Sunday, August 28, 2011

My mis-adventure into abstraction...

I've been meaning to write this post for ages.  Hurricane Irene is causing a fuss outside so it's a good day to write (and paint, clean, etc...)  I also spent quality time with some of my favorite periodicals: Fine Art Connoisseur and Plein Air Magazine specifically I was reading about Scott L. Christensen and my mind began to wander thinking about "what if" I had spent time studying with guys like him instead of wasting my time in college.  I normally don't spend any time on "what ifs" but this came up like a daydream.  The answer is very clear I would have been a much better painter question.

I thought I had to go to college, thought there was something there I needed to learn that wasn't anywhere else and I wanted the diploma, needed the pride that goes with that and went to a college near me (during a painful divorce) and actually didn't have a way of knowing about great places like the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art (PAFA) plus it never occurred to me to seek out painters I admired to go study with them. Big mistake.

College had it's good parts but as a realist painter it was a blistering experience.  I went in as a realist painter and they did absolutely everything to beat that out of me, I was made to feel stupid, inferior and one especially horrible critique was downright abusive.  So much so that when I talked to an old friend recently she asked me (30 yrs later!) if I remembered it and how upset she was about it.  I sure do remember how it made me feel and it's painful to this day.  The pain, in part, comes from my not standing up and walking out.  I should have told my teachers and classmates to shove it.  But frankly I was pretty fragile from a nasty divorce that was going on during my Sophomore year and didn't have any fight in me right then, so I gave in for survival's sake and became an abstract artist.  It was never a good fit.  I did make some good work and I have a great appreciation for abstract painters but I am not one.  As an abstract painter I was entirely derivative, I thrashed around trying to find the real visual me, wondering what was it I was trying to say artistically.  Paintings are a way to give "voice" to your great passions, interests and I believe it's important for an artist's "voice" to be genuine.  Pushing that metaphor further let's say you have a deep baritone singing voice and they brow beat you into being a simply doesn't work.  Now, whenever someone asks me about which school their kid should go to to study art I ask them a lot of questions and hesitate to suggest college, rather I mention studying with people who might reflect their interest or taking classes at great art schools like PAFA and Provincetown Art Assn Museum.  Do not go to college if your goal is to make a fortune with your art, never ever go to college if you want to be a highly skilled realist painter and care for foundation, great training or a classical approach - they do not respect it.  A friend who is an art teacher and head of the painting department at her college said all the kids coming into school now want to be the next super star, cutting edge artist - sad - and the school will certainly not dissuade them or help them find their individual artistic voice.

It is my hope that schools will become enlightened and tolerant of different styles encouraging those whose path is realism.  A few years ago I saw some of my professors and they asked to see my website, they seemed surprised I stayed in Art and were visibly shocked when they saw I'd gone back to realism.  One professor was completely speechless and clearly disappointed.  If there was ever one thing I could re-do it would be to forget college and seek out people doing work I admire and learn from them.

I know I am not alone in this so please feel free to share your experiences...good or not so good.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brian Rego - one of my favorite painters!

salty’s, oil on linen, 16x20, 2011

wedge, oil on linen, 10x13, 2011

yellow houses, oil on linen, 14x18, 2011

I first learned about Brian Rego through one of my all time favorite websites Perceptual Painters  When I first saw his work a shiver went thru me, everything that stirs me artistically was there, juicy rich colors that were like that bright deep thrumb of a base that you feel rather than hear, great use of fat & thin paint that seemed so easily done, wonderfully simple almost poetic subjects.  I love his point of view and his palette.  I am a painter responding to another painter I greatly admire and not an art writer so as with all my favorite artists posts I want to keep it brief and urge you to explore Brian's work through his website...let the work speak.  So please go to Brian's website and savor his work the link is

Also I want to thank Brian very much for letting me use images of his was tempting to put all of them up there but I want YOU to be inspired to explore his work further, you will be greatly rewarded.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Running from success

John Marin, Island (Ship’s Stern), 1934, watercolor on paper
Here's the bold, brassy truth...I've been playing hard this summer and applying for every grant I can find so not posting much.  Now that the rain has interrupted my fun, plus needing a break from grant writing I'm enjoying this moment to get caught up and frankly the blog is "fun" writing.  Two weekends ago I was in Maine at a friends house and between visits to the beach we went to see the John Marin exhibit.  I have never missed a chance to see his work but he is not one of my favorites can't really put my finger on it however there is something that clearly draws me to him.  The Portland Museum of Art has a super exhibit of his work right now, many pieces I'd never seen before.  We were there for the gallery talk and after hearing about John I ended up really liking him more than his work - he was an outdoorsman, rugged individualist and curmudgeonly.  What really got me was how much he did not want success...he just wanted to paint.  My favorite anecdote was the one where (I think the gallerist said...) the Louvre chased him around Europe to buy a painting and he was miserable to them, in the end finally relenting just to shut them up.  Crazy!  Hey Louvre call me I have some paintings for you!

He is not the first artist I've heard about or know that is too busy making art to be fussing with all that nasty success etc.  Why just this weekend I met an amazing artist who has shows falling into his lap, is making a good living with his work in these ultra-challenging financial times and while I do not know him well at all my sense is he is happiest at his home which is deep DEEP in the woods and if he never had a gallery then he'd be ok with that too.  

John Marin came along at that fantastic time in American Art when it was all happening in New York.  Steiglitz found out about him and it seems that when you knew Alfred things happened.  It makes one wonder about the nature of success and even the definition.  Is success just having the chance to make your work, the room and time to do so.  Or is it having the Louvre chase you around Europe to buy your painting.  Or is it a by-product of networking or otherwise being connected to some art mainline.  

The art world is so crazy and makes me crazy when I ponder it too much.  However, all my favorite success stories are ones just like John Marin's...he's out living his life, doing all the things he loves especially painting.