Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Metcalf Explosion

My good friend Carl Samson had two paintings accepted into the Lexington Art Leagues show on the Nude. Carl, Clem Robins and I drove down to Lexington for the day. In it's 24th year, this is an international show that now sports a cool name due to sponsorship by an internet provider, Nude 2010. Carl's paintings were light years better than the rest of the work. So much so, that they really looked out of place.
The show had about 100 pieces I guess. Only seven or eight of them were worth looking at. The rest were either boring, badly executed or just plain offensive. The organizers even had half naked models walking around the event painted with body paint to add to the overall coolness. Really classed up the joint. I may seem odd, but it made me uncomfortable to look at paintings standing near a guy in his underwear.
It was held in a wonderful old Lexington mansion that looked like a castle. Plus it had an open bar, so I was happy- eventually after a few.
Me, Carl and Clem standing with a lovely Julien Dupr'e painting.

The highlight of the day was going to the Museum at the University of Kentucky before the opening. This museum has a small but impressive collection. A show of contemporary English painters were being installed, so some of the permanent collection was in storage- including some Willard Metcalf paintings.
Carl called ahead to make sure we could get a look at them. It was a wonderful experience that had a lot to do with the museums registrar, Barbara Lovejoy. She was very knowledgeable and helpful with all of our questions. She just kept dragging out more stuff for us to look at- including 3 of his sketchbooks. My head almost exploded from the experience. Metcalf is in my not so humble opinion, the greatest Landscape painter in American art history. If you don't know about him, then you had better start reading. There are some good articles about Metcalf on the Stapelton Kearns blog. The Spanierman Gallery is has produced some books on Metcalf and is working on a catalog raisonne' (that is French for Big Ass Catalog).

Barbara let me shoot photos so I will post some of them here.
WILLARD LEROY METCALF (American, 1858-1925) Giverny, 1887 Oil on canvas 26 x 32 1/8” Bequest of Addison M. Metcalf 1984.19.10

Clem brought a copy of the painting he had done from a reproduction. Despite being pretty faithful to the reproduction, his painting was the wrong key and color. The original looked to be a different painting. It was definite proof as to how off any reproduction of a painting can be, in almost every way. There is nothing quite like seeing the original. If you looked at the reproduction and the actually painting together, you would say they had different centers of interest. Looking at the original, the barn or house was a major part of the focal point. In the reproduction the trees that form the V in the center are the definite choice, the barn sort of blending in with the background.
So keep in mind you can't trust these photos either. Not to mention I had my camera on the wrong setting, so I did some photoshop adjustments to these.

A few details of the painting.
Above photo is a bit purple. This barn was painted with piles of paint.This corner was stunning. It was interesting to see how thoroughly he studied and carved out that line of the shadow on the ground. He designed the heck out of it.

Here is a later Metcalf done about a year before he died. It definitely seems as though it was painted in one session. Not much fussing around. Painted by a confident man, after years of working before nature, quickly and directly. It has a much higher key, than the earlier work.

A close up view shows how much paint was applied to the canvas. We were surprised to see such thick paint in the background snow areas. Normally you would try to keep texture down in areas meant to recede.

This is a painting I was surprised to see. It is a work done very early by Metcalf shortly after being a student. It was roughly 24" x 18".
This is a watercolor Metcalf painted of his wife. A real charming piece of work.
It was about 12 x 9.

Next are a bunch of shots three of his sketchbooks. They were small, pocket sized books, with some interesting little sketches in them. It included notes and even some grocery lists.
First are some wonderfully sensitive pen and ink tree studies.

A lot of these sketches seemed to be a list of paintings that were already done, maybe sketches of them preparing for a show. They were numbered and had specific sizes. Titles were given and sometimes crossed off and changed. It is pretty interesting to see what he considered to be the important elements of the composition. These little sketches are much like what I suggest students do in their sketchbooks before committing to paint.

Below he listed some paintings he had sold. Including Goose Girl for $300. (He did at least two goose girl paintings, but both are worth a little more than $300 now)He spent some time in New Mexico and Arizona in the early 1880's. These sketches are from Chihuahua, Mexico.
Please note, that is my hand touching the Metcalf sketchbook. I have yet to notice if any of the magic has worn off on me.
The above image was a lovely charcoal. Sorry about the blurry photo.

This final sketchbook only had two portraits of a young child and a landscape sketch.

There were folders on Metcalf with letters and photos. Some I had seen in books on Metcalf. There was not time to go through all of it, but there is a serious amount of information here.

