I'm often asked what do I do about inspiration and people are often surprised that I don't sit around and wait for it. .The answer is that my job as a professional artist is to be working consistently in my studio. This means every day. I'm not playing or waiting for inspiration though there may be times when I experiment. I'm working towards a goal, whether it's a commission, or to build a body of work, to promote or just be a better artist. I don't just paint when the spirit moves me or have the time but I work in the studio because that is what I do. I am an artist and artists make art consistently. I do spend time thinking and planning but production is the most important. If I don't actually make art, I have nothing except a bunch of good ideas or worse, no ideas because I'm not focused on the work. It doesn't mean that inspiration doesn't exist or that some work is not more inspired than others, it merely means that I must work each day regardless of whether I feel like it or not. It's the process of working that gives rise to new ideas. With luck and steady application, I can expect inspired patches from time to time. As the American contemporary realist Chuck Close said 'Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and got to work.'
I’ve been asked to be a jury member for Konst i Roslagen (Art in Roslagen) in March. Being on an jury for art is always interesting partly because it encourages me to step outside my subjective point of view and consider other aspects of a piece of work. As anybody who knows me can attest, I have strong feelings about what constitutes art and it’s good for me to re evaluate my opinions from time to time.
Certainly judgement should not be a haphazard view based on what a jury likes or doesn’t like or on what’s trendy. I don’t know if all section juries follow them there are specific guidelines for critiquing artwork which was one of the first things I was taught in my university fine art program. It is ‘DAIJ’ which stands for Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgement. Here are the steps briefly outlined
Description Just as it says, first you describe the facts, including the name of the work, artist, medium, etc. What does the art look like, the first impression, what is it made of, what objects do you see in it. What textures, shapes, or colors are there. Are the colors vivid and bright, or subdued etc. are straight No opinions are added yet.
Analysis The art criticism evolved from the technical description to an in-depth examination of how the technical elements were utilized by the artist to create the overall impression conveyed by the work. Some of the technical elements analyzed when critiquing work include:
Shapes, forms and lines.
Light and shadow.
Then an evaluation is made on how each technical element contributes to the mood, meaning and aesthetic sensation of the work.
Interpretation The art critique now becomes more subjective. A supposition of the artist's intended purpose for the work is formed using the technical analysis of the work as a basis. . Elements to consider are :
What does the piece means to you, and why.
What do you feel is the artist's intended purpose for creating that particular work of art.
Why did the artist made the choices in technique, materials and subject matter and how they relate to the intended purpose.
An identification of symbols in the artwork and a description of how they relate to the artist's technical choices and contribute to the artist's execution of the intended purpose.
What do you think the artist is trying to say through the work of art and by what means.
In short: Basically, how does the painting make you feel? What does it make you think of? What do you think the artist is trying to communicate to you as a viewer?
Judgment The evaluation of the work. This is a summation of the art criticism process leading up to this point. The analysis and interpretation is used to draw conclusions and reach judgments about the artwork and include:
A statement of the work's perceived value. For example, its value may be to evoke nostalgia, to incite anger or to impart beauty. Why do you feel this way.
A description of the work's relevance to the art community and to people as a whole.
An explanation of where you feel the work has strong value and where you think it falls short. Is it a success or failure in your opinion, is it original or not etc. Here’s the place for all the gut feelings that you had when you first looked at the work.
Some thoughts on buying art.
Art is a powerful form of expression not only for the artists who create it, but also for those who own it. Art allows people to express their individuality and to represent their beliefs, feelings, imaginations, convictions or philosophies in socially (and visually) acceptable and redeeming ways.
* Art encourages people to ask questions, introspect, think about ideas, experience fresh new perspectives and most importantly, it encourages them to take brief moments out of their busy lives to reflect on more than just the mundanities of their daily routines.
* Art improves quality of life. All you have to do is think about the difference between a room with bare walls and one with walls full of art.
Children are fascinated with art. Art prompts children to ask questions and encourages them to fantasize, imagine and expand their perceptions of reality. Art teaches children how to be creative and have fun with life and gives them permission to do so as well.
A few tips on buying Art
By this I mean a piece that is considered ‘real’ art, an original oil or watercolour, contemporary sculpture or perhaps art photography. Something that speaks to your good taste but most of all your heart.
First of all and most important, buy what you love , in spite of any well-meaning advice from artists, gallery owners and collectors.
