Sunday, May 5, 2013

ArtFields, The Portraits

A week later, I'm finally getting around to posting some better images of the portraits by themselves.  All oil on canvas, 18 X 22 inches.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Best of Show, ArtFields Portrait Contest

Round One: A full house
Yesterday I had the honor of competing with 23 other artists in the 2013 Art Fields Portraits Contest.  Having never competed in any sort of live-head-to-head art competition, I had no idea of what to expect.   I also had not had the pleasure of visiting Lake City, South Carolina.  The competition was a very intense experience and I was pleasantly surprised by the charm of  both the town and the amazing organizational abilities of the Art Fields hosts and staff.  

Not being a plein air sort, I was quite anxious over having to paint outside.  By a great stroke of luck, the event was moved indoors to the Bean Market due to possibility of rain.  The indoor venue proved to be an excellent space for the contest, allowing plenty of room for the artists, models, and audience to roam around and view the work from the walkways above the main floor.  The event began promptly at ten with two artists paired to one local farmer acting as model. Each contestant then had only one hour to produce a full portrait to be judged by a panel of four jurors.

In the first round, I was set up at a long table in the center of the floor.   The room was already full of people directly involved with the event but also began to overflow with groups from the outside festival, who watched the artist from all sides.  My hand was actually shaking so bad as I began that I had to steady it with other fingers on the canvas.  It was quite an effort to shut out all the distraction and focus, but I had a great model.   The hour went quickly and the 24 artists were cut to 12 for round two.   My personal goal was to make past this initial selection so I was excited to move on to the next round.

Round Two, 12 Artists
Round two was a little easier going with half the floor clear. I could settle in and actually enjoy painting.  My model kept this fantastic smile going for the full hour that, though impossible to capture, lightened my mood considerably.    I even had time to reflect on the bizarreness of the event; it really felt like portraiture was becoming a sport with all the people watching and taking pictures.    I even heard the makings of stroke-by-stroke commentary as some onlookers were describing the finer points of artistic processes to their spouses.  

Round Three, Six Artists
By round three, there were only six artists and three models left.    I had brought a small assortment of toned canvases that I matched to each model as the round began.   My farmer's John Deere hat inspired me to go green this time.   While I didn't get the likeness, I was pretty satisfied with the resulting painting; after all, camo is pretty tough to paint!

Round Four, Three Artists
With only thirty minutes between rounds, I was pretty exhausted by the time the last portrait session began at 2:30.   It was down to the last three of us, and I switched to a red canvas that matched the skin tones of our final model.  Although I was concentrating rather hard on the model, I could feel all the people watching.   The earlier days hushed conversations gave now gave way to the dull roar of a party at full swing and it seemed like everyone had a camera.   For a brief moment, I felt like a professional athlete... 


At four, I was presented with the blue ribbon and declared the winner.  I was admittedly delirious by this point, so I would like to take the opportunity now to thank my hosts at Art Fields for creating such a cool event as well as give one more nod to all of the fine competitors.  Thanks to all my students at UNCP who helped me train in the last two weeks, and thanks to the support of my good friends Kate, Zack, and Amelia Wagner, Marsha Wiegand who cheered me on during the contest.    Of course, I cannot give enough thanks to my sweet wife Beata who keeps me going.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

North Carolina Museum of Art

Signed on for the UNCP field trip to the North Carolina Museum of Art last Saturday, and finally got to tour a pretty great collection of art in Raleigh, NC.  As I might have mentioned before, I think very highly of museums that offer free admission to their permanent collection.  I certainly understand how small non-profit museums struggle to pay staff, but it is really a great thing when a state has enough vision to offer an opportunity to view the arts to the general public.  When I was growing up, my home city (Nashville is no small town), lacked a real art museum and my first exposure to art was from a [paid] traveling show that included a very nice late Monet waterlily painting.  Suffice to say it set me on my current path, showing me that art can have a real physical presence that no flat image from a book can fully describe.

I am thrilled to know that a great museum such as the North Carolina Museum of Art is so close to where I teach, and that is has a substantial collection of historical and contemporary works that includes major works by some of the biggest names in the textbooks.   To name a few, there's an excellent Anselm Kiefer, a few giant Motherwells, and even a Ribera.  It also boasts great works by North Carolina artists that easily stack with the rest.  There is also curiously large amount of Rodin casts in the West building, extending outside as pictured below.  I regret to say that I didn't have time to tour the grounds and surrounding sculpture park, but it's safe to say that I'll be back soon with my dog. 

Footnote to the taxidermy pic:  I was thinking something like "North Carolina spreads its wings," or state that NCMU simply has everything, but readers should note that I simply love taxidermy and actively seek it out. (I'm also fairly certain that most of it isn't copyrighted.) My nose led to this one in a relatvely tiny Audubon diversion currently on display in the East building.  If anyone want to donate any fine specimens, I guarantee it will work its way into a painting someday...

Anselm Kiefer rocks
Lamb of God, literally

More Rodins than you can shake a stick at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Training: Aimee

In my third portrait of the day, I finally choked.   The likeness wasn't coming together by the half hour and I quickly fell behind with corrections.  I didn't even have a chance to get to the hair before the bell!  If this was the real deal competition, I don't think I would have passed elimination with this result.  Above is where I was at at the one hour point.

