Thursday, June 26, 2014

Return to the Wizard of Philly

After a seven year hiatus from comic cons I returned to the Philadelphia Convention Center and the 2014 Wizard World Philly Con. I noticed it was a smaller con and there was no big banner like the last time I attended.

A lot has happened to me and to comics in that seven years since I last walked the halls of a major comic con. I went back to art school and graduated from PAFA with my undergrad and then Masters in painting. I grew a lot as an artist and in many ways in a different direction than comics, and that changed many things in my process and thinking as an artist and put my creative energies in two different domains. Comics really went Hollywood in seven years. I mean really went Hollywood. Its what keeps the whole thing afloat. I couldn't imagine seven years ago Disney owning Marvel and Star Wars.
After about 2010 I have only dabbled in comic books, A Superman here, Aquaman there, some Magnus, laying out stuff for other artists, etc., but especially after a big disappointment with Martians Go Home I shifted from animation and comics to comic strips and working on Judge Parker which professionally is the best gig I have ever had. In this time away from the mainstream of comics I have monitored it and watched as the Hollywood aspect of comics has taken over as the main driving and creative force for the mainstream companies.

When I was last at Wizard I saw guys still carting around boxes and want lists, plenty of people, though mostly older, still collecting comic books. Last weekend I saw people just walking with prints, not comics, and it seemed everybody was selling prints, there must have been thousands of them there.

I also saw more women and way more cosplay, and whole families in cosplay. Boyfriend girlfriend cosplay. I know at the anime cosplay conventions this was pretty normal for a while, but there was a ton of it especially on Saturday.

I did a few sketches and sold a little art and did a few panels which were OK, but low attendance I think due to the fact that I didn't see many young artists with portfolios looking for critiques or breaks. I think that is mainly due to the fact that no major publisher does this show. There were no Storm Troopers or Star Wars troups like before, somebody told me it was because they were not getting breaks to get in and it was too expensive.

There was a big lack of the dreaded babymen at the show as well, maybe they orbit the big NYC cons now as the Wizard show is really a general entertainment show. Hell, Whoopi was there! I think the cost of getting in, and people spending big dollars for autographs and the fact that it seems more about whats on TV and the movies than in the comics has changed the game, at least for this con. People are fans of Wolverine, or Spidey but not necessarily of the comic books of these characters. In a way I think its what the companies really want, mass popularity based on the new media platforms, and print really isn't a big part of that now, its marginalized, I really felt that at this show.

My long time buddy, former Marvel editor Danny Fingeroth got me in and on the panels. I had a good time, maybe in an ironic way more than before when I was more involved daily in drawing comic books as a profession back in 2007. Now I have hot irons in other fires and don't seek artistic fulfillment from comics now, I still love doing it but my painting fulfills me in a way comics can't.

 I also think that readership is an older persons thing it seems, so many stories in the media about this now and people trying to find a way to get kids to read, and its seems that comics would be a natural...but I think the cellphone and tablet are too deep in the youth culture now. Kids mostly don't read, or like too it seems and I never saw a single kid with a comic the whole time over the four days. All in all I can see how the rise of geek culture to the mainstream makes everything geek more acceptable but in a way also a lot of it the same and kinda' boring.

That always happens when things tend to reach a mass audience level.

But it seems it is constant con world now with multiple cons happening every week and then I suppose we will either have the constant con or maybe an implosion of some sort lead by the failure of movies, and the fact that once saturation is reached, people will want something different?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Judge Parker Process

 In cleaning off an old UBS drive I came across a layout for an old Judge Parker strip from my first few months on the strip back in 2010. I the beginning I used to do a small layout for the Sundays, then blow it up and trace it off on my light box and finish the pencils, inks, etc. This is the way I worked on a lot of my comic work for decades. This allowed me to easily make changes and adjust things, at one point I even used an art-o-graph to do this. This way of working allowed me to see my whole composition and layout smaller; the bigger a drawing the harder it is for your eye to see the whole composition  at onetime without moving your eye.  If you have to scan your eye it is hard at times to compare the whole composition and see if it fits together the way you want.

This is still an effective way to work, a good way to work and sometimes on other projects I still work in this fashion.
 This was also a great way to work out perspective grids smaller as often the vanishing points extend way beyond the edge of the paper.

