Working through fundamental exercises in any given field, let alone drawing, can test your patience but the key is to remain persistent. After I read through Dr. Betty Edwards' "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain", I learned not only about why the brain perceives the visual world the way it does, but also strategies for a new way of seeing to improve my drawing. This foundation of knowledge motivated me to continue to work in these areas while sparking my interest to learn more from other sources.

I attempted to enroll in several classes and workshops around the Denver area to further my education but I always seemed to be a day late and a dollar short when it came time to enroll. My search continued and I eventually discovered an excellent resource for artists called Smartflix. This website provided instructional video rental for drawing and painting in addition to many other specialized craftwork. I rented videos from there while checking out more from the library. The videos helped solidify the concepts of what I had read in Dr. Edwards' book in addition to new teachings. Now, I had to take this new information and put it into practice.

After several months of working on my accuracy, I gravitated toward portraiture. My interests were pushed further when I was commissioned to do a portrait series of three siblings. I also began two separate series of self-portraits and burlesque performers around this time.

In the autumn of 2010, JQ and I flew out to Washington D.C. to attend a wedding. We planned to spend sufficient time at the Smithsonian Institution. I was struck by two galleries in particular. As you might suspect, the first was the National Portrait Gallery where I marveled over several works by John Singer Sargent while gaining a better appreciation of American artists in general, such as Childe Hassam and Robert Reid, to name a few. I surprised myself developing a newfound love of work I had long disregarded, ultimately realizing the importance of portraiture in American art as not only documentation of history but as an entity of beauty in and of itself. Interestingly enough, the second gallery was the Feer/Sackler Gallery, typically known for its Asian collection. This time, however, there was a gorgeous exhibit featuring the work of James McNeill Whistler. I absorbed visually what I could from the trip, writing down names of interest with the intent of looking them up when I returned home to find out what I could about the artists and their processes.

Of the artists I wrote down, Sargent and Whistler were the most documented regarding their process. From Sargent, I learned of his strong work ethic and how much time he put into rehearsing his material through sketches; he encouraged at least 100 studies of a particular subject before committing it to canvas. Whistler, on the other hand, was known for his remarkable visual memory. He would study his subject intently for a period of time and then turn his back, facing away from the source to recite verbally what he had seen in order to commit it to memory. These two concepts would eventually become the cornerstone in my continuing development as an artist.

Creators (or “My Name Is Earl For Pictures”)

Last week, I attended a reception for “Creators”, a collection of new black and white portraits by Denver Artist, Sharon Brown. Sharon is an oil painter and her studio is just down the street from mine. Over the course of the last year, we have had several opportunities to collaborate, the last of which was for an exhibition/presentation with a group called Welcome Colorado.

Before the group arrived for that particular event, I was helping to get things in order at The Pattern Shop Studio. We had just finished setting up when she disappeared and quickly returned with a camera in hand. I’m not big on photos, but was flattered, assuming she was capturing the moment on film.

“Why don’t you stand up against that wall,” she directed, moving me near a self-portrait of mine. I straightened my posture and beamed right into the camera. Usually, I detest getting my picture taken, but I was rather excited for the upcoming event and couldn't conceal my ear to ear grin.

“Don’t smile,” she said.

“Excuse me?” I thought I misunderstood what she said.

“Don’t smile. I want a serious shot of you. It’s for a project of mine.”

I was confused. I thought about all the times I didn’t want to smile for a picture and now I was being asked not to and I couldn’t help myself. For the first time, maybe ever, I actually had to suppress happiness for a photograph. Oh, the irony. It took a few takes to get a decent shot with my eyes open (I seem to have the same problem as Earl in My Name Is Earl when it comes to keeping my eyes open for pictures). Thank goodness for digital cameras.

After she took the picture, she explained to me that she had taken my photograph along with a number of other artists in the RiNo area and was working to put together a show of black and white, monochromatic oil paintings of all the creative people she knew. Last Friday was the opening for that show, which, by the way, if you’re in the Denver area for this First Friday (November 6th), will be open for your viewing pleasure; just down the street, in fact, from my studio which will also be open.

The reception for Creators was wonderful- Sharon and her husband are such gracious hosts. There were quite a few people and the paintings were very well done. She thoughtfully arranged each painting to make sure it was paired with another for one reason or another. Together, the body of work made for a warm, intriguing, ethereal atmosphere that really captured a nice depth in the facial features. I would certainly recommend seeing the show. Maybe after that, come down to my studio... just down the block- I’ve got new paintings to show you too.

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