Archive for May, 2008

dust-closeup.jpgApologies to any rednecks reading. So…how many of you have ever heard this said by a bystander – and intended as praise – for a painting? Why would something “looking like a photo” be a GOOD thing? Possible explanations:

  • Many species of animals are generally unfamiliar, so total verisimilitude is expected
  • Animal art, as a genre, has heavily emphasized photo-realism (to the detriment of artistic expression, perhaps…?)
  • An unsophisticated viewer of art might consider this, indeed, as the highest compliment

The image, BTW, is a rather zoomed-in crop of a recent painting – the kind of piece that one would assume probably wouldn’t be mistaken for a photo. At least, I hope not…

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Rungius pronghornOK, show of hands here: how many of you have been to the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole? If you’ve visited, you could not possibly miss seeing at least one of the many fabulous Rungius paintings in their collection – especially since there are two giant Rungius pieces flanking the reception desk.

Now, how many of you have studied a Rungius original up close? we’re talking from a few inches away (or as close as you can without alarming the docents and security folks).

I’d seen plenty of Rungius images in books, but until I saw one in the flesh, I had no idea how THICK the paint is on the man’s canvases. He seems to have layered values and hues pretty frequently, and often his top 2 or 3 layers are very broken – like dry paint dragged across other mostly dry paint. On one of his moose pieces, I could swear the paint was more than a quarter-inch thick on some of the tree branches and antler tines.

I recall reading that he worked rather quickly, and could complete a “major” canvas in as little as 4 days. How the heck did he manage to build such thick and broken layers of paint that fast? I don’t know what painting media were available back then, but it sure seems like he must have been using an aggressive drier that allowed for impasto technique. Opinions?

Postscript: in the course of poking around on the web for Rungius info, I stumbled across this essay that accompanied a Rungius exhibition in 2001. It’s worthwhile reading, and my eye was especially caught by this quote:

…this is a concern with wildlife art – that isolating works depicting similar subject matter does nothing to move the tradition forward. Artist Robert V. Clem has said, “…I have been increasingly put off at the extent to which…works involving natural history subject matter are relentlessly categorised as “wildlife art,” in such contrast to everything else which seemingly qualifies as simply ‘art.’” Indeed, during his day, Carl Rungius confronted the same issue, “What do you mean, Sporting art? There is only art; it may be good or bad, but it’s still art.”

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This report comes from Susan Fox, who – along with many other artists – had planned to participate in this show, which was to be hung at the Cow Palace (Bay Area, CA).

It would appear that the organizers of the show were either delusional or deliberately dishonest. The show was actually held, but show artists have had problems with:

  • Getting their artwork returned
  • Dirty or damaged artwork when it is returned
  • Art not in original packing (some have lost expensive Airfloat boxes)

…among other issues. Susan has more on her blog. In the meantime, stay very far away from:

  • Grand National Artist’s Society
  • Santa Barbara Fiesta (contact the organizers for current info on who is running the show)

If you were involved in any of these, or know an artist who was, be sure to email this person.

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I touched on this subject a few weeks ago (see this post) and, at the time, it seemed the hysteria was unfounded. There is now actually legislation before Congress (S 2913, HR 5889) that some support, but many creative types – singers, authors, artists – don’t. There are countless blog entries on this topic, and I cannot add more to the many erudite postings, other than to point you to a few -

Example favorable comment on the bills: http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1537

Example unfavorable comments (of which there are many):

I’ll be honest: the summaries I’ve read, both pro and con, leave me more than a little nervous about the potential unfavorable impact on us artists, who are almost universally self-employed, sole proprietors, or otherwise individuals trying to make a go with our creativity. As often seems to be the case with well-intentioned legislation, the bill is overly broad, VERY important details (such as what defines “a reasonably diligent search”, or how “visual registries” will be set up and run) are left mostly to the imagination, and the overall effect is far too mushy to be anything other than attorney grist.

If you want to take action on the bills, here’s a quick link to do so – http://capwiz.com/illustratorspartnership/home/

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This arrived in my email today:

Dear Wildlife Art magazine community,

It is with deep regret that we announce that Wildlife Art magazine ceased operations Friday, May 9. We remain hopeful that someone will purchase the magazine and continue to operate it for the benefit of wildlife art lovers around the world.

…and it goes on to offer the services of the magazine’s staff for hire.

So, this seems like an excellent topic for discussion: whassup with this? why did it happen?

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Buck Stops HereA new piece, just finished a week or two ago. Still running hot and cold on paintings – one week I’m happy, the next I’m ready to slit my wrists.

I’ve been messing with texture lately, and this is one of the first things to turn out. Once the composition has been outlined with vine charcoal (note that I do not project anything to transfer my idea to the canvas!) and sprayed with fixative, I start troweling on acrylic modeling compound and texturing it with brush, knife, etc. Once this dries, it’s time to tone the canvas with all my favorite gorgeous transparent colors, let that dry, THEN we get to slather on the thick stuff.

It’s all pretty yummy, I gotta say…at least when it works.

Painting: “Buck Stops Here”, 18 x 18 – and thank you to my friend Ellen for suggesting the title!

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On a lighter note, it struck me recently how many art supplies I get at Home Depot, and I’m amused to share that list here:

  • odorless mineral spirits (at a fraction of the price at an art-supply store)
  • razor blades in the zillion-pack (great for scraping off the glass palette)
  • MDF boards (what I mount my canvas on for painting)
  • wall scrapers (I use a large one for spreading glue on a canvas before mounting it to the MDF panel, and a smaller one for applying molding paste when I want to texture a canvas)
  • housepaint brushes (for applying gesso)
  • latex gloves

…too bad I can’t get quarts of Gamblin paint for the price of a quart of Behr!

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…opened here in Missoula at the Dana Gallery today. I perused the show this afternoon after having lunch with some of the Southwest Art folks. Impressions:

  • If you ain’t painting figurative, landscape, or still life, fuhgeddabout getting in. I saw 5 or 6 pieces that had animals and no people in them (out of 200+ paintings).
  • Many of the landscape and figurative paintings chosen had fairly impressionistic brushwork. Most of the still lifes were fairly tight.
  • The edgy work I submitted didn’t fit (and didn’t get in). You need:
    a) beautiful brushwork
    b) fairly conventional topics
    c) an original composition
  • If you’re going to submit a still life, make sure it’s several objects in a shaft of light in an otherwise dark painting (yawn).
  • There were definitely some pieces (a dozen or so?) that had a “WOW!” impact on me. There were plenty that were interesting to look at, but not engaging otherwise (back to the still lifes…)

…sour grapes? No, never, not me! but when I see a ho-hum painting of a poorly-drawn reclining cat that got in over who knows what else, well…

Get the catalog and tell me what you think.

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