A very long time passed since I last had a post. For those of you who have been looking, I apologize, but life occasionally gets in the way, but nonetheless important things happen. In the meantime....the "secret life of the artist" has taken me to other fields....basketmaking and woodworking. As usual, in the Spring, we take an annual trip to the John C. Campbell Folk School. My wife quilts and it's up to me to find something among the classes or else go under "guest" status (which for me is plein air painting). This year I did basketry. I have over the last couple years done some basket weaving, so I thought this would be nice. While I did 5 baskets, I was in a class of people who have been doing this from 10 to 30 years ---- a mistake on my part. Oh, they were nice and all..... but I just was a minor note in a major key.
In addition I spent a week or so making a potting bench for gardening (yes, I do that too) for my wife. Using plans, I cut all the boards and screwed them in place and put on the finish and wood protection. As I may have said before, after being in the Navy and being an artist, there just isn't anything I can't do (involving handwork).
As to this painting, it was done on a Sunday morning, took me two hours (longer than I like) and was done on an 8" x 10" linen panel. I was part of an unofficiaL group (I'm new) called Anatomically Correct doing an event called Brush With Nature.
Coming up, I will be part of the first plein air event in Mineral Point, Wisconsin in August and then Plein Air Amana, in Amana, Iowa in September.
Keeping your hand in.....yes, that's keeping your art going under difficult circumstances. I have had to deal with "family issues" on top of having one of the worst winters in history here. Snow, below zero temperatures and wind. I've painted outside in the winter and cold weather before. I'ts not pleasant...well, once you're painting it is..., but not when the cold is threatening to your well being. So, what to do? I pulled out watercolors and went at it. There are two watercolor portraits here; one a copy of a Rembrandt and the other a cowboy from the cover of Frank Schoonover's book. When I do these I dispense with any preliminary drawing and go ahead and paint, sculpting the forms as I work. I finish when I want to and just put them aside, never selling them.
I also painted two rooms --- I can do that too. In March I will be doing a two hour watercolor workshop for a group of high school students at their high school. There you have it, Wintertime for the painter (who doesn't want to freeze his ass).
I have not done much painting lately -- sometimes life intervenes and things happen that just have to be taken care of and you are prevented from painting. Other times you just don't have an inspiring moment, although maybe that's just me. I did encounter this pine tree on the campus of Saulk Valley Community College. The last couple years I have been invited along with about 25 other artists to paint something for the benefit of a gallery. Well, I do a lot of their shows and sometimes even sell something or win an award. During one of my classes (I'm the instructor) I have enough time to do a little drawing and decided to do this one. It's about 9" X 13" done on nice drawing paper with number 8B pencils. My concept is doing it with full values like I would if it was a painting, lots of sublety and close attention to handling the pencil, no extraneous lines. I like this, but having had three of my drawings in a recent show, none sold, so maybe I'm on the wrong track as far as marketing goes. This is my chosen path, or track, so I will stay on it.
This time I've posted three recent plein air paintings; two done in organized events and one on my own. The painting of the statue of the Civil War soldier was done in Cambridge, Wisconsin on a sunny day. It's dedicated to soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. I did this one very Impressionistic. I have been to Cambridge, usually to go to the pottery place in town (also Ripley's bakery) and I always pass this park with the statue and say "someday I'd like to paint that". Well, it finally happened. I did this 8" X 10" in about an hour and a half. I also took a few photos on the trip for possible paintings to do this winter when the weather is bad.
The painting of the tree was done in the "Fresh Paint" plein air event in Amana Iowa. (Place to visit there is Millstream Brewery!!) I did this little painting, an 8" X 10" in a little over an hour on a very hot day. I was right along a lake, but after doing a couple paintings of the lake it was time to look elsewhere. As I often do, I just scan the area at 90 degrees, 180 degrees from where I am standing. This was at 90. It just came very easily and was one of two paintings I left at Catiri's Gallery after the show to be on display for one month. I did sell the other -- an 11" X 14" -- of Lily Lake. So I had to drive back last month, pick up this one and some beer from Millstream Brewery. Right now it's hanging in my home, but will be in a show next January.
Lastly was a 6" X 10" (kind of an odd size but nice for a panoramic view -- and my friend Kenny at Ken's Framing, River Grove does the custom frame) I did at another plein air event called Anatomically Correct held at Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie, Illinois. I've never painted with that group, so I was kind of an outsider (like I was in the Iowa group --- it's OK, I'm used to it. Here could be another entry in my "Secret Life of the Artist" series -- spending time alone painting). I set up next to the pond at Emily Oaks and painted the view across the way -- a nice example of autumn. I had a good number of people (not artists) stop by, take a look and talk -- might have even gained a student. It was quite a beautiful day, however I had to stop after I finished this one because my back was hurting. An hour and a half of standing on uneven ground will do you in. I started with no drawing, just washing in color and then getting down to business painting opaque. It turned out to be one of my better efforts ever.
