Saturday, December 31, 2016

Elections, Images and History

The last few months have been home to some stunning events in this country. The results of the presidential election were unexpected and have created a lot of concern and anxiety. There seems to be some possibility a foreign country has tried to unduly influence the election. The Dakota Pipeline protest has pitted peaceful water-protectors against public law enforcement that have decided to protect a large company that does not have permission to dig the land they are on. Sometimes it seems like the world is going, as they used to say, "to Hell in a hand basket."  As I sit in my studio painting, I am aware of a world around me crumbling. I am aware of my privilege to be able to sit in my studio and paint while these events unfold.

Part of the craziness that people feel is the way in which words and symbols are now twisted and used to hurt people instead of to help them. Politicians and media take images and words that used to be positive and sow doubt about their meaning, about their value.  As I research the early Modernist movement in art, I can't help but think about similarities. After all, it was the greedy and political actions of the upper-class in the late 1800's that eventually led to the Great Depression - much like our recent Great Recession.  The early- to mid-1800's, with the rise of the Industrial Age and the middle-class, and the subsequent rise to wealth and power for a few families, were very tumultuous times. The Modernist movement in art, before there was mass media or an internet, was one manner in which the days' problems could be framed and discussed. From its inception, the Modernist movement was a struggle against institutionalized parameters of success which used idiomatic symbols to express a conceited sense of the common. Modernism was seeking something more. The true Modernist sought authenticity through presenting a personal individual view of the world, as opposed to the institutionally accepted view of the world.

We are trying to do the same these days, but those who dictate images and words to the masses seem to have upped their game and gotten ahead of us. It won't be easy to reclaim a societal perspective that is based on the personal experience of millions - after all, how do you do that?  There are certainly lessons to be learned from Trump, Clinton and Sanders and how they galvanized large segments of our population. The fight is there -- a fight to make a country that works for all of its citizens, not just a few.

A New Year and a New Website

There's a new look to my website: Easier navigation! Bigger images!
Check it out!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Gull Island Rise: Oil Paint

Gull Island Rise
Oil Paint on Canvas
12" x 14"

Although I have been busy learning my new job, I have also been busy painting in my studio. This painting is of a rocky rise on Gull Island on Rainy Lake. In it I continue to explore early Modernist techniques for expressing nature.

This last summer, while painting at Mallard Island on Rainy Lake, I found myself going back to the same old way I had been painting landscapes for years. I recognized this soon after beginning and then consciously started working in a more geometric manner to represent the water. Although this technique is not about being realistic, it captures the experience of how water reflects many colors and creates many patterns -- capturing the essence and energy of the scene in front of my eyes.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Job Change - Hurray!

My big art news for me is that after twenty-two years working as the Arts and Gardens Coordinator for the City of Saint Paul I have a new job as the Public Art Administrator with Metro Transit. I have been at the new job for about eight weeks and am enjoying it very much. With this big change I decided to put off teaching classes this fall (and generally put off some responsibilities like writing blog entries) until I became comfortable in the new position. I am very excited to work with the new people and new environment at Metro Transit, along with working with more artists and overseeing a growing public art collection. Since you are reading this blog entry, you might assume that I am becoming comfortable in this new position and am starting to begin some art activities again. This is true! I will be posting some new paintings and announcing a couple of shows in 2017 soon. Until then, please check out the watercolor class I am offering in January at Jack-in-the-Pulpit Studio.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cigs, Twigs, and Fries - Oil Painting

Cigs, Twigs and Fries
Oil Paint on Canvas
30" x 40"

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Journey

Dear Artheads,
Oh god, The Journey. How many times have we heard that a young artist is just beginning their journey or that a mature artist is at a difficult stage in their journey? Yes, we are all on a journey of realizing self and community through our art. Or are we?  I do believe that everybody is developing (or at least able to develop if they have half a mind to be open to developing) and that there is no consistency to each person's development. The stages of development I experience most likely will not be in the same order or at the same intensity as you. But there is this unwritten expectation that we all will end in a similar place. I can have experiences A, B, C. D, etc. and you can have experiences D, C, A, B, etc. and when we are both done we will have both experienced the whole alphabet of experiences. My actual life experience is that the further we each go down our own paths the further we get away from each other and that there is not a set of experiences we all get to work our way through. I believe this idea of a set of experiences developed out of the Industrial Revolution in which we began to plasticize and standardize life and all of its aspects.

