My new location allows me time to sketch while I ride the train into town.
Please note: This year's show is only on Saturday, December 2nd from 10-5! Though there is a Friday "preview" from 5-8. Last year that was only for participating artists so I'm not sure what that means now.
I hope to see you there!
Last weekend was the closing reception for our friend Kimberly Stoney's show of abstracts entitled Little Wonders. She hung a series of paintings at the Acton Memorial Library in Acton MA. I don't have a background in the abstract, but I saw immediately (without reading the artist's statement) that, for an artist with a background in Everything But Painting (sculpture/design/ceramics, etc.), Kimberly showed in her work a depth and a real sense of exploration. She handled the medium with confidence, exploring shape and color on a level with many other more seasoned artists.
It was great to see Sam and Kimberly and Eliot (and Sam's sister Elizabeth, whom I hadn't seen in about 30 years). We all went back to their place after the reception and talked art and old times.
It's been a crazy year for me, so I got late notice this time. But when Kimberly has another show, I will post something before it closes — hopefully before it opens!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently moved my studio.
For me, as for many artists, moving studios is a hugely disruptive process. But if you are moving or even setting up a studio for the first time, following are some simple tips for setting up a painting studio that I have found helpful over the years. A little planning can make a studio more efficient, especially if you are trying to save space.
To be clear: This is not a traditional, North-facing, dust-free, smock and beret type of painting studio. This is a down and dirty, artificially lit, paint-into-the-wee-hours, garret type, art workshop. Yours may be something altogether different.
So, the first thing to do is to get organized and pack-up your old studio.
If you are renting and/or want to protect the new digs you're in, I recommend two things: linoleum and canvas.
Once you're through enjoying the heady environment of the empty room you are about to fill up and create in, go to your local flooring supplier (or big-box home improvement store) and find the cheapest slice of roll-up linoleum you can. Remnants even work for small studios, though it's preferable to find something with a fake "tile" grid on it rather than a random seamless design — more on this in a minute.
Don't worry about adhesive, this is something you are laying down over a nice floor to protect it. Gravity and furniture will hold it in place.
I found a reasonably priced vinyl flooring with a 12x12" tile pattern on it which covered the working area of the room. Measuring beforehand is important here to properly cover your work area, and you may have to cut away areas that cover ventilation or other outlets.
Next, you'll want to protect walls. Years ago, I started doing this by hanging a canvas drop-cloth on the wall behind the easel in my studio. I just slammed a bunch of 5/8" push pins into the wall to accomplish this then, but over time I've gotten more sophisticated.
My current lease actually has a clause that I can only use gallery hooks in the walls like the one illustrated here. This is reasonable, as the walls are plaster and lath and can be difficult to repair. In fact, not only have I already been using gallery hooks for years now, I recommend them even for drywall.
So while you're at the local big-box, get some gallery hooks, a large canvas drop-cloth (measure!), and a grommet kit — 1/2" grommets should do (and a hammer if you don't have one already). At this point with the flooring, you probably have spent about $70 to $100.
Unfold the drop-cloth and mark even spaces to apply your grommets along the top (yup, more measuring). These will need to match where you place the hooks on the wall. However, you don't have to go crazy trying to get this exact — the canvas need not hang too tightly. As long as the spaces between the grommets are wider than the spaces between the hooks on the wall by at least an inch to give the drop-cloth a little slack, you should be fine. Also, place the hooks at a height so you have excess canvas where the wall meets the floor (to accommodate things like power cords).
It's a good idea to fold the top 2 inches over to provide a little extra strength as you cut the holes. The hole-cutters that come with most grommet kits dull quickly, so you may want to have a pair of sewing scissors or a razor knife at the ready to perfect the holes before you pound in the grommets. Follow the instructions in the grommet kit to match up the grommets and their dies, and give 'em a good healthy whack. It's a good idea to sacrifice a grommet or two to practice before committing the rest of them to your project (to see how they work).
Once your grommets and hooks are in place, the canvas can be hung to protect the walls from even the most Jackson Pollock-like projects.
Next comes the easel (if you paint on an easel).
I acquired two easels from an art-teacher-aunt back in the nineties. I save space by not unfolding the rear supporting leg and simply lean them up against the (now protected) wall.
Today these easels run about $200 a piece (new). But save some money, and look on Craigslist or eBay... or lash some lumber together to your liking. There are many possibilities for cheap easels, and you're probably going to drip paint on them anyway.
Next, add your art gear —
Then, bring in the art you've already done —
Now you have a place to work. Huzzah!!
