Sunday, February 28, 2010

All Dressed Up

I like seeing my pictures all dressed up in their frames. When I first began making my own frames just last year it was a case of economic necessity. Frame prices had gone through the roof. I had the fancy DeWalt 12" compound miter saw from doing the trim work on my studio. I merely needed corner clamps and a fancy $80 trim blade. I began basically by duplicating the floater frames I could no longer afford from my whole sale supplier.

Then it occurred to me that making my own frames set me free to stretch my own canvas to whatever proportions I wanted. Then a chance article in a magazine informed me that artists used to make their own frames and those paintings still around with the original artist made frames are worth a lot more than commercially framed paintings of the same era because the artist painted the frame to match the painting. I was definitely missing something by painting mine simple black like the one on the right.

So sometimes paintings get red frames with purple black interiors like the painting on the left. I had played around with other color schemes for Bridge of Enchantments but simple black just sets off the sky so well. I would find it very hard now to release this part of the process of my paintings. It is like putting just the right dress on your Barbie doll.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


When I was in art school I made so many color wheels my head was spinning. So when the subject of primary colors came up recently with a photography group I participate in on FaceBook I thought I ought to share some of my acquired knowledge. But rather than just blithely rattle off red, blue and yellow I went seeking authorities: Primary colors are sets of colors that can be combined to make a useful range of colors. For human applications, three primary colors are usually used, since human color vision is trichromatic. The combination of any two primary colors creates a secondary color.

For more discussion see Wikipedia.

What I found interesting about this foray into what I thought I knew so very well is that I use tertiary colors more in my paintings than I had thought. In fact I could say that my palette is primarily tertiary. A tertiary color is achieved by mixing one primary color with one secondary color. Since a lot of colors are bought "premixed" as it were artists are less consciously involved with the color wheel than my professors in the '60's would believe.

Now instead of color wheels we do these charts that give us the likely outcomes of mixing any two of our paints together. Sometimes you achieve happy accidents. I may be overdue for another chart because I have added colors to my palette.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Waiting for me to return

Sometimes the business of art gets in the way of making art. I began these two paintings last week at the Angel Fire Visitor's Center and nothing much has been done since on them due to that business. I did work on the little one on the left before I was totally diverted. I hated the sky I had done. That happens sometimes too. Artist do make mistakes from time to time.

I thought of just tossing the little chapel but then it also looked like a great opportunity to experiment - paint outside the box - as it were. So I scrubbed off the blue and pink sky I had put in which, in spite of advertising about watercolor canvas being "liftable", still leaves a residue of color - especially blue. The sky was clearly going to have to be darker. Water media does not cover over like acrylic or oil. A dark blue night sky would certainly be possible but I decided to try a red sky in route as it were. It is turning out to be a rather happy side trip made all the more interesting because of the transparency of watercolor allowing the remains of the blue on the canvas to add modulation to the sky.

At that point business interrupted. And life with snow storms and all the shoveling out required. I was anxious once the driveway was clear to get back to painting but now instead my studio time will be about framing several pieces. Friday afternoon when I am again back at the visitor's center as resident artist I will work more on these two paintings. But already I would like to begin a canyon piece with a red sky.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poetic Journey - Digging out

Digging out from the last three day snow storm and Poem Hunter sent me the following which seemed very appropriate. At the same time a friend called and invited me to lunch and getting out of my drive and into town seemed very important.

"I Need Not Go"

I need not go
Through sleet and snow
To where I know
She waits for me;
She will wait me there
Till I find it fair,
And have time to spare
From company.

When I've overgot
The world somewhat,
When things cost not
Such stress and strain,
Is soon enough
By cypress sough
To tell my Love
I am come again.

And if some day,
When none cries nay,
I still delay
To seek her side,
(Though ample measure
Of fitting leisure
Await my pleasure)
She will riot chide.

What--not upbraid me
That I delayed me,
Nor ask what stayed me
So long? Ah, no! -
New cares may claim me,
New loves inflame me,
She will not blame me,
But suffer it so.