Of course, artists are on a journey -- or are they?  Everybody goes through development.  By shear repetition we gain skills and abilities to create art differently than we had before.  There are periods wherein we mature to a new level, but often, we don't mature much beyond a level or two over the course of our lives. Often, what seems like a deepening and maturing in the work is simply the fact that the audience is now seeing one hundred and fifty paintings about the same subject matter, whereas before they had only seen twenty. Sometimes the audience is the one that needs to come to see the place where the artist has been living for years.

I think we have some great artists in van Gogh and Gauguin, and others, who struggled to find the great Meaning in their lives and tried to find it through art. Yet, while trying to find this inner state of perfection and expression, came to depend on the opinions of others (art buyers and fellow artists) for their sense of self.  Sorry, Vinnie and Paulie, you can't have it both ways. But that seemed to be the way of the world back then: people yearning to have their own personal experiences become the standard for the rest of the world. I think the Western world is moving into a new stage of understanding wherein each individual has a unique experience and using an individual experience to extrapolate across a population or a species just doesn't work. Art cannot save the world, or even individuals. Art is not Christ, and I don't even believe Christ, Bodhisattva, et al. can save us. We will get exactly what we bring about. If there is any Meaning to be found it is in the things that resonate with our own self. For some that is family, faith and community, for others it is an activity, ability and audience. Most people, once discovering these things, develop to one or two stages of resonance and then glide on through life slowly coming to rest at the end.

Is the journey about acceptance of self? Again, that is an end goal to the journey that obviously many people fail. If it is about "being what you will become" then how is that a journey? It just is. You will be what you bring about no matter what you believe. I do not mean this to seem flip about anybody's "journey," it just seems so obvious to me that the metaphor is poor and often creates false expectations.

Alright, enough negative talk, because this week I conversed with the very positive and pleasant Nan Jahnke. Nan has spent many years taking art classes and has considered herself a student of art, but she has recently begun to create and sell her own work identifying herself as an artist. We talk about Nan's pottery and paintings and her journey to identifying herself as an artist.



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sharing Personal Experience

I've been working hard in the studio this week and I have been thinking about what an odd thing it is to paint. When I was younger, I never thought anyone would be interested in what I had to say. Now that I'm older, I understand that saying what you want to say is the only reason to paint.  Now that I am older, I also understand that if I sell or not is not a barometer as to whether I am getting to my own truth.  

No great revelation there, but an important thing to experience.  There is so much advice out there about how to be a successful artist. You can know the many different lists of what to do to be successful, but none of that knowledge matters until you actually experience it in action. I read an article today, alright I glanced through it, about the 5 e's of selling your art: empathy, ... and four other words that start with e. Really, it's all kinda bullshit. It's partly bullshit because many artists don't really want to do what it takes to sell a lot of work, because it is not in their personality to be that way. Other artists define success different than selling, and not just because they haven't been successful at selling.  They just define success different than selling.  All of this advice is kinda like religion and your horoscope, so much advice is out there that something is going to resonate with you. That doesn't mean it's any more correct or worthy than any other advice -- it's just timing and personal experience.

My guest this week, Justin Terlecki, and we talk alot about sharing personal experience as part of our creating art. Give it a listen and let me know how you share your personal experience through your art and let me know how you define success as an artist? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vulnerability and Fragility

Hello Artsy Folk,
I have several thoughts rolling through my mind. I walked my dog, Delilah, through a cemetery by my house this morning. I saw an area of smooth brown dirt in the green grass. Obviously, the dirt was about coffin size. There at the foot of the dirt area was a tomb plaque, the kind that sits flush with the ground instead of standing upright. The plaque was out of the ground and had the woman's name and birth date. They had not yet put the date of death on the plaque. Just another reminder that we are only here for a short time. In light of this, I could throw my hands up in the air and figure art isn't worth making - after all, I can't take it with me and, fifty years after I'm dead, no one will even remember me. I should spend my time loving people instead of spending my time alone in my studio or on my computer.

