Saturday, February 21, 2015

217 The Art of Thick Paint Book

I've been toiling for months writing a book about the art of thick paint. Although many chapters are finished I haven't finished the book. However I decided to publish the unrefined manuscript on Wattpad and evolve as I write. Frequent readers will recognize some topics from this blog but many chapters are completely new.

This type of creativity is often referred to as frictionless creativity and is a method increasingly used online. It allows for online readers to create momentum for the project as well as encourage efficient project management  since you can write and edit from your phone or tablet.

I enthusiastically welcome your feedback. Feel free to add comments to the manuscript (via the Wattpad app) or in the comments section. I will make corrections and add clarification and topics based on your suggestions. In a year I hope the have the manuscript finished and will publish it with color illustrations.

I hope you will share this project–your vote and comments on the Wattpad site will boost its ranking. I appreciate your help .

Brad Teare–February 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

216 Painting acrylics like oils

Painting with 4 preliminary sketches
Even if you use a heavy bodied acrylic pigment (which I recommend) painting with acrylics is often disappointing if you are used to the thickness of oils. Also as acrylics dry they become thinner dimensionally because much of the mass of the pigment is water. As it evaporates the film shrinks to have less texture. Oil colors dry by oxidation so do not lose mass as they dry.

The secret to making acrylics feel like oils as you paint and dry with thick texture is to add a medium.The medium I use in the video is Golden Paint's Extra Thick Gel because of its extremely thick yet creamy texture. In some mixtures to further increase the thickness of the gel I add chalk. I demonstrate the process in the video below, available gratis exclusively on Gbox.

The extra thick gel added a very oil-like feel to the acrylic paint. Plus it didn't take much pigment to tint the gel. Since the gel is much cheaper than most pigments (like Cadmium Red for example) it's a good way to paint thickly yet conserve expensive pigments.

Another cool paint from Golden is High Flow acrylics. I used Raw Umber pigment in my Liquitex Acrylic marker to do the drawing on the canvas. It has an ink-like consistency and in conjunction with the marker is a great addition to any acrylic painter's tool kit.

In the photo at the top of the page you will see four 5" x 7" paintings I did as preliminary sketches previous to the larger painting. In a future blog I will outline how I used these roughs in a deliberate practice routine.

Brad Teare–February 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

215 Dream of Light

Work in progress, Dream of Light, 44" x 44"
"I spin a cocoon around myself; let others do the same. I shall leave it to time to show what will come of it: a brilliant butterfly or maggot."

    —Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich was a German romantic painter whose work bordered on the surreal. The accompanying image is a work in progress entitled Dream of Light. It was this painting I saw in a dream I wrote about here.

May your vision be clear, your rendering faithful.

Brad Teare–February 2015


Saturday, February 7, 2015

214 Creative contrast

Islands on the Bear River, 13" x 23", acrylic on canvas
While studying deliberate practise I've come to realize that a critical aspect of learning is maintaining a calm state of mind. Stress and worry do nothing but derail the learning process. Recently it has become obvious that in addition to crafting beautiful art we need to craft lives that are worth living. We love what we do and it is often too easy to push too hard. One of the implicit but erroneous tenants of deliberate practice is if we aren't honing our craft night and day we are losing ground.

Hitting the wall of exhaustion and burnout not only defeats our purpose of creating amazing art but leads to an impoverished life. One remedy is to craft a life that does not adhere to formulas or expectations but is adapted to our unique nature. Surprisingly this can be done in a variety of ways and has been practised by many artists through the ages.

One of the best books on the subject of creating a unique life is Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher. It is subtitled A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love. It advances the nearly unique idea that we do not have to submit to the tyranny of specialization. The author acknowledges that many creative people love doing a variety of creative projects and that to limit them makes them less efficient, less creative, and most importantly, less happy. She outlines practical strategies that do not rely on supervisors, companies, or society. Essentially she advocates using our creativity to become our own patrons.

In recent experiments with deliberate practice I found that intertwining divergent creative activity with focused practice is extremely productive. The commingling allows me to decompress mentally and rest physically. It is a counter intuitive process that probably won't work for everyone. But for me it is a step forward as I focus with increased effort on the Thick Paint project.

