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Painting Workshop 2018

Like most Americans, I have found the last couple of days have been exhausting. My reasons are most likely different than most other Americans. I was fortunate in not being able to watch the proceedings surrounding the Supreme Court and instead spent the last two days leading a painting workshop up in Penn Yan.

Tiring but not maddening. I feel so fortunate.

It’s a two day workshop and these people do an amazing amount of work in a very short time. Probably too much. Working off a piece that I am painting in front of them, they basically finish two decent sized paintings in two days, start to finish. The last half of each day is a flurry of activity as each of them moves quickly to bring the painting to state of completion.

There is little time to consider each movement. Just paint.

At the end of each day I am always stunned by how well they have adapted to techniques that are not easy and require a bit of practice, more than the short time in this workshop affords, in order to have any degree of mastery. I look at the work completed and realize that what they have done is much more than I do normally do in any two days in my studio. I am not sure they even realize how much they have done.

Hopefully, they take some small bit of the experience with them. Maybe look at the pieces they’ve done and say Wow, I did that!

It was great group and I feel fortunate to have gotten to now each of them a bit more. I am sincerely proud of each of them and how much they have done in the short time we worked together.

But like I said it’s exhausting, a lot of work and anxiety for a guy whose real comfort zone is in my studio tucked away from the rest of the world. I am not sure if I am going to do it again but if I do, it will be because the folks who come each year treat me so well. I think if I do opt to do it again, we would only work on one painting and work at an easier pace where they can take more time to consider what they are doing.

But that is the future. As to the present, many thanks to to the great folks I spent the last two days with. It was my pleasure.

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Character

I am busy getting things around today for a workshop that I am leading up at Penn Yan in the beautiful Finger Lakes tomorrow and Friday. This is only my fourth year doing this but every year I say that this is most likely the last time I will do this. The words have already left my mouth this year.

I do not feel that I am a natural teacher and get somewhat stressed out doing these, much more so than giving a talk. Because the folks at the workshop are paying to be there, I worry that they won’t get their money’s worth. That’s where the anxiety comes in for me. I probably overcompensate in response to this but if it helps me feel that I have given something of value to these folks, then I can accept that.

Even though it’s stressful, I have to say that I am glad to be doing this workshop this year, given what might be happening in the next couple of days in DC. I would rather be teaching a few of my techniques to willing and friendly faces than yelling and swearing at my television.

Now that is stress.

So, I am taking a few days off from the blog. The image and Helen Keller quote at the top speak very much to the trials this country is currently experiencing. Whatever character we possess as a nation, now is the time it will be truly revealed.

Good luck to us all. See you in a few days.

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The painting above is The Sea, Watched from artist Jamie Wyeth. I came across the quote from Wyeth that is  below the image and it really struck a nerve with me, especially in the moment.

Being back in the studio after the Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery, I am conflicted by two desires. One is to just be bone lazy and do nothing, to simply enjoy the good feelings generated by the talk and my own sense of my work at the moment. The other is to dig back in with even greater fervor, to move the goalposts ahead and begin the next step towards reaching those goals. What exactly those goals are is yet to be determined but I do know they are there.

I do feel that I do have to move forward, to not be lazy and rest on the work that is out there at this point. Part of that comes from doing these talks and getting real feedback on what I have done. I don’t want to come before these folks next year and have nothing new, no advancement in the body of the work, to point to.

That is the one of the addictive parts of this painting thing– a fear of falling short.

But sometimes the lazy part is appealing. I look at the work so far and I feel good about it. I tell myself to take it easy. Relax. Coast for a while. That would certainly be easy to do.

But part of me knows that’s the wrong way to go. If for some reason my career ended today, I can’t say I would be satisfied with what I have done. I don’t feel that my story is completely told yet, that the work hasn’t yet revealed all that it has to yield.

So, I dig back in.

I was asked after the talk the other day if I planned to retire and I laughed. First, I said I couldn’t because all of the paintings I have given away at these talk represented my retirement funds. But I said I couldn’t imagine not doing this to the day I either die or become incapacitated in a way that would prevent me from picking up a brush and making a mark.

Realistically, I figure I have a good twenty five years in which to be productive. And if I am fortunate and take care of myself, maybe thirty. I notice more and more older artists working into their 90’s and beyond, producing new work that are exclamation points on long careers.

That would be good. But it won’t happen if one lets laziness creep too much into the equation. Fortunately for me, the credo, “Live to work, work to live,” is not a scary or depressing idea.

So, that being said, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Have a great day.

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Good day yesterday. My Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery went really well, with a great group of folks that made the task much easier for me. Lots of familiar faces of friends that I have seen many times before and plenty of new ones as well. They all made me feel comfortable and had lots of interesting and well thought out questions. The hour flew by and I only stumbled once or twice. We had some laughs and I hope everyone walked away thinking that it was time well spent.

I know that I enjoyed myself. That’s not something I have always said after some of these talks. I often anguish over things I have and have not said, over those folks I didn’t get to say more to, over the flop sweat that I can feel seeping out of my pores when I suddenly go blank. Things like that. But yesterday didn’t hold a lot of regrets for me.

I felt very free to be open and honest with these folks.

Thank you to everyone who was there for giving me that freedom. I can’t fully express my appreciation for the sustenance that it will provide me over the long days ahead in the studio.

