Monday, October 23, 2017

What Every Artist Must Unlearn

October 23, 2017

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul. - Edvard Munch

Almost every Artist copies. Almost every trained Artist follows a prescribed script. Artists spend countless hours and many years, and sometimes a small fortune, to learn methods and rules for creating art. They want to become great Artists, they want to create something that will be accepted.

The really enlightened Artist spends the rest of their lives trying to unlearn all of those things. 

I think that's what Pablo Picaso was saying when he uttered the words, It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

When I was a child, I painted and drew pictures for the simple joy of it. My imagination ran wild and I was transported to strange and fantastic places. There were moments when I was absolutely happy.

As we learn the rules, our drawings and paintings become better, or at least they are perceived to be better. And for each good drawing or painting, we are given praise and this reinforces our adherence to the rules. 

I wanted to seek out the mysteries of drawing and painting. And as the years past I, like every other average Artist, got better at following the rules and the work improved.

These days, I contemplate the meaning of all those rules and I try to recapture the freedom and joy of my childhood. I have those moments, now and again, but much of the time, I am torn between the two worlds, the world of rules and process, and the world of childhood joy. 

I don't know why the two are at odds and maybe the answer isn't in living in one or the other, but in finding harmony between the two. Picasso, would probably say that was bullshit.

Whatever the case may be, I'm sure the journey must be different for everyone. Maybe just recognizing these ideas is enough? Or maybe this is all just a metaphor for life and the lesson is to do what gives your soul joy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leave Your Indelible Mark

September 14, 2017

"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." - John W. Gardner

Fortunately for the Artist, you can use an eraser to fix your drawings. I know what John W. Gardner meant though. He was saying that you can't really undo your mistakes in life, at least not very easily. Each line you draw in life is what it is. You leave an indelible mark, good, bad or indifferent.

These days I concentrate on making whatever small improvements I can to my work. Sometimes I start a drawing completely over again. It's almost always better the second time around.

The other day I found myself waiting for a meeting to start at work. All I had with me was my graph paper notebook and a mechanical pencil. So I made the best of it and just started sketching. I enjoyed it, because it reminded me of being a kid, when I would just use anything around to draw. Do you ever just pick up a piece of paper and start drawing?

These are few of my recent sketches.

These are from the Minnesota State Fair.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Stuart Loughridge - Master Craftsmen

August 18, 2017

I recently bought several small paintings from my friend  Stuart Loughridge. You may or may not have heard of him, but I'm confident that your children and grandchildren will. 
Here is some of his work. I encourage you to read the rest of this to learn more about Stuart Loughridge.
Stuart is a throwback and quite possibly the worlds most interesting man. 
It's as if he stepped into the twenty-first century from a time portal. It is as if he's from an era when Artists were also Master-craftsmen. When they had to stretch their own canvas, make their own paints and build their own frames. It's as if he is from a time when selling your paintings was a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Among his many talents are pencil and ink, watercolors, oil paintings and copper plate etchings. He has carefully honed his skills over years and years of toil. Mistakes are lessons and failures are the necessary stepping stones on the road to mastery. 
He apprenticed, in his father's studio, no doubt learning from a man who has achieved his own mastery. Leon Loughridge is a very successful and accomplished painter and print maker and much of that DNA was clearly passed to Stuart.
Mastering his craft is part of Stuarts process, one that seems to drive him to seek greater heights. 
Stuarts studio is a workshop, and there among his press and easels, he builds his own frames. He builds them with an old-world mastery that has all but disapeared in todays mass-produced market. And he dedicates himself to this task with a passion and drive that have made him a much sought after painter.
When Stuart decides to create a painting, he is meticulous about the process. He may start with a graphite, charcoal or ink sketch, followed by a watercolor and tonal study. He may execute several smaller oil painting studies in order to find the right composition and values. Always working, always searching.
If a piece warrants it and he feels it speaks to him, he may create a copper plate etching and make prints from it. This is yet another art form, an outlet for his expression and another he has mastered.
Whenever I stand in his studio and look around, I think I can see things that might be overlooked by the untrained eye. Everywhere around me there are clues to his passion and his process. 
There are small, nondescript sketch pads filled with thumbnails and notes. There are studies and unfinished pieces. Everything is perfectly, maticulously organized, but not to the untrained eye. To the untrained eye, it might be, "messy", to me it is genius unfolding.
It's as if I am in the house of Sherlock Holmes or Albert Einstein or Beethoven or Edward Hopper. Bottles of strange gold liquids stand on a workbench. Nearby, the shelves are filled with old books about art and artists.
Among it all, there is a sense that I am standing in history. I have gone back in time and then all at once I am thrust into the future. Art historians and critics gather with auctioneers and the wealthy. They are there to see Stuarts work and discuss its greatness. And those that can afford it, want to own it.
Like any true master, he relentlessly studies the subtle nuances of his craft. Once you reach a certain level of greatness, it seems that further mastery must be attained in the margins.
It might be easy to read this and assume that Stuart is an old man. A man who has spent his life devoted to a singular purpose. You'd be right about the second part, but as far as I know, he's not even forty years old. All the more reason to see him for the genius his is.
Stuart isn't pretentious about his work, although he'd have every right to be. He's not outwardly insecure and doesn't bother much with worry it seems. It's like meeting a Major League baseball player whose proven himself great and doesn't need to brag about it. 
As he explains the process of a particular oil painting to me, his piercing blue eyes grow brighter and his words are chosen carefully, but they are unrehearsed. He is concise and clear. I understand what he is telling me, but I cannot hope to duplicate his work.
If I lived a hundred more years, I might never attain the consistent mastery this man possesses. As I stand listening to him, I almost feel like a kindergartener in graduate physics class. 
Stuart and I are friends. I can appreciate that much for sure and I can learn from him. Until I learn more, I will let his work finish telling this story.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Summer, Schmincke and Sketching

July 13, 2017

First order of business, thank you to all the new subscribers to this blog. If you followed me here from YouTube, I really appreciate it.