However, what about photographing the work you finish? That's where the fake "tile" pattern comes in really handy. It's a grid!
To photograph a piece of art you'll want to place bright lights on either side of the work between 30 and 45 degrees perpendicular to the face of the work for even, glare-free lighting. If you set the center of your easel along one of the tile lines you can simply place your light stands at the corners of your tile-grid, as illustrated below.
I don't have my photo-floods out all the time, but the grid makes it easier to set up when I need to shoot.
I use 5K lamps and set the white point with a playing card — the ace of spades or ace of clubs will do nicely.
One final but important note: I put as much of my studio furniture on casters as I can. This helps make my studio flexible to different sorts of projects.
I hope this helps make your studio setup a little more efficient. Packing and moving is a hassle for everyone, but it can result in a disruptive break in the creative process for artists. Better to treat it as an opportunity and re-create the studio itself!
Today, I volunteered to help set up the show at this year's 20th annual Quincy ArtsFest at Adams Field in Quincy. The folks at the Quincy Art Association had already put in a LOT of work, including (but certainly not limited to) creating and mailing entry forms, processing entries, judging entries, working with the city and schools, and so much more — so I was happy to put in a little time.
If you can, stop by this weekend to see LOTS of ART (I hung so many pieces, I couldn't even count)...
Saturday September 16th, 10am-5pm
Sunday September 17th, 10am-4pm
I have two small pieces in the members' show this year, one of which (I was officially informed over the phone) has won second prize in that category!
Moving is hard. I have moved more times than I can remember. That is not an exaggeration, and it's a long enough story that I am not going into it here. Also this summer, my wife and I took the time to travel to the path of totality for the solar eclipse. An amazing experience but a trip that took a bit more time than originally expected. (Again, long story.)
Oh! and yes, I have been setting up the new studio.
So, I've missed posting a few things this summer. Most impressively, a post I managed to throw on to Facebook but not my own blog: Because I was honored last year with Best Of Show, my art was on the cover of the 2017 ArtsAffair Program!
And the ArtsAffair was a great time! I got to connect with local artists I knew and some I did not.
I had two pieces in the show: The Annunciation of The Plastic Specter (above) and I managed to bring home an Honorable Mention this year for my experimental piece Aquanaut.
Coming up this weekend (September 16th and 17th)... I will have two pieces at the 20th Annual Arts Fest Quincy 2017! I'm helping with the setup, and if the weather holds it should be a grand weekend!
My studio is still in boxes mostly. However, the weather is finally nice and the art shows are starting. I just installed 9 small pieces as part of Quincy's 50 Days of "Free"dom events.
This years Quincy Pop-Up Gallery will be at Wesner Hall at The Woodward School for Girls at 20 Greenleaf Street, Quincy, Massachusetts 02169. The show is open free to the public from 6-10pm on Fridays June 16, 23, 30 and July 7. There is a cash bar and full entertainment lineup.
It's a beautiful hall, about a 10 minute walk from the Quincy Center T-stop on the Red Line where there are plenty of good eats and libations. There will be quite a few talented and fantastic artists and performers. I will be there Friday to answer questions and enjoy the event. If you're not already doing something at Sail Boston it's a nice evening out.
Alright. Getting up to 50 posts on one's blog is a small milestone I admit, and I was hoping to just celebrate the fiftieth-ness of it all. However, the building we now live in has been sold, and we have to move. I haven't posted on this blog in a while simply because my wife and I have been dealing with this situation. The good news is we've found a place and should be settling in throughout the month of May.
Though I won't have time to post much during this transition, I will do my best to document moving my studio. This is something that happens to artists on a regular basis, and I hope this might be instructive – or even inspiring – to those patient enough to wait for the posts.
And even though we're moving a few of towns away, rest assured you will see my work in future shows in Quincy, MA.
Among the many books I could recommend are two that I think should be on every artist's shelf — not just to have read, but at the ready to reference over and over again. These are strictly about creativity and not technique.
The first is Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist. OK, not a reach here... it's a best seller. But I have to say that if you've never come across these concepts before, they are valuable tools for deconstructing creative misconceptions, roadblocks and what it really can mean to act as an artist. Austin Kleon has made it his business (literally) to provide inspiring ideas that can help any artist keep the floodgates of creativity open and unfettered. If it's not required reading in the first year of art school by now, it should be.
The second book may not be so widely known. I discovered Art & Fear on the shelf at a local bookstore and had never heard it recommended nor even mentioned by anyone else, ever. I have purchased it many times since... because every time I've lent it out, it didn't get returned. I put this down to the the idea that I was right and that the artist I'd lent it to really did need it. Now I keep a copy for myself, and if I think someone needs it, I buy another copy and simply give it to them.
David Bayles and Ted Orland systematically break down every argument you could have against doing your artwork. The concept is simple — just do it. However, this writing explains away the most common fears and anxieties that every artist has felt rising up and whispering to them "Stop". Many times when I have come up against a fallen tree in the creative road, it has been this book that has helped me move on. The authors take an intimate journey through what it means to be at all apprehensive about your creativity and what it means not to. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Time for a shameless plug.
If you like the artwork on this site, a welcome addition your own studio bookshelf might be the companion book to my series The Thirty Million Dollar Suit That Never Gets Pressed. There is the 20 page Gallery Edition and the 96 page Deluxe Studio Edition only available through my store Ink On Paper as limited editions. When those are gone, there will still be an open edition available through Blurb.
Many years ago at one of my first jobs selling art supplies, I once spent the better part of two hours mining little nuggets of wisdom and advice from an old photo-retoucher. We talked about airbrushes and airbrush technique and the business of photo-retouching (this was in the olden days, before PhotoShop). After purchasing a few items he turned back and said “Oh, and one more thing: Never take anyone’s advice.”
In her 1997 Chicago Tribune article “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”, Mary Schmich states that “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. “ (Baz Luhrmann fans will recognize this quote right away.) However, she does back this up with the idea that wearing sunscreen is a bit more than advice, as it’s “benefits have been proved by scientists.”
After 30 years working in the arts, and especially the graphic arts, I have two pieces of advice that are bit more proved than nostalgic — even though scientists weren’t officially involved. I freely dispense these tidbits on a regular basis to young minds looking to enter the art or design fields whenever I get the chance.
The first piece of advice is directly from design icon Saul Bass, who put it best when he was asked “So what is your advice to [design] students, Saul?”
“LEARN TO DRAW!” he said. “If you don’t, you’re going to live your life getting around that and trying to compensate for that.”
Drawing efficiently distills and isolates ideas into visual language. It defines the idea you need to communicate separately from its background. Unlike writing, drawing is a direct, selective communication. In writing, we translate ideas into words, parsing those words into sounds, then those sounds into symbols. In reading, we reverse the process, translating the letters back into ideas. With drawing, the meaning is immediately recognizable, generally without education at all. And the form of the idea is communicated directly in great detail.
If I have the time I expand on this idea and tell folks "Learn to draw the human form." Because, while the twentieth century gave us a lot of great art, it failed us in some areas.
After the Second World War, art education in particular went through a huge upheaval. In the painting courses at art schools during the height of Abstract Expressionism, some teachers took points off if a student’s work actually looked too much like a picture of something. Life drawing and classical draftsmanship went out the window. The human form was not studied in many fine art programs for another three decades.
Symptomatic of this, were the comments of animator Richard Williams (author of The Animator's Survival Kit and Director of Animation on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”). During a panel discussion at a conference of deans of American art colleges in the mid-eighties, Williams railed at the deans that he was having immense difficulty in finding “trained, disciplined artists to hire.” Most of the graduates he interviewed couldn’t even be trained to animate.
In my own experience, I have met so many art directors and graphic designers who couldn’t draw a stick figure to save their own lives. Their careers survive on good taste alone. They often do good work – some are excellent – but designers that can actually draw people stand out. It’s not even that they can draw people well, it’s merely the fact that they have taken the time to study the mechanics and the form of moving, living things. Their work is alive. It flows well. It’s balanced. It has a sympathetic vibration with the eye. And their rough sketches communicate an idea more directly and immediately than those that cannot draw their own story boards.
The tide is turning a little, though. Ironically the computer has played a major role in this, as the demands of computer animation have forced artists to learn how gravity affects a body as it moves through space. Life drawing is re-emerging in college curriculums. Art as a whole has made a move back towards the figurative.
I have drawn all my life, but the knowledge I received in life drawing and anatomy classes improved my work more than in any other course of instruction.
So, take a life drawing class. If you can draw a decent person, then you can draw anything.
My second piece of advice is this: LEARN TO MEASURE.
I once had a designer give me an InDesign layout of a wallet card they needed me to prepare for press. As part of the quality control process I printed the file and made a comprehensive dummy of it. When I handed it to him he said “I had no idea it would be so small!”
I had no response.
It was a wallet card. He designed it! He laid it out to size!! Yet he had no real concept of what it would look like in the real world even though he knew.. It had to fit... Inside.... A wallet!!!
I get print requests all the time from various professionals, and size is often the last thing they've considered. “What size would you like it?” I ask. “Oh, I don’t know, poster size?” they might say. Poster size is not a fixed size. And when that kind of response comes from an art director, it immediately tells me where their design skills fall short.
If you want to design something well, develop an innate sense of dimension. And don’t just learn to measure in inches. Learn the metric system, too. The vast majority of nations on the Earth use the Metric System. We work with computers these days. We can make a layout in fractional inches, decimal inches, centimeters, millimeters, pixels, picas, agates, ciceros and more. The computer can work with the numbers no matter which system we choose. But if you're designing something for the real world, it's a good idea to know what those numbers mean.
I once received some weird billboard specifications that read something like 18.0446 feet wide by 13.1234 feet high. It was an ad for an airshow in Germany. I went to the Production Manager and said “Are the original specifications in metric?” She nodded, proud that she was able to translate them into American numbers. I then patiently explained that she shouldn’t do that because when the layout gets back to Germany they’ll have to convert them back to meters and, because the two systems do not match exactly, there will be an exponential error from the two translations and the ad will not be the right size.
These are the kind of errors that have the potential to cost lives, millions of dollars, or lose spaceships in real-life outer space. Please visit Typeset In the Future for a fantastic explanation of the demise of the Mars Climate Orbiter.
So, take my advice: Learn to draw, and learn to measure. Not because it’s my advice. Learn to draw and learn to measure because they’re fundamental to design.
To understand drawing is to be able to efficiently communicate ideas.
To understand dimension is to give those ideas concrete form.
Communicating ideas and giving them form IS design.
I'm back after spending the weekend presenting my art at Sash and Solder as part of the Button Factory Open Studios in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This year, Tom's studio has many more stained glass and sash windows in it, but he once again invited me to fill his walls with original art.
In addition to some work I hung last year, I had several new paintings up, as well as note cards and prints.
Also on display was my new companion book to the painting series The Thirty Million Dollar Suit That Never Gets Pressed.
Just like last year, amazing art hung throughout the Button Factory. However, I did not get much of a chance to explore as quite a few folks came by to see my own work. Instead I remained occupied with handing out business cards and answering questions.
My wife, Rose got to explore more than me, and she took this atmospheric shot out the window of one of the other studios.
Tom talked up his restoration services and, I think, even garnered some more work.
Meanwhile Tom and Heather's daughter, River, contributed once again to her college fund.
I sold several prints and notecards and had two customers actually search me out who had seen my work last year.
I am very grateful to Heather and Tom and hope to do it all over again next December.
There is a lot of satisfaction in hand-signing limited editions.
I intend to put this first batch on display at the Button Factory Open Studios in Portsmouth New Hampshire this coming weekend December 3rd and 4th. I was there last year and I have, once again, been invited to participate with my friends Tom and Heather at Sash and Solder.
If you are looking for some creative Christmas shopping, I can't recommend this event enough!
I've been exploring the idea of self-publishing books of my artwork.
So, now that my editor (wife) has been through them with a fine tooth comb, I will soon be publishing my new art book! It is an accompaniment to my series "The Thirty Million Dollar Suit That Never Gets Pressed" and I've included sketches as well as paintings.
Without going into step-by-step detail, I hope this will offer some insight into my process and the thought that goes into making a painting.
I will have an edition available through a site to be announced and a limited Moleskine edition available, possibly through this site. I use Moleskine sketch books all the time, so the feel of the studio will be carried into the printed pieces.
Stay tuned! More to come...
I am very honored to have received two awards today at the Quincy ArtsFest: an Honorable Mention in the Oils & Acrylics category for The Hobonaut of Baikonur and the Jullianne Molloy-Bithony Award of Excellence for The Annunciation of The Plastic Specter. Thank you Quincy Art Association and all those involved!
The show opens tomorrow and there will be food trucks!!
Quincy ArtsFest Starts next week! I think this link is the description for last year's show but the only real difference is the dates — Saturday and Sunday September 17th and 18th, 2016.
I submitted the above and below in the Quincy Art Association members category.
I was able to get in to the 2016 Arts Affair at Marina Bay in Quincy only at the last minute. So imagine my surprise when I visited the show this afternoon and there was a Best of Show ribbon next to one of my pieces!
This is a sizable show including over a dozen local art associations and organizations. It's free and open to the public.
