Friday, August 21, 2015

"Unfurl" at Galery 1261

Tonight "Unfurl" opens at Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado.  Curated by the amazing Mia Bergeron, the idea behind the show was to give its artists free rein to explore an untapped side of their creative voice without the pressure to create works that were sellable or fit in with the artist's preexisting body of work.  This show was an invitation to do something different.  The funny thing with telling an artist to "be different" or "test the limits," is that most of us are already doing the best work we can, in a way we love to do it.  And even if we do get a crazy new idea, by the time that idea comes out, it often looks to the rest of the world exactly like what we were already doing, because you really can't change your style anymore than you can change the sound of your voice.

The invitation to participate in this show was kind of an eye-opener for me because after months of asking myself, "What would I paint if I wasn't worried about sales?" I came to the realization that I haven't been painting for sales and I wouldn't be doing anything differently if I won the lottery.  Except that if I won the lottery I would probably have a serious eBay problem and I would have some wickedly cool costumes and still life props.  But the invitation did give me a chance to do something that Dave and I had been told by galleries over and over again to NEVER DO.  Namely, collaborate on a painting.

The Ritual, 18x26", by Kavid Glone, hanging around the corner
from Vincent Xeus and Joseph Todorovitch.   The Todorovitch is also
called "The Ritual."  Us creative types, eh?
As usual, I helped Dave with the costuming and photo shoot and came up with a cool name in the end, but not like usual, halfway through the painting Dave handed me the paint brushes and let me take over.  Or rather, halfway through the painting, "The Ritual" entered painting limbo and sat facing the wall for a month before we both agreed the only way the painting was ever getting finished was if there was an intervention.  And then we realized we could pitch this as our edgy contribution to Unfurl.  How crazy!  Two artists on one painting?

Sebastian's Harmony
Ron Hicks and Michael Gadlin

Oh wait, it looks like we weren't the first ones to think of that. 

Above is how the painting looked when I took it over.  A strong start, Dave had completed the ebauche and some first painting in areas.  I waited until a time when I knew Dave was going to be out of the house all day and then I started off by developing the background, below:

I dragged the background right over the edges of the foreground objects so that I wouldn't wind up with any haloing or gaps between the subject and the background.  I then jumped into the face and took it as far as I could in one go.  All the alla prima work I've been doing this year has really helped me push things further in each pass and I've gone from being a three pass kind of painter to often only needing two passes on a face.  After the face, the hair was a lot of fun.  I laid down dark paint all over her hair and then used some lovely Rosemary mongoose brushes to whisk little tendrils of lighter paint into it, wet into wet.

Below is day two, the start of the antler.  By now I'm realizing that I'm not just having really good painting days.  It's actually just about ten times easier to finish someone else's painting and that's all there is to it.  I have no idea why this is, because finishing someone else's painting should be like going for a jog in borrowed underpants, but painting this painting was actually the easiest painting experience I've had all year.

 Lots of Velazquez Medium to build up the paint nice and thick.

Still more Velazquez Medium:


And that brings us to the finished piece:

And don't worry, guys.  Our marriage is still intact.

I'm going to share some of the other beautiful paintings that will be hanging at the opening tonight:

Thrift Store, Quang Ho

Smudge on the Nobleman, Vincent Xeus

Right side of Locket, Rose Frantzen

Nimbus, Rachel Constantine

Bird and Red Cloth, Daniel Sprick

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Workshop Schedule

I have four workshops cooking.  Want to take a two-day portraiture workshop with me and Dave while staying at the beautiful Alderbrook Resort and Spa in Washington state?  I'm pretty sure you could persuade your non-artist significant other to come along.  You get to paint all day, they get to sip a mimosa with cucumbers on their eyes.  That sounds fair.

Or how about a five-day still life workshop in Tuscaloosa, AL?  This one is being hosted by Thomas Rosenstiel in his beautiful private studio.  My attention will be divided only eight ways, so you will have lots of one-on-one.  I've offered this workshop four times and I just keep doing it because it's so popular.  I'm routinely amazed by the results my students produce.  Added bonus: my worn out jokes are timed perfectly by now.  There are five spots left.

