Art Studio

Percolating Creativity

asheville river arts district.JPG

I love it when this happens. I’m consumed with this new concept for artwork. I’ve now got all my “ingredients” together to fabricate three prototypes and then…if…it…works, I’ll release them into the world. Pardon the drama. I’m excited.

Two blog posts ago, I mentioned that I was thinking about a new concept for artwork…a “sail” shape that would billow out from the wall. I’ve figured out how to make it secure and stay in place and hold the shape I dictate, so that’s good (see my last post “So then” for more info on that). But what’s blowing my brain is that there is so much I could potentially DO with this. I’m thinking of boring holes in the sail shapes, creating voids. I’m thinking of playing with strips with or instead of (in some cases) the sail shapes and bending them around each other (like a bent wood sculpture does). But the surface of all component sheets would be texturized with a flexible agent, covered with my metallic leaf, paint and one layer of resin. These shapes will be luminous and not contained to a single plain.

The next step will happen after the holidays, and that’s the fabrication of the first prototype. If that works (and per my experimentation, I’m pretty sure it will work now), my next post will include photos of all the prototypes.

In my Asheville art studio, I will probably always paint mostly landscape paintings (and that’s because I love painting landscapes!) but I do really enjoy creating abstract art as well. These would in a sense be abstract. The colors will be simple, but because the surface will be reflecting light through my paint, AND because as the surface bends and each inch of the surface catches light differently than the next, I’m thinking the result will be something visually rich, graceful and dynamic.

Well, that’s the plan. :)

We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned!

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park Fountain.jpg

I love it when an Asheville visitor wanders into my art studio and asks if I do commissions. YES! I love commissions. Some commissions I get are awesome. Then there are some that are extraordinary. This request for a painting was in that second category. In Savannah, Georgia, there is really beautiful fountain in Forsyth Park. So rather than retell the story, I'll cut and paste it from the original email I received that began the commission: 

  • My wife and I met on line a little over 8 years ago and our first date / meeting was at the fountain in Forsyth park. She drove from Atlanta and I from Florida. 
  • We met late afternoon. 
  • Probably from the vantage point in the picture you sent, a wedding was taking place.
  • We stopped a watched for awhile.
  • We went to dinner and came back to the park after dark.
  • Impulsively we climbed the fence surrounding the fountain and proceeded to the center.
  • We sat at the base enjoying each other's company while becoming thoroughly drenched.
  • We have been together ever since and hold fond memories of the fountain and our first meeting.
  • My wife thinks that if you consider the different view points that hundreds of online photos can provide, you will capture the essence of what it means to us.

Cool story, huh? I love that! This was a challenge though because (obviously) these people know and love this fountain. I had to get it right! I hope this piece does that magical moment justice. Gosh, I love my job. 


Angsty or Terrified?

So last week, as I said in an earlier entry, a husband and wife breezed through my Asheville art studio/gallery without saying a word to me and then left, sitting down on the chairs right outside my door (which was open -- with me working just inside said door). At that point, the man said (loud enough for me to hear) "well I know, but it's ridiculous! I wouldn't pay half what he's asking for that!"

To that man, I would like to say "thank you for your rudeness. You gave me something  to write about in my blog!" Because of that encounter, I began thinking about how best to respond to critique and I am taking this platform to share my thoughts to anyone interested. I have already addressed what I call the "angsty" artist who doesn't care WHAT anyone thinks about their craft (whether it's painting, writing, music or whatever). They do not digest criticism because they immediately deflect it.

The other type of artist I know is not angsty at all. They are frightened and completely insecure, not wanting ANYONE to see their artwork.  Putting their art out there for people to actually see absolutely terrifies them. I tried to teach art students who were the "terrified" type, but found them just as difficult to teach as the arrogant students who would not listen to my advice or instruction. I remember a young woman that was in the class I was teaching. She was working hard on a painting, but when I walked over to her desk to see how it was coming along, she swept it up and hid it from me. "Please don't look! It's a mess! Yours is so much better!" If you can relate to this woman,  may I gently suggest that the "terrified" artist is not that much different from the "angsty" artist? See, neither the angsty or terrified person them allows any criticism or correction -- they just take different emotional roads to the very same end.  Whichever side we fall on, we can be categorized as arrogant.

