Saturday, March 29, 2008

And the Stupidity Continues....

"Cloudy Day at Alta Lakes"
Oil on Panel

I swear, I don't know where my brain has gone!!

I painted this painting twice this week. To make a long story short, I ordered the wrong size frame for the first version, and with no time to order a new one, decided to paint the same scene again to fit the frame (I wanted it to go with another painting that it will hang next to in a show). I also did a plein air study of this same scene last summer - let's just say I won't be painting this area again anytime soon!!

Anyhow, this scene was a good example of how painting on location can be such a valuable tool. I don't do as much plein air painting as I'd like to, but spending time outdoors (painting or just soaking up the feel of a place) is a necessity for getting things right in the studio.

This scene was a bit difficult to do from a photo - it was a cloudy day with just a bit of directional light defining the form of the rocks. With the light as it was, my camera made all of the rocks look the same shade of blue, with little variation to show distance, form, or perspective. Luckily, I had done a small plein air study last summer, and remember the feel of the place well since we've been there multiple times. I used the photo as reference for the drawing, and improvised from there.

Still deciding which version I like the best. I'm feeling a bit partial to the original (smaller) painting... (For the record, the smaller painting is closer to the window in this picture, so it looks a lot lighter than the other - in real life, this isn't the case)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Re-painting and Stupidity

"Aspen Interior"
Oil on Panel

In the past, I've only been willing to a certain extent to make changes to a painting after I considered it "done". I had a method in place that involved working on each area with thick paint while wet. Once dry, that was that. If the painting worked, it went out the door. If it didn't, I trashed it.

Lately, I've been really focused on improving my final product, and part of the process of improving has given me a willingness to mess with dry paintings more than I ever have before. If a painting is decent enough to send to a gallery, but has an area that's nagging at me, I'll put it back on the easel and do some more work.

This painting is one of those that just wasn't quite right. A few days after I finished it, I took the photograph above and noticed that the knots in the biggest aspen tree were uniformly spaced and all the same color/value (does anyone else find that photographs can point out things that you can't believe you missed in real life??). It started to drive me insane every time I saw the painting in my studio, so I finally put it back on the easel and repainted the entire tree trunk, in addition to touching up the knots on the tree to the right. I also ended up messing with the foreground grasses just a bit. Changing the spacing and value of some of the knots gave the painting more interest, and improved it to the point that is didn't drive me nuts to look at it.

The problem is that I sent it to my Winter Park gallery last week without remembering to re-photograph it! In a moment of supreme blondeness, I framed and varnished it and sent it out the door. Now the only photo I have for my website is the one that drives me nuts - grrr!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Art and Technology

"Hanging On"
Oil on Panel
(For the record, this is a terrible photo of this painting - the value range is so close that I can't seem to get it quite right, even with lots of tweaking in photoshop!)

I'm starting to realize that I'll be moving to small-town America in a couple of weeks, so I've been trying to do all of the "city" things that I can before we move.

Yesterday we went to the Denver Art Museum to see the, "Inspiring Impressionism" exhibit. It was kind of a neat exhibit showing the influence of the old masters on the impressionist painters, with a nice range of work that I had never seen elsewhere. The only problem was the amount of people - it's kind of hard to walk up to a painting and check out the brushwork when there are six people standing five feet away listening to their headsets! I don't know what it is about the impressionists that seems to attract the masses...

Anyhow, I have a love-hate relationship with the Denver Art Museum. The new wing is neat, there are some cool installation pieces, and I like the comtemporary art collection. But I can't believe the Western American art wing isn't bigger - I swear it's smaller now than it was before they expanded the building (sad since DAM has such a great collection) - and it seems like there's a lot of wasted space due to the architecture of the building.

One positive thing I was noticing yesterday was how high-tech the museum is, which is pretty cool. The impressionist exhibit featured flat computer screens in the center of each room that allowed you to "touch" a part of a painting to zoom in on the brushwork - pretty neat. The other parts of the museum all have little nooks and crannies where they show video interviews with artists or have touch computer screens with interactive information on the work. They have a huge Daniel Sprick still life and you can go around the corner and hear him talk about his inspiration for the painting and find out everything you'd want to know about his process. They also have i-pods installed near the benches in most galleries where you can pick up the headphones and listen to even more information.

