Monday, May 7, 2018

The Winner Is...

If you follow my Facebook Page, you know that every few months I have an Art Give-Away. The latest give away, of an oil painting of a daylily, was won by Lori Heeter.  Thanks to all who shared the post (and my art) - it reached 1,800 people. The next give-away will be in July.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Making versus Marketing

There have always been more artists than galleries and avenues for exhibiting art. But the internet is now changing this. Artists can find and foster an audience that galleries never even knew existed.

In light of this new freedom of outreach, there are many businesses marketing to artists to help them market and sell their work online. I have been using one such business, Art Storefronts, and I am enjoying many of the features and benefits of such a program. I see some of my other artist friends using other programs, but they all focus on building your audience and marketing to that audience. The platform I joined has a lot of marketing and social-media advice that is good and I have been following through on some of these suggestions while testing the water on others.

I find this type of work to be a curse, anathema, an abomination. Alright, the fact that I like writing this newsletter and having y’all read it tells you that I don’t think marketing is a complete abomination. But it is not natural to me nor convenient. These platforms suggest that an artist’s time should be divided between art making (80%) and marketing (20%). For the course of 2018, until I took the last two weeks off of social-media and updating my website, I have been consistently promoting my work and doing many of the things I “should” be doing.  But I needed a break.

Artists like to make things. I think that is pretty obvious. In general, artists prefer that the objects they make are out front in the public eye and their personal life stays behind the scenes. It is hard for artists to remember that they are not marketing themselves. They want to stay in the background while marketing seems about placing yourself out there in the rough currents of society. Yet, my work has a commentary aspect to it. It talks about who we are as a society and I would love to have people respond to it, value it and take it home. That is part of the thinking behind the work. Unfortunately, to engage an audience I can’t sit in the shadows and throw out wry observations.

So, I am getting back on that horse and will continue with the marketing, and even ramping it up some, over the course of the year. But I don’t want to have my marketing activities diminish my studio experience. My work doesn’t fit neatly in the online scene of art marketing. I don’t make images. Much of the art online is just an image to be placed on a piece of paper, a piece of canvas, a coffee cup, a keychain. It is not art meant to be its own object and have its own presence in someone’s life. Often the final product someone receives from an online artist’s website was not made by an artist’s hand but by a printer. I’m only willing to go down that path so far. So, I struggle with the contemporary art marketing world that I have to live in.  It is at odds with the ultimate purpose and value of my work which is forging a worldview into an object - developing a language of material that expresses thought.

Friday, April 27, 2018

What's Cooking in the Studio - April 2018

As mentioned, I have been painting with guache to make pieces for the online auction in August. This project happened to coincide with the blooming of two orchids in my studio. So, of course, I had to make a few paintings of them. More info coming as the auction gets closer.
Peanut Buster Parfait or Not

I have been working on my next Obsessions painting - this is the first layer of paint. The working title on this one is Don't Leave Me. Yes, it is an empty peanut buster parfait cup with a red plastic spoon in it. The text written in the background are the words"Don't Go." I really appreciated setting up this still life - eating just enough of the fudge so you can still see some but still see through the cup. It was hard work! I hope to finish this painting in the next week.
Botanical Prints

My studio has been littered with prints as I have been busy this last week making 100 prints of my trillium painting for the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. This is an annual project helping them with their annual fundraiser. The original painting is auctioned off at their spring fundraising dinner and signed prints are available to members of a certain level.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Granlund Room

The winner of last month's promotional give-away was Bill Smith. He sent this lovely image of my red onion painting hanging in his home above a small sculpture by Paul Granlund. In honor of these two pieces, he is now calling this the Granlund Room. I am honored to be displayed next to such a great artist, like Paul. No, we are not related, although a lot of people ask.  And I am honored to have a room named after me (shared). This is the second time I've had a room named after me. The other is a backroom in a bar in Teaneck, New Jersey, but that is a story for another time.

Another promotional painting give-away will happen before Mother's Day in early May.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Upcoming Exhibit at Wargo Nature Center

I will be in the upcoming exhibit, at Wargo Nature Center

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral 
May 8th through September 8, 2018 

The exhibit explores the interpretations of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral in relation to subject and material. I will have 8 - 10 paintings from my Sinkside Compost Series on exhibit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I Hate Myself for Loving You - Oil Painting

I Hate Myself for Loving You
Oil Paint on Wood Panel
12" x 20" x 1.5"
This oil painting is of Oreo cookies half-eaten, broken and piled on a plate. I cannot refuse Oreo cookies. I also cannot eat just one. By the time I am done I feel terrible, physically and emotionally. I hate myself for being so addicted. This is the third painting I've created in my Obsessions Series, which is about my food obsessions. Normally, I write the title obsessively across the background of these paintings. In this one I painted little red hearts for how much I love Oreos. The edge of the plate also has the words "hate" in black and "love" in red.

