Monday, August 24, 2015

247: Instagram vs. Facebook vs. Twitter

Along the East Bench, 16" x 20", oil on canvas
DURING the opening of my abstract show the gallery director for the event suggested I post images of the show on Instagram. Since I didn't have an account she showed me how to set one up, taking a photo for my profile, and giving me a quick tutorial about hash tags. Before I knew it I had a respectable looking feed and several followers.

Since then the same gallery, Alpine Art, decided to mount a one-person show of my woodcuts in April 2016. The intermittent abstract posts evolved into daily posts about the art of woodcut. I have also posted images of my print studio and equipment and have purposely kept the captions informative but short. So far I have 43 woodcut related posts with 233 images to go (I use the app T-Zero to calculate the days until the show).

I've been pleased with the success of Instagram. In a matter of months I have 129 followers. By contrast I've been blogging via Blogger for six years and, even though I have over a half million visits, I only have 178 followers. Instagram is primarily a visual medium and is perfect for visual artists. It's easy to see who is worth following with no obstacles to hitting the follow button.

I do have some complaints–the resolution size on phones is quite small. I wished you could click on the images to get close ups (which you can do on the Saatchi app). I also wish I could track my own likes, like Pinterest, to keep a log of favorite images. They have a like button for connecting with other users but a love button for compiling an archive of your favorite images would be a plus. Although the feed with Instagram is uncluttered I wish you could post with italics, bold, and other graphic flourishes to make the text even more visually engaging. But even as it is Instagram makes Twitter and Facebook look as inviting as a tax form.

Contacting people is not as easy as it should be, either. I listed this blog in my profile and got a message saying it was an illegal URL meaning you can't have the word blogspot in the address–a futile attempt to make Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) a proverbial walled garden. I got around the lame prohibition by using a Tiny URL address.

One thing I like is posting simultaneously to Facebook with a large image. But simultaneous posts to Twitter are text only which is pretty pointless with a visual medium like Instagram. People can still follow me via Facebook or Twitter, I just post automatically to them via my Instagram account which keeps my life simpler.

I use the app InsTrack to get analytics although it's pretty clunky and is always needing a buck or two to expand its usability which is hugely irritating. If you know of a better Instagram analytics app please comment below.

In short, Instagram is currently my social media of choice. If you want to follow along click the link to the right of this post. I hope you'll give it a try. I look forward to your comments either on this blog or via Instagram.

UPDATE: As of August 2015 you can simultaneously post to Twitter with a high resolution image.

Brad Teare– August 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

246: Best Studio Lighting

Northern wall of studio model
I HAVE  struggled with lighting in a variety of locations over the years including a basement studio. I'm currently building a new studio and I really want to get the lighting right. I need both good daytime lighting as well as optimal night lighting (I can be a night owl sometimes). For an overview on how to achieve optimal studio lighting click here.

After struggling to imagine where to place the windows in the future studio I was inspired by the book Imaginative Realism by James Gurney to build a model replicating widow placement. Using my iPhone I filmed the model at various times of day to see how light would illuminate and reflect throughout the space. This level of previsualization is critical to get a real world idea of how light reacts with the environment. If you need tips and inspiration on how to use modeling for previsualization I highly recommend Gurney's book.

The model helped me avoid several errors–not enough skylights and not enough light toward evening–which I remedied by adding two extra skylights and a tall window on the north end of the western wall. The model also confirmed that the eastern windows, placed at about ten feet off the ground, would allow the exact amount of light needed during morning painting sessions.

The video below shows how I observed and improved the lighting possibilities at different times of day.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

245: Using photoshop to adjust an abstract

ACRYLICS allow me to paint over an abstract as many times as I need to–the surface texture only gets richer. One of the tools I use to help me move forward with a thickly textured canvas is Photoshop (you can also use Corel Painter,  Clip Studio Paint, or Procreate if you have an iPad or PC tablet). In the video I use my old ModBook but you can use any tablet that works with your computer.

In the video below I imported the image to the right and began painting over the digital file in Photoshop (the original lacks subtlety of saturation and value). If you aren't familiar with Photoshop or you need more info on how to make textured brushes I highly recommend the tutorials at the Society of Visual Storytelling.  One of the best tutorials on how to make your own brushes is Chaos to Control by Lee White. Don't let it bother you if your style isn't similar to White's. He focuses on making your own highly textured brushes and I found it very applicable to my textured abstracts.

