Friday, September 30, 2011

Post Season

I rarely pull of a good design or well thought out picture quickly. The set up of a scene or still life needs to be tinkered with for a while before anything good comes of it.
This spring I did my best to do a still life fast so it could be in the gallery window before opening day of the Cincinnati Reds baseball season.
I set this painting up in a day and finished the picture in a week. It was too big a picture to manage in that amount of time. I even adjusted the composition by adding stuff to it late in the week. First I added the curtain, then the hot dog was added in the last few days.
Revisit that post here.
I just got this painting back from a show at the University Club and seeing it with a fresh eye made me cringe a bit. It was probably not ready to hang in a show.
So, I have set the still life up again, the best I could, and am attempting to make this picture a successful one.

What are the issues with the painting?
Opening Day (1977), 18 x 24, Oil on Linen, ©copyright Richard Luschek 2011
-The main problem I had was that it lacked 'punch'. Basically, it had a weak light effect. Also, the colors seemed a bit boring and seen as local color rather than impressionistically.
-There are too many overly chromatic colors in the edges and not enough bright colors at the center.
-The picture felt out of balance. It looks too heavy on the left side. That space in the upper right was begging for attention, so much that it drew attention.

I actually have had a lot of fun diving back into this picture. I am being less precious about it. I am able to ignore whether or not I am being accurate and concentrating on the quality of the end result. Setting up a still life months later is pretty much impossible to match exactly. As the light and scene are a bit different, I can only take bits and pieces, using the still life as a suggestion.
I have begun to address all the issues I had with the painting and will discuss them more thoroughly when I finish.
Here is the updated image as of yesterday.
Opening Day (1977), 18 x 24, Oil on Linen, ©copyright Richard Luschek 2011
Other than the obvious stuff, like raising the top of the hat and adding the team photo, I have been softening edges to add some breadth to the picture while strengthening edges, chroma and values in the center.
The team photo is barely past a lay-in stage, so it will need a bit more work, though I will do my best to keep it loose so it does not draw too much attention.
I think it is much improved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Here Comes the Judge

The Innocent Eye Test
Mark Tansey, 1981
Yesterday I had the honor of judging the 6th Annual Exhibition for the CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) District Chapter 119. The show was located in the Sharon Center in Sharon Woods and will be open September 17th 30th, from 10:00-5:00.
I have judged a few shows before and it is not an easy job. I was asked a few times at the opening if I worked in Colored Pencil. I do not. I have of course used them, but never for finished work. That being said, I judged the work under the same standards that I would when viewing any other work.
One does not need to bring in a cow to judge a painting of cows, as in the Mark Tansey painting above.

I gave a small talk at the show and I discussed my method for selecting the winners.
1)Composition. This is where I started in the process. Did the picture have a pleasing and lovely arranged abstraction of shapes on the page? Was there a good and strong center of interest?
2)Color. I think most good work has some Red, Yellow and Blue- meaning, is there color variety (unlike the painting above).  Now, I do not mean specifically those colors, but at least colors in those primary families. So more specifically, something Reddish, something Blueish, and something in the Yellow family.
In addition, the color arrangement should be harmonious and pleasing. Usually, one color is prominent, and the rest are there to feature the "star" color and help set it off.
3)Breadth and Atmosphere. This is the area where drawing and painting can separate itself from photography. If drawing it the interpretation of form, a successful piece must be considered in this way. By carefully managing the relative hardness and softness of edges, the painter can direct the eye and begin to create the illusion of form. I will say this was the one thing most difficult to find while judging this show. Colored pencil, by its very nature, lends itself to extreme detail and sharp edges. It can lead to an image that is hyper-focused and flattened. If I could pick any one thing lacking throughout the show, this would be it. A lot of work would have been greatly improved had there been more soft edges and atmosphere. I would imagine much of the work in the show was completed by copying photos, which are not form, but flat images. A lot of the work would have benefited from more study from life.
4)Subject matter was my final consideration. I did look at mood, story, and the clearness of the message. If I was at all confused about the subject of the picture, it got crossed off the list. While subject is important, it must be clearly stated through good composition, pleasing color, and breadth of treatment. To do otherwise would be like writing a book full of misspellings and bad grammar.
This was a good show and I had fun judging the show, meeting the artists and talking to them about their work- congratulations to all the winners.
First- Cecile Baird  "Twisted Lemon"
Second- Tom Kinarney - " In the Woods"
Third- Cheryl Metzger- "Puppy Dog Tales"
Honorable mentions:
Jean Malicoat- "On the Chopping Block"
Margi Hopkins " Hot Dog"
Marcia Greenwald " All That Jazz"
Nancy Pugliano "Cherries"
Janice Glaser "First Taste of Snow"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Of course we are all reflecting on this terrible day in American history. I thought I would post some of my experiences from that memorable week.

Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam (1917)

It was going to be a memorable day for me no matter the events that occurred that morning in Manhattan. I happened to packing my car getting ready to drive 900 plus miles to New Hampshire. I had only been married 3 years to my wife when I got the idea in my head that I needed some serious training if I wanted to be a painter. Laura was very supportive in this decision and traveled with me to Italy to look at a few Ateliers. Oddly, I chose The Paul Ingbretson School of Drawing and Painting in Manchester, New Hampshire without having visited it. It came highly recommended by Carl Samson.
I would like to stress, that I am not much of a traveler. I am also not a very good driver (I was in an accident just a week before- having driven into the side of a tour bus). So the idea of leaving my new wife in Cincinnati, while I drive 900 miles to a place I had never been, not knowing a soul, with no arrangements for a place to live, for an undetermined period of time was pretty daunting already. The plan was to leave early on September 11. As Laura and I where busy packing the car, I decided to check my email and received one from a  friend in Sweden asking "What the hell is going on in NY?" I had no idea.
We turned on the news and so ended the preparations for the trip. We were glued to the TV the rest of the day.
I won't go on about that day, as we all had similar feelings of shock and fear. I did not leave that day. I think it was a few days later before I finally decided the world was not ending and  it was relatively safe to leave. One thing that sticks in my mind about the drive, was to listening to the radio discussing the events and heroic rescue attempts at the site. A few times it was too much and I worked to find any station that was just playing music. It seemed most of the time I was able to find a 70's rock station that was not playing too much news. The nonstop coverage on the stations was just too intense. It is hard to drive if you are crying.

I finally made it to my new home away from home, arriving at the studio the next day. I was of course very anxious in a new place but it only got worse when I was meet at the studio door by a student. I was lucky enough to meet the only student, in Paul's 20 years of teaching, to have been kicked out of the school. He was actually voted out by the other students. He was there packing up his stuff to leave and was not happy about it. There was no one else in the studio.He was very excited to learn that I was also from Ohio and then  went on a tirade about how everyone in the studio was of "noble blood", unlike us Ohioans. He said they were all going to look down on me as being a "lowly Midwesterner".  I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake.
He took me on a tour of the area and then out for a beer. He spent the evening telling how he was going to be the next Michelangelo and that he was kicked out of the studio because everyone including Paul was intimidated by him. He also went on and on about how the events of 9/11 were the beginning of a holy war started by Louis Farrakhan and that we should both go sign up with the military to fight the fight. He kept asking me if I loved my wife. If I did, I should go home to her.
This was not what I was expecting to find when I got to the studio. Now, I am a pretty good judge of character and had figured out that this fellow had some issues. Turns out he had a lot of issues. He was very sick and troubled and left offensive and threatening messages on the studio voice mail for years- some mentioning UFO's, black helicopters and Gandalf.
After he finally left for the evening, I was alone in the studio to sleep on the couch  as it stormed outside.  It really was a surreal evening.

Well, once that "introduction" was over, the next morning I finally meet Paul and his students. As soon as Paul began to speak I knew I was in the right place. The students were all there for the same reason, to study the art and craft of painting. We were all there to learn how to see the beauty in the world and represent that beauty on the canvas.
As I reflect on the events of ten years ago and the days following, I have mixed feelings. Of course that day changed things for all of us, but for me it was also the beginning of a life long struggle for Truth and Beauty.