Thomas Hardy

More poems from Thomas Hardy

Nicholas V on Intelliblog 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bridge of Enchantments

Bridge of Enchantments
Progress photo

If you are one of my loyal fans on Facebook Binford-Bell Studio page you will have been following the progress on this painting the last week. Someone yesterday said, "more stars" so I added more stars. They were indeed right. It did need more stars. I don't know if it has as many stars as are in a Colorado Plateau night but I was beginning to feel like Seurat and one of his pointillism creations.

It was also agreed to drop the spiral stars - my signature on night skies. But with the question Ruthie posed as to whether it was a sun or a moon it occurred to me why not make it sunset and ergo my daytime signature of ravens on the wing. 

Then foreground needed some iridescence and definition. More detail on the arch all the time thinking to self, "Don't ruin it by doing too much." I stopped and stood back and decided good enough to apply a workable fixative before finally varnishing it.

I want to attempt this sky in a study I am beginning. And I would like to revisit this natural bridge in a daytime treatment. But I want to know for sure this one is done. I wonder if Seurat had these issues - always wondering if it needed just a 1000 more dots or so.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poetic Journey - I was totally at sea

Tea Clipper off Cape Horn by Oliver Hurst

First and foremost my extreme apologies for being late on hosting my weekly poetic tour. I was upset with Facebook and also very focused on meeting with lawyer this morning - or totally at seas as it were. So I give you the following poem from Poem Hunter.

A Farewell

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river;
No where by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

But here will sigh thine alder tree,
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.

A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

More poems from Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Shore Life

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Us Artisits Do Play Favorites

Just wrapped up a series of five paintings of mission churches in preparation for the summer art season. The one immediately below on canvas is my favorite. It is of the front of the Ranchos de Taos Mission.

Taking Shelter from the Night
14 x 14 Mixed Media on Canvas

But the others done are cradled artist panel are proving quite popular. Working on this surface proved difficult at first because I wanted to make it behave like canvas. Every medium and every platform has its own unique properties and I think I am beginning to capitalize on the qualities of this smooth gesso surface.

Little Chapel of Lights and Taos Pueblo Mission at Night
Each is 10 x 8

I am not framing the cradled panels though they can be framed. But by merely painting the 3/4 inch cradle they are ready to hang and allow me to sell them for less in these trying economic times. The ones I previously did in this size sold on their first viewing. So I decided to do some 12 x 12's and 11 x 14's on this same platform. Below are two on 12 x 12.

Night Comes to San Antonio and Zuni Pueblo Mission

The church on the left is in Questa, New Mexico and a beautiful example of mission architecture. I have painted it before and always love the results but it is not an easy one to render. The one on the right is at the Zuni Pueblo and I have not painted it before. I think it has a night scene in its future.
While I frequently paint my smaller missions in pairs I do not sell they that way always. Some people have taken both but they also have their favorites. I prefer painting canyons and so this next round will be a new arch I have not painted before and a 10 x 24 study of what will be a much larger panorama of Three Sisters in Arches National Park.

For those reading this on the FaceBook feed only the first image will come through. The other pictures are posted in the album on my fan page. Or go to Creative Journey to see it as written.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stretching Canvas

I was mentioning needing to go over the mountain to the art store in Taos to get some stretcher bars. And a couple of my loyal readers asked what they were. So off to Google to get an image. These are some medium weight ones already put together not unlike Tinker Toys. You buy them in pairs, hopefully. Every artist I know has come home with the odd one from time to time. But if I am going to do a 20 x 24 inch canvas I need two 20 inch stretcher bars and two 24 inch bars.

Yes, you can buy pre-stretched canvas to a wide variety of sizes but not the odd ones. I want to do a couple scale studies for a very large work and by figuring out the ratio decided my studies need to be 10 x 24. Not a size you find pre-stretched. And rather than have my sketches fit my canvas I can have my canvas fit my sketches.

I learned to stretch canvas in college as a fine arts major but I decided to Google that too and found many YouTube videos on the subject. And a few different methods. I learned a few new wrinkles. So I decided to include one here with links to a couple others I watched this morning.

If you are reading this on the Facebook Fan page Link the video will not be posted. Here is the link for How to Stretch Canvas. 

