Thursday, April 27, 2017

322: My New York Adventure

–RECENTLY I was a guest on the Zion Art Society podcast, with Dr. Micah Christenen, and was asked about my experience as an illustrator in New York City. Although the podcast was about Utah painter LaConte Stuart and his influence on my landscape work (listen here) we did talk briefly about my illustration career. I hadn't thought about my New York experience for a while. It brought back good memories.

It reminded me of the convoluted path I've taken to get to my current level as a landscape painter. I had to see a lot of paintings, do a lot of drawing, and ultimately adjust a lot of my thinking before I learned to paint well. It seemed chaotic at the time, but in retrospect, the journey contained all the right obstacles to get me where I am.

The above illustration was the first assignment I received on my first day in New York City. It was for an editorial for The New York Times. The article described how helping newly hatched Galapagos turtles find their way to the sea is a detriment to the hatchlings. If the young turtles are helped by observers, they don't develop the strength to survive once they get to the sea. The scientists had to restrain themselves as they observed the turtles struggle and allow them to endure the tortuous journey across the beach–even if it meant seeing many of them eaten by hawks. In retrospect, the story seems like an allegory for how young artists need to find their own way–often in challenging circumstances. (But remember; with art nobody dies).

Another interesting insight as I remember that first assignment was how mature my style seemed despite being a fledgling illustrator. It's obvious that woodcut and related arts, such as scratchboard, came easily to me. Unlike the decades-long struggle to become a competent landscape painter.

In this blog, I've reviewed many books that discuss theories of improvement. The most prevalent idea can be described as the 10,000-hour theory. The theory claims that anyone can become world-class in any field if they spend 10,000 hours of focused practice. My experiences with woodcut and painting provide two radically different views. Woodcut came easily to me and required far less than the requisite 10,000 hours. Painting required far more.

My journey illustrates how different such endeavors can be–even in the life of one artist.

Brad Teare –April 12017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

321: The Privilege to Experiment

–WHEN you learn about the techniques of fellow artists, you come across suggestions that have the ring of truth, such as painting is nothing more than putting the right color in the right spot. Which is true–except when it isn't. Or if you get the value right the color will be right. Which I generally agree with–except when it doesn't work that way. Or represent a change in form by a change in value (that one actually holds up pretty well).

The point is there are lots of rules for artists, but very few of them hold true in all cases. Another related behavior of artists is to read about the favorite brush or color of an esteemed peer and adopt it as if that were equally valid for them as well. I read that purple was never to be used as an underpainting (not true), or that cobalt blue in a particular brand was vastly superior (not true for me). The list could go on. Another trap is to create rules for oneself that are equally absurd as the ones we randomly adopt from other artists. I mentioned in a previous blog about my aversion to using the palette knife, an idea that stemmed from observing other artists using it poorly, or using it well and not feeling I could find my own niche with the tool.

All such self-imposed rules can be damaging if you don't allow yourself the privilege to experiment outside such parameters. If a favorite artist says to only use bristle flats, perhaps you should look for exotic brushes the next time you're at the art store. I stumbled into a store having a sale and bought a set of ceramic tools simply because they were super cheap. They ended up being some of my favorite tools for scratching into paint.

The digital ink was barely dry on my last post when I realized that my supposed aversion to repetition was overly exaggerated. I frequently paint a small painting only to do a larger version, often many months or years later. If I consciously decided to never repeat myself, that would be a classic example of the dangers of making rules, even if subconsciously, and following them too strictly. Despite my earlier claim, my intolerance for repetition has some flexibility.

Such realizations are good reminders that as artists we need to follow very few rules. And those we do follow should be challenged frequently.

Brad Teare –April 2017

View from Rocky Point (above), 24" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Saturday, March 25, 2017

320: Repetition Fatigue

–WHAT type of artist are you? When I began my illustration career, my intent was to be a science fiction/fantasy book cover illustrator. However, due to the constraints of the genre, I soon grew weary of the repetitious aspects of the process. I found the routine, with its reliance on photography, stultifying.

