Thursday, July 31, 2008

My last painting for my class

Last night I completed my final painting in my seven-week summer Still Life Painting class at Fleisher. I started out on a different subject than what I ended up with. Frankly, I was not feeling very engaged when I first got there. I think it had a lot to do with the fact it was my last class (i.e., disappointment) AND we were doing a one-session painting (i.e., anxiety).

I had not done a one-session painting in many, many years so I was nervous how I was going to begin. Now, what artists did as a preliminary sketches to determine value and work out compositional problems are hot items on the Internet. On Google or ebay, all you have to do is type in "postcard paintings" or "painting a day" and you'll get overloaded with results of varying degrees of quality.

So, the final product is unfinished. I plan on returning to it this week to finish it up. The issues I want to tackle are the background and, in the process, refine the shape of the bowl. I think I can also go in and take care of the thickness of the tallest stem. Once I define the foreground and background and add some cast shadows the piece will be stronger (and I'll be happier with it). Overall, it's not horrid or even half bad considering where I am with my skills.

Thoughts anyone?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Art teachers and artist teachers

I've been asked about the "art teacher versus artist teacher" dichotomy on interviews within the past few months. My answer always remains conditional as it relates to me; for others it may be more monolithic. The distinction strikes me as subtle but profound. Obviously, the education of children is paramount. What I discuss below has that as the foundation; however, the outcome may be vastly different.

Let's discuss categories. When I refer to "art teachers," I'm speaking about a specific brand of art teacher, someone focusing on breadth versus depth. Namely, those who believe they should know a little about everything and be master (or, near-master) of no particular discipline. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't prefer one discipline to another. Their focus is on broad exposure, or breadth, so they don't believe it's necessary to take regular classes to refine or update their skills. And, so, they don't. The reasons for their attitude will run the gambit from lack of funds (either personal or district reimbursement) to indifference.

When I speak of "artist teachers," I'm referring those art teachers who teach but believe it is incumbent upon them to push forward in their own artistic development. Or, they already have gallery representation or simply sell their work regularly but privately. In the end, though, their attitude is on personal growth and development. Their own artistic development is part conduit, part bridge to helping their students move forward in the beginnings of their own artistic journey.

Some districts for all grade levels believe that exposure is paramount. Period. Personally, I don't believe art should be the subject where kids are encouraged to dabble. I think it's a poor message to send; at least, a poor one for high school. What other subject is that the norm? As the school years progress, exposure should shift to a more mature expression and approach. I'm sure some would disagree with me. So, personally, if a district is looking for an art teacher whose focus is on breadth versus depth then I may not be the person for them.

If a district is looking for someone who believes it's important to continually practice and grow in his own art, then I'm their man. To me, this is foundational. Mind you, the practice of this will look different for me than someone else because of where I am in my life.

For instance, I have a four year old and a two year old. My art was--for all intents and purposes--put on hold because being a father for me was (and is) paramount. That, of course, isn't where I want to be. I want to be taking classes and working on my art at home. It's just hasn't been possible until now. Thus, my class at Fleisher.

Since I'm coming from the private sector and not specifically from an education background, I was doing non-classroom work. During that time, I do my best to remain creatively engaged but this wasn't in the artistic output I would have chosen for myself. Namely, I was last working in the Internet industry as a creative director and project manager. As such, I worked with clients and provided them with my creative output and guidance. There were other outlets for me creatively as well, but none were on par with the work I so deeply desired to be doing: representational painting.

But, like I said, I've been able to start taking classes; the first was Still Life Painting with David Berger at Fleisher Art Memorial.

I'd like to hear from those who agree or disagree with me on the two categories I've laid out above. What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Water-soluble oil paints

Someone in my class noticed me cleaning out my brushes with water the other week. She had never heard of water-soluble oil paints which is the type of oil paints I use.

When I went to Rutgers University, I had used both regular and alkyd oils. Even while in school I had occasional bouts of outbreaks of small blisters that would itch; almost like a fungus. I tried gloves but that only made my hands more itchy. I thought I'd have to give up painting forever.

It wasn't until much later that I first heard about water-soluble oil paints. What a surprise it was! Here was a medium that I could reintroduce into my life. I found a book on Amazon called Painting with Water-Soluble Oils by Sean Dye. I really enjoyed this book. It had plenty of examples and feedback from other artists. I'd recommend it. You'll have to purchase it from resellers via Amazon since it's no longer carried by Amazon.

I'll provide some additional thoughts in another post.

2nd painting from still life class

After three weeks (9 hours of class time), we got another still life set up. I overworked the pitcher, but overall this painting has a more consistent rendering across the piece than my first painting for this class. I'm not happy with the shadow behind the pitcher either. The lights moved so this shadow wasn't the same as when I first blocked it in. It's not a show-stopper but I notice it more than I'd like to.

Since this summer class only has seven classes, our last painting will be al a prima. That should be interesting! Perhaps it will help me loosen up even more. I seem to run into the issue of being somewhat painterly in some areas and tighter in others. It's something I'm hoping to work on as I try some pieces at home on my own. I may try to do compositions of one or two pieces. We'll see.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

1st painting from my still life class

As I indicated in my previous post, I have been taking Still Life Painting at Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. David Berger is my instructor and it's been highly enjoyable and beneficial to me as well. David is a great instructor; honest, informative, attentive.

This was the first still life we worked on. It was part of a larger grouping each member of the class was responsible for isolating elements for their composition (without moving them, obviously). 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it since this is the first painting I've done in about four years. The background object ends up looking more like a tree and less like a vase, primarily because of the palm tree-like shadow. I should have scaled it down or changed the orientation so you could see the flowers in it. I suppose I also could have made the shadow look like a flower, too.

I also found myself loosening up the more I got into the painting. As such, the bowl is tighter than many of the other components. I'm also not that happy with the lime though it was as dark as that. It dominates a bit too much in my mind. 

But, I'm still happy with it. After all, if you're not willing to make mistakes then you're not going to make improvements.

And so it begins ...

It's been awhile. Shamefully, too many years. I graduated in 1990 with my art degree. I painted for a bit after college. As I got older though, I found that other aspects of my life had overshadowed any artistic goals I harbored. Now, one house, one wife and two kids later I look back and wonder where did all of that time go.t 

So, this is my journey back. I am just about finished taking classes at Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, PA. I happened upon their website and was intrigued by the course offerings and the reasonable prices. 

I'll be posting pics of the two paintings I've done up to this point.

What materials do you use?

I was originally trained with traditional oils. I moved on to alkyd oils because I liked the fact that they dried more quickly but still pro...