Saturday, December 26, 2009

Guest Editorial

I am trying something a bit different in this post. My "friend" Clem Robins asked if he could do a guest editorial on my blog. It is written in response to one of my posts about my death.

So, just to make things more official:
Any views or opinions expressed in interviews or commentary are those of the guest writer and do not represent the views or opinions of the owner of this blog.

No Praise for the Dead
A Guest Editorial by Clem Robins

Mr. Luschek fancies himself a connoisseur of the fine arts, and writes glowingly about the painters he admires. Metcalf, DeCamp, Sargent, Weiss, Twatchman, Blum, Sisley and others seem to comprise Luschek’s pantheon of artistic merit. He is, of course, welcome to his opinions. Far be it from me to call his taste into question, or his prejudices. But his heroes clearly have just one thing in common, and if no one else has the courage to mention it, I have no choice but to do so myself, and let the chips fall where they may.
To a man, Luschek’s “great masters” are all dead.
Is this mere coincidence? I submit to you that it is not. Along with so many, Mr. Luschek seems to favor the dead over the living. In so doing he falls victim to a cultural prejudice which is rampant in the western world.
Call me an iconoclast, but I don’t like dead people. At the root of every tragedy in world history, you’ll find them at the helm. Hitler is dead. Atilla the Hun is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. The apologists for the dead would have you believe that this is mere coincidence. It is my hope that they have underestimated the living. It is my hope that enough of us will take a stand.
Perhaps you have never given much thought to how completely the dead have taken over this nation. Please permit me to offer a few facts, which can be verified to your own satisfaction if you are willing to take the time. Believe me, their influence in all spheres of culture is as nefarious as it is widespread.
For example, exactly how much of our current economic malaise can be traced to the dead is an open question, but it’s clear that the dead laid the foundation for it. For example, many left-of-center pundits believe that rampant free market capitalism brought about the housing bubble and subsequent calamity; few of these are willing to note that the proponents of this system, from Adam Smith and de Tocqueville to William F. Buckley and Milton Freeman, are all dead. Other experts blame drastic government intrusion into the markets for the downturn, but they seem timid about mentioning that the architects of such intervention — Engals, Keynes, Veblein, Galbraith and on and on, ad nauseum, are just as dead as their supposed arch enemies. No matter how you look at it, if times are tight, you can blame the dead. Their culpability takes more concrete forms, as well. In a time of urban sprawl, the dead insist upon residing in the choicest open land in America’s cities, and in so doing drive up real estate prices to stratospheric levels.
Jittery about socialized health care? Perhaps you should take up the issue with the seven-term Senator who championed the cause for decades. Oh, wait. You can’t talk to him. He’s dead.
As obvious as these points may seem, just try and espouse them and see how far you get. The major media refuses to permit an honest airing of these ideas, and this should be no surprise. Adolph Ochs, Henry Luce, David Sarnoff, Bill Paley and others who built the print, radio and television empires which engineer what passes for news reporting in America, are all dead. In a nation whose Constitution enshrines freedom of speech as an unalienable right, the dead still make sure that the truth about them is ruthlessly suppressed.
Such repression even runs rampant in simple conversation. Expressions like “don’t speak ill of the dead” pass for politeness among people who never stop and consider that these expressions were all authored by dead people. What other protected class in America is given such immunity from criticism?
For my part, although mine may be a voice crying in the wilderness, I will not hesitate to speak ill of them. It takes courage to do so, but perhaps if enough courageous voices are heard, the dead can be defeated. All it takes for the dead to triumph is for living men to do nothing.
The dead ask much, and give little or nothing in return. They pay no income taxes. They produce no goods or services. And at a point in their existence when they have much wisdom born of experience to offer the rest of us, they remain curiously silent. Perhaps they are simply content to stand by while the civilization they have built is reduced to shambles.
Prejudice is prejudice, no matter how sanitized its image. Why do the dead get a pass from simple rules of honesty or courtesy? Why are the few fearless champions of sanity, such as myself, written off as crackpots, or called names, as if the cry of “necrophobe” is sufficient to end all debate?
As the 2010 elections approach, I urge all patriotic Americans to grill the candidates on their positions regarding the dead. This is a strictly nonpartisan issue. Remember, all the major political parties were founded by dead people. If we, and our elected representatives, can’t muster the courage to stand up to the dead, the time will soon come when we will all join them. The issue is that critical, and the time is now. In the words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty, and repeal all special privileges for the dead!”
Yes, let Luschek ramble on about his idols, but one thing is for sure: when a Chase or a Garber is sold, neither man is asked to surrender fifty percent of the purchase price to a gallery owner, like the rest of us.
Think about it.

Clem Robins is a Cincinnati based illustrator. His book “The Art of Figure Drawing” was published in 2002 by North Light Books, has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, French and German, and it is one of the few how-to books on the subject not authored by a dead man. When you purchase your copy, please be assured that not one penny of the royalties will go to the dead.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winner of the Coveted Golden Reader Award

I will try to add some new posts soon about art, the history of art, the making of art, or some criticism of art- something that is about more than just how totally awesome I am!
I know I have been posting a lot about winning stuff, getting in magazines, and just generally being pretty amazing- but really it has been a pretty good fall.

Well, I have another big award to announce-
The Golden Reader Award

Here I am in Clem's living room after receiving the award from the previous
winner Janet (on the right). Clem is the one looking envious on the left.

Clem Robins, a fellow painter friend of mine every so often has a reading party. I suppose the main goal of this party is to get folks together to read their own writings, or any literature that they enjoy, and then do their best to entertain and have fun. The contest is secondary really.

