Friday, October 31, 2008

Calling it Good

One of my good profs back at UNI, Deb Zlotsky used a saying once or twice, "A painting is done when the telephone rings". I know she borrowed that from a famous artist, but I can't remember who. Basically what that's saying is that for a painter you can't just say, "I've worked on this X hours and now I'm done". What happens more often than not, in my experience is that you work on it until it hits you. Something happens (like a telephone ringing) and you just get this epiphany. Something in you says, "that's enough".
I feel like I've finally put this little painting of the ISU campus town to bed. Stayed up a little extra late last night nitpicking until it finally hit me... I'm done. I've done enough. The picture posted here isn't the actual final image. There were some adjustments to the green sign over the building window near the foreground. So I'm going to post this one on my Etsy store for a week or so until it either sells or I take it down to ArtDive for display. It's only 9"x12" so I'll price it reasonably for the amount of work I've put into it. I always say I'd rather sell art than sit around looking at my own stuff. This one needs to go to a good home.
Getting geared up for what could be an entertaining Halloween weekend. I wish you all the best. Have fun and be well.



Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting There and Being There

I've managed to get some good work done over the last few days. I was out of town most of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday visiting with some good friends who just moved back to Iowa from Kentucky. So glad to have them back!
I also spent a couple of evenings varnishing a piece for a customer. She purchased it last year right off of the easel. The rule of thumb with varnish is to wait at least six months before applying your first coat of any kind of varnish. I've varnished paintings prematurely and I kindof wonder what, if anything, will really happen. The idea is that your dry top coat of paint still sits over layers of wet paint. The top coat is porous and allows the moisture from the lower layers to leach out and evaporate. This is why you don't want to seal an oil painting under glass. A friend of mine had one of my pieces that was under glass and the moisture from the paint has caused mildew to grow on the surface over the years. A situation that will need to be rectified and can be cleaned up with some turp and a slightly different framing situation hopefully.

I've made some progress on both of the pieces I currently have on the easels. I'm just cleaning up the little piece. Refining lines. Correcting colors. On the Chicago piece i'm filling in more specific areas of color, definiing the characters (people, cars), and working on overpainting the sky, street, and building fronts. I'm hoping to get the ISU/Ames piece done this week. I'm spending too much time dicking around with it. Probably a symptom of my current mental state. When there's a lot going on a person can get a little scatterbrianed and/or manic. It's a happy manic tho so... don't worry. The trick with this sort of state of mind is to try and keep focused amidst all of the mental noise. To stay in the moment. Like Ram Dass said, "Be Here Now". It's something I tell my kids regularly. Don't be running in fifty different directions. Be Here Now. Keep your mind on where you are and what you're doing.
Probably a lesson many of us can live and learn. I work on it every day.



Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday. Once. Updates

Watched the movie, "Once" last night. I remembered Glen Hansard from The Commitments which is one of my all-time favorite films. I had no idea what a great singer/songwriter he was tho. I've heard of The Frames, but didn't realize it was the same guy. So... Wow. Amazing music and a great film. The tunes are tearjerkers for the most part so if you possess any emotions at all... bring Kleenex.
I got some good stuff done on my new, large-format piece. I'm very happy with the way it's coming along. The street's really starting to glow of its own accord. The cars are materializing out of the negative space which makes me pretty happy. Stay tuned. I'm pretty excited to see how this one turns out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some New Images

I was out and about Monday night trying to get some time away from the house and catch up with some friends. Ultimately that didn't work out so I blogged and surfed from my office. Sad, maybe. Peaceful, definitely.
After taking a little stroll around downtown I headed home to do some painting. On the way it occurred to me that I had my camera in my satchel. I've been wanting to get some shots of this railyard I pass on the way to work every day. I'd just never actually set out to get the shots. The opportunity presented itself so I parked and took a walk across the bridge to get to the spot I had in mind. It was cold and windy, but the lighting was pretty cool. I have to admit my little Kodak 12mp camera did a pretty fair job. I don't know when I'll use these shots and I'll probably do some zooming and cropping, but at least now I've got the option for when the mood and timing are right. Could be years in coming. I've got a library of photos going back several years just waiting to be paintings. There are at least 400 shots of Chicago alone.
Guess I'd better get to work.



