caliber of representational paintings was superb. Incredible craftsmanship, vision, skill, and quality of product. It far surpasses much of the artwork I have seen produced in the last year in other locations around Southern California.
What was truly inspiring was the fact that so many paintings were sold. The prices ranged from $2300.00, to $1.2 MILLION. Howard Tepening's painting sold for close to 1.2 million! Mian Situ's painting had a red dot on it, priced and sold, for $780,000.00. So, there is plenty of money and art appreciators out there.
The most successful sellers were paintings with the content; some form of prey. Moose, Wolves, Cattle, Foxes, Bison, etc., something to feed the hunter's instinct. In my opinion, it is the job of the artist to balance his life out; to become a skillful hunter, so he can survive as an artist and continue to produce his artwork.
If an artist believes that money isn't everything, but it sure can move you into the right neighborhoods, then there is the possibility that what he produces will be meaningful and appreciated, and not thrown into the trash cans of art history as ammeter or mediocre.
Just outside in the parking lot in the stall next to our ride, was this beautiful American Classic; a 1962 Ford Thunderbird, cherry red. Seeing it was a great way for me to finish off this two hour visit; this feast of visual stimulation. It was another form of art, a classic expression of American ingenuity and design.
A dash of red.