A little despair sets in for a bit, but then my dog wants some food, or to play, or to eat. Eventually, I find myself wanting to paint or draw or write..., or something. And I think art is a way of loving. It is a way of loving others by communicating what is in my heart and brain. Hopefully, someone finds beauty in it like I do and we can begin a dialogue. Art is also a way to love myself. I have an inherent need to express these things that come into my heart and my head. To not would actually be hurtful to myself. Of course, you don't have to listen/read/view what I make... but I do have to make.

This week I talk with Ellie Kingsbury photographer, whose work deals with aging and fragility and inner beauty versus outer beauty. And it has a lot to do with food - so I LOVE it!



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Industrial Meal of Happiness - Oil Painting

Industrial Meal of Happiness
Oil Paint on Canvas
48" x 48"

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Good Artists and Good People

Hello Artistists,
I sometimes wonder about our impact on people. What does it mean to be a good artist and a nice person? It seems that in history there were artists who were intense and difficult, but because of their genius, people would admire them and give them some slack. There is also this strange idea that artists are aloof, living in their own world. If they turn you off or seem rude, it's acceptable, because they are a man/woman-child who needs to be unsullied by the outside world. But what happens if you are a good artist and a good person? Do people even care about the artist's temperament when purchasing or admiring their work? Obviously, community artists are in a different boat, because they are creating an experience. If they make the experience unpleasant, they won't be making many community projects.

Most artists I know are concerned with what people think about them. I don't mean this in a bad way. Most artists want to leave a legacy of being helpful, being good to others. They value community and genuinely hope to engage with people in a positive manner. That said, what I like about these Artist's Brain Podcast interviews is that I am meeting genuinely good people who are concerned about this world. It is very affirming.

This week I have a conversation with Chris Faust, one of the good guys. We talk about his photography, transitions, working with youth and, of course, we talk some gear.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

It Takes a Community

Dear Artistas,
I have been thinking about community.  Yes, I sit alone in my studio creating these odd paintings about food.  You also sit alone in your studio making that crazy art about gas stations, death, birds and whatever else you think is important to life. But no artist who ever made a living from their own work, or became considered a good artist by the surrounding community, ever got anywhere on their own. It does take a community of people to help you get to a point of recognition, a place of artistic maturity, a parapet of accomplishment.  Without interacting with others we simply become idealists lost in our own little world.

Really, do I have to get on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram, and...?  No, but you do have to interact with people and the more diverse that group of people is, the better off you will be.  When I say diverse I mean getting feedback on your work from as many different kinds of people involved with the art world as possible. Of course, ask the artists close to you for their honest opinion about your art. Ask gallery owners, ask art critiques, ask artists who work in a completely different medium, ask artists from a different culture than your own, ask people who buy art, ask people to exhibit their work with you and write proposals together, ask artists to ..., I think you get the idea. The more meaningful interaction you have with others, the more it will help your art.

Just make sure the interaction is meaningful. No, you don't have to get on social media and share your whole life. But you could get on there and share the work you are making. When you go to an art opening, you can ask people about their work and share a little about your own.  In the business world its called networking. In the art world its called building your community. Whatever you do, you should realize that it takes a lot of people besides just the artist to get somewhere.

Do you know who your community is?

On the podcast this week I talk with Rogue Citizen. Rogue Citizen is a small collective of artists with backgrounds in printmaking, design, graffiti, illustration and ruckus-making, founded 2009 in Minneapolis. All five members work on the same artwork at the same time or work on individual projects under the Rogue Citizen banner. I sat down with three members of Rogue Citizen and talked about communal art creation, non-political political art, the role of technology, and the future of the world.