Aspen's favorite thing was an interactive installation called "Bubbloo." It's a fun little area where images of bubbles are projected floating across the floor, and the bubbles "pop" if you step on them or touch them. Once you pop all of the bubbles, a screen on the wall displays information about a piece of art in the museum, and a map of how to get there. Popping bubbles = hours of entertainment for a toddler!

We spend a lot of time visiting museums, and I think it's nice to see that the Denver museum is at the front of the pack when it comes to using technology to make viewing art an interactive experience. For the record, there were more people at the museum yesterday than I'd ever seen there on a Saturday before - good news!

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, Happy Easter to everyone!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Taking Breaks

I took a much-needed break from all things art-related and relaxed at my in-laws' house in the mountains the past couple of days. Well, I delivered some paintings to the gallery up there yesterday, and I guess that's technically art related, but I didn't paint, take photos, or do anything remotely business-oriented other than that, and it was REALLY nice to take a breather. Now I'm nice and refreshed and excited about what I'm going to work on next. Sometimes I forget how good it can be to have some time off!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Art as Something Deeper

"Morning, Monarch Lake"
Oil on Panel

I think that sometimes I get a little bit too cerebral about whether or not I’m doing what I’m supposed be doing with my life, or whether I’m doing enough or having enough purpose. I picked up a book last weekend that made me look at things a bit differently, and gave me a sense of peace that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing right now, just by being who I am. It helped connect the dots between my passion for art and nature with my faith, and I thought I’d share it for anyone who might find it useful. The book is called "Wide Open Spaces", and in it, Author Jim Palmer says the following:
“I met a woman who enjoys photography. She said to me, “I meet God at the end of my lens.” She uses the lens of her camera as a reminder to become “more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.” Her love for God is expressed as her love for photography. I hope you feel the freedom in that. God’s purpose is not fulfilled by doing a lot of religious things you may or may not want to do. The things you love doing, what you are most passionate about, are the most significant avenues through which God wants you to know him. You have a love for these things because God placed it within you. David wrote in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord for he will give you the desires of your heart.” In other words, as you experience the joy and satisfaction of knowing God, follow your desires because God will be in them.”
I love it when he says, “I hope you feel the freedom in that,” because I do. I’ve always been able to feel the presence of God in nature, and it’s a strong component of my faith that extends into the subject matter that I paint. I love that I’m being reminded here that my art isn’t just about making pretty pictures, but that it’s a bigger part of who I am.

How do your beliefs shape your art?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Gift of Failure

"Ready to Rumble"
Oil on Panel

Man, what did I say the other day to scare everyone away!?! Hehe...

This is turning out to be a crazy busy month on the art front, and I've been feeling a little bit frazzled trying to keep up with the business side of things. Couple that with the fact that I painted two scrapers in the past five days, and I wasn't a happy camper at the end of today's painting session. So, I did what I do when I'm frazzled and cranky and went outside for a run.

While I was running, I started to think about how much it sucks to spend a whole day painting and have it be for nothing. Then, of course, the sun came out and I was reminded that success is having the strength to see the promise in our failures. If nothing I painted ever ended up in the trash bin, I wouldn't be learning or growing. Therefore, I need to view weeks like this as a gift, because my work will be better as the result of the struggle.

I learned how to ski in college, and I'm a bit timid and like to ski nice, safe blue runs. I never, EVER fall, because I like to stay in my comfort zone. Nate reminds me every time we hit the slopes that, "If you're not falling, you're not learning." Drives me insane, but I guess he's right.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Defining Success

"Isabelle Glacier"
Oil on Panel

In her blog last week, Alyson Stanfield posted the following quote to spur discussion on Deep Thought Thursday.

