Thursday, December 31, 2009

Starting 2010 with a Bang

2010 started with a bang in our neighborhood. Then many more. A pall of smoke hangs in the street lights of downtown Orlando and distant partying can be heard on the edge of Lake Cherokee where some real big boy fireworks are being shot at the low clouds.
Midnight found Susan and I sitting on the patio watching the blue moon through those passing clouds and quietly toasting in the new year/decade. The weather was perfect for an evening outside. That is one of my resolutions for 2010. Stay outside longer, and paint more outdoors.

what's new: Coming Storm 40" x 40", oil on canvas

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

We are all coming to the end of another year. And the end of a tumultuous decade. 2009 has been a challenging time for a lot of the people in my life. Certainly it has been for me.

Lately I think more about the privilege I have in being able to practice my painting passion daily. As with many of the artists I know, the economic climate of the past couple of years has threatened my ability to continue. Here's hoping for better times for us all in 2010.

what's new: Looking Back 5"x7" oil

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chained to the Easel

This week has been spent in the studio painting pictures. I'm trying to get my head around some small paintings as ideas for larger ones and finish a few small ones to ship off for a gallery show. There is always anxiety about whether the new ones are good or measure up to the previous best. Frankly, I can't tell how good they are until they set around in the studio long enough to see through the new and into the character or heart of the piece.

The ones I love at the end of the day I create them are often looking terrible when I come into work the next morning. What changes?
What's new:
Storm Clouds 18x24
Low Country Evening 12x9
Untitled 12x12

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Busy but Fun Weekend

Today is recovery day from a busy weekend of events. Friday, my wife Susan and I drove to Dunedin FL to set up her booth of ceramics for the Dunedin Fall Harvest Festival. She remained for the weekend with friends and I returned to Orlando.

Saturday, I was at the studio early to prepare for an exhibit of auto art at a gala connected to the Winter Park Concours I drove to Orlando Sanford International Airport and a tricked out airplane hangar where the party was being hosted. This was a great spot for a party if you are a guy or a fast-machine type of gal. The hanger was outfitted with a beautiful ceramic tile floor, chandeliers, murals, and antique airplane propellers. Parked inside was a seaplane, an aerobatic plane, a couple of light aircraft and fast classic European cars. There was a huge bar, a den with flat screen... The ultimate man cave. Outside several business jets and high performance aircraft were parked. Cessna had flown a Citation V from Wichita with corporate pilots to represent the company.

It turned out I was missing a couple of critical items to hang my show of paintings so I called my lovely daughter Michelle who bailed me out by driving to the studio and then the 20 miles to Sanford.

She braved the aircraft on the taxi ways to deliver my tools and then we drove back to Orlando to clean up for the evening. Michelle was my companion and drew lots of attention in her "little black dress". We wined, dined, and mixed, then I sweated the auction of my poster painting. Watching a handful of people set the value of your career in two and a half minutes is not fun to witness. I was relieved to see it fetched more than I charged the clients to paint it but I like to be far away when these things go on the block.

Michelle and I hung out till everyone was going home and I resumed my normal scruffy persona to load the cargo van full of art, lights and display panels. Arrival home was close to midnight.
Sunday morning I unloaded the van from the night before, then on to the Concours on Park Avenue where I met up with a few good friends. Later, it was back on the road for the 120 miles to Dunedin.
Show sales for Susan were decent by the standards of 2009, and we felt grateful. The wind was a concern most of the weekend for the exhibitors there since Hurricane Ida is threatening us but we escaped unscathed by around 6:30. We grabbed dinner before leaving town, and fortified by a lot of un-sweet tea, it was back on the road.
Today another van-load of art show is awaiting my attention, so I guess the weekend is not finished.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mountain Home - Day 5

This is Day 5 on the mountain painting. It seems time to befinished. I have spent the day adding more intensity to the sky and obsessing on little things; the shapes of the horses, the shadow lines and colors and values of atmosphere in the hillside background. This is the hardest part of the process for me. How to know when you're done.

If I have a common thread to my good paintings, it is painting atmosphere. Nothing seems to subsitute for the layering to get that effect. I tell students when I have taught workshops, there is no substitute for the extra work -at least for me. But I guess this is the part where you state there are no real rules. You have to do it the way you think it works best for you.

Tomorrow I will send an image to the gallery handling the commission and see what comes back.

Finish in Sight

Yesterday was spent in the studio, mainly working on the commission painting I have posted the last few days. The first day or so of painting on a piece like this seems very productive as great areas of canvas are blocked in and colors are established. As the painting winds down the pace slows. Details and fine tuning consume more time and thought. Right now the painting stands 85 to 90% finished.

Towards the end of the day, I took the painting out of the studio into direct sunlight and then to shade to see what it looked like. Colors that look right in the studio sometimes jump off the canvas outside, so it is good to check them in different light.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Measuring Intangibles

This morning I dropped in on an Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting which was addressing funding for the arts in the county. In light of the commission recently revoking an awarded art project at the new Orange County medical examiners building, I was interested in hearing the board's opinion of general arts funding for the next fiscal year.

