Thursday, November 28, 2013

Selling Art is Wonderful - It's NOT Selling Out

This week I am working on a painting that is slated to be a gift to the city of Oro Valley.  Can't reveal much in the way of details…more to come later.  I am also framing a group of works that will go to Cobalt Fine Arts for a small paintings show that I am in with my dear friend the artist Natasha Isenhour - called "Jewel Tones."

One thing that has been on my mind recently was a question put to me by a friend who is an aspiring writer…and that was the question about "selling out", i.e., having your art or what you do affected by selling.  The question wasn't loaded, and it was well meant.  But it did cut to the chase over the issue of the role of selling work and how that affect the creation of it.

I'll just come right out and say it, because the older I get the more honest I am - I LOVE selling work!  I love it.  The fact that people pay notable sums of money to collect my paintings is one of the most gratifying experiences in my life.  It tells me many things - primarily that the modes of expression that I have tapped into are not just my own.  And that when others see it something resonates inside of them, and they can then visualize the work in their homes or in some meaningful space.  That is wonderful - and having galleries back you because you have a reputation of selling, also a great compliment.

As to whether selling works affects my work - I can also be honest and say YES it does cross my mind, the fact of wondering whether a work might sell or not.  The way I see it, an accountant likes to get paid.  A teacher likes to get paid.  A doctor likes to get paid - why should an artist not like to make his or her modest sum?  I think this is fine.  It's totally normal.  My wife once made the point that in the vast majority of cases when one of my works sells, she said it is obvious why.  It is more detailed, more colorful, the contrasts are sharper - something is notable and raises the bar in those paintings, and as she said, those paintings are often the ones that sell.

However the caution that I work under is simple…I do not let the fact that certain works sell dominate the selection of new works.  It's ok to do something that is your bread and butter kind of work - that's fine.  But one must always keep an eye to the creation of new images.  All the time.  You have to remain an artist and the cash signs can't be the first things that decorate your goggles you see the world through.  The creation of new images is important also because when you consider your work in retrospect, even those 'bread and butter' paintings that you know collectors want and buy - even they were original works dreamed up, composed, and painted out of nothingness.  They too were new at some point, so you can't close down that regenerative process by which new works are made.

There is a sense that I have noticed - that an artist has to be so avant garde as to be a misunderstood pauper - and then they get some kind of stamp of legitimacy.  I think that is a bunch of crap.  I have seen artworks that don't communicate anything at all.  That seems to me to be representative of a breakdown in the relationship with the viewer.  And I am sure many such artists comfort themselves in the fact that they are doing something ahead of their time - so much so that nobody gets it.  Again, I don't believe that.  I have always said that an artist is free to go out on a limb if they want to; but that they can't turn around and blame everyone else if the crowd doesn't want to go out on the limb with them.  And from my experience in the art world, sales are not terribly common out there on the limb.  I stick a little closer to the tree…

Lastly I would say that it should not be unsaid that ART IS WORK.  Maybe that's why they call it artwork.  It is not gratuitous leisure.  It is work.  If anyone has the temptation to trivialize art, they probably have never wrestled with the difficulties of created a meaningful and complicated piece of work.  After I have spent three or four weeks on a single painting I feel that it is a wonderful reward when the work finds a home and makes someone else's living or working space beautiful.  I'm very happy that I can make a very modest living at it.  No, visions of dollars signs shouldn't ever be allowed to dominate your process.  But YES, selling is a great thing.  It gives you the confidence to dream big - and in many ways, helps you be more creative, more fulfilled, and able to be full of faith that you can make something equally great to the things that have come before.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Late Night Chat with Jason Isbell

In the past I've talked about a wide variety of subjects related to the arts and creativity.  More recently I have been delighted to see the rising star of a singer-songwriter who I have long believed to be one of the best in America - and that's Jason Isbell.  Jason's most recent Cd "Southeastern" has been gaining rave reviews and we have seen him on shows like David Letterman, and heard him on NPR's Fresh Air, among other places.  Jason is also now married to another of my favorite songwriters Amanda Shires, who will have a new CD out in August.  Good fortune has it that I met Jason twice, and I thought it might be fun to tell the story of those encounters.

