Monday, August 24, 2009

The Painting Career

Friends and I have been discussing our various goals in art and life. Then Ken sent me this. Cut out the third paragraph and pin it on your bulletin boards.

The Great Wave, by Hokusai

Hokusai (1760-1849)
Katsushika Hokusai, Japan's best known artist, is ironically Japan's least Japanese artist. Japan's best known woodblock print, The Great Wave, is very un-Japanese. Welcome to the artist often known as Hokusai.

Hokusai (1760-1849) lived during the Tokugawa period (1600 to 1867). In a Japan of traditional Confucian values and feudal regimentation, Hokusai was a thoroughly Bohemian artist: cocky, quarrelsome, restless, aggressive, and sensational. He fought with his teachers and was often thrown out of art schools. As a stubborn artistic genius, he was single-mindedly obsessed with art. Hokusai left over 30,000 works, including silk paintings, woodblock prints, picture books, manga, travel illustrations, erotic illustrations, paintings, and sketches. Some of his paintings were public spectacles which measured over 200 sq. meters (2,000 sq. feet.) He didn't care much for being sensible or social respect; he signed one of his last works as "The Art-Crazy Old Man". In his 89 years, Hokusai changed his name some thirty times (Hokusai wasn't his real name) and lived in at least ninety homes. We laugh and recognize him as an artist, but wait, that's because we see him as a Western artist, long before the West arrived in Japan.

"From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. but all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing." -- Hokusai

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Rabbit Hole

I've been thinking about a comment I heard last week. Why just look down that rabbit hole and dream of what might be possible. Jump down the rabbit hole and experience being an artist, Alice. (Is there a rabbit hole painting in my near future?)

With the down economy, take advantage of these months to explore ourselves as painters. This is a unique time (hopefully). We need not spend time painting for someone else's decor. Paint for ourselves. Explore that rabbit hole.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I re-read the Julia/Julie book in preparation for seeing the movie. Both are terrific. Meryl Streep IS Julia Child. This disappointed me a little, Streep seems like such a fun person, I wanted to see her playing the part.

I've been trying to equate her acting to painting. I think that a method actor such as her becomes Julia Child, and that is equivalent to realistic painting. A character actor, say Goldie Hawn, always plays some version of herself. This might be like putting yourselves into your paintings. Does that make me the Sandra Bullock of paintings? ;-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Escher and Me

"Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible." M. C. Escher This quote that really reflects my passion for painting.

Making the impossible possible is the thrust of my style, my book, Master Disaster, my DVD and my workshops. Developed from notes on how I managed to finish dozens of paintings, I review my book when finishing each and every painting. And I do make the impossible possible!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Watercolor Rules

I wish the title of this post meant that watercolor RULES! But I'm afraid that this is just another rant on the rules and restrictions that some organizations feel are necessary to maintain the status quo.

I read that there were 613 commandments in the Old Testament, and about one third of them were "thou shalt nots." So I counted up the commandments in the TWSA prospectus that I was about to throw out and there are 29 commandments, 14 of them are "thou shalt nots." They actually do have a ways to go. :-)Just give them time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance

I just got back from teaching a wonderful workshop for the West Virginia Watercolor Society. The classes enthusiasm over making a "flip book" astounded me. They are sure to continue their quest for the perfect samples of color and design strategies. These DO take your paintings to a new level.

Then we discussed content. This was new to some of the class, and exciting to all. How do you put more of yourself into a painting? How do you get some ideas peculating in what used to be "just a pretty picture?"

While this concept may have been new to painting for some artists, they understand content when it applies to other forms of art.

The last night my wonderful hosts and I watched "So You Think you can Dance" (Is that the title? I'm not a TV watcher.) Anyway, the criticism of the dancers was light and nice, but it centered around two things. Evan evoked the style of Fred Astair--sweet and old-fashioned--like most of our paintings. He and his partner found it hard to really express themselves with this style. In painting we might say that the technique dominated the painting. And the artists personality and emotions couldn't show through.

While struggling with content in our paintings these quandaries that the dancers faced was obvious to average people. The judges even complimented one corriographer for daring to create a "conceptual" piece for the competition so near it's end. Another corrieographer created a dance that he thought would be "Popular" with the voting audience. I don't know the results of the voting. did Evan's popular work win? Please let me know.