Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Down to the Wire

This May I will be showing seven paintings at Lanoue Fine Art in Boston. The gallery already had five of my paintings and they requested two new pieces. With less than three weeks to paint two pieces and have them shipped in time to arrive by the 9th (the show opens on the 11th), I have been busy in the studio painting like a mad woman, in other words, I have been painting like I usually do. I'm thinking I should have these done by Sunday and ready to ship by Monday. Here are the two new paintings, still in progress.
This one still has a bit more painting to be done. It is a 30"x30" panel.

I LOVED painting this one. I'm calling it "JoJo the Wonder Dog". This panel is also 30"x30"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

News and Other People's Art

On a rare excursion out of my house and studio on Saturday (most people who know me know that I am usually working in my studio or at home), I managed to catch the opening reception for Scott Inguito and Kellen Breen at Place Pigalle in San Francisco. Although I had seen the work before (we are all at the same studio space), it was nice to see them in a different context. Both men have a unique look to their work and paint VERY large canvases that make my paintings look like postage stamps.  Here are some pictures from the opening:
Scott Inguito and his art.

Kellen's painting on the left, Scott's painting on the right.

Scott's painting on the left, Kellen's on the right.

Kellen Breen and his paintings.
In other news, five of my paintings are being shown at this year's San Francisco Decorator's Showcase.  Here's some installation shots:

Decorator Lisa Bakamis', of Lisa Bakamis Interior Design, designed the press room.

And finally, "Rejuvenation" opened at Richard J. Demato Gallery in Sag Harbor, NY. The show got some great press in the Sag Harbor Express and runs until May 15th.  
This painting of mine sold at the opening reception yesterday. Yay!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Advice to a "New" Artist

What I was working on today... The panel is 30"x40".
This weekend is open studios in the Mission District of San Francisco and while I am not participating officially, I was at my studio painting all day. People seem to really like watching me paint and asking me questions about my process and, of course, the most asked question is always "So why do you block out the eyes in your painting?". While I am used to answering that question and have gotten it down to only one sentence, I was not used to answering the question asked by another aspiring artist who was just starting his adventure in oil painting and was a newbie to the art world as a profession.

This artist had spent a good amount of time looking at my work. After asking many technical questions and getting to know me and my work, he asked a question I had to think about for a moment before answering. He asked "what is the one piece of advice can you give me as an artist trying to break into the art scene?" Like I said, I am not used to being asked this question. I am by no means an expert. I still feel like a newbie myself and I am often asking more established artists their opinions on business and art matters I come across.

Detail of one of the women...
So what was the one piece of advice I gave this guy? I told him to paint, and to paint a lot. Don't wait until inspiration hits in order to paint. It may never happen and if it does, it may be days or months before it happens again. You have to create your own inspiration, not wait for it. You must paint often without expectations. Don't worry about painting a masterpiece. It won't happen anytime soon. You might like one out of ten pieces you paint, if you're lucky, and that's okay. It's part of the process. The important thing is to JUST PAINT. It is only through painting often that your style will naturally emerge. It is only through painting frequently that you will truly learn to be an artist.

I feel like I had to learn this the hard way. When I first started painting, I would paint every few weeks. I felt like I had skills but lacked inspiration. I couldn't find a style that wasn't derivative of someone else's. (BTW, it's weird to use the word derivative in a non-calculus sense. Lately, calculus seems to make up most of my vocabulary...) I only wanted to paint beautiful, inspired art and it wasn't happening. My expectations were too high and I wasn't living up to them. Finally, after much frustration, I quit painting. I stopped for almost seven years.

It wasn't until I forced myself to go to my studio and put paint on canvas without any expectations that I was able to find my passion for painting again. It wasn't easy, in fact, some days it was damn near impossible. But I was determined to paint again, and I did. Fast forward six years later and I now have a series of work that I love painting. I still have moments where it's difficult for me to get into the studio, but I know that if I am going to make it as an artist, I need to keep painting.

I am hoping to have this underpainting done tomorrow.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

Lately I have been teaching myself calculus while also taking an advance open studio class on Flemish classical realism. You would think that learning calculus would be the harder of the two, but suprisingly, I find it easier to learn and retain.