Sometime around 2003 a friend gave me a CD by an Alabama band called the Drive by Truckers.  There were good songs all throughout the CD, but one stood out strongly and that was the now legendary song "Outfit."  This was one of Jason Isbell's breakthrough tunes with the band, and he went on to pen other knockout songs like "The Day John Henry Died", "Danko/ Manuel", "Goddamn Lonely Love" and "Never Gonna Change."

Not too long after he went solo, I was happy to hear that he and his band were going to play Club Congress in downtown Tucson.  I made plans to go and even took Jason a small gift - a laminated bookmark made out of the actual autograph of the author Chuck Palahniuk.  I remember seeing Jason stepping into the club and at some point pulled him aside, said hello, etc and asked him if I had heard correctly that he was a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk.  He said yes - and I gave him the autographed bookmark, and let him carry on getting ready for the show.  He was gracious, mellow, and very thoughtful.  When he got on stage he put on a killer good show and we talked once more before we left.  By that time I had a few beers in me and was feeling chipper - but I still remember what I told him when I left him that particular time - I told him "You are a poet.  Like Townes Van Zandt or Ray La Montagne.  Keep up what you are doing."  

The second time Jason and his band played Club Congress I made plans to be there, and again Jason put on a helluva show.  I remember he had a cold or sore throat and was coughing pretty hard - not just a smoker's cough, but a sick man's cough.  Poor guy was pretty sick it seemed, but then he jumped on stage and threw down again and it was a great show.  You'd think his vocals would have suffered but you couldn't tell a lick of difference.  I guess after those years of hard living and traveling with the Drive by Truckers he had gotten a good taste of what it meant to carry on and be a road warrior.  Sick. Well.  Hungover, or anything else.

After that show it was very, very late and I was gonna say hello to Jason but he had disappeared outside the backstage door at Club Congress.  It was a chilly night out - an odd night for Tucson for sure, quite cold.  On my way out I decided to walk around the side of the building and could see a group of people by the backstage door.  Jason was among them and I walked up to them, stuck my hand out and said "Hey Jason - I'm the artist Neil Myers.  Just wanted to say a quick hello."  And he said "Oh yeah.  I remember you.  I think I've seen some of your work online."  People were starting to dissipate and go home and he said "How's the art business?"  And I told him a little about how things were going.  He listened intently, smoking his cigarette and coughing hard from time to time - still suffering his sore throat.  At times I can be a bit of a talker, so we leaned against the rails and I talked about art and songwriting and he mostly listened.  It's hard to describe the vibe of Mr Isbell.  But perhaps the best way to say it is the feeling that he is absorbing stories - yours and other people's.  Behind the glow of his ever present cigarette, there in the dark were two keen eyes paying close attention.  He wasn't shy.  Not in the slightest.  But he listened to even small talk with a sense of acute attention.

For the next twenty or thirty minutes the survivors of the late night show came and went, some said hi to him and asked him about the meanings of some of his songs.  I remember someone asking him about "Chicago Promenade" and he didn't really seem to feel he could explain what it meant.  He just sort of gently brushed the issue aside and was very sweet to the person who asked it.  He always thanked people who came to the show, and those who popped around back of the club to wish him well.  We stood for a while and chatted with Jimbo Hart - and Jason introduced me to Browan Lollar, his guitarist who is also an artist and a friend I still chat with here and there.  We talked about songwriters and the Dillinger gang, who were caught all those years ago right there at club congress.  And at one point there was nobody left out there behind the club.  It was getting bitterly cold and though Jason gave every indication he was happy to chat all night - I remember telling him that he better get back inside before the cold made his throat worse.  I didn't want to be the reason his throat went to hell for the next few shows.  We shook hands and parted very amicably - and I remember telling him as he went in the door "Oh, I forgot to ask you - do you know the songs of Justin Rutledge?"  He said he didn't and I told him to check him out if he got a chance.  He said "Justin Rutledge", to make a mental note and we parted ways.

