Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Make the World's Sexiest Brush Rinser

Posted by: Kate

Say hello to my brush rinser:
Hay guyz!
I never used to use much Gamsol while painting.  I would go through about a teaspoon a day while painting, and then use a little more at the end of the day to wipe my brushes clean before soaping up.  I never needed a rinser.  Instead I would grab a new clean brush when necessary.  It wasn't unusual to have twenty dirty brushes at the end of a day.  But I was modelling for Tara Juneau last year and I noticed she uses her brush rinser more than Bob Ross himself.  Now, I love Tara's paintings.  Therefore, I decided to make a brush rinser so that I could make like Tara and Bob Ross it up.  My paintings still don't look like hers, but I like to imagine I look as glamorous as she does when I use it.  I use it constantly while working and sometimes get away with as few as two dirty brushes a day.

Why not buy one?  Most brush cleaners I've seen only have about an inch of room underneath the grill, and then about five or six inches of unusable space up top.  That's stupid.  I want to fill that nasty jar full of toxic gunk and not have to get myself a new one for several years.

I used an old mayo jar the first time around and it was a headache to get the grill in.  I recommend you get yourself a sturdy tupperware with a screw lid.  No snap lids and NO GLASS.  This isn't a BPA-free snack hour at the local Pre-K.  You want something sturdy and smash-proof.

Cut out a square of 1/4 inch avian steel mesh.

Mark off the height of your "shelf" on an old plastic bottle.

Cut up that bottle and stick it in your rinse jar.  I like to cut out a couple little teeth that will stick up through the grill to keep it from shifting around too much.

Now push the grill down over top.  Fill up with mineral spirits to about half an inch above the lowest part of the grill and get ready to rock and roll.  Stay sexy, readers.

Addendum:  Now I know you all collectively lost your heads when we discussed how to make panels but didn't give a detailed list of every aluminum composite provider in North America so that you could all quickly look up your nearest provider.  Avian mesh is also challenging to find.  You will want to find someone who breeds birds (Craigslist is a good place to start).  These handy folk make their own cages and have scrap avian mesh lying around, theoretically.  Or you could get some half-inch chicken wire, which is probably easier to find, but I like the quarter inch aviary stuff pictured above best.  Or, cannibalize an old mesh strainer (50 cents at Goodwill) or ask your local hardware store if they have something appropriate.  I don't know.  You're all brilliant and smart and resourceful.  When you figure something out, share the results in the comments so that others can benefit from your smarts.

And, heeey, did you notice we now have bylines?  Thanks Amanda for suggesting that.  When you've been sharing a toothbrush with someone for seven years you forget that other people actually view you as separate beings, and that they might want to know which half of the borg is narrating a post.

UPDATE 2017: I've noticed that certain brands of tupperware distort after coming in contact with either the solvent or the oil in the paint (not entirely sure which is the source of the problem.  I think oil).  My attempts to use Ziploc scew lid tupperwares resulted in brush rinsers that couldn't be screwed shut after their first few weeks of life (didn't stop me from using them for two years!)  I've now gone back to using mayo and peanut butter jars.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cheating in Art?

Posted by: Dave

I remember when I was in art college (referred to as the dark times) I was working on an oil painting of figures in a desert landscape. My roommate was in the illustration program and worked primarily with the software program Maya;  though he had an extensive drawing background.  I would often ask why he had put down his drawing tools for the computer, often inferring that he had given up something more valid, more challenging, and something that was more "art" since computers could do some of the work for you. He said to me one day "Art is about creating a window into a world, would you agree?" I did. He then said "in your painting, it's only one view from one angle, one time of day, one feeling... in mine I can literally go anywhere. My possibilities are endless and that is my goal." This opened up my mind a bit.  If his means of executing his art meant he could accomplish his goals, then was it really cheating or in any way less valid.  Of course, we all know that computers are just a trend and most likely won't stay around long.

Which brings me to the question, is there cheating in art?  For me, "cheating in art" now seems like a childish thing to say when someone doesn't like how someone else does things.  "You cut in line, you cheated" or "no peeking, you cheated" or "you had access to insider trading for the frozen orange juice concentrate industry, you cheated."  I find so often that people discredit art and artists after they learn of their process.  So the question is, should it be the end product that speaks for itself?  Should process be considered and where is the line drawn?  That being said, here is a list of aids I use to help create my work.  I would wonder why some are considered cheating and some are not depending on who you ask.

1) a black mirror
2) a knitting needle for measuring
3) photography
4) a mahl stick
5) color studies
6) drawing transfers
7) my wife's advice
8) coffee
9) ADD meds
10) viewfinder
11) hiring models

For the sake of the article and reader sanity, I will only touch upon a couple of these.

