Friday, May 12, 2017

The Frame is the Father!

While I do have work in a big show opening tomorrow at the Eisele Gallery, I thought I would chat a bit more about the frame I made for the Star Wars show, hanging until the end of the month at the Brew House. If you and your children are Star Wars fans and you don't show up and buy them some art- someone really should call Child Protective Services on you.
Philosophical Sci-Fi Drive-By, Oil on linen, 20"x10", © copyright Richard Luschek 2017

It all started when I bought an old toy case in an auction. Also in that pile of toys was the AT-AT I used in the still life set up for the painting, the R2 cassette player in my other painting, and a C3PO case. I already had a Darth Vader case from my childhood and this one was in bad shape, so I did not feel as bad appropriating it.
First I had to cut the case apart and trim off all the extra plastic. I had to cut into the bottom to make room for a panel and then made a paper template that I would be able to screw to plastic Vader head.

I traced this and added lower frame section on a sheet of 1/2 plywood that I found set out by the street for the garbage. I just wanted a rough shape that I could add the actual frame to.

There were holes in the case for pushing in plastic bands to hold in and lable your Star Wars action figures. I was able to screw into those and secure the panel to the head. Next I cut a square in the panel so I could start adding hardwood to the front.

Again, the hard wood is from a painted shelf I had in my scrap pile.
Now I just had to sand it all and start adding my decorations to it.

The frame looked a bit blocky, so I added some edging, and a finally to really take it over the top I cut a piece for Darth Vader's cod piece. Which, after studying Vader's costume, I realized has a door on it. I guess even Vader needs to use the rest room. Now Im thinking every frame should have a cod piece.
After looking up reference for Vader's belt, I cut the designs out of cardboard and wood. They were glued on and the entire frame was sanded smooth. It was ready for painting. I bought gloss black plastic spray paint. Luckily it was a nice day so I was able to spray outside. I wore a respirator as that paint is pretty noxious.

I had a slight issue when during the second coat, the paint on certain sections started to wrinkle. I had waited what I thought was the correct time between coats (48 hours), but it was a chilly week and had apparently not cured enough. After a temper tantrum, which is very embarrassing in hindsight, I let it dry in my hot van for a few days, sanded it all smooth and gave it a nice clean final coat.

I love that it has a medieval icon look. I have more old toys in my basement, so another Star Wars frame may be in my future.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Frames with Rocket Power

Tomorrow is a big holiday. May the 4th is Star Wars Day. The local Cincinnati illustrators group have organized a Star Wars themed art show for the second year in a row. This fan art tribute show opens Thursday, May 4 at the Brew House in Walnut Hills and will be on view until June 4th. A percentage of sales will go to the George Lucas charity Force for Change. This is a kid friendly event. About 40 artists are showing work. There will be cos-play folk and an R2D2 rolling around. A Star Wars Improv group starts performing at 5:30. The opening will be from 4-11, Ill be there around 6 if that is an extra reason to show up.

Last year I did not have time to participate. This year I definitely wanted to be involved so I decided to do two quick paintings- of course I ended up doing way more than I initially planned. I had just purchased a few toys in an auction I thought would be perfect. The R2D2 cassette player was very cool and once I paired it up with a Verbot from the early 80s, I figure these robots would need to find a common language. The flag background added the patriotic space look I wanted.
Still life set up and the painting freshly signed.

Much of the work involved me custom making two frames for the work. I have in the past made a custom  Star Wars frame. I really enjoyed that process and decided to go at it again.
2X4 roughed out shape
Here is that process.
I had some sketches of space ship shaped frames in my sketchbook that I wanted to build. I rough cut one out of 2x4 scraps I had in the shop.

I ran the frame through the saw with the blade on an angle to get the sleek design and used a router to get the inset in the back for the painting and a bevel bit to shape the inside of the opening.
Next I added 1/4" plywood wings and the rocket ports on the bottom, which were made out of wooded eggs I had found- Yes, I save everything. I cut them in half and sanded the top flat and screwed them to the bottom.