In the five years I have been working on the strip I have become a lot more comfortable and confident and long ago abandoned working out my compositions as I did above--now I just wing it--go from the gut. I see it in my minds eye and blast it down on the board. If I don't like something I just erase it and start over till I get what I want. This keeps the creative process more live and also speed up the whole process by eliminating the tracing or transfer process of my layout. Deadlines are always a constant issue on the strip and even a hour out of one part of the process can add up and ease the pressure. This week it was all pretty much just Neddy and Abbey talking heads, so expressions were the big key here. Attractive faces and good angles, not much else at play here, just enough of the environments to show the location. Color was a big thought from early on, I kept the blacks to really only local color of Neddy's hair. I wanted the color to feel the the sun flooding into the kitchen in early morning. You'll see this Sunday in full color at the end of July

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Some Thoughts On Painting Part 4: Open, Closed, Open, Closed

I'm reshaping my painting studio and as I do so I am also organizing and going through the many, many notes I took during school and the few workshops I've taken over the last few years. In rereading notes from different teachers it is interesting to compare notes as it were, compare not only technical things but also reflect on the philosophical differences and similarities. I know that amongst the painters from PAFA , or I should say the figurative painters there are many things in common at the core and maybe the real big difference between the various camps and sub-camps is the use of the camera. Noel doesn't dig it, yet Desiderio, Kanevsky do use it. That aside, I think all of these artists love paint and the sensual qualities it can deliver through the mark of an artist no other form or art can deliver.

In my previous post I talked about how Noel liked to build and destroy, as did Van Dyck. They share that in common as a motif of attack with Kanevsky and Redmond.

                                                     Salvator Mundi by Leonard Da Vinci

I think the term Open Form is part of all of these artists process, and the bulk of the painters seem to work in this way who come out of the academy. In fact Closed Form painting (where the forms are self contained  and complete, balanced--think David) is rather looked down upon or given a hard time at the academy by many teachers and critics.  Another term for this "blurry" approach as I call it, is sfumato, "to evaporate like smoke", and this approach to painting comes down to us through the language of painting from Leonardo da Vinci.

By keeping the borders of the forms open, blurring the edges or the positive and negative it creates a strong sense of space in a painting. J.M.W Turner's paintings would be a great example of this, and some hail his work as the spark informing the work of later artists and movements like the Impressionists and the Abstract Expressionists.  So with all of this paint language loaded in my mind as a student and a painter its interesting to see where the "streams cross" in painting.  The streams cross a lot more in contemporary painting than one might think.

                                                                        Jon Redmond

In rereading and organizing the notes I took in the workshop I attended with Jon Redmond I saw a lot of streams crossing with Noel. You can also see more of Redmond's work here. I noticed how similar much of his approach was in many ways to the process and notes I took in classes with Scott Noel. Redmond is also good friends with Alex Kanevsky and I did take a class with Kanvesky at PAFA, but I got a lot from Redmond's workshop on how I feel they both approach painting  as I think there is a very similar process at work in both of their paintings; specifically not letting the drawing control the painting, and working in and out of the positive and negative. Even in Scott's classes he would jump on me to stop drawing and start painting.

Here are some notes that I took down during a workshop with John Redmond last year as he did a demo over two days. Redmond was painting on mylar and used a little liquin and no terps after starting the painting.


The larger the color shape in the painting is, the more important it is. In the start of the painting push the color in your painting where you want it to go but nothing too specific. You are either painting light or painting shadow, let the layers peak through and paint in different directions. Try and capture the sensation of a color and paint the impression of deep space. Remember that the opacity of a shadow is different than that of light.  Use the "non-thing" to describe "the thing". 

By shifting the emphasis between the positive and negative back and forth it creates a better balance in the painting. Don't let the drawing control the painting. Build by masses of color, but no drawing. 

Let the outside control the inside, negative space to control positive space. Work by matching the relationships of value and let the "identity" of the object take care of itself as you build through masses, let the edges work themselves out--painting is not about creating symbols, edges happen as a result of what you see. 

Painting is a process of marks that are trying to tell you what the light is telling you, not what the object is telling you.