First up, photography.  So is photography and hiring models cheating?  Some artists feel you should be able to make up everything from imagination for it to have any real originality.  However, as we know from history, very few people "make up stuff" out of their heads, including many fine artists and famous illustrators, including Parrish, Rockwell, and Frazetta. Reference is integral to making anything look realistic, at least it has been for me. Even many fantasy illustrators will sculpt miniature dinosaurs, ships, etc, just to insure...ensure......make certain the lighting is correct. But again, this leads the question, should you only work from life as reference, or are photographs ok?  As many of us know, models are pricey, and their time is limited.  I use photos when I have no other choice, and defaulting to nothing but self portraits even though I look exactly like Ryan Gosling is not always what I want to do.  I use photos at times because I want to make the art I want to make, and often it entails figures that cannot pose for me for long sittings.  Many people however don't feel that way.  I wanted to show a couple examples of some paintings I liked that utilized photographs, and in my opinion, did it well.

Second on the plate, is it ok to reference the past in your work?  Is it derivative?  Is every idea expected to be completely original?  If so, I might be screwed.  Pretty sure everything that can be done in art, has been done, and legend has it people have painted fisherman, hunters, and still lifes before me.  However, there is a lot of bad info on the internet so it might not be true and I invented the genre.   I am doing a piece right now that is completely inspired by Raeburn's "Archers", both in subject matter and some compositional elements.  I wanted to include some examples of artists who I admire who utilized the past for inspiration, and in my opinion, still bringing something new to the table.

Is having help from other artists cheating?  If Kate points out a mistake, does that discredit my efforts?  (And I am referring to a painting mistakes in this case and not how she hates how I use the sink as a mop bucket instead of filling up the real one.  Seriously, try it, it's awesome.) Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to follow the path of the professional student, but if I have two colors studies and I don't know which to choose, then I get  a second opinion. I know there is a stereotype of the lonestar artist genius, but art is much more of a community than that I would hope at least.  Bottom line is, everyone is going to have an opinion, and sometimes these opinions help you out in your work.

Lastly, is memorizing all the words that use an "X" cheating when you play scrabble.  Kate's family does this and I say, damn right it's cheating. Which brings me to the main point of this article;  how much I hate playing scrabble with Kate's family.  They are so much more literate than I am, and will never let me use words like "turdify" or "spazztastic" because they aren't in their little dictionary of English "words."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Opening Night of The Uncanny

Posted by: Kate

 The opening was unreal.  Period.  Dave and Teresa and I don't really know how it happened.  Actually, we do.  We put a whole bunch of magical ideas together into a proposal, handed it to our gallery, and somehow on opening night there was a costume party, a live opera singer on classical guitar, champagne, hors-d'oeuvres, and hundreds of visitors.  Dave and I talked until we were hoarse, slugged back some champagne, and talked some more, this time less hoarse and more slurred.

But back up.  Here are some pictures of the gallery display that Teresa took before the opening:

Pretty swell.  The thing I really like about Steve Brennen's West Palace location is that it feels like the inside of someone's house, so one can imagine that collectors get a better idea for how a painting will fit into their own house, than if they saw the same painting in one of those conventional commercial spaces that some galleries have.  And there are something like seven fireplaces throughout, so everyone gets to be a special butterfly and have their work above the mantel.

So wait, what was the bit in the invitation about everyone being in costume?  Well, to help people identify us amidst the swarming, roiling masses of art lovers, we thought it would be a good idea to dress to match our paintings.  Teresa was decked out in her Rococo inspired gear as per usual, and I dressed to match the painting of my sister, "The Huntsman's Bride."  I wore a wedding gown, stole, and had a skull in my hair.  In Dave's case, we decided he should just focus on looking presentable.  Nobody wanted him in drag and face paint as one of his ruffed ladies, anyways.

Getting all dressed up in wedding gear was kind of like recreating our special day.  Dave got to be a princess for a day--again.  We essentially got to retake our wedding photos, except now we're so much better looking, with nicer clothes and better haircuts.

Dave has a rat skull ascot pin he made himself with, well, a rat skull and a pin and piece of bubblegum.  I'm wearing a mink skull in her hair (can't see it, unfortunately), so it was kind of like prom with matching corsage and buttonhole.

And yes, there were quite a few attendees in costume, thank goodness.  The gallery director, Martha Goetz, master of accessorizing, is wearing a skunk and a chicken.  You see, some people see cute animals and want to pet them, and other people want to put them on their heads.  It's really a matter of preference and luckily there are enough bantam hens to go around.

Teresa with "The Lamentation"

The stunning AnnaMaria Cardinalli loaned us her haunting vocals for the night.

Martha channeled some Giuseppe Arcimboldo in her magnificent vegetable lady.
And presumably in honor of Dave's vanitas paintings, Martha made this lovely chocolate skull.  And about another hundred mini skulls with walnut brains.

Unfortunately there was nothing we could do about the random homeless man who came in for the free booze.
When the opening was over and it was time to get after party drinks, we were a little worried about finding a place where we wouldn't be too out of place.  Then we walked into this lounge.  Red brocade wall fabric?  Check.

Six paintings sold by the end of opening night, and more sales have been trickling in ever since.

Dave and I need to extend our most sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this show possible:

Steve, thank you for reading the proposal and being, I don't know, at loose ends enough to let us have a show?  Seriously, thank you for seeing the potential, for giving us the most beautiful space in which to host our show, and for the wonderful hospitality.