A little side note. On my trip to the art store the clerk shared that she would like to learn how to stretch canvas and I directed her to my blog here and the link to YouTube. When I got back from the store I utilized a couple of the tips I had learned in this video on my newest canvas. They work wonderfully.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poetic Journey - Enough Already

We are rather spoiled in the state of New Mexico.Seldom do we have whole days of inclement weather. Storms sprout over the mountains, dump rain or snow, and move on. The Albuquerque Journal, when I was a kid, kept a count of the days of sunshine each year. And since the sun seemed to shine for at least a part of every day it became quite boring to read the little column.

Yesterday it snowed all day and it is forecast to do the same today. And into Wednesday. Cabin fever begins to set in. So having written no new poem I unearthed the following from my archives. The dreaded winter of 2007.
Enough already

Cold and windy day
Unpleasant in the extreme
Even if the sun is shining
But bringing no
Upon the cold
Snow clad earth

I sat
Morosely at my window
Watching the drifts of snow
Clouds of white ice
Slithering over the banks
Chilling the day
The joy

Go Away
Awful weather
Let winter abate a day or two or three
But no
Says the weatherman
More of the same

(c) Jacqui Binford-Bell

Do you have a poem for this week's poetic journey? One that will brighten the day or spread cheer. Maybe even bring the sun. If not, you are allowed to whine like me. Leave a comment with your url here or on Facebook.

NicholasV at Intelliblog

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We're a Sensitive Lot - Part III


Should be clear by now I am sticking with the pirate images. This one came up when I added parley to the Google Image search. Parley - A discussion or conference, especially one between enemies (or people on the other side of the divide) over terms of truce or other matters. I am reminded of Cool Hand Luke (another all time movie favorite of mine) and the classic line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

And so we come to the paradox. Don't you love that word? For a visual artist I am very much in love with words. Another paradox. Paradox - A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. And so we get to the crux of the matter at long last. Artists are masters of communication but often cannot converse wisely.

In our own favored medium, be it paint or clay or song or poetic word or even essay, we can communicate the unspoken (another paradox), but put us in a room with non-pirates and we are often tongue tied and highly ineffectual at communication even when it is about our own chosen art. I have to do a lot of research in art magazines to know what it is I do in my studio.

We do passably well talking to each other from time to time, but as a friend of mine, who frequents art receptions pointed out, we are difficult to understand. We have our own shorthand and of course we have those guidelines I spoke of in the Part II that we merely have to allude to. And we were born, it seems, understanding things such as quality of light and tone, voice and ear, depth and balance. Musicians and writers in my audience please fill in your own buzz words here. Though frankly, as a sometime poet, I can apply all those visual art terms to poems also.

Summer art fair season begins soon and us pirates are going to have to communicate with land lovers as well as other artists. Remember that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where Captain Jack Sparrow is constantly getting slapped? And he hasn't a clue as to why. Nobody actually hits anyone at a fair but I sometimes come home in an evening and feel very wounded. We are such a sensitive lot. Maybe even over-sensitive lot.

I once taught adaptive skiing to people with special needs. The word functional was added a lot to rather more terminal words that tiptoed around the edge of politically correct. So you could have functional autism, etc. I always rather hated the term. I think I am a marginally functional human. I am a very functional artist. The same might be said for Beethoven or VanGogh or Mozart or Picasso or Shelley and Keats or Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald. The more you move people with your work the more concessions they are willing to make for your lack of real world communication skills. They will even translate for you.

That is my goal. I want to be known so well for my art that I merely have to smile and nod when forced out of my studio. Ever notice there are no politically correct terms for the creative?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Part II, as it were, of We are a Sensitive Lot.

And what, I hear you saying, does the above image have to do with artists and their sensitivity? Well, I think we are ever so much like pirates of old. We don't really fit into the world we are forced to inhabit, we like to dress strangely, and we attempt to get along on a limited basis. And we have a code, well, guidelines really.

And the code is really strange because on the whole we are all against rules. The first rule we broke was laid down by Mom and Dad - do not become an artist. Get a real education. One that will support you. But we escaped them to wind up (some of us at least) in art schools where we were given Rules of Three and other compositional aids and never add powder to water or mix your own green. That last one can be self-teaching.

And there developed in some remote Isle del Morte a whole group of artists that proudly announce they don't follow any rules. And when us pirates find them we indoctrinate them into the code. "Your work is so good but if you would just . . . it would be so much better." You have made it when you can peer down your nose at another artist giving you this advice.