Friday, May 27, 2016

Stil Life with the Fruits of the Revolution

Still Life with the Fruits of the Revolution
Oil paint on canvas
18" x 24"

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Playing in Public

One of the odd things about being an artist is that we play in public. As I'm writing this, I am playing with Cezanne in my studio. No, I didn't go to France, dig up his body and bring it back to my studio.  Although, that could be a grant worthy idea. I am playing with his still lifes: his sense of space and color and application of paint. But I am adding a contemporary sensibility of food to the setting.  It is all rather fun and has been enlightening as to what CZ (he let's me call him that) was doing way back then one hundred and fifty years ago.

One of these paintings was recently shared online. It will hopefully be shown publicly in the next year or so. I get to play with Zanny (he let's me call him that) and then I get to share it with all of you.  Now that can be loads of fun - like adding a gun to one of his compositions.  But it also can be scary, like making a painting about fishsticks. Really, I played with fishsticks and got burned.  Sometimes I will be playing with my paints and I find that I have accidentally wandered away from everyone else into the dark woods.  While there, I see a plate of fishsticks or something else amazing, but who's going to believe me?  I try to explain the wonder that I have seen, but they can't quite see the beauty or the humor of it all. Oh well, onto the next piece of play. Hopefully, it will entice you to play with it, too.

If you're playing and you're a public artist, well then, your mistakes are there for everyone to see. I talked about this with Amanda Lovelee recently while she took time to meet with me over her lunch break. We talk about play, thinking about art on a city-wide scale and about national and international appreciation of a great City Artist program in our home town, Saint Paul, Minnesota.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Releasing the Joy

Today's conversation with Erin Sayer was recorded four days before Prince's death. We mentioned Prince briefly as we talked about Erin's projects. We posed for our picture in front of Erin's mural of Prince.

In my years, many celebrities and musicians have died but none have had such an emotional impact on me as the death of Prince. I don't have a Prince story.  Although I have lived most of my life in the Twin Cities, I never had the pleasure to run into him or see him perform. But like any Minnesotan growing up in the 70's and 80's, I reveled in Prince's music.  I danced at Minneapolis clubs to Let's Go Crazy, I snuggled with my Honey to Strolling and felt deeply to songs like Still Will Stand All Time. 

Everyone has their celebrities and musicians that they love, that they identify with. John Lennon's death was similar, but it was sudden and senseless. At the time, it did feel like, as Doctor Who would say, a fixed point in time and space that cannot be changed or avoided. In a moment, everyone knew that we now would have to trudge along without a brother who defined our struggle for peace and love.  Lennon did this by kicking at the dark and pushing the contradictions of the powerful back into their faces. 

The Saturday after Prince's death, I was driving away from my house when Purple Rain came on the radio. Feelings welled up inside my chest and I had to pull over to the side of the street to cry. What is it about Prince that has this effect on me? Yes, I identify with him. Prince was a fellow Minneapolitan who never left town to make it big.  It gave every creative person here the sense that it can be done in Minnesota.  We don't have to move to the coasts to thrive.

As the days continue passing and Prince's death gets further removed, feelings still well up in me when I think about him. It, again, feels like a fixed point in time and space that cannot be changed or avoided. In a moment, we have all lost a brother.  Someone who defined our struggle for peace and love, but not by kicking at the dark and not by showing up the powerful. Feelings well up in me because Prince defined our struggle by reveling in joy. He was the one dancing as if no one was watching, while knowing that millions were.  He sang, not as if he was a lone performer, but as if he was part of a magnificent choir that included everyone who came before him, who sang with him and will, now, sing his songs in the future. He was the one who was loving as if he had never been hurt and living life every day as if it were his last - that is what his music tells me. And to hear his music now, knowing that his beautiful heart is no longer beating, I can't help but cry at our loss.  Just as he raised us all up, a little closer to the light of his God, we now know that a darkness is upon us. But now, we not only know how to kick at the dark, but we also know how to stave it off by reveling in communal joy. Thank you Prince. Let the dancing begin. 

This week, I sat down with Erin Sayer in her large studio space in North Minneapolis to talk about making murals, surviving as an artist and about keeping moving. 



