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12/1/11

Here's to an interesting month of beginnings and endings!

While the experience has been varied throughout the year, I've enjoyed being "public" again in an art gallery situation, namely Artsplash Gallery in Carmel. The chance to see friends come in and look at work, see total strangers' reactions to my pieces and the time to get away from the home office and spend time in a new location has given me some good insights and open my mind to new possibilities. Unfortunately, as in most galleries throughout the world, sales have been… well, not so great. And since I'm wanting to focus on my graphic design business more I'm taking a step back from fine art temporarily to help gain some momentum in my graphic design business.

Please note: I did NOT say that I'm quitting fine art! I would never do that, fine art is my first love and will always be. It's the stuff that gets me through the rest of what I have to deal with. In fact, I'm working on a few pieces currently. However, simply from a business standpoint, it's not helping my bottom line to be in a fee-based gallery situation where I'm not breaking even. Artsplash is still going to carry my ceramic houses and two of them are available at a 2-day shop run by Connie Zeigler called Derwyn Smedley in the 600 block of Virginia Avenue on Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd. So, as you can see, my hand is definitely still in this game, even if it's a much smaller card count.

As to new beginnings, I've partnered with Rian Logan, who will be the new it'sALLart Graphic Design Sales Associate. We're currently working on some great schemes, so stay tuned as we gear up for 2012!

Hoping all reading this have a great Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

11/1/11

Job Descriptions

When people ask me what I do for a living, I say I'm an artist. The list of reactions runs the gamut, but the first question that usually gets asked is "What kind of art?" and then that can sometimes lead to interesting conversations about how diverse the art world is and what my place is in it.

How does one slice up the fine art world? For me, the visual art world is divided into three basic groups.

The first is the smallest and also the top tier, the Jeffery Koons, Kara Walkers and Damien Hursts of the world. They're approached by museums and are in many. Their works sell for huge prices, they've got a big chunk of spotlight and they're going to stay in that spotlight as long as possible. Who can blame them? They get national and even worldwide coverage. They have publicists, booking agents and PR people. They've made it.

The 2nd tier is the rest of us, the artists who create pieces, hang them in galleries or in whatever venue they can find and hope to sell something and perhaps garner some notoriety. These range from the known artists who have a following to the emerging artists who create amazing, impeccable works which sell for thousands to the lesser-known artists who hang in an assortment of art galleries. This group also includes completely unknown artists whose works you can find in coffee shops, ebay, Etsy and the like. Of course, the quality of all of these artists range from amazing to horrible. And where the art fits into this hierarchy is not necessarily dependent on the quality! That said, all have their place and their market. I would wager that a large part of this group wishes they were like group 1, but - for the most part - are realistic enough to realize that they're probably going to be in this group for life. Most of their PR is done by their galleries or themselves. They most likely do not have booking agents or PR people. Many of them have a "real job" and the art thing is a side business. It's not a bad place to be, few in this group will get rich, but they might make a decent living and sell a lot of art if they're lucky. They might even leave a name behind when they're gone, if they're even luckier.

In group 3 there are the hobby artists, those who simply paint for themselves and give the results away as gifts, keep them or paint over them and try again. This is the group that used to be known as Sunday Painters, not really caring about the reaction or the results as much as painting for painting's sake. There are also a legion of sewers and crafters in this group. Some of these artists cross over into the 2nd group from time to time, but mostly they're unknown and like it that way. This is a pretty large group, easily as large as the 2nd group if not larger.

Where do I fit in? As far as fine art is concerned, I'm easily in the 2nd group and in the middle of that group. I'm not famous, but I'm not completely unknown in the region. I'm not rich, but I'm not struggling and I sell my work, even in this economy. I get lots of hits on this site and from the site data I review, it seems people tend to stick around and browse my pieces.

Most likely, I'm a hybrid. While I hang in the venue of group 2, I like the attitude of group 3. Just create, it doesn't matter what happens after that. I remain in group 2 but don't worry about "have I emerged yet?" part. That's a moving target, anyway. I just create quality art and when good things happen, it's icing on the cake. There's always something new and exciting around the next corner. I'm not trapped by any "style consistency" legacies so I can create what I want. I may not get rich, but I will definitely be happy with my work. The most famous artist living in Indiana probably isn't known at all in New York, so what's the point of worrying about that part?

It's not hard to imagine in this economy (and my location being in the midwest) that the bulk of my living is not made from sales of fine art. Not many artists are doing well right now unless you are in the extreme top tier of fine artists, you know, the famous ones that are sold at Sotheby's and other famous auction houses. I make a good living from graphic design and feel lucky to do so. I can't imagine trying to figure out how to make it with fine art alone especially in these trying times. I'm just glad I'm lucky enough to be involved with a job that utilizes my talents and my creativity.

And that's what I tell those who ask. I'm a fine artist and a graphic designer and one is incredibly fun and exciting and one pays the bills. They can decide which is which!

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Some Upcoming Show News:

Some of my ceramic houses will be on display at a little one-weekend shop in Fountain Square that a friend is opening in November. Details to follow. And my sculpture, Non-flying Flying Machine, was accepted in to Gallery 924's Wood Show for November.

10/30 TRICK OR TREAT?