A friend of mine from the other world (not a pirate) who teaches communication skills gave me the phrase, "In my opinion . . ." And I never use "you should" but always "I find." We are great detectors of truth except possibly when it concerns our own talents. We can discern the cut of the others jib and take our lessons from it without being taught or preached at. We should always honor our own uniqueness and not strive to imitate.

I love the line from At World's End where Captain Jack Sparrow says, "No, the world is the same as it was, there is just less in it." I think the really sad thing about technology is that it has killed the krackon. We no longer value art as much. We are even trying to make a business out of art. Yes, it is nice to make a living out of what you love doing but it isn't all about the ship but what the ship represents - freedom and the wind at our backs, the horizon before you, and being able to wear your own kind of hat. I would like to think "the song has been sung" and we are becoming more and more aware that what is "good for business" is not necessarily good for the world. Or good for us. And as pirates, have come to realize we need each other if for no other reason than keeping a weather eye on the horizon.

Art guidelines or code or rules are not to be used to tear each other down and puff ourselves up but to help and guide - ergo guidelines. And us over-sensitive pirates need to weed out the truth from the trash. Advice should be given lovingly when asked for. It should build others up and not tear them down. We are after all into creativity. Not demolition.

BTW, there is going to be a Pirates of the Caribbean 4!

Friday, February 5, 2010

We're a Sensitive Lot

Artists, it has been my experience, are a shy and sensitive lot. I used Van Gogh's self-portrait (one of many) because he probably heads the list on sensitive in most accounts. After all he cut off his ear. One story is so he could not hear his critics. Some say for his friend Cezanne, who he felt had abandoned him, but it probably had a lot more to do with the lead they put in white paint in those days.

Van Gogh  with Easel

Artists are in constant conflict. We have to spend hours and hours alone with our muse in our studios, and then upon command go forth to charm our public who, no doubt in their total innocence, will say something artless. And being sensitive souls we will take the criticism to heart. And wounded, limp back to our studios, to be accused of our egotism and aloofness. As a painfully shy child and youth I was more often than not accused of being conceited. (I am not convinced that shyness has gone away. I am just better at acting than I once was.)

I bring this painful subject up today because I have to sally forth to expose myself and my techniques and my art to that public, which I am already sure, loves all the other artists in my little corner of the world better. Ah, shades of the Smothers' Brothers. But my mother DID love my brother best.

And because I play in a Facebook Photography group, which normally plays very well together, but not this week. The artistic soul is finely tuned to wound others as well as fall upon our own swords . . . er palette knives or camera mono-pods. Cutting off ones ear is extreme but not out of the realm of the artistic experience. Dad always said I needed to develop a thicker skin to play well with others. Mother, on the other hand, maintained I would never play well with others because I was too self-absorbed.

I play quite well with my paints. On most days I get along well with my muse. But I must admit that from time to time my studio is just a large cave with sunshine that I crawl into so I can lick my wounds.

So why do artists, if they are not self-absorbed, paint so many self-portraits? I had a professor that maintained they could not afford a model. I think they did not want to endure a model in their private little space.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Poetic Journey - Mystic Passage

Mystic Passage
Been looking through the images of my paintings on the computer to update my portfolio and develop a poster for use at demonstrations and other events. And time got away from me. No poem was written for today which should have been posted yesterday so I delved through my poetry files and came up with the repost of poem.
Mystic Passage

I was so into the paint today that I was gone
Every fiber of my being
Layered one color upon another
On a surface outside myself

Sometimes it is just a painting I create
This craft I can do so mechanically
Today it was like giving birth
To a reality only I see
Given to you.

None of the words people speak or write
Seem to apply to what occurs
When I am unconscious of all
But the brush in my hand
The paint.

As if the paint pours from my soul
Down my veins to my fingertips
Appearing by magic
On once white canvas
A life.

Figures and shapes and visions emerge
Scenes I was not conscious I dreamt
I was so into the paint today
It was hard to pull out
Some of me
I left behind.

(c) J. Binford-Bell

Nicholas V on Intelliblog

If you have a poem you would like to include in this week's Poetic Journey leave a comment here or on Facebook.