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Experimentation and Progression

Hello Art Lovers,

I have been thinking this week about the need to continually push boundaries and experiment with my work. I certainly am someone who will go into my own uncharted territory. I don't know how many times I look at one of my paintings in process and think, "What the fuck am I doing!" That used to occur more in terms of the painting technique I was using. But now it occurs more in terms of why am I painting what I am painting. I don't think what I'm doing is worthless, I just don't know where it is coming from or how it moves things further. Sometimes these things become more apparent later.

What do I mean when I talk about moving things forward? It's good to experiment, but not good to get stuck there, or to do nothing more than experiment. The work still needs to move your overall idea forward, fulfill your voice. But as I wrote, sometimes you don't see this until later.

Recently, I had a desire to paint fishsticks.  I thought this continued a conversation I started with an earlier painting of two fish on a plate.  But as I was painting it I really had to wonder what I was doing - I was painting a pile of fishsticks - with tartar sauce! Ultimately, seeing it next to my other paintings in this series, I think it does move the conversation forward, or maybe sideways. I'm not really sure.  I guess the best I can say about it is that I don't think it holds back the conversation. Maybe for someone else it will be a "stunner."  I do know that it helped move me into a slightly different direction with my work and maybe that is the role that it will have in the series, a pivot point that isn't a yet fully developed idea. Different paintings have different roles in the course of a body of work. Maybe that's why I feel uneasy about it, it doesn't neatly fit into a role in the series. Its too strong to be a supporting piece, yet its not quite developed to the point of being definitive. I think I need more hindsight - I'll look at it again in three months.

This week, I have a conversation with Jan Elftmann. She is sometimes known as the Art Car Lady. We talk about gathering potential resources and trusting the process to make the use of the resources obvious,... some day. And we talk about a whole lot more.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Oil Painting - Sinkside Compost

Sinkside Compost
Oil paint on Canvas
12" x 16"

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Oil Painting: Glass of River Water with Lead

Glass of River Water with Lead 
Oil Paint on Canvas 
16" x 12"

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Oil Painting: Pumpkin Shell

Pumpkin Shell
Oil paint on canvas
30" x 24"

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oil Painting: Mixed Nuts

Mixed Nuts, Oil Paint on canvas, 30" × 40", by Mark Granlund:

Mixed Nuts
Oil on Canvas
30" x 40"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Art Thought: Has 100 Years of Modernism Ruined Art Schools?

I've been reading a lot of art history lately focusing on 1850 - 1985: The Era of Modernism. Having taken art history classes in college and graduate school, I was aware of the development of Modernism, but what I had forgotten was how early it began. I had some sense that Modernism was a reaction to the societal chaos that led up to the first and second world wars.  But it began much sooner with developments well underway in the 1860's - 1880's. The recent Delacroix exhibit at MIA is trying to even establish Delacroix (1798 - 1863) as the first influence on the artists who would establish Modernism.

One of the main tenants of Modernism is the throwing off of the power of the academies and establishing the individual artist's vision as the sole guiding force in creating a painting. The art academies taught a way of painting that insisted upon certain processes and subject matter when creating a painting. In particular, the Paris Academy of Fine Arts was very conservative and prioritized categories of art expecting realistic but romantic paintings. Winners of the Paris Salon (works for exhibit were chosen by the academy) were almost guaranteed to have a successful career and receive commissions from the government and wealthy individuals. Although some would find this stifling (such as those who created Modernism), the academies did teach the medium of oil painting, composition, the use of allegory and symbolism, etc. Cezanne, Manet, Whistler, Gaugin, van Gogh, etal. took painting in a different direction, but had grown up in an art environment dominated by the academies.  They were well aware of what was being taught in the academies.  Many attended the academy and knew other artists who had completed their academy training. Plus, they had attended the Salons created by the academies, and entered their paintings. At the Paris Salon of 1863, the artists that were rejected from the exhibit created a stink and Napoleon III let them have their own show in another part of the Palace of Industry to let the public decide if they like the art.  And thus, the avant-garde gained acceptance with the public and the rest, as they say, is history.