I've upgraded my computer to an iMac with all new software. It's wonderful, amazing, frustrating and maddening. Anyone who isn't running a business on a computer and simply has one for entertainment, surfing the web and buying stuff on Amazon, it's not that big of deal to upgrade. But to take a long-term business whose employee (me) is used to doing things a certain way with all the software packages for over 10 years... well, I've had better weeks.

Granted, software companies have to survive. So they need to upgrade and improve what they make and add features, bells, whistles and other stuff as time goes on to justify the price of upgrades to their clients. What I don't get is why they change decades-old features, move the buttons, change the key commands and in some cases, completely revamp the entire way the software looks and works...? It's almost as if they're saying "Hey, old guys, too bad. This is software for 20-somethings and you're going to die soon anyway, so who cares what you think?"

Meanwhile, I lose a week of downtime while I'm learning re-learning how to use all the packages I've used since they came out.


10/15

For those who read this blog, please forgive me for not being as timely with my entries as other bloggers. I am now trying to limit it to twice a month and promise to update it with new posts on the 1st and the 15th from now on.

Mysterious Google Driving

When I get the chance, I sometimes take a virtual drive via Googlemaps. I visit my old stomping grounds, my grandmothers town, perhaps a drive in the country or even in another country. I've also been known to do flyovers if the road isn't that magical blue that Google uses to indicate that the road is drivable when you take the little man icon and hover over it.

In case you are not up on this stuff, Google hires people to drive around on all the roads that are passable with a 360 degree camera mounted on their car. This camera records images quickly and the result, once uploaded, lets you travel the road and see what the camera saw. Winter, summer, spring... it's all there, depending on what month the car went down whatever roads the driver was assigned. You can pan and zoom the view and there's been a lot of controversy over the pictures they gather. It can get interesting sometimes!

Recently, a local acquaintance has been emailing me pictures and maps of his Italian vacation. The maps are nice and the pictures are stunning, all the more so because I want desperately to go to Italy someday. So, with that in mind, I've been doing some virtual driving in Italy.

At one point, I started a flyover of parts of the Tuscany area with the intentions of "driving". But before I got that far, I noticed an odd little area with what looked like paths or mazes covering a hillside. Small buildings, each the same size, dotted this hill along the paths. What was this? I looked on the map to see what the nearest village was to do some investigating and ran straight into a mystery. (drag the map to the left and down to see the flyover view.)

The village, Poggio Santa Cicilia (literally Hill of Saint Cecilia) is a ghost village complete with a church, several buildings, shops and houses, totally abandoned and silent. Wow, my kind of village to visit and explore! Research revealed that there's something odd about the dirt there and when it rains, the soil hisses and bubbles with a sulphuric smell. Seriously. And supposedly, nobody knows for sure why the village is no longer inhabited. It is rumored that, at one point, Michael Jackson was going to buy it. Of course!

Nearby to the north east is the odd encampment with the odd roads. (You'll have to zoom in for this view.) A little further east is an amazingly beautiful estate named Calcione which features guest houses, a castle, villas and more. This estate looks fantastic and could be a place I might like to stay. OK, let's be honest, I probably can't afford it, but it's the internet, so I wrote them and asked about that nearby encampment and wanted to know what that was.

A very kind woman wrote back and let me know that the area to her west is called La Polveriera (italian for powder magazine) and is some kind of military base. According to her it's surrounded by mystery and has been for decades. This blog says a bit more about it, but sadly I can't read italian. There's some images much like mine that show close-ups and more. Of course, it's a No Tresspassing Zone, and you can't get very close. Intriguing, no?

Naturally I have some questions. Why is the town abandoned? Does it have anything to do with the military base? Why does the soil get so funky in the rain? Could some kind of weapon have been tested there that made things bad? And what is that little square lake to the east of Poggio all about, a containment pond? Did aliens land there and just mess up the place?

Well, I'll have to always wonder. Doubt I'll be going to Tuscany in the near future but at least I can still drive around and enjoy the sights from thousands of miles away.

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According to recent polls, Americans spend more money on Halloween than they do Christmas. Hmm. Happy Halloween, I guess.

10/1

ARTIST EVOLVES

After a show comes down, there's always a sense of melancholy for an artist. The big build-up, the actual showing, the people, the excitement... then quiet. A dull kind of nothingness... a time for contemplation and questions. Did I do my best? What could I have done differently? Should I have done more or should I have edited more? Hard to say. It's easy to get drug down by these kinds of thoughts, but I'd rather focus on the future and figure out my next move yet keep in mind how things went.

In this economy and because of it, I tried to have a spread of works and many economical choices were made and offered. As expected, the number of people actually interested in purchasing was fairly small. Even the International Art Festival on the street (which sadly was rained out the 2nd day) saw very little action and many artists I spoke to said they were not doing well and would not return.

No question, it's difficult being an artist in a time like this. What we offer is low on the scale of priorities for middle class people and those lucky enough to be wealthy seem to be holding on to their expendable income even tighter. Still, there's a sense of "What good is it to have a festival or show if nobody is going to show up to see it?" and you can't blame artists for peering out of their tents in the rain with a somewhat bitter look.

There's no way of predicting the future, but regardless of not knowing, we artists must do what keeps us spiritually alive: create. If that means changing the quantity of output or re-purposing pieces we already have, so be it. We're adaptable, we can evolve!

I plan on using my vacation time to figure out my next evolutionary step. And really, that's what makes being an artist so exciting, this "not knowing". I use it quite often as a part of my creative process, so why not use it in life?

