Saturday, June 27, 2020

Why Yes I am an Artist

I saw a funny cartoon in the New Yorker magazine recently that showed a man sitting in his apartment at at table with his laptop open and across from him were some stuffed animals and taped on the wall were signs indicating that he was in a "cafe" and the caption was "why yes I am a writer". I had a good laugh at how accurate that feels these days with sheltering in place and all the galleries and museums are closed and all the art events have been canceled for the year except for the on-line ones which I wonder if anyone is even looking at. I think most people have been so preoccupied with managing their covid experience that they don't have the energy to look for art. An so there you are in  your own house telling yourself and your dogs and your spouse and whatever other inanimate objects that happen to be there watching you  that yes you are an artist and that it's important to keep getting up at the crack of dawn to get into the studio to paint. YOU'VE GOT TO KEEP THE FAITH!

    This has been an exceptional period of time. I wish I could say that I made the most of it but I will confess that depression and anxiety had gotten the best of me on many days lately. I think it's been over a week since I last picked up a brush.The duration of this suspension of business of socializing of going out to see things and people is just eating away at my resolve to get up and paint. And then the other day I get an email from Norman Kolpas who wanted to do an interview with me for Western art and Architecture Magazine to run in conjunction with the Oil Painters of America show in October at the RS Hanna gallery in Fredricksburg Tx. Talk about a much need shot in the arm! It was like the sun coming out after being hidden for weeks. I felt I was able to kick myself out of the doldrums that I have been in and get back at it. I could feel the return of my clarity and focus. I knew what needed to be done and how to do it and it was working. I paint for myself I know that much is true. I like what I do but I know that I need other people to see it as well to complete the cycle of art making. I need my stuff to be seen by other people That is part of  what keeps me going, other peoples feedback puts gas in my artist's tank so I can keep on going with what I love to do. So yes I am an artist!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Too much of a good thing

So I think this is the 9th week of Shelter in place. It's become a long slog. It started out good. I finally got my chance to live the full time artist life and paint all day. Normally I have a day job running my own massage business which I've been doing for 30 years. I find time to paint in the mornings and on weekends. I can usually get about and hour or two in the mornings during the week and maybe 3 to 4 hours on weekends. I find that having only an hour or two during the week isn't enough to get into something and it has been my wish to have more hours in the day to do more painting.

Careful for what you wish.
My wish  came true March 16th.  I couldn't go anywhere due to the shelter in place so I had no excuse but to stay home and paint all day guilt free. At first I thought it was going to be only for three weeks so I wanted to make the most of it. I had a backlog of ideas and several canvases already started and wanted to get things done for future shows. Being a photorealist painter it takes long time for me to finish a painting. I was averaging about 3 months from start to finish so not a lot of production per year. So this shelter in place was a blessing to get some things done.  I had 4 car paintings at various stages I could work on and I had these vintage toys I wanted to tackle so started another 6 smaller canvases. I was in the zone for the first three weeks before I started to feel like this was becoming work. I realized I wasn't enjoying myself anymore. I was gutting through the paintings. Halfway through the 5th week I was feeling my stomach tighten when I thought of painting. Thats when I realized I drained my creative well. Julie Cameron of the "Artist's Way" says that you need to replenish the well otherwise you'll burn out and I was doing just that. I needed to put it aside and don't look at any of it and do something else until I could recharge again.

Go on an artist date?
Finding a way to recharge during the Corona virus is challenging. Normally I would go to a museum or a car show or a street fair or movie or a a drive to the beach but none of that was available. All I had was my house and yard and long walks around the neighborhood. Even all that gets old when you do it everyday. So now its week 9 and I'm not painting so much like I started to I realize that this sheltering in place is insidiously draining to the creative process. Because there is a level of uncertainty about our lives and when this will be over and what kind of normalcy will resume trying to be creative is proving to be more challenging. It's become harder to get that creative spark going to the level it was at week one. Trying to be creative when your primary needs are uncertain is really difficult. But I will persist I will still get up and do what I can. I am still getting things done I am moving forward and that's a good thing.  I don't know what the future of art will look like I can only hope that people will still want art in their homes and offices or where ever they spend their time. We may need to adapt as a market to reach people who are not coming out to see us in the galleries or art fairs. Right now everything is still on a "wait and see" basis. We don't know what will change and how we will need to adapt to this new environment of pandemic shopping.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Little Iso Dreams