Our county designates a percentage of a tourist bed tax for arts organizations. In the midst of the recession the tax is returning 20% less than two years ago. The recommended dispersal of the funds was already worked out by an advisory committee, and the budget was approved by a commission voice vote. The commissioner who led the charge for deleting art from the medical examiners building questioned the general funding by asking, "how can we measure the return on investment in the cultural arts?"

Good question. Though studies are done on cultural tourism and the economic effect from it,
I also wonder how we measure the effect in quality of life for the citizenry. Not everything a government does should directly return money. While Orange County doesn't donate money to build churches, they also don't get any return on property taxes for the land a church occupies. Can we admit there are intangibles that can't be measured in dollars and cents?

What's new: Here is an updated image on my current painting commission.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day Two, Measurable Progress

I spent today working on the commission piece that I posted last Friday, Working Through the Doldrums. Most of the hard work is done since I got in a full day without many distractions. With luck I will finish in the next couple of days and let it begin to dry before shipping. My instructions were not to paint too much green or blue. Thats a challenge when painting the Blue Ridge Mountains. This piece is for a specific space in a home. It measures 20" x 50".

A Second Try

I occasionally stumble on a place that I think is very paintable. The light, the composition, the colors - something just turns on a switch in my brain and I have to paint it.
This piece was inspired by a trip to Western NC last Thanksgiving week. It was cold and rainy and cabin fever set in. We decided to take a ride on some back roads. I took some photos and thought this scene looked like a good atmospheric painting. I did one a few weeks later but it was muddy in color and not very interesting. The photos I used for reference sat around for until recently when I took another try. I feel like I got what I was after with this one. For me this scene just says wet.

What's new: Third Day of Rain, 12 x 12, oil on canvas

Friday, October 23, 2009

Working Through the Doldrums

I've been misssing any strong focus to finish up paintings this week. I have several underway I need to finish soon. It seems occasionally the inspiration is just not there. I can go through the motions but good stuff just doesn't come out.
But pictured here is a commission that needs to finish up soon and today was a good start. I am going to post each days results so the process can be seen.

I spent two or three hours coming up with a design to fit this horizonal format, measuring 20 x 50 inches. Another hour or so was spent laying in the first bit of paint.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's Cool, Finally

Today was the first day of fall temperatures for us here in Central Florida. For me the best day of the year is the one you open the door, and the air is cool with no humidity. Your house air conditioner stops for the first time in seven months and you can open windows. Sweet.
I celebrated by meeting up with some friends at a car show in Lakeland FL. Five good friends, perfect weather, good barbecue and a nice walk through downtown Lakeland taking in the cars and the crowds. Days like this are almost worth the months of miserable heat.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Autumn Disguised as Summer

Tomorrow me and my wife Susan will be setting up for another art festival here in the Orlando area.

This Saturday morning the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival begins. For an artist, it's a little easier to do when compared to its older and larger sibling, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in March.

We are hoping for a good show this weekend. The weather however, is not going to be very Fall-like. A high pressure system has been parked over the state and isn't allowing any cool weather to push close. Forecasters are calling for highs in the mid 90's for tomorrow and Saturday, then around 90 Sunday. By this time of year Florida becomes a tiresome place. We can't wait to feel low humidity and a cool morning again. Meanwhile, I'm trying to remember the pleasure of shivering in Chicago in June.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Show Time

This weekend is my first outdoor fall show. Time to dig out the tent, lights, display panels and the thousand other bits that have to travel with the paintings.
The Maitland Art Festival is one of the older established art fairs in the area set around a small in-town lake and happily less than a mile from my studio. Last year the organizers hoped to bring a little excitement to the show by adding evening hours on Friday and Saturday. They wired the whole park with electricity so the artists can now light their booths. Last year the crowds were small in the evening. We're hoping there is more awareness and energy this year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Link to Orlando Sentinel Article

The public art controversy I have written on recently is an issue I never intended to get involved in. In fact, I have no background with government-funded public art.
But if you read the background to the story of the Orange County Medical Examiners building, you might understand why I feel moved to speak up on this issue. This is written by Elizabeth Maupin of the Orlando Sentinel.
whats new: Last Light o/c 18x24

Friday, September 25, 2009

Waste? Not

Yesterday, I spoke at the Orange County FL Commission meeting in defense of the arts funding here in the county. It's a tough time for all the arts. Money is hard to find in private and public donations.

Our new Orange County Medical Examiners building is currently being completed. It replaces the cramped and obsolete facility near my downtown neighborhood. Artwork was budgeted for the building and an artist was chosen from 150 that applied for the commission. More background on this is in my most previous post.