9/20

Art vs. "art"

I'm in the middle of reading critic David Sylvester's critical essay compendium About Modern Art. There are some pretty great insights in this book and - though some of the material is a bit dated - it makes for great reading and has my mind somewhat buzzing on what the word art actually means.

Yes, I realize it's an age-old question (what is art?) and has been argued, dredged, reconstituted, bandied, tossed and otherwise blenderized countless times. Google has over 1 million responses if you want to drive yourself crazy. Still, it's an important question that every artist should ask themselves, if for no other reason than to help define it for ourselves and help us chart our own course.

With that in mind, the rest of this text is my opinion, so reader beware. If you want to debate it, that's fine, you can email me. My blog doesn't allow for reader responses, however, so our debates will not be public.

I did some mental comparisons between art types after reading chapter 6, "The Art of Coke Culture". In my head it was Warhol vs. Inness. Don't get me wrong, I like both and feel both have a place. There was no clear winner.

But what Warhol did (while he was painting) was somewhat a trick, somewhat slight-of-hand. He takes a banal object (soup can), co-opts it, hangs it in a frame, talks a gallery into hanging it and there you have it. Art. On a social level, maybe it's art. On a collector level, sure, it's worth a lot, so it's art because a famous collector purchased it from a well-known gallery. On a talent level, OK, I guess it takes some clever ability to take the everyday, make it iconic and then push it higher through the use of galleries and collectors, so that's an art in itself.

What about skill? Simply put, Warhol's skills were college-level at best. He doesn't attempt to be perfect, clean or neat, that's not what his work is about. It's copying, after all, we know what the object is, it doesn't have to be photographic to get that across. However, to those of us who have gone through the practice of drafting, drawing and getting things just so, it looks OK at best. So, skill-wise, Warhol is adequate. And that's all he needs to be for his kind of imagery. After all, it's about the concept more than the execution.

More importantly, what about staying power? Strip away his name and fame, strip away his incredible timing, his connections, the collectors who helped propel him upward. Look only at the art. It's a can of soup. It's rendered flat and cold. How often would a viewer look at it and what would it say stripped of all the above? Hi, I'm a soup can. After repeated viewings, that's pretty much all it's going to say, again and again. Hi, I'm a soup can. What does it evoke? It could evoke memories of lunchtimes long ago, endearing mothers serving children, I suppose. It could evoke memories of bad lunches, too, hurredly fixed on a low budget. But past those few, not a lot of deep emotions happen. At least for me.

Now, let's look at Inness. All the Swedenborgian thought processes aside, his latter landscapes are timeless and fantastic. More than just hills and trees and the occasional person, these images are moody, evocative. They conjur up memories and invite you in to dwell in those misty places of crisp dawns and cool evenings.

Unquestionably, it's art in the highest sense, framed, unframed, hanging in a gallery or in a bus station. On a social level, it works for almost anyone viewing it. You don't have to have an education to understand it. We all know what it is and each of us can derive a meaning from it. Without a doubt, Inness had talent, you'd have to be an idiot to say otherwise. And his skills have never been in question, they're obvious to anyone with eyesight.

Then we come to the question of staying power. Inness' landscapes have awed nearly everyone who sees them, in the late 1800s as well as today and they're highly coveted artworks. If I were lucky enough to own one, no doubt the piece would speak to me every time I saw it. The few times I've seen them in person, his works mesmerized me and I found myself going back again and again, not wanting to leave.

Would they say something to me every day? I'll probably never know, but I do know they'd get noticed and I'd wonder about the places depicted, who went there, how I'd feel if I could wander inside of them, what places I've been that looked similar or times I've seen that kind light and where I was when I saw it. Childhood memories of similar situations, trips or vacations I've been on, the chapters of my life during those times - all come into my head at one time or another when I view one of Inness' masterpieces. I'd wager that even more could be added to this list were I to be lucky enough to own and view an Inness daily.

Art, for me, truly gets down to staying power. After the "new" wears off, what's left? How long will I enjoy what I'm looking at and why? I've created and purchased pieces that still have the power to entertain and fascinate me even though they were created more than a decade ago. And there are some that I look back on and wonder what the hell I was thinking or trying to do. Some I look at and think "This is pretty special, I need to hang this up again." Why? Because those say something deeper to me to this day. Other works have been given away or put in storage because once the new wore off they said almost nothing or I had buyer's remorse. They were pretty or provacative, but that was all they were. It was skin deep.

Warhol's soup can works are no doubt on display in the homes or museums which harbor them. They're value dictates they should be shown, after all, they're Warhols! It's probably hard to keep from doing so for any reason, given their worth. But I wonder, if stripped of their name, their worth, their history, especially now that the "new" is no longer new... would they still be on display?

It's something to ponder. And it's something that will hopefully help shape what I create going forward.

9/12

I'd like to thank all of those who came to the gallery over the last two weeks to see the House Works exhibition, I really appreciate your checking it out. And for those who would still like to see it, you have a couple weeks left to do so as a cohesive collection. Even though I'll be scaling down the number of works for October, some items will be on view after September ends and will rotate in to the regular gallery art on a monthly basis.

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Gallery events are sometimes fraught with peculiar moments. And the world is full of all kinds of people, so I'm used to getting all kinds of comments about my work during gallery openings, especially since my eclectic style is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea. As strange as it seems, a few individuals feel artists should fit the work into their vision, not our own.