Finally I thought I would end with a photo I took of Clem Robins. I told him I wanted to shoot a photo of him with a statue in a park in Lexington. As you can see, he got too close and weirded out the bronze statue. Can't take him anywhere.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Artist of the Month

I was chosen to be Artist of the Month by Artist's Magazine. I was a finalist in their 26th annual painting competition in the still life division for my P, B, & J painting, and out of all the finalists they pick 12 artists for this honor. There is no word yet as to whether or not January will permanently be known as Richard Luschek Month, but I will let you know when I find out.
Click This if you don't believe me.

The magazine is already being flooded with emails and handwritten letters by children who are huge fans of this choice. Please feel free to do the same.
Above you can see a photo of little Kevin Jaffe' posing with his letter enjoying a delicious peanut butter sandwich inspired by my painting. Thank you Kevin.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Richard Luschek, Contemporary Pop Artist.

On Thursday I had the great pleasure of speaking to a lovely group about art. I then did a brief demonstration, painting a little still life I had set up.
The group is called the Welcomers Club. It is a social group of women that introduce new comers to the city to all things Cincinnati. Unfortunately we were hit with a few inches of snow so the crowd was somewhat smaller than expected. I think the talk went pretty well.
The event took place in the gallery of the Woman's Art Club facility in the refurbished Resthaven Barn in Mariemont. The first speaker was Jane McDonald. She discussed the barn and how it has been saved with the help of contributors, the Womans Art Club, grants and lots of hard work. After soup and sandwiches I got up to speak (the fanciest meetings with important speakers always have snacks).

The typical art talk usually involves a lot of touchy feely stuff. Often they are filled with the drivel you find in most art statements in which big words are connected together to make bad art look good and to make gibberish seem intellectual. Words like "Cathartic"or "ambiguity" will appear in there someplace. Please, if you are writing an art statement, don't use those words.

I decided to have some fun and do something a bit more controversial. Plus, I thought it would be more entertaining and I like to entertain.
Since I was riding high after winning the Golden Reader Award for my "hilarious" performance of one of my blog posts, I thought I would adjust it a bit and read it again for this group. I won't bore you with the entire reading but I will give you taste.
Keep in mind I am just posting notes from my speech, I did elaborate a bit adding much charm and handsomeness.

Normal “art talks” are much concerned with ‘expression’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘happy accidents’ and ‘love’.

I do believe in all of those.... except for the idea of the “happy accident”, however, these ideas in the wrong hands have led to what I believe to be the complete degradation of the art world for the past 100 or so years.

People get nervous when the discussion moves towards politics or religion even though they are often the most interesting topics. I personally get nervous when the discussion moves toward art.

When it comes to art, I am religiously political.

Of course, everyone has their opinion, everyone has their own taste, but in my opinion a lot of people have very bad taste.

My grandmother loves Thomas Kinkade. Some people enjoy going to the Contemporary art museum to oggle a piece in the gallery that is just a box of potatoes with a fancy title. To my eye, neither are good art. I don’t even think it is art.

Kinkade gives me cavities and I prefer my potatoes mashed or fried.

So, let me begin with a reading from my blog. It is a critique of some modern paintings.

Confronted by BS (click on the title to be directed to the original post)
pause for laughter, fainting or thrown tomatoes.

Let me cover just a few points to conclude. I could talk for hours on this topic.

Today, many terms associated with art have lost all meaning. Artist, Art, Drawing.

At subway you are a sandwich artist.

"Did you see the Monkey that draws?"

Assembling lunch meat does not make you an artist, random scribbles are not drawing.

Fine art is not Unlanguaged! It has a set of defined parameters. Admittedly, exciting things can happen when those parameters are pushed or the rules are broken, but there are rules.

If there are rules, then that means that one can learn those rules.

Talent is hugely overrated. It may involve some genetics, a touch of environment, but mostly I would say it is “Interest”. Painters are not born, they are created.

There is no real mystery to it, there are no secrets of the masters. The only reason we do not see contemporary Da Vincis or Michelangelos has more to do with lack of good training than some hokus pokus divine intervention.

When Duveneck taught at the Art Academy, teachers were all masters of their craft, all taught in the same way, each offered differing interpretations of basically the same information. If one worked hard, and listened, one would probably become a painter. It was not an "art" school as much as it was a school of Drawing and Painting. Most great artists were specialist. “Landscape painters, Portrait artists, Sculptors”. Now art students are bounced around from ceramics, to abstract painting, to figure drawing to basket weaving. They become a jack of all trades; master of nothing.

"Art" is not something you can teach, but you can teach someone how to draw. Painting is a visual language that can be learned.