Since last week the art expenditure was omitted from the budget in hopes that donated art or loaned art could be found. One commissioner termed the money set aside to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I find that insulting since as a gallery represented painter, I don't consider what I create "waste". And I doubt the chosen artist feels that way either. I wanted to know why, if an artist or collector is asked to donate for the building, why isn't the carpet contractor or the landscaper.

This has really struck a nerve with me since throughout my career I have listened to the argument that donating work for publicity or public exposure will bring later sales. I donate if it's a cause I believe in or it is for someone who needs the benefits of that art worse than I.

It's time professional artists are treated with the same regard as any other professional when it comes to compensation. Sometimes you have to say "show me the money".

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Public Art Project in Jeopardy

I'm posting a letter here that I am sending to the Orange Co FL Board of County Commissioners due to a discussion at last Thursday's meeting of withdrawing budgeted art funding for the new Orange Co Medical Examiners building. Two of the commissioners brought up their concern for spending money on art for the facility in spite of the building being substantially under budget and the artist winning a competition for the job having been notified. The press was invited by one of the two commissioners and the contract for $55,000 of art (1/3 or 1%overall budget) was presented as a boondoggle of taxpayers money. Thats red meat for the fiscal hawks so further criticism will probably ensue. I'm hoping the artists of the area will register their displeasure with this and stand up for public art as an important statement of our values.

Dear Mayor Crotty and Commissioners:
My name is Stephen Bach and I am a free lance artist working from the McRae Art Studios in Winter Park. I have been a resident of Orange Co for 50 years this month.
I am writing in regard to the art acquisition budget for the Orange County Medical Examiners Building. I am asking that the money be retained for the project as planned and the county not pursue loaned, donated or student work.

As an artist, we are asked to donate work and time to numerous charities every year. Winter Park Library, Maitland Art Center, Cancer fundraising, school benefits, we contribute frequently though tax code allows no deductions for those donations. While it is satisfying to give back we also have to sell our work to survive. My monthly income is solely based on what I have sold. No one else pays my health insurance, my studio costs or travel bills

The discussion of funding for the Medical Examiners building was brought up at the Sept 15th County Commission meeting where it was suggested by Commissioners Fernandez and Boyd that the money could be better spent in the taxpayers name by reverting to general funds. It was further suggested that the possibility of donated or loaned work be looked into or young emerging artists work be featured. County figures say the building is nearly 1.5 million dollars under budget and the expenditure is 1/3rd of 1% total funding.

When this art project was put out for competition, the notice was clear that this was a sensitive assignment and in reading the letter sent to the applying artists, the goal was to secure artwork to fit a public structure that “will embrace grieving families in a calming and soothing atmosphere as they come to deal with the passing of a family member”.
Based on this description, I would suggest this is not a job that can allow found art that can be adapted. In fact my opinion is if there was only one job that public art should be specifically commissioned, this would be it.

I am not complaining that an out of state artist won the contract for the project. I am saying it is inappropriate first to withdraw the award and secondly, a fool’s task to look for a cheap way of fulfilling the goals of a sensitive project such as this. I also think it made a disappointing statement on the perceived value of those in this community, your constituents, who work in the art profession. If there was a need to save $55,000, perhaps that amount could have been cut from the overall building budget when the job was put out to bid. For the artist to bear the whole cut or a huge percentage of the money seems unfair especially in light of the job being so far under budget.

I hope the Commission will take these points to heart and leave in place the funding for art acquisition - to this project and future ones. I also look forward to clarification and release of information regarding county ordinance as it pertains to funding for public art.
Thank you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Winter Park Concours Painting

The Winter Park Concours d'Elegance painting is finished and out the door for photographing. The image will be used for the poster and other promotional tools. The accompanying image shows the finished piece. It is good to see it gone though it was satisfying to work on. I'm back on the landscape beat now. Two shows coming and the first is in less than two weeks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cut Chop Rebuild

It's time for this year's poster image for the Winter Park Concours d'Elegance. I have provided the oil painting for the poster for 5 or 6 years now. It's got me worried I'm priced too cheap.
Actually its a fun project and it gets me out of my landscape painting box for a week or so.

This year I had an idea come to me almost immediately. Usually there is danger in that. But I let it rest for a couple of days while I considered it. Hey, I thought it still worked, and the client liked it - so off we go.

I wanted a new vantage point rather than the same view of the outside of a car. The featured marque this year is Mercedes Benz and in particular a new Mercedes SLR model. I wanted to show the heritage of the old 1955 300SL Gullwing Mercedes along with the new scissor door model SLR. So I put together some photos I had taken of the Gullwing at Amelia Island FL early this year, using a couple of spy shots of the new SLR and some shots of the local landmark, Knowles Chapel at Rollins College here in Winter Park FL.

Usually lots of sketching is involved but with Photoshop I cut and pasted everything together to make the composition. Here are the beginnings of the project. The photos are assembled and composed on Photoshop, the sketch projected and drawn on canvas and the first paint applied. I'll post more progress as it happens.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Small Works

Paintings are starting to come together in the studio but not as fast as I wish. Often the small works generate the inspiration for large ones. This image has some potential.