Monday, October 20, 2008

A Relaxing Weekend Sortof

I finally decided to take some time off this last weekend. Honestly it felt strange. I did take some time Friday to spend an evening curled up on the couch with my boys. Very sedate. Very reassuring. I'd say that's one of my "Happy Places". After putting them to bed I was faced with the dilemma of deciding what to do next. I sat alone in the quiet letting the TV do all the work... My friends were, as usual, right. I needed it. I tried to avoid doing anything too productive all weekend except for a little laundry and some workouts. My body and mind needed it. I've started my week feeling less strung out than usual. I did get back to painting last night and am feeling pretty good about both of the pieces I'm currently working on.
So I've attached the progress update images from last night:

I'm still fiddling with the details on the ISU CampusTown piece. I'm fairly happy with most of the colors at this point. The structures to the left of the composition are still mostly just underpainting, but will shape up quickly. I'm very happy with the violets that are happening in the shadows. Looking forward to finishing this up soon. Coming soon to an Etsy store near you!

The second piece is still coming together compositionally, but you can see the glow of the twilight sky shaping up in the background. The cars are starting to form from the negative space of the pavement around them. I'll probably start working on the two main figures tonight or tomorrow. I'm hoping this one will come together quickly.
I'm looking forward to getting these pieces finished. I've got some new ideas I'm wanting to try out. Maybe something a little more abstract. I could use a change of pace subject matter-wise. I'm not getting much back from the clients I'm trying to nail down on commissions so it's time to produce, produce, produce.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Progress on Several Fronts

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm not saying that trying to dig up some extra presents or even wishes. Although I joke about my age it really doesn't matter to me. Most of the time I feel as fit and energetic as I did ten years ago. But it WAS a birthday which is always a reminder of the passage of time. 1970 seems so long ago... It wasn't an easy day. At least not at the start. I think birthdays can be difficult for people because they are reminded that the clock is ticking. Maybe they think about what they haven't accomplished. Worry that they're going to be alone. We dwell on past mistakes and missed opportunities. Honestly I did all of the above. Thankfully I had some amazing friends there beside me to remind me of all the good things that have happened. Things I (and We) have done. It's a reminder that, as my friend Jeff said, "none of us is an island". We all need a lift OR a swift kick in the head from a good friend every now and again. Most importantly I was able to "be there" for a friend. Few things can make you feel better than being able to be there for someone else.

So having had my faith in humanity and myself somewhat restored I got to work last night with a sense of privilege and hope. I got some more work done on both of my paintings in progress. On the smaller piece (pictured here) I'm refining. Fixing colors and forms. Pushing and Pulling the light and dark elements to achieve a balance. To create contrast. Plus I need to work on my lines. They're all over the place. On the larger one (pictured in yesterday's post) I'm still laying out the larger areas of color. A lot of which will wind up as underpainting to be covered with areas and layers of other colors to create variation and depth (look at the techniques of someone like Dali for a real lesson in layering) . I'm finding the relationships between the forms. Trying to set them on the teeter-totter of composition so they balance in a way that draws the viewer into the picture.
Ok... The workday calls


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finally Back to It

I've really been taking a long break from painting... For me, at least. I've been going at it pretty consistently for months now taking only a day or two off per week to get other stuff done. Lately, as I've mentioned before, I just haven't had the heart, energy, or time. I've had a lot of other stuff that I've been putting off that I had to knuckle down and deal with. While speaking to an old and dear friend last night it was pointed out that perhaps I'm not taking enough real down-time. I took a break from painting, but didn't really take a break. Just filled up that time with other things like working on a budget, updating the website, blogging, etc. He surmised that could be the source of some the other issues in my life. I don't know... I always feel driven to be productive. Life's too short and there's always this feeling that I've got to fill up the time with something. That's part of the reason I only sleep 4 or 5 hours per night. So much to do and see. Plus painting helps me go to a different place apart from everyday life. Throwing myself into my work keeps my mind off of things that are troubling me.
Ok... that's enough about that for now.
I did get a start on a new piece last night. I've got a show coming up in December (details to are coming). I've been asked to do some large paintings for it and I have to say that I'm excited to be working big again. Last night I really went after it and worked up a sweat. Painting large is so physical. I can get my whole body involved. It's almost like dancing in some ways which I LOVE to do. I didn't cover a lot of territory, but it's a good start. I'm laying out the values and larger areas of color again. Beginning to put the elements and characters into place. I'll keep posting updates to show you the progress.

Enough for now...