I noticed my impatience with repetition again when I tried to force myself to do multiple composition, value, and color studies in preparation for landscape painting. Such impatience, or repetition fatigue as I came to call it, differs from laziness or lack of discipline. Repetition fatigue is the realization that repetition can inflict damage on the creative process. Despite reading innumerable times about the necessity of preliminary preparation, the truth remained that such repetition detracted from the work I intended to create. Artists with a high capacity for repetition, like those academically trained, have little understanding how drawing the same sketch over and over again, as required in some processes, can impede creativity for many artists.

Another factor determining what type of artist you are is esteem for craftsmanship. If you have an innate respect for craftsmanship, you need to find a balance between what you want to create and your actual capacity to create that degree of craftsmanship over an extended period. A famous trompe l'oeil artist told me that when I decided what genre of art to pursue to be sure it was a form I could live with over the long haul.

To clarify my thinking on these two factors and how they interact I made the accompanying graph. The horizontal vector is labeled repetition tolerance–low tolerance on the left, high tolerance on the right. The vertical vector is craftsmanship–with no concern for craftsmanship on the bottom, high concern at the top. The yellow dot shows how I blend these two traits.

With my palette knife landscapes, there is a high degree of spontaneity–I don't do color studies or sketches. Painting becomes a record of the discovery process as I create color harmony on-the-fly. However, the forms do not melt into chaos, as my sense of craftsmanship curtails abstract tendencies. The process becomes a dance between intent and capability.

This obscure interaction was not easy to articulate. But clarity began to emerge as I engaged in a two-year abstract painting project. During that time I realized that one of the historical reasons abstract art emerged was simply that such art occupied an ecological niche in the artistic landscape. Some people were driven to create but had no concern with craftsmanship and low tolerance for repetition. If it is possible that an art form can exist, no matter how bizarre, like a surreal glowing fish in the depths of the sea, it will eventually exist. In like manner, art forms will emerge to occupy every space in the craftsmanship/repetition tolerance landscape.

Abstract art fascinates those interested in shape and color. Wood engraving is intriguing to those interested in line and texture–and so on, giving rise to all the multiple expressions of art.

It takes humility to accept that your innate personality, with all its strengths and weaknesses, will delineate the type of art you will do. But it is the surest path to authentic creation.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

319: New Painting Workshop, May 2017

–I AM enthused to announce a new oil painting workshop Thursday, May 25, 4-8 pm, at Weber State University (click here to register). This four-hour session will be for serious beginners and advanced students.

We will be covering value, color temperature, and edges, and many other concepts I have addressed in this blog. All materials will be provided to allow each student to paint a complete canvas during the class. The class will be held at 3964 West Campus Drive, Kimball Visual Arts Center, Room 307, Ogden, Utah.

This workshop will be the last class I will be giving for the foreseeable future, so if you have wanted to learn more about my methods, I hope you will join me May 25, 2017. 

Brad Teare –March 2017

Grand Canal (above), 20" x 20", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Thursday, March 16, 2017

318: Advanced Field Effects

–I HAVE often said in my posts and Youtube videos that the color it looks like is the color it is. Except when it isn’t.

Like I mentioned while writing about color temperature, sometimes it's complicated. The original context of my use of the above phrase was determining the color of pigments in tubes. If you squeeze out a blue and it looks warm, for your purposes, it is warm.

But what would you do if you wanted to paint the green square? Most people will see the large square as turquoise with the smaller square having a slightly pink tint. However, as you may have guessed, the small square is actually a shade of gray. This phenomenon is often called a field effect (read more about it here). If you painted the small square by mixing pink, you would have difficulty replicating what you visually experience. Not until you realized you needed to replicate the field effect, by using a shade of gray, could you portray the color accurately.

One problem painters often have, including me, is using too bright of green for foliage. This is especially true in Spring when painting outside. I see brilliant green and squeeze out some Thalo Green and add Lemon Yellow. It practically glows. I tell myself that is the intense color I'm seeing. It makes a brilliant green, and my brain tells me that's what I need. But again, its more complicated than that.