Tree Line 12 x 12 oil

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What We Leave Behind

As I get older I am beginning to think more about what I do as an artist and how it reflects on my life. I have to admit that what I now produce will probably last longer than I do, and this makes me consider more carefully what I create. As artists we want to leave a record of what we saw in our brief time here, what moved us, what inspired us. Our work will define us to others later on. That's must be why I work, rework and re-rework a piece until I see what I like - fear of not being liked after I'm dead. If you are a therapist, feel free to leave your e-mail address.

This is a new one I painted after last week's trip to Cades Cove. I call it Mown Grass, 9" x 12".

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Inspiration Destination

Part of the past week was spent on the road taking paintings to my gallery in Knoxville TN. Bennett Gallery had a sales spurt with my work and new paintings were needed, so I lightly loaded the trusty Chevy Express - paintings gratefully not being like pianos. I dropped off my work and after a side trip for some family business, I programmed the Cades Cove loop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park into the GPS unit and left Knoxville for the mountains. Cades Cove is one of my prime inspiration destinations. I had plenty of daylight left and lots of camera battery. Unfortunately, the GPS unit didnt recognize the most direct road to the park is also a steep climbing switchback thrill ride better suited to Porsche Boxters than big vans. It finishes with a gravel road into the park open only in the summer months.

I retreated to the way I knew without using GPS and since it was late by that time, pulled into a hotel outside the park vowing to rise with the sun. The dawn shoot may have worked out better than the sunset visit. The fog was heavy on the floor of the valley and it lent great atmosphere to the photos. Tomorrow I get busy in the studio.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thunder Heads

I'm sitting at the computer watching the radar bring tonight's thunderstorm. Some nights, it's better than tv. Florida in summer is an amusement park of weather. Each afternoon or evening brings something dramatic. Wind, rain, tornadoes, lightning. It's rarely boring. Excuse me while I bring in the cat.

Summer is also a challenge to my creative energy. Times like now when there are no big show deadlines my ambition is occasionally smothered in lethargy. I blame it on the heat and humidity. Yes, panic and deadline stress drives the best work, but even during the off peak times I can occasionally put together a string of productive days. I brought a few paintings to completion in the last few days. Here is one of them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facing the Dragon

Probably the hardest part of any painting project is confronting the vacant surface where your work needs to appear. This is most scary when the space is large. The level of difficulty multiplies when measurements are spoken in feet rather than inches. Nowhere was this a bigger challenge for me than a wall in the Olive Garden restaurant project at 2 Times Square.

I was going through some old photos to scan into my computer portfolio the other night. I found a few I hadn't looked at in awhile and they brought back a flood of memories. I think the year was 1993 and as the mural painter for all new Olive Gardens since 1985, I was given the biggest project I had ever attempted. I was asked to design and execute a series of paintings ranging from 4 by 5 feet to a three story diagonal shaped monster mural seen from those three floors in partial views.

I flew to NY to look at the space in its raw form, with only the structural components in place. The street entry faces south at the north end of Times Square at 46th St. You entered a cafe at street level then funneled to an escalator that took you past an open mezzanine where a bar was being constructed. The ride ended when you stepped off at the main dining lobby on the third level. The wall to the right of the escalator was where the mural would be located - first floor to (gulp) third level ceiling. A couple of problems presented themselves. How do you paint above an escalator and how do you design a cohesive mural that will only be partially seen from different floors. There were 6 or 7 subordinate paintings to be completed, so remembering wisdom for me is a gradual gift, I left this big one with the greatest challenges, for last.

Working in Times Square is an entertaining pastime. Some days I would sit with the construction workers on 5 gallon plastic buckets at lunch and watch the world pass by. One day we watched a then lean Kirstie Allie limo surf, waving to the commoners on Broadway. As our thickly accented security guard who came from central Africa said, "People of many tribes." For sure.

When the day came to start the big painting, I placed a serrated pattern I had made on the wall. This was made of several smaller segments drawn back at my Orlando studio that were taped together and placed on the wall. Then I pounced a chalk bag over it to leave the drawing on the plaster.
A narrow escalator doesn’t lend itself to staging scaffolding or even standing up a ladder. The carpenters took pity on me and built a box that fit over the steps and that gave me a small platform to work from. About 8 days later the painting was finished.
The Times Square job was the most challenging and rewarding of all my mural assignments. The project took ten or eleven weeks total with s evenweeks on site. Being there was fun but it was like living on the Strip in Vegas. On weekends home, it felt good to sit outside in bare feet, and listen to the birds sing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Unobstructed Views

Here is the newest painting. I like the vastness of the coastal wetlands near where we live. It's an amazing but more subtle beauty. I have often remarked that living where we do, we often don't get to see vast distances. Mountains don't punctuate the horizon, and you rarely get high enough to see over the abundance of trees and other flora. The river plains offer an exception, and you can see through the atmosphere for miles.
What's new: Early Evening Sky, o/c, 38"x50"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Barbara Miller

As artists, this week we lost one of our advocates and supporters. For years, Barbara Miller ran Miller Gallery in Cincinnati She and her husband Norman founded the gallery in 1960 and have grown the business while keeping it in the family ever since. Miller is a place you feel welcome when you come in the door. They have always emphasized the love of art without the snob appeal.