Paint what your eyes are telling you--light is the vehicle. We are trying to get paint to mimic the way light works. Build through value, not through color. Build through warm vs cool and be willing to destroy what you have done and repaint it. Let something complex be suggested through something simplistic. 

At the end fluctuate the edges, by making the highlights thicker it adds extra value as it sticks up off the surface to catch the light. You can also glaze or velatora to modify the painting with transparencies at the end.

Lay your colors out the same every time and compare your colors on the palette directly to the colors you see.

Now there are many many painters who work Open Form, and in the contemporary world it is probably the most common approach or "way" to paint. Zhaoming Wu, one of  my favortite painters works this way in both paint and charcoal as do Jeremy Mann, Carolynn Anderson as examples.

                                                                    Carolyn Anderson

Zhaoming Wu

 Jeremy Mann

It was hard for me to employ this idea to not let drawing control the painting as drawing is my foundation and very important to me, if I don't like the drawing I don't like the painting. Some painters I love like Dean Cornwell is all about the drawing in his painting.

When I work from the figure that was even more important to me, especially in the beginning. In school it took me making a lot of messed up paintings to finally be able to let the drawing go and get it back, to loose it and find it. You have to be willing to trust yourself to get the drawing back in. Noel always said I drew good enough to save anything I messed up--oh yeah--sure--it's so easy!

Redmond said he even messed up something on purpose at times to have something to save in the painting. An interesting strategy for sure, but only for the brave painter. I suppose this is akin to Noel painting and then scraping it down at the end of the day.

In the end there is no right or wrong way, just what works for you, what feels correct or right to you. Of course in school you have one teacher or critic saying YES to the very thing the next painter or critic says NO to. Its up to you to paint how you feel, not how anyone else does, even if your respect them or that process is the favored way to work in a system like a school.

What I took from the painters I studied from are approaches or motifs to work from or with, ideas to think about as I paint, and this is a very intellectual way to approach painting that above all involves risk for all of the painters I mention in this post. It is vital, big part of their process.

To me there is a lot of commonality to the paint language or paint thinking of Noel, Kanevsky, Redmond, Van Dyck going back to root artists like Edwin Dickinson. They probably would take issue with me saying this  as sometimes painters can feel they have cut out a very different ground than someone else. I think its good to celebrate and study the similarities of artists you like more than the differences as I think this helps you discover yourself and the common thread of your likes, loves and motivations as a painter.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PPAP Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour 2014

You can read all about the Philadelphia Plein Air Painters latest outing over on the PPAP blog. We were invited to paint at the Newark Art Alliance's 2014 garden Tour. It was a blast!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some Thoughts On Painting Part 3: Painting To Serve Your Aspirations

It's been a month now that school has been over and I turned my key into my studio a week ago and officially moved all of my school studio supplies and paintings home, there has been a lot of sorting and dumping going on both physically and mentally. I've sold some older paintings via Facebook ( and will offer more in another studio fire sale) and have a big pile to either paint over to reuse or to trash. I've hired a friend to help me slog through all of the "guts" of my school years at PAFA.

While I have been doing the physical sorting I have also been doing a lot of mental sorting as well and reviewing some of my old notes from classes and lectures from the past six years. I did chronicle a massive amount of my student time at PAFA as this blog clearly shows. I've posted demos and pictures covering a lot of my process visually, butI haven't yet really written as much about the mental aspects or the "Paint Thinking" as I like to call it.

Part of the reason may be that for me a lot of the thinking is actually the doing of 'it", the moment of response as a painter to the stimuli. In that instant of looking, feeling and response there is a universe churning in my head--then BAM! You make a stroke, mark, passage, scrape, wipe, or many a tiny little tap or wipe the last mark or stroke out.

One of the things I noticed about watching experienced painters work, is that they looked at the subject they were painting or drawing, if working from life, at least 60-70% of the time they were engaged in that session and actually making marks or strokes about 30% or so of the time. I have read that Sargent spent a long time looking very intently, and then striking with his brush. Sometimes he would then go a wipe it right off again, and repeaedt this way of working.