Who am I kidding? It is all about winning!
Did I mention it yet? I won.

The basic rules are as follows:
You get 90 seconds to set up your reading, and then three minutes to do the actually reading. At the end of the evening, everyone votes in a secret ballot on their favorite reading of the night. The votes are counted and the winner is announced. If you win, not only do you get the large tastefully spray painted gold plastic sculpture, you get ten full minutes reading privileges at the next party. More time to impress and entertain. Plus it is a chance to hold on to the statue. Though I must point out that no one has ever repeated and won with their ten minutes.

There was a nice mix of readings, ranging from 13th century poetry from Afghanistan to an article from the National Lampoon. Some wonderful stuff was read, and some of it was read brilliantly.
I decided to go with my favorite piece from this blog. It was the blog post from last year called Confronted by BS. I had to adjust it a bit to be able to finish it in 3 minutes- which is not easy, but I had an advantage of practically having the thing memorized.

I hate to end on a negative, but as Clem was nice enough to send some photos of the evening, there was one thing I thought I should mention. I discovered something pretty disturbing in the following photo. If you notice on the left of the photo, Clem's wife Lisa is looking at me as if she were wishing for my violent death. Now both Lisa and Clem did some fine readings, but I beat them fair and square. Click on the photo for a real good look.
Scary stuff really. I made some subtle adjustments in photoshop adding the heat and smoke coming out of the top of her head. In being totally awesome, one never means to negatively affect another person. I suppose it is something I am going to have to get used to----having people be jealous of my greatness.
All I can do is wish her luck for the next reading party. If I can offer some advice, I think you just need some intestinal fortitude and hard work to win something like this- It might also help if she reads a post from this blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Finally a Finalist

I think I forgot to mention this, but I was a finalist in the Artists Magazines 26th Annual Competition. I entered my Peanut Butter and Jelly painting and was chosen as one of the finalists. It is a nice honor, and while I was not one of the six winners in the Still Life category. I was in some very good company in the finalist group. It even says on the cover- The Years Best Art!

Since I was only a finalist (still, I am the "Years Best"), they do not show my work or talk about me- but my name is in there! So rush out and buy a copy. If you want, I will even sign your copy, writing my name under my name. Then you will have my name twice. How can you pass that up?
It is the December issue, and my name is on page 51, in the flesh colored finalist box, at the bottom of the middle column. They even spelled my name correctly. Great stuff.

If you read this blog you know that I don't read books or look at much art that wasn't written or painted by some long dead artist. So, it generally is not a magazine I read or look at. It is geared more toward the hobby painter. Most of the articles are not really written by masters of the craft, so they are not 'grand' articles on how to paint in the larger sense, but discussions of tricks, like "How to Paint the Shimmer on Water Droplets On A Duck's Mustache". If you actually learn how to paint, you don't need a fancy trick or a suggestion to buy the newest water droplet shaped brush. Basically, you just have to know how to see.
The magazine is getting better, and occasionally they do have a good painter offering some good information. Speaking of which, I should write an article for them.

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Painting is still hanging in the Manifest show and will be till Dec. 4th.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bronze Medal Winner!

It was a pretty big weekend for me with two art openings. I had still life paintings selected for two shows, and both were very nice shows.

We stopped in to see a great show at Manifest gallery. My work was hanging in a new room they have just added to their gallery. The highlight was winning third prize at the 41st ViewPoint show at the Cincinnati Art Club. Not to mention that it was one of the best Viewpoint shows I have been to, so it was even sweeter to win with such good competition.

This is me accepting the award.
I was very disappointed that it was not a gigantic check like you see in some awards ceremonies. I am not talking about the amount of money, I mean the physical size of the check. I have always wanted to walk into the bank to cash one of those huge over-sized checks, but I will just have to keep dreaming.

I entered a diptych which is my best work yet. The two pictures were painted as a pair, and I have not yet had the chance to show them together. Strangely only the Son version was accepted into the Butler Institute show this summer, so was happy to finally show them side by side.
The paintings hang in a nice spot in the gallery, on a corner wall all by themselves, and it really features them well.
Here I am on the medal stand with my bronze medal.
As you can see in the photo, the first and second place winners seem a bit too pleased with themselves. They did look better than me despite the odd choice of attire. I really should have studied a mirror a bit better before leaving the house- I'm looking a bit frumpy by comparison. I will say that most of my outfits are going to look a lot better with a big medal on my chest. I am not sure if I am required by the Art Club to wear it at all times, but I may have to plan my wardrobe around such a possibility.

Both shows are up for a few weeks, so stop in if you are interested. If you would like to purchase these paintings I will give a small discount to anyone that pays me with an giant over-sized check.

On top of all that good news, we had gorgeous weather this weekend. Saturday I went out to paint with some friends (Clem Robins and Sue Gutzwiller).
They had scouted out a great spot on the river where a guy was working on an old sail boat. It was a lovely scene and we had a great time. Everyone was doing some good painting. My wife and I went back today to continue work on the paintings. 70 degrees in November is something you have to take advantage of- and if you can come up with a good reason to get out of raking leaves you have to take it.
Here is my wife and reluctant student doing one of the best landscape paintings she has ever done. She claimed it was because I left her alone.
Here is the study I did. I may work on it a bit more and post a better photo at a later date. As you can see there were these ugly blue boxes along the boat for him to stand on while working. I had initially had them in, but when I got there today I figured it would look a lot better without them, so I painted them out. That is the kind of expert decision making you expect from a 3rd place medal winner.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Art Events

I was lucky enough to be juried into two shows locally, and both open this Friday. It would be nice to see some of you there.
I will try to get to both shows, but I will definitely be at the Art Club before 7:00, as I have be told that I have won an award so I need to be there to pick up the check. I am hoping I will be handed one of those gigantic checks like they give lottery winners. I may insist that my prize money be written out on a giant check. Anyway, have a look at my work. If you are not interested in art, there will be cheese and wine.