So, three paintings, three states: Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. I'm sure the gasoline companies love me.
I entered these three pencil (8B graphite for those of you who have to know everything)drawings in a show and had all three accepted. Ever wonder how things are chosen? For example, sometimes you enter three or four and only two are accepted -- why? Sometimes it's a very popular show and many artists enter and they will only give you space for two of yours. In this case, this show is not as popular as the one I am in now (I got 3 of 4 accepted in that one) and with less entrants I got them all in. So if you don't get any in don't always think it's that you aren't good enough. The gallery will probably give space to their regulars and you may be unknown to them and get turned away. Hey, it's happened to me.
About these works: Farmer's Bank, about 15" X 15" was done from a photo. I just immediately saw this as a black and white work rather than an oil painting. I found this in Smith's Grove, Kentucky as I also did the middle painting, Old Barn. I just didn't know what else to call it --- I don't think it was a tobacco barn, but it isn't the traditional cow or horse barn. I was not able to get close to it, so a photo had to suffice. The last work was a train station still in use located in Coumbus, Wisconsin. You may never have heard of Columbus, Wisconsin, but once upon a time there was a large brewery there with the owner's mansion also. The train station was built in 1907. I was coming home from Minnesota early one morning and remembered seeing this station. I drove up and the shadows over the tracks made the look of the painting.
Here's another issue: what does the artist see in a scene that make the artist want to paint or draw it? Usually for me it is the color and what will eventually be the interesting brushwork I will use to set the scene off. In this case it was the contrast of the dark shadows setting off the bright sun on the building. Actually, working on those shadows on the grass and rails was much more interesting than the building itself. Yes, sometimes it is the building -- I've done several -- I like the look of old stations, houses and commercial buildings of the past. (Secret life of the Artist)
I've posted both of these two paintings before, but I was holding them for the Farms & Barns show at the Next Picture Show Gallery which is held every year in September (usually). Since it costs me an arm and a leg in gas money to get out there I don't attend the opening of every show I'm in, but like Ted Williams said once "I feel hitterish". For you non-baseball fans, that means he knew he was going to get a hit and somehow I felt like I was going to get one of the awards. So when the winners were announced, there I was holding the 2nd place certificate and the check that goes along with it. Sales there are spotty, although I did sell two at the last show, so a winners check adds a little needed money. Painting on the left is "Hills and Horses" 18" X 36" and the award winner on the right is "Farmhouse at Pumpkin Patch" 22" X 28".
Here's the interesting story: Last year I did a one day portrait workshop there at the gallery. One of my students had three paintings in the Farms & Barns show. Who takes the Best of Show award -- she does. Ah, well, it was a really nice painting...and what's the old saying?? -- the student who doesn't surpass his master, etc, etc. The next show out there will be the Shades of Gray and I've entered three drawings...we'll see how many of them get in. That will be the entry for next time.
I happened to come across an ad for a plein air festival on Facebook. It's held in Amana, Iowa sponsored by Catiri's Art Oasis. Since Amana is only four hours by car from me, I considered it quite a good thing and sent in my fee ahead of time. Over the Labor Day weekend I was with about a dozen others -- although I considered myself an outsider, I think they were all from Iowa. That being said, off I went into the streets to paint.
The first two paintings are the old abandoned building and the red brick house you see pictured. I did these two 8" X 10". I realized that it was quite hot, but being involved in painting I can pretty much ignore my own inconvenience. I had lunch and then moved on to Lily Lake, which is just west outside the center of town. It's a large lake (well, not that large) with lily pads over much of the surface of the water. There I did an 11" X 14" on linen. That one took me a bit longer, close to two hours. It looked something like the last painting (a 6" X 8") pictured. Anyway, I did five paintings on the first day and just after finishing my painting at Lily Lake, I stood up in the sunshine and experienced such a blast of heat that I realized I should stop there. I packed up, put things away in the car and when I drove off, I noticed the temperature readout was 103 degrees. Record setting.
The second day I did another five paintings and two on the last day. I left two paintings with the gallery for their sale and luckily I sold one of them that day. It was a 6" X 8" study of a tree and shadows. I had to leave the festival early --- the motel I stayed in had the worst mattress on the bed and after three nights on that thing my back was hurting really bad. So, a good experience -- Catiri's was an excellent host for the gathering and Amana is a nice place to visit, although it turns into a tourist haunt for the weekend, which can complicate matters for parking, etc. Friday was a lot better. I've never done an actual sponsored paint out like this before. I constantly worry about my skills eroding because I am not always active painting, but the two I left in Iowa were two of the best I've ever done. Now the irony --- I forgot to take a picture of them. In my haste to get them ready to hang I forgot to get the camera out and get a picture.