And now we come to today, a hundred and fifty years later with Modernism having been fully established for more than one hundred years. The official academies of fine art are long gone and been replaced by art departments in schools that have several departments and disciplines.  There are some private ateliers and schools called art academies, but there is not the hierarchical structure that is attached to government and private commissions. The ateliers and academies of today are simply teaching a formal technique.  If you do not do well in art school you will not lose commissions. If you excel at art school you are not guaranteed any success in your career.  Things are very different.

The structure of the academies has been replaced with the individual artist having to find their way to success by creating a compelling body of work. Compelling is the operative word here and it runs the gamut from Thomas Kincade to Karen Finley. I'm not going out on a limb stating that the difference between Kincade and Finley is greater than the difference between any of the early Modernists and the artists of the academies that they rebelled against.  There is little in our larger society from which to create a solid base of skill in making good art. Artists actually asked for this situation. Of course, the early Modernists already had a solid base for understanding painting because the academies existed and the results were all around them. But now, generations later, I fear a solid base for crafting good art is not available.  There is a craft to art.  There are media to be used and they should be used in a manner that supports the overall direction of the idea behind the art piece.  Yes, there is technique taught in art departments, but the work I have seen lately by young artists shows a lack of understanding in using their media.

Part of the problem is that artists can now use anything to create art, not just paint and canvas, or granite and marble.  There is no limit to what you can use, even taxidermied animals, computer operated light systems, and your own body. No small group of teachers at a school will know all of the available media and how best to use it.  In these cases, all a person can teach is to be a stickler on presentation and hope the student takes care.  But I'm afraid that students get teachers out of their comfort zones - ah, if only there was just one to three painting techniques to teach instead of an infinite number.

And then there is that aspect of needing to be compelling so that you can be supported by grants.  In my day job as an Arts Coordinator with the City of Saint  Paul, I have seen numerous people receive grants and only afterward contact the City to claim that they have received money to create an art piece on City property, after all, they wrote it into the grant proposal. More often than not, these artists don't have any real idea how to use their material or how to work with the space which they proposed.  But the proposal was so compelling!  Its as if artists are rewarded not for the completion of a successful piece of art, but for coming up with a compelling idea that may never actually get enacted or created in a way that will allow it to last for any significant period of time.

I have also been visiting art exhibits around the Twin Cities over the last couple of years and have been appalled at a lack of understanding of material and technique by younger artists.  I was most appalled by an exhibit for emerging artists by a local foundation.  The lack of understanding about material and process was astounding in a majority of the artists who had won the grants and had a year to develop the work - with support.  But, obviously, their ideas were very compelling when they wrote about them.

Now, in fairness, I will admit that I am a much better painter now than I was in my twenties. Even better than when I was in my thirties.  I also will confess that I have had a hiatus away from oil painting for a few years and as I am getting back into it I am realizing that I don't know much about it.  I had been previously painting with oils for years before my hiatus, but somehow, it seems now like I know nothing.  I don't just mean this as a proclamation to make me look humble.  I really feel, when I am working on a canvas, that a whole new world is opening up to me that I never was aware of before.  I do wonder where my brain was at when I was in school all those years ago. Oh yeah, I was scared I wasn't... everything.

I have no solution to this problem but to encourage artists to research their materials and technique and to learn from others who are a little further down the road, cuz' lord knows, there isn't an academy or a culture drenched in art to help you. 

To encourage artists to greater art making, I submit to you the following paintings that were created before the artist celebrated their 30th birthday.  Many of these were made when they were 25 - 27 years old.
James Whistler, Symphony in White No. 1

Anthony van Dyck, Genoan hauteur from the Lomellini family

Eugene Delacroix, La Pasion Griega

Auguste Renoir, Lise Sewing
Claude Monet, The Picnic (fragment)

Camille Pissarro, Deux femmes causant au bord de la mer, Saint Thomas 

Georges Braque, The Olive tree near l'Estaque

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Eduard Manet, Música en las Tullerías

Alfred Sisley, Lane near a Small Town

A Chicken Story

This is a drawing of a chicken previously seen in a video:

