Dec 132009

A Special Place_Canvas copy

The above painting is one of mine that many have said looks like a photograph. For some reason the images in the blog are not as sharp as they really are. They are a little blurred, not crisp. Although it is not my goal or desire to paint photographic realism, some of my work comes across as being photographic. I just like to do detailed work and the category my work is in, is Realism.

As I have stated in previous blogs, I love all types of art but everything that makes me, me is drawn to detail and realism.

I think a lot of it has to do with my personality and temperament. I have always been all about the small details in every area of life. For instance, even from an early age, as a child, I could identify every bird in my area in flight from a great distance. It puzzled me that other kids my age could not tell the difference from a starling and a common Grackle just by the combination of its silhouette and mannerism in flight.

I have always paid attention to the details of the wild plants that I saw in the woods near my house. I could spent hours just finding the woodland wild flowers and then looking them up in a book that identified them. I would then go to the encyclopedia and read everything I could on them. I had a special love for Jack in the Pulpits and Lady Slipper Orchids.

This love for details transferred into my love for art as well. I liked to capture the details of a Tufted Titmouse or a Jack in the Pulpit in some of my earliest drawings. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I spent hours and hours in first grade, doing a pencil drawing of a copy of the cover of a children’s book, with great detail.

Even though I have experimented with all types of art styles, the one thing that has always been a constant for me, is my continually coming back to realism.

I have to be honest with you. The main reason that I became disillusioned with art in the 70’s was that the art universities and the critics seemed to be down on Realism at the time. All of the awards were going to the new, more contemporary, styles. I could feel the pressure to conform to the style of art the instructors and the art community wanted me to do, and I was good at, but I was not happy. I got awards with it and never got a grade less that an A on any one assignment but, and that is a big but, it was not me!!! I tried. I could appreciate the new styles and the new direction, but it just wasn’t me. It just wasn’t the kind of art that made me feel good. It wasn’t the kind of art that I could just sit and look at for hours.

Needless to say, I was a square peg in a round hole.

This brings me to my philosophy on art. Do the kind of art that makes you happy and forget the art critics of the would!! Collect and hang on your wall the kind of art that you love. Who made them the gate keepers anyway! Anyone can criticize. The age old saying that applies to life also applies to art in my opinion. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

On twitter the other day I saw a post from one art lover to another that said something like this. “Realism, where is the talent in that. Any one can copy something.” My response to that is, there is a lot more that goes into a realism painting than just the ability to paint a picture that looks like a photograph. What makes a great painting is a combination of many things like subject matter and composition.  Is the composition strong, can it stand alone? Does the artist use light and shadow? Can you actually feel the Sun shine? Other elements that are important are the use of color, the use of texture. Are there multiple focal points? Is your eye drawn into the painting and not off of the page? The list can go on and on!!!! A book could be written just about these topics. These are all topics for future blogs.

As you can see  there is a lot that goes into a great realism painting not just the ability to copy something or for that matter an abstract or impressionistic painting.

In answer to that critic, I would say, “let’s support one another and not criticize other artist that are not just like us.” I have never criticized another artist or their work. I think that we are all unique and have different talents and abilities and that we need to be ourselves and not care if someone criticizes us, for being us.

When you are true to yourself and are truly content with your work, who cares what an art critic says!!!!

One thought, how can you be happy when you are criticizing someone else or their work? I don’t know about you, but I can’t!

Dec 092009

July in Bermuda copy

In this post, I want to let you know why I prefer Acrylic over any other medium.

I love all mediums of art!! I have had experience with all the mediums, after taking five years of art in high school and three years in college. I loved doing pencil drawings with lots of shading, but I also experimented with line drawings with different thickness of lines. I experimented with drawing an image while keeping your eyes on the image and not on the page. After experimenting with a whole host of different styles of pencil drawings,  I always came back to the detailed drawings as my preference, because that is who I am.

I did color pencil drawing and charcoal as well, but the led pencil was my preferred drawing medium of choice.

I loved water color and did many of them, but I found myself going back to the detail that I could only get with acrylic. So why do water color if you are trying to get the same effect as Acrylic?

What I am trying to say, is that I did it all from ceramic poetry, done on the wheel, to paper collage; from the abstract to free flowing form and color. I have many works that I have kept in many different mediums, but when it is all said and done, I still prefer Acrylic for my own work.

I know that some artist can get tremendous detail with Oil but for me, I grew up in the 1970’s and Acrylic was just getting popular. I fell in love with it then and tried oil, but always came back to Acrylic.

When I had my “aha moment,” after looking up on the wall and seeing a print by the artist Fred Swan, I knew that Acrylic would be my medium of choice. Then to top it all off, after doing some research on Acrylic, I found out, that sometime, in the twenty five years that I had not been painting, Golden Acrylics had come out with a Fluid Acrylic. A Fluid Acrylic has all of the pigment of a Heavy Bodied Acrylic but has the consistency  of soft cream. I used to have to thin down the Heavy Bodied Acrylic so much in order to get the detail that it lost some of it’s bonding properties. I was ecstatic to say the least when I found out about this creamy Acrylic!!!

Because of my personality traits of painting detail, and also having a desire to have my art last for generations after I am dead and gone, Acrylic is a good fit for me. With these Fluid Acrylics I can get the detail without compromising the bonding ability.

Acrylic is so permanent that on my last painting, while I was signing my name, I tried to wipe my signature off just thirty seconds after I began to paint it. There was no way. I had to paint over the signature and start all over again.

One reason I like Acrylic over Oil is that you can paint detail so quickly without waiting days for the Oil to dry. You can even take a hair dryer to it to speed up the drying process.

Unlike Water Color, Acrylic does not begin to fade after thirty five years. Nor can it be damaged by mold or water, like a Pencil drawing (note: Refer to the pencil drawing at the top of this post. It is the drawing I did after my wife and I went to Bermuda that I mentioned in another blog. It  developed mold after it was framed and you can see the mold in the top right hand corner.) or Water Color. It has elastic properties and does not crack like Oil.

After I finish an Acrylic painting, I like to give it two isolation coats of Golden Acrylic’s Soft Gel (Gloss) mixed with water. This gives it a permanent layer of protection. After this I finish the painting with two top coats of Golden Acrylic’s Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Gloss). This puts a protective coat on the painting that can be removed with ammonia and water. If the painting were to get soiled in the future the Polymer Varnish can be removed and them replied.

I had one painting, while at the frame shop being framed, get a deep scratch on the surface. I took it home and removed the Polymer Varnish with ammonia, a cotton ball and some water. The scratch was only in the Polymer Varnish finish. After the painting dried, I then reapplied the two top coats of protection and the painting was in perfect condition.

That is permanency to me. This process can help a painting last for generations.

One of my larger paintings, that I did on  hard board glued to three quarter inch cabinet grade plywood, that took over three hundred and fifty hours to complete, I also coated the sides and the back with two coats of the clear soft gel to act as a humidity barrier.

As you can see, I am all about permanency and all about detail. That is who I am!!!! That is what makes me happy and is why Acrylic is the medium of choice for me.

I want to say again, you need to be you and I need to be me! You may prefer to work with paper and Water Color, that may be who you are. I am not out to change who you are, I am just telling you why Acrylic is right for me.

Again I want to point out that, I love art in every medium! Ceramic is even more permanent than Acrylic unless is to broken but that is not my medium of choice, even though I had three years of it in college. All that makes me, me is what influenced my medium of choice, just like all that makes you you will influence you with your medium of choice.

Dec 052009

Winter in Black AshI am writing this entry to encourage you to find that “aha moment” that will let you know that you too, are an artist. That moment that the light comes on and you know, that you know, you can do it. That moment that you just know what direction you are to go in art, both in style and medium.

It was this kind of moment that caused me to get back into painting, even after being out of it for twenty five years.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned my “aha moment”. I want to expound on it here, and let you know what series of events led up to my “aha moment,” so that you can begin the process of finding yours,  if you haven’t already. It is the moment that belief and direction are realized.

Well, for years, I had been wanting to get back into art. I had been wanting to build an art business that would fill in the slow times in the winter months when my construction business was slow and keep the income steady. My desire was to do both businesses until the art business would then take over and I would do construction only for my favorite clients. I had been dabbling in detailed pencil drawings, but that was just for relaxation and did not involve the real desire that I had down deep. The desire to create works of art that would live on well past my years on this earth.

You see, part of my personality is to create work that would last a long time, weather it was painting the walls of a house in my construction trade or planting trees in my yard. I wanted to do the best job, with the best prep work possible and use the best paints, so that the painting job that I did for a client would last as long as possible. I wanted to plant the right tree so that the next generation would be able to picnic under it and enjoy the shade that it would bring. I did not care if the next generation knew who planted the tree, or who painted the room, but that the work would last.

Because of that personality trait, I did not value the pencil drawings as much as I would an acrylic painting, even though I spent countless hours on them, because they did not have the permanence of acrylic. With us living in the Northwestern corner of Pennsylvania we have very little need for air conditioning, combine that with the moisture from the Great Lakes and  you have a perfect set of conditions for mold. Case in point- one of my favorite drawings of a trip that my wife and I took, after having the drawing professionally framed, developed mold. That to me is not permanent.

With thoughts of creating a more permanent form of art, along with the time of year, Christmas – which is the time of year that I always did my relaxing pencil drawings in the past years,  and the fact that starting to get back into art was on my mind I looked up on the wall of a local art gallery and frame shop and saw a Fred Swan print of a detailed painting. It was the type of detail that I did in high school and thereafter, that I was most comfortable with. I had my “aha moment”, the moment that I said to myself, “I can do that”. I purchased a book from a bookstore for a quick refresher course and jumped right back in.

That first painting I did, after being out of it for twenty five years, I have sold prints off of. The original is too priceless to me to sell, just because of the sentimental value. The painting of our barn in the winter at the top of this blog is the first painting I did after my “aha moment”.

This painting was inspired by a fleeting moment here in Northwestern, Pennsylvania when the Sun came out just for a few minutes. We, in this part of the country, because of the Great Lakes, can have three weeks without the Sun even coming out for a few moments. It’s times like these, that the Sun comes out only for a moment, that it brightens your day and you just want to smile. That moment is captured in this painting for me.

Your “aha moment” may come after you have had the time to try a few different mediums and styles. Depending on how much experience you have had in art before can have an effect on when your “aha moment” will come, but if you are willing to explore your thoughts about what art is to you and what effect it has had on your life, your moment will come. Think about what type of art makes you happy. At some point the light will come on, the thought will enter your mind and you will say like I did, “this is it, I can do this, this is the direction I will go in for the rest of my art career” and your “aha moment”,  like mine, will change your life.