Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Portrait, portraiture, self-portraits

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale

I have some friends debating what exactly a portrait is. Wiki defines a portrait as a painting, photograph or sculpture or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

Before the advent of photography portraiture was one of the mainstays of an artist's income. People wanted accurate and life like representations of  their loved ones. However it proved that even confined to black and white the camera could do this better.
Thomas Dilward by Matthew Brady

So with the impressionists painters began going a different direction with portraiture. It became less about an exact physical representation of the figure being painted and more about the personality or life force of the individual.
Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso

Martel Chapman by Pablo Picasso

The goal of some artists with a portrait or self-portrait became to tell whole stories as in Freda Kahlo's self-portrait Roots.

Salvador Dali got even further out with his famous Portrait of Picasso where he tried through surrealism to represent the complex personality of his friend and subject.

Andrew Wyeth in his famous Cristina's World does not show us the face of his subject but what her life is about.

All of which raised the issue among artists and even photographers if any representation of the actual physical person had to be in the image of a portrait. Could you in fact say as much about your subject by taking a photograph of their studio?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It is not all about painting

Being an artist in this day and age is not all about painting unfortunately. Oh, but that it were. Frequent readers of this blog will know that in the past month it was all about getting enough paintings done of the right sort for the Red River Fine Arts and Wine Festival. By right sort I mean for the customers AND for the judges.

As an artist I do want to sell paintings but I also want to win awards to advance my reputation and I want to not disappoint the promoters of a fair or festival. We sign contracts and if you don't live up to that you don't get asked back.

Fairs are just part of the picture. Exhibitions are another. I have two I want to submit entries for in the next month (one in just two weeks) and by choosing paintings to submit I am also pulling them out of the next fair. Be very embarrassing to have a piece you sold be accepted. So what pieces to submit becomes a complex issue especially when the possibility of a work of yours winning a state exhibition is in the offing. Such list of awards looks good on the art vita which needs amended after the last Best of Show.

That is where my head has been the last week. Today I am going to pull it out of that and do some painting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Best of Show

When I first won a ribbon at an art show I was rather embarrassed. It reminded me of dog shows. I have had dogs with lots of ribbons. Now my art work has lots of ribbons. Added two to the growing collection this last weekend. That's them there on the far right of the photograph of my booth. It was a nice way to kick off the fair season.

The first fair is always a testing ground for your new work and new ideas on how to set up your booth. I was going for the minimalist which is being touted by several artist publications. Supposedly the biggest mistake artists make at shows is crowd too much work into too little a space. I had some real doubts when I hung the last piece up Saturday morning. OMG I don't have ENOUGH. And there were moments when I thought I should have brought this painting or that. But the response to the booth and the art in the booth soon calmed my fears of change. It was a stunning presentation if I do say so myself.

The question now is how to translate this look to the next fair where there will be strict adherence to 10' x 10' box. Outdoor fairs always allow more "spread" with chairs and business desks allowed outside your booth. Inside fairs with limited aisle space can be sticklers about nothing being outside that space. And it is wise to know which fair allows what. Some you can put your chair outside but no extension of your display like print racks. Others not even the chair siting fire code restrictions for not impeding traffic.

Course some theories on art promotion and sales maintain you should not even have a chair. You lose sales if you sit down. I think it is to be noted the writers of these articles are sitting in plush office chairs and not standing on hard slab floors for six to eight hours. After all weekend even well manicured park grass feels hard and unyielding.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Fair of the Season

I always do this thing of trying to paint up until the last minute. Stupid. Why do I year after year forget the work involved with preparation for the first fair of the season? Part of it is just re-checking all the boxes that have been in the storage shed with the stuff needed like tent stakes and bungees, duck tape and zip locks. Then there is updating title cards and inventory (OMG didn't get to that last one).

In point of fact as I was packing paintings yesterday I took Bridge of Enchantments down off the wall and realized up to that moment I had even forgotten I had done it. It appeared no where on the title cards or inventory or list of updates or even on my Facebook Fan Page. I was sure I did not have enough work for this first fair but now I wonder if I have enough room in the van.

This can be a bit problematic with the Red River Fine Arts and Wine Festival because I will set up the tent and display panels today and not bring over the art until tomorrow morning. Ergo it does not all have to be in the van at once until time to return on Sunday night. Hopefully I sell a lot so there is less to pack up.

My friend, Jennifer Cavan, just posted on Facebook that she is doing seven shows in the next nine weeks. She has a boy (codeword for husband) to help. And at least with fairs that close you probably never unpack. But still she will have missed summer in the mountains. I already feel as if I have neglected my garden and pets and house repairs just to prep for three shows in the neighborhood as it were.