"Arrogant?" I hear the terrified artist type cry. "I'm not arrogant!" (The angsty artist doesn't see themselves as arrogant either.)

Well, follow me here. The angsty type doesn't listen to any criticism and neither do you. In my opinion, whichever side we fall on, we all think far too much of ourselves. The terrified artists (I was one of you  at once point) think we have to be perfect at what we do and critique is crushing and to be avoided. The angsty artist thinks he's already perfect, and critique is pointless and unnecessary in his mind and is to be avoided. So what's the difference?

Both the angsty and terrified artist (or whatever) types need critique. We need to be okay with correction and advice. When I finish what I think was a great idea and no one pays any attention to it, I may have to conclude that the idea may be great to me, but if the people purchasing art do not agree, I won't be selling that piece. If this is repeated with all my work, then I'm out of a job.

A professional artist has to listen to critique and adjust sometimes. Hopefully as we mature, we begin to know the difference between a good critique and someone just being rude. I think we need to feel the freedom to toss what we think is bad advice. I also think we need to feel the freedom to accept advice with humility, and that's admittedly really hard to do sometimes.

Forest of Autumn Gold

Forest of Autumn Gold.jpg

Living in Asheville, North Carolina as an artist in the River Arts District, I don't see many birch trees in the woods around here. Western North Carolina has river birches and they're nice and all, but we do not have proper "paper birch" trees. Thankfully, I don't have to just paint local scenes (though I do end up celebrating the mountains and trees of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains more than anything else). This painting, "Forest of Autumn Gold" is based on my memories of a certain October thirty four years ago when Joy and I visited the state of Maine on our honeymoon. Birch trees (proper paper birch!!) were everywhere. I remember the sound of the leaves in the wind roared like a waterfall. So beautiful.

Birch and aspen trees are magnificent in art. I lump them together simply because with my somewhat impressionistic style, I paint both birch and aspen trees in a similar manor. They are graphically perfect! Black on white. What a great design!! And they stand out against the foliage perfectly in any season. Seriously, in winter, spring, summer or (especially autumn), the tree trunks of the birch or aspen trees always stands out against the color of the leaves. Think about it...what other tree trunk steals the thunder of it's leafy canopy like birch or aspen? Okay, the Sequoia Gigantia in California probably wins but that's the only other tree that does. 

So I celebrate the beauty of autumn in Maine (or Colorado, depending on whether you see these as paper birch or aspens). Either answer is correct. Cheers!

Autumn River Song

Autumn River Song.jpg

"Autumn River Song". This was a fun one. A while back, I had a gentleman visit my art studio in Asheville's River Arts District and he spent a good deal of time wandering around studying my artwork. We had a really nice conversation and then he left, taking a card.  This was not that unusual. Visitors to the art studio take a LOT of business cards and that's cool. That's what they're there for. But this guy called back a few days later and said he wanted to surprise his girlfriend with a painting of mine. That made my day. I love commissions!

He got on my website and found an older painting of mine that he liked, but wanted a few things changed. Here's the original painting:

Appalachian Stream.jpg

He asked that some of the rocks be removed from the right side and replace the foreground rocks with new moss-covered rocks. And he wanted autumn colors rather than summer greens. I love commissions! And I love it when a client feels the freedom to get involved (he actually spent a good deal of time hunting for the foreground rocks he wanted).