Barbara retired about the time I came into the fold, but on my delivery trips, she would often be in the gallery and make me feel all important by making a big fuss over my work. When I had openings, she was there, looking radiant, lighting up the room with her smile. Everyone in town seemingly knew Barbara Miller. I tried to stand next to her to catch some of the glow.

She hadn't been there my last few trips. I was told she was fighting against tough odds to beat cancer. While she ultimately lost the battle, Barbara left a legacy for us all to take stock. She and her husband dedicated themselves to build something that has benefitted not just her family and staff but us as artists. And they worked to give back to the Cincinnati community. We shouldn't take people like that for granted.

The gallery remains in competent hands with Gary and Laura Miller Gleason, and a great staff led by Rosemary Seidner. I know they will make sure the gallery has the future it deserves. I hope my paintings will still catch some of Barbara Miller's glow when they hang there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Turf to Surf

I'll admit I'm going through a boring spell with my painting. A trip to the beach one evening last week provided a little inspiration to step out of the box. This painting is approximately 12" x 32", oil on canvas.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The New Reality?

Old Town finished up this evening. What started as a dark wet Saturday morning finished in full sun and low seventies. A perfect Sunday. Though once again a show returned little reward for the great majority of artists. I heard of a few zeros and most talked of expenses made but not much more.

I was lucky today and made a little money after a dismal Saturday. The mood among artists is definitely downbeat. More of my friends are sleeping in their vehicles and cutting other expenses to the bone. And you can see it in their faces when you talk to them. The future is very uncertain and many are in fear of watching their livelyhoods disolve.

All of us live under the curse of increasing travel costs and show fees combined with diminishing show revenues. One artist recounted the days of regularly making ten to twenty thousand dollars in a weekend show. He says he now struggles to make fifteen hundred dollars in some shows. The new economy bites.

When do things get better? I entered this career when spending was scaling back so I wasnt spoiled by the good old days. But I'm guessing we may not return to those days of extravagant spending anytime soon. More than likely our profits will remain modest. We are going to have to be adaptable and patient as we wait for a rebound.

Even with all the downside to the business, the things we take away are the friendships and camraderie of those that we get together with year to year. Old Town is a bit different from other shows in that we are guests of a residential neighborhood. Our storefronts are nearly on the front steps of someone's house. We usually have the same space each year so friendships and aquaintances are renewed on each return.

It has been fun to watch neighborhood children grow up in once a year weekend glimpses. The young girl that played on the sidewalk behind the booth and delivered water to the artists in her Radio Flyer wagon is now graduating from high school. And a new bunch is coming along. Today three or four of the kids on the block chalked on the sidewalk and drew on my guest book. I'm going to keep that drawing and show it to them next year. Money is important but its not necessarily the thing we remember.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Road Trip, Day One

An early start for Chicago. I wanted to get to Clarksville TN this evening and I did it - just an hour before a huge thunderstorm hit. This same time each year the Bonnaroo Music Festival kicks off in Manchester TN. and each year I get caught in the traffic. Its hard to avoid. This year the state troopers have moved Bonnaroo traffic to the shoulder. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Off to Chicago

The night before a show trip and my body feels like it should after returning from one. Worn out. Loading a van full of all of the stuff that it takes to run a portable business on the street for two days is mostly drudgery.

There are only about a hundred large tasks and tiny items that will bite you in the butt if you forget to do them or take them along. Charge machines, tax permits, toll transponders; I usually forget at least one personal item. I have supermarket toothbrushes from most of the large chains. Shampoo, shaving cream, yeah -forgotten those. Of course my belt frequently doesnt make the trip or maybe a sweater. It's hard to fantasize cold when its 91 degrees as I pack. I tried a checklist once but it didn't seem to fit my groomed inattention to detail.

The biggest jobs before a show is getting updates to my webmaster Jill Tocco so she can post new work. Then Janet and Melinda at Flamingo Frame have to get all my frames finished in time for me to mount and wire the paintings. Since I always seem to be painting on pieces till the very last minute, I am usually framing at the last minute too.

Anyway the first stage of show drudgery is complete. Tomorrow, stage 2. I hope to drive as far as Nashville. Anything after that is icing on the cake. The goal is to arrive in Chicago before Friday afternoon rush hour, which realistically is impossible since it begins just as the morning rush hour ends. Still, earlier is better. The Old Town show is on the north side where I need to check in with the show volunteers, get a Chicago neighborhood zone parking permit, then head to the suburbs for an affordable hotel.

