Artistic Rambles: Why the Sketch Was Better

Sketch was BetterI have been working on my painting for three days, weeks,months and it still doesn’t work. Why? My sketch was really incredible.  My sketch was better.  I  loved it.  But what could’ve gone wrong.

This happens to artists all the time and sometimes the error is that you probably never checked to see if your sketch’s proportions matched your canvas.

In my case the vertical sketch was thinner than the canvas. Therefore my two lady figures were not positioned perfectly. They were a bit farther apart and I was futilely trying to correct the design by filling in the area between them and it didn’t work. The interesting posture of one of them was gone.  No matter what I did with color- more red more yellow, etc.  I had lost the flow.  Plus the acrylic paint was gumming up on the canvas creating bubbles and losing vibrancy.

But I persisted. Usually persistence is a good thing – right Elizabeth Warren? Not in this case.

My fluid ladies were becoming awkward bias relief sculptures. They could not be deader than if I had taken a knife to the canvas.

But I persisted. At this point I pitched the brushes and tackled the colors with my gloves.  I started smushing paint around knowing nothing good would come of it. I even squirted expensive pigment right on the canvas – a sign of desperation.

Deep down I knew it was over. I thought about how an artist I knew had labeled some if his failures “sailors” because he took them to the beach and “sailed” them into the bay.  I am too much of environmentalist to do that. It would be just my luck the wetter paint would slough off revealing the original failure and some beach-goer would find it, dry it out, and with my luck I would see it at his retirement party. Thankfully unsigned.

There are many reasons a painting will never be as good as the sketch . What I have talked about is basically a design problem. Face it folks, bad design equals bad painting.

Epilogue
I used up my paint smearing it on the canvas and started a more textural painting.

 

dividing line

 

Afternoons with Gloria

Artists Like to Cook Vegetables

Veggie SquashAlthough I am a good cook, I do not claim to be an expert on any food much less the undervalued vegetable. But I do have opinions and a blog. I like to cook vegetables.

Growing up in a blue-collar urban family , I was exposed to a total meat and potatoes diet which also noodles and very occasionally rice.

Most of my vegetables came out of a can.

My father demanded they be cooked for about 10 minutes on the stove so the end result was salty gray mushy peas.

He liked peas.

Having said that I must admit that my mother and grandmother made cabbage , yes a vegetable, that was to die for.

Then I was introduced to southern cooked vegetables when I married a South Carolinian and realized vegetables , partnered with cornbread without sugar, were unbelievably delicious. Corn, butter beans with little pieces of fatback, I learned to cook them all. I was lucky.

Unfortunately most folks when they go out to eat are treated to the very unappetizing steamed vegetable medley that passes for vegetables in even some of our better restaurants. You can picture it- limp zucchini , yellow squash and wilted onions in their salted water bath . Yum. I have to assume the chefs were not trained to cook vegetables anymore than I was trained to appreciate them growing up in the Del Monte can environment. ( in the interests of geographical balance. can I mention my introduction in the 70s to the southern version of pizza from a now defunct chain consisting of a generous mound of oregano on top of a block of mozzarella cheese sitting on a barely tanned bed of cooked flour? My heartburn is coming back)

Anyway, I mention restaurants because I think a lot of us get an idea of what unfamiliar recipes taste like when we first sample them prepared in a restaurant. Very few of us nowadays have an Italian or Eastern European or even Chinese grandmother bending over a hot black kitchen stove stirring a pot of ethnic wonders. (Grandfathers were doing manly things piddling in the back yard.)

Yes, we have cooking shows, but they are the new forms of entertainment, but are hardly tutorials.

So restaurants become our baseline. Unfortunately most restaurants fall well behind in their expertise in cooking vegetable dishes. They steam them to death or serve them raw. They don’t even know how to prepare asparagus so that you aren’t forced to eat rooty stems . Seasonings include salt.

So in our country you get your meat – bloody to hockey puck, bland to sugar high.  You get your seafood -,crispy fried to greasy fried.  You get your chicken, and of course everybody’s favorite white meat- pork with its bacon flavoring everything from entrees to ice cream. Then of course you get your fried potatoes and your favorite carb -bread.

Rarely do you ever have the opportunity to taste an incredible sautéed vegetable dish or any vegetable dish that is more than just an afterthought to bring color to the bland variety of earth=toned foods we love.

Dare I say my rant does not include salads- that traditional American diet food. Maybe more on salads another time- grass clippings as health food. That’s a joke folks.