I drove home still shivering from the freezing cold desert air.  But I had that great satisfaction of having had an enjoyable talk with someone who I knew was very special.  And in turn, when critics and so many others now find themselves getting on the long train of Isbell appreciators - I am almost amused at how long many of us had been following his work before his latest CD.  And how many of us knew that this songwriter was unique.

Jason if you read this, I want to congratulate you on your sobriety, your continually beautiful and meaningful songs - and for that cold night by the railroad tracks at 1am talking about songs and life.  You have proved yourself the poet I always thought you were, and we thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Art Criticism From Other Artists, My View

This week I am working on a new 36 x 48 inch painting of Cathedral Rock, near the stunningly beautiful town of Sedona, Arizona.  If you have never visited Sedona, I would strongly urge you to do so.  For Arizona, it is OUR land of red and orange rocks.  The mountains and formations are amazing - and the hikes are second to none.

This week I have also been thinking about art criticism and I thought that it might be a nice time to share my views on this subject.  Reason being - I got into a heated argument with another person on facebook; and no we didn't solve the world's issues while arguing over the did bring to light my perhaps unusual views about art criticism.  So I thought I would state them clearly here.

Here is the thing...if I don't like a piece of art, I generally keep my mouth shut.  I feel that this is an act of trust on my part because I prefer to trust that an artist can, by themselves, iron out any of the rough patches or weak spots in their work.  I feel that if an artist is doing this alone, they deserve the right to make that exploration without my soul-killing comments.  I will be honest here, in my own art career, and in the development of my work, when it came to the fundamentals of how my work came to look as it did, I did not listen to anyone.  What came out on canvas was pure inner voice.  Nothing else.  I was, as we all are, bouyed up by the fact that collectors bought my work, and that magazines wrote about it - but in the core of what has made the work, it was pure inner vision reacting to a landscape in front of me.  I actually feel this was a benifit, not a detractor.  I feel that because I shut out the noise of all other people - well meaning or not, I managed to arrive at something close to my own visions.  Now I did frequently listen to other artists when it came down to mastering the materiels needed for the job.  My artist friends have been wonderful in suggesting different things that would help get different effects.

I do believe that if one chooses a classroom environment, art school, or formal classes with a top level artist - then one does and should submit themselves to the kind of criticism that I find is, at the least, a distraction, and at worst - what I've described as a soul-killer.  There are people who really do benifit from a classroom enviornment and an evironment with hard critqiues and such things.  I freely accept that and I don't lose any sleep over that.  However I am not one of those people.  I told a friend yesterday, "The creative spark inside me, I don't let anyone else handle."  So I shut out the noise and I DO NOT participate in art critiques, and I have never invited another artist to critique my work.  I feel like if you like it, then great, thanks...if you don't, then move on to find yourself another wonderful artist that you can connect to.  For some artists, however, they cannot let this be.  They have to critique someone else's work because it is almost like their own act of conquest and appropriation.  It is how they try to curve your work to their vision.  I don't accept this, and I don't take a part in it.  And I don't do it to other artists.

So, as this person on Facebook was left thinking - it might be easy to think that I only accept flattery.  No, that is not what I am saying.  I've been told to my face, and accepted with perfect serenity, someone saying they didn't really care for my work, or that it wasn't their thing.  That's totally fine.  What I don't accept is unwanted and unasked for desconstruction from other artists.  I have said it before, there is only room for one artist in my head and he is the only one I let in.  That is a monkish and solitary way to see things, perhaps - but that's how I see it.

Anyway, my heated conversation with the person on Facebook ended with the person saying that I was staying in my comfort zone - and they even called me "lazy".  Expletives were hurled and one tactless and uncouth person was rapidly un-friended by me.  Note to those who like to bash other people's artwork - if you crudely attack other people's work, expect a vigorous counterattack.  If you have been so brash as to nominate yourself judge and jury over someone elses' work - then don't just expect them to sit there and take it.  I don't.  Art is the product of the heart - and when expressed truly it must be defended against those who either don't understand it, or wish to bring someone down from the heights of even modest accomplishment.  I defended my work against this person I mentioned and I won't apologize for that.  Am I prickly and sensitive about my work?  You better believe I am.  And then if a person calls me lazy...oh well, I always try to be a nice guy and I believe in compassion and seeking understanding but call me that and the gloves are off.  Whatever I am - lazy is NOT one of them.  Never has been.  One could not keep the utterly ridiculous busy schedule I keep, and even dream of the word "lazy".

That is my view.  I think life and art are a products of uplift.  If one takes the chisel of destruction to everything, nothing is left but the pieces.  I prefer to create, not revel in pulling apart the work of another.  I offer my own work as a take it or leave it thing.  There is so much beauty in the world, I want to spend my days holding that beauty up high - rather than chipping away at sincere creations, whatever their stage of development. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creativity Blog # 3, Artist Ken Christensen

 Welcome to creativity blog #3, this one featuring California based painter Ken Christensen.  I have always been a great fan of Ken's work, and I even have one of his paintings hanging on the wall of our family room - alongside the best works of my artist friends.  Ken has an extensive body of work and throughout his paintings I have always felt that he was one of the best at striking a near perfect 'tension of details', as I like to call it.  By that I mean he adds just enough detail to preserve the visual scene, but his works still show traces of the joyful spontenaiety of a sketch.  Ken was integral in the creation of the "New Fauves" group of artists - which I might add is the only group of artists that I have formally affilliated myself with in my entire art career.  This is a group of painters who all feel their roots in Fauvism and Expressionism - who sense, as I do, the great debt that we owe to artists like Van Gogh and the Fauvist painters that followed him.  I was also delighted to find that Ken knew of and appreciated the work of my mentor and friend, the artist Jean-Claude Quilici.

Here is the Q and A with Ken, enjoy!

Ken Christensen
Artist - Writer

1) What personal habits do you have that you feel make you more creative?

One of the things that keeps me creative is going for long walks. Everything you need to know is in nature. Nature reveals its secrets slowly so you have to be patient. You can pass by the same scene many times but at one special moment a new vision of the same thing can be revealed. It's impossible to find a subject to paint by driving around in a car. I have to see things on foot, one step at a time. And in art light is always the real subject. So at every time of day, when the light is different there is always a different subject. There can be nothing at one time of day to paint and at another time when the sun is in a different position something remarkable may reveal itself.
We are always standing on the shoulder of giants and most good ideas spring out of something earlier by someone else.
Another habit that feeds my creativity is sketching. Sketching is art in its purest form. When I sketch I'm not thinking of sales or finished work; I'm just having fun. When you're having fun, good things happen. When I sketch I am being more personal in what I choose to portray. It is the personal in art that really sets the greats apart. One must have a unique vision and art succeeds as much as you are being yourself. Sketching whatever catches your eye allows this personal vision to flourish.

2) Who are the creative artists, in any field, that inspire you the most?

I'm a huge Neil Young fan. In literature Henry Miller has had a huge influence on me. In art, Van Gogh has been my hero since childhood, not only for his art but for his life and convictions. His letters are one of the great works of world literature and very inspiring. The artist I've known personally that has influenced me the most is my friend Manuel Gil in Paris. Manuel is Spanish but has lived in Paris thirty years or more. He showed me what a true artist is. He has an energy and enthusiasm for art that I have rarely encountered. It reminds me of what I know of Picasso who could create art out of anything, by picking up whatever was at hand. Manuel turned me on to other techniques like woodblock printing, pastel portraits, monotypes, and other things. Like Picasso, Manuel is also an original thinker with surprising opinions on a wide range of subjects. He is a wild bohemian but also a true nobleman who has a sensitivity and insight beyond the majority.

3)  What do you do when you are not feeling creative?  Or - how to you get yourself back to a point where you are feeling creative?

As I was saying, the first step in trying to find the urge to paint or some creativity is to go for a long walk. A very long walk will always sort things out. The other thing I do is to switch techniques. If I'm getting burned out or bored with oil painting I will switch to watercolor for a week or weeks. I also go back to sketching , the source for all further creative endeavors. Lastly, if I'm still stuck I will force myself to do something. Just working will release my creative juices. Without fail I always feel better by doing something, anything. Just doing something will snap you out of your lethargy and get the juices flowing.

4)  What are some creative outlets that you enjoy outside your own respective creative field?

I write. I've written five books. I just finished another one, "Between the Covers: Reading, Writing, and Romance" which is a memoir told through my connection to books, reading, collecting, running a bookstore, and writing.

5)  For someone who has talent in a creative field, how would you suggest they go about converting that talent into something original - something that stands out from the crowd?

As I said, great art is always personal. It sounds too simple but the ultimate advice is to be yourself. Trust yourself that your idle thoughts are worthy of developing. There is room at the top for any style in any field if it is original. It depends if your goal is to create art or to make money. They are often very different. In terms of creativity and quality art then one must trust oneself and do whatever you damn please.


Official website:

New Fauves website:


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creativity Blog # 2, Arizona Photographer Paul Gill

 A few years ago when I stumbled across the photographs of Paul Gill, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I had the feeling like I had discovered a photographer with something of the same sensibility as what I had hoped to bring to my own best paintings.  A sense of design.  A sense of the extreme variations of color captured in the desert - if one knew the land well enough to have a sense of timing and urgency to find the land at its highest point of expression.  I actually felt like Paul saw the scenes that he photographed much like some of the best painters I knew.  It was clear that to him an image is more than a digital click - it has all the potential to be a piece of art.  Paul Gill, more than any other Arizona photographer I am aware of, makes photographs rise to the level of fine art.

He is also one of the very few photographers whom I have sought out for permission to paint from his images (A reminder to all artists, you should not be painting from other people's photographs without permission.  Paul and I made an arrangement by which I could paint from his images ).  A handful of some of my own best paintings of the desert, mostly in spring themes, have been highly stylized versions of Paul Gill images.

A short bio on his website says it best:

" A native of the Arizona desert, Paul’s photographs have appeared on the cover and pages of Arizona Highways magazine, calendars and books along with Natures Best magazine and many scenic publications, calendars and books as well as displayed in fine art galleries. Paul received his bachelors of fine arts from Arizona State University and had worked as a art director for 17 years. before turning all of his attention to photographing the grandeur of nature."

Paul Gill

Official website:

Below is the website for the book "Wild in Arizona" by Paul Gill and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry.   I HIGHLY recommend this book.  It is a great resource for everyone, whether you are interested in photography, or if you are a painter looking for amazing spring blooms! Click below:


Below are Paul's responses to my "creativity" questions...

1) What personal habits do you have that you feel make you more creative?

Previsualization is the key for me to take elements that I have seen from a location or subject matter and find a story of what it is I want to say about it. I then can create a image in my head making decisions about time of day and light direction to tell the story. Sometimes I will remember past images I have seen and will try and think of a ways to change the image to fit my vision. This is always a driving force to get me to a place where I want to create, funny thing is I almost never find that previsualised image but it do’s influence how and what I see.

2) Who are the creative artists, in any field, that inspire you the most?

I was originally inspired by Maxfield Parish and his great sense of light. My photography is inspired by the Father of near-far David Munch and Tucson's own Pulitzer prize photographer Jack Dykinga both of whom I have had the great honor to photograph with in my earlier years. 

3) What do you do when you are not feeling creative?  Or - how to you get yourself back to a point where you are feeling creative?

To be inspired I try and place myself into beautiful light locations and that triggers the creative spark but that's not always possible so to start creating I will make that first image this helps me get in touch with my surroundings and I will start seeing line shape and light, which leads to finding compositions that I can come back to when the optimal light is on them. If nothing is working I will stop trying to force it to happen then come back latter and take that first step by making an image. 

4) What are some creative outlets that you enjoy outside your own respective creative field? 

Music is always my catalyst with upbeat positive tunes to pump me up before a shoot and relaxing background sounds to slow me down so I can concentrate on what is in front of me giving me the ability to focus on one subject at a time and break down a scene to its most simple components. This helps me block out the world around me.

5) For someone who has talent in a creative field, how would you suggest they go about converting that talent into something original - something that stands out from the crowd?

