Monday, November 11, 2013

Quantity versus Quality

      The last work posted on this blog was the in-progress view of this painting. It is now finished, and has some differences compared to the previous image. It took me a while to finish this painting, and so I have been thinking about quantity versus quality in terms of art.

      In relation to the quantity versus quality thought, I have read that no one artist will ever consistently produce masterpiece after masterpiece. To produce a collection of the best work and thereby build yourself up as a master artist, it is important to keep drawing, drawing, drawing, and painting, painting, painting. After a time, when a quantity of works has been built up, one could then go into the body of work and select the few gems from the pile. This way only the best of the best work is represented and a reputation of quality emerges .

      I sometimes wonder if this is where the philosophy prescribed in art schools derives. When I am working on a painting I can hear my professors' voices in my head (even now more than 10 years after my last studio course) telling me to work faster, compose the image, locate your lightest lights and your darkest darks, lay the basics in first and quickly. Then resolve your image through changes and corrections.

      Working in this way will certainly result in a large number of works, but at some point is that really important? Is it necessary to continue working in this way without cessation?

    I ask this because I have noticed a slow-down in my production levels. I continue to paint a little each day, but sometimes this translates into only 5-10 minutes of art making. I'll make some corrections, or I will add a wash, but sustained 1-2 hour painting sessions are hard to come by. It used to take a  year for me to fill a sketchbook with potential ideas. Now, I can use the same sketchbook for 2-3 years.  I've noticed these things and I start to feel guilty, and I start to question my resolve as an artist. And given that I haven't produced as many images in the past, I wonder if the gems are beginning be more and more sparse.

   As I  ponder these things I continue to work, albeit at a different pace. But I think that is what is most important here. To develop a pace appropriate to yourself for working, and to keep working. Push too hard and it becomes too much and can be overwhelming. Perhaps the quantity of work should not be measured over a small period of a month, two months, or even a year, but rather the entire time spent working as an artist. I know that if I piled all the images I have made since beginning my studies as an artist, several works would outshine the others, and perhaps provide a concrete demonstration for the idea of  quantity versus quality. I will close with the status of my current painting, and we will see how long it takes me to finish it. Post your thoughts in the comments. What do you think about pace and quality versus quantity?


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exhibition Oct. 26

    As an update to the previous post, these are the three images I selected to send to the exhibition in New York. The show is Oct. 26 at Belmont Park. If you are near the area, stop by!

These paintings relate to horse racing through the donning of exuberant hats on race day. This is something that is most often practiced in Kentucky and in the UK. I think it's a lovely tradition, and it afforded me the opportunity to continue working with the figure.

As far as these images go, I am not completely satisfied. I hope they are well received in the show, but I am going to continue working with a similar theme until I am more comfortable with the finished product. The painting I am working on is pictured below. I still have a lot to do on this image, but you can get an idea for how my thoughts are flowing from image to image.



Monday, September 16, 2013

New Works

      This is the current painting that I am working on. I have been invited to participate in an exhibition at Belmont Park on Long Island, home of the famous Belmont Stakes. It was suggested that I do images of horses. Well....I don't do that. So I decided to do ladies in hats. Which one could argue is as much a part of horse racing as the actual horses.

    I had a friend from Kentucky, who while not a hose racer was very much into the horse race culture, that celebrated the Kentucky Derby every year. He even threw derby parties. This is where my initial knowledge of ladies in hats during horse races originated. In researching this topic, I learned that it is not just ladies in hats. But almost an informal competition to see which lady can don the most outlandish and original hat. I then came across this image:

AP photo
       I was very drawn to this image and used as an inspiration point. This first image I created based on this photo was this:

     I wasn't completely satisfied with this image, so I made another:

   This image was also unsatisfying to me, but it made me stop and think. I decided I would paint not just ladies in hats, but three different ladies in the same hat! This would fly in the face of why the hats are worn, and give the viewer pause to reflect on originality, creativity, and the nature of aesthetics. These ideas would then not only apply to me and my work, but to the individuals in the paintings as well. I then created this image:

      With this image I began to play with composition. I liked where the images were going so I next I tried something totally different:

     This image moved away from the figure and brought the attention of the hat forward. I decided I really did not like this image, so I put together the one shown at the beginning. Here it is again, so you don't have to scroll:

I don't know which three will make it to the show. There's still time so I plan to create some others. I'll select the best ones and send those on.  


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why are artists depressed?

I came across the above list last week at Jerry's Artarama and thought that I would add my comments to it. In answer to the title of this post, I don't know that they are. But this was one of the first few searches that came up when typing the phrase "Why are artists..."

