Friday, May 27, 2011

Announcements And Upcoming Shows

I’ve had a string of good news as of late...

First, I’ve been selected the Southeastern Wildlife Expo’s featured painter for next year — their 30th anniversary. I’ve been participating in SEWE for 7 years now. Given my relatively short time in being a part of the show makes this honor all the more special.

Second, I was invited to participate in Trailside Gallery’s first annual summer miniatures show and sale; Masters in Miniature, to be held at their Jackson, Wyoming location. Trailside is one of the elite western art galleries in the U.S. and represents a number of artists who’s work I greatly admire — several of whom will also be in the miniatures show. To have been invited to be a part of this event is truly an honor.

"Grandstanding", Oil on linen, 11"x14"
"Meadow Mashers" Oil on linen, 10"x12"

And finally, I have again been asked to be a part of the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Western Visions Show and Sale. This will be my 6th year and to say I'm excited and moved by the museum’s continued interest in my work would be a gross understatement.

"A Rare Find", Oil on linen, 9"x12"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Word (or several) About Symbolisim In Art

Symbolism in art. It's both one of art's greatest aspects, and one of its greatest drawbacks. Taken to extremes, the audience is duped into engaging in a pseudo-intellectual goose chase, attempting to decipher the symbolism of a splash of wasted red paint on a white canvas. And at the other end, an over-rendered piece of wall decoration with no intellectual value (or artistic value, for that matter).

Truly great art functions on many different levels, from the initial impact of its beauty, to eliciting an emotional connection from the viewer, to a deeper narrative of symbolism that communicates the artist's ideas, thoughts, feelings or beliefs. Art that excels in all of these areas is not just the product of a skilled artist, but is also the culmination of an artist's life-experiences.

Infusing a work of art with symbolism gives the viewer another opportunity for discovery. An artist who's work and ethic I greatly admire wrote that it's the artist's job to give the viewer direction and it's the viewer's responsibility to make the discoveries — I completely agree. Symbolism in painting enriches those discovers by giving the viewer a bit more about the artist. And if it's executed well, and is based in life-experience, symbolism in one's art can play a vital roll in helping to better the quality of one's work.

As I grow as an artist and a person, I hope to make symbolism a more important part of my paintings. I hope it enriches the experience of viewing my work and gives the art lover an opportunity to better understand me as an artist.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Transending Genre And The Subjective Nature Of Art

This past weekend, I made my second-annual journey to bask in the wondrous glow that is the Masters of the American West show at the Autry Center in Los Angeles, CA. My wife, close friend and artist, Ray Brown, and I spent the better part of Saturday ogling the extraordinary works on display and had several jubilant conversations about the art.

One of those conversations spawned two important (but pretty obvious) realizations that I'd like to communicate here; first, great paintings transcend their subject matter. And second, at the level of work on display at the Masters show, personal preference of one painting (or artist) over another is subjective and has little to do with the quality of the artist's technique or skill.

The first realization came from our collective decision to partake in a little fantasy; What piece of art in the show would each of us take home over all the others if we had the means. My wife made an interesting point, her choice was based not necessarily on what she felt was the most aesthetically pleasing piece, or a painting or sculpture that would best suite the decor of our home, but rather, which work of art she connected with most on an emotional level.

I'm not all that into 'cowboy' or 'Indian' paintings as a genre of art. The subject matter isn't particularly interesting to me. But the painting I chose was a painting of three native Americans on horseback titled, Lost Tracks by Z.S. Liang. For me, this painting was beyond its subject. It transcended subject matter as the greatest of paintings do. I connected with it on an emotional level. It was exquisite and appealed to everything I personally find beautiful in representational painting. Much of Liang's paintings are like this for me, and my wife as well. One of his paintings at the show even made Yvonne a little teary-eyed (and no, she's not allergic to great paintings as she tried to make us to believe).

The artist's ability to create a work that can so deeply affect the viewer is, I think, what we are all striving for as artists. My goal as an artist is not to produce great wildlife or landscape paintings, but instead, is to produce great art. I hope that one day I will be capable of creating a painting that transcends its subject as my wife and I both felt Z.S. Liang's had done.

The second conversation involved Ray and I. We began contemplating who's work might one day take the position of prominence in the show (as you enter, a large Howard Terpning painting greets you) after Howard has passed on — sort of morbid conversation but it wasn't as bad as it sounds here. I think we both agreed that it would likely be one of the great Chinese painters, in particular, Mian Situ. Although, I personally think Morgan Weistling will be in the running.

I mentioned that I actually prefer Z.S. Liang's paintings over Howard's. Ray, as a generalization, preferred Howard's. We had our differing reasons, but in the end, neither one of us could convince the other to switch our preference, because from a purely technical standpoint, the two artists are masters. You can't argue that one is technically better than the other because they're beyond that. It could only come down to personal preference of one artist's style over the other and that is a truly great example of the subjective nature of art — especially when considering Ray and I have very similar taste in art.

There are a number of artists in the Master Show that I feel belong on the 'wall of prominence'. Ray's and my opinion certainly doesn't matter. In the end,  the choice will be somewhat subjective because at this level of painting, personal opinion is all there is left to argue.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

To Trade Or Not To Trade? There Is No Question.

I'm an artist, but I'm as much an art lover as I am an artist. Which, at this stage in my career, is a bit of a problem. I'm always broke (relatively speaking) and can't afford to buy original art.

However, being an artist that participates in a number of shows every year, I've finally been graced with a wondrous little perk — other artists that also do these shows, and who's work I admire, are getting interested in my work and the door to trade has been unlocked.

I now have a standing invitation with several artists (who I consider friends) to trade when I find a painting or sculpture of theirs I'm interested in having. What a fabulous opportunity to build my own personal art collection! In fact, at my last two shows, I was approached by several artists interested in trading work. I'd have a number of new pieces to start my collection if it wasn't for the fact that most of my current inventory was unavailable for trade due to prior commitments. But, as I create more work over the coming months, I'll be keeping their offers firmly in mind.

Trade, as incredible as it sounds, is a BIG responsibility. I want to make sure I not only select art that I connect with emotionally, but I also want to be sure I get work that best reflects the artist's style and skill.  Now I know how serious collectors feel.

Thanks to those artists who enjoy my work enough that they're interested in trading for it — it’s tremendously flattering. I'm really looking forward to starting my collection.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's About The Journey

An artist friend of mine (with whom I was traveling) mentioned over dinner that when she was in college, she spent countless hours working to be a better artist. One day, an art instructor pulled her aside and said to her that she should slow down and enjoy her time in school, because to become a great artist, one must get some life-experience behind them. He told her that she probably wouldn't be saying anything too important with her work until she hit 40ish.

My artist friend took this to heart and did relax a bit, but in the back of her mind, her instructor had seeded a somewhat arbitrary goal — that she should be successful as an artist (whatever that means to her) by the time she reached 40. And now that she's approaching that age, she feels a sense of urgency in "making it" as an artist.

On the one hand, what her instructor said is true — most artists don't hit their stride until they've got some life-experience behind them. However, I can name a number of artists that were doing profound work in their 20s, so take such assertions with a grain of salt. On the other hand, and more importantly, I feel her instructor missed an opportunity to let her know that while goals are an important part of artistic growth, we often put too much emphasis on them and not enough on the real joy of being an artist; the journey to reaching our goals.

The journey of an artist is a life-long one. It should never end as long as one continues to pursue growth in their work. Goals are simply destinations on our journey and should not be viewed as the defining achievements that make us who we are as artists. It's the journey that defines us. As long as we continue to enjoy the process of being an artist, and dedicate ourselves to moving forward, we will reach our goals. And more importantly, we will have done so without being smothered under the self-imposed burden of attaining them.

Enjoy your journey. Lose yourself in the process and don't let your sense of urgency in reaching your goals lessen the fun of realizing them.

Time For Some Thank Yous...And A Little Boasting

I had another great show this year at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, SC — tons of fun, friends, food and art (maybe not in that particular order). I wanted to thank all of the wonderful art lovers who purchased my work this year. I can't tell you how flattering it is when you enjoy my work enough to make it a part of your collection.

I'd also like to thank all the folks at SEWE for putting on such a great event. You guys always make my time at SEWE so enjoyable and your hard work really shined this year. Thanks so much for inviting me to participate.

Thanks to my artist housemates for the laughs and the company. You know who you are, and if you don't, well then you probably drank too much over the weekend.

And finally, thanks to the judges for awarding me the 'Best In Show' award. It's a true honor to have my painting Watchtower selected from such an incredible collection of work at this year's show. (There, that's enough boasting... I think)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gearing Up For SEWE

In just about a week and a half I'll be flying out to Charleston, SC to attend the Southeastern Wildlife Expo. It's a large, group wildlife art show and is one of my favorites. The city of Charleston is exquisite, the people are charming and the show itself is a blast.

