Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It Mostly Looks the Same

Day 2 of the final for the auto painting commission. At first glance the image looks more or less like the finish of yesterday but there is a solid 7 to 8 hours of painting since the previous posted image. These paintings are initially fast to paint but slow down as you close in on detail and nuance. Cars are nearly all complex curves and can be real brain teasers in the rules of perspective. The Porsche on the left needed some shape corrections that I just couldn't see until I looked at it again today. I only have photo reference of the Corvette on the right at other angles, so I have to adapt the drawing to the needed perspective in the painting. Not so easy if you want things to look realistic.

I'm getting close but I know it will take at least another full day to complete.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Starts, Finishes, Remakes

Here are three paintings, two finished, one underway. The landscape in the middle is 36x48" and ready to be shipped. The one below, same size, has had a facelift from it's previous image. It stayed around the studio long enough for me to see some flaws I wanted to fix. Artist license.

The automobile painting is a commission I mentioned earlier. The sketch is seen in the lower part of the photo and the final version is partially done. It will take a bit more detail and a few more general applications of paint to give it some character and color depth. The auto paintings are particularly difficult unless you problem solve before you attack the large final piece. I did my homework on this one so there is not as much anxiety and suspense.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Economic blues

So far I have avoided writing on the economic downturn. Its a tricky subject. Everyone in the artist community wants others to think their sales are impervious to the slowdown. But our art sales are only strong as our collectors' bank accounts. Most artists will admit, at least to other artists, their sales have been affected for a few years now. I began the business of selling paintings around the year 2000, marketing my work in outdoor art shows or fairs. Two years ago there were strong signs that sales were tailing off. Like the economy in general, that trend is more pronounced in the last year or so. At this point show organizers are feeling the effect in the reduced number of artists applying to shows and some accepted artists are no longer able to come up with the hundreds of dollars in show fees months in advance. We are also having to think carefully before committing to a show a thousand miles away.

Artists are hurting but we need to hang on and hope for better times soon. Meanwhile we must promote the work, diversify price points, seek commission work and most of all, produce the very best work we can do to weather the storm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today the to do list was a mix of jobs. First there were paintings to pick up that were lent for an art themed corporate event Friday night. Then back to the studio to get in some painting. This afternoon I delivered work to a designer's project where my gallery representative and the designer worked with the homeowner to choose art for the walls. We'll have to wait a couple of days to see if the client wants to keep any of the paintings.
This is the barn piece shown yesterday at it's inception. It measures 33" x 40". It is close to finished but I'll wait to look at it tomorrow and see what it lacks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to the studio

Time to make the donuts. This morning was spent working on a couple of small paintings from last Friday. I feel it necessary to work on several at once as I can get stuck trying to force the end to a piece in a single session.

I also needed to get a large painting underway. The photos show the start to a new barn piece. I love to paint barn structures. I think they are among the most noble of architecture in their simplicity and they seem to resonate with collectors. This is a barn I have painted a couple of other times, once in fall and once in winter. It is on the Stover Myer farm in Bucks County PA.
The image on the right may look finished to some but there is only about an hour and a half invested to this point. Now comes the hard work of tweaking and layering color.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mardi Gras in a war zone

There is in my past a spring tradition that I have neglected for the past 20 years and this weekend I made amends. I talked about the Sebring 12 Hours sports car race in a March 3rd post. When my friend Steve said he had tickets and asked me if I wanted to go , I enthusiastically said yes. For various reasons, I haven't been in awhile. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is the same weekend and participating in that has sometimes conflicted. Other times just plain old lack of ambition has kept me away.

Going to Sebring demands preparation. If you do it right, it's a camping event. So provisions are necessary possibly including old couches, tents, lights - decorative and utilitarian, an electric generator, a grill, maybe some plywood for a outdoor deck, some astro turf, a potted plant or two and oh, copious amounts of beer and ice. This year was a day visit so a grill, cooler and camera was all that was needed.

Sebring should be on your life list. It is a weekend of dirt dust, noise, and people watching that somehow adds up to a non stop grin. The race is run on a road course spread over about 3.5 miles, and there are few grandstands for the spectators. The fun is in moving from spot to spot along the fences. The cars are racing at different speeds around the circuit and the scenery changes as you move about. Turn 10 is the core of Sebring infield culture and a walk through after dark will - well, bring a camera. I suppose you would call this extreme camping. There are people who brought pool tables, ping pong tables, house plants, japanese lanterns, a lit fish tank - with fish, roofed tiki bars with flooring, easy chairs of every description usually perched atop motorhomes or scaffolding. Satellite dishes are everwhere. Flat screens glow along with campfires as the race is broadcast live. It's not a problem to keep abreast of the leaders as you walk. Most everyone is welcoming and happy to share the tv. Meanwhile a race is screaming by a few yards away. Sebring is an outdoor party for 85,000 people punctuated with racing noise, wood smoke and dust. Think Mardi Gras in a war zone.

On the drive home late Saturday, I was thinking about the experience now and 20 years ago. The racing was still awsome. But honestly, I could have seen the race better in the comfort of our family room. I think I went back because I wanted to see if the party was still on. Darn if it isn't. Maybe next year I'll take the fish tank.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Amelia Island

Another trip to north Florida this morning. This time to the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance at the Ritz-Carlton. There were a couple of reasons to get up so early on a Sunday. I needed to get photo reference to assist in the car painting I'm currently working on, and also visit with the artists of the Automotive Fine Arts Society who were putting on an art exhibition at the event. My hopes are to be juried in at some point and exhibit along with this group here and at Pebble Beach. A member artist explained to me the application steps so I guess the ball is in my court.
Another reason to go was to spend a little quality time with my good friend Duke, who picked me up on his way from Tampa. We had a great time walking among some very unique automobiles spread over the golf course fairway. On the way home we spent the time in the car catching up with each others lives and sharing plans for our anticipated lottery winnings. A fireball out the driver's side glass caught my eye about a half-hour from home. Space Shuttle! We pulled to the side of the highway and shot a few more pictures as we watched the shuttle Discovery power towards space and the booster rocket tanks fall away. It's a spectacle that never gets old.
A good ending to a good day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Faded Glory

I just returned from my third trip to Jacksonville in a week, my second in the last 36 hours. Three trips were plenty but together they don't approach my Orlando-Jacksonville turn-around record. In 2000 I worked on a mural project there and made the 300-mile round trip eight consecutive days. If you think this speaks to my weariness of hotel rooms after the last 20 years, you would be correct. Although I have had to declare anything more than that distance to be officially out of home cooking range, and socks and underwear must be packed.
My Jacksonville client approved the Porsche racer oil painting sketch shown with the last post. The canvas for the final painting was built and delivered to my studio today so work can begin Monday.

When the client originally called about the painting, he asked if I would be interested in restoring the paint on the hand carved mahogany front door of his house. Paint restoration is not my specialty, and I'm reluctant to work over another artist's work, but she lives in Montana and could not be easily brought to Florida to do the restoration.
Even though the exposure to the sun wasn't direct, the glazed paint and varnish had gotten quite weathered. We took it down to the bare wood and working from photos, I restored the design to it's original colors. I'll go back Monday and add a coat of polyurethane with a UV protector. I think it came out great, but I was merely rescuing someone else's good work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I wrote on March 3rd about the occasional auto art commissions I receive. I enjoy the opportunities to paint shiny things and value the relationships I have developed with people who collect rare and historic cars. I also wrote about the demands of commissioned paintings. As the artist, I have to first fullfill the vision of the client.

The painting that illustrated that earlier post was a rough for the client to approve. He wanted some changes that sent me back to the sketchpad. The proportions needed to change from a horizontal format to more of a square. Also more landscape as part of the environment the cars were to be seen in. The sliding car to the right of the larger one. Here is the latest version. We'll know Thursday whether this one will make a good final version.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hula Ville

Getting rid of old books is an job I never enjoy. I've read most of my collection of books. Most of those more than once, but there comes a point where shelf space runs out.
Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft is hogging a big piece of shelf space, it's on probation along with Hubris. Once was enough for that one. Wolverines are Eating My Leg by Tim Cahill, that should stay for another read. One of the books that won't ever go to House of Hope is Legendary Poems of the Valley and Others We Tallied, 1987 Edition by Miles Mahan.
I mentioned my mural painting days for Olive Garden Restaurants in an earlier post. There were 15 years of travel and too many experiences to detail in a couple of blog postings. But here is a memory that sticks out as I scanned my bookshelf.
Miles Mahan was a poet and an artist. When I met him in 1990 he was 94. He lived alone in a trailer on 2 1/2 acres of joshua trees along Route 66/I-15 in California's high desert north of the San Bernardino Mountains . I had finished a mural job for Olive Garden in Victorville and was driving back to Los Angeles for a red eye flight to Orlando. On the right of I-15 was a strange looking collection of bottles hung on dowels, primitive hand written signs and a giant hula girl waving to traffic. A sign said, Welcome to Hula Ville.
I got out of the car and wandered into what looked like an entrance but was just a dirt path under the overhanging branches. There was scrap wood everwhere nailed to the Joshua trees and staked in the ground. Poems. I thought I might be intruding in someone's personal garden when Miles stepped out of the shade. He was dressed like my imagined vision of a desert rat. Scruffy beard, suspenders, I noticed he could use a shower. He told me he had lived there in that spot in the desert since 1955. He said every day he picked up the trash that people threw out their car windows, and soon he noticed bottles were an endless commodity. He decided to make sculptures to go with his poems painted on scrap wood. Travelers began to take notice and stop.
He had a notepad in his hand and said he was composing a poem to read for some folks later that day. He read me what he had.
On a mound bottles ya see,
bringing joy to all of thee.
Once they held a tasty wine,
now in th' sun empties shine."
"Who are you reading it for?"
"I'm going to be on the Johnny Carson show," he said. "They are sending a limo out a little later."
I wasn't sure how to reply to that. I sputtered something like "uh, that's great".
I sat on a metal chair outside the trailer facing Miles as he put together a few more verses and read them out loud.
You could tell he took joy from word play. We talked for awhile, him wanting to know about painting wall murals.
I could tell a bath was in order before the "limosine" arrived.
"I'll watch for you tonight," I said as I got up to leave.
Someone once said no man is happy without at least one delusion. OK, I thought, he seemed happy and otherwise normal. I wished him luck.
That evening at LAX I stopped at the newstand on the way to the gate. The LA Times TV section, Friday August 17, 11:30 pm: Nightline- Ted Koppel is anchor; Arsenio Hall - Steve Martin, Rick Moranis; The Tonight Show - Patrick Swayze, bottle collector Miles Mahan.
"Son of a ..."
I called home. Susan recorded it on the VCR. Miles wasn't talkin' trash.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

See what I mean?

Painting commissions can be fun or torture. Depends. As the artist, are you comfortable designing your imagery based on the directions the client gives you? You may find your work is restricted by size, colors and subject matter. You might be asked to bring the client's vision to life rather than your own.
Commissions are a necessary facet of most artists' career. But they are seldom easy. A painting executed with no restrictions is often difficult but one with a checklist of elements or requirements is even harder. I have two commissions underway currently and I am generating ideas to give both clients choices. Time will tell how successful I am sharing the vision.
Shown is one of several preliminary color sketches for a landscape commission.
Untitled, oil on board, 9 1/2" x 9"

