Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Galleries 1

I recently overheard a conversation about a prominent gallery owner that I know saying that the end of galleries is near. I have also suspected that may be true, but that there needs to be some discussion about it as a process. So this may be a two parter... or three.

The overheard conversation was mourning the changing of the art market, and the traditional gallery no longer serving whatever the market was asking for, if it was asking for anything anymore. A finger was pointed at the Web as a major player in this when I don’t think it is fair to say that. The gallery and those who feed it have been incompatible for a long time, participants in an unhealthy dance that left many an unhappy partner. Rather than learn from each other, both gallery and artist have changed in ways that reinforce that tension. The Web has just highlighted it, making the changes hard to ignore now.

Obviously the WWW has had a tremendous impact, but it is not what is doing in the current gallery model… not alone anyway.

The American gallery model has not been particularly well suited to artists or art itself, being the primary gate-keeper, primary beneficiary, and often the only source of what revenue artists do see at the same time. And with most galleries, this is the goal. It is like Ebay. The primary thing that happens is the company is funded. Everything else is a distant second.

There is nothing wrong with this from a business standpoint. But from that standpoint artists are only suppliers, wholesalers, whose performance and ultimately value is based on sales. It is hard to rise above that when the system has no intention of letting it happen.

The music ‘industry’ is undergoing some similar re-tooling. It is a weak comparison, however, since that industry is a print industry… they sell prints of originals and that is a fat no-no in the fine art world. The FAW courted that idea back in the ‘70s but has since largely abandoned it, and the print in the FAW is still quite expensive compared to the .99c download. But they (music) are on the forefront of changing and adapting to new models.

So, I would agree that the current gallery model is starting to weaken, but we need to start talking about what replaces it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ireland Paintings

I was invited to do a show in the SPACE Gallery in Magnuson Park in Seattle, for the month of October. So far, it is a confirmed go.

I will use this opportunity to do a unified show of just the Ireland paintings. I have kept most of them back because I really wanted them to be shown together, and this is a great opportunity to do that. Plus, it is just upstairs from my studio in the Building 30 Studios. I am working with the board on redoing the lighting in the gallery, and will have that all taken care of by then so it should be all set.

I am working on a catalogue of the Irish Paintings as well, and hope to have that available by then.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Writing As Sketching

I find that writing about my painting subjects makes some profound changes to my memory and final paintings. In the field, or in the studio, or anywhere for that matter. Just thinking about those places or people I care about, and writing as honestly as I can about them is a large part of the painting conversation. Plus, it is a way of being involved with the process without being in the studio at all. It is with me everywhere.

I know my writing is not terribly instructional, because I generally do not instruct, and I don’t want to really do only that here. It is more the stream of consciousness that I use when just writing in general.

When doing writing for painting, it is not necessary to be good, just honest. Write down any thing that comes to mind. The goal is to get it down, and organize it later if it needs it.

I am not going to publish my studio notes here, but will throw in some public examples that make my point from time to time.

Today I will include a link to the Artist Trust note I had to write for them because it is a good window into my inner conversation with Ireland.

There is a reference to the “Irish Diary” which is a collection of my daily stuff from the time before this in Ballycastle, and that was published on my site daily at the time.

Writing about your subject gives your brain a different way to regard it, and it affects your painting in deeper and more meaningful ways. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Drawing Expanded One

Going to expand a bit on drawing, to add to the first post.

Talking about line, in a non-traditional sense, means really understanding it for what it is. For something with no real mass it has a lot of weight.

When I was talking about line formed by the meeting of values, it can be an actual line, or an inferred line. Where values or hues come together they both signal a change, and also move our eye. Where value or hue are blended in that meeting, the line is still there, just inferred now. The line always defines the shape, even if you cant see it.

If you paint a tree in a field, and it is surrounded by sky, you can see the tree as positive space, and the sky as negative. Where those two meet is the drawing.

When I do a painting, I generally do a dynamic drawing of the subject. That is, no artificial ways to insure likeness. My eye to panel. All corrections are done that way as well. It is allowed to be flawed.