One particular middle-aged woman came up to me during the gallery walk on Saturday and seemed especially enthusiastic about her own interpretation of what should be done with my ceramic house sculptures. A little wide-eyed and somewhat frantic-looking, she approached me with a forced smile.

"Uh oh," I thought as I looked up at the full moon. She started out by being very complementary and saying that the pieces were very nice and I was a very creative artist. "Ok, good so far," I figured.

But things quickly took an odd turn. "I like these, but really, what can I do with them?" she asked. "Well," I started, "they're sculptures, you display them as you would any piece of three-dimensional art..." "No, I mean, you aren't displaying these the right way to show people how they could work, like a collection." At this point, the veins started sticking out on her forehead a bit and the smile was a little more forced. "Well, they're meant to be viewed singly, each one is unique, a one-up sculpture. I didn't mean them to be viewed as a group, necessarily." "No, you should display these with a nice snow scene, set them up in a village sort of scene with snow and trees."

Oh boy, I could see where this was going. A few friends had already jokingly compared the house sculptures to an infamous painter/merchandiser who will remain nameless. He manufactures a lot of plastic Christmas village stuff. I'm sure you know who I mean.

I tried to defend the work a bit by saying "Well, really, that's not what I'm intending for this series, they are more about architecture and the issue of housing, homes, loss of homes, that kind of thing..." I wasn't allowed to continue.

Now she was visibly irritated. With a rather sardonic look, she again asked, "Well, where would I put them?" Her husband tried to intervene and suggested that she could just set them on a shelf and admire them or perhaps put one on their mantle. She rolled her eyes at him and wasn't buying it so I tried again.

"See, these really aren't meant as holiday decor or that kind of thing, they're not mass produced, each one is..." I didn't get any further. "No, no, no, these are supposed to be in a village scene. Look, I know you are the artist and you made these and did a good job, but people really aren't going to buy them like this!" She stood back with her arms crossed and looked me up and down. "Well, I don't know about that," I calmly continued, "Four have already sold and I think I may get a commission to do one for someone who just built a house, too. Look, if you buy it, you can do whatever you want with it. Buy a few and build your own snow scene in your house or something..." I have to admit, I was getting a little exasperated by this point.

Totally angry, she gave up and began to walk out. Her husband wanted her to look at something and she just waved him away and went out the door and on down the street. He looked at me, apologetically. "I'm sorry," he said, "she's probably just hungry and needs to eat."

Or possibly take some medication, I thought.

In the face of this kind of exchange, the only thing I can do is remain cheerful and try my best to keep the conversation about the art and help educate and inform. And while I was glad she left, I really wasn't that upset. I'd already had a lot of great comments and compliments that night so I knew that most folks "got it". Seriously, did she think our gallery should change our whole approach and set up a Christmas village with fake snow and have lights and all kinds of cutesy figurines standing about? It was sort of an insult, even if she didn't intend it to be.

But it really made me think for a while about how artists have such a hard job. We have a lot of masters to please. Even if our own vision somewhat matches the needs and loves of a typical buyer, there are more hurdles to get over before the commerce part of being an artist can even begin. Mood, color, size, price and more. All of these dictate whether or not the buyer is going to start reaching for their wallet. It really has to be "love at first sight".

You can't talk someone into loving a piece of art. The reaction needs to be immediate. I normally love what I'm creating when I'm creating it but that's because the process is so exciting. I may not feel as strongly about the piece later, but that's only because the process is over, the drug of creation has worn off. And I'm fairly prolific so I don't have time to sit around and love-fest everything I make!

Once the piece leaves an artist's hands and is for sale in a gallery, the whole situation is completely different. And it's fraught with expectations on both sides. Strangers who don't know a thing about me are looking at the work and they're seeing it cold. Eveything hinges on their first reaction. If, like the lady above, they immediately don't get it, they may try to fit the work into a pre-conceived scheme in their mind. And it simply may not fit.

Personally, I think that's a very wrong approach when looking at fine art, but that's mostly what happens. "Will it go with my stuff?" "Will it make me happy?" "Will people think I'm weird or cool for buying this?" And the list goes on.

Artists have a lot of high hopes. We're hoping you, the buying public, will love the work. And we realize some will and many won't. That's OK, that's expected with fine art. But we're also hoping people will understand the work. We realize that many won't. And that, too, is OK. I'll settle for at least a compliment and a recognition of talent, if nothing else.

But what really isn't OK is to corner the artist and try to convince them that they simply must make the already-finished work fit some totally un-related holiday vision. Sorry, lady, that's not fine art, that's commercial product marketing. Next time go to a Hallmark store, you'll be much happier.

Cheers!

9/1

Looking forward to the opening! Everything is hung and placed and ready to be seen at ArtSplash Gallery. It's been a fairly easy show to deal with once the hurdles of firing and painting the ceramic sculptures were over with. The show looks good and cohesive and I'm anxious to see what people think of the new work. I'll be loading up some shots of the show soon!

There will be lots of traffic into the gallery in September, there's 3 seperate events happening in the district that month, most notably the International Arts Festival which usually gets about 15,000 visitors (if not more) to the streets over two days. It will be fun hanging out at the gallery during those days and talking with people.

I'm already working on the next body of pieces, I have some ideas in mind but don't want to blather on about them just yet! Perhaps by October or so...