Anyway, to the list:

1. Constantly Compare Yourself To Other Artists.

This is one that I am guilty of, and yes it can make you crazy miserable. This is a difficult one for me because I dislike most contemporary art. Many of the recognized and "hot" artists of today are conceptual artists, installation artists, performance artists, video artists, or artists who are otherwise working in non-traditional media. These artists are focused on an idea and are presenting work about that idea. It often seems that they  are less concerned with how their work appears visually, and more concerned with making their idea tangible. Because these artists win the awards, and garner the recognition, and advance in the art world it can be frustrating for a more traditional artist like myself. I have found myself comparing my work to theirs and wondering if I should be more like them.  It's important to remember that we are all artists and we all have a different way of working. There is a place for their work and a place for mine. The challenge is to stay focused on what you want to do.

2. Talk To Your Family About What You Do And Expect Them To Cheer You On.

I think this one applies to life in general. Nobody really understands your life and what you are doing better than you yourself. Sure, you will find encouragement but not to the level that you need to be motivated as an artist. You have to have the independent drive and desire to want to make art. Despite the support or lack thereof from others.

3. Base The Success Of Your Career On One Project.

I can see how this would make an artist miserable. But I can say that I have never done this. I typically move from one idea/project to the next. I take what I have learned from that project into the next, but I have not dwelt on any one particular success or idea.

4. Stick With What You Know.

This is interesting to me, and I'm not sure what it is in reference to. Does it mean the content of your work? Does it mean the style you work in? Does it refer to the media you use? Maybe a little of all these things. I don't know. It seems a tad out of place on this list, and certainly doesn't apply to me and my artwork.

5. Undervalue your expertise.

Like number two, I think this applies to life in general. It seems to me that people frequently pass on opportunities and experiences simply because they believe they are not good enough, smart enough, etc, etc. To me this is defeatist. Apply for those shows! Seek out those artist residencies! Do what interests you! The people making these selections will have to choose somebody, and they certainly won't choose you if you don't try out.

6. Let Money Dictate What You Do.

I'm not entirely sure why this is on the list. I have found that if you have a serious interest in art, you are going to pursue that interest regardless of the money. When I went to college I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. After a semester or two, I finally selected art as my major. So many people told me this was a bad idea and that I would be poor. However, I did not let that dissuade me and most other artists I have met have also not let money determine what they are going to do.

7. Bow To Societal Pressures

I sort of think this is partially why artists are frequently viewed as outside the mainstream. Artists generally don't fall in line, especially when it comes to his/her work. Most of my work is pretty mundane, but on occasion I have created imagery that could be controversial. For me, and probably for most artists, I don't have a wide audience and so this hasn't been an issue. Once I get to the point where everyone (i.e society) is criticizing my work, and telling me I need to change my ways, I will know I have succeeded in a major way.

8. Only Do Work That Your Family Would Love.  

I have not done this, so I can't really speak to it. But this comes down to thinking about who your audience is. I want my work to be viewed by a broad audience so I try to think about how John Q Public would interpret my imagery. If you are only making art for your family then this would not apply to you.

9. Do Whatever The Client/Costumer/Gallery Owner/Patron Investor Asks.

This is a good one, and something that I have only just begun to grasp. I have not done that many commissions, mostly because I don't want to do what others tell me to do. I want to make my own art. However, after speaking with other artists who have done commission work, I have learned that these artists never do what was requested. Patrons are very please just to have an original work of art specifically created for him/her. Most often they don't remember what they said to the artist anyway. This reminds me of something a restaurant manager once told me. People would make an order, and then when it came out to them they had already forgotten what it was that they ordered! If the public cannot even remember what they requested when ordering lunch, they are certainly not going to recall what they have requested of an artist.
10. Goals, blah blah blah. I hate goals. So I'm not even going to address this one.
So anyway, that's my take on this list. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Top Artists of 2013

                                             Complex Magazine article cover.

As an artist, and art librarian I have a vested interest in reading the various articles, blogs, and other information sources related to art and art making. So there I was trolling the Internet looking for new topics of discussion when I found what I thought might be a good one. Earlier this month Complex Magazine released an article describing the most influential artists of 2013. I had never heard of this publication, so the first thing I did was try to find out more about it. Apparently it is a magazine Founded by Marc Eko  in 2002.  It is a men's magazine that targets males 18-30ish in metropolitan /cosmopolitan areas. With this in mind, as I read the article I was pretty skeptical of their list. And it seems I'm not the only one based on the comments.

The article was well written and did a nice job of describing the various artists listed, where their major exhibitions were occurring, and why their work was significant. However, after reading it I was struck by the number of women artists (or lack thereof) included in the list. As I was reading through the names I made a note to myself to count the number of female artists listed when I was finished. It turns out I didn't need to do that as only 3 of the 26 were women. In addition, readers posted in the comments that very few minority artists were represented.