I once went to an exhibit of dozens of Maxfield Parrish paintings and saw his originals for the first time. His work is extremely realistic while pushing the boundaries of color brightness (or chroma) to the maximum. It's an interesting combination since I usually associated highly realistic paintings with a grayer palette. On closer inspection, I noted that Parrish used a myriad of complimentary speckles to introduce field effects, almost as if he were introducing an impressionist effect on a microscopic level.

This technique allowed Parrish to achieve maximum chroma within a realist form. I have since detected a similar technique with other painters who get the same effect by different means. One painter allows color to build up in the ferrule of his brushes and squeegees out these shards of random color as he adds strokes of paint.

Adding random specks of color is one solution to the excessive green problem. But a better solution is to add just the right complement. I contend that if a painter is using color well, they are using some form of field effect, even if like Parrish, it's on a nearly imperceptible level.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Distant View (above), 20" x 20", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

317: Getting Temperature Right

–THE temperature of a painting is always relative. If a painting is mostly made up of blues nearly any color you add will appear warm–although varieties of blue can be either warm or cool. It gets rather confusing.

I found it easy to have a superficial understanding of temperature but achieving a deeper understanding was more difficult. An intellectual understanding of color temperature and a working knowledge of temperature are two different things.

A good way to think of temperature is to regard it as a spectrum, but not as the usual color spectrum artist's use on the color wheel. It is better to think of color temperature as a Kelvin temperature spectrum with orange/red on one end and cool blue on the other. This spectrum is similar to the colors metals transition through when heated. In the illustration below, you can see the difference between the iridescent spectrum (like we see in a rainbow) and the Kelvin spectrum.

For artistic purposes, it is best to use the idea of the Kevin spectrum as a metaphor and not be too literal. With the Kelvin spectrum as the colors transition from warm to cool, the values shift toward white in the middle which will not translate well into painting. It is better to think of white as neutral temperature and the lack of pigment. Think of the rainbow spectrum as the local color and think of the Kelvin spectrum as what you add to those colors to warm or cool those colors.

Some artists think of the light of the day as progressing through iridescent colors–cool light in the morning and at noon, with the colors gradually turning warmer nearing sundown. But thinking of the daily color shift as a Kelvin spectrum shift is more useful. The light of morning being cool, the glare of mid-day light being white, or neutral, and the light of evening being warm.

Take a look at my Instagram feed and compare the color balances between cool and warm in the various paintings. Look at your own painting as a group to see how you use temperature. Are your paintings generally balanced between cool and warm? Or is there a pleasing asymmetry of temperature?

In the above photo of a recent painting, there is a lot of cool color. Initially, I had even more cool colors and had to gradually add more warm variations of blue and green to get the painting to work. I typically find that a painting that is too cool looks worse than a painting that is too warm. But it's also inadvisable to have a color scheme that is perfectly balanced between cool and warm. Mixtures that are 75% warm to 25% cool, or vice versa will be more traditional, and off-balanced mixtures (90% warm and 10% cool) will be perceived as more abstract or atypical.

Of all the aspects of color; hue, value, saturation and temperature, the hardest to come to grips with has been temperature. But keep looking and experimenting, and you will understand this essential but often elusive concept.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Swallows Nest Rock (above), 12" x 12", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

316: James Gurney's Living Sketchbook

–IMAGINE being invited to your favorite artist's studio and getting a chance to thumb through his or her sketchbook. That's how I felt when I previewed James Gurney's new sketchbook app Boyhood Home.

I'm super busy right now–I'm preparing for a major landscape show–and I initially thought I would quickly thumb through the images, perhaps delve into a few I found intriguing and get back to work. However, after experiencing a couple pages of Boyhood Home, I was hooked and retired to my overstuffed chair to linger over each page. 

Surprisingly, the digital sketchbook experience actually was as intriguing as thumbing through a favorite artist's sketchbook. It's a different experience, of course, but has unique advantages.

