Friday, November 2, 2012

Seeing the Future Painting

Cathedral Spires, 8x10, oil on canvas
There is a method to seeing like an artist.  Maybe it's like those stereo photos that you cross your eyes to see in 3D.  You have to change the way you look.

My level of creativity is never constant.  There are rare times that good paintings stream off the easel, but many more times it is a struggle; false starts and unfulfilled expectations.  At times, when inspiration is at it's peak, everywhere I look, there's a painting - a target rich environment.  Yes, it helps if I am in a location that feeds inspiration, but sometimes even the most ordinary space or object may reflect a glowing light or an atmospheric mist that compells me to record it.  

So look at your world as if you were painting it.  Think in terms of light and composition and look for the special in the mundane.  Just dont cross your eyes.  You know they could stick that way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Judgements and Observations

Observations while sitting at the curb:

1. Parents pushing strollers are most likely only looking.
2. Six year-olds are capable of stealing your business cards like they are a fist full of m&m's.
3. Crowds circulate counter clockwise at rectangular or circular show layouts.  Perhaps clockwise below the equator.  Don't know.
4. When sitting at their eye level, two year olds in passing strollers can stare you down for 30 seconds, heads rotating 150 degrees, without blinking.
5. People gnawing on fried turkey legs are not buying paintings.
6. A good flower arrangement in your booth will often draw more attention than your art.
7. Droughts often dramatically end on art festival weekends.
8. Long lost friends or relatives running into each other in your booth is bad.
9. There should be DOT width restrictions on strollers.
10. A person talking to someone on the other end of a cellphone while looking at your painting can be a hopeful sign.
11. You sell to women though you might sometimes take money from men.
12. The amount of negotiated discount is inverse to the dent in the customer's wealth.
13. Number 10 was wrong.
14. If after spending 15 minutes trying to sell your art, the prospect utters the words, "Do you have a card?", accept that you have lost.
15. People suck.
16. People are great.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's a Team Effort

Next week is the St Louis Art Fair.  Its my first show since March so some cobwebs need to be cleared. Yesterday there was a quick planning session for the show.  Lots of  preparation goes into these trips and luckily my show team is filled with seasoned veterans.

First, all equipment needs to be checked after being in storage for several months.  My warehouse guy will be checking the tent to make sure all the parts are together and intact.  This show will have night hours so lights and other electrical components will need to be assembled and tested. And it's important the countless but vital small items are onboard when the van leaves town.  Heads up, warehouse guy, be ready for the Tuesday afternoon load out.

In St. Louis, the artist will be greeting fair goers and prospective customers.  He is being retrained on the Square credit card system for his phone and being drilled on smiling through the rain squalls and visitors who spill beer in his booth.

Framing is a big job and after my driver picks up my assembled frames, my framing prep department will screw everything together for hanging.  The artist will be called in to title, number and photograph the pieces.  The paintings then have to be run through Photoshop by my
IT guy, cropping, skewing and sizing for posting on  

Van servicing falls to transportation maintenence.  An oil change and tire rotation are due -also cleaning up the interior would be nice.

My driver is expecting an early Wednesday morning departure.  He will find an overnight room on the two day drive to St Louis on the fly.  Intown stays are handled by the travel department and are usually done on Priceline.

Show set up wll be handled by my roadie Friday afternoon.  Tent, walls, lighting and artwork must be assembled and hung.

Sunday evening after the show, the roadie will tear down the booth and load up.  The driver will bring everything back to Orlando.  The van will stay partially loaded giving the warehouse guy a deserved break.
The next week is down time for the support team. The artist though, reports back to the studio the next day to get ready for the Kansas City Plaza Festival in seven days.