Ah well, I wasn't going to let a little failure from stopping me from making a decent painting today.   This is the result of an extra twenty minutes that I won't have next Saturday.  I will have some serious trouble if my model has long hair and soft features.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In Training: Aaron

When Aaron took the chair, I said I would try to make him look all Game Thrones in honor of his great hair.   Too tall an order without inventing props-- but not too bad a portrait otherwise. The beard was definitely a challenge.   Also, I realized a lot of my models have been strolling in with green shirts....      

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Training: Darlene

Day two of my portrait training went fairly well.   End of the semester and students are getting sick.  I had two cancellations, so one of my coworkers, Darlene, agreed to sit for 45 minutes.   After my good day last Friday, I was arrogant enough to think I could trim off a few minutes... 

I forgot how much easier is for me to paint men rather than women.    My natural manner of working involves a lot of short choppy brush strokes that exaggerates light and dark planes over smooth, careful, rounding of forms.   Most guys don't mind if they end up looking a but older and more rugged; let's just say the effect is less pleasing for women.   Attempting a measure of blending took an extra five minutes.  Also, Darlene obviously takes a lot of care with her hair, and I wanted to do it justice.   Ten more minutes gone.   I wasn't nearly finished as planned, so I conscripted her for the full hour and got this result.

Another annoying thing about portraits-- did I mention people tend to expect a likeness?  Other artists are far more forgiving than the general public--who tend to expect photographic results.   While painting, I imagined that the Farmers and onlookers at ArtFields could be a very rough crowd indeed.  I was more than a little anxious to see how Darlene would react to the process, but she was a very good sport.   I guess all those years around artists had her a better prepared.   I'll post the other two results over the weekend, and I plan on doing a couple of more to stay warmed up before the big day. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

In Training: James

By the last hour, I was pretty delirious, the artistic equivalent of hitting the wall.   I have little recollection of making this.  James was a very good sport. Not a bad day all in all.  

I'm taking more student volunteers for next Friday, but four is definitely my limit...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In Training: Epi

Epi sat for the third session.   I was fading at this point, and pretty tired.   Fair likeness, but Epi is far more fabulous in person.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Training: Willie

Willie, my second appointment on Friday.  The likeness is better, but I had trouble working with my red ground color.

Friday, April 12, 2013

In Training: Melvin

Today I set up shop in UNCP's painting studio to practice my technique for the upcoming ArtFields contest.   Four of my students each generously donated an hour of their time to sit  and help me train.   First up, Melvin Morris, who is studying Painting as his primary studio area.   I set my watch and carved out the above in an hour.   I have to admit, I was pleased by the result, even though it doesn't really look like Melvin, but more like some heroic, Biblical figure.  He had on a great green shirt, so I was forced to cheat and add in the rest in an additional five minutes:

For the sake of pepping up my ailing blog, I will post the remaining studies over the next three days...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Training: Art Fields Portrait Competition

How do I get myself into these things?   A week ago I received notice that I have been accepted into  the ArtFields Portrait Contest.  It's a side-event of the larger ArtFields festival in Lake City, SC, and will consist of four rounds where the 24 artists will have an hour to create a portrait.  Each round will be judged and winners who pass elimination proceed to the next round.   When I heard of the contest, it sounded interesting in idea-- art as performance sport.  I briefly entertained the notion of dressing up like the late wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage, complete with gilded cape, and trash talking my opponents as they work.   Maybe if I was actually a performance artist, and if this wasn't in the polite South....

More than that, I'm not really a portrait artist.  What, you might ask?   Sure, I use the historical portrait form in 50% of my work., and I paint illusionistic images of people.   Yet, I rarely paint from perception these days.   I often make my people up completely from imagination.   Of course, this ability comes from years of practice from direct observation, but I am more than a little rusty these days.   And I have never painted a portrait in only an hour.   I more often keep painting over and over an image until it looks right, which may take twenty or a hundred  hours. After all, there are whole schools and societies of professional portraitists who do this for real on a daily basis far better than me.  But I like a challenge, and heard of the bigger ArtFields contest too late, and thought that this would be a good excuse to get into fighting shape and see what this Lake City is all about.   While I hope to make it at least to round two, it's going to be fun either way.   If you are in the area, the event is Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 10 am-4 pm on The Green in Lake City, SC.

Oh yes, and the above drawings were my first warm ups from a life model.   Paintings on the way soon.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nemo Night Photos

Went out to explore in the blizzard late last night: the snow was as beautiful and cold as you would expect.  I was playing with the camera settings trying to capture all the pink light glancing off the snow and sky. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Riverside Cemetary

Some pictures from my most recent trip to Maine--had a great walk in fresh snow through a romantic old cemetery in Lewiston, Maine.  (Very, very Fredrick.)  Great trip, too short as usual, and quite the climate change from 75 in NC to 14 Maine in the same day.  May seem like a drastic shift, but it wasn't anything like what the hordes of Bates students underwent yesterday. (Witnessed my second puddle jump.)

Riverside Cemetary, Lewston
Hodgman Lies Here