The best demonstration of this I have seen was watching Nelson Shanks paint four times in the past few years. Shanks is a painter of grand, traditional gifts and the head of Studio Incamminati here in Philly. He is very much about the classical approach to painting and Sargent's way of working and subject matter. Every year or so Shanks would do a painting demo to promote the school or some activity related to the school and it was really a great opportunity to learn about painting as a process by watching somebody as good as Shanks paint. I like his demos more than his finished pieces as they really have guts, life and energy in them that his more finished pieces loose. Watching Shanks is like watching a top athlete you can marvel at, someone at the top of their game work or play. Unlike the NBA though, you don't have to be 7 feet tall to be a great painter. You can see Shanks painting my friend Alina here on a youtube video. I warn you the music is bad and distracting---why they have to use such cheesey music is beyond me. This isn't his best demo, as I think he was feeling ill, but it does show his process well even though it's speeded up.

My point is talking about this all is that there is a lot of "paint thinking" going on by Shanks in such a demo. Certainly the pressure to complete and also to perform are big factors and conditions on this type of demo and his thought process. An experience painter like Shanks has lot of time in "thinking" this way, I imagine there is almost a groove in his mind, worn into his Neural Pathways as a result, like an athlete who is supremely trained to move so precisely between choice and instinct.

 Two paintings by Scott Noel that use the construction of the Convention Center in Philly as a subject, energy or element of a painting. Scott painted these as the construction was happening and so the energy of the painting was always live as the subject was alive and changing minute by minute as the construction site changed and "breathed" just as the models do in the process shot of the second painting.

This relates to another set of notes on my iphone from a painting seminar (maybe from Scott Noel) I took down and reconstruct here:

What are the connections to be discovered between a classroom painting and a studio painting? Do these different types of paintings, done under different conditions, different desires or needs inform each other and if so, how do they inform each other? What is the energy about in the work?

What are the crucial energies in the paintings and how do these energies manifest themselves in a mature painter and a mature work? Are there certain patterns that come together, passion, intellect, strategies employed , conscious motives? What is the aspiration of the painting and the painters and how does one construct the the best self that is a unification of all of this energy and motives as a painter?

Whoa, pretty heady stuff...

An answer to the first question for me was that the classroom painting was never a painting I would have chosen to do on my own. The conditions of that painting were set up by the teacher as a way to stress and practice ideas that the instructor wanted to teach. Some days I'd look at the set-up and go ugh! I'm sure that was at times a big failing on my part.

I always felt frustrated when doing the class paintings, even the ones that worked better than others. So my aspiration was to try and learn the lesson or "paint thinking", to take with me and apply the ideas of the lesson later, better. I suppose a mature painter does this and uses any opportunity to manifest their motives as a painter with any subject. In my final year in my undergrad and in my painting seminar in the master with Scott I did attempt to turn the classroom painting into something more that doing the art school equivalent of doing curls or military presses. It's also very easy to get your strategy confused, your paint thinking confused or unfocused and end with a mess of a painting!


 These two paintings were done a year apart at school. The first was done in the last semester of my undergrad year in my class with Peter Van Dyck. I painted on this over the course of a few weeks. The second painting is a one session painting in my MFA Painting Seminar class with Scott Noel. Scott mostly had one session poses in that class so my strategy or Paint Thinking was different  from the start.  What I was able to do in both was find the energy or idea I wanted to paint right away, and try and make that work for me. The conditions of both painting were very different and thus my thinking had to take that into account to satisfy my motives. What was similar for my approach to in both paintings was taking the time to find the painting I wanted to paint. To make those set-ups work for me. I had 90 minutes for the second  painting and maybe 5-6 hours for the first painting. I actually had even less than 90 minutes for the second painting as the "light event" lasted only 20 minutes. This was a growth point for me in my last year of my undergrad how I made a painting in terms of  my "Paint Thinking".
From that point forward I did try and turn any opportunity to paint of draw into an opportunity the employ my energy and aspiration, motive as a painter. I don't always succeed in making a good painting or one I am happy with, but then no painter does that.