"Little Iso Dreams",24"x 30", oil on canvas
Its SOO cute! Its so small! It looks like a toy. You just want to have it and put to on your keychain.
My wife and I were in Reno in 2019 at the Hot August Nights car show. Its a massive show. One of the biggest on the west coast. It takes place in several parking lots and event spaces all over Reno and it goes on for almost 2 weeks. The cars that show up are amazing in the variety and the level of customizations. And then there is this little Issetta 300. It doesn't even fill out the parking space. It was the only micro car that we saw at the show so it really stood out. Everyone came by to look and comment on it. It was kind of the freak of the show. That was the inspiration for this painting. I wanted to feature this little car as small but proud. The perspective is low to give it a heroic look. You can see people looking at it in the reflections but on the nose its head is in the clouds. It's thinking of when it was a hero of Italy and Europe.

A little history on the Issetta and the micro cars of Europe in the 50s. In 57 the Suez canal was closed by Egypt cutting Europe off from its gas supply. In response some very clever engineers came up with new ideas for getting people around that was super fuel efficient and cheep to buy because Europeans didn't have much money. The micro car was designed with a small engine usually less than500cc. Issetta was designed with a 247cc engine. Thats smaller than most lawnmower engines! Iso was a manufacturer of refrigerators. It was their design that was sold to BMW. "Issetta" is Italian for little Iso. 160,000 were made from 1955-62. It was the best seller of its day. So here is Little Iso sitting in a sea of big American cars  dreaming of when it was all the rage. It and the other micro cars answered the call and filled a need for people to get around efficiently and cheaply. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

end of year review

Well Its that time of year to look back over the past 12 months and reflect on how I did. I finished 6 paintings and now have 10 car paintings finished all together which was a goal for this year. I really felt that I needed to work on building up my portfolio so I would have something to shop around. I feel that I am now ready to get out there now that I have a decent portfolio. I advertised in Hyperrealism magazine #9 so we will see what comes of that venture. I was in a show at the Blue Line Arts Gallery in  Roseville, Ca. called "the Car Show". That was fun to get juried into a show outside my geographical area.  All in all I would say that this past year was a building year. As far as 2020 is looking I am laying out my plan fore the year now I would like to try and finish 6-8 paintings.  I joined Oil Painters of America. I thought it was time to join the big leagues and participate on a national level. I'm going to get away form these small-town groups and try to find some peers amongst professional painters.I am setting up a show in July in Hollister coinciding with a car show they have in town and I will have a booth in the September Classic car show in Orinda. I have still some things to get together to be ready for that one. I have a market tent already but there are still somethings that I will need to get like display walls. This would be my first time in a booth so I'm not sure what that's going to be like. I am debating on having prints made but that is again an investment and I am still unsure if my work lends itself to posters and such. We will see. I think I am ready to approach some galleries to see if I fit in that market. I think I really need to find out whether or not my stuff relates to people the way I think it does. I guess that comes with sales and being in shows and getting good feedback from outside people not anyone who knows me that is. SO yeah, I'm looking forward to what 2020 has to bring.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A. Mann's Truck

I came across this truck, a 1951 F1 Ford at the Goodguys Rod and Custom show in Pleasanton, Ca. As per usual I took a couple of pictures and moved on. It's not until I get home and download my pictures that I can see what I treasures I might have got that day. Luckily I was smart enough to have taken a picture of the owners tag too so I knew who this car belonged to. A year later I came across it again in Reno at the Hot August Nights car show and got a chance to meet the owner Allen Mann from Blue Lake, Ca.  I was excited to see it again and to finally meet Allen because I was using it as the subject of this painting which will be in an upcoming show at the Blue Line Arts Gallery in Roseville, Ca.

"Mann 51" oil on canvas, 24" x 24"
Allen says his wife bought him the truck a few years back. Since then he's been driving it to shows all around the west coast. He was a winner at the Hot August Nights in 2018 . He had some funny stories to tell about owning an old truck and driving it around to do errands. Allen says he would come out of a store and see some guy under his truck checking out the suspension. People are always stopping him to ask about his truck and what he's done to it. He says you just have to factor that in when going out for milk which may take an hour longer than expected.

I like these old trucks. I like the shapes of the body panels. They look fun and friendly and they seem to bring a smile to everyone who sees them. 