In my 7 years (has it been that long?) of exhibiting in the show, I've made many friends — collectors, art lovers and other artists — who I very much look forward to seeing. And that's the strange part, at least in a way. I'm much more excited about seeing all of my friends than I am the prospect of selling artwork. It's sort of counter productive considering I make my living by selling my work. One would think my first priority would be to focus on getting my paintings sold, but that's not so in the case of SEWE. I just love being there and my first priority is to enjoy my friends and the town I've grown so fond of.

If you're in the area, be sure and stop by!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Glacier National Park Project

I recently discovered a web site called "Kickstarter". They facilitate fundraising for artists, musicians, filmmakers, and other creative folk who are interested in developing creative projects. It's incredible how far technology has come — this kind of opportunity didn't exist just a few years ago. Now the individual artist, musician, etc., has access to a much larger base of people who are interested in funding the arts and those that do wish to fund creative projects have access to a much larger pool of talented creatives.

With my discovery of Kickstarter, I decided to take the opportunity to try and get a project of my own funded...

Due to the financial limitations many of us artists face, we can often feel limited in producing the best work we're capable of. In many ways, I've felt such limitations. In particular, I've felt limited in my access to the subject matter I love; the mountains and their inhabitants. Every year I try to get out for as long as I can afford and immerse myself in the landscape — soaking up as much as I can. But all too often, I'm limited, financially, to spend as much time as I feel I need to truly connect with my subject matter. But that's life and I try to make due. However, with my discovery of Kickstarter, I have an opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream of mine; to spend an extended period of time in one of the most pristine and remote of America's National Parks painting, sketching, and photographing my subjects without feeling rushed. If my project were funded, I could relax and focus on my work and my subject in ways I've never been able to before.

In the end, my project is about producing my most comprehensive, reflective and personal body of work to date.

I invite you all to take a closer look at my project. For those of you interested in supporting the arts, please consider my project. For those artists out there, take a close look at Kickstarter. Maybe it can help you to fund a project you wouldn't otherwise be financially able to on your own.

Click here to check out my project!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shows: What To Bring And What Not To Bring

I'm often asked by artists just getting into group art shows about what they should be bringing in the way of artwork, i.e., how many pieces, what sizes, what subjects, etc. I stressed over these same questions when I first began, and in my relatively short time doing shows, I've now arrived at a conclusion that seems to work for me.

First, I try to bring a wide selection of work. Depending on the show and the amount of space I'll have, I typically bring anywhere from 12 to 20 paintings. Sounds like a lot doesn't it? Well, it's not as bad as you might think.

The paintings I bring are basically divided up into three groups — small (11x14" or smaller), medium (12x16" - 18x24"), and large (anything above 18x24"). These groups are based on my pricing structure. Smaller paintings are more expensive per square inch, medium paintings get a little less expensive and larger ones drop even more. This selection of small, medium and large works are typically divided as follows; 1 half of the paintings are small, the rest are medium and I'll bring one, or maybe two, large paintings depending on my available space. Large paintings are great to bring folks into your space, but in my experience, they can be difficult to sell in these kinds of show environments.

What subjects should you bring? You’ll hear a number of varying opinions about this from other artists. My opinion is simple — bring the subjects you enjoy painting. Period. Do not try to cater to what you think a particular show's demographic is interested in purchasing. You'll almost always be wrong and as an artist, you're missing the very point of being a fine artist — you paint what you want because that's what you love to paint.

And finally, I'd like to say something about making your work available to everyone. I bring a number of very small paintings to these shows (6x8") because 1st, I enjoy painting them. They're simple, expressive and they give me an opportunity to focus on my brushwork and color usage without struggling with the complexities a larger painting might bring. And 2nd, they are very inexpensive (when it comes to fine art) which allows serious art buyers who may not have much discretionary income to spend, an opportunity to obtain one of my paintings if they so choose.

Here's an example of a recent 6x8" painting of mine titled, "Iorek".

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In The Zone Or Just Making Excuses

Ok, I'll admit it. I've let slide my electronic responsibilities. It's been more than two months since I've posted an entry here. I apologize (assuming of course that anyone out there actually cares).

But, I do have an excuse. I've been painting — feverishly. I'm in the process of creating new pieces for my upcoming shows and I've made little time for anything else. Now that the holidays have arrived, I've been somewhat forced to take some time off and be with family — which is why I'm hiding here in my office writing on my blog.

New Year's Resolution #1: Make no more excuses and write more frequently on my blog. Check.

So, here's a small peek into what I've been working on. It's a 16x20" oil on linen. Hope you like it!

Happy New Year everyone!