While painting Islands on the Bear River I took intermittent breaks and wrote on a book project I postponed for years. The book is not about art or creativity–it's a fictional novel. Its complementary nature gave total respite to the part of my brain heavily taxed by the deliberate painting process. It is hard to describe the positive effects except to say it opened my mind and allowed me to relax more fully. When I returned to painting I had a definite sense of increased mastery over the medium and subject matter. I assume it altered my brain chemistry and allowed for a heightened mental state.

I'm writing my book on Wattpad because it allows for erratic workflow. Erratic being an unfortunate but inescapable aspect of my current life. If writing is part of your creative repertoire I highly recommend trying the the above process.

Brad Teare–February 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

213 State of the Art Market

Trinchera Sky, 11" x 11", eight color woodcut
I get many emails covering a wide range of topics. A recurring question is how the art market is doing. I don’t consider myself an expert but I have contacts with many in the field and have tried to cultivate a wide view of trends in a variety of genres. Here is my analysis of what is currently happening in the art market:

Due to a series of global economic crises the traditional art market has contracted significantly from the 80s and 90s. Many patrons who used to buy regularly are now waiting for the market to improve. Some, like second-home owners, have downsized their assets and simply do not have the demand for as much art as in previous decades. Artists whose reputations were established previous to the new economy continue to connect with markets forged during the old economy. Newer markets, such as online gallery Saatchi Online, are proving difficult to exploit by the average artist. Traditional galleries are scrambling to exploit the internet economy but most are finding it easy to expend resources with little measurable return.

The amount of people creating art has expanded significantly. Opening any art magazine is to discover a new crop of artists with amazing talent and impressive work. This expansion of available art is partly demographic as Baby Boomers finally have time and resources to develop their talents fully. Although much has been written about the increased division of the rich and the poor the reality is that the middle-class has never been larger and its expansion is a world wide phenomenon. Widespread prosperity is allowing more people the option of pursuing a career in art. Previously local markets could sustain local artists but now the markets are not local but global.

Not only are more people practicing art professionally the overall quality is improving with each passing year. Information about how to paint better and improve faster is passing easily and quickly across the globe. Anyone pursuing a career in art has easy access to the best art instruction ever available in the history of the planet. This is an historic and unprecedented phenomenon and its ramifications are not fully realized.

Some genres, like woodcut, are no longer viable due to the confusion caused by digital printing. Works on paper, especially under glass, can no longer be easily determined to be handmade. Any work of art that is not easy recognized as handmade will be devalued in the post-computer printing market. Digital disruption will continue with the advent of 3D printing and reproduction of textured paintings further confusing the concept of original art.

This analysis might be viewed as somewhat pessimistic. But with every obstacle there is a countervailing opportunity to expand the artistic project. In times of change it is difficult to blaze a new path forward. But that is the ultimate function of creativity.

Brad Teare–January 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

212 The limits of talent

In the book Talent is OverratedGeoff Colvin outlines what separates world-class performers from everyone else—deliberate practice. (Read previous entries on the subject here and here).

According to the author deliberate practice allows high achievers to perceive more, know more, and remember more. Top performers understand their field at a higher level and thus have a superior structure for remembering information. This enhanced consciousness is referred to as metacognition.

I erroneously suggested in an earlier post that high performers practice in order to obtain an automatic state of consciousness. Contrary to this idea metacognition is an enhanced state of consciousness that transcends automatic response. Automatic response is actually the enemy of high performance.

When a high-performing marathon runner competes she does not go into automatic pilot. She does not begin daydreaming about cool breezes and idyllic fields. The high-performing runner forms a superconscious model of what is happening – she might begin comparing her breathe to stride ratio. She might form a complex mental image of potential competition. The idea that high performers practice until their performance becomes thoughtless is erroneous —rather the practitioner slips into a heightened altered state many refer to as flow—which is a highly practiced state that becomes effortless by previous repetition—but consciousness is magnified.

In such a state high performers have a heightened sense of awareness of both failure and success and are therefore able to recalibrate their performance. Average performers remain clueless to their weaknesses and attribute their problems to forces outside their control. Because of such awareness high performers are in a constant state of evolution.

The book implicitly endorses the 10 year rule—often called the 10,000 hour rule—that it takes that long to become proficient in any given field. In general I agree with the theory although it is more applicable to chess, sports, and music. The visual arts present a more complex challenge to these theories which I hope to discuss in future entries.