Art is the ultimate personal statement. In many ways, your choices in art are a window to your soul. If you buy the art you love, art that speaks to you, your collection will become a visual collage of who you are. Although buying art can lead to some investments, most people buy simply because they form a real connection with the work. You want to make sure that you are going home with something that you will continue to enjoy for years to come.
Go with your instincts… Don’t buy an artwork because someone’s telling you it’s fashionable or a good idea. Go for work that speaks to you and think about how it makes you feel. There’s no guarantee it’ll increase in value, so don’t anticipate this. If it does, see it as a bonus not a pre-requisite for buying. Try not to get swayed into a decision because of all the ‘noise’ that might be surrounding a popular artist. Does a particular painting move you; are you emotionally connected to a piece? That’s the art you should be buying.
Do Research…You can visit galleries, exhibitions and studios so you can to build up an understanding of your likes and dislikes. If you find a piece you like and consider buying, get to know about it. Ask questions about the artist (read the Artist’s bio), the process, the materials used, the artist’s intent (read the Artist’s statement), check their website. Does the piece appear to be creatively conceived and skillfully executed?
Talk to staff in galleries: even if you aren’t going to buy straightaway they’ll be happy to talk to you about the work. If they’re serious about art, they’ll talk passionately about it. Collecting art can be very sociable and talking to others will give you a good sense of what is being collected and at what price.
He who hesitates… When you do find a piece that speaks to you on an emotional level, it’s a good idea to move quickly. If it touches a chord in you chance are it will do so for somebody else and it will sell fast and a true work of art will never be repeated. It happens quite often that I have done a painting I could have sold many time over.
Art can be expensive and if one feels short on cash, but reluctant to let a particular work of art slip through their fingers, sometimes galleries will allow you to pay in installments. Consider making an offer. At the end of the day it’s just another business transaction, and there’s nothing wrong with making an offer below the asking price, as long as long as it’s reasonable
To gallery, or not to gallery It’s sometimes possible to ask, “borrow” a painting to see if it appropriate in your space. This often works with individual artist—especially one you know—though I have known quite a few galleries that will do this. Which brings up the next question: which is better, buying from a gallery, or directly from the artist? If you buy directly from artists you get to know them, get a sense of their artistic philosophy, where they’re coming from, and the concept and significance behind individual works, Some galleries don’t have the time, or take the time, to get to know their artists.
On the other hand, gallery representation is important in that it speaks to the caliber of the art if it’s good enough to be represented by a respectable gallery. If you do shop galleries, don’t be intimidated by your lack of a fine arts degree. You’re ultimately the only expert on what you like, but you can also take advantage of the expertise at your disposal. Ask questions of the gallery owner or staff and know that there are no stupid questions when it comes to art. There is not much that is more subjective.
It’s good to know that galleries will typically take commissions of around 50% on sales. If you can recognize quality work on your own and have found an artist you like, you might get more value for your money buying direct from the artist. Just remember, trust your taste. There are no “right” or “wrong” choices.
Most paintings are finished before the artist thinks it is. Knowing when to quit is a skill that even an experienced painter can have doubts about. The skill lies in knowing that not another stroke added to the painting will enhance it. As the painting nears completion, stress increases and a constant evaluation goes on ‘Is the stroke I’m about to add going to advance the painting or is it redundant, repetitive, or even moving away from completion’. I usually have to put it away for a few days or more, and then come back and view it more objectively. It invariably is more finished than I thought. This separating oneself from the emotional investment in the work can help prevent overworking it. The danger is that one can be so concerned with what others may think, that the painting is worked and reworked into ”acceptable” shape before it goes out into the world and all manifestations of individuality are edited away. As an artist becomes more proficient, a healthy bravado evolves that says, “Here I am. Take it or leave it,” and these touches of personality are what makes the work unique and special. However this takes a lot of confidence, knowledge and experience and even the best struggle with doubts. Degas himself, was known to sneak into clients houses and to take back his sold paintings so he could continue working on them. People actually chained them to the walls to prevent him. You certainly don’t get much better than Degas.