Here is the info for these shows if you would like to stop by:

Cincinnati Art Club's Wessel Gallery
2009 Viewpoint 41st National Juried Art Competition
Join us Friday, November 6, 2009.....6:00 - 8:00 p.m. for the Opening Reception to meet the artists. Awards presentation will be at 7:00 p.m.
Show continues weekends Sat. & Sun. 11/7, 8, 15, 16, 21, 22, 2009
Hours: 2 - 5 p.m.

Cincinnati Art Club's Wessel Gallery
1021 Parkside Place
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The Manifest Gallery

Contemporary Still-Life

For this exhibit 208 artists submitted 480 works for consideration. Twenty-five works by the following 19 artists from 11 states and Ontario Canada were selected by our two-part jury/curatorial process for presentation in the gallery and catalog.

2727 Woodburn Ave. Cincinnati, Ohio 45206

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sickness and Illustration

I have not been well. I have been trying to fight this head cold/allergies on my own with the nettie pot, resting, eating healthy- including downing a few cloves of raw garlic a day. Other making it very unpleasant for my wife, it has not been doing much toward my healing. I finally decided to go to the doctor.
So I am on antibiotics and cake. Hopefully I will mend soon. It has been 3 weeks of not being too productive on the painting front. I am looking forward to being healthy so I can get some real work done, not to mention, if you are out in public and you sneeze or have the sniffles, everyone runs screaming from you like you have the plague. Especially since my sneezes have a very 'swine-like' sound to them. It takes too much time to explain to everyone that I don't have a fever and am not contagious- plus, I like it when people run screaming from me. It feels very powerful.
In addition to being a bit under the weather, I have tons of illustration work to do. Last count, I have about 145 to do by the first of the year. Many are small, and if I am cooking I should be able to do up to 5 a day. It will be close, but I am doing my best to wade in and draw as well and as fast as I can. I have gotten a few done lately that I like, so in order to prove to you that even when I am on death's door I can do good work I will post them below.

I mostly do illustrations for roleplaying games that are either played online or as pen and paper games with nerds sitting around a table throwing dice. The illustrations are usually going off a bit of text in an article or very specific requested instructions.

One of my clients in in the process of writing a new game and has requested all black and white silhouette art for his products. It is called Roguish-Fantasy Adventure Game. Doing these silhouettes is both fun and a challenge. It is good practice for making sure your work reads strongly. Even in fully rendered work I try to make sure I have a strong silhouette.

The first is a good Halloweeny kind of scene. A wizard commanding pumpkin headed scarecrows to attach a band of adventurers. This is not based on real events.

A Hill Giant and goblin army on the march.

A scary view into a tunnel- I really like this one.

These next two are for the Harn Game I do the most of my illustrations for. The first is an exorcism scene (this is sort of what I look like now, with my raw garlic breath).
This next one is your typical knife throwing, skinny, goat headed demon with four elbows. I know it is kind of a tired subject, but I think this is an original interpretation.
I have two art openings this Friday, I will be posting information about them so you can all attend, have free wine and cheese, and see some of my paintings.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Painting Breasts on Bricks

Today is the 8th annual Breast Cancer Brick auction. I did a brick for the auction and I think you should go down there and bid on it.
Sunday, October 25th, 2009
2-5 p.m.
Mayerson JCC
8485 Ridge Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45236

Here is my brick:
I decided to do this kind of last minute, as I was asked to do one after the deadline for submission. The weird thing about it all is that on the day I decided to do a brick I heard from someone that after a long absence. She had been having her own battle with breast cancer and is still struggling to get better. She is in good spirits but this really hit home the importance of finding a cure for this disease.

I started my brick the night before I was to turn it in, I did not have time to get too creative and used it as a chance to do a copy. I wanted the brick to show the beauty of the female form, and since I was reading through a book on figure drawing by Vanderpoel, I thought some of his work would be perfect. The only requirement is that the brick have some sort of artwork on it, and that it have the symbolic pink ribbon in it somewhere.

Before I get asked about why we are painting on bricks, the auction was started by a cancer victim that said when she got cancer it was like being hit with a ton of bricks, so since that time they decided to decorate those bricks and auction them off to raise awareness and money to fight for a cure.

So, go buy a brick.

Now, about my brick and the drawing I did on it. I primed the brick with gray alkyd house primer, and then did the drawing using charcoal and some chalk for the white. The brick surface was kind of interesting to draw on. It definitely was an nice texture to work with. While I am at it, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to talk about Vanderpoel and what I think makes his work special.
It is tough to find out much about Vanderpoel. There is not a lot of work available to see other than the drawings in his book.