Brad Teare – January 2015


Saturday, January 24, 2015

211 Painting like Van Gogh, Part 2

Pen and ink sketch by Vincent Van Gogh
In previous entries I noted elements that made Van Gogh's work different from other painters. Another difference was the way Van Gogh drew. The short distance from his drawing to his painting strengthened his work. Once you see how his painting was inspired by his idiosyncratic drawing style his methods become more transparent. His drawings had a rhythmic calligraphic syncopation. The energetic dots and dashes of his drawings allowed Van Gogh to instinctively translate his vision onto canvas.

Van Gogh had an inimitable style and I would never suggest expropriating his techniques. Yet the unique nature of his drawing style and the kinship between his drawing and painting are so obviously interconnected we might ask ourselves if our drawing has achieved its own unique nature. And if not, why? I suspect too many students are in such a hurry to paint they neglect fostering a unique drawing method. Unique drawing indicates a unique way of thinking about the visual world. Those qualities can then be applied to achieving a unique effect in paint.

Yellow Field by Vincent VanGogh
To the right is the painting Yellow Fields from The Kroller-Muller Museum from a photo by Erik te Kamp. Note the use of cloisonnism to contain the close values of the distant hills and mountains. Rather than using value Van Gogh uses line to delineate the distant houses as well as the sun.

We see evidence of dry brush– where he let the paint dry and added touches of paint at a later stage. Once again we see little evidence that he loaded his brush–as all the strokes are of one color–the mixing taking place on the canvas at the edges of the strokes.

This extreme close-up of a virtuoso clot of paint in the lower right quadrant seems to have evidence of glazing–another sign that Van Gogh thoughtfully modified his paintings back in the studio after the initial alla prima session. I'm impressed with the abandon embodied in this passage–any other color combination would not look as impressive–the muddy yellows and purples make the opposite color come alive.

In this last close-up we see another example of dry brush and possible glazing in the lower section. The green line work most likely was painted after the initial paint had dried. The slightly purple pastels strokes offset the high saturation of the yellows and greens.

Once again many thanks to Eric te Kamp for these excellent photos.

Brad Teare–January 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

210 Art Hurts–the pain of Deliberate Practise

In blog 205 I wrote about Deliberate Practise. Much has been written about practising deliberately for musicians and athletes but what form would it take for painters?

The kind of deliberation depends on what kind of art you practise. If you paint in an academic tradition a portion of your practice should include a focus on muscle memory–just like an athlete. This means you will devise a routine to rehearse the physical techniques required for the genre–how to hold the brush, moving the hand in a graceful sweep, applying the exact layer of paint to canvas to achieve a precise surface.

Rustic Sentinels, 10" x 10", 8 color woodcut
Other genres–those that depend less on procedure–will require a different type of exercise. If your technique is highly original you will have to create your own series of exercises.

Doing what you normally do to create a painting is not Deliberate Practise. You have to set aside time to practise specific techniques. I accidentally discovered this process with my abstracts. Initially I was making small paintings with massively large strokes to experiment with different ways to apply broken color. If I were to devise Deliberate Exercise to replicate such experiments I might buy 100 small panels and do five paintings a day before I start my regular painting session.

I would augment these sessions by keeping a journal and recording what I'm trying to accomplish. What did I discover that surprised me? What disappointed me? How can I use what I learned in today's painting?

You isolate your weaknesses and devise experiments that strengthen those weaknesses until you have evolved the expression that satisfies you. You keep a list of obstacles and experimental solutions. You have to be brutally honest. Then you practise until you notice improvement. Anything else is a waste of time.

Deliberate Practise is harder for artists because you have to invent the type of practice that will yield your unique style. If you follow the practice pattern of John Singer Sargent you will end up painting like him. Which is a productive path only if you honestly feel you can surpass his genius. Or if you suspect his technique is a necessary step in finding your ultimate style.

Such experiments require highly individual decisions and need as much creativity as your paintings. It is unlikely your path will be a linear progression to your final style. Most likely you will make many false steps forward. It will seem like much of your invented practise was not an efficient use of time. But such is the path of the artist.

Deliberate Practise is not expressive. It is analytical. You are trying to achieve a deliberate objective. It is not fun because you are trying to achieve virtuosity*–a kind of thoughtless excellence–which you have as yet not achieved. You have to bear the boredom and pain of repetition and failed effort. A part of you will insist you are wasting your time and that you need to get back to the fun of painting gallery-ready work.