I love revisting a painting I enjoyed the first time, and tweaking it, creating a brand new and unique piece of art. It's like taking leftovers of a great leg of lamb and potato dinner and making stew out of it,  you know? It's like and unlike the original "go-round". I once heard that there really is nothing unique, just unique ways of re-combining preexisting elements, and I think that's right. How many ways can just four elements (ADTP for instance) be combined and recombined to create over 7,000,000 unique individual people? I think this really does apply to art. How many times did Monet paint waterlilies or St.Paul's cathedral? Countless. But each one is unique and he obviously revisted the idea because it gave him joy. That's how creativity works.

And when I see this new piece that combined old and new ideas, it gives me a great deal of joy. That's why I paint. So if you're considering commissioning a unique oil painting, let's talk! It's a blast.



Mystic Summer Morning

Mystic Summer Morning (oil painting)

"Mystic Summer Morning" (30" x 24") is a summer version of an autumn scene I've done before, and it's reminiscent of most summer mornings here in Asheville. Oftentimes because of thunderstorms the afternoon before, mornings can be rather foggy. That fog burns off usually by 10:00 or shortly thereafter, and then it's clear for just a bit. That fog then gathers into cumulous clouds and then becomes an another afternoon thunderstorm. But in the morning, that fog softens everything and dampens all sound.

I make it a habit of walking the 3 miles to my art studio in Asheville's River Arts District every morning (and then back again at night) but on foggy, cooler summer mornings, there's a longer route I can take that eventually leads right along the French Broad River. It's a very quite walk and when I need some extra rejuvenating and the weather is right, I walk the extra miles. It's so worth it. Before that trail gets to the river, it goes through quite woods and on foggy mornings, it's mystical. It's really beautiful that time of day. I love Asheville!

When the Sun Went Dark

Solar Eclipse over Western North Carolina

What an amazing day yesterday in Andrews, NC right under the very center of the area of totality. So many interesting things about the eclipse...1) the temperature dropped from 87F to 63F in about an hour. 2) cumulus clouds that had been building in the heat and humidity dissipated. 3) the sun, even at just a sliver uncovered kept us nicely lit and then...the sun was covered completely, thousands cheered and it was like someone switched the light off. Instantly, stars appeared and streetlights went on. The event itself is impossible to describe -- the terrible beauty of the black hole in the sky surrounded by streaming tendrils of light. Absolutely incredible. And 4) it brought new friends together! We noticed Daryl walking around with his two adorable little girls (Layla and Jasmine) and we invited them to join us on our picnic blanket. Joy jumped right in and pumped the girls with cookies and we had a really great time getting to know each other. What fun! I love random friendships like this!

The energy and elation at witnessing 2 minutes, 38 seconds of this spectacle has deeply affected me and will I'm sure affect my work at the art studio in Asheville. I doubt I'll start painting eclipses, but experiencing that level of absolute awe can't help but move you and inspire you. Let's see where this goes! 

Friends we met in western North Carolina

Inspiration and Rest

Fishing on the lower Blue Lake, Breckenridge, CO

Fishing on the lower Blue Lake, Breckenridge, CO

Last week, my whole family (kids and grandchildren) were given the opportunity to spend time at a cabin of some friends/clients in Breckenridge, CO. We spent the week hiking, biking, fishing and a lot of laughing (especially during endless games of Settlers of Catan). If you ever need to be recharged and inspired, the Rocky Mountains will do the trick. Awesome and severe and covered with wildflowers this time of year, we left them inspired and ready to dive back into the Asheville summer season!

I enjoy my job so much as a painter in my studio in Asheville's River Arts District. I usually am not even aware of the fact that it would be good to get a break. See, painting FEELS like my "break" and I get to do that five days a week. For those of you who have purchased my artwork...THANK YOU for giving me the privilege of doing what I love to do. It's not lost on me that I can joyfully create because people like you support and encourage me by actually purchasing what I create. 

But I can get so blissfully caught up in the creating of art that it's really easy to miss the fact I need a break, and that even with art, I need to take time to recharge and to fill my depleting creative tank. 