The Human Figure

The Human Figure (Paperback)

~ John H. Vanderpoel (Author)
4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

List Price: $6.95

Vanderpoel was very respected teacher that taught for 30 years at Chicago's School of the Art Institute. When he died in 1911 he was so loved in the community that both a school and a street were named after him.
He taught a lot of students including George Bridgman. You maybe be more familiar with the Bridgman books on drawing the figure, a teacher at the Art Students League in NY. It is Bridgman that is often sited and mentioned by artists today as being helpful and influential.
I have never really understood the fascination with Bridgman. He books are almost unreadable, and the illustrations look like a close up of car parts rather than anything having to do with the beauty of the human figure. He has stylized and picked apart the body turning it into a machine of pulleys and levers. Now, this information maybe more helpful to those that draw away from nature, making up their figures- building them like machines. I think that often when one considers the parts before the whole of the figure you can easily miss the beauty.
I have made the case many times that most college art courses teach the absolute opposite information needed to be a good painter. They teach one how to see the differences in things, how to separate the parts. Draw the fingers then the hand. While anyone that understands painting knows it is the wholeness, the unity, the similarities in things that are often what is so lovely about nature.
My point is that if you think your goal is to make art that is beautiful, you would go a long way to study artists that understand that, like Vanderpoel. You can see from the drawings in his book that it is about simplicity not complexity. About subtlety not detail. An important part of that one can study is the flatness of shadows and the form fully rendered in the light side of the subject- No forced reflected light- No looking into the shadows. Have a look at Vanderpoel's book, and see what I mean. These are poetic drawings and they are breathtaking.
I own the Bridgman books on drawing too, but when grab a drawing book I always grab Vanderpoel off the shelf first.
Here is a better view of my brick. I am doing this post a bit late as the auction started 10 minutes ago. Make you way over there and place a bid.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crossin' The Mississippi

You may remember the post about the group of fine ladies that came to Cincinnati and did a Still life workshop with me.
Despite this experience, they invited me to come to Iowa to teach a 3 day Landscape painting workshop. The organizer, Pat Bereskin has an art school in the Bettendorf area of Iowa. With over 100 kids and some adults taking her classes at any given time, she is offering some amazing exposure to the arts, with various lessons, trips and guest artists. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I get the feeling that I am their absolute favorite guest artist from the Clifton area of Cincinnati who has a beard. I can only assume they like me because of the vast amount of information I bombard them with, or it may be due to my rugged handsomeness and charm. We'll assume it is both.
So my wife and I drove to Iowa.

I am ashamed to say that this was my first time crossing the Mississippi. I have been in most of the states east of Cincinnati, but I have rarely ventured west. Being my first time in Iowa, I must say it is a fine state. While it is very flat, there are some wonderful vistas for landscape painting- miles of corn filled fields and farm houses. John Deere tractors are everywhere. My first 'job' when I was a kid was to work in my great uncle's John Deere dealership in Hillsboro, Ohio, so while I was in Iowa I bought a JD hat just to show my loyalty.
Here is a photo of my lovely wife and I being welcomed to the 'Food Capital of the World'.Please note: this photo has been adjusted in Photoshop because I blinked.

I am not sure I would suggest organizing a landscape painting class in the middle of October. It was unseasonably cold in Iowa for early October. One thing you don't want hear on the radio when you are driving into a city you are visiting is the phrase "Arctic Blast". Even with the cold, the class went quite well. It helps to have a smart and attentive group to work with. I did a lecture and brief painting demo- during which I did the best painting of a stuffed turkey I have ever done.
Stuffed Iowa Turkey, 7"x5", oil, 2009

Even though there were tons of lovely views, it is hard to find a spot for 10 people to stand that happens to be near bathroom facilities. We ended up working in two local parks. The second day was a bit more successful. The weather was better, and the view was more typically an Iowa landscape with a long, open horizon. It was a much simpler subject for the beginning landscape painters. The class was mostly beginners, some had never painted before.

This class was pretty much about doing landscape sketches rather than finished paintings. The idea of a sketch is to get the basic value, color and look of the day, with a little bit of drawing that is relevant. A sketch can be done with some skill to have the look of a finished work, but often they either need to be worked on again, or are to be used a reference for larger, more finished works.
Pat and her group of painters plan on working on their landscapes from the workshop after I have safely left the state. I am going to offer some suggestions to them and to anyone that might be interested in how to work on a painting after the initial lay in. I know they plan on working on them in the warm of the studio, finishing them up from photos they shot before we left the location.

Let's discuss the desire and tendency to work on the sketches after the fact- from photos.
Of course I generally do not condone working from photos. It is easiest to get the look of nature by actually being in front of it. Photos are big flat liers. They lack form, good color and accurate values. You will get false results if you rely on photos.
I suggest you return to the vista, same time of day, same kind of weather (it can be warmer) and same light effect.

If you are going to use photos, think of them as tools, not as a replacement for nature. Use photos as a reference or slight reminder for the impression that you hopefully have some memory of. The sketch was your attempt to get the impression, now you need to keep that impression and improve any issues that the sketch may have. Your notations of color from nature are going to be more accurate. The photo may show you some proportion errors. If the photo is shot well, it may hint at some value problems as well, but be careful as often a photo will exaggerate the value range- darkening the shadows and brightening the lights. A camera will also exaggerate edges by seeing them all equally. Standing back from a tree, a camera will record all of the leaves, whereas the human eye can really see only a few dozen with any clarity. The rest evaporates into a blur. We can see that leaves are there, but can not make out any detail. Most good painting will replicate that effect. If one goes in and renders all edges equally, it destroys focus, evaporates atmosphere, and makes the image appear harsh and photographic. So, when working from photos, make sure you do your best to not stupidly follow a print-out of a photo taken by a machine that happened to be pointed in the direction of your motif. Look at the photo with a squint or blurred eyes as you would the actual scene and maybe you can keep yourself from being a photorealist.

How do we go back into a painting?
It seems most people think paintings are done in one session. Rarely is this the case. To get any kind of finish on a painting, one must keep going back in, correcting and refining. I would say the typical portrait may have as many as 20 or so 3 hour sittings with the model. When working on a painting think of it as if you are doing a series of 'coats'. You can of course finish a sketch in one session or one coat, but most fully realized painting have a number of coats.