The composition I chose for this one is one of my favorite views of looking straight on and low at the headlight level as if you are looking into the eyes of a face. The background adds to a sense of something fun happening. It says this truck goes places and does things.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Firsts Cars

This is my first car painting. It will always be special to me because it was my first.
"49 Buick Roadmaster" oil on canvas, 24"x 36"
 Everyone has memories of their cars especially the magic of the  first one regardless of how great or how shitty the car actually was. And like first kisses or first dates you just don't forget them. My first car at age 16 or 17 wasn't anything too amazing. It was an early 80's Mazda pick-up truck. I think we paid $2400.00 at a used car lot. My dad helped me pick it out and paid for some of it as well. It had a lot of Bondo repair under the paint cause it was Pennsylvania and I don't think rust proofing was fully established back then. The bumpers almost fell off when I took it in for an inspection. It was mine and that's all that mattered. I had a lot of good times in that truck. It got me to Boston from Pennsylvania  albeit slowly because for some reason it just couldn't do more than 55 mph. 

 My dad was able to buy his first car after being in America for only a couple of years which was a game changer for him because buying a car in his home country of East Germany would have taken nearly 15 years. That 1958 Plymouth made all the hard work of farming worthwhile. He was able to live the American dream and so he stayed. 

Painting cars has also given me the chance to talk to people about their cars especially their first ones and there is usually a good story told with lots of nostalgia. I don't think cars back in the day were as reliable as they are now so it was a mystery whether or not your car would even start or it would only run if you did some ritual prayer before turning the key and you never had enough money for gas even though it was less than 25 cents per gallon! Part of why I like painting the old cars is that they had character and personality and that's what I try to capture when I paint cars.










Saturday, August 17, 2019

Special Deluxe, the making of a painting

The Hunt

I go to a lot of car shows looking for new subjects to paint. I find that every show has something unique to offer. The collection of cars and the setting varies from show to show so I have to be open minded and willing to be flexible to see the possibilities at each venue. 

I was out at a local car show recently where I was taking pictures. I took a few pictures of this 49 Chevrolet Special Deluxe and then moved on to look around at some more cars. Its not until I got home and downloaded the files into my laptop that I can look closer at what are the results of my day's outing. I it's like going out collecting bugs or rocks or any kind of specimen hunting. Sometimes you come away with something special and sometimes not. Typical of my process I didn't see the gem I had until after going through my collection a few times. My photographic skills are not spectacular and it wasn't until I started playing with the image file, adjusting the lighting that I saw what was initially hidden in the black bodywork. It went form just a car to an exciting car with all kinds of reflections telling a story about this car. It's a show car. It's on display, the hood is ajar and ready to show show off the engine, its in pristine condition, the chrome is shiny the black bodywork and paint are perfect. The reflections show off the surrounding environment of other cars and people. The car itself tells a little about the owner of the car. They care enough to keep it in such good condition and they've added the extras features like the visor and the spotlight and the extra bumper pieces. All of it is finished to perfection. On the dash is a small American flag and a small state of the Virgin Mary. It's all these little details that make this painting more than just a car painting it's a story of that particular car owned by an individual with particular tastes that maybe cultural or regional or just personal. All together the picture had everything I like to use for a painting subject. I want to present a portrait of a car that speaks to its uniqueness and  its connection with its owner.

the process

So to tackle this piece I started with a 30" x 40" canvas. I used a medium weight primed Fredrix canvas stretched over Gatorboard which is glued to stretcher bars. I use the Gatorboard to give the canvas a rigid support because I don't like the wobble of free floating canvas. I've tried painting on wood panel but I don't like the feel of how the paint lays down on the wood. With the Gatorboard backing it is easier to draw on especially if you are doing a lot of fine detail.   
the drawing all laid out and ready to paint.

the rough coat is laid down for the back ground and some of the trees are laid in.
I still paint like I was taught in my beginning art classes. I lay down the foundation colors starting with the background and move to the foreground.

beginning to tackle some of the bodywork

These early layers are really just to set the overall tone of the painting. Firstly, I want to get rid of all the white canvas and then go back and refine refine refine and refine some more. I want to maintain a hierarchy of focal areas. To achieve this I use color intensity, color temperature, value contrast, and details to push some areas into the background like the trees while other areas get pulled forward like the front corner of the car. The end results gives the viewer a sense of dimensionality and a sense of spaciousness in the picture. I want the the viewer to feel both the mass of the car coming toward you and the depth of the reflections going way deep into the car.
"Special Deluxe", oil on canvas, 30" x 40"