Saturday morning its up before 4am to come back into the city, get parked and unloaded before the artist rush hour around 6am. You sometimes have to wait for the police to tow a car out of your space if one was left from overnight. This whole show procedure at Old Town is insane but the atmosphere and the show itself is so alluring, people like me keep trying to come back.

Tomorrow and Friday will be a busy time. Check back to see what's going on.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Common Beauty

Picture books are perfect for someone like me who is so visually oriented. Until I did an informal study of those artists around me, I thought I was the only painter whose reading comprehension was stunted by books without pictures. When it comes to art books or periodicals, I spend all my time looking at the paintings instead of reading about what the art critic thinks. I think it is far more interesting studying how a brush stroke was made or how a color relates, than where an artist was schooled or what his or her philosophies are. Some of us like the nuts and bolts of our craft, I guess.
Recently though, I caught myself reading an article featuring an artist that simply painted trees in groupings. Composition-wise, they were not so different from my paintings. I was struck by the focus and the simplicity in those paintings, and I saw expressed in words what I had always thought to be true. Paraphrasing -take a moment at this one place, not one of spectacular beauty, but common beauty. A place we look at but rarely see. Light and color expressed in everyday terms.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Show Approaches

Today is all studio time, and I am beginning to feel the approaching deadline for Chicago Old Town. I need large work and small even though I still have some of each from the Decatur show. A painter never thinks he has enough - at least not enough strong pieces. Even so, there should be enough time to put together a strong showing.

WHAT'S NEW: A river painting similar to this morning's posting. I started this one yesterday.

It is 43"x41" I'm calling it Twists and Turns.


Last week was a slow show, probably for several reasons. Sales are predicated on who attends, their budgets and their outlook on the economy. Oh, and in this case, weather. Obviously, right now many folks are holding onto their money. Art purchases, especially spontaneous ones, are less likely, so it's important we as artists market creatively, and remain focused on what we do best.

Like so many parts of the economy, the art market is going through transition. The tightened credit markets along with a large number of people watching their discretionary spending may mean it takes years to return to the sheer numbers of buyers we had in recent years. The ones that do return may expect lower pricing. What the new reality will look like is still a mystery and may be a long gradual change. Artists and dealers should be ready to adapt.

WHAT'S NEW: Painting Commission, 43x41 tentatively titled River Sunset

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Parting Gift at Load-Out

Back home after an a rainy all-night drive. Most of yesterday in Decatur was rain free, but very overcast. The sun did show up for an hour or so in the afternoon but rain came and drove out the crowds. In talking to several artists, the consensus was slow sales. They were slow for me. This show didn't return expenses, so I will have to consider the situation next year before applying again. While weather was a factor, some shows bring out the buyers even when it rains.

Because of the congested downtown location, parking for load-in and load-out is not abundant. Passes are issued to load your booth out to your vehicle only after everything is disassembled and ready to move. Unfortunately, your work is exposed to the elements while you take apart and pack your tent and other equipment.

Around 7pm, I could hear the thunder and sense the impending doom. Yes, the last and strongest storm of the day hit as everything was in it's most vulnerable state. Some show volunteers braved the rain and helped move my paintings to a large tent in front of the old courthouse while I took down the rest of my booth. The work wasn't damaged but practically everything else (including me) was soaked and loaded wet. I'll need to spread out eveything in the sun later today and dry it out - if it's not raining.

Well, another festival in the books. I met a lot of nice folks this weekend, including some Atlanta area painters who shared their knowledge of galleries and local artist organizations. I sold a few small pieces and probably gave out a hundred or more business cards, so good things may come from this show at a later time. The economy is hurting the art community in many ways right now. Outdoor show sales are only one facet but they are taking a big hit. We all hope things improve soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rain of Power

At the peak of a historic drought in the southeast in 2007, Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia famously prayed for rain on the steps of the capitol in Atlanta. Ok, so rain was already forecast that week but a little political theater never hurts a politician's ratings. What those of us in the artist community know was that if the Gov' had just proclaimed it Georgia Art Festival Week, the heavens would have opened from Rome to Valdosta and everybody would have been served without those prickly separation of church and state issues.

It's not a lock, mind you but rain does seem more likely to occur in the region of white tent roofs. Maybe it's a related phenomenom of tornados and mobile homes. My data is more anecdotal than scientific, still - I'm just sayin'.

Yes, today was rainy but lots of people braved the odds and came out to see the art. In spite of the extra inconvenience and mess, the rain is a blessing. Dish it, Sonny.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Drive Time

I made the drive from Orlando to Atlanta today for the Decatur Arts Festival which starts tomorrow morning. It rained hard most of the way north. At times, emergency flashers on - hard. Not a good omen for the weekend. There are no rain dates for art festivals. If you drive 2000 miles and it rains for the whole show, there are no refunds or do-overs. Mercifully, the rain subsided as I approached Atlanta and we only had drizzle in Decatur for the booth set-up.