Well, now that creative tank is full again. I left the Rocky Mountains rested and inspired and with some new ideas I want to try. If these ideas work, then some exciting things are in the making in the next few months, and I'm really excited about that. 

Oaks on the Water

"Oaks on the Water" (34" x 36")

"Oaks on the Water" (34" x 36")

This painting commission was an interesting assignment. About a month ago, I got a call from one of the owners of the art gallery in Charleston, SC that carries my work (Mitchell-Hill Gallery on King Street) and Michael Mitchell asked me about a commission based on two paintings I'd previously done. The photo Michael had sent me to use for inspiration was fused together in Photoshop, the upper half being two gnarled old oak trees and the lower half had a peaceful stream of still dark water (from a completely different piece). The original "oaks" painting was more of a summer scene, with green grass and a pathway or narrow road in the foreground, but I liked the idea of going to golds and more autumnal colors and I loved the idea of adding the stream. So I tackled the assignment with excitement. 

Today, this painting is complete and will be packed up for shipment momentarily.  I absolutely love taking an older painting and examining it again after some time and deciding to rework a new priced based on that original, tweaking it and "re-mixing it" so to speak. The process is a blast and the end result is usually well worth the effort. 

Oak Tree by Bernard Shaw

I took an acorn and put it in a pot.
I then covered it with earth, not a lot.
Great pleasure was mine watching it grow.
The first budding green came ever so slow.
I watered my plant twice a week
I knew I would transplant it down by the creek.
One day it will be a giant oak, 
To shield me from the sun a sheltering cloak.
Lovers will carve their initials in the bark, 
An arrow through a heart they will leave their mark.
It will shelter those caught in a fine summers rain, 
Under its leafy bows joy will be again. 
Creatures of the wilds will claim it for their own, 
Squirrels will reside here in their own home.
Birds will build nests and raise their young, 
They will sing melodies a chorus well sung.
Under it’s branches grass will grow, 
Here and there a wild flower it’s head will show.
My oak tree for hundreds of years will live.
Perhaps the most important thing I had to give. 

Boats on the Water

seascape - boats on the water

One of the best things about having an art studio in Asheville's River Arts District is that I can paint mountains and trees and water (which I thoroughly enjoy), and every time I run out of subject matter to inspire a painting, I just go for a walk and I'm full of ideas agin. The only difficult thing here is that I don't get to regularly paint subject matter that is outside the typical "Blue Ridge Mountain" genre. Do NOT get me wrong. I absolutely love paintings these mountains, but sometimes, it's just really fun to paint something different.

A couple months ago, I was asked to paint a couple sea-sunset themed paintings and I had a blast. I guess my client was happy because they since asked me to paint a third piece for them. "Are you up for a challenge?" they asked. Undaunted, I of course accepted that challenge. 

To be honest, when I was given the photo to be used for this commission, I was nervous. The main subject of the photo were two shrimp boats (I think that's what they were) but the photo was really dark and I could see very little detail in the boats. So the trick was to suggest the detail I saw in the photo (the detail you'd see as silhouetted against a blazing sunset) and leave it at that. And a new challenge for me: how to suggest all the ropes and lines you'd see on shrimp boats without getting too much into the detail of it. Understand, the goal is to LOOK detailed without BEING detailed. If this painting looks right to you, then I figured it out, so...let me know. :)

A Paumanok Picture
by Walt Whitman

TWO boats with nets lying off the sea-beach, quite still, 
Ten fishermen waiting--they discover a thick school of mossbonkers-- 
they drop the join'd seine-ends in the water, 
The boats separate and row off, each on its rounding course to the
beach, enclosing the mossbonkers, 
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore, 
Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats, others stand ankle-deep
in the water, pois'd on strong legs, 
The boats partly drawn up, the water slapping against them, 
Strew'd on the sand in heaps and windrows, well out from the water, 
the green-back'd spotted mossbonkers.