Seven of my new paintings are on display at Monique Arnon Art and Antiques in San Francisco. They join a few of my older, more representational works. If you've been wondering what these things look like in person, why not stop by Mme. Arnons wonderful Presidio Heights gallery.
I have four of my smaller works from 2010-12 for sale at Monique Arnon Art & Antiques in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. The shop is extremely charming and focuses on fine arts from the 18th to the mid 20th century, all selected with Mme. Arnon's keen eye. The selected works include "Two Drawings of a Lake", Absinthe #1 and #2" and "Arrangement A", which can be viewed in the "Paintings 2003-12" section of this website.
Happy to announce that starting in November some of the cardboard paintings will be available at The Passdoor in Sebastopol, California.
Details as they develop.
This week I’m applying varnish to a couple of finished paintings. Varnish does things. It seals and protects the painting from smoke, light, minor scratches, marks and other possible surface damage. It intensifies the colors of the paintings, like adding a piece of glass over an image printed on matte finished paper. It adds a very shiny surface to the painting as well, and for those reasons many, if not most oil painters add multiple coats of varnish to their finished paintings.
I do it, too. Pretty much all the time.
I once asked my friend and fellow artist Mitra about whether I should add a coat of varnish to a painting and surprisingly, she said no. When I asked her why, she said that it added a layer of separation between the viewer and the art.
She was right, of course. It does. The shininess of varnish puts a very noticeable “finish” on the painting, and that can certainly be seen as a protectant both real and metaphorical. Perhaps as artifice and illusion, as well. Does the viewer have a closer connection to the artistic process (and by transubstantiation to the artIst) if the true qualities of the paint are preserved? It becomes a pretty subtle nuance for both the creator and the purchaser of the artwork. Does the new owner sacrifice a type of intimacy with the object over its preservation or the potential of aesthetic enhancement? Is the artist subconsciously keeping a physical distance between him/herself and the world for reasons of privacy or self-preservation?
I can’t recall if I ended up varnishing the painting in question. If I didn’t, it would have been one of the very few that I left au naturel. Mitra owns a few of my paintings and most, if not all of them have been varnished.
I’m guessing that the greatest reason i had for doing it was to make them more attractive. Perhaps, even with my closest friends, my work and I need the sheerest of gossamer to keep from being completely exposed.
Soon after this revamped website went up, a very good friend of mine asked me a question: Do you ever have a hard time finishing a project (one with no deadline) that you’ve started? If so, how do you move past that?
I told her there’s no hard answer. A glance inside my massive studio complex will show that there are a lot of unfinished projects leaning up against various corners gathering cobwebs, dust and god knows what else. And that’s because when the going gets tough, I quit.
That may fly in the face of what motivational experts and career counselors might say, but I don’t care.
Hell, I quit making art, period, for two years. But I came back, and I’m now happier and more focused than I ever was before I stopped.
My thought is that if you’ve hit some kind of wall, whether it’s running out of interest or you don’t know what to do next or you thought you knew what to do next but what you did ruined it, by all means quit. Stop. Walk away.
But here’s the second part: do something easier. If you’re stuck on a painting, go make a simpler, smaller painting. If you’re stuck on a drawing, go doodle. Or bake a cake. Or write a poem. Anything that only takes a few minutes is always good.
The point is to do something else that is also creative, just not as hard. It helps to keep the juices and the creative actions flowing, and shows you that making art can actually be fun. Frankly it should be fun. Or at least satisfying.
The artist/businesswoman Ann Rea helps struggling artists figure out their deals, and while I disagree with a lot of her premise, she has an interesting exercise for figuring out creative blocks. She says that as an artist, you are the boss. And the employee. So, the boss should ask the employee why she or he can’t finish the thing. Then, the employee should ask the boss why it is so important to finish it. Then you have a conversation about whether or not the boss is providing the employee with the tools they need to do the job.
One last thing, and I can’t believe it took me almost fifty years to finally realize what everyone said was true. Keep a sketchbook, and do something in it every day, if you can. Doodle, draw, write, collage, anything. Even if it only takes twenty seconds. Don’t worry if it isn’t any good. It shouldn’t be. It’s a sketchbook.
It doesn’t even have to be a sketchbook. Notebook, pad of paper, whatever, just something you can carry around in a pocket. It will keep you creative, and that will keep you thinking creatively.
And that is especially important for those of us (like my friend, as well as myself) who have a life to lead. A life that includes making a living, being a parent and/or a spouse, and dealing with all the other stuff that will keep you from being the artist that you are.
Ten minutes. Three minutes. Twenty seconds. You’re worth it.
Wow. I should be doing seminars at that Holiday Inn out by the airport.
Those things are eucalyptus seed pods. Three of them have already sent their seeds out into the world, if you want to be poetic about it. If you don't, then three of them have sent more of this invasive and intensely flammable species out into the parched California landscape. The one in the foreground? That one is still dormant.
My wife brought these to me from a trip to Stern Grove in San Francisco, where, she said, there were millions of them scattered all over the ground. I've had these four for years. I am endlessly fascinated by their shapes, their details and color and by their subtle variations. They sit in front of me on my desk, and when I get tired of looking at them in one arrangement I move them around. Sometimes I roll them like dice and let chance be the designer. Often I step in and art direct chance's valiant attempts in order to make it better, because let's face it, chance is not very disciplined.
And then I'm fascinated all over again.
The point of this is to say that in light of my recent work, I became aware that these things may have had a profound influence on me that only recently became apparent. Moving things around, over and over until you get them "right". And then doing it again. The same thing, only different.
We had been in our wonderful little town for a couple of years when I’d heard about a life painting class offered at the local art center. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “life painting class” is where a live, usually nude model is provided for people to draw or paint. I had been wanting to sharpen my skills in painting human beings, and so I called up to find out the details.
The class was created and run by two artists. One had achieved fame as a legendary San Francisco poster artist of the 60’s, and continues to paint and design posters. The other one answered the phone.
After telling him I was interested in signing up, he gave me all the info, then asked “So, what kind of work do you do, abstract or realistic”? I replied “realistic”, and he said “good, that’s harder”.
After hanging up the phone I thought about this and decided this must be a guy who didn’t do either style very well. His easy dismissal was part of an attitude that has gone on for well over a century, generally by much of the public and a few critics, but also by a disappointing number of artists. To wit: abstract art requires little artistic skill and is a scam perpetrated by an intellectual elite hell-bent on the destruction of civilization.
People who have taken an Art History survey course in college are familiar with the general idea:
- For thousands of years the role of the artist was to create convincing reality, conveying assorted religious, historical and political ideas without the written word (which most of the public couldn’t read, anyway). The more realistic-looking the art, the better the artist.
- The invention of the camera rendered the traditional role of the artist obsolete. Freed of the requirement to be the camera, the artist became the interpreter. In conjunction with progress in science, technology, psychology and philosophy, art and artists became reflections of the modern human condition.
- For the cultural establishment (whatever that means), definitions of “skill” and “talent” reflected these changes.
- More or less.
But back to the story, I continued to stew over my conversation with this guy. I’ve done both, representation and abstraction, and I can tell you they are each as “hard” as you make them..
It’s not how long it takes to make a painting. It’s how long it takes to make a painting that represents what you want it to.
Next: Hey, Darryl, relax.
This new website represents a more direct representation of my work as an artist, and my desire to connect that work to the world at large. To show not only the finished work, but the influences, processes, mistakes and successes that go into the final results.
I've always been a very private person, certainly when it came to what I valued the most dearly, so I'm anxiously looking forward to this new approach. In addition to an Instagram and Twitter feed, I've (gulp) returned to Facebook. If you roll that way, I invite you to check out those things, too, as what I share there is similar, but not identical to this blog.
Making art is constant testing, experimentation, re-arranging and change, and this blog and this website will end up reflecting all of that. Or maybe not.
Let's see what happens.