Yearly Archives: 2015

Letters banksy

Here on Kauai there are a lot of people with “Tommy” written on their clothing. When you think of “branding,” names like Coke, Nike and Marlborough also come to mind. A long way from the world of art. Art has integrity, uniqueness, we like to think. It’s perhaps surprising that people would walk around advertising Tommy Hilfiger — the guy that actually took their money for the duds. Then again, we artists do something similar:

Letters henry-moore_kansas-city

Yesterday, a New York art consultant emailed with a list of questions:

What inspires you to create your work?

How do you relate what you do today to the art of the preceding decades?

Are you very interested in what other artists of your generation are making today? Does that inspire you or do you push forth your own direction despite what goes on anywhere else?

How do you see your work moving forward in the future?

Letters Edouard-manet_In-the-Conservatory

After a one-person show a kind of post-partum psychosis sets in, which generally lasts for a day or so, then, for some reason, there’s a need to go back to work. Looking for the secret at the easel, I remembered: “It’s a matter of thinking one thing while you’re thinking of other things.” A modest understanding, but it’s useful. Often we merely push on — leaving the work to evolve in the hands of the gods — very much as a potter surrenders his clay to the “Kiln God.” Sure, there’s a place for intuition and just letting flow — but there’s also a need to bring in all of the strategy we can muster.

Letters Philippe-Petit

On the morning of August 9, 1974, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit rigged a 450-pound cable between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and for 45 minutes walked, danced, lay down, kneeled and saluted, 1350 feet above an impromptu crowd in the plaza below. Because he believed that all great creative acts are a kind of rebellion, Philippe called his unauthorized walk “the coup.” After being arrested, released and sentenced to perform for children in Central Park, Philippe celebrated his 25th birthday and made New York his home.

Letters robb-dunfield3

Robb Dunfield was an active nineteen year old sportsman, ski instructor, and all round good chap when he had his accident. He and three of his friends plunged from an insecure balcony of an unfinished building. Robb received irreversible injuries — a severed spine.

Robb was confined to a quadriplegic hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. For years he lay there, a ventilator doing his breathing, at times without even his voice, a ward of the state and a source of anguish for his family. One day he told me he wanted to learn to paint.

Letters 080712_robert-genn4

Painting techniques are easily adapted for oil and watercolour, but fast pleasure is found by going for them in acrylic. Speedy drying times and the knowledge that mistakes can be covered up in an instant keep the process uncommitted and playful. Here are five that enliven the act of painting and are generous with surprises:

My second-year painting prof called them “suckerblends,” which I took to mean that they snuck into your heart and made you love them forever, like a sucker. There was a time when many painters believed that a smooth gradation was impossible in fast-drying acrylic.

Letters kristen-dukat11

Yesterday, I received an email: “I began my journey at the University of Toledo in Fine Art. Lacking confidence, I switched to Art Education. I felt I couldn’t take the rejection from galleries and shows and what it takes to be a real artist. I just wanted to paint beautiful things — I wasn’t looking for angst or meaning or whatever it is that the experts say makes art. I actually won a scholarship for ‘student with the most promising portfolio’ but, nevertheless, my work wasn’t accepted into the annual student show. I was defeated. I didn’t pick up a brush for seven years

Letters fiona-rae_hope

Having heard from many of you with juror experience, a theme has emerged around the very basics for artists submitting to a juried show. While one regular juror may hinge all on technical merit and another cruises for signs of imagination, a few fundamentals stand out as universal. They’re so simple they serve as a gentle reminder for anyone at any stage of the submission game:

As well as providing important archival protection, most paintings benefit visually from a coat of final varnish. For acrylics, this means UVLS varnish cut 50/50 with water and brushed on or poured and then wiped off with a lint-free rag

Letters callum-innes_in-studio

I’ve never been fully able to put my finger on what it is — but I’m going to try again. For those of you who might know more about it, I’d really like to hear from you. I hate to admit it, but it’s actually a bit of a mystery. I’m talking about “the groove.”

I got onto the subject again today because I found myself in a bit of a panic. Shows coming up, so many things to do, so many projects to which I had optimistically said yes. I knew in my heart to slow down and take my measured time, to live in the paint

Letters Wood-Bike-and-Trailer-Poletz

Last Monday a museum curator, a watercolourist and I met in a community centre to jury a show for the local arts council. While most were paintings, the entries also included sculptures, pastels, drawings, ceramics, fiber arts, papier mache and works in collage, printmaking, woodworking, metalwork and batik. There was silver and goldsmithing, felting, glass, quilts and mediums called “joining compound” and “scratch art.” And there were photos: digital and film, composites and painted, with prints on metal, plastic, fabric, canvas and watercolour paper. Everything had been made within the last two years — a miracle of productivity. We had but one day to cull eleven hundred entries to a third.

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