As a result of lack of exposure I dare say most people don’t even know what a caramelized onion is much less caramelized spring cabbage. And we wonder why children can’t stand vegetables although you can blend them in a smoothie with 30 grams of sugar and hope they can’t taste them.

I love International grocery stores which stock a wonderful variety of foods that grow- many I have never even heard of –  but alas they don’t identify them or tell how to prepare them much less put out samples like Costco does with prepared foods.

At least we have the entertaining Korean woman on Youtube who is a joy to watch.  Now I am going out to stock up on Korean radishes to make her pickled radish recipe.

You ask what does this have to do with art? Nothing. But artists have to eat and I like vegetables.

My Plein Air Painting Adventure

2018 East Beach Plein Air PaintingLast weekend (April 13-15, 2018), I had the opportunity to paint outside in East Beach Norfolk, Virginia. Plein air painting involves leaving the studio and painting in the landscape. Most of you may know I have not done this sort of art since I was a water colorist decades ago. Currently, I do my thing in my studio surrounded by my files of reference material, piles of categorized hard copy photos dating back to the 70s, digitized photos (16,000 and counting on my computer or in the cloud), as well as any and all art supplies, canvases, paints,inks, gel medium, printed material for collages, and drawing implements. I paint, collate, collage, paint over, scrub it out, throw paint around using my gloved hands as well as my brushes, dance to my music or scream at TV news all while creating.

Plein air is different. You have to tote your supplies, including your easel, paints, and canvases. You have to remember your water, your hat, your sunscreen, sun glasses and check out proximity to the closest restroom. Your subject matter is generally stationary. Since my forte is action, painting outside here is difficult for me.

The organizers for the East Beach Plein Air Painting Escape do a phenomenal job of dealing with artists who don’t know each other, neighbors who are to house out of town artists, planning food and other accommodations for us, planning a dinner, and marketing and then hosting an art display and sales event. All this while hoping the weekend is as beautiful as this past week was. The fundraising is for the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD)  so success is important. Congratulations to the organizers on a job well done.

Back to me. The main point of my art revolves around my thought process and how I can present emotion.I long ago abandoned painting directly from the photograph. I don’t copy photos. I use them as take off points. For example this weekend I photoed a rusted gate. That became a design element for my imagined dancing figures. Colors are meant to be changed. I generally avoid panoramic use in favor of close-up details that expand to become less recognizable. I can foresee painting a large flower and embedding my figures. So basically I am a faux plein air painter.

Behind the Gates

However I can appreciate the other plein air painters’ unique form of art. It is a tough way to paint. On Friday, the glare was formidable and the wind was blowing so hard. The sand on the beach became a barrage of mini needles. I saw the wind take a fresh painted oil and throw it face down in the sand. While I might have used the sand as a textual element I know the artist was frustrated with what had happened and elected to start over again.

My most comfortable painting experience was perched in front of a live oak quite near my car. I was in the shade with a cool morning breeze while volunteers in golf carts came by with water and snacks.

My plein air colleagues exhibit incredible patience and discipline -selecting their subjects and rendering them so that everyone knows exactly where the location is yet they can see art and not a photo. I lack these traits of discipline and I am not methodical. I am very impulsive and love the art of throwing paint around. So I guess I am not cut out to be a plein air artist. Though I would love to be part of the event again, but set up inside somewhere. That way I could enjoy their company, and paint my little heart out.

East Beach Plein Air Painting Artists

Meet Up with your Favorite Artist

East Beach Plein Air Art Escape

We’re all ready for a bit spring and some warmer days!  This coming weekend, I’ll be painting at the East Beach Plein Air Art Escape along with twenty of the top Plein Air artists on the East Coast.  We’ll be offering the paintings we do during the event for auction on Sunday.  Proceeds go to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

I’ll be posting where I am on my Facebook page.  Come by and say hello.  We can sit and chat as I paint.

WHEN:  Friday, April 13 – Sunday, April 15

WHERE:  East Beach Bayfront Club, 4550 East Beach Dr, ​Norfolk, VA 23518

ART SHOW & LIVE AUCTION:  Sunday, April 15 | 4:00 – 5:30pm

More info

Painting at the East Beach Plein Air Painting Escape

An Afternoon with Gloria Coker

Did you know I have many of my paintings displayed at Associates in Dermatology?  If you’re interested in a personal viewing of the paintings with me, come join me on Wednesday, May 9th.  I may even be painting in the Waiting Room while I’m there.