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parties and Double-Edged Swords

I want to start by saying that overall I had a pretty great weekend. I wound up being able to go out with friends for a joint birthday celebration Friday (I turn 38 on the 15th). I initially thought I wasn't going to be able to attend and then here come my folks out of the blue and offer to watch the kids. Thanks, Guys! A good time was had by all... or most at least.
Got to spend some quality time with some excellent characters and good friends. I could go on and on...
I also was reminded of a song I'd totally forgotten about, "Night Swimming" by REM. Great tune and now I'll never forget it. Long story. Nice to pick up those little tidbits and have them get a fresh association. Even if they are a little bittersweet.
I talked painting with a number of people this weekend. I've had several people approach me about commissions. I enjoy taking commissioned work, but it's a double-edges sword. There is so much more obligation involved when you're producing something specific for someone. Artists approach the topic of commissions differently. Personally I like to get a good, solid agreement on the concept. Once that happens I ask for 30% up front as a retainer and to recover costs. This is typically non-refundable in my book. Depending upon the individual circumstance I may ask for the rest upon delivery or installments with the balance due upon delivery.
There were a lot of ideas and questions floating around this weekend. We'll see how many actually come home to roost. Going to try to nail a few down this week. Get some cash flowing and some new materials in-house.
Excited for the prospect of new work and deadlines. Few things motivate like cash and deadlines.
I'm hoping this week that I can start to rekindle my spark of creativity and my lust for life. The events of the past few weeks have taken their toll. I'm going to take it back with interest.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Taking a Break

All this week I've Tweeted and Facebooked, etc ad nauseaum about getting down to the studio. It seems like every night I've headed downstairs and wound up either pissing around for half an hour or so and heading back upstairs or actually trying to get some work done and just lacking the heart for it. I'm a big advocate of dogged determination, but sometimes, i'm finding, you just have to give in and either take a break or do something else productive or whatever. I try to stay productive. Try to keep moving. My Grandma Reeves used to say, "If you stop moving you might as well just lay down and die". I plan to do quite a bit more before I go and do that.

There has been a lot going on here, and I think it's just drained me to the point of distraction or exhaustion or some space in between. I've taken the position that this blog was going to be more about the process and the work than about my personal issues so I won't go into boarish detail as to just what those issues are. Suffice it to say that it's been more than a bit overwhelming. I think it's just drained my ability to paint this week.


I did decided to spend tonight working on some ideas for a commissioned piece. I hooked up witht the client through work. He's had to live in a number of different countries and has this great piece of Sydney. I've been toying with the idea of how to combine the various iconic elements of Chicago into one piece (which is what he's asking for). I've got this great picture of The Bean with this couple standing in front of it and the skyline reflected on it's perfect surface. I'm thinking I could work those iconic images (Millenium Park, the Sears Tower, Wrigley, etc) into that reflection. I've thrown the idea out there. We'll see what he says. Hopefully he'll like the idea.
So in the interest of getting something done I'll sign off.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Updates and Progress

So there're updates and there's progress. Which is which? Is it I've updated my website and I've made progress on my new painting? Or have I made progress on my website overhaul and I've got new painting updates for you?

Cyclical banter... the product of a tiche too much caffeine, too much time in the singular company of a four year old, and just plain too much on my mind. I won't go into it here, but I'm convinced that this year is just getting stranger and ... well "strange" doesn't even begin to cover it.
So (there's that "So" again) I HAVE made some progress on my painting. Here's last night's update. I'm going over the perspective again and I'm starting to push and pull the lighting and figurative elements. I'm using the light to define the dark areas and visa versa. They go through this tug of war until the right balance is acheived. Sometime later this week I hope.
Also I've been going over the purchasing page on my personal website. For some reason I had two. I've condensed them into one and am trying to get the last of the updates applied and proofed. Check it here: Not a pretty link, but it'll serve for now.

Did some tweaking of my Etsy site. Gave me a chance to play around with Photoshop and make this banner:

It needs a little more tweaking compositionally and otherwise, but I'm liking the overall canvas effect. I've done a little graphic design here and there and would like the opportunity to pick up some more. That's the kind of work you have to go looking for in my experience and it seems that these days all of my time is pre-consumed for me.
Ok... off for a run on the hamster wheel then to the studio (with stops at the shower, and fridge in between).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Catching up After a Long Weekend

Regardless of what happens we all seem irresistably drawn towards our weekends. As it often turns out sometimes we just try to do too much with them. I'm starting to thinkg that this may be the case with mine. Didn't get much painting done, but I think I more than made up for it in other ways: lots of website updates, lots of time with my two boys, seeing giant dinosaurs up close and personal, visiting with family. The woiks.