I am very honored and I will be proud to hang this ribbon in my studio.
Last night I hung three pieces in a group show as part of ArtWalk Fridays here in Quincy. It's in the offices of the Galvan Construction Co. on Willard St. and the show is Friday evening (July 15th) from 5-8. A humble venue to be sure and it is not near Public transportation but there are a few other events nearby and you never know who is going to show up at these things.
I hope to have some pieces in the July 29th event as well.
It’s not that I’m missing a limb, legally blind, or otherwise handicapped, but I can’t play baseball. I know that many people reading this will say “Anyone can play baseball.” or “It’s as easy as riding a bike.”
But these statements are similar to what I hear in my mind when someone says to me “I can’t draw.”
I think to myself “Anyone can draw. If you can write your name you can draw.” There’s even a TED talk where the speaker proves to the audience that each and every one of them can draw.
But I don’t usually get into this debate with someone when they tell me they can’t draw, because learning any skill is actually a very complicated and amazing thing. In fact, we are so well adapted to learning things that we often take it for granted. For instance, as far as riding a bike goes, I would suggest viewing Smarter Every Day, Episode 133 in which host Destin Sandlin successfully unlearns how to ride a bike. It’s fascinating.
Picasso (always a good source for a pithy quote) put it this way: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
I can’t play baseball simply because I haven’t taken the time to learn what the rules are and taught my body how to interact with the game. I did other things. I learned to draw. Instead of learning the difference between a ball and a strike, or a bat and a base, I learned the difference between Expressionism and Impressionism, the difference between teal and turquoise, or CMYK versus RGB. This put me firmly in the geek category in school, but I didn’t care.
Sports are great because they set up frameworks of thought that can be adapted to other things. When someone who’s played baseball as a child sees the sign on the back of a school bus that says “Keep back 100 feet” they can judge very quickly how far this is, because that’s just a little more than the distance between each base on the diamond. They don’t have to think out how far 100 feet is exactly, it’s almost part of their subconscious. This is true of art as well. It’s all about geometry, mathematics, history, and language. I wish they’d teach this concept to the people who finance education in this country!
It’s the skills we learn that bring us the perspectives we use to interpret the world around us. However, it’s the experts that we somehow compare ourselves to. Most of us can draw a stick figure, but very few of us can draw like Jamie Wyeth because very few of us were lucky enough to be allowed to drop out of junior high school to pursue a life of art. It takes thousands of hours to get good at any one skill, yet instead of taking the time to recognize our own expertise, we indulge the idea that we are somehow less for not knowing another master’s skill.
Many years ago I worked behind the counter at an art supply store in Cambridge MA. One day a woman walked in, in a very determined, but sort of embarrassed state and asked “What does blue and yellow make?”
“Green, why?” I said without skipping a beat.
She didn’t answer — she just thanked me and left the store.
It’s second nature to me what blue and yellow make, and my attention lingered on what had just happened. I had assumed that mixing color was second nature to everyone else as well. But as I reflected on this enigmatic interaction, it occurred to me that she probably didn’t know how to make green… but she probably could do something else really extreme, like execute complex trigonometry equations. Or play baseball.
On Saturday, Rosie and I went to WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island.
We started the day by attending the launch party for Building Bridges, a non-profit project "founded by a group of concerned citizens to advocate for the construction of Providence's long-planned and long-delayed public riverside park and pedestrian bridge on the former I-195 land."
There was live music from Mark Cutler & Men of Great Courage and refreshments from Matunuck Oyster Bar.
Then these guys showed up ...
Big Nazo is a fabulously creative group of performers located in Providence. Three of them appeared and began dancing to the music and interacting with the crowd. Part way through, the little one with the big trunk turned into a sort-of squid beast.
Then the sea cucumber monster transformed into a giant crab.
Biz Nazo lives in a sizable store-front in the downtown area.
I don't know how these guys stay in business, but I'm glad they do what they do.
After having a fantastic dinner at Red Fin, we proceeded on to WaterFire.
This is a huge event that has been happening for about ten years now. It's kind of like First Nite in Boston, only not so cold. And instead of fireworks, they line the river with floating metal cauldrons with bonfires in them. Then fire spinners and other performers go up and down the river in various boats and gondolas.
For this lighting of WaterFire, the opening performance was a local taiko drum group. No amps needed here, these guys were great!
There are vendors and performers all along the river, and festivities go from early evening to around mid-night with the lighting around eight-thirty. If you're looking for some HOT summer fun, the next lighting is June 18th.