Sanded shape with wings and rocket jets
Next I used scrap pieces of matboard and the cardboard backs from old drawing pads to hand cut panels. I would measure the pieces and then hand cut them with an exacto blade to get the bevel. They were then glued on following guide lines.
Covered in cardboard panels and spare parts.
Using another 2x4 piece I cut another rocket port at the bottom to balance it out and added a metal soffit vent. Then I add bits and pieces I had in the shop to add variety. I bought a few parts in the Hardware store that I could add to my ship. At the top, the round piece is a plastic electrical plug insert. The bottom vents on the corners are plastic PVC electrical pipe nuts, that I added metal screen pieces to. I used a few toy parts and upholstery tacks and made sure to sand all the bumps and edges.
Next I sprayed the entire frame with gray auto primer.

Freshly primed.
A few times sanding and priming and it was almost done. I then used acrylic washes to tone some color on some of the panels. I added a warm tone, a blue and a green to add some variety. An acrylic silver leaf tarnish gel was brushed all over the frame and wiped off to give some shadow to the recesses. I then drybrushed the frame with a light gray to get the frame to pop. I brushed on some powered pigments to grunge it up and it was ready for the painting.

Death Star Mix-tape, 19"x11, oil on linen, © copyright Richard Luschek 2017  

 Here it is on my back porch ready for take off. Hope to see you at the show.  I'll write about my Vader frame next week. The painting and frame are available. Message me if you're interested.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Landscape Painting Class- Taught by a Great Guy

I will be starting up my Spring Landscape Class very soon. If you have taken classes with me, you are gonna want to sign up again. If you have not taken this class, then you definitely should do so now.

Great Guy painting in Eden Park
The Class will be held on Saturdays from 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM. It will start April 22 - June 10th.
8 weeks for $180.00 (that is an amazing deal) -supplies are the student's responsibility.

The class is great for beginners or any working painter who would like to be introduced to the ideas of the Boston School method- which are the most awesome of ideas. I am very hands on and teach to each individual's level of experience.

We will meet at various  scenic parks around Cincinnati to learn to sketch and to paint with oils. Drawing on the ideas of impressionism, you will practice the techniques needed to complete painted sketches, including basic composition, value, pattern, color spotting, and covering the canvas. Then, building on those skills, you will complete a larger fully realized landscape painting that will capture the impression of light and color of the Cincinnati landscape. In case of rain, we will arrange in parks with overhead cover. Details and directions to the various locations will be given in class. A supply list will be sent when you sign up.

If you would like to learn how to not paint yourself in a corner like this guy, then you should talk to me. 

 Email me at for more information and to grab a spot. Or call 513-479-3322.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There Is No Try

"Only Do", oil on linen, 11x14, © copyright Richard Luschek 2017
private collection
This year I'd love to post one blog post a week. So far not so good, as this is my first post this year, on the very last day of January. Get off my back.
I completed this painting a while a while ago. It now has a wonderful home in Brooklyn, NY. I had so much fun doing the painting and making the frame that I thought this would be a great topic to ramble on about.

This picture started out as a demo I painted for a group of kids in Ripley, Ohio. I did a talk and demonstration at the library before helping the kids set up and paint their own still lifes.
I have painted something very similar once before, as I am a Star Wars "kid" it is a recurring theme that I have no problem revisiting.
The idea was to have Yoda using the force to lift the toy plane- or at least appear to lift the plane.  You barely notice the coffee cup, right?

Demonstrations are fun- but challenging. I like to talk during demos and I've found I can either talk well, or paint well.  I tend to choose the former so I don't sound like an idiot. Honestly, I thought it turned out OK considering the circumstances.
In a demo you have limited time, limited concentration and in this case an audience of limited attention span. So I stopped when I could tell I was losing their interest- about 35 minutes. Often I will just wipe a demo canvas down and paint something else but I like this one and I decided to set it up in the studio and spend some time finishing it.

Once I got it back in the studio, I tried to set it up similarly to what I had in Ripley. The lighting was very different but it was a better looking composition.
Here are a few shots of the painting in process- each panel representing roughly a day of work. The first panel shows me making sure the drawing and the layout worked. I was painting over the demo painting so I worked a bit more bold then I normally do. Day two I spent time pushing it back, losing edges and getting breadth of treatment.

With the painting complete it was time to consider the frame. I wanted something unique and different. I love playing around and experimenting with frames. Lately I have been trying to spend more time painting and less time framing. That's what frame shops are for.
I had a cheap gold frame that was the right size. I thought this time I would go really crazy and make the frame look like a space station.
First thing I wanted to do was replace the corner flourish with Storm Trooper heads. I mean, this decision was obvious, right?
I made press molds in non-hardening clay and then cast the head by mixing up some Durhams Rock Hard Putty. Its wonderful stuff. I highly recommend it for frame repair, home repair, or any Martha Stewart crafty ideas you may have. Once it hardened they were popped out of the mold and sanded. I had to cast quite a few to get 4 good casts.

