Monthly Archives: February, 2016

Letters helen-frankenthaler_mountains-and-sea_1962

Examine the work of an accomplished painter in any genre and you’ll likely witness the understanding and employment of flats. By this I mean those unsung, unapologetic saturations of colour without shine or impasto. Flats acknowledge the painting surface as a flat thing and at the same time enhance other features that give the painting its delicious illusion of depth. Good flats are technically difficult to execute — steady swatches of evenness must dodge the textural momentum of brush strokes in acrylic and oil. Most of the time, louder surface energy is the desired effect and it becomes the usual spotlight of the picture plane. But, oh, to be flat.

Letters owen-merton_snow-scene-long-island_1919

Just for today I’m going to try to make a better painting. We’re not talking Sistine Chapel here, just a piece of joy begun and ended between sunup and sundown.

Just for today I’ll be happy with it. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Today I’m making up my mind to be pleased.

Just for today I’m trusting in luck, intuition, chance and happenstance. Today I’m going to fit myself and my work around some of these minor miracles.

Letters enchanted-owl

In the uppermost corner of Canada is the Inuit hamlet of Cape Dorset, nestled on its own tiny island at the southern tip of Baffin Island, on Hudson Bay. In the Inuktitut language it’s called Kinngait, or “high mountain,” where ancestors date to before 1000 BC. Originally a place of isolation — of drifting ice and nomadic hunting — for the last half-century Cape Dorset has been a place for art. With more artists per capita than anywhere else in Canada, drawing, printmaking and carving are the defining economic and identifying activities.

Letters hans-sebald-beham_genius

Questions these days seem to come in multiple editions. I have to tell you that this week artists are thinking about going into reproductions — Giclee prints in particular.

Giclees are multiple edition prints that are made on big sophisticated photocopiers. Over the past year the quality of these products has improved. For those who want to know something about the Giclee phenomenon — permanence, technicalities, costs, etc., we’ve prepared an overview at “Giclee printmaking for artists.” The question artists have to ask themselves is what they are going to do with the prints

Letters etsy_ldawning-scott

In my last years of high school, I made hand-painted cards and t-shirts to sell at the local craft fair. When I got to art school, I found I could support myself by selling t-shirts on my residence floor. Painted one at a time on my bed with supplies I’d brought from home, it was the most unsophisticated moneymaking scheme I could think of to pay for paint. While other students worked at the copy center or the college pub, I sat in my room with my t-shirts and eked out what my dad called, “the gift of poverty.” It was enough to get by and, like original art, impossible to scale.

Letters john-stobart_Waiting-for-the-Tide20x28

When I was at the Los Angeles Art Center my friend Tom Bizzini used to say, “Fine art is a sham.” It was a popular sentiment around that workmanlike, survival-of-the-fittest, quality-counts school. In those days it seemed that there were lots of artists who were “putting in a nickel and trying to get a dollar tune.” Same as today.

Recently, I saw some of John Stobart’s work in a gallery and was reminded once again just how good he is. John is one of the world’s top marine painters — his work sells in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Letters louise-bourgeois_arch

An idea has been floating around creative circles recently that belief in the infinite potential of our dreams might reduce our ability to address limitations. When dreams fail to deliver, feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt surface. Art reaches for truth, and fear is a natural hurdle in the approach. Accomplished art-making is achieved not by magic but by developing the character to understand and challenge fear. Better to roll up our sleeves than to suffer death by a thousand delusions.

Letters Pierre-Auguste-Renoir_Luncheon-of-the-Boating-Party-

Not many hikers are on the Grand Randonnee in the Cevennes this time of year. You’d think in a country the size of France the public footpaths would always be busy. But no one is around, save a few mushroom-gatherers quietly moving in the undergrowth. My hiking companion, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, has just turned 166, but he keeps right up with me. He’s great company and has an opinion on everything.