The closed grisaille stage of my painting. I will need to do one more black and
white layer before adding color.
While calculus is challenging, it is math afterall, I find it to be just a series of puzzles with multiple ways of solving it but only one solution. The fact that there is only one solution is comforting to me. I am either right or wrong. If I am wrong, I can go over my steps to see if there are any mistakes, or try something new. I don't have any pre-conceived notions about it, nor do I have any bad habits with math that get in the way of my learning.

Flemish-style classical realism, on the other hand, is kicking my ass. I have been frustrated and bored at the same time, multiple times. I find that since I already know how to paint, even though it is not the same style, I am at a disadvantage. I am not a clean slate that a teacher can impart wisdom on with no previous experience that gets in the way. I am an old dog. Felmish style painting is my new trick, and as the saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".

One of two pieces I am currently working on.
While I don't believe that to actually be true, I do know that teaching an "old dog" something new is VERY difficult. I find that I am resistant subconciously (perhaps even somewhat consciously) of painting in a new style. I have my methods that I have been using for years. I have habits, good and bad, that make me who I am as an artist. I am not a clean slate. As my teacher said yesterday during class "I see that you understand what to do conceptually but your old style and bad habits have a stronger hold and keep pulling you towards them". She is right. I would start off making short, soft strokes with my brush, as I am supposed to do, and a few minutes later, the strokes would become longer and crisp edges appear. Instead of picking a spot and painting the areas around it, I would pick an object and fill it in like a paint by numbers. If I had a dollar for everytime Sadie, my teacher, walked by me and said " We are not house painters here, we are artists" (meaning I was using long strokes again), or "this is not a paint by numbers" I would have at least enough to buy myself a nice dinner.

The second painting I am working on. I am struggling with their mouths at
the moment...
So here I am struggling to learn and use a different method of painting and feeling like I am failing. If you look at my painting, you'd probably think that it looks pretty good. I would probably agree with you. But for a method that is very process and technique heavy, I am failing miserably. I'm sure this is where someone will chime in that I paint well enough, why bother with this method? I bother because I like the challenge of learning something new, no matter how much I am frustrated by the process. I bother because as an artist I am always trying to learn and try something new. I bother because I know in the end, it will be worth it. And lastly, I bother because while I am an "old dog", learning something new keeps me young. It keeps me from being stagnant. It keeps my life interesting. Failure may be what I am experiencing now, but with failure comes knowledge, and with knowledge we become better artists.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Ugly Side of Painting

It has been one hell of a week for me. What was supposed to be a week off of work to just paint all day in my studio turned into a week of frantically studying calculus in order to keep my teaching job for next year. Very little painting was done, unfortunately, and my deadlines are looming. I did get a break from math on Sunday, when I went to my painting class.

Last week I started my drawing for my still-life. This week I completed the drawing, transferred it on my panel, and worked on my open grisaille stage. For those of you who don't remember what that stage entails, the first layer of the painting is done using burnt umber and turpentine only. No white paint is used. The white of the paper is all you have for your lights. It's kind of like water color in that sense, but uglier. Since you can only use one color to show gradations and you don't want to the paint to drip, you have to really control the amount of turpentine and paint used. Translation: it's a pain in the ass.  This makes for a very "sticky" paint that leaves the image looking patchy and streaky. Like I said, it's not pretty. This is my least favorite stage in the painting process.
Next week I get to use white, ultramarine blue, and burnt umber to do a closed grisaille painting, which is basically a black and white version on top of what I have now.
The final drawing. The base of the little copper pitcher still looks
off-balance. I'll fix that in the painting stage.

The start of the open grisaille stage. I like to call this the ugly stage. It is really
 hard to paint using only one color and turpenoid only. The paint gets patchy and "sticky"
 really easily. If you add to much turp, it's too runny. I really dislike this stage.

My open grisaille stage is finished! The next step is closed grisaille
where I will basically do a black and white painting. Adding white will
make painting this SO much easier.

Just in case you forgot what the original still-life looks like.