A patron sitting for a portrait noted that Sargent would paint a section of the portrait, step back to observe his work, step forward and remove the passage, paint it again, remove it, and repeat this process multiple times. The idea of Deliberate Practise had not emerged in Sargent's time but it's a good example of the theory. We can guess that Sargent had a specific image in his mind each time he painted the passage. But each time he failed to realize that vision. So he removed the paint and tried again. This is the kind of persistence and deliberate effort that is a part of Deliberate Practise.

*By virtuosity I mean a mastery of your medium no matter how controlled or spontaneous your paint application.

Brad Teare–January 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

209 The Art of Transformation

Blue Dream, 36" x 36", acrylic on canvas
The art profession generates lots of controversy. But recently there has been an increase in articles declaring everything has changed in the art world. Certainly many artists are having to reinvent their careers. Many causes are cited–digital technology cheapening the artistic process, the crash of 2008, new entertainment technology, as well as internet connectivity.

A recent blog post by gallery owner Jason Horejs analyzes a recent article in Atlantic Monthly provocatively entitled The Death of the Artist. It's an interesting article that articulates a suspicion of many–that the internet has changed what it means to be an artist–and much of the change is not good. The responses were quite interesting–many mentioning that the role of artist has always been changing. I posted a response to the article which I quote here:

The author misses one important idea–that art is a transformative experience. If there is no transformation there is no art. One of the reasons people connect less with art is we no longer have the collective sensitivity to experience subtle transformative moments.

Everyone can make an object or write a story but how many can induce a transformative experience? Those that trigger such experiences are geniuses. But their genius is dependent on perception. This is the missing element in today's environment. People are conflating entertainment–the pleasing passage of time–with timelessness–the inducement of a transformative state. Such unique states of mind are why people often conflate artistic experience with spiritual experience.

It is not democratization of art that is destroying art but the inability to communicate the subtlety and importance of authentic artistic experience.

It is this ability to transform the viewer–even in subtle ways–that gives art its power. The change we should seek is to encourage more to esteem aesthetic experience–those transformative moments that enrich our lives.

In the communication revolution those who communicate best prevail. It might be a matter of communicating to more people the pleasures of aesthetic experience. But it also might be a matter of physiology. Stehndahl syndrome–hyper sensitivity to art–is experienced by a small percentage of art enthusiasts and suggests a physical component to art appreciation.

The problems faced by most artists could be solved by an expanded art market. Improved communication is the way forward as we attempt to convince others of the transformative pleasures of the visual world.

Brad Teare–January 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

208 Connecting with an audience

 Vestige of Sky, 12"x12", acrylic
Getting attention as an artist is not easy. It requires dedication, persistence, and luck–which according to Seneca is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. The internet promises to foster more encounters between the prepared and previously illusive opportunity. My experiments with YouTubeand more recently Saatchi Onlineprove that opportunity is expanding and easier to connect with.

Yet something is missing. It might be the sense of respect and mystery described in Lovemark Theory. Perhaps I haven't paid as much attention to such theories as I should. I rely instead on a very simple business idea–work with people who are honest, professional, and fun. By fun I mean generous–with exuberance for life and the creative process.

I've had the pleasure to be one of the early adopters of Gbox–an online alternative to YouTube–that promises to exceed the potential of YouTube while maintaining connection with content creators. They offer several models to fine tune video distribution. Early adopters receive 100% of all proceeds. I opted for the pay what you want option keeping my videos free yet allowing for donations should viewers be so inclined.

I'm currently preparing a series of videos about painting highly textured, acrylic abstracts. If you have video content to share with the world I highly recommend Gbox. Check out my Gbox channel below:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

207 The next best step

Cliff Shadows, 9" x 11", 8 color woodcut
I keep a journal. One of the advantages of a journal is tracking success of goals you have made. I've learned through the years that I'm not good at accomplishing long lists of goals. My aim changes too quickly. It's an artist's prerogative to change direction as often as inspiration requires.

Yet I still need a way to ensure artistic progress. For the last few years I have used a method where I list all the possible moves forward at that particular moment. I pick the one I'm most excited about and the one most likely to move my artistic project forward.

The list in my journal is much like goal setting–I generate a list of possibilities–but the intent is different. I select only one aim as the next step forward. I focus solely on that step. The list remains in my journal and I may return to the other possibilities but only as a resource to determine the next best step.

Wishing you the very best in 2015.

Brad Teare–2015

The box I made to store my journals (my wife added some of her trompe l'oeil props).

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