Note to reader:  OK, I'm having a little fun with the unglamorous side of being a painter but the true credit goes to my supportive wife Susan who through clever if not deceptive use of my Zapplication images, somehow gets me into most shows I apply to - and packs my lunchbox.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ninety Percent of Creativity is Showing Up

I have spent time in the last couple of months taking stacks of snapshots from the living room cabinets and running them through a portable scanner.  Many pictures of kids, celebrations, pets and the occasional picture of early career art.  It's been an interesting look back to see where I came from artwise.  My early days after art school were meager, chasing too few illustration jobs at ad agencies and book publishers.  I admit I wasn't ready for prime time.  We were going through another recession at the time and it set the level of difficulty for a free lance artist.  Apparently it would always be hard. And it would require discipline and committment that I wasn't sure I had.

In 1985 I was offered an opportunity painting murals in Olive Garden Restaurants. It was my dream to travel,  and it was my dream to paint. This job had both. The company had only 3 restaurants at the time, but soon they got huge seed money from parent company General Mills, and I had my lucky break. 

But with the upside came the down.  I needed to hand paint a 90 square foot mural every 2 days, 4 to 6 days a week - and often in the opposite end of the country from the previous week.  Hard work and discipline were my only chances at surviving the program schedule.

Creativity doesn't flow at constant speed.  You have good creative days and you have not so good.  But I discovered something that has stayed with me since.  I found to be successful you have to be there when the muse visits.  "There" is normally in the studio with a loaded brush.  In my case, a partially built restaurant.  The set schedule and pressure to succeed made me a better painter.  A similar rule applies to writing or other creative processes.  A scheduled block of work time puts you in the field of opportunity. And the goal of a show or an accomplished body of work can be great inspiration.

Today I decided I need to treat my writing with the same discipline as painting.  I go to work each day because my mind engages when I turn on the studio light.  Only then do I have the opportunity to act on inspiration.  Sometimes it doesnt work but most times at least one good thing happens and it calls me to come back for more.  I'll hope that writing more frequently here does the same.

So set aside a scheduled block of time for making your art or your music or writing that book.  Carve out the work time to realize your inspiration

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blue Highway

I just returned from a trip to Cincinnati OH where Miller Gallery is hosting a show of my work along with artist/illustrator Gary Kelley and British sculptor Mark Hall.  The trip north from Orlando got old decades ago.  Nine hundred miles of tedium on Interstate 75 punctuated by schedule-crippling traffic jams, (yes, I'm talking to you, Atlanta).  And yet there are always beautiful places you never seemed to notice and memories to relive. 

Compared to today's interstate sprints in hermetically sealed gps ipod sirius bluetooth and usb equipped SUV's, my childhood family trips from Florida to Kentucky were real adventures.  Only a few segments of I-75 were complete for speed runs between congested 2 lane roads.  And these roads led through every little town along the way.  Cars weren't reliable like today, air conditioning was still for the wealthy, and fast food had not come to the backroads of the south.

While it's all freeway now, this week's trip was hampered by a landslide in the mountains of Tennesseee.  All trafic was sent on a 40 mile detour, a winding two lane moutain road that parallelled a river valley with cool meadows and wonderful fresh smells.  This was the road of my childhood trips. Mostly unchanged and probably wondering where I have been all these years. 

No, I don't miss being carsick from swinging back and forth in the back seat for hours on end, and I have grown to expect the comfort of mediocre food at every interstate exit, but I do occasionally miss the beauty and mystery that makes up the blue highway.  Aerosmith was right, or was it Emerson?   Sometimes it's about the journey.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Open House

Yesterday was our McRae Studios open house. This is our twice yearly event where we display the latest creations of our 23 artists. The consensus was the crowd was down some. I think we have come to rely a bit too heavily on social media to drive our attendance. Maybe the postcard mailer isn't dead after all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Show Opening at Crealde Art Center

Tonight, along with Larry Moore and Don Sondag, I will be speaking about my work at a three artist show opening at Crealde Art Center in Winter Park FL. The three of us are landscape painters, Don and Larry being mainly plein air artists. It is always difficult for me to talk about my painting since I don't always know how it happens. Part subconsious, part random, and sometimes a bit of planning thrown in. So it will either enlighten people or they will walk away scratching their heads. Like I said, I don't always get it either.