Monday, August 30, 2010

Artist Trading Cards????

The mania of artist trading cards hit about the same time scrapbooking took over a large section of some art supply stores. I have this folder of things to put in a scrapbook but I have never done anything with i and certainly not in the grand manner of the hobby of scrapbooks. I filed artist trading cards in that same "useless information" niche in my brain. It didn't help that an "artist" I didn't like promoted them in our guild.

Artist trading cards are miniature works of art about the same size as baseball cards. The ATC movement (yes, it is called a movement) began in Switzerland in 1996 when it was promoted by M. Vänçi Stirnemann. The movement has been fanned by Hobby Lobby and other craft and art stores that sell supplies for ATC's which were once done with the scrap around your studio. There are now rules for ATC's.
Artist Trading Card collage   
ATC holder
And assemblages of ATC's into larger "works of art" which are even framed and hung, which I think is against the ATC rules. And there are definitely supplies to be had for the artist that wants to get fully into the movement. A quick Google search turned up cards precut and ready to use, a book to put your swapped cards into, a book on how to do artist trading cards, a workshop on the form, swap meets, and an exhibition!

Actually I think they lost me on "rules." I am not much of a rule person and most artists I know don't like rules. We bristle when we have to read the guidelines for submission of entries to shows and exhibits. I briefly was considering ATC's when they were touting the swapping of them between artist friends but frankly I don't want cards from my artist friends; I want full sized pieces of their work.

Still there is some interesting whimsy exhibited in these cards and I wonder just how many of the artists have used an ATC as a study for larger works. So setting the rules aside can any of my artistic friends engaged in this site the creative growth aspects of this? Has it freed up your color choices? Let loose your compositional restraints? Opened a door to other themes in your serious work?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When things go wrong

I have been working on this new version of an arch at Natural Bridges National Park which I did quite successfully before. But on this one lmost everything has been going wrong. I wanted the area of the background and foreground with the yellows and pinks to be the focus but the busy sky was distracting from that. Everything I did to highlight the arch as a frame for what I wanted the focus of the painting to be just increased the "fight." All the values in the painting were too much the same and fought for the attention of the viewer.

If you use oil or acrylic you can just paint over everything you don't like. Water media is a bit different. But the makers of the watercolor canvas I use say you can "lift" of the color. And with some colors this is truer than others. Blue is one of those that likes to hang around. But before I stripped off the canvas and applied new to the stretcher bars I wanted to play with my mistake and see what would happen. Mistakes can be a valuable learning experience.

This is the canvas with the sky scrubbed off - or at least down. You can see how a more subtle sky puts what I wanted to focus on more prominent in the composition. If I end up redoing this painting I think I will go for a pink sky.

With more tidying up and then a general wash over the sky area with pink I feel I am at a point where time spent on the arch and distant plateaus will not be a wasted effort. The painting is by no means done but I am at a place where I can again work on the arch. I may never be satisfied with it but I have learned a lot from this mistake.

If I take off the canvas and begin again I will know better the direction I wish to take this subject.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Poetry Wednesday - Waiting

Marcus C. Bell 1953-2010   

Always waiting for you
Me always early
You always late
Pretending it wasn't so.

So why rush now
To this unspecified destination
Beating me to the finish line
While I wait for you to stop the race.

Waiting again
Will I always
Think of you
As time passes without you.

You will never show up
Never arrive as I always feared
Dreading the call
That never came.

Always said I'd leave
And I did
But never far enough away.
You beat me at last.

Now it is your turn to wait
Hope you are better at it than I
Because I don't plan to rush.

J. Binford-Bell August 2010
In Memory

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Art Sunday - Practice, Practice, Practice

There is an old joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall, famous performance center in New York. The punch line is practice, practice, practice. The same can be said about the visual arts. Claude Monet, for instance, painted the facade of the Rouen Cathedral 31 times.

"I know that to paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its way in that particular spot and that is why I am working on the same motifs over and over again, four or six times even." Claude Monet

Don't worry, I am not going to post all 31 but just Google Images for Monet's Rouen paintings and gape at the variety of them. Then there are his waterlilies and and his hay stacks. And we have just those he didn't paint over or toss in the canal in frustration.

I think of Monet and his cathedral when I again choose to paint Park Avenue at Arches again. Or try again to get that magical feeling I knew when I stood before a particular mission church in New Mexico.  All "so that you can understand its way". I play with colors and will do a painting over in different colors seeking something elusive at times. Monet played with light.