“My only advice is to spend less time thinking about success and put all the energy into making art itself. Otherwise your relationship to your art changes. It becomes less genuine and honest. Art should not be born from a pressure of becoming successful but something deeper. This is always a danger and the cause for mediocrity in art…” – Shirin Neshat

A number of people agreed with the quote, but a number of people also vehemently disagreed, making the case that trying to make a living as an artist in no way diminishes the art itself. The discussion was interesting, and I thought it was funny how so many people on both sides automatically jumped to the conclusion that “success” in the arts was defined in financial terms.

I don’t define the success of my art in terms of money, so my response was a bit different. As a realist painter, I define success by the quality of my work, but if you asked me to write down a set of short-term and long-term goals to be benchmarks of success, I would have a laundry list of items that would include things like getting my work into a high level gallery, having a sell-out solo show, being invited to participate in certain high-profile shows, or having my work in the collection of a museum. These things aren’t on my list for financial reasons, but rather because in the very subjective world of art, these are some objective, measurable goals that I can use to gauge how the quality of my work is improving.

That said, does striving toward these goals take away from the quality of my work? I don’t think so, and I’d actually argue the opposite. Having these goals pushes me to improve my work where I otherwise might conclude that things are “good enough.”

If I were striving for success on financial terms, I might get to a point where my work was selling well and develop a formula for sells and what doesn’t, and stunt my growth as an artist as a result. But if I strive for success on my terms, I’m constantly striving to improve my work.

I’m not going to get into that high-end gallery, or be invited to that high-profile show, or have my painting chosen for a museum collection unless my work merits these things. Defining my success in terms of what others might think of my work is a positive – it gets me out of my own little world, and pushes me to seek out the input that will ultimately push my work to the next level.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, do you?

At the same time, I like the statement at the end about art needing to be about something deeper than success. If it isn’t, what’s the point? As a representational artist, I spend a lot of time asking myself why I paint what I paint. Maybe I’ll post a bit more on that some other day this week.

What do you think? How do you measure your success as an artist?

Monday, March 03, 2008

February Goals Update

"Backlight in the Garden"
Oil on Panel

I can't believe it's already March! February came and went and it seems like I spent the entire month sick and in bed - not so fun. Anyhow, I've finally been feeling better and devoting some energy to my art, and despite the added distraction of getting our house ready to put on the market, I'm starting to feel productive again.

And since February is over, it's time for me to take a look at my goals again. I know it's only been two months, but knowing that I'm checking the status of my goals every month has really been effective at keeping me on track this year. So, here they are, again:

1. Get my work into three more galleries.

I didn't send out any packets this month, but I have been working on this and I'm feeling good about things.

2. Complete 100 paintings.

To meet this goal, I have to paint between 8 and 9 paintings per month. In February, I only managed four paintings, since I spent the first two and a half weeks of the month fighting the flu. I figure that's a decent excuse, so I'm not feeling too bad, but I'm definitely committed to getting some extra painting done this month to catch up! Anyhow, 13 done, 87 to go.

3. Sell enough work to pay our mortgage.

I'm actually on track here, which is great. I know that there's a bizarre stigma attached to art and making money, but I think that making it my intent to pay the bills with my art this year has been a really positive thing for me. I've been very focused on the quality of my work in addition to productivity, and I feel like I'm improving as a result.

4. Update painting database and financial records monthly.

So far, so good. I updated both this weekend to keep me on track, and I'm finding that this is extremely helpful in knowing where I stand with both my productivity and my financials. One unfortunate side effect is that it's also making me cheap - I can see every expense adding up in that spreadsheet, which keeps me from buying frames or art supplies just for fun!!

5. Race in a minimum of three 5k's.

Um, not so much. The flu really did a number on me this month - there were days when just sitting on the couch tired me out! I've gotten back into riding my bike on the trainer in the basement, so at least that's a bit of progress toward getting ready for a triathlon this summer. Guess I need to work harder here - after all, being healthy can have such a positive impact on the energy I bring to everything else.

So, overall not so bad, especially considering how sick I've been. We've got our house on the market now, so I'm really going to have to focus this month on not getting sidetracked by showings etc. If I have to paint every night after Aspen goes to bed, so be it!