Or, if you happen to be located within driving or ferrying distance of where I live on Vancouver Island, you could always take a six-day version of my still life workshop out of my own studio, with access to all my still life props.  Yes.  That includes creepy dolls and rotten boards covered in chippy paint.  I've been really wanting to do a six-day version because five seems just long enough for everyone to learn some cool stuff, but six would be optimal for actually finishing a painting.  This latter workshop will be limited to six people so that I can intensely manage and instruct you all, my little goslings.  So far there are only two spots left. 

(That tuition fee is in Canadian dollars, folks, and GST is 5%)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Huff Po Article

I am THRILLED with a recent article written in the Huffington Post by Daniel Maidman.  Daniel got in touch with me many months ago about making this article happen and while I recognized the huge compliment he was bestowing on my work, and while I knew that no publicity is bad publicity, I have to say, I'm generally very nervous about having someone else do the talking about my work.  I put a lot of thought into my work and I don't like to have my meaning misrepresented or misconstrued.  In fact, I get quite edgy about it.

But, on the phone, Daniel said something that made me think he understood what I was about.  He said that he felt that the genre of child portraiture was sadly looked down upon because of a generalized fear amongst artists that children=sentimentality, and that paintings of children deserve respect.  So I felt like shaking his hand through the receiver.

Without needing to make any reference to the material I've written and posted online about this painting, Daniel still totally gets it.  Many, many thanks, Daniel.

Here is the article:

Friday, June 26, 2015

"A Friendly Challenge" at Gallery 1261, Denver CO

I will have some work hanging in Gallery 1261's new show, "A Friendly Challenge," which opens this Friday and runs until July 18th.

Something old...

O Sorrow, 27x17"
 and something new...

A Certain Slant of Light, 20x13"

The idea of the show was for each participating gallery artist to invite an outsider friend to participate.  I picked my favourite figurative painter in the vast white north, the incredible Tara Juneau, who, incidentally, is the model in "O Sorrow."  She exclusively works from life and paints in oils in spite of a solvent allergy, so she's hardcore.  Most artists' problem is a shortage of good work to ship to a gallery, so it kind of makes my left eye twitch when I survey Tara's massive stash of beautiful paintings that she just doesn't have time to ship to a gallery, because apparently shipping is way harder than painting.  So Dave and I took it upon ourselves to pack up four of her paintings and send them off.

Andromeda and the Blue Sky, 39x24"

Bear Skull, 12x9"
Lace, 24x12"

Soft Green, 17x14"

Tara seems to exclusively use friends and acquaintances to sit for her.  It's pretty hard to find professional nude models on the Island, and even harder to convince people you know to strip down.  I'd scratched head at her magical ability to get people to peel their clothes off, but then she asked me to sit for her.  She started off all "You can sit for me in your underwear.  You'll be covered with pearls and a scarf, so no one will even see.  Totally decent."  Sure.  That I can do.  Then on sitting number three she was all "*sigh* You're bra straps are getting in the way.  You could take it off and just use the pearls for coverage."  By sitting number seven I was buck naked and confused about how I got that way.  I suspect all her models feel the same.

Oh, and I don't feel bad if anything I've said in anyway embarrasses Tara, because after she finished painting me she put a photo of the painting on Facebook and tagged me in it--the same week that I was flooded with friend requests from Dave's extended family because I'd finally just met them all at a wedding.

If you're in Denver sometime during the next four weeks, make sure to stop by the gallery to check out her beautiful paintings.  Her skin tones are gorgeous.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Crows before Bros

I recently have developed a new-found affinity for crows in my paintings.  Now, I'm not saying it's because of "Game of Thrones"... but it's because of "Game of Thrones".

(Jon Snow is my favorite mopey bastard.  He is the emo art student of the "Game of Thrones" realm)

For this painting, I once again used my taxidermy crow that I purchased through Ebay (before anyone asks where I found it) but had to find some additional elements before I got started.  Best place to find old piles of broken windows, doors, and barn wood is from your local unfriendly neighborhood hoarder/"antique dealer" who lives out in the middle of nowhere.  Even my GPS looked at me blankly when I entered this guy's address.  After about an hour of listening to him say "no no, that broken window isn't for sale, its my favoritist broken window" I managed to walk away with what I needed at grossly inflated prices.  After that, I began setting up my still life, trying to use much brighter colors than I am used to (my wife has been giving me flak for this for years. I mean, women and chromatic colors...right guys?)