I am often asked if it’s hard to let go of a painting when it is sold. The answer is quite honestly ‘no’. Though many believe that art is a form of self expression, I think that in it’s most powerful and life affirming state that it is a form of communication. The art is incomplete until someone else experiences it and something very special happens when people react to the art in a real space and are able make a deep meaningful connection to the work. Those moments are why we do what we do. Before the spoken or written word, communication between humans was achieved through pictures and though such pictures human language began to develop. We communicate because we need or want to be understood, but communication is on many different levels. We are all too conscious of the physical world and of things, but there are realms of meaning beyond the material that spoken or written language can ‘t touch – a painting, or any true work of art as in dance or music allows you to go beyond the surface and explore meanings, emotions or symbols that can’t always be expressed with words. The beauty of a painting is that it’s immediate, you don’t have to spend hours as in reading a book – you walk into a room and you have it. People hang it on their walls because they like how it looks or how it makes them feel. Maybe it reminds them of something specific or maybe they are being nudged by something in the subconscious that they are unaware of. It’s all up to audience. Everybody has different life experiences and comes from different backgrounds and each viewer can receive different messages. Sometimes they see at once what I am hoping to achieve or can look at my work and experience something that I didn’t see or even intend which I find absolutely fascinating. It’s as if they are completing the work with me. Ultimately it is a communication of emotion and values , so I feel honoured that someone resonates with the work enough to want to live with it. I feel understood and validated on a very profound level.
As Leo Tolstoy says in his essay What is Art ...and it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.
I’m currently working on 2 commissioned pastel portraits. I love working in pastel and realize that it is a medium with which many people are not completely familiar .
Pastel does not at all refer to pale colors, as the word is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion terminology. The name pastel comes from the French word "pastiche" because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colors in the pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant. It is not colored chalk, which is a limestone substance. It is pure pigment-the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media when applied to a permanent ground and properly framed. There is no oil to cause darkening or cracking, nor other substance or medium to cause fading or blistering. Pastels from the 16th Century exist today, as fresh and alive as the day they were painted.
The manufacture of pastels originated in the 15th century. The pastel medium was mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci, and it was sometimes used as a medium for preparatory studies by 16th-century artists . During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, Many famous artists... Chardin, Watteau, Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Latrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler, Hassam, William Merritt Chase, Mary Cassett, just to list the more familiar names, used pastel as finished work and not just preliminary sketches. The 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion.
An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the "tooth" of the paper, sandboard or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch. Techniques vary with individual artists. Pastel can be blended or used with visible strokes. Many artists favor the medium because it allows a spontaneous approach. There is no drying time, and no allowances to be made for a change in color due to drying.
Care of Pastel Paintings
As with any fine work of art, photography or fine furniture, or photography it is advised not to place a pastel painting in direct sunlight. When under glass, the heat of the sun can create humidity, which could cause moisture damage to develop. Whenever transported or not in a hanging position, a pastel painting should always be face up.
When people are asked about their preferences in music the responses are immediate and confident. People will tell you they like jazz, classical or rock and roll or whatever. But ask the same people about their preferences in visual art and often the response is laced with hesitation and discomfort, even defensive such as 'I don't know anything about art but I know what I like.' The sense is that of insecurity in front of objects that are often expensive and supposedly meaningful but that they don't don't fully comprehend. As a result of the pubic's intimidation of visual art and insecurity about their beliefs and feelings about it, a power structure has developed within the art world comprised of intermediaries whom we have come to depend on as sources of truth. We actually believe that good art can only be determined by the judgements and decisions of art dealers, critics, curators, academics, and art administrators. Unfortunately many people in the art world believe this myth, including the artists. If members of the public were self confident about their preferences in art, the strength of this meaningless power structure would diffuse. For example. art dealers would be seen as sales personnel, which is their real occupation versus the powerful and influential status they now have. If the general pubic were confidently aware of what they liked and not influenced by what they are told to like, arts related professions would be recognized as occupations that were created around artists, and not as it so often seems, the other way around. Artists provide thousands of non artists with jobs, yet more non artists than artists make a living from art and non artists make more money than artists....Art and the creative artists are what it's all about isn't it!
The painting above is by Pablo Guzman.
A perfect fall day today and we drove to Eckerö this afternoon so I could photograph a horse for a painting. On the way home , I noticed how beautiful the evening sunshine was in the grounds of Drottningholm and we stopped so I could take some pictures. (For non Swedes, Drottningholm is one of the royal palaces which is open to the public, very beautiful.) Here is a slide show of some of the photos.
Beautiful Stockholm. I went downtown with my camera and wandered around taking pictures. This is a little slide show of a few of the hundreds I took. I had to buy another battery pack to keep going.
The vernissage this afternoon was a success with an great turnout. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the paintings just glowed on the walls in the reflected light. Thank you so much to everyone who was able to make it. The show continues to Oct 2nd. Here are some pictures of the 2 floors of the the gallery before and during the vernissage.