8/16

Everything is ready for the show in September. The paintings are all wired, painted, signed and framed. The ceramic works are all painted, felt-padded, priced and ready. The it'sALLart PR machine has contacted every possible media outlet. The invitations are in the mail. I'm exhausted and I still have to go and put up flyers as many places as I can!

Don't ever let anyone say all artists are lazy.

8/1

Hot enough for everyone?

This heat has really crimped my style. The plan was I would work on my clients' graphic design projects in the morning and spend the afternoon refining ceramics in the studio. However, having learned that clay dust is a very bad thing, I decided to start refining them out back on my deck.

But then the heat set in.

So, I switched the schedule, doing the ceramics in the morning and the graphic design in the afternoon. And then it just got even hotter. So, I do as much as I can before I totally melt into a sweat ball and then scamper back inside to get some relief. Which means about 2 houses get refined each morning. They should all be ready for the kiln by August 1st and I'll be ready to serve on a platter by then. Stick a fork in me, I'm done!

These houses fascinate me, I can't help myself. I not only enjoy making them, but also researching each style and making them look as authentic for this style as I can. I'm keeping things simple, but adding a little architectural detail where I can. A brick fireplace, a slate roof, siding or stone. I don't want them to become "miniatures" (every single detail accurate and to-scale) but I do want to throw in something that helps give them some scale and visual interest. I will probably continue to make these even after the show is over, I really like creating them that much. And since Amaco's Brickyard Pottery is so close, I have a handy supplier and kiln!

Class Distinctions

In Joni Mitchell's song, "Borderline", the following lyrics seem timely:

Every notion we subscribe to
Is just a borderline
Good or bad, we think we know
As if thinking makes things so!
All convictions grow
Along a borderline...


When reading Werner Haftmann's "Painting in the 20th Century" recently, I came across his notion that Rousseau was not really an artist in Haftmann's strict definition of the term, but rather a "Sunday Painter" because he was employed as something else and was outside of any group or school of artists. He applies quotes around the word "artist" when referring to ol' Henri. Yes, Rousseau kept to himself, was naive and painted from his imagination rather than using reality as his yardstick. Arguably, these things made his art great. While Haftmann agrees that Rousseau was great, he also asserts he was an "artist" who was only made popular thanks to the avant garde personalities of the day, other rising Artists whose daring pushed the envelope of impressionism, cubism, et al and whose discovery of Rousseau's primitive forms excited them because it helped reinforce and advance their agenda.

Rousseau is, without doubt, a great artist whose works hang in galleries, private collections and are worth millions.

Yet, writing even as late as 1965, Haftmann clings to his notion that some painters are Artists but others are "artists". The notion that painters who paint in isolation and are not degreed or belonging to any "school" are not really Artists. The need to hold on to some kind of deliniation or categorization puzzles me. And stemming from my own lack of what has over time become known as "formal education" and/or a degree which would give me an acronym to tout, I tend to bristle a bit at the above notion.

Why?

While some un-formally-educated artists get access to the "club", others get the snub. Picasso is considered an Artist in every sense of the word and is a prime example of this dichotomy.

After just a few short weeks of the art academy, he quit because he disliked formal instruction. And that's where his formal education stopped. Yes, he hung out with a host of major art names of the period - about half of which were not formally educated themselves. And, yes, he started a few major movements in art, most notably Cubism. Some early magazine publishing and mostly luck played a huge part in his rising. Were it not for Gertrude Stein (and the collectors she introduced his work to) he may have never gained ground. And being in the right place at the right time made all the difference. Paris was the boiling pot for all things art and in the early 20th century it was easy to stick your neck out and be noticed if you could wangle your way into a prominent gallery or be bold enough to start a movement.

Now, this is not to say Picasso didn't deserve his fame and he was obviously a great talent. But is this unschooled painter any more deserving of the title Artist than Rousseau? Are those who are degreed in art (yet no longer paint) any more deserving than those who have painted all of their lives and continue to do so?

Personally, I have painted professionally as a commercial illustrator on and off for over 30 years. And I've been paid many times for commission works over the same period. I've hung at the IMA several times, been represented by a large number of galleries, had solo shows and have sold works to corporations and private individuals. But other than a few classes in oil techniques in the 80s (by a very poor teacher) and one or two airbrush classes during the same period, my formal art education is nearly non-existent. I have no degree. I have not belonged to any groups and have not created any art movements.

But people like to categorize and pidgeonhole, they like to make class distinctions. This person belongs here and that one belongs there. Degrees are blessed and outsiders are eschewed - no matter what is on the canvas in either case. But there are some amazing artists out there whose pieces easily outshine works selling for millions at auction houses. Take a look at BlueCanvas and you'll see some astoundingly beautiful works by highly talented artists, many of whom are self-taught. Many are struggling for recognition but continue to sell their work, in spite of the economy.

Occasionally, I run into a buyer who looks askance at my lack of formal education. Oddly, one of the first questions they ask - rather than what is behind my work - is "Where did you go to school?". I find this to be a rather naive way of approaching art and while it bothered me when I was in my 30s, I now see it as an ironic sign that the person asking feels that class distinction is somehow more important than talent.

And it makes me smile. It means I'm in the same class as Rousseau!