I drew this chicken from a photo I had taken of my neighbors chickens, a Silver-Spangled Hamberg.  My neighbor, I will call her Ms. Frogstad, has several chickens.  She has had her own chickens for quite some time.  Some of her current chickens came from another neighbor of hers.  This other neighbor had chickens, but then had a child and decided it was too much work to keep the chickens.  This other neighbor, I will call her Ms. Brooklyn, is a coworker of mine.  I had previously painted some of her chickens.  Well, I didn't paint her chickens - I made paintings of her chickens.  I had also made a video of myself painting one of her chickens.  Here is the video of me painting her chicken:

Now it just so happens that both the chicken I painted, and the chicken I drew look very similar.  But of course, all chickens of the same species look similar.  But could these have been the very same chicken two years apart?  You can tell from my hand in both videos, that I have kept my youthful tone and attitude in spite of the intervening years.  It is not easy being an artist and keeping a youthful appeal, what with the heavy drinking, recreational drug use, way too much sex and the occasional self-mutilation.  But I have managed to do well in this area, at least when it comes to my right hand.

But was this the same chicken two years later?  I was loosing sleep wondering if this were the case.  How odd that would have been.  What a sign from the heavens that would be.  Should I assume that God wanted me to continually recreate this chicken?  Was I supposed to paint objects twice, two years apart?  There is so much of my future riding on this strange coincidence.

In the end, the first chicken I painted was a Silver-laced Wyandotte.  The second one that I drew was a Silver Spangled Hamberg.  Not much mystery there.  I became depressed for two weeks.  Now, I wasn't sure about the direction my life should take.  But, thankfully, I have found my bearings once again.  I have visited the chickens since and performed healing ceremonies while they just look at me and "cluck."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Oil Painting: Peanuts and Peanuts

Peanuts and Peanuts
Oil on Canvas
10" x 20"

Monday, January 11, 2016

Who are My Historic Influences?

The more I sit and paint in my studio the more I wonder where I fit in the great flow of art history.  I wonder where my thoughts come from, who has thought them before, who has been at this place before me and able to help me understand the next step?  I have been reading Herbert Read's book on Modern Painting. He basically covers from Cezanne to the early 1950's, approximately seventy years of painting.  I like this book because it only covers painting, not architecture or sculpture or other arts or crafts.  Being focused, the book gives a good overview of developments over those decades going from a discipline that was fairly consistent and organized for the previous hundred years to an artform that exploded into a myriad of approaches and styles.

What are the lessons from the past that have resonated with me?

First, I start with Cezanne.  There were two main organizing thoughts that came out of Cezanne (1860's - 1906), one inspired Picasso and sent him down the road of Cubism, while the other inspired Matisse and sent him down the road of color and pattern.  Prior to Cezanne, the art world was conservative and dominated by academies that taught a subscribed way to make art.  First, an artist would create a composition using classical techniques of composition based on geometric shapes and moving the eye throughout the canvas. Then they would make an under-painting in a neutral color, capturing the values of a painting.  Then the artist would build layers of glazes over the under-painting in order to capture color and create atmosphere and light.  This often would involve changing a color by glazing a complimentary color over it. The compositions of paintings prior to Cezanne were very reliant on values, darks and lights, to be successful.  Cezanne thought why do all this layering, why not create a color and then just put it on the canvas. If you need a dark shadow, why not just mix a blue and put it on the canvas with one layer of paint?  When you need a highlight on an orange, mix a sunny light orange color on your palette and paint it on the canvas in one layer.  Now this is a bit simplified, and it sounds as if Cezanne was a bit lazy, but this wasn't the case.  What Cezanne really wanted was the painting to work because the colors of the composition worked.  He did not want the painting to rely on value.  Blues have certain qualities, as do reds and yellows, and greens, etc.  Cezanne used the qualities of the colors to make his compositions and sense of space work.