WHEN:  Wednesday, May 9th

TIME:  12:30pm – 2:00pm

WHERE:  17 Manhattan Square, Hampton, VA 23666 (Directions)

 

The Heron in Flight

Heron in Flight

A few days ago, I made a backwards step in my art journey.

The painting on the canvas 24×36 did not work. On the back, I had crossed out no fewer than 4 failed paintings. The first was “Out on the Town.”  No idea was that was about. The second was “Follow My Lead” which had been a jazz piece that probably did not work because it required a canvas that was more square and I failed in my attempts to salvage the design. The third was “I’m Wet but am Still Dancing” which had the same problem. The title was great though. I turned the canvas vertical and the fourth was “Horn Man” obviously a horn player that I have done before, and it was most likely too redundant – been there done that and don’t want to do it again- at least not that way. 

I decided to take the used canvas to the Virginia Living Museum where I paint once a week.  I turned the canvas horizontal again.  Then using my boldest strokes and large amounts of paint, I did my interpretation of a heron in flight. I like it. 

I say backwards, because if you have been reading my blog, you know that I have been in mucho angst about painting with more meaning.  This painting’s subject (Heron in Flight) has been a favorite for the three years I have painted as Artist in Resident at the Virginia Living Museum.

It was boring until I added the orange, red, and magenta bits. 

My feeling about my work is this. If when I look at the painting and I feel good- really good – I think it is successful for me.

Once I gave a talk to a rather conservative group of women and said that I judged paintings including mine thus.  If I studied it and intellectualized about the technique, I could appreciate it, value it, and applaud the artist and his or her skills.  But that would be my second or third criterion. My first reaction needs to be an emotion. If I can stand before it and almost have an orgasm, then that to me was a really great painting. You might say I am no longer in the orgasmic age group, but you don’t know that. The ladies in the group were slightly appalled. Orgasm? She said orgasm?  OMG!

My second painting I did is the rocky coast of Maine. The coast of New England has been my playground from childhood and I have painted it for years. So, no big breakthroughs. But maybe you don’t need breakthroughs when it is snowy outside and cozy inside and painting a well-known scene with a fire in the fireplace is a better fit.

The Wave

Starting 2018 – Desire for Change

Summer Thoughts Sketch and Desire for Change

I think there may be a general misconception by the public. They see artists like me, who tend to get involved in what we loosely call creative pursuits, simply plodding along.  We go from one brilliant idea with a beginning, middle, and end.  We pause.  And then proceed to the next brilliant idea. Well, obviously most ideas are not brilliant.  However when we are in the inspiration phase, sometimes we feel that it could be the best work we’ve ever done.

Surprisingly to some, there are a lot more lengthy pauses where we feel, not just uninspired, but scared to death there will be no more brilliant ideas.  That the best we can hope for is to regurgitate the things we’ve done before, the tried-and-true, the successful (monetarily speaking).   I say we and I probably should not. Because this is just the way I feel.

So that was a lengthy lead in to the feelings I am having right now. I can always go back to painting the themes that people seem to recognize from me. But that is playing it safe. And you don’t learn and you don’t excel by playing it safe.  I’ve got a desire for change.

Then a painter like myself sits back and says, “All right so how do I not play it safe? 
What do I do differently?
Do I change my theme, my subject?
Do I change my technique?
Do I get more rigid or more exuberant?
Do I paint larger or smaller?
Do I tell a story or paint a feeling?
Do I paint more abstractly or with more representation?

Is the best really yet to come? I don’t know those answers right now, but I have to believe that the best is yet to come.

Fear not! I will continue to paint, because I can’t not paint. And you will be the first to know if I succeed in becoming inspired again. And it may be in the realm of technique and approach rather than subject.

I know where I play it safe. I know when I am painting for the public. But I also know that I am not getting any younger and I do not want to be merely spin my wheels.

If I want meaningful I have to give myself permission – to experiment, to waste paint, to fail.

Wish me luck!

How Do I Get My Painting Subjects

Ben Plays the Sax

Several years ago I wrote down my thoughts on my art process.  Much of it is still pertinent so I thought I would share them.   Since then, I have evolved some,  have made some changes,  and will share those thoughts later.

Many people have asked me how I paint my subjects and where do I get reference material.

Although it would be far easier to have a photo to copy, most of my work evolves from bits and pieces pulled together from a vast “morgue” of reference material that I have accumulated over the years. 