So why do we do this? Good question. It certainly isn't for the money in this depressing economy. But I do have to sell some work so I can paint some more. And as an artist I always want to paint some more. In fact I have this great idea for a new painting I want to do before Artsfest. Guess I will pop the sketch book in the van tomorrow for those quiet moments at the fair while hoping there aren't any.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Words of Wisdom

I have begun this little practice on my Facebook Fan Page to post a famous artist quote each day and a painting of his or hers. Today it was Henri Matisse's turn again.

 The Dessert Harmony in Red

I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion
it produces upon me. Henri Matisse

 Well said Henri. I could not have put it better. In fact, I have not been able to totally explain my landscapes to the viewing public. One attempt I use is, "It is what you think you saw after you look away." Or after downloading some vacation photos, "They are never as bright or intense as the landscape I was trying to capture, so I just paint my version."

In a discussion with a friend recently he mentioned that photography was coming into its own at the time the Impressionists, among them Henri Matisse, were painting. There was no longer a reason to render what you saw before you in a hyper-realistic fashion. The Impressionist tried to capture their impression of the world around them. Or in the case of Monet and others to capture the light or the feeling of light. 

Today it is not just photography but the digital manipulation of the image you have photographed. Artists that paint are looking for new ways to capture what they see and yes, Henri, feel and put it upon a platform to display. I do not paint the mission church or the sculpted sandstone of the Colorado Plateau. I paint how those scenes make me feel. And hopefully that translates to the viewer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Latest Work to be Showcased in Red River

Dawn at Delicate Arch
14 x 46 Mixed Media on Canvas

Sunset on the Gossips
14 x 46 Mixed Media on Canvas

 Tres Cruces Triptych
18 x 40 Mixed media on 3 canvases

At the beginning of every art fair season I like to have a significant number of new works to put among those which have been displayed before. And one of those new pieces I always do as a show piece. Last year that show piece was Beyond which is currently on display at Artspace Gallery in Angel Fire. This year I managed to finish three show pieces before my first show: The Red River Fine Arts and Wine Festival, June 19 and 20.

I look forward to seeing the public's reaction to these three works as they are larger than I have done before and are of different proportions. They make a statement in just their size and shape. Hopefully they will make those attending my fairs this summer stop and look at them and my other work.

After the Red River Fine Arts and Wine Festival they will be on display at Binford-Bell Studio until Artsfest in Angel Fire - if they have not sold.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Alternate Reality

I had a friend once that would tell me that on a particular day his hold on what we agree is reality was tenuous at best. I had been exposed to enough philosophy courses to not see this as a confession on his part that required me to call the people from the funny farm. And I am the first to admit that I have not always wanted to old on to what the world calls reality. Sort of messy out there - oil spills, wars, petty neighbors - just things which can get in your way when you are attempting a higher plane of existence.

Or immersed totally in creativity. Then the membrane between worlds can become quite thin.

I left the studio yesterday and actually conversed with a real person. We discussed altered states of consciousness - those sought and those not. I used to hate naps because when I was awakened I was not totally in this world. It can be like that when I come out of my studio where I have achieved a total integration with my muse. I hope I made sense over hazelnut coffee. But I soon returned to the studio where things were making sense.

But I am reminded of why I don't paint up to the day of a fair - the transition is just too difficult. Nor can I go immediately back to painting after a fair. So while my first fair is not until the 19th I will try to have all my painting done by this Saturday. The following week will be frame making and title cards and updating inventory - activities that are more of the "real world" where customers and art fair goers reside.

And this last week of painting I will decompress so I don't get the mental bends. Coming up from the depths (or down from the heights) in small increments - a cup of coffee here, a trip to Taos for supplies there, dinner with a friend, art reception on Saturday.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Something New

I was reading a blog today here in Blogger - Sacred Arts by Cori Berg. She was challenging her readers in the creative arts to try something new. As an interesting coincidence I have been. Two things actually - bigger and oddly proportioned paintings -- and cactus flowers.

As I was painting today on both of my 14 x 46 inch canvases I realized I was using a whole new set of mixed colors in these two paintings. They were colors I had mixed up for my cactus flower series and I loved them too much to "table" them while painting canyons. So yes, Cori, there is a lot to be learned by stretching the envelope - stepping outside the box. Here are some of the cactus flower paintings that taught me a lot this week.
Claret Cup Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Pink Hedgehog Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Stay tuned to this blog for the completion of my two horizontal large canvases and see if you can pick out the colors that went from flowers to cliffs.