For me, this is an exciting time. Years ago, when I was struggling to get the information I needed to paint, it was difficult to find a teacher. Now realism and beauty in art are rising out of the ashes. Great studio schools are popping up, great painters and teachers can be found in most major cities. This is wonderful new beginning for the arts.

It is my hope to open a school much like the one in which I studied. It would be a great pleasure to pass on what I have learned to a new crop of Cincinnati painters.

If we can return to a recognizable and universal artistic language, use new technologies, and take advantage of easy access to information, tomorrows artists will push painting in directions we never dreamed of.

So, how did it go over? Pretty well. I think most people appreciate being told the truth. I think people like it when someone finally says, "Hey! The emperor ain't got no clothes on!"
Must admit, I was a bit worried I would offend. I mean some people actually like modern art.

In the end it seems I only ruffled one person's feathers.
She even warned me ahead of time. She said "Just to warn you, there is an "artist" in the crowd"- as if she knew she was going to disagree with what I was about to say.

After I finished my speech, I asked if anyone had questions. Sure enough, someone asked about Picasso, saying, "Despite what he is know for, he was able to draw like the masters wasn't he?" (Why does he always come up? I wonder if his estate get money every time his name is mentioned?).
Anyway, I let loose that his artistic abilities have been greatly exaggerated. His 'realistic' student work was mediocre at best. Rather than paint a picture of a beautiful woman, he decided it was best to destroy them visually in his paintings- he also did a fine job destroying them in his relationships too- If I could say anything nice about him- he was brilliant salesman.
This was too much, and the hand of the "artist" in the crowd shot up. She asked why I felt the need to speak ill of other artists.

My answer was, and is, "Why not?"
We can say a movie sucks, a sports team is terrible, even that someone singing their heart out is painful to listen to. Right? The general public love watching no-talent hacks being torn apart on American Idol.
But, If someone says that "art" or an "artist" is bad, uninspired, ridiculous or confusing, there will be a hoard of "artists", gallery directors and fancy art critics coming to the rescue proclaiming that you have no right to your uninformed opinion.

After some more back and forth, she pointed at my Peanut Butter and Jelly painting hanging on the wall and shouted out, "You're a Pop Artist. You are a Pop Artist.......accept it!"

I sort of ignored that and moved on to my painting demonstration.
Now I would like to go on record to let you know why it was a silly statement. Pop Art is not what I do, even if you try to shoe horn me into it for insult inducing reasons. Admittedly, I occasionally paint known commercial products, but I put them in a context. My Peanut Butter and Jelly Painting is a scene of a childhood memory; a modern interpretation of the grand "banquet pieces" from the Dutch Golden Age of Painting . Pop Art takes these objects out of context and presents them alone. There is no story, there is no meaning other than "look at this! It's a Campbells® Soup can!"
I did think of some great comebacks on my drive home. For example: "Na uh, you're a Pop Artist!"
Oh well, next time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

You should learn something!

Happy New Year Everyone!
Can you think of a better resolution for the New Year than to improve yourself?
Is one of your resolutions to take classes with some amazing teacher to improve your painting? Maybe you decided that this is the year to spend more time with a scruffy but lovable curmudgeon.

Well, if you decide to take my class, you could satisfy all of those resolutions. It just so happens that I am offering a class in Oil Painting this winter at the Woman's Art Club. The class is filling up, so let me know soon.
I am showing this still life since it ties in with two of my resolutions- To paint more doughnut pictures, while eating less doughnuts.

Oil Painting Still Life with Me [Thursdays, January 14 - March 18, from 6:30pm to9:30pm]: A beginning painting course where the students will not only begin with the very basics of painting but will begin to learn how to see and study nature.The Student's own work is the forum for inculcating this knowledge through verbal instruction, demonstrations and hands-on critiques.
Focus of class is to provide introduction to principles of oil painting and its application in the design and rendering of still life.
Some points that will be covered in the class:
i. the conception of a visual idea for a painting
ii. arrangement and organization of values, hues and chromas
iii. the execution of a coherent, helpful charcoal drawing with which to compose the stuff within the picture frame.
iv. the execution of a lay-in or start in oil
v. what to consider while pressing on towards the finish
There will also be plenty of suggested reading.
Please contact me for a full supply list.
Cost of the class is $250, ($50 deposit will hold your spot) ; supplies are the student’s responsibility. Limited to 11 students. Located in at the Woman's Art Club and Cultural Art Center, 6980 Cambridge Ave. in Mariemont, Ohio,
More info @ 513-479-3322,, &

Here is an action shot of me doing a demonstration for a class.