I was pretty content with the narrative behind the piece.  Much like the crow, I too stand in front of the mirror all day admiring myself, so in some ways its really just a self portrait. I also got to paint under my brand spanking new skylight.

One of the most important things I learned from this still life is how much I hate painting rope.  I mean, I really really hate it.  Just when you think you are done, bam, more stupid rope on the other side of the bird.  And again, just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel--crap, more rope behind the crow I didn't notice.

 Drawing things out for the transfer.  Again, this helps with my cropping and working out as many drawing mistakes as needed before moving on.
 Ebauche.  A thin wash of color just to cover the surface.  Sets up the large tonal and color groupings. The paint is the consistency of thick coffee creamer or kittens blood.
 Beginning of first painting.  Large patches of color tones used to further define the drawing and create form.  The smallest details are still ignored at this point.
Some woodgraining in effect.  Learned some tricks from my brother who is a faux finisher.
 Some second painting on the onions.  Using medium and a thin application of paint to create more subtle transitions of tones and add small details.
Stupid rope...I hate you...
Final shot of the piece.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shipping Unframed Paintings

Way back when I was young and a total hack at the business of art I had somehow convinced a client all the way across the country to fly me out for a photo shoot.  All went well with the commission until I had this amazing moment when a stick-on light from inside my varnishing hood became unstuck, and then fell sticky side down onto the surface of the painting right after I'd varnished it.  When I peeled it off, it took off a whole layer of paint with it.  So I spent the next couple of weeks busier than a one-legged cat trying to bury shit on a frozen lake fixing this damn thing and when it came time to get the painting ready for delivery, I simply did not have time to come up with a good packaging solution.

So, day of delivery, I needed to get this painting onto a plane with me.  I couldn't find a box that was the right size.  I didn't even have a sheet of nice vellum to protect the varnished surface with (and I was pretty sure the varnished surface would still be vulnerable to scuffing).  I briefly considered bundling it up in bed sheets, but I ended up dismantling a toilet paper box and constructed a sort of cardboard teepee out of it.  I tossed that in carry-on, and then skulked into my client's office and dropped it off on his desk while he was on lunch before scurrying out again.  The thing said "Charmin Ultra Soft" on the outside.  I was so mortified.  Now insert a TP teepee joke.  Get it?  Kill me now.

I've since upgraded to foam core boards, but I've hung onto that last minute teepee solution.  This packing method is great because it protects the varnish layer from scuffing (which is always important, but especially if you've only just varnished the painting), and allows your buyer to view their new acquisition without compromising the wrapping.  They can simply slice the tape with an exacto blade, take a peek, and tape it back up again.  The key is to make the wings fold at exactly the edge of the panel.  This keeps the panel locked in place.  This teepee thingamabob can be easily shipped in a box filled with shipping peanuts.  My head study of The Huntsman's Bride just made it's trip safe and sound to its new forever family in the Netherlands this way.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Art of the Portrait Conference: Recap!

The month of May whizzed right by in a flurry of dense crowds, tripod lights, moonshine and twice daily desserts.  My fat jeans are now my skinny jeans and my skinny jeans are a fond memento of slimmer, sexier days gone by.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, after the PSoA conference, I was due to teach a workshop in Carthage, NC, and another in Ashburn, VA.  And then, when I finally landed on Vancouver Island a little over two weeks ago, I took a good long look at my scheduled upcoming exhibits and realized I had to come up with a whole new painting in less than a month.  So the past few weeks have been ballz to the wallz painting.  May was an exhilarating and productive month.

True to tradition, I've waited until everyone else has posted all of their conference photos so that I can rip them off for my blog.  First up, you're probably wondering how the Face Off went.  Seriously, guys, so much fun.  I'm just going to put it out there to the universe, in case the universe is listening, I would be thrilled to do it again next year.  There were these awesome little bowls of candy everywhere, so I grabbed one of those two and put it on my taboret when I was setting up.  I even unwrapped a bunch so that I could just pop them right in my mouth.  Instant art fuel.  I put my headphones on (connected pocket.  Because no iPod.  So I actually heard every single cough and burp behind me while I painted, but hey, no interruptions).  And then, it was Go Time.