It is not recommended that you do not work on a sticky painting. It's an unpleasant surface that is like painting on glue. Make sure the painting is either wet from the previous day, or wait to go back in after the painting is completely dry. In the summer I often set landscape paintings in the sun to dry so I can be sure I can work on them the next day. The dash board of your car can be useful for this.

The most important thing I want to mention is the idea of painting wet into wet. If you are not painting wet into wet, you are not painting. If you are working on a painting again, you have to work with all wet edges. Meaning, when you stand with your palette before a dry painting and you decide to work into an area that has a blue mass adjoining a red mass, if you realize that the blue mass needs to be moved to over a bit, you need to get both the blue and the red areas wet to really paint that edge. Don't just paint the blue edge into the dry red area. This is not painting. You want the edge to be wet so you can accurately render it.
Once you start in on a dry painting, you should of course attack the 'back straggler'- the thing most off or lagging behind. Go into that area, restate all the major color units by getting them wet, making sure to do any correction to shape, value, color and temperature while you are there. Once the area is wet you can start pushing the painting forward- correcting and improving.
This does not mean that the entire painting will get wet every time. The first day you goal is to cover the canvas. The second day you must improve on the first day, which may involve re-wetting everything again. As the painting most ahead, smaller and smaller areas will need attention. You may just wet a quarter size area of the canvas that needs some adjusting, but in that area, you have to get all relevant areas and edges wet.

My final suggestion actually came up recently during a studio visit with one of my private students while she was working on still life painting. She had been working on her painting that day, and when I grabbed her palette to make some corrections on the painting, I realized she had only put out a few colors, in the 'local color' family in which she was working. To explain that better- she was only working on the orange flowers so she only had yellow and red out. This is a major no no!
Always work with a full palette. I already recommend a pretty limited palette, but it has everything you need to hit the "note". Think of it this way, if you are going to compose a musical composition in the key of F you would not just work on a piano with on the F keys. You need all the other keys to compose a song worth listening to.
Any given color that we paint may have some amount of red, yellow or blue in it. So, you should at least have those three, with white. To decrease the intensity of a red- a blue, a black or especially it's complement- green may be just what you need. Without them you are just making it harder on yourself. Fully loaded does not mean you need all the blues and all the yellows and all the reds, but you should at least have one of each of the primary colors.
Make sure you always paint with a fully loaded palette!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Framing and Asbestos

First I want to mention a slight improvement to the blog. I have added labels to the posts so when you come to this blog and would like to read all of my harsh comments concerning terrible "art", you can go to the labels section, click Review and Criticism and get a list of all posts under that topic. It is pretty cool. It would have been much cooler if I had been doing it all along as now I am going back to old posts to get them labeled. This post will be labeled under Framing.

One could say that I am a bit too fascinated with frames. My wife is always telling me to stop working on frames for my pictures, and go paint some pictures to go in frames that some other person, namely a frame maker, will produce for me.
Of course she is right, but I do enjoy tinkering. I admit it, I am a tinkerer.
I thought I would share some of the techniques that I have worked out on building and repairing old frames.

Painters are always on the lookout for good frames. I have piles in my basement- old frames that I have found in the garbage, frames that people have given me, or that I have purchased in yard sales or antique stores. You can find messed up frames pretty cheap if you are willing to do some work yourself. Have a look at my pile- it is a bit sick really:

You can click on all of the images to make them bigger for a close up look.

One corner of my basement

The next room

Turn around and you see this.
As you can see, I have a few frames, and should probably paint some pictures to fill them.

The purpose of a frame is to set the painting off from its surroundings. Another reason for a frame is to protect the painting. Sometimes while performing this action, the frame can get pretty beat up. As they age, they dry out, chip and crack. I prefer antique frames. They were usually designed well and often have a lovely patina that adds some history to the painting.

A good friend brought me a damaged frame she wanted my advice on. Her mother gave it to her and she wanted to restore it. It was missing a bit of its fanciness, and had some bad repairs done to it. I told her I would have a look. She is doing a fine job reworking my website so I decided I would fix the frame for her and post the steps here.

Typically a frame is a wood molding. Any designs are either carved into the wood or applied with some sort of plaster compound. Often if the frames are old or have been mishandled, parts of this applied decoration have been knocked off.
My opinion has always been to do your best to keep the look of the old frame and then try to get the fixed areas to look as much like the old as possible. While I am not a restorer, I don't use traditional materials, as they are usually difficult to handle, and I think some of the newer products are just as good.

Now, I had already done much of the work before I decided this would be an informative blog post. I will just go through the steps here.
First- remove any bad repairs on the frame. One this frame, someone had tried to fix some of the missing molding with what looked like chewed bubble gum. I scraped it off.

The frame is laid out, all the loose pieces are taken off, cleaned up and can be glued back on with any good adhesive.
Here is the frame, after I fixed the areas- for sake of demonstration purposes, imagine these are nasty gaping holes. My guess is this is from the 40s or 50s. It is a nice frame, probably pretty typical. It is not a finish corner frame, meaning the molding was just mitered and nailed together. It is very pretty and should be fixed.

What do we need to do this job?

Non hardening Clay- Plastina, a sharp knife, a small hand saw, a sanding block with rough paper (80 - 100 grit) and some finer sand paper. Glass of wine is helpful- I was drinking a nice Shiraz. You will also need a material to cast your new pieces of molding. I have used many things for casting these pieces in the past: Plaster and Bondo. This time I used Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty. It worked very well. There has been some discussion, and even some law suits about this product having a bit of asbestos in the ingredients. I think this is overblown. It is in small amounts, but I suggest you wear a mask, as you should with any powder product. (Pretty soon the government will force us to wear helmets and padding so no one ever gets hurt) I also suggest you not eat or drink a fine wine around it like I did. You can get most of these things at a hardware store or good art supply store.