The book is divided into three modes: the sketches, which you can zoom into, a video with voice over, and often an additional video feature, like a digital sidebar. The videos are about one to two minutes long and for my taste about right, allowing Gurney to share tips while not slowing down the experience. As you can see in the screen grab above you tap the icons in the upper right depending on which feature you want. Tap the image and the interface fades away. The "i" button gives you information regarding the medium and subject matter–which in one case informed me about a sketching devise known as a white gel pen–which I immediately noted for addition to my plein air kit.

The sketchbook is 25 pages long and includes a page showing Gurney's tools and media (primarily gouache and casein). Be sure to use the pinch and zoom feature on all the images as it allows you to see incredibly close detail. The zoom feature alone makes this well worth the $5 price, but the fusion of video, voice over, and images makes this as close to actually being in a cafe with Gurney, discussing how he created each sketch. The first volume of the Living Sketchbook app will be available March 20 for $4.99 for both iOS and Android phones and tablets (go here for updates).

For the tips and inspiration alone I eagerly look forward to more sketchbooks.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

315: The Art of Textured Paint

–I'M enthused about an upcoming landscape show at my new gallery, Anthony's Fine Art, on March 17. As suggested by the photo below, the venue offers a unique gallery experience. Unlike the austere settings of many galleries, Anthony's is replete with a wide variety of sculpture, paintings, and antiques. The ambiance is a delightful cross between a European museum and a Renaissance artist's studio (click here for a map).

Anthony's staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and I always love discussing art with them. My paintings will be in the upper salon as you go up the steps on the right. The video below gives you a preview of the show, although six pieces were still waiting to be framed at the time of filming. If you attend on opening night, you will see all 16 artworks.

In the video, I've included some close-ups to give an idea of the texture and color of a few of the paintings. But to be fully appreciated it's best to see the originals. The opening is Friday, March 17, 2017, from 6 to 9 pm. Parking is to the immediate north of the building, but there is always ample parking on the street in the evenings.

If you are in Salt Lake City on March 17, I hope you will drop by for a visit. I would love to meet you and glad to tell you more about my painting project and my process with these particular paintings. Until then.

Brad Teare –March 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

314: Building a Portfolio Website

–THE internet offers an unprecedented means to connect with fellow artists and potential art collectors. But the connection is only useful if we communicate effectively. In anticipation of a trip to Santa Fe to select a gallery, my brother Steve offered to give my website a major makeover.

I wanted the site to be the equivalent of a physical portfolio and needed high-resolution images in the portfolio section. Potential gallery directors will need to quickly see the quality and detail of my work. Steve found an innovative solution that allowed for speedy downloads while maintaining high visual quality (read about it here).

Since Steve was rightly concerned about download speed and wanted to keep the focus on my oil landscapes, he opted to eliminate portfolio woodcut images and link directly to my Etsy woodcut site. It was an elegant solution and a win-win for both navigation and download time. I haven't been overly impressed with Etsy as a sales tool, but it is a functional portfolio when linked to a visually engaging website.

Steve also suggested I upgrade my biography. Writing your own bio is tricky. You need to mention salient details without appearing excessively proud of accomplishments. Striking the right tone can be quite difficult even for the best writers.You can read the revised version here (let me know what you think). 

My galleries have changed so we included my newest–Anthony's Fine Art. I also added a photo of their gallery (see above) which I borrowed from Google Earth. I will upgrade the photo as soon as Spring arrives. I also want to make a video showing the interior galleries as well as the space where my paintings are hanging. It's an impressive venue, and I think readers might enjoy a virtual tour.

Brad Teare –February 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

313: Sleeping Well = More Energy

–SLEEPING well is a struggle for me. I often face the easel wishing I could have slept better, more prepared to paint well. Too often exhaustion casts a shadow of confusion over my mind obscuring the clear thinking necessary to creativity.

Shawn Stevenson, the author of Sleep Smarter, writes that sleep is the secret sauce that makes exercise, meditation, and eating programs work. In the absence of quality sleep, all other efforts to improve energy levels will not succeed.