And a very warm thank you to Michele and the gang at the Principle Gallery for the continuing support you offer me after the 21+ years we’ve worked together. I appreciate all you do for me but more than that, I value the friendship and trust you have shown me over this time.  Thank you, as potent as those words are, seems insufficient. But you know what I mean, right?

Hope we can do it even better next year!

For this Sunday morning music here’s something from a favorite of mine, the great Rhiannon Giddens. It’s called Hey Bébé and it has a nice, jaunty feel to kick off the first Sunday of autumn. Have a great day.

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Last month’s Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery went so well that I thought I would follow the same format for tomorrow’s 1 PM Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. This is what I promised for that talk–

  • Margarita Fountain and Omelet Bar.
  • Psychic Readings.
  • Bagpipers.
  • Guest Appearance from Jimmy Osmond.
  • The June Taylor Dancers. Or the Golddiggers from the Dean Martin Show. We are still in negotiations with both.
  • Rap Battles.
  • Ziplines.
  • Fireworks Display.
  • A Fly-Over by the Thundercats. Couldn’t get the Thunderbirds but I have been assured these guys are nearly as good.
  • Acrobats. Kind of a Cirque du Soleil vibe but without all the apparatus. Or movement or music.

Of course, I wasn’t able to deliver on any of these things.

Zoning prohibited both fireworks and ziplines inside the gallery. Even my sparkler was a no-go.

Most of the June Taylor Dancers are deceased or long retired and the Golddiggers just wouldn’t return my calls.

Jimmy Osmond would only appear via Skype from Branson, Missouri and I couldn’t get Skype to work properly. I could have got Wayne Osmond but there wasn’t much enthusiasm for that..

The bagpiper had bronchitis which created another problem as he was the caterer/bartender.

I did try a thing where I rapped while doing psychic readings but that didn’t seem to get much traction with the folks there. They looked very confused. The idea of their grandmother rapping at them from the great beyond was just a step too far for them, I guess.

Turns out that the Thundercats are just cartoon characters. Who knew?

And the only acrobatics that day were verbal although I did walk a bit to my left at one point.

Okay, maybe my imagination is running wild. Or there’s a gas leak here in the studio.

Actually, like the West End talk, the talk tomorrow will just be a middle-aged guy talking about art and telling some stories and sharing some laughs. But there is a free drawing for one (or more) of my paintings. And there are, of course, more prizes and some light refreshments. And lively conversation which makes for a good time.

And here’s the same promise: It won’t be the worst hour you ever spent

I think I held up my end on that one. Hope you can make it tomorrow.

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Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children. But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust.

― Madeleine L’Engle

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This new painting is called Found Truth. It is a larger piece, 36″ by 36″ on canvas, and is part of the group of new work that will be traveling with me on Saturday down to the Principle Gallery for my Gallery Talk there.

This is a painting that very much speaks to me personally. Its scale and the initial impression it makes whenever my eyes look its way give it a sense of strength, of bold statement. And I think that is exactly what it is for me– a statement piece.

Maybe that is why I see it having a title that deals with the idea of the revelation of truth. It could the revelation of one’s inner truth or any number of other truths that make up our reality. Or maybe it is all of them because perhaps all truths are part of one larger truth.

I don’t really know. I’m still waiting for that moment of revelation.

I’m no saint so maybe I am a creative scientist, as Madeleine L’Engle writes above, because I do not fear it and do expect it. Oh, there are days when I revert to a more closed off stance, stepping back from that mound where the Red Tree stands, that spot where I have been completely exposed and vulnerable. The problem is that in order to receive revelation you have to make yourself vulnerable. In this open state you are susceptible to being hurt but, more importantly, you are in position to recognize and accept revelation.

That place of vulnerability is a spot many of us avoid, certainly as L’Engle points out, because of being hurt once or maybe many times before and the distrust this has fostered in us. None of us wants to be hurt and exposing yourself to the world creates that possibility.

So we harden our attitudes and our hearts, closing ourselves off. But in the process we also pull back from the light that nurtures us, that feeds our growth. The light that reveals the truth that we once sought and expected.

That’s how I see this painting, the Red Tree being exposed and vulnerable atop that mound. The clouds represent the perils of being there but beyond them is the light of self revelation– the reward of persevering one’s own vulnerability.

This all somehow makes sense in the small space of my mind. Hope you see it somewhat the same way in your own.

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Reminder:

Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA this Saturday, September 22 at 1 PM.

Painting(s?) Giveaway, Prizes, Good Conversation, Some Stories and Some Laughs.

 

 

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Art has no other purpose than to brush aside… the conventional and accepted generalities, in short everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself.

–Henri Bergson

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This is another new painting, 16″ by 20″ on canvas, that is part of the group of work going with me to Alexandria on Saturday for my Gallery Talk (begins at 1 PM!) at the Principle Gallery. I call it The Moon’s Revelation and I have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks looking at it, both taking pleasure in it and questioning what I was seeing in it.

What purpose, if any, does it hold?

The question of purpose is a big theme for me lately. My own purpose and that of my work. The purpose of truth. Of institutions and laws. I can’t say if I have found answers any of these questions. But I still believe that there are clues leading to my own purpose somewhere in this piece and others.

They just have to be revealed, in the way the moon brings the colors of the fields to light in this painting.

Time , as always, shall be the revelator.

 

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