Monday, March 26, 2018

AI Art and Dwindling Human Experience

Scientists at Rutgers University are programming AI to create art. After AI programs viewed thousands of artworks they were tasked to create Abstract Expressionist images. The images generated by the AI were then shown next to real artworks from Art Basel, one of the most prestigious art fairs in the world. People were then asked to differentiate the AI images from actual artworks by human artists. Long story short, viewers correctly identified the works by real artists more often than the works by AI. Yet, often, the AI images were indistinguishable from the images by real artists.

But then, “respondents were asked to rate how intentional, visually structured, communicative, and inspiring the images were. They 'rated the images generated by [the computer] higher than those created by real artists, whether in the Abstract Expressionism set or in the Art Basel set.'”

The catty part of me wants to question whether AI images looked more like real art, or Art Basel images looked less like real art? Art Basel is a bit of a carnival and lots of bad art is raised in stature by being seen with the good art. But, this is not the point of the article, nor is it the point of what I am most concerned about – meow.

This incident is one more step down a road that we have been traveling quietly for many decades, maybe even centuries. It is the devaluing of the human experience.

Of course, humans are the pinnacle of development - as far as we are concerned. So, of course, we would be the standard against which AI would be measured. AI is very beneficial in situations in which it helps humans to compensate for disabilities and deficiencies or makes a task easier and safer. But there is another side to AI - creating an alternative to humans.

It is interesting that all the articles I have been reading focus on the timeline for improvements to the AI. They ask where is AI on the road to developing true imagination and how long will it take to be indistinguishable from human creative thought? But none of them ask what the impact is on humans. What happens to humans if a completely separate entity is created that makes human expression no longer unique, or necessary?

As someone who is engaged in expressing his human experience through his art, I always find it puzzling when people want to disregard the human experience. We see this continually in the world around us. We have fake news that is not based in human experience, but manipulated messaging. We have Facebook friends and communities instead of investing in personal relationships and engaging in local human communities. We watch other people's (fictional and non-fictional) experiences on television instead of creating our own. We have alternate reality machines that can put us into a completely convincing alternate world. On top of that, we do a lot of self-medicating via alcohol and drugs. It is as if we don't want to be here. As if we don't want to be ourselves.

I know life is hard for many people and I don't want to make light of that. My life, at times, has been very difficult. But I relish the personal experiences of raising a daughter, being involved in my friend's lives, and being intimate on many levels with a partner.  I enjoy having a mother and sister that live close so we can share new experiences while reminiscing about old. I enjoy creating something on a daily basis. And I appreciate the eventual results of wrestling with the difficult times.

Now, to see an AI program creating “art” is one more example of negating these human experiences and there expression. Yes, Mark, but people find the AI images more engaging. Doesn't that make the AI art more valuable, This is tantamount to saying news sources are credible because they have stories that appeal to your opinion on issues. We have flipped the dynamic of human experience. Instead of observing the world around us and growing from its alternating between challenging us and supporting us, we expect to impress our opinions onto it so our reality is not challenging. What we are doing is creating a small homogeneous bubble around ourselves thinking it will protect us from pain and struggle. My friend, Barbara McAfee, in her book Full Voice, asks the question, “when did we decide that being anything less than our full selves would make us safer?” It's a great question.

My human experience is not so objectionable that I want to continually run from it. Society-wide, that approach is a race to the bottom, a marathon to a world that will not allow us to reach the finish line. I am trying to live in a world where we value the expression of our full selves instead of leaking our self-loathing into objects meant to replace us instead of amplify us. I want my life to be an oil painting of substance instead of an empty illustration of what I had hoped for.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will keep painting, putting my experience into canvas and panels. I believe that art is an object. It is not an image. Artists imbue their substrate with an energy that lives on and emanates into your home when you hang it on your wall. Then, you add your energy to the art by interacting with it on a daily basis and providing a deeper experiential meaning. In the end, the work has been a conduit for energy and intention, for building memory and knowledge, for sharing experience and meaning, for weaving together the strands of humanity that create a better self.

At some point we will have to put away our AI, our toys, and our distractions and value our experiences, expressions and who we are at our core, if we are going to make it to that finish line.


Here's another interesting article about the history of AI paintings, which have their beginnings in 1973:

To see my non-AI paintings, visit