I had recently found a part off an old Star Wars toy in the bottom of a junk drawer. Back in the day (mid to late 70's), Star Wars toys came with assembly instructions, a list of parts, and an order form. If something broke you could send the form with proof of purchase into Kenner  and they would mail you a replacement part. The door on my Millennium Falcon broke (probably during an intense battle) so I had ordered a new one. This old broken toy part was perfect for the corners of my frame. I cut it on the band saw to so it fit and laid in on a bed of clay in a Tupperware container so I could make a mold. The piece I cut off was used on another part of the frame.
The first mold was a disaster. I used water based alginate casting material and it did not go well. I was mushy and crumbling as I used it. I tried again with a recipe I found online, using a tube of 100% silicone caulk thinned with mineral spirits, corn starch, a few drops of glycerine and acrylic paint. The next mold, while a bit stinky, was smooth and durable. Again using Durhams, I was able to cast 4 detailed corner pieces. I still have the mold, so this part may appear on more frames in the future.

Next on the list was to make the flat areas look like panels on a space vehicle. I tend to save all the cardboard from the backs of drawing pads. I comes in very handy. I cut panels to fill the areas between the corners, sketched out the designs and then cut them all with bevels. in a random pattern.
They were all numbered, laid out so I didnt get lost and later glued into place.

I used some left over model car parts (I recently have been building a model car for another still life I'm working on), strips of balsa wood, metal thumb tacks, and a piece of a plastic zip tie to decorate the frame.
I spray on automotive primer to seal it. I filled and sanded as needed.

A few coats and it was starting to look unified and smooth. For the final coat I went with a automotive flat gray. Space ship paint from NASA was just too costly.
After I got a few coat, I used brown and blue acrylic washes to tone the frame. I dry brushed raised areas with a light grey to highlight the edges and give it some dimension. Before a final clear coat I dusted it with various powdered pigments to get some age on the frame.

A close-up shot after the weathering and toning.

The frame took at least as long as the painting, but it was worth the effort.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Panorama of Cincinnati Art XXXI

This Friday I will have a painting hanging  in the Cincinnati Art Galleries Panorama of Cincinnati Art. The special opening featuring paintings by Cincinnati artists from the turn of the century as well as a select group of contemporary Cincinnati artists will be for sale.
Reservations are required for the opening night benefit at $100 per person. (Checks should be made payable directly to the Cincinnati Opera). I will be cleaned up and attending the opening, so that there is worth the price of admission.

Battle at the Red River, 16 x 20, oil on linen, © copyright Richard Luschek 2016
If you can't make the fancy opening the show will be open until January 31 and is worth checking out. I have a few other paintings there too if you need to do some holiday shopping. 

Benefit for the Cincinnati Opera

Special Opening Friday December 2, 5 - 8pm ($100 per person)
Music, Wine, Hors d’oeuvres, Desserts & Valet Parking
Opening night ticket sales as well as a portion of all painting sales from the month of December will go to benefit the Cincinnati Opera.
This exhibition and sale will be held at Cincinnati Art Galleries at 225 East 6th Street and will be open free to the public after the special Friday night opening.  For more information, please call 513-381-2128.

While you are trying to decide if you should go to Panorama, please enjoy this video by Bananarama.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Your Couch is Irrelevant

It was recently suggested that I write a blog post about art collecting. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I feel there is a serious shift happening in the way people buy and collect art.
Art does not  have to match your couch. Though this is an awesome couch.
In olden times, way back before 2004 or so, the first place that came to mind if you wanted to buy art would be an art gallery. In the past few years a lot of old Cincinnati galleries I considered local institutions have either gone out of business or undergone significant changes. Even, major galleries in New York and a lot of the artsy fartsy touristy hot spots like Santa Fe have closed. Uncertainty in the economy has had an affect for sure, but I think another reason for these closings is that the internet has taken a bite out of the art gallery market. Many online galleries have popped up, with even is selling original art. Now you can order a New York Times best selling book, a three pack of underwear and an original Picasso in one purchase.
 Major auction houses have moved online and are offering new ways to find and collect art. Finally, artists are using the internet and social media for their own promotion and sales.
I am not sure how this will all play out, but I believe we should see this as a positive. While it may seem like interest in art is waning as people become distracted by the latest electronic device, they are still buying art. In 2015 the global art market raked in over $53.9 billion..... an all-time high! Now, while much of this is the Uber-rich over paying for "art" treated as commodity, there is without a doubt, still a thriving market.