I entered some sort of painting wormhole where every second felt like a minute.  I kept painting right through the model's breaks.  Like usual, my painting looked like crap for the first half.  As usual, it stirred up a massive panic hurricane.  I painted, painted, painted, all the time fretting about my 2.5 hour limit.  But finally, I stepped back and realized I'd done it.  I had a likeness.  It looked good.  It was probably a bit better than most of the alla prima portraits I'd done.  I was not going to bring disgrace upon the house of my ancestors.  I heaved a big sigh of relief, popped my thirty-fifth candy, and asked my timekeeper how much time was left.  He said an hour and a half.  Say wuuuuut.  So I kept painting for another hour and twenty five minutes, hit that special point that happens in every alla prima painting when each additional brush stroke becomes a step backwards instead of a step forward, and then walked away like a queen with five minutes to go.  Shablammo.

Okay, it's just an alla prima.  Whatever.  They purposely set us up to fail and then we feel an over-sized sense accomplishment when we don't.  My model was fantastic, maintaining a perfect head tilt the whole time.  She practically painted herself and I couldn't resist playing up those dewy, lash-y eyes.   When I finished I kind of couldn't believe I painted something so sweet looking.  I should have just put some tears on her cheeks and a little snowy white lamb in her arms.  For a more comprehensive coverage of the Face Off, take a look at Underpaintings Magazine.  He's got some fantastic photos up, and coverage of the whole conference broken into multiple posts.

Next up, I exorcised my massive public speaking demon and presented with Dave for a break out session.  Our topic was "Social Media and Your Art Career."  We co-presented with Chris Saper, who discussed self-publishing, and Scott Jones of Legacy Gallery, who talked about the artist gallery relationship about twenty four hours before I propositioned him about taking my painting Poppet (now hanging at Legacy Gallery in Bozeman, MO).

Have you heard of the "My Daily Lie" meme?  I made one.

Later that same day was the 6x9 sale.  Here is mine.

Okay, ramble.  This was such a fun painting to make.  I used only three colours: Lead White #2, Hematite, and Cyprus Raw Umber Dark.  When the palette is that simple, the painting goes so, so quickly.  Of course, the colours you pick out have to be the right colours.  In my case, the hematite and white were all I needed for her flesh because Maddie is so rosy fair.

Saturday found me doing an alla prima portrait demo at the Natural Pigments booth.  And I'll be damned.  It was my same lovely model who showed up.

Some random Albertans even descended while I was painting.  Represent!  They even knew my artist friends from my hometown.

I tested out a somewhat different approach to painting the eyes.  I did all my practice alla prima paintings under natural light, which gave me no shadow shapes to work with, but under artificial lighting for this demo, my model had dark shadows in her eye sockets.  I painted her entire eye socket with a shadow colour and then gradually teased light shapes into the dark socket shape.  I heard somebody by the name of Sargent or something used to do this?

And now for the banquet, that time when everyone cleans up and scrubs the paint out of their cuticles.  There were a lot of lovely photos taken that night but I get the feeling that most people are so over actually bothering to post these pictures to Facebook.  I got several messages from people promising to send me pictures of myself looking fabulous (on the one day of the year I look fabulous) but that never panned out.  Shame on all of you.  You're lousy friends. 

Carlos Lopez (3rd Place winner), Moi, Tania Zaytseva of Natural Pigments, Quang Ho, and Dave, positioned so that his head doesn't look small compared to everyone else's.

Yep, I got Fourth Place!  With the Grand Draper Prize ahead of First Place, that means I actually got fifth.  But the PSoA has a real knack for making everyone feel like a special winner.

Well, that was fun.  Thank you very much to workers behind the operation--the people who tuck in the loose corners and somehow bring it all together, and don't seem to put themselves anywhere prominent so that we can thank them properly at the conference: Christine, Kim, Rachel, Karey, Amanda, Krystal, Tyler, and the various volunteer rock!

Thank you to Dianne da Silva, Tania Zaytseva, Sivananda Nyayapathi, Matthew Innis, and Caleb Goggans for the images.  Actually, I don't know if I ripped off pictures from the last two, but I think I thought about it.