Four On The Floor

For about a year now, I have had one goal for my art - work faster. As my work has improved over the course of the last few years, it hadn't yet translated into quicker production. I read somewhere that the average painter needs to produce about 80 paintings per year to put themselves in the best position to work as full-time artists. Because I work a regular job, my objective is to achieve about half of that - to start and finish four paintings per month.

August will mark the first month where I was able to accomplish this goal. As a result, I'm achieving a certain consistency to my work. This feels like real progress. More so, because I am improving my output, the opportunities to learn increase and I believe my work will only get better. Appreciating what's happening only makes it that much more fulfilling.

Art Appreciation

On my recent trip to Scotland, I made it a point to visit some of the museums in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Gallery  and Scottish National Portrait Gallery were two venues that really stood out.

  Interior of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Interior of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Portrait Gallery featured a fascinatingshow by Victoria Crowe. The collection revealed a biographical narrative to portraiture. I found the work interesting because of the attention it paid to a story beyond a single portrait or moment in time. The people in the paintings were all connected to the artist, so she was telling her story, in addition to theirs. The show made me think about the level of depth needed to provide the story for each painting. The concept of stories within my own work continues to evolve, so the show sparked a lot of thought into my own future as an artist and story-teller.

The National Gallery featured great work from artists I tend to gravitate to, such as John Singer Sargent, Monet, and Pisarro. Though I hadn't been previously interested in Flemish painters, something clicked for me and the paintings on display really spoke to me. Vermeer and Rembrandt, were masters at light and shadow - nothing new there. I was struck, however, by the level of detail so brilliantly demonstrated through the work of such masters as Rubens and Van Dyck. The intricracies of paint application was a great complement to the detail of ideas demonstrated in the portrait exhibit.

The level of detail in both areas is something I've been more cognizant of within my own art and will continue to explore. 

Unanticipated Scotland

I recently returned from a trip to Scotland. Unlike previous trips abroad, I had no artistic or cultural objective: I was there simply to get away from the day-to-day grind and be open to whatever surprises the trip had to offer. With no expectations, I was rewarded with a beautiful country, welcoming people, visual inspiration, history lessons, and experiences that truly celebrated the art of life and pleasure. The town of Oban, known to me initially because of their whiskey, and then somehow affirmed through a Rick Steves video endorsement :P, best exemplified the experience.

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The drive through the countryside to get there was simply beautiful. Rolling hills, green everywhere, sheep... just beautiful. The coastal town seems to originate from a cliff facing the ocean. Everywhere I looked, I found visual inspiration with a sense of familiarity that surprised me. The history of Oban is celebrated not only in the distillery (amen!), but several landmarks as well: McCaib's Tower and Dunollie Castle, to name a few.  Unusually dry conditions allowed the rare opportunity to sit outside for a dinner at Ee-usk, watching a colorful sunset as our group enjoyed some of the freshest fish I've ever had - mussels, sea bass and properly paired wine and whiskey. As we were finishing our meal, one of the locals stopped by our table and started a conversation with us that ended in song; I believe it was "The Road to the Isles". I was a kid in a cultural candy store. In the end, each city shared its own story and they were all very satisfying.

I was refreshed in a way that made the end of the trip not only bearable, but hopeful. I believe travel is such an essential part of life, as it enriches our perceptions of what is ultimiately important, in addition to offering a release from the routines that we can get into as part of the discipline of life's work.

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What a Walk Will Do

Last week, I had a commitment to attend a four-day event in downtown Denver, not too far from my studio. Instead of driving, I decided to walk to and from the venue. More and more, I appreciate walks, as they slow my hurried world down and I'm able to see more of the nuances of what's happening around me. As I walked through my neighborhood each day, I noticed new things everywhere: graffiti, venues, construction, buildings, more construction. Denver is booming and there seems to be a new building going up on every block!

The walks were an adventure of new discoveries and compositional possibilities.

As much as it reconnected me to my neighborhood, it also reminded me that sometimes in both life and art, it helps to slow down, observe and reignite the excitement of possibility.

Doesn’t Remind Me

Denver scene, detail

I was painting in the studio the other day, jamming to Audioslave, when I heard a familiar verse -

"I like studying faces in a parking lots, Cause it doesn't remind me of anything."