First step is to get a sample of the molding. You have to do a press mold off a good section of the frame. Knead the clay till it is soft, and then press it on the frame. Cover an area that will give you one piece that will match up to what is existing.

I pushed it on the frame, near the area to be replaced. Then I carefully pull the clay off.

Admire your work and have a sip of wine.
We have a mold in which to pour our putty. Try to make sure the mold is straight and not stretched or deformed.

You know, I have lovely hands. I really should be a hand model.

Don't forget your dust mask. Scoop some powder into a cup and slowly add small amounts of water, stirring till it is a thick paste. If it is too watery add more powder. It is forgiving.

I use a soft brush to push the paste into the mold. Tap it on the table to get bubbles out. Once it is filled I set it aside to dry- overnight is best.
Do all of the missing pieces at once.

The next day you can pop your new piece out of the mold. It is tough stuff, but try to not break it as working with one piece is easier. Now you just have to clean it up and fit it to the space.
Sand it on the block, Get it flat and remove the excess pieces.
Take your piece, that should be slightly larger than the space it is to fit in, and mark it with a pencil. Use a fine saw to cut the piece. You can often just cut half way, then break it on the scored area.
Check it for a tight fit, make sure the molding pattern lines up and is in the right order. Sand or trim with a knife till it fits tight. If it is a bit loose that is ok, you can fill the spaces. Now, mix up more putty, a bit wetter, butter the back of the piece thickly, and press into the space. Wipe off any excess that squeezes out. After this drys you can fill any voids with more putty, a brush or spatula. Use the knife to carve a smooth transition- a utility knife or Exacto blade works well. Sand lightly if needed, making sure not to lose any detail in the design.
Now we have to get the finish to match. This one will be tough, as it is old metal leaf that has a bit of age and tarnish on it. I am just going to use some gold spray paint to cover it and get me in the right direction.
I spray the paint into a cup and carefully brush it on the repair. I will let this dry and then try to get the color and patina later. I may have to metal leaf it next.
Here is the frame with the pieces all painted gold. You can see the decoration is pretty continuous, and integrates well. Once there is a color match, it should look good as......old.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Local Color- a movie about Painting

When watching the preview of Local Color, you may notice this is basically an arty version of Karate Kid- with less ass kicking action. Also, it ended with little chance for a Local Color II. Still, as a realist painter who has experienced the "master / apprentice" relationship, I knew that this movie, if done well, would have some special meaning. Since it was written and directed by an actual painter I figured a lot of typical art myths would be left out and replace with a bit of truth. For the most part I was satisfied with the results.
I certainly believe that art must be "uplifting to the human spirit"- a theme often cited in the film. Of course these days art often is not uplifting and most don't think it needs to be. Modern art is often too self indulgent to be uplifting. Today's artists spend a lot of its time pointing out the bad, the evil and the shocking. They also spend a lot of time pointing at themselves, in a "hey, look at me!" kind of way. Often this art is little more than pornography for the intellectual.

This movie is a low budget, small, independent film that is semi-autobiographical. It is not a documentary, so things have been adjusted and tweaked to make this movie watchable and entertaining. It is very sentimental and formulaic. As I like sappy movies, I did not mind. It has a lot of jargon and shop talk that my not be interesting to non-painters- but I found it pretty amusing. Some real gems of dialog were delivered by the "master" character- "If there is no beauty, there is no art". This character is one that I would love to hang out with. It would be a blast to sit down with Seroff, discuss art while sipping a bottle of some strong alcohol, trashing the ridiculousness of the art world. Being a pretty hard core curmudgeon myself, I identified with him totally.

This film is well acted by Armin Mueller-Stahl and Trevor Morgan as the two main characters. It is directed with passion and has some wonderful cinematography, but........... you knew there was going to be a but, didn't you? ............... I did have some issues with this film.

There were a lot of small problems in this movie. The Seroff character was a bit all over the place emotionally. He had some strong convictions- maybe too strongly portrayed. While his outlook may be based on truth, did not allow me to believe the friendship with the Ron Pearlman character- a art dealer type character that was filled with all the bile and crap you see in your typical modern art lacky, salesman type that can go on for hours using large words about nothing. I suppose the this relationship was an attempt to show that we can disagree about art, but still love each other. That is a lovely sentiment, but I can't imagine he would have suffered these ridiculous discussions for a second. It would be safer to discuss politics or religion. Even Mr Miyagi would have kicked his ass.

A summer studying painting under a master painter is barely enough time to skim the surface of what it takes to be a painter. This barely enough time to consider yourself a serious student of anyone.

There were some other small issues, but the big, over riding problem with this movie: The paintings portrayed in the file as being by this great Russian Master were terrible. They had none of the qualities that one sees in fine painting. Now, you may say, "It was just a movie. Give it a break!"
Well, if the message of the movie was not so strongly stated, if the modern art world was not so viciously attacked by the Seroff character, one would not mind that his work was only slightly better than the work you see in your typical hobbyist art fair. Seroff talked like someone who had amazing training- much more than a summer's worth. He spouted wisdom like a person that had years of classical training, involving time drawing from casts and master drawings. Hours spent drawing the nude figure. Serious time spent in the studio of a master painter that is not passing on his 'talent', but offering technical information that he himself received from a master- and so on- and so on. Seroff, who after years of working out the complicated problems of painting on his own, after some good training, talked like a painter.

Once you see his "art" you do not see that wisdom realized in paint. There is not the mastery.
These paintings are saleable in today's market, they may even win a local art show or two, but are they great works by someone with classical training? Not even close.
The film is full of paintings supposedly by the master in which the color was not true, with no real light effect and non existent drawing. If the film maker had used the paintings by George Cherepov, the actual painter he studied with and whom the character Seroff was based on, the movie would have had more weight. There are tons of really good landscape painters working today that would have loved to lend their work to this project, but unfortunately the director decided to use his own paintings. Concerning the director Gallo's work, we can give him a bit of a break- as he has had very little training, and has not really worked at it professionally. I am not saying that he is not capable of good work, he just needs to continue good training and some serious time spent painting in the field- or do what he does best- write and direct film.

For this movie and its message to be powerful, it needed powerful work. It needed work by a master- real or imagined.
The paintings did not carry the message, and in fact hurt it. This is too bad, as I was totally buying the message. I am all for discussions that undermine the hollow work of most modern painters. Some breathtaking work by an amazing landscape painter would have really made the argument all the more strong.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Richard Luschek II, Future Cincinnati Dead Artist!

So, it turns out that eventually I am going to die. I know! I'm as shocked at this as the rest of you. This is totally inconvenient since I have so much "stuff" I have to do.

Now, you may be wondering what prompted this morbid revelation. I am technically close to, or already at, 'middle age'. Of course, 'middle age' is relative. I can not be sure how long I will live, but we can assume that I am getting close to half way.
So, I figure I ought to start preparing for the 'Big Check Out'.

First things first- My tombstone. I fully expect that my friends and family will see to my wish that this monument, or one very similar, will be constructed in my honor. Subtle changes could be made. I would not be adverse to some additions of gold here and there, or that I be portrayed shirtless.

Click photo for a detailed look:

When you're an artist, one of the first subjects that will often come up with complete strangers is your death.

It sometimes seems inevitable that the conversation is going in that direction. You can feel it immediately- like they have been planning their whole life to say this to an artist should they ever meet one. People love to say it, and seem to think they are incredibly clever when they do (please read the following in your best hillbilly accent):

"You a artist huh? Too bad you ain't gonna make no money till you be dead."

Now, I really can't think of another profession where in polite conversation one focuses immediately on that persons imminent demise; even someone that has a dangerous job, like a stunt person, sword swallower, or drug dealer. It is just not good form to bring up the fact that they are going to die- unless of course you could prevent it by saying something like, "Hey, don't drink that deadly poison- you might die!" Then it's OK.

Unfortunately for me it is apparently bad form to give them a good swift kick in the groin. So I just give a polite chuckle and explain to them how much I would like to kick them in the groin.

I do believe people mean well when they bring up my post death worth as an artist, and honestly, they are just employing the terrible art education that they’ve received in our public school system. The only artists they can name are Van Gogh and Picasso. They know Picasso was good because an art teacher told them so, and everyone loves the romantic story of Van Gogh dying poor and crazy, as his paintings today sell for wildly over-priced amounts to rich people- also impressed with the romantic ideas of the guy they are now treating as an investment.

I show my work in galleries with artists that have the great benefit of having already died. This growing group is treated with special reverence. Some art collectors only buy work of dead Cincinnati artists. It is such a special group, everyone is dying to get into it- sorry about that one.

Since we all can agree that I am going to be "A Dead Artist", why don't we all get ready for it. Here is a count down.....

So, you are wondering how I came up with this date? I just have a feeling. I am planning to live to be about 96 years old. . I have substantial reason to believe this since my family is fairly long lived even though as a whole they are not at all health conscious. At functions we have desert before and after dinner. We eat tons of nasty food. Seriously, we are not the lean picture of health, but we live to ripe old ages anyway. (We complain and bitch about aches and pains, but we do it for a long time.)
Now, I am a vegetarian. I am pretty active. I am a safe driver. I don't smoke. Most dangerous sports and hobbies frighten me. So, 96 sounds about right don’t you think?. I am also a Virgo with control issues and like to keep things tidy, so to keep it simple I will just die on my birthday- September 22.

What is the point of all of this? Well, if people want so badly to talk about how I am going to be worth more when I’m dead then it follows that… Now is the best time to buy my work! In this economy you must ask yourself... "What should I invest the little bit of money I have left after the government takes their cut?" Ask your investment broker. I’m sure he will agree that "An Investment in the paintings of Richard Joseph Luschek II is a wise decision." Choose a Luschek painting and I guarantee that I will eventually die........ in roughly 56 years. Don’t forget: after my death the number of paintings I will be producing will be significantly fewer!
Less supply = more demand = big money!
Furthermore, along the way to September 22, 2065, it is a certainty that my painting’s prices will be steadily increasing (Promise and hope to die!). The longer you wait to buy one of my paintings the more you will have to shell out for one of them in the future. This is one investment you can enjoy the whole time it “hangs around” appreciating!

please note- that the more great art I create the higher your investment is likely to climb, and as I am continually improving, it is not in your best interest as an investor to kill me. So, don't get any stupid ideas.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Is Worth Painting?

I have a tendency to paint pictures of odd things. I have a weird and obscure sense of humor. I enjoy sarcasm, humor, and a biting wit. Most of my immediate family is quite funny. My friends are pretty funny- or at least they find me funny. If they don't, I generally do not want to be around them, because they must not be very smart- as I am freaking hilarious.

Now let me ask, is there room in painting for a sense of humor? Can art be funny? Of course a painting can be funny, but should it be? Should art aspire to something higher? Does a subject have to be serious to have a timeless weight to it? A painting of a monkey giving a clown a wedgie would be hilarious, but most could agree it is not worthy of being painted on canvas- black velvet maybe, but not canvas.
A lot of art by the Modernist is tongue in cheek or shocking; a sophomoric attempt at being clever.
Contrast is an important concept in painting, being a requirement to creating a composition. You need a contrast of two different values- a dark and a light, to set things off and emphasize the subject. You can have contrast of values, colors, edges and sizes. When arranged and used in their proper relation you are designing.

