Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Plein Air Night in the City
 Last night we hit an alley behind Denver's Oxford Hotel for some plein air studies. If I've done night sketching before, my brain can't dredge up that memory. But it's doubtful I'll forget this outing; the atmosphere was haunting, the cold severe, and the light richly evocative. In this case, a fluorescent blue light was shining on the roof, contrasting with warm light from the panes.
 Even though my New Year's resolution is to concentrate on watercolor, the fear of losing my paints to freezing temperatures had me scrounging the studio for an alternate medium. I chose an old pad of brown pastel paper and some Prismacolor sticks and pencils--even though I'm not fond of any of that. Sketching with gloves on created some unwanted smudging, but better that than frostbite.

This old, nineteenth-century window caught my eye immediately. I love the look of yellow-lit windows, and last night this warm one particularly beckoned. Not having night-sketching experience, we'd talked about the different colors of night lights over a beer beforehand, so I was really trying to sear the variety into my eyes, as well as get the values correct. I only had black, white and blue Prismacolors with me, so I added the yellow once back in the studio.

The other guys used water media, with vodka to keep things from freezing, but after an hour, frost was developing on their paintings and their water-cups were slushy.
Even my media choice was affected; when I got on the train for home, I watched my drawing become damp from the thawing wax of the Prismacolor pencils.
 And while I was leaning on a dumpster instead of Hardy's "coppice gate", I'm not going to forget the evening, or the beckoning light from that warm window.

I leant upon a coppice gate

      When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter's dregs made desolate

      The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

      Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

      Had sought their household fires.
                                                             Thomas Hardy, from The Darkling Thrush 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How to be an Expert?
I read somewhere that one has to put 100,000 hours practicing a skill in order to become an "expert" at that skill. First, that seems sort of a random number. Second, I'm not certain if that means in general--for example, one would be an "expert artist" if one completed 100,000 hours drawing, painting, and sculpting; or if it means in specifics--100,000 hours painting from the model, 100,000 hours painting still lifes, 100,000 hours drawing goofy characters, etc.
I don't know what the author meant, and it seriously is kind of a dumb thing to try to quantify.
Most of the illustrators/artists I know are many years my junior, and they are more skilled than I.
I've put years worth of hours into practicing art, in many different forms. Even conservatively, my figures still get me to 160,000. I'm not sure what that author's definition of expert might be, but I'd be hard pressed to label myself as one.

Don't get me wrong; I know a lot about art--both art history and art techniques, and am confident in many of my abilities. But I'm maybe most confident in my ability to learn. By practicing. And that's all I really care about.
So I continue to hit the Life Painting sessions at Helikon Gallery (where I mostly life draw), and get outside to paint, and draw and paint in my studio--and anywhere else it's appropriate. My aim's not to become someone's definition of an expert, but to keep getting better at it all; including the ability to share what I've learned--of the abilities I have at any given time--with others.
If I'd have liked numbers, I wouldn't have become an artist in the first place.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Egon Schiele, Decaying Mill

 There's a thing that bugs me. 
Not that that this thing makes me angry; I mean it's a thing that I can't resolve in my life or in my head or in my gut. That bugs me. And this is it:

Music and literature move me in hugely emotional ways. Body engulfing ways; heart exploding ways. All the time.  And artworks don't do that very often. Actually, I can't recall being moved by an artwork in that extreme reactive way ever.

I'm not much of a writer, and I'm definitely not a musician, but I am an artist. So what the heck is up with me?

Don't get me wrong--I love art, and I love looking at artwork. But what artworks do is seep into me over a long period of time, following the viewing. And I often can't let go of the need to see them again, or own them. I think about them, and feel a longing, but it is a much milder, and maybe more intellectual reaction than the emotional engulfment engendered by a piece of music I'm hearing, or a book passage I am reading. The search for an artwork experience that matches the intensity of a music or literature experience dogs me.

I'm curious--bugged is more accurate--if this is even a possibility. Am I searching for that which cannot be? Probably need to somehow quit thinking about it, but I can't.

Thanks for checking out this post--Your thoughts and ideas on this will be welcome.

I can change my mind, not my blood
                                                     --Teddy Thompson
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