7/4

Sorry for the lateness of this entry! Holiday weekends will do that to a blog. I'm now working in ceramics. So strange, all that I learned in high school ceramics class is coming back to me as if I were there last week. Three houses and counting so far, will upload pics as soon as I can. All of these are slab-built, so basically making slabs all day and setting them up to dry a bit before cutting out pieces and putting them together into house shapes. I can tell already that these pieces are really going to be something very special. I finished up many paintings for the show at ArtSplash Gallery and have a few on ceramic tiles and two prints as well as many other pieces. There's one on the studio wall now that is in progress which harkens back to the bird show of 2009 as there are two birds in it who live in the house depicted. I think I could easily make two whole shows out of house-related art, I really like it that much. So, even after the show deadline, I plan on doing some hyper-realist pieces featuring houses I have taken photos of in my travels. I'll have all winter to work on those and not have the pressure of a deadline looming!

6/15

Currently, for the fall solo show, I'm working on a painting that features an adobe house, some manzanita and mesquite trees and... a burro on the roof. While that may seem odd, the odder part is that it's the only place in the painting that it looks somehow "right" to me. I emailed the JPG to a friend in San Diego and he thought it looked good too. That was yesterday.

Later a night, I laid in bed and thought about Googling the phrase "Burro on the roof" and did so this morning. I got back only 3 results.

But the whole game changes when you Google "donkey on the roof". Apparently, as odd as it seems, this concept has taken root in many places and in many countries. There are seven pages and over 162,000 results. From what I saw, there are 2 fables which include a donkey on the roof, a burger joint in Detroit that has a donkey on the roof and several blogs, websites and other informational stories, photos, other artworks that show donkeys on roofs. (And while we're at it, why isn't it rooves? Consider hoof and hooves. I know, there's probably some old poem that answers this question.)

So, my concept is not so new or that outlandish after all. I somehow tapped into a universal concsiousness that embraces, nay, celebrates quadrapeds on rooftops. Art moves in mysterious ways. That burro is definitely going to be shown on the roof now. What choice do I have?

6/10

When I was 18, I had a choice to make: Art or Music? I could either audition (and probably get in with a connection) for a world-traveling singing group or I could take an art job that I had already interviewed for. Obviously, I chose art. While it makes no sense to sit and wonder "what if", I still get the music bug now and again and have even been in a few bands since (with varied success). Having a little bit of money saved up, I now have another "art or music" choice. There's a really sweet keyboard that I've had my eye on for almost a year but I also need a new computer terribly (currently running on an ancient Mac PowerPC with system 10.4) and even though I've upgraded my Mac to the nth degree, any software upgrade at this point would mean New Computer. So, I'm at the wall. I don't want a new computer, I need one. I don't need a keyboard, I want one. Will wants become needs? Will needs be met? Time will tell. I'm going to wait until after my show in September to decide.

Speaking of music, I had the pleasure of meeting a very talented young man the other night at ArtSplash. He wondered in with a backpack, looking less like an art buyer and more like a college kid. (Goes to show you ANYONE can be an art buyer!) He seemed to like a piece of mine (Suitors) and was talking to me about the piece and his band and casually mentioned that he was playing at the Palladium as the guitarist for Glen Campbell! Serioiusly? Yes! He offerred me a free ticket but I had obligations and (dang it!) had to turn him down. He even bought some small pieces by one of the gallery artists. You just never know who may stumble into the gallery. Here's his band's site: www.InstantPeopleMusic.com Give them a listen, you won't be disappointed.

6/1

OMG

Three weeks of vacation is nearing an end. It's a melancholy time here, glad to have had some time off, but I'm also itching to get back to creating. This is one of the first vacations I've taken in a long time where I decided to NOT paint no matter what. No studio stuff, no plein air, nothing, zip, zilch, nadda. And I can tell it's really helped, sort of like holding back water in a dam and then releasing it all at once. Tantric creative release, perhaps. At least I hope so.

Anyone seen enough rain? We're finally entering a period of hot sun and I am truly glad. With all that rain, the ground itself was getting fecund and the musty smell in certain areas of the house and yard was starting to worry me a bit. Now we can finally dry out and get back to normal late spring heat. Even the birds were beginning to look soggy. Speaking of birds, a robin has built her nest for the fourth time in a hemlock bush in my strawberry garden. I had taken 3 other half-built nests out in the hopes that she'd get the hint and decide it wasn't the neighborhood for her kids. But no, she stubbornly built it again while I was gone a few days and now that there's eggs in it, I don't have the heart to remove it. Guess I'll have to put up with her yelling at me while picking berries, but my fear is that her babies will get tangled in the bird netting (which I'll have to employ lest we have no berries) the first time they try to fledge!

Took a trip to Fort Wayne and visited the (tiny) art museum there. One of the main galleries was closed (a point they made AFTER we paid our five dollars) so the entire visit lasted about 20 minutes or less. There was a room of etchings which (gasp) had zero protection on them and it seemed like an accident waiting to happen. "I love this particular... ahh... ahhh... ATCHOO! Ooops, sorry, I ruined your Dürer."

Tried to find more galleries for repping, one called "Art Link" was an interesting stop and I may enter some pieces in their juried shows in the future. Castle Gallery was on my list, but was running out of time/realizing that the chances of them carrying my work are zero, I declined to visit. Mostly a decor gallery with very traditional work, not many of the artists there are pushing the envelope, save for Michael Poorman and what they've chosen to show of his online is nice but rather tame.

The most interesting aspect of that city was the clean factor. It was totally unreal. Hardly a speck of trash and zero street people that we could see. Literally, instead of pigeons, they have doves. Easily the cleanest city I've ever been to.