My Own Photos

The majority of the photography is my own. I took so many classes in photography at Thomas Nelsen Community College, I almost had to declare a major. After a masters degree in counseling from William and Mary, I did not need another degree.

Some of my music paintings are based on musicians of the past.  The subject matter is obviously culled from photos that have appeared in the media. But I am not a slave to any photos.  My work in its final versions bear very little resemblance to the material I use.

My Quick Drawings

I have the ability to draw well and fast.  I honed those skills during the 12 years I worked as a newspaper artist illustrator.  With the pressure of those incredible deadlines,  you either did the job fast or ( but there was no “or”)  the paper went to press without them.

My Process

I start with multiple photos usually laid out on my studio floor.  From there I develop a small color sketch.  Many of my music paintings are quite complex.  I am placing and rearranging the musicians until I am satisfied with the layout.

Then I introduce color. Many old photos are in sepia or black and white so the colors are selected by me.

The dancers series began when my husband and I took ballroom lessons for 3 years. We attended the dance parties and the ballroom exhibitions  (this was before the advent of digital cameras so I took lots of really bad photos and then I camcorded some dances). As I needed more info I would pause dance competitions on TV to see the moves I might want to paint.  An artist cannot take artistic liberty with dance positions. 

An art director once wanted to reverse a dance image for a magazine cover. Fortunately I got to review the changes first!   Because I cannot put the ladies right hand on the man’s left shoulder!  I can change attire and colors and design and exaggerate, but there are reality issues. Reality applies to musical instruments as well. I believe my work nudges abstraction, but always has a core based in reality.

My Color Choices

I do not use traditional color wheels.  I paint rather spontaneously and impulsively. An artist has to know the rules and then be comfortable breaking them for the goal of movement, power, and personal color.

My Methods

I have used latex gloves so I can paint with my fingers.  I have used sponges and old credit cards and modeling paste – whatever achieves the goal of painting something that excites me.

Join me on Friday for an Evening of Art

This week has been a whirlwind getting ready for my 3rd Annual Studio Show and Sale on Friday, November 3rd.  Yes, that is THIS Friday already!

I’ve been busy changing and arranging the paintings at the Associates in Dermatology offices and getting my smaller animal painting ready to hang that night.

Evening of art - Prepping for the Art Studio Show and Sale

In addition to great prices on original paintings, I’ve got a few surprises planned for you!

I hope you can stop by on Friday evening.  The fun kicks off at 5:30PM.

To get the whole scoop, go to my invite.

See you soon!

 

 

 

Rambles from a Jazz Festival

I am not unfamiliar with painting in public:

  • courtroom,
  • Virginia Living Museum,
  • art shows,
  • plein aire workshops.

But painting the musicians at the Jazz Festival in Duck, NC was a first for me.

Even though I was in a more isolated spot near the stage, I later discovered people were watching my art progress from the audience. Many stopped to chat as they walked to other areas of the green.

During my time at the Jazz Festival, I had the good fortune of meeting both locals and visitors and even the Chief of Police who shared my Bridgeport, CT heritage.

My biggest hurdle at this outdoor event in early October was how fast the acrylic paints dried even in the high humidity. I found I can be more successful in getting the painting how I would like it when I start by drawing with either India ink or acrylic using a smaller brush.

Next, I slopped on paint even when the sketch was still wet. Not overthinking color and doing what I call “brain stem painting” (i.e. painting by instinct which usually gives me a greater feeling that the end result will work). For me, “brain stem painting” means an emotionally positive feeling rather than an intellectual one.

If I really wanted to be a performance artist I would strap long handled brushes to my hands and have quarts of paint in buckets set in front of a huge canvas. That would be cool and probably messy!

Painting at the Duck Jazz Festival

3rd Annual Art Studio Show and Sale

2017 Art Studio Show and Sale

The holidays are only a few weeks away!  I can’t believe I’m already thinking about gifts for the family!  It’s been a busy summer of painting and working as the Artist in Residence at the Virginia Living Museum.   So …

Get ready for some amazing prices on my paintings for the 3rd Annual Art Studio Show and Sale!!!

When:  Friday, November 3, 2017

Time:  5:30 – 8:00 PM

Where:  Associates in Dermatology office,  17 Manhattan Square, Hampton, Virginia (map / directions)

Come by, browse, shop and bring a friend.  There will be many paintings offered in addition to those in the Aiderm offices.

See you at the 3rd Annual Art Show and Sale!