Yesterday, Stephen Quiller was passing through and we invited him to come over for lunch. We talked about painting, naturally, but also about dealers, shipping, framing, repairing damaged paintings, and also about current interests — Bouguereau, casein, workshopping. We compared notes. Like all of us who get together with old friends in the same game — there are very few flat spots in the conversation.
Stephen is what I call a “field” artist. These days up in Creede, Colorado, he straps on his cross-country skis as well as his paint box. For the most part I like to stay warm in the studio. Last year in Europe he painted 60 paintings on location in three months. On my recent North African trip I painted six. He doesn’t use a camera but is thinking about it. I took my first reference photo when I was 14 and now I suffer from chronic, compulsive image overload. Stephen tailors the size of the painting to fit his subject matter and how he feels. I obediently comply to standard sizes. Stephen gives six or eight workshops a year. He’s booked until 2008. I’m peeling off one short one next year. He sells the majority of his works from his own gallery in Creede. I offload my product to more than a dozen dealers. One thing for sure though, we both get a kick out of seeing and hearing about others thriving.
And so it goes. But there’s something truly remarkable about these sorts of friendships. It’s perhaps for the same reason that this letter strikes a chord with so many. While we all struggle with similar problems and situations — we are also working them out in our own solitudes. The individuality and specializations that we all perform is the private gift we give to ourselves. It’s been my observation that wise artists are students on their own terms. They become the pilots of their own growth. Art is a lot like love. It’s a private affair. Too much sharing is a dangerous thing. But just knowing that love and individualist-art exists, and that just about everyone, with a little bit of application, can have their own, makes them two of the truly great treasures.
PS: “The common element that I’ve discovered when studying master painters is that they were all students.” (Stephen Quiller)
Esoterica: Stephen is a master of the “demo.” We both believe it’s the best route to professional technique and methodology. While there’s the danger of student cloning, most evolving artists take what they will from demos and fold in their own individualism and personality. Guys like Stephen, who value their time and their solitude, are spread pretty thin. For students with time constraints of their own, video-demos such as the ones that Stephen Quiller makes available, could be the answer.
by Robin Christy Humelbaugh, Salem, Oregon, USA
Thank you so much for sharing the conversation you had with one of my favorite painters whom I only know through his instruction books and articles in The Artists Magazine and others. I would love to be able to attend a workshop with Stephen Quiller, just to soak up some of his philosophy and watch the paint go on. I teach watercolor classes and mixed media workshops in our area and find the interaction between student and teacher to be energizing and keeps me from feeling so isolated. I find new ways of seeing even from beginners. The rewarding feeling that comes from a student suddenly seeing or understanding a new concept is addictive. I feel it is important to go to a certain number of workshops every year to recharge and re-humble myself.
Always more to know
by John Ferrie
As my career has taken some flight and I am finding my voice as an artist, it is difficult to not compare notes with others. I get a great deal back from speaking at round table discussions about marketing and promotion with young and up-and-coming artists. While I do try and stay away from battle stories, it is hard to not tell how you learned the hard way. Being an artist is a dream come true. I am surprised at how many people express their envy of being an artist. I come from a family of business-minded people and was always the black sheep. I went to art school instead of business school, I have waited tables to make ends meet and I have sat and listened to mindless and endless pieces of friendly advice from people who claim to know better. What I love about being an artist is being able to communicate and make something beautiful. This is the true voice of my heart and soul. But I love getting together and exchanging with other artists what their work is about, what paint they use, who stretches their canvas (some still do it themselves), who is showing their work and what they have planned for the future. There is always more to know.
Value of the demo
by Gerti Hilfert, Langenfeld, Germany
By watching other artists working or studying their techniques I could “read” much more and kept it. However, it can be dangerous sometimes to orientate oneself too much to others — maybe those who were/are successful and famous. This line could make too much pressure on us and may proceed only disappointing results for it is not our personal style. I learned quite a lot but found a very good “teacher” in fine new materials. Just starting some experimental works is the right approach to discover more and makes you become free from some of the “rules.” The main thing is the results from experiments showing your own style and you are quite satisfied and ready to show it to someone critical. I often did my works not knowing how they would appear to others in case of hiding them or keeping them in portfolios. Only when showing them and getting some new tips or fine compliments I found much more self-confidence. Each drawing, each painting, each arrangement should be a new experience, a new challenge. We just must learn to discover and see. A new adventure each time!
Heart shines brightly
by Tricia Migdoll, Byron Bay, Australia
Bouguereau obviously had a great appreciation of women — and a love of children also. I read that he had his models bring their toddlers along to the sessions and let them tumble around the studio freely — just so he could study them. As for Cezanne, I can understand your friend’s comments. I felt the same way about Bonnard until I saw an expose of his recently. Then I fell in love with him. Although his work was full of messy lines and wonky proportions — his heart shone brightly. I bet he was the sweetest soul.
What’s wrong with beauty?
by Faith Puelston, Wetter, Germany
Bouguereau is another example of an artist of considerable output und undeniable skill within the context of creating beauty. What’s wrong with beauty for its own sake anyway? Did Bouguereau paint diseased bodies when his children died? The abstract conflicts between God, man and the devil have been executed with profound attention to detail and beauty of execution through the ages, and you can’t get more “soul” than that, though many of these often vast paintings were executed by whole schools, each contributor doing what he did best (I can almost hear the chatter and bustle). I doubt whether the boy grinding the pigments or the tree painter was thinking of his soul. More likely of his dinner!
I believe that whether the viewer “feels” an inner energy in a painting or just likes the colour of the sky or is reminded of something… then the painting has worked for him/her. If the painting leaves a viewer cold, then that’s not the artist’s problem and should not be interpreted as such.
Light-years separate Bouguereau and Cezanne, Beethoven and Elton John, Turner and Rothko, Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn. Or do they? Basically you just have to get on with it the way they all did in their time. There’s room for everyone out there so why should anybody set himself/herself up as judge and jury on such an elusive topic as art preferences.
by Ron Sanders, Fort Wayne, IN, USA
Bouguereau is a favorite of the Academic Realism crowd of today and still a favorite of every serious figurative painter I know. A man of extreme talent, exceptional technical skill, and exuberant joy for life and art, he often planned his works carefully, then dashed the final work out painting wet in wet with a quick drying medium and bristle brushes. Hard to believe when you view his surfaces. Some accused him of using too many badger blenders. To which he responded that he did not own a badger blender! When Manet and Degas were asked whom they thought would be considered the greatest artist of the 19th century a hundred years in the future, they discussed it only briefly before both agreed that it would undoubtedly be Bouguereau!
Classic art copyright
by oliver, TX, USA
In the recent comments about classic art copyright it was mentioned that a defender is needed to protect and enforce a copyright, but even this is not unlimited in duration.
See the copyright for the US. The Berne convention, the leading international treaty on copyright provides for some minimums see www.law.cornell.edu/treaties/berne/7.html but in the case of the USA it is quite a bit longer. France is life plus 70 with some provisions for war etc. (something like an additional 14 years (5 for WWI and 9 for WWII). Bouguereau died in 1905. This means his copyrights would have expired in 1989 and that his works are now in the public domain.
(RG note) Thank you to everyone who sent further material on Bouguereau.
by Robin Ann Walker, Dallas, Texas, USA
Seven artists — four from the US, two from Canada and one Korean recently went to Bulgaria for a two-week artistic collaboration with several Bulgarian painters. It was paid for by a wealthy Bulgarian businessman who has developed an interest in art. He kept a painting (or two) from each of us. I was so impressed by the quality of the art produced by the Bulgarians — even though they used low quality materials. I contacted Golden Paints and Barbara Golden agreed to send a large donation of paints to the group in Bulgaria. I have also been collecting donations from my artist friends, and will use most of it to pay for the freight for the paints. These are wonderful people, trapped by poverty.
by J Bruce Wilcox, Denver, CO, USA
Due to the growth in recognition of my work on a national/international scale, I’ve found myself in an intense period of self-worth reevaluation. In February, Pat Autenrieth, in her Wild By Design Symposium Presentation about the HIVE Project, said that it should be priced at $250.00 sq ft, a current base price for this type of work (Quilting). In May, Carolyn Lee Vehslage informed me that $250.00 sq ft is, on the East Coast, a beginner’s price! And was that ever a festive slap in the face. I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains all my life, and even though my work has always been priced on the high end related to what it was hanging with, I’ve only just become a beginner after 25 years! What a surprise it was to find out just how much I undervalued my own work, and therefore, my belief in myself.
Send in a mystery shopper
To the unnamed artist whose gallery hasn’t sold work in almost two years: this gallery is no friend of yours! If you need proof, get a good friend or a relative to be a “mystery shopper.” This is legal, ethical, and is done every day to find out the truth. Have your “shopper” visit the gallery, look around at the art displayed, ask if they have any other work of the type you have placed with them. Have your shopper make mental notes about how long it takes them to present a piece of your work, what comments they make, what price they quote, etc. When you get your report, it will probably be pretty obvious what you should do with your “stored” art. Maybe you should replace it with new work, put it into a new frame, take it home or find a better gallery.
Jennie Bell, Queensland, Australia
I’m an art student and my fellow student and good friend Karyen sends me some of your letters. This one excited me as I am a fan from afar of Stephen Quiller and have quoted him in the workshops that I give. I also was inspired to hear of your sharing friendship with Stephen as Karyen and I have the same supportive and sharing friendship. We support each other through our Fine Art studies at university.
painting by Paul Newton, Australia
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2003.
That includes Barbara Jeffery Clay who wrote, “We never have met but the art is the golden thread of what we feel.”