Given the target audience of this publication I should not be surprised. But when an article is published with the title "The Most Important Artists of 2013," I sort of expected it to be more inclusive and complete. That said, I was very pleased to see that Marina Abramovic was included in the list. She is a performance artist, and has some interesting ideas going.  I dislike most performance art and I have only recently begun to follow her work, but I have been impressed with what I have seen so far.

What do you think about the artists on this list? Who would you have included?


Monday, July 22, 2013

Art Melt 2013

      Art Melt 2013 has come (and gone). It was quite an event, and was very well attended. I dunno, but I think it says something about a community when they will come out on  sweltering, steamy, mid-July evening to see and experience some art.    

   Like last year's event, there were a variety of works from all over the state of Louisiana. The event was held on the grounds of the state capitol, with the art being exhibited in the State Museum. My personal picks did not receive any recognition (too bad I was not one of the Jurors), but at least they got in to the exhibition. And, if you know me, that's what I think is more important: getting your work out and seen.

   I have pictures of my favorite pieces, however the lighting wasn't great for photography. Therefore, the following pictures are not very good.  

Favorite Piece:

   My favorite piece (the one I would have given "Best in Show" was an example of book art. You might think this an obvious choice since I am a librarian in addition to an artist, but generally speaking I don't like most book arts pieces. There is a heavy print component to the book arts, and printmaking is a medium I have a love/hate relationship with. Anyway, this book was hand made and was opened from end to end. It was as if two open books were pasted together by their back covers and then left open. It was titled "A Rabbit Runs in a Circle,"  it features hand drawn rabbits on both "covers," text that wraps throughout the piece, and is just a delight to examine. It was by artist Frank Hamrick.   

Favorite Painting:

    I would have given this painting "First Place." The colors are very relaxing, and they play well on an image that I find soothing. I like the contrast of the figures in the foreground, I like the use of space within the picture plane, and I just feel drawn in and warm when looking at this painting. It is by artist Connie Kittok.

Mixed Media:

  These last two images aren't really favorites, they probably fall in to the "Honorable Mention" category. This image by David Humphreys combines photography and collage. I wouldn't have thought to combine these two media in the way Humphreys has, and the results are very good. This image looks like a painting, but when you look at it up close you can see that it is much more intricate in how it was created.     


    This  painting, titled "Unrefined IX" reminds me of the work I have done with pipes. Living in Baton Rouge, one is never very far from the reminder of refineries, and it is interesting to see these pipes, stacks, behemoths of industrialization depicted as something elegant. This painting is by Ian Chrystal.

   The evening wasn't just about visual art. There were street performers, belly dancers and bands as well. The band I most liked was Minos the Saint. They played a fun type of Cajun/pop that got people dancing and was a lot of fun to listen to. I'll close with a picture of their performance.


Monday, July 15, 2013

The state of art

                                          Screen Shot from

Greetings all! This post is about an article that ran in the Scotsman newspaper over the weekend. In it  acclaimed Scottish artist Ken Currie discussed the current state of artists, and his thoughts on the academicazation of the art world. This is a topic that I have given a lot of thought too, and have even posted about it here in the past (here and here.).

Currie is an artist who studied at the Glasgow School of Art and was a member of "The New Glasgow Boys" movement. He went on to win the Turner Prize for painting in 2005. He has remained an active artist and has a new exhibition planned to open soon. 

In this article Currie stated that he thought too many art students have neglected traditional art media for the likes of New Media, installation, and conceptual art. He added that this was happening because of the belief that this would put them on the fast track to being a recognized artist. He furthered by stating that this has adversely affected what was happening at the Glasgow School of Art. He said that the school was overcrowded and that students weren't really learning anything about art or art making, and were instead caught in a situation where New Media, installation, and conceptual art were churned out by professors increasingly focused on academic advancement over the development of future art and artists.  

He went on to describe a career path where he likened art school to kindergarten, and the following 20-30 years as developing a voice before achieving a level of success recognized universally . He said it takes many years of hard work to become an established and recognized artist, and said that many contemporary artists just don't have the drive or energy for the long haul.

I agree with Mr. Currie that art schools have been given over to academia, and I also agree that there is far too much New Media, installation, and conceptual art as a result. However, I'm not so sure I agree with his statements about developing artists. One thing that it is important to keep in mind is that we live in an entirely different world than the 1980's in which Mr. Currie was in art school. Ideas, art, and ways of communicating them develop at a much faster pace than they ever have in the history of human development. Access to technology and New Media is also more freely available. I think that these ideas combined with the drive to create and be the first to express a new concept are as much an impact on these new artists as the issues Currie spoke to. Art is communication, and we are living in a world filled with a cornucopia of communication methods. It is how we integrate the new with the old and move forward that is the more important issue.