I don't always use photoshop for corrections but it can be a handy way to pre-visualize what you are trying to accomplish.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

244: Poetry and Power

AS ARTISTS why do we express ourselves the way we do?

When I was younger I played in a rock band. One evening we were playing to a full house at the aptly named Rogues Inn in Manhattan, Kansas. It was the usual crowd and they were hard to please. We picked a song from one of our own compositions–one that had the vaulting power of the progressive rock of that era. We dove into the tune and found our way through the oft practised song.

But that night something was different. A musical fusion took place that transcended our abilities. When we finished we were met not with the usual smattering of applause but with dead silence. Every head was turned and staring at the stage. After a few heartbeats wild cheers and thunderous applause erupted.

Unlike my bandmates, being a musician was a pastime for me. I really wanted to be an artist. As we basked in the adulation that night I thought that's the kind of power I want to infuse into my art one day.

My career since then has tried to embrace that kind of vaulting power–but in visual form. Our art can be many things but it is good to know our prime motivations. One reason I like the art of woodcut is that it easily captures the raw power of the artist's mark. I now see that many missteps in finding a clear artistic path have been from combining two paradoxically exclusive elements–poetry and power.

Artists such as John Twachtman fused their art with a poetic response to nature by using subtle nuances of value and color. Others, such as Lawren Harris, pursued the power of the visual image using divergent contrast and the clash of saturated color. Poetry and power are two ends of a continuum. You can have a mixture of both but you cannot have a mixture of one hundred percent of each quality. You have to compromise. You have to understand the emotional response you are trying to evoke and add the right amounts of each quality to express your intention.

An element of great art is harmony of intent. Not knowing where the emotional intent of your painting is on the poetry/power continuum gives a mixed, and therefore, weak message. Even though viewers may not consciously detect conflict they will react with ambivalence and vacillate between the two emotional poles.

Brad Teare –August 2015

Note: The Lawren Harris book below is pending but I'm enthused to get a copy as I think he's the best of the Group of Seven. Let me know if you have seen a copy.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

243: The Role of Symbolism

Sketch for Reflected World, Graphite
FINDING your way as an artist is not easy. As I look back over my career I wonder at all the techniques and styles I've explored. I always admired artists who seemed to know exactly who they were and how to express that identity.

In retrospect I see I had a propensity for symbolic representation yet rejected it in favor of a more realistic approach. Fortunately, one of the great things about an art career is that it's never too late to recover lost ground. All the styles and techniques we explore can be plowed under to make rich soil for future work. The ruins of past projects become the stable foundation for future creations.

An overview of my career shows a willingness to divide the world into individual, symbolic chunks, while simultaneously resisting such division. The cloisonnism of Van Gogh seemed too prosaic in a world infused with poetic subtlety. Or was infusing symbolism via delineation a necessary aspect of his artistic project? Previously I thought delineation was simply a technique to differentiate areas of color with similar values.

The work of Rockwell Kent and the Group of Seven had the same tendency toward symbolism, often using linear calligraphy–and their paintings projected a similar power as the work of Van Gogh. My woodcuts had a type of symbolism lurking beneath the surface although rarely expressing themselves using the overt outlines of Van Gogh's woodcut-inspired cloisonnism. I now see his delineation as a way to infuse symbolic content into form.

So I find myself at a crossroads reconsidering the form of my work–perhaps seeking a synthesis of woodcut and painting–to create a more personal and complete visual world. I feel a new phase of artistic experimentation coming on–allowing prosaic symbolism to step forward, swapping poetry for power–a phase that for the first time I will not resist.

Brad Teare– July 2015


Monday, July 13, 2015

242: Woodcut Show in April 2016

Woodcut, 9" x 6"
I'm currently preparing for a woodcut show in April 2016 at the Alpine Art Gallery in Salt Lake City. It will be the first time I will have a one person show entirely about the art of woodcut prints. I think it will be a great show and am enthused to make it the best show possible. In preparation I'm planning a series of smaller, more affordable prints. My color woodcuts are outrageously difficult because of the multiple blocks and so most people can't afford them. I plan to make a series of smaller, simpler prints (possibly hand colored), especially for the show that I hope will appeal to a wider audience.

As I create the woodcuts I intend to post images of my studio as well as the printmaking process. If you are interested you can follow the process on Instagram. The slideshow widget below links to my Instagram site. Let me know what you think of the new project.

Brad Teare –July 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

241: One Million YouTube Views

On the evening of 7 July 2015 the Thick Paint YouTube Channel clocked over a million views since the first video posted on 20 November 2009.