This makes a Sargent a Sargent and not a Diebenkorn or a Shanks. I suppose a mature painter is able to move back and forth between the studio and the classroom or demo or whatever the impetus is for the subject to paint and connect his or her painting energies and strategies in a way the serves their aspirations for the particular painting as well as their own as a painter.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Judge Parker Process

I thought I'd post a complete process on this week's JP Sunday since I haven't done that in a while. The whole marriage storyline is winding down, and I will admit I will miss drawing the fun jungle backgrounds which are way more fun to draw than kitchens and offices that are the usual places that the strip takes place in. Feedback on this storyline has been pretty mixed by fans, some like it, some don't, some want blood, some want---who knows. 

I think a lot of people wanted somebody to die, and who knows they soon might, the storyline will continue. My vote was to kill off a major character, do a Game of Thrones type thing. But I think maybe that might have been too much of a change? Comic strips are away touchier realm than comic books, where it has become so common place to kill off a major  character--of course only to bring them back. After all, when a character dies that does not mean the ©  and the ® and TM are abandoned! Hell, no, they spend zillions protecting them.

Here are the pencils of the Sunday I snapped with my iphone. You might even be able to see my loose balloon placement which I do first, before drawing anything. I wish I could have this lettered on the board, but time and budget just won't allow that these days.

I also had fun sort of basing the evil twins Flaco and Franco on Guy Williams or Zorro and Lost In Space fame. That is one of the great joys of the strip is sort of casting actors in the role. it also helps in drawing distinct and different types of characters. Now if I can convince Woody to have a fire that burns that weird Spencer kitchen with the plants in the booth--that would be awesome!
 Here is the inks without the lettering. I try and leave a lot of drawing to be done in the ink stage to avoid doubling work by doing tight, tight pencils and then ink them. I would pencil this a lot tighter if I wasn't inking it myself. I have been inking with Pitt pens and a brush for the most part the past 2 years. The originals are on 12 x 18 two or three ply bristol which fit on my scanner.

I am also happy to hear from some real longtime readers of the strip recently after my posts in regards to the snarky Message Board. Seems some people there got a bit sour over my comments here, oh well, it works both ways. I've been doing this dance 30 years and have a thick skin, have taken and given plenty of positive and negative feedback, but I still say the over the top comments and sexual innuendo's don't belong on the board. I can't imagine somebody doing that type of thing to Caniff--and the papers would never have allowed such comments to ever be posted. I am also a public figure and  for the most part, they are not, they don't post with their real name, and I think that makes it easier to be a dick. We get both good and bad comments, which is great--Real comments about the work is welcome, but snarky comments are just the snotty nose of the Internet, and if any trolls don't like my comments, they are more than welcome to never read the strip again. I think I work harder on JP than any other thing I have done in comics. It requires a high level of consistency and drawing more real, or pedestrian type of work is harder that drawing Batman. There is little room to exaggerate.
Here is the final Sunday, which I colored. Someone at King colors the dailes that appear on Comics Kingdom and the papers.

 The strip continues to build readers via the web which is great since you don't see many new newspapers popping up. I have even given away some strips to fans who have written in. I even had a letter from someone who read the strip since the 50's! While feedback has been mixed on this story, and maybe it could have been shorter, I remember people saying sort of the same things about the past story with Bea and Bubba as well. I suppose you can't please everyone, that's the funny paper biz.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Judge Parker Process

Since it's Sunday it's Judge Parker Day. This is a process shot of an upcoming week of the strip which I shot with my iphone-- I just finished inking and will now jump on the lettering and coloring. We are returning to Spencer Farms for the next story which Woody, the writer tells me will be a doozy! Old characters return and new characters will debut. I had good news about the Comics Kingdom message board being policed and swept for Trolls, though I still am hoping it's either monitored more heavy or actually shut down, unless comments are approved. I think that will make it a much better experience for all. You can read an article on just how bad internet trolls are here on Slate.

I'm drawing the strip using an old lap board given to me by Al Williamson, one which he worked on for many years going back he said to his EC days. I like thinking about the amount of ink he put on it as well as myself. he gave me that board back in the late 80's so I might have had the board longer than he had it now.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Some Thoughts On Painting Part 2

In my last post I talked a bit about the Perceptual Painting Process or theory of it's principles as I came to understand it in relation to my own process as a painter while in school at PAFA, and specifically working with teachers like Scott Noel, but also Peter Van Dyck who also would fall under the same "school" as a painter.

 Here are a few more notes on painting from Scott in one of my last master's painting Seminars I had with him:

"Slosh and cut with paint with very little rendering, wet into wet. Pay attention to the scale and location of what you are painting as well as the precision of your stroke and the opacity of your paint. Paint on a surface prepared with cremnitz white, which will give you a unique quality to the way your paint behaves. No glazing or underpainting, build with blocks of broad color. The paint is most beautiful when it is not cut with medium. Paintings with scale and complexity are exciting. In the end it comes down to what you really value as a painter, it shows in your work." Scott Noel

The medium Scott said he uses is a 1to-1to-1 of Gum terps, Stand Oil and regular terps. Mix it so it has the feeling of honey.

I think Scott has had a huge influence on both Peter and his wife Carolyn Pyfrom who also teaches at PAFA and I have both of them as teachers in the Certificate Program. Peter and Carolyn both attended the Florence Academy, The Florence Academy which was founded and run by Daniel Graves is a school who's curriculum is probably even more like the traditional cannon of the 19th century, much more focused that PAFA, which while embracing the past does embrace the present and modernism. I had Carolyn only once as a teacher in my first year in the Certificate program at PAFA but I had Peter a few times as a teacher, first in Animal Drawing and then Life Painting, but the class I where learned the most from him was his Painting Interiors class.  I did a post on taking that class with Peter here.

I this class I got to see Peter paint and demonstrate the Perceptual Painting process live and then apply that philosophy in my own paintings. I guess what I want to state here is that for while I did learn a lot from my teachers I am not a follower 100% of any one teacher, category, philosophy or school. I can't bow under one flag or one way of working or thinking, but try and take in these sometimes divergent ideas and let them cook down through me. That said I did learn a tone from Scott and Peter and Vincent Desiderio, who I will talk about in a future post.

Some ideas will strike you so boldly as a painter, like a lighting bolt illuminating your darkness tossed Zues-like from the hand of your teacher, it will strike and brand your mind and stay, and some will not. Some ideas from teachers will just fade out, not fit in with your personality or taste.

Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I think this is true, at some point you must break from any system of teaching and any teacher or you risk making it a fetish or worse a dogma and a poor imitation of another artist's work. It is very tempting, especially for the young artist to fall under the spell of a strong and dogmatic teacher. They offer you all the solutions its seems to all your problems. This actually is what I think happens and works for most painters, especially what we snobs call the Sunday Painter or hobbyists, which frankly is the bulk of people painting in the world today.

It's so seductive to follow a guru, as the worry and struggle and fight is gone, you can worship at one alter and all the answers are given. But "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!" I think that leads to being brittle and inflexible and that is death as an artist. Struggle is life! Struggle is essential, But it is not all.

While I do have some very deep core beliefs, such as drawing is the foundations of art for me, the foundation of thinking and analyzing and painting, I'm don't think you must draw only in one way and never have to follow any teacher 100%.

In that PP category I would list painters like Lennart Anderson, Isreal Bershberg, George Nick, Stuart Shills, Caroyln Pyfrom, Philip Geiger and maybe the king of them all, Antonio López García. For so many painters he is the top of the top in the Perceptual Painting world. I do like his work a lot, but I don't fall under the romance of his struggle which I think many painters do. That can be a false way as well. A trap that you can fall in and think as a real "arrrteest" it must be all hand-nailed-to-the-forehead and never a joy of real gains and performance from practice and hard work. So many holes you can step in as an artist.

                                                            Spring Fed, Andrew Wyeth
                                                    Sink and Mirror, Antonio López García

I think López García's work is very similar to the work of one of my biggest influences and painting gods, Andrew Wyeth. That statement alone would condemn me in many circles, I can hear the brushes breaking and teeth clenching now. To me both artists are more similar in temperament and subject than they are different. They both create a paint-space of powerful melancholy and memory.  A loving, deeply personal paint space about the worlds they live in, Garcia, Spain and Wyeth, the Brandywine. I think their work both inhabits an intense specific atmosphere, of a specific place, of a time, of their cities, homes and friends as intimate as a lovers hand caressing in the small of your back.

 There is an honesty I feel that makes them kin as artists. But the fact is one painter's honesty is in some circles is another's stage craft. This happened a lot more in the Masters Program than he undergrad, but it did happen at time there too--sometimes I feel I had to just pull away an disengage from that mentality and business as it was a dog chasing it's tail, and a waste of energy.

Under the general category of what I call  or think of as "realism" there are many different movements that are all like "kissing Cousins" to me, you have the Novo-realists like Jeremy Lipking, Alexy Steel, Tony Pro and a few others. These guys tend to hang out as a group much like the Ashcan School did so while its not an official movement there are a many artists who share a similar desire to paint a certain kind of truth.  See the world in a similar way as painters, At the Art Renewal Center you have another group of artists sharing a similar aesthetic. What I don't get is other than jealousy, why do one group have to hate on another? I think all of these movements have more in common than not and most all of them trace their love and art gods back to the same pantheon of great painters of the past.

And then there are realists like Vincent Desiderio and Alex Kanevsky, both of whom build paintings up out of concepts or ideas and both of whom often use photography as part of the process for generating their images. I don't see them as being officially part of any sub movement of realism per se, or I have never heard them claim an allegiance. Maybe this is imporant and why they are at the top of the painting world right now, they are not trying to play with a certain group or camp. I guess my thinking on this is that you can get caught up in this gamesmanship and waste energy that you could apply painting and waste negative energy on other artists that return you nothing.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some Thoughts On Painting Part 1: Perceptual Painting

The last few days as I move through the piles of books, paintings, supplies and more that I have brought home from school and started to sort out things to keep and toss I have come across some notes on the process of painting from a few teachers and workshops I have taken. This post will touch on my experience and learning about the approach or way of painting, movement if you will, that is called Perceptual Painting.

These notes from Scott Noel's class are not technical per se, not how to mix up a color for flesh tone, mix strings of color in a system or how to paint fur, but are ideas on how to approach painting in a bigger sense, and make moves as a painter that might keep your process fresh from beginning to the end instead of following a specific recipe. It wasn't easy for me to grasp this idea of perceptual painting as much went against my nature at the time as a painter.

Here are some notes from one of my last classes with Scott Noel that I jotted down on my iphone:

"Great paintings are as clear as the stripes on a flag. Paint with big shapes of color and compress the darks and the lights, less of a sharp contrast between them. This makes the shadows richer in color. Paint with a sense of the thing coming into view in color before you can name what it is."--Scott Noel

It took me a long time to get what Scott was talking about in the classes I took with him. I would sometimes get pretty frustrated in trying to interpret what he was saying in his language into a way of thinking I could use in my painting language. My tool kit. Paint the color not the thing. I was very object oriented when I started as a painter.

                                                          A painting by Scott Noel

I come from a very techie approach to things as an artist, it was the way I learned being self taught until I went back to school and I am still a very techie artist in many ways. Scott would never use the typical or well know technical terms like cast shadow, form shadow, etc., he just never talked like the typical painting teacher or instructor you had in school or would see in an instructional video. Like Dickinson, Scott avoided in class talking about any systems of painting ( though one could say that a non-system is a system if it leads to consistent results, i.e., successful paintings). HA!

Scot's core, spirit and gusto as a painter lived on the razors edge between structure and failure. Paint all day and then scrape it down. If it comes too easy, take it out and redo it. It was a real philosophical approach to painting that does come out of the Edwin Dickinson approach to painting. A way of seeing the world as paint or as Dickinson stated, a work of art as being something that 'moved the spirit through the eye.' Scott built up structures of paint that he then was always willing to tare down to restate. Nothing was precious or was safe from change, and that is a way of working that is very different from some painters who move, step-by-step completing a painting in clear stages or movements. Its dangerous and take huge amounts of energy to work this way.

                                                      Edwin Dickinson, Frances Foley

Over the years I had Scott as a teacher I grew enough that I eventually got what Scott was talking about and how it related to his process as a painter and also where we related and differed in our approaches, likes and appetites as painters. We would never agree on some artists such as many of the Russian painters like Fechin or Rockwell, both are fantastic painters and heroes and inspirations to me.

Often in class Scott would look at my work and say that the color needed to be more evocative. I'd look at the painting and feel that I had really matched the colors and get kind of frustrated. "Evocative? What the hell does that mean?" I'd really push back at him with questions as to what did he mean by that, really try and nail him down, and he'd be elusive with a specific technical answer. AARRRG!

