Monday, November 24, 2008

Is there a there there?

Oil on Panel
5 x 12

This is a simple little painting, maybe not as simple as it first appears but still there's not a whole lot to it. Personally I like clean, uncluttered images, but I have it on good authority that I'm quite, what's the term, nuts. Anyway, I was going for a tranquil, twilight mood and for that I didn't need a lot of extraneous stuff. I'm thinking of doing quite a number of small paintings, predominately landscapes, like this that can be done fairly fast and sold at a reasonable (read cheap) price. If anybody out there has any thoughts about this or interest in the pieces let me know.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I did a little gallery hopping a few weeks ago, mainly looking for new outlets for me and just to see what was out there in general. I didn't hit the entire gallery scene by any means, but I think what I saw was pretty representative. It was pretty disillusioning. I didn't find anyplace I thought I'd fit into, so I didn't even bother submitting anything to anyone. That led me to start thinking about they whys. What did the pieces being shown have that I don't. Excluding the abstract art and just looking at the realist pieces I came away thinking that the one big thing they had was flash. These things just jumped out and grabbed you with bright, downright garish color and strong contrasts. The problem was that once they grabbed you there was really nothing there to see. No subtlety of tone or color. Composition, nothing special. Drawing for the most part was adequate at best and I just came away feeling cold. There was no there there, just trash flash. Is that what people really want? Much of it was only slightly better than the Starving Artist shows they have at the hotels where you can but a sofa sized painting for just $40. Where can you even buy a frame that size for $40? But that's a whole other rant.

I'm not putting the painting in today's post as any great example of subtlety by any means. It's just something to see in case you don't want to read my ramblings. But I do try to do pieces that the viewer wants to spend some time with. Hopefully they have enough to grab your eye in the first place, but once you're looking I truly hope you will stay there awhile. It isn't always a matter of detail. The next time you look at a Vermeer for example look at the overall feel, the way light falls on a wall. It looks simple, but it is deceptively complex. That's what I'm after. If that doesn't fit in with today's art world I guess I'm just boofed. (That's a technical term. I think you can guess the meaning.)

Maybe it's just a society thing. Are people too busy to stop and contemplate these days? Or maybe I'm expecting too much. Painters view paintings differently from other people. There was one trip to the museum I remember where there was a guy that was apparently a big Matisse fan. When he finally found one he practically broke out into a little dance he was so happy. Total viewing time of the painting itself was something in the range of three seconds even though this just happened to be a very important piece. Painters actually look at a painting to see it. It's not exactly a passive activity. I've spent my share of time with my nose up to a painting, and I know most of you have too. I've seen other people wondering what I was looking at so closely. They probably just thought I had bad eyes.


Gainor said...

This is such a beautiful painting! I have the same problems as you do with what is "out there" and my rented storage unit is filling fast with work that no one wants any more. In this area of Florida it seems that the only work that is selling is by people who have no knowledge of the fundamentals of painting or drawing. They are also cleaning up in awards at shows too, so go figure.

Anyway I just wanted you to know, for what its worth, I love your paintings and enjoy reading your blog whenever you post to it.
Thank you for sharing with us out here!!!

Gainor Roberts

Dave B said...

Thanks and thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It's always nice to know that someone actually likes this blog, surprising too.

I can almost understand it in the case of juried shows. The judge is faced with hundreds if not thousands of entries and has a limited time to pick and choose so the work really has to be memorable. Unfortunately that doesn't always translate as exceptionally good. I've talked with a handful of judges about it. There was one I distinctly remember said he gave out a prize to this particular piece and really hated doing it, but it was the only thing that stuck out enough to be remembered. Just because I can understand it doesn't mean I approve or condone it though. It sends the wrong message.

And before someone out there starts to think this is just sour grapes, I've been accepted to more than my share of juried shows, local, national and international. I've also gotten my share of prizes. I guess the point is that juried shows are a game and it helps to know how that game is played.

I didn't really mean to get off on that tangent, but maybe it's vaguely interesting. Really I just wanted to thank you for dropping by.

Gainor said...

Yeah, me too! (Except for the International shows).

The last show I was asked to jury may be my last since I felt so slimy afterward. I had to choose work that I honestly didn't feel merited a ribbon, but the rules said there had to be a first, second, third and honorable, and the pickings were really slim in some categories.

I never liked the games that are played out in the artworld and I am temperamentally unsuited for the rough and tumble assault on one's sensibilities. I never had enough money to be able to pick which shows and which galleries might work with me. Years ago, living in rural Connecticut I decided to enter several major New York City shows. By the time I had finished the entry fees, the trek into the city, the trek back and forth for receptions, picking up rejected works, and finally getting the one or two that were accepted, I was out $250 which I could not afford to do again!

Anyway, I just enjoy looking at your work and I scanned through it again this morning and was bowled over by that silverpoint drawing of the young woman with the bird. If you don't mind could you let us know what you worked that on, and did you use a colored gesso ground, or is that pink the paper? If it is the paper what kind is it that will take silverpoint marks. I work in silverpoint and do struggle to get the darks dark enough.


Dave B said...

Let's see if I can stay on topic and not wander off today. Thanks about the drawing. I kinda like that one too and it's one of my favorite models.

As you know you need a ground to accept the silver but I don't remember exactly what I used on that one. Studio Products has a silverpoint ground that's pretty nice. It comes in white, antique white, rose and blue. Personally I don't care much for the colors, too cold for my taste. So I don't think that's what was used here, at least not without modifying it. I used to use gesso but switched because I had too much trouble getting a smooth enough surface to work on. Now I usually use a gouache ground, zinc white with or without some other color to tone it a bit. Works pretty well and is easy to apply. The drawback is it's pretty soft and easy to scratch when building up darks, but it still works. There are a couple companies that make an acrylic gouache. That works quite well too and it is a tougher surface, but it feels plasticy to me. You may not find it a problem though. What you can do is mix the two together and get the feel of traditional gouache and the tougher surface of acrylic. I'm using that right now and it seems to be pretty good.

As for the darks, you will never get a real rich dark with silverpoint. It's just one of the limitations you have to live with. I use it for light, airy subjects usually, although right now I'm working on a night piece. Not sure how that's going to come out, should know soon. My mind's gone blank right now but there is one silverpointer that used graphite for his really dark darks if I remember correctly. Dennis Martin, that's him, I had to look it up. He worked surprisingly big, didn't realize that and there's no mention of graphite so I may be totally off base. Another thing I found out, I'm mentioned on the silverpoint web. I had no idea. Somebody is looking, cool.