We all have distinctive visions and directions to move our images but sometimes seeing other artists work can help direct our own originality by filtering out what we do and don't like. I found that the more time I spent with professionals the more I developed my own look and personality to my imagery. And it was only then that I was able to explore and experiment with the talent I have which looks nothing like the photographers that originally inspired me. 
For someone just starting out in the creative field and not sure about their direction I like the book: 

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Austin Kleon 

I wish this book was out when I was just starting out.


           (This image, "Ponderosa Bloom" is featured in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Creativity Blog # 1, Singer-Songwriter Joanna Smith

Creativity.  It means a lot of different things to different people.  I have begun to realize, the longer I have been an artist, that creativity is really what most interests me - above and beyond the technical capabilities of being able to paint a hand perfectly, or play a scale on guitar, or write a coherent paragraph - or act out those compelling lines.  At some point it occurred to me; since I have been fortunate enough to have some personal contacts with highly creative people in various fields - ie, the arts, music, etc, I thought it might be interesting to write up a set of questions on creativity and ask those same questions to different people.  So we could see the variations in their creative processes and how they view the act of being creative.

This is the first profile in what I hope will be an extended series of blogs on creativity!
This week's Q and A is with RCA Nashville recording artist Joanna Smith.  A few years back I stumbled onto several tracks by her on myspace.  I remember the first song I heard by her was a tune called "Let me Kiss You Again" and immediately I was hooked.  It was delicate, sweet, beautiful and crafty - and I found that she had an entire group of wonderful songs.  Perhaps my ultimate compliment to her is this - I am NOT a big country music fan.  I grew up in the south but was always a rock and 'southern rock' kind of guy.  But this girl had me hooked.  I always wanted to hear more.  And sure, she IS country - but she didn't hide behind any of the cliches of country music.  In fact she reinforced the fact that country, as a genre, is very wide and has room for all kinds of artists working under that stylistic umbrella.  She is an original.  When I first heard her I realized that, despite her being young in years, she was a very mature as a songwriter, and a very well polished performer.  And I have to say this too, she is an absolutely lovely person.  That matters a lot.  I met her at a show in Phoenix in 2011 and saw she was a charismatic performer, as well as being a natural with people one on one.  As a true artist herself, she was kind enough to answer my Q and A for our first blog on creativity...

Joanna Smith

Official website is: (This link has a direct link to her latest video, which is a must see, called "We Can't Be Friends".  Do check it out!)

Her music is also available on itunes!

1) What personal habits do you have that you feel make you more creative?
Caffeine!!!!  I love to have my morning cup of coffee and dig into a song idea I may have previously written down.  I get my brain going by first writing in my diary.

2) Who are the creative artists, in any field, that inspire you the most?
Springsteen, hands down.  Steinbeck.

3) What do you do when you are not feeling creative?  Or - how to you get yourself back to a point where you are feeling creative?
I hate that feeling!  I stress about it!  I feel like I'll never feel creative again, and surely it's the end of the world.  But then I remind myself.... it always comes back.

4) What are some creative outlets that you enjoy outside your own respective creative field? 
Studying others' creativity.  I love art of all kinds and it inspires me to make my own.

5) For someone who has talent in a creative field, how would you suggest they go about converting that talent into something original - something that stands out from the crowd?
Always, always be you.  Be open to the journey.  You may start by imitating others' work, then have what you do be criticized at which point make necessary changes as you see fit.  Be open to criticism but listen to your gut.  This is the most natural thing,  it takes time and years of experience to be better at it.  "It" being just being yourself.

Links and info:

Check out Joanna's latest release, the EP "Be What it Wants to Be" available on iTunes

Look for Joanna on tour with Maranda Lambert this spring!  Visit

Here is Joanna Smith's latest music video "We Can't be Friends"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blinkers for an Artist

This week I am working on a new painting of Elephant Head Rock, a large formation in the Santa Rita Mountains just north of Tubac, AZ.  Yesterday I was at Cobalt Fine Arts in Tubac, painting in gallery for the Tubac arts festival.  A gloomy morning with snow on the ground gave way slowly to sunshine and a beautiful, cool day for the festival - which put smiles on the faces of most of the festival goers.

What I wanted to talk a bit about in this blog was something that has come up again and again in conversation with artists and collectors; and that's originality.  Of course the seeking of originality is as old as the arts - and I do not pretend to cover new ground with it, rather only to share a bit more and maybe shed a little light.

For some time Bobby Lee Krajnik and I talked yesterday about originality in the arts, and she mentioned something that I found very interesting.  She said that she had taken some workshops here and there, and heard some curious comments from instructors.  One instructor who saw her work told her that he didn't want to change her style and work that style out of her.  He felt that she had clearly arrived at something distinct, and he didn't want to change it by bending her too much to the instructor's will.  Bobby Lee also relayed that another instructor had told her that frequently artists will take course after course and so many workshops that whatever instinct for personal style they had before gets diluted, and in the course of being affected by the styles of work demonstrated by the instructors - they never really find a personal style. 

I shared with her what I have said to some other trusted people who were interested in how I devised the look of my own works; I told them that I do the reverse of taking courses and critiques and bouncing ideas off other artists.  I put on blinkers and work like a monk.  I try as hard as possible to shut out every other opinion of every other kind of art ever - and I try to answer the question: "How would I paint this scene?"  Bobby Lee and I pretty much agreed that too much input from other artists allow them into your head, and at some point, if you don't clarify where your influences are coming from, you yourself are not painting - you and some other people are painting.

Of course, we all have our influences.  When I look at other artist's work, I look primarily at Van Gogh and my friend Jean-Claude Quilici.  I too glean something from those who came before me.  I have found that other artists are wonderful in helping you learn the materiels needed to get certain effects, and with some of the kind of shop talk tips that are useful in the arts.  But as regards to style, I still think that is a personal search - instruction can teach you a certain skill set.  Style is a product of self reflection.  It is not easy...

So my suggestion, if anyone might bother to ask - is that if you are one who likes to take courses, keep them in perspective in as much as they can increase your skill set and perhaps give you personal time with an excellent artist.  But I would also suggest that you construct a kind of art that has a style that is built on your own self reflections - and visions that do not belong to anybody else.

So yes, spend some time shading and learning how to paint that eye, or head, or tree - but spend a little time dreaming.  Spend some time, and a little paint and canvas, on that vision that is only yours.  That thing only you can create - and only your neglect can supress.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saguaros of the Sonoran Desert, New Show Opening January 24

This week I am not as much in the studio as I am labeling, arranging, varnishing - etc, new works that will be featured in my upcoming show at the Marshall-LeKAE Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.  The new show is called Saguaros of the Sonoran Desert and it opens on January 24th.  If you are in Scottsdale, please do drop by.  I will be there and would love to meet anyone coming out - whether you love Saguaros or just love art...

For me, Saguaros feel to me a bit like it must feel for those musicians who play greatest hits for the fans.  Since I moved to Arizona, now nearly ten years ago, I have been captivated by these large desert dwellers.  I have told friends that they seem to me to be one of the only plants that are almost anthropomorphic - I have always had the feeling that when I was around them, I was not alone.  And I don't have a mystical bone in my body.  The towering presence of these beautiful cacti have impressed on me something that could not help but come out in my paintings of this region.  Once I remember a gallery director telling me that many artists paint saguaros "almost as if they have never even taken a look at them".  He told me that I always captured something about their own individual uniqueness.  (Picture those old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons, and the saguaro by the road, two arms bent upwards.  Typical!)  It was quite a compliment.  I went on to tell him that when I go out on a trail to take photos that I will later paint from - I always look for either single saguaros or groups of them that are unusual, or which strike my eye as a kind of curiosity.  I don't look for the typical ones.  Of course they do exist, but I have always preferred those that showed true originality of shape and natural design.

So this show is my tribute to those "Giants of the Desert" - those amazing and beautiful icons of natural Arizona.  I have never tired of looking at them, nor have I ever tired of painting them.  They have been created by the small progress of decades or even hundreds of years.  To capture them with brush and canvas seems just as natural to me as those rocky hillsides they inhabit.