Stevenson's premise is that we are creatures who have adapted to the cycles of this planet with incredible precision. Our goal now is to shrug off the habits made available by the modern world. We need to consciously sync our lives to the rhythms of the planet. He suggests we sleep when it's dark and be active when it's light. We should have a regular bedtime around 10:00 and sleep 8 to 9 hours a night. I found his arguments compelling despite being a night owl with ample excuses why I need to work late. Stevenson claims that one-third of the populace find rising early difficult but contends we will be happier and healthier if we adhere to the natural day/night cycle.

In a previous post, I characterized the hormone cortisol as a bad hormone. But if our bodies create it, it is by definition good, in the right doses and at the right time. The right time for our brains' cortisol bath is in the morning. This can be enhanced by exercise, which for me includes a mile walk and light weight lifting for 15 minutes. Cortisol must be produced early in the morning to stimulate the proper hormone cascade throughout the day. Exercising excessively later in the day will cause you to sleep poorly.

Another essential hormone for good sleep is melatonin. You get it by exposure to sunlight–not lights, lamps, or glowing computer screens. About a half-hour a day is adequate. And it doesn't matter if it's cloudy or not. If it is light from the sun, your body will produce the right amount of melatonin that will later provide you with the right hormone balance for sleep. Don't try to cheat mother nature by using melatonin supplements. They will work at first but will eventually supplant your regular production, and your body will stop producing its own supply.

Negative hormone stimulants include viewing a blue screen device (including television) within two hours of your 10:00 bedtime. This type of light stimulation will trigger a hormone bath counter to achieving a restful state. A better alternative is to use warm light in your bedroom and read or listen to books on tape before sleep. Listening to books on tape allows for sketching or other simple tasks in harmony with winding down in preparation for sleep.

Other tips include limiting or avoiding caffeine, drinking lots of water early in the day (to avoid nighttime bathroom visits), and practicing meditation both before bed and if you wake during the night.

I see several personal obstacles to Stevenson's recommendations, primarily setting a fixed and early bedtime. But his arguments made sense, and I plan to implement them as best I can. His main premise is that we are subject to the wisdom of Mother Nature–and we disregard her to our peril.

As always let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –February 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

312: The Power of Meditation

–TO be successful artists need to learn how to generate and maintain energy. The best ways are to eat well, sleep well, exercise, and meditate.

For me the key to achieving the other three objectives is meditation. I've read a cross-section of the myriad books on the subject. Most seem to delight in making meditation excessively complicated. But meditation is a simple and easy way to conserve energy and should be a staple in every artist's energy conservation strategy. Science has proven that meditation boosts the good chemicals in your brain and inhibits bad chemicals (like cortisol and norepinephrine which are linked to fatigue and depression as well as a host of chronic diseases). Meditation is used by many people for a wide variety of solutions including organizations such as the U.S. Navy SEALs (who use a variation of 4 x 4 x 4 technique).

Meditation is comprised of two parts–correct breathing and calming the mind. Many make the case that correct breathing is all that is necessary and that you can meditate while you paint or engage in any other activity. The Kindle book Cubicle Mediation outlines breathing technique and three methods of calming the mind:

Guided Meditation, the first method described, is where you breathe calmly while engaging in an internal dialog. This most closely resembles self-hypnosis and can be used for a variety of rehearsal techniques such as imagining painting an intricate passage of a composition before you actually mix paint.

The second is Clearing the Mind Meditation, where you swat away thoughts like errant insects. The third method is Focusing the Mind Mediation where you allow any and all thoughts to come into your mind, but you keep moving from one idea to another, not allowing yourself to obsess on any one thought, like a bee going from flower to flower.

As the title suggests, Cubicle Meditation was written with office workers in mind, but the broader lesson is that meditation can be practiced anywhere by anyone. When you practice meditation, you will find yourself renewed and refreshed, like taking a power nap. I use meditation to rehearse a painting, to relax before sleep, or any other moment when stress becomes an obstacle.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Brad Teare –February 2017


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