Dinner out of a take out bag at the hotel while I make title and price tags for the booth. The end to a 13 hour day. A glamorous life indeed.

Mountain View, oil on canvas. 12"x12"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Another Show Prep Week

Monday, and the start of a show week. Friday morning I must be on the road to Decatur GA for the Decatur Art Festival Between now and then a hundred details need to be addressed. From having business cards made to getting out the show equipment and going through each piece in a kind of peace of mind inventory. Every artist doing an outdoor show has somewhere in the back of his head a fear of showing up 1000 miles from home with 3 of the 4 tent legs for their booth. I have shown up 1,300 miles away without my tent roof. I looked a little shabby for three days, but being under a big top tent with the other artists, no weather damage was incurred.

I have also shown up without my trade mark amyrillis and vase, my guest book, my painting title tags, and more than once without a coat. Who knew it could be cold in Chicago in June.
Even if you remember, it's just hard to pack scarves and mittens when it is 92 degrees in Florida. The leap of logic is just too broad.

Between now and Friday there is also a lot of work on unfinished paintings. This last week before a show is always a little unsettling. Each painting has to find it's conclusion so it can be packed and loaded. I cross my fingers that they will finish up with appeal to buyers. Or at least be something I am proud to hang.

On a visit to Decatur a few weeks ago, I stopped by the courthouse square and looked at my space, number 56. I am on the SW corner of the old courthouse. I noticed I will be setting up under a rain tree that has a dense canopy. That's great if it's hot, but the lack of light filtering into my tent won't be good. Paintings can only look good if they are properly lighted. Deep shade is not going to be helpful. Most shows don't want to move you unless the the conditions are intolerable, and the artist loses the advantage of being found by patrons that use the artist space directory in the program.
At any rate, this should be an enjoyable show. Our daughter Michelle attends Agnes Scott College, just a few blocks from the square, and though she is home in Orlando now, I will enjoy being back in Decatur.

Here is the painting previously posted. I think it is finished. I called it Here to Forever. It measures 36" x 48" and is a gallery wrap, unframed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Large Painting Begins

This week is more studio work. Roughly 9-5 each day if things allow. I have 4 or 5 pieces in flux. I like to swap around as too much wet paint is hard to manipulate. This afternoon I started the one shown here. It measures 36" x 48". I liked it when I left this afternoon but tomorrow will tell me more when I walk in and get a fresh look. My challenge is to fine tune it without losing the quality of the brushwork. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Press Any Key, No Not That One

It seems like too many of my posts start with something like, "its been awhile since I posted...". I'll try to be more disciplined, but I have an excuse if you need one. This has been DSL hell week. The home network went down for about the fourth or fifth time in the past 10 days. The last time it took the router with it and it hasnt been working since. Each of my attempted fixes somehow led to additional issues with the desktop or other devices. The periferal called a refrigerator was still working around 10pm last night so I quit while I could still get a cold beer.

Let me take this opportunity to apologize to my family for too loudly expressing my anger at the AT&T automatron lady who each time after the help line went dead, patiently led me through 4 more minutes of voice mail hell to reach tech support. FYI, their voice recognition program doesnt respond to certain words that usually get a big rise out of real humans. It's looking like the DSL will be switched back to cable soon but for now I want a few days return on all my spent fury.
The painting above is new and part of my work for the upcoming the Decatur Art Festival, May 23-24 in Decatur GA. The painting measures 10x20" oil on canvas, gallery wrap, $1,175.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 4 of the Paint Out

Tonight is an "off" night from the Winter Park Paint Out. At least there are no plein air painters social events. This week has been a blur of setting up to paint in 5 or 6 locations, each for a couple of hours until the light changes and moving to the next spot. Then rushing home to clean up and go out to socialize with the plein air painters and patrons. It has been great fun and a lot of work.

The fun part is the painting, mixed with sharing the time with the rest of the painters and organizers. Tuesday evening we took boat rides before a catered dinner at the museum. Drinks on the yard at Houston's restaurant Wednesday evening as we watched the sun set over Lake Killarney. Some of us painted while we were there. Thursday was a catered artist/patron dinner at Hal Stringer's home where we enjoyed another beautiful evening outdoors. Tomorrow night is the gala at the museum where all the work from the week is displayed.

As much fun as it has been, all this painting has been hard work. The schedule is compressed into short sessions that have you racing to catch the light before it moves too far across the sky. Before it has changed too much, it's time to move on. It demands focus and speed.