Friday, March 6, 2009

The big update

Between yesterday and this morning I sent out a large number of e-mails introducing the new blog as well as announcing my website updates. Thanks to everyone who responded. Your compliments are generous and I'm grateful so many of you would take time to express them - even the acclaim that came rolled up in a computer virus. If you know who your are, you may want to get that checked.
I usually delay the updates too long. It's work that demands 5 or 6 steps to reach the goal of sending images and information to my web person. My natural disposition provides the energy and organizational skills for 4 to 5. So I save up those energies for the time when all will be available at once. I never know when they will sufficiently accumulate. I also use this process for other (most) chores and assignments. This applies in particular to the process of shipping art.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Today I reframed a painting that I have had around awhile. Well, I haven't had it so much as it's been had in various places. Cincinnati, Knoxville, Kansas City. It has either hung in galleries or been in an outdoor show somewhere unsold for the past year or so.
If you could be the painting for a moment you would see your situation to be uncomfortably similar to being a puppy at the pound. You're scouting for that special couple to pick you out of the herd, bond with you as they get their face licked before wisking you off to your new home. Maybe the gallery owner wouldn't use that metaphor but you see what I'm saying.
As a painter you create work from experiences or places that speak to you for one reason or another, but you can't know if a viewer will hear what you heard. Sometimes a painting you have doubts about will get snatched up immediately. On the other hand you might think you just reached a great new plateau in artistic accomplishment only to find no one noticed. I guess that's the nature of tastes and preference.
Anyway, this painting, Dawn After the Rain is one of my favorites, partially because it represents one of my favorite places in the world. It is painted from photos I took along the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 440 mile stretch of blacktop from Natchez MS to Nashville TN. Maintained by the National Park Service, it's a ribbon of unspoiled beauty. If you drive it on a summer evening with the windows down, or better yet, the top down, you'll get glimpses of fireflies and whiffs of cut hay. And if you're old like me, you'll remember what taking a ride used to mean. I've painted many places along the Parkway and know there are many more waiting to speak as I pass by.
Pictured above, Dawn After the Rain, 12x16, oil on canvas, available $850.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Busman's holiday

Over the years I have developed a small niche for painting automobile art. It's something I relish and it stems from an early love of cars and racing. Growing up in Central Florida between Sebring and Daytona Beach, I guess it was meant to be. At age 13
I saw my first 12-Hours of Sebring. There were Ferraris and Lancias from Italy battling Porsche teams from France and Germany. I was hooked. The whole experience was exotic. There were unidentifiable accents, and funny European cars with names I couldn't say. They lapped around a 5 mile circuit composed of interconnected airbase runways and roads, through all weather and into the night. How cool. I drew and painted racing cars from that day.
Automobile art is a small niche, and while other pursuits took me away from it, there are accomplished painters who specialize in it cultivating collectors around the world. Fortunately, I receive commissions to give me the occasional fix of painting metal and glass. Its good therapy after rendering my 1,000th tree. We all need a holiday.

Above is a rendering in oil on board for a client commisssion. It is a Porsche 904 and a Corvette Grand Sport from 1965. If it is approved it will be painted at a size roughly 3 times larger.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Paint hypnosis

Today is another catch up day. I worked on a couple of ideas for commissions and spent part of the day on business calls and
e-mails. I know most of us artists have trouble making ourselves do the work involved with creating and maintaining business. Most of us would rather paint.
When I walk into the studio in the morning, before I put down the car keys or put lunch in the refrigerator, I find myself sitting in front of the easel putting paint on the canvas. A half hour later I find the keys still gripped in my left hand.
Here is a small painting that I'm finished with. I call it
Paying Respect, 10"x10" $575.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Art auctions

Today it's time to do the work I avoided during the week. A couple of commission projects need preliminary sketches. An artist bio for a benefit auction. Why is it so hard to get my head around those things sometimes.

I got word this morning my painting donation to the Chatham Acadamy in Savannah sold at full price last night. They held their annual benefit auction for the school at the Marriott Riverfront. This is a school with family connections so I give without reservation and hope for some good results for the school.
The words benefit auction tend to be loaded terms for artists. As many non-profits use art auctions for fund raising, we're often asked to contribute a piece. It's nice to have your work shown off at these events but a lot of people don't know that artists get no tax deductions for their contributions. I either give because I have a strong attachment to the cause, as in the case of the Chatham Acadamy, or because the organization offers a split of the winning bid. Giving away a unique framed painting is a big sacrifice if done with any frequency. Splitting the proceeds gives the artist a chance to make something while givng the charity a net gain as well.

The painting on the easel above is finished. I'm calling it Morning Mist, 24"x24", available $2,100.