Cartoons as Art

Please know that I understand completely the long tradition of cartoons-as-fine-art which dates back to the 60s via Rauschenburg and others. But lately it seems like there is a entirely over-the-top spate of this art form coming out of art schools and universities and which is bubbling over into galleries, museums, magazines, art blogs and the like. (Don't even get me started on animé which has launched an entire industry that has nearly pushed standard art books to the periphery in all bookstores.)

When you're in your teens and twenties, fine. Perhaps it helps build drawing skills and keeps the projects "fun". But at some point, it becomes rote and the message gets diluted and humorized because the messenger is, well, a cartoon! As an artist, this offends me a bit (is that the point?) and I have a lot of trouble taking anything that gets close to this art form seriously. With a few books, a stack of paper and some sharpies, after a while, ANYONE can do this. And while I am glad to see scores of young people getting into art, I don't think this is a good direction to be heading. What happened to applied drawing? What happened to the figure? What happened to reality?

As well, it's an easy out or a total cop-out. It allows someone to forego seeing and drawing what they see (or what we would all agree is reality) and instead they can take a fall-back position and simply doodle. Even the loosest abstract expressionists have a basic foundation of traditional painting and drawing which informs their work. What will inform these young artists' work? Dora the Explorer?

Perhaps I'm just not ready for a cartoon world. I wasn't as a child, either. I hated the silly paintings of kitschy big-eyed puppies and kittens hanging on the walls of my childhood friends, they scared me a bit. And Saturday morning cartoons failed to entertain me much, other than the ones that seemed more carefully drawn, Johnny Quest, for instance. There were some other things I remember from PBS which seemed to be more creative and less gaff-filled, laughs for the sake of laughs.

Or perhaps I just don't like big eyes.

Cheers!

5/4

Wow, that was fast. The whole month of April zoomed by. Things are crazy-busy here at it'sALLart. I cannot remember a time when I've had so much work in the studio and in the graphic design department! Glad vacation is coming soon.

The commission I'm doing for Dale Hughes Interior Design is coming along nicely and now that I'm done sculpting the surface and into actually painting, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It's going to get warm enough to dig out the clay and see what shape it's in, so after these next few paintings are finished, it will be dirty hands for a while and seeing if I remember all the clay techniques I learned in the 70s. Can't wait.

Hopefully, this cold spell will end soon and give us some decent weather, the rain and cold have been endless here, literally weeks and weeks. My yard is drenched but very green and growing. I've already got several things planted and am keeping the tomato plants inside until it's at least 50 at night. Won't be long...

4/1

April comes much sooner than ever expected. It's welcome and it's feared, warmer weather but also tornadoes. The warmth came fast and daffodils and crocuses are almost over here! I remember when those were April flowers, not March. Even if the pundits and certain politicians don't realize global warming is here, my gardens do.

Accompanied by a friend, we went and dug up almost 20 trees from the southern property and brought them up to help fill in a natural screen that separates the yards here. I tried this last year only to be thwarted by an early dry spell that killed over half of my transplants. Thankfully, there's thousands of young pines and cedars to choose from down there, they grow like weeds. So, while the work seems exhausting to repeat again, at least the supply will hold out.

Gearing up for the PR and marketing part of this falls "House Works" show. I'm going to be giving away some fun little promotional items and hope that it spreads good will (and some web visits!) around the Carmel Arts District. Since it's getting warmer, I'm duty-bound to dig in the garage for my clay bin and see what sculpting small houses from clay holds in store. Should be interesting!

We've changed up the gallery drastically at ArtSplash and have added two new members since my last installment here, so please take a gander at the gallery if you are in the Carmel area. I've put an older piece in this month that has not been seen in public before, so hopefully it will get some overdue approving nods and glances.

Even though they've called for snow flurries today, winter is officially over. Happy April, everyone!

3/14

Digital painting is an art form that has gained much ground in the last decade. In the late 80s and early 90s, I utilized computer graphics as a way of creating art and had some fairly good success with it, creating book covers for Macmillan Publishing and showing fine art works at 911 Gallery in Broadripple (now 119 Gallery in Boston) and also getting my work published in a fairly well-recognized college photography textbook.

Since that time, I have never stopped using digital methods to help me realize new ways to push my work further and see things in a new way. Without a doubt, the computer has changed the way I paint, the way I visualize and the colors I use. The screen shows color in such a brilliant way I've been forced to use day-glo pigments and dyes to try to match the brilliance that comes from projected light versus the color our eye sees when it's simply reflected light. Some artists have been extremely successful in working this way. But even in it's most simple form, digital editing is a valueable tool when used on the most traditional-looking pieces. The ability to move a structure, re-compose a sketch, edit out unwanted objects... all are necessary to the ongoing creation of art in my own studio.

There are purists who will state that digital painting isn't really true painting, but I would have to disagree. Color, technique, composition, design, balance, harmony - all of these still must be present for a work to be successful, no matter what medium. The digital process is accepted by nearly every museum and gallery these days.