I still believe, the time tested model of the brick and mortar art gallery is one of the best ways to find art. You can believe any successful gallery owner has worked hard to find good artists. By visiting a gallery you can learn about the artist, hopefully see multiple examples of their work and discuss your decision with an expert. Even if you like what you see of an artist online, there is nothing quite like standing in front of the original.

If you are thinking of becoming a collector, even if you've already started, here are some of my thoughts on the matter I hope will be of some assistance:

The Library, by Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1905

Learn about art. Unfortunately this not a subject that is well covered in our public school system, if it's discussed at all. So most of us are pretty ignorant about the world of art. Most people can rattle off some names: Picasso, Van Gogh, and Bob Ross, but that's where their knowledge ends. If you want to learn about the history of art you are going to have to specifically take classes on the subject or begin the process of teaching yourself. It can be fascinating to learn what goes into producing a work of art and how great artists developed. Of course, I have my bias and find most of the 'isms' of art after Impressionism to be self involved and painful to the eye, but... just start reading!
There are many books on the subject, the best of those are typically over 100 years old and written by great artists.
You might even enjoy taking a few drawing or painting classes. Again, if you do this, find an artist you admire and see if they teach.
Go to museums. Seeing great art in person can be a life changing experience. Spending time in great museums can help cultivate good taste. While you can learn some history in a museum from those headphone tours or from a docent, I recommend going back through the galleries alone for some quiet reflection in front of your favorite works.

Edgar Degas, Visit to the Museum, c. 1877-80

Attend gallery openings and shows of living painters. Get to know artists if you can. We are often very entertaining and love to talk about our craft. When attending shows, keep in mind that you genuinely get what you pay for. There is a tremendous surplus of amateur artists showing mediocre work in fancy frames. This is not to say you can't occasionally find a hidden gem. It can be a way to get your collection started, but keep in mind, discount art is usually cheap for a reason.
I will also add, art openings can be fun. Galleries will usually have hors d'oeuvres, wine and even a musician or two. Plus, you'll probably meet other like minded individuals also admiring the art while drinking wine and eating cheese cubes. Think of it as a refined night out.
Being an artist is a job. There are romantic notions of artists that verge on the mythological. We are special creatures who get to do what we love, however we still need to make money. So, in addition to selling work in a gallery, many artists are willing to do commissions. A lot of people are afraid of offending an artist's sensibilities or artistic integrity by asking for specific work. It never hurts to ask. But, please don't ask an artist to try to be something they are not. Asking me to paint a Jackson Pollock style piece will likely start a fight!
Visit artist's websites or follow them on Social Media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Tinder and Facebook. (I just slipped Tinder in there to see if you're paying attention)
Online Galleries.  This can be a great way to investigate styles of art or groups of artists.

A few final thoughts:
Don't follow trends. Beautiful art is always beautiful. Buy what speaks to you. Great art is timeless. Trends often end up in thrift stores or the trash bin. Don't "money see, monkey do" your way into a Target to buy this years decorative posters. It's essentially  the "one night stand" version of art collecting. Have some self respect for goodness sake!
Art does not have to match your couch. Good painting should be able to hold its own. If you have to check with your designer or your Pinterest idea board, I think you may be over-complicating it. 
Buy original art. Or at least make that your goal. Prints of art you can't afford can be a "gateway purchase", but there is nothing like owning an original work.
Good artists tend to hang out with other good artists. If you find an artist whose work you admire but it is too expensive, that artist may know a younger, talented, up-and-coming artist whose work you can afford.
Buy work from living artists. Yes, some of the best artists are dead.  Many collectors buy art as one would collect baseball cards. They buy terrible paintings just because of the famous signature.
Instead of buying signatures, buy work you like by living artists who are on their way to becoming respected and famous.
Buy my art. Of course, I believe very strongly in this suggestion. Check out my website, follow me on social media (Click the icons to the left), read my blog (click the Follow Blog button below) and swipe right.

Most importantly, whether you're in galleries or online-
Promote the arts by buying original art from living artists!