That's my take. Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and perhaps we can have a discussion on this issue.  One final thing before I go: The 2013 Art Melt is this Friday.  I will be discussing this exhibition next week, but if you are in or around Baton Rouge you should plan on attending!   

McGinty, S. (2013) New Artists Neglect Hard Graft, Says Ken Currie. The Scotsman 7/14/13


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Exhibition happenings and update

      So the last time I posted here, this is the image I was working on. I have since finished it and thought I should post the completed image. I am still in a transitional phase and still working largely with the figure (shoulder and head studies to be specific). I'm not  sure how long this will continue. I have always used the figure as a means to practice, and I feel like staying in this practice phase for a while.

     In other news, I have exhibition updates. On June 1st I had an exhibition of recent works at the  Central Park Zoo in New York. Had I been up on my blogging, I could have notified you and perhaps you could have come out and seen it. The next opportunity begins tomorrow at the Lessedra Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria. Tomorrow begins the Annual World Art print exhibition, of which I am participating. I wrote earlier about how I was working on some intaglio prints for exhibition and it turns out they were accepted. The reception is on June 13. So, if you are in or around Sofia, you may want to stop in and have a look. Unfortunately I will not be there. Perhaps another time. Those are all my updates for now. I'll keep working, post your comments!       

Monday, April 22, 2013

Painting in progress

     My last post was about printmaking. I finished those prints, and sent them off. I got word last week that they arrived nice and safe. We'll see if I actually get in the exhibition. I set by best two, but I was still unsatisfied with them.

     Since finishing the printmaking I have returned to the figure painting. The above image is what I am currently working on. The weather has been really great lately, I keep thinking I will need to go and do some plein aire painting. Combining the figure in the foreground with information gathered locally in the background might make for some interesting imagery. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The printing continues

      Here is the latest print I have run. I'm still doing intaglio, and not real sure how it's going. I think this one is a bit more inventive then the last. I think also that the other one that I showed here was more recognizable as a steam engine. This one is based more on the very early steam engines from the mid 19th Century. I will keep going, and we'll see what develops.

     There were a couple of art shows this weekend that I had planned on attending, but I got really lazy and just wanted to stay home. So I missed those. I was going to take pictures and tell you all about it, but since I missed them both I'm just going to tell you what was intended. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


      I have been working on a series of intaglio prints, like the one above, for a show that invited me to submit some work. It's a printmaking show, and while I don't normally use that medium, I always try and submit work for exhibitions that contact me unsolicited. I have no guarantee that my work will be accepted but I think it is a very positive thing when they seek me out, rather than the other way around. We'll see what happens!

      I really need to get back in the habit of posting here once a week. I don't think I realized that the last posting I did was for Surreal Salon V. That was so long ago, that when I just went to find a link to that show there weren't any to be found. It's over. It was a pretty good show though. I found the work to be lacking from the previous year. Which is why there are no pictures (or probably a wrap up of the show on this Blog). But it was fun. New Orleans Bingo Show was excellent. I danced with one of the dancers when she came out into the audience, so that was fun. All-in-all, it was good.

That's it for now. I will try to start posting every week again.    

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Year, new art

   Happy New Year! It seems a bit odd to be saying that this late. But as this is my first post for 2013....Happy New Year!

    So far, 2013 has many things happening. Of course, here in Louisiana it is Mardi Gras time. This season tends to bring out the creativity in may people. The excitement, energy, and expressive nature of the costumes, colors, and festivities are a bit intoxicating (heheheh). But that is not all that is happening.

   One of the events I am most looking forward to is the Surreal Salon V sponsored by the Baton Rouge Gallery. You may remember my mentioning of Surreal Salon IV last year.  That was great. The photo above was taken during those festivities (I'm the one on the far left).
    The show features pop and surreal art from across the country. The quality of work is excellent, but the big fun comes during the soiree. You are encouraged to come in a costume, and many of the costumes are very elaborate. In addition, there is live music. This year The New Orleans Bingo! Show will be the featured band. It's going to be very fun. I'm not going to be costumed this year, but the fun will still be had! The show is currently open, but the soiree is next Saturday (1-26-13) at the Baton Rouge Gallery in City Park. If you are in or around Baton Rouge next weekend I highly encourage you to attend.

    Anyway, I have also been busy painting. I have mostly been continuing with the locomotive series, but I have also been working on some figure studies. Here are some samples: