Monday, April 27, 2009

High School Musical

Today I went to Ross High School in Hamilton to talk to the kids in the senior painting class. Mrs. Bender, the teacher of the class invited me to come talk to them about what I do, and as I love to talk about myself, I agreed. She is currently in both of my painting classes and is one of my best students.
Unfortunately, I had to be there at 7:30 am. Which is early for me, so I was a bit off my game, plus- young people frighten me.
Anyway, they seemed like a good group of kids. They all had their pants pulled up around their waist, which in my book is a good indication that they will grow up to be successful members of society. I meant to bring my camera to document the event, but I forgot it (did I mention it was very early).
Since I don't have a photo of the event I am posting a picture from the movie Breakfast Club where one of me talking to the class might go.

I talked about my schooling, the Boston School tradition in which I was trained, and showed a some of my paintings and illustrations using a fancy projector that they have in the classroom. I even used a lazer pointer.

I finished up by setting up a few objects and doing a little 5x7 lay in. I only had about 30 minutes to paint, so I did not get very far. My goal was just to demonstrate the idea of working from life, and how to think while painting, what questions to ask, and how the materials work. I ended up staying after the class bell rang signaling everyone to their next period. I talked to Mrs Bender and worked on the painting for another 30 or so minutes so it looked like something a bit more recognizable. I thought it was pretty successful for a start. I had it placed on the canvas and got the value and color down pretty well. Again, I did not shoot a photo, so here is a picture that gives you some idea of how it looked at the end of the hour. This in not really what I painted, it really doesn't look like what I had set up, in fact this is not even my painting (Chardin painted it a few hundred years ago), but you get the general idea of what I did for this class. As you can imagine they were very impressed. They did not really say so, but I could tell.

The tough thing I find in these kind of situations is telling the truth without sounding like an elitist jerk (please note, I am not denying the fact that I am in actuality an elitist jerk, I just try to not sound like one). A few of these students were planning on going to college to further their study in the arts. While I explained my experience in art college to be of little to no use in the kind of work I wanted to do, and am trying to do now, it is a tough thing to tell them that if they are at all interested in being painters, most colleges will be completely useless and inept in training them. I would go so far as to say that not only was most of the information in art school of little use, it was harmful to my ability to create truth and beauty on a canvas or piece of paper. I had to unlearn a tremendous amount of misinformation.
If you go to a music school, they teach you how to play the instrument, but in painting, not only do they not teach you how to draw, they tell you that you don't even need to.
I know many teachers think they are teaching drawing, but they are not. Most could not even give an adequate definition to the word "drawing" (I will talk about that in a later post). I have always said that your typical college fine arts department trains some of the cities best waiters and waitresses.
When I hear promising students mention that they are going to college to further their study, I want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and scream, "For The Love of God! Nooooooooooo!"

College is great, but study something where you will learn a skill, like a business degree. Even a degree in German philosophy would be better. A stint at a trade school in plumbing would be preferred, for in the end, you would know just as much about how to make a picture.

My advice to high school students that want to be painters or sculptors; find someone that has mastered their craft, and go study with them. Most are art colleges leave you with huge dept without the skills to pay it off. I suggest you look at the list of studio schools on the Art Renewal Center site. They often are referred to as 'Ateliers', the French word for 'studio school'. I am partial to the Ingbretson studio. I looked around for a place to train, even dragging my wife to Italy to investigate. In my opinion, Paul Ingbretson is one of the best teachers out there. You have to find one that fits for you. There are plenty of painters out there giving good training for a fraction of the cost of most colleges.
Yes, I know there are some good painters teaching at colleges. There are even some colleges that have adequate art departments, but they still do not give the solid training one can get in a full time teaching studio.
If you want to just learn how take an object from one place, put it in another place (they call this placing something 'out of context'), then giving it a fancy, self indulgent title like "My Mother Once Spanked Me For Something My Brother Did", then by all means go spend $40,000 a year to learn how to think out of the box.
If you want to learn to draw and paint, look here:
Art Renewal Center.
One issue is that most of these teaching studios do not offer degrees, and if they do, I would argue they are not going to be as good- as this involves State involvement and the dumbing down of the whole system. If your parents insist on college, I agree that it is a good idea to get a degree in something- but if you insist it be art related, try to avoid drinking the punch.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kenny Rodgers and Painting