The biggest difference for me, however, is the finished product. Where computer graphics have conventional methods beat in speed and richness of color, they fail to accurately describe texture and weight and it's impossible to translate an accurate depiction of these essential elements when it comes down to output of the digital pieces. Where many photographs can sing in this format, digital art paintings cannot match the actual three dimensional qualities that a textural, weighted painting has. This can happen in reverse. Thanks to new technologies, a finished painting can be photographed and a mold of the painting can be taken so that the giclee can be printed on the resulting cast surface, making the finished product barely distinguishable from it's original. It is an expensive process. Still, effects like translucence, metallics, opalescence are not reproduceable in digital form. And remember, the result is taken from a traditional painting which had these qualities in the first place.

More than the output lacking something in the final digital form, there is something intrinsic that is missing for me in the digital process that is always there when working traditionally. Mixing paint, getting just the right liquidity, forcing heavy drips of paint down a canvas, watching dyes recolor an underpainting, dabbing off a wash or even just getting paint on my hands - all are part of the creation process which physically (and sometimes magically) put me in the moment. There is no separation from the work, I'm in it and it is on me. This kind of physical involvement simply can't happen when I work digitally. It's the same difference, I suppose, between flying an airplane or flying a simulation.

I rarely create digital output these days. But I suppose that I'll always use the computer when I need to for a certain style or look for my traditional paintings - at least as long as there is electricity. When that gives out, I'll still have tubes of paint.

3/1

So glad February is over! What a hellish month of snow and ice it was. Today is hopefully a harbinger of things to come: sunny and calm.

I've been working on a series of pieces for the House Works show in September at ArtSplash Gallery. These are all architectural pieces that feature either houses or places that could be thought of as living spaces. It's been great gathering up photos and doing sketches for the works, I have more ideas than I could possibly paint in time for the show. I guess this is something that really interests me because once I started looking, I had a vast collection of photos I've taken over the last decade and it will be hard deciding what makes the cut. Currently I've been working on 4 at the same time, which is a first for me. Each is from a sketch that I created from memory and while the architecture will not be entirely correct, the spirit and style of each house will be immediately recognizable.

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For March, I'm showing a group of Colorfield works at ArtSplash Gallery, stop in and have a look, some of these have never been on display before. Works will be up by Friday the 4th of March.

2/1

There is an article in the Indy Star about the design center (a somewhat-glorified gift shop) in the IMA, which is closing, most likely due to lack of sales. I've been to that shop a few times and while I thought many of the goods to be interesting and clever, I still feel that the shop was a wrong-headed move for the IMA.

There was a wonderful gallery in the old IMA, a consignment gallery where local artists could present works to a jury and then selected pieces could sell or rent to the public. I sold a few pieces this way myself back in that time and thought the opportunity to show works for a new artist was amazing, if not miraculous. Imagine: being a 21-year-old artist and being able to say you had works hanging in the IMA!

The "opening" night was always exciting to see where your work was and the public really enjoyed the event as well, many showing up for a cocktail and a night of art. Sadly, when the IMA was remodeled, the consignment shop was phased out.

Perhaps now it can be brought back and moved into the space that the defunct design center will leave vacant. It would really be a smart move for the IMA to make and probably would result in more sales/rentals than the design center enjoyed.

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There are 3 new pieces (and 2 older ones) of mine showing up at ArtSplash Gallery this month, all abstract. If you are in the Carmel area, stop by and have a look!

1/21

My latest commission piece is finished. After a short break, I can begin work on the series, House Works, which will be shown in September at ArtSplash Gallery. From time to time, I'll show various pieces here and on the front page of this site.

1/2001

Way back in 2005, I worked on a series of pieces for a solo show that was exhibited in the fall of that year. The show dealt with text and writing, the history of it and the usage of letterforms. I named the show Historica Textura to address the heavy textures I utilized to get my point across.

I worked diligently, doing research, learning about ancient written languages. I took what I learned, used it as a jumping off point and created a unique method to create the series.

The show itself was, unfortunately, not well-advertised and since it was in an unknown space on the west side, it saw very little traffic. But some of my best work was presented there and the experience changed my approach to creating art and changed me as an
artist.

Where before I used to plan out my pieces (either digitally or in sketch form) I now use a spontaneous or "working blind" approach and it has, over time, become one of my favorite ways to create art. I have become so enamored of working this way that in February I'm going to show a small selection of pieces in ArtSplash Gallery - some new, some old. I also make it part of my teaching process when giving lessons.

These "blind" painted gestures (made with closed eyes while listening to music) give my work a language of it's own and are the foundation for the shapes and lines that are seen in the finished work. They have their beginnings in all that research and study, copying old letter forms and tracing ancient script. Sure, I edit them down, change angles, cut out portions that don't work. But without the beginning gestures, those "writing" forms, the piece would not have a natural look. In fact, pieces where I've tried to mimic the look but keep my eyes open are gessoed over in the end because they look contrived.

I owe a lot to my time spent creating that show back in 2005. I may not have sold the number of pieces I would have liked to (a portion sold after the fact) I got something in return that is much more valueable: I relearned how to paint. That's worth much more to me than a sold-out show or tons of traffic.

Even so, I've seen some residual effects: Two of the pieces I later created in this way ended up selling to Eli Lilly & Co and are part of their permanent collection. Another is gracing the wall of a well-known writer on the north side of Indy. And still another is bringing it's own kind of beauty to the halls of a prominent San Diego PR firm.

There are payoffs of many kinds.

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An interesting article by David Hoppe questions the corporate approach to purchasing art and the resulting exposure of some fallacies raises the ire of many Indy artists in the comments section afterwards.


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from the studio of Keith J. Hampton