One theory bantered about as a reason for the impressionists movement was the advent of the camera. It could record Rouen Cathedral or those waterlilies precisely in black and white at the time. But it was a rather "lifeless" medium - or lightless. Monet was painting the light on the facade of the cathedral. And some of his attempts got close to pure light.

As an artist I have to wonder if he was ever satisfied with his paintings of light and if not which of the 31 attempts of Rouen he liked the most.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Color Studies

Reverence for the Dawn
After the sketch many painters do studies or color sketches. These color studies can go anywhere from a few splashes of paint on a scrap piece to canvas to blocking out of colors on a small version of the sketch to small finished paintings of the projected bigger piece.

When I was beginning work on the above painting: Reverence for the Dawn whose finished size is 26 by 62 I did two smaller paintings which were 10 by 24. These smaller studies were the same proportions as the proposed finished painting being done as a commission. And in addition to the benefit of making my mistakes on a much smaller scale it allowed me show the patron choices as to color.

Reverence - a study  
Worship - a study

I like the smaller painting approach for a couple of reasons: One, I take the painting more seriously and two, the finished color study is sellable in its own right. In fact Worship has already sold. BTW while Reverence was the chosen study for the larger painting I changed the color of red for the sky. Studies are just that - studies or tests.

My normal color studies tend to the splashes of paint on scraps of canvas as when I was preparing to do the triptych below.

Tres Cruces Triptych
 I pretty much knew what I was going to do with the churches because of years of painting them and having decided already on the direction of the source of light. What needed to be worked out was the transition of the sky from full sun to evening dusk. I did this on scrap strips of canvas I can never bring myself to toss away. They are too small for a painting but great for testing colors, blends of colors, new mixes. Not all colors play well together. And it is possible with a felt tip pen to make notes on these informal canvas swatch color studies. If I was truly organized I would paste them on a scrap of board and put them in a folder or loose leaf notebook for future reference.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Creative Process - Sketching

Michelangelo Studies
I have been sketching. Many people are not as aware of this skeleton of a work of art as they might be since the advent of scanners and abstract movements. So easy to slap a photograph on the scanner, reduce it to outlines on a photo program and then print it to the applicable size for transfer to canvas or board. But there is something so very calming about curling up on the sofa with a sketch book and letting the ideas flow.

In an emotional froth of late I have found it difficult to sit in the studio and apply colors to canvas. But my artist mind requires exercising so I decided to develop new sketches for future paintings. Sketch books are a great place to work out perspective and compositional issues. Just because you "composed" it in the view finder of your Nikon D90 does not mean it will work well as a painting. Drawing allows you to erase! With my church paintings I often erase surrounding buildings or modifications to the basic structure that distract. I totally re-arrange canyon walls.

It is wise I think while sketching to not always look at a "finished" composition. The little detail sketches that populate the sketch books of Michelangelo and Da Vinci are a case in point. And often I have worked on a detail with the idea of where it would fit in a larger canvas to find it stands alone or that it dictates its own setting.

Sketching is letting the muse free. Always wise to keep the eraser at a distance. Don't worry about getting the anatomy just right - let the composition flow. I know I should free sketch more often. But when I am rushed to produce for a show it is often too easy to pull out a previous sketch and use all or part of it again for a new work. But in the last couple of days I have developed eight new prospective compositions by just sketching. And oh, the peace it has brought.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Poetry Wednesday - Same Streets

Visited Santa Fe, the city different, with my sister this last weekend. It is a town I have been to many times with many different people. I have been there to shop, have a romantic weekend, scope out the galleries, attend a hearing about my disability, testify in court, see doctors . . . the list goes on. The town holds a wealth of memories: some good ad some bad. The objective this last weekend was to etch some new ones. And we did. But from time to time the past slips in.

Same Streets

Seen these sights before
Heard the cathedral bells toll for mass
I have sat upon that balcony
Discussed familiar news.

I have walked this street
Side by side with others looking in windows
Talking of nothing of import
Me with my camera
He with his impatience.

He never saw what I saw
I never understood why not
Me with my artist's eye
He with his engineering brain.

I saw the colors and shapes
The play of light and shadow
He spotted the building code violations
Checked his watch for our dinner reservations.

I paint.
He built
But we both read
Both loved to debate.

Walking these streets
Knowing never again with him
It all looked the same and so different
No impatience tugged at me with my camera.

I took pictures to my heart's content with no agenda
Photographs he was not obliged to tolerate
Had to sidestep to avoid being captured in
Santa Fe, the city different, even more different now
Now that he can never be with me again
On these sane streets we have walked.

It is about making memories
New ones to overlay the old
And yet I would look up from the view finder
And think I saw him there
Heard a snatch of conversation - his voice
Oh, but what pictures I took
Untethered of his impatience.

J. Binford-Bell, August 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poetry Wednesday - A long dark look

I have done a few paintings which have inspired poems. In my random thoughts I consider publishing a small book of poems with art but people seem less impressed with this than do I. Art is an emotional thing from time to time. The painting above was exploring some dark thoughts in an effort to cleanse my mind during a difficult time. This morning as I was editing it on photoshop the words came for the poem.


In the hours between dusk and dawn
I have been taking a long dark look
In the far reaches of my soul
Seeking bright memories among the pain
Looking for hope.
I have been seeking a positive note
Among the funeral dirges
But my vision blurs
With the tears of loss
Mourning the moments.

So very fleeting
Our time together
In the quantum concept of time
Your living like a shooting star
Lighting my life
But briefly.

And now I am left
With all these dark spaces
Filled with endless tears
Next life
You cry for me.

Jacqui Binford-Bell 
August 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Art Sunday - a look at one of the locals

Taos Mountain Rain

I met Tom Nobel, a famous Taos artist, when we shared judging duties at an Eagle Nest Arts and Crafts fair. It was both the best of times and the worst of times. He smokes and drinks to excess, and is often rude, crude and socially unacceptable, but boy, can he paint. In fact, it was watching him paint in watercolors on mat board with inks that was an ah ha moment for me. I had been trained to paint in the classical style of watercolor and his "disregard" for the medium at first put me on edge. But I could not argue with his results.

"I set out to see if I could make a major art out of what some call a minor medium," confides Tom Nobel, "I also use ink-drawing tools in my works. I like the combination because watercolor is so amorphous and ink is so precise."

Sheep are in the Meadow
The more I disliked the man the more I liked the the artist. And the more watching him paint freed me to experiment with color and medium and platform. In that regard, I guess he could be labeled as a mentor even though I would be hard pressed to call that three days a mentoring relationship.

New Morning
Tom Noble has been selected as a recipient of the 2010 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. Only ten artists and art supporters are selected for this highest art honor each year.

Tom Noble studied art and architecture at the University on New Mexico where his primary teacher, Sam Smith, steered him towards watercolor. Sam Smith was also my teacher and one that taught me all the rules for classical watercolor painting. And I, like Tom, fell in love with the medium. Nobel and I were even at UNM the same years. I wonder if we were in the same classes? If so he and his art were infinitely forgettable at that time. But his art isn't now. I suppose I wouldn't have liked Picasso either had I met him.

Fall Evening

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Poetry Wednesday - something original at last

Oh, How I Hate Them

Oh, how I hate them all
Those beloved men of my past
Who drunk too much of spirits and wine
Who loved scotch
More than me.
Oh, how I loved them all
Dad and John
Bruce and Marc
But they loved Rye and Jack Black
Jim Beam and Absolut
Pinch and Seagram's 7.
They waxed poetic
On a lone shot of tequila
Told the best jokes after two
Claimed loving me madly after three
Oh, how I hated them after four.

Oh, how I loathe these men
Of once brilliant mind
And oh so charming wit
Who failed to see the stupidity
Of just one more for the road.

Oh, why couldn't they see
At some point you come to a crossroads
Loving or drinking
Life over Liquor
The people who love you
Over your Buds at the bar.

Oh, how I loved them all
Loathing what they all became
After too many
Hit me again's

I always loved the dark poets
I should have left them
In books and music
And not taken them to heart and hearth
Oh, how I hated watching them die.

Oh, how I loathed them all
These great loves of my past
May they rest in peace
As alone I cry.
J. Binford-Bell 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Out Gathering Inspiration

 How Green is My Valley

Art is not just about studio time with paint brush in hand. Or even pencil and sketch book. Art is about seeing and so you have to go outside your studio and look from time to time. Like many artists I have found photography a great way to see my world and record it to bring back into the studio. I am not a plein aire type of painter. The paint dries too fast and I always forget to bring something I desperately need. But I have had my camera handy.

Outside my studio door

On the forest road above my house

At my neighbor's house

Hollyhocks against an adobe wall is very typical of New Mexico. And many artists paint these wonderful showy flowers as part of the composition. Below is a painting I did some years ago.

Back Stairs

And on that note I am out and about again today with my camera.