It has been an adventurous beginning to the summer of 2017. So far, I've ridden across part of the Canadian wilderness on a 250cc motorcycle. Took a road trip to Chicago. Spent a week in Door County, Wisconsin. Planted a garden. Cleaned out my kitchen cabinets. Bought a new car. Completed several paintings and countless sketches. Was flying high and humbled all at once. Remembered a loved one that passed away and appreciated the sunshine on my face.

While I was away adventuring, Schmincke decided to bring out 35 new spectacular watercolor colors. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them and finally after weeks of anticipation, my friends at Wet Paint hooked me up with a dot card featuring ALL the new colors.

Here is the result of my exuberance:

Wet Paint is now SOLD OUT of the special edition Schmincke thanks to many of you who took advantage of the fantastic deal they had on them.

I was in Wet Paint yesterday checking in with them and they loaded me up with some new things to test out. I'll be creating those videos over the next few weeks and I'm excited to share some new products with you that I think you'll really like.

That's it for now. Until next time, keep creating.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Talking Art Supplies & Watercolors with Steve Mitchell

May 25, 2017

A quick note that I will be LIVE with Steve Mitchell from the Mind Of Watercolor on Friday May 26, 2017 at 3 pm CST. I hope you can join us to talk all things watercolor and art supplies.

Here is a link. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Best Watercolors - Top 10

May 1, 2017

Everyone likes a good, "Top Ten" list right?

I resisted doing this list for a long time, not out of principle, but because any list I do will reflect only my opinion. Paints are very subjective and each Artist will have many reasons why they like one particular paint over another, that's just how it is with almost anything in life. It's a bold thing to say these paints are the best of all, but life is short and so what the heck.

And, enough people on my YouTube channel have asked what my top five or ten favorite watercolors are, that it just made sense to finally do a video.

Here are a few additional thoughts.

No 1. Schmincke Horadam Watercolors are my very favorite and I think the best all around watercolors in the world. The color is absolutely consistent, vibrant and of the best quality. Many of their paints are single pigment although not all. I'm almost certain they use brighteners in the manufacturing process, but that doesn't bother me because the colors never disappoint. The dispersion is the best in my experience. Most of all though, I love what Schmincke paints do for my work.

No 2. Daniel Smith are American made watercolors that I would guess are on many Artists top five list and many would pick as their number one. It's hard to argue with that because Daniel Smith are very outstanding paints. They are especially so because they've only been at it for about 30 or 40 years, when the rest of the world has had centuries. Daniel Smith paints are distinguished by outstanding color, lightfastness and quality. They make some very unique colors that other manufacturers have tried to copy. They have a line of colors that a mineral based and this highlights their commitment to innovation and bold thinking. Daniel Smith makes great watercolor paints, just ask any Artist.

No 3. Senellier Aquarell are some of the finest watercolors in the world, in my opinion and they almost took the number two spot. Some Artists refuse to use any other paint and I can't blame them. Senellier is like painting with love. They are luminous, and extraordinarily well made paints. Made with honey, they have outstanding color and dispersion. If that weren't enough, they have great history. Used by some of the very best Watercolorists for more than a hundred years, they've stood the test of time.

No 4. Holbein made in Japan. Like their oil paints, Holbein puts an emphasis on quality and consistency. These are precision made paints, with lot's of single pigment colors. Although these tend to be a little on the opaque side for some Artists, I've never found that to be a problem. I had a recent phone call with their headquarters in Japan to find color charts that discussed the pigments and they generously sent me out an entire library of information.

No. 5 Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers - Made in France, these aren't even in the category right? For me they represent a product that both defies and transcends the definition. They are so excellent to use and the colors are so outstanding that I couldn't, in good consciencous, leave them off the top five list.

If you want to see the rest of my top ten, you'll have to check out the video: (That's what they call cross-promotional marketing genius) LOL.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Unmarked Universe

March 23, 2017

"If it is so that we live only a small part of the life which is within us, what happens to the rest?

We live here and now. Everything before and in other places is past. Mostly forgotten. … 
What could, what should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us, open and unshaped, feather-light in its freedom and lead-heavy in its uncertainty? 
Is it a wish, dreamlike and nostalgic, to stand once again at that point in life and be able to take a completely different direction to the one that has made us who we are? … 
We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there."
These are the words of Peter Bieri also known by his pseudonym Pascal Mercier. He is a Swiss writer and philosopher.
His words remind me that there is something always undone, always awaiting the unknown destiny. When I can muster the courage, I venture forth from that which I know, it is in those moments that I am filled with fear and hope and unknown futures with gods and devils. And I am embracing memories and imagination.
Art brings me to these places.
Each piece of unmarked paper stands as an unexplored universe. The marked paper becomes an expression of life, hope, love and my fears, both known and unknown.