On The Importance of Lighting

From an artist's perspective, there are many factors to consider when producing artwork: the subject matter, for example; the dimensions of a piece; what colors to use; etcetera, etcetera. Upon determining these factors and actually beginning my work, the final, but perhaps most important consideration is lighting.

When I’m working on a piece in my studio during the day, I block off the sunlight from my windows, as the sun tends to bounce off my floors and cause a glare on the paintings. With the sunlight removed, I use two primary studio lights with different bulbs to bring out all of the colors in my work.
Proper lighting can make all the difference in the world. The painting shown on the right was purchased over the summer by my aunt and uncle. Once they framed and hung the piece, they installed a special art light for the painting; the difference was striking. It brought out all the subtle colors that were concealed with standard incandescent lighting.

The image on top is a simulation of how the picture appears in standard house lighting. The image below shows the same picture with the proper lighting.

Most people hang their work in specific parts of their home, but tend to overlook the importance of lighting for that particular area. To learn more about different types of light and lighting methods, I would recommend you take a look at the following links:


http://www.robertterrell.com/lighting-artwork.htm
(scroll down the page a bit, below the menu box)
http://www.drloriv.com/advice/light.htm

Discussion: Dinner With Three Famous People

I was on a walk with a good friend of mine and she brought up a topic for discussion that I would be interesting to share here, in hopes of getting a response from more people (that'd be you). She posed the following question:
    If you could pick any three famous people to have an evening of discussion with (a kind of famous guest dinner party), who would they be?
The list can be anyone alive or deceased. I would very much appreciate your comments on your own guest list. In the meantime, I'll start mine along with a brief li'l ditty as to why I chose them:

1. Eddie Vedder- I remember being in college and listening to Pearl Jam for the first time. Their music moved me and over the years, my fondness for the band only increased. I applauded Eddie and PJ for taking a stand against TicketMaster, questioning their additional "service" fees. As they've matured, the band has managed to keep its integrity while remaining relevant as a musical force. I could go on, but you get the idea. In any event, I feel like Eddie Vedder would be a thoughtful, intelligent guest with a passionate view that would spark some interesting conversation.

2. Marilyn Milian- One of my guilty pleasures of late is watching The People's Court. Judge Milian now resides over the show that began in the 1980s and brings with her both clarity and conscience. Using power, experience and compassion, Judge Milian strives to educate and empower people to be accountable for their actions. I have the utmost respect for all that she has accomplished and am completely addicted to the show. I think her direct approach and quick wit would bring an interesting element to the gathering.

3. Paulo Coelho- Author of my favorite and most inspirational book, "The Alchemist." This is the book that pushed me to pursue my dream of being a full-time artist. Since then, I have read all of Coelho's books and everytime I finish one, I am amazed how timely the message from that particular book is and how it directly applies to me. Paulo's universal themes are those of love and self-awareness. His spiritual insight would certainly round out the group and make for an interesting evening.

Now, if could only pull this get-together off! So, what about you? Who would you invite?

A Big Head, Take Two

Primary Jazz Duo I had just finished hanging my work for the show at the theater when the gentleman who lent me the step-stool returned. He looked around the giant room, with my paintings now adorning the semi-exposed brick walls loosely patched with white drywall. "Well," he casually observed, "that definitely gives this place a different look!"

Curious about his comment, I tried to remain optimistic. "I certainly hope for the better," I responded.

"Yeah," he went on, "at least I can tell what it's supposed to be."

He said no more.

After I realized that was the extent of his commentary, I felt the distinct tiny pop of a pinprick, as any shred of confidence I had prior to that moment passed into the air with a slow, gentle leak.

Anniversary

Two years ago this week, I was mercifully laid off my last thankless job. The course of events that followed has been a test of will more than anything to me; a challenge and promise to myself to uncover more of who I really am- both as an artist and, more importantly, a human being. My time since then has been spent improving my artistic skills while becoming a better person in general. I feel like I have achieved progress on both fronts and yet have so much more to accomplish.

