2nd gallon of catch up

In my first gallon of catch up I mentioned the Big Sur trip and stumbling into the Plein Air convention where I got to see many, many of my favorite people. One of my favorites is Scott Christensen who is, as you all know, a great painter, having influenced and taught many of the artists who are out there killing it today, but he's also a great guy and I'm proud to say, a close friend. He actually changed my life. I was in Utah on a ski trip about 20 years ago and wandered in to a show of his in Park City. He wasn't there but his work was. A series of smallish studies accompanied by large scale versions of those studies with copious amounts of change and paint in each. It just hit me on the schnoz... this is what I have been piddling around with only the real thing. 2 workshops, a couple of painting trips and visits to his place in Idaho later, including a poor attempt on my part to fly fish, and we've come to know each other pretty well. I love the guy. Where he could easily be a stuck up a-hole, he is actually kind, giving and humble.

At the convention Scott invited me to come out and give a talk or two to the locals and BrainClub (tm) on art and stuff. So, out I go to Idaho for a healthy dose of brainstorms and inspiration. I brought along a powerpoint talk thingy called "What makes a painting so friggin awesome" and a few small paintings to show my stuff so that no one thinks I'm just an artie, which is like a foodie only with art.

Each day for at least 3 to 4 hours a day, we talked about painting. Looked at books, artists work on the internets and tried to identify what does make a painting so friggin awesome. Scott introduced me to a guy named George Carlson who has a great surface to his work, it's kind of that mystery surface that you see but can't figure out how it got done. And loads of broken color.  Lesson one: surface is one of the great x-factors. It's another tool in the Batman utility belt that only adds to the depth of the work. And it's one of the few things that digital art can't do.

Lesson 2 was edge. We looked at Quang Ho, or as I call him, Quang Fu who just attacks paintings in a myriad of ways, all with unusual variety in approach and style but the one defining characteristic to his work other than that he can draw like a ninja samurai drawer master, is his use of edge; broken edge, lost edge, hard boiled edge where it's really not supposed to be. The other x-factor Bat tool. Edge guides the eye as much as any of the other bat tools.

here's my baby steps foray into lost and found edge... and value.

X-factor number three. All new tools in the tool belt. Propped in a corner were a couple of 3 foot long brushes, while we were talking about changing up tools to change up methods of applying paint, we both said, hey, lets use these! So we started painting with the long brush... It's like fencing but more tickley than jabby. We liked them so much that I went to the hardware store and made a variety of brushes with oak dowels, plastic tubing and duck tape, all work best on big canvases. Check out Sorolla's epic works, he did a lot with 'em.

I call this the Captain Longbrush.

On the next to last day I gave a second presentation, not knowing who if anyone would show this time, I felt I needed to come up with something new.... after much deep thought, about 4 minutes of it, I decided to talk about eye flow in a painting, composition, design, hierarchy, whatevs. It's hard for people to grasp it, especially if they aren't artists themselves but are art lovers. I had the brainflash of taking some Ed Hopper paintings (a master of design) and using my ipad paint program, take out the elements that move the eye... leaving the paintings lopsided and awkward and making me feel better about myself. Worked like a charm and I'll post that soon.

Final x-factor for now: Grit. It's actually the first thing on my list of characteristics of a good painting. It's simple determination, the Churchill speech, "Never, never, never give up." And I met true grit in person. A local guy named Dave who is mostly paralyzed. Somewhere between quadra and paraplegic who wants more than anything to learn to paint. And Scott's helping him. He can move his arms but not his fingers, so he has to put a McGyvered clamp on his hand to hold the brush and use his chin and both arms to steady it with his face about one brush length away from the canvas. Amazing determination. Made me realize what a whiner I can be. We went over to see how we can make his painting process easier and came up with a few things. I made him some Captain Longbrushes to get him away from the canvas, and rearranged his palette and easel to make it flow better. Hope it helps.

Inspiration comes in many forms.