The second stage of a painting (in my convoluted technique) is to do an underpainting with colored gesso. It is really the drawing with a little color. I recommend drawing with black and white gesso, as it is a great way to explore line without color complicating things. Using colored gessoes is sort of an advanced thing. I use water-based gesso, and it dries mad fast so it is easy to go over with corrections.  It sort of brings painting and drawing together.  I save all my old brushes for this.  This is all still drawing to me.

The other line that is more complicated is the inferred line. This is the one that you cannot see, but moves your eye around the picture plane just as well.  If your drawing is done well, it will have inferred line that helps the eye explore, and brings the conversation into a smooth understanding. It can lead to, or away, from things that would be easy for the eye to rest on (consonance and dissonance). This is totally the artist IN the work. (If a batter hits the ball, we follow the trajectory of the ball even if we cant see it.)

Below are some simple examples of what I am trying to say... the crow is a simple line, but there is an inferred line between the head and body, as well as a directive that you finish it in your head.

The second is a small painting with and without the color. In black and white, it is ALL drawing. Lots of examples of what I mean, if not what I said...

There! Have a nice day!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Drawring, as they say in the Northeast...

So, have a point. Have an idea of what you want or need to do as a painter, or artist of any kind. Know what demon you need to feed, or thing you need to work out, or joy button you need to push. Which means, give yourself permission to know yourself.


Steve Martin made the joke a long time ago, about how to make a million dollars and not pay taxes. "FIRST, make a million dollars. THEN, when the tax man comes around, two simple words: 'I... forgot.'"

Simple advice. Of course, the joke is the first part. There is no easy way to accomplish that part.

It is the same with any creative endeavor. First you have to put in the time, and learn the basics, the chops. There is no more important way to approach the building of anything than to have a solid foundation, and in representational and abstract painting, it is drawing. Drawing is everything. You do not need color with good drawing.

Drawing is not pencil lines on paper, it is everywhere where line is formed, anywhere where two values collide, where two different hues meet, where red meets yellow and black in a giant abstract painting... that is the drawing.

That drawing determines everything, it is the words and sentence structure. You cannot say anything without them. Color is the content, the fleshing out. A line made by the meeting of black and white shapes is the beginning of the conversation. That conversation tone changes when the exact same shapes meet but one is red and one is yellow, or one is pink and one is plum. But the line and shapes are the same. The INTERESTING part is the fundamental drawing. It is made MORE interesting by color...

In my own paintings, I am constantly working on the drawing, right up to the end. It is what tells me when I am finished.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Paintings on paper

A little something about the oil on paper paintings.

I have a couple good habits in my studio, lots of bad ones, but a couple good ones.

One is I never save palettes. I use the disposable wax paper ones for most things, and a larger glass one otherwise, when really big things need it. I mix fresh and new every day, and over the years my tubes have reduced to only a handful that I can make anything from. As a practice, it trains my brain to know color. I mix new each day whatever I used the day before by eye.

Another is the color sketch. Way back I purchased a pile of 140 pound 6x6 watercolor blocks, and began doing my color sketches on them. They are sort of explorations, and an exercise in painting in a different way. They are all square, so I let a subject settle into that shape as a rule. They are also painted wet in wet, and for the most part done in one sitting (or standing in my case) and there is no ground on the raw paper. I use alkyd paint on them, as it dries fast and this stops any oil ‘bloom’ that conventional paint with linseed oil will do. I will also talk about using alkyd paints a little later. 

It is amazing how one of these exercises familiarizes me with the subject when going larger. One can see what problems may come up fairly quickly and easily.

A large number of paintings that I have done have one of these accompanying sketches somewhere. I have piles of them all over the studio, and have been framing them. Not every one leads to a larger one, so many are unique paintings on their own.

My regular paintings are done in a completely different way, and can be glazed in many layers, and I will talk a bit about that later. The thought process in those can be multi layered as well, and the paper paintings are a respite from that. They are haiku to the larger conversation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Brain Picking...

My cat picks at me when she wants something. She does not know I do not have fur... or I hope the sharp little picks are not deliberately to produce pain.

So, picking my brain is not something I relish.