Creative Process - Focus on the painting - not the mess

Matisse - Red Interior

I walked into my kitchen this morning to make coffee and looked in shock at the dishes that need to be washed. It is wise to note I am blogging instead of washing them. Chaos seems to move in cycles through my life. It so often seems to accompany a creative frenzy.

I am in one of those happy dances with my muse at the moment and spending extended time in the studio. But even when not in the studio my mind is there. I can walk back and forth to the kitchen for another glass of sun tea and not notice anything amiss unless I am unable to find a clean glass for the tea.

And even as I sit here and blog I am staring at the canvases I am working on. It would be hard to explain the mental process that is employed when I paint. When I write I don't do an outline but some subconscious plotting happens when I am away from the writing surface. I seldom do preliminary color sketches with my paintings. But when I am sketching in pencil I am obviously thinking in colors because I will add divisions to separate blogs of colors with another. Ergo the sketch of Delicate Arch, which I am currently painting, is not exactly what you would see through the lens of a camera.

I actually only do "studies" where a commission is involved or a very large canvas or entirely new subject. Even then there is a point in most paintings that the painting seems to take over and dictate the direction it will take. It is a happy point because it seems to generate energy which translates to the image on the canvas. And hopefully to the viewer of the finished painting.

Well, enough of this. Time to paint.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When I was Young

Mother always said I was a strange child. I firmly believed I was not hers. At the very least I believed I was adopted which is why as I have aged I find it shocking that I look more and more like her. But my brother believed this too and we even demanded to see our birth certificates once to prove we belonged there.

I believed a lot of things in my youth. For instance I was quite convinced until 25 that I was going to die at 23. Hey, if I was adopted they could have lied about my age too! And I knew I had a twin. All through college I looked for her. We had been separated at the orphanage undoubtedly.

All these beliefs did not endear me with my parents so I stopped mentioning them. In fact, for a year going on two at the age of 12 I only spoke when spoken to (isn't that what they were always asking of me?) and then with the shortest possible answer. Nobody noticed.

I was a highly creative and imaginative child and spent hours alone with books and sketch pads and clay. I saw things in clouds and cliffs others missed. I could make up elaborate fairy tales about the rose garden and illustrate little books for my baby sister. School was a serious interruption to these activities so I constantly got "Does not attend in class," "Does not use time wisely," and my favorite "Runs with scissors." In spite of aptitude tests I was just an average student. Mrs. Hill, my fifth grade teacher summed it up, "she sees no reason to achieve academically." Or to get along at recess. Not that I fought. It just seemed such a huge waste of time.

Hey, I was a changeling forced to live in a world I did not appreciate and without my twin! That I would stare at parents and teachers or classmates as if they came from another world earned me no points in life. At 16 I learned to fake it. So well in fact that until I turned 35 I forgot I was living this elaborate lie! I often think of that day, September 9th, as my real birthday.

It was clear to me I had to become an artist of some sort because artists were excused for all sorts of strange behavior. So I dabbled in various arts: dancing, costume design, acting, photography, mask making, sculpture and of course painting. I am happiest before a blank canvas in the quiet of my studio surrounded by my plants and my fur kids.

So, today being the birth date on that forged birth certificate, I plan to be in my studio creating for much of the day. Unfortunately I forgot today was suppose to be my birthday and made a dental appointment for the afternoon. Bummer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting Down to Business

With my first fair of the season rapidly approaching I decided I had to get seriously down to business. I was totally out of church paintings on the diagonal except for the two in Artspace Gallery and since everyone liked the churches in the triptych Tres Cruces I decided to do two diagonals of two of those churches. I think they turned out pretty good in this format.

When time gets short before a show there is always the question about what to spend your precious time doing. I have been experimenting with little cradled panels because they do not have to be framed and ergo can be sold cheaper than framed works on canvas. This one of the Taos Pueblo Church is on an 8 x 10. As is the one below where I was experimenting with different sky techniques.

I have displayed these two before on this blog and had fully intended to paint some other churches on little square panels but in a fit of boredom and inspired by the cactus blooms on my Utah trip I painted flowers instead - cactus flowers.
All of which raised the question of how to spend my remaining days given that a week has to be dedicated to framing the now 10 canvases not framed. I am doing four more cactus flowers - 2-6x6 and 2-8x8. And then I am working on the two 14 x 46 canvases. I got the sketches done for them yesterday and picked up the last set of stretcher bars. Today I begin on them.

All that has to be done by the 12th so I can begin framing. Meanwhile downtime will be devoted to title cards and inventory catch up.