Old Frying Pan (16x12) oil on linen, 2004

I also enjoy contrast in subject matter. Arranging things that don't necessarily go together into a pleasing arrangement. Contrast of subject can be funny or defined as 'weird'.
I am trying to control my urge to set up weird stuff- for a few reasons. For one thing it sort of fits in that category of cutesy cleverness I criticize the 'moderns' for. Other than an odd arrangement of stuff, is it saying anything other than, 'hey look at how cute I am?' Also these paintings have been hard for me to sell. They are often attract attention, but never enough for someone to put down some money to own. If I do a painting that is a quiet and beautiful arrangement, it eventually sells. Why is that?
I think it has to do with timelessness of subject. Something which is weird has that initial shock value. It attracts at first, but does it maintain interest?

If the attached paintings do in your opinion, Why in the hell haven't you bought them!

1, 2, Red, Yellow, Blue, 9x7, oil on canvas, 2005

In a previous post I talked about a Surrealism show I saw at the museum. It was a bunch of 'weird', silly and juvenile stuff. I suggest you read the post.
Some other people posted some good comments under that post- including a quote by Ingres- "Woe to the artist who does not take his work seriously."
Someone else talked about how not all art is about beauty, and that "pretty" pictures can be boring. He also mentioned that while Geurnica is not pretty, it is honest.
I will post my response here as I thought it was pretty good and it adds more to the topic of 'What is worth painting':

"You could say that graffiti artists are being honest. You could say terrorists are being honest as well. They are expressing their intention.
I am not a fan of terrorism and I think most graffiti artists should have there right hand cut off if they are caught defacing property (that may be harsh, maybe just a few fingers).

I never said pretty. Beauty is something that can be separated from prettiness. I believe it is greater, a higher ideal than mere prettiness.
You mention Guernica- the most over rated painting in the history of the arts in my opinion. Yes it has intent, but what else? It is illustration of a terrible event. Other than to document misery, what is the point? Blood and guts says little more than your typical B-movie slasher film.
I will offer a contemporary example, and as I can't find a lot of success in fine arts, I will go to the movies. Two movies, both by Spielberg, document horrible events in human history: The Holocaust and WWII.
Ugly subjects in which he manages to show moments of beauty. Guernica ends after the opening bloody sequence of the beach landing. Leaving you with little to no faith in humanity.
This movie goes on to show the human spirit prevailing over the horrible events. A Guernica-like take on the holocaust would just show a stack of bodies, while Schindler's List goes on to show someone doing great deeds of heroism despite these events.
An art example is the Pietà by Michelangelo. Sorry I have to go back so far, but it is the highest example I could think of.
What is worse than the representation of the death of ones son? Yet there is beauty here, it shows pure love, even in ultimate loss. We do not even have to know the story of Christ to get the point. It is about something 'Greater'.

A great artist can paint an ugly rock and still manage to show it's beauty. Or you could just make it float over the ground so people ignore the poor craftsmanship and lack of any great idea other than the 'intent' to shock.

"Ooooh, that rock is floating over the ocean. Crazy man. But I still wish it had some boobies."

For the record, I often find Pissaro boring as well."

Finally, a friend of mine sent a very well put letter on the subject. It deserves to be shared here:

"May I suggest that weirdness is a cop out? That which is weird is so at the expense of a more true, more honest, more powerful effect. Weirdness may amuse a fellow weirdo (one who shares ones eccentricities in taste or humor) but can it do so and nourish the soul? Call to arms those timeless convictions that bid poets write, and mothers weep? Men fight and minstrels play, and children build with awkward blocks and clay?

Weirdness speaks of you first (the painter), and by so doing, is woefully limited. Consider; is weirdness not a dis-unity? a lack of harmony? A state of oddness that bears testimony to its incompetence? Is the effect of weirdness not produced by parts that do not cooperate with the whole of truth, with the concept, with the painting itself? To say one is weird with a grin, is to glorify ones isolation and estrangement from the pulse of mankind. From the pursuit of order and harmony, and therefore from the possibility of contributing to either.

So weirdness is employed by those who prefer to make cheap effects. To evoke in a viewer some reaction that would otherwise not be. Why? Is it that the effect and power of harmony and order employed by the creative mind and eye would require too daunting a task? Or is it just beyond the sense and sensitivities of our weird friend?

Whatever the reason may be, for one to be satisfied with weirdness is to trade ones grand inheritance for a bowl of luke warm soup, satisfying some temporal hunger in lue of pursuing that which is eternally satisfying and effective.

Off course, like most things, this phenomenon could easily apply to the other end of the spectrum. Paintings that are so ordered and lacking in ingenuity or courage that they cease to have any effect or harmony worth mentioning, they too are an offense to truth and the greater human project.

It just occurred to me that interest that might be categorized as weird, but exists within the context of a persuasively beautiful and powerful painting, ceases to be called weird. The assignment of weird is reserved for that which stands out and alone as off putting or odd. I think of numerous large paintings by Tintoretto or Varanasi . One can find countless "weird" stuff going on, but the overall effect is anything but.

I suppose it all boils down to that illusive balance between unity and interest. Effect and fact. Self and neighbor.

Would be worth while to explore what exactly those people found weird about your work. One might be pleasantly surprised to find how it could be remedied.
Take Care

Alastair Dacey"