That said, I will try to leave a picking now and then here.

I am not so interested in trying to teach anyone how to paint like I do, so it is hoped that that is not an expectation. My voice is my voice, and everyone needs to develop their own. Painting like everything else has an accumulated knowledge base and individual contributors have been adding to it for centuries. Like the Borg in Star Trek... If I have anything to offer, it would be my own take on shortcuts and epiphanies that have made my voice be whatever it is, in hopes that it might make anyone's do the same.

So an arbitrary picking would be one that is axiomatic to me... and it fits into the previous post about knowing what you want to do. And that is to keep it simple.

In my case, snippits of conversation about reality need no deep underpinnings. It can be something darting past the corner of the eye. I dont paint beautiful things. I paint things that speak with me, and I try to isolate that little voice and explore it as simply as possible. If the only thing we can control in life is our response to it, then emotion is the most essential part of that as it is the thing that defines us as different from simple solid mass. Working at the sink at a friend's house in Santa Fe, and becoming transfixed on the little solar fan in the window sill. Why do I remember that?

I like the author Annie Dillard because she paints in my head with words. Not too many, just enough. And the poet Sharon Olds for the same reason. Sharon's poems to me are like paintings.

So, have something to say. Then saying the most of what you need to say with the fewest words. Elegance.

Monday, May 9, 2016


I was part of a group in a small show on Whidbey Island this last Saturday. It was nice. Brackenwood Gallery is a well done gallery in a very small place. It was interesting to spend time with the owner Jason and jaw about the perils of owning such a place and the perils of representation from my point of view. For once the conversation went two way...

Everyone's story is interesting, and everyone has one. Oddly enough, I feel more like painting during those conversations than I do when I am in the field, or in the studio. The process of deep conversation about things important to me stimulate that easily. Painting is the same.

Which brings me to the take away of this... the alpha of any 'artist' endeavor...

Have a point.

Have a reason to do whatever it is. Have a destination, an idea of where you want to end up. Start there. Don't head down this path without that... It cant be a vague compulsion, or your work will be explorations of vague compulsion. You cannot hit a target that you have not identified.

I have seen and heard the expression 'make art' and I sort of get it, but mostly it rings hollow to my sensibilities. It is a shortcut for those who have been doing it for a substantial career, but a drop off for those who have not. Art is a tool... an avenue to expression. so saying 'make tools' would be the same to me, or 'I gotta go get back on the road'.

The evolution of that sentiment might be go to the studio and, using my tools, 'make some sense'...

Monday, May 2, 2016


A Conversation

I thought I might start off with my most fundamental tenets about my own painting, which is the notion that they are conversations about my reality. They are conversations about being, in space and time. And as such, relative to place. We observe, and respond. Some process this in simple ways, and others in complex ways. At least that is the way it seems. I think we all react to the world in different ways, but to the same things... same fears, joys, trials, and tribulations.

My cognitive style is visual, of course, and that is the foundation of both my observations and responses to my reality. Everything gets translated into visual, and then responded with visual. I paint mostly in the representational style, which gets confused with realism. There is no time to completely make up symbols in my world, I am comfortable with common ones. The difference between representational and realism is that (in my mind) realism is trying to mimic reality visually in a way that we will all agree is document. Representation is just having an amount of recognition of objects we all encounter in order to facilitate the response. Much like conversation... That said, I can drift toward realism easily, and have to be careful... realism is too easy. See it, spit it out. Leave yourself out of it. Much harder to have a conversation than to instruct.

In the realm of conversation, realism can become tedious and boring. One can get bogged down in the details, and in the desire of realists to measure themselves by perfection. I leave that sort of detail  to photography. The most interesting conversations are not overburdened with details and facts. The best conversations contain a little fact, a little fiction, a little drama, a little about me, a little about you, a little about common experience, and a little about personal. They have some story telling, some spin, some denial, and sometimes a little entertainment, and the humble fact that they are only a perspective.

I want my painting to do the same.  In the end, I want them to be meaningful to me and for my own sake, meaningful to someone else so others responses are the yang to my yin in the exchange. I hope they listen as well as speak...