So I didn't wind up getting a lot of painting done last night or tonight, but I did get quite a bit done Friday. In this pic i've start defining areas of color and tweaking the perspective a bit. I hopefully will have it finished by early next week. It's only 9"x12" so it'll be extremely affordable. Plus, due to its size I'm shooting for some more spontenaity. We'll see if I can let go of the reigns a bit.

Ok... very very sleepy... time to go now.



Saturday, October 4, 2008

I Went and Did It Again

More items posted on Etsy! They'll stay up until I get the chance to see which of them my local gallery rep, ArtDive wants. Once they hit the gallery the price will go up. She's gotta make a living too ya know ~8)
Looks like some people are definitely looking. It's inspiring me to get more involved with my marketing AND get down to the studio and paint, paint, paint! I really do want to make the transition one day soon from part time painter to full-time painter. I know it's going to require a lot of time, effort, and determination, but in the end it's what I've always wanted to do. If you've ever wanted to go into business for yourself or are in business for yourself I would LOVE to hear from you. To me few people are cooler than entrepreneurs. They're a different breed and they embody the spirit upon which our country was founded.

So to all of you...


ps: I'll be posting pics of the latest piece in progress. Stay tuned. I'll be back later. Same Bat-Time. Same Bat-Channel.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Items up for Sale and My Love for Chi-Town

I went ahead and listed a few more items on my Etsy account. The first listing was a bit of a wakeup call telling me that getting more agressive with my marketing may just pay off. I've said it once and I'll say it about a thousand more times, I'd rather sell my work that sit on it. I like the idea that someone will hang this in a room in their home or office and take a minute from time to time to look at it and feel... something. My work, to me, is an extension of my being and maybe it's a bit narcissistic, but I like the idea that others get some enjoyment from it. Like Peter Gabriel said, "I Love to be Loved". I suppose it's the same for most artists.
So here they are:

All three paintings are of Chicago. What can I say? I heart Chicago. I've always had a great time in that town regardless of why I was there or what I was doing. It helps the the company I work for at my day job has an office there. As a result I get to visit on a semi-regular basis. Plus I have a fair number of friends that live there. It always helps to have friends. I find that more and more as I get older...
I have a customer that I'm waiting to hear back from that is wanting a sortof "best of" the Chicago skyline/landmarks. He's had a similar piece done of Sydney and I look forward to the challenge of matching... no, surpassing the wonderful job that artist did. Chi-town is extremely photogenic and lends itself to my style of painting. But I digress again.
Time to hit the studio. The paints, they call to me.
Wishing you all an excellent weekend.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Success, Chaos, and a New Start

I've been thinking a lot about different ways to market my work lately. I mentioned in the previous post about getting some tips for online marketing from a fellow DSM artist. As it turns out the strategy worked like gangbusters. Within 36 hours of posting my last painting (and the sale thereof) on this blog, Twitter, FaceBook, and an email to my slowly growing mailing list it sold. In fact it nearly sold twice. One potential customer, an old high school friend, emailed me via FaceBook about purchasing it directly through me instead of the Etsy account. By the time I returned home to take the listing down I discovered that the painting had already been bought and paid for. Excellent news, but it did mean that I had to get in touch with my initial contact and explain. Thankfully she took it well and in the end I wound up getting a commissioned piece out of the deal. Everyone was happy. The people that purchased the painting via Etsy, as it turns out, were old school friends of mine as well. Thanks a TON Carla and Dave!

You can be sure that I'll be doing that again in the near future. I've got some inventory left from that shop that was showing my work that recently closed. I think this would be a good way to get it out there. Show it to a wider audience. I would rather sell art than sit on it. I love my work... I love it more when it goes to a good home.

So there's the good news...

That same day I received a call from my soon-to-be ex wife telling me that she was in an accident involving a car that we jointly own. The car sustained some measurable damage, but she's OK. That's the important thing. Cars can be repaired and regardless of anything else I was simply relieved to hear that she was unharmed. Seems there's always a little dose of chaos thrown into our lives to remind us to keep grounded.

Last night I was able to get a good start on my next piece. It's based on a pic I took while I was on photosafari in Ames a couple of weeks ago. I posted the source pic and the initial canvas sketch shortly thereafter. Don't make me go back and look it up... I've started to take the graphite sketch and expound on it a bit with a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, and Burnt Umber. In the pictures it tends to look black, but it's anything but. It will also go up for sale via my Etsy account when it gets finished.

Keep an eye out for other works showing up on Etsy soon.