What does 1,000,000 views mean for the Thick Paint channel?

One million is just a number–but it's a huge one! I guess it means there are lots of people interested in art and looking for information on how to paint–and that video is a preferred venue for learning.

Is there any evidence that interest is slacking off?

Not as far as I can tell. If you look at the chart the last year has enjoyed a fairly dense clustering of views. That section doesn't have excessive highs or lows but views are consistent and averaging slightly higher. I view that as a sign of greater access for artists around the world.

How did you get the idea for the Thick Paint YouTube Channel?

I was on a painting trip to Sonora, Mexico to paint the missions of Father Kino and attended an exhibit of local art in the village of Magdalena. I detected in the very enthusiastic artistic expressions a similar yearning I felt growing up in Kansas–the wish for better access to art information. The desire to provide more information to a wider audience provided the inspiration for both the blog and the YouTube channel.

Have you been successful in providing the information your viewers need?

My only feedback is the numerous emails I've received expressing thanks for the channel. I've received letters from nearly every country on the planet that has internet access. It has been very gratifying.

You say nearly. Which countries haven't you heard from?

I haven't heard from North Korea or Cuba. There are a handful of countries in the interior of Africa that don't appear to have internet access. I've never gotten an email from Iceland which logs in with 604 views. Iceland has the highest ratio of artists per capita of any country so I had expected to hear from an Icelandic painter (especially since Icelandic is one of the 53 translatable languages. Plus giving a woodcut workshop there is on my creative bucket list). With so many artists I suspect there is already enough art info in Iceland which is awesome.

How about from Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan?

Artists of Kazakhstan have visited the channel 758 times, which I think is pretty amazing especially considering the videos are all in English.

After visiting your YouTube channel do people go to your blog and translate the additional material into their native languages?

Unfortunately the conversion rate from YouTube Channel to blog is not very good. It hovers around a ratio of 2:1. I provide free videos on my Gbox channel as well but the conversion rates are even lower.

Any reason why so few people jump over to the blog?

I think it's just so easy to access YouTube videos and go from video to video. I suspect most people don't think they will get much additional info from the blog which is unfortunate. With translation the blog has a greater potential to reach a larger audience (see translation drop-down menu in the upper right corner of this blog). There is also a search function that is very useful (right under the translate drop-box). Artists can use it to find all the articles about sketching for example but few avail themselves of that feature.

What are you most proud of?

Numbers do count and I think it's amazing that so many people have enjoyed the videos and possibly become better artists. That is tremendously satisfying. I never had any other intention for the channel and blog except to help other painters. Both have exceeded my expectations. The channel has over 4,400 subscribers which I think is pretty amazing too.

Any tips for those thinking about starting a similar channel?

Be patient. It took two years to get over 400 hits a day. In the beginning growth was slow. But if your content remains consistent viewers will show up. If you think you have something to offer jump in and give it a try. I'm an introvert and it was hard to be in front of a camera at first. But I've grown both from trying to communicate better on camera as well as gaining greater personal insight from articulating half-formed ideas. Many fellow painters have sent me great tips and painting suggestions. It has been really amazing. I discovered that if you want to grow–and you try to grow–you will grow. That's one of the few things I can guarantee.

Brad Teare –July 2015

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

240: Painting with Gouache

I HAVE never experimented much with gouache–probably from bad experiences using the chalkier, less versatile version known as designers gouache back in art school. I was therefore surprised and intrigued with James Gurney's new video Gouache in the Wild.

This new offering is a perfect companion to Watercolor in the Wild which I thoroughly enjoyed for its innovative approach to painting in the field (read my review here). 

This new video further explores Gurney's approach to plein air painting using professional grade gouache. Most painters would profit from watching the watercolor video first as I felt it covers in more detail Gurney's kit–although there is ample detail in the gouache video to make it enjoyable in its own right.

The video records six painting sessions. A favorite was the Liquor Sign session. Watching Gurney layer on the gouache and gradually building up detail using both transparent and opaque pigments was an eye-opener. For those who have already watched the video note the early haphazard overlapping of color that belies the later impression of exactitude.

Another favorite was the Convenience Mart painting where Gurney uses a quick value/color thumbnail to lock down color and value relationships before starting to paint. It's a brilliant idea I hope to try soon (I suspect the underlying black bars were painted in acryli-gouache, a water insoluble variation of gouache).

