Street Art Show

Street Art Show, 7.5 x 13 inches, pencil on watercolor paper

This morning I was digging through my flat files to find an older watercolor I did (Autumn Cemetery)—couldn’t remember if I had sold it or still had it tucked away somewhere.  Anyway, while digging I stumbled over this drawing I had done at a street art show years ago.

just sketching

Some evenings it is good just to sit and sketch or doodle.  I like to just noodle around with a pencil and without trying to plan a new painting.  If we get too locked tight, always producing, producing, producing, it is easy to forget to relax and just play.

Drawing is just plain fun so drawing without a plan is a good way to relax.   It loosens the hand and mind.  Sometimes I find things I want to pursue further, but mostly this is just a way to relax.

reviewing anatomy

While I am not a strict anatomistI am perfectly happy to distort the human form if it fits my painting ideaI do, however, love the study of the human form.  Changing the human form to fit my paintings is important.  Nevertheless, it is very useful to go back and draw some muscles and bones.  I like the review; I like the peaceful study of the body; and it is helpful in my paintings, even those paintings where I freely twist and shape.

I study on my own.  There weren’t really anatomy classes in either of the art colleges I attended, back in the day.

This is just a quick sketch refresher of the front and back muscle groups—just to keep them in mind properly. These are small sketches, roughly 7 x 8 inches.

Art Podcasts with John Dalton

If you are looking for some interesting podcast interviews with artists from around the world you should check out John Dalton’s podcasts called Gently Does It. Kudos to John Dalton for all he does.

His focus in on talented figurative painters.  There are now over 100 interviews mostly with artists and some curators, the likes of Nick Alm, Vincent DesiderioZoey Frank, a discussion with Dr Elaine Melodi Schmidt, the curator of the Venus Visions | Vision of Venus exhibit at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, April 2018.  (I have a piece accepted in this show, btw)

It is interesting to compare techniques, paint mediums, every artist’s individual “art think” and just hear their great stories and senses of humor.

Anyway the podcast is a great listen.

Art, a 5 step program

Art needs a strange alchemy of several factors.   Imagination, skill, content, vision and perhaps, as some today are saying, empathy.  None of these elements by itself is enough to become Art in CAPS.

Imagination won’t suffice alone.  Without skill riding shotgun, even the most imaginative idea runs the risk of poor execution, and perhaps wasting that good idea. A loud imagination with no skill is often a naive tantrum.

Skill is not enough either.  Mastering paint skills, while important, by itself can merely seem like looking for approbation or proving one’s self by some sort of school day gold stars standards.

Content, while important, both small and grand content—quiet stories and dramatic stories—is not enough and may smell weakly sincere or rankly of propaganda.

Vision can sometimes pull a piece up to lofty heights simply because of the unique quality of the life-view the artist instilled in the piece—in spite of weak skills and plodding imagination or execution—but this is rare, not to be counted on and vision often is a wondrous soap bubble that will not last.

Empathy for your subject and, yes, empathy for your viewers is interesting as an element of art.  By empathy, do I mean all art should be kind or gentle, non-confrontational?  No, but it does mean that instead of kicking in your viewers teeth, we as artists should try to give the viewer a hand to enter our work.  Make them not the enemy initially, but give them a key or door into the subject.  Confrontational movies often do this in rough story lines by giving us a neutral normal character we can hang onto.  That character brings us into the rough story, and she may be shocked by the scene the way we are.  That is giving us an empathetic entrance into the scene.  But again, by itself this may mean kindness, consideration and may make us a polite society but does not guarantee Art.

So we need a combination of at least few of these these things.  If a piece has all five elements then it might, just might, be a masterpiece to last a few years or more.

One more thing that is important and I am not sure it is as much a part of execution of a piece as a product of the resulting art—the art needs to be relevant to our today, our NOW.  It can be big art or small but it needs to talk to live people today, engage them with the visual language we have today. If not, it is merely nostalgia for another time.

That visual language is in constant flux.  Today the paint world’s visual language seems to be heading back to appreciation of skills of rendering real things.  I think this is fabulous.  Painting a real looking figure is a wonderful skill. (From the artist’s perspective, developing these skills is intoxicating.  It is just plain fun to be able to scrub some paint around and find you have a real looking arm or leg.)

However, and this is a big however, the most relevant art today is not ignoring the masterful work created during the 20th century.  To negate the discoveries in art of the big and little masters of the 20th century “modern” movement is to blind yourself as an artist.  Maybe you didn’t like the work of the modern art century.  But from an artist’s perspective there were very inventive doors opened that can and indeed, should be influencing us as we paint in this new century.

Yes, Pollock, Rothko and Toby should be getting into our heads and finding their way out our brushes…even if we want to paint a naturalistic figurative scene.  We should not ignore the lessons of Hoffman, Kandinsky, Stella, Hockney, Freud, Warhol…the list goes on…

Picasso and Braque opened a door to what came to be called cubism—a new way of looking at an object and painting it, not by creating illusionistic space but by making a brand new honestly 2 dimensional object on the 2 dimensional flat canvas that quoted the original thing, if you will.  I don’t think that space beyond that cubist door has been fully explored.  The great modern master, Nicolas Uribe, is one who has worked with the idea to create some fabulous things…though in a sense I feel his direction is more an experiment of merging time frames rather that merging understood concepts of a form.  But hey, not a critique, it is cool to see new things.  And Nicolas’ hands are pure, unadulterated wondrous magic.

I’m sure I missed stuff but enough for now…off to paint, seeya

the painting detail above is from my oil, I Fear What You Fear.