Martha, thank you for...gosh, where to begin?  Calling up every single magazine editor?  Packaging and marketing our product?  Fabricating vegetable women and pouring chocolate skulls?  Hanging all 28 paintings so beautifully?  Doing all of the above with a flawless chignon bun and three feet of pearls around your neck?

Parents, thank you for trekking all the way to Santa Fe with us just to watch us be entirely self-absorbed for the entire time, and not giving us crap for it.  Thank you for supporting us through this as only parents can (because who else puts up with entirely one-sided conversations about how great we are?).  Thank you for coming to the opening to see what exactly it is that we do when we're not clad in paint smeared pajamas (we're talking about 0.0002% of our time).

Models--Paul, Emily, Allie, Fred, Brian, Jill, and ESPECIALLY Tara, who appeared in four paintings--thank you for letting us exploit your natural good looks for our personal gain.

Friends, thank you for making the trip to see our show.  Most of you came from far away and it was delightful to have familiar faces in the crowd.

Attendees, thank you all for bringing your energy, your love of art, and your appreciation of free booze and live music.  You made our night a blast.

And thank you Martha, Teresa, and Susan for letting me steal your photos.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Workshop in Carthage, North Carolina in May 2015

San Francisco too far away?  No prob, Bob.  At least, no prob if you live near Carthage, North Carolina.  From May 6-10 of next year I will be teaching a still life workshop with my lovely assistant, David Gluck.  As everyone knows, two teachers are more entertaining than one, especially when they're married and have nine years of artistic differences of opinion to work out in public.  We will be hosted by Carmen Gordon of Oak Hollow Studios.

If you are interested in enrolling, please get in touch with Carmen directly by email:

Another really neat studio space.  Love that rug.  Can I butter-side-down this one too?

Oh, and I can't wait to eat my face off while I'm there.  Photographic evidence suggests that there is a talented cook at Oak Hollow Studios.  Will there even be time for painting?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Icarus VII: Auction!

Posted by: Kate

Found: one sad little red-breasted nuthatch who never lived up to his full potential.   He never wrote that book.  Never made that trip to Paris.  People.  Life is short.

So go buy some art.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Poison Tree II

Posted by: Kate

Last episode recap: colour studies, something something, painted faces, something something, painted clothes and nearly flipped out on cloak but then it was okay...

This episode: landscape stuff and finishing!  First up is the apple tree.  The gritty and impastoed surface was applied with a combination of drybrush scumbling for the darks and palette knife impastoes for the lights, with the intention of going back into it all before wrap up to glaze and scumble into it further.

And then, with all the fun stuff used up, I'm now left with a whole lotta background to fill.  Yes, I am a dessert first kind of person.

In real life, there are no mountains behind my models, and there is no barn, or cedar trees, or house.  That thing that dazzled your eyes just now is my artistic license, baby.



I find landscape very challenging.  I did do the Hudson River Fellowship years ago, and without that, I'd be really lost.  And yet, I know I approach landscape painting like a still life painter.  I like to paint each little tree and each little blade of grass, approaching the whole scene object by object instead of treating the whole thing as one big abstract visual impression which cannot be reduced to components, but exists as a gestalt.  I had to keep reminding myself while painting the landscape above to paint the landscape, and not the parts.  In Dad Joke language, you gotta paint the forest and not the trees!  GET IT.

And now for another pass on the hands.  Loving those little knuckle dimples.

Below I start to do the final pass on Paul's face.  You can see me start off by laying down broad areas of colour.  I darken his whole face in this final stage.

And finally, hair!  You know how weird it is to have to request that your models don't have their hair cut for the month leading up to their photo shoot?  I've done it more than once.  I just hate super short hair on little boys.  It needs to have some Pantene commercial oomph to it.  What really makes strawberry coloured hair like this work in a painting is purple.  Purple purple purple.  I dump a little ultramarine blue plus alizarin crimson into the half light and reflected light areas.  It makes the coppery highlights really pop.

Emily's hair and face also get a final pass.  I had to be careful to keep her face darker than Paul's, since she is lurking behind that tree trunk.  It's that little bluish highlight on her temple that really makes her face work. 

And it's finally time for some foliage.  I had a lot of fun with these leaves.  I mixed up some massive quantities of about five shades of green and I then trowled them on with a broad, sharp flat.  In person they do come across as quite brushstroke-y.

By now the painting was mostly done, but I still was having trouble with the foreground.  The grass looked like it was painted by someone who had had grass described to them once, so I betook myself the outdoors and set up my painting in front of a tree that had some overgrown grass and wildflowers at it's base.  The results were predictably better.  I also took an evil looking red apple outside with me and painted it with the outdoor like hitting it just right.  Below is the painting at the end of my outdoor session.

And for your viewing pleasure, here are some close up pictures of the finished painting:

Remember how I foreshadowed that I would go back into that tree bark?  I ended up doing some nifty glazing and scumbling over top of the impastoing.

And, because it's all a bunch of art nerds reading this, here are the head studies I did as prep work back when I was developing the idea for this painting:

Now I'm not saying you should click here to check out the auction, but click here to check out the auction.  Auction ends on August 10th.