But one day in a Sunday painting session I painted a wall behind the model in what I would call an emotionally keyed color that didn't literally look like what I saw with my eye, but my artists eye and Scott was all Henry Higgins , "Eureka! You've got it!" Now I'm not saying this paintig or the next one are great paintings, but they were breakthroughs in understanding and thinking as a painter for me and getting what Scott had been trying to get me to "see" as a painter. You are not limited by what you see exactly, you have a lot more options as a painter and ways of seeing.

Your perception of a scene as a painter isn't always going to be a literal interpretation of what you see and I did that a lot more early on as a student. You may, can, should, must perceive the envelope of color as emotionally different from what you see before you. That tosses you into another realm of painting, a very personal realm. From there I understood what Scott had been challenging me with for a long time. You see this very distinctly in the work of Sickert, Bonnard and even Sargent or Wyeth. Scott always had books by Degas, Sickert and Bonnard in class as examples.

                                                           Bather by Pierre Bonnard

                                                      Le Lit de Cuivre by Walter Sickert
                                               The Iron Bedstead by Walter Sickert

It came down to not always painting what the color really looked like but how the color "felt", and this meant that things were not about matching what I was literally seeing color wise but about what I would call "poetic color". How did I "feel" the color I was seeing and matching with paint how I "felt the color." That would mean by extension how do I see the whole painting in that way, in non-literal- poetic field of colors, stated boldly like stripes on a flag, distinct and clear. Edwin Dickinson is maybe the greatest example of this way of thinking, feeling and seeing as a painter which has come to be called the Perceptual Painting approach. There are a lot of great painters working in this way that you can read more about over on the Perceptual Painters FB page  and the great Painting Perceptions website. The core of this approach to painting runs deep in the pool of Philadelphia painters especially because of PAFA and because of Scott. This way of thinking as a painter is at the core of his approach as one of big guns and chief teacher and leader of the Perceptual Painters movement or approach.

Here is a shot I took of Scott working along the students in one of the Sunday sessions and you can see here the model, the room and how Scott is interpreting the scene. Its not a literal mimetic reproduction of what lies before him. I am not trying cast shade or judgement on any one approach being better or more correct in art or painting, but to cast some insights  and ways of thinking as a painter I have learned from studying under the best painting teacher I studied under and certainly one of the best painting teachers today. I don't know if I would call myself a perceptual painter but I do feel a deep kinship and attraction and do employ that way of thinking as a painter.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Moving On

This week was the real official end to my time at PAFA. The ASE came down and Tuesday all of us students who exhibited in the show had to come in and pic-up any work that didn't sell and Wednesday was the last day to clean out your studio and turn in your key. Saturday I moved home all of my furniture, easels and bookshelves, etc., with the help of my buddy Will, so I only had to grab a few things to grab in the studio and some trash to toss.

                                                    My ASE wall looks so bare now...

In the basement gallery 128 you can see the work that did sell getting ready for the buyers, including some of my work on top of the table

I drove in early and grabbed my paintings that were left in the museum and put them in my car, and then painted my studio and took the last few little things left and turned in my key. I sold over half of my wall and that's great, I can use the $$ as soon the student debt will come calling, and I want to fix up things in the home studio.

I painted my studio pretty quick as I didn't really mark the walls up at all except for some pushpin holes. The last click of my now former studio door closing officially marked the end of my time at PAFA, and it felt great!!! I gave my rollers to a few fellow MFA's who were also in for the final day.

                        A great picture of Scott Noel and me that my Dad shot at graduation, I hope Scott has  a great sabatical, he really deserves it!

I know I will be returning to PAFA in a new capacity in the future, but for now my time as a student is officially done. I feel like the Alice Cooper  Schools Out song at the moment, and I know the next few days will be working on the strip and catching a breath before I turn my full attention to the next phase of my career and life, trying to move full time into the fine art world.

The focus of this blog will now change as well from being a student to blogging about getting more galleries, entering more competitions, etc. I'll be heading out to Arizona in a few weeks and doing the Scottsdale run at the galleries out there. Right now I am going to be making a master list of galleries I am aiming at, contact info etc.