That first weekend, after the layoff, I remember walking in Washington Park with JQ. Late afternoon sunlight blanketed gold over the fallen leaves scattered on the dirt path; the path that seemed to symbolize my future. I told JQ that it would be interesting to see where I would be five weeks from then- for I couldn’t see much past that. I wondered if I would have another job that I would ultimately despise, or if I would lose my home and studio, or was this actually wake-up call to make the move and become a full-time artist. Where would I be? I had no idea.

Two years have passed, more quickly than I could have imagined and the five weeks that lie before me now are no more certain than they were on that day with JQ. The difference is in me and I trust my future will work out the way it is meant to. I have more clarity in what I am seeking in this life and ultimately where I'm going, but I realize there are factors beyond my control and I know that I have to roll with them when they arise- to be like water.

My pledge to sustain my full-time job as an artist is first and foremost because of a personal drive, but it is also a protest. It is an objection to the way we have been seduced as a society to relinquish our dreams for a paycheck. In going through all that I have these last two years, my hope is that I will continue to make the best art I possibly can, while becoming more conscious as a human being and serving as a positive influence to those around me... for those who still believe in their dreams.

From Frida to Camille

JQ and I have plans to go to France in the near future. In preparation for the trip, we've been learning French and implementing it in everyday conversation, whenever possible. I thought it would be a good idea to further our understanding of the language by watching French films. One of the films we recently viewed was called Camille Claudel. The movie is about the French sculptor Camille Claudel with not only her personal story as an artist, but the relationship she had with legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Camille's plight seemed comparable to that of Frida, which I recently blogged about. The movies are similar to me because they both depict strong, talented female artists in their attempts to emerge from the shadows of their male counterparts (Diego to Frida and Rodin to Camille) while overcoming challenges they face by their cultures, their family and their own gender.

Unlike Frida, which I felt focused more on the tumultuous relationship between Diego and Frida, this film reveals more about what made Camille a great sculptor, in addition to her relationship with Rodin and the suspicious circumstances that ultimately led to her demise. I would highly recommend this movie for those of you who are interested either in a great film or learning about a new historical figure.

Black And White

In my journey as a painter, the last two years have been about taking stock of what I already knew and what skills I already had, determining how I wanted to improve them, and figuring out how to make the transition. Upon realizing how I wanted to advance, one item I wanted to address was- be more deliberate with my color and contrast.

Back in college, I remember being discouraged by my instructors to use black and white in paintings. “Black,” they would say, “is not a natural color; it is not found in nature (referring to observing every day color- specifically, shadows).” Black is a very powerful color, or absence of color. It is used to shade any given color and add depth to it, but if over-used (an easy pitfall), it darkens and muddies a painting. White was also discouraged because if used improperly, it gives a “chalky” appearance to the paint. Used befittingly, however, an artist has the ability to add tinting strength to a color; brightening that particular color. With these thoughts firmly impressed in my mind, I largely abstained from using either color in my work, until recently.

Making my transition into oil paints, I studied old masters and specifically, focused on the palette of The French Impressionists. In doing so, I realized that these artists employed both black and white in their work more than I was originally led to believe- the difference, and I believe the message my instructors were trying to tell me, is they never really used those colors exclusively by themselves. In other words, you would be hard pressed to find pure black or pure white in any of their paintings.

In permitting myself to begin using these colors again in my work, in addition to making adjustments in other colors of my palette (moving away from a traditional Impressionist palette, while finding my own), I believe my paintings are emerging with a higher-key palette. They are brighter and more vibrant than they were just a few years ago.

The paintings on the right illustrate this difference, with the work on top of an acrylic I completed around 2002 and the work below it, a more recent commissioned work, finished earlier this year. With the first painting, I used Burnt Umber and Payne's Gray instead of black as a shader, with very little white in the work. The result was an over-use of shading that makes the painting darker and heavier. With my new technique, the work demonstrates variations of dark and light without that heaviness. I am now on a very deliberate path of where I want to go with my work.

Sequel

Blow There are two paintings I have ever done that I am not simply not willing to part with. As an artist, that is a seemingly obvious yet challenging concept to accept- you create a work, it comes from your heart and in return kisses your eyes, finding its way back again to your heart- but you cannot keep everything you make. I create art so I can share a part of me in a way that words simply cannot afford me.

Back at Arizona State, when I began painting more seriously in pursuit of my passion, I was advised to never fall in love with my own work, if I intended to sell and make a living from painting. It was a difficult lesson to learn, but ultimately it comes down to having the confidence to know that whatever I achieved in a particular piece could always be repeated or improved. That said, I have kept two of my paintings as a reward to myself because I consider them landmark paintings. The one I am speaking of for this entry is called "Blow." It is a painting that has proved to be extremely popular- I have had many people inquire its price, only to find that it was not for sale.

For my open studio event in October (just a few weeks ago), I put "Blow" on display. With it hanging on the walls of my studio, I've had plenty of time to look at the work and in doing so, I've had a desire to redo the painting to better reflect my technical abilities. This week, I began work on five new, large canvasses; one of them will be an updated version of "Blow" and I am very excited about it. It will give me the opportunity to enhance the drama of the work, using the skills and knowledge I have gained since I completed it, five years ago. I am hopeful the work will be completed in time for my open studio event in December. Who knows- maybe I'll even put it up for sale ;).

Thoughts About The Movie- Frida

I borrowed a copy of Frida, from L- one of her favorite movies of all time. I remember seeing it when it was released in theaters, back in 2002, and not being terribly impressed by it, but my girlfriend had never seen the movie before, so we decided to watch it. I thought this time around, I might have a different opinion.

The movie is about Frida Kahlo, an artist from Mexico who has become quite popular since her death in 1954. Though I liked the movie more the second time around, I was still troubled by something that I felt was missing the first time I saw the film. It seems to me, that in typical Hollywood fashion, the movie focuses mainly on Frida and her turbulent relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. The movie is essentially a love story. Though it certainly addresses all the hardships and challenges Frida so brilliantly overcame in her life, making her the amazing woman she was, I don't believe the movie fully explores what eventually made her such a popular artist.

It is no surprise that Hollywood went for a script that would ultimately make them the most money, but the oversight seems strange to me because the movie is obviously a labor of love for everyone involved in it. The admiration and glorifiation of Frida were very apparent to me, both times I watched the film. The problem, then, is the movie fails to paint a complete picture of a woman who was so unique, passionate and strong, but known to most because she was an artist- so why wasn't there more of an attempt to interpret the phenomenon that has been growing since the 1980's? The answer of course is obvious, but the question is- do you agree? I look forward to reading comments.

-J

Dream: Release

T and I had just got into the car and were on our way out to listen to some other local bands. The hilly city reminded me much of Seattle, but in fable, it was San Francisco. A steady stream of rain coated the pavement as I drove through the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The water accumulated and began to run through the streets in shallow, broad bands while the neon signs colored the wet sidewalks, complementing the yellow/purple sunset with their reflections.

I hadn't anticipated a deceivingly steep hill and soon the automobile lost power until it ultimately stalled and then receeded slightly back down the grade. I stopped to regroup and revved the engine, but the car failed to advance against the current and so we got out, in search of safer ground as the water rushed through the streets with frightening force. As we made our way to the sidwalk, I looked to my left. Up the street, a giant wave, with a menacing white crest, crashed its way between the buildings that provided an easy path of destruction.

As the people scattered to get out of its way, T and I found a spot with a nook that just might save us from the initial impact, though I suspected our chances were slim at best. I had a backpack and turned to T to ask if there was anything worth saving in it. I knew the answer was no, but felt obligated to ask, as if my words could somehow lessen the severity of what was about to take place. In the dwindling seconds, my mindset completely shifted from panic to complete peace and clarity. I knew there was nothing worth saving. I also knew that the impact of the wave would probably change the city and our way of life forever. The thought scared me at first, but as I reached this sense of calm, I accepted my fate, with no thought to the future. I released my expectations.

And then I woke up.

A Big Head

It was a beautiful morning for this first day of October. There wasn't a cloud in the sky as I drove my girlfriend's seven-year-old son to school. We were talking about sports and the upcoming week, when the conversation shifted, as it often does when O has a question or comment that seems to come at random.

"I like sitting here," he said cheerfully to me, as he leaned back in his seat.

I smiled, thinking he was probably just glad to be up in the front of the car and asked, "Is it because you like being the co-pilot?"

"No," he explained, "it's because your head blocks the sun from my eyes."

Controlled Improvisation

About two years ago, I returned to oil paints after working largely in acrylics for some time since college. Oil painting is a medium loved by both patrons and artists alike. Speaking as an artist, the dynamic and control I enjoy in oils are unmatched by any other painting medium I have worked with. That said, there are many scientific scenarios that the artist must understand in order to get the most out of this particular medium.

Because the pigment is suspended in oil, it sets up and dries through a chemical process called oxidation, as opposed to evaporation which takes place in other water-based paints such as acrylic or watercolor. Knowing how the paint and whatever additives an artist puts into the oil (such as a varnish) behave and dry is crucial in making a painting that will stand the test of time. Without this knowledge, an oil painting is subject to premature deterioration and cracking.

My point is- producing art with oil paint is a balance of spontaneity with a certain level of planning. It has been challenging for me to switch gears, not only in terms of the type of paint I use (going from acrylic to oil), but learning how to balance the planning that goes behind oil painting while maintaining the creative freedom of impulsiveness and intuition. Ultimately, my art is a search for harmony, between the chemist and the artist, to create alchemy on canvas.

Within You and Without You

My uncle and I were discussing a friend of the family who, until about a year or two ago, had been making art as a living for the past thirty-plus years. Though I am unclear as to the actual reason behind his decision for leaving art behind as his profession, I do know it was not because of health reasons. On the contrary, this person apparently stopped producing art to become the owner of a local bar.

As someone who has tried his whole life to become a full-time artist, I am having a difficult time understanding why or how any artist could voluntarily retire from creating work in their lifetime. It begs the question- is someone an artist because they have the talent and means to do so, or are they an artist because it is an inherent passion that never dies, no matter the circumstances?

There was a time, after I returned from college and was searching for my path in life that I was not creating any art, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I would be producing again. Even when I’ve deliberately tried to suppress my creative desires, they have always managed to creep up on me in unexpected, but glaring ways, such as sketches jammed on paper- in between writings, notes or lists that were intended to serve other purposes.

To me, being an artist is an extension of being; I simply cannot turn it off or walk away from it. So, if somebody simple stops making art to move on to another 'job'- could they really be considered an artist, in the truest sense of the word? My answer would be no. But then again, it's all about opinions. If you have any thoughts on the subject, feel free to comment.

Green Eggs and Scam

For the most part, I really dig the internet. It has made life convenient in many ways, particularly when it comes to finding opportunities in business, as well as art for that matter. For as much as I enjoy the benefits, it amazes me how many people are out there, waiting to screw over innocent and unsuspecting people in the form of a virus, identity fraud, or scams. Over the weekend, I received what I believed to be a suspicious e-mail from a “Garritt Miller” (his e-mail, btw, is m_garritt01@yahoo.com). It went like this:

“Hello,

My name is Garritt Miller from Owasso OK, I’m interested in buying some of your beautiful artwork for our new home in the UK.

However, i must tell you that they are very beautiful work. After a close look at your work I will be happy to buy the following carefully selected artworks;

1. Frankie Got His That Night At The Dub Club
2. Listening

Kindly get back to me with the total price of the selected Artworks excluding shipping cost, and also if there is any details regards the inspiration of the work.

Await your response,

Regards

Garritt”


At first glance, I was half-inclined to believe the e-mail because this person mentioned two of my paintings by name. Never the less, I found a few things about the e-mail that didn’t seem quite right so I did some research and sure enough, I discovered some interesting information (and necessary reading for my fellow artists out there) that related directly to my new “art fan”:

http://www.artnewsblog.com/2005/09/art-scammers.htm

After reading the posts from other artists on this link, I decided not to respond to “Mr. Miller.” Furthermore, I wanted to draw attention to these low-lifes so they don’t scam anyone else in the future. Please pass along the information and feel free to comment if you have any advice based on a recent experience. Protect yourself!

Mind Over Matter

I recently picked up a book called “Amerika,” by Franz Kafka. Knowing that I am a big fan of Herman Hesse’s work, someone suggested I read Kafka, so without much research on my part, I chose this particular book.

I read the foreword by E.L. Doctorow only to find though Kafka originally planned it to be his first novel, he never actually published the work during his lifetime. What I found to be of special interest is that Kafka wrote the book, having never been to America. Instead, the author relied on his research through lectures, books and whatever else he could find on the country, or as Doctorow put it, “Kafka made his first novel from his own mind’s mythic elements and the research data that caught his eye were bent like light rays in a field of gravity.”

I thought about how I do that constantly when I am painting. Being that I may not be as familiar with certain elements in a composition as others, I rely on balancing research with intuition in rendering those same subjects in my work; at times, sacrificing accuracy for the sake of the composition. This way of bending the truth appeared again in a video I watched last week of Leonardo Da Vinci whereby the artist took some liberties rendering the Virgin Mary in a painting called The Annunciation. (Notice the Virgin Mary on the right side of the painting and how awkwardly positioned her right arm is, in addition to its unnaturally large size.)

There are times when I question my process and lately, this topic in particular has been on my mind. Needless to say, the timing of these insights provided me with some needed assurance from other creative minds.

Urgency

“Don’t kid yourself anymore,” he whispered to himself with the urgency that comes from a close call with death.

“Far too many tomorrows have already come and gone, leaving you with nothing more than broken promises to yourself. Make that tropical sunset up there on the mantle a memory and not a fading dream!”

Contrast

On a warm autumn afternoon, many years from now, two old men sit on a bench together in front of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are discussing the Jared Steinberg retrospective they have just seen at the museum.

Daniel, a short, pudgy man who covers his bald head beneath an old hat is grinning from ear to ear. Steinberg is one of his favorite artists and he can no longer contain his enthusiasm. “Man, nobody can paint the sky like that Steinberg could,” he says out loud. “I could sit all day and gaze at those sunsets and oceans. And those musicians… don’t get me started on those musicians. You could just feel the rhythm and movement from those paintings. Oy- what a beautiful show that was! I can’t wait to go back with my grandson to see that show again.”

Albert, his old friend since childhood, had made up his mind long ago about the dead artist and the retrospective did nothing to change his mind. “Ach! No way I’m going to waste my time on that garbage again. I think he was a putz! His paintings, with their skewed perspective… I mean they’re not even like paintings! They’re more like drawings with paint- with their squiggles and curly lines. I wouldn’t even call him a ‘painter’ really. I mean, Danny, if you want to see a great painter, take a look at Edward Hopper or even the old Renaissance painters, like Titian- now they could paint! This Steinberg isn’t even in the same league. I thought the show was very average… yes, very average.” He paused for a moment, looking over at his friend. In a slightly more relaxed tone, he continued, “Though, I sure am looking forward to that Caillebotte show coming up in December. Now that’ll be something to remember!”

As the words dissipated into the afternoon air, the two men sat in silence for a few moments after the exchange, contemplating their memories from the show with no regard to the contrasting opinions made by the other.

“It’s a beautiful day today, isn’t it,” Albert purposefully commented to change the subject.

“Yeah, it sure is,” replied his old friend. And the two of them got up and took a walk in silence, through Central Park.

My Tree

The tree outside my home seems a little stronger this year- a little fuller, healthier, more sure of itself than last year. I love that tree.

I remember when the landscapers came to plant it, two years ago. They carelessly dug a hole in the ground, severing the sprinkler line that was to feed the young tree. After it was clumsily planted and tethered, the tree stood in front of my studio for the next three weeks before I realized that it wasn’t getting any water. I called to get the problem fixed and was half hoping they would remove it altogether and replace it with a new, healthy one. Knowing it would take even more time for them to replace the sprinkler, I watered the tree when I could, hoping to keep it alive. As I expected, the landscape company simply replaced the sprinkler, leaving me with my new, weak tree that tentatively stood between two healthier trees of my neighbors.

The summer quickly passed, as it always does, and turned to winter and then spring. The other trees blossomed as mine was slow to recover from the winter. I wondered if it was dead or not, but hoped for the best as I seemed to be developing a stronger emotional attachment to it as time marched on. About a month and a half after the other trees had grown their healthy green leaves, my tree finally started to blossom with significantly less drama. Half of its leaves were withered and mangled while the other half hardly constituted enough volume to make for shade below.

Around that time, I planted my flowers for the summer and began watering them with plant food; I decided to try to nourish my tree as well. I have heard that plants thrive off positive communication; if you talk to your plants, they will respond. I began to feed my tree once a week and in between those times, I would go out and talk to it, offering encouragement and love whenever I could. As the summer progressed, my tree seemed to be on the road to recovery, but I felt the following year would really be the true test.

When spring came again this year, the other trees blossomed earlier than mine, as they had done last year. The difference this year is the leaves are nice and healthy, giving me shade as a reward for the time I’ve put into it. The tree is special to me, not only because of this, but because it is a metaphor for my life these past two years. Now that I am emerging from the uncertainty of whether or not I will be able to make it as a full-time artist, I can begin to enjoy its shade as we both grow a little stronger… a little more sure of ourselves.

Perspective


It was the second and final day of the art festival and my booth insulated the hot, stagnant, afternoon air. Sales had slowed down since the first day’s early rush, so I was able to converse more with people who came to my booth. I found myself standing up in the tent, surrounded by my paintings and chatting with art patrons and aficionados. A gentleman of about eighty or so, wearing a woven safari-style golf hat, walked into the booth. Beneath his large pilot sunglasses, he observed my work for a few minutes and then turned to me.

With a raspy, dulled east-coast accent, he asked me in the insolent way some elderly people feel entitled to, “So who taught you perspective?”

The question confused me and I wasn’t really sure how to answer him. I couldn’t tell if he was being condescending or if he really wanted to know, as if I could somehow narrow all my influences and teachers on the subject down to a single person that he just happened to know of.

Perhaps it was the heat, or maybe the fatigue from being at the festival for two days, but never the less, I found myself unable to respond directly to his question, as if my wits had just left me to get some fresh air. I offered a reserved but sincere reply and simply shrugged, “I like to bend the rules of linear perspective to a level that appeals to me.”

He scoffed at my unfulfilling response, took one last look around the tent, as if to confirm my answer and walked out of the tent just as abruptly as he had entered. I’m still thinking about the whole thing now, wondering if I could have given a different response… but I really don’t think I could have.

Notes From Goya's Ghosts

A friend of mine invited me the other day to go along with her and her boyfriend to a movie they got free tickets to see. It was an advance showing of the film Goya's Ghosts. I must admit, I didn’t really know much about Francisco Goya, so I decided to attend the show, hoping to learn a little more about him. Overall, I found the movie rather unremarkable; however, there were two scenes in particular that struck me.

The first was a scene in the movie that thoroughly demonstrated the entire process of making an etching (a form of printmaking). There was a certain satisfaction in watching a process that has changed very little in the last five hundred some-odd years of its existence. Having made etchings myself, I felt a sense of pride in knowing this special way of printmaking and being a part of something so much greater than myself.

The second and final noteworthy item from the movie was of a scene where Goya was working on a portrait of a clergyman. Brother Lorenzo was trying to determine a suitable pose for his likeness and asked a question about what to do with his hands. Goya explained to him that if he chose to have his hands rendered in the portrait, it would cost him an extra, “2000 for one hand or 3000 for both.”

The audience laughed at the artist’s reply, as if they misinterpreted it as a joke or an outdated practice. As ridiculous as the offer may have appeared, it is still practiced today by many artists. A lot of people, and artists alike, will tell you hands are difficult to render, thus the extra charge. As for me, I like a challenge, so if you ever contact me to do your portrait, rest assured I won’t charge you extra for any appendage ;).