Second, Picasso had a few periods early in his career where he was consistent in how he painted.  These are called his blue and his rose periods.  But after these periods, most people think that he began Cubism, did that for several years creating different types of Cubism and then went on to Surrealism, and Expressionism, etc.  But in actuality, after his early periods he painted a variety of styles all the time.  He was simply experimenting continually.  Art history has come along and categorized his work into different schools of thought, but his thoughts were anything but categorized.  He would wake up and paint a Cubist painting one day, and the next day he would wake up and make a Surrealist painting, etc.  Yes, there was progression in what he was doing, but the work was not slotted into styles and he simply was pushing the envelope wherever and whenever he could.  He really was quite amazing at taking a simple concept from Cezanne and then running with it to many extremes.

Why do these two ideas resonate with me? First, I have been creating watercolors for many years and have not been painting with oils.  In the last two years, I have built a studio space where I can make oil paintings again.  As I wonder who has been through my situation before me, I look to these two ideas for guidance in my next steps.  First, let the color do the work. Traditional watercolor painting, and especially the botanical genre that I was engaged in, is very value oriented.  With my oil paintings, I want the colors do the work and not rely so much on value.  Secondly, I don't want to stop experimenting and learning.  I know that galleries like to have artists with a distinctive style so they can market that work to their clients.  But I never have been in this game to produce product as much as to explore ideas and techniques.  I want to move forward in a manner that does not censor my own explorations and discoveries.  I believe that if you are doing good work, no matter the style, people will respond to it.  After all, there are a million styles and ways of painting out there that are selling.  If I am not learning something new when I am painting I am not enjoying it and it shows.  The only art that isn't going to sell, no matter what, is uninteresting art.

Food Art Brainstorm

Food Brainstorm

Food, rotting food (spoilage), the rot of society, good things turn bad, food in a cake stand so it can rot but I can see it and paint it.

the decay of functionality and health, mold, decay, fuzzy mold, slime, gelatinous, the world is slowly decaying - human activity is slowly decaying into a self-consuming end.  We see but we are paralyzed by our habits, by our expectations.  We see it rot but we don't grow more, we don't prune off the dead, we sit and hope for someone else to save us, yet it is we who created the problem - and are the answer. Rotting fruit, maggots on meat, Vanitas paintings.  Include more items, not just one rotting piece of food.
 ... <b>Painting</b>: <b>Vanitas</b> exhibit at <b>ART</b>.FAIR 21 Cologne | <b>Vanitas</b> | Pinterest
Include insects and animals.  Include human remains - stay away from zombies.
- Molecular consumers: bacteria (putrefaction), enzymes, fungi.
- Insect consumers: ants, flesh flies, green bottle flies, carrion beetles, mites
- Animal consumers: coyote, rats, crows, vultures, wolves, foxes

Seven deadly sins:  pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.
Aquinas went so far as to prepare a list of six ways to commit gluttony, comprising:
  • Praepropere – eating too soon
  • Laute – eating too expensively
  • Nimis – eating too much
  • Ardenter – eating too eagerly
  • Studiose – eating too daintily
  • Forente – eating wildly 
Sidebar: Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do. By this definition, evil exists when good men fail to act.

Food Imitation:
Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwiches are made to look like peanuts. processed food is made to look like unprocessed food. non-digestable ingredients are put into items that make them look edible. corn syrup is corn processed to the point of being cancerous. Plastic chips in our toothpaste that cannot be digested or broken down in the natural environment. Would you eat peanuts?  Would you eat metal nuts? What if each was given to you and shared as food - from day one. Why do we believe what isn't food is food?  Packaging?  GMO soybeans being shown to cause smaller offspring and alters mother's milk. Why do we believe changed food is better food - especially when it is changed in a way that can only be done by a large food company.  Ever hear of your neighbor radiating their food? DO you have your grandmother's corn syrup recipe? We create rot from within, gladly swallowing the change agent as if it was a delicacy.  Food covered with a dusting of narcotics - sugar coated... everything. Food surfaces: glazed, powdered, basted, browned,

Fake food: rubber chickens, cheese slices that aren't even called cheese but cheese product , glued meat (transglutaminase), So it appears that either way, when it come to Imitation Crab Meat ... imitation crab meat made from pollock and red dye, maple syrup that is corn syrup with maple flavoring.

We are what we eat.