Here is a sample of my work. This is the Winter Park train station yesterday afternoon. I have a few more that I will post later.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Winter Park Paint Out

This week I am a participating artist in the Winter Park Paint Out, a benefit event for the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Along with a number of other painters, I am out on the town painting snippets of Winter Park and the gardens at the museum. It's a beautiful week weather-wise and a great opportunity to hone my painting skills. Plein air painting is not my niche and so I'm getting my come-uppance being around these artists who can stab an easel in the ground and dash off a nice painting while the light changes in front of them, the wind blows, and passers-by stop to ask what they are doing. Tuesday night we were treated to drinks on the museum grounds and a boat tour of the Winter Park chain of lakes. Today is the third day of painting. It's a lot of fun but hard work. I'll post some images later.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Visiting a Happy Memory

Because of several looming deadlines, I missed about a week of posting for this space so there is a little catching up to do.
Last Friday noon, after a week of finishing up numerous paintings, I headed north in the van with a load of artwork from myself and three other artists at Mc Rae First stop was Bennett Gallery in Knoxville TN. I was unloaded and checked in with Ginger by noon Sat. At 5pm I pulled up to Miller Gallery in Cincinnati and left work with Katherine and Rosemary for a show I'm participating in beginning May 6th. Then back to Bennett by Sunday morning to pick up a few pieces of mixed media work that was being returned to an artist in Gainesville FL. Sunday night at midnight, I pulled up to my house in downtown Orlando. 1,800 miles in 60 hours.

While in Cincinnati I took a little personal time to track down my old house. This was the one I lived in at the time of my birth. I haven’t lived in Cincinnati since I was 7 years old but it still holds an attraction for me after all this time. The house is in a section of town called Norwood. It was largely settled by Appalachian migrants who came to work in the factories. My grandparents were part of that migration in the early 1930s. I have happy memories of the house at 2316 Madison Avenue even though those memories are vague.

I was taking a photo of the front of the house when the owners pulled into the driveway and greeted me. I told them I was a past resident and just wanted to reflect on those years when me and my tricycle owned the sidewalk out front. We chatted awhile and they asked if I would like my picture made in front of the house. I remembered a photo somewhere of me on the front steps with my mother. It was taken when I was three years old. I asked if I could have the picture taken there on those steps.
When I got home I found that old photo. I was reminded that though I could reach down and touch those very same old steps by simply moving my hand, so much was forever unreachable. Maybe you can't go home again. But you can carry the memories.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dinner on the Avenue

Last night our studio took part in the Winter Park FL Dinner on the Avenue. Its an annual community dinner that is held on Park Avenue in the center of town. Individuals, businesses or organizations can rent tables on the street and enjoy the company of hundreds of others for cocktails and dinner. Its great fun in a beautiful setting. Prizes are awarded for the best decorated tables and themed out diners so it has become a bit of a competition. There were some great themes. From the lavish AIG table to the Food Network table with star chef imposters. Our panel of scouts observed that if you had tall decorations you were a front runner for the trophies.

I admit, artists are notoriously hard to organize for any event or purpose. Our best ideas and highest ambitions for next year's event peak as we dine 365 days beforehand but in spite of our lapse in follow-through, we put in a good appearance.

Plaid was our theme this year. I don't remember why. But this worked out well for some of us guys. We simply pulled something off the closet rack and we were there. But most of the women artists brought stocks of emergency plaid. Standby scarves, belts and head gear was available for rescuing the understated. I was loaned plaid pants to accent my shirt lest I look like I just came from work.

We had a great time. Good food, friends, and beautiful weather. And wait till next year. There's talk is we raise the legs of our tables by a foot. As Lynn Whipple put it - "verticality". That should win us some metal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Apologies to Mickey Gilley

This week has been a trying time for painting inspiration. I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I am working on five or six paintings simultaneously since one at a time usually puts me into a creative ditch. I get stuck, or worse, I start thinking I have just created the best painting of my life in a mere two hours only to come back the next morning having to wipe it with a turpentine rag and set it on fire. Falling in love with your brand new quickie creation is to painting what going home with the girl from the bar after nickel beer night - is to drinking. That painting may be a nine or ten at quitting time but in the morning it could be a number one. At any rate, I find it better to suffer interminably over multiple pieces at once. There is less guilt about doing something I love.

But here is the darndest thing. Somehow my mind seems to subconsciously time work to finish just as scheduled deadlines arrive. I usually zone out and become mediocre and unproductive in the week or two preceding the exact day that only a herculean push can be executed to turn in a respectable showing. I guess this is to protect the body mind and spirit from total meltdown. You can’t be anxious and industrious continually. The body isn’t capable. I also can’t look too closely at approaching deadlines on a calendar anymore. I have learned to regard this as heart-healthy, allowing me more red meat at dinner.
I marvel at this innate sense we have of knowing when the afterburners must be lit. In my case, not just because I know when to get serious, but that work gets better and flows more easily. It comes together because it has to. Still, I would love to just once take two or three days off before delivering new work to a show. Maybe down deep, I know I couldn’t handle the guilt.

New work pictured above: Pastel Sky, 12"x16", o/c