Carpet Wall

Just added my new carpet to my studio–to my wall. I have a nine foot square wall built in my studio that I use for painting, as a permanent easel.  I use it for large mural projects, well, small paintings too, and just pinning up reference drawings and the like..  My studio has slanted ceilings and windows on the end walls, not much in the way of regular bare walls, so this ‘easel’ wall is partition built in.

I’ve used the wall for a couple years now, just the plywood, but just added the carpet as a great improvement.  I was listening to one of John Dalton‘s great artist podcasts, this one with Cesar Santos, and he mentioned he had a wall easel as well and he had carpeted his wall to give a bit of cushion to the canvas.  Great idea.  I should have thought of this myself, but, hey, here is a shout out thanks to Cesar for the great tip.

Tested it out yesterday and that really does make the brushes feel so much nicer.

March 10 – Update: The carpet on the wall is fabulous.  Gives a nice cushion for the brushes and makes scraping the canvas so much better.  Highly recommend a carpeted wall for painting large pieces.



Portrait of William Viles

A commissioned portrait of William Viles for the Elsie and William Viles Charitable Foundation.  A companion piece to Portrait of Elsie Viles.

oil on canvas, 2017, 32 x 24 inches

Portrait of Elsie Viles

A commissioned portrait of Elsie Viles for the Elsie and William Viles Charitable Foundation.  A companion piece to Portrait of William Viles.

oil on canvas, 2017, 32 x 24 inches

Venus Exhibit Review

excerpt from article art review in New City:

“In one of the most poignant pieces, New England artist Christopher Cart presents a nude woman turning away from her mirror in confusion and dismay—perhaps she just realized that she is no longer nubile. In another engaging piece, Polish artist Anna Wypych shows us a “Venus/Demon” who appears to be sexually available but also threatening. Don’t most sexual relationships end badly for someone? Chicago artist Kyrin Ealy Hobson shows us a struggling African-American family where the powerful stare of the mother is contrasted with the awkward, shy glance of the daughter. For many women, sexual appeal might be the least of their concerns.”

McKee Family, Summer Porch

family portrait
oil on canvas, 36 x 42

Composition playground

Composition is one of those aspects of paint learning that will never be complete.  You can never sign off and say, “Well, I learned that now on to painting”.  Composition possibilities are endless and fascinating.

An art friend and I were talking composition a bit ago, specifically joking about JPI–jolts per inch.  In truth not a laughing matter.  In many schools of composition the punch of your composition or design takes precidence over everything else in the painting.

Any of your favorite illustrations and movie stills have that NOTAN/JPI punch and drama.  The rest of the story is subordinate to that initial kick in the teeth, mainly with your values.

A design of lights and darks that frame the design and all fits within that.

This is one important school of composition.

One thing I have been experimenting with though is applying the composition concepts of Pollock, and Tobey to my figurative work.  Not designing with NOTAN punch but subordinating image elements to the overall flow of the color and rhythm.

In this portrait I broke up all the architectural rigid forms, the lighting and even the figures.  This same composition could have been a very crunched NOTAN design of crisp dramatic lighting and dark shadows. but i purposely broke everything up with pattern and sun dapples.

Making technique organic to the work

One of my goals lately is to make my technique organic, to the story in the piece, not try to impose one technique or process on the entire composition, but rather to have each bit of the vision speak in its own technical voice.

I mean if I decide to paint a scene in a very realistic sense then I impose that technique evenly over every aspect of the scene, the figures, the lighting, the perspective, the bricks and mortar and the atmosphere–to make it all work as one cohesive illusionistic whole.  This is all well and good.  However, if there is one thing that the 20th century artists taught us is that even if you are a realist, there are myriad ways to tell that real story.  For example, Picasso has some powerful paintings of his children, a mother teaching her child to walk, children on the floor drawing.  These have a visual strength, punch in a simple story that had he painted them in a late nineteen century style the paintings would have been trite, treacle.

So different things call out to be painted differently.  And I have never, in my head, been pinned to one style.  But only recently have I been trying to bring that style choice into the workings of one canvas.  In stead of deciding the overall style language first and building within that frame, now I am trying to lefft style choice be left open and to be planned within the painting process on the brushstroke level.  Each to its own voice.

The serious risk is off course, total and ugly disastrous chaos.  But hey, no risk is boring.  If I didn’t love risk I’d be working a paycheck job.  I may end up with all disasters but maybe somewhere in all the trying will be a small gem that shines.

The Lacasse Boys

Portrait of the the Lacasse boys in Italy. Oil on canvas

Vincent Millay

Portrait of Edna St Vincent Millay, oil on canvas 2017

I painted this portrait for the Millay Poetry Festival in Rockland, Maine in 2017.  This is my vision of what she might have looked like had she not died in her 50’s.

Hallowell Woodstock 2017

this is the poster designed for the 2017 Hallowell Woodstock Revival Festival, with live music and arts and artisan fair.

self portrait

oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches

A paradox? A paradox?

A paradox?
A paradox,
A most ingenious paradox!

We’ve quips and quibbles heard in flocks,
But none to beat this paradox!

A paradox,
a paradox,
A most ingenious paradox.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
This paradox.

Pirates of Penzance
Gilbert and  Sullivan

Creating art is not your everyday affair.  You have to take it seriously or you produce garbage.  But on the other hand if you treat your latest creation as a holy relic you will also produce crappola.  So your work has to have all your attention and be the most important thing in front of you and at the same time you have to be willing jump in and change it all around or even tear it up, casually, if it is going wrong.

You have to (try to) be honest with every brushstroke.  Some look great but are wrong for the painting.  So in spite of the individual beauty of a brushstroke you have to remove it to be honest to the whole.