Category Archives: fine art

Face Off Results (Pt 2)

Ada

Ada

The Portrait Society of America held a “Face Off competition” during their Art of the Portrait 2009 conference held at the Hyatt in Reston Virginia.  Think 15 artists and 5 models and about 100-200 fellow artists, collectors and students in one large room; if you throw in lights, chairs and organized (but deliciously fun) chaos you have an accurate idea of what being there was like.

Scott Burdick

Scott Burdick

Each model posed for three artists and each section held all of the artists working materials (taborets, palettes, easels and lights) as well as chairs about six-seven feet behind for attendees to watch the artists at work.  The final results can be viewed at the <a title=”Results of the 2009 Face Off Event”

I am linking the pictures I took of the artists at work.  Besides those I’ve already linked of Liberace, Carducci and Ryder; my most favorite ones were the three works by the artists lucky enough to paint Ada.

Paul Newton

Paul Newton

She’s a beautiful model that we occasionally are lucky enough to paint in class.  She has pale translucent skin, dark hair and  very fine delicate features.  She’s also difficult to paint because (at least for me) I tend to lapse into painting what I think I see instead of what is actually there.  Not sure if this makes sense to you…sadly it does to me.

I apologize for the poor quality of the Paul Newton picture, but even though it is fuzzy I think you get the sense of how he was working on the painting;  I think he nailed it.

Scott Burdick

Scott Burdick

Chris Saper

Chris Saper

Paul Newton

Paul Newton

Other pictures of the artists at work.

The Model

Vasudeo Kamath

Vasudeo Kamath

Rich Nelson

Rich Nelson

Thomas Nash

Thomas Nash

The rest of the paintings for the Face Off competition can be found at this link.

Face Off-Portrait Society of America Conference (Pt 1)

Desi's Pose for the Face Off

Desi's Pose for the Face Off

On Thursday evening (25 April 2009) 15 portrait artists participated in a face off with five models in the grand ball room of the Reston Hyatt in Reston Virginia. The following nationally known and reknown artists participated: Laurel Boeck, Judith Carducci, Vasudeo Kamath, Ann Manry Kenyon, Ying-He Liu, Thomas Nash, Rich Nelson, Dawn Whitelaw Paul Newton, Anthony Ryder, Chris Saper, Jason Bouldin, Scott Burdick, Wende Caporale and of course Robert Liberace (yes I am biased!).

Anthony Ryder Paints During the PSOA Face Off

Anthony Ryder

The difficulty for the artist participating was to produce a fairly complete portrait or at least as much of the portrait as they could while subject to the scrutiny of hundreds were watching, photographing, and commenting as well as asking questions. Participating in this is certainly not for the faint of heart!

Robert Liberace

Robert Liberace

The organizers set the room up so that there were three artist per each model. This worked out fantastically since it allowed each artist to have a fair shot at a workable angle of a model and reduced crowding between artists as well as the artists and the crowds.  Due to space limitations I’d like to focus on the model Desi.  Anthony Ryder was set up to the model’s right, Judy Carducci was directly in front of Desi and Robert Liberace was to the model’s left.

I thought I’d taken a picture of Judi Carduci but sadly I can’t find the one of her in action.

These are the final results from Ryder, Carduci and Liberace.  Judi Carducci won the event (the conference attendees voted on this).  Now the best part of this was that the winner was allowed to select their model and Judi selected Robert Liberace as her model.  So on Friday morning Ms. Carducci gave a wonderful demo on painting a pastel portrait.

Desi by Anthony Ryder

Desi by Anthony Ryder

Desi by Judi Carducci

Desi by Judi Carducci

Desi by Robert Liberace

Desi by Robert Liberace

Due to posting length I will make a second posting with pictures of the other artists working during the event.

Friday Night, Final Class

Adam by Robert Liberace

Adam by Robert Liberace

Last night was the last class of the term.  It’s always a little sad to hit our 4-week break; but at the same time it’s nice to have my Friday nights back.  This week Rob painted a wonderful tiny portrait of model.  Because the painting is only about 2-3 inches square, Rob chose to use a very smooth board.  He told us that working in a small scale demands a very smooth surface to allow you to really show subtle details.  He spent about 30 minutes on this demo.

Oil Sketch Study by Robert Liberace

Oil Sketch Study by Robert Liberace

This last term was really challenging for me because of  the format.  Robert started us on charcoal(which I am abysmal at) and then pen and ink studies, watercolor washes over ink and then finally oil grisaille.  It was comprehensive and stretched most of the

Last week Rob painted a gorgeous 30 minute demo on Adams’ legs.  It’s amazing how simple he makes this look.  The painting is a grisaille, using three basic colors, white (I believe he used titanium), raw umber and burnt sienna.

15-20 Minutes into the Demo

15-20 Minutes into the Demo

Rob started painting on toned linen.  You can see this is a very  simple sketch using raw umber.You can see in this picture that Rob refined both his shapes and shadows and added a strong mid-tone to the model’s upper thigh.

Through out the demo, Robert continued to refine the shadows and make corrections as needed.  Rob tends to paint in lines to describe the human form (some artists use curves, some boxes and some circles).

Rob will deliberately exaggerate an angle (for example the interior calf muscle) to prevent it from becoming too curvy or precious.At 15-twenty minutes into the demo you can see he’s started adding some minor variations into his mid-tones.  And early modeling of the form (strategic placement of lighter and darker mid-tones) has begun. Rob has done very little at this point with melting/merging the light and dark paint.

Below is the completed demo by Robert.

Completed Demo by Robert Liberace

Completed Demo by Robert Liberace

Note I had to repost this, for some reason I seem to have text alignment issues when posting photos from my laptop.

Artist Matt Sesow

Presidents, by Matt Sesow

Presidents, by Matt Sesow

I am most inspired by realistic painters, so if you are like me in this respect you might want to skip this posting.  Or, you might just want to read on and try on something new.

Matt Sesow is a Washington DC based artist.  Matt’s work slaps you in the face and wakes you up like a venti cafe americano with 2 extra shots of espresso.  Or at least that’s how his work affects me.  I’ve been a fan of Matt’s work since I ran across it at at last year’s DC Artomatic.  I bought a small painting titled Hillary and two tiny works, one titled Puking and I am uncertain what the title of the other painting is but it featured a little girl in a screaming red dress.

His work is not demure, quiet, realistic, representational or subtle in coloration.  All the things that normally attract me to an artist’s work.  I do not understand why his work appeals to me.  But at some deep gut level I respond to it, I don’t understand why, it just does.  Some of his work reminds me a bit of Bacon and some (primarily his color usage and sheer exuberance with paint) reminds me very slightly of Basquait.  Very very slightly.

Blue Notes, by Matt Sesow

Blue Notes, by Matt Sesow

Although referred to as an ‘outsider artist’ I don’t consider him one for several reasons.  The phrase initially referred to folks who were institutionalized (i.e., inmates of prisons or insane asylums) and later was used to denote the artist was self taught and the work was naive -something along the lines of Grandma Moses perhaps.  Frankly, I do understand the current use of the word but it’s still hard to shake the more pejorative meanings associated with it’s earlier usage.

Matt is fully plugged into the DC art scene as well as other venues and shows throughout the states; his bio is quite impressive.  His work has hung at Andrea Pollan’s Curator’s Office during her Mixology I show which benefited Doctors without Borders, as well as shows at the Longview Gallery in downtown Washington DC.  He’s also had shows in Denver, the Hamptons, Maine, Atlanta, and San Diego CA; he maybe self-taught, but this ain’t your mother’s outsider artist.

Basket Case, by Matt Sesow

Basket Case, by Matt Sesow

Matt Sesow’s painting Presidents is not mine.  Yes that made me a very sad Panda, I wanted it but was too slow off the mark to buy it.  I think it’s phenomenal.  He painted all 44 Presidents with their names and his take on them is pure genius.

Last week I met Matt in person when I stopped by his studio with a friend to look at a painting I’d seen online.  I didn’t buy that one, but I walked away with quite a few others that I absolutely loved!  The larger painting is an 18×18 canvas which features columns of sketched white bunnies, its aptly titled, Lost in a Crowd.  For some reason one of the bunnies is circled with cadmium light red which seems to isolate the bunny even further.

Lost in a Crowd, by Matt Sesow

Lost in a Crowd, by Matt Sesow

Matt’s smaller works don’t necessarily photograph well, these photographs are from his website (used with permission).  You lose a lot of the punch of color and brushstrokes compared to when you see them in person.  I will try to take some better shots but I am afraid that the glossy black of the background will go matte and that you simply won’t get the effect of the paintings.

Matt Sesow was a wonderful and pleasant host as my friend and I ransacked his studio looking at his paintings.  However, be warned: Matt’s work is difficult to see in person, its compelling, raw and emotional these are not “pretty pictures” you will walk away affected by what you’ve seen.

I Hear Voices, by Matt Sesow

I Hear Voices, by Matt Sesow

Matt had a very traumatic experience when he was 8 and there are times when you can clearly see the effect this had on him and his work.  He was struck by an airplane propeller and he lost his arm as a result.  There were several works that I would look at, then look away from and then look at again.  In each case I wasn’t certain if he was referencing the events of the accident, or if he was simply playing with an image.  It was difficult to tell and I hesitated to ask.

Preacher, by Matt Sesow

Preacher, by Matt Sesow

I found the painting Preacher to be extremely powerful.  The whites in some parts are translucent and the orange and red scream at you to look.  Despite it’s name, this painting reminded me of how I felt one time when it seemed like my world was caving in.  So for me the question was does this painting attract me because it shows how the  inside of a dark troubled soul is, or does the image invite me in to participate and supply my own dialogue and story line?

In the past I would have scoffed to read that last line, but again-Matt’s work requires that you bring something to the table when viewing it.  You look at it, you like or even dislike it, then you have to ask yourself why.  Why do I like, love or dislike it?  Not matter the reaction, viewing his work will provoke you to a reaction.

Now I need to say one other thing, I am not a huge fan of modern art, especially not the likes of Basquait or Kadinsky or a host of others.  I used to always joke that the phrase “contemporary art” is actually french for “I can’t draw”.   I guess I simply don’t understand it although I am trying.  I don’t classify Matt’s work in this vein even though it’s edgy and modern and so very open to interpretation.  There is something so compelling and powerful about Matt’s work that I am drawn in in spite of my misgivings about the genre in general.  Go and view his works, if you’re in DC I recommend you contact him and set up a time to view the works in person since they are best viewed in person!  Contact information and directions to his studio can be found here.

Artist Richard Notkin

Richard Notkin

Richard Notkin

Artist Richard Notkin recently lectured at the Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian family of museums) on the role of the Artist in Society. He asked us what is the ultimate purpose of art and can the human species live on in a world with out it? Richard cited the Lascaux Cave paintings, early Greek art and architecture as examples of our need to have art and beauty around us.

He believes the artist serves as both a visual and social link, that the best work of an artist ‘stimulates those who view it to ask questions’. Notkin has chosen to embrace the role of an artist as a social critic, that he celebrates new ground and quoted Andre Malraux saying, “All art is a revolt against man’s fate.

All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness, by Richard Notkin

All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness, by Richard Notkin

Notkin made it clear throughout his lecture that for him the word artist was a broad term, encompassing painters, sculptors, ceramicist as well as musicians, vocalists and composers from different eras.  Notkin cited that for his generation, Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the Wind’ served as an anthem; a call which spurred them action. His need to protest the war and destruction in Viet Nam was a direct result of Dylan’s song.

A protest against war and destruction is a central theme in Notkin’s work. While discussing nuclear weapons he states that nations continuing to seek them, add them to the ranks of the axis of evil. He then asked, “Do we sleep more soundly at night knowing we can incinerate the families of our enemies many times over?” His work has borrowed from Michelangelo (Pieta). One of the themes that he referenced several times in several series was Goya’s revolution etchings along with Picasso’s greatest work Guernica that these works were protests against war.

Detail from All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness

Detail from All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness

He stated that he has no messianic beliefs about himself, rather he views his work as something similar to the artisan working on a cathedral. The artisan/craftsmen know that their work will not be completed during their lifetime, yet they labor proudly, content to be part of a larger purpose. When he said this I thought about the time I wandered around marveling at the still incomplete Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi. This cathedral has been under construction since 1882 and still isn’t completed. In this age of instant everything-it’s hard to understand or accept that your role of a social commentator may be to only be that small stone in a larger movement/avalanche.

Creation and Destruction. Notkin returned repeatedly throughout the lecture to his concerns with destruction. He stated that mankind’s issues are far too complex to solve with explosive devices.  Notkin believes the fulcrum of creativity lies midway between creation and destruction. Art is the physical manifestation of our hopes and our dreams. Without art, what can hold our destructive capabilities in check?

Stopping the Godless Aggressors

Stopping the Godless Aggressors

Listening to him speak, I had several quick thoughts that I jotted down which I wanted to ask him about.  If he feels that mankind’s issues are so complex that they can not be solved with the use of weapons of mass destruction, how does he reconcile that they are a necessary part of his creative equation (i.e., the fulcrum of creativity lies between creation and destruction).  I wondered what would happen if you removed the threat of destruction from the equation.  I think he touched on the answer briefly when he joked that if the threat of destruction went away he would happily paint nudes.

Works. While speaking about his work Richard Notkin stated that he has found more questions than answers. The major themes of his work center on art and war.  Notkin wants to understand why an artist continues to create for a seemingly indirect or disinterested audience.  Notkin found a partial answer to this question in these two quotes.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Detail from And they Shall Beat Their Swords into  Plowshares

Detail from And they Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares

Richard Notkin works small.  If you look at the mural All Nations Have Their Moment of Foolishness you will see a portrait of former President George Bush.  Notkin created this using 3×3 tiles. Each tile was formed and then carved.

Notkin said he can spend 50-60 hours carving on less than one cubic inch. He said he was trying to surpass the type of carving seen in a Japanese netsuke. This can be seen in the both ‘Stopping the Godless Aggressors’ and ‘And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares.’

Detail from ...Plowshares

Detail from ...Plowshares

The work Stopping the Godless Aggressors is about Viet Nam and Nixon and the horrors of war.  The scale is small but Notkin stated this work was far more about context than scale.

And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares. This work originally began as a maquette for a larger piece but became the actual piece. There are a multitude of weapons (including civil war cannon) as well as a variety of building materials. At the top of the piece (with grass) is a horse drawn plow going through a fecund clod of earth. He was trying to show the earth’s ability to heal and show us that we have that healing ability as well. To get an idea of scale, the plowshare is carved out of clay and is about two cubic inches.

Prisoner

Prisoner

All Nations Have Their Moments of Foolishness. I liked this piece.  Richard said he made his murals with 3×3″ squares of clay that he formed and then carved.  Frankly each tile is a work of art in itself.  They feature skulls, a horse screaming in mortal agony from Picasso’s Guernica, Jesus’ limp feet from Michangelo’s Pieta, the iconic figure of the hooded figure standing with his arms outstretched from Abu Ghraib.  Murder, torture, war all the heinous acts that have been committed within the last two centuries are memorialized in this work.  Notkins fired these tiles in sawdust, which allowed for the range of light and dark.  He used these tiles with a grided photograph to recreate former President Bush’s portrait.  More specific information can be found at this here which provides the artist’s statement about the piece as well as the specifics of his techniques used to fire the clay.  He said that he struggled for a while to find the title for the piece.  Eventually he felt that the title was a statement that best fit this piece because it explained why the American people voted for President Bush for a second term.

There were many other pieces that he spoke of during his lecture that I haven’t covered.  His heart vessels, his yixing teapots, or his wondrous ‘It’s no Use Shouting (After Goya)’.  I will hopefully cover these in a few weeks.  I also have to state that my pictures were photographs of the 35mm slides Mr. Notkin’s used.  Most had to be cropped to remove other people’s hair, hats etc from the view.

Richard Notkin Lecture at the Renwick

Teapot by Richard Notkin

Teapot by Richard Notkin

Richard Notkin, distinguished ceramicist and sculptor will be lecturing at 3pm today (25 Jan 09) at the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery. The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is located at 1661 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC.

Mr. Notkin was featured on the PBS series Craft in America and currently resides in Helena Montana.  Hope to see you there.

Manifest Hope DC Show Review

 
Manifest Hope by Sheperd Fairey

Manifest Hope by Sheperd Fairey

Manifest Hope:  DC opened tonight in Georgetown.  The show was sponsored by MoveOn.org, SEIU, and Obey and supported by Irvine Contemporary Gallery and several other organizations (complete list can be found at the Manifest Hope:  DC website. 

Kudos go to Martin Irvine and Lauren from Irvine Contemporary who brought order to chaos (fun chaos but chaos nonetheless) from handling the invitations to the event, conducting the art sales and assisting Yosi Sergant in setting up the event.  Martin Irvine hosted an event last week at the Gallery hosted where Yosi Sergant spoke about the Manifest Hope:  DC and the effect that artist can make for the causes they believe in. 

 Location.  The show is held at a storefront at 3333 M Street NW, Washington DC from 17-20

The Crowd

The Crowd

January.   Artists were invited to submit work which fit into one of three themes: Health care reform, worker’s rights, and the green economy. The art ranged from absolute genius to some very avant garde pieces which people really put their hearts into. 

So what was it like?  Picture a large store, a very large two level store with white walls and floors.  Now add people, lots and lots of people.  Mix in some great music with a kickass sound system and great music (last time I felt bass like that hitting me was at a Pink Floyd concert in Mannheim Germany). 

DC

Shepard Fairey Speaking at Manifest Hope: DC

 While I do not want to write a post about Shepard Fairey  (I’ve written about him here, here and here) his influence at this event was inescapable.   Many of the artists riffed off of his now iconic portrait of President Elect Obama. 

As you walk into the door, there is a stage on your right with a large manifest hope collage on stage.  Once the presentations were over, we were told we were welcome to step onstage and take our pictures with the collage.  It was also interesting to see other street artists such as Ron English and Sam Flores who had works in the show. 

U.S. Healthcare Just iLL, by Sharee Taylor

U.S. HealthCare Just iLL, by Sharee Taylor

The prices for the artwork was wildly divergent.  I saw prices  from $50. to $18,000 (trust me the work was absolutely worth it –it was gorgeous!).  Those were the prices for the art which really drew me.  I can’t guarantee this was the entire price range.   Proceeds from the show (10% of all sales) benefit the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC.  Students from the school performed during the event and they have some gifted musicians, vocalists and dancers. 

A friend of mine snagged a great screenprint titled U.S. HealthCare Just iLL, by Sharee Taylor.  I was unable to find out anything about her with a google seach, but I will continue looking and add what I can find.

Obama=Lincoln was a recurring theme to the show.  Sometimes this was done quite well and sometimes it fell a bit flat.  I felt no one handled it as deftly as Ron English.  Ron had two fantastic prints in the show both casting Obama as Lincoln.  They were beautiful and I honestly felt they were an incredible bargain. 

Restoration, Scotlund Haisley

Restoration, Scotlund Haisley

I fell in love with two works by local artists, Scotlund Haisley and Michael Gibbs.  Michael’s print American Worker is a brilliant piece of design.  The image and colors were so captivating I kept going back to it.  The print for sale was #1 of 50 and I want it very much. 

Scotlund Haisley created a beautiful painting titled Restoration.  I ran into Scotlund and his wonderful wife after the show.  Scotlund told me he paints his works on tin tiles using acrylics.  I loved both the concept behind the painting and the work itself.

There was a great triptych that you just see in the crowd picture.  It consists of portraits of Ghandi, the Dali Lama, and Dr. Martin Luther King titled Watching, Hoping, and Dreaming (respectively).  There was also an amazing etch-a-sketch portrait of President Elect Obama that was phenomenal.  Of course with my luck I’d buy it and find a neighbor’s kid shaking it so they could play with it.  Hopefully who ever buys it will keep it displayed out of harms way.

My purchase for this evening was modest,  I purchased one of the signed street posters of President Elect Obama.  I guess I am greedy since I do have a larger one (gift from a good friend who attended the Convention in Denver) but it’s unsigned.  I guess we all want a piece of history.

It’s very late and I want to post this so I’ll say goodnight…night!