Painting in the open air has its challenges.
Well, it really is nothing but challenges. It is just that once and while things go well. To quote the great Kenny Rodgers, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. "

I just teared up a little.

Not sure if he was a painter, but this works for landscape painting as well as cards, or women, or plastic surgery- almost any decision making process really. So, after a bit of painting outside, one has to decide what do do with the canvas on the easel.
If it is deemed worthy of working on another day, I save it and try to come back to it in similar weather and lighting. If not, I utter a string of obscenities, scrape it down, wipe most of the paint off with a rag and turpentine, then I have a nice toned canvas to work on later.
This canvas had been wiped down 4 times, 3 of those were in one day. It had some history.
When I went to my parents for Easter, before everyone else got there, I went out to try again. They live in a lovely area about 70 miles northeast of Cincinnati on a sprawling farm. There was plenty to chose from. Some of my favorite views were in with the animals, but I could tell that my brother's horse was not going to leave me alone, and as she is shedding her winter coat I knew that my painting and I would be covered in hair.
I set up on the other side of the fence and painted this in about 2 hours. I spent a bit of time in the studio cleaning things up and making the design work a little better, but I was pretty happy. This photo is a bit blurry- I really need to get a better photographer.

Easter Morning, 12x9, oil on linen, 2009

Then this weekend I started teaching the Spring Landscape class.
I am not real fond of painting for a crowd. The most important part is the information that you offer, so I talk a lot. I find that I can either give a good talk and do a terrible painting, or a good painting and speak in incomprehensible gibberish. I usually prefer the former.
This was somewhere in between. I painted in silence a lot to try to get something done. I tried to stop, to talk rather than talk during, and while I did not get very far, I think I demonstrated some important points- one being that it does not happen easily and without a lot of careful consideration.
One of the students took some photos.
As you can see, one of the reason I teach is that it is one of the few times that I get to have large groups of women actually paying attention to me.

Again, using the advice of Kenny Rodgers, I wiped this painting down at the end of the demo.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring with nude

Nothing like spring to make one think about frolicking in nature. While I have never really done it, I have always been of the opinion that frolicking in it's truest sense should be done sans clothing.
I have a few new works to show that can at least let you celebrate this idea vicariously.
This is my first time venturing out to paint plein air since last fall. I had every intention of doing some winter snow paintings, but just kept ending up in my heated studio- I really don't like painting in the freezing cold.
Having a studio in Eden Park is a constant temptation to go outside the studio and paint, especially when the weather gets pleasant. I am within walking distance of the magnolia garden near Krohn Conservatory and try to get there every spring to paint. My early spring attempts are usually pretty poor, as I am out of practice painting landscape. Plus one has to reacquaint oneself to the bright colors of spring under full sunlight and push off that film that seems to cover ones eyes after a winter indoor painting still life. I was standing fairly close to the subject in an attempt to make an interesting arrangement of the blooms. I did this in about 3 hours, and then worked on it a bit in the studio moving somethings around to my liking.

Magnolia Grove, 14 x 11, oil on linen, 2009

While the following drawings are not of frolicking, they are recent sketches from our Tuesday night sketch group. We have been blessed with some wonderful models. The first was done in about 2 hours, the second was a little less time.

Figure study, 12 x 9, charcoal on paper, 2009

Figure study, 12 x 9, charcoal on paper, 2009
This drawing could have used a bit more time. There are some issues here, but I was pretty happy with the effect given the time involved.