The painting of a still life of antique toys was intriguing as Gurney used a venerable yet arcane technique using a transparent grid (borrowed from Durer) to transfer the image. In typical fashion Gurney expands on the technique with an ingenious plastic sheet transfer method making the session invaluable for that tip alone.

Gouache in the Wild simultaneously respects traditional techniques while infusing them with a spirit of invention. I've already ordered a handful of gouache pigments to add to my watercolor kit and will soon try the innovations Gurney suggests. If you need new ideas to expand your techniques and a reminder of how fun painting in the field should be don't miss this video.

Brad Teare –July 2015


Monday, June 29, 2015

239: The Improvement Cycle

A common obstacle for new painters is to get blocked in the improvement cycle. This means we have trouble closing the gap between the frustrating phase of being a beginner–knowing little about painting–and the stage where we begin to enjoy painting. This is equally true for experienced painters who add new skills to their repertoire.

The goal is to get to where you enjoy the process as soon as possible. It is no fun painting one bad painting after another (although I did that for a year. See video about it here).

Once you get to the point where you enjoy the act of painting the improvement cycle becomes self perpetuating. We love to do what we do well. Many artists struggle with eliminating the obstacles to enjoyable competence. An understanding of the phases leading to competence can be helpful.

The first step toward competent painting is unconscious incompetence, a stage where you are blissfully unaware of what you don't know. This phase is relatively painless. The next phase is conscious incompetence. You know your paintings aren't working but don't know why. This phase is painful and most painters, being highly sensitive, need to get through this phase as fast as possible or they will give up. The next phase is unconscious competence. This phase starts to get rewarding–you are painting a good painting once in a while–but you may not understand why the painting is good. Finally you reach conscious competence where you understand why your painting is working and can replicate your success. This is the phase that is most enjoyable. 

These phases are like seasons and conscious competence will arrive just as spring follows winter–if you persist. To get to that level faster you can rely on the critique of fellow painters, learn as much as you can about basic principles, as well as brainstorming for possible flaws in your work, and analyzing what you want to say with your particular style.

Like the seasons you will cycle through this process many times as you continuously evolve your work. I have made this blog with the hope it will be a resource for painters who want to be actively engaged in the improvement cycle.

Brad Teare–June 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

238: The Mechanics of Beauty

I was walking along the foothills of my neighborhood and reflecting on how a large tract of untouched land at the eastern edge of our community has recently been marked for development. I mourned the future loss of such beauty that I have often painted and which has added so much enjoyment to my daily walks.
Morning Solitude, 9" x 10", eight block woodcut

Musing on the futility of preserving such beauty my mind turned to how I could deal with such a loss. I was reminded and encouraged that everyone responds to beauty. Not everyone responds equally, of course, but response to the beauty of nature is innate and will not disappear. Science fiction of the 50s predicted that we would live in communities of steel and glass and eat pills for dinner. Neither of which has happened because the aesthetics of such experiences are out of harmony with human nature.

Even the developers who bulldoze the land will likely build their own homes on land in an isolated and beautiful spot and grace them with paintings of nature much like the land they developed. So how does an artist make peace with such a process? One notion to keep in mind is that beauty is a function of rarity. As more and more people have a variety of cosmetic surgeries to look beautiful more pressure is placed on professional models to transcend that ideal of beauty. The commonality of beauty erodes beauty; the rarity of beauty promotes it. In like manner as beauty is relegated away from our communities more people will cherish natural beauty.

There will be tragic and irrecoverable losses along the way (imagine Central Park being developed for condominiums, or Arches National Park strip-mined for landscaping boulders). But artists must protect our sensitive natures by embracing strategies that will allow us to live peacefully in a world we can't control.

Focusing on the transience of nature helps. Like the feeling of nostalgia we subconsciously know that the arrow of time speeds in one direction only. The ephemeral aspect of nature is why an amazing sunset is so heartbreaking–its beauty will never be repeated. The theories of Nietzsche aside, every beautiful moment is a unique event. If it could be repeated and beauty were a common experience there would be no need for artists.

Brad Teare–June 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

237: Art Tools

Autumn Color, 24" x 24", oil on canvas
I regularly use two tools from Accurasee– an extremely well designed pencil holder called the SketchCaddy and a compositional device called the Art Gridding App (free here or see on iTunes here). The grid app is available for iPhone or Android.

Both the pencil bag and app are indispensable tools for the studio and in the field. Watch the video below for a demo on how I use them. Additional items I mention in the video are listed below.

Let me know what you think.

Brad Teare–June 2015

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