- lyrics to their song "Doesn't Remind Me" which is so appropriate in the way I've trained myself to see, as an artist.

As I have stated before, in order to see the visual world objectively, the artist must work to disassociate from himself/herself from preconceived ideas of whatever their subject matter is. The artist observes the world as if they have never seen it before, so as to avoid any visual bias and ultimately distortion of the subject matter. 

The end-result from seeing something that "doesn't remind me of anything," enables me to find more abstract relationships between shapes, values, and colors that set the stage for my own artistic expression.

Community

For the last 15 years, my studio has been located in what is now known as the River North Art District (aka RiNo). When I moved here, the location was actually referred to as Upper Larimer: RiNo had only been in existence for a year or slightly more prior, and referred to a budding art community (as opposed to an entire district). I moved here because the space was conducive to creating and displaying my art. It was only after the move that I discovered RiNo. I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of it since then.

During my time here, I have watched the neighborhood grow with artists of all styles converging to create a very unique environment which, as RiNo's tagline indicates, is "Where Art is Made." From new murals to growing First Fridays, I’m privy to watching the neighborhood come into its own.

Last year marked my re-emergence into the RiNo scene, after spending several years privately focusing on my artistic development. During that time, I lost touch with old friends in the neighborhood and missed out on meeting new folks as well. The time seemed right to get out of my studio and be a part of something greater than myself, once again. As luck would have it, RiNo was hosting a networking party for members, so I signed up and attended a recent event.

It was great to meet new people and see what kind of businesses are popping up in the neighborhood. So much growth has occurred within the last few years. In fact, next week begins an outdoor film festival called, "Side Stories" that I'm excited to check out. I am grateful to be part of this community.

One Hundred (continued)

From November 2016 through January 2018, I worked my way through a portfolio of mostly drawings, with several paintings completed in the latter half of the series. In the end, this has been the most worthwhile activity I have ever pursued as an artist.

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For the sake of improving my drawing skills and committing myself to a number of drawings far beyond what I produced historically, I endeavored to create 100 self-portraits. I chose the subject matter (me) only because I knew I would be available, at all times, to pose for pictures. I wasn't really sure how I would be able to create 100 different poses, let alone maintain my interest to see the work through, so my first step was holding myself accountable.

I had doubts that I could complete the series and did not mention my intention until I produced the second drawing and posted it on Instagram. I figured if I started to slack off, at least my friends or family would say something to keep me honest.

The series progressed, and I noticed my work seemed to improve around segments of ten or more works. As I approached the first quarter mark, I finally started to believe I would actually finish the series. Additionally, my connections on social media started commenting on the work. Their words of encouragement kept me motivated, as I had hoped.

From November 2016 through January 2018, I worked my way through a portfolio of mostly drawings, with several paintings completed in the latter half of the series. As I approach the end of this series (I'm working on #99, at the time of this writing), I can say this has been the most worthwhile activity I have pursued as an artist. The lessons learned through consistency and commitment are immeasureable. If you believe in the philosophy of 10,000 hours - this is an excellent way to get there.

As I work to complete the final two portraits, I'm looking to the future for my next series of 100. We'll see where it takes me.

My New Favorite Artist

 "The Three Graces", Marie Bracquemond, 1880 Image courtesy of The Trivium Art History Project.

"The Three Graces", Marie Bracquemond, 1880
Image courtesy of The Trivium Art History Project.

I recently attended the Denver Art Museum's exhibition, titled "Her Paris - Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism". The show was very extensive with some artists I was familiar with, and others I was not.

One particular artist, whose work fell into the latter category was Marie Bracquemond. The luminosity and brush work of her paintings had such a dreamy quality to them - I was spellbound. I spent more time observing her work than any other artist on display.

I will certainly spend more time learning about her, and studying her paintings. I highly recommend you take a look at her work too.

Collector's Notes

I am nearing completion on three paintings. The work is significant to me, as it marks a shift in the way I approach my work. Instead of perceiving objects and things, my focus has shifted to the abstract relationships of values within the painting, enabling me to see more harmonious relationships that bind all elements of the painting together.

Furthermore, I have developed a better shape vocabulary with a greater understanding of the nuances of shape contour.  

With a better vision of the work, and clearer intention, I am able to work more quickly than ever before. More importantly, it opens doors for the future of my work to go beyond traditional figurative painting.